The Early Modern Intellectual World. Its effects on ideas of justice and human rights. BIG QUESTION (based on the theme of the course): How and why did Early Modern thinkers give rise to modern ideas of human rights and justice? . Caution.
Its effects on ideas of justice and human rights
The big designation Scientific Revolution has been criticized by historians because it implies revolutionary change when, in fact, the changes were part of a slow process of change that had gone on for centuries. However, there is no doubt, for instance, that the idea of a heliocentric universe replacing that of a geocentric one had huge implications.
It’s important to realize, too, that
The Ancient Greeks
His model of the universe is based on the ideas of Greek astronomers. It is often called the Aristotelian universe (after the Greek philosopher Aristotle).The earth is in the center, with the moon, sun, and planets in circular orbits around it. The sun is in between Venus and Mars. What does this say about the position of human beings (earthlings) in the universe?
Why was retrograde motion a necessity in his universe?
Aristotle’s ideas still held. The moon, sun, and planets were in the same positions. The planets were named after the ancient gods, though the names were Roman, not Greek.
Heaven (and God) were outside the fixed stars. Hell was inside of and below earth, with Purgatory above it.
The first men we think of as real “scientists” – Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo – lived in the 16th and early 17th century. They took the earth from the center of the universe and replaced it with the sun.
This was the time of witchcraft trials.
How can you explain that?
"At rest in the middle of everything is the sun. For in this most beautiful temple, who would place this lamp in another or better position than that from which it can light up the whole thing at the same time? For, the sun is not inappropriately called by some people the lantern of the universe, its mind by others, and its ruler by still others. [Hermes] the Thrice Greatest labels it a visible god, and Sophocles' Electra, the all-seeing. Thus indeed, as though seated on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it. Moreover, the earth is not deprived of the moon's attendance. On the contrary, as Aristotle says in a work on animals, the moon has the closest kinship with the earth. Meanwhile the earth has intercourse with the sun, and is impregnated for its yearly parturition. In this arrangement, therefore, we discover a marvelous symmetry of the universe, and an established harmonious linkage between the motion of the spheres and their size, such as can be found in no other way.”
What could have been the cultural effect of his displacing the earth from the center of the universe?
Giordano Bruno by Avicenna
Galileo’s all-too-solid moon.
Pascal, who was French, is difficult to slot into a disciplinary category: he was a philosopher, a mathematician, and a physicist. Probability theory owes something to him as do the ideas of Rousseau (18th century) and the existentialists (20th century). He was a believer in God.
Very famous is Pascal’s Wager: Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.Pensees (1670)
“For, after all, what is man in nature? A nothing in comparison with the infinite, an absolute in comparison with nothing, a central point between nothing and all. Infinitely far from understanding these extremes, the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he came, and the infinite in which he is engulfed. What else then will he perceive but some appearance of the middle of things, in an eternal despair of knowing either their principle or their purpose? All things emerge from nothing and are borne onwards to infinity. Who can follow this marvelous process? The Author of these wonders understands them. None but he can.”
In the Essay, Locke:
As you will see, the historical period we call the Enlightenment was not so much a new enlightenment springing from darkness as a part of an intellectual continuum. How were Enlightenment thinkers different from those who went before them?
For an excerpt from his book, go to: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/18beccaria.html
Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, Emperor Joseph II Ended some privilege – e.g. power of guilds
How and why did Early Modern thinkersgive rise to modern ideas of human rights and justice?