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18 th Century and the Enlightenment. The triumph of rational thought. Definition and Characteristics. The Enlightenment: intellectual revolution of the 18 th C. which enthroned REASON, stressing natural law and progress in their criticisms of prevailing philosophies and social injustices

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18 th century and the enlightenment

18th Century and the Enlightenment

The triumph of rational thought

Definition and characteristics
Definition and Characteristics

  • The Enlightenment: intellectual revolution of the 18th C. which enthroned REASON, stressing natural law and progress in their criticisms of prevailing philosophies and social injustices

    • Rationalism

    • Natural Law (Isaac Newton and the scientific revolution)

      • Application of the scientific method to social problems

      • The world behaves according to patterns and these ought to be obeyed

    • Continuation of patterns of thought begun with the Renaissance

  • Foundation of Classical art and music

  • Parallel to the scientific revolution/awakening

More characteristics
(More characteristics)

  • Political Implications/Consequences of this thinking

    • Religious toleration

    • Freedom of Expression and Thought

    • Movement toward Constitutional Government

  • Social Implications/Consequences of this thinking

    • Belief in progress, optimism about the future

    • Humanitarianism: Prison and Social Reforms

    • Scientific spirit: exaggerated abilities of science (physiognomy)

    • Education for all social classes

  • Adam Smith:economics laissez faire “leave it alone”: economics, too, follows natural law

Precursors newton
Precursors: Newton

  • By applying reason to observed nature, discover “natural laws” by which nature works

    • Laws of motion

    • Law of gravity

  • Use “natural laws” to describe universe, ultimately control, subdue nature for man’s ends

  • Conclusion: “natural laws” discoverable by application of reason must also govern all of mankind, as well: art, government, economy, even behavior

Hobbes 1588 1679
Hobbes (1588-1679)

"All that is real is material, and what is not material is not real." “natural law,” of government is absolutism because

  • “state of nature” (without civilization, law) =life of man “nasty, brutish, short”

  • men would give up liberty and rights for security

  • Context = British revolution; if no strong king, chaos and crime

Locke 1632 1704
Locke (1632-1704)

  • “natural law” = constitutional monarchy with king limited by representative body (legislature)

  • View of mankind in Essay Concerning Human Understanding

    • “state of nature” = man is reasonable and willing to get along

    • Tabula rasa (blank slate) man is born neutral as a blank sheet of paper:

      • he is influenced by experiences in society, environment through his senses to make himself what he is

      • Men equal in birth; no divine right giving one man an advantage over another just because born into a particular group

More locke
(more Locke)

  • Two Treatises on Government

  • “Natural rights”: all men have natural, inalienable rights to life, liberty and property.

  • “Social Contract”: government is conditional contract between man and those who govern: If government fails to protect natural rights, people have the duty to overthrow government and establish one that does protect those rights

  • Context: 17 when Charles I executed, writing during Glorious Revolution in England


  • 17th C German philosopher/mathematician

  • Mathematics:

    • Brilliant: self taught in math and science

    • Claimed to have invented calculus (disputed with Newton over it)

      • Journeyed to England at the right time to have been shown Newton’s unpublished ideas

      • Was known when served as a diplomat, to have falsified and back dated documents, so untrustworthy

      • Many knew, like and trusted him

    • Did achieve much:

      • Calculating machine that did all four arithmetic operations

      • Binary math (base 2), system all computers use

18 th century and the enlightenment

  • Therefore, since God has created it, this must be the best of all possible worlds.

  • This best of all possible worlds will contain all possibilities, with our finite experience of eternity giving no reason to dispute nature's perfection."


  • Social critics of the 18th C.

  • Believed social institutions and practices should accord with “natural law” = reason

  • Publicists, men of letters: wrote to bring attention to social injustice, governmental abuses

  • Philosopher asked, philosophe answered

  • Met in salons hosted usually by upper class women

  • Mostly in France, enjoyed much social prestige; influenced future society: thinking, living

Voltaire french 1694 1778
Voltaire (French) 1694-1778

  • Bourgeoisie background; spent 11 months in Bastille

  • Corresponded with Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great; admired Louis XIV

  • Favored “Enlightened Despots”: “I’d rather obey a lion of good family, whom nature has made much my superior, than 200 rats of my own species.

    • Anti-democratic: common people incapable of governing themselves, “silly barbarians” in need of wise supervision

  • Deist : despised organized religion (“crush the infamous thing”—felt churches kept men from behaving justly toward each other.

  • Strong advocate for freedom of speech: attributed to him: “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

18 th century and the enlightenment

  • Candide: written in reaction to Leibniz belief that “this is the best of all possible worlds.”

  • Candide, main character, travels throughout the world suffering all kinds of ills because of nature, his fellow men.

  • His adventures expose the hypocrisy and evils of current society.

From discourse on man
From Discourse on Man

  • “This world is a great dance in which fools, disguised under the laughable names of Eminence and Highness, think to inflate their being and elevate their baseness. All mortals are equal….All are born from the same mud; they drag out their childhood in the same weakness; and the rich and the poor, and the weak and the strong, all go on equally from sorrow to death.”

Montesquieu french 1689 1755
Montesquieu (French) 1689-1755

  • Aristocratic baron, but despised absolutism and looked on Louis XIV as a villain

  • Spirit of the Laws (1748) separation of powers

    • Executive, legislative, judicial divide powers of government

  • Forms of government should vary according to the climate and circumstances of a society


    • Different peoples in small city states, large or medium sized nations; tropical or cold countries, call for different forms of government to meet differing needs.

  • Women not naturally inferior to men. Climate, culture, politics responsible. Basic differences between two sexes, so men should dominate marriage and family.

Diderot french 1713 1784
Diderot (French) 1713-1784

  • Encyclopedie (1751)

    • 17-35 large volumes

    • 26 years to complete

    • First large-scale synthesis of knowledge

    • Very biased: criticized current society and institutions

    • Contributors included Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu

    • Covered “practical arts” of crafts, inventions, technology, as well as fine arts, philosophy, natural science, etc

  • Sold library to Catherine the Great, who allowed him to keep it while he lived and paid him an annual salary as its librarian

18 th century and the enlightenment

  • Encyclopedia

    • Teach people how to think critically

    • Solicited articles from many experts

    • Controversial articles brought criticism

    • Overall, moved forward the ideas of Enlightenment

Rousseau french 1712 1778
Rousseau (French) 1712-1778

  • Really beginning of Romantic thought; reaction AGAINST rationalism

  • From lower classes, social misfit, protestant, maladjusted (gave away his children for others to raise because he reasoned he would be a bad parent), gained recognition later in life (after 40)

  • Basic idea: society/civilization has corrupted man; In a state of nature everyone =; inequality because of material possessions; evil in world due to inequalities: “man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.”

More rousseau
More Rousseau

  • “State of nature” man is compassionate, humane and merciful; civilization is regression; inequality breed indifference to others’ sufferings

  • Concept of “noble savage”: people closest to nature (American Indians, etc) much superior to European aristocrats

  • “social contract” differing from Locke: best form of government is commonwealth/democracy: we give up our natural rights to fuse our will into a combined general will to govern justly.

Even more rousseau
Even more Rousseau

  • Emile: ideas on education

    • Self expression, not repression

    • Learn by doing, by investigating nature, not by studying in books

  • Views on Women

    • Men and women in separate spheres

    • Women more capacity to love and feel, not think

    • Women educated to meet needs of men, subordinate to men

    • Women’s function to bear children, make selves pleasing to men ONLY

    • Women excluded from politics, philosophy, etc

Deism religion for rationalists
Deism, religion for rationalists

  • background—time of Newton and other scientists who use the scientific method to find out about the natural world

  • Reaction against the “irrational” religious view of the world of the Puritans and others

  • The watchword is REASON

  • Distrust of the emotional, “enthusiasm”

18 th century and the enlightenment

View of God

  • Clockmaker metaphor

  • Master scientist who created the world to operate according to scientific law

  • Nature: source of knowledge that allows man to REASON out natural law

18 th century and the enlightenment

  • Good life: apply REASON to experience to understand the natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Live according to these natural laws to achieve success, balance, “goodness”

  • Trust in instinct or emotion,

    “enthusiasm” may lead to

    negative results, even tragedy,


Arts during enlightenment
Arts during Enlightenment natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • REASON out natural laws of writing, painting, architecture, etc to make one’s expression most

    effective and successful

  • Balance and restraint, avoiding emotion, “enthusiasm”

  • Realistic base—not imaginative; first novels presented as biography

Writers applying reason to writing
Writers: applying reason to writing natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Samuel Johnson: the Enlightenment’s “Renaissance Man”

  • Alexander Pope

Music beyond baroque
Music: beyond Baroque natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

  • George Frederick Handel (1685-1759)

  • Mozart (1756-91) child prodigy, composing at 6, 1st opera at 12

  • Hayden (1732-1809) “Darling of Europe”

Art rococo
Art: Rococo natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Artistic style 1720-89: excessively ornate, intricate, elegant and full of frivolity

  • Common: rosy cheeked cherubs, lovers in theatrical costumes, (aristocrats dressed as “shepherdesses,”), escapist, mythology and nature; love a basic theme

  • Pastel colors + white, billowy clouds

Fragonard natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Typical rococo

  • Aristocratic, but delicate and feminine

  • Love theme

  • Idealistic settings

Watteau pilgrimage to cythera
Watteau natural laws that apply to living one’s lifePilgrimage to Cythera

Boucher natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Pastorale

  • Typical style, from middle class, but aristocrats loved his paintings.

  • Widely imitated, so fell out of style

Reaction popular religion
Reaction: popular religion natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Religious revival: emphasis on improvement of soul, not form

  • Pietism: not social institutions; individual; rejection of mechanistic universe and rationalist god

  • John Wesley: Methodism

  • Free Masonry: rationalist religion + social organization + drive to improve social justice

Physiocrats natural laws that apply to living one’s life

  • Economists who reasoned out “natural laws” of economics

    • Francois Quesnay (1644-1674)

      • Only true measure of wealth is nature/land

      • Agriculture = basis of any nation’s economy

    • Adam Smith “Wealth of Nations”

      • Laissez faire economics

      • Theoretical basis of capitalism

Movement toward social reform cesare beccaria prison reform
Movement toward Social Reform: Cesare Beccaria (Prison Reform)

  • Crimes and Punishments

    • Severe punishment unnecessary for most crimes

    • Punishment to deter crime and reform criminal

    • Effective punishment: certain, quick, immediate

    • Abolish torture and capital punishment

The idea of enlightened despots
The Idea of Enlightened Despots Reform)

  • Total power, BUT

  • Ruled state by reason, not divine right or heavenly mandate

  • Kings “first servant to the state”

Frederick ii the great of prussia
Frederick II “the Great” of Prussia Reform)

  • Considered to be best example of enlightened despot

  • Friends with Voltaire; poetry and flute

  • Abolished torture and unreasonable punishment

  • Established education for all: elementary school system

  • Promoted industry, agriculture, commerce

  • Religious toleration for Catholics, Jews

18 th century and the enlightenment
BUT: Reform)

  • Foreign policy: total anti-enlightenment

    • Began War of Austrian Succession simply to aggrandize Prussia/Brandenburg

    • Seized Silesia—and kept it

    • Continued policies of militaristic-centered society

  • Treatment of peasantry

    • No more than serfs, “hereditary subjects”

    • Couldn’t leave junker estates

    • Couldn’t marry or learn a trade without junker’s permission

Catherine the great of russia reign 1762 1796
Catherine “the great” of Russia Reform) (reign: 1762-1796)

  • Minor German princess married to Romanov Peter III;

    • Peter was also German, mother Romanov daughter of Peter the Great; made him a nephew of ruler, Empress Elizabeth, who had taken the throne from half brother Ivan VI when he was very young, kept him prisoner

    • He was ugly and not overly bright because of smallpox, other diseases

    • He openly favored his lover, bragged about other women

    • She was isolated, only child taken from her by Empress to raise

    • Spent her time reading, favored Enlightenment ideas, which put even more distance between her and Peter

  • Notorious for her lovers

    • Count Orlov, who helped put her in power

    • After Empress d., rumors Peter would kill Catherine and marry his lover

    • Gregory Potemkin: able minister and advisor (married her?)

    • Other, younger men as she aged

How catherine german became absolute autocrat of russia
How Catherine, German, became Absolute Autocrat of Russia Reform)

  • Peter III idolized Frederick II of Prussia

    • Wore ring with his picture

    • Hated warring against him in 7 Years’ War

    • As soon as mom died, made peace and gave back all territories Frederick lost in 7 years’ War in secret treaty

    • Tried to model army, with Prussian discipline and uniforms, after Frederick’s

  • Plot of Peter’s mistress’s sister, Orlovs, others to depose Peter and put in Catherine

  • Catherine gained support of military

    • Upset over 7 Years’ War sacrifices thrown away

    • Didn’t like Prussian model reforms

    • Didn’t trust or like Peter

  • Peter surrendered, held, killed (Orlov?)

Enlightenment achievements
Enlightenment achievements Reform)

  • Friends with Voltaire (whom she called “champion of the human race”) and with Diderot

  • Patronized arts

  • Established schools

  • Established hospitals and public welfare projects

  • Continues westernizing Russian culture

  • Revolutionized economy (horrible conditions she turned around to profitability and government solvency)

    • Modern methods, tools, machines for farms

    • Mining: established training school, encouraged mines

    • Manufacturing: supported even peasants to set up factories

18 th century and the enlightenment
BUT Reform)

  • Pugachev Revolt: bloody peasant revolt in 1773—convinces Catherine to support nobles, stop internal reforms

    • Pugachev proclaimed end of serfdom, taxes, military draft

    • Pugachev claimed to be Czar Peter III

  • Turned against Enlightenment (revolt proved to her it didn’t work for Russia)

    • Burned books, exiled or jailed intellectual critics

    • Serfdom greatest height: from 7,600,000 to 20 million

  • In exchange for support of nobility, nobles accepted her absolute power (laws, officials, army, policies)

Catherine s foreign policy
Catherine’s foreign policy Reform)

  • Captures Crimea for Russia (warm water near Mediterranean, Black Sea port), but it took two wars with Turkey

    • “Greek Project” 1768 war: Russ defeats Turkey and claims right to protect E/Gr Orthodox Christians vs Ottoman Muslim Turkish rule; took Crimea

    • Austria/Russia vs Turkey delayed because of Fr. Rev.

    • Partitions of Poland to Prussia, Russia, Austria