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The Age of Reason Neoclassicism. Mr. Hutchinson Academic English 11. The End of the Puritan Community. Due to the expansion of settlement (large number of settlers), the Puritan sense of community was threatened. It was not longer possible to keep a majority. The Age of Reason.

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the age of reason neoclassicism

The Age of Reason Neoclassicism

Mr. Hutchinson

Academic English 11

the end of the puritan community
The End of the Puritan Community

Due to the expansion of settlement (large number of settlers), the Puritan sense of community was threatened. It was not longer possible to keep a majority.

the age of reason
The Age of Reason

Two dominate groups of theories dominated the Age of Reason—deism and neoclassicism.


Christian views on scientific subjects began to be challenged by science at about 1700.

Newton—scientific principles underlie the structure of the universe

Boyle (follower of Newton) wrote that the mechanical principles of the universe were “the alphabet in which God wrote the world.” Science will figure out everything and solve all problems.

Darwin—the theory of natural selection—God didn’t create humans in his image—the design of humans arrived through slow gradual changes.

the clockwork universe
The Clockwork Universe

Clockwork universe—the idea that God created the world, gave humans the ability to figure it out, and then moved on to other things. In this belief, God has set up Natural Laws based on logic to govern the universe. He had no reason to interfere with the laws of Nature as He created them. This idea contrasted with the Puritan notion that God’s hand was in everything. Looking for messages from God in daily human life became an abandoned idea.


For the deists, the existence of God is deduced from the ordered structure of the universe (patterns, variety, and complexity of Nature) rather than the Bible (revelation—the “revealed word of God”). Voltaire made the ideas of Deism popular.


God was to be found in science—nature. The complexity, variety and order in Nature proved that there had to be an intelligence behind creation.


Deists believed in the idea of tabula rasa—there is no innate (inborn) good or evil. To them, character is formed by experience.

“Experience is the stylus that writes our selves.” John Locke popularized the idea of tabular rasa.


Nature vs. nurture.

Nature—Puritans, humans are born fully formed, experience cannot not change a human.


Nurture—Deists, humans are formed through empirical experience (empiricism—philosophical idea that sensory experience is the basis of self, life, thought).


Locke also believed that civil and political rights are located in the people of a nation. Monarchy is based on the idea that God has chosen the rulers of the world (the divine right of kings). Again, why interfere with the order of the universe as He set it up? Deists believed in democracy—representative democracy called republicanism.


The Deists believed in freewill rather than predestination.


Deists believed in perfectibility. Life and people could be perfected through science and reason. They believed all problems would eventually be solved by science. God had given us reason (intelligence) so that we could figure out everything. Once we figured out the world, we would reach perfection. This belief has been said to be a basis for democracy.


In the arts, neoclassicism (the idea that the Greeks and Romans had perfected style and the arts) as an aesthetic took over from the plain style of the Puritans. For the neoclassicists, reason was the logical basis for all art.


The structures of Classical Greece and Rome were logical and worth studying; thus, rhetoric became an important field of study.


The neoclassicists believed that there should be an innate order in well made things.


The idea of infinite progress in all human endeavors was an important neoclassical idea. Thus, things could and would get better if humans thought everything through.


Everything could be idealized—brought to perfection though human work.


The ideas of practicality and unity were dominate ideas in the neoclassic aesthetic.


Skepticism was an important neoclassical method because they believed that the world could be completely understood through logic. Any mysteries would be figured out via science.