AgeofEnlightenmentReviewTitle.gif (9946 bytes)

Main Themes:

1.  The Enlightenment had its origins in the scientific and intellectual revolutions of the 17c.
2.  Enlightenment thinkers felt that change and reason were both possible and desireable for the
     sake of human liberty.
3.  Enlightenment philosophes provided a major source of ideas that could be used to undermine
     existing social and political structures.

I. The Major Themes of the Era:
        A.  rationalism --> logical reasoning based on facts.
        B.  cosmology --> new world view based on Newtonian physics --> analysis of natural phenomena as
        C.  secularism --> application of scientific theories to religion and society.
        D.  scientific method --> experimentation;  observation;  hypothesis.
        E.  utilitarianism (Bentham) --> laws created for the common good and not for special interests.
                                                         The greatest good for the greatest number.
        F.  optimism & self-confidence --> anything is possible (a reversal of medieval thinking).
        G.  tolerance --> a greater acceptance of different societies and cultures.
        H.  freedom --> a mind as well as a society free to think, free from prejudice.
         I.  mass education.
        J.  legal / penal reforms --> Beccaria, Bentham.
        K.  constitutionalism.
        L.  cosmopolitanism.

II.  The Philosophes:
     A.  Not really philosophers, but men who sought to apply reason and common sense to nearly all the major
             institutions and mores of the day.
        B.  They attacked Christianity for its rejection of science, otherworldliness, and belief in man's depravity
        C.  Their major sources:
                    LOCKE --> man's nature is changeable and can be improved by his environment.
                    NEWTON --> empirical experience and the rationality of the natural world.
                    BRITAIN --> exemplified a society in which enlightened reason served the common good.
        D.  France became the center for Enlightenment since its decadent absolutism and political and religious
             censorship seemed to prove the need for reform.
        E.  Paris salons.
        F.  Diderot's Encyclopedie.
        G.  physiocrats:
                    FRANCOIS QUESNAY --> land is the only source of wealth, and agriculture increases that wealth;
                                                           therefore, the mercantilists were wrong to put so much importance on the
                                                           accumulation of money.
                    ADAM SMITH --> Wealth of Nations --> he challenged mercantilist doctrine as selfish and unnatural;
                                               the interdependence among nations;  "Father of Modern Capitalism".
        H.  Montesquieu --> The Spirit of the Laws
                    -- admired the British government.
                    -- separation of powers in the government.
                    -- checks and balances.
         I.  Rousseau --> The Social Contract
                    -- "Father of Romanticism".
                    -- he differed from the other pholosophes, esp. Locke:
                            -- law is the expression of the "General Will."
                            -- rejected science and reason;  go with your feelings (inner conscience).
                    -- "Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains!"
        J.  Voltaire -- Candide
                    -- champion of individual rights.
                    -- "I do not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!"
                    -- leading advocate of Enlightened Despotism.

III.  Enlightened Despotism:
     A.  Prussia:
                    -- Frederick I (1714-1740) -- the "Seargent" King.
                    -- Frederick II (1740-1786)
        B.  Habsburg Austria:
                    -- Maria Theresa (1740-1780) --> Pragmatic Sanctions.
                    -- Joseph II (1765-1790) --> considered to be the only true "enlightened" despot.
        C.  Russia:
                    -- Peter the Great (1682-1725) --> Westernization ("Windows to the West").
                    -- Catherine the Great (1762-1796) --> rigorous foreign policy;  partitions of Poland.

IV.  Results of Enlightenment Thought:
     A.  contributing factor in the American and French Revolutions.
        B.  Enlightenment thinking reflected in the U. S. Declaration of Independence.
        C.  Enlightened Despots.
        D.  European thought became centered on the belief in reason, science, individual rights, and the
             progress of civilization.
        E.  New evangelical religious movements --> Pietists, Methodists.


Immanuel Kant
John Wesley
General Will