The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was a period in the 17th and 18th centuries in which new ideas came onto the scene that centered around skepticism of all inherited knowledge and emphasized the use of reason. However, the employment of reason in this period fell short of accomplishing the great things that had been done in the period of the Scholastic philosophers.

This skepticism was partially due to the fact that new discoveries were being made in the scientific revolution  that had overturned many ideas of the past. This led people to become suspicious of the theories of the past. Since the Ptolemaic model of the solar system that had been firmly planted in the minds of the people had crumbled in the light of new technology and discoveries, what can be said about the other fields of science? Religion also came into the line of fire of the Enlightenment thinkers, who believed that there is a creator deity, but there should not be any ritual or ceremony surrounding its worship.

Reason was emphasized greatly in the Enlightenment as the thing that makes man unique among the creatures. However, among these champions of reason the use of it to prove the existence of God and other things that were generally delegated to faith was not emphasized. The ultimate triumph of reason, the ability to prove that which was thought to be believable only to the spirit, the existence of God, was neglected. In the 13th century the Scholastic philosopher and theological giant, Thomas Aquinas, did just that: prove that God must exist according to human reason. However much the Enlightenment glorified the use of reason, it ultimately detracted from it by neglecting to affirm that it was capable of proving that which Scholastic philosophers had done five centuries before.

The Enlightenment championed reason and skepticism of inherited ideas, as well as much of religion. One of the key works of Enlightenment literature, the Encylopédie, used veiled language to detract from and undermine Catholicism. Although it was an advocate of human reason, the Enlightenment failed to use reason to its greatest potential. This period was very important in the history of Western Civilization as, among other things, part of the catalyst that sparked the French Revolution.

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2 thoughts on “The Enlightenment

  1. Pingback: Enlightened Absolutism | supererling

  2. Pingback: The French Revolution | supererling

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