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The Enlightenment period could be more popularly known as the intellectual movement during that particular time. During this time, reason or reasoning is the basic form or basis of authority. Originating from France, Britain, and Germany, the age of enlightenment spread all over Europe and as well as to Russia and Scandinavia.
This period could be marked with a lesser authoritarian influence and intervention by the church. This period could also be marked by government consolidation and nation creation. The age of enlightenment was dubbed as the societal shift in the direction of science and reason. In this period there is the belief that the natural world was ordered allowed for the discovery of ultimate truths uncovered through rational thought¹.
In the enlightenment age, the quest for truth was the ultimate goal. Other things or portions of life which could not be encompassed with this framework or could even be explained by what was embraced and accepted during that time was not to be included. This very principle upon which enlightenment was based, created a big impact on some institutions.
The clash between enlightenment and religion
One of the more prominent institutions where enlightenment had some very serious impacts would be religion. The very framework on which enlightenment was based contradicts the beliefs and teachings of religion (Hulluing, 1994). It questions the principles and faith given light by religion itself.
Enlightenment does not consider and recognize any aspect or any other thing that could not be explained. Religion on the other hand presents teachings and principles even beliefs that could not be explained. This thrust of religion is questionable during the enlightenment days. Religion posts questions that could not be explained or even answered.
Enlightenment’s dependence on reason was promoted by scientific inquiry (Dupre, 2004). On the other side, this dependence could also help foster scientific inquiry in general. This arrangement could be best observed through Isaac Newton’s “the universe is ordered on the invariable simple mathematical principle of gravitation”.
This very thought and way in which enlightenment is patterned were favorable for science extending over to social and political consciousness that encompassed enlightenment thought and philosophy (Cassirer, 1979).
Age of Criticism
The age of enlightenment could also be dubbed as the “age of criticism”. This is for the very reason that everything must be examined. Examining everything was the general trend and even the general viewpoint during that time.
The age of enlightenment was dubbed as the age of criticism because during that time it is what is mostly made of. The age of enlightenment led to various critiques of established institutions that existed in that society during that time. Skepticism was dominant in that period. It was practiced almost at any instance it could be done.
The concept of godly places and even concepts that were mere as just or just existing was beginning to get questioned. People were finally inquiring about these concepts and were actually considering that these concepts may have just been corrupted. The practice of philosophy during that time was also very persistent. The philosopher back then was described as one who finds answers by questioning or through criticism.
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the understanding of reality and questions of existence. The age of enlightenment posed questions as to the reality presented by metaphysics. Since metaphysics deals with the question of existence, scholars argue that this area dealt with by metaphysics does not go in line with enlightenment. However, it is not possible not to recognize metaphysics as the question of one existence could never be truly identified or given an answer to. The only answer that could be given and understood would be the structure of the earth, the very place where this existence takes place.
Thus, even as metaphysics does not entirely go hand-in-hand with enlightenment, it still remained an important subject matter during that period.
Failure of enlightenment?
Debates about how society searches for truth and questions about life proliferated in this age of reason. Some scholars argue that this age may not have been enlightened as the era itself had proclaimed. Philosophers during this time were continuously and were purposely searching for answers. They were hoping to make the world a more improved place.
However taking a look into the origin of these philosophers, they all come from a class. They perceive a better world through better pay and a whole lot of different benefits. However, as they may have thought that this was for the betterment of society, it doesn’t hold true for everyone. Although the society at that age may have benefited from enlightenment, it could be entirely attributed that all parts of the society were able to benefit from the age of enlightenment.
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In the age of enlightenment, the philosophers and men alike were considered the intellectual types. They could also be the pervasive writers who can cope up with the new sciences during that time and which had spread over Europe to the American Colonies and elsewhere.
Even though they may have been termed differently in other parts, the philosophers were all bonded together with this age of thinking. Philosophers coming from related fields such as social intellect and mutual commerce were often supporting each other. They write ideas and express ideas that may help one another. Philosophers that come from different areas are usually united together by creating works in a body of doctrine.
The Age of Enlightenment
The age of enlightenment or even the movement that goes along with it was primarily set out to determine up to what extent is our knowledge and the ways in which we could gain more knowledge to improve society.
This age seeks to demolish the long-held traditions and beliefs that could not give justifiable explanations to their existence thus the clash with religion arose. Religion went under great scrutiny over this period. Science and logic were the main tools used during this age of reason. However, many contend that both areas are just as important to the world.
The enlightenment period had promoted in some way, the rejection of tradition by societies and the quest for truth and other forms of knowledge that would seek to explain and give concrete answers. The enlightenment could be remembered with the combination of a few factors: science, reason, religion, writers, philosophers, thinkers, morality, truth, faith, rationality, class, progress, power among others.
Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, Princeton University Press, 1979.
R.H Campbell and AS Skinner, (Eds.) The Origins and Nature of the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh, 1982.
Mark Hulluing Autocritique of Enlightenment: Rousseau and the Philosophes 1994.
Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.
Louis Dupre, The Enlightenment & the Intellctural Foundations of Modern Culture, 2004.