Enlightenment, as described by Immanuel Kant means freedom to use one’s own intelligence. The enlightenment movement was a seventeenth and eighteenth century movement in western philosophy. It swept across America in 1776, and in French in 1778. This era was characterized by massive upheavals in political, economic, and social traditions. This movement advocated for reason as the main basis of authority.
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The movement was angered by realisation and recognition of the sorrowful state of the human conditions and the need for major reforms. They critically questioned the traditional institutions including their customs and morals. The era of revolutionary upheavals was marked by political changes such as governmental consolidation, nationalisation, more human rights recognition and reduction of influence of authoritative institutions like churches. (Munck and Thomas)
Due to the oppressive and authoritarian rule in America and France, Enlightenment thinkers believed that orderly thinking could be applied to all spheres of individual activities as a solution to human suffering, and changing the government’s explorations of the person, society and the country as a whole. The enlightenment crusaders believed that their states could progress after a long period of stagnation due to superstition and traditional oppression. (Gay and Peter 2006)
The enlightenment crusade power superseded the impact of social and economic conditions in promoting the revolution upheavals. The movement helped to create intellectual support in America and French, and their ideas were influential in the rise of classical liberalism, socialism, democracy, and recent capitalism. (Dieterle, Bernard, Engel and Manfred 2003)
The enlightenments revolutionary upheavals reversed the traditional belief that mysticism and revelation were the basic source of knowledge and wisdom. They argued that, self-evident philosophy was the foundation of knowledge and stability. According to Benedictus de, the goal of philosophy based on self-evident axioms reached its heights with view of a universe where God and nature are one. The movement took a central role in justifying modernisation movement, which reversed the recognized traditions. Most of the 20th century movements such as liberalism and neo-classicism have their intellectual heritage back to the enlightenment movement. (Himmelfarb and Gertrude 2004)
Enlightment is thought to be the primary basis for critical ideas such as freedom of expression, citizens’ democratic rights, and reason. Prevalence of reason leads to capitalism, invention of scientific methods, multi-denominational religious groups tolerance and the organizations of state into self governing, sovereighn republics through democratic means.The ability of scholersand philosophers to apply rationality thinking to all problems,and the ability of writers to pursue the truth without fear of violating established norms is considered the efforts of the enlighters. (Dupre and Louis 2004)
Most of the 18th century American and French politicians (founding fathers) were influenced by enlightenment –era ideas especially on their religious, human rights affairs and socialism in the political arena. Through revolutionist enlightenment these politicians were able to lay grounds for strong human rights organizations and strong democratic space where freedom of expression and impression is well expressed up to today. It is evident from the above argument that the ideas of enlightenment were more important than the social and economic conditions in promoting the revolutionary upheavals of the 1770’s and 1780’s in America and France. (Buchan and James 2003).
Buchan and James. Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment: Edinburgh’s Moment of the Mind 2003 Dieterle, Bernard ,Engel and Manfred (eds.).
The Dream and the Enlightenment / Le Rêve et les Dupre and Louis. The Enlightenment & the Intellctural Foundations of Modern Culture 2004 Gay and Peter.
The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996 Himmelfarb and Gertrude.
The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments, 2004 Munck and Thomas. Enlightenment: A Comparative Social History, 1721–1794.