Enlightenment or age of reason refers to the cultural movement associated with the intellectual growth in the eighteenth century. This movement occurred in American colonies and Europe. The main goal of this age was to encourage reforms in the society by embracing the concept of reasoning and acquisition of knowledge through science. This period promoted science and intellectual growth, at the same time, fanaticism and abuses were motivated by the church, as well as the government representatives.
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The Enlightenment period also contributed to the development of art. Philosophers emphasized on learning art besides augmenting the use of music among the middle class. Different forms of art were under development and spanned across among the middle class in such areas of specialization as philosophy, fine art and literature.
Another significant concept of enlightenment was the confidence in fostering analytical enquiry to promote happiness and progress. Sprouting about 1650 to 1700, the movement was ignited by philosophers such as John Locke, Pierre Bayle, Baruch Spinonza, Isaac Newton and Voltaire among others.
Descartes (1596 -1650) was a renowned French philosopher. He joined Jesuit College at the age of 25. The works of Aristotle and his philosophies motivated him to join college; however, at that time, he became interested in logic and classics. He also acquired mathematic skills through studying books written by Clavius. Mathematics became his favorite subject and played a critical role in shaping his way of thinking.
It is no surprise that mathematics laid a basis for his later works. After spending much of his time in Paris, Descartes began travelling around Europe, spending much of his time in Holland, Hungary and Bohemia. Some of his most influential works include; Meditations on the First Philosophy, Principia Philosophiae, The Principles of Human Knowledge and Of the visible world and the Earth.
In one of the discourses, Descarte’s begins with a friendly tone when describing his education. He makes it clear that he was totally discontented with the brilliant but traditional education he has gained. He explains it with the fact that education did not provide solutions which he yearned for the truth.
Descartes says “to be infatuated of a vigorous mind is not enough; the essence is to aptly apply it.. the greatest mind… are open likewise to big aberrations..” This quotation indicates that Descartes has experienced a critical immersion in the gained knowledge and accepted methods of understanding nature, philosophy, and literature; however, he yearns for something greater than this, perhaps what represents an assurance of conviction.
Perhaps, Descartes viewed that traditional disciplines encompassed or confined a person’s mind limiting him his/her own initiative, hence; this constrains the level of thinking and innovation. I support his idea. Besides, because of limits or boundaries always associated with education, such as rigorous curriculum and moderation, Descartes views that this inhibits a person’s creativity.
Also, Descartes rejects normal modes of thinking in regard to truth. He illustrates “Every person is endowed with his/her own knowledge…. That there might be ….. reformers ahead” By this statement, Descartes embraces a cynical viewpoint on everything he perceives with his senses besides what he has learned.
In doing this, Descartes views that the essence of learning is being creative and constructing or coming up with something which is more vigorous and based on one’s ability to think and reason. Thus, I concur with him. Every person should use his/her creativity to embrace a new revolution.
What I find more compelling about Descartes is written in Part IV of his discourse. Descartes challenges his own interpretation. Although he believes that the three things are not prone to create doubt, they complement one another; he does not believe that something has to be there to warrant doubting. This assertion intrigues me.
In his discourse, Descartes illustrates a correlation of reconstructing a house from a solid base. He extends this analogy to the idea of needing a temporary residence whereas his own house is being reconstructed. This assertion by Descartes is ambiguous owing to the fact that he is experimenting with ‘radical doubt”.