The Enlightenment Age of Reason. The Neo-Classical Period. Emphasis on the power of the mind.
Main components Possibility of the existence, beyond ourselves, of an entirely rational physical and moral universe. The universe is fundamentally rational, it can be understood through the use of reason alone. Truth can be arrived at through empirical observation, the use of reason, and systematic doubt. Human experience is the foundation of human understanding of truth.
Main components Experience preferred over Authority; All human life, both social and individual, can be understood in the same way the natural world can be understood. Once understood, human life can be manipulated or engineered in the same way the natural world can be manipulated or engineered. Human beings can be improved through education and the development of their rational facilities. Religious doctrines have no place in the understanding of the physical and human worlds.
Main components Empirical thought and the mechanistic world view. Empiricism is based on the notion that human observation is a reliable indicator of the nature of phenomena. The universe is regarded as a machine. Universe functions by natural and predictable rules. Although God created the universe, he does not interfere in its day to day runnings.
Isaac Newton Order of natural law. The universe can be explained completely through the use of mathematics. The universe operates in a completely rational and predictable way. One need not appeal to religion or theology to explain any aspect of the physical phenomena of the universe. Universe like a massive clock built by a god and set into motion.
Rene Descartes The mind is the source of individual being. One’s identity resides in one’s mind. What you think is more important than the outside physical world. Doubt everything. Basis of the scientific method. Truth can be derived at through empirical observation, the use of reason, and systematic doubt.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) Believed that human beings were material, physical objects that were ruled by material, physical laws. Sensation produces feeling, and feeling produces decision, and decision produces action. We are all, then, machines. The fundamental motivation that spurs human beings on is selfishness: maximize pleasure, minimize pain. Society is a group of selfish individuals. The primary purpose of society is to maximize the happiness of its individuals.
Thomas Hobbes "social contract“: individuals gathered into a society and established laws and rules they would all live by. Authority (rulers) created in order to enforce the terms of the social contract. Obedience of authority better than anarchy of freedom.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) Jewish philosopher living in the Netherlands. Applied the new sciences to questions of ethics and philosophy. God and nature are essentially identical. Understanding the rational workings of the universe would also mean understanding the rational workings of its creator, God. Spinoza believed that human beings pursue their own self-preservation.
Individual "right" is subsumed under "common right“. Society enforces its common right on the individual - "dominion“. Democracy - dominion by the multitude.
John Locke (1632-1704) Human mind enters the world with no pre-formed ideas whatsoever. The human mind at birth is a blank, a tabula rasa (erased board). The human mind is completely empirical. Human beings enter the world with all the same capacities. We can all see, feel, touch, observe, etc. No one is by virtue of birth more moral or knowledgeable than anyone else. Immoral behavior is primarily a product of the environment rather than the individual.
You can change moral and intellectual outcomes in human development by changing the environment. Education above everything else was responsible for forging the moral and intellectual character of individuals. Proposed an extension of education to every member of society. This view of education still dominates Western culture to this day.
Natural law dictated that all human beings were fundamentally equal. Human beings have a natural inclination to preserve their equality and independence. These are natural aspects of humanness. Absolute power, then, is an unnatural development in human history. The purpose of authority is to protect human equality and freedom.
Human reason can be used to combat ignorance, superstition, tyranny, and dogma, and to build a better world. When that authority ceases to care for the welfare, independence, and equality of individual humans, the social contract is broken and it is the duty of the members of society to overthrow that ruler.
Religion Religious doctrines have no place in the understanding of the physical and human worlds Deism: No longer assumed God’s supervision of human affairs. Universe created by a rational being, and left it alone. One and only one God exists. God endowed the universe with natural moral and physical laws. Men endowed with rational nature.
Religion Separation of ethics from religion. Ethics understood as a matter of reason. “He that thinks reasonably must think morally. (Samuel Johnson)” Natural law requires man to lead moral life. The purest form of worship and the chief religious obligation is to lead a moral life. Although God created the universe, he does not interfere in its day to day running. Why Deism has not caught on as a major established view of religion?
Tolerance The greatest human crimes, as far as the philosophes were concerned, have been perpetrated in the name of religion and the name of God. A fair, just, and productive society absolutely depends on religious tolerance. This means not merely tolerance of varying Christian sects, but tolerance of non-Christian religions as well (for some philosophes ).
Enlightenment in America Enlightenment provided the philosophical basis of the American Revolution. American Revolution was an enlightened concept of government. Leaders of the American Revolution influenced by English and French Enlightenment. Emphasis upon liberty, democracy, republicanism and religious tolerance. Reconcile science and religion, which resulted in a widespread rejection of prophecy and miracles.
Enlightenment in America Preference for Deism. The God of the Declaration of Independence is the same deist God worshiped by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, not the God of the traditional churches. Enlightenment thinking in Europe took place in the salons in Paris, the practical application of those ideas was carried out most vividly in the American colonies. Franklin believed an appeal to reason would provide solutions to all human problems.
Enlightenment in America Jefferson supported the separation of church and state. Jefferson believed educating people was a good way to establish an organized society. "A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical...It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."