Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Objectives & Introduction & Summary of Age of Enlightenment

Objectives of Age of Enlightenment -

The Enlightenment was a powerful intellectual movement that took place in Europe after the Renaissance of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It dominated the French though and intellect during the major part of the 18th century and gave rise to number of ideas and institutions which played crucial role in shaping human values and thoughts in the subsequent centuries. This article and subsequent two articles(Salient Features of the Age of Enlightenment & Leading Personalities and Groups of Enlightenment - Voltaire & Montesquieu & Rousseau & Kant & Physiocrats & Encyclopaedists) intends to acquaint the Honours-level students with, firstly, the concept of Enlightenment; secondly, the features of Enlightenment and lastly, the eminent personalities and groups of scholars, and intellectuals who made outstanding contributions in promoting the idea of Enlightenment.
Introduction of Age of Enlightenment -

The AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT or the period from 1700 to 1789, or the eighteenth century prior to the FRENCH REVOLUTION of 1789, as generally called, added a glorious chapter to the history of Europe. In this period the people, particularly of France, were made to believe that their’s was a superior age, that they have qualities and attainments enough to be fittingly called ‘enlightened’, and that they have emerged from the long twilight, from a time of barbarism and ignorance to a period of sparking rays of wisdom and progress. The belief in Enlightenment was so widespread that the educated classes, the writers and thinkers called PHILOSOPHERS, and the kings and emperors known as ENLIGHTENED DESPOTS all adhered to it.

Summary of Age of Enlightenment -

The period from 1700 to 1789 is generally known as the Age of Enlightenment in European history. It was marked by a resurgence in confidence based on the achievements scored through science. Europeans of this era supposed themselves superior to the people of preceding ages. Intellectuals, philosophers, writer and even a number of rulers accepted and propagated the idea of Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment had certain salient features associated with it. The developments in science and reason during the 17th century was the basis of the idea of Enlightenment. It had promoted confidence in the creativity of man.

Secondly, the Enlightenment rejected the medieval practices such as, superstition, magic, miracle and witchcraft.

Thirdly, and quite logically, it boosted the spirit of secularism. The church lost its predominant position in intellectual activities and in guiding the European socio-economic life.

Fourthly, the thinker of that age gave the concept of mechanistic universe, according to which the universe was compared to a machine containing several parts and run by certain principles of science.

Fifthly, it emphasized the principle of empirical knowledge. Accordingly, the truth can be known only after going through an exhaustive process of experimentation, analysis and bias less conclusion.

Lastly, Enlightenment had a firm faith in the idea of progress on a linear path.

Several thinkers, philosophers and groups were involved in spreading the concepts of Enlightenment. Their writings did a commendable job in this regard. Among individuals, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Kant were the outstanding exponents of the Age of Enlightenments. The Encyclopaedists and Physiocrats were two leading groups who promoted the cause of Enlightenment. Diderot was the famous intellectual involved in preparing the historic Encycpaedia. Quesnay led the physiocrats who advocated the theory of laissez fair in economic activities. 

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