Essay on Enlightenment
In this essay on Enlightenment, PurEssay will outline for you the main features of this historical period. We will indicate its time frames, enumerate personalities who played important roles and find out what impact on the modern world the Age of Enlightenment produced. This work can help you structure a similar paper on the Enlightenment for your studies, giving you at least the general plan that you can stick to. Browse through other essays on popular topics from our writers to discover more interesting posts.
General definition of the Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment is a philosophical movement that emerged in England under the influence of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. Then the movement spread to France, Germany, Russia and other European countries. This epoch is connected with the development of scientific, philosophical and social thought. Rationalism and freethinking made up the basis of this intellectual movement.
Different essays on the Enlightenment cannot agree on the timeframes of this age. One of the suggestions is to place it between the 17th and 18th centuries. However, French historians, for instance, prefer to determine the timeframes of the Enlightenment from 1715 (the year of the death of Louis XIV) to 1789 (the beginning of the French Revolution).
Features of the epoch
The essential feature of the Enlightenment, as opposed to the previous historical periods, was that at that time public life began to shape. Social issues found their reflection in social media, discussion clubs, coffee houses and so on. Although the government and the church tried to restrain freedom of thought, it often turned out impossible because prohibited works could be published abroad, in countries with liberal views, such as England and the Netherlands.
By the second half of the 17th century, Western Europe had lost its religious integrity. As a result of the Protestant Reformation and long religious wars in European countries, Protestantism became the dominant form of Christianity, while in other states Catholicism prevailed. European countries tried to show tolerance towards religious differences between them. The religious struggle continued in the form of debates, which expanded the range of expressed opinions.
Europe also became diverse in terms of political regimes. While France, Spain and the Austrian Empire could boast their prosperous absolutism, England had already passed this stage of development and become a constitutional monarchy. The Netherlands were happy with their democracy, while Germany and Italy were split into a number of smaller states. Some countries, such as Russia and the Austrian Empire, still supported serfdom. The wide range of political systems inevitably resulted in comparison, which in turn led to discussions on the ideal political regime.
The economy of Europe experienced radical changes, too. Capitalism was being formed, and bourgeoisie was expanding and strengthening its position. The economic center of Europe shifted from the south, where the main role was previously played by Venice and Genoa, to the north, to Amsterdam, where a bourgeois revolution had already happened. In the second half of the 18th century, with the beginning of the industrial revolution, London became the main center of the economy of Europe.
Religion and moralities
Now our writing company will focus on religious and moral facets of the Age of Enlightenment. The denial of any divine revelation is a characteristic feature of the Enlightenment. Christianity started being considered as a source of mistakes and superstitions, that is why many enlighteners stuck with deism – a position that acknowledges the presence of God but denies his influence on the course of events. People tried to use science to prove the existence of God and the creation of the Universe at his will.
The Universe at the Age of Enlightenment was considered as a peculiar mechanism. A human being, no matter how he preferred to live his life, was neither condemned nor rewarded by God after death. So people relied on laicism when choosing their behavioral patterns. It means that they converted the standards of religion into natural morals, the principles of which were the same for everyone.
The Age of Enlightenment in personalities
The Enlightenment essays cannot be complete without touching upon the main personalities of the epoch. Now we will present to you a list of people who had a huge influence on their epoch, and their names remain on the pages of the world history.
Francis Bacon, who is referred to as the “father of empiricism”, is a key figure in the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. He supported practical experiments in science and thought they were the primary methods of investigation.
Rene Descartes is famous for his important contribution to the understanding of rationalism. His major strategy was to doubt conventional wisdoms, finding out the truth through logical explanations. Descartes promoted reason over faith and gave birth to various scientific discussions.
Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, was the one who wanted to unite experience with reason, moving philosophy on from the debates between empiricists and rationalists.
Benjamin Franklin was an outstanding politician in the American enlightenment. He came up with interesting ideas on political republicanism.
Voltaire was a French philosopher. When talking about his most famous written works, we cannot but mention Candide (1762), where he brilliantly criticized social convention. The man promoted republican ideas and was against the absolute monarchy established in his native country.
There were many other people who contributed to the development of the Enlightenment because each historical period has its own heroes with their unique ideas and understanding of the world. But right now we will move on to the historic significance of the Enlightenment. In other words, we will see how this epoch influenced the world as a whole.
French literature, namely Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, Rousseau and others, in the period of the Enlightenment gained Europe-wide significance. They all have a common feature – the prevalence of rationalism. But in France the criticism was directed at political and social issues, while German enlighteners were occupied with religious and moral topics.
The Enlightenment also resulted in reforms that had a goal of reconstructing social life. But the most important consequences are probably the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Ideas from the Age of Enlightenment have built the foundation for political liberties and democracy, which are the basic values of our modern society.
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