When does the Age of Reason begin?

The Enlightenment: The Age of Reason

When did the Age of Enlightenment begin?

As the beginning of the Enlightenment, three events of different political significance are named for England, France and Germany: 1. the Glorious Revolution (1688), which ended 150 years of religious and civil wars in England and consolidated the parliamentary monarchy; 2. the repeal of the Edict of Nantes (1685), which expelled the Huguenots and made France a Catholic-absolutist state, and 3. the introduction of the German (instead of the Latin) language at the University of Leipzig (1687), which means that it is not in Germany only a university reform, but also a general cultural and social reform was triggered.

Who created the scientific prerequisites?

The prerequisites for the Enlightenment were laid by the newly emerging modern natural sciences as early as the late 16th century. The English mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) and the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646–1716) searched for knowledge free of theology and philosophy and, through methodical use of reason, arrived at the law of gravity and differential calculus as the new foundations of Sciences with which the secrets of nature could be unraveled.

What different currents were there?

The Enlightenment as a large unified movement did not exist. English empiricism, which emphasizes experience, and French rationalism, which emphasizes reason, faced two epistemological positions.

The empiricism, coined by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), John Locke (1632–1704) and David Hume (1711–1776), among others, made the assertion that all knowledge depends on non-conceptual experience and is subject to its control. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), for example, John Locke advocated the theory that the human mind is initially just a kind of white paper on which simple and complex ideas are depicted based on external and internal experience.

Rationalism, on the other hand, to which a. René Descartes (1596–1650) Baruch de Spinoza (1632–1677), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire and the French encyclopedists started out not only from the logical and regular nature of the world, but also from the existence of a more general one , rational truths independent of empirical experience.

In what light did the Enlightenment view religion?

In the theological field, the Enlightenment developed the construct of a natural religion that should correspond to true reason. Their religious conception of so-called deism was based on a God who can only be experienced in nature, because after creation he did not intervene in people's lives either personally or through miracles or the like. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau contrasted the religion of understanding with a religion of feeling that left its mark on German Pietism in particular.

What legal and political doctrine did the Enlightenment thinkers advocate?

Enlightenment thinking established the following legal principles: 1. Everyone is born free. 2. In order to establish relationships of power, a consensus of all those concerned is required. 3. The state is based on a social contract. 4. The state must protect innate human rights such as the right to life, freedom, property and the pursuit of happiness. 5. The limits of state power and the idea of ​​the separation of powers result from the rights of the individual. 6. The state is obliged to religious tolerance (including the abolition of witch trials) and to a more humane penal system (overall milder sentences, abolition of torture, questioning of the death penalty).

What happened in education?

The educational system was reformed, in Germany for example by Christian Thomasius (1655–1728) and Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746–1818). Here moral ways of life - determined by reason - should be taken as models, scientific procedures applied, practical training included and education extended to all classes of the population. Adult education offers were also requested. John Locke in England regarded the private education as his ideal, which trains a gentleman into an independent and social individual.

What changed in literature?

Enlightenment fiction literature was essentially concerned with the spread of intellectual and virtuous behavior. Important genres became the bourgeois tragedy (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing) and the bourgeois novel (Daniel Defoe), as well as smaller didactic forms such as didactic poems (Alexander Pope, Albrecht von Haller), fables and satire (Jonathan Swift). So-called moral weeklies brought philosophical ideas to the people in a generally understandable way. The playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729 to 1781) wrote a plea for tolerance and humanity with his ring parable in "Nathan the Wise" (1779).

How were music and art influenced?

Here, too, enlightenment tendencies can be demonstrated in the 18th century: The sensitive, gallant early classical music style with its German main representative Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788) is characterized by the demand for reason, naturalness and good taste. The socially critical and satirical art of the English painter and engraver William Hogarth (1697–1764) arose from educational goals.

What was the central work of the Enlightenment?

The main work of the French Enlightenment is the 35-volume lexicon of all sciences, arts and professions, which appeared between 1751 and 1780 under the title "Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers par une société de gens de lettres". Planned as a translation of the two-volume English encyclopedia by Ephraim Chambers (1728), it became an independent work under the direction of Jean Le Rond d'Alembert (1717–1783) and Denis Diderot (1713–1784), on which almost 200 authors contributed. How explosive the texts of the "Encyclopedia" were at the time is shown by the fact that Diderot was imprisoned for a few months for making free-spirited statements.

Who took up the ideas of the Enlightenment?

The criticism of the existing and the will to reform met with great approval from the bourgeoisie. The terms "reason" and "freedom" became weapons against the ruling clerical and noble powers. In the middle of the 18th century, enlightenment ideas became politicized and radicalized in France. Because the Enlightenment was in fundamental opposition to the social, religious and political system, they often lived a double life: adapted to the outside world, revolutionary in their private convictions. The spectrum extended to skepticism, atheism and materialism.

What was the relationship like with absolutism?

Absolutist rulers were a kind of negative film of the Enlightenment: where the Enlightenment preached reason, freedom and virtue, the monarchs exemplified their subjects irrationality, lack of freedom and immorality. Most Enlightenment philosophers tried to improve absolutism in their own sense - as enlightened reform absolutism. The most famous example was Voltaire, who from 1750–1753 stayed at the invitation of King Frederick II as a guest at Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. Only a few, such as Jean Meslier (1664–1733) in his political testament “Mémoire des pensées et des sentiments de Jean Meslier”, chose the more radical method of condemning absolute monarchy as despotism or tyranny in order to fight for a general overthrow .

What was the political impact?

The ideas of the Enlightenment ultimately led to the North American War of Independence (1775–1783) and the French Revolution (1789) and conditioned the liberalism of the 19th century. The French Revolution was both the climax and the end of the Enlightenment. Although the proclamation of human rights corresponded to the demands of the Enlightenment, bloody terror and French striving for supremacy could no longer be reconciled with it in the further course of the revolution.

Did you know that …

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was politically persecuted for years because of the spread of a religion of nature and feeling in the »Émile« (1762)? "From the social contract or principles of constitutional law" (also 1762) was also banned.

Rousseau's "Julie or The New Héloïse" (1761) brought about a whole series of epistolary novels in Europe? The best-known German representative is Goethe's »The Sorrows of Young Werther«.

Did you know that …

did the current of materialism explain all world events as the effect of matter and its movement? Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709–1751), for example, described man in his main work "L'homme machine" (1747) as a mechanism without an independent soul and without freedom.

What did Jean-Jacques Rousseau have ahead of Voltaire?

Born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva, Rousseau was not only an enlightening philosopher and writer, but also a composer and music theorist (musical contributions to the »Encyclopédie«). The son of a Calvinist watchmaker came to France early, converted to Catholicism (return to Calvinism in 1754) and became well known in 1750 with a "treatise on the sciences and arts" in which he denied their positive influence on morality. His main works were written in Paris in the early 1760s: the epistolary novel "Julie or The New Héloïse" (1761), "Émile or About Education" and "On the Social Contract or Principles of Constitutional Law" (both 1762). Rousseau died on July 2nd, 1778 in Ermenonville / Senlis.

Did you know that …

Immanuel Kant (1724 to 1804) brought the Enlightenment to a catchy formula? »Enlightenment is the way people come out of their self-inflicted immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's mind without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-inflicted if the cause of it is not a lack of understanding, but a lack of resolution and courage to use it without guidance from someone else. "

How did Voltaire become the most famous French scout?

Voltaire was born François-Marie Arouet on November 21, 1694 into a Parisian legal family, met Isaac Newton's mechanics and John Locke's empiricism in England from 1726–1729, became a member of the Académie française in 1746 and lived at the castle from 1750–1753 at the invitation of Frederick II Sanssouci in Potsdam. In his philosophical ideas, which include In his articles for the French »Encyclopédie« and were significantly influenced by the English Enlightenment, he drove forward the process of enlightenment awareness-raising in France like no other and after his death on May 30th, 1778 in Paris became a hero of the French Revolution Panthéon convicted. His satirical novel "Candide or Der Optimismus" (1759) is also known.