Enlightenment Thought

Topics: Isaac Newton, Age of Enlightenment, French Revolution Pages: 3 (1029 words) Published: July 20, 2013
Enlightenment Thought
The Eighteenth-century gave way to the intellectual heirs of their past called the Newtonian science. Coined as such because of Sir Isaac Newton’s “natural laws of the physical universe” (Fiero, p.134), “Enlightenment philosophers emphasized acquiring knowledge through reason, challenging unquestioned assumptions” (Norton, Sheriff, Katzman, Blight, Chudacoff & Logevall, p. 92). Also known as the Age of Reason, the movement occurred roughly between 1687 when Newton’s major physics work, called Principia, was released, to the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 (Fiero, 2011). “The discoveries of Newton, the rationalism of Réné Descartes, the skepticism of Pierre Bayle, the pantheism of Benedict de Spinoza, and the empiricism of Francis Bacon and John Locke—fostered the belief in natural law and universal order and the confidence in human reason that spread to influence all of 18th-century society” (Enlightenment, 2007). Believing that they were wiser than in previous periods, the Enlightenment philosophers challenged early European philosophers who used more abstract reasoning to discover principles such as the phenomena of planetary motion (Norton et al., 2007). Enlightenment philosophers believed knowledge should come by reasoning and viewed human behavior as natural law (Fiero, 2011). This intellectual movement challenged the previous forms of life and culture. The unwritten, but divinely accepted law of nature had specific principles and beliefs of right and wrong that was inherent to all human beings. The reasoning of right and wrong that created a just society, as with Natural rights included the “right to life, liberty, property, and just treatment by the ruling order” (Fiero, p. 134). This type of thinking had a large affect on the clergymen heading the colonial colleges, government and heliacal authority, and the structure of societies. The wealthy and educated people in America and Europe, adopted a “common vocabulary and...

References: "Enlightenment: Background and Basic Tenets." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. (2007). Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. Retrieved on 29 March 2012, from http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0858010.html
Fiero, G. K. (2011). The humanistic tradition: The early modern world to the present. (6th ed., Vol. 2). New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.
Hackett, L., & Hackett, L. (1992, January 1). History world. Retrieved on 29 March 2012, from http://history-world.org/age_of_enlightenment.htm
Norton, M. B., Sheriff, C., Katzman, D. M., Blight, D. W., Chudacoff, H., & Logevall, F. (2010). A people and a nation. (8th ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin College Div.
(Norton, Sheriff, Katzman, Blight, Chudacoff & Logevall, 2010)
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