"Age of Enlightment" Essay

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Date Submitted: 02/21/2011 11:19 PM

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“Age of Enlightenment” Essay

Definitions of the verb enlighten include: to give intellectual or spiritual light to; to instruct; to impart knowledge to; and to shed light upon. Up until the 18th century people were essentially told what to think, because they knew no other way. Churches served as a monopoly of power and influence. Everything in life was strictly based on tradition and tradition alone until the “Age of Enlightenment” came about. The “age” surfaced as an intellectual movement in Western Europe when citizens in effect could not trust their authority.

Writers who looked into the enlightenment called themselves the philosophes, however, not to be confused with the term philosopher. Philosophes deemed that human beings could apply a critical, reasoning spirit to all problems, situations, and ideas. Particular topics united them such as ideals of reason being the focal point, as well as, reform, and free thought. They were extremely interested in abstract thought, intellectual discourse, and actually solving “real” issues for “real” people of their time. These philosophes studied and wrote on art, current issues, religion, politics, and science. Immanuel Kant, a German philosophe, was once quoted saying, “… sapere aude” dare to know, have the courage to think for yourself…” The fundamental nature of the philosophe was to use reason to attack all superstition, bigotry and religious fanaticism, which the philosophes believed to be the core barriers to free thought and social reform. The goal of enlightenment was to have anything and everything examined in light of reason. Anything that did not endorse the improvement of humanity was to be completely discarded without regard for any ones feelings (Packet 31-32). “The philosophy of the Enlightenment insisted on man’s essential autonomy: man is responsible to himself, to his own rational interests, to his self-development, and by an inescapable extension, to the welfare of his fellow man. To...