Referenda are the nuclear weapons of democracy. In parliamentary systems they are redundant. Their destructive aftermath lasts for generations. Never call a referendum without being sure of the outcome.
The Enlightenment was both a movement and a state of mind. The term represents a phase in the intellectual history of Europe, but it also serves to define programs of reform in which influential literati, inspired by a common faith in the possibility… The powers and uses of reason had first been explored by the philosophers of ancient Greece.
The Romans adopted and preserved much of Greek culturenotably including the ideas of a rational natural order and natural law. Amid the turmoil of empire, however, a new concern arose for personal salvationand the way was paved for the triumph of the Christian religion.
Christian thinkers gradually found uses for their Greco-Roman heritage. The system of thought known as Scholasticismculminating in the work of Thomas Aquinasresurrected reason as a tool of understanding but subordinated it to spiritual revelation and the revealed truths of Christianity.
The intellectual and political edifice of Christianity, seemingly impregnable in the Middle Agesfell in turn to the assaults made on it by humanismthe Renaissanceand the Protestant Reformation.
The Renaissance rediscovered much of Classical culture and revived the notion of humans as creative beings, and the Reformation, more directly but in the long run no less effectively, challenged the monolithic authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Later, in European socialism and American progressivism, the left proposed to defeat bourgeois monopolies in meat and sugar and steel by gathering them all into one supreme monopoly called the state. While all this deep thinking was roiling the clerisy of Europe, the commercial bourgeoisie created merely the Great Enrichment and the modern world. -Even a century ago, children in North America and Europe had much the same life as children in poor countries today: Most worked long hours, in mines and textile . In Enlightenment Europe, however, there was a growing impatience with systems. The most creative of scientists, such as Boyle, Harvey, and Leeuwenhoek, found sufficient momentum for discovery on science’s front line.
For Martin Luther as for Bacon or Descartes, the way to truth lay in the application of human reason. Received authority, whether of Ptolemy in the sciences or of the church in matters of the spirit, was to be subject to the probings of unfettered minds.
The successful application of reason to any question depended on its correct application—on the development of a methodology of reasoning that would serve as its own guarantee of validity. Such a methodology was most spectacularly achieved in the sciences and mathematicswhere the logics of induction and deduction made possible the creation of a sweeping new cosmology.
The success of Newtonin particular, in capturing in a few mathematical equations the laws that govern the motions of the planetsgave great impetus to a growing faith in the human capacity to attain knowledge.
At the same time, the idea of the universe as a mechanism governed by a few simple—and discoverable—laws had a subversive effect on the concepts of a personal God and individual salvation that were central to Christianity.
Inevitably, the method of reason was applied to religion itself. The product of a search for a natural—rational—religion was Deismwhich, although never an organized cult or movement, conflicted with Christianity for two centuries, especially in England and France.
For the Deist, a very few religious truths sufficedand they were truths felt to be manifest to all rational beings: Beyond the natural religion of the Deists lay the more radical products of the application of reason to religion: The Enlightenment produced the first modern secularized theories of psychology and ethics.
John Locke conceived of the human mind as being at birth a tabula rasaa blank slate on which experience wrote freely and boldly, creating the individual character according to the individual experience of the world.
Supposed innate qualities, such as goodness or original sinhad no reality.
In a darker vein, Thomas Hobbes portrayed humans as moved solely by considerations of their own pleasure and pain. The notion of humans as neither good nor bad but interested principally in survival and the maximization of their own pleasure led to radical political theories.
Where the state had once been viewed as an earthly approximation of an eternal order, with the City of Man modeled on the City of God, now it came to be seen as a mutually beneficial arrangement among humans aimed at protecting the natural rights and self-interest of each.
The idea of society as a social contracthowever, contrasted sharply with the realities of actual societies. Thus, the Enlightenment became critical, reforming, and eventually revolutionary. Locke and Jeremy Bentham in England, MontesquieuVoltaireJean-Jacques RousseauDenis Diderotand Condorcet in France, and Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson in colonial America all contributed to an evolving critique of the arbitrary, authoritarian state and to sketching the outline of a higher form of social organization, based on natural rights and functioning as a political democracy.
Such powerful ideas found expression as reform in England and as revolution in France and America. The more rarefied the religion of the Deists became, the less it offered those who sought solace or salvation. The celebration of abstract reason provoked contrary spirits to begin exploring the world of sensation and emotion in the cultural movement known as Romanticism.
The Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution severely tested the belief that an egalitarian society could govern itself. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:Later, in European socialism and American progressivism, the left proposed to defeat bourgeois monopolies in meat and sugar and steel by gathering them all into one supreme monopoly called the state.
While all this deep thinking was roiling the clerisy of Europe, the commercial bourgeoisie created merely the Great Enrichment and the modern world. Oct 14, · Contrary to conventional wisdom, this age’s crisis is not one of faith. If anything, there is plenty of faith around, in both good and bad things.
In keeping with the concept of “discovering” God through the reasoning of Aquinas, there are then more things to consider. it stands as part . In that study, participants were healthy, young adults who were slightly older (mean age= years) than the current sample (mean age= ), and they were recruited from a university in Bern, Switzerland.
In Enlightenment Europe, however, there was a growing impatience with systems. The most creative of scientists, such as Boyle, Harvey, and Leeuwenhoek, found sufficient momentum for discovery on science’s front line. Summary: The great Irish essayist Hubert Butler was a cosmopolitan, his sensibility being both Irish and passionately European.
He situated Ireland squarely in the main current of European history, whereas England occupied a kind of eccentric tributary, or even backwater, of its own making. -Even a century ago, children in North America and Europe had much the same life as children in poor countries today: Most worked long hours, in mines and textile .