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Scheidell 1

Stephen Scheidell
Dr. Yamamoto
HIST 105
25 February 2009
ENLIGHTENMENT AND ITS DISCONTENTS
As with most reactionary ideologies in history, the Enlightenment stumbled upon
certain insights – namely, the scientific method leading to specific universal principles –
and too quickly applied that thinking where it did not belong. The philosophy became
problematic when it attempted to reduce all of human experiences to mechanistic
principles while ignoring data that particularizes people groups and individuals. In the
realms of epistemology, social theory and politics, Conservative Romanticism met
Enlightenment ideals with strong critique.
With regard to epistemology, the Enlightenment wanted to argue for a complete
trust in Reason. Through Reason, progress is inevitable. However, this mere, abstract
faith in the progress of Reason struck the Conservatives as little more than a replacement
of the former faith with this new one. They responded in such a strand. One cannot
escape the need for faith; the secularism of the Enlightenment did little more than create a
new clergy (enlightened intellectuals) and liturgy (scientific method) in which the
uneducated are to have faith until they too become enlightened through the use of their
Reason. Moreover, the rational limitations of the human mind "rationally" leads one to
realize that everything cannot be understood in terms of these rationalistic categories.
Thus, one needs other avenues in conjunction with Reason with which to engage the
world. Truth revealed in religion and accepted on faith serves as one among these other
avenues.

How can one legitimately argue for this "being born into a state of nature" in which the person is born with autonomy and liberty when the person is born completely dependent on the care of the parents? Rather than focusing on the individual's autonomy. nor does it recognize the consciousness that arises from a unique history shared by a people. This common thriving. this new emphasis on individualism does not correlate to the obvious reality that persons are born. we could contribute to a Social Science – that which Thomas Hobbes termed Statecraft. We have communities that contributed to our thriving and we thus have a responsibility to that community. We can build a society on universal principles to promise the procurement of the innate rights of individuals. Again. No longer must we follow tradition for the sake of tradition. Naturally. not merely to protect the individual. however. why not structure society around the strengthening of the family. culture and community – the actual nature – in which we all live? Following this line of thinking.Scheidell 2 By use of such Reason. Furthermore. the Enlightenment thinkers argued. but to protect individuals by protecting the well being of that social reality into which they are thrust upon birth. cooperation is not forced upon individuals but a natural element of the reality into which they are born. Training in moral integrity through religion accomplishes this. This science of the state does not bring into account the specific and unique history of a given society. the state exists. the Conservatives refuse to be satisfied with what they feel to be an incomplete understanding of the reality on the ground. but new "traditions" can serve the flourishing of the individual. Therefore. individuals have more duties than rights. live and die in the company of kinsmen. this critique of Enlightenment social science will spill over into Romanticism's critique of the new political structures. is not due to the common equality of .

By sharing in common these skills and needs. one's ability can compensate for another's inability. these thinkers forgot to account for particular histories and societies. We find in the ideals of the Enlightenment. particular skills and needs in individuals. . and all have needs. These radical ideas arose not from a vacuum. but from a history of oppressive monarchies. In their pursuits for universality. naturally this discovery in the context of monarchs "divinely appointed" will lead these thinkers to imagine a world in which all common people might. to a greater or lesser degree. though positive in the historical result of escaping oppressive monarchial polities. When common intellectuals "discover truths" based on a scientific method. not a set of ideals that can be given approval or disapproval.Scheidell 3 persons. took a great discovery and stretched them too wide in the human experience. All have skills. all contribute to the structuring of society. These ideals. but precisely due to innate inequalities. by Reason.