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com/ The Age of Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Thought THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION: BACON AND DESCARTES Englishman Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) and Frenchman René Descartes (1596 – 1650) were important for their achievements in establishing a reliable method to gaining knowledge. Both were concerned with how human beings could know anything with certainty or have any accurate knowledge about the world of nature. Francis Bacon Bacon had planned to create a multi-volumed work called Instauratio Magna or “Great Renewal,” of which he only completed two parts. In the first, Novum Organum, he insisted on the inductive method – one must reason from the concrete to the abstract. By making a series of observations, one can then make generalizations based on observations. While thinkers before Bacon used the inductive method, he formalized it and became a leading philosopher of empiricism, the philosophy which bases knowledge off of observation and experience. He believed that there was too much emphasis placed on tradition and the work of classical thinkers, such as Aristotle. In his second part, The Advancement of Learning, he developed the same idea. In The New Atlantis, he wrote about a scientific utopia where everyone enjoyed a perfect society through their knowledge and command of nature. An important element in the Baconian tradition is the usefulness of knowledge. Since knowledge can be used for practical purposes, then that shows it is true knowledge. Enthusiastic Baconians believed that knowledge is power. However, Bacon never had much influence on the development of actual science, due to his failure to understand the role of mathematics. René Descartes Descartes is considered the inventor of coordinate geometry. He showed that any algebraic formula could be plotted as a curve in space, and that any curve in space could be converted into algebraic terms. He promoted deductive reasoning, which involves reasoning out a general law from specific cases, then applying it broadly to cases not specifically observed. In his Discourse on Method, he began by doubting all authorities and all knowledge until he was left with one thing he could not doubt: his own existence. Thus, “Cogito, ergo sum,” “I think, therefore I am.” He then continued and was able to deduce the existence of God. He arrived at a philosophy of dualism, which held that God created two kinds of fundamental reality in the universe: “thinking substance” – mind, spirit, consciousness, subjective experience and “extended substance” – everything occupying space and then objective. Within the material world, the world of extension, mathematical laws could reign supreme. They constituted a complete system. Reason could only be applied to the mechanical and mathematical realm of matter.
AP European History http://guidesbyjulie.blogspot.com/ The Age of Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Thought FORMATIVE INFLUENCES Isaac Newton Newton, after inventing calculus and using a new measurement of the size of the earth and experiments with circular motion, he was able to publish his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in 1687. This book showed that all motion could be described by the same mathematical formulas because of universal gravitation. Newton also encouraged Europeans to approach the study of nature directly. He always insisted on empirical support for his general laws and constantly used empirical experience to check his rational speculations. The emphasis on concrete experience became a key feature of Enlightenment thought. John Locke In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke argued that all humans enter the world as a tabula rasa, or blank slate. Human personality was a result of education and the environment a person was exposed to. Locke’s psychology rejected the Christian doctrine that human beings are permanently flawed by sin. He agreed with Bacon’s idea of empirical philosophy, insisting on experience and observation as the source of truth. Locke denied Descartes’ doctrine of innate ideas, or inevitable disposition of the human mind to think in certain ways. Since evil in human actions was due to bad social institutions, an improvement in human society would improve human behavior. This gave confidence in the possibility of social progress and turned attention to a sphere where planned and constructive action was possible – the sphere of government, public policy, and legislation. POLITICAL THEORY The idea of natural law holds that there is a law in the structure of the world distinguishing right from wrong. Right is “natural” and not a mere human invention. This right is not determined by any authority. Natural law, or the real rightness of a thing, is not determined by any person or people. Right and law exist outside and above all peoples, which makes them universal, the same for all. Knowledge of what is naturally right can only be discovered by reason. On the basis of natural law, Hugo Grotius published a book devote exclusively to international law or the “law of nations.” He held that sovereign states should work together for the common good, that there was a community of nations as of individuals. Thomas Hobbes Hobbes believed that humans were unable to govern themselves. He held that people in the “state of nature,” that is, without any government, were quarrelsome and turbulent, forever locked in a war of all against all. Life in the state of nature was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” To obtain order, people came to a kind of agreement or “contract” in which they surrendered their freedom of action into the hands of a ruler. This ruler must then have unrestricted or absolute power to maintain order. Questioning the government was intolerably dangerous, because it could open the way to chaos. In his Leviathan, he pictured a ruler as the absolute lord, but one who incorporated the mass of individuals
AP European History http://guidesbyjulie.blogspot.com/ The Age of Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Thought whose self-interests are best served by cooperation. For Hobbes, absolute power was only an expedient to promote individual welfare and to realize the natural law. John Locke Medieval philosophy never favored an absolute power, and Locke carried over many ideas of the Middle Ages. He shared the idea with Hobbes that a good government is an expedient of human purpose, neither provided by divine Providence nor inherited by a national tradition. Like Hobbes, he also believed that government was based on a contract, or rational and conscious agreement upon which authority was based. However, where Hobbes sided with the king, Locke agreed with Parliament. Since everything people know is a result of interaction of the mind with the outside world, moral ideas are the product of people’s subordination of self-love to reason, which was a free act of self-discipline so that happiness could be attained. Thus, uncorrupted reason would be the same as the teachings of Christianity. Locke wrote Two Treatises of Government, where he opposed the argument that rulers are absolute in their power. He declared that people in the “state of nature” were reasonable and willing to get along with one another. They had a moral sense independent of government and possessed certain rights – the rights to life, liberty, and property. Since individuals in the state of nature cannot completely win general respect for their individual natural rights, they agree to set up government that will see that the rights of all are attended to. Government is then created by a contract with mutual obligations. People must be reasonable and government cannot break the contract. For example, it cannot threaten the natural rights which it is the sole purpose of government to protect. If government is corrupt, the governed may rebel and resist government. Locke’s influence was felt throughout Europe, during and after his life. His influence was also great in the British colonies – the authors of the American Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the United States were quite familiar with Locke’s work. THE PHILOSOPHES The reading public had greatly expanded by the beginning of the Enlightenment. The educated middle class was much larger than ever before. Newspapers and magazines multiplied, and people were interested in reading about the current social issues of the day. “Public opinion” became a kind of tribunal that judged the significance of new books and established or destroyed the reputations of ambitious authorities. Malesherbes wrote that the new public opinion was an independent social force “that all powers respect, that appreciates all talents, that pronounces on all people of merit.” Censorship was an important factor. The theory of censorship was to protect people from harmful ideas. In England, censorship was mild and generally had little effect. Other countries, such as Spain had powerful censorship but few original writers. France, however, had complicated censorship and a large reading and writing public. The church, the Parlement of Paris, the royal officials, and the printers’ guilds all had a hand in censorship. Thus, French writers did not directly address concrete
AP European History http://guidesbyjulie.blogspot.com/ The Age of Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Thought public questions. Instead, they put criticisms of the church and state on an abstract level. They attacked matters in general. In Paris, the heart of the Enlightenment, mingling of people and ideas took place in salons conducted by women who became famous as hostesses, or salonníeres. They became well-organized meeting places in which authors could introduce new works, salonníeres read letters from travelers or distant correspondents, and lively conversation could spread the reputations of aspiring philosophes. In this “Republic of Letters” talent and creativity counted for more than noble lineage. Encyclopedia Under the leadership of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, the first volume of the Encyclopedia was published in 1751. Numbering seventeen volumes of text and eleven of illustrations, the project reached completion in 1772. It was a great compendium of scientific, technical, and historical knowledge, and also had a strong undertone of criticism of existing society and institutions. Virtually all the French philosophes contributed, as well as many other authors. It was edited in Paris, but became widely known and read. Montesquieu Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, was a lawyer and member of a provincial parlement. In his great work, The Spirit of Laws he developed two influential ideas. One was that certain forms of government differed depending on the size, population, social and religious customs, economic structure, traditions, and climate of a country. He came upon these ideas by taking illustrative examples from the political experience of both ancient and modern nations. His other great idea was the separation and balance of powers. Montesquieu believed that power should be divided between the king and many “intermediate bodies.” He greatly admired the English constitution, because he believed that England carried over with more success than any other country, the feudal liberties of the early Middle Ages. He though the English effectively balanced power through a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy (king, lords, and commons) and by a separation of the functions of the executive, legislature, and judiciary. Separation and balance of powers would become important in the workings of American democracy. Montesquieu also thought a system of checks and balances was necessary to ensure one branch did not dominate the others and that individual liberties were protected. Voltaire Francois-Marie Arouet, who came to be known as Voltaire, was originally a writer of epigrams, tragedies, and one epic. After he was over 40, he turned to philosophical and public questions. During the 1720s, he offended the French authorities because of his writings, and was put in prison for a short amount of time. He later went to England, visiting its best literary circles, observing the tolerance, and admiring its prosperity. In 1733, Voltaire published Letters on the English that praised the virtues of English society and indirectly criticized the abuses of French society. He even went to live with Frederick the Great for two years as a personal adviser.
AP European History http://guidesbyjulie.blogspot.com/ The Age of Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Thought Voltaire was mainly concerned with freedom of thought and religious tolerance. He admired Frederick the Great as the ideal enlightened ruler, because Frederick sponsored the arts and sciences, recognized no religious authority, and granted toleration to all creeds. Voltaire fought to clear the memory of Jean Calas, a Huegenot tortured and publicly strangled on the charge of murdering a son to prevent his conversion to Catholicism, despite there never being a confession of guilt. His famous saying "écrasez l'infâme!” or “Crush the infamous thing!” referred to bigotry, intolerance, and superstition. He assaulted the Catholic Church and the whole traditional Christian view of the world. In his Essai sur les moeurs, or “Universal History,” he presented a purely secular conception of world history. He surveyed great civilizations without putting them within a Christian framework. Voltaire was also a supporter of enlightened government. He was an example of a Deist. Although philosophes were critical of many religious institutions, they were not opposed to all religions. The Newtonian worldview convinced many writers that nature was rational. Therefore, the God who created nature must also be rational. Deism sought to combine the life of religion and of reason. Deists regarded God as a divine watchmaker who created the mechanism of nature, set it in motion, and then departed. The two major points in deism were that God existed and that there was life after death, when rewards and punishments would be given out according to the virtue of the lives people led on this Earth. Deism was empirical, reasonable, and capable of encouraging virtuous living. Jean-Jacques Rousseau Rousseau never felt at ease in Paris society and had a troubled life. From his own experience, he felt that it was impossible for a good person to be happy in society as it existed. He therefore attacked society and declared that it was artificial and corrupt. He even attacked reason, calling it a false guide when followed alone. He felt life in a “state of nature” would be much better. Rousseau felt the best traits of human character, such as kindness, unselfishness, honesty, and true understanding, were products of nature. He was more radical than other contemporaries, because he felt the real purpose of society was to create better people. In his books, Rousseau gave the impression that impulse is more reliable than considered judgment, and spontaneous feeling more to be trusted than critical thought. In the Social Contract, he seemed to contradict much of his famous sentiment for nature. He now agreed with Hobbes that the “state of nature” was a brutish condition without law or morality. Rousseau thought of the “contract” as an agreement between people themselves. All individuals fused their individual wills into a combined General Will and agreed to accept the rulings of this General Will as final. This General Will was the sovereign, while government was secondary. However, this was not necessarily the voice of the majority, but it was the common interest that united everyone. Rousseau’s novels, such as Emile, were read by all literate classes of society. Cesare Beccaria Beccaria, an Italian philosophe, published On Crimes and Punishment, in which he analyzed the problem of making punishments both effective and just. He wanted the laws of monarchs and
AP European History http://guidesbyjulie.blogspot.com/ The Age of Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Thought legislatures to conform with the rational laws of nature. Beccaria opposed torture and capital punishment, thinking that the criminal justice system should ensure speedy trial and certain punishment. Laws were designed to secure greatest happiness for the greatest number of human beings – punishment was to deter crime. THE PHYSIOCRATS (ECONOMISTS) Unlike the philosophes, many of the physiocrats were close to the government. Francois Quesnay and Pierre Dupont de Nemours were the leading spokespeople of the physiocrats, who sought economic reform. They believed mercantilist legislation and regulation of labor by government and guilds actually hampered economic expansion. They were the first to sue the term “laissez faire, laissez passer,” or “Let them do as they see fit.” Physiocrats believed the primary role of government was to protect property and to permit its owners to use it freely. Adam Smith Like the French physiocrats, Adam Smith wanted to increase national wealth by reducing barriers that hindered growth. In 1776, he published Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. He attacked most mercantilism and expected American colonies would soon become independent. As a result, he urged that the mercantile system in England, including the navigation acts, bounties, most tariffs, special monopolies, and domestic regulation of labor and manufacturing, be abolished. While these were intended to preserve the wealth of the nation, Smith saw them as hindering expansion of wealth and production. He believed on relying on private persons more than the state. If there was a shortage of a given commodity, its price would rise and producers would want to produce more. If there was an excess, both capital and labor would withdraw and move into an area where demand was stronger. Nations should specialize by using their comparative advantage in certain spheres of production or trade to compensate for weaknesses, and then trade with other countries. Since self-interest would motivate individuals to enrich themselves by meeting the needs of others in the marketplace, the economy would expand. Mercantilism assumed Earth’s resources were limited and scarce, so one nation can only acquire wealth at the expense of another. Smith challenged this assumption, saying that resources of nature were boundless. Humans should exploit nature’s bounty for the enrichment and comfort of humankind. He is usually regarded as the founder of laissez-faire economic thought and policy, which favores a limited role for government in economic life. However, Smith did not oppose all government activity. He thought the state should provide schools, armies, navies, and roads, as well as undertaking certain commercial ventures that were too expensive or risky for private enterprise.
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