Unlike in the preceding years of war throughout the world that set these boundaries, the Age of Enlightenment brought a whole new perspective to the way the world thought, and how they viewed their individual societies, the world, and their governments....
The political revolutions of the Enlightenment, especially the Frenchand the American, were informed and guided to a significant extent byprior political philosophy in the period. Though Thomas Hobbes, in hisLeviathan (1651), defends the absolute power of the politicalsovereign, and is to that extent opposed to the revolutionaries andreformers in England, this work is a founding work of Enlightenmentpolitical theory. Hobbes’ work originates the modern socialcontract theory, which incorporates Enlightenment conceptions of therelation of the individual to the state. According to the generalsocial contract model, political authority is grounded in an agreement(often understood as ideal, rather than real) among individuals, eachof whom aims in this agreement to advance his rational self-interestby establishing a common political authority over all. Thus, accordingto the general contract model (though this is more clear in latercontract theorists such as Locke and Rousseau than in Hobbes himself),political authority is grounded not in conquest, natural or divinelyinstituted hierarchy, or in obscure myths and traditions, but ratherin the rational consent of the governed. In initiating this model,Hobbes takes a naturalistic, scientific approach to the question ofhow political society ought to be organized (against the background ofa clear-eyed, unsentimental conception of human nature), and thusdecisively influences the Enlightenment process of secularization andrationalization in political and social philosophy.
Age of Enlightenment - Wikipedia
It is striking how unenlightened many of the Enlightenment’scelebrated thinkers are concerning issues of race and of gender(regarding race, see Race and Enlightenment: A Reader, editedby Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze). For all the public concern with theallegedly universal “rights of man” in the Enlightenment,the rights of women and of non-white people are generally overlookedin the period. (Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of theRights of Woman (1792) is a noteworthy exception.) WhenEnlightenment thinkers do turn their attention to the social standingof women or of non-white people, they tend to spout unreasonedprejudice. Moreover, while the philosophies of the Enlightenmentgenerally aspire or pretend to universal truth, unattached toparticular time, place or culture, Enlightenment writings are rifewith rank ethno- and Eurocentrism, often explicit.
Pascal Bruckner: Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism …
Finally,there was Rousseau who said that people could only legitimately followlaws they themselves have made. Otherwise, they were the victims ofsomeone else's tyranny. Therefore the ideal state is a small-scaledemocracy in which everyone participates. Together, the ideas of Locke,Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau provided the basic ideas we havetoday on personal rights and liberties and how a government can best bestructured to guarantee those rights and liberties.
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thinkers of the Enlightenment were dedicated to secular views based on reason of
human understanding, which they hoped would provide a basis for beneficial
changes affecting every area of life and thought.
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This declaration used several of the ideas from the European enlightenment, such as Locke's beliefs: people had the right to "alter or abolish" unjust governments.
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In this era dedicated to human progress, the advancement of thenatural sciences is regarded as the main exemplification of, and fuelfor, such progress. Isaac Newton’s epochal accomplishment in hisPrincipia Mathematica (1687), which, very briefly described,consists in the comprehension of a diversity of physical phenomena– in particular the motions of heavenly bodies, together withthe motions of sublunary bodies – in few relatively simple,universally applicable, mathematical laws, was a great stimulus to theintellectual activity of the eighteenth century and served as a modeland inspiration for the researches of a number of Enlightenmentthinkers. Newton’s system strongly encourages the Enlightenmentconception of nature as an orderly domain governed by strictmathematical-dynamical laws and the conception of ourselvesas capable of knowing those laws and of plumbing the secrets of naturethrough the exercise of our unaided faculties. – The conceptionof nature, and of how we know it, changes significantly with the riseof modern science. It belongs centrally to the agenda of Enlightenmentphilosophy to contribute to the new knowledge of nature, and toprovide a metaphysical framework within which to place and interpretthis new knowledge.