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Declaration of Independence, owned slaves, despite the fact that he was influenced by the Enlightenment and wrote that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. Outram wrote that part of the reason why slavery flourished was because of the vast amount of money that could be made from it. Plantation owners in the southern United States, the Caribbean and South America used slave labor to rake in the profits. Those in the shipbuilding industry responsible for constructing and maintaining slave ships also benefited financially, as did the financial companies that loaned money to finance the transport of slaves.
Illustration depicting the cruel abduction of African men and women by slave traders during the period of the Enlightenment. Despite the movement's goal of independence and freedom, slavery flourished.
Age of Enlightenment
The First French Republic also had policies that contradicted the ideas of the Enlightenment. Between and , a period called the "terror" occurred in France. During this time, France's fledgling government was afraid that it was going to be toppled and therefore arrested and executed as many of its perceived enemies as it could find, which resulted in the execution of thousands of people. The episode put a blight on the government and helped pave the way for the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte , who would eventually become emperor of France. Live Science. The Declaration of Independence incorporated many of the ideas that were popular during the Enlightenment.
This painting, by John Trumbull, depicts the moment on June 28, , when the first draft of the document was presented to the Second Continental Congress.
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Illustration of Isaac Newton examining light passing through a prism. It therefore seems a timely moment to look in more detail at this phenomenon. Preliminary readings The literature on the subject is huge and we shall only be able to look at a very small sample.
Possible readings to prepare for the seminar are:. In preparation for this discussion, you are asked to read the following texts:. We will discuss a few short texts, which are available both in the original and in English translation:. Recent attempts to think about a different way of looking at enlig htenment: practice as opposed to ideas; the importance of place; the role of religion.
Does it make sense to speak of different national Enlightenments. Is the term always useful? The philosophes argued that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism , the scientific method , religious tolerance and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophes in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change.
Although much of Enlightenment political thought was dominated by social contract theorists, both David Hume and Adam Ferguson criticized this camp. Hume's essay Of the Original Contract argues that governments derived from consent are rarely seen and civil government is grounded in a ruler's habitual authority and force. It is precisely because of the ruler's authority over-and-against the subject, that the subject tacitly consents and Hume says that the subjects would "never imagine that their consent made him sovereign", rather the authority did so.
In his An Essay on the History of Civil Society , Ferguson uses the four stages of progress, a theory that was very popular in Scotland at the time, to explain how humans advance from a hunting and gathering society to a commercial and civil society without "signing" a social contract. Both Rousseau and Locke's social contract theories rest on the presupposition of natural rights , which are not a result of law or custom, but are things that all men have in pre-political societies and are therefore universal and inalienable.
The most famous natural right formulation comes from John Locke in his Second Treatise , when he introduces the state of nature. For Locke, the law of nature is grounded on mutual security or the idea that one cannot infringe on another's natural rights, as every man is equal and has the same inalienable rights. These natural rights include perfect equality and freedom, as well as the right to preserve life and property.
Locke also argued against slavery on the basis that enslaving oneself goes against the law of nature because one cannot surrender one's own rights: one's freedom is absolute and no-one can take it away. Additionally, Locke argues that one person cannot enslave another because it is morally reprehensible, although he introduces a caveat by saying that enslavement of a lawful captive in time of war would not go against one's natural rights.
As a spillover of the Enlightenment, nonsecular beliefs expressed first by Quakers and then by Protestant evangelicals in Britain and the United States emerged. To these groups, slavery became "repugnant to our religion" and a "crime in the sight of God. The leaders of the Enlightenment were not especially democratic, as they more often look to absolute monarchs as the key to imposing reforms designed by the intellectuals.
Voltaire despised democracy and said the absolute monarch must be enlightened and must act as dictated by reason and justice — in other words, be a "philosopher-king".
In several nations, rulers welcomed leaders of the Enlightenment at court and asked them to help design laws and programs to reform the system, typically to build stronger states. These rulers are called "enlightened despots" by historians. Joseph was over-enthusiastic, announcing many reforms that had little support so that revolts broke out and his regime became a comedy of errors and nearly all his programs were reversed.
In Poland, the model constitution of expressed Enlightenment ideals, but was in effect for only one year before the nation was partitioned among its neighbors. More enduring were the cultural achievements, which created a nationalist spirit in Poland. Frederick the Great , the king of Prussia from to , saw himself as a leader of the Enlightenment and patronized philosophers and scientists at his court in Berlin. Voltaire, who had been imprisoned and maltreated by the French government, was eager to accept Frederick's invitation to live at his palace.
Frederick explained: "My principal occupation is to combat ignorance and prejudice The Enlightenment has been frequently linked to the French Revolution of One view of the political changes that occurred during the Enlightenment is that the " consent of the governed " philosophy as delineated by Locke in Two Treatises of Government represented a paradigm shift from the old governance paradigm under feudalism known as the " divine right of kings ".
In this view, the revolutions of the late s and early s were caused by the fact that this governance paradigm shift often could not be resolved peacefully and therefore violent revolution was the result. Clearly a governance philosophy where the king was never wrong was in direct conflict with one whereby citizens by natural law had to consent to the acts and rulings of their government.
Alexis de Tocqueville proposed the French Revolution as the inevitable result of the radical opposition created in the 18th century between the monarchy and the men of letters of the Enlightenment. These men of letters constituted a sort of "substitute aristocracy that was both all-powerful and without real power". This illusory power came from the rise of "public opinion", born when absolutist centralization removed the nobility and the bourgeoisie from the political sphere.
The "literary politics" that resulted promoted a discourse of equality and was hence in fundamental opposition to the monarchical regime. Enlightenment era religious commentary was a response to the preceding century of religious conflict in Europe, especially the Thirty Years' War. For moderate Christians, this meant a return to simple Scripture.
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John Locke abandoned the corpus of theological commentary in favor of an "unprejudiced examination" of the Word of God alone. He determined the essence of Christianity to be a belief in Christ the redeemer and recommended avoiding more detailed debate. Enlightenment scholars sought to curtail the political power of organized religion and thereby prevent another age of intolerant religious war.
A number of novel ideas about religion developed with the Enlightenment, including deism and talk of atheism.
According to Thomas Paine , deism is the simple belief in God the Creator , with no reference to the Bible or any other miraculous source. Instead, the deist relies solely on personal reason to guide his creed,  which was eminently agreeable to many thinkers of the time. Wilson and Reill note: "In fact, very few enlightened intellectuals, even when they were vocal critics of Christianity, were true atheists. Rather, they were critics of orthodox belief, wedded rather to skepticism, deism, vitalism, or perhaps pantheism". That is, since atheists gave themselves to no Supreme Authority and no law and had no fear of eternal consequences, they were far more likely to disrupt society.
He would be a god to himself, and the satisfaction of his own will the sole measure and end of all his actions. The "Radical Enlightenment"   promoted the concept of separating church and state,  an idea that is often credited to English philosopher John Locke — For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he said must therefore remain protected from any government authority. These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with the social contract, became particularly influential in the American colonies and the drafting of the United States Constitution.
He previously had supported successful efforts to disestablish the Church of England in Virginia  and authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The Enlightenment took hold in most European countries, often with a specific local emphasis. For example, in France it became associated with anti-government and anti-Church radicalism, while in Germany it reached deep into the middle classes, where it expressed a spiritualistic and nationalistic tone without threatening governments or established churches.
In France, the government was hostile, and the philosophes fought against its censorship, sometimes being imprisoned or hounded into exile. The British government, for the most part, ignored the Enlightenment's leaders in England and Scotland, although it did give Isaac Newton a knighthood and a very lucrative government office. The very existence of an English Enlightenment has been hotly debated by scholars. The majority of textbooks on British history make little or no mention of an English Enlightenment.
Enlightenment (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
However, its leading intellectuals such as Edward Gibbon ,  Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson were all quite conservative and supportive of the standing order. Porter says the reason was that Enlightenment had come early to England and had succeeded so that the culture had accepted political liberalism, philosophical empiricism, and religious toleration of the sort that intellectuals on the continent had to fight for against powerful odds. Furthermore, England rejected the collectivism of the continent and emphasized the improvement of individuals as the main goal of enlightenment.
In the Scottish Enlightenment, Scotland's major cities created an intellectual infrastructure of mutually supporting institutions such as universities, reading societies, libraries, periodicals, museums and masonic lodges. Several Americans, especially Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson , played a major role in bringing Enlightenment ideas to the New World and in influencing British and French thinkers.
Thinkers such as Paine, Locke and Rousseau all take Native American cultural practices as examples of natural freedom.
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During the Enlightenment there was a great emphasis upon liberty , republicanism and religious tolerance. There was no respect for monarchy or inherited political power. Deists reconciled science and religion by rejecting prophecies, miracles and Biblical theology. Prussia took the lead among the German states in sponsoring the political reforms that Enlightenment thinkers urged absolute rulers to adopt.