The Age of Enlightenment is also referred to as the Age of Reason or in simple terms only Enlightenment. It has been referred to as the movement which is intellectual as well as philosophical. This movement was a predominant one during the 18th century in the whole of Europe. The 18th century has therefore been referred to as the “Century of Philosophy”. During this century, there has been publication of book by Isaac Newton which is named as “Principa Mathematica” the year 1687. This has been a major work which has received enlightenment. The historians of France date this age of enlightenment from 1715 to 1789. This was the era or reign of Louis XV up to the Revolution of France. The ideas given by different scientists and Philosophers through different meetings at different places such as scientific academies, printed books, journals and many others.
These ideas undermine the ideas given by the authority of monarchy as well the authorities of church. As a result, there was an emergence of political revolutions all around the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of movements occurred during the 19th century included the concepts of liberalism and neoclassicism.
There were a varied range of ideas that were centred around the era of Enlightenment. Some of these include “reason” which has been considered as the primary source of knowledge including certain other ideas such as liberty, tolerance, fraternity, separation of church and state along with constitutional government and progress. These ideas varied from one place to another. In France, the main concept of central doctrine in the Enlightenment era included liberty of individuals as well as tolerance on the basis of religion. This has opposed the ideas given by absolute monarchy and the dogmas that were fixed by the Roman Catholic Church.
The significant embarks that were made during the age of enlightenment was emphasis on the scientific methods and several philosophical ideas such as reductionism. This is covered with increased questions about orthodoxy of religions. This was an attitude captured by the phrase “Sapere aude” which means “Dare to know”. The major publication that took place during the age of enlightenment was the Encyclopaedia. The book was published between 1751 to 1772 in thirty-five volumes and the compilation of all of the volumes is done by d’Alembert till the year 1759. He was accompanied by a team of 150 scientists as well as philosophers. Due to the introduction of the encyclopaedia, the ideas about enlightenment could be spread across the entire world, across Europe and countries far beyond it. The other publications which made this era very valuable were Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique which had been referred to as the Philosophical Dictionary and Letters on the English. These books were published in the year 1764. Other noteworthy books include Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract in 1762, The theory of Moral sentiments as well as The Social Contract by Adam Smith. The ideas that were prevalent in the age of enlightenment inspired the French Revolution which was started in the year 1789. After the end of revolution, the enlightenment was followed by another movement which was considered to be intellectual and was referred to as Romanticism.
The philosophical concept which governed the basic foundation of enlightenment thinking was the philosophy proposed by Rene Descartes. Two of his most important philosophical thoughts include method of doubt which had been applied in dualistic doctrine of mind and matter and scepticism along with dualism. These thoughts laid down two important and significant lines of Enlightenment thought. One of such thoughts was moderate variety, which was implemented to provide accommodation between reform and traditional systems concerning power and faith. The second thought was the radical enlightenment which promoted democracy, liberty of individuals and freedom of expression of thoughts along with abolishment of authoritarian religion.
The first variety mentioned above was named as moderate variety which believed in the idea of deism. This means that the first variety believed in the existence of God in the creation of universe but not as a force who would interact with the humans. The other variety believed in the concept of radical tendency and separated the creation of morals completely from theology.
These two schools of thoughts had opposition and counter-argument. This counter-argument was proposed by philosophers who believed in the existence of Counter-Enlightenment. This thought emerged as a sought to return to faith. Another very important subject which played a vital role in the Age of Enlightenment was Science. The writers and thinkers who were supporting the thoughts of enlightenment, had backgrounds of science. These people were associated with the scientific advancement that paved the overthrow of religion and the authoritarian principle and brought about the development of free speech and expression. As a result, during the enlightenment phases there was huge advancements in science. These advancements include discovery of carbon dioxide which was termed as fixed air by Joseph Black who was an eminent chemist during that era. Another significant progress was the argument which was put forward by geologist James Hutton about deep time.
The science prevalent during enlightenment age favoured empiricism. Empiricism was a philosophical thought which stated that sensory experiences give rise to knowledge. Empiricism has been one of the studies of epistemology which provides the study of human knowledge mixed with rationalism and scepticism. The study of science under this era had divisions. These divisions were studied under the same heading named as natural philosophy. The subjects included under natural philosophy were anatomy, mineralogy, biology, chemistry, natural history and zoology. Inspite of having huge advancements in science and technology, the benefits were not encouraging and motivating throughout the world. Some philosophers such as Rousseau criticised science as being the reason for separation of mankind with the nature. Even though there were critics, science and technology made huge progress in the enlightenment age and was studied thoroughly in the scientific societies and academics were predominant and largely replaced universities as centres of scientific research and development.
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