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HIST 1010 Ch. 17 Textbook Summary (F11)

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University of Guelph
HIST 1010
Peter Goddard

1 HIST 1010 Chapter 17 Summary: The Age of Enlightment: 18 Century Thought o Enlightenment: Movement of people and ideas inspired by sci revolution o Enlightenment writers believed that human beings can comprehend the operation of physical nature and mold it to achieve material and moral improvement, economic growth, and administrative reform o These rulers sought to centralize their authority so as to reform their countries; their policies became known as enlightened absolutism Formative Influences on the Enlightenment o Isaac Newton and John Locke were major intellectual forerunners of the Enlightenment o Newton’s formulation of the law of universal gravity exemplified the newly perceived power of the human mind o An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) – Locke argued that all humans enter the world a tabula rasa (blank page) o Enlightment flourished in a print culture in which books, journals, newspapers and pamphlets achieved a status of their own o 18 century – volume of printed material increased sharply throughout Europe (esp. Britain); prose came to be valued as highly as poetry; novel emerged as distinct literary genre o Increase in literacy occurred across Europe; more people (esp. urban centers of W and central Europe) could read o English essayist, critic, and dictionary author Samuel Johnston published as st books a collection of essays that had 1 appeared in newspapers/journals o Both aristocratic and middle-class society, people were increasingly expected to be familiar with books/secular ideas o The Spectator (1711) by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele fostered the value of polite conversation and reading of books o Successful authors of Enlightment addressed themselves to monarchs, nobles, and upper middle classes, and professional groups, and they were read/accepted in these upper levels of society Philosophes o Philosophes: Writers/critics who flourished in the expanding print culture; took the lead in forging new attitudes favorable to change; championed reform; advocated toleration o Sought rather to apply rules of reason, criticism, and common sense to nearly all major institutions, economic practices, and exclusivist religious policies of the day o Philosophes generally supported the expansion of trade, the improvement of agriculture and transport, and the invention of new manufacturing machinery that were transforming the society and the economy of the 18 th century and enlarging the business and commercial classes o Most influential philosophe was Francois-Marie Arouet (aka: Voltaire) o 1733 – Letters on the English – book praised the virtues of the English, esp. their religious liberty, and implicitly criticized the abuses of French society 2 o Countess Emilie de Chatelet – brilliant mathematician; 1738; helped Voltaire publish Elements of the Philosophy of Newton, which more than any other single book popularized the thought of Isaac Newton across the continent o Acquired the estate of Ferney, just across the French border o Extremely popular plays, essays, histories, and stories along with far-flung correspondence made him the literary dictator of Europe o Candide (1759) Optimistic view of life/nature; widely read satire attacking war, religious persecution, and what he considered unwarranted optimism about the human condition; believed human society could/should be improved The Enlightment and Religion o Critical philosophes complained that both established/non-established Christian churches hindered the pursuit of a rational life and the scientific study of humanity/nature o Philosophes argued that the Calvinist doctrine of predestination denied that virtuous behavior in his life could affect the fate of a person’s soul after death o Churches promoted intolerance, bigotry, inciting torture, war, etc forms of human suffering o Deism: Life of religion/reason could be combined o Deists regarded God as a kind of divine watchmaker who had created the mechanism of nature, set it in motion, and then departed o Hoped that wide acceptance of their faith would end rivalry among various Christian sects and with its religious fanaticism, conflict, and persecution o John Locke: Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) – philosophes presented religious toleration as a primary social condition for the virtuous life o Huguenot named Jean Calas – accused of murdering his son to prevent him from converting to RC; publicly strangled to death w/out confessing guilt o Voltaire learned of the cause of Calas’ death; 1763 published Treatise on Tolerance; 1765, judicial decision against unfortunate man was reversed o Enlightment view of religion served ways to further stigmatize Jews and Judaism in eyes of non-Jewish Europeans o Spinoza, like his contemporaries Hobbes and Descartes, looked to the power of human reason to reconceptualize traditional thought th o Moses Mendelsoh – leading Jewish philosopher of 18 century; wrote Jerusalem AKA: On Ecclesiastical Power and Judaism (1783) – argued both for extensive religious toleration and for maintaining the religious distinction of Jewish communities; urged religious diversity within nation did not harm loyalty to government/gov. should be religiously neutral/Jews should enjoy same civil rights as other subjects o Deist John Toland opposed prejudice against both Jews/Muslims contended that Islam derived from early Christian writings and thus a form of Christianity The Enlightenment and Society o Mid-century witnessed publication of Encyclopedia, one of the greatest monuments of the Enlightenment st o Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond – 1 volume appeared in 1751 3 o Included most advanced critical ideas of time on religion, government, and philosophy o Between 14,000-16,000 copies of various editions sold before 1789 o Publications of Encyclopedia spread Enlightenment thought more fully over Continent, penetrating German/Russian intellectual and political circles o Idea of social science originated with Enlightment; philosophes hoped to end human cruelty by discovering social laws/making people aware of them o 1764 – Marquis Cesare Beccaria – Italian aristocrat/philosophe; applied critical analysis to problem of making punishments both effective/just o Important economic work of Enlightenment was Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) – believed economic liberty was foundation of natural economic system; urged mercantile system of England should be abolished; regulations were intended to preserve the wealth of nation, capture wealth from other nations, and max. the work available for the nation’s laborers o Smith is usually regarded as the founder of laissez-faire economic thought/policy – favors limited role for gov. in economic life o Wealth of Nations embraced an important theory of human social/economic development known as 4 stage theory; human societies classified as hunting and gathering, pastoral or herding, agricultural, or commercial > described the passage of human society through these stages as a movement from barbarism to civilization Political Thought of the Philosophes o Most important political thought of Enlightenment occurred in France o Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu – lawyer, noble of the robe, member of a provincial parliament; saw need to reform o 1721 – published The Persian Letters to satirize contemporary institutions; criticism and exposition of the cruelty and irrationality of European life o Spirit of Laws (1748) – singly most influential book of century; exhibits internal tensions of Enlightenment; concluded no single set of political laws could apply to all people at all times in all places o Montesquieu was a political conservative; adopted this conservatism in hope of achieving reform; believed the oppressive/inefficient absolutism of monarchy accounted for degradation of French life o Strong belief that monarchs should be subject to constitutional limit on their power and that a separate legislature, not the monarch, should formulate laws o Jean-Jacques Rousseau – strange, isolated genius who never felt particularly comfortable with the other philosophes; hated the world and the
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