The classic enlightenment metaphor: bringing light to darkness
Inspired by Plato and the allegory of the cave
We can consider the enlightenment to have started in the 17th C.
What was being challenged, undermined by the new ideas of the enlightenment?
o Scripture and religion was being challenged. Primary source of knowledge up to that
point was the Church. Religious leaders were the main source of information
The idea that divine purpose explained everything existed.
o The classics
The renaissance was the revival of the classics (literature, etc). Renaissance
emphasized that people were going away from a wise age.
How did these ideas get eroded? How did we move from the renaissance to the
o Reality --> increased optimism.
o New idea of the nature of man: new sense of what it means to be a human
The move to a heliocentric notion of the universe (astronomy, etc). IE, the
human being is no longer the center of the universe and that maybe the world
wasn't just created by god for human beings to enjoy
Geology is advancing- fossils add a new chapter to the history of human
Travel is allowing us to come into contact with far-flung civilizations.
Encounter w/ other countries throws certainties in countries. Ie, Chinese
calendar that went farther back than the European calendar.
o Once you learn how to interpret scripture, the scripture itself loses it authoritative
Consequences of this most evident in Hobbes and his political theory.
Uses the very non spiritual urge of self-preservation.
o What do we need as a citizen of this new world?
Where do we go for authority and absolute fact seeking? We need a new idea of
how we can test for truth/
Descartes- how can we find out if something is certain? Start by doubting
everything, and then see what is left standing.
We're talking about the average citizen-those who are shaping the world
would be the ones who are reading Descartes.
Development of the scientific method
Francis Bacon (1551) comes up with this
A system of verifying facts.
The importance of the scientific method is that anyone can do it on their
own, because doing your own test proves what you need to be proven.
o Central part of enlightenment thinking: focus on the individual
We're not simply pawn in God's grand plan-if we can come to reason on our
own, then we must not be entirely reliabl