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HIS109Y1 Lecture notes - Academic year 2010-11

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Kenneth Bartlett

HIS109 Feb. 7 , 2011 Science & Progress Scientism & progress became ideas that began to inform almost every aspect of th life in the 19 century, became ideas connected to western civilization Idea that tomorrow will be better than today, & every generation will be improved The world is not better because of divine intervention or improvement in mortality on our behalf, but rather due to science Idea that we control our own destinies Many political movements have stated implicitly or explicitly that the future will be brighter due to progress Background: Pre-Enlightenment Era Any improvement in the human condition was left to the next world, this life was a testing ground indicator of whether or not we would be rewarded or not Things would only get better if God made it better Renaissance said to an extent that we are responsible for ourselves No evidence that God pays attention to what is done on earth In the middle ages whatever rebellions that there were against institutions were restorative a way in which to get back to the divine plan The Reformation for example, was a way of getting back to the Old Testament The series of conditions that God established that were no longer obeyed made the world an unhappy place Change in this world was seen as evil & wrong because Gods plan was already there, & we would be punished Change meant you were moving away from what was considered to be just: evil, & eternal absolutes had to be obeyed, if not, it was considered heresy The Renaissance rather than going back to the apostolic church, they went back to antiquity looking towards the examples of the Romans & Greeks Looked to the past for inspiration, & wondered about the future Changed the patterns of western European thought, motivated by scientific discovery Accepted the fact that forces of nature were comprehensible The relegating of superstitions, that which was divinely revealed, the unanswerable forces of God and the devil, of fortune and curse gave men & women a new belief in human destiny (e.g., no longer would individuals think that crops wouldnt grow if they didnt say a set of prayers) Superstitions were being exploded by science, proved to not be the way that the universe works, evidence does not support this {superstitions} Elements of the Enlightenment imagination made humans think that they could make the world better Challenged the things that they believed to be based on superstition, that which was irrational, things that could not be proven using reason Allowing of human agency to operate French revolution unleashed baggage of the European mind Elements driven by a measure of human influence because they understood the elements that drove them Complete faith in reason, meaning that reason will change the world Natural law, & laws of nature are benign, & a happy rational society will develop Effects The application of reason in the 19 century was largely scientific Scientism that forces us to be rational & reasonable, as well as the universal application of scientific inquiry to everything Improvement of life on earth, because humans can control it Change reflections of the progress made in Europe was a consequence of the Industrial Revolution There were better, cheaper goods, everyone was included meaning the very poorest could have those goods as well More wealth for more people wealth not just taken by the industrialist and those with traditional power Improvement in diets, people lived longer, better communications allowed for people to stay in touch with one another {e.g. access to dominant aspects of society for remote places} Production of a better world so to speak European society had problems, obvious conditions included the desperate situation of the extremely poor, & industrial working class Change or progress meant that you could do something, not Gods will, change & progress can be addressed by human means Had to establish how to deal with these problems {of the poor particularly} how much to tax the rich, help the poor, etc.? Big questions were those of the nature of society Progress could be achieved by activating utopian laws Social and political thinkers seen to believe that in fact change will happen, it is our responsibility to make it better, direct society towards the positive and good Aftermath of WW1 progress was challenged, questioned how they could believe in human reason or the value of technology 19 century Europe from the perspective of a member of the middle class in any nation: for them it was hard to believe that progress wasnt there, & that science didnt provide solutions to every problem Science and reason created a world that made us happier, healthier, & freer Europeans wanted to institutionalize this Prelude to Imperialism Technology: mechanized industry shaped the progress of Europe in the 19 th century 18151914 the European population increased by 2 and a half times Explosion of population meant there was an explosion in demand of goods, & the ability to produce more goods meant that prices fell, & individuals could get more goods As economies exploded, and the needs to produce more goods to satisfy needs, made Europeans realize that the continent was insufficient -> causing them to looks elsewhere (thus, Europe ceases to be a closed economy) By the mid
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