What should you Know about Enlightenment

Enlightenment is more formally defined as a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent exponents included Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith (Dictionary.com). The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, was a union of ideas and activities that took place throughout Western Europe, England, and even the American colonies during the eighteen hundred. With the Enlightenment came numerous benefits, benefits such as, books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, and laws. All of this gave way to a cultural revolution that promoted new ideas and values. “The Enlightenment was a celebration of such ideas, ideas about what the human mind was capable of, and what could be achieved through action and scientific methodology. (online literature.com) Scientific rationalism, exemplified by the scientific method, was the symbol of everything related to the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers believed that the advances of science and industry signaled a new age of equality and progress for all (History.com).

Many of the ideas that came out of the enlightenment era were political. During this time, thinkers and philosophers alike began to ponder the possibility that basic human rights could and should include freedom and democracy, as opposed to being considered gifts given to them by monarchs or popes. Many of these great thinkers are still well known today. Thinkers such as, Isaac Newton, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and many others. The enlightenment had a lasting impact on the world we have come to know, by influencing many legal codes, and governmental structures that are still in place today. Ideologies and values of the Enlightenment are also seen in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, as well as the three-branch system that is in the U.S. Constitution. “A huge advocate of the Enlightenment, Montesquieu, suggested the theory of the separation of powers to obtain a political system of checks and balances that would promote order and equality (The Stanford encyclopedia).”

The enlightened thinkers of that time shared the common belief that when we the people give consent to be governed, it is expected that the government will act in the best interest of the people, and in failing to do so, this meant that the people had the right to get rid of their government and instill one that would act in their best interest. An example of this is Thomas Jefferson’s “call to action in the Declaration of Independence: He demanded the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

The writer that made the biggest impression on me was John Locke, and this is because he had many contributions to the enlightenment that can still be felt today. One being that he developed the philosophy that there was no legitimate government under the rights of king’s theory. The king’s theory is that god chooses the rulers and when the ruler is being challenged you are challenging god. Locke didn’t think this was right, so he wrote his own theory to challenge it. One idea that he had was that power to be a government had to be granted by the people.

Another idea was that all people had natural rights. And as we all know, these rights were life, liberty, and property (and the pursuit of happiness, but I don’t think that was added until later). Locke said that people automatically had these rights when they were born, and the government is supposed to protect these natural born rights of the people. I believe he was one of the more influential people of yesterday and today because, most of his ideas were adopted into the declaration of independence. His ideas became the foundation of many political systems and gave millions of people freedom.

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions (and) when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another -John Locke (libertyfund.org).  I believe that his ideas as well as the language that was used was very modern for his time. It is so similar to the dialect we see today its unreal, you can truly see how language has and still continues to evolve over time.

Although I think it would be interesting to go back in time and visit that time period, I don’t think id want to live during that era. As a woman I could only imagine what it was like to live without no rights or really any say in what is done to you. I think it was a great time to be a writer and a thinker, your ideas and voice were heard and actually made an impact, I’m sure they knew that in a sense they were making history, and that is a pretty cool thing to be apart of.

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