The eighteenth century was the age of the Enlightenment, an era when intellectuals, known as philosophes, wished to apply the scientific method with its reason and rationality to the challenges of society. The result would be progress and improvement in the human condition. The findings of the Scientific Revolution reached a wider audience through the works of numerous popularizers. Travel books increased the awareness of different cultures: some glorified the so-called “natural man” as superior to the civilized European, others admired Chinese civilization. Newton’s scientific laws became a paradigm for discovering natural laws, and John Locke’s tabula rasa, or blank sheet, indicated that reason and sense experience could create a better world.

A cosmopolitan group, the philosophes used reason to improve society. State censorship was overcome by having works published in Holland or writing about the Persians as a means of commenting on French society, as did the baron de Montesquieu (d.1755). His The Spirit of the Laws praised the system of checks and balances and separation of powers that he believed were the essence of the British political system, an important concept of the United States Constitution. Voltaire (d.1778) attacked the intolerance of organized religion, and many philosophes adopted Deism with its mechanistic god and a universe operating according to natural laws.

Denis Diderot (d.1784) compiled a multi-volume Encyclopédie, a compendium of Enlightenment ideas. David Hume (d.1776) advocated a “science of man.” In economics, the Physiocrats rejected mercantilism in favor of the laws of supply and demand and laissez-faire, as did Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (d.1778), like Locke, believed in the social contract theory, arguing that society must be governed by the general will. In claiming that in education children should follow their instincts – reason was not enough – he was a precursor of Romanticism. Many of the philosophes had traditional attitudes towards women, but Mary Astell (d.1731) and Mary Wollstonecraft (d.1797) argued for the equality of the sexes and the right of women to be educated. The Enlightenment appealed mostly to the urban middle classes; it had little effect on the commoners. Its ideas were discussed in Parisian salons, coffeehouses, reading clubs, lending libraries, and societies like the Freemasons.

In art, the lightness and curves of the Rococo replaced the Baroque. In classical music there were major development in the opera, oratorio, sonata, concerto, and the symphony by Johann Sebastian Bach (d.1750), George Frederick Handel (d.1759), Franz Joseph Haydn (d.1809), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (d.1791). In England, the novel became a new literary form. Historical writing included economic, social, and cultural events and not just past politics, but dismissed religious subjects as mere superstition and barbarism. There was an increase in the reading public with books, magazines, and newspapers. Elite private schools emphasized the Greek and Latin classics, but new middle class education stressed modern languages and other relevant subjects. The theories of Cesare Beccaria (d.1794) and others contributed to a decline in the use of torture and capital punishment.

There was a separation between popular culture and the culture of the elites, although the rate of literacy was rising among the majority, in part because of an increase in primary education. State churches, traditional and conservative, were the norm. There was some gain in religious toleration for minorities including the Jews, although anti-Semitic attitudes continued. Popular religious movements appealed to the non-elites. Pietists in Germany sought a deeper personal relationship with God, and in England, John Wesley (d.1791) led a revival movement among the common people. It was a century of both change and tradition.

  1. Explain the context in which the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment developed in Europe.
    1. The spread of Scientific Revolution concepts and practices and the Enlightenment’s application of these concepts and practices to political, social, and ethical issues led to an increased but not unchallenged emphasis on reason in European culture.
      1. Enlightenment thought, which focused on concepts such as empiricism, skepticism, human reason, rationalism, and classical sources of knowledge, challenged the prevailing patterns of thought with respect to social order, institutions of government, and the role of faith.
      2. New public venues and print media popularized Enlightenment ideas.
      3. New political and economic theories challenged absolutism and mercantilism.
      4. During the Enlightenment, the rational analysis of religious practices led to natural religion and the demand for religious toleration.
  2. Explain the causes and consequences of Enlightenment thought on European society from 1648 to 1815.
    1. Intellectuals, including Voltaire and Diderot, began to apply the principles of the Scientific Revolution to society and human institutions.
    2. Locke and Rousseau developed new political models based on the concept of natural rights and the social contract.
    3. Despite the principles of equality espoused by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, intellectuals such as Rousseau o ered controversial arguments for the exclusion of women from political life.
    4. Alchemy and astrology continued to appeal to elites and some natural philosophers, in part because they shared with the new science the notion of a predictable and knowable universe. At the same time, many people continued to believe that the cosmos was governed by spiritual forces.
  3. Explain the influence of Enlightenment thought on European intellectual development from 1648 to 1815.
    1. The spread of Scientific Revolution concepts and practices and the Enlightenment’s application of these concepts and practices to political, social, and ethical issues led to an increased but not unchallenged emphasis on reason in European culture.
      1. A variety of institutions, including salons, explored and disseminated Enlightenment culture.
      2. Political theories, including John Locke’s, conceived of society as composed of individuals driven by self-interest and argued that the state originated in the consent of the governed (i.e., a social contract) rather than in divine right or tradition.
      3. Mercantilist theory and practice were challenged by new economic ideas, including Adam Smith’s, which espoused free trade and a free market.
      4. Enlightenment thought, which focused on concepts such as empiricism, skepticism, human reason, rationalism, and classical sources of knowledge, challenged the prevailing patterns of thought with respect to social order, institutions of government, and the role of faith.
      5. Intellectuals, including Voltaire and Diderot, developed new philosophies of deism, skepticism, and atheism.
      6. Religion was viewed increasingly as a matter of private rather than public concern.
  4. Explain how and why the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment challenged the existing European order and understanding of the world.
    1. The spread of Scientific Revolution concepts and practices and the Enlightenment’s application of these concepts and practices to political, social, and ethical issues led to an increased but not unchallenged emphasis on reason in European culture.
      1. Enlightenment thought, which focused on concepts such as empiricism, skepticism, human reason, rationalism, and classical sources of knowledge, challenged the prevailing patterns of thought with respect to social order, institutions of government, and the role of faith.
      2. New public venues and print media popularized Enlightenment ideas.
      3. New political and economic theories challenged absolutism and mercantilism.
      4. During the Enlightenment, the rational analysis of religious practices led to natural religion and the demand for religious toleration.

Reading 1: Pages 502-505

The Enlightenment:
  The Paths to Enlightenment

Reading 2: Pages 505-508

The Enlightenment:
  The Philosophes and Their Ideas
    (Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot)

Reading 3: Pages 508-516

The Enlightenment:
  The Philosophes and Their Ideas
    (The "Science of Man," Later Enlightenment)
    (Rousseau, "Women" in the Enlightenment)
    (Social Environment)

Reading 4: Pages 516-521

Culture and Society in the Enlightenment:
  Innovations in Art, Music, and Literature
  The High Culture of the Eighteenth Century

Reading 5: Pages 521-524

Culture and Society in the Enlightenment:
  Crime and Punishment
  The World of Medicine
  Popular Culture

Reading 6: Pages 524-528

Religion and the Churches
  The Institutional Church
  Popular Religion in the Eighteenth Century

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 Tom Richey
  
 Paul Sargent