26-10-2017 · The Age of Reason, enlightenment influence on american politics as it was called, was spreading rapidly across Europe.

How did the Enlightenment influence the American Revolution?

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The Enlightenment is often associated with its political revolutionsand ideals, especially the French Revolution of 1789. The energycreated and expressed by the intellectual foment of Enlightenmentthinkers contributes to the growing wave of social unrest in France inthe eighteenth century. The social unrest comes to a head in theviolent political upheaval which sweeps away the traditionally andhierarchically structured ancien régime (the monarchy,the privileges of the nobility, the political power of the CatholicChurch). The French revolutionaries meant to establish in place of theancien régime a new reason-based order instituting theEnlightenment ideals of liberty and equality. Though theEnlightenment, as a diverse intellectual and social movement, has nodefinite end, the devolution of the French Revolution into the Terrorin the 1790s, corresponding, as it roughly does, with the end of theeighteenth century and the rise of opposed movements, such asRomanticism, can serve as a convenient marker of the end of theEnlightenment, conceived as an historical period.

The Enlightenment and the French Revolution …

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Though Locke’s liberalism has been tremendously influential, hispolitical theory is founded on doctrines of natural law and religionthat are not nearly as evident as Locke assumes. Locke’sreliance on the natural law tradition is typical of Enlightenmentpolitical and moral theory. According to the natural law tradition, asthe Enlightenment makes use of it, we can know through the use of ourunaided reason that we all – all human beings, universally– stand in particular moral relations to each other. The claimthat we can apprehend through our unaided reason a universalmoral order exactly because moral qualities and relations (inparticular human freedom and equality) belong to the nature of things,is attractive in the Enlightenment for obvious reasons. However, asnoted above, the scientific apprehension of nature in the period doesnot support, and in fact opposes, the claim that the alleged moralqualities and relations (or, indeed, that any moral qualitiesand relations) are natural. According to a commonEnlightenment assumption, as humankind clarifies the laws of naturethrough the advance of natural science and philosophy, the true moraland political order will be revealed with it. This view is expressedexplicitly by the philosophe Marquis de Condorcet, in hisSketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the HumanMind (published posthumously in 1795 and which, perhaps betterthan any other work, lays out the paradigmatically Enlightenment viewof history of the human race as a continual progress to perfection).But, in fact, advance in knowledge of the laws of nature in thescience of the period does not help with discernment of a naturalpolitical or moral order. This asserted relationship between naturalscientific knowledge and the political and moral order is under greatstress already in the Enlightenment. With respect to Lockeanliberalism, though his assertion of the moral and political claims(natural freedom, equality, et cetera) continues to have considerableforce for us, the grounding of these claims in a religious cosmologydoes not. The question of how to ground our claims to natural freedomand equality is one of the main philosophical legacies of theEnlightenment.


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The heart of the eighteenth century Enlightenment is the looselyorganized activity of prominent French thinkers of the mid-decades ofthe eighteenth century, the so-called“philosophes”(e.g., Voltaire, D’Alembert,Diderot, Montesquieu). The philosophes constituted aninformal society of men of letters who collaborated on a looselydefined project of Enlightenment exemplified by the project of theEncyclopedia (see below 1.5). However, there are noteworthycenters of Enlightenment outside of France as well. There is arenowned Scottish Enlightenment (key figures are Frances Hutcheson,Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Reid), a German Enlightenment (dieAufklärung, key figures of which include Christian Wolff,Moses Mendelssohn, G.E. Lessing and Immanuel Kant), and there are alsoother hubs of Enlightenment and Enlightenment thinkers scatteredthroughout Europe and America in the eighteenth century.

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The Enlightenment was crucial in determining almost every aspect enlightenment influence on american politics of colonial America, most notably in terms of politics, government, and religion The American Enlightenment was a period of intellectual ferment in the enlightenment influence on american politics thirteen American colonies in the period 1714–1818, which social media marketing smm led to the American Revolution, and.

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Locke and Descartes both pursue a method in epistemology that bringswith it the epistemological problem of objectivity. Both examine ourknowledge by way of examining the ideas we encounter directly in ourconsciousness. This method comes to be called “the way ofideas”. Though neither for Locke nor for Descartes doall of our ideas represent their objects by way ofresembling them (e.g., our idea of God does not represent Godby virtue of resembling God), our alleged knowledge of our environmentthrough the senses does depend largely on ideas that allegedlyresemble external material objects. The way of ideas implies theepistemological problem of how we can know that these ideas do in factresemble their objects. How can we be sure that these objects do notappear one way before the mind and exist in another way (or not atall) in reality outside the mind? George Berkeley, an empiricistphilosopher influenced by John Locke, avoids the problem by assertingthe metaphysics of idealism: the (apparently material) objects ofperception are nothing but ideas before the mind. However,Berkeley’s idealism is less influential in, and characteristicof, the Enlightenment, than the opposing positions of materialism andCartesian dualism. Thomas Reid, a prominent member of the ScottishEnlightenment, attacks the way of ideas and argues that the immediateobjects of our (sense) perception are the common (material) objects inour environment, not ideas in our mind. Reid mounts his defense ofnaïve realism as a defense of common sense over against thedoctrines of the philosophers. The defense of common sense, and therelated idea that the results of philosophy ought to be of use tocommon people, are characteristic ideas of the Enlightenment,particularly pronounced in the Scottish Enlightenment.

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John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding(1690) is another foundational text of the Enlightenment. A mainsource of its influence is the epistemological rigor that it displays,which is at least implicitly anti-metaphysical. Locke undertakes inthis work to examine the human understanding in order to determine thelimits of human knowledge; he thereby institutes a prominent patternof Enlightenment epistemology. Locke finds the source of all ourideas, the ideas out of which human knowledge is constructed, in thesenses and argues influentially against the rationalists’doctrine of innate ideas. Locke’s sensationalism exerts greatinfluence in the French Enlightenment, primarily through being takenup and radicalized by the philosophe, Abbé deCondillac. In the Treatise on Sensations (1754), Condillacattempts to explain how all human knowledge arises out of senseexperience. Locke’s epistemology, as developed by Condillac andothers, contributes greatly to the emerging science of psychology inthe period.