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Renaissance: I.


Renaissance, series of literary and cultural movements in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. These movements began in Italy and eventually expanded into Germany, France, England, and other parts of Europe. Participants studied the great civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome and came to the conclusion that their own cultural achievements rivaled those of antiquity. Their thinking was also influenced by the concept of humanism, which emphasizes the worth of the individual. Renaissance humanists believed it was possible to improve human society through classical education. This education relied on teachings from ancient texts and emphasized a range of disciplines, including poetry, history, rhetoric (rules for writing influential prose or speeches), and moral philosophy. The word renaissance means "rebirth." The idea of rebirth originated in the belief that Europeans had rediscovered the superiority of Greek and Roman culture after many centuries of what they considered intellectual and cultural decline. The preceding era, which began with the collapse of the Roman Empire around the 5th century, became known as the Middle Ages to indicate its position between the classical and modern world. Scholars now recognize that there was considerable cultural activity during the Middle Ages, as well as some interest in classical literature. A number of characteristics of Renaissance art and society had their origins in the Middle Ages. Many scholars claim that much of the cultural dynamism of the Renaissance also had its roots in medieval times and that changes were progressive rather than abrupt. Nevertheless, the Renaissance represents a change in focus and emphasis from the Middle Ages, with enough unique qualities to justify considering it as a separate period of history. This article begins with a brief overview of the characteristics of the Renaissance and then discusses conflicting views on how to define and interpret the Renaissance. This analysis is followed by a discussion of the economic, social, and political changes that began in the 14th century and contributed to the development of the Renaissance. The ideas of the Renaissance, particularly of humanism, are then explored, and their impacts on established religion, on science, and on the arts are examined. http://www.centralptonews.org/CESCAP/Art%20Terms/renaissance.htm

Renaissance Humanism (Kreis, 2008) Humanism is the term generally applied to the predominant social philosophy and intellectual and literary currents of the period from 1400 to 1650. The return to favor of the pagan classics stimulated the philosophy of secularism, the appreciation of worldly pleasures, and above all intensified the assertion of personal independence and individual expression. Zeal for the classics was a result as well as a cause of the growing secular view of life. Expansion of trade, growth of prosperity and luxury, and widening social contacts generated interest in worldly pleasures, in spite of formal allegiance to ascetic Christian doctrine. Men thus affected -- the humanists -- welcomed classical writers who revealed similar social values and secular attitudes. Historians are pretty much agreed on the general outlines of those mental attitudes and scholarly interests which are assembled under the rubric of humanism. The most fundamental point of agreement is that the humanist mentality stood at a point midway between medieval supernaturalism and the modern scientific and critical attitude. Medievalists see humanism as the terminal product of the Middle Ages. Modern historians are perhaps more apt to view humanism as the germinal period of modernism. Perhaps the most we can assume is that the man of the Renaissance lived, as it were, between two worlds. The world of the medieval Christian matrix, in which the significance of every phenomenon was ultimately determined through uniform points of view, no longer existed for him. On the other hand, he had not yet found in a system of scientific concepts and social principles stability and security for his life. In other words, Renaissance man may indeed have found himself suspended between faith and reason.

As the grip of medieval supernaturalism began to diminish, secular and human interests became more prominent. The facts of individual experience in the here and now became more interesting than the shadowy afterlife. Reliance upon faith and God weakened. Fortuna (chance) gradually replaced Providence as the universal frame of reference. The present world became an end in itself instead of simply preparation of a world to come. Indeed, as the age of Renaissance humanism wore on, the distinction between this world (the City of Man) and the next (the City of God) tended to disappear. Beauty was believed to afford at least some glimpse of a transcendental existence. This goes far to explain the humanist cult of beauty and makes plain that humanism was, above everything else, fundamentally an aesthetic movement. Human experience, man himself, tended to become the practical measure of all things. The ideal life was no longer a monastic escape from society, but a full participation in rich and varied human relationships. The dominating element in the finest classical culture was aesthetic rather than supernatural or scientific. In the later Middle Ages urban intellectuals were well on the road to the recovery of an aesthetic and secular view of life even before the full tide of the classical revival was felt. It was only natural, then, that pagan literature, with its emotional and intellectual affinity to the new world view, should accelerate the existing drift toward secularism and stimulate the cult of humanity, the worship of beauty, and especially the aristocratic attitude. Almost everywhere, humanism began as a rather pious, timid, and conservative drift away from medieval Christianity and ended in bold independence of medieval tradition. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), one of the greatest humanists, occupied a position midway between extreme piety and frank secularism. Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) represented conservative Italian humanism. Robust secularism and intellectual independence reached its height in Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) and Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540). Rudolphus Agricola (1443-1485) may be regarded as the German Petrarch. In England, John Colet (c.14671519) and Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) were early or conservative humanists, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) represented later or agnostic and skeptical humanism. In France, pious classicists like Lefvre d'taples (1453-1536) were succeeded by frank, urbane, and devout skeptics like Michel Montaigne (1533-1592) and bold anti-clerical satirists like Franois Rabelais (c.1495-1533). Humanistic contributions to science consisted mainly in the recovery of Greek scientific literature which evinced a more accurate and acceptable body of facts and ideas than most medieval scientific works. However, we should not exaggerate the humanist contribution in this field. Everything of value, for instance, in Galen (c.130201) had long been incorporated into medieval medicine. The scientific treatises of Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy were translated into Latin and known to scholars before the Renaissance. Moreover, Islamic scholars had already introduced most Attic and Hellenistic science into western Europe, often with vast improvements on the original. Humanism embodied the mystical and aesthetic temper of a pre-scientific age. It did not free the mind from subservience to ancient authority. If the humanists revered Aristotle less than the Schoolmen did, they worshipped Neoplatonism, the Cabala, and Cicero more. They shifted authorities rather than dismissed them. Even Aristotle, the greatest of Scholastic authorities, did not lack humanist admirers. The great libraries assembled by wealthy patrons of literature like Cosimo de' Medici, Pope Nicholas V, and the Duke of Urbino, devoted much space to the Church Fathers and the Scholastic philosophers. The humanists did, however, read their authorities for aesthetic pleasure as well as moral uplift. The intellectuals of antiquity, in contrast to the Christians, were relatively unconcerned about the supernatural world and the eternal destiny of the soul. They were primarily interested in a happy, adequate, and efficient life here on earth. Hellenic philosophy was designed to teach man how to live successfully rather than how to die with the assurance of ultimate salvation. This pagan attitude had been lost for about one thousand years, when Europe followed the warning of Augustine against becoming too engrossed in earthly affairs, lest assurance of successful entry into the New Jerusalem be jeopardized. Humanism directly and indirectly revived the pagan scale of virtues. When men like Petrarch and his fellow humanists read pagan literature, they were infected with the secular outlook of the Greeks and Romans. Even rather pious humanists became enamored of what Augustine branded the City of Man. Petrarch, a devout Christian, worshipped the pagan eclecticism of Cicero. Erasmus suggested that such titles as St. Socrates and St. Cicero were not inappropriate or sacrilegious, and openly preferred the pagans to the Schoolmen. "Whatever is pious and conduces to good manners ought not to be called profane," he wrote. The first place must indeed be given to the authority of the Scriptures; but, nevertheless, I sometimes find some things said or written by the ancients, nay, even by the heathens, nay, by the poets themselves, so chastely, so

holily, and so divinely, that I cannot persuade myself but that, when they wrote them, they were divinely inspired, and perhaps the spirit of Christ diffuses itself farther than we imagine; and that there are more saints than we have in our catalogue. To confess freely among friends, I can't read Cicero on Old Age, on Friendship, his Offices, or his Tusculan Questions, without kissing the book, without veneration towards the divine soul. And, on the contrary, when I read some of our modern authors, treating of Politics, Economics, and Ethics, good God! how cold they are in comparison with these! Nay, how do they seem to be insensible of what they write themselves! So that I had rather lose Scotus and twenty more such as he (fancy twenty subtle doctors!) than one Cicero or Plutarch. Not that I am wholly against them either; but, because, by the reading of the one, I find myself become better, whereas I rise from the other, I know not how coldly affected to virtue, but most violently inclined to cavil and contention. The leading intellectual trait of the era was the recovery, to a certain degree, of the secular and humane philosophy of Greece and Rome. Another humanist trend which cannot be ignored was the rebirth of individualism, which, developed by Greece and Rome to a remarkable degree, had been suppressed by the rise of a caste system in the later Roman Empire, by the Church and by feudalism in the Middle Ages. The Church asserted that rampant individualism was identical with arrogance, rebellion, and sin. Medieval Christianity restricted individual expression, fostered self-abnegation and self-annihilation, and demanded implicit faith and unquestioning obedience. Furthermore, the Church officially ignored man and nature. In other ways medieval civilization suppressed the ego. In the feudal regime the isolated individual had little standing. He acquired status and protection mainly as a member of a definite group, whether lordly or servile. The manorial system revolved around the community rather than the individual. When the cities threw off the yoke of feudalism, they promised collective and corporate liberty rather than individual freedom. In commercial relations group life was paramount, both in the town guilds and the peasant villages on manorial estates. Everything was regulated by law and custom. The individual who attempted to challenge authority and tradition, in matters of thought or action, was either discouraged or crushed. The period from the 14th century to the 17th worked in favor of the general emancipation of the individual. The city-states of northern Italy had come into contact with the diverse customs of the East, and gradually permitted expression in matters of taste and dress. The writings of Dante, and particularly the doctrines of Petrarch and humanists like Machiavelli, emphasized the virtues of intellectual freedom and individual expression. In the essays of Montaigne the individualistic view of life received perhaps the most persuasive and eloquent statement in the history of literature and philosophy. Individualism and the instinct of curiosity were vigorously cultivated. Honest doubt began to replace unreasoning faith. The skeptical viewpoint proposed by Abelard reached high development and wide acceptance among the humanists. Finally, the spirit of individualism to a certain degree incited the Protestant revolt, which, in theory at least, embodied a thorough application of the principle of individualism in religion. It need not be supposed that the emancipation of the ego was wholly beneficial to the human race. Yet, that aspect of humanism which combated the sovereignty of tyrant, feudal lord, class, corporation, and tradition, has, for better or worse, had a tremendous influence upon the subsequent history of Europe. Indeed, it was during the humanist era that the freedom of individual expression and opposition to authority was first brought to the surface and became an integral part of the western intellectual tradition. http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/humanism.html Looking at the Renaissance Economic and political context Inspirational as much Renaissance art and literature remains, it is unwise to be too idealistic about the circumstances of its production. For Lisa Jardine the Renaissance she explores in Worldly Goods is one 'in which money plays a large part'. The concept of magnificentia was central to Renaissance thinking; conspicuous expenditure on magnanimous gestures, including the patronage of art and scholarship, was evidence of virtue, of a greatness of soul. Those who held or aspired to authority could justify their claims by just such an expenditure, and competitive consumption came to be the order of the day, as each sought to demonstrate that his (or very occasionally her) cultural credentials were of the highest order. It is a brutal way of looking at the period, but a realistic one.

Urban economy and government Cities and towns were centres of wealth production and of creativity. Urban society in the Renaissance period was thoroughly commercialized; everything had a price. There were two particularly dense areas of urbanization, North Italy and the Low Countries, which acted as the main hubs for international trade in commodities such as wool and woollen cloth, silk, tapestries, spices, silver and fine armour. With the invention of printing Venice came also to be the centre of the European book trade, ideas travelling rapidly via the well-established commercial network. The Renaissance prince, the aspirant courtier or socially climbing merchant provided a ready market for all these commodities, for expensive fabrics and intricately decorated armour were as much manifestations of magnificentia as paintings or sculpture. And it was only in the town, with its concentration of skilled artisans, that the manufacture of luxury goods and the complex technology of book production was possible. Commerce alone was not enough to amass the largest fortunes however; the richest merchants acted as bankers. Italian banking houses had well established networks in the later middle ages playing for huge stakes as creditors to princes. By the 16th century such loans were also being advanced by the more spectacularly wealthy merchants of the Low Countries and of German towns where profits had been amassed on the strength of the trade in silver. Expenditure was not just a personal matter; it was a matter of corporate status as well. European cities expressed their sense of corporate pride and identity in public buildings, secular and ecclesiastical. Cities experienced various degrees of autonomy. Claiming the most independence were the few remaining city republics of north Italy, though they were not republics in the sense that we understand the term today. Venice had the most clearly articulated hierarchy: a closed caste of nobility; a broader body of citizens; the plebians at the bottom of the pile. Power was restricted to members of the nobility who made sure that public building and public spectacle constantly broadcast the virtues of the Venetian state, the unparalleled blessings it brought, the sanctity of the city. Equally conscious of its virtue was the Florentine republic. This too was effectively run by a wealthy elite increasingly dominated by the Medici. The Medici, however, were very canny operators in the 15th century and expressed their magnificentia in public works which ostensibly demonstrated their loyalty to the Republic; only within their palaces, in rooms to which just the privileged had access, was the scale of their ambition fully represented in the art they purchased. The autonomy of cities and towns varied from state to state. Within the Holy Roman Empire towns might have a considerable degree of independence, for the Empire was a loose confederation of some hundreds of different political units, some of them independent cities. The lack of a centralising bureaucracy in the Empire contrasts with the highly centralised monarchy in England, where, London excepted, towns had little autonomy. But all cities and towns possessed certain shared characteristics: collective authority exercised by a group which was selected or elected, and not hereditary. Usually this meant control by a wealthy elite of magistrates, who influenced by humanist values, liked to think of themselves as patricians. The public buildings they had erected in their cities both reflected and served to create this image of themselves. Economic organisation within towns was usually through guilds. Although guilds were intended to protect the employment of members it would be a mistake to equate them with trade unions. Guilds had a strongly religious dimension within Catholic Europe, giving spiritual solidarity through their brotherhood, or confraternity. And guilds were very hierarchical in organisation, both internally and in the relationship between guilds. Within the guild masters protected their position against apprentices and journeymen, the very small scale of most industry facilitating this kind of control. Indeed printing was one of the few industries where more than a handful of people were employed in each production unit. Relationships between guilds were also far from equal. Merchants belonged to elite guilds whose economic power was protected by the urban government (which of course they constituted) or the state; artisans belonged to less prestigious guilds which had far less stake in urban government and whose activities were closely overseen by the urban magistrates. http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/renaissance2/economic.htm#urban

Protestant Reformation: Lecture 3: The Protestant Reformation Arise, O Lord, and judge Thy cause. A wild boar has invaded Thy vineyard. Arise, O Peter, and consider the case of the Holy Roman Church, the mother of all churches, consecrated by thy blood. Arise, O Paul, who by thy teaching and death hast illumined and dost illumine the Church. Arise all ye saints, and the whole universal Church, whose interpretations of Scripture has been assailed. (papal bull of Pope Leo X, 1520) It truly seems to me that if this fury of the Romanists should continue, there is no remedy except that the emperor, kings, and princes, girded with force and arms, should resolve to attack this plague of all the earth no longer with words but with the sword. . . . If we punish thieves with the gallows, robbers with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not all the more fling ourselves with all our weapons upon these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and all this sink of Roman sodomy that ceaselessly corrupts the church of God and wash our hands in their blood so that we may free ourselves and all who belong to us from this most dangerous fire? (Martin Luther, 1521) Young people have lost that deference to their elders on which the social order depends; they reject all correction. Sexual offenses, rapes, adulteries, incests and seductions are more common than ever before. How monstrous that the world should have been overthrown by such dense clouds for the last three or four centuries, so that it could not see clearly how to obey Christ's commandment to love our enemies. Everything is in shameful confusion; everywhere I see only cruelty, plots, frauds, violence, injustice, shamelessness while the poor groan under the oppression and the innocent are arrogantly and outrageously harassed. God must be asleep. (John Calvin) The 16th century in Europe was a great century of change on many fronts. The humanists and artists of the Renaissance would help characterize the age as one of individualism and self-creativity. Humanists such as Petrarch helped restore the dignity of mankind while men like Machiavelli injected humanism into politics. When all is said and done, the Renaissance helped to secularize European society. Man was now the creator of his own destiny -- in a word, the Renaissance unleashed the very powerful notion that man makes his own history (on the Renaissance, see Lecture 1). But the 16th century was more than just the story of the Renaissance. The century witnessed the growth of royal power, the appearance of centralized monarchies and the discovery of new lands. During the great age of exploration, massive quantities of gold and silver flood Europe, an event which turned people, especially the British, Dutch, Italians and Germans, money-mad. The year 1543 can be said to have marked the origin of the Scientific Revolution -- this was the year Copernicus published his De Revolutionibus (see Lecture 10) and set in motion a wave of scientific advance that would culminate with Newton at the end of the 17th century. In the meantime, urbanization continued unabated as did the growth of universities. And lastly, the printing press, perfected by the moveable type of Gutenberg in 1451, had created the ability to produce books cheaply and in more quantities. And this was indeed important since the Renaissance created a literate public eager for whatever came off the presses. Despite all of these things, and there are more things to be considered, especially in the area of literature and the arts, the greatest event of the 16th century -- indeed, the most revolutionary event -- was the Protestant Reformation. It was the Reformation that forced people to make a choice -- to be Catholic or Protestant. This was an important choice, and a choice had to be made. There was no real alternative. In the context of the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, one could live or die based on such a choice. We have to ask why something like the Reformation took place when it did. In general, dissatisfaction with the Church could be found at all levels of European society. First, it can be said that many devout Christians were finding the Church's growing emphasis on rituals unhelpful in their quest for personal salvation. Indeed, what we are witnessing is the shift from salvation of whole groups of people, to something more personal and individual. The sacraments had become forms of ritualized behavior that no longer "spoke" to the people of Europe. They had become devoid of meaning. And since more people were congregating in towns and cities, they could observe for themselves and more important, discuss their concerns with others. Second, the papacy had lost much of its spiritual influence over its people because of the increasing tendency toward secularization. In other

words, popes and bishops were acting more like kings and princes than they were the spiritual guides of European men and women. And again, because so many people were now crowding into cities, the lavish homes and palaces of the Church were noticed by more and more people from all walks of life. The poor resented the wealth of the papacy and the very rich were jealous of that wealth. At the same time, the popes bought and sold high offices, and also sold indulgences. All of this led to the increasing wealth of the Church -and this created new paths for abuses of every sort. Finally, at the local level of the town and village, the abuses continued. Some Church officials held several offices at once and lived off their income. The clergy had become lax, corrupt and immoral and the people began to take notice that the sacraments were shrouded in complacency and indifference. Something was dreadfully wrong. These abuses called for two major responses. On the one hand, there was a general tendency toward anticlericalism, that is, a general but distinct distrust and dislike of the clergy. Some people began to argue that the layperson was just as good as the priest, an argument already advanced by the Waldensians of the 12th century (see also my HERETICS, HERESIES AND THE CHURCH). On the other hand, there were calls for reform. These two responses created fertile ground for conflict of all kinds, and that conflict would be both personal and social. The deepest source of conflict was personal and spiritual. The Church had grown more formal in its organization, which is hardly unsurprising since it was now sixteen centuries old. The Church had its own elaborate canon law as well as a dogmatic theology. All of this had been created at the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. That Council also established the importance of the sacraments as well as the role of the priest in administering the sacraments. 1215 also marks the year that the Church further elaborated its position on Purgatory (see Purgatory: Fact or Fantasy). Above all, the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 established the important doctrine that salvation could only be won through good works -- fasting, chastity, abstinence and asceticism. The common people, meanwhile, sought a more personal, spiritual and immediate kind of religion -- something that would touch them directly, in the heart. The rituals of the Church now meant very little to them -- they needed some kind of guarantee that they were doing the right thing ?that they would indeed be saved. The Church gave little thought to reforming itself. People yearned for something more while the Church seemed to promise less. What seemed to be needed was a general reform of Christianity itself. Only such a major transformation would effect the changes reflected in the spiritual desires of the people. http://www.historyguide.org/earlymod/lecture3c.html

The Protestant Reformation: Background Social and Political Factors: European decentralization, rise of nation-states. Breakdown of medieval centralization under Pope. Breakdown of society because of Black Death, Hundred Years' War, etc. Renaissance: Interest in humanism and rediscovery of ancient culture. Weaknesses in Catholic Church: Administrative Divisions: Competing Popes (Avignon, Rome and more). Proliferation of Questionable Religious Rituals and Practices Pilgrimages, saint worship, endowment of masses. Corruption and Abuses of Power in Church: Sale of Indulgences (certificates of remission from purgatory) and other forms of forgiveness. Simony (selling of church offices).

Central Beliefs of Protestantism Accessibility by Laity: "Priesthood of all Believers" No need for professional intermediaries (priests, confessors, etc.) between the individual and God. Translations of the Bible into the vernacular Lay communion. Conviction that every profession is a religious "calling," not just the priesthood and monasticism. Theological Doctrines: Martin Luther: Justification by grace and faith, not by works--sometimes led to belief in predestination (Calvin). Some groups denied transsubstantiation. Rejection of Non-Biblical Traditions (sola scriptura): e.g.: Clerical celibacy, monasticism, sacraments (e.g.: penance, extreme unction, marriage, confirmation, ordination of ministers), pilgrimage. Many Protestant churches preferred adult (not infant) baptism. Simplification of masses. The Roman Catholic Reformation (Counter-Reformation) http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/C_Transp/C11_Protestantism.html The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century schism within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other earlyProtestants. It was sparked by the 1517 posting of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to ("protested") the doctrines, rituals, and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led to the creation of new national Protestantchurches. The Reformation was precipitated by earlier events within Europe, such as the Black Death and the Western Schism, which eroded people's faith in the Catholic Church and the Papacy that governed it. This, as well as many other factors, such as the mid 15th-century invention of the printing press, and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, contributed to the creation of Protestantism.[1] The Roman Catholic Church responded with a Counter-Reformation initiated by the Council of Trentthe most important ecumenical council since Nicaea II 800 years earlier[2] (at the time, there had not been an ecumenical council since Lateran IV over 300 years earlier, a length only to be matched by the interval between Trent and Vatican I [2])and spearheaded by the Society of Jesus. In general, Northern Europe, with the exception of Ireland and pockets of Britain and the Netherlands, turned Protestant. Southern Europe remained Roman Catholic, while fierce battles which turned into warfare took place in central Europe.[1] The largest of the new churches were the Lutherans (mostly in Germany, the Baltics and Scandinavia) and the Reformed churches (mostly in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scotland). There were many smaller bodies as well. The most common dating of the Protestant Reformation begins in 1517, when Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses, and concludes in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia that ended years of European religious wars.[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformation

Enlightenment: The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted science, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, [1] intolerance and some abuses by church and state. Originating about 1650 to 1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (16321677), John Locke (16321704), Pierre Bayle(16471706), physicist Isaac Newton (16431727),[2] and philosopher Voltaire (16941778). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as Enlightened Despotism. The Scientific Revolutionis closely tied to the Enlightenment, as its discoveries overturned many traditional concepts and introduced new perspectives on nature and man's place within it. The Enlightenment flourished until about 17901800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way toRomanticism's emphasis on emotion, and a CounterEnlightenment gained force.[3] In France, Enlightenment was based in the salons and culminated in the great Encyclopdie (175172) edited by Denis Diderot (17131784) with contributions by hundreds of leading philosophes (intellectuals) such as Voltaire (16941778), Rousseau (17121778) [4] andMontesquieu (16891755). Some 25,000 copies of the 35 volume set were sold, half of them outside France. The new intellectual forces spread to urban centres across Europe, notably England, Scotland, the German states, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Spain, then jumped the Atlantic into the European colonies, where it influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, and played a major role in the American Revolution. The political ideals of the Enlightenment influenced the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the PolishLithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791.[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

Enlightenment First published Fri Aug 20, 2010 The Enlightenment is the period in the history of western thought and culture, stretching roughly from the middecades of the seventeenth century through the eighteenth century, characterized by dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics; these revolutions swept away the medieval world-view and ushered in our modern western world. Enlightenment thought culminates historically in the political upheaval of the French Revolution, in which the traditional hierarchical political and social orders (the French monarchy, the privileges of the French nobility, the political power and authority of the Catholic Church) were violently destroyed and replaced by a political and social order informed by the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality for all, founded, ostensibly, upon principles of human reason. The Enlightenment begins with the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The rise of the new science progressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles. D'Alembert, a leading figure of the French Enlightenment, characterizes his eighteenth century, in the midst of it, as the century of philosophy par excellence, because of the tremendous intellectual progress of the age, the advance of the sciences, and the enthusiasm for that progress, but also

because of the characteristic expectation of the age that philosophy (in this broad sense) would dramatically improve human life. The task of characterizing philosophy in (or of) the Enlightenment confronts the obstacle of the wide diversity of Enlightenment thought. The Enlightenment is associated with the French thinkers of the mid-decades of the eighteenth century, the so-called philosophes, (Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert, Montesquieu, et cetera). The philosophes constitute an informal society of men of letters who collaborate on a loosely defined project of Enlightenment centered around the project of the Encyclopedia. But the Enlightenment has broader boundaries, both geographical and temporal, than this suggests. In addition to the French, there was a very significant Scottish Enlightenment (key figures were Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Thomas Reid) and a very significant German Enlightenment (die Aufklrung, key figures of which include Christian Wolff, Moses Mendelssohn, G.E. Lessing and Immanuel Kant). But all these Enlightenments were but particular nodes or centers in a far-flung and varied intellectual development. Given the variety, Enlightenment philosophy is characterized here in terms of general tendencies of thought, not in terms of specific doctrines or theories. Only late in the development of the German Enlightenment, when the Enlightenment was near its end, does the movement become self-reflective; the question of What is Enlightenment? is debated in pamphlets and journals. In his famous definition of enlightenment in his essay An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? (1784), which is his contribution to this debate, Immanuel Kant expresses many of the tendencies shared among Enlightenment philosophies of divergent doctrines. Kant defines enlightenment as humankind's release from its self-incurred immaturity; immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. Enlightenment is the process of undertaking to think for oneself, to employ and rely on one's own intellectual capacities in determining what to believe and how to act. Enlightenment philosophers from across the geographical and temporal spectrum tend to have a great deal of confidence in humanity's intellectual powers, both to achieve systematic knowledge of nature and to serve as an authoritative guide in practical life. This confidence is generally paired with suspicion or hostility toward other forms or carriers of authority (such as tradition, superstition, prejudice, myth and miracles), insofar as these are seen to compete with the authority of reason. Enlightenment philosophy tends to stand in tension with established religion, insofar as the release from self-incurred immaturity in this age, daring to think for oneself, awakening one's intellectual powers, generally requires opposing the role of established religion in directing thought and action. The faith of the Enlightenment if one may call it that is that the process of enlightenment, of becoming progressively selfdirected in thought and action through the awakening of one's intellectual powers, leads ultimately to a better, more fulfilled human existence. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/enlightenment/ The Enlightenment The Enlightenment, sometimes referred to as the Age of Reason, was a confluence of ideas and activities that took place throughout the eighteenth century in Western Europe, England, and the American colonies. Scientific rationalism, exemplified by the scientific method, was the hallmark of everything related to the Enlightenment. Following close on the heels of the Renaissance, Enlightenment thinkers believed that the advances of science and industry heralded a new age of egalitarianism and progress for humankind. More goods were being produced for less money, people were traveling more, and the chances for the upwardly mobile to actually change their station in life were significantly improving. At the same time, many voices were expressing sharp criticism of some time-honored cultural institutions. The Church, in particular, was singled out as stymieing the forward march of human reason. Many intellectuals of the Enlightenment practiced a variety of Deism, which is a rejection of organized, doctrinal religion in favor of a more personal and spiritual kind of faith. For the first time in recorded Western history, the hegemony of political and religious leaders was weakened to the point that citizens had little to fear in making their opinions known. Criticism was the order of the day, and argumentation was the new mode of conversation.

Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton are frequently mentioned as the progenitors of the Enlightenment. In the later phase of the English Renaissance, Bacon composed philosophical treatises which would form the basis of the modern scientific method. Bacon was also a logician, pointing out the false pathways down which human reason often strays. He was also an early proponent of state funding for scientific inquiry. Whereas Bacon worked in the realm of ideas and language, Isaac Newton was a pure scientist in the modern sense. Like Galileo, he relied on observation and testing to determine the soundness of his theories. He was a firm believer in the importance of data, and had no philosophical qualms regarding the reliability of the senses. Newtons Principia, completed in 1687, is the foundation of the entire science of physics. This mechanistic view of the universe, a universe governed by a set of unchanging laws, raised the ire of the Church fathers. However, the mode of inquiry which both Bacon and Newton pioneered became much more influential than the Churchs teachings. The Enlightenment would see these ideas applied to every segment of life and society, with huge ramifications for citizens and rulers alike. The Enlightenment was, at its center, a celebration of ideas ideas about what the human mind was capable of, and what could be achieved through deliberate action and scientific methodology. Many of the new, enlightened ideas were political in nature. Intellectuals began to consider the possibility that freedom and democracy were the fundamental rights of all people, not gifts bestowed upon them by beneficent monarchs or popes. Egalitarianism was the buzzword of the century, and it meant the promise of fair treatment for all people, regardless of background. Citizens began to see themselves on the same level as their leaders, subject to the same shortcomings and certainly subject to criticism if so deserved. Experimentation with elected, consensual leadership began in earnest. The belief was that the combined rationality of the people would elect the best possible representatives. The idea of a collective, national intelligence led many to imagine that virtually all the worlds serious problems would soon be solved. Discussion and debate were considered healthy outlets for pent-up frustrations, not signs of internal weakness. Argumentation as a style of decision-making grew out of the new scientific method, which invited multiple hypotheses to be put to the test. Empiricism, or the reliance on observable, demonstrable facts, was likewise elevated to the level of public discourse. During the Renaissance, there was certainly unbridled optimism, and a sense of humanitys great unfulfilled potential. The Enlightenment was believed to be the realization of the tools and strategies necessary to achieve that potential. The Renaissance was the seed, while the Enlightenment was the blossom. The idea of a public, an informed collection of citizens invested in the common good and preservation of the state, reached fruition during the Enlightenment. Curiously, the coffee shop or caf became the unofficial center of this new entity. Citizens would gather to read whatever literature was available, to engage in heated conversation with neighbors, or to ponder the affairs of state. What made this kind of revolution in free time possible was an increasingly urban, sophisticated population coupled with the steady progress of industrialization. The coffee houses became the stomping grounds of some of the greatest thinkers of the age. Indeed, democracy would have been unachievable if the citizens had no community forum in which to commiserate, plan, and debate their needs and desires. Grassroots political movements were the natural outgrowth of these populist venues. It must be stated, of course, that this public entity was still a very exclusive one. Women, minorities, and the lower classes were not exactly welcomed into this new civil discourse. For all the high-minded discussion of a new, egalitarian social order, the western world was still predominantly owned by middle class men. One of the beneficial effects of the Industrial Revolution was a surge in the amount of reading material available to the general public. Consequently, the cost of such material decreased to the point that literature was no longer the sole purview of aristocrats and wealthy merchants. Literacy rates are believed to have risen dramatically during the eighteenth century, as the upwardly mobile citizenry clamored for information, gossip, and entertainment. Some coffee houses and salons appealed to more lowbrow tastes, and these were sometimes the target of authorities. Personal libraries were still expensive, but they were becoming more common. The trend of solitary reading, initiated during the Renaissance, continued unabated throughout the Enlightenment. The first modern lending libraries began to dot the provincial capitals of Europe, with the trend eventually reaching America as well. A literate public was a more opinionated public, and so more equipped to engage in the political discourse. Probably some of the elites looked upon the new reading public with disdain. However, the days of literature as a sacred and guarded realm open only to a few were all but gone by the time the nineteenth century arrived. In Europe, Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were the torchbearers of Enlightenment literature and philosophy. Rousseau was a strong advocate for social reform of all kinds. He more or less invented the autobiography as it is known today. His most important work, however, was mile, a massively influential piece of non-fiction that argues for extensive and liberal education as the means for creating good citizens.

Rousseaus work on behalf of social empowerment and democracy would remain influential long after his passing. Espousing similar political positions, Voltaire employed dry wit and sarcasm to entertain his readers while making convincing arguments for reform. Voltaire was in fact the pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet, and there are endless interpretations of the meaning of that name. On the most practical level, a pen name probably helped shield him from the persecution which his writings encouraged. For like Rousseau, Voltaire had harsh criticism for many of the powers-that-were. He reserved especially pointed barbs for the Church, which he reviled as intolerant, backward, and too steeped in dogma to realize that the world was leaving the institution behind. Together, Voltaire and Rousseau are the most well-known of a collective of European writers working to promulgate Enlightenment philosophy, all for the sake of making their world a better and fairer place. Britain likewise had her share of satirists and humorists attacking the tired and ponderous institutions of the eighteenth century. In the genre of the novel, Jonathan Swift is probably most well-remembered. In all honesty, the Enlightenment was a bit of a dry spell for English literature. Working in the shadow of the Elizabethans presented creative difficulties for English writers, as no one could quite determine how to follow up after Shakespeare and Marlowe. Swift answered the call with a sizzling wit that resonates to this day. Gullivers Travels has established itself as a classic of world, not just English, literature. The fantastic story, which in one sense could be seen as mere childrens literature, works on multiple levels at once. Each of the societies that Gulliver encounters has a metaphorical relation to the eighteenth century in England. Whereas some authors confronted social injustice head-on, Swift preferred the inviting trickery of the allegory. His sense of humor charmed his admirers, disarmed his critics, and cemented his reputation in literary history. Alexander Pope was arguably the only great poet of Enlightenment England. Not surprisingly, he was a controversial figure who invited as much scorn as praise. His biting satires were not modulated with as much humor as Swift or Voltaire, so he drew down the thunder of many powerful figures. From a literary standpoint, Pope was an innovator on several fronts. For one, he popularized the heroic couplet, a sophisticated rhyme scheme that suited his subject matter well. He took mundane settings and events and made them grandiose, a kind of irony that anticipated Modernism by two centuries. He blended formal criticism into his poetry, a diffusion of generic boundaries that also strikes one as an entirely modern practice. In his own day, Pope was possibly most admired for his capable and effective translations of classic literature. He single-handedly elevated translation to an art-form, and demonstrated that a good poetic sensibility was necessary to pull it off with any success. Popes great masterpiece was The Dunciad, a four-part, scathing indictment of eighteenth century English society. Although he initially attempted to conceal his authorship, the vitriol of his attacks made it clear that only Alexander Pope could have produced such a piece of literature. Unlike most of his Enlightenment brethren, Pope was singularly pessimistic about the future of civil society. Perhaps he foresaw that the tide of rationalism could sweep out just as easily as it had swept in. Like many other intellectual movements, the Enlightenment frame of mind transcended the distance between Europe and the American colonies. However, the vastly different political climate of the colonies meant that the Enlightenment was realized in very different ways. Though it may have been transmuted, the essential elements of Enlightenment philosophy had a profound impact on the history of the New World. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, each in his own way, took up the mantle of rational thinking and encouraged that perspective for an entire society. In America, one could effectively argue that the Enlightenment provided the accelerant for the fires of revolution. For Paine especially, the new ideas from Europe incited in him a desire to see the colonies separate and independent from the British Crown. HisCommon Sense, an impassioned yet well-reasoned plea for independence, was instrumental in gathering supporters to the cause. The rallying cry of No Taxation without Representation was the manifestation of Enlightenment principles of fair governance. Franklin, for his part, was more utilitarian in his approach to matters of public consequence. He saw the need for becoming independent of the British Empire, but he also foresaw the difficulties in forging a strong and lasting union out of disparate and competing colonial interests. His contributions at the Constitutional Conventions were indispensible, and needless to say informed by the principles of rational thinking and the observable facts of the matter. The essential beliefs and convictions of Enlightenment thinkers were by and large committed to writing, thus a fairly accurate sketch of the eighteenth century mind is available to historians working in this century. The principles set forth during the Enlightenment had consequences in the near term that very few anticipated, and these would spell the end of the so-called Age of Reason. If there is a historical moment that can be said to mark the beginning of the end of the Enlightenment, then that moment was the French Revolution. France in 1789 was an example of a civil society intoxicated with its own power. The belief that the collective power of the public will could shape the future devolved into a kind of ecstatic anarchy. The sadism that French citizens perpetrated on each other was horrifying to the entire western world, and governments took quick measures to curtail the possibility of such violence on their own soil.

As the eighteenth century drew to its inevitable close, the passionate calls for social reform and a utopian, egalitarian society quieted down substantially. If nothing else, people were simply tired. The bloodshed in France and a variety of other upheavals had seemed to demonstrate that Enlightenment principles were not practical, or at least not yet. The atmosphere that permeated early nineteenth century Europe was one of relative tranquility. Granted, there had been substantial gains made in nearly all walks of life thanks to the progressive ideas of the Enlightenment. Science had been propelled forward, such that the traditional authority of the Church was in real jeopardy. Monarchs no longer ruled by Divine Right, and citizens had frank conversations about their nations policies and the course of world events. The literary world, too, had to catch its breath. No one yet knew how to deal with a suddenly literate public, clamoring for reading material. The next several decades would be spent figuring that out. Despite its apparent failures and setbacks, the Enlightenment paved the way for the modern world. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jalic Inc. Do not reprint it without permission. Written by Josh Rahn. Josh holds a Masters degree in English Literature from Morehead State University, and a Masters degree in Library Science from the University of Kentucky. http://www.online-literature.com/periods/enlightenment.php