Finaldraft 4/4/13

Download 68.51 Kb.
Size68.51 Kb.

F I N A L D R A F T 4/4/13


I plan to provide a brief introduction to the profound intellectual changes that occurred in philosophy, science and politics during the Enlightenment era, well over two hundred years ago.

Please write down any questions you may have -- you may ask them later at the end of my presentation.

Philosophical and political theories elaborated during the Enlightenment created our modern world; we are the products of the Enlightenment.

In the corners of the present slide are icons of Minerva, goddess of knowledge to the ancients, providing the light of wisdom to mankind. Such pagan, quasi-religious, images were commonly used in publications throughout the Enlightenment.


Britain and France were the major countries involved in the The Age of Enlightenment, which in the 18th Century in France came to be called Le Siècle des Lumières, the Century of Lights, referring to the lights of reason, to contrast with a preceding era perceived as a long dark age lasting centuries, since the fall of Rome.

(READ aloud the various names for the Enlightenment across Europe)

What were the main concepts of the Enlightenment? When did it take place?
Which principal countries were involved? Who were the main intellectuals? What are the titles of some of their most influential books? And, last but not least, does the Enlightenment still matter today? What has been its legacy?


The fundamentals of Enlightenment thought were the primacy of reason, the questioning and critical examination of all authority, whether it was religious, political or scientific; the Enlightenment recognized the need for religious tolerance, and professed a doctrine of progress and perfectibility.

Many Enlightenment thinkers were deists who believed in a de-Christianized Creator; in other words they believed in God but did not accept the Trinity. Among Enlightenment thinkers and scientists there were authentic atheists as well, particularly in the latter part of the 18th Century in France, but contemporaries often considered deists to be atheists –- which was incorrect.

Enlightenment thought prepared the way for the 18th Century American and French Revolutions, and influenced subsequent Revolutions as well.

The Enlightenment Challenged: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, one should distinguish between two-Enlightenments.>

He finds that there was a moderate Enlightenment of reformers, such as John Locke, Newton and Voltaire, who wanted to revise and “correct” existing political and religious institutions, and a radical Enlightenment of thinkers, such as philosophes Diderot, Holbach and Helvétius who wanted to replace existing institutions with self-rule and an egalitarian, secular society. The intellectuals who favored Enlightenment ideas in France were all called philosophes whether or not they were actually systematic, true philosophers, so that is why we don’t translate philosophe as philosopher, at least when we are talking about the 18th Century.

The American experiment in independence after 1776 and the “copy cat” French Revolutionary experience after 1789 became of necessity radical, with the French Revolution the winner in the radical category! I invite you to read the novel The Gods Will Have Blood, by French author Anatole France. It is an excellent resource for you to imagine what it was like to experience the French Revolution. Well-selected novels and films may be very useful in understanding and appreciating historical periods.

He uses the work “modernity” to refer to basic values either established or recognized as necessary during the Enlightenment period: Tolerance, personal freedom, democracy, racial and sexual equality, and the universal right to knowledge and enlightenment.

A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment.>

I am not sure that I agree with Blom’s use of the value-charged word “wicked” in his title, but if you are interested in learning about the Enlightenment, you will find Blom’s book much more accessible than Jonathan Israel’s thick book written for specialists in Enlightenment studies.

Our First Revolution: The Amazing Upheaval that Inspired America’s Founding Fathers reminds the reader that the events of the 17th Century English Civil War and Glorious Revolution were still fresh on the minds of the leaders who made our American Revolution, informed them of useful precedents as well as pitfalls.

Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life in Britain, North America, and France, by Leora Auslander.>

This book explains very clearly how the British Glorious 1688 Revolution provided important precedents for the North American Revolution which began in 1776, and how both of the earlier revolutionary events in turn provided model experiences and background for the French Revolution of 1789.


In Holland, Baruch Spinoza, and Pierre Bayle;

In England, John Locke & Sir Isaac Newton; and in Scotland, Adam Smith.

In France, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, and Jean-Jacques-Rousseau.

More about the contributions to Enlightenment thought by each of these individuals in a moment.


During the period under consideration, the Enlightenment, Holland was known as the freest and most tolerant country in Europe; political and religious refugees were able to find asylum there, including most notably many Iberian (Spanish or Portuguese) Jews who had fled the fires of The Holy Inquisition; present also were many French Huguenots, Calvinist Protestants of the Reformed Church, who were obliged to flee terrible persecution in Roman Catholic France; in Holland there co-existed more or less well many other sects that we do not have time to identify. In such an environment of diversity of religious outlooks and relative tolerance, the early Enlightenment began to develop.

like night and day>!

As you know from previous sessions in your British Isles course this semester, England in the Sixteenth Century experienced a period of Civil War and Revolution that ultimately strengthened Parliament, installed Dutch William of Orange as King William III of England, and resulted in a guarantee of rights for Englishmen, relative freedom of thought free from censorship, and the growth of the City of London as a commercial and military capital without equal. In such an environment there was little governmental opposition to Enlightenment thought.

By contrast across the Channel in France, there reigned a French King who claimed to rule by Divine Right. Although the French police state allied with the Roman Catholic Church was assuredly unfriendly to progressive, Enlightenment ideas, the demand for publications containing such ideas circulated in secret and sold like hot cakes!

French King Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes (in 1598) had guaranteed tolerance for Huguenots; it was revoked in 1685 by Louis XIV, who incidentally, was William of Orange’s cousin; William was in part motivated to accept the English Parliament’s offer to become King in order to thwart Louis’ aggressions in Europe. In due course Louis would remove the area of Orange in southern France from William’s possessions.

France, the country that prior to the French Revolution of 1789 boasted the largest population and most resources of any European country, none-the-less lost its many wars with Britain during the period, lost New France or Canada in 1763, and its possessions in India as well. Something was very wrong with the French manner of conducting war and commerce.

For unorthodox French thinkers, contemporary England’s political experiences and ideas became a model to recommend for emulation, with implied criticism of the French Old Régime. Knowledge of the French language was widespread throughout Europe and familiar to all serious scholars and educated persons at a time when very few Europeans, Frenchmen included, had studied English. The English Enlightenment philosophical, scientific, and political ideas of Locke, Newton and others came to France and to Europe by means of translations from English to French, and through the writings of the few French writers who did know English well, principally Voltaire and Diderot, as we shall see. The Enlightenment program came to mature blossom in the French language.


Spinoza is considered to have laid the foundations for the Enlightenment with his very influential work entitled, Ethics and also his Theologico-Politico Treatise. Spinoza attacked the Cartesian mind-body dualism by asserting that they were one and the same. He believed that God and Nature were the same substance, a philosophical position called materialism or pantheism; he was of course was considered atheistic and heretical by most contemporaries. If mind and body were not separate, there could be no spiritual soul. Spinoza was way ahead of his time; some philosophers consider him the greatest philosopher of all times.

The Courtier and the Heritic: Leibnitz, Spinoza and the Fate of God in the Modern World.


In his writings Bayle demonstrated that many superstitions, received ideas and opinions could not be true. Bayle became a religious skeptic who insisted, however, that he was a fideist or an orthodox believer, perhaps in order to keep his enemies at bay. His six volume Historical and Critical Dictionary, an encyclopedia as much as it was a dictionary, featured articles on controversial topics – with very long footnotes set in tiny type filling nearly the entire page in an effort to hide some of his most provocative ideas from his enemies, hoping that their eyes and attention would tire …

th Century. When Thomas Jefferson donated 100 books from his own library to initiate the Library of Congress, Bayle’s Dictionary was at the top of the list.

tabula rasa; we come to know the world around us little by little solely through our senses. His outlook was that of the empirical, scientific method. Empirical facts are those derived from the evidence of careful observation, experience or experimentation, those that may be replicated by other scientists.

Locke was suspected of radicalism by the government and spent six years (1683-1689) in Holland where he wrote his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in a common-sense style. With the accession of William and Mary to the English throne, he returned to England and published his Treatises on Civil Government, part of which justified the Glorious Revolution. Locke is most renowned for his political theory; he believed in small constitutional government and individual Rights to Conscience, Life, Liberty and Property. In part, his recommendations grew out of his experiences and observations during the English Civil War. Locke formulated the doctrine that revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but an obligation, and elaborated a policy of checks and balances in government. He argued for broad religious freedom in three separate essays on toleration; however, his toleration was not extended to Roman Catholics and atheists. His Essay on The Reasonableness of Christianity emphasized the ethical aspect of Christianity against dogma.

Two Treatises of Government greatly influenced subsequent Enlightenment thinkers, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, and American Revolutionaries, Paine, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison.

Let’s explain the reference to “natural philosophy” in the title of Newton’s influential book, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, first published in Latin. The term “science” in its present day meaning was not in use at the time, and only replaced “natural philosophy” in the 19th Century. Newton’s book laid the foundations of classical mechanics, laws of motion, and universal gravitation. The German Leibnitz and Newton are given credit for having invented the infinitesimal calculus; however, each worked without knowledge of the other’s work. Newton also invented the reflecting telescope.

Principia Mathematica remains the standard translation of Newton’s work into French. This remarkable, exceptional woman not only understood Newton, but separately wrote her own critique of portions of his work, and conducted her own scientific experiments in optics. Madame du Châtelet and Voltaire were lovers. More about Voltaire in a moment.

An inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, often referred to as an important primer on modern capitalist, laissez-faire, free or open market economics>.

According to economics professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Smith was also committed to the Enlightenment idea that social progress should be universal, not restricted to a narrow corner of the world in Western Europe. He joined other Enlightenment figures in his belief in the essential equality of humanity, and of the ability of societies in all parts of the world to share in economic progress. Smith believed that global trade, what we now call globalization, would speed the process. Although Smith championed open trade on a world scale, he understood the precariousness and risks. He had no illusions that globalization would automatically spread the benefits of technology and the division of labor. Smith described how the opening of sea trade between Europe and the East and West Indies had certainly not benefitted the non-Europeans.

This same point had been made by Voltaire in his multi-volume history of the world whose exact title was: "Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations." Voltaire, for a time was the Historiographer of French King Louis XV, and was the first scholar to make a serious attempt to write a history of the world that eliminated theological frameworks while emphasizing economics, culture and political history; he insisted on the use of original documents in writing history.

; à rouer, two words, means “good for a beating.”

Voltaire was not born into the nobility; his father was a minor official in the royal treasury. When the young, brash Voltaire had an altercation with a member of the princely Rohan-Soubise family, it led to a challenge to a duel, sword fight lessons, a brief stay in the Bastille prison, and ultimately to Voltaire’s exile in London for several years during which he mastered the English language, purchased books, made English friends, including the poet Alexander Pope, and became thoroughly acquainted with and enthused about a very different reality from the oppressive one he had known back home in France. He decided to write a collection of essays in French concerning his observations and experiences in England – and to share and promote them among eager intellectuals across France and Europe under the title of Lettres Philosophiques or Philosophical Letters. Voltaire’s influential book ensured the dissemination of English ideas and practices for eager readers living in the different world across the English Channel; in retrospect the book constituted a step toward the destruction of the Old Régime in France and the transformation of Europe following Enlightenment ideas.


He did this because tolerance of religious differences was non-existent in France, and would attract the interest of potential, thoughtful readers. He included four essays concerning the Quakers, followed by essays on the Anglicans, the Presbyterians and the anti-Trinitarian Socinians. Voltaire included three essays on the science of Newton, taking time to criticize French philosopher Descartes. He contrasts the support given the arts on one hand in England, with the lack of support in France. Voltaire reviewed the English literary scene and praised English writers, Shakespeare and Pope, for example. Favorable essays on the English Parliament and government were influenced by Enlightenment ideals. Voltaire praised the engagement of English nobles in commerce and the production of wealth. Copies of Voltaire’s Lettres Philosophiques were distributed clandestinely in France; literary critic Gustave Lanson called the subversive book “the first bomb thrown against the Old Régime” in France.

Philosophical Letters>.

The twenty-fifth and last letter condemns the views of French Christian philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, famous for his phrase in defense of religion, “The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know.” Pascal’s position here was also that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who subsequently was also on Voltaire’s list of “enemies.” More about Rousseau in a moment.

Candide, or Optimism, published in 1759>.

For over 250 years it has served as a primer of Enlightenment thought, a short work of 100 pages that should be read by everyone. I asked your instructor, Miss Crawford, to include my introduction to Candide on the Blackboard site for this class. I hope that you will not only read my introduction in English, but also find a copy in English of this remarkable book -- and read it. The major theme in Candide is the philosophical problem of evil – why do bad things happen? Voltaire denounces man-made evil: war, metaphysics, the notion of God’s Providence or Goodness, the exploitation of women and the mistreatment of slaves. The final message in the book, “cultivate your garden,” seems to urge acceptance, for mankind to be tolerant and to use common sense in dealing with the “human condition” and contingencies of this life. American composer Leonard Bernstein in the 1960s produced a worthwhile musical version of Candide which will be presented by the Fresno Grand Opera at the beginning of May in the recently opened Shagoian Hall on the campus of Clovis North High School.

Philosophe Denis Diderot studied for the priesthood, but eventually became an atheist>:

He was well read, knew English well, had translated James’ Medical Dictionary into French, when he was engaged to translate Chambers’ two-volume Cyclopedia from English into French. Diderot convinced the publisher, Le Breton, to adopt a more ambitious plan to create a much larger Encyclopedia, a monumental project that eventually produced the first real encyclopedia, the masterpiece of the Enlightenment. Diderot engaged the top Enlightenment writers in France, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot himself, and others, to write original articles for inclusion; however, much of the Encyclopédie consisted of a compilation of essays gleaned from published sources, such as a world history by Voltaire based on documentation and research. Much of the compilation work for the Encyclopédie was accomplished by a wealthy Protestant physician from Holland, the chevalier de Jaucourt.

Encyclopédie which was published over a period of nearly 30 years>.

Le Breton’s giant commercial project involved the production of huge, in-folio, volumes and employed a very significant number of people. Although the set of 35 volumes were very expensive, several thousand subscriptions world-wide rewarded the publisher’s efforts.

Encyclopédie became a principal and highly influential reference work for those who read French everywhere in Europe and beyond, in North and South America>:

The articles in the set contained much useful, then current, historical and scientific knowledge, some derived ultimately from enlightened sources originally published in Britain in English, together with many criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church, and the oppression of the Old Régime in France and Europe; Church and Crown reacted by trying to shut down the enterprise, portions of some articles were censored, but in the end, the size of the enterprise and large amount of money invested and employment opportunities were deemed just too big and important to fail, and the entire 35 volume set was eventually completed.

Diderot announced that his purpose in putting together the Encyclopédie was to “change the common way of thinking.” What he meant was to produce critical thinkers who would demand a change in an oppressive political and religious status quo in France; the Encyclopédie was very successful in the accomplishment of this worthy goal, and contributed much toward preparing the way for the French Revolution, which began shortly after the publication of the last volume of the Encyclopédie. In retrospect, the Encyclopédie fashioned an effective war machine hewn from radical Enlightenment ideas. Thomas Jefferson owned a set of the Encyclopédie.

Encyclopédie, first edition. A student assistant, Adam, is holding an open copy of one of the volumes.

Encyclopédie, William Curtis, was a member of Parliament and mayor of London, an indication of the kind of person who could afford to purchase such a treasure.

Encyclopédie into English for publication on-line. I have contributed a translation into English of several Encyclopédie articles about Portugal together with my historical footnotes in collaboration with professor Francis Dutra of the UCSB History Department.

Encyclopédie, is masterfully presented in Philip Blom’s book entitled, Enlightening the World: Encyclopédie, The Book that Changed the Course of History.

Candide, and published his own deistic beliefs in the final chapter of Emile. To the Enlightenment utopian doctrine of progress and perfectibility, Rousseau in his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences responded that civilization had corrupted man. Eventually Diderot and his circle of friends began to mock Rousseau who became increasingly mentally imbalanced.

Discourse on the Arts and Sciences: Rousseau believed that man was good at birth but that he was corrupted by civil society. Rousseau’s opinions began to run counter to the Enlightenment’s optimistic doctrine of progress.

Commissioned by Diderot, Rousseau wrote all the articles on music for the Encyclopédie.

In his Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau found the origins of inequality in the injustice of property, with the first individual who builds a fence or an enclosure. Civil society is a kind of trick perpetrated by the wealthy to control the masses.

Julie, or the New Heloise: If you don’t know the touching 12th Century true story of the original Heloise and her philosophy tutor & lover, the priest Abelard, you should look it up! The New Heloise is the story of Rousseau’s unrequited love for Sophie de Hudetot. What is important here is Rousseau’s novel of sentiment was an important precursor of the Romantic movement of the 19th Century in literature and music.

The Social Contract: Locke and others had described a model social and political contract, well before Rousseau. The contract addresses the questions of society’s origins and the legitimacy of the state’s authority over the individual. Individuals in a society give up some of their natural freedoms and rights in exchange for protection of their remaining legal rights. Rousseau did not approve of the British style of freedom and representative government; his theoretical ideal was freedom through direct rule of the people as a whole. However, the individual must subordinate himself to the “general will.” Those who do not submit to the general will must be “forced to be free.” Sounds kind of ominous; Rousseau was the favorite philosophe of the radical Jacobins in the French Revolution

Emile: Rousseau’s theories of child rearing and education have been very influential, to this very day. Emile is a child of nature and learns what he needs to know at his own pace. Eventually he grows up and marries. Emile’s religion is that of natural religion, or deism. The Emile was condemned and burned in both Catholic Paris and in Protestant Geneva. Rousseau fled France and accepted the hospitality of David Hume in Edinburgh, until he fought with his host. Rousseau had developed a suspicious persecution complex.

Confessions: Rousseau wrote an unusually frank autobiography that included his own self-justification with regard to his treatment by former friends Voltaire, Diderot, Grimm, Hume and others, including madame Hudetot.

Benjamin Franklin was a major American contributor to the Atlantic Enlightenment; he gained international recognition for his original research into the physics of electricity, his invention of the lightning rod, bifocals, a stove and the glass armonica>:

Franklin was a polymath or multi-talented genius: author of an autobiography, and editions of Poor Richard’s Almanac; he was a printer, political theorist, politician, governor of Pennsylvania, physicist, scientist, musician, inventor, civic activist, statesman, diplomat, postmaster, abolitionist. He secured essential French military assistance from French King Louis XVI in support of the North American English colonists’ Revolutionary War against British King George III.


He was the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence based on Enlightenment ideals and values that may be summarized in the formula life, liberty, & pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson was a Francophile, admired French culture, and served as our ambassador to Versailles and Paris from 1785 through 1789, including the early days of the French Revolution.

Declarations of Rights contain Enlightenment ideals & are related.

In 1689 the British Parliament adopted a Bill of Rights that remains in effect; the document shows strong Lockean influence.

In 1789 the French Constituent Assembly adopted a Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. It was drafted in ambassador Jefferson’s Paris apartment by the marquis de Layfayette and others. Since then, it has served as the basis of five French constitutions.

In 1789 Congressional approval was granted to the American Bill of Rights, as introduced by James Madison, Jefferson’s protégé and principal author of our 1787 Constitution.

In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Eleanor Rooselvelt had served as chair of the Human Rights Commission that produced the Declaration.

Jeffrey Sachs, a recognized expert on the topic of world poverty, directs The Earth Institute, and serves as Professor of Sustainable Development, Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He was special advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, from 2002 to 2006, and directed the UN Millenium Development Goals Project that drafted internationally agreed upon goals to reduce extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015.

The cover of Jeffrey Sachs’ book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time; with an introduction by Bono.

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time Sachs comments on the “Age of Enlightenment” and our contemporary world. He demonstrates how the richest countries could end poverty in the world if only they had the requisite political will power to do so, basing his call for globalised social justice on the Enlightenment ideals that produced the very concepts of economic and social progress. Sachs reminds us that John Locke, David Hume and Thomas Jefferson considered political institutions to be human constructs that should be fashioned consciously to meet the needs of societies. Jefferson wrote that Governments are instituted among Men to secure the rights of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Since the American and French Revolutions, political systems could no longer be justified on the basis of divine rights of monarchs, or claims of religious prophecy. Governments now were held accountable for improving the human condition of their population. In other words, the State should get involved in ensuring social justice. The Enlightenment was committed to the idea that social progress should be universal and extend beyond Western Europe to all of humanity. Over the past two and one half centuries, according to Sachs, Enlightenment optimism led some thinkers astray into two kinds of fallacies. One was the fallacy of inevitability, the assumption that human reason would always necessarily prevail over the passions. The second was the fallacy of violence, that collective compulsion could speed the way to a society built on reason and progress … the Enlightenment commitment to reason is not a denial of the unreasonable side of human nature, but rather a belief that despite human irrationality and passions, human reason can still be harnessed trough science, non-violent action, and historical reflection -- to solve basic problems of social organization. Sachs believes that ending poverty is the great opportunity of our time, a commitment that would not only relieve massive suffering and spread economic well-being, but would also promote the other Enlightenment objectives of democracy, global security and the advance of science.

In conclusion, we need to realize that the Age Enlightenment produced our modern world, and that we should revisit Enlightenment ideals -- to know and appreciate something of their history. The ideas employed by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, were not invented by them, despite what some politicians may tell us, they were selected from the ferment of 17th and 18th Century European Enlightenment culture, especially in Britain and in France. These fundamental values, as we all know, remain the subject of interpretation in vibrant democracies at home and abroad, including Britain and France, countries that hold to the same basic values of liberty and human rights, to which the USA has been dedicated for more than 200 years.


Are there any questions?

Would anyone care to critique any of Professor Sachs’ comments before we summarize today’s lesson on the Enlightenment? (The difficulty of making the real and the ideal coincide).

Were there any problems with the outlook of the Enlightenment 1650-1800, and thereafter? (The progress of social justice, liberty, and rights for all was --- and is --- a continuing process).

How many women, racial and ethnic minorities were involved in producing the main ideas of the Enlightenment? Did they benefit at all? When did women acquire the right to vote in Britain? The US? In France? When was slavery abolished in Britain? In France? In the US?

Why do European countries and Canada appear to give greater emphasis to collective social justice than does the USA?

1. Enumerate the main Enlightenment concepts.

2. When did it take place approximately?

3. In which principal countries?

4. Name some principal intellectuals of the Enlightenment period.

5. List their most influential published works.

6. Does the Enlightenment still matter today?

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page