Los Angeles Pierce College A Revolution in Thought Discussion


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By the last decades of the 18th century, society fnd itself in need of a revolution in thought that in many ways expressed itself in political, as well as social revolutions, and which the Enlightenment answered.

Discussion Prompt: In your view, are we in need of a similar revolution of thought today? Explain. (In this discussion you might address issues such as our political climate and the lack of civil political discourse, the “Age of the Internet” and how readily accessible both accurate and inaccurate information is, or a need for changes in society regarding rights, etc. 

 Try to address this issue in terms of contemporary American politics/culture


nope its all there heres some things you can read about Famous People of the Enlightenment w/ links–resource (Links to an external site.)WATCH Roots of Enlightenment Video (Links to an external site.)PowerPoint–Pre-Enlightement Influences.pptx Download Pre-Enlightement Influences.pptxThe Enlightenment was a product of ideas and theories first espoused during Antiquity and a spurred on as a result of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Exploration. The Enlightenment witnessed dramatic change in governments, the church, the arts, and sciences.  It incorporated  a new world view that sought to explain the world and looked for answers in terms of reason, rather than faith, and with an optimistic, natural, humanistic approach in seeking answers, rather than a supernatural one.  It was a philosophical and intellectual movement that affected and transformed most of Europe and became the philosophical basis for the United States.  So, where did it all start?The Roots of the EnlightenmentAfter the Fall of Rome, and the shift from Classical Humanism, science, and reason to a focus on the divine and spiritual in the  Middle Ages, the Renaissance rediscovered this focus and this new focus on science, logic, and reason, in many ways, gave birth to and became what is known as the Enlightenment Period.The Middle Ages were a time undoubtedly dominated by fear.  The same God who mysterioiusly provided you with the Earth under your feet, the air to breathe, and food to eat, also left you riddled with disease and ill health, and periodically subjected you to natural and human disasters of all kinds. There was no clear way to act that would accurately allow you to predict or control the future and the God you worshiped must have seemed an impossible mix of benevolence and cruelty.The most learned people at the time were Christian monks – perhaps most famously the great Thomas Aquinas –who were heroically busy in monasteries studying the texts of the ancient Greeks and synthesizing these ideas with Christian doctrine to create a worldview that would dominate the Western world  for hundreds of years. In fact that cosmological view would remain intact until the polish born astronomer Nicholas Copernicus developed his Heliocentric Theory.Copernicus showed convincingly that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not the Sun around the Earth. This discovery over threw one of the central characteristics of Christian thought at the time and it initiated arguably the greatest intellectual revolution in human history. Soon the German born astronomer Johannes Kepler showed that the planets revolved around the earth according to simple mathematical relationships and later the Englishman Isaac Newton explained the motion of the planets using his simple and elegant conception of gravity.The Enlightenment changed the universe. Suddenly it was clear that the universe wasn’t an unknowable place that had to be feared. It was an organized mechanism consisting of many different parts that acted in accordance with natural laws that could be discovered and understood. The universe was felt to be knowable and man had the ability to reason and to know it! That was the revolution of The Enlightenment.The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Enlightenment, was a philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe in the 18th century. Centered on the idea that reason is the primary source of authority and legitimacy, this movement advocated such ideals as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state. The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy. The core ideas advocated by modern democracies, including the civil society, human and civil rights, and separation of powers, are the product of the Enlightenment. Furthermore, the sciences and academic disciplines (including social sciences and the humanities) as we know them today, based on empirical methods, are also rooted in the Age of Enlightenment. All these developments, which followed and partly overlapped with the European exploration and colonization of the Americas and the intensification of the European presence in Asia and Africa, make the Enlightenment a starting point of what some historians define as the European Moment in World History: the long period of often tragic European domination over the rest of the world.There is little consensus on the precise beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, with the beginning of the 18th century (1701) or the middle of the 17th century (1650) often considered starting points. French historians usually place the period between 1715 and 1789, from the beginning of the reign of Louis XV until the French Revolution. In the mid-17th century, the Enlightenment traces its origins to Descartes’ Discourse on Method, published in 1637. In France, many cite the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica in 1687. Some historians and philosophers have argued that the beginning of the Enlightenment is when Descartes shifted the epistemological basis from external authority to internal certainty by his cogito ergo sum (1637).As to its end, most scholars use the last years of the century, often choosing the French Revolution of 1789 or the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars (1804–15) to date the end of the Enlightenment.The ideas of the Enlightenment played a major role in inspiring the French Revolution, which began in 1789 and emphasized the rights of common men as opposed to the exclusive rights of the elites. As such, they laid the foundation for modern, rational, democratic societies. However, historians of race, gender, and class note that Enlightenment ideals were not originally envisioned as universal in the today’s sense of the word.The Enlightenment has also long been hailed as the foundation of modern Western political and intellectual culture. It brought political modernization to the West in terms of focusing on democratic values and institutions and the creation of modern, liberal democracies. The fundamentals of European liberal thought, including the right of the individual, the natural equality of all men, the separation of powers, the artificial character of the political order (which led to the later distinction between civil society and the state), the view that all legitimate political power must be “representative” and based on the consent of the people, and liberal interpretation of law that leaves people free to do whatever is not explicitly forbidden, were all developed by Enlightenment thinkers.  Although they did eventually inspire the struggles for rights of people of color, women, or the working masses, most Enlightenment thinkers did not advocate equality for all, regardless of race, gender, or class, but rather insisted that rights and freedoms were not hereditary (the heredity of power and rights was a common pre-Enlightenment assumption). This perspective directly attacked the traditionally exclusive position of the European aristocracy but was still largely focused on expanding the rights of white males of a particular social standing.The roots of the Enlightenment can be found in the humanism of the Renaissance, with its emphasis on the study of Classical literature. The Protestant Reformation, with its antipathy toward received religious dogma, was another precursor. Perhaps the most important sources of what became the Enlightenment were the complementary rational and empirical methods of discovering truth that were introduced by the scientific revolution.Enlightenment thinkers wanted to examine human life in the light of reason. Rational understanding, they felt, would lead to great progress in government and society.These thinkers believed they were making a major break with the past. Like everyone, however, they were influenced by what had come before them. In this section, we will first examine the roots of the Enlightenment. Then we will consider ways in which the new ideas of the Enlightenment clashed with old beliefs.The Scientific Revolution?Enlightenment thinking grew out of the Scientific Revolution. In science, observation and reason were revealing natural laws that applied throughout the physical world. The thinkers of the Enlightenment wanted to apply this approach to human life and experience, and this gave rise to the expectation that similar breakthroughs might be achieved in the social and political arenas if only the same methods were applied. They asked questions such as: Are there natural laws that tell us how to live? How well do our current institutions follow natural laws? Do natural laws give all people certain rights? What is the best form of government?Through experiments, scientist like Newton and Galileo had discovered that the world/cosmos did not work exactly the way church authority explained it. Using scientific methods of study, following Aristotle’s and Bacon’s methodology, scientists began to discover the physical laws that governed the natural world. Enlightenment thinkers took the ideas of natural law one step further. They believed that natural law must also govern human society and government.Philosophers did not always agree about the answers to these questions. What they all shared was a way of thinking about them. Like scientists, they placed their trust in reason and observation as the best sources of understanding and progress.The Renaissance and the Reformation?The Enlightenment also had roots in the Renaissance and the Reformation. The humanists of the Renaissance questioned accepted beliefs. They celebrated the dignity and worth of the individual. Renaissance attitudes about studying the world and changing it contributed to the Enlightenment idea of progress, namely, that humans were capable of improving themselves and their world. The rediscovery of Greek and Roman ideas and texts with their focus on science, the human condition, mathematics, Humanism, etc. greatly inspired Enlightenment thinkers and were expanded upon.  During the Reformation, Protestants rebelled against the Catholic Church. They put individual conscience ahead of religious tradition and authority.cEnlightenment thinkers went even further in rejecting authority and upholding the freedom of individuals to think for themselves.Classical and Christian Influences Like the humanists of the Renaissance, many Enlightenment thinkers were inspired by classical culture. The civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome formed both a common background and a major source of inspiration to Enlightenment thinkers and artists . The dominant culture of the Enlightenment was rooted in the classics, and its art was consciously imitative and neoclassical.  Enlightenment thinkers expanded on ideas from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Aristotle, for example, taught that people could use logic to discover new truths. Building on Greek ideas, Roman thinkers developed the concept of natural law- a view that the laws of the physical world should be followed in government and social mores, and these laws governed how the world operated. With Roman and Greek ideas as guidelines the Enlightenment thinkers began to study the world in a new way and they applied these beliefs to government and society.  As you can see, trust in reason, for example, goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. So does the idea that people should have a voice in their government. Philosophers who argued for this idea could point to the democracy of ancient Athens or to the republic of ancient Rome.Christian ideas also influenced Enlightenment thinking. Enlightenment philosophers preferred rational thought to faith based on the Bible. Yet most of them continued to believe in God. They saw the laws of nature as the work of an intelligent Creator. They saw human progress as a sign of God’s goodness. Often, their approach to moral problems reflected Christian values, such as respect for others and for a moral law.Thomas Aquinas taught the Middle Ages that faith paired with reason could explain the world. The thinkers disagreed with the church’s claims to authority and its intolerance toward non-Christian beliefs. Enlightenment thinkers questioned church authority because they often found that religious beliefs did not always fit in with what they learned from their logical, empirical study of the world.

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