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Age of enlightenment

The meaning of «age of enlightenment»

The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment)[note 2] was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.[2] The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state.[3][4]

The Enlightenment emerged out of a European intellectual and scholarly movement known as Renaissance humanism and was also preceded by the Scientific Revolution and the work of Francis Bacon, among others. Some date the beginning of the Enlightenment to René Descartes' 1637 philosophy of Cogito, ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"), while others cite the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica (1687) as the culmination of the Scientific Revolution and the beginning of the Enlightenment. French historians traditionally date its beginning with the death of Louis XIV of France in 1715 until the 1789 outbreak of the French Revolution. Most end it with the beginning of the 19th century.

Philosophers and scientists of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffeehouses and in printed books, journals, and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and the Catholic Church and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neoclassicism, trace their intellectual heritage to the Enlightenment.[5]

In France, the central doctrines of the Enlightenment philosophers were individual liberty and religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Church. The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism, along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy—an attitude captured by Immanuel Kant's essay Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment, where the phrase Sapere aude (Dare to know) can be found.[6]

The Age of Enlightenment was preceded by and closely associated with the Scientific Revolution.[9] Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Francis Bacon and René Descartes.[10] Some of the major figures of the Enlightenment included Cesare Beccaria, Denis Diderot, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Hugo Grotius, Baruch Spinoza, and Voltaire.[11]

One particularly influential Enlightenment publication was the Encyclopédie (Encyclopedia). Published between 1751 and 1772 in thirty-five volumes, it was compiled by Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond d'Alembert, and a team of 150 other intellectuals. The Encyclopédie helped in spreading the ideas of the Enlightenment across Europe and beyond.[12] Other landmark publications of the Enlightenment included Voltaire's Letters on the English (1733) and Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary; 1764); Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (1740); Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws (1748); Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality (1754) and The Social Contract (1762); Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776); and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781).

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