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The Enlightenment Impact On Western Society

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The Enlightenment, which spanned over the length of an entire century, has had a significant impact on Western society and ideology. The change was brought about by many great philosophers and scientists of the era when they began to question many long-standing beliefs such as the rights of the individual and the structure of power. Instead of solely relying on authority or religion to answer questions about humanity, they turned toward logic and reason as their guides. In doing so, many arrived at conclusions that radically changed thinking across Europe. Their findings emphasized the rights of the individual, equality of all, feminism, and new perspectives political, social, and economic aspects of society. Some of the most notable…show more content…
These revolutions held Locke’s philosophy at their core and many references can be found in each country’s foundational documents. Along with individualism, reason was a driving proponent of thinking throughout the entirety of the Enlightenment. Philosophers and scientists alike used reason. Reason allowed these men and women to outline their conclusions in detail in a step by step method that aided in increasing credibility. Arbitrary logic, such as the claim to a throne based on a divine right, began to fade with the rise of appealing to reason. No other writer embodies the appeal to reason more than René Descartes. In Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes uses reason as a tool to explore his own perceptions. One of the more intriguing examples of his process of reasoning occurs in his second meditation, “Of the Nature of the Human mind; and that it’s more easily known than the body”. Throughout the chapter, Descartes arrives at the conclusion that all we really have to rely on are our own thoughts. He arrives at this notion by first reasoning as to why we cannot rely on sense and then concluding at the simple explanation that we are only “A thing which thinks.”. It is our thought that “doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also imagines and feels”. (Page 10, Meditation II) Descartes’ claim that individual reasoning and
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