The Enlightenment Philosophers: What Was Their Main Idea

2373 Words May 15th, 2013 10 Pages
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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
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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 café 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.
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