Characteristics of the Enlightenment with Consequences


Intellectual, philosophical and cultural movement that developed in Europe during the 18th century. In this article we will discuss you the Characteristics of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was an intellectual, philosophical, and cultural movement that developed in Europe during the 18th century . It had great influence on the social and political processes of Europe and America until the beginning of the 19th century .

This movement is also known as “Enlightenment” because it considered that reason was the light that would illuminate human knowledge to bring humanity out of ignorance and in this way build a better world. For this reason, the 18th century is often called the “Age of Enlightenment.”

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Characteristics of the Illustration

The main characteristics of the Enlightenment were the following:

  • It spread among the bourgeoisie and sectors of the aristocracy. Their ideas were discussed in the halls organized by upper-class ladies where philosophers, scientists, artists, literati, etc. met. These groups became great consumers of books. Main Characteristics of the Enlightenment
  • He considered that rational thought was the only way to access true knowledge. You got to know the world through reasoning , observation, and experimentation .
  • He denied any form of knowledge that did not come from rational analysis. Therefore, he considered popular beliefs and religion as mere superstitions .
  • In a context in which the category of people was determined by their family origin, it held that all people were born equal and had natural rights.
  • He believed in the possibility of both material and moral progress of societies based on scientific and technological discoveries. He was confident that knowledge could improve the lives of individuals and societies.
  • He questioned absolute monarchies and the principle that the king’s power came from God.

Background to the Illustration

The main antecedents of the illustration were:

  • A sustained trend since the beginning of the 15th century to value human thought as a source of knowledge .
  • The diffusion of two philosophical currents that had important development in the seventeenth century : empiricism and rationalism . Empiricism held the importance of observation and experimentation to know the phenomena and rationalism, the use of logical reasoning.
  • The English liberalism proposed by John Locke, who maintained that rationality was a natural characteristic of people and the function of governments was to guarantee their natural rights, that is, life, liberty, equality and property. Main Characteristics of the Enlightenment
  • The social need to find answers to new human concerns and uncertainties that religion and governments could not explain.

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Consequences of the Enlightenment

Some consequences of enlightened thinking were the following:

  • It gave a strong impetus to the development of the scientific method and the sciences as we know them today.
  • His questioning of blood privileges was the beginning of the French Revolution that ended the absolutist monarchy
  • In other monarchies, such as the Spanish, the kings practiced a system called enlightened despotism . Although they maintained absolutism, they adhered to the principles of the Enlightenment and sought to provide their subjects with education and the means to progress.
  • The diffusion of his questions to the current political power and the idea of ​​equality of the people before the law was an important influence for the American Creoles. Those were the principles that guided the independence revolutions in the European colonies .
  • In France, Enlightenment thinkers created an encyclopedia to collect and disseminate all knowledge. This publication, called the Encyclopedia or reasoned dictionary of the sciences, arts and crafts , was completed over the years and was the antecedent of current encyclopedias, both material and virtual.

Leading thinkers of the Enlightenment

Some of the prominent characters in the illustration were:

  • Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) : French philosopher. He wrote The spirit of the laws where he established the principle of the division of the powers of the State, in legislative, executive and judicial.
  • François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778) : French writer and thinker. Defender of freedom of thought and reason about religion.
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) : Swiss-born writer. One of his most important works is The Social Contract in which he proposed that people are born free by nature and, by accepting an authority that governs, they resign part of that freedom for the general good.
  • Denis Diderot (1713-1784): French intellectual, author of numerous works and promoter of the Encyclopedia .
  • Jean le Ronde D´Alembert (1717-1783): French philosopher and mathematician, promoter of encyclopedism.
  • Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794): French biologist and chemist. He is considered the initiator of modern chemistry. Main Characteristics of the Enlightenment

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