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Enlightenment

Enlightenment

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Enlightenment

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  1. Enlightenment • Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's understanding without another's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's mind without another's guidance. . . . Have the courage to use your own understanding is therefore the motto of the Enlightenment • Immanuel Kant

  2. Enlightenment • Intellectual movement in Europe from roughly 1650 to 1800, but precise years varied by county. • Followed the “Scientific Revolution”, the emergence of scientific fields still recognizable today in the early modern period, roughly 1543 to 1687. • In German: “Aufklärung” (literally: Enlightenment); in English called the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason; In French “le Siècle des Lumières” (lit. the Century of Light). French historians traditionally place the Enlightenment between 1715 (the year that Louis XIV died) and 1789 (the beginning of the French Revolution). • Enlightenment focused on reason as the means to progress and the casting aside of irrationality, superstition, unfounded social rules, etc. Many placed primacy on experience (consider Locke).

  3. King Louis XV • Monarch of the House of Bourbon from 1 September 1715 until 10 May 1774 • Louis XV came to throne when he was 5, following death of XIV and tragedies befalling older royal heirs. • Regent Philippe d'Orléans • Regent: non-monarch head of state • Duke d’Orleans was Louis XV’s first cousin (his father was a younger brother of Louis XIV) • At 13, Louis XV was considered old enough to rule in his own right

  4. Other Predacessors • Reformation (Luther’s 95 Theses, 1517) • Exposed division in Christendom • Connection between politics and religion • Age of Absolutism (1660-1789) • Centralized government, nationalized institutions, especially true under Louis XIV

  5. Enlightenment • Many enlightenment thinkers considered rational thought as means to creating a new, better society, with legitimate and progressive rules/laws, social conventions, freedom of speech, religious tolerance, etc. • Many thinkers in The Enlightenment stressed concepts of: • rights, liberty, limited state power, need for rational administrative reforms, laissez-faire economic policies • Reform of the existing social rules and relationships, public understanding of cause and effect (and their conflation of the material and the spiritual), and acceptance of the empirically impossible/dubious

  6. Enlightenment • What do we find in Continental 17-18th Century Western European societies and political communities? • Rigid social and economic hierarchy, concentrations of power in limited hands, vestiges of feudalism • Land ownership and legal claims tenuous, limited economic mobility and legal protection • Prominent connection between church and state • Prominent role (social, economic, and political) for the clergy (particularly for the simulation the Catholic Church in France) • Largely undemocratic systems (very limited suffrage, opportunity for office, if at all)

  7. Enlightenment Thinkers • Enlightenment not monolithic—there were more or less radical approaches, but all focused on the need for clarity and reason, a means to shine light on all knowledge and condition of man. • Rousseau and Voltaire not always in agreement on democracy and human nature (V. was a bit more pessimistic) • Voltaire’s Candide is part response to certain Enlightenment philosophers and their reliance on notion of perfect God

  8. Voltaire • Most famous work is Candide (1759), a work where we find V. tackling naïve optimism (philosophical and religious)—”everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” • Novel finds the religious as hypocrites • Novel ends with notion that philosophic speculation is useless (consider what this may mean for theological “proofs” and notions of faith).

  9. Voltaire • Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. • Hebrews, 11:1 (compare to his writings in Philosophical Dictionary) • “I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting persecution.” -Voltaire, before his death in 1778

  10. Enlightenment Ideals • Enlightenment philosophy and thought: • Systemic opposition to traditional religious and political institutions and beliefs • Pursuit of new political and social systems based on “rationality” and science • Call for recognition of collective will of the people as constitutive of a nation (e.g., Rousseau and his Social Contract) • Transformation across boundaries

  11. Introduction to French Revolution • Fundamental Question: • What to do about the Ancien Regime (the long established form of society, including role of Nobles, Church, and obligations)? • Consider that while France was a monarchy, that monarchy was not absolute—required complex system of obligations (between church and state, nobility, guilds, etc.) that were mutually beneficial

  12. France: late 18th century • Situation in France: late 18th century: "caught between two worlds, one dead, the other struggling to be born.” - Matthew Arnold - • What were these two worlds? • Consider class • Consider obligations • Consider economy

  13. Introduction to French Revolution • Simulation focuses on the importance of competing ideas/ideals • Motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity • Political, social, and economic forces may explain events as well (e.g., rampant poverty coupled with violence– the periodic bread riots in Paris)

  14. Introduction to French Revolution • In terms of politics: system became corrupt, power of monarch diminishes from late 1780s-on. • Corvee (forced labor) reintroduced in 18th century, hallmark of feudalism. • In terms of society: growing dissent with traditional form of society/hierarchical structure.

  15. Introduction to French Revolution • In terms of economy: burgeoning middle and wealthy merchant class, but awkward amalgam of rules, taxes, tariffs that kept prices high and shortages common and disproportionately harmed lower classes. • Tension arises in the push to have these changes translate into political recognition/change. • Is this “natural” or predictable?

  16. Introduction to French Revolution • Dysfunctional economy & Support of American Revolution bankrupts treasury • King Louis XVI moves to increase taxes • Noble refusal frustrates King, parlement (judicial body of the ancien regime) refuses • King calls for meeting of the Estates-General, elections held 1788

  17. Introduction to French Revolution • Estates General: assemblage of parts of French society • 1st Estate: Clergy • 2nd Estate: Nobles • 3rd Estate: All others • **These estates are not simply unified, however • Each came from their various constituencies with numerous cahiers (list of grievances to the King)

  18. Introduction to French Revolution • Estates-general meeting was quickly transformed and the King’s purpose is changed by the delegates • It became clear that the delegates were going to call for radical change • Abbe Sieyes (1740-1830): “The Third Estate embraces then all that which belongs to the nation; and all that which is not the Third Estate, cannot be regarded as being of the nation. What is the Third Estate? It is the whole.” • Tennis Court Oath and establishment of the “National Assembly”/ “Constituent Assembly”

  19. Beloved and loyal supporters, we require the assistance of our faithful subjects to overcome the difficulties in which we find ourselves concerning the current state of our finances, and to establish, as we so wish, a constant and invariable order in all branches of government that concern the happiness of our subjects and the prosperity of the realm. These great motives have induced us to summon the Assembly of the Estates of all Provinces obedient to us, as much to counsel and assist us in all things placed before it, as to inform us of the wishes an grievances of our people; so that, by means of the mutual confidence and reciprocal love between the sovereign and his subjects, an effective remedy may be brought as quickly as possible to the ills of the State, and abuses of all sorts may be averted and corrected by good and solid means which insure public happiness and restore to us in particular the calm and tranquility of which we have so long been deprived. • Louis XVI's letter regarding the convocation of the Estates General at Versailles (January 24, 1789)