The Principles and Ideology in European Enlightenment

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The intellectuals of the eighteenth century were inspired by innovative thinkers of the seventeenth century. The principal intellectual developments that cumulated the movement of Enlightenment are- Popularization of science, Skepticism, the impact of travel literature, Cultural relativism, Locke, and Newton. The Popularization Of Science led to the enlightenment because the eighteenth century when the Enlightenment began and was a movement of intellectuals who were greatly impressed with the accomplishments of the Scientific Revolution. It is the most important factor in the formulation of the Englightenment inclination. The methods of natural science must be used to examine and understand all aspects of life and the reasoning should be given. The reasoning should be rational (using knowledge/scientific way of thinking). The Scientific method can be used to make discoveries of more laws that could make progress toward a better society. The skepticism led to enlightenment because the gap between science and traditional religion grew ever extensive as Europe maintained its route of secularization. The traditional religions were not eliminated, but more and more of the intellectuals, social, and political elites began to act on the basis of secular rather than religious assumptions and also began to question religious truths and values.

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The impact of travel literature led to enlightenment because Europeans learned that the other lands had their own beliefs and customs. During the seventeenth century, traders, missionaries, medical practitioners, and explorers began to publish an increasing number of travel books that gave accounts to many different cultures. The travel literature led to the realization of highly developed civilizations with different customs.

These travels during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led to Cultural Relativism, which is the opinion that a person’s faiths, traditions, and practices should be comprehended based on their own culture instead of being judged by others who follow other religions. The Cultural Relativism was also accompanied by religious skepticism. They learned that Christians like many other religions had their own perceptions of God. Some European intellectuals began to evaluate their own civilizations relative to others. They began to segregate different races around the world and they were unsympathetic toward the African and placed them on the lowest rank of humankind.

The philosophes acknowledged the two Englishmen, Locke and Newton, as great minds. John Locke’s theory of knowledge especially influenced the philosophes. He argued that Descartes’s ideas about the innate minds were incorrect because he said that all humans are born with a blank mind(tabula rasa). Our knowledge is derived from our environment and experience, not heredity or faith, but from reason. Understanding and beliefs are determined by education and social institutions. He also supported that a government should have the most of the power than the ruler himself. He believed that people gain rights when they are born. These thoughts inspired people to believe in themselves and also reason everything in their environment.

The second great mind which the philosophes acknowledged was Newton. He already covered, by his great scientific accomplishments, the way by showing how reason enabled enlightened people to discover the natural laws to which all institutions should comply. His theory of universal gravitation also helped to prove heliocentrism argued against many religious and traditional beliefs. This promoted the idea of skepticism and people’s actions on the basis of secular instead of religious assumptions. People believed that if Newton could discover the natural laws regulating the world of nature, then they too, by using reasoning, could find the laws that governed their society.

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