An introduction to the age of enlightenment and the french revolution

Lecture 23 The Age of Ideologies 1: General Introduction It must. Thus only is he fully conscious; thus only is he a partaker of morality -- of a just and moral social and political life. For Truth is the unity of the universal.

An introduction to the age of enlightenment and the french revolution

Science, Epistemology and Metaphysics in the Enlightenment In this era dedicated to human progress, the advancement of the natural sciences is regarded as the main exemplification of, and fuel for, such progress. It belongs centrally to the agenda of Enlightenment philosophy to contribute to the new knowledge of nature, and to provide a metaphysical framework within which to place and interpret this new knowledge.

Descartes — undertakes to establish the sciences upon a secure metaphysical foundation.

Lecture 23

The famous method of doubt Descartes employs for this purpose exemplifies in part through exaggerating an attitude characteristic of the Enlightenment. According to Descartes, the investigator in foundational philosophical research ought to doubt all propositions that can be doubted. The investigator determines whether a proposition is dubitable by attempting to construct a possible scenario under which it is false.

With his method, Descartes casts doubt upon the senses as authoritative source of knowledge. He finds that God and the immaterial soul are both better known, on the basis of innate ideas, than objects of the senses. If our evidence for the truth of propositions about extra-mental material reality is always restricted to mental content, content before the mind, how can we ever be certain that the extra-mental reality is not other than we represent it as being?

In fact, Descartes argues that all human knowledge not only knowledge of the material world through the senses depends on metaphysical knowledge of God. He attacks the long-standing assumptions of the scholastic-aristotelians whose intellectual dominance stood in the way of the development of the new science; he developed a conception of matter that enabled mechanical explanation of physical phenomena; and he developed some of the fundamental mathematical resources — in particular, a way to employ algebraic equations to solve geometrical problems — that enabled the physical domain to be explained with precise, simple mathematical formulae.

Furthermore, his grounding of physics, and all knowledge, in a relatively simple and elegant rationalist metaphysics provides a model of a rigorous and complete secular system of knowledge.

Cartesian philosophy also ignites various controversies in the latter decades of the seventeenth century that provide the context of intellectual tumult out of which the Enlightenment springs. Among these controversies are the following: If matter is inert as Descartes claimswhat can be the source of motion and the nature of causality in the physical world?

And of course the various epistemological problems: Spinoza develops, in contrast to Cartesian dualism, an ontological monism according to which there is only one substance, God or nature, with two attributes, corresponding to mind and body.

Leibniz articulates, and places at the head of metaphysics, the great rationalist principle, the principle of sufficient reason, which states that everything that exists has a sufficient reason for its existence.

An introduction to the age of enlightenment and the french revolution

This principle exemplifies the characteristic conviction of the Enlightenment that the universe is thoroughly rationally intelligible. The question arises of how this principle itself can be known or grounded.

Wolff attempts to derive it from the logical principle of non-contradiction in his First Philosophy or Ontology, Criticism of this alleged derivation gives rise to the general question of how formal principles of logic can possibly serve to ground substantive knowledge of reality.

Whereas Leibniz exerts his influence through scattered writings on various topics, some of which elaborate plans for a systematic metaphysics which are never executed by Leibniz himself, Wolff exerts his influence on the German Enlightenment through his development of a rationalist system of knowledge in which he attempts to demonstrate all the propositions of science from first principles, known a priori.

Much the same could be said of the great rationalist philosophers of the seventeenth century. Through their articulation of the ideal of scientia, of a complete science of reality, composed of propositions derived demonstratively from a priori first principles, these philosophers exert great influence on the Enlightenment.

But they fail, rather spectacularly, to realize this ideal. The enthusiasm for reason in the Enlightenment is primarily not for the faculty of reason as an independent source of knowledge, which is embattled in the period, but rather for the human cognitive faculties generally; the Age of Reason contrasts with an age of religious faith, not with an age of sense experience.

If the founder of the rationalist strain of the Enlightenment is Descartes, then the founder of the empiricist strain is Francis Bacon — The tendency of natural science toward progressive independence from metaphysics in the eighteenth century is correlated with this point about method.

The rise of modern science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries proceeds through its separation from the presuppositions, doctrines and methodology of theology; natural science in the eighteenth century proceeds to separate itself from metaphysics as well.

Newton proves the capacity of natural science to succeed independently of a priori, clear and certain first principles. The characteristic Enlightenment suspicion of all allegedly authoritative claims the validity of which is obscure, which is directed first of all against religious dogmas, extends to the claims of metaphysics as well.

While there are significant Enlightenment thinkers who are metaphysicians — again, one thinks of Christian Wolff — the general thrust of Enlightenment thought is anti-metaphysical.

A main source of its influence is the epistemological rigor that it displays, which is at least implicitly anti-metaphysical. Locke undertakes in this work to examine the human understanding in order to determine the limits of human knowledge; he thereby institutes a prominent pattern of Enlightenment epistemology.

In the Treatise on SensationsCondillac attempts to explain how all human knowledge arises out of sense experience. Locke and Descartes both pursue a method in epistemology that brings with it the epistemological problem of objectivity.

Both examine our knowledge by way of examining the ideas we encounter directly in our consciousness. Though neither for Locke nor for Descartes do all of our ideas represent their objects by way of resembling them e.

The way of ideas implies the epistemological problem of how we can know that these ideas do in fact resemble their objects.

How can we be sure that these objects do not appear one way before the mind and exist in another way or not at all in reality outside the mind?The French Revolution Was A Single Feeling - Two of the three estates had rights and privileges such as being excused from paying taxes, and having the opportunity to run for a high office.

The idea of “artistic freedom” is an outgrowth of the Enlightenment introduction of the concept of the “individual.” The idea of the defiant artist, challenging the establishment and shocking the conservative public is an Enlightenment concept . The heart of the eighteenth century Enlightenment is the loosely organized activity of prominent French thinkers of the mid-decades of the eighteenth century, the so-called “philosophes”(e.g., Voltaire, D’Alembert, Diderot, Montesquieu).The philosophes constituted an informal society of men of letters who collaborated on a loosely defined .

The causes of the French Revolution. In an immediate sense, what brought down the ancien régime was its own inability to change or, more simply, to pay its way. The deeper causes for its collapse are more difficult to establish.

The Age of Reason, as it was called, was spreading rapidly across the late 17th century, scientists like Isaac Newton and writers like John Locke were challenging the old order. Newton's laws of gravity and motion described the world in terms of natural laws beyond any spiritual force.

In , the French Revolution began. In its first stage, all the revolutionaries ask for is a constitution that would limit the power of the king. Ultimately the idea of a constitution failed, and the revolution entered a more radical stage.

Age of Enlightenment - Wikipedia