Ocean Colonization, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, Frontiers, Freedom, Lessons from History.
Do we need kings? Can people govern themselves? What rights do we all have? Can science and understanding uplift all of humanity?
Basic questions of the Enlightenment - back on the table again in new forms…
Do we need banks and state controlled fiat currencies (paypal bitcoin), do we need governments to interfere in our lifes to the extent as they do, do we need states controlling economic activities, is a much broader and direct internet democracy feasible?, what happend with the UN guaranteed right to “no interference” what happend to out privacy rights, why do we NOT have all the technical progress expected to be in place for the 21st century - is redtaping and interference the reason? Where would medic science be if FDA would not interfere as it does. Where would spaceflight be if not run by government agencies. Do we need new frontiers that allow progress outside of “redtaping hell” ? Ist the quest for a “new land of the free” iminent. Can ocean colonization provide a model for space colonies?
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The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) is an era from the 1650s to the 1780s in which cultural and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis and individualism rather than traditional lines of authority. It was promoted by philosophes and local thinkers in urban coffeehouses, salons and masonic lodges. It challenged the authority of institutions that were deeply rooted in society, such as the Catholic Church; there was much talk of ways to reform society with toleration, science and skepticism.
Philosophers including Francis Bacon (1562-1626), René Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632–1704), Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire (1694–1778), Francis Hutcheson, (1694–1746), David Hume (1711–1776), Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Isaac Newton (1643–1727)1 influenced society by publishing widely read works. Upon learning about enlightened views, some rulers met with intellectuals and tried to apply their reforms, such as allowing for toleration, or accepting multiple religions, in what became known as enlightened absolutism. Coinciding with the Age of Enlightenment was the Scientific Revolution, spearheaded by England’s Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727).
New ideas and beliefs spread around the continent and were fostered by an increase in literacy due to a departure from solely religious texts. Publications include Encyclopédie (1751–72) that was edited by Denis Diderot and (until 1759) Jean le Rond d’Alembert. Some 25,000 copies of the 35 volume encyclopedia were sold, half of them outside France. The Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary, 1764) and Letters on the English (1733) written by Voltaire (1694-1778) were revolutionary texts that spread the ideals of the Enlightenment. Some of these ideals proved influential and decisive in the course of the French Revolution, which began in 1789. After the Revolution, the Enlightenment was followed by an opposing intellectual movement known as Romanticism.
However, scholars have never agreed on a definition of the Enlightenment, or on its chronological or geographical extent. Terms like “les Lumières” (French), “illuminismo” (Italian), “ilustración” (Spanish) and “Aufklärung” (German) referred to partly overlapping movements. Not until the late nineteenth century did English scholars agree they were talking about “the Enlightenment.”
Enlightenment historiography began in the period itself, from what “Enlightenment figures” said about their work. A dominant element was the intellectual angle they took. D’Alembert’s Preliminary Discourse of l’Encyclopédie provides a history of the Enlightenment which comprises a chronological list of developments in the realm of knowledge – of which the Encyclopédie forms the pinnacle.
A more philosophical example of this was the 1783 essay contest (in itself an activity typical of the Enlightenment) announced by the Berlin newspaper Berlinische Monatsschrift, which asked that very question: “What is Enlightenment?” Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn was among those who responded, referring to Enlightenment as a process by which man was educated in the use of reason (Jerusalem, 1783).
Immanuel Kant also wrote a response, referring to Enlightenment as “man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage”, tutelage being “man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another”. “For Kant, Enlightenment was mankind’s final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance.” According to historian Roy Porter, the thesis of the liberation of the human mind from the dogmatic state of ignorance that he argues was prevalent at the time is the epitome of what the age of enlightenment was trying to capture.
According to Bertrand Russell, however, the enlightenment was a phase in a progressive development, which began in antiquity, and that reason and challenges to the established order were constant ideals throughout that time. Russell argues that the enlightenment was ultimately born out of the Protestant reaction against the Catholic counter-reformation, when the philosophical views of the past two centuries crystallized into a coherent world view. He argues that many of the philosophical views, such as affinity for democracy against monarchy, originated among Protestants in the early 16th century to justify their desire to break away from the Pope and the Catholic Church. Though many of these philosophical ideals were picked up by Catholics, Russell argues, by the 18th century the Enlightenment was the principal manifestation of the schism that began with Martin Luther.
Chartier (1991) argues that the Enlightenment was only invented after the fact for a political goal. He claims the leaders of the French Revolution created an Enlightenment canon of basic text, by selecting certain authors and identifying them with The Enlightenment in order to legitimize their republican political agenda.
Jonathan Israel rejects the attempts of postmodern and Marxian historians to understand the revolutionary ideas of the period purely as by-products of social and economic transformations. He instead focuses on the history of ideas in the period from 1650 to the end of the 18th century, and claims that it was the ideas themselves that caused the change that eventually led to the revolutions of the latter half of the 18th century and the early 19th century. Israel argues that until the 1650s Western civilization “was based on a largely shared core of faith, tradition and authority”.
Up until this date most intellectual debates revolved around “confessional” - that is Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), or Anglican issues, and the main aim of these debates was to establish which bloc of faith ought to have the “monopoly of truth and a God-given title to authority”. After this date everything thus previously rooted in tradition was questioned and often replaced by new concepts in the light of philosophical reason. After the second half of the 17th century and during the 18th century a “general process of rationalization and secularization set in which rapidly overthrew theology’s age-old hegemony in the world of study”, and thus confessional disputes were reduced to a secondary status in favor of the “escalating contest between faith and incredulity”.
Although Enlightenment thinkers generally shared a similar set of values, their philosophical perspectives and methodological approaches to accomplishing their goals varied in significant and sometimes contradictory ways. As Outram notes, the Enlightenment comprised “many different paths, varying in time and geography, to the common goals of progress, of tolerance, and the removal of abuses in Church and state.”
In his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant described it simply as freedom to use one’s own intelligence. More broadly, the Enlightenment period is marked by increasing empiricism, scientific rigor, and reductionism, along with increasing questioning of religious orthodoxy.
Historian Peter Gay asserts the Enlightenment broke through “the sacred circle,” whose dogma had circumscribed thinking. The Sacred Circle is a term he uses to describe the interdependent relationship between the hereditary aristocracy, the leaders of the church and the text of the Bible. This interrelationship manifests itself as kings invoking the doctrine “Divine Right of Kings” to rule. Thus the church sanctioned the rule of the king and the king defended the church in return.
Zafirovski, (2010) argues that the Enlightenment is the source of critical ideas, such as the centrality of freedom, democracy, and reason as primary values of society – as opposed to the divine right of kings or traditions as the ruling authority. This view argues that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism, the scientific method, religious tolerance, and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophes in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change. Later critics of the Enlightenment, such as the Romantics of the 19th century, contended that its goals for rationality in human affairs were too ambitious to ever be achieved.
A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, traced their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment.