What Is The Age Of Enlightenment?

Historians consider The Age of Enlightenment to be one of the most significant intellectual movements in history.

The Enlightenment is a name given by historians to an intellectual movement that was predominant in the Western world during the 18th century. Free from feudal obligations that bound peasants and nobles to the land and to each other, members of the new urban middle class sought to develop their individual potentials. Also of significant influence were the scientific revolution and by the aftermath of the long religious conflict that followed the Reformation.

The thinkers of the Enlightenment were committed to secular views based on reason or human understanding only, which they hoped would provide a basis for beneficial changes affecting every area of life and thought.The more extreme and radical philosophers advocated a philosophical rationalism deriving its methods from science and natural philosophy that would replace religion as the means of understanding nature and destiny of humanity. These individuals were materialists, pantheists, or atheists. Other enlightened thinkers supposed fanaticism, but were either agnostic or left room for some kind of religious faith.

The Enlightenment came to an end in western Europe after the upheavals of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era revealed the costs of its political program and the lack of commitment in those whose rhetoric was often more liberal than their actions. Nationalism undercut its cosmopolitan values and assumptions about human nature, and the romantics attacked its belief that clear intelligible answers could be found to every question asked by people who sought to be free and happy. The skepticism of the philosophers was swept away in the religious revival of the 1790s and early 1800s, and the cultural leadership of the landed aristocracy and professional men who had supported the



Enlightenment was eroded by the growth of a new wealthy educated class of businessmen, products of the industrial revolution. Only in North and South America, where industry came later and revolution had not led to reaction, did the Enlightenment linger into the 19th century. Its lasting heritage has been its contribution to the literature of human freedom and some institutions in which its values have been embodied.

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