Reading and Response on The Enlightenment (click link below) and respond to the Prompt below. Academic Help

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Reading and Response on The Enlightenment (click link below) and respond to the Prompt below.…

New Ideas Versus Old Beliefs

The thinkers of the Enlightenment prized individual reason over authority. They questioned foundations of religion, morality, and government. Everything was being re-examined and re-evaluated in the light of reason. This outlook led to many clashes with accepted beliefs and the ruling powers who upheld them.

Christian faith, for example, was based largely on trust in the Bible as God’s word. Enlightenment thinkers believed that humans were perfectly able to discover truth for themselves. Some of them even questioned the existence of God. Others sought a “natural religion” based on reason. To these thinkers, the order in the universe was proof enough of an intelligent Creator. They believed that there was no need to base belief in God on revelations in holy books. Similarly, they maintained that ideas about right and wrong should be based on rational insight, not on the teachings of religious authorities. Enlightenment thinkers also criticized accepted ideas about government. Some questioned the long-held belief that God gave monarchs the right to rule. Many insisted that governments must respect individual rights. Toward the end of the 18th century, these ideas played a major role in revolutions in both America and France.


Response Prompt: Discuss one of the conflicts that arose from the advent of Enlightenment thinking and views, such as the clash between reason and faith, or authority and individual rights, church and state, etc. Is this still a conflict today? Explain in what manner it continues to be a conflict, or how it has been resolved in contemporary times. Cite specific examples to support your views.

Approx 500 words

Key Terms

  • scientific method: A body of techniques, first articulated by Bacon, for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford Dictionaries Online define it as “a systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”
  • empiricism: A theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism, it emphasizes the role of experience and evidence (especially sensory experience), in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or traditions.
  • Encyclopédie: A general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It had many writers and was edited by Denis Diderot, and, until 1759, co-edited by Jean le Rond d’Alembert.
    It is the most famous for representing the thought of the Enlightenment.
  • Legal rights: The rights bestowed onto a person by a given legal system (i.e., rights that can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws).
  • Natural rights: The rights that are not dependent on the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and are therefore universal and inalienable (i.e., rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws). Some, yet not all, see them as synonymous with human rights.
  • natural law: A philosophy that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature, and can be universally understood through human reason. Historically, it refers to the use of reason to analyze both social and personal human nature in order to deduce binding rules of moral behavior. The law of nature, like nature itself, is universal.
  • social contract theory: In moral and political philosophy, a theory or model originating during the Age of Enlightenment that typically addresses the questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. It typically posits that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler or magistrate (or to the decision of a majority), in exchange for protection of their remaining rights.

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