Overview The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement in the eighteenth century that emphasized reason and science.
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.
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 The enlightenment of 18th century thinkers 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. 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.Template:Classicism The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 18th century, first in Europe and later in the American colonies.
Its purpose was to reform society using reason (rather than tradition, faith and. Video: The Enlightenment Thinkers & Their Ideas In this lesson, we discuss the varied and diverse 18th-century intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, was a philosophical movement that took place primarily in Europe and, later, in North America, during the late 17 th and early 18 th century.
Video: The Enlightenment Thinkers & Their Ideas In this lesson, we discuss the varied and diverse 18th-century intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment.
The thinkers of the Enlightenment, influenced by the scientific revolutions of the previous century, believed in shedding the light of science and reason on the world in order to question traditional ideas and ways of doing things.
American Enlightenment Thought. Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French Enlightenments.