How did Enlightenment thought become so influential?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There can be many approaches in answering this question.  I would say that one of the reasons that the Enlightenment was so important was because that it was so rooted in science and scientific progress.  The initial attraction of the Enlightenment was that it validated scientific process and product.  This helped to make life better for many and helped to provide meaning and explanation in the world.  This is a source of influence for many.  As it valued science and rational thought, the Enlightenment also displayed a very strong penchant for validating the rights of the individual in a democratic society.  The traditional aristocratic and monarchical systems that relegated individuals into stratified roles and designs were slowly being replaced by a more egalitarian call from the Enlightenment.  The Revolutions in France and America become political extensions of the Enlightenment in such a manner.  Finally, in valuing intelligence and critical thought, learning became more widely appreciated and respected, adding to the movement's influence as it helped to create intelligent and literate individuals throughout a social setting.

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