What are some major important aspects of the Enlightenment?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Enlightenment was a major international 18th century movement in culture, philosophy, and social and political thought. Although many countries participated in it, the key figures of the movement were from Britain (especially Scotland), France, and Germany.

On a religious level, most (but not all) members of the Enlightenment tended towards atheism or deism, and sometimes liberal Protestantism, rather than adhering to the traditions of the Roman Catholic church. Even those who were religious sought to ground religion in the operation of reason rather than unquestioning faith (thus Paley `s Evidences, Butler `s Analogy, and Kant `s Religion with the Limits of Reason Alone).

Politically, the Enlightenment stood for separation of church and state, greater civic equality (as opposed to only aristocrats or monarchs holding power), and the notion of inherent human rights (e.g. abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, etc.)

Philosophically, the Enlightenment thinkers emphasized the power of reason and science to solve problems.

Culturally, the typical genre of the era was satire. In art and literature symmetry, coherence, balance and clear morals were admired more than intense emotional effects (e.g. Pope`s Essay on Criticism or Rape of the Lock)


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