What Was The Enlightenment?



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The Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason or the Age of Rationalism, was a period during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when European philosophers stressed the use of reason as the best method for learning the truth. Such philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and Voltaire (1694–1778) in France and John Locke (1632–1704) in England pondered aspects of education, law, social theory, superstition, and ignorance. Hallmarks of the Enlightenment include the idea that the universe is systematic though vast and complex; the belief that men and women are capable of understanding the universe; and the philosophy of Deism. According to Deism, God created the world and natural laws, then withdrew from involvement in the workings of the universe. During the Enlightenment extensive intellectual activity took place, including the publication of several encyclopedias and numerous treatises on philosophical, political, and social topics.

Further Information: "Crimes of Reason." The Economist (US). March 16, 1996, pp. 85–87; The European Enlightenment. [Online] Available http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ENLIGHT/ENLIGHT.HTM, October 20, 2000; Halliwell, Sarah, ed. The Eighteenth Century: Artists, Writers, and Composers. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998.

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