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THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT


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Author Topic: THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT  (Read 1227 times)
Bianca
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« on: May 18, 2008, 09:04:33 am »









 
The Enlightenment occupies a central role in the justification for the movement known as modernism. The neo-classicizing trend in modernism came to see itself as a period of rationality which overturned established traditions, analogously to the Encyclopaediasts and other Enlightenment philosophers.

A variety of 20th century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, traced their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment, and away from the purported emotionalism of the 19th century. Geometric order, rigor and reductionism were seen as Enlightenment virtues. The modern movement points to reductionism and rationality as crucial aspects of Enlightenment thinking, of which it is the heir, as opposed to irrationality and emotionalism. In this view, the Enlightenment represents the basis for modern ideas of liberalism against superstition and intolerance. Influential philosophers who have held this view include Jürgen Habermas and Isaiah Berlin.

This view asserts that the Enlightenment was the point when Europe broke through what historian Peter Gay calls "the sacred circle," whose dogma had circumscribed thinking. The Enlightenment is held to be the source of critical ideas, such as the centrality of freedom, democracy and reason as primary values of society. This view argues that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism, the scientific method, religious tolerance, and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophes in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change. From this point on, thinkers and writers were held to be free to pursue the truth in whatever form, without the threat of sanction for violating established ideas.

With the end of the Second World War and the rise of post-modernity, these same features came to be regarded as liabilities - excessive specialization, failure to heed traditional wisdom or provide for unintended consequences, and the romanticization of Enlightenment figures - such as the Founding Fathers of the United States, prompted a backlash against both Science and Enlightenment based dogma in general. Philosophers such as Michel Foucault are often understood as arguing that the Age of Reason had to construct a vision of unreason as being demonic and subhuman, and therefore evil and befouling, whence by analogy to argue that rationalism in the modern period is, likewise, a construction. In their book, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno wrote a critique of what they perceived as the contradictions of Enlightenment thought: Enlightenment was seen as being at once liberatory and (through the domination of instrumental rationality) tending towards totalitarianism.

Yet other leading intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, see a natural evolution, using the term loosely, from early Enlightenment thinking to other forms of social analysis, specifically from The Enlightenment to liberalism, anarchism and socialism. The relationship between these different schools of thought, Chomsky and others point out, can be seen in the works of von Humboldt, Kropotkin, Bakunin and Marx, among others. No brief summary can do justice to the diversity of enlightened thought in eighteenth-century Europe. Because it was an attitude rather than a set of shared beliefs,there are many contradictory trains to follow. In his famous essay "What is Enlightenment?" (1784), Immanuel Kant described it simply as freedom to use one's own intelligence.
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Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.


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