Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Age of Enlightenment

Age of Enlightenment
Although the intellectual movement called "The Enlightenment" is usually associated with the 18th century, its roots in fact go back much further. But before we explore those roots, we need to define the term. This is one of those rare historical movements which in fact named itself. Certain thinkers and writers, primarily in London and Paris, believed that they were more enlightened than their compatriots and set out to enlighten them. They believed that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition, and tyranny and to build a better world. Their principal targets were religion (embodied in France in the Catholic Church) and the domination of society by a hereditary aristocracy.
To understand the natural world and humankind’s place init solely on the basis of reason and without turning to religious belief the goal of the wide, ranging intellectual movement called Enlightenment. The phrase was frequently employed by writers of the period itself convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science and a respect for humanity.
Many of the United States' Founding Fathers were also heavily influenced by Enlightenment-era ideas, particularly in the religious sphere (Deism) and, in parallel with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, in the governmental sphere (the United States Bill of Rights).
The era is generally agreed to have ended around the year 1800 and the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars (1804-15).
The precursors of the Enlightenment can be traced to the 17th century and earlier. More than a set of ideas, the enlightenment implied an attitude, a method of thought. According to the German philosopher Immanual kant, the motto of the age should be “DARE TO KNOW”. A desire arose to reexamine and question all received ideas and values, to explore new ideas in many different direction-hence the inconsistencies and contradictions that often appear in the writings of 18th centuries thinkers. Many proponents of the enlightenment were not philosophers in the commonly accepted sense of the world.
Reflections of the Age in Cultural Expression

The eighteenth century, when Newtonian science exerted its greatest
Impact, was exceptionally noteworthy for European cultural expression. This was most evident in philosophy, which sought to find in human affairs natural Laws similar to that science had discovered in the physical universe. This Approach, with its optimistic utopianism, found some expression in literature, but it was much more obscured in the visual arts and barely noticeable in Music. Because they were largely affected by tradition, individual feeling, and patronage, the arts were less responsive to scientific influence. They were, nevertheless, quite rich and varied, reflecting the increasing wealth, widening perspectives, and rising technical proficiency of European life.

Developments in the Arts
The quantity and diversity of artistic works during the period do not fit easily into categories for interpretation, but some loose generalizations may be drawn. At the opening of the century, baroque forms were still popular, as they would be at the end. They were partially supplanted, however, by a general lightening in the rococo motifs of the early 1700s. This was followed, after the middle of the century, by the formalism and balance of neoclassicism, with its resurrection of Greek and Roman models. Although the end of the century saw a slight romantic turn, the era's characteristic accent on reason found its best expression in neoclassicism. Eighteenth-century neoclassicism in painting is difficult to separate from some works in the era of Louis XIV. Both Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) and Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) had earlier projected order and balance, often in grandiose scenes from antiquity or mythology. Jean Chardin (1699-1779) carried some of this over into the 1700s. The neoclassic approach, however, often expressed powerful dissatisfaction and criticism of the existing order, sometimes in stark realism and sometimes in colossal allegory. The most typical representative of this approach was Jacques Louis David (1748-1825), whose most famous work; Death of Socrates illustrates his respect for Greco-Roman tradition. His sketch of Marie Antoinette enroute to the guillotine clearly represents his revolutionary sympathies. The best examples of pure realism and social criticism are the London street scenes by the English painter William Hogarth (1697-1764) and the Spanish court portraits of Francisco Goya (1746-1828).

Reflections of the Age in Literature:

More than in art, neoclassicism in literature came closer to voicing the eighteenth century's fascination with reason and scientific law. Indeed, the verbal media of poetry, drama, prose, and exposition were commonly used to convey the new philosophic principles.
A typical poetic voice of the Age of Reason in England was Alexander Pope (1688-1744). In his most famous work, An Essay on Man (1733), Pope expressed the optimism and respect for reason that marked the era. He described a Newtonian universe in the following often quoted lines:

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body nature is, and God the soul...
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou cannot see.
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear: Whatever is is right.

The West by 1750
The three great currents of change - commercialization, cultural reorientation, and the rise of the nation-state - continued to operate in the West after 1700, along with the growing international influence of the West. Each strand, in fact, produced new ramifications that furthered the overall transformation of the West.

Enlightenment Thought

The Enlightenment, summing up and extending earlier intellectual changes, became an important force for political and social reform. It did not rule unchallenged. Important popular religious movements, such as Methodism in England, showed the continued power of spiritual faith. Many writers, particularly those experimenting with the novel as a new literary form in the West, rebelled against Enlightenment rationality to urge the importance of sentimentality and emotion. These approaches, too, encouraged rethinking of traditional styles. Agricultural changes, commercialism, and manufacturing combined, particularly after about 1730, to produce a rapidly growing population in the West. With better food supplies, more people survived - the potato was a crucial ingredient here. More commercial motives helped prompt landlords and some ambitious peasants to acquire more land and to push unneeded labor off, heightening proletarianization but also reducing the restraints some parents could impose over the sexual behavior of their children: In essence, as some groups grew unsure of inheritance, they sought more immediate pleasures and also hoped to use the labor of the resultant children. Finally, new manufacturing jobs helped landless people support themselves, promoting in some cases earlier marriage and sexual liaisons. Growing population, in turn, promoted further economic change, heightening competition and producing a more
Manipulability labor force. The West's great population revolution, which would continue into the 19th century, both caused and reflected the civilization's dynamism, though it also produced great strain and confusion.

The main components of Enlightenment thought are as follows:
1. The universe is fundamentally rational, that is, it can be understood through the use of reason alone;
2. Truth can be arrived at through empirical observation, the use of reason, and systematic doubt;
3. Human experience is the foundation of human understanding of truth; authority is not to be preferred over experience;
4. All human life, both social and individual, can be understood in the same way the natural world can be understood; once understood, human life, both social and individual, can be manipulated or engineered in the same way the natural world can be manipulated or engineered;
5. Human history is largely a history of progress
6. Human beings can be improved through education and the development of their rational facilities
7. Religious doctrines have no place in the understanding of the physical and human worlds;
There are two distinct developments in Enlightenment thought: the scientific revolution which resulted in new systems of understanding the physical world (this is covered in a later chapter), and the redeployment of the human sciences that apply scientific thinking to what were normally interpretive sciences. In the first, the two great innovations were the development of empirical thought and the mechanistic world view. Empiricism is based on the notion that human observation is a reliable indicator of the nature of phenomena; repeated human observation can produce reasonable expectations about future natural events. In the second, the universe is regarded as a machine. It functions by natural and predictable rules; although God created the universe, he does not interfere in its day to day running. Once the world is understood as a machine, then it can be manipulated and engineered for the benefit of humanity in the same way as machines are.
Some Important figures:
Balthasar Bekker (1634 - 1698) Dutch, a key figure in the Early Enlightenment. In his book De Philosophia Cartesiana (1668) Bekker argued that theology and philosophy each had their separate terrain and that Nature can no more be explained from Scripture than can theological truth be deduced from Nature.
Robert Hooke (1635 - 1703) English, probably the leading experimenter of his age, Curator of Experiments for the Royal Society. Performed the work which quantified such concepts as Boyle's Law and the inverse-square nature of gravitation, father of the science of microscopy.
Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) French. Mathematician and physicist, one of the editors of Encyclopédie.
Thomas Abbt (1738-1766) German. Promoted what would later be called Nationalism in Vom Tode für's Vaterland (On dying for one's nation).
Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) French. Literary critic known for Nouvelles de la république des lettres and Dictionnaire historique et critique.
G.L. Buffon (1707-1788) French. Author of L'Histoire Naturelle who considered Natural Selection and the similarities between humans and apes.
James Burnett Lord Monboddo Scottish. Philosopher, jurist, pre-evolutionary thinker and contributor to linguistic evolution. See Scottish Enlightenment
James Boswell (1740-1795) Scottish. Biographer of Samuel Johnson, helped established the norms for writing Biography in general.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Irish. Parliamentarian and political philosopher, best known for pragmatism, considered important to both liberal and conservative thinking.
Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) French. Philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist who devised the concept of a Condorcet method.
Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789) French. Author, encyclopaedist and Europe's first outspoken atheist. Roused much controversy over his criticism of religion as a whole in his work The System of Nature.
Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French. Founder of the Encyclopédie, speculated on free will and attachment to material objects, and contributed to the theory of literature.
Ignacy Krasicki (1735-1801): Polish. Leading poet of the Polish Enlightenment, hailed by contemporaries as "the Prince of Poets." After the 1764 election of Stanisław August Poniatowski as King of Poland, Krasicki became the new King's confidant and chaplain. He participated in the King's famous "Thursday dinners" and co-founded the Monitor, the preeminent periodical of the Polish Enlightenment, sponsored by the King. Consecrated Bishop of Warmia in 1766, Krasicki thereby also became an ex-officio Senator of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. On Warmia's 1772 annexation by Frederick the Great's Prussia in the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Krasicki became a subject of the Prussian King and a habitué at the Prussian court. In 1795 Krasicki became Archbishop of Gniezno and thus Primate of Poland. He is remembered especially for his Fables and Parables.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American. Statesman, scientist, political philosopher, pragmatic deist, author. As a philosopher known for his writings on nationality, economic matters, aphorisms published in Poor Richard's Alamanac and polemics in favour of American Independence. Involved with writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of 1787.
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) English. Historian best known for his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Johann Gottfried von Herder German. Theologian and Linguist. Proposed that language determines thought, introduced concepts of ethnic study and nationalism, influential on later Romantic thinkers. Early supporter of democracy and republican self rule.
David Hume Scottish. Historian, philosopher and economist. Best known for his empiricism and scientific scepticism, advanced doctrines of naturalism and material causes. Influenced Kant and Adam Smith.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German. Philosopher and physicist. Established critical philosophy on a systematic basis, proposed a material theory for the origin of the solar system, wrote on ethics and morals. Influenced by Hume and Isaac Newton. Important figure in German Idealism, and important to the work of Fichte and Hegel.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American. Statesman, political philosopher, educator, deist. As a philosopher best known for the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and his interpretation of the United States Constitution (1787) which he pursued as president. Argued for natural rights as the basis of all states, argued that violation of these rights negates the contract which bind a people to their rulers and that therefore there is an inherent "Right to Revolution."
Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830) German who founded the Order of the Illuminati.
Hugo Kołłątaj (1750-1812) Polish. He was active in the Commission for National Education and the Society for Elementary Textbooks, and reformed the Kraków Academy, of which he was rector in 1783-86. An organizer of the townspeople's movement, in 1789 he edited a memorial from the cities. He co-authored Poland's Constitution of May 3, 1791, and founded the Assembly of Friends of the Government Constitution to assist in the document's implementation. In 1791-92 he served as Crown Vice Chancellor. In 1794 he took part in the Kościuszko Uprising, co-authoring its Uprising Act (March 24, 1794) and Proclamation of Połaniec (May 7, 1794), heading the Supreme National Council's Treasury Department, and backing the Uprising's left, Jacobin wing.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German Dramatist, critic, political philosopher. Created theatre in the German language, began reappraisal of Shakespeare to being a central figure, and the importance of classical dramatic norms as being crucial to good dramatic writing, theorized that the centre of political and cultural life is the middle class.
John Locke (1632-1704) English Philosopher. Important empiricist who expanded and extended the work of Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes. Seminal thinker in the realm of the relationship between the state and the individual, the contractual basis of the state and the rule of law. Argued for personal liberty with respect to property.
Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760-1828) Spanish. Dramatist and translator, support of republicanism and free thinking. Transitional figure to Romanticism.
Montesquieu (1689-1755) French political thinker. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, taken for granted in modern discussions of government and implemented in many constitutions all over the world.
Nikolay Novikov (1744-1818) Russian. Philanthropist and journalist who sought to raise the culture of Russian readers and publicly argued with the Empress. See Russian Enlightenment for other prominent figures.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English/American. Pamphleteer, Deist, and polemicist, most famous for Common Sense attacking England's domination of the colonies in America.
Francois Quesney (1694-1774) French economist of the Physiocratic school. He also practiced surgery.
Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos. Main figure of the Spanish Enlightenment. Preeminent statesman.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) Natural philosopher and theologian whose search for the operation of the soul in the body led him to construct a detailed metaphysical model for spiritual-natural causation.

Rights of Enlightenment:
The concept of "right" is so thoroughly ingrained in our way of thinking that we tend to think of the concept as a universal truth about humanity, but it is in fact a modern invention. In European culture its origins go as far back as the Middle Ages as landed nobility struggled with monarchs over the question of how much authority a monarch should have and how much autonomy (self-law) the nobility should have. Martin Luther founded his rebellion against the Catholic Church on the notion of Christian freedom; every Christian had the freedom to believe as they chose without external coercion, in other words, in matters of religion, humans were meant to be autonomous. This autonomy in religion stressed in Protestantism would easily cross over into social and political life and develop in the Enlightenment into the concept of "rights," which for our purposes we will provisionally define as "principles of autonomy." These principles spell out which areas in life an individual is free to make his or her own decisions and which areas in life an individual can be coerced into a decision by either society or government. So the operative distinction in the Enlightenment discussion of rights is that between "autonomy" on the one hand and "authority" on the other. To understand the consequences of the shift in social and political discourse to stressing rights over authority, it would be helpful to try to comprehend what a culture that does not base its political discourse on rights uses as its philosophical foundation. Most historical cultures define the individual's relation to society not by the concept of "right," as we do, but the concept of "obligations." This means that an individual sees himself or herself in relation to others based on the duties he or she owes others and society. Obligations tend to be stable, inherited, and concrete; they remain relatively the same through history as a culture develops When one defines oneself in relation to others not on one's obligations, but on principles of autonomy and rights, then one defines oneself in negative relation to others and society—that is, you derive your selfhood based on aspects of your life that you demand are not to be interfered with. Rights as principles of autonomy are not stable; they are based on general agreement and can appear or disappear very quickly. You receive a right to anything only when others agree that you have that right—for instance, I don't have the right to drive my car while intoxicated because the social group around me is not willing to agree to let me have that right. In order to secure rights, I need to secure the agreement of the social group around me. In other words, rights are fundamentally contractual. If the social group around me is not willing to grant me rights, then I need to secure them through conflict. Not only that, rights often conflict with one another and people seem to pursue their own self-interest against the interest of others—some person's right to smoke may interfere with my right to breathe fresh air. Therefore, rights are fundamentally conflictual . The history of modern Western culture has by and large been a history of the conflict between these principles of autonomy, through which we define ourselves individually, and authority, between conflicting self-interests, and between groups that have certain rights and groups which are denied those very same rights.

The Enlightenment brought a new vision of the future, which forecast the end of absolute monarchy. Philosophers of the Enlightenment thought they had discovered a simple formula for perpetual human happiness. They sought to deliver individuals from restraints so that they could act freely in accordance with their natures. On the one hand, the formula promised that pursuit of self-interest would benefit society; on the other, it promised that a free human reason would produce sound moral judgments. In other words, individual freedom permitted the operation of natural laws. Believing they had learned these laws, eighteenth-century rationalists thought they had found the secret of never-ending progress.
Rational philosophy undermined absolutism in all of its phases. Deism questioned the necessity of state churches and clergies. The physiocrats, Adam Smith, and other early economic liberals demonstrated the futility of mercantilism. Political theory in the Enlightenment substituted the social contract for divine right and emphasized natural human rights of political freedom and justice. Each of these ideas denied the absolute authority of monarchs.
Respect for rational philosophy was largely derived from the successes and popularity of science. The surprising discoveries of astronomers produced a new view of the individual's place in the universe; in his law of gravitation, Newton supplied mathematical evidence for their perspective. His laws, along with the other laws of science, suggested that human reason operated effectively only when it was interpreting sensory experience. Material reality was accepted as the only reality. Therefore, the natural laws affecting human society were also considered as basically materialistic.
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, a reaction against reason
Countered this materialism without affecting the fundamental objectives of the Enlightenment. Idealistic philosophy and pietism both challenged the scientific view of the individual, emphasizing that intuition and faith are human qualities as essential as reason. These new movements merged with the humane concerns of rational philosophy to produce a new humanitarianism, which
Accented both reason and sentimentality but also continued the
Eighteenth-century concern for human freedom. Together with the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the reaction against reason before 1800 also challenged absolutism's domination of the human body, mind, and spirit.

European Enlightenment

The age of absolutism:

The Enlightenment is more convincingly dated to the new natural science of Isaac Newton, the social and political theories of thinkers such as Hobbes, the empirical psychology of John Locke, and the epistemological revolutions of Blasé Pascal and René Descartes. All of these thinkers and innovations have clear antecedents: Newtonian thought derives from the thought and science of Francis Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, and ultimately, Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century. The social and political theories of Hobbes can be traced back to the Northern Renaissance, and the empirical psychology of Locke has antecedents in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Finally, the epistemological crises of Pascal and Descartes are in a long line of epistemological crises dating back to the fourteenth century and clearly articulated in the philosophical skepticism of Michel de Montague in the middle of the sixteenth century. For our purposes then, we'll use the term "Pre-Enlightenment," since it's a standard historical category, but we'll use it in the sense of "the transition to the full Enlightenment," or simply, "the transitional period." European history throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took a variety of contradictory turns. England saw the complete overthrow of the monarchy in the middle of the seventeenth century and its replacement first by a republic and then by a weakened monarchy later in the century; finally, at the end of the seventeenth century England would see the revolutionary erosion of the monarch's powers in England's "Glorious Revolution." For all this drama, however, the rest of Europe saw an astonishing growth in the power of monarchs over their states. The two centuries that bracket the Enlightenment saw the development of absolute monarchies and more tightly-centralized national governments; the growth of the absolute monarchy is regarded by many historians as the origin of the modern state. Europe consequently saw the gradual erosion of local power and autonomy and the rise of national legislation and civil bureaucracies. Because of this growth in absolute and centralized power of the national government and the monarchy, this age in European history is generally called the Age of Absolutism (1660-1789).

The war of Religion:

Decades of bloodshed over religion made it obvious that political unity would only be a dream unless religious unities were achieved first. To that end, Louis, a Roman Catholic, actively worked to get rid of heterodox religious groups: the Protestant Huguenots, the Quietists (mystical Christians), and the Jansenists, whose beliefs were a combination of Calvinism and Catholicism. The greatest threat to religious unity, as Louis saw it, were the Protestant Huguenots. He destroyed their churches and burned their schools and forced Protestants, under pain of imprisonment or death, to convert to Catholicism. Finally, he overturned the Edict of Nantes and declared Protestantism to be a crime against the state. All Protestant clergy were exiled from France. Most French Protestants chose to leave France rather than convert; the latter half of the seventeenth century saw the expansion of French culture throughout Europe as middle-class French Huguenots brought their culture, language, and artisanal skills to countries all over Europe.

In the eighteenth century:
The Enlightenment is a name given by historians to an intellectual movement that was predominant in the Western world during the 18th century. Strongly influenced by the rise of modern science and by the aftermath of the long religious conflict that followed the Reformation, the thinkers of the Enlightenment (called philosophes in France) were committed to secular views based on reason or human understanding only, which they hoped would provide a basis for beneficial changes affecting every area of life and thought.
The eighteenth century was a century of mind-boggling change; when Europeans entered the nineteenth century, they lived in a world that barely resembled the beginning of the eighteenth century. In the one hundred years in between, European thought became overwhelmingly mechanistic as the natural philosophy of Isaac Newton was applied to individual, social, political, and economic life. The century saw the development of the philosophe movement,which articulated the full values of the European Enlightenment, including deism, religious tolerance, and political and economic theories that would dramatically change the face of European society. Europe itself changed from a household economy to an industrial economy. This change, perhaps one of the most earth-shattering transitions in human history, permanently altered the face of European society and the family. Finally, the century ended in revolution. The ideas of the philosophes were translated into new governments--one in France and one in America--that shook the old order down to its very roots.On continental Europe, the monarchy slowly developed into more absolutist forms following the theories of Bossuet and applying the enlightened ideas of the philosophe movement, which argued that a monarch's job is to see to the rights and welfare of the governed. States that had been only loosely centralized, such as Austria and Russia, became powerfully centralized states, while states such as Prussia and France further tightened the centralized control of the monarch. This centralized; absolutist power of the monarch was used to effect profound reforms in the structure of justice, government and economic life. Judicial torture gradually disappeared from the face of Europe, and the death penalty was radically curtailed. Government was slowly turned over to the hands of a civil bureaucracy, and serfs and peasants saw their economic liberties greatly expanded. The exercise of absolutism, however, would produce a fiery revolution in France, a revolution that would forever make the absolute monarchy obsolescence.The century saw the decline of monarchical power in England. At the beginning of the century, power was divided between the monarch and the Parliament, but Parliament refused to engage in any of the reforms going on in the rest of Europe. Because these reforms were associated with absolute monarchies, the English refused to participate in any kind of national legislation. Instead the English government was run on "interest"; coalitions were built in Parliament by making promises to varying groups. These promises were knit together into powerful factions whose primary job was simply to deliver on the promises. Needless to say, parliamentary politics was incredibly corrupt. Members of Parliament secured votes mainly by paying for them, and the temptation to corruption increased as the power of the institution increased. This came to a head in the latter part of the century when George III began to assert his own prerogatives and replaced parliament ministers with his own. This crisis, the "battle over prerogative," eventually was won by Parliament at the end of the century. This was the last gasp of monarchical power in England; from this point on, the nation was, for the most part, run by Parliament.Finally, a new European nation was established in America. This nation was forged in a revolution and built almost entirely upon Enlightenment ideas. Practically speaking, the final legacy of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century would be the establishment of a fully functioning Enlightenment government based, theoretically at least, on secular values and the notions of right and equality. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

Woman, Communities, Economics, and Opportunities:

The status of women during the Enlightenment changed drastically; surprisingly, much of the talk concerning individual liberties, social welfare, economic liberty, and education did not greatly affect the unequal treatment of women. In many ways, the position of women was seriously degraded during the Enlightenment. Economically, the rise of capitalism produced laws that severely restricted women's rights to own property and run businesses. While Enlightenment thinkers were proposing economic freedom and enlightened monarchs were tearing down barriers to production and trade, women were being forced out of a variety of businesses throughout Europe. In 1600, more than two-thirds of the businesses in London were owned and administered by women; by 1800, that number had shrunk to less than ten percent.While the Enlightenment greatly changed the face of education, the education of women simultaneously expanded in opportunity but seriously degraded in quality. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, education was available only to the wealthiest women, while education was available, in theory at least, to most men. But the education that these select women received was often fairly equivalent in content and quality to the best education available to men. The Enlightenment, however, stressed the absolute importance of education for moral development and the ideal operation of society. So education was extended to the women of the upper and middle classes; however, Enlightenment thinkers also believed that the various intellectual disciplines, such as science and philosophy, were meant only for men. These subjects, then, were closed off to women. Instead women were offered training in "accomplishments," that is, various skills that contribute to the moral development and the "display" quality of a wife: music, drawing, singing, painting, and so on. So while men were learning the new sciences and philosophies, all that was offered to women in education was decorative "accomplishments."The economies of pre-industrial Europe were primarily based on family economies; the individual household was the fundamental unit of economic production. Within this unit, most of the necessities of life were produced by members of the family. These family economies were, by and large, sustenance economies. In this environment, there was no place for individuals living outside of a family. If someone lived individually, he or she was regarded as a criminal or beggar or worse. For both men and women, then, there really was no alternative, socially or economically, to living within a family.Women began to function as productive laborers within this family economy at the age of six or seven (sometimes earlier). In agricultural communities, this meant, usually, light farm labor, and in an artisan's family, this meant taking part in the business itself. Women in artisan families were very often trained in the artisanal skills of the family; as they grew up, they became more vital and important to the functioning of the business. On the farm, however, women's labor was considerably less valued, and women almost always left home between the ages of eleven and fourteen to either work on another farm or become a servant in a household.Very few women could marry without a dowry. If a woman was part of a family, the family would usually make up the dowry. If she was on her own, which was the most typical fate of rural women, and then she had to save enough money to pay her own dowry. This dowry went to the husband and was invested in the family economy, whether agricultural or artisanal. That is, the woman was required to invest in the household economy before she could join it.In general, women's lives were oriented around the economy of the household rather than family. Both the marriage and the children took second place to production within the family economy & emdash; this was absolutely vital, for a bad year in the family economy could mean starvation.Nevertheless, the new urban economies of pre-industrial Europe created low-level, low-wage jobs in various industries. For both men and women, this work was brutish, harsh, cruel, and actually paid less than sustenance wages. While most women stayed within the family economy, several displaced women found themselves as the central labor force of pre-industrial industries. In the illustration below by William Hogarth we see a hemp factory where women are beating hemp into ropes. The labor is obviously difficult and the shop steward of the factory can be seen hovering over the main character with a whip. We know little of women's communities for the general run of the European population. Women's lives, in general, consisted of unceasing labor. In the middle and upper classes, however, women's communities began to develop a new and revolutionary life. The works of the philosophies began to filter into women's communities and undoubtedly shaped women's self-concepts; in fact, much of the activity of the philosophies was sponsored by women and women's communities. While women found that the presses were closed off to them, they still had an immense amount of influence over the currents and contents of the philosophy movement. A seed was being planted; women's communities were demanding a more central intellectual role in European life. This seed would blossom into the revolutionary feminist works at the end of the century.

Social contract:
Europe shook with political instability throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Reformation ideas, such as freedom, the religious equality of believers, and "voluntary associations," spread political dissension and doubt across the face of Europe. Monarchies began to slowly erode as democratic sentiments rose and this led to serious doubts about the nature of human political institutions, and a variety of philosophical answers were produced to meet these doubts. Among these answers was the idea that states were governed by natural laws; these laws were immutable, rational, and understandable by human reason. Although these laws were not necessarily followed, the originator of the idea that states were governed by natural laws, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), believed that they should be. However, by far the most influential of these thinkers was Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) who originated the concept of the social contract.
For Hobbes, however, this social contract could not be revised; it was established at some distant time in the past and if people revise this contract, that is, if people attempt to regain some measure of sovereignty or power, society will fall into violent chaos since the purpose of the monarchy is to hold the people in check. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, however, radically revised Hobbes' social contract; in Rousseau's view, the people agreed to cede authority to some group in order to gain the benefits of community and safety. If those in power refused to guarantee community and safety, the governed were free to disobey and establish a new political contract. While Hobbes believed in absolute rule, Rousseau believed that absolute rule was a perversion of the original intent of the primordial social contract. Rousseau's fundamental argument in his two famous works, The Social Contract and the Discourse on Inequality, is that modern human society is built on an imperfect social contract, since it fosters inequality and servitude. All government is fundamentally flawed—Rousseau was calling for a rebuilding of the social contract from the ground up in order to ensure equality and freedom.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed a level of violence that appalled Europeans both for its intensity and its reason: this violence directly resulted from the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. It soon became apparent that neither Protestantism nor Catholicism would go away, and not only that, Protestantism was splintering rapidly into a number of variant sects; so a new way of dealing with alternate religions besides violence had to be thought of. Eventually states began to pursue moderate courses; rather than exterminate contrary religions, they began to ignore them; rather than attempt to overthrow nations adopting a different form of Christianity, and states began to simply live with the fact. Religious tolerance, then, was a last-ditch effort by various states to maintain the security.
Eventually this political program of religious toleration collapsed with the new Enlightenment ideas of the individual or subject, which posited that every individual was separate and distinct from others, and of rights, or principles of autonomy. The concept of rights derives ultimately from Martin Luther's concept of Christian freedom, in which individuals are granted sole authority over their religious beliefs. It is but a small step from the idea of individual religious autonomy to the idea of individual autonomy in other areas as well. These ideas encouraged Enlightenment thinkers to revamp the notion of religious tolerance into a general social and political virtue; tolerance of variant religions should be extended to variant ideas (hence freedom of speech), variant philosophies, and variant cultures. Perhaps the most eloquent advocate of tolerance was Voltaire, whose treatise on tolerance argues that the worst horrors in history are a product of intolerance. Tolerance, I should stress, did not mean "acceptance" to the Enlightenment, it only meant that one would take no steps to coerce physically or otherwise other individuals into changing their beliefs, thoughts, or customs. One was still free to disapprove of those beliefs, thoughts, or customs. The project we're engaged with in this class—multiculturalism—is simply a latter day version of the Enlightenment doctrine of tolerance.

The Enlightenment came to an end in Western Europe after the
Upheavals of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era (1789-1815) Revealed the costs of its political program and the lack of commitment in those whose rhetoric was often more liberal than their actions. Nationalism undercut its cosmopolitan values and assumptions about human nature, and the romantics attacked its belief that clear intelligible answers could be found to every question asked by people who sought to be free and happy. The skepticism of the philosophies was swept away in the religious revival of the 1790s and early 1800s, and the cultural leadership of the landed aristocracy and professional men who had supported the Enlightenment was eroded by the growth of a new wealthy educated class of businessmen, products of the industrial revolution. Only in North and South America, where industry came later and revolution had not led to reaction, did the Enlightenment linger into the 19th century. Its lasting heritage has been its Contribution to the literature of human freedom and some institutions in which its values have been embodied. Included in the latter are many facets of modern government, education, and philanthropy.

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