What is the Enlightenment?

We explain to you what the Enlightenment is, the cultural and political movement of the 18th century, and what are its characteristics. Prominent figures.

  1. What is the Enlightenment?

The Enlightenment is a cultural and political movement known for bringing bright ideas to the dark society of the past . The ideas would be framed in reason, the standard of the eighteenth-century mentalities. The Enlightenment as a movement needed support to survive, and this support was granted by absolutist governments , upper classes and intellectuals.

The desire for characteristic knowledge of this period led states to carry out compilations of the human knowledge reached so far, of the natural sciences and social sciences . But before including previous knowledge in encyclopedias, the enlightened subject him to rational criticism. The whole society was dyed little by little of rationalism and an illusion of unlimited progress.

The intellectuals proposed political and social reforms for the benefit of the people but without their direct participation. In his proposals, the absolutist monarchy was always considered as the only option, but it was the ideas of philosophers and other enlightened ones that engendered the revolution that would end up overthrowing that form of government.

The artistic and aesthetic expression of the century of lights will be known as neoclassicism. In the social sciences we can see how sociology , history and geography gain strength. The cartography reaches great achievements leaving the planet almost without unknown spaces. Polar circles and some regions in Africa are still unable to be fully mapped.

  1. Featured characters in the Enlightenment

Some of the most renowned historical figures in the Enlightenment were: Voltaire in France, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Buffon and Diderot, among others . While in Spain some of the highlights were Cabarrús, Capmany and Feijoo.

However, not everything was limited to the European territory, since by that time America had already been discovered and therefore, the ideas of the Enlightenment managed to embark towards the new continent by the hand of José R. Campoy, Francisco Clavijero and Eugenio Mirror.

  1. Philosophy, Nature and Reason

Illustration - God and nature
Philosophers tried to understand God through nature.

During the so-called “Age of Reason” wars for religion were common currency. At the end of the fighting, the ideas began to change, establishing that Nature and that God were two concepts that went hand in hand , that is, that they were one. These ideas were supported by physicists, astronomers and mathematicians of the time, that is, by the most studious scientists and thinkers.

The concept of unity between God and Nature was based mainly on the search carried out by these philosophers of the truths that governed the world and the entire universe , thus trying to understand the thoughts of God.

  1. Characteristics of the Illustration

All the features of the Enlightenment can be summed up to the search for concrete truths and to the marked momentum of science , especially physics .

Due to the great illiteracy of the people of that century, one of the goals of the thinkers of the time was to be able to transmit what they learned to others. This is evidenced in the encyclopedist movement, which, as its name suggests, gathered all kinds of knowledge in volumes and writings.

The confidence of the enlightened was deposited in the progress that men and women could achieve through reason , defending some rights such as freedom and strongly repudiating or questioning the interpretation of a vengeful God by religions, as well as the intolerance and violence.

It is necessary to clarify that these ideas arose within a certain social class : The ascending bourgeoisie , but that the movement extended to other social classes, making a dent in them, laying the foundations towards what is known as the French Revolution.

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