To these groups, slavery became "repugnant to our religion" and a "crime in the sight of God. The leaders of the Enlightenment were not especially democratic, as they more often look to absolute monarchs as the key to imposing reforms designed by the intellectuals. Voltaire despised democracy and said the absolute monarch must be enlightened and must act as dictated by reason and justice — in other words, be a "philosopher-king".
In several nations, rulers welcomed leaders of the Enlightenment at court and asked them to help design laws and programs to reform the system, typically to build stronger states. These rulers are called "enlightened despots" by historians. Joseph was over-enthusiastic, announcing many reforms that had little support so that revolts broke out and his regime became a comedy of errors and nearly all his programs were reversed.
In Poland, the model constitution of expressed Enlightenment ideals, but was in effect for only one year before the nation was partitioned among its neighbors. More enduring were the cultural achievements, which created a nationalist spirit in Poland. Frederick the Great , the king of Prussia from to , saw himself as a leader of the Enlightenment and patronized philosophers and scientists at his court in Berlin. Voltaire, who had been imprisoned and maltreated by the French government, was eager to accept Frederick's invitation to live at his palace.
Frederick explained: "My principal occupation is to combat ignorance and prejudice The Enlightenment has been frequently linked to the French Revolution of One view of the political changes that occurred during the Enlightenment is that the " consent of the governed " philosophy as delineated by Locke in Two Treatises of Government represented a paradigm shift from the old governance paradigm under feudalism known as the " divine right of kings ".
The Dark Side of the Enlightenment
In this view, the revolutions of the late s and early s were caused by the fact that this governance paradigm shift often could not be resolved peacefully and therefore violent revolution was the result. Clearly a governance philosophy where the king was never wrong was in direct conflict with one whereby citizens by natural law had to consent to the acts and rulings of their government.
Alexis de Tocqueville proposed the French Revolution as the inevitable result of the radical opposition created in the 18th century between the monarchy and the men of letters of the Enlightenment. These men of letters constituted a sort of "substitute aristocracy that was both all-powerful and without real power".
This illusory power came from the rise of "public opinion", born when absolutist centralization removed the nobility and the bourgeoisie from the political sphere. The "literary politics" that resulted promoted a discourse of equality and was hence in fundamental opposition to the monarchical regime.
Enlightenment era religious commentary was a response to the preceding century of religious conflict in Europe, especially the Thirty Years' War. For moderate Christians, this meant a return to simple Scripture. John Locke abandoned the corpus of theological commentary in favor of an "unprejudiced examination" of the Word of God alone. He determined the essence of Christianity to be a belief in Christ the redeemer and recommended avoiding more detailed debate. Enlightenment scholars sought to curtail the political power of organized religion and thereby prevent another age of intolerant religious war.
A number of novel ideas about religion developed with the Enlightenment, including deism and talk of atheism. According to Thomas Paine , deism is the simple belief in God the Creator , with no reference to the Bible or any other miraculous source. Instead, the deist relies solely on personal reason to guide his creed,  which was eminently agreeable to many thinkers of the time.
Wilson and Reill note: "In fact, very few enlightened intellectuals, even when they were vocal critics of Christianity, were true atheists. Rather, they were critics of orthodox belief, wedded rather to skepticism, deism, vitalism, or perhaps pantheism". That is, since atheists gave themselves to no Supreme Authority and no law and had no fear of eternal consequences, they were far more likely to disrupt society. He would be a god to himself, and the satisfaction of his own will the sole measure and end of all his actions. The "Radical Enlightenment"   promoted the concept of separating church and state,  an idea that is often credited to English philosopher John Locke — For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he said must therefore remain protected from any government authority.
These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with the social contract, became particularly influential in the American colonies and the drafting of the United States Constitution. He previously had supported successful efforts to disestablish the Church of England in Virginia  and authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The Enlightenment took hold in most European countries, often with a specific local emphasis.
For example, in France it became associated with anti-government and anti-Church radicalism, while in Germany it reached deep into the middle classes, where it expressed a spiritualistic and nationalistic tone without threatening governments or established churches.
Aeon for Friends
In France, the government was hostile, and the philosophes fought against its censorship, sometimes being imprisoned or hounded into exile. The British government, for the most part, ignored the Enlightenment's leaders in England and Scotland, although it did give Isaac Newton a knighthood and a very lucrative government office. The very existence of an English Enlightenment has been hotly debated by scholars. The majority of textbooks on British history make little or no mention of an English Enlightenment.source link
The Enlightenment - The British Library
However, its leading intellectuals such as Edward Gibbon ,  Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson were all quite conservative and supportive of the standing order. Porter says the reason was that Enlightenment had come early to England and had succeeded so that the culture had accepted political liberalism, philosophical empiricism, and religious toleration of the sort that intellectuals on the continent had to fight for against powerful odds.
Furthermore, England rejected the collectivism of the continent and emphasized the improvement of individuals as the main goal of enlightenment. In the Scottish Enlightenment, Scotland's major cities created an intellectual infrastructure of mutually supporting institutions such as universities, reading societies, libraries, periodicals, museums and masonic lodges.
Several Americans, especially Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson , played a major role in bringing Enlightenment ideas to the New World and in influencing British and French thinkers.
Thinkers such as Paine, Locke and Rousseau all take Native American cultural practices as examples of natural freedom. During the Enlightenment there was a great emphasis upon liberty , republicanism and religious tolerance. There was no respect for monarchy or inherited political power. Deists reconciled science and religion by rejecting prophecies, miracles and Biblical theology. Prussia took the lead among the German states in sponsoring the political reforms that Enlightenment thinkers urged absolute rulers to adopt.
There were important movements as well in the smaller states of Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover and the Palatinate. In each case, Enlightenment values became accepted and led to significant political and administrative reforms that laid the groundwork for the creation of modern states.
Age of Enlightenment
The reforms were aided by the country's strong urban structure and influential commercial groups and modernized pre Saxony along the lines of classic Enlightenment principles. Before , the German upper classes looked to France for intellectual, cultural and architectural leadership, as French was the language of high society. Christian Wolff — was the pioneer as a writer who expounded the Enlightenment to German readers and legitimized German as a philosophic language. Johann Gottfried von Herder — broke new ground in philosophy and poetry, as a leader of the Sturm und Drang movement of proto-Romanticism.
Weimar Classicism Weimarer Klassik was a cultural and literary movement based in Weimar that sought to establish a new humanism by synthesizing Romantic, classical and Enlightenment ideas. The movement from until involved Herder as well as polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — and Friedrich Schiller — , a poet and historian. Herder argued that every folk had its own particular identity, which was expressed in its language and culture. This legitimized the promotion of German language and culture and helped shape the development of German nationalism.
Schiller's plays expressed the restless spirit of his generation, depicting the hero's struggle against social pressures and the force of destiny.
German music, sponsored by the upper classes, came of age under composers Johann Sebastian Bach — , Joseph Haydn — and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Kant's work contained basic tensions that would continue to shape German thought — and indeed all of European philosophy — well into the 20th century. The German Enlightenment won the support of princes, aristocrats and the middle classes and it permanently reshaped the culture.
In , Prussia issued an "Edict on Religion" that forbade preaching any sermon that undermined popular belief in the Holy Trinity and the Bible. The goal was to avoid skepticism, deism and theological disputes that might impinge on domestic tranquility. Men who doubted the value of Enlightenment favoured the measure, but so too did many supporters. German universities had created a closed elite that could debate controversial issues among themselves, but spreading them to the public was seen as too risky.
This intellectual elite was favoured by the state, but that might be reversed if the process of the Enlightenment proved politically or socially destabilizing. The Enlightenment played a distinctive, if small, role in the history of Italy. Leopold II of Tuscany abolished the death penalty in Tuscany and reduced censorship. From Naples, Antonio Genovesi — influenced a generation of southern Italian intellectuals and university students.
His textbook "Diceosina, o Sia della Filosofia del Giusto e dell'Onesto" was a controversial attempt to mediate between the history of moral philosophy on the one hand and the specific problems encountered by 18th-century commercial society on the other. It contained the greater part of Genovesi's political, philosophical and economic thought — guidebook for Neapolitan economic and social development. Pietro Verri was a leading economist in Lombardy.
Historian Joseph Schumpeter states he was "the most important pre-Smithian authority on Cheapness-and-Plenty". Beccaria in particular is now considered one of the fathers of classical criminal theory as well as modern penology. In Russia, the government began to actively encourage the proliferation of arts and sciences in the midth century.
This era produced the first Russian university, library, theatre, public museum and independent press. Like other enlightened despots , Catherine the Great played a key role in fostering the arts, sciences and education. She used her own interpretation of Enlightenment ideals, assisted by notable international experts such as Voltaire by correspondence and in residence world class scientists such as Leonhard Euler and Peter Simon Pallas. The national Enlightenment differed from its Western European counterpart in that it promoted further modernization of all aspects of Russian life and was concerned with attacking the institution of serfdom in Russia.
The Russian enlightenment centered on the individual instead of societal enlightenment and encouraged the living of an enlightened life. However, it lacked the skeptical and critical spirit of the Western European Enlightenment.
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