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The Enlightenment, Revolutions, and Constitutions

The Enlightenment, Revolutions, and Constitutions

What is “enlightenment”? vs. What was “the” enlightenment?

Reaction against (negative)

Desire for (positive)

The Enlightenment

Reaction Against

Religious Intolerance

Philosophical Intolerance

Arbitrary Authority

Dogmatism: the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of other s

Tradition Unreflective thinking

The Enlightenment

Reaction Against

Religious Intolerance: The Protestant Reformation, beginning in 1519 The European Wars of Religion, from ca. 1524 – 1697 -The German Peasants’ War, 1524 -The Schmalkaldic Wars, 1546 – 1547 -French Wars of Religion, 1562 - 1598 -Cologne War, 1582 – 83 -The Eighty Years War, 1560 - 1640 -Thirty Years War, 1617 – 1648

The Catholic Counter-Reformation The Spanish Inquisition The Roman Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition

The Roman Inquisition

Spanish Atrocities (through a Protestant’s lens)

Spanish devastation of the Dutch Republic

An attempt at religious peace: Augsburg, 1555

Excerpts from The Religious Peace of Augsburg, 1555     15. In order to bring peace to the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation between the Roman Imperial Majesty and the Electors, Princes and Estates, let neither his Imperial Majesty nor the Electors, Princes, etc., do any violence or harm to any estate of the empire on the account of the Augsburg Confession, but let them enjoy their religious belief, liturgy and ceremonies as well as their estates and other rights and privileges in peace; and complete religious peace shall be obtained only by Christian means of amity, or under threat of punishment of the Imperial ban. 16. Likewise the Estates espousing the Augsburg Confession shall let all the Estates and Princes who cling to the old religion live in absolute peace and in the enjoyment of all their estates, rights, and privileges.

But peace did not last long in Europe after Augsburg‌

Second Defenestration of Prague, 1618

In 1618, The Thirty Years’ War breaks out, entangling Europe in three decades of bloody warfare, often because of religious disputes. Just look at all the different nations involved‌

The Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648) thus awakened many Europeans to the the dangers of religious dogmatism and fanaticism.

From the role of religious intolerance as inspiration for the Enlightenment, we now turn to “philosophical intolerance”….

The Enlightenment

Reaction Against

Religious Intolerance

Philosophical Intolerance

The “Newtonian” model – the universe as machine

So does that mean that organisms, like plants and animals, are machines, too?

And are people also machines?

La Metrie: “The human body is a machine which winds its own springs. It is the living image of perpetual movement.�

But even if the human body is a machine, humans might still have things called minds, whose behaviors are not best explained mechanically…

Here are some options for how people during the enlightenment began to think about the relationship between the human “mind” and the human body (a.k.a. “matter)

Now the last piece‌the reaction against arbitrary authority. The Enlightenment

Reaction Against

Religious Intolerance

Philosophical Intolerance

Arbitrary Authority

The great value placed on scientific thinking and discovery during the enlightenment meant that even absolute despots— kings, queens, emperors and empresses, for example—had to acknowledge the importance of scientific truths and empirical (observable) evidence. Some of a ruler’s absolute authority, then, had to be handed over to the realm of scientific “fact” and “truth.”

Louis XIV visiting the Academy of Sciences, 1671

One way to maintain credibility as a ruler, though, was to do what Louis XIV was doing in the previous image: listen to the scientists and become—or at least portray oneself as—an “Enlightened” despot

Other “Enlightened Despots”

Frederick the Great, Prussia

At a certain point, though, a number of people began to think that despots, even “enlightened” ones, were unacceptable. No matter how enlightened a despot might have been, he or she never gave his or her subjects the opportunity to

to being governed. In coming up with arguments for why

is important,

and for how citizens properly can judge if a government is treating them fairly,

some people began to develop the theory of the

“social contract.”

Some big names in Social Contract theory Thomas HOBBES, Leviathan, 1651 John LOCKE, Two Treatises of Government, 1689

Outside of Society: •Individuals are completely free, but… •They are enemies, and live in a state of perpetual war •Life is “poor, nasty, brutish and short” In Society: •Individuals are not as free, and they must obey the absolute sovereign •But, they are protected from the constant fear being killed.

Outside of Society: •Individuals are completely free •they are not enemies, are naturally “good,” but… •Are not as productive as they would be were they to cooperate. •And have no way of securing their private property. In Society: •Individuals are not as free, must obey laws made by representatives •But, they enjoy more abundance and security.

Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU, The Social Contract, 1762

Outside of Society: •Individuals are •they are not enemies, are naturally “good,” but… •They are immature •And not as free as a human can be in society. In Society: •They are more productive •the “people” make laws and participate in government •must obey laws, but it is in their interest to

So we have a basic notionof the “Enlightenment vision” now… but how did these ideas spread?

1. PRINT CULTURE More People Writing, Publishing, and Reading: take a look at the increase in English publications between 1500 and 1790

2. Coffee Houses These provided citizens with places to discuss and debate current affairs and ideas

3. Salons Like coffeehouses, salons were places where people met for philosophical, political, and aesthetic debate. Unlike coffeehouses, though, these were held privately, in (typically wealthy) people’s homes.

As the “Enlightenment vision� spread, some people began to feel as though they were being inappropriately oppressed, both intellectually and politically. Various groups, then, began to argue that they were entitled to independence. In some cases, like the British colonists in North America or merchant class in France, these calls for independence were truly revolutionary.

Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1851)

The U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) – a product of the Enlightenment

When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political; Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them…

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.

Another product of the Enlightenment: the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789)

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights….These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. ”

And these words were not just empty rhetoric. Many of the French middle class and peasantry, motivated by the ideals of “liberté, egalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity), attacked and toppled the French royals in 1789, launching the French Revolution and undermining absolute monarchy.

Detail of the Storming of the Bastille, anonymous, 1789

Like the French, the American also attacked the idea of monarchies and the divine right of kings, although he just used words, writing: “One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right of kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.� But if kings and queens are no longer in power, then who (or what) is supposed to rule over people? Who (or what) is supposed to maintain orderin a society? According to

Okay Thomas, but then comes the next question: what makes for good laws, and who gets to make them? Well since Enlightenment thinkers believed in something called And that all “men” had the ability to use

to access “the”

Then it made sense that all “men” should be able to contribute to making good laws. So the next step was to get all the “men” of a specific country together (e.g., the new United States) to create the laws of the land. These laws would be called a country’s


which is to


In the United States, for example, that was, in some ways, what happened. Here is a depiction of the Constitutional Convention, which occurred in 1787.

Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention, Junius Brutus Stearns (1855)

And which produced the US Constitution, along with its famous opening phrase:

But who is the


Are they really representative of

A: White male elites who own property.


A: NO.

So then how “enlightened,” really, was “The Enlightenment”?

The Enlightenment  

A history of the enlightenment

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