If the French Enlightenment tends to advance this-worldly happiness asthe highest good for human beings more insistently than theEnlightenment elsewhere, then Rousseau’s voice is, in this as inother respects, a discordant voice in that context. Rousseau advancesthe cultivation and realization of human freedom as thehighest end for human beings and thereby gives expression to anotherside of Enlightenment ethics. As Rousseau describes it, the capacityfor individual self-determination puts us in a problematic relation toour natural desires and inclinations and to the realm of naturegenerally, insofar as that realm is constituted by mechanisticcausation. Though Rousseau places a great deal of emphasis on humanfreedom, and makes significant contributions to our understanding ofourselves as free, he does not address very seriously the problem ofthe place of human freedom in the cosmos as it is conceived within thecontext of Enlightenment naturalism.
Helvétius is typical in the respect that he is radical in therevisions he proposes, not in common moral judgments or customs of thetime, but rather regarding the philosophical grounding of thosejudgments and customs. But there are some philosophers in theEnlightenment who are radical in the revisions they propose regardingthe content of ethical judgments themselves. The Marquis de Sade ismerely the most notorious example, among a set of Enlightenmentfigures (including also the Marquis de Argens and Diderot himself insome of his writings) who, within the context of the new naturalismand its emphasis on the pursuit of pleasure, celebrate the avidpursuit of sexual pleasure and explicitly challenge the sexual mores,as well as the wider morality, of their time. The more or lessfictionalized, philosophically self-conscious “libertine”is one significant expression of Enlightenment ethical thought.
Thomas Paine (or Pain; February 9, 1737 [O.S
In this era dedicated to human progress, the advancement of thenatural sciences is regarded as the main exemplification of, and fuelfor, such progress. Isaac Newton’s epochal accomplishment in hisPrincipia Mathematica (1687), which, very briefly described,consists in the comprehension of a diversity of physical phenomena– in particular the motions of heavenly bodies, together withthe motions of sublunary bodies – in few relatively simple,universally applicable, mathematical laws, was a great stimulus to theintellectual activity of the eighteenth century and served as a modeland inspiration for the researches of a number of Enlightenmentthinkers. Newton’s system strongly encourages the Enlightenmentconception of nature as an orderly domain governed by strictmathematical-dynamical laws and the conception of ourselvesas capable of knowing those laws and of plumbing the secrets of naturethrough the exercise of our unaided faculties. – The conceptionof nature, and of how we know it, changes significantly with the riseof modern science. It belongs centrally to the agenda of Enlightenmentphilosophy to contribute to the new knowledge of nature, and toprovide a metaphysical framework within which to place and interpretthis new knowledge.
Alt Right did not pass a “shit test” | The West’s Darkest …
The Enlightenment is most identified with its politicalaccomplishments. The era is marked by three political revolutions,which together lay the basis for modern, republican, constitutionaldemocracies: The English Revolution (1688), the American Revolution(1775–83), and the French Revolution (1789–99). Thesuccess at explaining and understanding the natural world encouragesthe Enlightenment project of re-making the social/political world, inaccord with the models we allegedly find in our reason. Enlightenmentphilosophers find that the existing social and political orders do notwithstand critical scrutiny. Existing political and social authorityis shrouded in religious myth and mystery and founded on obscuretraditions. The criticism of existing institutions is supplementedwith the positive work of constructing in theory the model ofinstitutions as they ought to be. We owe to this period the basicmodel of government founded upon the consent of the governed; thearticulation of the political ideals of freedom and equality and thetheory of their institutional realization; the articulation of a listof basic individual human rights to be respected and realized by anylegitimate political system; the articulation and promotion oftoleration of religious diversity as a virtue to be respected in awell ordered society; the conception of the basic political powers asorganized in a system of checks and balances; and other now-familiarfeatures of western democracies. However, for all the enduringaccomplishments of Enlightenment political philosophy, it is not clearthat human reason proves powerful enough to put a concrete, positiveauthoritative ideal in place of the objects of its criticism. As inthe epistemological domain, reason shows its power more convincinglyin criticizing authorities than in establishing them. Here too thequestion of the limits of reason is one of the main philosophicallegacies of the period. These limits are arguably vividly illustratedby the course of the French Revolution. The explicit ideals of theFrench Revolution are the Enlightenment ideals of individual freedomand equality; but, as the revolutionaries attempt to devise rational,secular institutions to put in place of those they have violentlyoverthrown, eventually they have recourse to violence and terror inorder to control and govern the people. The devolution of the FrenchRevolution into the Reign of Terror is perceived by many as provingthe emptiness and hypocrisy of Enlightenment reason, and is one of themain factors which account for the end of the Enlightenment as anhistorical period.