During the 18th century (1701-1800), between 1751 and 1772, a major intellectual movement had found it’s way inside Europe amidst the French and the English. One of the world’s first encyclopedias (Encyclopédie) was created during this time by a group of approximately 150 enlightened philosophers and scientists. The work consisted of 28 volumes, with 71,818 articles and 3,129 illustrations. The encyclopedia was such a powerful piece of literature that it had managed to culminate itself into what we know today as the French and American revolutions, arguably the most definitive moments of our current modern civilization; The time when the subject of philosophy and science sunk it’s teeth into society.
The Cyclopædia (Universal dictionary for arts and sciences), was written by an Englishman by the name of Ephraim Chambers; is said to have where the Encyclopédie had gotten most of it’s inspiration. (It first appeared in London in 1728.)
the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.
- think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.
synonyms: think rationally, think logically, use one’s common sense, use one’s head/brain
The main idea that derives from the Encyclopédie revolves around the simple idea of reason and the allowance of it to be the main source of authority and legitimacy in society. With reason, it let human thought turn into some pretty incredible ideals, the very type of ideals we are blessed with here today in the West. Things like preservation of our personal liberty, an ability for people to progress freely as individuals, the creation of tolerances for one another, an allowance for fraternities of different interest groups, a constitutional government, and a true separation of church and state; Things that I believe people tend to take rather to easily take for granted today, something that most of us only vaguely know as “The American dream” – an undeniably beautiful thing only when it is truly grasped.
The Encyclopédie went through it’s first publication in Paris, France where it created quite the stream of social upheaval for the years to come (you could also argue that the English actually started it all.) This is where the philosophical and scientific activity really began to challenge the known to be problematic traditional doctrines and dogmas that were poisoning the societies of this era (things that are still happening to this day actually, the conflicts in the Middle East is a prime example.) With the subject of philosophy leading the charge and facts of science backing it all up, simply put, it successfully created a vision of prosperity that most of us couldn’t even dream about, ultimately turning the 18th century into the “Age of Enlightenment.” – the name somewhat speaks for itself I would say.
In this age of enlightenment, philosophers and scientists proved themselves to be a great team of individuals. Together, they were able to establish an amazing source of progressive energy that continued to lead mankind to innovations unheard of. They proved that humans could be civil with intelligence instead of blind faith. That people can create their own truths within their own willpower. That men are capable of producing much more than what they are told and that the world is filled with a knowledge that has yet to be discovered. In other words, life was able to become a bit more than a vague ambition for a lot of people – an unexplainable yet miraculous phenomenon.
- Science can be defined as “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.”
- Philosophy can be defined as “the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience.”
Generalizations aside, what you should take from this is that most of our modern Western ideologies came from this era. The foundation of our entire system can be somehow linked to what was discovered during this time. The establishment of scientific data, ideas about law & order, economics (wealth of nations), the subject of sociology, and theories of government all came to life here; you can call it the initial discovery for the “science of man.”
The other part that really makes this phamtastic though is the mass European migration (one of the world’s largest) that resulted from the enlightenment, easily marking this to probably be the world’s most formidable attempt at oversea (before we could fly) colonialism. This moment in history is commonly referred to now as ‘The Age of Sail’ aka ‘The Age of Discovery‘, something that started in the 16th century with Christopher Columbus and went on until the 19th century.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. – John Locke