What was the Enlightenment?

Bishop's Encyclopedia of Religion, Society and Philosophy

The Age of Enlightenment was a historical movement that included a process of philosophical, scientific, political discourse that grew to dominate much of Europe from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries (1).

Its ideas can be traced to England, France, Germany, Scotland, Poland, and Italy although many historians debate when exactly the period started, and with whom it did. The likes of Isaac Newton’s scientific work (Principia Mathematica, 1687) and Rene Descartes’ philosophical rationalism have been proposed as possible progenitors (2). The Enlightenment culminated in the French Revolution (1789-1799) and was followed by the Romantic period.

Thinkers and their ideas that contributed to the foundations of the Enlightenment were Rene Descartes (his contribution to skepticism), Baruch Spinoza (his ontological monism), and Gottfried Leibniz (the principle of sufficient reason). Other Enlightenment thinkers active during the period included Adam Smith, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, and others…

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