The Enlightenment is perhaps one of the most important philosophical and scientific movements in history. In today’s episode we cover a brief history of The Enlightenment, we go over some of it’s core ideas, and we’ll do a mini bio for John Locke.
Welcome back to the 18th Century Podcast, I am your host Cj. In today’s episode, we’ll be covering one of the most important topics of the 18th Century, The Enlightenment. We’ll be going over a brief history and some of the Philosophers and their ideas in this episode. If you’d like to read the script for this episode and its citations, go to 18thcentury.home.blog that’s 1, 8, t h, century dot home dot blog. Type the numbers don’t spell them. Let’s begin with a brief history of, The Englightenment.
PART 1: THE ENLIGHTENMENT, A HISTORY
The Englightenment, also known as, The Age Of Reason, began in the 17th Century. The ideas brought forth during this time will be carried over into the 18th Century and hold great influence. The Enlightenment would hold sway over many different aspects of life, such as philosophy, politics, science, etc… During my research for this episode, I found many contesting points declaring when the enlightenment began. The earliest of which started with Francis Bacon in 1620, with his publication of Novum Organum. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes would publish his book, Leviathan. In the book, he would argue, in simplest terms, for absolute monarchy. The idea of social contract theory would find its root’s with Hobbes as well. Then jumping forward to the 1680s we see two important texts published. The fist is Principia Mathematica, by Isiac Newton in 1686. The second is, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke in 1689. A year later John Locke would publish arguably his most important contribution to The Enlightenment, his Second Treatise On Government. Then from the 1730s-1780s, we get a bulk of Enlightenment texts. We’ll see the writings of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Smith, Kant, and many others as well. In 1748, Montesquieu would put forth his political work, The Spirit of the Laws. Then in 1762, Rousseau would publish his work, On the Social Contract. On March 9th of 1776, Adam Smith’s, The Wealth of Nations is published. This would mark one of the most interesting economic texts was only a few months off from the Declaration of Independence. Then heading towards the 1780s, we get the work of Immanuel Kant. What’s interesting about The Englightenment is the fact that it’s pretty much a decades-long conversation between philosophers. The Enlightenment would span across Europe and the Americas. Now that I’ve covered a very brief history, I think it’s time that we take a closer look into some of the ideas of, Then Enlightenment.
PART 2: ENLIGHTENMENT IDEAS
Let’s kick things off with arguably the most influential ideas of The Enlightenment, politics. When The Enlightenment begins, we see absolute monarchy being espoused by philosophers. Yet as the decades start moving forward, they begin to tend towards Republicanism. In Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, he purposed the idea of the divine right of kings. The basic idea of this is, Kings are appointed by God and thus are justified to rule over others. I think it’s obvious to say that this type of doctrine would be popular with absolute monarchs. Yet, when John Locke came in with his two treatises on government, it was basically a refutation of the idea of the divine right of kings. Also from Locke, we get more development in the area of Natural Rights. Locke would come to argue for the Natural Rights of life, liberty, and property. Locke was also a proponent of Natural Law. Then with Montesquieu, we get the idea of a few different forms of government which he lists as Republics, Monarchies, and Despotisms. I would like to note that we get more of the modern view of Republicanism from Montesquieu, which in the modern vernacular would be a Representative Democracy. If you went to school in the United States, you were probably taught about this idea. Yet as a fun fact, this idea of Republicanism as presented by Montesquieu clashes with a more classical approach as presented by Cicero. Cicero would have described a Republic as a mixed form of government which combines aspects of monarchy, democracy, and aristocracy into one system which balances itself. I thought it would be interesting to share how definitions and ideas change over time, and this was one great example. Now with Rousseau, he presents the idea of The Social Contract. The Social contract was introduced before, but he refined the idea. He would contrast with Locke’s view more so, by being in favor of direct democracy as his view on the best way to govern society. The political works of The Enlightenment influenced the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Now moving forward to the field of economics, I think it’s safe to say, Adam Smith’s, The Wealth of Nations, is perhaps the most influential economic work out of the 18th Century. It introduced the world to the economic idea of Capitalism. From then on, it revolutionized the world. Many schools of thought on economics have sprung up since Smith’s work. On the scientific side of things, we saw many advancements. The basis of the modern Scientific Method began to form. Newton made advancements in mathematics and the study of gravity. The discovery of the planet Uranus by William Herschel occurred. Also, the mass of the Sun was calculated. You would also see Benjamin Franklin’s work with electricity. Now regarding the religious side of, The Enlightenment, there were many developments too. The most prominent view associated with this period would probably be, Deism. The Deistic view is that there is God, and God did create the universe but does not interfere with the going on’s of it. The other idea of Deism was that God could be known through reason. I might make an episode in the future of Deism since it’s a pretty fascinating topic. But also during, The Enlightenment was a greater sense of religious tolerance. You see an expansion of Protestantism during the period as well. I believe what I presented here covers some of the most basic and widespread views of, The Enlightenment. Now, I’m going to take a short break, and when I come back we’ll take a brief look into the life of John Locke.
PART 3:A Brief Bio of John Locke
Welcome back to the 18th Century Podcast. We’ll continue our second half of the show by taking a brief look into the life of John Locke. John Locke was born on August 29th, 1632. He was born in Wrington, Somerset, England, and grew up in Pensford, which was close to Bristol. John’s father was a lawyer and a Calvery Capitan during the English Civil Wars. After the first Civil War, John’s father secured a spot for his son at Westminster School, in London. John would attend the school when he was only 14 years old. Though John was gifted in academics and elected as a King’s Scholar in 1650, he would come to despise the school system. He disapproved of corporal punishment, and some of the behavior of the students as well. In 1693 he would put pen to paper and give his thoughts on education, arguing for a private tutor over boarding schools. When he was 20 years old, he attended Christ Church, at Oxford. In 1663, John was appointed senior censor in Christ Church, which among his duties were to oversee undergraduates and give lectures. Locke eventually became a member of the Royal Society and began to study medicine. In 1675 Locke traveled to France after losing favor with King Charles II. By the time he left for France, John had earned his bachelors degree in medicine from Oxford. During his time in France, he would befriend the intellectuals and protestants. He would head home in 1679. In September of 1683, Locke would make his way to Holland. The reason being was that John’s friend a few years prior was being closely watched by the English Government and fled to Holland, which the friend died in 1683. John himself was being closely watched by the English government at the time too. John would stay in Holland for the next serval years. He returned to England in February of 1689. He became more involved in politics under the newly crowned Queen Mary II. John would assist in writing the English Bill of Rights. He spent his final years with friends and continuing with his writing. John Locke died on October 28th, 1704.
The Enlightenment was probably one of the greatest philosophical movements in history. I would have liked to have made this episode a bit longer, but I didn’t have enough time this week, my apologies. The script and citations for this episode and all other episodes can be found at https://18thcentury.home.blog that’s 1, 8, t h, century dot home dot blog. Type the numbers don’t spell them. If you’d like to support the show, please share it and leave a review. I’ve been your host Cj, and thank you for listening to this episode of the 18th Century Podcast.
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