As the absolute rule of kings weakened, Enlightenment philosophers argued for different forms of democracy.
References and Further Reading 1. Enlightenment Age Thinking The pre- and post-revolutionary era in American history generated propitious conditions for Enlightenment thought to thrive on an order comparable to that witnessed in the European Enlightenments.
In the post-revolutionary years, a whole generation of American thinkers would found a new system of government on liberal and republican principles, articulating their enduring ideas in documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and the United States Constitution.
Although distinctive features arose in the eighteenth-century American context, much of the American Enlightenment was continuous with parallel experiences in British and French society. Four themes recur in both European and American Enlightenment texts: Many Enlightenment thinkers—especially the French philosophes, such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot—subscribed to some form of skepticism, doubting appeals to miraculous, transcendent and supernatural forces that potentially limit the scope of individual choice and reason.
Moderate and Radical Besides identifying dominant themes running throughout the Enlightenment period, some historians, such as Henry May and Jonathan Israel, understand Enlightenment thought as divisible into two broad categories, each reflecting the content and intensity of ideas prevalent at the time.
The moderate Enlightenment signifies commitments to economic liberalism, religious toleration and constitutional politics. In contrast to its moderate incarnation, the radical Enlightenment conceives enlightened thought through the prism of revolutionary rhetoric and classical Republicanism.
Influenced as it was by the British and French, American Enlightenment thought integrates both moderate and radical elements. Chronology American Enlightenment thought can also be appreciated chronologically, or in terms of three temporal stages in the development of Enlightenment Age thinking.
The middle stage extends from to just a few years after the start of the American Revolution in It is characterized by an exploding fascination with science, religious revivalism and experimental forms of government, especially in the United States.
However, American Enlightenment thinkers were not always of a single mind with their European counterparts.
For instance, several American Enlightenment thinkers—particularly James Madison and John Adams, though not Benjamin Franklin—judged the French philosophes to be morally degenerate intellectuals of the era. John Adams and James Madison perpetuated the elitist and anti-democratic idea that to invest too much political power in the hands of uneducated and property-less people was to put society at constant risk of social and political upheaval.
In the Two Treatises on Government andLocke argued against the divine right of kings and in favor of government grounded on the consent of the governed; so long as people would have agreed to hand over some of their liberties enjoyed in a pre-political society or state of nature in exchange for the protection of basic rights to life, liberty and property.
However, if the state reneged on the social contract by failing to protect those natural rights, then the people had a right to revolt and form a new government. Perhaps more of a democrat than Locke, Rousseau insisted in The Social Contract that citizens have a right of self-government, choosing the rules by which they live and the judges who shall enforce those rules.
Many of these were shared with European Enlightenment thinkers, but in some instances took a uniquely American form. Deism European Enlightenment thinkers conceived tradition, custom and prejudice Vorurteil as barriers to gaining true knowledge of the universal laws of nature.
Deists appreciated God as a reasonable Deity.Among the most-influential philosophers of law from the early modern period was Thomas Hobbes (–), whose theory of law was a novel amalgam of themes from both the natural-law and command-theory traditions.
He also offered some of the earliest criticisms of common-law theory. In this lesson, we discuss the two premier English political theorists of the 17th century: Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.
Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment was an astonishing movement of philosophers in the 18th century who shared and opposed each other’s ideas, reasons, questions, and concerns about several different beliefs such as religious tolerance, deism (God), government, society, and knowledge.
Sea travel expanded the horizons of many European nations and created prosperity and the conditions for the Enlightenment. In turn, the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, and justice helped to create the conditions for the American Revolution and the subsequent Constitution.
Democracy was. Hobbes represents the pessimistic side of the Enlightenment and sees progress as the result of the suppression of man’s instincts rather than the granting of freedom to those instincts.
Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French.