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European Context 1650-1750

The Enlightenment was a sprawling intellectual, philosophical, cultural, and social movement that spread
through England, France, Germany, and other parts of Europe during the 1700s. Enabled by the Scientific
Revolution, which had begun as early as 1500, the Enlightenment represented about as big of a departure as
possible from the Middle Agesthe period in European history lasting from roughly the fifth century to the
The millennium of the Middle Ages had been marked by unwavering religious devotion and unfathomable

The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, however, opened a path for independent thought, and the fields
of mathematics, astronomy, physics, politics, economics, philosophy, and medicine were drastically updated and
Whether considered from an intellectual, political, or social standpoint, the advancements of the Enlightenment
transformed the Western world into an intelligent and self-aware civilization. Moreover, it directly inspired the
creation of the worlds first great democracy, the United States of America.
The effects of Enlightenment thought soon permeated both European and American life, from improved
womens rights to more efficient steam engines, from fairer judicial systems to increased educational
opportunities, from revolutionary economic theories to a rich array of literature and music.

Summary of events

On the surface, the most apparent cause of the Enlightenment was the Thirty Years War. This horribly
destructive war, which lasted from 1618 to 1648, compelled German writers to pen harsh criticisms regarding the
ideas of nationalism and warfare. These authors, such as Hugo Grotius and John Comenius, were some of the
first Enlightenment minds to go against tradition and propose better solutions.
At the same time, European thinkers interest in the tangible world developed into scientific study, while
greater exploration of the world exposed Europe to other cultures and philosophies. Finally, centuries of
mistreatment at the hands of monarchies and the church brought average citizens in Europe to a breaking point,
and the most intelligent and vocal finally decided to speak out.
Pre-Enlightenment Discoveries
The Enlightenment developed through a snowball effect: small advances triggered larger ones, and before
Europe and the world knew it, almost two centuries of philosophizing and innovation had ensued. These studies
generally began in the fields of earth science and astronomy, as notables such as Johannes Kepler and Galileo
Galilei took the old, beloved truths of Aristotle and disproved them. Thinkers such as Ren
Descartes and Francis Bacon revised the scientific method, setting the stage for Isaac Newton and his
landmark discoveries in physics.
From these discoveries emerged a system for observing the world and making testable hypotheses based on
those observations. At the same time, however, scientists faced ever-increasing scorn and skepticism from people
in the religious community, who felt threatened by science and its attempts to explain matters of faith.
Nevertheless, the progressive, rebellious spirit of these scientists would inspire a centurys worth of thinkers.
The Enlightenment in England
The first major Enlightenment figure in England was Thomas Hobbes, who caused great controversy with the
release of his provocative treatise Leviathan (1651). Taking a sociological perspective, Hobbes felt that by
nature, people were self-serving and preoccupied with the gathering of a limited number of resources. To keep

balance, Hobbes continued, it was essential to have a single intimidating ruler. A half century later, John
Lockecame into the picture, promoting the opposite type of governmenta representative governmentin
his Two Treatises of Government(1690).
The Enlightenment in France
Many of the major French Enlightenment thinkers, or philosophes, were born in the years after the Glorious
Revolution, so Frances Enlightenment came a bit later, in the mid-1700s.
The Baron de Montesquieu tackled politics by elaborating upon Locke's work, solidifying concepts such as
the separation of power by means of divisions in government.Voltaire took a more caustic approach, choosing
to incite social and political change by means of satire and criticism. Although Voltaires satires arguably sparked
little in the way of concrete change, Voltaire nevertheless was adept at exposing injustices and appealed to a
wide range of readers. His short novel Candide is regarded as one of the seminal works in history.
Denis Diderot, unlike Montesquieu and Voltaire, had no revolutionary aspirations; he was interested merely in
collecting as much knowledge as possible for his mammoth Encyclopdie. TheEncyclopdie, which ultimately
weighed in at thirty-five volumes, would go on to spread Enlightenment knowledge to other countries around the

Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750)
An enormously influential German composer who rose to prominence in the early 1700s. Best known by his
contemporaries as an organist, Bach also wrote an enormous body of both sacred and secular music that
synthesized a variety of styles and in turn influenced countless later composers.
Francis Bacon (15611626)
An English philosopher and statesman who developed theinductive method or Baconian method of scientific
investigation, which stresses observation and reasoning as a means for coming to general conclusions. Bacons
work influenced his later contemporary Ren Descartes.
Cesare Beccaria (17381794)
An Italian politician who ventured into philosophy to protest the horrible injustices that he observed in various
European judicial systems. Beccarias book On Crimes and Punishments (1764) exposed these practices and led
to the abolition of many.
John Comenius (15921670)
A Czech educational and social reformer who, in response to theThirty Years War, made the bold move of
challenging the necessity of war in the first place. Comenius stressed tolerance and education as alternatives for
war, which were revolutionary concepts at the time.
Ren Descartes (15961650)
A French philosopher and scientist who revolutionized algebra and geometry and made the famous philosophical
statement I think, therefore I am. Descartes developed a deductive approach to philosophy using math and
logic that still remains a standard for problem solving.
Denis Diderot (17131784)
A French scholar who was the primary editor of the Encyclopdie, a massive thirty-five-volume compilation of
human knowledge in the arts and sciences, along with commentary from a number of Enlightenment thinkers.
The Encyclopdie became a prominent symbol of the Enlightenment and helped spread the movement
throughout Europe.

Benjamin Franklin (17061790)

American thinker, diplomat, and inventor who traveled frequently between the American colonies and Europe
during the Enlightenment and facilitated an exchange of ideas between them. Franklin exerted profound
influence on the formation of the new government of the United States, with a hand in both the Declaration of
Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (17491832)
A German author who wrote near the end of the Aufklrung, the German Enlightenment. Goethes morose The
Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) helped fuel the Sturm und Drang movement, and his twopart Faust (1808, 1832) is seen as one of the landmarks of Western literature.
Olympe de Gouges (17481793)
A French feminist and reformer in the waning years of the Enlightenment who articulated the rights of women
with herDeclaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791).
Hugo Grotius (15831645)
A Dutch scholar who, like Czech John Comenius, lived during theThirty Years War and felt compelled to
write in response to it. The result, a treatise on war and international relations titled On the Law of War and
Peace (1625), eventually became accepted as the basis for the rules of modern warfare.
George Frideric Handel (16851759)
A German-English composer of the late Baroque period whoseMessiah remains one of the best-known pieces of
music in the world. Handel was an active court composer, receiving commissions from such notables as King
George I of England, for whom his Water Music suite was written and performed.
Thomas Hobbes (15881679)
A philosopher and political theorist whose 1651 treatise Leviathaneffectively kicked off the English
Enlightenment. The controversialLeviathan detailed Hobbess theory that all humans are inherently self-driven
and evil and that the best form of government is thus a single, all-powerful monarch to keep everything in order.
David Hume (17111776)
A Scottish philosopher and one of the most prominent figures in the field of skepticism during the
Enlightenment. Hume took religion to task, asking why a perfect God would ever create an imperfect world, and
even suggested that our own senses are fallible, bringing all observations and truths into question. Humes
skepticism proved very influential to others, such as Immanuel Kant, and was instrumental in the shift away
from rationalist thought that ended the Enlightenment.
Thomas Jefferson (17431826)
American thinker and politician who penned the Declaration of Independence (1776), which was inspired
directly by Enlightenment thought.
Immanuel Kant (17241804)
A German skeptic philosopher who built on David Humes theories and brought the school of thought to an
even higher level. Kant theorized that all humans are born with innate experiences that then reflect onto the
world, giving them a perspective. Thus, since no one actually knows what other people see, the idea of
reasoning is not valid. Kants philosophies applied the brakes to the Enlightenment, effectively denouncing
reason as an invalid approach to thought.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (16461716)
Generally considered the founder of the Aufklrung, or German Enlightenment, who injected a bit of
spirituality into the Enlightenment with writings regarding God and his perfect, harmonious world. Also a
scientist who shared credit for the discovery of calculus, Leibniz hated the idea of relying on empirical evidence

in the world. Instead, he developed a theory that the universe consists of metaphysical building blocks he
John Locke (16321704)
An English political theorist who focused on the structure of governments. Locke believed that men are all
rational and capable people but must compromise some of their beliefs in the interest of forming a government
for the people. In his famous Two Treatises of Government (1690), he championed the idea of a representative
government that would best serve all constituents.
Baron de Montesquieu (16891755)
The foremost French political thinker of the Enlightenment, whose most influential book, The Spirit of
Laws, expanded John Lockes political study and incorporated the ideas of a division of state and separation of
powers. Montesquieus work also ventured into sociology: he spent a considerable amount of time researching
various cultures and their climates, ultimately deducing that climate is a major factor in determining the type of
government a given country should have.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (17561791)
A genius Austrian composer who began his career as a child prodigy and authored some of the most renowned
operas and symphonies in history. Mozarts music has never been surpassed in its blend of technique and
emotional breadth, and his musical genius places him in a category with a select few other composers.
Sir Isaac Newton (16421727)
An English scholar and mathematician regarded as the father of physical science. Newtons discoveries anchored
the Scientific Revolution and set the stage for everything that followed in mathematics and physics. He shared
credit for the creation ofcalculus, and his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematicaintroduced the world
to gravity and fundamental laws of motion.
Thomas Paine (17371809)
English-American political writer whose pamphlet Common Sense(1776) argued that the British colonies in
America should rebel against the Crown. Paines work had profound influence on public sentiment during
the American Revolution, which had begun just months earlier.
Franois Quesnay (16941774)
A French economist whose Tableau conomique (1758) argued against government intervention in the economy
and inspired Scottish economist Adam Smiths seminal Wealth of Nations (1776).
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778)
An eclectic Swiss-French thinker who brought his own approach to the Enlightenment, believing that man was at
his best when unshackled by the conventions of society. Rousseaus epic The Social Contract (1762) conceived
of a system of direct democracy in which all citizens contribute to an overarching general will that serves
everyone at once. Later in his life, Rousseau releasedConfessions (1789), which brought a previously unheard-of
degree of personal disclosure to the genre of autobiography. The frank personal revelations and emotional
discussions were a major cause for the shift toward Romanticism.
Adam Smith (17231790)
An influential Scottish economist who objected to the stiflingmercantilist systems that were in place during the
late eighteenth century. In response, Smith wrote the seminal Wealth of Nations(1776), a dissertation criticizing
mercantilism and describing the many merits of a free trade system.
Baruch Spinoza (16321677)
A Dutch-Jewish lens grinder who questioned tenets of Judaism and Christianity, which helped undermine
religious authority in Europe. Although Spinoza personally believed in God, he rejected the concept of miracles,

the religious supernatural, and the idea that the Bible was divinely inspired. Rather, he believed that ethics
determined by rational thought were more important as a guide to conduct than was religion.
Voltaire (16941778)
A French writer and the primary satirist of the Enlightenment, who criticized religion and leading philosophies of
the time. Voltaires numerous plays and essays frequently advocated freedom from the ploys of religion,
while Candide (1759), the most notable of his works, conveyed his criticisms of optimism and superstition into a
neat package.
A system of faith to which many of the French philosophes and other Enlightenment thinkers subscribed. Deists
believed in an all-powerful God but viewed him as a cosmic watchmaker who created the universe and set it in
autonomous motion and then never again tampered with it. Deists also shunned organized religion, especially
Church doctrines about eternal damnation and a natural hierarchy of existence.
Enlightened Absolutism
A trend in European governments during the later part of the Enlightenment, in which a number of absolute
monarchs adopted Enlightenment-inspired reforms yet retained a firm grip on power.Frederick the Great of
Prussia, Maria-Theresa and Joseph II of Austria, Charles III of Spain, and Catherine the Great of Russia are
often counted among these enlightened despots.
French Revolution
A revolution in France that overthrew the monarchy and is often cited as the end of the Enlightenment. The
French Revolution began in1789 when King Louis XVI convened the legislature in an attempt to solve Frances
monumental financial woes. Instead, the massive middle class revolted and set up its own government. Although
this new government was effective for a few years, internal dissent grew and power switched hands repeatedly,
until France plunged into the brutally violent Reign of Terror of 17931794.Critics saw this violence as a direct
result of Enlightenment thought and as evidence that the masses were not fit to govern themselves.

Glorious Revolution
The name given to the bloodless coup dtat in England in 1688, which saw the Catholic monarch, King James
II, removed from the throne and replaced by the Protestants William and Mary. The new monarchs not only
changed the religious course of England and the idea of divine right but also allowed the additional personal
liberties necessary for the Enlightenment to truly flourish.
One of the cornerstones of the Enlightenment, a philosophy stressing the recognition of every person as a
valuable individual with inalienable, inborn rights.
The economic belief that a favorable balance of tradethat is, more exports than importswould yield more
gold and silver, and thus overall wealth and power, for a country. Governments tended to monitor and meddle
with their mercantilist systems closely, which Scottish economist Adam Smith denounced as bad economic
practice in his Wealth of Nations.
The general term for those academics and intellectuals who became the leading voices of the French
Enlightenment during the eighteenth century. Notable philosophes included Voltaire, theBaron de
Montesquieu, and Denis Diderot.

Arguably the foundation of the Enlightenment, the belief that, by using the power of reason, humans could arrive
at truth and improve human life.
Another fundamental philosophy of the Enlightenment, which declared that different ideas, cultures, and beliefs
had equal merit. Relativism developed in reaction to the age of exploration, which increased European exposure
to a variety of peoples and cultures across the world.
A movement that surfaced near the end of the Enlightenment that placed emphasis on innate emotions and
instincts rather than reason, as well as on the virtues of existing in a natural state. Writers such as Jean-Jacques
Rousseau and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe both contributed greatly to the development of Romanticism.
Gathering places for wealthy, intellectually minded elites during the years during and prior to the Enlightenment.
The salons typically held weekly meetings where upper-class citizens gathered to discuss the political and social
theories of the day.
Scientific Revolution
A gradual development of thought and approaches to the study of the universe that took place from
approximately 1500 to 1700 and paved the way for the Enlightenment. Coming from humble beginnings with
basic observations, the Scientific Revolution grew to a fever pitch when scientists such as Galileo Galilei, Ren
Descartes, and Johannes Kepler entered the scene and essentially rewrote history, disproving Church doctrines,
explaining religious miracles, and setting the world straight on all sorts of scientific principles. The result was
not only new human knowledge but also a new perspective on the acquisition of knowledge, such as
thescientific method.
Separation of Power
A political idea, developed by John Locke and the Baron de Montesquieu, that power in government should be
divided into separate branchestypically legislative, judicial, and executivein order to ensure that no one
branch of a governing body can gain too much authority.
A philosophical movement that emerged in response to rationalismand maintained that human perception is too
relative to be considered credible. David Hume brought skepticism into the spotlight by suggesting that human
perceptions cannot be trusted, and then Immanuel Kant elevated the field when he proposed that humans are
born with innate experiences that give shape to their own, individual worlds.
Social Contract
An idea in political philosophy, generally associated with John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, stating that
a government and its subjects enter into an implicit contract when that government takes power. In exchange for
ceding some freedoms to the government and its established laws, the subjects expect and demand mutual
protection. The governments authority, meanwhile, lies only in the consent of the governed.
Sturm und Drang
Literally meaning storm and stress, the name given to an undercurrent of the German Enlightenment during
which German youths expressed their angst by rebelling against the pleasant optimism of the time. Influenced
partly by Johann Wolfgang von Goethes The Sorrows of Young Werther, participants in the Sturm und
Drang movement harbored a depressed, more archaic idealism. Though it revealed a decided one-sidedness of
the German Enlightenment, the movement did not sustain itself for very long.
Thirty Years War

A brutal, destructive conflict in Germany between 1618 and 1648. The Thirty Years War began when Bohemian
Protestants revolted out of a refusal to be ruled by a Catholic king. The battle would eventually spread
throughout Germany and involve many other countries on both sides, resulting in the death of nearly a third of
the German population and unfathomable destruction. Enlightenment thinkers such as John
Comenius and Hugo Grotius reacted against the war with treatises about education, international relations, and
the nature of war itself.

1605 Kepler discovers first law of planetary motion
1609 Galileo develops his first telescope
1618 Thirty Years War begins
1625 Grotius publishes On the Law of War and Peace
1633 Pope prosecutes Galileo for promoting sun-centered theory of the solar system
1648 Thirty Years War ends
1687 Newton publishes Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
Key People
Galileo Galilei - Italian astronomer who supported the sun-centered Copernican model of the solar system,
angering the Catholic Church
Johannes Kepler - German astronomer who discovered laws of planetary motion
Francis Bacon - English scholar who developed inductive method of reasoning
Ren Descartes - French mathematician and philosopher who revolutionized algebra and geometry, developed
deductive method
Isaac Newton - English mathematician and physicist who formulated fundamental laws of gravity and motion
Baruch Spinoza - Dutch-Jewish thinker who questioned many tenets of Judaism and Christianity
John Comenius - Czech reformer who questioned necessity for war
Hugo Grotius - Dutch scholar who explored concepts in international relations and outlined laws of fair
The Scientific Revolution
The Enlightenment was the product of a vast set of cultural and intellectual changes in Europe during the 1500s
and 1600schanges that in turn produced the social values that permitted the Enlightenment to sweep through
Europe in the late 1600s and 1700s. One of the most important of these changes was the Scientific
Revolution of the 1500s and 1600s. During the Scientific Revolution, European thinkers tore down the flawed
set of scientific beliefs established by the ancients and maintained by the Church. To replace this flawed
knowledge, scientists sought to discover and convey the true laws governing the phenomena they observed in
Although it would take centuries to develop, the Scientific Revolution began near the end of the Middle Ages,
when farmers began to notice, study, and record those environmental conditions that yielded the best harvests. In
time, curiosity about the world spread, which led to further innovation. Even the Church initially encouraged
such investigations, out of the belief that studying the world was a form of piety and constituted an admiration of
Gods work.
Galileo and Kepler

The Churchs benevolent stance toward science changed abruptly when astronomers such as Galileo
Galilei (15641642) and Johannes Kepler (15711630) started questioning the ancient teachings of Aristotle
and other accepted truths. Galileos work in the fields of physics and inertia was groundbreaking, while
Keplers laws of planetary motion revealed, among other things, that the planets moved in elliptical orbits.
Galileo especially encountered significant resistance from the Church for his support of the theories of Polish
astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (14731543), who had stated that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the
solar systemnot vice versa, as Church teaching had always maintained.
Bacon and Descartes
Though up against considerable Church opposition, science moved into the spotlight in the late 1500s and
early 1600s. Galileo had long said that observation was a necessary element of the scientific methoda point
that Francis Bacon (15611626) solidified with his inductive method. Sometimes known as the Baconian
method, inductive science stresses observation and reasoning as the means for coming to general conclusions.
A later contemporary, Ren Descartes (15961650), picked up where Bacon left off. Descartes talents ran the
gamut from mathematics to philosophy and ultimately the combination of those schools. His work in combining
algebra and geometry revolutionized both of those fields, and it was Descartes who came to the philosophical
conclusion I think, therefore I amasserting that, if nothing else, he was at least a thinking being.
Descartes deductive approach to philosophy, using math and logic, stressed a clear and distinct foundation for
thought that still remains a standard for problem solving.
As it turned out, all of these developments of the Scientific Revolution were really just a primer for
Englishman Isaac Newton(16421727), who swept in, built upon the work of his predecessors, and changed the
face of science and mathematics. Newton began his career with mathematics work that would eventually evolve
into the entire field of calculus. From there, he conducted experiments in physics and math that revealed a
number of natural laws that had previously been credited to divine forces. Newtons seminal work,
the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), discussed the existence of a uniform force
of gravity and established three laws of motion. Later in his career, Newton would release Optics, which
detailed his groundbreaking work in that field as well.

The Declining Influence of the Church

Yet another major change in the lives of Europeans prior to the Enlightenment was the weakening of adherence
to traditional religious authority. The questioning of religion itself can largely be traced to the tensions created by
the Protestant Reformation, which split the Catholic Church and opened new territory for theological debate.
Additional seeds were planted by Baruch Spinoza (16321677), a Jewish lens grinder and philosopher from
Amsterdam who developed a philosophy emphasizing ethical thought as the guide to conduct. Spinoza called
into question the tenets of both Judaism and Christianity: he believed in God but denied that the Bible was
divinely inspired and rejected the concept of miracles and the religious supernatural. He claimed that ethics
determined by rational thought were more important as a guide to conduct than was religion.

1717 Handel writes Water Music
1758 Quesnay publishes Tableau conomique
1764 Beccaria publishes On Crimes and Punishments
1769 Watt invents improved steam engine
1776 Smith publishes Wealth of Nations

1787 Mozart writes Don Giovanni

1791 De Gouges publishes Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen
Key People
Franois Quesnay - French economist; advocated less government intervention in the economy in Tableau
Adam Smith - Scottish economist; espoused hands-off government policies in favor of invisible hand of the
economy in Wealth of Nations
Cesare Beccaria - Italian judicial reformer; appealed for fairness in trials and punishments in On Crimes and
James Watt - Scottish inventor who vastly improved efficiency of the steam engine, enabling development of
Olympe de Gouges - French feminist and womens rights activist; wrote landmark Declaration of the Rights of
Woman and the Female Citizen
Johann Sebastian Bach - German organist and composer; wrote a vast body of both sacred and secular music
George Frideric Handel - German-English composer; won numerous court commissions and was enormously
popular during his life
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Austrian composer considered a musical genius and perhaps the greatest
composer of all time; created remarkable body of music for orchestra, opera, and voice

Given that the Enlightenment had already reinvented pretty much every other field in existence, its little surprise
the era also produced some of Western musics most revered composers. Working during the late Baroque
period of the early 1700s and the early Classical period of the late 1700s, these composers synthesized styles
and influences in a wide range of genres of both sacred and secular music.
Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750) of Germany quickly built a reputation as a master organist but was also
was an enormously prolific composera fact that was not entirely appreciated until after his death. His major
works include the Brandenburg Concerto, hisMass in B Minor, the St. Matthew Passion, and countless other
vocal and instrumental works, both for the Church and for secular purposes.
George Frideric Handel (16851759), conversely, found enormous fame as a composer during his life. Born in
Germany but working primarily in England, Handel was a celebrated court composer who won numerous
commissions and wrote enormously popular operas. Some of his best-known works include the Messiah, an
oratorio set to biblical text, and the Water Music, a suite written for King George I and performed on the river
The major figure in music at the tail end of the Enlightenment wasWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (17561791),
who ushered in the Classical era. A child prodigy of nearly unfathomable gifts, Mozart was composing music by
age six, touring Europe by eight, and writing full-length operas by twelve. As he got older, however, he lacked
the business savvy of Handel and, as a result, sometimes had trouble securing work. He worked as an
underappreciated court musician for a time before going out on his own, though he remained on the verge of
bankruptcy all the while. Mozart died at an early age from an undetermined ailment, though not before finishing
an astonishing collection of operas, including The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute. He
also wrote more than forty symphonies, significant chamber music, concertos, sonatas, and sacred works and
masses, including the famous Requiem.

Long-Term Influence

Despite the brutalities of the French Revolution and the lingering resentment toward many philosophes, the
Enlightenment had an indisputably positive effect on the Western world. Scientific advances laid an
indestructible foundation for modern thought, while political and other philosophies questioned and ultimately
undermined oppressive, centuries-old traditions in Europe. After several transitional decades of instability in
Europe, nearly everyone in Europealong with an entire population in the United Stateswalked away from
the Enlightenment in a better position. The movement resulted in greater freedom, greater opportunity, and
generally more humane treatment for all individuals. Although the world still had a long way to go, and indeed
still does, the Enlightenment arguably marked the first time that Western civilization truly started to become

Spinoza's system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for
prevailing against "received authority." He contended that everything that exists in Nature (i.e., everything in the
Universe) is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which
surrounds us and of which we are part. Spinoza viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality,
namely a single, fundamental substance (meaning "that which stands beneath" rather than "matter") that is the
basis of the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications, that all things are
determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect is understood
only in part. His identification of God with nature was more fully explained in his posthumously
published Ethics.[3] Spinoza's main contention with Cartesian mindbody dualism was that, if mind and body
were truly distinct, then it is not clear how they can coordinate in any manner. Humans presume themselves to
have free will, he argues, which is a result of their awareness of appetites that affect their minds, while being
unable to understand the reasons why they want and act as they do.
Spinoza contends that "Deus sive Natura" is a being of infinitely many attributes, of which thought and
extension are two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as
intertwined, causally related, and deriving from the same substance. It is important to note here that, in Parts 3
through 4 of the Ethics, Spinoza describes how the human mind is affected by both mental and physical factors.
He directly contests dualism. The universal substance emanates both body and mind; while they are different
attributes, there is no fundamental difference between these aspects. This formulation is a historically significant
solution to the mindbody problem known as neutral monism. Spinoza's system also envisages a God that does
not rule over the universe by Providence in which God can make changes, but a God which itself is the
deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Spinoza argues that "things could not have been
produced by God in any other way or in any other order than is the case,";[94] he directly challenges a
transcendental God which actively responds to events in the universe. Everything that has and will happen is a
part of a long chain of cause and effect which, at a metaphysical level, humans are unable to change. No amount
of prayer or ritual will sway God. Only knowledge of God, or the existence which humans inhabit, allows them
to best respond to the world around them. Not only is it impossible for two infinite substances to exist (two
infinities being absurd),[95] Godbeing the ultimate substancecannot be affected by anything else, or else it
would be affected by something else, and not be the fundamental substance.
Spinoza was a thoroughgoing determinist who held that absolutely everything that happens occurs through the
operation of necessity.
It is a widespread belief that Spinoza equated God with the material universe. He has therefore been called the
"prophet"[101] and "prince"[102] and most eminent expounder of pantheism. More specifically, in a letter to Henry
Oldenburg he states, "as to the view of certain people that I identify God with Nature (taken as a kind of mass or
corporeal matter), they are quite mistaken".[103] For Spinoza, our universe (cosmos) is a mode under
twoattributes of Thought and Extension. God has infinitely many other attributes which are not present in our
Spinoza in literature, art, and popular culture[edit]
Spinoza has had influence beyond the confines of philosophy.

On the Chair's table in the Dutch Parliament, Spinoza's Tractatus theologico-politicus is one of three
books thought to be most representative of the beliefs and ethics of the Dutch people; the other two are
the Bible and theQu'ran.[128]

The 19th century novelist George Eliot produced her own translation of the Ethics, the first known
English translation of it. Eliot liked Spinoza's vehement attacks on superstition. [3]

In his autobiography "From My Life: Poetry and Truth", Goethe recounts the way in which
Spinoza's Ethics calmed the sometimes unbearable emotional turbulence of his youth. Goethe later
displayed his grasp of Spinoza's metaphysics in a fragmentary elucidation of some Spinozist ontological
principles entitled Study After Spinoza.[129] Moreover, he cited Spinoza alongside Shakespeare and Carl
Linnaeus as one of the three strongest influences on his life and work.[130]

The 20th century novelist W. Somerset Maugham alluded to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the
title of his novel Of Human Bondage.[citation needed]

In the early Star Trek episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the antagonist, Gary Mitchell is seen
reading Spinoza, and Mitchell's remark regarding his ease in comprehending Spinoza implies that his
intellectual capacity is increasing dramatically. The dialogue indicates that Captain Kirk is familiar with
Spinoza's work, perhaps as part of his studies at Starfleet Academy.

Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world
view (Weltanschauung). Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with
Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S.
Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram: "I believe in Spinoza's God who
reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates
and actions of human beings."[131][132]

Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced environmental theory; Arne Nss, the father of the deep
ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration.[citation needed]

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was greatly influenced by Spinoza's world view. Borges makes
allusions to the philosopher's work in many of his poems and short stories, as does Isaac Bashevis
Singer in his short story The Spinoza of Market Street.[133]

The title character of Hoffman's Hunger, the fifth novel by the Dutch novelist Leon de Winter, reads
and comments upon the Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione over the course of the novel.

Spinoza has been the subject of numerous biographies and scholarly treatises. [109][134][135][136]

Spinoza is an important historical figure in the Netherlands, where his portrait was featured prominently
on the Dutch 1000-guilder banknote, legal tender until the euro was introduced in 2002. The highest and
most prestigious scientific award of the Netherlands is named the Spinozaprijs (Spinoza prize). Spinoza
was included in a 50 theme canon that attempts to summarise the history of the Netherlands. [137]

Spinoza's life has been honoured by educators.[138]

In the sequel to Eric Flint's alternate-history novel, 1632, a Jewish man and his wife are killed during an
attack on Amsterdam, leaving behind a less-than-year-old son. The identity of the child is quickly
revealed to be the infant Spinoza himself.[citation needed]

The 2008 play "New Jerusalem", by David Ives, is based on the cherem (ban, shunning, ostracism,
expulsion or excommunication) issued against Spinoza by the Talmud Torah congregation in
Amsterdam in 1656, and events leading to it. Ives speculates that Spinoza was excommunicated in order
to appease Dutch authorities who threatened to expel Amsterdam's Jews because of Spinoza's antireligious activities amongst the city's Christian community.[139]

In Bento's Sketchbook (2011), the writer John Berger combines extracts from Spinoza, sketches,
memoir, and observations in a book that contemplates the relationship of materialism to spirituality.

According to Berger, what could be seen as a contradiction "is beautifully resolved by Spinoza, who
shows that it is not a duality, but in fact an essential unity."[140]


The Enlightenments important 17th-century precursors included the Englishmen Francis Bacon and Thomas
Hobbes, the Frenchman Renee Descartes and the key natural philosophers of the Scientific Revolution, including
Galileo, Kepler and Leibniz. Its roots are usually traced to 1680s England, where in the span of three years Isaac
Newton published his Principia Mathematica (1686) and John Lockehis Essay Concerning Human
Understanding (1689)two works that provided the scientific, mathematical and philosophical toolkit for the
Enlightenments major advances.
Did You Know?
In his essay "What Is Enlightenment?" (1784), the German philosopher Immanuel Kant summed up the era's
motto in the following terms: "Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!"
Locke argued that human nature was mutable and that knowledge was gained through accumulated experience
rather than by accessing some sort of outside truth. Newtons calculus and optical theories provided the powerful
Enlightenment metaphors for precisely measured change and illumination.
There was no single, unified Enlightenment. Instead, it is possible to speak of the French Enlightenment, the
Scottish Enlightenment and the English, German, Swiss or American Enlightenment. Individual Enlightenment
thinkers often had very different approaches. Locke differed from Hume, Rousseau from Voltaire,Thomas
Jefferson from Frederick the Great. Their differences and disagreements, though, emerged out of the common
Enlightenment themes of rational questioning and belief in progress through dialogue.
Baruch Spinoza's systematic rationalist metaphysics, which he develops in his Ethics (1677) in part in response
to problems in the Cartesian system, is also an important basis for Enlightenment thought. Spinoza develops, in
contrast to Cartesian dualism, an ontological monism according to which there is not only one kind of substance,
but one substance, God or nature, with two attributes, corresponding to mind and body. Spinoza's denial, on the
basis of strict philosophical reasoning, of the existence of a transcendent supreme being, his identification of
God with nature, gives strong impetus to the strands of atheism and naturalism that thread through
Enlightenment philosophy. Spinoza's rationalist principles also lead him to assert a strict determinism and to
deny any role to final causes or teleology in explanation. (See Israel 2001.)
1.1 Rationalism and the Enlightenment
Ren Descartes' rationalist system of philosophy is foundational for the Enlightenment in this regard. Descartes
(15961650) undertakes to establish the sciences upon a secure metaphysical foundation. The famous method of
doubt Descartes employs for this purpose exemplifies (in part through exaggerating) an attitude characteristic of
the Enlightenment. According to Descartes, the investigator in foundational philosophical research ought to
doubt all propositions that can be doubted. The investigator determines whether a proposition is dubitable by
attempting to construct a possible scenario under which it is false. In the domain of fundamental scientific
(philosophical) research, no other authority but one's own conviction is to be trusted, and not one's own
conviction either, until it is subjected to rigorous skeptical questioning. With his method, Descartes casts doubt
upon the senses as authoritative source of knowledge. He finds that God and the immaterial soul are both better
known, on the basis of innate ideas, than objects of the senses. Through his famous doctrine of the dualism of
mind and body, that mind and body are two distinct substances, each with its own essence, the material world
(allegedly) known through the senses becomes denominated as an external world, insofar as it is external to
the ideas with which one immediately communes in one's consciousness. Descartes' investigation thus
establishes one of the central epistemological problems, not only of the Enlightenment, but also of modernity:
the problem of objectivity in our empirical knowledge. If our evidence for the truth of propositions about extra-

mental material reality is always restricted to mental content, content immediately before the mind, how can we
ever be certain that the extra-mental reality is not other than we represent it as being? The solution Descartes
puts forward to this problem depends on our having prior and certain knowledge of God. In fact, Descartes
argues that all human knowledge (not only knowledge of the material world through the senses) depends on
metaphysical knowledge of God.
The rationalist metaphysics of Leibniz (16461716) is also foundational for the Enlightenment, particularly the
German Enlightenment (die Aufklrung), which is founded to a great extent on the Leibnizean rationalist system
of Christian Wolff (16791754). Leibniz articulates, and places at the head of metaphysics, the great rationalist
principle, the principle of sufficient reason, which states that everything that exists has a sufficient reason for its
existence. This principle exemplifies the faith, so important for the Enlightenment, that the universe is fully
intelligible to us through the exercise of our natural powers of reason. The problem arises, in the face of skeptical
questioning, of how this principle itself can be known or grounded. Wolff attempts to derive it from the logical
principle of non-contradiction (in his First Philosophy or Ontology, 1730). Criticism of this alleged derivation
gives rise to the general question of how formal principles of logic can possibly serve to ground substantive
knowledge of reality. Whereas Leibniz exerts his influence through scattered writings on various topics, some of
which elaborate plans for a systematic metaphysics which are never executed by Leibniz himself, Wolff exerts
his influence on the German Enlightenment through his development of a rationalist system of knowledge in
which he attempts to demonstrate all the propositions of science from first principles, known a priori.
Francis Bacon
If the founder of the rationalist strain of the Enlightenment is Descartes, then the founder of the empiricist strain
is Francis Bacon (15611626). Though Bacon's work belongs to the Renaissance, the revolution he undertook to
effect in the sciences inspires and influences Enlightenment thinkers. The Enlightenment, as the age in which
experimental natural science matures and comes into its own, admires Bacon as the father of experimental
philosophy. Bacon's revolution (enacted in, among other works, The New Organon, 1620) involves conceiving
the new science as (1) founded on empirical observation and experimentation; (2) arrived at through the method
of induction; and (3) as ultimately aiming at, and as confirmed by, enhanced practical capacities (hence the
Baconian motto, knowledge is power).
John Locke
John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) exerts tremendous influence on the age, in good
part through the epistemological rigor that it displays, which is at least implicitly anti-metaphysical. Locke
undertakes in this work to examine the human understanding in order to determine the limits of human
knowledge; he thereby institutes a prominent pattern of Enlightenment epistemology. Locke finds the source of
all our ideas, the ideas out of which human knowledge is constructed, in the senses and argues influentially
against the rationalists' doctrine of innate ideas. Locke's sensationalism exerts great influence in the French
Enlightenment, primarily through being taken up and radicalized by the philosophe, Abb de Condillac. In
his Treatise on Sensations (1754), Condillac attempts to explain how all human knowledge arises out of sense
experience. Locke's epistemology, as developed by Condillac and others, contributes greatly to the emerging
science of psychology in the period.
Locke and Descartes both pursue a method in epistemology that brings with it the epistemological problem of
objectivity. Both examine our knowledge by way of examining the ideas we encounter directly in our
consciousness. This method comes to be called the way of ideas. Though neither for Locke nor for Descartes
do all of our ideas represent their objects by way of resembling them (e.g., our idea of God does not represent
God by virtue of resembling God), our alleged knowledge of our environment through the senses does depend
largely on ideas that allegedly resemble external material objects. The way of ideas implies the epistemological
problem of how we can know that these ideas do in fact resemble their objects. How can we be sure that these
objects do not appear one way before the mind and exist in another way (or not at all) in reality outside the
mind? George Berkeley, an empiricist philosopher influenced by John Locke, avoids the problem by asserting
the metaphysics of idealism: the (apparently material) objects of perception are nothing but ideas before the
mind. However, Berkeley's idealism is less influential in, and characteristic of, the Enlightenment, than the
opposing positions of materialism and Cartesian dualism. Thomas Reid, a prominent member of the Scottish
Enlightenment, responds to this epistemological problem in a way more characteristic of the Enlightenment in

general. He attacks the way of ideas and argues that the immediate objects of our (sense) perception are the
common (material) objects in our environment, not ideas in our mind. Reid mounts his defense of nave realism
as a defense of common sense over against the doctrines of the philosophers. The defense of common sense, and
the related idea that the results of philosophy ought to be of use to common people, are characteristic ideas of the
Enlightenment, particularly pronounced in the Scottish Enlightenment.

1.3 Skepticism in the Enlightenment

This skeptical/critical attitude underlies a significant tension in the age. While it is common to conceive of the
Enlightenment as supplanting the authority of tradition and religious dogma with the authority of reason, in fact
the Enlightenment is characterized by a crisis of authority regarding any belief. This is perhaps best illustrated
with reference to David Hume's skepticism, as developed in Book One of A Treatise of Human Nature (173940)
and in his later Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding (1748). While one might take Hume's skepticism to
imply that he is an outlier with respect to the Enlightenment, it is more convincing to see Hume's skepticism as a
flowering of a crisis regarding authority in belief that is internal to the Enlightenment. Hume articulates a variety
of skepticisms. His skepticism with regard to the senses is structured by the epistemological problem bound up
with the way of ideas, described above. Hume also articulates skepticism with regard to reason in an argument
that is anticipated by Bayle. Hume begins this argument by noting that, though rules or principles in
demonstrative sciences are certain or infallible, given the fallibility of our faculties, our applications of such
rules or principles in demonstrative inferences yield conclusions that cannot be regarded as certain or infallible.
On reflection, our conviction in the conclusions of demonstrative reasoning must be qualified by an assessment
of the likelihood that we made a mistake in our reasoning. Thus, Hume writes, all knowledge degenerates into
probability (Treatise, I.iv.i). Hume argues further that, given this degeneration, for any judgment, our
assessment of the likelihood that we made a mistake, and the corresponding diminution of certainty in the
conclusion, is another judgment about which we ought make a further assessment, which leads to a further
diminution of certainty in our original conclusion, leading at last [to] a total extinction of belief and evidence.
Hume also famously questions the justification of inductive reasoning and causal reasoning. According to
Hume's argument, since in causal reasoning we take our past observations to serve as evidence for judgments
regarding what will happen in relevantly similar circumstances in the future, causal reasoning depends on the
assumption that the future course of nature will resemble the past; and there is no non-circular justification of
this essential assumption. Hume concludes that we have no rational justification for our causal or inductive
judgments. Hume's skeptical arguments regarding causal reasoning are more radical than his skeptical
questioning of reason as such, insofar as they call into question even experience itself as a ground for knowledge
and implicitly challenge the credentials of Newtonian science itself, the very pride of the Enlightenment. The
question implicitly raised by Hume's powerful skeptical arguments is whether any epistemological authority at
all can withstand critical scrutiny. The Enlightenment begins by unleashing skepticism in attacking limited,
circumscribed targets, but once the skeptical genie is out of the bottle, it becomes difficult to maintain conviction
in any authority. Thus, the despairing attitude that Hume famously expresses in the conclusion to Book One of
the Treatise, as the consequence of his epistemological inquiry, while it clashes with the self-confident and
optimistic attitude we associate with the Enlightenment, in fact reflects an essential possibility in a distinctive
Enlightenment problematic regarding authority in belief.

Immanuel Kant
The methodology of epistemology in the period reflects a similar tension. Given the epistemological role of
Descartes' famous cogito, ergo sum in his system of knowledge, one might see Descartes' epistemology as
already marking the transition from an epistemology privileging knowledge of God to one that privileges selfknowledge instead. However, in Descartes' epistemology, it remains true that knowledge of God serves as the
necessary foundation for all human knowledge. Hume'sTreatise displays such a re-orientation less ambiguously.
As noted, Hume means his work to comprise a science of the mind or of man. In the Introduction, Hume
describes the science of man as effectively a foundation for all the sciences since all sciences lie under the
cognizance of men, and are judged of by their powers and faculties. In other words, since all science is human
knowledge, scientific knowledge of humanity is the foundation of the sciences. Hume's placing the science of
man at the foundation of all the sciences both exemplifies the privilege afforded to mankind's study of man

within the Enlightenment and provides an interpretation of it. But Hume's methodological privileging of
humanity in the system of sciences contrasts sharply with what he says in the body of his science about
humanity. In Hume's science of man, reason as a faculty of knowledge is skeptically attacked and marginalized;
reason is attributed to other animals as well; belief is shown to be grounded in custom and habit; and free will is
denied. So, even as knowledge of humanity supplants knowledge of God as the keystone of the system of
knowledge, the scientific perspective on humanity starkly challenges humankind's self-conception as occupying
a privileged position in the order of nature.
Immanuel Kant explicitly enacts a revolution in epistemology modeled on the Copernican in astronomy. As
characteristic of Enlightenment epistemology, Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason(1781, second edition 1787)
undertakes both to determine the limits of our knowledge, and at the same time to provide a foundation of
scientific knowledge of nature, and he attempts to do this by examining our human faculties of knowledge
critically. Even as he draws strict limits to rational knowledge, he attempts to defend reason as a faculty of
knowledge, as playing a necessary role in natural science, in the face of skeptical challenges that reason faces in
the period. According to Kant, scientific knowledge of nature is not merely knowledge of what in fact happens in
nature, but knowledge of the causal laws of nature according to which what in fact happens must happen. But
how is knowledge of necessary causal connection in nature possible? Hume's investigation of the idea of cause
had made clear that we cannot know causal necessity through experience; experience teaches us at most what in
fact happens, not what must happen. In addition, Kant's own earlier critique of principles of rationalism had
convinced him that the principles of (general) logic also cannot justify knowledge of real necessary
connections (in nature); the formal principle of non-contradiction can ground at best the deduction of
one proposition from another, but not the claim that one property or event must follow from another in the course
of nature. The generalized epistemological problem Kant addresses in the Critique of Pure Reason is: how is
science possible (including natural science, mathematics, metaphysics), given that all such knowledge must be
(or include) knowledge of real, substantive (not merely logical or formal) necessities. Put in the terms Kant
defines, the problem is: how is synthetic, a priori knowledge possible?
According to the Copernican Revolution in epistemology which Kant presents as the solution to this problem,
objects must conform themselves to human knowledge rather than knowledge to objects. According to Kant's
arguments, certain cognitive forms lie ready in the human mind prominent examples are the pure concepts of
substance and cause and the forms of intuition, space and time; given sensible representations must conform
themselves to these forms in order for human experience (as empirical knowledge of nature) to be possible at all.
According to Kant's epistemological revolution, we can acquire scientific knowledge of nature because we
constitute it a priori according to certain cognitive forms; for example, we can know nature as a causally ordered
domain because we originally synthesize a priori the given manifold of sensibility according to the category of
causality, which has its source in the human mind.
Kant saves rational knowledge of nature by limiting rational knowledge to nature. According to Kant's argument,
we can have rational knowledge only of the domain of possible experience, not of supersensible objects such as
God and the soul. Moreover Kant's solution brings with it a kind of idealism: given the mind's role in
constituting objects of experience, we know objects only asappearances, only as they are for us, not as they are
in themselves. This is the subjectivism of Kant's epistemology. Kant's epistemology exemplifies Enlightenment
thought by replacing the theocentric conception of knowledge of the rationalist tradition with an anthropocentric
However, Kant means his system to make room for humanity's practical and religious aspirations toward the
transcendent as well. According to Kant's idealism, the realm of nature is limited to a realm of appearances, and
we can intelligibly think supersensible objects such as God, freedom and the soul, though we cannot have
knowledge of them. Through the postulation of a realm of unknowable noumena (things in themselves) over
against the realm of nature as a realm of appearances, Kant manages to make place for practical concepts that are
central to our understanding of ourselves even while grounding our scientific knowledge of nature as a domain
governed by deterministic causal laws. Though Kant's idealism is highly controversial from the outset, it
represents the Enlightenment's most serious attempt to understand the cosmos in such a way that the
Enlightenment's conception of nature and the Enlightenment's conception of ourselves (as morally free, as
having dignity, as perfectible, et cetera) fit together in a single system.