What Are the Concerns of Enlightenment? What Distinguished the Enlightenment From the Baroque World? How Are the Arts, Religion, and Politics Challenged in the Enlightenment And by Whom?
The Age of Enlightenment was a great time of changes for the whole European society. In the middle of 16th century it became obvious that knowledge provided by the Bible and works of ancient authors are not enough to satisfy the demands of inquiring minds. It was time of scientific progress, when Isaac Newton found out and described law of gravitation, Christian Huygens invented pendulum clock and discovered Titan. It was the time when scientists developed new methods and philosophers invented new ideas. Regarding the politics, it was time when church lost its power and policy became more independent. This century humanity was presented with famous slogan of the French Revolution: “Liberte, egalite, fraternite ” (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood). Generally, this period can be described as investigation of human’s power and freedom; it was challenge to scientific mind, bloom of rationalism and analysis. It was the century that should “see the triumph of reason”, as famous French philosopher Voltaire said (Frazee 94).
The Enlightenment proposed new concerns to the society. Those concerns were related mostly to new understanding of knowledge. Philosophers believed in the age of reason and rational nature of human. The knowledge itself concerns the notions of power and control because it is considered to be the tool to achieve those. Besides, the term enlightenment reflects another concern of the epoch. With this concept thinkers of that time wanted to highlight that knowledge is some kind of a sunbeam that can illuminate people’s minds and educate them to be better. Philosophers proclaimed that knowledge is no longer an attribute of any particular class but an instrument that can be used by everybody; everybody should have access to scientific progress.
Undoubtedly, roots of the Age of Enlightenment lie in the previous epochs of Antiquity and Renaissance. It were antique philosophers and artists, who inspired scientists to discover strength of human body and abilities of mind, it were Renaissance writers, who proclaimed perfectness of the God’s main creation – the human. Thus, the main aim of Enlightenment was not only to confirm this statement but make everybody believe in their equality and power of education.
It is often hard to distinguish between Baroque and the Age Enlightenment because definition are usually related to description of objects or arts but the art was developing differently in different countries and in many cases this definition may mean different things. But the terms are more about another philosophy, mentality and point of view. According to this way of thinking, Baroque is “a civilization that can be associated with the period of absolute monarchy, with an alliance of church and state to maintain the hierarchal structure of society, and even with economic mercantilism” (Saisselin 4). The Enlightenment, on the other hand is a mentality opposed to that of the Baroque age: “…a pan-European intellectual-critical movement advocating religious tolerance, economic liberalism, modernization of the state, judicial and fiscal reform, and a revaluation of human nature in terms of a more optimistic and secular view of the destiny of man” (Saisselin 5). So, the Baroque epoch can be described as searching for a balance between the power of state and church, support of the existing values and state of the art. In turn, Enlightenment is a period of changes, examining of the present situation and introduction of new methods and ideas.
The personalities of Enlightenment left the significant trace in the history. Perhaps, the most important Enlightenment’s heritage is the achievement in politics. This period of time is associated with such famous persons as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Cesare Bonesana, Olympe de Gouges, Thomas Hobbes. The philosophic book Leviathan written by British scientist and thinker Hobbes in 1651 is considered to be one of cornerstones of the modern Western political philosophy. French female writer Olympe de Gauges became one the first feminists, whose thoughts reached the large audience. Italian lawyer and economist Cesare Bonesana in his book On Crimes and Punishment introduced a new reform regarding minor crimes against property (Frazee 97). But the most famous are creations by two Americans – Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. They both participated in writing the US Declaration of Independence. The document itself was inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment Age. Another document that appeared due to popularity of these ideals is Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen – the key document of the French Revolution.
Enlightenment brought new thoughts into religious studies as well. Scientific progress revealed that lots of natural events have another reason than simply will of God. And this resulted into a new understanding of the world by scientists and thinkers. The religion by them was replaced by philosophy. New discoveries in astronomy showed the history of creation described in the Bible as unscientific. Lots of people became the supporters of Deism. This both religious and philosophic movement was widespread among intellectuals of the 18th century. The main difference between deists and traditional church supporters was that deists believed that God is only responsible for initial creation. Intellectuals believed in power and strength of human and therefore rejected the traditional image of God. The epoch itself is characterized with criticism of the Christianity. The pamphlets and novels aimed to reveal sins of the church affected the Society of Jesus. In 1773 Pope Clement XIV ordered to dissolve the Jesuits as they were the most intolerant to other expressions of religion. Another way to lessen the pressure of the church was turning to the movement of Pietism. Supporters of it believed that personal spirituality is more important than church dogmas. Pietism gained the large audience in Great Britan and Germany due to Charles Wesley and Nicolas Zinzendorf. The greatest positive about secularization during the Age of Enlightenment is the growth of toleration between of all religious faiths.
The role of the epoch of Enlightenment for arts can be hardly overestimated. This especially refers to music, which began to develop very quickly. One of the most important factors of such a drastic change in approach to music is that it became no longer church decoration but also an accompaniment to the fashionable evening. It was time of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and George Frideric Handel. Bach is considered to be incredibly productive; his music was the basis for development of the secular music in the whole Europe. And the phenomena of the young Mozart is well-known as well as his famous symphonies, operas and marches. Joseph Haydn is another brilliant representative of the Enlightenment Age. He wrote over 100 symphonies. Finally, immortal heritage of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven should be mentioned. He created his sonatas and symphonies on the turn of the century, yet they are composed in accordance with Enlightenment norms (Lamm 453).
The epoch was also rich in writers. Such names as Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and Daneil Defoe are known to everyone interested in literature. By their works they try to persuade humanity that man creates his destiny by himself and he is the only one to be responsible for his actions.
The Age of Enlightenment is a great epoch in the history of humanity. Despite it ended with bloody French Revolution it was time when humans became aware of their power and understood they can change the world with their actions.
Frazee, Charles A. World History the Easy Way: A.D. 1500 to the Present. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 1997. Print.
Lamm, Robert C. Humanities in the Western Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print
Saisselin, Remy G. The Enlightenment against Baroque: Economics and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992. Print