Enlightenment Part 5 - Enlightenment Part 5 5.1...

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EnlightenmentPart 5
5.1. Introduction5.2. Challenges to the Aristocratic Dominance5.3. Themes of Enlightenment5.4. The Impact of the Enlightenment5.5. The Consequences of the Enlightenment5.6. Conclusion: Enlightenment and Western Identity
5.1. IntroductionThe Enlightenment is the period in the history of western thought and culture, stretching from the seventeenth century through the eighteenth century, characterized by dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics; these revolutions swept away the medieval world-view and prepared our modern world. Enlightenment thoughtculminates historically in the political upheaval of the French Revolution, in which the traditional hierarchical political and social orders (the French monarchy, the privileges of the French aristocracy, the political power and authority of the Catholic Church) were violently destroyed and replaced by a political and social order informed by the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality for all, founded upon principles of human reason.
The Enlightenmentbeginswith the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The rise of the new science progressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that guides philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world by appealing to a relatively small number of mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old on the basis of its own principles.
5.2. Challenges to the Aristocratic DominanceIn the eighteenth century, the aristocracy was a small social group, usually no more than four percent of the population, but included the wealthiest and most powerful people in society. The aristocracy controlled most of the wealth, state office, Parliament and judiciary in the countries of Europe in the eighteenth century.The aristocracy was made up of the nobility and lesser aristocrats, sometimes referred to as the gentry. The nobility held hereditary titles and privileges, possessed great wealth and political influence, and were numerically smaller than the gentry, who were much less powerful and wealthy than the nobility.
As the wealthiest social group in European society, the aristocracy lived in luxury and showed off wealth as a sign of social status. Most of their income came from land. Aristocrats owned at least one-third of the land.In the eighteenth century, their wealth continued to increase, through investment in new economic enterprises in western Europe. Despite the aristocratic disdain of commerce, a great many aristocrats often behaved in capitalistic and entrepreneurial ways. In England the aristocracy had power and dominance in the glorious revolution of 1688. Even in the absolutist monarchies the aristocracy controlled the provincial assemblies, many offices of the bureacracy and the judiciary. They also set the standarts of cultural life.

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