Unformatted text preview: Religion and
1450-1750 The New Scientific Spirit
• Like the Protestant Reformation, the scientific
revolution in the 17th century challenged many of the
beliefs long held by Europeans.
• Intellectuals challenged the limits of Aristotle and
• Skepticism, materialism and mathematics replaced
common sense and superstition
• Printing facilitated the dissemination of scientific ideas
• it largely occurred outside of the universities and
responded to practical problems.
responded The Question of Origins: Why Europe?
• the Islamic world was the most scientifically advanced realm in
• China’s technological accomplishments and economic growth
were unmatched for several centuries after the millennium
• but European conditions were uniquely favorable to rise of
• evolution of a legal system that guaranteed some
independence for a variety of institutions by twelfth/
• idea of the “corporation”—collective group treated as a
legal unit with certain rights
• autonomy of emerging universities
• University of Paris recognized as a corporation by 1215
• universities became zones of intellectual autonomy
• study of natural order began to separate from
philosophy and theology
philosophy The Question of Origins: Why Europe?
• In the Islamic world, science
remained mostly outside of the
system of higher education
• in madrassas (colleges),
growing disdain for
scientific and philosophical
inquiry The Question of Origins: Why Europe?
• Ming Chinese authorities did
not permit independent
institutions of higher learning
• Chinese education
focused on preparing for
civil service exams
• emphasis was on classical
Confucian The Question of Origins: Why Europe?
The • Western Europe could draw on the knowledge
of other cultures
• Arab texts were very important in the
development of European science between
1000 and 1500
• sixteenth–eighteenth centuries: Europeans
were at the center of a massive new
• tidal wave of knowledge shook up old ways
• explosion of uncertainty and skepticism
allowed modern science to emerge.
allowed The Nature of “Pre-Science”
• Nature is unpredictable
• Natural laws may exist
but they are hierarchical
• Knowledge often
appealed to authority
(Bible, Aristotle, etc.)
• Active involvement of
supernatural beings in
the The Meaning of Science
• Scientific method: a mixture of
observation and hypothesis (induction
• Basic assumptions about the natural
• natural phenomena have natural
causes that are predictable
• “Occam’s Razor”--the simplest
explanations tend to be the most
accurate and therefore the best
• Scientific findings should be public
and verifiable (testable) through the
scientific William of Occam (1235-1347) Geocentric
Model Copernicus (Polish, 1473-1543)
• Polish clergyman began the revolution in astronomy
Polish • 1543, published On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres
in which he attacked Aristotelian-Ptolemaic geocentric model
and replaced it with a heliocentric model: the earth and
planets revolved around the sun
• By placing the sun at the
center, he eliminated
many of the epicycles
from the calculations of
the orbits and explained
the phenomenon of the
retrograde movement of
Mars as an optical illusion
Mars Retrograde Movement of Mars
Retrograde Galileo Galilei (Italian, 1564-1642)
• Found more evidence to
support heliocentrism and to
challenge the view of the
universe as unchanging
• He used a telescope that
enabled him to view the moon
in great detail, four moons of
Jupiter, the phases of Venus,
• Hypothesized that the moon,
sun, and planets were no
more perfect than the earth
more Galileo before the Inquisition
• Galileo’s discoveries challenged common sense views like the sun rising
• If the Bible were wrong about planetary motion, the error came from the
Bible’s use of common language to appeal to the lower strata of society
•1616, the Church
forbade Galileo from
teaching that the earth
• 1633, he publicly
recanted his views to
save himself from
torture and death at the
hands of the Inquisition
• He spent his last
years under house
arrest and could publish
his work only in the
Dutch Andreas Vesalius (Flemish, 1514-1564)
• Contemporary of
Copernicus, he used public
dissections to show that
human internal functioning
was essentially a corporeal
structure filled with organs
arranged in three-dimensional
• He better explained the
functions of the organs and
explanations for bodily
events. Francis Bacon (English, 1561-1626)
Francis • Rejected appeals to authority in acquiring
• Predicted that the scientific method would
lead to social progress: “Knowledge is power.”
• He argued that because of Roman church
power most medieval scholars had been
restricted to scientific knowledge that was
defined by Aristotle; they could therefore only
produce “cobwebs of learning.”
• Scientific knowledge must be empirically
based (observation and experiment)
• He argued that the scientific method was
superior to popular belief and superstition.
• Advancement of scientific knowledge could
only occur with the free circulation of ideas in a
scientific community, unrestrained by church or
• He considered Protestant England to be the
only place in Europe where science could
develop. From the Closed World to
the Infinite Universe
• In the 16th and 17th centuries, transformations in the sciences had profound effects on the way that Europeans looked at themselves and
the world around them.
• Nature is not mysterious, but can be known through the scientific
method and mathematics
• Scientific ideas in the 17th century will lead to transformations in the
social and political life of Europe in the 18th century.
• To know nature is to master it, and to master it is to dominate it. The
effects of this domination would increase the quality of life for
Europeans: increased longevity, reduction in infant mortality, better
healthcare. It would also enable greater developments in technology
from optics to steel to automobiles to computers.
• But the scientific revolution of the 17th century will also lend itself to
more dangerous and unforeseen effects such as the domination of nonmore
European peoples, deadlier weapons of war, and the destruction of ecosystems. Enlightenment, 1740-1789
Enlightenment, Emerged as an intellectual movement before 1740, but
reached its peak in the second half of the century.
reached Applied the ideas of the scientific revolution to politics and
society. They emphasized progress and improving the human
condition. French Enlightenment writers called themselves
philosophes It was distinctively cosmopolitan, with writers
corresponding and traveling from Philadelphia to Moscow.
corresponding What united them was not nationality, but reason, reform,
and Kant: “Dare to know”, have the courage to think for
Enlightenment Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual Philosophes wanted intellectual freedom
and freedom of the press.
and Argued for natural rights, and freedom of
religion Progress depended on these freedoms. Most philosophes came from the upper
classes. Most philosophes did not hold academic
positions because the universities were run
by the clergy.
by Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749)
Émilie Philosophes also
included Emilie du Châtelet
on Leibniz and
Newton, and was
Voltaire’s lover for
time. French Salons
French Enlightenment ideas circulated through letters,
personal contacts, informal readings, periodicals.
personal French “salons” gave intellectual life a forum outside
of the royal courts and universities.
of Parisian salon of Madame Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin
(1699-1777) brought together many intellectuals of
the Her gatherings allowed for the discussion and
debate of ideas that would otherwise not be
published. Salons were very popular and spread throughout
Europe. French Salons
French David Hume (Scottish, 1711-1776)
David Criticism of religion was a
touchy subject because the
churches wielded much
power. Hume argued that belief in
God was based on
superstition and fear.
superstition After Newton, more
religion. Some became
atheists and others deists.
deists Many writers disputed
whether atheism would
lead to immorality.
lead Voltaire (1694-1778)
• In his most famous novel
Candide, He warned that an
ignorant, greedy, and unjust
society could not serve as the
basis for an Enlightened
• He believed that religion was
necessary for common people,
though not necessary for
• He distrusted democracy and
did not think the French
bourgeoisie could serve as the
catalyst for social and political
change. Secularism and Modernity
Secularism The Enlightenment advanced the secularism
that had begun following the wars of religion in
16th and 17th centuries.
16th Laid the foundations for the modern social
sciences. Many historians and philosophers today
consider the Enlightenment as the beginning of
“modernity,” the belief that reason should set
the patterns for human social and political life.
the Secularism and Modernity
Secularism Many philosophers disagreed about what reason
could and should do in society.
could Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau each
advocated different social arrangements based on
rational secular principles.
rational They had different concepts of the relation
between individuals and society.
between Both thinkers were and still are very influential. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Jean-Jacques Communitarian philosophy, towards
democracy and communism.
democracy Society threatened natural rights and
freedoms. “Man is born free, and everywhere
he is in chains.”
he He argued that science and art were
obstacles to moral freedom,
because they separated human
beings from their nature.
beings Advocated simplicity and rural life
close to nature.
close The Social Contract (1762), argued
that the tension between the
individual and society could be
relieved by individuals submitting
themselves to the “general will,” by
entering a social contract.
entering Adam Smith (Scottish, 1723-1790)
Adam Provided a theory of modern capitalist
societies, free markets, individual selfsocieties,
interests. Wealth of Nations (1776), individual
self-interest, even greed was
compatible with society’s interests.
compatible Laws of supply and demand
functioned like an “invisible hand.”
functioned Rejected mercantilism, and the
accumulation of national wealth in
gold, silver or agriculture.
gold, Argued that the division of labor in
manufacturing increases productivity,
and generates more wealth and
prosperity. Endorsed “laissez-faire”, or the
freedom of the economy from
government Advocated free trade between states. Immanuel Kant (Prussian, 1724-1804)
Immanuel The last major Enlightenment
philosopher Developed a critical philosophy
that he called “a Copernican
revolution”; Argued for the synthesis of rational
thought and empiricism.
thought Concepts of space and time are
intuited a priori conditions of all
knowledge (prior to experience).
knowledge In moral thought, the “categorical
imperative”: a good act is based
on a rule that can be applied to
anyone everywhere at the same
time. “What is Enlightenment?” (1784) Immanuel Kant (Prussian, 1724-1804)
• For Kant, Enlightenment liberates us from authority.
• Those who hold authority have mystery.
• The priest has special access to the mystery of religion;
it is through him that God comes towards us.
• The Enlightenment says that human reason is capable of
answering all the questions that the previous authority had
• When you have a rational claim, you’ve laid a path that
someone else can easily follow to the same conclusion.
• The “light” of the Enlightenment leads to knowledge in this
• For Kant, this frees us from authoritarianism; we now
understand the light of the world through the use of our own
reason. Dialectic of Enlightenment
Dialectic • In Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), Max Horkheimer and Theodor
Adorno contest Kant and question the optimism of Enlightenment and
the promise that science only improves the world.
• Writing in the 20th century after WWII, the Holocaust, the creation of
the atomic bomb, Horkheimer and Adorno argued that enlightenment is
another form of myth, that enlightened reason conceals an irrational
eruption of violence and destruction.
• “Man” becomes the master of nature through science and reason, but
this mastery creates destructive potentials as well.
this Dialectic of Enlightenment
“Enlightenment, understood in the widest
sense as the advance of thought, has
always aimed at liberating human beings
from fear and installing them as masters. Yet
the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with
triumphant calamity.” (Adorno, Horkheimer,
“No universal history leads from savagery to
humanitarianism, but there is one leading
from the slingshot to the megaton bomb.”
(Adorno, Negative Dialectics) Conclusion
Conclusion • Europeans increasingly gained an expansive view
of the world and their place in it.
• They developed “universal” and “objective”
standards with which to analyze the world and to
• The scientific curiosity and mastery of the natural
world was then applied to the social and political
worlds of the eighteenth century.
• The Enlightenment promised to improve the
• The Enlightenment will pave the way for the
Terms • Occam’s Razor
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