Age of Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 18th century, first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason (rather than tradition, faith and revelation) and advance knowledge through science. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and some abuses by church and state.

Originating about 1650 to 1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727), and philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as Enlightened Despotism. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way to Romanticism's emphasis on emotion and a Counter-Enlightenment gained force.

In France, Enlightenment was based in the salons and culminated in the great Encyclopédie (1751–72) edited by Denis Diderot (1713–1784) with contributions by hundreds of leading philosophes (intellectuals) such as Voltaire (1694–1778), Rousseau (1712–1778) and Montesquieu (1689–1755). Some 25,000 copies of the 35 volume set were sold, half of them outside France. The new intellectual forces spread to urban centres across Europe, notably England, Scotland, the German states, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Spain, then jumped the Atlantic into the European colonies, where it influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, and played a major role in the American Revolution. The political ideals of the Enlightenment influenced the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Polish–Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791.

Read more about Age Of EnlightenmentUse of The Term, National Variations, Goals, Social and Cultural Interpretation, Dissemination of Ideas, Important Intellectuals

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