Talk:Age of Enlightenment

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Inclusion of Alexis de Tocqueville under Important Figures[edit]

Hard to understand why he is included as an "Important Figure" of the Age of Enlightenment - the article states the Age as being from mid 17th century to 1804 at the latest, yet de Tocqueville lived from 1805 to 1859. Suggest removal. (talk) 04:51, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Why the 'social democracy' box ?[edit]

Why the 'social democracy' box ? OK I understand that social democracy was influenced by the Enlightenment but so were liberalism, anarchism, human right movement,... I don't see what makes it special on social democracy. If there's a reason please tell me, if not, either all (major) ideologies/movements/... should get a box (could be a bit to much, I guess) or none should get one —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:12, 28 September 2008 (UTC)

I agree, many, many things stem from the Enlightenment. It is somewhat disturbing to see that box and those behind it, in an attempt to 'muscle-in' and claim the Enlightenment as 'belonging to "social democracy"'. Little POV pushers, the Enlightenment does not belong to you!

I mean, you don't see the Mitsubishi motor's timeline beginning with, say, the wheel.

I notice their 'Social democracy' box contains 'Orthodox Marxism'. I'm guessing Marxism-on-paper is what they mean, because Marxism-in-practice usually results in an enormous number of, well... dead bodies.

Curiously, I notice in their box a conspicuous absence of any mention of, ahem... Gulag.

If there were to be any ideas that are worthy candidates for having their own 'box' on the Enlightenment page, they might be Freedom of expression, or Scientific method.

But in reality, the Enlightenment is too big and important to have any little POV pushing subgroupings lay claim to it.

The box should be begone. —Preceding unsigned comment added by WantonTree (talkcontribs) 03:30, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

Excellent points from WantonTree. Additionally, there is no source for this spurious and sweeping generalization: "The intellectual and philosophical developments of that age (and their impact in moral and social reform) aspired towards governmental consolidation, centralization and primacy" ...etc. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Wiki truth enlighten (talkcontribs) 02:01, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

There needs to be a concerted effort by moderators to request Marxists and Socialist Democrats to keep their activist agendas off a great many of the wiki entries. The discussion here makes valid points about the problems. In addition to an "enormous number of dead bodies" the Marxist ideologue has a consistent tendency to censor, and turn definitions into their opposites. Marxist relationship to factual and logical methods are on a par with Radical Religious Fundamentalism. Perhaps the longstanding tradition of intellectual dishonesty should be included in its own "Box" for a wiki entry called "Cult Methods," "Mind Control, "pseudo science," and "criminal philosophies to enslave the masses."

I am all for Marxists working on their own entry for Marxism. It might have a heading at the top that says "enter at your own risk." Each time a non-Marxist comes in to contribute some factual information, or edit any skewed paraphrases that contain logical fallacies - the Marxists can execute that contributor immediately and obsequiously report their blood lust do-goodings to their Dictator, "Moral Leader, and Teacher.' Maybe the Central Bankster will write them a check once in a while. Let's invite Scientologists, Moonies, Marxists, Radical Fundamentalists of every stripe, and every other member of the Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder Collective - to opt out of the business of explaining or imposing their version of reality onto any number of online world pedia entries when said pedia is founded on healthy human cognitive functions and needs. A few of these needs include pesky little things like facts, objectivity, context that illuminates the topic, on its own merit, rather than promotes activist agenda. O, and, of course, some accurate History would also be nice. Thanks. Wiki truth enlighten (talk) 05:26, 13 February 2009 (UTC)````

You might want to actually read the article before posting rants on talk pages. The social democracy box was removed a long time ago. --Saddhiyama (talk) 12:09, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
You might want to "actually read" the history and notice that I've contributed handily to this article - that my remarks are not a rant but point directly to the problem that relates absolutely to the same attitude that brought this box discussion to the fore. "Thinking inside the box" is precisely the right place for my remarks pertaining to this problem. You might also make a note that I'm already in this discussion a few passages up. I'm aware of what is going on as do those I'm mentioning. I realize there is a strong need by some to air their unconscious marxist sensitivity to any outspoken reproach or criticism of marxism. I'm sure the sensitivity is tough to live with. But let's keep it in the shrink's office where it belongs. We're dealing with real history here. Wiki truth enlighten (talk) 07:08, 14 February 2009 (UTC)
I am not quite what you are getting at, but it seems to have nothing to do with this article, so please take it to a forum outside of Wikipedia, if you still feel the need for airing your opinions on random subjects. --Saddhiyama (talk) 10:29, 14 February 2009 (UTC)


I think Britain should be changed to England and Wales, because of the Scottish Enlightenment being another large topic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:53, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

I agree - this piece comes across as too closely aligned with Roy Porter's ridiculous revisionist English nationalist presentation of the Enlightenment in the UK, which is noteworthy only as part of the recent school of anglo-saxon revisionism typified by the blatantly erroneous effusions of various rabid english nationalists in UK academia these days who nevertheless the broadcast media and publishing houses allow to parade their highly partial and distorted views without any consideration of their bias. Just say England here rather than Britain and perhaps have a link to the Scottish Enlightenment page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:16, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Updates to Article[edit]

Hello everyone. From a historiographical point of view, this article needs updating. Specifically, there is no description of the historiography of this period, nor are there any references to the vast amount of work on the social interpretation of the Enlightenment. I understand that a lot of people have put hard work into making this article what it is currently - it is not my intention to criticize the work that has been done so far. I would like to underline that I am not proposing any modification to the existing article - I am simply adding new information. But this new information is necessary.

I have written a series of additions to address these problems. My work is essentially a series of summaries and syntheses (within Wikipedia standards) of prominent Enlightenment historians. I have been criticized for being too academic; however, my articles are no more academic than other wikipedia articles, such as the Public Sphere. I have provided citations for every piece of information referenced. Nevertheless, for the time being I will refrain from editing this article until I have completed more revisions.

When I do re-submit my updates, please do not delete them out of hand. Instead, inform me and others what your specific problems are. That way, the article can be updated in a way that satisfies everyone's expectations. --JPSCastor (talk) 01:41, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

I have also been accused of writing my own analysis instead of that of the historians. This is not the case. There is a reason why I have cited almost every paragraph that I have or am going to add.

--JPSCastor (talk) 04:47, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

Good work! I've been intending to update this article for a while, but never seem to find the time. You've done a great job. As a history PhD student focusing on Enlightenment philosophy, I think your historiographical additions are highly valuable. Kudos. -- Palthrow (talk) 04:10, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
Thank you! I am a history student myself (as you may imagine!). I'm glad that you approve, as you probably know more about enlightenment philo than I do (hence my lack of updates concerning the intellectual side of things).--JPSCastor (talk) 03:38, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
I'd be happy to help out as well. I've written about the period (if anyone's interested, my homepage is here) and will be teaching my course on the European Enlightenment again this fall at Boston University and was going to try to integrate this entry and related entries into the course by having the students contrast the entry to the source materials they will be working with and discuss what might be improved. For the first few weeks of the course they will be going through the editing tutorials and exchanging ideas about possible improvements on a separate course wiki that I've set up on the course site. Sometime around the middle of October, I hope that they will be able to start contributing to this effort. After all, the period that gave us the Encyclopédie deserves to get the best of all possible Wikipedia articles. Any suggestions about particular areas where more work needs to be done would be deeply appreciated. JamesSchmidt (talk) 20:11, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Separate article for key figures[edit]

Just a proposal that came to me, for others to consider implementing. Would it be a better idea to create on the key figures of the enlightenment, currently a component of the article. A category such as this is really endless and likely to expand exponentially, so should we not perhaps create a separate article, where the discussion of the key figures will probably be able to develop a better structure, leaving this article to discussion of the general themes and progress of the period? I think this would also be better than incorporating the key figures discussion into the text, since then the article would be in danger of developing an old-fashioned "great thinkers" approach and sidenlining wider historical processes.Nwe (talk) 21:06, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Sorry Excuse for the Enlightenment[edit]

Where's the main ideas of the Enlightenment and it's affects on society in this article? All I see is history of it and some random uninteresting subjects dealing with it. What happened to the lesser-religious cause it had? And the improving of science? That is what the Enlightenment is all about at it's core. And next to nothing of it is here. This is really a terrible article for such a grand period of time. (talk) 15:50, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree. Philosophers are mentioned, in relation to Britain, but where are Newton, Priestley (and Lavoisier), and in particular the Lunar society, with Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Wright of Derby, and many others? I wish I had been told properly about the Enlightement in science at school. It is as if it has been hijacked by the arts. - Lindosland (talk) 15:36, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
I think this article combines two completely different movements. 1) The Age of Reason - i.e. natural philosophy methodologically independent of positive theology, as exemplified by Galileo, Newton, Descartes, which is covered in 17th-century philosophy, and 2) the Age of Enlightenment, an 18th-century movement toward liberal, egalitarian and anti-clerical political philosophy. It's senseless to combine the two. The leading intellectuals of the Age of Reason were primarily monarchical absolutists and devout Christians, while the Age of Enlightenment was characterized by republicanism and deism. Further, the Enlightenment actually moved away from rationalism, showing skepticism toward all systematic philosophy. JoeFink (talk) 20:34, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
It is far from as simple as that. You can find all the elements you mention, natural philosophy, rationalism, liberal egalitarian politics, religious tolerance, unbelief, support for absolute monarchy and devout Christians from the very beginning of the period in the 17th and all the way up until the end of the 18th century. --Saddhiyama (talk) 20:42, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Descartes' primary contribution to philosophy was to throw out all necessary a priori beliefs in a God or religion and simply examine the evidence of our senses and life experiences. He said that all philosophizing starts with this principle: "I think, therefore I am." or "Cogito ergo sum".

This was a radical idea: First, it turned away from the Church and religion and toward the individual in developing the start of a philosophy of life. And second, it did not say that divine being was the first principle, but rather that thinking or being humanly aware was the first principle--that God did not come first, but rather observation and reason came first. There were people who thought Descartes should be killed for his philosophy because it came directly from the devil. Such detractors did not care that Descartes used his philosophy to explain that God, too, existed: the fact that his very first principal of philosophy was based on human perception made him a dangerous man to many thinkers of the time. In fact, at one point Descartes had even readied a book for publication, The World, which supported, among other things, the Copernican belief that the planets revolve around the sun. However, when Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition in 1634, this Copernican belief was forbidden. Descartes wisely did not publish his own book supporting this belief.

However, he did go on to publish other works, two of the most important of which were the Discourses and the Meditations. It was in these and others in which he tried to create a perfectly rational philosophy, free of all false assumptions. He did include belief in God in his system--which, he claimed, could be rationally arrived at with proper observation of our thinking.

However, the die was cast by Descartes and by many others of his time, and the revolution of reason survived and grew. More rationalists came, and among philosophers three names were especially important:

Bacon (1561-1626), Spinoza (1632-1677), Voltaire (1694-1778; French)

Each of them advanced the theory of and belief in reason, sometimes connected to God and sometimes not, but always in itself primary. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:25, 14 January 2014 (UTC)


Just a thought: Pictures of people, places, etc, would enhance this article quite a bit. I started with one, but others would be welcome additions. Hires an editor (talk) 00:36, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

Sacred Circle[edit]

Someone removed my request for clarification without clarifying, so I put it back. What I'm saying is that it's not immediately apparent what a "sacred circle" is, and if you want to use this quote you have to explain what the phrase means. FYI check out what happens when you try to pull up "sacred circle" on wikipedia. Either this quote needs to be deleted or someone needs to explain what a "sacred circle" is.Yonderboy (talk) 23:12, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Proposed template changes[edit]

See here. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 19:30, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Over-reliance on one source[edit]

I note that the section on Freemasonry relies almost exclusively on Margaret Jacob as a source. This needs to change. It is never a good idea to base an entire section on just one source. While Jacob is certainly reliable, there are other scholars that would disagree with some of what she says. These contrary viewpoints need to be included to balance the article. Blueboar (talk) 12:55, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Good point -- I reduce the text, added new material, and broadened to include other sources, such as Palmer, who dispute the Jacob's argument.Rjensen (talk) 10:15, 29 September 2010 (UTC)
Much of that was excellent... but the over all change was a bit much to swallow in one gulp. Let's slow down and take it one step at a time. One question that I would love to see addressed is whether Freemasonry influenced the Enlightenment... or whether the Enlightenment influenced Freemasonry. Blueboar (talk) 14:22, 29 September 2010 (UTC)

Freemasonry did influence the enlightment —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:59, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Reason or Enlightenment?[edit]

The introduction contains the statement "most historians consider the Age of Reason to be a prelude to the ideas of the Enlightenment". But I can't see that the reference by Hackett does any more than treat the terms as rough synonyms. More typically the article by Frost suggests that the Enlightenment is part of a larger Age of Reason. But the latter Wiki article is a sorry affair, not much more than a list.

In addition the lead section gives the impression that it centres on the revolutionary period whereas most comment sees that period as its swansong. Could things not be a little more balanced? Including possibly redirecting "Age of Reason" to this article? Chris55 (talk) 09:10, 8 January 2011 (UTC)

Most sources I have read discerns between the Age of Reason, which is placed in the 17th century, and the Age of Enlightenment, which mostly played out during the 18th century. So I don't think redirecting Age of Reason to this article would be correct. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:10, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
While the enlightenment certainly peaks in the 18th century most treatments I've seen put its roots firmly in the 17th. e.g. Hooker's article which is used in the article to justify a mid-18th century start is actually talking about the 17th Century and writes "in the spirit of not dating the Enlightenment". Hackett mixes the two and indeed says 'The eighteenth century was primarily an "Age of Reason,"'. In fact the "Timespan" section settles for a start of the enlightenment between 1637 and 1687 and an end with the French Revolution - which I am happy with.
The philosophes of the 18th century who produced the encyclopédie were the epitome of men of reason. I suspect that the real problem is that Tom Paine hijacked the term "The Age of Reason" and people are reluctant to use it. But it's strange to limit it to the 17th century. What are your sources? Chris55 (talk) 15:56, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Also, several standard dictionaries associate "Age of Reason" with the 18th century, not the 17th.
American Heritage Dictionary: An era in which rationalism prevails, especially the period of the Enlightenment in England, France, and the United States
Collins English Dictionary: (Historical Terms) (usually preceded by the) the 18th century in W Europe See also Enlightenment
Wordnet 3.0: Enlightenment, Age of Reason - a movement in Europe from about 1650 until 1800 that advocated the use of reason and individualism instead of tradition and established doctrine; "the Enlightenment brought about many humanitarian reforms" i.e. Enlightenment and Age of Reason form a synset.
On this basis, the redirection is simply wrong. Chris55 (talk) 16:47, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't dispute that fact that the Age of Enlightenment by most historians is said to have begun or has roots in the late 17th century, I only dispute the fact that most historians equate the historiographical terms Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:01, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
It would not be illogical to call the "Age of Enlightenment" the "Age of Reason", it was probably the favorite expression for the era used by the enlightenment thinkers themselves (much more popular than "enlightenment"). I guess the division of the "Age of Reason" (also "Age of Rationalism", hinting at the application of rationalism to theology in the first half of the 17th century) and "Age of Enlightenment" is not so much a historiographical term, but more applied in the history philosophy, where "rationalism" as a school of thought appeared in the 17th century, and is distinct though heavily influenced the various age of enlightenment schools of thought of the 18th century (See this). I guess the term as used specifically for the 17th century was popularised by Will Durant, and that this distinction has been accepted by some, but apparently not to a degree that it can be used exclusively for one period or another without a disclaimer (see for example this). As such I guess it would not be unacceptable to include mention of the term here, but the ambiguitiy of it ought to be stressed. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:23, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the link to Will Durant, but I don't think a popular American writer ranks alongside the Oxford Dictionary. As for the Timeline it's a tertiary source like Wikipedia from which it may have got the idea. I haven't heard much mention of "The Age of Rationality", nor "Age of Enlightenment" for that matter—it's usually called the Enlightenment. Chris55 (talk) 11:43, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
I haven't heard of any "Age of Rationality" either, but the "Age of Enlightenment" is pretty common, however I don't know what your point is with that. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:57, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
True, my typo! As far as googling goes, "The Enlightenment" gives 1,810,000 hits,"Age of Enlightenment" 413,000, "Age of Rationalism" 43,900 (and "Age of Rationality" 10,300!). "Age of Reason" gives 2,260,000 incidentally. Since enlightenment with a definite article usually refers to the same thing, I think that does indicate its popularity. Chris55 (talk) 12:05, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
As someone with extensive graduate education in this field, I can say that Saddhiyama is right and Chris55 is wrong as far as Age of Reason being a mere synonym for the Enlightenment. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment are commonly understood by many Anglophone historians as markedly distinct concepts, though having some temporal overlap c. 1700. See my comment above under "Sorry Excuse for Enlightenment" for an explanation of this distinction. JoeFink (talk) 20:45, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
Citations please. Chris55 (talk) 11:41, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

Why did it occur when and where it did?[edit]

Why did the Enlightenment occur in 18th century Europe? Why then? Why not elsewhere, or at a different time? It would be nice to include a section on the best research on and analyses of this topic, contending perspectives, etc. — Preceding unsigned comment added by DaleMurphy (talkcontribs) 21:33, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

That's precisely what I found staggering. The Peace of Westphalia was signed in 1648, ending the 30 Years War. What is now taken as the start of Enlightenment or Reason or whatever, came two years later. It is plainly obvious the War was the end of the old world and Reason was the start of the new.
It is also obvious that rich French and English cities repudiated the ruined German countryside. How did these people, before there really even was science or scientific method, know so unerringly what "superstition" was? What analysis did they make? What treatises did they publish? Any at all? Should this article not cite the major works which proved that superstition was in fact superstition? Were there any? The actual published works simply bypass "superstition" altogether. They survey the countryside from an exclusively city-based, materialistic viewpoint and then insist this viewpoint was the only one possible. By contrast, there were, for example, numerous texts, from those who lived in the countryside, that give explicit instructions on how to counteract witchcraft, among them William Lilly's Christian Astrology of 1647 and Joseph Blagrave's Astrological Practice of Physick of 1671. Based on the direct experience of their authors. This is not to say that witchcraft was good or bad, only that it WAS. The Enlightenment was a point of view. The present article is wildly one-sided.
Astrology got caught up in this, condemned as fake, merely because they could get away with it. Astrology, which reveals truth at a glance, has no friends, has never had friends, and never will have friends. The gamble the Enlightenment made was that no one would ever repudiate the Enlightenment itself. Regrettably for its many advocates, this repudiation is now well underway. Dave of Maryland (talk) 22:08, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

Newtonian Enlightenment[edit]

There is not enough on the Newtonian Enlightenment - that is, Newtonianism and its ties with the Enlightenment, seen often as so much a distinct section of the Enlightenment that it is labelled the 'Newtonian Enlightenment'. Resources/references/etc, check: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. There is plenty more, too, if you search for it. Kfodderst (talk) 12:36, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

While mentioning of Newton and his influence is certainly warranted in the article, none of the sources you list mentions anything about a distinct "Newtonian Enlightenment". --Saddhiyama (talk) 13:22, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
It was not - it was part of the Enlightenment, definitely, but treated in some cases as a different 'type' - ie, reason and science, etc. That would be going overboard, but what we can do is just to bring a bit more light on to Newton's influence.Kfodderst (talk) 21:21, 5 April 2011 (UTC)


There does not seem to be anything about the influence of Spinoza on the ideas of the Enlightenment. Any reason for this? Oxford73 (talk) 12:57, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

The reason is because noone has taken the time to write about it yet. But yes it seems appropriate to add something about him, especially considering the works of Jonathan Israel that has made quite a stir in the academic community this last decade with his (as of yet unfinished) trilogy about the radical enlightenment (a term which deplorably doesn't even have its own article yet). --Saddhiyama (talk) 16:24, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

Added a sentence. Oxford73 (talk) 18:19, 29 April 2011 (UTC)


The Freemasonry section could do with an edit, for example there is no evidence that Sir Robert Walpole was a Freemason, so perhaps sources could be obtained for the examples of Freemasons that are mentioned. Masonic ritual could be mentioned - the ritual contains certain phrases which refer to Newtonian natural philosophy, and a greater mention of the contribution of Freemasons to the French Revolution, such as Jean Paul Marat. May I suggest a little expanding of the section referencing more works on the origins of Freemasonry in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.--Masonreview (talk) 19:11, 23 May 2011 (UTC)


I have added a POV notice at the top of the page. This article pushes a view that people were "dogmatic" and unthinking before the late 17th century, slavishly beholden to the church, and only then began questioning things. Much of what it ascribes to the enlightenment, such as a tendency to question authority and commonly held views, including religion and Aristotelian thought, had been going on since time immemorial. It didn't just begin out of thin air around the time of the Glorious Revolution.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 20:44, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

the article does not say that at all--which specific sentences are suspect? which RS is Quarkgluonsoup using?Rjensen (talk) 21:08, 5 June 2011 (UTC)
I can give numerous examples, not the least of which being the first sentence in the intro. It is true that "reason" was an emphasis of the enlightenment, although "reason" has been the emphasis of intellectual movements for thousands of years. It is much like saying "answers" or some other overly broad term was the emphasis. It also implies that "reason" was not the emphasis of past intellectual movements.
Besides that, the article is filled with claims that Europe before the enlightenment was plagued by "dogma" and "superstition". For example

"Historian Peter Gay asserts the Enlightenment broke through "the sacred circle,"[18] whose dogma had circumscribed thinking. The Sacred Circle is a term used by Peter Gay to describe the interdependent relationship between the hereditary aristocracy, the leaders of the church and the text of the Bible. This interrelationship manifests itself as kings invoking the doctrine "Divine Right of Kings" to rule. Thus church sanctioned the rule of the king and the king defended the church in return.

Dogma? The text of the bible wasn't even an issue until the reformation. I notice someone complained about this above, noting that sacred circle isn't even what is suggested here.

"The Enlightenment is held to be the source of critical ideas, such as the centrality of freedom, democracy, and reason as primary values of society. This view argues that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism, the scientific method, religious tolerance, and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophes in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change."

The enlightenment is the source of "freedom, democracy and reason"? "Apply rationality to every problem" as an "essential change" from the past? A focus on "self-governing republics" wasn't even a major goal of the enlightenment, while "religious tolerance" was certainly not a part (at least not tolerance of protestants by catholics or catholics by protestants).
My source is the seminal philosophic work of the 20th century:
Not only does this book make these points, but it also makes the point that the enlightenment was, in large part, a protestant reaction against the catholic counter-reformation, or at least it was fueled by the intellectual ideas that came out of that reaction. There is a pretty large component of the enlightenment (in particular its origin) that is religious in nature, and that is completely absent from the article. If anything, the article portrays the enlightenment as being a movement away from religion. Much of what is cited, like "freedom democracy and reason" were the battle cries of protestants, both before the enlightenment and after, against "popery" and the catholic church.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 02:21, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
The quote from Peter Gay is not POV (it clearly says who thinks that). It is not about the text of the Bible at all--it's about the divine right of kings, an idea rejected by the Enlightenment (and by the Declaration of Independence). Russell is not current on modern scholarship, but go ahead and add him if you think he's an important reliable source. As for the centrality of "reason" -- all the RS make that point. The problem is that editors are not allowed to argue with the sources. If they think a statement is wrong they have to find a RS to say that. Rjensen (talk) 03:43, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
What this article has, is a set of quotes from sources who hold one particular view. That is POV. It is true that "reason" was a central emphasis but it was also central throughout much of human history, and elevating it here in such a way that suggests it was a new concept arriving to cure an age of "ignorance and superstition" is POV and just inaccurate. As for the Divine Right of Kings, it was the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars who "broke through" that "sacred circle", not the enlightenment.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 05:17, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
The article cites many different scholars with different viewpoints. "one particular view" is a false characterization. It's false to assert that reason "was also central throughout much of human history." It is a mystery what sources you are relying upon for these sweeping claims. Rjensen (talk) 05:48, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
I did cite one. Here is another, and it is quite recent[1]. It says the same thing. Actually all of the books I have read on the topic say the same thing. The quotes on the page do hold to the same view: ignorance and dogma dominated until the enlightenment broke through it all.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 06:02, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
I challenge your summary of Russell. What edition are you using? Can you quote him directly? My reading is that he does not link democracy to the reformation/counter-reformation.Rjensen (talk) 06:09, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
This is a complex question, as his views appear throughout the work. On page 496, he mentions that the emancipation from the church began with the Italian renaissance, centuries before the enlightenment ("they substituted the authority of the ancients for that of the church. This was, of course, a step towards emancipation". His discussion of the Italian renaissance begins the "modern" section that leads up to and beyond the enlightenment. P525, about the reformation "disgust with theological warfare (here he refers to the wars in the 16th and 17th centuries) turned the attention of able men increasingly to secular learning, especially mathematics and science". The entire chapter on the reformation drives in this point. In his chapter on the Rise of Science, he notes that science began its rise in the early 16th century with Copernicus. In the chapter on Descartes, whom he calls the founder of modern philosophy, he notes that he worked in the context of the scholasticism in which he had been trained in. Or look at page 597 "Early liberalism was a product of England and Holland, and it had certain well-marked characteristics. It was protestant (he italicizes 'protestant' for some reason) regarded the wars of religion as silly. It valued commerce and industry, it favored the rising middle class rather than the monarchy and particular the divine right of kings was rejected". What he is saying is that the movement that grew into the enlightenment grew out of its moderate protestant temperament, which also rejected extreme forms of protestantism. He also says of the creation of this: "the first important breach in this system (the hold of the catholic church on intellectual development) was made by protestantism, which asserted that general councils may err. To determine the truth no longer became a social but an individual enterprise". He then goes on to link the development of what became the enlightenment with the English reformation and the English Civil War. At some point this becomes redundant. The book is filled with such examples.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 06:47, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
and I challenge your use of Hannam--he does not cover the 18th century or Enlightenment, and is instead looking at much earlier science. Rjensen (talk) 06:19, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
Actually his last chapter focuses on Galileo, at the beginning of the enlightenment period, and his epilogue on the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also the entire point of his book.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 06:49, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
Galileo is not part of the Enlightenment--much too early (he died jus t before Newton was born) and anyway he says Galileo marks the beginning of a new age of science. It is not relevant to the article. You have complete misread Russell. He explicitly says the Reformation and Counter-ref were backward looking and he never says they introduced democracy (Luther? Calvin?) Notice that Russell disagrees with Hannan on when science begins. He has "reason:" as a factor beginning in late 17th century (start of Age of Enlightenment) not before. Rjensen (talk) 07:18, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
No, you have missed the forest for the trees in Russell. Russell is describing a process (that actually begins long before the Renaissance) that has some successes and some failures. He mentions the good and bad of the Renaissance in its attempts to break free of the "dogma" of the church, and that (this is says outright) the intellectual consequences of the reformation were dubious at first, but in the long term positive. He makes the same point as Hannam on science: "modern science" begins around the 18th century, though "science" in a broader since began long before. Russell mentions the progress of "reason", and makes it clear that it does not start with the enlightenment. Just as he mentions some of the negative intellectual consequences of the other events, he does this with the enlightenment too: the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. My changes are about this point: not that nothing of importance happened during the enlightenment but that "reason" and emancipation from the "dogma" of the church didn't just appear in the late 17th century, but were due to a long standing process of fits and starts. And the quote I revised from Hannam comes from his commentary in his conclusion on the 18th/19th century.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 07:27, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
you badly misread Russell. he has the age of reason starting in the late 17th century (as does the article), and shows how reactionaries had rolled back earlier advances-- Dates are all important here and you miss them by 50-100 years or more. Russell and Hannam sharply disagree about the history of science so you have to Choose one or the other. Rjensen (talk) 08:07, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
Surely you can't be missing my point that easily. Understand an important point here: "age of reason" and the use of reason are two entirely different things. The "age of reason" (simply a term scholars today use to define a particular period of time) did begin in the late 17th century, and I don't think we should change that date. The use of reason, however, did not just spring into being in the late 17th century. The article is misleading because, I guess, it assumes that "age of reason" and the use of reason were one in the same. Russell is very clear about this, and that the use of reason in the centuries before the beginning of the "age of reason" were what lead to the "age of reason" and constituted the intellectual that edifice thinkers in the "age of reason" grew out of.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 08:23, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
Oh and I can just as easily use this book [2] to make the same points. The simple fact is that the points I am making are true: the use of "reason" and opposition to religious "dogma" didn't begin in the "age of reason" in the late 17th century. The aspects of the "age of reason" that are discussed on this page were outgrowths of trends that had been underway for centuries.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 08:29, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
I've read Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years and cited it at Wikipedia---he says no such thing. The Reformation was tied to the Bible (not Reason) and the Counter-Reformation was tied to Catholic traditions and teaching. Poor Galileo, indeed. Russell does NOT say any major movement was dedicated to reason before the Enlightenment, nor does Hannom or MacCulloch or anyone else. You need to read some better scholarship. You need to quote exactly the sources you are trying to use--trying to remember what it said does not do the job. Rjensen (talk) 08:47, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
Who said anything about a major movement "dedicated to reason". My argument, as I keep saying but you seem not to get, is that reason and the other tools of the enlightenment predated the enlightenment by centuries. The enlightenment tied them all together, it didn't create them out of nothing. Again, I don't know why you don't understand my point, it is very simple: a movement fixated on reason and the use of reason are two entirely different things. The scholarship I cite must not be too bad, given that you have read and cited this stuff too. I did quote what you asked, verbatim, above, even giving page numbers. Actually the Reformation was not simply "tied to the bible" although the bible was of course an important part. It was a rejection of the monarchy of the pope and the catholic church, and championed the freedom to practice religion as the individual wanted, rather than the way the pope (a monarch) decreed. The ideology that was developed to justify the political and theological ramifications of rejecting the person claimed to be the successor of St. Peter included much of what you see in the enlightenment (democracy, individual reason, hostility to monarchy, hostility to 'ignorance and superstition', etc). The author of "Christianity" saws outright near the beginning of his discussion on the enlightenment that it was a movement born out of the protestant tradition, and most of its proponents were protestants. Go ahead an reread the part of "Christianity" on the enlightenment, as everything I am saying here you will see there. The reformation in england saw a very strong democracy develop over the 17th century, mostly as a result of protestant concern of future catholic kings like Bloody Mary unless the people had a check on the absolute power of the king. The Enlightenment was little more than a rehashing of these ideals in a more political stable environment. The Book "Christianity" is probably the strongest on this point, and is quite recent.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 09:05, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
reason was denigrated and never made a high priority before the Enlightenment. Lines like "practice religion as the individual wanted" are false (try it in Geneva and get burned at the stake), but besides the point. Russell does NOT see democracy coming out of the Reformation/Counter-Ref, nor does any other historian. "very strong democracy develop over the 17th century" is false regarding England (there were no popular elections). "Enlightenment was little more than" -- than nothing at all unless you actually READ some of those books--so far you have not cited any that deal with the 18th century. Here at Wikipedia we rely on quotes from reliable sources. Rjensen (talk) 09:19, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
No doubt people like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and William of Ockham (along with all of the other ancient/scholastic/humanistic philosophers) would disagree with your assertion that "reason was denigrated and never made a high priority before the Enlightenment". What in Geneva do you refer to? Protestants wanted people to be able to practice religion how they wanted (i.e. not be beholden to the pope). The authority of the pope was the central issue, not the bible or "reason", and it was the issue over which one could be "burned at the stake". There were certainly elections in England in the 17th century, although of course the franchize was limited, much more so at the beginning than at the end of the 17th century. In any case, at the time (and up until the American Revolution) virtual representation was the way in which the popular will was represented, and the House of Commons was democratic in so long as, through elections, it represented the commons regardless of how far the franchize was extended. I did cite from Russell's book some quotes of the 18th century (although our issue here is whether "reason" existed before that time, so citations before the 18th century are key to our issue).Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 18:08, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
I am completely amazed that you refuse to accept (or even acknowledge that I am making the point) that reason existed before the late 17th century.Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 18:10, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
It sounds to me like Quarkgluonsoups beef is with the way that historians interpret the enlightenment. If that is so then the user should take the discussion to an academical journal, and try to change the academical consensus on that, because we do not do original research here on Wikipedia. --Saddhiyama (talk) 09:43, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
"reason existed before" -- yes but it was not a central theme -- it was ridiculed and downplayed until then, and finally released by the Enlightenment, as Russell says. Rjensen (talk) 19:29, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
No? That would come as a surprise to the scholastics, Martin Luther and the ancient philosophers. So was reason not a central theme for Aristotle? Or Aquinas? Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 00:19, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
The religious folk all believed in God / Bible the source of truth. Rjensen (talk) 00:24, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
Aquinas certainly did not think that the bible was the ultimate source of truth, but reason. He thought that God and nature could be understood through reason, because God was inherently rational. The claim that Christians have always thought that the bible was the ultimate source of truth demonstrates just how much the intellectual movement that began with the reformation has impacted all of our thinking. What you just said is a distinctively protestant view. It was partly born out of a reaction against catholicism, which did not see the bible as the ultimate source of truth, and instead looked at a whole range of things (the bible, natural law, church customs, etc) and applied reason to this vast milieu to understand things.
Are you arguing then that Aristotle thought the bible was the ultimate source of truth?Quarkgluonsoup (talk) 02:54, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
Please keep the discussion to matters directly related to the improvement of the article. If you have specific suggestions or sources to present do it here, theological and philosophical discussions should be carried out elsewhere. --Saddhiyama (talk) 09:42, 7 June 2011 (UTC)

Important figures[edit]

Rjensen: I have been following your work on this article with pleasure, since it is a very messy article and was badly in need of some qualified attention. However I couldn't help but notice you removed Thomas Paine and Rousseau from the list of "Important figures" with the explanation that they were dubious.

First of all let me just say that I do think that the list is a poor solution and the best way would be to incoorporate all the names mentioned into the article text itself, but until such time that is all we have.

Thomas Paine is not mentioned in the article even once, Rousseau only a couple of times in passing. Do you really think that Thomas Paine and Rousseau was dubious as "Important figures" in the enlightenment? Despite Rousseaus conflict with enlightenment philosophy, his contributions most noticeably in his Social Contract and Émile was still major influences. Paines work was also followed eagerly from the time of the American Revolution and onwards and were translated into a number of European languages in his own time. Most historians including Peter Gay, Robert Darnton and Jonathan Israel and the authors of the Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought includes them as enlightenment figures of importance. I would think based on this that they do warrant inclusion on the list. --Saddhiyama (talk) 12:16, 8 June 2011 (UTC)

yes I agree and will add them back with somewhat different characterizations. Rjensen (talk) 12:22, 8 June 2011 (UTC)

the enlightenment was an age of reason and lead to a revolution. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:31, 17 June 2011 (UTC)

Bad link[edit]

Reference 13 has a bad link. Hooker, Richard (1996). "The European Enlightenment". Retrieved 2008-01-18.

( — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:13, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

the beginning of the 18th century (1700)[edit]

1700 is not the beginning of the 18th Century (1701 - 1800), but the end of the 17th (1601 - 1700). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:00, 24 October 2011 (UTC)


This paragraph is now in the article.

The term "Enlightenment" came into use in English during the mid-18th century,[2] with particular reference to French philosophy, as the equivalent of a term then in use by German writers, Zeitalter der Aufklärung, signifying officially the philosophical outlook of the 18th century. However, the German term Aufklärung was not merely applied retrospectively; it was already the common term by 1784, when Immanuel Kant published his influential essay Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment?

The paragraph does not make sense, date wise. 1784 is after the mid-18th century, so the 1784 Kant citation does not indicate that "the German term Aufklärung was not merely applied retrospectively." I hesitate to edit out the nonsense, not being a historian, but if no one answers this point I'll do so.

Furthermore, it was silly to translate the title of the Kant essay when the point was his use of the German term Aufklärung. Also serious discussion is needed concerning the difference of the English and the German terms. A closer synonym to the German term exists in English and a closer synonym to the English term exists in German. The word choices were therefore interesting.

Dcouzin (talk) 23:33, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Change the name of disambigation[edit]

People should understand that the world is not only about Europe... The name of the disambigation should be changed to "18th Century philosophy in Europe" or something similar because in other parts of the world, there were different ways of thinking.

If its not done, I will do it myself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:15, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

French nomenclature[edit]

Regarding this reversal, what I meant to say was "...just too complicated for the lead". You are welcome to add a well-sourced section to the article about it, but it doesn't belong in the lead. Thanks. --Saddhiyama (talk) 20:19, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

Nothing on Italy?[edit]

It is odd that the 'national adaptations' section does not feature Italy. Franco Venturini's fine book: Italy and the Enlightenment: Studies in a Cosmopolitan Century is a good start, but this is already a bit old and a great deal of work has gone into looking into the distinctive Italian enlightment: Cesare Beccaria's important work on penal reform, legal and historical philosophy at Naples and Milan, the interesting scientists and thinkers at Como. It would take me too long to do this but someone really should as this seems a major weakness of the present article.

PRC 07 (talk) 14:35, 8 April 2012 (UTC)

I strongly agree that the article has large gaps involving Enlightenment contributors from other countries, including from Italy. As mentioned in the article, Jonathan Israel has demolished the traditionally narrow focus of Enlightenment history and has established a much broader base. His book "Radical Enlightenment" would be another source for describing the seminal role of such important Italian contributors as Vico. As Turgot wrote ("On the Successive Advances of the Human Mind", 1750): "I salute you, Italy, happy land, for the second time the country of of letters and taste, the source whence their waters are shed to fertilize our regions." Marc.riese (talk) 07:38, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

In addition to Venturi's work, it might be worth mentioning John Robertson's The Case for Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680-1760 (Cambridge 2005), a work that is much indebted to Venturi's general approach. Robertson sees himself as responding to what he regards as the shortcomings of the "Enlightenment in National Context" approach (see his “The Enlightenment above National Context: Political Economy in Eighteenth-Century Scotland and Naples,” The Historical Journal 40, no. 3 (September 1997): 667–97). JamesSchmidt (talk) 19:46, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Apparent misquote in "Use of the term" section[edit]

The first sentence of the "Use of the term" secion is this,

According to Kant, The Enlightenment was "Mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error."

This appears to attribute the quote to Kant himself. However, the quote (as far as I can tell) is actually taken from the book, The Enlightenment by Roy Porter (who is mentioned in the next sentence) and should be correctly attributed to him. To quote Porter's book,

"For Kant, Enlightenment was mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error."

Stokes dk (talk) 19:03, 27 June 2012 (UTC)

The first sentence of Kant's "What is enlightenment?" is according to one translation "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity." but clearly Porter's statement has done the rounds. I agree the attribution should be made clear. Chris55 (talk) 11:26, 28 June 2012 (UTC)
It strikes me that "final coming of age" goes well beyond what Kant claims about "enlightenment" (which is not quite the same things as a claim about "the Enlightenment") in his essay. Towards the close he observes "If it is now asked, 'Do we now live in an enlightened age?' the answer is, 'No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment.'" As it stands, the Porter quote makes it sound as if Kant thought that humanity had achieved full "maturity" (or however you want to translate Mündigkeit). But, at least as I read him, his claim is a bit more modest. JamesSchmidt (talk) 12:55, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Support for Counter-Enlightenment? in Use of Term section[edit]

re: the last sentence of the section Should there be some (a couple, a few?) appropriate names who were part of the Counter-Enlightenment? I perused the entry for "Counter-Enlightenment", but perhaps someone more in tune with the subject would be best to choose which names best apply to this article.

The enlightenment came from the US?[edit]

Was the Enlightenment really a joint US+Europe production, or was it a European production that influenced the US (plus other regions, maybe to a lesser degree).

I've had to follow courses in history and philosophy, but reading this article is the first time I've seen the claim that it was a joint US+Europe production. Gronky (talk) 21:29, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

The second para. of the lede seems to sum it up pretty well. The Enlightenment ended roughly around 1800 according to the intro, so the American Revolution, which influenced the French Revolution, would seem to be a pretty major - perhaps even culminating - event in the Enlightenment, and it occured in America, so...Shoreranger (talk) 21:58, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
the Americans were thoroughly integrated into European thought -- esp Franklin & Jefferson. Rjensen (talk) 22:27, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Franklin & Jefferson certainly learned from the Enlightenment, and applied the philosophy in their political work. Were they also philosophical pioneers and large contributors to Enlightenment thinking (as opposed to the pragmatic application - an area where the USA certainly did break new ground)?
The second para omits numerous constitutions and declarations that were influenced by the Enlightenment, and gives undue weight to the USA.
I'm not an expert in this topic, but the coverage doesn't fit with my slightly-better-than-layman knowledge, and it contradicts the Wikipedias of other languages:
  • Dutch: it was European, especially France
  • French: it was European
  • German: it was European and American
  • Italian: it was European
  • Portuguese: it was European, and spread to America (2nd para is translation of English article)
  • Spanish: Enlightenment was European, especially France and England
Is it not possible that an over-abundance of contributors from the USA has skewed the balance on en.w.o? Gronky (talk) 00:12, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
The Americans were famous for applying theory to practice, and that captured the attention of Europe, as in the Declaration of Independence. There is no contradiction because at the time (intellectually and politically) the Americans were integrated into European thought. Rjensen (talk) 00:21, 15 August 2012 (UTC)


Is there any specific date the enlightment began? Im just wondering — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:21, 1 November 2012 (UTC)


Where is the part about France? There should crtainly be one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Thecommander15 (talkcontribs) 01:39, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

Time span[edit]

In the German Wikipedia there're different articles for the "Age of Enlightenment" and the "Enlightenment" itself. In the English Wikipedia, there unfortunately isn't. The chapter "Time span" wrongly suggested that the Enlightenment itself was complete and a thing of the past. But this is absolutely wrong: It might be true for the Age of Enlightenment, only, but definitely not for the Enlightenment itself. This is, because the struggle of the reasoning / science versus belief / religious dogmas is still ongoing. The "coming of age of mankind" (which the Enlightenment is according to Kant) is not complete, yet. Therefore, I added a paragraph to the Time span chapter stating that the term "Enlightenment" is also understood as a still ongoing project. Nlmarco (talk) 06:17, 9 February 2013 (UTC)

religion section is OR[edit]

The new section on religion is original research, based on the editor's own reading of primary sources. (there is only one reference to a RS by Margaret C. Jacob, and she spends only 4 pp on religion). Unless it is updated to modern RS it will not meet Wikipedia criteria. Rjensen (talk) 12:46, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

I find the religion section to be factually incorrect and deeply offensive. It states:

"many theorists actually believed a person’s faith to be indicative of his or her nature. If Catholics were given to submissiveness and obedience to the law, atheists gave themselves to no Supreme Authority and no law"

Who are these "many theorists"??? I know of no Enlightenment era thinkers who believed in that particular religious bigotry that Catholics were by nature "given to submissiveness". Furthermore the author of this section seems to equate atheism with anarchy in his assertion that if atheists regognize no Supreme Authority they are therefore subject to "no law" at all. Again, I know of no Enlightenment era thinkers who made such an assertion. Thomas Paine, Baruch Spinoza, David Hume, and even Thomas Jefferson were widely considered by many of their contemporaries to have atheist leanings. Moreover, the Deism movement was a fundamental rejection of Christianity. Even if some of the Deists believed in some sort of pan-theistic Creator deity, they did not believe in the God of the Old and New Testament, nor with Biblical claims of supernatural miracles or prophesies. So, the Deists were much closer to modern atheists than they were to modern Christians. Reading this section gives the impression that the Deism movement was some new type of reformed Christianity. It was not. It was a rejection of all Christinity, except for some of its moral principles, and an embrace of science. Their reverential awe for science and nature was the heart of their faith NOT worship of a Biblical god who delivers laws on stone tablets from above and plots to destroy life in a global armageddon. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tompage1 (talkcontribs) 22:51, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

well I fixed it, removing some of the claims and sourcing it to Reliable secondary sources. Rjensen (talk) 23:11, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Good work. Although I have an objection against this particular section:
"Pierre Bayle, a Catholic, was in contrast perfectly amenable to Catholic doctrine and the theology of Thomas Aquinas, but he agreed that the best way to resolve religious disputes was to avoid particulars and maintain a properly meek and genteel attitude towards fellow Christians.[1] [2]"
Pierre Bayle was born and raised a Huguenot, but briefly converted to Catholicism during a stay at a Jesuit University in Toulouse, because that was the only option for his family. As soon as he graduated he repented this move and converted back to his original faith, and while he was an early vocal proponent of tolerance, he certainly never missed a chance of criticising Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastic school of thought. And especially the Catholic Church in France and the measures taken at that time by Louis XIV to violently convert Huguenots, a few years before the Edict of Nantes was finally revoked, measures that cost the life of his older brother. This remained one of his main points in his writings. All his written works was published long after his reconversion, and while he didn't refrain from criticising Calvinism and reformism as well (ending in the brutal literary fight with Pierre Jurieu), he certainly didn't give Catholicism and Thomas Aquinas a break either. It is even generally accepted that his purported fideism in his works is only a cover for a belief ranging from general scepticism at best to outright atheism. There is no contemporary scholarship that would claim he was a Catholic or accepting the theories of Thomas Aquinas.
I am not familiar with the source in the citation, but I would very much like to know the exact quotation that is supposed to support this nonsense. But for the record I do very much object to the claim that it is supposed to support. For anyone with just a general knowledge of the subject they would know that there wouldn't be any reliable source on Pierre Bayle which would make such obvious incorrect claims as those. --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:38, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
  1. ^ Preston T. King (1976). Toleration. Frank Cass. p. 96. 
  2. ^ Pierre Bayle, Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, (Vol. 3, 1695-97, printed in London: J. Bettenham, 1734-41), p.132.

" The Romantics complained that the Enlightenment had neglected the force of imagination, mystery, sentiment could not handle the emergence of new phenomenon."[edit]

In the second paragraph of the lede, I can't parse this into a meaningful English sentence. It looks like the writer forgot what they were saying halfway through. Can anyone figure out what is meant here and reword it so it actually says that? -- LWG talk 04:26, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

try adding "and": "The Romantics complained that the Enlightenment had neglected the force of imagination, mystery, AND sentiment, AND could not handle the emergence of new phenomenon." Rjensen (talk) 08:26, 2 February 2014 (UTC)
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks! -- LWG talk 03:29, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

grounded in... faith[edit]

"Its purpose was to reform society using reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith...."

Ideas cannot be "grounded in... faith". They can be grounded in theology, dogma, religious texts or tradition... but not "faith". Maybe a better formulation would be something like "grounded in cultural and religious tradition". As the terms have specific and different technical meanings, the use of "faith" where "religious dogma" or "official religious orthodoxy" are more appropriate is, and always has been, a euphemistic one. Heavenlyblue (talk) 16:25, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

I disagree. The language "grounded in faith" is in common use today – for example the Associated Press on February 22, 2012, reports a major speech: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's administration has 'fought against religion' and sought to substitute a 'secular' agenda for one grounded in faith." Rjensen (talk) 16:45, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Right. And that is euphemistic usage. 'Faith' used to be a term for one particular aspect of religiosity or religious practice. Now, in the United States in particular, it is being used as a generic substitute for 'religion'. This, I contend, is because the word religion (and the very concept) is falling increasingly into disfavour with the general public in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe, and the religious right is trying to soft-peddle their programme as being grounded in 'faith', rather than saying plainly that it's grounded in traditional Christian belief, or some such thing, which would be more informative, more accurate, and more precise. Of course, the word 'faith' has long been used in Catholicism in very specific contexts, such as the expression "The True Faith". But even among Catholics, this newer usage represents some degree of broadening. And in most Protestant denominations, the word was traditionally used only for the concept of an inspired or self-enforced belief that didn't require evidence. And when you're talking about right-wing politics in the U.S., you're predominantly, numerically speaking and in terms of leadership, talking about Protestants. Heavenlyblue (talk) 01:24, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

In fact, you make my point for me with your quotation: An 'agenda' (a collection of specific goals) cannot reasonably be grounded in 'faith', which is essentially a sort of willing suspension of disbelief. It can only be grounded in a set of ideas - an ideology, set of dogmas, philosophy, theology, etc. So the word 'faith', as used in your quotation, cannot have the same meaning as that word in traditional Protestant usage; it was a mode of belief, now it's being used to mean the content of a specific belief system. I'm sure you can dig up a few quotes somewhere to contradict me, but this was not the general, traditional Protestant usage of the word. Now, some small part of the growth and broadening of the use of that word may come from the small amount of 'interfaith dialogue', etc. that has taken place in the last decade or so, but that has happened primarily among moderate centrists of all political stripes. And they hardly represent the current right-wing leadership in either religion or politics. So, why the obviously very conscious shift away from words like 'Christian' and 'religion' and 'church', and towards softer, more PR-friendly ones like 'faith'? If you know anything about marketing, you'll recognise it as a 'soft-sell', to use the classic term. And as such, it's a euphemism - or something very much like it - and doesn't belong here. Let's see what other people think. Heavenlyblue (talk) 02:09, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

Context of 1784 discussion of What is Enlightenment?[edit]

The section Historiography/Debates states that "A more philosophical example of this was the 1783 essay contest (in itself an activity typical of the Enlightenment) announced by the Berlin newspaper Berlinische Monatsschrift, which asked that very question: "What is Enlightenment?""

While it is true that Kant (and Mendelssohn before him) were responding to a question posed in the Berlinische Monatsschrift, their articles were prompted by a footnote in an earlier article, rather than an "essay contest." A lot of sources seem to make this error, which I've discussed in my article “Misunderstanding the Question: `What Is Enlightenment?’: Venturi, Habermas, and Foucault,” History of European Ideas 37:1 (2011): 43–52. I'd be happy to try to straighten this part of the entry out. I also wonder whether it might be worth putting in a separate entry on "What is Enlightenment?: German Debates" that would provide a brief overview of the German discussions (there's an extensive German literature on this).

What's I'd like to see is a full-scale article on The Enlightenment in German speaking lands; the debate would fit well. We have a short snippet now with mostly just names. Rjensen (talk) 22:39, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
That might be worth doing. I retain the English rights for an article I wrote on "German Enlightenment" for a volume on the Enlightenment that is appearing in Hebrew. It might serve as a starting point, but it would need to be reworked to get the style right.JamesSchmidt (talk) 12:11, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Organization of the Sections[edit]

I have noticed that the organization of the sections in this page may be confusing to the reader, as the sections which deal with different viewpoints on the same general topic are scattered throughout the page and not ordered one after the other. The sections on use of term, goals, historiography, social and cultural interpretation, and national variations all discuss ways in which the Enlightenment is interpreted as an overarching movement, whether it is through the intellectual aims of the time, the changes in ideas, changes in society and culture, or geography. I think it would be helpful to have all the different ways that people interpret the Enlightenment come sequentially rather than spread out through the article.

For example, the first sentence of the Social and Cultural Interpretation section states, "In opposition to the intellectual historiographical approach of the Enlightenment, which examines the various currents or discourses of intellectual thought within the European context during the 17th and 18th centuries, the cultural (or social) approach examines the changes that occurred in European society and culture." However, the Historiography section is comes after Social and Cultural Interpretation and Dissemination of Ideas.

Thus, I would like to suggest the reordering of the arrangement of the sections on this Wikipedia page.

Currently, it is ordered as:

  • Use of Term
  • National Variations
  • Goals
  • Social and Cultural interpretation
  • Dissemination of Ideas
  • Historiography
  • Important Intellectuals

Considering the content of the sections, I suggest that the order be changed to:

  • Use of Term
  • Goals
  • National Variations
  • Historiography
  • Social and Cultural Interpretation
  • Dissemination of Ideas
  • Important Intellectuals.

L764 (talk) 04:44, 8 November 2014 (UTC)