Talk:American Enlightenment

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I didn't write this[edit]

I didn't write this. It was originally the whole article at "American Enlightnment" (sic), straight up, no jokes: haha-- (talk) 16:16, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Many believe that the American revolution was directly linked to the enlightenment and that is was an enviable outcome. I find no supporting evidence of such a statement. While it can be said that a child will eventually leave their parents there is nothing that states that the child will rebel against those parents. This is something done by the childed based on the way they are treated and shown how to treat issues. I believe that the American colonies can be seen as such a child. America was destined to leave her mother country, enlsnd, however it was not inevitable that she do so with such violence and rebellion. Much of the reasons behind the rebellion were based on the way Britain began treating the colonies, much as a mother would as she becomes menopausal. Based on the way the relationship began with the conlinoines and Britain , the things could very well have reqmined as they were for a lot longer. Eventually the Americans could have separated themselves as a free nation, but without all the violence that ensued.

I think I have an idea for a PhD thesis: Great Britain as Post-Menopausal Mum: A Canadian Perspective! Teehee. QuartierLatin1968 00:37, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Comments from Awadewit[edit]

This is a very good start! Here are my comments - they might seem overwhelming at first, but I really do think that this is an excellent beginning!

The Enlightenment in America, Britain and France
  • I would add a few more sentences explaining the moderate Enlightenment and the revolutionary Enlightenment as well as what in particular American thinkers took from both. For example, rather than just saying the "pluralist constitutional politics" of Hume, perhaps you could discuss the impact on Madison and the constitution?
  • This section needs citations to the historians you cite in the text.
  • The first paragraph is not very intelligible to those who haven't read Pocock, Bailyn, Wood, and Kramnick. I agree that the narrative you are telling is the most common one told, but the terms of that narrative need to be explained more fully to the reader. I would give a paragraph to each theory. Pocock's view, in particular, is difficult to explain, as the words "republican" and "liberal" mean different things in his argument than they do to the average American reader - and here we have to consider readers all over the world.
  • Rather than quoting large swaths of text, I would urge you to paraphrase. It is easier for a reader to follow one style of prose.
I think this paragraph needs to be changed. As it is written, it implies that republicanism and liberalism were opposing sets of ideas. Republicanism (as the word meant at the time) was more *related* to liberalism (as the word meant at the time) than opposed to it, because it was about a form of self-rule as opposed to monarchy. Republicanism and liberalism were different ideas but mainly because they were about different things. Republicanism referred to the way a government should be formed, and liberalism referred to a philosophic outlook and a political philosophy that flowed through it. Republicanism was the form of government that liberals tended to like. Bailyn's point had to do with what set of priorities most strongly motivated people in bringing about the Revolution, not that Revolutionaries would agree with one set of ideas and not the other. As it is written most readers would associate the terms with Republicans and Democrats, which they have nothing much to do with. Rlitwin (talk) 17:29, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • This section is basically a prose list of phrases related to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". This needs to be changed into a series of paragraphs that tell a story. I would turn to the scholarship on Jefferson to do this.
  • The opening two paragraphs of this section need citations. While what you have presented is common knowledge among historians of the period, it is not to the average reader.
  • The last paragraph needs to be greatly expanded - I would suggest expanding it into several paragraphs. Explain to the reader exactly how the thought of these men was deistic. Considering most Americans think the Founders were Christian, this is particularly important to explain in detail! :)
Religious Tolerance
  • Like many of the other sections, this one has more on the background philosophy than on its effect on American thinkers. I would urge you to expand the paragraphs on the Americans and the effect Locke had on them as well as their own ideas.
  • The first paragraph needs more citations to scholarship.
  • The second paragraph needs to be cited to scholarship rather than to primary sources.
Separation of church and state
  • This section could do with a bit more history about the development of church and state, specifically with the history of Jefferson in Virginia, for example.
See also
  • "See also" sections are for links that do not appear in the article.
  • Should there be a section on science? There has been a spate of books recently on the founders and science.

I hope this is helpful! Awadewit (talk) 21:21, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

I agree with these comments. Even after adding a section on the dates of the enlightenment that discusses other areas briefly, the article is heavily weighted towards political philosophy, neglecting the above and other major areas. I propose that the outline be restructured to put the several political philosophy sections under one heading as subsections, and include sections on Religion (subsections on Rationalism and The Great Awakening, The Religion of Nature and Deism, Religious tolerance, Natural Philosophy (science), Educational Reform, and one section on Art, Architecture, Music, Drama, and Literature. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Harrycroswell (talkcontribs) 10:12, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Why so much on religion?[edit]

There are three sections dealing with religion: Deism, Seperation of Church and State, and Freedom of Religion. This seems to give an inordinate amount of attention to these facets of the subject, while so much else is either barely scratched or not touched at all. Shoreranger (talk) 18:14, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps because both George Washington and John Adams claimed the revolution was about Religion and Morality. However, it is certainly true that the article would be helped with more on natural philosophy, science, and math, and how even the Puritan-Calvinists accepted the new learning in the 1730s. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Harrycroswell (talkcontribs) 15:50, 7 October 2013 (UTC)
the American spent a great deal of attention on religion, & that includes political leaders like Jefferson & Paine. They made major world-shaking advances in politics. As for mathematics & astronomy you have David Rittenhouse. In physics & biology once you go beyond Franklin & Bartram, the level of interest peters out. Rjensen (talk) 16:14, 7 October 2013 (UTC)
I tend to agree with your larger point that American were brilliant at moral philosophy, but not so strong on natural philosophy, and weak on the arts. Still a section, however, short, on natural philosophy could be added. For completeness, I would add to your list of American natural philosophers Provost Dr. William Smith his brilliant observations on the transit of Venus that bested all the rival estimates of the Royal Society (he was indeed assisted by Rittenhouse, but the observations were his), and Rev. Jarad Eliot as original contributors. I might mention President Thomas Clap of Yale, and Professor John Winthrop of Harvard as two native Americans who introduced advanced math, science and astronomy into American curriculum, as did Provost Smith of the College of Philadelphia and President Dr. Samuel Johnson of King's College. I'm not quite sure if Dr. Cadwallader Colden did original research or not -- was he the first in the world to associate yellow fever with filthy living conditions? In any case, add him, and mention he raised his daughter to be the first woman botanist in America. It might be nice to put the list of per-Revolutionary war American members on the Royal society somewhere in Wikipedia.
Of more concern to me are the dates suggested in the opening paragraph. While there is nothing wrong about roughly putting 1715 to 1800 as approximate dates, the date that the first books of the Dummer Collection arrived at Yale (October 1814), or the date that Tutor Samuel Johnson first started teaching the Enlightenment at Yale(October 1816) might provide more focus. The "end" of the American Enlightenment is more difficult to state. Major advances were made in political philosophy with Maybury v. Madison (1803) and the People vs. Croswell (1804). Perhaps it could be the death of Hamilton in 1804, that ended a period of idealism? Or the war of 1812 that ended the Federalist party and left only a single party at the national level (I suppose Rjensen might suggest some good dates for this!). My own choice is the ending of the last theocracy in America (1818) with the overthrow of the Connecticut charter (Hooker's Fundamental Orders) and the disestablishment of religion in the state.

This article confuses the New England Puritans (a religion-based reform connected to the Cromwellian Reformation in England) with the Midlands Enlightenment in England in and the British North American colonies in the Delaware Valley allied with it. These had very different foundations and aims, with the latter much less about religion - and often expressly deconstructing religions, specifically the Abrahamic religions, and their harms.

Liberalism and Republicanism: Government of the People, by the People, for the People: unbalanced tag[edit]

Stubbing thread as don't see a discussion corresponding to the tag. (talk) 14:11, 13 December 2010 (UTC) --Baxter999 (talk) 01:50, 30 April 2011 (UTC) The source of the "life,liberty, property and pursuit of happiness" needs more work. The Massachusetts declarations in the 1640,s had almost these exact phrases. They were derived mostly by 2 people (Cotton and another) who developed their ideas from the Bible and English common law principles. But they were basically an American invention in this form. Locke and Blackstone wrote decades later than the American documents.

Also, the influence of Deism is way overstated. Much more important were the basic religious beliefs and the Bible. Studies of the sources of the ideas of the founders show very few Deist influences vs. lots more of the Bible and religious writers like Grotius. Deism was a popular idea for a few years but is decreasing in importance with the latest studies and easy availability of source-checking from computers. One needs only include a few quotes from the founders often associated with Deism to see how little Deism affected their ideas. (Paine would be the exception but his later Deist writings were really not influential in American political thought.)

As is, this article is almost unintelligible and lacking in basic information.

Also important would be the idea of the American Enlightenment being quite different than much of the European enlightenment. The French Revolution was considered almost an opposite of the American Revolution by Burke and many founders.

And of course 4 citations in the Declaration of God being sovereign and the source of our rights can't be over-estimated.--Baxter999 (talk) 01:50, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

I must agree with these comments. The section on Republicans states, for example, "Politically, the age is distinguished by an emphasis upon liberty, republicanism and religious tolerance, as clearly expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence." All this is wrong, save religious tolerance. Everyone even in Britain wanted liberty -- it is hardly a distinguishing feature of the age. The Declaration doesn't mention religious tolerance,and until the King declared the Colonies in open rebellion in August of 1775, they still thought to retain the monarchy; the age is indeed"distinguished" by a growing religious tolerance, but there was a sudden massive switch towards a republic only when Great Britain "invaded" the colonies. Also, "Attempts to reconcile science and religion resulted in a rejection of prophecy, miracle, and revealed religion, resulting in an inclination toward deism among some major political leaders of the age" was simply not true in America, as Baxter999 also observes in his comment above. Johnson, Franklin and Smith designed a College Curriculum to include religion and moral philosophy, not reject it. The American Enlightenment was indeed quite different from Europe and even from Britain's.
The section on Deism requires reworking. It is nearly impossible to find a true founding father who was not affiliated actively and publicly with a denomination; Jefferson founded a Calvinstical Reformed Chruch in 1777, and even Franklin advocated a public religion; his "deism" included a God of Providence, as did Thomas Paine's, hardly an "orthodox Deist" position. Pauline Mair notes that Paine was not quite a influential as he claimed, and in any case he was not really an American or an emigrant, but a British ex-patriot visitor to America from November 30, 1774, to 1787, whereupon he returned to England; he in this way may be said to have rejected American values, as his later years in France demonstrates. Though a great writer, he is hardly typical of the age. The section on Deism should be under religion, not politics, and its claims for adherents, which are rather exaggerated, should be cited or removed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Harrycroswell (talkcontribs) 23:50, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
the article is fine. the critic needs some more sources; A person could be connected with a Protestant church and still be a deist in his theology. It is not true that Jefferson founded a Calvinstical Reformed Chruch in 1777---he did nothing remotely like that. Rjensen (talk) 04:58, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
More sources are always good as are actual citations for assertions. It was the lack of Deism citations and the placement of Deism in a section on political philosophy that I was concerned about. The many citations in the political section are the best part and contain useful information. Deism references are easily found for Franklin, Jefferson, and even Washington, though there is a lot of controversy over Washington's alleged "deism". As for Jefferson, it isn't well publicized, but as suprizing as it may seem, he was indeed a vestryman in 1776 as St. Anne's Parish, and in 1777 indeed founded a "Calvinistical Reformed Church" in Charlottysville, Va. (see -- though your larger point about being a church member yet an actual private deist is correct, if difficult to cite for founders outside of Franklin and Jefferson. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Harrycroswell (talkcontribs) 12:52, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Deists had basic religious beliefs and they read the Bible. Jefferson produced a new edition with the miracles left out. As Philip Goff, ‎Paul Harvey, Themes in Religion and American Culture (2004) - Page 363 argue, Deism "emphasized a rational deity that created the world and then left it to run according to natural laws.... This religious philosophy was most associated with American Enlightenment thinkers (including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin). " And my apologies, Jefferson did set up an Anglican (Protestant Episcopal) church that was names "Calvinistical Reformed Church" & was set up for the benefit of the political beliefs of its Patriot pastor. Being a vestryman was basically a local-government job in Virginia and says zip about as person's theology. Rjensen (talk) 13:11, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Europeans have their own articles[edit]

I deleted long passages on Europeans (like Locke and Deism) not tied directly to the American Enlightenment. They are covered in their own articles. I alse emphasize that republicanism has a long American history before 1776 (says Bailyn, Wood, Pocock). Rjensen (talk) 09:35, 9 June 2011 (UTC)