“The Age of Enlightenment: Rationalism, Revolution, and Irreligion”

Irreligion: indifferent or hostility to religion “an irreligious world”, synonyms: an apatheist, ignostic, atheistic, antitheist, unbelievingnonbelievingagnostic, rationalist, skeptic, hereticalfaithlessgodlessungodly.

Skepticism and or Rationalism Leads to Humanism and Atheism?

Rationalism, Freethinker, Humanism & Secular humanism?

Info gathered from From Wikipedia

The Enlightenment has long been hailed as the foundation of modern Western political and intellectual culture. The Enlightenment brought political modernization to the West, in terms of introducing democratic values and institutions and the creation of modern, liberal democracies. This thesis has been widely accepted by Anglophone scholars and has been reinforced by the large-scale studies by Robert Darnton, Roy Porter and most recently by Jonathan Israel. The Enlightenment has always been contested territory. According to Keith Thomas, its supporters “hail it as the source of everything that is progressive about the modern world. For them, it stands for freedom of thought, rational inquiry, critical thinking, religious tolerance, political liberty, scientific achievement, the pursuit of happiness, and hope for the future”. Areas of study such as literature, philosophy, science and the fine arts increasingly explored subject matter that the general public in addition to the previously more segregated professionals and patrons could relate to. Thomas adds that its detractors accuse it of shallow rationalism, naïve optimism, unrealistic universalism and moral darkness. From the start, conservative and clerical defenders of traditional religion attacked materialism and skepticism as evil forces that encouraged immorality. By 1794, they pointed to the Terror during the French Revolution as confirmation of their predictions. As the Enlightenment was ending, Romantic philosophers argued that excessive dependence on reason was a mistake perpetuated by the Enlightenment because it disregarded the bonds of history, myth, faith, and tradition that were necessary to hold society together. One of the primary elements of the culture of the Enlightenment was the rise of the public sphere, a “realm of communication marked by new arenas of debate, more open and accessible forms of urban public space and sociability, and an explosion of print culture”, in the late 17th century and 18th century. Elements of the public sphere included: it was egalitarian, it discussed the domain of “common concern” and argument was founded on reason. Habermas uses the term “common concern” to describe those areas of political/social knowledge and discussion that were previously the exclusive territory of the state and religious authorities, now open to critical examination by the public sphere. The values of this bourgeois public sphere included holding reason to be supreme, considering everything to be open to criticism (the public sphere is critical) and the opposition of secrecy of all sorts. In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”. More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive”. Generally speaking, intuition is a priori knowledge or experiential belief characterized by its immediacy; a form of rational insight. We simply just “see” something in such a way as to give us a warranted belief. Beyond that, the nature of intuition is hotly debated. In the same way, generally speaking, deduction, is the process of reasoning from one or more general premises to reach a logically certain conclusion. Using valid arguments, we can deduce from intuited premises. For example, when we combine both concepts, we can intuit that the number three is prime and that it is greater than two. We then deduce from this knowledge that there is a prime number greater than two. Thus, it can be said that intuition and deduction combined to provide us with a priori knowledge – we gained this knowledge independently of sense experience. Empiricists such as David Hume have been willing to accept this thesis for describing the relationships among our own concepts. In this sense, empiricists argue that we are allowed to intuit and deduce truths from knowledge, that has been obtained a posteriori. By injecting different subjects into the Intuition/Deduction thesis, we are able to generate different arguments. Most rationalists agree mathematics is knowable by applying the intuition and deduction. Some go further to include ethical truths into the category of things knowable by intuition and deduction. Furthermore, some rationalists also claim metaphysics is knowable in this thesis. In addition to different subjects, rationalists sometimes vary the strength of their claims by adjusting their understanding of the warrant. Some rationalists understand warranted beliefs to be beyond even the slightest doubt; others are more conservative and understand the warrant to be believed beyond a reasonable doubt. Rationalists also have different understanding and claims involving the connection between intuition and truth. Some rationalists claim that intuition is infallible and that anything we intuit to be true is as such. More contemporary rationalists accept that intuition is not always a source of certain knowledge – thus allowing for the possibility of a deceiver who might cause the rationalist to intuit a false proposition in the same way a third party could cause the rationalist to have perceptions of nonexistent objects. Naturally, the more subjects the rationalists claim to be knowable by the Intuition/Deduction thesis, the more certain they are of their warranted beliefs, and the more strictly they adhere to the infallibility of intuition, the more controversial their truths or claims and the more radical their rationalism. To argue in favor of this thesis, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a prominent German philosopher, says, “The senses, although they are necessary for all our actual knowledge, are not sufficient to give us the whole of it, since the senses never give anything but instances, that is to say, particular or individual truths. Now all the instances which confirm a general truth, however numerous they may be, are not sufficient to establish the universal necessity of this same truth, for it does not follow that what happened before will happen in the same way again. … From which it appears that necessary truths, such as we find in pure mathematics, and particularly in arithmetic and geometry, must have principles whose proof does not depend on instances, nor consequently on the testimony of the senses, although without the senses it would never have occurred to us to think of them…”The Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason; in French: le Siècle des Lumières, lit. ‘”the Century of Lights”‘; and in German: Aufklärung, “Enlightenment”) was an intellectual and philosophical movement which dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, “The Century of Philosophy”. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy—and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state. In politics, rationalism, since the Enlightenment, historically emphasized a “politics of reason” centered upon rational choice, utilitarianism, secularism, and irreligion – the latter aspect’s antitheism later softened by politic adoption of pluralistic rationalist methods practicable regardless of religious or irreligious ideology. In this regard, the philosopher John Cottingham noted how rationalism, a methodology, became socially conflated with atheism, a worldview: “In the past, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, the term ‘rationalist’ was often used to refer to free thinkers of an anti-clerical and anti-religious outlook, and for a time the word acquired a distinctly pejorative force (thus in 1670 Sanderson spoke disparagingly of ‘a mere rationalist, that is to say in plain English an atheist of the late edition…’). The use of the label ‘rationalist’ to characterize a world outlook which has no place for the supernatural is becoming less popular today; terms like ‘humanist’ or ‘materialist’ seem largely to have taken its place. But the old usage still survives.” French historians traditionally place the Enlightenment between 1715 (the year that Louis XIV died) and 1789 (the beginning of the French Revolution). Some recent historians begin the period in the 1620s, with the start of the scientific revolution. Les philosophes (French for “the philosophers”) of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffee houses and printed books and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and the Church—and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, trace their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment was preceded by and closely associated with the scientific revolution. Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Francis Bacon, René Descartes, John Locke and Baruch Spinoza. The major figures of the Enlightenment included Cesare Beccaria, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant. Some European rulers, including Catherine II of Russia, Joseph II of Austria and Frederick II of Prussia, tried to apply Enlightenment thought on religious and political tolerance, which became known as enlightened absolutism. Benjamin Franklin visited Europe repeatedly and contributed actively to the scientific and political debates there and brought the newest ideas back to Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson closely followed European ideas and later incorporated some of the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Declaration of Independence (1776). One of his peers, James Madison, incorporated these ideals into the United States Constitution during its framing in 1787. The most influential publication of the Enlightenment was the Encyclopédie (Encyclopaedia). Published between 1751 and 1772 in thirty-five volumes, it was compiled by Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond d’Alembert (until 1759) and a team of 150 scientists and philosophers. It helped spread the ideas of the Enlightenment across Europe and beyond. Other landmark publications were Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary; 1764) and Letters on the English (1733); Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (1754) and The Social Contract (1762); Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776); and Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748). The ideas of the Enlightenment played a major role in inspiring the French Revolution, which began in 1789. René Descartes’ rationalist philosophy laid the foundation for enlightenment thinking. His attempt to construct the sciences on a secure metaphysical foundation was not as successful as his method of doubt applied in philosophic areas leading to a dualistic doctrine of mind and matter. His skepticism was refined by John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) and David Hume’s writings in the 1740s. His dualism was challenged by Spinoza’s uncompromising assertion of the unity of matter in his Tractatus (1670) and Ethics (1677). These laid down two distinct lines of Enlightenment thought: the moderate variety, following Descartes, Locke and Christian Wolff which sought accommodation between reform and the traditional systems of power and faith and the radical enlightenment, inspired by the philosophy of Spinoza, advocating democracy, individual liberty, freedom of expression and eradication of religious authority. The moderate variety tended to be deistic whereas the radical tendency separated the basis of morality entirely from theology. Both lines of thought were eventually opposed by a conservative Counter-Enlightenment, which sought a return to faith. In the mid-18th century, Paris became the center of an explosion of philosophic and scientific activity challenging traditional doctrines and dogmas. The philosophic movement was led by Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who argued for a society based upon reason rather than faith and Catholic doctrine, for a new civil order based on natural law and for science based on experiments and observation. The political philosopher Montesquieu introduced the idea of a separation of powers in a government, a concept which was enthusiastically adopted by the authors of the United States Constitution. While the Philosophes of the French Enlightenment were not revolutionaries, and many were members of the nobility, their ideas played an important part in undermining the legitimacy of the Old Regime and shaping the French Revolution. Mary Wollstonecraft was one of England’s earliest feminist philosophers. She argued for a society based on reason and that women as well as men should be treated as rational beings. She is best known for her work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1791). Science played an important role in Enlightenment discourse and thought. Many Enlightenment writers and thinkers had backgrounds in the sciences and associated scientific advancement with the overthrow of religion and traditional authority in favor of the development of free speech and thought. Scientific progress during the Enlightenment included the discovery of carbon dioxide (fixed air) by the chemist Joseph Black, the argument for deep time by the geologist James Hutton and the invention of the steam engine by James Watt. The experiments of Lavoisier were used to create the first modern chemical plants in Paris and the experiments of the Montgolfier Brothers enabled them to launch the first manned flight in a hot-air balloon on 21 November 1783 from the Château de la Muette, near the Bois de Boulogne. Broadly speaking, Enlightenment science greatly valued empiricism and rational thought and was embedded with the Enlightenment ideal of advancement and progress. The study of science, under the heading of natural philosophy, was divided into physics and a conglomerate grouping of chemistry and natural history, which included anatomy, biology, geology, mineralogy and zoology. As with most Enlightenment views, the benefits of science were not seen universally: Rousseau criticized the sciences for distancing man from nature and not operating to make people happier. Science during the Enlightenment was dominated by scientific societies and academies, which had largely replaced universities as centers of scientific research and development. Societies and academies were also the backbone of the maturation of the scientific profession. Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population. Philosophes introduced the public to many scientific theories, most notably through the Encyclopédie and the popularization of Newtonianism by Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet. Some historians have marked the 18th century as a drab period in the history of science. However, the century saw significant advancements in the practice of medicine, mathematics and physics; the development of biological taxonomy; a new understanding of magnetism and electricity; and the maturation of chemistry as a discipline, which established the foundations of modern chemistry. Scientific academies and societies grew out of the Scientific Revolution as the creators of scientific knowledge in contrast to the scholasticism of the university. During the Enlightenment, some societies created or retained links to universities, but contemporary sources distinguished universities from scientific societies by claiming that the university’s utility was in the transmission of knowledge while societies functioned to create knowledge. As the role of universities in institutionalized science began to diminish, learned societies became the cornerstone of organized science. Official scientific societies were chartered by the state in order to provide technical expertise. Most societies were granted permission to oversee their own publications, control the election of new members and the administration of the society. After 1700, a tremendous number of official academies and societies were founded in Europe and by 1789 there were over seventy official scientific societies. In reference to this growth, Bernard de Fontenelle coined the term “the Age of Academies” to describe the 18th century. Hume and other Scottish Enlightenment thinkers developed a “science of man”, which was expressed historically in works by authors including James Burnett, Adam Ferguson, John Millar and William Robertson, all of whom merged a scientific study of how humans behaved in ancient and primitive cultures with a strong awareness of the determining forces of modernity. Modern sociology largely originated from this movement and Hume’s philosophical concepts that directly influenced James Madison (and thus the U.S. Constitution) and as popularised by Dugald Stewart, would be the basis of classical liberalism. In 1776, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, often considered the first work on modern economics as it had an immediate impact on British economic policy that continues into the 21st century. It was immediately preceded and influenced by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune drafts of Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Wealth (Paris, 1766). Smith acknowledged indebtedness and possibly was the original English translator. John Locke, one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, based his governance philosophy in social contract theory, a subject that permeated Enlightenment political thought. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes ushered in this new debate with his work Leviathan in 1651. Hobbes also developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought: the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order (which led to the later distinction between civil society and the state); the view that all legitimate political power must be “representative” and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does not explicitly forbid. Both Locke and Rousseau developed social contract theories in Two Treatises of Government and Discourse on Inequality, respectively. While quite different works, Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau agreed that a social contract, in which the government’s authority lies in the consent of the governed, is necessary for man to live in civil society. Locke defines the state of nature as a condition in which humans are rational and follow natural law, in which all men are born equal and with the right to life, liberty and property. However, when one citizen breaks the Law of Nature both the transgressor and the victim enter into a state of war, from which it is virtually impossible to break free. Therefore, Locke said that individuals enter into civil society to protect their natural rights via an “unbiased judge” or common authority, such as courts, to appeal to. Contrastingly, Rousseau’s conception relies on the supposition that “civil man” is corrupted, while “natural man” has no want he cannot fulfill himself. Natural man is only taken out of the state of nature when the inequality associated with private property is established. Rousseau said that people join into civil society via the social contract to achieve unity while preserving individual freedom. This is embodied in the sovereignty of the general will, the moral and collective legislative body constituted by citizens. Locke is known for his statement that individuals have a right to “Life, Liberty and Property” and his belief that the natural right to property is derived from labor. Tutored by Locke, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury wrote in 1706: “There is a mighty Light which spreads its self over the world especially in those two free Nations of England and Holland; on whom the Affairs of Europe now turn”. Locke’s theory of natural rights has influenced many political documents, including the United States Declaration of Independence and the French National Constituent Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The philosophes argued 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. Though much of Enlightenment political thought was dominated by social contract theorists, both David Hume and Adam Ferguson criticized this camp. Hume’s essay Of the Original Contract argues that governments derived from consent are rarely seen and civil government is grounded in a ruler’s habitual authority and force. It is precisely because of the ruler’s authority over-and-against the subject, that the subject tacitly consents, and Hume says that the subjects would “never imagine that their consent made him sovereign”, rather the authority did so. Similarly, Ferguson did not believe citizens built the state, rather polities grew out of social development. In his 1767 An Essay on the History of Civil Society, Ferguson uses the four stages of progress, a theory that was very popular in Scotland at the time, to explain how humans advance from a hunting and gathering society to a commercial and civil society without “signing” a social contract. Both Rousseau and Locke’s social contract theories rest on the presupposition of natural rights, which are not a result of law or custom, but are things that all men have in pre-political societies and are therefore universal and inalienable. The most famous natural right formulation comes from John Locke in his Second Treatise, when he introduces the state of nature. For Locke, the law of nature is grounded on mutual security or the idea that one cannot infringe on another’s natural rights, as every man is equal and has the same inalienable rights. These natural rights include perfect equality and freedom, as well as the right to preserve life and property. Locke also argued against slavery on the basis that enslaving yourself goes against the law of nature because you cannot surrender your own rights, your freedom is absolute, and no one can take it from you. Additionally, Locke argues that one person cannot enslave another because it is morally reprehensible, although he introduces a caveat by saying that enslavement of a lawful captive in time of war would not go against one’s natural rights. Enlightenment era religious commentary was a response to the preceding century of religious conflict in Europe, especially the Thirty Years’ War. Theologians of the Enlightenment wanted to reform their faith to its generally non-confrontational roots and to limit the capacity for religious controversy to spill over into politics and warfare while still maintaining a true faith in God. For moderate Christians, this meant a return to simple Scripture. John Locke abandoned the corpus of theological commentary in favor of an “unprejudiced examination” of the Word of God alone. He determined the essence of Christianity to be a belief in Christ the redeemer and recommended avoiding more detailed debate. In the Jefferson Bible, Thomas Jefferson went further and dropped any passages dealing with miracles, visitations of angels and the resurrection of Jesus after his death, as he tried to extract the practical Christian moral code of the New Testament. Enlightenment scholars sought to curtail the political power of organized religion and thereby prevent another age of intolerant religious war. Spinoza determined to remove politics from contemporary and historical theology (e.g., disregarding Judaic law). Moses Mendelssohn advised affording no political weight to any organized religion, but instead recommended that each person follow what they found most convincing. A good religion based in instinctive morals and a belief in God should not theoretically need force to maintain order in its believers and both Mendelssohn and Spinoza judged religion on its moral fruits, not the logic of its theology. A number of novel ideas about religion developed with the Enlightenment, including deism and talk of atheism. According to Thomas Paine, deism is the simple belief in God the Creator, with no reference to the Bible or any other miraculous source. Instead, the deist relies solely on personal reason to guide his creed, which was eminently agreeable to many thinkers of the time. Atheism was much discussed, but there were few proponents. Wilson and Reill note: “In fact, very few enlightened intellectuals, even when they were vocal critics of Christianity, were true atheists. Rather, they were critics of orthodox belief, wedded rather to skepticism, deism, vitalism, or perhaps pantheism”. Some followed Pierre Bayle and argued that atheists could indeed be moral men. Many others like Voltaire held that without belief in a God who punishes evil, the moral order of society was undermined. That is, since atheists gave themselves to no Supreme Authority and no law and had no fear of eternal consequences, they were far more likely to disrupt society. Bayle (1647–1706) observed that in his day that “prudent persons will always maintain an appearance of [religion]” and he believed that even atheists could hold concepts of honor and go beyond their own self-interest to create and interact in society. Locke said that if there were no God and no divine law, the result would be moral anarchy: every individual “could have no law but his own will, no end but himself. He would be a god to himself, and the satisfaction of his own will the sole measure and end of all his actions”. The “Radical Enlightenment” promoted the concept of separating church and state, an idea that is often credited to English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704). According to his principle of the social contract, Locke said that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he said must therefore remain protected from any government authority. These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with the social contract, became particularly influential in the American colonies and the drafting of the United States Constitution. Thomas Jefferson called for a “wall of separation between church and state” at the federal level. He previously had supported successful efforts to disestablish the Church of England in Virginia and authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Jefferson’s political ideals were greatly influenced by the writings of John Locke, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton whom he considered the three greatest men that ever lived. Several Americans, especially Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, played a major role in bringing Enlightenment ideas to the New World and in influencing British and French thinkers. Franklin was influential for his political activism and for his advances in physics. The cultural exchange during the Age of Enlightenment ran in both directions across the Atlantic. Thinkers such as Paine, Locke and Rousseau all take Native American cultural practices as examples of natural freedom. The Americans closely followed English and Scottish political ideas, as well as some French thinkers such as Montesquieu. As deists, they were influenced by ideas of John Toland (1670–1722) and Matthew Tindal (1656–1733). During the Enlightenment there was a great emphasis upon liberty, and here was no respect for monarchy or inherited political power. Ref, Ref


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“Practical rationalism is focused on intentional acts of axiological sensibility.”

“With Husserl, rationalism may include both poles: intellect and sensibility. However, sensibility cannot be reduced to subjectivity; it also implies the sense of value. Therefore, the rationalism of morality becomes axio-Iogical. and it is demonstrated by the distinction between a “spontaneous sympathy” and a “rational sympathy” that approves of something as being just and disapproves of something else as being unjust. We should make dear, though, that only “rational sympathy” acquires the attributes of moral phenomenon, since it grafted onto the axiological feeling of justice. The critical analysis of Ralph Cudworth’s conception, and of the eighteenth-century school of Cambridge in general, enabled Husserl to discover fundamental differences between practical rationalism and theoretical rationalism, beyond the parallelism between the compulsory nature of moral principles and of logical, or mathematical, principles. Practical rationalism is a rationalism that originates in motivations provided by sensibility and will. Theoretical rationalism is based on logical motivation. Practical rationalism is focused on intentional acts of the axiological sensibility. Theoretical rationalism is based on the intentional acts of the intellectual pivot of consciousness. Practical rationalism operates mainly with axiological sentences; theoretical rationalism with assertorial (asserting that a thing is) sentences. Phenomenologically speaking, axiological sensibility is intentional, aiming at objects that satisfy its demands. Sometimes value appears fetishized as objectivization of axiological sensibility, because it is actively directed toward intentional objects and hierarchizes them preferentially. In this situation, the inequality in the value order of things becomes a purely subjective creation, an emotional projection. Ethical behavior favors valuation when desiderative-volitional structures can be intentionally directed toward things and the correspondence between the subjective and the objective can be established. Thus, it is the ethical values that come to enhance human action. Emotional states belong to the range of intentional human experience, and as such, sentences built about this experience can be legitimized by evidence and can be confronted with experience. This way, the claim of emotionalism, according to which the echo of emotional states in value judgments would prove their non-cognitive character, is refuted. Ethical value judgments offer a conceptual expression and justify the values present in axiological experience. Thus, in ethics, we can transcend not only the older alternative, naturalism’ formalism, but also the new alternative, intuitivism, or emotivism.” ref