One of Europe’s stages of greatest scientific progress. Wikimedia Commons.

The current Western world could not be understood without the movement of the Enlightenment . Its existence laid the foundations for the development of science as we know it, in addition to umpulsar values ​​such as rationality and freedom with its optimistic philosophy about the possibilities of transforming the society that the human being had. Let’s see what it consisted of.

What was the Enlightenment?

In the mid-seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a handful of bourgeois intellectuals from the heart of Europe decided that they were fed up with the system established by the Old Regime , also called the Absolutist Regime, where all political power and social life was governed by a law that was erected by “divine election”.

Although historians attribute the birth of the Enlightenment to England, it was in France that this thought began to lay its foundations with intellectuals such as Voltaire, Rousseau or Montesquieu among others, founding what would be encyclopaedism, which would be great driver of the Enlightenment.

Rationalism, the ideological basis of this historical stage

The Enlightenment is a movement of a philosophical, literary, scientific and, finally, political character . The main mantra was to put an end to the status quo imposed by the archaic and obsolete structures of the European reigns, basically led by religion and ecclesiastical institutions. This period would also be known as El Siglo de las Luces, the result of the progress and development of new ideas, based mainly on reason and individual freedom.

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As a summary of the previous paragraph, we can say that the Enlightenment had as its main characteristics rationalism, belief in the goodness of the human being, secularism and optimism ; the latter from a more humanistic point of view. The idea of ​​reason prevailed over Revelation and theological mandates, firmly opposing traditionalism.

Rationalism will then be the most heard term during the Enlightenment era, a metaphor for expressing the illumination that comes from intelligence and logic to guide the world full of ignorance. Reason should be the element by which man had the ability to understand everything through his intelligence, avoiding superstitions and extraterrestrial theories. “That which is not rational, should be branded as false,” defended the enlightened.

Main characteristics of the movement

Once again, we focus on reason as the only way to know the truth. Science will influence this premise, where everything that is the subject of discussion or intellectual debate, must have evidence: it tries to avoid the dogmatism of religions . It was Rene Descartes who inspired the illustrators with their ideas of “methodical doubt”. Voltaire was another critic of theological fanaticism and conservative values ​​that prevented the shock of ignorance.

Another element to take into account is the ultimate goal of the Enlightenment, which was to help achieve happiness and well being for citizens, through progress, private property, freedom and equality. To achieve happiness, politics must be the means to achieve it for the entire society where a social contract between people and governors governs.