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Example research essay topic: Jean Jacques Rousseau Age Of Reason - 1,933 words

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The Age of Reason (1) The Age of Reason, which also is being commonly referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, is the socio-philosophical movement in European history of 18 th and the first half of 19 th centuries, which used to emphasize one peoples rationale as the solemn foundation, upon which social and political policies should be based. It has its spiritual roots in the period of Renaissance, when it ideological grip of Christianity over peoples minds began to loosen. After Martin Luther had translated Bible from Latin into contemporary German language, more and more people were beginning to understand the theological inconsistency of this Semitic religion. In its turn, this resulted in many prominent intellectuals of the time to stop considering Christian faith as valid foundation for empirical sciences, as it used to be the case in Middle Ages. Once Galileo Galilee had substantiated the validity of heliocentric concept of the world, the sheer absurdity of Biblical notions became obvious to just about everyone. Therefore, it was only natural for many intellectuals in 17 th century to come up with suggestions that, since faith does not create miracles, then it is peoples ability to reason that should.

Thus, we can say that the philosophy, associated with the age of reason, also has irrational properties, because it replaced peoples idealistic faith in God with equally idealistic belief in rationale. The philosophical rationalism, on the part of such intellectual figures as John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Gottfried Leibniz, Voltaire and Immanuel Kant, often had social implications. The age of reason is closely associated with peoples belief that it is quite possible to establish a fair society on Earth, without the oppression being an essential element of the concept of statehood. For example, in his book Social Contract, Jean Jacques Rousseau suggests: In order to discover the rules of society best suited for nations, a superior intelligence beholding all the passions of men without experiencing any of them would be needed (Rousseau, p. 42). In the age of reason, it became very fashionable, on the part of philosophers and writers, affected by positivism, to deny the validity of classical concepts of political governing, as such that are being unfair. It was commonly assumed that, once the Christian clergy stops exercising a political influence, there will be no reason for the wars to begin in the first place.

It is during the age of reason that the concept of social equality had originated. Once being freed from Christianity's spiritual oppression, people were expected to be capable of organizing their lives in such a manner that their existential potential could have been fully realized. This is why the social philosophy of 18 th and early 19 th century often focuses on dispelling religious myths. In his book The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine provides us with the insight on the mindset of progressive representative of intellectual elite of 18 th century: I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of.

My own mind is my own church (Paine, part 1). We can say that the most distinctive feature of the age of reason is that many philosophers, during the course of this era, proposed an entirely new approach for insuring civil order, within a society. Whereas, traditional society considers sovereigns political authority as being divine in its essence, the promoters of Liberalism in the age of reason, were suggesting that social stability should derive of peoples ability to behave in socially appropriate manner, as such that allows them to realize a common good. For the first time, the theory of social contract was being formulated by Thomas Hobbes, who is his book Leviathan came up with the statement that the notion of common good should be thought of as priority, when it comes to managing social dynamics: The passions that incline men to peace are: fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them.

And reason suggested convenient articles of peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement (Hobbes, Ch. XIII). Nowadays, the overwhelming majority of countries that profess democracy, as the principle of political governing, base their socio-political policies on utilization of the theory of social contract. Hobbes was also the one who formulated the method of scientific inquiry, based on rational principles, which is still being practiced today: The use and end of reason, is not the finding of the some, and truth of one, or a few consequences, remote from the first definitions, and settled significations of names; but to begin at these; and proceed from one consequence to another. For there can be no certainty of the last conclusion, without a certainty of all those affirmations and negations, on which it was grounded (Hobbes, Ch. V).

This is why the age of reason can also be discussed within a context of technological progress rapidly gaining a momentum in 18 th and 19 th centuries. In part, this can be explained by the fact that rational thinking, on the part of scientists and inventors, allowed them to utilize their existential potential to the full extent. No longer had they to look for Church's approval, in order to be able to conduct scientific experiments. In its turn, it allowed worlds economy to become more efficient. Therefore, the age of reason can also be referred to as something that created preconditions for the beginning of Industrial Revolution in Europe in America. The article Industrial Revolution, which is available on the web site of Washington State University, establishes a strong link between Industrial Revolution, and the social changes that were taking place in Europe in the time of the age of reason: The Industrial Revolution was more than technology impressive as this technology was.

What drove the industrial revolution were profound social changes (WSU, 2007). By being told that it is perfectly natural to rely on their sense of rationale, while dealing with various lifes challenges, people were able to significantly improve their living standards, because the age of reason saw the emergence of many new technologies that transformed the process of industrial production in its very essence, by increasing its efficiency. At the same time, the political and social philosophy, associated with the age of reason, had proven itself as such that often does not correspond to the objective reality. This especially became apparent during the course of French Revolution, when ideas of equality were being actualized politically, thus causing many people to realize that their rationale is purely subjective category.

In her article Introduction to Enlightenment Thought and the French Revolution, Jessica Bennett makes a very good point when she suggests that: Like a lamp shining in a dark room, the philosophy of Enlightenment was supposed to open the eyes of the world's poor and free them from unjust rule Of all the countries, France most eagerly embraced the ideas of this new philosophy, but what started as a movement for reason, rationality and brotherhood turned into hysteria and slaughter during the French Revolution (Bennet, 2007). Apparently, the philosophers that we today associate with the age of reason, were not aware of the fact that the concept of social equality can never be realized in practice, because it contradicts the law of nature. Men might very well be born free, as Voltaire used to suggest, but they are also being born biologically unequal. Given the fact that scientists, in discussed period, simply lacked the empirical knowledge, in regards to Homo Sapiens, as biological specie, they tended to idealize humanity. As practice shows, it does not make people entirely happy when their lives are being fully rationalized. The Napoleonic wars ended up the age of reason by proving that the behavior of great number of people, during the course of these wars, was being defined but their irrationality more then by anything else.

This is why; the positivist philosophy of 18 th and 19 th centuries is now often being referred to as utterly naive. There can be no doubt as to the fact that rationalist philosophical approach, associated with the era, proved as being fruitful, in practical sense of this word. However, since the goals of positivist thinkers that lived in the age of reason were not being realized, it brought about a situation when people began to look at their own rationale with more and more skepticism, which in its turn, laid the foundation for the emergence of Romanticism, at the end of 19 th century. (2) Before we conclude this paper, it needs to be mentioned that the age of reason is comparatively loose term. There is no universal agreement as to what should be considered as its initial and final stages. However, it is quite possible to refine the spiritual essence of the age of reason, as the very term contains a clue to its meaning. The World Web Online Dictionary defines the age of reason as: Movement in Europe from about 1650 until 1800 that advocated the use of reason and individualism instead of tradition and established doctrine (WWOD).

This definition appears as being the most appropriate, because it points out at the most important characteristic of this intellectual movement, while also providing a timeframe for it. However, it is very important to understand that, despite philosophical inconsistencies, associated with this movement, the age of reason signifies the beginning of the process of Western civilization being put back on its original tracks. It is the intellectual poison of Christianity that kept Europeans unaware of their own existential potential, up until that time when they realized that they would be much better off relying on their ability to think in terms of logic, while dealing with lifes challenges, then looking for the answers to complex questions in the good book. Thus, even though that the age of reason failed to achieve its original goals, it nevertheless resulted in the majority of Western intellectuals being able to shake off the ideological yoke of Christianity, which coincided with the beginning of industrial era. Bibliography: Age of Reason. 2008.

World Web Online Dictionary. 10 Jul. 2008. web Bennett, Jessica Introduction to Enlightenment Thought and the French Revolution. 26 Dec. 2005. Associated Content. web Delany, Joseph Age of Reason The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1.

New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 10 Jul. 2008. web Hobbes, Thomas The Leviathan. 1660. 2000. Oregon State University. 10 Jul. 2008. web Paine, Thomas The Age of Reason. 1794. 2002.

Marxist Internet Archive Library. 10 Jul. 2008. web Kim, Charlie The Age of Reason: What was it and What Did it Mean to Mankind? . 28 Nov. 2007. Associated Content. 10 Jul. 2008. web Industrial Revolution. 1996. World Civilizations Home Page. Washington State University. 10 Jul. 2008.

web Rousseau, Jean Jacques Social Contract. 1762. 2008. Script. Com. 10 Jul. 2008. web Male, Lord The Enlightenment: The Age of Reason. 9 Jan. 2008. Suite 101. Com.

web The Age of Reason. 2001. Time Magazine. 10 Jul. 2008. web Outline: Introduction and Main Part Conclusion


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Research essay sample on Jean Jacques Rousseau Age Of Reason

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