Literature Glossary - Enlightenment

 

american enlightenment literature

American Enlightenment Thought. Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French Enlightenments. The period saw lots of revolutionary activity, such as the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Interested in how Enlightenment thinking played a role in the American Revolution? Check out our learning guide on just that. So what was happening in literature in during this era? The American Enlightenment was a time of great changes in literature in the American colonies. It was a period of rejecting many Puritanical ideals that limited social commentary, and instead.


American Enlightenment Thought | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French Enlightenments. In the American context, american enlightenment literature, thinkers such as Thomas Paine, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin invented and adopted revolutionary ideas about scientific rationality, religious toleration and experimental political organization—ideas that would have far-reaching effects on the development of the fledgling nation.

Some coupled science and religion in the notion of deism; others asserted the natural rights of man in the anti-authoritarian doctrine of liberalism; and still others touted the importance of cultivating virtue, enlightened leadership and community in early forms of republican thinking, american enlightenment literature.

At least six ideas came to punctuate American Enlightenment thinking: deism, liberalism, republicanism, conservatism, toleration and scientific progress. Many of these were shared with European Enlightenment thinkers, but in some instances took a uniquely American form. American enlightenment literature pre- and post-revolutionary era american enlightenment literature American history generated propitious conditions for Enlightenment thought to thrive on an order comparable to that witnessed in the European Enlightenments.

The Englishman-cum-revolutionary Thomas Paine wrote the famous pamphlet The Rights of Mandecrying the abuses of the North American colonies by their English masters. In the post-revolutionary years, american enlightenment literature, a whole american enlightenment literature of American thinkers would found a new system of government on liberal and republican principles, articulating their enduring ideas in documents such as the Declaration of Independenceamerican enlightenment literature, the Federalist Papers and the United States Constitution.

Although distinctive features arose in the eighteenth-century American context, american enlightenment literature, much of the American Enlightenment was continuous with parallel experiences in British and American enlightenment literature society. Four themes recur in both European and American Enlightenment texts: modernization, american enlightenment literature, skepticism, reason and liberty.

Many Enlightenment thinkers—especially the French philosophessuch as Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot—subscribed to some form of skepticism, doubting appeals to miraculous, transcendent and supernatural forces that potentially limit the scope of individual choice and reason.

Besides identifying dominant themes running throughout the Enlightenment period, some historians, such as Henry May and Jonathan Israel, understand Enlightenment thought as divisible into two broad categories, each reflecting the content and intensity of ideas prevalent at the time. The moderate Enlightenment signifies commitments to economic liberalism, religious toleration and constitutional politics.

In contrast american enlightenment literature its moderate incarnation, the radical Enlightenment conceives enlightened thought through the prism of revolutionary rhetoric and classical Republicanism.

Influenced as it was by the British and French, American Enlightenment thought integrates both moderate and radical elements. American Enlightenment thought can also be appreciated chronologically, or in terms american enlightenment literature three temporal stages in the development of Enlightenment Age thinking. The middle stage extends from to just a few years after the start of the American Revolution in It is characterized by an exploding fascination with science, religious revivalism and experimental forms of government, especially in the United States, american enlightenment literature.

However, American Enlightenment thinkers were not always of a single mind with their European counterparts. For instance, several American Enlightenment thinkers—particularly James Madison and John Adams, though not Benjamin Franklin—judged the French philosophes to be morally degenerate intellectuals of the era. Many European and American Enlightenment figures were critical of democracy. John Adams and James Madison perpetuated the elitist and anti-democratic idea that to invest too much political power in the hands of uneducated and property-less people was to put society at constant risk of social and political upheaval.

In the Two Treatises on Government andLocke argued against the divine right of kings and in favor of government grounded on the consent of the governed; so long as people would have american enlightenment literature to hand over some of their liberties enjoyed in a pre-political society or state of nature in exchange for the protection of basic rights to life, american enlightenment literature, liberty and property.

However, if the state reneged on the social contract by failing to protect those natural rights, then the people had a right to revolt and form a new government. Perhaps more of a democrat than Locke, Rousseau insisted in The Social Contract that citizens have a right of self-government, choosing the rules by which they live and the judges who shall enforce those rules.

European Enlightenment thinkers conceived tradition, custom and prejudice Vorurteil as barriers to gaining true knowledge of the universal laws of nature. Deists appreciated God as a reasonable Deity.

A reasonable God endowed humans with rationality in order that they might discover the moral instructions of the universe in the natural law, american enlightenment literature. Deists were typically though not american enlightenment literature Protestants, sharing a disdain for the religious dogmatism and blind obedience to tradition exemplified by the Catholic Church.

Rather than fight members of the Catholic faith with violence and intolerance, most deists resorted to the use of tamer weapons such as humor and mockery. Some struggled with the tensions between Calvinist orthodoxy and deist beliefs, while other subscribed to the populist version of deism advanced by Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason.

Despite the near absence of God in human life, American deists did not deny His existence, largely because the majority of the populace still remained strongly religious, traditionally pious and supportive of the good works for example monasteries, religious schools and community service that the clergy did. American enlightenment literature idea central to American Enlightenment thinking is liberalism, american enlightenment literature, that is, the notion that humans have natural rights and that government authority is not absolute, but based on the will and consent of the governed.

Rather than a radical or revolutionary doctrine, liberalism was rooted in the commercial harmony and tolerant Protestantism embraced by merchants in Northern Europe, particularly Holland and England. Liberals favored the interests of the middle class over those of the high-born aristocracy, an outlook of tolerant pluralism that did not discriminate between consumers or citizens based on their race american enlightenment literature creed, a legal system devoted to the protection of private property rights, and an ethos of strong individualism over the passive collectivism associated with feudal arrangements.

Liberals also preferred rational argumentation and free exchange of ideas to the uncritical of religious doctrine or governmental mandates. In this way, liberal thinking was anti-authoritarian. Although later liberalism became associated with grassroots democracy and a sharp separation of the public and private domains, american enlightenment literature, early liberalism favored a parliamentarian form of government that protected liberty of expression and movement, the right to petition the government, separation of church and state and the confluence of public and private interests in philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavors.

The U. Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, guarantees a schedule of individual rights based on the liberal ideal.

Republican values include civic patriotism, virtuous citizenship and property-based personality. Developed during late antiquity and early renaissance, classic republicanism differed from early liberalism insofar as rights were not thought to be granted by God in a pre-social state of nature, but were the products of living in political society.

On the classical republican view of liberty, citizens exercise freedom within american enlightenment literature context of existing social relations, historical associations and traditional communities, not as autonomous individuals set apart from their social and political ties. The Jeffersonian ideal of the yeoman farmer, which had its roots in the similar Roman ideal, represented the eighteenth-century American as both a hard-working agrarian and as a citizen-soldier devoted to the republic.

When elected to the highest office of the land, George Washington famously demurred when offered a royal title, preferring instead the more republican title of President.

Though scholarly debate persists over the relative importance of liberalism and republicanism during the American Revolution and Founding see Recent Work sectionthe view that republican ideas were a formative influence on American Enlightenment thinking has gained widespread acceptance. Though the Enlightenment is more often associated with liberalism and republicanism, an undeniable strain of conservatism emerged in the last stage of the Enlightenment, mainly as a reaction to the excesses of the French Revolution.

Though it is argued that Burkean conservatism was a reaction to the Enlightenment or anti-Enlightenmentconservatives were also operating within the framework of Enlightenment ideas. Some Enlightenment claims about human nature are turned back upon themselves and shown to american enlightenment literature down when applied more generally to human culture.

For instance, Enlightenment faith in universal declarations of human rights do more harm than good when they contravene the conventions and traditions of specific nations, regions and localities. Similar to the classical republicans, Burke believed that human personality was the product of living in a political society, not a set of natural rights that predetermined our social and political relations. Conservatives attacked the notion of a social contract prominent in the work of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau as a mythical construction that overlooked the plurality of groups and perspectives in society, a fact which made brokering compromises inevitable and universal consent impossible, american enlightenment literature.

Burke only insisted on a tempered version, american enlightenment literature, not a wholesale rejection of Enlightenment values. Conservatism featured strongly in American Enlightenment thinking, american enlightenment literature. While Burke was critical of the French Revolution, he supported the American Revolution for disposing of English colonial misrule while creatively readapting British traditions and institutions to the American temperament.

American Enlightenment thinkers such as James Madison and John Adams held views that echoed and in some cases anticipated Burkean conservatism, leading them to criticize the rise of revolutionary France and the popular pro-French Jacobin clubs during and after the French Revolution, american enlightenment literature.

Toleration or tolerant pluralism was also a major theme in American Enlightenment thought. It reflected their belief that hatred or fear of other races and creeds interfered with economic trade, extinguished freedom of thought and expression, eroded the basis for friendship among nations and led to persecution and war.

Tiring of religious wars particularly as the 16 th century French wars of religion and the 17 th century Thirty Years Waramerican enlightenment literature, European Enlightenment thinkers imagined an age in which enlightened reason not religious dogmatism governed relations between diverse peoples with loyalties to different faiths. The Protestant Reformation and the Treaty of Westphalia significantly weakened the Catholic Papacy, empowered secular political institutions and provided the conditions for independent nation-states to flourish.

American thinkers inherited this principle of tolerant pluralism from their European Enlightenment forebearers. Inspired by the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers John Knox and George Buchanan, American Calvinists created open, friendly and tolerant institutions such as the secular public school and democratically organized religion which became the Presbyterian Church. In it, Locke argued that government is ill-equipped to judge the rightness or wrongness of american enlightenment literature religious doctrines, faith could not be coerced and if attempted the result would be greater religious and political discord.

So, american enlightenment literature government ought to protect liberty of conscience, the right to worship as one chooses or not to worship at all and refrain from establishing an official state-sanctioned church. The Enlightenment enthusiasm for scientific discovery was directly related to the growth of deism and skepticism about received religious doctrine. In pre-revolutionary America, scientists or natural philosophers belonged to the Royal Society untilwhen Benjamin Franklin helped create and then served as the first president of the American Philosophical Society.

Franklin became one of the most famous American scientists during the American enlightenment literature period because of his many practical inventions and his theoretical work on the properties of electricity.

What follows are brief accounts of how four significant thinkers contributed to the eighteenth-century American Enlightenment: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams. Benjamin Franklin, the author, american enlightenment literature, printer, scientist and statesman who led America through a tumultuous period of colonial politics, a revolutionary war and its momentous, though no less precarious, founding as a nation.

In his Autobiographyhe extolled the virtues of thrift, industry and money-making or acquisitiveness. Not only did Franklin advise his fellow citizens to create and join these associations, but he also founded american enlightenment literature participated in many himself. Franklin was a staunch defender of federalism, a critic of narrow parochialism, a visionary leader in world politics and a strong advocate of religious liberty.

A Virginian statesman, scientist and diplomat, Jefferson is probably best known for drafting the Declaration of Independence. American enlightenment literature that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and american enlightenment literature change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.

Constitution, a man of letters, a politician, a scientist and a diplomat who left an enduring legacy on American philosophical thought. As a tireless american enlightenment literature for the ratification of the Constitution, american enlightenment literature, Madison advanced his most groundbreaking ideas in his jointly authoring The Federalist Papers with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.

Indeed, two of his most enduring ideas—the large republic thesis and the argument for separation-of-powers and checks-and-balances—are contained there. In the tenth Federalist paper, Madison explains the problem of factions, namely, that the development of groups with shared interests advocates or interest groups is inevitable and dangerous to republican government.

If we try to vanquish factions, then we will in turn american enlightenment literature the liberty upon which their existence and activities are founded. John Adams was also a founder, statesman, diplomat and eventual President who contributed to American Enlightenment thought.

Turgotand Discourses on Davila Once introduced, elections ceased in the North American colonies, american enlightenment literature, British subjects felt enslaved and revolution became inevitable, american enlightenment literature.

In the DefenseAdams offers an uncompromising defense of republicanism, american enlightenment literature. Revealing the Enlightenment theme of conservatism, Adams criticized the notion of unrestricted popular rule or pure democracy in the Discourses. Since humans are always desirous of increasing their personal power and reputation, all the while making invidious comparisons, government must be designed to constrain the effects of these passionate tendencies.

Invocations of universal freedom draw their inspiration from Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Jefferson, but come into conflict with contemporary liberal appeals to multiculturalism and pluralism, american enlightenment literature. Each of these Enlightenment thinkers sought to ground the legitimacy of the state on a theory of rational-moral political order reflecting universal truths about human nature—for instance, that humans are carriers of inalienable rights Lockeautonomous agents Kantor fundamentally equal creations Jefferson.

According to these critics, Enlightenment liberalism, rather than offering a neutral framework, discloses a full-blooded doctrine that competes with alternative views of truth, the good life, and human nature. However, as previously noted, evidence of Burkean conservatism offers an alternative to the strong universalism that these recent commentators criticize in American Enlightenment thought. If human societies are to achieve genuine moral progress, parochialism, dogma and prejudice ought to give way to science and reason in efforts to solve pressing problems.

Until the publication american enlightenment literature J. Gordon Wood and Bernard Bailyn contend that republicanism was dominant and liberalism recessive in American Enlightenment thought. Isaac Kramnick american enlightenment literature defends the orthodox position that American Enlightenment thinking was exclusively Lockean and liberal, thus explaining the strongly individualistic character of modern American culture.

Shane J. Ralston Email: sjr21 psu. American Enlightenment Thought Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French Enlightenments.

Enlightenment Age Thinking The pre- and post-revolutionary era in American history generated propitious conditions for Enlightenment thought to thrive on an order comparable to that witnessed in the European Enlightenments. Moderate and Radical Besides identifying dominant themes running throughout the Enlightenment american enlightenment literature, some historians, such as Henry May and Jonathan Israel, understand Enlightenment thought as divisible into two broad categories, each reflecting the content american enlightenment literature intensity of ideas prevalent at the time.

Chronology American Enlightenment thought can also be appreciated chronologically, or in terms of three temporal stages in the development of Enlightenment Age thinking.

 

 

american enlightenment literature

 

American Enlightenment Thought. Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French Enlightenments. The period saw lots of revolutionary activity, such as the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Interested in how Enlightenment thinking played a role in the American Revolution? Check out our learning guide on just that. So what was happening in literature in during this era? The American Enlightenment was a time of great changes in literature in the American colonies. It was a period of rejecting many Puritanical ideals that limited social commentary, and instead.