How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The Age of the Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was a period of scientific awakening, largely centred around France, although the starting point for Enlightenment was John Locke's (1632-1705) book Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), which was a relentless attack on metaphysical arguments. Metaphysics is posing the existence of objects that cannot be observed.
The Enlightenment met the church head on, tackling previously avoided issues. It was, at least initially, an act of great courage to defy the church. Kant said 'sapere aude' = 'dare to know'. Having courage of your own understanding.
In particular, the Enlightenment allows people to question anything.
The focus on self-consciousness led to a break with the past rather than a gradual change and the tendency towards specialisations led to hastening of division of disciplines (see Descartes) and spawned many specialist journals and an active printing industry.
Four main transformations
Four areas where significant change occurred were:
Hollinger's four summary claims
The Philosophes were a loose movement interested in all forms of knowledge. They were quite anti-clerical and often campaigned on behalf of its victims.
They regarded knowledge based on experience as the best form of understanding. They heroised Newton and were keen on technology and science.
They focused on legal reform, admired the British Constitution and generally championing reason and tolerance.
Denis Diderot (1713-1784) first published the huge 'Encyclopιdie' in 1751 as reference point of human knowledge. It was polemic, tendentious and sometimes scandalous.
The Scottish Enlightenment
David Hume (1711-1776) and the Scottish Enlightenment challenged empiricist tendency to fall back on ordinary moral beliefs which were seen to cause invalid causal explanation.
In his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1784), he argued for rethinking of cause and effect and identified that correlation does not imply causation. He considered knowledge should not be taken for granted and doubt should always remain. Even more than Locke, he opposed metaphysics.
The Enlightenment was double-edged as it contained a critical spirit, yet sought certainty. It did not address gender and racial biases.
Beware the 'mousetrap of social science methodology': the fact/value controversy.
Nietsche criticised the idea that knowledge, truth and rationality are supremely important. Carried to the extremes, they destroy much of what is important in life, including life itself.
And the big