The century of Lights, the Age of the Reason, the Age of Enlightenment, whatever you call it, was a particular time. Its main ideas dominated the intellectual landscape of Europe throughout the 18th century. That’s what you may know from school. But what exactly is this decade all about? How knowledge was perceived and processed? Why was it called Age of Reason? And why is its influence on nearly everything everlasting?
Yes, as strange as it may seem to an unsophisticated everyman, the impact of the Enlightenment years goes well beyond some abstractions. It’s all about our everyday life.
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So, What Is Reason?
First of all, we must admit that big figures of the Enlightenment years had a very unobvious comprehension of what is Reason. Here we take French Enlightenment by tradition, as in different countries Enlightenment had peculiarities in specificities of its evolution and even conveyed message, be it Germany or even Scotland. Perhaps looking through the notes by Voltaire or Diderot, you can’t help but fall in love with the style and imagination of the greats. But then, it turns out that the so much vaunted conception of Reason has its curious peculiarities.
To put it simply, after considering everything that happened in those times and the events that drew inspiration from those seemingly great ideas (the Founding Fathers were great admirers of the Enlightened), we can come up with the following conclusion.
Reason is the most valuable thing any Human Being has got. Reason and understanding how it functions are pretty much everything you need to be Human and to rule the world. However, there are visibly pragmatic dimensions in it as, on the one hand, there are things that are rational, or “rational to accomplish”. And, on the other hand, the other things ae different.
In fact, you can’t help feeling the monopoly of the Enlightenment greats on what is good and bad, rational and irrational. Sooner or later, it feels rather suspicious as there’s always this condescending attitude and “reason is great, but we know exactly what it is and what kind of reason we need” types of arguments.
As you already understood from what has been put above, there’s some “totalitarian” touch in nearly everything expressed by the Great Minds. If we remember the run of the French Revolution and the methods it made extensive use of at a certain point in time, we are even not surprised at all.
Some say that those great people were the first Bolsheviks, and perhaps they are actually not so wrong. So, everything happens according to the scheme: “Believe in reason, have your free choice, but… we should help you a bit, because we know a bit more”.
Then you think about how marketing functions in our times with that pervasive suggesting you “something you definitely need” and you realize that basis of our lifestyle was sketched out long time ago. Actually, Enlightenment was the beginning of modernity we never quite escaped from.
With somewhat patronizing statements and the value of knowledge a bit compromised because of averaging out of the “norm” of intellectual exercises, despite the overall declarations of their unavoidable and supreme necessity, it is no wonder that the great peers of Enlightenment are criticized by quite a wide range of historians and experts nowadays, who are trying to find alternative ways of Enlightenment evolution.
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