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Age of Enlightenment questions and answers

Learn a beginner's guide to the Age of Enlightenment

Frederick Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving A Lecture in the Orrery, c. 1765, oil on canvas, 147 x 203 centimetres (Derby Museum and Memorial, Derby, England)

Scientific experiments such as the one pictured here were offered as fascinating shows towards the public within the mid-18th century. In Frederick Wright of Derby's painting A Philosopher Giving A Lecture in the Orrery (1765), we have seen the illustration showing an orrery, an analog type of the photo voltaic system which was accustomed to demonstrate the motions from the planets round the sun—making the world appear similar to time.

In the heart of the orrery is really a gas light, which signifies the sun's rays (although the figure who stands within the foreground together with his to us block this from your view) the arcs represent the orbits from the planets. Wright focuses on faces from the figures to produce a compelling narrative.

With works of art such as these, Wright invented a brand new subject: moments of experiments and new machinery, and also the origins from the Industrial Revolution (think metropolitan areas, railroads, steam energy, gas after which electric light, industrial facilities, machines, pollution). Wright's passion for light, strange shadows, and darkness, discloses the influence of Baroque art.


Jean-Antoine Houdon, Voltaire, 1778, marble (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) photo: Sara Stierch CC BY 2.0Toward the center of the 18th century a change in thinking happened. This change is called the Enlightenment. You've most likely already heard about some important Enlightenment figures, like Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire. It's useful I believe to consider the term "enlighten" here—the concept of losing light on something, lighting it, which makes it obvious.

The thinkers from the Enlightenment, affected through the scientific revolutions from the previous century, supported losing the sunshine of science and reason around the world to be able to question traditional ideas and methods for doing things. The scientific revolution (according to empirical observation, and this is not on metaphysics or spirituality) gave the sense the world socialized based on universal and constant laws and regulations (think about Newton here). This provided one for searching rationally on human institutions in addition to character.

Reason and equality

Jean-Jaques Roussaeu, Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique (or even the Social Contract or Concepts of Political Right), 1762, FranceRousseau, for instance, started to question the thought of the divine right of Nobleman. Within The Social Contract, he authored the King doesn't, actually, receive his energy from God, but instead in the general will of those. This, obviously, suggests that "the folksInch can take away that energy! The Enlightenment thinkers also talked about other ideas which are the founding concepts associated with a democracy—the concept of the significance of the person who are able to reason behind themself, the thought of equality underneath the law, and the thought of natural privileges. The Enlightenment was a time of profound optimism, a feeling by using science and reason—and the consequent losing of old superstitions—human creatures and human society would improve.

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