What Was The Enlightenment Movement?

We explain to you what this stage of history consisted of, which prompted scientific thought.


The current Western world could not be understood without the Enlightenment movement. Its existence laid the foundations for the development of science as we know it, in addition to promoting values ​​such as rationality and freedom with its optimistic philosophy about the possibilities of transforming the society that human beings had. Let’s see what it consisted of.

What was the Enlightenment?

In the middle of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, a handful of intellectual bourgeois from the heart of Europe decided that they were already fed up with the system established by the Old Regime, also called the Absolutist Regime, where all political power and social life was ruled by a law that was erected by “divine election.”

Although historians attribute the birth of the Enlightenment to England, it was in France where this thought began to lay its foundations with intellectuals such as Voltaire, Rousseau or Montesquieu among others, founding what would be encyclopedism, which would be a great promoter of the Enlightenment.

Rationalism, the ideological basis of this historical stage

The Enlightenment is a movement of a philosophical, literary, scientific and, finally, political nature. The main mantra was to end the status quo imposed by the archaic and outdated structures of the European kingdoms, basically run by religion and ecclesiastical institutions. This period would also become known as The Age of Enlightenment, the result of the progress and development of new ideas, based mainly on reason and individual freedom.

As a synthesis of the previous paragraph, we can say that the Enlightenment had as its main characteristics rationalism, belief in the goodness of the human being, secularism and optimism ; the latter from a more humanistic point of view. The idea of ​​reason ruled over Revelation and theological mandates, firmly opposing traditionalism.

Rationalism will then be the term most heard during the time of the Enlightenment, a metaphor to express the illumination that intelligence and logic give off to guide the world full of ignorance. The reason should be the element by which man had the ability to understand everything through his intelligence, avoiding superstitions and extraterrestrial theories. “That which is not rational, should be branded false”, defended the illustrated.

Main characteristics of the movement

Once again, we focus on reason as the only way to know the truth. Science will influence this premise, where everything that is the object of discussion or intellectual debate, must have evidence: an attempt is made to avoid the dogmatism typical of religions. It was René Descartes who inspired illustrators with his ideas of “methodical doubt.” Voltaire was another critic of the theological fanaticism and conservative values ​​that prevented the shake of ignorance.

Another element to take into account is the ultimate purpose of the Age of Enlightenment, which was none other than to help achieve happiness and well-being for citizens, through progress, private property, freedom and equality. To achieve happiness, politics has to be the means to achieve it for the whole society where a social contract governs between the people and the rulers.

The enlightened in Spain

As it would happen in the rest of European territories and nations, the Enlightenment would gradually enter the veins of Spanish society and with extreme moderation. Not that it came suddenly and much later than in France or Germany, but the power of the Church made it difficult to advance.

In fact, as was also the case in counterpart countries, the enlightened Spanish were an intellectual minority of a noble class, with property and very often, with part of the clerical sector on their side, which was a novelty. Not all defenders of the divinity were opposed to the new horde of ideas that was about to establish itself throughout the old continent, giving rise to the French Revolution of 1789.

As a minority represented by the illustrated authors of Spain, the means they used to get the message across was the creation of public intellectual institutions so that everyone had access. Academies of Language, History, Sciences and Medicine were pioneers in revealing the ideas of “the lights” in our territory. Some authors such as Jovellanos, Guindo Cerezo and even King Carlos III, were great supporters of this movement.

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