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Class 5: The Enlightenment and Social Science

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What was the Enlightenment, and how did it challenge existing conceptions?

The Enlightenment was a new framework of ideas about man, society, and nature that challenged existing conceptions rooted in a traditional world-view dominated by Christianity.

What was the ultimate goal of the Enlightenment thinkers?

The ultimate goal was to understand nature and master it through scientific method and critical rationalism.

What was the Enlightenment's impact on the development of social sciences?

The Enlightenment heralded the process of specialized disciplines, including social sciences, presided over by certified experts.

What was the significance of the term 'Age of Enlightenment'?

The term 'Age of Enlightenment' implied the general process of society awakening from the dark slumber of superstition and ignorance.

What was the central idea behind the Enlightenment's concept of the 'new man'?

The central idea was that a person could be transformed through the scientific method, acquiring knowledge through experience, observation, and experiments.

What was the connection between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution?

The Enlightenment's spirit of critical rationalism and emphasis on reason helped sow the seeds for the French Revolution.

What was the historical time period during which the Enlightenment took place?

Roughly over the period of the 18th century

Who were the 'philosophes' responsible for promoting the Enlightenment?

Men of letters who were also free thinkers; self-proclaimed 'enlightened' intellectuals

What was the characteristic feature of the second generation of Enlightenment thinkers?

Combined fashionable anti-clericalism with an interest in the scientific method

What was the outcome of the work of the third generation of Enlightenment thinkers?

Development of specialized proto-disciplines such as epistemology, economics, sociology, and political economy

What was the significance of Immanuel Kant's 'sapere aude'?

It meant 'dare to know', emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and intellectual courage

How would you characterize the Enlightenment's geographical center?

France

What is the concept of the human mind according to empiricism, as described in the context of the Enlightenment?

The human mind as an 'empty slate' or 'empty sheet of paper', where all knowledge and emotion proceeds from experience.

What is the primary concern of the 'moral sciences' that emerged during the Enlightenment?

Understanding social phenomena on the basis of human experience, and a scientific approach to those phenomena.

What is the notion of 'progress' in the context of the Enlightenment, and how is it related to the social sciences?

The idea that through the application of reason and empirically based knowledge, social institutions could be created that would make men happier and more free.

What is the significance of Voltaire's Lettre Philosophiques (1723) in the context of the Enlightenment and the development of social science?

It popularized the mix of Locke's empiricism, Bacon's ideas on empirical methods, Newton's cosmology, and religious pluralism, which formed the basis of modern science as a salvationist project.

How did the Enlightenment thinkers view the natural sciences, and what was their impact on the development of social science?

The natural sciences were adored and even 'deified', with figures like Newton having a significant influence on the development of social science, and the grounding of the scientific method as the basis for understanding human nature.

What was the primary goal of the philosophes in relation to moral philosophy, and how did they wish to achieve it?

They wished to free moral philosophy from theology, and put it on a scientific and rational base, deriving objective knowledge from it.

What is the concept of 'modernity' in the context of the Enlightenment, and how is it related to the development of social science?

Modernity refers to the pursuit of modernity, which involves the application of reason and empirically based knowledge to create social institutions that would make men happier and more free.

What is the significance of the Enlightenment's concept of science as a 'salvationist project', and how did it influence the development of social science?

Science could be applied to society and become the basis of future social values selected rationally on the basis of predetermined goals, thereby providing a basis for social progress and improvement.

Study Notes

The Enlightenment

  • A new framework of ideas about man, society, and nature that challenged existing conceptions rooted in a traditional world-view dominated by Christianity.
  • Pursued universal models of knowledge, following the earlier model of the Renaissance man as the archetype of cultivated knowledge.

The Enlightenment as the Pursuit of Modernity

  • Emerged as a distinctively empiricist endeavour, developing the "moral sciences" to understand social phenomena based on human experience and a scientific approach.
  • Fused the founding concepts of the social sciences with the concept of progress, aiming to create social institutions that would make men happier and free.
  • Believed in the application of reason and empirically based knowledge to create a better society.
  • Constructed science as a salvationist project, where science could be applied to society and become the basis of future social values selected rationally on the basis of predetermined goals.

Key Features of the Enlightenment

  • The human mind was seen as an "empty slate" or "empty sheet of paper", where all knowledge and emotion proceeds from experience (empiricism).
  • The concept of a "new man" was created by the scientific method, where a man who understands nature and masters it through knowledge derived from experience, observation, and experiments.
  • The Enlightenment was characterized by a spirit of critical rationalism, encouraging a mood of impending disaster and sowing the seeds for the French Revolution.

Key Figures and Influences

  • Influenced by Locke, Newton, and Bacon's ideas on empirical methods and cosmology.
  • Key figures include Voltaire, Montesquieu, David Hume, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, Jean d'Alembert, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, Marquis de Condorcet, and Adam Ferguson.
  • These figures contributed to the development of a philosophical understanding of the natural sciences and the grounding of the scientific method as the basis for an understanding of human nature.

Social, Spatial, and Historical Location

  • Roughly occurred over the period of the 18th century.
  • Geographically centered on France.
  • Promoted by the "philosophes", who were self-proclaimed "enlightened" intellectuals with a cosmopolitan outlook.
  • The work of three overlapping generations, with each contributing to the development of the Enlightenment worldview, fostered a cultural and intellectual transformation in Europe, shaping modern thought, politics, and society, and laying the groundwork for the Age of Reason. This pivotal era saw a shift from traditional authority and dogma to empirical evidence and critical thinking, allowing for a deeper understanding of human nature and the natural world. The Enlightenment thinkers' emphasis on individual liberty, democracy, and progress paved the way for the scientific, industrial, and social revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries.

This quiz covers the Enlightenment period and its impact on the development of social science, exploring the new framework of ideas that challenged traditional conceptions.

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