The Enlightenment was a time of great innovation. It was an innovation of ideas. It was an innovation of how people viewed reality, how they viewed society, how they viewed governments, how they viewed God, and how they viewed each other. The term Enlightenment is used to describe this period in European history, because it describes the new ideas, and also the return to and application of classical ideas. It was as if the light was suddenly turned on in peoples’ brains.
From the beginning of time people have wondered why, but during the Enlightenment, thinkers took these why questions to a whole new level. They imagined that they could reason out all aspects of life, from the laws of gravity, to cooking, to relationships. This led to great innovations and inventions. Sadly it also led to some believing there was no God and no need of on, while others adopted the idea of Deism, and still others were strengthened in their faith, realizing that their God created the glorious logic and reason.
Enlightenment thinkers would congregate in coffeehouses seeking to awaken their brains to new ideas. Radical ideas were introduced during these discussions. Writers like John Lock and Isaac Newton would be remembered as an inspiration to future generations. The ideas that all men are equal and should be free, that governments should not favor elites over were radical to this time period.
In practice, this searching for truth led to cultural literacy in all classes as people sought to spread their ideas and others were invigorated by the new information they read. Governments sought to abolish the printing press that was aiding the distribution of these radical ideas, but it was too late; the people were revolutionized by reason.
This logic and reason that characterized the Enlightenment led to wonderful scientific discoveries. One such discovery was Bacon’s Scientific Method, which is used to this day. This idea of a formulated way to experiment revolutionized western science.
Part of the reason for these revolutionizing ideas was a return to the reading of classical literature and classical ideas. The people were simply rediscovering the inherent truths of the world. As shown in the Primary Source, Excerpts From the Encyclopedia, the Enlightenment was defined by the seeking out of reason and writing it down for future generations, for ease of reference and for deeper understanding.
The term Enlightenment truly suites this time period; it demonstrates the scientific, intellectual, political and simply human realizations of Europeans. As Europe arose out a state of turmoil these realizations and innovations strengthened the people and ultimately led to governments that were primarily or at least partially ruled by people, who, because of the Enlightenment, had a completely new philosophies on life.