A blupete Essay

The Age of Reason, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"The Law"

The enormous scientific and intellectual advancements made in the 17th century, the Enlightenment, -- the Age of Reason -- brought about in Western Thought, the age of the scientific man. The thinkers of the age were no longer content to accept the cosmos and its contained life as a mystery to be simply accepted. The time had come for man to test his theories which flooded into his mind; to test these theories with his observations and to reset these theories in accordance with his accumulated observations: and, seemingly without end, to continue to retest and to reset.
"... the closed and authoritarian system of the Middle Ages was replaced by the open and relativistic world of modern times. The closed geography of feudal Europe was pried open, first by the Crusades, then by the discovery of new trade routes, and finally by the world-wide explorations of the great navigators. The flat two-dimensional earth became a spheroid, three-dimensional world. The limited and static spatial theory of Ptolemy gave way to the dynamic heliocentric theory of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Time, as well as space, was broadened. The development of chronology, the recovery of ancient monuments, and speculations about the future expanded the temporal scope of men's views. Economically, the closed and largely self-contained feudal estates were replaced by cities and towns, with the mutual interdependence that comes from the specialization of labor, till the whole medieval scheme of production was made over into the "free" system of commerce and industry."4
It was Francis Bacon (1561-1626) much impressed by the materialist theories and the resultant discoveries of both Copernicus and Galileo, delineating the principles of the inductive scientific method, who argued that the only knowledge of importance to man was empirically rooted in the natural world. (It is, incidentally, to Bacon we trace the expression, "Knowledge is Power.") The age had finally arrived whereby it was believed by a clear system of scientific inquiry, a new approach, that man might exercise mastery over the world. It is with such thinkers as did follow Bacon -- Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Paine, and Jefferson -- that this scientific approach was applied to political and social issues; and so arose the liberal, the humanitarian, and the belief in a sense of human progress and the belief that the state could be a rational instrument in bringing peace to the whole of society.5


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Peter Landry

2011 (2019)