The spread of Scientific Revolution concepts and practices and the Enlightenment's application of these concepts and practices to political, social, and ethical issues led to an increased but not unchallenged emphasis on reason in European culture.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans applied the methods of the new science -- such as empiricism, mathematics, and skepticism -- to human affairs. During the Enlightenment, intellectuals such as Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot aimed to replace faith in divine revelation with faith in human reason and classical values. In economics and politics, liberal theorists such as John Locke and Adam Smith questioned absolutism and mercantilism by arguing for the authority of natural law and the market. Belief in progress, along with improved social and economic conditions, spurred significant gains in literacy and education as well as the creation of a new culture of the printed word -- including novels, newspapers, periodicals, and such reference works as Diderot’s Encyclopédie -- for a growing educated audience.
Alongside several movements of religious revival that occurred during the 18th century, European elite culture embraced skepticism, secularism, and atheism for the first time in European history. From the beginning of this period, Protestants and Catholics grudgingly tolerated each other following the religious warfare of the previous two centuries. By 1800, most governments had extended toleration to Christian minorities and in some states even to Jews. Religion was viewed increasingly as a matter of private rather than public concern.
The new rationalism did not sweep all before it; in fact, it coexisted with a revival of sentimentalism and emotionalism. Until about 1750, Baroque art and music glorified religious feeling and drama as well as the grandiose pretensions of absolute monarchs. During the French Revolution, romanticism and nationalism implicitly challenged what some saw as the Enlightenment’s overemphasis on reason. These Counter-Enlightenment views laid the foundations for new cultural and political values in the 19th century. Overall, intellectual and cultural developments reflected a new worldview in which rationalism, skepticism, scientific investigation, and a belief in progress generally dominated. At the same time, other worldview stemming from religion, nationalism, and romanticism remained influential.
2.3.1: Enlightenment thought, which focused on concepts such as empiricism, skepticism, human reason, rationalism, and classical sources of knowledge, challenged the prevailing patterns of thought with respect to social order, institutions of government, and the role of faith.
2.3.1.A: Intellectuals such as Voltaire and Diderot began to apply the principles of the Scientific Revolution to society and human institutions.
2.3.1.B: Locke and Rousseau developed new political models based on the concept of natural rights and the social contract.
2.3.1.C: Despite the principles of equality espoused by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, intellectuals such as Rousseau offered controversial arguments for the exclusion of women from political life, which did not go unchallenged.
2.3.2: New public venues and print media popularized Enlightenment ideas.
2.3.2.A: A variety of institutions, such as salons, explored and disseminated Enlightenment culture.
2.3.2.B: Despite censorship, increasingly numerous and varied printed materials served a growing literate public and led to the development of public opinion.
2.3.2.C: Natural sciences, literature, and popular culture increasingly exposed Europeans to representations of peoples outside Europe and, on occasion, challenges to accepted social norms.
2.3.3: New political and economic theories challenged absolutism and mercantilism.
2.3.3.A: Political theories, such as John Locke’s, conceived of society as composed of individuals driven by self-interest and argued that the state originated in the consent of the governed (i.e., a social contract) rather than in divine right or tradition.
2.3.3.B: Mercantilist theory and practice were challenged by new economic ideas, such as Adam Smith’s, espousing free trade and a free market.
2.3.4: During the Enlightenment, the rational analysis of religious practices led to natural religion and the demand for religious toleration.
2.3.4.A: Intellectuals, including Voltaire and Diderot, developed new philosophies of deism, skepticism, and atheism.
2.3.4.B: Religion was viewed increasingly as a matter of private rather than public concern.
2.3.4.C: By 1800, most governments in western and central Europe had extended toleration to Christian minorities and, in some states, civil equality to Jews.
2.3.5: The arts moved from the celebration of religious themes and royal power to an emphasis on private life and the public good.
2.3.5.A: Until about 1750, Baroque art and music promoted religious feeling and was employed by monarchs to illustrate state power.
￼2.3.5.B: Eighteenth-century art and literature increasingly reflected the outlook and values of commercial and bourgeois society. Neoclassicism expressed new Enlightenment ideals of citizenship and political participation.
2.3.6: While Enlightenment values dominated the world of European ideas and culture, they were challenged by the revival of public expression of emotions and feeling.
2.3.6.A: Rousseau questioned the exclusive reliance on reason and emphasized the role of emotions in the moral improvement of self and society.
2.3.6.B: Romanticism emerged as a challenge to Enlightenment rationality.
2.3.6.C: Consistent with the Romantic Movement, religious revival occurred in Europe and included notable movements such as Methodism, founded by John Wesley.
2.3.6.D: Revolution, war, and rebellion demonstrated the emotional power of mass politics and nationalism.