The Age of Reason

The Age of Reason was a period in time during the 18th century in Europe and America when man become enlightened by reason, science, and humanity. The people involved with the Age of Reason were convinced that human reason could discover the natural laws of the universe, the natural rights of mankind, and the progress in knowledge. Each philosopher had his own ideas and theories about the world, nature, and human beings in general, and every philosopher wrote many essays and books about their own personal ideas and opinions (Sartre4). David Hume was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 7, 1711.

Educated at home and then at the University of Edinburgh; here he studies law but then decides to pursue an independent study of his own ideas (Sartre 132). From 1734 to 1737 Hume was busy writing his book, A Treatise of Human Nature, which talked about the problems of thoughtful philosophy (Hampshire 105). However, the public ignored this important piece of work making Hume feel like he was “dead-born. ” After this horrible reaction to A Treatise of Human Nature Hume went back home where he started thinking more about ethics and political economy.

Along with these thoughts Hume wrote books expressing how he felt about these subjects(Snyder34). Essay Moral and Political was one book that enclosed an essay written by Hume dealing with ethics and political economy. Hume felt that ethical thinking was the idea of knowing right from wrong and comes about from ones own self-happiness. Benevolence was the biggest moral good as far as Hume was concerned. The unselfish understanding of anybody or anything’s general welfare was very important to David Hume.

Aside from that, Hume also had a great influence in the development of skepticism and empiricism, which are two schools of philosophy (Snyder 45). David Hume’s greatest influences were British philosophers John Locke and Bishop George Berkeley. Hume was able to find the differences in reason and sensation just like Berkeley, but Hume took his findings to another level. Hume was able to prove that reason and rational judgment are nothing more than usual associations of an individual’s prior knowledge. (Hampshire, 115).

David Hume contributed many excellent points and ideas about ethics, political economy, skepticism and empiricism, and wrote many good pieces of literature about his ideas. Unfortunately, David Hume died in 1976 (Hampshire 117). Jean Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher was born in Geneva on June 18, 1712, and was raised by an aunt and uncle after his mother died a few days after he was born. Rousseau was originally thought to be an engraver, but he soon ran away after three years to a wealthy woman named Madame Louise de Warens (Sartre 141).

Jean Jacques Rousseau stated that the view of science, art, and social institutions has corrupted humankind. He also stated that natural state is morally greater than civilized state. Later he stated that it is more important to express yourself than to hold back on becoming a unique individual (Hampshire, 149). Jean Jacques Rousseau had a great deal to do with the movement of Western Europe. He supported individual freedom, but disliked the abolishment of the church and the state.

On top of that, Jean Jacques Rousseau influenced romanticism in literature and philosophy in the early 19th century. Jean Jacques Rousseau dies in 1778 (Hampshire 152). French philosopher, Claude Adrien Helvetius, was born in Paris in 1715. He believed that all human thoughts, judgments, memory and comparison were all characteristics of sensation. He even went as far as stating that the only motive that humans have is for self-interest. He died in 1771 (Hampshire 132). Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher born on April 22, 1724.

He was considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of modern times. Immanuel went to the Collegium Fredericianum and the University of Knigsberg where he studies physics, the classics, and mathematics (Snyder 67). Immanuel Kant’s philosophy was sometimes considered to be critical. He believed that actions must be started from a feeling of duty. He also stated that no action performed for convenience can be considered to be moral. Kant also described two types of commands given by reason: the hypothetical imperative and the categorical imperative (Hampshire, 160).

In Critique of Pure Reason (1781), he examined the bases of human knowledge. Analytic and synthetic propositions were the two modes of thinking that Immanuel Kant used in his philosophy (Hampshire 160). Analytic proposition is when the predicate is contained in the subject, and synthetic proposition is when something cannot be reached by pure analysis (Snyder 78). Immanuel Kant also states that propositions can further be divided into two subtypes: empirical and a priori.

Empirical proposition depend on sense perception, while priori propositions are not based on sense perception. Transcendentalism is what these propositions are usually known as (Hampshire 90). The Metaphysics of Ethics (1797) is based on a belief that reason is the final authority for morality. Immanuel Kant believed that all actions are done for a reason and that no self-serving act can be considered to be moral. In 1804, Immanuel Kant passed away (Hampshire 91). German philosopher, Johann Fichte was born on May 19, 1762. He was educated at Pforta, Jena, and Leipzig.

He believed that philosophy was a science, because it must come from a single proposition and express all grounds of experience. However, Fichte disagreed with Kant greatly; he felt that all experiences were pure and that they came from an individual’s ego and consciousness (Hampshire, 77). Fichte’s first essay Critique of All Revelation was written anonymously and many thought that it was one of Immanuel Kant’s pieces of work. He died on January 27, 1814 in Berlin (Sartre 112). Johann von Herder, a German philosopher, was born on August 25, 1744.

He was the first person to introduce romanticism to Germany. Since Johann von Herder was a leader in the Sturm und Drang movement, he had many people who followed and looked up to him. He studied at the University of Knigsberg (Paine 105). Johann von Herder attempted to express the fact that nature and human history are very similar. He also attempted to state that in time history will repeat itself (Hampshire 26). Even though his work was left unfinished, his ideas were a huge contribution to The Age of Reason. He died in Weimar on December 18, 1803 (Paine 108).

Friedrich Schleiermacher was on November 21, 1768, in Breslau, Lower Silesia. He is known as the 19th century theologian of the Protestant church, because not only was he a philosopher but also a preacher (Sartre 57). Philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher, had ideas dealing with a more religious aspect (Sartre 57). He believed that religion was the feeling of absolute dependence on a person. He also stated that sins were a result of the inability to make a difference between a dependence of God and the earth world (Hampshire, 170).

There were many intelligent men all over the world that sat down and though about extremely meaningful things during the Age of Reason. These men have sculpted what live if like today, and their ideas and opinions are still talked about. These men are just a few of the hundreds that contributed to the age of reason whether it is a small contribution or an enormous one. Either way the different aspects of these men have allowed people in modern times to voice their opinion and not be afraid to try, just like these men have.


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