The enlightenment period is when reasoning was advocated as the only source of authority and legitimacy in Europe (Paine, 208). The period was experienced in different countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Netherlands simultaneously and ended with the Atlantic Revolutions leading to the independence of America from the British Empire (Berlin, 132). During this period man used reasoning to understand the natural world and his position in the world without relying on religious beliefs for answers.
Emmanuel Kant on enlightenment
Emmanuel Kant defines enlightenment as man’s emergence from self imposed immaturity that made him unable to reason within himself claiming that laziness and cowardice makes man fear acting and always look for extra guidance since it is easy to be immature(De Groer264). Immaturity promotes laziness as people rely on one another for every aspect of activity around as non is willing to work for himself or herself for example, if one can pay, others will work for him, if one needs information the book is available and provides information. Immaturity has therefore become part of mans life making it difficult for any individual to work himself out of this bondage (Berlin, 216). Freedom is the most important agent of enlightenment as the most free individual will able to move away from immaturity of non reasoning nature to a point of knowing what to do every time. The public therefore gradually enlightens itself, a situation that that made it possible for the Western Europe citizens to overthrow the aristocratic regimes of the seventeenth and eighteenth century (Paine, 109).
He added that the move for enlightenment cannot be controlled through intimidation of rulers to the subjects at any given time however the establishment of laws in a country restricts citizens from exploiting the freedom since they are required to obey and not question any policy or rule of the government (De Groer266). Freedom enables citizens to develop a sense of responsibility to their nation and society at large, they learn to the pay tax, and participate in other duties of the society and avoid dogmatic in religious beliefs (Paine, 278). The sprit of freedom Kant, explains as capable of extending struggle to barbaric activities of the rulers to the subjects due to loss of order and harmony as a result of poor rules by rulers (Berlin, 324). Man emerged from self imposed immaturity due to several reasons such as; rulers having no interest in assuming their role on subjects and because immaturity is destructive and shameful that no man would like to associate with this spirit extended to series of movements and association of the enlightenment age (Berlin, 326).
Jean-Jacques Rousseau on enlightenment
Jean came to be the most pronounced writer and philosopher whose work recycled older enlightenment ideas when he summed up his work in his book “The Social Contact”. According to Jean, liberty formed the focal point for which people turned against their rulers and began a movement that latter developed to social, political and economic changes (De Groer218). The foundation of government and the citizens is the social contact in which the citizens give authority to a given group of people to rule over them. The rulers are suppose to offer protection the ruled by formulating laws to protect lives and property failure to which the ruled are liable to protest , move for political liberation then begins (De Groer280).
The idea on noble savage in which the nobility of the 17th and 18th century engaged in broke the social contract law making human kind to fight for liberty hence inquiry into different aspects of life as people began to reason. Similarly, the nature of mans distinctions in regard to civilization propelled the search for new knowledge of reasoning to attain liberty in social life (De Groer286). The nature of human freedom made citizens begin venturing in activities that improve their knowledge and reasoning ability (Paine, 228). Rousseau claimed, human beings were willing to forgo individual freedom to the rulers who would protect their rights under formal government rather every individual taking care of himself (De Groer316). He however, argued that the wealthiest and most powerful personalities trick the general populations hence increasing inequality and therefore urged citizens to rethink over the contract. He proposed that instead of having a government that protects the wealthiest and the powerful few, all governments should be based on fundamental rights and equality of everyone and any government that fails to protect, rights, liberty and equality should be forced out (Berlin, 332). This promoted the revolutions in France and America as he argued “we all have rights that must be protected”.
John Locke on enlightenment
The period of enlightenment was promoted by the work of philosopher John Loke who claimed that, man possessed great values majorly life, liberty and property (De Groer317).
He argued that people are willing to give up their rights in a contractual agreement that their rights are well taken care of, failure to which the ruled can forcefully grab it. This led to American declaration of independence (Paine, 300). He defined the role of government purely as that of making laws with penalties such as death for those who fail to abide by the rules and less penalty to regulate property. He emphasized for liberal political philosophy that vindicates how responsible is the government to the subjects (Berlin, 336). The legitimate government, Locke argued must be acceptable contract between the rulers and the ruled since all men have property in their own person ,together with his labor ,no government has the right take it from him(Berlin, 340). His words influenced William III to limit franchise and excess power of the propertied when he came to the throne of commonwealth as the land owners and the moneyed had taken control of all the property (Paine, 234).
He advocated for freedom of conscience and religious tolerance that would allow the ruled to make sound decision about their life by allowing the rulers who protect their rights as well as advocated for mixed economy that was adopted in the west (De Groer300). The writings of these scholars liberated the minds of individuals in Western and Eastern Europe who began asking questions leading to the enlightenment movements as most literature emphasized on human right, freedom property ownership as well as the relationship between the ruled and the rulers (Berlin, 202). The ruled were then enlightened on their relationship with the governments leading to revolutions and independence of various nations in Europe and upholding human right and dignity (Berlin, 206).
Berlin, Isaiah .The Age of enlightenment: the 18th century philosophers. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 1984.
Print. De Groer, Leon: Decorative arts in Europe, 1790-1850.New York: St. Martin’s Publishers, 1986.Print. Paine, Thomas: Rights of Man, Common Sense, and Other Political Writings. New York: Oxford University press, 1988.Print.