Age of Enlightenment

Age of enlightenment is the philosophical movement that concentrated on the premise that reason was the fundamental source of power and legitimacy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Age of Enlightenment Sociology Definition


The age of enlightenment is the philosophical movement that concentrated on the premise that reason was the fundamental source of power and legitimacy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This movement prompted ideas like liberty, brotherhood, and progress that inspired the French Revolution. However, it also pushed for concepts like tolerance, constitutional government, and keeping church and state separate.

Radical and Moderate Enlightenment thought.

There were two significant schools of thought throughout the Enlightenment. The radical Enlightenment promoted freedom of speech, democracy, and the abolition of religious power. A second, more diplomatic variation looked for a compromise between change and the existing religious and political structures. The second school did not want to destroy traditional values and wanted a synthesis of tradition and modern approaches.

The era of Age of Enlightenment

Enlightenment referred to the second half of the 18th century when several philosophers criticized religion, tradition, and despotism while arguing that logical analysis should serve as the foundation for setting the course of human affairs. It was a time of striking intellectual and social innovation. Traditionally, it is believed to have ended with the carnage of the French Revolution in 1792 and the emergence of the Napoleonic empire that followed.

Thinkers of Age of Enlightenment

Numerous philosophers and scholars were involved in these advances, including Voltaire, Montesquieu, Holbach, Helvetius, Diderot, and Rousseau. The movement was not only limited to France; it also included many other foreign philosophers, such as Adam Ferguson and John Millar, two members of the so-called Scottish Enlightenment, whose work was mainly sociological. Despite widespread agreement on the significance of reason in human affairs, there were significant disparities in opinion among thinkers:

Voltaire popularized the natural rights concepts held by English liberals; Holbach and Helvetius developed these doctrines and advocated for utilitarianism and representative government, and Rousseau’s social contract theory inspired the French Revolution’s integration of the state and society. In hindsight, many Enlightenment philosophy is seen as shallow, without a solid scientific research foundation, and, most importantly, being overconfident in human progress and the dominance of reason. But the Enlightenment period marked a definitive, irrevocable division between conventional and modern ideas and conventional and contemporary modes of social structure.

Age of Enlightenment and sociology

The dismissal of most sociology as influenced by “the Enlightenment project” has been popular since the 1980s. With this pejorative, one of two arguments is often being made. Either sociologists have overemphasized the logical and forward-thinking aspects of modernization, which has been both beneficial and detrimental, or their social analysis is flawed since they are exemplars of the Enlightenment. The major criticism was in exaggerating secularization and its extent or wrongly interpreting its causes. The critique is usually unimportant. Some of the earliest sociological writings were produced during the Enlightenment, particularly in its Scottish form.

However, by the end of the Nineteenth century, much of sociology had moved away from this perspective, accepting that most social changes resulted from inadvertent and unintended consequences.

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