Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gulliver, part 4: The Age of Reason

The Age of Reason brought about a great change in the tale of man’s sojourn on earth. Reason, rationality and enlightenment became the new ‘gods.’ For the previous seventeen hundred years the perfection of man was only to be obtained through grace after death. The Protestant revolt to the Catholic Church and subsequent ‘holy wars’ had done nothing to change the accepted underlying beliefs of society: revelation was the source of ultimate truth and could only be received as a communication from God. This was the basis of Christianity. Now, in this new age, man felt obligated to follow his own intellect, not ‘revealed’ truth. Earth and emphasis on nature became the new dogma; miracles, prophecy, and religious rites were mere superstitions. Reason, philosophically, is defined as the ability to form and operate upon concepts in abstraction, narrowing information to its bare content, without emotion. Rationality carries the dual implication of ordered inference and comprehension along with understanding and explanation. Enlightenment is more or less the application of reason and rationality to previously held beliefs resulting in broader, clearer thinking.

The Age of Reason saw the introduction of the Scientific Revolution and various progressions of new schools of thought. Dualism advocated by Descartes taught that God (mind) and man (nature) were distinct. Baruch Spinoza introduced the idea of pantheism, namely, God and the universe are one and further that, “God was a substance consisting of infinite attributes.” Believers in Deism, described as the religion of reason rejected Christianity as a body of revelation, mysterious and incomprehensible. God’s revelation, believed Deists, was simple, logical and clear-cut, a natural religion which always existed. (from allabout


Influential thinkers of the Enlightenment or Age of Reason:

Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Thomas Paine


Outgrowths of the Age: Satire, the Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution