IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 3. Europe, 1648–1814 > b. Intellectual Developments
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1697)
b. Intellectual Developments
The 18th-Century Enlightenment dominated western thought, a product of the Scientific Revolution with its emphasis on inductive reasoning and rationality. Though most intense in France, enlightenment thought affected most parts of Europe to some degree. Enlightenment thinkers critiqued existing government, society, and economic development. In all aspects, they emphasized reason and frequently embraced notions of the perfectability of people and progress. Some, notably Malthus (See 1798) and Burke, rejected some notions, while in Germany some reaction against Enlightenment universality occurred in the form of cultural nationalism. In political thought, Enlightenment thinkers built upon John Locke (See 1690), arguing for a government that rested on a contract among individuals, in some cases including women, and those established laws which were reasonable. These ideas threatened the basis for absolutism but also encouraged notions of enlightened absolutism in which the monarch claimed to rule for the good of all based on reason. They also gave rise to a radical enlightenment whose thinkers demanded equality for men, and sometimes women, in political and economic terms. The Enlightenment thinkers were particularly influential in shaping economic policies. Many monarchs followed the dictates of mercantilism in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Mercantilists argued that the world contained a fixed-size market and that each country had to secure as large a portion of this market as possible, through tariffs and colonization. Mercantilism was gradually replaced by laissez faire capitalism. The Physiocrats stressed agricultural bases for wealth but also discouraged government intervention as counter to natural economic law. However, Adam Smith provided the most advanced formulation of this law. He argued that division of labor in an unregulated market would secure high profits and maximum prosperity for all concerned because it would be controlled by the invisible hand of commerce, that is, regulated by supply and demand. The Enlightenment interest in science and human society set the basis for formal study not only in economics, but also in political science and psychology. Among the major thinkers of the Enlightenment were (see also individual countries):  1
Political: Montesquieu, L'Esprit des lois (1748); William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–69); Johann Gottfried Herder, Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-91); Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789); Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790); Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man; Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792); William Godwin, Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793).  2
Social and Religious: Bishop George Berkeley, Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710); David Hume, Treatise on Human Nature and Philosophical Essays (1739); Emanuel Swedenborg, De Nova Hierosolyma (basis for the Church of the New Jerusalem—1758); Johann P. Süssmilch, Die göttliche Ordnung in den Veränerungen des menschlichen Geschlechts aus der Geburt, dem Tode, und der Fortpflanzung desselben erwiesen, pioneering statistical and demographic work (1761); Cesare Beccaria, Tratto dei delitti e delle pene (1764); Thomas Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population (1798); Friedrich Schleiermacher, Reden über die Religion (1799).  3
General Philosophical and Historical: Pierre Bayle, Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697); Giambattista Vico, Principi di una scienza nuova intorno alla commune natura delle nazione (1725); Voltaire, Lettres anglaises ou philosophiques (1734); Denis Diderot and Jean d'Alembert, ed. L'Encylopédie (1751–72); Jean Jacques Rousseau, Le contrat social and Émile (1762); Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88); Immanuel Kant, Die Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781); Marie-Jean Condorcet, Tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain (1795).  4
Economic: Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la nature du commerce en général (1755); François Quesnay, Tableau économique (1758); Pierre Dupont de Nemours, La physiocratie (1768); A. R. J. Turgot, Réflexions sur la formation des richesses (1766); Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). (See Intellectual and Religious Trends)  5
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.