Lecture: Science and Sentiment
From Science to Enlightenment
The principles of combining rationalism with empiricism had their basis in philosophy. In fact, what we would call science was called "natural philosophy". Francis Bacon (1561-1626) popularized the new scientific experimental method, and can be used to represent the empirical side of the equation. He believed in inductive reasoning, gathering data and using the data to develop a conclusion (reasoning from the specifics to the generality).
René Descartes (1596-1650) was a mathematician and the developer of analytic geometry. He used deductive reasoning, deducing from large general truths the reality of the particulars. For example, he began by doubting everything except the basic truths that could not be discovered empirically. Geometry was unquestionable. A line is always the shortest distance between two points, for example.
These ideas mark the transition from Scientific Revolution to Enlightenment. The Enlightenment can be seen as the application of science to the rest of life. Enlightenment philosophers, the philosophes, believed that all aspects of life could be understood in the same way as natural phenomena. The application of reason to such areas as politics, society, economics, etc. is the Enlightenment.
Voltaire and Reason
Just like science itself, the Enlightenment had two sides that could be in opposition or work together.
The first concerns the issue of science itself, and its purpose. Philosophes like Voltaire believed in science as the ultimate expression of human control over nature. His faith was in reason to solve human problems, such as religious intolerance (as a lawyer, for example, he took a case defending a man accused of murdering his son for converting to Roman Catholicism).
Along with him were scholars like Diderot, who published the Encyclopedia, which purported to be a multi-volume collection of all known facts. It contained marvelous drawings of machinery (see some here), reflecting the Enlightenment fascination with mechanical techniques of controlling nature. Interestingly enough, the Encyclopedia contained no reference to God, because God cannot be "known". The Catholic Church banned the Encyclopedia, but most clergymen (who tended to be quite scientific and intellectual) had subscriptions as the volumes were published!
Rousseau and Emotion
The other side of the Enlightenment is best represented by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. To Rousseau, the rational mind was not what made one human. Emotions, intuition, those parts of people which are natural, were considered more important.
In practice, this meant a focus on the natural state of human beings. Nature was the greatest teacher, and Rousseau's educational method, published in his work Emile, promoted a natural form of education based on the interests and needs of the child.
Workbook document: Rousseau's Emile (1762)
Rousseau also promoted breastfeeding in a time when many wealthy families sent their babies to wet-nurses. Breastmilk was nature's food, and thus most suitable for a baby.
a large part in this aspect of the Enlightenment. "Man
is born free, but everywhere is in chains." Rousseau's
political treatise, the Social Contract, promoted
this idea, that government was meant not to control human
beings, but to do their collective will.
Workbook document: Rousseau's Social Contract (1763)
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