The Movement Characterised (§ 1).
Political Phase (§ 2).
Economic Phase (§ 3).
Religious and Ethical Aspects (§ 4).
The New Knowledge (§ 5).
The New Historical Method (§ 6).
Philosophy of the Period (§ 7).
Literature of the Enlightenment (§ 8).
The German Enlightenment (§ 9).
Practical Results (§ 10).
Its Relation to Theology (§ 11).
Close of the Period (§ 12).

[The Enlightenment is a translation of the German expression die Aufklkrung (literally "the Clearing Up"). The rendering "the Illumination" is also sometimes used, while not infrequently the German is transferred without translation.] It signifies a phase of ,historical evolution in Europe which may be characterized as marking the beginning of the modern period of secular culture, in contrast to the theological spirit that constituted the regulating principle of society in the preceding epoch. The Enlightenment must be regarded not as a definite movement aiming at a par z. The ticular end, but rather as a general trans- Movement formation of the genius of the times, Character- accompanied by important changes ized. in national and social organization,

and the removal of the center of political gravity from the south to the north of Europe. The principles of the Enlightenment are to be met with in the seventeenth century and may be traced further back to the Renaissance; they attained their fullest development in the eighteenth century; they entered on their decay in the nineteenth. Its animating spirit is essentially that of opposition to the supremacy of churchly ideals based on the irreconcilable contradiction between reason and faith, and to the consequent injection of the element of supernaturalism into the practical affairs of life. Its tendency is toward an explanation of the world on the basis of universally valid factors of knowledge and an ordering of life toward universally valid ends, and its most striking characteristics are an unsparing use of critical analysis and a spirit of reforming utilitarianism. To the general and immutable truth of theology it opposes a truth of its own whose sanction it finds in the mind of the individual, and in this r81e of champion against tradition it is subjective, independent, self-confident and optimistic. But though the Enlightenment was thus the first great movement of opposition to theological dualism, it was not the unconditioned product of the spontaneous action of the human reason, but a historic result of definite facts and circumstances. Its method was determined by ancient tradition and the newly arisen sciences; its content, by that part of historic tradition which it chose to regard as the inalienable possession of the individual mind but which in reality represented only truth attained through development; its essential service consisted in the banishment of supernaturalism from history.

The Thirty Years' War (q.v.), ending with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, was followed by a decline of the religious influence and a corresponding rise of secular interests, which now began to



CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely