The Enlightenment


Dictionary definitions of "Enlightenment":

  • education that results in understanding and the spread of knowledge
  • nirvana: (Hinduism and Buddhism) the beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation; characterized by the extinction of desire and suffering and individual consciousness
  • a movement in Europe from about 1650 until 1800 that advocated the use of reason and individualism instead of tradition and established doctrine; "the Enlightenment brought about many humanitarian reforms"


In Historical Context:


"The" Enlightenment was a movement away from reliance on a vengeful God and towards a world full of reason and logic in which humans could use their minds to solve their own problems without reliance on forces outside of their control. It was incredibly influential in the composition of the Constitution, as well as the ideology of major American revolutionaries.

Based off of Deism: The belief that God has established natural law for the universe and had left it behind for humans to handle and tend to. Instilled the importance of rationality, science, human law, and social respect.


John Locke: (a major influence) Wrote the Two Treatises of Government, which stated that "natural law" reigned supreme -- rights that existed for humans for simply being human. He pushed for the ideals of individual independence as opposed to state control.


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Major supporters of the Enlightenment:

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"All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions." -- John Locke

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." -- The Declaration of Independence



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