The 17th century (the age of Descartes and Francis Bacon) is generally referred to as the Age of Reason, while the term ‘Enlightenment’ is often restricted to the 18th century. There is in fact no clear demarcation between the two. Hence when we refer to the ‘Enlightenment,’ we shall refer to the events unfolding in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries (that is, roughly from 1600-1800).

The period of the Enlightenment is characterized by the growing acceptance of reason (rather than cultural and religious tradition) as the primary authority used to settle philosophical, scientific and political problems. This emergence of a reason-based approach to life brought the age of the Renaissance to a close. This is because the Western mind entered a brand new phase in its history, during which there was no need to prove one’s theories by citing Plato, Aristotle or any other authoritative thinkers of the past any more. Anyone was free to contribute to the stock of human knowledge through the means of observation, experimentation, and inference.

A new age with a scientific mindset had begun. Almost every aspect of the Enlightenment is linked with this basic shift in philosophy.

(Source: BPY008/Block 1/Unit 3/Page 31)

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