- American Enlightenment
The American Enlightenment is a term sometimes employed to describe the intellectual culture of the British North American colonies and the early
United States(as they became known following the American Revolution). It was a part of a larger intellectual movement known as the Age of Enlightenment. Influenced by the scientific revolution of the 17th century, the Enlightenment took scientific reasoning and applied it to human nature and society. There was a shift from God-centered thinking to human being centered. Instead of going through life unhappy and thinking they had to suffer so they could enjoy the afterlife - people began to think about what they could accomplish on earth.
The American Enlightenment began during the
1690sbut didn’t become fully realized until the 1730s. The origins of the American Enlightenment are predominantly European. However Puritanculture also contributed to the prominence of the Enlightenment in America. Small Puritan religious colleges were one of the few places where philosophy was discussed prior to the Enlightenment. During the American Enlightenment these colleges rapidly expanded and became the breeding grounds for the Enlightenment thinkers."Philosophy from Puritanism to the Enlightenment." Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.]
Throughout the colonies "Enlightened" individuals focused on classical writings for inspiration. The American Enlightenment was categorized not only by knowledge of classical writings but also an atmosphere where people craved new knowledge and wisdom. It was that craving that inspired people to make new developments in
science, religion, and politics."The Enlightenment." Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.]
There was a large emphasis during the Enlightenment for new scientific developments. One of the easiest ways America participated in the scientific community was by exploring the colonies. During expeditions through unknown territories explorers kept very detailed journals noting any discovery of new plant or animal life. Dr. Michael Sarrazin was an example of an explorer whose scientific journals largely contributed to the scientific community. Dr. Sarrazin took expeditions to document any plant or animal life previously unknown in Europe. He then sent his journals and plant specimens to Europe where they were studied at
Oxford Universityand The Academy of Sciences. The largest contribution to scientific community came from Benjamin Franklin’s works on electricity. Franklin was convinced that new scientific discoveries like electricity should be put to use for the improvement of human life.
Although the Enlightenment’s effect on religion is often overlooked, it was evident in America.
John Wise, a Puritan clergyman, supported Plutarch’s claim that "to follow Godand obey Reasonis the same thing." [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=pWiBco-sYHIC&pg=PA255&lpg=PA255&dq=%22to+follow+god+and+obey+reason+is+the+same+thing%22&source=web&ots=L260XiLL2J&sig=CqXilMz4mcing0Sbo_tWnjy3xug Google Book Search] Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794. Morgan, Edmund Sears. Page 255. Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill, 1965.] Wise began to preach these ideals and immediately received praise from other enlightened thinkers. Wise’s “religion of reason” became very popular especially in the Calvinistand Anglicancongregations in the colonies but found serious opposition when received by more orthodox communities. Wise’s “religion of reason” has a left a lasting mark on many mainstream Protestant Christian denominations today.
Probably the most influential aspects of the American Enlightenment were political developments. It is without doubt that the ideas of the American Enlightenment led to America's independence and the principles of the held within the US Constitution. Through enlightenment ideals people began to think that a ruler had to be held to higher laws. American political minds like
Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Madisonwere able to take the ideas of John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smithto create a government whose power was obtained from the people. The founding fatherswrote the United States Constitutionwith a mind to realizing Enlightenment ideals, and the " Federalist Papers" relied on Enlightenment philosophy to defend that Constitution. The United States Bill of Rightsis also a fundamentally Enlightenment document.
The Enlightenment ideas are Popular Sovereignty, Liberty and Natural rights which formed the basis of American's desire for greater self autonomy. The American Revolution as seen by Bailyn was an ideological revolution as it instilled in the colonists the need to take up arms against Britain in the American Revolutionary War of Independence and subsequently led to separation from Britain and first development of nationalism of the United States of America.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Enlightenment — may refer to:pirituality and religion* Enlightenment (concept), religious or intellectual * Mysticism, pursuit of communion with an ultimate reality History*Age of Enlightenment, period in Western history and its corresponding movement *Scottish… … Wikipedia
Enlightenment (concept) — Enlightenment broadly means wisdom or understanding enabling clarity of perception. However, the English word covers two concepts which can be quite distinct: religious or spiritual enlightenment (German: Erleuchtung ) and secular or intellectual … Wikipedia
Enlightenment Intensive — Enlightenment Intensives are modern group retreats designed to enable individuals to experience that which is traditionally known as kensho, satori, samadhi, or enlightenment in a relatively short period of time. The typical Intensive is just… … Wikipedia
Enlightenment in the Philippines — began with the Ilustrado , which is a Spanish and Filipino word that means the enlightened one . Philippine Ilustrados were the Filipino elite during the Spanish colonial period in the late 19th century. They were the middle class who were… … Wikipedia
AMERICAN COUNCIL FOR JUDAISM — AMERICAN COUNCIL FOR JUDAISM, the only American Jewish organization ever created to fight Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish state. It was founded in 1942 by a group of Reform rabbis led by Louis Wolsey to protest a resolution of the… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
American Egyptomania — is a topic that explores the western fascination with ancient Egyptian culture and history. When Napoleon set up to conquer Egypt in 1797, a sudden burst of popular interest in all things Egyptian spread across Europe, and the term Egyptomania… … Wikipedia
American Revolution — The American Revolution refers to the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which the Thirteen Colonies of North America overthrew the governance of the British Empire and collectively became the nation of the United… … Wikipedia
Enlightenment (The Scottish) — The Scottish Enlightenment M.A.Stewart INTRODUCTION The term ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ is used to characterize a hundred years of intellectual and cultural endeavour that started around the second decade of the eighteenth century. Our knowledge of … History of philosophy
Enlightenment in Poland — The ideas of the Age of Enlightenment in Poland were developed later than in the Western Europe, as Polish bourgeoisie was weaker, and szlachta (nobility) culture (Sarmatism) together with the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth political system… … Wikipedia
American literature — For the journal of the same name, see American Literature (journal). American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater,… … Wikipedia