Friday, November 30, 2012

Enlightenment- period of Self- Awareness

The Enlightenment was a period of great self awareness. I think I remember us saying that the people of the time called the period the Enlightenment.  I think the choice naming it the Enlightenment, instead of the Enlightened, or something of the sort, is important because “Enlightenment” suggests that they were continually on a quest for knowledge, they were enlightening themselves.  They appreciated the constant growth/learning process and weren't arrogant about it saying they were the Enlightened Ones….though I do think a bit of confidence helped some writers and philosophers share their ideas.

On another note, perhaps the conquests in foreign parts of the world and information sent from the New World and the Far East to Europe enhanced their own view of themselves.  They began defining themselves in opposition to other cultures they had not previously had contact with.  They could point out the flaws in other’s civilizations, and comparatively (at least in their minds) they were further along intellectually, emotionally, scientifically, etc. By seeing different cultures, they saw their own society differently. Social commentators could either say that European society trumps others because "blah blah blah", and others like Voltaire could point out that Europeans are just as corrupt as others, even more in some case because "blah blah blah." In sum, European contact with foreign lands had a strong influence on the way they viewed themselves. 

1 comment:

Ben Bonner said...

I definately think that the amount of Eurocentrism we see in European society during and after the Englightenment began during the early 16th century. First you have the splintering of Western Christianity, which while dividing Europe as a whole, certainly created an intense feeling of nationalistic pride. Exploration and the conquest of the Americas served to propell Europe economically ahead of the rest of the world on top of already being the most power and most technological military power.