Monday, March 17, 2014

Characteristics Of Enlightenment

In Eighteenth-Century Europe And Its Impact
In England, Scotland, and Naples.


Interestingly, there were many things that England, Scotland and Naples had in common. Enlightenment’s characteristics of eighteenth-century Europe held definite impact in all three countries. This paper included arguments of Anthony Pagden, Roy Porter, and John Robertson. This discussion was based upon the readings of Pagden’s The Enlightenment: and Why it Still Matter; Porter’s  The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment; and Robertson’s The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680 – 1760.[1]
The three nations, England, Scotland, and Naples, were (mostly) the focus of the texts by Pagden, Porter and Robertson. Porter discussed the Enlightenment at large throughout Europe. He discussed changes from the dark to the light. Pagden agreed with Porter that men moved from mystical thinking of the Middle Ages and Renaissance to a more scientific and secularization time. Robertson said that men believed that material betterment initially went along with the idealism of Enlightenment as being closer connected to the passions, the processes of moral judgment, and human nature. Men in the eighteenth century delved deeper into political and economic investigations. England had a true monarch, while Naples had a duke with the title of king, and Scotland shared its king with the more dominant England. The two subservient did not have the economic nor political powers that England had in the eighteenth century. However, the state’s citizens had all changed in the 1700s from being controlled in thoughts and deeds to the new and improved civilizations of the Enlightened.[2]


According to Pagden, the Enlightenment held different thoughts than those of earlier times. The seventeenth century and the Renaissance did not hold the same key, which created the western thought. Pagden argued that the Enlightenment changed the thinking of racism, and “all humans not only belonged to a single ‘race’ but also share a common identity and thus belong ultimately to a single global community – a cosmopoli.”[3] Men broke away from the Catholic view called the “law of nature,” which was one of the three distinct Christian laws.[4] The three laws in order of  “perfection” were the divine law, natural law, and positive laws.[5] Thomas Aquinas and the Thomists had, according to Pagden, said natural law was actually accessible to everyone. This change of thought, along with the study of Aristotle, Pagden said changed the constructs of “how human societies should be built: namely, that all humans are by their very nature social beings.”[6] Men congregated due to fear or society,  they were passionate, and could possibly be rational. Pagden said
The eclectic… uncompromisingly, was the philosopher who trampled under foot prejudice, tradition, antiquity, universal agreement, authority – in a word everything which subjugates the mass of minds.[7]

Pagden articulated that rationalism came out of England, due to their philosophers who put the science of man before the subjugation by God or monarch. This idea then conquered France and Germany. The Church had led man to commit atrocities in God’s name and gave unparallel power to priests. Pagden wrote that religious conflicts kept monarchs week, and in England, it led to the regicide of Charles I who believed in the divine right of kings. After the Reformation, England’s monarchs agreed to rule by certain regulations set up by the people, who were the wealthy nobles. Also, Anglicanism did not have the worship of idols that Catholicism had, but the religious beliefs were obviously enough (along with those powerful nobles) to remove the idea that the king was chosen by God.[8]
Religious practices and beliefs were profoundly different in England compared with the rest of Europe, according to Pagden. The British, “despite having provided the Enlightenment with some of its most radical precursors… are said to have taken a much more cautious view of the intellectual upheavals” and were more inclined to keep their own religious beliefs and practices.[9] Pagden argued that because there was so many religious sects within England, Christianity probably seemed “less menacing” than it did in the rest of Europe.[10]
Even if this were the case, there was still quite a bit of suspicion of those that considered theirselves Enlightened. There were numerous Diests in England too, but many kept themselves hidden. In fact, Pagden wrote, men did not want to speak of religion in a lot of situations. Prudence was the key for the perfect English gentleman, according to Pagden. Interestingly, most philosophers did not come out and say that they were against religion, or that they did not believe in a creator, even if they thought that way. The author said that more than a few had a “willingness to accept the continued existence of those [they knew] to be wrong.”[11]
Philosophers were secularized Christians who considered themselves “the guardians of human kind.” [12]  Scientists (like Francis Bacon), philosophers (Thomas Hobbes), and philosopher politicians (Edmund Burke), changed the control of thought of the populace from the monarch to themselves. According to the author, these philosophers told everyone that they were as equal as the crown. These thinkers communicated that they were actually better than the despot. The king thought only of himself, and not the people, while they, the thinkers, wanted everyone to be liberated from the tyrannical thought control of the thrones of kings and priests. They imparted the knowledge, according to Pagden, that all men progress, they improve and their “nature changes as their living conditions change.”[13] Englishman John Gray pushed for “a universal emancipation.”[14] Thus, the idea of divinely sanctioned monarchy vanished and the concept of the Enlightened people rose.
Pagden said that even in Scotland, people “were proud to call themselves enlightened” and philosophers, yet these words did not necessarily mean the same thing in all locations.[15] Pagden agreed with J.G.A. Pocock that there was not just one single ‘Enlightenment’ but were several “Enlightenments.”[16] Pagden included the fact that the Church of Scotland did not have the same hold over their members as that of the Catholic Church. [17] Scotland’s historian William Robertson wrote the History of America and History of Scotland, “were comparable studies of human actions and behavior,” and was to understand mankind as a species in certain groups, but not necessarily as nations.[18] There were several different kinds of histories and philosophical scripts written at different times and in different locations, but they all were written around “a vast repertoire of past customs and laws” that created “a panoramic account of the evolution of all human culture.”[19]

Roy Porter agreed that human nature moved from the “bad old ways of the bad old days” to the modern age of knowledge and natural science.[20] England’s elites wanted “deliverance” from Popery and the Calvinist dogma of predestination.[21] Porter said that their collective memories had been “scarred by the Civil War” that “had bred ‘enthusiasm,’ that awesome, irresistible and unfalsifiable conviction of personal infallibility.”[22] Porter wrote “light was dawning” and “Holy war was going out of fashion,” which countermanded Pagden’s words that
It was not the recognition of error or any willingness to accept the possible validity of divergent opinions that had ultimately compelled the Christian churches in Europe to relinquish their hold over the judgment of the individual. It was defeat on the battlefield.”[23]

Porter argued that the British Isles swayed toward naturalostoc styles of family, politics and education, materialism and imperialism. Magic, witchcraft, superstition and supernaturalism were no longer en vogue, yet “everyone still craved glimpses of the extraordinary.”[24]  England’s educational “panacea” changed the way that children (boys) were raised and taught.[25] After all, girls that were over educated “deprived the world of its fairest ornaments.”[26] The Enlightened age included lights on the streets, so the world was literally lit with new instruments derived from new sciences, which were the result of new learning. Porter alleged Britain’s new belief was that all “Knowledge is power,” but apparently really just for the male portion of society.[27]
England as the “cradle of liberty, tolerance, and sense” did not see the reprisals of The Terrors that France did, perhaps because it was “the birthplace of the modern” and already had a more moderately equal form of government.[28] Quoted by Porter, Edward Gibbon wrote, “Freedom is the first blessing of our nature.”[29] England transferred the belief of royal prerogative to the idea that “political legitimacy could spring only from consent.”[30] This consent of the people meant the landed male gentry, and not the credulous ceremony-needing rabble of the lower orders, or any woman. England remained severely patriarchal, while more literate. Porter expressed that the “battles of the pen – against sword, censor, and rival pen,” was crucial to the English Enlightenment.[31]
England’s gentry and middle class were expected to know the works of Locke and other philosophers, which were delivered with ever increasing momentum through the printed word. Later Enlightenment thinkers, who were separate from the pre-Enlightened philosophers, “were preoccupied with rethinking man’s place in Creation.”[32] New forms of works, such as novels and pamphlets were what the Englishmen wanted. The “Rights of Man spoke directly to the cobblers, printers, weavers and carpenters who were the soul of urban radicalism and the torchbearers of plebeian enlightenment.”[33] The new self-made man was celebrated by Darwin and others, as “progress proved the ultimate Enlightenment gospel.”[34] Porter said that some Brits wanted the change that occurred in France, while others feared it as news continued to drift across the channel. Porter reputed, “Modern attitudes were inseparable from the explosion of print culture.”[35]
Porter thought “Britain experienced profound transformations during the long eighteenth century” and the “shifts in consciousness helped to bring… changes about” by numerous intellectual connections and “loops between London, Edinburgh and Dublin.”[36] The loss of Scottish sovereignty to the English crown in 1707 was humiliating to some, but was also considered the next evolution of Scottish society to others. Scotland kept some of their own legal, cultural and educational practices, yet Porter contested that the Scots held little ownership to original Enlightenment thought and practice “largely because such a delineation merely reflects later nationalisms.”[37] After joining with England, the barbaric state advanced because of newspapers, clubs and improvement societies. Porter speculated, “The Scots felt mighty pleased to be enlightened – and affluent – at last.”[38]

John Robertson studied comparisons of Scotland and Naples and reported them throughout his book. He agreed with Porter that the English were confident in their liberty, but opposed his belief that the English contributed greatly to the Enlightenment. Robertson agreed with the idea that the intellectualism was the reflection on the societies that used it for the improvement of human condition. Robertson argued against Pagden and said that the Enlightenment was a continual movement in different areas and still held many of the same principles. The Infiltration of printed documents, naturalism, self-interest, commerce, Epicureanism, new science, metaphysics that led the world to God, and the legality and morality of monarchism were some of the same points that Scotland and Naples held in common with the rest of Europe. Robertson agreed that the Enlightenment was an “historical phenomenon rather than an arbitrary” act “which took root in very different intellectual, social, and political settings across eighteenth-century Europe.”[39]  And, according to Robertson, it was Vico and Hume that illuminated “the common intellectual foundations of Enlightenment in the two countries.”[40]
Scotland and Naples were similar, yet distinctly different and were “two distinct, contrasting contexts.”[41] Robertson gave information on how both governments were separate, yet were still subservient to a greater political entity; Naples to the Pope, and Scotland to the King (or Queen) of England. Both countries were commercially weak, under checks and tariffs for their imports, and both had revolts during this time. Both had, according to Robertson, “major thinkers interested in the study of human nature, political economy, and the progress of society, and committed to the betterment of life on earth regardless of the next,” yet held very little connection with one another.[42]
Interestingly, Robertson’s account of anti-atheistic trials in both countries included not only outright denial of Christ, but also ridiculing theology and/or Scripture. Robertson said that Naples disliked the idea of anything non-Christian and the love of wealth, while Scotland could not abide any disrespect for Scripture or denying the Trinity. The outcome of each person’s trial was “critically dependent on the personal circumstances of the accused, and on the relation between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities.”[43]  People of both nations argued over separation of Church and state, as well as the rivalry of clergy and nobility.
Arguments and discussions in both Naples and Scotland included theology, philosophy, history, antiquities, law, politics, and economics.  Robertson wrote on how libraries held books on religious controversy, moral philosophy, dictionaries, and other foreign books. These were acquired by “notorious dissidents, heretics, and libertines” of the academic and middle classes.[44] Learned men visited others of the same ilk and “often also opened fresh channels of correspondence” and exchange of thought and documents.[45] And, apposing Porter’s view that the Scots held any original creation, Roberson gave an example of the “formal but voluntary institution of a distinctive kind, the Masonic lodge.”[46] However, he also agreed with him as Robertson said that there was “no evidence that they promoted philosophical discussion.”[47] Nonetheless, Robertson argued that it was the political economy, rather than radical irreligion, that combined patriotic and cosmopolitan adaptations to social circumstances for the betterment of human kind.

This paper included the thoughts of three men on the Enlightenment in England, Scotland and Naples. The three books were Anthony Pagden’s The Enlightenment: and Why it Still Matter; Roy Porter’s The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment; and John Robertson’s The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680 – 1760. There were beliefs in separate Enlightenments, and yet others thought there was a singular one throughout Europe. The ideas of mankind moving from barbarism to civilization, from Papal and monarchical control to individual liberty, and the rise of the middle class through education and printed materials were the factors of change. Some people were happy about changes, while others were not. Women and the lower societies were still excluded from voting and rising from their station even while their literacy rose. As the light faded, the children of the Enlightened disdained the ideological individualism and hedonism of their parents, and, according to Porter at least, took several steps back as they went into the future.

Pagden, Anthony. The Enlightenment: and Why it Still Matters. New York: Random House,
2013, Kindle Edition.

Porter, Roy. The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.

Robertson, John. The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680 – 1760.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, Kindle Edition.


     [1] Anthony Pagden, The Enlightenment: and Why it Still Matters. (New York: Random House, 2013), Kindle Edition, Location 1917; Roy Porter, The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), xvii; John Robertson, The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680 – 1760. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Kindle Edition, Location 192.

     [2] Ibid, 45; 1939; 988.

[1] Anthony Pagden, The Enlightenment: and Why it Still Matters. (New York: Random House, 2013), Kindle Edition, Location 1917; Roy Porter, The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), xvii; John Robertson, The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680 – 1760. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Kindle Edition, Location 192.

     [2] Ibid, 45; 1939; 988.

     [3] Pagden, 917.

     [4] Ibid, 44-45.

     [5] Ibid, 917.

     [6] Ibid, 1105.

     [7] Ibid, 1481.

     [8] Ibid, 475 , 1694, 1745, 1898, 1937, 2442.

     [9] Ibid, 2442.

     [10]Ibid, 2473.

     [11] Ibid, 764.

Changes made were from present tense to past tense.

     [12]Ibid, 6056.

     [13] Ibid, 9760.

     [14] Ibid, 503.

     [15] Ibid, 334.

     [16] Ibid.

     [17] Ibid, 332.

     [18] Ibid, 3358.

     [19] Ibid, 3374.

     [20] Porter, 53.

     [21] Ibid, 50.

     [22] Ibid.

     [23] Ibid, 50-51; Pagden, 764.

 [24] Porter, 229.

     [25] Ibid, 339.

     [26] Ibid, 336.

     [27] Ibid, 132.

     [28] Ibid, 6.

     [29] Edward Gibbon as quoted in Ibid, 184.

     [30] Porter, 185.

     [31] Ibid, 72.

     [32] Ibid, 296.

     [33] Ibid, 449.

     [34] Ibid, 445.

     [35] Ibid, 476.

     [36] Ibid, 12.

     [37] Ibid, 243.

     [38] Ibid, 255.

     [39] Robertson, 739.

     [40] Ibid, 8.

     [41] Ibid, 857.

     [42] Ibid, 755.

     [43] Ibid, 1549.

     [44] Ibid, 1693.

     [45] Ibid, 1705.

     [46] Ibid, 1797.

     [47] Ibid, 1807.

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