Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge - The Enlightenment Summary & Analysis

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The Enlightenment Summary and Analysis

The idea of intellectual unity emerges as a way to foster human rights and progress through knowledge during the Enlightenment. This concept instigates the modern era, but later its ideas cease to dominate. The end of the Enlightenment is marked by the death of the Marquis de Condorcet in March 1794, who dies during the Revolution after being jailed. The French Revolution incorporates intellectual ideas such as that of Condorcet. Its strength is in its attempt to improve educational opportunities as part of human rights. The revolutionary slogan "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" is inspired by the ideas formulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in "The Social Contract". Robespierre uses his idea of general will during the Revolution, where those who want to improve their welfare can execute those who oppose it, killing 17,000 people. In his view he serves eternal justice when freeing slaves from tyrants and giving them the opportunity to enjoy liberty and equality. The movement fails, creating doubt in the supremacy of reason. In the end, the Enlightenment fails not because of its potential, but because of the intellectual opposition to the tyranny of the revolution.

Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet is born in 1743 in Picardy, north of France. He is the last of the philosophers concerned about political and social issues. He studies mathematics but pioneers its application in the social sciences in the same way that Laplace invents and uses the calculus of probabilities in physics. He opposes French colonial aspirations, inspiring the abolition of slavery by the National Convention. He is the follower of the English philosopher John Locke in his belief in the natural rights of men as well as following reason rather than passion. He believes in knowledge and the nurturing force of the environment through which society can be molded and become whatever it pleases. With the outbreak of the Revolution he turns to politics, with friends both among Girondists and the leftists. He is identified with the Girondists and becomes a criminal suspect. Despite his earlier involvement in the revolution, the National Convention orders his arrest.

He thinks that culture is ruled by laws similar to those of physics while history is an evolving process. The idea of the inevitable progress to which he adheres survives the Enlightenment. In the higher level of civilization, all nations along with its citizens are to be equal, science is to lead the way, and art is to grow. With a longer human life span, crime, poverty, sexual discrimination, and racism are to decline. The Enlightenment declines, but it is the only movement that results in the highest advancement, contributes to the dominant ethics, and is the greatest inspiration not just to the Western culture but the entire world.

The Enlightenment is led by science and analysis. This idea is inspired by Francis Bacon who thinks that the understanding of nature can lead to self-improvement even when mistakes which should be left uncorrected are made. He strives for objectivity through observing patterns and avoiding preconceptions. His achievements are greatest in psychology and the nature of creativity. His attempt to reform reasoning involves inductive inquiry in all learning. His visions remain part of scientific ethics.

Rene Descartes, who founds algebraic geometry and modern philosophy, uses deduction, analysis, and skeletonizing of each phenomenon. He views knowledge as a system of truths that can be used in mathematics. His universe is both rational and linked through causes and effects, while concepts can be applied in physics, medicine, and moral reasoning. He believes that systematic doubts inspire learning, inventing the phrase "Cogito ergo sumo," meaning I think therefore I am. He argues for the separation of mind and matter and proposed reductionism, where parts of the world can be separated and analyzed. His follower, Isaac Newton, invents calculus, and also believes in experiment. Reductionism proves to be the best way to formulate the knowledge of the physical world. Despite similar abilities as those of the Western scientists, Arab and Chinese scholars fail to achieve the concept of reductionism. They focus instead on holistic properties and relationships between entities, never arriving at the point of abstraction or analytic research.

Postmodernist fragmentation has not been useful to scientists. Their one positive contribution is that it enriches culture despite disintegrating intelligentsia, while still attempting to arrive at the truth. Its rebellious nature leads to the investigation of both views, where one is to create order out of disorder, and the other, disorder out of order. As long as such arguments remain, learning can continue forward.

This section contains 759 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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