Ideas of Enlightenment

Q2. Explain the major ideas of Enlightenment. Discuss the contribution of Rousseau in Enlightenment. ( 2018)

Ans. Enlightenment was an intellectual, philosophical, cultural and social movement. It was started in the 17th and 18th centuries that challenged the hegemony of State and Church by emphasizing principles like Rationalism, Natural Law, Humanism, etc and hoped for human progress, created by these ideas.

Ideas of Enlightenment :-

The Age of Enlightenment saw the glorification of human reason (Rationalism). The success of rationalism in discovering natural laws and defining natural phenomena scientifically and further challenged the geocentric ideas of the Church.

Rationalism is the one of ideas of Enlightenment. It further promoted scientific endeavors which explained the universe and its constituents mechanically rather than purely as divine creations.

Further, the weakening of traditional bondages promoted ideas of Individualism. As per this thought man was capable of shaping his destiny without divine assistance.

Another idea of Enlightenment age was Humanism. Humanism rejected any structure or institution that oppressed human beings. it advocated for human liberty, dignity and well-being.

Relativism was another idea of Enlightenment age. Relativism tried to encourage tolerance in the society by giving equal merit to different cultures.

their value system and practices. Cumulatively, these values aìrmed a belief in the gradual but inevitable progress of mankind. Thus capable of changing the status- quo.

Contribution of Rousseau :-

Jean Jacques Rousseau’s most important contribution to build the ideas of Enlightenment was his idea of Romanticism. Romanticism freed the individual from the constraints of reason.

He criticized civilization, both in the form of Monarchy and its alternate. As it had led to corruption, greed and moral degradation.

Rousseau advocated instead, the concept of Social Contract. As per social contract, individuals gave up some of their individual rights for the greater good of mankind.

He was against any representative government and placed sovereignty in the citizens and not their representatives. This sovereignty was absolute, indivisible and reëected in the general will.

He, thus, conceptualized the idea of direct democracy. These ideas formed the core of Romanticism which emerged as a critique of Rationalism. It gave legitimacy to the expression of emotions and feelings. As it was true to human nature.

Thus, Rousseau’s ideas although may appear as a counter to Enlightenment. But actually they further enriched the Age of Enlightenment and expanded its scope.

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