Katherine Mesa: Enlightenment as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“The Art of Enlightenment”

Enlightenment As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, February 12th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

The Enlightenment was a time period and movement characterized by its philosophical and intellectual influences on society. There was also debate amongst academics and philosophers in regard to the theories of life in relation to religion and science, and the role they play in the government, such as through the separation of church and state. This was a period of innovation and growth, where creativity was at the forefront of the movement. France played a crucial role during the Enlightenment, and it can even be claimed that the French Revolution was a source of its inspiration, and its influences can even be seen today. One influential piece that ties to The Enlightenment was the book, Candide, which is a satirical novel that highlights different aspects of enlightenment ideals, ranging from social and class hierarchies to the political and power dynamics of its time. 

Political and revolutionary ideals were also transformed during this time, and their influences on government are still taken into account today. This is relevant in terms of the ideals of democratization and liberalization of power structures.

Some prominent philosopher thinkers of this time included Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, and were heavily centered around the ideals of government. For example, John Locke concentrated his theories around the modern republican government, the social contract theory, and individual rights. On the other hand, Baron de Montesquieu focused his intellectual ideals on the separation of church and state and checks and balances. Lastly, Jean Jacques Rousseau deconstructed the philosophical ideals of human nature in relation to civil society. 

However, while male political figures like the ones mentioned above were highly idolized for their work, it is important not to undermine the strong feminist leaders and philosophers who are continuously pushed under the rug. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft was a champion for women’s rights and published two novels, “A Vindication of the Rights of Man” and “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” She also advocated for equal access to education for women as well as implemented mixed gendered schools to ensure equity in the quality of education.  

In terms of the intersection between faith and reason, this is a very controversial topic that was not only concentrated during the period of The Enlightenment, but also is even seen today. When analyzed through the lens of this being reconciled, it is essential to acknowledge the historical impact of this ideological conflict, as well as its complexity. For example, religious faiths are not one-dimensional, and are very diverse among different populations, where addressing the issue of reason and faith being reconciled is not a straightforward approach. In addition, when defining what encompasses the rationale behind reason and faith, it is also essential to recognize varying interpretations and perspectives of what encompasses rationale. For example, some may claim that faith and religion are rational approaches to life, while others may claim that scientific objections are the true rationale. This conflict will continue to progress and will never be resolved as long as individual and philosophical perceptions dictate the conflict.

Work Cited:

“Enlightenment Thinkers and Democratic Government.” Building Democracy for All, EdTech Books, 1 Jan. 1970, https://edtechbooks.org/democracy/enlightenment.

Voltaire, et al. Candide. Chivers, 2008.

Author: katiemesa

Katherine Mesa is a second-year student at Florida International University studying Political Science with concentrations in Civic Leadership and Human Rights. She is interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector working on community outreach and engagement.

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