The Emergence of the “New Man,”—Individualism. In passing to this period we should recall the two objects of interest that distinguish modern from mediæval thought: the “new man” of modern Europe; and the “new universe”—new in its geographical outlines and in its intellectual materials. We have already found that the two hundred and more years of the Renaissance, the first period of modern thought, was absorbed in exploiting the second of these objects—the “new universe.” In fact the “new man” had been so interested in the “new universe” that he had not thought of studying himself. He had systematized the great wealth of his acquisitions and had constructed great systems of science and metaphysics.
This second period of modern thought—the Enlightenment—begins when the “new man” turns away from his intellectual struggles with his environment and attempts to understand his own nature. Thus the more important of the two objects emerges last; and this turn to self-reflection constitutes the century of the Enlightenment. The Renaissance had been subjective and spectacular; the Enlightenment was subjective and tragic. The mental activity of the Renaissance had been vital, spontaneous, and unconscious, like the awakening from sleep; that of the Enlightenment was self-conscious and attitudinizing. The man of the Renaissance had been in love with nature; the man of the Enlightenment was in love with himself. Like the Greek Sophistic Illumination, which is its parallel in ancient history, the Enlightenment turned away from cosmological and metaphysical problems. On the other hand, the philosophy of the Enlightenment penetrated all departments of life and found expression in practical questions. Erdmann has well expressed the meaning of these nine decades of the Enlightenment as “an effort to raise man, so far as he is a rational individual, into a position of supremacy over everything.” It was during this period, which we are now about to enter, that Herder brought into currency in Germany the word “humanity.” In England the same sentiment was uttered by Pope in 1732 in his Essay on Man:—
“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.”
The Enlightenment marks, therefore, the rise of modern individualism; and the concerns of the individual become the important object of consideration. The novelty of the great discoveries and inventions of the Renaissance had lost its lustre. The “new universe” had become old and familiar, but through his accomplishments the “new man” had begun to feel the strength of his liberated powers. For had not the wonderful world of the Renaissance been his own accomplishment? Had not all its notable constructions been the creations of his powers? The “struggle of traditions” to revive antiquity and to incorporate the “new universe” upon an old basis; the “strife of methods” to reorganize the “new world” upon a new basis—revealed this great fact: that man has “world wisdom.” Man in his supremacy occupies the entire foreground, and interest in the “new universe” fades away. The “new universe” is now seen in the light of one’s personal interests. Man is supreme, and to his word there can be no exception. There is constant reference during this time to the “light of reason”—to a bright inner, rational illumination in contrast to the vagaries of mysticism and the obscurities of dogmatism. The worship of genius arises and with it a contempt for the unenlightened. “Thus would I speak, were I Christ,” said Bahrdt. No wonder that Goethe described the Enlightenment as an age of self-conceit!
The Practical Presupposition of the Enlightenment—The Independence of the Individual. The “new man” emerged from the Renaissance as the most important object of consideration, and during the Enlightenment there was never the slightest question about his independence. The individual became the original datum of this period into which we are now entering; he was considered to be the only thing that is self-intelligible; he was the starting-point from which all social relationships were to be explained. Among the many problems that arose, the independent existence of the individual remained unquestioned. It was the period of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” The problems were about the relations of the individual; never about the individual himself, for concerning the individual no problem could arise. The individual rejoicing in the exuberance of his own powers, the “monad enjoying himself,” dominated everything. The monadology of the Renaissance became an atomism in the Enlightenment. The individual was the practical assumption of the period.
The Metaphysical Presupposition of the Enlightenment. There was a metaphysical background to this practical assumption of the individual. This was the Cartesian dualism of mind and matter. Although the eighteenth century despaired of a successful metaphysical construction of the “new universe,” and although its attention was riveted on an analysis of human relationships, it must not be supposed that the period was without its metaphysical bias. Such is not the nature of human history; and if an epoch refuses to discuss metaphysical questions, it is because it assumes some metaphysics as true. The assumption of the independent individual implies the independent existence of matter. The Enlightenment assumed the Cartesian theory as correct. While many were the polemics against metaphysical speculation, the Cartesian dualism was nevertheless in control. Here within is the independent existence of mind; and it would naturally follow that there without is the equally independent existence of matter. The conception might fade into a ghost-like dualism, as in Berkeley and Hume, but the dualism never entirely vanished. This has since been known as the philosophy of “common sense,” and is to-day the easy attitude of those not interested in metaphysical discussions. “Common sense” means the opinion of the majority as to truth. Most people to-day, as then, accept without question some sort of dualism, usually the dualism of mind and body.
The Problems of the Enlightenment. The area of inquiry was thus very much restricted during this period. Nature lies beyond our ken. God is still more incomprehensible. From the study of nature and God, let us turn to a study of the problems of the inner life. Yet while the field of study was restricted, the problems within it were multitudinous, and there was an astonishing breadth and universality, a tenacity of everything, a disdainfulness of nothing. Within its own field the Enlightenment sought to systematize and to stand by any idea in spite of all opposition. The imagination took bold flights and, from the standpoint of the inner individual life, tried to transform its world. Overloaded with ballast, it tried to reconcile the irreconcilable and to overlook the brute facts of existence. The problems arise from an age that is self-opinionated, self-tormenting, and subjective.
The problems of this age may be divided into two classes,—utilitarian and critical,—both having reference to the individual man in his relations. These include the problems of psychology, epistemology, sociology, economics, politics, etc. There was, for example, the problem of our knowledge of the external world, of the validity of innate ideas as the basis of knowledge, of the rational basis of religion. Thought was very alert at this time, as is always the case in times of great individualism, and thought could move with great rapidity over the wide range of such subjects.
(a) Utilitarian Problems. The Enlightenment was curious about the interests, the happiness, and the many powers of the individual. Empirical psychologists and brilliant ethical scholars appeared. How much can man know, and what are the limits and extent of his knowledge? The Rationalists of the Renaissance had accepted without question the mediæval teaching that a group of our ideas is innate and therefore God-given. The Middle Ages had been built up on revealed knowledge. But to the thinkers of the Enlightenment the most important ideas—yea, the only ideas of service to us—are those derived from experience. We should be happier if we confined ourselves to the facts of every-day life, and did not try to deal with things beyond experience. Let us give metaphysical theories to the Churchman. Empirical psychology thus took the place of metaphysics, and became known as philosophy. It was the favorite science of the time, and the basis of ethics and epistemology. Philosophy thus came out of the school, and became a public utility. It was based, to be sure, upon theological preconceptions, but it was to be put to the service of man. It was to be an instrument of discovery as well as a means of grace. With this psychological incentive great schools of moralists arose, especially in England: studying morality as based on the intellect, on the feelings, on authority, on the association of ideas.
Empirical psychology led to self-inspection, and this is the age when self-inspection was universal. It is the age of the founding of “societies for the observation of man.” It is the age of sentimental diary writing. Rousseau wrote his autobiography in France, and it was followed by a flood of autobiographies in Germany. Even memoirs of such scoundrels as Laukhardt were written and read as matters of public interest. Religion, too, took the form of personal experiences and individual conversions; and the church was more interested in the experiences of the saved than in the dogma of salvation. The Methodist movement arose in England and spread over the continent and to America. Individual opinions were more important than conventions; friendships than marriage; societies than corporations. The historical was lost to view because the personal and particular occupied the foreground. Gibbon said, “All ideas were equally true in the eyes of the people, equally false in the eyes of the philosophers, equally useful in the eyes of the magistrates.”
(b) Questions of Criticism. In the second place, the Enlightenment is a period of criticism and stands in contrast with the constructive Rationalism of the Renaissance. From Locke’s invective against innate ideas to Hume’s skepticism of the law of cause, from Voltaire’s examination of the foundations of religion to Rousseau’s polemic against society, the age was one of the criticism of authority. The psychologists, moralists, deists, and sociologists were revolutionists—all striking directly or indirectly at absolute political sovereignty, against the theoretical dogmatism and the ceremonious morality in which the Renaissance was complacent. The revolution began in the realm of the intellect and spread to political society. It was natural that the beginnings should be made in the apparently harmless theoretical examination of the grounds of knowledge and the principles of morality; but the outcome was a general sweep of historical criticism, in which authority and science, the church, the state, and education came under censure. The spirit of man was impatient. Man became indifferent to “learning.” In contrast with the Renaissance, this was a time when books were little read, proper names infrequently appeared in writings, authorities were little cited. Let man study himself if he would learn about history and understand the world. Man stands above the scholar, the Christian, the German. He is independent of tradition, and should substitute the useful for the historical. Cosmopolitanism takes the place of patriotism. The Enlightenment is practical and yet imaginative. Its criticism aims to strip man of all his artificialities and to find his natural state. Its emphasis is negative and destructive.
The revolt of the Enlightenment against the past appeared in remarkable changes in the political map of Europe. Mediæval Europe was breaking to pieces. The Renaissance had been a period of social absolutism in which the despotic powers of Macchiavelli and Richelieu were typical of its political life. In this period new-comers forced their way into politics and the Enlightenment was marked by the rise of Russia, Prussia, and the American colonies. France and Austria, representing the past, were arrayed against England and Prussia, representing the future of Europe. The conflict between them was that of the old idea of military despotism, non-commerce, and non-toleration against the new spirit of individual freedom. From the Peace of Westphalia (1648) to the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) occurred many conflicts which presaged the breaking down of the old boundaries. The old régime received its death-blow at the hands of Frederick the Great in the Seven Years’ War; and a half-century later (1806) the Holy Roman Empire came to an end.
In all countries there were vigorous political movements in support of the rights of the individual. In England the House of Commons began to rise to power and the colonies in America to assert their independence. In France the Bourbon family was fast losing its grip, to be completely overthrown in the French Revolution (1789). The current was entirely in the same direction in Germany. This was the time of Adam Smith and the rise of economic theories. It is a matter of no little significance that this period from the point of view of philosophy begins with Locke’s psychological Essay and ends with Kant’s Critique; and from the point of view of politics it begins with the Revolution of 1688 in England, and ends with a revolution in France and another in the American colonies.
A Comparison of the Enlightenment in England, France, and Germany. The individualism of the Enlightenment expressed itself as a rationalism in Germany, as a sensationalism and deism in France, and as a deism and an empiricism in England. Nevertheless all its phases may be found in each one of these countries. The outcome of the movement in the three countries is, however, very different. In England the Enlightenment passed into a philosophical reaction in the so-called Scottish School; in France, it resulted in a political revolution; in Germany, it merged with a great literary movement and resulted in a creative idealism.
The Many Groups of Philosophers of the Enlightenment. A comparison of the lists of philosophers of this with those of other periods reveals an extraordinary number of names. The Renaissance, for example, shows about half as many names of consequence, although it is about twice as long. The Enlightenment teems with philosophers, for its secular life was permeated with the reflective spirit. The philosophers are also often notable men, whose names are familiar to the modern reader. Nevertheless the number of constructive philosophers was exceedingly few. Only Locke, Berkeley, and Hume can be found whose importance equals that of Bacon, Hobbes, Galileo, Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibnitz. In personal talents and importance to their age the others seem to go in groups or to be part of the secular spirit. On the whole the history of the Enlightenment is that of social movements, and the philosophers seem to be the exponents of such movements.
Some of these important groups are as follows:—
1. Associationalist Psychologists: Peter Brown (d. 1735), Hartley (1704–1757), Search (1705–1774), Priestley (1733–1804), Tooke (1736–1812), Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), Thomas Brown (1778–1820).
2. Moral Philosophers: Shaftesbury (1671–1713); morality based on intellect, Samuel Clarke (1675–1729); Wollaston (1659–1724); morality based on feeling, Hutcheson (1694–1747); Home (1696–1782); Burke (1730–1797); Ferguson (1724–1816); Adam Smith (1723–1790); morality based on authority, Butler (1692–1752); Paley (1743–1805); ethics based on associational psychology, Bentham (1748–1832); in an isolated ethical position, Mandeville (1670–1733); the Platonist, Price (1723–1791).
3. The Deists: Toland (1670–1722), Collins (1676–1729), Tindal (1656–1733), Chubb (1679–1747), Morgan (d. 1743), Bolingbroke (1678–1751).
4. The Scottish School of Philosophy: Thomas Reid (1710–1796), Oswald (d. 1793), Beattie (d. 1805), Dugald Stewart (1753–1828).
1. Skeptics: Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire (1694–1778), Maupertuis (1698–1759), d’Alembert (1717–1783), Buffon (1707–1788), Robinet (1735–1820).
2. The Sensualists: La Mettrie (1709–1751), Bonnet (1720–1793), Condillac (1715–1780), Cabanis (1757–1808).
3. The Encyclopædists: Diderot (1713–1784), Voltaire, d’Alembert, Rousseau (1712–1778), Turgot, Jaucourt, Duclos, Grimm (1723–1807), Holbach (1723–1789), Helvetius (1715–1771).
4. The Political Economists and Constitutionalists: Montesquieu (1689–1755), Quesnay, Turgot, Morelly, Mably.
5. The Sentimentalist: Rousseau (1712–1778), the most notable figure of France during the Enlightenment.
6. Philosophical Revolutionists: St. Lambert (1716–1803), Volney (1757–1820), Condorcet (1743–1794), Garat (1749–1833).
1. Thomasius (1655–1728), the first of the Enlightenment.
2. The Wolffians: Wolff (1679–1754), Bilfinger, Knutzen (d. 1751), Gottsched (1700–1766), Baumgarten (1714–1762).
3. The Geometrical Method and its Opponents: Hansch, Ploucquet, Crousaz, Rüdiger (1671–1731), Crusius (1712–1775), Budde, Brucker, Tiedemann, Lossius, Platner.
4. The Psychologists and Related Philosophers: Kruger, Hentsch, Weiss, Irwing, Moritz (1757–1793), Basedow (1723–1790), Pestalozzi, and Sulzer.
5. The Independent Philosophers: Lambert (1728–1777), Tetens (1736–1805).
6. The Deists: Schmidt, Semler (1725–1791), Reimarus (1699–1768), Edelmann.
7. The Pietists: Spener (1635–1705), Francke (1663–1727), Arnold, Dippel.
9. The Writer on Philosophical Religion: Lessing (1729–1781).
10. The Writer on Faith Philosophy: Herder (1744–1803).
The philosophers of greatest importance in this period are given below. To help the reader keep in mind contemporary philosophical influences other names are given with them in a parallel table.