The Background for the Thoughts

   One could say that the background for the time of Enlightenment comes all the way back from Antiquity. The cornerstone for the Enlightenment-way-of-thinking could have been placed when Thomas Aquinas recovered the Aristotelian logic in the 13th century. That particular logic was used to defend the dogmas of Christianity a couple of centuries later in the hands of other thinkers as they tried to replace every aspect of faith with logic. These thinkers were known as “scholastics” and Voltaire, one of the most influential philosophers of Enlightenment who we are going to get to know better later, often referred to them as “doctors”, by which he meant “doctors of theology”.

The Course of Politics and Economy

   During the late Middle Ages peasants had started moving from the rural estates to the towns in search of increased freedom and economic prosperity: this continued during the Enlightenment. The population had increased immensely; the inhabitants had nearly doubled in number since there hadn’t been any bigger or more harmful conflicts in the 17th century. The towns became more crowded as people from the countryside, mostly peasants, moved to them and more food was needed. In the 18th century the agricultural revolution started to develop: new machines were invented and the rotation of crops became more effective.

   Still the towns were in a rather bad condition: they weren’t properly lit; they were dirty since the disposal system was nearly non-existent and they smelled bad. Also the public health was a problem but as the agriculture developed it started to advance too. Hospitals became more common and eventually the methods of medication were improved. However, most of the peasants who moved to the towns didn’t find what they were looking for, but became even poorer beggars wandering along the streets searching for food or money.

   During the Renaissance trade and communication had improved and also the stage of economy had increased. Many people started to realize that things could be changed: new businesses could be begun, new governments formed and new laws passed. As people tried to stabilize the power of the new institutions, the pressure for change continued to grow. Often the stabilization was tried to do by claiming the support of the tradition but that wasn’t enough anymore. Something new was what people wanted.

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   A new class of merchants emerged when the wealth brought back from Asia and the Americas started to attract a bunch of people. These people had their own ideas of how the world should be and they became major agents of change in arts, government and economy. They became so wealthy and powerful that they were able to partially displace the aristocracy’s power that had been rooted in the ownership of land.

   During the Renaissance individualism was shown strongly in arts but now the new merchant class, who were naturally convinced that their earnings were the result of ...

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