The Development of Sociology in the Age of Enlightenment.

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Paul Bestwick   118984   HGA 202   Assessment Task One    Due Date 21.03.13

            Modern sociology originated out of a season of rapid, accelerated change in Europe, which was characterised by radical revolutions in philosophy, science, politics and society, and included the period known as the Enlightenment.  In this essay I will focus on the Enlightenment and discuss the key ideas of this movement.

            Prior to the Enlightenment, the social structure of society had been dominated by the feudal system, which divided the population into three classes whose status was determined largely based on the ownership of land (eds. Gieben & Hall 1992, p.32).  The population was restricted in its thinking by the church, which controlled information.  Any autonomous thought which contradicted the traditional view of the church was labelled as blasphemous, a crime for which one could receive the death penalty.  The proponents of the intellectual movement known as the enlightenment, directly challenged the existing social structure and the antiquated religious ideas that permeated society.

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            A new mode of thinking was sweeping through Europe and the philosophes argued that reason and rational thought should hold sway over superstitious religious belief, they held that everything should be evaluated by experience and scientific method, rather than accepted by faith (eds. Gieben & Hall 1992, p.21).   This emphasis on experiment and science was seen to be the key factor in advancing human knowledge, and moreover, these principles which were seen to be at work in the natural world could also be applied across all facets of human life, with consistent ...

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