The XVIII century is known for being a century responsible for political, social and economic shifts everywhere in Europe. In France, the absolute monarchy created an economical mayhem, emphasized by the social classes differences between the nobility, the clergy, and the third estate. Britain was one of the first investigators of these eminent ideological shifts. Undeniably, Britain was the first to have a revolution calling forth the Bill of rights. More than that, Britain was also at the head of the Glorious Revolution. Such ideas start propagating in France in the minds of the French thinkers “philosophes”, resulting in the debut of the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment or Age of reason was an era of questioning and emergence of revolutionary ideas. Thinkers wanted people to argue the absolute monarchy and use their own reason to free their minds. I think that restricting this historical period as just a body of ideas or set of practices might be simple because they are both correlated: for a practice to exist, an idea or a trigger component is needed. However, as it will be demonstrate in this essay, I have concluded that the Enlightenment was more a bodies than a set of practices. Through philosophical essays of thinkers of the time such as Jean- Jacques Rousseau or Emmanuel Kant, this essay will first explore the ideas advocated by the thinkers, then will discuss the way their thoughts went around and then, argue to what limits they became embodied practices.
The Enlightenment was not just a historical period, it was first a new tendency of thoughts, a new ability to use one’s own reason. As argued by Katarina Deligiorgi, Emmanuel Kant’s definition of the Enlightenment is « the freedom to engage in public argument and not rational certitude» . The thinkers of the time, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, but also John Locke and Peter Gay, were all in favor of the emancipator reason, to make men able to use their reason, so it will free them from the obscurantism of their time and all the constraints that were on them. Being influenced by the scientific revolution and improvement made by Isaac Newton, the key start of the Enlightenment was the expansion on knowledge and the view of reason and dedication to scientific method could result in the progress and happiness of humankind. The philosophes saw the world as ultimately rational and human as naturally good or at least not depraved as stresses by David Wootoon ” On Locke’s account, it seemed, people were not by nature sinful; vice and crime were the results of defects in their upbringing and environment, which could, in principle, be eliminated”.