The West and the World

The Enlightenment Thought and Inquiry

This document expands on the concept of European politics, philosophy, science and communications that were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” as part of a movement referred to as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment. For example, the Enlightenment produced the first modern secularized theories of philosophy and ethics such as when John Locke conceived of the human mind as being at birth a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which experience wrote freely and boldly, creating the individual character according to the individual experience of the world. Moreover, Voltaire is also an example of the "Enlightenment," a name given for a movement among European intellectuals in the 18th century to elucidate and advocate what they thought was a more rational and scientific understanding of human nature and human affairs.

Concepts on visual arts, literature, politics, and among others drastically changed at the time. Above all, this document indicates that Enlightenment philosophers were great optimists and they believed that humankind could improve itself greatly, and that Enlightenment values of reason and humanity would accomplish it. The first thing to be done, in their view, was to free thinking itself to escape the darkness of the past to the light of reason [1][2]. This is resource is relevant to this chapter because it provides a summary of how people perceived the world during the Age of Reason and what lead them to think this way and how it has affected today's society's way of thinking.

Technology and Enlightenment: The Mechanical Arts in Diderot’s Encyclopédie

The Encyclopédie was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772. It is most famous for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. Denis Diderot, one of the editors, Encyclopédie's aim was to incorporate all of the world's knowledge into the book and hoped that the text could disseminate all this information to the public and future generations. This websites provides an online exhibit of copies of the engravings in the plates, printing, papermaking, mining, tapestry, wigmaking, documenting, and humbler trades [3].

Top (left to right): Plate VIII Wigs, Plate VI: Patterns and tools for women wigs. Bottom: Intaglio Printing.

This website is a crucial resource as well as an important gateway into learning about The Enlightenment. This Collaborative Translated Website/online exhibit allows you to browse articles that have been translated and to search the database of translations in a variety of ways. Not only that but students can also view a clear image of most of the pages, plate engravings, images and other parts of the book with details associated to each of them. They can also find links to the original French versions of translated articles.

Goya & The Spanish Enlightenment

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was an important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this time, a new period of thinking in the Western world which was to bring marked political, social and economic changes developed. This period was called the Enlightenment and encouraged critical thinking independent of religious or superstitious doctrines. This point of view can be seen through Goya's artworks. He was set to work turning out paintings as cartoon designs for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara, he painted for the Osuna family, he produced a series of etchings called Los Caprichos, and many other artistic opportunities that are significant in when talking about The Enlightenment [4].

Left to right: Plate 12 from 'Los Caprichos': Out hunting for teeth; Pepito's father, Rafael Costa de Quintana; Plate 43 from 'Los Caprichos': The sleep of reason produces monsters.

This website provides brief essays with images about the work of Goya. This is truly relevant and great resource in learning about this chapter for it indicates how much The Enlightenment expanded within the Western World. Not only it is helpful for this material but it also supplies students an organized virtual exhibit of Goya's artwork, his autobiography, and for them to connect much of an influence he is in the Spanish Enlightenment.

Of Elephants and Roses: Encounters with French Natural History, 1790-1830

This website explores natural history during the Enlightenment period in France and its impact of the various sciences.There are two gardens featured in this website—Jardin des Plantes and Malmaison. These gardens provided an exhibit of the plants and animals from all around the world, new scientific knowledge that improved agricultural productivity and diversity, and helped promote economic prosperity in France. In this exhibit there are various objects that can be found such the only dinner plate that survived from a Sevres porcelain service for Louis XVIII, ceramic wares, a beadwork bag, an ink stands, a lady’s belt, among other objects that were utilized when Paris was the center of life sciences in the Western world [5]. This website is helped for students in learning about the French Enlightenment. Although it is a website dedicated to promote and exhibition about the science and art of French natural history from the 1789 Revolution to the July Monarchy of 1830, it is still relevant to this topic because during this era, The Enlightenment was significant through the objects that were shown in the exhibit.

Jardin des Plantes
Empress Josephine


[1] Bristow, William, "Enlightenment", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

[2] Darty, Amy. “Enlightenment Thought and Inquiry.” 2017. Accessed February 04, 2017.

[3] "Diderot's Encyclopedia Exhibit Preview." MIT Libraries Exhibits. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[4] Voorhies, Author: James. "Francisco De Goya (1746–1828) and the Spanish Enlightenment | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[5] "Elephants & Roses." APS Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

Created by: Maria Luisa Abon (EUH2001)

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