Absolutism and Enlightenment Thinking

During the 18th century, an intellectual movement known as the enlightenment took hold across Europe. Thinkers of the enlightenment were interested in limiting the political influence of organized religion to avoid another period of intolerance and religious conflict. The distinction of religion and country authority was a bold enlightenment idea to promote a person’s ability to provide knowledge or insight to another person. The idea that science and reasoning provide individuals with more knowledge and understanding than religion or tradition manifested throughout the eighteenth century. Enlightenment worked in favor of pro-liberty and pro-progress values such as fraternity, tolerance, and constitutional democracy.

On the contrary, separation absolutism promoted unrestrained centralized authority and totalitarianism, as well as monarchy or dictature. Monarchs were revered by many as a manifestation of God on Earth. According to Jean Domat, a French lawyer, absolute monarchy was a tool of God’s will. Because all power comes from God, King Domat said, people should be devoted to and subservient to their rulers.

The monarch possessed absolute power in the majority of European countries. Even though the enlightened despots attempted to enact changes, they held onto power without adopting a constitution to govern it (Weis). The enlightenment challenged the Age of absolutism’s ideals, which questioned the customary authority created during this time period and removed the idea of a single power, which favored monarchs and the wealthy. It then presented a new concept: governing to benefit the greatest number of people possible. The enlightenment, a European intellectual movement that dominated the 18th century, espoused virtues such as equality, brotherhood, and constitutional democracy (Weis).

Even though the enlightenment was a hugely diverse movement, there are a few recurring themes. The reason was one of the major ideas. Philosophers of the enlightenment tended to dismiss supernatural events as mere folklore. Despite popular belief, not every enlightenment intellectual was an atheist.  Atheism was encouraged by the enlightenment, but it was more typical to produce a hybrid of Christian faith and scientific rationalism. During the late 18th century, the deist movement swept over Europe and the United States.

Deism came into existence as a result of enlightenment (Domat). Deists deny the existence of supernatural events and believe that the only way to know God is via reason and nature.  Skepticism is another Enlightenment-era notion that goes hand in hand with reason. Skeptical about religious dogmas established church, and government authority are all examples of skepticism. Doubt is also used to refer to skepticism regarding reality itself. Let’s take a look at something called the divine right of kings to explain this argument. As a result of this long-held Catholic belief, monarchs were not subject to earthly powers and had been established in authority by God’s own will. To put it simply, this meant that the king was above the rule of law. The enlightenment, however, threw doubt on this theory. A monarchy or authority exercising absolute power, principles, and authority is known as an absolute state. When someone is recognized as God’s representative on earth, following their orders is considered an act of worship.

In conclusion, the biggest distinction between absolutism and enlightenment is the way a country’s government is set up in a specific location. In an absolutist system, the monarch enjoyed virtually limitless power. In addition, there was no statute governing the authorities. Enlightenment, in contrast, stressed the importance of turning away from superstition, religion, and tradition in favor of reason and personal experience. It also held the view that power comes from God and should not be concentrated in the hands of a single individual.

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