“In what specific ways, did the scientific revolution and enlightenment “enlighten” Western European society?” A dictionary definition of “Enlighten” is to “give greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation” If I may elaborate it a bit, to enlighten is to give a better understanding of human nature, human society, world and the universe.
The Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution
Before the scientific revolution, more people followed philosophical and traditional beliefs but that changed at the onset of the enlightenment and the scientific revolution. Enlightenment and scientific revolution created a space for free thought different from the rigid ways of thought maintained by religion at the time. The period of enlightenment and scientific revolution led to freethinking which led to upcoming of new and established philosophers (Kümin, 2014). More theories were brought to the fore when scholars started questioning the traditional beliefs of the church and the Greek philosophers such as Plato. Scientists concentrated on coming up with theories that led to a new philosophy towards change on humanity.
The scientific revolution and enlightenment substantially led to many changes in the European society. Scientific revolution further brought about the increase in knowledge that was not stifled by religion or Greek philosophical thought, which further increased understanding of science in the European society. The scientist’s breadth of understanding was increased due to the new teachings in addition to the heliocentric theories which opened up their understanding into coming up with new inventions (Spielvogel, 2014). New ideas were introduced to new ways of thinking and thus new ideas. Traditional misconceptions were brought to the fore; scientists came up more bravely with their theories. Such scientists included Copernicus, Aristotle, and Galileo who developed laws that proved various superstitions wrong especially where religious society held that the earth was flat.
The enlightenment period evidenced a lot of intelligence and revolution brought about by philosophers. It became conceptualized as the “age of enlightenment” by Emmanuel Kant, which represented the change to modernity from antiquity. More people began to question theocracy and autocracy, which were rampant in practice by the governing structures and the religious society. Enlightenment brought about more optimism among the people of Europe where societies opted for change that would remedy the mistakes made in the past. Enlightenment philosophers came to the fore, and they came up with ideas that concluded that natural law governed man and not religion (Burger, 2014). Free thought was brought about by various minds that included Galileo, Leibniz, Newton, and Descartes. The enlightenment brought about the questioning of past beliefs about leadership by the monarch and the church. The philosophers in the enlightenment period brought about new ideas, which helped to fuel revolutions throughout Europe. Such revolutions led to fair governance in Europe as the people became aware of their fundamental rights. Some of the philosophers included Rousseau, Voltaire, and Locke to name a few, who contributed ways of forming and running governments effectively (Morris, 2009).
Departing from religiosity and Greek philosophical thought that restricted the thinking of people at the time brought about the inception of new ideas, which led to the free thought. The continual inception of new ideas led to a better society especially in laws that were targeted towards the well-being of man and the society as a whole (Koenigsberger, 2014). People had the chance to question customs and traditions and thus lead to better understanding of their surroundings and culture. People as such did not follow beliefs blindly but used logical reasoning to come up with the conclusion on such beliefs. More philosophers concentrated on various issues affecting humans and their surroundings especially governance and nature. Governing structures were changed, and most countries in Europe came from being monarchs to governments that had the better representation of the people. Therefore, leadership was changed for the better while the understanding of people was increased due to the philosophical ideologies at the time.