Avid exploration helped to usher the study of nature to the forefront of the 18th and 19th centuries, as scientists examined diverse locations around the world as compared to what was already known. Utilizing newly learned methodology, old myths were debunked and new ideas were put in front of the public. These new contrary ideas were not only growing in the field of science, but also flowed over into the realms of religion, the arts, politics and the social ways of all citizens.
The scientific movement in the 18th century was a critical part of history, as it ushered in some of the most important scientific finds built upon the discoveries of the 16th and 17th centuries, such as Bacon’s scientific method and Galileo’s astronomy research. The Enlightenment period was an intellectual growth period, with a sharp focus on humanistic concerns, freedom and equality in all things. Less faith was given to the church, and more on rational humanism.
The Romantic Movement reacted to the Enlightenment and Scientific periods in the essence that more emphasis should be given to the feelings of human beings, as well as matters of the heart. Romantics were more concerned with the human aspect, feelings and love, than with rationale or science. The tide of knowledge and human tendencies moved in and out of each of these periods of time, each having a lasting effect on all aspects of humanity that can be seen even in the Western intellectual world today. 1. The Scientific Revolution During the 18th century, many scientists and thinkers made bold strides in the realm of natural science.
Among those making progress was Sir Isaac Newton, the mathematician who brought about research on the laws of motion and the principles of gravity. He used mathematical equations and formulas to define his theories, as Mills and Woods noted, “Sir Isaac Newton’s theories about gravity and motion were combined with many previous ideas in such a way as to create an entirely different view of our world” (152). The scientific discoveries of the past were built upon in order to create new ideas. One of the most ingenious creations of this era was most definitely the Encyclopedie, created by Frenchman Denis Diderot.
His Encyclopedie was as equivalent to the time as the internet is today. Hackett describes “the Encyclopedie, the chief monument of the philosophes, declared the supremacy of the new science, denounced superstition, and expounded the merits of human freedom. Its pages contained critical articles, by tradesmen as well as scientists, on unfair taxes, the evils of the slave trade, and the cruelty of criminal laws. ” Diderot had a team of scientists, literary writers and even priests to help compose these works, which were based on rationalism and forward thinking realism.
This being the theme, conservatives were extremely unhappy with Diderot’s works, of which some contained atheistic subject matter. Subsequently, the government did censor some of Diderot’s Encyclopedie, although this did not interrupt his work as he continued to release more volumes to the public thereafter. Although those listed herein are only a small number of those that contributed to the Scientific Revolution; many more helped to shape it by utilizing the methods uncovered in the prior centuries, examining the real and the possible. 2. The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment period pulled its knowledge base from the Scientific Revolution’s efforts, by using rational thought processes to obtain results in any manner of subjects. For example, the desire for freedom and equality resulted from the scientific idea that knowledge leads to human achievement. This desire led to uprisings such as the American and French Revolutions. This led to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in America, upon which “the Declaration famously asserted that the colonists had the right to establish a government to secure the “unalienable rights” of ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (Benton, 202).
The French followed the American vision of democracy which was the sought after form of government within these two evolving countries, at the height of the Enlightenment era. Art and literature styles during the Enlightenment period were also changing from past times; with the popular ideals and ideas of the Scientific and Enlightenment periods, artists and writers pulled upon these new ways of thinking to perfect different types of art. The Rococo painting style portrayed interesting subjects on a very small scale, in a delicate manner and with lighter colors than its predecessor, the Baroque.
In Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera, these qualities are evident; including that there contained no heads of state or religious figures, which is consistent with the Enlightenment period. The Neoclassicism style was unlike the Rococo style, and used the art of the past and its events as its influence. Jacques – Louis David is an example of a Neoclassicism painter, as seen in the Oath of the Haratii. The painting is full of meaning and seriousness, as David portrays his subjects precisely and accurately, paying attention to order and balance which were also characteristics of ancient times.
The literature in this period reflected realism, which included new scientific findings and continuing disenchantment with the sacred. Its purpose was to encourage people to reform to the author’s point of view, and think about the message that was being delivered. For example, Voltaire’s Candide portrayed a young man and his journeys through life, depicting a happy (optimistic) time being shattered by life’s cruel events. Voltaire ridiculed most every authoritarian entity of the time, from the church to the government, subsequently suffering hostility from all points.
The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment periods both influenced most literary works of the time, allowing honest, satirical and witty portrayals of the human condition to be written, as seen through the eyes of the writers. The Enlightenment period was full of musicians, sculptors a architects as well, most of which were influenced by the political and scientific grounds the times. 3. The Romantic Movement The Romantic Movement’s reaction to the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment was one of opposites. The political arena in this time was a boiling pot, as the Industrial Revolution was in full force.
These facts led to the changes seen in the arts. Unhappy with the ways of rationality, materialism and objectivity; the Romantics saw humans as feeling first and foremost, then thinking. Romantics were more attentive to matters of the heart, beauty, love, dreams and all things different. For example, the author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe exemplifies the Romantic Movement perfectly in his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Benton describes the plot as: “It’s main character, Werther, is discontented with Enlightenment ideals of objectivity and rationality.
He seeks, instead, the greater meaning of life. Werther does not find either happiness or satisfying love, and he commits suicide” (219). This novel tells a story of individual feeling of human beings during the Romantic era, after the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, the inner-self lost to a wave of machinery, methodology and materialism. In addition, a belief in the strange for this time period would definitely include philosopher George Hagel, who believed a “synthesis” between eras would occur based on the spirit of each individual period.
In other worlds, he believed that periods in time are opposites that must combine into one new era. The individualistic artists of the era, such as Emerson and Thoreau, were studious of nature and expressed individuality. In Thoreau’s novel Walden, he depicted his time living alone in the woods, away from civilization. Full of the beauties of nature and the simplicity that was derived from it; he deeply reflected upon his individualistic nature. The Romantic era artist, writer and composer differed from those of previous movements, and stood alone in his works, embracing originality and imagination.
All of these movements had a great impact on the western intellectual world. Even prior to the Enlightenment period, the works of Copernicus and Galileo were instrumental in astronomy and mathematics, which are still being expanded upon today. This period produced Bacon’s scientific method, which is still used from all fields of science to sociology. Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of gravity and other research created a type of balance and regular way of doing things, along with the scientific method.
The Newton way of processing information helped to form the way decisions were made in the arena of politics, economics and social behavior. No longer would the public simply rely on the church for the answer, but the laws of nature seemed to have answers that were more tangible and realistic. Perhaps the most impactful was Diderot, who created the Encyclopedie. This was also expanded upon over time, and could be looked at as a precursor to the internet today. Millions have the opportunity to look to the web as a type of Encyclopedie, utilizing the seemingly endless amount of information available.
The American and French Revolutions both put forth documents of freedom for each respective country, declaring liberties and freedoms demanded by citizens who were full of the ideas that started in the Renaissance period, and moved on through the Enlightenment era. These revolutions have impacted the world by the spreading of a need for rights and freedom, democracy at its core. Throughout history, each period has made an impact on the next for a continuing knowledge base to rely upon for the advancement of not only the sciences, but also of the human condition.