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Reading of Voltaire's tragedy of the Orphan of China

How the Age of Enlightenment Shaped Modernity (Video)

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The Renaissance heralded a transformative period in human history, marked not just by artistic brilliance but by a profound philosophical shift. This shift, embodied by humanism, steered European culture away from the fantastical and divine themes of medieval art towards a celebration of reason and human spirit. The transition from the heavenly to the natural mirrored a broader societal evolution towards practicality and restraint. 

The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, blossomed from this philosophical seed, spanning the late-17th to late-18th centuries. Unlike the Renaissance, which permeated elite circles, the Enlightenment was a grassroots movement, igniting a societal revolution. Rooted in the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century, it championed empirical beliefs and the scientific method. 

Philosophers like Descartes, Locke, and Hume reshaped intellectual landscapes, challenging dogma with reason and skepticism. The emergence of the printing press democratized knowledge, fostering the Republic of Letters, a transnational community of intellectuals. 

Simultaneously, Europe's engagement with diverse cultures through exploration and trade prompted critical reflection on traditional values. Figures like Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire advocated for political and social reform, challenging the authority of monarchs and the Church. 

The Enlightenment also catalyzed movements for social justice, including the abolition of slavery, as thinkers like Adam Smith laid the groundwork for modern economics, politics and capitalism. 

Ultimately, the Age of Enlightenment symbolized the triumph of rationality, innovation, and scientific inquiry over superstition and tradition. It illuminated the path towards modernity, shaping the course of human history. 

Top image: Reading of Voltaire's tragedy of the Orphan of China in the salon of Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin in 1755, by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier, 1812. Château de Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison, France Source:  Public Domain 

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