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Enlightenment, Again

So why the “ReEnlightenment”?  To answer that question we have to talk about the ‘first’ enlightenment.  Now to say “first” in the scope of human history is touchy at best.  For this reason I’ll point out that I”m only referring to the “Age of Enlightenment” of the 1600 and 1700’s.  This was a time of great change in western philosophy.  To say what it is I will use the brief definition as offered by Immanuel Kant in his 1784 essay, Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?. Kant stated that “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.”  This reminds me of a quote which is attributed to Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  Kant seemed to have a similar feeling based on his motto of “Dare to know!”

Philosophers of this age made contributions which ring in our ears and form the basis of  the western social structure.  Included are such notables as Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, and John Locke.  If you are not familiar with these men, they made the arguments that established the individual liberties more persistent today than any point in history.  There philosophies, along with so many other ripples in the great sea of history lead to the Declaration of Independence, which opens as follows:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

The criticality of this statement of man’s rights to dissolve his political bonds and that he has the sole consent to his being governed cannot be overstated.  This inspired it’s own revolution and many that have come hence.  The concept of Natural Law is a theme I hope to come back to over time.

This political philosophy of individual freedom and self-determination is most important to what I believe is the second enlightenment or reenlightenment.  It is only through a desire to know, a freedom to ask, and the lack of coercion that the masses may secure for themselves happiness.  It is in the dissolving of the bonds of state and academically controlled thought through the flood of information in our current age that we once again are brought to ask if we consent to be governed by the powers that be in the form of ill-advised nutrition and exercise advise as well as how we are governed.

It may seem odd to mix such matters as health and politics but sadly the two are so deeply intertwined that a crisis in one has quickly followed the other.  I hope I’ve given you some scant idea what I’m on about and how this will carry forward.  I hope furthermore that it interests you.

Categories: Philosophy
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  1. July 22, 2010 at 4:15 am

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