Comparison of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, Детальна інформація
The Renaissance political thoughts contributed to the centralization of power of monarchial governments. Of course, the degree to which monarchs were successful in consolidation and extension of their political authority varied from country to country. While France, Spain and England emerged as centralized and more or less consolidated monarchies during the age of the
Renaissance, the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire saw a decline.
Central and Eastern Europe also experienced a decentralization of political authority, rather than its centralization. During the Enlightenment the process o centralization and growth of states continued. Most European states enlarged their bureaucracies and consolidated their governments.
However, as a result of all the geographic discoveries and following overseas trips and colonization, European economy started to shift from the
Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard. By the eighteenth century, England and France appeared as great commercial empires. Also, Eastern and Central
Europe emerged as major international players in the European political arena. Russia, Austria and Prussia – three of five major European states were located in Eastern or Central Europe. These states became so powerful that they managed to completely destroy Poland by dividing its lands between themselves. Although the ideas of the Enlightenment did leave an impact on the eighteenth century rulers, few of them actually attempted to implement the enlightened reforms into practice. The majority of rulers still believed that for a state to run effectively and prosper, it needed a strong absolute ruler.
In religion, clerical corruption, the popes’ preoccupation with secular matters such as finances and territorial power led to the growing discontent with the Church during the Renaissance period. J. Hus (1374-
1415) and J. Wyclif (1328-1384) are viewed by many as the forerunners of the Reformation. Both of them attacked the excessive power of the papacy within Catholic Church and called for reforms. Although remaining a very important institution, Catholic Church and its religious practices became increasingly questioned and criticized by the Renaissance humanists. As during the Renaissance age, Catholic Church of the Enlightenment still had a lot of power and remained hierarchically structured. Religious devotion also remained strong during the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, critics and skepticism against the Church became more and more intense.
Philosophers of the Enlightenment were more than ever calling for religious toleration and acceptance of religious minorities. Among the intellectuals of that period more and more turned to deism and believed in natural laws.
The great majority of women of the Renaissance was not educated and was not considered intellectually equal to men. There were some exceptions of course, but, as such, women did not play any important role in the intellectual life of the Renaissance. This has changed during the
Enlightenment. Some of the eighteenth century intellectuals, such as
Diderot, expressed more positive views of women. Moreover, women themselves begun to emerge as important intellectual thinkers, questioning their rights and proposing ways to improve their situation. M. Wollstonecraft
(1759-1797) was regarded by many as the founder of modern European feminism. Another important difference from the Renaissance concerning women, was their role in the spread of new ideas of the Enlightenment. Of course, here we are talking again about the women of the elite or wealthy upper class. By organizing salons, women such as Madame Geoffrin (1699-
1777) or Marquise du Duffand (1697-1780) brought together writers and artists with aristocrats, government officials and other members of literate elite. These women could affect political decisions and influence literary and artistic tastes.
Completely different to the Renaissance was the emergence in the eighteenth century of a “science of man” or social sciences. Social sciences were based on the philosophers’ believes that certain human actions were governed by natural laws. One of the pioneers of a social science such as psychology was Scottish philosopher D. Hume (1711-1776).
Other famous philosophers such as A. Smith (1723-1790) and F. Quesnay (1694-
1774) were viewed as founders of the modern economics. They rejected mercantilist concepts by arguing the economic primacy of agriculture. They also advocated the doctrine of laissez-faire, which rejected the state’s intervention in the economic activity and called for letting the natural forces of demand and supply to work freely. In his famous “Wealth o
Nations” Smith presents his major ideas on the origins of wealth and functions of government in the economy, thus laying down the foundations of the nineteenth century economic liberalism.
As we could observe from the analysis above, the Renaissance and
so prone to traditions. That is why many of the Renaissance values continued into the Enlightenment. Each period in history marks human society in some way and even in our days we still hear the echo of previous centuries and still find some similarities between our time and those far- away centuries.
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