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Human Beings And Nature During The Revolution Of The Mind

3542 words - 14 pages


"Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Dare to Know! Have courage to use your own reason!- that is the motto of enlightenment."
-Immanuel Kant, 1784 (1)

From the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, a drastically new way of thinking developed in Western Civilization, a way of thinking that has shaped and defined the modern world. This new mode of thought evolved within two movements, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. These movements led Western Civilization to a departure from reverence for traditional authority, from a fatalistic view of the world, and from a blending of the spiritual and the secular, allowing the emergence of the individualistic, scientific, progress-oriented attitude that fuels the Western world today. The thinking of the leaders of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment built upon and revolutionized that of Medieval and classical intellectuals. It introduced a belief that human beings could learn to control and conquer nature, defining their lives in new ways and leaving a fear of the supernatural behind.

Departure from Traditional Authority

The most obvious form in which this new way of thinking deviated from the norm was its rebellion against traditional authority, particularly the powerful authority of the Church. The rebellion against traditional authority, particularly the powerful authority of the Church. The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus became one of the first to challenge Church authority, when, in 1520, he announced his belief that the sun lay at the center of the universe. (2) This theory deviated from the popular, Aristotelian belief that the earth, due to its heaviness, comprised the center of the known universe, surrounded by the other heavenly bodies, which moved within crystalline spheres. Beyond these the kingdom of God supposedly existed. The Church supported the Aristotelian view because it placed God's supreme creation, humanity, at the heart of His created world. The Aristotelian theory was given further support by Psalm 104: "Thou didst set the earth on its foundation, so that it should never be shaken." Yet Copernicus found the mathematics supporting the popular view of the universe unsatisfactory, and so he formulated the Heliocentric Theory, freeing the scientists who would follow in his footsteps from a rigid view of the universe. (3)

In 1615, the inventor of the telescope, Galileo Galilei, wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany ardently defending the Heliocentric Theory, which was being attacked as heretical by various members of the scientific and religious communities. Galilei affronted the authority of the...


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