Hearts and minds

by Andrea Elizabeth

Another thing I looked up between episodes of Elizabeth R was The Enlightenment. I think I wanted to know if this occurred during the Elizabethan era. It apparently slowly began 50 years after her death in 1603. Wikipedia shares Bertrand Russell’s belief that The Enlightenment is connected to the Protestant Reformation.

Russell argues that the enlightenment was ultimately born out of the Protestant reaction against the Catholic counter-reformation, when the philosophical views of the past two centuries crystallized into a coherent world view. He argues that many of the philosophical views, such as affinity for democracy against monarchy, originated among Protestants in the early 16th century to justify their desire to break away from the pope and the Catholic Church. Though many of these philosophical ideals were picked up by Catholics, Russell argues, by the 18th century the Enlightenment was the principal manifestation of the schism that began with Martin Luther.[6]
Chartier (1991) argues that the Enlightenment was only invented after the fact for a political goal. He claims the leaders of the French Revolution created an Enlightenment canon of basic text, by selecting certain authors and identifying them with The Enlightenment in order to legitimize their republican political agenda.[7]
Historian Jonathan Israel dismisses the post-modern interpretation of the Enlightenment and the attempts of modern historians to link social and economical reasons for the revolutionary aspect of the period. He instead focuses on the history of ideas in the period from 1650 to the end of the 18th century, and claims that it was the ideas themselves that caused the change that eventually led to the revolutions of the later half of the 18th century and the early 19th century.[8] Israel argues that until the 1650s Western civilization “was based on a largely shared core of faith, tradition and authority”.[9]
Up until this date most intellectual debates revolved around “confessional” – that is Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), or Anglican issues”, and the main aim of these debates was to establish which bloc of faith ought to have the “monopoly of truth and a God-given title to authority”.[10] After this date everything thus previously rooted in tradition was questioned and often replaced by new concepts in the light of philosophical reason. After the second half of the 17th century and during the 18th century a “general process of rationalization and secularization set in which rapidly overthrew theology’s age-old hegemony in the world of study”, and thus confessional disputes were reduced to a secondary status in favor of the “escalating contest between faith and incredulity”.[10]

If The Enlightenment during the 18th C was the age of reason, and was replaced by Romanticism/Idealism in the 19th, then could it be that before that, people’s hearts and minds were more united, hence Elizabeth, Shakespeare and co.? Next time I read or watch one of his plays, I’ll look for that. Oh I remember now, the Shakespearean language in Elizabeth R is so beautiful, I wanted to know what influenced it. Intelligent hearts.

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