ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE CULTURAL EVOLUTION OF THE WESTERN WORLD
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, following the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, were a time of great intellectual ferment in Western Europe. Philosophers challenged ideas based on tradition and faith, and they urged their colleagues to show skepticism about long-term religious dogma and the concept of absolute monarchy. Its early practitioners included the philosophers Baruch Spinoza and John Locke in the late seventeenth century, followed by Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Paine in the eighteenth century.
The Age of Enlightenment was accompanied by a Scientific Revolution, including a physicist, Isaac Newton, a geologist, James Hutton, and a mathematician, Leonhard Euler. Eventually, the Age of Enlightenment spread to the American colonies, led by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were scientists as well as political leaders. The American Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are direct products of the Age of Enlightenment as Americans sought to establish an ideal democracy in the New World.
For Immanuel Kant, in an essay in 1784, enlightenment marked the liberation of human consciousness from a state of ignorance to a state of reason. These views swept across Europe, and, among other results, led to a scientific treatment of disease. As described elsewhere (Population Explosion and Increased Earthquake Risk to Megacities), Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution were accompanied by an improvement of medical care and health, which itself led to people living longer and to an increase in population that continues today.
THE LISBON EARTHQUAKE
At 9:30 a.m. on November 1, 1755, All Saints Day, the views of Enlightenment philosophers were subjected to a major crisis. As described by Fonseca (2004), Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, a maritime superpower with colonies in Africa, Asia, and South America, was destroyed in a few minutes by a massive earthquake (Figure 13.1). The earthquake was felt in many parts of Western Europe and North Africa (Figure 13.2). Western society was shocked that one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in Europe could suffer such a fate. About 40,000 people, one-fifth of Lisbon's population, lost their lives, and another 10,000 died in Morocco to the south. A subsequent report gave the losses in Lisbon as nearly 100,000.