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7 - A New World?

The Dawn of the Enlightenment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2021

Mark A. Waddell
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
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Summary

The Enlightenment was the defining cultural and intellectual movement of the eighteenth century. Also known as the Age of Reason, it is generally viewed by historians as the emergence of the modern West. Enlightenment thinkers championed rationality and upheld Newtonian science, with its emphasis on natural laws, as the preeminent description of the natural world. The rise of religious tolerance across Europe, challenges to the cultural authority of organized religion, and the emergence of rational forms of religion such as deism all combined to produce a more secular mindset among the educated classes. Those same individuals also dismissed magic as a delusion of the ignorant and superstitious, but more recent scholarship has challenged the narrative of “disenchantment” in which magical beliefs and practices supposedly disappeared as rationality increased. In fact, occult philosophies and traditions from hermeticism to alchemy had already put their indelible stamp on the development of “scientific” disciplines long before the Enlightenment began. By 1750, the complex relationships between science, religion, and magic had assumed a configuration familiar to many people today.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • A New World?
  • Mark A. Waddell, Michigan State University
  • Book: Magic, Science, and Religion in Early Modern Europe
  • Online publication: 22 January 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108348232.008
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  • A New World?
  • Mark A. Waddell, Michigan State University
  • Book: Magic, Science, and Religion in Early Modern Europe
  • Online publication: 22 January 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108348232.008
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • A New World?
  • Mark A. Waddell, Michigan State University
  • Book: Magic, Science, and Religion in Early Modern Europe
  • Online publication: 22 January 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108348232.008
Available formats
×