The Enlightenment In The 18th Century

1497 Words 6 Pages
The Enlightenment, the proliferation of rational ideas throughout the 18th Century, has a dualistic political legacy. The paradoxes it produced were liberalism - emphasising political freedom and representation - and authoritarianism, imperialism and independence. Religion, instead of being displaced by reason, remained to influence and reflect the Enlightenment’s political legacies. Kant may stress “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage” from Christianity but secularisation did not occur. Beyond the political dualism that Enlightened individuals either accepted or seemingly rejected religion, religion reinforced Enlightened exploration and colonisation. Bayly cites the Enlightenment as the catalyst for “the rise of …show more content…
Rational exploration, a component of the Enlightenment and embodied by James Cook, contributed to colonialism. The Royal Society fostered scientific discovery; its motto of “Nullius in Verba” - “take nobody’s word for it” - reflects the role of empiricism and rationalism over superstition. The society’s backing of James Cook, learned in mathematics and navigation, expanded knowledge into maritime navigation and foreign cultures that contributed to British colonialism. But Cook and The Royal Society may not have been a conscious proponent of colonialism as Toprak and Köseoglu suggest. The Turkish economists hypothesise “Cook… [was] a representative of British colonists, whose ultimate goal is to dominate… the colonised.” In light of the British Empire, it is easy to identify Cook as a pioneer of colonialism in retrospect. Moreover Cook was critical of European impact on locals: “what is still to our shame as civilised Christians…we introduce among [natives] wants and perhaps disease.” Cook subscribes to Rousseau’s theory of the Tabula rasa and the corrupt nature of Western civilisation. Thus, intentionally or not, Cook’s scientific exploration contributed to colonialism, a rational process that can be paradoxically enforced by religion. Analysing Kipling’s 1799 ‘White Man’s Burden’, Cody suggests the Victorians justified Empire so that “primitive peoples… [could] become civilised and Christianised.” Indeed Empire, during the 19th Century, was empowered by the moral imperatives of religion. Missionaries like David Livingstone embodied both Protestantism and rationality contributing towards imperialism. His political affiliation enabled him to conduct rational exploration of Africa, forming the informative basis for imperialism. Despite the perceived incompatibility between religion and reason, imperialism expanded through scientific

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