Imagine a botanist who dedicates himself to nature to help a dying plant. He is not interested in planting many new flowers. His main concern is to prevent the withering of a single specimen. If the reasons for its sickness are established, the other plants will be less likely to wither in the same way. This situation describes the Enlightenment principles in the best way.
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The Enlightenment writers were aware of all the social imperfections and vices. They hoped that humanity would civilize through its reason and hard work. But moral ideals invariably coexist with satire in their prose.
There are five principles of the Enlightenment, all of which are present in Voltaire’s Candide:
- Boundless faith in the human mind, when rationalism is the most significant good.
- The intention to rebuild society on reasonable grounds, which equals historical optimism. The Age of Enlightenment was the “golden age” of utopian stories. People believed that it was possible to change the world for the better by the rational transformation of the political and social foundations.
- Secularization of consciousness (liberation from church influence in governmental, social, and mental activities).
- The triumph of science over scholasticism and church obscurantism.
- The idea of equality of all people before the law. The enlighteners saw deliverance from all social troubles in the dissemination of knowledge.
In this light, they studied human nature to find a remedy to its drawbacks. They viewed society as a dying plant because of the wrong interpretation of religion, law, and politics. The only treatment would be finding the causes of the moral mistakes and fixing them.
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