During the late 18th century arose the movement of Romanticism. Ideas emphasized during this period was poetry, art, imagination, and emotions over reasoning. This proceeded the Enlightenment era which began earlier in that century. The focuses of these two eras were different but I believe both were important to the development of the world and not just to Western societies. Since the Romantics followed Enlightenment, philosophers critiqued areas and concepts from the previous age to prove that their present conclusions were ultimately true or at least credible.
The whole point of the Enlightenment period was the promotion of human progress by reasoning and science rather than religion or tradition. Important influencers of this age were John Locke, Thomas Bacon, Immanuel Kant, and Voltaire. Generally, you would expect for this age to be beneficial without exceptions because people are attempting to gain knowledge. As time advanced, the unintended consequences of this movement came to light. Romanticism not only exposed the cons of human progress from reason and knowledge but, it touches on social issues also.
Key philosophers of the period included Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud along with the author Mary Shelley. We will see how the romantics respond and how the periods contrast. Immanuel Kant was a great contributor to the Enlightenment Age because of his philosophy on enlightenment itself. From gaining this sense of knowledge, he stressed the powers of the human mind and progression through that. Firstly, Kant describes enlightenment as,” man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. (Kant 1)” This basically means that we, as a whole, should not rely on other’s ability to reason but to have courage o seek it ourselves. We are all granted the freedom to do so. Kant feels that this will only lead to something called human progression. He relates this progression to an analogy of guardians keeping their cattle in ignorance until they eventually learn. He says, “by falling a few times they would finally learn to walk alone. (Kant 2)” Besides the world gaining knowledge, this human progress meant overcoming ignorance from religion and reducing human violence by social advancements. To the very individual, this only meant seeking knowledge for themselves and reaching their full potential.
Voltaire didn’t have much significance but he and Bacon stressed the need for scientific innovations. Bacon was the first to emphasize the relevancy of the scientific method. This could help of us understand the world around us which is nature and generate technological improvements. So in the end this what be considered progress also. John Locke, another contributor, comes along to stress social issues and the basic rights of the individual. Locke introduced the ideas that men are by nature free and that we have the rights of life, liberty, and property.
In Locke’s “A Letter Concerning Toleration,” we get the a focus on civil government and religion also. From this emerged the differences of public and private rights. For example we have the right to follow any religion in private and in terms of public we have to respect others and their moral values. The clear distinction between the two is that public law can’t force anyone to follow a religion, while in religious views or practices can’t interfere with a person’s life, liberty, freedom, and other things they’re entitled to. These philosophers played important roles in this period but, only until more problems arose then focus was shifted.
Romanticism was ultimately formed because of the disenchantment of a rationalist of the Enlightenment period. The big concerns of the Romanticist was the problems that came about from the industrial revolution, individualism, and scientism. In the industry there was diminishing household economies, where small shop owners would produce their own goods. Capitalists that produced on a large scale were in direct competition with these small shops which eventually lead to the shop owners being without a source of income to live off. Individualism comes from the pursuit of knowledge to discover the self.
These individuals simply obey reasoning alone rather than the application of emotions, feelings, or will. An effect from this behavior is that these individuals cut themselves off from their relationships with others to pursue these things. Lastly, scientism is the belief that science is the only way to justify the truth or at least reality. Others may see the world in a religious perspective but during the enlightenment we saw that science and religion always collide. These type of people would rather manipulate things that happen rather embracing the wonders of the world.
In direct response to the Enlightenment Age, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein presents many ways that some of these assumptions were flawed. The scientist of the story was so obsessed with science and creation that he sought out to make his own creature. This creature would not be considered human because part of his body was from animals. The creature embodied what it meant to be a Romanticist be it always felt, and it always reacted from its feeling. The scientist himself exemplified the character of someone who was eager to be enlightened.
When he finally created this creature he wasn’t satisfied with his results. Before the steps he went through to create this monster he was solitary during his work. Frankenstein himself was alone and away from his family, wife, and his friends. This collides with the assumption that individualism creates progression because while you are gaining knowledge solitary, you are cut off from your relationship with others and all actions performed by the individual isn’t always advantageous to them. After the creation Frankenstein himself left the creature where he created it and ran away.
The creature is later referred to as a monster whenever he kills Frankenstein brother. When the monster finally meets with his creator again it says, ” Accused creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust (Shelly 126). ” Even after the process he went through to make this very thing, he was left by himself in the end because he wasn’t satisfied. Technically this would be considered a scientific innovation because through science he developed a new species. Although the assumption was that these particular innovations would help humans progress.
The creature caused a living hell for Frankenstein and this could even be compared to Paradise Lost cause the devil was cast down from heaven but, he knew hell was within him. So here we have no significant progress for humans especially when the monster causes the death of others around his creator. Frankenstein says,” Know that, one by one, my friends were snatched away; I was left desolate (Shelley 201). ” To cope with his feelings scientism doesn’t help him, the fact that he goes out into the organic nature of the world eases his emotions of the loss his of people.
Initially, he thought the idea of adding a partner for the monster would free him of anything tied to the monster but he goes back on his word. Ultimately he decided to seek revenge from the monster because of all he had done. As a result, Frankenstein then stoops to his level, which is a declination of his very being, and becomes the monster himself chasing this creature with his animalistic instinct. This innovation became his downfall and he became equivalent to the being of the creature which proved that this progression of humans, that was inevitable to come, never came.
Karl Marx responds from a philosophical point of view. In his book, “Communist Manifesto,” Marx stresses the importance of communism or the publication of private property. As stated above, John Locke was the influencer of human basic rights, which included the right to own private property. The development of the Capitalist soon came after this right was made. Capitalists were key contributors to the rise of the industrial revolution but also to the fall of small shop owners. These shop owners were without income and the only way to provide a source was by working for these wealthy wners. A clear distinction between these two types people was their level of income and property which brought on the social classes. There was an oppressor and the oppressed. Before I go further with any explanations, this picture here of classes shows that only one class is progressing.
The oppressor is the class that prospers in context of human progression through technological advancements. “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other- bourgeoisie and proletariat (Marx 9). The bourgeoisie were the capitalist while the proletariat was the lower working class. Separation between the two came along with the industrial revolution. Romanticist like Marx would oppose this as human progression because as a whole we aren’t all included in this promotion. It seems as the Capitalists are being set up on a pedestal while the proles sink as low as peasants. The assumption here is that the innovation of technology would help mass produce goods to ignite the industrial revolution which in turn helps us progress once again. This struck competition for Capitalist to make household economies go out of business.
Marx comes in whenever he introduces communism that makes all property public instead of private. In return this concept would promote equal opportunities of progression. “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all (Marx 31). ” Communism is Marx’s proposal for everyone to properly progress as a unit. To truly become a unit, there has to be an elimination of the classes then that creates one whole society.
Along with Marx’s book, he responds with another controversial point. He writes, “Estranged Labor,” to shed light on the depravity of human beings in the workforce under Capitalists. The whole idea of this piece of work from Marx goes back to central ideas in Communism but it targets social issues within the workforce. “The devaluation of the world of men is in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things (Marx 7). ” This quote is basically the main idea of the article. As we, humans, put a bigger focus and value on objects in the world, these men producing the objects are valued as commodities.
In terms of a commodity this means that workers are only inputs of the production. Workers produce these items but they are owned by the Capitalist because of their status in society. They place the workers under them by depriving them of their very creations and allowing this process to continue for long periods of time. Similar to the industrial revolution in the previous paragraph, the scientific innovation comes in when advancements in technology help produce goods more efficiently.
For human progress, “The worker in his human functions, he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal (Marx 12). Marx states this because the on-going activity of the worker causes him to only feel himself freely active in functions similar to those of animals. These functions include eat, drinking, and having sexual intercourse. Another comparison he makes about the worker is compared to a slave. “The less ingenious becomes the worker and the more he becomes nature’s slave (Marx 15). ” To conclude this, the worker never experience a progression because of the value of the things they’re producing and by creating this very thing it always belongs to the Capitalist.
From one time period to the next we discovered the highlights of both periods and their downfalls. To a certain extinct the enlightenment age was beneficial because it meant working towards an enlightened world. The flawed part comes in whenever reason and science rule each individual’s life. By discovering these disillusions, the Romantic period was here to answer. Each contributing philosopher had their own influences in both ages. To this day they will always be relevant to our modern culture.