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Synopsis

The Age of Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, also called the Age of Reason, was so named for an exultant intellectual movement that shook the foundations of Western civilization. In championing radical ideas such as individual liberty and an empirical appraisal of the universe through rational inquiry and natural experience, Enlightenment philosophers in Europe and America planted the seeds for modern liberalism, cultural humanism, science and technology, and laissez-faire capitalism. This volume brings together the era's classic works, with more than a hundred selections from a broad range of sources—including works by Kant, Diderot, Voltaire, Newton, Rousseau, Locke, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Paine—that demonstrate the pervasive impact of Enlightenment views on philosophy and epistemology as well as on political, social, and economic institutions. Included are seminal discourses on science and religion, on the social contract, on the equality (and inequality) of the sexes and the races, and on economics and markets, as well as homages to nature and sexual pleasure, and poetry and opera librettos that embody the movement's social ideals.

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