The New Educators
To make time periods more understandable, historians coin phrases that bring certain aspects of an era into sharper focus. This Zeitgeist or "spirit of the times" approach includes such labels as "Golden Age of Greece," "Medieval Period," "Renaissance," and "Reformation." Labels for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries include: "Age of Absolutism," "Age of Enlightenment," "Age of Reason," and "Scientific Revolution" (with its concomitant industrial transformation). Those stressing the monarchical nature of European politics with the common belief in the divine right of kings have favored the image of absolutism. Others have emphasized intellectual developments that replaced a priori deduction with inductive experimentation, a substitution that led to major economic and industrial changes.
These two centuries can be understood through the words of German philosopher Immanuel Kant ( 1724-1804) who, in 1784, defined the term enlightenment as "man's emergence from his nonage," meaning not a lack of intelligence but rather a "lack of determination and courage to use that intelligence without another's guidance." He urged, "Sapere aude! Dare to know. Have the courage to use your own intelligence!" 1 It is from this perspective that we approach the Enlightenment era.