42 pages 1 hour read

Ian Buruma

Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2006

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Symbols & Motifs

The Enlightenment

Commonly referred to as “The Age of Reason,” The Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the mindset of the European educated elite during the 18th century. Led by thinkers like Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, and Denis Diderot, the Enlightenment was a sea of change in the way in which Europeans thought about the world and their relationship to it. No longer willing to take Church dogma as gospel, the Enlightenment pushed reason and the scientific method—the ability to prove a hypothesis through experimentation and observation—to the forefront of intellectual society. Moreover, Enlightenment thinkers believe in principles such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and democracy, rather than accepting the “divine right” of European monarchs to govern over them. The foundational principles of the Enlightenment led to many advancements in science and technology, as well as the democratic revolutions in America (1775 to 1783) and France (1789 to 1799).   

Furthermore, many Enlightenment thinkers saw the Catholic Church and Christianity as forces of repression against thought and progress, and they believed that orthodox religion had no place in a “modern” and educated society. Thus, the Enlightenment helped to usher in a new secular mode of thinking in which science replaced the Church and reason replaced God.