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Get Ready for a Big Paradigm-Shift

May 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 152

The 21st Century promises big changes. Perhaps most importantly, these changes will come in the way people think, act, and interact with each other. These changes are, and will be, so revolutionary that they could be likened to an Enlightenment. However, this Enlightenment will be less about reason and science and more about creativity and a new way of engagement in social life.

The 21st Century Enlightenment could never happen if it weren't for its predecessor, the 18th Century Enlightenment. Using reason and intelligence will be necessary but in concert with self-awareness and awareness of others to create a better life for all.

Though they may not realize it, many individuals are already starting to utilize the principles of the 21st Century Enlightenment, even though this transition has only just begun.

The 18th Century Enlightenment: An Unfinished Revolution

While the promotion of science as a valid form of knowledge did come out of the 18th Century Enlightenment, it was more about society and the individual. The French initiated the transition with great thinkers like Diderot, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. England contributed John Locke and The Netherlands Benedict de Spinoza. Scotland gave David Hume and Adam Smith and America joined the movement thanks to the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Late in the Enlightenment era, Prussian Immanuel Kant contributed greatly to the disciplines of ethics and epistemology.

What these men had in common was a reverence for reason. Reason was the tool with which they used to attack the entrenched institutions of tyranny, willful ignorance, and superstition. Rather than accepting the imbalance of power and influence that consisted of a small ruling class and a mass of faceless, voiceless followers, these harbingers of a new era championed rights for every individual, and promoted the public's engagement with their rulers.

These men were brilliant thinkers, but what they asked of their society was not intelligence but rather courage. They asked that the members of their society face their oppressors and ask these questions:

  • Is the king really able to do no wrong, given power by God, and even a God himself?
  • Are we really fixed in our place in society, or does hard work and intelligence give us the right to become greater than where we came from?
  • Should our hard work and diligence really subsidize and support the posh lifestyle of a wholly unproductive class, who then dictates how we should live and act?
  • Must the decrees and laws of this ruling class go unquestioned, even if they are outright unjust?
  • Should truth, knowledge, and inquiry be dictated and regulated by the church?

Now, these questions are irrelevant to most. And answering them takes no courage. But when asked in the 18th Century, it took substantial courage to speak one's mind. The "wrong" answer might be punished by imprisonment, torture, or even death. Furthermore, these religious and governmental institutions held that their self-interested strangle-hold on their subjects was really for the greater good.

The timing was perfect for the Enlightenment. The Industrial Revolution emerged concurrently and a middle-class struggled out of the masses. Democracy became western society's goal, and rule of law, though not always honored, became an important principle in the governance of societies. Education became more commonplace and with it, superstition fell away in favor of useful inquiry and the scientific method. The church lost its power and became what it should be-an institution of worship, community, and service.

Unfortunately, the success of the 18th Century Enlightenment inspired the acceptance of scientific inquiry in inappropriate mediums, such as the social sciences. The realm of these disciplines is human emotion, interaction, values, and being. Here, science cannot get to the root of these issues and can only, as it has, provide the occasional useful idea.

It is in these important areas that the 21st Century Enlightenment will forever change humanity.

Source: EzineArticles
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