The Individual’s Place in Paradise: The Limits, Promise, and Role of Reason in Modern Conceptions of Utopia
The dominant theme during the enlightenment throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the use of reason rather than faith in establishing a foundation for how to create a better world. This theme manifested itself in science, politics, literature, art, and philosophy. In each case, rationality was touted as a superior guide to the betterment of humanity. Generally speaking, this is a fairly simple concept to grasp-scientists, political theorists, authors, artists, and philosophers all privileged the power of the intellect over the emotions, superstition, and dogmatism. In practice, this meant that if one desired to construct a better world, the tools one needed to use were those of which anyone could potentially have access. Thus, the authority of church and state, which traditionally had come from God alone, started to fade in favor of egalitarian beliefs that everyone should have access to knowledge and that reason ought to be the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil, and virtue and vice.