Source: Al Grant
During the Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, many people in Europe believed that they could use reason to understand and improve the world around them. The Enlightenment took place in the 1600s and 1700s. Much like the other periods of social change before it, the Enlightenment was based on the ideas of earlier movements.
One source of Enlightenment ideas was the European Renaissance. Beginning in the late 1300s, the philosophy of humanism gained influence with many people. Renaissance humanists believed in the dignity of humans and what humans could accomplish. Humanists still believed that religion was important, but they also valued life on earth.Humanism initially impacted the arts but spread to science during the Scientific Revolution and to the political sphere during the Enlightenment.
During the Renaissance, European humanists began to reexamine the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This practice carried over into the Enlightenment. Scholars studied the ideas of Greek democracy and Roman republicanism in search of ideas about how people should govern themselves. These two forms of government, which were both based on the idea that government should represent the will of the people, influenced many Enlightenment thinkers.
Another important source of the Enlightenment was the Scientific Revolution. Beginning in the 1400s, scientists began to use careful observation and rational thought in order to understand the natural world. Scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo used these techniques to discover predictable laws that governed nature and mathematics. In the 1600s, Enlightenment philosophers began to apply those same methods to human behavior and government.
Source: Discovery Education