Scientific Revolution Essay, Research Paper
AP European History
Discuss the different beliefs, attitudes of Cervantes, Bunyan, Milton, Spinoza and Pascal. Discuss their skepticism/Dogmatic beliefs, their reasons behind it and your opinions.
The scientific revolution brought a sudden explosion of revolutionary inventions, thought and literature. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de a Spanish writer, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest Spanish authors, wrote with eloquent style and tremendous insight. Spain was a deeply Catholic country, with many of its literature reflecting this value. However, Cervantes, became deeply entrenched in the strengths and weaknesses of religious idealism. He was a self educated man that was a gallant soldier and public servant. He was imprisoned in 1603 where he began to write one of his most famous works, Don Quixote. Cervantes wrote the book with the intention of ridiculing the popular chivalric ideas of the time. However, Cervantes came to admire his character, Don Quixote who was set up as the model for ridicule. In Cervantes’s literature, we are able to see the questions behind the archaic medieval values and chivalric ideas.
Two English writers, John Bunyan and John Milton emerged as the voice of Puritan ideas and values. John Bunyan, the author of Grace Abounding and The Pilgrims Progress, wrote about working people of England and their religious values. He served in Cromwell’s army, which helped to influence his writing style. In 1660, Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years in response to his fierce preaching against the monarchy. Bunyan was a devout Puritan who wrote on the ways to which a Puritan must live. His later work, The life and Death of Mr. Badman told the story of a man who was damned to heaven for his bad habits.
John Milton was the son of a devout Puritan father and grew up reading Christian and pagan classics. Milton was a man who believed in the private lives of the individual. In 1642, when the decision came whether to keep the church or completely dissolve it, Milton sided with the dissolution of the national church in favor of local autonomy of individual congregations. He advocated the simplicity of the Presbyterian form of church government. Milton defended the rights of divorce in several tracts which later became targets for critics. These tracts were censored by parliament and Milton in response wrote Areopagitica, where he defends freedom of the press. Milton believed that the government should have the least control over the lives of individuals. His book, Paradise Lost, became a model of the destructive qualities of pride and the redeeming ideas of humility. Milton was intrigued by the motives behind those who rebel against God. In Paradise Lost, Milton’s center character, the Devil becomes the tragic but prideful hero that would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven, symbolic of the corruption of pride and potential greatness. Milton believed that human beings were responsible for their fate and that salvation could be brought about with improvement in character and God’s grace. Unlike Bunyan who believed that salvation was only given to those who were among the elect. An idea that Milton adamantly rejected.
Baruch Spinoza, would be by far, one of the most controversial thinkers of the seventh century. He was excommunicated by his synagogue for his philosophy. Spinoza’s work was divided into five parts; which dealt with God, the mind, emotions, human bondage, and human freedom. His book, Ethics was attacked by both Jews and Protestants for its support of pantheism, an idea equating God with nature. According to Spinoza, God and nature are one of the same; that substance which is self-caused, free and infinite is God. God exists in everything that exists and everything is in God. This idea was revolutionary in that many of the time saw God as higher than that. His ideas were condemned by his contemporaries but were readily embraced by the 19th century thinkers.
Blaise Pascal, was a French mathematician and philosophical thinker. Blaise became torn between the dogmatism and skepticism of the time. His goal was to write a piece of work that would combine the two. He rejected the skeptics of his age because they either were either atheist or accepted the divine idea of religion. His collection of reflections on humankind and religion were published under the title Pensees. Pascal supported the Jansenites who shared in the belief in human being’s total sinfulness and their complete dependence on faith and grace. An idea similar to that of Calvinists. Pascal believed that science was independent of religion. According to Pascal, there were two essential truths in the Christian religion: that loving God, worthy of human attainment exists and that human beings are utterly unworthy of God because of their corruptive nature. Pascal was convinced that the belief in God improved life both psychologically and disciplined it morally. He worked to strengthen traditional religious belief and urged his peers to seek self-understanding by learned ignorance and recognizing misery.
These men were shunned by their contemporaries. They were beyond their time, with revolutionary ideas in a world that wasn’t ready for it. It was only in later times were these men embraced for their ingenuity and intellect.