What is Reason? What is Enlightenment?

  • Reason is the application of “pure logic”, empirical evidence, experiment, and skepticism to find truths, facts, and theories (AKA “critical thinking”).[1]
  • Enlightenment is simply the natural conclusions to which reason leads.[2]

Or more accurately, enlightenment is a path in which discourse and debate over truths, theories, and facts pushes us ever closer to the elusive goal of knowing (it is the quest for knowledge and the admission that we know we don’t know, not the obtaining of absolutes). Of course, understanding this Kafkaesque quality of enlightenment being a journey down a path with many forks rather than a defined destination is itself an advent of reason and enlightenment.

“‘I know that I know nothing” – Plato’s Socrates [sort of said]

TIP: See Kant’s “what is the enlightenment?” for an alternative rational perspective.

Why Was the Age of Enlightenment Called “the Age of Reason”?

With the above in mind, the Age of Reason (AKA the Age of Enlightenment) is the age in which our predecessors first applied both pure reason and empiricism to usher in the modern age of science, modern politics, western governments, capitalism and modern economics, and the following Ages of industrialization and technology. Liberalism, republicanism, modern science, and more is all born from the use of reason in these Ages by philosophers like Smith and Locke, scientists like Newton, politicians like Thomas Jefferson, and other thinkers.

The application of reason won’t always mean that we come to the same conclusions or have the same opinions on facts and theories, but it will allow us to arrive at enough mutual conclusions to facilitate understanding, healthy debate, and compromise.

The best evidence of these truths is in the compromises and coalitions found in the American Revolution in which America’s enlightened patriots won their liberties, not just with the sword, but with debate and the pen (as evidenced by the writings of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, their Constitutional compromises and Declaration of Independence, and more).

All About the Enlightenment The Age of Reason . A guide to standing on the shoulders of giants, for the sake of our world’s future. Liberals and conservatives naturally have different opinions, but it is within reason that anyone should be able to apply critical thinking to arrive at reasonable common ground.

FACT: Hume’s fork represents the age old debate between the realist and idealist approaches to logic. We can trace the debate back to Plato and Aristotle or forward to Machiavelli’s age, the Scientific Revolution, to today. In any era, the opposition to reason is “pure emotion” which is based on feeling and not fact. On this note, propaganda is the transference of emotion via a message instead of fact. Learn about the types of truths.

Rationalism Vs Empiricism. This video works as a quick overview, see the lecture below for a full discussion of the ideas of Kant and Hume.


  1. Reason
  2. Age of Reason

"What is Reason?" is tagged with: Alexander Hamilton, Aristotle, James Madison, Left–right Politics, Theories, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine

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