The Partial Enlightenment

Towards the end of the 17th century and during the 18th century the intellectual movement commonly referred to as ‘the Enlightenment’, was underway in Europe. This movement emphasised rational thought, as opposed to religious tradition, as a means of understanding the universe and making things better for humankind. A more appropriate term would be ‘Partial Enlightenment’. Its great weakness lay in its association with the idea that Nature is out there to be conquered.

Francis Bacon is credited with originating the idea of improving the human condition by conquering Nature, and Descartes believed that we should become ‘like masters and possessors of Nature’.

Does it make sense to set out to conquer the living system that gave rise to us, of which we are a part, and on which we are totally dependent? No, it does not; but it does make sense to try to understand it, to respect it, and to seek to live in harmony with it.

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