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The Secular Enlightenment$
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Margaret C. Jacob

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161327

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161327.001.0001

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Naples and Milan

Naples and Milan

(p.204) 7 Naples and Milan
The Secular Enlightenment

Margaret C. Jacob

Princeton University Press

This chapter addresses the German Enlightenment. The German Enlightenment, and indeed the Enlightenment in general, cannot be understood outside the conditions created by a generation of religious warfare in central Europe. Theorists and ministers of state in the period after Westphalia looked for a political solution that would prevent another Thirty Years War. In the search, German universities played a prominent role, and therein emerged the first stirrings of ideas one can later associate with enlightened thinking. German university culture nurtured liberal, even radical approaches to the problem of religious authority and political instability. At their root lay the new science, from Descartes to Newton and Leibniz. All elevated mathematics as one key to the acquisition of all knowledge, as a way forward in both philosophy and empirical studies. Leibniz's impact was greatest in Germany and his difficult doctrine of God having created “the best of all possible worlds” remained important into the 1770s.

Keywords:   German Enlightenment, Enlightenment, religious warfare, Westphalia, German universities, enlightened thinking, religious authority, political instability, new science, Leibniz

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