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The word "Enlightenment" is used to indicate the eighteenth century in the history of ideas of the Western World. It is a word that indicates a sum of ideas about the character of man, his beliefs and activities, and the universe. These ideas have three common assumptions which are at the root of what we mean by the Enlightenment. The thinkers and writers of this period assumed that reason and knowledge will reveal an order inherent in the universe; will disclose the truth about religion, economics, politics, morals - every aspect of life; and, that when man discovers the order and truth of the universe, evil will disappear and good will reign. These assumptions are clearly expressed in the use of the symbol of light to denote the character of the eighteenth century: the English called it the "Age of Enlightenment," the French, "le siecle des lumieres," the German, "die Aufklarung," the Italian, "il secolo dell' illuminisma." [excerpt]


This is a part of Section X: The Eighteenth Century Enlightenment. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.