tv Lectures in History CSPAN December 27, 2015 12:49pm-1:50pm EST
history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. "lectures inn> eintory," andrew burst teaches a class on the enlightenment era in america. he examines benjamin franklin's venturesand community to show how these endeavors were in line with the humanist ideals of the time. he also argues that the great awakening, a religious movement of the 1730's and 1740's was in conflict with the enlightenment on scientific thinking. his classes about one hour.
burstein: as i said before, an important part of this course is an examination of the ideals of american thinking. we try to see the history in new and novel ways to push up against the boundary and think critically. to laugh atnally the professors jokes. ella seo is not a mickey mouse university, but let's suppose for a moment there is a mickey mouse university, and there is a professor mouse, and student mice. at mickey mouse university, the class looks up, looks to the cat, and sees a ravenous looking at him, hungry. the mouse, mickey mouse professor, yells out.
the cat high sales and immediately from the way -- high .ales and immediately runs away one of the students speak to the professor, and says, what was that? and the professor says, that is the reason why it is important to learn a second language. language and wit. those are today's themes. we are all affected by the meeting that we attach to words. language, we figure, is the most logical part of the world. sit andis it that we athletic contest? why is it a building, if it is already built.
wiser no good definition for the why is it that there is no good definition for the saurus. that we are the inorganic stars, an material that somehow combined to produce life. we do not know what to call god. we don't have the language. we don't have a uniform language for everything that concerns or consumes us. that is kind of what the 18th-century lightman was all about. check this out. [laughter]
burstein: thank you. this is by one of the greatest s.ew yorker" cartoonist thejust witnessed combination of imagination and went, and reason and judgment. that is how you got the joke. wit and judgment are both born in the association of ideas. congratulations. you are now ready to understand the philosophy of john locke. john locke was one of the most influential philosophers in history. he was well known to the founding generation of the
united states, the american revolutionaries. why does it matter that he was trained as a physician? the, he and many of enlightenment philosophes were initially physicians before they philosophy. writing by the late 17th century, when advanced writing, studies of anatomy and physiology changed scientific understanding of the body, the human body, especially focusing on the brain and the nervous system. they rejected, for the first time, the thought that had been passed down from the ancients, from greece and rome, the
ancient world. bloodletting was still practiced by physicians, but in other respects, a discourse about the nerves took center stage. terms like commotions were extrapolated to political convulsions. nerves made us who we were, more than some godly touch. looked to like locke the senses, to the sensorium of the brain, to something they called nervous fluid. here laid answers about human social organizations. the language of medicine. philosophers of
the late 17th and early 18th century reduced the importance of the humors, and replaced the ,ncient vocabulary with a new nerve based for cavity. for them, everything was organized in the head. empirical logic, reason, judgment. that meant rejection of magic and superstition. that is where suspicion of organized religion came in. in. is where deism came deism, to give you the simplest definition, was the idea that god created a self-sustaining universe. created the earth, and was no
longer directly involved in managing it. , in his essay concerning human understanding, ,he best-known of locke's work he tells us, no knowledge is innate. we are born a blank slate and it determines the most about us. ideas and our minds through the senses as impressions. perception is one source of are ideas. another is reflection, describing the satisfaction or uneasiness that arises from thought. this makes him something of a psychologist as well because he is examining human passions along with a medicalized
vocabulary. how locke influenced politics. he disputed the divine right of kings to rule arbitrarily over citizens. he explained that human beings possessed free will, and should learn to appreciate liberty, to obey their superiors out of conviction and not out of fear. far as to write, excess tierney justified revolution. this comes from his two treatises on government, also 1690,hed the same year, in which he advocated -- this is a man ahead of his time -- an
electoral system of government and legislators who owed their office to a complicit contract with the people. , knowing whatee you already know about the lockes of the state that would have then an influential those looking to create a republic. locke was a cautious believer. in his time, to be branded an atheist was a very dangerous thing. cautious whener it came to criticizing religious beliefs.
"beyond our senses," he wrote, "we cannot be certain of anything, except a thought whose rational purpose was evident in the harmony and order of nature." beyond our senses, ok, our senses. that is where impressions form ideas. where we reason through to understanding. harmony and order of nature. god to locke only worked through the laws of nature, not independent of the laws of nature. this is the critique of magic and superstition. privileging science over the supernatural. religious dogma, religious toleration, religious freedom. we move to david hume.
who became more influential after his death in 1770, a significant year in our history. in the natural history of religion, published in 1757, david hume, one of the scottish philosophes, denoted blind faith as irrational. he wondered how sublime works of history could make so many bizarre beliefs about god. natural religion. that is the vocabulary hume introduced. the idea, growing from locke, that god is the equivalent of the laws of nature, substituting
that for revealed religion, which as we discussed last class with regards to puritans. puritan religion focused on god actively saving the souls. this is what enlightened philosophes are rejecting. two other scottish philosophes worth mentioning here because they were influential in shaping the minds and outlooks of the american founders, adam smith and lord kames. smith's "the theory of moral sentiments," published in 1759, was widely read and quoted.
i imagine a number of you have heard of adam smith because in 1776 he published 'the wealth of nations" about political economy. it was the theory of moral sentiments that shaped the moral direction of the american revolution, to the extent that it was read by the elites who wrote the documents that we take pride in today as the founding documents of the nation. lord keynes published thousands -- "elements of criticism" and 1862. that is the work he is most famous for in his time. what these men said, as you can see, is that we recognize, in human behavior the operation of the principle of benevolence as well as that of selfishness.
that it is natural to have selfish feelings, but it is just as natural to have feelings of the most exquisite sensibility. sympathetic feelings. fellow feeling, adam smith calls it. and this is the idea that we are endowed with a moral sense. that we do not have to be taught morality. that is built-in when we are born. this is something from a of a departure from locks language. the scottish philosophes, all adored smith and kames.
they gave the central place to conscience. of a morality separate from religion. that's it the idea of a republic founded on moral principles and operating on the human spirit. we are talking about the evolution of the americas sense of collected identity. religious dogma versus religious freedom. enlightened thinkers were those that aggregated to themselves special knowledge. for them, their critique, the intensity of emotion in the
prophet had nothing to do with the discovery of subjective truth. he who declares that he is speaking of a knowledge of god is really only talking about himself and revealing his own interstate. -- inner state. they asked, what god would enlighten some individuals and leave the rest in moral darkness? an implicit critique of the puritan theology. so, for the enlightenment thinkers, it was enough to say god permeates the world. they were happy to stop there. let's emphasize what we have done up to now and then we will move to the american scene, directly. 18th-century enlightenment accused religion of being oppressive, hindering
intellectual progress, reducing the chance of achieving a just social and political order through the kind of hierarchy that organized religion presented. they related religious superstition or primitive fear , of demonic, as religious skeptics, they do not see themselves as atheists. as long as religion represented an affirmation of the intellect, as to say this is our definition of humanism and they upheld religion's moral value. that's our they declared themselves other than atheist. humanism, let's get to the core of this. every culture arrives at a different consensus when it
comes to the meaning of what it is to be human. for some cultures, the relation of man and women to god is paramount. for others the competitive instinct tramps. -- triumphs. you have royal, the landed elite as a protected class. in their life to matter more. were the peons to labor for these elites. they are co-opted into believing the superiority of their social betters, even the divine care -- character of the monarch. just ask the emperors and the pharaohs and the slaves who built their giant tombs.
there are open and secular societies and closed secular societies. there are open religious societies, and closed religious societies. i guess i'm saying no one is safe. arguably, our technology has not freed us. even now, we can ask how advanced are our systems of belief. how much more advanced are we then the generations immediately preceding ours? when it comes to questions of science, religion, ethical progress, we are still confused. which is another reason why history matters, and why it matters that we are studying the debates that took place in the middle of the 18th century.
and that influenced the man, largely men, who produced the documents by which our political lives are organized. what is freedom? see language matters. , do we have a good definition of freedom? freedom is not absolute. we have laws. freedom has no clear, fixed definition that everyone agrees on. we talk about individualism in this country, but nothing is more human than to exist concurrently under delusions of grandeur and delusions of subordination. we talk about equality. that is one of the go-to words
in the language of american national identity. but we know in fact that no society has ever existed that is fundamentally based on equality. we have our ideals and then we have our reality. we are still engaged in the debates that the american founding generation was engaged in. we may not be reading as much philosophy as they did, but we are still talking that language. humanism. humanism is not -- don't get me wrong, it is not the antithesis of religion. all you have to do is think of pope francis or the dalai lama, and what they have contributed to the world. through their lives of commitment to humanity, collectively. humanism, then, is not a secular worldview necessarily, but it is a distinctive worldview and it
goes back to ancient greece and rome and those philosophers. that the philosophers of the 18th century read and adored. humanism concerns self cultivation. adoration of what science can teach. an aesthetic outlook and appreciation for the intrinsic power of grand nature. that god can exist in nature, and not need ministers to interpret god for those who are willing to study, test propositions, and seeks truth. we do not want to render our will to someone else who is going to tell us where we can find knowledge.
these are the values of the enlightenment that our founders were interested in discovering and debating. humanism is bolstered by a government which enacts sympathetic policies and cares about the lives of its citizens. now, you see, why humanism is important. when we talk about humanism, we are talking about the values that created america. whether or not we see them, we feel them in our everyday. these are values that we declared to be consistent with the american self-image. language. when you go to a university and
you see a department, it is called humanities. that is where this come from . humanism, the humanities. the development of the modern university. it is all tied together. humanism makes a moral claim in favor of tolerance. humanism of course reached its pinnacle in the 24th century under the leadership of jean-luc picard, captain of the starship enterprise. this is just to see if you're still paying attention. he do not have to put that in your notes. humanists contemplate human destiny. so do a lot of other people. the difference is for humanists, the emphasis is on the meaning of our collective life on earth. the human spirit is something to be marveled at.
studied seriously for its own sake. that is why the declaration of independence, why the american revolution was couched in the language of pursuing our collective pursuit of happiness. we are getting there. as a moral community, emphasis on community, the pursuit of happiness is an individual value but also a community value. that is part of the humanist regime. and it stands in opposition to the forces of tyranny that would ostensibly enslave the mind. that now is quintessentially jeffersonian thinking. that is enlightenment humanism. where is this heading? we know this guy.
for benjamin franklin -- i can do without those. for benjamin franklin, a humanist, a self-made man, the first american to be considered ingenious by the europeans. who contributed to world culture, who made the americans more than subservient colonials, that benjamin franklin, born at the beginning of the 18th century and lived 84 years. franklin never attended college but he read incessantly.
at the age of 20, just 20 years old, your age, he knew locke's theory of sensation, to question the immortality of the soul. he grew up in boston, but his own sense of individuality and his desire for scientific knowledge, self-taught, made him a humanist. puritanism's suspicions of the individual will, franklin rejected from an early age. for him, as the enlightened humanist in england and the continent, religious belief smacked of magic, superstition, and miracles. he totally rejected that in favor of science and experiment.
the search for empirical evidence. so it makes him important history, aside from anything else he might have done, is he gave europe an inkling of the potential that colonial americans had to produce intellectuals. to contribute meaningfully to world culture and scientific progress. and as we know, since we all know something about historical benjamin franklin, to get his message across, the humanist message across, he applied humor. that is how he carried the day. that is why he is remembered.
so franklin at the age of 16 was a servant in effect, an apprentice to his older brother james' newspaper, a controversial newspaper called "the new england current.' young ambitious ben didn't want to just be sweeping the floors. he had a belief in himself that he would make something of himself. he secretly submitted by slipping it under the door of the office at night, these anonymous letters written by one silence dogood. the letters were published in his brother's newspaper and his younger brother was the author.
silence dogood is interesting because more than once in his career franklin adopts a female persona. he is playful on the printed page. part of his heralded success. silence dogood describes herself as a widow with three children. she was married to the minister that took her in as a benevolent man when she was an orphan. she had come over from england. franklin invented this whole legend for her. she had come over from england and with her father and he died
on board on the way to boston. so she had a hard life. but a minister allowed her to use his library. result she became something of a pop philosopher. in other words she was ben. in the papers he writes -- i'm giving you a selection -- "without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom." so the humanist message is there in the 16-year-old's writings. silence privileges learning over well throughout the series of letters.
and 1722,he ages 16 that is when he gets his start. satirical essays within that with a hidden moral message. like most of our contemporary politicians, yes? next in his career benjamin franklin adopted another pseudonym. that of richard saunders. he struggled and bit by bit he became a successful printer. in fact he didn't just create the "pennsylvania gazette." after becoming a runaway servant and leaving his brother, they had words, and moving penniless to philadelphia. where the achieved national
renown. in his autobiography he explains the struggle that he undertook in order to become a successful printer. further to our humanist agenda we look at poor richard's almanac. almanacs were popular. they claimed to predict the weather. season by season of the year ahead. they gave the phases of the moon. which farmers needed this information. and they contain information -- important space for people who did not have a lot of paper on hand. they would use the almanac to keep a diary. but franklin did something very new in this existing genre. he built into the simple almanac
of voice. a character. poor richard. -- i can readee part of it for you. reader, i'm a in this place attempt to gain they favor, but declaring that i write almanacs with no other view -- he was to be deceived. the plain truth of the matter is and myessive for -- poor wife is excessive proud. she cannot their disabling case of the stars. she is threatened more than once to burn all of my books and
rattling traps if i do not make some profitable use of them for the good of my family. the printer, and now he's referring to benjamin franklin, the printer has often be some tenant that considerable share of the profits. i've begun to comply with my wife's desire. to make something of himself -- this is a folksy guy that readers and ordinary americans can relate to. and poor richard stallman act becomes extremely popular, selling tens upon tens of thousands of copies every year. which is why benjamin franklin became a millionaire, america's first. and was able to retire to a gentleman's life performing scientific experiments when he was only 40 years old. investigate poor richard a little bit. just for entertainment and knowledge all at once.
and with apologies to david letterman, i have a top 10 list. my 10 favorite poor richard axioms. number 10, he is a full that makes his doctor his air -- heir. doctors were notoriously bad back then. thank you for somebody popping up. beware the young doctor in the old barber. neither is very good with a scalpel back then. the rate -- number eight, the little,e rich -- have beggars none, the rich too much, enough not one. his humor is often laced with a moral message. a socially responsible message. he is a humanist. number seven, mistrust and caution of the parents of security.
six, buy what i have no need of. -- this was before credit cards existed. if thou has wit in learning, add to it wisdom and modesty. there is some universal wisdom in this. number four, if you don't find this humorous way till number three. the ancients tell us what is best but we must learn of the moderns what is fittest. he was different from many among the elites in colonial america because he did not believe the seven-year-old should study greek and latin necessarily. which was the standard for the well-to-do and their offspring. instead he suggested that we
, learn modern languages so that we can communicate with living people. this was one of his innovative ideas. number three, three may keep the secret if two are dead. got a rise out of you finally. number two, fish and visitors smell in three days. me, a you will forgive serious number one. -- if youmber one would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, by the right things worth doing or do things worth the writing. i have to be a professor part of the time. got to teach lessons. now we have a much better sense of who poor richard was and who ben franklin was. the next iteration is franklin
as the organization man. he brought to bear his humanist ideas to improve the community. caring about others. this was not without self-interest. remember the scottish philosophes. but he starts out in 1727 by establishing the junto. a young men's improvement club. they would hand up questions in advance of a meeting and they would get together and discuss. these were about improving the community. about individual morals. they would read books and share ideas. these were young men like himself who were not born to wealth but who believed that it oneself,ble to rely on study and get ahead in this
society. in 1730, he's only 23 years old, he founds the pennsylvania gazette. a continued publication until the american revolution. he establishes the library company of pennsylvania. i took this photograph at the building itself. it is a major research facility in philadelphia. it was founded by benjamin franklin in 1731 as the first public lending library . he also invented the union fire company in philadelphia because buildings were built with wood and they did not have electric lights. i know this comes as a shock to
some, an electric shock. but buildings caught fire all the time. organizing a community of anunteers to establish effective fighting occupation. the same year the thomas jefferson was born, 1743, benjamin franklin founded the american philosophical society that jefferson as vice president of the united states would be president of. the society was a clearinghouse and ideas,ing science political philosophy ,. it was an extension of what the junto was on a very small local level.
the emergent philosophical society -- the american philosophical society became a clearinghouse for the important ideas that are being discussed across colonial boundaries. members from the colonies who are the intellectuals of the day became members and were voted as members of the american philosophical society. all these things show the progressive spirit of benjamin franklin in his heyday. on the other hand we must recognize that benjamin franklin was a man of his time. so when it comes to theories of race and ethnicity, he is an 18th century man with 18th century ideas. and we don't like them. he believed that africans were properly suited for servant-like
work because he believed they possessed natural inferiority to whites. why did he think that? because in his mind africa had not produced art and literature. mind slaves in america or servants in america who originated in africa before they ships anded input on brought to the caribbean and some of these brought to america , before all that -- that's an assumption that franklin and many other well-educated man in america believed. we should not be surprised that with narry a qualm he printed
runaway ads to capture -- a slave owner would print ads in the pennsylvania gazette offering a reward for the return of the runaway slave whose -- who was physically described in the advertisement. franklin can do this without evidencing any sympathy for slaves. he also had considerable interaction with indians in western pennsylvania. and was a diplomat on the pennsylvania frontier before you -- he became a diplomat for the american colonies in england. he listened intently to the cultural logic of the indians he dealt with. and looked upon them with a humane curiosity. but he did not expect them to become civilized. he did not expect them to gravitate toward european-style civilizations. and like many mainstream thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries, he believed that they
would eventually probably go extinct because they could not adapt to modern civilization. here is a really good example of odd that 18th century sensibility is when it comes to non-english white people in pennsylvania. tolerant and sylvania. -- pennsylvania benjamin . franklin did not like the germans. he saw them is a difficult immigrant group. why? because they printed their own newspaper in their own languages and they did not want to learn english. in the cap to their own society and they did not assimilate readily. they didn't anglicized. it was a cultural pride among the germans that he couldn't stomach. , before you go vote to break
benjamin franklin un-american currency you have got to know these things. wait, you've probably never seen a $100 bill. there is science and then there is religion. take your pick. solar eclipse or the devil hovered over the church. we move now to the reaction to the enlightenment and that is the burst of enthusiasm in colonial american history that goes by the name of the great awakening. it is heralded by most historians as an extended moment roughly late 1730's to the 1750's. , cross colonial movement arose
a popular movement, that was religious more than political. but the enthusiasm it generated was sufficient to suggest further cross-colonial cooperation at a time when the mother country and the colonies were in argument. one historian has noted that the puritan patriarch john winthrop founded a community of the spirit and his grandchildren invested in connecticut real estate. this somehow sums up the complaint of the moment by 1740. material aspirations, he was a -- an advertisement for material aspirations.
the idea of becoming successful. --was a philanthropic we philanthropicly inspired individual because his inventions like the franklin stove or his experiments and electricity, he did not try to capitalize on them. but instead of taking a patent, he gave them to society at large for the betterment of humanity. he did become a millionaire. he knew he was doing. across the colonies at this time, 1740-ish, some ministers noted that spiritual piety almost didn't exist anymore and that in awakening was necessary. and a leaking of spiritual awakening of
spiritual energy and god had to come back into people's lives. so the great awakening was a more or less spontaneous movement counteracting the worship. -- worship of wealth and greed and selfishness. it was also a reaction against the scientific rationalization of the enlightenment. the great awakening, if it had a slogan, it was god hovers over you. god is present. itinerant preachers and the image here is of the reverend george whitfield who may have been the best known and the most popular came over from england at the end of the 1730's. and he worked his way up from georgia to pennsylvania to new england. giving these barn burning and mesmerizing sermons. sometimes whitfield was invited
into local churches. other times the local minister was suspicious of him. he was known to call out parishioners, all you sinners, you have devil's -- half d evils, and the more sedate and sober ministers did not like this kind of rabble rousing. when a minister refused to allow whitfield to preach, he preached outdoors. and people loved his animated presentations his his, personalization of god and his presence in everyday life. he was in the business of saving souls. the conflict that arose at this time was between those who worried about how their polite
congregations were being disturbed by this excess of passion. those known as old lights. and the new lights who were the dissenting sects. the methodists and baptists who were just gaining adherents at this time. the older lights tended to be the congregationalists of new england. the successors to the puritans. this cross-colonial enthusiasm of this great awakening, one of the interesting upshots was the establishment of denominational colleges. so you had the presbyterians founding the college of new jersey which is known today as princeton university.
the baptists in providence, rhode island founded brown university. the great awakening was not just a blip on the screen. many schools of thought contended as a result of this movement. great awakening did not change or overturn secular humanism as a model of behavior in late colonial america. but it did provide thoroughgoing competition to that model. you have those who -- i have not used this term so far, but those known like franklin and most of those we think of as the founding fathers were known as
deists. in opposition to the enthusiasm which stoodin opposition to the enthusiasm of the evangelicals. again the definition that i , gave it the beginning of the hour these deists considered god , is the watchmaker god who started the mechanism in motion and then rested and let the earth take its course. the god he created the self-sustaining universe. god who could best be explained through the laws of nature. if they cannot be scientifically proven to exist, then it was not real. secular humanism remained important and yet the baptistsal groups, the , methodists, presbyterians that
came to the fore after the great awakening, they were respected by the secular humanists because they stood in the way of the established church. in massachusetts the congregationalist church. in virginia the anglican church, the church of england. so that by the revelation, to show you the real power of the great awakening by the , revolution fully one third of virginians belong to the baptist church. close to two thirds belonging to the anglican church but that does show a change underway. the secular humanists did run counter to the ecstatic message of a george whitfield. they insisted that the power of
god was in nature and only in nature. awe-inspiring only in the way that nature was awe-inspiring. nature's god had no desire to exercise power over humankind. or to be involved in the world in any direct way. god's power lay in nature, not over humankind. so where are we going with this? bring it up to date. how widely is enlightenment thinking expressed today? scientists search for an evolutionary explanation for why
belief in god exists. a fair number of the scientists are people of faith applying reason to the issue. -- task. some scientists speculate towards a biological expedition for a belief in god. that the brain's architecture evolved to help keep us comforted and survive as a species amid hardships and loss of loved ones. -- still, just as it was in the 18th century, the jury is out. six in 10 americans today believe that hell exists. seven out of 10 believe in angels. we took a poll last class in about half of you believe in angels and only 1% believe it's possible that bigfoot exists in nature.
we will work on. -- work on that. time magazine-cnn poll in 2002 found that 25% of americans believe that the terrorist attack of 9/11 was predicted in the bible. 25%. and that goes to something about human psychology. probably not part of this course. for next tuesday's class i want you to suit up for the french and indian war. and now here's your moment of zen. [laughter] you are free to go.
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation find us on facebook at c-span history. q&a, tyler able stepson after pearson talks about the second volume of mr. pearson's diaries, which gives an insider's take on washington dc from 1960 to 1969. >> it was just remarkable all the things he did. sometimes he would criticize himself in the diary. you must've come across different places where i thought -- where he said i should not have said it quite that way. or lyndon will get mad at me for the way i wrote the column.
but he needed to be told. i'm glad i wrote it. >> tonight at 8:00 on cuban day. -- q and a. as the 50th anniversary of the national historic preservation act approaches, preservationists gathered in washington to recognize contemporary efforts on the half of historic sites and look at the work before them in the 21st century. secretary of the interior sally jewell, who work towards preservation of native american sites and lands is opening up national park for young volunteers addressed their conference. this was hosted by the national trust for historic preservation. it's about one hour. >> and now please welcome chief preservation officer david brown. [applause]