(…) eighteenth century, when the Enlightenment identified the search for knowledge as the highest from of human activity. It was a time for scientists to wipe the metaphysical dust from their eyes. There were no longer any inhibitions against exploring the unknown and creating the new. – Peter L. Bernstein, Against The Gods, The Remarkable Story of Risk
The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe and America, whose purpose was to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and abuses in church and state. Originating about 1650 to 1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727), and philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778). The wide distribution of the printing press, invented in Europe in 1440, made possible the rapid dispersion of knowledge and ideas which precipitated the Enlightenment. Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as Enlightened Despotism. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way to Romanticism’s emphasis on emotion and a Counter-Enlightenment gained force.