A Journal for Western Man





The Quest for a New Enlightenment

G. Stolyarov II

Issue LXII- June 7, 2006


The 18th-century Enlightenment was the single most important intellectual development in human history; it made possible the comfortable, prosperous, stable, and relatively free Western civilization that we enjoy today.

Enlightenment thinkers believed in a single, knowable, absolute reality guided by rational natural laws. Individuals—said Enlightenment thinkers—had the faculty of reason, which enabled them to accurately understand the absolute reality. Using reason, individuals could understand not only the factual data of reality but a rational moral system which would instruct them on how they ought to behave.

The Enlightenment cultivated the rights of every human being to his life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Enlightenment thinkers insisted that no one—neither private criminals nor the government—ought to violate these rights. These rights are derived from nature, not from other people—hence the name natural rights. Natural rights cannot be taken away; they can only be violated, and their violation is the ultimate immorality.

The Enlightenment advanced man’s liberty to speak his mind and publish his thoughts using his own property; it decried government censorship and the use force against free expression of ideas. The Enlightenment rebelled against religious bigotry and intolerance; it advocated every individual’s freedom to pursue whatever non-coercive religion he saw fit—or to refrain from religious pursuits altogether. The State should not control religion or morality; both should be left to the private domain.

Enlightenment thinkers advocated freedom of individual association and full-fledged property rights. This implied a conviction that individuals should be allowed to trade freely with one another and voluntarily produce goods, services, and ideas on a free market. The State should not regulate commerce or dictate its objectives; rather, laissez-faire capitalism is the only economic system consistent with individual natural rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Laissez-faire capitalism—through Adam Smith’s famous “invisible hand” of the marketplace—would produce far superior results to a government-managed economy.

The Enlightenment led to an era of shrinking government, expanding liberty, increased toleration, and immensely amplified commercial freedom. Creative entrepreneurs and thinkers benefited from the Enlightenment; they used their new liberties to invent new technologies and ideas—thereby initiating the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries is largely responsible for the unprecedented prosperity, peace, and opportunity we enjoy today.

Unfortunately—while the Enlightenment’s material legacies remain with us today—today’s mainstream culture has largely rejected the ideas which motivated the Enlightenment. If we wish to continue to progress and enjoy lives proper to man, we need to save and revive the Enlightenment’s principles. This is my purpose here.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue LXII Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.