For over two and a half thousand years the Western intellectual tradition has been dominated by a philosopy that saw knowledge and reason as the route by which understanding and progress could be achieved. Since Socrates ruminated in ancient Athens the forward march of humankind has been driven by a desire to understand the nature and purpose of our existence. The culmination of this tradition is commonly associated with the late seventeenth-century birth of Enligthenment, during which philosophical reasoning took precedence over clerical wisdom and Western European socieities increasingly began to organise themselves around secular and rational criteria instead of spiritual or divine ones. Enlightenment and the subsequent emergence of capitalism and modernity represent a period in humankind's history where the Age of Reason reached its zenith. Government, politics, knowledge and discovery were now goverend by reason and logic. Science and philosophy flourished. Nations burgeoned and societies transformed with ever more sophisticated technologies and understandings of both the natural and social world.
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