In the 18th Century the philosophies of The Enlightenment would begin to have dramatic effect, and the landmark works of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau would have an electrifying effect on a new generation of thinkers. In the late 18th century a movement known as Romanticism would seek to combine the formal rationality of the past, with a greater and more immediate emotional and organic sense of the world. Key ideas that would spark this change are evolution argued by Erasmus Darwin and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and what might now be called emergent order, for example the Free Market of Adam Smith. Pressures for egalitarianism, and more rapid change would culminate in a period of revolution and turbulence that would see philosophy change as well.
1 Brief Historical Outline
With the tumultuous years of 1789-1815, European culture was transformed by revolution, war and disruption. By ending many of the social and cultural props of the previous century, the stage was set for dramatic economic and political change. European philosophy participated in, and drove, many of these changes.
The last third of the 18th century produced a host of ideas and works which would both systematize previous philosophy, and present a deep challenge to the basis of how philosophy had been systematized. Immanuel Kant is a name that most would mention as being among the most important of influences, as would Jean-Jacques Rousseau. While both of these philosophers were products of the 18th century and its assumptions, they pressed at the boundaries. In trying to explain the nature of the state and government, Rousseau would challenge the basis of government with his declaration that "Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains". Kant, while attempting to preserve axiomic skepticism, was forced to argue that we do not see reality, nor do we speak of it, only how it appears to us.
One of the first philosophers to attempt to synthesize these influence was Johann Gottlieb Fichte, whose working out of Kantian metaphysics included incorporation of what would become the major movement in European arts and letters for the next 50 years, Romanticism. Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, he argues that the self posits itself and is a self-producing and changing process.