What I shall here call “modernity” antedates the Enlightenment. It represents a trajectory that was launched by the full development and acceptance of Nominalism during the late medieval period. Much of Western civilization followed this trajectory through the mid-to-late Twentieth Century, when it finally became untenable.
Where premoderns began with primacy of faith, moderns began with the primacy of doubt. Nothing was to be affirmed that could not be established upon clear and objective foundations. The nature of the foundation differed among different schools of moderns, but the yearning for an abstract, neutral, detached starting point is the most distinguishing feature of modernity.
Therefore, moderns had to begin with what was given, and for them that always meant the particulars of immanent reality. Moderns believed that the best way of understanding the world was to look at the world itself. They attempted to observe the world and to amass observations about it. Their core assumption was that, if they could collect enough facts and look at them long enough, then the truth was sure to emerge.