Mrs. Tucker Victor Valley High School AP European History. Chapter 18 The Age of Enlightenment. Main Points.
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The intellectual and social background of the Enlightenment. The philosophes and their political and intellectual proposals for reform. The beliefs of the Deists. The roles of women in the Enlightenment. Enlightened Absolutism and its effects in central and eastern Europe
The writers and critics of the 18th century who believed that religion, politics, society, and the economy could be reformed to better support human liberty – the philosophes – included Montesquieu, Diderot, Rousseau, Hume, and Kant.
Voltaire was the most influential, and his satire Candide reflects the philosophes' concerns and general attitudes.
They were not an organized group, and they did not agree on all issues, but they all sought to use reason and common sense to improve institutions and social practices.
The commercial and professional classes read and discussed the philosophes' works.
A few philosophers of the Enlightenment criticized the Europeans on moral grounds
Conquest of the Americas
Treatment of the Native Americans
Enslavement of Africans
Three Ideas from the Critics
(1) “human beings deserve some modicum of moral and political respect simply because they are human beings”
(2) different cultures should have been respected and understood, not destroyed
(3) human beings may develop distinct cultures possessing intrinsic values that cannot be compared because each culture possesses deep inner social and linguistic complexities that make any simple comparison impossible