The enlightenment
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The Enlightenment. Important terms. Absolutism: A system of government in which a monarch is the only source of power Common good: An effort by individuals to work together for the benefit of all

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The Enlightenment

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The Enlightenment


Important terms

  • Absolutism: A system of government in which a monarch is the only source of power

  • Common good: An effort by individuals to work together for the benefit of all

  • Natural rights: A belief that individualsare naturally endowed with basic human rights that cannot be taken away or given up


Forefathers of the Enlightenment:

John Locke: wrote Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Stated that every person was born with a tabula rasa, or blank slate

People are molded by the experiences in the world, and so if people change society can change as well

Path to the Enlightenment


Hobbes v. Locke

  • In this corner: John Locke: Believing that people have natural rights and that before society was organized people lived in a state of equality and freedom

  • And in this corner: Thomas Hobbes: Believing that people entered into a social contract and agreed to form a state; this state would then be governed by an absolute ruler in order to keep peace and preserve order


Sir Isaac Newton

  • The physical world and everything in it was like a giant machine

  • Enlightenment thinkers would use Newton’s methods to discover the natural laws that govern human society


What was the Enlightenment?

  • A historical period in the 18th century in which science and reason was applied to question traditional thinking about the world; provided new thinking about government and people’s rights


The Spread of the Enlightenment

  • Lower class and peasants unaffected by Enlightenment. Why?

    • Most Enlightenment ideas spread through the growth of reading

      • Elite in society= literate

      • Growing number of middle class also becoming literate at this time= spread of Enlightenment ideas among middle class

    • Development of magazines and newspapers

      • Helped to spread Enlightenment ideas to a mass audience

      • First daily newspaper published in London in 1702


Salons

  • Salon: elegant drawing rooms of the wealthy upper class

    • Invited guests would gather in salons and discuss topics that centered around the new ideas of the philosophes

    • Women who host these salons are given a degree of political and social influence

      • Salon discussions are used to sway political opinion and social tastes


Who led the Enlightenment?

  • The philosophes: the Enlightenment thinkers

    • Writers, professors, journalists, economists, and social reformers

    • Mostly noble/middle class

    • The role of philosophy is to change the world

    • The philosophes often disagreed


Influential Philosophes


Baron de Montesquieu

  • French nobility

  • The Spirit of Laws: study of governments

    • Tried to use the scientific method to find the natural laws that govern the social and political relationships of human beings

    • Three kinds of governments:

      • Republics= small states

      • Despotism= large states

      • Monarchies= moderate states

    • Three forms of government

      • The executive (monarch)

      • The legislative (parliament)

      • The judicial (courts)

    • Government functions through a separation of powers/ checks and balances


Voltaire

  • Prosperous middle class family in Paris

  • Religion: Criticized Christianity and believed strongly that all religions should be tolerant of one another

    • “All men are brothers under God.”

      • Treatise on Toleration, 1763

  • Deism

    • Foundation= Newtonian world-machine

    • Mechanic of the universe= God (clockmaker)

    • Universe= a clock

    • What happens after God sets the clock? What is his God’s role then?


  • Jean Jacques Rousseau

    • Part of the later Enlightenment

    • Discourse on the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind: people are enslaved to their governments

    • The Social Contract:

      • Most famous work

      • Social contract: society agrees to be governed by its general will

        • Individuals cannot follow their own self- interests


    Women and the Enlightenment

    • Mary Wollstonecraft: founder of the modern European and American Women’s rights movements and a daughter of the Enlightenment

      • Vindication of the Rights of Women: argues that many Enlightenment thinkers are hypocrites when it comes to the role of women in society


    The Enlightenment and Religion

    • John Wesley: An Anglican minister who founded a new religious movement called Methodism

      • Focused on preaching to all people, and not just the upper and middle classes

      • Preached in open fields

      • Methodist societies were formed in which everyone helped each other to do good works and gave those involved a sense of purpose and community

      • Stressed the importance of hard work and spiritual contentment versus political equality

      • Religion was not overshadowed by the search for reason during the Enlightenment as proven by the formation of Methodism


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