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Enlightenment Authors and Themes. J. Schwartz English III Fall 2011. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). One of the leading minds of the colonies Worked as: printer, publisher, politician, diplomat, scientist An early Renaissance Man Credited with hundreds of aphorisms

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Enlightenment authors and themes

Enlightenment Authors and Themes

J. Schwartz

English III

Fall 2011

Benjamin franklin 1706 1790
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

  • One of the leading minds of the colonies

  • Worked as: printer, publisher, politician, diplomat, scientist

  • An early Renaissance Man

  • Credited with hundreds of aphorisms

  • Best known for having written

    • Poor Richard’s Almanack

    • Autobiography

The myth of the new american man
The Myth of the New American Man

Men and women who came to America were more independent and rational than those who had stayed behind in Europe.

Humans have the capacity to define themselves.

Importance of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

Themes in franklin s philosophy and work
Themes in Franklin’s Philosophy and Work

Secularized Puritanism

Quest for Moral Perfection vs. Social Achievement

Protestant Work Ethic

Religion as a Philosophical



Patrick henry 1736 1799
Patrick Henry (1736-1799)

  • Famous orator and lawyer

    • Most famous speech delivered to Virginia House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in which he advocated that the Virginia legislature take immediate action against the British military.

  • Compared British treatment of colonists to the treatment of slaves

Give me liberty or give me death
Give me liberty or give me death!

  • Argued that a lack of natural rights would mean a lack of human potential and development

  • Henry used fear appeals

    in his speeches

    • Fear of British tyranny and

      military domination

Thomas jefferson 1743 1826
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

  • Jefferson was the embodiment of the Enlightenment man.

    • Studied science, literature, politics, and reason.

  • Considered politics to be the least important achievement in life, yet:

    • Wrote The Declaration of Independence (1776)

    • 3rd United States President (1800-1808)

    • Responsible for The Louisiana Purchase

Thomas jefferson and the declaration
Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration

  • What did Jefferson believe?

    • Hugely influenced by leading political thinkers of Europe

    • Believed in education

    • Believed in an agrarian


Thomas jefferson and the declaration1
Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration

  • The Declaration of Independence

    • Powerfully establishes the tyranny of the king. Colonists can focus hostility

    • Holds that free people have the right to break free from an unjust government.

    • Argument based on rationality

    • Problems:

      • Equality vs. Equality of opportunity

      • Exclusion of certain groups: women, black slaves, Native Americans

Jefferson and the declaration
Jefferson and the Declaration

  • 4 central purposes for the Declaration:

    • Getting reluctant colonists to realize that loyalty to Britain was a lost cause

    • Explaining the colonists’ position on the purpose of human government

    • Listing the colonists’ grievances against King George III to show the legitimacy of their actions to others

    • To encourage other nations to help them

Reasons for the declaration
Reasons for the Declaration

  • Unfair Taxation

  • Unfair Representation

    • Local Representatives couldn’t make own laws

    • Colonists couldn’t elect own officials / judges

    • Legislators who stood up were often dismissed

    • Laws passed making emigration difficult

The declaration and deductive reasoning
The Declaration and Deductive Reasoning

  • Deductive Reasoning proceeds from a general premise or assumption to a specific conclusion (logic). Deduction holds that if all the statements in the argument are true, the conclusion must be true.


    • Syllogism: Argument strategy that consists of:

      • Major premise (a general statement)

      • Minor premise (a related, more specific statement)

      • Conclusion (drawn from the premises)

  • Deductive arguments center on the idea of solid logic. The idea is that if the reader grants the major and minor premises to be true, then they must grant the conclusion to be true. When the conclusion logically follows the major and minor premise, the conclusion is said to be valid (556).

Thomas jefferson on slavery
Thomas Jefferson on Slavery

  • Jefferson owned many slaves, but often spoke out against slavery.

    • His rhetoric suggested he believed in equal rights, but his practices did not.