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The Enlightenment Essay

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❶The individual was a thinking and judging being who must have the highest of freedom in order to operate.

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Early Enlightenment
Basic Enlightenment Ideas

Rather, in the Social Contract, he spoke of the general will of the people as the basis of government. His ideas were to be cited by future revolutions from the French to the Russian. Enlightenment thought spread throughout the globe and was especially forceful in Europe and the Americas. In Scotland, some ideas of the Enlightenment influenced the writings of David Hume, who became the best known of skeptics of religion, and Adam Smith, who argued that the invisible hand of the market should govern supply and demand and government economic controls should not exist.

In America, deism the belief that God is an impersonal force in the universe and the moral embodiment of the Newtonian laws of the universe attracted Thomas. Jefferson and Thomas Paine. On the political side, thinkers such as Thomas Hooker and John Mayhew spoke of government as a trustee that must earn the trust of its constituency and as a financial institution with a fiduciary duty to its depositors.

It was in the realms of politics, religion, philosophy, and humanitarian affairs that the Enlightenment had its greatest effect. The figures of the French Enlightenment opposed undue power as exemplified by absolute monarchy, aristocracy based on birth, state churches, and economic control by the state as exemplified by mercantilism. Enlightened thinkers saw the arbitrary policies of absolute monarchies as contradictory to the natural rights of man, according to the leaders of the American Revolution.

The most fundamental part of their nature was human reason, the instrument by which people realized their potentials. The individual was a thinking and judging being who must have the highest of freedom in order to operate.

The best government, like the best economy, was the government that governed least. The Enlightenment extended to the political realm and was especially critical of monarchs who were more interested in their divine right than in the good of their people. Man was innately good; however, society could corrupt him. Anything that corrupted people, be it an absolutist government or brutal prison conditions, should be combated. Absolutist policies violated innate rights that were a necessary part of human nature.

Ultimately, political freedom depended on the right social environment, which could be encouraged or hindered by government. Absolutism, for this reason, was the primary opponent of political freedom. The progenitors of the political Enlightenment, John Locke and his successors, maintained that government should exist to protect property of subjects and citizens, defend against foreign enemies, secure order, and protect the natural rights of its people.

These ideas found their way into the U. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The ideas of social contract and social compact did not originate with either Locke or Rousseau, but with Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes viewed the social contract as a way for government to restrain base human nature. Ultimately, Locke maintained that people came together in a voluntary manner to form a government for protection of their basic rights. Therefore, government was based on their voluntary consent. If their basic natural rights were violated, they could withdraw their consent.

This theory had echoes in the arguments of leaders of the American Revolution who argued that their revolt against various tariffs and taxes such as the tea tax was taxation without representation. Social contract theory argued that individuals voluntarily cede their rights to government, including the responsibility to protect their own natural rights.

To keep the potential for governmental abuse of power in check, Enlightenment figures argued for a separation of powers. Before Montesquieu made his specific suggestion in The Spirit of Laws, Locke had proposed that kings, judges, and magistrates should share power and thereby check one another. Spinoza also proposed the need for local autonomy, including a local militia to guard against power concentrated in the center including a standing army.

These ideas found their way first into the Articles of Confederation, which gave almost excessive power to the various states. Constitution specifically stated all powers not expressly given to the national government are reserved to the states and the people. The emphasis of the political writers of the Enlightenment was on limited government rather than on direct democracy. Although their great enemy was arbitrary absolute central government, they were not enamored of the influence of the mob.

Even though they saw the voting franchise as a check on over powerful government, they limited the franchise to property owners. Male suffrage in America did not come into existence until the age of Jackson. The founders of the Constitution were anxious to include the electoral college as the final selecter of presidents. Direct election of senators did not occur until —13, and it was not until, , with Baker v.

Technically, the United States remains a representative, not a direct, democracy. Even Rousseau, considered the advocate of direct democracy, felt that direct democracy was most suited to small states like his home city of Geneva rather than a large state like France.

In this way, they prefigured the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, which stressed the goal of human happiness as long as it did no harm to others. In the latter 18th century, there was a reaction against the overuse of reason and science in securing human potential.

Religious, philosophical, and humanitarian movements put new emphasis on idealism and emotionalism when it came to religious, philosophical, and social reforms. The foremost philosopher of the later Enlightenment was Immanuel Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason argued that innate ideas exist before sensory experiences. Taking a page from Plato, Kant argued that certain inner concepts such as depth, beauty, cause, and especially God existed independently of the senses. Some ideas were derived from reason, not the senses.

Kant went beyond pure reason. Reason was based on intuition as well as interpretation of sensory experiences. Therefore, abstract reason could have moral and religious overtones. This came to be called new idealism, as opposed to classical idealism.

This probably drove the Enlightenment thinkers to feel contempt for those people in power. The Enlightenment thinkers knew that they should have an equal say in the government. But only the upper classes ruled, and they were unfair to the lower classes of people. This system did not make sense, because the lower classes were the majority of the people and did most of the work.

The system that was in place created a hostility towards the upper classes. Sieyes says of the upper classes, "It is impossible to say what place the two privileged orders ought to occupy in the social order: The new governments that arose from these revolutions were more in touch with the needs of the people than their monarchial predecessors had been. The revolutionaries had so much bitterness towards those people with the power, that they went over the edge and treated those in power the same way they had been treated.

These changes, however, allowed the common people much more freedom to do as they pleased, gave the common people more of a say in politics and also broke down some of the walls that separated the classes. Voltaire agreed that the upper classes and had too much power. He depicts those people from the upper two classes as being cruel and unjust. In Candide, Voltaire describes what happens to Candide when he is found kissing the daughter of a Baron when he says "The Baron of Thunder-ten-tronck came around the partition and, seeing this cause and effect, drove Candide out of the castle with great kicks in the behind.

The Baron did not think that Candide deserved to be with his daughter because he was of a lower class. Voltaire thought that the barriers between classes were unfair. This was part of the reason the thinkers of the Enlightenment wanted to break down social barriers and grant more freedom to all people. They freedom that the people of the Enlightenment wanted, allowed them to pursue new fields of learning and broaden their knowledge.

This led to many new advancements in the sciences. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is able to pursue the studies he wants, depending on what he feels like getting involved in at the time. He says "In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics, and the branches of study appertaining to that science, as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration.

The fields of science were rapidly advancing, because of the new freedom that was part of the cause of the Enlightenment thinkers.

But, along with the new rights and freedoms people were to be acquiring, there would be new duties that they would also have. With the new privileges the people would have, they would have more responsibilities.

If there are to be elected officials, for instance, then the people have to be informed and vote. To some people, having this responsibility is a heavy burden. That is why it is hard to get people today to go out and vote. Also, for the common good of everyone, people would sometimes have to sacrifice things that they want or need. Giuseppe Mazzini says "Your first duties- first, at least in importance- are, as I have told you, to Humanity.

You are men before you are citizens or fathers. Along with all the new things that people would be able to do, they would also have responsibilities they would struggle with when they encountered them. The Enlightenment was an exciting period of time. The great thinkers of the time period brought some very radical changes into the world.

They based all of their ideals on the principle that are men are equal. As a result of the freedoms they wanted, people would be able to do as they pleased and further the sciences, as long as it did not hurt the common good. They led the world into several revolutions that brought about great change. The people of the Enlightenment wanted to break down the barriers that separated the classes and shift the balance of power to the people.

They had to make sacrifices as a result of the new privileges they gained, but it was at a price that everyone was willing to pay. They were willing to sacrifice for the common good, because it would benefit the majority.

The ideals and ideas the Enlightenment sparked helped to shape the American society of today.


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- Science vs the Enlightenment vs Politics This essay argues that the Enlightenment is the most important concept among the three given in the title. The Age of Enlightenment was a period in early modern history when western societies, led by its intellectuals, made a marked shift from religion based authority to one of scientific reason.

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Mar 06,  · The Enlightenment was a period of much intellectual and social growth. The way people looked at the world changed. The way people looked at the world changed. During the Enlightenment, people started to believe that all men were free people.

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The Enlightenment Essay The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which took place in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As a historical category, the term "Enlightenment" refers to a series of changes in European thought and letters. The Age of Enlightenment Essay Words 9 Pages The Enlightenment was a period in the eighteenth century where change in philosophy and cultural life took place in Europe.

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Research Papers words ( pages) Essay The Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason Analysis - The “Age of Enlightenment” also known as the “Age of Reason” took place around Europe between the 17th and 18th century. Oct 11,  · The Age of Enlightenment Essay Words | 9 Pages The Enlightenment was a period in the eighteenth century where change in philosophy and cultural life took place in Europe.