Age of Enlightenment


Age of Enlightenment


Setting the Stage

The influence of the Scientific Revolution soon spread beyond the world of science.

Philosophers admired scientists like Newton who used reason to explain laws of nature.

People began to look for laws governing human behavior as well They hoped to apply reason and the scientific method to all aspects of society – government, religion, economics, and education.

The Scientific Revolution paved the way for the Enlightenment.

What was the Enlightenment ?

Philosophical movement in which thinkers attempted to apply the scientific method to all aspects of society.

religion) (economics, education, government,

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes famous statements included in “Leviathan.” English Civil War ◦ Humans are selfish and wicked Without government ◦ War would be constant ◦ Life would be poor, nasty, and short

Thomas Hobbes

Social Contract To escape a bleak life, people must give up their rights to a strong ruler.

In exchange they get law and order.

Because people acted in their own self-interest, the ruler needed total power to keep control.

Best government according to Hobbes would have been?

Impose order, demand obedience.

John Locke

Held a different more positive view of human nature.

Believed that people could learn from experience and improve themselves.

As reasonable beings, people had the natural ability to govern their own affairs and to look after welfare of society.

Criticized absolute monarchy and favored self-government.

“Two Treatises on Government”

John Locke

Natural Rights (1) Life (2) Liberty (3) Property If government fails to protect these rights, citizens have right to overthrow it.


Enlightenment in France ◦ Reached its height in mid-1700s ◦ Paris became meeting place for those who wanted to discuss ideas and politics.

Philosophes were social thinkers in France during the Enlightenment.

Philosophes Five Concepts


◦ Truth could be discovered through reason. (absence of intolerance, bigotry)


◦ Natural laws of economics and politics; natural was good and reasonable.


◦ Misery of middle ages wasn’t necessary.


◦ Society and humankind could be perfected.


◦ Wanted freedom of speech, religion, trade, and travel.


French philosophe Published over 70 books of philosophy Targeted clergy, aristocracy, government Made many enemies, twice sent to prison.

Exiled to England for two years, began to admire their government.

Upon his return, his works mocked the laws and customs of France


Fearing jail time again, he fled Paris.

Never stopped fighting for tolerance, reason, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

Baron de Montesquieu

Devoted to study of political liberty.

Studied history of Rome, believed its collapse was directly related to loss of political liberties.

Thought Britain had best governmental structure

Baron de Montesquieu

Separation of Powers The assignment of executive, legislative, and judicial powers to different groups

of officials in a government.

Power was balanced.

Separation of powers would

keep any individual or group from getting complete control of government.

Executive ◦ British king and ministers ◦ Carried out laws of the state Legislative ◦ Members of Parliament ◦ Lawmaking power Judicial ◦ Judges of courts ◦ Interpreted laws, applied them to cases

Baron de Montesquieu

“On the Spirit of Laws” Separation of Powers was not the only significant contribution Montesquieu made to European society.

“Power should be a check to power.”

Checks and Balances Each branch of government would serve as a check on the other two.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

“The Social Contract” The only good government was one freely formed by the people and guided by the general will of society (direct democracy).

People give up some freedoms in favor of common good.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Committed to individual freedom.

Disagreed with other Enlightenment thinkers on many issues.

Most philosophes believed that reason, science, and art would improve life for all.

Rousseau argued that civilization corrupted people’s natural goodness.

Man is born free and is in chains everywhere.

In early times, people lived free and equal in a primitive state of nature As people became civilized, the strongest forced everyone else to obey them; freedom and equality were destroyed.

Immanuel Kant

Rousseau vs. Hobbes

Hobbes ◦ Social Contract was an agreement between a society and its government.

Rousseau ◦ Social Contract was an agreement among free individuals to create a society and a government.

Rousseau believed in a broader democracy than did Hobbes.

Rousseau felt that all people were equal and that all titles of nobility should be abolished.

Impact of the Enlightenment

Enlightenment writers examined principles such as the divine rights of monarchs, the union of church and state, and unequal social classes.

They lived in the world of ideas.

They formed and popularized new theories.

They encouraged European monarchs to make reforms, but they weren’t active revolutionaries.

Their theories did inspire future political revolutions.

Effects of the Enlightenment

1 – Belief in Progress

Led by Scientific Revolution Urged an end to slavery

Argued for social equality and improvements in education.

2 – More Secular Worldly Outlook People began to question their religious beliefs and teachings of the church.

Critics attacked beliefs and practices of church.

Promoted tolerance of all religions.

Effects of the Enlightenment

3 – The Rise of Individualism People began to turn away from the church and royalty for guidance, looked to themselves.

Encouraged people to use their own ability in order to determine right and wrong.