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Chapter 8, Section 2.
How did exciting new ideas affect
Europe during the Enlightenment?
Intellectuals hoped that by using the scientific
method, they could make progress toward a
better society than the one they had inherited.
Isaac Newton
believed that the
physical world and
everything in it was
operating according
to natural laws that
could be uncovered
through systematic
The system of checks and balances through
separation of powers was Montesquieu's most
lasting contribution to political thought.
Deism was an eighteenth-century religious
philosophy based on reason and natural law.
To Voltaire, the universe was like a clock. God,
the clockmaker, had created it, set it in motion,
and allowed it to run without his interference and
according to its own natural laws.
In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith outlined
three roles for government (defense, justice, and
public works), but should not interfere with
Laissez-faire meant
that if individuals were
free to pursue their own
economic self-interest,
all society would
Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed in a social
Through a social
contract, an entire
society agrees to be
governed by its general
will. Individuals who
wish instead to follow
their own self-interests
must be forced to abide
by the general will.
Mary Wollstonecraft: argued that the
Enlightenment was based on an ideal of reason
in all human beings
Because women have reason, they are entitled to
the same rights as men. Women, Wollstonecraft
declared, should have equal rights in education,
as well as in economic and political life.
The growth of both publishing and the reading
public during the eighteenth century was
Many books were directed at the new reading
public of the middle classes, which included
women and urban artisans. Realistic social
themes became popular.
Denis Diderot: most famous contribution to the
Enlightenment was the Encyclopedia.
Many of its articles
attacked religious
superstition and
supported religious
toleration. Others
called for social,
legal, and political
Salons: the elegant urban drawing rooms where,
in the eighteenth century, writers, artists,
aristocrats, government officials, and wealthy
middle-class people gathered to discuss the
ideas of the philosophers.