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The Enlightenment Thinkers
The Enlightenment
Scholars began to challenge long held beliefs
about science, religion, and government
 Thinkers were inspired by Galileo and
 The method of observation and logic is used to
approach problems of human life.
 Ideas will be based on rational thought and
The Enlightenment
In France, thinkers called philosophes (or
“philosophers”) would gather in informal
meetings called salons.
There, they would exchange and debate ideas.
The Basic Questions
Enlightenment thinkers wanted to learn
more about human life using these
What natural law governs the way people should
How well do our institutions agree with natural law?
Does natural law give all people certain rights?
What is the best form of government?
•They all shared a trust in reason and
observation as the best way of understanding
and progress.
Philosophers did not
always agree about the
answers to these
Some supported
absolute rule by the
Others argued that the
people should have a
say in their own
The Five Thinkers
Thomas Hobbes
John Locke
Baron de Montesquieu
Cesare Beccaria
Thomas Hobbes
His Question: What is the
basis of social order?
His Observation: Human
beings were naturally cruel,
selfish, and greedy.
In 1651, he published a book
called Leviathan. He wrote
that people are driven by a
restless desire for power.
Without laws or other social
controls, people would
always be in conflict.
Absolute Rule by Kings
Thomas Hobbes
Governments were created to protect people
from their own selfishness.
 People are selfish by nature and can not be
trusted to make decisions that were good for
society as a whole.
John Locke
Natural Rights
His Observation: He denied
the divine right of kings to
In 1690, he published Two
Treatises of Government. His
book justified a strong
parliament which protects
human rights.
He argued that the purpose
of government was to protect
people’s natural rights.
These rights include the right
to life, liberty, and property.
John Locke
In exchange for our rights, people give the government
the power to make and enforce laws.
The true basis of government was a social contract
(or agreement), among free people.
His theory is that a governments authority is based on
the consent of the people. If the government fails to
respect people’s rights, it can be overthrown.
Baron de Montesquieu
His Observation: Too much
power in the hands of any
one person or group will lead
to tyranny.
French author, in 1748, he
published The Spirit of Laws.
He argued that the best way
to protect human rights is to
divide power among three
branches of government.
Each branch of government
checks (limits) the power of
the others.
Separation of Powers
Baron de Montesquieu
The Three Branches of Government
Legislative branch – makes the laws
Executive branch – enforces the laws
Judicial branch – interprets the laws
His Observation:
Freedom of thought and
expression is the only
way to fight oppression.
 He was a French writer
and participant in Paris
 He supported religious
tolerance – allowing
people to believe in
religion in their own way.
 Strong supporter of free
“I disapprove of what you say,
but I will defend to the death
your right to say it”
Cesare Beccaria
“Punishment should fit the
seriousness of the crime”
His Observation: He studied
criminology, the scientific
study of crime and
He objected the harsh
practices that were common
in his day and called for
changes in criminal law to
protect the rights of the
Torture was common and
people found guilty of crimes
were often sentenced to
Cesare Beccaria
On Crimes and Punishments
He argued that laws exist to preserve society and order and that
punishment did not have to be brutal.
A person accused of a crime should receive a fair and speedy
Torture should never be used.
Capital punishment (putting someone to death) should never be
Punishment should fit the seriousness
of the crime.
Women of the Enlightenment
Enlightenment thinking
influenced many
throughout Europe and
inspired revolutions in
America and France.
Although women of the
1700’s did not have the
same rights or status as
men, there were a small
few who played an
important role by helping
to spread ideas about
rights and equality to
Mary Wollstonecraft
Abigail Adams
Madame Geoffrin