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Chapter 6-2
• The Enlightenment in Europe
I) Two Views on Government
II) Philosophes Advocate Reason
III) Women and the Enlightenment
IV) Impact of the Enlightenment
I) Two Views on Government
• The ideas of the scientific Revolution spread beyond the world of
science and people began to look for laws governing human
behavior as well.
• This paved the way for the age of reason or Enlightenment
• Thomas Hobbes (1651) believed that people need a strong
government in order to keep order, a social contract. He believed
that people needed to be controlled.
• John Locke (1690) believed that people have a natural rights, and
therefore the ability to govern themselves
– 3 natural laws; life, liberty, property
– All people born free and equal
– Governments job to protect these rights
• His statement that government’s power comes from the consent of
the people is the foundation of modern democracy, and his idea that
people have the right to rebel against an unjust ruler helped inspire
struggles for liberty in Europe and America.
II) The Philosophes Advocate
• The Enlightenment reached it’s height in France in
the mid-1700’s and Paris became the place to meet
to discuss politics and ideas.
• The social critics of this time were known as
philosophes, the French word for philosophers.
• 5 important philosophical concepts formed the core of their
– Reason, nature, happiness, progress, liberty
• Voltaire – Probably the most brilliant and influential French
philosophes was Francois Marie Arouet, known under his pen
name as Voltaire. He used satire in his writings to fight
intolerance through his writings, attacking both the clergy , the
aristocracy as well as the government.
II) The Philosophes Advocate
• Another influential French writer was the Baron de Montesquieu, who
devoted himself t o the study of political liberty. Montesquieu believed a
government’s power should be divided into different branches, or a
separation of power, which would later become the basis for the United
States constitution.
• A third great French philosophe was Jean Jacques Rousseau, who was
passionately committed to individual freedom but with many other
enlightenment thinkers of the time by arguing that civilization corrupted
people’s natural goodness. Rousseau believes governments should be
formed freely through agreement of free individuals. He felt that all people
were equal and the titles of the nobility should be abolished, which later
inspired many leaders of the French revolution.
• An Italian philosophe named Cesare Bonesana Beccaria turned his
thoughts to the justice system. Beccaria believed that laws existed to
preserve social order, not to avenge crimes. He promoted the idea that a
person accused of a crime should receive a speedy trial, and that torture
should never be used, including capital punishment.
III) Women and the Enlightenment
• The philosophes challenged many assumptions
about government and society, but they often
took a traditional view toward women.
• Rousseau for example believed a girl’s
education should mainly be to teach her how to
be a helpful wife and good mother, and other
male critics scolded women for reading novels
because it promoted wickedness.
• Women writers argued for more education for
women and for women’s equality in marriage.
III) Women and the Enlightenment
• English writer Mary Astell used Enlightenment ideas
about government to criticize unequal relationships
between men and women in marriage.
• During the 1700’s other women picked up on these
themes such as Mary Wollstonecraft who disagreed
with Rousseau and published an essay called A
Vindication of the Rights of Women.
• She said an education made a women a better mother
and also argued women should not just be nurses but
doctors, and have the opportunity to participate in
• Women made important contributions in other ways,
such as wealthy women spread Enlightenment ideas
through social gatherings called salons.
IV) Impact of the Enlightenment
• Over the span of a few decades, Enlightenment writers
challenged long held ideas about a society, such as the divine
right of monarchs, the union of church and state, and unequal
social classes.
• Philosophes lived mainly in the world of ideas and were not
active revolutionaries.
• Their theories however inspired revolutionary movements and
three long term effects that helped shape Western civilization;
– 1)People have confidence that human reason can solve social problems
– 2) A more secular (worldly) outlook emerges as scientific thinking
replaces superstition, fear and intolerance
– 3) The individual becomes important as people use their own ability to
reason and judge