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Chapter 17 Section 2
The Enlightenment
An 18th century philosophical and intellectual movement
Wanted to apply scientific method to all of life
Two main ideas were reason and progress
 John Locke
 Influenced the enlightenment
 Every person was born with a tabula rasa – blank mind
 People were shaped by their experiences
 Enlightenment thinkers thought - If environment changed for the better, people would be better
 Isaac Newton
 Influenced the enlightenment
 Physical world acted like a machine
 Everything follows natural laws
 Enlightenment thinkers thought – if physical world follows natural laws, society may also follow laws and that by
following these laws, people could create a perfect society
Ideas of the Philosophes
 Role of Philosophy
 To make society better
 This happens through reason – appeal to facts
 Montesquieu
 Study of government
 Used scientific method to find laws that govern political relationships
 3 kinds of governments
 Republics – good for small states
 Despotism – good for large states
 Monarchy – good for medium sized states
 Separation of powers – 3 branches each with specific roles
 Checks and balances – each branch could limit the power of the others in some way
 Would prevent any person or group from gaining too much power
 Ideas contained in US Constitution
 Voltaire
 Criticized Christianity
 Strong belief in religious tolerance – “all men are brothers under God”
 Proponent of deism
 God created the universe(a machine)
 Set the machine in motion
 Let it run without interference
 Diderot
 Encyclopedia
 28 volume collection of knowledge
 Used as a weapon against old French society
Attacked religious superstition
Supported religious tolerance
Called for social, legal, and political reforms
 Helped spread Enlightenment ideas
New Social Sciences
 Smith and Economics
 If all individuals were free to follow their own interests, society as a whole would be better
 Laissez-faire
 Government should not impose outside regulations on the economy
 Leave it alone and let it function naturally
 Adam Smith
 Wealth of Nations
Government has 3 roles
Protect citizens from invasion
Defend its citizens against injustice
Public works
 Beccaria on Justice
 Argued against brutal punishments
 Felt that punishments did not deter future crimes
 Argued that cruel punishments set an example of cruelty that citizens would follow
The Spread of Ideas
 The Social Contract
 Proposed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
 An entire society agreed to be governed according to what most people in that society want (general will)
 Individuals must be forced to follow general will
 In exchange for giving up some freedoms, the people receive protection by the government they choose
 Women’s Rights
 By 18th century, female thinkers began expressing ideas
 Mary Wollstonecraft
 Strongest advocate for women’s rights
 Compared power of absolute monarch over people was similar to the power of men over women; if one was
wrong, so was the other
 Enlightenment based on the idea that all people could reason, not just men
 Argued women should have equal rights in education, economy, and politics
 The Growth of Reading
 Tremendous growth in publishing and reading by the general public
 Books no longer aimed at well educated, but at average middle class people including women and artisans
 Newspapers and magazines first appeared
 Made available at coffeehouses for free
 Made it cheaper and easier to read than before
 The Salon
 Wealthy would invite guests to homes to discuss issues of the day
 Would meet in the salon – a large room in a house of a wealthy resident of a city
 Brought artists, writers, aristocrats, politicians together for discussions
 Sometimes, distinguished foreigners would attend
 Religion and the Enlightenment
 Most Europeans were still Christian
 Seeking deeper personal relationship with God
 Catholic Church still dominated
 Protestant denominations often controlled by the government and lacked enthusiasm
 John Wesley
 American Methodist preacher
 Preached to people in open fields and wherever else he could
 Especially popular with lower class
 Sermons won over many converts
 Gave lower and middle class a sense of purpose – do good works for others.