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The Enlightenment


The Enlightenment Siecle de Lumiere The Century of Light – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment
  • Siecle de Lumiere
  • The Century of Light

I. What was it?
  • Progressive, Rationalistic, Humanistic worldview
  • Emerged out of the Scientific Revolution and
    culminated in the French Revolution
  • Spokesmen Rising Middle Class
  • Paris Center of Enlightenment
  • Western European Focus
  • Optimism about mankinds abilities

II. Key Ideas
  • Distrust of Tradition and Revealed Religion
  • Scientific method could be applied to society as
  • Society can get better as risks are taken
  • Man is naturally good
  • Good life is on earth

III. An Attack on the Old Regime
A. The World of the Old Regime
  • Built on tradition
  • World of hierarchy, privilege and inequality
  • Allied with the Church
  • Challenged by the reform impulse of supporters of
    the Enlightenment

B. Conflict with the Capitalistic Middle Class
  • Support for the Middle Class social order against
    the traditional social order
  • Size and increasing power of the Middle Class
  • New notion of wealth
  • Tension and discord created by the Middle Class

IV. The Philosophes
  • 18th century French intellectuals
  • Interest in addressing a broad audience
  • Committed to reform
  • Celebrated the scientific revolution
  • The Mystique of Newton
  • Science applied to society

VI. The Role of the Salon
  • Protection and encouragement offered by French
    aristocratic women in their private drawing rooms
  • Feminine influence on the Enlightenment
  • Madame Geoffrin

VIII. Famous Enlightenment Thinkers
New Views on Government
As the Enlightenment began, European thinkers
began looking for ways to apply reason in order
to improve the human condition.
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • French philosopher, believed people basically
  • Believed society corrupted people
  • Wrote The Social Contract, contract between all
    members of society
  • Man is born free but everywhere is in chains.
  • View of Government, Society
  • Believed government should work for common good,
    not wealthy few
  • Individuals should give up some freedoms for
    benefit of community
  • Despised inequality in society
  • Views inspired revolutionaries in years to come

Baron de Montesquieu
  • Separation of powers
  • Best form of government divided power among
    branches of government
  • Separation of powers kept individual or group
    from abusing power
  • The Spirit of the Laws
  • Published 1748, showed admiration of Great
    Britains government
  • Powers divided into branches legislative,
    executive, judicial
  • Parliament made laws, king carried out laws,
    courts interpreted laws
  • Checks and balances
  • Misunderstood structure of British government,
    rational conclusion anyway
  • Separation of powers allowed each branch to check
    against power of others
  • Concept later important structure of democratic

New Views on Society
  • Some Enlightenment philosophers focused on
    government, others on issues in society
  • Francois-Marie Arouet, wrote as Voltaire
  • Outspoken philosopher, wrote with biting wit
  • Attacked injustice among nobility, government,
  • Created enemies, imprisoned twice
  • Exiled to England for two years
  • Defended principles, fought superstition,
  • Lifelong struggle for justice, toleration, liberty

New Views on Society
  • Diderot
  • French philosopher
  • Determined in mid-1700s to try to compile great
    expansion of human knowledge into a single work
  • Encyclopedia
  • Diderots extensive 35-volume work, to promote
  • Explained new ideas about art, science,
    government, religion
  • Lifelong work
  • Worked on Encyclopedia 27 years, last volume
    published 1772
  • Spread Enlightenment ideas across Europe, North
  • Attacks by French leaders
  • Criticisms of church, government, legal system
  • Tried to stop publication, 1759
  • Last volumes completed in secret, but immediate

  • Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Enlightenment thinkers still held traditional
    views about women
  • Proper roles wives, mothers should receive
    limited education
  • Wollstonecraft demanded equal rights for women
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, equal
    education for women
  • Adam Smith
  • Scottish economist, used reason to analyze
    economic systems
  • Hated Mercantilism
  • The Wealth of Nations advanced free market
  • Strong believer in laissez-faire economics, no
    government regulation
  • Believed economy would be stronger if market
    forces of supply and demand were allowed to work

The Enlightened Despots
The spirit of optimism quickly spread throughout
Europe. A few monarchs became enlightened
despots, changing their systems of government and
ruling according to Enlightenment ideas.
Enlightenment Ideas Spread
  • Russia
  • Catherine II became ruler, 1762
  • Dreamed of establishing order, justice,
    supporting education, culture
  • Read works of, corresponded with Voltaire, Diderot
  • Reforms
  • Drafted Russian constitution, code of laws
  • Considered too liberal, never put into practice
  • Limitations
  • Intended to free serfs, but would lose support of
    wealthy landowners
  • Catherine had no intention of giving up power
  • Became tyrant, imposed serfdom on more Russians
    than ever before

Enlightenment Ideas Spread
  • Most radical enlightened despot, Austria
  • Joseph II, became emperor 1780
  • Ambitious reform program
  • Eliminated torture, death penalty
  • Provided free food, medicine for poor
  • Granted religious tolerance to Protestants and
  • Abolished serfdom, laborers to be paid
  • Changes resisted by nobility, church
  • When he died his son eliminated all of the

Enlightenment Ideas Spread
  • Challenged Beliefs
  • Writers, philosophers questioned ideas long held
    as absolute truth
  • Challenged beliefs in absolute monarchies
  • Questioned relationship between church and sate
  • Debated rules and rights of people in society
  • Promoted ideas reformers and revolutionaries
    would later use to change society