17th Century Restoration Literature, John Wilmot, Aphra Behn and the Philoshopical Background of Libertinism

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  • Topic: John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, Woman, Gender
  • Pages : 3 (1148 words )
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  • Published : May 7, 2013
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Libertinism is the term used to describe the philosophical outlook that began to be adopted by some northern Europeans in the 17th century, predominantly in England and France. Libertines placed a great emphasis on the pleasures that could be enjoyed in life, such as sex and alcohol, holding a cynical view toward anything that could not be physically experienced. Religiously the ‘sinful’ living that many libertines carried out meant they instantly clashed with the views of the established church and while many libertines would have held atheistic or nihilistic views on life, this is not to say that all libertines were without religion. When considering why libertinism evolved it is important to remember that this change in people’s thinking was set against a changing political backdrop. The Restoration certainly had a knock on effect, for starters, the celebratory atmosphere would defiantly have been accompanied by much drinking and carousing. Perhaps it was the sudden change from being ruled by the strict religious line of Cromwell to a monarchy that had been famously living a lavish party lifestyle while in exile that caused this surge of libertinism (Daiches, 538). Even the theatre, the setting where more liberal ideas that might oppose the moral code of the puritans could be presented, was re-opened following the restoration. One could even point to the influence of the scientific revolution that was taking place at this time. With a new focus on trusting empirical evidence only people were challenging firmly established beliefs, as well as authoritative opinion, allowing for people to develop their own ideas and philosophies (Smith, 78). A major influence on libertine thought was the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Many of Hobbes influential ideas such as his views on social and political order and the notion of the rights of the individual were concepts that underpinned the liberal, unrestricted thought of the libertines. In particular I feel Hobbes’ liberal...
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