Optimism in the Enlightenment

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The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement in 18th century Europe. The Enlightenment helped with both capitalism and the birth if socialism, as well as providing the framework for the French and American revolutions. Several brilliant thinkers contributed to the philosophical movement of this time. Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau were the most optimistic thinkers in the Enlightenment.

Francois-Marie Arouet, commonly known as Voltaire, was the greatest figure of the Enlightenment. Voltaire wrote, ”Philosophic Letters in the English” which displayed his admiration of England’s freedom and especially their religious tolerance. In his works he expressed an optimistic view of freedom. Although Voltaire was the most well known optimist of the Enlightenment, Diderot contributed a crucial factor to the era.

Denis Diderot was the son of a craftsman from eastern France. Diderot was an atheist who developed the first encyclopedia. His idea for an all knowledge volume of books proved that he was an important optimist of his time. As soon as the encyclopedia’s price dropped, it was available to everyone, spreading the thoughts of optimism and the Enlightenment further. Diderot was important, but so was Rousseau.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed in a government with little or no laws. He thought that when people had no laws that they knew right from wrong and were happier that way. Rousseau said this in his book, “Discourse on the origins of the Inequality of Mankind”. His want for everyone to be happy was a sign of his optimism.

Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau brought a multitude of optimistic ideas to the Enlightenment. The ideas of these three intelligent men shared a common goal. Voltaire wanted freedom for everyone, Diderot wrote an encyclopedia for the good of people, and Rousseau strove for a new kind of government to make the people happy.
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