Principles of the Enlightenment

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Margarita Arnold
HIS 112-100M
Critical Essay #1

The three fundamental principles of the Enlightenment listed in the text of Traditions and Encounters are popular sovereignty, individual freedom, and political and legal equality. According to Gombrich, the author of the A Little History of the World, the three fundamental principles of the Enlightenment are tolerance, reason, and humanity. Traditions and Encounters describes popular sovereignty as a “contract between the rulers and the ruled” (623). The king or monarch is a representative of the people who has political rights, but the people hold their personal rights to life, liberty, and property. Individual freedom principle ties in to the personal right of liberty as a freedom of speech with no censorship. Political and legal equality states that everyone should be regarded as equals not matter what their profession is. Individuals should participate in creating laws and policy. If there is no general representative elected, then the people would act as representatives. This is a laissez faire thought- leave us be or let us do, although not mentioned in Traditions and Encounters as one of the fundamental principles. Laissez faire thought, meaning about the state of French commerce, did come after the Enlightenment, a little before the French revolution. Laissez faire encompasses the three fundamental principles in one thought: leave the people be. A Little History of the World states that tolerance, or common sense could unite all men and all beliefs “should be respected and tolerated” (214). Reason explained nature and paranormal things such as witchcraft. Gombrich proclaims that reason “is given in equal measure to all mankind the world over” (215). Human dignity prohibits a person to be publically humiliated. This meant that people could not be marked as criminals by branding or cutting of limbs. From Traditions and Encounters and A Little History of the World individual freedom and tolerance could be...
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