What is the enlightenment? Well Immanuel Kant responded, "Dare to know." Those who advocated enlightenment were convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and humanity. Such thinkers were called philosophes in France. These philosophes would gather around in salons, which were discussion groups organized by women. The early Enlightenment was deeply rooted in the Scientific Revolution, and was influenced by Great Britain, especially John Locke. Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, said that the individual is a blank slate at birth, thus education shaped the person. As years passed the Enlightenment then got roots in France with such people like Voltaire and Rousseau. We see Smith in England giving new economic perspectives. And of course, those Rulers who wanted to be "Enlightened" we call them "Enlightened Despots." Montesquieu:|
Charles Louis de Secondant, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) wrote Spirit of the Laws (1748). Montesquieu was a member of the French aristocracy, yet he was inspired by the British political system. In his book he advocated a separation of powers amongst the branches of government, and may have inspired the system of Checks and Balances, 2 key elements of the Constitution of the United States. He was politically conservative, he did not want a republic, yet he longed for a state in which the aristocracy will place boundaries on French absolutism, in some ways wanted a Constitutional Monarchy in France. He was anti-slavery.
Rousseau (1712-1778), antagonized Voltaire, who hated Rousseau's emotion over reason principle. He was lonely, lived a very troubled life. Unlike the majority of the philosophes who wanted a constitutional monarchy, Rousseau advocated Direct Democracy. His ideas helped shape the most radical elements of the French Revolution. He wrote The...