Discussion Paper One: The Enlightenment
Humankind’s search for prosperity, equal opportunity, and justice took hold as thinkers of the Enlightenment began to encourage such liberties. In “John Locke’s Vindication for the Glorious Revolution: The Social Contract”, Locke said that government should protect life, liberty, and property. The people, in return, have obligations, creating what is called a social contract. Simply put, if the government broke this contract the people had the right to revolt. Locke’s ideas lead humankind’s search, not long after, for justice and prosperity; ideas implemented in the American Constitution. Montesquieu, too, helped in this search, specifically for justice. Our three branches of government use checks and balances. The Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches balance each other out and check each other to prevent anyone from becoming tyrannical. In “Voltaire on Religious Toleration”, Voltaire argues that religious intolerance is foolish in that Earth is so miniscule to the entire universe that a certain set of religious beliefs can’t possibly be the only one that is “dear to God.” He questions: “...are we not all children of the same father, creatures of the same God?” Looking back in history it is apparent that imposing uniform values and beliefs on people often leads to conflict and war. Voltaire believed that the more religions there were, the more possible it would be for people to find peace and happiness. He expressed these views so that the general public could read them, bringing light to some of the numerous issues France was having. Voltaire’s ideas on religious toleration were implemented not only in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen but also the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
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