March 27, 2012
The Enlightenment has been defined in many different ways, but at its extensive was a philosophical, intellectual and cultural movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It stressed reason, logic, criticism and freedom of thought over conviction, blind faith and superstition. Logic wasn’t a new invention, having been used by the ancient Greeks, but it was now included in a worldview which argued that factual observation and the examination of human life could reveal the truth behind human society and self, as well as the universe. The Enlightenment brought about two revolutions, the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
The French Revolution was a rebellion against the king and was caused by the lack of funds in the state treasury, a disorganized society, an interest in different ways of government, and unrest and riots among the lower and middle. Before the revolution, France was ruled by an absolute monarchy, but the new ideas stemming from the Enlightenment included ideas about freedom, the common people’s right to govern, equality, and other democratic ideals such as religious tolerance and freedom of speech. François-Marie Arouet, or Voltaire, was a French author during the Enlightenment whose controversial writings often got him into trouble with the Catholic Church. He opposed both the Catholic Church and absolute government and fought for freedom of speech and religious tolerance in his writings. In one of his main works, “Philosophical Letters”, Voltaire compared and contrasted the governments of England and France. He believed that the French government had more social barriers and obstacles that ensured that the different classes never mixed or overlapped. France’s absolutist government and unjust laws did not allow men to move up in station through hard work or individual merit. Voltaire also uncovered the evils and...