The Main Ideas of Enlightenment Philosophers

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During the Enlightenment, revolutionary thinkers called philosophes brought about new ideas as to how to better understand and improve their society. They were all modern thinkers and had the best interests of society in mind. Although each philosoph had his or her own ideas, they all centered around one main theme: equality and human freedom. One famous influential philosopher was John Locke. Locke was born in England in the mid 17th century and lived through both the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution. He strongly believed in equality for all men. In his book Second Treatise on Civil Government, he says that “creatures of the same species and rank…should be equal amongst another without subordination or subjection….” Locke wrote this piece in 1690, and 86 years later Thomas Jefferson incorporated Locke’s ideas into our very own United States’ Declaration of Independence. Locke also believed that the people should have the power in government. He argued that if a government was proven unbeneficial to the people then the people had the responsibility to change or create a new government. According to Locke, a government exists to protect the rights of the people and freedom is a natural right, so it is the responsibility of the government to protect the people’s freedom. In order to do so, he advocated that legislative and executive branches of government would be indispensable in doing so, while also preserving and protecting society. Francois-Marie Arouet, more commonly known by his pen name, Voltaire, is another influential Enlightenment philosopher. Born in late 17th century Paris, Voltaire is the author of many poems, essays, novels, plays, and over 20,000 personal letters. Today he is still known for his support of tolerance of all kinds, especially religious. He was concerned about the lack of religious equality in his native France. In his writings, he praised England for their religious tolerance. Voltaire believed...
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