The Age of Enlightenment

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For many years European society depended upon religion to answer most of their questions. The Age of Enlightenment however, was a time period when Europeans switched on a light and got everyone thinking in a new way. The Age of Enlightenment was a time period when philosophes promoted logic and reason to society and answered questions. These thinkers weren’t concerned with the after life, only with the secularly views. Furthermore, philosophes were extremely important during the Enlightenment, the most influential philosophes are Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. Charles- Louis Montesquieu contributed to the Enlightenment by coming up with the idea of checks and balances and separation of powers. He believed that the rights of people should be protected from corrupt rulers. He also believed strongly in oligarch views. An oligarchy is when the power is in the hands of tightly nit groups of a powerful class. (Colton, Palmer, 329.) Montesquieu separated 3 forms of government, monarchy, for middle sized states, despotism appropriate for large empires to maintain obedience and republics, worked well with small states.(Colton, Palmer, 329.)Montesquieu admired the English government with separating branches of government that had control of each other was the best form of government. Montesquieu was a crucial part of the enlightenment because his writings and ideas were translated into English and were read by American philosophes, they then used his ideas into the United States Constitution. In the eighteenth century, Voltaire dominated France. He became the primary spokesperson for the philosophes of the Enlightenment(Harrison, Sullivan, 619). Voltaire strongly agreed with secular views, meaning worldly views, not just religion and the afterlife ideas. Voltaire got everyone thinking of their lives now and not in terms of the after life. He and other philosophes believed that God had nothing to do with the world he made, rather being runt solely on natural rights and laws. Voltaire was mostly intrigued by freedom of thought(Colton, Palmer, 330). Like Montesquieu, he liked that England had a strong government and separation of powers. Moreover, people remembered Voltaire because he fought for civil rights, the right to fair and speedy trial and freedom of religion. Rousseau came later in the Age of Enlightenment, yet he was the most famous of later philosophes. Rousseau’s political belief were viewed in two important books. Discourse on the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind, he believed that people had made laws in order to keep their private property.

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