The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Century

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The Philosophes

French intellectual leaders of the Enlightenment were bankers, merchants, and professional men who had education and wealth. As a result of their political voice being denied to them, these men paved the way for the French Revolution through their skeptical attitudes toward government, religion, and social traditions. This group of aggressive dissenters and critics of the Old Regime, the prerevolution monarchy, were the Philosophes.

The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th century involved a particular group of French thinkers who were very popular during the middle of the 18th century. This group was known as the Philosophes, a large group of people who pursued a variety of the same intellectual interests. Believing in and fighting for the same common goal held the Philosophes together. One of the goals they were striving for was to get rid of erroneous views of thought, such as religion. They also doubted the perfectibility of human beings. Philosophes questioned everything and wanted direct answers, which is why a lot of them were great thinkers and scientists. Greatly influenced by the discoveries and thinking of the Scientific Revolution, they were always looking for laws or principles to prove their findings that supported intellectual freedom.

The Philosphe movement had three central ideas: progress, deism, and tolerance. The Philosophes strongly encouraged progress so they would have knowledge of the natural world and they would be able to learn more through technology. Wanting people to overcome their fears of superstitions and things their religions had taught them, they encouraged people to believe what they knew and what they could prove.

Deism is believing in the existence of God or a Sup...

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...nt Greeks rather than that of the French.

Philosphes were a group of French thinkers who put a new perspective on religion and scientific events. This group of intellects shared what they thought, and they were not afraid to use their freedom of speech. Not only did most Philosophes feel that progress, deism, and tolerance should be looked at strongly, but they were also very much against religion. Most Philosophes rejected the traditional medieval/early modern conceptualization of a Christian God. Philosophes started a whole new era with a great way of looking at things that were happening in the world around them.

End Notes:

1. Thomas, Barry. Great Historical Writers. New York: Walker (1967). 24-49



4. Thomas, 121

5. Thomas, 121


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