The Influence of Enlightenment Ideas

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The ideas from the Enlightenment and its thinkers greatly influenced the world today, everything from our ideas of modern government to our view of everyday life. Important Enlightenment philosophes such as Locke, Montesquieu, Hobbes and Voltaire established controversial ideas and theories on human nature, natural rights, and how government should be run and which form of it was superior. These ideas were all never even thought of before, and shattered many of the previous notions of ideas, such as ideas of how to run government, that had already been established and taken as a standard for several hundreds of years.

One of the first places these revolutionary ideas debuted in was around 17th century-era France, which, at the time, was suffering major economic crisis and unfair living conditions for its lower class citizens. This was nothing new for France's peasants, because for their entire lives and the lives of the ancestors before them, they have always experienced many hardships in life and the absence of food and wealth. A person born without sight will never miss the ability to see, for they have never experienced sight, and this is why the lower class has never been angry with their miserable conditions, because they could not remember a time when life was good. However, when Enlightenment ideas spread to France, such as the ideas of Locke, who declared that all men had natural unalienable rights of equality and liberty, this gave the peasants a glimpse of what the good life could've been, much akin to granting that blind man the ability to see for the first time, and then abruptly taking it away. Thus, the lower citizens now yearned what they have never experienced, and the seeds of revolution were sown.

Although t...

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...tion was killed, resulting in the deaths of around 40,000 people. French and other European critics of the Enlightenment and its ideas saw this as evidence that the Enlightenment's radical ideas would always lead to chaos and instability. Also, they saw the Reign of Terror as evidence that the people, no mattered how enlightened, would never be able to govern themselves in an orderly fashion. Therefore, most historians agree that the French Revolution marked the end of the Enlightenment. Sure enough, France reverted to a military dictatorship that lasted 15 years under Napoleon.

Although the Enlightenment resulted in chaos and the loss of many lives in France, it had a profound effect on the world today. It resulted in increased freedom, opportunity and fair treatment for most nearly everyone today, and the world today would be a much different place without it.
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