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Enlightenment History - Term Paper Example

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Enlightenment History

It is a natural contradiction, but a legitimate one. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.” (e.g., Rousseau, “Social Contract,” Book I, Part 1) Another idea of the enlightenment was that people should be able to live without fear, free of superstition and blind obedience to the powers and authorities-that-be and that truth is to be found in scientific fact, not in opinion or faith. “We wish in a word to fulfill the requirements of nature, to accomplish the destiny of mankind, to make good the promises of philosophy... that France, hitherto illustrious among slave states, may eclipse the glory of all free peoples that have existed, become the model of all nations.... That is our ambition; that is our aim. What kind of government can realize these marvels? Only a democratic government.... But to found and to consolidate among us this democracy, to realize the peaceable rule of constitutional laws, it is necessary to conclude the war of liberty against tyranny and to pass successfully through the storms of revolution.” (e.g., Robespierre, “Speech,” …). Enlightenment revolutionaries also believed that differences are nothing compared to similarities, or in the idea “such as is common” to all humanity. ...
The period of Enlightenment also brought us the idea that society is structured by a general philosophy that “we are what we buy,” or buy into. We must produce and distribute in order to be viable, and many of us today do define ourselves by our jobs. As to religion, Voltaire stated (paraphrased) “If God did not exist, we'd invent him.” “It is very true that we do not know any too well what the soul is: no one has ever seen it. All that we do know is that the eternal Lord of nature has given us the power of thinking, and of distinguishing virtue. It is not proved that this faculty survives our death: but the contrary is not proved either. It is possible, doubtless, that God has given thought to a particle to which, after we are no more, He will still give the power of thought: there is no inconsistency in this idea.” (e.g., Voltaire, “Universal Toleration,” ….) Finally, the Age of Enlightenment philosophers taught us that people are best left self-governed. In the best interests of human rights, the aristocracy (the rich and powerful) cannot be allowed to be the only ruling schema and from this we derived our principle beliefs about democracy. Today, the French Republic is governed by the people and has an elected president and national representatives called a parliament. France was under absolute monarchy (aristocracy) until 1789, then it went to a republic government, back to a monarchy, and finally, by 1850, was a Republic again. Did the revolutionaries transform France into an enlightened nation? Yes. Did the revolutionaries transform the nation of France into an enlightened state of mind? Questionable, at best. The nation still declares itself majorly ...Show more


One idea that came about as a result of the Age of Enlightenment was the idea of individualism or autonomy. It was believed by the great reformers that people have the ability to think freely and that it should be done without interference by the church or state…
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Enlightenment History Term Paper essay example
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