Thinkers Of The Enlightenment Essay Research Paper

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Thinkers Of The Enlightenment Essay, Research Paper After the Middle Ages, peasants moved from rural areas to towns in search of increased freedom. They soon began to realize that things need not follow the traditions that dated back centuries, that they had a right to form their own ideas, own opinions, and own system of government despite their status. The two obstacles they faced were absolutist kings and dogmatic churches, yet despite these the central ideas flourished: individuality, freedom, self-sufficiency, and creativity. In this environment, the philosophers flourished. What was most surprising is that the most enthusiastic followers were among the upper class. Voltaire, joined by an army of philosophes: Charles Montesquieu, Pierre Bayle and Jean d?Alembert, fit in

easily among the aristocracy. He dined at their tables, corresponded with monarchs, and took a high-titled mistress. He opposed the traditional uptight French beliefs, but had no interest in democracy, as he had far too little faith in the common fan for such a government. He believed that the educated person could come to see what changes were necessary in the world. Yet all Enlightenment thinkers were not like Voltaire. He was heavily opposed by Rosseau, who distrusted aristocrats because he thought they betrayed decent traditional values, and argued for democracy. When Voltaire expressed his thought that equality was impossible, Rosseau countered by saying not only was inequality unnatural, it was damaging to the governmental system. Voltaire played his hand on intellect, and

Rosseau emphasized emotion, not only contributing this theme to the Enlightenment, but to the romantic age later on. While Voltaire endlessly repeated the same handful of Enlightenment notions, Rosseau?s ideas sparked in wildly original flames. Though they would probably deny it, the two shared many values. They both viewed absolutism as evil, and rejected orthodox Christianity. Both were religious skeptics, their minimalist faith leading to the eventual transformation of the English system of religion. Many of their views, shared or not, were used as a basis for the French Enlightenment. France was not the only time going through a period of great change. Great Britain also developed a new breed of free-thinkers, such as John Lock and David Hume. They led the king to having an

open-mind to change, despite his powerful position as a monarch. Quakers and Unitarians broke through the dogmatic barriers, which delighted Voltaire when he found himself their in exile. Since England?s revolution was already out of the way, they were able to proceed smoothly and gradually down the road to exile, with the power of aristocracy and religion diminishing gradually.