The Philosophes


The Philosophes Essay, Research Paper

The Philosophes

The Age of Enlightenment was the result of the actions that had taken place by

intellectuals who gave new thought to the ideas of politics, economics, religion, and the

science of man”. These intellectuals are known as the “philosophes,” which is translated

to philosophers from French. They believed their ideas were superior to current thought

in the eighteenth century. They disagreed with the authority, strove for ideas such as

peace, a perfect government, a perfect society, and the science of man.

One of the earliest writers of this revolution of thought was Charles de

Montesquieu. He believed that the size of the government should depend upon the size

of the country. He published The Spirit of Laws, which was a study of the political

institution. Although this was influential at it’s time, the Encyclopedie, published by

Denis Diderot with the help of others was the basis of the Enlightenment and it’s ideas.

Another idea on politics of this time was the social contract by Locke and Rousseau.

With this idea, they believed that a whole country could get rid of a ruler if the people did

not approve. On economics, Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the

Wealth of Nations was the foundation of laissez-faire economics. He believed that the

economy works by an invisible hand and that less is better when it comes to government.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau attacked the education system in his book Emile. Another

philosoph, Voltaire, was a popular writer on the subject of religion. He published plays,

histories, letters, epics, and essays on this topic. His belief was of religious tolerance.

One of the most important beliefs of all the philosophs was human reason, or more

importantly a faith in the power of it. This idea involved a respect for humanity.

The ideas brought forth by these intellectuals changed what people thought about

politics, economics, religion and the science of man. People became skeptical of these

institutions as works became published, and contributed to the French Revolution. The

Age of Enlightenment was a time of science, reason, and of a new found respect of

humanity. These philosophers and intellectuals believed the world was in ages of

darkness prior to their writings and ideas, and they were right. Our world would be very

different today if the ideas of these intellectuals were not brought up and published.

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