The Enlightenment is the broad term applied to the intellectual developments of the eighteenth century, as articulated by a relatively small number of thinkers and writers primarily in western Europe. Their work and thoughts set the stage for much of our thinking today about personal freedoms and the reform of existing conditions and institutions. Although the seeds for many of the Enlightenment’s ideas can be found in the moderate political and social atmosphere of England, France was the hotbed of the movement. French philosophes, particularly Voltaire and Montesquieu, were pioneers in championing Enlightenment ideas. The increased knowledge at their disposal, as exemplified by the Encyclopedia, made them confident that their reforms were both reasonable and possible. The concept of deism, for example, provided a means by which thinkers could accept the new rationalism without specifically denying the role of the supernatural (God) in human life. They rejected what they believed to be the oppressive and irrational views of the Roman Church. At the same time, the philosophes called for and supported a greater degree of religious toleration for all the faiths of Europe. Proposals for reform of criminal justice and punishment were exemplified by the works of Beccaria. The attention given to economic systems by prominent Enlightenment thinkers should also be observed. Adam Smith’s position raised many new questions about the mercantile practices of the time and remained the philosophical basis for the Industrial Revolution. His work has proved fundamental to Western society’s debate over economic progress and individual well-being. Yet it is in political thought that the philosophes have continued to have the greatest impact. Not since the ancient Greeks had government been opened to so much investigation and criticism. Enlightenment thinkers attempted to discover the rationality behind Europe’s governmental systems, thereby going well beyond mere criticism of corruption in government and church. Many writers, such as Rousseau, were vague as to how their new systems would work, but Montesquieu outlined a system calling for a new balance between the elements of government. Many Enlightenment ideas reached eastern Europe in the form of "Enlightened Absolutism." The rulers of Prussia, Austria, and Russia attempted to strengthen themselves by utilizing select Enlightenment principles. Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia, Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II of Austria, and Catherine II (the Great) of Russia were able to create the appearance of enlightened reform with little alteration of the existing political and social framework. By the end of the century, the Prussian, Austrian, and Russian empires had largely rejected Enlightenment ideals.
After reading this chapter you should understand:
Influences on the Enlightenment
II. The Philosophes
III. The Enlightenment and Religion
IV. The Enlightenment and Society
V. Political Thought of the Philosophes
VI. Women in the Thought and Practice of the Enlightenment
VII. Rococo and Neoclassical Styles in 18th Century Art
VIII. Enlightened Absolutism
Chapter and AP Topic Outline Correlation
Formative Influences on the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment and Religion
The Enlightenment and Society
Political Thought of the Philosophes
Women in the Thought and Practice of the Enlightenment
Rococo and Neoclassical Styles in 18th Century Art
* Perry Readings (from orange book, "Sources of Western Tradition")- WE WILL READ THESE IN CLASS! BRING PERRY BOOK TO SCHOOL!
*Guided Reading Questions
The Age of Enlightenment: An Age of Reason
- Candide, by Voltaire
- Encyclopedia, by Denis Diderot
- On Crimes and Punishment, by Cesare Beccaria
- Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
- Spirit of the Laws, by Baron de Montesquieu
- The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1) What influence would the Newtonian worldview have on the ideas ofthe Enlightenment and the call for reform throughout Europe?
2) How would British stability and prosperity, and French instability after the rule of Louis XIV, affect the ideas of the Enlightenment?
3) What influence would the emergence of a print culture have on the idea sof the Enlightenment?
4) List the various causes championed by Voltaire.
5) What did the philosophes hope to achieve in the application of human reason to society?
6) What complaints did the philosophes, mainly Adam Smith, have against the mercantilist system?
7) What is "laissez-faire" economic policy?
8) What were the important political reform ideas coming out of France during the Enlightenment? (Include Montesquieu and Rousseau)
Scientific and Enlightenment Influences on Women and Religion
1) What was meant bythe expression "new natural knowledge", and how did it differ from knowledge of previous historical eras?
2) Identify the three major challenges posed to religion by the new science? What did the natural philosophers think about the relationship between their work and religion?
3) Why did Pascal reject the skeptics of his age and explain "Pascal's Wager"?
4) What did Voltaire hope to imply when he uttered, "Crush the infamous thing"?
5) What were the primary complaints of the philosophes against established religion? What political, economic, and social practices of established religion did the philosophes hope to reform?
6) Explain Deism and how does it differ from traditional Christianity?
7) Which of the philosophes became the champion of religous toleration and what were their calls for toleration?
8) Describe the moat radical criticisms of Christianity made by Voltaire, Hume, and Gibbon?
9) In what ways did the philosophy of Moses Mendelsohn differ from that of Baruch Spinoza?
10) How did European writers of the 18th century portray Islam, and in what ways did they attack it?
11) How did the salons of Paris allow women to participate in the Enlightenment and what benefits did the salons provide to the philosophes?
12) What was the general attitude of the philosophes toward women and their social condition? (Include Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Diderot)
13) Describe mary Wollstonecraft's inspiration to write A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and what is her basic argument in favor of providing women with a good education?
1) What was enlightened absolutism?
2) How did the Seven Years' War provide incentive for the enlightened absolutists to adopt enlightened policies?
3) List the enlightened reforms carried out by King Frederick the Great of Prussia and describe their benefits.
4) As Queen of Austria, Marie Theresa carried out reforms dealing with both primary education and the welfare of Austria's peasants and serfs. In what ways were her reforms in both areas intended to benefit the Austrian state?
5) What were the two ecclesiastical reform goals of Emperor Joseph II of Austria?
6) What did Catherine the Great hope to achieve by issuing the Charter of Nobility- a guarantee of many rights and privileges of the Rusian nobility?
7) What three European nation-states participated in the three partitions of Poland between 1772- 1795? What fact of political life in Poland proved most detremental to the ultimate fate of Poland?
8) By the end of the 18th century, what factors prompted all three of Europe's enlightened absolutist regimes to become more conservative and politically repressive and which single event ultimately brought a final end to the experiment of enlightened absolutism?