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The Enlightenment

Free «The Enlightenment» Essay Sample
  1. What were the significant similarities and differences between Thomas Hobbes and John Locke? Use details to support your answer.

Both Hobbes and Lock worked in the sphere of social contract theories and natural law theories and supported the idea of human beings’ equality in the nature. Hobbes indicated that “nature has made men so equal in the faculties of mind and body…the difference between man and man is not so considerable” (as cited in Wootton, 1996, p. 158). Lock complemented his opinion and described the state of people in the nature as “state of perfect equality, whether naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another” (as cited in Wootton, 1996, p. 288). Both philosophers also regarded the consequences of this equality in the same way. According to them, this state of natural equality or natural law is dangerous as it leads to the state of war – “if any two men cannot enjoy the same thing, they become enemies…” (as cited in Wootton, 1996, p. 158). Nevertheless, despite the similarities between the philosophical ideas of Hobbes and Locke, there is a striking difference between their theories. For Locke, the state of war was not absolute as peace was the stable norm of human society. In contrast to him, Hobbes pointed out that peace was not a normal state of human beings as it was created in a compulsory way by the authorities of the state.

  1. Describe how John Locke’s concept of natural rights affected the people of the times?

John Locke’s concept of natural rights had a great impact on the society. It created the basis for the revolution of equality. It is especially noticeable on the example of the U.S. There is a strong connection between idea of the American Declaration of the Independence and the philosophical theory of Locke. Locke claimed that, according to the natural rights, all people were born equal in terms of life, liberty, and property. From the perspective of the state, it means that, if the government or other authority persecutes the citizens over a long time, they have the right to revolt in order to save the normal order of life. Jefferson adopted this idea and used it as the main argument for war against Great Britain and King George’s tyranny.

  1. Why were salon gatherings so popular during the reign of Louis XIV? What were a few specific outcomes of these get-togethers?

During the reign of Louis XIV, people had almost no opportunities to express their opinion freely. Philosophers and other intellectuals were persecuted as their theories, in many cases, revealed the drawbacks of the government or the Church. Nevertheless, they found a way to share their knowledge. Secret gatherings of philosophers, often hosted by well-educated women, were called salons during the Age of Enlightenment. They gained immense popularity in the society as they provided the philosophers with all necessary conditions to express their thoughts on politics and religion freely, without the control of the Church, universities, and the government. There was also a prominent outcome of it. Although it may seem that the speeches of philosophers did not have any impact on the general public as they were proclaimed behind the closed doors, in fact, the salons served as an outdoor scene. It means that philosophers wrote special letters of their discussions, which they sent to the editors of various periodicals. These letters created the core of knowledge even for the famous Encyclopedia which was published during the Age of Enlightenment.

  1. How did humanistic ideas affect the development of science and its methods?

Philosophers of the Enlightenment based their ideas on the concept of humanism, embraced by the ancients. In general, they believed that the reason should be regarded not only as a key to knowledge but also as the instrument with which people could organize their personal life and the life of society. Such a position helped them to create modern science, which marked the transition from classical scientific knowledge to the attitudes peculiar to the modern world. It means that the scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries left behind Plato’s and Aristotle’s understanding of a material phenomenon through discovering its “essence”, and began to search not for essence but for the physical causes of notions. This shift brought great changes in the scientific methodology. Scholars started testing their findings through careful observations and experiments. They treated their ideas as working hypotheses subject to verification through empirical evidence. Due to it, the whole universe was regarded as a great ticking machine ruled by laws that could be guessed and defined by the human mind.

  1. What is deism, and how did its beliefs impact the lives of people who followed this practice?

During the Enlightenment, people went beyond the frames of religious mystery and superstition and reached the world of reason. The great variety of scientific discoveries changed their common outlook, which was based on Bible and other sacred texts. Due to it, the Enlightenment contributed to the appearance of Deism – a religion of logic that indicates that God is not something supernatural as he is sufficiently revealed in the natural world. It had a great impact on the society. Firstly, it showed the drawbacks of conventional religion – by associating God with natural laws, Deism proved that all religious wars as well as tortures of the Inquisition were only the whims of people. Due to it, many people decided to abandon the traditional religion or to become less enthusiastic in their religious devotion. Secondly, Deism provoked a response in a society known as evangelical Pietism – condemnation of moral laxity, secularism, formalism, and religious indifference.

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