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Beliefs of Voltaire, Rousseaum, and Montesquieu

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During the eighteenth century, ideas came into place that economic improvement and political reform were possible. This movement of ideas was called the Enlightenment. Inspired by the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment led people to challenge the Church authority and the traditional intellectual authority. Enlightened people believed in a commercial society, expanding consumption, agricultural improvement, and innovative rational methods. Some among the Enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, caused the spirit of innovation and improvement to come and characterize modern Europe and Western Society. Although they were all philosophes, they had different philosophies about the purpose of life, the source of evil, and a perfect society.

The first among the philosophes was Voltaire. His philosophy of life stated that if people cultivated their own garden, the world would be a better place. People would need to get rid of the weeds that harmed good and beauty. Next, he said that people should take care of themselves and not be greedy. In addition, he said people should try to harmonize their plans with the plans of others. The next philosopher is Jean Jacques Rousseau. His purpose of life stated that only in a natural state, man can live happily. Civilization corrupts man, so man must avoid education and follow their instincts rather than reason. Montesquieu believed that all things of the world were made of rules that have not been changed. He did not believe all people were equal, as he supported slavery and that women were less than men. None of these philosophes had the same philosophy of life

According to Voltaire’s philosophy of a perfect society, he believed that the main problems in the world are superstition, intolerance, greed, and oppression. Because of that, he didn’t believe in a perfect world. Through education, people might be more tolerant and enlightened. In addition, he did not think people should rule over themselves, a monarch should. Since a perfect society was not possible to him, he thought that people should try to improve the society. Rousseau’s philosophy of a perfect society states that a perfect society is formed by people through a social contract. Everyone will then have an equal voice. People should vote on issues to represent the will of the people. They will always make the right decision if there is sufficient information. The state has the right to turn the interest of people into the common good. He pretty much believed in a Democracy. Montesquieu believed that a liberal constitutional monarchy was the best form of government. In order to prevent a tyrant from ruling the nation, the sovereignty of the nation must be divided. Instead of all the power belonging to the king or queen, the power is divided between other groups, such as the church, nobility, and the aristocrats. Voltaire and Montesquieu supported a Monarchy, and Rousseau supported a Democracy.

Voltaire’s philosophy of the source of evil is that the main problems in the world are superstition, intolerance, greed, dishonesty, and oppression. Through education, people might be more tolerant and enlightened. Man is brutal and savage. Rousseau’s philosophy was that when humans become educated, they become aggressive and spiteful. The rich people want to enslave others, especially the poor. The reason civilizations are evil is because people listen to their minds rather than their hearts. Montesquieu believed that to reduce intolerance, people need knowledge. Intolerance is caused by lack of knowledge because humans are stubborn. They all believed that intolerance was a main problem in the world, but Rousseau does not support knowledge while Montesquieu and Voltaire do.

The philosophes created a path in modern European and Western thought. They applied reason and science the cause of social reform. They believed that passions and feelings were an essential part of human nature. Because of the Enlightenment, the American and French Revolution were influenced. This led to an established democracy with a constitution.


“Jean-Jacques Rousseau.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau

“Voltaire.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire

“Montesquieu.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montesquieu

“The Enlightenment in France: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, the Encyclopedists and Nicholas De Condorcet.” The Enlightenment in France: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, the Encyclopedists and Nicholas De Condorcet. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h29-phil2.htm

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