Enlightenment Ideas And Politcal Figuers Of The Era
Intro to European History
Enlightenment Ideas and
Political Figures of
The Enlightenment Era
The Enlightenment of the 18th century was an exciting period of history. For the first time since ancient Grecian times, reason and logic became center in the thoughts of most of elite society. The urge to discover and to understand replaced religion as the major motivational ideal of the age, and the upper class social scene all over Europe was alive with livid debate on these new ideas.
A French playwright who went by the pseudonym Voltaire is the most recognized and controversial Enlightenment author. Because of his trademark acidic wit, he was forced to flee the country after giving offence to a powerful nobleman. He spent the next two years in England where he came in contact with the pivotal Enlightenment idea of religious freedom and the freedom of the press. When he returned to France, he had some scathing things to say about the less than enlightened policies followed by the French monarchs, especially concerning religious intolerance. Because his ideas were generally offensive to the ruler of his country, the need to be able to leave France quickly to avoid prosecution was a consideration when deciding where he should live, which eventually was on the Swiss boarder. There he continued to treat on society and anything else that caught his imagination.
Along with Voltaire were many other Enlightened thinkers, or philosophes, as they came to be known. A man by the name of Rousseau was also a very influential personality. His essays mainly treated on social inequality and education.
An Italian by the name of Cesare Beccaria also discussed society, but more in terms of social control and matters of crime and punishment. He was an opponent of torture, capital punishment, and of any punishment that was done to excess or didnt fit the crime that warranted it. He arrived at his conclusions through the logic that was so popular of the day. An excellent example of this logic is in this phrase concerning capitol punishment: Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves? Rational arguments such as these permeated Enlightened conversations and didnt fail to be noticed by many of the great national rulers of the day.
One monarch who seemed to be particularly inclined to the Enlightenment philosophies was...