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Enlightenment figures

Thomas Hobbes lived from 1588 to 1679 and was born into the British
aristocracy as a privileged son. He is considered the classic defender of
absolute monarchy. He believed men were born with free will but left to
their own devices would inevitably fall into war with each other. !en if
they were left alone would never advance and live in a constant state of
anarchy. Hobbes argued that men surrender their free will to one all"
encompassing body #the $ing or the government% so it can maintain order
and man can flourish. &nce this body is empowered it can use every power
as its disposal to ensure the peace and maintain the common good. 'his body #$ing or the state%
becomes the (udge for what is best for the masses. Hobbes) wor$ Leviathan became the
intellectual defense for absolute monarchy.
John Locke was a wealthy *nglish landowner who lived from 16+, to
17,- (ust before the *nlightenment too$ full form. His ideas originated in
the notion of the natural rights of man. *ach man .oc$e argued is fully
e/ual to the other and has full rights over his domain and property. !an
according to .oc$e is governed by natural law and is free and e/ual as long
as he does not infringe on others) liberty or property. 0overnments can be
formed only when each man willingly agrees to (oin with other men to
protect each other)s freedom and property. 'he role of government is to
protect the rights of the individual. .oc$e believed if government did not
protect individual rights it was the responsibility of every individual to rise
up and remove that government from power. .oc$e thought social and
political institutions interfered with man)s natural goodness 1 man was not corrupt institutions
corrupted man2 he believed man to be inherently good. .oc$e)s Second Treatise on Government
provided the basis for *nlightenment ideology concerning government)s role and purpose.
The Baron de Montesquieu lived from 1689 to 1755. He li$e .oc$e
derived from the propertied element of his society 1 !ontes/uieu was a
member of the 3rench nobility and served as a magistrate in the 3rench
parlement system. !ontes/uieu believed firmly in the division of powers
and feared the state where all power resided in one institution #the nobility
or the monarchy%. 4hile he remained a staunch believer in the monarchy
he advocated for a chec$s"and"balances system. He did not want a
representative democracy #where everyone could vote% but believed that
government institutions should be chec$ed by each other. He believed there
were three types of government5 6epublicanism #with elected representatives% 7espotism #where
a ruler runs the state according to his8her own beliefs% and !onarchies where the ruler runs the
state through a defined set of laws. !ontes/uieu penned The Spirit of Laws which clearly
outlined forms of government and helped to define the debate on the role of government the
philosophes would underta$e.
Voltaire was the heaviest critic of the 9atholic 9hurch and a champion of
7eism. He believed the 9atholic 9hurch stopped human development in its
trac$s. :oltaire thought absolute monarchs were dangerous impediments to
human growth but also did not trust the masses to vote in a republic. He
believed society should be lead by the intellectuals #the *nlightened% and
only they could lead society forward. He did not believe the common
person could be trusted. 'he governments) responsibility according to
:oltaire was to $eep the 9hurch subordinate and to advance technology.
:oltaire came from the 3rench nobility and had no problem sociali;ing
with the 3rench aristocracy and monarchs across *urope. :oltaire)s Letters Concerning the
English Nation made the forceful case for 3rench government to adopt an *nglish"style
government while blasting the 9hurch for turning bac$ the cloc$ on human progress.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau #171<"1778% was the only philosophe to come from
a wor$ing"class family. He felt persecuted by the upper classes. He believed
in the natural rights of individuals #not women . . . %. 6ousseau also promoted
a concept he called the 0eneral 4ill. *ach individual has their own individual
will but the will of the ma(ority is more powerful than anything #parliament
the courts the $ing%. =ccording to 6ousseau if an individual)s will did not
coincide with the will of the ma(ority that person must be forced to go along
with it because the 0eneral 4ill is true freedom. 6ousseau also became a
fierce critic of the 9atholic 9hurch #though not as furious as :oltaire%.
6ousseau argued the 9atholic 9hurch reinforced ancient doctrines that held man$ind bac$ from
true achievement of a free and modern society. 6ousseau)s Social Contract became a launch
point for the 3rench 6evolution and his concept of the 0eneral 4ill remained powerful even into
the middle of the 19
Mary ollstonecraft lived from 1759 to 1797 as an =nglo">rish feminist. >n
179< she published ?:indication of the 6ights of 4omen@ which advocated
for e/uality of the seAes. Bhe moc$ed the popular notions that women were
helpless house servants. Bhe argued *uropean society had trained women to
be slaves to men and too fre/uently portrayed as sentimental and foolish.
4ollstonecraft was highly critical of *nlightenment thin$ers. Bhe believed
them hypocritical for arguing for the e/uality of men in society without
ac$nowledging women)s e/ual place in society. 4ollstonecraft through her
tireless advocating on behalf of women)s rights established the foundation
for the feminist movement of the 19