SOAN 2111 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Aristocracy, Cultural Relativism, Soil Fertility
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SOAN 2111: LECTURE
THE FRENCH ENLIGHTENMENT, MONTESQUIEU AND VOLTAIRE
.I The French Enlightenment: Philosophical Foundations
.II Rococo Artists: Watteau (1684-1721) Chardin (1699-1779)
.1) Introduction and Background
.2) Social Science – Spirit of Laws
.3) Montesquieu’s Classification of Society: Republic, Monarchy, Despotism Nature and
.4) Social Phenomena – Laws – Cause/Effect
.5) Conclusions and Critique
.1) Introduction and Background
.2) Keeping Freedom and Belief
I The Enlightenment: Philosophical Foundations
European 18th century was a time of colonial expansion and development
* This was a time of hope, more optimism, encouragement about society itself.
•perfectibility of humanity
•reforms in education, medicine ... movements to abolish slavery, farming, markets,
architecture, research etc.
•Scientific methods in their acquires
•the Neoclassical and Romantic movements in art
•there was still intellectual repression: censorship, book burning, advancements of
learning. Censorships were very strict in regards to publishing.
•witch burning continued all over Europe
•peasants suffered severe poverty and powerlessness - torture was widely used for the
punishment of the guilty. Accused and seen as a bad person if you are friends with a
witch. It is connected to capitalism since it is a business while men were writing down
what they were doing and making profit.
•legal disabilities of women; exclusion from education – those with private money and
good luck could get an education.
•the century ended with the French Revolution
The Age of Reason is known as the (enlightenment period). – a disagreement with
philosophers and the people. A lot of criticizing between them.
The French philosophers went to England to reason with observation. Many tend to be
inspired by John Locke and Newton.
Essential to consider others ideals and remain skeptical – Astell and Locke: minds and
nature is subject to reason.
Education for children.
Men in this period regarded all aspects of life critical to examination. That we can
control the direction of our lives to get greater degrees of freedom and perfectionism.
Thus, Comprehend and control the universe with reason and empirical research.
-> the age of reason has a lot to do with laws and reason, to make the world a better
•because the physical world was dominated by natural laws it was likely that the social
world was too
Some core propositions common to 18th century rationalism
.1) Reason is the universally distinguishing property of humans.
.2) Human nature is everywhere the same
.3) Institutions are made for ‘men’ rather than ‘men’ for institutions. We need to value our
institutions – think of Rousseau where we are born free and society brings us within
.4) Progress is the central law of society
.5) The guiding ideal of humankind is the realization of humanity
.6) The aim of life is life itself, not the afterlife
.7) The essential condition for the good life on earth is freeing ‘men’s’ minds from
ignorance and superstition (not everyone uses their good senses of rationality)
Campaigning for Basic Freedoms
•intellectuals of the Enlightenment operated largely outside the universities – primarily
from the upper- middle-class.
•They wanted to be free from arbitrary power and have the freedom of speech.
•sought to destroy the Old Regime... all would be equal before the law
•France was bristling with problems
•the philosophes were representatives of a professional literary class - go to public places
speaking on how to destroy the old regime and how the world needs to be liberated with
tyranny and superstition and to be free again. It is restricted and got support from the
bourgeoisie, the middle class, the liberatarian ideas would destroy the restrictions of the
business enterprise since they were being taxed and loosing money due to aristocracy if
they were to be accepted.
•readers were selected from the middle-class – discussed the different issues of society.
There was a lot of reading within this period.
•Charles-Louis Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) – separation of powers in government
•Voltaire (1694-1778) – a novelist and outspoken social critic; a figurehead for the
•Jean Jacque Rousseau (1712-1778) – the best political system is one that reflects “the
general will” of the people
unity of reason and observation in the scientific method what is, but also what is possible
Rococo Artists (1700-1774)