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The Early Enlightenment: The Philosophers

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Kenneth Bartlett

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The Early Enlightenment: The Philosophers
-As cleaver as Voltaire was, his satire was destructive, he did not offer anything in exchange, did not
offer an alternative paradigm
-Good at poking fun, but not good at providing solutions
-Was engaged as a politician, but was self consciously rural, but is one of the brightest minds of the
18th century
-Realized that the world needed fundamental changes and understood that he needed to offer
-First book: the Persian letters: observations of Persian traveler in France
oMade fun of the institutions
oEuro-centric – looking at the world from a very small perspective
oAbsurdities of France, it was a weird place to be
oGenre: critiquing one’s nation from the eyes of a foreign travelers
Gave rise to political debate: spirit of the laws – Locke’s political treaties – American
Social view of constitutional development – rejected divine interference in human
affairs, it only confuses the question
Recognized that human beings have control over their lives and can change them
People have a context – geography, climate, social practices, religious traditions, soil
all have a driving effect on creating a mentality
Molding men into a pattern – forging a new person by making laws
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Laws make us who we are
Tyrannical – we become fearful or on the other hand we can become
Constitutions or political law- creating nature of the population
Law as a method of social engineering
Introduced in a coherent way with Montesquieu
-Economics, politics are both cause and effect
-Society had to be pluralistic – no single force could suppress all the other forces creating the character
of the human being
oIf law is to be fair an just must allow people to be different
-Forces operate differently in different areas and times
-Development of men and women depends on their context
-He himself was from the South, and their personality was developed to an extent by the area in which
they lived – communities are local
-Societies to be natural there had to be plurality and several perspectives working simultaneously
-One king or one church to impose laws on all would be unnatural
-Laws must be natural and must reflect were people are coming from
-Social activity and laws must be organize, arise from the soil
oOtherwise they would be tyrannical
-His enemy: the Bourbon Empire
-Absolutism of the ancient regime went against the natural laws
-Compared France and England, Eng was seem as a model
oEng was seen idealistically
oMonarchy, aristocracy and democracy worked together to put checks and balances on one
which over extended its power
oIdea: maintaining freedom by the mixed constitutions
oSeparation of power - operate independently from one another, also work to check and
balance, each power has an area of authority
oCompared this to France: monarchy
Despotism – the growth of royal power altered the natural separation of checks and
balances, power used to be divided in France
If they could be allowed to regain their natural authority, they might be able to balance
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