HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - Brilliant Mind, King Power, Montesquieu

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18 Nov 2012
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November 24, 2010
The Early Enlightenment
- Voltaire - satire & wit making fun of Ancien regime ==> destructive
- Didn’t offer anything in exchange for what he accused (i.e. Didn’t offer a solution for every-
thing he made fun of)
Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755)
• Offered a solution
• Involved in politics (unlike most of philosophes)
• Baron
• Sat on parliament of Bordeaux --> but happy in his estates (didn’t like to go out in public)
• Unflattering exterior but brilliant mind
• Realized the world he lived in needed fundamental change
• Read Locke etc.
• Wrote stuff similar to Voltaire’s writings
- 1st book: lettres paris (1721) -- written as persian traveller going through france
- Used “guise” that he could say what he wanted without openly accusing the society
- Realized europeans are “euro-centric” (look at world from small perspective)
- Pointed out all absurdities that voltaire did, but from point of view of an “outsider”
- New genre: critiquing society through guise of an outsider
- Spirit of the laws (1748) - dependent on locke’s treatise of gov’t
- Dependent on how he saw how english constitution worked
- Social view of how constitution worked -- no divine intervention in human affairs; let’s look at
stuff that humans have control over
- Humans have control over their lives on earth
- People live in an environment -- geography, climate, religious traditions… = all elements which
affect creative mentality of people who affect decision-making in constitution
- You can make a new type of person based on the laws that govern you --> e.g. if laws are strict
we become fearful; relaxed laws means we’ll be more creative
- Laws, climate = create nature of people
- Law = instrument of change that affects how people are
- Economics, religion, laws = causes & effects of large forces which determined character of the
state and the men and women living in it
- Society had to be pluralistic --> if law will be fair and just, it has to take into account that ev-
eryone’s different
- Degrees of freedom, education, religious practices --> determine nature of personality of people
- Local traditions, local effects --> have plurality, several perspectives
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