01:506:101 Lecture 8: Ch8

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Chapter VIII: The Age of the Enlightenment
pp. 314-360
36. The Philosophes--And Others
pp. 314-326
A. The Spirit of Progress and Improvement:
1. In general, the age was skeptical toward tradition; confident in the powers of human reason and
science; convinced of the regularity and harmony of nature; and imbued with the sense of civilization’s
advance and progress.
2. Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns: Which time was the best?
3. Religion: God the Father vs God the First Cause, the Watchmaker: Deism
4. At odds with the general spirit of the age was a growth in religious feeling, as seen in the hymns of
Watts and the music of Bach and Handel, as well as in the revivalist spirit of Pietism on the Continent,
Methodism in England, and the Great Awakening in America.
Another dissonant note was sounded by the spirit of mystification, as evidenced by the theories of Lavatera
and Mesmer. The development of Freemasonry and the Illuminati provide a combination of these
diverse trends.
B. The Philosophes
l. Narrow and broad definition of term
2. Spread of knowledge: newspapers and magazines, coffee houses and readings rooms, encyclopedias and
dictionaries. Yet the age was also one of censorship, especially in France and Spain; that in France led
to the development of a style of evasion. French salons became a major institution of pre -revolutionary
France. The dominant form of the new spread of ideas was the Encyclopedia edited by Denis Diderot.
3. A unique characteristic of the age was the emergence of ruler philosophes, including Frederick the
Great, Catherine the Great, and Joseph II of Austria (and perhaps Maria T.).
C. Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau
1. Montesquieu (1689-1755)
a. Landed aristocrat, part of anti-absolutist movement
b. Spirit of the Laws: separation and balance of powers
2. Voltaire (1694-1778)
a. Bourgeois origins, and known only for literature until 40
b. Trenchant, incisive, scurrilous, sarcastic; master of irony and ridicule
c. Admired, popularized English achievements (esp. admiration for him)
d. Admired strong rulers, like Louis XIV and Frederick the Great
e. Erases lingam: bigotry, intolerance, superstition--Catholic Church
f. Low opinion of mankind, favoring enlightened despotism for control
3. Rousseau (1712-1778)
a. Swiss, lower middle class; maladjusted “outsider” --never a “success”
b. Declared society to be artificial, corrupt, source of evils; “nature” was the source of all good--
kindness, unselfishness, honesty--and preferred emotion and impulse to critical, rational thought.
c. Social Contract: (l) The contract was with the people and was both political and social; the
individual surrendered his liberty, fusing his individual will into the General Will--which itself was
the only true sovereign power. Kings or elected reps were only delegates of the People. *(2) He
“became the first systematic theorist of a conscious and calculated nationalism.... he generalized
and made applicable to large territories the psychology of small city republics--the sense of
membership of community and fellowship, of responsible citizenship and intimate participation in
public affairs -- in short, of common will. All modern states, democratic or undemocratic, strive to
impart this sense of moral solidarity to their peoples. Whereas in democratic states the General
Will can in some way be identified with the sovereignty of the people, in dictatorships it becomes
possible for individuals (or parties) to arrogate to themselves the right to serve as spokesmen and
interpreters of the General Will. Both totalitarians and democrats have regarded Rousseau as one of
their prophets.” (3) His most influential works were novels, Émile and Nouvelle Heloise, which
spread a respect for the common man, a love of common things, a sense of human pity and
compassion and a rejection of superficial aristocratic life. He developed a sense of humanitarianism
that even touched M. Antoinette and her court.
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D. Political Economists
l. Physiocrats: Turgot and Quesnay: Laissez faire
2. Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations (1776)
a. Function of government
b. Free Market: operation of supply and demand
c. The “invisible hand”: the operation of self-interest
d. “Lesser evils”: What were they?
E. Main Currents of Enlightenment Thought:
l. Divergent and contradictory, inconsistent currents of thought. Generally accepted beliefs; variations on
religion, liberty, equality
2. France as the center of the Enlightenment, with England closing the gap
3. The state as the agency of progress s: “rightly ordered government was considered to be the best
guarantee of social welfare.”
4. Universalism: belief in the unity of mankind under a natural law of right and reason.
37. Enlightened Despotism: France, Austria, Prussia
PP. 326-336
A. Enlightened Despotism:
1. “Characteristically, the enlightened despots drained marshes, built roads and bridges, codified the laws,
repressed provincial autonomy and localism, curtailed the independence of church and nobles, and built
up a trained and salaried officialdom.” They differed from earlier kings in tempo and attitude, and
justified their authority by their utility, as “first servants of the state.”
2. They were secular; they advocated religious toleration and were typically anti-Jesuit. They were also rational and
reformist, impatient with outmoded custom and privilege--especially those rights of church, nobles, towns, guilds,
provinces, assemblies of estates, or provinces --all referred to as “feudalism.”
3. Enlightened despotism was an acceleration of monarchy, justified in terms of reason and secular
usefulness. It was largely an outgrowth of the Great War of the Mid -century all states, strove
to augment revenues, by devising new taxes or taxing people or regions previously tax-exempt,
and centralizing and renovating their political systems.
1. Louis XV was indifferent to serious matters, with the attitude après moil, la deluge. The main problem
was an unjust tax load, with the tailed, a land tax paid by the peasants with nobles, the Church and
many bourgeois exempt. The nation was rich, but the treasury was broke, and all attempts at reform
failed. In 1748, the king, at the urging of Madame de Pompadour, appointed a finance minister who
devised a new tax--which the aristocracy stopped. The enormous costs plus the humiliating reverses of
the Seven Years War brought renewed interest in reform. An attempt was made to make laws uniform,
end the old parliaments, and attack tax privilege, under Chancellor Mapei; he established new
parliaments with judges (with weakened powers) appointed by the Crown.
2. Louis XVI (1774-1792) was more serious and desired to govern well, but he lacked strength of will and
did not wish to give offense. Unwilling to be called despot, he recalled the old parliaments, pacifying
the aristocracy. He did appoint a reforming ministry under Turgot, a Physiocrat and philosophe--but
the aristocrats forced his resignation in 1776. In 1778 France went to war with Britain to aid the US
revolution and debts again rose.
C. Austria: Maria Theresa (1740-1780) and Joseph II (1780-1790)
1. Using a multi-national team of advisers, headed by Count Konitz, Maria Theresa moved to consolidate
her empire. Hungary, strongly separatist, was left alone; Austria and Bohemia were welded together,
but with the separate diets. Bureaucracy replaced local government, and moved to check brigandage,
local guild monopolies, and produce a large free trade area. From humane motives, and to gain control
of the manpower for her armies, M.T. launched a systematic, cautious attack on serfdom, freeing the
serf from arbitrary exactions by feudal lords. She moved slowly, accepting partial measures, disguising
or understating her goals.
2. Joseph II wanted action now. A solemn, earnest, good man, he desired to change conditions quickly. The
state should mean “the greatest good for the greatest number,” and he acted: equality of taxation,
equality of punishment, reduction of cruel punishments, liberty of the press, religious toleration, and
suppression of monasteries (using their property to improve Viennese hospitals). He centralized the
state, limiting aristocratic power and local diets. “His ideal was a perfectly uniform and rational empire,
with all irregularities smoothed out as if under a steam roller.” Administration was to be in German.
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