World History



























































The Enlightenment

Enlightenment thinkers believed reason, not faith, should guide human societies.

The big lesson of the Scientific Revolution was that “natural laws” governed the operation of the universe, not God, superstition, witchcraft, or mysterious forces like spontaneous generation. Furthermore, these natural laws could be discovered by using reason. Writers and thinkers began to take these lessons from science, the physical world, and apply them to society, the world of people.

During this new “ Age of Reason,” philosophers like John Locke in England and Voltaire in France claimed the power to rule came from the people, not from a divine right. They asked if nations should be ruled by monarchs who came to power through an accident of birth. They wrote of “self-evident truths” that required more democratic forms of government and “natural laws” that made all people equal. French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Rousseau said the ruler had a social contract with the people. If a ruler didn’t do what was best for the people, he violated the contract, and the people had a right to overthrow him.

Age of Reason = another name for the period known as “the Enlightenment.”

John Locke = an English writer and philosopher who lived during the Enlightenment era and developed the social contract theory of government.

Voltaire = French philosopher and writer whose works often attack injustice and intolerance.

Jean Jacques Rousseau = a French philosopher and writer (born in Switzerland) who believed that the natural goodness of man was warped by society.

social contract = a political theory which holds that governments are formed as individuals form a kind of “social contract” among themselves.

Old ideas like serfdom and absolute monarchy were considered leftovers from the outdated AncienRegime (old regime, old system). Many educated people rejected traditional religion, becoming Deistswhobelieved in God and morality but did not accept church authority, church rituals, or beliefs that disagreed with science. These ideas about reason, freedom, and equality are called the Enlightenment.

absolute monarchy = a kingdom ruled by a king or queen who has absolute power to do anything that he or she wants, unrestricted by any laws or customs.

Ancien Regime = the political and social system in France before the Revolution of 1789.

Deist = a person who believes that God created the universe, but that God does not interfere with how it runs. An analogy frequently used for the deist God is a watchmaker—the watchmaker assembles the pieces, and winds up the mechanism, but then just lets the watch run without interfering in it.

the Enlightenment = an intellectual movement of the 1700s that focused on government and society. Writers during this period questioned the divine right of kings and proposed new forms of government based on equality and democracy. This period is also called the “Age of Reason.”