Enlightenm Essay, Research Paper
Many of Earth’s organisms and processes depend on each other to survive the natural world. Plants get nutrients from the soil, small animals eat the plants, big animals consume the small animals, and the big animals die to return nutrients to the soil. This was a natural cycle that had been operating for as long as life occurred on Earth. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, also called the Age of Reason, philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, Baron de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet’s pen name) and John Locke employed the idea of natural dependency into their own unique ideas of ideal forms of government. Based on their ideas, my ideal government combines the idea of Voltaire’s enlightened monarchy with Locke’s idea of individual rights.Hobbes, an English philosopher, had the idea of the simplest form of government occurring most often in nature. He favored the idea of absolute monarchy. He thought that pleasure was the sole objective of human behaviors, and that human would reason things according to pleasure. This desire often leads to wars of chaos, violence and destruction. He also described human’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Due to human nature, peace and order within a society can only be maintained through the rule of an individual using force if necessary. Everyone had to make a contract with an individual to give up his or her freedom and obey the individual. In return, the individual ensured peace and order to the people, while no one would be able to rebel against the ruler. To my opinion, Hobbes’ ideas didn’t really make any sense. In his ideal society, growth of the society would be very limited, because the ruler made all decisions depending on his or her desires. When people noticed that what they were doing won’t benefit them in any way, they wouldn’t be striving for excellence as in people normally would be when they were getting paid for doing a job in our society.Montesquieu focused more on the idea of equality. He believed that the ideal government would be one like England’s Parliament divided into three branches of legislature, which made the laws, executive (the king), which enforced the laws, and judiciary (the courts), which interpreted the laws. This acted like a three-way scale, balancing the power between the three branches. He thought that a government must be equal in power in order to be able to judge things equally, just like a three-way scale wouldn’t work if one was heavier than the other two. Montesquieu’s ideas about checks and balances in government later influenced the people who wrote the Constitution of many countries. However, the efficiency of this kind of government would be greatly reduced, since a series of complicated processes must be carried out through the three branches before anything can be judged.Similar to Montesquieu, Rousseau believed in the idea of equality and freedom. He thought that human were basically good, and that the society polluted the human minds. He admired the “noble savage,” people who lived in a natural state, away from influences of civilization. He believed that the society should return to this natural state, but realized that it was impossible. Using this idea as a basis, he derived his idea of best society, where people in the society interacted with each other instead of a government ruling over them by making a social contract. Unlike many philosophers of the time, he thought that people should form a community where everyone would vote on all decisions and everyone must agree on the general will. His beliefs in democracy later influenced many revolutionaries in different countries. Although his idea seemed to be very idealistic, yet it would only be a dream. An advanced society must make hundreds of decisions everyday, and if the public were responsible for every decision, lengthy time would be taken up. With this low efficiency in the society, a break down would happen soon or later.
“I do not agree with a word you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire, the best known philosopher at the Age of Reason, dedicated most of his life toward religious toleration and freedom of thought. He was credited for the quote above that he said. Although he believed in freedom, he didn’t believe in social equality. Women should be treated well, but the ability of women should be recognized that certain jobs fit them better, as well as men. He thought that the best form of government was “enlightened monarchy,” where the ruler would study the science of government and protected the basic rights of the people. This would be a very reliable government, since a wise and “enlightened” ruler would be able to make beneficial decisions on the society, encouraging population and economics. However, since all human beings had desires, the heir to the next throne would most likely be a relative to the king. If the heir were someone without the ability of a king, damaging influences would be made to the society.Locke, much like Voltaire fighting against the church for religious toleration, fought for freedom and equality for people against the government. He thought that the human mind was like a blank, white piece of paper at birth, and that anything written on the paper was determined through social organizations and education. Men and women should be treated equally, because all human beings were a blank tablet at birth and they were taught to do certain things. He also believed that citizens had natural rights to life, liberty and property, and the government was responsible for protecting such rights. If the government wasn’t able to protect the rights, citizens could rebel and set up a new government to meet the citizens’ needs. Again, Locke’s ideal government would be a really reliable one, because the government could only stay in power as long as the citizens favored it. The government would try their best to do helpful things to the society, thus encouraging growth. Furthermore, if the citizens noticed that the government wouldn’t be able to meet their needs, they could set up a new and better government through rebel against the government.Many governments in today’s world adopted the philosophers’ unique ideas. They influenced the governments of United States, Canada, and many others immensely. I personally prefer a government with Voltaire’s idea of “enlightened” monarch, and Locke’s idea of individual rights. However, none of this could happen, because once an individual became a ruler, it would take a lot to rebel against him. What we can do to make a better world is to learn from the mistakes and valuable knowledge of the past, so that we wouldn’t be doing wrong things over and over again. We should also try to do whatever we can to speak for ourselves, because change in a society can only be brought about when equality and freedom are involved.