The Philosophes Essay, Research Paper
The Age of Enlightenment was the result of the actions that had taken place by
intellectuals who gave new thought to the ideas of politics, economics, religion, and the
“science of man”. These intellectuals are known as the “philosophes,” which is translated
to philosophers from French. They believed their ideas were superior to current thought
in the eighteenth century. They disagreed with the authority, strove for ideas such as
peace, a perfect government, a perfect society, and the science of man.
One of the earliest writers of this revolution of thought was Charles de
Montesquieu. He believed that the size of the government should depend upon the size
of the country. He published The Spirit of Laws, which was a study of the political
institution. Although this was influential at it’s time, the Encyclopedie, published by
Denis Diderot with the help of others was the basis of the Enlightenment and it’s ideas.
Another idea on politics of this time was the social contract by Locke and Rousseau.
With this idea, they believed that a whole country could get rid of a ruler if the people did
not approve. On economics, Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the
Wealth of Nations was the foundation of laissez-faire economics. He believed that the
economy works by an invisible hand and that less is better when it comes to government.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau attacked the education system in his book Emile. Another
philosoph, Voltaire, was a popular writer on the subject of religion. He published plays,
histories, letters, epics, and essays on this topic. His belief was of religious tolerance.
One of the most important beliefs of all the philosophs was human reason, or more
importantly a faith in the power of it. This idea involved a respect for humanity.
The ideas brought forth by these intellectuals changed what people thought about
politics, economics, religion and the science of man. People became skeptical of these
institutions as works became published, and contributed to the French Revolution. The
Age of Enlightenment was a time of science, reason, and of a new found respect of
humanity. These philosophers and intellectuals believed the world was in ages of
darkness prior to their writings and ideas, and they were right. Our world would be very
different today if the ideas of these intellectuals were not brought up and published.