Name: Thomas Hobbes
Life Span: 1588-1679
Background: English
4 Important Written Work: Leviathan
5 First of the important enlightened
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Thomas Hobbes lived during some of the most tumultuous
times in European history -- consequently, it should be no surprise
that his theories were thoroughly pessimistic regarding human nature.
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Man is not naturally good, Hobbes claimed, that man was naturally selfish. As human motives were,
in their natural state, guided by unenlightened self-interest, these could, if left unchecked, have highly
destructive consequences. Left unrestrained, humans, propelled by their internal dynamics, would crash
against each other. Hobbes tried to envision what society would be like in a "state of nature" -- before
any civil state or rule of law. His conclusion was: life would be“ solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short", a
"war of every man against every man". To keep this from happing , Hobbs believed that they must enter
a social contract in which man must submit to a government. He believed that society needed to have a
strong authoritarian leader.
Famous Quote: life would be“ solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short",
a "war of every man against every man".
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Name: John Locke
Life Span: 1632-1704
Background: English
Important Written Work: Two Treatises of
Second of the important enlightened thinkers
Locke was considered an Empiricist. An empiricist is some one who
gains knowledge by using the scientific method.
In the second treatise Locke set forth the view that societies emerge from a state of nature as a result of
a contract made among individuals to submit themselves to a ruler or rulers. Against Hobbes, Locke argues
that the ruler's rights as well as those of everyone are restrained by the laws of nature;
the right to life, liberty, and property. The ruler's powers are given to him as a trust for the good
of the citizens, and if the trust is broken his powers can be taken away. He believed that a monarchy
with an assembly to hold the monarch to his trust was an ideal political arrangement.
Unlike Hobbes he believed that principles of conduct were rational and humans could be
trusted to follow those principles.
Famous Quote: “ I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away
my Liberty, would not when he had me in his Power, take away everything
Name: Charles-Louis de Secondat
Montesquieu (Better known as Montesquieu)
Life Span: 1689-1775
Background: French
Important Written Work: The Spirit of the Law
Third of the important enlightened thinkers
Although he despised the role of the Church and Absolute Monarchs, he still
believed that a limited Monarchy was of the best governments for carrying out
the social contract. specifically the English government of the time.
Montesquieu argued that the best government would be one in which power was balanced among three
groups of officials. He thought England - which divided power between the king (who enforced laws),
Parliament (which made laws), and the judges of the English courts (who interpreted laws) –
was a good model of this. Montesquieu called the idea of dividing government power into three branches
the "separation of powers." He thought it most important to create separate branches of government with
equal but different powers. That way, the government would avoid placing too much power with one
individual or group of individuals. He wrote, "When the [law making] and [law enforcement] powers are
united in the same person... there can be no liberty." According to Montesquieu, each branch of
Government could limit the power of the other two branches. Therefore, no branch of the government
could threaten the freedom of the people. His ideas about separation of powers became the basis for the
United States Constitution.
Famous Quote: “government should be set up so that no man
need be afraid of each other.
Name: Francois-Marine Arouet
Better know as Voltaire
Life Span: 1694-1778
Background: French
Important Written Work: In politics no
Books Voltaire is known for his philosophical
writing, his great wit, and as a crusader
against injustice, intolerance, cruelty, and war.
His humorous wit made him a favorite in wealthy society circles. In 1717,
his sharp wit got him into trouble with the authorities. He was imprisoned
in the Bastille for eleven months for writing a scathing satire of the
French government.
Pen Name: a different name used by author to hide the real name
Example: Mark Twain really identity was Samuel Clements
Polemic: is the art or practice of starting a dispute or causing controversy by questioning things such as
religion or government – especially when trying to promote fairness.
Exiled: to be forcibly moved to another area or region, usually forever.
Voltaire was the son of a wealthy treasury official in France, he studied law
In Paris and could speak several languages. Voltaire was known for his sharp
wit, philosophical writings, and defense of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, and
the right to a fair trial. He was an out spoken supporter of social reforms despite strict censorship in
France and tough penalties for those who broke them. As a polemicist, he frequently made use of his
works to criticize Church rule/law, and the French institution of his day. Voltaire was exiled to
England. He believed that the English had one of the most effective governments. He is believed to be
on of the most influential writes of his time.
Famous Quote: (written about him by another author)
“ I may disapprove of Everything that you say, but I will defend
to my death your right to say it.”
Name: Jean Jacques Rousseau
Life Span: 1712-1778
Background: Geneva (then an independent republic,
today part of Switzerland)
Important Written Work: The Social Contract
Natural Rights- Rights that humans are born with, which include
life, liberty, and property.
Unlike Hobbes who thinks man is naturally bad Rousseau believes man is
good and but society corrupts him. This is especially true when men do
not have natural rights.
Perhaps Rousseau's most important work is "The Social Contract" that describes the relationship of man
with society. Contrary to his earlier work, Rousseau claimed that the state of nature is brutish condition
without law or morality, and that there are good men only a result of society's presence. In the state of
nature, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men. Because he can be more
successful facing threats by joining with other men, he has the confidence to do so. He joins together
his fellow men to form the collective human presence known as "society." "The Social Contract" is
the "compact" agreed to among men that sets the conditions for membership in society. We enter into this
contract and government does too, so that they keep society safe.
According to Rousseau, by man joining together through the social contract and abandoning their
claims of natural rights, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free. This is because
submission to the authority
of the general will (overall good) of the people as a whole. Rousseau argues that the power should be in
the hands of the people, and government only carries out that power in the form of laws.
Famous Quotes: “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”
“Force does not constitute right…obedience is due only to legitimate powers”

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