The Enlightenment- Attitudes of Society Essay

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The Enlightenment- Attitudes of Society

The Enlightenment brought about fundamental changes of thought in society.1 Philosophes such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau sought changes in society for the good of humanity. In addition to basic changes in society, the enlightenment brought about changes in thought in the areas of religion and science, the government, and the view of women.

During the enlightenment, basic changes occurred in society. The philosophes helped bring about freedom of thought and speech, two freedoms which we often take for granted today. People became more educated, as a "print culture" emerged. Journals, newspapers and books were beginning to be widely available to the general public. This had both
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God "receded into the background; the individual…stepped forward, and human nature became the measure of existence and experience."4 People started to view the church as a hindrance to this rational thinking and scientific study, and some, like Voltaire, went so far as to attack the church. The church was very powerful at the time (owning land and collecting taxes) and was wary of this new wave of anti-religious thinking. In response, the church claimed that political disobedience was a sin. Most philosophes were more opposed to religious fanaticism than religion itself, and the religion of deism was founded, which reasoned that God is rational because the nature he created was rational. Deists believed in free will and that humans could become perfect by studying the nature that God created.5

The political forum was another topic of great importance to the philosophes and the enlightenment. The philosophes believed that there was no single "perfect" form of government and the individual beliefs of the philosophes spanned the entire political spectrum.Montesquieu was a strong proponent of division of power in government, reflected in the United States government today; executive power in the king, legislative power in the Parliament, and judicial power in the courts. He also believed in a system of checks and balances so that one branch could not become

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