Join our community

Learn Morecaret down

caret down

Join our community

Fiveable Community students are already meeting new friends, starting study groups, and sharing tons of opportunities for other high schoolers. Soon the Fiveable Community will be on a totally new platform where you can share, save, and organize your learning links and lead study groups among other students! 🎉

group of students
group of students

ap euro study guides

🧐  Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)

📋  Short Answer Questions (SAQ)

4.3 The Enlightenment

#ageofenlightenment

⏱️  4 min read

written by

Bretnea Turner

bretnea turner

November 18, 2020


Traditional Political Theories

Traditional theories are supported by Enlightenment thinker, Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes published his book, Leviathan, as a theory that humans are innately selfish and only interested in gaining wealth or power for themselves. This makes them incapable of making good choices for the good of others or participating independently in a society without strict regulations. 

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-B7fSVwYHEtMx.jpg?alt=media&token=de6a9a7c-089d-419c-9e02-12d89902a822

Image Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Hobbes supported a traditional, authoritarian government with strict leadership that resides in one leader- a king. This is an absolutist monarchy, where a monarchy holds absolute power and is not guided or checked by a parliament. 

New Political Theories

John Locke came out in opposition to Hobbes’ beliefs and stated that behaviors are learned from society and people are innately good. Locke believed in natural rights among citizens of a nation that centers around the ideas of life, liberty and property for all men. It is unknown how Locke felt about the rights of women specifically, but he believed that all men are given rights by God and governments are charged with protecting those rights, not granting them. 

Other Enlightenment thinkers agreed with Locke and began writing more specific ideas out in hopes of government reform. Many of these thinkers advocated for a constitutional monarchy over an absolutist monarchy.

Voltaire wrote Letters on the English about how the English had already formulated a Bill of Rights after the Glorious Revolution and how well it was working within their constitutional monarchy. He believed that religious tolerance should be natural and not governed. 

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-wlyHwDKuO6AU.jpg?alt=media&token=d60c059c-757a-4c79-ba63-da3334e4f962

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote about a social contract in which everyone in society has reluctantly agreed to a function within society and when people are unable to or don’t complete their function, society falls out of balance. He believed that men and women had certain gender roles and they aren’t able to switch due to their innate qualities that make them qualified for specific functions- men for work, women for raising children and homecare. Rousseau didn’t necessarily want this social contract- in fact, he believed that society enslaves free men and men resorted to creating government to protect them from society.

Baron de Montesquieu was a French aristocrat that wanted to limit the role of the absolutist monarch, so he developed an idea in which governmental power is split between multiple branches that all have the ability to check the power of each other. 

Denis Diderot wanted to organize this information so more people could be informed. He included writings of several Enlightened thinkers of his time and before him, as well as scientific, historical, and philosophical information into the Encyclopedie, a one-stop-shop for information. 

Women’s Rights

Women, especially in France, upheld the beliefs of the Enlightenment thinkers and helped to start and grow conversations about these beliefs in their salons and coffeehouses. However, Enlightenment thinkers didn’t always support the rights of women, as women were often not considered full citizens. Those who did support equality of men and women in society, like Montesquieu, often still believed in traditional views of marriage where men dominate the household. 

Others, like Rousseau, believed that women were inferior to men and did not require an education to complete their societal duties of producing children and caring for the home. 

Some women wrote on Enlightened thoughts and theories and published their works under the names of their husbands, and some women published their own works despite the beliefs of their male counterparts.

The most famous female writer of the time was Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote a Vindication of Rights of Women in response to Rousseau and other thinkers like him, who sought to limit the rights of women while expanding the rights of men. 

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-6ExJDZ667ecH.jpg?alt=media&token=864b314c-f519-4737-89b5-0e2ab8011b1f

Image Courtesy of Columbia University

Economic Theories

Like philosophists, physiocrats studied different economic practices to discover what would work best. The most well known is Adam Smith who agreed with Francois Quesnay’s idea of laissez-faire economics. Laissez -faire meant an economy that is free, open, and unregulated by the government. 

Adam Smith took this belief a step further with his publication of A Wealth of Nations. He combined the beliefs of many physiocrats to oppose strict government regulation of the economy. He developed the economic system of capitalism in which the economy is regulated by supply, demand, and competition. He said those three things would act as an “invisible hand” to guide pricing, products produced, workers, wages, and more. 

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-FieusV3SfzvL.jpg?alt=media&token=0bc3df8c-c704-42c2-9a29-a42a65d631f0

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Religious Theories

Voltaire championed freedom of choice in religion and argued vehemently against organized religion in Candide. Voltaire believed in deism- the belief that there is a God, but he doesn’t act in our daily lives the way people traditionally believed. This belief sees God more as a creator of Earth that watches how we all interact in accordance with others, science, and more. Therefore, religion shouldn’t have an impactful role in policy making and should not be forced upon a population. He argued for religious toleration in his Treatise on Toleration.

Enlightened philosophes believed in skepticism- a doubt in anything you think you know. However, some philosophes, like David Hume or Immanuel Kant, began questioning whether or not people have the ability to understand the world around them with any degree of accuracy. Skepticism threatened Christian dominance in Europe because as people continued to demand proof for their understanding, people became more adverse to simply accepting doctrine as fact.

Romanticism developed by Rousseau was a return to nature, the natural state of man, and the rejection of societal norms. This movement developed alongside the Enlightenment, but in opposition to its strict rationality, insatiable need to prove everything true or false, and the rejection of organized religion.

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-zrzM7K978TbE.png?alt=media&token=be217162-b2d8-432b-aad7-710bacb5278d

Image Courtesy of Engagewithease

🎥 Watch: AP Europe - Enlightenment

continue learning

Slide 1 of 8
Fiveable

Join Our Community

Fiveable Community students are already meeting new friends, starting study groups, and sharing tons of opportunities for other high schoolers. Soon the Fiveable Community will be on a totally new platform where you can share, save, and organize your learning links and lead study groups among other students!🎉

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211

92% of Fiveable students earned a 3 or higher on their 2020 AP Exams.

*ap® and advanced placement® are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

© fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.