Political Ideas of the Enlightenment
Enlightenment has long been hailed as the foundation of modern Western political and intellectual culture. The authors of the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were motivated by Enlightenment principles.
Important Political Enlightenment Thinkers
John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Liberalism was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence. Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions", basis for the phrase in the American Declaration of Independence; "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day. Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers...
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