Philosophes And The Enlightenment

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One of the common goals shared by some of the most prominent enlightenment thinkers in Europe is to progress into a better society through the means of drawing back to nature in order to think rationally. By doing so, this would lead one to question authority and previously set standards. Philosophes tend to reflect upon nature to answer their questions. Furthermore, they also encouraged others to do the same in order to free themselves from a corrupted mind and to question authority. When Holbach says that “the remedies for these evils must be sought for in Nature herself,” he is encouraging people to rely solely on nature instead of “cling[ing] to blind opinions imbibed in his infancy” (The System of Nature). Only then can a man begin to…show more content…
One example of trying to reach this goal is publishing the Encyclopedia. The purpose of the Encyclopedia is to “guide those who have the courage to work at the instruction of others” and accumulate rational knowledge so they can draw their own conclusions. This is in part why the Enlightenment succeeded in becoming a movement — the public started receiving more education, whether it was attending universities, learning to read what philosophes had to say, or, as Diderot claims, “the germ of science that is gradually preparing men’s minds for more profound knowledge” (Prospectus for the Encyclopedia of Arts and Sciences). When Diderot claims that “the philosopher, even in his passions, moves only after reflection,” he means that philosophers do not go about blindly because they only proceed if they have personally thought it through (Philosophe). This quote further exemplifies that philosophers stressed the importance of thinking for yourself. What Diderot wrote is similar to what Thomas Paine believed as well. Paine claims that “it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself,” which shows that thinking with reason was what most philosophes strived to accomplish (The Age of Reason:…show more content…
For example, Holbach points out the difference between a civilized and an enlightened man —that is, the enlightened man resists authority because it is wrong, whereas the civilized man resists only because it benefits him (The System of Nature). Holbach justifies resistance to authority because it is morally correct, since the decision was reached through the process of reasoning. Similarly, Voltaire argues that when one’s natural rights have been restored, then he or she has “the right… to profess, unmolested, what religion he chooses” (Philosophical Dictionary). This is an example of resisting to authority because Voltaire was extremely religiously tolerant and resisted against the authority of the Church. Another example of resistance is Kant arguing for freedom. He claims that “all that is required for this enlightenment is freedom,” meaning that a person is free once, as he defines it, is no longer controlled by his or her impulses or by other people (What is Enlightenment?). Rousseau also took a similar stance because he argued that “man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains” (The Social Contract). His goal was to dispel inequality, even if it means resisting authority. He claims that free men stop being free when they cooperate with others because he will find out that there is inequality, so a social hierarchy is
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