The Enlightenment - Learning, Happiness and Success
The Enlightenment (17th & 18th centuries)
A movement (particularly strong in the second half of the eighteenth century) dedicated to the pursuit of
Its slogan (written by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, pictured right) was
“Dare to know!”
The Enlightenment’s key books
René Déscartes (pictured right),
Blaise Pascal (pictured
Isaac Newton (pictured right),
John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil
1739 (and 1740)
David Hume, A Treatise of
First volume of Denis
Diderot’s (pictured right) Enclopédie, an
ncyclopedia of knowledge with contributions from Voltaire, Rousseau and
many other leading thinkers.
Voltaire’s novel, Candide.
Rousseau’s two books: The Social Contract and Émile.
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.
Immanuel Kant Critique of
Jeremy Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation.
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man.
Mary Wollstonecraft, pictured
right, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
The Enlightenment's key ideas
for learning, happiness and success
Have the courage to:
- use your own intelligence.
- push back the frontiers of knowledge and truth.
René Déscartes (pictured right)
said that the thing that makes you human is the ability to think, summed up in his famous
“I think, therefore I am”.
So Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire (pictured right) strongly attacked the
Church (particularly the Roman Catholic Church) for telling people what to think.
Physics and chemistry were revolutionized in the Enlightenment by scientists like:
They used the scientific method - in other words:
- then prove (or disprove) it by experimentation and
For example, the apple landing on Newton’s head helped him to prove gravity!
3. Freedom of thought
Sadly Lavoisier (pictured
right), the founder of modern chemistry, suffered from the intellectual repression that the Enlightenment
vehemently fought against.
He was guillotined in 1794 during the French Revolution.
4. Individual rights
People’s rights were emphasized by philosophers like:
a) John Locke
Locke (pictured right) inspired Thomas
Jefferson’s famous statement in America’s Declaration of
Independence that people have the right to:
“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
b) Thomas Paine
Paine (pictured right) believed in:
- maximum freedom for the individual.
Rousseau (pictured right)
Rousseau's “social contract” governed a person’s relationship with the
(who supported women’s rights).
Locke , Paine, Jefferson (pictured right) and Rousseau all said that people must
elect their government.
6. Capitalism and ethics
Adam Smith (pictured right)
a) profit making businesses.
c) free trade
But Smith also believed that businessmen must have good morals.
Immanuel Kant’s “categorical
imperative” said that people should:
- always apply certain principles (like compassion, courage and honesty).
7. Question everything
The Scottish philosopher, David
Hume, pictured right, is famous for his scepticism, believing that:
- nothing is certain or true.
- you must always challenge other people’s ideas.
The English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, pictured right, proposed the idea of
utilitarianism that says something is right, if it makes you happy.
Key quotes on knowledge
Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own intelligence!,
- Immanuel Kant (German
Knowledge is power,
- Francis Bacon (English
Key quotes on learning and wisdom
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
- David Hume (Scottish
There are two kinds of truths: truths of reasoning and truths of fact.
Leibniz (German mathematician and philosopher, pictured right).
My best friend is truth.
- Isaac Newton (English
Thought constitutes the greatness of man.
- Blaise Pascal (French
Key quotes on politics and government
Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right.
- John Locke (English
With rights come responsibilities.
- Thomas Paine (English
Key quote on religion
My mind is my own church.
- Thomas Paine (English
Key quote on decision making
There are two things to be considered with regard to any scheme. In the first place, is it good in itself? In
the second, can it be easily put into practice?
Rousseau (French philosopher).
Key quote on society
No society can be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and
- Adam Smith (Scottish