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The Enlightenment

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau
by

Amber Bowen

on 22 February 2013

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Transcript of The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment In the seventeenth century, the Scientific Revolution had
provided a new model for how problems could be solved through rational thought and experimentation, rather than on the authority of religion or the ancients. In fact, the French philosopher, mathematician and scientist René Descartes had seen mans ability to reason
as the very proof of his existence, declaring Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), in
his Discourse on Method in 1637. Descartes rejected all forms of intellectual authority except
the conclusions of his own thought, which he then used to prove the existence of God. The Scientific Revolution had actually begun in the mid-16th century with Copernicus
new theory of the sun as the center of the universe, replacing Ptolemys earth-centered
model, accepted since antiquity. This revolution culminated in the seventeenth century
with the publication of Sir Isaac Newtons "Principia" in 1687, in which a mechanical universe was explained through universal laws of motion. Newton, like
Descartes, presented a vision of the universe whose most basic workings could be calculated and understood rationally, but which was also the work of a Creator. The triumph of Newtonian science coincided with and helped to produce a fundamental intellectual change. By the early eighteenth century, the focus of speculation was shifting from
theological to secular concerns. This change is at once evident when we compare two rulers who exemplify the old and new outlooks. Louis XIV of France (16431715*) was a typical
seventeenth-century sovereign, in that he had seen his primary duty to the State as a religious
leader. His revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which forced tens of thousands of
Protestants to flee France, was an example of his concern with the religious unity of his country. In contrast, the eighteenth-century ruler Frederick the Great of Prussia (174086*) was basically a secular leader. He described his own role as that of first servant of the state. To
Frederick, his subjects religions were their own affair, a matter of private conscience, and not a public matter of state. Fredericks overriding concern instead was with building an army and
a stable bureaucracy, and putting in place a tax structure to fund them. His rationally organized
state machine would assure the security and prosperity of his subjects. The old religious hostilities that had divided Europe since the Reformation no longer preoccupied
him. Science and rational inquiry now came to be seen as the common ground which reunited
men, previously polarized into Catholic or Protestant, in the pursuit of happiness - happiness to be achieved in this world, not the next. Reason provided a unifying doctrine, and the key to increasing human happiness taking over
the position once held by religion. With the right use of reason, all society's problems could
be solved and all mankind could live prosperously and contentedly. This optimism reflected a sense of growing economic opportunity. Europe in the eighteenth century was richer and more populous than ever before. Steady economic
growth seemed to bear out the notion that the new key of scientific method could unlock the answers not only to the physical world (as Newton had done), but to theology, history, politics and social problems as well. Using the advances made possible through
rational scientific inquiry, farmers pioneered improvements in agriculture and entrepreneurs
experimented with new technologies and products. In England, the seminal political theories of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were in the
spirit of the same rational approach to problem solving, but had also been influenced
by the dramatic conflicts that unfolded in Britain between the 1640s and the 1680s. Hobbes wrote in his masterwork, the Leviathan (1651), that men were motivated primarily by the desire for power and by fear of other men, and so needed an all powerful sovereign to rule over them. He characterized their lives without a strong ruler as solitary, nasty, poor, brutish, and short. For Hobbes, the English Civil War,
which began in 1642, and ended with the execution of King Charles I in 1649, was convincing evidence that men were ultimately selfish and competitive. In addition, Galileos ideas concerning the nature of the physical world, led him to reason that only matter exists, and that human behavior could be predicted by exact, scientific laws. In the Leviathan, he attempted to turn politics into a science, in which the clash of competing material bodies (men), could be predicted with mathematical accuracy, andthus regulated. John Locke, a generation later, developed an entirely different notion of the basic nature of humankind, which he saw as innately good. While attending Oxford in 1666, he
became friends with the first Earl of Shaftesbury, and in 1679, whe the Earl was implicated in plots against King Charles II, Locke was also suspected. He fled to the Netherlands, where he met Prince William and Princess Mary (Mary Stuart) of Orange. Locke ultimately enjoyed a favored position at court after William and Mary were
invited to invade England and assume the throne in 1688. For the men of the Enlightenment the basic question of the age was: how does one make
mankind happy and rational and free? Their basic answer was: by discovering the
underlying laws which would organize all knowledge into a clear, rational system,
enabling individuals to become enlightened, and the societies in which they live to
progress. It was a goal seen as obtainable to the people of the eighteenth century. Science and reason seemed to offer the key to the future, to a kind of paradise which would be realized not in the next world, as the theologians asserted, but in this world, here and now. Hobbes' pessimistic view of human nature did not appeal to most Enlightenment thinkers: Lockes view of humankind as essentially reasonable and benevolent accorded much better with the optimism of the age, and seemed to justify it. But the two English political theorists had pointed the way to a new, rationalist approach to the
problems of government and society. They showed that the laws of science might have their counterpart in other laws that governed social and political behavior. The
scientific method could be applied even to intractable questions of politics. Compare and Contrast Hobbess and Lockes divergent views of human nature reflect their different personal
experiences. While Hobbes concluded that the nature of humans was competitive, that
fear was their most powerful motive for action, and that their natural state was one of war, Locke saw men living in a state of nature which was basically reasonable and cooperative. Thomas Hobbes On Government Governments were created, according to Hobbes, to protect people from their own selfishness and evil. The best government was one that had the power of a leviathan, or sea monster. Because people are only interested in promoting their own self-interests, Hobbes believed democracy, which allows citizens to vote for government leaders, would never work. "All mankind [is in] a perpetual and restless desire for power... that [stops] only in death." Therefore, giving power to the individual creates a dangerous situation that will inevitably start a "war of every man against every man" and make life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Though he distrusted democracy, Hobbes believed that a group of representatives that presents the problems of the common person could, hopefully, prevent a king from being cruel and unfair. Hobbes invented the phrase "voice of the people," which meant that one person could be chosen to represent a group with similar views. However, this "voice" was merely heard and not necessarily heeded. The final decisions must always lay in the hands of the king. Hobbes invites the reader to consider what life would be like in “the state of nature,” or, a state without government or institution. Perhaps in this state people have bare feet and are their own judge and jury whenever disputes arise. There is only private judgment and no higher authority to arbitrate disputes and enforce decisions. In the State of Nature there would be “no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, pore, nasty, brutish, and short.” The only way to avoid this State of Nature is by submitting to some mutually recognized public authority, for “so long as man is in the condition of mere nature, (which is a condition of war,) as private appetite is the measure of good and evil.” John Locke John's father, also named John Locke, was a Parliamentarian lawyer. Because his father was a lawyer and at times a judge, Locke was always around politics. Writings In 1683 at the age of 50 John Locke went into exile. This was because of his connection to Shaftesbury and fierce criticisms Locke had against King James II. Locke would remain in exile in Holland for five years, and during this time he was able to compose most of his two great works. Upon returning from exile, and in the company of the new Queen Mary, Locke was finally able to fulfill his lifelong work. With the good favor of the monarchy Locke was able to devote much of the next two years to his writing and in 1690, Locke published his two works An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treaties on Civil Government. In the "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" Locke examines the nature of the human mind and the process by which it knows the world. Locke believed that the mind is born blank, a tabula rasa upon which the world describes itself through the experience of the five senses. Two Treaties is a work written in the context of the revolution of 1688. It is written to justify the overthrowing of King James II. On Government Contradicting Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that the original state of nature was happy and characterized by reason and tolerance. In that state all people were equal and independent, and none had a right to harm another's “life, health, liberty, or possessions.” The state was formed by social contract because in the state of nature each was his own judge, and there was no protection against those who lived outside the law of nature. The state should be guided by natural law. John Locke's theory was called the Social Contract. Whereby a person agrees to give up some of their rights for the right and protection of the entire community by the government. "The end of law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom." "Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains"
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