The Enlightenment has influenced the way America is shaped and ran in many different ways. Ideas, such as life, liberty and property have been implemented into the core values, standards and beliefs of the country. Philosophers like Montesquieu and Locke left a lasting impact on society through their beliefs on how the country should be ran. Without these men and their influential ideas, America’s government and the people in it would have a different impact upon the world they live in today. Locke, Voltaire and Rousseau were three Enlightenment philosophers who influenced the ideas which shaped America.
John Locke was an English philosopher who is widely recognized as one of the most influential Enlightenment intellectuals. Locke believed that all people are born entitled to life, liberty, and property (Unit 7 PowerPoint Notes). He also believed that people have the natural ability to govern their own affairs. Locke stated that if the government fails to protect the people’s rights, they have the right to displace it. Locke’s ideas influenced many other Enlightenment thinkers, like Voltaire, which helped contribute to the shaping of America’s core beliefs.
Voltaire was a French Enlightenment thinker who was another famous writer and historian who influenced the way the government was set up. To attack the French government, he used satire or sarcasm.
Voltaire fought for tolerance, reason, and the freedoms of religion and speech (PowerPoint 7 Unit Notes). By this statement, he meant that although he does not agree with what one says, he will fight the right for one to proclaim it. Voltaire wrote books to defend his beliefs, but ended up getting sent to prison twice and exiled from England. Voltaire’s tactics were useful, but Rousseau’s ideas also assisted to America’s growth and development.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan composer, writer and philosopher who contributed to the Enlightenment progression in Europe. Rousseau wrote the Social Contract which discussed the role of government and people. In the Social Contract, he also explained how all people are equal. He called for the end of nobility(PowerPoint Unit 7 Notes) which helped start the French Revolution. In his book, entitled The Social Contract, he explained that people should give up some of their freedoms to protect others. Although each philosopher approached their ideas from a different perspective, the founding fathers used their ideas to help base the American government.
These Enlightenment thinkers brought different ideals and practiced them in different ways. Although some of their ideas were not implemented, they were instrumental to the modern society of America. Enlightenment philosophers challenged authority and spoke their minds to the fullest. A need for individualism was a common want between some Enlightenment progressers due to how much power the government possessed. Although some were persecuted for speaking out against the government and clergy, their ideas helped influence its spread and shaping of modern America.
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