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Enlightenment Thinkers. Alexander Pope on Newton. NATURE and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night: God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light. . Niccolo Machiavelli. Pre-Enlightenment Italian Political Theorist Wrote: The Prince

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Alexander pope on newton
Alexander Pope on Newton

  • NATURE and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night: God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light.

Niccolo machiavelli
Niccolo Machiavelli

  • Pre-Enlightenment Italian Political Theorist

  • Wrote: The Prince

  • “How to” book about how political leaders should attain (and keep) political power.

  • Says rulers should do whatever is necessary (cunning, the use of fear, etc.) to gain and stay in power.

Thomas hobbes
Thomas Hobbes

  • English Philosopher

  • Negative View Of Human Nature: People are naturally cruel, greedy, and selfish.

  • In a State of Nature, life would be horrible.

  • People therefore enter a “Social Contract”

Social contract
Social Contract

  • People agree to give up absolute freedom in exchange for an orderly society.

  • Put in your own words.

  • Hobbes, in his book Leviathan, argued that the best government was a monarchy.

John locke
John Locke

  • English Philosopher

  • Positive (optimistic) view of human nature.

  • All people have Natural Rights such as life, liberty, and property.

  • Government’s purpose is to protect people’s rights

Enlightenment thinkers

  • Believed in the social contract.

  • Main work: 2 Treatises of Government

  • But has radical idea that if people think that government is not protecting their rights, the people have the right to overthrow that government and form a better one.


  • French

  • Main Work: The Spirit of the Laws

  • Argued that the best way to protect liberty was:

  • Separation of powers: Divide the gov. into 3 separate : Executive, legislative, and judicial

  • This system is known as “checks and balances” and is the basis of the US. Government.


  • French

  • Severe critic of organized Religion and the rich.

  • But main idea is freedom of speech.

  • Works were usually in the form of satire.

Jean jacques rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  • Born in Switzerland, lived in France.

  • Main work: The Social Contract

  • Governments should be chosen by the people.

  • Believed in the “general will.” That is, what was best for the community was more important than what was best for an individual.

  • Argued that civilization had corrupted man. Man was more pure and virtuous in more primitive (less-developed) societies. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

  • He felt that more modern societies led to people caring about how they were seen by others; people became greedy, envious, materialistic, etc.

Rousseau s theory on the origins of inequality
Rousseau’s theory on the Origins of Inequality

  • Rousseau believed that private property and specialization of labor as a result of the domestication of ag. Led to social inequality and which ultimately corrupted man.

Mary wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft

  • English

  • Called for Women’s rights.

  • Wanted equal education for boys and girls.

Cesare beccaria
Cesare Beccaria

  • Italian—wanted to reform the criminal justice system.

  • Concerned with the rights of people that are accused of crimes.

  • Main work: On Crimes and Punishments”

  • Argued that the punishment should fit the seriousness of the crime.

  • People should receive fair and speedy trials.

  • Torture should not be used to get confessions.

  • Against the death penalty.


  • I am for freedom of speech and religion.

  • A = Voltaire

  • I am for fair and humane treatment of criminals and those accused of committing crimes.

  • A = Beccaria

  • I think people are good and that the purpose of government is to protect people’s natural rights and if the govt. is not doing that, then the people have the right to rebel and form a new govt.

  • A = John Locke

Enlightenment thinkers

  • I think that the best way to prevent governmental tyranny is to separate the powers of government into three branches.

  • A = Montesquieu

  • I think people are bad and that they need a strict ruler (a monarch) to keep them in line and to ensure social order.

  • A = Hobbes.

  • I believe in the concept of the “general will,” that is what is best for all of society matters more than what is best for the individual.

  • A = Rousseau

Zinn in my idol
Zinn in my Idol to separate the powers of government into three branches.