How Did The Enlightenment Influence The American Identity
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As Leviathan was written during the English Civil War, much of the book is occupied with demonstrating the necessity of a strong central authority to avoid the evil of discord and civil war. Beginning from a mechanistic understanding of human beings and the passions, Hobbes postulates what life would be like without government, a condition which he calls the state of nature. In that state, each person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world. So, in order to avoid it, people accede to a social contract and establish a civil society. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society cede some rights for the sake of protection.
The individuals are thereby the authors of all decisions made by the sovereign. According to Hobbes, the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial, and ecclesiastical powers. Hobbes was one of the founders of modern political philosophy and political science. He also contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, ethics, and general philosophy. Hobbes also included a discussion of natural rights in his moral and political philosophy. Consequently, if humans wish to live peacefully, they must give up most of their natural rights and create moral obligations in order to establish political and civil society.
Since by our human nature, we seek to maximize our well being, rights are prior to law, natural or institutional, and people will not follow the laws of nature without first being subjected to a sovereign power, without which all ideas of right and wrong are meaningless. This marked an important departure from medieval natural law theories which gave precedence to obligations over rights. John Locke, an English philosopher and physician, is regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, whose work greatly contributed to the development of the notions of social contract and natural rights.
His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence. Locke was born in in Wrington, Somerset, about 12 miles from Bristol, and grew up in the nearby town of Pensford.
In , he was sent to the prestigious Westminster School in London, and after completing studies there, he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford in Although a capable student, Locke was irritated by the undergraduate curriculum of the time. Through a friend, Locke was introduced to medicine and the experimental philosophy being pursued at other universities and in the Royal Society, of which he eventually became a member. In , he moved to London to serve as a personal physician, and to resume his medical studies.
He also served as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and Secretary to the Lords Proprietor of Carolina, which helped to shape his ideas on international trade and economics. Locke fled to the Netherlands in , under strong suspicion of involvement in the Rye House Plot, although there is little evidence to suggest that he was directly involved in the scheme. He died in Locke never married nor had children. Petersburg, Russia. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that, at birth, the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to Cartesian philosophy based on pre-existing concepts, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perceptions.
It is divided into the First Treatise and the Second Treatise. The First Treatise is focused on the refutation of Sir Robert Filmer, in particular his Patriarcha , which argued that civil society was founded on a divinely sanctioned patriarchalism. The Second Treatise outlines a theory of civil society. He goes on to explain the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process explaining that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people.
Therefore, any government that rules without the consent of the people can, in theory, be overthrown. Unlike Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Similarly to Hobbes, he assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day.
He also advocated governmental separation of powers, and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. However, Locke did not demand a republic. Rather, he believed a legitimate contract could easily exist between citizens and a monarchy, an oligarchy, or in some mixed form. He defines the state of nature as a condition, in which humans are rational and follow natural law, and in which all men are born equal with the right to life, liberty and property.
However, when one citizen breaks the Law of Nature, both the transgressor and the victim enter into a state of war, from which it is virtually impossible to break free. However, historians also note that Locke was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company. In addition, he participated in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina , which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, some historians accuse Locke of hypocrisy and racism, and point out that his idea of liberty is reserved to Europeans or even the European capitalist class only. Montesquieu was a French political philosopher of the Enlightenment period, whose articulation of the theory of separation of powers is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world.
Baron de Montesquieu, usually referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French lawyer, man of letters, and one of the most influential political philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. He was born in France in After losing both parents at an early age, he became a ward of his uncle, the Baron de Montesquieu. He became a counselor of the Bordeaux Parliament in A year later, he married Jeanne de Lartigue, a Protestant, who bore him three children. England had declared itself a constitutional monarchy in the wake of its Glorious Revolution , and had joined with Scotland in the Union of to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
These national transformations had a great impact on Montesquieu, who would refer to them repeatedly in his work. Montesquieu withdrew from the practice of law to devote himself to study and writing. Besides writing works on society and politics, Montesquieu traveled for a number of years through Europe, including Austria and Hungary, spending a year in Italy and 18 months in England, where he became a freemason before resettling in France.
He was troubled by poor eyesight and was completely blind by the time he died from a high fever in Montesquieu, portrait by an unknown artist, c. The Spirit of Laws The Spirit of the Laws is a treatise on political theory first published anonymously by Montesquieu in In , Thomas Nugent published the first English translation. Montesquieu spent around 21 years researching and writing The Spirit of the Laws , covering many things, including the law, social life, and the study of anthropology, and providing more than 3, commendations.
In this political treatise, Montesquieu pleaded in favor of a constitutional system of government and the separation of powers, the ending of slavery, the preservation of civil liberties and the law, and the idea that political institutions should reflect the social and geographical aspects of each community. Montesquieu defines three main political systems: republican, monarchical, and despotic. As he defines them, republican political systems vary depending on how broadly they extend citizenship rights—those that extend citizenship relatively broadly are termed democratic republics, while those that restrict citizenship more narrowly are termed aristocratic republics.
The distinction between monarchy and despotism hinges on whether or not a fixed set of laws exists that can restrain the authority of the ruler. If so, the regime counts as a monarchy. If not, it counts as despotism. A second major theme in The Spirit of Laws concerns political liberty and the best means of preserving it. He distinguishes this view of liberty from two other, misleading views of political liberty.
The first is the view that liberty consists in collective self-government i. The second is the view that liberty consists of being able to do whatever one wants without constraint. Political liberty is not possible in a despotic political system, but it is possible, though not guaranteed, in republics and monarchies. Generally speaking, establishing political liberty requires two things: the separation of the powers of government, and the appropriate framing of civil and criminal laws so as to ensure personal security. Montesquieu based this model on the Constitution of the Roman Republic and the British constitutional system.
He took the view that the Roman Republic had powers separated so that no one could usurp complete power. In the British constitutional system, Montesquieu discerned a separation of powers among the monarch, Parliament, and the courts of law. He also notes that liberty cannot be secure where there is no separation of powers, even in a republic. Pursuant to this requirement to frame civil and criminal laws appropriately to ensure political liberty, Montesquieu also argues against slavery and for the freedom of thought, speech, and assembly.
Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, who attacked the Catholic Church and advocated freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. By the time he left school, Voltaire had decided he wanted to be a writer, against the wishes of his father, who wanted him to become a lawyer. In , his father obtained a job for him as a secretary to a French ambassador in the Netherlands, but Voltaire was forced to return to France after a scandalous affair. From early on, he had trouble with the authorities over his critiques of the government. These activities were to result in two imprisonments and a temporary exile to England.
He mainly argued for religious tolerance and freedom of thought. Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20, letters and more than 2, books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate of several liberties, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.
Most of his prose, including such genres as romance, drama, or satire, was written as polemics with the goal of conveying radical political and philosophical messages. The book was quickly banned. Only a year later, he published The Philosophical Dictionary — an encyclopedic dictionary with alphabetically arranged articles that criticize the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions. In it, Voltaire is concerned with the injustices of the Catholic Church, which he sees as intolerant and fanatical.
At the same time, he espouses deism, tolerance, and freedom of the press. It represents the culmination of his views on Christianity, God, morality, and other subjects. Voltaire had an enormous influence on the development of historiography through his demonstration of fresh new ways to look at the past. Voltaire broke from the tradition of narrating diplomatic and military events, and emphasized customs, social history, and achievements in the arts and sciences. The Essay traced the progress of world civilization in a universal context, thereby rejecting both nationalism and the traditional Christian frame of reference. Voltaire was also the first scholar to make a serious attempt to write the history of the world, eliminating theological frameworks and emphasizing economics, culture, and political history.
He treated Europe as a whole, rather than a collection of nations. He was the first to emphasize the debt of medieval culture to Middle Eastern civilization, and consistently exposed the intolerance and frauds of the church over the ages. In his criticism of the French society and existing social structures, Voltaire hardly spared anyone. He perceived the French bourgeoisie to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the church as a static and oppressive force useful only on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, even more rapacious itself.
Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Francophone Genevan philosopher and writer, whose conceptualization of social contract, the theory of natural human, and works on education greatly influenced the political, philosophical, and social western tradition. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Francophone Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the Enlightenment in France and across Europe. It was also important to the French Revolution and the overall development of modern political and educational thought. Rousseau was born in in Geneva, which was at the time a city-state and a Protestant associate of the Swiss Confederacy.
His mother died several days after he was born, and after his father remarried a few years later, Jean-Jacques was left with his maternal uncle, who packed him away, along with his own son, to board for two years with a Calvinist minister in a hamlet outside Geneva. Here, the boys picked up the elements of mathematics and drawing. After his father and uncle had more or less disowned him, the teenage Rousseau supported himself for a time as a servant, secretary, and tutor, wandering in Italy and France. He had been an indifferent student, but during his 20s, which were marked by long bouts of hypochondria, he applied himself to the study of philosophy, mathematics, and music. Rousseau spent his adulthood holding numerous administrative positions and moving across Europe, often to escape a controversy caused by his radical writings.
His relationships with various women had important impacts on his life choices e. Rousseau died in In common with other philosophers of the day, Rousseau looked to a hypothetical state of nature as a normative guide. In his Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences , Rousseau argued, in opposition to the dominant stand of Enlightenment thinkers, that the arts and sciences corrupt human morality.
The Social Contract outlines the basis for a legitimate political order within a framework of classical republicanism. Published in , it became one of the most influential works of political philosophy in the western tradition. Rousseau claimed that the state of nature was a primitive condition without law or morality, which human beings left for the benefits and necessity of cooperation. As society developed, division of labor and private property required the human race to adopt institutions of law. According to Rousseau, by joining together into civil society through the social contract, and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free.
This is because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others, and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are, collectively, the authors of the law. The idea of general will denoted the will of the people as a whole. Although Rousseau argues that sovereignty or the power to make the laws should be in the hands of the people, he also makes a sharp distinction between the sovereign and the government.
He posits that the political aspects of a society should be divided into two parts. First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population, women included, that represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy. Thus, government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is the mission of the people to abolish such government, and begin anew.
Rousseau felt that children learn right and wrong through experiencing the consequences of their acts, rather than through physical punishment. Rousseau became an early advocate of developmentally appropriate education. The private sphere as Rousseau imagines it depends on the subordination of women, in order for both it and the public political sphere upon which it depends to function as Rousseau imagines it could and should. Rousseau anticipated the modern idea of the bourgeois nuclear family, with the mother at home taking responsibility for the household, childcare, and early education.
Nicolas de Condorcet, known also as Marquis de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutionalism, and equal rights for women and people of all races. Although his ideas and writings are considered to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and rationalism, they were much more radical that those of most of his contemporaries, even those who were also seen as radicals. Condorcet was born in and raised by a devoutly religious mother. Of course there are many such portals.
I still tend to focus more on Anglo-American writers, perhaps mostly because despite being an International Jew I read only English. As for Eumeswil , is an amazing work that has influenced both my perspective and my life. It is always the anarchist who goes to the gulag — the anarch, in fact, is often safer than even the true believer. For example, in our shitshow of a pandemic, the anarchist is lectured to wear a mask; because of this, he refuses to wear a mask.
On a plane, he is ordered to wear a mask; either he submits to this order, grumbling about his rights, or he gets unruly. The anarch is lectured to wear a mask; he does not care much about the lecture, except as evidence of what certain people believe; he makes up his own mind about how well masks work, underweighting sources who seem to be in a political frenzy. When ordered enforceably to wear a mask, he wears one; if ordered to wear a Burger King crown, or a Manchu queue, or even a Sikh turban, he wears one as well.
Power has its rights. The anarch knows this; he even knows he has no rights. The anarch is big into compliance. But while the anarch always complies, he never submits. Being ordered to wear a turban cannot in any way make him a Sikh; not only that, it cannot even make him an anti-Sikh. Power owns his body, but has no purchase at all on his soul. Curtis Yarvin: You use too many metaphors, young Jedi.
It is an anarchist idea. It both endangers you and corrupts your thoughts. Look back at my stance on masks and vaccines. I would as soon be convinced by the Cathedral automatically, as disagree with it automatically. Either way you are its slave. This is not an effective way to organize any kind of action. It is certainly the case that no regime is changed except by political action in some broad sense. That action will be a short and sharp affair — probably just an election, of sorts.
That election is the construction of an ad-hoc army of the people, and this army will indeed need generals, centurions, community organizers, etc. This is real action. It is a completely different kind of action. It is completely superfluous today, because, as Lenin would say, the objective conditions of revolution are not present. And most important, it is completely disjoint from the actions of the writer and the thinker, which must be so far above the Cathedral as to never react reflexively to its words — any more than you would believe X because X!
It is true that not many intellectuals are needed; but they have to be historians of the present; and the attitude of the anarch is the attitude of the historian, applied to the present. Their job is to be an intelligence department, not an army; their goal is to understand, predict, and plan. Separating these inchoate quasi-agencies of a hypothetical future regime makes an enormous amount of sense.
The job of the intelligence agency is not war — just understanding. Our country is in a grievous state, but understanding it is not yet quite a crime. And even if it is, it is the smallest crime we can commit. The intelligence of any intelligence agency should be so objective that even the enemy could use it to plan. By creating and disseminating this intelligence, however, we are creating a landscape of mind which implies a landscape of power on which a realistic political army may eventually operate.
Even at that time, it will remain ideal to separate the brain and the body — the body is a lot more replaceable. Are you a political organizer of any kind? I certainly am not. If you are not acting, you should not use the metaphors of action — they will at least confuse your thinking, and at most endanger your project. I will admit that an extraordinary person could be both — but even in that person, the roles should be separated. Just as an engineering principle. Curtis Yarvin: I want frens to feel free to use upper or lower case. Sometimes I even change my mind myself…. It is certainly necessary to have institutions of knowledge, but these institutions must be subordinate to powers outside and above them. This is true for both religion and science.
For an example of this principle, look no farther than Covid. There was no power outside and above virology that could say to virology: Wow, I see you want to go out and collect bat viruses and tinker with them so they can infect humans. And the goal of this research is to make these crossover viruses intentionally, to… predict they might evolve accidentally? And what would we do with this prediction, anyway? Exterminate all the bats? Do you mind if we put a pin in this and pick it up another day?
I love your ideas — I really want to stay in touch with whatever you guys are thinking about…. This is the relationship between engineers and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. This person will not take a deep dive into your technology, but will take a deep dive into your general sanity and common sense. The consequence of this sanity filter is that crazy ideas are no longer dominant — since they will not actually generate power if they cannot pass the filter. So the marketplace of ideas is flat again — not naturally flat, but artificially flattened — and it works again. Obviously, in a monarchy, this filter is an extension of executive power. In an oligarchy, there is no executive power, leaving no one who can say no to the virologists.
Virologists and other scientists are delicate creatures and should not be exposed to the temptations of sovereignty. When you meet the people, they have generally worked very hard with a lot of competition to get these high-status positions. The one thing that can be sacrificed in this race is the competence of the machine, which is why they look dumb.