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The Age of Enlightenment

Free Psychology Essays

Enlightenment

Humanity has undergone many different stages in its development. Each of them brings new cultural, social, and materialistic achievements. Nevertheless, there is only one period that not only has helped human beings to improve, but also to reincarnate. Without any doubt, it is the Enlightenment or Age of Reason (18th century). Immanuel Kant in his work “What is Enlightenment?” wrote, “Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self – caused immaturity”. Especially, it can be noticed on the example of the U.S. This country, inspired by Lock’s ideas, managed to destroy the chains of dependence from Britain and stand on the way of sovereign development.

General Description of the Philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment is rich in philosophical achievements. At that time, it was the explosion of many intellectuals, who transformed conventional Western thought and replaced traditional Plato’s and Aristotle’s theories with new conceptions. They are Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, Benedict Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and John Locke. In general, all these people made the revolution in the sphere of philosophical treatment of the human being’s role. They created many theories, which described people as perfect creatures.

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John Locke’s Contribution to the Philosophy of Enlightenment

John Locke created the theory that people should be treated as equal in nature. In other words, he proved that human beings came into this world with equal opportunities, which would be limited or extended according to future social position. His assumption was the continuation of the works of another famous philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment, Thomas Hobbes. He also claimed that people should have equal rights. It is indicated in the quotation, “nature has made men so equal in the faculties of mind and body…the difference between man and man is not so considerable” . Both philosophers also regarded the consequences of this equality in the same way. According to them, this state of natural equality or natural law is dangerous as it leads to war. Nevertheless, despite the similarities between the philosophical ideas of Hobbes and Locke, there is a striking difference between their theories. For Hobbes, peace was not a normal state of human beings as it was created in a compulsory way by the authorities of the state. In contrast to him, Locke pointed out that the state of war was not absolute as peace was the stable norm of human society, governed by special institutions. His position proved the necessity of the formation the authorities.

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Locke’s “Second Treatise on the Government”

Lock’s view on the authority is revealed in the article “Second Treatise on the Government”. Especially, it is clarified in the chapter “Of the State of Nature”. In it, the philosopher regards his idea of the state of nature from the legal perspective. He states that all people are born with equal opportunities. Due to it, people’s natural wish is to build the society, in which they have the possibilities to realize them. One of its means is the creation of an agreement with a special group of people, which are responsible to make laws, regulate the society and back up the state of equality in it. According to Locke, there should be no divine right of sovereignty, typical for the monarchy. The best choice to preserve equality is to delegate the rights to the special institution, known under the name government. The main role of each government is to provide citizens with equal conditions in terms of life, liberty, and property. If this role is not performed effectively, the natural state of society is ruined. It may have devastating consequences. Due to it, Lock proposes the solution of revolt. According to him, if the government or other authorities persecute the citizens over a long time, they have the right to revolt in order to save the normal order of life.

Locke’s “Of the State of Nature” in the Sequence of Events

Locke’s “Of the State of Nature” is closely related to the events, which made the reality of life in the U.S. at the time of its publication. It can be noticed with the help of the analysis of chapters 4 and 5 in the textbook “The American Journey: A History of the United States”. The appearance of Locke’s theory is preceded by the expansion of Great Britain’s power. For example, Great Britain created many colonies around the world, in which the basic rights of people were not satisfied. The only need for Great Britain was to take care of the needs of the Crown. Especially, it can be noticed on the example of the U.S., which suffered from King George’s oppression. Locke’s philosophy opened the eyes of people. It showed them that they were created by the mechanism of the monarchy. That is why the event that followed the publication of the article was the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

Locke’s Impact on the Revolution in the U.S.

The idea of revolt influenced U.S. society. Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father, used it as the tool to inspire Americans to stand against Britain and King George’s tyranny. Due to it, the American Revolution occurred in 1775 – 1783. In addition, Thomas Jefferson used Locke’s theory of equal natural rights as the basis for the American Declaration of Independence. In it, as well as in Locks’ theory, it is indicated that all people have equal rights in terms of life, property, and liberty.

Conclusion

To sum up, the Age of Enlightenment brought positive changes for the U.S. This country, inspired by the ideas of Locke, destroyed the chains of British oppression. American people decided that it was possible to provide equal rights for everyone only with the help of democracy, not a monarchy.

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