The Benefits Of Enlightenment And The French Revolution

1525 Words 6 Pages
Writing in 1784, Kant defined enlightenment as "emancipation from self-incurred tutelage", and while it is certainly true that enlightenment writers and thinkers were capable of profound disagreement among themselves, it is the common aspiration that Kant identifies which allows us to see a unified movement amongst diversity. Thus is the Enlightenment movement in which society should continue to endorse the freedom to question current situations and knowledge in order continue the ongoing process. Enlightenment, however, is not a utopian end but rather an ongoing process. In an enlightened society, a ruler or authority who is enlightened will recognize the benefits of encouraging free thought as part of this ongoing process, “… while this …show more content…
His argument is based on tradition, and that the situation in France at the time of his writing was due to the superstitions and ideas of the antiquarians – the philosophers who promoted enlightenment. These philosophers were not so much similar in their ideas and beliefs; a factor that that allowed them to scrutinize their contemporary society with a critical eye. From this, it is hard to imagine that these various and differential intellectuals somehow, as Bourke suggests, gave rise to the French Revolution. However, unlike its American and English counterparts, the French Revolution was not a single event, but rather a series of interrelated phases, each with its own motivations and outcomes. As such, in the unfolding of the revolution, what was thought, said, and advocated was expressed in terms and categories that came from political theorists of the Enlightenment. Thus, the philosophes had no need to unite. As one phase ended, another was birthed out of a new and differential idea from a philosophe with thoughts along a different line to one immediately prior. In this way, the enlightenment undertone of the revolution is very much in the scope of Kant’s definition as a period of freedom to question current situations and knowledge in the continuation of …show more content…
Rousseau was a plebian among philosophers, and wanted to make himself known to the people, and to an extent he was successful. During his lifetime, readers saw Rousseau as the advocate for the cause of the emotions; his enemies became their enemies, and some of these self-proclaimed “disciples” of Rousseau were later found to be prominent in the revolution in the name of Rousseau. It can be argued that Rousseau had an indirect influence on the Revolution through his appeals to the emotions, enthusiasm, and a belief in the human perfectibility. However, his arguments served the purposes of the Reign of Terror with Maximilien Robspierre using Rousseau’s language, and exploiting several of his ideas in the course of the Terror. His religion of the Supreme Being may well have been derived from Rousseau, and he often cited Rousseau in support of his own policies, and even went so far as to eulogise him on a number of occasions, “…one man, by the elevation of his soul and the grandeur of his character, showed himself worthy of the position teacher of the human race…Ah! If he had witness to this revolution of which he was the precursor…”. Bourke saw Rousseau as the chief ideologue of the

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