The Enlightenment

Koa Moe, Sabrine Alsalih

Major Ideas

Laissez-faire: The laissez-faire was a doctrine that means "to let people do what they want". The best statement of this doctrine was made by Adam Smith in 1776. He believed that the state should not interfere in economic matters.

Rights of Women: Mary Wollstonecraft, an English writer, advanced the strongest statement for the rights of women. She identified two problems with the views of many Enlightenment thinkers; she noted that the power of men over women was equally wrong.

Separation of Powers: The executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the government limit and control each other in a system of checks and balances in this separation. This system provides the greatest freedom and security for the state by preventing any one person or group from gaining too much power.

Natural Rights: John Locke defended the claim that men are by nature free and equal against claims that God had made all people subject to a monarch. He argued that people have three natural rights: life, liberty, and property.


François-Marie Arouet, known as Volataire, was the greatest figure of the Enlightenment. His fame and wealth was brought by his writing of pamphlets, novels, plays, letters, essays, and histories. His criticism of Christianity and his strong belief in religious toleration made him well-known. He reminded governments that "all men are brothers under God" and thought that the universe was like a clock; God, the clockmaker, had created it, set it in motion, and allowed it to run without his interference, according to its own natural laws.

Religion in Enlightenment

In the Enlightenment, religion was not unchanged as there was a significant decline in church power and prestige, which resulted in people no longer believing in God and his involvement in human affairs. Before the discovery of natural laws, people believed that when anything occurred, it was God's doing. Once scientists discovered that many of these things were naturally occurring, mankind feared God less, making religion less important. Rather than focusing on God and religion, people focused on man.