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Enlightenment Philosophers Ideas of enlightenment have been seen across the world for centuries now, but the first real movements started around 1669. With the majority of its great thinkers in Europe, particularly England and France, enlightenment became a great philosophic movement marked by a rejection of traditional social, religious, and political ideas. This happened because of so many people were fed up with religion and government controlling citizens’ lives, especially with their natural and civil rights. Most of the philosophers had very similar ideas. They believed that the government should aid in the protection of these rights, not limit and control them. This supports one of the qualities of the ‘new concept of government,’ which is a government ‘for the people by the people.’ Probably one of the most famous philosophers of the enlightenment period is John Locke.

Locke was a very innovative thinker, and his ideas are still practiced today. His main theory, natural law and natural rights, was used to determine legitimate and illegitimate civil governments. These natural rights, as Locke explained it, were a set of rights that every man, woman, and child were born with. They are a set of rights that cannot be taken away, especially by the government. Two other ideas of Locke were: he believed that any tyrannical government should be overthrown, and he strongly sought out a separation between church and state.

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Locke’s ideas became a large involvement in writing the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Basically these two documents were a written protection of the citizens’ natural rights. Another great philosopher was Jean Jaques Rousseau. Jean’s ideas played a major role in the French Revolution. Jean was against the deceit and corruption of social customs and association of the time. He was strongly against deserters and aliens, and ordered for them to be punished by death. Jean strongly believed in the importance of God, but did not want the government ran by religion.

Probably the most important idea of Jean Jaques Rousseau would be that all men are born free and equal, and regards the government as ‘a contract in which individuals surrender non of their natural right, but rather agree for the protection of them.’ This idea was the basis for the two most important documents in America. To this day, the world is still striving for all men to be considered free and equal. The writers of the Constitution wanted to construct a government that would protect people’s rights, rather than limit them. Baron de Montesquieu became a very important philosopher of the enlightenment period. He studied the works of John Locke, and took his ideas a few steps further. Montesquieu deeply analyzed three different kinds of government; republic, monarchy, and despotism, he showed the similarities and differences of these three most popular forms of government.

His most famous work, based around John Locke’s ideas, became a crucial inspiration in the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Montesquieu believed that in any case, special circumstances determine what kind of government is best, but in any case, there should be some format of a separation and balance of powers in the government to insure the protection of the citizen’s rights and freedom. This idea was the central concept of the U.S. Constitution, and is what is still lived by millions of Americans to this day. Philosophy Essays.


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