Enlightened thinkers

Faced with a clearly unjust system, several French thinkers contributed to creating a new model of political and social organization that would be the basis of the liberal revolutions of the 19th century. Among this group of enlightened were Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau or Diderot. «A government is necessary, but the government is only the representative of the sovereign people,» said Rousseau. Voltaire defended the use of reason, Diderot gave us the Encyclopédie and Montesquieu woke everyone up by talking about the division of powers.

The enlightened people opposed the estate society and proclaimed that no one could inherit or enjoy prestige or privilege on behalf of their ancestors. They also defended social mobility, equality of origin and merit according to the worth of each person. At the economic level, they fought against all regulations by the State and defended free initiative, private property and economic freedom. The basic principles of the Enlightenment are:

  • Blind trust in Reason: Reason, which would be achieved through education and science, would lead man to achieve progress and with it happiness.
  • They reject estate society and the privileges of the nobility and clergy.
  • They oppose the dominance of the Church and its control of culture and education.
  • They reject the absolute power of the King: Rousseau defends that power comes from the people (national sovereignty), while Montesquieu bets on the division of powers.
Enlightened Thinkers



Possible exam questions

Possible question 1

Who were the Enlightened thinkers? Name three of them.

Possible question 2

Which Enlightened thinker proposed the division of power? Which powers did he mention?

Possible question 3

Explain Rousseau's thinking.

Possible question 4

Which Enlightened thinkers edited the Encyclopédie? Which were their purposes?