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Enlightenment Thought Undermining Authority Essay

481 words - 2 pages

How Might Enlightenment Thought Undermine the Authority of the Old Regime? The eighteenth century ushered in a new movement that changed the course of European history. This movement is called the Enlightenment. The main thinkers of the Enlightenment were called the philosophes. The philosophes used reason and natural law to establish new ideas about politics and religion, and they used these new ideas to challenge and undermine the established institutions of the Old Regime (Krieger 237). Most philosophes believed in the idea of the equality of man and of natural rights afforded to all men. They believed all men should be afforded equality, ...view middle of the document...

These beliefs eventually led to the advent of the modern philosophy of democracy (Krieger 185). The ideals of democracy were distributed among the middle and lower classes. People with no status realized they had the right to happiness and prosperity. This further led to the decline of authority of the Old Regime. Another target of the philosophes was religion. The philosophes believed the universe operated according to natural law, and these ideas led some to disapprove and disagree with the teachings of the Church. Many believed the Earth was not the center of the universe and others disagreed with the age of the earth. Philosophes such as Voltaire believed the Church was not the only pathway to God (Krieger 184). These ideas undermined and limited the influence of the Church, and decreased the peoples need for the Church. These further hindered the Church by limiting its income from offerings. In conclusion, the philosophes gave rise to ideas that undermined the authority of the old regime. They had profound influence on the lower and middle classes, and used this influence to advance their new ideas of politics and religion. In the area of politics, they gave rise to the ideas of equality, separation of powers, and democracy. These ideas influenced public opinion and weakened the influence of elites. The philosophes also influenced religion. They disagreed with the teaching of the Church and provided new ideas about God. As a result of these teachings the role of the Church was diminished.

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