Important Philosophes of the Enlightenment

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The Path to Enlightenment

Essential Question

How did the Philosophes of the 17th century help change the fountation of Early America?

Summary of Research

Each philosophe had their own part in the Enlightenment, whether it was Mary Astell whom was the first to speak out for the rights of women, of Isaac Newton who discovered many of the most important laws of nature and science. Diderot was well known and famous amoung his peers for is works of an Encyclopedia. John Locke and Thomas Hobbes are famous for their works developing the Social Contract. René Descartes is known for his "methodological skepticism" and influencing many other philosophes whom have followed in his footsteps. Voltaire, commonly known for his wit, was also known for pointing out social injustices and treacheries in the government.


René Descartes (1596–1650)

René Descartes- A philosophe famous for his ideas concerning existence
Contribution to the Enlightenment

Descartes is often regarded as the first philosophe to provide the framework for the natural sciences as these began to develop. In his Discourse on the Method he attempts to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt. To achieve this, he employs a method called hyperbolical/metaphysical doubt, sometimes also referred to as methodological skepticism, the rejection of any idea which cannot be proven.

His initial principle is that thought exists, I cannot be separated from thought, so I exist.

Descartes was also famous for his production the Cartesian Theory of Fallacies. "This statement is a lie." Is a perfect example of the Cartesian Theory of Fallacies. This idea states that at a statement can be true and false at the same time. The statement is true in its fallacy. Thus, Descartes developed the Cartesian Theory of Fallacies, which greatly influenced the thinking of the time.



List of Works
  • Discourse on the Method
  • Cartesian Theory of Fallacies

Thomas Hobbes - Philosophe well known for his book : Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes is remembered today for his work on political philosophy, even though he greatly contributed to many fields, including geometry, general philosophy, political science, theology, ethics, physics of gases, and political science. Hobbes's most famous work is the Leviathan. Leviathan is a literary account on what would happen to society without a social contract; man allowed to do anything. Because man can do anything, man can do anything to anyone, which would result in a world-wide war. For this reason man entered a social contract, which means man must respect others and others will respect him.

Contribution to the Enlightenment

Development of the Social Contract

List of Works


John Locke- An important philosopher famous for helping develop the concept of a Social Contract

John Locke

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke are two of the main philosophes behind the theory of a social contract. This social contract states that people are basically evil and 'brutish'. These brutish people entered a social contract and agreed that they would respect each other and in turn get respect from others.

John Locke was also a well-experience merchant, he theorized the law of supply and demand.

Contribution to the Enlightenment
  • Development of Social Contract
  • Helped develop the Laws of Supply and Demand
List of Works
  • A Second Letter Concerning Toleration (1690)
  • A Third Letter for Toleration (1692)
  • Two Treatises of Government (1689)
  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
  • Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)
  • The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures (1695)

Isaac Newton (1642–1727)

Sir Isaac Netwon- By far, the most accomplished of all the philosophers

Newton was first to use fractional indices and coordinate geometry to derive solutions to Diophantine equations. He approximated partial sums of the harmonic series by logarithms, and was the first to use power series. He also discovered a new formula for calculating pi.

One of Newton's countless works is Newton's theory of Colour. This theory states that color is the result of objects interacting with already colored light than objects generating color.

Newton also argued that light is composed of particles and were refracted, but he had to associate them with waves to explain the diffraction of light. Later physicists instead favored a purely wavelike explanation of light to account for diffraction. Today's theories on the particles of light bear only a slight resemblance to Newton's arguments of light.


Contribution to the Enlightenment

He and Leibniz developed the mathematical system of calcuis. Several contributions to geometry, optics, gravitation of planets, and forces of motion. Invented the Newtonian Telescope.

List of Works


Mary Astell (1666–1731)

Mary Astell was the first femanist writer in England, which gave her the title "The First English Femanist" (how creative) Her most important belief was that women should have an equal right to heaven as men, she also believed this was only possible with a lifetime of rigid education and worship. Thus, the 'nunnery' style of schools were born. She is remember for her ability to debate freely amoung men and women.

Contribution to the Enlightenment
  • Astell was the first person whom questioned the place of women and helped start equality
List of Works

A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of Their True and Greatest Interest (1694)A Serious Proposal, Part II (1697)

Dennis Diderot

Author of a set of Encyclopedias

Dennis Diderot was mainly a translator of important books. When he wrote is first book: Pensees philosophiques (The Story of Philosphy) he became a wealth of knowledge and questioned what many philosophers assumed to be fact, including God. Shortly after the publication of his first book, two oher books followed: Lettre sur les aveugles and Lettre sure les sourds et muets.

Contribution to the Enlightenment

Diderot translated many important books and proposed my theories of the philosphiocal views of free will. He was also the first philospher to apply the principle of realitivism to the concept of God, among many other important concepts. Dennis Diderot was also resoponsible for the spread of knowledge to the average citizen.

List of Works
  • Pensées philosophiques (The Story of Philosphy)
  • Lettre sur les aveugles (1749)
  • Lettre sur les sourds et muets

Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Rousseau had a completely different opinion on the theory of a social contract. He believed that people were naturally good but curropted by society. Rousseau believed society lead to inequalties of people which caused jealousy and manifested into hate and other crimes.

Contribution to the Enlightenment

Help develop the Social Contract

List of Works

Discourse on the Arts and Sciences Discourse on Inequality Émile Le Devin du Village The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right

François-Marie Arouet

François-Marie Arouet

Also known as Voltaire, Arouet was a philospher and writer famous for his wit. He was a strong supporter of social reform. Voltaire is a acronym AROVET LI, the Latinised spelling of his surname, Arouet.

Contribution to the Enlightenment

Was the first major philospher to point out the hypocricy of governments

List of Works

Œdipe (1718)

Zaïre (1732)

Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais (1733), revised as Letters on the English (circa 1778)

Le Mondain (1736)

Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738)

Zadig (1747)

Micromégas (1752)

L'Orphelin de la Chine (1755)

Candide (1759)

Dictionnaire philosophique (1764)

L'Ingénu (1767)

La Princesse de Babylone (1768)

Épître à l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Imposteurs (1770)



The great thinkers of the Enlightenment created a stepping-stone for everyone else in their time. Issac Newton and this theories of gravity from Mary Astell's books for the equality of women, each philosophe did their part. Eventually people discovered that the unknown was all around them and all they had to do to contribute was to think. Due to the effect of the philosophes this age is also known as the Age of Reason. Fellow philosophes of this time discovered the America's and tried to colonize it.


The Philosophes of the Enlightenment were very important in the development of America. These philosophes were the revolutionary leaders of there time. The Philosophes provided a sort of stepping-stone to their civilizations, which expanded the social boundaries of the citizens of their time. Many philosophes inspired other great thinkers of times to come. Some of these great thinkers (Magellan specifically) discovered that the Earth was not flat, as commonly believed. Magellan, a sailor, took a voyage around the world and proved it was round. Then other people came and founded America.


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