The Enlightenment in France

By Frederick B. Artz | Go to book overview

2

THE NATURE
OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT
IN FRANCE

1. What was the French Enlightment?

The Enlightenment (called the Siècle des Lumières in French, and the Aufklärung in German) took a new world view; it involved the reevaluation of all values, established a new order of thought, and transformed the standards of humanity. The leaders doubted the validity of old religious, ethical, and political systems, and turned from otherworldly and pessimistic ideas to a secular view of life and an optimistic attitude toward the future. Knowledge took the place of grace, and the Philosophes appealed to all reasonable men to overthrow the ideas handed down from the past and to accept the rule of reason. Interest was centered now in this world, and life was made to be enjoyed. As the youthful revolutionary Saint-Just later put it, in a speech to the Convention, "Happiness is a new idea in Europe." The Philosophes set up new standards of truth based on standards of science and common sense. The Humanists of the Renaissance had set up the authority of classical writers and the leaders of the Reformation had referred

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The Enlightenment in France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Enlightenment in France *
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - The Precursors of the Philosophes 1
  • 2 - The Nature of the Enlightenment in France 30
  • 3 - Montesquieu 50
  • 4 - Voltaire 66
  • 5 - Diderot 83
  • 6 - Other French Reformers 112
  • 7 - A Philosophe Apart, Rousseau 130
  • Conclusion 151
  • Bibliography 154
  • Index 163
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