The Enlightenment in France

By Frederick B. Artz | Go to book overview

3

MONTESQUIEU

1. His Earlier Life and Work.

Montesquieu (1689-1755) was the first Philosophe to win a widespread reputation. He was the son of a member of the nobility of the robe, and, as a youth, he received a good education with emphasis on Latin and historical studies. Montesquieu then took a degree in law at the University of Bordeaux. After this he went for a time to Paris where his interest centered in scientific studies, and where he met Fontenelle and other scholars including some who were specialists in classical history and Chinese studies. On his return to Bordeaux he inherited the presidency of the Parlement of Bordeaux. Though he was a Catholic with deistic leanings, he married a wealthy Protestant heiress, and soon inherited a good deal of property from his father and uncle. He was now a well-to-do man, but, later, he always lived beyond his means, and was often in debt.

Elected to membership in the Academy of Bordeaux, his early papers were on Roman religion in which he shows the influence of Machiavelli and of Bayle. Montesquieu soon became the director of the Academy which laid emphasis on scientific experiments and on independence of judgment. Among his publications, connected with the Academy, were some on

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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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