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Challenging Enlightenment Views Essay

602 words - 3 pages

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period brought a wave of new ideas to Europe, differing from those of the Enlightenment. Events of these eras led to a deviation from the biased values of the middle Ages. Ideas such as liberty and equality, that could reform society, gave rise to the Revolution itself, and later Napoleon’s rule. However, those same events also led people to reconsider the specific enlightenment principles of society, politics, and human nature.
The Enlightenment brought to Europe a movement of new ideas that greatly impacted society. French citizens were distraught about how life was evolving in France leading up to the Revolution. Their retaliation, the Storming of the Bastille, caused a burst of confidence in the rebels. They now had faith that they could overthrow the French monarchy. This event symbolizes the rebellion against tyranny and marks the beginning of the Revolution. During this same period was the formation of the “National Assembly”. This event was a revolutionary step, assuming virtually sovereign power for a body with no legal authority. With this establishment, the Third Estate challenged the ideas of the nobles and king, who were determined to uphold the original views of the Enlightenment. Just as the Enlightenment view of society was challenged, so was the value of politics.
The events of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era similarly ensued a reconsideration of the Enlightenment view of politics. In response to rebellions in the nation, Robespierre led a Reign of Terror against any citizen seen as a threat to the revolution. Such an inhumane and hostile response to the “counterrevolution” created much of the enduring antipathy to the Revolution and to republicanism. Thomas Hobbes, author of the Leviathan, was an advocate for the need of an authoritative, absolute ruler to govern the people....

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