The enlightenment was the growth of thought of European thinkers in the 1600’s. The spread of enlightenment was a result of the Scientific Revolution during the 1500’s and 1600’s. It resulted as a need to use reason to distribute human laws. It also came about from a need to solve social, political and economic problems.
Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier built the framework for modern chemistry during the enlightenment. Edward Jenner built a vaccine against smallpox, a deadly disease. These sort of scientific successes prompted European thinkers to use reason to find laws to govern the physical world, which they called natural laws. Natural laws are laws that govern human nature.
Two prominent “thinkers” during the enlightemnet were Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Thomas Hobbes wrote a book about his ideas called the Leviathan. In his book he argued that people were naturally cruel, greedy and selfish. He thought that if people were not strictly controlled, they would fight, rob and oppress one another. He believed society must be ruled by an Absolute Monarch. He believed that in order to escape that violent way of life, people entered into a social contract. A social contract is an agreement by which they gave up the state of nature for an organized society.
John Locke had more optimistic views that Thomas Hobbes. Locke said people were basically reasonable and moral. They had certain rights, called natural rights, which belonged to a person at birth. These rights were life, liberty and property. In his writings, Two treatises of government, he argued that people form government to protect their own natural rights. He believed the best type of government is that of which had limited authority. Thus, he rejected Absolute Monarchy. Locke then said that if the government fails its’ obligations or violates people’s rights, people should be able to overthrow the government.