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Voltaire's Criticism Of Leibniz Essay

4148 words - 17 pages

Voltaire's Criticism of Leibniz

    The Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, was a time of great intellectual and moral growth for humanity. In part because of the increasing effect of the Protestant Reformation, people were starting to turn to reason for the answers to life's questions, rather than to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Scientific inquiry became widespread and accepted as the standard for inquiring into the nature of the universe. The scientific method was developed. For the first time in the history of art, perspective was used in paintings. (Now people who were farther away looked farther away). Great advances were made in medicine, in part because of pioneers like Leonardo da Vinci, who studied the human body inside and out and used reason to discover what secrets it kept hidden, rather than accepting (as was common at the time) the ancient Greek idea that sickness was caused by an imbalance of the four elements in the body. The Enlightenment also marked the advent of capitalism, an economic system which, in theory, is a meritocracy in which the skilled producers and traders rise to the top of the economic spectrum through their own effort. Capitalism stands as a stark contrast to the earlier, pre-Enlightenment economic situation, in which the rich tended to come from the aristocracy, the poor tended to be serfs bonded to a certain section of land, and opportunities for economic advancement for the majority comprised of non-aristocratic individuals was severely limited.


During the Age of Reason, several important philosophical ideas were also developed. Some of the most important, which still influence the lives of Westerners on a daily basis, were the political doctrines developed in Europe in the eighteenth century. For the first time, people began to believe that they had individual rights. Prior to the Enlightenment, the commonly accepted political belief in Europe was the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, which told the people that their monarch had been appointed by God and was responsible only to God for his actions, not to the people. (World 11-33) The implication was that the king could perform any action that he wanted to perform, that this action would be sanctioned by God, and that the people had no recourse in the event of injustice. During the Enlightenment, the Social Contract theory of government became popular, in part due to abuse of power by European monarchs. This doctrine was popularized by the political and philosophical writings of Locke, Hobbes, Kant, and Rousseau, among others. It held that humanity had originally existed in a "state of nature," without any sort of government or law, and that people entered a compact with other individuals. The people, in entering into the contract, gave up some personal liberty to gain security and the other benefits of government intended to secure law and order. (Government 7-22; Philosophy 19-22)


The social contract justification for...

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