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Intellectual Awakening

It is said that ideas govern the world and they come from the philosophers. France produced great philosophers during the eighteenth century.

In his book ‘Two Treatises on Civil Government’, John Locke denounced the doctrine of the divine and absolute right of the monarch.

John Locke


The Two Treatises of Government is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha and the Second Treatise outlines a theory of civil society based on natural rights and contract theory.

Voltaire (1694 – 1718) became internationally famous as a great writer and critic whose style and pungent criticism were inimitable. It was through his plays and writings that he launched his bitter attacks against the existing institutions like the church and the state. He made fun of the eccentricities of the nobles.

Voltaire (1694 – 1718)

Here are some of Voltaire’s popular quotations :-
  • The safest course is to do nothing against one's conscience. With this secret, we can enjoy life and have no fear from death.
  • Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
  • Love truth, and pardon error.

Montesquieu (1659 – 1755) a good student of constitutional government, preferred constitutional monarchy in France such as the English type. He summed up his ideas of such a government in his important work, De l’ Espirit des Lois, (The Spirit of the Laws). It was in this work that he popularized the theory of separation of powers and of its exercise by three branches of the government – the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary.


Montesquieu (1659 – 1755)



Probably the greatest French philosopher of the age was Jean Jacques Rousseau. In his book 'The Social Contract', he explained that the king and his subjects are parties to a contract, and therefore if the king does not rule the people according to their general will, he losses their loyalty. The people have every right to overthrow the monarchy under such circumstances. His writing cast such a spell on his admirers that they were ready to revolt against the oppressive monarchy. Diderot was another intellectual at the time, who prepared an Encyclopaedia containing the latest information. He exposed the rotten system of administration in France and suggested several remedial measures.



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