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Philosophes Project for Western Civ 2006

I had to compare and contrast 2 Philosophes from the Age of Enlightenment. I chose Voltaire and Rousseau. I prepared a PowerPoint Slide Show comparing and contrasting them on 10 different issuhes. I contrasted their views on Type of Government, Outlook on Life, idea of a Perfect Society, Religion, Book they wrote, Their Life in general, Their Dates, and Famous Quotes they said. I also listed several of their similarities. I then had to answer the following essay questions:

  1. How did the ideas of the Philosophes alter society’s values?
  2. How did the Philosophes’ ideas contribute to economic, religious, and political liberty?
  3. How did early experiences shape the Philosophes life?


Slide Show

PowerPnt 2003.pngA PowerPoint slideshow of this work is available here: Image:Philosophes - Voltaire vs Rousseau.ppt

Pdf.jpgA PDF version of this work is available here: Image:Philosophes - Voltaire vs Rousseau.pdf

Type of Government

  • Voltaire
    • Constitutional monarchy
    • Distrusted democracy
    • Propagated the idiocy of the masses
    • He “would rather obey 1 lion then 200 rats of his own species”
  • Rousseau
    • (Direct) Democracy
    • Grew up in Switzerland where adult males had direct vote in a small government
    • Distrusted representative democracy
    • “any law which the people has not ratified in person, is void”

Outlook on Life

  • Voltaire
    • People too optimistic
    • People intolerant of other ideas
    • People foolish
  • Rousseau
    • People want power
    • People born good and free
    • People who are strong imprison weaker people

Perfect Society

  • Voltaire
    • People must work to make society better
    • “Everything happens for the better” is not true
    • People must work to perfect society
  • Rousseau
    • If people lived alone on island, society would be perfect
    • Government makes a society less perfect


  • Voltaire
    • Thought the Church controlled too much
    • Wanted religious tolerance for all
  • Rousseau
    • No view listed


  • Voltaire
    • Candide
    • Written under pseudonym and never admitted writing it
    • Had a sharp wit, words, and ideas
  • Rousseau
    • The Social Contract
    • People have direct say in government and sign “social contract”
    • Said that government should be ruled by the general will of the people

Their Life

  • Voltaire
    • Educated at Louis-le Grand, a Jesuit college
    • Frequently in prison or fleeing the country due to brash remarks
    • Wrote many books
  • Rousseau
    • Abandoned during teen years
    • Forced apprenticeship to evil engraver
    • Sheltered by rich people, who educated him

Their Dates

  • Voltaire
    • Born November 21, 1694 in Paris
    • Died in Paris, 1777
    • Denied burial at church
    • Wrote book in 1759
  • Rousseau
    • Born in Geneva in 1712
    • Died 1778
    • Wrote famous book in 1762

Famous Quotes

  • Voltaire
    • “Écrasez l’infâme!”
    • Crush the evil thing
    • Prejudice = “opinion without judgment”
    • Wrote over 70 plays and was good with words
  • Rousseau
    • “Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains”
    • “Any law which the people has not ratified in person; it is not law at all


  • Both had ideas that went against all other Philosophes
  • Wanted people to be free
  • Both had traditional views on women
  • Spend a lot of time in Paris.

Essay #1

Word.PNGA Microsoft Word version of this work is available here: Image:Philosophes Essay 1.doc

How did the ideas of the Philosophes alter society’s values?

The Philosophes during the Enlightenment changed the moral values of society greatly. They increased the power and respect of women. They increased doubt in authoritarian sources and allowed society to petition the king for changes. The Philosophes also promoted tolerance and equality for all. They let people strive for perfection and happiness.

Some Philosophes wanted to increase the power and rights of women. Women were no longer just objects of men in some of the Philosophes’ minds. Women became equal with men in making decisions in the family. Also, they could now hold all of the jobs that were previously reserved for men only, for example doctors and lawyers.

The Philosophes also increased the amount of doubt in society. Scientists could now probe farther into science and they began to doubt the teachings of Aristotle and other ancient scientists. People also began to doubt the Catholic Church’s teachings, and learned that the Church was not always correct. This increase in doubt eroded the church’s power letting other ideas and religions grow.

People were now able to petition the king and ask him to make their lives better. People did not need to fear being put into jail for speaking bad things about the government or asking for a better life. People could now ask the king to improve their lives and livelihoods without fear of punishment.

Philosophes, especially Voltaire, promoted the tolerance and equality of all people, religions, and races. The Catholic Church persecuted people of other religions. Many Philosophes wanted religious freedom, which let people believe in whatever and whoever they wanted without fear. Philosophes also wanted all races to be treated equally. This vision was written in the United States Constitution, but was unattainable in America till women were able to vote and segregation was over. The Philosophes paved the foundation for these changes in our values.

Philosophes started convincing people that society could be made better and happiness could be attained. Before the Philosophes, people believe that their lives were miserable and that nothing could be done about that fact. The Philosophes changed this and people tried to be happier. The Philosophes changed many of the moral values of society. They let women do jobs that men formally did. They increased doubt in ideas and doubt in authoritarian sources like the church and the king. They let people improve their lives and strive for perfection and happiness. They believed in tolerance and equality for all. The Philosophes changed the moral values of society greatly.

Essay #2

Word.PNGA Microsoft Word version of this work is available here: Image:Philosophes Essay 2.doc

How did the Philosophes’ ideas contribute to economic, religious, and political liberty?

The Philosophes improved economic, religious, and political liberties during the Enlightenment. Many Philosophes challenged old ideas that the government and church ruled and controlled all with no limit to their power and petitioning for changes.

All of the Philosophes believed that people should choose the type of government they wanted. Some even went further and wanted people to make their own laws in a democracy. This expanse of power by the people let more favorable economic treaties pass, which helped the people.

Most Philosophes were tolerant of all religions. Voltaire wanted people to become tolerant of everyone regardless of their religion or race. Voltaire even went against the powerful Church because they were not tolerant of others. As more people adopted other religions and the power of the church decreased, people were able to believe what they wished and become tolerant to everyone.

The Philosophes wanted government to change, to allow more voices to be heard. Also, the Philosophes pushed governments to grant more freedoms to more people. Most governments let people say and do almost whatever they wanted after the Enlightenment. People were now allowed to make complaints against the government to improve their own lives.

These expanses in economic, religious, and political liberties were caused by the pioneering questioning of the Philosophes of the Enlightenment.

Essay #3

Word.PNGA Microsoft Word version of this work is available here: Image:Philosophes Essay 3.doc

How did early experiences shape the Philosophes life?

The Philosophes early experiences in life helped shape their later beliefs and ideas.

John Locke met a man named John Owen in college. He introduced Locke to the idea of religious freedom. Locke did not catch onto this idea, though and remained tolerant only of other Protestants. Locke also read the works of René Descartes when he was young. This experience led him to say that all humans have three natural rights; the rights to life, liberty, and property. He also experienced the glorious revolution in England, which helped shape his later beliefs about change in governments.

Thomas Hobbes witnessed a bloody battle which led him to the conclusion that all people are evil and need a strong government to keep the peace and control them. This led him to believe that an absolute monarchy was the best form of government.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was abandoned during his teen years. He spent years forced into servitude as an apprentice. Later, wealthy people were good to him and took care of him. These experiences led him to believe that people are born good, but society’s intuitions turns them bad in their quest for power or wealth. Also he was influenced by the peace and stability he saw in traditional Swiss villages where he grew up near.

Baron de Montesquieu was born to a wealthy family, yet raised in a poorer family. In this other family, he observed people fighting for their religion and prosecuting non-believers. This led him to his belief of tolerance for all religions.

Mary Wollstonecraft grew up in a family were everything went to the oldest son, even though she was older then her oldest brother. This experience led her to fight for women’s equality and rights. She believed that women and men should be equal.

Voltaire’s education at a Jesuit school thought him, in his opinion, not much except “Latin and the Stupidities.” This type of education led him to want to change the Church’s control over education and all other matters including tolerance and equality for all people, regardless of race or religion.