The Influence of Beccaria and Voltaire.

Essay by ditzydorkHigh School, 10th gradeA+, August 2003

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Today in society, concepts are hardly ever in their original form. It is extremely rare for anything to be in prototype form. Most ideas are based upon prior thoughts and beliefs. Even documents that our society is based upon have been derived from the philosophies of former innovative thinkers. Through their own new and radical philosophies, philosophers such as Beccaria and Voltaire from the Enlightenment period influenced society's and government's future ideas and principles. By writing numerous books and essays, these philosophers were able to become the foundation of many important freedoms and principles.

Cesare Beccaria is most well known for his essay On Crimes and Punishments. Within this essay, Beccaria explained his philosophy of the need to punish. This philosophy impacted our society, specifically in The Bill of Rights. Beccaria has also been recognized for his views upon the death penalty. This influenced the movement to abolish the death penalty.

In On Crimes and Punishments, Beccaria writes, "Thus it was necessity that forced men to give up apart of their liberty. It is certain, then, that every individual would choose to put into the public stock the smallest portion possible, as much only as was sufficient to engage others to defend it. The aggregate of these, the smallest portions possible, forms the right of punishing; all that extends beyond this, is abuse, not justice. Observe that by justice I understand nothing more than that bond which is necessary to keep the interest of individuals united, without which men would return to their original state of barbarity. All punishments which exceed the necessity of preserving this bond are in their nature unjust" (8). Here, Beccaria is basically saying that punishment should be used to the smallest extent possible. Punishment is necessary to keep man in line, letting him be aware...