What specific contributions did Montesquieu, Voltaire and Diderot make to the age of Enlightenment? Contrast their political ideas with that of Thomas Hobbes

Essay by keishabbwnjCollege, Undergraduate November 2008

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In Montesquieu's first work, the Persian Letters, he criticized French institutions, especially the Catholic Church and the French monarchy. In this work he wrote about the attack on traditional religion, the advocacy of religious toleration, the denunciation of slavery and the use of reason to liberate humans from their own prejudices.

In his most famous work, The Spirit of the Laws, he compared the types of government. Republics, which are suitable for small states and based on citizen involvement. Monarchy, suitable for middle sized states, grounded in the ruling class' adherence to law. Finally Despotism, for large empires, dependent on fear to command obedience. The Spirit of the Laws, once translated into English, was read by American philosophers and its principles were incorporated into the U.S. Constitution.

Voltaire was known as the greatest figure in the Enlightenment era. Although he studied law, his passion was writing. He was a successful playwright who penned 2 tragedies, Edipe and Henriade.

In his Philosophic Letters, he wrote about English life. Especially it's freedom of the press, political freedom and religious toleration. He criticized France's royal absolutism, lack of religious toleration and freedom of thought.

Voltaire penned his Treatise on Toleration. In this, he states that religious toleration caused no problems for England and Holland. He also states that "all men are brothers under God." He believed that God created the world but allowed it ot run according to it's own natural laws.

Diderot was a bold thinker in the Enlightenment. He condemned Christianity. He felt it was fanatical and unreasonable. Out of all religions, he said Christianity was the worst. He thought I was absurd and atrocious in its dogma. His contribution to the Enlightenment was a 28 volume Encyclopedia. He called this the treat work of his life. Its...