Philosophers Of Enlightenment Term Paper

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Many of the philosopher's that existed during The Enlightenment

influenced many countries, such as the United States of America, France and England, in

both past and present history. One French philosopher in particular was Francoise Marie

Arouet de Voltaire. He once established the statement, " I do not agree with a word you

say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. " I agree with Voltaire's statement,

meaning that although you may not agree with someone's beliefs you will tolerate them,

and my agreement can be exemplified in actions that occur today.

Looking back at the time period of which Voltaire wrote this statement, it is

easy to see why Voltaire and many other philosophers wrote such things. France was

suffering in many ways. Things such as the format of parliament and philosophes, a

financial crisis and the assembly of the Estates-General led to the French Revolution in


In Voltaire's time period, parliaments had much political power. " Many

parlements protested royal initiatives which believed in threatening the rights and liberties

of the people. They denounced the absolute rule of the crown to impose religious

orthodoxy and new taxes " ( Encarta Encyclopedia, 1999 ). Philosopher's were very

outspoken about parliaments powers. They believed they had too much power and they

were not protecting the natural rights of the people.

France at this time was broken into three estates. The First Estate was made

up of nobles and clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Second was made up of the

bourgeois and the Third of the peasants.The First two estates paid little or no taxes;

causing the peasants to pay very high taxes and making them very upset. To the peasants

disadvantage, taxes were raised because of the financial crisis France was facing. France

had many loans to compensate after helping out with the War of the Austrian Succession,

the Seven Years' War, and the American Revolution. The people of France were very

upset by France's large debt that caused them to spend half its yearly revenues paying


The meeting of the Estates-General was a very chaotic scene. The Estates

were there to discuss about France's financial crisis, business depression, and

unemployment. These problems caused things to change, such as the increasement of food

prices. However, little solutions were sought at the meeting because there were mixed

feelings about its powers and rules. Some felt that if the king, Louis XVI , was the one

who would be making and carrying out the laws, what was the point in even holding a

meeting. The Third Estate wanted representatives to cast individual votes to prevent being

outvoted by the First and Second Estates which occured in past years.

My belief of the statement " I do not agree with a word you say, but I will

defend to the death your right to say it, " can be best observed when looking at occurances

today. Two most common examples include abortion and the death penalty.

Abortion is a hot topic anymore. Its various types of methods brings

various types of opinions. My personal belief, along with some other Americans who

oppose abortion, is that you are killing a human being. Others do not think of it as killing

someone because they were not " born " yet. Many protestors feel that doctors are just

trying to play " God. " A study shows that an amazing 25% of Americans choose to end

their pregnancy using some form of abortion. Although the United States government

is aware of protestors beliefs, the U.S. still to this day tolerates abortion.

Looking at statistics, many people are in favor of the death penalty also;

whether it be done by needle or the electric chair. However, there is a large sum of people

who oppose the death penalty for religious beliefs. Others are against it because they feel

it is based on a racial issue ( refer to charts on next page for statistics ). I, along with other

Roman Catholics believe God is the one who decides when it is time for you to die, and it

is only Him who has the right to take life away. The death penalty is in affect right now

and has proven itself worthy. Statistics done in Canada show that homicide rates have

dropped 27% since 1975. Since this is an astonishing rate, many states have taken on the

death penalty, even if everyone may not agree with it, many have learned to tolerate it.

Voltaire's statement, " I do not agree with a word you say, but I will defend

to the death your right to say it, " has greatly influenced others. Although many people

agree with it today, ironically enough many people opposed phiolosophers in Voltaire's


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