The Enlightenment Thinkers


Adam Smith

Mary Astell
Olympe de Gouge
Mary Wollstonecraft                                                                            

Ben Franklin 
Thomas Jefferson
John Locke 
Thomas Paine
Jean Jacques Rousseau                                                                           

Justice System/capital punishment/torture
Cesare Beccaria

Philosophy/ Education                                             
Thomas Hobbes                                                  
David Hume                                                              
Immanuel Kante


Scientific Method/Inquiry/Empiricism
Francis Bacon 
Rene Descartes         


Destiny Catalog                                               

Additional Databases:   Great Lives from History: 17th Century 18th Century

Websites and Articles

American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond   Biographies of John Locke, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith.

InfoPlease   This particular entry is for John Amos Comenius. The article is not long but has links.  
Search for additional Enlightenment thinkers.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy   Excellent source for information about individual philosophers,
like Baron de Montesquieu, and schools of philosophy. "A peer-reviewed academic resource"

Library of Economics and Liberty   The free access to the encyclopedia gives pertinent
information about Adam Smith and David Hume.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy   Another excellent source with background information about The Enlighten-
ment or Age of Reason. Also extensive information about individuals and theories. Check out John Locke, for example.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook: The Enlightenment   This portion of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook,
provided by Fordham University, presents information concerning the Enlightenment. While the page appears to be
a site full of internal links to information about the Enlightenment, in reality the page is a directory of web sites on
the internet concerning the Enlightenment. External links take the reader to web sites concerning The Enlightenment
as a Propaganda Project, The Enlightenment and Political Analysis, The Enlightenment Evaluation of the Human Condition,
The Enlightenment and Economics, Enlightenment and Philosophy, and many others. There is wealth of information access-ible via this site!

Topic: Enlightenment   Language: English

Philosophy Resource   Eminent philosophers are profiled at the BBC history web site. Philosophers from the ancient
world, from medieval and renaissance times, from the Enlightenment and from the 19th and 20th centuries are intro-
duced. This section of the web site has biographical information for philosophers from the Enlightenment. The modern philosophers listed include Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and others.
For some of these philosophers, you can click on their name to go to a page with additional information.

Topic: Philosophy, Philosophers   Language: English   Lexile: BR

The Enlightenment by Roger Jones   The characteristics of the Enlightenment are a skepticism towards the
doctrines of the church, individualism, a belief in science and the experimental method, the use of reason, that
education could be a catalyst of social change and the demand for political representation. Its main social and
political consequence was the French revolution. The author presents a lengthy, challenging web page concerning rationalism, empiricism, the encyclopedists, the analytic/synthetic distinction, logic, determinism, and Immanuel
Kant. While this page is extremely informative, it is challenging reading.

Topic: Enlightenment   Language: English   Lexile: 1120

Mary Astell (1666–1731)  Mary Astell designed her metaphysics around an account of God and his creation. She
was a dualist, maintaining that the two kinds of beings—minds and bodies—come in various degrees of finitude and corruptibility: God is the infinite and incorruptible mind; human minds and corporeal particles are finite, naturally incorruptible beings; and human bodies and physical objects are finite, naturally corruptible beings.
Biography  Encyclopedia

Mary Astell  "...philosopher, rhetorician, and advocate for women’s education.   She was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, to Peter Astell , a coal merchant, and his wife, Mary, daughter of George Errington, also a coal merchant in Newcastle.[1] Her paternal uncle, Ralph Astell, curate of St Nicholas’s, Newcastle upon Tyne, was a man of letters.[2] He educated his young niece in the philosophy that he had studied at Cambridge—under Platonists like Henry More and John Smith—and in theological doctrine. She also learned French and Latin."

Francis Bacon   A large report about the life and works of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), one of the leading figures in natural philosophy and in the field of scientific methodology. Sections of interest include; biography, natural philosophy, scientific method, science, and social philosophy, ethical dimensions in Bacon's thought, and Novum Organum and the Theory of Induction. Francis Bacon was a lawyer, a Member of Parliament, and served on the Queen's Counsel. Bacon wrote many essays that pondered questions of ethics.  Topic: Bacon, Francis   Language: English   Lexile: 1370  Biography  Encyclopedia

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)   Francis Bacon had an interesting life and an even more interesting death. Learn about this man's childhood and his struggle to work through an education. Learn how he became a leading lawyer in England and worked his way up to Lord Chancellorship. Finally, learn the strange events that lead to his death.
Topic: Bacon, Francis   Language: English   Lexile: 1600  Biography

Carpenter, Andrew N."Beccaria, Cesare: Classical School" Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2010. 74-78. Print. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

[Cesare Beccaria (1738—1794)]   John D. Bessler, Revisiting Beccaria's Vision: The Enlightenment, America's Death Penalty, and the Abolition Movement, 4 Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y. 195 (2009).  Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

John Amos Comenius - Czech educator 
"John Amos Comenius". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 22 Sep. 2015.

Descartes' Life and Works   Here is an informative look at the life and accomplishments of philosopher Descartes.
You will learn about his early life, starting in his childhood and taking you through his army career and his interest in mathematics. You will then get a look into Descartes famous writings, The World and Discourse, The Meditations,
The Principles and The Passions, that are described on this page. This is a great resource for detailed information
about this historical figure's contributions to mathematics and science.   

Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Descartes, Rene    Lexile: 1290  Biography     Encyclopedia

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) : Overview   Discover why Rene Descartes is often called the father of modern philosophy. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the two main reasons for Descartes' break with traditional Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy that was prevalent during his time. This article provides an overview of Descartes' philosophical thought as it relates to various metaphysical, epistemological, religious, moral and scientific issues. Read about Descartes' life and in France and the Netherlands and find out why he decided to seek a new method for scientific inquiry.  
Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Philosophy, Descartes, Rene    Lexile: 1340  Biography

Benjamin Franklin: In Search of A Better World
"Benjamin Franklin: In Search of A Better World." The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, 2008. Web. 22 Sept. 2015. .

World of Influence: France   During the time of Benjamin Franklin, England and France were world superpowers
with competing interests and forms of government. Although perhaps it seems strange that the United States would
form an alliance with France since they had little in common in either government or religion, France hoped to retaliate
on England through the alliance and the Americans gained a powerful military ally. Benjamin Franklin became the first French ambassador. In spite of his democratic principles, Franklin was welcomed in France due to his intellect, irreverence, and amusing personality.  

Topic: North America--Civilization--French influences, United States-Civilization-French influences

Benjamin Franklin   Benjamin Franklin was a man rich in achievements. Visit this web site and read about this fascinating American. Check out the Ben A to Z section. Here you will find an alphabetical listing of many of his accomplishments, for instance, A for Abolitionist, B for inventor of the bifocals, C' a composer, D for Diplomat and
so on. You can also walk through a timeline of his life. PBS brings you this comprehensive web site.

Topic: Franklin, Benjamin   Language: English   Lexile: 950  Interactive

Welcome to Olympe de Gouges   Did you know that, during the French Revolution, an idealistic and assertive
woman was executed because she argued that slaves should be free and women should be treated as equal to men? Visit this web site to learn about the contributions of Olympe de Gouges, the author of many political pamphlets and plays, including her Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen (1791). Review a list of the ideas she supported, and realize that she was a feminist thinker ahead of her time. Click on the timeline for a chronological list of key events in her life.  

Topic: Gouges, Olympe de    Lexile: 1510

Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft Voices of a Dual Revolution   Appreciate the powerful voices of two
late eighteenth-century writers who both wrote forcefully about the idea that women should have rights equal to men. While one was French and the other was English, they were alike in their political liberalism, their interest in women's rights and their opposition to the extreme violence of the Reign of Terror during the French revolution. Read excerpts
of original writing from each of them to compare their philosophies, and also review brief biographical notes on each of them.  

Topic: Gouges, Olympe de, Wollstonecraft, Mary,--1759-1797     Lexile: 1290

Olympe de Gouges and 'Les Trois Urnes'   Visit the British Library for a lively and very informative article on French political writer Olympe de Gouges. Learn about the courage and strong ideals of this woman who used her writing ability to oppose slavery and to advocate for women's rights at a time and place when these were not popular positions. The article also provides a replica of her poster 'Les Trois Urnes' in which she advocates for a national election in which the common people would choose the form of government France should have.
Topic: Gouges, Olympe de     Lexile: 1450  Primary Source Materia

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe deliberately avoided being called a philosopher, although that was one of his many talents. He didn't like that scholastic philosophy investigated use-
less subject matter, applied respectable methods erratically, and couldn't be understood by the masses. Goethe
didn't develop his own system of thought or analyze arguments, but he was a great thinker. He challenged the paradigms of Newton and Linnaeus. Investigate Goethe's world view and what he thought of Rousseau and Kant. Find out how he influenced Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein.

Topic: Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von   Lexile:1400  Biography  Encyclopedia

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe   The son of a lawyer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was tutored in languages and memorized literary passages by Homer and Ovid. While studying law, he wrote poetry and a satirical crime comedy. While practicing progressive law, he wrote a novel and collaborated on plays. Learn about his epic poem Faust, which was adapted for opera. In addition to being a poet and lawyer, Goethe was a scientist and philosopher. His writings inspired Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Topic: Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von   Language: English   Lexile: 1380  Biography

Hume's Aesthetics   The aesthetic theory of British empiricist, philosopher, historian, and essayist David Hume is explored and explained in this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry. Although there is a tendency to emphasize
the two essays devoted to art, 'Of the Standard of Taste' and 'Of Tragedy,' his views on art and aesthetic judgment are intimately connected to his moral philosophy and theories of human thought and emotion. The content is arranged un-
der five key headings: Context, Hume's Terminology, Beauty and Taste in Hume's Moral Theory, Hume's Essay on
Taste, and Hume's Essay on Tragedy.  
Topic: Hume, David    Lexile: 1280

David Hume (1711-1776)   David Hume was a British idealist philosopher in the 19th century. He is known for his boldly skeptical approach to a wide range of philosophical subjects. Learn about Hume's life and his writings from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Find out when he first became interested in philosophy and read about his early publications. You can follow his work in philosophy and examine the main controversies surrounding his writings both before and after his death.  
Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Philosophy, Hume, David  Lexile: 1380  Biography

Immanuel Kant   Although Immanuel Kant was born in 1724, his philosophical ideas are still influential today. Introduce yourself to this modern philosopher at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy web site where you can learn about his family life, education, early interest in philosophy, his publications and his various teaching jobs. There is information about Kant's project called the Critique of Pure Reason and details about Kant's beliefs about transcendental idealism. His theories about morality and freedom are also explained.   
Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Kant, Immanuel, Philosophy   Lexile: 1490  Biography

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason   Kant was a tutor and teacher. He understood logic, philosophy, and metaphysics. Although he grew up during the Enlightenment, he evaluated it critically. Descartes and Newton celebrated the ability
of reason to weigh evidence logically, discern order, and find knowledge. Rationalism believes that there are things we just know, things that are self-evident, and rights that are inalienable. Empiricism believes that the human mind starts
as a blank slate and that all knowledge comes from experience. Kant tried to find the middle ground.

Topic: Rationalism, Kant, Immanuel   Language: English   Lexile: 870

John Locke   Known as the father of empiricism, John Locke advocated his belief that all knowledge is attained
through the use of the senses, through his writings. This site documents Locke's childhood, raised the son of an attorney, through his education in which he became a physician and philosopher. The site also discusses his thoughts, opinions, and ideas about man, existence, society, and government. The often radical thinking characteristic of John Locke, which is evident in the few works published by him, are also discussed.

Topic: Locke, John, Empiricism   Language: English   Lexile: 1460

John Locke   One of the greatest philosophers in Europe at the end of the seventeenth century was John Locke. Understand the history behind the time in which Locke lived and see why it was considered one of the most extra-
ordinary centuries of English political and intellectual history. Read about his monumental work called An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and see when and why he wrote the Two Treaties of Government. A bibliography
of Locke's works is included.  

Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Locke, John   Language: English   Lexile: 1260

Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat   "Montesquieu was one of the great political philosophers of
the Enlightenment. Insatiably curious and mordantly funny, he constructed a naturalistic account of the various forms
of government, and of the causes that made them what they were and that advanced or constrained their development. He used this account to explain how governments might be preserved from corruption. He saw despotism, in particular, as a standing danger for any government not already despotic, and argued that it could best be prevented by a system
in which different bodies exercised legislative, executive, and judicial power, and in which all those bodies were bound
by the rule of law. This theory of the separation of powers had an enormous impact on liberal political theory, and on the framers of the constitution of the United States of America."
Topic: Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de      Lexile: 1270  Biography

Tom Paine   In this biography of Thomas Paine you will learn about the man that had a great impact on the writing
of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote the famous pamphlet Common Sense that debated the idea of England breaking away from the rule of the king. Paine wrote the pamphlet soon after he was offered a job by Benjamin Franklin as the editor of Pennsylvania Magazine. It sold over 150,000 copies. His writing caused colonists to seek the need for independence from England. You will also learn about the diversified jobs and careers Thomas Paine held.

Topic: Paine, Thomas   Language: English   Lexile: 1090  Biography

Thomas Paine   Common Sense, The Crisis, The Rights of Man, and Age of Reason are all writings by the late
Thomas Paine that are available for you to read when you visit this site. Paine's beginnings started back in Thetford, England where he was born on January 29, 1737. He started out working for his father as a corsetiere after he failed
out of school. Paine's misfortunes in the jobs he held led him to his journey to America. When you visit this site you
will find a brief biography on Thomas Paine and discover the important role he played in America.

Topic: Paine, Thomas   Language: English   Lexile: 1130  Biography

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778)   One of the most influential thinkers during the enlightenment in 18th century Europe was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Find out about Rousseau's first major philosophical work which argued that the progression of the sciences and the arts caused the corruption of virtue and morality. Read a biography of Rousseau's life and learn about his autobiography. There is background information about the beginnings of modern philosophy and the Enlightenment. Rousseau's Discourses and The Social Contract are discussed and his historical and philosophical influences are explained.  Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Philosophy, Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1712-1778   Language: English   Lexile: 1210  Biography     Encyclopedia

Jean Jacques Rousseau   Both his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and his influence on
later thinkers are reasons why Jean-Jacques Rousseau is still an important figure in the history of philosophy. Read about the life of Rousseau who was born in Geneva in 1712. Find out about an essay competition he won in 1749 in which he wrote about how the development of arts and sciences corrupt public morals. Several of the other works he wrote are discussed and his political philosophy is explained.  
Topic: Philosophers, Modern, Philosophy, Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1712-1778      Lexile: 1460  Biography     Encyclopedia      

Adam Smith   His writings in The Wealth of Nations were echoed in the later writings of 19th and 20th century economists. Educated in Glasgow and Oxford, Adam Smith became a popular 18th century professor and tutor.
He wrote The Wealth of Nations in the same year that the Declaration of Independence was written. In it, he de-
scribes the benefits and rational thinking behind a free market economy. In his other writings, he didn't actually
advocate selfishness and individualism. Smith didn't believe that self-interest and charity were mutually exclusive.

Topic: Smith, Adam,--1723-1790     Lexile: 1460  Biography Encyclopedia

Adam Smith (1723—1790)   Considered by some to be the father of capitalism, Adam Smith was actually more of a philosopher than an economist. His book on The Wealth of Nations puts the free market into a larger context of social history and political science. The main concerns of his writing were morality, human motivation, and ethics. A contra-
diction exists between his economic theory of egoism and his ethical theory of altruism. Discover how his own education influenced his philosophy. Investigate how his philosophy fits in with the philosophy of Hume and the science of Newton. 

Topic: Smith, Adam,--1723-1790      Lexile: 1310    Encyclopedia

Voltaire   A writer and activist in the 18th century, Voltaire played a major role in shaping the Enlightenment. In a
strict sense of the term, Voltaire wasn't a philosopher. He was a writer but his writings helped shape later philosophies. Examine Voltaire's philosophical views and contributions. From a young age, he wanted to be a playwright. His father insisted that he pursue law and public service. He discovered how to obtain patrons but was forced into exile for defa-mation. Investigate how he rebuilt his image but his work caused further scandal.

Topic: Voltaire,--1694-1778   Language: English   Lexile: 1580  Biography  

Francois Marie Arouet De Voltaire (1694-1778)   Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you com-
mit atrocities, French writer Francois Marie Arouet De Voltaire once asserted. This guide to Voltaire comprises an
image, links to five related Guardian and Observer features and reviews, and a number of facts about the author ar-
ranged under such headings as Critical verdict (The embodiment of the European Enlightenment, [Voltaire] published more than [two thousand] books, plays and pamphlets, excelling in all the major literary forms of the day), Now read
on, and Recommended biography.

Topic: Voltaire,--1694-1778      Lexile: 1400  Biography   News Source

Mary Wollstonecraft   Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for a publication she wrote called Vindication of the Rights
of Woman in 1792. Read about Wollstonecraft's life at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy web site. You will find that her life was full of sadness, loss and financial hardships. Discover how Wollstonecraft overcame her lack of formal education and find out who her daughter became. This encyclopedia offers information about Wollstonecraft's pedagogi-cal writings and her moral and political writings. Her reputation is also discussed.  

Topic: Philosophers, Modern,
Philosophy, Wollstonecraft, Mary,--1759-1797    Lexile: 1400  Biography

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: August 30, 1797-February 1, 1851   Experience the life of Mary Shelley and her career as a writer through this web site's biography. The site displays a listing of the books, letters, and other writings that were created by this author. The descriptive biography outlines some of the most significant events in her life, facts about her writing career, and details about some of her most famous works of literature. An extensive list of further readings about Mary Shelley is also provided.
Topic: Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft,--1797-1851