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The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that was predominant in the Western world during the 18th century Strongly influenced by the rise of modern science and by the aftermath of the long religious conflict that followed the Reformation the thinkers of the Enlightenment were committed to secular views based on reason or human understanding only The thinkers of the Enlightenment proclaimed a new age free from superstitions such as witchcraft Strayer 43 Column II Jean-Jacques Rousseau Mary Wollstonecraft and Marquis de Condorcet were three of these thinkers Though many of their beliefs were different these three provided an intellectual basis for beneficial changes affecting every area of life and thought for years to come Perhaps one of the single most important Enlightenment writers was the philosopher-novelist-composer-music theorist-language theorist and all-around brilliant guy Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778 Rousseau felt that the current state of the government deprived human beings of their natural freedom and fostered a selfish individualism which undermined concern for the common good He thought that civilization was corrupt and rather than teaching self-reliance and generosity civilization fostered individual possession greed and envy Strayer 44 Column II He wanted the state to be a genuine democracy that bound people together in freedom equality and civic devotion Rousseau distrusted the aristocrats and he believed they were betraying decent traditional values He opposed the theater shunned the aristocracy and argued for something dangerous- democratic revolution Rousseau argued that inequality was not only unnatural but that when taken too far it made decent government impossible He emphasized the emotions of individuals and became a contributor to both the Enlightenment and its successor romanticism Rousseau tried to explain the human invention of government as a kind of contract between the governed and the authorities that governed them He thought that the only reason human beings were willing to give up individual freedom and be ruled by others was that they saw that their rights happiness
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