Enlightenment Essay Topics

+ All Enlightenment Essays:

  • Evolution - Towards Enlightenment
  • Mary Wollstonepost as Mist Valuable Thinker
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
  • Some Readers Have Seen Frankenstein as an Illustration of the Fear of the Power of Science. to What Extent Do You Agree with This View Based on Your Reading so Far?
  • Good and Evil in Faerie Queen Book 1
  • How Romanticism Changed Society's Way of Thinking
  • Glorifying the Age of Reason
  • An Analysis of Candide Story by Voltaire
  • World Civilizations Ii
  • Taking a Look at the Romantic Era
  • Representatives of Fire and Light
  • Culture is a Mean of Social Control: Theodor Adorno
  • Buddhist Ethnography
  • The Concept of the Individual in Literature of the Romantic Period
  • Life Journey in "Journey to the West," Life of a Sensuous Woman" and "Candide"
  • Tiresias, Oedipus, and Self
  • The Basic Buddhist Teachings
  • Commentary and Analysis of Voltaire´s Candide
  • Essay on Candide
  • Character Analysis of Ray Smith in Jack Kerouac's 'Dharma Bums'
  • Western and Non Western Divinity
  • Buddhism
  • John Donne Poetry Analysis
  • Enlightened Philosophers (John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Jean Jacques Rousseau)
  • The Search for Enlightenment
  • Comparison of Hofffman’s work, The Sandman, and Mosse’s, From Romanticism to the Volk
  • AP World History Compare and Contrast: The Spread of Christianity and Buddhism in the End of the Classical Period.
  • The Questioning of Faith in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
  • Paideia as Bildung in Germany in the Age of Enlightenment
  • Life Leading Up to Siddhartha Gautama's Awakening
  • discovering individuality
  • Philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment
  • John Locke: Illuminating Path to Life, Liberty, and Property
  • Napoleon and the Enlightenment
  • South American Independence: Bourbon Policies, Enlightenment and Simon Bolivar
  • Comparing The American Revolutionary War and The French Revolution
  • Knowledge in Shelly’s Frankenstein
  • The Influence of Rationalism on the French Revolution
  • Democracy According to Mailer
  • Oedipus, the King and Allegory of the Cave - Comparative Analysis Essa
  • Tantrism
  • Enlightenment from The Tao Te Ching
  • Comparison of Plato's The Last Days of Socrates and Hesse's Siddhartha
  • Great Britain Rise as the Global Leader of the 18th Century
  • Tartuffe
  • Transitions of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment Periods
  • In Praise of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • Anaylysis of Journey to the West
  • Sociology: The Study of Humanity
  • The Women’s Rights Movement in England: 18th Century and Beyond
  • The Enlightentment of Age of Reason Sparked Change
  • Paradigm Shifts of Church History
  • 18th Century, Period of Enlightenment
  • The Intellectual Movement of Enlightment
  • Essays on Vehicular Pollution
  • Enlightened Despotism in Prussia
  • What Were the Causes and Consequences of the Scientific Revolution and How Did It Change the World from 1500 - 1800?
  • Different Paths of Enlightenment in Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  • Mary Wollstonecraft vs. Jean Jaques Rousseau
  • The Role of French Architecture in French Culture
  • Evil in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
  • Bodhisattvas and the Evolution of Buddhism
  • Belief Systems: Islam and Buddhism
  • Radicalism and Revolutions
  • The Darkness of Colonialism and Imperialism in Heart of Darkness
  • Benjamin Franklin: the Enlightenment Figure
  • Salem Witch Trials and New York City
  • Stalinist Revolution
  • Zen and the Enlightened Mind
  • World Religion Studies of Siddhartha or the Buddha
  • Rollercoaster of Arts and Architecture Brought About by Napolean Bonaparte
  • Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804)
  • The Moral Importance of the Beautiful in Kant
  • Bill of Rights & Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen
  • The Horrors of Colonialism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness
  • The Quest: An Archetype in Various Cultural Myths
  • Western Civilization
  • Notes from Underground
  • Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion
  • Thomas Hobbes and the Social Theory Contract
  • Enlightment for Fredrick the Great of Prussia and Joseph II of Austria
  • Siddhartha the Life of a Prophet
  • What Is Buddhism?
  • My Views On Education Philosophy

Always use specific historical examples to support your arguments.

Study Questions

1.

In what ways did the writings of Comenius and Grotius foreshadow the themes of the later Enlightenment?

The works of Comenius and Grotius set the stage for Enlightenment thought in a variety of ways. First, the very fact that they were writing in protest of a national event—the Thirty Years’ War—was revolutionary, as most European governments up to that point had looked very unfavorably upon individuals who might be seen as undermining their authority. Moreover, the substance of Comenius’s and Grotius’s arguments contains clear elements that were mirrored in the works of later Enlightenment thinkers. Comenius emphasized the importance of education, claiming that educated citizens would be less likely to go to war. With this suggestion, Comenius made the same argument that the French philosophes would almost a century later—that reason, and the ability to think and analyze a situation, could solve the problems of the world. Both Comenius and Grotius stressed the importance of treating men as individuals, not as commodities—a sentiment that they expressed in different ways. Comenius felt that, physiologically speaking, we are all the same, and it is therefore unnecessary to fight with each other. Grotius wrote that we all have a responsibility to God to use our lives wisely, and thus giving one’s life for war is an irresponsible way to die. In short, although they phrased it different ways, both men set forth the same ideas: individual liberty, humane treatment for citizens, and ultimately a change in the way that nations and rulers viewed their citizens.

2.

Compare and contrast Hobbes’s perspective on man with Locke’s and explain how that perspective affects their respective ideal governments.

Although both hailed from England and both rose to prominence early in the Enlightenment, Hobbes and Locke took diametrically opposite approaches in their political philosophies. Hobbes was steadfast in his belief that all humans are inherently evil or base by nature. As a result, all people are intrinsically motivated to provide themselves with as many resources as possible. Because resources in the world are limited, people thus become selfish and greedy in their competition for these resources. From this belief emerged Hobbes’s ideal government: one in which a single figure oversees a country and rules using fear. Hobbes believed that fear was the most effective way to control the citizenry and prevent the disorder that would result from each individual greedily pursuing his or her wants.

Locke was far more optimistic, stating that all humans were capable and that they strove for the betterment of the world. His one caveat was that humans in a society would all have to compromise on some of their ideals in the interest of forming a government that best served everyone—however, he believed that humans were reasonable enough to do so. Subsequently, Locke was a proponent of a representative democracy. Such a system would allow all of these rational, thinking people in a society to contribute to their governance, but in such a way that found compromise and kept any one individual’s or group’s wants from crowding out the others.

3.

What factors caused the German Enlightenment to lag behind the English and French Enlightenments?

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, when the Enlightenment was well under way in Britain and France, Germany was highly fragmented both politically and culturally. It was technically not a nation at all but rather a multitude of small sovereign states. Furthermore, nearly all of these states were ruled by despots who instituted strict censorship, stifling intellectual development and making the dissemination of new knowledge difficult. German culture and literature were likewise disjointed, with different regions drawing on different influences and no distinct literary style yet in place. Whereas France and other European countries used vernacular languages for literature, the literary language in Germany was still predominantly Latin. As a result, Enlightenment ideas from England and France took a long time to spread to Germany.

Moreover, German intellectual culture had a prominent streak of conservatism that was lacking in England and France. Christianity was still a dominant force in Germany, where there was not nearly the level of popular discontent with religion and the Church that there was in other western European nations. Many German intellectuals still incorporated traditional Christian themes into their thought and therefore rejected the Enlightenment’s “heretical” focus on pure reason and empiricism. Leibniz, for instance, made a number of great discoveries in mathematics and philosophy, but his religious devotion kept him from straying too far from tradition. As a result, when the German Enlightenment finally did begin in the late 1700s, it proceeded in an entirely different direction from the English and French Enlightenments, embracing reason and rationalism but maintaining strong elements of religion and spirituality at the same time.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Explain Immanuel Kant's philosophy in relation to the search for universal truths. In what ways does he contradict mainstream Enlightenment thought?

2. Adam Smith believed that free trade was far superior to mercantilism. In Smith’s view, how does mercantilism inhibit economic growth, and how does free trade solve that problem?

3. In what ways were the discoveries and innovation of the Scientific Revolution instrumental to the beginning of the Enlightenment?

4. Rationalism, skepticism, and romanticism were the three primary philosophical schools of thought during the Enlightenment. Choose one and explain why you feel it’s a better approach to life than the others.

5. Explain the impact that philosophers from countries other than England, France, and Germany had on the growth of the Enlightenment.

6. What evidence is there that the ideas of the Enlightenment continue to be influential in modern times?

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