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The Enlightenment ca. 1650-1800 (a.k.a. The Age of Reason)

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Presentation on theme: "The Enlightenment ca. 1650-1800 (a.k.a. The Age of Reason)"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Enlightenment ca (a.k.a. The Age of Reason)

2 Today’s 3 Big Ideas: 1) Where did government come from? 2) How much power should it have? 3) Should it ever be overthrown?

3 A. Divine Right of Kings  The late-Renaissance period of the 1500s & 1600s is called the: “Age of Absolute Monarchs.”  Coming out of the chaos of the Middle Ages, strong kings built powerful armies and ruled with absolute power.

4 A. Divine Right of Kings (cont.)  Governments do 3 things: 1) Make laws. 2) Enforce laws. 3) Interpret laws.  Absolute monarchs controlled all 3 functions of government.

5 A. Divine Right of Kings (cont.)  Rulers believed in the “Divine Right of Kings” (or DRK) theory.  They felt that they were God’s representative on earth.  They used this theory to justify taking and keeping all the power.

6 A. Divine Right of Kings (cont.)  For centuries no one challenged DRK theory.  Strong kings helped maintain order in society.  After the chaos of the Middle Ages, this was more important than freedom to most people.

7 A. Divine Right of Kings (cont.) Answering today’s 3 questions: Answering today’s 3 questions:  1) God created government and chose a king to rule.  2) The king gets absolute power as God’s representative on earth.  3) No one can rebel because that goes against God’s will.

8 B. Thomas Hobbes English philosopher ca. mid-1600s. Helped to create “Social Contract” theory.

9 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.)  Rejected the “DRK” theory.  Refused to believe that God created government and hand-picked the king.  Instead, he believed that it was actually the people who originally put the ruler in charge.

10 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.)  Hobbes believed that originally we lived free in the “state of nature” during which: 1) total freedom led to chaos and the “war of all against all.” 2) life for most was “nasty, brutish and short.”

11 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.)  Hobbes theorized that in the midst of this chaos free people agreed to start government.  Free individuals agreed to give up some of their freedom and put a ruler in charge.

12 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.)  In return, the ruler would provide law and order in a civilized society.  This is called “Social Contract” (or SC) theory.  The ruler got power not from God, but from free people who agreed to obey rules so that there could be order.

13 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.)  Hobbes believed the ruler, when chosen, inherited absolute power because: 1) People are basically selfish. 2) Each person only wants what’s best for themselves. 3) The ruler must ignore the people and do what he thinks is best for everyone.

14 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.)  In addition, Hobbes felt rebellion against the king is never justified.  Rebellion only leads us back to the chaos of the state of nature.  A bad king is better than no king!

15 B. Thomas Hobbes (cont.) Answering today’s 3 questions: Answering today’s 3 questions:  1) Free people created government to prevent chaos.  2) The king gets absolute power to do what’s best for the people.  3) No one can rebel because that would send us back to the state of nature.

16 C. John Locke Another English philosopher ca. late-1600s. Also a Social Contract thinker.

17 C. John Locke (cont.)  Like Hobbes, he rejected DRK theory and accepted SC theory.  He agreed that the state of nature was chaos and that people chose a ruler to provide law and order.  However, Locke differed from Hobbes on the nature of the social contract.

18 C. John Locke (cont.)  Locke stressed that people are born with three “Natural Rights” given to them by God. 1) Life 2) Liberty 3) Property.

19 C. John Locke (cont.)  The contracted job of the ruler is simply to protect these rights.  If the ruler doesn’t protect the people’s rights he has broken the social contract.  In this case, the people can rise up, overthrow the ruler and replace him.

20 C. John Locke (cont.)  Locke’s version of SC theory was truly revolutionary.  Kings were not only put in power by the people but they also answer to the people.  The people can overthrow a bad king and replace him.

21 B. John Locke (cont.) Answering today’s 3 questions: Answering today’s 3 questions:  1) Free people created government to protect their rights.  2) The king gets limited power and must respect the rights of the people.  3) The people can overthrow a king that doesn’t respect and protect their rights.

22 C. John Locke (cont.) In 1776, Thomas Jefferson included Locke’s ideas in the: Declaration of Independence.


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