12 Key Enlightenment Philosophers


Mark Cartwright
published on 04 March 2024

In this collection, we look at the lives, works, and ideas of the following 12 key philosophers of the Enlightenment:

All of the above (and others besides) made vital contributions to the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, a time when intellectuals were trying to answer such key questions as what is happiness, what is the best political system, and how can we build a fairer world inhabited by educated, reasoned, and tolerant citizens?

Apparently, the key values of the Enlightenment are not acquired once and for all. Rather, they must be appropriated by each generation and each culture in turn, or they will be submerged and lost.

(Henry Chisick)



Questions & Answers

Who were the Big 5 Enlightenment thinkers?

The big five Enlightenment thinkers in terms of who inspired the most discussion were John Locke (natural rights and liberty), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (a fairer society), Adam Smith (founder of modern economics), Immanuel Kant (turned philosophy upside down), and Thomas Paine (called for revolution).

What are the key concepts of the Enlightenment?

The key concepts of the Enlightenment can be listed as: the protection of rights (liberty, property, etc.), equality and greater fairness in society, government by consensus, reason above superstition and dogma, improved education, and minimising state and religious interference in private affairs.

About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a full-time writer, researcher, historian, and editor. Special interests include art, architecture, and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the WHE Publishing Director.

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