Enlightenment Thought Undermining Authority

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How Might Enlightenment Thought Undermine the Authority of the Old Regime? The eighteenth century ushered in a new movement that changed the course of European history. This movement is called the Enlightenment. The main thinkers of the Enlightenment were called the philosophes. The philosophes used reason and natural law to establish new ideas about politics and religion, and they used these new ideas to challenge and undermine the established institutions of the Old Regime (Krieger 237).

Most philosophes believed in the idea of the equality of man and of natural rights afforded to all men. They believed all men should be afforded equality, regardless of status. These new beliefs caused resentment toward nobles and elites.

The philosophes also believed deeply in the separation of the powers of the government (Krieger 185). They believed a checks and balance system was required to prevent tyranny. The combination of these two beliefs worked to undermine the Old Regime by influencing popular opinion and to call for redistributing of power.

It would also limit the power and influence of the elites and the monarchy.

These beliefs eventually led to the advent of the modern philosophy of democracy (Krieger 185). The ideals of democracy were distributed among the middle and lower classes. People with no status realized they had the right to happiness and prosperity. This further led to the decline of authority of the Old Regime.

Another target of the philosophes was religion. The philosophes believed the universe operated according to natural law, and these ideas led some to disapprove and disagree with the teachings of the Church. Many believed the Earth was not the center of the universe and others disagreed with the age of the earth. Philosophes such as Voltaire believed the Church was not the only pathway to...