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Day 26 – Q 2. What role did thinkers and philosophers play in the awakening of the conscience of the European society? What were its consequences?

2. What role did thinkers and philosophers play in the awakening of the conscience of the European society? What were its consequences?  

यूरोपीय समाज के विवेक की जागृति में विचारकों और दार्शनिकों ने कैसी भूमिका निभाई? इसके परिणाम क्या थे?


  • European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” (1685-1815) as part of a movement referred as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment.
  • Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change.


Role played by thinkers and philosophers in the awakening of the conscience of the European society:

  • Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Bacon, Descartes, Locke, and Spinoza. Other major thinkers and philosophers included Beccaria, Diderot, Hume, Kant, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Voltaire.
  • The philosophic movement was led by Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who argued for a society based upon reason rather than faith and Catholic doctrine, for a new civil order based on natural law, and for science based on experiments and observation.
  • The political philosopher Montesquieu introduced the idea of a separation of powers in a government, a concept which was enthusiastically adopted by the authors of the United States Constitution.
  • A moral philosopher Francis Hutcheson described the utilitarian and consequentialist principle that virtue is that which provides the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.
  • John Locke, one of the most influential European thinkers, based his governance philosophy in social contract theory.
  • Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau agreed that a social contract, in which the government’s authority lies in the consent of the governed, is necessary for man to live in civil society.

Consequences of new ideas and awakenings

  • These philosophers and thinkers produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions. The American and French Revolutions were directly inspired by these ideals.
  • Thomas Jefferson closely followed European ideas and later incorporated some of these ideals into the Declaration of Independence (1776). Similarly, these ideals were also incorporated into the United States’ Constitution during its framing in 1787.
  • It was in consequence of these new philosophies and ideas, that, religious (and anti-religious) innovation started, as Christians sought to reposition their faith along rational lines.
  • The French Revolution of 1789 was the culmination of the Enlightenment vision of throwing out the old authorities to remake society along rational lines, but it devolved into bloody terror that showed the limits of its own ideas and later led to the rise of Napoleon.
  • Still, its goal of egalitarianism attracted the admiration of the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. She argued for a society based on reason and that women as well as men should be treated as rational beings.  
  • These ideals inspired many wars of independence and the radical racial inclusivism in many countries.
  • The most influential publication of these philosophers and thinkers was the Encyclopaedia. It helped spread the ideas of the Enlightenment across Europe and beyond.


  • Thus the ideas of the philosophers and thinkers in European society were a direct attack on privileges and feudal rights which protected the upper classes.
  • They helped rouse the people from inactivity and instilled in them a desire to root out social inequalities and set up a government responsive to their need.
  • They played a vital role in focusing the discontent and bringing about the Revolution.
  • They completely changed the course of society towards modernism in all aspects of life.
  • Most of the modern democracies and their constitutions derive their liberal ideals and civil rights from 18th century European thoughts and ideals.

Best Answer: Lucky Verma

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