Role of the Philosophers in the French Revolution

Role of the Philosophers in the French Revolution

France in the 18th century had many revolutionary thinkers. Among them were Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Diderot. Their revolutionary ideas encouraged people to fight for their rights. They exposed the inefficiency of the monarch and his government and aroused the people to challenge authority.

Voltaire attacked the Catholic Church. He believed man's destiny was in his own hands and not in heaven. His ideas encouraged people to fight against the privileges, and dominance of the Church without guilt.

John Locke propounded the ideas refuting divinity and absolute rights of monarchs.

Montesquieu's philosophy outlined constitutional monarchy and division of powers. He believed all powers should not be concentrated in one person's hand.

Rousseau asserted the doctrine of democracy and popular sovereignty. He believed that government should be based on the consent of the governed. In his book Social Contract, he talks of a contract between the ruler and the ruled. Implied in his writings was the belief that men had the right to change their government, if they were not satisfied.

Thus the ideas of the philosophers 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.