- The period of the Enlightenment witnessed "the most important mutation in all of European
intellectual history between the Middle Ages and the present." Prove or disprove this assertion.
- Defend or attack this proposition: "The philosophes were on the whole visionary idealists
rather than practical reformers."
- What basic assumptions of the Enlightenment are reflected in the selection from The Encyclopedia and Essay on Man?
- To what extent were such Americans as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson good
representatives of the Enlightenment?
- What significant resemblances and differences can you discover between the scientific
revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and that of the Hellenistic Age?
- What does Rousseau mean by the Sovereign? Why is the power of the Sovereign absolute?
- What does Rousseau mean by "compelling men to be free"?
- John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau both believed that civil society arose from a social
contract. How did they differ in their interpretation of the contract and the character of the
government instituted thereby?
- Read a novel by Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion) for a
sense of the attitudes and manners of the English gentry.
- Read Alexander Pope's Essay on Man as an example of Enlightenment classicism. What was
Pope's conception of the functioning of the universe? What was the place of mankind in the
universe? Why was it that Pope argued "the proper study of Mankind is Man"?
- Study Carl Becker's critique of the skepticism of Hume and Diderot (Becker, The Heavenly
City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers, Chapters 2 and 3).
- Read the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution. How much influence
from the Enlightenment can you find in these documents? What specific ideas--and from whom--
did the authors of these documents borrow?