The Enlightenment (1650–1800)
Study Questions & Essay Topics
Always use specific historical examples to support your arguments.
1. In what ways did the writings of Comenius and Grotius foreshadow the themes of the later Enlightenment?
2. Compare and contrast Hobbes’s perspective on man with Locke’s and explain how that perspective affects their respective ideal governments.
3. What factors caused the German Enlightenment to lag behind the English and French Enlightenments?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Explain Immanuel Kant's philosophy in relation to the search for universal truths. In what ways does he contradict mainstream Enlightenment thought?
2. Adam Smith believed that free trade was far superior to mercantilism. In Smith’s view, how does mercantilism inhibit economic growth, and how does free trade solve that problem?
3. In what ways were the discoveries and innovation of the Scientific Revolution instrumental to the beginning of the Enlightenment?
4. Rationalism, skepticism, and romanticism were the three primary philosophical schools of thought during the Enlightenment. Choose one and explain why you feel it’s a better approach to life than the others.
5. Explain the impact that philosophers from countries other than England, France, and Germany had on the growth of the Enlightenment.
6. What evidence is there that the ideas of the Enlightenment continue to be influential in modern times?