Enlightenment Political Philosophy

Richard Whatmore

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Enlightenment Political Philosophy

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy


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Toleration, secularization, and an associated critique of confessional religion might have served previous generations as organizing themes for an account of political philosophy during the Enlightenment. Two prominent attempts have been made in recent years to bring clarity to the political philosophies of the enlightenment era. The first is Jonathan Israel's assertion of a radical enlightenment critical of state and clerical authority, and of social hierarchies, which he traces from rebellions such as the Fronde in France (1648–1653), the Masaniello revolt in Naples (1647), and the civil wars in England, Scotland, and Ireland between 1638 and 1660, up to their culmination in the French Revolution (1789–1799). A sense of the contrasting scholarly perception of enlightenment political philosophy is evident by comparing Israel's views with those of John Robertson's The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680–1760 (2005). This article explores Enlightenment political philosophy and discusses the absolute monarchy of France, political philosophy in Britain and in Europe's small states, and philosophies of despotism.

Keywords: Enlightenment; political philosophy; absolute monarchy; France; Britain; Europe; despotism; Jonathan Israel; John Robertson; rebellions

Article.  11787 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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