The Influence of Rationalism on the French Revolution

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Ben Jorgensen Professor Wakefield English 5 3 April 2013 The Influence of Rationalism on the French Revolution What was the driving force behind the French Revolution? Many people may say it was financial, or political, and while I would agree that these things were part of the force that propelled the French Revolution, I would assert that the philosophies of the Enlightenment were the dominant force that blasted late eighteenth century France into revolution . In his article, “The French Revolution: Ideas and Ideologies “Maurice Cranston of History Today articulates that the Enlightenment philosophies were pivotal in the revolutions inception. He writes that: “The philosophes undoubtedly provided the ideas.” Cranston goes on to…show more content…
The King shared his powers with nobody, and was answerable for its exercise to nobody but God.” (21) The ancien regime government lacked reason, but was bursting with more than its fair share of divine laws and rights that the “creator” had set in place in order to insure social stability. In fact, as Doyle points out in his book, this concept that God had set forth a divine law to be followed was directly stated in a document that parliament wrote: “This social order is not only essential to the practice of every sound government: it has its origin in divine law.” (24) The document goes on to say that: “The infinite and immutable wisdom in the plan of the universe established an unequal distribution of strength and character, necessarily resulting in inequality in the conditions of men within the civil order…” (24) This document summed up the ancien regimes ideology: God has placed the king the clergy, and aristocracy above the common people and that is how it is, because that is how it has been. The words irrational, divine, and superstitious come up many times when describing the ancien regimes government and society; in fact, these things were actually integral to the maintenance of government and society in France during the ancien regime. Indeed, you could not have this form of government without divine law, irrational organization, and superstitious beliefs.
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