Enlightenment was an 18th century movement comprising of ambitious intellectuals with a motive to scientifically prove every aspect of life. It is this enlightenment that brought about scientific revolution which brought more understanding of life through its application. There were great philosophers such as Jacques, Locke, smith and others who made application of the natural law to various aspects of social life. It is these philosophies from these great philosophers that affected the French revolution. The French revolution which basically occurred after the error of enlightenment (18th century) was mainly brought about by various political, social as well as economic problems that were being encountered by people of France.
The first example of an enlightenment idea that was put into practice by French revolution concerns it monarchy political system. This was a system where by the whole country was under directions and rulings from a single source of power (Wiesner 2008). On realization of the need for freedom, democracy and change in political systems as advocated by enlightenment, the French revolutionists decided to put to an end the monarchy system and replaced it with a corporate government system (separation of power) that protects human rights, enhances democracy and protects the citizens. This idea was necessitated by the French revolutionists and some of the great enlightenment philosophers through change of the country’s constitution.
Another idea of enlightenment that was adopted by French revolution concerns the perception initially held by French on women. Women were considered to be legally incompetent and this made them not to be subjected to any educational system in place and their work was to make men happy. A great philosopher (Napoleon) and a French revolutionist highly disagreed with this perception and borrowed an enlightenment idea that women are actually potential creatures just like men and some even better than men. Following this idea, the French revolution changed the initial perception of women and started recognizing them as important and beneficial members of the society with equal rights to education and other societal facilities.
The occurrence of French revolution was due to various factors which included mass suffering of people, lack of food, high unbearable tax rates, discriminative and extravagant high class society, careless leadership and the weak king. The philosophy of enlightenment brought something to embrace and remember to the suffering French people (Wiesner 2008). Enlightenment advocated for their freedom and justice, of which they had never seen any before. In this aspect, these enlightenment ideas led to a massive awakening of the people of France to cry, protest and fight for fraternity, exercise of liberty as well as equality in their present living society.
The French revolution also brought with it the enlightenment idea of protection of people’s liberty by law. The enlightenment error testified the importance of provision and protection of people’s liberty by the state laws (Wiesner 2008). This idea was enacted and put into practice during the French revolution to keep all the citizens at peace and liberty. This idea was further embraced by a great philosopher known as John Locke who advocated for recognition and respect for natural rights such as right to life, liberty as well as ownership of property.
One of the main ideas of the enlightenment movement was to ensure democracy and respect for authority through separation of powers. Power should not be centered at one location because many people will not have accessibility in case they need authoritative assistance. This idea was taken into practice by the French revolution through dissolution of the monarchy system to a more diversified governance system that is likely to enhance service delivery to all citizens (separation of powers). This idea was given an upper hand by a great French writer known as Montesquieu Baron who argued that separation of power, as one of the enlightenment ideas, enhances corporate governance, easy accessibility to government resources and enables citizens to access government services easily. The main idea of this philosophy writer was that the government of France should seek and go for the greatest good that will be beneficial to the greatest number of French citizens during and after the revolution.
Another example is that the enlightenment movement had an idea that people should be allowed to freely question traditional authority and any other authority in place. This idea was purely implemented by the French revolution and enabled development of the three arms of authority (legislature, judiciary as well as the executive) for better service to the public (Wiesner 2008). The people now hold the right to embrace the government that performs according to the constitution and at the same time abolish any government that does not enhance or protect the natural rights of people. This idea, as provided by enlightenment, encouraged the French revolution to advocate for formation of a government and leadership authority that is entirely based on law and purpose.
Generally, the French revolution enacted most of the enlightenment ideas into action and they proved to have a positive influence to the French society. The spirit of liberty is among the most embraced ideas of enlightenment that was enacted by the French revolution. Being at liberty is like attaining autonomy and independence in doing some things. Unlike the previous French society that was in place before the French revolution, the people of France are at liberty to perform personal tasks without necessarily involving the authority in place because the revolution granted them the power.
The enlightenment ideas concentrated a lot on the well being of the society through enhancement of morals and societal values. Morals and values are like rules and regulations in a government system which must be observed, respected and obeyed by all the state members (Wiesner 2008). The intellectuals of the enlightenment movement made an assumption that the capability of the people to respect and obey the law starts with obedience to the societal norms, moral values and ethics. This idea was highly welcomed and borrowed by the French revolution to teach the members how to respect the new law so that its full benefits can be realized.
According to the enlightenment intellectuals or philosophers, change is enacted through abolishment of past laws and replacing them with the new ones. On the same note, the precedents should also be ignored and excluded from the change process simply because they had all the time to initiate and implement change (Wiesner 2008). French revolution seemed to copy these ideas and immediately enacted them into practice by sidelining all the past laws and forgetting about the precedents. Although this was a positive option taken by the French revolutionists, a lot of blame was put on the philosophers of enlightenment for initiating the idea.
In conclusion, it seems the philosophy of enlightenment was highly applauded and embraced in the French revolution following the various above mentioned enlightenment ideas that had penetrated into the French society during and after the revolution. Although it is a bit challenging to give an exact extend to which enlightenment ideas were incorporated into the French revolution, it is quite clear that the revolution borrowed most of the democratic related ideas from the age of enlightenment.