Philosophy Essay Sample: Modern and Enlightenment Periods

Published: 2022-06-10
Philosophy Essay Sample: Modern and Enlightenment Periods
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Politics Philosophy
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1313 words
11 min read

The world has undergone various levels and stages since its inception to the present day experiences. To the philosophers, these experiences in lifestyle and behavior can be described as changes in periods through the ages. There are several periods of lifestyle and understanding in humanity that have been recorded in philosophy. Some of those periods include Modern periods and Enlightenment periods. The purpose of this research is to distinguish the difference between the periods, look at both the political and philosophical issues about human nature, social contract and human species and finally look at the political differences in objectives politically between theorists Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant.

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The modern period is the early historical period beginning in the 16th century. The modern period can be broken down into three phases of occurrence. In the first period starting in the early 16th, it was characterized by several historical stories including the Protestant Reformation, the Age of Discovery and finally the European Renaissance. There was a period for Enlightenment in the 18th century before the late modern period picked up in the mid-18th century. The modern period had historical milestones made including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Great Divergence, the American Revolution and finally the Industrial Revolution. The Enlightenment period, on the other hand, is that period beginning from the early 18th century that was characterized by advancement in an intellectual movement that vouched for human freedom regarding speech, association and movement, democracy for all and reason as the core values of the society. The idea during this period was that a man should be free from not only ignorance and superstition but also from the excessive powers of the state machinery to enable that man to be productive in the society. The historical milestones achieved during this period include a shift in British Empiricism, Rationalism, and Kantianism. There was also a concentration in the Political Philosophy of the world (Schmidt, James., 133)

Theorists Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant have got different views regarding in political objectives as far as the human nature, species, and social contracts are concerned. The first difference in philosophy between the two philosophers is in Kant's interpretation of Machiavelli's political thinking that immorality or amoral ways of doing politics are permissible in leadership. In his essay titled "This May be True in Theory, But it does not Apply in Practise," Kant argues that politics should be dictated by both morals and ethics. He advocates for the best and highest ethical and moral standards in leadership. However, he seems to concur with Machiavelli when he notes that as much as there is an obligation in politics to be morally upright, he has doubts on the ability of the political behavior of people to be dictated by the nature of their duties(Kant., 45). Kant recognizes the establishment of a state upon the law as one of the core political processes that a society ought to do as a duty. He argues about the need to uphold and respect human freedom and dignity and observes that this can only be possible with the existence of a lawful state that protects and respects the civil rights of her citizens according to the established laws of the land.

Kant does not believe in direct democracies as he describes them as despotic regimes. With direct democracies, he means those regimes that have executive and legislative powers condensed into one. He advocates for a clear separation of powers between the two arms of government for effective administration and exercise of the rule of law. He believes that direct democracies tend to trample on the rights of minorities. While Kant's predecessors in natural rights thinking like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau advocated for natural rights, he believes that those rights are not just limited to those justifications as observed by those thinkers. He argues that persons entering the social contract do not just do so for prudence, but also as a duty to respect the existing human dignity and freedom.

Kant does not subscribe to any idea of revolutions against the existing regimes. In his argument, he acknowledges that there are regimes that do oppress their subjects but thinks that that idea of a revolution may be incoherent and that the citizens may at least apply the public reason to air their shortcomings and grievances to the government. Regarding human behavior and formation, he thinks that the morality of humans is derived from people immorality. He believes that the incorrectness and imperfection of the society are what makes the society to get good leaders who may acknowledge their imperfection but work on it by coming up with laws governing the society but also covering their imperfections and immoralities.

Kant also believes in historical teleology in the sense that as much as he does not advocate for war to bring regional, historical facts point to the direction that countries need to be anticipating for war to have functional democracies and perpetual peace and co-operation. Finally, Kant's assertion in "Perpetual Peace" it is very difficult to pick out an individual who practices good deeds sincerely from the bottom of his heart and that who does good deeds because he or she has been compelled by the laws of the country to do so. He thus pegs his hopes on a good moral condition of the people on a good constitution because morality depends on intentions.

Hobbes, on the other hand, has got several ideological differences in political thinking as compared to Kant. Hobbes believes in the Machiavelli's politics that immorality and amorality in politics do not matter. He argues that politics is a means to an end and thus it ought to satisfy some given basic and needs that are neutral to us. While Kant does not advocate for war, Hobbes thinks that war is inevitable due to the nature of human beings. He argues that while all human beings are equal, the competition for superiority among humans that ought to be equal has created competition, desire for glory and distrust thus leading to war.

He describes a social contract as the renunciation of all individual rights and for peace to prevail, unlike Kant who believes in freedom and respect for all personal rights and dignity as the best description for the social contract. Hobbes does not find any obligations in respecting the laws of nature. He thinks acting against the natural laws should not be a big deal to be called as unnatural or unjust. This is contrary to Kant's thinking (Hobbes., 87)

Hobbes also advocates for absolute sovereign power to over-rules the his argument, individuals, should surrender his opinion to the sovereign. He has no problem with the sovereign power resting in the hands of one individual as long as the sovereignty exercises those sovereign powers to defend the social contract. He also goes ahead to suggest the need for the sovereignty to limit religious worship as it is a threat to peace. This is contrary to the views held by Kant (Oakeshott, Michael, 678).

In the above observations of the two thinkers, therefore, there are several differences in objections between them. Kant's objectives of how politics should be are about a free society that is not held at ransom by the powers that be. Kant does not advocate for politics of violence. On the other hand, Hobbes advocates for closed and dictatorial regimes in the world and his politics smell of violence and dictatorship (Skocpol, Theda., 435)

Works Cited

The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc

Schmidt, James. "Mediation, Genealogy, and (the) Enlightenment/s." Eighteenth-Century Studies 45.1 (2011): 127-139.

Kant, Immanuel. Moral Law: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Routledge, 2013.

Kant, Immanuel. The groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Yale University Press, 2018.

Skocpol, Theda. "Introduction." PS: Political Science & Politics49.3 (2016): 433-436.

Hobbes, Thomas. Elements of law, natural and political. Routledge, 2013.

Oakeshott, Michael. Hobbes on the civil association. Liberty fund, 2012.

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