“The Enlightenment thinkers differed widely amongst themselves, but all of them shared some major ideas that together make up the philosophy of Enlightenment.” Elucidate. (150 W)

Mentor’s Comment:

The question is straight forward and demands analytical approach to enlightenment period.

Here the introduction should mention the meaning of enlightenment and how the views are universally shared among all thinkers. How despite having differences in their ideas they strongly believed in its common ideas, they had something unique in themselves which made them different from others.

Further mention what was the common aim of enlightenment period. It is critical and empirical reasoning even to traditional institutions and customs. Also mention they were more in favour of nature’s existing without any whimsical and fanatically.

Next, mention the significance of their reasoning and how they lead to wide range of awareness.

Bring conclusion as per the points mentioned in main body.

Model Answer:


  • The term enlightenment was defined by ‘Immanuel Kant’ as liberation from self-imposed tutelage. All the thinkers of the enlightened era of the 18th & 19th centuries more or less shared Kant’s views about this period.
  • Each of them had their specific ideas and views about what made themselves and their age different from the previous people and their ages. However, all of them strongly believed in certain major concepts & ideas.  These are faith in reason, belief in change & progress and finally faith in the concept of nature.

Main Idea:

  • According to them all assumptions should be subjected to critical and empirical reasoning. Even traditional institutions & customs should not be accepted blindly just because they had been there for so long. Hence every institution or custom should be examined critically and accepted only after its utility was proved empirically.
  • These thinkers further believed that nature was not only good but also beautiful in its simplicity. Further nature was always reasonable and governed by simple and unchangeable laws.
  • In other words nature did not act whimsically or frantically. Thus, nature always functions in line with, lots of reason and hence a move towards nature would be a move towards freedom.
  • Finally they believed that change & progress worked hand in hand. Change should not be viewed as distrust. In fact changes which were dictated by reasons and in line with nature would bring not only freedom but also true progress for both individuals and society.
  • The significance of this age of reason is brought out very effectively by the French thinker cum scientist ‘Rene Descartes’ in his own words (I think therefore I am). According to him humans have become what they are because of their ability to think.
  • Further humans achieve progress when they apply reason and accept only what is reasonable.


  • All the enlightened thinkers used reason and nature to criticize institutions and customs of the past. Both reason and nature further guided them in deciding the extent & scope of changes that should take place for achieving progress. This progress according to them would ultimately take the form of people leading increasingly happier and more moral lives.