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Have you ever wondered why the 18th century was called The Age of Reason? This was the time of an intellectual enlightenment, which inspired the American and French revolutions. The stage of High Enlightenment took place between 1730 and 1780.

John Roberts, a history paper writer at Essay Geeks, says: “To me, it’s the most intellectually interesting period in the history of humanity. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke revolutionized political and social thought by bringing light to the contrast between governments and citizens. During this era, science and reason became the authorities. If you could not prove or justify an idea by reason, it would be rejected. This was fertile ground for impressive ideas.”

To show exactly how important the Age of Reason was, let’s share few highlights of that reason. This is a list of most inspiring quotes by historical authorities from the 18th century.

1.      “In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.” – Immanuel Kant

This German philosopher’s systematic work in the theory of knowledge, aesthetics and ethics gave direction to the overall philosophy movement in the 18th century.

With these words, he emphasizes the importance of the fact that all deeds originate from thoughts. The thought is the seed that brings actions to life. The law may sanction a guilty man, but strong ethics can prevent violations of the law in the first place.

2.      “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

It’s not our knowledge that defines us as human beings. It’s our wish to know more. It’s our curiosity. Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer, reminded us to keep that spark active throughout our entire lives.

3.      “Logic is the foundation of the certainty of all the knowledge we acquire.” – Leonhard Euler

Leonhard Euler was one of the founders of pure mathematics. He based his entire work on the laws of logic. This quote is a reflection of his attempts to base all knowledge on logic. Not instincts or feelings, but reason.

4.      “We live in this world in order always to learn industriously and to enlighten each other by means of discussion and to strive vigorously to promote the progress of science and the fine arts.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart managed to grasp the whole point of the Age of Enlightenment through these words.

This is not only the most popular musician in history. He was a genius; whose operas display incredible understanding of human psychology. Through this quote, it seems like he understood the psychology of the people in the entire 18th century.

5.      “The English think they are free. They are free only during the election of members of parliament.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

With these words, Rousseau expressed the deepest criticism towards parliamentary democracy. Are we still in the same chains? It gives us something to think about.

Rousseau was an extreme democrat. He believed that all political power must reside with the people, and there can be separation of power. The government should administer the general will and get its orders from the people.

6.      “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” – Adam Smith

Adam Smith revolutionized the theories of economics. His concepts guided the industrial revolution. Modern economy is still founded on them.

Through this quote, we can see his fight against people’s selfishness. The entire society suffers when individuals strive towards their own wealth. A society can prosper only when the huge gap between the rich and poor disappears.

7.      “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, was a polymath, scientist, inventor, politician, diplomat, and printer. He had great ideas on what education should look like.

With this quote, he grasped the essence of his ideals - education should be based on engagement. It took us a long time to understand that, but we’re finally heading towards an educational system that involves students on a deeper level. 

8.      “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” – Maximilien Robespierre

Robespierre, one of the most important figures of the French Revolution, was making people aware of the tyranny of monarchy. He understood how important knowledge and education was for the process of liberation.

Although Robespierre’s autocracy after the Revolution made him unpopular, we must give him credit for inspiring one of the most important revolutions in human history.

9.      “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” – Thomas Jefferson

When you think of the Declaration of Independence, the name Thomas Jefferson inevitably comes to mind. He was one of the most influential figures not only in the 18th century, but in the history of social thought as a whole. His legacy is still felt in today’s democratic ideals in the USA and in other countries all around the world.

With these words, he inspired people to stand up for their rights. The law is worthy of respect only when it protects their rights. When it violates them, we should fight for our rightful liberty.

10. “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – George Washington

It’s almost impossible to create a list of influential people from the 18th century without mentioning George Washington.

This quote is very interesting. As opposed to the current that represented reason and logic as the foundation of humanity and morality, Washington thought that religion was not obsolete. In fact, he thought it was necessary. Did he want to say that religion was necessary for controlling national morality, or was he a true believer? The quote makes us wonder… that’s the least we can say.

11. “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.” – John Locke

Locke, one of the most influential thinkers of the Age of Reason, argued that the rights to life, property and liberty were in the natural state of being and could never been voluntarily given up by individuals or taken away from them by force. However, he also recognized the need of law.

According to Locke, the society has to be based on principles that protect and enforce the natural rights of people. Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?


We have a lot to learn from enlightened rationality. The important figures of the 18th century set the foundation of modern society. Their guidance and influence is captured through the quotes represented above.

Author bio:



Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor, and a blogger. He loves to write, learn new things, and meet new outgoing people. Chris is also fond of traveling, sports, and playing the guitar. Follow him on Facebook and Google+.