Describe and analyze how the new world view of the 17th and 18th centuries affected the way enlightened Europeans thought about society and human relations.
The changing worldview alluded to in this question had several different facets. Enlightenment philosophes argued that institutions, even church and state, should be subjected to rational criticism, a concept that emerged from the scientific revolution of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Montesquieu, for example, in The Spirit of the Laws, examined different types of government, connecting them to underlying social realities. Diderot, Voltaire, and especially David Hume called fundamental religious principles into question through the same type of rational inquiry and comparison. In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith provided a rational model for understanding economics that remains influential today. The philosophes also stressed individualism, and rejected Christian notions of innate human depravity. Rousseau, for one, argued in Essay on the Origins of Inequality that men were fundamentally good and had been corrupted by entering into society. Others, including Voltaire and Cesare Beccaria, offered specific critiques and suggestions for reform. Beccaria wrote a trenchant critique on the legal systems that prevailed at the time.