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The Philosophes

Just wondering about a few points, regarding the philosophes. Firstly, was John Locke a philosophe? He was English, while this article states that the philosophes were French. Besides a mention of him travelling to France, I couldn't find anything in the John Locke article which mentioned that he influenced the French revolution in any way, or really had anything to do with the country. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Also, weren't there one or two more philosophes? I've been led to believe that Sieyes was a philosophe, in addition to the ones mentioned here.

I'm just a wikipedia reader, rather than contributor, so I don't have an account name... -- 09:57, 8 March 2006 (UTC)[]

I'm not sure about being considered a philosophe, but I know he did influence some of the french philosophes because they make allusions to his ideas in some of their texts. He has come up every time the french revolution was the subject in different classes I've taken in history and philosophy, so I would think yes he was influential although I'm not an expert on this. (talk) 01:25, 21 March 2012 (UTC)[]

== Unclear definition/distinction ==8

"This word has not been fully accepted into the English language for as many uses as it is in French because it is formed according to a paradigm which was not taken up by English. An explanatory analogy is that the word photographe is French for 'photographer', rather than 'photograph'." -- I really don't know whether this definition/distinction is necessary here, but as currently phrased, this is quite unclear. Can anybody fix this? Thanks. -- 11:03, 26 December 2006 (UTC)[]

== Another important distinction <==3 I edited out "were by no means atheists" and added "seemed... to believe." I don't think its appropriate to unilaterally label the beliefs of such a diverse group of unconventional thinkers, especially since they had reason to fear public persecution and retribution if they had declared themselves atheists. If anyone has citations to the contrary, please include. Cuvtixo 04:30, 30 December 2006 (UTC)[]


  • Newton's influence on philosophes is disputable (certainly not the only influence, as implied).
  • Wedgewood was not French or active primarily in France - doesn't the term only apply within French culture?
  • The analogy with photographe is unclear at best, and shouldn't be in the lead para in any case.
  • 'Many philosophes rejected organized religion as a means of holding back human progress.' What means of holding back human progress did they favour?
  • 'Predestination' is a Protestant theological viewpoint, France was overwhelmingly Catholic.
  • Description of physiocrats too short to be accurate and useful.

This isn't my subject, but I'll try to address these points gradually as I have time. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 13:02, 17 January 2007 (UTC)[]


In my western civilization text book, The Making of the West, People and Cultures, A concise History. Volume II: since 1340, By Lynn Hunt, Thomas Martin, Barbara Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia, and Bonnie Smith, copyright 2007 - it states "Although philosophe is a French word, the Enlightenment was distinctly cosmopolitan; philosophes could be found from Philadelphia to Moscow. The philosophes considered themselves part of a grand 'republic of letters' that transcended national political boundaries." Also, "Enlightment writers did not necessarily oppose organized religion, but they strenuously objected to religious intolerance." And, "The writers of the Enlightenment called themselves philosophes (french for 'philosophers') , but that term is somewhat misleading. Whereas philosophers concern themselves with abstract theories, the philosophes were public intellectuals dedicated to solving the real problems of the world." The word is french for philosophers but the comparison in the beginning paragraph is inaccurate. Hope this helps some!! I too do not have a name, just wanted to help out

New to this so sorry if it's in the wrong place, but for clarification John Locke would be described as a Literati (the English movement) the Spanish is called Illustrados, Italian is Illuministi and German is Aufklarer. Sen87 10:36, 18 May 2007 (UTC)[]

Deism and the Philosophes[edit]

Philosophes were not Deists: e.g., d'Alember was an Atheist, Diderot an agnostic, and Voltaire (who leaned towards Deism until the Lisbon earthquake) wrote the most scathing attack on Deism ever: Candide. Also, Rousseau (who was certifiably deranged) had a Christ complex of his own, and was really the central figure of his own personal religion.

Unfortunately, the term Deism is used in a very sloppy way throughout Wikipedia, this article being no exception. Historically, Deism was an intellectual fad for "gentlemen" (meaning people who didn't have to work for a living and so had a lot of time on their hands to be dilettantes) in the early 1700s. Its central doctrine was that God, as the perfect architect and engineer, and so designed the universe that it would run on perfectly without Him doing anything else - the perfect religion for men who live off of inherited estates, having to do nothing themselves, living in luxury without cares. Not being able to stand up to hard reality, or even a little hardship, Deism died as an intellectual/philosophic/religious movement (fad) by the 1750s.

Unfortunately, Deism is consistently confused with all forms of, and all bents for, natural theology, often even those forms of natural theology that also accept and even embrace Special Revelation and divine providence/intervention: e.g, Jefferson, Madison and Washington are all often called Deists when they most definitely were not: they were avowed providentialists who were given to confession, penitance, self-humiliation, fasting and prayer beseaching the Almighty to intervene. "Deist" is also used interchangeably wih "Freemason", even though (in the 18th Century) the Masonic lodges of the Americas were bedrocks of Presbterianism while the lodges of France were notoriously Atheistic.

Religiously, the Philosophes shared:

a distaste for metaphysical dogmas as, at best, a silly waste of time, and at worst, a gross evil when used as shibboleths for full membership in a society, or even a religion; and most especially when used to legitimate or motivate murder. (And such ideas were hardly new within Christianity.)

a rejection of arguments from authority, and therefore a rejection of Special Revelation as authoritative, and also a rejection of the claimed authoritative interpretations of self-perpetuating religious authorities. (An idea that was also not new to the Philosophes: the rejection of arguments from authority had been the dividing line in the battle between “the Ancients and the Moderns” for a thousand years in academic and ecclesiastical circles, and the rejection of ecclesiastic claims to interpretive authority was the basis of the Reformation.)

Ultimately, what sets the Philosophes apart – and unites them as a group – is the combination of their exceptional skill as writers, their genius for satire, their consistently rabid Modernism/anti-Authoritarianism, and their efforts to get the world to see through the Emperor’s OLD clothes, as well as the new. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Stormarm (talkcontribs) 03:31, 2 May 2008 (UTC)[]

Generalised content[edit]

I have included a section about the use of this term in modern academic work, but after reading the article itself I must say I doubt whether this article is salvagable. It seems that instead of actually describing the concept of the philosophes the article attempts in a very generalised (and plain wrong at times) way to describe what should be in the Age of Enlightenment article. There was not two enlightenment thinkers that thought exactly alike, and even though the different thinkers could often stand together in conflicts, there was no such thing as an overall enlightenment ideology. Even amongst the French thinkers there was vast differences that often resulted in open conflict. That was exactly why the term philosophe was introduced by Peter Gay, to find a term that could be broadly used on all these differences without implying something wrong. The meaning was, I think, that even to use the word "philosopher" or "thinker" would often be wrong, as the people that was inspired by the Enlightenment was often not that, but practicians that preferred to act or to create rather than just think (although there was also a lot of those). --Saddhiyama (talk) 21:02, 20 January 2009 (UTC)[]

I have trimmed the article by deleting the generalizations that was just vague attempts at describing the philosophy of the age of enlightenment. I have left only the sourced section that describes the usage of the term by contemporary historians and the controversy surrounding it. I do think there is lots of possibilities for expansion on the term though, especially concerning the controversy, the pros and cons of the various historians and the current status of the consensus in the academic world. --Saddhiyama (talk) 14:04, 10 March 2009 (UTC)[]

Usage in modern English?[edit]

In the section titled 'Usage in modern English' it says Peter Gay introduced the concept of a 'philosophe' into the English language. In 'A History of Western Philosophy' by Bertrand Russell, Russell writes (if I remember correctly) something along the lines of: 'Although [Rousseau] was a philosophe in the French sense of the word, he was not a philosopher'. That is at least some evidence that the French word philosophe was even back then (1945 or so, I believe) regarded as something different from a 'philosopher'.-- (talk) 18:11, 27 February 2010 (UTC)[]

I added some new info here-- the OED dictionary says "philosophe" in English goes back to pre 1300, and was used in London in the 18th century to refer to the Enlightenment thinkers.Rjensen (talk) 23:41, 27 February 2010 (UTC)[]