2010 AP English Language and Composition Free Response Essay

John Locke (August 29, 1632- October 28, 1704) was a British philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American Revolutionaries.

This influence is reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.

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Locke’s theory of mind is often cited as the origin for modern conceptions of identify and “the self”, figuring prominently in the later works of philosophers such as David Hume, Jean –Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. Locke was the first philosopher to define the self through a continuity of “consciousness”. He also postulated that the mind was a “blank slate” or “tabula rasa”; that is, contrary to Cartesian or Christian philosophy, Locke maintained that people are born without innate ideas.

He writes A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), Two Treatises of Government (1689), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), and Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1695). Charles de Secondat, Baron of Montesquieu (January 18, 1689 in Bordeaux-February 10, 1755), was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Era of the Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, taken for granted in modern discussions of government and implented in many constitutions throughout the world.

He was largely responsible for the popularization of the terms feudalism and Byzantine Empire. He writes The Spirit of the Laws (1748), System of Ideas (1716), and Persian Letters (1721). Francois- Marie Arouet(21 November 1694-30 May 1778),better known by the pen name Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer,essayist,deist and philosopher known for his wit, philosophical sport, and defense of civil liberties, including freedom of religion. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform despite strict censorship laws and harsh penalties for those who broke them.

A satirical polemicist he frequently made use of his works to criticize Catholic Church dogma and the French institutions of his day. Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions. He writes Orphan of Zao (1755), The Princess of Babylone (1768). Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713-July 31, 1784) was a French philosopher and writer. He was a prominent figure during the Enlightenment , his major contribution to the Enlightenment was the Encyclopedia.

Adam Smith (June 5, 1723-July 18, 1798) was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneering political economist. One of the figures of the intellectual movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment, he is known primarily as the author of two treatises: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith is also known for his explanation of how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic well-being and prosperity.

His work also helped to create the modern academic discipline of economics and provided one of the best–known rationales for free trade and capitalism. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28,1712 in Geneva, Switzerland-July 2,1778 in Ermenonville, France) was a philosopher, literary figure, and composer of the Enlightenment whose political philosophy influenced the French Revolution, the development of both liberal and socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism.

With his “Confessions” and other writings, he invented modern autobiography and encouraged a new focus on the building of subjectivity that would bear fruit in the work of thinkers as diverse as Hegel and Freud. His novel “Julie, or the New Heloise” was one of the best-selling fictional works of the 18th century and was important to the development of Romanticism. Rousseau also made important contributions to music both as a theorist and a composer.

He writes “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750)”, “Discourse on Political Economy (1755)”, “Emile: or, on Education (1762)”, The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right (1762). Mary Wollstonecraft (27 April 1759-10 September 1797) was an 18th century British writer, philosopher, and feminist. During her brief career , she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct boo, and a children’s book.

Wollstonecraft is best known for “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)”, in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. John Wesley (June 29, 1703- March 2, 1791) John Wesley formed the new religious movement known as the Methodism. He was an Anglican Minister. Wesley had a mystical experience in which “the gift of God’s grace” assured him of salvation.

This experience led him to become a missionary to the English people to bring them the “glad tidings” of salvation. Wesley preached to the masses in open fields. He appealed especially to the lower classes. He tried, he said,”to lower religion to the level of the lowest people’s capacities”. His sermons often caused people to have conversion experiences. Many converts then joined Methodist societies to do good works. One notable reform they influenced was the abolition of the slave trade in the early 1800s. Christian reformers were also important in the American can movement to abolish slavery.

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