2010 AP English Language and Composition Free Response

Table of Content

John Locke (August 29, 1632- October 28, 1704) was a significant British philosopher who played a crucial role in the advancement of social contract theory during the Enlightenment. His ideas greatly influenced epistemology, political philosophy, and liberal theory. Locke’s writings had a profound impact on notable figures such as Voltaire, Rousseau, various Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, and even the American Revolutionaries.

The American Declaration of Independence showcases the influence of John Locke’s philosophy, specifically his ideas about the mind. His beliefs about identity and self have had a significant impact on modern understandings, greatly influencing philosophers such as David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. Locke was the first to define the self as an uninterrupted stream of consciousness and propose that the mind begins as a blank slate or tabula rasa. This contrasts with Cartesian or Christian doctrines that assert individuals are born with innate ideas.

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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 theory of separation of powers, which is now widely accepted in contemporary discussions on government and incorporated into numerous constitutions worldwide. His significant works include A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), Two Treatises of Government (1689), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), and Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1695).

Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, was a renowned French Enlightenment writer, essayist, deist, and philosopher. He played a significant role in disseminating feudalism ideas and promoting the Byzantine Empire. Some of his notable works include The Spirit of the Laws (1748), System of Ideas (1716), and Persian Letters (1721). Voltaire gained fame for his sharp wit and philosophical discussions. He strongly advocated for civil liberties, particularly freedom of religion. Despite facing strict censorship laws and harsh penalties for dissenting against them, he fearlessly fought for social reform.

Voltaire, a satirical polemicist, frequently used his literary works to criticize both the dogma of the Catholic Church and the French institutions during his era. His writings had a profound impact on influential thinkers from both the American and French Revolutions. Two notable examples of his works are “Orphan of Zao” (1755) and “The Princess of Babylone” (1768). Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713-July 31, 1784), another significant figure from the Enlightenment period, was a philosopher and writer from France who played a prominent role in advancing Enlightenment ideals. His most noteworthy contribution was creating the Encyclopedia.

Adam Smith (June 5, 1723-July 18, 1798) was a Scottish moral philosopher and pioneering political economist. He played a significant role in the Scottish Enlightenment and authored two influential treatises: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith’s explanation emphasized that economic well-being and prosperity can be achieved through rational self-interest and competition.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva, Switzerland on June 28,1712 and died in Ermenonville, France on July 2,1778, was an influential Enlightenment philosopher, literary figure, and composer. He made important contributions to economics by advocating for free trade and capitalism. His political philosophy greatly impacted the French Revolution, liberal and socialist theories, and the rise of nationalism.

Rousseau revolutionized the genre of autobiography and influenced thinkers like Hegel and Freud with his “Confessions” and other writings. Additionally, his novel “Julie, or the New Heloise” played a significant role in the emergence of Romanticism and enjoyed great popularity in the 18th century. Furthermore, Rousseau made valuable contributions to music, serving as both a theorist and composer.

Mary Wollstonecraft, a British writer, philosopher, and feminist during the 18th century, authored several works including “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750)”, “Discourse on Political Economy (1755)”, “Emile: or, on Education (1762)”, and “The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right (1762)”. She was born on 27 April 1759 and died on 10 September 1797. Throughout her relatively short career, she produced novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book.

Wollstonecraft’s renowned work “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)” asserts that women are not naturally lesser than men; rather, their perceived inferiority results from a deficiency in education. She supports equal treatment and envisions a rational society. John Wesley (June 29, 1703 – March 2, 1791), an Anglican Minister and influential figure in the religious movement Methodism, found assurance in salvation through God’s grace after experiencing mysticism.

This event inspired him to become an English missionary, spreading the message of salvation. Wesley delivered his sermons outdoors, targeting individuals from lower social classes and working towards making religion accessible to all, particularly the underprivileged. Numerous people converted and joined Methodist communities as a result of his preaching, where they actively participated in acts of charity. Their impact played a part in the abolition of the slave trade by the early 1800s. Christian reformers also had a notable role in America’s anti-slavery movement.

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