Michael Beland



  1. Students will understand  that the basic political and social philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau have influenced the ways societies have organized themselves.
  2. Students will learn that revolutions are influenced by ideas.
  3. Students will learn that the Enlightenment ideas of social justice and equality influenced the French Revolution.



  1. chalk and chalkboard
  2. overhead projector
  3. overheads - overheads outline the basic ideas of each philosopher.  Make copies of the overheads that are included.  Make sure to explain each difficult point with examples, details ...




  1. Today we are going to expand on an idea that we learned while studying the Renaissance.  Let's begin by outlining what we learned by thinking about this questions - "What was the Renaissance?"  (a rebirth of Greek and Roman ideas)
  2. Write the responses on the board and develop a quick summary.  (That the Reformation was a rebirth of ideas.)
  3. Put the following quote by Rousseau on an overhead transparency:  "Man is born free, but everywhere is in chains."  Ask the students to think about the quote but do not explain it now.




  1. As a prelude to the discussion, ask students the following questions:
    • Are people born good or bad?
    • Are all people born equal?
    • What is government?
    • Why do societies have governments?  *If the majority of the class believes that people are born good, then ask what the purpose of government is.  What if they are born bad/evil?
    • Who has the right to power in society?  (ie. the majority, the ruler, everyone ....)
  2. Tell the students that the topic for today until Friday is the French Revolution.
  3. Tell the students that today we are going to focus on ideas that were to influence the French Revolution.  Their ideas have influenced the way we think about government today.
  4. Briefly go through each overhead, individually focusing on the following minor, introductory questions:
    • Who is each philosopher?
    • What was each philosopher's nationality?
    • What were the names of their major publications?  How long ago did they live?
  5. What were their main social and political ideas?  (in simple terms)
    • Note: relate each philosopher to the questions outlined in #1 of the main procedures.
  6. After the presentation of the overheads, organize students into pairs.  Distribute a summary of the overheads to each pair.  Ask the following questions:
    • What are the differences between Hobbes' and Montesquieu's views of government?
    • According to Locke, what are the roles of government and of individuals in society?
    • What are the main philosophical differences between Rousseau and Hobbes?
    • Do you agree with Voltaire that people have the right to say anything?
    • Which philosopher's ideas do you agree with most?  Why?
      • Note:  These are difficult questions that may need some explanation while the group process is developing.
    • Which ideas do we see in practice today?
    • What are some historical examples of these ideas?
    • Which ideas can be associated with certain countries or political ideologies -- democratic, socialist, autocratic, communist?
    • To what extent should these ideas be practised?

For a summary of each philosopher's ideas to set on the overhead, click below:



  1. Put Voltaire's quote - "Man is born free, but everywhere is in chains", back on the overhead projector.  Ask the students what they think the quote means.  Stress that this idea (lack of equality and freedom) will be a major theme of the next lessons.
  2. Summarize the main point that the ideas that we have been discussing influenced the French Revolution.




* If the students were able to arrive at the conclusion stated in objectives #2 and #3 then the lesson was a success.