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He took the view that the Roman Republic had powers separated so that no one could usurp complete power. In the British constitutional system, Montesquieu discerned a separation of powers among the monarch, Parliament, and the courts of law. He also notes that liberty cannot be secure where there is no separation of powers, even in a republic.

ISBN 13: 9780543996046

Privacy Policy. Skip to main content. Search for:. Baron de Montesquieu Key Points Montesquieu was a French lawyer, man of letters, and one of the most influential political philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. His political theory work, particularly the idea of separation of powers, shaped the modern democratic government.

The French revolution didn't apply Montesquieu's ideas entirely: Ayatollah Khamenei

Montesquieu covered many topics, including the law, social life, and the study of anthropology, and provided more than 3, commendations. As he defines them, republican political systems vary depending on how broadly they extend citizenship rights. Establishing political liberty requires two things: the separation of the powers of government, and the appropriate framing of civil and criminal laws so as to ensure personal security. In it, Montesquieu pleaded in favor of a constitutional system of government and the separation of powers, the ending of slavery, the preservation of civil liberties and the law, and the idea that political institutions ought to reflect the social and geographical aspects of each community.

This leads us to turn to the substance of Persian Letters , the discussions that elevate it above mere puzzles or entertainments. As both explorer and creator, he is as much and as little free as the God he discusses. It is not difficult to see that he lampoons elements of contemporary French politics and society, for example, and that he also means to teach us about Persia and Islam.

It is less apparent but visible on the whole that he forces us to consider the connections among religion, despotism, and rule by men in the seraglio. Montesquieu does not disparage religion or religions simply. But the tone of Persian Letters is hardly favorable to it. To the Persian visitors to France, Catholic priests are dervishes, magicians, despots—one is compelled to wonder whether a similarity, perhaps an unsavory similarity, exists among all priests.


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We cannot assume miracles to be beyond nature, for kings and artful wives also perform miracles. The demand for purity, or for virtue as purity, appears to be primarily a tool of despotism, certainly in the seraglio. Toleration is more sensible than intolerant establishment, but, to say the least, Montesquieu does not celebrate every Muslim, Christian, and Jew. Philosophy too does not emerge unscathed. An obvious central topic in Persian Letters is the nature and relationship of women and men. Can one find in the many elements Montesquieu so strikingly presents a single, unified, portrait?

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Baron de Montesquieu | History of Western Civilization II

A fuller examination would also help us to clarify further what Montesquieu thought about religion, the supernatural, philosophy, and science, which presumably seek to know what nature is. Moreover, although nature is simple or direct, it can also be complex, and more varied than rigidly obeyed conventional codes.

By what standard, however, or with what intellectual and political authority, does one recognize or limit this harm? Montesquieu does not say it directly, so we can hardly be certain that it simply or fully represents his views. He went on to take up law at the University of Bordeaux and began working in Paris after graduation. As such, he became deputy president of the Bordeaux Parliament.

Now socially and financially secure, he devoted himself to his passions, including Roman law, history, biology, geography and physics. In , Montesquieu gained fame with the publication of the Persian Letters , a politically biting satire of religions, monarchies and the rich French under the guise of an epistolary novel, although he disdained calling it that.

Why Was Montesquieu Important?

He moved to Paris, traveled extensively, and continued to publish, switching to political treatises such as a consideration of the fall of Rome. His masterwork, The Spirit of Laws , published in , had enormous influence on how governments should work, eschewing classical definitions of government for new delineations. He also established the idea of a separation of powers—legislative, executive and judicial—to more effectively propagate liberty.

Montesquieu died of a fever in Paris on February 10, Although he had fathered two daughters and a son with his wife, he had been devoted to his work.