Philosophical and Legal Interpretation of Individualism in Philosophy of Montesquieu and Voltaire

Keywords: individualism, natural rights, equality, freedom, ownership, rationalism, Montesquieu, Voltaire


The article attempts to find individualistic ideas in philosophy of Montesquieu and Voltaire, who continued to discourse on legal themes specific particularly to the Enlightenment: the theme of natural condition, social contract, rationalism, morality, human’s place in the world and God in a human. Revealing, first of all, the most topical issues of this time, the thinkers in their philosophy deal with the matters that are utterly individualistic. It is about: the idea of equality, freedom, natural rights (rights to life and ownership), human nature, etc. It is determined that Montesquieu and Voltaire, like other thinkers of the Enlightenment, revealed the essence of individualistic tendencies through rationalism, because human is a rational person who makes decisions, fights his desires supported by reason. The mind, as a source of law, allows man to develop on the basis of science, learnt by him patterns. It is defined that Montesquieu also discoursed on the individualist attributes; in particular, he pays attention to the problem of equality and freedom: 1) as thinker emphasizes, all were equal in natural state but afterwards this equality could be ensured only by the laws, which have to be just; 2) freedom in his philosophy is considered in two aspects: political and personal. For individualist issues important are revealing the personal aspect of freedom, which firstly was in safety of citizen. Providing this freedom is just laws and proper organization of statehood. It is studied that basic individualist principles of Voltaire are: 1) humanity, which lies in declaring the natural right of every person to life and to meet basic needs; 2) freedom manifests in that people become autonomous entities and are no longer formally dependent on one another; freedom lies in depending only on the laws; 3) people are equal and free to each other individuals, and equality is understood by him in just political and legal sense: acquiring equal citizenship status by all people, alike dependence of all citizens on the law and their equal protection by law; 4) ownership — freedom of labor, which is the right of every person «to sell his work to those who pay the highest price for it, as labor is the property of those who have no other ownerships.»


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Philosophy of Law