Main Ideas

Famous Quotes














Leviathan, 1651

Social Chaos


Men are selfish and competitive


Life without government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”


Give all power to absolute government to control evil behavior


“The right of nature…is the liberty each man hath to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life.”


“The only way to erect such a common power which may defend them…is to confer all their power and strength upon one man…”













Two Treatises on Government, 1689


Every man has 3 natural rights: life, liberty, and property


Government exists to preserve natural rights


People agree to give up some of their rights for the sake of preserving society (social contract) but have the right to rebel


Republic is the best form of government

“All mankind…being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possession.”


“Political power is that power which every man…has given up into the hands of society…”









The Spirit of Laws, 1748

Government must have a separation of powers (3 branches: executive, legislative & judicial) to ensure freedom & liberty


Checks & balances



“When the legislature & executive are united in the same person…there can be no liberty…”


“Power should be a check to power.”











The Social Contract, 1762

Establishment of government is a social contract between the people and the ruler(s)


Invest all rights into society (“general will”)


The government must preserve “virtue” and “liberty” or the people will overthrow it

“We, the contracting parties, do jointly and severally submit our persons and abilities to the supreme direction of the general will of all…”


“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”






Main Ideas

Famous Quotes













Candide, 1759


Philosophical Dictionary, 1764

Life is better with liberty


Freedom of speech & religion; separation of church and state

“I may not agree with a word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”















A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792

Women have same rights as men


Disagreed with Rousseau that women should be educated for the “pleasure” of men


Instead, women’s education was necessary to become virtuous and useful


Urged women to enter male-dominated fields of medicine and politics

“It is time to effect a revolution in female manners - time to restore to them their lost dignity. It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners.”


“Men and women must be educated, in a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they live in.”













Examine all things fully and question that which does not seem right or just

“All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.”


“We will speak against senseless laws until they are reformed; and, while we wait, we will abide by them.”