Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de la Brède et de


Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de la Brède et de
(1689-1755)
   writer, philosopher
   An early leading figure of the enlightenment, Charles de secondat, baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, was born in the château de la Brède, near Bordelais. He was the son of a magistrate and became a member (1714) and then president of the Parlement of bordeaux (1716-28). Early on, he acquired a reputation as a writer with his Lettres persanes (published in 1721 without the author's name), a pleasant satire of the France of his time that also gained him entrance to the leading literary salons. interested above all in history and political philosophy (he developed the theme of the relationship between forms of government and regional geography and climate), Montesquieu undertook (1728-31) a journey through Europe (especially England) to study the political organizations of diverse countries. Then returning to La Brède, he wrote his Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence (anonymous, 1734), one of the first works in the philosophy of history, and also his masterpiece, De l'Esprit des lois (1748), which made him famous (he wrote, too, Défense de l'"Esprit des lois" in 1750, to respond to its critics). In De l'Esprit des lois, which he spent 20 years writing, Montesquieu presents his ideas on liberty, forms of government (monarchy, republic, despotism), and his theory of the relationship between governmental forms and the environment. in it, he also holds that governmental powers should be separated to guarantee individual rights and freedoms. He was inspired by the English political philosopher John Locke and Locke's ideas on personal freedom and equitable reform. Montesquieu's theories later had a profound influence, particularly on the leaders of the revolution of 1789. Considered also as one of the founders of sociology (although this term was coined only in the 19th century by auguste comte), Montesquieu analyzed the laws that regulate social affairs. His classification of political regimes assigns to each a particular characteristic (for monarchy, honor, for republics, virtue, for despotism, fear) and is both normative and descriptive. Highly regarded as a thinker and writer (he was elected to the Académie Française in 1728), Montesquieu wrote personal notes (Cahiers, only finally edited and published in 1941) which confirm his regard for the rights of the individual and his respect for personal freedom.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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