Western Civilization^2 lesson 55

Explain the views of the French materialists.

“Terminator! 18th century edition…”

The French Materialists of the 18th century were essentially extreme atheists. Key figures in the development of the French Materialist view such as La Mettrie, Helvetius, and Baron d’Holbah, all believed that life had no spiritual aspects, and that there was only matter. La Mettrie introduced the ideas that the human body is simply a machine and that humans are programmed to perform certain actions. Consequently, we should never be blamed for our actions and should certainly never be ashamed of our pleasures. Helvetius craved morality without religion and thought every aspect of life is egoistic. Naturally, friendship must be egoistic as well, because we love what we see of ourselves in others. Baron d’Holbah added that humans only function properly due to chemical reactions and environmental stimulation. So we’re like a giant chemistry experiment. Unsurprisingly, from this view and others, he was labelled the “personal enemy of the Almighty.” Fortunately, the atheistic views of the French Materialists did not sweep the western world as widely as they could have.

What does Adam Smith mean by the “invisible hand”?

“Need a Hand?”

Unlike most people nowadays, Adam Smith understood the 18th century economy of Western Europe extremely well. Since this Scotsman realized that it would benefit the economy, he supported the free market even while others booed it down. In his book, he labelled his idea of benefiting others by serving yourself the “invisible hand.” If you produce whatever the highest public demand is for, you will earn the highest income. The two are directly proportional. Therefore, if an item has high demand but little production, you can make a gigantic profit by getting in on that business before anyone else. Basically, both parties benefit because the seller earns money, which he values more than the item he is selling, and vice versa for the customer. Although his technique was formed for the 18th century, the economy nowadays functions in many similar ways, and we would be wise to use his technique of the invisible hand to our advantage.

Discuss the causes and consequences of the War of the Austrian Succession.

“Everyone loves Silesia–so much that they’ll kill you for it”

Upon her ascension to the Austrian throne in 1740, Princess Maria Theresa was promptly challenged, and her power and intelligence insulted by all of her neighbors. Fredrick II of Prussia, who was one of these dissenters, attempted to blackmail her by threatening to sic his army on Austria unless she would hand over Silesia. Refusing, she was forced to defend her lands in what became the War of Austrian Succession. In the beginning of the war, Austria dominated the battlefield, but over the course of the war, Fredrick won more and more frequently, until his final victory ended in his taking disputed lands from the Austrian queen in 1748. The consequences of Fredrick’s conquest of Silesia was Austria’s simmering resentment. In 1756, the Hapsburgs allied with the Bourbons. Even the Russians joined the gathering against Prussia to form the Diplomatic Revolution. Intimidated, Fredrick II rashly lashed out to begin the 7 Years’ War. Sometime in the middle of the war, the Russian leaders perished. Their replacement—Peter III—admired Fredrick and promptly withdrew his forces from the war. This allowed Prussia to retain its territories and power by the time the war ended. Because of its widely acknowledged prosperity, Silesia provided Prussia with a plethora of economic power. The possession of extensive land and power held by Prussia ultimately leads to the unification of German states.


One thought on “Western Civilization^2 lesson 55

  1. Perrissa

    Awesome! I like how you give each subject’s question and then give it a unique and fun title like “Need a Hand?” Awesome, fantastic job!!!


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