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Why Did Enlightenment Philosophes Want to Reform the Ancien Regime

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Submitted By Karaella
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Why did Enlightenment philosophes want to reform the ancien regime?
The philosophes believed that the ancient regime was unjust and inefficient at creating a fair society, and thought the application of rational analysis to all activities would help reform the system that created such an unequal distribution of wealth and power. Their particular ideas of reform focused around those at the top of the hierarchal structure, such as the church and the king, as well as abolishing the structures based upon superstition.
One reason the philosophes wanted to reform the ancien regime was that they believe it gave the church undue power. As the clergy withheld the position of the first estate-being at the top of the hierarchal society only under the king- they thought that the group were wealthy, corrupt and intolerant. Despite only owning 15% of the land, they still took in a vast amount of money through obligatory tithes and rents, despite not having to pay any tax themselves. The only money they did have to give was Dons Gratuits, meaning payment to the crown that they set the figure for themselves. Corruption throughout the church was rife, with plurality and consequently absenteeism occurring throughout France and leading to Bishops earning two incomes, whilst a vast majority of the population lived a poor, peasantry life. The philosophes saw this unfair behanviour as a result of the churches highly regarded position within the ancien regime, and saw this as a necessary point of reform. This was the source of Voltaire’s ‘Ecrasez l’infame’-meaning to crush the church, although many others sought the less drastic aim of decreasing it’s power instead of destroying it all together.
The philosophes intended to do so by not accepting the bible or tradition as a reason for doing anything. This was another reason to seek reform- they believed that sense and justification was…...

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