Category Archives: The Early Modern Period

JOHANN GOTTLIEB FICHTE
(1762–1814)

from The Science of Ethics as Based on the Science of Knowledge

  The philosopher of subjective idealism, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, was born into poverty at Rammenau, Saxony, the son of a peasant. It is said that as a child, he attracted the attention of a nobleman by reciting verbatim a church … Continue reading

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WILLIAM GODWIN
(1756-1836)

from Enquiry Concerning Political    Justice
from Memoirs of the Author of ‘A    Vindication of the Rights of Woman’

  William Godwin, as both novelist and as radical political philosopher, advocated the abolition of legal and social restrictions imposed by government or controlling members of society. Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, he served as a minister of a dissenting religious … Continue reading

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JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
(1749-1832)

from The Sorrows of Young Werther
from Truth and Poetry: From My Own    Life

  Goethe was a poet, dramatist, amateur scientist, and man of letters. His lyrical style helped to invigorate German literature, and he is widely considered to be Germany’s greatest poet. Goethe also engaged in various kinds of scientific research, including … Continue reading

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JEREMY BENTHAM
(1748–1832)

from Principles of Penal Law
from Principles of Judicial Procedure

  Jeremy Bentham was a philosopher, economist, and legal theorist. Born in London, Bentham is said to have been a precocious child; at as young as three or four years of age, he started to read and study Latin. Bentham … Continue reading

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RICHARD HEY
(1745-1835)

from Dissertation on Suicide

  Born at Pudsey, near Leeds, Richard Hey was an English mathematician and essayist. In 1768, he received his B.A. from Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was a tutor and fellow from 1782 to 1796 after completing M.A. and LL.D. … Continue reading

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OLAUDAH EQUIANO
(c. 1745-1797)

from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself

  Olaudah Equiano, an Igbo, describes himself as born to a relatively prosperous, slave-owning family in the region east of the city of Onitsha, Nigeria, where ownership of slaves and slave-raiding were local practice at the time. At the age … Continue reading

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THOMAS JEFFERSON
(1743-1826)

from A Bill for Proportioning Crimes    and Punishments in Cases    Heretofore Capital
from Letter to Dr. Samuel Brown

  Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was a person of remarkably broad interests. He was a leading architect of his day, played the violin in chamber music concerts, was an avid planter, and served as president … Continue reading

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CESARE BECCARIA
(1738-1794)

from Of Crimes and Punishments

  Cesare Bonesana Beccaria was an Italian jurist and economist. Born of aristocratic parents in Milan, he was educated in a Jesuit school in Parma, which he found stifling to his character. After graduating in 1758 with a law degree … Continue reading

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IMMANUEL KANT
(1724-1804)

from Grounding for the Metaphysics of    Morals
from The Metaphysical Principles of    Virtue: Man’s Duty to Himself    Insofar as He Is an Animal Being
from Lectures on Ethics: Duties    Towards the Body in Regard to Life

  Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg, East Prussia (today Kaliningrad, Russia), to a devoutly religious Lutheran Pietist family. At the age of 16, he entered the University of Königsberg, initially to study theology, and later to read natural science … Continue reading

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Filed under Europe, Kant, Immanuel, Martyrdom, Mental Illness: depression, despair, insanity, delusion, Rights, Selections, Slavery, The Early Modern Period, Value of Life

PAUL-HENRI THIRY, BARON D’HOLBACH
(1723-1789)

from The System of Nature

  Baron d’Holbach was born Paul Heinrich Dietrich (later Thiry) of German parentage, but was raised and educated by an uncle who had made his fortune in France. With his uncle’s death, Holbach inherited his fortune and name, and in … Continue reading

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