What is the core of Enlightenment philosophy?

Central to Enlightenment thought are the use and celebration of reason, the power by which humans understand the universe and improve their own condition. The goals of a rational humanity are considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness.

These Enlightenment ideals serve as philosophical reference points for all that our society does.

Below are pics of some of the most important thinkers and doers of the last 300 years. Study and reflect on how they cultivated and then employed their reasoning powers to enact significant progressive change, and you will have made a good start to understanding what the Enlightenment was about, and how its ideals and methods continue to be crucial to our species.

Important figures past and present

René Descartes

French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist


Isaac Newton

English mathematician, astronomer, and physicist

Thomas Paine

 English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary

Mark Twain

American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer


Marie Curie

Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist, conducted pioneering research on radioactivity

Sun Yat-sen

 Chinese physician, writer, philosopher, and revolutionary

Warren Buffet

American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist

Stephen Hawking

English theoretical physicist and cosmologist