Civilization Week 11 18th Century Europe

Question 1: Explain the views of the French materialists.

The French materialists were philosophers during the 18th century. They believed that there was no spiritual plane, no all mighty creator, and no real purpose in this world other than the pleasures of the flesh. They believed that the universe was made only of matter, and that humans were no more than advanced animals. They described animals as machines, comparing humans to grandfather clocks and other animals to wrist watches. They also said humans shouldn’t be blamed for their actions, since they were only following what their programming instructed.

Question 2: What does Adam Smith mean by the “invisible hand”?

The “invisible hand”, as Smith described, refers to the unseen web of production and consumption that is needed for the free market to function. Everyone needs things: knives to chop veggies, wheels for their car, glass for their windows, ect. But no one is completely self sufficient, at least the majority isn’t. Not everyone knows how to make their own wheels, so there’s a demand for wheel production on the market. This leads to people specializing in wheel making, working on it their whole lives and slowly becoming an expert at the trade. But whats more efficient than one person working on the whole wheel is a factory of people working on small parts of the wheel. One group of people make the rubber, others make the bolts ect. Then by the end of the process dozens more wheels are made, and dozens more people get to reap in the benefits.

Question 3: Discuss the causes and consequences of the War of the Austrian Succession.

The War of Austrian Succession was between Austria and Prussia, but many other European countries got dragged in due to alliances and border disputes. Prussia was a very tiny country, and King Frederick the second was looking to expand his territory. So he went to his neighbor Austria, and spoke to their monarch: Princess Maria Theresa. He wanted a section of her land, called Silesia, and told her he wouldn’t bring in his army if she handed it over by choice. She refused, and the war ensued. It gets a little messy at this point. Many European countries got dragged in, alliances and political enemies kept changing, the long and short of it is Frederick won the war and Silesia became part of Prussian territory.

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