“We think of a philosophe as a person who is involved in political and social affairs, who is eager to change the way things are, who is obsessed with the enlightenment of others.”

from Neil Postman’s, ‘Building a bridge to the 18th Century’
An excellent read. If you want to get the jist here are two reviews. One more critical the other less so.

For a more detailed look at the philosphes read and link on.

“The European Enlightenment developed in part due to an energetic group of French thinkers who thrived in the middle of the eighteenth century: the philosophes. This group was a heterogenous mix of people who pursued a variety of intellectual interests: scientific, mechanical, literary, philosophical, and sociological. They were united by a few common themes: an unwavering doubt in the perfectibility of human beings, a fierce desire to dispel erroneous systems of thought (such as religion) and a dedication to systematizing the various intellectual disciplines.”

World Civilizations Home Page ©1996, Richard Hooker