Voltaire’s Philosophy


Voltaire (also known as Francois-Marie Arouet) is one of the most famous enlightenment philosophers. Voltaire is even often seen as the representative of the french spirit (his quotes). Voltaire has written many philosophical tales, whose the most famous is Candide.

Summary of his philosophy

There is no doubt that atheism was very common, with other forms of “debauchery” in the world of the court at the end of the reign of Louis XIV. They tended to spread from there into the middle class. The explosion took place during the Regency. Voltaire, his wonderful spirit of satire was protruding and welcome and celebrate by the lords and ladies, not without danger to its security, wrote long before it was published this Epistle to Urania is an eloquent compendium of absurdities current theological system. In 1734, in his Philosophical Letters, he reported the echo of things of English society religion left free to all sects and controversies Presbyterians, Socinians, the anti-Trinitarians, Quakers, and then the Parliament, the limitation of royal power, political mores, and again the free philosophy, and a new methodology: a critique of innate ideas by the wise Locke, following the inauguration of the method of the experiment by Chancellor Bacon, the Newtonian attraction, this truth demonstrated, supplanting the chimera of the vortices of Descartes, the great discoveries in optics and finally literature: Pope, the lords who cultivate letters, academies, the genius of Shakespeare surprise, tragedy, comedy, commerce, inoculation, etc..

Voltaire : cons superstition and fanaticism

At the same time as the Philosophical Letters, as if a sort of instinct guided him to the attack that was deeper and more capable of resistance in the apologies of Christianity, Voltaire published his first remarks on the Thoughts of Pascal. He did complete that, forty years later, during an edition of Thoughts, given by Condorcet. He took for his rebuttal, the attitude of optimism in his assessment of the condition of man, and this in good faith, certainly, the first of these two periods, although he became very pessimistic second. He contested the fact of “human misery”, he maintained that man is not “an enigma”, it is what it should be. His remarks are aimed at common sense, with narrow, not without showing any ill-will understand the main idea he wants to fight. The party looks at the famous thesis of Pascal’s wager is low. Condorcet found, as a mathematician, reasons to oppose it more topical. Besides it is not for himself that Pascal wants. We attack a person strongholds of the enemy.

In the realm of ideas this time, we must mention two books of very different kind: the Elements of the philosophy of Newton (1738) and the tragedy of Mahomet (1741). Elements are an attack against Cartesianism, and especially against the background orthodox doctrines related to the “world of Descartes.” This book, sufficiently accurate for a work of amateur science, added to the growing fame of Voltaire that the authority granted for thinkers who can address the problems of difficult access. The tragedy of Mahomet, boldly dedicated to the Pope, is a work that reflects both the nature of corporate propaganda against the psychological and historical principle of revealed religions, and the author’s inability to understand the motive of religious the soul. Muhammad escapes him entirely, like Joan of Arc. We do not claim by bringing these two great people. They have, however, in the eyes of the psychologist, a common feature of great interest, along with so many kinds of differences. But some emotions and some aspirations are a world completely closed to Voltaire: it does not even suspect what it is. His work as a historian, so bright with all the qualities of the mind, reach, without this serious defect, an incontestable superiority of philosophy. The essay on morals would be for all the parts where the documents have not breached the author of a book first class. There are, as it is more just and rational assessments of the great facts of history, than the illustrious historians of our century, that all or nearly all were driven by the deterministic method, they espoused, justified, honor, and in any case justify as part of a general fact that the past is more obnoxious.

Neither in his youth, or later, philosopher Voltaire appeared as opposed to the doctrines more or less allied to religion, he was always the religion itself. His Treatise on Metaphysics shows he was inspired by Locke, Clarke and even to demonstrate the existence of God. He follows Locke on the origin of ideas and sensitive to the negative nature of the idea of ​​infinity. he considers the soul as a faculty of thinking, put by God in one body part, and looks at his death as probable. This is still far enough, particularly given the deism which dominates the work of a radical materialism. On the question of free will, there is confusion and ambiguity, with marked traits of intelligence, and, after all, a clear sense of the existence of quotas, as the surplus in his letters, the same time, the Crown Prince of Prussia, where he pleads the cause of freedom. Part of the Treaty of Metaphysics is devoted to moral Voltaire supports the thesis of the natural kind and sociable man, driven by self-love and other passions, all good when they are not perverted. The terms of virtue and vice is marked by a utilitarian clearer and more coherent than is found in the school of sentiment, which he had (to 1730) to receive lessons in England. Laws, it is said, are all based on utility, and variables with it. The largest of the utilities is to obey them. They are, after moving our natural, after the reason, self-esteem and kindness, our only rule of conduct, we violins to our peril.


We do not see why this simple exposition of ideas, but few sought net occupy in the history of ethics in the eighteenth century junior to the moral of Hutcheson, or even that of Hume, who came later and is so poorly coordinated. The principle of the approval, introduced by these authors and by Adam Smith in the consideration of conduct that men regard as virtuous, does not contain the slightest advance to give us the definition of what it is in itself worthy approval, and yet it is the only mental element which they have taken into account, in addition to the good and useful as mobile.

Voltaire and The Ignorant Philosopher

The second volume of Voltaire’s philosophy itself, is The Ignorant Philosopher. The author begins with a statement of agnosticism concerning the first principles. The lack of innate ideas condemns us to ignorance, he says, what the experience can inform us, that is to say on the substance of the matter, that of the mind on the basis of our faculties. Among the latter, examining the will, it is against the existence of free will, and embrace the opposite view to that he had followed in his youth: “Am I free? I read Locke and saw lines of light, I read the Treaty of Collins, Locke seemed perfected, and I have never read anything since that gave me a new level of knowledge. “He learned to of them that volition after the last idea, that ideas are needed and that nothing happens without a cause, therefore no freedom. About God, it maintains both the eternity of the world and the Supreme Intelligence, who has just ordered: “All work requires a worker,” and he approves of Bayle’s arguments against the system of Spinoza, who really well, and except to contradict himself, makes God a being composed of parts. Spinoza is a godless reality, because it denies all final causes. Other systems, according to Voltaire, trying unsuccessfully to solve the problem of the universe, beyond what the deist argument can penetrate. He rejects the optimism especially Leibniz philosophy and contrasts the “best possible world” a satirical picture of the world. Candide’s novel had already appeared for many years.

The moral philosopher of remarkable ignorance despite, or rather because of the contradiction which Voltaire gives way, continuing on the one hand to reject the “innate ideas”, admitting that the idea of ​​justice is acquired, like any other concept, and declaring, on the other hand, “so natural, so universally acquired by all men, it is independent of any law, any agreement, any religion.” We do not see, from this, how this idea could be gained, that is to say drawn from a source other than the very nature of this being to whom it is natural. Also ignoring the philosopher agree that some of its applications are invariable: “The ideas of right and wrong are as clear as universal as those of health and illness, truth and falsehood, of agreement or disagreement “. Neither the principle of utility nor the feeling no longer participate in this recognition of the moral law, and this is a great superiority over the English school as a whole. The book concludes with views of the future from the universality of morality: we see the dawn “the dawn of reason” fanaticism is defeated, “the truth can no longer hide.”

Voltaire’s confidence in the progress of reason, freedom and civilization was at home very serious, especially as it applied specifically to the destruction of dark and oppressive authority of the Church. Little did he think of a great political revolution, to believe in the possibility of a just and enlightened democracy, a people eeuvre entirely to higher intelligence and virtue, capable of governing itself. His hope was therefore simply the prospects who were born while the movement of public spirit and good will shown here and there by the government of Louis XVI.

Voltaire, Optimism and Pessimism

Voltaire was not a believer of Progress like Condorcet. Voltaire should be clearly classified among the pessimistic thinkers, regarding the irreparable condition of humanity. The author of Candide formed towards the end of the century a notable exception to the optimistic spirit that always winning and dominating, as we felt the old regime condemned the Revolution had to pass through without dying and his reactions, and unfold in the next century to the extravagance.

The third treaty systematic philosophy of Voltaire should come to a decision, or principle of action (1772), is the work of a master of Schopenhauer. We never quite noticed, outside of Candide, the shape of great, highly humorous and grotesque, deceives the reader about the depth of feeling, how the view of the universe is thrust into the dark places Voltaire is engaged in his demon. The reader is doing easily elsewhere. The principle of action at the beginning of the book puts forward a doctrine of unity of creation and direction of the universe, which is at the end, receive a hard achievement: it is a God, only principle and single motor, but not infinite eternal, and whose works are eternal like him. He has the intellect and will, it is free, but its nature is required. Man is not free, fate envelope and governs all his actions: here, the freedom to try not only denied, it becomes an object for the philosopher of great satire. He attacks the same way, incisive and brilliant imaginations regarding common entry and seat of the soul in the body: the soul is, he says, an abstract term, like those we give to his faculties.

Voltaire goes to the question of free will than the evil which can not be attributed to nature, and therefore, its author, since it has one. The chapters containing the description of evil in the natural order of things, and necessary, in the animal and animal called man, is a striking energy. Schopenhauer was able to highlight new features deep, he and John Stuart Mill did not express more strongly the truth that they felt. Voltaire does not fail to notice that great optimistic Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Pope, men were very unhappy, he could add to its list Rousseau, he could also respond to Rousseau, who considered him, Voltaire, as a happy man, that was not true, and he lacked good personal reasons to be pessimistic. But Voltaire was not a man to write his Confessions.


The insoluble problem leads, in the principle of action, following a speech to an atheist, a Manichean, a pagan, a Jew, a Turk and a theist. It meets all the others he meets on the assumption that “good Orosmaze, who did everything, could do better,” and this is certainly grant the Manichean something like the foundation of a dualistic view . If Voltaire had intended to give a firm conclusion to all of his philosophical views, he could make a Manichean doctrine, since he believed in an eternal demiurge, he rejected both free will, by which it is customary to explain the origin of evil, and the future life which can contain the fine and compensation, and finally he considered unjustifiable world conditions in the event of a good and omnipotent creator .

The duality of the demiurge is imposed on every philosopher who solved the two negatives, one of the man and free from evil, the other on a range of purpose for people, continues to admit a creation of the world. It would be natural in such cases, to embrace the doctrine of the eternal substance, eternally developing and developed. Voltaire approached it much, believing as he did with the so-called natural theology, which implies that the current existence of an eternal and necessary, and with materialism, that nothing precludes that matter the medium of intellectual faculties, as it is sensations depending on how you see the most common. These two opinions converge together pantheism. Voltaire unable to consent, by the strong idea that he had an intelligent Will as implied by the laws of the universe, and seeing these laws in order and mixed disorder, could not conclude that moral dualism. But it was not, however, this is understandable, formal profession, as it would have had to come to the explanation of the limits of the creative power good, assumptions that he believed the reason prohibited by the darkness of the subject .

Voltaire and the Human Nature

On its commitment to deism, its distance views of optimistic philosophy of history, and delusions of human nature and the future happiness of mankind, carries the distinction of Voltaire, in the middle of training General time, which is not only involved, but the head. On these points, we support a decision very different from that affecting the merits of being a thinker Voltaire. We pay tribute to the great sincerity and serious personality of his feelings about God and the world, taking account of its failure as a metaphysician and his subservience to two powerful prejudices he held a long and almost universal tradition philosophical, as far as the school of Locke, and not the actual method and principles of empiricism he believed to follow. It is the existence of matter and the conception of God as eternal nature. To take the philosopher in his training environment, Voltaire was a fair use of metaphysical truths he believed first acquired, without sacrificing his own strong conviction of causality demiurgic.

The general training which Voltaire was the initiator and the guide very strong for half a century was to what we began to call some day open the “crush the infamous”. The Infamous was the Church, the ecclesiastical institution, confused, as it was authorized by fifteen hundred years of history and the laws of the steady state, with the system of faith control, backed by torture. Here let us clear of all extraneous considerations is a matter of fact very simple: it is certain that Voltaire, as a large chorus leader of free thought, thanks to the overwhelming outpouring of “lights” and by claiming in his mind the direction taken by the French Revolution, Voltaire was actually “crushed the Vile.” because the Church was absolutely incapable, since 1789, under the different regimes that have succeeded to recover the power of education, inquisition and persecution to which its unchanging principles do not allow him to give in good faith . Then the war on the Church has led to the free thinker to a block of good and bad elements of the religious order in history and to misunderstand the nature of early Christianity, one can say that this was natural without just and inevitable. In the eyes of Voltaire, the crimes and follies of Catholic domination are integral with the other evidence of his historical pessimism. He sees in the annals of humanity the continual reproduction of the same passions and the same nonsense, power error with imaginary objects do not win to go through different forms, and, seeing no action by any large law, he believes too readily to large effects of small causes. His philosophy does not close it shows nothing in Christianity that would make him appear the Christian era in a more advantageous than the civilizations of antiquity. What he sees more clearly in the aftermath of the foundation of Christianity is that it’s a work that has destroyed millions of men. Is not it still occupied, single man of letters, lawyer improvised martyrs, to contest the executioners SACE, the victims? Do not he know that a powerful party of magistrates and priests would be tortured and burned luimême?

The Judgement of Voltaire on the merits of the Reformation was altered by various causes, although he could not quit that stigmatize persecution against the Protestants, but he did not see them purged themselves of the leaven of intolerance, he could not be sympathetic to their austerity that often makes them enemies of the art, the principle of the culture in some ways seemed less threatened in Catholicism. These reasons it disguised the moral of the Reformation and the lack of importance on its part anecdotal and its miseries. It is hardly necessary to say that its assessment of the personae of Jesus, in the absence of any scientific or critical so as not serious documents evangelical, had often vary depending on mood and become driven by outrageous satire launched. It must be admitted also that he showed something more than ill-will and passion of the fight in this satire of the Scriptures when he put up the rage in the last years of his life. The absence of the mystical feeling and even the rise, it has been said, are the low undeniable spirit and sharp if this man seriously good.

“Men are blind and very unfortunate to prefer one sect absurd, bloody, supported by executioners and surrounded by stakes, a sect that may be approved only by those to whom it gives power and wealth, a sect that n is received in only a small part of the world, a simple and universal religion, by the admission of Christ-was the religion of the human race time of Seth, Enoch and Noah …

What will we do instead? you say: What! a ferocious animal has sucked the blood of my relatives: I tell you to get rid of this beast, and you ask me what will make up! You ask me, you, a hundred times more odious than the pagan priests, who were content with their ceremonies and sacrifices, which claimed the spirits with chain point of dogma, quine never fought their power to judges, who did not introduce no discord among men, you have the front to ask what to put in place of your tales! My answer: God, truth, virtue, laws, punishments and rewards. Preach probity and not dogma. Be the priests of God and not a one man

Cite this article as: Tim, "Voltaire’s Philosophy, April 20, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 20, 2012, https://www.the-philosophy.com/voltaire-philosophy.

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