Time Greatest French Writers

Colby Borja

23 May 2018

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Perkner

Voltaire

During the Enlightenment age there were many philosophers, but the one that stood out the most for me was Voltaire. Voltaire was a unique man because he was not only exiled from Paris, but he was also granted permission to return. He did not have a wife, nor did he have any children. He had many beliefs when it came to philosophy and these were the freedom of speech, press, and religion. This continued one to going against the monarchy, militarism, and slavery. He also had some major works in poetry, play, and in some cases writing. So, in the end, Voltaire was a cunning man who was a great contributor the age of Enlightenment.

Voltaire was a French philosopher born in the year 1694 on the 21st day of the month of November. He later died May 30, 1778 in Paris, France. His real name is François-Marie Arouet. He is also to be considered one of the all-time greatest French writers there was. Voltaire was born in a middle-class family. With that being said, he wasn’t entirely rich, nor was he was entirely poor. He attended the Jesuit college of Louis-le-Grand in Paris. (“Pomeau”) This is where it all began for him. He learned to love literature, the theatre, and the social life in this college. After college he decided not to study law. He was then employed to the secretary French embassy in The Hague. (“Pomeau”) There was eventually a scandal with the daughter of an adventure. Fearing such a problem could arise from this the French Ambassador sent him back to Paris. After that he wanted to devote himself wholly to the art of literature. (“Pomeau”) He also frequented the Temple as well. One problem with this is that his father was totally against this idea of literature. Of course, Voltaire didn’t listen to him and did it anyway. Voltaire also became the wit of Parisian society later in his life. The wit of Parisian society is light poetry that is for a limited and sophisticated audience. Another thing that has happened is that his epigrams were widely quoted too. One thing that stands out for Voltaire is that he mocked the dissolute regent. Doing so got him banished from Paris and a year in prison. After that he was then exiled to England. This all happen because he had an argument with someone in public. This exiled was volunteering because he feared another long prison sentence. When he firs arrived in England he was poor, and he didn’t know any words in English. (“Pomeau”) This lead him to a state of depression, but with high spirits he overcome this problem. Eventually he learned English pretty well. In 1773 Voltaire had his Letters on the English published. This has lead the French church and government to be angry. With this being done he had to flee for safety. In 1750 he moved to Prussia as a member of Frederick the Great's court. (““Voltaire.””) Overtime he spent years at Geneva and Ferney. 28 years later Voltaire was recognized as one of the main icons of the Enlightenment's progressive ideals. He was also able to return to Paris, but with a hero’s welcome. Shorty after he died May 30th, 1778.

When it came to philosophy, Voltaire had many beliefs. These beliefs were one of the main contributors to the Enlightenment age. These beliefs were freedom of speech, press, religion and opposition to monarchy, militarism and slavery. (““Main Ideas and Contributions to Enlightenment.””) Even though he had all these beliefs, he didn’t want to create a perfect. I say this because he just wanted to put this out there. To let everyone, know what kind of world we could live in. He believed that there could be progress and change, but this could only happen if the monarchy is well advised by philosophers, like himself. (““Main Ideas and Contributions to Enlightenment.””) He says this because philosophers are great talented thinkers who know a lot more than you expect. They could help much more than you could imagine. With their critical thinking a lot could change, that could help everybody. There were two things that Voltaire was very worry of. These were being strongly against religious intolerance and an absolutist government. (““Main Ideas and Contributions to Enlightenment.””) He is strongly against religious tolerance because of the Catholic massacre of Protestants on Saint Bartholomew’s Day. This was not only violence, but it was inhumane too. It also was against the teachings of Jesus too. Instead Voltaire believed in religious liberty. In his eyes, if there were more religions there would be more peace and prosperity. When it came to absolute government, I can understand why he hated it. It could be due to that having such a big government it would not guarantee people the necessary rights that they deserve. Another thing is that the government could be corrupt and eventually unstable. Having an absolute also could have many of the beliefs he was against. These include pretty much all of them. Voltaire’s was a man of natural science. With this being said Voltaire was a vigorous defender of natural science too. (““Main Ideas and Contributions to Enlightenment.””) He was like this because of the anecdote to useless philosophical investigation. A way of doing this is that he tried to show the difference between science and philosophy.

Some of Voltaire’s major works were in that of the forms of poetry and plays. Poetry’s and plays were not just the only thing he did. Some other things that he did was that of doing historical and philosophical works too. Of course, if he had major works, then he must have some that are well known. These include The Henriade (1723) and The Maid of Orleans. These were started in1730, but they weren’t completed. When it came to plays, Voltaire’s best-known play was Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus. The story of Oedipus was a tragic story, but Voltaire made it better. It is better because Voltaire’s telling of the story takes some of the focus off the incest. (““Voltaire's Oedipe.””)It also adds a subplot for another character who is in love with Jocasta, the queen of Thebes. With this success, it leads to a whole new works of art. These include Mariamne (1724), Zaïre (1732, Mahomet (1736), and Nanine (1749). Another thing about Voltaire is that he was a good writer to. Some of his famous writings are The Age of Louis XIV (1751) and the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). With plays and writings down all that’s left is the philosophic works. Some of his philosophic works are Micromégas (1752) and Plato's Dream (1756). These two works in particular are in forms of short stories, but his most famous philosophic work is the satirical novella Candide (1759). This work has a philosophical and religious parody in it. (“Voltaire.”) In the end the characters reject optimism. This caused a great debate in whether Voltaire was trying to a point about taking in pessimistic philosophy. Others thought that he was trying to influence people to help make society better.

In the end, Voltaire had many successes in his life because he was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind. Born as François-Marie Arouet in Paris, France, he had many accomplishments throughout his life. These were not just from his philosophical stand point, but from a different point of view. When it came to philosophy he believed in many things and they can range from freedom of press to the opposition of slavery. He had some great works in poetry, plays, and in writing as well. They were such great success because of some of the philosophical views he used in them. In conclusion, Voltaire will be remembered for his great contribution to the age of Enlightenment.