Voltaire, born François-Marie Arouet, was one of the most famous of French enlightenment thinkers or philosophers. As an author, Voltaire worked in a variety of different media, including novels, short stories, plays, essays, poetry and pamphlets. His most famous work is likely the scathing satire, "Candide," subtitled "Optimism."Know More
Voltaire was born into a bourgeois family in 1694. By his early 20s, his writing was already scandalous enough to first earn him exile to Tulle in 1715 and then imprisonment in the Bastille by 1717. Voltaire was an outspoken opponent of radical religion and wrote extensively on the subject. His "Dictionnaire philosophique," in particular, was an encyclopedic work espousing enlightenment rationalism over the teachings of the Catholic church. Voltaire also opposed capital punishment and torture in an age when the exercise of each was commonplace.
Voltaire's philosophical writings often displayed his intense creativity and acerbic wit, along with an ability to analyze society and its entailing hypocrisies. His short story "Micromega," for example, not only assaults the philosophical, theological and scientific conceits of humankind but offers one of the very first science fiction stories involving travel in outer space. "Candide" also takes on questions of philosophy, depicting the frailties of positivist worldviews through the roaming of a hapless idiot-savant. In addition to his philosophical works, Voltaire also wrote poetry and dramas, the latter including a reworking of the classical Greek tragedy, "Oedipus."
Although Voltaire encountered persecution in his home country and then exile abroad in England, he eventually made his way home, dying in his sleep in Paris in 1778, about a decade before the onset of the French Revolution, a struggle in which many idealists and thinkers would frequently invoke his thought.Learn more about Classics
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The 18th-century French writer and Enlightenment thinker, whose pen name was Voltaire, believed in free will, the power of empirical science and a separation of church and state. Voltaire's writings often took the form of polemical satires and displayed his support for civil rights such as freedom of expression, the right to a trial and the right of religious freedom. He denounced what he saw as the hypocrisies and injustices of his time and often wrote of the abuses enacted upon the common people by royalty and the intolerance that he believed was being encouraged within French society.Full Answer >
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