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Voltaire: The Philosopher
Transcript of Voltaire: The Philosopher
Voltaire was born on November 21st, 1694 in Paris, France to Francois Arouet, a minor treasury official, and Marie Marguerite Daumand. He was the youngest of their three surviving children. At the age of seven, he lost his mother and thereon established a close relationship with his godfather, Chateauneuf, a freethinker, who later had a great influence on his life. Chateauneuf not only taught his godson about deism and literature, but also encouraged him to renounce superstitions that were prevalent at that time.
The achievements of Voltaire proved him to be an excellent philosopher. His seemingly never ending publishing of over seventy books, essays, plays and other productions created an established reputation for Voltaire. He became known as man with a voice of reason and was an outspoken critic of persecution and religious intolerance. In most of his writings he targeted clergy, aristocracy, and government. Voltaire praised the government of England and put down the government of France, therefore becoming a fan of the English and an enemy of the French. Despite his enemies made he continued to work with other renown people such as Marquise de Chatelet and studied natural sciences. In 1749 Voltaire was voted in to the Academie Francaise and proved the French he was decent.
In 1733, he met an intelligent woman Madame du Chatelet, who invited him to stay with her in Eastern France. Together, they studied natural sciences and performed their own experiments. In 1736, he received an invitation from Frederick, the Crown Prince of Prussia to come and live there. However, Voltaire accepted this invitation only in 1749, after the death of Madame du Chatelet. Voltaire was quite impressed by the hospitality he received in Prussia. However, as time passed he got irritable and bored.
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Since his family belonged to the upper middle class, he was given a good education. In 1704, he was sent to Louis-le-Grand, a Jesuit college in Paris, where he studied for seven years. Voltaire was never interested in games and sports; instead he preferred to spend his time talking to his teachers. It was during this time that his poetic and literary talents blossomed, and by the time he finished college at the age of 17 years, he knew he wanted to become a writer.
Ideas on Government
For nearly 50 years Voltaire preached freedom of thought and denounced cruelty and oppression in all its forms. Voltaire was bourgeois, not a democrat. He believed in reasonable dissent. He believed in natural religion and praised French artistic and cultural achievement during the Age of Louis XIV. Politically he advocated the concept of Enlightened Despotism. Above all others Voltaire stood as the champion of reason and tolerance. As a young man he was known in Paris for his plays and his wit and conversation.
Voltaire's interests peaked in England's Constitutional Monarchy, religious tolerance, philosophical rationalism, and natural sciences. These ideas influenced Voltaire to become a philosopher. He was also intrigued to the philosophy of John Locke and the theories and creations of mathematician and scientist Sir Isaac Newton.
Voltaire devoted the last years of his life fighting for injustice and the rights of the oppressed. The injustice he had experienced in his life caused him to fight even more strongly for this cause. Of all his campaigns, the 'Calas Affair' was the most popular in which he fought against the government. He fought for justice and paid no heed to his own safety, thus emerging as a brave man who stood up to help others. However, as the years passed by, his heart longed to go back to Paris, and so in 1778, he headed back to Paris. He planned to begin a new life in Paris, bought a house and began working on another tragedy. However, he fell seriously ill and died on May 30, 1778.