The High Enlightenment: Voltaire

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“M. de Voltaire,” said I, “this is the happiest moment of my life. I have been your pupil for twenty years, and my heart is full of joy to see my master.”  (Casanova’s memoirs) Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov, Mad Monk, Importance Of Education, Noel Coward, British Country, Makes You Beautiful, Time Magazine, Types Of Music, Playwright
The High Enlightenment: Voltaire
“M. de Voltaire,” said I, “this is the happiest moment of my life. I have been your pupil for twenty years, and my heart is full of joy to see my master.” (Casanova’s memoirs)
Un dîner de philosophes (by Jean Huber).  The apogee of the Enlightenment is conventionally entitled the High Enlightenment (1730 to 1780) and was dominated by French philosophes such as d’Alembert, Buffon, Condorcet, Diderot, Helvétius, d’Holbach, Montesquieu and Rousseau.  Foremost amongst them, however, was Voltaire (1694 – 1778). Benjamin Franklin, Scientific Revolution And Enlightenment, Enlightenment Philosophers, Famous Philosophers, Rationalism, American Revolution, France, How To Get Rich, Philosophy
Un dîner de philosophes (by Jean Huber). The apogee of the Enlightenment is conventionally entitled the High Enlightenment (1730 to 1780) and was dominated by French philosophes such as d’Alembert, Buffon, Condorcet, Diderot, Helvétius, d’Holbach, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Foremost amongst them, however, was Voltaire (1694 – 1778).
Premiere of 'La Princesse de Navarre'. Voltaire’s output was prodigious, filling over 100 volumes of published works and over 100 volumes of correspondence.  They included satirical novels such as 'Candide', philosophical short stories such as 'Plato’s Dream', entries for the 'Encyclopédie', histories such as 'The Age of Louis XIV', poetry such as 'The Henriade', tragic plays such as 'Oedipus' and comedies such as 'The Princess of Navarre'. Set Design Theatre, Scene Design, Palacio Pitti, Black And White Building, Le Roy, Luis Xiv, Louvre, A Night At The Opera, February Birthday
La princesse de Navarre - Wikipedia
Premiere of 'La Princesse de Navarre'. Voltaire’s output was prodigious, filling over 100 volumes of published works and over 100 volumes of correspondence. They included satirical novels such as 'Candide', philosophical short stories such as 'Plato’s Dream', entries for the 'Encyclopédie', histories such as 'The Age of Louis XIV', poetry such as 'The Henriade', tragic plays such as 'Oedipus' and comedies such as 'The Princess of Navarre'.
His works brimmed with originality, subtlety and devastating wit, their subversiveness incurring the ire of the state.  He was imprisoned and exiled, and his writings censored, banned, confiscated and burned.  The discovery of his 'Dictionnaire Philosophique' in the possession of a poor, young aristocrat called Le Barre, was used as part of the evidence against him in a prosecution for blasphemy.  Found guilty, Le Barre was tortured, beheaded and burned on a pyre. Kneeland, Aristocrat, Censored, Edition, Possession, Barre, Writings, Evidence, Enlightenment
His works brimmed with originality, subtlety and devastating wit, their subversiveness incurring the ire of the state. He was imprisoned and exiled, and his writings censored, banned, confiscated and burned. The discovery of his 'Dictionnaire Philosophique' in the possession of a poor, young aristocrat called Le Barre, was used as part of the evidence against him in a prosecution for blasphemy. Found guilty, Le Barre was tortured, beheaded and burned on a pyre.
Voltaire with Frederick II in Potsdam.  Voltaire’s influence, in France and abroad, was immense.  He was known as ‘the patriarch’ of the Enlightenment, doing much to establish its key battle grounds: deism; anticlericalism; abuses of power; toleration; censorship; ethics.  However, despite his many works on philosophy and natural philosophy, he was a social critic, reformer and activist, rather than a creator of coherent philosophical systems.  He was not a Hobbes or a Locke or a Kant. Deism, Friedrich Ii, Frederick The Great, Natural Philosophy, Battle Ground, Century, Statue, Greats
Voltaire with Frederick II in Potsdam. Voltaire’s influence, in France and abroad, was immense. He was known as ‘the patriarch’ of the Enlightenment, doing much to establish its key battle grounds: deism; anticlericalism; abuses of power; toleration; censorship; ethics. However, despite his many works on philosophy and natural philosophy, he was a social critic, reformer and activist, rather than a creator of coherent philosophical systems. He was not a Hobbes or a Locke or a Kant.
Misery of the peasantry.  Born in the reign of Louis XIV, Voltaire was 20 by the time of the Sun King’s death. The first 20 years of anybody’s life, of course, is hugely formative but this was particularly the case with Voltaire.  The final 2 decades of Louis’ reign was marked by war, famine, persecution and intellectual upheaval.  Over a period of more than 25 years, the wars of the League of Augsburg and the Spanish Succession ensured that France had enjoyed only a handful of years of peace. Legion Of Honour, Princess Mary, Persecution, Vintage World Maps, Literature, Humanoid Sketch, Landscape, History
A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times, Volume V. of VI., Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot
Misery of the peasantry. Born in the reign of Louis XIV, Voltaire was 20 by the time of the Sun King’s death. The first 20 years of anybody’s life, of course, is hugely formative but this was particularly the case with Voltaire. The final 2 decades of Louis’ reign was marked by war, famine, persecution and intellectual upheaval. Over a period of more than 25 years, the wars of the League of Augsburg and the Spanish Succession ensured that France had enjoyed only a handful of years of peace.
An 18th century engraving, based on a drawing by Samuel Wale, of the Bill of Rights being presented to William and Mary.  Across the channel, the discoveries of Newton, the writings of Locke and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (with its 1689 Bill of Rights) challenged the older political, intellectual and religious certainties.  Even in France, radical ideas were being circulated by men of letters and discussed in learned journals. King William, William And Mary, Petition Of Right, Protest Art, Wall Canvas, Canvas Prints, Bill Of Rights, Fine Art Prints, Framed Prints
Bill of Rights 1689 - Wikipedia
An 18th century engraving, based on a drawing by Samuel Wale, of the Bill of Rights being presented to William and Mary. Across the channel, the discoveries of Newton, the writings of Locke and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (with its 1689 Bill of Rights) challenged the older political, intellectual and religious certainties. Even in France, radical ideas were being circulated by men of letters and discussed in learned journals.
Louis-le-Grand (photo by Pliny).  Voltaire was born in Paris to a father who was a lawyer and a mother who was from the minor nobility.  From the age of 10 to 17, he was educated by the Jesuits at Louis-le-Grand, one of the most prestigious schools in Paris, and, consequently, received a rigorous intellectual training that incorporated aspects of traditional, theologically based scholasticism with the classical scholarship of Renaissance humanism. Paris France, Renaissance Humanism, Rue Saint Jacques, Latin Quarter, Sorbonne, Jesuit, Paris Ville, Le Grand, 12th Century
Lycée Louis-le-Grand - Wikipedia
Louis-le-Grand (photo by Pliny). Voltaire was born in Paris to a father who was a lawyer and a mother who was from the minor nobility. From the age of 10 to 17, he was educated by the Jesuits at Louis-le-Grand, one of the most prestigious schools in Paris, and, consequently, received a rigorous intellectual training that incorporated aspects of traditional, theologically based scholasticism with the classical scholarship of Renaissance humanism.
The Bastille and Porte Saint-Antoine from the north-east, 1715–19.  In 1717, Voltaire found himself imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months after penning some scurrilous verse at the expense of the Prince Regent.  Nonetheless, during this time his reputation as a writer was growing and he was achieving commercial success. Old Paris, Vintage Paris, Bastille France, John Law, French History, French Revolution, Museum Of Fine Arts, Napoleon, Tourist Attraction
Bastille - Wikipedia
The Bastille and Porte Saint-Antoine from the north-east, 1715–19. In 1717, Voltaire found himself imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months after penning some scurrilous verse at the expense of the Prince Regent. Nonetheless, during this time his reputation as a writer was growing and he was achieving commercial success.
Portrait of Lord Bolingbroke.  Voltaire was also, despite his not particularly exalted birth, to be found hobnobbing with the aristocracy, who appreciated his wit and intelligence.  He became friendly with the exiled English aristocrat and deist Lord Bolingbroke through whom he was introduced to the ideas of natural philosophy, Locke and Newton. A4 Poster, Poster Prints, King George I, Le Bourgeois, Country Party, The Pretenders, Viscount, Church Of England, Saint Jean
Portrait of Lord Bolingbroke. Voltaire was also, despite his not particularly exalted birth, to be found hobnobbing with the aristocracy, who appreciated his wit and intelligence. He became friendly with the exiled English aristocrat and deist Lord Bolingbroke through whom he was introduced to the ideas of natural philosophy, Locke and Newton.
Portrait of Guy August de Rohan-Chabot.  In 1726 Voltaire offended the honour of the Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot.  Facing another spell in the Bastille, Voltaire was able to negotiate, instead, a 30-month period of exile in Great Britain.  His exposure to English scientific and philosophical ideas, and how the country organised its political, social and religious affairs was to have a major influence upon his thought. Muisc, Chill Pill, Classical Music, Composers, Bastille, Offended, Portrait, Georges
L'affaire Voltaire-De Rohan (1)
Portrait of Guy August de Rohan-Chabot. In 1726 Voltaire offended the honour of the Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot. Facing another spell in the Bastille, Voltaire was able to negotiate, instead, a 30-month period of exile in Great Britain. His exposure to English scientific and philosophical ideas, and how the country organised its political, social and religious affairs was to have a major influence upon his thought.
Voltaire’s stay in England was also to have a significant impact upon his writing.  Through Bolingbroke, he met Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and John Gay who were experimenting with new literary forms such as 'Gulliver’s Travels'. Robinson Crusoe, Los Robinson, Travel Film, His Travel, Travel Books, Travel Journals, Travel Reading, Best Dystopian Novels, Mini Serie
Gulliver's Travels - Wikipedia
Voltaire’s stay in England was also to have a significant impact upon his writing. Through Bolingbroke, he met Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and John Gay who were experimenting with new literary forms such as 'Gulliver’s Travels'.
Voltaire returned to Paris in 1728 and over the next several years a large family inheritance, a fortune made through the manipulation of the Paris lottery, pensions from his aristocratic admirers, income from his literary success and some very shrewd investing combined to make him immensely rich. Europe Language, Pub Vintage, Michael Collins, Marianne, Syndicate, Paper Money, Bank Notes, Vintage Images, Oldies
Voltaire returned to Paris in 1728 and over the next several years a large family inheritance, a fortune made through the manipulation of the Paris lottery, pensions from his aristocratic admirers, income from his literary success and some very shrewd investing combined to make him immensely rich.
First page of the Preface to ‘Letters Concerning the English Nation‘.   In 1733, he released a collection of essays in letter form on his English experience.  They were published initially in London and entitled Letters Concerning the English Nation before their publication in French the following year as 'Lettres Philosophiques'.  Such was the outrage that greeted its appearance in France that Voltaire was once again forced to flee Paris. Letter Form, First Page, Essay, Confidence, Author, English, Letters, Writing, Entitled
Letters concerning the English nation – Voltaire Foundation
First page of the Preface to ‘Letters Concerning the English Nation‘. In 1733, he released a collection of essays in letter form on his English experience. They were published initially in London and entitled Letters Concerning the English Nation before their publication in French the following year as 'Lettres Philosophiques'. Such was the outrage that greeted its appearance in France that Voltaire was once again forced to flee Paris.
In 'Lettres Philosophiques' Voltaire celebrates the 17th-century English scientific and philosophical revolutions, spreading their ideas to the educated French public.  He brings attention to the concrete achievements of an empirical tradition that was based upon the principles and methods of Francis Bacon, which prioritised evidence, experimentation and inductive reasoning and in which communities of scholars would work together with the goal of improving the lot of their fellow man. Francis Bacon Biography, Francis Bacon Essays, Francis Bacon Quotes, Shakespeare Plays, William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon Philosophy, Inductive Reasoning, The Darkness, Scientific Revolution
Francis Bacon - Philosophy, Facts & Accomplishments
In 'Lettres Philosophiques' Voltaire celebrates the 17th-century English scientific and philosophical revolutions, spreading their ideas to the educated French public. He brings attention to the concrete achievements of an empirical tradition that was based upon the principles and methods of Francis Bacon, which prioritised evidence, experimentation and inductive reasoning and in which communities of scholars would work together with the goal of improving the lot of their fellow man.
Humanist concern for man’s physical, as opposed to spiritual, well-being was to become central to Enlightenment thought.  This appealed to Voltaire.  He drew attention, for example, to the practice of inoculation against smallpox in Britain but which was resisted in France: “What! Aren’t the French fond of life? Do their women not care about their beauty? Indeed, we are strange folk! Perhaps in ten years’ time we shall adopt this English method if the priests and doctors permit”. Cleveland State, Cleveland Clinic, John Lord, Cow Names, Beacon Lighting, Today In History, Humanist, Classic Literature, Vaccine
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Humanist concern for man’s physical, as opposed to spiritual, well-being was to become central to Enlightenment thought. This appealed to Voltaire. He drew attention, for example, to the practice of inoculation against smallpox in Britain but which was resisted in France: “What! Aren’t the French fond of life? Do their women not care about their beauty? Indeed, we are strange folk! Perhaps in ten years’ time we shall adopt this English method if the priests and doctors permit”.
Westminster Abbey's Newton memorial.  Voltaire respected the achievements of Descartes but the progress in understanding the world made by scientists and philosophers such as Newton and Locke was clear.  Locke’s epistemology, that all knowledge was derived from sense experience interrogated by reason, was superior in his view to the theory of innate ideas of Descartes.  For Locke, human knowledge had its limits.  The nature of immaterial substances, such as the soul, were beyond those limits. Modern Physics, Isaac Newton, Westminster Abbey, The Man, Sph, Substances, Scientists
Isaac Newton: The man who discovered gravity
Westminster Abbey's Newton memorial. Voltaire respected the achievements of Descartes but the progress in understanding the world made by scientists and philosophers such as Newton and Locke was clear. Locke’s epistemology, that all knowledge was derived from sense experience interrogated by reason, was superior in his view to the theory of innate ideas of Descartes. For Locke, human knowledge had its limits. The nature of immaterial substances, such as the soul, were beyond those limits.
Protestant engraving representing 'les dragonnades' in France under Louis XIV.  Voltaire used England as a way to critique many of the things he found most objectionable about his home country.  He was particularly impressed by the freedoms enjoyed by its subjects (especially the degree of religious toleration he found there) its lack of corruption, and its respect for commerce. Church History, Family History, Bourbon, Edict Of Nantes, Fort, Creative Writing Workshops, Etat Civil, Les Religions
French Wars of Religion - Wikipedia
Protestant engraving representing 'les dragonnades' in France under Louis XIV. Voltaire used England as a way to critique many of the things he found most objectionable about his home country. He was particularly impressed by the freedoms enjoyed by its subjects (especially the degree of religious toleration he found there) its lack of corruption, and its respect for commerce.
During his time at Cirey, Voltaire worked with Châtelet in championing Newton against the supporters of Descartes and wrote philosophical works such as his 'Treatise on Metaphysics', in which he explores the implications of Locke’s philosophy, as well as works of history, ethics, drama and poetry. The two were exceptionally close and Voltaire was devastated when in 1749, after a brief affair with the poet Jean François de Saint-Lambert, Émilie died in childbirth at the age of 42. Philosophical Words, Theatrical, Ethics, Metaphysics, Poetry, Book Cover, Louis Xiv, Childbirth
La traduction et les commentaires des Principia de Newton par Émili...
During his time at Cirey, Voltaire worked with Châtelet in championing Newton against the supporters of Descartes and wrote philosophical works such as his 'Treatise on Metaphysics', in which he explores the implications of Locke’s philosophy, as well as works of history, ethics, drama and poetry. The two were exceptionally close and Voltaire was devastated when in 1749, after a brief affair with the poet Jean François de Saint-Lambert, Émilie died in childbirth at the age of 42.
Painting of D’Alembert.  Voltaire moved on to Geneva where, in 1755, he bought Ferney, on the French-Swiss border (his home for the rest of his life).  During this time and throughout the 1750s he was heavily involved in the defence of Diderot and d'Alembert's secular and anti-authoritarian 'Encyclopédie', one of the outstanding achievements of the French Enlightenment to which he contributed over 20 entries.  He published his own 'Dictionnaire philosophique' (1764–1770) in support of it. Anti Authoritarian, Radio Channels, Bbc Radio, Painting, Geneva, Defence, Heavily, Swiss
The Encyclopédie
Painting of D’Alembert. Voltaire moved on to Geneva where, in 1755, he bought Ferney, on the French-Swiss border (his home for the rest of his life). During this time and throughout the 1750s he was heavily involved in the defence of Diderot and d'Alembert's secular and anti-authoritarian 'Encyclopédie', one of the outstanding achievements of the French Enlightenment to which he contributed over 20 entries. He published his own 'Dictionnaire philosophique' (1764–1770) in support of it.
The Lisbon earthquake and tsunami.  This was the low point of Voltaire's life.  There was the death of Émilie, the Seven-Years War and, in 1755, Lisbon.  In his poem on the Lisbon Earthquake, for which he was publicly rebuked by Rousseau, he attacked the optimistic philosophy of Leibniz which tackled the question of how suffering could exist in a world created by an infinitely good God.  Leibniz concluded that the suffering in the world was the very least there could be. Tsunami, Hotel Istanbul, History Of Portugal, Ocean Science, Evil World, Site Archéologique, Weather Warnings, Ocean Indien, Leiden
1755 Lisbon earthquake - Wikipedia
The Lisbon earthquake and tsunami. This was the low point of Voltaire's life. There was the death of Émilie, the Seven-Years War and, in 1755, Lisbon. In his poem on the Lisbon Earthquake, for which he was publicly rebuked by Rousseau, he attacked the optimistic philosophy of Leibniz which tackled the question of how suffering could exist in a world created by an infinitely good God. Leibniz concluded that the suffering in the world was the very least there could be.
Letter to Voltaire on Providence.  Voltaire’s rejection of this conclusion and his humanistic assertion that it was mankind not God that required man’s love outraged Rousseau whose Letter to Voltaire on Providence argued that Voltaire was challenging the fact of God’s perfection (a fact proven by the power of reason) and that man was responsible for evil not God.  The Lisbon earthquake was God’s message to mankind that cities were a cause of moral degradation. Age Of Enlightenment, Contradiction, Conclusion, Providence, Morals, Earthquake, Rejection, Lisbon
Voltaire and Rousseau: irreconcilable contradiction
Letter to Voltaire on Providence. Voltaire’s rejection of this conclusion and his humanistic assertion that it was mankind not God that required man’s love outraged Rousseau whose Letter to Voltaire on Providence argued that Voltaire was challenging the fact of God’s perfection (a fact proven by the power of reason) and that man was responsible for evil not God. The Lisbon earthquake was God’s message to mankind that cities were a cause of moral degradation.
Portrait of Gottfried Leibniz.  Central to the Lisbon dispute was a clash between the deductive logic of Descartes and Leibniz and the empirically based inductive logic of the English tradition.  The former led to fatalism and despair.  If what happened in this world was for the best in the best of all possible worlds then what was the point in trying to improve upon it.  The humanist ideas of Bacon and Locke, however, aimed at uncovering knowledge that would be of practical benefit to man. Saint Empire Romain, Alexander Von Humboldt, Computer Architecture, History Of Philosophy, Famous Scientist, Believe In God, Writers
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - Wikipedia
Portrait of Gottfried Leibniz. Central to the Lisbon dispute was a clash between the deductive logic of Descartes and Leibniz and the empirically based inductive logic of the English tradition. The former led to fatalism and despair. If what happened in this world was for the best in the best of all possible worlds then what was the point in trying to improve upon it. The humanist ideas of Bacon and Locke, however, aimed at uncovering knowledge that would be of practical benefit to man.
It was several years before Voltaire responded to Rousseau’s broadside.  He did so in the form of Candide (1759), a devastating satire on optimistic philosophy that in the figure of Professor Pangloss laid bare its absurdities. Got Books, Books To Read, Guide Words, Freedom Of Religion, Essay Prompts, What To Read, Book Addict, Graphic Organizers, Book Photography
Narrative Techniques in Voltaire's 'Candide' and the Effects Achieved
It was several years before Voltaire responded to Rousseau’s broadside. He did so in the form of Candide (1759), a devastating satire on optimistic philosophy that in the figure of Professor Pangloss laid bare its absurdities.
After 'Candide' and his dispute with Rousseau, Voltaire moved away from philosophical theorising and focussed his energies on practical action.  He used his wealth and prestige to campaign against injustice and intolerance.  A notable example was that of the Huguenot merchant Jean Calas who, in 1763, had been brutally tortured to death after having been wrongfully convicted of the murder of his son.  Voltaire eventually succeeded in having the verdict overturned. Practical Action, The Verdict, Moving Away, Louis Xvi, The Prestige, Merchants, Intolerance, Dispute
After 'Candide' and his dispute with Rousseau, Voltaire moved away from philosophical theorising and focussed his energies on practical action. He used his wealth and prestige to campaign against injustice and intolerance. A notable example was that of the Huguenot merchant Jean Calas who, in 1763, had been brutally tortured to death after having been wrongfully convicted of the murder of his son. Voltaire eventually succeeded in having the verdict overturned.
Voltaire’s statue in the crypt of the Pantheon (photo by Carcharoth).  In February 1778 the 84-year-old Voltaire was allowed to return to Paris.  He received a rapturous welcome and was feted by both the ordinary peasants and the Parisian elite.  The demands upon him, however, took their toll and on the 30th May he died.  In 1791, two years after the French Revolution, his body was exhumed and moved to the Pantheon of heroes in recognition of his fight against injustice and abuses of power. Passport Stamps, Crypt, Boundless, The Ordinary, Art History, Expressions, Culture
Panthéon - Wikipedia
Voltaire’s statue in the crypt of the Pantheon (photo by Carcharoth). In February 1778 the 84-year-old Voltaire was allowed to return to Paris. He received a rapturous welcome and was feted by both the ordinary peasants and the Parisian elite. The demands upon him, however, took their toll and on the 30th May he died. In 1791, two years after the French Revolution, his body was exhumed and moved to the Pantheon of heroes in recognition of his fight against injustice and abuses of power.