Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Voltaire (1694-1778)
François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (21-11-1694 – 30-05-1778), better known by his pen name, Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and advocacy of civil liberties, including the freedoms of religion, expression and trade as well as the separation of church and state. He was educated by the Jesuits at the College of Louis-le-Grand. He was detained twice (in 1717 and 1725) because of his satire of feudal conditions and spent the greater part of his life outside France.
He fought feudalism, defended equality before law, asked for the imposition of a tax on possessions and also advocated the freedom of speech. But he rejected the cancellation of personal ownership on the basis of the fact that the community should necessarily be divided into rich and poor. He went as far as to say that the most reasonable form of state is a constitutional kingship ruled by an enlightened king. This was before he inclined, towards the end of his life, to the opinion that a Republic is the most suitable form of state.
In his historical works, he criticized the Biblical and Christian visions of the development of society and rather drew outlines of the history of humanity. The Philosophy of History, as he invented it, is based on the progressive development of society independently from the will of Allâh. But the historical change, according to him, is idealistically interpreted as going back to the change of ideas.
His struggle against ecclesiastical priesthood and fictional religious profanities played an important role in his works, whose main aim was to ridicule Christianity and the Church which he considered the first enemy of progress. But he did not accept atheism and, although he denied any possible embodiment of a God, he mentioned that the idea of a revengeful, compelling God should be kept among the people, being one of the caste-based limits of his vision. His writings include: Philosophical Letters (1733); An Essay in Metaphysics (1734); Principles of Newton’s Philosophy (1734); The World History (1769); Encyclopedia of Marxism; and others.
“At the end of the essay, Les Moeurs, Voltaire concluded his positive description of Islam with the observation that Muhammad had been 'regarded as a great man even by those who knew that he was an impostor and revered as a prophet by all the rest'