STORIES
Philosophers

Voltaire

by Michael from Victoria

Voltaire (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire (Catherine lusurier))
Voltaire (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire (Catherine lusurier))

 Voltaire's actions changed the lives of people in the 18th century. Through his books, philosophies and letters written to friends he showed the people of that age how they are flawed in so many ways, and in turn changed the very fabric of our lives today.

Voltaire or Francois-Marie Arouet, as he was called until he changed his name in 1718, was born in 1694 and died 1778. He lived a life of hiding, fleeing and freeing others from injustice, but his true identity is exposed through his books, plays, poems and letters. This hero did not fight physically or with huge speeches to thousands of people, but wrote about injustice, about intolerance and about international philosophies about life, religion and government. Through these and many other ways he changed how we act, think and live.

Voltaire wrote things that contradicted what everyone thought about at that time, sometimes even later contradicting himself. He first writes that democracy "is just the action of propagating the idiocy of the masses", and then later after the reign of Frederick the Great, he changed his mind saying in his book Candide, "It is up to us to cultivate our gardens". Through his books, he spread his ideas to not just France (his home for most of his life), but to countries all over Europe and now his philosophies are taught in almost every country of the world.

Though his books were a tool of spreading his thoughts and feelings on religion, slavery, government, and life in general, they also got him into trouble many times. If his theories contradicted what the person in charge thought, he would often be banished, thrown in jail or hunted down with the intent of killing him. But even in jail or on the run from the law, he would tell the world his philosophies through letters sent to friends, through books published in secret, any way to tell the world his thoughts on life.

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1972.61 (Jean-Antoine Houdon)
https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1972.61 (Jean-Antoine Houdon)

Voltaire was a genius who learned to fluently speak 5 different languages, who wrote his first book at the age of 16 and who changed the way people live forever through his philosophies. Voltaire was both furious at the world yet at the same time he loved it; he only really wanted what was best for people. He rebuked people at every step of his life. For example, he told the Christians that it was wrong for them to involve themselves in the slave trade to make money. He then continued to tell them that they should look at themselves and challenged them with their hypocrisy of shunning other religions for doing bad things when they were selling slaves for a few dollars. He tells the people in small jabbing ways about the world. In his book Candide, the hero is horrified at the price people pay to make sugar, thus introducing the ethics of slavery. Voltaire and his books like Candide showed people the flaws of their everyday life bringing about the enlightenment age, an age of thinking. He told people to stop just obeying and believing, but to think, to realize they are following in the wrong path.

I believe that we need more Voltaires nowadays. We need people who will defy the common knowledge, defy people's own beliefs and at the same time reveal their own thoughts about life. But for all this to happen, we do not need just anyone to be our Voltaire, we need a genius, a philosopher, a hero. Why do I call Voltaire a hero? It is not just the actions a man does that shows his true character, but why and how he comes about doing them. Voltaire shows us that even a man, who isn't necessarily good with people, able to address thousands of people, good at rallying them up to join his cause, can still be a hero. Voltaire may not have at any time roused up more than ten people in one sitting, but he has roused up thousands, millions of people to his cause one person at a time, one book at a time, one word at a time. It is interesting, when I searched through the web pages about Voltaire not once did it use the words speak, tell or talk. But it does comment about how he persevered. He was run out of the country many times. Did this discourage him at all? No. He just used this opportunity to learn about new philosophies and to teach the new country he was in that they should not discriminate against religions, but be open to every belief. Some of his greatest qualities were perseverance and hope. In jail he wrote books, he persevered through the hard times with the hope he would one day tell the world of his thoughts. Another quality was that he never used these books for selfish wants or to gain power. He never said in any writing that Voltaire deserved to be king of France or rule any peoples. He just wrote about the needs of others.I believe that through his books, through his letters and through his heart, he became one of the greatest reformers of the world. He got people who had never thought about anything deep before in their lives to talk to their friends about the ethics of corrupt government. This is in my opinion the greatest thing about Voltaire. He didn't care so much that people thought what he thought, he just cared that people thought.

Page created on 8/2/2015 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/6/2017 7:29:10 PM

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