Voltaire, what do people think?

I have been studying Voltaire for an extended essay and am interested to know what any of you think of him. He has caused massive rifts in thinking, and often views of him are unjustified. Please only respond if you know enough about him to come to a reasoned judgement, be it on his character, philosophy, or literary work.

Jon F

Nothing other than that he’s the perfect example of someone who has been interpreted and re-interpreted over and over until it’s impossible to make sense of anything about him…

For me, the most important thing to’ve come from Voltaire is the ending of Candide, where the characters wind-up working on a farm. The message basically is that a good way to happiness is to forget the world and live a simple life (c.f. ignorance is bliss).

I know all about Voltaire and he’s one of my favorite thinkers and historical figures, so do you have a specific question in mind?

Until then, he essentially inspired the basic concept for America (he was visited by Ben Franklin to get ideas), invented freedom of religion (for a very tricky reason), and countered the stupid Spinoza approach to life. He was a man that constantly risked death to challenge oppression and he did it with a sense of humor that is still funny today.

There are so many modern ideas that have been influenced by Voltaire that it would take volumes to analyze. I often speculate that that is the exact reason that he’s ignored or reduced to a status of the author of one story. He invented so much that most after him are simply derivative.

edited

He and Freddy got it on! Oh yeah.
Aside from his wurst, he definately gave Prussia some great ideas. Good guy, all around.

Nope, he found himself constantly on the run from Fred because of Fred’s Jealous cloying gay love.

Ah, the original inspiration for brokeback mountain,
Fred and him in a mountain chalet. How cute.

Kropotkin

So who was top and who was bottom?

Loved his satire against the elites, a clever rebel. Candide was a great laugh. What exactly are you looking for?

A compare and contrast with Pope’s Dunciad would be fun.

Funny, I have a M.A. in English and a B.A. in history and do not “know all about Voltairre.”
:wink:

someoneisatthedoor wrote:

Agreed.

Ad,

Yes, i’m trying to work out whether i think his defence of civil liberties and hatred of the ancien regime etc. are really compatible with things like his incredibly affluent lifestyle.

aspacia,

True, and it certainly had a huge impact. But when you strip away the wit and satire and are left with the bane bones of Candide, his ideas are neither mind blowing nor well written.

Jon F

Interpreting:

Well, this problem can be avoided by reading the source material!

Voltaire made himself rich via the commodities, I think textiles, but he was know to give his money away to people that needed help in gigantic quantities never expecting it back.

The man wasn’t a royal and managed to make his money first based on a few successful plays and the he invested, so it’s hard to blame him for being smart and lucky. The cash allowed him to do his writing and thinking, which led directly to the downfall of the ultimate rich oppressors the aristocracy.

There simply is no way that a person that wasn’t rich in his time could publish books, which were all self-published, on a peasant’s wage. So, it was good that he was rich, and the fact that he wasn’t stingy made it all the better.

“True, and it certainly had a huge impact. But when you strip away the wit and satire and are left with the bane bones of Candide, his ideas are neither mind blowing nor well written.”

Wow, I almost want to punch you in the face.

Voltaire essentially invented the science-fiction novel with books like Candide and several other stories. What makes a good fantastic story is that it isn’t just about what’s on the surface but what the subtext of the story is.

Candide was written to confront the Spinoza inspired Liebnitz’s idea (think Dunamis) that the world is perfect as it because it’s all god’s will. That idea allowed for all kinds of tragedy and atrocity to be explained away and was a major rhetorical tactic of the church, which ruled everything.

It was a book that made people want to kill him because it was so incredibly revolutionary and confrontational, and all of that in an adventure story. Can you think of a modern parallel?

TheAdlerian": Wow, I almost want to punch you in the face.
Voltaire essentially invented the science-fiction novel with books like Candide and several other stories. What makes a good fantastic story is that it isn’t just about what’s on the surface but what the subtext of the story is.
It was a book that made people want to kill him because it was so incredibly revolutionary and confrontational, and all of that in an adventure story. Can you think of a modern parallel?"

K: The problem here is not the thought. The problem is Jon f
has no historical sense. He doesn’t see the past as it is,
because he compares it to today. And yes, today Voltaire looks
old fashion. But Voltaire was cutting edge in his time.
And jon f cannot see because of his youth? perhaps.

Put Voltaire in context and he is as revolutionary as they come.
I actually like Candide but he has other interesting stuff out there.

PS. this is my 300th post. what do I win?

Kropotkin

You win my response!

Yes, I wouldn’t really punch Jon F in the face, but he needs to look at the times in which Voltaire lived. He didn’t write Star Wars or make King Kong, but he still was great.

TheAdlerian: You win my response!"

K: That all? Not the key to the executive restroom.
A new car or perhaps that cruise to the bermudas
or a firm handshake and a fond, thank you,
but NO, I get a response!!!

Jezz, I feel ripped off.

A: Yes, I wouldn’t really punch Jon F in the face, but he needs to look at the times in which Voltaire lived. He didn’t write Star Wars or make King Kong, but he still was great.

K: violence doesn’t solve anything,… but it sure the hell makes you
feel better. The key is to punch some idiot who really deserves it.
Jon f is simply young. As for myself, I would go after POR perhaps.

Kropotkin

Violence solves everything, sadly…

someoneisatthedoor:Violence solves everything, sadly…"

K: From this response, I take it you have had incidents in the past.
Trust me. After a childhood of getting into more fights then I
care to admit to, I can state violence solves nothing.
Including our little act of violence in Iraq. It will solve nothing
and will create new problems. If the answer if violence, then
it must have been one really stupid question.

Kropotkin

Voltaire defeated all different kinds of people using humor and logical arguments, but sometimes a nice bomb or two can’t hurt, I suppose.