Voltaire’s Concept of Freedom of Faith and WillJune 27, 2021
Voltaire seems to be in a more progressive position with regard to the concept of the human soul: because he considered the theory of the soul as an immaterial substantial being an unnecessary assumption. In the article on the soul in the Philosophical Dictionary, he argued that terms such as ‘spiritual soul’ are merely words that cover our ignorance.
For example, in Plato there are distinctions between the sensuous soul and the intellectual soul, but Voltaire argued that there is no such thing as a sensual soul, instead there are only the movements of the organs. In addition, he has not been able to find a good explanation for what he calls mental souls (intellect-nous and emotion-spirit), but he claims that they can be known through belief.
Voltaire considered the concept of the soul as an immaterial substantial being an unnecessary assumption.
As for the freedom of the will: in Newton’s Philosophy, he seems to have accepted the freedom of the will; He says, “If I can make a choice to turn left or right, and if I have no inclination to do the one and no aversion to the other, the choice is the result of my own will.” “It can be said that I have the freedom of indifference when I have no motive to act in this way, but not in this way.” he added. But freedom of indifference is used here in a rather verbal sense: if we have motives, our will is determined by those motives; These motives are the last word of the mind or instinct. At this point, Voltaire puts freedom in an ambiguous situation. Because “Everything has a cause, so your will too. So no one can ask except as a result of the last thought he has gained.” (as cited in Copleston, 1996: 29) shows that the discourse deviates from the freedom of will. At this point, it can be said that he was influenced by Locke again: Locke did not dare to use the term freedom. According to him, the term freedom is nothing but delusion, what else can one speak of but the power to do what one wants?
As a result of this influence from Locke, Voltaire proclaims “freedom of apathy” as a meaningless word in his Dictionary of Philosophy: what one wants is determined by motive, but one can be free to act or not to act; in other words, the person may or may not have the power to perform the action he wishes to perform. Not our will but our actions are free; We are free to act when we find the strength to act. In this case, we seem determined by our motives and the power we carry. Indeed, Voltaire, in The Ignorant Philosopher, argues that the concept of ‘free will’ is meaningless. Because a free will will be a will without sufficient motivation and will fall out of the way of nature. There is no such thing as a chance to act. Luck is a word used to describe the known effect of any unknown cause. The sense of freedom, on the other hand, shows no more than one can do what is asked when one has the power to perform the desired action.
Voltaire’s shift from freedom of the will to determinism does not mean that he is far from the thought of moral law. He also agrees with Locke that there is no innate law. But we were created by God in such a way that in the course of time we begin to see the necessity of the law. Man is endowed with such feelings by nature that they create, in the mode of infinity, the general laws of human society: the content of the basic law consists in not hurting others, and that one can do what one pleases as long as he does not hurt his neighbor immorally. As you can see, this is pretty plain content. Voltaire was never an absolute moral relativist, although he stated that moral opinions and convictions differ here and there, and that moral rules are also variable, just like languages and customs; just as it has always maintained its deistic position.
Although Voltaire initially defended human freedom of will indifferently, over time he became more deterministic.
Voltaire was a staunch advocate of political freedom, although he became increasingly psychologically deterministic on human freedom. The primary indicator of his Enlightenment identity is his struggle for the recognition of personal freedoms. Because, again, following Locke, he believed in a doctrine of human rights that the state should respect and protect, and he admired the conditions of freedom in effect in England, just like Montesquieu. The first thing he understood by political freedom was freedom of thought and expression. In this respect, the group he was primarily interested in was the freedom gains of those who were like him, that is, those who were known as philosophers. He was not a libertarian or a democrat in the sense of promoting popular sovereignty. He advocated tolerance, which he deemed necessary for scientific and economic progress. He hated the despotic, oppressive autocracy. His ideal was a benevolent single power, enlightened by the influences of the philosophers. He called the people ‘rabble’,