Voltaire’s Deist Conception of GodJune 27, 2021
Voltaire, in his Treatise on Metaphysics, proposes two arguments for the existence of God. The first is the reasoning based on causality.
Here the world is likened to a clock: one must conclude from the observation of nature that it was made by a mindful creator, just as a person who sees a clock that works to show time concludes that it was made by a master to show time. In other words, the universe was created as a result of conscious planning, there is an intelligence that does this planning, and this is God.
The second reasoning is that of contingency: this includes the idea that things in nature that have this or that properties must have a necessary cause, because there must be a creative spirit that wants these contingent things to be this way and not the other way around; this is God. But later Voltaire left this reasoning aside and limited himself more to the first. The artist or master has created the work of art called nature in accordance with certain principles or laws. “Newton demonstrated it for the sages,” as a religious teacher explained God to children. (Because many deists believed that God placed the laws of physics discovered by Newton in nature).
Voltaire continued to believe in God’s existence to the end, but his views on God’s relationship to the world have changed somewhat over time. While arguing that the evils seen in the world had nothing to do with God, he tried to argue that especially after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, evil in a way came from God. The world is the result of God’s necessary creation, “and since evil is inseparable from the world, it is also necessary. So he is dependent on God; but God did not choose to reveal it. We can hold God responsible for evil only if he freely created him” (Copleston, 1996: 28).
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook