Voltaire’s Philosophy and Understanding of PhilosophyJune 27, 2021
Voltaire was not in favor of democracy, although he had defended concepts such as civil rights and freedom of religion throughout his life and criticized the existing French regime. In his eyes, the best form of government was an ‘enlightened’ monarchy or ‘enlightened absolutism’. Indeed, until the end of his life he “advocated the rule of an enlightened monarch as the ideal style of government.”
Apart from this, he saw the existence of classes as a necessity and criticized it neither theoretically nor practically. In terms of religion, Voltaire’s attitudes are somewhat mixed. Voltaire, of the Philosophes, is generally described as a deist, like many others. However, he was also thought to be an atheist because of his various discourses. In his famous philosophical work, The Dictionary of Philosophy (Dictionnaire philosophique), Voltaire criticizes atheism and atheists. The religious ideas and discourses he put forward are in a deist framework. According to some researchers, the intellectual reason for Voltaire’s staying on the deist line, aside from personal reasons, is his ideas about the form of government. According to Voltaire, religion is almost essential for the proper government of the people. As a matter of fact, one of Voltaire’s well-known aphorisms, Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” is important for understanding his religious ideas. Apart from these, Voltaire criticized the existing religious belief and structure. It is obvious from every point of view that Voltaire was against religious dogmatism. He especially strongly opposed religious bigotry and slandered Christianity and Jews. These attitudes can also be seen in the “Dictionary of Philosophy”.
He is considered an important person in the history of Voltaire’s thought. In fact, he is considered to be the father of the French Revolution, which is of great historical importance.
Voltaire’s best-known and great philosophical work is Dictionnaire philosophique, or “Dictionary of Philosophy”. The dictionary, which contains intense criticism of the French political institutions of the period, also includes writings about popular ideas and Voltaire’s rivals and enemies. Apart from this, there is also a religious criticism in the work.
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