Voltaire- French writer, satirist, the embodiment of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Voltaire is remembered as a crusader against tyranny and bigotry. Compared to Rousseau's (1712-1778) rebelliousness and idealism, Voltaire's world view was more skeptical. His great contemporary thinker Voltaire disliked, but both of their ideas influenced deeply the French Revolution. In 1761 Voltaire wrote to Rousseau: "One feels like crawling on all fours after reading your work." " Liberty of thought is the life of the soul." (from Essay on Epic Poetry , 1727) François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire was born in Paris into a middle-class family. His father was a minor treasury official. Voltaire was educated by the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704-11). He learned Latin and Greek and later in life he became fluent in Italian, Spanish and English. From 1711 to 1713 he studied law. Before devoting himself entirely to writing, Voltaire worked as a secretary to the French ambassador in Holland. From the beginning, Voltaire had troubles with the authorities, but he energetically attacked the government and the Catholic church. These activities led to numerous imprisonments and exiles. In his early twenties he spent eleven months in the Bastille for writing satiric verses about the aristocracy. Voltaire did not support the dogmatic theology of institutional religions, his religiosity was anticlerical. With his brother Armand, who was a fundamentalist Catholic, Voltaire did not get on as well as with his sister. Atheism Voltaire considered not as baleful as fanaticism, but nearly always fatal to virtue. The doctrines about the Trinity or the Incarnation he dismissed as nonsense. As a humanist, Voltaire advocated religious and social tolerance, but not necessarily in a direct way. Well known is Voltaire's hostility toward the Jews. His play LE FANATISME, OU MAHOMET LE PROPHÈTE (1741), which portrayed the founder of Islam as an intriguer and greedy for power, was denounced by Catholic clergymen. They had no doubts that the true target was Christian fanaticism. However, Pope Benedict XIV, whom Voltaire dedicated the work, replied by saying that he read it with great pleasure. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/voltaire.htm
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