Voltaire--Excerpts for Jan. 20

Voltaire--Excerpts for Jan. 20 - Excerpts from Voltaire for...

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Excerpts from Voltaire for Lecture on Jan. 20: The Enlightenment These may also be found in My History Lab Voltaire, Letters On England Franois-Marie Arouet wrote under the pen name Voltaire (1694-1778). He was the son of a middle-class French notary, who became one of the most famous and celebrated authors of the Enlightenment. Voltaire, like many of the French philosophes, used scientific methods- empiricism, skepticism and experimentation - to critique politics, society, culture, and the economy and call for reforms in these areas. In the 1720s, Voltaire lived for several years in England, and his comparison between English and French politics, society, and culture resulted in this collection of short essays, which he published in 1733. In this work, Voltaire indirectly criticized French politics, religious institutions, culture, and society by praising the English system of constitutional monarchy, the English economy, their relative religious tolerance, and the wider acceptance of "new" scientific ideas. In this passage, Voltaire explains the theories and methods of the natural philosopher, Isaac Newton (1642-1727), one of the main figures of the Scientific Revolution, comparing them to the theories and methods of RenÂŽ Descartes (1596-1650). Source: Denis Diderot, Prospectus à l'Encyclopédie, in Oeuvres complètes, ed. by Jules Assézat and Maurice Tourneaux, vol. 13 (Paris: Garnier frères, 1875-1877), 129-131; reprinted in Major Crises in Western Civilization, eds. Richard W. Lyman and Lewis W. Spitz, trans. Nina B. Guzenhauser, vol. II (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965), 11-12; reprinted in World Civilizations: Sources, Images, and Interpretations eds. Dennis Sherman, et al., vol. 2 (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1998), 76-77. Letter 15: On the System of Gravitation The discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, which have earned him such a universal reputation, concern the system of the world, light, infinity in mathematics and finally chronology, with which he toyed for relaxation. I am going to tell you (if I can without verbiage) the little I have been able to gather about all these sublime ideas. Concerning the system of our world, arguments had been going on for a long time on the basic cause which makes all the planets turn and keeps them in their orbits, and on that which in our own world makes all bodies fall on to the surface of the earth. The system of Descartes, interpreted and very much modified since his time, seemed to offer a plausible reason for these phenomena, and this reason seemed all the truer for being simple and intelligible to all. But in natural philosophy one should mistrust what one feels and understands too easily, just as much as the things one does not understand. Weight, the acceleration of bodies falling to the ground, the revolution of the planets in their
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This note was uploaded on 06/14/2011 for the course HIST 102 taught by Professor Osokina during the Spring '10 term at South Carolina.

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Voltaire--Excerpts for Jan. 20 - Excerpts from Voltaire for...

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