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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Did Voltaire Hate God?"

Posted for Harrison Matteau
Section 6 Part I

This question has puzzled me since the beginning of our discussions with
Voltaire and most other French philosophers during that time period. The first part
of my installment will consist of this question, along with supporting evidence to his
theories, with the second part including my own ideas and conclusion to the
question above.
So, did Voltaire hate God? Well, let’s look at the facts of Voltaire’s life and
career. Voltaire was actually born Francois-Marie Arouet in 1694 to an aristocratic
family, this means that he was most likely born into a protestant family and raised
to very strict ideals. He often spoke of Locke and Francis Bacon as being large
influences on his life, and that can be seen in his writings as well, especially,
Henriade and Treatise on Tolerance when he really begins to break down what
religion is, and what it should be, expressing his own ideas of deism and religion as a
whole.
So why does this mean he hates God? Well, later in his years Voltaire became
a large supporter and believer in empiricism, doubting everything that society told
him. This eventually led him to try and create his own form of empiricism for the
French society, proving that humanity is actually led by its past experiences, and not
by some larger deity. This thinking eventually led to his most famous work being
published, Candide were he satirized everything in his life, including religion, trying
to make fun of a higher being, and proving his stance on empiricism. Candide was
published all over France and gained Voltaire his fame, helping him spread his ideals
and philosophy to the newly uprising class, the bourgeoisie. This fame allowed him
to share his beliefs that men cannot improve his environment because it is simply
there, not a gift, not a right, just there, as we all are. Certainly the other end of the
spectrum to anyone of the Catholic faith or even those who are considered
Enlightenment philosophers.

3 comments:

  1. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/50/8d/53/508d5395f6f6dd119bf3649e153fdddf.jpg

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  2. Voltaire's family was Catholic. He of course became a Deist for whom God is more an originating force than a personality to be either revered or hated.

    "believer in empiricism, doubting everything that society told him" - empiricists don't have to doubt everything, but they do attempt to trace knowledge and belief to demonstrable sources in experience.

    What Voltaire hated was the smug hyper-optimism of rationalist philosophers like Leibniz, who would explain away every human loss as "for the best."

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  3. Did Voltaire hate god? I personally think that Voltaire did not hate God himself, so much as organized religion. I think that growing up and seeing the anarchy of government and the protestant revolution in France during that time, Voltaire simply grew away from religion as a whole and began to simply doubt everything he saw before him. So is it hate or simply pessimism that drove his satirical rampage that was Candide?
    I think more of the later, Voltaire reminds me a lot of a modern day news comedians such as John Stewart or Stephen Colbert, simply providing a vent to everything they see, rather than holding actual resentment. So it was not more of a hate, rather than a satirical observation of his surroundings, after all, he doubted everything, why not doubt life and what he saw around him?
    Another reason why I feel that he is simply being satirical is because of his love of Locke and Bacon’s teachings as a boy, often lamenting at their influence on his work and teachings. Taking into account Locke’s teachings on God as shown below:
    Locke’s contention is that the existence of God follows logically from the fact that we exist and think. (Cogito sumque. Unlike Descartes, Locke sees these as two facts as equally self-evident and therefore feels no need to derive one from the other.)
    1. Something exists now; if nothing else, each person can be sure that he himself exists.
    2. We intuitively believe that it is impossible for something to “come from” — that is, to be temporally preceded by — nothing.
    3. Therefore, since something exists now, there never was a time when nothing at all existed. Something has always existed.

    we can see that Locke has proved the existence of God through his logic and reasoning, and if Voltaire is a true admirer of Locke and his teachings, he would have taken this into consideration, even with this empiricism way of thinking, because Locke’s views are strictly logical.
    Finally, I feel that Voltaire, hard as he might try to get away from his childhood influences, never fully broke ties with his childhood religion. Many times we see people acting out in mockery to something they do not fully understand, and I feel that Voltaire’s Candide did just that. By writing his book in a comedic fashion, Voltaire is less to anger, and more to comedic relief, using this book as an outflow to his thinking and philosophy. Something everyone, even devote Christians, do almost every day.

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