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The Influence of Voltaire’s Philosophical Works on the French Revolution

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The Influence of Voltaire’s Philosophical Works on the French Revolution

The philosophical works of Voltaire, such as Candide, influenced the beginning of the French Revolution, promoting new ideas and concepts. Voltaire used both wit and sarcasm to prove his points against injustice and cruelty. Voltaire was exiled to England for many years, and while there, he became influenced by the English government systems, associated himself with Sir Isaac Newton, John Locke, and Sir Francis Bacon. Voltaire wrote many well known works, but Candide is the most widely read and considered to have the most profound impact on the French Revolution. In Candide, Voltaire uses his character Pangloss to imitate the extreme ways of Alexander Pope, another philosopher before the French Revolution. The French Revolution was considered a time of positive change, and Voltaire’s philosophical works affected the beginning of the time period by urging the acceptance of new theories.

Voltaire is commonly known for his philosophical writing and as a “crusader against injustice, intolerance, cruelty, and war” (“Voltaire”). He was the most outspoken writer that supported political and social reform. Voltaire was constantly in fear of being jailed, as most of his work criticized both the King and the Church. In 1717, he was arrested and sent to the Bastille for “insults to the regent” (“Voltaire.”1). While imprisoned, however, he did not stay quiet; he wrote his first play, Oedipe, and this won him significant attention. Voltaire was freed after 11 months when it was found that he was wrongly accused, but challenged a young nobleman, and was sentenced to exile or death (“Voltaire”2). He chose exile and continued his writing career in England.

While in Eng...

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