Voltaire: Philosophical Dictionary (StudyGuide)

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StudyGuide for Voltaire`s Philosophical Dictionary: (Selections) The most commonly-taught book by Voltaire is his amusing satire onphilosophical optimism, Candide. It was even made into a delightfulmusical by Leonard Bernstein. However, it does not represent Voltaire at hismost influential. Philosophical optimism is pretty much dead and has to beexplained to students today so that they can grasp the point of his satire.Voltaire`s thought ranged much more widely than this, however. In a verylong life of tireless intellectual campaigning he was the most widely-read ofthe Enlightenment spokesmen known as philosophes. These writers prized clarity and wit, and Voltaire`s writingabounds in both. However, these qualities are somewhat dimmedfor many contemporary readers who don`t have the backgroundto appreciate his jokes or grasp his points without assistance.These notes try to provide some assistance in this regard, anddraw the reader`s attention to the most important issues. It has been said that Voltaire criticized the Bible, butnow everyone reads the Bible and no one reads Voltaire.Besides being wildly overstated, this jibe misses the point: weno longer read most of Voltaire`s writings because theideas he fearlessly promoted have mostly become commonplaces whichwe take for granted. The agenda of the Enlightenment is a familiarone to anyone studying classic American values: freedom of speech,press, assembly, and religion, opposition to the cruel capricesof unenlightened ...

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