Voltaire: Philosophical Dictionary

(1764)

François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his pen name of Voltaire, was the foremost champion of the Enlightenment in France. He published numerous books, pamphlets and articles advancing a broad range of Enlightenment causes, from Newtonian physics to religious toleration. His alphabetically arranged Philosophical Dictionary, first published anonymously with seventy-three articles in 1764 and later published in expanded editions, was an attempt to put forth some of his basic ideas in an easily understood form. Its arrangement recalls another radical work of which Voltaire was aware, the Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697) of Pierre Bayle (1647–1706). Topics included in Voltaire's work range from such specifics as “Milton, on the accusations of plagiarism against” to such general topics as “Man, General Reflection on.” The title does not refer to philosophy as a discipline so much as to the attitude thought “philosophical” in the eighteenth century—one...

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Medallion portrait of Voltaire (Yale University Art Gallery)

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