VOLTAIRE° (François-Marie Arouet; 1694–1778), French philosopher. No writer contributed so much as Voltaire to the destruction of the traditional beliefs fundamental to European society before the French Revolution: belief in the divine right of monarchy, in the legitimacy of the privileges of the nobility, and in the infallibility of the Church. Voltaire's philosophical convictions were those of a deist, not an atheist. It is also noteworthy that he attacked the biblical belief in the unity of mankind; to blacks, for instance, he attributed an inferior and separate origin. The better to ridicule the established Church, or, in his own words "Écraser l'Infâme," Voltaire preferred to concentrate his attacks on the Old Testament and its followers, the Jews; this he did in such a manner that in antisemitic campaigns in the following centuries he was used as an authority and frequently quoted. From the psychological point of view it seems that the antisemitism of Voltaire, far from being a tactical stratagem, expressed in the facility of his attacks against the Jews, was primarily a result of his hatred for the Church. For instance, it is characteristic of Voltaire that in his polemics with isaac de pinto , he forgot the habitual formula   which followed his usual way of signing, "Écrasez l'Infâme," and signed instead: "Voltaire, chrétien gentilhomme de la chambre du Roi très-chrétien." Historically speaking, Voltaire's outlook was a powerful contribution to the creation of the mental climate which made possible the emancipation of the Jews, but at the same time it prepared the ground for the future racial antisemitism. Just after Voltaire's death, zalkind hourwitz , librarian to the king of France, wrote: "The Jews forgive him all the evil he did to them because of all the good he brought them, perhaps unwittingly; for they have enjoyed a little respite for a few years now and this they owe to the progress of the Enlightenment, to which Voltaire surely contributed more than any other writer through his numerous works against fanaticism." Two centuries later this judiciously balanced judgment seems to have been only partially warranted. Recent scholars such as A. Hertzberg (see bibliography ) have seen Voltaire as one of the founders of modern secular antisemitism (see antisemitism ). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Guénée, Lettre de quelques Juifs … à M. de Voltaire (1769); many editions; also translated: Letters of Certain Jews… (1777); W. Klemperer, Voltaire und die Juden (1894); P. Stauff, Voltaire ueber die Juden (1913); H. Oppenheimer (Emmrich), Das Judentum bei Voltaire (1930); L. Poliakov, Histoire de l'antisémitisme, 3 (1968); A. Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), index. (Leon Poliakov)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Voltaire's — Voltaire …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Voltaire — (Porträt von Nicolas de Largillière) Voltaire [vɔlˈtɛːʀ] (* 21. November 1694 in Paris; † 30. Mai 1778 ebenda; eigentlich François Marie Arouet [ …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • VOLTAIRE — La vie de Voltaire recouvre tout un siècle, ou peu s’en faut: mieux, l’écrivain se confond avec son temps au point qu’on a parlé dès son vivant du siècle de Voltaire . Plus encore, il semble incarner l’esprit même de la France. À quoi tient cette …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Voltaire —   [vɔl tɛːr], eigentlich François Marie Arouet [aru̯ ɛ], französischer Schriftsteller und Philosoph, * Paris 21. 11. 1694, ✝ ebenda 30. 5. 1778; Sohn eines wohlhabenden Notars, erhielt eine humanistische Ausbildung im Jesuitenkolleg Louis le… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Voltaire — (spr. woltǟr ), François Marie Arouet de, der vielleicht einflußreichste aller franz. Schriftsteller, geb. 21. Nov. 1694 in Paris, gest. daselbst 30. Mai 1778, war der Sohn eines Finanzbeamten, Arouet, der ihn in dem Jesuitenkollegium Louis le… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Voltaire — Voltaire, François Maria Arouet de. Wer kennt nicht den Philosophen von Ferney, den großen Mann mit kleinen Leidenschaften, so freigebig und schonungslos mit seinem Spott und seiner Satyre, und doch so empfindlich und leicht verletzt durch… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Voltaire — Voltaire, ND U.S. city in North Dakota Population (2000): 51 Housing Units (2000): 21 Land area (2000): 0.407527 sq. miles (1.055489 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.407527 sq. miles (1.055489… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Voltaire, ND — U.S. city in North Dakota Population (2000): 51 Housing Units (2000): 21 Land area (2000): 0.407527 sq. miles (1.055489 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.407527 sq. miles (1.055489 sq. km) FIPS… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Voltaire — Ce nom de famille ne se rencontre que dans les départements d Outre Mer, où il a été visiblement attribué en hommage au philosophe. Rappelons que le nom Voltaire est une anagramme de L.I. Arouet, dans laquelle le v équivaut au u …   Noms de famille

  • Voltaire — name taken from 1718 by French author François Marie Arouet (1694 1778) after his imprisonment in the Bastille on suspicion of having written some satirical verses; originally de Voltaire. The signification is uncertain …   Etymology dictionary

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