Philosophical Letters

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Best known for his philosophical novel Candide, Voltaire ranked among the leading intellectuals of the Enlightenment period. This collection confirms the philosopher's reputation for displays of irrepressible genius and individuality. Voltaire's two-and-a-half-year sojourn in England (the direct result of his banishment from Paris for offending an aristocrat) left a profound impression on the rational observer and free-thinking moralist. Written as though explaining English society to a friend back in France, the...
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Overview

Best known for his philosophical novel Candide, Voltaire ranked among the leading intellectuals of the Enlightenment period. This collection confirms the philosopher's reputation for displays of irrepressible genius and individuality. Voltaire's two-and-a-half-year sojourn in England (the direct result of his banishment from Paris for offending an aristocrat) left a profound impression on the rational observer and free-thinking moralist. Written as though explaining English society to a friend back in France, the letters focus on religion and politics, with commentaries on Quakers, the Church of England, Presbyterians, Anti-Trinitarians. Parliament, the government, and commerce. In addition, there are essays on Locke, Descartes, and Newton. Voltaire was deeply influenced by the degree of tolerance he saw practiced among Londoners: "If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other's throats; but here are thirty, and they live happily together in peace." This concept of a cultural diversity as a cornerstone for a thriving and tranquil society sounded a revolutionary note among European readers that resonated for many years afterward. First published in English translation in 1733, Philosophical Letters appeared in France a year later; Voltaire's paean to tolerance was condemned by the French government as "likely to inspire a license of thought most dangerous to religion and civil order." This provocative work remains a landmark from the literature of the Age of Reason.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780672603266
  • Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1961

Table of Contents

Translator's Introduction vii
Selected Bibliography xiii
Note on the Text xv
I. On the Quakers 3
II. On the Quakers 8
III. On the Quakers 11
IV. On the Quakers 16
V. On the Church of England 22
VI. On the Presbyterians 25
VII. On the Socinians, or Arians, or Anti-Trinitarians 27
VIII. On the Parliament 30
IX. On the Government 34
X. On Commerce 39
XI. On Inoculation with Smallpox 41
XII. On Chancellor Bacon 46
XIII. On Mr. Locke 52
XIV. On Descartes and Newton 60
XV. On the System of Attraction 66
XVI. On Newton's Optics 75
XVII. On Infinity and on Chronology 79
XVIII. On Tragedy 85
XIX. On Comedy 90
XX. On Persons of Rank Who Cultivate Learning 95
XXI. On the Earl of Rochester and Mr. Waller 99
XXII. On Mr. Pope and Some Other Famous Poets 105
XXIII. On the Consideration Owed to Men of Letters 110
XXIV. On Academies 114
XXV. On the Pensees of M. Pascal 119
Appendix 147
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