François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, philosopher, satirist, and historian. Famous for his wit and his criticism of Christianity (especially of the Roman Catholic Church) and of slavery, Voltaire was an advocate of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

Early Life and Education

Voltaire was born in Paris, France, on November 21, 1694. He came from a wealthy family and received a classical education. He studied at the Collège Louis-le-Grand, where he excelled in literature and developed a strong interest in philosophy.

Literary and Philosophical Career

Voltaire began his literary career as a playwright and poet. His early works were successful, but it was his satirical writings that made him famous. In 1724, he published Lettres philosophiques, a series of letters that criticized the French government and the Catholic Church. The book was banned in France, but it was widely read and admired throughout Europe.

Voltaire continued to write prolifically throughout his life. He published numerous essays, plays, novels, and histories. His works were known for their wit, their intelligence, and their sharp criticism of social and political institutions.

Advocacy for Freedom and Tolerance

Voltaire was a passionate advocate for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state. He believed that these freedoms were essential for a just and prosperous society. He also spoke out against slavery and other forms of oppression.

Voltaire's views were controversial in his time, and he was often the target of censorship and persecution. However, he never wavered in his commitment to his beliefs. He is remembered as one of the most important figures of the Enlightenment.


Voltaire's work had a profound impact on the development of Western thought. His ideas about freedom, tolerance, and reason helped to shape the modern world. He is considered to be one of the greatest writers and philosophers of all time.

Key Works

  • Lettres philosophiques (1724)
  • Candide (1759)
  • L'Ingénu (1767)
  • Zadig (1748)
  • Micromégas (1752)
  • Le Dictionnaire philosophique (1764)
  • L'Encyclopédie (1751-1772)


  • "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
  • "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend."
  • "It is better to travel well than to arrive."
  • "Doubt is the beginning of wisdom."
  • "Common sense is the most uncommon of all senses."
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Candide, ou l'Optimisme (Candide: or, All for the Best) is a satirical novella by...
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