François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, deist, and philosopher.
Voltaire advocated for civil liberties, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Also, as a satirical polemicist, he frequently criticized Catholic Church and the French institutions of his day.
His intelligence, wit and especially style made him one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers, despite the controversy he attracted during his lifetime.
He was a versatile and prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including novels, poems, essays, plays, as well as historical and scientific works. He managed to write over 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. One of his most famous books and the best example of his style is satirical novella Candide (1759).
Voltaire’s works and ideas influenced many important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.
Let us read, and let us dance — these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.'Liberty of the Press,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. VII (1764)
Almost everything is imitation.'Lettre XII: sur M. Pope et quelques autres poètes fameux,' Lettres philosophiques (1756)
It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.Le dîner du comte de Boulainvilliers (1767)
A single part of physics occupies the lives of many men, and often leaves them dying in uncertainty.'A Madame la Marquise du Châtelet, Avant-Propos,' Eléments de Philosophie de Newton (1738)
Think for yourselves, and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.'Toleration,' Essays on Literature, Philosophy, Art, History (1762), The Works of Voltaire Vol. 37
We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.Voltaire's Notebooks (1735-50)
To constitute taste, it is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.'Taste,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. X (1764)
To hold a pen is to be at war.Letter to Jeanne-Grâce Bosc du Bouchet, comtesse d'Argental (October 4, 1748)
Anyone who seeks to destroy the passions instead of controlling them is trying to play the angel.'On the Pensées of Pascal,' letter 18, Letters on England (1732)
Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.Letter to Pierre-Joseph Luneau de Boisjermain (October 21, 1769)
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.Epître à l'auteur du livre des Trois imposteurs (1768)
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished who kill not in large companies, and to the sound of trumpets; it is the rule.'Rights,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. IX (1764)
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.Questions sur les miracles (1765)
What is toleration? It is the appurtenance of humanity. We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies—it is the first law of nature.'Toleration,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. X (1764)
Love is of all the passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the body.Pensées, remarques et observations de Voltaire (1802)
It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.The Age of Louis XIV (1752)
A minister is excusable for the evil he may do when the helm of the government is forced into his hands by storms of state; but when there is a calm, he is answerable for all the good he does not do.
(Also known as: Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.)'Chapter V: To the Death of Mazarin,' The Age of Louis XIV (1751)
Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men, by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above all the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create.'Physicians,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. VIII (1764)
Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.Letter to Élie Bertrand (January 5, 1759)
Labor keeps us free three of the great evils; tiresomeness, vice, and want.'Chapter XXX,' Candide; or, The Optimist (1759
There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.Letter to François-Joachim de Pierre, cardinal de Bernis (April 23, 1764)
Optimism! said Cacambo, what is that? Alas! replied Candide, it is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.
(Also known as: Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.)'Chapter XIX,' Candide; or, The Optimist (1759)
What is called happiness is an abstract idea, composed of various ideas of pleasure; for he who has but a moment of pleasure is not a happy man, in like manner that a moment of grief constitutes not a miserable one.'Happy-Happily,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. VI (1764)
Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother.'Chapter XX: Wheather it is of Service to indulge the People in Superstition,' A Treatise on Toleration (1763)
Men will always be mad, and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all.Letter to Louise Dorothea of Meiningen, duchess of Saxe-Gotha Madame (January 30, 1762)
There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts.Dialogue, XIV, Le Chapon et la Poularde (1766)
Whatever you do, crush the infamous thing, and love those who love you.Letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert (November 28, 1762)
The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error.'Rivers,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. IX (1764)
A false science makes atheists, a true science prostrates men before the Deity.Letters addressed to his Highness the Prince of *****, containing comments on the writings of the most eminent authors, who have been accused of attacking the Christian Religion (1769)
Discord is the great evil of the human species, and toleration is its only remedy.'Tolerance,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. X (1764)
We must distinguish between speaking to deceive and being silent to be reserved.'Chapter CLXIII,' Essai sur les Mours (1756)
In every author let us distinguish the man from his works.'Poets,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. VIII (1764)
Work then without disputing, it is the only way to render life supportable.'Chapter XXX,' Candide; or, The Optimist (1759)
It is better to run the risk of sparing the guilty than to condemn an innocent.'Chapter VI: The Minister,' Zadig (1747)
We should be considerate to the living; to the dead we owe only the truth.Letter to M. de Grenonville (1719)
This self-love is the instrument of our preservation; it resembles the provision for the perpetuity of mankind; it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and we must conceal it.'Self-Love,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. IX (1764)
The husband who decides to surprise his wife is often very much surprised himself.'Act 1, Scene 2,' La Femme Qui a Raison (1759)
He who is not just is severe, he who is not wise is sad. Epître au Roi de Prusse Frédéric le Grand (1740)
In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one part of the citizens to give to the other.'Money,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. VIII (1764)
Friendship is the marriage of the soul, and this marriage is liable to divorce.'Friendship,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. V (1764)
It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions.
(Also known as: God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.)Letter to François-Louis-Henri Leriche (February 6, 1770)
Wherever there is a settled society, religion is necessary; the laws cover manifest crimes, and religion covers secret crimes.'Chapter XX: Wheather it is of Service to indulge the People in Superstition,' A Treatise on Toleration (1763)
It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot we must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.'Country,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. IV (1764)
Every one goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest.'Act II, Scene X,' Nanine (1749)
The opportunity of doing mischief occurs a hundred times in a day, and that of doing good but once a year.'The Envious man,' Zadig (1747)
When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.Letter to Mme. d'Épinal, Ferney (December 26, 1760)
Virtue supposes liberty, as the carrying of a burden supposes active force. Under coercion there is no virtue, and without virtue there is no religion. Make a slave of me, and I shall be no better for it. Even the sovereign has no right to use coercion to lead men to religion, which by its nature supposes choice and liberty. My thought is no more subject to authority than is sickness or health.'Rights,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. IX (1764)
Chance is a word void of sense; nothing can exist without a cause.'Philosophy,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. VIII (1764)
Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because there is nothing to be gained by him.'Avarice,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. II (1764)
History is nothing more than a picture of crimes and misfortunes.'Chapter X,' The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature (1767)
The sovereign is called a tyrant who knows no laws but his caprice.'Tyranny,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. X (1764)
The first step, my son, which one makes in the world, is the one on which depends the rest of our days.Act I, Scene I,' L'Indiscret (1725)
When we hear news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.Letter to Charles-Augustin Ferriol, comte d'Argental (August 28, 1760)
Weakness on both sides is, as we know, the motto of all quarrels.'Weakness on Both Sides,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. X (1764)
Faith consists in believing things because they are impossible.'Faith,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. IV (1764)
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.Letter to Frederick II of Prussia (April 6, 1767)
Let the law never be contradictory to custom: for if the custom be good, the law is worthless.'Civil Laws,' Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
Satire lies about literary men while they live and eulogy lies about them when they die.Lettre à Bordes (January 10, 1769)
Our country is that spot to which our heart is bound.'Act I, Scene II,' Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet (1736)
Common sense is very rare.
(Also known as: Common sense is not so common.)'Common Sense,' Philosophical Dictionary Vol. III (1764)
Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.Dialogue XIV, Le Chapon et la Poularde (1763)
It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.Voltaire's Notebooks (1735-50)
When men do not have healthy notions of the Divinity, false ideas supplant them, just as in bad times one uses counterfeit money when there is no good money.'Chapter XX: Wheather it is of Service to indulge the People in Superstition,' A Treatise on Toleration (1763)