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Paper Topic:

Research on Voltaire`s `Of Universal Tolerance`

Mychal Will

Sean Smith

English 100

November 28 , 2006

Voltaire 's Attitude toward the Jewish

It is probably fair to characterize the mainstream Enlightenment approach to ethics as moral Newtonianism . Most Enlightenment thinkers assumed that the moral universe was governed by a few simple universally applicable principles , just as Newton 's physics explained the working of the physical universe in terms of the calculable interplay of a few basic forces (Chisick 578 . Chisick goes on to state that this period offered new insight into the behavior of man , and

br allowed a certain freedom for philosophers to consider humanity as equal and intelligent mankind had the capacity to understand and control his environment (Chisick 578 . The of the day are thought of as scientific , open-minded and truthful

It is during this period that Voltaire composed many philosophical writings . This looks at the essay Of Universal Tolerance within the historical and biographical context as presented by four separate authors . These scholars suggest Voltaire 's entire body of work implies Voltaire was not as open-minded as would be expected . That he was , in fact , vaguely stating a hidden distaste for the Jewish faith

In analyzing this work , we find that the overall piece is not a rhetorical onslaught of Judaist bashing . Despite being a Christian himself , this small essay by Voltaire does not seem to imply an overall hatred of a particular religion . Given Voltaire 's universalist ethical assumptions and classical bias , his appreciation of the Hebrew Scriptures can hardly be expected to be positive (Chisick 580 . One can , however , gleam a few hints of what these scholars portend

The first such instance lies within the very first paragraph . Voltaire states , we ought to look upon each all men as our brothers .for all we not all children of the same father , and the creatures of the same God (797 ? This statement taken on its own would make Voltaire sound as though he were an extremely tolerant and accepting Christian male In looking at the context provided by both Chisick and Arkush , we find that this is not the case . Arkush suggests that other writings by Voltaire clearly show his impressions of Judaism 's tolerance as the acceptance of numerous Gods . In accepting that other nationalities Gods are separate from their own , Judaism fails to be a monotheistic religion - the very basis of religion in that period (229 . Chisick takes this a step further by posing that the very nature of Judaism (exclusivist would put them in disfavor with many of the religions at the time Rather then seeing this as a peaceful way to live in a world of many beliefs , it would be natural for intelligent people proposing mankind as equal would be inherently against the religion (582-583

The influence of Greek and Roman writer 's on Voltaire was immense . The thinking of the day followed a predestined path . In trying to think outside the box ' as many philosophers are given credit for doing even Voltaire would have...

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