Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, first published in 1764, is a series of short, radical essays – alphabetically arranged – that form a brilliant and bitter analysis of the social and religious conventions that then dominated eighteenth-century French thought. One of the masterpieces of the Enlightenment, this enormously influential work of sardonic wit – more a collection of essays arranged alphabetically, than a conventional dictionary – considers such diverse subjects as Abraham and Atheism, Faith and Freedom of Thought, Miracles and Moses. Repeatedly condemned by civil and religious authorities, Voltaire’s work argues passionately for the cause of reason and justice, and criticizes Christian theology and contemporary attitudes towards war and society – and claims, as he regards the world around him: ‘common sense is not so common’.
François-Marie Arouet, writing under the pseudonym Voltaire, was born in 1694 into a Parisian bourgeois family. Educated by Jesuits, he was an excellent pupil but one quickly enraged by dogma. An early rift with his father—who wished him to study… More about Francois Voltaire