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Voltaire and the Spread of Knowledge during the Enlightenment. The French Revolution - Essay Example

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The best word to describe the period of the Enlightenment is rationality. During this period in history the mind of the human being was felt to be capable of engaging the world and coming up with answers through the concept of science…
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Voltaire and the Spread of Knowledge during the Enlightenment. The French Revolution
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Download file to see previous pages The human being could look at nature and rather than only seeing God, see how things in nature worked through discovery. This shift is significant as up until this period people had been defined by looking at the world and determining God and His intentions towards human beings rather than looking at it and seeing how human kind could understand how nature worked. This shift in cultural belief systems provided for the development of science and philosophy as a primary means of understanding nature over myth. One of the contributing factors to the development of the Enlightenment philosophies was the emergence of cafe’s. According to Noble et al the development of the cultural establishment known as the cafe was to the 18th century what the internet is to modern 21st century information exchange. Profound changes in thinking in relationship to rationality were exchanged between those who attended the cafe houses in order to discuss politics and associated social topics (507). Francois-Marie Arouet, or Voltaire as he was known, was one of the more well known writers of the Enlightenment who frequented cafe’s. According to Weinberg and Bealer, Voltaire was known to have a caffeine addiction and be an avid coffee drinker who frequented cafe’s and engaged in meaningful discussions about academics and philosophy (43). Voltaire’s contributions to philosophy were numerous, but one of his greatest contributions was in spreading the work of Isaac Newton. Simosan writes about Voltaire as his writing was influential in bringing the knowledge of mathematics into the public sphere. His fascination with the work of Sir Isaac Newton also included a fascination for mathematics and Voltaire was responsible for translating Newton’s Principia into French from its original Latin. In translating the work into a vernacular, Voltaire had put into practice the idea that knowledge should be accessible. One of his novels used the backdrop of Newton’s discoveries in science as a way in which to combine mathematics and fiction. The book Micromegas is a work of science fiction in which an expedition is led to Lapland in order to “measure the length of a degree of arc along a line of latitude” in order to explore the theory that the Earth flattened at the poles and bulged at the equator as had been suggested by Newton. Although the work included aliens that came and encountered the scientists, this also contributed to the public knowledge about mathematics (Simosan and Voltare 2). The influence of Voltaire in spreading the knowledge of higher level thinkers such as Newton changed an element of the nature of knowledge. Voltaire influenced his immediate society in the short term by contributing to the shifting thought and in the long term by recording and spreading knowledge as a public commodity. Newton wrote in Latin which was considered an academic language, but Voltaire took that knowledge and translated it for the common reader. Education had not advanced to the point that literacy was high, but in translating an academic book into a vernacular language Voltaire changed the influence that Newton could have over culture. Newton’s work was not the only way in which he expanded theory about social life and knowledge. He also engaged his own nation, France, with the progressive ideas that were part of the political and economic system in Britain (Noble 507). Voltaire was influenced by his experiences in travel, especially during his exile into Britain. Just as the cafe’s had allowed for the exchange of knowledge, Voltaire’s travel allowed him to expand his ideas about society and its traditions. Voltaire believed British society to be more rational than his own country of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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