Voltaire – Always been a favorite and to the Average Joe a distant kindred spirit. Enwrapping social commentary in a time when doing so was punished by death, his plays and writings stood out as a bastion to those who yearned for truth and justice. The following are from his Philosophy Dictionary that can also be found in full here.
Without a thought, philosophers fall almost always into the ideas of the common herd, in supposing God to be jealous of His glory, to be choleric, to love vengeance, and in taking rhetorical figures for real ideas. The interesting subject for the whole universe, is to know if it be not better, for the good of all mankind, to admit a rewarding and revengeful God, who recompenses good actions hidden, and who punishes secret crimes, than to admit none at all.
Voltaire – Atheism
Wretched human beings, whether you wear green robes, turbans, black robes or surplices, cloaks and neckbands, never seek to use authority where there is question only of reason, or consent to be scoffed at throughout the centuries as the most impertinent of all men, and to suffer public hatred as the most unjust.
Voltaire – Authority
All leaders of sects in philosophy have been somewhat charlatans: but the greatest of all have been those who have aspired to domination.
Voltaire – Charlatan
There are sometimes in common expressions an image of what passes in the depths of all men’s hearts. Among the Romans sensus communis signified not only common sense, but humanity, sensibility. As we are not as good as the Romans, this word signifies among us only half of what it signified among them. It means only good sense, plain reason, reason set in operation, a first notion of ordinary things, a state midway between stupidity and intelligence.
Voltaire – Common Sense
These two sentiments, Liberty and Equality, do not lead direct to calumny, rapine, assassination, poisoning, the devastation of one’s neighbours’ lands, etc.; but ambitious might and the mania for power plunge into all these crimes whatever be the time, whatever be the place. Popular government is in itself, therefore, less iniquitous, less abominable than despotic power.
Voltaire – Democracy
All men would then be necessarily equal, if they were without needs; the poverty connected with our species subordinates one man to another; it is not the inequality which is the real misfortune, it is the dependence. It matters very little that So-and-so calls himself “His Highness,” and So-and-so “His Holiness”; but to serve the one or the other is hard.
Voltaire – Equality
There are unfortunately many ways of having a false mind:
1. By not examining if the principle is true, even when one deduces accurate consequences therefrom; and this way is common.
2. By drawing false consequences from a principle recognized as true. For example, a servant is asked if his master is in his room, by persons he suspects of wanting his life: if he were foolish enough to tell them the truth on the pretext that one must not lie, it is clear he would be drawing an absurd
Voltaire – False Minds
What is thought? where does it dwell? how is it formed? who gives me thought during my sleep? is it by virtue of my will that I think? But always during my sleep, and often while I am awake, I have ideas in spite of myself. These ideas, long forgotten, long relegated to the back shop of my brain, issue from it without my interfering, and present themselves to my memory, which makes vain efforts to recall them.
Voltaire – Ignorance
I imagine that man likes and does harm only for his own advantage. But so many people are led to look for their own interest in the misfortune of others, vengeance is so violent a passion, there are such disastrous examples of it; ambition, still more fatal, has inundated the world with so much blood, that when I retrace for myself the horrible picture, I am tempted to avow that man is a very devil.
Voltaire – Natural Law
Perhaps this universal taste for novelty is one of nature’s favours. People cry to us: “Be content with what you have, desire nothing that is beyond your estate, restrain your curiosity, tame your intellectual disquiet.” These are very good maxims; but if we had always followed them, we should still be eating acorns, we should be sleeping in the open air,
Voltaire – New Novelties
All men, in their desires and their fears, invoked the aid of a deity. Some philosophers, more respectful to the Supreme Being, and less condescending to human frailty, for all prayer desired only resignation
In short, all nations pray to God: wise men resign themselves and obey Him.
Let us pray with the people, and resign ourselves with the wise men.
Voltaire – Prayer
I admired still more the intelligence which directs these vast forces. I said to myself: “One must be blind not to be dazzled by this spectacle; one must be stupid not to recognize the author of it; one must be mad not to worship Him.
Voltaire – Religion
We know what quarrels he had to undergo on account of this opinion which appeared bold, but which was in fact in him only a consequence of his conviction of the omnipotence of God and the weakness of man. He did not say that matter thought; but he said that we have not enough knowledge to demonstrate that it is impossible for God to add the gift of thought to the unknown being called “matter”, after according it the gift of gravitation and the gift of movement, both of which are equally incomprehensible.
Locke was not assuredly the only one who had advanced this opinion; it was the opinion of all antiquity, who, regarding the soul as very unrestricted matter, affirmed consequently that matter could feel and think.
Voltaire – Soul