Voltaire and rousseau - opioni
VOLTAIRE vs. ROUSSEAU:
OPINIONS ON THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
The French revolutionary cry for "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" reverberates throughout the ghostly meeting hall where Voltaire and Rousseau sit down to discuss issues such as the rights of man and the role of government. They argue violently on some topics, such as the definition of free will and general will, while concurring on ideas such as the importance of reasoning and logic in society. The discussion divides the period into three main sections; the initial revolts and uprising of the middle class, the radical time of Robespierre and the Republic of Virtue, and the rise and fall of Napoleon in France. In his opening remarks, Voltaire notes that the concept of general will is lost to the majority of the population, and therefore allows those in power to abuse it and remain unchecked. He states that the system of government that was found by the end of 1810 was not successful in fulfilling the goals that the revolution strived for. Rather than give citizens rights and freedoms, the state of the nation was quite similar to that with which it started. From the divine ruler Louis XIV to Napoleon, French citizens were still under an absolute ruler. At that moment, Rousseau interrupts by saying that the general will, while representing the people, must be controlled by the state in order to ensure that the needs of all the people are met. Deciding to take turns speaking to allow for a proper debate, Voltaire begins.
Voltaire strived to find good men in a good society, and thought that there was a strong relation between a government and the welfare of its people. He attacked those who used prejudice, superstition, intolerance, and injustice and looked for leaders who would rule by reason and justice instead. In his opinion, a leader must give the individual man his rights while at the same time ruling for the common good of the people.
This did not mean he supported a democratic form of government. Rather he gave credence to absolute rulers (or absolute monarchy), in which he felt more productive government could be found. In a democracy, he observed that it is very difficult to come to an agreement on acceptable changes or actions in government. For example, in order for democracy to work, authority should be questioned, but only by using reason and logic.
Voltaire saw the virtues of reason, goodness, and a general concern for others. He felt that virtue was defined as those actions that helped mankind or benefited others in some way.
Voltaire strongly advocated freedom of thought and tolerance. He argued that all men are equal in basic (animal) functions, but only men who use rationality to understand each other can be considered equal.
Although he thought that man is basically good, he recognized that man liked wealth, (money is king of the state), domination, and pleasure. And that people usually went to excesses and often exaggerated situations.
Voltaire's criticism of society included the treatment and behaviour of the poor. He observed that the poor masses were often too busy trying to survive to notice their terrible state of living. This was one important distinction he made between the common people and those who were self-reliant and capable of thinking. Therefore, Voltaire felt it was unreasonable to ask for a social conscience, (general will), from a mass which lacked a personal conscience.
Voltaire outlined important issues in the governing of the masses. Referring to civil laws, he felt that punishments should be useful to society. Taxes should be made proportional to the ability of a man to pay it. Laws, he noticed, often changed to suit the needs of society.
In his view of the R.C.C., Voltaire saw all those characteristics that he disliked: superstition, prejudice, intolerance, and injustice. He criticized organized religion because it did not help people to think clearly for themselves. Voltaire was a deist; one who believes that God created the universe but does not control it.
In the French Revolution, the struggle for freedom, (liberty) was a long-term goal. Voltaire pointed out that to be free or liberated meant to be able to,