François-Marie Arouet (born 21 November 1694, Paris, France – died 30 May 1778, Paris, France), better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher. His intelligence, wit and style made him one of France's greatest writers and philosophers.
Voltaire was a versatile and prolific writer. He produced works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and 2,000 books and pamphlets. Voltaire's most famous works included the fictitious Lettres philosophiques (1734) and the satirical novel Candide (1759).
Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world. It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too. Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. If you want to know who controls you, look at who you are not allowed to criticize. Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. Common sense is not so common. Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it. The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing. The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood. If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.
I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?
Voltaire Let us cultivate our garden. Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game. Love truth, but pardon error. I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it. Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road. I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it. It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do. The more often a stupidity is repeated, the more it gets the appearance of wisdom. When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion. I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way. Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money. Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination. Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable. For my part I read only to please myself and like only what suits my taste. God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. God is a comedian playing to an audience that is too afraid to laugh. May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies. Give me the patience for the small things of life, courage for the great trials of life. Help me to do my best each day and then go to sleep knowing God is awake. Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one. Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.
Voltaire Dare to think for yourself. It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth. Many are destined to reason wrongly; others, not to reason at all; and others, to persecute those who do reason. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another. No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us. Now, now my good man, this is no time to be making enemies." (Voltaire on his deathbed in response to a priest asking him that he renounce Satan.) The mirror is a worthless invention. The only way to truly see yourself is in the reflection of someone else's eyes. Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference. Despite the enormous quantity of books, how few people read! And if one reads profitably, one would realize how much stupid stuff the vulgar herd is content to swallow every day. The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year. Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in nature is resurrection. Liberty of thought is the life of the soul. To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. If there’s life on other planets, then the earth is the Universe’s insane asylum. It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one. The right to free speech is more important than the content of the speech. Doctors put drugs of which they know little into bodies of which they know less for diseases of which they know nothing at all. Everything you say should be true, but not everything true should be said. The more a man knows, the less he talks. Prejudices are what fools use for reason. Beware of the words "internal security," for they are the eternal cry of the oppressor. The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude. Is politics nothing other than the art of deliberately lying? Man is free at the moment he wishes to be. The husband who decides to surprise his wife is often very much surprised himself. Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly. I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health. It is not inequality which is the real misfortune, it is dependence.
Men must have somewhat altered the course of nature; for they were not born wolves, yet they have become wolves. God did not give them twenty-four-pounders or bayonets, yet they have made themselves bayonets and guns to destroy each other. In the same category I place not only bankruptcies, but the law which carries off the bankrupts’ effects, so as to defraud their creditors.
Voltaire Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes. Injustice in the end produces independence. The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor. Being unable to make people more reasonable, I preferred to be happy away from them. Men argue. Nature acts. I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker. Divorce is probably of nearly the same date as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks the more ancient. I know many books which have bored their readers, but I know of none which has done real evil.