The author Voltaire and his ideas shaped the overall philosophy during the Enlightenment. His novella Candide, written in 1759, helped open the eyes of people throughout Europe to the hypocrisy and cruel nature of the outside world, proving that there were problems with aristocracy and religion that had to be addressed. These kinds of ideas helped form the basis for the French and American Revolutions.
Voltaire was a strict deist, and his works, Candide included, served to deconstruct faith and fundamentalism – they taught that European styles of hereditary aristocracy, especially regarding organized religion, did not hold up when weighed against rational principles. His eventual philosophy was that one’s only real responsibility was to “tend your own garden,” meaning that the problems inherent in life could not be solved through religion, monarchies, or even democracy. Voltaire also fought for civil rights for the common person, and he railed against the bureaucracy and aristocracy that was present in the culture of France in the 18th century. He criticized the aristocracy for its corruption and the church for its destructive dogma, as well as the lower classes for not taking action and letting superstition stop them.
Voltaire’s ideas helped bring about some of the primary tenets of modern, enlightened. Western civilization, such as bringing a more critical eye to the ruling bodies of a particular country and figuring out how best to provide for its people. America and France both took his ideas and worked with them, eventually resulting in revolutions that overthrew their respective existing governments and bringing about a more enlightened country and civilization for each, giving the common man greater rights and privileges, and eliminating oppression. It is through these ideas that he presented that he made his mark on the course of history.