What Did Voltaire Do To Rousseau?

Updated: April 19, 2023
Voltaire and Rousseau were two of the most important philosophers of the Enlightenment. They both had a huge impact on the way people think about society and government.
Detailed answer:

Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were two of the most important philosophers of the Enlightenment, both significantly impacting societal and governmental thought. However, their contrasting views on religion, politics, and human nature often put them at odds with each other.

Voltaire and Rousseau were intellectual rivals, with Voltaire becoming one of Rousseau’s most ardent critics. Voltaire, known for his wit, referred to Rousseau as “le singe de Genève” (the Geneva ape), highlighting their contentious relationship. Voltaire accused Rousseau of plagiarism, claiming that his work borrowed heavily from other writers without proper credit. He also believed that Rousseau’s work contributed to the decline of morality and good taste, as Rousseau’s ideas challenged traditional values and societal structures.

Due to their ideological differences, Voltaire played a role in getting Rousseau’s work banned in France, further exacerbating their rivalry. Voltaire suggested that Rousseau be sent to live in exile in Switzerland, as Rousseau’s controversial ideas made him a target for persecution in France.

Despite their disagreements, Voltaire did contribute to the dissemination of Rousseau’s work. He helped publish Rousseau’s work in Switzerland, ensuring that Rousseau’s ideas would reach a broader audience. Moreover, Voltaire assisted Rousseau in finding a publisher for his work in France, helped him get his work published in England, and played a role in the publication of Rousseau’s work in America.

Thus, while Voltaire and Rousseau had a complex and often antagonistic relationship, their intellectual rivalry contributed to the spread of Enlightenment ideas and stimulated critical debate on religion, politics, and society. Their interactions, both supportive and critical, ultimately shaped the course of Western thought and laid the foundation for modern political and philosophical discourse.

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What Did Voltaire Do To Rousseau?. (2023, Apr 19). Retrieved from