How Did Rousseau Differ from Voltaire?

The easiest way to differentiate one personality from another is the same thing we do with our fellow Americans. Rousseau is a Republican and Voltaire is a Democrat. Both of them drew inspiration from the philosophy of John Locke. But Rousseau focused on emotions, while Voltaire gave the principal importance to reason.

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In the first place, the two philosophers were acquainted with each other. Their relationship could be characterized as pure hatred. Voltaire said that education and reason could bring humankind to a happier and better world. Rousseau thought that these two things made people corrupted and “unnatural.”  

Rousseau’s most famous quote is, “Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” He believed in a self-organized society. People could not live separately and had to unite. As their community grew, they developed a law system and institutions. People who agreed with such a social contract could be free (to a possible extent) and safe. Besides, he believed that nations should be controlled by their people, not by a government.

Voltaire’s aim as a philosopher was to change the habitual ways of thinking and reasoning. He wanted to make people more educated and reasonable. One of the methods was to weaken the influence of the Christian doctrine and to enhance scientific learning. He supported religious and ethnic tolerance.  Although he is a Democrat by his ideology, his political views trended toward monarchy. Voltaire believed that an enlightened monarch (like the King of El Dorado) could bring his people to prosperity.  

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