Carpenter ants are one species of several wood boring insects that homeowners must be on the lookout for. Catching them early will stop the damage they may cause.

What are Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants are large, black ants that make their nests inside wooden structures. Although they usually choose items such as trees, logs and tree stumps they sometimes nest in the structure of a house. The wood that they inhabit is always moist and is usually starting to decay. Therefore they inhabit homes that are typically suffering from neglect.

Identifying Carpenter Ants

It can be hard to distinguish a carpenter ant from a regular black ant, but there are a few identifying features. Carpenter ants are large ants that can reach up to ½ inch in length.

Since some male carpenter ants grow wings and fly during the spring, they are sometimes often with termites. The main way to tell the difference between a carpenter ant and a termite is to get close to one. Examine the body to see if the sides are straight or if they come in slightly to form a narrow waist. If the insect has a narrow waist, it is a carpenter ant.

It is usually much easier to identify a carpenter ant nest than it is it identify the ant itself. Carpenter ant nests will always be near a wooden structure or tree of some sort. They are usually in a hole that is exposed to the air and the hole will be surrounded by sawdust.

Carpenter Ant Damage

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, carpenter ants are classified as wood boring insects, much like carpenter bees, because they do not actually eat the wood. They simply chew through the wood to create their nests and tunnels. This tunneling makes an otherwise sound looking piece of wood fragile as a result of carpenter ant damage.

Carpenter ant damage is not usually severe if it is detected and treated early. Carpenter ants are slow borers and may take years to destroy the structure of a solid piece of wood. If left untreated, however, carpenter ant damage affects the structural integrity of homes and trees.

Carpenter Ant Extermination

Regular household pesticide does not kill carpenter ants. Carpenter ant extermination is done using a special carpenter ant spray that is available at most home improvement stores. Sprays that are designed to kill termites will also kill carpenter ants. This spray only kills ants that it comes into contact with, not the entire colony.

To kill the entire colony, use a granular ant killer that is formulated for carpenter ants. Sprinkle the granules around the location of the nest. The worker ants will take it back to the other members of the nest and over time they will die out.

Getting rid of carpenter ants can take time, but using these techniques the colony will eventually be eliminated.


Your front entry is your chance for that great first impression.
Check out our tips, guidelines and ideas for your outdoor lighting design.

Most guests visit your home at night, so your entryway lighting is crucial for setting the mood and make an inviting entry.
Welcome guests to your home with the warm glow of outdoor lighting.


Outdoor lighting has a dual purpose: You want to create a welcoming entrance to your home as well as be able to walk safely up the steps and from the inside clearly identify who’s coming to visit.
Your front door is usually what most guests approach (Or so they say. For some reason all our guests find the kitchen door first – and then never leave the kitchen!)
So, theoretically at least, the front entrance door is THE place to choose to make a statement!

Lighting is one very important way to create a great first impression. 
A pair of wall sconces or lanterns flanking the entryway can complete the look you want, whether it’s grandiose, contemporary, rustic or artistic.

Safety is of course also an issue and the right lighting is key to reducing trip hazards around your home.
Wall lanterns create a warm welcome  and are very important for that exact reason. Aside from that they are primarily  supposed to be decorative.
Combine them with landscape, step  and path lights for ideal illumination.

A third, maybe unexpected,  benefit from outdoor lighting is the illumination it creates outside the windows. Keep the windows from becoming “black holes” when viewed from inside. Instead it visually extends the living areas to the outside.

Lighting the secondary entrances to your home, like patio and kitchen doors, follow the same requirements as the front door, but there the focus might be primarily on safety paired with a comfortable patio light for outdoor entertaining.
I’m not saying that you can ignore aesthetics and go ahead and install some of those glary security lights that will illuminate your neighbor’s back yard as well as yours. That is Light Pollution!

Choose lights that meet your needs for illumination as well as atmosphere and fit the style of your home.
You’ll find styles from sleek, minimal architectural fixtures to traditional lanterns or Craftsman style lights in all price ranges. The choice is yours!

Wall lights, lanterns, ceiling lights or pendants?
Depending on the architecture of your home it might be possible to use wall sconces or lanterns flanking the doorway or lights mounted to or recessed into the ceiling – or a combination of both.

With some minimal, clean, contemporary home designs it might be tempting to choose only recessed overhead lights. But keep the “flashlight-under-the-chin” effect in mind: Illumination directly from above is almost as ghastly as from below – and it can be almost impossible to see the facial features of a visitor with this choice of lighting.

If this is still the lighting of choice, consider combining it with indirect illumination of landscape features or architectural details nearby.

The same principle goes for the must-have decorative fixture that looks wonderful at the front door, but does not shed sufficient light. It just needs a little help and can work well if you augment it with other less visible light sources.
One of the most important considerations when choosing wall sconces to flank a doorway is size and proportions.

Size matters!
In our experience most home owners tend to choose entry lights that are too small for the scale of the door and the wall they are attached to.
With larger homes and taller ceilings, be bold!


As for size: look at the proportions of your front entryway.
Those Jelly-jar wall lights we all know all too well might look out of place next to the door in your new home, even if your parents also had them “and they worked just fine.”
By the same token, no matter how much you admire those wrought iron lanterns that would be suited for a grand entrance they might very well seem overwhelming flanking your cottage door.
The wall fixtures should be anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 the height of the door.

If you are using two sizes of sconces for your front door as well as your garage you’ll want to use the larger sconces at the front door, since this is where you want to create the focal point.   The smaller sconces that flank the garage door shouldn’t draw too much attention to this less attractive area of your home.

As a rule of thumb, outdoor sconces or lanterns should be mounted with the center of the light source about 5’6″ to 6′ from the ground and 8’ – 10’ apart.

Patio Lighting creates a mood for relaxing and entertaining.

Our decks and patios have become important extensions of our living rooms, kitchens and dining rooms.
As we add state-of-the-art barbecues, outdoor kitchens, comfortable dining areas we want to add the comforts and feel of home we have become used to indoors.
Whether enjoying a romantic al fresco meal for two or entertaining a crowd, we want to see the food on our plate, look good, maybe feel romantic and also be able to move around without danger of tripping.

Create a safe environment with atmosphere.
One tip is to avoid glare and use as much indirect light as possible.
Inconspicuous step lights and small light fixtures positioned under a railing or a banister can help you put the light exactly where it is needed to safely negotiate stairs and dark areas on the patio.
Try to avoid the “runway-effect” of light sources lined up in a straight row unless. The trick is to illuminate an area without the light sources being the center of attention.

Patio lights don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be effective. Try a combination of wall sconces next to the entryway, some lights for areas that need special attention like changes in terrain and compliment these with twinkling strands of lights in nearby trees or indirect light sources that add atmosphere by accenting architectural features or parts of the surrounding landscape.

A little light goes a long way outdoors. 25W or 40W are sufficient in most exterior fixtures. In order to avoid glare and create atmosphere it is always preferable to use several light sources with a low wattage instead of a single one that will keep your neighbors awake.
With LED bulbs, look for some that are equivalent to 40W and 60W and choose a color temperature of around 2700K or lower, since they feel more like incandescent bulbs.


Compact Fluorescent bulbs Outdoors? YES!
Outdoor lights tend to be on for longer periods of time and are sometimes hard to reach. Both good reasons for switching to compact fluorescent lamps.
Since not all compact fluorescents are suitable for cold temperatures check the description on the package to make sure that you choose CFLs rated for outdoors.


Take Control!
It might be practical for a variety of reasons to have the flexibility to choose the levels of light, so plan on installing dimmers to control the light levels of your outdoor lights!
This way you can go from security lights to mood lighting at the touch of a switch.
Just keep in might that dimming incandescent lights cause them to shift to a warmer, more yellow tone. I love this effect around my deck because it adds warmth and the feel of flickering candles.
Plants, however, take on a sickly look in yellow light, so dimming is not for landscape lighting!

Some manufacturers like Kichler Lighting have come out with chandeliers as well as floor and table lamps rated for exterior use. This makes it possible to bring a feeling of “home” outdoors and extend the hours you can enjoy your patio or deck.

Form + Function represents the outdoor lights by a large number of manufacturers. We offer choices from cutting-edge Contemporary to Craftsman style or Traditional. Our criteria for choosing the fixtures is quality, integrity and form as well as function.


Motion Sensors are great! -If you aim the sensor right, so the lights turn on from a sufficient distance.
(I am embarrassed to confess that I am speaking from painful experience: for way too long I have dealt with a hard-to-reach garage light that doesn’t turns on until I am directly under it after having stumbled my way through the dark. I’ll fix it next weekend. I think.)
Again, please don’t even think about blinding your innocent guests with a spotlight with a motion detector! It is cruel!
Motion detectors can be used in combination with regular wall lights, not only as part of a security light system.

Landscape and path lighting looks the best if the light source is is not glaring in your eyes, blinding you. That translates to: No runway lights flanking the driveway, but subtle illumination of rocks, bushes and other natural features along the way. Works just as well, but what a difference!


The phone rings. The voice on the other end of the line tells you they are on their way over to your house for a visit. Great! Then you panic. Your house has that lived-in look and feel but it’s not ready for last-minute guests. Here are some minute housecleaning tips that will help you get your house tidied up and ready for the arrival of last-minute guests.

Hide The Clutter

Getting rid of the clutter in a room will instantly make it feel cleaner. Scoop the clutter up and hide it. Open the desk drawer and swipe the desk clutter into the drawer. Put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher or oven. Shove the dirty clothes under the couch or bed. Hide the clutter in the garage or laundry room. Take a minute and hide the clutter in any place that your last-minute houseguests are unlikely to see.

Focus For A Minute

Focus your housecleaning on the rooms your houseguests will be in. The entry way, living room, main bathroom and kitchen. After hiding the clutter in these rooms, focus a minute or two of cleaning time in the center of the rooms.

Entry Way And Living Room

Sweep/vacuum the entry way and spray air freshener or light a scented candle so your guests will be greeted with a good smelling fragrance.

Dust the coffee table, fluff the couch pillows and vacuum the center of the room. Forget the cobwebs in the corner, your guests will most likely only notice the center, eye-level ( eye-level when standing and sitting) objects in a room.

Minute-Clean The Main Bathroom

The main bathroom in your house in a place most likely to visited by your last-minute houseguests. It’s also the location in your house where they will observe everything without being observed themselves. Take a couple of minutes to clean the mirror, wipe the bathroom vanity top, sink and faucet. Swish a good smelling toilet bowl cleaner in the bowl and wipe the toilet seat. Close the shower curtain and hang clean towels.

Clean Smelling Kitchen

In the kitchen, rinse the sink, wipe off the counter tops, take the trash out and put something that smells good cooking on the stove top. Put water in a sauce pan and add some cinnamon sticks, cloves or sliced apples and simmer to make your house smell inviting and fresh.

Last-minute houseguestscan be welcomed without you feeling panicked or anxious. A minute or two spent focused on the main rooms hiding the clutter, wiping down surfaces, cleaning the center of the room and having a fresh fragrance in the air will give the appearance of an overall clean house.

If you want to get creative with curtains, you’re going to need to consider the design of the room in question very carefully before you proceed. Find out about creative curtains with help from The Design Diva in this free video.



François-Marie d’Arouet was a French writer, public activist, philosopher and humanitarian who pointed philosophy down a number of new paths, in which it responded to successfully. François-Marie was born in 1694, amidst the Enlightenment era, in which people were using their ability to reason rationally. His writings often reflected themes of religion, politics, science, history and philosophy, usually written with a unique satiric tone, in which he was famous for. Many of his works were published anonymously in pamphlets and essays, in order to avoid prosecution by the government, Catholic Church, and the aristocracy, all of which he was a forthright critic of. His writings allowed people to see a contrasting side of what they had known as true for so long.

His literary debut transpired in 1718 with the publishing of Oedipe, in which he declared his pen name, Voltaire, a name that held to the end of his days. His early works were a mixture of libertinism and deistic ideas, which he had been initially introduced to at the estate of Lord Bolingbroke, who was an English aristocrat and freethinker. Voltaire moved about in Bolingbroke’s circle of writers who experimented with the blending of writing with political criticism. John Locke was of greatest influence on him, and he retained knowledge of his literature throughout his career. He did not keep to this circle alone however, moving about other groups of intellectuals, even meeting Sir Isaac Newton’s sister. From her, he learned the myth of Newton’s apple theory. During this time, Voltaire’s encounters throughout England escalated him to an exceptionally knowledgeable student of English natural philosophy.

In 1734, Voltaire published Lettres philsophiques, which “…included letters on Bacon, Locke, Newton and the details of Newtonian natural philosophy…” (J.B. Locke). However, he had not gained permission from the royal censors before publishing it, therefore causing an unexplainable controversy throughout France, thus causing Voltaire to be a “…widely known intellectual outlaw” (Locke). His books were publicly burned and he consequently fled to Cirey with a companion and took up a new identity as a philosophical rebel and exiled writer. Following this, he began fighting from afar to establish the philosophies of Newton as modern truth. The ensuing controversies became known as the Newton Wars. By 1750, France’s perception had been converted to Enlightened Newtonianism, due to persistent figures like Voltaire.

Voltaire’s works of literature directly prompted a thirst for knowledge, understanding and truth to all who read his work. He was one of many who directed influenced the French Revolution because his work influenced people to begin asking, “Why?” His views on social and political reform worked as a voice of the people in public. In 1759 he purchased a chateau which acted as a safe-haven from police that were often after him for his writings. During these years, Voltaire bear witness to his philosophies unfolding throughout society. He used this notoriety to “…speak out on anything and everything—especially the Church—and he fought vigorously for religious tolerance, material prosperity, respect for the rights of all humans, and the abolition of torture and useless punishments” (Dennis J. Sporre).

Voltaire’s Enlightenment philosophy was a collection of orientations and intellectual stances, in which each category had a particular philosophy attached to it. These philosophies allowed people to easily understand the new knowledge that was arising at the time. The categories of his philosophy were: the notion of liberty, hedonistic morality, skepticism, empirical science and science without metaphysics. His philosophies were directly influential at the time, as these categories reflected issues that all people were facing. The Enlightenment era brought on an extreme amount of new reasoning, methods, and philosophies and Voltaire made sense of them all by writing in a way that everyone could understand.

To conclude, Voltaire played an important role in blossoming the Enlightenment period with his controversial philosophies and radical literature. His loathing of the abuse of human rights drove him to become a fearless writer. He believed everyone should be a skeptic of what they are told, in order to know the truth of the world. Voltaire’s writings helped bring the Enlightenment into an even greater period of knowledge and understanding. He fought vigorously to bring the world into a heightened period of learning and in doing so he earned himself a home in The Pantheon, as one of the greatest French public figures to have lived.

Works Cited and References

Sporre, Dennis J. The Creative Impulse: An Introduction to the Arts. New Jersey. Prentice Hall. 2009. Print.

Merriman, C. D.  “François-Marie d’Arouet Voltaire”. The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. 2008. Web. 27 March 2013.

Shank, J.B. “Voltaire”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta. 2009. Web. 27 March, 2013.

Rahn, Josh. The Enlightenment. The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. 2011. Web. 27 March, 2013.


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In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, French bookbuyers are turning to one of their grands philosophes, Voltaire, for enlightenment and perhaps Enlightenment. Publisher Gallimard is printing an extra 10,000 copies of his Treatise on Tolerance, which was brandished by participants in the Paris rallies of 11 January. In the treatise, Voltaire argues in favour of toleration of religious belief, while reserving the right to argue strenuously against it, and denouncing religious fanaticism of all stripes. “Tolerance has never provoked a civil war; intolerance has covered the Earth in carnage.”

Voltaire was the pen name of François-Marie Arouet, born in 1694: philosopher, novelist, playwright, all-round troublemaker and virtuoso of equal-opportunity ridicule. Since the early 20th century, he has also been doomed to be misquoted by those using him as a weapon in the free-speech wars. He never actually wrote “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – this excellent formulation was, rather, the work of his English biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall (who also used a pseudonym: SG Tallentyre), who used it to describe his “attitude” in her 1906 biography, The Friends of Voltaire.

Noted in an earlier biography is another bon mot, which Voltaire probably did say, in response to the same affair. Hearing that a rival philosopher’s book had been condemned by the authorities to be burned in public, Voltaire quipped: “What a fuss about an omelette!” (A splendidly backhanded defence.) Meanwhile, the instruction “Écrasez l’infâme!” (“Crush what is infamous”), signed on many of his letters, became something of a personal slogan against clerical abuses.

He was, after all, no stranger to getting in trouble with the authorities himself, and he couldn’t help provoking them. The early publication of a satirical poem accusing the Duc d’Orléans of having sex with his own daughter led, not totally unpredictably, to a stint in the Bastille. But Voltaire was able to put incarceration to productive use: it was there that he adopted his nom de plume (or perhaps guerre) and wrote his first play, Oedipe, a riff on the Sophoclean tragedy.

His most famous work remains Candide, a fiction in which the young titular hero is initiated into the mysteries of philosophical optimism. This is a satire on the philosophical theories of the great mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who is immortally caricatured in its pages as one Professor Pangloss – hence our word “Panglossian”. All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds, insists Pangloss. By the end of the book, however, Candide himself is not so sure – nor, most probably, are those now reading Voltaire for the first time.




Examining Candide in the context of the greater scope of Western thought and movements, there is no doubt that the work is highly critical of many of the social institutions of the time. Still, while criticizing many of the societal aspects (religion, the class system and the detested monarchy in France) Candide is not free from the biases and “unenlightened” thoughts that the revolutionary movement in France was based upon. In a scholarly essay on Candide, one modern critic of Candide  argues that while, “the philosophes wanted to work through established forms, including the monarchy and even the Church” by doing so, there were not quite as revolutionary in their beliefs since they did not attempt to go outside of the system of oppression to draw their insights.

Although throughout Candide there are several scathing attacks, mostly through satire, irony and absurd characters, on the Church and his contemporary philosophy, there is nothing inherently revolutionary about it. It certainly makes for a provoking type of comedy, but there are few solutions offered other than living an austere life on a farm. The lack of truly “enlightened” ideas in practice in the novel is especially noticeable in his portrayal of women. For example, Stromberg goes on to note, “Voltaire, as well as Rousseau, thought it most unwise to educate the poor” and one can clearly see that Voltaire’s imagining of women in Candide is hardly enlightened. Even though Voltaire was known have verbally advocated the equal rights of women, this sentiment is not apparent in his fiction, especially considering the fact that the main female characters are prostitutes, women that marry for money, disease-spreaders, and most importantly victims. Overall, while Voltaire’s work was certainly inflammatory and critical of society, any potential revolutionary “value” lies only within the sense that it exposed weaknesses in the dominant societal structure.

In terms of religion, Candide explores the hypocrisy that was rampant in the Church. Consider for example, the inhumanity of the clergy, most notably the Inquisitor, in hanging and executing his fellow citizens over philosophical differences. Moreover, he orders the flogging of Candide for merely, “listening with an air of approval” thus proving himself somehow implicit in blasphemy. Church officials in Candide are depicted as being among the most sinful of all citizens; having mistresses, engaging in homosexual affairs, and operating as jewel thieves. Perhaps the most absurd example of hypocrisy in the Church hierarchy is the fact that the Pope has a daughter despite his vows of celibacy. While Voltaire is poking fun at the Church and its behavior and presents several of these satirical and ironic situations in Candide, there is an element of high comedy about such actions and one gets the sense that Stromberg, in stating that philosophes such as Voltaire were merely working through the system that they appeared to abhor as opposed to working against it in a more proactive way. The theme of revolutionary action or words versus idle philosophical speculation is another theme that is rampant throughout the text and is seen not only in Candide’s humorous accounts of Church hypocrisy, but of philosophy as well.

In many senses, it seems as though in Candide , Voltaire seeks a proactive solution to the problems in society. In the end, the group manages to alleviate their troubles by numbing their minds with hard labor, thus proving that perhaps Voltaire truly believes there is a way to work through the problems posed by society versus philosophy. Although the ending of Candide surely illustrates this idea, the novel has several interesting characters that demonstrate the uselessness of idle philosophy and in fact, may even suggest that there is some inherent damage done by his contemporary philosophy. For example, Pangloss, an adherent to his own brand of philosophy called “metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology” which advocates the belief that, as expressed in one of the important quotes from “Candide” by Voltaire, “This world is the best of all possible worlds” actually causes damage to others.

While the good Jacques is drowning (as a result of his own philosophical beliefs in altruistic behavior, no less) Pangloss attributes the event in typical nonsensical fashion to the fact that “the bay of Lisbon had been formed expressly for the Anabaptist to drown in” and acts with similar reluctance and self-absorption after the earthquake when Candide asks for assistance. In sum, far from being a treatise on the beneficial nature of philosophy in bringing about positive change, Voltaire is suggesting that philosophy is, in itself, useless and even damaging. While her presents a number of ways of looking at the world philosophically, none of them are ever proven right. Martin’s extreme cynicism is not the way, Pangloss’ blinding optimism isn’t either, therefore it seems that the only way for a true revolution to come about is if one turns off from philosophy completely. This seems like a strange message coming from an author who was one of the most recognized philosophes of his time, and thus it seems rather ironic that the ultimate message about philosophy and its use is so grim. Again, it would seem that most of Voltaire’s uses of philosophy are not aimed at gearing up the masses for a revolution, rather, they are just ironic statements on a society that is recognizable for those contemporary readers. It is also apparent in his discussion on philosophy that he is not creating something new or revolutionary, but is rather working on an old base—the same institutions of philosophy and religion that already exist.

While it is apparent that Voltaire is not visibly working toward any revolutionary sentiments in Candide and is merely pointing out flaws in society, it is interesting to note how ingrained the popular cultural notions of the Enlightenment are not even expressed in the text. The most noticeable case concerns his treatment of women in Candide. While there were many views espoused during the period of the French Revolution about the rights of women, it must be observed that even a progressive thinker like Voltaire did not always hold views aligned with such ideas. In fact, as Stromberg points out (see f.1) many of the philosophes were against the idea of revolution—they were so far set in the aristocratic cultural norms of the society to think outside of it—even if they were wont to criticize it. In thinking of Voltaire and many of those philosophes similar to him in thought, women were not always considered equals (aside from a few exceptions). It was suggested, “The state of their [women’s] natural weakness does not permit them to preeminence…”their very weakness generally gives them more lenity and moderation, qualifications fitter for good administration.” Such sentiments in essays such as this one seem to mask a deeper underside of the patriarchal attitudes of the day more than their polished way of setting apart a few exceptions of women leaders would readily demonstrate.

If Voltaire also held such views, why then do all the women in Candide show such weak and defenseless character traits? While on the one hand it seems as though it many be a progressive move to point out how women constantly run the risk of being subject to often violent male desire (as we see in the stories of rape, enslavement, and general submission on the part of women) it seems more the case that Voltaire considers them to be weak and ineffectual creatures—using sex to obtain their desires and serving as vessels of disease. Women are strangely represented in the novel since at once they seem like helpless victims yet also show remarkable strength. It seems however, that the “strength” that these women show might not be a statement on the internal powers of women, but rather that they have no choice than to adapt to a gruesome and misogynistic situation. The old woman, after telling her terrible life story, relates that she does not believe in self-pity—she was merely telling everyone to pass the time. Although there are many female victims in Candide, none of them seem at all aware of the travesties committed to them or their sex and moreover, they hold true to an abundance of stereotypes (gold-diggers, prostitutes, battered old women). In many respects, as far as feminism goes, this is a rather bleak novel especially because although it is heralded as a precursor to the revolutions, it lacks the true ideals of the Enlightenment’s assertions of equal rights for all.

While this essay has attempted to point out that perhaps Candide is not free from the biases inherent to those classes and groups Voltaire so harshly criticizes, this is not to say that there are not plenty of cases in which it would be possible to draw revolutionary ideas from. By taking an almost socialist stance at the end of the novel, there is the feeling that the only to progress is through direct action rather than idle philosophical speculation. Still however, there also remains the idea that Voltaire is perhaps not as progressive as he is said to be—especially since he was working from inside the system (one of Churches, aristocracy, and gender bias) to formulate his critiques. Despite this rather negative outlook on Candide as an inspiration for future revolutions, it is important to buffer such a statement with the admission that he created a new way of writing about society that was not to be matched for years to come. As one essay on Candide claims, “With the death of the old Bolsheviks, the Enlightenment passed into the hands of nonentities like Suard: it lost its fire and became a mere tranquil diffusion of light. A comfortable ascent toward progress.”


Stromberg, Roland. “The Philosophes and the French Revolution: Reflections on Some Recent Research,”Eighteenth-Century Studies 21: 321-339

Clinton, Katherine. “Femme et Philosophe: Enlightenment Origins of Feminism” Eighteenth-Century Studies. 8: 283-299

Darnton, Robert. “The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature.” Past and Present 51:81-115

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François-Marie Arouet, better known by his immortal pen name, Voltaire, was born on November 21, 1694, in Paris. In a literary career that stretched over 60 years, he wrote many influential poems, essays and books including “Candide” and “Letters Concerning the English Nation.” His surgical wit and provocative ideas on religion, liberty and ethics saw him both celebrated and scorned in the courts of Europe, and later helped cement his reputation as one of the foundational figures of the Enlightenment. On the anniversary of Voltaire’s birth, learn 10 things you may not know about one of the 18th century’s most quotable and controversial thinkers.

1. The origins of his famous pen name are unclear.

Voltaire had a strained relationship with his father, who discouraged his literary aspirations and tried to force him into a legal career. Possibly to show his rejection of his father’s values, he dropped his family name and adopted the nom de plume “Voltaire” upon completing his first play in 1718. Voltaire never explained the meaning of his pen name, so scholars can only speculate on its origins. The most popular theory maintains the name is an anagram of a certain Latinized spelling of “Arouet,” but others have claimed it was a reference to the name of a family chateau or a nod to the nickname “voluntaire” (volunteer), which Voltaire may have been given as a sarcastic reference to his stubbornness.

2. He was imprisoned in the Bastille for nearly a year.

Voltaire’s caustic wit first got him into trouble with the authorities in May 1716, when he was briefly exiled from Paris for composing poems mocking the French regent’s family. The young writer was unable to bite his tongue, however, and only a year later he was arrested and confined to the Bastille for writing scandalous verse implying the regent had an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Voltaire boasted that his cell gave him some quiet time to think, and he eventually did 11 months behind bars before winning a release. He later endured another short stint in the Bastille in April 1726, when he was arrested for planning to duel an aristocrat that had insulted and beaten him. To escape further jail time, he voluntarily exiled himself to England, where he remained for nearly three years.

3. He became hugely wealthy by exploiting a flaw in the French lottery.

In 1729, Voltaire teamed with mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine and others to exploit a lucrative loophole in the French national lottery. The government shelled out massive prizes for the contest each month, but an error in calculation meant that the payouts were larger than the value of all the tickets in circulation. With this in mind, Voltaire, La Condamine and a syndicate of other gamblers were able to repeatedly corner the market and rake in massive winnings. The scheme left Voltaire with a windfall of nearly half a million francs, setting him up for life and allowing him to devote himself solely to his literary career.

4. He was an extraordinary prolific writer.

Voltaire wrote more than 50 plays, dozens of treatises on science, politics and philosophy, and several books of history on everything from the Russian Empire to the French Parliament. Along the way, he also managed to squeeze in heaps of verse and a voluminous correspondence amounting to some 20,000 letters to friends and contemporaries. Voltaire supposedly kept up his prodigious output by spending up to 18 hours a day writing or dictating to secretaries, often while still in bed. He may have also been fueled by heroic amounts of caffeine—according to some sources, he drank as many as 40 cups a day.

5. Many of his most famous works were banned.

Since his writing denigrated everything from organized religion to the justice system, Voltaire ran up against frequent censorship from the French government. A good portion of his work was suppressed, and the authorities even ordered certain books to be burned by the state executioner. To combat the censors, Voltaire had much of his output printed abroad, and he published under a veil of assumed names and pseudonyms. His famous novella “Candide” was originally attributed to a “Dr. Ralph,” and he actively tried to distance himself from it for several years after both the government and the church condemned it. Despite his best attempts to remain anonymous, Voltaire lived in almost constant fear of arrest. He was forced to flee to the French countryside after his “Letters Concerning the English Nation” was released in 1734, and he went on to spend the majority of his later life in unofficial exile in Switzerland.

6. He helped popularize the famous tale about Sir Isaac Newton and the apple.

Though the two never met in person, Voltaire was an enthusiastic acolyte of the English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton. Upon receiving a copy of Newton’s “Principia Mathematica,” he claimed he knelt down before it in reverence, “as was only right.” Voltaire played a key role in popularizing Newton’s ideas, and he offered one of the first accounts of how the famed scientist developed his theories on gravity. In his 1727 “Essay on Epic Poetry,” Voltaire wrote that Newton “had the first thought of his System of Gravitation, upon seeing an apple falling from a tree.” Voltaire wasn’t the original source for the story of the “Eureka!” moment, as has often been claimed, but his account was instrumental in making it a fabled part of Newton’s biography.

7. He had a brief career as a spy for the French government.

Voltaire struck up a lively correspondence with Frederick the Great in the late 1730s, and he later made several journeys to meet the Prussian monarch in person. Before one of these visits in 1743, Voltaire concocted an ill-advised scheme to use his new position to repair his reputation with the French court. After hatching a deal to serve as a government informant, he wrote several letters to the French giving inside dope on Frederick’s foreign policy and finances. Voltaire proved a lousy spy, however, and his plan quickly fell apart after Frederick grew suspicious of his motives. The two nevertheless remained close friends—some have even claimed they were lovers—and Voltaire later moved to Prussia in 1750 to take a permanent position in the Frederick’s court. Their relationship finally soured in 1752, after Voltaire made a series of scathing attacks on the head of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Frederick responded by lambasting Voltaire, and ordered that a satirical pamphlet he had written be publically burned. Voltaire left the court for good in 1753, supposedly telling a friend, “I was enthusiastic about [Frederick] for 16 years, but he has cured me of this long illness.”

8. He never married or fathered children.

While Voltaire technically died a bachelor, his personal life was a revolving door of mistresses, paramours and long-term lovers. He carried out a famous 16-year affair with the brilliant—and very married—author and scientist Émilie du Châtelet, and later had a committed, though secretive, partnership with his own niece, Marie-Louise Mignot. The two lived as a married couple from the early 1750s until his death, and they even adopted a child in 1760, when they took in a destitute young woman named Marie- Françoise Corneille. Voltaire later paid the dowry for Corneille’s marriage, and often referred to Mignot and himself as her “parents.”

9. He set up a successful watchmaking business in his old age.

While living in Ferney, Switzerland, in the 1770s, Voltaire joined with a group of Swiss horologists in starting a watchmaking business at his estate. With the septuagenarian Voltaire acting as manager and financier, the endeavor soon grew into a village-wide industry, and Ferney watches came to rival some of the best in Europe. “Our watches are very well made,” he once wrote to the French ambassador to the Vatican, “very handsome, very good and cheap.” Voltaire saw the enterprise as a way to prop up the Ferney economy, and he used his vast network of upper class contacts to find prospective buyers. Among others, he eventually succeeded in peddling his wares to the likes of Catherine the Great of Russia and King Louis XV of France.

10. He continued causing controversy even in death.

Voltaire died in Paris in 1778, just a few months after returning to the city for the first time in 28 years to oversee the production of one of his plays. Over the last few days of his life, Catholic Church officials repeatedly visited Voltaire—a lifelong deist who was often critical of organized religion—in the hope of persuading him to retract his opinions and make a deathbed confession. The great writer was unmoved, and supposedly brushed off the priests by saying, “let me die in peace.” His refusal meant that he was officially denied a Christian burial, but his friends and family managed to arrange a secret internment in the Champagne region of France before the order became official.

Source :

French playwright, satirist, and philosopher Voltaire (given name: Francois Marie Arouet, 1694-1778) wrote at a time when a corrupt state church and totalitarian government exercised brutal control over nearly every aspect of French life. Among other causes, Voltaire wrote to free his fellow Frenchmen from the early 18th-century church’s doctrine of “the divine right of kings” – the notion that the monarchy was ordained of God and therefore resisting injustice was a sin.

Unlike Luther, who first attempted to reform the church, or the Anabaptists, who started their own, Voltaire reasoned that the best way to break the corrupt church’s hold on people’s hearts and minds was to make his fellow citizens doubt the core doctrines of the church, and therefore its divine authority.

Voltaire’s attacks on the monarchy, on the state church, as well as on contemporary philosophers who promoted acquiescence to the status quo, were diabolically clever and effective.  They influenced Thomas Paine and other American revolutionaries, helped lead to the brutal French revolution, and have influenced many writers and students since.

To thinking Christians, Voltaire’s work is of interest largely because, long after his death, Voltaire’s arguments against core Christian doctrines influenced another kind of revolution – within several mainstream Christian denominations, people influenced by Voltaire’s ideas (though often filtered through other writers) have decided that those core Christian doctrines are expendable “stumbling blocks” that are actually keeping people away from the teachings of Jesus.

But before we focus on that, let’s learn just a bit more about Voltaire.  One thing that made him so effective was his ability to come at things “sideways,” getting his ideas past the censors, at the same time he planted seeds of doubt throughout his culture.

Voltaire’s Unique Approach to Banned Subjects – Under almost constant censorship, Voltaire often presented his most “dangerous” ideas by pretending he was writing about someone else. He would start an essay with something to the effect of “You won’t believe what such and such a group has the audacity to say.” Then he would spell out his own ideas about religion or politics in great detail, only to end with a very weak “rebuttal” such as: “Fortunately we in France have the Church to explain that such ideas are only foolishness and may safely be ignored.”

As an example, in Voltaire’s article supposedly denouncing anti-trinitarians (in Dictionnaire Philosophique), he provides a list of arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity.  (They center, by the way, on the doctrine being hard to understand and not being explicitly spelled out in the New Testament). Most of those arguments preceded Voltaire, and would not rock the faith of anyone who knew the Bible and something about church history. Voltaire ends the article by saying, that, (fortunately) the (church) councils had settled the subject. However, many people without convictions or motivation to evaluate Voltaire’s claims for themselves have come away from such summaries convinced that Voltaire has made a compelling case against a core Christian doctrine

Voltaire and the Divinity of Christ – In an essay that supposedly attacks those who renounce the divinity of Christ, Voltaire suggests a “history” of how Jesus came to be considered divine by the church, supposedly over a period of centuries. Again, many of the ideas in the following passage originated before Voltaire, but few people expressed them as well.

” , , , Christians spent three whole centuries in constructing little by little the apotheosis [raising to the status of a god] of Jesus. . . . At first . . . Jesus was regarded merely as a man inspired by God, then as a creature more perfect than the others. Some time after he was given a place above the angels, as says Saint Paul. Every day added to his stature. He became an emanation of God manifested in time. That was not enough: he was held to be born before time itself. Finally he was made God, consubstantial with God.

Voltaire’s chronology ignores the fact that virtually all first- and second-century Christian writings and creeds universally accepted the divinity of Jesus.  The great church councils of later centuries were not convened, as some insist, to establish Jesus’ divinity, but largely to refute an upstart third-century movement to discredit it.

To scholars serious about their faith and willing to check out the facts, Voltaire’s claims that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ evolved over three centuries should be of historical interest only.  But scores of readers who could not be bothered to investigate Voltaire’s claims have simply acquiesced, surrendering this doctrine of Jesus’ own teaching without a shot, as it were. Unfortunately, quite a few of those young men advanced to the pulpit, and even to seminary chairs, where they could disseminate their lack of faith to the next generation under the apparent authority of their own church leadership.

Quoting Voltaire – Voltaire was convincing, prolific, and wickedly funny. Some Christians like to point out that Voltaire enjoyed skewering atheists almost as much as he enjoyed skewering Christians. But before quoting the fellow to prove some sort of “Christian” point, Christians should remember that much of Voltaire’s writing was tongue-in-cheek, and that quoting him out of context could backfire among people who actually take the time to look up the quote.

Voltaire and Twain – American authors often compare Voltaire to Mark Twain, which is a fair comparison if one keeps in mind that Voltaire was first, and was far more vitriolic than Twain (Of course, with church censorship, exile, and imprisonment, Voltaire had more to be bitter about than Twain). To Twain’s credit, he exceeds Voltaire when it comes to capturing the pioneer spirit (for good or for ill) of his countrymen, and for creating compelling characters in most of his fiction. But when he is writing mostly to prove a point, he does emulate Voltaire’s tongue-in-cheek tone.  He also reflects Voltaire’s practice when he uses “letters” and “journals” (supposedly from other people) to camouflage attacks on various aspects of society.

In his own attacks against religion, Twain also seems to have repeated several of Voltaire’s arguments (amplifying them with Twain’s own brand of humor, of course). Yet most of Twain’s rants against organized religion or Christian doctrine pale next to the original, even in translation. As a fomenter of “radical” ideas, Twain may influence the reader; Voltaire influenced countless other writers.

Voltaire’s Influence on the Church – Voltaire’s on the church has been as subtle, widespread, and effective as leaven in a lump of dough. Nearly three centuries later, countless religious leaders who’ve swallowed Voltaire’s claims without examination now contend that doctrines like the Trinity and the divinity of Christ are outdated “stumbling blocks” that are keeping people away from “The Faith” (assuming you can call anything “The Faith” that actually requires no faith at all).

Ironically, since Voltaire’s assertions have become dogma in traditionally “mainstream” denominations, the churches and institutions affected have become every bit as dogmatic about their version of “Christianity” as was the early eighteenth-century Roman Catholic church that Voltaire attacked. They, frankly, refuse to revisit their basic assumptions, even when archaeological and manuscript evidence proves them wrong.

As a further irony,  the churches that abandoned Biblical doctrines that they thought were keeping people away have stopped attracting new people at all, or even keeping more than a fraction of their own children and grandchildren in the church. Apparently if you take everything out of the “faith” that actually requires faith, you also take away the sense that the faith has anything more to offer than lessons in ethics, which, most people seem to feel they can do without. Yet, in spite of history’s lessons, it still seems that every time Voltaire’s arguments are restated by yet another author in search of publication or notoriety, they attract the attention of those who are easily swayed by whatever seems “clever” or “new.”

Though many times refuted, Voltaire’s assertions about basic Christian doctrines have become the bedrock that supports the foundations of the “Liberal,” “Neo-Orthodox, and “Post-Modern Christian” movements of the last two centuries. In a way, Voltaire has been the thorn in the side of theologically orthodox Christians for almost three centuries, a fact that he would probably find quite amusing, did he not have more compelling demands on his attention just now.


Oddly enough, a book about “reforming the church,” largely based on claims originally made by Voltaire, recently “made the rounds” at any number of conservative Bible colleges and seminaries.  Maybe you’ve read it and have all kinds of ideas for making “the faith” more acceptable to nonbelievers by minimizing – if not filtering out – everything that smacks of the supernatural.   Guess what – you’re just the latest in a long line of shallow thinkers who’ve fallen for the same centuries-old arguments.

Here’s a rule of thumb – the next time you hear what seems to be a reasonable, compelling argument against ANY of the core doctrines of Christianity, chances are it started with, or at least was popularized by Voltaire – and it has never staggered the faith of any Christian who took the time to do their own research or thinking on the subject.