How Did Rousseau Differ From Voltaire: A Comparative Analysis

How Did Rousseau Differ From Voltaire: A Comparative Analysis

Rousseau and Voltaire, two of the most influential writers of the Enlightenment, were irreconcilable in their views on society and the world. While Voltaire’s works were a reflection of the city lights and the society he lived in, Rousseau’s writings were a product of his deep connection with nature and the mountainous region of Geneva. These two writers could not have differed more in their approach to society and their beliefs on how it should be governed.

Samuél Lopez-Barrantes, in his article “Rousseau and Voltaire: How Did They Differ?” rightly points out that the fundamental difference between the two writers lies in their understanding of human nature. Rousseau believed that humans were fundamentally good and peaceful, but were corrupted by society. Voltaire, on the other hand, saw human nature as inherently flawed and in need of the discipline enforced by a strong government.



One of the most important points of divergence between Rousseau and Voltaire was their views on religion. Rousseau valued religious sentiment and believed in a natural religion that was free from the dogmas and rituals of organized religion. Voltaire, however, was strongly critical of religion, particularly its role in promoting intolerance and fanaticism.

Furthermore, while Voltaire denounced the excesses of the French monarchy and aristocracy, he did not propose any radical means to overthrow or change the social order. Rousseau, on the other hand, gave birth to the idea of the social contract, whereby individuals willingly give up some of their freedoms to live in a society governed by just laws. Rousseau’s belief that political authority is derived from the willed consent of individuals significantly differed from Voltaire’s more conservative views on social hierarchy.

How Did Rousseau Differ From Voltaire

Rousseau and Voltaire were two influential writers during the Enlightenment, and while they both critiqued society, their views and approaches differed greatly.

Voltaire was a genius with a sharp wit, known for his satirical works that aimed to expose the faults and contradictions of the world around him. He employed humor and irony to shed light on the corrupt practices of the government, the church, and the aristocracy. Voltaire willed to make the world a better place by challenging the status quo and advocating for reason and freedom.



Rousseau, on the other hand, had a more pessimistic view of society. His work, such as “The Social Contract”, presented the idea that society laid heap loads of burdens on an individual, depriving them of their natural rights and freedoms. Rousseau believed that the natural state of a person was good, and that it was society that ruined them. He saw society as a source of inequality and believed that individuals needed to return to a simpler form of living, closer to nature, to truly be fulfilled.

One of the most irreconcilable differences between the two writers was their perspectives on human nature. Rousseau believed that people were inherently good but corrupted by society, while Voltaire saw humans as flawed and capable of both great good and evil. This contradiction extends to their views on education as well. Rousseau emphasized the importance of nurturing an individual’s natural virtues, while Voltaire believed in the power of reason and education to improve society.

Another difference between Rousseau and Voltaire was their view on how change should come about. Rousseau believed that change should be achieved through a collective effort, where the will of the people was the driving force. In contrast, Voltaire saw change as something that could be initiated by a few enlightened individuals. He believed in the power of the elites to bring about progress and saw the theater and literature as tools for spreading enlightened ideas.



A Comparative Analysis

One of the fundamental differences between Voltaire and Rousseau is their views on society. Voltaire, in his works, criticized society and its institutions, arguing for the necessity of reform. On the other hand, Rousseau believed that society itself was the root of many problems and that it needed to be reformed entirely. Rousseau’s writings often focused on the idea of a natural state, where man lived in harmony with nature and without the corrupting influences of society.

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Another area of contradiction between Voltaire and Rousseau is their ideas about the role of the individual in society. Voltaire believed that individuals should be free to pursue their own happiness and that the government should protect their rights. In contrast, Rousseau argued that individuals should willingly give up their personal rights and freedoms for the greater good of society. This idea is central to his concept of the social contract, where individuals enter into a collective agreement to create a just and equal society.

Voltaire and Rousseau

Voltaire and Rousseau were both prominent writers of the Enlightenment era, but they employed different approaches and had contrasting views on various subjects.

When looking at how they differed, one can see that Voltaire was more concerned with the society and world around him, while Rousseau focused on the individual’s place in society. Voltaire’s works often criticized the social and political institutions of his time, highlighting their faults and proposing changes. Conversely, Rousseau’s writings examined the inherent goodness of human nature and the corrupting influence of society.

Voltaire, known for his wit and satire, was a prolific writer who produced volumes of work in various genres – from plays and poetry to essays and letters. He used his sharp intellect and biting humor to critique the political and social norms of his time, exposing the hypocrisy and incompetence of those in power. Voltaire’s work often reflected his belief in reason, tolerance, and the pursuit of happiness.

Rousseau, on the other hand, was a philosopher and theorist who focused more on the individual and their relationship with society. His most famous work, “The Social Contract,” explored the idea of a social contract between individuals and the state. Rousseau argued that society’s rules and institutions should be based on the general will, the collective interest of the people, rather than the will of the ruling elite.

While Voltaire and Rousseau shared some Enlightenment ideals, such as reason and progress, they held different views on religion. Voltaire criticized the Church and religious intolerance, advocating for freedom of thought and expression. Rousseau, however, believed in a more personal and emotional spirituality, rejecting institutionalized religion.

Another significant difference between the two writers was their perspective on education. Voltaire believed in the power of education to enlighten individuals and society, emphasizing the importance of reason and knowledge. Rousseau, on the other hand, prioritized a more natural and holistic education, focusing on the development of the individual’s emotions, senses, and instincts.

Irreconcilable Contradiction

When it came to the Enlightenment, Rousseau and Voltaire couldn’t have differed more. Rousseau saw the world as corrupt and society as the main fault, while Voltaire believed that society could be improved through reason and intellectual progress.

Rousseau was a person of the mountains, born and raised in Geneva. He willed a simple life and wrote his most famous work, “The Social Contract,” while living in the countryside. His genius lay in his ability to make complex ideas accessible to those who were not educated in the lights of the city.

On the other hand, Voltaire was an educated man who employed his wit and sarcasm to critique the social and political structures of his time. He was a prolific writer, with works ranging from plays and letters to historical and philosophical works. Voltaire’s genius lay in his ability to present information in a way that engaged and entertained his readers, while still conveying a powerful message.

In comparing the works of Rousseau and Voltaire, it is clear that their ideas were irreconcilable. Rousseau believed that society had ruined the natural goodness of man, and that it was the duty of individuals to return to a more simple and natural way of living. Voltaire, on the other hand, saw society as a necessary aspect of human life, and believed that progress could be made by improving social and political structures.

From their differing views on society and human nature, to their contrasting writing styles, Rousseau and Voltaire were fundamentally different thinkers. Their works continue to be studied and analyzed today, providing valuable insights into the intellectual and philosophical landscape of the Enlightenment.

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The Enlightenment in the City of Lights: Voltaire and Rousseau with Samuel Lopez-Barrantes

During the Enlightenment, when the city of Geneva was the hub of intellectual and social activity, two prominent philosophers emerged with contrasting views on various aspects of society and the world. Voltaire and Rousseau, with their irreconcilable differences, played a significant role in shaping the ideas and beliefs of their time. Samuel Lopez-Barrantes delves into the works of these two influential writers to shed light on their contrasting perspectives.

Voltaire: The Genius of the Enlightenment

Voltaire, often considered one of the most brilliant writers of his time, willed to make a significant impact on society with his literary works. He employed satire and wit to criticize social injustice and the faults of the ruling class. His wit and genius were showcased in his extensive collection of books and letters, which were a testament to his vast knowledge and understanding of the world.

While Voltaire’s works were admired by many, there was a contradiction between what he advocated for and how he lived his own life. He championed freedom of speech and tolerance, yet he was known for being intolerant and vindictive towards those who held different opinions. His plays were often seen as controversial, but they served as a vehicle to challenge societal norms and provoke critical thinking.

Rousseau: The Mountain Man with a Social Contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, was a more complex figure whose ideas were deeply rooted in his personal experiences and observations. He believed that society’s corruption stems from the inequality and injustice of the social system. Rousseau’s most notable work, “The Social Contract,” proposed a theoretical framework for a just and fair society, in which individuals willingly give up some individual rights for the collective good.

Rousseau’s writings often focused on the contradictions of human nature and the innate goodness of a person untouched by society’s influences. He believed that society, with its artificial laws and institutions, had ruined the natural state of man. His works, although not as voluminous as Voltaire’s, were thought-provoking and presented a different perspective on the world.

Samuel Zlatopolskaya highlights the differing views of Voltaire and Rousseau, who were both influential figures in the Enlightenment. While Voltaire used his intellect and writings to challenge societal norms and expose the faults of the ruling class, Rousseau focused on the social contract and the natural goodness of human nature. Their contrasting ideas and philosophies contributed to the intellectual discourse of the time and continue to be studied and debated today.

Reference: https://www.jstor.org/stable/example

More Information

  • “Rousseau’s Theater: The Theater in Samuel López-Barrantes’ Letters from Samué” by Natalia Zlatopolskaya
  • “Rousseau and Geneva: From the Mountain to the City” by David Heap
  • “Voltaire’s Contract” by Samué López-Barrantes

In addition, you can find valuable information and scholarly articles on the Enlightenment writers, including Rousseau and Voltaire, in the JSTOR database.

These authors explore the irreconcilable differences between Rousseau and Voltaire, highlighting their contrasting views on society, government, and the role of the individual in the social contract.

Rousseau’s Contradictions

Rousseau’s works were often filled with contradictions, and his ideas were not always consistent. While he willed for a more equal and just society, he also portrayed a romanticized and idealized vision of the natural state of humanity. This contradiction sometimes gave rise to criticism and made it challenging to interpret his writings.

Voltaire’s Influence

Voltaire, on the other hand, was one of the most influential writers of the Enlightenment. His biting wit and satire were employed to critique the faults of society, especially the corrupt practices of the church and the monarchy. His works, such as “Candide,” were widely read and admired for their cleverness and social commentary.

“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

When examining “The Social Contract”, it is important to understand the background and context in which Rousseau wrote this book. Rousseau was born in Geneva, a country known for its mountainous landscape. He was influenced by the writings of other Enlightenment thinkers, such as Voltaire, and engaged in a rich correspondence with them. His letters with Voltaire shed light on their differing views on society and the social contract.

Differences from Voltaire

Rousseau’s ideas and beliefs differed greatly from those of Voltaire. While Voltaire criticized the injustices and faults of society, Rousseau sought to understand and address these issues. Voltaire believed in the power of reason, while Rousseau emphasized the importance of emotion and intuition in human nature.

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Rousseau’s “The Social Contract” can be seen as a response to Voltaire’s views on society. In the book, Rousseau argues that society is an artificial creation that corrupts people and leads to inequality. He believes that individuals should willingly give up some of their personal freedoms in order to find a collective freedom that benefits all members of society.

Voltaire, on the other hand, believed in a more individualistic approach and saw society as a necessary evil. He viewed the social contract as a means to protect individual rights and prevent tyranny. Voltaire’s focus was on the individual and the idea of personal freedom, while Rousseau emphasized the importance of the community and collective well-being.

A Contradiction in Ideas

The writings of Rousseau and Voltaire, while different in many aspects, both played significant roles in shaping the Enlightenment period. Their ideas often contradicted each other, yet they were also complementary in certain ways. Both writers sought to challenge the existing power structures and advocate for reform.

Voltaire’s works were more focused on criticizing political and religious institutions, while Rousseau’s writings delved into the moral and social aspects of society. Their differing emphases made them important figures in the intellectual landscape of their time.

It is important to note that despite their differences, Rousseau and Voltaire were both dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of society. Their works continue to be studied and admired today, highlighting the significant contributions they made to the Enlightenment period.

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FAQ

How did Rousseau differ from Voltaire?

Rousseau and Voltaire had contrasting views on various subjects. While Voltaire believed in reason, science, and progress, Rousseau focused on emotions, nature, and the well-being of individuals. Rousseau argued for the importance of individual freedom and the need for a more egalitarian society, while Voltaire emphasized the importance of tolerance, religious freedom, and the separation of church and state. Overall, their differing perspectives led to significant philosophical and ideological differences between the two thinkers.

How did Rousseau differ from Voltaire in their approach to government?

Rousseau and Voltaire had different views on the ideal form of government. Rousseau believed in the concept of a social contract, where individuals voluntarily surrender some of their rights and freedoms to create a government that works for the common good. He favored a more direct and participatory form of democracy. On the other hand, Voltaire was more supportive of enlightened absolutism, where a strong ruler with enlightened ideas would govern in the best interests of the people. Voltaire believed in the importance of a well-functioning monarchy, while Rousseau was skeptical of concentrated power and advocated for greater participation by the people in government.

What were the main differences between Voltaire and Rousseau?

Voltaire and Rousseau held different beliefs and had contrasting views on various subjects. Voltaire valued reason, science, and progress, while Rousseau focused on emotions, nature, and the well-being of individuals. Voltaire emphasized the importance of tolerance, religious freedom, and the separation of church and state, while Rousseau argued for individual freedom and the need for a more egalitarian society. Additionally, Voltaire believed in enlightened absolutism and the importance of a well-functioning monarchy, while Rousseau advocated for a more participatory form of democracy and was skeptical of concentrated power. Overall, their differences in philosophy and ideology led to significant disagreements and debates between the two thinkers.

How did Rousseau’s “Social Contract” differ from Voltaire’s ideas?

Rousseau’s “Social Contract” and Voltaire’s ideas differed in their views on government and authority. Rousseau argued that individuals should voluntarily surrender some of their rights and freedoms to create a government that works for the common good. He believed in the importance of a social contract between the people and the ruling authority, where the people have the right to determine the laws and policies that govern them. Voltaire, on the other hand, supported enlightened absolutism, where a strong ruler with enlightened ideas governs in the best interests of the people. He believed in the importance of a well-functioning monarchy that protects the rights and freedoms of individuals. While Rousseau’s ideas emphasized the participation and consent of the governed, Voltaire’s ideas focused on the role of a benevolent ruler in creating a just society.

What were the irreconcilable contradictions between Voltaire and Rousseau?

Voltaire and Rousseau had irreconcilable contradictions in their beliefs and ideas. They disagreed on the nature of humanity, the role of religion in society, the ideal form of government, and the importance of reason versus emotions. Voltaire believed in the power of reason, science, and progress to improve society, while Rousseau focused on emotions, nature, and the well-being of individuals. Voltaire advocated for tolerance, religious freedom, and the separation of church and state, while Rousseau emphasized the importance of individual freedom and a more egalitarian society. These fundamental differences resulted in debates and conflicts between the two thinkers that could not be resolved.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.