Date of Award

5-1973

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Supervisor

George P. Grant

Abstract

This dissertation answers two questions: Why did Voltaire have such a consistent interest in and high regard for Socinians; and did Socinianism have any direct influence on his thought? To treat these questions, first, late seventeenth and early eighteenth century French language sources were used to outline the history of Socinianism and to show what Socinians were thought to be in Voltaire's time. Then Voltaire's life and works were carefully examined for evidence of Socinianism. The most important works for this were the Correspondence, the Lettres philosophiques, the Essai sur les moeurs, and the Dictionnaire philosophique. The study concluded that Voltaire used Socinianism primarily as a weapon in his battle against Christianity and that Socinianism had no direct influence on his religious convictions.

A topic treated in considerable detail from both published works and manuscripts was the question of Socinian influence in mid-Eighteenth century Genevois Calvinism. Voltaire, d'Alembert, and the other philosophes were, it would seem, correct in attributing Socinianism to the Genevois of this era.

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