Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, first published in 1764, is a series of short, radical essays - alphabetically arranged - that form a brilliant and bitter analysis of the social and religious conventions that then dominated eighteenth-century French thought. One of the masterpieces of the Enlightenment, this enormously influential work of sardonic wit - more a collection of essays arranged alphabetically, than a conventional dictionary - considers such diverse subjects as Abraham and Atheism, Faith and Freedom of Thought, Miracles and Moses. Repeatedly condemned by civil and religious authorities, Voltaire's work argues passionately for the cause of reason and justice, and criticizes Christian theology and contemporary attitudes towards war and society - and claims, as he regards the world around him: 'common sense is not so common'.
Voltaire (1694 - 1778) became known in Paris for his satires and odes, and his frist tragedy Oedipe was performed with great success. He was imprisoned in the Bastille twice in his life and after the second time spent time in England (1726 - 29). He returned to France, but his political opinions meant he was never really safe there and he eventually settled in Geneva, where he remained until near the end of his life and wrote his most famous works, including Candide. Theodore Beterman is the founder and director of the Institut et Musee Voltaire, and author of the standard biography on Voltaire.