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The Fables of Reason

Roger Pearson

Published in print May 1993 | ISBN: 9780198158806
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191673375 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198158806.001.0001
The Fables of Reason

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Three hundred years after his birth in 1694, this is the first comprehensive study of Voltaire's Contes Philosophiques: the philosophical tales for which he is now best remembered and which include the masterpiece Candide. This book situates each of the 26 stories in its historical and intellectual context and offers new readings and approaches in the light of modern critical thinking. It rejects the traditional view that Voltaire's Contes were the private expression of his philosophical perplexity, written merely in the margins of his historiography and his campaigns against the Establishment. Arguing that narrative is Voltaire's essential mode of thought, the book stresses the role of the reader and shows how the Contes were designed less to communicate a set of truths than to encourage independence of mind. The author has written a guide to the ‘fables of reason’ with which Voltaire undermined – and continues to undermine – the religious, philosophical, and economic ‘fables’ by which other thinkers have tried to explain and direct human experience.

Keywords: Voltaire; Contes Philosophiques; Candide; historiography; Establishment; narrative; religion; economy

Book.  280 pages. 

Subjects: Literature

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Table of Contents

Fallen Fables in The Fables of Reason

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Hearts and Minds: LʼIngénu in The Fables of Reason

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