RELATIVIST AND REALIST
Voltaire's Prometheanism made him bold in his concepts, fearless in his ways, and earth-oriented in his attitude. He attacked fanaticism, dogmatism, and censorship throughout his life and rejected absolute monarchy and organized religion. As an empiricist, he made short shrift of politically vacuous speculations and metaphysical theorizing: "All metaphysics contain two things: the first, everything that men with common sense already know; the second, what they will never know." 1 Voltaire did not shy away from controversies. In Philosophical Dictionary2 he wrote "Dare to think." When he met with an injustice or bigotry--and sometimes for less noble reasons, out of spite or jealousy--he took a stand whatever the consequences.
In his philosophical tale Micromégas ( 1752), Voltaire introduced his readers to a world of relativity where absolutes are either nonexistent or derided. With his sense of irony and mockery, he denounced man's hubris with regard to reason as an instrument leading to perfection and to divining nature's secret. The giant Micromégas is an inhabitant of a planet gravitating around the star Sirius. He has left his planet because his progressive ideas concerning religion, science, and governmental practices are considered heretical. Micromégas expresses his views in a book that is later condemned, and he is banished from the court. Rather than vegetate, he decides to take an interplanetary journey to increase his knowledge and experience.
Not all the incidents in Micromégas are fictitious; some are autobiographical. Several of Voltaire's works had been condemned too. His satire on Philippe d'Orléans II ( 1717), for example, earned him an eleven-month imprisonment in the
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Publication information: Book title: The Prometheus Syndrome. Contributors: Bettina L. Knapp - Author. Publisher: Whitston. Place of publication: Troy, NY. Publication year: 1979. Page number: 161.
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