The 18th-century French writer and Enlightenment thinker, whose pen name was Voltaire, believed in free will, the power of empirical science and a separation of church and state. Voltaire's writings often took the form of polemical satires and displayed his support for civil rights such as freedom of expression, the right to a trial and the right of religious freedom. He denounced what he saw as the hypocrisies and injustices of his time and often wrote of the abuses enacted upon the common people by royalty and the intolerance that he believed was being encouraged within French society.
The defining principle in Voltaire's beliefs was the concept of liberty. The idea of liberty was a central issue of debate and discussion among the writers and philosophers of the Enlightenment, and Voltaire's writings often drew from the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and Gottfried Leibniz who came before him.
A great admirer of Isaac Newton's scientific approach to understanding the workings of nature, Voltaire often grappled with understanding the place and relationship of ethics and human existence within a universe governed by rational laws. He believed that mankind is not comprised of deterministic machines following the immutable laws of the universe and that humans instead possessed free will and the ability to choose what actions they should take. Voltaire believed that those individuals who were capable of determining the correctness of their actions through their own powers of reasoning would find the proper course to take and would do so based on free will.