[Voltaire] theoretically prefers a republic, but he knows its flaws: it permits factions which, if they do not bring on civil war, at least destroy national unity; it is suited only to small states protected by geographic situation, and as yet unspoiled and untorn with wealth; in general men are rarely worthy to govern themselves. Republics are transient at best; they are the first form of society, arising from the union of families; the American Indians lived in tribal republics, and Africa is full of such democracies. but differentiation of economic status puts an end to these egalitarian governments; and differentiation is the inevitable accompaniment of development.
But he had expressed to Mme. du Chatelet the hope that a way out might lie in applying philosophy to history, and endeavoring to trace, beneath the flux of political events, the history of the human mind. 'Only philosophers should write history,' he said. 'In all nations, history is disfigured by fable, till at last philosophy comes to enlighten man; and when it does finally arrive in the midst of darkness, it finds the human mind so blinded centuries of error, that it can hardly undeceive it; it finds ceremonies, facts and monuments, heaped up to prove lies.' 'History,' he concludes, 'is after all nothing but a pack of tricks which we play upon the dead;' we transform the past to suit our wishes for the future, and in the upshot 'history proves that anything can be proved by history.
Kissinger projects a strong impression of a man at home in the world and on top of his brief. But there are a number of occasions when it suits him to pose as a sort of Candide: naive, and ill-prepared for and easily unhorsed by events. No doubt this pose costs him something in point of self-esteem. It is a pose, furthermore, which he often adopts at precisely the time when the record shows him to be knowledgeable, and when knowledge or foreknowledge would also confront him with charges of responsibility or complicity.
Quand celui à qui l'on parle ne comprend pas et celui qui parle ne se comprend pas, c'est de la métaphysiqueWhen he to whom a person speaks does not understand, and he who speaks does not understand himself, that is metaphysics.
Voltaire expected that within fifty years of his lifetime there would not be one Bible in the world. His house is now a distribution centre for Bibles in many languages.
A jealous lover of human liberty, and deeming it the absolute condition of all that we admire and respect in humanity, I reverse the phrase of Voltaire, and say that, if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.
For all the enlightened nations that profess a loyalty to liberty, democracy, economy and all the rest, there has long been a readiness to look for a chosen one; as Carlyle pointed out, even the French, those great anti-venerators, those relentless beheaders of Great Men, worshipped Voltaire.
And involuntarily I compared the childish sarcasm, the religious sarcasm of Voltaire with the irresistible irony of the German philosopher whose influence is henceforth ineffaceable.
But there must be some pleasure in condemning everything--in perceiving faults where others think they see beauties.''You mean there is pleasure in having no pleasure.
My dear young lady, when you are in love, and jealous, and have been flogged by the Inquisition, there's no knowing what you may do.
Hast thou found out, Voltaire, that it is bliss to die, And does thy hideous smile over thy bleached bones fly?