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All sources cited. For educational purposes.

Enlightenment era

The following are quotes from personages of the 18th Century Enlightenment era:

"We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor will we tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"I agree with you that science and literature have sometimes done a great deal of harm. Tasso's enemies made his life a long series of misfortunes. Galileo's enemies kept him languishing in prison, at seventy years of age, for the 'crime' of understanding the revolution of the earth; and, what is still more shameful, obliged him to forswear his discovery. Since your friends began the Encyclopedia, their rivals attack them as deists, atheists -- even Jansenists...The thorns inseparable from literature and a modest degree of fame are flowers in comparison with the other evils which from all time have flooded the world. Neither Cicero, Varron, Lucretius, Virgil, or Horace had any part in the proscriptions of Marius, Scylla, that profligate Antony, or that fool Lepidus; while as for that cowardly tyrant, Octavius Caesar--servility entitled Augustus--he only became an assassin when he was deprived of the society of men of letters...Great crimes are always committed by great ignoramuses."

-- Voltaire in letter to Jean Jacques Rousseau, dated August 30, 1755.

"All things must be examined, debated, and investigated without exception and without regard for anyone's feelings. We must ride roughshod over all these ancient puerilities, overturn the barriers that reason never erected, give back to the arts and sciences the liberty that is so precious to them."

-- Denis Diderot, writing in defense of the Encyclopedia project.

"To succeed in chaining the multitude, one must seem to wear the same fetters."

-- Voltaire

"It requires ages to destroy a popular opinion."

-- Voltaire

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"What is enlightenment?

Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason, but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! 'Have courage to use your own reason!' --that is the motto of enlightenment. Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction, nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians...After the guardians have first made their domestic cattle dumb and have made sure that these placid creatures will not dare take a single step without the harness of the cart to which they are confined, the guardians then show them the danger which threatens if they try to go alone. Actually, however, this danger is not so great, for by falling a few times they would finally learn to walk alone. But an example of this failure makes them timid and ordinarily frightens them away from all further trials...But that the public should enlighten itself is more possible; indeed, if only freedom is granted, enlightenment is almost sure to follow...For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied. It is the freedom to make public use of one's reason at every point. But I hear on all sides, 'Do not argue!' The officer says, 'Do not argue but drill!' The tax collector says, 'Do not argue but pay!' The cleric says, 'Do not argue but believe!' Everywhere there is restriction on freedom."

-- Immanuel Kant, essay "What is Enlightenment," 1784.

"Enthusiasm is not always the companion of total ignorance; it is often that of erroneous information."

-- Voltaire

Quotes taken from The Portable Enlightenment Reader and The Portable Voltaire: Study Guide for Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary

The following notes refer to the Penguin edition of the Philosophical Dictionary, but there is a different, older translation available on the Web.

The most commonly taught book by Voltaire is his amusing satire on philosophical optimism, Candide. It was even made into a delightful musical by Leonard Bernstein. However, it does not represent Voltaire at his most influential. Philosophical optimism is pretty much dead and has to be explained to students today so that they can grasp the point of his satire. Voltaire's thought ranged much more widely than this, however. In a very long life of tireless intellectual campaigning he was the most widely-read of the Enlightenment spokesmen known as 'philosophes.'

These writers prized clarity and wit, and Voltaire's writing abounds in both. However, these qualities are somewhat dimmed for many contemporary readers who don't have the background to appreciate his jokes or grasp his points without assistance. These notes try to provide some assistance in this regard, and draw the reader's attention to the most important issues.

It has been said that "Voltaire criticized the Bible, but now everyone reads the Bible and no one reads Voltaire." Besides being wildly overstated, this jibe misses the point: we no longer read most of Voltaire's writings because the ideas he fearlessly promoted have mostly become commonplaces which we take for granted. The agenda of the Enlightenment is a familiar one to anyone studying classic American values: freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and opposition to the cruel caprices of unenlightened monarchs, to militarism and to slavery. (A detailed essay on the various aspects of the Enlightenment.)

It is crucial to understand that at his time, organized religion in France (and elsewhere) ranged itself on the opposite side of every one of these issues, censoring the press and speech, opposing religious toleration, supporting the doctrine of the divine right of kings to rule and often endorsing slavery as well. Voltaire railed against the Catholic Church not because he was a wicked man, but because he viewed it as a fountainhead and bulwark of evil. He felt that no change of the kind he wanted was possible without undermining the power of the Church; that is why he devoted so much of his attention to ridiculing and discrediting it.

Unlike his arch-rival philosophe, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he was not a democrat. Despite the stereotype of the Enlightenment as a movement of facile optimism, Voltaire was deeply pessimistic about the human nature. He never dreamed of creating a perfect world (despite the utopia depicted in Candide). He only argued that the world could be less bad than it is if we replaced ignorance and superstition with knowledge and rational thought.

His influence (along with Rousseau) on the French Revolution is well-known, but Voltaire would have been appalled by the irrational, violent excesses done in the name of enlightenment. Critics ever since have been arguing that the 18th-century crusade against faith has fatally wounded the Western World, promoting all sorts of social ills. Whether one sees the world as better or worse after Voltaire, there is no question that the issues which obsessed him are still important today. There are few of the questions treated below which are not still being hotly debated in contemporary America [reader: must go to actual web site given below in brackets to read the questions referred to], and few of his arguments have lost their point in the ensuing centuries.

As you read this book [philosophical dictionary], ask yourself to what extent are his views the very foundation stones of our culture and to what extent do they challenge it? Voltaire's great ambition was to make his contemporaries think, and it is a tribute to his wit and his intellect that his writings can still accomplish that goal.

[this article courtesy of http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/enlightenment.html]

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"Ecrasez l'infame!"

"Ecrasez l'infame" Is French for "Crush Infamy!" It was the abiding motto of Voltaire. For its meaning and how Voltaire used it, please read on: All material quoted below is taken from the preface, written by a Mr. B. Ray Redman, of The Portable Voltaire:

"During this protracted study (Biblical criticism), Voltaire confirmed ideas which he had long held without thorough documentation, and stored an armory from which he was to draw, for purposes of offensive and defensive warfare, for the rest of his life. His rejection of the Bible, which of course meant the complete rejection of Christianity, was at the heart of his thinking, and was a powerful spring of action. Had he believed that the fanatical churchmen against whom he fought were merely corrupt or degenerative representatives of a true religion, he might have wielded his weapons less furiously than he did. But he was convinced that they were entrenched impostors who fattened on the exploitation of a false religion; one whose foundations could not be reasonably defended for an hour against the assaults of history and logic. So he fought to kill.

This brings us to the question of what Voltaire meant precisely by his famous term 'l'infame.'...'What was this famous thing?' asks one of Voltaire's popular biographers [H.N. Brailsford]. 'A rough first answer to this question is easy. L'infame was the accursed power that had bound Calas to a wheel and broken his limbs. It was the power that had tossed the spirited head of young Chevalier de la Barre into the flames, and thrown the Philosophical Dictionary after it. It was the blind force, as stupid as it was cruel, that had robbed France of the hands and brains of half a million industrious Huguenots. It was a power with a long history behind it, yet it still lived in this happy century of enlightenment, rabid in Toulouse, brutal in Abbeville, and firmly entrenched in the highest law court of the capital.

Call it, as you please, intolerance or superstition; every philosopher knew what it meant. It had dogged him through all the years of his mental life. It burned his books. It imposed on him constant resort to humiliating subterfuges and disguises. It stood over him with the perpetual threat of exile or prison. The time had come, Voltaire felt, to make an end.'...

On January 5, 1767, Voltaire wrote to Frederick [the Great, King of Prussia]: 'You are perfectly right, Sire. A wise and courageous prince, with money, troops, and laws, can perfectly well govern men without the aid of religion, which was made only to deceive them; but the stupid people would soon make one for themselves, and as long as there are fools and rascals, there will be religions. Ours is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody which has ever infected this world.'...

These passages are sufficient to show that when Voltaire and Frederick traded remarks concerning 'l'infame,' they meant not merely intolerance and superstition, but established Christianity; and that they understood each other perfectly. They also show that both men felt the need of striking at the roots which nourish all religions...

On April 6, 1767, Voltaire wrote to his royal friend at Potsdam, 'You are right to say that the "infamous" will never be destroyed by force of arms, for it would be necessary to fight for another superstition. Arms can dethrone a Pope, dispossess an ecclesiastical Elector, but not dethrone a delusion; I realize that destruction of the Christ-worshipping superstition will be accomplished only by the arms of reason.'

This one particular religion was Voltaire's target because it was the one in power in the Europe of his day. Had another religion been dominant, he would have attacked and despised it with equal vigor."

"Aspere aude! -- 'Dare to use your own reason!' -- that is the motto of enlightenment." [Immanuel Kant]

Some people add to this information: This is an excellent essay which speaks in general about superstition - however - I think it leaves out a few crucial monetary concerns and political concerns of the past times in question. For instance, most witch burnings occurred when the accuser got to own the property of the accused, once the accused was murdered. When this trend stopped, less witches got burned. Profit was a prime motivator.

Consider life back then for the majority - i.e., the serfs/peasants. Peasants and serfs had it much worse and on a daily basis. They were born into sheer hell from babyhood on.

Others comment further with this information: Consider life back then for nonconformist thinkers like Voltaire. Considering the time (1700s), place, and sociopolitical realities in which he lived and moved, the "Superstition" essay by itself was radically rebellious and extremely dangerous. Voltaire was forcibly exiled at least twice from France because of his writings and opinions (although the last time this occurred it the exile was limited "only" to Paris -- which was his place of birth and where he had relatives). He was imprisoned in the Bastille and underwent whippings because he wouldn't turn the other cheek to the Chevalier de Rohan, who picked the fight (and was a powerful aristocrat, unlike Voltaire).

There was no such thing as "freedom of speech and press" in the France which Voltaire knew, was born and raised in. In fact, France was much more repressive and restrictive at the time than England, which was relatively enlightened and gave greater liberties and freedoms to its people.

Voltaire never knew "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Nor did many of his contemporary "philosophes." His books were burned, banned, and he sometimes had to resort to subterfuge in order to get away for his own personal safety. Even as an old man he had only limited peace and well-being at his Chateau de Fernex...he bought that particular piece of land (and built his chateau thereon) because it was only a few miles from the Swiss border; this was so he could be in France at one hour and neutral Switzerland the next, if the need arose.

And credit is to be given: And in that day and time, cosmic credit is to be given to these intellectuals. They were the only people who could possibly have heralded in what later happened. Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness paradigms. But this was still not for the peasantry, not yet! That came later. Voltaire had the germ of Liberty in his heart.

Speaking for Voltaire, others say: Toward the very end of his life (he died at age 83), certain political efforts Voltaire had contributed to failed (which portended the end of the enlightenment as he'd known it. He wrote, "I am waiting patiently for someone to cut our throats." That statement may sound glib to us, but the style of writing for the time must be kept in mind -- he was SERIOUS.

I'm sure Voltaire would have loved to have pointed out the monetary gain of oppressors, and $ being the primary motive. However, it would have gotten him killed. For his time and place, he was extremely daring and bold. We take for granted things he could have only dreamt about.

Another comment is: But did you know that a peasant girl rolling a pale down a hill and singing was burned for singing "to the pale?" Her crime: singing. She didn't sing anything irreligious or nonconformist at all. This is documented in Robbins' Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology.

And speaking for Voltaire, some say: Yes, just like the Chevalier de la Barre (a teenager) was tortured and then killed WITHOUT having been given any sort of trial, much less proven "guilty", of having supposedly sang jests in a street and forgetting to remove a cap he was wearing when some religious procession went by. Voltaire worked 12 years (via a letter-writing campaign) to win a declaration of innocence for the Chevalier de la Barre.

This is primarily why Voltaire wrote the essay on "Superstition"...and bombarded the "l'infame" with pamphlets denouncing it.

Other comments on Voltaire's behalf: I'm sure Voltaire would have loved to have pointed out the monetary gain of oppressors, and $ being the primary motive. However, it would have gotten him killed. For his time and place, he was extremely daring and bold. We take for granted things he could have only dreamt about.

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Voltaire on Superstition

The Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf New York: Knopf, 1924 Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995. Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

THE superstitious man is to the rogue what the slave is to the tyrant. Further, the superstitious man is governed by the fanatic and becomes fanatic. All the fathers of the Church, without exception, believed in the power of magic. The Church always condemned magic, but she always believed in it: she did not excommunicate sorcerers as madmen who were mistaken, but as men who were really in communication with the devil.

To-day one half of Europe thinks that the other half has long been and still is superstitious. The Protestants regard the relics, the indulgences, the mortifications, the prayers for the dead, the holy water, and almost all the rites of the Roman Church, as a superstitious dementia. Superstition, according to them, consists in taking useless practices for necessary practices. Among the Roman Catholics there are some more enlightened than their ancestors, who have renounced many of these usages formerly considered sacred; and they defend themselves against the others who have retained them, by saying: "They are indifferent, and what is merely indifferent cannot be an evil."

It is difficult to mark the limits of superstition. A Frenchman travelling in Italy finds almost everything superstitious, and is hardly mistaken. The Archbishop of Canterbury maintains that the Archbishop of Paris is superstitious; the Presbyterians make the same reproach against His Grace of Canterbury, and are in their turn treated as superstitious by the Quakers, who are the most superstitious of all in the eyes of other Christians.

In Christian societies, therefore, no one agrees as to what superstition is. The sect which seems to be the least attacked by this malady of the intelligence is that which has the fewest rites. But if with few ceremonies it is still strongly attached to an absurd belief, this absurd belief is equivalent alone to all the superstitious practices observed from the time of Simon the magician to that of Father Gauffridi.

It is therefore clear that it is the fundamentals of the religion of one sect which is considered as superstition by another sect.

The Moslems accuse all Christian societies of it, and are themselves accused. Who will judge this great matter? Will it be reason? But each sect claims to have reason on its side. It will therefore be force which will judge, while awaiting the time when reason will penetrate a sufficient number of heads to disarm force.

Up to what point does statecraft permit superstition to be destroyed? This is a very thorny question; it is like asking up to what point one should make an incision in a dropsical person, who may die under the operation. It is a matter for the doctor's discretion.

Can there exist a people free from all superstitious prejudices? That is to ask-Can there exist a nation of philosophers? It is said that there is no superstition in the magistrature of China. It is probable that none will remain in the magistrature of a few towns of Europe.

Then the magistrates will stop the superstition of the people from being dangerous. These magistrates' example will not enlighten the mob, but the principal persons of the middle-classes will hold the mob in check. There is not perhaps a single riot, a single religious outrage in which the middle-classes were not formerly imbrued, because these middle-classes were then the mob; but reason and time will have changed them. Their softened manners will soften those of the lowest and most savage populace; it is a thing of which we have striking examples in more than one country. In a word, less superstition, less fanaticism; and less fanaticism, less misery.

"Sapere aude! 'Have courage to use your own reason!' -- that is the motto of enlightenment." [Immanuel Kant]

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Voltaire on Common Sense

The Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf New York: Knopf, 1924 Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995. Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

THERE are sometimes in common expressions an image of what passes in the depths of all men's hearts. Among the Romans "sensus communis" signified not only common sense, but humanity, sensibility. But whence comes this expression common sense, unless it be from the senses? Men, when they invented this word, avowed that nothing entered the soul save through the senses; otherwise, would they have used the word sense to signify common reasoning?

People say sometimes, "Common sense is very rare." What does this phrase signify? That in many men reason set in operation is stopped in its progress by prejudices, that such and such man who judges very sanely in one matter, will always be vastly deceived in another. This Arab, who will be a good calculator, a learned chemist, an exact astronomer, will believe nevertheless that Mohammed put half the moon in his sleeve.

Why will he go beyond common sense in the three sciences of which I speak, and why will he be beneath common sense when there is question of this half moon? Because in the first cases he has seen with his eyes, he has perfected his intelligence; and in the second, he has seen with other people's eyes, he has closed his own, he has perverted the common sense which is in him.

How has this strange mental alienation been able to operate? How can the ideas which move with so regular and so firm a step in the brain on a great number of subjects limp so wretchedly on another a thousand times more palpable and easy to comprehend? This man always has inside him the same principles of intelligence; he must have some organ vitiated then, just as it happens sometimes that the finest gourmet may have a depraved taste as regards a particular kind of food.

How is the organ of this Arab, who sees half the moon in Mohammed's sleeve, vitiated? It is through fear. He has been told that if he did not believe in this sleeve, his soul, immediately after his death, when passing over the pointed bridge, would fall for ever into the abyss. He has been told even worse things: If ever you have doubts about this sleeve, one dervish will treat you as impious; another will prove to you that you are an insensate fool who, having all possible motives for believing, have not wished to subordinate your superb reason to the evidence; a third will report you to the little divan of a little province, and you will be legally impaled.

All this terrifies the good Arab, his wife, his sister, all his little family into a state of panic. They have good sense about everything else, but on this article their imagination is wounded, as was the imagination of Pascal, who continually saw a precipice beside his armchair. But does our Arab believe in fact in Mohammed's sleeve? No. He makes efforts to believe; he says it is impossible, but that it is true; he believes what he does not believe. On the subject of this sleeve he forms in his head a chaos of ideas which he is afraid to disentangle; and this veritably is not to have common sense.

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Joseph Habsburg II, Emperor of Austria

Born 1741, Died 1790. Austrian Emperor from 1765-1790. He succeeded his father, Francis I, and initially co-ruled with his mother, Maria Theresa (1765-80). After her death he tried to continue her work of reform. An advocate of enlightened rule, he abolished serfdom, established religious equality before the law, granted freedom of the press, and emancipated the Jews. He came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church by attempting to impose state controls over it. [Material courtesy of the online Britannica Concise Encyclopedia].

Regarding his emancipation of his Jewish subjects, this was the "Patent of Toleration," issued in 1782, which granted Austrian Jews a number of important civil liberties. [This material courtesy of Mr. Lloyd Spencer].

Emperor Joseph also forbade Inquisitorial activities ("heretic hunts" and the like) in Austria.

He is portrayed in the 1984 Oscar-winning film "Amadeus," regarding the alleged poisoning of Mozart by Antonio Salieri (it has been relatively well proven that Salieri did not murder Mozart).

Emperor Joseph died in 1790, under mysterious circumstances.

Information about Emperor Joseph is sparse in English-language studies, unfortunately. A truly great man.

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Denis Diderot:::"Encyclopedie"

The Encyclopedia was the crowning achievement of the European Enlightenment. It took Diderot, assisted by an army writers and illustrators, to bring the Encyclopedia to fruition. He faced scandal; his partner (d'Alembert) forsook the project and Diderot under political pressure; royal decrees went out to confiscate and destroy the plates and manuscripts; religious bigots petitioned against the project...in short, if it had not been for the intervention of Malesherbes (I'll get to him in a later post, soon to follow), the Encyclopedia may never have come to the light of day; or, at the very least, its appearance would have been delayed by decades more. We take encyclopedias for granted today. However, in its time, the original encyclopedia was a triumph of human will, secular achievement, and pride in progress...which is why religious bigots railed so strongly against it. Hard to believe, isn't it, that what we take for granted today and rarely give a 2nd thought to, was once considered a great threat (which, of course, it was -- to the establishment)? Diderot was the most amazing of rebels. And the establishment of the time did have some degree of genuine fear, for certain writers wrote articles for the 'Encyclopedie' for the express purpose of undermining and even ridiculing the "authority" of the church and religious persecution.

All material below is quoted from The Portable Enlightenment Reader, Viking/Penguin Publishing:

Along with d'Alembert, the major force behind the 'Encyclopedie' (the French word for "encyclopedia") was Denis Diderot [1713-1784], philosopher, scientist, and man of letters who in this entry for the word 'encyclopedie', described the ambitions of its editors:

"ENCYCLOPEDIE, f.n. (Philosophy). This word means the interrelation of all knowledge; it is made up of the Greek prefix 'en' (in), and the nouns 'kyklos' (cycle), and 'paideia' (instruction, science, knowledge). In truth, the aim of an encyclopedie is to collect all the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth, to present its general outlines and structure to the men with whom we live, and to transmit this to those who will come after us, so that the work of past centuries may be useful to the following centuries, that our children, by becoming more educated, may at the same time become more virtuous and happier, and that we may not die without having deserved well of the human race...

I have said that it could only belong to a philosophical age to attempt an encyclopedie; and I have said this because such a work constantly demands more intellectual airing than is commonly found in the ages of pusillanimous taste. All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone's feelings...We must ride roughshod over all these ancient puerilities, overturn the barriers that reason never erected, give back to the arts and sciences the liberty that is so precious to them...We have for quite some time needed a reasoning age when men would no longer seek the rules in classical authors but in nature, when men would be conscious of what is false and true about so many arbitrary treatises on aesthetics: and I take the term 'treatise on aesthetics' in its most general meaning, that of a system of given rules to which it is claimed that one must confirm in any genre whatever in order to succeed...

I know this feeling is not shared by everyone. There are narrow minds, deformed souls, who are indifferent to the fate of the human race and who are so enclosed in their little group that they see nothing beyond its special interest. These men insist on being called good citizens, but I call them bad men. To listen to them talk, one would say that a successful encyclopedie, that a general history of the mechanical arts, should only take the form of an enormous manuscript that would be carefully locked up in the king's library, inaccessible to all other eyes but his, an official document of the state, not meant to be consulted by the people. They say what is the good of divulging the knowledge a nation possesses, its private transactions, its inventions, its industrial processes, its resources, its trade secrets, its enlightenment, its arts, and all its wisdom? They go on to say are not these the things to which it owes a part of its superiority over the rival nations that surround it? This is what they say; and this is what they might add: would it not be desirable if, instead of enlightening the foreigner, we could spread darkness over him or even plunge the rest of the world into barbarism so that we could dominate more securely over everyone? These people do not realize that they occupy only a single point on our globe and that they will endure only a moment in this existence. To this point and to this moment they would sacrifice the happiness of future ages and that of the entire human race. They know as well as anyone that the average duration of empires is not more than 2000 years and that in less time, perhaps, the name 'Frenchman,' a name that will endure forever in history, will be sought after in vain over the surface of the earth. These considerations do not broaden their point of view, for it seems the word 'humanity' is for them a word without meaning. All the same, they should be consistent! For they also fulminate against the impenetrability of the Egyptian sanctuaries; they deplore the loss of the knowledge of the ancients; they accuse the writers of the past for having been silent or negligent in writing so badly on an infinite number of important subjects; and these illogical critics do not see that they demand of the writers of earlier ages something they call a crime when it is committed by a contemporary, that they are blaming others for having done what they think it honorable to do!

These 'good citizens' are the most dangerous enemies that we have had." -Diderot

courtesy www.visitvoltaire.com web site

The Encyclopedia project lasted for decades, and was threatened many times with censorship, royal decrees to stop it, and etc. Jesuit priests, journalists, and other critics were vehemently opposed to what they considered a threat to the authority of King and Church. Nowadays -- and for a long time -- we take encyclopedias for granted; they are as commonplace as newspapers. Hard to believe the word "encyclopedia" once was cause for such controversy! Yet "l'Encyclopedie" came under vicious attack in 1752, 1757, 1758, and 1760 in particular. Part of the ruckus was due to some authors of "l'Encyclopedie" writing clever and subtle articles drawing authority figures/establishments into question...which was an absolute "no-no" at the time, and for which one could be imprisoned, tortured, even put to death. However, the main thrust of "l'Encyclopedie" was to collect and compile knowledge of the mechanical arts, trades, industry, agriculture, horticulture, and etc.

Here is a quote from Diderot of what "l'Encyclopedie" meant to him:

"In truth the aim of an encyclopedia is to collect all the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth, to present its general outlines and structures to the men with whom we live and to transmit this to those who will come after us, so that the work of past centuries may be useful to the following centuries."

One man in particular came to the rescue of the Encyclopedists during times of crises which assailed the project. Quoting directly from Introducing the Enlightenment by Mr. Lloyd Spencer:

"In 1758, d'Alembert contributed an article on Geneva in which he suggested that this thriving Swiss city-state would do well to lift the ban on theater within its walls. He seemed to go further and question the orthodoxy of the city theologians, and a furor ensued. The parliament of Paris outlawed the Encyclopedia. d'Alembert resigned from his role as editor of 'l'Encyclopedie,' and from that point Denis Diderot shouldered the overall responsibility.

[Mr. Spencer goes on to quote author Peter Gay:] 'The tempest that burst over Helvetius's De l'esprit in 1758 and the prohibition issued against Diderot's Encyclopedie in the following year did more to weld the philosophes into a party than Voltaire's most hysterical calls for unity. Critics trying to destroy the movement only strengthened it.'

The Encylopedists were extremely fortunate that at this moment of crisis which threatened their whole enterprise, a friend of theirs, Malesherbes, had just been put in charge of censorship by his father, the new Chancellor of France. Malesherbes [1721-1794] went on to have a long and distinguished career as a liberal statesman, as courageous as he was enlightened. Without Malesherbes, the Encyclopedia would most likely never have dared to appear. For a time, he occupied a key position in France's elaborate censorship apparatus -- and he believed passionately in FREEDOM of the press. On many an occasion, Malesherbes gave Diderot and d'Alembert protection from behind the scenes. When in 1752 a royal decree placed a ban on the first 2 volumes, and an order went out to seize all the unpublished texts and plates, Malesherbes invited Diderot to hide his manuscripts in the safest of all places -- Malesherbes' own house."

In 1745 André Le Breton, a publisher, asked Diderot to assist in translating the English Cyclopedia of Ephraim Chambers into French. Diderot agreed to work as a co-editor on the project along with the mathematician, Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, who was a member of the Academy of Sciences.

Diderot soon changed the nature of the publication by broadening its scope. The goal of the Encyclopédie was to outline the present state of knowledge about the sciences, arts, and crafts, and to make the knowledge possessed by the few accessible to the many. Each subject was assigned to be written by the person or persons best acquainted with it, and was to be handled with as near an approach to freedom as the censors would permit. It was revolutionary in that it was the first encyclopedia to bring together the great minds of the time. Also among the contributors were many craftsmen who provided the details for technical articles about trades and industries.

Most of the 71, 818 articles in the Encyclopédie were written by Diderot and d'Alembert. Other contributors included Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Baron d'Holbach, Necker, Turgot, Buffon and other known writers of the day.

Jean d'Alembert, wrote the introduction to the Encyclopédie, and contributed the articles on mathematics and the sciences. He used his position in society and the world of letters to obtain the moral and financial support of the leading salons and the cooperation of the best scholars and philosophes.

Diderot worked tirelessly on the hundreds of articles that explained how products were made in the trades and industries. He went to workshops, bazaars, shops, vineyards, farms, and factories to gather information from people who actually worked in the many occupations that were illustrated in the publication.

There were originally 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates with one or two new volumes being printed each year between 1751 and 1772. The great Encyclopédie was the most ambitious publishing enterprise of the century. It promoted the new view of scientific empiricism -- the concept that one should rely on observation and experiment, especially in the natural sciences.

Voltaire contributed anonymous articles to the encyclopedia and was one of the greatest supporters of this ambitious project. Leaders of the Church in France viewed the Encyclopédie as a threat to their authority and the authority of the king.

The first seven volumes of the first edition of the Encyclopédie were published in Paris under a royal privilege. After this was withdrawn in 1759, printing continued clandestinely, and the last ten volumes of the first edition were printed in Paris, but issued under the false imprint of Samuel Faulche, Neuchâtel. Unlike the text, the accompanying eleven volumes of plates were not considered subversive and were all published in Paris.

Only about 4,000 copies were made.

* * * * *

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Yes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was an unpredictable fellow...

*Rousseau the Flasher! As a teenager, Jean-Jacques was nearly caught by adults as he exposed his buttocks to some young girls.

*Rousseau the Submissive! As a youth, Jean-Jacques welcomed the idea of female sexual domination and about his guardian-turned-lover -- an older woman named Madame de Warens -- he wrote, "Oh to be at the feet of an imperious mistress, to obey her commands and ask her forgiveness!"

*Rousseau the Nature-Loving Taoist! Though it's highly unlikely Rousseau had ever heard the words "Taoism", "Yin", or "Yang", yet he seems to have stumbled upon these very things during his private nature revelries and meditations.

*Rousseau the Celebrity-Look-Alike! Go to amazon.com, search under "Books", title Introducing Rousseau. On its cover is a color portrait of Jean-Jacques. Take away the funky powdered wig and the tribal-looking makeup marks and...TA-DA! He looks like Mel Gibson! In another portrait I've seen of him (older in age now), he sports a fur cap and fur collar and...TA-DA! He looks like Daniel Boone!

*Rousseau the Dominant! In later life he became quite unflattering to women, believing they exist only to please men. Well, JJ, got news for ya -- we've come a long way, baby. ;) He never did change his view on women after that point; his common-law wife of many years (they later became legally wed) was a dullard and domestic drudge.

*Rousseau the Hater of Atheists and Nonconformists! In The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques speaks out against Christianity: "True Christians are made to be slaves." However, he goes on to promote a state-system wherein, while no inquiries would be made as to the specific religious beliefs of any individual, yet atheists and religious fanatics would be rejected by his social utopia. Even more shockingly he writes, "If, after swearing allegiance to the State, any individuals dissented from the civil religion, their punishment would be severe. If anyone, after having publicly recognized these same dogmas, behaved as if he did not believe them, let him be punished by death." Thus, no freedom of religion, freedom FROM religion, or free thought in his society! (He later tried, unsuccessfully, to have those sentiments removed from The Social Contract before it went to the publisher).

*Rousseau the Father of Romanticism! "He still had a profound longing to be a part of a community. In his novels, he rhapsodizes about the ritualized social life of small agricultural peasant communities. He loved participating in wedding parties, grape harvest festivals, and other local occasions."

*Rousseau the Confused Anti-Modernist! He criticized public libraries and public theater, feeling these things "corrupted morals." Yet, oddly enough, he continued to compose music and contributed (mostly articles of a musical nature) to Denis Diderot's l'Encyclopedie.

*Rousseau the Reluctant Messiah! Revolutionary France upheld Jean-Jacques as their Hero (by this time, he was deceased), and praised him as the "Father of the Revolution." A spectacular parade of victory celebration was held in his honor, in which, carried aloft in the procession, was a huge bust of Jean-Jacques. Ironically, Jean-Jacques had, before his death, foreseen the French Revolution and dreaded it; in fact, if still alive he would have opposed it. He was a reformist, not a revolutionary.

If you'd like to know more about this complex, strange man -- and Voltaire's arch-rival -- I suggest starting with Introducing Rousseau by Totem books, and checking out the web sites dedicated to him.

Critique of Rousseau: Personally Rousseau was a mess - unattractive, perverse, and ultimately paranoiac. He suffered throughout his life from a bizarre kidney affliction and was unable to urinate without the manipulative assistance of his common-law wife. He preached the nobility of the natural life and the advantages of children, but disavowed his own five illegitimate offspring and sent them to orphanages. His compulsive masochism led him to detail, in his Confessions, his social awkwardness, his inept sexual experiments, his personal dishonesty - in short his general and supreme Jerkiness. He died at 66, a miserable old nut.

Rousseau's biggest problem was being a dreamer who couldn't deal with real life. He was an escapist and in denial. He sensed the outer, real world would not conform to his expectations/ideal of it, and so retreated...and stayed in retreat. "Isolation is a recipe for craziness."

* * * * *

Egalitarianism - a concept that caught on during the Enlightenment

Egalitarianism is also referred to as Equalitarianism. Two conflicting views:

1. Egalitarianism has always been the vulgar form of Liberal Democracy. Democracy attempts to guarantee that all men are equal "in the sight of the law". Egalitarianism insists that all men are statistically equal. Democracy demands that all of its citizens begin the race even. Egalitarianism insists that they all finish even. Democracy strives to eliminate ignorance. Egalitarianism denies the existence of stupidity.

2. In the United States, Founding Fathers, who were all Enlightened people, considered Egalitarianism to be the same exact thing, in practice and theory, as Meritocracy - and Meritocracy was opposed to Aristocracy. It meant that everyone had an equal chance and was born with Natural Rights (given by Nature's God) to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

* * * * *

Voltaire on Tolerance

The Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf New York: Knopf, 1924 Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995. Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

WHAT is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. That admits of no difficulty. But the government! But the magistrates! But the princes! how do they treat those who have another worship than theirs? If they are powerful strangers, it is certain that a prince will make an alliance with them. Franois I., very Christian, will unite with Mussulmans [Moslems] against Charles V., very Catholic. Francois I. will give money to the Lutherans of Germany to support them in their revolt against the emperor; but, in accordance with custom, he will start by having Lutherans burned at home. For political reasons he pays them in Saxony; for political reasons he burns them in Paris. But what will happen? Persecutions make proselytes, and soon France will be full of new Protestants. At first they will let themselves be hanged, later they in their turn will hang. There will be civil wars, then will come the St. Bartholomew; and this corner of the world will be worse than all that the ancients and moderns have ever told of hell.

Of all religions, up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. The Christian Church was divided in its cradle, and was divided even in the persecutions which under the first emperors it sometimes endured. Often the martyr was regarded as an apostate by his brethren, and the Carpocratian Christian expired beneath the sword of the Roman executioners, excommunicated by the Ebionite Christian, the which Ebionite was anathema to the Sabellian.

This horrible discord, which has lasted for so many centuries, is a very striking lesson that we should pardon each other's errors; discord is the great ill of mankind; and tolerance is the only remedy for it.

There is nobody who is not in agreement with this truth, whether he meditates soberly in his study, or peaceably examines the truth with his friends. Why then do the same men who admit in private indulgence, kindness, justice, rise in public with so much fury against these virtues? Why? it is that their own interest is their god, and that they sacrifice everything to this monster that they worship.

"I possess a dignity and a power founded on ignorance and credulity; I walk on the heads of the men who lie prostrate at my feet; if they should rise and look me in the face, I am lost; I must bind them to the ground, therefore, with iron chains": thus have reasoned the men whom centuries of bigotry have made powerful. They have other powerful men beneath them, and these have still others, who all enrich themselves with the spoils of the poor, grow fat on their blood, and laugh at their stupidity. They all detest tolerance, as partisans grown rich at the public expense fear to render their accounts, and as tyrants dread the word liberty. And then, to crown everything, they hire fanatics to cry at the top of their voices: "Respect my master's absurdities, tremble, pay, and keep your mouths shut."

It is thus that a great part of the world long was treated; but today when so many sects make a balance of power, what course to take with them? Every sect, as one knows, is a ground of error; there are no sects of geometers, algebraists, arithmeticians, because all the propositions of geometry, algebra and arithmetic are true. In every other science one may be deceived. What Thomist or Scotist theologian would dare say seriously that he is sure of his case?

It is clear still that we ought to be tolerant of one another, because we are all liable to fickleness and error. Shall a reed laid low in the mud by the wind say to a fellow reed fallen in the opposite direction: "Crawl as I crawl, wretch, or I shall petition that you be torn up by the roots and burned?"

* * * * *

Voltaire on Animals (Animal Rights Activists Take Note)

The Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf New York: Knopf, 1924 Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995. Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

What a pitiful, what a sorry thing to have said that animals are machines bereft of understanding and feeling, which perform their operations always in the same way, which learn nothing, perfect nothing, etc.!

What! That bird which makes its nest in a semi-circle when it is attaching it to a wall, which builds it in a quarter circle when it is in an angle, and in a circle upon a tree; that bird acts always in the same way? That hunting-dog which you have disciplined for three months, does it not know more at the end of this time than it knew before your lessons? Does the canary to which you teach a tune repeat it at once? Do you not spend a considerable time in teaching it? Have you not seen that it has made a mistake and that it corrects itself?

Is it because I speak to you, that you judge that I have feeling, memory, ideas? Well, I do not speak to you; you see me going home looking disconsolate, seeking a paper anxiously, opening the desk where I remember having shut it, finding it, reading it joyfully. You judge that I have experienced the feeling of distress and that of pleasure, that I have memory and understanding.

Bring the same judgment to bear on this dog which has lost its master, which has sought him on every road with sorrowful cries, which enters the house agitated, uneasy, which goes down the stairs, up the stairs, from room to room, which at last finds in his study the master it loves, and which shows him its joy by its cries of delight, by its leaps, by its caresses.

Barbarians seize this dog, which in friendship surpasses man so prodigiously; they nail it on a table, and they dissect it alive in order to show the mesenteric veins. You discover in it all the same organs of feeling that are in yourself. Answer me, machinist, has nature arranged all the means of feeling in this animal so that it may not feel? Has it nerves in order to be impassible? Do not suppose this impertinent contradiction in nature.

* * * * *

Voltaire on Friendship

The Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf New York: Knopf, 1924 Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995. Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

FRIENDSHIP is the marriage of the soul. It is a tacit contract between two sensitive and virtuous persons. The wicked have only accomplices; voluptuaries have companions in debauch; self-seekers have partners; politicians get partisans; the generality of idle men have attachments; and princes have courtiers. Virtuous men alone have friends. Cethegus was the accomplice of Catilina, and Maecenas the courtier of Octavius; but Cicero was the friend of Atticus.

Additional information: this embodies the same ideals as the two Pythagoreans, Damon and Pythias. It is very likely that Voltaire knew all about the Pythagoreans, and the story of Damon and Pythias.

* * * * *

Voltaire on Sectarian Dispute and Truth

The Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf New York: Knopf, 1924 Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995. Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.


EVERY sect, in whatever sphere, is the rallying-point of doubt and error. Scotist, Thomist, Realist, Nominalist, Papist, Calvinist, Molinist, Jansenist, are only pseudonyms.

There are no sects in geometry; one does not speak of a Euclidean, an Archimedean.

When the truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to arise. Never has there been a dispute as to whether there is daylight at noon.

The branch of astronomy which determines the course of the stars and the return of eclipses being once known, there is no more dispute among astronomers.

In England one does not say "I am a Newtonian, a Lockian, a Halleyan." Why? Those who have read cannot refuse their assent to the truths taught by these three great men. The more Newton is revered, the less do people style themselves Newtonians; this word supposes that there are anti-Newtonians in England. Maybe we still have a few Cartesians in France; that is solely because Descartes' system is a tissue of erroneous and ridiculous imaginings.

It is likewise with the small number of truths of fact which are well established. The records of the Tower of London having been authentically gathered by Rymer, there are no Rymerians, because if occurs to no one to combat this collection. In it one finds neither contradictions, absurdities nor prodigies; nothing which revolts the reason, consequently, which sectarians strive to maintain or upset by absurd arguments. Everyone agrees, therefore, that Rymer's records are worthy of belief.

You are Mohammedan, therefore there are people who are not, therefore you might well be wrong.

"My sect is the best," says a Brahmin to me. But, my friend, if your sect is good, it is necessary; for if it were not absolutely necessary you would admit to me that it was useless: if it is absolutely necessary, it is for all men; how then can it be that all men have not what is absolutely necessary to them? How is it possible for the rest of the world to laugh at you and your Brahma?

Whence comes this universal competition in hisses and derision from one end of the world to the other? It is clear that the things at which everyone sneers are not of a very evident truth. What shall we say of one of Sejan 's secretaries who dedicated to Petronius a bombastic book entitled --" The Truths of the Sibylline Oracles, Proved by the Facts "?

"What my sect teaches is obscure, I admit it," says a fanatic; "and it is because of this obscurity that it must be believed; for the sect itself says it is full of obscurities. My sect is extravagant, therefore it is divine; for how should what appears so mad have been embraced by so many peoples, if it were not divine?" It is precisely like the Alcoran which the Sonnites say has an angel's face and an animal's face; be not scandalized by the animal's snout, and worship the angel's face. Thus speaks this insensate fellow. But a fanatic of another sect answers" It is you who are the animal, and I who am the angel."

Well, who shall judge the suit? Who shall decide between these two fanatics? The reasonable, impartial man learned in a knowledge that is not that of words; the man free from prejudice and lover of truth and justice; in short, the man who is not the foolish animal, and who does not think he is the angel.


Sect and error are synonymous. If one or the other had demonstrated the truth, there would be a sect no longer. To declare oneself for the opinion of the one or the other is to take sides in a civil war. There are no sects in mathematics, in experimental physics. A man who examines the relations between a cone and a sphere is not of the sect of Archimedes; he who sees that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the square of the two other sides is not of the sect of Pythagoras.

When you say that the blood circulates, that the air is heavy, that the sun's rays are pencils of seven refrangible rays, you are not either of the sect of Harvey, or the sect of Torricelli, or the sect of Newton; you agree merely with the truth demonstrated by them, and the entire universe will ever be of your opinion.

This is the character of truth: It is of all time; it is for all men; it has only to show itself to be recognized; one cannot argue against it. A long dispute signifies that both parties are wrong."

* * * * *

The First Public Feminist - Mary Wollstonecraft - the mother of Mary Shelley:

Source: Penguin Web Site (http://www.futurenet.co.uk/Penguin/Academic/classics96/britclassicsauthor.html)

"Reviled in her day as a 'hyena in petticoats', Mary Wollstonecraft is now recognized as one of the mothers of British and American feminism. In her most famous work, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was published in 1792 in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution, Wollstonecraft applies radical principles of liberty and equality to sexual politics. Vindication of the Rights of Woman is a devastating critique of the 'false system of education' which she argues forced the middle-class women of her time to live within a stifling ideal of femininity: 'Taught from infancy that beauty is women's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage seeks only to adore its prison'. Instead, Wollenstonecraft dares to address women as 'rational creatures', and she urges them to aspire to a wider human ideal which combines feeling with reason and the right to independence.

"Wollstonecraft's difficult, brave and tragically short life was itself a continual quest for financial, intellectual and sexual independence. Determined to make her own living, she initially endured the orthodox female occupations of paid companion and governess, but by the time she published Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she had established herself in radical London circles as a professional writer. In all her writing, Wollstonecraft struggled to break conventional forms, and to communicate her ideas to different audiences. Her most experimental works are A Short Residence in Sweden and her unfinished Maria. In 1795, accompanied only by her two-year-old daughter and a maid, Wollstonecraft travelled to Scandinavia on behalf of her unfaithful lover Gilbert Imlay. A Short Residence is the story of that journey. Based on a series of personal letters, it defies any simple categorization as travel writing, political commentary or love story. Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman is Wollstonecraft's sequel to Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In it, she uses the forms of popular fiction to paint a disturbing portrait of a society which abuses and excludes women of all classes. Wollstonecraft died of puerperal fever eight days after the birth of her second daughter, the future Mary Shelley (author of "Frankenstein"). In 1798 Wollstonecraft's husband, the political philosopher William Godwin, published his agonizing Memoirs of the Author of 'The Rights of Woman'. Wollstonecraft's political opponents seized gleefully on the details of her unorthodox personal life, and condemned her as an 'unsex'd female'. But, as historians are now rediscovering, her work survived as an example and a challenge to the nineteenth-century women's movement, and two hundred years later she remains an inspiring figure whose writings are vital to our understanding of the origins of modern feminism."

--Vivien Jones

* * * * *

"Pax Terrestris yes. Pax Mundana no.

Humanity does not need war, death, disease, decay, superstition, national or racial cults, archaic belief structures or despotisms, or any number of other residues of our primitive past against which many noble people have struggled through the ages. But humanity does need challenge. A humanity without challenge would be a humanity without change, without innovation, which fundamentally means a humanity without meaningful freedom. A humanity without challenge would be a humanity without humanity.

Furthermore, the 'golden age' enjoyed by a static society is generally only a transitory phase on the path to hell. The resource base of any society is defined by its technology...

The opening of the space frontier, the creation of a spacefaring civilization, is thus the critical task facing our age. Compared to it, all other human enterprises of the present day are of trivial significance. Our success in this endeavor will determine whether we stand at the beginning of human history or the end. It will determine whether humanity continues as a truly human species. Failure is unacceptable...

The would-be Pax Mundana has a weakness. Like all other self-satisfied societies, it rests upon a conceit: that there is nothing of importance outside. Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, and the Chinese Middle Kingdom all enjoyed this belief, and suffered destruction in the process of its refutation. The less smug world of medieval [Europe] was not so petrified, however, and in discovering the outside used the shock of encounter to break its internal and external chains and blossom. Our Western society, having just experienced a period of 500 years of expansion, is also in an uncrystallized form. While the primary motive forces of the previous period of progress are no longer with us, many of its powerful institutions and traditions still persist. The scientific renaissance of the past five centuries has endowed us with big searching eyes, and they have only just begun to close. We are still a society receptive to the stimulation that could be offered by new frontier shock, provided that it comes in time.

Therein lies the crisis and the hope of the present day. With victory won, the regimental banners and heroic bugles of the previous epoch are on their way to the pawnshop. But the restless spirit that once followed them has not yet accepted oblivion, and lingers on, listening for a new call to action and to life. And though still muted, that call has come. Even as the Earth surrendered, the space frontier present[s] its challenge."

--From Entering Space by Robert Zubrin, internationally renowned astronautical engineer, former senior engineer at Lockheed Martin, founder of Pioneer Astronautics, president of the Mars Society. NASA recently adapted Mr. Zubrin's humans-to-Mars mission plan.

Want to know more? http://www.marssociety.org

See also Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation by Yvonne Fern

Evolve or die! Stagnation is not an option.


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