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which took place in one corner of the earth, in the face of all the world? Who can deny the accomplishment of their, prophecies? Has not Virgil himself cited the predictions of the sibyls? If we have not the first copies of the sibylline books, written at a time when no one could read and write, we have authentic copies : Impiety must be silent before such proofs. Thus spoke Houteville to Sejanus, and hoped to obtain by it the place of chief augur, with a revenue of fifty thousand livres; but he obtained nothing. *
That which my sect teaches me is obscure, I confess it, exclaims a fanatic; and it is in consequence of that obscurity that I must believe it; for it says itself that it abounds in obscurities. My sect is extravagant, therefore it is divine; for how, appearing so insane, would it otherwise have been embraced by so many people? It is precisely like the koran, which the Sonnites say presents at once the face of an angel and that of a beast. Be not scandalised at the muzzle of the beast, but revere the face of the angel. Thus spoke this madman; but a fanatic of another sect replied to the first fanatic,-It is thou who art the beast, and I who am the angel.
Now who will judge this process, and decide between these two inspired personages ? The reasonable and impartial man who is learned in a science which is not that of words; the man divested of prejudice, and a lover of truth and of justice; the man, in fine, who is not a beast, and who pretends not to be an angel.
SECTION II, Sect and error are synonimous terms, Thou art a peripatetic and I a Platonist; we are therefore both in the wrong; for thou opposest Plato, because his chimeras repel thee; and I fly from Aristotle, because it appears to me that he knew not what he said. If the one or the other had demonstrated the truth, there would have been an end of sect. To declare for the
Voltaire lashes here the abbé de Houteville, author of a weak book, entitled “ The Truth of the Christian Religion, proved by Facts.”-French Ed.
opinion of one man in opposition to that of another, is to take part in a civil war. There is no sect in the mathematics or experimental philosophy: a man who examines the relation between a cone and a sphere, is not of the sect of Archimedes; and he who perceived that the square of the hypotheneuse of a rightangled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, is not in consequence a Pythagorean.
When we say that the blood circulates, that the air is weighty, that the rays of the sun are a bundle of seven refrangible rays, it follows not that we are of the sect of Harvey, of Torricelli, or of Newton; we simply acquiese in the truths which they demonstrate, and the whole universe will be of the same opinion.
Such is the character of truth, which belongs to all time and to all men. It is only to be produced to be acknowledged, and admits of no opposition. A long dispute signifies that both parties are in error. *
Nicole, in his Moral Essays, written after two or three thousand volumes on morals (Treatise on Charity, chap. II.) says, that“by means of the gibbets and tortures which are established in common, the tyrannical designs of the self-love of each individual are repressed."
I will not examine whether we have gibbets in common, as we have fields and woods in common, and common purse, or if thoughts are repressed by wheels; but it seems to me very strange that Nicole has taken highway robbery and murder for self-love. The dis
* A general and popular error, which it is the interest of a rich and powerful party to support, may resist the attacks of truth for a long time. 'It is the same with political truths, which are opposed to the interests of certain classes, who feed in all countries on the errors of governments and the miseries of the people. These truths can only prevail after a long struggle; but M. Voltaire in this article supposes that truth will not have to combat with self-interest, and in this sense his reason is incontrovertible. French Ed.
tinctions must be a little more examined. He who should say,
that Nero killed his mother from self-love, that Cartouch had much self-love, would not express himself very correctly. Self-love is not a wickedness; it is a sentiment natural to all men ; it is much more the neighbour of vanity than of crime. A beggar of the suburbs of Madrid boldly asked
a passenger said to him-Are you not ashamed to carry on this infamous trade, when you can work? Sir, replied the mendicant, I ask you for money, and not for advice; and turned his back on him with Castilian dignity. This gentleman was a haughty beggar; his vanity was wounded by very little: he asked alms for love of himself, and would not suffer the reprimand from a still greater love of himself.
A missionary, travelling in India, met a fakir loaded with chains, naked as an ape, lying on his stomach, and lashing himself for the sins of his countrymen the Indians, who gave him some coins of the country.
a renouncement of himself! said one of the spectators.
Renouncement of myself! said the fakir ; learn that I only lash myself in this world, to serve you the same in the next, when you will be the horses and
Those who said that love of ourselves is the basis of all our sentiments and actions, were very right; and as it has not been written to prove to men that they have a face, there is no occasion to prove to them that they possess self-love. This self-love is the instrument of our preservation; it resembles the provision for the perpetuity of mankind:
it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and we must conceal it.
I the rider.
SENSATION. OYSTERS, it is said, have two senses; moles four; all other animals, like man, five. Some people contend for a sixth, but it is evident that the voluptuous sensation to which they allude is reducible to that of touch; and that five senses are our lot. It is impossible for
us to imagine anything beyond them, or to desire out of their range.
It may be, that in other globes the inhabitants possess sensations of which we can form no idea. It is possible, that the number of our senses augments from globe to globe, and that an existence with innumerable and perfect senses will be the final attainment of all being:
But with respect to ourselves and our five senses, what is the extent of our capacity ? We constantly feel in spite of ourselves, and never because we will to do so: it is impossible for us to avoid having the sensation which our nature ordains when any object excites it. The sensation is within us, but depends not upon ourselves. We receive it, but how do we receive it? It is evident, that there is no connection between the stricken air, the words which I sing, and the impression which these words make upon my brain.
We are astonished at thought, but sensation is equally wonderful. A divine power is as manifest in the sensation of the meanest of insects, as in the brain of Newton. In the mean time, if a thousand animals die before our eyes, we are not anxious to know what becomes of their faculty of sensation, although it is as much the work of the Supreme Being as our own. We regard them as the machines of nature, created to perish and to give place to others.
For what purpose and in what manner may their sensations exist, when they exist no longer ? What need has the author of all things to preserve qualities, when the substance is destroyed ? It is as reasonable to assert, that the power of the plant called 'sensitive,' to withdraw its leaves towards its branches, subsists when the plant is no more. You will ask, without doubt, in what manner the sensation of animals perishes with them, while the mind of man perishes not?
I am too ignorant to resolve this question. The eternal author of mind and of sensation alone knows how to give, and how to preserve them.
All antiquity maintains, that our understanding contains nothing which has not been received by our
Descartes, on the contrary, asserts in his Romances, that we have metaphysical ideas before we are acquainted with the nipple of our nurse. A faculty of theology proscribed this dogma, not because it was erroneous, but because it was new. Finally however it was adopted, because it had been destroyed by Locke, an English philosopher, and an Englishman must necessarily be in the wrong. In fine, after having so often changed opinion, the ancient opinion which declares that the senses are the inlets to the understanding, is finally proscribed. This is acting like deeply indebted governments, who sometimes issue certain notes which are to pass current, and at other times cry them down ; but for a long time, no one will accept the notes of the said faculty of theology.
All the faculties in the world will never prevent a philosopher from perceiving, that we commence by sensation, and that our memory is nothing but a continued sensation. A man born without his five senses would be destitute of all idea, supposing it possible for kim to live. Metaphysical notions are obtained only through the senses; for how is a circle or a triangle to be measured, if a circle or triangle has neither been touched or seen? How form an imperfect notion of infinity, without a notion of limits? And how take away limits, without having either beheld felt them.
sensation includes all our faculties, says a great philosopher,
What ought to be concluded from all this? You who read and think, pray conclude.
The Greeks invented the faculty Psyche' for sensation, and the faculty. Nous' for mind. We are unhappily ignorant of the nature of these two faculties: we possess them, but their origin is no more known to us than to the oyster, to the sea-nettle, the polypus, worms or plants. By some inconceivable mechanism, sensitiveress is diffused throughout my body, and thought in my head alone. If the head be cut off, there will remain a very small chance of its resolving a pro