Tuesday, February 5, 2019



"We should be considerate to the living; to the dead we owe only the truth."

-Voltaire, Letter to M. de Grenonville, 1719

"Man is free at the instant he wants to be."

-Voltaire, Brutus, act II, scene I, 1730

"Where there is friendship, there is our natural soil."

-Voltaire, Letter to Nicolas-Claude Thieriot, 1734

"Love truth, but pardon error."

-Voltaire, Deuxième discours: de la liberté, Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme, 1738

"The secret of being a bore is to tell everything."

-Voltaire, Sixième discours: sur la nature de l'homme, Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme, 1738

"Clever tyrants are never punished."

-Voltaire, Mérope, act V, scene V, 1743

"It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one."

-Voltaire, Zadig, 1747

"If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor."
"To pray to God is to flatter oneself that with words one can alter nature."
"It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue."

-Voltaire, Notebooks, c.1735-c.1750

"A minister of state is excusable for the harm he does when the helm of government has forced his hand in a storm; but in the calm he is guilty of all the good he does not do."

-Voltaire, Le Siècle de Louis XIV, ch. VI: État de la France jusqu’à la mort du cardinal Mazarin en 1661, 1752

"The Jewish nation dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous -- cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity."
"A people that sells its own children is more condemnable than the buyer; this commerce demonstrates our superiority; he who gives himself a master was born to have one."

-Voltaire, Essai sur les Moeurs et l'Esprit des Nations, 1753

"This body which called itself and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was in no way holy, nor Roman, nor an empire."

-Voltaire, Essai sur l'histoire générale et sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations, 1756

"While loving glory so much how can you persist in a plan which will cause you to lose it?"

-Voltaire, letter to Frederick II of Prussia, 1757.10

"Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours."

-Voltaire, letter to Élie Bertrand, 1759.1.5

"When we hear news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation."

-Voltaire, letter to Charles-Augustin Ferriol, count of Argental, 1760.8.28

"When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion."

-Voltaire, letter to Mme. d'Épinal, 1760.12.26

"Men will always be mad, and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all."

-Voltaire, letter to Louise Dorothea of Meiningen, duchess of Saxe-Gotha Madame, 1762.1.30

"Whatever you do, crush the infamous thing, and love those who love you."

-Voltaire, letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert, 1762.11.28

"Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth."

-Voltaire, Treatise on Toleration, 1763

"Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts."

-Voltaire, Le Chapon et la Poularde, 1763

"There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times."

-Voltaire, letter to François-Joachim de Pierre, cardinal of Bernis, 1764.4.23

"I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: 'O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!' God granted it."

-Voltaire, letter to Étienne Noël Damilaville, 1767.5.16

"Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes."

-Voltaire, L'Ingénu, 1767

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere."
"A witty saying proves nothing."

-Voltaire, Le dîner du comte de Boulainvilliers, 1767

"A false science makes atheists, a true science prostrates men before the Deity."

-Voltaire, 1768

"Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one's garden."

-Voltaire, letter to Pierre-Joseph Luneau de Boisjermain, 1769.10.21

"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."

-Voltaire, Épître à l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Imposteurs, 1770.11.10

"'If God did not exist, he would have to be invented.' But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it."

-Voltaire, letter to Prince Frederick William of Prussia 1770.11.28

"I am very fond of truth, but not at all of martyrdom."

-Voltaire, letter to Jean le Rond d'Alembert, 1776.2.8

"I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition."

-Voltaire, note to his secretary, Jean-Louis Wagnière, 1778.2.28

"Love is of all the passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the body."
"Man ought to be content, it is said; but with what?"


"The public is a ferocious beast: one must chain it up or flee from it."

-Voltaire, letter to Mademoiselle Quinault

Philosophical Dictionary

Abuse of Words

"Books, like conversation, rarely give us any precise ideas: nothing is so common as to read and converse unprofitably. We must here repeat what Locke has so strongly urged: define your terms."


"Morality is everywhere the same for all men, therefore it comes from God; sects differ, therefore they are the work of men."


"The man, who in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week."

Civil and Ecclesiastical Laws

"Let the punishments of criminals be useful. A hanged man is good for nothing; a man condemned to public works still serves the country, and is a living lesson."

Common Sense

"People say sometimes, 'Common sense is very rare.'"


"His reputation will go on increasing because scarcely anyone reads him."

The Ecclesiastical Ministry

"The institution of religion exists only to keep mankind in order, and to make men merit the goodness of God by their virtue. Everything in a religion which does not tend towards this goal must be considered foreign or dangerous."


"All men would then be necessarily equal, if they were without needs; the poverty connected with our species subordinates one man to another; it is not the inequality which is the real misfortune, it is the dependence."


"It is sad that often in order to be a good patriot one is the enemy of the rest of mankind. To be a good patriot is to wish that one's city may be enriched by trade, and be powerful by arms. It is clear that one country cannot gain without another loses, and that it cannot conquer without making misery. Such then is the human state that to wish for one's country's greatness is to wish harm to one's neighbours."


"Friendship is the marriage of the soul; and this marriage is subject to divorce."
"Virtuous men alone possess friends."


"There is no good code in any country. The reason for this is evident: the laws have been made according to the times, the place and the need, etc. When the needs have changed, the laws which have remained, have become ridiculous. Thus the law which forbade the eating of pig and the drinking of wine was very reasonable in Arabia, where pig and wine are injurious; it is absurd at Constantinople."
"If you want good laws, burn those you have and make new ones."

Liberty of the Press

"Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world."

Power, Omnipotence

"All the sects of the philosophers have stranded on the reef of moral and physical ill. It only remains to avow that God, having acted for the best, has not been able to act better."


"Prejudice is an opinion without judgment. Thus all over the world do people inspire children with all the opinions they desire, before the children can judge."


"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."
"Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them."


"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."

Questions Concerning the Encyclopedia


"Money is always to be found when men are to be sent to the frontiers to be destroyed: when the object is to preserve them, it is no longer so."

Canon Law: Ecclesiastical Ministry

"Virtue supposes liberty, as the carrying of a burden supposes active force. Under coercion there is no virtue, and without virtue there is no religion. Make a slave of me, and I shall be no better for it. Even the sovereign has no right to use coercion to lead men to religion, which by its nature supposes choice and liberty. My thought is no more subject to authority than is sickness or health."


"Divorce is probably of nearly the same age as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks the more ancient."

General Reflection on Man

"It requires twenty years for a man to rise from the vegetable state in which he is within his mother's womb, and from the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of reason begins to appear. It has required thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him."


"In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other."


"Nothing is so common as to imitate one's enemies, and to use their weapons."


"It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."
For much more, visit Books by Voltaire at Project Guterberg.

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