Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire

AUTHORITY.

Miserable human beings, whether in green robes or in turbans, whether in black gowns or in surplices, or in mantles and bands, never seek to employ authority where nothing is concerned but reason, or consent to be reviled in all ages as the most impertinent of men, as well as to endure public hatred as the most unjust.

You have been told a hundred times of the insolent absurdity with which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you of it for the hundred and first. I would have it inscribed over the door of your holy office.

Seven cardinals, assisted by certain minorite friars, threw into prison the master of thinking in Italy, at the age of seventy; and made him live upon bread and water because he instructed mankind in that of which they were ignorant.

Having passed a decree in favor of the categories of Aristotle, the above junta learnedly and equitably doomed to the penalty of the galleys whoever should dare to be of another opinion from the Stagyrite, of whom two councils had burned the books.

Further, a Faculty, which possessed very small faculties, made a decree against innate ideas, and afterwards another for them, without the said Faculty being informed, except by its beadles, of what an idea was.

In neighboring schools legal proceedings were commenced against the circulation of the blood. A process was issued against inoculation, and the parties cited by summons.

One and twenty volumes of thoughts in folio have been seized, in which it was wickedly and falsely said that triangles have always three angles; that a father was older than his son; that Rhea Silvia lost her virginity before her accouchement; and that farina differs from oak leaves.

In another year the following question was decided: “Utrum chimæra bombinans in vacuo possit comedere secundas intentiones?” and decided in the affirmative. These judges, of course, considered themselves much superior to Archimedes, Euclid, Cicero, or Pliny, and strutted about the Universities accordingly.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:25