Like many others, I’ve found myself drawn in recent days to the the words of Francois Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire (1694-1778). They have been a comfort as I wrestle with my love of free speech, my horror at events in France, and questions about how to carry on responsible dialogues.
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations states that the famous line “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is merely “attributed to” Voltaire, adding that it was first used in “The Friends of Voltaire” (1906) by S.G. Tallentyre.
Also in Bartlett’s, I found something which may be even more useful than the more famous statement about rights. It’s from Voltaire’s “Essay on Epic Poetry” (which Bartlett’s notes was written in English). As Voltaire wrote,
“Liberty of thought is the life of the soul.”
I’ll be thinking about that.
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