Friday, 25 November 2016

Book Notes: "A Pocket Philosophical Dictionary" by Voltaire

A Pocket Philosophical DictionaryA Pocket Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Reading Voltaire's "combative" rise against religion, dogma and superstition is unusual in that, at times, it is hard to tell whether he is being satirical or serious. That he was an historian is obvious. That he was well-travelled even more so. What strikes me is his knowledge of the world, put to good use in Candide, and taken to another level in the Dictionary. The notes and appendix are helpful to place Voltaire in historical context. An interesting quote from the article "Toleration" resonates today: "if there are two religions in your country they will be at each other's throats; if you have thirty they will live in peace". This comes from his work Letters Concerning the English Nation and is a precursor to recent ideas about free trade "where commerce levels the differences between cultures and so brings men (sic) together". At least the was the theory before the "post-truth" world.



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