All right, I admit I have not spent much time thinking about Voltaire lately. In fact, I’ve not spent much time thinking about him at all. I didn’t even make the mistake of thinking he is the one who said “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.” I thought it was Thomas Payne addressing the writers of the U.S. Constitution.
But Voltaire did say some insightful, some funny, and some pithy things. Helped along with a little prodding from Google, below are a few examples I rather like.
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
Judge a man by his questions, not by his answers.
It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
Voltaire was born more than four centuries ago, and it’s still taken me almost a life time to learn some of these things. I don’t think evolutionary theory has an adequate explanation for why some of us are such slow learners.