Friday, March 24, 2006

Whence the light?

I’ve spent most of my thirty something years trying to get educated. All the more reason for me to be ashamed of how little I know about such men as Voltaire and Pascal – both of whom should by all rights be something of a role model for anyone who, like myself, thinks fondly of the Enlightenment. I had read Candide years ago but little apart from that. One the things that I find positive about Voltaire is his long-term relationship with an intelligent, forthright woman. It suggests that he practiced his liberal views and not just preached them. Another is his sense of humour – one of the best medicines against self-righteousness. Reading some of the things Voltaire wrote the most painful thing is the realisation of just how true many of them remain. Indeed, we could do with some of the enlightenment that made him write things like “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Could well be a motto for the last hundred years. Indeed, it points out how intimately entwined are the questions of rationality and morality that all too often have been separated in our times.


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