Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 14, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

QUOTE OF THE DAY....Today's quote comes from Voltaire, who wrote in 1763:

Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.

There's no hidden agenda here. I just happen to like this quote.

Kevin Drum 10:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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Comments

Voltaire would be declared an elite enemy of the state in today's world. Much like in his own time, I suppose!

Posted by: craigie on January 14, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

That is a good quote. I read it as saying that all thought is self-serving, and all speech meant to deceive the listener into thinking otherwise, which I pretty much agree with.

Posted by: Paul on January 14, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent choice for a q.o.d. Kevin.

I have always been a big fan of Voltaire, and Rameau, and Reausseau, and all the big stars of the Enlightenment.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 14, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK


Yes, it's a good quote. It's also what I've been telling you for years.

Of course, like all things, it's not absolute; therefore, not as defeatist as it sounds--if we aspire to greater enlightenment.


Posted by: jayarbee on January 14, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

This quote anticipates Nietzche on the Death of God.

Posted by: al on January 14, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

This is a bit offthread but not really. Certainly 'use speech to conceal their thoughts' applies. Once again the WMD (nuclear weapon) threat of Iran is being used as propaganda in the administration and the media when that's just an excuse. The following article was written in August of '05 but is 'enlightening,' to say the least, even at this late date. Please, everyone, read it. It sure makes sense to me.

Petrodollar Warfare

Posted by: nepeta on January 14, 2006 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Great quote, but I do wish you'd go back to your previous post and explain what you meant by your ass-backwards use of the term PC. Something Freudian here?

Posted by: Libby Sosume on January 14, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad the quote is psycho-babble bullshit.

Posted by: murmeister on January 14, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Here's my favorite Voltaire quote:

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do.

Posted by: T. Jaxon on January 14, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

The quote is clearly wrong. Sometimes people use thought to do things like fix a leaking pipe. That doesn't have anything to do with injustice.

If you wanted to make the quote correct you could have it say something like "People sometimes try to find justifications for wrong things they do, and also they sometimes use words to cover up what they're thinking." However, this isn't a very interesting thought. Ah well. Sorry, Volty.

Posted by: mk on January 14, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good one. T. Jaxon. One for all time

Posted by: murmeister on January 14, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

I work for Voltaire.

So I am really getting a kick out of most of these replies.

Some of you guys are very good at making it sound like you know what you are talking about.

But trust me.... You don't.

I think you just want to make yourself sound smart, when in reality you dont know what you are talking about.

This is how bad info gets passed around.

If you dont know about the topic....Dont make yourself sound like you do.

Cuz some Calpundits/WanshintonianMonthlies belive anything they hear.

Posted by: Professor McA on January 14, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

When things aren't going well, people behave like this quote.

But sometimes people perform very well and this quote does not apply at those times.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 14, 2006 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

I hate the use of the term neo-con. Look it up people, they formed from hawkish Democrats who split with their party after Vietnam. True conservatism doesn't support this kind of thing, nor does it support the statist (and some may say, leftist) aims of neo-conservatism.

Posted by: Lowtax Looper on January 15, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I don't mind the quote, but I will say that I'm glad society has progressed to the point where we basically no longer think that curmudgeonliness like this is equivalent to insight. While mass society and consumerism might have made us more vapid in some sense, they also instill in us a desire for fairly simple happiness that is closer to the truth than Hemingway or Voltaire or existentialism ever were. (so it seems to me at least)

I mean, just read the quote, it's clearly wrong. So what itch are we scratching by putting things in such exaggerated terms? Do we rely on quotes like this to speak directly to a deep pessimism inside ourselves, or something? It's kind of an interesting phenomenon in its own right. I mean, I don't deny the appeal, I just don't think it's really saying anything very deep about life or anything. Or maybe what it reveals has mainly to do with the psychology of the guy who said it.

Posted by: mk on January 15, 2006 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Read it aloud with a sardonic smile and mock seriousness : maybe even a twinkle in your eye. Not everyone is a constant serious sourpuss.

Posted by: opit on January 15, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Reausseau, and all the big stars of the Enlightenment.

Rousseau , I believe, is very much not a star of the Enlightenment. His 'philosophy' was an appeal to pure emotion not reason. Russell didn't even consider him a philosopher. The 'logical; end of Rousseau's thinking is facism.

Posted by: Michael7843853 GO in 08! on January 15, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

The quote seems quite applicable to those in our current administration...

Posted by: nepeta on January 15, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

I realized my error right as I hit "post" I was thinking about the "tabla rasa" guy...I was a science major for a reason! :)

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 15, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent, although I like to think some of us are running a countercultural reality campaign with our thoughts and words. It's a delicate game, no doubt, because everyone likely thinks of themself as a missionary, especially in these circles. But in many cases bullshit can be ferreted out and publicly displayed and called out, so the key is to never stray far from the notion that almost everything is bullshit, and that most of the best things in life, like peace and love, are left unsaid, if we act right. And ultimately it all boils down to actions, not justifications, explanations, and excuses.

Posted by: Jimm on January 15, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

You gotta love the cynical French quote-meisters. My favorite remains La Rochefoucauld, who gave us gems such as the well-known "Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue," and the unfairly-neglected "We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others."

Posted by: Charlie Murtaugh on January 15, 2006 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

"I think you just want to make yourself sound smart, when in reality you dont know what you are talking about.

This is how bad info gets passed around.

If you dont know about the topic....Dont make yourself sound like you do.

Cuz some Calpundits/WanshintonianMonthlies belive anything they hear."

Some people act like they have spellcheck, but they are simply above using it. I mean, usin it.

Posted by: Kenji on January 15, 2006 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

The only Rousseau I ever found worthy of any note was Andre Rousseau who wrestled as Andre the Giant

Posted by: murmeister on January 15, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Voltaire

I guess he got that one right!

Posted by: Cyn2 on January 15, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it's pure provocation. Arouet, l.j.? What would you expect?

But it's dead on if you substitute "generally" for "only" (and, for all my ignorance of francaise, that might be a better translation). You'll rarely encounter anyone whose ruminations run counter to his preconceptions.

Posted by: bad Jim on January 15, 2006 at 3:20 AM | PERMALINK

"A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire

Posted by: tbrosz on January 15, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's a myth, but a famous one:

Euler advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction: "Sir, ( a + bn )/n = x , hence God exists; reply! " Diderot had no reply, and the court broke into laughter. Diderot immediately returned to France.

Could l'esprit d'escalier have deserted him just then? Alternative explanations might be considered likelier.

Posted by: bad Jim on January 15, 2006 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK

Similar to my favorite(author unknown);

"The human mind exists primarily to make excuses
for what we've already decided to do."

Posted by: Semanticleo on January 15, 2006 at 5:51 AM | PERMALINK

friggin' brilliant.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

That one too. And both soooo relevant to life in the USA today.

Posted by: Jones on January 15, 2006 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK

There's no hidden agenda here.

You expect us to believe that? Right after "...and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts"?

Posted by: ymr049c on January 15, 2006 at 7:03 AM | PERMALINK

Voltaire would find it easier today to be published than in 1763--but harder to be read.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on January 15, 2006 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

- Nobody should be punished for his thoughts

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 15, 2006 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

First off, the guys name was Francois Marie Arouet, not Voltaire, but we expect lies from the left.

Also, he never wrote the quote cited, in fact he never wrote in English.

More lies, just like Clinons lies about WMD

Posted by: Patton on January 15, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

No caricature moral relativists here!

Posted by: razor on January 15, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Are you kidding? Please stop eating the oatmeal and go back to the pop tarts.

Posted by: Pattonissexy on January 15, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Another Voltaire quote:

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities"

Posted by: Urinated State of America on January 15, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Voltaire is no match for the eloquence and humanity of george bush.

Posted by: Pechorin on January 15, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

The only Rousseau I ever found worthy of any note was Andre Rousseau who wrestled as Andre the Giant

Posted by: bob on January 15, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite quote from that era is from Montaigne:

"The world will be a better place when the last politician is strangled with the guts of the last priest."

(And they think Liberals are wimps. Huh.)

Posted by: CaliforniaDrySherry on January 15, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have that second Voltaire quote as,

"People who believe in absurdities will eventually commit atrocities."

Posted by: cld on January 15, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Patton regurgitated:

"First off, the guys name was Francois Marie Arouet, not Voltaire, but we expect lies from the left.

Also, he never wrote the quote cited, in fact he never wrote in English.

More lies, just like Clinons lies about WMD"

Posted by: Patton on January 15, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK


Merde

Posted by: MarkH on January 15, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Similar to my favorite(author unknown);

"The human mind exists primarily to make excuses
for what we've already decided to do."
Posted by: Semanticleo on January 15, 2006 at 5:51 AM | PERMALINK


I've had a running conversation with a friend for several years now about the true purpose of consciousness and language. With all of our talk we still haven't figured it out.

What is consciousness for? To be aware of how stupid we are?

Actually, the conscious mind is capable of handling a very small amount of information (perhaps you've heard of the "7 digits + or - 2" meme?), but the non-conscious (some say subconscious) mind is vast and never forgets *anything* ever (we just don't always recall it so well).

I say language is something developed naturally to allow us to communicate with one another, like so many geese squawking. But, consciousness is plainly different; we talk and write, for example, without having in our conscious mind the thing we're considering communicating.

Don't believe anybody, not even me!

I wonder if Voltaire ever said, "God, I hate King George."

Posted by: MarkH on January 15, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

How to, how you say?, kissey vous le french,

http://www.worldhum.com/how_to/item/kiss_hello_in_france/

Posted by: cld on January 15, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

"You know something, Schwarzenegger says in the film, after watching the [dancers] shake it, I can absolutely understand why Brazil is totally devoted to my favorite body part: the ass.

quoted in the LA Times, found at,
http://www.worldhum.com/weblog/item/brazil_its_totally_devoted_to_arnold_schwarzeneggers_favorite_body_20050913/

Posted by: cld on January 15, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

CaliforniaDrySherry

I loved it but(do you have a reference) think you made it up. But I loved it.

Posted by: lee on January 15, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

To speak in English one must place one's tongue between one's teeth...

...And I have no teeth.

Voltaire (spoken in French, of course)

PATTON, you can kiss my hairy ass.

Posted by: floopmeister on January 15, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

california dry sherry, 'twas voltaire, and not montaigne, iirc, who created the quotes about hanging kings by the guts of priests.

and while we post aphorisms from french authors, one of my favorites is from montaigne. i paraphrase:

i wonder if my cats gets as much fun playing with me as i do playing with my cat.

Posted by: harry near indy on January 16, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

That Diderot comment is one of Bush's favorite bon mots.

Posted by: Gotham Image on January 16, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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