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A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 1   By: (1694-1778)

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A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY

VOLUME I

By

VOLTAIRE

EDITION DE LA PACIFICATION

THE WORKS OF VOLTAIRE

A CONTEMPORARY VERSION

With Notes by Tobias Smollett, Revised and Modernized New Translations by William F. Fleming, and an Introduction by Oliver H.G. Leigh

A CRITIQUE AND BIOGRAPHY

BY

THE RT. HON. JOHN MORLEY

FORTY THREE VOLUMES

One hundred and sixty eight designs, comprising reproductions of rare old engravings, steel plates, photogravures, and curious fac similes

VOLUME V

E.R. DuMONT

PARIS LONDON NEW YORK CHICAGO

1901

The WORKS of VOLTAIRE

"Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation. Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization."

VICTOR HUGO.

LIST OF PLATES VOL. I

VOLTAIRE AT THE AGE OF THIRTY Frontispiece

MAHOMET

LOUIS AND MDLLE. DE LA VALLIÈRE

ANCIENT GREECE

A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.

The DICTIONNAIRE PHILOSOPHIQUE is Voltaire's principal essay in philosophy, though not a sustained work. The miscellaneous articles he contributed to Diderot's ENCYCLOPÉDIE which compose this Dictionary embody a mass of scholarly research, criticism, and speculation, lit up with pungent sallies at the formal and tyrannous ecclesiasticism of the period and the bases of belief on which it stood.

These short studies reflect every phase of Voltaire's sparkling genius. Though some of the views enunciated in them are now universally held, and others have become obsolete through extended knowledge, they were startlingly new when Voltaire, at peril of freedom and reputation, spread them before the people of all civilized nations, who read them still with their first charm of style and substance.

OLIVER H.G. LEIGH

[Illustration: Voltaire at the age of thirty]

VOLTAIRE

A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.

VOL. I

A, B, C APPARITION

A.

The letter A has been accounted sacred in almost every nation, because it was the first letter. The Egyptians added this to their numberless superstitions; hence it was that the Greeks of Alexandria called it hier'alpha ; and, as omega was the last of the letters, these words alpha and omega signified the beginning and the end of all things. This was the origin of the cabalistic art, and of more than one mysterious folly.

The letters served as ciphers, and to express musical notes. Judge what an infinity of useful knowledge must thus have been produced. A, b, c, d, e, f, g, were the seven heavens; the harmony of the celestial spheres was composed of the seven first letters; and an acrostic accounted for everything among the ever venerable Ancients.

A, B, C, OR ALPHABET.

Why has not the alphabet a name in any European language? Alphabet signifies nothing more than A , B , and A , B , signifies nothing, or but indicates two sounds, which two sounds have no relation to each other. Beta is not formed from alpha ; one is first, the other is second, and no one knows why.

How can it have happened that terms are still wanting to express the portal of all the sciences? The knowledge of numbers, the art of numeration, is not called the one two ; yet the first rudiment of the art of expressing our thoughts has not in all Europe obtained a proper designation.

The alphabet is the first part of grammar; perhaps those who are acquainted with Arabic, of which I have not the slightest notion, can inform me whether that language, which is said to contain no fewer than eighty words to express a horse , has one which signifies the alphabet .

I protest that I know no more of Chinese than of Arabic, but I have read, in a small Chinese vocabulary, that this nation has always had two words to express the catalogue or list of the characters of its language: one is ko tou , the other hai pien ; we have neither ko tou nor hai pien in our Occidental tongues... Continue reading book >>


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