Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
The Philosophical Dictionary
Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf
New York: Knopf, 1924

Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.


WHY does one hardly ever do the tenth part of the good one might do?

Why in half Europe do girls pray to God in Latin, which they do not understand?

Why in antiquity was there never a theological quarrel, and why were no people ever distinguished by the name of a sect? The Egyptians were not called Isiacs or Osiriacs; the peoples of Syria did not have the name of Cybelians. The Cretans had a particular devotion to Jupiter, and were never entitled Jupiterians. The ancient Latins were very attached to Saturn; there was not a village in Latium called Saturnian: on the contrary, the disciples of the God of truth taking their master's title, and calling themselves " anointed " like Him, declared, as soon as they could, an eternal war on all the peoples who were not anointed, and made war among themselves for fourteen hundred years, taking the names of Arians, Manicheans, Donatists, Hussites, Papists, Lutherans, Calvinists. And lastly, the Jansenists and the Molinists have had no more poignant mortification than that of not having been able to slaughter each other in pitched battle. Whence does this come?

Why is the great number of hard-working, innocent men who till the land every day of the year that you may eat all its fruits, scorned, vilified, oppressed, robbed; and why is it that the useless and often very wicked man who lives only hy their work, and who is rich only through their poverty, is on the contrary respected, courted, considered?

Why is it that, the fruits of the earth being so necessary for the conservation of men and animals, one yet sees so many years and so many countries where there is entire lack of these fruits?

Why is the half of Africa and America covered with poisons?

Why is there no land where insects are not far in excess of men?

Why does a little whitish, evil-smelling secretion form a being which has hard bones, desires and thoughts? and why do these beings always persecute each other?

Why does so much evil exist, seeing that everytling is formed by a God whom all theists are agreed in naming " good? "

Why, since we complain ceaselessly of our ills, do we spend all our time in increasing them?

Why, as we are so miserable, have we imagined that not to be is a great ill, when it is clear that it was not an ill not to be before we were born?

Why and how does one have dreams during sleep, if one has no soul; and how is it that these dreams are always so incoherent, so extravagant, if one has a soul?

Why do the stars move from west to east rather than from east to west?

Why do we exist? why is there anything?

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