Random Quote #70 topic: voltaire-dict, Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire, 1694-1778



All the philosophers thought matter eternal but the arts appear new.
There is not one, even to the art of making bread, which is not recent.
The first Romans ate pap; and these conquerors of so many nations never
thought of either windmills or watermills. This truth seems at first to
contradict the antiquity of the globe such as it is, or supposes
terrible revolutions in this globe. The inundations of barbarians can
hardly annihilate arts which have become necessary. I suppose that an
army of negroes come among us like locusts, from the mountains of
Cobonas, through the Monomotapa, the Monoemugi, the Nosseguais, the
Maracates; that they have traversed Abyssinia, Nubia, Egypt, Syria, Asia
Minor, the whole of our Europe; that they have overthrown everything,
ransacked everything; there will still remain a few bakers, a few
cobblers, a few tailors, a few carpenters: the necessary arts will
survive; only luxury will be annihilated. It is what was seen at the
fall of the Roman Empire; the art of writing even became very rare;
almost all those which contributed to the comfort of life were reborn
only long after. We invent new ones every day.

From all this one can at bottom conclude nothing against the antiquity
of the globe. For, supposing even that an influx of barbarians had made
us lose entirely all the arts even to the arts of writing and making
bread; supposing, further, that for ten years past we had no bread,
pens, ink and paper; the land which has been able to subsist for ten
years without eating bread and without writing its thoughts, would be
able to pass a century, and a hundred thousand centuries without these

It is quite clear that man and the other animals can exist very well
without bakers, without novelists, and without theologians, witness the
whole of America, witness three quarters of our continent.

The newness of the arts among us does not therefore prove the newness of
the globe, as was claimed by Epicurus, one of our predecessors in
reverie, who supposed that by chance the eternal atoms in declining, had
one day formed our earth. Pomponace said: "_Se il mondo non e eterno,
per tutti santi e molto vecchio._"


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