PRAY inform me, doctor--I do not mean a doctor of medicine, who really posseses some degree of knowledge, who has long examined the sinuosities of the brain, who has investigated whether there is a circulating fluid in the nerves, who has repeatedly and assiduously dissected the human matrix in vain, to discover something of the formation of thinking beings, and who, in short, knows all of our machine that can be known; alas! I mean a very different person, a doctor of theology;--I adjure you, by that reason at the very name of which you shudder, tell me why it is, that in consequence of your young and handsome housekeeper saying a few loving words, and giving herself a few coquettish airs, your blood becomes instantly agitated, and your whole frame thrown into a tumult of desire, which speedily leads to pleasures, of which neither herself nor you can explain the cause, but which terminate with the introduction into the world of a thinking being encrusted all over with original sin. Inform me, I entreat you, how the action tends to, or is connected with the result? You may read and re-read Sanchez and Thomas Aquinas, and Scot and Bonaventure, but you will never in consequence know an iota the more of that incomprehensible mechanism by which the eternal architect directs your ideas and your actions, and originates the little bastard of a priest predestined to damnation from all eternity.
On the following morning, when taking your chocolate, your memory retraces the image of pleasure which you experienced the evening before, and the scene and rapture are repeated. Have you any idea, my great automaton friend, what this same memory, which you possess in common with every species of animals, really is? Do you know what fibres recall your ideas, and paint in your brain the joys of the evening by a continuous sentiment, a consciousness, a personal identity which slept with you and awoke with you? The doctor replies, in the language of Thomas Aquinas, that all this is the work of his vegetative soul, his sensitive soul, and his intellectual soul, all three of which compose a soul which, although without extension itself, evidently acts on a body possessed of extension in course.
I perceived by his embarrassed manner, that he has been stammering out words without a single idea; and I at length say to him, If you feel, doctor, that, however reluctantly, you must in your own mind admit that you do not know what a soul is, and that you have been talking all your life without any distinct meaning, why not acknowledge it like an honest man? Why do you not conclude the same as must be concluded from the physical promotion of Doctor Bourssier, and from certain passages of Malebranche, and, above all, from the acute and judicious Locke, so far superior to Maleblanche,--why do you not, I say, conclude that your soul is a faculty which God has bestowed upon you without disclosing to you the secret of his process, as he has bestowed on you various others? Be assured, that many men of deep reflection maintain that, properly speaking, the unknown power of the divine artificer, and his unknown laws, alone perform everything in us: and that, to speak more correctly still, we shall never know in fact anything at all about the matter.
The doctor at this becomes agitated and irritated; the blood rushes into his face; if he had been stronger than myself, and had riot been restrained by a sense of decency, he would certainly have struck me. His heart swells; the systole and diastole are interrupted in their regular operation; his brain is compressed; and he falls down in a fit of apoplexy. What connection could there be between this blood, and heart, and brain, and an
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Publication information: Book title: The Philosophical Dictionary from the French of M. de Voltaire:. Volume: 2. Contributors: Voltaire - Author. Publisher: W. Dugdale. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1843. Page number: 296.
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