Letters concerning the English Nation

By Voltaire; Nicholas Cronk | Go to book overview

LETTER XIII. On Mr. Locke.

PERHAPS no Man ever had a more judicious or more methodical Genius, or was a more acute Logician than Mr. Locke, and yet he was not deeply skill'd in the Mathematicks. This great Man could never subject himself to the tedious Fatigue of Calculations, nor to the dry Pursuit of Mathematical Truths, which do not at first present any sensible Objects to the Mind; and no one has given better Proofs than he, that 'tis possible for a Man to have a geometrical Head without the Assistance of Geometry. Before his Time, several great Philosophers had declar'd, in the most positive Terms, what the Soul of Man is; but as these absolutely knew nothing about it, they might very well be allow'd to differ entirely in opinion from one another.

In Greece, the infant Seat of Arts and of Errors, and where the Grandeur as well as Folly of the human Mind went such prodigious Lengths, the People us'd to reason about the Soul in the very same Manner as we do.

The divine Anaxagoras, in whose Honour an Altar was erected, for his having taught Mankind that the Sun was greater than Peloponnesus, that Snow was black, and that the Heavens were of Stone; affirm'd that the Soul was an aerial Spirit, but at the same Time immortal. Diogenes, (not he who was a cynical Philosopher after having coyn'd base Money) declar'd that the Soul was a Portion of the Substance of God; an Idea which we must confess was very sublime. Epicurus maintain'd that it was compos'd of Parts in the same Manner as the Body.

Aristotle who has been explain'd a thousand Ways, because he is unintelligible, was of Opinion, according to some of his Disciples, that the Understanding in all Men is one and the same Substance.

The divine Plato, Master of the divine Aristotle, and the divine Socrates Master of the divine Plato, us'd to say that

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