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Authority

Wretched human beings, whether you wear green robes, turbans, black robes or surplices, cloaks and neckbands, never seek to use authority where there is question only of reason, or consent to be scoffed at throughout the centuries as the most impertinent of all men, and to suffer public hatred as the most unjust.

A hundred times has one spoken to you of the insolent absurdity with which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you for the hundred and first, and I hope you will keep the anniversary of it for ever; I desire that there be graved on the door of your Holy Office:

"Here seven cardinals, assisted by minor brethren, had the master of thought in Italy thrown into prison at the age of seventy; made him fast on bread and water because he instructed the human race, and because they were ignorant."

There was pronounced a sentence in favour of Aristotle's categories, and there was decreed learnedly and equitably the penalty of the galleys for whoever should be sufficiently daring as to have an opinion different from that of the Stagyrite, whose books were formerly burned by two councils.

Further on a faculty, which had not great faculties, issued a decree against innate ideas, and later a decree for innate ideas, without the said faculty being informed by its beadles what an idea is.

In the neighbouring schools judicial proceedings were instituted against the circulation of the blood.

An action was started against inoculation, and parties have been subpoenaed.

At the Customs of thought twenty-one folio volumes were seized, in which it was stated treacherously and wickedly that triangles always have three angles; that a father is older than his son; that Rhea Silvia lost her virginity before giving birth to her child, and that flour is not an oak leaf.

In another year was judged the action: Utrum chimera bombinans in vacuo possit comedere secundas intentiones, and was decided in the affirmative.

In consequence, everyone thought themselves far superior to Archimedes, Euclid, Cicero, Pliny, and strutted proudly about the University quarter.


Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire