instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Speaking of false bravado

What would you guess is the percentage of people who say or write to the effect that, "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," who actually would defend that right to the death?

Voltaire, for one -- the one, of course, to whom that statement is attributed, though more properly by way of sentiment than direct quotation -- managed to live to the age of eighty-four, dying of exertion after a triumphant return to Paris, dying in fact content with the thought "that the King is the defender of justice."

Which isn't to say Voltaire wouldn't have died defending the right of someone to say something he did not agree with, had the opportunity presented itself. But anyone who proposes things he would defend to the death ought to be particularly thankful each day the opportunity fails to present itself.