Sour Cherries from the Orchard of M Arouet

While simply following the historical wire of the small Jewish nation, one sees that it could not have another end. It is even praised it to have left Egypt like a horde of robbers, carrying all that it had borrowed of the Egyptians: it makes glory never not have saved neither old age, neither the sex, nor childhood, in the villages and the boroughs which it could seize. It dares to spread out an irreconcilable hatred against all the nations; it revolts against all its Masters. Always superstitious, always avid of the good of others, always barbarian, crawling in misfortune, and insolente in prosperity. Here are what were the Jews with the eyes of the Greeks and the Romans who could read their books; but, with the eyes of the Christians lit by the faith, they were our precursors, they prepared us the way, they were the heralds of Providence.
Voltaire, Essai sur les Moeurs et l’Esprit des Nations tr as Test on manners and the Espritdes Nations (Google, 2007 – my emphasis)

Sometimes, you just have to make do. I couldn’t find an English translation of Voltaire’s Essai sur les Moeurs et l’Esprit des Nations available on-line so, in this post, I’ll be working from the Google translation of an on-line copy in the original French. Where I can, I’ll render the Google transliteration into something a little more readable.

That emphasised sentence may be more familiar to you in this form:

The Jewish nation dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous — cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity. [This is what the Jews were in the eyes of the Greeks and the Romans who could read their books; but, in the eyes of the Christians lit by the faith, they were our precursors, they paved the way for us, they were the heralds of Providence.]

It looks pretty noxious, doesn’t it, even in the garbled Google translation? Even in the context of the whole paragraph. What was it, exactly, that Voltaire had against the Jews?

That’s not a very useful question. That second sentence – my rendition of the Google translation – is a better pointer to Voltaire’s main game. His main target is the Catholic dogma of his time, which still held that the Bible was literally true. Voltaire’s main point is that if you believe that, you have to accept that various sordid events – notably murders, assassinations and massacre – were divinely inspired and sanctioned. The implied question to the reader is “Is it really reasonable to believe this?â€? In that process, the reputation of the Jews comes in for a lot of collateral damage. I apologise to those readers for whom this explanation is unnecessary.

Before we go back to the beginning of the section of the Essai (or Test) on the Jews, let’s take a look at a short extract from the Philosophical Dictionary. It’s a good example of the shtick Voltaire is using in this section of the Essai/Test.

Though the style of the history of Kings and Chronicles is divine, it is nevertheless possible that the actions reported in these histories are not divine. David murders Uriah; Ishbosheth and Mephibosheth are murdered; Absalom murders Ammon; Joab murders Absalom; Solomon murders his brother Adonijah; Baasha murders Nadab; Zimri murders Ela; Omri murders Zimri; Ahab murders Naboth; Jehu murders Ahab and Joram; the inhabitants of Jerusalem murder Amaziah, son of Joash; Shallum, son of Jabesh, murders Zachariah, son of Jeroboam; Menahhem murders Shallum, son of Jabesh; Pekah, son of Remaliah, murders Pekahiah, son of Manehem; and Hoshea, son of Elah, murders Pekah, son of Remaliah. We pass over, in silence, many other minor murders. I pass over in silence many other trifling assassinations. It must be admitted that if the holy spirit wrote this history he did not choose a very edifying subject.
(“History of Jewish Kings and Chroniclesâ€?, Philosophical Dictionary tr Besterman)

I’ll spare you – and Voltaire’s reputation – the Google rendition of section XXXVIII. of the Test “Jews at time when they started to be knownâ€?. Here’s my rendition:

We will touch as little as possible on what is divine in the history of the Jews; or if we are forced to speak about it, it is because their miracles have been reported after the events. For the continual wonders which attended every epoch of this nation, we have the respect that one owes them; we believe in them with the reasonable faith required by the church which has replaced the synagogue; we do not question them; we always stick to the facts. We will speak about the Jews as we would speak about the Scythians and the Greeks, by weighing the probabilities and by discussing the facts. Since nobody in the world but themselves had written their history before the Romans destroyed their small State, only their annals will be consulted.

The annals that will be consulted are, of course, the books of the Old Testament. Voltaire’s account of these annals occupies 7 sections – then he moves on to the historian Josephus (which is where the Google translator piked out). Voltaire identifies several inconsistencies and anachronisms in the Biblical record then takes a little time out to:

…see how many Jews were exterminated by their own brothers, or even the order of God, from the time they wandered in the deserts, until the time when they had a king elected by providence.

The numbers are: 23,000 Levites who had their throats cut after worshipping the golden calf; 250 consumed by fire for the revolt of Coré; 14,700 who had their throats cut for the same revolt; 24,000 whose throats were cut for consorting with madianite girls, 42,000 whose throats were cut for not being able to pronounce “Shibolethâ€?; 40,000 killed by Benjaminites; 45,000 Benjaminites killed by other tribes; 50,070 “When the Ark was taken by the Philistines, and God, having afflicted them with haemorrhoids to punish them, they brought back the Ark to Bethsamès, and offered to the Lord five gold anuses and five gold rats; with the number of Bethsamites who were struck dead for looking at the Ark*â€?. After tabulating these figures, Voltaire continues:

Here are two hundred thirty-nine thousand twenty Jews exterminated by the order of God, or by their civil wars, without counting those who perished in the desert, and those who died in the battles against Cananéens, etc; which could go to more than one million men.

If one judged Jews like other nations, one could not conceive how the children of Jacob could have produced a large enough race to support such a loss. But God, who led them, God, who tested them and punished them, made this nation so different in everything from other men that it is necessary to look at them with other eyes than those with which one examines the rest, and not to judge these events as one judges ordinary events.

Whatever else you might say about Voltaire, it would be unwise to question his figures – if he says the Bible records the killing of 239,000 Jews in internecine warfare, then it does. Just as, when he refers, in the Philosophical Dictionary – a work that is much more accessible to readers of English than the Test – to the writings of rabbis, you can trust that he has read them. All the same, it’s possible that Voltaire, in his fixation on discrediting the dogma that the Bible was a literally true work of divine revelation was sometimes too indifferent to the fact that his researches were also producing ammunition for anti-Semites; that he should have practiced a little self-censorship for the benefit of the public order.

If Voltaire was an anti-Semite, what was the origin of this prejudice? Perhaps this passage from the Philosophical Dictionary gives an answer:

If your nurse told you that Ceres presides over corn, or that Vishnu and Xacahave several times taken human form, or that Sammonocodom came to cut down a forest, or that Odin is waiting for youin his hall somewhere in Jutland, or that Mohammed or somebody else made a journey into heaven; if then your tutor drove into your brain what your nurse engraved there, you will keep hold of it for life.

* Google tranlates this as:

When the arch was taken by the Philistines, and that God, to punish them, having afflicted them with hémorroïdes, they brought back the arch to Bethsamès, and that they offered to the Lord five gold anuses and five gold rats; Bethsamites, struck of died to have looked at the arch, with the number of

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Posted in history, Philosophy, politics
60 comments on “Sour Cherries from the Orchard of M Arouet
  1. silkworm says:

    There is no Egyptian record of Hebrews ever having been in Egypt, and no archaeological record of them having been in Egypt. The only honest conclusion is that there was no sojourn in Egypt and no “exodus”. The story is a total fabrication. The story was most likely thrust upon the native Canaanites by the Persians who sought to create a bulwark against their enemies the Egyptians.

    The land of Israel is not holy. It was not promised to the Jews by God (who doesn’t exist anyway). Consequently there is no justification for the oppression and killing of native Palestinians and theft of their land.

    Zionism is an evil, racist philosophy founded on superstition and myth.

  2. Tone it down silkie, or I’ll be sending you to your room.

  3. That moral certainty makes it all very easy doesn’t it silkworm? Almost as easy as a person with a strong religious belief would find it.

  4. Andrew, if you want to stoush with silkie, I suggest you invite him to your own blog for the purpose. You each get one more comment before I decide whether to put you both in moderation for 24 hours.

  5. Katz says:

    Nice job Gummo.

    You have smitten Mark Richardson hip and thigh, pointing out just how ignorant he was in quoting Voltaire out of context as evidence of Voltaire’s supposed anti-semitism.

    Really, Richardson will have to do much better than this if he wishes to salvage his reputation as a person who comments with accuracy and sincerity on important topics.

    It was Voltaire and other enlightenment figures who forced Christians in the nineteenth century to start distancing themselves from the punitive god of the Old Testament and to posit in its place the “God of Love”.

    Now, that rethinking of Christian theology did have unfortunate consequences for Christian/Jewish relations up to the middle of the 20th century.

    But Voltaire can hardly be blamed for this seeing as his attitude to doctrinaire Jews and doctrinaire Christians was “a plague on both your houses.”

  6. silkworm on 23 April 2007 at 10:29 am

    Zionism is an evil, racist philosophy founded on superstition and myth.

    Actually Zionism seems to be fairly un-racist, given the racial diversity of Israeli citizens. Semitic Jews have been mixing their blood with other races for millenia. Of course you must prove some ancestral blood lineage to Jews.

    Zionism is simply the ideology of nationalism with reference to Jews ie people of the Judaic religion.

    I suppose you could say that all nationalistic philosophies are “evil and founded on superstition and myth”. But that would mean writing off the British Dominions and its descendant nations, including Australia.

    By which time we might as well all pack up and bugger off. No point in trying to debate an ideological nut-job.

  7. FaceLift says:

    Interesting post, Gummo. I think I agree that Voltaire is less anti-semetic than concerned with challenging Christian thought. A bit like silkworm, whose resultant anti-semitism is really an outworking of his antichrist philosophy.

    I prefer the history of Israel as a warts-and-all compilation. Those Kings who murdered senselessly or for political advantage were held responsible, according to the text, and faced the consequences. Those who suffered in Israel as a result of rebellion were clearly forewarned of the price of their disobedience. The text gives us, even in the present age of grace, the expected outcome of wrong thoughts and actions, and are valuable to us as guidelines in what not to do!

    The idea of an austere God who brings swift, powerful and authoritive judgment along with terrible justice isn’t at all unreasonable. ‘Whom he loves he chastises!’ Love is more than an ooey-gooey romance. It is also a corrector of injustice and irreverance. We may live in an era of mercy, grace and love, where God makes allowances so thhat we can all have an opportunity to turn to him, but the ultimate expectation, according to the Bible, is a final and crushing judgment for those who reject God and his will, before a completely reconstructed future benefiting those who believe. This tells us that the all-powerful authoritive God of the Old Testament has not been in any way check-mated by the man Voltaire or his arguments. In fact, if the Church Universal bows to Voltaire’s logic in this regard, it will miss its mission to warn completely.

    Another aspect is the actual reason and thinking behind the formation and existance of Israel. I’m not sure if Voltaire grasps the significance of the creation of the Jewish nation, or its Biblical purpose, but it is important to look at the true background to God’s plan for redemption, and how he put together this plan using Israel. The whole point is the need of a Redeemer, of a Saviour, who brings God’s plan for humanity back on line after the Adamic rebellion introduced acorruptive sin element into the earth. The Redeemer is called the Seed, and would be the Word made flesh, Jesus, who would come from the lineage of Abraham, to who God’s promises were made and covenanted. Israel was to be the bloodline. Ther Lw of Moses was given to keep them in line and to bring this nation to the time of Christ. Their continual bickerings, rebellions, idolatory and irreverance, including invasions, exile and restoration, almost cost this Seed, and our redemption, but finally the Christ came and lived, died and was resurrected for the new man to be introduced. Israel is the chosen nation as Mary was the chosen vessel for the entry of the Seed as the Redeemer.

    The whole point is that Israel isn’t, nor was expected to be, perfect, or a moral example, or the model nation, although it was given that opportunity, but the carrier nation for the Redeemer, who would change everything. Israel still has a Biblical purpose, though less significant than that of Seed-carrier, and the signs are displayed before is yet in the Middle East as surrounding nations seek to destroy the Seed nation still. And the God of Love, Mercy and Grace is still the All-Powerful Avenger and God of Justice and Judgement. It all depends where you stand!

  8. Fyodor says:

    Oh, FFS.

    Extremely lazy research on your part, GT. You butcher the passage in translation, and decide to omit the note (6) attached to it:

    Here it is that one finds, in a reply to Bishop Warburton, the justification for the hatred of the Jews against all nations, written with much hatred and offence against many French writers:

    “Let us come now to the inveterate hatred which the Israelites have conceived against all nations. Tell me, does one cut the throats of father and mothers, sons and daughters, infants at the breast, and even animals, without hating? If a man has soaked in blood hands soiled with venom and ink, can he dare to say that one ought to murder without anger and hatred? Reread all the passages where it is commanded to the Jews not to leave a soul alive, and say then that they were not permitted to hate. It is a vulgar self-delusion; it’s a usurer who can’t count.

    “What?! To command one not to eat from the same plate as foreigners, not to touch their clothes, is this not commanding dislike of foreigners? The Jews, you say, hate only idolatry, not the idolaters: a jesting distinction!” [my translation]

    I’m a tremendous fan of Voltaire’s work, but you’re over-egging your defence: this is just one of several instances where he expresses anti-semitic opinions. It wasn’t unusual in that time and place, and much of his anti-semitism was caught up – as you note – in his aversion to theism of almost any kind, but he WAS anti-semitic by our standards. There’s no getting around the fact that he wasn’t perfect.

    Your admonition that he should not have been “indifferent to the fact that his researches were also producing ammunition for anti-Semites;” and “that he should have practiced a little self-censorship for the benefit of the public order.” is the height of revisionist naïveté.

  9. Fyodor,

    There were two things I wanted to avoid in writing this piece: firstly, the “today’s standards already!” defence and secondly, any committed, Voltaire buff, “Oh FFS! How dare you call Voltaire an anti-Semite” response. I didn’t (consciously at any rate) set out to provide a defence at all. Seems my subconscious beat me on the latter.

    And before you go all high horsey on my arse again, allow me to point out that there are one or two moments of conscious understatement on my part that you appear to have overlooked. For example in that “admonition” as you put it – I merely noted that it was possible that Voltaire should have censored himself.

  10. Thanks, Gummo – first time I have ever been threatened with moderation, anywhere.
    .
    On the main subject – I do not pretend to have the depth of classical education of others here, but diatribes like Voltaire’s against the Jews were a common and intellectually acceptable part of society at the time. Racism was, to use your translation of Voltaire, driven and engraved from a very early age into just about everyone. As on the previous thread about Burke, denigrating or, worse, ignoring any intellectual of the period on this basis would leave us all greatly intellectually improverished. On this I have to agree with Fyodor.

  11. Fyodor,

    As for the omission of Note (6) – well frankly, I couldn’t make head or tail of it, in Google translation.

    If by “Here it is that one finds, in a reply…” Voltaire means “Here is my reply…” the conclusion is pretty obvious. Makes you wonder how the old bugger got away with it, doesn’t it?

  12. Katz says:

    Bloody hell!

    Voltaire’s comments were about religious doctrine. They were doctrines established by the Jewish religion and then adopted by Christians.

    This has absolutely to do with Semites or with anti-Semites.

    Voltaire’s polemic is religious, not racial!

  13. Paul Norton says:

    There is no Egyptian record of Hebrews ever having been in Egypt, and no archaeological record of them having been in Egypt. The only honest conclusion is that there was no sojourn in Egypt and no “exodusâ€?. The story is a total fabrication. The story was most likely thrust upon the native Canaanites by the Persians who sought to create a bulwark against their enemies the Egyptians.

    So the ancient Persians created the stories of:

    * Jacob, Esau and the birthright of Isaac;
    * Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph’s multi-coloured coat and the seven fat years and seven lean years;
    * the enslavement of the ancient Hebrews in Egypt;
    * Moses being found by Pharaoh’s daughter in the bullrushes and brought up as a prince of Egypt;
    * Moses wandering for 40 years in the wilderness until a voice in a burning bush tells him to confront Pharaoh;
    * the ten plagues, the original Passover and the denoeument of these events in the crossing of the Red Sea;
    * manna from heaven, the Ten Commandments, the Golden Calf, the Tabernacle (including the detailed specifications) and forty years in the Sinai peninsula;
    * the complex dietary and other rules in the books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers;
    * the entry to Canaan and the travails of Joshua and the judges to wrest it from the Canaanites.

    Very creative, those Persians. And for thousands of years we were all fooled into thinking that this entire oeuvre was of Jewish origin, not Persian. Wait till President Ahamdinajab hears about this!:)

  14. hannah says:

    May I recommend that those who wish to comment on the alleged historical veracity of the Hebrew bible read the following:
    “The Bible Unearthed” Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, Pub. Simon and Schuster NY 2001.
    Or:
    “Testament-The Bible and History” John Romer
    ABC [That’s our ABC!] Sydney 1988
    Or:
    “The Bible and Archaeology” by J.Mclaughlin.
    Or:
    “The Mythic Past-Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel” T. Thompson Basic Books, London 1999

    All are respected academics [Finkelstein is Prof of Archaeology at Tel Aviv].All should be available in public libraries and all good bookshops. Sounds like an ad doesn’t it?

    Whilst no statement re religion is regarded by all as entirely accurate it is generally regarded nowadays that the bulk of the Tanakh was written AFTER the Jews were released from exile in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great the Persian king.

    You would be hard pressed to find a modern biblical scholar today who still maintains that the exodus occurred at all or that Joshua conquered Canaan.
    There has been a major historical revision of the old orthodoxy concerning alleged Jewish history.
    Sorry about that.

  15. Candida says:

    And before you go all high horsey on my arse again, allow me to point out that there are one or two moments of conscious understatement on my part that you appear to have overlooked. For example in that “admonitionâ€? as you put it – I merely noted that it was possible that Voltaire should have censored himself.

    Oh yeah, I forgot that Voltaire was in favour of censorship. Jaysus.

    Why would he censor himself if he believed what he was saying and suffered no penalty for saying it? For Voltaire, putting the boot into a disliked ethnic minority was hardly on a par, politically, with taking on the Church or the King. As I stated earlier, you ARE holding Voltaire to an ethical standard he didn’t share. It’s a ridiculous notion.

    As for the omission of Note (6) – well frankly, I couldn’t make head or tail of it, in Google translation.

    The fact that you don’t understand the original text does not excuse your selective quotation from that text. Either use a decent translation or learn French. Either way, you got it wrong.

    If by “Here it is that one finds, in a reply…â€? Voltaire means “Here is my reply…â€? the conclusion is pretty obvious. Makes you wonder how the old bugger got away with it, doesn’t it?

    Only the quoted text (from his work Mélanges, as Note 6 points out) is Voltaire’s, GT, the bit you’re referring to is by the editor.

    So, no, it doesn’t make me “wonder how the old bugger got away with it, doesn’t it?” It does make me wonder, however, WTF you think you’re doing analysing a text written in a language you don’t understand.

    Voltaire’s comments were about religious doctrine. They were doctrines established by the Jewish religion and then adopted by Christians.

    This has absolutely to do with Semites or with anti-Semites.

    Voltaire’s polemic is religious, not racial!

    The FULL title of the work by Voltaire cited by GT is Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l’histoire, depuis Charlemagne jusqu’à Louis XIII.
    This means, roughly, “Essay on the morals and spirit of nations, and on the principal feats of history, from Charlemagne to Louis XIII”. That is, it’s a work of history and ethnography focusing on nations and ethnicity, NOT religion per se.

    When Voltaire criticises the Jewish people in this essay, he does so primarily on an ethnic basis. That is, the bashing of the Jewish people is not collateral to the bashing of the Jewish religion; it is deliberate. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it’s the truth: Voltaire was, in many ways, racist. Get over it.

  16. John Greenfield says:

    silkworm

    I am afraid the only truth we can draw is a rather ugly one; an ugliness you have clearly rehearsed down to a fine art. To pollute Gummo’s fascinating post into a sophomoric jihad on behalf of the “Palestinians” against the ‘filthy racist Zionists’ is rather sad. And inconsiderate.

    If you are going to weigh in on the inadmissibility of spurious claims to real estate from divine realtors in times gone by, surely we will be expecting from you an extemporisation on the inadmissibilty of claims to title of property such as, oh, I don’t know, how about that building with the shiny yellow top round Jerusalem way? After all, what is good for the pig is the good for the piglet, no?

    Oh, and by the way, there are many sources hypothesized for the Israeli sojourn in Egypt from the Hyksos, the “Sea Peoples” and on. I do not know the answers, but there are far finer scholars than you and I who sepnd their lives on this. In fact, there are quite a lot of them. You would do well to learn some humility. At the same time you should see a professional about your reflexive antipathy towards the descendants of Abraham and Moses.

    And now, back to our regular programming schedule.

  17. John Greenfield says:

    Jack Strochi

    Actually Zionism seems to be fairly un-racist, given the racial diversity of Israeli citizens.

    That’s what I discovered as well. I was having a discussion with somebody who started raving about evil and racist Zionism (I am only a recent student of the history of the Middle East).

    So I went and looked up some Encyclopedias, the CIA Fact Book, and a few other common every day sources. I was stunned to find that Israel is basically as multi-ethnic and multi-racial as Australia, Britain, and maybe even the US and Canada. And due to the genuine multilingual nature of Israeli society, all up Israel would have to figure in the world’s top 3 multicultural societies. It would be placed ahead of Australia!

    So where is the “Zionism is Racism” crowd getting its data? And how on earth did the UN pass that 1970s “Zionism is Racism” Resolution? What WERE people smoking in the 1970s?

    Compared to the nations that occupy about 50,000 square miles around Israel, even Japan looks like a multicultural nirvana!

  18. Stephen L says:

    Whether or not the Jews spent time in Egypt is not actually all that relevant to the validity of zionism. Secular zionism bases its claim on the Jews being indigenous to a specific area. Although some people have disputed that modern day Jews have anything in common with the peoples who were living in the area that is now Israel at the time of Roman occupation I don’t think that claim is treated with a great deal of seriousness.

    If the Jews are native to the area, whether or not we spent time in Egypt is not terribly relevant – if you support indigenous self-determination for other groups, including the Palestinians, then this has to be extended to the Jews.

    The ultra-zionism that claims the Jews’ right to self determination takes precedence over the Palestinians’ requires all sorts of biblical back-up, but zionism per se does not. Where native American tribes both claim to be indigenous to the same land it is not necessary to believe one or the other’s creation myths – if there is evidence that both lived in the area for a long period of time and have a cultural and spiritual attachment to it then both *are* indigenous and deserve the right to self determination in some portion of that land.

  19. John Greenfield says:

    hannah

    Yes, Finkelstein is a great read. So is Thomas Thompson, particularly “The Bible in History: How Writer’s Create a Past.” And don’t worry, depsite its title there is no mention mid-twentieth century French posseurs engaging in discourses or “othering.”

    For those who think Edward Said is a saint,a great read in an accessible style is Martin Bernal’s “Black Athena.”

  20. Katz says:

    Nothing to get over.

    In Voltaire’s world race ≠ ethnicity in the scientific sense of the words race and ethnicity.

    In any case, Voltaire lived in a world before any notion of race akin to what we mean when we say “racist” or “racism” came into existence.

    For Voltaire, the word nations (fr) meant persons under a single polity, or almost interchangeably, persons adhering to a single set of principles or religion.

    Voltaire was criticising Jewish culture. He was not saying no Jew was capable of achieving, by Voltaire’s lights, a higher form of culture.

    In any case

    depuis Charlemagne jusqu’à Louis XIII

    means exactly what you claim it to mean: “from Charlemagne to Louis XIII”

    The last time I looked, the events depicted in the Old Testament occurred long before the birth of Charlemagne.

  21. Katz, you keep begging me to hammer you on this point, despite your obvious ignorance of the text: look at the table of contents and reconsider your position.

    Race? II.— Des différentes races d’hommes. “II. The different races of men”. Of course he distinguished between races of men. That he did not have our conception of race and ethnicity does not mean that he did not differentiate, or claim for some superiority over others.

    Nations? III. — De l’antiquité des nations. “III. On the antiquity of nations”. Voltaire discusses ethnic groups from well before the concept of the nation-state was born.

    The last time I looked, the events depicted in the Old Testament occurred long before the birth of Charlemagne.

    Essential conjunction et, “and”. Look at the contents: Voltaire discusses every known civilisation from the Mesopotamians on, INCLUDING a discussion of the Old Testament events. He even has a stab at pre-history, for feck’s sake. Honestly, did you even bother to GLANCE at this text you’re discussing in such confident terms?

    That the title focuses on the period from Charlemagne to Louis XIII only shows his native bias – the period, of course, encapsulating the history of the French nation up to that point.

    Voltaire was criticising Jewish culture. He was not saying no Jew was capable of achieving, by Voltaire’s lights, a higher form of culture.

    Very specific definition of anti-semitism you got going there, Katz. The fact is, he vilified Jewish culture. He WAS anti-semitic.

  22. Katz says:

    Il est parlé de satyres dans presque tous les auteurs anciens. Je ne vois pas que leur existence soit impossible; on étouffe encore en Calabre quelques monstres mis au monde par des femmes. Il n’est pas improbable que dans les pays chauds des singes aient subjugué des filles. Hérodote, au livre II, dit que, pendant son voyage en Égypte, il y eut une femme qui s’accoupla publiquement avec un bouc dans la province de Mendès; et il appelle toute l’Égypte en témoignage. Il est défendu dans le Lévitique, au chapitre xvii, de s’unir avec les boucs et avec les chèvres. Il faut donc que ces accouplements aient été communs; et jusqu’à ce qu’on soit mieux éclairci, il est à présumer que des espèces monstrueuses ont pu naître de ces amours abominables. Mais si elles ont existé, elles n’ont pu influer sur le genre humain; et, semblables aux mulets, qui n’engendrent point, elles n’ont pu dénaturer les autres races.

    Yes indeed Dr P.

    Voltaire is certainly exhaustive in his discussion of all types of humans. In the above paragraph he explains how there once existed a “race” of humans called satyrs. Indeed, his proof of their existence extends to quotation of Leviticus’s prohibition against intercourse with goats!

    Even French farm boys had been having their bestial ways in the barnyard since time immemorial without troubling France, or the world, with an outbreak of satyrs.

    Don’t you smell a tiny rat here?

  23. Fiasco da Gama says:

    I don’t know what it’s got to do with Said, but it’s true, John G., Bernal’s Black Athena is accessible. Totally unnecessary and ahistorical, but accessible nonetheless.
    See (for a start), Lefkowitz and MacLean Rogers, Black Athena Revisited, Chapel Hill, 1996, for a point-by-point smackdown of the above.
    Katz, I don’t think it’s rats I smell. I’d quit while you were behind (comme c’etait).

  24. Katz says:

    FDG, this isn’t the first time you’ve rushed to judgement.

  25. Thanks, Gummo – first time I have ever been threatened with moderation, anywhere.

    You’re welcome, Andrew. Next time, if you prefer it, I’ll skip the warning and toss you straight out of the venue.

    No brawling in the bleachers please ladies and gentlemen – as silkworm has evidently taken the hint and buggered off – for now at least – I see no need for further responses to his comment on Zionism.

  26. Thanks for the offer, Gummo – but I have had that happen before, if only once. No novelty in that one and I enjoy it too much here.
    That said – if you want me to go you only have to ask.

  27. silkworm says:

    …as silkworm has evidently taken the hint and buggered off…

    Are you trying to provoke me? For a moderator, you are not very moderate!

  28. John Greenfield says:

    Fiasco da Gama

    Said’s “Orienatlism” was the inspiration for “Black Athena.” BA can usefully be described as the “Classicists/Ancient Historian’s ‘Orientalism.'” It was inspired by the same ‘occidentalist’ ideology that made Said a rich man and the Luvvies luvvie. Actually, I find Bernal’s arguments far more compelling than Said’s.

    Bernal’s first two chapters on historiography (particularly German historiography in the nineteenth century) are quite persuasive. Though he suffers the same selection and confirmation biases suffered by Said. Of course, after that his analysis of philology and particularly archaeology sees his thesis break down. Still, Bernal was nowhere near as tendentious as Said.

    I have only read the occasional review of Leftkowitz and co. But a book you have probably read that is scholarship on a plane that the Said’s and Bernal’s could only dream aboout is Walter Burcket’s “The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age.”

    I haven’t had a chance to look into Burcket’s latest “Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture” but I am sure it is magnificent.

  29. Fiasco da Gama says:

    a book you have probably read

    To be honest, no, I only enjoy history for the fights. As far as I’m concerned, a book or article’s not good reading unless somewhere you can picture a middle-aged academic or ‘independent scholar’ (heh) having a cry.
    Still, if we can go about not reading the books the other has read, perhaps we can have a decent thread here. I’ll start—I’ve never read Voltaire. Not even in Google Translation. What haven’t you read, apart from Lefkowitz?

  30. John Greenfield says:

    I haven’t read “On Grammatology.” I first had to confront Derrida in an upper level undergraduate historiograhy course. I was writing a paper on the historiography of the Holocaust and came across a television discussion Derrida held in Israel. I just read it and thought “you have GOT to be joking! If this guy is not the greatest snake-oil salesman since Lacan, I’ll eat my hat.”

    So I borrowed “On Grammatology” and a few other bits and pieces, bought a couple of bottles of Verdello and settled in for a weekend of differance, middle voices, deconstructions, others, and such. Well blow me down, if my weekend wasn’t ruined less than one hour into the ordeal.

    In one of the tomes, on p.1 the big D declared “I have no simple and formalisable response to this question [what is deconstruction]. All my writings are attempts to have it out with this formidable question.”

    I declared “sounds reasonable to me. Give me a tingle when you’ve finished ‘having it out.'” The weekend and Verdello were spent much more productively with Cold Chisel and Camille Paglia.

  31. anthony says:

    [helpful] verdelho [/helpful]

  32. The weekend and Verdello were spent much more productively with Cold Chisel and Camille Paglia.

    Cheap wine and a three-day grope?

    I’ve never read Voltaire

    What le fuck? Your untimely death is no fecking excuse, boyo.

  33. Cheap wine and a three-day grope?

    Indeed. Or, cheap line and a three-way trope.

    Sorry. Us middle-aged independent scholars and former academics have a pathetic sense of humour.

    *cries*

  34. Oh dear, moderated. Can’t think what it could have been, though.

  35. Pretty cheesy, PC, if not quite hommage frais.

    Join the club, BTW. M. Grumpski appears to have me on permanent moderation, most likely because of my incessant immoderation.

  36. Kim says:

    Nope, folks. We turned on the “automatically moderate a comment from someone who hasn’t commented before” switch because a lot of spam comments were getting through the spaminator. So when people choose a new moniker, WordPress is assuming they’re a new commenter. It’s dumb, I’m afraid.

  37. Pseudonymph says:

    Ah, that explains it. Sorry, GT.

    Apologies, Mlle. Berella, for discussing comments policy in a scandalously open forum such as this ‘un, but doesn’t that run rather contra the grain of LP’s noble and longstanding tradition of *spits* “pseudonym play” *spits* ?

  38. Fiasco da Gama says:

    cheap line and a three-way trope

    Nice, Pavlov’s Cat, I think that well shows up the lie in your comment about your sense of humour. I’m sure that sense of humour would be unchanged, furthermore, if you owned your own publishing house, like the ‘independent scholar’ given to fits of conspicuous victimhood I was thinking of. [Sings] but baby that was years ago…

    What le fuck?

    Young Greensleeves here has the idea of this game, boxhead, you’re supposed to be joining the glorious ignorance brigade, not being shocked (shocked!) by it. What else haven’t I read? I’ve never read any of Karl Popper’s works. My contribution on any other subject, therefore, is void.
    Your turn.
    PS. Seriously now: John, David Cannadine’s Ornamentalism is definitely worth a read if you’re into revisionist Empire stuff. I’m sure it’ll go well with a nice Riesling.

  39. Kim says:

    doesn’t that run rather contra the grain of LP’s noble and longstanding tradition of *spits* “pseudonym playâ€? *spits* ?

    Yeah! But like I said, WP is dumb.

  40. David Cannadine’s Ornamentalism is definitely worth a read if you’re into revisionist Empire stuff.

    I preferred David Carradine’s orientalism, actually.

    THAT “independent scholar” is proof positive that you don’t have to read a book to have an opinion.

    Me? I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.

  41. Mark says:

    I’ve switched off the evil moderation button.

  42. Takes more than just a mammary to make me cry says:

    Does that mean I get in?

  43. the ‘independent scholar’ given to fits of conspicuous victimhood I was thinking of

    Yes, giving both independence and scholarship a bad name at one blow like that was quite an achievement.

    With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.

    Truthiness is indeed a bad thing, M. Mounds, in any of its manifestations. ‘When I’m asked if I think it’s true that universities stifle writers, my answer is that I don’t think they stifle enough of them’ — Flannery O’Connor.

    I really heart this thread. It’s like Big Brother for Nerds.

  44. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Big Brother for Nerds

    That’s just what I thought, kittykat, each one aimless, another year the worse for wear.
    I wonder whether an untruthful Big Brother for Pseudonymous Nerds would feature a plastic turkey slap?

  45. Laura says:

    Fyodor, any time you want to read my thesis chapter on Metropolitan…..

  46. You Know I Don't Want To Get Caught Up In All That Funky Sh*t Goin' Down In The City says:

    Nothing important to say, just testing the limits of the name-recognition code.

    Glad to see this thread is finally becoming some fun; early on, it was utterly ludicrous. Ah well, what can be done. They dance this mess around.

    THEY DO ALL SIXTEEN DANCES! Do the Coo-ca-tchoo. Do the Shy Tuna! Do the Camel Walk. Do the Hip-o-Crite.

    j_p_z, doing the Escalator….

  47. John Greenfield says:

    Cheap line? That WOULD be nice! My dealer’s out of town, so I’m scratching around the back of the toaster and under the bed. So far, I’ve found only a few stale roaches and a couple of Commies!

    And beware of historians bearing tropes! On the same weekend I had planned with Msr. Derrida, I witnessed Hayden White doing the splits with a couple or three tropes on the Holocaust.

    Viva la differance!

  48. Looks like I can put the pick handle back under the bar then…

  49. Nabakov says:

    Well…as some frog aphorist once said..

    “Chacun s’egare, et le moins imprudent, est celui-la qui plus tot se repent.”

    Personally, I reckon…
    …tant pis…( which is not french for “fuck your pissy taunts” but should be)

  50. Nabakov says:

    Haiku time!

    Cabaret Voltaire
    Épater les bourgeois now
    Needling a thread

  51. Pavlov's Cat says:

    I’ve always wanted it to be French for ‘My auntie is pissed’ but I don’t think it means that either.

  52. Laura says:

    “la plume de ma tante”….

    The smoke that comes out of my aunt’s ears when she chucks a tanty?

    Sorry.

  53. ‘La tanty de ma tante’ does have a lovely ring to it.

  54. Nabakov says:

    La tanty de ma tante

    C’est un killer nome pour un Franglais blog.

  55. Yevgeny Zamyatin says:

    Oui.

  56. Boris Yeltsin says:

    And I did. All over the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base.

  57. The Devil Drink says:

    Come back, Boris Nicolayevich! We need leaders in these uncertain times who’re prepared to reject the airs and graces of the powerful.
    This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

  58. Another Kim says:

    Is that a wodka raised for Boris?

    Never mind. I’ll raise one with the Devil.

  59. This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

    Faaark. Even the Devil wears beer-goggles.

    Fyodor, any time you want to read my thesis chapter on Metropolitan…

    I thought you’d never offer, Laura; I’d be honoured to read your chapter.

    I did wonder whether anyone else would get the reference. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before you bit…

  60. Fiasco da Gama says:

    This one’s for you two critiquist literarians, Laura Allordinary and Fyodo-boxhead:

    What’s the point of reading fiction?

    It’s portrayal of the uncertainties of fact?

    Welcome to the internet… questions have answers now.

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