21 February 2006

Tuesday Quote Extra - Depravity and Bullshit

In the context of yesterday’s extended quote from Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, it is interesting to note this quote from Voltaire:
Plus les moeurs sont dépravés, plus les expressions deviennent mesurées; on croit regagner en langage ce qu’on a perdu en vertu.
This is one of two quotes from Voltaire inserted by Byron in the Preface to Cantos VI-VIII of Don Juan. In my Penguin edition, it is translated as:
The more depraved our conduct it, the more guarded words become; we believe we can regain with words what we have lost in character.
Byron was responding to charges of blasphemy (and worse) leveled against the earlier Cantos. But it is worth considering that Voltaire anticipated nicely the psychology of the bullshitter.


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