02 February 2017

‘I will defend to the death your right to say it’

The epithet ‘I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it’ is sometimes attributed to Voltaire, but first occurs in a book called The Friends of Voltaire by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (writing under the pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre), in her chapter on Claude Helvétius.

Helvétius was a French philosopher whose book On the Mind aroused disapproval, was publicly burnt in Paris, and then became a bestseller.
‘On the Mind’ became not the success of a season, but one of the most famous books of the century. The men who had hated it, and had not particularly loved Helvetius, flocked round him now.

Voltaire forgave him all injuries, intentional or unintentional. 'What a fuss about an omelette!' he had exclaimed when he heard of the burning. How abominably unjust to persecute a man for such an airy trifle as that! 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,' was his attitude now.
(The Friends of Voltaire, London, 1906, pp.198-199.)

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position.
I need people to provide moral support both for fund-raising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

Update: My colleague Fabian has posted an article about counter-extremism and the rule of law.