Archive | August 17, 2010


Voltaire 10-franc note

Michael Johnson’s article “The Delightful Voltaire” (linked from LRC today) tells me something I never knew before about Voltaire – namely that he chose the name “Voltaire” as an anagram of “Arouet l.j.” (the “l.j.” standing for “le jeune”). Johnson calls it a “loose” anagram, but it’s actually quite exact, given the once-prevalent convention that I and J are interchangeable, as are U and V (a convention that made sense in a culture steeped in Latin).

Incidentally, in another article recently linked from LRC, Tim Black claims that “the attacks launched against religion by thinkers like John Locke or Voltaire were not targeted at its content – they were targeted at its form as part of the state.” This sentence is a bit ambiguous, since Locke and Voltaire were attacking particular religious institutions and doctrines, not “religion” as such – but they clearly thought that various widely held religious views were false and dangerous, and were definitely attacking these views and not solely their forcible imposition by government (though of course they attacked that too).

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