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26. Three aphorisms from Diderot, Philosophical Thoughts; Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), On Crimes and Punishments, 1786; and Rousseau, The Social Contract42

Everywhere I hear loud accusations of heresy. The Christian is heretical in Asia, the Muslim in Europe, the Papist in London, the Calvinist in Paris, the Jansenist at the top of the rue St Jacques, the Molinist at the bottom of the faubourg Saint-Médard. What is a heretic? Is everyone heretical, or nobody?


Freedom disappears the instant laws make it possible in certain circumstances for man to stop being a person and become a thing.


If we try to find out what exactly constitutes the greatest good of all, which must be the ultimate aim of any system of legislation, we will find that it can be reduced to two main principles, liberty and equality. Liberty, because any amount of dependency on the State means that the State loses that same amount of strength. Equality, because liberty cannot survive without it.


Read online the free original text (facsimile) of Diderot’s Œuvre Philosophiques et Dramatiques, 1772 edition:

Read the free original text online (facsimile) of Beccaria’s Dei delitti e delle pene, 1786 edition, p. 106:

Read the free original text online (facsimile) of Rousseau’s Du contrat social, 1766 edition:

42 Denis Diderot, Pensées philosophiques, in his Œuvres philosophiques et dramatiques de M. Diderot, Amsterdam: 1772, III, pp. 1-82; Cesare Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene, Paris: Cazin, 1786, p. 106; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du contrat social, 1762, Book II, ch. 11: ‘Des Divers systèmes de législation’, Geneva: chez Marc-Michel Bousquet, 1766, p. 88.