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Does Any Reader Know Renan?

I have never read anything by Renan and it isn't a project I'm likely to launch for myself any time soon.

So I can only know what the fuss was about second or third hand.

Here is a passage referencing Renan in William James' VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE.

James is discussing the I-don't-care or nothing-matters-anyway state of mind. He says that the phrase "all is vanity" is "the relieving word in all difficult crises for this mode of thought, which that exquisite genius Renan took pleasure, in his later years of sweet decay, in putting into coquettishly sacrilegious forms which remain to us as excellent expressions of the 'all is vanity' state of mind."

I'd be curious to know if any reader knows Renan well enough to recognize this description as apt or to quarrel with it as not.

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"It is not inequality which is the real misfortune, it is dependence."

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The inequality/dependence line seems as if it might have been created by someone intent on arguing against the New Deal, or some subsequent welfare-state sort of development, and backdated to Voltaire to give it some Enlightenment cred.

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