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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.

Recent posts

Class Conflict in the Caves

I remember years ago reading a book about cave paintings. 
It was an unusual book. I can't remember the title and am not going to work too hard on recovering information about it, but I'll just write down here what I can remember, for fun.
The writer seemed to be a Marxist, though of a specifically unorthodox kind. He disbelieved in the traditional Marxist notion of "primitive communism," that is, the quasi-Rousseauist idea that there was a time in human history before private property, surplus value, or class conflict. The rise of the ancient slave societies (on this trad-Marxist view) was over the dead body of those more primitive communities.
But the book I was reading said that Marx was wrong in this, that there was a class conflict underway even among the cave dwellers, and that the famous admired cave paintings are evidence of it. 
I don't remember the particulars of the argument, but IIRC at all, the author was telling us we shouldn't admire those pai…

Ah, Niall, What Have You Gotten Yourself Into Now?

I admire Niall Ferguson, as I believe I've indicated in this blog in the past.

I reviewed the first volume of his two-volume work on the life of Henry Kissinger three years back. In understand the second volume is expected to make an appearance at the end of this year and I look forward to it.

This, however, looks bad for him:

https://newrepublic.com/minutes/148653/niall-ferguson-wanted-opposition-research-student


Does Matt Pottinger Really Exist?

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/trumps-saturday-of-lies-president-says-official-who-briefed-reporters-doesnt-exist.html

What does this mysterious hypothetical existent look like?

If he existed, he would look a lot like the smiling fellow above.

The Orange One's lies get more bizarre as his office and its trappings go to his discolored head.

On May 26 The New York Times reported (accurately, the videotape backs them up on this) that senior White House official had said that there wasn't enough time to hold the North Korean summit on the originally scheduled date of June 12.

Almost immediately, POTUS -- who seems to have convinced himself that his cancellation of that meeting is a matter of no consequence, that he is still making up his regal mind whether to attend the already-cancelled meeting -- tweeted that the Times was lying, that nobody said that, and in fact that the senior administration official in question "doesn't exist."

This wasn't a m…

Did Voltaire Say It?

I have found this line online, attributed to Voltaire.

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

Now: Voltaire is one of those figures to whom things (passive voice) get attributed. Or, as I believe Benjamin Franklin wisely put it, "You can't believe all quotations you find on the internet."

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.

Not that that's a bad cause. Regular readers of this blog know my sympathies. But deception mars every cause for which it is employed. [And a reasonable induction is that it is employed for all human causes.]

So: I open this to my readers. What are the odds that actually comes from Voltaire? Or from anyone speaking or writing earlier than, say, 1932?