I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.
Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire
To M. le Riche, February 6, 1770
It was not Voltaire, but his biographer, S. G. Talentyre in The Friends of Voltaire, who originated the famous remark, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
From The Great Thoughts (link is to the 2nd Edition, mine is the 1st Edition–1985) compiled by George Seldes.
[I sometimes think of deleting a comment on my blog from someone too stupid to know how to determine truth from falsity. They may be so pig-headed as to continuing insisting the righteousness of their cause despite uncountable instances of them presented with overwhelming evidence their cause is at best ill-advised and I feel some frustration at their inability or refusal to follow even the simplest of logic trains. But then I think of what Voltaire said.
I wouldn’t directly give my life to enable him or her to continue pushing their agenda. Indirectly I suppose it is possible via my pursuit of liberty but that would be a side effect rather than in direct support of such an individual. I think I might consider looking the other way rather than risk my own life in defensive of theirs should I know harm to them was imminent.
I sometimes wonder if in a fight to the death if adhering to principles is a luxury only affordable when you are winning. Does the other side abandon their principles when they are loosing? Or do they adhere to them until the end? If so then perhaps those principles are best known by their examples of Reasoned Discoursetm (see also here and here). Is their insistence that you should be silenced or put to death a sign they have abandoned principles because of the hopelessness of their cause? Or is it insight into the true nature of their principles?
I don’t know for certain.
At least for now I exercise loyalty to my principles by not deleting their comments.–Joe]