“A capable man can do a thing; an able one does it” is a quote by Voltaire.
This line is from Voltaire’s book “Philosophical Dictionary“. It is under “Able- Ability“.
Philosophical Dictionary or the Dictionnaire philosophique (in French) is an encyclopedic dictionary published by Voltaire in 1764.
The content or articles are arranged in alphabetically order.
Many of the articles criticized the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions.
It had 344 pages and consisted of 73 articles. The later versions were expanded into two volumes, consisting of 120 articles.
Capable Man Can Do A Thing; An Able One Does It
Because of its sensitive and controversial content, the first editions were published anonymously.
Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
The controversial badass French guy was notorious for his biting wit, his criticism on the Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and the French institutions of his time.
Below is only a selected collection of authentic Voltaire quotations which I like to share them with you.
“Virtue is degraded by justifying itself.” – Voltaire (La vertu s’avilit à se justifier)
(Oedipus By Voltaire, Act II Sc. IV)*
“He who serves his country needs no ancestors.” – Voltaire (Qui sert bien son pays n’a pas besoin d’aïeux)
“Men use thought only to justify their wrongdoings, and speech only to conceal their thoughts.” – Voltaire (Ils ne se servent de la pensée que pour autoriser leurs injustices, et n’emploient les paroles que pour déguiser leurs pensées)
(Here is the English translation via Google Translate, that reads: “They are using the thought that to allow their injustices, and employ the words to conceal their thoughts“)
“The first step, my son, which one makes in the world, is the one on which depends the rest of our days.” – Voltaire (Le premier pas, mon fils, que l’on fait dans le monde, Kst celui dont dépend le reste de nos jours)
(Here is the English translation via Google Translate, that reads: “The first step, my son, which is done in the world is the one to which the rest of our days“, line 14, Act 1, Sc. 1)
“The whole of the known universe, with the exception of the savage races is governed by books alone.” – Voltaire
“Faith consists […] in believing in things because they are impossible.” – Voltaire (La foi consiste à croire ce que la raison ne croit pas.)
“It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.” – Voltaire (Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort.)
Variant translations: “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”
“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”
(Here is an English version via Google Translate, that reads: “He saw how dangerous it is to be right in things where certified men are wrong.”)
“Providence has given us hope and sleep as a compensation for the many cares of life.” – Voltaire
(This quote is also found in Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical Compiled By Charles Noel Douglas, 1917)
“If there were no God, it would have been necessary to invent him.” – Voltaire (Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer)
(You can find this quote in: Œuvres de Voltaire, Volume 13; p.265)
“Love truth, but pardon error.” – Voltaire (Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l’erreur)
“If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” – Voltaire (Si Dieu nous a faits à son image, nous le lui avons bien rendu.)
“To pray to God is to flatter oneself that with words one can alter nature.” – Voltaire (Prier Dieu c’est se flatter qu’avec des paroles on changera toute la nature.)
“When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.” – Voltaire (Quand il s’agit d’argent, tout le monde est de la même religion)
(Letter to Mme. d’Épinal, Ferney (26 December 1760, can be found in Oeuvres complètes, Volume 12; p.159)
“There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.” – Voltaire (Il y a des vérités qui ne sont pas pour tous les hommes et pour tous les temps.)
(Letter to François-Joachim de Pierre, cardinal de Bernis, 23 April 1764. Can be found at Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire)
“…Emulation is only envy kept within the bounds of decency.” – Voltaire
“…The more I read, the more I meditate, and the more I acquire, the more am I enabled to affirm, that I know nothing.” – Voltaire
“A witty saying proves nothing.” – Voltaire (Un bon mot ne prouve rien.)
“Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.” – Voltaire (La vie est hérissée de ces épines, et je n’y sais d’autre remède que de cultiver son jardin.)
“It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions.” – Voltaire (On dit que Dieu est toujours pour les gros bataillons.)
(Letter to François-Louis-Henri Leriche, 6 February 1770, can be found in: Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire: Correspondance générale By Voltaire; p.7)
“It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.” – Voltaire (Il vaut mieux hasarder de sauver un coupable que de condamner un innocent.)
“Minds differ still more than faces.” – Voltaire
“…Any one who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” – Voltaire (qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste.)
“Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy extinguishes them.” – Voltaire (La superstition met le monde entier en flammes; la philosophie les éteint.)
“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.” – Voltaire (Laissez lire, et laissez danser; ces deux amusements ne feront jamais de mal au monde.)
“Morality is the same among all men; therefore it comes from God. Worship is various; therefore it is the work of man.” – Voltaire (La morale est la même chez tous les hommes, donc elle vient de Dieu; le culte est différent, donc il est l’ouvrage des hommes.)
“It is doubtless better to pray to God stark naked, than to soil His altars and the public places with human blood.” – Voltaire
“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” – Voltaire (Il est bien malaisé (puisqu’il faut enfin m’expliquer) d’ôter à des insensés des chaînes qu’ils révèrent.
(Here is the English version via Google Translate, that reads: “It is difficult (since we must finally explain) to deprive fools chains they revere.“)
“Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because there is nothing to be gained by him.” – Voltaire
“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” – Voltaire (il est défendu de tuer; tout meurtrier est puni, à moins qu’il n’ait tué en grande compagnie, et au son des trompettes.)
(Here is the English translation via Google Translate, that reads: “It is forbidden to kill; every murderer is punished, unless he had killed a large company, and with trumpets.”)
“What is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly–that is the first law of nature.” – Voltaire (Qu’est-ce que la tolérance? c’est l’apanage de l’humanité. Nous sommes tous pétris de faiblesses et d’erreurs; pardonnons-nous réciproquement nos sottises, c’est la première loi de la nature.)
“…In this world we are reduced to being either the anvil or the hammer.” – Voltaire
“The best is the enemy of good.” – Voltaire (Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien)
(Here is the English translation via Google Translate, that reads: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.“)
“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire (Le secret d’ennuyer est celui de tout dire.)
“It is sometimes said, common sense is very rare.” – Voltaire (On dit quelquefois, le sens commun est fort rare)
“One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.” – Voltaire (On parle toujours mal quand on n’a rien à dire.)
“To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.” – Voltaire (On doit des egards aux vivants; on ne doit aux morts que la verite.)
(Here is the English translation via Google Translate, that reads: “To the living; one does to the dead but the truth.“)
“Atheism is the vice of some intelligent men, and superstition is the vice of fools.” – Voltaire
* Translated and adapted by Frank J. Morlock