By Robert McCarter, Frank Lloyd Wright
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It undermined a fundamental belief of most Christians and indeed of many deists who, like Voltaire, believed in a 'policeman God'. It was to be hotly debated throughout the eighteenth century- as it still is, indeed, in the twentieth! If there is no connection between human belief and human morality, there is none either between divine power and divine morality. The moral and physical evils which so manifestly affect the world make nonsense of the idea of an omnipotent and all-loving God. The heretical Manichaean view of a universe in which two equal principles of good and evil were locked in endless struggle seems far more in accord with the facts of life than does the orthodox view.
Yet as propagandist and journalist he excelled, and in this way he is more akin to the philosophes. Brevity, clarity, concentration, topicality and wit all typify his writing. His Digression sur les anciens et les modernes, for example, was a brief but decisive intervention in a famous quarrel which up to then had generated more heat than light, and one of the first clear statements about the nature and the limitations of progress. 40 Above aU, Fontenelle was a man of science. The works we have been discussing, and which contain most of his original contributions to the history of ideas, all belong to one short period of his life.
The problems of moral philosophy (of which theodicy may be considered an extension) did not particularly concern the younger man. Yet as propagandist and journalist he excelled, and in this way he is more akin to the philosophes. Brevity, clarity, concentration, topicality and wit all typify his writing. His Digression sur les anciens et les modernes, for example, was a brief but decisive intervention in a famous quarrel which up to then had generated more heat than light, and one of the first clear statements about the nature and the limitations of progress.