But if this curiosity and ambition didn’t carry me into speculations outside the sphere of common life, I would still inevitably be led into them by my own weakness. ·Let me explain·. It is certain that •superstition is much bolder in its systems and hypotheses than •philosophy is: whereas •philosophy contents itself with assigning new causes and explanations for the phenomena that appear in the visible world, •superstition opens up a world of its own, and presents us with scenes and beings and states of affairs that are altogether new. Now, it is almost impossible for the mind of man to stay—like the minds of lower animals— within the narrow circle of items that are the subject of daily conversation and action; ·so we are bound to stray outside that circle·, and all we have to deliberate about is our choice of guide ·when we do so·, looking for the one that is safest and most agreeable. In this respect I venture to recommend philosophy, and I don’t hesitate to prefer it to superstition of every kind. For as superstition arises naturally and easily from the popular opinions of mankind, it seizes more strongly on the mind and is often able to disturb us in the conduct of our lives. Philosophy stands in contrast to that. Sound philosophy can present us only with mild and moderate sentiments; and the opinions offered by false and extravagant philosophy are merely the objects of cool generalizing thought, and seldom go so far as to interrupt the course of our natural inclinations. The Cynics are an extraordinary instance of philosophers who, from purely philosophical reasonings, entered into extravagances of conduct as great as any monk or dervish that ever was in the world. Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy are only ridiculous.
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