Simon Blackburn

Bayle finds he cannot think of an argument against Diogenes and Crates, and turns to lamenting the infirmities of human reason, which is 'wavering and supple, and which turns every way like a Weather-Cock.' For just look how the cynics make use of it to justify their abominable impudence! But he still doesn't let the matter go, since even if the cynics were 'incivil, ill-bred, and ill Observers of Fashions,' this should not make them criminals. Nor can he find that the moral philosophers of the church, the casuists, have ever found reason in scripture for a condemnation of their actions.

After enjoying himself thoroughly by failing to find a decent argument against indecency, Bayle bows out, admitting that some might think the whole thing rather indelicate. But he defends himself with the standard argument of tabloid editors and other purveyors of stuff designed to tickle us with the pleasures of feeling shocked: 'I desire the Reader to observe, that when infamous Actions are but faintly represented, they do not so strongly produce the Horror and Indignation they deserve.'

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.