This was pretty much the last thing that Voltaire wrote, and in it he summed up what he thought of a lifetime's experiences of politics, travels, and futile philosophical debates. He was more merciless than ever in puncturing pieties, hypocrisies, whitewash jobs, optimistic delusions, and well-meaning platitudes. With the necessary brutality, he exposed the tyrannies and violences that some high-minded writers would rather ignore. For these reasons, the book is nearly as notable as ever; the specific ideas and conditions that it comments on are gone, but their like is still here. I don't know if everyone could sympathize with Voltaire's total withdrawal from philosophy at the end of this book; I could see myself ending up there too, having become notably more agnostic about a lot of things, and I don't know if that would be a good thing. I wouldn't, at any rate, settle on the same solution as he does, his idea of "useful work".