The human mind derives all of its knowledge from experience; no experience can give us an insight into what preceded our existence, into what is to follow it, nor into what supports it at present. In what manner have we received life? What is the spring upon which it depends? How is our brain capable of ideas and memory? In what manner do our limbs obey every motion of the will? Of all this we are entirely ignorant… The most profound philosophers are no more able to solve these questions than the most ignorant of men. All these questions may be reduced to the vulgar proverb: Was the hen before the egg, or the egg before the hen? The proverb is rather low, but it confounds the utmost penetration of human wisdom, which is utterly at a loss with regard to first principles of things without supernatural assistance.
Tobias Smollet, footnote from Voltaire’s The Lisbon Earthquake as contained in The Portable Voltaire