The phrase “ridicule, the test of truth,” which has long been associated with Lord Shaftesbury, was originally fathered upon him by both his disciples and his adversaries in controversies to determine whether ridicule be test or jest. Both groups expended quantities of forensic ammunition on the assumption that Shaftesbury had advocated the use of ridicule as a test of truth even though the phrase does not appear anywhere in the Characteristics. That Shaftesbury does not propose ridicule as a test of truth has been acknowledged for many years, but not widely enough, for many contemporary authorities repeat this erroneous assumption. Shaftesbury merely began the debate over ridicule by discussing its social utility, and the discussion was continued by Anthony Collins, Berkeley, Warburton, Akenside, John Brown, Allan Ramsay and Lord Karnes. The first of the group to refer to ridicule as a test of truth was Berkeley, and after his use of the phrase, nearly every eighteenth-century writer on ridicule took it up. Collins, who preceded him in discussing the ridiculous, had not even mentioned the relation of ridicule to truth. Brown was the first to state that Shaftesbury had advocated the doctrine, in fact, going even further in misrepresenting Shaftesbury by falsely charging that the latter had maintained that ridicule “may be successfully applied to the investigation of unknown truth.” A thorough analysis of Shaftesbury's real position on ridicule is necessary to show the manner in which he has been variously interpreted and misinterpreted. Furious as the controversy may have been in the eighteeenth century, it did not extend itself into the nineteenth, and today we may even apply to it Shaftesbury's own derogatory question directed against pedantic treatises: “What is already become of those mighty controversies with which some of the most eminent authors amused the world?” The present paper is not intended to perpetuate this mighty controversy, but merely to clarify Shaftesbury's meaning and show how the controversy developed. A subject which occupied famous philosophers, poets, physicians, divines and artists of the eighteenth century is a subject of both historic and esthetic importance.