Alexander Pope'S Essay On Man

Not that I believe that the work can be reduced to its context, or is an epiphenomenon of that context (or of the Weltgeist and the like), any more than I think that it can be reduced to the author's life experience or, even less, his psychological constitution.

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Elsewhere, Voltaire writes quite positively about Chinese culture (like many European free thinkers from the 16th through the 18th centuries such as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff, he valued Chinese government and ethics above their European counterparts).(***) For other authors of the age, "reason" refers to this universal set of gifts. to think God hates the worthy mind, The lover and the love of human-kind, Whose life is healthful, and whose conscience clear, Because he wants a thousand pounds a year.

Honour and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part, there all the honour lies.

In the late 17th century and through at least the first half of the 18th century a particular complex of ideas permeated many of the cognoscenti of the time.

Two foundational aspects of this complex are the idea that human nature is independent of time and place and that the only matters of real importance are those that are understood (or at least are understandable) in exactly the same way by everyone.

In this representative passage "instinct" stands in for the gifts common to all; one also sees along the way a consequence of the application of this complex of ideas to religion:(***) Say, where full Instinct is th'unerring guide, What Pope or Council can they need beside?

Reason, however able, cool at best, Cares not for service, or but serves when pressed, Stays 'till we call, and then not often near; But honest Instinct comes a volunteer, Sure never to o’er-shoot, but just to hit; While still too wide or short is human Wit; Sure by quick Nature happiness to gain, Which heavier Reason labours at in vain, This too serves always, Reason never long; One must go right, the other may go wrong.

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man.

Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest; In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast; In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer; Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much: Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd; Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world! Let me end, though, on a note of optimism with Pope's version of a wisdom which truly seems to be (nearly) universal and which we can all hope is therefore true: All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee; All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see; All Discord, Harmony not understood; All partial Evil, universal Good: And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite, One truth is clear, whatever is, is RIGHT.(*) He translated only half of a subsequent version of the Odyssey that appeared under his name.(**) This complex of ideas was proselytized by Voltaire, among many others besides Pope.

1736Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man. Lovejoy's very interesting Essays in the History of Ideas I finally understood the intellectual context of Alexander Pope's famous philosophical poem, An Essay On Man.

Perhaps best known as an author of satirical verses and a most engaging translation of the Iliad,(*) Pope also produced an edition of Shakespeare and venture Portrait of Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) by Jonathan Richardson, ca.


Comments Alexander Pope'S Essay On Man

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