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The System of Nature, Vol. 1 by Baron D'Holbach

Part 3 out of 6

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from his fellow, by the elasticity of his fibres, the tension of his
nerves, becomes still more distinguished by a variety of other
circumstances: he is more active, more robust, when he receives
nourishing aliments, when he drinks wine, when he takes exercise: whilst
another, who drinks nothing but water, who takes less juicy nourishment,
who languishes in idleness, shall be sluggish and feeble.

All these causes have necessarily an influence on the mind, on the
passions, on the will; in a word, on what are called the intellectual
faculties. Thus, it may he observed, that a man of a sanguine
constitution, is commonly lively, ingenious, full of imagination,
passionate, voluptuous, enterprising; whilst the phlegmatic man is dull,
of a heavy understanding, slow of conception, inactive, difficult to be
moved, pusillanimous, without imagination, or possessing it in a less
lively degree, incapable of taking any strong measures, or of willing

If experience was consulted, in the room of prejudice, the physician
would collect from morals, the key to the human heart: in curing the
body, he would sometimes be assured of curing the mind. Man, in making a
spiritual substance of his soul, has contented himself with
administering to it spiritual remedies, which either have no influence
over his temperament, or do it an injury. The doctrine of the
spirituality of the soul has rendered morals a conjectural science, that
does not furnish a knowledge of the true motives which ought to be put
in activity, in order to influence man to his welfare. If, calling
experience to his assistance, man sought out the elements which form the
basis of his temperament, or of the greater number of the individuals
composing a nation, he would then discover what would be most proper for
him,--that which could be most convenient to his mode of existence--
which could most conduce to his true interest--what laws would be
necessary to his happiness--what institutions would be most useful for
him--what regulations would be most beneficial. In short, morals and
politics would be equally enabled to draw from _materialism_, advantages
which the dogma of spirituality can never supply, of which it even
precludes the idea. Man will ever remain a mystery, to those who shall
obstinately persist in viewing him with eyes prepossessed by
metaphysics; he will always be an enigma to those who shall
pertinaciously attribute his actions to a principle, of which it is
impossible to form to themselves any distinct idea. When man shall be
seriously inclined to understand himself, let him sedulously endeavour
to discover the matter that enters into his combination, which
constitutes his temperament; these discoveries will furnish him with the
clue to the nature of his desires, to the quality of his passions, to
the bent of his inclinations--will enable him to foresee his conduct on
given occasions--will indicate the remedies that may be successfully
employed to correct the defects of a vicious organization, of a
temperament, as injurious to himself as to the society of which he is a

Indeed, it is not to be doubted that man's temperament is capable of
being corrected, of being modified, of being changed, by causes as
physical as the matter of which it is constituted. We are all in some
measure capable of forming our own temperament: a man of a sanguine
constitution, by taking less juicy nourishment, by abating its quantity,
by abstaining from strong liquor, &c. may achieve the correction of the
nature, the quality, the quantity, the tendency, the motion of the
fluids, which predominate in his machine. A bilious man, or one who is
melancholy, may, by the aid of certain remedies, diminish the mass of
this bilious fluid; he may correct the blemish of his humours, by the
assistance of exercise; he may dissipate his gloom, by the gaiety which
results from increased motion. An European transplanted into Hindostan,
will, by degrees, become quite a different man in his humours, in his
ideas, in his temperament, in his character.

Although but few experiments have been made with a view to learn what
constitutes the temperament of man, there are still enough if he would
but deign to make use of them--if he would vouchsafe to apply to useful
purposes the little experience he has gleaned. It would appear, speaking
generally, that the igneous principle which chemists designate under the
name of _phlogiston_, or inflammable matter, is that which in man yields
him the most active life, furnishes him with the greatest energy,
affords the greatest mobility to his frame, supplies the greatest spring
to his organs, gives the greatest elasticity to his fibres, the greatest
tension to his nerves, the greatest rapidity to his fluids. From these
causes, which are entirely material, commonly result the dispositions or
faculties called sensibility, wit, imagination, genius, vivacity, &c.
which give the tone to the passions, to the will, to the moral actions
of man. In this sense, it is with great justice we apply the
expressions, 'warmth of soul,' 'ardency of imagination,' 'fire of
genius,' &c.

It is this fiery element, diffused unequally, distributed in various
proportions through the beings of the human species, that sets man in
motion, gives him activity, supplies him with animal heat, and which, if
we may be allowed the expression, renders him more or less alive. This
igneous matter, so active, so subtle, dissipates itself with great
facility, then requires to be reinstated in his system by means of
aliments that contain it, which thereby become proper to restore his
machine, to lend new warmth to the brain, to furnish it with the
elasticity requisite to the performance of those functions which are
called intellectual. It is this ardent matter contained in wine, in
strong liquor, that gives to the most torpid, to the dullest, to the
most sluggish man, a vivacity of which, without it, he would be
incapable--which urges even the coward on to battle. When this fiery
element is too abundant in man, whilst he is labouring under certain
diseases, it plunges him into delirium; when it is in too weak or in too
small a quantity, he swoons, he sinks to the earth. This igneous matter
diminishes in his old age--it totally dissipates at his death. It would
not be unreasonable to suppose, that what physicians call the nervous
fluid, which so promptly gives notice to the brain of all that happens
to the body, is nothing more than electric matter; that the various
proportions of this matter diffused through his system, is the cause of
that great diversity to be discovered in the human being, and in the
faculties he possesses.

If the intellectual faculties of man, or his moral qualities, be
examined according to the principles here laid down, the conviction must
be complete that they are to be attributed to material causes, which
have an influence more or less marked, either transitory or durable,
over his peculiar organization. But where does he derive this
organization, except it be from the parents from whom he receives the
elements of a machine necessarily analogous to their own? From whence
does he derive the greater or less quantity of igneous matter, or
vivifying heat, that decides upon, that gives the tone to his mental
qualities? It is from the mother who bore him in her womb, who has
communicated to him a portion of that fire with which she was herself
animated, which circulated through her veins with her blood;--it is from
the aliments that have nourished him,--it is from the climate he
inhabits,--it is from the atmosphere that surrounds: all these causes
have an influence over his fluids, over his solids, and decide on his
natural dispositions. In examining these dispositions, from whence his
faculties depend, it will ever be found, that they are _corporeal_, that
they are _material_.

The most prominent of these dispositions in man, is that physical
sensibility from which flows all his intellectual or moral qualities. To
feel, according to what has been said, is to receive an impulse, to be
moved, to have a consciousness of the changes operated on his system. To
have sensibility is nothing more than to be so constituted as to feel
promptly, and in a very lively manner, the impressions of those objects
which act upon him. A sensible soul is only man's brain, disposed in a
mode to receive the motion communicated to it with facility, to re-act
with promptness, by giving an instantaneous impulse to the organs. Thus
the man is called sensible, whom the sight of the distressed, the
contemplation of the unhappy, the recital of a melancholy tale, the
witnessing of an afflicting catastrophe, or the idea of a dreadful
spectacle, touches in so lively a manner as to enable the brain to give
play to his lachrymal organs, which cause him to shed tears; a sign by
which we recognize the effect of great grief, of extreme anguish in the
human being. The man in whom musical sounds excite a degree of pleasure,
or produce very remarkable effects, is said to have a _sensible_ or a
fine ear. In short, when it is perceived that eloquence--the beauty of
the arts--the various objects that strike his senses, excite in him very
lively emotions, he is said to possess a soul full of sensibility.

_Wit_, is a consequence of this physical sensibility; indeed, wit is
nothing more than the facility which some beings, of the human species
possess, of seizing with promptitude, of developing with quickness, a
whole, with its different relations to other objects. _Genius_, is the
facility with which some men comprehend this whole, and its various
relations when they are difficult to be known, but useful to forward
great and mighty projects. Wit may be compared to a piercing eye which
perceives things quickly. Genius is an eye that comprehends at one view,
all the points of an extended horizon: or what the French term _coup
d'oeil_. True wit is that which perceives objects with their relations
such as they really are. False wit is that which catches at relations,
which do not apply to the object, or which arises from some blemish in
the organization. True wit resembles the direction on a hand-post.

_Imagination_ is the faculty of combining with promptitude ideas or
images; it consists in the power man possesses of re-producing with ease
the modifications of his brain: of connecting them, of attaching them to
the objects to which they are suitable. When imagination does this, it
gives pleasure; its fictions are approved, it embellishes Nature, it is
a proof of the soundness of the mind, it aids truth: when on the
contrary, it combines ideas, not formed to associate themselves with
each other--when it paints nothing but disagreeable phantoms, it
disgusts, its fictions are censured, it distorts Nature, it advocates
falsehood, it is the proof of a disordered, of a deranged mind: thus
poetry, calculated to render Nature more pathetic, more touching,
pleases when it creates ideal beings, but which move us agreeably: we,
therefore, forgive the illusions it has held forth, on account of the
pleasure we have reaped from them. The hideous chimeras of superstition
displease, because they are nothing more than the productions of a
distempered imagination, that can only awaken the most afflicting
sensations, fills us with the most disagreeable ideas.

Imagination, when it wanders, produces fanaticism, superstitious
terrors, inconsiderate zeal, phrenzy, and the most enormous crimes: when
it is well regulated, it gives birth to a strong predilection for useful
objects, an energetic passion for virtue, an enthusiastic love of our
country, and the most ardent friendship: the man who is divested of
imagination, is commonly one in whose torpid constitution phlegm
predominates over the igneous fluid, over that sacred fire, which is the
great principle of his mobility, of that warmth of sentiment, which
vivifies all his intellectual faculties. There must be enthusiasm for
transcendent virtues as well as for atrocious crimes; enthusiasm places
the soul in a state similar to that of drunkenness; both the one and the
other excite in man that rapidity of motion which is approved, when good
results, when its effects are beneficial; but which is censured, is
called folly, delirium, crime, fury; when it produces nothing but
disorder and confusion.

The mind is out of order, it is incapable of judging sanely--the
imagination is badly regulated, whenever man's organization is not so
modified, as to perform its functions with precision. At each moment of
his existence, man gathers experience; every sensation he has, furnishes
a fact that deposits in his brain an idea which his memory recalls with
more or less fidelity: these facts connect themselves, these ideas are
associated; their chain constitutes _experience_; this lays the
foundation of _science_. Knowledge is that consciousness which arises
from reiterated experience--from experiments made with precision of the
sensations, of the ideas, of the effects which an object is capable of
producing, either in ourselves or in others. All science, to be just,
must be founded on truth. Truth itself rests on the constant, the
faithful relation of our senses. Thus, _truth_ is that conformity, that
perpetual affinity, which man's senses, when well constituted, when
aided by experience, discover to him, between the objects of which he
has a knowledge, and the qualities with which he clothes them. In short,
truth is nothing more than the just, the precise association of his
ideas. But how can he, without experience, assure himself of the
accuracy, of the justness of this association? How, if he does not
reiterate this experience, can he compare it? how prove its truth? If
his senses are vitiated, how is it possible they can convey to him with
precision, the sensations, the facts, with which they store his brain?
It is only by multiplied, by diversified, by repeated experience, that
he is enabled to rectify the errors of his first conceptions.

Man is in error every time his organs, either originally defective in
their nature, or vitiated by the durable or transitory modifications
which they undergo, render him incapable of judging soundly of objects.
Error consists in the false association of ideas, by which qualities are
attributed to objects which they do not possess. Man is in error, when
he supposes those beings really to have existence, which have no local
habitation but in his own imagination: he is in error, when he
associates the idea of happiness with objects capable of injuring him,
whether immediately or by remote consequences which he cannot foresee.

But how can he foresee effects of which he has not yet any knowledge? It
is by the aid of experience: by the assistance which this experience
affords, it is known that analogous, that like causes, produce
analogous, produce like effects. Memory, by recalling these effects,
enables him to form a judgment of those he may expect, whether it be
from the same causes, or from causes that bear a relation to those of
which he has already experienced the action. From this it will appear,
that _prudence_, _foresight_, are faculties that are ascribable to, that
grow out of experience. If he has felt that fire excited in his organs
painful sensation, this experience suffices him to know, to foresee,
that fire so applied, will consequently excite the same sensations. If
he has discovered that certain actions, on his part, stirred up the
hatred, elicited the contempt of others, this experience sufficiently
enables him to foresee, that every time he shall act in a similar
manner, he will be either hated or despised.

The faculty man has of gathering experience, of recalling it to himself,
of foreseeing effects by which he is enabled to avoid whatever may have
the power to injure him, to procure that which may be useful to the
conservation of his existence, which may contribute to that which is the
sole end of all his actions, whether corporeal or mental,--his felicity
--constitutes that, which, in one word, is designated under the name of
_Reason_. Sentiment, imagination, temperament, may be capable of leading
him astray--may have the power to deceive him; but experience and
reflection will rectify his errors, point out his mistakes, place him in
the right road, teach him what can really conduce to, what can truly
conduct him to happiness. From this, it will appear, that _reason_ is
man's nature, modified by experience, moulded by judgment, regulated by
reflection: it supposes a moderate, sober temperament; a just, a sound
mind; a well-regulated, orderly imagination; a knowledge of truth,
grounded upon tried, upon reiterated experience; in fact, prudence and
foresight: this will serve to prove, that although nothing is more
commonly asserted, although the phrase is repeated daily, nay, hourly,
that _man is a reasonable being_, yet there are but a very small number
of the individuals who compose the human species, of whom it can with
truth be said; who really enjoy the faculty of reason, or who combine
the dispositions, the experience, by which it is constituted. It ought
not, then to excite surprise, that the individuals of the human race,
who are in a capacity to make true experience, are so few in number.
Man, when he is born, brings with him into the world organs susceptible
of receiving impulse, amassing ideas, of collecting experience; but
whether it be from the vice of his system, the imperfection of his
organization, or from those causes by which it is modified, his
experience is false, his ideas are confused, his images are badly
associated, his judgment is erroneous, his brain is saturated with
vicious, with wicked systems, which necessarily have an influence over
his conduct, which are continually disturbing his mind, and confounding
his reason.

Man's senses, as it has been shewn, are the only means by which he is
enabled to ascertain whether his opinions are true or false, whether his
conduct is useful to himself and beneficial to others, whether it is
advantageous or disadvantageous. But that his senses may be competent to
make a faithful relation--that they may be in a capacity to impress true
ideas on his brain, it is requisite they should be sound; that is to
say, in the state necessary to maintain his existence; in that order
which is suitable to his preservation--that condition which is
calculated to ensure his permanent felicity. It is also indispensable
that his brain itself should be healthy, or in the proper circumstances
to enable it to fulfil its functions with precision, to exercise its
faculties with vigour. It is necessary that memory should faithfully
delineate its anterior sensations, should accurately retrace its former
ideas; to the end, that he may be competent to judge, to foresee the
effects he may have to hope, the consequences he may have to fear, from
those actions to which he may be determined by his will. If his organic
system be vicious, if his interior or exterior organs be defective,
whether by their natural conformation or from those causes by which they
are regulated, he feels but imperfectly--in a manner less distinct than
is requisite; his ideas are either false or suspicious, he judges badly,
he is in a delusion, in a state of ebriety, in a sort of intoxication
that prevents his grasping the true relation of things. In short, if his
memory is faulty, if it is treacherous, his reflection is void, his
imagination leads him astray, his mind deceives him, whilst the
sensibility of his organs, simultaneously assailed by a crowd of
impressions, shocked by a variety of impulsions, oppose him to prudence,
to foresight, to the exercise of his reason. On the other hand, if the
conformation of his organs, as it happens with those of a phlegmatic
temperament, of a dull habit, does not permit him to move, except with
feebleness, in a sluggish manner, his experience is slow, frequently
unprofitable. The tortoise and the butterfly are alike incapable of
preventing their destruction. The stupid man, equally with him who is
intoxicated, are in that state which renders it impossible for them to
arrive at or attain the end they have in view.

But what is the end? What is the aim of man in the sphere he occupies?
It is to preserve himself; to render his existence happy. It becomes
then of the utmost importance, that he should understand the true means
which reason points out, which prudence teaches him to use, in order
that he may with certainty, that he may constantly arrive at the end
which he proposes to himself. These he will find are his natural
faculties--his mind--his talents--his industry--his actions, determined
by those passions of which his nature renders him susceptible, which
give more or less activity to his will. Experience and reason again shew
him, that the men with whom he is associated are necessary to him, are
capable of contributing to his happiness, are in a capacity to
administer to his pleasures, are competent to assist him by those
faculties which are peculiar to them; experience teaches him the mode he
must adopt to induce them to concur in his designs, to determine them to
will and incline them to act in his favour. This points out to him the
actions they approve--those which displease them--the conduct which
attracts them--that which repels them--the judgment by which they are
swayed--the advantages that occur--the prejudicial effects that result
to him from their various modes of existence and from their diverse
manner of acting. This experience furnishes him with the ideas of virtue
and of vice, of justice and of injustice, of goodness and of wickedness,
of decency and of indecency, of probity and of knavery: In short, he
learns to form a judgment of men--to estimate their actions--to
distinguish the various sentiments excited in them, according to the
diversity of those effects which they make him experience. It is upon
the necessary diversity of these effects that is founded the
discrimination between good and evil--between virtue and vice;
distinctions which do not rest, as some thinkers have believed, on the
conventions made between men; still less, as some metaphysicians have
asserted, upon the chimerical will of supernatural beings: but upon the
solid, the invariable, the eternal relations that subsist between beings
of the human species congregated together, and living in society: which
relations will have existence as long as man shall remain, as long as
society shall continue to exist.

Thus _virtue_ is every thing that is truly beneficial, every thing that
is constantly useful to the individuals of the human race, living
together in society; _vice_ every thing that is really prejudicial,
every thing that is permanently injurious to them. The greatest virtues
are those which procure for man the most durable advantages, from which
he derives the most solid happiness, which preserves the greatest degree
of order in his association: the greatest vices, are those which most
disturb his tendency to happiness, which perpetuate error, which most
interrupt the necessary order of society.

The _virtuous man_, is he whose actions tend uniformly to the welfare,
constantly to the happiness, of his fellow creatures. The _vicious man_,
is he whose conduct tends to the misery, whose propensities form the
unhappiness of those with whom he lives; from whence his own peculiar
misery most commonly results.

Every thing that procures for a man true and permanent happiness is
reasonable; every thing that disturbs his individual felicity, or that
of the beings necessary to his happiness, is foolish and unreasonable.
The man who injures others, is wicked; the man who injures himself, is
an imprudent being, who neither has a knowledge of reason, of his own
peculiar interests, nor of truth.

Man's _duties_ are the means pointed out to him by experience, the
circle which reason describes for him, by which he is to arrive at that
goal he proposes to himself; these duties are the necessary consequence
of the relations subsisting between mortals, who equally desire
happiness, who are equally anxious to preserve their existence. When it
is said these duties _compel him_, it signifies nothing more than that,
without taking these means, he could not reach the end proposed to him
by his nature. Thus, _moral obligation_ is the necessity of employing
the natural means to render the beings with whom he lives happy; to the
end that he may determine them in turn to contribute to his own
individual happiness: his obligation toward himself, is the necessity he
is under to take those means, without which he would be incapable to
conserve himself, or render his existence solidly and permanently happy.
Morals, like the universe, is founded upon necessity, or upon the
eternal relation of things.

_Happiness_ is a mode of existence of which man naturally wishes the
duration, or in which he is willing to continue. It is measured by its
duration, by its vivacity. The greatest happiness is that which has the
longest continuance: transient happiness, or that which has only a short
duration, is called _Pleasure_; the more lively it is, the more
fugitive, because man's senses are only susceptible of a certain quantum
of motion. When pleasure exceeds this given quantity, it is changed into
_anguish_, or into that painful mode of existence, of which he ardently
desires the cessation: this is the reason why pleasure and pain
frequently so closely approximate each other as scarcely to be
discriminated. Immoderate pleasure is the forerunner of regret. It is
succeeded by ennui, it is followed by weariness, it ends in disgust:
transient happiness frequently converts itself into durable misfortune.
According to these principles it will be seen that man, who in each
moment of his duration seeks necessarily after happiness, ought, when he
is reasonable, to manage, to husband, to regulate his pleasures; to
refuse himself to all those of which the indulgence would be succeeded
by regret; to avoid those which can convert themselves into pain; in
order that he may procure for himself the most permanent felicity.

Happiness cannot be the same for all the beings of the human species;
the same pleasures cannot equally affect men whose conformation is
different, whose modification is diverse. This no doubt, is the true
reason why the greater number of moral philosophers are so little in
accord upon those objects in which they have made man's happiness
consist, as well as on the means by which it may be obtained.
Nevertheless, in general, happiness appears to be a state, whether
momentary or durable, in which man readily acquiesces, because he finds
it conformable to his being. This state results from the accord, springs
out of the conformity, which is found between himself and those
circumstances in which he has been placed by Nature; or, if it be
preferred, _happiness is the co-ordination of man, with the causes that
give him impulse_.

The ideas which man forms to himself of happiness depend not only on his
temperament, on his individual conformation, but also upon the habits he
has contracted. _Habit_ is, in man, a mode of existence--of thinking--of
acting, which his organs, as well interior as exterior, contract, by the
frequent reiteration of the same motion; from whence results the faculty
of performing these actions with promptitude, of executing them with

If things be attentively considered, it will be found that almost the
whole conduct of man--the entire system of his actions--his occupations
--his connexions--his studies--his amusements--his manners--his customs
--his very garments--even his aliments, are the effect of habit. He owes
equally to habit, the facility with which he exercises his mental
faculties of thought--of judgment--of wit--of reason--of taste, &c. It
is to habit he owes the greater part of his inclinations--of his
desires--of his opinions--of his prejudices--of the ideas, true or
false, he forms to himself of his welfare. In short, it is to habit,
consecrated by time, that he owes those errors into which everything
strives to precipitate him; from which every thing is calculated to
prevent him emancipating himself. It is habit that attaches him either
to virtue or to vice: experience proves this: observation teaches
incontrovertibly that the first crime is always accompanied by more
pangs of remorse than the second; this again, by more than the third; so
on to those that follow. A first action is the commencement of a habit;
those which succeed confirm it: by force of combatting the obstacles
that prevent the commission of criminal actions, man arrives at the
power of vanquishing them with ease; of conquering them with facility.
Thus he frequently becomes wicked from habit.

Man is so much modified by habit, that it is frequently confounded with
his nature: from hence results, as will presently be seen, those
opinions or those ideas, which he has called _innate_: because he has
been unwilling to recur back to the source from whence they sprung:
which has, as it were, identified itself with his brain. However this
may be, he adheres with great strength of attachment to all those things
to which he is habituated; his mind experiences a sort of violence, an
incommodious revulsion, a troublesome distaste, when it is endeavoured
to make him change the course of his ideas: a fatal predilection
frequently conducts him back to the old track in despite of reason.

It is by a pure mechanism that may be explained the phenomena of habit,
as well physical as moral; the soul, notwithstanding its spirituality,
is modified exactly in the same manner as the body. Habit, in man,
causes the organs of voice to learn the mode of expressing quickly the
ideas consigned to his brain, by means of certain motion, which, during
his infancy, the tongue acquires the power of executing with facility:
his tongue, once habituated to move itself in a certain manner, finds
much trouble, has great pain, to move itself after another mode; the
throat yields with difficulty to those inflections which are exacted by
a language different from that to which he has, been accustomed. It is
the same with regard to his ideas; his brain, his interior organ, his
soul, inured to a given manner of modification, accustomed to attach
certain ideas to certain objects, long used to form to itself a system
connected with certain opinions, whether true or false, experiences a
painful sensation, whenever he undertakes to give it a new impulse, or
alter the direction of its habitual motion. It is nearly as difficult to
make him change his opinions as his language.

Here, then, without doubt, is the cause of that almost invincible
attachment which man displays to those customs--those prejudices--those
institutions of which it is in vain that reason, experience, good sense
prove to him the inutility, or even the danger. Habit opposes itself to
the clearest, the most evident demonstrations; these can avail nothing
against those passions, those vices, which time has rooted in him--
against the most ridiculous systems--against the most absurd notions--
against the most extravagant hypotheses--against the strangest customs:
above all, when he has learned to attach to them the ideas of utility,
of common interest, of the welfare of society. Such is the source of
that obstinacy, of that stubbornness, which man evinces for his
religion, for ancient usages, for unreasonable customs, for laws so
little accordant with justice, for abuses, which so frequently make him
suffer, for prejudices of which he sometimes acknowledges the absurdity,
yet is unwilling to divest himself of them. Here is the reason why
nations contemplate the most useful novelties as mischievous
innovations--why they believe they would be lost, if they were to remedy
those evils to which they have become habituated; which they have
learned to consider as necessary to their repose; which they have been
taught to consider dangerous to be cured.

_Education_ is only the art of making man contract, in early life, that
is to say, when his organs are extremely flexible, the habits, the
opinions, the modes of existence, adopted by the society in which he is
placed. The first moments of his infancy are employed in collecting
experience; those who are charged with the care of rearing him, or who
are entrusted to bring him up, teach him how to apply it: it is they who
develope reason in him: the first impulse they give him commonly decides
upon his condition, upon his passions, upon the ideas he forms to
himself of happiness, upon the means he shall employ to procure it, upon
his virtues, and upon his vices. Under the eyes of his masters, the
infant acquires ideas: under their tuition he learns to associate them,
--to think in a certain manner,--to judge well or ill. They point out to
him various objects, which they accustom him either to love or to hate,
to desire or to avoid, to esteem or to despise. It is thus opinions are
transmitted from fathers, mothers, nurses, and masters, to man in his
infantine state. It is thus, that his mind by degrees saturates itself
with truth, or fills itself with error; after which he regulates his
conduct, which renders him either happy or miserable, virtuous or
vicious, estimable or hateful. It is thus he becomes either contented or
discontented with his destiny, according to the objects towards which
they have directed his passions--towards which they have bent the
energies of his mind; that is to say, in which they have shewn him his
interest, in which they have taught him to place his felicity: in
consequence, he loves and searches after that which they have taught him
to revere--that which they have made the object of his research; he has
those tastes, those inclinations, those phantasms, which, during the
whole course of his life, he is forward to indulge, which he is eager to
satisfy, in proportion to the activity they have excited in him, and the
capacity with which he has been provided by Nature.

_Politics_ ought to be the art of regulating the passions of man--of
directing them to the welfare of society--of diverting them into a
genial current of happiness--of making them flow gently to the general
benefit of all: but too frequently it is nothing more than the
detestible art of arming the passions of the various members of society
against each other,--of making them the engines to accomplish their
mutual destruction,--of converting them into agents which embitter their
existence, create jealousies among them, and fill with rancorous
animosities that association from which, if properly managed, man ought
to derive his felicity. Society is commonly so vicious because it is not
founded upon Nature, upon experience, and upon general utility; but on
the contrary, upon the passions, upon the caprices, and upon the
particular interests of those by whom it is governed. In short, it is
for the most part the advantage of the few opposed to the prosperity of
the many.

Politics, to be useful, should found its principles upon Nature; that is
to say, should conform itself to the essence of man, should mould itself
to the great end of society: but what is society? and what is its end?
It is a whole, formed by the union of a great number of families, or by
a collection of individuals, assembled from a reciprocity of interest,
in order that they may satisfy with greater facility their reciprocal
wants--that they may, with more certainty, procure the advantages they
desire--that they may obtain mutual succours--above all, that they may
gain the faculty of enjoying, in security, those benefits with which
Nature and industry may furnish them: it follows, of course, that
politics, which are intended to maintain society, and to consolidate the
interests of this congregation, ought to enter into its views, to
facilitate the means of giving them efficiency, to remove all those
obstacles that have a tendency to counteract the intention with which
man entered into association.

Man, in approximating to his fellow man, to live with him in society,
has made, either formally or tacitly, a covenant; by which he engages to
render mutual services, to do nothing that can be prejudicial to his
neighbour. But as the nature of each individual impels him each instant
to seek after his own welfare, which he has mistaken to consist in the
gratification of his passions, and the indulgence of his transitory
caprices, without any regard to the convenience of his fellows; there
needed a power to conduct him back to his duty, to oblige him to conform
himself to his obligations, and to recall him to his engagements, which
the hurry of his passions frequently make him forget. This power is the
_law_; it is, or ought to be, the collection of the will of society,
reunited to fix the conduct of its members, to direct their action in
such a mode, that it may concur to the great end of his association--
the general good.

But as society, more especially when very numerous, is incapable of
assembling itself, unless with great difficulty, as it cannot with
tumult make known its intentions, it is obliged to choose citizens in
whom it places a confidence, whom it makes the interpreter of its will,
whom it constitutes the depositaries of the power requisite to carry it
into execution. Such is the origin of all _government_, which to be
legitimate can only be founded on the free consent of society. Those who
are charged with the care of governing, call themselves sovereigns,
chiefs, legislators: according to the form which society has been
willing to give to its government: these sovereigns are styled monarchs,
magistrates, representatives, &c. Government only borrows its power from
society: being established for no other purpose than its welfare, it is
evident society can revoke this power whenever its interest shall exact
it; change the form of its government; extend or limit the power which
it has confided to its chiefs, over whom, by the immutable laws of
Nature, it always conserves a supreme authority: because these laws
enjoin, that the part shall always remain subordinate to the whole.

Thus sovereigns are the ministers of society, its interpreters, the
depositaries of a greater or of a less portion of its power; but they
are not its absolute masters, neither are they the proprietors of
nations. By a _covenant_, either expressed or implied, they engage
themselves to watch over the maintenance, to occupy themselves with the
welfare of society; it is only upon these conditions society consents to
obey them. The price of obedience is protection. There is or ought to be
a reciprocity of interest between the governed and the governor:
whenever this reciprocity is wanting, society is in that state of
confusion of which we spoke in the fifth chapter: it is verging on
destruction. No society upon earth was ever willing or competent to
confer irrevocably upon its chiefs the power, the right, of doing it
injury. Such a concession, such a compact, would be annulled, would be
rendered void by Nature; because she wills that each society, the same
as each individual of the human species shall tend to its own
conservation; it has not therefore the capacity to consent to its
permanent unhappiness. _Laws_, in order that they may be just, ought
invariably to have for their end, the general interest of society; that
is to say, to assure to the greater number of citizens those advantages
for which man originally associated. These advantages are _liberty,
property, security_.

_Liberty_, to man, is the faculty of doing, for his own peculiar
happiness, every thing which does not injure or diminish the happiness
of his associates: in associating, each individual renounced the
exercise of that portion of his natural liberty which would be able to
prejudice or injure the liberty of his fellows. The exercise of that
liberty which is injurious to society is called _licentiousness_.

_Property_, to man, is the faculty of enjoying those advantages which
spring from labour; those benefits which industry or talent has procured
to each member of society.

_Security_, to man, is the certitude, the assurance, that each
individual ought to have, of enjoying in his person, of finding for his
property the protection of the laws, as long as he shall faithfully
observe, as long as he shall punctually perform, his engagements with

_Justice_, to man, assures to all the members of society, the possession
of these advantages, the enjoyment of those rights, which belong to
them. From this, it will appear, that without justice, society is not in
a condition to procure the happiness of any man. Justice is also called
_equity_, because by the assistance of the laws made to command the
whole, she reduces all its members to a state of equality; that is to
say, she prevents them from prevailing one over the other, by the
inequality which Nature or industry may have made between their
respective powers.

_Rights_, to man, are every thing which society, by equitable laws,
permits each individual to do for his own peculiar felicity. These
rights are evidently limited by the invariable end of all association:
society has, on its part, rights over all its members, by virtue of the
advantages which it procures for them; all its members, in turn, have a
right to claim, to exact from society, or secure from its ministers
those advantages for the procuring of which they congregated, in favour
of which they renounced a portion of their natural liberty. A society,
of which the chiefs, aided by the laws, do not procure any good for its
members, evidently loses its right over them: those chiefs who injure
society lose the right of commanding. It is not our country, without it
secures the welfare of its inhabitants; a society without equity
contains only enemies; a society oppressed is composed only of tyrants
and slaves; slaves are incapable of being citizens; it is liberty,
property, and security, that render our country dear to us; it is the
true love of his country that forms the citizen.

For want of having a proper knowledge of these truths, or for want of
applying them when known, some nations have become unhappy--have
contained nothing but a vile heap of slaves, separated from each other,
detached from society, which neither procures for them any good, nor
secures to them any one advantage. In consequence of the imprudence of
some nations, or of the craft, cunning, and violence of those to whom
they have confided the power of making laws, and carrying them into
execution, their sovereigns have rendered themselves absolute masters of
society. These, mistaking the true source of their power, pretended to
hold it from heaven, to be accountable for their actions to God alone,
to owe nothing, not to have any obligation to society, in a word, to be
gods upon earth, to possess the right of governing arbitrarily. From
thence politics became corrupted: they were only a mockery. Such
nations, disgraced and grown contemptible, did not dare resist the will
of their chiefs; their laws were nothing more than the expression of the
caprice of these chiefs; public welfare was sacrificed to their peculiar
interests; the force of society was turned against itself; its members
withdrew to attach themselves to its oppressors, to its tyrants; these
to seduce them, permitted them to injure it with impunity and to profit
by its misfortunes. Thus liberty, justice, security, and virtue, were
banished from many nations; politics was no longer any thing more than
the art of availing itself of the forces of a people and of the treasure
of society; of dividing it on the subject of its interest, in order to
subjugate it by itself; at length a stupid, a mechanical habit, made
them cherish their oppressors, and love their chains.

Man when he has nothing to fear, presently becomes wicked; he who
believes be has not occasion for his fellow, persuades himself he may
follow the inclinations of his heart without caution or discretion. Thus
fear is the only obstacle society can effectually oppose to the passions
of its chiefs; without it they will quickly become corrupt, and will not
scruple to avail themselves of the means society has placed in their
hands, to make them accomplices in their iniquity. To prevent these
abuses, it is requisite society should set bounds to its confidence;
should limit the power which it delegates to its chiefs; should reserve
to itself a sufficient portion of authority to prevent them from
injuring it; it must establish prudent checks: it must cautiously divide
the power it confers, because re-united, it will by such reunion be
infallibly oppressed. The slightest reflection, the most scanty review,
will make men feel that the burthen of governing and weight of
administration, is too ponderous and overpowering to be borne by an
individual; that the scope of his jurisdiction, that the range of his
surveillance, and multiplicity of his duties must always render him
negligent; that the extent of his power has ever a tendency to render
him mischievous. In short, the experience of all ages will convince
nations that man is continually tempted to the abuse of power: that as
an abundance of strong liquor intoxicates his brain, so unlimited power
corrupts his heart; that therefore the sovereign ought to be subject to
the law, not the law to the sovereign.

_Government_ has necessarily an equal influence over the philosophy, as
over the morals of nations. In the same manner that its care produces
labour, activity, abundance, salubrity and justice; its negligence
induces idleness, sloth, discouragement, penury, contagion, injustice,
vices and crimes. It depends upon government either to foster industry,
mature genius, give a spring to talents, or stifle them. Indeed
government, the disturber of dignities, of riches, of rewards, and
punishments; the master of those objects in which man from his infancy
has learned to place his felicity, and contemplate as the means of his
happiness; acquires a necessary influence over his conduct: it kindles
his passions; gives them direction; makes him instrumental to whatever
purpose it pleases; it modifies him; determines his manners; which in a
whole people, as in the individual, is nothing more than the conduct,
the general system of wills, of actions that necessarily result from his
education, government, laws, and religious opinions--his institutions,
whether rational or irrational. In short, manners are the habits of a
people: these are good whenever society draws from them true felicity
and solid happiness; they are bad, they are detestable in the eye of
reason, when the happiness of society does not spring from them; they
are unwholesome when they have nothing more in their favour than the
suffrage of time, and the countenance of prejudice which rarely consults
experience, which is almost ever at variance with good sense:
notwithstanding they may have the sanction of the law, custom, religion,
public opinion, or example, they may be unworthy and may be disgraceful,
provided society is in disorder; that crime abounds; that virtue shrinks
beneath the basilisk eye of triumphant vice; they may then be said to
resemble the UPAS, whose luxuriant yet poisonous foliage, the produce of
a rank soil, becomes more baneful to those who are submitted to its
vortex, in proportion as it extends its branches. If experience he
consulted, it will be found there is no action, however abominable, that
has not received the applause, that has not obtained the approbation of
some people. Parricide, the sacrifice of children, robbery, usurpation,
cruelty, intolerance, and prostitution, have all in their turn been
licensed actions; have been advocated; have been deemed laudable and
meritorious deeds with some nations of the earth. Above all,
_superstition_ has consecrated the most unreasonable, the most revolting

Man's passions result from and depend on the motion of attraction or
repulsion, of which he is rendered susceptible by Nature; who enables
him, by his peculiar essence, to be attracted by those objects which
appear useful to him, to be repelled by those which he considers
prejudicial; it follows that government, by holding the magnet, can put
these passions into activity, has the power either of restraining them,
or of giving them a favorable or an unfavorable direction. All his
passions are constantly limited by either loving or hating, seeking or
avoiding, desiring or fearing. These passions, so necessary to the
conservation of man, are a consequence of his organization; they display
themselves with more or less energy, according to his temperament;
education and habit develope them; government gives them play, conducts
them towards those objects, which it believes itself interested in
making desirable to its subjects. The various names which have been
given to these passions, are relative to the different objects by which
they are excited, such as pleasure, grandeur, or riches, which produce
voluptuousness, ambition, vanity and avarice. If the source of those
passions which predominate in nations be attentively examined it will be
commonly found in their governments. It is the impulse received from
their chiefs that renders them sometimes warlike, sometimes
superstitious, sometimes aspiring after glory, sometimes greedy after
wealth, sometimes rational, and sometimes unreasonable; if sovereigns,
in order to enlighten and render happy their dominions, were to employ
only the _tenth_ part of the vast expenditures which they lavish, only a
_tythe_ of the pains which they employ to render them brutish, to
stupify them, to deceive them, and to afflict them; their subjects would
presently be as wise, would quickly be as happy, as they are now
remarkable for being blind, ignorant, and miserable.

Let the vain project of destroying, the delusive attempt at rooting his
passions from the heart of man, he abandoned; let an effort be made to
direct them towards objects that may he useful to himself, beneficial to
his associates. Let education, let government, let the laws, habituate
him to restrain his passions within those just bounds that experience
fixes and reason prescribes. Let the ambitious have honours, titles,
distinctions, and power, when they shall have usefully served their
country; let riches be given to those who covet them, when they shall
have rendered themselves necessary to their fellow citizens; let
commendations, let eulogies, encourage those who shall be actuated by
the love of glory. In short, let the passions of man have a free, an
uninterrupted course, whenever there shall result from their exercise,
real, substantial, and durable advantages to society. Let education
kindle only those, which are truly beneficial to the human species; let
it favour those alone which are really necessary to the maintenance of
society. The passions of man are dangerous, only because every thing
conspires to give them an evil direction.

Nature does not make man either good or wicked: she combines machines
more or less active, mobile, and energetic; she furnishes him with
organs and temperament, of which his passions, more or less impetuous,
are the necessary consequence; these passions have always his happiness
for their object, his welfare for their end: in consequence they are
legitimate, they are natural, they can only be called bad or good,
relatively, to the influence they have on the beings of his species.
Nature gives man legs proper to sustain his weight, and necessary to
transport him from one place to another; the care of those who rear them
strengthens them, habituates him to avail himself of him, accustoms him
to make either a good or a bad use of them. The arm which he has
received from Nature is neither good nor bad; it is necessary to a great
number of the actions of life; nevertheless, the use of this arm becomes
criminal, if he has contracted the habit of using it to rob, to
assassinate, with a view to obtain that money which he has been taught
from his infancy to desire, and which the society in which he lives
renders necessary to him, but which his industry will enable him to
obtain without doing injury to his fellow man.

The heart of man is a soil which Nature has made equally suitable to the
production of brambles, or of useful grain--of deleterous poison, or of
refreshing fruit, by virtue of the seeds which may he sown in it--by the
cultivation that may be bestowed upon it, In his infancy, those objects
are pointed out to him which he is to estimate or to despise, to seek
after or to avoid, to love or to hate. It is his parents, his
instructors, who render him either virtuous or wicked, wise or
unreasonable, studious or dissipated, steady or trifling, solid or vain.
Their example, their discourse, modify him through his whole life,
teaching him what are the things he ought either to desire or to avoid;
what the objects he ought to fear or to love: he desires them, in
consequence; and he imposes on himself the task of obtaining them,
according to the energy of his temperament, which ever decides the force
of his passions. It is thus that education, by inspiring him with
opinions, by infusing into him ideas, whether true or false, gives him
those primitive impulsions after which he acts, in a manner either
advantageous or prejudicial both to himself and to others. Man, at his
birth, brings with him into the world nothing but the necessity of
conserving himself, of rendering his existence happy: instruction,
example, the customs of the world, present him with the means, either
real or imaginary, of achieving it; habit procures for him the facility
of employing these means: he attaches himself strongly to those he
judges best calculated, most proper to secure to him the possession of
those objects which they have taught him, which he has learned to desire
as the preferable good attached to his existence. Whenever his
education--whenever the examples which have been afforded him--whenever
the means with which he has been provided, are approved by reason, are
the result of experience, every thing concurs to render him virtuous;
habit strengthens these dispositions in him; he becomes, in consequence,
a useful member of society; to the interests of which, every thing ought
to prove to him his own permanent well-being, his own durable felicity,
is necessarily allied. If, on the contrary, his education--his
institutions--the examples which are set before him--the opinions which
are suggested to him in his infancy, are of a nature to exhibit to his
mind virtue as useless and repugnant--vice as useful and congenial to
his own individual happiness, he will become vicious; he will believe
himself interested in injuring society, in rendering his associates
unhappy; he will be carried along by the general current: he will
renounce virtue, which to him will no longer be any thing more than a
vain idol, without attractions to induce him to follow it; without
charms to tempt his adoration; because it will appear to exact, that he
should immolate at its shrine, that he should sacrifice at its altar all
those objects which he has been constantly taught to consider the most
dear to himself; to contemplate as benefits the most desirable.

In order that man may become virtuous, it is absolutely requisite that
he should have an interest, that he should find advantages in practising
virtue. For this end, it is necessary that education should implant in
him reasonable ideas; that public opinion should lean towards virtue, as
the most desirable good; that example should point it out as the object
most worthy esteem; that government should faithfully recompense, should
regularly reward it; that honor should always accompany its practice;
that vice should constantly be despised; that crime should invariably be
punished. Is virtue in this situation amongst men? does the education of
man infuse into him just, faithful ideas of happiness--true notions of
virtue--dispositions really favourable to the beings with whom he is to
live? The examples spread before him, are they suitable to innocence and
manners? are they calculated to make him respect decency--to cause him
to love probity--to practice honesty--to value good faith--to esteem
equity--to revere conjugal fidelity--to observe exactitude in fulfilling
his duties? Religion, which alone pretends to regulate his manners, does
it render him sociable--does it make him pacific--does it teach him to
be humane? The arbiters, the sovereigns of society, are they faithful in
recompensing, punctual in rewarding, those who have best served their
country? in punishing those who have pillaged, who have robbed, who have
plundered, who have divided, who have ruined it? Justice, does she hold
her scales with a firm, with an even hand, between all the citizens of
the state? The laws, do they never support the strong against the weak--
favor the rich against the poor--uphold the happy against the miserable?
In short, is it an uncommon spectacle to behold crime frequently
justified, often applauded, sometimes crowned with success, insolently
triumphing, arrogantly striding over that merit which it disdains, over
that virtue which it outrages? Well then, in societies thus constituted,
virtue can only be heard by a very small number of peaceable citizens, a
few generous souls, who know how to estimate its value, who enjoy it in
secret. For the others, it is only a disgusting object; they see in it
nothing but the supposed enemy to their happiness, or the censor of
their individual conduct.

If man, according to his nature, is necessitated to desire his welfare,
he is equally obliged to love and cherish the means by which he believes
it is to be acquired: it would be useless, it would perhaps be unjust,
to demand that a man should be virtuous, if he could not be so without
rendering himself miserable. Whenever he thinks vice renders him happy,
he must necessarily love vice; whenever he sees inutility recompensed,
crime rewarded--whenever he witnesses either or both of them honored,--
what interest will he find in occupying himself with the happiness of
his fellow-creatures? what advantage will he discover in restraining the
fury of his passions? Whenever his mind is saturated with false ideas,
filled with dangerous opinions, it follows, of course, that his whole
conduct will become nothing more than a long chain of errors, a tissue
of mistakes, a series of depraved actions.

We are informed, that the savages, in order to flatten the heads of
their children, squeeze them between two boards, by that means
preventing them from taking the shape designed for them by Nature. It is
pretty nearly the same thing with the institutions of man; they commonly
conspire to counteract Nature, to constrain and divert, to extinguish
the impulse Nature has given him, to substitute others which are the
source of all his misfortunes. In almost all the countries of the earth,
man is bereft of truth, is fed with falsehoods, and amused with
marvellous chimeras: he is treated like those children whose members
are, by the imprudent care of their nurses, swathed with little fillets,
bound up with rollers, which deprive them of the free use of their
limbs, obstruct their growth, prevent their activity, and oppose
themselves to their health.

Most of the superstitious opinions of man have for their object only to
display to him his supreme felicity in those illusions for which they
kindle his passions: but as the phantoms which are presented to his
imagination are incapable of being considered in the same light by all
who contemplate them, he is perpetually in dispute concerning these
objects; he hates his fellow, he persecutes his neighbour, his neighbour
in turn persecutes him, and he believes that in doing this he is doing
well: that in committing the greatest crimes to sustain his opinions he
is acting right. It is thus superstition infatuates man from his
infancy, fills him with vanity, and enslaves him with fanaticism: if he
has a heated imagination, it drives him on to fury; if he has activity,
it makes him a madman, who is frequently as cruel himself, as he is
dangerous to his fellow-creatures, as he is incommodious to others: if,
on the contrary, he be phlegmatic, and of a slothful habit, he becomes
melancholy and useless to society.

_Public opinion_ every instant offers to man's contemplation false ideas
of honor, and wrong notions of glory: it attaches his esteem not only to
frivolous advantages, but also to prejudicial interests and injurious
actions; which example authorizes, which prejudice consecrates, which
habit precludes him from viewing with the disgust and horror which they
merit. Indeed, habit familiarizes his mind with the most absurd ideas,
the most unreasonable customs, the most blameable actions; with
prejudices the most contrary to his own interests, and detrimental to
the society in which he lives. He finds nothing strange, nothing
singular, nothing despicable, nothing ridiculous, except those opinions
and objects to which he is himself unaccustomed. There are countries in
which the most laudable actions appear very blameable and ridiculous--
where the foulest and most diabolical actions pass for very honest and
perfectly rational conduct. In some nations they kill the old men; in
some the children strangle their fathers. The Phoenicians and
Carthaginians immolated their children to their gods. Europeans approve
duels; he who refuses to cut the throat of another, or to blow out the
brains of his neighbour, is contemplated by them as dishonoured. The
Spaniards and Portuguese think it meritorious to burn an heretic. In
some countries women prostitute themselves without dishonour; in others
it is the height of hospitality for a man to present his wife to the
embraces of the stranger: the refusal to accept this, excites his scorn
and calls forth his resentment.

_Authority_ commonly believes itself interested in maintaining the
received opinions: those prejudices and errors which it considers
requisite to the maintenance of its power and the consolidation of its
interests, are sustained by force, which is never rational. Princes
themselves, filled with deceptive images of happiness, mistaken notions
of power, erroneous opinions of grandeur, and false ideas of glory, are
surrounded with flattering courtiers, who are interested in keeping up
the delusion of their masters: these contemptible men have acquired
ideas of virtue, only that they may outrage it: by degrees they corrupt
the people, these become depraved, lend themselves to their
debaucheries, pander to the vices of the great, then make a merit of
imitating them in their irregularities. A court is too frequently the
true focus of the corruption of a people.

This is the true source of moral evil. It is thus that every thing
conspires to render man vicious, and give a fatal impulse to his soul:
from whence results the general confusion of society, which becomes
unhappy, from the misery of almost every one of its members. The
strongest motive-powers are put in action to inspire man with a passion
for futile objects which are indifferent to him; which make him become
dangerous to his fellow man, by the means which he is compelled to
employ, in order to obtain them. Those who have the charge of guiding
his steps, either impostors themselves, or the dupes to their own
prejudices, forbid him to hearken to reason; they make truth appear
dangerous to him; they exhibit error as requisite to his welfare, not
only in this world, but in the next. In short, habit strongly attaches
him to his irrational opinions, to his perilous inclinations, and to his
blind passion for objects either useless or dangerous. Here, then, is
the reason why for the most part man finds himself necessarily
determined to evil; the reason why the passions, inherent in his Nature
and necessary to his conservation, become the instruments of his
destruction, and the bane of that society, which properly conducted,
they ought to preserve; the reason why society becomes a state of
warfare; why it does nothing but assemble enemies, who are envious of
each other, and are always rivals for the prize. If some virtuous beings
are to be found in these societies, they must be sought for in the very
small number of those, who born with a phlegmatic temperament have
moderate passions, who therefore, either do not desire at all, or desire
very feebly, those objects with which their associates are continually

Man's nature, diversely cultivated, decides upon his faculties, as well
corporeal as intellectual; upon his qualities, as well moral as
physical. The man who is of a sanguine, robust constitution, must
necessarily have strong passions; he who is of a bilious, melancholy
habit, will as necessarily have fantastical and gloomy passions; the man
of a gay turn, of a sprightly imagination, will have cheerful passions;
while the man in whom phlegm abounds, will have those which are gentle,
or which have a very slight degree of violence. It appears to be upon
the equilibrium of the humours, that depends the state of the man who is
called _virtuous_; his temperament seems to be the result of a
combination, in which the elements or principles are balanced with such
precision that no one passion predominates over another, or carries into
his machine more disorder than its neighbour.

Habit, as we have seen, is man's nature modified: this latter furnishes
the matter; education, domestic example, national manners, give it the
form: these, acting on his temperament, make him either reasonable, or
irrational--enlightened, or stupid--a fanatic, or a hero--an enthusiast
for the public good, or an unbridled criminal--a wise man, smitten with
the advantages of virtue, or a libertine, plunged into every kind of
vice. All the varieties of the moral man, depend on the diversity of his
ideas; which are themselves arranged and combined in his brain by the
intervention of his senses. His temperament is the produce of physical
substances, his habits are the effect of physical modifications; the
opinions, whether good or bad, injurious or beneficial, true or false,
which form themselves in his mind, are never more than the effect of
those physical impulsions which the brain receives by the medium of the


_The Soul does not derive its ideas from itself--It has no innate

What has preceded suffices to prove, that the interior organ of man,
which is called his _soul_, is purely material. He will be enabled to
convince himself of this truth, by the manner in which he acquires his
ideas,--from those impressions which material objects successively make
on his organs, which are themselves acknowledged to be material. It has
been seen, that the faculties which are called intellectual, are to be
ascribed to that of feeling; the different qualities of those faculties
which are called moral, have been explained after the necessary laws of
a very simple mechanism: it now remains, to reply to those who still
obstinately persist in making the soul a substance distinguished from
the body, or who insist on giving it an essence totally distinct. They
seem to found their distinction upon this, that this interior organ has
the faculty of drawing its ideas from within itself; they will have it,
that man, at his birth, brings with him ideas into the world, which,
according to this wonderful notion, they have called _innate_. The Jews
have a similar doctrine which they borrowed from the Chaldeans: their
rabbins taught, that each soul, before it was united to the seed that
must form an infant in the womb of a woman, is confided to the care of
an angel, which causes him to behold heaven, earth, and hell: this, they
pretend, is done by the assistance of a lamp, which extinguishes itself
as soon as the infant comes into the world. Some ancient philosophers
have held, that the soul originally contains the principles of several
notions or doctrines: the Stoics designated this by the term PROLEPSIS,
_anticipated opinions_; the Greek mathematicians, KOINAS ENNOIAS,
_universal ideas_. They have believed that the soul, by a special
privilege, in a nature where every thing is connected, enjoyed the
faculty of moving itself without receiving any impulse; of creating to
itself ideas, of thinking on a subject, without being determined to such
action, by any exterior object; which by moving its organs should
furnish it with an image of the subject of its thoughts. In consequence
of these gratuitous suppositions, of these extraordinary pretensions,
which it is only requisite to expose, in order to confute some very able
speculators, who were prepossessed by their superstitious prejudices;
have ventured the length to assert, that without model, without
prototype to act on the senses, the soul is competent to delineate to
itself, the whole universe with all the beings it contains. DESCARTES
and his disciples have assured us, that the body went absolutely for
nothing, in the sensations, in the perceptions, in the ideas of the
soul; that it can feel, that it can perceive, that it can understand,
that it can taste, that it can touch, even when there should exist
nothing that is corporeal or material exterior to ourselves. But what
shall be said of a BERKELEY, who has endeavoured, who has laboured to
prove to man, that every thing in this world is nothing more than a
chimerical illusion; that the universe exists nowhere but in himself;
that it has no identity but in his imagination; who has rendered the
existence of all things problematical by the aid of sophisms, insolvable
even to those who maintain the doctrine of the spirituality of the soul.

Extravagant as this doctrine of the BISHOP OF CLOYNE may appear, it
cannot well be more so than that of MALEBRANCHE, the champion of innate
ideas; who makes the divinity the common bond between the soul and the
body: or than that of those metaphysicians, who maintain that the soul
is a substance heterogeneous to the body; who by ascribing to this soul
the thoughts of man, have in fact rendered the body superfluous. They
have not perceived they were liable to one solid objection, which is,
that if the ideas of man are innate, if he derives them from a superior
being, independent of exterior causes, if he sees every thing in God;
how comes it that so many false ideas are afloat, that so many errors
prevail, with which the human mind is saturated? From whence comes these
opinions, which according to the theologians are so displeasing to God?
Might it not be a question to the Malebranchists, was it in the Divinity
that SPINOZA beheld his system?

Nevertheless, to justify such monstrous opinions, they assert that ideas
are only the objects of thought. But according to the last analysis,
these ideas can only reach man from exterior objects, which in giving
impulse to his senses modify his brain; or from the material beings
contained within the interior of his machine, who make some parts of his
body experience those sensations which he perceives, which furnish him
with ideas, which he relates, faithfully or otherwise, to the cause that
moves him. Each idea is an effect, but however difficult it may be to
recur to the cause, can we possibly suppose it is not ascribable to a
cause? If we can only form ideas of material substances, how can we
suppose the cause of our ideas can possibly be immaterial? To pretend
that man without the aid of exterior objects, without the intervention
of his senses, is competent to form ideas of the universe, is to assert,
that a blind man is in a capacity to form a true idea of a picture, that
represents some fact of which he has never heard any one speak.

It is very easy to perceive the source of those errors, into which men,
otherwise extremely profound and very enlightened have fallen, when they
have been desirous to speak of the soul: to describe its operations.
Obliged either by their own prejudices, or by the fear of combatting the
opinions of some imperious theologian, they have become the advocates of
the principle, that the soul was a pure spirit: an immaterial substance;
of an essence directly different from that of the body; from every thing
we behold: this granted, they have been incompetent to conceive how
material objects could operate, in what manner gross and corporeal
organs were enabled to act on a substance, that had no kind of analogy
with them; how they were in a capacity to modify it by conveying its
ideas; in the impossibility of explaining this phenomenon, at the same
time perceiving that the soul had ideas, they concluded that it must
draw them from itself, and not from those beings, which according to
their own hypothesis, were incapable of acting on it, or rather, of
which they could not conceive the manner of action; they therefore
imagined that all the modifications, all the actions of this soul,
sprung from its own peculiar energy, were imprinted on it from its first
formation, by the Author of Nature: that these did not in any manner
depend upon the beings of which we have a knowledge, or which act upon
it, by the gross means of our senses.

There are, however, some phenomena, which, considered superficially,
appear to support the opinion of these philosophers; to announce a
faculty in the human soul of producing ideas within itself, without any
exterior aid; these are _dreams_, in which the interior organ of man,
deprived of objects that move it visibly, does not, however, cease to
have ideas--to be set in activity--to be modified in a manner that is
sufficiently sensible--to have an influence upon his body. But if a
little reflection be called in, the solution to this difficulty will be
found: it will be perceived that, even during sleep, his brain is
supplied with a multitude of ideas, with which the eye or time before
has stocked it; these ideas were communicated to it by exterior or
corporeal objects, by which they have been modified: it will be found
that these modifications renew themselves, not by any spontaneous, not
by any voluntary motion on its part, but by a chain of involuntary
movements which take place in his machine, which determine, which excite
those that give play to the brain; these modifications renew themselves
with more or less fidelity, with a greater or lesser degree of
conformity to those which it has anteriorly experienced. Sometimes in
dreaming, he has memory, then he retraces to himself the objects which
have struck him faithfully;--at other times, these modifications renew
themselves without order, and without connection, very differently from
those, which real objects have before excited in his interior organ. If
in a dream he believes he sees a friend, his brain renews in itself the
modifications or the ideas which this friend had formerly excited--in
the same order that they arranged themselves when his eyes really beheld
him--this is nothing more than an effect of memory. If in his dream he
fancies he sees a monster which has no model in nature, his brain is
then modified in the same manner that it was by the particular, by the
detached ideas, with which it then does nothing more than compose an
ideal whole; by assembling, and associating, in a ridiculous manner, the
scattered ideas that were consigned to its keeping; it is then, that in
dreaming he has imagination.

Those dreams that are troublesome, extravagant, whimsical, or
unconnected, are commonly the effect of some confusion in his machine;
such as painful indigestion--an overheated blood--a prejudicial
fermentation, &c.--these material causes excite in his body a disorderly
motion, which precludes the brain from being modified in the same manner
it was on the day before; in consequence of this irregular motion the
brain is disturbed, it only represents to itself confused ideas that
want connection. When in a dream, he believes he sees a Sphinx, a being
supposed by the poets to have a head and face like a woman, a body like
a dog, wings like a bird, and claws like a lion, who put forth riddles
and killed those who could not expound them; either, he has seen the
representation of one when he was awake, or else the disorderly motion
of the brain is such that it causes it to combine ideas, to connect
parts, from which there results a whole without model, of which the
parts were not formed to be united. It is thus, that his brain combines
the head of a woman, of which it already has the idea, with the body of
a lioness, of which it also has the image. In this his head acts in the
same manner, as when by any defect in the interior organ, his disordered
imagination paints to him some objects, notwithstanding he is awake. He
frequently dreams, without being asleep: his dreams never produce any
thing so strange but that they have some resemblance, with the objects
which have anteriorly acted on his senses; which have already
communicated ideas to his brain. The watchful theologians have composed,
at their leisure, in their waking hours, those phantoms, of which they
avail themselves, to terrify or frighten man; they have done nothing
more than assemble the scattered traits which they have found in the
most terrible beings of their own species; by exaggerating the powers,
by enlarging the rights claimed by tyrants, they have formed ideal
beings, before whom man trembles, and is afraid.

Thus, it is seen, that dreams, far from proving that the soul acts by
its own peculiar energy, that it draws its ideas from its own recesses;
prove, on the contrary, that in sleep it is intirely passive, that it
does not even renew its modifications, but according to the involuntary
confusion, which physical causes produce in the body, of which every
thing tends to shew the identity, the consubstantiality with the soul.
What appears to have led those into a mistake, who maintained that the
soul drew its ideas from itself, is this, they have contemplated these
ideas, as if they were real beings, when, in point of fact, they are
nothing more than the modifications produced in the brain of man, by
objects to which this brain is a stranger; they are these objects, who
are the true models, who are the real archetypes to which it is
necessary to recur: here is the source of all their errors.

In the individual who dreams, the soul does not act more from itself,
than it does in the man who is drunk, that is to say, who is modified by
some spirituous liquor: or than it does in the sick man, when he is
delirious, that is to say, when he is modified by those physical causes
which disturb his machine, which obstruct it in the performance of its
functions; or than it, does in him, whose brain is disordered: dreams,
like these various states, announce nothing more than a physical
confusion in the human machine, under the influence of which the brain
ceases to act, after a precise and regular manner: this disorder may be
traced to physical causes, such as the aliments--the humours--the
combinations--the fermentations, which are but little analogous to the
salutary state of man; from hence it will appear, that his brain is
necessarily confused, whenever his body is agitated in an extraordinary

Do not let him, therefore, believe that his soul acts by itself, or
without a cause, in any one moment of his existence; it is, conjointly
with the body, submitted to the impulse of beings, who act on him
necessarily, according to their various properties. Wine taken in too
great a quantity, necessarily disturbs his ideas, causes confusion in
his corporeal functions, occasions disorder in his mental faculties.

If there really existed a being in Nature, with the capability of moving
itself by its own peculiar energies, that is to say, able to produce
motion, independent of all other causes, such a being would have the
power of arresting itself, or of suspending the motion of the universe;
which is nothing more than an immense chain of causes linked one to
another, acting and re-acting by necessary immutable laws, and which
cannot be changed, which are incapable of being suspended, unless the
essences of every thing in it were changed, without the properties of
every thing were annihilated. In the general system of the world,
nothing more can be perceived than a long series of motion, received and
communicated in succession, by beings capacitated to give impulse to
each other: it is thus, that each body is moved by the collision of some
other body. The invisible motion of some soul is to be attributed to
causes concealed within himself; he believes that it is moved by itself,
because he does not see the springs which put it in motion, or because
he conceives those powers are incapable of producing the effects he so
much admires: but, does he more clearly conceive, how a spark in
exploding gunpowder, is capable of producing the terrible effects he
witnesses? The source of his errors arise from this, that he regards his
body as gross and inert, whilst this body is a sensible machine, which
has necessarily an instantaneous conscience the moment it receives an
impression; which is conscious of its own existence by the recollection
of impressions successively experienced; memory by resuscitating an
impression anteriorly received, by detaining it, or by causing an
impression which it receives to remain, whilst it associates it with
another, then with a third, gives all the mechanism of _reasoning_.

An idea, which is only an imperceptible modification of the brain, gives
play to the organ of speech, which displays itself by the motion it
excites in the tongue: this, in its turn, breeds ideas, thoughts, and
passions, in those beings who are provided with organs susceptible of
receiving analagous motion; in consequence of which, the wills of a
great number of men are influenced, who, combining their efforts,
produce a revolution in a state, or even have an influence over the
entire globe. It is thus, that an ALEXANDER decided the fate of Asia, it
is thus, that a MAHOMET changed the face of the earth; it is thus, that
imperceptible causes produce the most terrible, the most extended
effects, by a series of necessary motion imprinted on the brain of man.

The difficulty of comprehending the effects produced on the soul of man,
has made him attribute to it those incomprehensible qualities which have
been examined. By the aid of imagination, by the power of thought, this
soul appears to quit his body, to carry itself with the greatest ease,
to transport itself with the utmost facility towards the most distant
objects; to run over, to approximate in the twinkling of an eye, all the
points of the universe: he has therefore believed, that a being who is
susceptible of such rapid motion, must be of a nature very distinguished
from all others; he has persuaded himself that this soul in reality does
travel, that it actually springs over the immense space necessary to
meet these various objects; he did not perceive, that to do it in an
instant, it had only to run over itself to approximate the ideas
consigned to its keeping, by means of the senses.

Indeed, it is never by any other means than by his senses, that beings
become known to man, or furnish him with ideas; it is only in
consequence of the impulse given to his body, that his brain is
modified, or that his soul thinks, wills, and acts. If, as ARISTOTLE
asserted more than two thousand years ago,--"_nothing enters the mind of
man but through the medium of his senses_,"--it follows as a
consequence, that every thing that issues from it must find some
sensible object to which it can attach its ideas, whether immediately,
as a man, a tree, a bird, &c. or in the last analysis or decomposition,
such as pleasure, happiness, vice, virtue, &c. This principle, so true,
so luminous, so important in its consequence, has been set forth in all
its lustre, by a great number of philosophers; among the rest, by the
great LOCKE. Whenever, therefore, a word or its idea does not connect
itself with some sensible object to which it can be related, this word
or this idea is unmeaning, and void of sense; it were better for man
that the idea was banished from his mind, struck out of his language:
this principle is only the converse of the axiom of ARISTOTLE,--"_if the
direct be evident, the inverse must be so likewise_." How has it
happened, that the profound LOCKE, who, to the great mortification of
the metaphysicians, has placed this principle of ARISTOTLE in the
clearest point of view? how is it, that all those who, like him, have
recognized the absurdity of the system of innate ideas, have not drawn
the immediate, the necessary consequences? How has it come to pass, that
they have not had sufficient courage to apply so clear a principle to
all those fanciful chimeras with which the human mind has for such a
length of time been so vainly occupied? did they not perceive that their
principle sapped the very foundations of those metaphysical
speculations, which never occupy man but with those objects of which, as
they are inaccessible to his senses, he consequently can never form to
himself any accurate idea? But prejudice, when it is generally held
sacred, prevents him from seeing the most simple application of the most
self-evident principles. In metaphysical researches, the greatest men
are frequently nothing more than children, who are incapable of either
foreseeing or deducing the consequence of their own data.

LOCKE, as well as all those who have adopted his system, which is so
demonstrable,--or to the axiom of ARISTOTLE, which is so clear, ought to
have concluded from it that all those wonderful things with which
metaphysicians have amused themselves, are mere chimeras; mere
wanderings of the imagination; that an immaterial spirit or substance,
without extent, without parts, is, in fact, nothing more than an absence
of ideas; in short, they ought to have felt that the ineffable
intelligence which they have supposed to preside at the helm of the
world, is after all nothing more than a being of their own imagination,
on which man has never been in accord, whom he has pictured under all
the variety of forms, to which he has at different periods, in different
climes, ascribed every kind of attribute, good or bad; but of which it
is impossible his senses can ever prove either the existence or the

For the same reason, moral philosophers ought to have concluded, that
what is called moral sentiment, _moral instinct_, that is, innate ideas
of virtue, anterior to all experience of the good or bad effects
resulting from its practice, are mere chimerical notions, which, like a
great many others, have for their guarantee and base only metaphysical
speculation. Before man can judge, he must feel; before he can
distinguish good from evil, he must compare. _Morals_, is a science of
facts: to found them, therefore, on an hypothesis inaccessible to his
senses, of which he has no means of proving the reality, is to render
them uncertain; it is to cast the log of discord into his lap, to cause
him unceasingly to dispute upon that which he can never understand. To
assert that the ideas of morals are _innate_, or the effect of
_instinct_, is to pretend that man knows how to read before he has
learned the letters of the alphabet; that he is acquainted with the laws
of society before they are either made or promulgated.

To undeceive him, with respect to innate ideas or modifications,
imprinted on his soul, at the moment of his birth, it is simply
requisite to recur to their source; he will then see that those with
which he is familiar, which have, as it were, identified themselves with
his existence, have all come to him through the medium of some of his
senses; that they are sometimes engraven on his brain with great
difficulty,--that they have never been permanent,--that they have
perpetually varied in him: he will see that these pretended inherent
ideas of his soul, are the effect of education, of example, above all,
of habit, which by reiterated motion has taught his brain to associate
his ideas either in a confused or a perspicuous manner; to familiarize
itself with systems either rational or absurd. In short, he takes those
for innate ideas of which he has forgotten the origin; he no longer
recals to himself, either the precise epoch, or the successive
circumstances when these ideas were first consigned to his brain:
arrived at a certain age he believes he has always had the same notions;
his memory, crowded with experience, loaded with a multitude of facts,
is no longer able to distinguish the particular circumstances which have
contributed to give his brain its present modifications; its
instantaneous mode of thinking; its actual opinions. For example, not
one of his race, perhaps, recollects the first time the word God struck
his ears--the first ideas that it formed in him--the first thoughts that
it produced in him; nevertheless, it is certain that from thence he has
searched for some being with whom to connect the idea which he has
either formed to himself, or which has been suggested to him: accustomed
to hear God continually spoken of, he has, when in other respects, the
most enlightened, regarded this idea as if it were infused into him by
Nature; whilst it is visibly to be attributed to those delineations of
it, which his parents or his instructors have made to him; which he has,
in consequence, modified according to his own particular organization,
and the circumstances in which he has been placed; it is thus, that each
individual forms to himself a God, of which he is himself the model, or
which he modifies after his own fashion.

His ideas of morals, although more real than those of metaphysics, are
not however innate: the moral sentiments he forms on the will, or the
judgment he passes on the actions of man, are founded on experience;
which alone can enable him to discriminate those which are either useful
or prejudicial, virtuous or vicious, honest or dishonest, worthy his
esteem, or deserving his censure. His moral sentiments are the fruit of
a multitude of experience that is frequently very long and very
complicated. He gathers it with time; it is more or less faithful, by
reason of his particular organization and the causes by which he is
modified; he ultimately applies this experience with greater or less
facility; to this is to be attributed his habit of judging. The celerity
with which he applies his experience when he judges of the moral actions
of his fellow man, is what has been termed _moral instinct_.

That which in natural philosophy is called _instinct_, is only the
effect of some want of the body, the consequence of some attraction or
some repulsion in man or animals. The child that is newly born, sucks
for the first time; the nipple of the breast is put into his mouth: by
the natural analogy, that is found between the conglomerate glands,
filled with nerves; which line his mouth, and the milk which flows from
the bosom of the nurse, through the medium of the nipple, causes the
child to press it with his mouth, in order to express the fluid
appropriate to nourish his tender age; from all this the infant gathers
experience; by degrees the idea of a nipple, of milk, of pleasure,
associate themselves in his brain: every time he sees the nipple, he
seizes it, promptly conveys it to his mouth, and applies it to the use
for which it is designed.

What has been said, will enable us to judge of those prompt and sudden
sentiments, which have been designated _the force of blood_. Those
sentiments of love, which fathers and mothers have for their children--
those feelings of affection, which children, with good inclinations,
bear towards their parents, are by no means _innate sentiments_; they
are nothing more, than the effect of experience, of reflection, of
habit, in souls of sensibility. These sentiments do not even exist in a
great number of human beings. We but too often witness tyrannical
parents, occupied with making enemies of their children, who appear to
have been formed, only to be the victims of their irrational caprices or
their unreasonable desires.

From the instant in which man commences, until that in which he ceases
to exist, he feels--he is moved either agreeably or unpleasantly--he
collects facts--he gathers experience; these produce ideas in his brain,
that are either cheerful or gloomy. Not one individual has all this
experience present to his memory at the same time, it does not ever
represent to him the whole clew at once: it is, however, this experience
that mechanically directs him, without his knowledge, in all his
actions; it was to designate the rapidity with, which he applied this
experience, of which he so frequently loses the connection--of which he
is so often at a loss to render himself an account, that he imagined the
word _instinct_: it appears to be the effect of magic, the operation of
a supernatural power, to the greater number of individuals: it is a word
devoid of sense to many others; but to the philosopher it is the effect
of a very lively feeling to him it consists in the faculty of combining,
promptly, a multitude of experience--of arranging with facility--of
comparing with quickness, a long and numerous train of extremely
complicated ideas. It is want that causes the inexplicable instinct we
behold in animals which have been denied souls without reason, whilst
they are susceptible of an infinity of actions that prove they think--
judge--have memory--are capable of experience--can combine ideas--can
apply them with more or less facility to satisfy the wants engendered by
their particular organization; in short, that prove they have passions
that are capable of being modified. Nothing but the height of folly can
refuse intellectual faculties to animals; they feel, choose, deliberate,
express love, show hatred; in many instances their senses are much
keener than those of man. Fish will return periodically to the spot
where it is the custom to throw them bread.

It is well known the embarrassments which animals have thrown in the way
of the partizans of the doctrine of spirituality; they have been
fearful, if they allowed them to have a spiritual soul, of elevating
them to the condition of human creatures; on the other hand, in not
allowing them to have a soul, they have furnished their adversaries with
authority to deny it in like manner to man, who thus finds himself
debased to the condition of the animal. Metaphysicians have never known
how to extricate themselves from this difficulty. DESCARTES fancied he
solved it by saying that beasts have no souls, but are mere machines.
Nothing can be nearer the surface, than the absurdity of this principle.
Whoever contemplates Nature without prejudice, will readily acknowledge
that there is no other difference between the man and the beast, than
that which is to be attributed to the diversity of his organization.

In some beings of the human species, who appear to be endowed with a
greater sensibility of organs than others, may be seen an instinct, by
the assistance of which they very promptly judge of the concealed
dispositions of their fellows, simply by inspecting the lineaments of
their face. Those who are denominated _physiognomists_, are only men of
very acute feelings; who have gathered an experience of which others,
whether from the coarseness of their organs, from the little attention
they have paid, or from some defect in their senses, are totally
incapable: these last do not believe in the science of physiognomy,
which appears to them perfectly ideal. Nevertheless, it is certain, that
the action of this soul, which has been made spiritual, makes
impressions that are extremely marked upon the exterior of the body;
these impressions, continually reiterated, their image remains: thus the
habitual passions of man paint themselves on his countenance; by which
the attentive observer, who is endowed with acute feeling, is enabled to
judge with great rapidity of his mode of existence, and even to foresee
his actions, his inclinations, his desires, his predominant passions,
&c. Although the science of physiognomy appears chimerical to a great
number of persons, yet there are few who have not a clear idea of a
tender regard--of a cruel eye--of an austere aspect--of a false,
dissimulating look--of an open countenance, &c. Keen practised optics
acquire without doubt the faculty of penetrating the concealed motion of
the soul, by the visible traces it leaves upon features that it has
continually modified. Above all, the eyes of man very quickly undergo
changes according to the motion which is excited in him: these delicate
organs are visibly altered by the smallest shock communicated to his
brain. Serene eyes announce a tranquil soul; wild eyes indicate a
restless mind; fiery eyes pourtray a choleric, sanguine temperament;
fickle or inconstant eyes give room to suspect a soul either alarmed or
dissimulating. It is the study of this variety of shades that renders
man practised and acute: upon the spot he combines a multitude of
acquired experience, in order to form his judgment of the person he
beholds. His judgment, thus rapidly formed, partakes in nothing of the
supernatural, in nothing of the wonderful: such a man is only
distinguished by the fineness of his organs, and by the celerity with
which his brain performs its functions.

It is the same with some beings of the human species, in whom may be
discovered an extraordinary sagacity, which, to the uninformed, appears
miraculous. The most skilful practitioners in medicine, are, no doubt,
men endowed with very acute feelings, similar to that of the
physiognomists, by the assistance of which they judge with great
facility of diseases, and very promptly draw their prognostics. Indeed,
we see men who are capable of appreciating in the twinkling of an eye a
multitude of circumstances, who have sometimes the faculty of foreseeing
the most distant events; yet, this species of prophetic talent has
nothing in it of the supernatural; it indicates nothing more than great
experience, with an extremely delicate organization, from which they
derive the faculty of judging with extreme faculty of causes, of
foreseeing their very remote effects. This faculty, however, is also
found in animals, who foresee much better than man, the variations of
the atmosphere with the various changes of the weather. Birds have long
been the prophets, and even the guides of several nations who pretend to
be extremely enlightened.

It is, then, to their organization, exercised after a particular manner,
that must be attributed those wonderous faculties which distinguish some
beings, that astonish others. To have _instinct_, only signifies to
judge quickly, without requiring to make a long, reasoning on the
subject. Man's ideas upon vice and upon virtue, are by no means innate;
they are, like all others, acquired: the judgment he forms, is founded
upon experience, whether true or false,--this depends upon his
conformation, and upon the habits that have modified him. The infant has
no ideas either of the Divinity or of virtue; it is from those who
instruct him that he receives these ideas; he makes more or less use of
them, according to his natural organization, or as his dispositions have
been more or less exercised. Nature gives man legs, the nurse teaches
him their use, his agility depends upon their natural conformation, and
the manner in which he exercises them.

What is called _taste_, in the fine arts, is to be attributed, in the
same manner, only to the acuteness of man's organs, practised by the
habit of seeing, of comparing, of judging certain objects; from whence
results, to some of his species, the faculty of judging with great
rapidity, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole with its various
relations. It is by the force of seeing, of feeling, of experiencing
objects, that he attains to a knowledge of them; it is in consequence of
reiterating this experience, that he acquires the power, that he gains
the habit of judging with celerity. But this experience is by no means
innate, he did not possess it before he was born; he is neither able to
think, to judge, nor to have ideas, before he has feeling; he is neither
in a capacity to love, nor to hate; to approve, nor to blame, before he
has been moved, either agreeably or disagreeably. Nevertheless, this is
precisely what must be supposed by those who are desirous to make man
admit of innate ideas, of opinions; infused by Nature, whether in
morals, metaphysics, or any other science. That his mind should have the
faculty of thought, that it should occupy itself with an object, it is
requisite it should be acquainted with its qualities; that it may have a
knowledge of these qualities, it is necessary some of his senses should
have been struck by them: those objects, therefore, of which he does not
know any of the qualities, are nullities; or at least they do not exist
for him.

It will be asserted, perhaps, that the universal consent of man, upon
certain propositions, such as _the whole is greater than its part_, upon
all geometrical demonstrations, appear to warrant the supposition of
certain primary notions that are innate, not acquired. It may be
replied, that these notions are always acquired; that they are the fruit
of an experience more or less prompt; that it is requisite to have
compared the whole with its part, before conviction can ensue, that the
whole is the greater of the two. Man when he is born, does not bring
with him the idea that two and two make four; but he is, nevertheless,
speedily convinced of its truth. Before forming any judgment whatever,
it is absolutely necessary to have compared facts.

It is evident, that those who have gratuitously supposed innate ideas,
or notions inherent in man, have confounded his organization, or his
natural dispositions, with the habit by which he is modified; with the
greater or less aptitude he has of making experience, and of applying it
in his judgment. A man who has taste in painting, has, without doubt,
brought with him into the world eyes more acute, more penetrating than
another; but these eyes would by no means enable him to judge with
promptitude, if he had never had occasion to exercise them; much less,
in some respects, can those dispositions which are called _natural_, be
regarded as innate. Man is not, at twenty years of age, the same as he
was when he came into the world; the physical causes that are
continually acting upon him, necessarily have an influence upon his
organization, and so modify it, that his natural dispositions themselves
are not at one period what they are at another. La Motte Le Vayer says,
"We think quite otherwise of things at one time than at another; when
young than when old--when hungry than when our appetite is satisfied--in
the night than in the day--when peevish than when cheerful. Thus,
varying every hour, by a thousand other circumstances, which keep us in
a state of perpetual inconstancy and instability." Every day may be seen
children, who, to a certain age--display a great deal of ingenuity, a
strong aptitude for the sciences, who finish by falling into stupidity.
Others may be observed, who, during their infancy, have shown
dispositions but little favourable to improvement, yet develope
themselves in the end, and astonish us by an exhibition of those
qualities of which we hardly thought them susceptible: there arrives a
moment in which the mind takes a spring, makes use of a multitude of
experience which it has amassed, without its having been perceived; and,
if I may be allowed the expression, without their own knowledge.

Thus, it cannot be too often repeated, all the ideas, all the notions,
all the modes of existence, and all the thoughts of man, are acquired.
His mind cannot act, cannot exercise itself, but upon that of which it
has knowledge; it can understand either well or ill, only those things
which it has previously felt. Such of his ideas that do not suppose some
exterior material object for their model, or one to which he is able to
relate them, which are therefore called _abstract ideas_, are only modes
in which his interior organ considers its own peculiar modifications, of
which it chooses some without respect to others. The words which he uses
to designate these ideas, such as _bounty, beauty, order, intelligence,
virtue_, &c. do not offer any one sense, if he does not relate them to,
or if he does not explain them by, those objects which his senses have
shewn him to be susceptible of those qualities, or of those modes of
existence, of that manner of acting, which is known to him. What is it
that points out to him the vague idea of _beauty_, if he does not attach
it to some object that has struck his senses in a peculiar manner, to
which, in consequence, he attributes this quality? What is it that
represents the word _intelligence_, if he does not connect it with a
certain mode of being and of acting? Does the word _order_ signify any
thing, if he does not relate it to a series of actions, to a chain of
motion, by which he is affected in a certain manner? Is not the word
_virtue_ void of sense, if he does not apply it to those dispositions of
his fellows which produce known effects, different from those which
result from contrary inclinations? What do the words _pain_ and
_pleasure_ offer to his mind in the moment when his organs neither
suffer nor enjoy, if it be not the modes in which he has been affected,
of which his brain conserves the remembrance, of those impressions,
which experience has shewn him to be either useful or prejudicial? But
when he bears the words spirituality, immateriality, incorporeality, &c.
pronounced, neither his senses nor his memory afford him any assistance;
they do not furnish him with any means by which he can form an idea of
their qualities, or of the objects to which he ought to apply them; in
that which is not matter he can only see vacuum and emptiness, which as
long as he remains what he is, cannot, to his mind, be susceptible of
any one quality.

All the errors, all the disputes of men, have their foundation in this,
that they have renounced experience, have surrendered the evidence of
their senses, to give themselves up to the guidance of notions which
they have believed infused or innate; although in reality they are no
more than the effect of a distempered imagination, of prejudices, in
which they have been instructed from their infancy, with which habit has
familiarized them, which authority has obliged them to conserve.
Languages are filled with abstract words, to which are attached confused
and vague ideas; of which, when they come to be examined, no model can
be found in Nature; no object to which they can be related. When man
gives himself the trouble to analyze things, he is quite surprised to
find, that those words which are continually in the mouths of men, never
present any fixed or determinate idea: he hears them unceasingly
speaking of spirits--of the soul and its faculties--of duration--of
space--of immensity--of infinity--of perfection--of virtue--of reason--
of sentiment--of instinct--of taste, &c. without his being able to tell
precisely, what they themselves understand by these words. Nevertheless,
they do not appear to have been invented, but for the purpose of
representing the images of things; or to paint, by the assistance of the
senses, those known objects on which the mind is able to meditate, which
it is competent to appreciate, to compare, and to judge.

For man to think of that which has not acted on any of his senses, is to
think on words; it is for his senses to dream; it is to seek in his own
imagination for objects to which he can attach his wandering ideas: to
assign qualities to these objects is, unquestionably, to redouble his
extravagance, to set no limits to his folly. If a word be destined to
represent to him an object that has not the capacity to act on any one
of his organs; of which, it is impossible for him to prove either the
existence or the qualities; his imagination, by dint of racking itself,
will nevertheless, in some measure, supply him with the ideas he wants;
he composes some kind of a picture, with the images or colours he is
always obliged to borrow, from the objects of which he has a knowledge:
thus the Divinity has been represented by some under the character of a
venerable old man; by others, under that of a puissant monarch; by
others, as an exasperated, irritated being, &c. It is evident, however,
that man, with some of his qualities, has served for the model of these
pictures: but if he be informed of objects that are represented as pure
spirits--that have neither body nor extent--that are not contained in
space--that are beyond nature,--here then he is plunged into emptiness;
his mind no longer has any ideas--it no longer knows upon what it
meditates. This, as will be seen in the sequel, no doubt, is the source
of those unformed notions which some men have formed of the Divinity;
they themselves frequently annihilate him, by assembling incompatible
and contradictory attributes. In giving him morals--in composing him of
known qualities,--they make him a man;--in assigning him the negative
attributes of every thing they know, they render him inaccessible to
their senses--they destroy all antecedent ideas--they make him a mere
nothing. From this it will appear, that those sublime sciences which are
called _Theology, Psychology, Metaphysics_, have been mere sciences of
words: morals and politics, with which they very frequently mix, have,
in consequence, become inexplicable enigmas, which there is nothing
short of the study of Nature can enable us to expound.

Man has occasion for truth; it consists in a knowledge of the true
relations he has with those beings competent to have an influence on his
welfare; these relations are to be known only by experience: without
experience there can be no reason; without reason man is only a blind
creature, who conducts himself by chance. But, how is he to acquire
experience upon ideal objects, which his senses neither enable him to
know nor to examine? How is he to assure himself of the existence, how
ascertain the qualities of beings he is not able to feel? How can he
judge whether there objects be favorable or prejudicial to him? How is
he to know, without the evidence of his senses, what he ought to love,
what he should hate, what to seek after, what to shun, what to do, what
to leave undone? It is, however, upon this knowledge that his condition
in this world rests; it is upon this knowledge that morals is founded.
From whence it may be seen, that, by causing him to blend vague
metaphysical notions with morals, or the science of the certain and
invariable relations which subsist between mankind; or by weakly
establishing them upon chimerical ideas, which have no existence but in
his imagination; these morals, upon which the welfare of society so much
depends, are rendered uncertain, are made arbitrary, are abandoned to
the caprices of fancy, are not fixed upon any solid basis.

Beings essentially different by their natural organization, by the
modifications they experience, by the habits they contract, by the
opinions they acquire, must of necessity think differently. His
temperament, as we have seen, decides the mental qualities of man: this
temperament itself is diversely modified in him: from whence it
consecutively follows, his imagination cannot possibly be the same;
neither can it create to him the same images. Each individual is a
connected whole, of which all the parts have a necessary correspondence.
Different eyes must see differently, must give extremely varied ideas of
the objects they contemplate, even when these objects are real. What,
then, must be the diversity of these ideas, if the objects meditated
upon do not act upon the senses? Mankind have pretty nearly the same
ideas, in the gross, of those substances that act upon his organs with
vivacity; he is sufficiently in unison upon some qualities which he
contemplates very nearly in the same manner; I say, very nearly, because
the intelligence, the notion, the conviction of any one proposition,
however simple, however evident, however clear it may be supposed, is
not, nor cannot be, strictly the same, in any two men. Indeed, one man
not being another man, the first cannot, for example, have rigorously
and mathematically the same notion of unity as the second; seeing that
an identical effect cannot be the result of two different causes. Thus,
when men are in accord in their ideas, in their modes of thinking, in
their judgment, in their passions, in their desires, in, their tastes,
their consent does not arise from their seeing or feeling the same
objects precisely in the same manner, but pretty nearly; language is
not, nor cannot be, sufficiently copious to designate the vast variety
of shades, the multiplicity of imperceptible differences, which is to be
found in their modes of seeing and thinking. Each man, then, has, to say
thus, a language which is peculiar to himself alone, and this language
is incommunicable to others. What harmony, what unison, then, can
possibly exist between them, when they discourse with each other, upon
objects only known to their imagination? Can this imagination in one
individual ever be the same as in another? How can they possibly
understand each other, when they assign to those objects qualities that
can only be attributed to the particular manner in which their brain is

For one man to exact from another that he shall think like himself, is
to insist that he shall be organized precisely in the same manner--that
he shall have been modified exactly the same in every moment of his
existence: that he shall have received the same temperament, the same
nourishment, the same education: in a word, that he shall require that
other to be himself. Wherefore is it not exacted that all men shall have
the same features? Is man more the master of his opinions? Are not his
opinions the necessary consequence of his Nature, and of those peculiar
circumstances which, from his infancy, have necessarily had an influence
upon his mode of thinking, and his manner of acting? If man be a
connected whole, whenever a single feature differs from his own, ought
he not to conclude that it is not possible his brain can either think,
associate ideas, imagine, or dream precisely in the same manner with
that other.

The diversity in the temperament of man, is the natural, the necessary
source of the diversity of his passions, of his taste, of his ideas of
happiness, of his opinions of every kind. Thus, this same diversity will
be the fatal source of his disputes, of his hatreds, of his injustice,
every time he shall reason upon unknown objects, but to which he shall
attach the greatest importance. He will never understand either himself
or others, in speaking of a spiritual soul, or of immaterial substances
distinguished from Nature; he will, from that moment, cease to speak the
same language, and he will never attach the same ideas to the same
words. What, then, shall be, the common standard that shall decide which
is the man that thinks with the greatest justice? What the scale by
which to measure who has the best regulated imagination? What balance
shall be found sufficiently exact to determine whose knowledge is most
certain, when he agitates subjects, which experience cannot enable him
to examine, that escape all his senses, that have no model, that are
above reason? Each individual, each legislator, each speculator, each
nation, has ever formed to himself different ideas of these things; each
believes, that his own peculiar reveries ought to be preferred to those
of his neighbours; which always appear to him an absurd, ridiculous, and
false as his own can possibly have appeared to his fellow; each clings
to his own opinion, because each retains his own peculiar mode of
existence; each believes his happiness depends upon his attachment to
his prejudices, which he never adopts but because he believes them
beneficial to his welfare. Propose to a man to change his religion for
yours, he will believe you a madman; you will only excite his
indignation, elicit his contempt; he will propose to you, in his turn,
to adopt his own peculiar opinions; after much reasoning, you will treat
each other as absurd beings, ridiculously opiniated, pertinaciously
stubborn: and he will display the least folly, who shall first yield.
But if the adversaries become heated in the dispute, which always
happens, when they suppose the matter important, or when they would
defend the cause of their own self-love; from thence their passions
sharpen, they grow angry, quarrels are provoked, they hate each other,
and end by reciprocal injury. It is thus, that for opinions, which no
man can demonstrate, we see the Brahmin despised; the Mahommedan hated;
the Pagan held in contempt; that they oppress and disdain each with the
most rancorous animosity: the Christian burns the Jew at what is called
an _auto-de-fe_, because he clings to the faith of his fathers: the
Roman Catholic condemns the Protestant to the flames, and makes a
conscience of massacring him in cold blood: this re-acts in his turn;
sometimes the various sects of Christians league together against the
incredulous Turk, and for a moment suspend their own bloody disputes
that they may chastise the enemies to the true faith: then, having
glutted their revenge, return with redoubled fury, to wreak over again
their infuriated vengeance on each other.

If the imaginations of men were the same, the chimeras which they bring
forth would be every where the same; there would be no disputes among
them on this subject, if they all dreamt in the same manner; great
numbers of human beings would be spared, if man occupied his mind with
objects capable of being known, of which the existence was proved, of
which he was competent to discover the true qualities, by sure, by
reiterated experience. _Systems of Philosophy_ are not subject to
dispute but when their principles are not sufficiently proved; by
degrees experience, in pointing out the truth and detecting their
errors, terminates these quarrels. There is no variance among
_geometricians_ upon the principles of their science; it is only raised,
when their suppositions are false, or their objects too much
complicated. _Theologians_ find so much difficulty in agreeing among
themselves, simply, because, in their contests, they divide without
ceasing, not known and examined propositions, but prejudices with which
they have been imbued in their youth--in the schools--by each other's
books, &c. They are perpetually reasoning, not upon real objects, of
which the existence is demonstrated, but upon imaginary systems of which
they have never examined the reality; they found these disputes, not
upon averred experience, or constant facts, but upon gratuitious
suppositions, which each endeavours to convince the other are without
solidity. Finding these ideas of long standing, that few people, refuse
to admit them, they take them for incontestible truths, that ought to be
received merely upon being announced; whenever they attach great
importance to them, they irritate themselves against the temerity of
those who have the audacity to doubt, or even to examine them.

If prejudice had been laid aside, it would perhaps have been discovered
that many of those objects, which have given birth to the most shocking,
the most sanguinary disputes among men, were mere phantoms; which a
little examination would have shown to be unworthy their notice: _the
priests of Apollo_ would have been harmless, if man had examined for
himself, without prejudice, the tenets they held forth: he would have
found, that he was fighting, that he was cutting his neighbour's throat,
for words void of sense; or, at the least, he would have learned to
doubt his right to act in the manner he did; he would have renounced
that dogmatical, that imperious tone he assumed, by which he would
oblige his fellow to unite with him in opinion. The most trifling
reflection would have shewn him the necessity of this diversity in his
notions, of this contrariety in his imagination, which depends upon his
Natural conformation diversely modified: which necessarily has an
influence over his thoughts, over his will, and over his actions. In
short, if he had consulted morals, if he had fallen back upon reason,
every thing would have conspired to prove to him, that beings who call
themselves rational, were made to think variously; on that account were
designed to live peaceable with each other, to love each other, to lend
each other mutual succours whatever may be their opinions upon subjects,
either impossible to be known, or to be contemplated under the same
point of view: every thing would have joined in evidence to convince him
of the unreasonable tyranny, of the unjust violence, of the useless
cruelty of those men of blood, who persecute, who destroy mankind, in
order that they may mould him to their own peculiar opinions; every
thing would have conducted mortals to _mildness_, to _indulgence_, to
_toleration_; virtues, unquestionably of more real importance, much more
necessary to the welfare of society, than the marvellous speculations by
which it is divided, by which it is frequently hurried on to sacrifice
to a maniacal fury, the pretended enemies to these revered flights of
the imagination.

From this it must be evident, of what importance it is to _morals_ to
examine the ideas, to which it has been agreed to attach so much worth;
to which man is continually sacrificing his own peculiar happiness; to
which he is immolating the tranquillity of nations, at the irrational
command of fanatical cruel guides. Let him fall back on his experience;
let him return to Nature; let him occupy himself with reason; let him
consult those objects that are real, which are useful to his permanent
felicity; let him study Nature's laws; let him study himself; let him
consult the bonds which unite him to his fellow mortals; let him examine
the fictitious bonds that enchain him to the most baneful prejudices. If
his imagination must always feed itself with illusions, if he remains
steadfast in his own opinions, if his prejudices are dear to him, let
him at least permit others to ramble in their own manner, or seek after
truth as best suits their inclination; but let him always recollect,
that all the opinions--all the ideas--all the systems--all the wills--
all the actions of man, are the necessary consequence of his nature, of
his temperament, of his organization, and of those causes, either
transitory or constant, which modify hint: in short, that _man is not
more a free agent to think than to act:_ a truth that will be again
proved in the following chapter.


_Of the System of Man's free agency._

Those who have pretended that the _soul_ is distinguished from the body,
is immaterial, draws its ideas from its own peculiar source, acts by its
own energies without the aid of any exterior object; by a consequence of
their own system, have enfranchised it from those physical laws,
according to which all beings of which we have a knowledge are obliged
to act. They have believed that the foul is mistress of its own conduct,
is able to regulate its own peculiar operations; has the faculty to
determine its will by its own natural energy; in a word, they have
pretended man is a _free agent_.

It has been already sufficiently proved, that the soul is nothing more
than the body, considered relatively to some of its functions, more
concealed than others: it has been shewn, that this soul, even when it
shall be supposed immaterial, is continually modified conjointly with
the body; is submitted to all its motion; that without this it would
remain inert and dead: that, consequently, it is subjected to the
influence of those material, to the operation those physical causes,
which give impulse to the body; of which the mode of existence, whether
habitual or transitory, depends upon the material elements by which it
is surrounded; that form its texture; that constitute its temperament;
that enter into it by the means of the aliments; that penetrate it by
their subtility; the faculties which are called intellectual, and those
qualities which are styled moral, have been explained in a manner purely
physical; entirely natural: in the last place, it has been demonstrated,
that all the ideas, all the systems, all the affections, all the
opinions, whether true or false, which man forms to himself, are to be
attributed to his physical powers; are to be ascribed to his material
senses. Thus man is a being purely physical; in whatever manner he is
considered, he is connected to universal Nature: submitted to the
necessary, to the immutable laws that she imposes on all the beings she
contains, according to their peculiar essences; conformable to the
respective properties with which, without consulting them, she endows
each particular species. Man's life is a line that Nature commands him
to describe upon the surface of the earth: without his ever being able
to swerve from it even for an instant. He is born without his own
consent; his organizations does in no wise depend upon himself; his
ideas come to him involuntarily; his habits are in the power of those
who cause him to contract them; he is unceasingly modified by causes,
whether visible or concealed, over which he has no controul; give the
hue to his way of thinking, and determine his manner of acting. He is
good or bad--happy or miserable--wise or foolish--reasonable or
irrational, without his will going for anything in these various states.
Nevertheless, in despite of the shackles by which he is bound, it is
pretended he is a free agent, or that independent of the causes by which
he is moved, he determines his own will; regulates his own condition.

However slender the foundation of this opinion, of which every thing
ought to point out to him the error; it is current at this day for an
incontestible truth, and believed enlightened; it is the basis or
religion, which has been incapable of imagining how man could either
merit reward or deserve punishment if he was not a free agent. Society
has been believed interested in this system, because an idea has gone
abroad, that if all the actions of man were to be contemplated as
necessary, the right of punishing those who injure their associates
would no longer exist. At length human vanity accommodated itself to an
hypothesis which, unquestionable, appears to distinguish man from all
other physical beings, by assigning to him the special privilege of a
total independence of all other causes; but of which a very little
reflection would have shewn him the absurdity or even the impossibility.

As a part, subordinate to the great whole, man is obliged to experience
its influence. To be a free agent it were needful that each individual
was of greater strength than the entire of Nature; or, that he was out
of this Nature: who, always in action herself, obliges all the beings
she embraces, to act, and to concur to her general motion; or, as it has
been said elsewhere, to conserve her active existence, by the motion
that all beings produce in consequence of their particular energies,
which result from their being submitted to fixed, eternal, and immutable
laws. In order that man might be a free agent, it were needful that all
beings should lose their essences; it is equally necessary that he
himself should no longer enjoy physical sensibility; that he should
neither know good nor evil; pleasure nor pain; but if this was the case,
from that moment he would no longer be in a state to conserve himself,
or render his existence happy; all beings would become indifferent to
him; he would no longer have any choice; he would cease to know what he
ought to love; what it was right he should fear; he would not have any
acquaintance with that which he should seek after; or with that which it
is requisite he should avoid. In short, man would be an unnatural being;
totally incapable of acting in the manner we behold. It is the actual
essence of man to tend to his well-being; to be desirous to conserve his
existence; if all the motion of his machine springs as a necessary
consequence from this primitive impulse; if pain warns him of that which
he ought to avoid; if pleasure announces to him that which he should
desire; if it is in his essence to love that which either excites
delight, or, that from which he expects agreeable sensations; to hate
that which makes him either fear contrary impressions; or, that which
afflicts him with uneasiness; it must necessarily be, that he will be
attracted by that which he deems advantageous; that his will shall he
determined by those objects which he judges useful; that he will he
repelled by those beings which he believes prejudicial, either to his
habitual, or to his transitory mode of existence; by that which he

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