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

Part 4 out of 6

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considers disadvantageous. It is only by the aid of experience, that man
acquires the faculty of understanding what he ought to love; of knowing
what he ought to fear. Are his organs sound? his experience will he
true: are they unsound? it will be false: in the first instance he will
have reason, prudence, foresight; he will frequently foresee very remote
effects; he will know, that what he sometimes contemplates as a good,
may possibly become an evil, by its necessary or probable consequences:
that what must be to him a transient evil, may by its result procure him
a solid and durable good. It is thus experience enables him to foresee
that the amputation of a limb will cause him painful sensation, he
consequently is obliged to fear this operation, and he endeavours to
avoid the pain; but if experience has also shewn him, that the
transitory pain this amputation will cause him may be the means of
saving his life; the preservation, of his existence being of necessity
dear to him, he is obliged to submit himself to the momentary pain with
a view to procuring a permanent good, by which it will be overbalanced.

The will, as we have elsewhere said, is a modification of the brain, by
which it is disposed to action or prepared to give play to the organs.
This will is necessarily determined by the qualities, good or bad,
agreeable or painful, of the object or the motive that acts upon his
senses; or of which the idea remains with him, and is resuscitated by
his memory. In consequence, he acts necessarily; his action is the
result of the impulse he receives either from the motive, from the
object, or from the idea, which has modified his brain, or disposed his
will. When he does not act according to this impulse, it is because
there comes some new cause, some new motive, some new idea, which
modifies his brain in a different manner, gives him a new impulse,
determines his will in another way; by which the action of the former
impulse is suspended: thus, the sight of an agreeable object, or its
idea, determines his will to set him in action to procure it; but if a
new object or a new idea more powerfully attracts him, it gives a new
direction to his will, annihilates the effect of the former, and
prevents the action by which it was to be procured. This is the mode in
which reflection, experience, reason, necessarily arrests or suspends
the action of man's will; without this, he would, of necessity, have
followed the anterior impulse which carried him towards a then desirable
object. In all this he always acts according to necessary laws, from
which he has no means of emancipating himself.

If, when tormented with violent thirst, he figures to himself an idea,
or really perceives a fountain, whose limpid streams might cool his
feverish habit, is he sufficient master of himself to desire or not to
desire the object competent to satisfy so lively a want? It will no
doubt be conceded, that it is impossible he should not be desirous to
satisfy it; but it will be said,--If at this moment it is announced to
him, the water he so ardently desires is poisoned, he will,
notwithstanding his vehement thirst, abstain from drinking it; and it
has, therefore, been falsely concluded that he is a free agent. The
fact, however, is, that the motive in either case is exactly the same:
his own conservation. The same necessity that determined him to drink,
before he knew the water was deleterious, upon this new discovery,
equally determines him not to drink; the desire of conserving himself,
either annihilates or suspends the former impulse; the second motive
becomes stronger than the preceding; that is, the fear of death, or the
desire of preserving himself, necessarily prevails over the painful
sensation caused by his eagerness to drink. But, (it will be said) if
the thirst is very parching, an inconsiderate man, without regarding the
danger, will risque swallowing the water. Nothing is gained by this
remark: in this case, the anterior impulse only regains the ascendency;
he is persuaded, that life may possibly be longer preserved, or that he
shall derive a greater good by drinking the poisoned water, than by
enduring the torment, which, to his mind, threatens instant dissolution:
thus, the first becomes the strongest, and necessarily urges him on to
action. Nevertheless, in either case, whether he partakes of the water,
or whether he does not, the two actions will be equally necessary; they
will be the effect of that motive which finds itself most puissant;
which consequently acts in a most coercive manner upon his will.

This example will serve to explain the whole phaenomena of the human
will. This will, or rather the brain, finds itself in the same situation
as a bowl, which although it has received an impulse that drives it
forward in a straight line, is deranged in its course, whenever a force,
superior to the first, obliges it to change its direction. The man who
drinks the poisoned water, appears a madman; but the actions of fools
are as necessary as those of the most prudent individuals. The motives
that determine the voluptuary, that actuate the debauchee to risk their
health, are as powerful, their actions are as necessary, as those which
decide the wise man to manage his. But, it will be insisted, the
debauchee may be prevailed on to change his conduct; this does not imply
that he is a free agent; but, that motives may be found sufficiently
powerful to annihilate the effect of those that previously acted upon
him; then these new motives determine his will to the new mode of
conduct he may adopt, as necessarily as the former did to the old mode.

Man is said to _deliberate_ when the action of the will is suspended;
this happens when two opposite motives act alternately upon him. To
deliberate, is to hate and to love in succession; it is to be
alternately attracted and repelled; it is to be moved sometimes by one
motive, sometimes by another. Man only deliberates when he does not
distinctly understand the quality of the objects from which he receives
impulse, or when experience has not sufficiently apprised him of the
effects, more or less remote, which his actions will produce. He would
take the air, but the weather is uncertain; he deliberates in
consequence; he weighs the various motives that urge his will to go out
or to stay at home; he is at length determined by that motive which is
most probable; this removes his indecision, which necessarily settles
his will either to remain within or to go abroad: this motive is always
either the immediate or ultimate advantage he finds or thinks he finds
in the action to which he is persuaded.

Man's will frequently fluctuates between two objects, of which either
the presence or the ideas move him alternately: he waits until he has
contemplated the objects or the ideas they have left in his brain; which
solicit him to different actions; he then compares these objects or
ideas: but even in the time of deliberation, during the comparison,
pending these alternatives of love and hatred, which succeed each other
sometimes with the utmost rapidity, he is not a free agent for a single
instant; the good or the evil which he believes he finds successively in
the objects, are the necessary motives of these momentary wills; of the
rapid motion of desire or fear that he experiences as long as his
uncertainty continues. From this it will be obvious, that deliberation
is necessary; that uncertainty is necessary; that whatever part he
takes, in consequence of this deliberation, it will always necessarily
be that which he has judged, whether well or ill, is most probable to
turn to his advantage.

When the soul is assailed by two motives that act alternately upon it,
or modify it successively, it deliberates; the brain is in a sort of
equilibrium, accompanied with perpetual oscillations, sometimes towards
one object, sometimes towards the other, until the most forcible carries
the point, and thereby extricates it, from this state of suspense, in
which consists the indecision of his will. But when the brain is
simultaneously assailed by causes equally strong, that move it in
opposite directions; agreeable to the general law of all bodies, when
they are struck equally by contrary powers, it stops, it is in _nisu_;
it is neither capable to will nor to act; it waits until one of the two
causes has obtained sufficient force to overpower the other, to
determine its will, to attract it in such a manner that it may prevail
over the efforts of the other cause.

This mechanism, so simple, so natural, suffices to demonstrate, why
uncertainty is painful; why suspense is always a violent state for man.
The brain, an organ so delicate, so mobile, experiences such rapid
modifications, that it is fatigued; or when it is urged in contrary
directions, by causes equally powerful, it suffers a kind of
compression, that prevents the activity which is suitable to the
preservation of the whole, which is necessary to procure what is
advantageous to its existence. This mechanism will also explain the
irregularity, the indecision, the inconstancy of man; and account for
that conduct, which frequently appears an inexplicable mystery, which
indeed it is, under the received systems. In consulting experience, it
will be found that the soul is submitted to precisely the same physical
laws as the material body. If the will of each individual, during a
given time, was only moved by a single cause or passion, nothing would
be more easy than to foresee his actions; but his heart is frequently
assailed by contrary powers, by adverse motives, which either act on him
simultaneously or in succession; then his brain, attracted in opposite
directions, is either fatigued, or else tormented by a state of
compression, which deprives it of activity. Sometimes it is in a state
of incommodious inaction; sometimes it is the sport of the alternate
shocks it undergoes. Such, no doubt, is the state in which man finds
himself, when a lively passion solicits him to the commission of crime,
whilst fear points out to him the danger by which it is attended: such,
also, is the condition of him whom remorse, by the continued labour of
his distracted soul, prevents from enjoying the objects he has
criminally obtained.

If the powers or causes, whether exterior or interior, acting on the
mind of man, tend towards opposite points, his soul, is well as all
other bodies, will take a mean direction between the two; in consequence
of the violence with which his soul is urged, his condition becomes
sometimes so painful that his existence is troublesome: he has no longer
a tendency to his own peculiar conservation; he seeks after death, as a
sanctuary against himself--as the only remedy to his despair: it is thus
we behold men, miserable and discontented, voluntarily destroy
themselves, whenever life becomes insupportable. Man is competent to
cherish his existence, no longer than life holds out charms to him; when
he is wrought upon by painful sensations, or drawn by contrary
impulsions, his natural tendency is deranged, he is under the necessity
to follow a new route; this conducts him to his end, which it even
displays to him as the most desirable good. In this manner may be
explained, the conduct of those melancholy beings, whose vicious
temperaments, whose tortured consciences, whose chagrin, whose _ennui_,
sometimes determine them to renounce life.

The various powers, frequently very complicated, that act either
successively or simultaneously upon the brain of man, which modify him
so diversely in the different periods of his existence, are the true
causes of that obscurity in morals, of that difficulty which is found,
when it is desired to unravel the concealed springs of his enigmatical
conduct. The heart of man is a labyrinth, only because it very rarely
happens that we possess the necessary gift of judging it; from whence it
will appear, that his circumstances, his indecision, his conduct,
whether ridiculous, or unexpected, are the necessary consequences of the
changes operated in him; are nothing but the effect of motives that
successively determine his will; which are dependent on the frequent
variations experienced by his machine. According to these variations,
the same motives have not, always, the same influence over his will, the
same objects no longer enjoy the faculty of pleasing him; his
temperament has changed, either for the moment, or for ever. It follows
as a consequence, that his taste, his desires, his passions, will
change; there can be no kind of uniformity in his conduct, nor any
certitude in the effects to be expected.

Choice by no means proves the free-agency of man; he only deliberates
when he does not yet know which to choose of the many objects that move
him, he is then in an embarrassment, which does not terminate, until his
will as decided by the greater advantage he believes be shall find in
the object he chooses, or the action he undertakes. From whence it may
he seen that choice is necessary, because he would not determine for an
object, or for an action, if he did not believe that he should find in
it some direct advantage. That man should have free-agency, it were
needful that he should he able to will or choose without motive; or,
that he could prevent motives coercing his will. Action always being the
effect of his will once determined, as his will cannot be determined but
by a motive, which is not in his own power, it follows that he is never
the master of the determination of his own peculiar will; that
consequently he never acts as a free agent. It has been believed that
man was a free agent, because he had a will with the power of choosing;
but attention has not been paid to the fact, that even his will is moved
by causes independent of himself, is owing to that which is inherent in
his own organization, or which belongs to the nature of the beings
acting on him. Indeed, man passes a great portion of his life without
even willing. His will attends the motive by which it is determined. If
he was to render an exact account of every thing he does in the course
of each day, from rising in the morning to lying down at night, he would
find, that not one of his actions have been in the least voluntary; that
they have been mechanical, habitual, determined by causes he was not
able to foresee, to which he was either obliged to, yield, or with which
he was allured to acquiesce; he would discover, that all the motives of
his labours, of his amusements, of his discourses, of his thoughts, have
been necessary; that they have evidently either seduced him or drawn him
along. Is he the master of willing, not to withdraw his hand from the
fire when he fears it will be burnt? Or has he the power to take away
from fire the property which makes him fear it? Is he the master of not
choosing a dish of meat which he knows to be agreeable, or analogous to
his palate; of not preferring it to that which he knows to be
disagreeable or dangerous? It is always according to his sensations, to
his own peculiar experience, or to his suppositions, that he judges of
things either well or ill; but whatever way be his judgment, it depends
necessarily on his mode of feeling, whether habitual or accidental, and
the qualities he finds in the causes that move him, which exist in
despite of himself.

All the causes which by his will is actuated, must act upon him in a
manner sufficiently marked, to give him some sensation, some perception,
some idea, whether complete or incomplete, true or false; as soon as his
will is determined, he must have felt, either strongly or feebly; if
this was not the case he would have determined without motive: thus, to
speak correctly, there are no causes which are truly indifferent to the
will: however faint the impulse he receives, whether on the part of the
objects themselves, or on the part of their images or ideas, as soon as
his will acts, the impulse has been competent to determine him. In
consequence of a slight, of a feeble impulse, the will is weak, it is
this weakness of the will that is called _indifference_. His brain with
difficulty perceives the sensation, it has received; it consequently
acts with less vigour, either to obtain or remove the object or the idea
that has modified it. If the impulse is powerful, the will is strong, it
makes him act vigorously, to obtain or to remove the object which
appears to him either very agreeable or very incommodious.

It has been believed man was a free agent, because it has been imagined
that his soul could at will recall ideas, which sometimes suffice to
check his most unruly desires. Thus, the idea of a remote evil
frequently prevents him from enjoying a present and actual good: thus,
remembrance, which is an almost insensible, a slight modification of his
brain, annihilates, at each instant, the real objects that act upon his
will. But he is not master of recalling to himself his ideas at
pleasure; their association is independent of him; they are arranged in
his brain, in despite of him, without his own knowledge, where they have
made an impression more or less profound; his memory itself depends upon
his organization; its fidelity depends upon the habitual or momentary
state in which he finds himself; when his will is vigorously determined
to some object or idea that excites a very lively passion in him, those
objects or ideas that would be able to arrest his action no longer
present themselves to his mind; in those moments his eyes are shut to
the dangers that menace him, of which the idea ought to make him
forbear; he marches forward headlong towards the object by whose image
he is hurried on; reflection cannot operate upon him in any way; he sees
nothing but the object of his desires; the salutary ideas which might be
able to arrest his progress disappear, or else display themselves either
too faintly or too late to prevent his acting. Such is the case with all
those who, blinded by some strong passion, are not in a condition to
recal to themselves those motives, of which the idea alone, in cooler
moments, would be sufficient to deter them from proceeding; the disorder
in which they are, prevents their judging soundly; render them incapable
of foreseeing the consequence of their actions; precludes them from
applying to their experience; from making use of their reason; natural
operations, which suppose a justness in the manner of associating their
ideas; but to which their brain is then not more competent, in
consequence of the momentary delirium it suffers, than their hand is to
write whilst they are taking violent exercise.

Man's mode of thinking is necessarily determined by his manner of being;
it must, therefore, depend on his natural organization, and the
modification his system receives independently of his will. From this we
are obliged to conclude, that his thoughts, his reflections, his manner
of viewing things, of feeling, of judging, of combining ideas, is
neither voluntary nor free. In a word, that his soul is neither mistress
of the motion excited in it, nor of representing to itself, when wanted,
those images or ideas that are capable of counterbalancing the impulse
it receives. This is the reason why man, when in a passion, ceases to
reason; at that moment reason is as impossible to be heard, as it is
during an extacy, or in a fit of drunkenness. The wicked are never more
than men who are either drunk or mad: if they reason, it is not until
tranquillity is re-established in their machine; then, and not till
then, the tardy ideas that present themselves to their mind, enable them
to see the consequence of their actions, and give birth to ideas, that
bring on them that trouble, which is designated _shame, regret,

The errors of philosophers on the free-agency of man, have arisen from
their regarding his will as the _primum mobile_, the original motive of
his actions; for want of recurring back, they have not perceived the
multiplied, the complicated causes, which, independently of him, give
motion to the will itself, or which dispose and modify his brain, whilst
he himself is purely passive in the motion he receives. Is he the master
of desiring or not desiring an object that appears desirable to him?
Without doubt it will be answered, No: but he is the master of resisting
his desire, if he reflects on the consequences. But, I ask, is he
capable of reflecting on these consequences when his soul is hurried
along by a very lively passion, which entirely depends upon his natural
organization, and the causes by which he is modified? Is it in his power
to add to these consequences all the weight necessary to counterbalance
his desire? Is he the master of preventing the qualities which render an
object desirable from residing in it? I shall be told, he ought to have
learned to resist his passions; to contract a habit of putting a curb on
his desires. I agree to it without any difficulty: but in reply, I again
ask, Is his nature susceptible of this modification? Does his boiling
blood, his unruly imagination, the igneous fluid that circulates in his
veins, permit him to make, enable him to apply true experience in the
moment when it is wanted? And, even when his temperament has capacitated
him, has his education, the examples set before him, the ideas with
which he has been inspired in early life, been suitable to make him
contract this habit of repressing his desires? Have not all these things
rather contributed to induce him to seek with avidity, to make him
actually desire those objects which you say he ought to resist.

The _ambitious man_ cries out,--You will have me resist my passion, but
have they not unceasingly repeated to me, that rank, honours, power, are
the most desirable advantages in life? Have I not seen my fellow-
citizens envy them--the nobles of my country sacrifice every thing to
obtain them? In the society in which I live, am I not obliged to feel,
that if I am deprived of these advantages, I must expect to languish in
contempt, to cringe under the rod of oppression?

The _miser_ says,--You forbid me to love money, to seek after the means
of acquiring it: alas! does not every thing tell me, that in this world
money is the greatest blessing; that it is amply sufficient to render me
happy? In the country I inhabit, do I not see all my fellow-citizens
covetous of riches? but do I not also witness that they are little
scrupulous in the means of obtaining wealth? As soon as they are
enriched by the means which you censure, are they not cherished,
considered, and respected? By what authority, then, do you object to my
amassing treasure? what right have you to prevent my using means, which
although you call them sordid and criminal, I see approved by the
sovereign? Will you have me renounce my happiness?

The _voluptuary_ argues,--You pretend that I should resist my desires;
but was I the maker of my own temperament, which unceasingly invites me
to pleasure? You call my pleasures disgraceful; but in the country in
which I live, do I not witness the most dissipated men enjoying the most
distinguished rank? Do I not behold, that no one is ashamed of adultery
but the husband it has outraged? do not I see men making trophies of
their debaucheries, boasting of their libertinism, rewarded, with

The _choleric_ man vociferates,--You advise me to put a curb on my
passions; to resist the desire of avenging myself: but can I conquer my
nature? Can I alter the received opinions of the world? Shall I not be
for ever disgraced, infallibly dishonoured in society, if I do not wash
out, in the blood of my fellow-creature, the injuries I have received?

The _zealous enthusiast_ exclaims,--You recommend to me mildness, you
advise me to be tolerant, to be indulgent to the opinions of my fellow-
men; but is not my temperament violent? Do I not ardently love my God?
Do they not assure me that zeal is pleasing to him; that sanguinary
inhuman persecutors have been his friends? That those who do not think
as I do are his enemies? I wish to render myself acceptable in his
sight, I therefore adopt the means you reprobate.

In short, the actions of man are never free; they are always the
necessary consequence of his temperament, of the received ideas, of the
notions, either true or false, which he has formed to himself of
happiness: of his opinions, strengthened by example, forfeited by
education, consolidated by daily experience. So many crimes are
witnessed on the earth, only because every thing conspires to render man
vicious, to make him criminal; very frequently, the superstitions he has
adopted, his government, his education, the examples set before him,
irresistibly drive him on to evil: under these circumstances morality
preaches virtue to him in vain. In those societies where vice is
esteemed, where crime is crowned, where venality is constantly
recompenced, where the most dreadful disorders are punished, only in
those who are too weak to enjoy the privilege of committing them with
impunity; the practice of virtue is considered nothing more than a
painful sacrifice of fancied happiness. Such societies chastise, in the
lower orders, those excesses which they respect in the higher ranks; and
frequently have the injustice to condemn those in penalty of death, whom
public prejudices, maintained by constant example, have rendered

Man, then, is not a free agent in any one instant of his life; he is
necessarily guided in each step by those advantages, whether real or
fictitious, that he attaches to the objects by which his passions are
roused: these passions themselves are necessary in a being who,
unceasingly tends towards his own happiness; their energy is necessary,
since that depends on his temperament; his temperament is necessary,
because it depends on the physical elements which enter into his
composition; the modification of this temperament is necessary, as it is
the infallible result, the inevitable consequence of the impulse he
receives from the incessant action of moral and physical beings.

In despite of these proofs of the want of free-agency in man, so clear
to unprejudiced minds, it will, perhaps, be insisted upon with no small
feeling of triumph, that if it be proposed to any one to move or not to
move his hand, an action in the number of those called _indifferent_, he
evidently appears to be the master of choosing; from which it is
concluded, evidence has been offered of his free-agency. The reply is,
this example is perfectly simple; man in performing some action which he
is resolved on doing, does not by any means prove his free-agency: the
very desire of displaying this quality, excited by the dispute, becomes
a necessary motive which decides his will either for the one or the
other of these actions: what deludes him in this instance, or that which
persuades him he is a free agent at this moment, is, that he does not
discern the true motive which sets him in action; which is neither more
nor less than the desire of convincing his opponent: if in the heat of
the dispute he insists and asks, "Am I not the master of throwing myself
out of the window?" I shall answer him, no; that whilst he preserves his
reason, there is not even a probability that the desire of proving his
free-agency, will become a motive sufficiently powerful, to make him
sacrifice his life to the attempt; if, notwithstanding this, to prove he
is a free agent, he should actually precipitate himself from the window,
it would not be a sufficient warrantry to conclude he acted freely, but
rather that it was the violence of his temperament which spurred him on
to this folly. Madness is a state that depends upon the heat of the
blood, not upon the will. A fanatic or a hero, braves death as
necessarily as a more phlegmatic man or a coward flies from it. There
is, in point of fact, no difference between the man who is cast out of
the window by another, and the man who throws himself out of it, except
that the impulse in the first instance comes immediately from without,
whilst that which determines the fall in the second case, springs from
within his own peculiar machine, having its more remote cause also
exterior. When Mutius Scaevola held his hand in the fire, he was as much
acting under the influence of necessity, caused by interior motives,
that urged him to this strange action, as if his arm had been held by
strong men; pride, despair, the desire of braving his enemy, a wish to
astonish him, an anxiety to intimidate him, &c. were the invisible
chains that held his hand bound to the fire. The love of glory,
enthusiasm for their country, in like manner, caused Codrus and Decius
to devote themselves for their fellow citizens. The Indian Calanus and
the philosopher Peregrinus were equally obliged to burn themselves, by
the desire of exciting the astonishment of the Grecian assembly.

It is said that free-agency is the absence of those obstacles competent
to oppose themselves to the actions of man, or to the exercise of his
faculties: it is pretended that he is a free agent, whenever, making use
of these faculties, he produces the effect he has proposed to himself.
In reply to this reasoning, it is sufficient to consider that it in no
wise depends upon himself to place or remove the obstacles that either
determine or resist him; the motive that causes his action is no more in
his own power than the obstacle that impedes him, whether this obstacle
or motive be within his own machine or exterior of his person: he is not
master of the thought presented to his mind which determines his will;
this thought is excited by some cause independent of himself.

To be undeceived on the system of his free-agency, man has simply to
recur to the motive by which his will is determined, he will always find
this motive is out of his own controul. It is said, that in consequence
of an idea to which the mind gives birth, man acts freely if he
encounters no obstacle. But the question is, what gives birth to this
idea in his brain? has he the power either to prevent it from presenting
itself, or from renewing itself in his brain? Does not this idea depend
either upon objects that strike him exteriorly and in despite of
himself, or upon causes that without his knowledge act within himself
and modify his brain? Can he prevent his eyes, cast without design upon
any object whatever, from giving him an idea of this object, from moving
his brain? He is not more master of the obstacles; they are the
necessary effects of either interior or exterior causes, which always
act according to their given properties. A man insults a coward, who is
necessarily irritated against his insulter, but his will cannot vanquish
the obstacle that cowardice places to the object of his desire, which
is, to resent the insult; because his natural conformation, which does
not depend upon himself, prevents his having courage. In this case the
coward is insulted in despite of himself, and against his will is
obliged patiently to brook the insult he has received.

The partizans of the system of free-agency appear ever to have
confounded constraint with necessity. Man believes he acts as a free
agent, every time he does not see any thing that places obstacles to his
actions; he does not perceive that the motive which causes him to will
is always necessary, is ever independent of himself. A prisoner loaded
with chains is compelled to remain in prison, but he is not a free
agent, he is not able to resist the desire to emancipate himself; his
chains prevent him from acting, but they do not prevent him from
willing; he would save himself if they would loose his fetters, but he
would not save himself as a free agent, fear or the idea of punishment
would be sufficient motives for his action.

Man may therefore cease to be restrained, without, for that reason,
becoming a free agent: in whatever manner he acts, he will act
necessarily; according to motives by which he shall be determined. He
may be compared to a heavy body, that finds itself arrested in its
descent by any obstacle whatever: take away this obstacle, it will
gravitate or continue to fall; but who shall say this dense body is free
to fall or not? Is not its descent the necessary effect of its own
specific gravity? The virtuous Socrates submitted to the laws of his
country, although they were unjust; notwithstanding the doors of his
gaol were left open to him he would not save himself; but in this he did
not act as a free agent; the invisible chains of opinion, the secret
love of decorum, the inward respect for the laws, even when they were
iniquitous, the fear of tarnishing his glory, kept him in his prison:
they were motives sufficiently powerful, with this enthusiast for
virtue, to induce him to wait death with tranquillity; it was not in his
power to save himself, because he could find no potential motive to
bring him to depart, even for an instant, from those principles to which
his mind was accustomed.

Man, says he, frequently acts against his inclination, from whence he
has falsely concluded he is a free agent; when he appears to act
contrary to his inclination, he is determined to it by some motive
sufficiently efficacious to vanquish this inclination. A sick man, with
a view to his cure, arrives at conquering his repugnance to the most
disgusting remedies: the fear of pain, the dread of death, then become
necessary and intelligent motives; consequently, this sick man cannot be
said, with truth, by any means, to act freely.

When it is said, that man is not a free agent, it is not pretended to
compare him to a body moved by a simple impulsive cause: he contains
within himself causes inherent to his existence; he is moved by an
interior organ, which has its own peculiar laws; which is itself
necessarily determined, in consequence of ideas formed from perceptions,
resulting from sensations, which it receives from exterior objects. As
the mechanism of these sensations, of these perceptions, and the manner
they engrave ideas on the brain of man, are not known to him, because he
is unable to unravel all these motions; because he cannot perceive the
chain of operations in his soul, or the motive-principle that acts
within him, he supposes himself a free agent; which, literally
translated, signifies that he moves himself by himself; that he
determines himself without cause; when he rather ought to say, he is
ignorant how or for why he acts in the manner he does. It is true the
soul enjoys an activity peculiar to itself, but it is equally certain
that this activity would never be displayed if some motive or some cause
did not put it in a condition to exercise itself, at least it will not
be pretended that the soul is able either to love or to hate without
being moved, without knowing the objects, without having some idea of
their qualities. Gunpowder has unquestionably a particular activity, but
this activity will never display itself, unless fire be applied to it;
this, however, immediately sets in motion.

It is the great complication of motion in man, it is the variety of his
action, it is the multiplicity of causes that move him, whether
simultaneously or in continual succession, that persuades him he is a
free agent: if all his motions were simple, if the causes that move him
did not confound themselves with each other, if they were distinct, if
his machine was less complicated, he would perceive that all his actions
were necessary, because he would be enabled to recur instantly to the
cause that made him act. A man who should be always obliged to go
towards the west would always go on that side, but he would feel
extremely well, that in so going he was not a free agent: if he had
another sense, as his actions or his motion augmented by a sixth would
be still more varied, much more complicated, he would believe himself
still more a free agent than he does with his five senses.

It is, then, for want of recurring to the causes that move him, for want
of being able to analyse, from not being competent to decompose the
complicated motion of his machine, that man believes himself a free
agent; it is only upon his own ignorance that he founds the profound yet
deceitful notion he has of his free-agency, that he builds those
opinions which he brings forward as a striking proof of his pretended
freedom of action. If, for a short time, each man was willing to examine
his own peculiar actions, to search out their true motives, to discover
their concatenation, he would remain convinced that the sentiment he has
of his natural free-agency is a chimera that must speedily be destroyed
by experience.

Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that the multiplicity, the
diversity of the causes which continually act upon man, frequently
without even his knowledge, render it impossible, or at least extremely
difficult, for him to recur to the true principles of his own peculiar
actions, much less the actions of others; they frequently depend upon
causes so fugitive, so remote from their effects, and which,
superficially examined, appear to have so little analogy, so slender a
relation with them, that it requires singular sagacity to bring them
into light. This is what renders the study of the moral man a task of
such difficulty; this is the reason why his heart is an abyss, of which
it is frequently impossible for him to fathom the depth. He is, then,
obliged to content himself with a knowledge of the general and necessary
laws by which the human heart is regulated; for the individuals of his
own species these laws are pretty nearly the same, they vary only in
consequence of the organization that is peculiar to each, and of the
modification it undergoes; this, however, is not, cannot be rigorously
the same in any two. It suffices to know that by his essence man tends
to conserve himself, to render his existence happy: this granted,
whatever may be his actions, if he recurs back to this first principle,
to this general, this necessary tendency of his will, he never can be
deceived with regard to his motives. Man, without doubt, for want of
cultivating reason, being destitute of experience, frequently deceives
himself upon the means of arriving at this end; sometimes the means he
employs are unpleasant to his fellows, because they are prejudicial to
their interests; or else those of which he avails himself appear
irrational, because they remove him from the end to which he would
approximate: but whatever may be these means, they have always
necessarily and invariably for object, either an existing or imaginary
happiness; are directed to preserve himself in a state analogous to his
mode of existence, to his manner of feeling, to his way of thinking;
whether durable or transitory. It is from having mistaken this truth,
that the greater number of moral philosophers have made rather the
romance, than the history of the human heart; they have attributed the
actions of man to fictitious causes; at least they have not sought out
the necessary motives of his conduct. Politicians and legislators have
been in the same state of ignorance; or else impostors have found it
much shorter to employ imaginary motive-powers, than those which really
have existence: they have rather chosen to make man wander out of his
way, to make him tremble under incommodious phantoms, than guide him to
virtue by the direct road to happiness; notwithstanding the conformity
of the latter with the natural desires of his heart. So true it is, that
_error can never possibly be useful, to the human species_.

However this may be, man either sees or believes he sees, much more
distinctly, the necessary relation of effects with their causes in
natural philosophy than in the human heart; at least he sees in the
former sensible causes constantly produce sensible effects, ever the
same, when the circumstances are alike. After this, he hesitates not to
look upon physical effects as necessary, whilst he refuses to
acknowledge necessity in the acts of the human will; these he has,
without any just foundation, attributed to a motive-power that acts
independently by its own peculiar energy, that is capable of modifying
itself without the concurrence of exterior causes, and which is
distinguished from all material or physical beings. _Agriculture_ is
founded upon the assurance afforded by experience, that the earth,
cultivated and sown in a certain manner, when it has otherwise the
requisite qualities, will furnish grain, fruit, and flowers, either
necessary for subsistence or pleasing to the senses. If things were
considered without prejudice, it would be perceived, that in morals
education is nothing more than _the agriculture of the mind_; that like
the earth, by reason of its natural disposition, of the culture bestowed
upon it, of the seeds with which it is sown, of the seasons, more or
less favorable, that conduct it to maturity, we may be assured that the
soul will produce either virtue or vice; _moral fruit_ that will be
either salubrious for man or baneful to society. _Morals_ is the science
of the relations that subsist between the minds, the wills, and the
actions of men; in the same manner that _geometry_ is the science of the
relations that are found between bodies. Morals would be a chimera, it
would have no certain principles, if it was not founded upon the
knowledge of the motives which must necessarily have an influence upon
the human will, and which must necessarily determine the actions of
human beings.

If in the moral as well as in the physical world, a cause of which the
action is not interrupted be necessarily followed by a given effect, it
flows consecutively that a _reasonable education_, grafted upon truth,
founded upon wise laws,--that honest principles instilled during youth,
virtuous examples continually held forth, esteem attached solely to
merit, recompense awarded to none but good actions, contempt regularly
visiting vice, shame following falsehood as its shadow, rigorous
chastisements applied without distinction to crime, are causes that
would necessarily act on the will of man; that would determine the
greater number of his species to exhibit virtue, to love it for its own
sake, to seek after it as the most desirable good, as the surest road to
the happiness he so ardently desires. But if, on the contrary,
superstition, politics, example, public opinion, all labour to
countenance wickedness, to train man viciously; if, instead of fanning
his virtues, they stifle good principles; if, instead of directing his
studies to his advantage, they render his education either useless or
unprofitable; if this education itself, instead of grounding him in
virtue, only inoculates him with vice; if, instead of inculcating
reason, it imbues him with prejudice; if, instead of making him
enamoured of truth, it furnishes him with false notions; if, instead of
storing his mind with just ideas drawn from experience, it fills him
with dangerous opinions; if, instead of fostering mildness and
forbearance, it kindles in his breast only those passions which are
incommodious to himself and hurtful to others; it must be of necessity,
that the will of the greater number shall determine them to evil; shall
render them unworthy, make them baneful to society. Many authors have
acknowledged the importance of a good education, that youth was the
season to feed the human heart with wholesome diet; but they have not
felt, that a good education is incompatible, nay, impossible, with the
superstition of man, since this commences with giving his mind a false
bias: that it is equally inconsistent with arbitrary government, because
this always dreads lest he should become enlightened, and is ever
sedulous to render him servile, mean, contemptible, and cringing; that
it is incongruous with laws that are not founded in equity, that are
frequently bottomed on injustice; that it cannot obtain with those
received customs that are opposed to good sense; that it cannot exist
whilst public opinion is unfavourable to virtue; above all, that it is
absurd to expect it from incapable instructors, from masters with weak
minds, who have only the ability to infuse into their scholars those
false ideas with which they are themselves infected. Here, without
doubt, is the real source from whence springs that universal corruption,
that wide-spreading depravity, of which moralists, with great justice,
so loudly complain; without, however, pointing out those causes of the
evil, which are true as they are necessary: instead of this, they search
for it in human nature, say it is corrupt, blame man for loving himself,
and for seeking after his own happiness, insist that he must have
supernatural assistance, some marvellous interference, to enable him to
become good: this is a very prejudicial doctrine for him, it is directly
subversive of his true happiness; by teaching him to hold himself in
contempt, it tends necessarily to discourage him; it either makes him
sluggish, or drives him to despair whilst waiting for this grace: is it
not easy to be perceived, that he would always have it if he was well
educated; if he was honestly governed? There cannot well exist a wilder
or a stranger system of morals, than that of the theologians who
attribute all moral evil to an original sin, and all moral good to the
pardon of it. It ought not to excite surprise if such a system is of no
efficacy; what can reasonably be the result of such an hypothesis? Yet,
notwithstanding the supposed, the boasted free-agency of man, it is
insisted that nothing less than the Author of Nature himself is
necessary to destroy the wicked desires of his heart: but, alas! no
power whatever is found sufficiently efficacious to resist those unhappy
propensities, which, under the fatal constitution of things, the most
vigorous motives, as before observed, are continually infusing into the
will of man; no agency seems competent to turn the course of that
unhappy direction these are perpetually giving to the stream of his
natural passions. He is, indeed, incessantly exhorted to resist these
passions, to stifle them, and to root them out of his heart; but is it
not evident they are necessary to his welfare? Can it not be perceived
they are inherent in his nature? Does not experience prove them to be
useful to his conservation, since they have for object, only to avoid
that which may be injurious to him; to procure that which may be
advantageous to his mode of existence? In short, is it not easy to be
seen, that these passions, well directed, that is to say, carried
towards objects that are truly useful, that are really interesting to
himself, which embrace the happiness of others, would necessarily
contribute to the substantial, to the permanent well-being of society?
Theologians themselves have felt, they have acknowledged the necessity
of the passions: many of the fathers of the church have broached this
doctrine; among the rest Father Senault has written a book expressly on
the subject: the passions of man are like fire, at once necessary to the
wants of life, suitable to ameliorate the condition of humanity, and
equally capable of producing the most terrible ravages, the most
frightful devastation.

Every thing becomes an impulse to the will; a single word frequently
suffices to modify a man for the whole course of his life, to decide for
ever his propensities; an infant who has burned his finger by having
approached it too near the flame of a lighted taper, is warned from
thence, that he ought to abstain from indulging a similar temptation; a
man, once punished and despised for having committed a dishonest action,
is not often tempted to continue so unfavourable a course. Under
whatever point of man is considered, he never acts but after the impulse
given to his will, whether it be by the will of others, or by more
perceptible physical causes. The particular organization decides the
nature of the impulse; souls act upon souls that are analogous;
inflamed, fiery imaginations, act with facility upon strong passions;
upon imaginations easy to be inflamed, the surprising progress of
enthusiasm; the hereditary propagation of superstition; the transmission
of religious errors from race to race, the excessive ardour with which
man seizes on the marvellous, are effects as necessary as those which
result from the action and re-action of bodies.

In despite of the gratuitous ideas which man has formed to himself on
his pretended free-agency; in defiance of the illusions of this suppose
intimate sense, which, contrary to his experience, persuades him that he
is master of his will,--all his institutions are really founded upon
necessity: on this, as on a variety of other occasions, practice throws
aside speculation. Indeed, if it was not believed that certain motives
embraced the power requisite to determine the will of man, to arrest the
progress of his passions, to direct them towards an end, to modify him;
of what use would be the faculty of speech? What benefit could arise
from education itself? What does education achieve, save give the first
impulse to the human will, make man contract habits, oblige him to
persist in them, furnish him with motives, whether true or false, to act
after a given manner? When the father either menaces his son with
punishment, or promises him a reward, is he not convinced these things
will act upon his will? What does legislation attempt, except it be to
present to the citizens of a state those motives which are supposed
necessary to determine them to perform some actions that are considered
worthy; to abstain from committing others that are looked upon as
unworthy? What is the object of morals, if it be not to shew man that
his interest exacts he should suppress the momentary ebullition of his
passions, with a view to promote a more certain happiness, a more
lasting well-being, than can possibly result from the gratification of
his transitory desires? Does not the religion of all countries suppose
the human race, together with the entire of Nature, submitted to the
irresistible will of a necessary being, who regulates their condition
after the eternal laws of immutable wisdom? Is not God the absolute
master of their destiny? Is it not this divine being who chooses and
rejects? The anathemas fulminated by religion, the promises it holds
forth, are they not founded upon the idea of the effects they will
necessarily produce upon mankind? Is not man brought into existence
without his own knowledge? Is he not obliged to play a part against his
will? Does not either his happiness or his misery depend on the part he

All religion has been evidently founded upon _Fatalism_. Among the
Greeks they supposed men were punished for their necessary faults, as
may be seen in Orestes, in Oedipus, &c. who only committed crimes
predicted by the oracles. It is rather singular that the theological
defenders of the doctrine of _free-agency_, which they endeavour to
oppose to that of _predestination_,--which according to them is
irreconcileable with _Christianity_, inasmuch as it is a false and
dangerous system,--should not have been aware that the doctrines of _the
fall of angels, original sin, the small number of the elect, the system
of grace, &c._ were most incontestibly supporting, by the most cogent
arguments, a _true system of fatalism_.

_Education_, then, is only necessity shewn to children: _legislation_ is
necessity shewn to the members of the body politic: _morals_ is the
necessity of the relations subsisting between men, shewn to reasonable
beings: in short, man grants _necessity_ in every thing for which he
believes he has certain, unerring experience: that of which he does not
comprehend the necessary connection of causes with their effects he
styles _probability_: he would not act as he does, if he was not
convinced, or, at least, if he did not presume he was, that certain
effects will necessarily follow his actions. The _moralist_ preaches
reason, because he believes it necessary to man: the _philosopher_
writes, because he believes truth must, sooner or later, prevail over
falsehood: _tyrants_ and _fanatical priests_ necessarily hate truth,
despise reason, because they believe them prejudicial to their
interests: the _sovereign_, who strives to terrify crime by the severity
of his laws, but who nevertheless, from motives of state policy
sometimes renders it useful and even necessary to his purposes, presumes
the motives he employs will be sufficient to keep his subjects within
bounds. All reckon equally upon the power or upon the necessity of the
motives they make use of; each individual flatters himself, either with
or without reason, that these motives will have an influence on the
conduct of mankind. The education of man is commonly so defective, so
inefficacious, so little calculated to promote the end he has in view,
because it is regulated by prejudice: even when this education is good,
it is but too often speedily counteracted, by almost every thing that
takes place in society. Legislation and politics are very frequently
iniquitous, and serve no better purpose than to kindle passions in the
bosom of man, which once set afloat, they are no longer competent to
restrain. The great art of the moralist should be, to point out to man,
to convince those who are entrusted with the sacred office of regulating
his will, that their interests are identified; that their reciprocal
happiness depends upon the harmony of their passions; that the safety,
the power, the duration of empires, necessarily depend on the good sense
diffused among the individual members; on the truth of the notions
inculcated in the mind of the citizens, on the moral goodness that is
sown in their hearts, on the virtues that are cultivated in their
breasts; religion should not be admissible, unless it truly fortified,
unless it really strengthened these motives. But in the miserable state
into which error has plunged a considerable portion of the human
species, man, for the most part, is seduced to be wicked: he injures his
fellow-creature as a matter of conscience, because the strongest motives
are held out to him to be persecuting; because his institutions invite
him to the commission of evil, under the lure of promoting his own
immediate happiness. In most countries superstition renders him a
useless being, makes him an abject slave, causes him to tremble under
its terrors, or else turns him into a furious fanatic, who is at once
cruel, intolerant, and inhuman: in a great number of states arbitrary
power crushes him, obliges him to become a cringing sycophant, renders
him completely vicious: in those despotic states the law rarely visits
crime with punishment, except in those who are too feeble to oppose its
course? or when it has become incapable of restraining the violent
excesses to which a bad government gives birth. In short, rational
education is neglected; a prudent culture of the human mind is despised;
it depends, but too frequently, upon bigotted, superstitious priests,
who are interested in deceiving man, and who are sometimes impostors; or
else upon parents or masters without understanding, who are devoid of
morals, who impress on the ductile mind of their scholars those vices
with which they are themselves tormented; who transmit to them the false
opinions, which they believe they have an interest in making them adopt.

All this proves the necessity of falling back to man's original errors,
and recurring to the primitive source of his wanderings, if it be
seriously intended to furnish him with suitable remedies for such
enormous maladies: it is useless to dream of correcting his mistakes, of
curing him of his depravity, until the true causes that move his will
are unravelled; until more real, more beneficial, more certain motives
are substituted for those which are found so inefficacious; which prove
so dangerous both to society and to himself. It is for those who guide
the human will, who regulate the condition of nations, who hold the real
happiness of man in their grasp, to seek after these motives,--with
which reason will readily furnish them--which experience will enable
them to apply with success: even a good book, by touching the heart of a
great prince, may become a very powerful cause that shall necessarily
have an influence over the conduct of a whole people, and decide upon
the felicity of a portion of the human race.

From all that has been advanced in this chapter, it results, that in no
one moment of his existence man is a free agent: he is not the architect
of his own conformation; this he holds from Nature, he has no controul
over his own ideas, or over the modification of his brain; these are due
to causes, that, in despite of him, very frequently without his own
knowledge, unceasingly act upon him; he is not the master of not loving
that which he finds amiable; of not coveting that which appears to him
desirable; he is not capable of refusing to deliberate, when he is
uncertain of the effects certain objects will produce upon him; he
cannot avoid choosing that which he believes will be most advantageous
to him: in the moment when his will is determined by his choice, he is
not competent to act otherwise than he does: in what instance, then, is
he the master of his own actions? In what moment is he a free agent?

That which a man is about to do is always a consequence of that which he
has been--of that which he is--of that which he has done up to the
moment of the action: his total and actual existence, considered under
all its possible circumstances, contains the sum of all the motives to
the action he is about to commit; this is a principle, the truth of
which no thinking, being will be able to refuse accrediting: his life is
a series of necessary moments; his conduct, whether good or bad,
virtuous or vicious, useful or prejudicial, either to himself or to
others, is a concatenation of action, a chain of causes and effects, as
necessary as all the moments of his existence. To _live_, is to exist in
a necessary mode during the points of its duration, which succeed each
other necessarily: to _will_, is to acquiesce or not in remaining such
as he is: to be _free_, is to yield to the necessary motives that he
carries within himself.

If he understood the play of his organs, if he was able to recal to
himself all the impulsions they have received, all the modifications
they have undergone, all the effects they have produced, he would
perceive, that all his actions are submitted to that _fatality_ which
regulates his own particular system, as it does the entire system of the
universe: no one effect in him, any more than in Nature, produce itself
by _chance_; this, as has been before proved, is a word void of sense.
All that passes in him, all that is done by him, as well as all that
happens in Nature, or that is attributed to her, is derived from
necessary laws, which produce necessary effects; from whence necessarily
flow others.

_Fatality_ is the eternal, the immutable, the necessary order
established in Nature, or the indispensible connection of causes that
act with the effects they operate. Conforming to this order, heavy
bodies fall, light bodies rise; that which is analogous in matter,
reciprocally attracts; that which is heterogeneous, mutually repels; man
congregates himself in society, modifies each his fellow, becomes either
virtuous or wicked; either contributes to his mutual happiness, or
reciprocates his misery; either loves his neighbour, or hates his
companion necessarily; according to the manner in which the one acts
upon the other. From whence it may be seen, that the same necessity
which regulates the physical, also regulates the moral world: in which
every thing is in consequence submitted to fatality. Man, in running
over, frequently without his own knowledge, often in despite of himself,
the route which Nature has marked out for him, resembles a swimmer who
is obliged to follow the current that carries him along; he believes
himself a free agent, because he sometimes consents, sometimes does not
consent, to glide with the stream; which, notwithstanding, always
hurries him forward; he believes himself the master of his condition,
because he is obliged to use his arms under the fear of sinking.

The false ideas he has formed to himself upon free-agency, are in
general thus founded: there are certain events which he judges
_necessary_; either because he sees they are effects that are
constantly, are invariably linked to certain causes, which nothing seems
to prevent; or because he believes he has discovered the chain of causes
and effects that is put in play to produce those events: whilst he
contemplates as _contingent_, other events, of whose causes he is
ignorant; the concatenation of which he does not perceive; with whose
mode of acting he is unacquainted: but in Nature, where every thing is
connected by one common bond, there exists no effect without a cause. In
the moral as well as in the physical world, every thing that happens is
a necessary consequence of causes, either visible or concealed; which
are, of necessity, obliged to act after their peculiar essences. _In
man, free-agency is nothing more than necessity contained within


_An examination of the Opinion which pretends that the System of
Fatalism is dangerous._

For a being whose essence obliges him to have a constant tendency to his
own conservation, to continually seek to render himself happy,
experience is indispensible: without it he cannot discover truth, which
is nothing more, as has been already said, than a knowledge of the
constant relations which subsist between man, and those objects that act
upon him; according to his experience he denominates those that
contribute to his permanent welfare useful and salutary; those that
procure him pleasure, more or less durable, he calls agreeable. Truth
itself becomes the object of his desires, only when he believes it is
useful; he dreads it, whenever he presumes it will injure him. But has
truth the power to injure him? Is it possible that evil can result to
man from a correct understanding of the relations he has with other
beings? Can it be true, that he can be harmed by becoming acquainted
with those things, of which, for his own happiness, he is interested in
having a knowledge? No: unquestionably not. It is upon its utility that
truth founds its worth; upon this that it builds its rights; sometimes
it may be disagreeable to individuals--it may even appear contrary to
their interests--but it will ever be beneficial to them in the end; it
will always be useful to the whole human species; it will eternally
benefit the great bulk of mankind; whose interests must for ever remain
distinct from those of men, who, duped by their own peculiar passions,
believe their advantage consists in plunging others into error.

_Utility_, then, is the touchstone of his systems, the test of his
opinions, the criterion of the actions of man; it is the standard of the
esteem, the measure of the love he owes to truth itself: the most useful
truths are the most estimable: those truths which are most interesting
for his species, he styles _eminent_; those of which the utility limits
itself to the amusement of some individuals who have not correspondent
ideas, similar modes of feeling, wants analogous to his own, he either
disdains, or else calls them _barren_.

It is according to this standard, that the principles laid down in this
work, ought to be judged. Those who are acquainted with the immense
chain of mischief produced on the earth by erroneous systems of
superstition, will acknowledge the importance of opposing to them
systems more accordant with truth, schemes drawn from Nature, sciences
founded on experience. Those who are, or believe they are, interested in
maintaining the established errors, will contemplate, with horror, the
truths here presented to them: in short, those infatuated mortals, who
do not feel, or who only feel very faintly, the enormous load of misery
brought upon mankind by metaphysical speculation; the heavy yoke of
slavery under which prejudice makes him groan, will regard all our
principles as useless; or, at most, as sterile truths, calculated to
amuse the idle hours of a few speculators.

No astonishment, therefore, need be excited at the various judgments
formed by man: his interests never being the same, any more than his
notions of utility, he condemns or disdains every thing that does not
accord with his own peculiar ideas. This granted, let us examine, if in
the eyes of the disinterested man, who is not entangled by prejudice--
who is sensible to the happiness of his species--who delights in truth--
the _doctrine of fatalism_ be useful or dangerous? Let us see if it is a
barren speculation, that his not any influence upon the felicity of the
human race? At has been already shewn, that it will furnish morals with
efficacious arguments, with real motives to determine the will, supply
politics with the true lever to raise the proper activity in the mind of
man. It will also be seen that it serves to explain in a simple manner
the mechanism of man's actions; to develope in an easy way the arcana of
the most striking phenomena of the human heart: on the other hand, if
his ideas are only the result of unfruitful speculations, they cannot
interest the happiness of the human species. Whether he believes himself
a free agent, or whether he acknowledges the necessity of things, he
always equally follows the desires imprinted on his soul; which are to
preserve his existence and render himself happy. A rational education,
honest habits, wise systems, equitable laws, rewards uprightly
distributed, punishments justly inflicted, will conduct man to happiness
by making him virtuous; while thorny speculations, filled with
difficulties, can at most only have an influence over persons
unaccustomed to think.

After these reflections, it will be very easy to remove the difficulties
that are unceasingly opposed to the system of fatalism, which so many
persons, blinded by their superstitious prejudices, are desirous to have
considered as dangerous--as deserving of punishment--as calculated to
disturb public tranquility--as tending to unchain the passions--to
undermine the opinions man ought to have; and to confound his ideas of
vice and of virtue.

The opposers of necessity, say, that if all the actions of man are
necessary, no right whatever exists to punish bad ones, or even to he
angry with those who commit them: that nothing ought to be imputed to
them; that the laws would he unjust if they should decree punishment for
necessary actions; in short, that under this system man could neither
have merit nor demerit. In reply, it may he argued, that, to impute an
action to any one, is to attribute that action to him; to acknowledge
him for the author: thus, when even an action was supposed to be the
effect of an agent, and that agent _necessity_, the imputation would
lie: the merit or demerit, that is ascribed to an action are ideas
originating in the effects, whether favourable or pernicious, that
result to those who experience its operation; when, therefore, it should
be conceded, that the agent was necessity, it is not less certain, that
the action would be either good or bad; estimable or contemptible, to
those who must feel its influence; in short that it would be capable of
either eliciting their love, or exciting their anger. Love and anger are
modes of existence, suitable to modify, beings of the human species:
when, therefore, man irritates himself against his fellow, he intends to
excite his fear, or even to punish him, in order to deter him from
committing that which is displeasing to him. Moreover his anger is
necessary; it is the result of his Nature; the consequence of his
temperament. The painful sensation produced by a stone that falls on the
arm, does not displease the less, because it comes from a cause deprived
of will; which acts by the necessity of its Nature. In contemplating man
as acting necessarily, it is impossible to avoid distinguishing that
mode of action or being which is agreeable, which elicits approbation,
from that which is afflicting, which irritates, which Nature obliges him
to blame and to prevent. From this it will he seen, that the system of
fatalism, does not in any manner change the actual state of things, and
is by no means calculated to confound man's ideas of virtue and vice.

Man's Nature always revolts against that which opposes it: there are men
so choleric, that they infuriate themselves even against insensible and
inanimate objects; reflection on their own impotence to modify these
objects ought to conduct them back to reason. Parents are frequently
very much to be blamed for correcting their children with anger: they
should be contemplated as beings who are not yet modified; or who have,
perhaps, been very badly modified by themselves: nothing is more common
in life, than to see men punish faults of which they are themselves the

Laws are made with a view to maintain society; to uphold its existence;
to prevent man associated, from injuring his neighbour; they are
therefore competent to punish those who disturb its harmony, or those
who commit actions that are injurious to their fellows; whether these
associates may be the agents of necessity, or whether they are free
agents, it suffices to know they are susceptible of modification, and
are therefore submitted to the operation of the law. Penal laws are, or
ought to be, those motives which experience has shewn capable of
restraining the inordinate passions of man, or of annihilating the
impulse these passions give to his will; from whatever necessary cause
man may derive these passions, the legislator proposes to arrest their
effect, when he takes suitable means, when he adopts proper methods, he
is certain of success. The Judge, in decreeing to crime, gibbets,
tortures, or any other chastisement whatever, does nothing more than is
done by the architect, who in building a house, places gutters to carry
off the rain, and prevent it from sapping the foundation.

Whatever may be the cause that obliges man to act, society possesses the
right to crush the effects, as much as the man whose land would be
ruined by a river, has to restrain its waters by a bank: or even, if he
is able, to turn its course. It is by virtue of this right that society
has the power to intimidate, the faculty to punish, with a view to its
own conservation, those who may be tempted to injure it; or those who
commit actions which are acknowledged really to interrupt its repose; to
be inimical to its security; repugnant to its happiness.

It will, perhaps, he argued, that society does not, usually, punish
those faults in which the will has no share; that, in fact, it punishes
the will alone; that this it is which decides the nature of the crime,
and the degree of its atrocity; that if this will be not free, it ought
not to be punished. I reply, that society is an assemblage of sensible
beings, susceptible of reason, who desire their own welfare; who fear
evil, and seek after good. These dispositions enable their will to be so
modified or determined, that they are capable of holding such a conduct
as will conduce to the end they have in view. Education, the laws,
public opinion, example, habit, fear, are the causes that must modify
associated man, influence his will, regulate his passions, restrain the
actions of him who is capable of injuring the end of his association,
and thereby make him concur to the general happiness. These causes are
of a nature to make impressions on every man, whose organization, whose
essence, whose sanity, places him in a capacity to contract the habits,
to imbibe the modes of thinking, to adopt the manner of acting, with
which society is willing to inspire him. All the individuals of the
human species are susceptible of fear, from whence it flows as a natural
consequence, that the fear of punishment, or the privation of the
happiness he desires, are motives that must necessarily more or less
influence his will, and regulate his actions. If the man is to be found
who is so badly constituted as to resist, whose organization is so
vicious as to be insensible to those motives which operate upon all his
fellows, he is not fit to live in society; he would contradict the very
end of his association: he would he its enemy; he would place obstacles
to its natural tendency; his rebellious disposition, his unsociable
will, not being susceptible of that modification which is convenient to
his own true interests and to the interests of his fellow-citizens;
these would unite themselves against such an enemy; and the law which
is, or ought to be the expression of the general will, would visit with
condign punishment that refractory individual upon whom the motives
presented to him by society, had not the effect which it had been
induced to expect: in consequence, such an unsociable man would be
chastised; he would be rendered miserable, and according to the nature
of his crime he would be excluded from society as a being but little
calculated to concur in its views.

If society has the right to conserve itself, it has also the right to
take the means: these means are the laws which present or ought to
present to the will of man those motives which are most suitable to
deter him from committing injurious actions. If these motives fail of
the proper effect, if they are unable to influence him, society, for its
own peculiar good, is obliged to wrest from him the power of doing it
further injury. From whatever source his actions may arise, therefore,
whether they are the result of free-agency, or whether they are the
offspring of necessity, society coerces him if, after having furnished
him with motives, sufficiently powerful to act upon reasonable beings,
it perceives that these motives have not been competent to vanquish his
depraved nature. It punishes him with justice, when the actions from
which it dissuades him are truly injurious to society; it has an
unquestionable right to punish, when it only commands those things that
are conformable to the end proposed by man in his association; or
defends the commission of those acts, which are contrary to this end;
which are hostile to the nature of beings associated for their
reciprocal advantage. But, on the other hand, the law has not acquired
the right to punish him: if it has failed to present to him the motives
necessary to have an influence over his will, it has not the right to
coerce him if the negligence of society has deprived him of the means of
subsisting; of exercising his talents; of exerting his industry; of
labouring for its welfare. It is unjust, when it punishes those to whom
it has, neither given an education, nor honest principles; whom it has
not enabled to contract habits necessary to the maintenance of society:
it is unjust when it punishes them for faults which the wants of their
nature, or the constitution of society has rendered necessary to them:
it is unjust, it is irrational, whenever it chastises them for having
followed those propensities, which example, which public opinion, which
the institutions, which society itself conspires to give them. In short,
the law is defective when it does not proportion the punishment to the
real evil which society has sustained. The last degree of injustice, the
acme of folly is, when society is so blinded as to inflict punishment on
those citizens who have served it usefully.

The _penal_ laws, in exhibiting terrifying objects to man, who must be
supposed susceptible of fear, presents him with motives calculated to
have an influence over his will. The idea of pain, the privation of
liberty, the fear of death, are, to a being well constituted, in the
full enjoyment of his faculties, very puissant obstacles, that strongly
oppose themselves to the impulse of his unruly desires: when these do
not coerce his will, when they fail to arrest his progress, he is an
irrational being; a madman; a being badly organized; against whom
society has the right to guarantee itself; against whom it has a right
to take measures for its own security. Madness is, without doubt, an
involuntary, a necessary state; nevertheless, no one feels it unjust to
deprive the insane of their liberty, although their actions can only be
imputed to the derangement of their brain. The wicked are men whose
brain is either constantly or transitorily disturbed; still they must he
punished by reason of the evil they commit; they must always be placed
in the impossibility of injuring society: if no hope remains of bringing
them back to a reasonable conduct--if every prospect of recalling them
to their duty has vanished--if they cannot be made to adopt a mode of
action conformable to the great end of association--they must be for
ever excluded its benefits.

It will not be requisite to examine here, how far the punishments which
society inflicts upon those who offend against it, may be reasonably
carried. Reason should seem to indicate that the law ought to shew to
the necessary crimes of man, all the indulgence that is compatible with
the conservation of society. The system of fatalism, as we have seen,
does not leave crime unpunished; but it is, at least, calculated to
moderate the barbarity with which a number of nations punish the victims
to their anger. This cruelty becomes still more absurd, when experience
has shewn its inutility: the habit of witnessing ferocious punishments
familiarizes criminals with the idea. If it be true that society
possesses the right of taking away the life of its members--if it be
really a fact, that the death of a criminal, thenceforth useless, can be
advantageous for society, which it will be necessary to examine,
humanity, at least, exacts that this death should not be accompanied
with useless tortures; with which laws, perhaps in this instance too
rigorous, frequently seem to delight in overwhelming their victim. This
cruelty seems to defeat its own end, it only serves to make the culprit,
who is immolated to the public vengeance, suffer without any advantage
to society; it moves the compassion of the spectator, interests him in
favor of the miserable offender who groans under its weight; it
impresses nothing upon the wicked, but the sight of those cruelties
destined for himself; which but too frequently renders him more
ferocious, more cruel, more the enemy of his associates: if the example
of death was less frequent, even without being accompanied with
tortures, it would be more efficacious. If experience was consulted, it
would be found that the greater number of criminals only look upon death
as a _bad quarter of an hour_. It is an unquestionable fact, that a
thief seeing one of his comrades, display a want of firmness under the
punishment, said to him: _"Is not this what I have often told you, that
in our business, we have one evil more than the rest of mankind?"_
Robberies are daily committed, even at the foot of the scaffolds where
criminals are punished. In those nations, where the penalty of death is
so lightly inflicted, has sufficient attention been paid to the fact,
that society is yearly deprived of a great number of individuals who
would be able to render it very useful service, if made to work, and
thus indemnify the community for the injuries they have committed? The
facility with which the lives of men are taken away, proves the
incapacity of counsellors; is an evidence of the negligence of
legislators: they find it a much shorter road, that it gives them less
trouble to destroy the citizens than to seek after the means to render
them better.

What shall be said for the unjust cruelty of some nations, in which the
law, that ought to have for its object the advantage of the whole,
appears to be made only for the security of the most powerful? How shall
we account for the inhumanity of those societies, in which punishments
the most disproportionate to the crime, unmercifully take away the lives
of men, whom the most urgent necessity, the dreadful alternative of
famishing in a land of plenty, has obliged to become criminal? It is
thus that in a great number of civilized nations, the life of the
citizen is placed in the same scales with money; that the unhappy wretch
who is perishing from hunger, who is writhing under the most abject
misery, is put to death for having taken a pitiful portion of the
superfluity of another whom he beholds rolling in abundance! It is this
that, in many otherwise very enlightened societies, is called _justice_,
or making the punishment commensurate with the crime.

Let the man of humanity, whose tender feelings are alive to the welfare
of his species--let the moralist, who preaches virtue, who holds out
forbearance to man--let the philosopher, who dives into the secrets of
Nature--let the theologian himself say, if this dreadful iniquity, this
heinous sin, does not become yet more crying, when the laws decree the
most cruel tortures for crimes to which the most irrational customs gave
birth--which bad institutions engender--which evil examples multiply? Is
not this something like building a sorry, inconvenient hovel, and then
punishing the inhabitant, because he does not find all the conveniences
of the most complete mansion, of the most finished structure? Man, as at
cannot be too frequently repeated, is so prone to evil, only because
every thing appears to urge him on to the commission of it, by too
frequently shewing him vice triumphant: his education is void in a great
number of states, perhaps defective in nearly all; in many places he
receives from society no other principles, save those of an
unintelligible superstition; which make but a feeble barrier against
those propensities that are excited by dissolute manners; which are
encouraged by corrupt examples: in vain the law cries out to him:
"abstain from the goods of thy neighbour;" his wants, more powerful,
loudly declare to him that he must live: unaccustomed to reason, having
never been submitted to a wholesome discipline, he conceives he must do
it at the expence of a society who has done nothing for him: who
condemns him to groan in misery, to languish in indigence: frequently
deprived of the common necessaries requisite to support his existence,
which his essence, of which he is not the master, compels him to
conserve. He compensates himself by theft, he revenges himself by
assassination, he becomes a plunderer by profession, a murderer by
trade; he plunges into crime, and seeks at the risque of his life, to
satisfy those wants, whether real or imaginary, to which every thing
around him conspires to give birth. Deprived of education, he has not
been taught to restrain the fury of his temperament--to guide his
passions with discretion--to curb his inclinations. Without ideas of
decency, destitute of the true principles of honour, he engages in
criminal pursuits that injure his country: which at the same time has
been to him nothing more than a step-mother. In the paroxysm of his
rage, in the exacerbation of his mind, he loses sight of his neighbour's
rights, he overlooks the gibbet, he forgets the torture; his unruly
desires have become too potent--they have completely absorbed his mind;
by a criminal indulgence they have given an inveteracy to his habits
which preclude him from changing them; laziness has made him torpid:
remorse has gnawed his peace; despair has rendered him blind; he rushes
on to death; and society is compelled to punish him rigorously, for
those fatal, those necessary dispositions, which it has perhaps itself
engendered in his heart by evil example: or which at least, it has not
taken the pains seasonably to root out; which it has neglected to oppose
by suitable motives--by those calculated to give him honest principles--
to excite him to industrious habits, to imbue him with virtuous
inclinations. Thus, society frequently punishes those propensities of
which it is itself the author, or which its negligence has suffered to
spring up in the mind of man: it acts like those unjust fathers, who
chastise their children for vices which they have themselves made them

However unjust, however unreasonable this conduct may be, or appear to
be, it is not the less necessary: society, such as it is, whatever may
be its corruption, whatever vices may pervade its institutions, like
every thing else in Nature, is willing to subsist; tends to conserve
itself: in consequence, it is obliged to punish those excesses which its
own vicious constitution has produced: in despite of its peculiar
prejudices, notwithstanding its vices, it feels cogently that its own
immediate security demands that it should destroy the conspiracies of
those who make war against its tranquillity: if these, hurried on by the
foul current of their necessary propensities, disturb its repose--if,
borne on the stream of their ill-directed desires, they injure its
interests, this following the natural law, which obliges it to labour to
its own peculiar conservation, removes them out of its road; punishes
them with more or less rigor, according to the objects to which it
attaches the greatest importance, or which it supposes best suited to
further its own peculiar welfare: without doubt, it deceives itself
frequently, both upon these objects and the means; but it deceives
itself necessarily, for want of the knowledge calculated to enlighten
it, with regard to its true interests; for want of those, who regulate
its movements possessing proper vigilance--suitable talents--the
requisite virtue. From this it will appear, that the injustice of a
society badly constituted, and blinded by its prejudices, is as
necessary, as the crimes of those by whom it is hostilely attacked--by
whose vices it is distracted. The body politic, when in a state of
insanity, cannot act more consistently with reason, than one of its
members whose brain is disturbed by madness.

It will still be said that these maxims, by submitting every thing to
necessity, must confound, or even destroy the notions man forms of
justice and injustice; of good and evil; of merit and demerit: I deny
it. Although man, in every thing he does, acts necessarily, his actions
are good, they are just, they are meritorious, every time they tend to
the real utility of his fellows; of the society of which he makes a
part: they are, of necessity, distinguished from those which are really
prejudicial to the welfare of his associates. Society is just, it is
good, it is worthy our reverence, when it procures for all its members,
their physical wants, when it affords them protection, when it secures
their liberty, when it puts them in possession of their natural rights.
It is ill this that consists all the happiness of which the social
compact is susceptible: society is unjust, it is bad, it is unworthy our
esteem, when it is partial to a few, when it is cruel to the greater
number: it is then that it multiplies its enemies, obliges them to
revenge themselves by criminal actions which it is under the necessity
to punish. It is not upon the caprices of political society that depend
the true notions of justice and injustice--the right ideas of moral good
and evil--a just appreciation of merit and demerit; it is upon
_utility_, upon the necessity of things, which always forces man to feel
that there exists a mode of acting on which he implicitly relies, which
he is obliged to venerate, which he cannot help approving either in his
fellows, in himself, or in society: whilst there is another mode to
which he cannot lend his confidence, which his nature makes him to hate,
which his feelings compel him to condemn. It is upon his own peculiar
essence that man founds his ideas of pleasure and of pain--of right and
of wrong--of vice and of virtue: the only difference between these is,
that pleasure and pain make them instantaneously felt in his brain; he
becomes conscious of their existence upon the spot; in the place of
which, the advantages that accrue to him from justice, the benefit that
he derives from virtue, frequently do not display themselves but after a
long train of reflections--after multiplied experience and complicated
attention; which many, either from a defect in their conformation, or
from the peculiarity of the circumstances under which they are placed,
are prevented from making, or at least from making correctly.

By a necessary consequence of this truism, the system of fatalism,
although it has frequently been so accused, does not tend to encourage
man in crime, to make remorse vanish from his mind. His propensities are
to be ascribed to his nature; the use he makes of his passions depends
upon his habits, upon his opinions, upon the ideas he has received in
his education; upon the examples held forth by the society in which he
lives. These things are what necessarily decide his conduct. Thus, when
his temperament renders him susceptible of strong passions, he is
violent in his desires, whatever may be his speculations.

_Remorse_ is the painful sentiment excited in him by grief, caused
either by the immediate or probable future effect of his indulged
passions: if these effects were always useful to him, he would not
experience remorse; but, as soon as he is assured that his actions
render him hateful, that his passions make him contemptible; or, as soon
as he fears he shall be punished in some mode or other, he becomes
restless, discontented with himself--he reproaches himself with his own
conduct--he feels ashamed--he fears the judgement of those beings whose
affection he has learned to esteem--in whose good-will he finds his own
comfort deeply interested. His experience proves to him that the wicked
man is odious to all those upon whom his actions have any influence: if
these actions are concealed at the moment of commission, he knows it
very rarely happens they remain so for ever. The smallest reflection
convinces him that there is no wicked man who is not ashamed of his own
conduct--who is truly contented with himself--who does not envy the
condition of the good man--who is not obliged to acknowledge that he
has paid very dearly for those advantages he is never able to enjoy,
without experiencing the most troublesome sensations, without making the
most bitter reproaches against himself; then he feels ashamed, despises
himself, hates himself, his conscience becomes alarmed, remorse follows
in it train. To be convinced of the truth of this principle it is only
requisite to cast our eyes on the extreme precautions that tyrants and
villains, who are otherwise sufficiently powerful not to dread the
punishment of man, take to prevent exposure;--to what lengths they push
their cruelties against some, to what meannesses they stoop to others of
those who are able to hold them up to public scorn. Have they not, then,
a consciousness of their own iniquities? Do they not know that they are
hateful and contemptible? Have they not remorse? Is their condition
happy? Persons well brought up acquire these sentiments in their
education; which are either strengthened or enfeebled by public opinion,
by habit, or by the examples set before them. In a depraved society,
remorse either does not exist, or presently disappears; because, in all
his actions, it is ever the judgment of his fellow-man that man is
obliged necessarily to regard. He never feels either shame or remorse
for actions he sees approved, that are practised by the world. Under
corrupt governments, venal souls, avaricious being, mercenary
individuals, do not blush either at meanness, robbery, or rapine, when
it is authorized by example; in licentious nations, no one blushes at
adultery except the husband, at whose expence it is committed; in
superstitious countries, man does not blush to assassinate his fellow
for his opinions. It will be obvious, therefore, that his remorse, as
well as the ideas, whether right or wrong, which man has of decency,
virtue, justice, &c. are the necessary consequence of his temperament,
modified by the society in which he lives: assassins and thieves, when
they live only among themselves, have neither shame nor remorse.

Thus, I repeat, all the actions of man are necessary those which are
always useful, which constantly contribute to the real, tend to the
permanent happiness of his species, are called _virtues_, and are
necessarily pleasing to all who experience their influence; at least, if
their passions or false opinions do not oblige them to judge in that
manner which is but little accordant with the nature of things: each man
acts, each individual judges, necessarily, according to his own peculiar
mode of existence--after the ideas, whether true or false, which he has
formed with regard to his happiness. There are necessary actions which
man is obliged to approve; there are others, that, in despite of
himself, he is compelled to censure; of which the idea generates shame
when his reflection permits him to contemplate them under the same point
of view that they are regarded by his associates. The virtuous man and
the wicked man act from motives equally necessary: they differ simply in
their organization--in the ideas they form to themselves of happiness:
we love the one necessarily--we detest the other from the same
necessity. The law of his nature, which wills that a sensible being
shall constantly labour to preserve himself, has not left to man the
power to choose, or the free-agency to prefer pain to pleasure--vice to
utility--crime to virtue. It is, then, the essence of man himself that
obliges him to discriminate those actions which are advantageous to him,
form those which are prejudicial to his interest, from those which are
baneful to his felicity.

This distinction subsists even in the most corrupt societies, in which
the ideas of virtue, although completely effaced from their conduct,
remain the same in their mind. Let us suppose a matt, who had decidedly
determined for villainy, who should say to himself--"It is folly to be
virtuous in a society that is depraved, in a community that is
debauched." Let us suppose also, that he has sufficient address, the
unlooked-for good fortune to escape censure or punishment, during a long
series of years; I say, that in despite of all these circumstances,
apparently so advantageous for himself, such a man has neither been
happy nor contented with his own conduct, He has been in continual
agonies--ever at war with his own actions--in a state of constant
agitation. How much pain, how much anxiety, has he not endured in this
perpetual conflict with himself? How many precautions, what excessive
labour, what endless solicitude, has he not been compelled to employ in
this continued struggle; how many embarrassments, how many cares, has he
not experienced in this eternal wrestling with his associates, whose
penetration he dreads, whose scorn he fears will follow a true knowledge
of his pursuits. Demand of him what he thinks of himself, he will shrink
from the question. Approach the bedside of this villain at the moment he
is dying; ask him if he would be willing to recommence, at the same
price, a life of similar agitation? If he is ingenuous, he will avow
that he has tasted neither repose nor happiness; that each crime filled
him with inquietude--that reflection prevented him from sleeping--that
the world has been to him only one continued scene of alarm--an
uninterrupted concatenation of terror--an everlasting, anxiety of mind;
--that to live peaceably upon bread and water, appears to him to be a
much happier, a more easy condition, than to possess riches, credit,
reputation, honours, on the same terms that he has himself acquired
them. If this villain, notwithstanding all his success, finds his
condition so deplorable, what must be thought of the feelings of those
who have neither the same resources nor the same advantages to succeed
in their criminal projects.

Thus, the system of necessity is a truth not only founded upon certain
experience, but, again, it establishes morals upon an immoveable basis.
Far from sapping the foundations of virtue, it points out its necessity;
it clearly shows the invariable sentiments it must excite--sentiments so
necessary, so strong, so congenial to his existence, that all the
prejudices of man--all the vices of his institutions--all the effect of
evil example, have never been able entirely to eradicate them from his
mind. When he mistakes the advantages of virtue, it ought to be ascribed
to the errors that are infused into him--to the irrationality of his
institutions: all his wanderings are the fatal consequences of error,--
the necessary result of prejudices which have identified themselves with
his existence. Let it not, therefore, any longer be imputed to his
nature that he has become wicked, but to those baneful opinions which he
has imbibed with his mother's milk,--that have rendered him ambitious,
avaricious, envious, haughty, arrogant, debauched, intolerant,
obstinate, prejudiced, incommodious to his fellows, mischievous to
himself. It is education that carries into his system the germ of those
vices which necessarily torment him during the whole course of his life.

_Fatalism_ is reproached with discouraging man--with damping the ardour
of his soul--with plunging him into apathy--with destroying the bonds
that should connect him with society. Its opponents say, "If every thing
is necessary, we must let things go on, and not be disturbed by any
thing." But does it depend on man to be sensible or not? Is he master of
feeling or not feeling pain? If Nature has endowed him with a humane,
with a tender soul, is it possible he should not interest himself in a
very lively manner, in the welfare of beings whom he knows are necessary
to his own peculiar happiness? His feelings are necessary: they depend
on his own peculiar nature, cultivated by education. His imagination,
prompt to concern itself with the felicity of his race, causes his heart
to be oppressed at the sight of those evils his fellow-creature is
obliged to endure,--makes his soul tremble in the contemplation of the
misery arising from the despotism that crushes him--from the
superstition that leads him astray--from the passions that distract him
in a state of warfare against his neighbour. Although he knows that
death is the fatal, the necessary period to the form of all beings, his
soul is not affected in a less lively manner at the loss of a beloved
wife,--at the demise of a child calculated to console his old age,--at
the final separation from an esteemed friend who had become dear to his
heart. Although he is not ignorant that it is the essence of fire to
burn, he does not believe he is dispensed from using his utmost efforts
to arrest the progress of a conflagration. Although he is intimately
convinced that the evils to which he is a witness, are the necessary
consequence of primitive errors with which his fellow-citizens are
imbued, he feels he ought to display truth to them, if Nature has given
him the necessary courage; under the conviction, that if they listen to
it, it will, by degrees, become a certain remedy for their sufferings,
that it will produce those necessary effects which it is of its essence
to operate.

If the speculations of man modify his conduct, if they change his
temperament, he ought not to doubt that the system of necessity would
have the most advantageous influence over him; not only is it suitable
to calm the greater part of his inquietude, but it will also contribute
to inspire him with a useful submission, a rational resignation, to the
decrees of a destiny with which his too great sensibility frequently
causes him to be overwhelmed. This happy apathy, without doubt, would
be, desirable to those whose souls, too tender to brook the inequalities
of life, frequently render them the deplorable sport of their fate; or
whose organs, too weak to make resistance to the buffettings of fortune,
incessantly expose them to be dashed in pieces under the rude blows of

But, of all the important advantages the human race would be enabled to
derive from the doctrine of fatalism, if man was to apply it to his
conduct, none would be of greater magnitude, none of more happy
consequence, none that would more efficaciously corroborate his
happiness, than that general indulgence, that universal toleration, that
must necessarily spring from the opinion, that _all is necessary_. In
consequence, of the adoption of this principle, the fatalist, if he had
a sensible soul, would commisserate the prejudices of his fellow-man--
would lament over his wanderings--would seek to undeceive him--would try
by gentleness to lead him into the right path, without ever irritating
himself against his weakness, without ever insulting his misery. Indeed,
what right have we to hate or despise man for his opinions? His
ignorance, his prejudices, his imbecility, his vices, his passions, his
weakness, are they not the inevitable consequence of vicious
institutions? Is he not sufficiently punished by the multitude of evils
that afflict him on every side? Those despots who crush him with an iron
sceptre, are they not continual victims to their own peculiar
restlessness--mancipated to their perpetual diffidence--eternal slaves
to their suspicions? Is there one wicked individual who enjoys a pure,
an unmixed, a real happiness? Do not nations unceasingly suffer from
their follies? Are they not the incessant dupes to their prejudices? Is
not the ignorance of chiefs, the ill-will they bear to reason, the
hatred they have for truth, punished by the imbecility of their
citizens, by the ruin of the states they govern? In short, the fatalist
would grieve to witness necessity each moment exercising its severe
decrees upon mortals who are ignorant of its power, or who feel its
castigation, without being willing to acknowledge the hand from whence
it proceeds; he will perceive that ignorance is necessary, that
credulity is the necessary result of ignorance--that slavery and bondage
are necessary consequences of ignorant credulity--that corruption of
manners springs necessarily from slavery--that the miseries of society,
the unhappiness of its members, are the necessary offspring of this
corruption. The fatalist, in consequence, of these ideas, will neither
he a gloomy misanthrope, nor a dangerous citizen; he will pardon in his
brethren those wanderings, he will forgive them those errors--which
their vitiated nature, by a thousand causes, has rendered necessary--he
will offer them consolation--he will endeavour to inspire them with
courage--he will be sedulous to undeceive them in their idle notions, in
their chimerical ideas; but he will never display against them
bitterness of soul--he will never show them that rancorous animosity
which is more suitable, to make them revolt from his doctrines, than to
attract them to reason;--he will not disturb the repose of society--he
will not raise the people to insurrection against the sovereign
authority; on the contrary, he will feel that the miserable blindness of
the great, and the wretched perverseness, the fatal obstinacy of so many
conductors of the people, are the necessary consequence of that flattery
that is administered to them in their infancy--that feeds their hopes
with allusive falsehoods--of the depraved malice of those who surround
them--who wickedly corrupt them, that they may profit by their folly--
that they may take advantage of their weakness: in short, that these
things are the inevitable effect of that profound ignorance of their
true interest, in which every thing strives to keep them.

The fatalist has no right to be vain of his peculiar talents; no
privilege to be proud of his virtues; he knows that these qualities are
only the consequence of his natural organization, modified by
circumstances that have in no wise depended upon himself. He will
neither have hatred nor feel contempt for those whom Nature and
circumstances have not favoured in a similar manner. It is the fatalist
who ought to be humble, who should be modest from principle: is he not
obliged to acknowledge, that he possesses nothing that he has not
previously received?

In fact, will not every thing conduct to indulgence the fatalist whom
experience has convinced of the necessity of things? Will he not see
with pain, that it is the essence of a society badly constituted,
unwisely governed, enslaved to prejudice, attached to unreasonable
customs, submitted to irrational laws, degraded under despotism,
corrupted by luxury, inebriated by false opinions, to be filled with
trifling members; to be composed of vicious citizens; to be made up of
cringing slaves, who are proud of their chains; of ambitious men,
without idea of true glory; of misers and prodigals; of fanatics and
libertines! Convinced of the necessary connection of things, he will not
be surprised to see that the supineness of their chiefs carries
discouragement into their country, or that the influence of their
governors stirs up bloody wars by which it is depopulated, and causes
useless expenditures that impoverish it; that all these excesses united,
is the reason why so many nations contain only men wanting happiness,
without understanding to attain it; who are devoid of morals, destitute
of virtue. In all this he will contemplate nothing more than the
necessary action and re-action of physics upon morals, of morals upon
physics. In short, all who acknowledge fatality, will remain persuaded
that a nation badly governed is a soil very fruitful in venomous
reptiles--very abundant in poisonous plants; that these have such a
plentiful growth as to crowd each other and choak themselves. It is in a
country cultivated by the hands of a Lycurgus, that he will witness the
production of intrepid citizens, of noble-minded individuals, of
disinterested men, who are strangers to irregular pleasures. In a
country cultivated by a Tiberius, he will find nothing but villains with
depraved hearts, men with mean contemptible souls, despicable informers,
execrable traitors. It is the soil, it is the circumstances in which man
finds himself placed, that renders him either a useful object or a
prejudicial being: the wise man avoids the one, as he would those
dangerous reptiles whose nature it is to sting and communicate their
deadly venom; he attaches himself to the other, esteems him, loves him,
as he does those delicious fruits with whose rich maturity his palate is
pleasantly gratified, with whose cooling juices he finds himself
agreeably refreshed: he sees the wicked without anger--he cherishes the
good with pleasure--he delights in the bountiful: he knows full well
that the tree which is languishing without culture in the arid, sandy
desert, that is stunted for want of attention, leafless for want of
moisture, that has grown crooked from neglect, become barren from want
of loam, whose tender bark is gnawed by rapacious beasts of prey,
pierced by innumerable insects, would perhaps have expanded far and wide
its verdant boughs from a straight and stately stem, have brought forth
delectable fruit, have afforded from its luxuriant foliage under its
lambent leaves an umbrageous refreshing retreat from the scorching rays
of a meridian sun, have offered beneath its swelling branches, under its
matted tufts a shelter from the pitiless storm, it its seed had been
fortunately sown in a more fertile soil, placed in a more congenial
climate, had experienced the fostering cares of a skilful cultivator.

Let it not then be said, that it is degrading man reduce his functions
to a pure mechanism; that it is shamefully to undervalue him,
scandalously to abuse him, to compare him to a tree; to an abject
vegetation. The philosopher devoid of prejudice does not understand this
language, invented by those who are ignorant of what constitutes the
true dignity of man. A tree is an object which, in its station, joins
the useful with the agreeable; it merits our approbation when it
produces sweet and pleasant fruit; when it affords a favourable shade.
All machines are precious, when they are truly useful, when they
faithfully perform the functions for which they are designed. Yes, I
speak it with courage, reiterate it with pleasure, the honest man, when
he has talents, when he possesses virtue, is, for the beings of his
species, a tree that furnishes them with delicious fruit, that affords
them refreshing shelter: the honest man is a machine of which the
springs are adapted to fulfil its functions in a manner that must
gratify the expectation of all his fellows. No, I should not blush, I
should not feel degraded, to be a machine of this sort; and my heart
would leap with joy, if I could foresee that the fruit of my reflections
would one day be useful to my race, consoling to my fellow-man.

Is not Nature herself a vast machine, of which the human species is but
a very feeble spring? I see nothing contemptible either in her or her
productions; all the beings who come out of her hands are good, are
noble, are sublime, whenever they co-operate to the production of
another, to the maintenance of harmony in the sphere where they must
act. Of whatever nature the soul may be, whether it is made mortal, or
whether it be supposed immortal; whether it is regarded as a spirit, or
whether it be looked upon as a portion of the body; it will be found
noble, it will be estimated great, it will be ranked good, it will be
considered sublime, in a Socrates, in an Aristides, in a Cato: it will
be thought abject, it will be viewed as despicable, it will be called
corrupt, in a Claudius, in a Sejanus, in a Nero: its energies will be
admired, we shall be delighted with its manner, fascinated with its
efforts, in a Shakespeare, in a Corneille, in a Newton, in a
Montesquieu: its baseness will be lamented, when we behold mean,
contemptible men, who flatter tyranny, or who servilely cringe at the
foot of superstition.

All that has been said in the course of this work, proves clearly that
every thing is necessary; that every thing is always in order,
relatively to Nature; where all beings do nothing more than follow the
laws that are imposed on their respective classes. It is part of her
plan, that certain portions of the earth shall bring forth delicious
fruits, shall blossom beauteous flowers; whilst others shall only
furnish brambles, shall yield nothing but noxious vegetables: she has
been willing that some societies should produce wise men, great heroes;
that others should only give birth to abject souls, contemptible men,
without energy, destitute of virtue. Passions, winds, tempests,
hurricanes, volcanoes, wars, plagues, famines, diseases, death, are as
necessary to her eternal march as the beneficent heat of the sun, the
serenity of the atmosphere, the gentle showers of spring, plentiful
years, peace, health, harmony, life: vice and virtue, darkness and
light, and science are equally necessary; the one are not benefits, the
other are not evils, except for those beings whose happiness they
influence by either favouring or deranging their peculiar mode of
existence. _The whole cannot be miserable, but it may contain unhappy

Nature, then, distributes with the same hand that which is called
_order_, and that which is called _disorder_; that which is called
_pleasure_, and that which is called _pain_: in short, she diffuses by
the necessity of her existence, good and evil in the world we inhabit.
Let not man, therefore, either arraign her bounty, or tax her with
malice; let him not imagine that his feeble cries, his weak
supplications, can never arrest her colossal power, always acting after
immutable laws; let him submit silently to his condition; and when he
suffers, let him not seek a remedy by recurring to chimeras that his own
distempered imagination has created; let him draw from the stores of
Nature herself, the remedies which she offers for the evil she brings
upon him: if she sends him diseases, let him search in her bosom for
those salutary productions to which she has given birth, which will cure
them: if she gives him errors, she also furnishes him with experience to
counteract them; in truth, she supplies him with an antidote suitable to
destroy their fatal effects. If she permits man to groan under the
pressure of his vices, beneath the load of his follies, she also shews
him in virtue, a sure remedy for his infirmities: if the evils that some
societies experience are necessary, when they shall have become too
incommodious they will be irresistibly obliged to search for those
remedies which Nature will always point out to them. If this Nature has
rendered existence insupportable, to some unfortunate beings, whom she
appears to have selected for her victims, still death, is a door that
will surely be opened to them--that will deliver them from their
misfortunes, although in their puny, imbecile, wayward judgment, they
may be deemed impossible of cure.

Let not man, then, accuse Nature with being inexorable to him, since
there does not exist in her whole circle an evil for which she has not
furnished the remedy, to those who have the courage to seek it, who have
the fortitude to apply it. Nature follows general and necessary laws in
all her operations; physical calamity and moral evil are not to be
ascribed to her want of kindness, but to the necessity of things.
Physical calamity is the derangement produced in man's organs by
physical causes which he sees act: moral evil is the derangement
produced in him by physical causes of which the action is to him a
secret. These causes always terminate by producing sensible effects,
which are capable of striking his senses; neither the thoughts nor the
will of man ever shew themselves, but by the marked effects they produce
either in himself or upon those beings whom Nature has rendered
susceptible of feeling their impulse. He suffers, because it is of the
essence of some beings to derange the economy of his machine; he enjoys,
because the properties of some beings are analogous to his own mode of
existence; he is born, because it is of the nature of some matter to
combine itself under a determinate form; he lives, he acts, he thinks,
because it is of the essence of certain combinations to maintain
themselves in existence by given means for a season; at length he dies,
because a necessary law prescribes that all the combinations which are
formed, shall either be destroyed or dissolve themselves. From all this
it results, that Nature is impartial to all its productions; she submits
man, like all other beings, to those eternal laws from which she has not
even exempted herself; if she was to suspend these laws, even for an
instant, from that moment disorder would reign in her, system; her
harmony would be disturbed.

Those who wish to study Nature, must take experience for their guide;
this, and this only, can enable them to dive into her secrets, to
unravel by degrees, the frequently imperceptible woof of those slender
causes, of which she avails herself to operate the greatest phenomena:
by the aid of experience, man often discovers in her properties,
perceives modes of action entirely unknown to the ages which have
preceded him; those effects which his grandfathers contemplated as
marvellous, which they regarded as supernatural efforts, looked upon as
miracles, have become familiar to him in the present day, and are at
this moment contemplated as simple and natural consequences, of which he
comprehends the mechanism--of which he understands the cause--of which
he can unfold the manner of action. Man, in fathoming Nature, has
arrived at discovering the true causes of earthquakes; of the periodical
motion of the sea; of subterraneous conflagrations; of meteors; of the
electrical fluid, the whole of which were considered by his ancestors,
and are still so by the ignorant, by the uninformed, as indubitable
signs of heaven's wrath. His posterity, in following up, in rectifying
the experience already made, will perhaps go further, and discover those
causes which are totally veiled from present eyes. The united efforts of
the human species will one day perhaps penetrate even into the sanctuary
of Nature, and throw into light many of those mysteries which up to the
present time she seems to have refused to all his researches.

In contemplating man under his true aspect; in quitting authority to
follow experience; in laying aside error to consult reason; in
submitting every thing to physical laws, from which his imagination has
vainly exerted its utmost power to withdraw them; it will be found that
the phenomena of the moral world follow exactly the same general rules
as those of the physical; that the greater part of those astonishing
effects, which ignorance, aided by his prejudices, make him consider as
inexplicable, and regard as wonderful, are natural consequences flowing
from simple causes. He will find that the eruption of a volcano and the
birth of a Tamerlane are to Nature the same thing; in recurring to the
primitive causes of those striking events which he beholds with
consternation, which he contemplates with fearful alarm, in falling back
to the sources of those terrible revolutions, those frightful
convulsions, those dreadful explosions that distract mankind, lay waste
the fairest works of Nature, ravage nations, and tear up society by the
roots; he will find the wills that compassed the most surprising
changes, that operated the most extensive alterations in the state of
things, that brought about the most unlooked-for events, were moved by
physical causes, whose exility made him treat them as contemptible;
whose want of consequence in his own purblind eyes led him to believe
them utterly incapable to give birth to the phenomena whose magnitude
strikes him with such awe, whose stupendous range fills him with such

If man was to judge of causes by their effects, there would be no small
causes in the universe. In a Nature where every thing is connected,
where every thing acts and re-acts, moves and changes, composes and
decomposes, forms and destroys, there is not an atom which does not play
an important part--that does not occupy a necessary station; there is
not an imperceptible particle, however minute, which, placed in
convenient circumstances, does not operate the most prodigious effects.
If man was in a capacity to follow the eternal chain, to pursue the
concatenated links, that connect with their causes all the effects he
witnesses, without losing sight of any one of its rings,--if he could
unravel the ends of those insensible threads that give impulse to the
thoughts, decision to the will, direction to the passions of those men
who are called mighty, according to their actions, he would find, they
are true atoms which Nature employs to move the moral world; that it is
the unexpected but necessary function of these indiscernible particles
of matter, it is their aggregation, their combination, their proportion,
their fermentation, which modifying the individual by degrees, in
despite of himself, frequently without his own knowledge, make him
think, will, and act, in a determinate, but necessary mode. If, then,
the will and the actions of this individual have an influence over a
great number of other men, here is the moral world in a state of the
greatest combustion, and those consequences ensue which man contemplates
with fearful wonder. Too much acrimony in the bile of a fanatic--blood
too much inflamed in the heart of a conqueror--a painful indigestion in
the stomach of a monarch--a whim that passes in the mind of a woman--are
sometimes causes sufficient to bring on war--to send millions of men to
the slaughter--to root out an entire people--to overthrow walls--to
reduce cities into ashes--to plunge nations into slavery--to put a whole
people into mourning--to breed famine in a land--to engender pestilence
--to propagate calamity--to extend misery--to spread desolation far and
wide upon the surface of our globe, through a long series of ages.

The dominant passion of an individual of the human species, when it
disposes of the passions of many others, arrives at combining their
will, at uniting their efforts, and thus decides the condition of man.
It is after this manner that an ambitious, crafty, and voluptuous Arab,
gave to his countrymen an impulse of which the effect was the
subjugation and desolation of vast countries in Asia, in Africa, and in
Europe; whose consequences were sufficiently potential to erect a new,
extensive, but slavish empire; to give a novel system of religion to
millions of human beings; to overturn the altars of their former gods;
in short, to alter the opinions, to change the customs of a considerable
portion of the population of the earth. But in examining the primitive
sources of this strange revolution, what were the concealed causes that
had an influence over this man--that excited his peculiar passions, and
modified his temperament? What was the matter from the combination of
which resulted a crafty, ambitious, enthusiastic, and eloquent man; in
short, a personage competent to impose on his fellow-creatures--capable
of making them concur in his most extravagant views. They were,
undoubtedly, the insensible particles of his blood; the imperceptible
texture of his fibres; the salts, more or less acrid, that stimulated
his nerves; the proportion of igneous fluid that circulated in his
system. From whence came these elements? It was from the womb of his
mother; from the aliments which nourished him; from the climate in which
he had his birth; from the ideas he received; from the air which he
respired; without reckoning a thousand inappreciable, a thousand
transitory causes, that in the instance given had modified, had
determined the passions of this importent being, who had thereby
acquired the capacity to change the face of this mundane sphere.

To causes so weak in their principles, if in the origin the slightest
obstacle had been opposed, these wonderful events, which have astounded
man, would never have been produced. The fit of an ague, the consequence
of bile a little too much inflamed, had sufficed, perhaps, to have
rendered abortive all the vast projects, of the legislator of the
Mussulmen. Spare diet, a glass of water, a sanguinary evacuation, would
sometimes have been sufficient to have saved kingdoms.

It will be seen, then, that the condition of the human species, as well
as that of each of its individuals, every instant depends on insensible
causes, to which circumstances, frequently fugitive, give birth; that
opportunity developes, that convenience puts in action: man attributes
their effects to chance, whilst these causes operate necessarily, act
according to fixed rules: he has frequently neither the sagacity nor the
honesty to recur to their true principles; he regards such feeble
motives with contempt, because he has been taught to consider them as
incapable of producing such stupendous events. They are, however, these
motives, weak as they may appear to be, these springs, so pitiful in his
eyes, is which according to her necessary laws, suffice in the hands of
Nature to move the universe. The conquests of a Gengis-Khan have nothing
in them that is more strange to the eye of a philosopher than the
explosion of a mine, caused in its principle by a feeble spark, which
commences with setting fire to a single grain of powder; this presently
communicates itself to many millions of other contiguous grains, of
which the united force, the multiplied powers, terminate by blowing up
mountains, overthrowing fortifications, or converting populous, well-
built cities, into heaps of ruins.

Thus, imperceptible causes, concealed in the bosom of Nature, until the
moment their action is displayed, frequently decide the fate of man. The
happiness or the wretchedness, the prosperity or the misery of each
individual, as well as that of whole nations, are attached to powers
which it is impossible for him to foresee, which he cannot appreciate,
of which he is incapable to arrest the action. Perhaps at this moment
atoms are amassing, insensible particles are combining, of which the
assemblage shall form a sovereign, who will be either the scourge or the
saviour of a mighty empire. Man cannot answer for his own destiny one
single instant; he has no cognizance of what is passing within himself;
he is ignorant of the causes which act in the interior of his machine;
he knows nothing of the circumstances that will give them activity: he
is unacquainted with what may develope their energy; it is,
nevertheless, on these causes, impossible to be unravelled by him, that
depends his condition in life. Frequently, an unforeseen rencontre gives
birth to a passion in his soul, of which the consequences shall,
necessarily, have an influence over his felicity. It is thus that the
most virtuous man, by a whimsical combination of unlooked-for
circumstances, may become in an instant the most criminal of his

This truth, without doubt, will be found frightful--this fact will
unquestionably appear terrible: but at bottom, what has it more
revolting than that which teaches him that an infinity of accidents, as
irremediable as they are unforeseen, may every instant wrest from him
that life to which he is so strongly attached? Fatalism reconciles the
good man easily to death: it makes him contemplate it as a certain means
of withdrawing himself from wickedness; this system shews death, even to
the happy man himself, as a medium between him and those misfortunes
which frequently terminate by poisoning his happiness; that end with
embittering the most fortunate existence.

Let man, then, submit to necessity: in despite of himself it will always
hurry him forward: let him resign himself to Nature, let him accept the
good with which she presents him: let him oppose to the necessary evil
which she makes him experience, those necessary remedies which she
consents to afford him; let him not disturb his mind with useless
inquietude; let him enjoy with moderation, because he will find that
pain is the necessary companion of excess: let him follow the paths of
virtue, because every thing will prove to him, even in this world of
perverseness, that it is absolutely necessary to render him estimable in
the eyes of others, to make him contented with himself.

Feeble, vain mortal, thou pretendest to be a free agent. Alas! dost thou
not see all the threads which enchain thee? Dost thou not perceive that
they are atoms which form thee; that they are atoms which move thee;
that they are circumstances independent of thyself, that modify thy
being; that they are circumstances over which thou hast not any
controul, that rule thy destiny? In the puissant Nature that environs
thee, shalt thou pretend to be the only being who is able to resist her
power? Dost thou really believe that thy weak prayers will induce her to
stop in her eternal march; that thy sickly desires can oblige her to
change her everlasting course?


_Of the Immortality of the Soul;--of the Doctrine of a future State;--of
the Fear of Death._

The reflections presented to the reader in this work, tend to shew what
ought to be thought of the human soul, as well as of its operations and
faculties: every thing proves, in the most convincing manner, that it
acts, that it moves according to laws similar to those prescribed to the
other beings of Nature; that it cannot be distinguished from the body;
that it is born with it; that it grows up with it; that it is modified
in the same progression; in short, every thing ought to make man
conclude that it perishes with it. This soul, as well as the body,
passes through a state of weakness and infancy; it is in this stage of
its existence, that it is assailed by a multitude of modifications; that
it is stored with an infinity of ideas, which it receives from exterior
objects through the medium of the organs; that it amasses facts, that it
collects experience, whether true or false, that it forms to itself a
system of conduct, according to which it thinks, in conformity with
which it acts, from whence results either its happiness or its misery,
its reason or its delirium, its virtues or its vices; arrived with the
body at its full powers, having in conjunction with it reached maturity,
it does not cease for a single instant to partake in common of its
sensations, whether these are agreeable or disagreeable; it participates
in all its pleasures; it shares in all its pains; in consequence it
conjointly approves or disapproves its state; like it, it is either
sound or diseased; active or languishing; awake or asleep. In old age
man extinguishes entirely, his fibres become rigid, his nerves loose
their elasticity, his senses are obtunded, his sight grows dim, his ears
lose their quickness, his ideas become unconnected, his memory fails,
his imagination cools: what then becomes of his soul? Alas! it sinks
down with the body; it gets benumbed as this loses its feeling; becomes
sluggish as this decays in activity; like it, when enfeebled by years it
fulfils its functions with pain; this substance, which is deemed
spiritual, which is considered immaterial, which it is endeavoured to
distinguish from matter, undergoes the same revolutions, experiences the
same vicissitudes, submits to the same modifications, as does the body

In despite of this proof of the materiality of the soul, of its identity
with the body, so convincing to the unprejudiced, some thinkers have
supposed, that although the latter is perishable, the former does not
perish: that this portion of man enjoys the especial privilege of
_immortality_; that it is exempt from dissolution: free from those

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