Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

supposed there really existed in Nature affinities and relations, which
he classed under the name of ORDER; and others which appeared to him not
to conform to those, which he has ranked under the term of CONFUSION.

It is easy to comprehend, that this idea of order and confusion can have
no absolute existence in Nature, where every thing is necessary; where
the whole follows constant and invariable laws, which oblige each being,
in every moment of its duration, to submit to other laws, which flow
from its own peculiar mode of existence. Therefore it is in his
imagination, only, man finds a model of that which he terms order or
confusion; which, like all his abstract, metaphysical ideas, supposes
nothing beyond his reach. Order, however, is never more than the faculty
of conforming himself with the beings by whom he is environed, or with
the whole of which he forms a part.

Nevertheless, if the idea of order be applied to Nature, it will be
found to be nothing but a series of action or motion, which he judges to
conspire to one common end. Thus, in a body that moves, order is the
chain of action, the series of motion, proper to constitute it what it
is, and to maintain it in its actual state. Order, relatively to the
whole of Nature, is the concatenation of causes and effects, necessary
to her _active_ existence--to maintaining her constantly together; but,
as it has been proved in the chapter preceding, every individual being
is obliged to concur to this end, in the different ranks they occupy;
from whence it is a necessary deduction, that what is called the ORDER
OF NATURE, can never be more than a certain manner of considering the
necessity of things, to which all, of which man has any knowledge, is
submitted. That which is styled CONFUSION, is only a relative term, used
to designate that series of necessary action, that chain of requisite
motion, by which an individual being is necessarily changed or disturbed
in its mode of existence--by which it is instantaneously obliged to
alter its manner of action; but no one of these actions, no part of this
motion is capable, even for a single instant, of contradicting or
deranging the general order of Nature; from which all beings derive
their existence, their properties, the motion appropriate to each.

What is termed confusion in a being, is nothing more than its passage
into a new class, a new mode of existence; which necessarily carries
with it a new series of action, a new chain of motion, different from
that of which this being found itself susceptible in the preceding rank
it occupied. That which is called order, in Nature, is a mode of
existence, or a disposition of its particles, strictly _necessary_. In
every other assemblage of causes and effects, of worlds, as well as in
that which we inhabit, some sort of arrangement, some kind of order
would necessarily be established. Suppose the most incongruous, the most
heterogeneous substances were put into activity, and assembled by a
concatenation of extraordinary circumstances; they would form amongst
themselves, a complete order, a perfect arrangement. This is the true
notion of a property, which may be defined, an aptitude to constitute a
being, such as it is actually found, such as it is with respect to the
whole of which it makes a part.

Order, then, is nothing but necessity, considered relatively to the
series of actions, or the connected chain of causes and effects, that it
produces in the universe. What is the motion in our planetary system;
but a series of phenomena, operated upon according to necessary laws,
that regulate the bodies of which it is composed? In conformity to these
laws, the sun occupies the centre; the planets gravitate towards it, and
revolve round it, in regulated periods: the satellites of these planets
gravitate towards those which are in the centre of their sphere of
action, and describe round them their periodical route. One of these
planets, the earth which man inhabits, turns on its own axis; and by the
various aspects which its revolution obliges it to present to the sun,
experiences those regular variations which are called SEASONS. By a
sequence of the sun's action upon different parts of this globe, all its
productions undergo vicissitudes: plants, animals, men, are in a sort of
morbid drowsiness during _Winter_: in _Spring_, these beings re-animate,
to come as it were out of a long lethargy. In short, the mode in which
the earth receives the sun's beams, has an influence on all its
productions; these rays, when darted obliquely, do not act in the same
manner as when they fall perpendicularly; their periodical absence,
caused by the revolution of this sphere on itself, produces _night_ and
_day_. However, in all this, man never witnesses more than necessary
effects, flowing from the nature of things, which, whilst that remains
the same, can never be opposed with propriety. These effects are owing
to gravitation, attraction, centrifugal power, &c.

On the other hand, this _order_, which man admires as a supernatural
effect, is sometimes disturbed, or changed into what he calls
_confusion_: this confusion is, however, always a necessary consequence
of the laws of Nature; in which it is requisite to the support of the
whole that some of her parts should be deranged and thrown out of the
ordinary course. It is thus, COMETS present themselves so unexpectedly
to man's wondering eyes; their eccentric motion disturbs the
tranquillity of his planetary system; they excite the terror of the
misinstructed to whom every thing unusual is marvellous. The natural
philosopher, himself, conjectures that in former ages, these comets have
overthrown the surface of this mundane ball, and caused great
revolutions on the earth. Independent of this extraordinary _confusion_,
he is exposed to others more familiar to him: sometimes, the seasons
appear to have usurped each other's place; to have quitted their regular
order: sometimes the opposing elements seem to dispute among themselves
the dominion of the world; the sea bursts its limits; the solid earth is
shaken and rent asunder; mountains are in a state of conflagration;
pestilential diseases destroy both men and animals; sterility desolates
a country: then affrighted man utters piercing cries, offers up his
prayers to recall order; tremblingly raises his hands towards the Being
he supposes to be the author of all these calamities; nevertheless, the
whole of this afflicting confusion are necessary effects, produced by
natural causes; which act according to fixed laws, determined by their
own peculiar essence, and the universal essence of Nature: in which
every thing must necessarily be changed, moved, and dissolved; where
that which is called ORDER, must sometimes be disturbed and altered into
a new mode of existence; which to his deluded mind, to his imagination,
led astray by ignorance and want of reflection, appears CONFUSION.

There cannot possibly exist what is generally termed _a confusion of
Nature_: man finds order in every thing that is conformable to his own
mode of being; confusion in every thing by which it is opposed:
nevertheless, in Nature, all is in order; because none of her parts are
ever able to emancipate themselves from those invariable rules which
flow from their respective essences: there _is_ not, there _cannot_ be
confusion in a whole, to the maintenance of which what is _called_
confusion is absolutely requisite; of which the general course can never
be discomposed, although individuals may be, and necessarily are; where
all the effects produced are the consequence of natural causes, that
under the circumstances in which they are placed, act only as they
infallibly are obliged to act.

It therefore follows, there can be neither monsters nor prodigies;
wonders nor miracles in Nature: those which are designated MONSTERS, are
certain combinations, with which the eyes of man are not familiarized;
but which, therefore, are not less the necessary effects of natural
causes. Those which he terms PRODIGIES, WONDERS, or SUPERNATURAL
effects, are phenomena of Nature, with whose mode of action he is
unacquainted; of which his ignorance does not permit him to ascertain
the principles; whose causes he cannot trace; but which his impatience,
his heated imagination, aided by a desire to explain, makes him
foolishly attribute to imaginary causes; which, like the idea of order,
have no existence but in himself; and which, that he may conceal his own
ignorance, that he may obtain more respect with the uninformed, he
places beyond Nature, out of which his experience is every instant
demonstrably proving that none of these things can have existence.

As for those effects which are called MIRACLES, that is to say, contrary
to the unalterable laws of Nature, it must be felt such things are
impossible; because, nothing can, for an instant, suspend the necessary
course of beings, without the whole of Nature was arrested; without she
was disturbed in her tendency. There have neither been wonders nor
miracles in Nature; except for those, who have not sufficiently studied
the laws, who consequently do not feel, that those laws can never be
contradicted, even in the most minute parts, without the whole being
destroyed, or at least without changing her essence, her mode of action;
that it is the height of folly to recur to supernatural causes to
explain the phenomena man beholds, before he becomes fully acquainted
with natural causes--with the powers and capabilities which Nature
herself contains.

_Order_ and _Confusion_, then, are only relative terms, by which man
designates the state in which particular beings find themselves. He
says, a being is in order, when all the motion it undergoes conspires to
favor its tendency to its own preservation; when it is conducive to the
maintenance of its actual existence: that it is in confusion when the
causes which move it disturb the harmony of its existence, or have a
tendency to destroy the equilibrium necessary to the conservation of its
actual state. Nevertheless, confusion, as we have shown, is nothing but
the passage of a being into a new order; the more rapid the progress,
the greater the confusion for the being that is submitted to it: that
which conducts man to what is called death, is, for him, the greatest of
all possible confusion. Yet this death is nothing more than a passage
into a new mode of existence: it is the eternal, the invariable, the
unconquerable law of Nature, to which the individuals of his order, each
in his turn, is obliged to submit.

The human body is said to be in order, when its various component parts
act in that mode, from which results the conservation of the whole; from
which emanates that which is the tendency of his actual existence; in
other words, when all the impulse he receives, all the motion he
communicates, tends to preserve his health, to render him happy, by
promoting the happiness of his fellow men. He is said to be in health
when the fluids and solids of his body concur to render him robust, to
keep his mind in vigour; when each lends mutual aid towards this end. He
is said to be in _confusion_, or in ill health, whenever this tendency
is disturbed; when any of the essential parts of his body cease to
concur to his preservation, or to fulfil its peculiar functions. This it
is that happens in a state of sickness, in which, however, the motion
excited in the human machine is as necessary, is regulated by laws as
certain, as natural, as invariable, as that which concurs to produce
health. Sickness merely produces in him a new order of motion, a new
series of action, a new chain of things. Man dies: to him, this appears
the greatest confusion he can experience; his body is no longer what it
was--its parts no longer concur to the same end--his blood has lost its
circulation--he is deprived of feeling--his ideas have vanished--he
thinks no more--his desires have fled--death is the epoch, the cessation
of his human existence.--His frame becomes an inanimate mass, by the
subtraction of those principles by which it was animated; that is, which
made it act after a determinate manner: its tendency has received a new
direction; its action is changed; the motion excited in its ruins
conspires to a new end. To that motion, the harmony of which he calls
order, which produced life, sentiment, thought, passions, health,
succeeds a series of motion of another species; that, nevertheless,
follows laws as necessary as the first; all the parts of the dead man
conspire to produce what is called dissolution, fermentation,
putrefaction: these new modes of being, of acting, are just as natural
to man, reduced to this state, as sensibility, thought, the periodical
motion of the blood, &c. were to the living man: his essence having
changed, his mode of action can no longer be the same. To that regulated
motion, to that necessary action, which conspired to the production of
life, succeeds that determinate motion, that series of action which
concurs to produce the dissolution of the dead carcass; the dispersion
of its parts; the formation of new combinations, from which result new
beings; and which, as we have before seen, is the immutable order of
active Nature.

How then can it be too often repeated, that relatively to the great
whole, all the motion of beings, all their modes of action, can never be
but in order, that is to say, are always conformable to Nature; that in
all the stages through which beings are obliged to pass, they invariably
act after a mode necessarily subordinate to the universal whole? To say
more, each individual being always acts in order; all its actions, the
whole system of its motion, are the necessary consequence of its
peculiar mode of existence; whether that be momentary or durable. Order,
in political society, is the effect of a necessary series of ideas, of
wills, of actions, in those who compose it; whose movements are
regulated in a manner, either calculated to maintain its indivisibility,
or to hasten its dissolution. Man constituted, or modified, in the
manner we term virtuous, acts necessarily in that mode, from whence
results the welfare of his associates: the man we stile wicked, acts
necessarily in that mode, from whence springs the misery of his fellows:
his Nature, being essentially different, he must necessarily act after a
different mode: his individual order is at variance, but his relative
order is complete: it is equally the essence of the one, to promote
happiness, as it is of the other to induce misery.

Thus, order and confusion in individual beings, is nothing more than the
manner of man's considering the natural and necessary effects, which
they produce relatively to himself. He fears the wicked man; he says
that he will carry confusion into society, because he disturbs its
tendency and places obstacles to its happiness. He avoids a falling
stone, because it will derange in him the order necessary to his
conservation. Nevertheless, order and confusion, are always, as we have
shewn, consequences, equally necessary to either the transient or
durable state of beings. It is in order that fire burns, because it is
of its essence to burn; on the other hand, it is in order, that an
intelligent being should remove himself from whatever can disturb his
mode of existence. A being, whose organization renders him sensible,
must in virtue of his essence, fly from every thing that can injure his
organs, or that can place his existence in danger.

Man calls those beings _intelligent_, who are organized after his own
manner; in whom he sees faculties proper for their preservation;
suitable to maintain their existence in the order that is convenient to
them; that can enable them to take the necessary measures towards this
end, with a consciousness of the motion they undergo. From hence, it
will be perceived, that the faculty called intelligence, consists in a
possessing capacity to act comformably to a known end, in the being to
which it is attributed. He looks upon these beings as deprived of
intelligence, in which he finds no conformity with himself; in whom he
discovers neither the same construction, nor the same faculties: of
which he knows neither the essence, the end to which they tend, the
energies by which they act, nor the order that is necessary to them. The
whole cannot have a distinct name, or end, because there is nothing out
of itself, to which it can have a tendency. If it be in himself, that he
arranges the idea of _order_, it is also in himself, that he draws up
that of _intelligence_. He refuses to ascribe it to those beings, who do
not act after his own manner: he accords it to all those whom he
supposes to act like himself: the latter he calls intelligent agents:
the former blind causes; that is to say, intelligent agents who act by
_chance_: thus chance is an empty word without sense, but which is
always opposed to that of intelligence, without attaching any
determinate, or any certain idea.

Man, in fact, attributes to _chance_ all those effects, of which the
connection they have with their causes is not seen. Thus he uses the
word _chance_, to cover his ignorance of those natural causes, which
produce visible effects, by means which he cannot form an idea of; or
that act by a mode of which he does not perceive the order; or whose
system is not followed by actions conformable to his own. As soon as he
sees, or believes he sees, the order of action, or the manner of motion,
he attributes this order to an _intelligence_; which is nothing more
than a quality borrowed from himself--from his own peculiar mode of
action--from the manner in which he is himself affected.

Thus an _intelligent being_ is one who thinks, who wills, and who acts,
to compass an end. If so, he must have organs, an aim conformable to
those of man: therefore, to say Nature is governed by an intelligence,
is to affirm that she is governed by a being, furnished with organs;
seeing that without this organic construction, he can neither have
sensations, perceptions, ideas, thought, will, plan, nor action which he

Man always makes himself the center of the universe: it is to himself
that he relates all he beholds. As soon as he believes he discovers a
mode of action that has a conformity with his own, or some phenomenon
that interests his feelings, he attributes it to a cause that resembles
himself--that acts after his manner--that has faculties similar to those
he possesses--whose interests are like his own--whose projects are in
unison with and have the same tendency as those he himself indulges: in
short, it is from himself, or the properties which actuate him, that he
forms the model of this cause. It is thus that man beholds, out of his
own species, nothing but beings who act differently from himself; yet
believes that he remarks in Nature an order similar to his own ideas--
views conformable to those which he himself possesses. He imagines that
Nature is governed by a cause whose intelligence is conformable to his
own, to whom he ascribes the honor of the order which he believes he
witnesses--of those views that fall in with those that are peculiar to
himself--of an aim which quadrates with that which is the great end of
all his own actions. It is true that man, feeling his incapability of
producing the vast, the multiplied effects of which he witnesses the
operation, when contemplating the universe, was under the necessity of
making a distinction between himself and the cause which he supposed to
be the author of such stupendous effects; he believed he removed every
difficulty, by amplifying in this cause all those faculties of which he
was himself in possession; adding others of which his own self-love made
him desirous, or which he thought would render his being more perfect:
thus, he gave JUPITER wings, with the faculty of assuming any form he
might deem convenient: it was thus, by degrees, he arrived at forming an
idea of that intelligent cause, which he has placed above Nature, to
preside over action--to give her that motion of which he has chosen to
believe she was in herself incapable. He obstinately persists in
regarding this Nature as a heap of dead, inert matter, without form,
which has not within itself the power of producing any of those great
effects, those regular phenomena, from which emanates what he styles
_the order of the Universe_. ANAXAGORAS is said to have been the first
who supposed the universe created and governed by an intelligence:
ARISTOTLE reproaches him with having made an automaton of this
intelligence; or in other words, with ascribing to it the production of
things, only when he was at a loss to account for their appearance. From
whence it may be deduced, that it is for want of being acquainted with
the powers of Nature, or the properties of matter, that man has
multiplied beings without necessity--that he has supposed the universe
under the government of an intelligent cause, which he is, and perhaps
always will be, himself the model: in fine, this cause has been
personified under such a variety of shapes, sexes, and names, that a
list of the deities he has at various times supposed to guide this
Nature, or to whom he has submitted her, makes a large volume that
occupies some years of his youthful education to understand. He only
rendered this cause more inconceivable, when he extended in it his own
faculties too much. He either annihilates, or renders it altogether
impossible, when he would attach to it incompatible qualities, which he
is obliged to do, to enable him to account for the contradictory and
disorderly effects he beholds in the world. In fact, he sees confusion
in the world; yet, notwithstanding his confusion contradicts the plan,
the power, the wisdom, the bounty of this intelligence, and the
miraculous order which he ascribes to it; he says, the extreme beautiful
arrangement of the whole, obliges him to suppose it to be the work of a
sovereign intelligence: unable, however, to reconcile this seeming
confusion with the benevolence he attaches to this cause, he had
recourse to another effort of his imagination; he made a new cause, to
whom he ascribed all the evil, all the misery, resulting from this
confusion: still, his own person served for the model; to which he added
those deformities which he had learned to hold in disrespect: in
multiplying these counter or destroying causes, he peopled Pandemonium.

It will no doubt be argued, that as Nature contains and produces
intelligent beings, either she must be herself intelligent, or else she
must be governed by an intelligent cause. We reply, intelligence is a
faculty peculiar to organized beings, that it is to say, to beings
constituted and combined after a determinate manner; from whence results
certain modes of action, which are designated under various names;
according to the different effects which these beings produce: wine has
not the properties called _wit_ and _courage_; nevertheless, it is
sometimes seen that it communicates those qualities to men, who are
supposed to be in themselves entirely devoid of them. It cannot be said
Nature is intelligent after the manner of any of the beings she
contains; but she can produce intelligent beings by assembling matter
suitable to their particular organization, from whose peculiar modes of
action will result the faculty called intelligence; who shall be capable
of producing certain effects which are the necessary consequence of this
property. I therefore repeat, that to have intelligence, designs and
views, it is requisite to have ideas; to the production of ideas, organs
or senses are necessary: this is what is neither said of Nature nor of
the causes he has supposed to preside over her actions. In short
experience warrants the assertion, it does more, it proves beyond a
doubt, that matter, which is regarded as inert and dead, assumes
sensible action, intelligence, and life, when it is combined and
organized after particular modes.

From what has been said, it must rationally be concluded that _order_ is
never more than the necessary or uniform connection of causes with their
effects; or that series of action which flows from the peculiar
properties of beings, so long as they remain in a given state; that
_confusion_ is nothing more than the change of this state; that in the
universe, all is necessarily in order, because every thing acts and
moves according to the various properties of the different beings it
contains; that in Nature there cannot be either confusion or real evil,
since every thing follows the laws of its natural existence; that there
is neither _chance_ nor any thing fortuitous in this Nature, where no
effect is produced without a sufficient, without a substantial cause;
where all causes act necessarily according to fixed and certain laws,
which are themselves dependant on the essential properties of these
causes or beings, as well as on the combination, which constitutes
either their transitory or permanent state; that intelligence is a mode
of acting, a method of existence natural to some particular beings; that
if this intelligence should be attributed to Nature, it would then be
nothing more than the faculty of conserving herself in active existence
by necessary means. In refusing to Nature the intelligence he himself
enjoys--in rejecting the intelligent cause which is supposed to be the
contriver of this Nature, or the principle of that _order_ he discovers
in her course, nothing is given to _chance_, nothing to a blind cause,
nothing to a power which is indistinguishable; but every thing he
beholds is attributed to real, to known causes; or to those which by
analogy are easy of comprehension. All that exists is acknowledged to be
a consequence of the inherent properties of eternal matter, which by
contact, by blending, by combination, by change of form, produces order
and confusion; with all those varieties which assail his sight, it is
himself who is blind, when he imagines blind causes:--man only
manifested his ignorance of the powers of motion, of the laws of Nature,
when he attributed, any of its effects to _chance_. He did not shew a
more enlightened feeling when he ascribed them to an intelligence, the
idea of which he borrowed from himself, but which is never in conformity
with the effects which he attributes to its intervention--he only
imagined words to supply the place of things--he made JUPITER, SATURN,
JUNO, and a thousand others, operate that which he found himself
inadequate to perform; he distinguished them from Nature, gave them an
amplification of his own properties, and believed he understood them by
thus obscuring ideas, which he never dared either define or analyze.


_Moral and Physical Distinctions of Man.--His Origin._

Let us now apply the general laws we have scrutinized, to those beings
of Nature who interest us the most. Let us see in what man differs from
the other beings by which he is surrounded. Let us examine if he has not
certain points in conformity with them, that oblige him, notwithstanding
the different properties they respectively possess, to act in certain
respects according to the universal laws to which every thing is
submitted. Finally, let us enquire if the ideas he has formed of himself
in meditating on his own peculiar mode of existence, be chimerical, or
founded in reason.

Man occupies a place amidst that crowd, that multitude of beings, of
which Nature is the assemblage. His essence, that is to say, the
peculiar manner of existence, by which he is distinguished from other
beings, renders him susceptible of various modes of action, of a variety
of motion, some of which are simple and visible, others concealed and
complicated. His life itself is nothing more than a long series, a
succession of necessary and connected motion; which operates perpetual
changes in his machine; which has for its principle either causes
contained within himself, such as blood, nerves, fibres, flesh, bones;
in short, the matter, as well solid as fluid, of which his body is
composed--or those exterior causes, which, by acting upon him, modify
him diversely; such as the air with which he is encompassed, the
aliments by which he is nourished, and all those objects from which he
receives any impulse whatever, by the impression they make on his

Man, like all other beings in Nature, tends to his own destruction--he
experiences inert force--he gravitates upon himself--he is attracted by
objects that are contrary or repugnant to his existence--he seeks after
some--he flies, or endeavours to remove himself from others. It is this
variety of action, this diversity of modification of which the human
being is susceptible, that has been designated under such different
names, by such varied nomenclature. It will be necessary, presently, to
examine these closely and go more into detail.

However marvellous, however hidden, however secret, however complicated
may be the modes of action, which the human frame undergoes, whether
interiorly or exteriorly; whatever may be, or appear to be the impulse
he either receives or communicates, examined closely, it will be found
that all his motion, all his operations, all his changes, all his
various states, all his revolutions, are constantly regulated by the
same laws, which Nature has prescribed to all the beings she brings
forth--which she developes--which she enriches with faculties--of which
she increases the bulk--which she conserves for a season--which she ends
by decomposing, by destroying: obliging them to change their form.

Man, in his origin, is an imperceptible point, a speck, of which the
parts are without form; of which the mobility, the life, escapes his
senses; in short, in which he does not perceive any sign of those
REASON, &c. Placed in the womb suitable to his expansion, this point
unfolds, extends, increases, by the continual addition of matter he
attracts, that is analogous to his being, which consequently assimilates
itself with him. Having quitted this womb, so appropriate to conserve
his existence, to unfold his qualities, to strengthen his habits; so
competent to give, for a season, consistence to the weak rudiments of
his frame; he travels through the stage of infancy; he becomes adult:
his body has then acquired a considerable extension of bulk, his motion
is marked, his action is visible, he is sensible in all his parts; he is
a living, an active mass; that is to say, a combination that feels and
thinks; that fulfils the functions peculiar to beings of his species.
But how has he become sensible? Because he has been by degrees
nourished, enlarged, repaired by the continual attraction that takes
place within himself, of that kind of matter which is pronounced inert,
insensible, inanimate; which is, nevertheless, continually combining
itself with his machine; of which it forms an active whole, that is
living, that feels, judges, reasons, wills, deliberates, chooses,
elects; that has the capability of labouring, more or less
efficaciously, to his own individual preservation; that is to say, to
the maintenance of the harmony of his existence.

All the motion and changes that man experiences in the course of his
life, whether it be from exterior objects or from those substances
contained within himself, are either favorable or prejudicial to his
existence; either maintain its order, or throw it into confusion; are
either in conformity with, or repugnant to, the essential tendency of
his peculiar mode of being. He is compelled by Nature to approve of
some, to disapprove of others; some of necessity render him happy,
others contribute to his misery; some become the objects of his most
ardent desire, others of his determined aversion: some elicit his
confidence, others make him tremble with fear.

In all the phenomena man presents, from the moment he quits the womb of
his mother, to that wherein he becomes the inhabitant of the silent
tomb, he perceives nothing but a succession of necessary causes and
effects, which are strictly conformable to those laws that are common to
all the beings in Nature. All his modes of action--all his sensations--
all his ideas--all his passions--every act of his will--every impulse
which he either gives or receives, are the necessary consequences of his
own peculiar properties, and those which he finds in the various beings
by whom he is moved. Every thing he does--every thing that passes within
himself--his concealed motion--his visible action, are the effects of
inert force--of self-gravitation--the attractive or repulsive powers
contained in his machine--of the tendency he has, in common with other
beings, to his own individual preservation; in short, of that energy
which is the common property of every being he beholds. Nature, in man,
does nothing more than shew, in a decided manner, what belongs to the
peculiar nature by which he is distinguished from the beings of a
different system or order.

The source of those errors into which man has fallen, when he has
contemplated himself, has its rise, as will presently be shown, in the
opinion he has entertained, that he moved by himself--that he always
acts by his own natural energy--that in his actions, in the will that
gave him impulse, he was independent of the general laws of Nature; and
of those objects which, frequently, without his knowledge, always in
spite of him, in obedience to these laws, are continually acting upon
him. If he had examined himself attentively, he must have acknowledged,
that none of the motion he underwent was spontaneous--he must have
discovered, that even his birth depended on causes, wholly out of the
reach of his own powers--that, it was without his own consent he entered
into the system in which he occupies a place--that, from the moment in
which he is born, until that in which he dies, he is continually
impelled by causes, which, in spite of himself, influence his frame,
modify his existence, dispose of his conduct. Would not the slightest
reflection have sufficed to prove to him, that the fluids, the solids,
of which his body is composed, as well as that concealed mechanism,
which he believes to be independent of exterior causes, are, in fact,
perpetually under the influence of these causes; that without them he
finds himself in a total incapacity to act? Would he not have seen, that
his temperament, his constitution, did in no wise depend on himself--
that his passions are the necessary consequence of this temperament--
that his will is influenced, his actions determined by these passions;
consequently by opinions, which he has not given to himself, of which he
is not the master? His blood, more or less heated or abundant; his
nerves more or less braced, his fibres more or less relaxed, give him
dispositions either transitory or durable--are not these, at every
moment decisive of his ideas; of his thoughts: of his desires: of his
fears: of his motion, whether visible or concealed? The state in which
he finds himself, does it not necessarily depend on the air which
surrounds him diversely modified; on the various properties of the
aliments which nourish him; on the secret combinations that form
themselves in his machine, which either preserve its order, or throw it
into confusion? In short, had man fairly studied himself, every thing
must have convinced him, that in every moment of his duration, he was
nothing more than a passive instrument in the hands of necessity.

Thus it must appear, that where all is connected, where all the causes
are linked one to the other, where the whole forms but one immense
chain, there cannot be any independent, any isolated energy; any
detached power. It follows then, that Nature, always in action, marks
out to man each point of the line he is bound to describe; establishes
the route, by which he must travel. It is Nature that elaborates, that
combines the elements of which he must be composed;--It is Nature that
gives him his being, his tendency, his peculiar mode of action. It is
Nature that develops him, expands him, strengthens him, increases his
bulk--preserves him for a season, during which he is obliged to fulfil
the task imposed on him. It is Nature, that in his journey through life,
strews on the road those objects, those events; those adventures, that
modify him in a variety of ways, that give him impulses which are
sometimes agreeable and beneficial, at others prejudicial and
disagreeable. It is Nature, that in giving him feeling, in supplying him
with sentiment, has endowed him with capacity to choose, the means to
elect those objects, to take those methods that are most conducive, most
suitable, most natural, to his conservation. It is Nature, who when he
has run his race, when he has finished his career, when he has described
the circle marked out for him, conducts him in his turn to his
destruction; dissolves the union of his elementary particles, and
obliges him to undergo the constant, the universal law; from the
operation of which nothing is exempted. It is thus, motion places man in
the matrix of his mother; brings him forth out of her womb; sustains him
for a season; at length destroys him; obliges him to return into the
bosom of Nature; who speedily reproduces him, scattered under an
infinity of forms; in which each of his particles run over again, in the
same manner, the different stages, as necessary as the whole had before
run over those of his preceding existence.

The beings of the human species, as well as all other beings, are
susceptible of two sorts of motion: the one, that of the mass, by which
an entire body, or some of its parts, are visibly transferred from one
place to another; the other, internal and concealed, of some of which
man is sensible, while some takes place without his knowledge, and is
not even to be guessed at, but by the effect it outwardly produces. In a
machine so extremely complex as man, formed by the combination of such a
multiplicity of matter, so diversified in its properties, so different
in its proportions, so varied in its modes of action, the motion
necessarily becomes of the most complicated kind; its dullness, as well
as its rapidity, frequently escapes the observation of those themselves,
in whom it takes place.

Let us not, then, be surprised, if, when man would account to himself
for his existence, for his manner of acting, finding so many obstacles
to encounter, he invented such strange hypotheses to explain the
concealed spring of his machine--if then this motion appeared to him, to
be different from that of other bodies, he conceived an idea, that he
moved and acted in a manner altogether distinct from the other beings in
Nature. He clearly perceived that his body, as well as different parts
of it, did act; but, frequently, he was unable to discover what brought
them into action: from whence he received the impulse: he then
conjectured he contained within himself a moving principle distinguished
from his machine, which secretly gave an impulse to the springs which
set this machine in motion; that moved him by its own natural energy;
that consequently he acted according to laws totally distinct from those
which regulated the motion of other beings: he was conscious of certain
internal motion, which he could not help feeling; but how could he
conceive, that this invisible motion was so frequently competent to
produce such striking effects? How could he comprehend, that a fugitive
idea, an imperceptible act of thought, was so frequently capacitated to
bring his whole being into trouble and confusion? He fell into the
belief, that he perceived within himself a substance distinguished from
that self, endowed with a secret force; in which he supposed existed
qualities distinctly differing from those, of either the visible causes
that acted on his organs, or those organs themselves. He did not
sufficiently understand, that the primitive cause which makes a stone
fall, or his arm move, are perhaps as difficult of comprehension, as
arduous to be explained, as those internal impulses, of which his
thought or his will are the effects. Thus, for want of meditating
Nature--of considering her under her true point of view--of remarking
the conformity--of noticing the simultaneity, the unity of the motion of
this fancied motive-power with that of his body--of his material organs
--he conjectured he was not only a distinct being, but that he was set
apart, with different energies, from all the other beings in Nature;
that he was of a more simple essence having nothing in common with any
thing by which he was surrounded; nothing that connected him with all
that he beheld.

It is from thence has successively sprung his notions of SPIRITUALITY,
IMMATERIALITY, IMMORTALITY; in short, all those vague unmeaning words he
has invented by degrees, in order to subtilize and designate the
attributes of the unknown power, which he believes he contains within
himself; which he conjectures to be the concealed principle of all his
visible actions when man once imbibes an idea that he cannot comprehend,
he meditates upon it until he has given it a complete personification:
Thus he saw, or fancied he saw, the igneous matter pervade every thing;
he conjectured that it was the only principle of life and activity; he
proceeded to embody it; he gave it his own form; called it JUPITER, and
ended by worshipping this image of his own creation, as the power from
whom he derived every good he experienced, every evil he sustained. To
crown the bold conjectures he ventured to make on this internal motive-
power, he supposed, that different from all other beings, even from the
body that served to envelope it, it was not bound to undergo
dissolution; that such was its perfect simplicity, that it could not be
decomposed, nor even change its form; in short, that it was by its
essence exempted from those revolutions to which he saw the body
subjected, as well as all the compound beings with which Nature is

Thus man, in his own ideas, became double; he looked upon himself as a
whole, composed by the inconceivable assemblage of two different, two
distinct natures, which have no point of analogy between themselves: he
distinguished two substances in himself; one evidently submitted to the
influence of gross beings, composed of coarse inert matter: this he
called BODY;--the other, which he supposed to be simple, of a purer
essence, was contemplated as acting from itself: giving motion to the
body, with which it found itself so miraculously united: this he called
SOUL, or SPIRIT; the functions of the one, he denominated _physical,
corporeal, material_; the functions of the other he styled _spiritual,
intellectual._ Man, considered relatively to the first, was termed the
PHYSICAL MAN; viewed with relation to the last, he was designated the
MORAL MAN. These distinctions, although adopted by the greater number of
the philosophers of the present day, are, nevertheless, only founded on
gratuitous suppositions. Man has always believed he remedied his
ignorance of things, by inventing words to which he could never attach
any true sense or meaning. He imagined he understood matter, its
properties, its faculties, its resources, its different combinations,
because he had a superficial glimpse of some of its qualities: he has,
however, in reality, done nothing more than obscure the faint ideas he
has been capacitated to form of this matter, by associating it with a
substance much less intelligible than itself. It is thus, speculative
man, in forming words, in multiplying beings, has only plunged himself
into greater difficulties than those he endeavoured to avoid; and
thereby placed obstacles to the progress of his knowledge: whenever he
has been deficient of facts, he has had recourse to conjecture, which he
quickly changed into fancied realities. Thus, his imagination, no longer
guided by experience, hurried on by his new ideas, was lost, without
hope of return, in the labyrinth of an ideal, of an intellectual world,
to which he had himself given birth; it was next to impossible to
withdraw him from this delusion, to place him in the right road, of
which nothing but experience can furnish him the clue. Nature points out
to man, that in himself, as well as in all those objects which act upon
him, there is never more than matter endowed with various properties,
diversely modified, that acts by reason of these properties: that man is
an organized whole, composed of a variety of matter; that like all the
other productions of Nature, he follows general and known laws, as well
as those laws or modes of action which are peculiar to himself and

Thus, when it shall be inquired, what is man?

We say, he is a material being, organized after a peculiar manner;
conformed to a certain mode of thinking--of feeling; capable of
modification in certain modes peculiar to himself--to his organization--
to that particular combination of matter which is found assembled in

If, again, it be asked, what origin we give to beings of the human

We reply, that, like all other beings, man is a production of Nature,
who resembles them in some respects, and finds himself submitted to the
same laws; who differs from them in other respects, and follows
particular laws, determined by the diversity of his conformation.

If, then, it be demanded, whence came man?

We answer, our experience on this head does not capacitate us to resolve
the question: but that it cannot interest us, as it suffices for us to
know that man exists; that he is so constituted, as to be competent to
the effects we witness.

But it will be urged, has man always existed? Has the human species
existed from all eternity; or is it only an instantaneous production of
Nature? Have there been always men like ourselves? Will there always be
such? Have there been, in all times, males and females? Was there a
first man, from whom all others are descended? Was the animal anterior
to the egg, or did the egg precede the animal? Is this species without
beginning? Will it also be without end? The species itself, is it
indestructible, or does it pass away like its individuals? Has man
always been what he now is; or has he, before he arrived at the state in
which we see him, been obliged to pass under an infinity of successive
developements? Can man at last flatter himself with having arrived at a
fixed being, or must the human species again change? If man is the
production of Nature, it will perhaps be asked, Is this Nature competent
to the production of new beings, to make the old species disappear?
Adopting this supposition, it may be inquired, why Nature does not
produce under our own eyes new beings--new species?

It would appear on reviewing these questions, to be perfectly
indifferent, as to the stability of the argument we have used, which
side was taken; that, for want of experience, hypothesis must settle a
curiosity that always endeavours to spring forward beyond the boundaries
prescribed to our mind. This granted, the contemplator of Nature will
say, that he sees no contradiction, in supposing the human species, such
as it is at the present day, was either produced in the course of time,
or from all eternity: he will not perceive any advantage that can arise
from supposing that it has arrived by different stages, or successive
developements, to that state in which it is actually found. Matter is
eternal, it is necessary, but its forms are evanescent and contingent.
It may be asked of man, is he any thing more than matter combined, of
which the former varies every instant?

Notwithstanding, some reflections seem to favor the supposition, to
render more probable the hypothesis, that man is a production formed in
the course of time; who is peculiar to the globe he inhabits, who is the
result of the peculiar laws by which it is directed; who, consequently,
can only date his formation as coeval with that of his planet. Existence
is essential to the universe, or the total assemblage of matter
essentially varied that presents itself to our contemplation; the
combinations, the forms, however, are not essential. This granted,
although the matter of which the earth is composed has always existed,
this earth may not always have had its present form--its actual
properties; perhaps it may be a mass detached in the course of time from
some other celestial body;--perhaps it is the result of the spots, or
those encrustations which astronomers discover in the sun's disk, which
have had the faculty to diffuse themselves over our planetary system;--
perhaps the sphere we inhabit may be an extinguished or a displaced
comet, which heretofore occupied some other place in the regions of
space;--which, consequently, was then competent to produce beings very
different from those we now behold spread over its surface; seeing that
its then position, its nature, must have rendered its productions
different from those which at this day it offers to our view.

Whatever may be the supposition adopted, plants, animals, men, can only
be regarded as productions inherent in and natural to our globe, in the
position and in the circumstances in which it is actually found: these
productions it would be reasonable to infer would be changed, if this
globe by any revolution should happen to shift its situation. What
appears to strengthen this hypothesis, is, that on our ball itself, all
the productions vary, by reason of its different climates: men, animals,
vegetables, minerals, are not the same on every part of it: they vary
sometimes in a very sensible manner, at very inconsiderable distances.
The elephant is indigenous to, or native of the torrid zone: the rein
deer is peculiar to the frozen climates of the North; Indostan is the
womb that matures the diamond; we do not find it produced in our own
country: the pine-apple grows in the common atmosphere of America; in
our climate it is never produced in the open ground, never until art has
furnished a sun analogous to that which it requires--the European in his
own climate finds not this delicious fruit. Man in different climates
varies in his colour, in his size, in his conformation, in his powers,
in his industry, in his courage, and in the faculties of his mind. But,
what is it that constitutes climate? It is the different position of
parts of the same globe, relatively to the sun; positions that suffice
to make a sensible variety in its productions.

There is, then, sufficient foundation to conjecture that if by any
accident our globe should become displaced, all its productions would of
necessity be changed; seeing that causes being no longer the same, or no
longer acting after the same manner, the effects would necessarily no
longer be what they now are, all productions, that they may be able to
conserve themselves, or maintain their actual existence, have occasion
to co-order themselves with the whole from which they have emanated.
Without this they would no longer be in a capacity to subsist: it is
this faculty of co-ordering themselves,--this relative adaption, which
is called the ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE: the want of it is called CONFUSION.
Those productions which are treated as MONSTROUS, are such as are unable
to co-order themselves with the general or particular laws of the beings
who surround them, or with the whole in which they find themselves
placed: they have had the faculty in their formation to accommodate
themselves to these laws; but these very laws are opposed to their
perfection: for this reason they are unable to subsist. It is thus that
by a certain analogy of conformation, which exists between animals of
different species, mules are easily produced; but these mules, unable to
co-order themselves with the beings that surround them, are not able to
reach perfection, consequently cannot propagate their species. Man can
live only in air, fish only in water: put the man into the water, the
fish into the air, not being able to co-order themselves with the fluids
which surround them, these animals will quickly be destroyed. Transport
by imagination, a man from our planet into SATURN, his lungs will
presently be rent by an atmosphere too rarified for his mode of being,
his members will be frozen with the intensity of the cold; he will
perish for want of finding elements analogous to his actual existence:
transport another into MERCURY, the excess of heat, beyond what his mode
of existence can bear, will quickly destroy him.

Thus, every thing seems to authorise the conjecture, that the human
species is a production peculiar to our sphere, in the position in which
it is found: that when this position may happen to change, the human
species will, of consequence, either be changed or will be obliged to
disappear; seeing that there would not then be that with which man could
co-order himself with the whole, or connect himself with that which can
enable him to subsist. It is this aptitude in man to co-order himself
with the whole, that not only furnishes him with the idea of order, but
also makes him exclaim "_whatever is, is right_;" whilst every thing is
only that which it can be, as long as the whole is necessarily what it
is; whilst it is positively neither good nor bad, as we understand those
terms: it is only requisite to displace a man, to make him accuse the
universe of confusion.

These reflections would appear to contradict the ideas of those, who are
willing to conjecture that the other planets, like our own, are
inhabited by beings resembling ourselves. But if the LAPLANDER differs
in so marked a manner from the HOTTENTOT, what difference ought we not
rationally to suppose between an inhabitant of our planet and one of

However it may be, if we are obliged to recur by imagination to the
origin of things, to the infancy of the human species, we may say that
it is probable that man was a necessary consequence of the disentangling
of our globe; or one of the results of the qualities, of the properties,
of the energies, of which it is susceptible in its present position--
that he was born male and female--that his existence is co-ordinate with
that of the globe, under its present position--that as long as this
co-ordination shall subsist, the human specie will conserve himself, will
propagate himself, according to the impulse, after the primitive laws,
which he has originally received--that if this co-ordination should
happen to cease; if the earth, displaced, should cease to receive the
same impulse, the same influence, on the part of those causes which
actually act upon it, or which give it energy; that then the human
species would change, to make place for new beings, suitable to co-order
themselves with the state that should succeed to that which we now see

In thus supposing the changes in the position of our globe, the
primitive man did, perhaps, differ more from the actual man, than the
quadruped differs from the insect. Thus man, the same as every thing
else that exists on our planet, as well as in all the others, may be
regarded as in a state of continual vicissitude: thus the last term of
the existence of man is to us as unknown and as indistinct as the first:
there is, therefore, no contradiction in the belief that the species
vary incessantly--that to us it is as impossible to know what he will
become, as to know what he has been.

With respect to those who may ask why Nature does not produce new
beings? we may enquire of them in turn, upon what foundation they
suppose this fact? What it is that authorizes them to believe this
sterility in Nature? Know they if, in the various combinations which she
is every instant forming, Nature be not occupied in producing new
beings, without the cognizance of these observers? Who has informed them
that this Nature is not actually assembling, in her immense elaboratory,
the elements suitable to bring to light, generations entirely new, that
will have nothing in common with those of the species at present
existing? What absurdity then, or what want of just inference would
there be, to imagine that the man, the horse, the fish, the bird, will
be no more? Are these animals so indispensably requisite to Nature, that
without them she cannot continue her eternal course? Does not all change
around us? Do we not ourselves change? Is it not evident that the whole
universe has not been, in its anterior eternal duration, rigorously the
same that it now is? that it is impossible, in its posterior eternal
duration, it can be rigidly in the same state that it now is for a
single instant? How, then, pretend to divine that, to which the infinite
succession of destruction, of reproduction, of combination, of
dissolution, of metamorphosis, of change, of transposition, may be able
eventually to conduct it by their consequence? Suns encrust themselves,
and are extinguished; planets perish and disperse themselves in the vast
plains of air; other suns are kindled, and illumine their systems; new
planets form themselves, either to make revolutions round these suns, or
to describe new routes; and man, an infinitely small portion of the
globe, which is itself but an imperceptible point in the immensity of
space, vainly believes it is for himself this universe is made;
foolishly imagines he ought to be the confident of Nature; confidently
flatters himself he is eternal: and calls himself KING OF THE

O man! wilt thou never conceive, that thou art but an ephemeron? All
changes in the great macrocosm: nothing remains the same an instant, in
the planet thou inhabitest: Nature contains no one constant form, yet
thou pretendest thy species can never disappear; that thou shalt be
exempted from the universal law, that wills all shall experience change!
Alas! In thy actual being, art not thou submitted to continual
alterations? Thou, who in thy folly, arrogantly assumest to thyself the
title of KING OF NATURE! Thou, who measurest the earth and the heavens!
Thou, who in thy vanity imaginest, that the whole was made, because thou
art intelligent! There requires but a very slight accident, a single
atom to be displaced, to make thee perish; to degrade thee; to ravish
from thee this intelligence of which thou appearest so proud.

If all the preceding conjectures be refused by those opposed to us; if
it be pretended that Nature acts by a certain quantum of immutable and
general laws; if it be believed that men, quadrupeds, fish, insects,
plants, are from all eternity, and will remain eternally, what they now
are: if I say it be contended, that from all eternity the stars have
shone, in the immense regions of space, have illuminated the firmament;
if it be insisted, we must no more demand why man is such as he appears,
then ask why Nature is such as we behold her, or why the world exists?
We are no longer opposed to such arguments. Whatever may be the system
adopted, it will perhaps reply equally well to the difficulties with
which our opponents endeavour to embarrass the way: examined closely, it
will be perceived they make nothing against those truths, which we have
gathered from experience. It is not given to man to know every thing--it
is not given him to know his origin--it is not given him to penetrate
into the essence of things, nor to recur to first principles--but it is
given him, to have reason, to have honesty, to ingenuously allow he is
ignorant of that which he cannot know, and not to substitute
unintelligible words, absurd suppositions, for his uncertainty. Thus, we
say to those, who to solve difficulties far above their reach, pretend
that the human species descended from a first man and a first woman,
created diversely according to different creeds;--that we have some
ideas of Nature, but that we have none of creation;--that the human mind
is incapable of comprehending the period when all was nothing;--that to
use words we cannot understand, is only in other terms to acknowledge
our ignorance of the powers of Nature;--that we are unable to fathom the
means by which she has been capacitated to produce the phenomena we

Let us then conclude, that man has no just, no solid reason to believe
himself a privileged being in Nature; because he is subject to the same
vicissitudes, as all her other productions. His pretended prerogatives
have their foundation in error, arising from mistaken opinions
concerning his existence. Let him but elevate himself by his thoughts
above the globe he inhabits, he will look upon his own species with the
same eyes he does all other beings in Nature: He will then clearly
perceive that in the same manner that each tree produces its fruit, by
reason of its energies, in consequence of its species: so each man acts
by reason of his particular energy; that he produces fruit, actions,
works, equally necessary: he will feel that the illusion which he
anticipates in favour of himself, arises from his being, at one and the
same time, a spectator and a part of the universe. He will acknowledge,
that the idea of excellence which he attaches to his being, has no other
foundation than his own peculiar interest; than the predilection he has
in favour of himself--that the doctrine he has broached with such
seeming confidence, bottoms itself on a very suspicious foundation,


_The Soul and the Spiritual System_.

Man, after having gratuitously supposed himself composed of two distinct
independent substances, that have no common properties, relatively with
each other; has pretended, as we have seen, that that which actuated him
interiorly, that motion which is invisible, that impulse which is placed
within himself, is essentially different from those which act
exteriorly. The first he designated, as we have already said, by the
name of a SPIRIT or a SOUL. If however it be asked, what is a spirit?
The moderns will reply, that the whole fruit of their metaphysical
researches is limited to learning that this motive-power, which they
state to be the spring of man's action, is a substance of an unknown
nature; so simple, so indivisible, so deprived of extent, so invisible,
so impossible to be discovered by the senses, that its parts cannot be
separated, even by abstraction or thought. The question then arises, how
can we conceive such a substance, which is only the negation of every
thing of which we have a knowledge? How form to ourselves an idea of a
substance, void of extent, yet acting on our senses; that is to say, on
those organs which are material, which have extent? How can a being
without extent be moveable; how put matter in action? How can a
substance devoid of parts, correspond successively with different parts
of space? But a very cogent question presents itself on this occasion:
if this distinct substance that is said to form one of the component
parts of man, be really what it is reported, and if it be not, it is not
what it is described; if it be unknown, if it be not pervious to the
senses; if it be invisible, by what means did the metaphysicians
themselves become acquainted with it? How did they form ideas of a
substance, that taking their own account of it, is not, under any of its
circumstances, either directly or by analogy, cognizable to the mind of
man? If they could positively achieve this, there would no longer be any
mystery in Nature: it would be as easy to conceive the time when all was
nothing, when all shall have passed away, to account for the production
of every thing we behold, as to dig in a garden or read a lecture.--
Doubt would vanish from the human species; there could no longer be any
difference of opinion, since all must necessarily be of one mind on a
subject so accessible to every enquirer.

But it will be replied, the materialist himself admits, the natural
philosophers of all ages have admitted, elements and atoms, beings
simple and indivisible, of which bodies are composed:--granted; they
have no more: they have also admitted that many of these atoms, many of
these elements, if not all, are unknown to them: nevertheless, these
simple beings, these atoms of the materialist, are not the same thing
with the spirit, or the soul of the metaphysician. When the natural
philosopher talks of atoms--when he describes them as simple beings, he
indicates nothing more than that they are homogeneous, pure, without
mixture: but then he allows that they have extent, consequently parts,
are separable by thought, although no other natural agent with which he
is acquainted is capable of dividing them: that the simple beings of
this genus are susceptible of motion--can impart action--receive
impulse--are material--are placed in Nature--are indestructible;--that
consequently, if he cannot know them from themselves, he can form some
idea of them by analogy: thus he has done that intelligibly, which the
metaphysician would do unintelligibly: the latter, with a view to render
man immortal, finding difficulties to his wish, from seeing that the
body decayed--that it has submitted to the great, the universal law--
has, to solve the difficulty, to remove the impediment, given him a
soul, distinct from the body, which he says is exempted from the action
of the general law: to account for this, he has called it a spiritual
being, whose properties are the negation of all known properties,
consequently inconceivable: had he, however, had recourse to the atoms
of the former--had he made this substance the last possible term of the
division of matter--it would at least have been intelligible; it would
also have been immortal, since, according to the reasonings of all men,
whether metaphysicians, theologians, or natural philosophers, an atom is
an indestructible element, that must exist to all eternity.

All men are agreed in this position, that motion is the successive
change of the relations of one body with other bodies, or with the
different parts of space. If that which is called _spirit_ be
susceptible of communicating or receiving motion--if it acts--if it
gives play to the organs of body--to produce these effects, it
necessarily follows that this being changes successively its relation,
its tendency, its correspondence, the position of its parts, either
relatively to the different points of space, or to the different organs
of the body which it puts in action: but to change its relation with
space, with the organs to which it gives impulse, it follows of
necessity that this spirit most have extent, solidity, consequently
distinct parts: whenever a substance possesses these qualities, it is
what we call MATTER, it can no longer be regarded as a simple pure
being, in the sense attached to it by the moderns, or by theologians.

Thus it will be seen, that those who, to conquer insurmountable
difficulties, have supposed in man an immaterial substance,
distinguished from his body, have not thoroughly understood themselves;
indeed they have done nothing more than imagined a negative quality, of
which they cannot have any correct idea: matter alone is capable of
acting on our senses; without this action nothing would be capable of
making itself known to us. They have not seen that a being without
extent is neither in a capacity to move itself, nor has the capability
of communicating motion to the body; since such a being, having no
parts, has not the faculty of changing its relation, or its distance,
relatively to other bodies, nor of exciting motion in the human body,
which is itself material. That which is called our soul moves itself
with us; now motion is a property of matter--this soul gives impulse to
the arm; the arm, moved by it, makes an impression, a blow, that follows
the general law of motion: in this case, the force remaining the same,
if the mass was two-fold, the blow should be double. This soul again
evinces its materiality in the invincible obstacles it encounters on the
part of the body. If the arm be moved by its impulse when nothing
opposes it, yet this arm can no longer move, when it is charged with a
weight beyond its strength. Here then is a mass of matter that
annihilates the impulse given by a spiritual cause, which spiritual
cause having no analogy with matter, ought not to find more difficulty
in moving the whole world, than in moving a single atom, nor an atom,
than the universe. From this, it is fair to conclude, such a substance
is a chimera--a being of the imagination. That it required a being
differently endowed, differently constituted, to set matter in motion--
to create all the phenomena we behold: nevertheless, it is a being the
metaphysicians have made the contriver, the Author of Nature. As man, in
all his speculations, takes himself for the model, he no sooner imagined
a spirit within himself, than giving it extent, he made it universal;
then ascribed to it all those causes with which his ignorance prevents
him from becoming acquainted, thus he identified himself with the Author
of Nature--then availed himself of the supposition to explain the
connection of the soul with the body: his self-complacency prevented his
perceiving that he was only enlarging the circle of his errors, by
pretending to understand that which it is more than possible he will
never be permitted to know; his self-love prevented him from feeling,
that whenever he punished another for not thinking as he did, that he
committed the greatest injustice, unless he was satisfactorily able to
prove that other wrong, and himself right: that if he himself was
obliged to have recourse to hypothesis--to gratuitous suppositions,
whereon to found his doctrine, that from the very fallibility of his
nature, these might be erroneous: thus GALLILEO was persecuted, because
the metaphysicians, the theologians of his day, chose to make others
believe what it was evident they did not themselves understand.

As soon as I feel an impulse, or experience motion, I am under the
necessity to acknowledge extent, solidity, density, impenetrability in
the substance I see move, or from which I receive impulse: thus, when
action is attributed to any cause whatever, I am obliged to consider it
MATERIAL. I may be ignorant of its individual nature, of its mode of
action, or of its generic properties; but I cannot deceive myself in
general properties, which are common to all matter: this ignorance will
only be increased, when I shall take that for granted of a being, of
which from that moment I am precluded by what I admit from forming any
idea, which moreover deprives it completely either of the faculty of
moving itself, giving an impulse, or acting. Thus, according to the
received idea of the term, a spiritual substance that moves itself, that
gives motion to matter, and that acts, implies a contradiction, that
necessarily infers a total impossibility.

The partizans of spirituality believe they answer the difficulties they
have accumulated, by asserting that "_the soul is entire--is whole under
each point of its extent_." If an absurd answer will solve difficulties,
they certainly have done it. But let us examine this reply:--it will be
found that this indivisible part which is called soul, however
insensible or however minute, must yet remain something: then an
infinity of unextended substances, or the same substance having no
dimensions, repeated an infinity of times, would constitute a substance
that has extent: this cannot be what they mean, because according to
this principle, the human soul would then be as infinite as the Author
of Nature; seeing that they have stated this to be a being without
extent, who is an infinity of times whole in each part of the universe.
But when there shall appear as much solidity in the answer as there is a
want of it, it must be acknowledged that in whatever manner the spirit
or the soul finds itself in its extent, when the body moves forward the
soul does not remain behind; if so, it has a quality in common with the
body, peculiar to matter; since it is conveyed from place to place
jointly with the body. Thus, when even the soul should be admitted to be
immaterial, what conclusion must be drawn? Entirely submitted to the
motion of the body, without this body it would remain dead and inert.
This soul would only be part of a two-fold machine, necessarily impelled
forward by a concatenation, or connection with the whole. It would
resemble a bird, which a child conducts at its pleasure, by the string
with which it is bound.

Thus, it is for want of consulting experience, by not attending to
reason, that man has darkened his ideas upon the concealed principle of
his motion. If, disentangled from prejudice--if, destitute of gratuitous
suppositions--if, throwing aside error, he would contemplate his soul,
or the moving principle that acts within him, he would be convinced that
it forms a part of its body, that it cannot be distinguished from it,
but by abstraction; that it is only the body itself, considered
relatively with some of its functions, or with those faculties of which
its nature, or its peculiar organization, renders it susceptible:--he
will perceive that this soul is obliged to undergo the same changes as
the body; that it is born with it; that it expands itself with it; that
like the body, it passes through a state of infancy, a period of
weakness, a season of inexperience; that it enlarges itself, that it
strengthens itself, in the same progression; that like the body, it
arrives at an adult age or reaches maturity; that it is then, and not
till then, it obtains the faculty of fulfilling certain functions; that
it is in this stage, and in no other, that it enjoys reason; that it
displays more or less wit, judgment, and manly activity; that like the
body, it is subject to those vicissitudes which exterior causes obliges
it to undergo by their influence; that, conjointly with the body, it
suffers, enjoys, partakes of its pleasures, shares its pains, is sound
when the body is healthy, and diseased when the body is oppressed with
sickness; that like the body, it is continually modified by the
different degrees of density in the atmosphere; by the variety of the
seasons, and by the various properties of the aliments received into the
stomach: in short, he would be obliged to acknowledge that at some
periods it manifests visible signs of torpor, stupefaction, decrepitude,
and death.

In despite of this analogy, or rather this continual identity, of the
soul with the body, man has been desirous of distinguishing their
essence; he has therefore made the soul an inconceivable being: but in
order that he might form to himself some idea of it, he was,
notwithstanding, obliged to have recourse to material beings, and to
their manner of acting. The word _spirit_, therefore, presents to the
mind no other ideas than those of breathing, of respiration, of wind.
Thus, when it is said the _soul is a spirit_, it really means nothing
more than that its mode of action is like that of breathing: which
though invisible in itself, or acting without being seen, nevertheless
produces very visible effects. But breath, it is acknowledged, is a
material cause; it is allowed to be air modified; it is not, therefore,
a simple or pure substance, such as the moderns designate under the name

It is rather singular that in the Hebrew, the Greek, and the Latin, the
synonymy, or corresponding term for spirit should signify _breath_. The
metaphysicians themselves can best say why they have adopted such a
word, to designate the substance they have distinguished from matter:
some of them, fearful they should not have distinct beings enough, have
gone farther, and compounded man of three substances, BODY, SOUL, and

Although the word _spirit_ is so very ancient among men, the sense
attached to it by the moderns is quite new: the idea of spirituality, as
admitted at this day, is a recent production of the imagination. Neither
PYTHAGORAS nor PLATO, however heated their brain, however decided their
taste for the marvellous, appear to have understood by spirit an
immaterial substance, or one without extent, devoid of parts; such as
that of which the moderns have formed the human soul, the concealed
author of motion. The ancients, by the word spirit, were desirous to
define matter of an extreme subtilty, of a purer quality than that which
acted grossly on our senses. In consequence, some have regarded the soul
as an ethereal substance; others as igneous matter; others again have
compared it to light. DEMOCRITUS made it consist in motion, consequently
gave it a manner of existence. ARISTOXENES, who was himself a musician,
made it harmony. ARISTOTLE regarded the soul as the moving faculty, upon
which depended the motion of living bodies.

The earliest doctors of Christianity had no other idea of the soul, than
ORIGEN, SAINT JUSTIN, IRENAEUS, have all of them discoursed upon it; but
have never spoken of it other than as a corporeal substance--as matter.
It was reserved for their successors at a great distance of time, to
make the human soul and the soul of the world _pure spirits_; that is to
say, immaterial substances, of which it is impossible they could form
any accurate idea: by degrees this incomprehensible doctrine of
spirituality, conformable without doubt to the views of those who make
it a principle to annihilate reason, prevailed over the others: But it
might be fairly asked, if the pretended proofs of this doctrine owe
themselves to a man, who on a much more comprehensible point has been
proved in error; if, on that which time has shewn was accessible to
man's reason, the great champion in support of this dogma was deceived;
are we not bound to examine, with the most rigorous investigation, the
reasonings, the evidence, of one who was the decided, the proven child
of enthusiasm and error? Yet DESCARTES, to whose sublime errors the
world is indebted for the Newtonian system, although before him the soul
had been considered spiritual, was the first who established that,
"_that which thinks ought to be distinguished from matter_;" from whence
he concludes rather hastily, that the soul, or that which thinks in man,
is a spirit; or a simple indivisible substance. Perhaps it would have
been more logical, more consistent with reason, to have said, since man,
who is matter, who has no idea but of matter, enjoys the faculty of
thought, matter can think; that is, it is susceptible of that particular
modification called thought.

However this may be, this doctrine was believed divine, supernatural,
because it was inconceivable to man. Those who dared believe even that
which was believed before; namely, _that the soul was material_, were
held as rash inconsiderate madmen, or else treated as enemies to the
welfare and happiness of the human race. When man had once renounced
experience; when he had abjured his reason; when he had joined the
banner of this enthusiastic novelty; he did nothing more, day after day,
than subtilize the delirium, the ravings of his imagination: he pleased
himself by continually sinking deeper into the most unfathomable depths
of error: he felicitated himself on his discoveries; on his pretended
knowledge; in an exact ratio as his understanding became enveloped in
the mists of darkness, environed with the clouds of ignorance. Thus, in
consequence of man's reasoning upon false principles; of having
relinquished the evidence of his senses; the moving principle within
him, the concealed author of motion, has been made a mere chimera, a
mere being of the imagination, because he has divested it of all known
properties; because he has attached to it nothing but properties which,
from the very nature of his existence, he is incapacitated to

The doctrine of spirituality, such as it now exists, offers nothing but
vague ideas; or rather is the absense of all ideas. What does it present
to the mind, but a substance which possesses nothing of which our senses
enable us to have a knowledge? Can it be truth that a man is able to
figure to himself a being not material, having neither extent nor parts,
which, nevertheless, acts upon matter without having any point of
contact, any kind of analogy with it; and which itself receives the
impulse of matter by means of material organs, which announce to it the
presence of other beings? Is it possible to conceive the union of the
soul with the body; to comprehend how this material body can bind,
enclose, constrain, determine a fugitive being which escapes all our
senses? Is it honest, is it plain dealing, to solve these difficulties,
by saying there is a mystery in them; that they are the effects of a
power, more inconceivable than the human soul; than its mode of acting,
however concealed from our view? When to resolve these problems, man is
obliged to have recourse to miracles or to make the Divinity interfere,
does he not avow his own ignorance? When, notwithstanding the ignorance
he is thus obliged to avow by availing himself of the divine agency, he
tells us, this immaterial substance, this soul, shall experience the
action of the element of fire, which he allows to be material; when he
confidently says this soul shall be burnt; shall suffer in purgatory;
have we not a right to believe, that either he has a design to deceive
us, or else that he does not himself understand that which he is so
anxious we should take upon his word?

Let us not then be surprised at those subtile hypotheses, as ingenious
as they are unsatisfactory, to which theological prejudice has obliged
the most profound modern speculators to recur; when they have undertaken
to reconcile the spirituality of the soul, with the physical action of
material beings, on this incorporeal substance; its re-action upon these
beings; its union with the body. When the human mind permits itself to
be guided by authority without proof, to be led forward by enthusiasm;
when it renounces the evidence of its senses; what can it do more than
sink into error? Let those who doubt this, read the metaphysical
romances of LEIBNITZ, DESCARTES, MALEBRANCHE, CUDWORTH, and many others:
let them coolly examine the ingenious, but fanciful systems entitled
_the pre-established harmony of occasional causes; physical pre-motion,

If man wishes to form to himself clear, perspicuous ideas of his soul,
let him throw himself back on his experience--let him renounce his
prejudices--let him avoid theological conjecture--let him tear the
bandages which he has been taught to think necessary, but with which he
has been blind-folded, only to confound his reason. If it be wished to
draw man to virtue, let the natural philosopher, let the anatomist, let
the physician, unite their experience; let them compare their
observations, in order to show what ought to be thought of a substance,
so disguised, so hidden by absurdities, as not easily to be known. Their
discoveries may perhaps teach moralists the true motive-power that ought
to influence the actions of man--legislators, the true motives that
should actuate him, that should excite him to labour to the welfare of
society--sovereigns, the means of rendering their subjects truly happy;
of giving solidity to the power of the nations committed to their
charge. Physical souls have physical wants, and demand physical
happiness. These are real, are preferable objects, to that variety of
fanciful chimeras, each in its turn giving place to the other, with
which the mind of man has been fed during so many ages. Let us, then,
labour to perfect the morality of man; let us make it agreeable to him;
let us excite in him an ardent thirst for its purity: we shall presently
see his morals become better, himself become happier; his soul become
calm and serene; his will determined to virtue, by the natural, by the
palpable motives held out to him. By the diligence, by the care which
legislators shall bestow on natural philosophy, they will form citizens
of sound understandings; robust and well constituted; who, finding
themselves happy, will be themselves accessary to that useful impulse so
necessary for their soul. When the body is suffering, when nations are
unhappy, the soul cannot be in a proper state. _Mens sana in corpore
sano_, a sound mind in a sound body, will be always able to make a good

The more man reflects, the more he will be convinced that the soul, very
far from being distinguished from the body, is only the body itself,
considered relatively to some of its functions, or to some of the modes
of existing or acting, of which it is susceptible whilst it enjoys life.
Thus, the soul is man, considered relatively to the faculty he has of
feeling, of thinking, of acting in a mode resulting from his peculiar
nature; that is to say, from his properties, from his particular
organization: from the modifications, whether durable or transitory,
which the beings who act upon him cause his machine to undergo.

Those who have distinguished the soul from the body, appear only to have
distinguished their brain from themselves. Indeed, the brain is the
common center, where all the nerves, distributed through every part of
the body, meet and blend themselves: it is by the aid of this interior
organ that all those operations are performed which are attributed to
the soul: it is the impulse, or the motion, communicated to the nerve,
which modifies the brain: in consequence, it re-acts, or gives play to
the bodily organs; or rather it acts upon itself, and becomes capable of
producing within itself a great variety of motion, which has been
designated _intellectual faculties_.

From this it may be seen that some philosophers have been desirous to
make a spiritual substance of the brain. It is evidently nothing but
ignorance that has given birth to and accredited this system, which
embraces so little, either of the natural or the rational. It is from
not having studied himself, that man has supposed he was compounded with
an agent, essentially different from his body: in examining this body,
he will find that it is quite useless to recur to hypothesis for the
explanation of the various phenomena it presents to his contemplation;
that hypothesis can do nothing more than lead him out of the right road
to the information after which he seeks. What obscures this question,
arises from this, that man cannot see himself: indeed, for this purpose,
that would be requisite which is impossible; namely, that he could he at
one and the same moment both within and without himself: he may be
compared to an Eolian harp, that issues sounds of itself, and should
demand what it is that causes it to give them forth? It does not
perceive that the sensitive quality of its chords causes the air to
brace them; that being so braced, it is rendered sonorous by every gust
of wind with which it happens to come in contact.

When a theologian, obstinately bent on admitting into man two substances
essentially different, is asked why he multiplies beings without
necessity? he will reply, because _"thought cannot be a property of
matter."_ If, then, it be enquired of him, _cannot God give to matter
the faculty of thought?_ he will answer, _"no! seeing that God cannot do
impossible things!"_ According to his principles, it is as impossible
that spirit or thought can produce matter, as it is impossible that
matter can produce spirit or thought: it might, therefore, be concluded
against him, that the world was not made by a spirit, any more than a
spirit was made by the world. But in this case, does not the theologian,
according to his own assertion, acknowledge himself to be the true
atheist? Does he not, in fact, circumscribe the attributes of the Deity,
and deny his power, to suit his own purpose? Yet these men demand
implicit belief in doctrines, which they are obliged to maintain by the
most contradictory assertions.

The more experience we collect, the more we shall be convinced that the
word _spirit_, in its present received usage, conveys no one sense that
is tangible, either to ourselves or to those that invented it;
consequently cannot be of the least use, either in physics or morals.
What modern metaphysicians believe and understand by the word, is
nothing more than an _occult_ power, imagined to explain _occult_
qualities and actions, but which, in fact, explains nothing. Savage
nations admit of spirits, to account to themselves for those effects,
which to them appear marvellous, as long as their ignorance knows not
the cause to which they ought to be attributed. In attributing to
spirits the phenomena of Nature, as well as those of the human body, do
we, in fact, do any thing more than reason like savages? Man has filled
Nature with spirits, because he has almost always been ignorant of the
true causes of those effects by which he was astonished. Not being
acquainted with the powers of Nature, he has supposed her to be animated
by a _great spirit_: not understanding the energy of the human frame, he
has in like manner conjectured it to be animated by a _minor spirit_:
from this it would appear, that whenever he wished to indicate the
unknown cause of a phenomena, he knew not how to explain in a natural
manner, he had recourse to the word _spirit_. In short, _spirit_ was a
term by which he solved all his doubts, and cleared up his ignorance to
himself. It was according to these principles that when the AMERICANS
first beheld the terrible effects of gunpowder, they ascribed the cause
to wrathful spirits, to their enraged divinities: it was by adopting
these principles, that our ancestors believed in a plurality of gods, in
ghosts, in genii, &c. Pursuing the same track, we ought to attribute to
spirits gravitation, electricity, magnetism, &c. &c. It is somewhat
singular, that priests have in all ages so strenuously upheld those
systems which time has exploded; that they have appeared to be either
the most crafty or the most ignorant of men. Where are now the priests
of Apollo, of Juno, of the Sun, and a thousand others? Yet these are the
men, who in all times have persecuted those who have been the first to
give natural explanations of the phenomena of Nature, as witness


_The Intellectual Faculties derived from the Faculty of Feeling_.

To convince ourselves that the faculties called _intellectual_, are only
certain modes of existence, or determinate manners of acting, which
result from the peculiar organization of the body, we have only to
analyze them; we shall then see that all the operations which are
attributed to the soul, are nothing more than certain modifications of
the body; of which a substance that is without extent, that has no
parts, that is immaterial, is not susceptible.

The first faculty we behold in the living man, and that from which all
his others flow, is _feeling_: however inexplicable this faculty may
appear, on a first view, if it be examined closely, it will be found to
be a consequence of the essence, or a result of the properties of
organized beings; the same as _gravity, magnetism, elasticity,
electricity_, &c. result from the essence or nature of some others. We
shall also find these last phenomena are not less inexplicable than that
of feeling. Nevertheless, if we wish to define to ourselves a clear and
precise idea of it, we shall find that feeling is a particular manner of
being moved--a mode of receiving an impulse peculiar to certain organs
of animated bodies, which is occasioned by the presence of a material
object that acts upon these organs, and transmit the impulse or shock to
the brain.

Man only feels by the aid of nerves dispersed through his body; which is
itself, to speak correctly, nothing more than a great nerve; or may be
said to resemble a large tree, of which the branches experience the
action of the root, communicated through the trunk. In man the nerves
unite and lose themselves in the brain; that intestine is the true seat
of feeling: like the spider in the centre of his web, it is quickly
warned of all the changes that happen to the body, even at the
extremities to which it sends its filaments and branches. Experience
enables us to ascertain, that man ceases to feel in those parts of his
body of which the communication with the brain is intercepted; he feels
very little, or not at all, whenever this organ is itself deranged or
affected in too lively a manner. A proof of this is afforded in the
transactions of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris: they inform us
of a man who had his scull taken off, in the room of which his brain was
recovered with skin; in proportion as a pressure was made by the hand on
his brain, the man fell into a kind of insensibility, which deprived him
of all feeling. BARTOLIN says, the brain of a man is twice as big as
that of an ox. This observation had been already made by ARISTOTLE. In
the dead body of an idiot dissected by WILLIS, the brain was found
smaller than ordinary: he says the greatest difference he found between
the parts of the body of this idiot, and those of wiser men, was, that
the plexus of the intercostal nerves, which is the mediator between the
brain and the heart, was extremely small, accompanied by a less number
of nerves than usual. According to WILLIS, the ape is, of all animals,
that which has the largest brain, relatively to his size: he is also,
after man, that which has the most intelligence: this is further
confirmed, by the name he bears in the soil, to which he is indigenous,
which is _ourang outang_, or the man beast. There is, therefore, every
reason to believe that it is entirely in the brain, that consists the
difference, that is found not only between man and beasts, but also
between the man of wit, and the fool: between the thinking man, and he
who is ignorant; between the man of sound understanding, and the madman:
a multitude of experience, serves to prove, that those persons who are
most accustomed to use their intellectual faculties, have their brain
more extended than others: the same has been remarked of watermen, that
they have arms much longer than other men.

However this may be, the sensibility of the brain, and all its parts, is
a fact: if it be asked, whence comes this property? We shall reply, it
is the result of an arrangement, of a combination, peculiar to the
animal: it is thus that milk, bread, wine, change themselves in the
substance of man, who is a sensible being: this insensible matter
becomes sensible, in combining itself with a sensible whole. Some
philosophers think that sensibility is a universal quality of matter: in
this case, it would be useless to seek from whence this property is
derived, as we know it by its effects. If this hypothesis be admitted,
in like manner as two kinds of motion are distinguished in Nature, the
one called _live_ force, the other _dead_, or _inert_ force, two sorts
of sensibility will be distinguished, the one active or alive, the other
inert or dead. Then to animalize a substance, is only to destroy the
obstacles that prevent its being active or sensible. In fact,
sensibility is either a quality which communicates itself like motion,
and which is acquired by combination; or this sensibility is a property
inherent in all matter: in both, or either case, an unextended being,
without parts, such as the human soul is said to be, can neither be the
cause of it nor submitted to its operation; but we may fairly conclude,
that all the parts of Nature enjoy the capability to arrive at
animation; the obstacle is only in the state, not in the quality. Life
is the perfection of Nature: she has no parts which do not tend to it--
which do not attain it by the same means. Life in an insect, a dog, a
man, has no other difference, than that this act is more perfect,
relatively to ourselves in proportion to the structure of the organs:
if, therefore, it be asked, what is requisite to animate a body? we
reply, it needs no foreign aid; it is sufficient that the power of
Nature be joined to its organization.

The conformation, the arrangement, the texture, the delicacy of the
organs, as well exterior as interior, which compose men and animals,
render their parts extremely mobile, or make their machine susceptible
of being moved with great facility. In a body, which is only a heap of
fibres, a mass of nerves, contiguous one to the other, united in a
common center, always ready to act; in a whole, composed of fluids and
solids, of which the parts are in equilibrium, the smallest touching
each other, are active in their motion, communicating reciprocally,
alternately and in succession, the impression, oscillations, and shocks
they receive; in such a composition, it is not surprising that the
slightest impulse propagates itself with celerity; that the shocks
excited in its remotest parts, make themselves quickly felt in the
brain, whose delicate texture renders it susceptible of being itself
very easily modified. Air, fire, water, agents the most inconstant,
possessing the most rapid motion, circulate continually in the fibres,
incessantly penetrate the nerves: without doubt these contribute to that
incredible celerity with which the brain is acquainted with what passes
at the extremities of the body.

Notwithstanding the great mobility with which man's organization renders
him susceptible, although exterior as well as interior causes are
continually acting upon him, he does not always feel in a distinct, in a
decided manner, the impulse given to his senses: indeed, he does not
feel it, until it has produced some change, or given some shock to his
brain. Thus, although completely environed by air, he does not feel its
action, until it is so modified, as to strike with a sufficient degree
of force on his organs; to penetrate his skin, through which his brain
is warned of its presence. Thus, during a profound and tranquil sleep,
undisturbed by any dream, man ceases to feel. In short, notwithstanding
the continued motion that agitates his frame, man does not appear to
feel, when this motion acts in a convenient order; he does not perceive
a state of health, but he discovers a state of grief or sickness;
because, in the first, his brain does not receive too lively an impulse,
whilst in the others, his nerves are contracted, shocked, and agitated,
with violent, with disorderly motion: these communicating with his
brain, give notice that some cause acts strongly upon them--impels them
in a manner that bears no analogy with their natural habit: this
constitutes, in him, that peculiar mode of existing which he calls

On the other hand, it sometimes happens that exterior objects produce
very considerable changes on his body, without his perceiving them at
the moment. Often, in the heat of battle, the soldier perceives not that
he is dangerously wounded, because, at the time, the rapidity, the
multiplicity of impetuous motion that assails his brain, does not permit
him to distinguish the particular change a part of his body has
undergone by the wound. In short, when a great number of causes are
simultaneously acting on him with too much vivacity, he sinks under
their accumulated pressure,--he swoons--he loses his senses--he is
deprived of feeling.

In general, feeling only obtains, when the brain can distinguish
distinctly, the impressions made on the organs with which it has
communication; it is the distinct shock, the decided modification man
undergoes, that constitutes _conscience_. Doctor Clarke, says to this
effect: "Conscience is the act of reflecting, by means of which I know
that I think, and that my thoughts, or my actions belong to me, and not
to another." From this it will appear, that _feeling_ is a mode of
being, a marked change, produced on our brain, occasioned by the impulse
communicated to our organs, whether by interior or exterior agents, by
which it is modified either in a durable or transient manner: it is not
always requisite that man's organs should be moved by an exterior
object, to enable him to feel that he should be conscious of the changes
effected in him: he can feel them within himself by means of an interior
impulse; his brain is then modified, or rather he renews within himself
the anterior modifications. We are not to be astonished that the brain
should be necessarily warned of the shocks, of the impediments, of the
changes that may happen to so complicated a machine as the human body,
in which, notwithstanding all the parts are contiguous to the brain, and
concentrate themselves in this brain, and are by their essence in a
continual state of action and re-action.

When a man experiences the pains of the gout, he is conscious of them;
in other words, he feels interiorly, that it has produced very marked,
very distinct changes in him, without his perceiving, that he has
received an impulse from any exterior cause; nevertheless, if he will
recur to the true source of these changes, he will find that they have
been wholly produced by exterior agents: they have been the consequence,
either of his temperament; of the organization received from his
parents; of the aliments with which his frame has been nourished;
besides a thousand trivial, inappreciable causes, which congregating
themselves by degrees produce in him the gouty humour; the effect of
which is to make him feel in an acute and very lively manner. The pain
of the gout engenders in his brain an idea, so modifies it that it
acquires the faculty of representing to itself, of reiterating as it
were, this pain when even he shall be no longer tormented with the gout:
his brain, by a series of motion interiorly excited, is again placed in
a state analogous to that in which it was when he really experienced
this pain: but if he had never felt it, he would never have been in a
capacity to form to himself any just idea of its excruciating torments.

The visible organs of man's body, by the intervention of which his brain
is modified, take the name of _senses_. The various modifications which
his brain receives by the aid of these senses, assumes a variety of
names. _Sensation_, _perception_, and _idea_, are terms that designate
nothing more than the changes produced in this interior organ, in
consequence of impressions made on the exterior organs by bodies acting
on them: these changes considered by themselves, are called
_sensations_; they adopt the term _perception_ when the brain is warned
of their presence; _ideas_ is that state of them in which the brain is
able to ascribe them to the objects by which they have been produced.

Every _sensation_, then, is nothing more than the shock given to the
organs, every _perception_ is this shock propagated to the brain; every
_idea_ is the image of the object to which the sensation and the
perception is to be ascribed. From whence it will be seen, that if the
senses be not moved, there can neither be sensations, perceptions, nor
ideas: this will be proved to those, who can yet permit themselves to
doubt so demonstrable and striking a truth.

It is the extreme mobility of which man is capable, owing to his
peculiar organization, that distinguishes him from other beings that are
called insensible or inanimate; the different degrees of this mobility,
of which the individuals of his species are susceptible, discriminate
them from each other; make that incredible variety, that infinity of
difference which is to be found, as well in their corporeal faculties,
as in those which are mental or intellectual. From this mobility, more
or less remarkable in each human being, results wit, sensibility,
imagination, taste, &c.: for the present, however, let us follow the
operation of the senses; let us examine in what manner they are acted
upon, and are modified by exterior objects:--we will afterwards
scrutinize the re-action of the interior organ or brain.

The eyes are very delicate, very movable organs, by means of which the
sensation of light or colour is experienced: these give to the brain a
distinct perception, in consequence of which, man forms an idea,
generated by the action of luminous or coloured bodies: as soon as the
eyelids are opened, the retina is affected in a peculiar manner; the
fluid, the fibres, the nerves, of which they are composed, are excited
by shocks which they communicate to the brain; to which they delineate
the images of the bodies from which they have received the impulse; by
this means, an idea is acquired of the colour, the size, the form, the
distance of these bodies: it is thus that may he explained the mechanism
of _sight_.

The mobility and the elasticity of which the skin is rendered
susceptible, by the fibres and nerves which form its texture, accounts
for the rapidity with which this envelope to the human body is affected
when applied to any other body; by their agency, the brain has notice of
its presence, of its extent, of its roughness, of its smoothness, of its
surface, of its pressure of its ponderosity, &c. Qualities from which
the brain derives distinct perceptions, which breed in it a diversity of
ideas; it is this that constitutes the _touch_ or _feeling_.

The delicacy of the membrane by which the interior of the nostrils is
covered, renders them easily susceptible of irritation, even by the
invisible and impalpable corpuscles that emanate from odorous bodies: by
these means sensations are excited, the brain has perceptions, and
generates ideas: it is this that forms the sense of _smelling_.

The mouth, filled with nervous, sensible, movable, irritable glands,
saturated with juices suitable to the dissolution of saline substances,
is affected in a very lively manner by the aliments which pass through
it for the nourishment of the body; these glands transmit to the brain
the impressions received: perceptions are of consequence; ideas follow:
it is from this mechanism that results _taste_.

The ear, whose conformation fits it to receive the various impulses of
air, diversely modified, communicates to the brain the shocks or
sensations; these breed the perception of sound, and generate the idea
of sonorous bodies: it is this that constitutes _hearing_.

Such are the only means by which man receives sensations, perceptions,
and ideas. These successive modifications of his brain are effects
produced by objects that give impulse to his senses; they become
themselves causes, producing in his soul new modifications, which are
denominated _thought, reflection, memory, imagination, judgment, will,
action_; the basis, however, of all these is _sensation_.

To form a precise notion of _thought_, it will be requisite to examine,
step by step, what passes in man during the presence of any object
whatever. Suppose for a moment this object to be a peach: this fruit
makes, at the first view, two different impressions on his eyes; that is
to say, it produces two modifications, which are transmitted to the
brain, which on this occasion experiences two new perceptions, or has
two new ideas or modes of existence, designated by the terms _colour_
and _rotundity_; in consequence, he has an idea of a body possessing
roundness and colour: if he places his hand on this fruit, the organ of
feeling having been set in action, his hand experiences three new
impressions, which are called _softness, coolness, weight_, from whence
result three new perceptions in the brain, he has consequently three new
ideas: if he approximates this peach to his nose, the organ of
_smelling_ receives an impulse, which, communicated to the brain, a new
perception arises, by which he acquires a new idea, called _odour_: if
he carries this fruit to his mouth, the organ of taste becomes affected
in a very lively manner: this impulse communicated to the brain, is
followed by a perception that generates in him the idea of _flavour_. In
re-uniting all these impressions, or these various modifications of his
organs, which it have been consequently transmitted to his brain; that
is to say, in combining the different sensations, perceptions, and
ideas, that result from the impulse he has received, he has an idea of a
whole, which he designates by the name of a peach, with which he can
then occupy his thoughts.

From this it is sufficiently proved that thought has a commencement, a
duration, an end; or rather a generation, a succession, a dissolution,
like all the other modifications of matter; like them, thought is
excited, is determined, is increased, is divided, is compounded, is
simplified, &c. If, therefore, the soul, or the principle that thinks,
be indivisible; how does it happen, that this soul has the faculty of
memory, or of forgetfulness; is capacitated to think successively, to
divide, to abstract, to combine, to extend its ideas, to retain them, or
to lose them? How can it cease to think? If forms appear divisible in
matter, it is only in considering them by abstraction, after the method,
of geometricians; but this divisibility of form exists not in Nature, in
which there is neither a point, an atom, nor form perfectly regular; it
must therefore be concluded, that the forms of matter are not less
indivisible than thought.

What has been said is sufficient to show the generation of sensations,
of perceptions, of ideas, with their association, or connection in the
brain: it will be seen that these various modifications are nothing more
than the consequence of successive impulses, which the exterior organs
transmit to the interior organ, which enjoys the faculty of thought,
that is to say, to feel in itself the different modifications it has
received, or to perceive the various ideas which it has generated; to
combine them, to separate them, to extend them, to abridge them, to
compare them, to renew them, &c. From whence it will be seen, that
thought is nothing more than the perception of certain modifications,
which the brain either gives to itself, or has received from exterior

Indeed, not only the interior organ perceives the modifications it
receives from without, but again it has the faculty of modifying itself;
of considering the changes which take place in it, the motion by which
it is agitated in its peculiar operations, from which it imbibes new
perceptions and new ideas. It is the exercise of this power to fall back
upon itself, that is called _reflection_.

From this it will appear, that for man to think and to reflect, is to
feel, or perceive within himself the impressions, the sensations, the
ideas, which have been furnished to his brain by those objects which
give impulse to his senses, with the various changes which his brain
produced on itself in consequence.

_Memory_ is the faculty which the brain has of renewing in itself the
modifications it has received, or rather, to restore itself to a state
similar to that in which it has been placed by the sensations, the
perceptions, the ideas, produced by exterior objects, in the exact order
it received them, without any new action on the part of these objects,
or even when these objects are absent; the brain perceives that these
modifications assimilate with those it formerly experienced in the
presence of the objects to which it relates, or attributes them. Memory
is faithful, when these modifications are precisely the same; it is
treacherous, when they differ from those which the organs have
exteriorly experienced.

_Imagination_ in man is only the faculty which the brain has of
modifying itself, or of forming to itself new perceptions, upon the
model of those which it has anteriorly received through the action of
exterior objects on the senses. The brain, then, does nothing more than
combine ideas which it has already formed, which it recalls to itself,
from which it forms a whole, or a collection of modifications, which it
has not received, which exists no-where but in itself, although the
individual ideas, or the parts of which this ideal whole is composed,
have been previously communicated to it, in consequence of the impulse
given to the senses by exterior objects: it is thus man forms to himself
the idea of _centaurs_, or a being composed of a man and a horse, of
_hyppogriffs_, or a being composed of a horse with wings and a griffin,
besides a thousand other objects, equally ridiculous. By memory, the
brain renews in itself the sensations, the perceptions, and the ideas
which it has received or generated; represents to itself the objects
which have actually moved its organs. By imagination it combines them
variously: forms objects in their place which have not moved its organs,
although it is perfectly acquainted with the elements or ideas of which
it composes them. It is thus that man, by combining a great number of
ideas borrowed from himself, such as justice, wisdom, goodness,
intelligence, &c. by the aid of imagination, has formed various ideal
beings, or imaginary wholes, which he has called JUPITER, JUNO, BRAMAH,

_Judgment_ is the faculty which the brain possesses of comparing with
each other the modifications it receives, the ideas it engenders, or
which it has the power of awakening within itself, to the end that it
may discover their relations, or their effects.

_Will_ is a modification of the brain, by which it is disposed to
action, that is to say, to give such an impulse to the organs of the
body, as can induce to act in a manner, that will procure for itself
what is requisite to modify it in a mode analogous to its own existence,
or to enable it to avoid that by which it can be injured. To _will_ is
to be disposed to _action_. The exterior objects, or the interior ideas,
which give birth to this disposition are called _motives_, because they
are the springs or movements which determine it to act, that is to say,
which give play to the organs of the body. Thus, _voluntary actions_ are
the motion of the body, determined by the modification of the brain.
Fruit hanging on a tree, through the agency of the visual organs,
modifies the brain in such a manner as to dispose the arm to stretch
itself forth to cull it; again, it modifies it in another manner, by
which it excites the hand to carry it to the mouth.

All the modifications which the interior organ or the brain receives,
all the sensations, all the perceptions, all the ideas that are
generated by the objects which give impulse to the senses, or which it
renews within itself by its own peculiar faculties, are either
favourable or prejudicial to man's mode of existence, whether that be
transitory or habitual: they dispose the interior organ to action, which
it exercises by reason of its own peculiar energy: this action is not,
however, the same in all the individuals of the human species, depending
much on their respective temperaments. From hence the PASSIONS have
their birth: these are more or less violent; they are, however, nothing
more than the motion of the will, determined by the objects which give
it activity; consequently composed of the analogy or of the discordance
which is found between these objects, man's peculiar mode of existence,
and the force of his temperament. From this it results, that the
passions are modes of existence or modifications of the brain; which
either attract or repel those objects by which man is surrounded; that
consequently they are submitted in their action to the physical laws of
attraction and repulsion.

The faculty of perceiving or of being modified, as well by itself as
exterior objects which the brain enjoys is sometimes designated by the
term _understanding_. To the assemblage of the various faculties of
which this interior organ is susceptible, is applied the name of
_intelligence_. To a determined mode in which the brain exercises the
faculties peculiar to itself, is given the appellation of _reason_. The
dispositions or the modifications of the brain, some of them constant,
others transitory, which give impulse to the beings of the human
species, causing them to act, are styled _wit, wisdom, goodness,
prudence, virtue, &c_.

In short, as there will be an opportunity presently to prove, all the
intellectual faculties--that is to say, all the modes of action
attributed to the soul, may be reduced to the modifications, to the
qualities, to the modes of existence, to the changes produced by the
motion of the brain; which is visibly in man the seat of feeling, the
principle of all his actions. These modifications are to be attributed
to the objects that strike on his senses; of which the impression is
transmitted to the brain, or rather to the ideas, which the perceptions
caused by the action of these objects on his senses have there
generated, and which it has the faculty to re-produce. This brain moves
itself in its turn, re-acts upon itself, gives play to the organs, which
concentrate themselves in it, or which are rather nothing more than an
extension of its own peculiar substance. It is thus the concealed motion
of the interior organ, renders itself sensible by outward and visible
signs. The brain, affected by a modification which is called FEAR,
diffuses a paleness over the countenance, excites a tremulous motion in
the limbs called trembling. The brain, affected by a sensation of GRIEF,
causes tears to flow from the eyes, even without being moved by any
exterior object; an idea which it retraces with great strength, suffices
to give it very little modifications, which visibly have an influence on
the whole frame.

In all this, nothing more is to be perceived than the same substance
which acts diversely on the various parts of the body. If it be objected
that this mechanism does not sufficiently explain the principles of the
motion or the faculties of the soul; we reply, that it is in the same
situation as all the other bodies of Nature, in which the most simple
motion, the most ordinary phenomena, the most common modes of action are
inexplicable mysteries, of which we shall never be able to fathom the
first principles. Indeed, how can we flatter ourselves we shall ever be
enabled to compass the true principle of that gravity by which a stone
falls? Are we acquainted with the mechanism which produces attraction in
some substances, repulsion in others? Are we in a condition to explain
the communication of motion from one body to another? But it may be
fairly asked,--Are the difficulties that occur, when attempting to
explain the manner in which the soul acts, removed by making it a
_spiritual being_, a substance of which we have not, nor cannot form one
idea, which consequently must bewilder all the notions we are capable of
forming to ourselves of this being? Let us then be contented to know
that the soul moves itself, modifies itself, in consequence of material
causes, which act upon it which give it activity: from whence the
conclusion may he said to flow consecutively, that all its operations,
all its faculties, prove that it is itself _material_.


_The Diversity of the Intellectual Faculties: they depend on Physical
Causes, as do their Moral Qualities.--The Natural Principles of

Nature is under the necessity of diversifying all her works. Elementary
matter, different in its essence, must necessarily form different
beings, various in their combinations, in their properties, in their
modes of action, in their manner of existence. There is not, neither can
there be, two beings, two combinations, which are mathematically and
rigorously the same; because the place, the circumstances, the
relations; the proportions, the modifications, never being exactly
alike, the beings that result can never bear a perfect resemblance to
each other: their modes of action must of necessity vary in something,
even when we believe we find between them the greatest conformity.

In consequence of this principle, which every thing we see conspires to
prove to be a truth, there are not two individuals of the human species
who have precisely the same traits--who think exactly in the same
manner--who view things under the same identical point of sight--who
have decidedly the same ideas; consequently no two of them have
uniformly the same system of conduct. The visible organs of man, as well
as his concealed organs, have indeed some analogy, some common points of
resemblance, some general conformity; which makes them appear, when
viewed in the gross, to be affected in the same manner by certain
causes: but the difference is infinite in the detail. The human soul may
be compared to those instruments, of which the chords, already
diversified in themselves, by the manner in which they have been spun,
are also strung upon different notes: struck by the same impulse, each
chord gives forth the sound that is peculiar to itself; that is to say,
that which depends on its texture, its tension, its volume, on the
momentary state in which it is placed by the circumambient air. It is
this that produces the diversified spectacle, the varied scene, which
the moral world offers to our view: it is from this that results the
striking contrariety that is to be found in the minds, in the faculties,
in the passions, in the energies, in the taste, in the imagination, in
the ideas, in the opinions of man. This diversity is as great as that of
his physical powers: like them it depends on his temperament, which is
as much varied as his physiognomy. This variety gives birth to that
continual series of action and reaction, which constitutes the life of
the moral world: from this discordance results the harmony which at once
maintains and preserves the human race.

The diversity found among the individuals of the human species, causes
inequalities between man and man: this inequality constitutes the
support of society. If all men were equal in their bodily powers, in
their mental talents, they would not have any occasion for each other:
it is the variation of his faculties, the inequality which this places
him in, with regard to his fellows, that renders morals necessary to
man: without these, he would live by himself, he would remain an
isolated being. From whence it may be perceived, that this inequality of
which man so often complains without cause--this impossibility which
each man finds when in an isolated state, when left to himself, when
unassociated with his fellow men, to labour efficaciously to his own
welfare, to make his own security, to ensure his own conservation;
places him in the happy situation of associating with his like, of
depending on his fellow associates, of meriting their succour, of
propitiating them to his views, of attracting their regard, of calling
in their aid to chase away, by common and united efforts, that which
would have the power to trouble or derange the order of his existence.
In consequence of man's diversity, of the inequality that results, the
weaker is obliged to seek the protection of the stronger; this, in his
turn, recurs to the understanding, to the talents, to the industry of
the weaker, whenever his judgment points out he can be useful to him:
this natural inequality furnishes the reason why nations distinguish
those citizens who have rendered their country eminent services. It is
in consequence of his exigencies that man honors and recompenses those
whose understanding, good deeds, assistance, or virtues, have procured
for him real or supposed advantages, pleasures, or agreeable sensations
of any sort: it is by this means that genius gains an ascendancy over
the mind of man, and obliges a whole people to acknowledge its powers.
Thus, the diversity and inequality of the faculties, as well corporeal
as mental or intellectual, renders man necessary to his fellow man,
makes him a social being, and incontestibly proves to him the necessity
of morals.

According to this diversity of faculties, the individuals of the human
species are divided into different classes, each in proportion to the
effects produced, or the different qualities that may be remarked: all
these varieties in man flow from the individual properties of his soul,
or from the particular modification of his brain. It is thus, that wit,
imagination, sensibility, talents, &c. diversify to infinity the
differences that are to be found in man. It is thus, that some are
called good, others wicked; some are denominated virtuous, others
vicious; some are ranked as learned, others as ignorant; some are
considered reasonable, others unreasonable, &c.

If all the various faculties attributed to the soul are examined, it
will be found that like those of the body they are to be ascribed to
physical causes, to which it will be very easy to recur. It will be
found that the powers of the soul are the same as those of the body;
that they always depend on the organization of this body, on its
peculiar properties, on the permanent or transitory modifications that
it undergoes; in a word, on its temperament.

_Temperament_ is, in each individual, the habitual state in which he
finds the fluids and the solids of which his body is composed. This
temperament varies, by reason of the elements or matter that predominate
in him, in consequence of the different combinations, of the various
modifications, which this matter, diversified in itself, undergoes in
his machine. Thus, in one, the blood is superabundant; in another, the
bile; in a third, phlegm, &c.

It is from Nature--from his parents--from causes, which from the first
moment of his existence have unceasingly modified him, that man derives
his temperament. It is in his mother's womb that he has attracted the
matter which, during his whole life, shall have an influence on his
intellectual faculties--on his energies--on his passions--on his
conduct. The very nourishment he takes, the quality of the air he
respires, the climate he inhabits, the education he receives, the ideas
that are presented to him, the opinions he imbibes, modify this
temperament. As these circumstances can never be rigorously the same in
every point for any two men, it is by no means surprising that such an
amazing variety, so great a contrariety, should be found in man; or that
there should exist as many different temperaments, as there are
individuals in the human species.

Thus, although man may bear a general resemblance, he differs
essentially, as well by the texture of his fibres and the disposition of
his nerves, as by the nature, the quality, the quantity of matter that
gives them play, that sets his organs in motion. Man, already different

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest