By Lester G. Crocker (eds.)

ISBN-10: 1349003697

ISBN-13: 9781349003693

ISBN-10: 1349003719

ISBN-13: 9781349003716

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Travels are constant lessons on this subject. They show us everywhere the monuments of the unhappiness and wickedness of man: everywhere prisons and poorhouses; everywhere gibbets and beggars. Here you see the ruins of a flourishing city; there you cannot even find its ruins. . History, properly speaking, is only a collection of the crimes and misfortunes of mankind. But let us observe that these two evils, moral and physical, do not contain all of history or the whole experience of individuals; everywhere both moral and physical good are to be found, a few examples of virtue, a few examples of happiness-and that is where the problem lies.

Mandeville's Fable of the Bees ( 1714) asserted the paradox that civilization and prosperity are dependent on what are (from the rigorous moral viewpoint) vices; from the social viewpoint, vices are virtues. In one of his notes to the poem, Mandeville shows the harmony between his paradox and human nature. His assessment was to be countered by Hume's and Adam Smith's doctrine of sympathy. ) La Mettrie (L'Homme machine, 1747) continues a tradition of humbling man's pride in relation to animals. His purpose is not that of Montaigne or Pascal, to disparage reason, but rather to advance the cause of materialism by bringing man back into a common nature: he does not have the exclusive privilege of "natural law" -an idea La Mettrie effectively deprives of moral content.

LA METTRIE, MAN A MACHINE 3. 35 La Mettrie, Man a Machine IN SPITE of all these advantages of man over animals, it is doing him honor to place him in the same class. For, truly, up to a certain age, he is more of an animal than they, since at birth he has less instinct. What animal would die of hunger in the midst of a river of milk? Man alone. Like that child of olden time to whom a modern writer refers, following Arnobius, he knows neither the foods suitable for him, nor the water that can drown him, nor the fire that can reduce him to ashes.

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The Age of Enlightenment by Lester G. Crocker (eds.)


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