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AN ESSAY ON MAN INTRODUCTION The 'Essay on Man' is the longest and in some ways the most important wor

o! the third period o! "ope's #areer$ It #orresponds #losely to his early wor % the 'Essay on Criti#ism'$ &i e the earlier wor % the 'Essay on Man' is a dida#ti# poem% written primarily to di!!'se and pop'lari(e #ertain ideas o! the poet$ As in the earlier wor these ideas are )y no means original with "ope% )'t were the #ommon property o! a s#hool o! thin ers in his day$ As in the 'Essay on Criti#ism'% "ope here attempts to show that these ideas ha*e their origin in nat're and are #onsistent with the #ommon sense o! man$ And !inally the merit o! the later wor % e*en more than o! the earlier% is d'e to the !or#e and )rillian#y o! deta#hed passages rather than to any #oherent% #onsistent% and well+)alan#ed system whi#h it presents$ The #lose o! the se*enteenth #ent'ry and )eginning o! the eighteenth was mar ed )y a #hange o! gro'nd in the sphere o! religio's #ontro*ersy$ The old de)ates )etween the Catholi# and "rotestant #h'r#hes grad'ally died o't as these two )ran#hes o! ,estern Christianity settled down in -'iet possession o! the territory they still o##'py$ In their pla#e arose a *igoro's #ontro*ersy on the !irst prin#iples o! religion in general% on the nat're o! .od% the origin o! e*il% the pla#e o! man in the 'ni*erse% and the respe#ti*e merits o! optimism and pessimism as philosophi# theories$ The #ontro*ersialists as a r'le either re/e#ted or negle#ted the dogmas o! re*ealed religion and )ased their arg'ments 'pon real or s'pposed !a#ts o! history% physi#al nat're% and the mental pro#esses and moral #hara#teristi#s o! man$ In this #ontro*ersy the two parties at times were #'rio'sly mingled$ Orthodo0 #lergymen 'sed arg'ments whi#h /'sti!ied a strong s'spi#ion o! their orthodo0y1 and a*owed !reethin ers )itterly dis#laimed the imp'tation o! atheism and wrote in terms that might )e easily adopted )y a de*o't )elie*er$ Into this #ontro*ersy "ope was led )y his deepening intima#y with 2oling)ro e% who had ret'rned !rom 3ran#e in 4567 and settled at his #o'ntry pla#e within a !ew miles o! Twi# enham$ D'ring his long e0ile 2oling)ro e had am'sed himsel! with the st'dy o! moral philosophy and nat'ral religion% and in his !re-'ent inter#o'rse with "ope he po'red o't his new+!o'nd opinions with all the !l'en#y% *igor% and polish whi#h made him so !amo's among the orators and tal ers o! the day$ 2oling)ro e's *iews were !or that time distin#tly heterodo0% and% i! logi#ally de*eloped% led to #omplete agnosti#ism$ 2't he seems to ha*e a*oided a #omplete statement o! his ideas to "ope% possi)ly !or !ear o! sho# ing or !rightening the sensiti*e little poet who still remained a pro!essed Catholi#$ "ope% howe*er% was *ery !ar !rom )eing a stri#t Catholi#% and indeed prided himsel! on the )readth and li)erality o! his opinions$ 8e was% there!ore% at on#e !as#inated and stim'lated )y the elo-'ent #on*ersation o! 2oling)ro e% and resol*ed to write a philosophi#al poem in whi#h to em)ody the ideas they held in #ommon$ 2oling)ro e appro*ed o! the idea% and went so !ar as to !'rnish the poet with se*en or eight sheets o! notes 9to dire#t the plan in general and to s'pply matter !or parti#'lar epistles$9 &ord 2ath'rst% who new )oth "ope and 2oling)ro e% went so !ar as to say in later years that the 'Essay' was originally #omposed )y 2oling)ro e in prose and that "ope only p't it into *erse$ 2't this is 'ndo')tedly an e0aggeration o! what "ope himsel! !ran ly a# nowledged% that the poem was #omposed 'nder the in!l'en#e o! 2oling)ro e% that in the main it re!le#ted his opinions% and that 2oling)ro e had assisted him in the general plan and in n'mero's details$ :ery properly% there!ore% the poem is addressed to

2oling)ro e and )egins and #loses with a dire#t address to the poet's 9g'ide% philosopher% and !riend$9 In s')stan#e the 'Essay on Man' is a dis#'ssion o! the moral order o! the world$ Its p'rpose is 9to *indi#ate the ways o! .od to man%9 and it may there!ore )e regarded as an attempt to #on!'te the s epti#s who arg'ed !rom the e0isten#e o! e*il in the world and the wret#hedness o! man's e0isten#e to the impossi)ility o! )elie! in an all+good and all+wise .od$ It attempts to do this% not )y an appeal to re*elation or the do#trines o! Christianity% )'t simply on the )asis o! a #ommon+sense interpretation o! the !a#ts o! e0isten#e$ A )rie! o'tline o! the poem will show the general tenor o! "ope's arg'ment$ The !irst epistle deals with the nat're and state o! man with respe#t to the 'ni*erse$ It insists on the limitations o! man's nowledge% and the #onse-'ent a)s'rdity o! his pres'ming to m'rm'r against .od$ It tea#hes that the 'ni*erse was not made !or man% )'t that man with all his apparent imper!e#tions is e0a#tly !itted to the pla#e whi#h he o##'pies in the 'ni*erse$ In the physi#al 'ni*erse all things wor together !or good% altho'gh #ertain aspe#ts o! nat're seem e*il to man% and li ewise in the moral 'ni*erse all things% e*en man's passions and #rimes #ond'#e to the general good o! the whole$ 3inally it 'rges #alm s')mission and a#-'ies#en#e in what is hard to 'nderstand% sin#e 9one tr'th is #lear%++whate*er is% is right$9 The se#ond epistle deals with the nat're o! man as an indi*id'al$ It )egins )y 'rging men to a)andon *ain -'estionings o! .od's pro*iden#e and to ta e 'p the #onsideration o! their own nat'res% !or 9the proper st'dy o! man ind is man$9 "ope points o't that the two #ardinal prin#iples o! man's nat're are sel!+lo*e and reason% the !irst an impelling% the se#ond a reg'lating power$ The aim o! )oth these prin#iples is pleas're% )y whi#h "ope means happiness% whi#h he ta es !or the highest good$ Ea#h man is dominated )y a master passion% and it is the proper !'n#tion o! reason to #ontrol this passion !or good and to ma e it )ear !r'it in *irt'e$ No man is wholly *irt'o's or *i#io's% and 8ea*en 'ses the mingled -'alities o! men to )ind them together in m't'al interdependen#e% and ma es the *ario's passions and imper!e#tions o! man ind ser*e the general good$ And the !inal #on#l'sion is that 9tho'gh man's a !ool% yet .od is wise$9