(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Harvard Classics eboxed Set"

1 



HELFC: 



FREHCK an: 
F.NGLiSH 
PHILOSOPHi 

DTSCART'^S 
VOLTAIRJi 
ROUSSEAU 



Qoiimp. 








ssiai 









THE HARVARD CLASSICS 



The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 



^ 




^ 

k 



i 




THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 



French and English 
Philosophers 

Descartes • Rousseau 
Voltaire • Hobbes 

WM Introductions and Notes 
Yolume 34 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 

NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1910 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

Copyright, 1889 
By Peter Eckler 

manufactured in u. s. a. 



CONTENTS 

Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason 
AND Seeking the Truth in the Sciences 

By Rene Descartes r*BZ 

Part I 5 

Part II 12 

Part III 21 

Part IV 28 

Part V 35 

Part VI 49 

Letters on the English — By Voltaire 

Letter I — On the Quakers 65 

Letter II — On the Quakers 69 

Letter III — On the Quakers 71 

Letter IV — On the Quakers 74 

Letter V — On the Church of England 78 

Letter VI — On the Presbyterians 81 

Letter VII — On the Socinians, or Arians, or Antitrinitarians . 83 

Letter VIII — On the ParUament 85 

Letter IX — On the Government 88 

Letter X — On Trade 92 

Letter XI — On Inoculation 93 

Letter XII — On the Lord Bacon 98 

Letter XIII — On Mr. Locke 102 

Letter XIV — On Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton 108 

Letter XV — On Attraction 113 

Letter XVI — On Sir Isaac Newton's Optics 121 

Letter XVII — On Infinites in Geometry, and Sir Isaac Newton's 

Chronology 125 

Letter XVIII— On Tragedy 130 

Letter XIX — On Comedy 136 

Letter XX — On Such of the Nobility as Cultivate the Belles 

Lettres 140 

Letter XXI — On the Earl of Rochester and Mr. Waller . 142 

Letter XXII — On Mr. Pope and Some Other Famous Poets . 147 
Letter XXIII — On the Regard That Ought to be Shown to Men 

of Letters 151 

Letter XXIV— On the Royal Society and Other Academies . . 154 

I 



2 CONTENTS 

PAGE 

A Discourse upon the Origin and the Foundation of the 

Inequality among Mankind 165 

By J. J. Rousseau 

First Part 168 

Second Part 198 

Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar 239 

Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan 
By Thomas Hobbes 

Chapter I — Of Sense 311 

Chapter II — Of Imagination 313 

Chapter III — Of the Consequence or Train of Imaginations . .318 

Chapter IV — Of Speech 322 

Chapter V — Of Reason and Science 330 

Chapter VI — Of the Interior Beginnings of Voluntary Motions, 
Commonly Called the Passions; and the Speeches by Which 

They Are Expressed 336 

Chapter VII — Of the Ends, or Resolutions of Discourse . 346 
Chapter VIII — Of the Virtues Commonly Called Intellectual, 

and Their Contrary Defects 349 

Chapter IX — Of the Several Subjects of Knowledge .... 359 
Chapter X — Of Power, Worth, Dignity, Honour, and Worthi- 
ness 359 

Chapter XI — Of the Difference of Manners 369 

Chapter XII— Of Religion 376 

Chapter XIII^ — Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Con- 
cerning Their Felicity and Misery 387 

Chapter XIV — Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and of 

Contracts 391 

Chapter XV — Of Other Laws of Nature 401 

Chapter XVI — Of Persons, Authors, and Things Personated 413 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Ren^ Descartes was born at La Haye in Touraine, March 31, 1596. 
He came of a landed family with possessions in Brittany as well as in the 
south. His education was begun at the Jesuit College of La Fleche, con- 
tinued at Paris, and completed by travel in various countries; and his 
studies were varied by several years of military service. After he began to 
devote himself to philosophy, he lived chiefly in Holland; but the last 
five months of his life were spent in Stockholm, at the court of Queen 
Christina of Sweden, where he died on February 11, 1650. 

While still young, Descartes had become profoundly dissatisfied with 
the scholastic philosophy, which still survived in the teaching of the 
Jesuits from whom he received his early training; and adopting a skepti- 
cal attitude he set out on his travels determined "to gain knowledge 
only from himself and the great book of the world, from nature and the 
observation of man." It was in Germany, as he tells us, that there came 
to him the idea which proved the starting point of his whole system of 
thought, the idea, "I think, therefore I exist," which called a halt to the 
philosophical doubt with which he had resolved to regard everything 
that could conceivably be doubted. On this basis he built up a philosophy 
which is usually regarded as the foundation of modern thought. Not 
that the system of Descartes is accepted to-day; but the sweeping away 
of presupposition of all kinds, and the "method" which he proposed for 
the discovery of truth, have made possible the whole modern philosophic 
development. It was in the "Discourse" here printed, originally pub- 
lished in 1637, that this method was first presented to the world. 

Descartes was distinguished in physics and mathematics as well as in 
philosophy; and his "Geometry" revolutionized the study of that science. 



[PREFATORY NOTE BY THE AUTHOR.] 

If this Discourse appear too long to be read at once, it may be divided 
into six parts: and, in the first, will be found various considerations touch- 
ing the Sciences; in the second, the principal rules of the Method which 
the Author has discovered; in the third, certain of the rules of Morals 
which he has deduced from this Method; in the fourth, the reasonings 
by which he establishes the existence of God and of the Human Soul, 
which are the foundations of his Metaphysic; in the fifth, the order of 
the Physical questions which he has investigated, and, in particular, the 
explication of the motion of the heart and of some other difficulties per- 
taining to Medicine, as also the difference between the soul of man and 
that of the brutes; and, in the last, what the Author believes to be re- 
quired in order to greater advancement in the investigation of Nature 
than has yet been made, with the reasons that have induced him to write. 



DISCOURSE ON THE METHOD 

of rightly conducting 

the reason and seeking the truth 

in the sciences 

By RenI Descartes 



PARTI 

GOOD SENSE is, of all things among men, the most equally 
- distributed; for every one thinks himself so abundantly pro- 
vided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to 
satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of 
this quality than they already possess. And in this it is not likely 
that all are mistaken: the conviction is rather to be held as testifying 
that the power of judging aright and of distinguishing Truth from 
Error, which is properly what is called Good Sense or Reason, is by 
nature equal in all men; and that the diversity of our opinions, con- 
sequently, does not arise from some being endowed with a larger 
share of Reason than others, but solely from this, that we conduct 
our thoughts along different ways, and do not fix our attention on 
the same objects. For to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not 
enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it. The greatest minds, 
as they are capable of the highest excellencies, are open likewise to 
the greatest aberrations; and those who travel very slowly may yet 
make far greater progress, provided they keep always to the straight 
road, than those who, while they run, forsake it. 

For myself, I have never fancied my mind to be in any respect more 
perfect than those of the generality; on the contrary, I have often 
wished that I were equal to some others in promptitude of thought, 
or in clearness and distinctness of imagination, or in fulness and 
readiness of memory. And besides these, I know of no other qualities 
that contribute to the perfection of the mind; for as to the Reason or 

5 



6 DESCARTES 

Sense, inasmuch as it is that alone which constitutes us men, and 
distinguishes us from the brutes, I am disposed to beheve that it is 
to be found complete in each individual; and on this point to adopt 
the common opinion of philosophers, who say that the difference of 
greater and less holds only among the accidents, and not among the 
forms or natures of individuals of the same species. 

I will not hesitate, however, to avow my belief that it has been my 
singular good fortune to have very early in life fallen in with certain 
tracks which have conducted me to considerations and maxims, of 
which I have formed a Method that gives me the means, as I think, 
of gradually augmenting my knowledge, and of raising it by little 
and little to the highest point which the mediocrity of my talents and 
the brief duration of my life will permit me to reach. For I have 
already reaped from it such fruits that, although I have been accus- 
tomed to think lowly enough of myself, and although when I look 
with the eye of a philosopher at the varied courses and pursuits of 
mankind at large, I find scarcely one which does not appear vain and 
useless, I nevertheless derive the highest satisfaction from the progress 
I conceive myself to have already made in the search after truth, and 
cannot help entertaining such expectations of the future as to believe 
that if, among the occupations of men as men, there is any one really 
excellent and important, it is that which I have chosen. 

After all, it is possible I may be mistaken; and it is but a little 
copper and glass, perhaps, that I take for gold and diamonds. I know 
how very liable we are to delusion in what relates to ourselves, and 
also how much the judgments of our friends are to be suspected when 
given in our favour. But I shall endeavour in this Discourse to 
describe the paths I have followed, and to delineate my life as in a 
picture, in order that each one may be able to judge of them for 
himself, and that in the general opinion entertained of them, as 
gathered from current report, I myself may have a new help towards 
instruction to be added to those I have been in the habit of em- 
ploying. 

My present design, then, is not to teach the Method which each 
ought to follow for the right conduct of his Reason, but solely to 
describe the way in which I have endeavoured to conduct my own. 
They who set themselves to give precepts must of course regard 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 7 

themselves as possessed of greater skill than those to whom they 
prescribe; and if they err in the slightest particular, they subject them- 
selves to censure. But as this Tract is put forth merely as a history, 
or, if you will, as a tale, in which, amid some examples worthy of 
imitation, there will be found, perhaps, as many more which it were 
advisable not to follow, I hope it will prove useful to some without 
being hurtful to any, and that my openness will find some favour 
with all. 

From my childhood, I have been familiar with letters; and as I 
was given to believe that by their help a clear and certain knowledge 
of all that is useful in life might be acquired, I was ardently desirous 
of instruction. But as soon as I had finished the entire course of 
study, at the close of which it is customary to be admitted into the 
order of the learned, I completely changed my opinion. For I found 
myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced 
I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the 
discovery at every turn of my own ignorance. And yet I was studying 
in one of the most celebrated Schools in Europe, in which I thought 
there must be learned men, if such were anywhere to be found. I had 
been taught all that others learned there; and not contented with the 
sciences actually taught us, I had, in addition, read all the books that 
had fallen into my hands, treating of such branches as are esteemed 
the most curious and rare. I knew the judgment which others had 
formed of me; and I did not find that I was considered inferior to 
my fellows, although there were among them some who were already 
marked out to fill the places of our instructors. And, in fine, our age 
appears to me as flourishing, and as fertile in powerful minds as any 
preceding one. I was thus led to take the liberty of judging of all 
other men by myself, and of concluding that there was no science in 
existence that was of such a nature as I had previously been given 
to believe. 

I still continued, however, to hold in esteem the studies of the 
Schools. I was aware that the Languages taught in them are neces- 
sary to the understanding of the writings of the ancients; that the 
grace of Fable stirs the mind; that the memorable deeds of History 
elevate it; and, if read with discretion, aid in forming the judgment; 
that the perusal of all excellent books is, as it were, to interview with 



8 DESCARTES 

the noblest men of past ages, who have written them, and even a 
studied interview, in which are discovered to us only their choicest 
thoughts; that Eloquence has incomparable force and beauty; that 
Poesy has its ravishing graces and delights; that in the Mathematics 
there are many refined discoveries eminently suited to gradfy the 
inquisitive, as well as further all the arts and lessen the labour of 
man; that numerous highly useful precepts and exhortations to 
virtue are contained in treatises on Morals; that Theology points out 
the path to heaven; that Philosophy affords the means of discoursing 
with an appearance of truth on all matters, and commands the 
admiration of the more simple; that Jurisprudence, Medicine, and the 
other Sciences, secure for their cultivators honours and riches; and in 
fine, that it is useful to bestow some attention upnan all, even upon 
those abounding the most in superstition and error, that we may be 
in a position to determine their real value, and guard against being 
deceived. 

But I believed that I had already given sufficient time to Languages, 
and likewise to the reading of the writings of the ancients, to their 
Histories and Fables. For to hold converse with those of other ages 
and to travel, are almost the same thing. It is useful to know some- 
thing of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to 
form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented 
from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous 
and irrational, — a conclusion usually come to by those whose experi- 
ence has been limited to their own country. On the other hand, when 
too much time is occupied in travelling, we become strangers to our 
native country; and the over curious in the customs of the past are 
generally ignorant of those of the present. Besides, fictitious narra- 
tives lead us to imagine the possibility of many events that are 
impossible; and even the most faithful histories, if they do not wholly 
misrepresent matters, or exaggerate their importance to render the 
account of them more worthy of perusal, omit, at least, almost always 
the meanest and least striking of the attendant circumstances; hence 
it happens that the remainder does not represent the truth, and that 
such as regulate their conduct by examples drawn from this source, 
are apt to fall into the extravagances of the knight-errants of 
Romance, and to entertain projects that exceed their powers. 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 9 

I esteemed Eloquence highly, and was in raptures with Poesy; but 
I thought that both were gifts o£ nature rather than fruits of study. 
Those in whom the faculty of Reason is predominant, and who most 
skilfully dispose their thoughts with a view to render them clear 
and intelligible, are always the best able to persuade others of the 
truth of what they lay down, though they should speak only in the 
language of Lower Brittany, and be wholly ignorant of the rules of 
Rhetoric; and those whose minds are stored with the most agreeable 
fancies, and who can give expression to them with the greatest 
embellishment and harmony, are still the best poets, though unac- 
quainted with the Art of Poetry. 

I was especially delighted with the Mathematics, on account of 
the certitude and evidence of their reasonings: but I had not as yet 
a precise knowledge of their true use; and thinking that they but 
contributed to the advancement of the mechanical arts, I was aston- 
ished that foundations, so strong and solid, should have had no 
loftier superstructure reared on them. On the other hand, I com- 
pared the disquisitions of the ancient Moralists to very towering and 
magnificent palaces with no better foundation than sand and mud: 
they laud the virtues very highly, and exhibit them as estimable far 
above anything on earth; but they give us no adequate criterion of 
virtue, and frequently that which they designate with so fine a name 
is but apathy, or pride, or despair, or parricide. 

I revered our Theology, and aspired as much as any one to reach 
heaven: but being given assuredly to understand that the way is not 
less open to the most ignorant than to the most learned, and that the 
revealed truths which lead to heaven are above our comprehension, 
I did not presume to subject them to the impotency of my Reason; 
and I thought that in order competently to undertake their examina- 
tion, there was need of some special help from heaven, and of being 
more than man. 

Of philosophy I will say nothing, except that when I saw that it 
had been cultivated for many ages by the most distinguished men, 
and that yet there is not a single matter within its sphere which is not 
still in dispute, and nothing, therefore, which is above doubt, I did 
not presume to anticipate that my success would be greater in it than 
that of others; and further, when I considered the number of con- 



10 DESCARTES 

flicting opinions touching a single matter that may be upheld by 
learned men, while there can be but one true, I reckoned as well-nigh 
false all that was only probable. 

As to the other Sciences, inasmuch as these borrow their principles 
from Philosophy, I judged that no solid superstructures could be 
reared on foundations so infirm; and neither the honour nor the gain 
held out by them was sufficient to determine me to their cultivation : 
for I was not, thank Heaven, in a condition which compelled me to 
make merchandise of Science for the bettering of my fortune; and 
though I might not profess to scorn glory as a Cynic, I yet made very 
slight account of that honour which I hoped to acquire only through 
fictitious titles. And, in fine, of false Sciences I thought I knew the 
worth sufficiently to escape being deceived by the professions of an 
alchemist, the predictions of an astrologer, the impostures of a magi- 
cian, or by the artifices and boasting of any of those who profess to 
know things of which they are ignorant. 

For these reasons, as soon as my age permitted me to pass from 
under the control of my instructors, I entirely abandoned the study 
of letters, and resolved no longer to seek any other science than the 
knowledge of myself, or of the great book of the world. I spent the 
remainder of my youth in travelling, in visiting courts and armies, 
in holding intercourse with men of different dispositions and ranks, 
in collecting varied experience, in proving myself in the different 
situations into which fortune threw me, and, above all, in making 
such reflection on the matter of my experience as to secure my 
improvement. For it occurred to me that I should find much more 
truth in the reasonings of each individual with reference to the affairs 
in which he is personally interested, and the issue of which must 
presently punish him if he has judged amiss, than in those conducted 
by a man of letters in his study, regarding speculative matters that 
are of no practical moment, and followed by no consequences to 
himself, farther, perhaps, than that they foster his vanity the better 
the more remote they are from common sense; requiring, as they 
must in this case, the exercise of greater ingenuity and art to render 
them probable. In addition, I had always a most earnest desire to 
know how to distinguish the true from the false, in order that I might 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD II 

be able clearly to discriminate the right path in life, and proceed in it 
with confidence. 

It is true that, while busied only in considering the manners of 
other men, I found here, too, scarce any ground for settled convic- 
tion, and remarked hardly less contradiction among them than in the 
opinions of the philosophers. So that the greatest advantage I derived 
from the study consisted in this, that, observing many things which, 
however extravagant and ridiculous to our apprehension, are yet by 
common consent received and approved by other great nations, I 
learned to entertain too decided a belief in regard to nothing of the 
truth of which I had been persuaded merely by example and custom : 
and thus I gradually extricated myself from many errors powerful 
enough to darken our Natural Intelligence, and incapacitate us in 
great measure from listening to Reason. But after I had been occu- 
pied several years in thus studying the book of the world, and in 
essaying to gather some experience, I at length resolved to make 
myself an object of study, and to employ all the powers of my mind 
in choosing the paths I ought to follow; an undertaking which was 
accompanied with greater success than it would have been had I 
never quitted my country or my books. 



PART II 

I WAS then in Germany, attracted thither by the wars in that 
country, which have not yet been brought to a termination; and 
as I was returning to the army from the coronation of the 
Emperor, the setting in of winter arrested me in a locahty where, as I 
found no society to interest me, and was besides fortunately undis- 
turbed by any cares or passions, I remained the whole day in seclu- 
sion,' with full opportunity to occupy my attention with my own 
thoughts. Of these one of the very first that occurred to me was, 
that there is seldom so much perfection in works composed of many 
separate parts, upon which different hands have been employed, as 
in those completed by a single master. Thus it is observable that the 
buildings which a single architect has planned and executed, are 
generally more elegant and commodious than those which several 
have attempted to improve, by making old walls serve for purposes 
for which they were not originally built. Thus also, those ancient 
cities which, from being at first only villages, have become, in course 
of time, large towns, are usually but ill-laid out compared with the 
regularly constructed towns which a professional architect has freely 
planned on an open plain; so that although the several buildings of 
the former may often equal or surpass in beauty those of the latter, 
yet when one observes their indiscriminate juxtaposition, there a 
large one and here a small, and the consequent crookedness and 
irregularity of the streets, one is disposed to allege that chance rather 
than any human will guided by reason, must have led to such an 
arrangement. And if we consider that nevertheless there have been 
at all times certain officers whose duty it was to see that private 
buildings contributed to public ornament, the difficulty of reaching 
high perfection with but the materials of others to operate on, will be 
readily acknowledged. In the same way I fancied that those nations 
which, starting from a semi-barbarous state and advancing to civili- 

' Literally, in a room heated by means o£ a stove. — Tr. 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD I3 

sation by slow degrees, have had their laws successively determined, 
and, as it were, forced upon them simply by experience of the hurt- 
fulness of particular crimes and disputes, would by this process come 
to be possessed of less perfect institutions than those which, from the 
commencement of their association as communities, have followed 
the appointments of some wise legislator. It is thus quite certain that 
the constitution of the true religion, the ordinances of which are 
derived from God, must be incomparably superior to that of every 
other. And, to speak of human affairs, I believe that the past pre- 
eminence of Sparta was due not to the goodness of each of its laws 
in particular, for many of these were very strange, and even opposed 
to good morals, but to the circumstance that, originated by a single 
individual, they all tended to a single end. In the same way I thought 
that the sciences contained in books, (such of them at least as are 
made up of probable reasonings, without demonstrations,) composed 
as they are of the opinions of many different individuals massed 
together, are farther removed from truth than the simple inferences 
which a man of good sense using his natural and unprejudiced 
judgment draws respecting the matters of his experience. And 
because we have all to pass through a state of infancy to manhood, 
and have been of necessity, for a length of time, governed by our 
desires and preceptors, (whose dictates were frequently conflicting, 
while neither perhaps always counselled us for the best,) I farther 
concluded that it is almost impossible that our judgments can be so 
correct or solid as they would have been, had our Reason been 
mature from the moment of our birth, and had we always been 
guided by it alone. 

It is true, however, that it is not customary to pull down all the 
houses of a town with the single design of rebuilding them differ- 
ently, and thereby rendering the streets more handsome; but it often 
happens that a private individual takes down his own with the view 
of erecting it anew, and that people are even sometimes constrained 
to this when their houses are in danger of falling from age, or when 
the foundations are insecure. With this before me by way of example, 
I was persuaded that it would indeed be preposterous for a private 
individual to think of reforming a state by fundamentally changing 
it throughout, and overturning it in order to set it up amended; and 



14 DESCARTES 

the same I thought was true of any similar project for reforming the 
body of the Sciences, or the order of teaching them estabUshed in the 
Schools: but as for the opinions which up to that time I had em- 
braced, I thought that I could not do better than resolve at once to 
sweep them wholly away, that I might afterwards be in a position to 
admit either others more correct, or even perhaps the same when they 
had undergone the scrutiny of Reason. I firmly believed that in this 
way I should much better succeed in the conduct of my life, than if 
I built only upon old foundations, and leant upon principles which, 
in my youth, I had taken upon trust. For although I recognised 
various difficulties in this undertaking, these were not, however, 
without remedy, nor once to be compared with such as attend the 
slightest reformation in public affairs. Large bodies, if once over- 
thrown, are with great difficulty set up again, or even kept erect 
when once seriously shaken, and the fall of such is always disastrous. 
Then if there are any imperfections in the constitutions of states, 
(and that many such exist the diversity of constitutions is alone 
sufficient to assure us,) custom has without doubt materially 
smoothed their inconveniences, and has even managed to steer alto- 
gether clear of, or insensibly corrected a number which sagacity 
could not have provided against with equal effect; and, in fine, the 
defects are almost always more tolerable than the change necessary 
for their removal; in the same manner that highways which wind 
among mountains, by being much frequented, become gradually 
so smooth and commodious, that it is much better to follow them 
than to seek a straighter path by climbing over the tops of rocks 
and descending to the bottoms of precipices. 

Hence it is that I cannot in any degree approve of those restless 
and busy meddlers who, called neither by birth nor fortune to take 
part in the management of public affairs, are yet always projecting 
reforms; and if I thought that this Tract contained aught which 
might justify the suspicion that I was a victim of such folly, I would 
by no means permit its publication. I have never contemplated any- 
thing higher than the reformation of my own opinions, and basing 
them on a foundation wholly my own. And although my own satis- 
faction with my work has led me to present here a draft of it, I do not 
by any means therefore recommend to every one else to make a 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD I5 

similar attempt. Those whom God has endowed with a larger meas- 
ure of genius will entertain, perhaps, designs still more exalted; but 
for the many I am much afraid lest even the present undertaking be 
more than they can safely venture to imitate. The single design to 
strip one's self of all past beliefs is one that ought not to be taken by 
every one. The majority of men is composed of two classes, for 
neither of which would this be at all a befitting resolution: in the jirst 
place, of those who with more than a due confidence in their own 
powers, are precipitate in their judgments and want the patience 
requisite for orderly and circumspect thinking; whence it happens, 
that if men of this class once take the liberty to doubt of their 
accustomed opinions, and quit the beaten highway, they will never 
be able to thread the byeway that would lead them by a shorter 
course, and will lose themselves and continue to wander for life; 
in the second place, of those who, possessed of sufficient sense or 
modesty to determine that there are others who excel them in the 
power of discriminating between truth and error, and by whom 
they may be instructed, ought rather to content themselves with 
the opinions of such than trust for more correct to their own 
Reason. 

For my own part, I should doubtless have belonged to the latter 
class, had I received instruction from but one master, or had I never 
known the diversities of opinion that from time immemorial have 
prevailed among men of the greatest learning. But I had become 
aware, even so early as during my college life, that no opinion, how- 
ever absurd and incredible, can be imagined, which has not been 
maintained by some one of the philosophers; and afterwards in the 
course of my travels I remarked that all those whose opinions are 
decidedly repugnant to ours are not on that account barbarians and 
savages, but on the contrary that many of these nations make an 
equally good, if not a better, use of their Reason than we do. I took 
into account also the very different character which a person brought 
up from infancy in France or Germany exhibits, from that which, 
with the same mind originally, this individual would have possessed 
had he lived always among the Chinese or with savages, and the 
circumstance that in dress itself the fashion which pleased us ten 
years ago, and which may again, perhaps, be received into favour 



1 6 DESCARTES 

before ten years have gone, appears to us at this moment extravagant 
and ridiculous. I was thus led to infer that the ground of our opin- 
ions is far more custom and example than any certain knowledge. 
And, finally, although such be the ground of our opinions, I remarked 
that a plurality of suffrages is no guarantee of truth where it is at all 
of difficult discovery, as in such cases it is much more likely that it 
will be found by one than by many. I could, however, select from 
the crowd no one whose opinions seemed worthy of preference, and 
thus I found myself constrained, as it were, to use my own Reason 
in the conduct of my life. 

But like one walking alone and in the dark, I resolved to proceed 
so slowly and with such circumspection, that if I did not advance far, 
I would at least guard against falling. I did not even choose to 
dismiss summarily any of the opinions that had crept into my belief 
without having been introduced by Reason, but first of all took 
sufficient time carefully to satisfy myself of the general nature of the 
task I was setting myself, and ascertain the true Method by which to 
arrive at the knowledge of whatever lay within the compass of my 
powers. 

Among the branches of Philosophy, I had, at an earlier period, 
given some attention to Logic, and among those of the Mathematics 
to Geometrical Analysis and Algebra, — three Arts or Sciences which 
ought, as I conceived, to contribute something to my design. But, on 
examination, I found that, as for Logic, its syllogisms and the 
majority of its other precepts are of avail rather in the communica- 
tion of what we already know, or even as the Art of Lully, in speak- 
ing without judgment of things of which we are ignorant, than in 
the investigation of the unknown; and although this Science contains 
indeed a number of correct and very excellent precepts, there are, 
nevertheless, so many others, and these either injurious or superflu- 
ous, mingled with the former, that it is almost quite as difficult to 
effect a severance of the true from the false as it is to extract a Diana 
or a Minerva from a rough block of marble. Then as to the Analysis 
of the ancients and the Algebra of the moderns, besides that they 
embrace only matters highly abstract, and, to appearance, of no use, 
the former is so exclusively restricted to the consideration of figures, 
that it can exercise the Understanding only on condition of greatly 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 1 7 

fatiguing the Imagination;^ and, in the latter, there is so complete a 
subjection to certain rules and formulas, that there results an art full 
of confusion and obscurity calculated to embarrass, instead of a 
science fitted to cultivate the mind. By these considerations I was 
induced to seek some other Method which would comprise the 
advantages of the three and be exempt from their defects. And as a 
multitude of laws often only hampers justice, so that a state is best 
governed when, with few laws, these are rigidly administered; in 
like manner, instead of the great number of precepts of which Logic 
is composed, I believed that the four following would prove perfectly 
sufficient for me, provided I took the firm and unwavering resolution 
never in a single instance to fail in observing them. 

The first was never to accept anything for true which I did not 
clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy 
and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than 
what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to 
exclude all ground of doubt. 

The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination 
into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its 
adequate solution. 

The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by com- 
mencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might 
ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowl- 
edge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even 
to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a rela- 
tion of antecedence and sequence. 

And the last, in every case to make enumerations so complete, and 
reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted. 

The long chains of simple and easy reasonings by means of which 
geometers are accustomed to reach the conclusions of their most 
difficult demonstrations, had led me to imagine that all things, to 
the knowledge of which man is competent, are mutually connected 
in the same way, and that there is nothing so far removed from us 
as to be beyond our reach, or so hidden that we cannot discover it, 
provided only we abstain from accepting the false for the true, and 

^The Imagination must here be taken as equivalent simply to the Representative 
Faculty. — Tr. 



l8 DESCARTES 

always preserve in our thoughts the order necessary for the deduc- 
tion of one truth from another. And I had Uttle difficulty in deter- 
mining the objects with which it was necessary to commence, for I 
was already persuaded that it must be with the simplest and easiest 
to know, and, considering that of all those who have hitherto sought 
truth in the Sciences, the mathematicians alone have been able to 
find any demonstrations, that is, any certain and evident reasons, I 
did not doubt but that such must have been the rule of their investi- 
gations. I resolved to commence, therefore, with the examination 
of the simplest objects, not anticipating, however, from this any other 
advantage than that to be found in accustoming my mind to the 
love and nourishment of truth, and to a distaste for all such reason- 
ings as were unsound. But I had no intention on that account of 
attempting to master all the particular Sciences commonly denomi- 
nated Mathematics: but observing that, however different their 
objects, they all agree in considering only the various relations or 
proportions subsisting among those objects, I thought it best for my 
purpose to consider these proportions in the most general form 
possible, without referring them to any objects in particular, except 
such as would most facilitate the knowledge of them, and without 
by any means restricting them to these, that afterwards I might thus 
be the better able to apply them to every other class of objects to 
which they are legitimately applicable. Perceiving further, that in 
order to understand these relations I should sometimes have to con- 
sider them one by one, and sometimes only to bear them in mind, 
or embrace them in the aggregate, I thought that, in order the better 
to consider them individually, I should view them as subsisting 
between straight lines, than which I could find no objects more 
simple, or capable of being more distinctly represented to my imagi- 
nation and senses; and on the other hand, that in order to retain 
them in the memory, or embrace an aggregate of many, I should 
express them by certain characters the briefest possible. In this way 
I believed that I could borrow all that was best both in Geometrical 
Analysis and in Algebra, and correct all the defects of the one by help 
of the other. 

And, in point of fact, the accurate observance of these few precepts 
gave me, I take the liberty of saying, such ease in unraveUing all the 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD I9 

questions embraced in these two sciences, that in the two or three 
months I devoted to their examination, not only did I reach solutions 
of questions I had formerly deemed exceedingly difScult, but even 
as regards questions of the solution of which I continued ignorant, 
I was enabled, as it appeared to me, to determine the means whereby, 
and the extent to which, a solution was possible; results attributable 
to the circumstance that I commenced with the simplest and most 
general truths, and that thus each truth discovered was a rule avail- 
able in the discovery of subsequent ones. Nor in this perhaps shall I 
appear too vain if it be considered that, as the truth on any particular 
point is one, whoever apprehends the truth, knows all that on that 
point can be known. The child, for example, who has been instructed 
in the elements of Arithmetic, and has made a particular addition, 
according to rule, may be assured that he has found, with respect to 
the sum of the numbers before him, all that in this instance is 
within the reach of human genius. Now, in conclusion, the Method 
which teaches adherence to the true order, and an exact enumera- 
tion of all the conditions of the thing sought includes all that gives 
certitude to the rules of Arithmetic. 

But the chief ground of my satisfaction with this Method, was the 
assurance I had of thereby exercising my reason in all matters, if not 
with absolute perfection, at least with the greatest attainable by me: 
besides, I was conscious that by its use my mind was becoming gradu- 
ally habituated to clearer and more distinct conceptions of its objects; 
and I hoped also, from not having restricted this Method to any 
particular matter, to apply it to the difficulties of the other Sciences, 
with not less success than to those of Algebra. I should not, however, 
on this account have ventured at once on the examination of all the 
difficulties of the Sciences which presented themselves to me, for 
this would have been contrary to the order prescribed in the Method, 
but observing that the knowledge of such is dependent on principles 
borrowed from Philosophy, in which I found nothing certain, I 
thought it necessary first of all to endeavour to establish its principles. 
And because I observed, besides, that an inquiry of this kind was 
of all others of the greatest moment, and one in which precipitancy 
and anticipation in judgment were most to be dreaded, I thought 
that I ought not to approach it till I had reached a more mature age. 



20 DESCARTES 

(being at that time but twenty-three,) and had first o£ all employed 
much of my time in preparation for the work, as well by eradicating 
from my mind all the erroneous opinions I had up to that moment 
accepted, as by amassing variety o£ experience to afford materials for 
my reasonings, and by continually exercising myself in my chosen 
Method with a view to increased skill in its application. 



PART III 

j4 ND, finally, as it is not enough, before commencing to rebuild 
L\ the house in which we Uve, that it be pulled down, and 
A. .M. materials and builders provided, or that we engage in the 
work ourselves, according to a plan which we have beforehand care- 
fully drawn out, but as it is likewise necessary that we be furnished 
with some other house in which we may live commodiously during 
the operations, so that I might not remain irresolute in my actions, 
while my Reason compelled me to suspend my judgment, and that 
I might not be prevented from living thenceforward in the greatest 
possible felicity, I formed a provisory code of Morals, composed of 
three or four maxims, with which I am desirous to make you 
acquainted. 

The first was to obey the laws and customs of my country, adhering 
firmly to the Faith in which, by the grace of God, I had been edu- 
cated from my childhood, and regulating my conduct in every other 
matter according to the most moderate opinions, and the farthest 
removed from extremes, which should happen to be adopted in prac- 
tice with general consent of the most judicious of those among whom 
I might be living. For, as I had from that time begun to hold my 
own opinions for nought because I wished to subject them all to 
examination, I was convinced that I could not do better than follow 
in the meantime the opinions of the most judicious; and although 
there are some perhaps among the Persians and Chinese as judi- 
cious as among ourselves, expediency seemed to dictate that I should 
regulate my practice conformably to the opinions of those with whom 
I should have to live; and it appeared to me that, in order to ascertain 
the real opinions of such, I ought rather to take cognizance of what 
they practised than of what they said, not only because, in the corrup- 
tion of our manners, there are few disposed to speak exactly as they 
believe, but also because very many are not aware of what it is that 
they really believe; for, as the act of mind by which a thing is believed 



\i.2. UtSUAKlJiS 



is different from that by which we know that we beHeve it, the one 
act is often found without the other. Also, amid many opinions held 
in equal repute, I chose always the most moderate, as much for the 
reason that these are always the most convenient for practice, and 
probably the best, (for all excess is generally vicious,) as that, in the 
event of my falling into error, I might be at less distance from the 
truth than if, having chosen one of the extremes, it should turn out 
to be the other which I ought to have adopted. And I placed in the 
class of extremes especially all promises by which somewhat of our 
freedom is abridged; not that I disapproved of the laws which, to 
provide against the instability of men of feeble resolution, when what 
is sought to be accomplished is some good, permit engagements by 
vows and contracts binding the parties to persevere in it, or even, 
for the security of commerce, sanction similar engagements where 
the purpose sought to be realized is indifferent: but because I did not 
find anything on earth which was wholly superior to change, and 
because, for myself in particular, I hoped gradually to perfect my 
judgments, and not to suffer them to deteriorate, I would have 
deemed it a grave sin against good sense, if, for the reason that I 
approved of something at a particular time, I therefore bound myself 
to hold it for good at a subsequent time, when perhaps it had ceased 
to be so, or I had ceased to esteem it such. 

My second maxim was to be as firm and resolute in my actions as 
I was able, and not to adhere less steadfastly to the most doubtful 
opinions, when once adopted, than if they had been highly certain; 
imitating in this the example of travellers who, when they have lost 
their way in a forest, ought not to wander from side to side, far less 
remain in one place, but proceed constantly towards the same side 
in as straight a line as possible, without changing their direction for 
slight reasons, although perhaps it might be chance alone which at 
first determined the selection; for in this way, if they do not exactly 
reach the point they desire, they will come at least in the end to some 
place that will probably be preferable to the middle of a forest. In the 
same way, since in action it frequently happens that no delay is 
permissible, it is very certain that, when it is not in our power to 
determine what is true, we ought to act according to what is most 
probable; and even although we should not remark a greater prob- 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 23 

ability in one opinion than in another, we ought notwithstanding to 
choose one or the other, and afterwards consider it, in so far as it 
relates to practice, as no longer dubious, but manifestly true and 
certain, since the reason by which our choice has been determined is 
itself possessed of these qualities. This principle was sufficient 
thenceforward to rid me of all those repentings and pangs of remorse 
that usually disturb the consciences of such feeble and uncertain 
minds as, destitute of any clear and determinate principle of choice, 
allow themselves one day to adopt a course of action as the best, 
which they abandon the next, as the opposite. 

My third maxim was to endeavour always to conquer myself 
rather than fortune, and change my desires rather than the order 
of the world, and in general, accustom myself to the persuasion that, 
except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power; 
so that when we have done our best in respect of things external to 
us, all wherein we fail of success is to be held, as regards us, abso- 
lutely impossible: and this single principle seemed to me sufficient to 
prevent me from desiring for the future anything which I could not 
obtain, and thus render me contented; for since our will naturally 
seeks those objects alone which the understanding represents as in 
some way possible of attainment, it is plain, that if we consider all 
external goods as equally beyond our power, we shall no more regret 
the absence of such goods as seem due to our birth, when deprived 
of them without any fault of ours, than our not possessing the king- 
doms of China or Mexico; and thus making, so to speak, a virtue of 
necessity, we shall no more desire health in disease, or freedom in 
imprisonment, than we now do bodies incorruptible as diamonds, or 
the wings of birds to fly with. But I confess there is need of pro- 
longed discipline and frequently repeated meditation to accustom the 
mind to view all objects in this light; and I believe that in this chiefly 
consisted the secret of the power of such philosophers as in former 
times were enabled to rise superior to the influence of fortune, and 
amid suffering and poverty, enjoy a happiness which their gods 
might have envied. For, occupied incessantly with the consideration 
of the limits prescribed to their power by nature, they became so 
entirely convinced that nothing was at their disposal except thdr 
own thoughts, that this conviction was of itself sufficient to prevent 



24 DESCARTES 

their entertaining any desire of other objects; and over their thoughts 
they acquired a sway so absolute, that they had some ground on this 
account for esteeming themselves more rich and more powerful, 
more free and more happy, than other men who, whatever be the 
favours heaped on them by nature and fortune, if destitute of this 
philosophy, can never command the realization of all their desires. 

In fine, to conclude this code of Morals, I thought of reviewing 
the different occupations of men in this life, with the view of making 
choice of the best. And, without wishing to offer any remarks on the 
employments of others, I may state that it was my conviction that I 
could not do better than continue in that in which I was engaged, 
viz., in devoting my whole life to the culture of my Reason, and in 
making the greatest progress I was able in the knowledge of truth, 
on the principles of the Method which I had prescribed to myself. 
This Method, from the time I had begun to apply it, had been to me 
the source of satisfaction so intense as to lead me to believe that more 
perfect or more innocent could not be enjoyed in this life; and as 
by its means I daily discovered truths that appeared to me of some 
importance, and of which other men were generally ignorant, the 
gratification thence arising so occupied my mind that I was wholly 
indifferent to every other object. Besides, the three preceding maxims 
were founded singly on the design of continuing the work of self- 
instruction. For since God has endowed each of us with some Light 
of Reason by which to distinguish truth from error, I could not have 
believed that I ought for a single moment to rest satisfied with the 
opinions of another, unless I had resolved to exercise my own judg- 
ment in examining these whenever I should be duly qualified for 
the task. Nor could I have proceeded on such opinions without 
scruple, had I supposed that I should thereby forfeit any advantage 
for attaining still more accurate, should such exist. And, in fine, I 
could not have restrained my desires, nor remained satisfied, had I not 
followed a path in which I thought myself certain of attaining all 
the knowledge to the acquisition of which I was competent, as well 
as the largest amount of what is truly good which I could ever hope 
to secure. Inasmuch as we neither seek nor shun any object except 
in so far as our understanding represents it as good or bad, all that 
is necessary to right action is right judgment, and to the best action 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 25 

the most correct judgment, — that is, to the acquisition of all the 
virtues with all else that is truly valuable and within our reach; 
and the assurance of such an acquisition cannot fail to render us 
contented. 

Having thus provided myself with these maxims, and having 
placed them in reserve along with the truths of Faith, which have 
ever occupied the first place in my belief, I came to the conclusion 
that I might with freedom set about ridding myself of what remained 
of my opinions. And, inasmuch as I hoped to be better able success- 
fully to accomplish this work by holding intercourse with mankind, 
than by remaining longer shut up in the retirement where these 
thoughts had occurred to me, I betook me again to travelling before 
the winter was well ended. And, during the nine subsequent years, 
I did nothing but roam from one place to another, desirous of being 
a spectator rather than an actor in the plays exhibited on the theatre 
of the world; and, as I made it my business in each matter to reflect 
particularly upon what might fairly be doubted and prove a source 
of error, I gradually rooted out from my mind all the errors which 
had hitherto crept into it. Not that in this I imitated the Sceptics 
who doubt only that they may doubt, and seek nothing beyond 
uncertainty itself; for, on the contrary, my design was singly to find 
ground of assurance, and cast aside the loose earth and sand, that I 
might reach the rock or the clay. In this, as appears to me, I was 
successful enough; for, since I endeavoured to discover the falsehood 
or incertitude of the propositions I examined, not by feeble conjec- 
tures, but by clear and certain reasonings, I met with nothing so 
doubtful as not to yield some conclusion of adequate certainty, al- 
though this were merely the inference, that the matter in question 
contained nothing certain. And, just as in pulling down an old 
house, we usually reserve the ruins to contribute towards the erec- 
tion, so, in destroying such of my opinions as I judged to be ill- 
founded, I made a variety of observations and acquired an amount 
of experience of which I availed myself in the establishment of more 
certain. And further, I continued to exercise myself in the Method 
I had prescribed; for, besides taking care in general to conduct all 
my thoughts according to its rules, I reserved some hours from time 
to time which I expressly devoted to the employment of the Method 



2.6 DESCARTES 

in the solution of Mathematical difficulties, or even in the solution 
likewise of some questions belonging to other Sciences, but which, 
by my having detached them from such principles of these Sciences 
as were of inadequate certainty, were rendered almost Mathematical: 
the truth of this will be manifest from the numerous examples con- 
tained in this volume.' And thus, without in appearance living 
otherwise than those who, with no other occupation than that of 
spending their lives agreeably and innocently, study to sever pleasure 
from vice, and who, that they may enjoy their leisure without ennui, 
have recourse to such pursuits as are honourable, I was nevertheless 
prosecuting my design, and making greater progress in the knowl- 
edge of truth, than I might, perhaps, have made had I been engaged 
in the perusal of books merely, or in holding converse with men of 
letters. 

These nine years passed away, however, before I had come to any 
determinate judgment respecting the difficulties which form matter 
of dispute among the learned, or had commenced to seek the princi- 
ples of any Philosophy more certain than the vulgar. And the 
examples of many men of the highest genius, who had, in former 
times, engaged in this inquiry, but, as appeared to me, without suc- 
cess, led me to imagine it to be a work of so much difficulty, that I 
would not perhaps have ventured on it so soon had I not heard it 
currently rumoured that I had already completed the inquiry. I 
know not what were the grounds of this opinion; and, if my conver- 
sation contributed in any measure to its rise, this must have happened 
rather from my having confessed my ignorance with greater freedom 
than those are accustomed to do who have studied a little, and ex- 
pounded, perhaps, the reasons that led me to doubt of many of those 
things that by others are esteemed certain, than from my having 
boasted of any system of Philosophy. But, as I am of a disposition 
that makes me unwilling to be esteemed different from what I really 
am, I thought it necessary to endeavour by all means to render myself 
worthy of the reputation accorded to me; and it is now exactly eight 
years since this desire constrained me to remove from all those places 
where interruption from any of my acquaintances was possible, and 

'The Discourse on Method was originally published along with the Dioptricsi the 
Mcteorics, and the Geometry. — Tr. 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD T] 

betake myself to this country,^ in which the long duration of the war 
has led to the establishment of such discipline, that the armies main- 
tained seem to be of use only in enabling the inhabitants to enjoy 
more securely the blessings of peace; and where, in the midst of a 
great crowd actively engaged in business, and more careful of their 
own affairs than curious about those of others, I have been enabled 
to live without being deprived of any of the conveniences to be had 
in the most populous cities, and yet as solitary and as retired as in 
the midst of the most remote deserts. 

^Holland; to which country he withdrew in 1629. — Tr. 



PART IV 

I AM in doubt as to the propriety of making my first meditations 
in the place above mentioned matter of discourse; for these are 
so metaphysical, and so uncommon, as not, perhaps, to be ac- 
ceptable to every one. And yet, that it may be determined whether 
the foundations that I have laid are sufficiently secure, I find myself 
in a measure constrained to advert to them. I had long before re- 
marked that, in (relation to) practice, it is sometimes necessary to 
adopt, as if above doubt, opinions which we discern to be highly 
uncertain, as has been already said; but as I then desired to give my 
attention solely to the search after truth, I thought that a procedure 
exactly the opposite was called for, and that I ought to reject as 
absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the 
least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there 
remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable. Accord- 
ingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to 
suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; 
and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms, 
even on the simplest matters of Geometry, I, convinced that I was as 
open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had 
hitherto taken for demonstrations; and finally, when I considered 
that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience 
when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while 
there is at that time not one of them true, I supposed that all the 
objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when 
awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams. 
But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished 
to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who 
thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, 
/ thin\, hence I am, was so certain and of such evidence, that no 
ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the 
Sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without 

28 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 29 

scruple, accept it as the first principle of the Philosophy of which 
I was in search. 

In the next place, I attentively examined what I was, and as I 
observed that I could suppose that I had no body, and that there 
was no world nor any place in which I might be; but that I could 
not therefore suppose that I was not; and that, on the contrary, from 
the very circumstance that I thought to doubt of the truth of other 
things, it most clearly and certainly followed that I was; while, on the 
other hand, if I had only ceased to think, although all the other 
objects which I had ever imagined had been in reality existent, I 
would have had no reason to believe that I existed; I thence con- 
cluded that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature con- 
sists only in thinking, and which, that it may exist, has need of no 
place, nor is dependent on any material thing; so that "I," that is to 
say, the mind by which I am what I am, is wholly distinct from the 
body, and is even more easily known than the latter, and is such, that 
although the latter were not, it would still continue to be all that it is. 

After this I inquired in general into what is essential to the truth 
and certainty of a proposition; for since I had discovered one which 
I knew to be true, I thought that I must likewise be able to discover 
the ground of this certitude. And as I observed that in the words 
/ thin\, hence I am, there is nothing at all which gives me assurance 
of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to 
think it is necessary to exist, I concluded that I might take, as a 
general rule, the principle, that all the things which we very clearly 
and distinctly conceive are true, only observing, however, that there 
is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we dis- 
tinctly conceive. 

In the next place, from reflecting on the circumstance that I 
doubted, and that consequently my being was not wholly perfect, 
(for I clearly saw that it was a greater perfection to know than to 
doubt,) I was led to inquire whence I had learned to think of some- 
thing more perfect than myself; and I clearly recognised that I must 
hold this notion from some Nature which in reality was more per- 
fect. As for the thoughts of many other objects external to me, as 
of the sky, the earth, light, heat, and a thousand more, I was less at a 
loss to know whence these came; for since I remarked in them 



30 DESCARTES 

nothing which seemed to render them superior to myself, I could 
believe that, if these were true, they were dependencies on my own 
nature, in so far as it possessed a certain perfection, and, if they were 
false, that I held them from nothing, that is to say, that they were 
in me because of a certain imperfection of my nature. But this 
could not be the case with the idea of a Nature more perfect than 
myself; for to receive it from nothing was a thing manifestly impos- 
sible; and, because it is not less repugnant that the more perfect 
should be an effect of, and dependence on the less perfect, than that 
something should proceed from nothing, it was equally impossible 
that I could hold it from myself: accordingly, it but remained that 
it had been placed in me by a Nature which was in reality more 
perfect than mine, and which even possessed within itself all the 
perfections of which I could form any idea; that is to say, in a 
single word, which was God. And to this I added that, since I 
knew some perfections which I did not possess, I was not the only 
being in existence, (I will here, with your permission, freely use the 
terms of the schools) ; but, on the contrary, that there was of neces- 
sity some other more perfect Being upon whom I was dependent, 
and from whom I had received all that I possessed; for if I had 
existed alone, and independently of every other being, so as to have 
had from myself all the perfection, however litde, which I actually 
possessed, I should have been able, for the same reason, to have had 
from myself the whole remainder of perfection, of the want of which 
I was conscious, and thus could of myself have become infinite, 
eternal, immutable, omniscient, all-powerful, and, in fine, have 
possessed all the perfection which I could recognise in God. For in 
order to know the nature of God, (whose existence has been estab- 
lished by the preceding reasonings,) as far as my own nature per- 
mitted, I had only to consider in reference to all the properties of 
which I found in my mind some idea, whether their possession 
was a mark of perfection; and I was assured that no one which 
indicated any imperfection was in him, and that none of the rest 
was awanting. Thus I perceived that doubt, inconstancy, sadness, 
and such like, could not be found in God, since I myself would have 
been happy to be free from them. Besides, I had ideas of many 
sensible and corporeal things; for although I might suppose that 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 3I 

I was dreaming, and that all which I saw or imagined was false, I 
could not, nevertheless, deny that the ideas were in reality in my 
thoughts. But, because I had already very clearly recognised in 
myself that the intelligent nature is distinct from the corporeal, and 
as I observed that all composition is an evidence of dependency, and 
that a state of dependency is manifestly a state of imperfection, I 
therefore determined that it could not be a perfection in God to be 
compounded of these two natures, and that consequently he was 
not so compounded; but that if there were any bodies in the world, 
or even any intelligences, or other natures that were not wholly per- 
fect, their existence depended on his power in such a way that they 
could not subsist without him for a single moment. 

I was disposed straightway to search for other truths; and when I 
had represented to myself the object of the geometers, which I 
conceived to be a continuous body, or a space indefinitely extended in 
length, breadth, and height or depth, divisible into divers parts 
which admit of different figures and sizes, and of being moved or 
transposed in all manner of ways, (for all this the geometers sup- 
pose to be in the object they contemplate,) I went over some of 
their simplest demonstrations. And, in the first place, I observed, 
that the great certitude which by common consent is accorded to 
these demonstrations, is founded solely upon this, that they are 
clearly conceived in accordance with the rules I have already laid 
down. In the next place, I perceived that there was nothing at 
all in these demonstrations which could assure me of the existence 
of their object: thus, for example, supposing a triangle to be given, 
I distinctly perceived that its three angles were necessarily equal 
to two right angles, but I did not on that account perceive anything 
which could assure me that any triangle existed: while, on the 
contrary, recurring to the examination of the idea of a Perfect 
Being, I found that the existence of the Being was comprised in 
the idea in the same way that the equality of its three angles to two 
right angles is comprised in the idea of a triangle, or as in the idea 
of a sphere, the equidistance of all points on its surface from the 
centre, or even still more clearly; and that consequently it is at 
least as certain that God, who is this Perfect Being, is, or exists, 
as any demonstration of Geometry can be. 



32 DESCARTES 

But the reason which leads many to persuade themselves that 
there is a difficulty in knowing this truth, and even also in knowing 
what their mind really is, is that they never raise their thoughts 
above sensible objects, and are so accustomed to consider nothing 
except by way o£ imagination, which is a mode of thinking limited 
to material objects, that all that is not imaginable seems to them 
not intelligible. The truth of this is sufficiently manifest from the 
single circumstance, that the philosophers of the Schools accept as 
a maxim that there is nothing in the Understanding which was not 
previously in the Senses, in which however it is certain that the 
ideas of God and of the soul have never been; and it appears to me 
that they who make use of their imagination to comprehend these 
ideas do exactly the same thing as if, in order to hear sounds or 
smell odours, they strove to avail themselves of their eyes; unless 
indeed that there is this difference, that the sense of sight does not 
afford us an inferior assurance to those of smell or hearing; in 
place of which, neither our imagination nor our senses can give us 
assurance of anything unless our Understanding intervene. 

Finally, if there be, still persons who are not sufficiently persuaded 
of the existence of God and of the soul, by the reasons I have adduced, 
I am desirous that they should know that all the other propositions, 
of the truth of which they deem themselves perhaps more assured, 
as that we have a body, and that there exist stars and an earth, 
and such like, are less certain; for, although we have a moral 
assurance of these things, which is so strong that there is an 
appearance of extravagance in doubting of their existence, yet at 
the same time no one, unless his intellect is impaired, can deny, 
when the question relates to a metaphysical certitude, that there is 
sufficient reason to exclude entire assurance, in the observation that 
when asleep we can in the same way imagine ourselves possessed of 
another body and that we see other stars and another earth, when 
there is nothing of the kind. For how do we know that the thoughts 
which occur in dreaming are false rather than those other which we 
experience when awake, since the former are often not less vivid 
and distinct than the latter? And though men of the highest 
genius study this question as long as they please, I do not believe 
that they will be able to give any reason which can be sufficient 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 33 

to remove this doubt, unless they presuppose the existence of God. 
For, in the first place, even the principle which I have already 
taken as a rule, viz., that all the things which we clearly and 
distinctly conceive are true, is certain only because God is or exists, 
and because he is a Perfect Being, and because all that we possess 
is derived from him: whence it follows that our ideas or notions, 
which to the extent of their clearness and distinctness are real, and 
proceed from God, must to that extent be true. Accordingly, 
whereas we not unfrequently have ideas or notions in which some 
falsity is contained, this can only be the case with such as are to 
some extent confused and obscure, and in this proceed from nothing, 
(participate of negation,) that is, exist in us thus confused because we 
are not wholly perfect. And it is evident that it is not less repugnant 
that falsity or imperfection, in so far as it is imperfection, should 
proceed from God, than that truth or perfection should proceed from 
nothing. But if we did not know that all which we possess of real 
and true proceeds from a Perfect and Infinite Being, however clear 
and distinct our ideas might be, we should have no ground on that 
account for the assurance that they possessed the perfection of 
being true. 

But after the knowledge of God and of the soul has rendered 
us certain of this rule, we can easily understand that the truth of the 
thoughts we experience when awake, ought not in the slightest 
degree to be called in question on account of the illusions of our 
dreams. For if it happened that an individual, even when asleep, 
had some very distinct idea, as, for example, if a geometer should 
discover some new demonstration, the circumstance of his being 
asleep would not militate against its truth; and as for the most 
ordinary error of our dreams, which consists in their representing 
to us various objects in the same way as our external senses, this 
is not prejudicial, since it leads us very properly to suspect the truth 
of the ideas of sense; for we are not unfrequently deceived in the 
same manner when awake; as when persons in the jaundice see all 
objects yellow, or when the stars or bodies at a great distance appear 
to us much smaller than they are. For, in fine, whether awake or 
asleep, we ought never to allow ourselves to be persuaded of the 
truth of anything unless on the evidence of our Reason. And it 



34 DESCARTES 

must be noted that I say of our Reason, and not of our imagination 
or of our senses: thus, for example, although we very clearly see the 
sun, we ought not therefore to determine that it is only of the size 
which our sense of sight presents; and we may very distinctly imagine 
the head of a lion joined to the body of a goat, without being therefore 
shut up to the conclusion that a chiraaera exists; for it is not a dictate 
of Reason that what we thus see or imagine is in reality existent; 
but it plainly tells us that all our ideas or notions contain in them 
some truth; for otherwise it could not be that God, who is wholly 
perfect and veracious, should have placed them in us. And because 
our reasonings are never so clear or so complete during sleep as 
when we are awake, although sometimes the acts of our imagination 
are then as lively and distinct, if not more so than in our waking 
moments, Reason further dictates that, since all our thoughts cannot 
be true because of our partial imperfection, those possessing truth 
must infallibly be found in the experience of our waking moments 
rather than in that of our dreams. 



PART V 

I WOULD here willingly have proceeded to exhibit the whole 
chain of truths which I deduced from these primary; but as 
with a view to this it would have been necessary now to treat of 
many questions in dispute among the learned, with whom I do not 
wish to be embroiled, I believe that it will be better for me to refrain 
from this exposition, and only mention in general what these truths 
are, that the more judicious may be able to determine whether a 
more special account of them would conduce to the public ad- 
vantage. I have ever remained firm in my original resolution to 
suppose no other principle than that of which I have recently 
availed myself in demonstrating the existence of God and of the 
soul, and to accept as true nothing that did not appear to me more 
clear and certain than the demonstrations of the geometers had 
formerly appeared; and yet I venture to state that not only have I 
found means to satisfy myself in a short time on all the principal 
difficulties which are usually treated of in Philosophy, but I have also 
observed certain laws estabhshed in nature by God in such a 
manner, and of which he has impressed on our minds such notions, 
that after we have reflected sufficiently upon these, we cannot doubt 
that they are accurately observed in all that exists or takes place in 
the world: and farther, by considering the concatenation of these 
laws, it appears to me that I have discovered many truths more 
useful and more important than all I had before learned, or even 
had expected to learn. 

But because I have essayed to expound the chief of these dis- 
coveries in a Treatise which certain considerations prevent me from 
publishing, I cannot make the results known more conveniently 
than by here giving a summary of the contents of this Treatise. 
It was my design to comprise in it all that, before I set myself to 
write it, I thought I knew of the nature of material objects. But 
Hke the painters who, finding themselves unable to represent equally 

35 



36 DESCARTES 

well on a plain surface all the different faces of a solid body, select 
one of the chief, on which alone they make the light fall, and throw- 
ing the rest into the shade, allow them to appear only in so far as they 
can be seen while looking at the principal one; so, fearing lest I 
should not be able to comprise in my discourse all that was in my 
mind, I resolved to expound singly, though at considerable length, 
my opinions regarding light; then to take the opportunity of adding 
something on the sun and the fixed stars, since light almost wholly 
proceeds from them; on the heavens since they transmit it; on the 
planets, comets, and earth, since they reflect it; and particularly on 
all the bodies that are upon the earth, since they are either coloured, 
or transparent, or luminous; and finally on man, since he is the 
spectator of these objects. Further, to enable me to cast this variety 
of subjects somewhat into the shade, and to express my judgment 
regarding them with greater freedom, without being necessitated 
to adopt or refute the opinions of the learned, I resolved to leave all 
the people here to their disputes, and to speak only of what would 
happen in a new world, if God were now to create somewhere in the 
imaginary spaces matter sufficient to compose one, and were to 
agitate variously and confusedly the different parts of this matter, 
so that there resulted a chaos as disordered as the poets ever feigned, 
and after that did nothing more than lend his ordinary concurrence 
to nature, and allow her to act in accordance with the laws which 
he had established. On this supposition, I, in the first place, de- 
scribed this matter, and essayed to represent it in such a manner 
that to my mind there can be nothing clearer and more intelligible, 
except what has been recently said regarding God and the soul; 
for I even expressly supposed that it possessed none of those forms 
or quaUties which are so debated in the Schools, nor in general 
anything the knowledge of which is not so natural to our minds 
that no one can so much as imagine himself ignorant of it. Besides, 
I have pointed out what are the laws of nature; and, with no 
other principle upon which to found my reasonings except the 
infinite perfection of God, I endeavoured to demonstrate all those 
about which there could be any room for doubt, and to prove 
that they are such, that even if God had created more worlds, 
there could have been none in which these laws were not observed. 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 37 

Thereafter, I showed how the greatest part of the matter of this 
chaos must, in accordance with these laws, dispose and arrange 
itself in such a way as to present the appearance of heavens; how 
in the meantime some of its parts must compose an earth and some 
planets and comets, and others a sun and fixed stars. And, making 
a digression at this stage on the subject of light, I expounded at 
considerable length what the nature of that light must be which is 
found in the sun and the stars, and how thence in an instant of 
time it traverses the immense spaces of the heavens, and how from 
the planets and comets it is reflected towards the earth. To this I 
likewise added much respecting the substance, the situation, the 
motions, and all the different qualities of these heavens and stars; 
so that I thought I had said enough respecting them to show that 
there is nothing observable in the heavens or stars of our system that 
must not, or at least may not appear precisely alike in those of the 
system which I described. I came next to speak of the earth in 
particular, and to show how, even though I had expressly supposed 
that God had given no weight to the matter of which it is com- 
posed, this should not prevent all its parts from tending exactly to 
its centre; how with water and air on its surface, the disposition of 
the heavens and heavenly bodies, more especially of the moon, must 
cause a flow and ebb, Hke in all its circumstances to that observed 
in our seas, as also a certain current both of water and air from 
east to west, such as is likewise observed between the tropics; how 
the mountains, seas, fountains, and rivers might naturally be formed 
in it, and the metals produced in the mines, and the plants grow 
in the fields; and in general, how all the bodies which are com- 
monly denominated mixed or composite might be generated: and, 
among other things in the discoveries alluded to, inasmuch as 
besides the stars, I knew nothing except fire which produces light, 
I spared no pains to set forth all that pertains to its nature, — the 
manner of its production and support, and to explain how heat is 
sometimes found without light, and light without heat; to show 
how it can induce various colours upon different bodies and other 
diverse qualities; how it reduces some to a liquid state and hardens 
others; how it can consume almost all bodies, or convert them into 
ashes and smoke; and finally, how from these ashes, by the mere 



38 DESCARTES 

intensity of its action, it forms glass: for as this transmutation of 
ashes into glass appeared to me as wonderful as any other in nature, 
I took a special pleasure in describing it. 

I was not, however, disposed, from these circumstances, to con- 
clude that this world had been created in the manner I described; 
for it is much more likely that God made it at the first such as it 
was to be. But this is certain, and an opinion commonly received 
among theologians, that the action by which he now sustains it is 
the same with that by which he originally created it; so that even 
although he had from the beginning given it no other form than 
that of chaos, provided only he had established certain laws of nature, 
and had lent it his concurrence to enable it to act as it is wont to do, 
it may be believed, without discredit to the miracle of creation, 
that, in this way alone, things purely material might, in course of 
time, have become such as we observe them at present; and their 
nature is much more easily conceived when they are beheld coming 
in this manner gradually into existence, than when they are only 
considered as produced at once in a finished and perfect state. 

From the description of inanimate bodies and plants, I passed 
to animals, and particularly to man. But since I had not as yet 
sufficient knowledge to enable me to treat of these in the same manner 
as of the rest, that is to say, by deducing effects from their causes, 
and by showing from what elements and in what manner Nature 
must produce them, I remained satisfied with the supposition that 
God formed the body of man wholly like to one of ours, as well 
in the external shape of the members as in the internal conforma- 
tion of the organs, of the same matter with that I had described, 
and at first placed in it no Rational Soul, nor any other principle, 
in room of the Vegetative or Sensitive Soul, beyond kindling in the 
heart one of those fires without light, such as I had already described, 
and which I thought was not different from the heat in hay that has 
been heaped together before it is dry, or that which causes fermenta- 
tion in new wines before they are run clear of the fruit. For, when I 
examined the kind of functions which might, as consequences of 
this supposition, exist in this body, I found precisely all those which 
may exist in us independently of all power of thinking, and con- 
sequently without being in any measure owing to the soul; in other 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 39 

words, to that part of us which is distinct from the body, and of 
which it has been said above that the nature distinctively consists 
in thinking, — functions in which the animals void of Reason may 
be said wholly to resemble us; but among which I could not discover 
any of those that, as dependent on thought alone, belong to us as 
men, while, on the other hand, I did afterwards discover these as 
soon as I supposed God to have created a Rational Soul, and to have 
annexed it to this body in a particular manner which I described. 
But, in order to show how I there handled this matter, I mean 
here to give the explication of the motion of the heart and arteries, 
which, as the first and most general motion observed in animals, will 
afford the means of readily determining what should be thought 
of all the rest. And that there may be less difficulty in understanding 
what I am about to say on this subject, I advise those who are not 
versed in Anatomy, before they commence the perusal of these 
observations, to take the trouble of getting dissected in their presence 
the heart of some large animal possessed of lungs, (for this is 
throughout sufficiently like the human,) and to have shewn to 
them its two ventricles or cavities : in the first place, that in the right 
side, with which correspond two very ample tubes, viz., the hollow 
vein, {vena cava^ which is the principal receptacle of the blood, 
and the trunk of the tree, as it were, of which all the other veins in 
the body are branches; and the arterial vein, {vena arteriosa^ in- 
appropriately so denominated, since it is in truth only an artery, 
which, taking its rise in the heart, is divided, after passing out from it, 
into many branches which presently disperse themselves all over 
the lungs; in the second place, the cavity in the left side, with which 
correspond in the same manner two canals in size equal to or 
larger than the preceding, viz., the venous artery, {arteria venosa,) 
likewise inappropriately thus designated, because it is simply a vein 
which comes from the lungs, where it is divided into many branches, 
interlaced with those of the arterial vein, and those of the tube 
called the windpipe, through which the air we breathe enters; and 
the great artery which, issuing from the heart, sends it branches all 
over the body. I should wish also that such persons were carefully 
shewn the eleven pellicles which, like so many small valves, open 
and shut the four orifices that are in these two cavities, viz, three at 



40 DESCARTES 

the entrance o£ the hollow vein, where they are disposed in such 
a manner as by no means to prevent the blood which it contains from 
flowing into the right ventricle of the heart, and yet exactly to 
prevent its flowing out; three at the entrance to the arterial vein, 
which, arranged in a manner exactly the opposite of the former, 
readily permit the blood contained in this cavity to pass into the 
lungs, but hinder that contained in the lungs from returning to this 
cavity; and, in like manner, two others at the mouth of the venous 
artery, which allow the blood from the lungs to flow into the left 
cavity of the heart, but preclude its return; and three at the mouth 
of the great artery, which suffer the blood to flow from the heart, 
but prevent its reflux. Nor do we need to seek any other reason 
for the number of these pellicles beyond this that the orifice of the 
venous artery being of an oval shape from the nature of its situation, 
can be adequately closed with two, whereas the others being round 
are more conveniently closed with three. Besides, I wish such per- 
sons to observe that the grand artery and the arterial vein are of 
much harder and firmer texture than the venous artery and the 
hollow vein; and that the two last expand before entering the heart, 
and there form, as it were, two pouches denominated the auricles 
of the heart, which are composed of a substance similar to that of 
the heart itself; and that there is always more warmth in the heart 
than in any other part of the body; and, finally, that this heat is 
capable of causing any drop of blood that passes into the cavities 
rapidly to expand and dilate, just as all liquors do when allowed 
to fall drop by drop into a highly heated vessel. 

For, after these things, it is not necessary for me to say anything 
more with a view to explain the motion of the heart, except that 
when its cavities are not full of blood, into these the blood of neces- 
sity flows, — from the hollow vein into the right, and from the venous 
artery into the left; because these two vessels are always full of 
blood, and their orifices, which are turned towards the heart, 
cannot then be closed. But as soon as two drops of blood have 
thus passed, one into each of the cavities, these drops which can- 
not but be very large, because the orifices through which they pass 
are wide, and the vessels from which they come full of blood, are 
immediately rarefied, and dilated by the heat they meet with. In 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 4 1 

this way they cause the whole heart to expand, and at the same time 
press home and shut the five small valves that are at the entrances 
of the two vessels from which they flow, and thus prevent any 
more blood from coming down into the heart, and becoming more 
and more rarefied, they push open the six small valves that are in 
the orifices of the other two vessels, through which they pass out, 
causing in this way all the branches of the arterial vein and of the 
grand artery to expand almost simultaneously with the heart — which 
immediately thereafter begins to contract, as do also the arteries, 
because the blood that has entered them has cooled, and the six 
small valves close, and the five of the hollow vein and of the 
venous artery open anew and allow a passage to other two drops of 
blood, which cause the heart and the arteries again to expand as 
before. And, because the blood which thus enters into the heart 
passes through these two pouches called auricles, it thence happens 
that their motion is the contrary of that of the heart, and that when 
it expands they contract. But lest those who are ignorant of the 
force of mathematical demonstrations, and who are not accustomed 
to distinguish true reasons from mere verisimilitudes, should ven- 
ture, without examination, to deny what has been said, I wish it to 
be considered that the motion which I have now explained follows 
as necessarily from the very arrangement of the parts, which may 
be observed in the heart by the eye alone, and from the heat which 
may be felt with the fingers, and from the nature of the blood as 
learned from experience, as does the motion of a clock from the 
power, the situation, and shape of its counter-weights and wheels. 
But if it be asked how it happens that the blood in the veins, 
flowing in this way continually into the heart, is not exhausted, and 
why the arteries do not become too full, since all the blood which 
passes through the heart flows into them, I need only mention in 
reply what has been written by a physician' of England, who has 
the honour of having broken the ice on this subject, and of having 
been the first to teach that there are many small passages at the 
extremities of the arteries, through which the blood received by 
them from the heart passes into the small branches of the veins, 
whence it again returns to the heart; so that its course amounts 

* Harvey. 



42 DESCARTES 

precisely to a perpetual circulation. Of this we have abundant 
proof in the ordinary experience of surgeons, who, by binding the 
arm with a tie of moderate straitness above the part where they 
open the vein, cause the blood to flow more copiously than it would 
have done without any ligature; whereas quite the contrary would 
happen were they to bind it below; that is, between the hand and 
the opening, or were to make the ligature above the opening very 
tight. For it is manifest that the tie, moderately straitened, while 
adequate to hinder the blood already in the arm from returning 
towards the heart by the veins, cannot on that account prevent new 
blood from coming forward through the arteries, because these are 
situated below the veins, and their coverings, from their greater 
consistency, are more difficult to compress; and also that the blood 
which comes from the heart tends to pass through them to the hand 
with greater force than it does to return from the hand to the heart 
through the veins. And since the latter current escapes from the 
arm by the opening made in one of the veins, there must of neces- 
sity be certain passages below the ligature, that is, towards the 
extremities of the arm through which it can come thither from the 
arteries. This physician likewise abundantly establishes what he has 
advanced respecting the motion of the blood, from the existence of 
certain pellicles, so disposed in various places along the course of 
the veins, in the manner of small valves, as not to permit the blood 
to pass from the middle of the body towards the extremities, but 
only to return from the extremities to the heart; and farther, from 
experience which shows that all the blood which is in the body may 
flow out of it in a very short time through a single artery that has 
been cut, even although this had been closely tied in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the heart, and cut between the heart and the 
ligature, so as to prevent the supposition that the blood flowing out 
of it could come from any other quarter than the heart. 

But there are many other circumstances which evince that what 
I have alleged is the true cause of the motion of the blood: thus, in 
the first place, the difference that is observed between the blood 
which flows from the veins, and that from the arteries, can only 
arise from this, that being rarefied, and, as it were, distilled by 
passing through the heart, it is thinner, and more vivid, and 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 43 

warmer immediately after leaving the heart, in other words, when in 
the arteries, than it was a short time before passing into either, in 
other words, when it was in the veins; and if attention be given, 
it will be found that this difference is very marked only in the 
neighbourhood of the heart; and is not so evident in parts more re- 
mote from it. In the next place, the consistency of the coats of which 
the arterial vein and the great artery are composed, sufficiently 
shows that the blood is impelled against them with more force than 
against the veins. And why should the left cavity of the heart and 
the great artery be wider and larger than the right cavity and the 
arterial vein, were it not that the blood of the venous artery, having 
only been in the lungs after it has passed through the heart, is 
thinner, and rarefies more readily, and in a higher degree, than the 
blood which proceeds immediately from the hollow vein? And 
what can physicians conjecture from feeling the pulse unless they 
know that according as the blood changes its nature it can be rarefied 
by the warmth of the heart, in a higher or lower degree, and more 
or less quickly than before? And if it be inquired how this heat is 
communicated to the other members, must it not be admitted that 
this is effected by means of the blood, which, passing through the 
heart, is there heated anew, and thence diffused over all the body ? 
Whence it happens, that if the blood be withdrawn from any 
part, the heat is likewise withdrawn by the same means; and 
although the heart were as hot as glowing iron, it would not be 
capable of warming the feet and hands as at present, unless it 
continually sent thither new blood. We likewise perceive from 
this, that the true use of respiration is to bring sufficient fresh air 
into the lungs, to cause the blood which flows into them from the 
right ventricle of the heart, where it has been rarefied and, as it 
were, changed into vapours, to become thick, and to convert it 
anew into blood, before it Hows into the left cavity, without which 
process it would be unfit for the nourishment of the fire that is 
there. This receives confirmation from the circumstance, that it 
is observed of animals destitute of lungs that they have also but one 
cavity in the heart, and that in children who cannot use them while 
in the womb, there is a hole through which the blood flows from 
the hollow vein into the left cavity of the heart, and a tube through 



44 DESCARTES 

which it passes from the arterial vein into the grand artery without 
passing through the lung. In the next place, how could digestion 
be carried on in the stomach unless the heart communicated heat to 
it through the arteries, and along with this certain of the more 
fluid parts of the blood, which assists in the dissolution of the food 
that has been taken in? Is not also the operation which converts 
the juice of food into blood easily comprehended, when it is con- 
sidered that it is distilled by passing and repassing through the heart 
perhaps more than one or two hundred times in a day ? And what 
more need be adduced to explain nutrition, and the production of the 
different humours of the body, beyond saying, that the force with 
which the blood, in being rarefied, passes from the heart towards 
the extremities of the arteries, causes certain of its parts to remain 
in the members at which they arrive, and there occupy the place 
of some others expelled by them; and that according to the situation, 
shape, or smallness of the pores with which they meet, some rather 
than others flow into certain parts, in the same way that some sieves 
are observed to act, which, by being variously perforated, serve 
to separate different species of grain? And, in the last place, what 
above all is here worthy of observation, is the generation of the animal 
spirits, which are like a very subtle wind, or rather a very pure and 
vivid flame which, continually ascending in great abundance from 
the heart to the brain, thence penetrates through the nerves into the 
muscles, and gives motion to all the members; so that to account 
for other parts of the blood which, as most agitated and pene- 
trating, are the fittest to compose these spirits, proceeding towards 
the brain, it is not necessary to suppose any other cause, than simply, 
that the arteries which carry them thither proceed from the heart 
in the most direct lines, and that, according to the rules of Me- 
chanics, which are the same with those of Nature, when many 
objects tend at once to the same point where there is not sufficient 
room for all, (as is the case with the parts of the blood which flow 
forth from the left cavity of the heart and tend towards the brain,) 
the weaker and less agitated parts must necessarily be driven aside 
from that point by the stronger which alone in this way reach it. 
I had expounded all these matters with sufficient minuteness in 
the Treatise which I formerly thought of publishing. And after 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 45 

these, I had shewn what must be the fabric o£ the nerves and 
muscles o£ the human body to give the animal spirits contained in 
it the power to move the members, as when we see heads shortly 
after they have been struck off still move and bite the earth, although 
no longer animated; what changes must take place in the brain to 
produce waking, sleep, and dreams; how light, sounds, odours, 
tastes, heat, and all the other qualities of external objects impress 
it with different ideas by means of the senses; how hunger, thirst, and 
the other internal affections can likewise impress upon it divers 
ideas; what must be understood by the common sense (sensus 
communis) in which these ideas are received, by the memory which 
retains them, by the fantasy which can change them in various 
ways, and out of them compose new ideas, and which, by the same 
means, distributing the animal spirits through the muscles, can 
cause the members of such a body to move in as many different 
ways, and in a manner as suited, whether to the objects that are 
presented to its senses or to its internal affections, as can take place 
in our own case apart from the guidance of the will. Nor will 
this appear at all strange to those who are acquainted with the 
variety of movements performed by the different automata, or 
moving machines fabricated by human industry, and that with 
help of but few pieces compared with the great multitude of bones, 
muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and other parts that are found in the 
body of each animal. Such persons will look upon this body as a 
machine made by the hands of God, which is incomparably better 
arranged, and adequate to movements more admirable than is any 
machine of human invention. And here I specially stayed to show 
that, were there such machines exactly resembling in organs and 
outward form an ape or any other irrational animal, we could 
have no means of knowing that they were in any respect of a 
different nature from these animals; but if there were machines 
bearing the image of our bodies, and capable of imitating our 
actions as far as it is morally possible, there would still remain 
two most certain tests whereby to know that they were not there- 
fore really men. Of these the first is that they could never use 
words or other signs arranged in such a manner as is competent to 
us in order to declare our thoughts to others: for we may easily 



46 DESCARTES 

conceive a machine to be so constructed that it emits vocables, and 
even that it emits some correspondent to the action upon it of 
external objects vi'hich cause a change in its organs; for example, if 
touched in a particular place it may demand what we wish to say 
to it; if in another it may cry out that it is hurt, and such like; but 
not that it should arrange them variously so as appositely to reply to 
what is said in its presence, as men of the lowest grade of intellect 
can do. The second test is, that although such machines might exe- 
cute many things with equal or perhaps greater perfection than 
any of us, they would, without doubt, fail in certain others from 
which it could be discovered that they did not act from knowledge, 
but solely from the disposition of their organs: for while Reason 
is an universal instrument that is alike available on every occasion, 
these organs, on the contrary, need a particular arrangement for each 
particular action; whence it must be morally impossible that there 
should exist in any machine a diversity of organs sufficient to en- 
able it to act in all the occurrences of life, in the way in which our 
reason enables us to act. Again, by means of these two tests we may 
likewise know the difference between men and brutes. For it is 
highly deserving of remark, that there are no men so dull and 
stupid, not even idiots, as to be incapable of joining together dif- 
ferent words, and thereby constructing a declaration by which to 
make their thoughts understood; and that on the other hand, there 
is no other animal, however perfect or happily circumstanced which 
can do the like. Nor does this inability arise from want of organs: 
for we observe that magpies and parrots can utter words like 
ourselves, and are yet unable to speak as we do, that is, so as to 
show that they understand what they say; in place of which men 
born deaf and dumb, and thus not less, but rather more than the 
brutes, destitute of the organs which others use in speaking, are in 
the habit of spontaneously inventing certain signs by which they 
discover their thoughts to those who, being usually in their com- 
pany, have leisure to learn their language. And this proves not 
only that the brutes have less Reason than man, but that they have 
none at all: for we see that very little is required to enable a person 
to speak; and since a certain inequality of capacity is observable 
among animals of the same species, as well as among men, and 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 47 

since some are more capable of being instructed than others, it is 
incredible that the most perfect ape or parrot of its species, should 
not in this be equal to the most stupid infant of its kind, or at least 
to one that was crack-brained, unless the soul of brutes were of a 
nature wholly different from ours. And we ought not to confound 
speech with the natural movements which indicate the passions, 
and can be imitated by machines as well as manifested by animals; 
nor must it be thought with certain of the ancients, that the brutes 
speak, although we do not understand their language. For if such 
were the case, since they are endowed with many organs analogous 
to ours, they could as easily communicate their thoughts to us as to 
their fellows. It is also very worthy of remark, that, though there 
are many animals which manifest more industry than we in certain 
of their actions, the same animals are yet observed to show none at 
all in many others: so that the circumstance that they do better than 
we does not prove that they are endowed with mind, for it would 
thence follow that they possessed greater Reason than any of us, and 
could surpass us in all things; on the contrary, it rather proves thai 
they are destitute of Reason, and that it is Nature which acts in 
them according to the disposition of their organs: thus it is seen, 
that a clock composed only of wheels and weights can number the 
hours and measure time more exactly than we with all our skill. 
I had after this described the Reasonable Soul, and shewn that 
it could by no means be educed from the power of matter, as the 
other things of which I had spoken but that it must be expressly 
created; and that it is not sufficient that it be lodged in the human 
body exactly like a pilot in a ship, unless perhaps to move its 
members, but that it is necessary for it to be joined and united 
more closely to the body, in order to have sensations and appetites 
similar to ours, and thus constitute a real man. I here entered, in 
conclusion, upon the subject of the soul at considerable length, 
because it is of the greatest moment: for after the error of those who 
deny the existence of God, an error which I think I have already 
sufficiently refuted, there is none that is more powerful in leading 
feeble minds astray from the straight path of virtue than the sup- 
position that the soul of the brutes is of the same nature with our 
own; and consequently that after this life we have nothing to 



48 DESCARTES 

hope for or fear, more than flies and ants; in place of which, when 
we know how far they differ we much better comprehend the 
reasons which establish that the soul is of a nature wholly inde- 
pendent of the body, and that consequently it is not liable to die 
with the latter; and, finally, because no other causes are observed 
capable of destroying it, we are naturally led thence to judge that it 
is immortal. 



PART VI 

THREE years have now elapsed since I finished the Treatise 
containing all these matters; and I was beginning to revise 
it, with the view to put it into the hands of a printer, when 
I learned that persons to whom I greatly defer, and whose authority 
over my actions is hardly less influential than is my own Reason over 
my thoughts, had condemned a certain doctrine in Physics, pub- 
lished a short time previously by another individual,' to which I will 
not say that I adhered, but only that, previously to their censure, I 
had observed in it nothing which I could imagine to be prejudicial 
either to religion or to the state, and nothing therefore which would 
have prevented me from giving expression to it in writing, if 
Reason had persuaded me of its truth; and this led me to fear lest 
among my own doctrines likewise some one might be found in 
which I had departed from the truth, notwithstanding the great 
care I have always taken not to accord belief to new opinions of 
which I had not the most certain demonstrations, and not to give 
expression to aught that might tend to the hurt of any one. This has 
been sufficient to make me alter my purpose of publishing them; 
for although the reasons by which I had been induced to take this 
resolution were very strong, yet my inclination, which has always 
been hostile to writing books, enabled me immediately to discover 
other considerations sufficient to excuse me for not undertaking 
the task. And these reasons, on one side and the other, are such, 
that not only is it in some measure my interest here to state them, 
but that of the public, perhaps, to know them. 

I have never made much account of what has proceeded from 
my own mind; and so long as I gathered no other advantage from 
the Method I employ beyond satisfying myself on some difficulties 
belonging to the speculative sciences, or endeavouring to regulate 
my actions according to the principles it taught me, I never thought 
myself bound to publish anything respecting it. For in what 

1 Galileo.— Tr. 
49 



50 DESCARTES 

regards manners, every one is so full of his own wisdom, that there 
might be found as many reformers as heads, if any were allowed 
to take upon themselves the task of mending them, except those 
whom God has constituted the supreme rulers of his people, or to 
whom he has given sufficient grace and zeal to be prophets; and 
although my speculations greatly pleased myself, I believed that 
others had theirs, which perhaps pleased them still more. But as 
soon as I had acquired some general notions respecting Physics, and 
beginning to make trial of them in various particular difficulties, had 
observed how far they can carry us, and how much they differ from 
the principles that have been employed up to the present time, I 
believed that I could not keep them concealed without sinning 
grievously against the law by which we are bound to promote, as 
far as in us lies, the general good of mankind. For by them I per- 
ceived it to be possible to arrive at knowledge highly useful in life; 
and in room of the Speculative Philosophy usually taught in the 
Schools, to discover a Practical, by means of which, knowing the 
force and action of fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens, and all the 
other bodies that surround us, as distincdy as we know the various 
crafts of our artizans, we might also apply them in the same way 
to all the uses to which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves 
the lords and possessors of nature. And this is a result to be desired, 
not only in order to the invention of an infinity of arts, by which 
we might be enabled to enjoy without any trouble the fruits of 
the earth, and all its comforts, but also and especially for the preser- 
vation of health, which is without doubt, of all the blessings of 
this life, the first and fundamental one ; for the mind is so intimately 
dependent upon the condition and relation of the organs of the 
body, that if any means can ever be found to render men wiser 
and more ingenious than hitherto, I believe that it is in Medicine 
they must be sought for. It is true that the science of Medicine, 
as it now exists, contains few things whose utility is very remark- 
able: but without any wish to depreciate it, I am confident that there 
is no one, even among those whose profession it is, who does not 
admit that all at present known in it is almost nothing in compari- 
son of what remains to be discovered; and that we could free our- 
selves from an infinity of maladies of body as well as of mind, and 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 5 1 

perhaps also even from the debility of age, if we had sufficiently 
ample knowledge of their causes, and of all the remedies provided 
for us by Nature. But since I designed to employ my whole life 
in the search after so necessary a Science, and since I had fallen in 
with a path which seems to me such, that if any one follow it he 
must inevitably reach the end desired, unless he be hindered either 
by the shortness of life or the want of experiments, I judged that 
there could be no more effectual provision against these two im- 
pediments than if I were faithfully to communicate to the public 
all the little I might myself have found, and incite men of superior 
genius to strive to proceed farther, by contributing, each according 
to his inclination and ability, to the experiments which it would 
be necessary to make, and also by informing the pubUc of all they 
might discover, so that, by the last beginning where those before 
them had left off, and thus connecting the lives and labours of 
many, we might collectively proceed much farther than each by 
himself could do. 

I remarked, moreover, with respect to experiments, that they 
become always more necessary the more one is advanced in knowl- 
edge; for, at the commencement, it is better to make use only of 
what is spontaneously presented to our senses, and of which we 
cannot remain ignorant, provided we bestow on it any reflection, 
however slight, than to concern ourselves about more uncommon 
and recondite phenomena : the reason of which is, that the more 
uncommon often only mislead us so long as the causes of the more 
ordinary are still unknown; and the circumstances upon which 
they depend are almost always so special and minute as to be highly 
difficult to detect. But in this I have adopted the following order: 
first, I have essayed to find in general the principles, or first causes 
of all that is or can be in the world, without taking into consider- 
ation for this end anything but God himself who has created it, 
and without educing them from any other source than from certain 
germs of truths naturally existing in our minds. In the second place, 
I examined what were the first and most ordinary effects that 
could be deduced from these causes; and it appears to me that, in 
this way I have found heavens, stars, an earth, and even on the 
earth, water, air, fire, minerals, and some other things of this kind, 



52 DESCARTES 

which of all others are the most common and simple, and hence 
the easiest to know. Afterwards, when I wished to descend to the 
more particular, so many diverse objects presented themselves to 
me, that I believed it to be impossible for the human mind to 
distinguish the forms or species of bodies that are upon the earth, 
from an infinity of others which might have been, if it had pleased 
God to place them there, or consequently to apply them to our use, 
unless we rise to causes through their effects, and avail ourselves 
of many particular experiments. Thereupon, turning over in my 
mind all the objects that had ever been presented to my senses, I 
freely venture to state that I have never observed any which I could 
not satisfactorily explain by the principles I had discovered. But it 
is necessary also to confess that the power of nature is so ample 
and vast, and these principles so simple and general, that I have 
hardly observed a single particular effect which I cannot at once 
recognize as capable of being deduced in many different modes from 
the principles, and that my greatest difficulty usually is to discover in 
which of these modes the effect is dependent upon them; for out 
of this difficulty I cannot otherwise extricate myself than by again 
seeking certain experiments, which may be such that their result 
is not the same, if it is in the one of these modes that we must 
explain it, as it would be if it were to be explained in the other. 
As to what remains, I am now in a position to discern, as I think, 
with sufficient clearness what course must be taken to make the 
majority of those experiments which may conduce to this end: 
but I perceive likewise that they are such and so numerous, that 
neither my hands nor my income, though it were a thousand times 
larger than it is, would be sufficient for them all; so that, according 
as henceforward I shall have the means of making more or fewer 
experiments, I shall in the same proportion make greater or less 
progress in the knowledge of nature. This was what I had hoped 
to make known by the Treatise I had written, and so clearly to 
exhibit the advantage that would thence accrue to the public, 
as to induce all who have the common good of man at heart, that is, 
all who are virtuous in truth, and not merely in appearance, or 
according to opinion, as well to communicate to me the experiments 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 53 

they had already made, as to assist me in those that remain to 
be made. 

But since that time other reasons have occurred to me, by which 
I have been led to change my opinion, and to think that I ought 
indeed to go on committing to vsriting all the results which I 
deemed of any moment, as soon as I should have tested their truth, 
and to bestow the same care upon them as I would have done had it 
been my design to publish them. This course commended itself 
to me, as well because I thus afforded myself more ample induce- 
ment to examine them thoroughly, for doubtless that is always 
more narrowly scrutinized which we believe will be read by many, 
than that which is written merely for our private use, (and fre- 
quently what has seemed to me true when I first conceived it, 
has appeared false when I have set about committing it to writing;) 
as because I thus lost no opportunity of advancing the interests of 
the public, as far as in me lay, and since thus likewise, if my writings 
possess any value, those into whose hands they may fall after my 
death may be able to put them to what use they deem proper. But 
I resolved by no means to consent to their publication during my 
lifetime, lest either the oppositions or the controversies to which they 
might give rise, or even the reputation, such as it might be, which 
they would acquire for me, should be any occasion of my losing the 
time that I had set apart for my own improvement. For though 
it be true that every one is bound to promote to the extent of his 
ability the good of others, and that to be useful to no one is really 
to be worthless, yet it is likewise true that our cares ought to extend 
beyond the present; and it is good to omit doing what might per- 
haps bring some profit to the living, when we have in view the 
accomplishment of other ends that will be of much greater advantage 
to posterity. And in truth, I am quite willing it should be known 
that the little I have hitherto learned is almost nothing in com- 
parison with that of which I am ignorant, and to the knowledge 
of which I do not despair of being able to attain; for it is much the 
same with those who gradually discover truth in the Sciences, as 
with those who when growing rich find less difficulty in making 
great acquisitions, than they formerly experienced when poor in 



54 DESCARTES 

making acquisitions of much smaller amount. Or they may be 
compared to the commanders of armies, whose forces usually in- 
crease in proportion to their victories, and who need greater pru- 
dence to keep together the residue of their troops after a defeat 
than after a victory to take towns and provinces. For he truly 
engages in batde who endeavors to surmount all the diiBculties and 
errors which prevent him from reaching the knowledge of truth, 
and he is overcome in fight who admits a false opinion touching 
a matter of any generality and importance, and he requires there- 
after much more skill to recover his former position than to make 
great advances when once in possession of thoroughly ascertained 
principles. As for myself, if I have succeeded in discovering any 
truths in the Sciences, (and I trust that what is contained in this 
volume will show that I have found some,) I can declare that they 
are but the consequences and results of five or six principal difficulties 
which I have surmounted, and my encounters with which I reckoned 
as battles in which victory declared for me. I will not hesitate even 
to avow my belief that nothing further is wanting to enable me 
fully to realize my designs than to gain two or three similar victories; 
and that I am not so far advanced in years but that, according to 
the ordinary course of nature, I may still have su£6cient leisure 
for this end. But I conceive myself the more bound to husband the 
time that remains, the greater my expectation of being able to employ 
it aright, and I should doubtless have much to rob me of it, were 
I to publish the principles of my Physics: for although they are 
almost all so evident that to assent to them no more is needed than 
simply to understand them, and although there is not one of them 
of which I do not expect to be able to give demonstration, yet, as it 
is impossible that they can be in accordance with all the diverse 
opinions of others, I foresee that I should frequently be turned aside 
from my grand design, on occasion of the opposition which they 
would be sure to awaken. 

It may be said, that these oppositions would be useful both in 
making me aware of my errors, and, if my speculations contain 
anything of value, in bringing others to a fuller understanding of 
it; and still farther, as many can see better than one, in leading 
others who are now beginning to avail themselves of my prin- 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 55 

ciples, to assist me in turn with their discoveries. But though I 
recognise my extreme liabiHty to error, and scarce ever trust to the 
first thoughts which occur to me, yet the experience I have had 
of possible objections to my views prevents me from anticipating any 
profit from them. For I have already had frequent proof of the 
judgments, as well of those I esteemed friends, as of some others to 
whom I thought I was an object of indifference, and even of some 
whose malignity and envy would, I knew, determine them to en- 
deavour to discover what partiality concealed from the eyes of 
my friends. But it has rarely happened that anything has been 
objected to me which I had myself altogether overlooked, unless 
it were something far removed from the subject: so that I have 
never met with a single critic of my opinions who did not appear 
to me either less rigorous or less equitable than myself. And further, 
I have never observed that any truth before unknown has been 
brought to light by the disputations that are practised in the 
Schools; for while each strives for the victory, each is much more 
occupied in making the best of mere verisimilitude, than in weigh- 
ing the reasons on both sides of the question; and those who have 
been long good advocates are not afterwards on that account the 
better judges. 

As for the advantage that others would derive from the communi- 
cation of my thoughts, it could not be very great; because I have 
not yet so far prosecuted them as that much does not remain to 
be added before they can be applied to practice. And I think I may 
say without vanity, that if there is any one who can carry them out 
that length, it must be myself rather than another: not that there 
may not be in the world many minds incomparably superior to mine, 
but because one cannot so well seize a thing and make it one's own, 
when it has been learned from another, as when one has himself 
discovered it. And so true is this of the present subject that, though 
I have often explained some of my opinions to persons of much 
acuteness, who, whilst I was speaking, appeared to understand 
them very distinctly, yet, when they repeated them, I have 
observed that they almost always changed them to such an extent 
that I could no longer acknowledge them as mine. I am glad, by 
the way, to take this opportunity of requesting posterity never to 



56 DESCARTES 

believe on hearsay that anything has proceeded from me which 
has not been pubHshed by myself; and I am not at all astonished 
at the extravagances attributed to those ancient philosophers v^fhose 
own writings we do not possess; whose thoughts, however, I do not 
on that account suppose to have been really absurd, seeing they 
were among the ablest men of their times, but only that these have 
been falsely represented to us. It is observable, accordingly, that 
scarcely in a single instance has any one of their disciples surpassed 
them; and I am quite sure that the most devoted of the present 
followers of Aristotle would think themselves happy if they had as 
much knowledge of nature as he possessed, were it even under the 
condition that they should never afterwards attain to higher. In 
this respect they are like the ivy which never strives to rise above the 
tree that sustains it, and which frequently even returns downwards 
when it has reached the top; for it seems to me that they also sink, 
in other words, render themselves less wise than they would be if 
they gave up study, who, not contented with knowing all that is 
intelligibly explained in their author, desire in addition to find in him 
the solution of many difficulties of which he says not a word, and 
never perhaps so much as thought. Their fashion of philosophizing, 
however, is well suited to persons whose abilities fall below medio- 
crity; for the obscurity of the distinctions and principles of which 
they make use enables them to speak of all things with as much 
confidence as if they really knew them, and to defend all that they 
say on any subject against the most subtle and skilful, without its 
being possible for any one to convict them of error. In this they 
seem to me to be like a blind man, who, in order to fight on equal 
terms with a person that sees, should have made him descend to 
the bottom of an intensely dark cave: and I may say that such 
persons have an interest in my refraining from publishing the prin- 
ciples of the Philosophy of which I make use; for, since these are of 
a kind the simplest and most evident, I should, by publishing them, 
do much the same as if I were to throw open the windows, and 
allow the light of day to enter the cave into which the combatants 
had descended. But even superior men have no reason for any 
great anxiety to know these principles, for if what they desire is 
to be able to speak of all things, and to acquire a reputation for 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 57 

learning, they will gain their end more easily by remaining satisfied 
with the appearance of truth, which can be found without much 
difficulty in all sorts of matters, than by seeking the truth itself 
which unfolds itself but slowly and that only in some departments, 
while it obliges us, when we have to speak of others, freely to con- 
fess our ignorance. If, however, they prefer the knowledge of some 
few truths to the vanity of appearing ignorant of none, as such 
knowledge is undoubtedly much to be preferred, and, if they choose 
to follow a course similar to mine, they do not require for this that 
I should say anything more than I have already said in this Dis- 
course. For if they are capable of making greater advancement than 
I have made, they will much more be able of themselves to dis- 
cover all that I believe myself to have found; since as I have never 
examined aught except in order, it is certain that what yet remains 
to be discovered is in itself more difficult and recondite, than that 
which I have already been enabled to find, and the gratification 
would be much less in learning it from me than in discovering it for 
themselves. Besides this, the habit which they will acquire, by 
seeking first what is easy, and then passing onward slowly and 
step by step to the more difficult, will benefit them more than all 
my instructions. Thus, in my own case, I am persuaded that if I 
had been taught from my youth all the truths of which I have since 
sought out demonstrations, and had thus learned them without 
labour, I should never, perhaps, have known any beyond these; at 
least, I should never have acquired the habit and the facility which 
I think I possess in always discovering new truths in proportion as 
I give myself to the search. And, in a single word, if there is any 
work in the world which cannot be so well finished by another as 
by him who has commenced it, it is that at which I labour. 

It is true, indeed, as regards the experiments which may conduce 
to this end, that one man is not equal to the task of making them all; 
but yet he can advantageously avail himself, in this work, of no 
hands besides his own, unless those of artisans, or parties of the 
same kind, whom he could pay, and whom the hope of gain (a means 
of great efficacy) might stimulate to accuracy in the performance 
of what was prescribed to them. For as to those who, through 
curiosity or a desire of learning, of their own accord, perhaps, ofJer 



58 DESCARTES 

him their services, besides that in general their promises exceed 
their performance, and that they sketch out fine designs of which 
not one is ever reahzed, they will, without doubt, expect to be 
compensated for their trouble by the explication of some difficulties, 
or, at least, by compliments and useless speeches, in which he cannot 
spend any portion of his time without loss to himself. And as for 
the experiments that others have already made, even although these 
parties should be willing of themselves to communicate them to him, 
(which is what those who esteem them secrets will never do,) the 
experiments are, for the most part, accompanied with so many 
circumstances and superfluous elements, as to make it exceedingly 
difficult to disentangle the truth from its adjuncts; besides, he will 
find almost all of them so ill described, or even so false, (because 
those who made them have wished to see in them only such facts 
as they deemed conformable to their principles,) that, if in the 
entire number there should be some of a nature suited to his purpose, 
stiU their value could not compensate for the time that would be 
necessary to make the selection. So that if there existed any one 
whom we assuredly knew to be capable of making discoveries of 
the highest kind, and of the greatest possible utility to the public; 
and if all other men were therefore eager by all means to assist him 
in successfully prosecuting his designs, I do not see that they could 
do aught else for him beyond contributing to defray the expenses 
of the experiments that might be necessary; and for the rest, prevent 
his being deprived of his leisure by the unseasonable interruptions 
of any one. But besides that I neither have so high an opinion of 
myself as to be willing to make promise of anything extraordinary, 
nor feed on imaginations so vain as to fancy that the public must 
be much interested in my designs; I do not, on the other hand, own 
a soul so mean as to be capable of accepting from any one a favour 
of which it could be supposed that I was unworthy. 

These considerations taken together were the reason why, for 
the last three years, I have been unwilling to publish the Treatise 
I had on hand, and why I even resolved to give publicity during 
my life to no other that was so general, or by which the principles 
of my Physics might be understood. But since then, two other 
reasons have come into operation that have determined me here 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 59 

to subjoin some particular specimens, and give the public some 
account of my doings and designs. Of these considerations, the first 
is, that if I failed to do so, many who were cognizant of my 
previous intention to publish some writings, might have imagined 
that the reasons which induced me to refrain from so doing, were 
less to my credit than they really are; for although I am not im- 
moderately desirous of glory, or even, if I may venture so to say, 
although I am averse from it in so far as I deem it hostile to repose 
which I hold in greater account than aught else, yet, at the same 
time, I have never sought to conceal my actions as if they were 
crimes, nor made use of many precautions that I might remain 
unknown; and this partly because I should have thought such a 
course of conduct a wrong against myself, and partly because it 
would have occasioned me some sort of uneasiness which would 
again have been contrary to the perfect mental tranquillity which I 
court. And forasmuch as, while thus indifferent to the thought alike 
of fame or of forgetfulness, I have yet been unable to prevent myself 
from acquiring some sort of reputation, I have thought it incumbent 
on me to do my best to save myself at least from being ill-spoken of. 
The other reason that has determined me to commit to viTiting these 
specimens of philosophy is, that I am becoming daily more and more 
alive to the delay which my design of self-instruction suffers, for 
want of the infinity of experiments I require, and which it is 
impossible for me to make without the assistance of others; and, 
without flattering myself so much as to expect the public to take 
a large share in my interests, I am yet unwilHng to be found so far 
wanting in the duty I owe to myself as to give occasion to those 
who shall survive me to make it matter of reproach against me 
some day, that I might have left them many things in a much more 
perfect state than I have done, had I not too much neglected to 
make them aware of the ways in which they could have promoted 
the accomplishment of my designs. 

And I thought that it was easy for me to select some matters 
which should neither be obnoxious to much controversy, nor should 
compel me to expound more of my principles than I desired, and 
which should yet be sufficient clearly to exhibit what I can or 
cannot accomplish in the Sciences. Whether or not I have sue- 



6o DESCARTES 

ceeded in this it is not for me to say; and I do not wish to forestall 
the judgments of others by speaking myself of my writings; but it 
will gratify me if they be examined, and, to afford the greater induce- 
ment to this, I request all who may have any objections to make to 
them, to take the trouble of forwarding these to my publisher, who 
will give me notice of them, that I may endeavour to subjoin at the 
same time my reply; and in this way readers seeing both at once will 
more easily determine where the truth lies; for I do not engage in any 
case to make proHx replies, but only with perfect frankness to avow 
my errors if I am convinced of them, or if I cannot perceive them, 
simply to state what I think is required for defence of the matters 
I have written, adding thereto no explication of any new matter 
that it may not be necessary to pass without end from one thing 
to another. 

If some of the matters of which I have spoken in the beginning 
of the Dioptrics and Meteorics should offend at first sight, because 
I call them hypotheses and seem indifferent about giving proof of 
them, I request a patient and attentive reading of the whole, from 
which I hope those hesitating will derive satisfaction; for it appears to 
me that the reasonings are so mutually connected in these Treatises, 
that, as the last are demonstrated by the first which are their causes, 
the first are in their turn demonstrated by the last which are their 
effects. Nor must it be imagined that I here commit the fallacy 
which the logicians call a circle; for since experience renders the 
majority of these effects most certain, the causes from which I 
deduce them do not serve so much to establish their reality as to 
explain their existence; but on the contrary, the reaUty of the causes 
is established by the reality of the effects. Nor have I called them 
hypotheses with any other end in view except that it may be known 
that I think I am able to deduce them from those first truths which 
I have already expounded; and yet that I have expressly determined 
not to do so, to prevent a certain class of minds from thence taking 
occasion to build some extravagant Philosophy upon what they may 
take to be my principles, and my being blamed for it. I refer to those 
who imagine that they can master in a day all that another has taken 
twenty years to think out, as soon as he has spoken two or three 
words to them on the subject; or who are the more liable to error and 



DISCOURSE ON METHOD 6 1 

the less capable of perceiving truth in very proportion as they are 
more subtle and lively. As to the opinions which are truly and 
wholly mine, I offer no apology for them as new, — persuaded as I 
am that if their reasons be well considered they will be found to be 
so simple and so conformed to common sense as to appear less 
extraordinary and less paradoxical than any others which can be 
held on the same subjects; nor do I even boast of being the earliest 
discoverer of any of them, but only of having adopted them, neither 
because they had nor because they had not been held by others, but 
solely because Reason has convinced me of their truth. 

Though artisans may not be able at once to execute the invention 
which is explained in the Dioptrics, I do not think that any one on 
that account is entitled to condemn it; for. since address and practice 
are required in order so to make and adjust the machines described 
by me as not to overlook the smallest particular, I should not be 
less astonished if they succeeded on the first attempt than if a 
person were in one day to become an accomplished performer on 
the guitar, by merely having excellent sheets of music set up before 
him. And if I write in French, which is the language of my country, 
in preference to Latin, which is that of my preceptors, it is be- 
cause I expect that those who make use of their unprejudiced natural 
Reason will be better judges of my opinions than those who give 
heed to the writings of the ancients only; and as for those who unite 
good sense with habits of study, whom alone I desire for judges, 
they will not, I feel assured, be so partial to Latin as to refuse to 
listen to my reasonings merely because I expound them in the 
vulgar Tongue. 

In conclusion, I am unwilling here to say anything very specific 
of the progress which I expect to make for the future in the Sciences, 
or to bind myself to the public by any promise which I am not 
certain of being able to fulfil; but this only will I say, that I have 
resolved to devote what time I may still have to live to no other 
occupation than that of endeavouring to acquire some knowledge of 
Nature, which shall be of such a kind as to enable us therefrom to 
deduce rules in Medicine of greater certainty than those at present in 
use; and that my inclination is so much opposed to all other pursuits, 
especially to such as cannot be useful to some without being hurtful 



62 DESCARTES 

to Others, that if, by any circumstances, I had been constrained to 
engage in such, I do not believe that I should have been able to 
succeed. Of this I here make a public declaration, though well aware 
that it cannot serve to procure for me any consideration in the 
world, which, however, I do not in the least aflect; and I shall always 
hold myself more obliged to those through whose favour I am 
permitted to enjoy my retirement without interruption than to any 
who might offer me the highest earthly preferments. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 

(LETTRES PHILOSOPHIQUES) 



BY 
VOLTAIRE 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

pRANgois-MARiE Arouet, known by his assumed name of Voltaire, was 
born at Paris, November 21, 1694. His father was a well-to-do notary, 
and Fran9ois was educated under the Jesuits in the College Louis-le- 
Grand. He began writing verse early, and was noted for his freedom of 
speech, a tendency which led to his being twice exiled from Paris and 
twice imprisoned in the Bastile. In 1726 he took refuge in England, and 
the two years spent there had great influence upon his later development. 
Some years after his return he became historiographer of France, and 
gendeman of the king's bedchamber; from 1750 to 1753 he lived at the 
court of Frederick the Great, with whom he ultimately quarreled; and 
he spent the last period of his life, from 1758 to 1778, on his estate of 
Ferney, near Geneva, where he produced much of his best work. He died 
at Paris, May 30, 1778. 

It will be seen that Voltaire's active life covers nearly the whole eight- 
eenth century, of which he was the dominant and typical literary figure. 
Every department of letters then in vogue was cultivated by him; in all 
he showed brilliant powers; and in several he reached all but the highest 
rank. Apart from his "Henriade," an epic on the classical model, and the 
burlesque "La Pucelle," most of his verse belongs to the class of satire, 
epigram, and vers de societe. Of real poetical quality it has litde, but 
abundant technical cleverness. For the stage he was the most prominent 
writer of the time, his most successful dramas including "Zaire," 
"CEdipe," "La Mort de Cesar," "Alzire," and "Merope." His chief con- 
tribution in this field was the development of the didactic and philosophic 
element. In prose fiction he wrote "Zadig," "Candide," and many ad- 
mirable short stories; in history, his "Age of Louis XIV" is only the best 
known of four or five considerable works; in criticism, his commentary 
on Corneille is notable. His scientific and philosophic interests are to 
some extent indicated in the following "Letters," which also show his 
admiration for the tolerance and freedom of speech in England, which 
it was his greatest service to strive to introduce into his own country. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 

(LETTRES PHILOSOPHIQUES) 

Letter I 
ON THE QUAKERS 

I WAS o£ opinion that the doctrine and history of so extraordinary 
a people were worthy the attention of the curious. To acquaint 
myself with them I made a visit to one of the most eminent 
Quakers in England, who, after having traded thirty years, had the 
wisdom to prescribe limits to his fortune and to his desires, and was 
settled in a little solitude not far from London. Being come into 
it, I perceived a small but regularly built house, vastly neat, but 
without the least pomp of furniture. The Quaker who owned it 
was a hale, ruddy complexioned old man, who had never been 
afflicted with sickness because he had always been insensible to 
passions, and a perfect stranger to intemperance. I never in my life 
saw a more noble or a more engaging aspect than his. He was 
dressed like those of his persuasion, in a plain coat without pleats 
in the sides, or buttons on the pockets and sleeves; and had on a 
beaver, the brims of which were horizontal like those of our clergy. 
He did not uncover himself when I appeared, and advanced towards 
me without once stooping his body; but there appeared more polite- 
ness in the open, humane air of his countenance, than in the cus- 
tom of drawing one leg behind the other, and taking that from the 
head which is made to cover it. "Friend," says he to me, "I per- 
ceive thou art a stranger, but if I can do any thing for thee, only 
tell me." "Sir," said I to him, bending forwards and advancing, as 
is usual with us, one leg towards him, "I flatter myself that my 
just curiosity will not give you the least offense, and that you'll do 
me the honour to inform me of the particulars of your religion." 
"The people of thy country," replied the Quaker, "are too full of 

65 



66 VOLTAIRE 

their bows and compliments, but I never yet met with one of them 
who had so much curiosity as thy self. Come in, and let us first dine 
together." I still continued to make some very unseasonable cere- 
monies, it not being easy to disengage one's self at once from habits 
we have been long used to; and after taking part in a frugal meal, 
which began and ended with a prayer to God, I began to question 
my courteous host. I opened with that which good Catholics have 
more than once made to Huguenots. "My dear sir," said I, "were 
you ever baptized?" "I never was," replied the Quaker, "nor any 
of my brethren." "Zounds!" said I to him, "you are not Christians, 
then." "Friend," replies the old man in a soft tone of voice, "swear 
not; we are Christians, and endeavour to be good Christians, but 
we are not of opinion that the sprinkling water on a child's head 
makes him a Christian." "Heavens!" said I, shocked at his impiety, 
"you have then forgot that Christ was baptised by St. John." 
"Friend," replies the mild Quaker once again, "swear not; Christ 
indeed was baptised by John, but He himself never baptised anyone. 
We are the disciples of Christ, not of John." I pitied very much the 
sincerity of my worthy Quaker, and was absolutely for forcing him 
to get himself christened. "Were that all," replied he very gravely, 
"we would submit cheerfully to baptism, purely in compliance with 
thy weakness, for we don't condemn any person who uses it; but then 
we think that those who profess a religion of so holy, so spiritual a 
nature as that of Christ, ought to abstain to the utmost of their 
power from the Jewish ceremonies." "O unaccountable!" said I: 
"what! baptism a Jewish ceremony?" "Yes, my friend," says he, 
"so truly Jewish, that a great many Jews use the baptism of John 
to this day. Look into ancient authors, and thou wilt find that 
John only revived this practice; and that it had been used by the 
Hebrews, long before his time, in like manner as the Mahometans 
imitated the Ishmaelites in their pilgrimages to Mecca. Jesus indeed 
submitted to the baptism of John, as He had suffered Himself to be 
circumcised; but circumcision and the washing with water ought to 
be abolished by the baptism of Christ, that baptism of the Spirit, 
that ablution of the soul, which is the salvation of mankind. Thus 
the forerunner said, 'I indeed baptise you with water unto re- 
pentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 67 

shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptise you with the Holy 
Ghost and with fire.' Likewise Paul, the great apostle of the Gen- 
tiles, writes as follows to the Corinthians, 'Christ sent me not to 
baptise, but to preach the Gospel;' and indeed Paul never baptised 
but two persons with water, and that very much against his in- 
clinations. He circumcised his disciple Timothy, and the other 
disciples likewise circumcised all who were willing to submit to that 
carnal ordinance. "But art thou circumcised?" added he. "I have 
not the honour to be so," said I. "Well, friend," continued the 
Quaker, "thou art a Christian without being circumcised, and I am 
one without being baptised." Thus did this pious man make a 
wrong, but very specious application of four or five texts of Scrip- 
ture which seemed to favour the tenets of his sect; but at the same 
time forgot very sincerely a hundred texts which made directly 
against them. I had more sense than to contest with him, since there 
is no possibility of convincing an enthusiast. A man should never 
pretend to inform a lover of his mistress's faults, no more than one 
who is at law of the badness of his cause; nor attempt to win over a 
fanatic by strength of reasoning. Accordingly I waived the subject. 
"Well," said I to him, "what sort of a communion have you?" "We 
have none Uke that thou hintest at among us," replied he. "Howl 
no communion?" said I. "Only that spiritual one," repUed he, "of 
hearts." He then began again to throw out his texts of Scripture; 
and preached a most eloquent sermon against that ordinance. He 
harangued in a tone as though he had been inspired, to prove that 
the sacraments were merely of human invention, and that the word 
"sacrament" was not once mentioned in the Gospel. "Excuse," said 
he, "my ignorance, for I have not employed a hundredth part of the 
argiunents which might be brought to prove the truth of our religion, 
but these thou thyself mayest peruse in the Exposition of our Faith 
written by Robert Barclay. It is one of the best pieces that ever was 
penned by man; and as our adversaries confess it to be of dangerous 
tendency, the arguments in it must necessarily be very convincing." 
I promised to peruse this piece, and my Quaker imagined he had 
already made a convert of me. He afterwards gave me an account 
in few words of some singularities which make this sect the contempt 
of others. "Confess," said he, "that it was very difficult for thee to 



68 VOLTAIRE 

refrain from laughter, when I answered all thy civilities without 
uncovering my head, and at the same time said 'thee' and 'thou' to 
thee. However, thou appearest to me too well read not to know that 
in Christ's time no nation was so ridiculous as to put the plural 
number for the singular. Augustus Csesar himself was spoken to in 
such phrases as these: 'I love thee,' 'I beseech thee,' 'I thank thee;' 
but he did not allow any person to call him 'Domine,' sir. It was not 
till many ages after that men would have the word 'you,' as though 
they were double, instead of 'thou' employed in speaking to them; 
and usurped the flattering titles of lordship, of emineiice, and of holi- 
ness, which mere worms bestow on other worms by assuring them 
that they are with a most profound respect, and an infamous false- 
hood, their most obedient humble servants. It is to secure ourselves 
more strongly from such a shameless traffic of lies and flattery, that 
we 'thee' and 'thou' a king with the same freedom as we do a beggar, 
and salute no person; we owing nothing to mankind but charity, and 
to the laws respect and obedience. 

"Our apparel is also somewhat different from that of others, and 
this purely, that it may be a perpetual warning to us not to imitate 
them. Others wear the badges and marks of their several dignities, 
and we those of Christian humility. We fly from all assemblies of 
pleasure, from diversions of every kind, and from places where 
gaming is practised; and, indeed, our case would be very deplorable, 
should we fill with such levities as those I have mentioned the heart 
which ought to be the habitation of God. We never swear, not even 
in a court of justice, being of opinion that the most holy name of 
God ought not to be prostituted in the miserable contests betwixt 
man and man. When we are obliged to appear before a magistrate 
upon other people's account (for lawsuits are unknown among the 
Friends), we give evidence to the truth by sealing it with our yea 
or nay; and the judges believe us on our bare affirmation, whilst so 
many other Christians forswear themselves on the holy Gospels. We 
never war or fight in any case; but it is not that we are afraid, for so 
far from shuddering at the thoughts of death, we on the contrary 
bless the moment which unites us with the Being of Beings; but the 
reason of our not using the outward sword is, that we are neither 
wolves, tigers, nor mastiffs, but men and Christians. Our God, who 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 69 

has commanded us to love our enemies, and to suffer without re- 
pining, would certainly not permit us to cross the seas, merely 
because murderers clothed in scarlet, and wearing caps two foot 
high, enlist citizens by a noise made with two little sticks on an ass's 
skin extended. And when, after a victory is gained, the whole city of 
London is illuminated; when the sky is in a blaze with fireworks, 
and a noise is heard in the air, of thanksgivings, of bells, of organs, 
and of the cannon, we groan in silence, and are deeply affected with 
sadness of spirit and brokenness of heart, for the sad havoc which is 
the occasion of those public rejoicings." 

Letter II 

ON THE QUAKERS 

Such was the substance of the conversation I had with this very 
singular person; but I was greatly surprised to see him come the 
Sunday following and take me with him to the Quakers' meeting. 
There are several of these in London, but that which he carried me 
to stands near the famous pillar called The Monument. The brethren 
were already assembled at my entering it with my guide. There 
might be about four hundred men and three hundred women in the 
meeting. The women hid their faces behind their fans, and the men 
were covered with their broad-brimmed hats. All were seated, and 
the silence was universal. I passed through them, but did not per- 
ceive so much as one lift up his eyes to look at me. This silence lasted 
a quarter of an hour, when at last one of them rose up, took off his 
hat, and, after making a variety of wry faces and groaning in a most 
lamentable manner, he, partly from his nose and partly from his 
mouth, threw out a strange, confused jumble of words (borrowed, as 
he imagined, from the Gospel) which neither himself nor any of his 
hearers understood. When this distorter had ended his beautiful 
soliloquy, and that the stupid, but greatly edified, congregation were 
separated, I asked my friend how it was possible for the judicious 
part of their assembly to suffer such a babbling ? "We are obliged," 
said he, "to suffer it, because no one knows when a man rises up to 
hold forth whether he will be moved by the Spirit or by folly. In this 



TO VOLTAIRE 

doubt and uncertainty we listen patiently to everyone; we even allow 
our women to hold forth. Two or three of these are often inspired 
at one and the same time, and it is then that a most charming noise 
is heard in the Lord's house." "You have, then, no priests?" said I to 
him. "No, no, friend," replies the Quaker, "to our great happiness." 
Then opening one of the Friends' books, as he called it, he read the 
following words in an emphatic tone: — " 'God forbid we should pre- 
sume to ordain anyone to receive the Holy Spirit on the Lord's Day 
to the prejudice of the rest of the brethren.' Thanks to the Almighty, 
we are the only people upon earth that have no priests. Wouldst thou 
deprive us of so happy a distinction? Why should we abandon our 
babe to mercenary nurses, when we ourselves have milk enough for 
it? These mercenary creatures would soon domineer in our houses 
and destroy both the mother and the babe. God has said, 'Freely you 
have received, freely give.' Shall we, after these words, cheapen, as it 
were, the Gospel, sell the Holy Ghost, and make of an assembly of 
Christians a mere shop of traders ? We don't pay a set of men clothed 
in black to assist our poor, to bury our dead, or to preach to the 
brethren. These offices are all of too tender a nature for us ever to 
entrust them to others." "But how is it possible for you," said I, with 
some warmth, "to know whether your discourse is really inspired by 
the Almighty?" "Whosoever," says he, "shall implore Christ to 
enlighten him, and shall publish the Gospel truths, he may feel 
inwardly, such a one may be assured that he is inspired by the Lord." 
He then poured forth a numberless multitude of Scripture texts 
which proved, as he imagined, that there is no such thing as Chris- 
tianity without an immediate revelation, and added these remark- 
able words : "When thou movest one of thy limbs, is it moved by thy 
own power? Certainly not; for this limb is often sensible to involun- 
tary motions. Consequently He who created thy body gives modon 
to this earthly tabernacle. And are the several ideas of which thy 
soul receives the impression formed by thyself ? Much less are they, 
since these pour in upon thy mind whether thou wilt or no; conse- 
quently thou receivest thy ideas from Him who created thy soul. 
But as He leaves thy aflecdons at full liberty, He gives thy mind such 
ideas as thy affections may deserve; if thou hvest in God, thou 
actest, thou thinkest in God. After this thou needest only but open 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH Jl 

thine eyes to that Hght which enHghtens all mankind, and it is then 
thou wilt perceive the truth, and make others perceive it." "Why, 
this," said I, "is Malebranche's doctrine to a tittle." "I am acquainted 
with thy Malebranche," said he; "he had something of the Friend in 
him, but was not enough so." These are the most considerable par- 
ticulars I learned concerning the doctrine o£ the Quakers. In my next 
letter I shall acquaint you with their history, which you will find 
more singular than their opinions. 

Letter III 
ON THE QUAKERS 

You have already heard that the Quakers date from Christ, who, 
according to them, was the first Quaker. Religion, say these, was 
corrupted a Uttle after His death, and remained in that state of cor- 
ruption about sixteen hundred years. But there were always a few 
Quakers concealed in the world, who carefully preserved the sacred 
fire, which was extinguished in all but themselves, until at last this 
Ught spread itself in England in 1642. 

It was at the time when Great Britain was torn to pieces by the 
intestine wars which three or four sects had raised in the name of 
God, that one George Fox, born in Leicestershire, and son to a silk 
weaver, took it into his head to preach, and, as he pretended, with all 
the requisites of a true apostle — that is, without being able either to 
read or write. He was about twenty-five years of age, irreproachable 
in his life and conduct, and a holy madman. He was equipped in 
leather from head to foot, and travelled from one village to another, 
exclaiming against war and the clergy. Had his invectives been 
levelled against the soldiery only he would have been safe enough, 
but he inveighed against ecclesiastics. Fox was seized at Derby, and 
being carried before a justice of peace, he did not once offer to pull 
off his leathern hat, upon which an officer gave him a great box of 
the ear, and cried to him, "Don't you know you are to appear uncov- 
ered before his worship?" Fox presented his other cheek to the 
officer, and begged him to give him another box for God's sake. The 
justice would have had him sworn before he asked him any ques- 



72 VOLTAIRE 

tions. "Know, friend," says Fox to him, "that I never swear." The 
justice, observing he "thee'd" and "thou'd" him, sent him to the 
House of Correction, in Derby, with orders that he should be 
whipped there. Fox praised the Lord all the way he went to the 
House of Correction, where the justice's order was executed with the 
utmost severity. The men who whipped this enthusiast were greatly 
surprised to hear him beseech them to give him a few more lashes 
for the good of his soul. There was no need of entreating these 
people; the lashes were repeated, for which Fox thanked them very 
cordially, and began to preach. At first the spectators fell a-laughing, 
but they afterwards listened to him; and as enthusiasm is an epidem- 
ical distemper, many were persuaded, and those who scourged him 
became his first disciples. Being set at liberty, he ran up and down 
the country with a dozen proselytes at his heels, still declaiming 
against the clergy, and was whipped from time to time. Being one 
day set in the pillory, he harangued the crowd in so strong and 
moving a manner, that fifty of the auditors became his converts, and 
he won the rest so much in his favour that, his head being freed 
tumultuously from the hole where it was fastened, the populace went 
and searched for the Church of England clergyman who had been 
chiefly instrumental in bringing him to this punishment, and set him 
on the same pillory where Fox had stood. 

Fox was bold enough to convert some of Oliver Cromwell's sol- 
diers, who thereupon quitted the service and refused to take the 
oaths. Oliver, having as great a contempt for a sect which would 
not allow its members to fight, as Sixtus Quintus had for another 
sect, Dove non si chiavava} began to persecute these new converts. 
The prisons were crowded with them, but persecution seldom has 
any other effect than to increase the number of proselytes. These 
came, therefore, from their confinement more strongly confirmed in 
the principles they had imbibed, and followed by their gaolers, whom 
they had brought over to their belief. But the circumstances which 
contributed chiefly to the spreading of this sect were as follows: — 
Fox thought himself inspired, and consequently was of opinion that 
he must speak in a manner different from the rest of mankind. He 
thereupon began to writhe his body, to screw up his face, to hold in 

' "Where there were no clandestine doings." 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 73 

his breath, and to exhale it in a forcible manner, insomuch that the 
priestess of the Pythian god at Delphos could not have acted her part 
to better advantage. Inspiration soon became so habitual to him that 
he could scarce deliver himself in any other manner. This was the 
first gift he communicated to his disciples. These aped very sincerely 
their master's several grimaces, and shook in every limb the instant 
the fit of inspiration came upon them, whence they were called 
Quakers. The vulgar attempted to mimic them; they trembled, they 
spake through the nose, they quaked and fancied themselves inspired 
by the Holy Ghost. The only thing now wanting was a few miracles, 
and accordingly they wrought some. 

Fox, this modern patriarch, spoke thus to a justice of peace before 
a large assembly of people: "Friend, take care what thou dost; God 
will soon punish thee for persecuting His saints." This magistrate, 
being one who besotted himself every day with bad beer and brandy, 
died of an apoplexy two days after, the moment he had signed a 
mittimus for imprisoning some Quakers. The sudden death with 
which this justice was seized was not ascribed to his intemperance, 
but was universally looked upon as the effect of the holy man's pre- 
dictions; so that this accident made more converts to Quakerism than 
a thousand sermons and as many shaking fits could have done. 
Oliver, finding them increase daily, was desirous of bringing them 
over to his party, and for that purpose attempted to bribe them by 
money. However, they were incorruptible, which made him one 
day declare that this religion was the only one he had ever met with 
that had resisted the charms of gold. 

The Quakers were several times persecuted under Charles II.; not 
upon a religious account, but for refusing to pay the tithes, for "thee- 
ing" and "thouing" the magistrates, and for refusing to take the 
oaths enacted by the laws. 

At last Robert Barclay, a native of Scotland, presented to the King, 
in 1675, his "Apology for the Quakers," a work as well drawn up as 
the subject could possibly admit. The dedication to Charles II. is 
not filled with mean, flattering encomiums, but abounds with bold 
touches in favour of truth and with the wisest counsels. "Thou hast 
tasted," said he to the King at the close of his epistle dedicatory, "of 
prosperity and adversity; thou knowest what it is to be banished thy 



74 VOLTAIRE 

native country; to be overruled as well as to rule and sit upon the 
throne; and, being oppressed, thou hast reason to know how hateful 
the oppressor is both to God and man. If, after all these warnings and 
advertisements, thou dost not turn unto the Lord with all thy heart, 
but forget Him who remembered thee in thy distress, and give up 
thyself to follow lust and vanity, surely great will be thy condem- 
nation. 

"Against which snare, as well as the temptation of those that 
may or do feed thee and prompt thee to evil, the most excellent and 
prevalent remedy will be, to apply thyself to that light of Christ 
which shineth in thy conscience, which neither can nor will flatter 
thee nor suffer thee to be at ease in thy sins, but doth and will deal 
plainly and faithfully with thee, as those that are followers thereof 
have plainly done. — Thy faithful friend and subject, Robert Barclay." 

A more surprising circumstance is, that this epistle, written by a 
private man of no figure, was so happy in its effects, as to put a stop 
to the persecution. 



Letter IV 

ON THE QUAKERS 

About this time arose the illustrious William Penn, who estab- 
lished the power of the Quakers in America, and would have made 
them appear venerable in the eyes of the Europeans, were it possible 
for mankind to respect virtue when revealed in a ridiculous light. 
He was the only son of Vice-Admiral Penn, favourite of the Duke of 
York, afterwards King James II. 

William Penn, at twenty years of age, happening to meet with a 
Quaker' in Cork, whom he had known at Oxford, this man made a 
proselyte of him; and William being a sprightly youth, and naturally 
eloquent, having a winning aspect, and a very engaging carriage, he 
soon gained over some of his intimates. He carried matters so far, 
that he formed by insensible degrees a society of young Quakers, 
who met at his house; so that he was at the head of a sect when a 
little above twenty. 

^ Thomas Loe. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 75 

Being returned, after his leaving Cork, to the Vice-Admiral his 
father, instead of falHng upon his knees to ask his blessing, he went 
up to him with his hat on, and said, "Friend, I am very glad to see 
thee in good health." The Vice-Admiral imagined his son to be 
crazy, but soon finding he was turned Quaker, he employed all the 
methods that prudence could suggest to engage him to behave and 
act like other people. The youth made no other answer to his father, 
than by exhorting him to turn Quaker also. At last his father con- 
fined himself to this single request, viz., "that he should wait upon 
the King and the Duke of York with his hat under his arm, and 
should not 'thee' and 'thou' them." William answered, "that he could 
not do these things, for conscience' sake," which exasperated his 
father to such a degree, that he turned him out of doors. Young 
Penn gave God thanks for permitting him to sufler so early in His 
cause, after which he went into the city, where he held forth, and 
made a great number of converts. 

The Church of England clergy found their congregations dwindle 
away daily; and Penn being young, handsome, and of a graceful 
stature, the court as well as the city ladies flocked very devoutly to his 
meeting. The patriarch, George Fox, hearing of his great reputation, 
came to London (though the journey was very long) purely to see 
and converse with him. Both resolved to go upon missions into 
foreign countries, and accordingly they embarked for Holland, after 
having left labourers sufficient to take care of the London vineyard. 

Their labours were crowned with success in Amsterdam, but a 
circumstance which reflected the greatest honour on them, and at 
the same time put their humility to the greatest trial, was the recep- 
tion they met with from Elizabeth, the Princess Palatine, aunt to 
George I. of Great Britain, a lady conspicuous for her genius and 
knowledge, and to whom Descartes had dedicated his Philosophical 
Romance. 

She was then retired to The Hague, where she received these 
Friends, for so the Quakers were at that time called in Holland. 
This princess had several conferences with them in her palace, and 
she at last entertained so favourable an opinion of Quakerism, that 
they confessed she was not far from the kingdom of heaven. The 
Friends sowed likewise the good seed in Germany, but reaped very 



76 VOLTAIRE 

little fruit; for the mode of "theeing" and "thouing" was not ap- 
proved of in a country where a man is perpetually obliged to employ 
the titles of "highness" and "excellency." William Penn returned 
soon to England upon hearing of his father's sickness, in order to see 
him before he died. The Vice-Admiral was reconciled to his son, 
and though of a different persuasion, embraced him tenderly. Wil- 
liam made a fruitless exhortation to his father not to receive the 
sacrament, but to die a Quaker, and the good old man entreated 
his son William to wear buttons on his sleeves, and a crape hatband 
in his beaver, but all to no purpose. 

William Penn inherited very large possessions, part of which con- 
sisted in Crown debts due to the Vice-Admiral for sums he had 
advanced for the sea service. No moneys were at that time more 
insecure than those owing from the king. Penn was obliged to go 
more than once, and "thee" and "thou" King Charles and his Minis- 
ters, in order to recover the debt; and at last, instead of specie, the 
Government invested him with the right and sovereignty of a 
province of America, to the south of Maryland. Thus was a Quaker 
raised to sovereign power. Penn set sail for his new dominions with 
two ships freighted with Quakers, who followed his fortune. The 
country was then called Pennsylvania from William Penn, who there 
founded Philadelphia, now the most flourishing city in that country. 
The first step he took was to enter into an alliance with his Ameri- 
can neighbours, and this is the only treaty between those people 
and the Christians that was not ratified by an oath, and was never 
infringed. The new sovereign was at the same time the legislator of 
Pennsylvania, and enacted very wise and prudent laws, none of which 
have ever been changed since his time. The first is, to injure no 
person upon a religious account, and to consider as brethren all those 
who believe in one God. 

He had no sooner settled his government, but several American 
merchants came and peopled this colony. The natives of the country, 
instead of flying into the woods, cultivated by insensible degrees a 
friendship with the peaceable Quakers. They loved these foreigners 
as much as they detested the other Christians who had conquered 
and laid waste America. In a little time a great number of these 
savages (falsely so called), charmed with the mild and gentle dispo- 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 77 

sition of their neighbours, came in crowds to WiUiam Penn, and 
besought him to admit them into the number of his vassals. It was 
very rare and uncommon for a sovereign to be "thee'd" and "thou'd" 
by the meanest of his subjects, who never took their hats off when 
they came into his presence; and as singular for a Government to be 
without one priest in it, and for a people to be without arms, either 
offensive or defensive; for a body of citizens to be absolutely undis- 
tinguished but by the public employments, and for neighbours not 
to entertain the least jealousy one against the other. 

William Penn might glory in having brought down upon earth 
the so much boasted golden age, which in all probability never 
existed but in Pennsylvania. He returned to England to settle some 
affairs relating to his new dominions. After the death of King 
Charles II., King James, who had loved the father, indulged the 
same affection to the son, and no longer considered him as an 
obscure sectary, but as a very great man. The king's politics on this 
occasion agreed with his inclinations. He was desirous of pleasing 
the Quakers by annulling the laws made against Nonconformists, in 
order to have an opportunity, by this universal toleration, of estab- 
lishing the Romish religion. All the sectarists in England saw the 
snare that was laid for them, but did not give into it; they never 
failing to unite when the Romish religion, their common enemy, is 
to be opposed. But Penn did not think himself bound in any manner 
to renounce his principles, merely to favour Protestants to whom he 
was odious, in opposition to a king who loved him. He had estab- 
lished a universal toleration with regard to conscience in America, 
and would not have it thought that he intended to destroy it in 
Europe, for which reason he adhered so inviolably to King James, 
that a report prevailed universally of his being a Jesuit. This calumny 
affected him very strongly, and he was obliged to justify himself in 
print. However, the unfortunate King James II., in whom, as in 
most princes of the Stuart family, grandeur and weakness were 
equally blended, and who, like them, as much overdid some things 
as he was short in others, lost his kingdom in a manner that is hardly 
to be accounted for. 

All the English sectarists accepted from William III. and his Parlia- 
ment the toleration and indulgence which they had refused when 



78 VOLTAIRE 

offered by King James. It was then the Quakers began to enjoy, by 
virtue o£ the laws, the several privileges they possess at this time. 
Penn having at last seen Quakerism firmly established in his native 
country, went back to Pennsylvania. His own people and the Ameri- 
cans received him with tears of joy, as though he had been a father 
who was returned to visit his children. All the laws had been 
religiously observed in his absence, a circumstance in which no legis- 
lator had ever been happy but himself. After having resided some 
years in Pennsylvania he left it, but with great reluctance, in order to 
return to England, there to solicit some matters in favour of the 
commerce of Pennsylvania. But he never saw it again, he dying in 
Ruscombe, in Berkshire, in 171 8. 

I am not able to guess what fate Quakerism may have in America, 
but I perceive it dwindles away daily in England. In all countries 
where liberty of conscience is allowed, the established religion will at 
last swallow up all the rest. Quakers are disqualified from being 
members of Parliament; nor can they enjoy any post or preferment, 
because an oath must always be taken on these occasions, and they 
never swear. They are therefore reduced to the necessity of subsist- 
ing upon traffic. Their children, whom the industry of their parents 
has enriched, are desirous of enjoying honours, of wearing buttons 
and ruffles; and quite ashamed of being called Quakers they become 
converts to the Church of England, merely to be in the fashion. 

Letter V 
ON THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND 

England is properly the country of sectarists. Multie sunt tnan- 
siones in domo patris met (in my Father's house are many mansions). 
An Englishman, as one to whom liberty is natural, may go to heaven 
his own way. 

Nevertheless, though every one is permitted to serve God in what- 
ever mode or fashion he thinks proper, yet their true religion, that in 
which a man makes his fortune, is the sect of Episcopalians or 
Churchmen, called the Church of England, or simply the Church, 
by way of eminence. No person can possess an employment either in 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 79 

England or Ireland unless he be ranked among the faithful, that is, 
professes himself a member of the Church of England. This reason 
(which carries mathematical evidence with it) has converted such 
numbers of Dissenters of all persuasions, that not a twentieth part 
of the nation is out of the pale of the Established Church. The 
Enghsh clergy have retained a great number of the Romish cere- 
monies, and especially that of receiving, with a most scrupulous 
attention, their tithes. They also have the pious ambition to aim at 
superiority. 

Moreover, they inspire very religiously their flock with a holy zeal 
against Dissenters of all denominations. This zeal was pretty violent 
under the Tories in the four last years of Queen Anne; but was 
productive of no greater mischief than the breaking the windows of 
some meeting-houses and the demolishing of a few of them. For 
religious rage ceased in England with the civil wars, and was no 
more under Queen Anne than the hollow noise of a sea whose bil- 
lows still heaved, though so long after the storm when the Whigs 
and Tories laid waste their native country, in the same manner as 
the Guelphs and Ghibellines formerly did theirs. It was absolutely 
necessary for both parties to call in religion on this occasion; the 
Tories declared for Episcopacy, and the Whigs, as some imagined, 
were for aboUshing it; however, after these had got the upper hand, 
they contented themselves with only abridging it. 

At the time when the Earl of Oxford and the Lord Bolingbroke 
used to drink healths to the Tories, the Church of England consid- 
ered these noblemen as the defenders of its holy privileges. The 
lower House of Convocation (a kind of House of Commons) com- 
posed wholly of the clergy, was in some credit at that time; at least 
the members of it had the liberty to meet, to dispute on ecclesiastical 
matters, to sentence impious books from time to time to the flames, 
that is, books written against themselves. The Ministry which is now 
composed of Whigs does not so much as allow those gentlemen to 
assemble, so that they are at this time reduced (in the obscurity of 
their respective parishes) to the melancholy occupation of praying 
for the prosperity of the Government whose tranquillity they would 
willingly disturb. With regard to the bishops, who are twenty-six 
in all, they still have seats in the House of Lords in spite of the Whigs, 



8o VOLTAIRE 

because the ancient abuse of considering them as barons subsists to 
this day. There is a clause, however, in the oath which the Govern- 
ment requires from these gentlemen, that puts their Christian pa- 
tience to a very great trial, viz., that they shall be of the Church of 
England as by law established. There are few bishops, deans, or 
other dignitaries, but imagine they are so jure divino; it is conse- 
quently a great mortification to them to be obliged to confess that 
they owe their dignity to a pitiful law enacted by a set of profane 
laymen. A learned monk (Father Courayer) wrote a book lately to 
prove the validity and succession of English ordinations. This book 
•was forbid in France, but do you believe that the English Ministry 
were pleased with it ? Far from it. Those damned Whigs don't care 
a straw whether the episcopal succession among them hath been 
interrupted or not, or whether Bishop Parker was consecrated (as it 
is pretended) in a tavern or a church; for these Whigs are much 
better pleased that the Bishops should derive their authority from 
the Parhament than from the Apostles. The Lord Bolingbroke 
-observed that this notion of divine right would only make so 
many tyrants in lawn sleeves, but that the laws made so many 
citizens. 

With regard to the morals of the English clergy, they are more 
regular than those of France, and for this reason. All the clergy (a 
very few excepted) are educated in the Universities of Oxford or 
Cambridge, far from the depravity and corruption which reign in the 
capital. They are not called to dignities till very late, at a time of life 
when men are sensible of no other passion but avarice, that is, when 
their ambition craves a supply. Employments are here bestowed 
both in the Church and the army, as a reward for long services; and 
we never see youngsters made bishops or colonels immediately upon 
their laying aside the academical gown; and besides most of the 
clergy are married. The stiff and awkward air contracted by them 
at the University, and the little familiarity the men of this country 
have with the ladies, commonly oblige a bishop to confine himself to, 
and rest contented with, his own. Clergymen sometimes take a 
glass at the tavern, custom giving them a sanction on this occasion; 
and if they fuddle themselves it is in a very serious manner, and 
without giving the least scandal. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 8 1 

That fable-mixed kind of mortal (not to be defined), who is 
neither of the clergy nor of the laity; in a word, the thing called Abbe 
in France; is a species quite unknown in England. All the clergy 
here are very much upon the reserve, and most of them pedants. 
When these are told that in France young fellows famous for their 
dissoluteness, and raised to the highest dignities of the Church by 
female intrigues, address the fair publicly in an amorous way, amuse 
themselves in writing tender love songs, entertain their friends very 
splendidly every night at their own houses, and after the banquet 
is ended withdraw to invoke the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and 
call themselves boldly the successors of the Apostles, they bless God 
for their being Protestants. But these are shameless heretics, who 
deserve to be blown hence through the flames to old Nick, as 
Rabelais says, and for this reason I don't trouble myself about them. 



Letter VI 
ON THE PRESBYTERIANS 

The Church of England is confined almost to the kingdom whence 
it received its name, and to Ireland, for Presbyterianism is the estab- 
lished religion in Scotland. This Presbyterianism is directly the 
same with Calvinism, as it was established in France, and is now 
professed at Geneva. As the priests of this sect receive but very incon- 
siderable stipends from their churches, and consequendy cannot 
emulate the splendid luxury of bishops, they exclaim very naturally 
against honours which they can never attain to. Figure to yourself 
the haughty Diogenes trampling under foot the pride of Plato. The 
Scotch Presbyterians are not very unlike that proud though tattered 
reasoner. Diogenes did not use Alexander half so impertinently as 
these treated King Charles II.; for when they took up arms in his 
cause in opposition to Oliver, who had deceived them, they forced 
that poor monarch to undergo the hearing of three or four sermons 
every day, would not suffer him to play, reduced him to a state of 
penitence and mortificadon, so that Charles soon grew sick of these 
pedants, and accordingly eloped from them with as much joy as a 
youth does from school. 



82 VOLTAIRE 

A Church of England minister appears as another Cato in pres- 
ence of a juvenile, sprightly French graduate, who bawls for a whole 
morning together in the divinity schools, and hums a song in chorus 
with ladies in the evening; but this Cato is a very spark when before 
a Scotch Presbyterian. The latter affects a serious gait, puts on a sour 
look, wears a vastly broad-brimmed hat and a long cloak over a very 
short coat, preaches through the nose, and gives the name of the 
whore of Babylon to all churches where the ministers are so fortunate 
as to enjoy an aimual revenue of five or six thousand pounds, and 
where the people are weak enough to suffer this, and to give them 
the titles of my lord, your lordship, or your eminence. 

These gentlemen, who have also some churches in England, 
introduced there the mode of grave and severe exhortations. To them 
is owing the sanctification of Sunday in the three kingdoms. People 
are there forbidden to work or take any recreation on that day, in 
which the severity is twice as great as that of the Romish Church. 
No operas, plays, or concerts are allowed in London on Sundays, 
and even cards are so expressly forbidden that none but persons of 
quality, and those we call the genteel, play on that day; the rest of the 
nation go either to church, to the tavern, or to see their mistresses. 

Though the Episcopal and Presbyterian sects are the two prevail- 
ing ones in Great Britain, yet all others are very welcome to come 
and settle in it, and live very sociably together, though most of their 
preachers hate one another almost as cordially as a Jansenist damns 
a Jesuit. 

Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more 
venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of 
all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the 
Mahometan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all 
professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none 
but bankrupts. There the Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, 
and the Churchman depends on the Quaker's word. At the break- 
ing up of this pacific and free assembly, some withdraw to the syna- 
gogue, and others to take a glass. This man goes and is baptized in 
a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: that 
man has his son's foreskin cut off, whilst a set of Hebrew words, 
(quite unintelligible to him) are mumbled over his child. Others 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 83 

retire to their churches, and there wait for the inspiration of heaven 
with their hats on, and all are satisfied. 

If one religion only were allowed in England, the Government 
would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the 
people would cut one another's throats; but as there are such a multi- 
tude, they all live happy and in peace. 

Letter VII 

ON THE SOCINIANS, OR ARIANS, OR 
ANTITRINITARIANS 

There is a litde sect here composed of clergymen, and of a few 
very learned persons among the laity, who, though they don't call 
themselves Arians or Socinians, do yet dissent entirely from St. Atha- 
nasius with regard to their notions of the Trinity, and declare very 
frankly that the Father is greater than the Son. 

Do you remember what is related of a certain orthodox bishop, 
who in order to convince an emperor of the reality of consubstantia- 
tion, put his hand under the chin of the monarch's son, and took him 
by the nose in presence of his sacred majesty? The emperor was 
going to order his attendants to throw the bishop out of the window, 
when the good old man gave him this handsome and convincing 
reason: "Since your majesty," said he, "is angry when your son has 
not due respect shown him, what punishment do you think will 
God the Father inflict on those who refuse His Son Jesus the titles 
due to Him?" The persons I just now mentioned declare that the 
holy bishop took a very wrong step, that his argument was incon- 
clusive, and that the emperor should have answered him thus: 
"Know that there are two ways by which men may be wanting in 
respect to me — first, in not doing honour sufficient to my son; and, 
secondly, in paying him the same honour as to me." 

Be this as it will, the principles of Arius begin to revive, not only in 
England, but in Holland and Poland. The celebrated Sir Isaac 
Newton honoured this opinion so far as to countenance it. This 
philosopher thought that the Unitarians argued more mathematically 
than we do. But the most sanguine stickler for Arianism is the 



84 VOLTAIRE 

illustrious Dr. Clark, This man is rigidly virtuous, and of a mild 
disposition, is more fond of his tenets than desirous of propagating 
them, and absorbed so entirely in problems and calculations that he 
is a mere reasoning machine. 

It is he who wrote a book which is much esteemed and little under- 
stood, on the existence of God, and another, more intelligible, but 
pretty much contemned, on the truth of the Christian religion. He 
never engaged in scholastic disputes, which our friend calls venerable 
trifles. He only published a work containing all the testimonies of the 
primitive ages for and against the Unitarians, and leaves to the reader 
the counting of the voices and the liberty of forming a judgment. 
This book won the doctor a great number of partisans, and lost 
him the See of Canterbury but, in my humble opinion, he was out 
in his calculation, and had better have been Primate of all England 
than merely an Arian parson. 

You see that opinions are subject to revolutions as well as empires. 
Arianism, after having triumphed during three centuries, and been 
forgot twelve, rises at last out of its own ashes; but it has chosen a 
very improper season to make its appearance in, the present age 
being quite cloyed with disputes and sects. The members of this 
sect are, besides, too few to be indulged the liberty of holding public 
assemblies, which, however, they will, doubtless, be permitted to do 
in case they spread considerably. But people are now so very cold 
with respect to all things of this kind, that there is little probability 
any new religion, or old one, that may be revived, will meet with 
favour. Is it not whimsical enough that Luther, Calvin, and Zuing- 
lius, all of 'em wretched authors, should have founded sects which 
are now spread over a great part of Europe, that Mahomet, though 
so ignorant, should have given a religion to Asia and Africa, and 
that Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Clark, Mr. Locke, Mr. Le Clerc, etc., 
the greatest philosophers, as well as the ablest writers of their ages, 
should scarce have been able to raise a little flock, which even de- 
creases daily. 

This it is to be born at a proper period of time. Were Cardinal 
de Retz to return again into the world neither his eloquence nor his 
intrigues would draw together ten women in Paris. Were Oliver 
Cromwell, he who beheaded his sovereign, and seized upon the 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 85 

kingly dignity, to rise from the dead, he would be a wealthy City 
trader, and no more. 

Letter VIII 
ON THE PARLIAMENT 

The members o£ the English Parliament are fond of comparing 
themselves to the old Romans. 

Not long since Mr. Shippen opened a speech in the House of 
Commons with these words, "The majesty of the people of England 
would be wounded." The singularity of the expression occasioned a 
loud laugh; but this gentleman, so far from being disconcerted, 
repeated the same words with a resolute tone of voice, and the laugh 
ceased. In my opinion, the majesty of the people of England has 
nothing in common with that of the people of Rome, much less 
is there any affinity between their Governments. There is in London 
a senate, some of the members whereof are accused (doubtless very 
unjustly) of selling their voices on certain occasions, as was done in 
Rome; this is the only resemblance. Besides, the two nations appear 
to me quite opposite in character, with regard both to good and 
evil. The Romans never knew the dreadful folly of religious 
wars, an abomination reserved for devout preachers of patience and 
humility. Marious and Sylla, Caesar and Pompey, Anthony and 
Augustus, did not draw their swords and set the world in a blaze 
merely to determine whether the flamen should wear his shirt over 
his robe, or his robe over his shirt, or whether the sacred chickens 
should eat and drink, or eat only, in order to take the augury. The 
English have hanged one another by law, and cut one another to 
pieces in pitched battles, for quarrels of as trifling nature. The sects 
of the Episcopalians and Presbyterians quite distracted these very 
serious heads for a time. But I fancy they will hardly ever be so 
silly again, they seeming to be grown wiser at their own expense; and 
I do not perceive the least inclination in them to murder one another 
merely about syllogisms, as some zealots among them once did. 

But here follows a more essential difference between Rome and 
England, which gives the advantage entirely to the latter — viz., that 



86 VOLTAIRE 

the civil wars o£ Rome ended in slavery, and diose o£ the English 
in liberty. The English are the only people upon earth who have 
been able to prescribe limits to the power of kings by resisting them; 
and who, by a series of struggles, have at last established that wise 
Government where the Prince is all powerful to do good, and, at 
the same time, is restrained from committing evil; where the nobles 
are great without insolence, though there are no vassals; and where 
the people share in the Government without confusion. 

The House of Lords and that of the Commons divide the legis- 
lative power under the king, but the Romans had no such balance. 
The patricians and plebeians in Rome were perpetually at variance, 
and there was no intermediate power to reconcile them. The Roman 
senate, who were so unjustly, so criminally proud as not to suffer 
the plebeians to share with them in anything, could find no other 
artifice to keep the latter out of the administration than by employing 
them in foreign wars. They considered the plebeians as a wild 
beast, whom it behoved them to let loose upon their neighbours, for 
fear they should devour their masters. Thus the greatest defect in 
the Government of the Romans raised them to be conquerors. By 
being unhappy at home, they triumphed over and possessed them- 
selves of the world, till at last their divisions sunk them to slavery. 

The Government of England will never rise to so exalted a pitch 
of glory, nor will its end be so fatal. The English are not fired with 
the splendid folly of making conquests, but would only prevent 
their neighbours from conquering. They are not only jealous of their 
own liberty, but even of that of other nations. The English were 
exasperated against Louis XIV. for no other reason but because he 
was ambitious, and declared war against him merely out of levity, 
not from any interested motives. 

The English have doubtless purchased their liberties at a very high 
price, and waded through seas of blood to drown the idol of arbi- 
trary power. Other nations have been involved in as great calamities, 
and have shed as much blood; but then the blood they spilt in 
defence of their liberties only enslaved them the more. 

That which rises to a revolution in England is no more than a 
sedition in other countries. A city in Spain, in Barbary, or in 
Turkey, takes up arms in defence of its privileges, when imme- 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 87 

diately it is stormed by mercenary troops, it is punished by execu- 
tioners, and the rest of the nation kiss the chains they are loaded 
with. The French are of opinion that the government of this island 
is more tempestuous than the sea which surrounds it, which indeed 
is true; but then it is never so but when the king raises the storm- 
when he attempts to seize the ship of which he is only the chief 
pilot. The civil wars of France lasted longer, were more cruel, and 
productive of greater evils than those of England; but none of these 
civil wars had a wise and prudent liberty for their object. 

In the detestable reigns of Charles IX. and Henry III. the whole 
affair was only whether the people should be slaves to the Guises. 
With regard to the last war of Paris, it deserves only to be hooted at. 
Methinks I see a crowd of schoolboys rising up in arms against their 
master, and afterwards whipped for it. Cardinal de Retz, who was 
witty and brave (but to no purpose), rebellious without a cause, 
factious without design, and head of a defenseless party, caballed 
for caballing's sake, and seemed to foment the civil war merely 
out of diversion. The parliament did not know what he intended, 
nor what he did not intend. He levied troops by Act of Parliament, 
and the next moment cashiered them. He threatened, he begged par- 
don; he set a price upon Cardinal Mazarin's head, and afterwards 
congratulated him in a public manner. Our civil wars under Charles 
VI. were bloody and cruel, those of the League execrable, and that 
of the Frondeurs' ridiculous. 

That for which the French chiefly reproach the English nation 
is the murder of King Charles I., whom his subjects treated exactly 
as he would have treated them had his reign been prosperous. After 
all, consider on one side Charles I., defeated in a pitched battle, 
imprisoned, tried, sentenced to die in Westminster Hall, and then 
beheaded. And on the other, the Emperor Henry VII., poisoned by 
his chaplain at his receiving the Sacrament; Henry III. stabbed by a 
monk; thirty assassinations projected against Henry IV., several of 
them put in execution, and the last bereaving that great monarch of 
his life. Weigh, I say, all these wicked attempts and then judge. 

' Vrondeurs, in its proper sense Slingers, and figuratively Cavillers, or lovers of 
contradiction, was a name given to a league or party that opposed the French Ministry; 
i. e.. Cardinal Mazarin, in 1648. 



88 VOLTAIRE 

Letter IX 
ON THE GOVERNMENT 

That mixture in the English Government, that harmony between 
King, Lords, and Commons, did not always subsist. England was 
enslaved for a long series of years by the Romans, the Saxons, the 
Danes, and the French successively. William the Conqueror par- 
ticularly, ruled them with a rod of iron. He disposed as absolutely 
of the lives and fortunes of his conquered subjects as an eastern 
monarch; and forbade, upon pain of death, the English either fire 
or candle in their houses after eight o'clock; whether he did this to 
prevent their nocturnal meetings, or only to try, by this odd and 
whimsical prohibition, how far it was possible for one man to 
extend his power over his fellow-creatures. It is true, indeed, that 
the English had Parliaments before and after William the Con- 
queror, and they boast of them, as though these assemblies then 
called Parliaments, composed of ecclesiastical tyrants and of plun- 
derers entitled barons, had been the guardians of the public liberty 
and happiness. 

The barbarians who came from the shores of the Baltic, and 
setded in the rest of Europe, brought with them the form of govern- 
ment called States or Parliaments, about which so much noise is 
made, and which are so little understood. Kings, indeed, were not 
absolute in those days; but then the people were more wretched 
upon that very account, and more completely enslaved. The chiefs 
of these savages, who had laid waste France, Italy, Spain, and 
England, made themselves monarchs. Their generals divided among 
themselves the several countries they had conquered, whence sprung 
those margraves, those peers, those barons, those petty tyrants, who 
often contested with their sovereigns for the spoils of whole nations. 
These were birds of prey fighting with an eagle for doves whose 
blood the victorious was to suck. Every nation, instead of being 
governed by one master, was trampled upon by a hundred tyrants. 
The priests soon played a part among them. Before this it had been 
the fate of the Gauls, the Germans, and the Britons, to be always 
governed by their Druids and the chiefs of their villages, an ancient 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 89 

kind of barons, not so tyrannical as their successors. These Druids 
pretended to be mediators between God and man. They enacted 
laws, they fulminated their excommunications, and sentenced to 
death. The bishops succeeded, by insensible degrees, to their 
temporal authority in the Goth and Vandal government. The popes 
set themselves at their head, and armed with their briefs, their bulls, 
and reinforced by monks, they made even kings tremble, deposed 
and assassinated them at pleasure, and employed every artifice to 
draw into their own purses moneys from all parts of Europe. The 
weak Ina, one of the tyrants of the Saxon Heptarchy in England, 
was the first monarch who submitted, in his pilgrimage to Rome, 
to pay St. Peter's penny (equivalent very near to a French crown) 
for every house in his dominions. The whole island soon followed his 
example; England became insensibly one of the Pope's provinces, 
and the Holy Father used to send from time to time his legates 
thither to levy exorbitant taxes. At last King John delivered up by 
a public instrument the kingdom of England to the Pope, who had 
excommunicated him; but the barons, not finding their account in 
this resignation, dethroned the wretched King John and seated 
Louis, father to St. Louis, King of France, in his place. However, 
they were soon weary of their new monarch, and accordingly obliged 
him to return to France. 

Whilst that the barons, the bishops, and the popes, all laid waste 
England, where all were for ruling; the most numerous, the most 
useful, even the most virtuous, and consequently the most vener- 
able part of mankind, consisting of those who study the laws and 
the sciences, of traders, of artificers, in a word, of all who were not 
tyrants — that is, those who are called the people: these, I say, were 
by them looked upon as so many animals beneath the dignity of 
the human species. The Commons in those ages were far from 
sharing in the government, they being villains or peasants, whose 
labour, whose blood, were the property of their masters who entitled 
themselves the nobility. The major part of men in Europe were at 
that time what they are to this day in several parts of the world — 
they were villains or bondsmen of lords — that is, a kind of cattle 
bought and sold with the land. Many ages passed away before 
justice could be done to human nature — before mankind were 



90 VOLTAIRE 

conscious that it was abominable for many to sow, and but few reap. 
And was not France very happy, when the power and authority of 
those petty robbers was aboHshed by the lawful authority of kings 
and of the people? 

Happily, in the violent shocks which the divisions between kings 
and the nobles gave to empires, the chains of nations were more or 
less heavy. Liberty in England sprang from the quarrels of tyrants. 
The barons forced King John and King Henry III. to grant the 
famous Magna Charta, the chief design of which was indeed to 
make kings dependent on the Lords; but then the rest of the nation 
were a little favoured in it, in order that they might join on proper 
occasions with their pretended masters. This great Charter, which is 
considered as the sacred origin of the English hberties, shows in itself 
how little liberty was known. 

The tide alone proves that the king thought he had a just right 
to be absolute; and that the barons, and even the clergy, forced him 
to give up the pretended right, for no other reason but because they 
were the most powerful. 

Magna Charta begins in this style: "We grant, of our own free 
will, the following privileges to the archbishops, bishops, priors, and 
barons of our kingdom," etc. 

The House of Commons is not once mentioned in the articles of 
this Charter — a proof that it did not yet exist, or that it existed 
without power. Mention is therein made, by name, of the freemen 
of England — a melancholy proof that some were not so. It appears, 
by Article XXXII., that these pretended freemen owed service to 
their lords. Such a liberty as this was not many removes from 
slavery. 

By Ardcle XXL, the king ordains that his officers shall not hence- 
forward seize upon, unless they pay for them, the horses and carts 
of freemen. The people considered this ordinance as a real liberty, 
though it was a greater tyranny. Henry VII., that happy usurper and 
great politician, who pretended to love the barons, though he in 
reality hated and feared them, got their lands alienated. By this 
means the villains, afterwards acquiring riches by their industry, 
purchased the estates and country seats of the illustrious peers who 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 9! 

had ruined diemselves by their folly and extravagance, and all the 
lands got by insensible degrees into other hands. 

The power of the House of Commons increased every day. The 
families of the ancient peers vi^ere at last extinct; and as peers only 
are properly noble in England, there would be no such thing in 
strictness of law as nobility in that island, had not the kings created 
new barons from time to time, and preserved the body of peers, 
once a terror to them, to oppose them to the Commons, since be- 
come so formidable. 

All these new peers who compose the Higher House receive 
nothing but their titles from the king, and very few of them have 
estates in those places whence they take their titles. One shall be 

Duke of D , though he has not a foot of land in Dorsetshire; 

and another is Earl of a village, though he scarce knows where it 
is situated. The peers have power, but it is only in the Parliament 
House. 

There is no such thing here as haute, moyenne, and basse justice — 
that is, a power to judge in all matters civil and criminal; nor a right 
or privilege of hunting in the grounds of a citizen, who at the same 
time is not permitted to fire a gun in his own field. 

No one is exempted in this country from paying certain taxes 
because he is a nobleman or a priest. All duties and taxes are 
setded by the House of Commons, whose power is greater than 
that of the Peers, though inferior to it in dignity. The spiritual as 
well as temporal Lords have the liberty to reject a Money Bill 
brought in by the Commons; but they are not allowed to alter 
anything in it, and must either pass or throw it out without 
restriction. When the Bill has passed the Lords and is signed by the 
king, then the whole nation pays, every man in proportion to his 
revenue or estate, not according to his title, which would be absurd. 
There is no such thing as an arbitrary subsidy or poll-tax, but a real 
tax on the lands, of all which an estimate was made in the reign of 
the famous King William IIL 

The land-tax continues still upon the same foot, though the revenue 
of the lands is increased. Thus no one is tyrannised over, and every 
one is easy. The feet of the peasants are not bruised by wooden 



92 VOLTAIRE 

shoes; they eat white bread, are well clothed, and are not afraid of 
increasing their stock of cattle, nor of tiling their houses, from any 
apprehension that their taxes will be raised the year following. The 
annual income of the estates of a great many commoners in England 
amounts to two hundred thousand livres, and yet these do not think 
it beneath them to plough the lands which enrich them, and on 
which they enjoy their liberty. 

Letter X 
ON TRADE 

As trade enriched the citizens in England, so it contributed to their 
freedom, and this freedom on the other side extended their com- 
merce, whence arose the grandeur of the State. Trade raised by in- 
sensible degrees the naval power, which gives the English a 
superiority over the seas, and they now are masters of very near two 
hundred ships of war. Posterity will very probably be surprised to 
hear that an island whose only produce is a little lead, tin, fuller's- 
earth, and coarse wool, should become so powerful by its com- 
merce, as to be able to send, in 1723, three fleets at the same time to 
three different and far distanced parts of the globe. One before 
Gibraltar, conquered and still possessed by the English; a second to 
Porto Bello, to dispossess the King of Spain of the treasures of the 
West Indies; and a third into the Baltic, to prevent the Northern 
Powers from coming to an engagement. 

At the time when Louis XIV. made all Italy tremble, and that 
his armies, which had already possessed themselves of Savoy and 
Piedmont, were upon the point of taking Turin; Prince Eugene 
was obliged to march from the middle of Germany in order to 
succour Savoy. Having no money, without which cities cannot 
be either taken or defended, he addressed himself to some English 
merchants. These, at an hour and a half's warning, lent him five 
millions, whereby he was enabled to deliver Turin, and to beat the 
French; after which he wrote the following short letter to the per- 
sons who had disbursed him the above-mentioned sums: "Gentlemen, 
I received your money, and flatter myself that I have laid it out to 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 93 

your satisfaction." Such a circumstance as this raises a just pride in 
an EngUsh merchant, and makes him presume (not without some 
reason) to compare himself to a Roman citizen; and, indeed, a peer's 
brother does not think traffic beneath him. When the Lord Town- 
shend was Minister of State, a brother of his was content to be a 
City merchant; and at the time that the Earl of Oxford governed 
Great Britain, his younger brother was no more than a factor in 
Aleppo, where he chose to live, and where he died. This custom, 
which begins, however, to be laid aside, appears monstrous to 
Germans, vainly puffed up with their extraction. These think it 
morally impossible that the son of an English peer should be no 
more than a rich and powerful citizen, for all are princes in 
Germany. There have been thirty highnesses of the same name, all 
whose patrimony consisted only in their escutcheons and their pride. 
In France the title of marquis is given gratis to any one who will 
accept of it; and whosoever arrives at Paris from the midst of the 
most remote provinces with money in his purse, and a name termi- 
nating in ac or ille, may strut about, and cry, "Such a man as I! A 
man of my rank and figure!" and may look down upon a trader 
with sovereign contempt; whilst the trader on the other side, by thus 
often hearing his profession treated so disdainfully, is fool enough 
to blush at it. However, I need not say which is most useful to a 
nation; a lord, powdered in the tip of the mode, who knows exactly 
at what o'clock the king rises and goes to bed, and who gives himself 
airs of grandeur and state, at the same time that he is acting the slave 
in the ante-chamber of a prime minister; or a merchant, who en- 
riches his country, despatches orders from his counting-house to 
Surat and Grand Cairo, and contributes to the fehcity of the world. 



Letter XI 
ON INOCULATION 

It is inadvertently affirmed in the Christian countries of Europe 
that the English are fools and madmen. Fools, because they give 
their children the small-pox to prevent their catching it; and mad- 
men, because they wantonly communicate a certain and dreadful 



94 VOLTAIRE 

distemper to their children, merely to prevent an ancertain evil. 
The English, on the other side, call the rest of the Europeans 
cow^ardly and unnatural. Cowardly, because they are afraid of 
putting their children to a little pain; unnatural, because they ex- 
pose them to die one time or other of the small-pox. But that the 
reader may be able to judge whether the English or those who 
differ from them in opinion are in the right, here follows the history 
of the famed inoculation, which is mentioned with so much dread 
in France. 

The Circassian women have, from time immemorial, communi- 
cated the small-pox to their children when not above six months 
old by making an incision in the arm, and by putting into this 
incision a pustule, taken carefully from the body of another child. 
This pustule produces the same effect in the arm it is laid in as yeast 
in a piece of dough; it ferments, and diffuses through the whole 
mass of blood the qualities with which it is impregnated. The 
pustules of the child in whom the artificial small-pox has been thus 
inoculated are employed to communicate the same distemper to 
others. There is an almost perpetual circulation of it in Circassia; 
and when unhappily the small-pox has quite left the country, the 
inhabitants of it are in as great trouble and perplexity as other 
nations when their harvest has fallen short. 

The circumstance that introduced a custom in Circassia, which 
appears so singular to others, is nevertheless a cause common to all 
nations, I mean maternal tenderness and interest. 

The Circassians are poor, and their daughters are beautiful, and 
indeed, it is in them they chiefly trade. They furnish with beauties 
the seraglios of the Turkish Sultan, of the Persian Sophy, and of all 
those who are wealthy enough to purchase and maintain such 
precious merchandise. These maidens are very honourably and 
virtuously instructed to fondle and caress men; are taught dances 
of a very pohte and effeminate kind; and how to heighten by the 
most voluptuous artifices the pleasures of their disdainful masters 
for whom they are designed. These unhappy creatures repeat 
their lesson to their mothers, in the same manner as little girls 
among us repeat their catechism without understanding one word 
they say. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 95 

Now it often happened that, after a father and mother had taken 
the utmost care of the education of their children, they were frus- 
trated of all their hopes in an instant. The small-pox getting into the 
family, one daughter died of it, another lost an eye, a third had a 
great nose at her recovery, and the unhappy parents were com- 
pletely ruined. Even, frequently, when the small-pox became 
epidemical, trade was suspended for several years, which thinned 
very considerably the seraglios of Persia and Turkey. 

A trading nation is always watchful over its own interests, and 
grasps at every discovery that may be of advantage to its commerce. 
The Circassians observed that scarce one person in a thousand was 
ever attacked by a small-pox of a violent kind. That some, indeed, 
had this distemper very favourably three or four times, but never 
twice so as to prove fatal; in a word, that no one ever had it in a 
violent degree twice in his life. They observed farther, that when 
the small-pox is of the milder sort, and the pustules have only a 
tender, delicate skin to break through, they never leave the least 
scar in the face. From these natural observations they concluded, 
that in case an infant of six months or a year old should have a milder 
sort of small-pox, he would not die of it, would not be marked, nor 
be ever afflicted with it again. 

In order, therefore, to preserve the life and beauty of their chil- 
dren, the only thing remaining was to give them the small-pox 
in their infant years. This they did by inoculating in the body of a 
child a pustule taken from the most regular and at the same time 
the most favourable sort of small-pox that could be procured. 

The experiment could not possibly fail. The Turks, who are 
people of good sense, soon adopted this custom, insomuch that at 
this time there is not a bassa in Constantinople but communicates 
the small-pox to his children of both sexes immediately upon their 
being weaned. 

Some pretend that the Circassians borrowed this custom anciently 
from the Arabians; but we shall leave the clearing up of this point 
of history to some learned Benedictine, who will not fail to com- 
pile a great many folios on this subject, with the several proofs or 
authorities. All I have to say upon it is that, in the beginning of 
the reign of King George I., the Lady Wortley Montague, a woman 



g6 VOLTAIRE 

of as fine a genius, and endued with as great a strength of mind, 
as any of her sex in the British Kingdoms, being with her husband, 
who was ambassador at the Porte, made no scruple to communicate 
the small-pox to an infant of which she was delivered in Con- 
stantinople. 

The chaplain represented to his lady, but to no purpose, that this 
was an un-Christian operation, and therefore that it could succeed 
with none but infidels. However, it had the most happy effect upon 
the son of the Lady Wortley Montague, who, at her return to Eng- 
land, communicated the experiment to the Princess of Wales, now 
Queen of England. It must be confessed that this princess, abstracted 
from her crown and titles, was born to encourage the whole circle 
of arts, and to do good to mankind. She appears as an amiable phil- 
osopher on the throne, having never let slip one opportunity of im- 
proving the great talents she received from Nature, nor of exerting 
her beneficence. It is she who, being informed that a daughter of 
Milton was living, but in miserable circumstances, immediately sent 
her a considerable present. It is she who protects the learned Father 
Courayer. It is she who condescended to attempt a reconciliation 
between Dr. Clark and Mr. Leibnitz. The moment this princess 
heard of inoculation, she caused an experiment of it to be made on 
four criminals sentenced to die, and by that means preserved their 
lives doubly; for she not only saved them from the gallows, but by 
means of this artificial small-pox prevented their ever having that 
distemper in a natural way, with which they would very probably 
have been attacked one time or other, and might have died of in a 
more advanced age. 

The princess being assured of the usefulness of this operation, 
caused her own children to be inoculated. A great part of the king- 
dom followed her example, and since that time ten thousand chil- 
dren, at least, of persons of condition owe in this manner their lives 
to her Majesty and to the Lady Wortley Montague; and as many of 
the fair sex are obliged to them for their beauty. 

Upon a general calculation, threescore persons in every hundred 
have the small-pox. Of these threescore, twenty die of it in the most 
favourable season of life, and as many more wear the disagreeable 
remains of it in their faces so long as they live. Thus, a fifth part of 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 97 

mankind either die or are disfigured by this distemper. But it does 
not prove fatal to so much as one among those who are inoculated in 
Turkey or in England, unless the patient be infirm, or would have 
died had not the experiment been made upon him. Besides, no one 
is disfigured, no one has the small-pox a second time, if the inocula- 
tion was perfect. It is therefore certain, that had the lady of some 
French ambassador brought this secret from Constantinople to Paris, 
the nation would have been for ever obliged to her. Then the Duke 
de Villequier, father to the Duke d'Aumont, who enjoys the most 
vigorous constitution, and is the healthiest man in France, would not 
have been cut off in the flower of his age. 

The Prince of Soubise, happy in the finest flush of health, would 
not have been snatched away at five-and-twenty, nor the Dauphin, 
grandfather to Louis XV., have been laid in his grave in his fiftieth 
year. Twenty thousand persons whom the small-pox swept away at 
Paris in 1723 would have been alive at this time. But are not the 
French fond of life, and is beauty so inconsiderable an advantage as 
to be disregarded by the ladies ? It must be confessed that we are an 
odd kind of people. Perhaps our nation will imitate ten years hence 
this practice of the English, if the clergy and the physicians will but 
give them leave to do it; or possibly our countrymen may introduce 
inoculation three months hence in France out of mere whim, in case 
the English should discontinue it through fickleness. 

I am informed that the Chinese have practised inoculation these 
hundred years, a circumstance that argues very much in its favour, 
since they are thought to be the wisest and best governed people in 
the world. The Chinese, indeed, do not communicate this distemper 
by inoculation, but at the nose, in the same manner as we take 
snuff. This is a more agreeable way, but then it produces the like 
effects; and proves at the same time that had inoculation been prac- 
tised in France it would have saved the lives of thousands. 



9^ VOLTAIRE 

Letter XII 
ON THE LORD BACON 

Not long since the trite and frivolous question following was 
debated in a very polite and learned company, viz.. Who was the 
greatest man, Csesar, Alexander, Tamerlane, Cromwell, &c.? 

Somebody answered that Sir Isaac Newton excelled them all. 
The gentleman's assertion was very just; for if true greatness consists 
in having received from heaven a mighty genius, and in having 
employed it to enlighten our own mind and that of others, a man 
like Sir Isaac Newton, whose equal is hardly found in a thousand 
years, is the truly great man. And those politicians and conquerors 
(and all ages produce some) were generally so many illustrious 
wicked men. That man claims our respect who commands over the 
minds of the rest of the world by the force of truth, not those who 
enslave their fellow-creatures: he who is acquainted with the uni- 
verse, not they who deface it. 

Since, therefore, you desire me to give you an account of the 
famous personages whom England has given birth to, I shall begin 
with Lord Bacon, Mr. Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, &c. Afterwards the 
warriors and Ministers of State shall come in their order. 

I must begin with the celebrated Viscount Verulam, known in 
Europe by the name of Bacon, which was that of his family. His 
father had been Lord Keeper, and himself was a great many years 
Lord Chancellor under King James I. Nevertheless, amidst the 
intrigues of a Court, and the affairs of his exalted employment, which 
alone were enough to engross his whole time, he yet found so much 
leisure for study as to make himself a great philosopher, a good his- 
torian, and an elegant writer; and a still more surprising circumstance 
is that he lived in an age in which the art of writing justly and ele- 
gantly was little known, much less true philosophy. Lord Bacon, 
as is the fate of man, was more esteemed after his death than in his 
lifetime. His enemies were in the British Court, and his admirers 
were foreigners. 

When the Marquis d'Effiat attended in England upon the Princess 
Henrietta Maria, daughter to Henry IV., whom King Charles I. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 99 

had married, that Minister went and visited the Lord Bacon, who, 
being at that time sick in his bed, received him with the curtains shut 
close. "You resemble the angels," said the Marquis to him; "we hear 
those beings spoken of perpetually, and we believe them superior to 
men, but are never allowed the consolation to see them." 

You know that this great man was accused o£ a crime very unbe- 
■ coming a philosopher: I mean bribery and extortion. You know 
that he was sentenced by the House of Lords to pay a fine of about 
four hundred thousand French livres, to lose his peerage and his 
dignity of Chancellor; but in the present age the English revere his 
memory to such a degree, that they will scarce allow him to have beea 
guilty. In case you should ask what are my thoughts on this head, 
I shall answer you in the words which I heard the Lord Bolingbroke 
use on another occasion. Several gentlemen were speaking, in his 
company, of the avarice with which the late Duke of Marlborough 
had been charged, some examples whereof being given, the Lord 
Bolingbroke was appealed to (who, having been in the opposite 
party, might perhaps, without the imputation of indecency, have 
been allowed to clear up that matter) : "He was so great a man," 
replied his lordship, "that I have forgot his vices." 

I shall therefore confine myself to those things which so justly 
gained Lord Bacon the esteem of all Europe. 

The most singular and the best of all his pieces is that which, at 
this time, is the most useless and the least read, I mean his Novum 
Scientiarum Organum. This is the scaffold with which the new 
philosophy was raised; and when the edifice was built, part of it at 
least, the scaffold was no longer of service. 

The Lord Bacon was not yet acquainted with Nature, but then 
he knew, and pointed out, the several paths that lead to it. He had 
despised in his younger years the thing called philosophy in the 
Universities, and did all that lay in his power to prevent those 
societies of men instituted to improve human reason from depraving 
it by their quiddities, their horrors of the vacuum, their substantial 
forms, and all those impertinent terms which not only ignorance 
had rendered venerable, but which had been made sacred by their 
being ridiculously blended with religion. 

He is the father of experimental philosophy. It must, indeed, be 



100 VOLTAIRE 

confessed that very surprising secrets had been found out before his 
time — the sea-compass, printing, engraving on copper plates, oil- 
painting, looking-glasses; the art of restoring, in some measure, old 
men to their sight by spectacles; gunpowder, &c., had been discovered. 
A new world has been sought for, found, and conquered. Would 
not one suppose that these sublime discoveries had been made by the 
greatest philosophers, and in ages much more enlightened than the 
present? But it was far otherwise; all these great changes happened 
in the most stupid and barbarous times. Chance only gave birth to 
most of those inventions; and it is very probable that what is called 
chance contributed very much to the discovery of America; at least, 
it has been always thought that Christopher Columbus undertook 
his voyage merely on the relation of a captain of a ship which a storm 
had driven as far westward as the Caribbean Islands. Be this as it 
will, men had sailed round the world, and could destroy cities by an 
artificial thunder more dreadful than the real one; but, then, they 
were not acquainted with the circulation of the blood, the weight of 
the air, the laws of motion, light, the number of our planets, &c. And 
a man who maintained a thesis on Aristotle's "Categories," on the 
universals a parte ret, or such-like nonsense, was looked upon as a 
prodigy. 

The most astonishing, the most useful inventions, are not those 
which reflect the greatest honour on the human mind. It is to a 
mechanical instinct, which is found in many men, and not to true 
philosophy, that most arts owe their origin. 

The discovery of fire, the art of making bread, of melting and 
preparing metals, of building houses, and the invention of the 
shuttle, are infinitely more beneficial to mankind than printing or the 
sea-compass: and yet these arts were invented by uncultivated, 
savage men. 

What a prodigious use the Greeks and Romans made afterwards 
of mechanics! Nevertheless, they believed that there were crystal 
heavens, that the stars were small lamps which sometimes fell into 
the sea, and one of their greatest philosophers, after long researches, 
found that the stars were so many flints which had been detached 
from the earth. 

In a word, no one before the Lord Bacon was acquainted with 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH lOI 

experimental philosophy, nor with the several physical experiments 
which have been made since his time. Scarce one of them but is 
hinted at in his work, and he himself had made several. He made a 
kind of pneumatic engine, by which he guessed the elasticity of the 
air. He approached, on all sides as it were, to the discovery of its 
weight, and had very near attained it, but some time after Torricelli 
seized upon this truth. In a little time experimental philosophy began 
to be cultivated on a sudden in most parts of Europe. It was a hidden 
treasure which the Lord Bacon had some notion of, and which all 
the philosophers, encouraged by his promises, endeavoured to 
dig up. 

But that which surprised me most was to read in his work, in 
express terms, the new attraction, the invention of which is ascribed 
to Sir Isaac Newton. 

We must search, says Lord Bacon, whether there may not be a 
kind of magnetic power which operates between the earth and heavy 
bodies, between the moon and the ocean, between the planets, &c. 
In another place he says either heavy bodies must be carried towards 
the centre of the earth, or must be reciprocally attracted by it; and in 
the latter case it is evident that the nearer bodies, in their falling, draw 
towards the earth, the stronger they will attract one another. We 
must, says he, make an experiment to see whether the same clock 
will go faster on the top of a mountain or at the bottom of a mine; 
whether the strength of the weights decreases on the mountain and 
increases in the mine. It is probable that the earth has a true attrac- 
tive power. 

This forerunner in philosophy was also an elegant writer, an 
historian, and a wit. 

His moral essays are greatly esteemed, but they were drawn up in 
the view of instructing rather than of pleasing; and, as they are not a 
satire upon mankind, like Rochefoucauld's "Maxims," nor written 
upon a sceptical plan, like Montaigne's "Essays," they are not so 
much read as those two ingenious authors. 

His History of Henry VII. was looked upon as a masterpiece, but 
how is it possible that some persons can presume to compare so little 
a work with the history of our illustrious Thuanus ? 

Speaking about the famous impostor Perkin, son to a converted 



102 VOLTAIRE 

Jew, who assumed boldly the name and title o£ Richard IV., King of 
England, at the instigation of the Duchess of Burgundy, and who 
disputed the crown with Henry VII., the Lord Bacon writes as 
follows: — 

"At this time the King began again to be haunted with sprites, 
by the magic and curious arts of the Lady Margaret, who raised up 
the ghost of Richard, Duke of York, second son to King Edward 
IV., to walk and vex the King. 

"After such time as she (Margaret of Burgundy) thought he (Per- 
kin Warbeck) was perfect in his lesson, she began to cast with herself 
from what coast this blazing star should first appear, and at what 
time it must be upon the horizon of Ireland; for there had the 
like meteor strong influence before." 

Methinks our sagacious Thuanus does not give in to such fustian, 
which formerly was looked upon as sublime, but in this age is justly 
called nonsense. 

Letter XIII 

ON MR. LOCKE 

Perhaps no man ever had a more judicious or more methodical 
genius, or was a more acute logician than Mr. Locke, and yet he was 
not deeply skilled in the mathematics. This great man could never 
subject himself to the tedious fatigue of calculations, nor to the dry 
pursuit of mathematical truths, which do not at first present any 
sensible objects to the mind; and no one has given better proofs than 
he, that it is possible for a man to have a geometrical head without 
the assistance of geometry. Before his time, several great philoso- 
phers had declared, in the most positive terms, what the soul of man 
is; but as these absolutely knew nothing about it, they might very 
well be allowed to differ entirely in opinion from one another. 

In Greece, the infant seat of arts and of errors, and where the 
grandeur as well as folly of the human mind went such prodigious 
lengths, the people used to reason about the soul in the very same 
manner as we do. 

The divine Anaxagoras, in whose honour an altar was erected for 
his having taught mankind that the sun was greater than Pelopon- 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH IO3 

nesus, that snow was black, and that the heavens Vvere of stone, 
affirmed that the soul was an aerial spirit, but at the same time im- 
mortal. Diogenes (not he who was a cynical philosopher after having 
coined base money) declared that the soul was a portion of the 
substance of God : an idea which we must confess was very sublime. 
Epicurus maintained that it was composed of parts in the same 
manner as the body. 

Aristotle, who has been explained a thousand ways, because he is 
unintelligible, was of opinion, according to some of his disciples, 
that the understanding in all men is one and the same substance. 

The divine Plato, master of the divine Aristotle, — and the divine 
Socrates, master of the divine Plato, — used to say that the soul was 
corporeal and eternal. No doubt but the demon of Socrates had in- 
structed him in the nature of it. Some people, indeed, pretend that 
a man who boasted his being attended by a familiar genius must 
infallibly be either a knave or a madman, but this kind of people are 
seldom satisfied with anything but reason. 

With regard to the Fathers of the Church, several in the primi- 
tive ages believed that the soul was human, and the angels and 
God corporeal. Men naturally improve upon every system. St. Ber- 
nard, as Father Mabillon confesses, taught that the soul after death 
does not see God in the celestial regions, but converses with Christ's 
human nature only. However, he was not believed this time on his 
bare word; the adventure of the crusade having a little sunk the 
credit of his oracles. Afterwards a thousand schoolmen arose, such 
as the Irrefragable Doctor, the Subtile Doctor, the Angelic Doctor, 
the Seraphic Doctor, and the Cherubic Doctor, who were all sure 
that they had a very clear and distinct idea of the soul, and yet wrote 
in such a manner, that one would conclude they were resolved no 
one should understand a word in their writings. Our Descartes, born 
to discover the errors of antiquity, and at the same time to substitute 
his own; and hurried away by that systematic spirit which throws a 
cloud over the minds of the greatest men, thought he had demon- 
strated that the soul is the same thing as thought, in the same manner 
as matter, in his opinion, is the same as extension. He asserted, that 
man thinks eternally, and that the soul, at its coming into the body, is 
informed with the whole series of metaphysical notions: knowing 



104 VOLTAIRE 

God, infinite space, possessing all abstract ideas — in a word, com- 
pletely endued with the most sublime lights, which it unhappily for- 
gets at its issuing from the womb. 

Father Malebranche, in his sublime illusions, not only admitted 
innate ideas, but did not doubt of our living wholly in God, and that 
God is, as it were, our soul. 

Such a multitude of reasoners having written the romance of the 
soul, a sage at last arose, who gave, with an air of the greatest mod- 
esty, the history of it. Mr. Locke has displayed the human soul in 
the same manner as an excellent anatomist explains the springs of 
the human body. He everywhere takes the light of physics for his 
guide. He sometimes presumes to speak affirmatively, but then he 
presumes also to doubt. Instead of concluding at once what we know 
not, he examines gradually what we would know. He takes an infant 
at the instant of his birth; he traces, step by step, the progress of his 
understanding; examines what things he has in common with beasts, 
and what he possesses above them. Above all, he consults himself: 
the being conscious that he himself thinks. 

"I shall leave," says he, "to those who know more of this matter 
than myself, the examining whether the soul exists before or after 
the organisation of our bodies. But I confess that it is my lot to be 
animated with one of those heavy souls which do not think always; 
and I am even so unhappy as not to conceive that it is more necessary 
the soul should think perpetually than that bodies should be for 
ever in motion." 

With regard to myself, I shall boast that I have the honour to be 
as stupid in this particular as Mr. Locke. No one shall ever make 
me beheve that I think always: and I am as little inclined as he 
could be to fancy that some weeks after I was conceived I was a very 
learned soul; knowing at that time a thousand things which I forgot 
at my birth; and possessing when in the womb (though to no manner 
of purpose) knowledge which I lost the instant I had occasion for 
it; and which I have never since been able to recover perfectly. 

Mr. Locke, after having destroyed innate ideas; after having fully 
renounced the vanity of believing that we think always; after having 
laid down, from the most solid principles, that ideas enter the mind 
through the senses; having examined our simple and complex ideas; 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I05 

having traced the human mind through its several operations; having 
shown that all the languages in the world are imperfect, and the great 
abuse that is made of words every moment, he at last comes to con- 
sider the extent or rather the narrow limits of human knowledge. 
It was in this chapter he presumed to advance, but very modesdy, 
the following words: "We shall, perhaps, never be capable of know- 
ing whether a being, purely material, thinks or not." This sage 
assertion was, by more divines than one, looked upon as a scandalous 
declaradon that the soul is material and mortal. Some Englishmen, 
devout after their way, sounded an alarm. The superstitious are the 
same in society as cowards in an army; they themselves are seized 
with a panic fear, and communicate it to others. It was loudly ex- 
claimed that Mr. Locke intended to destroy religion; nevertheless, 
religion had nothing to do in the affair, it being a question purely 
philosophical, altogether independent of faith and revelation. Mr. 
Locke's opponents needed but to examine, calmly and impartially, 
whether the declaring that matter can think, implies a contradiction; 
and whether God is able to communicate thought to matter. But 
divines are too apt to begin their declarations with saying that God 
is offended when people differ from them in opinion; in which they 
too much resemble the bad poets, who used to declare publicly that 
Boileau spake irreverently of Louis XIV., because he ridiculed their 
stupid productions. Bishop Stillingfleet got the reputation of a calm 
and unprejudiced divine because he did not expressly make use of 
injurious terms in his dispute with Mr. Locke. That divine entered 
the lists against him, but was defeated; for he argued as a school- 
man, and Locke as a philosopher, who was perfectly acquainted with 
the strong as well as the weak side of the human mind, and who 
fought with weapons whose temper he knew. If I might presume 
to give my opinion on so delicate a subject after Mr. Locke, I would 
say, that men have long disputed on the nature and the immortality 
of the soul. With regard to its immortality, it is impossible to give 
a demonstration of it, since its nature is still the subject of contro- 
versy; which, however, must be thoroughly understood before a 
person can be able to determine whether it be immortal or not. 
Human reason is so little able, merely by its own strength, to demon- 
strate the immortahty of the soul, that it was absolutely necessary 



I06 VOLTAIRE 

religion should reveal it to us. It is of advantage to society in gen- 
eral, that mankind should believe the soul to be immortal; faith 
commands us to do this; nothing more is required, and the matter is 
cleared up at once. But it is otherwise with respect to its nature; 
it is of little importance to religion, which only requires the soul to 
be virtuous, whatever substance it may be made of. It is a clock 
which is given us to regulate, but the artist has not told us of what 
materials the spring of this clock is composed. 

I am a body, and, I think, that's all I know of the matter. Shall 
I ascribe to an unknown cause, what I can so easily impute to the 
only second cause I am acquainted with ? Here all the school philos- 
ophers interrupt me with their arguments, and declare that there is 
only extension and solidity in bodies, and that there they can have 
nothing but motion and figure. Now motion, figure, extension and 
solidity cannot form a thought, and consequently the soul cannot be 
matter. All this so often repeated mighty series of reasoning, amounts 
to no more than this: I am absolutely ignorant what matter is; I 
guess, but imperfectly, some properties of it; now I absolutely cannot 
tell whether these properties may be joined to thought. As I there- 
fore know nothing, I maintain positively that matter cannot think. 
In this manner do the schools reason. 

Mr. Locke addressed these gentlemen in the candid, sincere man- 
ner following: At least confess yourselves to be as ignorant as I. 
Neither your imaginations nor mine are able to comprehend in what 
manner a body is susceptible of ideas; and do you conceive better 
in what manner a substance, of what kind soever, is susceptible of 
them ? As you cannot comprehend either matter or spirit, why will 
you presume to assert anything? 

The superstitious man comes afterwards and declares, that all those 
must be burnt for the good of their souls, who so much as suspect 
that it is possible for the body to think without any foreign assistance. 
But what would these people say should they themselves be proved 
irreligious? And indeed, what man can presume to assert, without 
being guilty at the same time of the greatest impiety, that it is 
impossible for the Creator to form matter with thought and sensa- 
tion? Consider only, I beg you, what a dilemma you bring your- 
selves into, you who confine in this manner the power of the 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH IO7 

Creator. Beasts have the same organs, the same sensations, the same 
perceptions as we; they have memory, and combine certain ideas. 
In case it was not in the power of God to animate matter, and inform 
it with sensation, the consequence would be, either rhat beasts are 
mere machines, or that they have a spiritual soul. 

Methinks it is clearly evident that beasts cannot be mere machines, 
which I prove thus. God has given to them the very same organs of 
sensation as to us: if therefore they have no sensation, God has 
created a useless thing; now according to your own confession God 
does nothing in vain; He therefore did not create so many organs 
of sensation, merely for them to be uninformed with this faculty; 
consequently beasts are not mere machines. Beasts, according to 
your assertion, cannot be animated with a spiritual soul; you will, 
therefore, in spite of yourself, be reduced to this only assertion, viz., 
that God has endued the organs of beasts, who are mere matter, with 
the faculties of sensation and perception, which you call instinct in 
them. But why may not God, if He pleases, communicate to our 
more delicate organs, that faculty of feeling, perceiving, and think- 
ing, which we call human reason? To whatever side you turn, you 
are forced to acknowledge your own ignorance, and the boundless 
power of the Creator. Exclaim therefore no more against the sage, 
the modest philosophy of Mr. hocke, which so far from interfering 
with religion, would be of use to demonstrate the truth of it, in 
case religion wanted any such support. For what philosophy can be 
of a more religious nature than that, which affirming nothing but 
what it conceives clearly, and conscious of its own weakness, declares 
that we must always have recourse to God in our examining of the 
first principles? 

Besides, we must not be apprehensive that any philosophical 
opinion will ever prejudice the religion of a country. Though our 
demonstrations clash directly with our mysteries, that is nothing to 
the purpose, for the latter are not less revered upon that account by 
our Christian philosophers, who know very well that the objects 
of reason and those of faith are of a very different nature. Philoso- 
phers wUl never form a rehgious sect, the reason of which is, their 
writings are not calculated for the vulgar, and they themselves are 
free from enthusiasm. If we divide mankind into twenty parts, it 



I08 VOLTAIRE 

will be found that nineteen of these consist of persons employed in 
manual labour, who will never know that such a man as Mr. Locke 
existed. In the remaining twentieth part how few are readers? And 
among such as are so, twenty amuse themselves with romances to 
one who studies philosophy. The thinking part of mankind is con- 
fined to a very small number, and these will never disturb the peace 
and tranquillity of the world. 

Neither Montaigne, Locke, Bayle, Spinoza, Hobbes, the Lord 
Shaftesbury, Collins, nor Toland lighted up the firebrand of discord 
in their countries; this has generally been the work of divines, who 
being at first puffed up with the ambition of becoming chiefs of a 
sect, soon grew very desirous of being at the head of a party. But 
what do I say? All the works of the modern philosophers put to- 
gether will never make so much noise as even the dispute which 
arose among the Franciscans, merely about the fashion of their 
sleeves and of their cowls. 



Letter XIV 
ON DESCARTES AND SIR ISAAC NEWTON 

A Frenchman who arrives in London, will find philosophy, like 
everything else, very much changed there. He had left the world a 
plenum, and he now finds it a vacuum. At Paris the universe is seen 
composed of vortices of subtile matter; but nothing like it is seen in 
London. In France, it is the pressure of the moon that causes the 
tides; but in England it is the sea that gravitates towards the moon; 
so that when you think that the moon should make it flood with us, 
those gentlemen fancy it should be ebb, which very unluckily cannot 
be proved. For to be able to do this, it is necessary the moon and the 
tides should have been inquired into at the very instant of the 
creation. 

You will observe farther, that the sun, which in France is said 
to have nothing to do in the affair, comes in here for very near a 
quarter of its assistance. According to your Cartesians, everything is 
performed by an impulsion, of which we have very little notion; 
and according to Sir Isaac Newton, it is by an attraction, the cause 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH IO9 

of which is as much unknown to us. At Paris you imagine that the 
earth is shaped Hke a melon, or of an oblique figure; at London it 
has an oblate one. A Cartesian declares that light exists in the air; 
but a Newtonian asserts that it comes from the sun in six minutes 
and a half. The several operations of your chemistry are performed 
by acids, alkalies and subtile matter; but attraction prevails even in 
chemistry among the English. 

The very essence of things is totally changed. You neither are 
agreed upon the definition of the soul, nor on that of matter. Des- 
cartes, as I observed in my last, maintains that the soul is the same 
thing with thought, and Mr. Locke has given a pretty good proof 
of the contrary. 

Descartes asserts farther, that extension alone constitutes matter, 
but Sir Isaac adds solidity to it. 

How furiously contradictory are these opinions! 

"Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites." 

Virgil, Eclog. IIL 

" 'Tis not for us to end such great disputes." 

This famous Newton, this destroyer of the Cartesian system, died 
in March, anno 1727. His countrymen honoured him in his life- 
time, and interred him as though he had been a king who had made 
his people happy. 

The English read with the highest satisfaction, and translated into 
their tongue, the Elogium of Sir Isaac Newton, which M. de Fonte- 
nelle spoke in the Academy of Sciences. M. de Fontenelle presides 
as judge over philosophers; and the English expected his decision, 
as a solemn declaration of the superiority of the English philosophy 
over that of the French. But when it was found that this gentleman 
had compared Descartes to Sir Isaac, the whole Royal Society in 
London rose up in arms. So far from acquiescing with M. Fonte- 
nelle's judgment, they criticised his discourse. And even several 
(who, however, were not the ablest philosophers in that body) were 
offended at the comparison, and for no other reason but because 
Descartes was a Frenchman. 

It must be confessed that these two great men differed very much 
in conduct, in fortune, and in philosophy. 



no VOLTAIRE 

Nature had indulged Descartes with a shining and strong imagi- 
nation, whence he became a very singular person both in private life 
and in his manner of reasoning. This imagination could not conceal 
itself even in his philosophical works, which are everywhere adorned 
with very shining, ingenious metaphors and figures. Nature had 
almost made him a poet; and indeed he wrote a piece of poetry for 
the entertainment of Christina, Queen of Sweden, which however 
was suppressed in honour to his memory. 

He embraced a military Hfe for some time, and afterwards becom- 
ing a complete philosopher, he did not think the passion of love 
derogatory to his character. He had by his mistress a daughter 
called Froncine, who died young, and was very much regretted by 
him. Thus he experienced every passion incident to mankind. 

He was a long time of opinion that it would be necessary for him 
to fly from the society of his fellow creatures, and especially from his 
native country, in order to enjoy the happiness of cultivating his 
philosophical studies in full liberty. 

Descartes was very right, for his contemporaries were not know- 
ing enough to improve and enlighten his understanding, and were 
capable of little else than of giving him uneasiness. 

He left France purely to go in search of truth, which was then 
persecuted by the wretched philosophy of the schools. However, he 
found that reason was as much disguised and depraved in the uni- 
versities of Holland, into which he withdrew, as in his own country. 
For at the time that the French condemned the only propositions of 
his philosophy which were true, he was persecuted by the pretended 
philosophers of Holland, who understood him no better; and who, 
having a nearer view of his glory, hated his person the more, so that 
he was obliged to leave Utrecht. Descartes was injuriously accused 
of being an atheist, the last refuge of religious scandal : and he who 
had employed all the sagacity and penetration of his genius, in 
searching for new proofs of the existence of a God, was suspected to 
believe there was no such Being. 

Such a persecution from all sides, must necessarily suppose a most 
exalted merit as well as a very distinguished reputation, and indeed 
he possessed both. Reason at that time darted a ray upon the world 
through the gloom of the schools, and the prejudices of popular 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH III 

superstition. At last his name spread so universally, that the French 
were desirous of bringing him back into his native country by 
rewards, and accordingly offered him an annual pension of a thou- 
sand crowns. Upon these hopes Descartes returned to France; paid 
the fees of his patent, which was sold at that time, but no pension was 
settled upon him. Thus disappointed, he returned to his solitude in 
North Holland, where he again pursued the study of philosophy, 
whilst the great Galileo, at fourscore years of age, was groaning in 
the prisons of the Inquisition, only for having demonstrated the 
earth's motion. 

At last Descartes was snatched from the world in the flower of 
his age at Stockholm. His death was owing to a bad regimen, and 
he expired in the midst of some literati who were his enemies, and 
under the hands of a physician to whom he was odious. 

The progress of Sir Isaac Newton's hfe was quite different. He 
lived happy, and very much honoured in his native country, to the 
age of fourscore and five years. 

It was his peculiar felicity, not only to be born in a country of 
Hberty, but in an age when all scholastic impertinences were ban- 
ished from the world. Reason alone was cultivated, and mankind 
could only be his pupil, not his enemy. 

One very singular difference in the Hves of these two great men 
is, that Sir Isaac, during the long course of years he enjoyed, was 
never sensible to any passion, was not subject to the common frail- 
ties of mankind, nor ever had any commerce with women — a circum- 
stance which was assured me by the physician and surgeon who 
attended him in his last moments. 

We may admire Sir Isaac Newton on this occasion, but then we 
must not censure Descartes. 

The opinion that generally prevails in England with regard to 
these new philosophers is, that the latter was a dreamer, and the 
former a sage. 

Very few people in England read Descartes, whose works indeed 
are now useless. On the other side, but a small number peruse those 
of Sir Isaac, because to do this the student must be deeply skilled in 
the mathematics, otherwise those works will be unintelligible to him. 
But notwithstanding this, these great men are the subject of every- 



112 VOLTAIRE 

one's discourse. Sir Isaac Newton is allowed every advantage, whilst 
Descartes is not indulged a single one. According to some, it is to 
the former that we owe the discovery of a vacuum, that the air is a 
heavy body, and the invention of telescopes. In a word, Sir Isaac 
Newton is here as the Hercules of fabulous story, to whom the ig- 
norant ascribed all the feats of ancient heroes. 

In a critique that was made in London on M. de Fontenelle's dis- 
course, the writer presumed to assert that Descartes was not a great 
geometrician. Those who make such a declaration may justly be 
reproached with flying in their master's face. Descartes extended the 
limits of geometry as far beyond the place where he found them, as 
Sir Isaac did after him. The former first taught the method of 
expressing curves by equations. This geometry which, thanks to 
him for it, is now grown common, was so abstruse in his time, that 
not so much as one professor would undertake to explain it; and 
Schotten in Holland, and Format in France, were the only men who 
understood it. 

He applied this geometrical and inventive genius to dioptrics, 
which, when treated of by him, became a new art. And if he was 
mistaken in some things, the reason of that is, a man who discovers 
a new tract of land cannot at once know all the properties of the soil. 
Those who come after him, and make these lands fruitful, are at 
least obliged to him for the discovery. I will not deny but that there 
are innumerable errors in the rest of Descartes' works. 

Geometry was a guide he himself had in some measure fashioned, 
which would have conducted him safely through the several paths 
of natural philosophy. Nevertheless, he at last abandoned this guide, 
and gave entirely into the humour of forming hypotheses; and then 
philosophy was no more than an ingenious romance, fit only to amuse 
the ignorant. He was mistaken in the nature of the soul, in the 
proofs of the existence of a God, in matter, in the laws of motion, 
and in the nature of light. He admitted innate ideas, he invented 
new elements, he created a world; he made man according to his 
own fancy; and it is justly said, that the man of Descartes is, in fact, 
that of Descartes only, very different from the real one. 

He pushed his metaphysical errors so far, as to declare that two 
and two make four for no other reason but because God would 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH II3 

have it so. However, it will not be making him too great a compli- 
ment if we affirm that he was valuable even in his mistakes. He 
deceived himself, but then it was at least in a methodical way. He 
destroyed all the absurd chimeras with which youth had been infatu- 
ated for two thousand years. He taught his contemporaries how to 
reason, and enabled them to employ his own weapons against him- 
self. If Descartes did not pay in good money, he however did great 
service in crying down that of a base alloy. 

I indeed believe that very few will presume to compare his philos- 
ophy in any respect with that of Sir Isaac Newton. The former is an 
essay, the latter a masterpiece. But then the man who first brought 
us to the path of truth, was perhaps as great a genius as he who 
afterwards conducted us through it. 

Descartes gave sight to the blind. These saw the errors of an- 
tiquity and of the sciences. The path he struck out is since become 
boundless. Robault's little work was, during some years, a complete 
system of physics; but now all the Transactions of the several acad- 
emies in Europe put together do not form so much as the beginning 
of a system. In fathoming this abyss no bottom has been found. We 
are now to examine what discoveries Sir Isaac Newton has made 
in it. 

Letter XV 
ON ATTRACTION 

The discoveries which gained Sir Isaac Newton so universal a 
reputation, relate to the system of the world, to light, to geometrical 
infinities; and, lastly, to chronology, with which he used to amuse 
himself after the fatigue of his severer studies. 

I will now acquaint you (without prolixity if possible) with the 
few things I have been able to comprehend of all these sublime 
ideas. With regard to the system of our world disputes were a long 
time maintained, on the cause that turns the planets, and keeps them 
in their orbits; and on those causes which make all bodies here below 
descend towards the surface of the earth. 

The system of Descartes, explained and improved since his time, 
seemed to give a plausible reason for all those phenomena; and this 



114 VOLTAIRE 

reason seemed more just, as it is simple and intelligible to all capaci- 
ties. But in philosophy, a student ought to doubt of the things he 
fancies he understands too easily, as much as of those he does not 
understand. 

Gravity, the falling of accelerated bodies on the earth, the revolu- 
tion of the planets in their orbits, their rotations round their axis, all 
this is mere motion. Now motion cannot perhaps be conceived any 
otherwise than by impulsion; therefore all those bodies must be 
impelled. But by what are they impelled ? All space is full, it there- 
fore is filled with a very subtile matter, since this is imperceptible 
to us; this matter goes from west to east, since all the planets are 
carried from west to east. Thus from hypothesis to hypothesis, from 
one appearance to another, philosophers have imagined a vast whirl- 
pool of subtile matter, in which the planets are carried round the sun: 
they also have created another particular vortex which floats in the 
great one, and which turns daily round the planets. When all this 
is done, it is pretended that gravity depends on this diurnal motion; 
for, say these, the velocity of the subtile matter that turns round our 
little vortex, must be seventeen times more rapid than that of the 
earth; or, in case its velocity is seventeen times greater than that of the 
earth, its centrifugal force must be vastly greater, and consequently 
impel all bodies towards the earth. This is the cause of gravity, 
according to the Cartesian system. But the theorist, before he calcu- 
lated the centrifugal force and velocity of the subtile matter, should 
first have been certain that it existed. 

Sir Isaac Newton seems to have destroyed all these great and little 
vortices, both that which carries the planets round the sun, as well 
as the other which supposes every planet to turn on its own axis. 

First, with regard to the pretended little vortex of the earth, it is 
demonstrated that it must lose its motion by insensible degrees; it is 
demonstrated, that if the earth swims in a fluid, its density must be 
equal to that of the earth; and in case its density be the same, all the 
bodies we endeavour to move must meet with an insuperable 
resistance. 

With regard to the great vortices, they are still more chimerical, 
and it is impossible to make them agree with Kepler's law, the truth 
of which has been demonstrated. Sir Isaac shows, that the revolution 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH II5 

of the fluid in which Jupiter is supposed to be carried, is not the 
same with regard to the revolution of the fluid of the earth, as the 
revolution of Jupiter with respect to that of the earth. He proves, 
that as the planets make their revolutions in ellipses, and conse- 
quently being at a much greater distance one from the other in their 
Aphelia, and a little nearer in their Perihelia; the earth's velocity, for 
instance, ought to be greater when it is nearer Venus and Mars, 
because the fluid that carries it along, being then more pressed, ought 
to have a greater motion; and yet it is even then that the earth's 
motion is slower. 

He proves that there is no such thing as a celestial matter which 
goes from west to east since the comets traverse those spaces, some- 
times from east to west, and at other times from north to south. 

In fine, the better to resolve, if possible, every difficulty, he proves, 
and even by experiments, that it is impossible there should be a 
plenum; and brings back the vacuum, which Aristotle and Descartes 
had banished from the world. 

Having by these and several other arguments destroyed the Car- 
tesian vortices, he despaired of ever being able to discover whether 
there is a secret principle in nature which, at the same time, is the 
cause of the motion of all celestial bodies, and that of gravity on the 
earth. But being retired in 1666, upon account of the Plague, to a 
solitude near Cambridge; as he was walking one day in his garden, 
and saw some fruits fall from a tree, he fell into a profound medita- 
tion on that gravity, the cause of which had so long been sought, but 
in vain, by all the philosophers, whilst the vulgar think there is noth- 
ing mysterious in it. He said to himself, that from what height 
soever in our hemisphere, those bodies might descend, their fall 
would certainly be in the progression discovered by Galileo; and the 
spaces they run through would be as the square of the times. Why 
may not this power which causes heavy bodies to descend, and is the 
same without any sensible diminution at the remotest distance from 
the centre of the earth, or on the summits of the highest mountains, 
why, said Sir Isaac, may not this power extend as high as the moon ? 
And in case its influence reaches so far, is it not very probable that 
this power retains it in its orbit, and determines its motion ? But in 
case the moon obeys this principle (whatever it be) may we not con- 



Il6 VOLTAIRE 

elude very naturally that the rest of the planets are equally subject 
to it? In case this power exists (which besides is proved) it must 
increase in an inverse ratio of the squares of the distances. All, there- 
fore, that remains is, to examine how far a heavy body, which should 
fall upon the earth from a moderate height, would go; and how far 
in the same time, a body which should fall from the orbit of the 
moon, would descend. To find this, nothing is wanted but the meas- 
ure of the earth, and the distance of the moon from it. 

Thus Sir Isaac Newton reasoned. But at that time the English had 
but a very imperfect measure of our globe, and depended on the un- 
certain supposition of mariners, who computed a degree to contain 
but sixty English miles, whereas it consists in reality of near seventy. 
As this false computation did not agree with the conclusions which 
Sir Isaac intended to draw from them, he laid aside this pursuit. 
A half-learned philosopher, remarkable only for his vanity, would 
have made the measure of the earth agree, anyhow, with his system. 
Sir Isaac, however, chose rather to quit the researches he was then 
engaged in. But after Mr. Picard had measured the earth exactly, 
by tracing that meridian which redounds so much to the honour 
of the French, Sir Isaac Newton resumed his former reflections, and 
found his account in Mr. Picard's calculation. 

A circumstance which has always appeared wonderful to me, is 
that such sublime discoveries should have been made by the sole 
assistance of a quadrant and a little arithmetic. 

The circumference of the earth is 123,249,600 feet. This, among 
other things, is necessary to prove the system of attraction. 

The instant we know the earth's circumference, and the distance 
of the moon, we know that of the moon's orbit, and the diameter 
of this orbit. The moon performs its revolution in that orbit in 
twenty-seven days, seven hours, forty-three minutes. It is demon- 
strated, that the moon in its mean motion makes an hundred and 
fourscore and seven thousand nine hundred and sixty feet (of Paris) 
in a minute. It is likewise demonstrated, by a known theorem, that 
the central force which should make a body fall from the height 
of the moon, would make its velocity no more than fifteen Paris feet 
in a minute of time. Now if the law by which bodies gravitate and 
attract one another in an inverse ratio to the squares of the distances 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH II7 

be true, if the same power acts according to that law throughout all 
nature, it is evident that as the earth is sixty semi-diameters distant 
from the moon, a heavy body must necessarily fall (on the earth) 
fifteen feet in the first second, and fifty-four thousand feet in the 
first minute. 

Now a heavy body falls, in reality, fifteen feet in the first second, 
and goes in the first minute fifty-four thousand feet, which number 
is the square of sixty multiplied by fifteen. Bodies, therefore, gravi- 
tate in an inverse ratio of the squares of the distances; consequendy, 
what causes gravity on earth, and keeps the moon in its orbit, is one 
and the same power; it being demonstrated that the moon gravi- 
tates on the earth, which is the centre of its particular motion, it is 
demonstrated that the earth and the moon gravitate on the sun 
which is the centre of their annual motion. 

The rest of the planets must be subject to this general law; and if 
this law exists, these planets must follow the laws which Kepler 
discovered. All these laws, all these relations are indeed observed by 
the planets with the utmost exactness; therefore, the power of attrac- 
tion causes all the planets to gravitate towards the sun, in like manner 
as the moon gravitates towards our globe. 

Finally as in all bodies re-action is equal to action, it is certain that 
the earth gravitates also towards the moon; and that the sun gravi- 
tates towards both. That every one of the satellites of Saturn gravi- 
tates towards the other four, and the other four towards it; all live 
towards Saturn, and Saturn towards all. That it is the same with 
regard to Jupiter; and that all these globes are attracted by the sun, 
which is reciprocally attracted by them. 

This power of gravitation acts proportionably to the quantity of 
matter in bodies, a truth, which Sir Isaac has demonstrated by 
experiments. This new discovery has been of use to show that the 
sun (the centre of the planetary system) attracts them all in a direct 
ratio of their quantity of matter combined with their nearness. From 
hence Sir Isaac, rising by degrees to discoveries which seemed not to 
be formed for the human mind, is bold enough to compute the 
quantity of matter contained in the sun and in every planet; and in 
this manner shows, from the simple laws of mechanics, that every 
celestial globe ought necessarily to be where it is placed. 



Il8 VOLTAIRE 

His bare principle o£ the laws of gravitation accounts for all the 
apparent inequalities in the course of the celestial globes. The vari- 
ations of the moon are a necessary consequence of those laws. More- 
over, the reason is evidently seen why the nodes of the moon perform 
their revolutions in nineteen years, and those of the earth in about 
twenty-six thousand. The several appearances observed in the tides 
are also a very simple effect of this attraction. The proximity of the 
moon, when at the full, and when it is new, and its distance in the 
quadratures or quarters, combined with the action of the sun, exhibit 
a sensible reason why the ocean swells and sinks. 

After having shown by his sublime theory the course and inequali- 
ties of the planets, he subjects comets to the same law. The orbit 
of these fires (unknown for so great a series of years), which was the 
terror of mankind and the rock against which philosophy spUt, 
placed by Aristotle below the moon, and sent back by Descartes above 
the sphere of Saturn, is at last placed in its proper seat by Sir Isaac 
Newton. 

He proves that comets are solid bodies which move in the sphere 
of the sun's activity, and that they describe an ellipsis so very eccen- 
tric, and so near to parabolas, that certain comets must take up above 
five hundred years in their revolution. 

The learned Dr. Halley is of opinion that the comet seen in 1680 is 
the same which appeared in Julius Csesar's time. This shows more 
than any other that comets are hard, opaque bodies; for it descended 
so near to the sun, as to come within a sixth part of the diameter of 
this planet from it, and consequently might have contracted a degree 
of heat two thousand times stronger than that of red-hot iron; and 
would have been soon dispersed in vapour, had it not been a firm, 
dense body. The guessing the course of comets began then to be 
very much in vogue. The celebrated Bernoulli concluded by his sys- 
tem that the famous comet of 1680 would appear again the 17th of 
May, 1719. Not a single astronomer in Europe went to bed that 
night. However, they needed not to have broke their rest, for the 
famous comet never appeared. There is at least more cunning, if 
not more certainty, in fixing its return to so remote a distance as 
five hundred and seventy-five years. As to Mr. Whiston, he affirmed 
very seriously that in the time of the Deluge a comet overflowed the 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH II9 

terrestrial globe. And he was so unreasonable as to wonder that 
people laughed at him for making such an assertion. The ancients 
were almost in the same way of thinking with Mr. Whiston, and 
fancied that comets were always the forerunners of some great 
calamity which was to befall mankind. Sir Isaac Newton, on the 
contrary, suspected that they are very beneficent, and that vapours 
exhale from them merely to nourish and vivify the planets, which 
imbibe in their course the several particles the sun has detached from 
the comets, an opinion which, at least, is more probable than the 
former. But this is not all. If this power of gravitation or attraction 
acts on all the celestial globes, it acts undoubtedly on the several 
parts of these globes. For in case bodies attract one another in pro- 
portion to the quantity of matter contained in them, it can only be 
in proportion to the quantity of their parts; and if this power is 
found in the whole, it is undoubtedly in the half, in the quarter, in 
the eighth part, and so on in infinitum. 

This is attraction, the great spring by which all Nature is moved. 
Sir Isaac Newton, after having demonstrated the existence of this 
principle, plainly foresaw that its very name would offend; and, 
therefore, this philosopher, in more places than one of his books, 
gives the reader some caution about it. He bids him beware of 
confounding this name with what the ancients called occult qualities, 
but to be satisfied with knowing that there is in all bodies a central 
force, which acts to the utmost limits of the universe, according to 
the invariable laws of mechanics. 

It is surprising, after the solemn protestations Sir Isaac made, that 
such eminent men as Mr. Sorin and M. de Fontenelle should have 
imputed to this great philosopher the verbal and chimerical way of 
reasoning of the Aristotelians; Mr. Sorin in the Memoirs of the Acad- 
emy of 1709, and M. de Fontenelle in the very eulogium of Sir Isaac 
Newton. 

Most of the French (the learned and others) have repeated this 
reproach. These are for ever crying out, "Why did he not employ 
the word impulsion, which is so well understood, rather than that of 
attraction, which is unintelligible?" 

Sir Isaac might have answered these critics thus: — "First, you have 
as imperfect an idea of the word impulsion as of that of attraction; 



120 VOLTAIRE 

and in case you cannot conceive how one body tends towards the 
centre of another body, neither can you conceive by what power one 
body can impel another. 

"Secondly, I could not admit of impulsion; for to do this I must 
have known that a celestial matter was the agent. But so far from 
knowing that there is any such matter, I have proved it to be merely 
imaginary. 

"Thirdly, I use the word attraction for no other reason but to 
express an effect which I discovered in Nature — a certain and indis- 
putable effect of an unknown principle — a quality inherent in mat- 
ter, the cause of which persons of greater abilities than I can pretend 
to may, if they can, find out." 

"What have you, then, taught us?" will these people say further; 
"and to what purpose are so many calculations to tell us what you 
yourself do not comprehend?" 

"I have taught you," may Sir Isaac rejoin, "that all bodies gravitate 
towards one another in proportion to their quantity of matter; that 
these central forces alone keep the planets and comets in their orbits, 
and cause them to move in the proportion before set down. I dem- 
onstrate to you that it is impossible there should be any other cause 
which keeps the planets in their orbits than that general phenome- 
non of gravity. For heavy bodies fall on the earth according to the 
proportion demonstrated of central forces; and the planets finishing 
their course according to these same proportions, in case there were 
another power that acted upon all those bodies, it would either 
increase their velocity or change their direction. Now, not one of 
those bodies ever has a single degree of motion or velocity, or has 
any direction but what is demonstrated to be the effect of the central 
forces. Consequently it is impossible there should be any other 
principle." 

Give me leave once more to introduce Sir Isaac speaking. Shall 
he not be allowed to say, "My case and that of the ancients is very 
different. These saw, for instance, water ascend in pumps, and said, 
'the water rises because it abhors a vacuum.' But with regard to 
myself, I am in the case of a man who should have first observed 
that water ascends in pumps, but should leave others to explain the 
cause of this effect. The anatomist, who first declared that the 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 121 

motion of the arm is owing to the contraction of the muscles, taught 
mankind an indisputable truth. But are they less obliged to him 
because he did not know the reason why the muscles contract ? The 
cause of the elasticity of the air is unknown, but he who first dis- 
covered this spring performed a very signal service to natural philos- 
ophy. The spring that I discovered was more hidden and more 
universal, and for that very reason mankind ought to thank me the 
more. I have discovered a new property of matter — one of the secrets 
of the Creator — and have calculated and discovered the effects of it. 
After this, shall people quarrel with me about the name I give it?" 
Vortices may be called an occult quality because their existence 
was never proved. Attraction, on the contrary, is a real thing because 
its effects are demonstrated, and the proportions of it are calculated. 
The cause of this cause is among the Arcana of the Almighty. 

"Procedes hue, et non amplius." 

(Thus far shall thou go, and no farther.) 



Letter XVI 
ON SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S OPTICS 

The philosophers of the last age found out a new universe; and 
a circumstance which made its discovery more difficult was that no 
one had so much as suspected its existence. The most sage and judi- 
cious were of opinion that it was a frantic rashness to dare so much 
as to imagine that it was possible to guess the laws by which the 
celestial bodies move and the manner how light acts. Galileo, by his 
astronomical discoveries, Kepler, by his calculation, Descartes (at 
least, in his dioptrics), and Sir Isaac Newton, in all his works, sev- 
erally saw the mechanism of the springs of the world. The geometri- 
cians have subjected infinity to the laws of calculation. The circula- 
tion of the blood in animals, and of the sap in vegetables, have 
changed the face of Nature with regard to us. A new kind of exis- 
tence has been given to bodies in the air-pump. By the assistance of 
telescopes bodies have been brought nearer to one another. Finally, 
the several discoveries which Sir Isaac Newton has made on light 



122 VOLTAIRE 

are equal to the boldest things which the curiosity of man could 
expect after so many philosophical novelties. 

Till Antonio de Dominis the rainbow was considered as an inex- 
plicable miracle. This philosopher guessed that it was a necessary 
effect of the sun and rain. Descartes gained immortal fame by his 
mathematical explication of this so natural a phenomenon. He cal- 
culated the reflections and refractions of light in drops of rain. And 
his sagacity on this occasion was at that time looked upon as next 
to divine. 

But what would he have said had it been proved to him that he 
was mistaken in the nature of light; that he had not the least reason 
to maintain that it is a globular body ? That it is false to assert that 
this matter, spreading itself through the whole, waits only to be 
projected forward by the sun, in order to be put in acdon, in like 
manner as a long staff acts at one end when pushed forward by the 
other. That light is certainly darted by the sun; in fine, that light is 
transmitted from the sun to the earth in about seven minutes though 
a cannon-ball, which were not to lose any of its velocity, could not go 
that distance in less than twenty-five years. How great would have 
been his astonishment had he been told that light does not reflect 
directly by impinging against the solid parts of bodies, that bodies 
are not transparent when they have large pores, and that a man 
should arise who would demonstrate all these paradoxes, and anato- 
mise a single ray of light with more dexterity than the ablest artist 
dissects a human body. This man is come. Sir Isaac Newton has 
demonstrated to the eye, by the bare assistance of the prism, that 
light is a composition of coloured rays, which, being united, form 
white colour. A single ray is by him divided into seven, which all 
fall upon a piece of linen, or a sheet of white paper, in their order, 
one above the other, and at imequal distances. The first is red, the 
second orange, the third yellow, the fourth green, the fifth blue, the 
sixth indigo, the seventh a violet-purple. Each of these rays, trans- 
mitted afterwards by a hundred other prisms, will never change the 
colour it bears; in like manner, as gold, when completely purged 
from its dross, will never change afterwards in the crucible. As a 
superabundant proof that each o£ these elementary rays has inher- 
ently in itself that which forms its colour to the eye, take a small 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 23 

piece of yellow wood, for instance, and set it in the ray of a red 
colour; this wood will instandy be tinged red. But set it in the ray 
of a green colour, it assumes a green colour, and so of all the rest. 

From what cause, therefore, do colours arise in Nature? It is 
nothing but the disposition of bodies to reflect the rays of a certain 
order and to absorb all the rest. 

What, then, is this secret disposition? Sir Isaac Newton demon- 
strates that it is nothing more than the density of the small constitu- 
ent particles of which a body is composed. And how is this reflection 
performed ? It was supposed to arise from the rebounding of the rays, 
in the same manner as a ball on the surface of a solid body. But this 
is a mistake, for Sir Isaac taught the astonished philosophers that 
bodies are opaque for no other reason but because their pores are 
large, that light reflects on our eyes from the very bosom of those 
pores, that the smaller the pores of a body are the more such a body 
is transparent. Thus paper, which reflects the light when dry, trans- 
mits it when oiled, because the oil, by lilHng its pores, makes them 
much smaller. 

It is there that examining the vast porosity of bodies, every par- 
ticle having its pores, and every particle of those particles having its 
own, he shows we are not certain that there is a cubic inch of solid 
matter in the universe, so far are we from conceiving what matter is. 
Having thus divided, as it were, light into its elements, and carried 
the sagacity of his discoveries so far as to prove the method of dis- 
tinguishing compound colours from such as are primitive, he shows 
that these elementary rays, separated by the prism, are ranged in their 
order for no other reason but because they are refracted in that very 
order; and it is this property (unknown till he discovered it) of 
breaking or splitting in this proportion; it is this unequal refraction 
of rays, this power of refracting the red less than the orange colour, 
&c., which he calls the different refrangibility. The most reflexible 
rays are the most refrangible, and from hence he evinces that the 
same power is the cause both of the reflection and refraction of light. 

But all these wonders are merely but the opening of his discoveries. 
He found out the secret to see the vibrations or fits of light which 
come and go incessantly, and which either transmit light or reflect 
it, according to the density of the parts they meet with. He has pre- 



124 VOLTAIRE 

sumed to calculate the density o£ the particles of air necessary between 
two glasses, the one flat, the other convex on one side, set one upon 
the other, in order to operate such a transmission or reflection, or to 
form such and such a colour. 

From all these combinations he discovers the proportion in which 
light acts on bodies and bodies act on light. 

He saw light so perfectly, that he has determined to what degree 
of perfection the art of increasing it, and of assisting our eyes by 
telescopes, can be carried. 

Descartes, from a noble confidence that was very excusable, con- 
sidering how strongly he was fired at the first discoveries he made in 
an art which he almost first found out; Descartes, I say, hoped to 
discover in the stars, by the assistance of telescopes, objects as small 
as those we discern upon the earth. 

But Sir Isaac has shown that dioptric telescopes cannot be brought 
to a greater perfection, because of that refraction, and of that very 
refrangibility, which at the same time that they bring objects nearer 
to us, scatter too much the elementary rays. He has calculated in these 
glasses the proportion of the scattering of the red and of the blue 
rays; and proceeding so far as to demonstrate things which were 
not supposed even to exist, he examines the inequalities which arise 
from the shape or figure of the glass, and that which arises from the 
refrangibility. He finds that the object glass of the telescope being 
convex on one side and flat on the other, in case the flat side be 
turned towards the object, the error which arises from the construc- 
tion and position of the glass is above five thousand times less than 
the error which arises from the refrangibility; and, therefore, that 
the shape or figure of the glasses is not the cause why telescopes 
cannot be carried to a greater perfection, but arises wholly from the 
nature of fight. 

For this reason he invented a telescope, which discovers objects by 
reflection, and not by refraction. Telescopes of this new kind are 
very hard to make, and their use is not easy; but, according to the 
English, a reflective telescope of but five feet has the same effect as 
another of a hundred feet in length. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 25 

Letter XVII 

ON INFINITES IN GEOMETRY, AND SIR ISAAC 
NEWTON'S CHRONOLOGY 

The labyrinth and abyss of infinity is also a new course Sir Isaac 
Newton has gone through, and we are obliged to him for the clue, 
by whose assistance we are enabled to trace its various windings. 

Descartes got the start of him also in this astonishing invention. 
He advanced with mighty steps in his geometry, and was arrived 
at the very borders of infinity, but went no farther. Dr. Wallis, about 
the middle of the last century, was the first who reduced a fraction 
by a perpetual division to an infinite series. 

The Lord Brouncker employed this series to square the hyperbola. 

Mercator published a demonstration of this quadrature; much 
about which time Sir Isaac Newton, being then twenty-three years of 
age, had invented a general method, to perform on all geometrical 
curves what had just before been tried on the hyperbola. 

It is to this method of subjecting everywhere infinity to algebraical 
calculations, that the name is given of differential calculations or of 
fluxions and integral calculation. It is the art of numbering and 
measuring exactly a thing whose existence cannot be conceived. 

And, indeed, would you not imagine that a man laughed at you 
who should declare that there are lines infinitely great which form 
an angle infinitely little ? 

That a right line, which is a right line so long as it is finite, by 
changing infinitely litde its direction, becomes an infinite curve; 
and that a curve may become infinitely less than another curve.? 

That there are infinite squares, infinite cubes, and infinites of in- 
finites, all greater than one another, and the last but one of which is 
nothing in comparison of the last? 

All these things, which at first appear to be the utmost excess of 
frenzy, are in reality an effort of the sublety and extent of the human 
mind, and the art of finding truths which till then had been un- 
known. 

This so bold edifice is even founded on simple ideas. The business 
is to measure the diagonal of a square, to give the area of a curve, to 



126 VOLTAIRE 

find the square root of a number, which has none in common arith- 
metic. After all, the imagination ought not to be startled any more 
at so many orders of infinites than at the so well-known proposition, 
viz., that curve lines may always be made to pass between a circle 
and a tangent, or at that other, namely, that matter is divisible in 
infinitum. These two truths have been demonstrated many years, 
and are no less incomprehensible than the things we have been 
speaking of. 

For many years the invention of this famous calculation was denied 
to Sir Isaac Newton. In Germany Mr. Leibnitz was considered as 
the inventor of the differences or moments, called fluxions, and Mr. 
Bernoulli claimed the integral calculus. However, Sir Isaac is now 
thought to have first made the discovery, and the other two have the 
glory of having once made the world doubt whether it was to be 
ascribed to him or them. Thus some contested with Dr. Harvey the 
invention of the circulation of the blood, as others disputed with Mr. 
Perrault that of the circulation of the sap. 

Hartsocher and Leuwenhoek disputed with each other the honour 
of having first seen the vermiculi of which mankind are formed. 
This Hartsocher also contested with Huygens the invention of a new 
method of calculating the distance of a fixed star. It is not yet known 
to what philosopher we owe the invention of the cycloid. 

Be this as it will, it is by the help of this geometry of infinites that 
Sir Isaac Newton attained to the most sublime discoveries. I am now 
to speak of another work, which, though more adapted to the capac- 
ity of the human mind, does nevertheless display some marks of that 
creative genius with which Sir Isaac Newton was informed in all 
his researches. The work I mean is a chronology of a new kind, for 
what province soever he undertook he was sure to change the ideas 
and opinions received by the rest of men. 

Accustomed to unravel and disentangle chaos, he was resolved to 
convey at least some light into that of the fables of antiquity which 
are blended and confounded with history, and fix an uncertain 
chronology. It is true that there is no family, city, or nation, but 
endeavours to remove its original as far backward as possible. Be- 
sides, the first historians were the most negligent in setting down the 
eras: books were infinitely less common than they are at this time. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I27 

and, consequently, authors being not so obnoxious to censure, they 
therefore imposed upon the world with greater impunity; and, as 
it is evident that these have related a great number of fictitious par- 
ticulars, it is probable enough that they also gave us several false eras. 

It appeared in general to Sir Isaac that the world was five hundred 
years younger than chronologers declare it to be. He grounds his 
opinion on the ordinary course of Nature, and on the observations 
which astronomers have made. 

By the course of Nature we here understand the time that every 
generation of men lives upon the earth. The Egyptians first em- 
ployed this vague and uncertain method of calculating when they 
began to write the beginning of their history. These computed three 
hundred and forty-one generations from Menes to Sethon; and, 
having no fixed era, they supposed three generations to consist of a 
hundred years. In this manner they computed eleven thousand 
three hundred and forty years from Menes's reign to that of Sethon. 

The Greeks before they counted by Olympiads followed the 
method of the Egyptians, and even gave a little more extent to 
generations, making each to consist of forty years. 

Now, here, both the Egyptians and the Greeks made an erroneous 
computation. It is true, indeed, that, according to the usual course 
of Nature, three generations last about a hundred and twenty 
years; but three reigns are far from taking up so many. It is very 
evident that mankind in general live longer than kings are found 
to reign, so that an author who should write a history in which 
there were no dates fixed, and should know that nine kings had 
reigned over a nation; such a historian would commit a great 
error should he allow three hundred years to these nine monarchs. 
Every generation takes about thirty-six years; every reign is, one 
with the other, about twenty. Thirty kings of England have swayed 
the sceptre from William the Conqueror to George I., the years of 
whose reigns added together amount to six hundred and forty-eight 
years; which, being divided equally among the thirty kings, give to 
every one a reign of twenty-one years and a half very near. Sixty- 
three kings of France have sat upon the throne; these have, one with 
another, reigned about twenty years each. This is the usual course 
of Nature. The ancients, therefore, were mistaken when they 



128 VOLTAIRE 

supposed the durations in general of reigns to equal that of gener- 
ations. They, therefore, allowed too great a number of years, and 
consequently some years must be subtracted from their computation. 

Astronomical observations seem to have lent a still greater assist- 
ance to our philosopher. He appears to us stronger when he fights 
upon his own ground. 

You know that the earth, besides its annual motion which carries 
it round the sun from west to east in the space of a year, has also a 
singular revolution which was quite unknown till within these late 
years. Its poles have a very slow retrograde motion from east to 
west, whence it happens that their position every day does not 
correspond exactly with the same point of the heavens. This difler- 
ence which is so insensible in a year, becomes pretty considerable 
in time; and in threescore and twelve years the difference is found 
to be of one degree, that is to say, the three hundred and sixtieth 
part of the circumference of the whole heaven. Thus after seventy- 
two years the colure of the vernal equinox which passed through a 
fixed star, corresponds with another fixed star. Hence it is that the 
sun, instead of being in that part of the heavens in which the Ram 
was situated in the time of Hipparchus, is found to correspond with 
that part of the heavens in which the Bull was situated; and the 
Twins are placed where the Bull then stood. All the signs have 
changed their situation, and yet we still retain the same manner of 
speaking as the ancients did. In this age we say that the sun is in 
the Ram in the spring, from the same principle of condescension 
that we say that the sun turns round. 

Hipparchus was the first among the Greeks who observed some 
change in the constellations with regard to the equinoxes, or rather 
who learnt it from the Egyptians. Philosophers ascribed this motion 
to the stars; for in those ages people were far from imagining such a 
revolution in the earth, which was supposed to be immovable in 
every respect. They therefore created a heaven in which they fixed 
the several stars, and gave this heaven a particular motion by which 
it was carried towards the east, whilst that all the stars seemed to 
perform their diurnal revolution from east to west. To this error 
they added a second of much greater consequence, by imagining 
that the pretended heaven of the fixed stars advanced one degree 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 29 

eastward every hundred years. In this manner they were no less 
mistaken in their astronomical calculation than in their system of 
natural philosophy. As for instance, an astronomer in that age would 
have said that the vernal equinox was in the time of such and such 
an observation, in such a sign, and in such a star. It has advanced 
two degrees of each since the time that observation was made to the 
present. Now two degrees are equivalent to two hundred years; 
consequently the astronomer who made that observation lived just 
so many years before me. It is certain that an astronomer who had 
argued in this manner would have mistook just fifty-four years; 
hence it is that the ancients, who were doubly deceived, made their 
great year of the world, that is, the revolution of the whole heavens, 
to consist of thirty-six thousand years. But the moderns are sensible 
that this imaginary revolution of the heaven of the stars is nothing 
else than the revolution of the poles of the earth, which is performed 
in twenty-five thousand nine hundred years. It may be proper to 
observe transiently in this place, that Sir Isaac, by determining the 
figure of the earth, has very happily explained the cause of this 
revolution. 

All this being laid down, the only thing remaining to settle 
chronology is to see through what star the colure of the equinoxes 
passes, and where it intersects at this time the ecliptic in the spring; 
and to discover whether some ancient writer does not tell us in what 
point the ecliptic was intersected in his time, by the same colure of 
the equinoxes. 

Clemens Alexandrinus informs us, that Chiron, who went with 
the Argonauts, observed the constellations at the time of that 
famous expedition, and fixed the vernal equinox to the middle of 
the Ram; the autumnal equinox to the middle of Libra; our summer 
solstice to the middle of Cancer, and our winter solstice to the 
middle of Capricorn. 

A long time after the expedition of the Argonauts, and a year 
before the Peloponnesian war, Methon observed that the point of 
the summer solstice passed through the eighth degree of Cancer. 

Now every sign of the zodiac contains thirty degrees. In Chiron's 
time, the solstice was arrived at the middle of the sign, that is to say 
to the fifteenth degree. A year before the Peloponnesian war it was 



130 VOLTAIRE 

at the eighth, and therefore it had retarded seven degrees. A degree 
is equivalent to seventy-two years; consequently, from the beginning 
of the Peloponnesian war to the expedition of the Argonauts, there 
is no more than an interval of seven times seventy-two years, which 
make five hundred and four years, and not seven hundred years, 
as the Greeks computed. Thus in comparing the position of the 
heavens at this time with their position in that age, we find that the 
expedition of the Argonauts ought to be placed about nine hundred 
years before Christ, and not about fourteen hundred; and conse- 
quently that the world is not so old by five hundred years as it was 
generally supposed to be. By this calculation all the eras are drawn 
nearer, and the several events are found to have happened later 
than is computed. I don't know whether this ingenious system 
will be favourably received; and whether these notions will prevail 
so far with the learned, as to prompt them to reform the chronology 
of the world. Perhaps these gentlemen would think it too great 
a condescension to allow one and the same man the glory of having 
improved natural philosophy, geometry, and history. This would be 
a kind of universal monarchy, with which the principle of self-love 
that is in man will scarce suffer him to indulge his fellow-creature; 
and, indeed, at the same time that some very great philosophers 
attacked Sir Isaac Newton's attractive principle, others fell upon his 
chronological system. Time, that should discover to which of these 
the victory is due, may perhaps only leave the dispute still more 
undetermined. 



Letter XVIII 
ON TRAGEDY 

The English as well as the Spaniards were possessed of theatres at 
a time when the French had no more than moving, itinerant stages. 
Shakspeare, who was considered as the Corneille of the first- 
mentioned nation, was pretty nearly contemporary with Lope de 
Vega, and he created, as it were, the English theatre. Shakspeare 
boasted a strong fruitful genius. He was natural and sublime, but 
had not so much as a single spark of good taste, or knew one rule 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I3I 

of the drama. I will now hazard a random, but, at the same time, 
true reflection, which is, that the great merit of this dramatic poet 
has been the ruin of the English stage. There are such beautiful, 
such noble, such dreadful scenes in this writer's monstrous farces, 
to which the name of tragedy is given, that they have always been 
exhibited with great success. Time, which alone gives reputation to 
writers, at last makes their very faults venerable. Most of the 
whimsical gigantic images of this poet, have, through length of 
time (it being a hundred and fifty years since they were first drawn) 
acquired a right of passing for sublime. Most of the modern dramatic 
writers have copied him; but the touches and descriptions which are 
applauded in Shakspeare, are hissed at in these writers; and you will 
easily believe that the veneration in which this author is held, in- 
creases in proportion to the contempt which is shown to the moderns. 
Dramatic writers don't consider that they should not imitate him; 
and the ill-success of Shakspeare's imitators produces no other 
effect, than to make him be considered as inimitable. You remember 
that in the tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice, a most tender piece, 
a man strangles his wife on the stage; and that the poor woman, 
whilst she is strangling, cries aloud that she dies very unjustly. 
You know that in Hamlet, Prince of Denmar\, two grave-diggers 
make a grave, and are all the time drinking, singing ballads, and 
making humorous reflections (natural indeed enough to persons of 
their profession) on the several skulls they throw up with their 
spades; but a circumstance which will surprise you is, that this 
ridiculous incident has been imitated. In the reign of King Charles 
II., which was that of politeness, and the Golden Age of the liberal 
arts; Otway, in his Venice Preserved, introduces Antonio the senator, 
and Naki, his courtesan, in the midst of the horrors of the Marquis 
of Bedemar's conspiracy. Antonio, the super-annuated senator plays, 
in his mistress's presence, all the apish tricks of a lewd, impotent 
debauchee, who is quite frantic and out of his senses. He mimics a 
bull and a dog, and bites his mistress's legs, who kicks and whips 
him. However, the players have struck these buffooneries (which 
indeed were calculated merely for the dregs of the people) out of 
Ot way's tragedy; but they have still left in Shakspeare's ] alius Ccesar 
the jokes of the Roman shoemakers and cobblers, who are intro- 



132 VOLTAIRE 

duced in the same scene with Brutus and Cassius. You will un- 
doubtedly complain, that those who have hitherto discoursed with 
you on the English stage, and especially on the celebrated Shak- 
speare, have taken notice only of his errors; and that no one has 
translated any of those strong, those forcible passages which atone 
for all his faults. But to this I will answer, that nothing is easier 
than to exhibit in prose all the silly impertinences which a poet may 
have thrown out; but that it is a very difficult task to translate his 
fine verses. All your junior academical sophs, who set up for censors 
of the eminent writers, compile whole volumes; but methinks two 
pages which display some of the beauties of great geniuses, are of 
infinitely more value than all the idle rhapsodies of those com- 
mentators; and I will join in opinion with all persons of good taste 
in declaring, that greater advantage may be reaped from a dozen 
verses of Homer or Virgil, than from all the critiques put together 
which have been made on those two great poets. 

I have ventlired to translate some passages of the most celebrated 
English poets, and shall now give you one from Shakspeare. Pardon 
the blemishes of the translation for the sake of the original; and 
remember always that when you see a version, you see merely a 
faint print of a beautiful picture. I have made choice of part of the 
celebrated soliloquy in Hamlet, which you may remember is as 
follows: — 

"To be, or not to be? that is the question! 
Whether 't is nobler in the mind to suffer 
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, 
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing, end them? To die! to sleep! 
No more! and by a sleep to say we end 
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks 
That flesh is heir to! 'T is a consummation 
Devoutly to be wished. To die! to sleep! 
To sleep; perchance to dream! Ay, there's the rub; 
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come 
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil. 
Must give us pause. There 's the respect 
That makes calamity of so long life: 
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time. 
The oppressor's wrong, the poor man's contumely. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I33 

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, 
The insolence of office, and the spurns 
That patient merit of the unworthy takes. 
When he himself might his quietus make 
With a bare bodkin. Who would fardels bear 
To groan and sweat under a weary life, 
But that the dread of something after death. 
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn 
No traveller returns, puzzles the will. 
And makes us rather bear those ills we have, 
Than fly to others that we know not of? 
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; 
And thus the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought: 
And enterprises of great weight and moment 
With this regard their currents turn awry, 
And lose the name of action — " 

My version of it runs thus: — 

"Demeure, il faut choisir et passer a I'instant 
De la vie a la mort, ou de I'etre au neant. 
Dieux cruels, s'il en est, edairez mon courage. 
Faut-il vieillir courbe sous la main qui m'outrage, 
Supporter, ou finir mon malheur et mon sort? 
Qui suis je? Qui m'arrete! et qu'est-ce que la mort? 
C'est la fin de nos maux, c'est mon unique asile 
Apres de longs transports, c'est un sommeil tranquile. 
On s'endort, et tout meurt, mais un aflreux reveil 
Doit succeder peut etre aux douceurs du sommeil! 
On nous menace, on dit que cette courte vie, 
De tourmens eternals est aussi-tot suivie. 
O mort! moment fatal! affreuse eternite! 
Tout cceur a ton seul nom se glace epouvante. 
Eh! qui pourroit sans toi supporter cette vie, 
De nos pretres menteurs benir I'hypocrisie; 
D'une indigne maitresse encenser les erreurs, 
Ramper sous un ministre, adorer ses hauteurs; 
Et montrer les langueurs de son ame abattiie, 
A des amis ingrats qui detournent la viie? 
La mort seroit trop douce en ces extremitez, 
Mais le scrupule parle, et nous crie, arretez; 
II defend a nos mains cet heureux homicide 
Et d'un heros guerrier, fait un Chretien timide," &c. 



134 VOLTAIRE 

Do not imagine that I have translated Shakspeare in a servile 
manner. Woe to the writer who gives a literal version; who by 
rendering every word of his original, by that very means enervates 
the sense, and extinguishes all the fire of it. It is on such an occasion 
one may justly afBrm, that the letter kills, but the Spirit quickens. 

Here follows another passage copied from a celebrated tragic 
writer among the English. It is Dryden, a poet in the reign of 
Charles II. — a writer whose genius was too exuberant, and not 
accompanied with judgment enough. Had he written only a tenth 
part of the works he left behind him, his character would have been 
conspicuous in every part; but his great fault is his having en- 
deavoured to be universal. 

The passage in question is as follows: — 

"When I consider life, 't is all a cheat, 
Yet fooled by hope, men favour the deceit; 
Trust on and think, to-morrow will repay; 
To-morrow's falser than the former day; 
Lies more; and whilst it says we shall be blest 
With some new joy, cuts ofiE what we possessed; 
Strange cozenage! none would live past years again, 
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain, 
And from the dregs of life think to receive 
What the first sprightly running could not give. 
I'm tired with waiting for his chymic gold, 
Which fools us young, and beggars us when old." 

I shall now give you my translation: — 

"De desseins en regrets et d'erreurs en desirs 
Les mortels insenses promenent leur folie. 
Dans des malheurs presents, dans I'espoir des plaisirs 
Nous ne vivons jamais, nous attendons la vie. 
Demain, demain, dit-on, va combler tous nos voeus. 
Demain vient, et nous laisse encore plus malheureux. 
Quelle est I'erreur, helas! du soin qui nous devore, 
Nul de nous ne voudroit recommencer son cours. 
De nos premiers momens nous maudissons I'aurore, 
Et de la nuit qui vient nous attendons encore, 
Ce qu'ont en vain promis les plus beaux de nos jours," &c. 

It is in these detached passages that the English have hitherto 
excelled. Their dramatic pieces, most of which are barbarous and 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 35 

without decorum, order, or verisimilitude, dart such resplendent 
flashes through this gleam, as amaze and astonish. The style is 
too much inflated, too unnatural, too closely copied from the 
Hebrew writers, who abound so much with the Asiatic fustian. 
But then it must be also confessed that the stilts of the figurative 
style, on which the English tongue is lifted up, raises the genius at 
the same time very far aloft, though with an irregular pace. The 
first English writer who composed a regular tragedy, and infused a 
spirit of elegance through every part of it, was the illustrious Mr. 
Addison. His "Cato" is a masterpiece, both with regard to the 
diction and to the beauty and harmony of the numbers. The 
character of Cato is, in my opinion, vastly superior to that of 
Cornelia in the "Pompey" of Corneille, for Cato is great without 
anything like fustian, and Cornelia, who besides is not a necessary 
character, tends sometimes to bombast. Mr. Addison's Cato appears 
to me the greatest character that was ever brought upon any stage, 
but then the rest of them do not correspond to the dignity of it, and 
this dramatic piece, so excellently well writ, is disfigured by a dull 
love plot, which spreads a certain languor over the whole, that quite 
murders it. 

The custom of introducing love at random and at any rate in the 
drama passed from Paris to London about 1660, with our ribbons and 
our perruques. The ladies who adorn the theatrical circle there, in 
like manner as in this city will suffer love only to be the theme of 
every conversation. The judicious Mr. Addison had the effeminate 
complaisance to soften the severity of his dramatic character, so as 
to adapt it to the manners of the age, and, from an endeavour to 
please, quite ruined a masterpiece in its kind. Since his time the 
drama is become more regular, the audience more difficult to be 
pleased, and writers more correct and less bold. I have seen some 
new pieces that were written with great regularity, but which, at 
the same time, were very flat and insipid. One would think that the 
English had been hitherto formed to produce irregular beauties 
only. The shining monsters of Shakspeare give infinite more delight 
than the judicious images of the moderns. Hitherto the poetical 
genius of the English resembles a tufted tree planted by the hand of 
Nature, that throws out a thousand branches at random, and 



136 VOLTAIRE 

spreads unequally, but with great vigour. It dies i£ you attempt to 
force its nature, and to lop and dress it in the same manner as the 
trees of the Garden of Marli. 

Letter XIX 
ON COMEDY 

I AM surprised that the judicious and ingenious Mr. de Muralt, 
who has published some letters on the English and French nations, 
should have confined himself, in treating of comedy, merely to 
censure Shadwell the comic writer. This author was had in pretty 
great contempt in Mr. de Muralt 's time, and was not the poet of the 
polite part of the nation. His dramatic pieces, which pleased some 
time in acting, were despised by all persons of taste, and might be 
compared to many plays which I have seen in France, that drew 
crowds to the play-house, at the same time that they were intolerable 
to read; and of which it might be said, that the whole city of Paris 
exploded them, and yet all flocked to see them represented on the 
stage. Methinks Mr. de Muralt should have mentioned an excellent 
comic writer (living when he was in England), I mean Mr. Wycher- 
ley, who was a long time known publicly to be happy in the good 
graces of the most celebrated mistress of King Charles II. This 
gentleman, who passed his life among persons of the highest dis- 
tinction, was perfectly well acquainted with their lives and their 
follies, and painted them with the strongest pencil, and in the truest 
colours. He has drawn a misanthrope or man-hater, in imitation of 
that of Moliere. All Wycherley's strokes are stronger and bolder 
than those of our misanthrope, but then they are less delicate, and 
the rules of decorum are not so well observed in this play. The 
English writer has corrected the only defect that is in Moliere's 
comedy, the thinness of the plot, which also is so disposed that the 
characters in it do not enough raise our concern. The English comedy 
affects us, and the contrivance of the plot is very ingenious, but at 
the same time it is too bold for the French manners. The fable is 
this: — A captain of a man-of-war, who is very brave, open-hearted, 
and inflamed with a spirit of contempt for all mankind, has a 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I37 

prudent, sincere friend, whom he yet is suspicious o£, and a mistress 
that loves him with the utmost excess of passion. The captain so far 
from returning her love, will not even condescend to look upon her, 
but confides entirely in a false friend, who is the most worthless 
wretch living. At the same time he has given his heart to a creature, 
who is the greatest coquette and the most perfidious of her sex, and 
he is so credulous as to be confident she is a Penelope, and his false 
friend a Cato. He embarks on board his ship in order to go and light 
the Dutch, having left all his money, his jewels, and everything he 
had in the world to this virtuous creature, whom at the same time he 
recommends to the care of his supposed faithful friend. Nevertheless 
the real man of honour, whom he suspects so unaccountably, goes 
on board the ship with him, and the mistress, on whom he would 
not bestow so much as one glance, disguises herself in the habit of a 
page, and is with him the whole voyage, without his once knowing 
that she is of a sex different from that she attempts to pass for, which, 
by the way, is not over natural. 

The captain having blown up his own ship in an engagement, 
returns to England abandoned and undone, accompanied by his 
page and his friend, without knowing the friendship of the one or the 
tender passion of the other. Immediately he goes to the jewel among 
women, who he expected had preserved her fidelity to him and the 
treasure he had left in her hands. He meets with her indeed, but 
married to the honest knave in whom he had reposed so much 
confidence, and finds she had acted as treacherously with regard to 
the casket he had entrusted her with. The captain can scarce think 
it possible that a woman of virtue and honour can act so vile a part; 
but to convince him still more of the reality of it, this very worthy 
lady falls in love with the little page, and will force him to her 
embraces. But as it is requisite justice should be done, and that in 
a dramatic piece virtue ought to be rewarded and vice punished, it 
is at last found that the captain takes his page's place and lies with 
his faithless mistress, cuckolds his treacherous friend, thrusts his 
sword through his body, recovers his casket, and marries his page. 
You will observe that this play is also larded with a petulant, litigious 
old woman (a relation of the captain), who is the most comical 
character that was ever brought upon the stage. 



138 VOLTAIRE 

Wycherley has also copied from Moliere another play, of as 
singular and bold a cast, which is a kind of Ecole des Femmes, or, 
School for Married Women. 

The principal character in this comedy is one Horner, a sly for- 
tune hunter, and the terror of all the City husbands. This fellow, 
in order to play a surer game, causes a report to be spread, that in 
his last illness, the surgeons had found it necessary to have him 
made a eunuch. Upon his appearing in this noble character, all the 
husbands in town flocked to him with their wives, and now poor 
Horner is only puzzled about his choice. However, he gives the 
preference particularly to a little female peasant, a very harmless, 
innocent creature, who enjoys a fine flush of health, and cuckolds her 
husband with a simplicity that has infinitely more merit than the 
witty malice of the most experienced ladies. This play cannot indeed 
be called the school of good morals, but it is certainly the school of 
vrit and true humour. 

Sir John Vanbrugh has written several comedies, which are more 
humorous than those of Mr. Wycherley, but not so ingenious. Sir 
John was a man of pleasure, and likewise a poet and an architect. 
The general opinion is, that he is as sprightly in his writings as he 
is heavy in his buildings. It is he who raised the famous Castle of 
Blenheim, a ponderous and lasting monument of our unfortunate 
Battle of Hochstet. Were the apartments but as spacious as the 
walls are thick, this castle would be commodious enough. Some 
wag, in an epitaph he made on Sir John Vanbrugh, has these Unes: — 

"Earth lie light on him, for he 
Laid many a heavy load on thee." 

Sir John having taken a tour into France before the glorious war 
that broke out in 1701, was thrown into the Bastille, and detained 
there for some time, without being ever able to discover the motive 
which had prompted our ministry to indulge him with this mark of 
their distinction. He wrote a comedy during his confinement; and a 
circumstance which appears to me very extraordinary is, that we 
don't meet with so much as a single satirical stroke against the 
country in which he had been so injuriously treated. 

The late Mr. Congreve raised the glory of comedy to a greater 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I39 

height than any English writer before or since his time. He wrote 
only a few plays, but they are all excellent in their kind. The laws 
of the drama are strictly observed in them; they abound with 
characters all which are shadowed with the utmost delicacy, and we 
don't meet with so much as one low or coarse jest. The language 
is everywhere that of men of honour, but their actions are those of 
knaves — a proof that he was perfectly well acquainted with human 
nature, and frequented what we call polite company. He was infirm 
and come to the verge of life when I knew him. Mr. Congreve 
had one defect, which was his entertaining too mean an idea of his 
first profession (that of a writer) , though it was to this he owed his 
fame and fortune. He spoke of his works as of trifles that were be- 
neath him; and hinted to me, in our first conversation, that I should 
visit him upon no other footing than that of a gentleman who led 
a life of plainness and simplicity. I answered, that had he been so 
unfortunate as to be a mere gentleman, I should never have come to 
see him; and I was very much disgusted at so unseasonable a piece 
of vanity. 

Mr. Congreve's comedies are the most witty and regular, those of 
Sir John Vanbrugh most gay and humorous, and those of Mr. 
Wycherley have the greatest force and spirit. It may be proper to 
observe that these fine geniuses never spoke disadvantageously of 
Moliere; and that none but the contemptible writers among the 
English have endeavoured to lessen the character of that great 
comic poet. Such Italian musicians as despise Lully are themselves 
persons of no character or ability; but a Buononcini esteems that 
great artist, and does justice to his merit. 

The English have some other good comic writers living, such as 
Sir Richard Steele and Mr. Gibber, who is an excellent player, and 
also Poet Laureate — a title which, how ridiculous soever it may be 
thought, is yet worth a thousand crowns a year (besides some con- 
siderable privileges) to the person who enjoys it. Our illustrious 
Corneille had not so much. 

To conclude. Don't desire me to descend to particulars with 
regard to these English comedies, which I am so fond of applauding; 
nor to give you a single smart saying or humorous stroke from 
Wycherley or Congreve. We don't laugh in reading a translation. 



140 VOLTAIRE 

If you have a mind to understand the English comedy, the only 
way to do this will be for you to go to England, to spend three years 
in London, to make yourself master of the English tongue, and to 
frequent the playhouse every night. I receive but little pleasure from 
the perusal of Aristophanes and Plautus, and for this reason because 
I am neither a Greek nor a Roman. The delicacy of the humour, the 
allusion, the a propos — all these are lost to a foreigner. 

But it is different with respect to tragedy, this treating only of 
exalted passions and heroical follies, which the antiquated errors of 
fable or history have made sacred. CEdipus, Electra, and such-like 
characters, may with as much propriety be treated of by the Span- 
iards, the English, or us, as by the Greeks. But true comedy is the 
speaking picture of the follies and ridiculous foibles of a nation; 
so that he only is able to judge of the painting who is perfecdy 
acquainted with the people it represents. 

Letter XX 

ON SUCH OF THE NOBILITY AS CULTIVATE 
THE BELLES LETTRES 

There once was a time in France when the polite arts were culti- 
vated by persons of the highest rank in the state. The courtiers par- 
ticularly were conversant in them, although indolence, a taste for 
trifles, and a passion for intrigue, were the divinities of the country. 
The Court methinks at this time seems to have given into a taste 
quite opposite to that of poUte literature, but perhaps the mode of 
thinking may be revived in a little time. The French are of so 
flexible a disposition, may be moulded into such a variety of shapes, 
that the monarch needs but command and he is immediately obeyed. 
The English generally think, and learning is had in greater honour 
among them than in our country— an advantage that results naturally 
from the form of their government. There are about eight hundred 
persons in England who have a right to speak in public, and to 
support the interest of the kingdom and near five or six thousand 
may in their turns aspire to the same honour. The whole nation set 
themselves up as judges over these, and every man has the liberty 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I4I 

of publishing his thoughts with regard to pubHc affairs, which shows 
that all the people in general are indispensably obliged to cultivate 
their understandings. In England the governments of Greece and 
Rome are the subject of every conversation, so that every man is 
under a necessity of perusing such authors as treat of them, how 
disagreeable soever it may be to him; and this study leads naturally 
to that of polite literature. Mankind in general speak well in their 
respective professions. What is the reason why our magistrates, our 
lawyers, our physicians, and a great number of the clergy, are abler 
scholars, have a finer taste, and more wit, than persons of all other 
professions? The reason is, because their condition of life requires 
a cultivated and enlightened mind, in the same manner as a mer- 
chant is obliged to be acquainted with his traffic. Not long since an 
English nobleman, who was very young, came to see me at Paris 
on his return from Italy. He had written a poetical description of 
that country, which, for delicacy and politeness, may vie with any- 
thing we meet with in the Earl of Rochester, or in our Chaulieu, our 
Sarrasin, or Chapelle. The translation I have given of it is so in- 
expressive of the strength and delicate humour of the original, that 
I am obliged seriously to ask pardon of the author and of all who 
understand English. However, as this is the only method I have to 
make his lordship's verses known, I shall here present you with 
them in our tongue: — 

"Qu'ay je done vu dans I'ltalie? 
Orgueil, astuce, et pauvrete, 
Grands complimens, peu de bonte 
Et beaucoup de ceremonie 

"L'extravagante comedie 
Que souvent I'lnquisition 
Veut qu'on nomme religion 
Mais qu'ici nous nommons folie. 

"La Nature en vain bienfaisante 
Veut enricher ses lieux charmans, 
Des pretres la main desolante 
Etoulle ses plus beaux presens. 



142 VOLTAIRE 

"Les monsignors, soy disant Grands, 
Seuls dans leurs palais magnifiques 
Y sont d'illustres faineants, 
Sans argent, et sans domestiques. 

"Pour les petits, sans liberie. 
Martyrs du joug qui les domine, 
lis ont fait vceu de pauvrete, 
Priant Dieu par oisivete 
Et toujours jeunant par famine. 

"Ces beaux lieux du Pape benis 
Semblent habitez par les diables; 
Et les habitans miserables 
Sont damnes dans le Paradis." 



Letter XXI 
ON THE EARL OF ROCHESTER AND MR. WALLER 

The Earl of Rochester's name is universally known. Mr. de St. 
Evremont has made very frequent mention of him, but then he has 
represented this famous nobleman in no other light than as the man 
of pleasure, as one who was the idol of the fair; but, with regard to 
myself, I would willingly describe in him the man of genius, the 
great poet. Among other pieces which display the shining imagina- 
tion his lordship only could boast, he wrote some satires on the 
same subjects as those our celebrated Boileau made choice of. I do 
not know any better method of improving the taste than to compare 
the productions of such great geniuses as have exercised their talent 
on the same subject. Boileau declaims as follows against human 
reason in his "Satire on Man": 

"Cependant a le voir plein de vapeurs legeres, 
Soi-meme se bercer de ses propres chimeras, 
Lui seul de la nature est la baze et I'appui, 
Et le dixieme ciel ne tourne que pour lui. 
De tous les animaux il est ici le maitre; 
Qui pourroit le nier, poursuis tu? Moi peut-etre 
Ce maitre pretendu qui leur donne des loix, 
Ce roi des animaux, combien a-t'il de rois?" 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I43 

"Yet, pleased with idle whimsies of his brain, 
And puffed with pride, this haughty thing would fain 
Be think himself the only stay and prop 
That holds the mighty frame of Nature up. 
The skies and stars his properties must seem, 
******** 
Of all the creatures he's the lord, he cries. 
******** 

And who is there, say you, that dares deny 
So owned a truth? That may be, sir, do I. 
******** 

This boasted monarch of the world who awes 
The creatures here, and with his nod gives laws 
This self-named king, who thus pretends to be 
The lord of all, how many lords has he.?" 

Oldham, a little altered. 

The Lord Rochester expresses himself, in his "Satire against Man," 
in pretty near the following manner. But I must first desire you 
always to remember that the versions I give you from the English 
poets are written with freedom and latitude, and that the restraint 
of our versification, and the delicacies of the French tongue, will 
not allow a translator to convey into it the licentious impetuosity 
and fire of the English numbers : — 

"Get esprit que je hai's, cet esprit plein d'erreur, 
Ce n'est pas ma raison c'est la tienne, docteur 
C'est la raison frivole, inquiete, orgueilleuse 
Des sages animaux, rivale dedaigneuse. 
Qui croit entr'eux et I'Ange, occuper le milieu, 
Et pense etre ici has I'image de son Dieu. 
Vil atome imparfait, qui croit, doute, dispute 
Rampe, s'eleve, tombe, et nie encore sa chute, 
Qui nous dit je suis libre, en nous montrant ses fers, 
Et dont I'osil, trouble et faux, croit percer I'univers. 
Allez, reverends fous, bienheureux fanatiques, 
Compilez bien I'amas de vos riens scholastiques, 
Peres de visions, et d'enigmes sacres, 
Auteurs du labirinthe, ou vous vous egarez. 
Allez obscurement eclaircir vos misteres, 
Et courez dans I'ecole adorer vos chimeres. 
II est d'autres erreurs, il est de ces devots 



144 VOLTAIRE 

Condamne par eux memes a I'ennui du ref)OS. 
Ce mystique endoitre, fier de son indolence 
Tranquille, au sein de Dieu. Que peut il faire? II pense. 
Non, tu ne penses point, miserable, tu dors: 
Inutile a la terre, et mis au rang des morts. 
Ton esprit enerve croupit dans la molesse. 
Reveille toi, sois homme, et sors de ton ivresse. 
L'homme est ne pour agir, et tu pretens penser?" &c. 

The original runs thus: 

"Hold mighty man, I cry all this we know, 
And 'tis this very reason I despise. 
This supernatural gift that makes a mite 
Think he's the image of the Infinite; 
Comparing his short life, void of all rest, 
To the eternal and the ever blest. 
This busy, puzzling stirrer up of doubt. 
That frames deep mysteries, then finds them out. 
Filling, with frantic crowds of thinking fools, 
Those reverend bedlams, colleges, and schools; 
Borne on whose wings each heavy sot can pierce 
The limits of the boundless universe. 
So charming ointments make an old witch fly, 
And bear a crippled carcass through the sky. 
'Tis this exalted power, whose business lies 
In nonsense and impossibilities. 
This made a whimsical philosopher 
Before the spacious world his tub prefer; 
And we have modern cloistered coxcombs, who 
Retire to think, 'cause they have naught to do. 
But thoughts are given for action's government. 
Where action ceases, thought's impertinent." 

Whether these ideas are true or false, it is certain they are ex- 
pressed with an energy and fire which form the poet. I shall be 
very far from attempting to examine philosophically into these 
verses, to lay down the pencil, and take up the rule and compass 
on this occasion; my only design in this letter being to display the 
genius of the English poets, and therefore I shall continue in the 
same view. 

The celebrated Mr. Waller has been very much talked of in France, 
and Mr. de la Fontaine, St. Evremont, and Bayle have written his 
eulogium, but still his name only is known. He had much the same 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 45 

reputation in London as Voiture had in Paris, and in my opinion 
deserved it better. Voiture was born in an age that was just emerg- 
ing from barbarity; an age that was still rude and ignorant, the 
people of which aimed at wit, though they had not the least pre- 
tensions to it, and sought for points and conceits instead of senti- 
ments. Bristol stones are more easily found than diamonds. Voiture, 
born with an easy and frivolous genius, was the first who shone in 
this aurora of French literature. Had he come into the world after 
those great geniuses who spread such a glory over the age of Louis 
XIV., he would either have been unknown, would have been de- 
spised, or would have corrected his style. Boileau applauded him, but 
it was in his first satires, at a time when the taste of that great poet 
was not yet formed. He was young, and in an age when persons 
form a judgment of men from their reputation, and not from their 
writings. Besides, Boileau was very partial both in his encomiums 
and his censures. He applauded Segrais, whose works nobody reads; 
he abused Quinault, whose poetical pieces every one has got by 
heart; and is wholly silent upon La Fontaine. Waller, though a 
better poet than Voiture, was not yet a finished poet. The graces 
breathe in such of Waller's works as are writ in a tender strain; but 
then they are languid through negligence, and often disfigured 
with false thoughts. The English had not in his time attained the 
art of correct writing. But his serious compositions exhibit a strength 
and vigour which could not have been expected from the softness 
and effeminacy of his other pieces. He wrote an elegy on Oliver 
Cromwell, which, with all its faults, is nevertheless looked upon 
as a masterpiece. To understand this copy of verses you are to know 
that the day Oliver died was remarkable for a great storm. His 
poem begins in this manner: — 

"II n'est plus, s'en est fait, soumettons nous au sort, 
Le ciel a signale ce jour par des tempetes, 
Et la voix des tonnerres eclatant sur nos tetes 
Vient d'annoncer sa mort. 

"Par ses derniers soupirs il ebranle cet ile; 

Cet ile que son bras fit trembler tant de fois, 

Quand dans le cours de ses exploits, 

II brisoit la tete des Rois, 
. Et soumettoit un peuple a son joug seul docile. 



146 VOLTAIRE 

"Mer tu t'en es trouble; O mer tes flots emus 
Semblent dire en grondant aux plus lointains rivages 
Que I'effroi de la terre et ton maitre n'est plus. 

"Tel au del autrefois s'envola Romulus, 
Tel il quitta la Terre, au milieu des orages, 
Tel d'un peuple guerrier il re^ut les homages; 
Obei dans sa vie, a sa mort adore, 
Son palais fut un Temple," &c. 

"We must resign! heaven his great soul does claim 
In storms as loud as his immortal fame; 
His dying groans, his last breath shakes our isle, 
And trees uncut fall for his funeral pile: 
About his palace their broad roots are tost 
Into the air; so Romulus was lost! 
New Rome in such a tempest missed her king. 
And from obeying fell to worshipping. 
On CEta's top thus Hercules lay dead. 
With ruined oaks and pines about him spread. 
Nature herself took notice of his death. 
And, sighing, swelled the sea with such a breath, 
That to remotest shores the billows rolled, 
Th' approaching fate of his great ruler told." 

Waller. 

It was this eulogium that gave occasion to the reply (taken notice 
of in Bayle's Dictionary), which Waller made to King Charles II. 
This king, to whom Waller had a little before (as is usual with 
bards and monarchs) presented a copy of verses embroidered with 
praises, reproached the poet for not writing with so much energy and 
fire as when he had applauded the Usurper (meaning Oliver). 
"Sir," replied Waller to the king, "we poets succeed better in fiction 
than in truth." This answer was not so sincere as that which a 
Dutch Ambassador made, who, when the same monarch com- 
plained that his masters paid less regard to him than they had 
done to Cromwell: "Ah, sir!" says the Ambassador, "Oliver was 

quite another man ." It is not my intent to give a commentary 

on Waller's character, nor on that of any other person; for I con- 
sider men after their death in no other light than as they were 
writers, and wholly disregard everything else. I shall only observe 
that Waller, though born in a Court, and to an estate of five or six 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I47 

thousand pounds sterling a year, was never so proud or so indolent 
as to lay aside the happy talent which Nature had indulged him. 
The Earls of Dorset and Roscommon, the two Dukes of Buckingham, 
the Lord Halifax, and so many other noblemen, did not think the 
reputation they obtained of very great poets and illustrious writers, 
any way derogatory to their quality. They are more glorious for 
their works than for their titles. These cultivated the polite arts 
with as much assiduity as though they had been their whole de- 
pendence. They also have made learning appear venerable in the 
eyes of the vulgar, who have need to be led in all things by the great; 
and who, nevertheless, fashion their manners less after those of the 
nobility (in England I mean) than in any other country in the 
world. 



Letter XXII 
ON MR. POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS 

I INTENDED to treat of Mr. Prior, one of the most amiable English 
poets, whom you saw Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary at 
Paris in 1712. I also designed to have given you some idea of the 
Lord Roscommon's and the Lord Dorset's muse; but I find that to 
do this I should be obliged to write a large volume, and that, after 
much pains and trouble, you would have but an imperfect idea of 
all those works. Poetry is a kind of music in which a man should 
have some knowledge before he pretends to judge of it. When I 
give you a translation of some passages from those foreign poets, 
I only prick down, and that imperfectly, their music; but then I 
cannot express the taste of their harmony. 

There is one English poem especially which I should despair of 
ever making you understand, the title whereof is "Hudibras." The 
subject of it is the Civil War in the time of the grand rebellion, and 
the principles and practice of the Puritans are therein ridiculed. It 
is Don Quixote, it is our "Satire Menippee" blended together. I 
never found so much wit in one single book as in that, which at the 
same time is the most difficult to be translated. Who would believe 
that a work which paints in such lively and natural colours the 



148 VOLTAIRE 

several foibles and follies of mankind, and where we meet with more 
sentiments than words, should bafBe the endeavours of the ablest 
translator? But the reason of this is, almost every part of it alludes 
to particular incidents. The clergy are there made the principal 
object of ridicule, which is understood but by few among the laity. 
To explain this a commentary would be requisite, and humour when 
explained is no longer humour. Whoever sets up for a commentator 
of smart sayings and repartees is himself a blockhead. This is the 
reason why the works of the ingenious Dean Swift, who has been 
called the English Rabelais, will never be well understood in France. 
This gentleman has the honour (in common with Rabelais) of being 
a priest, and, like liim, laughs at everything; but, in my humble 
opinion, the title of the English Rabelais which is given the dean is 
highly derogatory to his genius. The former has interspersed his 
unaccountably fantastic and unintelligible book with the most gay 
strokes of humour; but which at the same time, has a greater propor- 
tion of impertinence. He has been vastly lavish of erudition, of smut, 
and insipid raillery. An agreeable tale of two pages is purchased at 
the expense of whole volumes of nonsense. There are but few 
persons, and those of a grotesque taste, who pretend to understand 
and to esteem this work; for, as to the rest of the nation, they laugh 
at the pleasant and diverting touches which are found in Rabelais 
and despise his book. He is looked upon as the prince of buffoons. 
The readers are vexed to think that a man who was master of so 
much wit should have made so wretched a use of it; he is an intoxi- 
cated philosopher who never wrote but when he was in liquor. 

Dean Swift is Rabelais in his senses, and frequently the politest 
company. The former, indeed, is not so gay as the latter, but then 
he possesses all the delicacy, the justness, the choice, the good taste, in 
all which particulars our giggling rural Vicar Rabelais is wanting. 
The poetical numbers of Dean Swift are of a singular and almost 
inimitable taste; true humour, whether in prose or verse, seems to be 
his peculiar talent; but whoever is desirous of understanding him 
perfectly must visit the island in which he was born. 

It will be much easier for you to form an idea of Mr. Pope's works. 
He is, in my opinion, the most elegant, the most correct poet; and, 
at the same time, the most harmonious (a circumstance which re- 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 49 

dounds very much to the honour of this muse) that England ever 
gave birth to. He has mellowed the harsh sounds o£ the English 
trumpet to the soft accents of the flute. His compositions may be 
easily translated, because they are vastly clear and perspicuous; be- 
sides, most of his subjects are general, and relative to all nations. 

His "Essay on Criticism" will soon be known in France by the 
translation which I'Abbe de Renel has made of it. 

Here is an extract from his poem entitled the "Rape of the Lock," 
which I just now translated with the latitude I usually take on these 
occasions; for, once again, nothing can be more ridiculous than to 
translate a poet literally: — 

"Umbriel, a I'instant, vieil gnome rechigne, 
Va d'une aile pesante et d'un air renfrogne 
Chercher en murmurant la caverne profonde, 
Ou loin des doux raions que repand I'oeil du monde 
La Deesse aux Vapeurs a choisi son sejour, 
Les Tristes Aquilons y sifflent a rentour, 
Et le soufHe mal sain de leur aride haleine 
Y porte aux environs la fievre et la migraine. 
Sur un riche sofa derriere un paravent 
Loin des flambeaux, du bruit, des parleurs et du vent 
La quinteuse deesse incessamment repose, 
Le cceur gros de chagrin, sans en savoir la cause. 
N'aiant pense jamais, I'esprit toujours trouble, 
L'oeil charge, le teint pale, et rhypocondre enfle. 
La medisante Envie, est assise aupres d'elle, 
Vieil spectre feminin, decrepite pucelle, 
Avec un air devot dechirant son prochain, 
Et chansonnant les Gens I'Evangile a la main. 
Sur un lit plein de fleurs negligemment panchee 
Une jeune beaute non loin d'elle est ciuchee, 
C'est I'Affectation qui grassaie en parlant, 
Ecoute sans entendre, et lorgne en regardant. 
Qui rougit sans pudeur, et rit de tout sans joie, 
De cent maux differens pretend qu'elle est la proie; 
Et pleine de sante sous le rouge et le fard, 
Se plaint avec molesse, et se pame avec art." 

"Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite 
As ever sullied the fair face of light, 
Down to the central earth, his proper scene, 



150 VOLTAIRE 

Repairs to search the gloomy cave of Spleen, 

Swift on his sooty pinions flits the gnome, 

And in a vapour reached the dismal dome. 

No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows. 

The dreaded east is all the wind that blows. 

Here, in a grotto, sheltered close from air, 

And screened in shades from day's detested glare. 

She sighs for ever on her pensive bed. 

Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head. 

Two handmaids wait the throne. Alike in place, 

But differing far in figure and in face. 

Here stood Ill-nature, like an ancient maid. 

Her wrinkled form in black and white arrayed; 

With store of prayers for mornings, nights, and noons 

Her hand is filled; her bosom with lampoons. 

There Affectation, with a sickly mien. 

Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen. 

Practised to lisp, and hang the head aside. 

Faints into airs, and languishes with pride; 

On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe. 

Wrapt in a gown, for sickness and for show." 

This extract, in the original (not in the faint translation I have 
given you o£ it), may be compared to the description of La Molesse 
(softness or effeminacy), in Boileau's "Lutrin." 

Methinks I now have given you specimens enough from the 
English poets. I have made some transient mention of their philoso- 
phers, but as for good historians among them, I don't know of any; 
and, indeed, a Frenchman was forced to write their history. Possibly 
the English genius, which is either languid or impetuous, has not 
yet acquired that unaffected eloquence, that plain but majestic air 
which history requires. Possibly too, the spirit of party which ex- 
hibits objects in a dim and confused light may have sunk the credit 
of their historians. One half of the nation is always at variance with 
the other half. I have met with people who assured me that the 
Duke of Marlborough was a coward, and that Mr. Pope was a fool; 
just as some Jesuits in France declare Pascal to have been a man of 
little or no genius, and some Jansenists affirm Father Bourdaloiie to 
have been a mere babbler. The Jacobites consider Mary Queen of 
Scots as a pious heroine, but those of an opposite party look upon her 
as a prostitute, an adulteress, a murderer. Thus the English have 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I5I 

memorials of the several reigns, but no such thing as a history. 
There is, indeed, now living, one Mr. Gordon (the public are 
obliged to him for a translation of Tacitus), who is very capable of 
writing the history of his own country, but Rapin de Thoyras got 
the start of him. To conclude, in my opinion the English have not 
such good historians as the French, have no such thing as a real 
tragedy, have several delightful comedies, some wonderful passages 
in certain of their poems, and boast of philosophers that are worthy 
of instructing mankind. The English have reaped very great benefit 
from the writers of our nation, and therefore we ought (since they 
have not scrupled to be in our debt) to borrow from them. Both the 
English and we came after the Italians, who have been our in- 
structors in all the arts, and whom we have surpassed in some. I 
cannot determine which of the three nations ought to be honoured 
with the palm; but happy the writer who could display their various 
merits. 

Letter XXIII 

ON THE REGARD THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN TO 
MEN OF LETTERS 

Neither the English nor any other people have foundations estab- 
lished in favour of the polite arts like those in France. There are 
Universities in most countries, but it is in France only that we meet 
with so beneficial an encouragement for astronomy and all parts of 
the mathematics, for physic, for researches into antiquity, for paint- 
ing, sculpture, and architecture. Louis XIV. has immortalised his 
name by these several foundations, and this immortality did not cost 
him two hundred thousand livres a year. 

I must confess that one of the things I very much wonder at is, 
that as the Parliament of Great Britain have promised a reward of 
£20,000 sterling to any person who may discover the longitude, they 
should never have once thought to imitate Louis XIV. in his munifi- 
cence with regard to the arts and sciences. 

Merit, indeed, meets in England with rewards of another kind, 
which redound more to the honour of the nation. The English have 
so great a veneration for exalted talents, that a man of merit in their 



152 VOLTAIRE 

country is always sure of making his fortune. Mr. Addison in France 
would have been elected a member of one of the academies, and, by 
the credit of some women, might have obtained a yearly pension of 
twelve hundred livres, or else might have been imprisoned in the 
Bastile, upon pretence that certain strokes in his tragedy of Cato 
had been discovered which glanced at the porter of some man in 
power. Mr. Addison was raised to the post of Secretary of State in 
England. Sir Isaac Newton was made Warden of the Royal Mint. 
Mr. Congreve had a considerable employment. Mr. Prior was 
Plenipotentiary. Dr. Swift is Dean of St. Patrick in Dublin, and is 
more revered in Ireland than the Primate himself. The religion 
which Mr. Pope professes excludes him, indeed, from preferments of 
every kind, but then it did not prevent his gaining two hundred 
thousand livres by his excellent translation of Homer. I myself saw 
a long time in France the author of Rhadamistus ready to perish for 
hunger. And the son of one of the greatest men our country ever 
gave birth to, and who was beginning to run the noble career which 
his father had set him, would have been reduced to the extremes of 
misery had he not been patronised by Monsieur Fagon. 

But the circumstance which mostly encourages the arts in England 
is the great veneration which is paid them. The picture of the Prime 
Minister hangs over the chimney of his own closet, but I have seen 
that of Mr. Pope in twenty noblemen's houses. Sir Isaac Newton 
was revered in his lifetime, and had a due respect paid to him after 
his death; the greatest men in the nation disputing who should 
have the honour of holding up his pall. Go into Westminster Abbey, 
and you will find that what raises the admiration of the spectator is 
not the mausoleums of the English kings, but the monuments 
which the gratitude of the nation has erected to perpetuate the 
memory of those illustrious men who contributed to its glory. We 
view their statues in that abbey in the same manner as those of 
Sophocles, Plato, and other immortal personages were viewed in 
Athens; and I am persuaded that the bare sight of those glorious 
monuments has fired more than one breast, and been the occasion 
of their becoming great men. 

The English have even been reproached with paying too extrava- 
gant honours to mere merit, and censured for interring the celebrated 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 1 53 

actress Mrs. Oldfield in Westminster Abbey, with almost the same 
pomp as Sir Isaac Newton. Some pretend that the Enghsh had paid 
her these great funeral honours, purposely to make us more strongly 
sensible of the barbarity and injustice which they object to in us, for 
having buried Mademoiselle Le Couvreur ignominiously in the fields. 

But be assured from me, that the English were prompted by no 
other principle in burying Mrs. Oldfield in Westminster Abbey than 
their good sense. They are far from being so ridiculous as to brand 
with infamy an art which has immortalised a Euripides and a 
Sophocles; or to exclude from the body of their citizens a set of 
people whose business is to set off with the utmost grace of speech 
and action those pieces which the nation is proud of. 

Under the reign of Charles I. and in the beginning of the civil 
wars raised by a number of rigid fanatics, who at last were the 
victims to it; a great many pieces were published against theatrical 
and other shows, which were attacked with the greater virulence 
because that monarch and his queen, daughter to Henry IV. of 
France, were passionately fond of them. 

One Mr. Prynne, a man of most furiously scrupulous principles, 
who would have thought himself damned had he worn a cassock 
instead of a short cloak, and have been glad to see one-half of man- 
kind cut the other to pieces for the glory of God, and the Propaganda 
Fide; took it into his head to write a most wretched satire against 
some pretty good comedies, which were exhibited very innocently 
every night before their majesties. He quoted the authority of the 
Rabbis, and some passages from St. Bonaventure, to prove that the 
CEdipus of Sophocles was the work of the evil spirit; that Terence 
was excommunicated ipso facto; and added, that doubtless Brutus, 
who was a very severe Jansenist, assassinated Julius Caesar for no 
other reason but because he, who was Pontifex Maximus, presumed 
to write a tragedy the subject of which was CEdipus. Lastly, he 
declared that all who frequented the theatre were excommunicated, 
as they thereby renounced their baptism. This was casting the high- 
est insult on the king and all the royal family; and as the English 
loved their prince at that time, they could not bear to hear a writer 
talk of excommunicating him, though they themselves afterwards 
cut his head off. Prynne was summoned to appear before the Star 



154 VOLTAIRE 

Chamber; his wonderful book, from which Father Le Brun stole 
his, was sentenced to be burnt by the common hangman, and him- 
self to lose his ears. His trial is now extant. 

The Italians are far from attempting to cast a blemish on the 
opera, or to excommunicate Signer Senesino or Signora Cuzzoni. 
With regard to myself, I could presume to wish that the magistrates 
would suppress I know not what contemptible pieces written against 
the stage. For when the English and Italians hear that we brand 
with the greatest mark of infamy an art in which we excel; that we 
excommunicate persons who receive salaries from the king; that we 
condemn as impious a spectacle exhibited in convents and monas- 
teries; that we dishonour sports in which Louis XIV. and Louis XV. 
performed as actors; that we give the title of the devil's works to 
pieces which are received by magistrates of the most severe character, 
and represented before a virtuous queen; when, I say, foreigners are 
told of this insolent conduct, this contempt for the royal authority, 
and this Gothic rusticity which some presume to call Christian 
severity, what an idea must they entertain of our nation ? And how 
will it be possible for them to conceive, either that our laws give a 
sanction to an art which is declared infamous, or that some persons 
dare to stamp with infamy an art which receives a sanction from the 
laws, is rewarded by kings, cultivated and encouraged by the greatest 
men, and admired by whole nations? And that Father Le Brun's 
impertinent libel against the stage is seen in a bookseller's shop, 
standing the very next to the immortal labours of Racine, of Corneille, 
of Moliere, &c. 

Letter XXIV 
ON THE ROYAL SOCIETY AND OTHER ACADEMIES 

The English had an Academy of Sciences many years before us, 
but then it is not under such prudent regulations as ours, the only 
reason of which very possibly is, because it was founded before the 
Academy of Paris; for had it been founded after, it would very 
probably have adopted some of the sage laws of the former and 
improved upon others. 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I55 

Two things, and those the most essential to man, are wanting in 
the Royal Society of London, I mean rewards and laws. A seat in 
the Academy at Paris is a small but secure fortune to a geometrician 
or a chemist; but this is so far from being the case at London, that 
the several members of the Royal Society are at a continual, though 
indeed small expense. Any man in England who declares himself 
a lover of the mathematics and natural philosophy, and expresses an 
inclination to be a member of the Royal Society, is immediately 
elected into it. But in France it is not enough that a man who aspires 
to the honour of being a member of the Academy, and of receiving 
the royal stipend, has a love for the sciences; he must at the same 
time be deeply skilled in them; and is obliged to dispute the seat 
with competitors who are so much the more formidable as they are 
fired by a principle of glory, by interest, by the difficulty itself, 
and by that inflexibility of mind which is generally found in 
those who devote themselves to that pertinacious study, the mathe- 
matics. 

The Academy of Sciences is prudently confined to the study of 
Nature, and, indeed, this is a field spacious enough for fifty or three- 
score persons to range in. That of London mixes indiscriminately 
literature with physics; but methinks the founding an academy 
merely for the polite arts is more judicious, as it prevents confusion, 
and the joining, in some measure, of heterogeneals, such as a dis- 
sertation on the head-dresses of the Roman ladies with a hundred or 
more new curves. 

As there is very little order and regularity in the Royal Society, and 
not the least encouragement; and that the Academy of Paris is on a 
quite different foot, it is no wonder that our transactions are drawn 
up in a more just and beautiful manner than those of the EngHsh. 
Soldiers who are under a regular discipline, and besides well paid, 
must necessarily at last perform more glorious achievements than 
others who are mere volunteers. It must indeed be confessed that the 
Royal Society boast their Newton, but then he did not owe his knowl- 
edge and discoveries to that body; so far from it, that the latter were 
intelligible to very few of his fellow members. A genius like that of 
Sir Isaac belonged to all the academies in the world, because all had 
a thousand things to learn of him. 



156 VOLTAIRE 

The celebrated Dean Swift formed a design, in the latter end of 
the late Queen's reign, to found an academy for the Enghsh tongue 
upon the model of that of the French. This project was promoted 
by the late Earl of Oxford, Lord High Treasurer, and much more by 
the Lord Bolingbroke, Secretary of State, who had the happy talent 
of speaking without premeditation in the Parliament House with as 
much purity as Dean Swift wrote in his closet, and who would have 
been the ornament and protector of that academy. Those only would 
have been chosen members of it whose works will last as long as 
the English tongue, such as Dean Swift, Mr. Prior, whom we saw 
here invested with a public character, and whose fame in England 
is equal to that of La Fontaine in France; Mr. Pope, the English 
Boileau, Mr. Congreve, who may be called their Moliere, and several 
other eminent persons whose names I have forgot; all these would 
have raised the glory of that body to a great height even in its 
infancy. But Queen Anne being snatched suddenly from the world, 
the Whigs were resolved to ruin the protectors of the intended acad- 
emy, a circumstance that was of the most fatal consequence to polite 
literature. The members of this academy would have had a very 
great advantage over those who first formed that of the French, for 
Swift, Prior, Congreve, Dryden, Pope, Addison, &c. had fixed the 
English tongue by their writings; whereas Chapelain, Colletet, Cas- 
saigne, Faret, Perrin, Cotin, our first academicians, were a disgrace 
to their country; and so much ridicule is now attached to their very 
names, that if an author of some genius in this age had the misfor- 
tune to be called Chapelain or Cotin, he would be under a necessity 
of changing his name. 

One circumstance, to which the English Academy should espe- 
cially have attended, is to have prescribed to themselves occupations 
of a quite different kind from those with which our academicians 
amuse themselves. A wit of this country asked me for the memoirs 
of the French Academy. I answered, they have no memoirs, but 
have printed threescore or fourscore volumes in quarto of compli- 
ments. The gentleman perused one or two of them, but without 
being able to understand the style in which they were written; though 
he understood all our good authors perfectly. "All," says he, "I see 
in these elegant discourses is, that the member elect having assured 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I57 

the audience that his predecessor was a great man, that Cardinal 
RicheUeu was a very great man, that the Chancellor Seguier was a 
pretty great man, that Louis XIV. was a more than great man, the 
director answers in the very same strain, and adds, that the member 
elect may also be a sort of great man, and that himself, in quality of 
director, must also have some share in this greatness." 

The cause why all these academical discourses have unhappily 
done so little honour to this body is evident enough. Vitium est 
temporis potius quam hominis (the fault is owing to the age rather 
than to particular persons) . It grew up insensibly into a custom for 
every academician to repeat these eulogiums at his reception; it was 
laid down as a kind of law that the public should be indulged from 
time to time in the sullen satisfaction of yawning over these produc- 
tions. If the reason should afterwards be sought, why the greatest 
geniuses who have been incorporated into that body have sometimes 
made the worst speeches, I answer, that it is wholly owing to a 
strong propension, the gentlemen in question had to shine, and to 
display a thread-bare, worn-out subject in a new and uncommon 
light. The necessity of saying something, the perplexity of having 
nothing to say, and a desire of being witty, are three circumstances 
which alone are capable of making even the greatest writer ridicu- 
lous. These gentlemen, not being able to strike out any new thoughts, 
hunted after a new play of words, and delivered themselves without 
thinking at all: in like manner as people who should seem to chew 
with great eagerness, and make as though they were eating, at the 
same time that they were just starved. 

It is a law in the French Academy, to publish all those discourses 
by which only they are known, but they should rather make a law 
never to print any of them. 

But the Academy of the Belles Lettres have a more prudent and 
more useful object, which is, to present the public with a collection 
of transactions that abound with curious researches and critiques. 
These transactions are already esteemed by foreigners; and it were 
only to be wished that some subjects in them had been more 
thoroughly examined, and that others had not been treated at all. 
As, for instance, we should have been very well satisfied, had they 
omitted I know not what dissertation on the prerogative of the right 



158 VOLTAIRE 

hand over the left; and some others, which, though not published 
under so ridiculous a title, are yet written on subjects that are almost 
as frivolous and silly. 

The Academy of Sciences, in such of their researches as are of a 
more difficult kind and a more sensible use, embrace the knowledge 
of nature and the improvements of the arts. We may presume that 
such profound, such uninterrupted pursuits as these, such exact 
calculations, such refined discoveries, such extensive and exalted 
views, will, at last, produce something that may prove of advantage 
to the universe. Hitherto, as we have observed together, the most 
useful discoveries have been made in the most barbarous times. One 
would conclude that the business of the most enlightened ages and 
the most learned bodies, is, to argue and debate on things which were 
invented by ignorant people. We know exactly the angle which the 
sail of a ship is to make with the keel in order to make its sailing 
better; and yet Columbus discovered America without having the 
least idea of the property of this angle: however, I am far from 
inferring from hence that we are to confine ourselves merely to a 
blind practice, but happy it were, would naturalists and geometri- 
cians unite, as much as possible, the practice with the theory. 

Strange, but so it is, that those things which reflect the greatest 
honour on the human mind are frequently of the least benefit to it! 
A man who understands the four fundamental rules of arithmetic, 
aided by a little good sense, shall amass prodigious wealth in trade, 
shall become a Sir Peter Delme, a Sir Richard Hopkins, a Sir Gilbert 
Heathcote, whilst a poor algebraist spends his whole life in search- 
ing for astonishing properties and relations in numbers, which at 
the same time are of no manner of use, and will not acquaint him 
with the nature of exchanges. This is very nearly the case with most 
of the arts: there is a certain point beyond which all researches serve 
to no other purpose than merely to delight an inquisitive mind. Those 
ingenious and useless truths may be compared to stars which, by 
being placed at too great a distance, cannot afford us the least light. 

With regard to the French Academy, how great a service would 
they do to literature, to the language, and the nation, if, instead of 
publishing a set of compliments annually, they would give us new 
editions of the valuable works written in the age of Louis XIV., 



LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH I59 

purged from the several errors of diction which are crept into them. 
There are many of these errors in Corneille and MoHere, but those 
in La Fontaine are very numerous. Such as could not be corrected 
might at least be pointed out. By this means, as all the Europeans 
read those works, they would teach them our language in its utmost 
purity — which, by that means, would be fixed to a lasting standard; 
and valuable French books being then printed at the King's expense, 
would prove one of the most glorious monuments the nation could 
boast. I have been told that Boileau formerly made this proposal, 
and that it has since been revived by a gentleman eminent for his 
genius, his fine sense, and just taste for criticism; but this thought 
has met with the fate of many other useful projects, of being 
applauded and neglected. 



ON THE INEQUALITY AMONG 
MANKIND 



BY 

J. J. ROUSSEAU 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Jean Jacques Rousseau was born at Geneva, June 28, 171 2, the son of 
a watchmaker of French origin. His education was irregular, and though 
he tried many professions — including engraving, music, and teaching — 
he found it difficult to support himself in any of them. The discovery of 
his talent as a writer came with the winning of a prize offered by the 
Academy of Dijon for a discourse on the question, "Whether the progress 
of the sciences and of letters has tended to corrupt or to elevate morals." 
He argued so brilliantly that the tendency of civilization was degrading 
that he became at once famous. The discourse here printed on the causes 
of inequality among men was written in a similar competition. 

He now concentrated his powers upon literature, producing two novels, 
"La Nouvelle Heloise," the forerunner and parent of endless senti- 
mental and picturesque fictions; and "Emile, ou I'Education," a work 
which has had enormous influence on the theory and practise of peda- 
gogy down to our own time and in which the Savoyard Vicar appears, 
who is used as the mouthpiece for Rousseau's own religious ideas. "Le 
Contrat Social" (1762) elaborated the doctrine of the discourse on in- 
equality. Both historically and philosophically it is unsound; but it was 
the chief literary source of the enthusiasm for liberty, fraternity, and 
equality, which inspired the leaders of the French Revolution, and its 
effects passed far beyond France. 

His most famous work, the "Confessions," was published after his 
death. This book is a mine of information as to his life, but it is far 
from trustworthy; and the picture it gives of the author's personality 
and conduct, though painted in such a way as to make it absorbingly 
interesting, is often unpleasing in the highest degree. But it is one of 
the great autobiographies of the world. 

During Rousseau's later years he was the victim of the delusion of 
persecution; and although he was protected by a succession of good 
friends, he came to distrust and quarrel with each in turn. He died at 
Ermenonville, near Paris, July 2, 1778, the most widely influential French 
writer of his age. 

^The Savoyard Vicar and his "Profession of Faith" are introduced into 
"Emile" not, according to the author, because he wishes to exhibit his 
principles as those which should be taught, but to give an example of 
the way in which religious matters should be discussed with the young. 
Nevertheless, it is universally recognized that these opinions are Rous- 

162 



INTRODUCTION 1 63 

seau's own, and represent in short form his characteristic attitude toward 
religious belief. The Vicar himself is believed to combine the traits of 
two Savoyard priests whom Rousseau knew in his youth. The more im- 
portant was the Abbe Gaime, whom he had known at Turin; the other, 
the Abbe Gatier, who had taught him at Annecy. 



(QUESTION 

PROPOSED BY THE 

ACADEMY OF DIJON 



What is the Origin of the Inequality Among 
Mankind; and whether such InequaUty 
is authorized by the Law of Nature? 



A DISCOURSE 

UPON THE ORIGIN AND 

THE FOUNDATION OF THE INEQUALITY AMONG 

MANKIND 

'^ I \IS of man I am to speak; and the very question, in answer 
I to whicii I am to speak of him, sufficiently informs me 

M- that I am going to speak to men; for to those alone, who are 
not afraid of honouring truth, it belongs to propose discussions of 
this kind. I shall therefore maintain with confidence the cause of 
mankind before the sages, who invite me to stand up in its defence; 
and I shall think myself happy, if I can but behave in a manner not 
unworthy of my subject and of my judges. 

I conceive two species of inequality among men; one which I call 
natural, or physical inequality, because it is established by nature, 
and consists in the difference of age, health, bodily strength, and the 
qualides of the mind, or of the soul; the other which may be termed 
moral, or political inequality, because it depends on a kind of con- 
vention, and is established, or at least authorized, by the common 
consent of mankind. This species of inequality consists in the dif- 
ferent privileges, which some men enjoy, to the prejudice of others, 
such as that of being richer, more honoured, more powerful, and 
even that of exacting obedience from them. 

It were absurd to ask, what is the cause of natural inequality, 
seeing the bare definition of natural inequaHty answers the question: 
it would be more absurd still to enquire, if there might not be some 
essential connection between the two species of inequality, as it would 
be asking, in other words, if those who command are necessarily 
better men than those who obey; and if strength of body or of mind, 
wisdom or virtue are always to be found in individuals, in the same 
proportion with power, or riches: a question, fit perhaps to be dis- 

165 



1 66 ROUSSEAU 

cussed by slaves in the hearing of their masters, but unbecoming free 
and reasonable beings in quest of truth. 

What therefore is precisely the subject of this discourse? It is to 
point out, in the progress of things, that moment, when, right taking 
place of violence, nature became subject to law; to display that chain 
of surprising events, in consequence of which the strong submitted 
to serve the weak, and the people to purchase imaginary ease, at the 
expense of real happiness. 

The philosophers, who have examined the foundations of society, 
have, every one of them, perceived the necessity of tracing it back to 
a state of nature, but not one of them has ever arrived there. Some 
of them have not scrupled to attribute to man in that state the ideas 
of justice and injustice, without troubling their heads to prove, that 
he really must have had such ideas, or even that such ideas were 
useful to him : others have spoken of the natural right of every man 
to keep what belongs to him, without letting us know what they 
meant by the word belong; others, without further ceremony ascrib- 
ing to the strongest an authority over the weakest, have immediately 
struck out government, without thinking of the time requisite for 
men to form any notion of the things signified by the words author- 
ity and government. All of them, in fine, constantly harping on 
wants, avidity, oppression, desires and pride, have transferred to 
the state of nature ideas picked up in the bosom of society. In speak- 
ing of savages they described citizens. Nay, few of our own writers 
seem to have so much as doubted, that a state of nature did once 
actually exist; though it plainly appears by Sacred History, that even 
the first man, immediately furnished as he was by God himself with 
both instructions and precepts, never lived in that state, and that, 
if we give to the books of Moses that credit which every Christian 
philosopher ought to give to them, we must deny that, even before 
the deluge, such a state ever existed among men, unless they fell 
into it by some extraordinary event: a paradox very difficult to 
maintain, and altogether impossible to prove. 

Let us begin therefore, by laying aside facts, for they do not affect 
the question. The researches, in which we may engage on this occa- 
sion, are not to be taken for historical truths, but merely as hypo- 
thetical and conditional reasonings, fitter to illustrate the nature of 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 67 

things, than to show their true origin, Uke those systems, which our 
naturalists daily make of the formation of the world. Religion com- 
mands us to believe, that men, having been drawn by God himself 
out of a state of nature, are unequal, because it is his pleasure they 
should be so; but religion does not forbid us to draw conjectures 
solely from the nature of man, considered in itself, and from that of 
the beings which surround him, concerning the fate of mankind, had 
they been left to themselves. This is then the question I am to 
answer, the question I propose to examine in the present discourse. 
As mankind in general have an interest in my subject, I shall en- 
deavour to use a language suitable to all nations; or rather, forgetting 
the circumstances of time and place in order to think of nothing but 
the men I speak to, I shall suppose myself in the Lyceum of Athens, 
repeating the lessons of my masters before the Platos and the Xenoc- 
rates of that famous seat of philosophy as my judges, and in presence 
of the whole human species as my audience. 

O man, whatever country you may belong to, whatever your 
opinions may be, attend to my words; you shall hear your history 
such as I think I have read it, not in books composed by those like 
you, for they are liars, but in the book of nature which never lies. 
All that I shall repeat after her, must be true, without any intermix- 
ture of falsehood, but where I may happen, without intending it, 
to introduce my own conceits. The times I am going to speak of are 
very remote. How much you are changed from what you once were! 
'Tis in a manner the life of your species that I am going to write, 
from the qualities which you have received, and which your educa- 
tion and your habits could deprave, but could not destroy. There 
is, I am sensible, an age at which every individual of you would 
choose to stop; and you will look out for the age at which, had you 
your wish, your species had stopped. Uneasy at your present condi- 
tion for reasons which threaten your unhappy posterity with still 
greater uneasiness, you will perhaps wish it were in your power to 
go back; and this sentiment ought to be considered, as the panegyric 
of your first parents, the condemnation of your contemporaries, and 
a source of terror to all those who may have the misfortune of suc- 
ceeding you. 



DISCOURSE 

FIRST PART 

HOWEVER important it may be, in order to form a proper 
judgment of the natural state of man, to consider him from 
his origin, and to examine him, as it were, in the first em- 
bryo of the species; I shall not attempt to trace his organization 
through its successive approaches to perfection: I shall not stop to 
examine in the animal system what he might have been in the begin- 
ning, to become at last what he actually is; I shall not inquire 
whether, as Aristotle thinks, his neglected nails were no better at 
first than crooked talons; whether his whole body was not, bear-like, 
thick covered with rough hair; and whether, walking upon all-fours, 
his eyes, directed to the earth, and confined to a horizon of a few 
paces extent, did not at once point out the nature and limits of his 
ideas. I could only form vague, and almost imaginary, conjectures 
on this subject. Comparative anatomy has not as yet been sufficiently 
improved; neither have the observations of natural philosophy been 
sufficiently ascertained, to establish upon such foundations the basis 
of a solid system. For this reason, without having recourse to the 
supernatural informations with which we have been favoured on 
this head, or paying any attention to the changes, that must have 
happened in the conformation of the interior and exterior parts of 
man's body, in proportion as he applied his members to new pur- 
poses, and took to new aliments, I shall suppose his conformation to 
have always been, what we now behold it; that he always walked 
on two feet, made the same use of his hands that we do of ours, 
extended his looks over the whole face of nature, and measured with 
his eyes the vast extent of the heavens. 

If I strip this being, thus constituted, of all the supernatural gifts 
which he may have received, and of all the artificial faculties, which 
we could not have acquired but by slow degrees; if I consider him, 
in a word, such as he must have issued from the hands of nature; 

1 68 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 69 

I see an animal less strong than some, and less active than others, 
but, upon the whole, the most advantageously organized of any; I see 
him satisfying the calls of hunger under the first oak, and those of 
thirst at the first rivulet; I see him laying himself down to sleep 
at the foot of the same tree that afforded him his meal; and behold, 
this done, all his wants are completely supplied. 

The earth left to its own natural fertility and covered with im- 
mense woods, that no hatchet ever disfigured, offers at every step 
food and shelter to every species of animals. Men, dispersed among 
them, observe and imitate their industry, and thus rise to the instinct 
of beasts; with this advantage, that, whereas every species of beasts 
is confined to one peculiar instinct, man, who perhaps has not any 
that particularly belongs to him, appropriates to himself those of all 
other animals, and lives equally upon most of the different aliments, 
which they only divide among themselves; a circumstance which 
qualifies him to find his subsistence, with more ease than any of 
them. 

Men, accustomed from their infancy to the inclemency of the 
weather, and to the rigour of the different seasons; inured to fatigue, 
and obliged to defend, naked and without arms, their life and their 
prey against the other wild inhabitants of the forest, or at least to 
avoid their fury by flight, acquire a robust and almost unalterable 
habit of body; the children, bringing with them into the world the 
excellent constitution of their parents, and strengthening it by the 
same exercises that first produced it, attain by this means all the 
vigour that the human frame is capable of. Nature treats them 
exactly in the same manner that Sparta treated the children of her 
citizens; those who come well formed into the world she renders 
strong and robust, and destroys all the rest; differing in this respect 
from our societies, in which the state, by permitting children to 
become burdensome to their parents, murders them all without 
distinction, even in the wombs of their mothers. 

The body being the only instrument that savage man is acquainted 
with, he employs it to different uses, of which ours, for want of 
practice, are incapable; and we may thank our industry for the loss 
of that strength and agility, which necessity obliges him to acquire. 
Had he a hatchet, would his hand so easily snap off from an oak so 



170 ROUSSEAU 

Stout a branch ? Had he a sling, would it dart a stone to so great a 
distance? Had he a ladder, would he run so nimbly up a tree? Had 
he a horse, would he with such swiftness shoot along the plain? 
Give civilized man but time to gather about him all his machines, 
and no doubt he will be an overmatch for the savage: but if you 
have a mind to see a contest still more unequal, place them 
naked and unarmed one opposite to the other; and you will soon 
discover the advantage there is in perpetually having all our forces 
at our disposal, in being constantly prepared against all events, 
and in always carrying ourselves, as it were, whole and entire 
about us. 

Hobbes would have it that man is naturally void of fear, and 
always intent upon attacking and fighting. An illustrious philoso- 
pher thinks on the contrary, and Cumberland and Puffendorff like- 
wise afSrm it, that nothing is more fearful than man in a state of 
nature, that he is always in a tremble, and ready to fly at the first 
motion he perceives, at the first noise that strikes his ears. This, 
indeed, may be very true in regard to objects with which he is not 
acquainted; and I make no doubt of his being terrified at every new 
sight that presents itself, as often as he cannot distinguish the physi- 
cal good and evil which he may expect from it, nor compare his 
forces with the dangers he has to encounter; circumstances that 
seldom occur in a state of nature, where all things proceed in so 
uniform a manner, and the face of the earth is not liable to those 
sudden and continual changes occasioned in it by the passions and 
inconstancies of collected bodies. But savage man living among 
other animals without any society or fixed habitation, and finding 
himself early under a necessity of measuring his strength with theirs, 
soon makes a comparison between both, and finding that he sur- 
passes them more in address, than they surpass him in strength, he 
learns not to be any longer in dread of them. Turn out a bear or a 
wolf against a sturdy, active, resolute savage, (and this they all are,) 
provided with stones and a good stick; and you will soon find that 
the danger is at least equal on both sides, and that after several trials 
of this kind, wild beasts, who are not fond of attacking each other, 
will not be very fond of attacking man, whom they have found every 
whit as wild as themselves. As to animals who have really more 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY I71 

Strength than man has address, he is, in regard to them, what other 
weaker species are, who find means to subsist notwithstanding; he 
has even this great advantage over such weaker species, that being 
equally fleet with them, and finding on every tree an almost invi- 
olable asylum, he is always at liberty to take it or leave it, as he likes 
best, and of course to fight or to fly, whichever is most agreeable to 
him. To this we may add that no animal naturally makes war upon 
man, except in the case of self-defence or extreme hunger; nor ever 
expresses against him any of these violent antipathies, which seem 
to indicate that some particular species are intended by nature for 
the food of others. 

But there are other more formidable enemies, and against which 
man is not provided with the same means of defence; I mean natural 
infirmities, infancy, old age, and sickness of every kind, melancholy 
proofs of our weakness, whereof the two first are common to all 
animals, and the last chiefly attends man living in a state of society. 
It is even observable in regard to infancy, that the mother being 
able to carry her child about with her, wherever she goes, can perform 
the duty of a nurse with a great deal less trouble, than the females 
of many other animals, who are obliged to be constantly going and 
coming with no small labour and fatigue, one way to look out for 
their own subsistence, and another to suckle and feed their young 
ones. True it is that, if the woman happens to perish, her child is 
exposed to the greatest danger of perishing with her; but this danger 
is common to a hundred other species, whose young ones require a 
great deal of time to be able to provide for themselves; and if our 
infancy is longer than theirs, our life is longer likewise; so that, in 
this respect too, all things are in a manner equal; not but that there 
are other rules concerning the duration of the first age of life, and 
the number of the young of man and other animals, but they do not 
belong to my subject. With old men, who stir and perspire but little, 
the demand for food diminishes with their abilities to provide it; 
and as a savage life would exempt them from the gout and the 
rheumatism, and old age is of all ills that which human assistance 
is least capable of alleviating, they would at last go off, without its 
being perceived by others that they ceased to exist, and almost with- 
out perceiving it themselves. 



172 ROUSSEAU 

In regard to sickness, I shall not repeat the vain and false declama- 
tions made use of to discredit medicine by most men, while they 
enjoy their health; I shall only ask if there are any solid observations 
from which we may conclude that in those countries where the heal- 
ing art is most neglected, the mean duration of man's life is shorter 
than in those where it is most cultivated? And how is it possible 
this should be the case, if we inflict more diseases upon ourselves 
than medicine can supply us with remedies! The extreme inequali- 
ties in the manner of living of the several classes of mankind, the 
excess of idleness in some, and of labour in others, the facility of 
irritating and satisfying our sensuality and our appetites, the too 
exquisite and out of the way aliments of the rich, which fill them 
with fiery juices, and bring on indigestions, the unwholesome food 
of the poor, of which even, bad as it is, they very often fall short, and 
the want of which tempts them, every opportunity that offers, to eat 
greedily and overload their stomachs; watchings, excesses of every 
kind, immoderate transports of all the passions, fatigues, waste of 
spirits, in a word, the numberless pains and anxieties annexed to 
every condition, and which the mind of man is constantly a prey 
to; these are the fatal proofs that most of our ills are of our own 
making, and that we might have avoided them all by adhering to 
the simple, uniform and solitary way of life prescribed to us by 
nature. Allowing that nature intended we should always enjoy good 
health, I dare almost affirm that a state of reflection is a state against 
nature, and that the man who meditates is a depraved animal. We 
need only call to mind the good constitution of savages, of those at 
least whom we have not destroyed by our strong liquors; we need 
only reflect, that they are strangers to almost every disease, except 
those occasioned by wounds and old age, to be in a manner con- 
vinced that the history of human diseases might be easily composed 
by pursuing that of civil societies. Such at least was the opinion of 
Plato, who concluded from certain remedies made use of or approved 
by Podalyrus and Macaon at the Siege of Troy, that several dis- 
orders, which these remedies were found to bring on in his days, 
were not known among men at that remote period. 

Man therefore, in a state of nature where there are so few sources 
of sickness, can have no great occasion for physic, and still less for 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 73 

physicians; neither is the human species more to be pitied in this 
respect, than any other species of animals. Ask those who make 
hunting their recreation or business, if in their excursions they meet 
with many sick or feeble animals. They meet with many carrying 
the marks of considerable wounds, that have been perfectly well 
healed and closed up; with many, whose bones formerly broken, 
and whose limbs almost torn off, have completely knit and united, 
without any other surgeon but time, any other regimen but their 
usual way of living, and whose cures were not the less perfect for 
their not having been tortured with incisions, poisoned with drugs, 
or worn out by diet and abstinence. In a word, however useful 
medicine well administered may be to us who live in a state of 
society, it is still past doubt, that if, on the one hand, the sick savage, 
destitute of help, has nothing to hope from nature, on the other, he 
has nothing to fear but from his disease; a circumstance, which 
often renders his situation preferable to ours. 

Let us therefore beware of confounding savage man with the men, 
whom we daily see and converse with. Nature behaves towards all 
animals left to her care with a predilection, that seems to prove how 
jealous she is of that prerogative. The horse, the cat, the bull, nay 
the ass itself, have generally a higher stature, and always a more 
robust constitution, more vigour, more strength and courage in their 
forests than in our houses; they lose half these advantages by becom- 
ing domestic animals; it looks as if all our attention to treat them 
kindly, and to feed them well, served only to bastardize them. It is 
thus with man himself. In proportion as he becomes sociable and a 
slave to others, he becomes weak, fearful, mean-spirited, and his soft 
and effeminate way of living at once completes the enervation of 
his strength and of his courage. We may add, that there must be 
still a wider difference between man and man in a savage and 
domestic condition, than between beast and beast; for as men and 
beasts have been treated alike by nature, all the conveniences with 
which men indulge themselves more than they do the beasts tamed 
by them, are so many particular causes which make them degenerate 
more sensibly. 

Nakedness therefore, the want of houses, and of all these unneces- 
saries, which we consider as so very necessary, are not such mighty 



174 ROUSSEAU 

evils in respect to these primitive men, and much less still any ob- 
stacle to their preservation. Their skins, it is true, are destitute of 
hair; but then they have no occasion for any such covering in warm 
climates; and in cold climates they soon learn to apply to that use 
those of the animals they have conquered; they have but two feet 
to run with, but they have two hands to defend themselves with, and 
provide for all their wants; it costs them perhaps a great deal of 
time and trouble to make their children walk, but the mothers carry 
them with ease; an advantage not granted to other species of animals, 
with whom the mother, when pursued, is obliged to abandon her 
young ones, or regulate her steps by theirs. In short, unless we 
admit those singular and fortuitous concurrences of circumstances, 
which I shall speak of hereafter, and which, it is very possible, may 
never have existed, it is evident, in every state of the question, that 
the man, who first made himself clothes and built himself a cabin, 
supplied himself with things which he did not much want, since he 
had lived without them till then; and why should he not have been 
able to support in his riper years, the same kind of life, which he 
had supported from his infancy } 

Alone, idle, and always surrounded with danger, savage man 
must be fond of sleep, and sleep lightly like other animals, who think 
but little, and may, in a manner, be said to sleep all the time they 
do not think : self-preservation being almost his only concern, he must 
exercise those faculties most, which are most serviceable in attacking 
and in defending, whether to subdue his prey, or to prevent his 
becoming that of other animals : those organs, on the contrary, which 
softness and sensuality can alone improve, must remain in a state 
of rudeness, utterly incompatible with all manner of delicacy; and as 
his senses are divided on this point, his touch and his taste must be 
extremely coarse and blunt; his sight, his hearing, and his smelling 
equally subtle: such is the animal state in general, and accordingly 
if we may believe travellers, it is that of most savage nations. We 
must not therefore be surprised, that the Hottentots of the Cape of 
Good Hope, distinguish with their naked eyes ships on the ocean, 
at as great a distance as the Dutch can discern them with their 
glasses; nor that the savages of America should have tracked the 
Spaniards with their noses, to as great a degree of exactness, as the 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY I75 

best dogs could have done; nor that ail these barbarous nations sup- 
port nakedness without pain, use such large quantities of Pimento to 
give their food a relish, and drink like water the strongest liquors 
of Europe. 

As yet I have considered man merely in his physical capacity; let 
us now endeavour to examine him in a metaphysical and moral 
Ught. 

I can discover nothing in any mere animal but an ingenious 
machine, to which nature has given senses to wind itself up, and 
guard, to a certain degree, against everything that might destroy 
or disorder it. I perceive the very same things in the human machine, 
with this difference, that nature alone operates in all the operations 
of the beast, whereas man, as a free agent, has a share in his. One 
chooses by instinct; the other by an act of liberty; for which reason 
the beast cannot deviate from the rules that have been prescribed to 
it, even in cases where such deviation might be useful, and man 
often deviates from the rules laid down for him to his prejudice. 
Thus a pigeon would starve near a dish of the best flesh-meat, and 
a cat on a heap of fruit or corn, though both might very well support 
life with the food which they thus disdain, did they but bethink 
themselves to make a trial of it: it is in this manner dissolute men 
run into excesses, which bring on fevers and death itself; because 
the mind depraves the senses, and when nature ceases to speak, the 
will still continues to dictate. 

All animals must be allowed to have ideas, since all animals have 
senses; they even combine their ideas to a certain degree, and, in this 
respect, it is only the difference of such degree, that constitutes the 
difference between man and beast: some philosophers have even 
advanced, that there is a greater difference between some men and 
some others, than between some men and some beasts; it is not 
therefore so much the understanding that constitutes, among ani- 
mals, the specifical distinction of man, as his quality of a free agent. 
Nature speaks to all animals, and beasts obey her voice. Man feels 
the same impression, but he at the same time perceives that he is 
free to resist or to acquiesce; and it is in the consciousness of this 
liberty, that the spirituality of his soul chiefly appears: for natural 
philosophy explains, in some measure, the mechanism of the senses 



176 ROUSSEAU 

and the formation of ideas; but in the power of vviUing, or rather of 
choosing, and in the consciousness of this power, nothing can be 
discovered but acts, that are purely spiritual, and cannot be accounted 
for by the laws of mechanics. 

But though the difficulties, in which all these questions are in- 
volved, should leave some room to dispute on this difference between 
man and beast, there is another very specific quality that distinguishes 
them, and a quality which will admit of no dispute; this is the 
faculty of improvement; a faculty which, as circumstances offer, suc- 
cessively unfolds all the other faculties, and resides among us not 
only in the species, but in the individuals that compose it; whereas 
a beast is, at the end of some months, all he ever will be during the 
rest of his life; and his species, at the end of a thousand years, pre- 
cisely what it was the first year of that long period. Why is man 
alone subject to dotage? Is it not, because he thus returns to his 
primitive condition? And because, while the beast, which has ac- 
quired nothing and has likewise nothing to lose, continues always 
in possession of his instinct, man, losing by old age, or by accident, 
all the acquisitions he had made in consequence of his perfectibility, 
thus falls back even lower than beasts themselves? It would be a 
melancholy necessity for us to be obliged to allow, that this distinctive 
and almost unlimited faculty is the source of all man's misfortunes; 
that it is this faculty, which, though by slow degrees, draws them out 
of their original condition, in which his days would slide away 
insensibly in peace and innocence; that it is this faculty, which, in 
a succession of ages, produces his discoveries and mistakes, his vir- 
tues and his vices, and, at long run, renders him both his own and 
nature's tyrant. It would be shocking to be obliged to commend, as 
a beneficent being, whoever he was that first suggested to the 
Oronoco Indians the use of those boards which they bind on the 
temples of their children, and which secure to them the enjoyment 
of some part at least of their natural imbecility and happiness. 

Savage man, abandoned by nature to pure instinct, or rather in- 
demnified for that which has perhaps been denied to him by facul- 
ties capable of immediately supplying the place of it, and of raising 
him afterwards a great deal higher, would therefore begin with func- 
tions that were merely animal: to see and to feel would be his first 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 77 

condition, which he would enjoy in common with other animals. 
To will and not to will, to wish and to fear, would be the first, and 
in a manner, the only operations of his soul, till new circumstances 
occasioned new developments. 

Let moralists say what they will, the human understanding is 
greatly indebted to the passions, which, on their side, are likewise 
universally allowed to be gready indebted to the human understand- 
ing. It is by the activity of our passions, that our reason improves: 
we covet knowledge merely because we covet enjoyment, and it is 
impossible to conceive why a man exempt from fears and desires 
should take the trouble to reason. The passions, in their turn, owe 
their origin to our wants, and their increase to our progress in science; 
for we cannot desire or fear anything, but in consequence of the ideas 
we have of it, or of the simple impulses of nature; and savage man, 
destitute of every species of knowledge, experiences no passions but 
those of this last kind; his desires never extend beyond his physical 
wants; he knows no goods but food, a female, and rest; he fears no 
evil but pain, and hunger; I say pain, and not death; for no animal, 
merely as such, will ever know what it is to die, and the knowledge of 
death, and of its terrors, is one of the first acquisitions made by man, 
in consequence of his deviating from the animal state. 

I could easily, were it requisite, cite facts in support of this opinion, 
and show, that the progress of the mind has everywhere kept pace 
exactly with the wants, to which nature had left the inhabitants 
exposed, or to which circumstances had subjected them, and conse- 
quently to the passions, which inclined them to provide for these 
wants. I could exhibit in Egypt the arts starting up, and extending 
themselves with the inundations of the Nile; I could pursue them 
in their progress among the Greeks, where they were seen to bud 
forth, grow, and rise to the heavens, in the midst of the sands and 
rocks of Attica, without being able to take root on the fertile banks 
of the Eurotas; I would observe that, in general, the inhabitants of 
the north are more industrious than those of the south, because they 
can less do without industry; as if nature thus meant to make all 
things equal, by giving to the mind that fertility she has denied to 
the soil. 

But exclusive of the uncertain testimonies of history, who does 



178 ROUSSEAU 

not perceive that everything seems to remove from savage man the 
temptation and the means of altering his condition? His imagina- 
tion paints nothing to him; his heart asks nothing from him. His 
moderate wants are so easily supplied with what he everywhere finds 
ready to his hand, and he stands at such a distance from the degree 
of knowledge requisite to covet more, that he can neither have fore- 
sight nor curiosity. The spectacle of nature, by growing quite famil- 
iar to him, becomes at last equally indifferent. It is constantly the 
same order, constantly the same revolutions; he has not sense enough 
to feel surprise at the sight of the greatest wonders; and it is not in 
his mind we must look for that philosophy, which man must have 
to know how to observe once, what he has every day seen. His soul, 
which nothing disturbs, gives itself up entirely to the consciousness 
of its actual existence, without any thought of even the nearest 
futurity; and his projects, equally confined with his views, scarce 
extend to the end of the day. Such is, even at present, the degree of 
foresight in the Caribbean: he sells his cotton bed in the morning, 
and comes in the evening, with tears in his eyes, to buy it back, not 
having foreseen that he should want it again the next night. 

The more we meditate on this subject, the wider does the distance 
between mere sensation and the most simple knowledge become in 
our eyes; and it is impossible to conceive how man, by his own 
powers alone, without the assistance of communication, and the spur 
of necessity, could have got over so great an interval. How many 
ages perhaps revolved, before men beheld any other fire but that of 
the heavens? How many different accidents must have concurred 
to make them acquainted with the most common uses of this ele- 
ment ? How often have they let it go out, before they knew the art 
of reproducing it? And how often perhaps has not every one of 
these secrets perished with the discoverer? What shall we say of 
agriculture, an art which requires so much labour and foresight; 
which depends upon other arts; which, it is very evident, cannot 
be practised but in a society, if not a formed one, at least one of some 
standing, and which does not so much serve to draw aliments from 
the earth, for the earth would yield them without all that trouble, 
as to oblige her to produce those things, which we like best, pref- 
erably to others? But let us suppose that men had multipUed to such 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 79 

a degree, that the natural products of the earth no longer sufficed 
for their support; a supposition which, by the bye, would prove that 
this kind of life would be very advantageous to the human species; 
let us suppose that, without forge or anvil, the instruments of hus- 
bandry had dropped from the heavens into the hands of savages, 
that these men had got the better of that mortal aversion they all 
have for constant labour; that they had learned to foretell their 
wants at so great a distance of time; that they had guessed exactly 
how they were to break the earth, commit their seed to it, and plant 
trees; that they had found out the art of grinding their corn, and 
improving by fermentation the juice of their grapes; all operations 
which we must allow them to have learned from the gods, since we 
cannot conceive how they should make such discoveries of them- 
selves; after all these fine presents, what man would be mad enough 
to cultivate a field, that may be robbed by the first comer, man or 
beast, who takes a fancy to the produce of it. And would any man 
consent to spend his day in labour and fatigue, when the rewards of 
his labour and fatigue became more and more precarious in propor- 
tion to his want of them? In a word, how could this situation engage 
men to cultivate the earth, as long as it was not parcelled out among 
them, that is, as long as a state of nature subsisted. 

Though we should suppose savage man as well versed in the 
art of thinking, as philosophers make him; though we were, after 
them, to make him a philosopher himself, discovering of himself the 
sublimest truths, forming to himself, by the most abstract arguments, 
maxims of justice and reason drawn from the love of order in gen- 
eral, or from the known will of his Creator: in a word, though we 
were to suppose his mind as intelligent and enlightened, as it must, 
and is, in fact, found to be dull and stupid; what benefit would the 
species receive from all these metaphysical discoveries, which could 
not be communicated, but must perish with the individual who had 
made them? What progress could mankind make in the forests, 
scattered up and down among the other animals? And to what 
degree could men mutually improve and enlighten each other, when 
they had no fixed habitation, nor any need of each other's assistance; 
when the same persons scarcely met twice in their whole lives, and 
on meeting neither spoke to, or so much as knew each other ? 



l8o ROUSSEAU 

Let us consider how many ideas we owe to the use of speech; 
how much grammar exercises, and faciUtates the operations of the 
mind; let us, besides, reflect on the immense pains and time that the 
first invention of languages must have required: Let us add these 
reflections to the preceding; and then we may judge how many 
thousand ages must have been requisite to develop successively the 
operations, which the human mind is capable of producing. 

I must now beg leave to stop one moment to consider the perplexi- 
ties attending the origin of languages. I might here barely cite or 
repeat the researches made, in relation to this question, by the Abbe 
de Condillac, which all fully confirm my system, and perhaps even 
suggested to me the first idea of it. But, as the manner, in which 
the philosopher resolves the diificulties of his own starting, concern- 
ing the origin of arbitrary signs, shows that he supposes, what I 
doubt, namely a kind of society already established among the in- 
ventors of languages; I think it my duty, at the same time that I 
refer to his reflections, to give my own, in order to expose the same 
difficulties in a light suitable to my subject. The first that offers is 
how languages could become necessary; for as there was no corre- 
spondence between men, nor the least necessity for any, there is no 
conceiving the necessity of this invention, nor the possibility of it, if 
it was not indispensable. I might say, with many others, that lan- 
guages are the fruit of the domestic intercourse between fathers, 
mothers, and children: but this, besides its not answering any diffi- 
culties, would be committing the same fault with those, who reason- 
ing on the state of nature, transfer to it ideas collected in society, 
always consider families as living together under one roof, and their 
members as observing among themselves an union, equally intimate 
and permanent with that which we see exist in a civil state, where 
so many common interests conspire to unite them; whereas in this 
primitive state, as there were neither houses nor cabins, nor any kind 
of property, every one took up his lodging at random, and seldom 
continued above one night in the same place; males and females 
united without any premeditated design, as chance, occasion, or 
desire brought them together, nor had they any great occasion for 
language to make known their thoughts to each other. They parted 
with the same ease. The mother suckled her children, when just 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY l8l 

born, for her own sake; but afterwards out of love and affection to 
them, when habit and custom had made them dear to her; but they 
no sooner gained strength enough to run about in quest of food than 
they separated even from her of their own accord; and as they 
scarce had any other method of not losing each other, than that of 
remaining constantly in each other's sight, they soon came to such 
a pass of forgetfulness, as not even to know each other, when they 
happened to meet again. I must further observe that the child having 
all his wants to explain, and consequently more things to say to his 
mother, than the mother can have to say to him, it is he that must 
be at the chief expense of invention, and the language he makes use 
of must be in a great measure his own work; this makes the number 
of languages equal to that of the individuals who are to speak them; 
and this multiplicity of languages is further increased by their rov- 
ing and vagabond kind of life, which allows no idiom time enough 
to acquire any consistency; for to say that the mother would have 
dictated to the child the words he must employ to ask her this 
thing and that, may well enough explain in what manner languages, 
already formed, are taught, but it does not show us in what manner 
they are first formed. 

Let us suppose this first difficulty conquered : Let us for a moment 
consider ourselves at this side of the immense space, which must 
have separated the pure state of nature from that in which languages 
became necessary, and let us, after allowing such necessity, examine 
how languages could begin to be established. A new difficulty this, 
still more stubborn than the preceding; for if men stood in need of 
speech to learn to think, they must have stood in still greater need 
of the art of thinking to invent that of speaking; and though we 
could conceive how the sounds of the voice came to be taken for the 
conventional interpreters of our ideas we should not be the nearer 
knowing who could have been the interpreters of this convention 
for such ideas, as, in consequence of their not having any sensible 
objects, could not be made manifest by gesture or voice; so that we 
can scarce form any tolerable conjectures concerning the birth of 
this art of communicating our thoughts, and establishing a corre- 
spondence between minds: a sublime art which, though so remote 
from its origin, philosophers still behold at such a prodigious distance 



1 82 ROUSSEAU 

from its perfection, that I never met with one of them bold enough 
to aiErm it would ever arrive there, though the revolutions neces- 
sarily produced by time were suspended in its favour; though preju- 
dice could be banished from, or would be at least content to sit 
silent in the presence of our academies, and though these societies 
should consecrate themselves, entirely and during whole ages, to the 
study of this intricate object. 

The first language of man, the most universal and most energetic 
of all languages, in short, the only language he had occasion for, 
before there was a necessity of persuading assembled multitudes, was 
the cry of nature. As this cry was never extorted but by a kind of 
instinct in the most urgent cases, to implore assistance in great 
danger, or relief in great sufferings, it was of little use in the common 
occurrences of life, where more moderate sentiments generally pre- 
vail. When the ideas of men began to extend and multiply, and a 
closer communication began to take place among them, they laboured 
to devise more numerous signs, and a more extensive language: they 
multiplied the inflections of the voice, and added to them gestures, 
which are, in their own nature, more expressive, and whose meaning 
depends less on any prior determination. They therefore expressed 
visible and movable objects by gestures and those which strike the 
ear, by imitative sounds: but as gestures scarcely indicate anything 
except objects that are actually present or can be easily described, and 
visible actions; as they are not of general use, since darkness or the 
interposition of an opaque medium renders them useless; and as 
besides they require attention rather than excite it: men at length 
bethought themselves of substituting for them the articulations of 
voice, which, without having the same relation to any determinate 
object, are, in quality of instituted signs, fitter to represent all our 
ideas; a substitution, which could only have been made by common 
consent, and in a manner pretty difficult to practise by men, whose 
rude organs were unimproved by exercise; a substitution, which is 
in itself more difficult to be conceived, since the motives to this 
unanimous agreement must have been somehow or another ex- 
pressed, and speech therefore appears to have been exceedingly requi- 
site to establish the use of speech. 

We must allow that the words, first made use of by men, had in 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 83 

their minds a much more extensive signification, than those employed 
in languages of some standing, and that, considering how ignorant 
they were of the division of speech into its constituent parts; they at 
first gave every word the meaning of an entire proposition. When 
afterwards they began to perceive the difference between the subject 
and attribute, and between verb and noun, a distinction which re- 
quired no mean effort of genius, the substantives for a time were 
only so many proper names, the infinitive was the only tense, and 
as to adjectives, great difficulties must have attended the development 
of the idea that represents them, since every adjective is an abstract 
word, and abstraction is an unnatural and very painful operation. 

At first they gave every object a peculiar name, without any regard 
to its genus or species, things which these first institutors of language 
were in no condition to distinguish; and every individual presented 
itself solitary to their minds, as it stands in the table of nature. If 
they called one oak A, they called another oak B: so that their 
dictionary must have been more extensive in proportion as their 
knowledge of things was more confined. It could not but be a very 
difficult task to get rid of so difluse and embarrassing a nomen- 
clature; as in order to marshal the several beings under common and 
generic denominations, it was necessary to be first acquainted with 
their properties, and their differences; to be stocked with observations 
and definitions, that is to say, to understand natural history and 
metaphysics, advantages which the men of these times could not 
have enjoyed. 

Besides, general ideas cannot be conveyed to the mind without the 
assistance of words, nor can the understanding seize them without 
the assistance of propositions. This is one of the reasons, why mere 
animals cannot form such ideas, nor ever acquire the perfectibility 
which depends on such an operation. When a monkey leaves with- 
out the least hesitation one nut for another, are we to think he 
has any general idea of that kind of fruit, and that he compares 
these two individual bodies with his archetype notion of them? 
No, certainly; but the sight of one of these nuts calls back to his 
memory the sensations which he has received from the other; and 
his eyes, modified after some certain manner, give notice to his palate 
of the modification it is in its turn going to receive. Every general 



184 ROUSSEAU 

idea is purely intellectual; let the imagination tamper ever so little 
with it, it immediately becomes a particular idea. Endeavour to 
represent to yourself the image of a tree in general, you never will 
be able to do it; in spite of all your efforts it will appear big or little, 
thin or tufted, of a bright or a deep colour; and were you master to 
see nothing in it, but what can be seen in every tree, such a picture 
would no longer resemble any tree. Beings perfectly abstract are 
perceivable in the same manner, or are only conceivable by the 
assistance of speech. The definition of a triangle can alone give you 
a just idea of that figure: the moment you form a triangle in your 
mind, it is this or that particular triangle and no other, and you 
cannot avoid giving breadth to its lines and colour to its area. We 
must therefore make use of propositions; we must therefore speak to 
have general ideas; for the moment the imagination stops, the mind 
must stop too, if not assisted by speech. If therefore the first inventors 
could give no names to any ideas but those they had already, it fol- 
lows that the first substantives could never have been anything more 
than proper names. 

But when by means, which I cannot conceive, our new gram- 
marians began to extend their ideas, and generalize their words, the 
ignorance of the inventors must have confined this method to very 
narrow bounds; and as they had at first too much multiplied the 
names of individuals for want of being acquainted with the distinc- 
tions called genus and species, they afterwards made too few genera 
and species for want of having considered beings in all their differ- 
ences; to push the divisions far enough, they must have had more 
knowledge and experience than we can allow them, and have made 
more researches and taken more pains, than we can suppose them 
willing to submit to. Now if, even at this present time, we every day 
discover new species, which had before escaped all our observations, 
how many species must have escaped the notice of men, who judged 
of things merely from their first appearances! As to the primitive 
classes and the most general notions, it were superfluous to add that 
these they must have likewise overlooked: how, for example, could 
they have thought of or understood the words, matter, spirit, sub- 
stance, mode, figure, motion, since even our philosophers, who for so 
long a time have been constantly employing these terms, can them- 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 85 

selves scarcely understand them, and since the ideas annexed to these 
words being purely metaphysical, no models o£ them could be found 
in nature? 

I stop at these first advances, and beseech my judges to suspend 
their lecture a little, in order to consider, what a great way language 
has still to go, in regard to the invention of physical substantives 
alone, (though the easiest part of language to invent,) to be able to 
express all the sentiments of man, to assume an invariable form, to 
bear being spoken in public and to influence society: I earnestly en- 
treat them to consider how much time and knowledge must have 
been requisite to find out numbers, abstract words, the aorists, and 
all the other tenses of verbs, the particles, and syntax, the method of 
connecting propositions and arguments, of forming all the logic of 
discourse. For my own part, I am so scared at the difficulties that 
multiply at every step, and so convinced of the almost demonstrated 
impossibility of languages owing their birth and establishment to 
means that were merely human, that I must leave to whoever may 
please to take it up, the task of discussing this difficult problem. 
"Which was the most necessary, society already formed to invent 
languages, or languages already invented to form society?" 

But be the case of these origins ever so mysterious, we may at least 
infer from the little care which nature has taken to bring men to- 
gether by mutual wants, and make the use of speech easy to them, 
how little she has done towards making them sociable, and how 
little she has contributed to anything which they themselves have 
done to become so. In fact, it is impossible to conceive, why, in this 
primitive state, one man should have more occasion for the assistance 
of another, than one monkey, or one wolf for that of another animal 
of the same species; or supposing that he had, what motive could 
induce another to assist him; or even, in this last case, how he, who 
wanted assistance, and he from whom it was wanted, could agree 
among themselves upon the conditions. Authors, I know, are con- 
tinually telling us, that in this state man would have been a most 
miserable creature; and if it is true, as I fancy I have proved it, that 
he must have continued many ages without either the desire or the 
opportunity of emerging from such a state, this their assertion could 
only serve to justify a charge against nature, and not any against 



1 86 ROUSSEAU 

the being which nature had thus constituted; but, if I thoroughly 
understand this term miserable, it is a word, that either has no mean- 
ing, or signifies nothing, but a privation attended with pain, and a 
suffering state of body or soul; now I would fain know what kind of 
misery can be that of a free being, whose heart enjoys perfect peace, 
and body perfect health? And which is aptest to become insupport- 
able to those who enjoy it, a civil or a natural life? In civil life we 
can scarcely meet a single person who does not complain of his 
existence; many even throw away as much of it as they can, and the 
united force of divine and human laws can hardly put bounds to 
this disorder. Was ever any free savage known to have been so 
much as tempted to complain of life, and lay violent hands on him- 
self? Let us therefore judge with less pride on which side real 
misery is to be placed. Nothing, on the contrary, must have been so 
unhappy as savage man, dazzled by flashes of knowledge, racked by 
passions, and reasoning on a state different from that in which he saw 
himself placed. It was in consequence of a very wise Providence, 
that the faculties, which he potentially enjoyed, were not to develop 
themselves but in proportion as there offered occasions to exercise 
them, lest they should be superfluous or troublesome to him when 
he did not want them, or tardy and useless when he did. He had 
in his instinct alone everything requisite to live in a state of nature; 
in his cultivated reason he has barely what is necessary to live in a 
state of society. 

It appears at first sight that, as there was no kind of moral rela- 
tions between men in this state, nor any known duties, they could 
not be either good or bad, and had neither vices nor virtues, unless 
we take these words in a physical sense, and call vices, in the indi- 
vidual, the qualities which may prove detrimental to his own preser- 
vation, and virtues those which may contribute to it; in which case 
we should be obliged to consider him as most virtuous, who made 
least resistance against the simple impulses of nature. But without 
deviating from the usual meaning of these terms, it is proper to 
suspend the judgment we might form of such a situation, and be 
upon our guard against prejudice, till, the balance in hand, we have 
examined whether there are more virtues or vices among civilized 
men; or whether the improvement of their understanding is sufficient 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 87 

to compensate the damage which they mutually do to each other, 
in proportion as they become better informed of the services which 
they ought to do; or whether, upon the whole, they would not be 
much happier in a condition, where they had nothing to fear or to 
hope from each other, than in that where they had submitted to an 
universal subserviency, and have obliged themselves to depend for 
everything upon the good will of those, who do not think themselves 
obliged to give anything in return. 

But above all things let us beware concluding with Hobbes, that 
man, as having no idea of goodness, must be naturally bad; that he 
is vicious because he does not know what virtue is; that he always 
refuses to do any service to those of his own species, because he 
believes that none is due to them; that, in virtue of that right which 
he jusdy claims to everything he wants, he foolishly looks upon 
himself as proprietor of the whole universe. Hobbes very plainly 
saw the flaws in all the modern definitions of natural right: but the 
consequences, which he draws from his own definition, show that it 
is, in the sense he understands it, equally exceptionable. This author, 
to argue from his own principles, should say that the state of nature, 
being that where the care of our own preservation interferes least 
with the preservation of others, was of course the most favourable 
to peace, and most suitable to mankind; whereas he advances the 
very reverse in consequence of his having injudiciously admitted, as 
objects of that care which savage man should take of his preserva- 
tion, the satisfaction of numberless passions which are the work of 
society, and have rendered laws necessary. A bad man, says he, is a 
robust child. But this is not proving that savage man is a robust 
child; and though we were to grant that he was, what could this 
philosopher infer from such a concession? That if this man, when 
robust, depended on others as much as when feeble, there is no excess 
that he would not be guilty of. He would make nothing of striking 
his mother when she delayed ever so little to give him the breast; 
he would claw, and bite, and strangle without remorse the first of 
his younger brothers, that ever so accidentally jostled or otherwise 
disturbed him. But these are two contradictory suppositions in the 
state of nature, to be robust and dependent. Man is weak when 
dependent, and his own master before he grows robust. Hobbes did 



1 88 ROUSSEAU 

not consider that the same cause, which hinders savages from mak- 
ing use of their reason, as our jurisconsults pretend, hinders them at 
the same time from making an ill use of their faculties, as he himself 
pretends; so that we may say that savages are not bad, precisely be- 
cause they don't know what it is to be good; for it is neither the 
development of the understanding, nor the curb of the law, but 
the calmness of their passions and their ignorance of vice that hinders 
them from doing ill : tantus plus in illis proficit vitiorum ignorantia, 
quam in his cognito virtutis. There is besides another principle that 
has escaped Hobbes, and which, having been given to man to mod- 
erate, on certain occasions, the blind and impetuous sallies of self- 
love, or the desire of self-preservation previous to the appearance of 
that passion, allays the ardour, with which he naturally pursues his 
private welfare, by an innate abhorrence to see beings suffer that 
resemble him. I shall not surely be contradicted, in granting to man 
the only natural virtue, which the most passionate detractor of human 
virtues could not deny him, I mean that of pity, a disposition suitable 
to creatures weak as we are, and liable to so many evils; a virtue so 
much the more universal, and withal useful to man, as it takes place 
in him of all manner of reflection; and so natural, that the beasts 
themselves sometimes give evident signs of it. Not to speak of the 
tenderness of mothers for their young; and of the dangers they face 
to screen them from danger; with what reluctance are horses known 
to trample upon living bodies; one animal never passes unmoved by 
the dead carcass of another animal of the same species: there are 
even some who bestow a kind of sepulture upon their dead fellows; 
and the mournful lowings of cattle, on their entering the slaughter- 
house, publish the impression made upon them by the horrible 
spectacle they are there struck with. It is with pleasure we see the 
author of the fable of the bees, forced to acknowledge man a com- 
passionate and sensible being; and lay aside, in the example he 
offers to confirm it, his cold and subtle style, to place before us the 
pathetic picture of a man, who, with his hands tied up, is obliged to 
behold a beast of prey tear a child from the arms of his mother, and 
then with his teeth grind the tender limbs, and with his claws rend 
the throbbing entrails of the innocent victim. What horrible emo- 
tions must not such a spectator experience at the sight of an event 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 89 

which does not personally concern him ? What anguish must he not 
sufEer at his not being able to assist the fainting mother or the 
expiring infant? 

Such is the pure motion of nature, anterior to all manner of reflec- 
tion; such is the force of natural pity, which the most dissolute man- 
ners have as yet found it so difficult to extinguish, since we every 
day see, in our theatrical representation, those men sympathize with 
the unfortunate and weep at their sufferings, who, if in the tyrant's 
place, would aggravate the torments of their enemies. Mandeville 
was very sensible that men, in spite of all their morality, would never 
have been better than monsters, if nature had not given them pity to 
assist reason: but he did not perceive that from this quality alone 
flow all the social virtues, which he would dispute mankind the 
possession of. In fact, what is generosity, what clemency, what hu- 
manity, but pity applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to the human 
species in general? Even benevolence and friendship, if we judge 
right, will appear the effects of a constant pity, fixed upon a particu- 
lar object: for to wish that a person may not suffer, what is it but 
to wish that he may be happy ? Though it were true that commisera- 
tion is no more than a sentiment, which puts us in the place of him 
who suffers, a sentiment obscure but active in the savage, developed 
but dormant in civilized man, how could this notion affect the truth 
of what I advance, but to make it more evident. In fact, commisera- 
tion must be so much the more energetic, the more intimately the 
animal, that beholds any kind of distress, identifies himself with the 
animal that labours under it. Now it is evident that this identifica- 
tion must have been infinitely more perfect in the state of nature 
than in the state of reason. It is reason that engenders self-love, and 
reflection that strengthens it; it is reason that makes man shrink 
into himself; it is reason that makes him keep aloof from everything 
that can trouble or afflict him : it is philosophy that destroys his con- 
nections with other men; it is in consequence of her dictates that he 
mutters to himself at the sight of another in distress, You may per- 
ish for aught I care, nothing can hurt me. Nothing less than those 
evils, which threaten the whole species, can disturb the calm sleep of 
the philosopher, and force him from his bed. One man may with 
impunity murder another under his windows; he has nothing to do 



190 ROUSSEAU 

but clap his hands to his ears, argue a Httle with himself to hinder 
nature, that startles within him, from identifying him with the 
unhappy sufferer. Savage man wants this admirable talent; and for 
want of wisdom and reason, is always ready foolishly to obey the 
first whispers of humanity. In riots and street-brawls the populace 
flock together, the prudent man sneaks off. They are the dregs of 
the people, the poor basket and barrow-women, that part the com- 
batants, and hinder gentle folks from cutting one another's throats. 

It is therefore certain that pity is a natural sentiment, which, by 
moderating in every individual the activity of self-love, contributes 
to the mutual preservation of the whole species. It is this pity which 
hurries us without reflection to the assistance of those we see in 
distress; it is this pity which, in a state of nature, stands for laws, for 
manners, for virtue, with this advantage, that no one is tempted to 
disobey her sweet and gentle voice: it is this pity which will always 
hinder a robust savage from plundering a feeble child, or infirm old 
man, of the subsistence they have acquired with pain and difficulty, 
if he has but the least prospect of providing for himself by any other 
means: it is this pity which, instead of that sublime maxim of argu- 
mentative justice. Do to others as you would have others do to you, 
inspires all men with that other maxim of natural goodness a great 
deal less perfect, but perhaps more useful, Consult your own happi- 
ness with as little prejudice as you can to that of others. It is in a 
word, in this natural sentiment, rather than in fine-spun arguments, 
that we must look for the cause of that reluctance which every man 
would experience to do evil, even independently of the maxims of 
education. Though it may be the peculiar happiness of Socrates and 
other geniuses of his stamp, to reason themselves into virtue, the 
human species would long ago have ceased to exist, had it depended 
entirely for its preservation on the reasonings of the individuals that 
compose it. 

With passions so tame, and so salutary a curb, men, rather wild 
than wicked, and more attentive to guard against mischief than to 
do any to other animals, were not exposed to any dangerous dis- 
sensions: As they kept up no manner of correspondence with each 
other, and were of course strangers to vanity, to respect, to esteem, 
to contempt; as they had no notion of what we call Meum and Tuum, 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY I9I 

nor any true idea of justice; as they considered any violence they 
were hable to, as an evil that could be easily repaired, and not as an 
injury that deserved punishment; and as they never so much as 
dreamed of revenge, unless perhaps mechanically and unpremedi- 
tatedly, as a dog who bites the stone that has been thrown at him; 
their disputes could seldom be attended with bloodshed, were they 
never occasioned by a more considerable stake than that of sub- 
sistence: but there is a more dangerous subject of contention, which I 
must not leave unnoticed. 

Among the passions which ruffle the heart of man, there is one of 
a hot and impetuous nature, which renders the sexes necessary to 
each other; a terrible passion which despises all dangers, bears down 
all obstacles, and to which in its transports it seems proper to destroy 
the human species which it is destined to preserve. What must 
become of men abandoned to this lawless and brutal rage, without 
modesty, without shame, and every day disputing the objects of 
their passion at the expense of their blood? 

We must in the first place allow that the more violent the passions, 
the more necessary are laws to restrain them: but besides that the 
disorders and the crimes, to which these passions daily give rise 
among us, sufflciently prove the insufficiency of laws for that pur- 
pose, we would do well to look back a little further and examine, 
if these evils did not spring up with the laws themselves; for at this 
rate, though the laws were capable of repressing these evils, it is the 
least that might be expected from them, seeing it is no more than 
stopping the progress of a mischief which they themselves have 
produced. 

Let us begin by distinguishing between what is moral and what 
is physical in the passion called love. The physical part of it is that 
general desire which prompts the sexes to unite with each other; 
the moral part is that which determines that desire, and fixes it 
upon a particular object to the exclusion of all others, or at least 
gives it a greater degree of energy for this preferred object. Now it 
is easy to perceive that the moral part of love is a factitious senti- 
ment, engendered by society, and cried up by the women with great 
care and address in order to establish their empire, and secure com- 
mand to that sex which ought to obey. This sentiment, being 



192 ROUSSEAU 

founded on certain notions of beauty and merit which a savage is not 
capable of having^ and upon comparisons which he is not capable 
of making, can scarcely exist in him: for as his mind was never in a 
condition to form abstract ideas of regularity and proportion, neither 
is his heart susceptible of sentiments of admiration and love, which, 
even without our perceiving it, are produced by our application of 
these ideas; he listens solely to the dispositions implanted in him by 
nature, and not to taste which he never was in a way of acquiring; 
and every woman answers his purpose. 

Confined entirely to what is physical in love, and happy enough 
not to know these preferences which sharpen the appetite for it, 
at the same time that they increase the difficulty of satisfying such 
appetite, men, in a state of nature, must be subject to fewer and less 
violent fits of that passion, and of course there must be fewer and 
less violent disputes among them in consequence of it. The imagina- 
tion which causes so many ravages among us, never speaks to the 
heart of savages, who peaceably wait for the impulses of nature, 
yield to these impulses without choice and with more pleasure than 
fury; and whose desires never outlive their necessity for the thing 
desired. 

Nothing therefore can be more evident, than that it is society 
alone, which has added even to love itself as well as to all the other 
passions, that impetuous ardour, which so often renders it fatal to 
mankind; and it is so much the more ridiculous to represent savages 
constantly murdering each other to glut their brutality, as this 
opinion is diametrically opposite to experience, and the Caribbeans, 
the people in the world who have as yet deviated least from the 
state of nature, are to all intents and purposes the most peaceable in 
their amours, and the least subject to jealousy, though they live in a 
burning climate which seems always to add considerably to the 
activity of these passions. 

As to the inductions which may be drawn, in respect to several 
species of animals, from the battles of the males, who in all seasons 
cover our poultry yards with blood, and in spring particularly cause 
our forests to ring again with the noise they make in disputing their 
females, we must jaegin by excluding all those species, where nature 
has evidently established, in the relative power of the sexes, relations 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 93 

different from those which exist among us: thus from the battle 
of cocks we can form no induction that will affect the human species. 
In the species, where the proportion is better observed, these battles 
must be owing entirely to the fewness of the females compared with 
the males, or, which is all one, to the exclusive intervals, during which 
the females constantly refuse the addresses of the males; for if the 
female admits the male but two months in the year, it is all the same 
as if the number of females were five-sixths less than what it is: now 
neither of these cases is applicable to the human species, where the 
number of females generally surpasses that of males, and where it 
has never been observed that, even among savages, the females had, 
like those of other animals, stated times of passion and indifference. 
Besides, among several of these animals the whole species takes fire 
all at once, and for some days nothing is to be seen among them but 
confusion, tumult, disorder and bloodshed; a state unknown to the 
human species where love is never periodical. We can not therefore 
conclude from the battles of certain animals for the possession of their 
females, that the same would be the case of man in a state of nature; 
and though we might, as these contests do not destroy the other 
species, there is at least equal room to think they would not be fatal 
to ours; nay it is very probable that they would cause fewer ravages 
than they do in society, especially in those countries where, morality 
being as yet held in some esteem, the jealousy of lovers, and the 
vengeance of husbands every day produce duels, murders and even 
worse crimes; where the duty of an eternal fidelity serves only to 
propagate adultery; and the very laws of continence and honour 
necessarily contribute to increase dissoluteness, and multiply abor- 
tions. 

Let us conclude that savage man, wandering about in the forests, 
without industry, without speech, without any fixed residence, an 
equal stranger to war and every social connection, without standing 
in any shape in need of his fellows, as well as without any desire of 
hurting them, and perhaps even without ever distinguishing them 
individually one from the other, subject to few passions, and find- 
ing in himself all he wants, let us say, conclude that savage man thus 
circumstanced had no knowledge or sentiment but such as are 
proper to that condition, that he was alone sensible of his real neces- 



194 ROUSSEAU 

sities, took notice of nothing but what it was his interest to see, and 
that his understanding made as little progress as his vanity. If he 
happened to make any discovery, he could the less communicate it 
as he did not even know his children. The art perished with the 
inventor; there was neither education nor improvement; genera- 
tions succeeded generations to no purpose; and as all constantly set 
out from the same point, whole centuries rolled on in the rudeness 
and barbarity of the first age; the species was grown old, while the 
individual still remained in a state of childhood. 

If I have enlarged so much upon the supposition of this primitive 
condition, it is because I thought it my duty, considering what an- 
cient errors and inveterate prejudices I have to extirpate, to dig 
to the very roots, and show in a true picture of the state of nature, 
how much even natural inequality falls short in this state of that 
reality and influence which our writers ascribe to it. 

In fact, we may easily perceive that among the differences, which 
distinguish men, several pass for natural, which are merely the work 
of habit and the different kinds of life adopted by men living in a 
social way. Thus a robust or delicate constitution, and the strength 
and weakness which depend on it, are oftener produced by the 
hardy or effeminate manner in which a man has been brought up, 
than by the primitive constitution of his body. It is the same thus 
in regard to the forces of the mind; and education not only produces 
a difference between those minds which are cultivated and those 
which are not, but even increases that which is found among the 
first in proportion to their culture; for let a giant and a dwarf set 
out in the same path, the giant at every step will acquire a new 
advantage over the dwarf. Now, if we compare the prodigious 
variety in the education and manner of living of the different orders 
of men in a civil state, with the simplicity and uniformity that pre- 
vails in the animal and savage life, where all the individuals make 
use of the same aliments, live in the same manner, and do exactly the 
same things, we shall easily conceive how much the difference be- 
tween man and man in the state of nature must be less than in the 
state of society, and how much every inequality of institution must 
increase the natural inequalities of the human species. 

But though nature in the distribution of her gifts should really 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY I95 

afEect all the preferences that are ascribed to her, what advantage 
could the most favoured derive from her partiality, to the prejudice 
of others, in a state of things, wrhich scarce admitted any kind of 
relation between her pupils? Of what service can beauty be, where 
there is no love? What will wit avail people who don't speak, or 
craft those who have no affairs to transact? Authors are constantly 
crying out, that the strongest would oppress the weakest; but let 
them explain what they mean by the word oppression. One man 
will rule with violence, another will groan under a constant subjec- 
tion to all his caprices: this is indeed precisely what I observe among 
us, but I don't see how it can be said of savage men, into whose heads 
it would be a harder matter to drive even the meaning of the words 
domination and servitude. One man might, indeed, seize on the 
fruits which another had gathered, on the game which another 
had killed, on the cavern which another had occupied for shelter; but 
how is it possible he should ever exact obedience from him, and 
what chains of dependence can there be among men who possess 
nothing? If I am driven from one tree, I have nothing to do but look 
out for another; if one place is made uneasy to me, what can hinder 
me from taking up my quarters elsewhere? But suppose I should 
meet a man so much superior to me in strength, and withal so 
wicked, so lazy and so barbarous as to oblige me to provide for his 
subsistence while he remains idle; he must resolve not to take his 
eyes from me a single moment, to bind me fast before he can take 
the least nap, lest I should kill him or give him the slip during his 
sleep: that is to say, he must expose himself voluntarily to much 
greater troubles than what he seeks to avoid, than any he gives me. 
And after all, let him abate ever so little of his vigilance; let him at 
some sudden noise but turn his head another way; I am already 
buried in the forest, my fetters are broke, and he never sees me again. 
But without insisting any longer upon these details, every one 
must see that, as the bonds of servitude are formed merely by the 
mutual dependence of men one upon another and the reciprocal 
necessities which unite them, it is impossible for one man to en- 
slave another, without having first reduced him to a condition in 
which he can not live without the enslaver's assistance; a condition 
which, as it does not exist in a state of nature, must leave every man 



196 ROUSSEAU 

his own master, and render the law of the strongest altogether vain 
and useless. 

Having proved that the inequality, which may subsist between 
man and man in a state of nature, is almost imperceivable, and that 
it has very little influence, I must now proceed to show its origin, 
and trace its progress, in the successive developments of the human 
mind. After having showed, that perfectibility, the social virtues, 
and the other faculties, which natural man had received in potentia, 
could never be developed of themselves, that for that purpose there 
was a necessity for the fortuitous concurrence of several foreign 
causes, which might never happen, and without which he must have 
eternally remained in his primitive condition; I must proceed to 
consider and bring together the different accidents which may have 
perfected the human understanding by debasing the species, render a 
being wicked by rendering him sociable, and from so remote a term 
bring man, at last, and the world, to the point in which we now see 
them. 

I must own that, as the events I am about to describe might 
have happened many different ways, my choice of these I shall 
assign can be grounded on nothing but mere conjecture; but besides 
these conjectures becoming reasons, when they are not only the 
most probable that can be drawn from the nature of things, but the 
only means we can have of discovering truth, the consequences I 
mean to deduce from mine will not be merely conjectural, since, on 
the principles I have just established, it is impossible to form any 
other system, that would not supply me with the same results, and 
from which I might not draw the same conclusions. 

This will authorize me to be the more concise in my reflections on 
the manner, in which the lapse of time makes amends for the little 
verisimilitude of events; on the surprising power of very trivial 
causes, when they act without intermission; on the impossibility 
there is on the one hand of destroying certain Hypotheses, if on the 
other we can not give them the degree of certainty which facts must 
be allowed to possess; on its being the business of history, when 
two facts are proposed, as real, to be connected by a chain of inter- 
mediate facts which are either unknown or considered as such, to 
furnish such facts as may actually connect them; and the business 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 97 

of philosophy, when history is silent, to point out similar facts which 
may answer the same purpose; in fine on the privilege of simiHtude, 
in regard to events, to reduce facts to a much smaller number of 
different classes than is generally imagined. It suffices me to offer 
these objects to the consideration of my judges; it suffices me to 
have conducted my inquiry in such a manner as to save common 
readers the trouble of considering them. 



SECOND PART 

THE first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took 
it into his head to say, "This is mine," and found people 
simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil 
society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, 
how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved 
the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the 
ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to 
this imposter; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth 
belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody! But it is 
highly probable that things were now come to such a pass, that they 
could not continue much longer in the same way; for as this idea 
of property depends on several prior ideas which could only spring up 
gradually one after another, it was not formed all at once in the 
human mind: men must have made great progress; they must have 
acquired a great stock of industry and knowledge, and transmitted 
and increased it from age to age before they could arrive at this last 
term of the state of nature. Let us therefore take up things a little 
higher, and collect into one point of view, and in their most natural 
order, this slow succession of events and mental improvements. 

The first sentiment of man was that of his existence, his first care 
that of preserving it. The productions of the earth yielded him all 
the assistance he required; instinct prompted him to make use o£ 
them. Among the various appetites, which made him at different 
times experience different modes of existence, there was one that ex- 
cited him to perpetuate his species; and this blind propensity, quite 
void of anything like pure love or affection, produced nothing but 
an act that was merely animal. The present heat once allayed, the 
sexes took no further notice of each other, and even the child ceased 
to have any tie in his mother, the moment he ceased to want her 
assistance. 

Such was the condition of infant man; such was the life of an 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 1 99 

animal confined at first to pure sensations, and so far from harbour- 
ing any thought of forcing her gifts from nature, that he scarcely 
availed himself of those which she offered to him of her own accord. 
But difficulties soon arose, and there was a necessity for learning 
how to surmount them: the height of some trees, which prevented 
his reaching their fruits; the competition of other animals equally 
fond of the same fruits; the fierceness of many that even aimed at his 
life; these were so many circumstances, which obliged him to apply 
to bodily exercise. There was a necessity for becoming active, swift- 
footed, and sturdy in battle. The natural arms, which are stones and 
the branches of trees, soon offered themselves to his assistance. He 
learned to surmount the obstacles of nature, to contend in case of 
necessity with other animals, to dispute his subsistence even with 
other men, or indemnify himself for the loss of whatever he found 
himself obliged to part with to the strongest. 

In proportion as the human species grew more numerous, and 
extended itself, its pains likewise multiplied and increased. The 
difference of soils, climates and seasons, might have forced men to 
observe some difference in their way of living. Bad harvests, long 
and severe winters, and scorching summers which parched up all the 
fruits of the earth, required extraordinary exertions of industry. On 
the sea shore, and the banks of rivers, they invented the line and 
the hook, and became fishermen and ichthyophagous. In the forests 
they made themselves bows and arrows, and became huntsmen and 
warriors. In the cold countries they covered themselves with the 
skins of the beasts they had killed; thunder, a volcano, or some 
happy accident made them acquainted with fire, a new resource 
against the rigours of winter: they discovered the method of pre- 
serving this element, then that of reproducing it, and lastly the 
way of preparing with it the flesh of animals, which heretofore they 
devoured raw from the carcass. 

This reiterated application of various beings to himself, and to 
one another, must have naturally engendered in the mind of man 
the idea of certain relations. These relations, which we express by 
the words, great, little, strong, weak, swift, slow, fearful, bold, and the 
like, compared occasionally, and almost without thinking of it, 



200 ROUSSEAU 

produced in him some kind of reflection, or rather a mechanical 
prudence, which pointed out to him the precautions most essential 
to his preservation and safety. 

The new lights resulting from this development increased his 
superiority over other animals, by making him sensible of it. He 
laid himself out to ensnare them; he played them a thousand tricks; 
and though several surpassed him in strength or in swiftness, he 
in time became the master of those that could be of any service to 
him, and a sore enemy to those that could do him any mischief. 
'Tis thus, that the first look he gave into himself produced the first 
emotion of pride in him; 'tis thus that, at a time he scarce knew how 
to distinguish between the different ranks of existence, by attribut- 
ing to his species the first rank among animals in general, he pre- 
pared himself at a distance to pretend to it as an individual among 
those of his own species in particular. 

Though other men were not to him what they are to us, and he 
had scarce more intercourse with them than with other animals, 
they were not overlooked in his observations. The conformities, 
which in time he might discover between them, and between him- 
self and his female, made him judge of those he did not perceive; 
and seeing that they all behaved as himself would have done in 
similar circumstances, he concluded that their manner of thinking 
and willing was quite conformable to his own; and this important 
truth, when once engraved deeply on his mind, made him follow, 
by a presentiment as sure as any logic, and withal much quicker, 
the best rules of conduct, which for the sake of his own safety and 
advantage it was proper he should observe towards them. 

Instructed by experience that the love of happiness is the sole 
principle of all human actions, he found himself in a condition to 
distinguish the few cases, in which common interest might author- 
ize him to build upon the assistance of his fellows, and those still 
fewer, in which a competition of interests might justly render it 
suspected. In the first case he united with them in the same flock, 
or at most by some kind of free association which obliged none of its 
members, and lasted no longer than the transitory necessity that had 
given birth to it. In the second case every one aimed at his own 
private advantage, either by open force if he found himself strong 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 201 

enough, or by cunning and address if he thought himself too weak 
to use violence. 

Such was the manner in which men might have insensibly ac- 
quired some gross idea of their mutual engagements and the ad- 
vantage of fulfilling them, but this only as far as their present and 
sensible interest required; for as to foresight they were utter strangers 
to it, and far from troubling their heads about a distant futurity, 
they scarce thought of the day following. Was a deer to be taken.'' 
Every one saw that to succeed he must faithfully stand to his post; 
but suppose a hare to have slipped by within reach of any one of 
them, it is not to be doubted but he pursued it without scruple, and 
when he had seized his prey never reproached himself with having 
made his companions miss theirs. 

We may easily conceive that such an intercourse scarce required 
a more refined language than that of crows and monkeys, which 
flock together almost in the same manner. Inarticulate exclamations, 
a great many gestures, and some imitative sounds, must have been 
for a long time the universal language of mankind, and by joining 
to these in every country some articulate and Conventional sounds, of 
which, as I have already hinted, it is not very easy to explain the 
institution, there arose particular languages, but rude, imperfect, 
and such nearly as are to be found at this day among several savage 
nations. My pen straightened by the rapidity of time, the abundance 
of things I have to say, and the almost insensible progress of the first 
improvements, flies like an arrow over numberless ages, for the 
slower the succession of events, the quicker I may allow myself to 
be in relating them. 

At length, these first improvements enabled man to improve at a 
greater rate. Industry grew perfect in proportion as the mind became 
more enlightened. Men soon ceasing to fall asleep under the first 
tree, or take shelter in the first cavern, lit upon some hard and sharp 
kinds of stone resembling spades or hatchets, and employed them to 
dig the ground, cut down trees, and with the branches build huts, 
which they afterwards bethought themselves of plastering over with 
clay or dirt. This was the epoch of a first revolution, which produced 
the establishment and distinction of families, and which introduced 
a species of property, and along with it perhaps a thousand quarrels 



202 ROUSSEAU 

and battles. As the strongest however were probably the first to 
make themselves cabins, which they knew they were able to defend, 
we may conclude that the weak found it much shorter and safer 
to imitate than to attempt to dislodge them: and as to those, who 
were already provided with cabins, no one could have any great 
temptation to seize upon that of his neighbour, not so much be- 
cause it did not belong to him, as because it could be of no service 
to him; and as besides to make himself master of it, he must expose 
himself to a very sharp conflict with the present occupiers. 

The first developments of the heart were the effects of a new 
situation, which united husbands and wives, parents and children, 
under one roof; the habit of living together gave birth to the sweet- 
est sentiments the human species is acquainted with, conjugal and 
paternal love. Every family became a litde society, so much the 
more firmly united, as a mutual attachment and liberty were the 
only bonds of it; and it was now that the sexes, whose way of life 
had been hitherto the same, began to adopt different manners and 
customs. The women became more sedentary, and accustomed 
themselves to stay at home and look after the children, while the 
men rambled abroad in quest of subsistence for the whole family. 
The two sexes likewise by living a little more at their ease began to 
lose somewhat of their usual ferocity and sturdiness; but if on the 
one hand individuals became less able to engage separately with wild 
beasts, they on the other were more easily got together to make a 
common resistance against them. 

In this new state of things, the simplicity and solitariness of man's 
life, the limitedness of his wants, and the instruments which he had 
invented to satisfy them, leaving him a great deal of leisure, he 
employed it to supply himself with several conveniences unknown 
to his ancestors; and this was the first yoke he inadvertently im- 
posed upon himself, and the first source of mischief which he pre- 
pared for his children; for besides continuing in this manner to 
soften both body and mind, these conveniences having through use 
lost almost all their aptness to please, and even degenerated into real 
wants, the privation of them became far more intolerable than the 
possession of them had been agreeable; to lose them was a mis- 
fortune, to possess them no happiness. 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 203 

Here we may a little better discover how the use o£ speech in- 
sensibly commences or improves in the bosom of every family, and 
may likewise from conjectures concerning the manner in which 
divers particular causes might have propagated language, and ac- 
celerated its progress by rendering it every day more and more 
necessary. Great inundations or earthquakes surrounded inhabited 
districts with water or precipices, portions of the continent were by 
revolutions of the globe torn off and split into islands. It is obvious 
that among men thus collected, and forced to live together, a com- 
mon idiom must have started up much sooner, than among those 
who freely wandered through the forests of the main land. Thus 
it is very possible that the inhabitants of the islands formed in this 
manner, after their first essays in navigation, brought among us the 
use of speech; and it is very probable at least that society and lan- 
guages commenced in islands and even acquired perfection there, 
before the inhabitants of the continent knew anything of either. 

Everything now begins to wear a new aspect. Those who hereto- 
fore wandered through the woods, by taking to a more settled way 
of life, gradually flock together, coalesce into several separate bodies, 
and at length form in every country distinct nations, united in char- 
acter and manners, not by any laws or regulations, but by an uniform 
manner of life, a sameness of provisions, and the common influence 
of the climate. A permanent neighborhood must at last infallibly 
create some connection between different families. The transitory 
commerce required by nature soon produced, among the youth of 
both sexes living in contiguous cabins, another kind of commerce, 
which besides being equally agreeable is rendered more durable by 
mutual intercourse. Men begin to consider different objects, and to 
make comparisons; they insensibly acquire ideas of merit and beauty, 
and these soon produce sentiments of preference. By seeing each 
other often they contract a habit, which makes it painful not to see 
each other always. Tender and agreeable sentiments steal into the 
soul, and are by the smallest opposition wound up into the most 
impetuous fury: Jealousy kindles with love; discord triumphs; 
and the gentlest of passions requires sacrifices of human blood to 
appease it. 

In proportion as ideas and sentiments succeed each other, and the 



204 ROUSSEAU 

head and the heart exercise themselves, men continue to shake off 
their original wildness, and their connections become more intimate 
and extensive. They now begin to assemble round a great tree: 
singing and dancing, the genuine offspring of love and leisure, be- 
come the amusement or rather the occupation of the men and 
women, free from care, thus gathered together. Every one begins to 
survey the rest, and wishes to be surveyed himself; and public esteem 
acquires a value. He who sings or dances best; the handsomest, the 
strongest, the most dexterous, the most eloquent, comes to be the 
most respected : this was the first step towards inequality, and at the 
same time towards vice. From these first preferences there proceeded 
on one side vanity and contempt, on the other envy and shame; and 
the fermentation raised by these new leavens at length produced 
combinations fatal to happiness and innocence. 

Men no sooner began to set a value upon each other, and know 
what esteem was, than each laid claim to it, and it was no longer 
safe for any man to refuse it to another. Hence the first duties of 
civility and politeness, even among savages; and hence every volun- 
tary injury became an affront, as besides the mischief, which resulted 
from it as an injury, the party offended was sure to find in it a con- 
tempt for his person more intolerable than the mischief itself. It 
was thus that every man, punishing the contempt expressed for 
him by others in proportion to the value he set upon himself, the 
effects of revenge became terrible, and men learned to be sanguinary 
and cruel. Such precisely was the degree attained by most of the 
savage nations with whom we are acquainted. And it is for want 
of sufBciently distinguishing ideas, and observing at how great a 
distance these people were from the first state of nature, that so many 
authors have hastily concluded that man is naturally cruel, and re- 
quires a regular system of police to be reclaimed; whereas nothing 
can be more gentle than he in his primitive state, when placed by 
nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes, and the 
pernicious good sense of civilized man; and equally confined by 
instinct and reason to the care of providing against the mischief 
which threatens him, he is withheld by natural compassion from 
doing any injury to others, so far from being ever so little prone 
even to return that which he has received. For according to the 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 205 

axiom of the wise Locke, Where there is no property, there can be 
no injury. 

But we must take notice, that the society now formed and the 
relations now estabhshed among men required in them qualities 
different from those, which they derived from their primitive con- 
stitution; that as a sense of morality began to insinuate itself into 
human actions, and every man, before the enacting of laws, was the 
only judge and avenger of the injuries he had received, that good- 
ness of heart suitable to the pure state of nature by no means suited 
infant society; that it was necessary punishments should become 
severer in the same proportion that the opportunities of offending 
became more frequent, and the dread of vengeance add strength to 
the too weak curb of the law. Thus, though men were become less 
patient, and natural compassion had already suffered some alteration, 
this period of the development of the human faculties, holding a 
just mean between the indolence of the primitive state, and the 
petulant activity of self-love, must have been the happiest and most 
durable epoch. The more we reflect on this state, the more con- 
vinced we shall be, that it was the least subject of any to revolutions, 
the best for man, and that nothing could have drawn him out of it 
but some fatal accident, which, for the public good, should never have 
happened. The example of the savages, most of whom have been 
found in this condition, seems to confirm that mankind was formed 
ever to remain in it, that this condition is the real youth of the 
world, and that all ulterior improvements have been so many steps, in 
appearance towards the perfection of individuals, but in fact towards 
the decrepitness of the species. 

As long as men remained satisfied with their rustic cabins; as long 
as they confined themselves to the use of clothes made of the skins 
of other animals, and the use of thorns and fish-bones, in putting 
these skins together; as long as they continued to consider feathers 
and shells as sufficient ornaments, and to paint their bodies of dif- 
ferent colours, to improve or ornament their bows and arrows, to 
form and scoop out with sharp-edged stones some little fishing 
boats, or clumsy instruments of music; in a word, as long as they 
undertook such works only as a single person could finish, and stuck 
to such arts as did not require the joint endeavours of several hands, 



206 ROUSSEAU 

they lived free, healthy, honest and happy, as much as their nature 
would admit, and continued to enjoy with each other all the pleas- 
ures of an independent intercourse; but from the moment one man 
began to stand in need of another's assistance; from the moment it 
appeared an advantage for one man to possess the quantity of provi- 
sions requisite for two, all equality vanished; property started up; 
labour became necessary; and boundless forests became smiling fields, 
which it was found necessary to water with human sweat, and in 
which slavery and misery were soon seen to sprout out and grow 
with the fruits of the earth. 

Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts whose invention 
produced this great revolution. With the poet, it is gold and silver, 
but with the philosopher it is iron and corn, which have civilized 
men, and ruined mankind. Accordingly both one and the other 
were unknown to the savages of America, who for that very reason 
have always continued savages; nay other nations seem to have 
continued in a state of barbarism, as long as they continued to 
exercise one only of these arts without the other; and perhaps one 
of the best reasons that can be assigned, why Europe has been, if 
not earlier, at least more constantly and better civilized than the 
other quarters of the world, is that she both abounds most in iron 
and is best qualified to produce corn. 

It is a very difficult matter to tell how men came to know anything 
of iron, and the art of employing it: for we are not to suppose that 
they should of themselves think of digging it out of the mines, and 
preparing it for fusion, before they knew what could be the result of 
such a process. On the other hand, there is the less reason to attri- 
bute this discovery to any accidental fire, as mines are formed no- 
where but in dry and barren places, and such as are bare of trees 
and plants, so that it looks as if nature had taken pains to keep from 
us so mischievous a secret. Nothing therefore remains but the 
extraordinary circumstance of some volcano, which, belching forth 
metallic substances ready fused, might have given the spectators a 
notion of imitating that operation of nature; and after all we must 
suppose them endued with an extraordinary stock of courage and 
foresight to undertake so painful a work, and have, at so great a 
distance, an eye to the advantages they might derive from it; qualities 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 207 

scarcely suitable but to heads more exercised, than those of such 
discoverers can be supposed to have been. 

As to agriculture, the principles of it w^ere known a long time be- 
fore the practice of it took place, and it is hardly possible that men, 
constantly employed in drawing their subsistence from trees and 
plants, should not have early hit on the means employed by nature 
for the generation of vegetables; but in all probability it was very 
late before their industry took a turn that way, either because trees, 
which with their land and water game supplied them with sufficient 
food, did not require their attention; or because they did not know 
the use of corn; or because they had no instruments to cultivate it; or 
because they were destitute of foresight in regard to future necessities; 
or in fine, because they wanted means to hinder others from running 
away with the fruit of their labours. We may believe that on their 
becoming more industrious they began their agriculture by cultivat- 
ing with sharp stones and pointed sticks a few pulse or roots about 
their cabins; and that it was a long time before they knew the 
method of preparing corn, and were provided with instruments nec- 
essary to raise it in large quantities; not to mention the necessity 
there is, in order to follow this occupation and sow lands, to con- 
sent to lose something at present to gain a great deal hereafter; a 
precaution very foreign to the turn of man's mind in a savage state, 
in which, as I have already taken notice, he can hardly foresee his 
wants from morning to night. 

For this reason the invention of other arts must have been neces- 
sary to oblige mankind to apply to that of agriculture. As soon as 
men were wanted to fuse and forge iron, others were wanted to main- 
tain them. The more hands were employed in manufactures, the 
fewer hands were left to provide subsistence for all, though the 
number of mouths to be supplied with food continued the same; 
and as some required commodities in exchange for their iron, the 
rest at last found out the method of making iron subservient to the 
multiplication of commodities. Hence on the one hand husbandry 
and agriculture, and on the other the art of working metals and of 
multiplying the uses of them. 

To the tilling of the earth the distribution of it necessarily suc- 
ceeded, and to property one acknowledged, the first rules of justice: 



208 ROUSSEAU 

for to secure every man his own, every man must have something. 
Moreover, as men began to extend their views to futurity, and all 
found themselves in possession of more or less goods capable of 
being lost, every one in particular had reason to fear, lest reprisals 
should be made on him for any injury he might do to others. This 
origin is so much the more natural, as it is impossible to conceive 
how property can flow from any other source but industry; for what 
can a man add but his labour to things which he has not made, in 
order to acquire a property in them? 'Tis the labour of the hands 
alone, which giving the husbandman a title to the produce of the land 
he has tilled gives him a title to the land itself, at least till he has 
gathered in the fruits of it, and so on from year to year; and this 
enjoyment forming a continued possession is easily transformed into 
a property. The ancients, says Grotius, by giving to Ceres the epithet 
of Legislatrix, and to a festival celebrated in her honour the name of 
Thesmorphoria, insinuated that the distribution of lands produced 
a new kind of right; that is, the right of property different from that 
which results from the law of nature. 

Things thus circumstanced might have remained equal, if men's 
talents had been equal, and if, for instance, the use of iron, and the 
consumption of commodities had always held an exact proportion to 
each other; but as this proportion had no support, it was soon broken. 
The man that had most strength performed most labour; the most 
dexterous turned his labour to best account; the most ingenious 
found out methods of lessening his labour; the husbandman required 
more iron, or the smith more corn, and while both worked equally, 
one earned a great deal by his labour, while the other could scarce 
live by his. It is thus that natural inequality insensibly unfolds itself 
with that arising from a variety of combinations, and that the dif- 
ference among men, developed by the difference of their circum- 
stances, becomes more sensible, more permanent in its effects, and 
begins to influence in the same proportion the condition of private 
persons. 

Things once arrived at this period, it is an easy matter to imagine 
the rest. I shall not stop to describe the successive inventions of other 
arts, the progress of language, the trial and employments of talents, 
the inequality of fortunes, the use or abuse of riches, nor all the details 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 209 

which follow these, and which every one may easily supply. I 
shall just give a glance at mankind placed in this new order of 
things. 

Behold then all our faculties developed; our memory and imagina- 
tion at work, self-love interested; reason rendered active; and the 
mind almost arrived at the utmost bounds of that perfection it is 
capable of. Behold all our natural qualities put in motion; the rank 
and condition of every man established, not only as to the quantum 
of property and the power of serving or hurting others, but likewise 
as to genius, beauty, strength or address, merit or talents; and as 
these were the only qualities which could command respect, it was 
found necessary to have or at least to affect them. It was requisite 
for men to be thought what they really were not. To be and to 
appear became two very different things, and from this distinction 
sprang pomp and knavery, and all the vices which form their train. 
On the other hand, man, heretofore free and independent, was now 
in consequence of a multitude of new wants brought under sub- 
jection, as it were, to all nature, and especially to his fellows, whose 
slave in some sense he became even by becoming their master; if 
rich, he stood in need of their services, if poor, of their assistance; 
even mediocrity itself could not enable him to do without them. He 
must therefore have been continually at work to interest them in his 
happiness, and make them, if not really, at least apparently find 
their advantage in labouring for his: this rendered him sly and 
artful in his dealings with some, imperious and cruel in his dealings 
with others, and laid him under the necessity of using ill all those 
whom he stood in need of, as often as he could not awe them into a 
compliance with his will, and did not find it his interest to purchase 
it at the expense of real services. In fine, an insatiable ambition, the 
rage of raising their relative fortunes, not so much through real neces- 
sity, as to over-top others, inspire all men with a wicked inclination to 
injure each other, and with a secret jealousy so much the more 
dangerous, as to carry its point with the greater security, it often 
puts on the face of benevolence. In a word, sometimes nothing was 
to be seen but a contention of endeavours on the one hand, and an 
opposition of interests on the other, while a secret desire of thriving 
at the expense of others constantly prevailed. Such were the first 



210 ROUSSEAU 

effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of infant in- 
equality. 

Riches, before the invention of signs to represent them, could 
scarce consist in anything but lands and cattle, the only real goods 
which men can possess. But when estates increased so much in 
number and in extent as to take in whole countries and touch each 
other, it became impossible for one man to aggrandise himself but 
at the expense of some other; and the supernumerary inhabitants, 
who were too weak or too indolent to make such acquisitions in their 
turn, impoverished without losing anything, because while every- 
thing about them changed they alone remained the same, were 
obliged to receive or force their subsistence from the hands of the 
rich. And hence began to flow, according to the different characters 
of each, domination and slavery, or violence and rapine. The rich 
on their side scarce began to taste the pleasure of commanding, 
when they preferred it to every other; and making use of their old 
slaves to acquire new ones, they no longer thought of anything but 
subduing and enslaving their neighbours; like those ravenous wolves, 
who having once tasted human flesh, despise every other food, and 
devour nothing but men for the future. 

It is thus that the most powerful or the most wretched, respec- 
tively considering their power and wretchedness as a kind of title to 
the substance of others, even equivalent to that of property, the 
equality once broken was followed by the most shocking disorders. 
It is thus that the usurpations of the rich, the pillagings of the poor, 
and the unbridled passions of all, by stifling the cries of natural 
compassion, and the as yet feeble voice of justice, rendered man 
avaricious, wicked and ambitious. There arose between the title of 
the strongest, and that of the first occupier a perpetual conflict, which 
always ended in battery and bloodshed. Infant society became a 
scene of the most horrible warfare: Mankind thus debased and 
harassed, and no longer able to retreat, or renounce the unhappy 
acquisitions it had made; labouring in short merely to its con- 
fusion by the abuse of those faculties, which in themselves do it so 
much honour, brought itself to the very brink of ruin and destruc- 
tion. 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 211 

Attonitus novitate malt, divesque miserque, 
Effugere optat opes; et qua modb voverat, odit. 

But it is impossible that men should not sooner or later have made 
reflections on so wretched a situation, and upon the calamities with 
which they were overwhelmed. The rich in particular must have 
soon perceived how much they suffered by a perpetual war, of 
which they alone supported all the expense, and in which, though 
all risked life, they alone risked any substance. Besides, whatever 
colour they might pretend to give their usurpations, they sufEciendy 
saw that these usurpations were in the main founded upon false 
and precarious titles, and that what they had acquired by mere 
force, others could again by mere force wrest out of their hands, 
without leaving them the least room to complain of such a pro- 
ceeding. Even those, who owed all their riches to their own industry, 
could scarce ground their acquisitions upon a better title. It availed 
them nothing to say, 'Twas I built this wall; I acquired this spot by 
my labour. Who traced it out for you, another might object, and 
what right have you to expect payment at our expense for doing 
that we did not oblige you to do? Don't you know that numbers 
of your brethren perish, or suffer grievously for want of what you 
possess more than suffices nature, and that you should have had the 
express and unanimous consent of mankind to appropriate to your- 
self of their common, more than was requisite for your private 
subsistence? Destitute of solid reasons to justify, and sufficient force 
to defend himself; crushing individuals with ease, but with equal 
ease crushed by numbers; one against all, and unable, on account 
of mutual jealousies, to unite with his equals against banditti united 
by the common hopes of pillage; the rich man, thus pressed by 
necessity, at last conceived the deepest project that ever entered 
the human mind: this was to employ in his favour the very forces 
that attacked him, to make allies of his enemies, to inspire them with 
other maxims, and make them adopt other institutions as favour- 
able to his pretensions, as the law of nature was unfavourable to 
them. 

With this view, after laying before his neighbours all the horrors 
of a situation, which armed them all one against another, which 



212 ROUSSEAU 

rendered their possessions as burdensome as their wants were in- 
tolerable, and in which no one could expect any safety either in 
poverty or riches, he easily invented specious arguments to bring 
them over to his purpose. "Let us unite," said he, "to secure the 
weak from oppression, restrain the ambitious, and secure to every 
man the possession of what belongs to him: Let us form rules of 
justice and peace, to which all may be obliged to conform, which 
shall not except persons, but may in some sort make amends for 
the caprice of fortune, by submitting alike the powerful and the 
weak to the observance of mutual duties. In a word, instead of turn- 
ing our forces against ourselves, let us collect them into a sovereign 
power, which may govern us by wise laws, may protect and defend 
all the members of the association, repel common enemies, and 
maintain a perpetual concord and harmony among us." 

Much fewer words of this kind were sufficient to draw in a parcel 
of rustics, whom it was an easy matter to impose upon, who had 
besides too many quarrels among themselves to live without arbiters, 
and too much avarice and ambition to live long without masters. 
All offered their necks to the yoke in hopes of securing their liberty; 
for though they had sense enough to perceive the advantages of a 
political constitution, they had not experience enough to see before- 
hand the dangers of it; those among them, who were best qualified 
to foresee abuses, were precisely those who expected to benefit by 
them; even the soberest judged it requisite to sacrifice one part of 
their liberty to ensure the other, as a man, dangerously wounded in 
any of his limbs, readily parts with it to save the rest of his body. 

Such was, or must have been, had man been left to himself, the 
origin of society and of the laws, which increased the fetters of 
the weak, and the strength of the rich; irretrievably destroyed 
natural liberty, fixed for ever the laws of property and inequality; 
changed an artful usurpation into an irrevocable title; and for the 
benefit of a few ambitious individuals subjected the rest of mankind 
to perpetual labour, servitude, and misery. We may easily conceive 
how the establishment of a single society rendered that of all the rest 
absolutely necessary, and how, to make head against united forces, 
it became necessary for the rest of mankind to unite in their turn. 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 213 

Societies once formed in this manner, soon multiplied or spread to 
such a degree, as to cover the face of the earth; and not to leave a 
corner in the whole universe, where a man could throw off the yoke, 
and withdraw his head from under the often ill-conducted sword 
which he saw perpetually hanging over it. The civil law being 
thus become the common rule of citizens, the law of nature no 
longer obtained but among the different societies, in which, under 
the name of the law of nations, it was qualified by some tacit con- 
ventions to render commerce possible, and supply the place of 
natural compassion, which, losing by degrees all that influence over 
societies which it originally had over individuals, no longer exists 
but in some great souls, who consider themselves as citizens of the 
world, and forcing the imaginary barriers that separate people from 
people, after the example of the Sovereign Being from whom we 
all derive our existence, make the whole human race the object of 
their benevolence. 

Political bodies, thus remaining in a state of nature among 
themselves, soon experienced the inconveniences which had obliged 
individuals to quit it; and this state became much more fatal to these 
great bodies, than it had been before to the individuals which now 
composed them. Hence those national wars, those battles, those 
murders, those reprisals, which make nature shudder and shock 
reason; hence all those horrible prejudices, which make it a virtue 
and an honour to shed human blood. The worthiest men learned 
to consider the cutting the throats of their fellows as a duty; at 
length men began to butcher each other by thousands without know- 
ing for what; and more murders were committed in a single action, 
and more horrible disorders at the taking of a single town, than 
had been committed in the state of nature during ages together 
upon the whole face of the earth. Such are the first effects we may 
conceive to have arisen from the division of mankind into different 
societies. Let us return to their institution. 

I know that several writers have assigned other origins of political 
society; as for instance, the conquests of the powerful, or the union 
of the weak; and it is no matter which of these causes we adopt 
in regard to what I am going to establish; that, however, which I 



214 ROUSSEAU 

have just laid down, seems to me the most natural, for the following 
reasons: First, because, in the first case, the right of conquest being 
in fact no right at all, it could not serve as a foundation for any 
other right, the conqueror and the conquered ever remaining with 
respect to each other in a state of war, unless the conquered, re- 
stored to the full possession of their liberty, should freely choose their 
conqueror for their chief. Till then, whatever capitulations might 
have been made between them, as these capitulations were founded 
upon violence, and of course de facto null and void, there could not 
have existed in this hypothesis either a true society, or a political 
body, or any other law but that of the strongest. Second, because 
these words strong and weak, are ambiguous in the second case; 
for during the interval between the establishment of the right of 
property or prior occupation and that of political government, the 
meaning of these terms is better expressed by the words poor and 
rich, as before the establishment of laws men in reality had no other 
means of reducing their equals, but by invading the property of 
these equals, or by parting with some of their own property to them. 
Third, because the poor having nothing but their liberty to lose, it 
would have been the height of madness in them to give up willingly 
the only blessing they had left without obtaining some consider- 
ation for it: whereas the rich being sensible, if I may say so, in 
every part of their possessions, it was much easier to do them 
mischief, and therefore more incumbent upon them to guard against 
it; and because, in fine, it is but reasonable to suppose, that a thing 
has been invented by him to whom it could be of service rather than 
by him to whom it must prove detrimental. 

Government in its infancy had no regular and permanent form. 
For want of a sufficient fund of philosophy and experience, men 
could see no further than the present inconveniences, and never 
thought of providing remedies for future ones, but in proportion as 
they arose. In spite of all the labours of the wisest legislators, the 
political state still continued imperfect, because it was in a manner 
the work of chance; and, as the foundations of it were ill laid, time, 
though sufficient to discover its defects and suggest the remedies for 
them, could never mend its original vices. Men were continually 
repairing; whereas, to erect a good edifice, they should have begun 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 215 

as Lycurgus did at Sparta, by clearing the area, and removing the old 
materials. Society at first consisted merely o£ some general con- 
ventions which all the members bound themselves to observe, and 
for the performance of which the whole body became security to 
every individual. Experience was necessary to show the great weak- 
ness of such a constitution, and how easy it was for those, who in- 
fringed it, to escape the conviction or chastisement of faults, of 
which the public alone was to be both the witness and the judge; 
the laws could not fail of being eluded a thousand ways; incon- 
veniences and disorders could not but multiply continually, till it 
was at last found necessary to think of committing to private per- 
sons the dangerous trust of public authority, and to magistrates the 
care of enforcing obedience to the people : for to say that chiefs were 
elected before confederacies were formed, and that the ministers of 
the laws existed before the laws themselves, is a supposition too 
ridiculous to deserve I should seriously refute it. 

It would be equally unreasonable to imagine that men at first 
threw themselves into the arms of an absolute master, without any 
conditions or consideration on his side; and that the first means 
contrived by jealous and unconquered men for their common safety 
was to run hand over head into slavery. In fact, why did they give 
themselves superiors, if it was not to be defended by them against 
oppression, and protected in their lives, liberties, and properties, 
which are in a manner the constitutional elements of their being? 
Now in the relations between man and man, the worst that can 
happen to one man being to see himself at the discretion of another, 
would it not have been contrary to the dictates of good sense to begin 
by making over to a chief the only things for the preservation of 
which they stood in need of his assistance? What equivalent could 
he have offered them for so fine a privilege? And had he pre- 
sumed to exact it on pretense of defending them, would he not have 
immediately received the answer in the apologue? What worse 
treatment can we expect from an enemy ? It is therefore past dispute, 
and indeed a fundamental maxim of political law, that people gave 
themselves chiefs to defend their liberty and not be enslaved by them. 
If we have a prince, said Pliny to Trajan, it is in order that he may 
keep us from having a master. 



2l6 ROUSSEAU 

Political writers argue in regard to the love of liberty with the 
same philosophy that philosophers do in regard to the state of 
nature; by the things they see they judge of things very different 
which they have never seen, and they attribute to men a natural in- 
clination to slavery, on account of the patience with which the 
slaves within their notice carry the yoke; not reflecting that it is 
with liberty as with innocence and virtue, the value of which is 
not known but by those who possess them, though the relish for 
them is lost with the things themselves. I know the charms of your 
country, said Brasidas to a satrap who was comparing the life of 
the Spartans with that of the Persepolites; but you can not know 
the pleasures of mine. 

As an unbroken courser erects his mane, paws the ground, and 
rages at the bare sight of the bit, while a trained horse patiently suf- 
fers both whip and spur, just so the barbarian will never reach his 
neck to the yoke which civilized man carries without murmuring 
but prefers the most stormy liberty to a calm subjection. It is not 
therefore by the servile disposition of enslaved nations that we must 
judge of the natural dispositions of man for or against slavery, but 
by the prodigies done by every free people to secure themselves from 
oppression. I know that the first are constantly crying up that peace 
and tranquillity they enjoy in their irons, and that miserrimam 
servitutem pacem appellant: but when I see the others sacrifice 
pleasures, peace, riches, power, and even life itself to the preserva- 
tion of that single jewel so much slighted by those who have lost it; 
when I see free-born animals through a natural abhorrence of cap- 
tivity dash their brains out against the bars of their prison; when I 
see multitudes of naked savages despise European pleasures, and 
brave hunger, fire and sword, and death itself to preserve their inde- 
pendency; I feel that it belongs not to slaves to argue concerning 
liberty. 

As to paternal authority, from which several have derived absolute 
government and every other mode of society, it is sufficient, without 
having recourse to Locke and Sidney, to observe that nothing in the 
world differs more from the cruel spirit of despotism, than the 
gentleness of that authority, which looks more to the advantage of 
him who obeys than to the utility of him who commands; that by the 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 217 

law of nature the father continues master of his child no longer than 
the child stands in need of his assistance; that after that term they 
become equal, and that then the son, entirely independent of the 
father, owes him no obedience, but only respect. Gratitude is indeed 
a duty which we are bound to pay, but which benefactors can not 
exact. Instead of saying that civil society is derived from paternal 
authority, we should rather say that it is to the former that the 
latter owes its principal force: No one individual was acknowledged 
as the father of several other individuals, till they settled about him. 
The father's goods, which he can indeed dispose of as he pleases, are 
the ties which hold his children to their dependence upon him, and 
he may divide his substance among them in proportion as they shall 
have deserved his attention by a continual deference to his com- 
mands. Now the subjects of a despotic chief, far from having any 
such favour to expect from him, as both themselves and all they 
have are his property, or at least are considered by him as such, are 
obliged to receive as a favour what he relinquishes to them of their 
own property. He does them justice when he strips them; he treats 
them with mercy when he suffers them to live. By continuing in 
this manner to compare facts with right, we should discover as little 
solidity as truth in the voluntary establishment of tyranny; and it 
would be a hard matter to prove the validity of a contract which was 
binding only on one side, in which one of the parties should stake 
everything and the other nothing, and which could turn out to the 
prejudice of him alone who had bound himself. 

This odious system is even, at this day, far from being that of wise 
and good monarchs, and especially of the kings of France, as may be 
seen by divers passages in their edicts, and particularly by that of a 
celebrated piece published in 1667 in the name and by the orders of 
Louis XIV. "Let it therefore not be said that the sovereign is not 
subject to the laws of his realm, since, that he is, is a maxim of the 
law of nations which flattery has sometimes attacked, but which 
good princes have always defended as the tutelary divinity of their 
realms. How much more reasonable is it to say with the sage Plato, 
that the perfect happiness of a state consists in the subjects obeying 
their prince, the prince obeying the laws, and the laws being equi- 
table and always directed to the good of the public? I shall not stop 



to consider, if, liberty being the most noble faculty of man, it is not 
degrading one's nature, reducing one's self to the level of brutes, who 
are the slaves of instinct, and even offending the author of one's 
being, to renounce without reserve the most precious of his gifts, 
and submit to the commission of all the crimes he has forbid us, 
merely to gratify a mad or a cruel master; and if this sublime artist 
ought to be more irritated at seeing his work destroyed than at seeing 
it dishonoured. I shall only ask what right those, who were not 
afraid thus to degrade themselves, could have to subject their de- 
pendants to the same ignominy, and renounce, in the name of their 
posterity, blessings for which it is not indebted to their liberality, and 
without which life itself must appear a burthen to all those who are 
worthy to live. 

Puffendorf says that, as we can transfer our property from one 
to another by contracts and conventions, we may likewise divest 
ourselves of our liberty in favour of other men. This, in my opinion, 
is a very poor way of arguing; for, in the first place, the property I 
cede to another becomes by such cession a thing quite foreign to me, 
and the abuse of which can no way affect me; but it concerns me 
greatly that my liberty is not abused, and I can not, without incur- 
ring the guilt of the crimes I may be forced to commit, expose myself 
to become the instrument of any. Besides, the right of property 
being of mere human convention and institution, every man may 
dispose as he pleases of what he possesses: But the case is otherwise 
with regard to the essential gifts of nature, such as life and liberty, 
which every man is permitted to enjoy, and of which it is doubtful at 
least whether any man has a right to divest himself: By giving up 
the one, we degrade our being; by giving up the other we annihilate 
it as much as it is our power to do so; and as no temporal enjoyments 
can indemnify us for the loss of either, it would be at once offending 
both nature and reason to renounce them for any consideration. But 
though we could transfer our liberty as we do our substance, the 
difference would be very great with regard to our children, who 
enjoy our substance but by a cession of our right; whereas liberty 
being a blessing, which as men they hold from nature, their parents 
have no right to strip them of it; so that as to establish slavery it was 
necessary to do violence to nature, so it was necessary to alter nature 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 21 9 

to perpetuate such a right; and the jurisconsults, who have gravely 
pronounced that the child of a slave comes a slave into the world, 
have in other words decided, that a man does not come a man into 
the world. 

It therefore appears to me incontestably true, that not only govern- 
ments did not begin by arbitrary power, which is but the corruption 
and extreme term of government, and at length brings it back to the 
law of the strongest, against which governments were at first the 
remedy, but even that, allowing they had commenced in this manner, 
such power being illegal in itself could never have served as a founda- 
tion to the rights of society, nor of course to the inequality of 
institution. 

I shall not now enter upon the inquiries which still remain to be 
made into the nature of the fundamental pacts of every kind of 
government, but, following the common opinion, confine myself in 
this place to the establishment of the political body as a real con- 
tract between the multitude and the chiefs elected by it. A contract 
by which both parties oblige themselves to the observance of the 
laws that are therein stipulated, and form the bands of their union. 
The multitude having, on occasion of the social relations between 
them, concentered all their wills in one person, all the articles, in 
regard to which this will explains itself, become so many funda- 
mental laws, which oblige without exception all the members of the 
state, and one of which laws regulates the choice and the power of 
the magistrates appointed to look to the execution of the rest. This 
power extends to everything that can maintain the constitution, but 
extends to nothing that can alter it. To this power are added honours, 
that may render the laws and the ministers of them respectable; and 
the persons of the ministers are distinguished by certain prerogatives, 
which may make them amends for the great fatigues inseparable 
from a good administration. The magistrate, on his side, obliges 
himself not to use the power with which he is intrusted but conform- 
ably to the intention of his constituents, to maintain every one of 
them in the peaceable possession of his property, and upon all occa- 
sions prefer the good of the public to his own private interest. 

Before experience had demonstrated, or a thorough knowledge 
of the human heart had pointed out, the abuses inseparable from 



220 ROUSSEAU 

such a constitution, it must have appeared so much the more per- 
fect, as those appointed to look to its preservation were themselves 
most concerned therein; for magistracy and its rights being built 
solely on the fundamental laws, as soon as these ceased to exist, the 
magistrates would cease to be lawful, the people would no longer be 
bound to obey them, and, as the essence of the state did not consist 
in the magistrates but in the laws, the members of it would imme- 
diately become entitled to their primitive and natural liberty. 

A little reflection would afford us new arguments in confirmation 
of this truth, and the nature of the contract might alone convince us 
that it can not be irrevocable: for if there was no superior power 
capable of guaranteeing the fidelity of the contracting parties and of 
obliging them to fulfil their mutual engagements, they would remain 
sole judges in their own cause, and each of them would always have 
a right to renounce the contract, as soon as he discovered that the 
other had broke the conditions of it, or that these conditions ceased 
to suit his private convenience. Upon this principle, the right of 
abdication may probably be founded. Now, to consider as we do 
nothing but what is human in this institution, if the magistrate, who 
has all the power in his own hands, and who appropriates to himself 
all the advantages of the contract, has notwithstanding a right to 
divest himself of his authority; how much a better right must the 
people, who pay for all the faults of its chief, have to renounce their 
dependence upon him. But the shocking dissensions and disorders 
without number, which would be the necessary consequence of so 
dangerous a privilege, show more than anything else how much 
human governments stood in need of a more solid basis than that 
of mere reason, and how necessary it was for the public tranquillity, 
that the will of the Almighty should interpose to give to sovereign 
authority, a sacred and inviolable character, which should deprive 
subjects of the mischievous right to dispose of it to whom they 
pleased. If mankind had received no other advantages from religion, 
this alone would be sufficient to make them adopt and cherish it, 
since it is the means of saving more blood than fanaticism has been 
the cause of spilling. But to resume the thread of our hypothesis. 

The various forms of government owe their origin to the various 
degrees of inequality between the members, at the time they first 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 221 

coalesced into a political body. Where a man happened to be eminent 
for power, for virtue, for riches, or for credit, he became sole magis- 
trate, and the state assumed a monarchical form; if many of pretty 
equal eminence out-topped all the rest, they were jointly elected, and 
this election produced an aristocracy; those, between whose fortune 
or talents there happened to be no such disproportion, and who had 
deviated less from the state of nature, retained in common the 
supreme administration, and formed a democracy. Time demon- 
strated which of these forms suited mankind best. Some remained 
altogether subject to the laws; others soon bowed their necks to 
masters. The former laboured to preserve their liberty; the latter 
thought of nothing but invading that of their neighbours, jealous 
at seeing others enjoy a blessing which themselves had lost. In a 
word, riches and conquest fell to the share of the one, and virtue and 
happiness to that of the other. 

In these various modes of government the offices at first were all 
elective; and when riches did not preponderate, the preference was 
given to merit, which gives a natural ascendant, and to age, which is 
the parent of deliberateness in council, and experience in execution. 
The ancients among the Hebrews, the Geronts of Sparta, the Senate 
of Rome, nay, the very etymology of our word seigneur, show how 
much gray hairs were formerly respected. The oftener the choice 
fell upon old men, the oftener it became necessary to repeat it, and 
the more the trouble of such repetitions became sensible; electioneer- 
ing took place; factions arose; the parties contracted ill-blood; civil 
wars blazed forth; the lives of the citizens were sacrificed to the 
pretended happiness of the state; and things at last came to such a 
pass, as to be ready to relapse into their primitive confusion. The 
ambition of the principal men induced them to take advantage of 
these circumstances to perpetuate the hitherto temporary charges in 
their families; the people already inured to dependence, accustomed 
to ease and the conveniences of life, and too much enervated to 
break their fetters, consented to the increase of their slavery for the 
sake of securing their tranquillity; and it is thus that chiefs, become 
hereditary, contracted the habit of considering magistracies as a 
family estate, and themselves as proprietors of those communities, of 
which at first they were but mere officers; to call their fellow-citizens 



222 ROUSSEAU 

their slaves; to look upon them, like so many cows or sheep, as a part 
of their substance; and to style themselves the p)eers of Gods, and 
Kings of Kings. 

By pursuing the progress of inequality in these different revolu- 
tions, we shall discover that the establishment of laws and of the 
right of property was the first term of it; the institution of magis- 
trates the second; and the third and last the changing of legal into 
arbitrary power; so that the different states of rich and poor were 
authorized by the first epoch; those of powerful and weak by the 
second; and by the third those of master and slave, which formed 
the last degree of inequality, and the term in which all the rest at 
last end, till new revolutions entirely dissolve the government, or 
bring it back nearer to its legal constitution. 

To conceive the necessity of this progress, we are not so much to 
consider the motives for the establishment of political bodies, as 
the forms these bodies assume in their administration; and the in- 
conveniences with which they are essentially attended; for those 
vices, which render social institutions necessary, are the same which 
render the abuse of such institutions unavoidable; and as (Sparta 
alone excepted, whose laws chiefly regarded the education of chil- 
dren, and where Lycurgus established such manners and customs, as 
in a great measure made laws needless,) the laws, in general less 
strong than the passions, restrain men without changing them; it 
would be no hard matter to prove that every government, which 
carefully guarding against all alteration and corruption should scru- 
pulously comply with the ends of its institution, was unnecessarily 
instituted; and that a country, where no one either eluded the laws, 
or made an ill use of magistracy, required neither laws nor magis- 
trates. 

Political distinctions are necessarily attended with civil distinc- 
tions. The inequality between the people and the chiefs increase so 
fast as to be soon felt by the private members, and appears among 
them in a thousand shapes according to their passions, their talents, 
and the circumstances of affairs. The magistrate can not usurp any 
illegal power without making himself creatures, with whom he must 
divide it. Besides, the citizens of a free state suffer themselves to be 
oppressed merely in proportion as, hurried on by a blind ambition. 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 223 

and looking rather below than above them, they come to love 
authority more than independence. When they submit to fetters, 'tis 
only to be the better able to fetter others in their turn. It is no easy 
matter to make him obey, who does not wish to command; and the 
most refined policy would find it impossible to subdue those men, 
who only desire to be independent; but inequality easily gains ground 
among base and ambitious souls, ever ready to run the risks o£ 
fortune, and almost indifferent whether they command or obey, as 
she proves either favourable or adverse to them. Thus then there 
must have been a time, when the eyes of the people were bewitched 
to such a degree, that their rulers needed only to have said to the 
most pitiful wretch, "Be great you and all your posterity," to make 
him immediately appear great in the eyes of every one as well as in 
his own; and his descendants took still more upon them, in propor- 
tion to their removes from him: the more distant and uncertain the 
cause, the greater the effect; the longer line of drones a family pro- 
duced, the more illustrious it was reckoned. 

Were this a proper place to enter into details, I coidd easily explain 
in what manner inequalities in point of credit and authority become 
unavoidable among private persons the moment that, united into 
one body, they are obliged to compare themselves one with another, 
and to note the differences which they find in the continual use every 
man must make of his neighbour. These differences are of several 
kinds; but riches, nobility or rank, power and personal merit, being 
in general the principal distinctions, by which men in society measure 
each other, I could prove that the harmony or conflict between these 
different forces is the surest indication of the good or bad original 
constitution of any state: I could make it appear that, as among these 
four kinds of inequality, personal qualities are the source of all 
the rest, riches is that in which they ultimately terminate, because, 
being the most immediately useful to the prosperity of individuals, 
and the most easy to communicate, they are made use of to purchase 
every other distinction. By this observation we are enabled to judge 
with tolerable exactness, how much any people has deviated from its 
primitive institution, and what steps it has still to make to the extreme 
term of corruption. I could show how much this universal desire of 
reputation, of honours, of preference, with which we are all devoured, 



224 ROUSSEAU 

exercises and compares our talents and our forces: how much it 
excites and multiplies our passions; and, by creating an universal 
competition, rivalship, or rather enmity among men, how many dis- 
appointments, successes, and catastrophes of every kind it daily causes 
among the innumerable pretenders whom it engages in the same 
career. I could show that it is to this itch of being spoken of, to this 
fury of distinguishing ourselves which seldom or never gives us a 
moment's respite, that we owe both the best and the worst things 
among us, our virtues and our vices, our sciences and our errors, 
our conquerors and our philosophers; that is to say, a great many 
bad things to a very few good ones. I could prove, in short, that 
if we behold a handful of rich and powerful men seated on the 
pinnacle of fortune and greatness, while the crowd grovel in ob- 
scurity and want, it is merely because the first, prize what they enjoy, 
but in the same degree that others want it, and that, without 
changing their condition, they would cease to be happy the minute 
the people ceased to be miserable. 

But these details would alone furnish sufficient matter for a more 
considerable work, in which might be weighed the advantages and 
disadvantages of every species of government, relatively to the rights 
of man in a state of nature, and might likewise be unveiled all the 
different faces under which inequality has appeared to this day, and 
may hereafter appear to the end of time, according to the nature of 
these several governments, and the revolutions, time must unavoid- 
ably occasion in them. We should then see the multitude oppressed 
by domestic tyrants in consequence of those very precautions taken 
by them to guard against foreign masters. We should see oppression 
increase continually without its being ever possible for the oppressed 
to know where it would stop, nor what lawful means they had left 
to check its progress. We should see the rights of citizens, and the 
liberties of nations extinguished by slow degrees, and the groans, 
and protestations and appeals of the weak treated as seditious mur- 
murings. We should see policy confine to a mercenary portion of the 
people the honour of defending the common cause. We should see 
imposts made necessary by such measures, the disheartened husband- 
man desert his field even in time of peace, and quit the plough to 
take up the sword. We should see fatal and whimsical rules laid 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 225 

down concerning the point of honour. We should see the cham- 
pions of their country sooner or later become her enemies, and per- 
petually holding their poniards to the breasts of their fellow citizens. 
Nay, the time would come when they might be heard to say to the 
oppressor of their country: 

Pectore si jratris gladium juguloque parentis 
Condere me jubeas, gravidceque in viscera partu 
Conjugis, in vitd peragam tamen omnia dextra. 

From the vast inequality of conditions and fortunes, from the 
great variety of passions and of talents, of useless arts, of pernicious 
arts, of frivolous sciences, would issue clouds of prejudices equally 
contrary to reason, to happiness, to virtue. We should see the chiefs 
foment everything that tends to weaken men formed into societies 
by dividing them; everything that, while it gives society an air of 
apparent harmony, sows in it the seeds of real division; everything 
that can inspire the different orders with mutual distrust and 
hatred by an opposition of their rights and interest, and of course 
strengthen that power which contains them all. 

'Tis from the bosom of this disorder and these revolutions, that 
despotism gradually rearing up her hideous crest, and devouring 
in every part of the state all that still remained sound and untainted, 
would at last issue to trample upon the laws and the people, and 
establish herself upon the ruins of the republic. The times imme- 
diately preceding this last alteration would be times of calamity and 
trouble: but at last everything would be swallowed up by the mon- 
ster; and the people would no longer have chiefs or laws, but only 
tyrants. At this fatal period all regard to virtue and manners would 
likewise disappear; for despotism, cut ex honesto nulla est spes, tol- 
erates no other master, wherever it reigns; the moment it speaks, 
probity and duty lose all their influence, and the blindest obedience 
is the only virtue the miserable slaves have left them to practise. 

This is the last term of inequality, the extreme point which closes 
the circle and meets that from which we set out. 'Tis here that all 
private men return to their primitive equality, because they are no 
longer of any account; and that, the subjects having no longer any 
law but that of their master, nor the master any other law but his 



226 ROUSSEAU 

passions, all notions of good and principles of justice again disappear. 
'Tis here that everything returns to the sole law of the strongest, and 
of course to a new state of nature different from that with which we 
began, in as much as the first was the state of nature in its purity, 
and the last the consequence of excessive corruption. There is, in 
other respects, so little difference between these two states, and the 
contract of government is so much dissolved by despotism, that the 
despot is no longer master than he continues the strongest, and that, 
as soon as his slaves can expel him, they may do it without his 
having the least right to complain of their using him ill. The insur- 
rection, which ends in the death or despotism of a sultan, is as juridi- 
cal an act as any by which the day before he disposed of the lives and 
fortunes of his subjects. Force alone upheld him, force alone over- 
turns him. Thus all things take place and succeed in their natural 
order; and whatever may be the upshot of these hasty and frequent 
revolutions, no one man has reason to complain of another's injustice, 
but only of his own indiscretion or bad fortune. 

By thus discovering and following the lost and forgotten tracks, 
by which man from the natural must have arrived at the civil state; 
by restoring, with the intermediate positions which I have been just 
indicating, those which want of leisure obliges me to suppress, or 
which my imagination has not suggested, every attentive reader must 
unavoidably be struck at the immense space which separates these 
two states. 'Tis in this slow succession of things he may meet with 
the solution of an infinite number of problems in morality and poli- 
tics, which philosophers are puzzled to solve. He will perceive that, 
the mankind of one age not being the mankind of another, the reason 
why Diogenes could not find a man was, that he sought among his 
cotemporaries the man of an earlier period: Cato, he will then see, 
fell with Rome and with liberty, because he did not suit the age in 
which he lived; and the greatest of men served only to astonish that 
world, which would have cheerfully obeyed him, had he come into 
it five hundred years earlier. In a word, he will find himself in a 
condition to understand how the soul and the passions of men by 
insensible alterations change as it were their nature; how it comes 
to pass, that at the long run our wants and our pleasures change 
objects; that, original man vanishing by degrees, society no longer 



DISCOURSE ON INEQUALITY 227 

ofFers to our inspection but an assemblage of artificial men and 
factitious passions, which are the work of all these new relations, 
and have no foundation in nature. Reflection teaches us nothing on 
that head, but what experience perfectly confirms. Savage man and 
civilised man differ so much at bottom in point of incUnations and 
passions, that what constitutes the supreme happiness of the one 
would reduce the other to despair. The first sighs for nothing but 
repose and liberty; he desires only to live, and to be exempt from 
labour; nay, the ataraxy of the most confirmed Stoic falls short of his 
consummate indifference for every other object. On the contrary, 
the citizen always in motion, is perpetually sweating and toiling, and 
racking his brains to find out occupations still more laborious: He 
continues a drudge to his last minute; nay, he courts death to be able 
to live, or renounces life to acquire immortaHty. He cringes to men 
in power whom he hates, and to rich men whom he despises; he 
sucks at nothing to have the honour of serving them; he is not 
ashamed to value himself on his own weakness and the protection 
they afford him; and proud of his chains, he speaks with disdain of 
those who have not the honour of being the partner of his bondage. 
What a spectacle must the painful and envied labours of an European 
minister of state form in the eyes of a Caribbean! How many cruel 
deaths would not this indolent savage prefer to such a horrid life, 
which very often is not even sweetened by the pleasure of doing 
good? But to see the drift of so many cares, his mind should first 
have affixed some meaning to these words power and reputation; he 
should be apprised that there are men who consider as something 
the looks of the rest of mankind, who know how to be happy and 
satisfied with themselves on the testimony of others sooner than upon 
their own. In fact, the real source of all those differences, is that the 
savage lives within himself, whereas the citizen, constantly beside 
himself, knows only how to live in the opinion of others; insomuch 
that it is, if I may say so, merely from their judgment that he derives 
the consciousness of his own existence. It is foreign to my subject 
to show how this disposition engenders so much indifference for 
good and evil, notwithstanding so many and such fine discourses of 
morality; how everything, being reduced to appearances, becomes 
mere art and mummery; honour, friendship, virtue, and often vice 



228 ROUSSEAU 

itself, which we at last learn the secret to boast of; how, in short, 
ever inquiring of others what we are, and never daring to question 
ourselves on so delicate a point, in the midst of so much philosophy, 
humanity, and politeness, and so many sublime maxims, we have 
nothing to show for ourselves but a deceitful and frivolous exterior, 
honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without 
happiness. It is sufficient that I have proved that this is not the 
original condition of man, and that it is merely the spirit of society, 
and the inequality which society engenders, that thus change and 
transform all our natural inclinations. 

I have endeavoured to exhibit the origin and progress of inequality, 
the institution and abuse of political societies, as far as these things 
are capable of being deduced from the nature of man by the mere 
light of reason, and independently of those sacred maxims which 
give to the sovereign authority the sanction of divine right. It follows 
from this picture, that as there is scarce any inequality among men 
in a state of nature, all that which we now behold owes its force and 
its growth to the development of our faculties and the improvement 
of our understanding, and at last becomes permanent and lawful 
by the establishment of property and of laws. It likewise follows 
that moral inequality, authorised by any right that is merely positive, 
clashes with natural right, as often as it does not combine in the same 
proportion with physical inequality: a distinction which sufficiently 
determines, what we are able to think in that respect of that kind of 
inequality which obtains in all civilised nations, since it is evidently 
against the law of nature that infancy should command old age, folly 
conduct wisdom, and a handful of men should be ready to choke 
with superfluities, while the famished multitude want the common- 
est necessaries of life. 



PROFESSION OF FAITH 
OF A SAVOYARD VICAR 



BY 
J. J. ROUSSEAU 



INTRODUCTION 

About thirty years ago a young man, who had forsaken his own 
country and rambled into Italy, found himself reduced to a condition of 
great poverty and distress. He had been bred a Calvinist; but in conse- 
quence of his misconduct and of being unhappily a fugitive in a foreign 
country, without money or friends, he was induced to change his re- 
ligion for the sake of subsistence. To this end he procured admittance 
into a hospice for catechumens, that is to say, a house established for the 
reception of proselytes. The instructions he here received concerning 
some controversial points excited doubts he had not before entertained, 
and first caused him to realize the evil of the step he had taken. He was 
taught strange dogmas, and was eye-witness to stranger manners; and 
to these he saw himself a destined victim. He now sought to make his 
escape, but was prevented and more closely confined. If he complained, 
he was punished for complaining; and, lying at the mercy of his tyranni- 
cal oppressors, found himself treated as criminal because he could not 
without reluctance submit to be so. 

Let those who are sensible how much the first acts of violence and 
injustice irritate young and inexperienced minds, judge of the situation 
of this unfortunate youth. Swollen with indignation, the tears of rage 
burst from his eyes. He implored the assistance of heaven and earth in 
vain; he appealed to the whole world, but no one attended to his plea. 
His complaints could reach the ears only of a number of servile do- 
mestics, — slaves to the wretch by whom he was thus treated, or accom- 
plices in the same crime, — ^who ridiculed his non-conformity and 
endeavored to secure his imitation. He would doubdess have been en- 
tirely ruined had it not been for the good offices of an honest ecclesiastic, 
who came to the hospital on some business, and with whom he found an 
opportunity for a private conference. The good priest was himself poor, 
and stood in need of every one's assistance; the oppressed proselyte, how- 
ever, stood yet in greater need of him. The former did not hesitate, there- 
fore, to favor his escape, even at the risk of making a powerful enemy. 

Having escaped from vice only to return to indigence, this young 
adventurer struggled against his destiny without success. For a moment, 
indeed, he thought himself above it, and at the first prospect of good 
fortune, his former distresses and his protector were forgotten together. 

231 



232 INTRODUCTION 

He was soon punished, however, for his ingratitude, as his groundless 
hopes soon vanished. His youth stood in vain on his side; his romantic 
notions proving destructive to all his designs. Having neither capacity 
nor address to surmount the difficulties that fell in his way, and being a 
stranger to the virtues of moderation and the arts of knavery, he at- 
tempted so many things that he could bring none to perfection. Hence, 
having fallen into his former distress, and being not only in want of 
clothes and lodging, but even in danger of perishing with hunger, he 
recollected his former benefactor. 

To him he returned, and was well received. The sight of the unhappy 
youth brought to the poor vicar's mind the remembrance of a good 
action; — a remembrance always grateful to an honest mind. This good 
priest was naturally humane and compassionate. His own misfortunes 
had taught him to feel for those of others, nor had prosperity hardened 
his heart. In a word, the maxims of true wisdom and conscious virtue 
had confirmed the kindness of his natural disposition. He cordially em- 
braced the young wanderer, provided for him a lodging, and shared with 
him the slender means of his own subsistence. Nor was this all: he 
went still farther, freely giving him both instruction and consolation, and 
also endeavoring to teach him the difficult art of supporting adversity 
with patience. Could you believe, ye sons of prejudice! that a priest, and 
a priest in Italy too, could be capable of this? 

This honest ecclesiastic was a poor Savoyard, who having in his 
younger days incurred the displeasure of his bishop, was obliged to pass 
the mountains in order to seek that provision which was denied him in 
his own country. He was neither deficient in literature nor understand- 
ing; his talents, therefore, joined with an engaging appearance, soon pro- 
cured him a patron, who recommended him as tutor to a young man of 
quality. He preferred poverty, however, to dependence; and, being a 
stranger to the manners and behavior of the great, he remained but a 
short time in that situation. In quitting this service, however, he fortu- 
nately did not lose the esteem of his friend; and, as he behaved with great 
prudence and was universally beloved, he flattered himself that he shoud 
in time regain the good opinion of his bishop also, and be rewarded with 
some litde benefice in the mountains, where he hoped to spend in tran- 
quillity and peace the remainder of his days. This was the height of his 
ambition. 

Interested by a natural affinity in favor of the young fugitive, he 
examined very carefully into his character and disposition. In this ex- 
amination, he saw that his misfortunes had already debased his heart; — 



INTRODUCTION 233 

that the shame and contempt to which he had been exposed had de- 
pressed his ambition, and that his disappointed pride, converted into 
indignation, had deduced, from the 'njustice and cruelty of mankind, the 
depravity of human nature and the emptiness of virtue. He had observed 
religion made use of as a mask to self-interest, and its worship as a cloak 
to hypocrisy. He had seen the terms heaven and hell prostituted in the 
subtility of vain disputes; the joys of the one and the pains of the other 
being annexed to a mere repetition of words. He had observed the sub- 
lime and primitive idea of the Divinity disfigured by the fantastical 
imaginations of men; and, finding that in order to believe in God it was 
necessary to give up that understanding he hath bestowed on us, he held 
in the same disdain as well the sacred object of our idle reveries as those 
idle reveries themselves. Without knowing anything of natural causes, 
or giving himself any trouble to investigate them, he remained in a 
condition of the most stupid ignorance, mixed with profound contempt 
for those who pretended to greater knowledge than his own. 

A neglect of all religious duties leads to a neglect of all moral obliga- 
tions. The heart of this young vagabond had already made a great 
progress from one toward the other. Not that he was constitutionally 
vicious; but misfortune and incredulity, having stifled by degrees the 
propensities of his natural disposition, were hurrying him on to ruin, 
adding to the manners of a beggar the principles of an atheist. 

His ruin, however, though almost inevitable, was not absolutely com- 
pleted. His education not having been neglected, he was not without 
knowledge. He had not yet exceeded that happy term of life, wherein 
the youthful blood serves to stimulate the mind without inflaming the 
passions, which were as yet unrelaxed and unexcited. A natural modesty 
and timidity of disposition had hitherto supplied the place of restraint, 
and prolonged the term of youthful innocence. The odious example of 
brutal depravity, and of vices without temptation, so far from animating 
his imagination, had mortified it. Disgust had long supplied the place of 
virtue in the preservation of his innocence, and to corrupt this required 
more powerful seductions. 

The good priest saw the danger and the remedy. The difficulties that 
appeared in the application did not deter him from the attempt. He took 
a pleasure in the design, and resolved to complete it by restoring to virtue 
the victim he had snatched from infamy. 

To this end he set out resolutely in the execution of his project. The 
merit of the motive increased his hopes, and inspired means worthy of 
his zeal. Whatever might be the success, he was sure that he should not 



234 INTRODUCTION 

throw away his labor: — we are always sure so far to succeed in well 
doing. 

He began with striving to gain the confidence of the proselyte by con- 
ferring on him his favors disinterestedly, — by never importuning him 
with exhortations, and by descending always to a level with his ideas and 
manner of thinking. It must have been an affecting sight to see a grave 
divine become the comrade of a young libertine — to see virtue affect the 
air of licendousness — in order to triumph the more certainly over it. 
Whenever the heedless youth made him the confidant of his follies, and 
unbosomed himself freely to his benefactor, the good priest listened at- 
tentively to his stories; and, without approving the evil, interested him- 
self in the consequences. No ill-timed censure ever indiscreetly checked 
the pupil's communicative temper. The pleasure with which he thought 
himself heard increased that which he took in telling all his secrets. Thus 
he was induced to make a free and general confession without thinking 
he was confessing anything. 

Having thus made himself master of the youth's sentiments and char- 
acter, the priest was enabled to see clearly that, without being ignorant 
for his years, he had forgotten almost everything of impwrtance for him 
to know, and that the state of meanness into which he had fallen had 
almost stifled in him the sense of good and evil. There is a degree of low 
stupidity which deprives the soul as it were of life; the voice of con- 
science is also but litde heard by those who think of nothing but the 
means of subsistence. To rescue this unfortunate youth from the moral 
death that so nearly threatened him, he began, therefore, by awakening 
his self-love and exciting in him a due regard for himself. He repre- 
sented to his imagination a more happy success, from the future employ- 
ment of his talents; he inspired him with a generous ardor by a recital 
of the commendable actions of others, and by raising his admiration of 
those who performed them. In order to detach him insensibly from an 
idle and vagabond life, he employed him in copying books; and under 
pretence of having occasion for such extracts, cherished in him the noble 
sentiment of gratitude for his benefactor. By this method he also in- 
structed him indirecdy by the books he employed him to copy; and 
induced him to entertain so good an opinion of himself as to think he 
was not absolutely good for nothing, and to hold himself not quite so 
despicable in his own esteem as he had formerly done. 

A trifling circumstance may serve to show the art which this benevolent 
instructor made use of to insensibly elevate the heart of his disciple, with- 
out appearing to think of giving him instruction. This good ecclesiastic 



INTRODUCTION 235 

was so well known and esteemed for his probity and discernment, that 
many persons chose rather to entrust him with the distribution of their 
alms than the richer clergy of the cities. Now it happened that receiving 
one day a sum of money in charge for the poor, the young man had the 
meanness to desire some of it, under that title, for himself. "No," replied 
his kind benefactor, "you and I are brethren; you belong to me, and I 
should not apply the charity entrusted with me to my own use." He 
then gave him the desired sum from his private funds. Lessons of this 
kind are hardly ever thrown away on young people, whose hearts are 
not entirely corrupted. 

But I will continue to speak no longer in the third person, which is 
indeed a superfluous caution; as you, my dear countrymen, are very 
sensible that the unhappy fugitive I have been speaking of is myself. 
I believe that I am now so far removed from the irregularities of my 
youth as to dare to avow them, and think that the hand which extricated 
me from them is too well deserving of my gratitude for me not to do it 
honour even at the expense of a litde shame. 

The most striking circumstance of all was to observe in the retired life 
of my worthy master virtue without hypocrisy and humanity without 
weakness. His conversation was always honest and simple, and his con- 
duct ever conformable to his discourse. I never found him troubling him- 
self whether the persons he assisted went constandy to vespers — ^whether 
they went frequendy to confession — or fasted on certain days of the week. 
Nor did I ever know him to impose on them any of those conditions 
without which a man might perish from want, and have no hope of relief 
from the devout. 

Encouraged by these observadons, so far was I from affecting in his 
presence the forward zeal of a new proselyte, that I took no pains to 
conceal my thoughts, nor did I ever remark his being scandalized at this 
freedom. Hence, I have sometimes said to myself, he certainly overlooks 
my indifference for the new mode of worship I have embraced, in con- 
sideradon of the disregard which he sees I have for that in which I was 
educated; as he finds my indifference is not partial to either. But what 
could I think when I heard him sometimes approve dogmas contrary to 
those of the Romish church, and appear to hold its ceremonies in litde 
esteem.? I should have been apt to consider him a protestant in disguise, 
had I seen him less observant of those very ceremonies which he seemed 
to think of so litde account; but knowing that he acquitted himself as 
punctually of his duties as a priest in private as in public, I knew not 
how to judge of these seeming contradictions. If we except the failing 



236 INTRODUCTION 

which first brought him into disgrace with his superior, and of which he 
was not altogether corrected, his Ufe was exemplary, his manners irre- 
proachable, and his conversation prudent and sensible. As I lived with 
him in the greatest intimacy, I learned every day to respect him more 
and more; and as he had entirely won my heart by so many acts of 
kindness, I waited with an impatient curiosity to know the principles on 
which a life and conduct so singular and uniform could be founded. 

It was some time, however, before this curiosity was satisfied, as he 
endeavoured to cultivate those seeds of reason and goodness which he 
had endeavoured to instill, before he would disclose himself to his dis- 
ciple. The greatest difficulty he met with was to eradicate from my heart 
a proud misanthropy, a certain rancorous hatred which I bore to the 
wealthy and fortunate, as if they were made so at my expense, and had 
usurped apparent happiness from what should have been my own. The 
idle vanity of youth, which is opposed to all constraint and humiliation, 
encouraged but too much my propensity to indulge this splenetic humor; 
whilst that self-love, which my mentor strove so earnestly to cherish, by 
increasing my pride, rendered mankind, in my opinion, still more de- 
testable, and only added to my hatred of them the most egregious con- 
tempt. 

Without direcdy attacking this pride, he yet strove to prevent it from 
degenerating into barbarity, and without diminishing my self-esteem, 
made me less disdainful of my neighbors. In withdrawing the gaudy 
veil of external appearances, and presenting to my view the real evils it 
concealed, he taught me to lament the failings of my fellow creatures, to 
sympathize with their miseries, and to pity instead of envying them. 
Moved to compassion for human frailties from a deep sense of his own, 
he saw mankind everywhere the victims of either their own vices or of 
the vices of others, — he saw the poor groan beneath the yoke of the 
rich, and the rich beneath the tyranny of their own idle habits and 
prejudices. 

"Believe me," said he, "our mistaken notions of things are so far from 
hiding our misfortunes from our view, that they augment those evils by 
rendering trifles of importance, and making us sensible of a thousand 
wants which we should never have known but for our prejudices. Peace 
of mind consists in a contempt for everything that may disturb it. The 
man who gives himself the greatest concern about life is he who enjoys 
it least; and he who aspires the most earnestly after happiness is always 
the one who is the most miserable." 

"Alas!" cried I, with all the bitterness of discontent, "what a de- 



INTRODUCTION 237 

plorable picture do you present of human life! If we may indulge our- 
selves in nothing, to what purpose were we born? If we must despise 
even happiness itself, who is there that can know what it is to be happy?" 

"I know," replied the good priest, in a tone and manner that struck me. 

"You!" said I, "so little favored by fortune! so poor! exiled! persecuted! 
can you be happy? And if you are, what have you done to purchase 
happiness?" 

"My dear child," he replied, embracing me, "I will willingly tell you. 
As you have freely confessed to me, I will do the same to you. I will 
disclose to you all the sentiments of my heart. You shall see me, if not 
such as I really am, at least such as I believe myself to be: and when 
you have heard my whole Profession of Faith — when you know fully 
the situation of my heart — you will know why I think myself happy; 
and, if you agree with me, what course you should pursue in order to 
become so likewise. 

"But this profession is not to be made in a moment. It will require 
some time to disclose to you my thoughts on the situation of mankind 
and on the real value of human life. We will therefore take a suitable 
opportunity for a few hours' uninterrupted conversation on this subject." 

As I expressed an earnest desire for such an opportunity, an appoint- 
ment was made for the next morning. We rose at the break of day and 
prepared for the journey. Leaving the town, he led me to the top of a 
hill, at the foot of which ran the river Po, watering in its course the 
fertile vales. That immense chain of mountains, called the Alps, termi- 
nated the distant view. The rising sun cast its welcome rays over the 
gilded plains, and, by projecting the long shadows of the trees, the houses, 
and adjacent hills, formed the most beautiful scene ever mortal eye be- 
held. One might have been almost tempted to think that nature had at 
this moment displayed all its grandeur and beauty as a subject for our 
conversation. Here it was that, after contemplating for a short time the 
surrounding objects in silence, my teacher and benefactor confided to 
me with impressive earnestness the principles and faith which governed 
his life and conduct. 



PROFESSION OF FAITH OF A 
SAVOYARD VICAR 

EXPECT from me neither learned declamations nor profound 
arguments. I am no great philosopher, and give myself but 
little trouble in regard to becoming such. Still I perceive 
sometimes the glimmering of good sense, and have always a regard 
for the truth. I will not enter into any disputation, or endeavor to 
refute you; but only lay down my own sentiments in simplicity of 
heart. Consult your own during this recital: this is all I require of 
you. If I am mistaken, it is undesignedly, which is sufficient to 
absolve me of all criminal error; and if I am right, reason, which is 
common to us both, shall decide. We are equally interested in listen- 
ing to it, and why should not our views agree? 

I was born a poor peasant, destined by my situation to the business 
of husbandry. It was thought, however, much more advisable for 
me to learn to get my bread by the profession of a priest, and means 
were found to give me a proper education. In this, most certainly, 
neither my parents nor I consulted what was really good, true, or 
useful for me to know; but only that I should learn what was neces- 
sary to my ordination. I learned, therefore, what was required of 
me to learn, — I said what was required of me to say — and, accord- 
ingly, was made a priest. It was not long, however, before I per- 
ceived too plainly that, in laying myself under an obligation to be 
no longer a man, I had engaged for more than I could possibly 
perform. 

Some will tell us that conscience is founded merely on our preju- 
dices, but I know from my own experience that its dictates con- 
stantly follow the order of nature, in contradicdon to all human laws 
and institutions. We are in vain forbidden to do this thing or the 
other — we shall feel but little remorse for doing any thing to which a 
well-regulated natural insdnct excites us, how strongly soever pro- 

239 



240 ROUSSEAU 

hibited by reason. Nature, my dear youth, hath hitherto in this 
respect been silent in you. May you continue long in that happy 
state wherein her voice is the voice of innocence! Remember that 
you ofFend her more by anticipating her instructions than by re- 
fusing to hear them. In order to know when to listen to her without 
a crime, you should begin by learning to check her insinuations. 

I had always a due respect for marriage as the first and most sacred 
institution of nature. Having given up my right to enter into such 
an engagement, I resolved, therefore, not to profane it: for, notwith- 
standing my manner of education, as I had always led a simple and 
uniform life, I had preserved all that clearness of understanding in 
which my first ideas were cultivated. The maxims of the world had 
not obscured my primitive notions, and my poverty kept me at a 
sufficient distance from those temptations that teach us the sophistry 
of vice. 

The virtuous resolution I had formed, was, however, the very 
cause of my ruin, as my determination not to violate the rights of 
others, left my faults exposed to detection. To expiate the offence, I 
was suspended and banished; falling a sacrifice to my scruples rather 
than to my incontinence. From the reproaches made me on my 
disgrace, I found that the way to escape punishment for an offence 
is often by committing a greater. 

A few instances of this kind go far with persons capable of reflec- 
tion. Finding by sorrowful experience that the ideas I had formed 
of justice, honesty, and other moral obligations were contradicted 
in practice, I began to give up most of the opinions I had received, 
until at length the few which I retained being no longer sufficient 
to support themselves, I called in question the evidence on which 
they were established. Thus, knowing hardly what to think, I found 
myself at last reduced to your own situation of mind, with this 
difference only, that my unbelief being the later fruit of a maturer 
age, it was a work of greater difficulty to remove it. 

I was in that state of doubt and uncertainty in which Descartes 
requires the mind to be involved, in order to enable it to investigate 
truth. This disposition of mind, however, is too disquieting to long 
continue, its duration being owing only to indolence or vice. My 
heart was not so corrupt as to seek fresh indulgence; and nothing 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 24 I 

preserves so well the habit of reflection as to be more content with 
ourselves than with our fortune. 

I reflected, therefore, on the unhappy lot of mortals floating always 
on the ocean of human opinions, without compass or rudder — left 
to the mercy of their tempestuous passions, with no other guide than 
an inexperienced pilot, ignorant of his course, as well as from whence 
he came, and whither he is going. I often said to myself: I love the 
truth — I seek, yet cannot find it. Let any one show it to me and I 
will readily embrace it. Why doth it hide its charms from a heart 
formed to adore them ? 

I have frequently experienced at times much greater evils; and 
yet no part of my life was ever so constantly disagreeable to me as 
that interval of scruples and anxiety. Running perpetually from one 
doubt and uncertainty to another, all that I could deduce from my 
long and painful meditations was incertitude, obscurity, and contra- 
diction; as well with regard to my existence as to my duty. 

I cannot comprehend how any man can be sincerely a skeptic on 
principle. Such philosophers either do not exist, or they are certainly 
the most miserable of men. To be in doubt, about things which it is 
important for us to know, is a situation too perplexing for the human 
mind; it cannot long support such incertitude; but will, in spite of 
itself, determine one way or the other, rather deceiving itself than 
being content to believe nothing of the matter. 

What added further to my perplexity was, that as the authority 
of the church in which I was educated was decisive, and tolerated 
not the slightest doubt, in rejecting one point, I thereby rejected in a 
manner all the others. The impossibility of admitting so many ab- 
surd decisions, threw doubt over those more reasonable. In being told 
I must believe all, I was prevented from believing anything, and I 
knew not what course to pursue. 

In this situation I consulted the philosophers. I turned over their 
books, and examined their several opinions. I found them vain, 
dogmatical and dictatorial — even in their pretended skepticism. Ig- 
norant of nothing, yet proving nothing; but ridiculing one another 
instead; and in this last particular only, in which they were all 
agreed, they seemed to be in the right. Affecting to triumph when- 
ever they attacked their opponents, they lacked everything to make 



242 ROUSSEAU 

them capable of a vigorous defence. If you examine their reasons, 
you will find them calculated only to refute: If you number voices, 
every one is reduced to his own suffrage. They agree in nothing but 
in disputing, and to attend to these was certainly not the way to 
remove my uncertainty. 

I conceived that the weakness of the human understanding was 
the first cause of the prodigious variety I found in their sentiments, 
and that pride was the second. We have no standard with which to 
measure this immense machine; we cannot calculate its various 
relations; we neither know the first cause nor the final effects; we 
are ignorant even of ourselves; we neither know our own nature nor 
principle of action; nay, we hardly know whether man be a simple 
or compound being. Impenetrable mysteries surround us on every 
side; they extend beyond the region of sense; we imagine ourselves 
possessed of understanding to penetrate them, and we have only 
imagination. Every one strikes out a way of his own across this 
imaginary world; but no one knows whether it will lead him to the 
point he aims at. We are yet desirous to penetrate, to know, every- 
thing. The only thing we know not is to contentedly remain ignorant 
of what it is impossible for us to know. We had much rather deter- 
mine at random, and believe the thing which is not, than to confess 
that none of us is capable of seeing the thing that is. Being ourselves 
but a small part of that great whole, whose limits surpass our most 
extensive views, and concerning which its creator leaves us to make 
our idle conjectures, we are vain enough to decide what that whole 
is in itself, and what we are in relation to it. 

But were the philosophers in a situation to discover the truth, 
which of them would be interested in so doing? Each knows very 
well that his system is no better founded than the systems of others; 
he defends it, nevertheless, because it is his own. There is not one 
of them, who, really knowing truth from falsehood, would not pre- 
fer the latter, if of his own invention, to the former, discovered by 
any one else. Where is the philosopher who would not readily de- 
ceive mankind, to increase his own reputation.? Where is he who 
secretly proposes any other object than that of distinguishing himself 
from the rest of mankind? Provided he raises himself above the 
vulgar, and carries away the prize of fame from his competitors, 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 243 

what doth he require more? The most essential point is to think 
differently from the rest of the world. Among believers he is an 
atheist, and among atheists he affects to be a believer. 

The first fruit I gathered from these meditations was to learn to 
confine my enquiries to those things in which I was immediately 
interested; — to remain contented in a profound ignorance of the rest; 
and not to trouble myself so far as even to doubt about what it did 
not concern me to know. 

I could further see that instead of clearing up any unnecessary 
doubts, the philosophers only contributed to multiply those which 
most tormented me, and that they resolved absolutely none. I there- 
fore applied to another guide, and said to myself, let me consult 
my innate instructor, who will deceive me less than I may be de- 
ceived by others; or at least the errors I fall into will be my own, and 
I shall grow less depraved in the pursuit of my own illusions, than in 
giving myself up to the deceptions of others. 

Taking a retrospect, then, of the several opinions which had suc- 
cessively prevailed with me from my infancy, I found that, although 
none of them were so evident as to produce immediate conviction, 
they had nevertheless different degrees of probability, and that my 
innate sense of truth and falsehood leaned more or less to each. On 
this first observation, proceeding to compare impartially and with- 
out prejudice these different opinions with each other, I found that 
the first and most common was also the most simple and most 
rational; and that it wanted nothing more to secure universal suf- 
frage, than the circumstance of having been last proposed. Let us 
suppose that all our philosophers, ancient and modern, had ex- 
hausted all their whimsical systems of power, chance, fate, necessity, 
atoms, an animated world, sensitive matter, materialism, and of every 
other kind; and after them let us imagine the celebrated Dr. Clarke 
enhghtening the world by displaying the being of beings — the su- 
preme and sovereign disposer of all things. With what universal 
admiration, — with what unanimous applause would not the world 
receive this new system, — so great, so consolatory, so sublime, — so 
proper to elevate the soul, to lay the foundations of virtue, — and at 
the same time so striking, so enlightened, so simple, — and, as it ap- 
pears to me, pregnant with less incomprehensibilities and absurdities 



244 ROUSSEAU 

than all other systems whatever! I reflected that unanswerable ob- 
jections might be made to all, because the human understanding is 
incapable of resolving them, no proof therefore could be brought 
exclusively of any: but what difference is there in proofs! Ought not 
that system then, which explains everything, to be preferred, when 
attended with no greater difficulties than the rest? 

The love of truth then comprises all my philosophy; and my 
method of research being the simple and easy rule of common sense, 
which dispenses with the vain subtilty of argumentation, I re- 
examined by this principle all the knowledge of which I was pos- 
sessed, resolved to admit as evident everything to which I could not 
in the sincerity of my heart refuse to assent, to admit also as true all 
that seemed to have a necessary connection with it, and to leave 
everything else as uncertain, without either rejecting or admitting, 
being determined not to trouble myself about clearing up any point 
which did not tend to utility in practice. 

But, after all, who am I? What right have I to judge of these 
things? And what is it that determines my conclusions? If, subject 
to the impressions I receive, these are formed in direct consequence 
of those impressions, I tirouble myself to no purpose in these investi- 
gations. It is necessary, therefore, to examine myself, to know what 
instruments are made use of in such researches, and how far I may 
confide in their use. 

In the first place, I know that I exist, and have senses whereby 
I am affected. This is a truth so striking that I am compelled to 
acquiesce in it. But have I properly a distinct sense of my existence, 
or do I only know it from my various sensations? This is my first 
doubt; which, at present, it is impossible for me to resolve: for, being 
continually affected by sensations, either directly from the objects or 
from the memory, how can I tell whether my self-consciousness be, 
or be not, something foreign to those sensations, and independent 
of them. 

My sensations are all internal, as they make me sensible of my own 
existence; but the cause of them is external and independent, as they 
affect me without my consent, and do not depend on my will for 
their production or annihilation. I conceive very clearly, therefore, 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 245 

that the sensation which is internal, and its cause or object which is 
external, are not one and the same thing. 

Thus I know that I not only exist, but that other beings exist as 
well as myself; to wit, the objects of my sensations; and though these 
objects should be nothing but ideas, it is very certain that these ideas 
are no part of myself. 

Now, everything that I perceive out of myself, and which acts upon 
my senses, I call matter; and those portions of matter which I con- 
ceive are united in individual beings, I call bodies. Thus all the 
disputes between Idealists and Materialists signify nothing to me; 
their distinctions between the appearance and reality of bodies being 
chimerical. 

Hence I have acquired as certain knowledge of the existence of 
the universe as of my own. I next reflect on the objects of my sensa- 
tions; and, finding in myself the faculty of comparing them with 
each other, I perceive myself endowed with an active power with 
which I was before unacquainted. 

To perceive is only to feel or be sensible of things; to compare 
them is to judge of their existence. To judge of things and to be 
sensible of them are very different. Things present themselves to 
our sensations as single and detached from each other, such as they 
barely exist in nature: but in our intellectual comparison of them 
they are removed, transported as it were, from place to place, disposed 
on and beside each other, to enable us to pronounce concerning their 
difference and similitude. The characteristic faculty of an intelligent, 
active being is, in my opinion, that of giving a sense to the word 
exist. In beings merely sensitive, I have searched in vain to discover 
the like force of intellect; nor can I conceive it to be in their nature. 
Such passive beings perceive every object singly or by itself; or if two 
objects present themselves, they are perceived as united into one. 
Such beings having no power to place one in competition with, be- 
side, or upon the other, they cannot compare them, or judge of their 
separate existence. 

To see two objects at once, is not to see their relations to each 
other, nor to judge of their difference; as to see many objects, though 
distinct from one another, is not to reckon their number. I may 



246 ROUSSEAU 

possibly have in my mind the ideas of a large stick and a small one, 
without comparing those ideas together, or judging that one is less 
than the other; as I may look at my hand without counting my 
fingers.' The comparative ideas of greater and less, as well as nu- 
merical ideas of one, two, etc., are certainly not sensations, although 
the understanding produces them only from our sensations. 

It has been pretended that sensitive beings distinguish sensations 
one from the other, by the actual difference there is between those 
sensations: this, however, demands an explanation. When such 
sensations are different, a sensitive being is supposed to distinguish 
them by their difference; but when they are alike, they can then only 
distinguish them because they perceive one without the other; for, 
Otherwise, how can two objects exactly alike be distinguished in a 
simultaneous sensation? Such objects must necessarily be blended 
together and taken for one and the same; particularly according to 
that system of philosophy in which it is pretended that the sensations, 
representative of extension, are not extended. 

When two comparative sensations are perceived, they make both 
a joint and separate impression; but their relation to each other is not 
necessarily perceived in consequence of either. If the judgment we 
form of this relation were indeed a mere sensation, excited by the 
objects, we should never be deceived in it, for it can never be denied 
that I truly perceive what I feel. 

How, therefore, can I be deceived in the relation between these two 
sticks, particularly, if they are not parallel? Why do I say, for 
instance, that the little one is a third part as long as the great one, 
when it is. in reality only a fourth ? Why is not the image, which is 
the sensation, conformable to its model, which is the object? It is 
because I am active when I judge, the operation which forms the 
comparison is defective, and my understanding, which judges of 
relations, mixes its errors with the truth of those sensations which are 
representative of objects. 

Add to this the reflection, which I am certain you will think 
striking after duly weighing it, that if we were merely passive in the 
use of our senses, there would be no communication between them: 

' M. de la Condamine tells of a people who knew how to reckon only as far as 
three. Yet these people must often have seen their fingers without ever having 
counted five. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 247 

SO that it would be impossible for us to know that the body we 
touched with our hands and the object we saw with our eyes were 
one and the same. Either we should not be able to perceive external 
objects at all, or they would appear to exist as five perceptible sub- 
stances of which we should have no method of ascertaining the 
identity. 

Whatever name be given to that power of the mind which as- 
sembles and compares my sensations, — call it attention, meditation, 
reflection, or whatever you please, — certain it is that it exists in me, 
and not in the objects of those sensations. It is I alone who produce 
it, although it is displayed only in consequence of the impressions 
made on me by those objects. Without being so far master over 
myself as to perceive or not to perceive at pleasure, I am still more 
or less capable of making an examination into the objects perceived. 

I am not, therefore, a mere sensitive and passive, but an active and 
intelligent being; and, whatever philosophers may pretend, lay claim 
to the honor of thinking. I know only that truth depends on the 
existence of things, and not on my understanding which judges of 
them; and that the less such judgment depends on me, the nearer I 
am certain of approaching the truth. Hence my rule of confiding 
more on sentiment than reason is confirmed by reason itself. 

Being thus far assured of my own nature and capacity, I begin to 
consider the objects about me; regarding myself, with a kind of 
shuddering, as a creature thrown on the wide world of the universe, 
and as it were lost in an infinite variety of other beings, without 
knowing anything of what they are, either among themselves or 
with regard to me. 

Everything that is perceptible to my senses is matter, and I deduce 
all the essential properties of matter from those sensible qualities, 
which cause it to be perceptible, and which are inseparable from it. 
I see it sometimes in motion and at other times at rest. This rest 
may be said to be only relative; but as we perceive degrees in motion, 
we can very clearly conceive one of the two extremes which is rest; 
and this we conceive so distinctly, that we are even induced to take 
that for absolute rest which is only relative. Now motion cannot be 
essential to matter, if matter can be conceived at rest. Hence I infer 
that neither motion nor rest are essential to it; but motion being an 



248 ROUSSEAU 

action, is clearly the effect of cause, of which rest is only the absence. 
When nothing acts on matter, it does not move; it is equally indif- 
ferent to motion and rest; its natural state, therefore, is to be at rest. 

Again, I perceive in bodies tvi^o kinds of motion; that is a mechani- 
cal or communicated motion, and a spontaneous or voluntary one. 
In the first case, the moving cause is out of the body moved, and in 
the last, exists within it. I shall not hence conclude, however, that 
the motion of a watch, for example, is spontaneous; for if nothing 
should act upon it but the spring, that spring would not wind itself 
up again when once down. For the same reason, also, I should as 
little accede to the spontaneous motion of fluids, nor even to heat 
itself, the cause of their fluidity. 

You will ask me if the motions of animals are spontaneous? I 
will freely answer, I cannot positively tell, but analogy speaks in the 
affirmative. You may ask me further, how I know there is such a 
thing as spontaneous motion ? I answer, because I feel it. I will to 
move my arm, and, accordingly, it moves without the intervention of 
any other immediate cause. It is in vain to attempt to reason me out 
of this sentiment; it is more powerful than any rational evidence. 
You might as well attempt to convince me that I do not exist. 

If the actions of men are not spontaneous, and there be no such 
spontaneous action in what passes on earth, we are only the more 
embarrassed to conceive what is the first cause of all motion. For my 
part I am so fully persuaded that the natural state of matter is a 
state of rest, and that it has in itself no principle of activity, that 
whenever I see a body in motion, I instantly conclude that it is either 
an animated body or that its motion is communicated to it. My 
understanding will by no means acquiesce in the notion that unor- 
ganized matter can move of itself, or be productive of any kind of 
action. 

The visible universe, however, is composed of inanimate matter, 
which appears to have nothing in its composition of organization, 
or that sensation which is common to the parts of an animated body, 
as it is certain that we ourselves, being parts thereof, do not perceive 
our existence in the whole. The universe, also, is in motion; and its 
movements being all regular, uniform, and subjected to constant 
laws, nothing appears therein similar to that liberty which is remark- 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 249 

able iii the spontaneous motion of men and animals. The world, 
therefore, is not a huge self-moving animal, but receives its motions 
from some foreign cause, which we do not perceive: but I am so 
strongly persuaded within myself of the existence of this cause, that 
it is impossible for me to observe the apparent diurnal revolution of 
the sun, without conceiving that some force must urge it forward; 
or if it is the earth itself that turns, I cannot but conceive that some 
hand must turn it. 

If it be necessary to admit general laws that have no apparent rela- 
tion to matter, from what fixed point must that enquiry set out? 
Those laws, being nothing real or substantial, have some prior foun- 
dation equally unknown and occult. Experience and observation 
have taught us the laws of motion; these laws, however, determine 
effects only without displaying their causes; and, therefore, are not 
sufficient to explain the system of the universe. Descartes could form 
a model of the heavens and earth with dice; but he could not give 
their motions to those dice, nor bring into play his centrifugal force 
without the assistance of a rotary motion. Newton discovered the 
law of attraction; but attraction alone would soon have reduced the 
universe into one solid mass: to this law, therefore, he found it 
necessary to add a projectile force, in order to account for the revolu- 
tion of the heavenly bodies. Could Descartes tell us by what physical 
law his vortices were put and kept in motion ? Could Newton pro- 
duce the hand that first impelled the planets in the tangent of their 
respective orbits ? 

The first causes of motion do not exist in matter; bodies receive 
from and communicate motion to each other, but they cannot origi- 
nally produce it. The more I observe the action and reaction of the 
powers of nature acting on each other, the more I am convinced that 
they are merely effects; and we must ever recur to some volition as 
the first cause: for to suppose there is a progression of causes to 
infinity, is to suppose there is no first cause at all. In a word, every 
motion that is not produced by some other^ must be the effect of 
a spontaneous, voluntary act. Inanimate bodies have no action but 
motion; and there can be no real action without volition. Such is 
my first principle. I believe, therefore, that a Will gives motion to the 
universe, and animates all nature. This is my first article of faith. 



250 ROUSSEAU 

In what manner volition is productive o£ physical and corporeal 
action I know not, but I experience within myself that it is pro- 
ductive of it. I will to act, and the action immediately follows; I will 
to move my body, and my body instantly moves; but, that an inani- 
mate body lying at rest, should move itself, or produce motion, is 
incomprehensible and unprecedented. The Will also is known by 
its effects and not by its essence. I know it as the cause of motion; 
but to conceive matter producing motion, would be evidently to 
conceive an effect without a cause, or rather not to conceive any 
thing at all. 

It is no more possible for me to conceive how the will moves the 
body, than how the sensations affect the soul. I even know not why 
one of these mysteries ever appeared more explicable than the other. 
For my own part, whether at the time I am active or passive, the 
means of union between the two substances appear to me absolutely 
incomprehensible. Is it not strange that the philosophers have thrown 
off this incomprehensibility, merely to confound the two substances 
together, as if operations so different could be better explained as 
the effects of one subject than of two. 

The principle which I have here laid down, is undoubtedly some- 
thing obscure; it is however intelligible, and contains nothing repug- 
nant to reason or observation. Can we say as much of the doctrines 
of materialism? It is very certain that, if motion be essential to 
matter, it would be inseparable from it; it would be always the same 
in every portion of it, incommunicable, and incapable of increase or 
diminution; it would be impossible for us even to conceive matter at 
rest. Again, when I am told that motion is not indeed essential to 
matter, but necessary to its existence, I see through the attempt to 
impose on me by a form of words, which it would be more easy to 
refute, if more intelligible. For, whether the motion of matter arises 
from itself, and is therefore essential to it, or whether it is derived 
from some external cause, it is not further necessary to it than as the 
moving cause acting thereon: so that we still remain under the first 
difficulty. 

General and abstract ideas form the source of our greatest errors. 
The jargon of metaphysics never discovered one truth; but it has 
filled philosophy with absurdities, of which we are ashamed as soon 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 25 I 

as they are stripped of their pompous expressions. Tell me truly, 
my friend, if any precise idea is conveyed to your understanding 
when you are told of a blind, unintelligent power being diffused 
throughout all nature? It is imagined that something is meant by 
those vague terms, Universal force and Necessary motion; and yet 
they convey no meaning. The idea of motion is nothing more than 
the idea of passing from one place to another, nor can there be any 
motion without some particular direction; for no individual being 
can move several ways at once. In what manner then is it that 
matter necessarily moves? Has all the matter of which bodies are 
composed a general and uniform motion, or has each atom a par- 
ticular motion of its own ? If we give assent to the first notion, the 
whole universe will appear to be one solid and indivisible mass; and 
according to the second, it should constitute a diffused and incoherent 
fluid, without a possibility that two atoms ever could be united. 
What can be the direction of this motion common to all matter? 
Is it in a right line upwards or downwards, to the right or to the 
left? Again, if every particle of matter has its particular direction, 
what can be the cause of all those directions and their variations? 
If every atom or particle of matter revolved only on its axis, none 
of them would change their place, and there would be no motion 
communicated; and even in this case it is necessary that such a 
revolving motion should be carried on one way. To ascribe to matter 
motion in the abstract, is to make use of terms without a meaning; 
and in giving it any determinate motion, we must of necessity sup- 
pose the cause that determines it. The more I multiply particular 
forces, the more new causes have I to explain, without ever finding 
one common agent that directs them. So far from being able to 
conceive any regularity or order in the fortuitous concourse of ele- 
ments, I cannot even conceive the nature of their concurrence; and 
an universal chaos is more inconceivable than universal harmony. I 
easily comprehend that the mechanism of the world cannot be per- 
fectly known to the human understanding, but whenever men un- 
dertake to explain it, they ought at least to speak in such a manner 
that others may understand them. 

If from matter being put in motion I discover the existence of a 
Will as the first active cause, the subjugation of this matter to certain 



252 ROUSSEAU 

regular laws of motion displays also intelligence. This is my second 
article of faith. To act, to compare, to prefer, are the operations of an 
active, thinking being: such a being, therefore, exists. Do you pro- 
ceed to ask me, where I discover its existence? I answer, not only 
in the revolutions of the celestial bodies; not only in myself; but in 
the flocks that feed on the plain, in the birds that fly in the air, in the 
stone that falls to the ground, and in the leaf that trembles in the 
wind. 

I am enabled to judge of the physical order of things, although 
ignorant of their final cause; because to be able to form such a 
judgment it is sufficient for me to compare the several parts of the 
visible universe with each other, to study their mutual concurrence, 
their reciprocal relations, and to observe the general result of the 
whole. I am ignorant why the universe exists, but I am enabled nev- 
ertheless to see how it is modified. I cannot fail to perceive that inti- 
mate connection by which the several beings it is composed of 
afford each other mutual assistance. I resemble, in this respect, a man 
who sees the inside of a watch for the first time, and is captivated 
with the beauty of the work, although ignorant of its use. I know 
not, he may say, what this machine is good for, but I perceive that 
each part is made to fit some other. I admire the artist for every 
part of his performance, and am certain that all these wheels act 
thus in concert to some common end, which as yet I fail to com- 
prehend. 

But let us compare the partial and particular ends, the means 
whereby they are effected, and their constant relations of every kind; 
then let us appeal to our innate sense of conviction; and what man 
in his senses can refuse to acquiesce in such testimony? To what 
unprejudiced view does not the visible arrangement of the universe 
display the supreme intelligence of its author ? How much sophistry 
does it not require to disavow the harmony of created beings, and 
that admirable order in which all the parts of the system concur 
to the preservation of each other ? You may talk to me as much as 
you please of combinations and chances: what end will it answer 
to reduce me to silence, if you can persuade me into the truth of 
what you advance? and how will you divest me of that involuntary 
sentiment which continually contradicts you? If organized bodies 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 253 

are fortuitously combined in a thousand ways before they assume 
settled and constant forms; if at first they are formed stomachs with- 
out mouths, feet without heads, hands without arms, and imperfect 
organs of every kind, which have perished for want of the necessary 
faculties of self-preservation; how comes it that none of these im- 
perfect essays have engaged our attention? Why hath nature at 
length confined herself to laws to which she was not at first sub- 
jected? I confess that I ought not to be surprised that any possible 
thing should happen, when the rarity of the event is compensated 
by the great odds that it did not happen. And yet if any one were to 
tell me that a number of printer's types, jumbled promiscuously to- 
gether, had arranged themselves in the order of the letters composing 
the yEneid, I certainly should not deign to take one step to verify 
or disprove such a story. It may be said, I forget the number of 
chances: but pray how many must I suppose to render such a com- 
bination in any degree probable ? I, who see only the one, must con- 
clude that there is an infinite number against it, and that it is not the 
effect of chance. Add to this that the product of these combinations 
must be always of the same nature with the combined elements; 
hence life and organization never can result from a blind concourse 
of atoms, nor will the chemist, with all his art in compounds, ever 
find sensation and thought at the bottom of his crucible. 

I have been frequently surprised and sometimes scandalized in 
the reading of Nieuwentheit. What a presumption was it to set 
down to make a book of those wonders of nature that display the 
wisdom of their author? Had his book been as big as the whole 
world, he would not have exhausted his subject; and no sooner do 
we enter into the minutiae of things than the greatest wonder of all 
escapes us; — that is, the harmony and connection of the whole. The 
generation of living and organized bodies alone baffles all the efforts 
of the human understanding. That insurmountable barrier which 
nature hath placed between the various species of animals, that they 
might not be confounded with each other, makes her intentions 
sufficiently evident. Not contented only to establish order, she has 
taken effectual methods to prevent its being disturbed. 

There is not a being in the universe which may not, in some 
respect, be regarded as the common center of all others, which are 



254 ROUSSEAU 

ranged around it in such a manner that they serve reciprocally as 
cause and effect to one another. The imagination is lost and the 
understanding confounded in such an infinite diversity of relations, 
of which, however, not one of them is either lost or confounded in 
the crowd. How absurd the attempt to deduce this wonderful har- 
mony from the blind mechanism of a fortuitous jumble of atoms! 
Those who deny the unity of design, so manifest in the relation of all 
the parts of this grand system, may endeavor as much as they will 
to conceal their absurdities with abstract ideas, coordinations, general 
principles, and emblematical terms. Whatever they may advance, it 
is impossible for me to conceive that a system of beings can be so 
wisely regulated, without the existence of some intelligent cause 
which effects such regulation. It is not in my power to believe that 
passive inanimate matter could ever have produced living and sen- 
sible creatures, — that a blind fatality should be productive of intelli- 
gent beings, — or that a cause, incapable itself of thinking, should 
produce the faculty of thinking in its effects. 

I believe, therefore, that the world is governed by a wise and 
powerful Will. I see it, or rather I feel it; and this is of importance 
for me to know. But is. the world eternal, or is it created? Are 
things derived from one self-existent principle, or are there two or 
more, and what is their essence ? Of all this I know nothing, nor do 
I see that it is necessary I should. In proportion as such knowledge 
may become interesting I will endeavor to acquire it: but further 
than this I give up all such idle disquisitions, which serve only to 
make me discontented with myself, which are useless in practice, and 
are above my understanding. 

You will remember, however, that I am not dictating my senti- 
ments to you, but only explaining what they are. Whether matter 
be eternal or only created, whether it have a passive principle or not, 
certain it is that the whole universe is one design, and sufficiently 
displays one intelligent agent : for I see no part of this system that is 
not under regulation, or that does not concur to one and the same 
end; viz. that of preserving the present and established order of 
things. That Being, whose will is his deed, whose principle of action 
is in himself, — that Being, in a word, whatever it be, that gives 
motion to all parts of the universe, and governs all things, I call God. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 255 

To this term I afHx the ideas of inteUigence, power, and will, which 
I have collected from the order of things; and to these I add that of 
goodness, which is a necessary consequence of their union. But I 
am not at all the wiser concerning the essence of the Being to which 
I give these attributes. He remains at an equal distance from my 
senses and my understanding. The more I think of him, the more 
I am confounded. I know of a certainty that he exists, and that his 
existence is independent of any of his creatures. I know also that 
my existence is dependent on his, and that every being I know is in 
the same situation as myself. I perceive the deity in all his works, 
I feel him within me, and behold him in every object around me: 
but I no sooner endeavor to contemplate what he is in himself, — I 
no sooner enquire where he is, and what is his substance, than he 
eludes the strongest efforts of my imagination; and my bewildered 
understanding is convinced of its own weakness. 

For this reason I shall never take upon me to argue about the 
nature of God further than I am obliged to do by the relation he 
appears to stand in to myself. There is so great a temerity in such 
disquisitions that a wise man will never enter on them without 
trembling, and feeling fully assured of his incapacity to proceed far 
on so sublime a subject: for it is less injurious to entertain no ideas 
of the deity at all, than to harbor those which are unworthy and 
unjust. 

After having discovered those of his attributes by which I am con- 
vinced of his existence, I return to myself and consider the place I 
occupy in that order of things, which is directed by him and sub- 
jected to my examination. Here I find my species stand incontestibly 
in the first rank; as man, by virtue of his will and the instruments he 
is possessed of to put it in execution, has a greater power over the 
bodies by which he is surrounded than they, by mere physical im- 
pulse, have over him. By virtue of his intelligence, I also find, he is 
the only created being here below that can take a general survey of 
the whole system. Is there one among them, except man, who knows 
how to observe all others? — to weigh, to calculate, to foresee their 
motions, their effects, and to join, if I may so express myself, the 
sentiment of a general existence to that of the individual? What is 
there so very ridiculous then in supposing every thing made for man, 



256 ROUSSEAU 

when he is the only created being who knows how to consider the 
relation in which all things stand to himself? 

It is then true that man is lord of the creation, — that he is, at least, 
sovereign over the habitable earth; for it is certain that he not only 
subdues all other animals, and even disposes by his industry of the 
elements at his pleasure, but he alone of all terrestrial beings knows 
how to subject to his convenience, and even by contemplation to 
appropriate to his use, the very stars and planets he cannot approach. 
Let any one produce me an animal of another species who knows 
how to make use of fire, or hath faculties to admire the sun. What! 
am I able to observe, to know other beings and their relations, — am 
I capable of discovering what is order, beauty, virtue, — of contem- 
plating the universe, — of elevating my ideas to the hand which gov- 
erns the whole, — am I capable of loving what is good and doing it, 
and shall I compare myself to the brutes? Abject soul! it is your 
gloomy philosophy alone that renders you at all like them. Or, rather, 
it is vain you would debase yourself. Your own genius rises up 
against your principles; — your benevolent heart gives the lie to your 
absurd doctrines, — and even the abuse of your faculties demonstrates 
their excellence in spite of yourself. 

For my part, who have no system to maintain, who am only a 
simple, honest man, attached to no party, unambitious of being the 
founder of any sect, and contented with the situation in which God 
hath placed me, I see nothing in the world, except the deity, better 
than my own species; and were I left to choose my place in the 
order of created beings, I see none that I could prefer to that of 
man. 

This reflection, however, is less vain than affecting; for my state 
is not the effect of choice, and could not be due to the merit of a 
being that did not before exist. Can I behold myself, nevertheless 
thus distinguished, without thinking myself happy in occupying so 
honorable a post; or without blessing the hand that placed me here? 
From the first view I thus took of myself, my heart began to glow 
with a sense of gratitude towards the author of our being; and 
hence arose my first idea of the worship due to a beneficent deity. I 
adore the supreme power, and melt into tenderness at his goodness. 
I have no need to be taught artificial forms of worship; the dictates 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 257 

of nature are sufficient. Is it not a natural consequence of self-love to 
honor those who protect us, and to love such as do us good ? 

But when I come afterwards to take a view of the particular rank 
and relation in which I stand, as an individual, among the fellow- 
creatures of my species; to consider the different ranks of society and 
the persons by whom they are filled; what a scene is presented to me! 
Where is that order and regularity before observed ? The scenes of 
nature present to my view the most perfect harmony and proportion: 
those of mankind nothing but confusion and disorder. The physical 
elements of things act in concert with each other; the moral world 
alone is a chaos of discord. Mere animals are happy; but man, their 
lord and sovereign, is miserable! Where, Supreme Wisdom! are thy 
laws? Is it thus, O Providence! thou governest the world? What 
is become of thy power, thou Supreme Beneficence! when I behold 
evil thus prevailing upon the earth? 

Would you believe, my good friend, that from such gloomy 
reflections and apparent contradictions, I should form to myself more 
sublime ideas of the soul than ever resulted from my former re- 
searches? In meditating on the nature of man, I conceived that I 
discovered two distinct principles; the one raising him to the study 
of eternal truth, the love of justice and moral beauty — ^bearing him 
aloft to the regions of the intellectual world, the contemplation of 
which yields the truest deUght to the philosopher; the other debasing 
him even below himself, subjecting him to the slavery of sense, the 
tyranny of the passions, and exciting these to counteract every noble 
and generous sentiment inspired by the former. When I perceived 
myself hurried away by two such contrary powers, I naturally con- 
cluded that man is not one simple and individual substance. I will, 
and I will not; I perceive myself at once free, and a slave; I see what 
is good, I admire it, and yet I do the evil : I am active when I listen 
to my reason, and passive when hurried away by my passions; while 
my greatest uneasiness is to find, when fallen under temptations, that 
I had the power of resisting them. 

Attend, young man, with confidence to what I say; you will find 
I shall never deceive you. If conscience be the offspring of our preju- 
dices, I am doubtless in the wrong, and moral virtue is not to be 
demonstrated; but if self-love, which makes us prefer ourselves to 



258 ROUSSEAU 

every thing else, be natural to man, and if nevertheless an innate 
sense of justice be found in his heart, let those who imagine him to 
be a simple uncompounded being reconcile these contradictions, and 
I will give up my opinion and acknowledge him to be one substance. 

You will please to observe that by the word substance I here mean, 
in general, a being possessed of some primitive quality, abstracted 
from all particular or secondary modifications. Now, if all known 
primitive qualities may be united in one and the same being, we 
have no need to admit of more than one substance; but if some of 
these qualities are incompatible with, and necessarily exclusive of 
each other, we must admit of the existence of as many different 
substances as there are such incompatible qualities. You will do well 
to reflect on this subject. For my part, notwithstanding what Mr. 
Locke hath said on this head, I need only to know that matter is 
extended and divisible, to be assured that it cannot think; and when 
a philosopher comes and tells me that trees and rocks have thought 
and perception, he may, perhaps, embarrass me with the subdety of 
his arguments, but I cannot help regarding him as a disingenuous 
sophist, who had rather attribute sentiment to stocks and stones than 
acknowledge men to have a soul. 

Let us suppose that a man, born deaf, should deny the reality of 
sounds, because his ears were never sensible of them. To convince 
him of his error, I place a violin before his eyes; and, by playing on 
another, concealed from him, give a vibration to the strings of the 
former. This motion, I tell him, is effected by sound. 

"Not at all," says he; "the cause of the vibration of the string, is in 
the string itself: it is a common quality in all bodies so to vibrate." 

"Show me then," I reply, "the same vibration in other bodies; or 
at least, the cause of it in this string." 

"I cannot," the deaf man may reply, "but wherefore must I, be- 
cause I do not conceive how this string vibrates, attribute the cause 
to your pretended sounds, of which I cannot entertain the least idea? 
This would be to attempt an explanation of one obscurity by another 
still greater. Either make your sounds perceptible to me, or I shall 
continue to doubt their existence." 

The more I reflect on our capacity of thinking, and the nature of 
the human understanding, the greater is the resemblance I find be- 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 259 

tween the arguments of our materialists and that of such a deaf man. 
They are, in effect, equally deaf to that internal voice which, never- 
theless, calls to them so loud and emphatically. A mere machine is 
evidently incapable of thinking, it has neither motion nor figure 
productive of reflection : whereas in man there exists something per- 
petually prone to expand, and to burst the fetters by which it is con- 
fined. Space itself affords not bounds to the human mind : the whole 
universe is not extensive enough for man; his sentiments, his desires, 
his anxieties, and even his pride, take rise from a principle different 
from that body within which he perceives himself confined. 

No material being can be self-active, and I perceive that I am so. 
It is in vain to dispute with me so clear a point. My own sentiment 
carries with it a stronger conviction than any reason which can ever 
be brought against it. I have a body on which other bodies act, and 
which acts reciprocally upon them. This reciprocal action is indubi- 
table; but my will is independent of my senses. I can either consent 
to, or resist their impressions. I am either vanquished or victor, and 
perceive clearly within myself when I act according to my will, and 
when I submit to be governed by my passions. I have always the 
power to will, though not the force to execute it. When I give myself 
up to any temptation, I act from the impulse of external objects. 
When I reproach myself for my weakness in so doing, I listen only 
to the dictates of my will. I am a slave in my vices, and free in my 
repentance. The sentiment of my liberty is effaced only by my depra- 
vation, and when I prevent the voice of the soul from being heard 
in opposition to the laws of the body. 

All the knowledge I have of volition, is deduced from a sense of 
my own; and, of the understanding, my knowledge is no greater. 
When I am asked what is the cause that determines my will, I ask in 
my turn, what is the cause that determines my judgment? for it is 
clear that these two causes make but one; and if we conceive that 
man is active in forming his judgment of things — that his under- 
standing is only a power of comparing and judging, we shall see 
that his liberty is only a similar power, or one derived from this — he 
chooses the good as he judges of the true, and for the same reason as 
he deduces a false judgment, he makes a bad choice. What then is 
the cause that determines his will? It is his judgment. And what 



26o ROUSSEAU 

is the cause that determines his judgment? It is his intelligent fac- 
ulty, — his power of judging. The determining cause lies in himself. 
If we proceed beyond this point, I know nothing of the matter. 

Not that I can suppose myself at liberty not to will my own good, 
or to will my own evil: but my liberty consists in this very circum- 
stance, that I am incapable to will any thing but what is useful to me, 
or at least what appears so, without any foreign object interfering 
in my determination. Does it follow from hence that I am not my 
own master because I am incapable of assuming another being, or of 
divesting myself of what is essential to my existence ? 

The principle of all action lies in the will of a free being. We can 
go no farther in search of its source. It is not the word liberty that 
has no signification; it is that of necessity. To suppose any act or 
effect, which is not derived from an active principle, is indeed to 
suppose effects without a cause. Either there is no first impulse, or 
every first impulse can have no prior cause; nor can there be any such 
thing as will without liberty. Man is, therefore, a free agent, and as 
such animated by an immaterial substance. This is my third article of 
faith. From these three first you may easily deduce all the rest, with- 
out my continuing to number them. 

If man be an active and free being, he acts of himself. None of his 
spontaneous actions, therefore, enter into the general system of 
Providence, nor can be imputed to it. Providence doth not contrive 
the evil, which is the consequence of man's abusing the liberty his 
creator gave him; it only doth not prevent it, either because the evil 
which so impotent a being is capable of doing is beneath its notice, 
or because it cannot prevent it without laying a restraint upon his 
liberty, and causing a greater evil by debasing his nature. Providence 
hath left man at liberty, not that he should do evil, but good, by 
choice. It hath capacitated him to make such choice, in making a 
proper use of the faculties it hath bestowed on him. His powers, 
however, are at the same time so limited and confined, that the use 
he makes of his liberty is not of importance enough to disturb the 
general order of the universe. The evil done by man falls upon his 
own head, without making any change in the system of the world, — 
without hindering the human species from being preserved in spite 
of themselves. To complain, therefore, that God doth not prevent 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 261 

man from doing evil is, in fact, to complain that he hath given a 
superior excellence to human nature, — that he hath ennobled our 
actions by annexing to them the merit of virtue. 

The highest enjoyment is that of being contented with ourselves. 
It is in order to deserve this contentment that we are placed here on 
earth and endowed with liberty, — that we are tempted by our pas- 
sions, and restrained by conscience. What could Omnipotence itself 
do more in our favor? Could it have established a contradiction in 
our nature, or have allotted a reward for well-doing to a being 
incapable of doing ill ? Is it necessary, in order to prevent man from 
being wicked, to reduce all his faculties to a simple instinct and make 
him a mere brute? No! never can I reproach the Deity for having 
given me a soul made in his own image, that I might be free, good, 
and happy like himself. 

It is the abuse of our faculties which makes us wicked and miser- 
able. Our cares, our anxieties, our griefs, are all owing to ourselves. 
Moral evil is incontestibly our own work, and physical evil would in 
fact be nothing, did not our vices render us sensible of it. Is it not 
for our preservation that nature makes us sensible of our wants ? Is 
not pain of body an indication that the machine is out of order, and 
a caution for us to provide a remedy? And as to death, do not the 
wicked render both our lives and their own miserable ? Who can be 
desirous of living here forever? Death is a remedy for all the evils 
we inflict on ourselves. Nature will not let us suffer perpetually. To 
how few evils are men subject who live in primeval simplicity! They 
hardly know any disease, and are irritated by scarcely any passions. 
They neither foresee death, nor suffer by the apprehensions of it. 
When it approaches, their miseries render it desirable, and it is to 
them no evil. If we could be contented with being what we are, we 
should have no inducement to lament our fate; but we inflict on 
ourselves a thousand real evils in seeking after an imaginary happi- 
ness. Those who are impatient under trifling inconveniences, must 
expect to suffer much greater. In our endeavors to reestablish by 
medicines a constitution impaired by irregularities, we always add 
to the evil we feel, the greater one which we fear. Our apprehensions 
of death anticipate its horrors and hasten its approach. The faster 
we endeavor to fly, the swifter it pursues us. Thus we are terrified 



262 ROUSSEAU 

as long as we live, and die murmuring against nature on account of 
those evils which we bring on ourselves by doing outrage to her laws. 

Enquire no longer then, who is the author of evil. Behold him in 
yourself. There exists no other evil in nature than what you either 
do or suffer, and you are equally the author of both. A general evil 
could exist only in disorder, but in the system of nature I see an 
established order, which is never disturbed. Particular evil exists only 
in the sentiment of the suffering being; and this sentiment is not 
given to man by nature, but is of his own acquisition. Pain and 
sorrow have but little hold on those who, unaccustomed to reflec- 
tion, have neither memory nor foresight. Take away our fatal im- 
provements — take away our errors and our vices — take away, in 
short, every thing that is the work of man, and all that remains is 
good. 

Where every thing is good, nothing can be unjust, justice being 
inseparable from goodness. Now goodness is the necessary effect of 
infinite power and self-love essential to every being conscious of its 
existence. An omnipotent Being extends its existence also, if I may 
so express myself, with that of its creatures. Production and preserva- 
tion follow from the constant exertion of its power: it does not act 
on non-existence. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. 
He cannot be mischievous or wicked without hurting himself. A 
being capable of doing every thing cannot will to do any thing but 
what is good. He who is infinitely good, therefore, because he is 
infinitely powerful, must also be supremely just, otherwise he would 
be inconsistent with himself. For that love of order which produces 
it we call goodness, and that love of order which preserves it is called 
justice. 

God, it is said, owes nothing to his creatures. For my part, I be- 
lieve he owes them every thing he promised them when he gave 
them being. Now what is less than to promise them a blessing, if he 
gives them an idea of it, and has so constituted them as to feel the 
want of it? The more I look into myself, the more plainly I read 
these words written in my soul: Be just and thou wilt be happy. I see 
not the truth of this, however, in the present state of things, wherein 
the wicked triumph and the just are trampled on and oppressed. 
What indignation, hence, arises within us to find that our hopes are 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 263 

frustrated! Conscience itself rises up and complains of its maker. It 
cries out to him, lamenting, thou hast deceived me! 

"I have deceived thee! rash man? Who hath told thee so? Is thy 
soul annihilated? Dost thou cease to exist? Oh, Brutus! stain not 
a life of glory in the end. Leave not thy honor and thy hopes with 
thy body in the fields of Philippi. Wherefore dost thou say, virtue 
is a shadow, when thou wilt yet enjoy the reward of thine own? 
Dost thou imagine thou art going to die? No! thou art going to 
live! and then will I make good every promise I have made to thee." 

One would be apt to think, from the murmurs of impatient mor- 
tals, that God owed them a recompense before they had deserved it; 
and that he was obliged to reward their virtue beforehand. No; let 
us first be virtuous, and rest assured we shall sooner or later be happy. 
Let us not require the prize before we have won the victory, nor 
demand the price of our labor before the work be finished. "It is not 
in the lists," says Plutarch, "that the victors at our games are 
crowned, but after the contests are over." 

If the soul be immaterial, it may survive the body, and if so. Provi- 
dence is justified. Had I no other proof of the immateriaUty of the 
soul, than the oppression of the just and the triumph of the wicked 
in this world, this alone would prevent my having the least doubt 
of it. So shocking a discord amidst the general harmony of things, 
would make me naturally look out for the cause. I should say to 
myself, we do not cease to exist with this life, — every thing reassumes 
its order after death. I should, indeed, be embarrassed to tell where 
man was to be found, when all his perceptible properties were de- 
stroyed. At present, however, there appears to me no difEculty in this 
point, as I acknowledge the existence of two different substances. It 
is very plain that during my corporeal life, as I perceive nothing but 
by means of my senses, whatever is not submitted to their cognizance 
must escape me. When the union of the body and the soul is broken, 
I conceive that the one may be dissolved, and the other preserved 
entire. Why should the dissolution of the one necessarily bring on 
that of the other ? On the contrary, being so different in their natures, 
their state of union is a state of violence, and when it is broken they 
both return to their natural situation. The active and living sub- 
stance regains all the force it had employed in giving motion to the 



264 ROUSSEAU 

passive and dead substance to which it had been united. Alas! my 
failings make me but too sensible that man is but half alive in this 
life, and that the life of the soul commences at the death of the 
body. 

But what is that life? Is the soul immortal in its own nature ? My 
limited comprehension is incapable of conceiving any thing that is 
unlimited. Whatever we call infinite is beyond my conception. What 
can I deny or afHrm? — what arguments can I employ on a subject I 
cannot conceive? I believe that the soul survives the body so long 
as is necessary to justify Providence in the good order of things; 
but who knows that this will be forever ? I can readily conceive how 
material bodies wear away and are destroyed by the separation of 
their parts, but I cannot conceive a like dissolution of a thinking 
being; and hence, as I cannot imagine how it can die, I presume it 
cannot die at all. This presumption, also, being consolatory and not 
unreasonable, why should I be fearful to indulge it ? 

I feel that I have a soul: I know it both from thought and senti- 
ment: I know that it exists, without knowing its essence: I cannot 
reason, therefore, on ideas which I have not. One thing, indeed, I 
know very well, which is, that the identity of my being can be pre- 
served only by the memory, and that to be in fact the same person, 
I must remember to have previously existed. Now I cannot recollect, 
after my death, what I was during life, without also recollecting my 
perceptions, and consequently my actions: and I doubt not but this 
remembrance will one day constitute the happiness of the just and 
the torment of the wicked. Here below, the violence of our passions 
absorbs the innate sentiment of right and wrong, and stifles remorse. 
The mortification and obloquy which virtue often suffers in the 
world, may prevent our being sensible of its charms. But when, de- 
livered from the delusions of sense, we shall enjoy the contemplation 
of the Supreme Being, and those eternal truths of which he is the 
source; — when the beauty of the natural order of things shall strike 
all the faculties of the soul, and when we shall be employed solely 
in comparing what we have really done with what we ought to have 
done, then will the voice of conscience reassume its tone and strength; 
then will that pure delight, which arises from a consciousness of 
virtue, and the bitter regret of having debased ourselves by vice, 
determine the lot which is severally prepared for us. Ask me not, my 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 265 

good friend, if there may not be some other causes of future happi- 
ness and misery. I confess I am ignorant. These, however, which I 
conceive, are sufficient to console me under the inconveniencies of this 
hfe, and give me hopes of another. I do not pretend to say that the 
virtuous will receive any peculiar rewards; for what other advantage 
can a being, excellent in its own nature, expect than to exist in a 
manner agreeable to the excellence of its constitution? I dare afSrm, 
nevertheless, that they will be happy: because their Creator, the 
author of all justice, having given them sensibility, cannot have made 
them to be miserable; and as they have not abused their liberty on 
earth, they have not perverted the design of their creation by their 
own fault: yet, as they have suffered evils in this life, they will cer- 
tainly be indemnified in another. This opinion is not so much 
founded on the merits of a man, as on the notion of that goodness 
which appears to me inseparable from the divine nature. I only sup- 
pose the order of things strictly maintained, and that the Deity is 
ever consistent with himself. 

It would be to as little purpose to ask me whether the torments of 
the wicked will be eternal. On this subject I am entirely ignorant, 
and have not the vain curiosity to perplex myself with such useless 
disquisitions. Indeed, why should I interest myself to discover their 
ultimate fate and destiny? I can never believe, however, that they 
will be condemned to everlasting torments. 

If supreme justice avenges itself on the wicked, it avenges itself on 
them here below. It is you and your errors, ye nations! that are its 
ministers of vengeance. It employs the evils you bring on each other, 
to punish the crimes for which you deserve them. It is in the insa- 
tiable hearts of mankind, — corroding with envy, avarice, and ambi- 
tion, — that their avenging passions punish them for their vices, 
amidst all the false appearances of prosperity. Where is the necessity 
of seeking a hell in another life, when it is to be found even in this, — 
in the hearts of the wicked. 

Where our momentary necessities or senseless desires have an end, 
there ought our passions and our vices to end also. Of what per- 
versity can pure spirits be susceptible? As they stand in need of 
nothing, to what end should they be vicious? If destitute of our 
grosser senses, can they be desirous of any thing but good? Doth not 
their happiness consist principally in contemplation, and is it pos- 



266 ROUSSEAU 

sible that those who cease to be wicked should be eternally miserable ? 

This is what I am inclined to believe on this head, without giving 
myself the trouble to determine positively concerning the matter. 

O righteous and merciful being! whatever be thy decrees, I ac- 
knowledge their rectitude. If thou punishest the wicked, my weak 
reason is dumb before thy justice. But if the remorse of those unfor- 
tunate wretches is to have an end, — if the same fate is one day to 
attend us all, — my soul exults in thy praise. Is not the wicked man, 
after all, my brother ? How often have I been tempted to resemble 
him in partaking of his vices. O! may he be deUvered from his 
misery; may he cast off, also, that malignity which accompanies it; 
may he be ever as happy as myself; so far from exciting my jealousy, 
his happiness will only add to my own. 

It is thus by contemplating God in his works, and studying him 
in those attributes which it imports me to know, that I learn by 
degrees to extend that imperfect and confined idea I had at first 
formed of the Supreme Being. But, if this idea becomes thus more 
grand and noble, it is proportionably less adapted to the weakness 
of the human understanding. In proportion as my mind approaches 
eternal light, its brightness dazzles and confounds me; so that I am 
forced to give up all those mean and earthly images which assist 
my imagination. God is no longer a corporeal and perceptible being: 
the supreme Intelligence which governs the world, is no longer the 
world itself; but in vain I endeavour to elevate my thoughts to a 
conception of his essence. When I reflect that it is he who gives life 
and activity to that living and active substance which moves and 
governs animated bodies, — when I am told that my soul is a spiritual 
being, and that God is also a spirit, I am incensed at this debasement 
of the divine essence, as if God and my soul were of the same nature, 
as if God was not the only absolute, the only truly active being, — 
perceiving, thinking and willing of himself, — from whom his crea- 
tures derive thought, activity, will, liberty, and existence. We are 
free only because it is his will that we should be so; his inexplicable 
substance being, with respect to our souls, such as our souls are in 
regard to our bodies. I know nothing of his having created matter, 
bodies, spirits, or the world. The idea of creation confounds me and 
surpasses my conception, though I believe as much of it as I am able 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 267 

to conceive. But I know that God hath formed the universe and all 
that exists, in the most consummate order. He is doubtless eternal, 
but I am incapacitated to conceive an idea of eternity. Why then 
should I amuse myself with words? All that I conceive is, that he 
existed before all things, that he exists with them, and will exist after 
them, if they should ever have an end. That a being, whose essence 
is inconceivable, should give existence to other beings, is at best 
obscure and incomprehensible to our ideas; but that something and 
nothing should be reciprocally converted into each other is a pal- 
pable contradiction, a most manifest absurdity. 

God is inteUigent; but in what manner ? Man is intelligent by the 
act of reasoning, but the supreme intelligence lies under no necessity 
to reason. He requires neither premises nor consequences; nor even 
the simple form of a proposition. His knowledge is purely intuitive. 
He beholds equally what is and will be. All truths are to him as one 
idea, as all places are but one point, and all times one moment. 
Human power acts by the use of means, the divine power in and of 
itself. God is powerful because he is willing, his will constituting his 
power. God is good. Nothing is more manifest than this truth. 
Goodness in man, however, consists in a love to his fellow<reatures, 
and the goodness of God in a love of order; for it is on such order 
that the connexion and preservation of all things depend. Again, 
God is just. This I am fully convinced of, as justice is the natural 
consequence of goodness. The injustice of men is their own work, 
not his; and that moral disorder, which in the judgment of some 
philosophers makes against the system of providence, is in mine 
the strongest argument for it. Justice in man, indeed, is to render 
every one his due: but the justice of God requires at the hands of 
every one an account of the talents with which he has entrusted them. 

In the discovery by the force of reason, however, of those divine 
attributes of which I have no absolute idea, I only afSrm what I do 
not clearly comprehend; which is in effect to afSrm nothing. I may 
say, it is true that, God is this or that; I may be sensible of it and 
fully convinced within myself, but I may yet be unable to conceive 
how, or in what manner he is so. 

In short, the greater efforts I make to contemplate his infinite 
essence, the less I am able to conceive it. But I am certain that he is. 



268 ROUSSEAU 

and that is sufficient. The more he surpasses my conceptions, the 
more I adore him. I humble myself before him, and say: 

"Being of beings! I am, because thou art. To meditate continually 
on thee is to elevate my thoughts to the fountain of existence. The 
most meritorious use of my reason is to be annihilated before thee. 
It is the delight of my soul, to feel my weak faculties overcome by 
the splendor of thy greatness." 

After having thus deduced this most important truth, from the 
impressions of perceptible objects and that innate principle which 
leads me to judge of natural causes from experience, it remains for 
me to inquire what maxims I ought to draw therefrom for my 
conduct in life, — what rules I ought to prescribe to myself, in order 
to fulfill my destiny on earth agreeably to the design of him who 
placed me here. To pursue my own method, I deduce these rules, 
not from the sublime principles of philosophy, but find them written 
in indelible characters on my heart. I have only to consult myself 
concerning what I ought to do. All that I feel to be right, is right: 
whatever I feel to be wrong, is wrong. Conscience is the ablest of all 
casuists, and it is only when we are trafficing with her, that we have 
recourse to the subtilties of logical ratiocination. The chief of our 
concerns is that of ourselves; yet how often have we not been told 
by the monitor within, that to pursue our own interest at the expense 
of others would be to do wrong! We imagine, thus, that we are 
sometimes obeying the impulse of nature, and we are all the while 
resisting it. In listening to the voice of our senses we turn a deaf ear 
to the dictates of our hearts, — the active being obeys, — the passive 
being commands. Conscience is the voice of the soul,- — the passions 
are the voice of the body. Is it surprising that these two voices should 
sometimes contradict each other, or can it be doubted, when they 
do, which ought to be obeyed.? Reason deceives us but too often, 
and has given us a right to distrust her conclusions; but conscience 
never deceives us. She is to the soul what instinct^ is to the body, — 

^Modern philosophy, which affects to admit of nothing but what it can explain, 
hath nevertheless very unadvisedly admitted of that obscure faculty, called instinct, 
which appears to direct animals to the purposes of their being, without any acquisition 
of knowledge. Instinct, according to one of our greatest philosophers, is a habit destitute 
of reflection, but acquired by reflecting. Thus from the manner in which he explains 
its progress, we are led to conclude that children reflect more than grown persons; 
a paradox singular enough to require some examination. Without entering, however, 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 269 

she is man's truest and safest guide. Whoever puts himself under 
the conduct of this guide pursues the direct path of nature, and need 
not fear to be misled. This point is very important, (pursued my 
benefactor, perceiving I was going to interrupt him), permit me to 
detain you a little longer in order to clear it up. 

All the morality of our actions lies in the judgments we ourselves 
form of them. If virtue be any thing real, it ought to be the same 
in our hearts as in our actions; and one of the first rewards of virtue 
is to be conscious of our putting it in practice. If moral goodness be 
agreeable to our nature, a man cannot be sound of mind or perfectly 
constituted, unless he be good. On the contrary, if it be not so and 
man is naturally wicked, he cannot become good without a corrup- 
tion of his nature; goodness being contrary to his constitution. 
Formed for the destruction of his fellow-creatures, as the wolf is to 
devour its prey, an humane and compassionate man would be as 
depraved an animal as a meek and lamb-like wolf, while virtue only 
would leave behind it the stings of remorse. 

Let us examine ourselves, my young friend, all partiality apart, 
and see which way our inclinations tend. Which is most agreeable 
to us, to contemplate the happiness or the miseries of others ? Which 
is the most pleasing for us to do, and leaves the most agreeable 
reflection after it, an act of benevolence or of cruelty ? For whom are 
we the most deeply interested at our theatres ? Do you take a pleas- 
ure in acts of villainy ? or do you shed tears at seeing the authors of 

into the discussion of it at present, I would only ask what name I am to give to that 
eagerness which my dog shows to pursue a mole, for instance, which he does not 
eat when he has caught it; — to that patience with which he stands watching for them 
whole hours, and to that expertness with which he makes them a prey the moment 
they reach the surface of the earth; and that in order only to kill them, without ever 
having been trained to mole hunting, or having been taught that moles were beneath 
the spot? I would ask further, as more important, why the first time I threaten the 
same dog, he throws himself down with his back to the ground and his feet raised 
in a suppliant attitude, the most proper of all others to excite my compassion; an 
attitude in which he would not long remain if I were so obdurate as to beat him 
lying in such a posture? Is it possible that a young puppy can have already acquired 
moral ideas? Can he have any notion of clemency and generosity? What experience 
can encourage him to hope he shall appease me, by giving himself up to my mercy? 
Almost all dogs do nearly the same thing in the same circumstances, nor do I advance 
any thing here of which every one may not convince himself. Let the philosophers, 
who reject so disdainfully the term instinct, explain this fact merely by the operation 
of our senses, and the knowledge thereby acquired; let them explain it, I say, in a 
manner satisfactory to any person of common sense, and I have no more to say in 
favor of instinct. 



270 ROUSSEAU 

them brought to condign punishment? It has been said that every 
thing is indifferent to us in which we are not interested: the contrary, 
however, is certain; as the soothing endearments o£ friendship and 
humanity console us under affliction; and even in our pleasures we 
should be too solitary, too miserable, if we had nobody to partake 
them with us. If there be nothing moral in the heart of man, whence 
arise those transports of admiration and esteem we entertain for 
heroic actions and great minds ? What has this virtuous enthusiasm 
to do with our private interest ? Wherefore do I rather wish to be an 
expiring Cato, than a triumphant Caesar? Deprive our hearts of a 
natural affection for the sublime and beautiful, and you deprive us 
of all the pleasures of life. The man whose meaner passions have 
stifled in his narrow soul such delightful sentiments, — he who by 
dint of concentrating all his affections within himself hath arrived 
at the pitch of having no regard for any one else, is no longer 
capable of such transports. His frozen heart never flutters with joy; 
no sympathetic tenderness brings the tears into his eyes; he is in- 
capable of enjoyment. The unhappy wretch is void of sensibility: 
he is already dead. 

But how great soever may be the number of the wicked, there are 
but few of these cadaverous souls — ^but few persons so insensible, if 
their own interest be set aside, to what is just and good. Iniquity 
never pleases unless we profit by it : in every other case it is natural 
for us to desire the protection of the innocent. When we see, for 
instance, in the street or on the highway, an act of injustice or violence 
committed, an emotion of resentment and indignation immediately 
rises in the heart, and incites us to stand up in defence of the injured 
and oppressed: but a more powerful consideration restrains us, and 
the laws deprive individuals of the right of taking upon themselves 
to avenge insulted innocence. On the contrary, if we happen to be 
witnesses to any act of compassion or generosity, with what admira- 
tion, with what esteem are we instantly inspired! Who is there that 
doth not, on such an occasion, say to himself, would that I had done 
as much! It is certainly of very little consequence to us whether a 
man was good or bad who lived two thousand years ago; and yet 
we are as much affected in this respect by the relations we meet with 
in ancient history, as if the transactions recorded had happened in 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 27 I 

our own times. Of what hurt is the wickedness of a Catiline to me ? 
Am I afraid of falling a victim to his villainy ? Wherefore, then, do 
I look upon him with the same horror as if he were my contem- 
porary ? We hate the wicked not only because their vices are hurtful, 
but also because they are wicked. We are not only desirous of happi- 
ness for ourselves, but also for the happiness of others; and when 
that happiness doth not diminish ours, it necessarily increases it. 
In a word, we cannot help sympathizing with the unfortunate, and 
always suffer when we are witnesses to their misery. The most per- 
verse natures cannot be altogether divested of this sympathy; though 
it frequently causes them to act in contradiction to themselves. The 
robber who strips the passenger on the highway, will frequently 
distribute his spoils to cover the nakedness of the poor, and the most 
barbarous assassin may be induced humanely to support a man 
falUng into a fit. 

We hear daily of the cries of remorse for secret crimes, and fre- 
quently see remarkable instances of conscience bringing these crimes 
to light. Alas! who is a total stranger to this importunate voice? We 
speak of it from experience, and would be glad to silence so dis- 
agreeable a monitor. But let us be obedient to nature. We know that 
her government is very mild and gracious, and that nothing is more 
agreeable than the testimony of a good conscience, which ever follows 
our observance of her laws. The wicked man is afraid of, and shuns 
himself. He turns his eyes on every side in search of objects to 
amuse him. Without an opportunity for satire and raillery he would 
be always sad. His only pleasure lies in mockery and insult. On the 
contrary, the serenity of the just is internal. His smiles are not those 
of malignity but of joy. The source of them is found in himself, and 
he is as cheerful when alone as in the midst of an assembly. He 
derives not contentment from those who approach him, but com- 
municates it to them. 

Cast your eye over the several nations of the world: take a retro- 
spective view of their various histories. Amidst all the many in- 
human and absurd forms of worship, — amidst all that prodigious 
diversity of manners and characters, — you will everywhere find the 
same ideas of justice and honesty, — the same notions of good and 
evil. Ancient paganism adopted the most abominable deities, which 



272 ROUSSEAU 

it would have punished on earth as infamous criminals — deities that 
presented no other picture of supreme happiness than the commis- 
sion of crimes, and the gratification of their passions. But vice, armed 
even with sacred authority, descended in vain on earth. Moral in- 
stinct influenced the human heart to rebel against it. Even in cele- 
brating the debaucheries of Jupiter, the world admired and respected 
the continence of Xenocrates. The chaste Lucretia adored the impu- 
dent Venus. The intrepid Roman sacrificed to Fear. They invoked 
the god Jupiter who disabled his father Saturn, and yet they died 
without murmuring by the hand of their own. The most con- 
temptible divinities were adored by the noblest of men. The voice of 
nature, more powerful than that of the gods, made itself respected 
on earth, and seemed to have banished vice to heaven. 

There evidently exists, then, in the soul of man, an innate prin- 
ciple of justice and goodness, by which, in spite of our own maxims, 
we approve or condemn the actions of ourselves and others. To 
this principle it is that I give the appellation of conscience. 

At this word, however, I hear the clamor of our pretentious philos- 
ophers, who all exclaim about the mistakes of infancy and the preju- 
dices of education. There is nothing, they say, in the human mind 
but what is instilled by experience; nor can we judge of anything but 
from the ideas we have acquired. Nay, they go farther, and venture 
to reject the universal sense of all nations; seeking some obscure 
example known only to themselves, to controvert this striking uni- 
formity in the judgment of mankind: as if all the natural inclina- 
tions of the race were annihilated by the depravation of one people, 
and as if when monsters appeared the species itself were extinct. 
But what end did it serve to the skeptical Montaigne, to take so 
much trouble to discover in an obscure corner of the world a custom 
opposed to the common notions of justice.? What end did it answer 
for him to place that confidence in the most suspicious travellers 
which he refused to the most celebrated writers? Should a few 
whimsical and uncertain customs, founded on local motives un- 
known to us, invalidate a general induction drawn from the united 
concurrence of all nations, contradicting each other in every other 
point and agreeing only in this ? You pique yourself, Montaigne, on 
being ingenuous and sincere. Give us a proof, if it be in the power 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 273 

of a philosopher, of your frankness and veracity. Tell me if there 
be any country upon earth in which it is deemed a crime to be 
sincere, compassionate, beneficent, and generous, — in which an hon- 
est man is despicable, and knavery held in esteem? 

It is pretended that every one contributes to the public good for 
his own interest; but whence comes it that the virtuous man con- 
tributes to it to his prejudice? Can a man lay down his life for his 
own interest? It is certain all our actions are influenced by a view 
to our own good; but unless we take moral good into the account, 
none but the actions of the wicked can ever be explained by motives 
of private interest. We imagine, indeed, that no more will be at- 
tempted; as that would be too abominable a kind of philosophy, by 
which we should be puzzled to account for virtuous actions; or could 
extricate ourselves out of the difficulty only by attributing them to 
base designs and sinister views; — ^by debasing a Socrates and calum- 
niating a Regulus. If ever such doctrines should take rise among us, 
the voice of nature as well as of reason would check their growth 
and leave not even one of those who inculcate them the simple excuse 
of being sincere. 

It is not my design here to enter into such metaphysical investiga- 
tions, as surpass both your capacity and mine, and which in fact are 
useless. I have already told you I would not talk philosophy to you, 
but only assist you to consult your own heart. Were all the philoso- 
phers in Europe to prove me in the wrong, yet if you were sensible 
I was in the right, I should desire nothing more. 

To this end you need only to distinguish between our acquired 
ideas and our natural sentiments, for we are sensible before we are 
intelligent; and as we do not learn to desire our own good and to 
avoid what is evil, but possess this desire immediately from nature, 
so the love of virtue and hatred of vice are as natural as the love of 
ourselves. The operations of conscience are not intellectual, but 
sentimental; for though all our ideas are acquired from without, the 
sentiments which estimate them arise from within; and it is by these 
alone that we know the agreement or disagreement which exists 
between us and those things which we ought to seek or shun. 

To exist is, with us, to be sensible. Our sensibility is incontestably 
prior to our intelligence, and we were possessed of sentiment before 



274 ROUSSEAU 

we formed ideas. Whatever was the cause of our being, it hath 
provided for our preservation in furnishing us with sentiments agree- 
able to our constitution, nor can it possibly be denied that these at 
least are innate. 

These sentiments are, in the individual, — the love of himself, aver- 
sion to pain, dread of death, and the desire of happiness. But if, as 
it cannot be doubted, man is by nature a social being, or at least 
formed to become such, his sociability absolutely requires that he 
should be furnished with other innate sentiments relative to his 
species; for to consider only the physical wants of men, it would 
certainly be better for them to be dispersed than assembled. 

Now it is from this moral system,— formed by its duplicate rela- 
tion to himself and his fellow creatures, that the impulse of con- 
science arises. To know what is virtuous is not to love virtue. Man 
has no innate knowledge of virtue; but no sooner is it made known 
to him by reason, than conscience induces him to love and admire it. 
This is the innate sentiment I mean. 

I cannot think it impossible therefore to explain, from natural 
consequences, the immediate principle of conscience independent of 
reason; and, though it were impossible, it is not at all necessary; 
since those who reject this principle (admitted, however, and ac- 
knowledged in general by all mankind) do not prove its non- 
existence, but content themselves with affirming it only. When we 
affirm that it doth exist, we stand at least on as good a footing as 
they, and have besides that internal testimony for us, — the voice of 
conscience deposing in behalf of itself. If the first glimmerings of the 
understanding dazzle our sight, and make objects appear at first 
obscure or confused, let us wait but a little while till our eyes recover 
themselves and gather strength, and we shall presently see, by the 
light of reason, those same objects to be such as nature first presented 
them: or rather, let us be more simple and less vain; let us confine 
ourselves to the sentiments we first discovered, as it is to these our 
well-regulated studies must always recur. 

O Conscience! Conscience! thou divine instinct, thou certain 
guide of an ignorant and confined, though intelligent and free be- 
ing; — thou infallible judge of good and evil, who makest man to 
resemble the Deity. In thee consist the excellence of our nature and 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 275 

the morality of our actions. Without thee I perceive nothing in 
myself that should elevate me above the brutes, except the melancholy 
privilege of wandering from error to error by the assistance of an 
ill-regulated understanding and undisciplined reason. 

Thank heaven, we are delivered from this formidable apparatus 
of philosophy. We can be men without being sages. Without spend- 
ing our days in the study of morality, we possess at a cheaper rate 
a more certain guide through the immense and perplexing labyrinth 
of human opinions. It is not enough, however, that such a guide 
exists, — it is necessary to know and follow her. If she speaks to all 
hearts, it may be said, how comes it that so few understand her? 
It is, alas! because she speaks to us in the language of nature, which 
every thing conspires to make us forget. Conscience is timid, — she 
loves peace and retirement. The world and its noises terrify her. 
The prejudices she has been compelled to give rise to are her most 
cruel enemies, before whom she is silent or avoids their presence. 
Their louder voice entirely overpowers her's, and prevents her being 
heard. Fanaticism counterfeits her nature, and dictates in her name 
the greatest of crimes. Thus, from being often rejected, she at length 
ceases to speak to us, and answers not our inquiries after being long 
held in contempt; it also costs us as much trouble to recall, as it did 
at first to banish her from our bosoms. 

How often in my researches have I found myself fatigued from 
my indifference! How often hath uneasiness and disgust, poisoning 
my meditations, rendered them insupportable! My insensible heart 
was susceptible only of a luke-warm and languishing zeal for truth, 
I said to myself, why should I take the trouble to seek after things 
that have no existence? Virtue is a mere chimera, nor is there any 
thing desirable but the pleasures of sense. When a man hath once 
lost a taste for the pleasures of the mind, how difficult to recover it! 
How much more difficult it also is for one to acquire such a taste 
who never possessed it! If there be in the world a man so miserable 
as never in his life to have done an action the remembrance of which 
must make him satisfied with himself, that man must be ever in- 
capable of such a taste; and for want of being able to perceive that 
goodness which is conformable to his nature, must of necessity re- 
main wicked as he is, and eternally miserable. But can you believe 



276 ROUSSEAU 

there exists on earth a human creature so depraved as never to have 
given up his heart to the incUnation of doing good ? The temptation 
is so natural and seductive, that it is impossible always to resist it, and 
the remembrance of the pleasure it hath once given us is sufficient 
to commend it to us ever afterwards. Unhappily, this propensity is 
at first difficult to gratify. There are a thousand reasons for our not 
complying with the dictates of our hearts. The false prudence of the 
world confines our good inclinations to ourselves, and all our forti- 
tude is necessary to cast off the yoke. To take a pleasure in virtue is 
the reward of having been virtuous, nor is this prize to be obtained 
till it be merited. 

Nothing is more amiable than virtue, but we must possess it, in 
order to find it such. When we court at first its embraces, it assumes, 
like Proteus in the fable, a thousand terrifying forms, and displays 
at last its own only to those who are tenacious of their hold. 

Wavering perpetually between my natural sentiments, tending to 
the general good of mankind, and my reason, confining everything 
to my own, I should have remained all my life in this continual 
dilemma, doing evil yet loving good, in constant contradiction with 
myself, had not new knowledge enlightened my heart; had not the 
truth, which determined my opinions, directed also my conduct and 
rendered me consistent. 

It is in vain to attempt the establishment of virtue on the founda- 
tion of reason alone. What solidity is there in such a base? Virtue, 
it is said, is the love of order; but can or ought this love of order to 
prevail over that of my own happiness? Let there be given me a 
clear and sufficient reason for my giving it the preference. This 
pretended principle is at the bottom only a mere play upon words; 
as I may as well say that vice also consists in the love of order taken 
in a different sense. There is some kind of moral order in every 
thing that has sentiment and intelligence. The difference is that a 
good being regulates himself according to the general order of things, 
and a wicked being regulates things agreeably to his own private 
interest: the latter makes himself the centre of all things, and the 
former measures his radius and disposes himself in the circumfer- 
ence. Here he is arranged, with respect to the common centre, as 
God, and with respect to all concentric circles, as his fellow creatures. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 277 

If there be no God, the wicked man only reasons right — the good 
man is a mere fool. 

O my child! may you be one day sensible how great a weight we 
are relieved from, when, having exhausted the vanity of human 
opinions and tasted of the bitterness of the passions, we see our- 
selves at last so near the path to wisdom, — the reward of our good 
actions, and the source of that happiness we had despaired of ob- 
taining. 

Every duty prescribed by the laws of nature, though almost effaced 
from my heart by the injustice of mankind, again revived at the 
name of that eternal justice which imposed them, and was a witness 
to my discharge of them. I see in myself nothing more than the work 
and instrument of a superior being desirous of and doing good, 
desirous also of effecting mine by the concurrence of my will to his 
own, and by my making a right use of my liberty. I acquiesce in the 
regularity and order he hath established, being certain of enjoying 
one day or other that order in myself, and of finding my happiness 
therein: for what can afford greater felicity than to perceive one's self 
making a part of a system where every thing is constructed aright ? 
On every occasion of pain or sorrow I support them with patience, 
reflecting that they are transitory and that they are derived from a 
body that is detached from myself. If I do a good action in secret, I 
know that it is nevertheless seen, and make the consideration of an- 
other life the rule of my conduct in this. If I am ever dealt with 
unjustly I say to myself, that just Being, who governs all things, 
knows how to indemnify me. My corporeal necessities and the 
miseries inseparable from this mortal life, make the apprehensions 
of death more supportable. I have hence so many chains the less to 
break when I am obliged to quit this mortal scene. 

For what reason my soul is thus subjected to the organs of sense 
and chained to a body which lays it under so much restraint, I 
know not, nor presume to enter into the decrees of the Almighty. 
But I may, without temerity, form a modest conjecture or two on this 
subject. I reflect that, if the mind of man had remained perfectly 
free and pure, what merit could he have pretended to in admiring 
and pursuing that order which he saw already established, and which 
he would lie under no temptation to disturb.'' It is true he would 



278 ROUSSEAU 

have been happy, but he could not have attained that most sub- 
lime degree of felicity — the glory of virtue and the testimony of a 
good conscience. We should in such a case have been no better than 
the angels, and without doubt a virtuous man will be one day much 
superior. Being united on earth to a mortal body by ties not less 
powerful than incomprehensible, the preservation of that body be- 
comes the great concern of the soul, and makes its present apparent 
interests contrary to the general order of things, which it is never- 
theless capable of seeing and admiring. It is in this situation that by 
making a good use of his liberty, it becomes at once his merit and 
his reward; and that he prepares for himself eternal happiness in 
combating his earthly passions, and preserving the primitive purity 
of his will. 

But even supposing that in our present state of depravity our 
primitive propensities were such as they ought to be, yet if all our 
vices are derived from ourselves, why do we complain that we are 
subjected by them? Why do we impute to the Creator those evils 
which we bring on ourselves, and those enemies we arm against our 
own happiness.'' Ah! let us not spoil the man of nature, and he will 
always be virtuous without constraint, and happy without remorse. 
The criminals who pretend they are compelled to sin, are as false as 
they are wicked. Is it possible for them not to see that the weakness 
they complain of is their own work; that their first depravation was 
owing to their own will; that by their willfully yielding at first to 
temptations, they at length find them irresistible? It is true they 
now cannot help their being weak and wicked; but it is their fault 
that they at first became so. How easily might men preserve the 
mastery over themselves and their passions even during life if, before 
their vicious habits are acquired, when the faculties of the mind 
are just beginning to be displayed, they should employ themselves on 
those objects which it is necessary for them to know in order to 
judge of those which are unknown; if they were sincerely desirous 
of acquiring knowledge, not with a view of making a parade in the 
eyes of others, but in order to render themselves wise, good, and 
happy in the practice of their natural duties! This study appears 
difficult because we only apply to it after being already corrupted by 
vice, and made slaves to our passions. We place our judgment and 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 279 

esteem on objects before we arrive at the knowledge o£ good and 
evil, and then referring every thing to that false standard, we hold 
nothing in its due estimation. 

The heart, at a certain age, while it is yet free, eager, restless, and 
anxious for happiness, is ever seeking it with an impatient and 
uncertain curiosity; when deceived by the senses, it fixes on the 
shadow of it, and imagines it to be found where it doth not exist. 
This illusion hath prevailed too long with me. I discovered it, alasl 
too late; and have not been able entirely to remove it: no, it will 
remain with me as long as this mortal body, which gave rise to it. 
It may prove as seductive, however, as it will, it can no longer 
deceive me. I know it for what it is, and even while I am misled 
by it, despise it. So far from esteeming it an object of happiness, 
I see it is an obstacle to it. Hence I long for that moment when I 
shall shake off this incumbrance of body and be myself, without 
inconsistency or participation with matter, and shall depend on 
myself only to be happy. In the mean time I make myself happy 
in this life, because I hold the evils of Ufe as trifling in themselves; 
as almost foreign to my being; and conceive at the same time that all 
the real good which may thence be deduced depends on myself. 

To anticipate as much as possible that desirable state of happiness, 
power and liberty, I exercise my mind in sublime contemplations. 
I meditate on the order of the universe, not indeed with a view to 
explain it by vain systems, but to admire it perpetually and to adore 
its all-wise Creator, whose features I trace in his workmanship. 
With him I am thus enabled to converse, and to exert my faculties 
in the contemplation of his divine essence. I am affected by his 
beneficence, I praise him for his mercies, but never so far forget 
myself as to pray. For what should I ask of him? That he should 
for my sake pervert the order of things, and work miracles in my 
favor? Shall I, who ought to love and admire above all things that 
order which is established by his wisdom and maintained by his 
providence, desire that such order should be broken for me? No! 
such a rash petition would rather merit punishment than acceptance. 
Nor can I pray to him for the power of acting aright: for why 
should I petition for what he hath already given me? Hath he not 
given me conscience to love virtue, reason to know what it is, and 



28o ROUSSEAU 

liberty to make it my choice? If I do evil, I have no excuse: I do it 
because I will. To desire him to change my will, is to require that 
of him which he requires of me. This would be to desire him to do 
my work, while I receive the reward. Not to be content with my 
situation in the order of things, is to desire to be no longer a man; 
it is to wish that things were otherwise constituted than they are, — 
to wish for evil and disorder. No, thou source of justice and truth, 
God! merciful and just! placing my confidence in thee, the chief 
desire of my heart is that thy will be done. By rendering my will 
conformable to thine, I act as thou dost, — I acquiesce in thy goodness, 
and conceive myself already a partaker of that supreme felicity which 
is its reward. 

The only thing which, under a just diffidence of myself, I request 
of him, or rather expect from his justice, is that he will correct my 
errors when I go astray. To be sincere, however, I do not think my 
judgment infallible: such of my opinions as seem to be the best 
founded may, nevertheless, be false; for what man hath not his 
opinions, and how few are there who agree in every thing? It is to 
no purpose that the illusions by which I am misled arise from my- 
self; it is he alone who can dissipate them. I have done every thing 
in my power to arrive at truth; but its source is elevated beyond my 
reach. If my faculties fail me, in what am I culpable ? Is it not then 
necessary for truth to stoop to my capacity ? 

The good priest spoke with much earnestness: he was deeply 
moved, and I was also greatly affected. I imagined myself attending 
to the divine Orpheus singing his hymns and teaching mankind the 
worship of the gods. A number of objections, however, to what he 
had said, suggested themselves; though I did not urge one, as they 
were less solid than perplexing; and though not convinced, I was 
nevertheless persuaded he was in the right. In proportion as he 
spoke to me from the conviction of his own conscience, mine con- 
firmed me in the truth of what he said. 

The sentiments you have been delivering, said I to him, appear 
newer to me in what you confess yourself ignorant of, than in what 
you profess to believe. I see in the latter a resemblance to that theism 
or natural religion which Christians affect to confound with atheism 
and impiety, though in fact diametrically opposite. In the present 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 28 I 

condition of my mind I find it difBcult to adopt precisely your 
opinions and to be as wise as you. To be at least as sincere, however, 
I will consult my own conscience on these points. It is that internal 
sentiment which, according to your example, ought to be my moni- 
tor; and you have yourself taught me that, after having imposed 
silence on it for a long time, it is not to be awakened again in a 
moment. I will treasure up your discourse in my heart and meditate 
thereon. If I am as much convinced as you are, after I have duly 
weighed it, I will trust you as my apostle and will be your proselyte 
till death. Go on, however, to instruct me. You have only informed 
me of half I ought to know. Give me your thoughts on revelation, 
the scriptures, and those mysterious doctrines concerning which I 
have been in the dark from my infancy, without being able to con- 
ceive or believe them, and yet not knowing how to either admit 
or reject them. 

Yes, my dear child, (said he), I will proceed to tell you what I 
think further. I meant not to open my heart to you by halves: but the 
desire which you express to be informed in these particulars, was 
necessary to authorize me to be totally without reserve. I have 
hitherto told you nothing but what I thought might be useful to 
you, and in the truth of which I am most firmly persuaded. The 
examination which I am now going to make is very different; pre- 
senting to my view nothing but perplexity, mysteriousness, and 
obscurity. I enter on it, therefore, with distrust and uncertainty. I 
almost tremble to determine about any thing, and shall, therefore, 
rather inform you of my doubts than of my opinions. Were your 
own sentiments more confirmed, I should hesitate to acquaint you 
with mine; but in your present skeptical situation, you will be a 
gainer by thinking as I do. Let my discourse, however, carry with 
it no greater authority than that of reason, for I frankly confess 
myself ignorant as to whether I am in the right or wrong. It is 
difficult, indeed, in all discussions, not to assume sometimes an 
affirmative tone; but remember that all my affirmations, in treating 
these matters, are only so many rational doubts. I leave you to in- 
vestigate the truth of them. On my part, I can only promise to be 
sincere. 



282 ROUSSEAU 

You will find that my exposition treats of nothing more than 
natural religion. It is very strange that we should stand in need o£ 
any other! By what means can I find out such necessity? In what 
respect can I be culpable for serving God agreeably to the dictates 
of the understanding he hath given me, and the sentiments he hath 
implanted in my heart? What purity of morals, what system of 
faith useful to man, or honorable to his Creator, can I deduce from 
any positive doctrines, that I cannot deduce equally as well from 
a good use of my natural faculties? Let any one show me what 
can be added, either for the glory of God, the good of society, or my 
own advantage, to the obligations we are laid under by nature. 
Let him show me what virtue can be produced from any new wor- 
ship, which is not also the consequence of mine. The most sublime 
ideas of the Deity are inculcated by reason alone. Take a view of 
the works of nature, listen to the voice within, and then tell me 
what God hath omitted to say to your sight, your conscience, your 
understanding? Where are the men who can tell us more of him 
than he thus tells us of himself? Their revelations only debase the 
Deity, in ascribing to him human passions. So far from giving us 
enlightened notions of the Supreme Being, their particular tenets, 
in my opinion, give us the most obscure and confused ideas. To 
the inconceivable mysteries by which the Deity is hid from our view, 
they add the most absurd contradictions. They serve to make man 
proud, persecuting, and cruel. Instead of establishing peace on 
earth, they bring fire and sword. I ask myself what good purpose 
all this contention serves, without being able to resolve the question. 
Artificial religion presents to my view only the wickedness and 
miseries of mankind. 

I am told, indeed, that revelation is necessary to teach mankind 
the manner in which God should be served. As a proof of this, they 
bring the diversity of whimsical modes of worship which prevail 
in the world; and that without remarking that this very diversity 
arises from the practice of adopting revelations. Ever since men 
have taken it into their heads to make the Deity speak, every people 
make him speak in their own way, and say what they like best. 
Had they listened only to what the Deity hath said to their hearts, 
there would have been but one religion on earth. 

It is necessary that the worship of God should be uniform; I 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 283 

would have it so : but is this a point so very important that the whole 
apparatus of divine power was necessary to establish it? Let us not 
confound the ceremonials of religion with religion itself. The wor- 
ship of God demands that of the heart; and this, when it is sincere, 
is ever uniform. Men must entertain very ridiculous notions of the 
Deity, indeed, if they imagine he can interest himself in the gown 
or cassock of a priest, — in the order of words he pronounces, or in 
the gestures and genuflexions he makes at the altar. Alas! my friend, 
where is the use of kneeling? Stand as upright as you may, you will 
always be near enough to the earth. God requires to be worshipped 
in spirit and in truth. This is a duty incumbent on men of all 
religions and countries. With regard to exterior forms, if their uni- 
formity be expedient for the sake of peace and good order, it is 
merely an affair of government; the administration of which surely 
requires not the aid of revelation. 

I did not set out at first with these reflections. Hurried on by the 
prejudices of education, and by that dangerous self-conceit which 
ever elates mankind above their sphere, as I could not raise my 
feeble conceptions to the Supreme Being, I foolishly endeavored to 
debase him to my ideas. Thus I connected relations infinitely distant 
from each other, comparing the incomprehensible nature of the deity 
with my own. I require still further a more immediate communica- 
tion with the Divinity, and more particular instructions concerning 
his will. Not content with reducing God to a similitude with man, 
I wanted to be further distinguished by his favor, and to enjoy 
supernatural lights. I longed for an exclusive and peculiar privilege 
of adoration, and that God should have revealed to me what he had 
kept secret from others, or that others should not understand his 
revelations so well as myself. 

Looking on the point at which I had arrived, — ^at that whence all 
believers set out in order to reach an enlightened mode of worship, 
I regarded natural religion only as the elements of all religion. I took 
a survey of that variety of sects which are scattered over the face of 
the earth, and who mutually accuse each other of falsehood and 
error. I asked which of them was right ? 

Every one of them in their turn answered theirs. I and my 
partisans only think truly; all the rest are mistaken. 

But, how do you know that your sect is in the right? 



284 ROUSSEAU 

Because God hath declared so. 

And who tells you that God hath so declared! 

My spiritual guide, who knows it well. My pastor tells me to 
believe so and so, and accordingly I believe it; he assures me that 
every one who says to the contrary speaks falsely; and, therefore, I 
listen to nobody who controverts his doctrine.' 

How, thought I, is not the truth every where the same? Is it 
possible that what is true with one person can be false with another? 
If the method taken by him who is in the right, and by him who is 
in the wrong, be the same, what merit or demerit hath the one more 
than the other ? Their choice is the effect of accident, and to impute 
it to them is unjust: — it is to reward or punish them for being born 
in this or that country. To say that the Deity can judge us in this 
manner is the highest impeachment of his justice. 

Now, either all religions are good and agreeable to God, or if 
there be one which he hath dictated to man, and will punish him 
for rejecting, he hath certainly distinguished it by manifest signs 
and tokens as the only true one. These signs are common to all 
times and places, and are equally obvious to all mankind — to the 
young and old, the learned and ignorant, to Europeans, Indians, 
Africans, and Savages. 

If there be only one religion in the world that can prevent our 
suffering eternal damnation, and there be on any part of the earth 
a single mortal who is sincere, and is not convinced by its evi- 
dence, the God of that religion must be the most iniquitous and 
cruel of tyrants. Would we seek the truth therefore in sincerity, we 
must lay no stress on the place or circumstance of our birth, nor 
on the authority of fathers and teachers; but appeal to the dictates of 
reason and conscience concerning every thing that is taught us in 
our youth. It is to no purpose to bid me subject my reason to the 
truth of things of which it is incapable of judging. The man who 

' All of them, says a certain wise and good priest, pretend that they derive their 
doctrines not from men, nor from any created being, but from God. But to say truth, 
without flattery or disguise, there is nothing in such pretentions: however they may 
talk, they owe their religion to human means. Witness the manner in which they 
first adopt it. The nation, country and place where they are born and bred determine 
it. Are we not circumcised or baptized, — -made Jews, Turks, or Christians before we 
are men? Our religion is not the effect of choice; witness our lives and manners so 
little accordant to if, witness how we act contrary to the tenets of it on the most 
trifling occasions. — Charron, on Wisdom. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 285 

would impose on me a falsehood, may bid me do the same. It is 
necessary, therefore, I should employ my reason even to know 
when it ought to submit. 

All the theology I am myself capable of acquiring, by taking a 
prospect of the universe and by the proper use of my faculties, is 
confined to what I have here laid down. To know more, we must 
have recourse to extraordinary means. These means cannot depend 
on the authority of men: for as all men are of the same species as 
myself, whatever another can by natural means come to the knowl- 
edge of, I can do the same; and another man is as liable to be de- 
ceived as I am. When I believe, therefore, what he says, it is not 
because he says it, but because he proves it. The testimony of man- 
kind, therefore, is really that of my reason, and adds nothing to 
the natural means God hath given me for the discovery of the 
truth. 

What then can even the apostle of truth have to tell me, of which 
I am not still to judge? 

But God himself hath spo\en; listen to the voice of revelation. 

That, indeed, is another thing. God hath spoken! This is saying 
a great deal : but to whom hath he spoken ? 

He hath spol{en to man. 

How comes it then that I heard nothing of it? 

He hath appointed others to teach you his word. 

I understand you. There are certain men who are to tell me what 
God hath said. I had much rather have heard it from himself. 
This, had he so pleased, he could easily have done; and I should 
then have run no risk of deception. Will it be said I am secured 
from that by his manifesting the mission of his messengers by 
miracles? Where are those miracles to be seen? Are they related 
only in books ? Pray, who wrote those books ? 

Men. 

Who were witnesses to these miracles? 

Men. 

Always human testimony! It is always men who tell me what 
other men have told them. What a number of those are constantly 
between me and the Deity! We are always reduced to the necessity 
of examining, comparing, and verifying such evidence. O! that 



286 ROUSSEAU 

God had deigned to have saved me all this anxiety! Should I in 
that case have served him vv^ith a less willing heart? 

Consider, my friend, in what a terrible discussion I am already 
engaged; what immense erudition I stand in need of to recur back 
to the earliest antiquity — to examine, to weigh, to confront proph- 
ecies, revelations, facts, with all the monuments of faith that have 
made their appearance in all the countries of the world; to ascertain 
their time, place, authors, and occasions. How great the critical sagac- 
ity which is requisite to enable me to distinguish between pieces 
that are suppositious, and those which are authentic; to compare 
objections with their repUes, translations with their originals; to 
judge of the impartiaUty of witnesses, of their good sense, of their 
capacity; to know if nothing be suppressed or added to their testi- 
mony, if nothing be changed, transposed, or falsified; to obviate 
the contradictions that remain, to judge what weight we ought to 
ascribe to the silence of our opponents in regard to facts alleged 
against them; to discover whether such allegations were known to 
them; whether they did not disdain them too much to make any 
reply; whether books were common enough for ours to reach them; 
or, if we were honest enough to let them have free circulation among 
us, and to leave their strongest objections in full force. 

Again, supposing that all these monuments of faith are acknowl- 
edged to be incontestable, we must proceed to examine the proofs 
of the mission of their authors. It would be necessary for us to be 
perfectly acquainted with the laws of chance and the doctrine of 
probabilities, to judge correctly what prediction could not be ac- 
complished without a miracle; to know the genius of the original 
languages, in order to distinguish what is predictive in these lan- 
guages and what is only figurative. It would be requisite for us to 
know what facts are agreeable to the established order of nature, and 
what are not so; to be able to say how far an artful man may not 
fascinate the eyes of the simple, and even astonish the most en- 
lightened spectators; to know of what kind a miracle should be, and 
the authenticity it ought to bear, not only to claim our belief, but to 
make it criminal to doubt it; to compare the proofs of false and true 
miracles, and discover the certain means of distinguishing them; and 
after all to tell why the Deity should choose, in order to confirm the 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 287 

truth of his word, to make use of means which in their turn require 
confirmation, as if he took deHght in playing upon the creduHty of 
mankind, and had purposely avoided the direct means to persuade 
them. 

Suppose that the divine majesty hath really condescended to 
make man the organ of promulgating its sacred will, is it reasonable, 
is it just, to require all mankind to obey the voice of such a minister, 
without his making himself known to be such? Where is the 
equity or propriety in furnishing him, for universal credentials, with 
only a few particular tokens displayed before a handful of obscure 
persons, and of which all the rest of mankind know nothing but by 
hearsay? In every country in the world, if we should believe all 
the prodigies to be true which the common people and the ignorant 
affirm to have seen, every sect would be in the right; there would be 
more miraculous events than natural ones; and the greatest miracle 
of all would be to find that no miracles had happened where fanati- 
cism had been persecuted. 

The Supreme Being is best displayed by the fixed and unalterable 
order of nature. If there should happen many exceptions to such 
general laws, I should no longer know what to think; and for my 
part, I must confess I believe too much in God to believe in so many 
miracles so little worthy of him. 

What if a man should come and harangue us in the following 
manner: 

"I come, ye mortals, to announce to you the will of the most high. 
Acknowledge in my voice that of him who sent me. I command the 
sun to move backwards, the stars to change their places, the moun- 
tains to disappear, the waves to remain fixed on high, and the earth 
to wear a different aspect." 

Who would not, at the sight of such miracles, immediately attrib- 
ute them to the author of nature? 

Nature is not obedient to impostors. Their miracles are always 
performed in the highways, in the fields, or in apartments where 
they are displayed before a small number of spectators, previously 
disposed to believe every thing they see. 

Who is there that will venture to decide how many eye-witnesses 
are necessary to render a miracle worthy of credit? If the miracles, 



288 ROUSSEAU 

intended to prove the truth of your doctrine, stand themselves in 
need of proof, of what use are they? Their performance might as 
well have been omitted. 

The most important examination after all remains to be made into 
the truth of the doctrines delivered; for as those who say that God 
is pleased to work these miracles, pretend that the devil sometimes 
imitates them, we are no nearer a decision than before, though such 
miracles should be ever so well attested. As the magicians of Pharaoh 
worked the same miracles, even in the presence of Moses, as he him- 
self performed by the express command of God, why might not they, 
in his absence, from the same proofs, pretend to the same authority ? 
Thus after proving the truth of the doctrine by the miracle, you 
are reduced to the necessity of proving the truth of the miracle by 
that of the doctrine,* lest the works of the devil should be mistaken 
for those of the Lord. What think you of this alternative ? 

The doctrines coming from God, ought to bear the sacred char- 
acters of the divinity; and should not only clear up those confused 
ideas which unenlightened reason excites in the mind, but should 
also furnish us with a system of religion and morals agreeable to 
those attributes by which only we form a conception of his essence. 
If then they teach us any absurdities, if they inspire us with the senti- 
ments of aversion for our fellow-creatures and fear for ourselves; if 
they describe the Deity as a vindictive, partial, jealous and angry 
being; as a God of war and of battles, always ready to thunder and 
destroy; always threatening slaughter and revenge, and even boasting 

^This is expressly mentioned in many places in Scripture, particularly in Deuter- 
onomy, chap, xiii., where it is said that, if a prophet, teaching the worship of strange 
Gods, confirm his discourse by signs and wonders, and what he foretells really comes 
to pass, so far from paying any regard to his mission, the people should stone him to 
death. When the Pagans, therefore, put the Apostles to death, for preaching up to 
them the worship of a strange God, proving their divine mission by prophesies and 
miracles, I see not what could be objected to them, which they might not with equal 
justice have retorted upon us. Now, what is to be done in this case? There is but 
one step to be taken, to recur to reason and leave miracles to themselves: better indeed 
had it been never to have had recourse to them, nor to have perplexed good sense 
with such a number of subtle distinctions. What! do I talk of subtle distinctions in 
Christianity? If there are such, our Saviour was in the wrong surely to promise the 
Kingdom of Heaven to the weak and simple! How came he to begin his fine discourse 
on the Mount, with blessing the poor in spirit, if it requires so much ingenuity to 
comprehend and believe his doctrines? When you prove that I ought to subject my 
reason to his dictates, it is very well; but to prove that, you must render them intel- 
ligible to my understanding; you must adapt your arguments to the poverty of my 
genius, or I shall not acknowledge you to be the true disciple of your Master, or think 
that it is his doctrines which you would inculcate. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 289 

of punishing the innocent, my heart cannot be incited to love so 
terrible a Deity, and I shall take care how I give up my natural 
religion to embrace such doctrines. 
I should say to the advocates and professors of such a religion : 
"Your God is not mine! A Being who began his dispensations 
with partiality, selecting one people and proscribing the rest of man- 
kind, is not the common father of the human race; a Being who 
destines to eternal punishment the greater part of his creatures, is 
not that good and merciful God who is pointed out by my reason." 

With regard to articles of faith, my reason tells me they should 
be clear, perspicuous, and evident. If natural religion be insufficient, 
it is owing to the obscurity in which it necessarily leaves those sub- 
lime truths it professes to teach. It is the business of revelation to 
exhibit them to the mind in a more clear and sensible manner; to 
adapt them to our understanding, and to enable us to conceive, 
in order that we may be capable of believing them. True faith is 
assured and confirmed by the understanding. The best of all relig- 
ions is undoubtedly the clearest. That which is clouded with 
mysteries and contradictions, the worship that is to be taught me 
by preaching, teaches me by that very circumstance to distrust it. 
The God whom I adore is not a God of darkness; he hath not 
given me an understanding to forbid me the use of it. To bid 
me give up my reason, is to insult the author of it. The minister 
of truth doth not tyrannize over my understanding, — he enlightens it. 

We have set aside all human authority, and without it, I cannot see 
how one man can convince another by preaching to him an un- 
reasonable doctrine. Let us suppose two persons engaged in a 
dispute on this head, and see how they will express themselves in 
the language generally made use of on such occasions. 

Dogmatist. — Your reason tells you that the whole is greater than 
a part, but I tell you from God, that a part is greater than the 
whole. 

Rationalist. — And who are you, that dare to tell me God contra- 
dicts himself? In whom shall I rather believe; in him who in- 
structs me in the knowledge of eternal truths by means of reason, 
or in you who in his name would impose on me the greatest ab- 
surdities ? 



290 ROUSSEAU 

Dogmatist. — In me, for my instructions are more positive, and I 
will prove to you incontestably that he hath sent me. 

Rationalist. — How! will you prove that God hath sent you to 
depose against himself? What sort of proofs can you bring to 
convince me it is more certain that God speaks by your mouth, 
than by the understanding he hath given me? 

Dogmatist. — The understanding he hath given you! Ridiculous 
and contemptible man! You talk as if you were the first infidel who 
was ever misled by an understanding depraved by sin. 

Rationalist. — Nor may you, man of God! be the first knave whose 
impudence hath been the only proof he could give of his divine 
mission. 

Dogmatist. — How! can Philosophers be thus abusive? 

Rationalist. — Sometimes, when Saints set them the example. 

Dogmatist. — Oh! but I am authorized to abuse you. I speak on 
the part of God Almighty. 

Rationalist. — It would not be improper, however, to produce your 
credentials before you assume your privileges. 

Dogmatist. — My credentials are sufficiently authenticated. Both 
heaven and earth are witnesses in my favor. Attend, I pray you, 
to my arguments. 

Rationalist. — Arguments! why, you surely do not pretend to any! 
To tell me that my reason is fallacious, is to refute whatever it may 
say in your favor. Whoever refuses to abide by the dictates of 
reason, ought to be able to convince without making use of it. For, 
supposing that in the course of your arguments you should convince 
me, how shall I know whether it be not through the fallacy of 
reason depraved by sin, that I acquiesce in what you affirm? Be- 
sides, what proof, what demonstration, can you ever employ more 
evident than the axiom which destroys it? It is fully as credible 
that a just syllogism should be false, as that a part is greater than 
the whole. 

Dogmatist. — What a difference! My proofs admit of no reply; 
they are of a supernatural kind. 

Rationalist. — Supernatural! What is the meaning of that term? 
I do not understand it. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 29 I 

Dogmatist. — Contraventions of the order of nature; prophecies, 
miracles, and prodigies of every kind. 

Rationalist. — Prodigies and miracles! I have never seen any of 
these things. 

Dogmatist. — No matter; others have seen them for you. We can 
bring clouds of witnesses — the testimony of whole nations — 

Rationalist. — The testimony of whole nations! Is that a proof of 
the supernatural kind? 

Dogmatist. — No! But when it is unanimous it is incontestable. 

Rationalist. — There is nothing more incontestable than the dic- 
tates of reason, nor can the testimony of all mankind prove the truth 
of an absurdity. Let us see some of your supernatural truths then, 
as the attestation of men is not so. 

Dogmatist. — Infidel wretch! It is plain that the grace of God doth 
not speak to thy understanding. 

Rationalist. — Whose fault is that? Not mine; for, according to 
you, it is necessary to be enlightened by grace to know how to ask 
for it. Begin then, and speak to me in its stead. 

Dogmatist. — Is not this what I am doing } But you will not hear. 
What do you say to prophecies ? 

Rationalist. — As to prophecies; I say, in the first place, I have 
heard as few of them as I have seen miracles; and in the second, 
I say that no prophecy bears any weight with me. 

Dogmatist. — Thou disciple of Satan! And why have prophecies 
no weight with you ? 

Rationalist. — Because, to give them such weight requires three 
things, the concurrence of which is impossible. These are, that I 
should in the first place be a witness to the delivery of the prophecy; 
next, that I should be witness also to the event; lastly, that it should 
be clearly demonstrated to me that such event could not have 
occurred by accident. For, though a prophecy were as precise, 
clear, and determinate as an axiom of geometry, yet as the perspicuity 
of a prediction made at random does not render the accomplishment 
of it impossible, that accomplishment when it happens proves 
nothing in fact concerning the fore-knowledge of him who pre- 
dicted it. You see, therefore, to what your pretended supernatural 



292 ROUSSEAU 

proofs, your miracles, and your prophecies reduce us: — to the folly 
of believing them all on the credit of others, and of submitting the 
authority of God speaking to our reason, to that of man. If those 
eternal truths, of which my understanding forms the strongest con- 
ception, can possibly be false, I can have no hope of ever arriving 
at certitude; and so far from being capable of being assured that you 
speak to me from God, I cannot even be assured of his existence. 

You see, my child, how many difficulties must be removed before 
our disputants can agree; nor are these all. Among so many dif- 
ferent religions, each of which proscribes and excludes the other, 
one only can be true; if, indeed, there be such a one among them 
all. Now, to discover which this is, it is not enough to examine 
that one; it is necessary to examine them all, as we should not, 
on any occasion whatever, condemn without a hearing. It is neces- 
sary to compare objections with proofs, and to know what each 
objects to in the others, as well as what the others have to say in 
their defence. The more clearly any sentiment or opinion appears 
demonstrated, the more narrowly it behooves us to inquire, what 
are the reasons which prevent its opponents from subscribing to it } 

We must be very simple indeed, to think that an attention to the 
theologists of our own party sufficient to instruct us in what our 
adversaries have to offer. Where shall we find divines, of any persua- 
sion, perfectly candid and honest ? Do they not all begin to weaken 
the arguments of their opponents before they proceed to refute them ? 
Each is the oracle of his party, and makes a great figure among his 
own partisans, with such proofs as would expose him to ridicule 
among those of a different persuasion. 

Are you desirous of gaining information from books? What a 
fund of erudition will not this require! How many languages must 
you learn! How many libraries must you turn over! And who is 
to direct you in the choice of the books? There are hardly to be 
found in any one country the best books on the contrary side of the 
question, and still less is it to be expected that we should find books 
on all sides. The writings of the adverse and absent party, were they 
found also, would be very easily refuted. The absent are always 
in the wrong; and the most weak and insufficient arguments laid 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 293 

down with a confident assurance, easily efface the most sensible and 
valid, when exposed with contempt. Add to all this, that nothing 
is more fallacious than books, nor exhibit less faithfully the senti- 
ments of their writers. The judgment which you formed, for 
instance, of the Roman Catholic religion, from the treatise of Bossuet, 
was very different from that which you acquired by residing among 
us. You have seen that the doctrines we maintain in our contro- 
versies with the Protestants, are not those which are taught the com- 
mon people; and that Bossuet's book by no means resembles the 
instructions delivered from the pulpit. 

To form a proper judgment of any religion, we are not to deduce 
its tenets from the books of its professors; we must go and learn it 
among the people. Each sect have their peculiar traditions, — their 
customs, prejudices, and modes of acceptation, which constitute the 
pecuUar mode of their faith. This should all be taken into consider- 
ation when we form a j udgment of their religion. 

How many considerable nations are there who print no books of 
their own, and read none of ours? How are they to judge of our 
opinions, or we of theirs? We laugh at them — they despise us; and 
though our travellers have turned them into ridicule, they need 
only to travel among us, to ridicule us in their turn. In what 
country are there not to be found men of sense and sincerity, friends 
of humanity, who require only to know truth, in order to embrace 
it? And yet every one imagines that truth is confined to his own 
particular system, and thinks that the religion of all other nations 
in the world is absurd. These foreign modes, therefore, cannot be 
in reality so very absurd as they appear, or the apparent reasonable- 
ness of ours is less real. 

We have three principal religions in Europe. One admits only of 
one revelation, another of two, and the third of three. Each holds 
the other in detestation, anathematizes its possessors, accuses them 
of ignorance, obstinacy, and falsehood. What impartial person will 
presume to decide between them, without having first examined 
their proofs and heard their reasons? That which admits only of 
one revelation is the most ancient and seems the least disputable; 
that which admits of three is the most modern and seems to be 
the most consistent; that which admits of two and rejects the third, 



294 ROUSSEAU 

may possibly be the best, but it hath certainly every prepossession 
against it — its inconsistency stares one full in the face. 

In all these three revelations, the sacred books are written in lan- 
guages unknown to the people who believe in them. The Jews 
no longer understand Hebrew; the Christians neither Greek nor 
Hebrew; the Turks and Persians understand no Arabic, and even 
the modern Arabs themselves speak not the language of Mahomet. 
Is not this a very simple manner of instructing mankind, by talking 
to them always in a language which they do not comprehend ? But 
these books, it will be said, are translated; a most unsatisfactory 
answer, indeed! Who can assure me that they are translated faith- 
fully, or that it is even possible they should be so? Who can give 
me a sufficient reason why God, when he hath a mind to speak to 
mankind, should stand in need of an interpreter ? 

I can never conceive that what every man is indispensably obliged 
to know can be shut up in these books; or that he who is incapaci- 
tated to understand them, or the persons who explain them, will 
be punished for involuntary ignorance. But we are always plaguing 
ourselves with books. What a frenzy! Because Europe is full of 
books, the Europeans conceive them to be indispensable, without 
reflecting that three-fourths of the world know nothing at all about 
them. Are not all books written by men? How greatly, therefore, 
must man have stood in need of them, to instruct him in his duty, 
and by what means did he come to the knowledge of such duties, 
before books were written? Either he must have acquired such 
knowledge of himself, or it must have been totally dispensed with. 

We, Roman Catholics, make a great noise about the authority of 
the church : but what do we gain by it, if it requires as many proofs 
to establish this authority as other sects also require to establish 
their doctrines? The church determines that the church has a right 
to determine. Is not this a special proof of its authority? And yet, 
depart from this, and we enter into endless discussions. 

Do you know many Christians who have taken the pains to 
examine carefully into what the Jews have alleged against us? 
If there are a few who know something of them, it is from what 
they have met with in the writings of Christians: a very strange 
manner indeed of instructing themselves in the arguments of their 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 295 

opponents! But what can be done? If any one should dare to 
pubUsh among us such books as openly espouse the cause of Judaism, 
we should punish the author, the editor, and the bookseller.^ This 
policy is very convenient, and very sure to make us always in the 
right. We can refute at pleasure those who are afraid to speak. 

Those among us, also, who have an opportunity to converse with 
the Jews, have but little advantage. These unhappy people know 
that they are at our mercy. The tyranny we exercise over them, 
renders them justly timid and reserved. They know how far cruelty 
and injustice are compatible with Christian charity. What, there- 
fore, can they venture to say to us, without running the risk of in- 
curring the charge of blasphemy ? Avarice inspires us with zeal, and 
they are too rich not to be ever in the wrong. The most sensible 
and learned among them are the most circumspect and reserved. 
We make a convert, perhaps, of some wretched hireling, to calum- 
niate his sect; we set a parcel of pitiful brokers disputing, who give 
up the point merely to gratify us; but while we triumph over the 
ignorance or meanness of such wretched opponents, the learned 
among them smile in contemptuous silence at our folly. But do 
you think that in places where they might write and speak securely, 
we should have so much the advantage of them.? Among the 
doctors of the Sorbonne, it is as clear as daylight, that the predictions 
concerning the Messiah relate to Jesus Christ. Among the Rabbins 
at Amsterdam, it is just as evident that they have no relation what- 
ever to him. I shall never believe that I have acquired a sufficient 
acquaintance with the arguments of the Jews, till they compose 
a free and independent State, and have their schools and universi- 
ties, where they may talk and dispute with freedom and impunity. 
Till then we can never really know what arguments they have to 
offer. 

At Constantinople, the Turks make known their reasons, and we 
dare not publish ours. There it is our turn to submit. If the Turks 
require us to pay to Mahomet, in whom we do not believe, the 

^ Among a thousand known instances, the following stands in no need of comment: 
the Catholic divines of the sixteenth century having condemned all the Jewish books 
without exception to be burnt, a learned and illustrious theologue, who was consulted 
on that occasion, had very nearly involved himself in ruin by being simply of the 
opinion that such of them might be preserved as did not relate to Christianity, or 
treated of matters foreign to religion. 



296 ROUSSEAU 

same respect which we require the Jews to pay to Jesus Christ, 
in whom they beUeve as Uttle, can the Turks be in the wrong and 
we in the right ? On what principle of equity can we resolve that 
question in our own favor? 

Two-thirds of mankind are neither Jews, Christians, nor Ma- 
hometans. How many millions of men, therefore, must there be 
who never heard of Moses, of Jesus Christ, or of Mahomet? Will 
this be denied? Will it be said that our missionaries are dispersed 
over the face of the whole earth? This, indeed, is easily affirmed; 
but are there any of them in the interior parts of Africa, where no 
European hath ever yet penetrated? Do they travel through the 
inland parts of Tartary, or follow on horseback the wandering 
hordes, whom no stranger ever approaches, and who, so far from 
having heard of the Pope, hardly know any thing of their own 
Grand Lama? Do our missionaries traverse the immense continent 
of America, where there are whole nations still ignorant that the 
people of another world have set foot on theirs? Are there any 
missionaries in Japan, from whence their ill-behavior hath banished 
them forever, and where the fame of their predecessors is trans- 
mitted to succeeding generations as that of artful knaves, who, under 
cover of a religious zeal, wanted to make themselves gradually 
masters of the empire? Do they penetrate into the harems of the 
Asiatic princes, to preach the gospel to millions of wretched slaves? 
What will become of these secluded women for want of a mission- 
ary to preach to them this gospel? Must every one of them go to 
hell for being a recluse? 

But were it true that the gospel is preached in every part of the 
earth, the difficulty is not removed. On the eve preceding the 
arrival of the first missionary in any country, some one person of 
that country expired without hearing the glad tidings. Now what 
must we do with this one person? If there be but a single individual 
in the whole universe, to whom the gospel of Christ is not made 
known, the objection which presents itself on account of this one 
person, is as cogent as if it included a fourth part of the human race. 

Again, supposing that the ministers of the gospel are actually 
present and preaching in those distant nations, how can they reason- 
ably hope to be believed on their own word, and expect that their 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 297 

hearers will not scrupulously require a confirmation of what is 
taught? Might not any one of them very reasonably say to these 
preachers: 

"You tell me of a God who was born and put to death nearly 
two thousand years ago, in another portion of the world, and in 
I know not what obscure town; assuring me that all those who 
do not believe in this mysterious tale are damned. 

"These are things too strange to be readily credited on the sole 
authority of a man who is himself a perfect stranger. 

"Why hath your God brought those events to pass, of which he 
requires me to be instructed, at so great a distance? Is it a crime 
to be ignorant of what passes at the antipodes? Is it possible for 
me to divine that there existed in the other hemisphere a people 
called Jews, and a city called Jerusalem? I might as well be re- 
quired to know what happens in the moon. 

"You are come, you say, to inform me; but why did you not 
come soon enough to inform my father, or why do you damn that 
innocent man because he knew nothing of the matter ? Must he be 
eternally punished for your delay; he who was so just, so benevolent, 
and so desirous of knowing the truth ? 

"Be honest, and suppose yourself in my place. Do you think 
that I can believe, upon your testimony alone, all these incredible 
things you tell me, or that I can reconcile so much injustice with the 
character of that just God, whom you pretend to make known? 

"Let me first, I pray you, go and see this distant country where 
so many miracles have happened that are totally unknown here. 
Let me go and be well informed why the inhabitants of that Jeru- 
salem you speak of presumed to treat God like a thief or a murderer. 

"They did not, you will say, acknowledge his divinity. How then 
can I, who never have heard of him but from you ? 

"You add, that they were punished, dispersed, and led into cap- 
tivity; — not one of them ever approaching their former city. 

"Assuredly, they deserved all this: but its present inhabitants, — 
what say they of the unbelief and Deicide of their predecessors? 
Do they not deny it, and acknowledge the divinity of the sacred 
personage just as little as did its ancient inhabitants? 

"What! in the same city in which your God was put to death, 



298 ROUSSEAU 

neither the ancient nor present inhabitants acknowledge his divinity! 
And yet you would have me believe it, who was born nearly two 
thousand years after the event, and two thousand leagues distant 
from the place! 

"Do you not see that, before I can give credit to this book, which 
you call sacred and of which I comprehend nothing, I ought to 
be informed from others as to when and by whom it was written; 
how it hath been preserved and transmitted to you; what is said 
of it in the country where it originated; and what are the reasons 
of those who reject it, although they know as well as you every 
thing of which you have informed me? You must perceive, there- 
fore, the necessity I am under of going first to Europe, then to 
Asia, and lastly into Palestine to investigate and examine this subject 
for myself, and that I must be an absolute idiot to even listen to 
you before I have completed this investigation." 

Such a discourse as this appears to me not only very reasonable, 
but I affirm that every sensible man ought under such circumstances 
to speak in the same manner, and to send a missionary about his 
business, who should be in haste to instruct and baptize him before 
he had sufficiently verified the proofs of his mission. 

Now, I maintain that there is no revelation against which the 
same objections might not be made, and that with even greater 
force than against Christianity. Hence it follows that if there be in 
the world but one true religion, and if every one is obliged to adopt 
it under pain of damnation, it is necessary to spend our lives in 
the study of all religions, — to visit the countries where they have 
been established, and examine and compare them with each other. 
No man is exempted from the principal duty of his species, and 
no one hath a right to confide in the judgment of another. The 
artisan who lives only by his industry, the husbandman who cannot 
read, the timid and delicate virgin, the feeble valetudinarian, all 
must, without exception, study, meditate, dispute, and travel the 
world over in search of truth. There would no longer be any 
settled inhabitants in a country, the face of the earth being covered 
with pilgrims going from place to place, at great trouble and ex- 
pense, to verify, examine, and compare the several different systems 
and modes of worship to be met with in different countries. 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 299 

We must in such a case bid adieu to the arts and sciences, to 
trade, and to all the civil occupations of life. Every other study must 
give place to that of religion; while the man who should enjoy 
the greatest share of health and strength, and make the best use 
of his time and reason for the longest term of years allotted to 
human life, would, in his extreme old age, be still perplexed and 
undecided; and it would be indeed wonderful if, after all his 
researches, he should be able to learn before his death what religion 
he ought to have believed and practiced during his life. 

Do you endeavor to mitigate the severity of this method, and 
place as little confidence as possible in the authority of your fellow 
men? In so doing, however, you place in them the greatest confi- 
dence: for if the son of a Christian does right in adopting, without 
a scrupulous and impartial examination, the religion of his father, 
how can the son of a Turk do wrong in adopting in the same manner 
the religion of Mahomet ? 

I defy all the persecutors in the world to answer this question in 
a manner satisfactory to any person of common sense. Nay, some 
of them, when hard pressed by such arguments, will sooner admit 
that God is unjust, and visits the sins of the fathers upon the chil- 
dren, than give up their cruel and persecuting principles. Others, 
indeed, strive to elude the force of these reasons by civilly sending 
an angel to instruct those who, under absolute ignorance, lived, 
nevertheless, good moral lives. A very pretty device, truly, is that of 
the angel! Not contented with subjecting us to this angelic hierarchy, 
they would reduce even the Deity himself to the necessity of 
employing it. 

See, my son, to what absurdities we are led by pride, and the 
spirit of persecution, — ^by being puffed up with our own vanity, and 
conceiving that we possess a greater share of reason than the rest 
of mankind. 

I call to witness that God of peace whom I adore, and whom I 
would make known to you, that my researches have been always 
sincere; but seeing that they were and always must be unsuccessful, 
and that I was launched out into a boundless ocean of perplexity, 
I returned the way I came, and confined my creed within the limits 
of my first notions. I could never believe that God required me, 



300 ROUSSEAU 

under pain of eternal damnation, to be so very learned; and, there- 
fore, I shut up all my books. 

The book of nature lies open to every eye. It is from this sublime 
and vi^onderful volume that I learn to serve and adore its Divine 
Author. No person is excusable for neglecting to read this book, 
as it is written in an universal language, intelligible to all mankind. 

Had I been born on a desert island, or had never seen a human 
creature beside myself; had I never been informed of what had 
formerly happened in a certain corner of the world; I might yet 
have learned, by the exercise and cultivation of my reason, and by 
the proper use of those faculties God hath given me, to know and to 
love him. I might hence have learned to love and admire his power 
and goodness, and to have properly discharged my duty here on 
earth. What can the knowledge of the learned teach me more? 

With regard to revelation: could I reason better or were I better 
informed, I might be made sensible perhaps of its truth and of its 
utility to those who are so happy as to believe it. But if there are 
some proofs in its favor which I cannot invalidate, there appear also 
to me many objections against it which I cannot resolve. There are 
so many reasons both for and against its authority that, not knowing 
what to conclude, I neither admit nor reject it. I reject only the 
obligation of submitting to it, because this pretended obligation is 
incompatible with the justice of God, and that, so far from its 
removing the obstacles to salvation, it raises those which are in- 
surmountable by the greater part of mankind. Except in this 
article, therefore, I remain respectfully in doubt concerning the 
Scriptures. I have not the presumption to think myself infallible. 
More able persons may possibly determine in cases that to me appear 
undeterminable. I reason for myself, not for them. I neither censure 
nor imitate them. Their judgment may possibly be better than 
mine, but am I to blame that it is not mine.'' 

I will confess to you further, that the majesty of the Scriptures 
strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel hath its 
influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers, en- 
riched with all their pomp of diction: how mean, how contemptible 
are thev, compared with the Scriptures! Is it possible that a book at 
once so simple and sublime should be merely the work of man.' Is it 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 3OI 

possible that the sacred personage, whose history it contains, should 
be himself a mere man ? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an 
enthusiast or ambitious sectary ? What purity, what sweetness in his 
manners! What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What 
sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! 
What presence of mind, what subtilty, what truth in his replies! 
How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, 
where the philosopher who could so live and so die, without weak- 
ness and without ostentation ? When Plato described an imaginary 
good man" loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest 
reward of virtue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus. The re- 
semblance was so striking that all the fathers perceived it. What 
prepossession, what blindness must it be to compare the son of 
Sophroniscus to the son of Mary ? What an infinite disproportion is 
there between them! Socrates, dying without pain or ignominy, 
easily supported his character to the last; and if his death, however 
easy, had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether 
Socrates, with all his wisdom, was any thing more than a vain 
sophist. He invented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, how- 
ever, had already put them in practice; he had only to say what they 
had done, and reduce their examples to precepts. Aristides had 
been just, before Socrates defined justice. Leonidas gave up his life 
for his country before Socrates declared patriotism to be a duty. The 
Spartans were a sober people before Socrates recommended sobriety. 
Before he had even defined virtue, Greece abounded in virtuous men. 
But where could Jesus learn, among his compatriots, that pure and 
sublime morality of which he only hath given us both precept and 
example?' The greatest wisdom was made known amidst the most 
bigoted fanaticism; and the simplicity of the most heroic virtues 
did honor to the vilest people on the earth. The death of Socrates, 
peaceably philosophizing with his friends, appears the most agree- 
able form that could be desired; — that of Jesus, expiring in the midst 
of agonizing pains, abused, insulted, cursed by a whole nation, is 
the most horrible that could be feared. Socrates, in receiving the 
cup of poison, blessed indeed the weeping executioner who admin- 

^De Rep. dial. i. 

' See in his discourse on the Mount the parallel he makes between the morality of 
Moses and his own. Matthew v. 21, &c. 



302 ROUSSEAU 

istered it; but Jesus, in the midst of excruciating tortures, prayed 
for his merciless tormentors. Yes, if the Ufe and death of Socrates are 
those of a sage, the Hfe and death of Jesus are those of a God. 

Shall we suppose the evangelic history a mere fiction ? Indeed, my 
friend, it bears not the marks of fiction. On the contrary, the history 
of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested 
as that of Jesus Christ. Such a supposition, in fact, only shifts the 
difficulty without removing it. It is more inconceivable that a num- 
ber of persons should agree to write such a history than that one 
only should furnish the subject of it. The Jewish authors were 
incapable of the diction, and were strangers to the morality con- 
tained in the gospel, — the marks of whose truth are so striking 
and inimitable, that the inventor would be a more astonishing 
character than the hero. And yet, with all this, the same gospel 
abounds with incredible relations, with circumstances repugnant 
to reason, and which it is impossible for a man of sense either to 
conceive of or to admit. What is to be done amidst all these con- 
tradictions? Be modest and circumspect. Regard in silence what 
cannot be either disproved or comprehended, and humble thyself 
before the Supreme Being who alone knoweth the truth. 

Such is the involuntary skepticism in which I remain. This 
skepticism, however, is not painful to me, because it extends not 
to any essential point of practice; and as my mind is firmly settled 
regarding the principles of my duty, I serve God in the sincerity of 
my heart. In the mean time, I seek not to know any thing more 
than what relates to my moral conduct; and as to those dogmas 
which have no influence over the behavior, and about which so 
many persons give themselves so much trouble, I am not at all 
solicitous. I look upon the various particular religions as so many 
salutary institutions, prescribing in different countries an uniform 
manner of public worship; and which may all have their respective 
reasons, peculiar to the climate, government, or laws of the people 
adopting them, or some other motive which renders the one pref- 
erable to the other according to the circumstance of time and place. 
I believe all that are established to be good when God is served in 
sincerity of heart. This service is all that is essential. He rejects 
not the homage of the sincere, under whatsoever form they present 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 303 

it. Being called to the service of the church, I comply, therefore, 
with a scrupulous exactness, to all the forms it prescribes in my duty, 
and should reproach myself for the least wilful neglect of them. 
After having lain under a long prohibition I obtained, through the 
interest of M. de Mellerade, a permission to re-assume the functions 
of the priesthood, to procure me a livelihood. I had been accustomed 
formerly to say mass with all that levity and carelessness with which 
we perform the most serious and important offices after having 
very often repeated them. Since I entertained my new principles, 
however, I celebrate it with greater veneration: — penetrated by 
reflecting on the majesty of the Supreme Being, and the insufficiency 
of the human mind that is so little able to form conceptions relative 
to its author, I consider that I offer up the prayers of a people under 
a prescribed form of worship, and therefore carefully observe all its 
rites. I recite carefully; and strive not to omit the least word or 
ceremony. Before going to communicate, I first recollect myself, in 
order to do it with all those dispositions that the church and the 
importance of the sacrament require. I endeavor on this occasion 
to silence the voice of reason before the Supreme Intelligence. 
I say to myself: who art thou, to presume to set bounds to omni- 
potence.? I reverently pronounce the sacramental words, and annex 
to them all the faith that depends on me. Whatever, therefore, 
be the truth with regard to that inconceivable mystery, I am not 
fearful of being charged at the day of judgment with profaning it in 
my heart. 

Honored with the ministerial office, though of the lowest rank, 
I will never do or say any thing that may make me unworthy to 
fulfill its sacred functions. I will always inculcate virtue, exhort my 
auditors to pursue it, and as far as it is in my power, set them an 
example. It does not depend on me to make their religion amiable, 
nor to confine the articles of their faith to what is necessary for all 
to believe: but God forbid that I should ever preach up the cruel 
tenets of persecution, — that I should even induce them to hate 
their neighbors, or to consign others to damnation.^ Were I, indeed, 

* The duty of adopting and respecting tlie religion of our country does not extend 
to such tenets as are contrary to moral virtue; such as that of persecution. It is this 
horrible dogma which arms mankind inhumanly against each other, and renders 
them destructive to the human race. The distinction between political and theological 
toleration is puerile and ridiculous, as they are inseparable, so that one cannot be 
admitted without the other. 



304 ROUSSEAU 

in a superior station, this reserve might incur censure; but I am too 
insignificant to have much to fear, and I can never fall lower than 
I am. But whatever may happen, I shall never blaspheme Divine 
Justice, nor lie against the Spirit o£ Truth. 

I have long been ambitious of the honor of being a pastor. I am 
indeed still ambitious, though I have no longer any hopes of it. 
There is no character in the world, my good friend, which appears 
to me so desirable as that of a pastor. A good pastor is a minister 
of goodness, as a good magistrate is a minister of justice. A pastor 
can have no temptation to evil; and though he may not always 
have it in his power to do good himself, he is really doing his duty 
when soliciting it of others, and very often obtains it when he learns 
to make himself truly worthy of respect. 

O that I enjoyed but some little benefice among the poor people 
in our mountains! How happy should I then feel! for I cannot 
but think that I should make my parishioners happy! I should never, 
indeed, make them rich, but I should cheerfully partake of their 
poverty. I would raise them above meanness and contempt, — more 
insupportable than indigence itself. I would induce them to love 
concord, and to cherish that equality which often banishes poverty, 
and always renders it more supportable. When they should see 
that I was no richer than themselves, and yet lived content, they 
would learn to console themselves under their lot, and to live 
contented also. 

In the instructions I should give them, I should be less directed 
by the sense of the church than by that of the gospel; whose tenets 
are more simple, and whose morals are more sublime; — that teaches 
few religious forms and many deeds of charity. 

Before I should teach them their duty, I should always endeavor to 
practice it myself, in order to let them see that I really thought 
as I spoke. 

Had I any Protestants in my neighborhood, or in my parish, 
I would make no distinction between them and my own flock, in 
every thing that regarded acts of Christian charity. I would en- 
deavor to make them all love and regard each other as brethren — 
tolerating all religions, and peacefully enjoying their own. 

Thus, my young friend, have I given you with my own lips a recital 



A SAVOYARD VICAR 305 

of my creed, such as the Supreme Being reads it in my heart. You are 
the first person to whom I have made this Profession of Faith; and 
you are the only one, probably, to whom I shall ever make it. * * * * 
If I were more pwsitive in myself, I should have assumed a more 
positive and dogmatic air; but I am a man ignorant and subject 
to error. I have opened to you my heart without reserve. What I 
have thought certain, I have given you as such. My doubts I have 
declared as doubts; my opinions as opinions; and I have honestly 
given you my reasons for both. What can I do more? It remains 
now for you to judge. Be sincere with yourself. Whether men love 
or hate, admire or despise you, is of but little moment. Speak only 
what is true, do only what is right; for, after all, the object of greatest 
importance is to faithfully discharge our duty. Adopt only those of 
my sentiments which you believe are true, and reject all the others; 
and whatever religion you may ultimately embrace, remember 
that its real duties are independent of human institutions — that no 
religion upon earth can dispense with the sacred obligations of 
morality — that an upright heart is the temple of the Divinity — and 
that, in every country and in every sect, to love God above all things, 
and thy neighbor as thyself, is the substance and summary of the 
law — the end and aim of religious duty. 



OF MAN, 
BEING THE FIRST PART OF LEVIATHAN 



BY 

THOMAS HOBBES 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Thomas Hobbes was born at Westport, now part of Malmesbury, in 
Wiltshire, England, April 5, 1588. His father was a clergyman of the 
Church of England, and he was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, 
whence he graduated in 1608. From this time till 1640 he was, with a 
short break, a member of the household of the Earls of Devonshire, 
acting as tutor and secretary, and traveling on several occasions on the 
Continent as companion to the second and later to the third Earl. He 
made the acquaintance of many of the leading philosophers and scientists 
of the Continent, including Descartes, Gassendi, and Galileo. He is also 
reported to have acted for a time as amanuensis to Bacon. 

On the meeting of the Long Parliament, Hobbes fled to Paris, afraid 
of what might happen to him on account of opinions expressed in certain 
philosophical treatises which had been circulated in manuscript. While 
abroad he published his "De Cive," containing the political theories later 
embodied in his "Leviathan." In 1646 he was appointed mathematical 
tutor to the future king, Charles II; but after the publication of the 
"Leviathan" in 1651, he was excluded from the court, and returned to 
England. 

The rest of Hobbes's life was spent largely in controversy, in which — 
especially in mathematical matters — he had by no means always the best 
of the argument. He lived in fear of prosecution for heresy, but was 
saved by the protection of the king. He died December 4, 1679. 

Hobbes's writings produced much commotion in his own day, but his 
opponents were more conspicuous than his disciples. Yet he exerted a 
notable influence on such thinkers as Spinoza, Leibniz, Diderot, and 
Rousseau; and the utilitarian movement led to a revival of interest in his 
philosophy in the nineteenth century. He was a fearless if one-sided 
thinker, and he presented his views in a style of great vigor and clear- 
ness. "A great partizan by nature," says his most recent critic, "Hobbes 
became by the sheer force of his fierce, concentrated intellect a master 
builder in philosophy. . . . He hated error, and therefore, to confute it, 
he shouldered his way into the very sanctuary of truth." 



INTRODUCTION 

Nature, the art whereby God hath made and governs the world, is by 
the 'art,' of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it 
can make an artificial animal. For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, 
the beginning whereof is in some principal part within; why may we 
not say, that all 'automata' (engines that move themselves by springs 
and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the 
'heart' but a 'spring'; and the 'nerves' but so many 'strings'; and the 
'joints' but so many 'wheels,' giving motion to the whole body, such as 
was intended by the artificer? 'Art' goes yet further, imitating that 
rational and most excellent work of nature, 'man.' For by art is created 
that great 'Leviathan' called a 'Commonwealth' or 'State,' in Latin 
civitas, which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and 
strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was in- 
tended; and in which the 'sovereignty' is an artificial 'soul,' as giving life 
and motion to the whole body; the 'magistrates' and other 'officers' of 
judicature and execution, artificial 'joints'; 'reward' and 'punishment,' by 
which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty every joint and member is 
moved to perform his duty, are the 'nerves,' that do the same in the body 
natural; the 'wealth' and 'riches' of all the particular members are the 
'strength'; salus populi, the 'people's safety,' its 'business'; 'counsellors,' 
by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the 
'memory'; 'equity' and 'laws,' an artificial 'reason' and 'will'; 'concord,' 
'health'; 'sedition,' 'sickness'; and 'civil war,' 'death.' Lastly, the 'pacts' 
and 'covenants,' by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, 
set together, and united, resemble that 'fiat,' or the 'let us make man,' 
pronounced by God in the creation. 
To describe the nature of this artificial man, I will consider: 
First, the 'matter' thereof, and the 'artificer,' both which is 'man.' 
Secondly, 'how,' and by what 'covenants' it is made; what are the 
'rights' and just 'power' or 'authority' of a 'sovereign,' and what it is that 
'preserveth' or 'dissolveth' it. 
Thirdly, what is a 'Christian commonwealth.' 
Lasdy, what is the 'kingdom of darkness.' 

Concerning the first, there is a saying much usurped of late that 
'wisdom' is acquired, not by reading of 'books' but of 'men.' Conse- 

309 



310 INTRODUCTION 

quently whereunto, those persons that for the most part can give no 
other proof of being wise take great delight to show what they think they 
have read in men, by uncharitable censures of one another behind their 
backs. But there is another saying not of late understood, by which they 
might learn truly to read one another, if they would take the pains; that 
is, nosce teipsum, 'read thyself: which was not meant, as it is now used, 
to countenance, either the barbarous state of men in power towards their 
inferiors, or to encourage men of low degree to a saucy behaviour 
towards their betters; but to teach us that for the similitude of the 
thoughts and passions of one man to the thoughts and passions of an- 
other, whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth, 
when he does 'think,' 'opine,' 'reason,' 'hope,' 'fear,' etc., and upon what 
grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and 
passions of all other men upon the like occasions. I say the similitude of 
'passions,' which are the same in all men, 'desire,' 'fear,' 'hope,' etc.; not 
the similitude of the 'objects' of the passions, which are the things 
'desired,' 'feared,' 'hoped,' etc.: for these the constitution individual, and 
particular education, do so vary, and they are so easy to be kept from our 
knowledge, that the characters of man's heart, blotted and confounded as 
they are with dissembling, lying, counterfeiting, and erroneous doctrines, 
are legible only to Him that searcheth hearts. And though by men's 
actions we do discover their design sometimes, yet to do it without 
comparing them with our own, and distinguishing all circumstances, by 
which the case may come to be altered, is to decipher without a key, and 
be for the most part deceived, by too much trust or by too much diffi- 
dence; as he that reads is himself a good or evil man. 

But let one man read another by his actions never so perfecdy, it serves 
him only with his acquaintance, which are but few. He that is to govern 
a whole nation must read in himself, not this or that particular man, but 
mankind: which, though it be hard to do, harder than to learn any 
language or science, yet, when I shall have set down my own reading 
orderly and perspicuously, the pains left another will be only to consider 
if he also find not the same in himself. For this kind of doctrine 
admitteth no other demonstration. 



OF MAN, 

BEING THE FIRST PART OF LEVIATHAN 

CHAPTER I 
Of Sense 

CONCERNING the thoughts of man, I will consider them 
first singly, and afterwards in train, or dependence upon one 
another. Singly, they are every one a 'representation' or 
'appearance' of some quality, or other accident of a body without us, 
which is commonly called an 'object.' Which object worketh on the 
eyes, ears, and other parts of a man's body, and, by diversity of 
working, produceth diversity of appearances. 

The original of them all is that which we call 'sense,' for there 
is no conception in a man's mind which hath not at first, totally or 
by parts, been begotten upon the organs of sense. The rest are 
derived from that original. 

To know the natural cause of sense is not very necessary to the 
business now in hand; and I have elsewhere written of the same at 
large. Nevertheless, to fill each part of my present method I will 
briefly deliver the same in this place. 

The cause of sense is the external body, or object, which presseth 
the organ proper to each sense, either immediately, as in the taste and 
touch, or mediately, as in seeing, hearing, and smelling; which pres- 
sure, by the mediation of the nerves and other strings and mem- 
branes of the body continued inwards to the brain and heart, 
causeth there a resistance, or counter-pressure, or endeavour of the 
heart to deliver itself, which endeavour, because 'outward,' seemeth 
to be some matter without. And this 'seeming' or 'fancy' is that 
which men call 'sense' and consisteth, as to the eye, in a 'light' or 
'colour figured'; to the ear, in a 'sound'; to the nostril, in an 
'odour'; to the tongue and palate, in a 'savour'; and to the rest of the 

311 



312 THOMAS HOBBES 

body, in 'heat,' 'cold,' 'hardness,' 'softness,' and such other qualities 
as we discern by 'feeling.' All which qualities, called 'sensible' are in 
the object that causeth them but so many several motions of the 
matter, by which it presseth our organs diversely. Neither in us 
that are pressed are they anything else but divers motions; for 
motion produceth nothing but motion. But their appearance to 
us is fancy, the same waking that dreaming. And as pressing, 
rubbing, or striking the eye, makes us fancy a light, and pressing 
the ear produceth a din, so do the bodies also we see or hear produce 
the same by their strong, though unobserved, action. For if those 
colours and sounds were in the bodies, or objects that cause them, 
they could not be severed from them, as by glasses, and in echoes by 
reflection, we see they are, where we know the thing we see is in 
one place, the appearance in another. And though at some certain 
distance the real and very object seem invested with the fancy it 
begets in us, yet still the object is one thing, the image or fancy is 
another. So that sense in all cases is nothing else but original fancy, 
caused, as I have said, by the pressure, that is by the motion, of 
external things upon our eyes, ears, and other organs thereunto 
ordained. 

But the philosophy schools through all the universities of Christen- 
dom, grounded upon certain texts of Aristotle, teach another doctrine, 
and say, for the cause of 'vision,' that the thing seen sendeth forth 
on every side a 'visible species,' in English, a 'visible show,' 'appari- 
tion,' or 'aspect,' or 'a being seen'; the receiving whereof into the 
eye is 'seeing.' And for the cause of 'hearing,' that the thing heard 
sendeth forth an 'audible species,' that is an 'audible aspect,' or 
'audible being seen,' which entering at the ear maketh 'hearing.' 
Nay, for the cause of 'understanding' also, they say the thing under- 
stood sendeth forth an 'intelligible species,' that is, an 'intelligible 
being seen,' which, coming into the understanding, makes us under- 
stand. I say not this as disproving the use of universities; but, be- 
cause I am to speak hereafter of their office in a commonwealth, 
I must let you see on all occasions by the way what things would be 
amended in them, amongst which the frequency of insignificant 
speech is one. 



OF MAN 313 

CHAPTER II 
Of Imagination 

That when a thing hes still, unless somewhat else stir it, it will lie 
still for ever, is a truth that no man doubts of. But that when a thing 
is in motion, it will eternally be in motion, unless somewhat else stay 
it, though the reason be the same, namely that nothing can change 
itself, is not so easily assented to. For men measure not only other 
men but all other things, by themselves; and, because they find them- 
selves subject after motion to pain and lassitude, think everything else 
grows weary of motion, and seeks repose of its own accord; little 
considering whether it be not some other motion wherein that desire 
of rest they find in themselves consisteth. From hence it is that the 
schools say heavy bodies fall downwards out of an appetite 
to rest, and to conserve their nature in that place which is most 
proper for them; ascribing appetite and knowledge of what is good 
for their conservation, which is more than man has, to things inani- 
mate, absurdly. 

When a body is once in motion, it moveth, unless something else 
hinder it, eternally; and whatsoever hindereth it cannot in an instant, 
but in time and by degrees, quite extinguish it; and, as we see in the 
water though the wind cease the waves give not over rolling for a 
long time after : so also it happeneth in that motion which is made in 
the internal parts of a man, then, when he sees, dreams, etc. For, 
after the object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an image 
of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And 
this is it the Latins call 'imagination,' from the image made in seeing; 
and apply the same, though improperly, to all the other senses. But 
the Greeks call it 'fancy,' which signifies 'appearance,' and is as proper 
to one sense as to another. 'Imagination,' therefore, is nothing but 
'decaying sense,' and is found in men, and many other living crea- 
tures, as well sleeping as waking. 

The decay of sense in men waking is not the decay of the motion 
made in sense, but an obscuring of it in such manner as the light of 
the sun obscureth the light of the stars, which stars do no less exer- 
cise their virtue, by which they are visible, in the day than in the 



314 THOMAS HOBBES 

night. But because amongst many strokes which our eyes, ears, and 
other organs, receive from external bodies, the predominant only is 
sensible; therefore, the light of the sun being predominant, we are 
not affected with the action of the stars. And any object being re- 
moved from our eyes, though the impression it made in us remain, 
yet other objects more present succeeding and working on us, the 
imagination of the past is obscured, and made weak, as the voice of 
a man is in the noise of the day. From whence it foUoweth that the 
longer the time is, after the sight or sense of any object, the weaker 
is the imagination. For the continual change of man's body destroys 
in time the parts which in sense were moved; so that distance of time, 
and of place, hath one and the same effect in us. For as at a great 
distance of place that which we look at appears dim and without dis- 
tinction of the smaller parts, and as voices grow weak and inarticu- 
late, so also after great distance of time our imagination of the past 
is weak; and we lose, for example, of cities we have seen many par- 
ticular streets, and of actions many particular circumstances. This 
'decaying sense,' when we would express the thing itself, I mean 
'fancy' itself, we call 'imagination,' as I said before; but when we 
would express the decay, and signify that the sense is fading, old, 
and past, it is called 'memory.' So that imagination and memory are 
but one thing, which for divers considerations hath divers names. 

'Much memory, or memory of many things, is called experience.' 
Again, imagination being only of those things which have been for- 
merly perceived by sense, either all at once or by parts at several 
times, the former, which is the imagining the whole object as it 
was presented to the sense, is 'simple' imagination, as when one 
imagineth a man, or horse, which he hath seen before. The other is 
'compounded,' as when, from the sight of a man at one time, and of a 
horse at another, we conceive in our mind a Centaur. So when a 
man compoundeth the image of his own person with the image of 
the actions of another man, as when a man images himself a 
Hercules or an Alexander, which happeneth often to them that are 
much taken with reading of romances, it is a compound imagina- 
tion, and properly but a fiction of the mind. There be also other 
imaginations that rise in men, though waking, from the great im- 
pression made in sense; as, from gazing upon the sun, the impression 



OF MAN 315 

leaves an image of the sun before our eyes a long time after; and, 
from being long and vehemently attent upon geometrical figures, a 
man shall in the dark, though awake, have the images of lines and 
angles before his eyes; which kind of fancy hath no particular name, 
as being a thing that doth not commonly fall into men's discourse. 

The imaginations of them that sleep are those we call 'dreams.' 
And these also, as also all other imaginations, have been before, either 
totally or by parcels, in the sense. And, because in sense, the brain 
and nerves, which are the necessary organs of sense, are so benumbed 
in sleep as not easily to be moved by the action of external objects, 
there can happen in sleep no imagination, and therefore no dream, 
but what proceeds from the agitation of the inward parts of man's 
body; which inward parts, for the connection they have with the 
brain and other organs, when they be distempered, do keep the same 
in motion; whereby the imaginations there formerly made, appear 
as if a man were waking; saving that the organs of sense being now 
benumbed, so as there is no new object which can master and obscure 
them with a more vigorous impression, a dream must needs be more 
clear in this silence of sense than our waking thoughts. And hence 
it cometh to pass that it is a hard matter, and by many thought im- 
possible, to distinguish exactly between sense and dreaming. For my 
part, when I consider that in dreams I do not often nor constantly 
think of the same persons, places, objects, and actions, that I do 
waking, nor remember so long a train of coherent thoughts, dream- 
ing, as at other times, and because waking I often observe the absurd- 
ity of dreams, but never dream of the absurdities of my waking 
thoughts, I am well satisfied, that, being awake, I know I dream not, 
though when I dream I think myself awake. 

And, seeing dreams are caused by the distemper of some of the 
inward parts of the body, divers distempers must needs cause dif- 
ferent dreams. And hence it is that lying cold breedeth dreams of 
fear, and raiseth the thought and image of some fearful object, the 
motion from the brain to the inner parts and from the inner parts to 
the brain being reciprocal; and that, as anger causeth heat in some 
parts of the body when we are awake, so when we sleep the over- 
heating of the same parts causeth anger, and raiseth up in the brain 
the imagination of an enemy. In the same manner, as natural kind- 



3l6 THOMAS HOBBES 

ness, when we are awake, causeth desire, and desire makes heat in 
certain other parts of the body; so also too much heat in those parts, 
while we sleep, raiseth in the brain an imagination of some kindness 
shown. In sum, our dreams are the reverse of our waking imagina- 
tions, the motion when we are awake beginning at one end, and 
when we dream at another. 

The most difficult discerning of a man's dream from his waking 
thoughts is, then, when by some accident we observe not that we 
have slept : which is easy to happen to a man full of fearful thoughts, 
and whose conscience is much troubled, and that sleepeth without 
the circumstances of going to bed or putting off his clothes, as one 
that noddeth in a chair. For he that taketh pains, and industriously 
lays himself to sleep, in case any uncouth and exorbitant fancy come 
unto him, cannot easily think it other than a dream. We read of 
Marcus Brutus (one that had his life given him by Julius Caesar, and 
was also his favorite, and notwithstanding murdered him) how at 
Philippi, the night before he gave battle to Augustus Caesar, he saw 
a fearful apparition, which is commonly related by historians as a 
vision; but, considering the circumstances, one may easily judge to 
have been but a short dream. For, sitting in his tent, pensive and 
troubled with the horror of his rash act, it was not hard for him, 
slumbering in the cold, to dream of that which most affrighted him; 
which fear, as by degrees it made him wake, so also it must needs 
make the apparition by degrees to vanish; and, having no assurance 
that he slept, he could have no cause to think it a dream or anything 
but a vision. And this is no very rare accident; for even they that 
be perfectly awake, if they be timorous and superstitious, possessed 
with fearful tales, and alone in the dark, are subject to the like 
fancies, and believe they see spirits and dead men's ghosts walking 
in churchyards; whereas it is either their fancy only, or else the 
knavery of such persons as make use of such superstitious fear to 
pass disguised in the night to places they would not be known to 
haunt. 

From this ignorance of how to distinguish dreams and other strong 
fancies from vision and sense, did arise the greatest part of the 
religion of the Gentiles in time past that worshipped satyrs, fawns, 
nymphs, and the like; and now-a-days the opinion that rude people 



OF MAN 317 

have of fairies, ghosts, and gobUns, and of the power of witches. For 
as for witches, I think not that their witchcraft is any real power; 
but yet that they are justly punished for the false belief they have that 
they can do such mischief, joined with their purpose to do it if they 
can; their trade being nearer to a new religion than to a craft or 
science. And for fairies and walking ghosts, the opinion of them 
has, I think, been on purpose either taught, or not confuted, to keep 
in credit the use of exorcism, of crosses, of holy water, and other such 
inventions of ghostly men. Nevertheless there is no doubt but God 
can make unnatural apparitions; but that He does it so often as men 
need to fear such things more than they fear the stay or change of 
the course of nature, which He also can stay and change, is no point 
of Christian faith. But evil men, under pretext that God can do 
anything, are so bold as to say anything when it serves their turn, 
though they think it untrue; it is the part of a wise man to believe 
them no farther than right reason makes that which they say appear 
credible. If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and 
with it prognostics from dreams, false prophecies, and many other 
things depending thereon, by which crafty, ambitious persons abuse 
the simple people, men would be much more fitted than they are for 
civil obedience. 

And this ought to be the work of the schools; but they rather 
nourish such doctrine. For, not knowing what imagination or the 
senses are, what they receive they teach; some saying that imagina- 
tions rise of themselves and have no cause; others that they rise most 
commonly from the will, and that good thoughts are blown (in- 
spired) into a man by God, and evil thoughts by the devil; or that 
good thoughts are poured (infused) into a man by God, and evil ones 
by the devil. Some say the senses receive the species of things, and 
deliver them to the common sense, and the common sense delivers 
them over to the fancy, and the fancy to the memory, and the memory 
to the judgment, Uke handling of things from one to another, with 
many words making nothing understood. 

The imagination that is raised in man, or any other creature indued 
with the faculty of imagining, by words or other voluntary signs, 
is that we generally call 'understanding,' and is common to man and 
beast. For a dog by custom will understand the call or the rating of 



3l8 THOMAS HOBBES 

his master; and so will many other beasts. That understanding which 
is peculiar to man is the understanding not only his will but his 
conceptions and thoughts, by the sequel and contexture of the names 
of things into affirmations, negations, and other forms of speech; 
and of this kind of understanding I shall speak hereafter. 

CHAPTER III 
Of the Consequence or Train of Imaginations 

By 'consequence,' or 'train,' of thoughts I understand that succes- 
sion of one thought to another which is called, to distinguish it from 
discourse in words, 'mental discourse.' 

When a man thinketh on anything whatever, his next thought 
after is not altogether so casual as it seems to be. Not every thought 
to every thought succeeds indifferently. But as we have no imagina- 
tion whereof we have not formerly had sense, in whole or in parts, 
so we have no transition from one imagination to another whereof 
we never had the like before in our senses. The reason whereof is 
this. All fancies are motions within us, relics of those made in the 
sense, and those motions that immediately succeeded one another 
in the sense continue also together after sense: in so much as the 
former coming again to take place, and be predominant, the latter 
followeth, by coherence of the matter moved, in such manner as 
water upon a plane table is drawn which way any one part of it is 
guided by the finger. But because in sense to one and the same thing 
perceived, sometimes one thing sometimes another, succeedeth, it 
comes to pass in time that in the imagining of anything there is no 
certainty what we shall imagine next: only this is certain, it shall 
be something that succeeded the same before, at one time or another. 

This train of thoughts, or mental discourse, is of two sorts. The 
first is 'unguided,' 'without design,' and inconstant; wherein there is 
no passionate thought, to govern and direct those that follow, to 
itself, as the end and scope of some desire or other passion : in which 
case the thoughts are said to wander, and seem impertinent one to 
another as in a dream. Such are commonly the thoughts of men 
that are not only without company but also without care of any- 



OF MAN 319 

thing; though even then their thoughts are as busy as at other times, 
but without harmony; as the sound which a lute out of tune would 
yield to any man, or in tune to one that could not play. And yet in 
this wild ranging of the mind a man may oft-times perceive the way 
of it, and the dependence of one thought upon another. For in a 
discourse of our present civil war, what could seem more imperti- 
nent than to ask, as one did, what was the value of a Roman penny. 
Yet the coherence to me was manifest enough. For the thought of 
the war introduced the thought of the delivering up the king to his 
enemies; the thought of that brought in the thought of the deliver- 
ing up of Christ; and that again the thought of the thirty pence, 
which was the price of that treason; and thence easily followed that 
malicious question; and all this in a moment of time — ^for thought 
is quick. 

The second is more constant; as being 'regulated' by some desire 
and design. For the impression made by such things as we desire, 
or fear, is strong and permanent, or, if it cease for a time, of quick 
return: so strong it is sometimes as to hinder and break our sleep. 
From desire ariseth the thought of some means we have seen pro- 
duce the hke of that which we aim at; and from the thought of that, 
the thought of means to that mean; and so continually till we come 
to some beginning within our own power. And because the end, 
by the greatness of the impression, comes often to mind, in case our 
thoughts begin to wander, they are quickly again reduced into the 
way : which observed by one of the Seven Wise Men, made him give 
men this precept, which is now worn out, Respice finem, that is to 
say, in all your actions look often upon what you would have as the 
thing that directs all your thoughts in the way to attain it. 

The train of regulated thoughts is of two kinds; one, when of an 
effect imagined we seek the causes or means that produce it; and 
this is common to man and beast. The other is when imagining 
anything whatsoever we seek all the possible effects that can by it 
be produced, that is to say, we imagine what we can do with it 
when we have it. Of which I have not at any time seen any sign 
but in man only; for this is a curiosity hardly incident to the nature 
of any living creature that has no other passion but sensual, such 
as are hunger, thirst, lust, and anger. In sum, the discourse of the 



320 THOMAS HOBBES 

mind, when it is governed by design, is nothing but 'seeking,' or 
the faculty of invention, which the Latins called sagacitas, and 
solertia; a hunting out of the causes, of some effect, present or 
past; or of the effects, of some present or past cause. Sometimes a 
man seeks what he hath lost; and from that place and time wherein 
he misses it his mind runs back, from place to place, and time to 
time, to find where and when he had it, that is to say, to find some 
certain and limited time and place in which to begin a method of 
seeking. Again, from thence his thoughts run over the same places 
and times to find what action or other occasion might make him 
lose it. This we call 'remembrance,' or calling to mind: the Latins 
call it reminiscentia, as it were a 're-conning' of our former actions. 

Sometimes a man knows a place determinate, within the compass 
whereof he is to seek; and then his thoughts run over all the parts 
thereof, in the same manner as one would sweep a room to find a 
jewel, or as a spaniel ranges the field till he find a scent, or as a 
man should run over the alphabet to start a rhyme. 

Sometimes a man desires to know the event of an action; and 
then he thinketh of some like action past, and the events thereof one 
after another, supposing like events will follow like actions. As 
he that foresees what will become of a criminal re-cons what he has 
seen follow on the like crime before, having this order of thoughts, 
the crime, the officer, the prison, the judge, and the gallows. Which 
kind of thoughts is called 'foresight,' and 'prudence,' or 'providence,' 
and sometimes 'wisdom,' though such conjecture, through the diffi- 
culty of observing all circumstances, be very fallacious. But this is 
certain: by how much one man has more experience of things past 
than another, by so much also he is more prudent, and his expecta- 
tions the seldomer fail him. The 'present' only has a being in 
nature; things 'past' have a being in the memory only, but things 
'to come' have no being at all, the 'future' being but a fiction of 
the mind, applying the sequels of actions past to the actions that 
are present; which with most certainty is done by him that has most 
experience, but not with certainty enough. And though it be called 
prudence, when the event answereth our expectation, yet, in its 
own nature, it is but presumption. For the foresight of things to 
come, which is providence, belongs only to him by whose will 



OF MAN 321 

they are to come. From him only, and supernaturally, proceeds 
prophecy. The best prophet naturally is the best guesser; and the 
best guesser he that is most versed and studied in the matters 
he guesses at, for he hath most 'signs' to guess by. 

A 'sign' is the event antecedent o£ the consequent; and, contrarily, 
the consequent of the antecedent, when the like consequences have 
been observed before; and the oftener they have been observed, the 
less uncertain is the sign. And therefore he that has most experience 
in any kind of business has most signs whereby to guess at the future 
time, and consequendy is the most prudent; and so much more 
prudent than he that is new in that kind of business as not to be 
equalled by any advantage of natural and extemporary wit; though 
perhaps many young men think the contrary. 

Nevertheless it is not prudence that distinguisheth man from 
beast. There be beasts that at a year old observe more, and pur- 
sue that which is for their good more prudently than a child can 
do at ten. 

As prudence is a 'presumption' of the 'future' contracted from the 
'experience' of time 'past,' so there is a presumption of things past 
taken from other things, not future, but past also. For he that hath 
seen by what courses and degrees a flourishing state hath first come 
into civil war, and then to ruin, upon the sight of the ruins of any 
other state will guess the like war and the like courses have been there 
also. But this conjecture has the same uncertainty almost with the 
conjecture of the future, both being grounded only upon experience. 

There is no other act of man's mind that I can remember naturally 
planted in him, so as to need no other thing to the exercise of it 
but to be born a man, and live with the use of his five senses. Those 
other faculties of which I shall speak by and by, and which seem 
proper to man only, are acquired and increased by study and 
industry, and of most men learned by instruction and discipline; 
and proceed all from the invention of words and speech. For 
besides sense, and thoughts, and the train of thoughts, the mind of 
man has no other motion, though by the help of speech and method 
the same faculties may be improved to such a height as to dis- 
tinguish men from all other living creatures. 

Whatsoever we imagine is 'finite.' Therefore there is no idea 



322 THOMAS HOBBES 

or conception of any thing we call 'infinite.' No man can have in his 
mind an image of infinite magnitude, nor conceive infinite swiftness, 
infinite time, or infinite force, or infinite power. When we say 
anything is infinite, we signify only that we are not able to con- 
ceive the ends and bounds of the things named; having no con- 
ception of the thing, but of our own inability. And therefore the 
name of God is used, not to make us conceive Him, for He is 
incomprehensible, and His greatness and power are unconceivable; 
but that we may honour Him. Also because, whatsoever, as I said 
before, we conceive, has been perceived first by sense, either all at 
once or by parts; a man can have no thought representing anything 
not subject to sense. No man therefore can conceive anything but 
he must conceive it in some place, and indued with some determinate 
magnitude, and which may be divided into parts; nor that anything 
is all in this place and all in another place at the same time; nor that 
two or more things can be in one and the same place at once: for 
none of these things ever have or can be incident to sense, but are 
absurd speeches, taken upon credit, without any signification at all, 
from deceived philosophers, and deceived or deceiving schoolmen. 

CHAPTER IV 
Of Speech 

The invention of 'printing,' though ingenious compared with the 
invention of 'letters,' is no great matter. But who was the first that 
found the use of letters is not known. He that first brought them 
into Greece men say was Cadmus, the son of Agenor, king of 
Phoenicia. A profitable invention for continuing the memory of 
time past and the conjunction of mankind, dispersed into so many 
and distant regions of the earth; and withal difficult, as proceeding 
from a watchful observation of the divers motions of the tongue, 
palate, lips, and other organs of speech, whereby to make as many 
differences of characters, to remember them. But the most noble 
and profitable invention of all other was that of 'speech' consisting 
of 'names' or 'appellations,' and their connection; whereby men 
register their thoughts, recall them when they are past, and also 



OF MAN 323 

declare them one to another for mutual utihty and conversation; 
without which there had been amongst men neither commonwealth, 
nor society, nor contract, nor peace, no more than amongst lions, 
bears, and wolves. The first author of 'speech' was God Himself, 
that instructed Adam how to name such creatures as He presented 
to his sight; for the Scripture goeth no further in this matter. But 
this was sufficient to direct him to add more names, as the experience 
and use of the creatures should give him occasion, and to join them 
in such manner by degrees as to make himself understood; and so, 
by succession of time, so much language might be gotten as he had 
found use for; though not so copious, as an orator or philosopher 
has need of: for I do not find anything in the Scripture out of 
which, directly or by consequence, can be gathered that Adam was 
taught the names of all figures, numbers, measures, colours, sounds, 
fancies, relations — much less the names of words and speech, as 
'general,' 'special,' 'affirmative,' 'negative,' 'interrogative,' 'optative,' 
'infinitive,' all which are useful, and, least of all, of 'entity,' 'inten- 
tionality,' 'quiddity,' and other insignificant words of the school. 

But all this language gotten, and augmented by Adam and his 
posterity was again lost at the Tower of Babel, when by the hand of 
God every man was stricken for his rebellion with an oblivion of his 
former language. And being hereby forced to disperse themselves 
into several parts of the world, it must needs be that the diversity 
of tongues that now is proceeded by degrees from them in such 
manner as need, the mother of all inventions, taught them; and in 
tract of time grew everywhere more copious. 

The general use of speech is to transfer our mental discourse 
into verbal, or the train of our thoughts into a train of words, and 
that for two commodities, whereof one is the registering of the 
consequences of our thoughts, which, being apt to slip out of our 
memory and put us to a new labour, may again be recalled by such 
words as they were marked by. So that the first use of names is 
to serve for 'marks,' or 'notes,' of remembrance. Another is, when 
many use the same words to signify by their connection and order 
one to another what they conceive or think of each matter; and 
also what they desire, fear, or have any other passion for. And 
for this use they are called 'signs.' Special uses of speech are these: 



324 THOMAS HOBBES 

first, to register what by cogitation we find to be the cause of 
anything, present or past; and what we find things present or past 
may produce, or effect; which, in sum, is acquiring of arts. Secondly, 
to show to others that knowledge which we have attained, which 
is to counsel and teach one another. Thirdly, to make known to 
others our wills and purposes, that we may have the mutual help 
of one another. Fourthly, to please and delight ourselves and others 
by playing with our words, for pleasure or ornament, innocently. 

To these uses there are also four correspondent abuses. First, when 
men register their thoughts wrong, by the inconstancy of the 
signification of their words; by which they register for their con- 
ceptions that which they never conceived, and so deceive themselves. 
Secondly, when they use words metaphorically, that is, in other 
sense than that they are ordained for; and thereby deceive others. 
Thirdly, when by words, they declare that to be their will which is 
not. Fourthly, when they use them to grieve one another; for 
seeing Nature hath armed living creatures, some with teeth, some 
with horns, and some with hands, to grieve an enemy, it is but an 
abuse of speech to grieve him with the tongue, unless it be one 
whom we are obliged to govern; and then it is not to grieve, but 
to correct and amend. 

The manner how speech serveth to the remembrance of the con- 
sequence of causes and effects consisteth in the imposing of 'names,' 
and the 'connection' of them. 

Of names, some are 'proper,' and singular to one only thing, as 
'Peter,' 'John,' 'this man,' 'this tree'; and some are 'common' to 
many things, 'man,' 'horse,' 'tree' — every of which, though but one 
name, is nevertheless the name of divers particular things; in 
respect of all which together it is called an 'universal,' there being 
nothing in the world universal but names; for the things named 
are every one of them individual and singular. 

One universal name is imposed on many things, for their simili- 
tude in some quality or other accident; and whereas a proper name 
bringeth to mind one thing only, universals recall any one of 
those many. 

And, of names universal, some are of more, and some of less 
extent, the larger comprehending the less large; and some again of 



OF MAN 325 

equal extent, comprehending each other reciprocally. As, for ex- 
ample, the name 'body' is o£ larger signification than the word 
'man,' and comprehendeth it; and the names 'man' and 'rational' are 
of equal extent, comprehending mutually one another. But here we 
must take notice that by a name is not always understood, as in 
grammar, one only word; but sometimes, by circumlocution, many 
words together. For all these words, 'he that in his actions ob- 
serveth the laws of his country' make but one name, equivalent to 
this one word 'just.' 

By this imposition of names, some of larger, some of stricter 
signification, we turn the reckoning of the consequences of things 
imagined in the mind into a reckoning of the consequences of 
appellations. For example: a man that hath no use of speech at all, 
such as is born and remains perfectly deaf and dumb, if he set before 
his eyes a triangle and by it two right angles, such as are the 
corners of a square figure, he may by meditation compare and find 
that the three angles of that triangle are equal to those two right 
angles that stand by it. But if another triangle be shown him, dif- 
ferent in shape from the former, he cannot know without a new 
labour whether the three angles of that also be equal to the same. 
But he that hath the use of words, when he observes that such 
equality was consequent not to the length of the sides nor to any 
other particular thing in his triangle, but only to this, that the sides 
were straight, and the angles three, and that that was all for which 
he named it a triangle, will boldly conclude universally that such 
equality of angles is in all triangles whatsoever, and register his 
invention in these general terms, 'every triangle hath its three angles 
equal to two right angles.' And thus the consequence found in one 
particular comes to be registered and remembered as a universal 
rule, and discharges our mental reckoning of time and place, and 
dehvers us from all labour of the mind saving the first; and makes 
that which was found true 'here' and 'now* to be true in 'all times' 
and 'places.' 

But the use of words in registering our thoughts is in nothing 
30 evident as in numbering. A natural fool that could never learn 
by heart the order of numeral words, as 'one,' 'two,' and 'three,' 
may observe every stroke of the clock, and nod to it, or say 'one,' 



326 THOMAS HOBBES 

'one,' 'one,' but can never know what hour it strikes. And it seems 
there was a time when those names of number were not in use, 
and men were fain to apply their fingers of one or both hands to 
those things they desired to keep account of; and that thence it 
proceeded that now our numeral words are but ten in any nation, 
and in some but five; and then they begin again. And he that can 
tell ten, if he recite them out of order, will lose himself and not 
know when he has done. Much less will he be able to add, and 
subtract, and perform all other operations of arithmetic. So that 
without words there is no possibility of reckoning of numbers; much 
less of magnitudes, of swiftness, of force, and other things, the 
reckonings whereof are necessary to the being, or well-being of 
mankind. 

When two names are joined together into a consequence, or 
affirmation as thus, 'a man is a Uving creature,' or thus, 'if he be a 
man, he is a living creature,' if the latter name, 'Uving creature,' 
signify all that the former name, 'man,' signifieth, then the affir- 
mation, or consequence, is 'true'; otherwise 'false.' For 'true' and 
'false' are attributes of speech, not of things. And where speech 
is not, there is neither 'truth' nor 'falsehood': 'error' there may be, as 
when we expect that which shall not be, or suspect what has not 
been; but in neither case can a man be charged with untruth. 

Seeing then that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names 
in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth had need to 
remember what every name he uses stands for, and to place it 
accordingly, or else he will find himself entangled in words, as a 
bird in lime twigs — the more he struggles the more belimed. And 
therefore in geometry, which is the only science that it hath pleased 
God hitherto to bestow on mankind, men begin at settling the 
significations of their words; which settling of significations they 
call 'definitions,' and place them in the beginning of their reckoning. 

By this it appears how necessary it is for any man that aspires to 
true knowledge to examine the definitions of former authors; and 
either to correct them, where they are negligently set down, or to 
make them himself. For the errors of definitions multiply them- 
selves according as the reckoning proceeds, and lead men into 
absurdiues which at last they see, but cannot avoid without reckoning 



OF MAN 327 

anew from the beginning, in which lies the foundation of their errors. 
From whence it happens that they which trust to books do as they 
that cast up many Httle sums into a greater, without considering 
whether those Uttle sums were rightly cast up or not; and at last, 
finding the error visible and not mistrusting their first grounds, 
know not which way to clear themselves, but spend time in fluttering 
over their books, as birds that, entering by the chimney and finding 
themselves enclosed in a chamber, flutter at the false fight of a glass 
window for want of wit to consider which way they came in. So that 
in the right definition of names lies the first use of speech, which 
is the acquisition of science; and in wrong, or no definitions, lies 
the first abuse; from which proceed all false and senseless tenets: 
which make those men that take their instruction from the authority 
of books and not from their own meditation to be as much below 
the condition of ignorant men as men endued with true science 
are above it. For between true science and erroneous doctrines ig- 
norance is in the middle. Natural sense and imagination are not 
subject to absurdity. Nature itself cannot err; and as men abound 
in copiousness of language, so they become more wise, or more 
mad, than ordinary. Nor is it possible without letters for any man 
to become either excellently wise, or, unless his memory be hurt by 
disease or ill constitution of organs, excellently foolish. For words 
are wise men's counters — ^they do but reckon by them; but they are 
the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, 
a Cicero, or a Thomas or any other doctor whatsoever, if but a man. 
'Subject to names' is whatsoever can enter into or be considered in 
an account, and be added one to another to make a sum, or sub- 
tracted one from another and leave a remainder. The Latins called 
accounts of money rationes, and accounting ratiocinatio; and that 
which we in bills or books of account call 'items' they call nomina, 
that is 'names,' and thence it seems to proceed that they extended 
the word ratio to the faculty of reckoning in all other things. The 
Greeks have but one word, \lyyo^, for both 'speech' and 'reason'; not 
that they thought there was no speech without reason, but no 
reasoning without speech; and the act of reasoning they called 
'syllogism,' which signifieth summing up of the consequences of one 
saying to another. And because the same thing may enter into 



328 THOMAS HOBBES 

account for divers accidents, their names are, to show that diversity, 
diversely wrested and diversified. This diversity of names may be 
reduced to four general heads. 

First, a thing may enter into account for 'matter' or 'body,' as 
'living,' 'sensible,' 'rational,' 'hot,' 'cold,' 'moved,' 'quiet'; with all 
which names the word 'matter' or 'body' is understood; all such 
being names of matter. 

Secondly, it may enter into account, or be considered, for some 
accident or quality which we conceive to be in it; as for 'being 
moved,' for 'being so long,' for 'being hot,' etc.; and then, of the 
name of the thing itself, by a little change or wresting we make a 
name for that accident which we consider; and for 'living' put into 
the account 'life,' for 'moved' 'motion,' for 'hot' 'heat,' for 'long' 
'length,' and the like; and all such names are the names of the 
accidents and properties by which one matter and body is dis- 
tinguished from another. These are called 'names abstract,' because 
severed not from matter but from the account of matter. 

Thirdly, we bring into account the properties of our own bodies, 
whereby we make such distinction; as, when anything is seen by 
us, we reckon not the thing itself but the sight, the colour, the 
idea of it in the fancy; and when anything is heard, we reckon it 
not, but the hearing or sound only, which is our fancy or conception 
of it by the ear; and such are names of fancies. 

Fourthly, we bring into account, consider, and give names, to 
'names' themselves, and to 'speeches,' for 'general,' 'universal,' 
'special,' 'equivocal,' are names of names. And 'affirmation,' 'inter- 
rogation,' 'commandment,' 'narration,' 'syllogism,' 'sermon,' 'ora- 
tion,' and many other such, are names of speeches. And this is all 
the variety of names 'positive,' which are put to mark somewhat 
which is in Nature, or may be feigned by the mind of man, as 
bodies that are or may be conceived to be; or of bodies, the proper- 
ties that are or may be feigned to be; or words and speech. 

There be also other names, called 'negative,' which are notes to 
signify that a word is not the name of the thing in question; as 
these words 'nothing,' 'no man,' 'infinite,' 'indocible,' 'three want 
four,' and the like; which are nevertheless of use in reckoning, or 
in correcting of reckoning, and call to mind our past cogitations, 



OF MAN 329 

though they be not names of anything, because they make us refuse 
to admit of names not rightly used. 

All other names are but insignificant sounds; and those of two 
sorts. One when they are new, and yet their meaning not explained 
by definition; whereof there have been abundance coined by school- 
men, and puzzled philosophers. 

Another, when men make a name of two names, whose significa- 
tions are contradictory and inconsistent; as this name, an 'incorpo- 
real body,' or, which is all one, an 'incorporeal substance,' and a 
great number more. For, whensoever any affirmation is false, the 
two names of which it is composed put together and made one 
signify nothing at all. For example, if it be a false affirmation to 
say 'a quadrangle is round,' the word 'round quadrangle' signifies 
nothing, but is a mere sound. So likewise, if it be false to say that 
virtue can be poured, or blown up and down, the words 'inpoured 
virtue,' 'inblown virtue,' are as absurd and insignificant as a 'round 
quadrangle.' And therefore you shall hardly meet with a senseless 
and insignificant word that is not made up of some Latin or Greek 
names. A Frenchman seldom hears our Saviour called by the name 
of parole, but by the name of verbe often; yet verbe and parole differ 
no more but that one is Latin, the other French. 

When a man, upon the hearing of any speech, hath those thoughts 
which the words of that speech and their connection were ordained 
and constituted to signify, then he is said to understand it, 'under- 
standing' being nothing else but conception caused by speech. And 
therefore, if speech be peculiar to man, as for aught I know it is, 
then is understanding peculiar to him also. And therefore of absurd 
and false affirmations, in case they be universal, there can be no 
understanding; though many think they understand, then, when 
they do but repeat the words softly, or con them in their mind. 

What kinds of speeches signify the appetites, aversions, and 
passions of man's mind, and of their use and abuse, I shall speak 
when I have spoken of the passions. 

The names of such things as affect us, that is, which please and 
displease us, because all men be not alike affected with the same 
thing nor the same man at all times, are in the common discourses of 
men of 'inconstant' signification. For seeing all names are imposed 



330 THOMAS HOBBES 

to signify our conceptions, and all our aflFections are but conceptions, 
when we conceive the same things differently we can hardly avoid 
different naming of them. For though the nature of that we con- 
ceive be the same, yet the diversity of our reception of it, in respect 
of different constitutions of body and prejudices of opinion, gives 
everything a tincture of our different passions. And therefore in 
reasoning a man must take heed of words, which, besides the 
signification of what we imagine of their nature, have a signification 
also of the nature, disposition, and interest of the speaker; such 
as are the names of virtues and vices; for one man calleth 'wisdom' 
what another calleth 'fear,' and one 'cruelty' what another 'justice'; 
one 'prodigality' what another 'magnanimity'; and one 'gravity' 
what another 'stupidity,' etc. And therefore such names can never 
be true grounds of any ratiocination. No more can metaphors and 
tropes of speech; but these are less dangerous, because they profess 
their inconstancy, which the other do not. 

CHAPTER V 

Of Reason and Science 

When a man 'reasoneth' he does nothing else but conceive a sum 
total, from 'addition' of parcels, or conceive a remainder, from 'sub- 
traction' of one sum from another; which, if it be done by words, 
is conceiving of the consequence of the names of all the parts, to 
the name of the whole; or from the names of the whole and one 
part, to the name of the other part. And, though in some things, as in 
numbers, besides adding and subtracting men name other opera- 
tions, as 'multiplying' and 'dividing,' yet they are the same; for 
multiplication is but adding together of things equal; and division 
but subtracting of one thing, as often as we can. These operations 
are not incident to numbers only, but to all manner of things that 
can be added together, and taken one out of another. For as 
arithmeticians teach to add and subtract in 'numbers,' so the geom- 
etricians teach the same in 'lines,' 'figures,' solid and superficial, 
'angles,' 'proportions,' 'times,' degrees of 'swiftness,' 'force,' 'power' 
and the like; the logicians teach the same in 'consequences of words,' 



OF MAN 331 

adding together two 'names' to make an 'afBrmation,' and two 
'affirmations' to make a 'syllogism'; and 'many syllogisms' to make 
a 'demonstration'; and from the 'sum,' or 'conclusion,' of a 'syllo- 
gism' they subtract one 'proposition' to find the other. Writers of 
politics add together 'pactions' to find men's 'duties,' and lawyers 
'laws' and 'facts,' to find what is 'right' and 'wrong' in the actions of 
private men. In sum, in what matter soever there is place for 'addi- 
tion' and 'subtraction' there also is place for 'reason,' and where these 
have no place, there 'reason' has nothing at all to do. 

Out of all which we may define, that is to say determine, what 
that is which is meant by this word 'reason,' when we reckon it 
amongst the faculties of the mind. For 'reason' in this sense is 
nothing but 'reckoning,' that is adding and subtracting, of the con- 
sequences of general names agreed upon for the 'marking' and 
'signifying' of our thoughts; I say 'marking' them when we reckon by 
ourselves, and 'signifying' when we demonstrate or approve our 
reckonings to other men. 

And, as in arithmetic, unpractised men must, and professors 
themselves may often, err, and cast up false; so also in any other 
subject of reasoning the ablest, most attentive, and most practised 
men may deceive themselves, and infer false conclusions; not but 
that reason itself is always right reason, as well as arithmetic is a 
certain and infallible art; but no one man's reason, nor the reason of 
any one number of men, makes the certainty; no more than an 
account is therefore well cast up, because a great many men have 
unanimously approved it. And therefore, as when there is a con- 
troversy in an account the parties must by their own accord set up 
for right reason the reason of some arbitrator, or judge, to whose 
sentence they wall both stand, or their controversy must either come 
to blows, or be undecided, for want of a right reason constituted 
by Nature; so is it also in all debates of what kind soever. And 
when men that think themselves wiser than all others clamour and 
demand right reason for judge, yet seek no more but that things 
should be determined by no other men's reason but their own, 
it is as intolerable in the society of men as it is in play after trump 
is turned, to use for trump on every occasion that suit whereof they 
have most in their hand. For they do nothing else that will have 



332 THOMAS HOBBES 

every of their passions, as it comes to bear sway in them, to be 
taken for right reason, and that in their own controversies, be- 
wraying their want of right reason, by the claim they lay to it. 

The use and end of reason is not the finding of the sum and 
truth of one or a few consequences remote from the first definitions 
and settled significations of names, but to begin at these, and proceed 
from one consequence to another. For there can be no certainty of 
the last conclusion without a certainty of all those affirmations and 
negations on which it was grounded and inferred. As when a 
master of a family in taking an account casteth up the sums of all 
the bills of expense into one sum, and, not regarding how each bill 
is summed up by those that give them in account nor what it is 
he pays for, he advantages himself no more than if he allowed the 
account in gross, trusting to every of the accountants' skill and 
honesty; so also, in reasoning of all other things, he that takes up 
conclusions on the trust of authors and doth not fetch them from 
the first items in every reckoning, which are the significations of 
names settled by definitions, loses his labour, and does not know 
anything, but only believeth. 

When a man reckons without the use of words, which may be 
done in particular things, as when upon the sight of any one thing 
we conjecture what was likely to have preceded or is likely to 
follow upon it, if that which he thought likely to follow follows not, 
or that which he thought likely to have preceded it hath not pre- 
ceded it, this is called 'error,' to which even the most prudent men 
are subject. But when we reason in words of general signification, 
and fall upon a general inference which is false, though it be com- 
monly called 'error,' it is indeed an 'absurdity,' or senseless speech. 
For error is but a deception, in presuming that somewhat is past 
or to come, of which, though it were not past or not to come, yet 
there was no impossibility discoverable. But when we make a 
general assertion, unless it be a true one, the possibility of it is 
inconceivable. And words whereby we conceive nothing but the 
sound are those we call 'absurd,' 'insignificant,' and 'nonsense.' And 
therefore if a man should talk to me of a 'round quadrangle,' or 
'accidents of bread in cheese,' or 'immaterial substances,' or of 'a 
free subject,' 'a free will,' or any 'free' but free from being hindered 



OF MAN 333 

by opposition, I should not say he were in an error, but that his 
words were without meaning, that is to say absurd. 

I have said before, in the second chapter, that a man did excel all 
other animals in this faculty that when he conceived anything 
whatsoever he was apt to inquire the consequences of it, and what 
effects he could do with it. And now I add this other degree of 
the same excellence, that he can by words reduce the consequences 
he finds to general rules, called 'theorems,' or 'aphorisms,' that is, he 
can reason, or reckon, not only in number, but in all other things 
whereof one may be added unto, or subtracted from another. 

But this privilege is allayed by another, and that is, by the privilege 
of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject, but man only. 
And of men, those are of all most subject to it that profess philosophy. 
For it is most true that Cicero saith of them somewhere that there 
can be nothing so absurd but may be found in the books of phi- 
losophers. And the reason is manifest. For there is not one of them 
that begins his ratiocination from the definitions or explications 
of the names they are to use, which is a method that hath been 
used only in geometry, whose conclusions have thereby been made 
indisputable. 

I. The first cause of absurd conclusions I ascribe to the want of 
method, in that they begin not their ratiocination from definitions, 
that is, from settled significations of their words; as if they could cast 
account without knowing the value of the numeral words 'one,' 'two,' 
and 'three.' 

And whereas all bodies enter into account upon divers considera- 
tions, which I have mentioned in the precedent chapter, these 
considerations being diversely named, divers absurdities proceed 
from the confusion, and unfit connexion of their names into asser- 
tions. And therefore: 

II. The second cause of absurd assertions I ascribe to the giving 
of names of 'bodies' to 'accidents,' or of 'accidents' to 'bodies,' as they 
do that say 'faith is infused' or 'inspired,' when nothing can be 
'poured' or 'breathed' into anything but body; and that 'extension' 
is 'body,' that 'phantasms' are 'spirits,' etc. 

III. The third I ascribe to the giving of the names of the 'acci- 
dents' of 'bodies without us' to the 'accidents' of our 'own bodies,* 



334 THOMAS HOBBES 

as they do that say 'the colour is in the body,' and 'the sound is in the 
air,' etc. 

IV. The fourth to the giving of the names of 'bodies' to 'names' 
or 'speeches,' as they do that say that 'there be things universal,' that 
'a living creature is genus,' or 'a general thing,' etc. 

v. The fifth to the giving of the names of 'accidents' to 'names' 
and 'speeches,' as they do that say, 'the nature of a thing is its defini- 
tion,' 'a man's command is his will,' and the like. 

VI. The sixth to the use of metaphors, tropes, and other rhetorical 
figures, instead of words proper. For though it be lawful to say, 
for example, in common speech, 'the way goeth, or leadeth hither or 
thither,' 'the proverb says this or that,' whereas ways cannot go, nor 
proverbs speak; yet in reckoning and seeking of truth such speeches 
are not to be admitted. 

VII. The seventh to names that signify nothing, but are taken up 
and learned by rote from the schools, as 'hypostatical,' transubstanti- 
ate,' 'consubstantiate,' 'eternal-now,' and the like canting of school- 
men. 

To him that can avoid these things it is not easy to fall into any 
absurdity, unless it be by the length of an account, wherein he may 
perhaps forget what went before. For all men by nature reason 
alike, and well, when they have good principles. For who is so 
stupid as both to mistake in geometry and also to persist in it, 
when another detects his error to him ? 

By this it appears that reason is not, as sense and memory, born 
with us, nor gotten by experience only, as prudence is; but attained 
by industry, first in apt imposing of names, and secondly by getting 
a good and orderly method in proceeding from the elements, which 
are names, to assertions made by connection of one of them to another, 
and so to syllogisms, which are the connections of one assertion to 
another, till we come to a knowledge of all the consequences of 
names appertaining to the subject in hand; and that is it men call 
'science.' And whereas sense and memory are but knowledge of 
fact, which is a thing past and irrevocable, 'science' is the knowl- 
edge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another, 
by which, out of that we can presendy do, we know how to do 
something else when we will, or the like another time; because 



OF MAN 335 

when we see how anything comes about, upon what causes, and 
by what manner, when the Hke causes come into our power, we 
see how to make it produce the Hke effects. 

Children therefore are not endued with reason at all, till they 
have attained the use of speech; but are called reasonable creatures, 
for the possibility apparent of having the use of reason in time to 
come. And the most part of men, though they have the use of reason- 
ing a httle way, as in numbering to some degree, yet it serves them 
to little use in common life, in which they govern themselves, some 
better, some worse according to their differences of experience, quick- 
ness of memory, and inclinations to several ends; but specially ac- 
cording to good or evil fortune, and the errors of one another. For 
as for 'science,' or certain rules of their actions, they are so far from 
it that they know not what it is. Geometry they have thought con- 
juring; but for other sciences, they who have not been taught the 
beginnings and some progress in them, that they may see how 
they be acquired and generated, are in this point like children that, 
having no thought of generation, are made believe by the women 
that their brothers and sisters are not born but found in the garden. 

But yet they that have no 'science' are in better and nobler con- 
dition, with their natural prudence, than men, that by mis-reasoning, 
or by trusting them that reason wrong, fall upon false and absurd 
general rules. For ignorance of causes and of rules does not set 
men so far out of their way as relying on false rules, and taking 
for causes of what they aspire to those that are not so, but rather 
causes of the contrary. 

To conclude, the light of human minds is perspicuous words, 
but by exact definitions first snuffed and purged from ambiguity; 
'reason' is the 'pace,' increase of 'science' the 'way,' and the benefit 
of mankind the 'end.' And, on the contrary, metaphors, and sense- 
less and ambiguous words, are like ignes fatui; and reasoning upon 
them is wandering amongst innumerable absurdities; and their end 
contention and sedition, or contempt. 

As much experience is 'prudence,' so is much science 'sapience.' 
For though we usually have one name of wisdom for them both, 
yet the Latins did always distinguish between prudentia and sapientia, 
ascribing the former to experience, the latter to science. But, to 



336 THOMAS HOBBES 

make their difference appear more clearly, let us suppose one man 
endued with an excellent natural use and dexterity in handling his 
arms, and another to have added to that dexterity an acquired science 
of where he can offend or be offended by his adversary in every 
possible posture or guard: the ability of the former would be to 
the ability of the latter as prudence to sapience, both useful, but the 
latter infallible. But they that, trusting only to the authority of 
books, follow the blind blindly are like him that, trusting to the 
false rules of a master of fence, ventures presumptuously upon an 
adversary that either kills or disgraces him. 

The signs of science are, some certain and infallible, some, un- 
certain. Certain, when he that pretendeth the science of anything 
can teach the same, that is to say, demonstrate the truth thereof 
perspicuously to another; uncertain, when only some particular 
events answer to his pretence, and upon many occasions prove so 
as he says they must. Signs of prudence are all uncertain, because 
to observe by experience, and remember all circumstances that may 
alter the success, is impossible. But in any business whereof a man 
has not infallible science to proceed by, to forsake his own natural 
judgment, and be guided by general sentences read in authors and 
subject to many exceptions, is a sign of folly, and generally scorned 
by the name of pedantry. And even of those men themselves that in 
councils of the commonwealth love to show their reading of politics 
and history, very few do it in their domestic affairs, where their 
particular interest is concerned, having prudence enough for their 
private affairs; but in public they study more the reputation of their 
own wit than the success of another's business. 



CHAPTER VI 

Of the Interior Beginnings of Voluntary Motions, Commonly 

Called the Passions; and the Speeches by Which 

They Are Expressed 

There be in animals two sorts of 'motions' peculiar to them: one 
called 'vital,' begun in generation, and continued without interrup- 
tion through their whole life, such as are the 'course' of the 'blood,' 



OF MAN 337 

the 'pulse,' the 'breathing,' the 'concoction, nutrition, excretion,' etc., 
to which motions there needs no help of imagination: the other is 
'animal motion,' otherwise called 'voluntary motion,' as to 'go,' to 
'speak,' to 'move' any of our limbs in such manner as is first fancied 
in our minds. That sense is motion in the organs and interior parts 
of man's body, caused by the action of the things we see, hear, etc.; 
and that fancy is but the relics of the same motion, remaining after 
sense, has been already said in the first and second chapters. And, 
because 'going,' 'speaking,' and the like voluntary motions, depend 
always upon a precedent thought of 'whither,' 'which way,' and 
'what,' it is evident that the imagination is the first internal be- 
ginning of all voluntary motion. And, although unstudied men do 
not conceive any motion at all to be there where the thing moved 
is invisible, or the space it is moved in is, for the shortness of it, in- 
sensible; yet that doth not hinder but that such motions are. For, let 
a space be never so little, that which is moved over a greater space, 
whereof that little one is part, must first be moved over that. These 
small beginnings of motion within the body of man, before they 
appear in walking, speaking, striking, and other visible actions, are 
commonly called 'endeavour.' 

This endeavour, when it is toward something which causes it, 
is called 'appetite,' or 'desire,' the latter being the general name, and 
the other oftentimes restrained to signify the desire of food, namely 
'hunger' and 'thirst.' And, when the endeavour is fromward some- 
thing, it is generally called 'aversion.' These words, 'appetite' and 
'aversion,' we have from the Latins; and they both of them signify 
the motions, one of approaching, the other of retiring. So also do the 
Greek words for the same, which are op/j^v and &.4>opixij. For Nature 
itself does often press upon men those truths which afterwards, 
when they look for somewhat beyond Nature, they stumble at. 
For the schools find in mere appetite to go, or move, no actual 
motion at all; but, because some motion they must acknowledge, 
they call it metaphorical motion, which is but an absurd speech; 
for though words may be called metaphorical, bodies and motions 
cannot. 

That which men desire they are also said to 'love'; and to 'hate' 
those things for which they have aversion. So that desire and love 



338 THOMAS HOBBES 

are the same thing, save that by desire we always signify the absence 
of the object, by love most commonly the presence of the same. So 
also by aversion we signify the absence, and by hate, the presence 
of the object. 

Of appetites and aversions, some are born with men, as appetite 
of food, appetite of excretion, and exoneration, which may also and 
more properly be called aversions from somewhat they feel in their 
bodies; and some other appetites, not many. The rest, which are 
appetites of particular things, proceed from experience and trial of 
their effects upon themselves or other men. For of things we know 
not at all, or believe not to be, we can have no further desire than to 
taste and try. But aversion we have for things not only which we 
know have hurt us, but also that we do not know whether they will 
hurt us or not. 

Those things which we neither desire nor hate we are said to 
'contemn,' 'contempt' being nothing else but an immobility or con- 
tumacy of the heart in resisting the action of certain things, and pro- 
ceeding from that the heart is already moved otherwise by other 
more potent objects, or from want of experience of them. 

And, because the constitution of a man's body is in continual 
mutation, it is impossible that all the same things should always 
cause in him the same appetites and aversions: much less can all 
men consent in the desire of almost any one and the same object. 

But whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that 
is it which he for his part calleth 'good'; and the object of his hate 
and aversion, 'evil'; and of his contempt 'vile' and 'inconsiderable.' 
For these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with 
relation to the person that useth them, there being nothing simply 
and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be 
taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person 
of the man, where there is no commonwealth, or, in a commonwealth, 
from the person that representeth it; or from an arbitrator or judge, 
whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up, and make his 
sentence the rule thereof. 

The Latin tongue has two words whose significations approach 
to those of good and evil, but are not precisely the same; and those 
are pulchrutn and turpe. Whereof the former signifies that which 



OF MAN 339 

by some apparent signs promiseth good; and the latter that which 
promiseth evil. But in our tongue we have not so general names 
to express them by. But for pulchrum we say in some things 'fair,' 
in others, 'beautiful,' or 'handsome,' or 'gallant,' or 'honourable,' or 
'comely,' or 'amiable'; and for turpe, 'foul,' 'deformed,' 'ugly,' 'base,' 
'nauseous,' and the like, as the subject shall require; all which words, 
in their proper places, signify nothing else but the 'mien,' or counte- 
nance, that promiseth good and evil. So that of good there be three 
kinds: good in the promise, that is pulchrum; good in effect, as the 
end desired, which is called jucundum, 'delightful'; and good as 
the means which is called utile, 'profitable'; and as many of evil: for 
'evil' in promise is that they call turpe; evil in effect, and end is 
molestum, 'unpleasant,' 'troublesome'; and evil in the means, inutile, 
'unprofitable,' 'hurtful.' 

As, in sense, that which is really within us is, as I have said 
before, only motion caused by the action of external objects but in 
appearance — to the sight, light and colour; to the ear, sound; to 
the nostril, odour, etc.; so, when the action of the same object is 
continued from the eyes, ears, and other organs to the heart, the 
real effect there is nothing but motion or endeavour which con- 
sisteth in appetite, or aversion, to or from the object moving. But 
the apparence, or sense of that motion, is that we either call 'delight' 
or 'trouble of mind.' 

This motion, which is called appetite, and for the apparence of it 
'delight' and 'pleasure,' seemeth to be a corroboration of vital motion, 
and a help thereunto; and therefore such things as caused delight 
were not improperly called jucunda, {a juvando,) from helping or 
fortifying; and the contrary molesta, 'offensive,' from hindering and 
troubling the motion vital. 

'Pleasure,' therefore, or 'delight,' is the apparence or sense of 
good; and 'molestation,' or 'displeasure,' the apparence or sense of 
evil. And consequently all appetite, desire, and love, is accompanied 
with some delight more or less; and all hatred and aversion with 
more or less displeasure and offence. 

Of pleasures or delights some arise from the sense of an object 
present; and those may be called 'pleasures of sense,' the word 
'sensual,' as it is used by those only that condemn them, having no 



340 THOMAS HOBBES 

place till there be laws. Of this kind are all onerations and exonera- 
tions of the body, as also all that is pleasant in the 'sight,' 'hearing,' 
'smell,' 'taste,' or 'touch.' Others arise from the expectation that 
proceeds from foresight of the end or consequence of things, whether 
those things in the sense please or displease. And these are 'pleasures 
of the mind' of him that draweth those consequences, and are 
generally called 'joy.' In the like manner, displeasures are some in 
the sense, and called 'pain'; others in the expectation of consequences, 
and are called 'grief.' 

These simple passions called 'appetite,' 'desire,' 'love,' 'aversion,' 
'hate,' 'joy,' and 'grief,' have their names for divers considerations 
diversified. As first, when they one succeed another, they are di- 
versely called from the opinion men have of the likelihood of attain- 
ing what they desire. Secondly, from the object loved or hated. 
Thirdly, from the consideration of many of them together. Fourthly, 
from the alteration or succession itself. 

For 'appetite' with an opinion of attaining is called 'hope.' 

The same without such opinion, 'despair.' 

'Aversion' with opinion of 'hurt' from the object 'fear.' 

The same with hope of avoiding that hurt by resistance, 'courage.' 

Sudden 'courage,' 'anger.' 

Constant 'hope,' 'confidence' of ourselves. 

Constant 'despair,' 'diffidence' of ourselves. 

'Anger' for great hurt done to another, when we conceive the 
same to be done by injury, 'indignation.' 

'Desire' of good to another, 'benevolence,' 'good will,' 'charity.' 
If to man generally, 'good-nature.' 

'Desire' of riches, 'covetousness,' a name used always in significa- 
tion of blame, because men contending for them are displeased with 
one another attaining them, though the desire in itself be to be 
blamed, or allowed, according to the means by which those riches 
are sought. 

'Desire' of office, or precedence, 'ambition,' a name used also in the 
worse sense, for the reason before mentioned. 

'Desire' of things that conduce but a little to our ends, and fear of 
things that are but of little hindrance, 'pusillanimity.' 

'Contempt' of little helps and hindrances, 'magnanimity.' 



OF MAN 341 

'Magnanimity' in danger of death or wounds, 'valour,' 'fortitude ' 

'Magnanimity' in the use of riches, 'Hberality.' 

'Pusillanimity' in the same, 'wretchedness,' 'miserableness,' or 
'parsimony,' as it is liked or disliked. 

'Love' of persons for society, 'kindness.' 

'Love' of persons for pleasing the sense only, 'natural lust.' 

'Love' of the same, acquired from rumination, that is imagination 
of pleasure past, 'luxury.' 

'Love' of one singularly, with desire to be singularly beloved, 'the 
passion of love.' The same, with fear that the love is not mutual, 
'jealousy.' 

'Desire,' by doing hurt to another, to make him condemn some 
fact of his own, 'revengefulness.' 

'Desire' to know why and how, 'curiosity,' such as is in no living 
creature but 'man,' so that man is distinguished not only by his 
reason but also by this singular passion from other 'animals,' in 
whom the appetite of food, and other pleasures of sense, by pre- 
dominance take away the care of knowing causes, which is a lust of 
the mind, that by a perseverance of delight, in the continual and 
indefatigable generation of knowledge exceedeth the short vehemence 
of any carnal pleasure. 

'Fear' of power invisible, feigned by the mind or imagined from 
tales publicly allowed, 'religion,' not allowed, 'superstition.' And 
when the power imagined is truly such as we imagine, 'true religion.' 

'Fear,' without the apprehension of why or what, 'panic terror,' 
called so from the fables that make Pan the author of them, whereas 
in truth there is always in him that so feareth, first some appre- 
hension of the cause, though the rest run away by example, every 
one supposing his fellow to know why. And therefore this passion 
happens to none but in a throng or multitude of people. 

'Joy' from apprehension of novelty 'admiration,' proper to man, 
because it excites the appetite of knowing the cause. 

'Joy,' arising from imagination of a man's own power and ability 
is that exultation of the mind which is called 'glorying,' which, if 
grounded upon the experience of his own former actions, is the 
same as 'confidence,' but if grounded on the flattery of others or 
only supposed by himself for delight in the consequences of it, is 



342 THOMAS HOBBES 

called 'vain-glory,' which name is properly given, because a well- 
grounded 'confidence' begetteth attempt, whereas the supposing of 
power does not, and is therefore rightly called 'vain.' 

'Grief from opinion of want of power is called 'dejection of mind.' 

The 'vain-glory' which consisteth in the feigning or supposing of 
abilities in ourselves which we know are not is most incident to 
young men, and nourished by the histories or fictions of gallant 
persons, and is corrected oftentimes by age and employment. 

'Sudden glory' is the passion which maketh those 'grimaces' called 
'laughter'; and is caused either by some sudden act of their own that 
pleaseth them, or by the apprehension of some deformed thing in 
another by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves. 
And it is incident most to them that are conscious of the fewest 
abilities in themselves; who are forced to keep themselves in their 
own favour by observing the imperfections of other men. And 
therefore much laughter at the defects of others is a sign of pusil- 
lanimity. For of great minds one of the proper works is to help 
and free others from scorn and compare themselves only with the 
most able. 

On the contrary, 'sudden dejection' is the passion that causeth 
'weeping,' and is caused by such accidents as suddenly take away 
some vehement hope or some prop of their power; and they are 
most subject to it that rely principally on helps external, such as are 
women and children. Therefore some weep for the loss of friends, 
others for their unkindness, others for the sudden stop made to their 
thoughts of revenge by reconciliation. But in all cases, both laughter 
and weeping, are sudden motions, custom taking them both away. 
For no man laughs at old jests, or weeps for an old calamity. 

'Grief for the discovery of some defect of ability is 'shame,' or 
the passion that discovereth itself in 'blushing,' and consisteth in the 
apprehension of something dishonourable; and in young men is a 
sign of the love of good reputation, and commendable: in old men 
it is a sign of the same; but, because it comes too late, not com- 
mendable. 

The 'contempt' of good reputation is called 'impudence.' 

'Grief for the calamity of another is 'pity,' and ariseth from the 
imagination that the like calamity may befall himself; and there- 



OF MAN 343 

fore is called also 'compassion,' and in the phrase of this present 
time a 'fellow-feeling'; and therefore for calamity arriving from 
great wickedness the best men have the least pity; and for the same 
calamity those have least pity that think themselves least obnoxious 
to the same. 

'Contempt,' or little sense of the calamity of others, is that which 
men call 'cruelty,' proceeding from security of their own fortune. 
For, that any man should take pleasure in other men's great harms 
without other end of his own, I do not conceive it possible. 

'Grief for the success of a competitor in wealth, honour, or other 
good, if it be joined with endeavour to enforce our own abilities to 
equal or exceed him, is called 'emulation'; but joined with endeavour 
to supplant or hinder a competitor, 'envy.' 

When in the mind of man, appetites and aversions, hopes and fears, 
concerning one and the same thing, arise alternately, and divers 
good and evil consequences of the doing or omitting the thing pro- 
pounded, come successively into our thoughts, so that sometimes we 
have an appetite to it, sometimes an aversion from it, sometimes 
hope to be able to do it, sometimes despair or fear to attempt it, the 
whole sum of desires, aversions, hopes, and fears, continued till the 
thing be either done or thought impossible, is that we call 'delibera- 
tion.' 

Therefore of things past there is no 'deliberation,' because mani- 
festly impossible to be changed; nor of things known to be im- 
possible, or thought so, because men know, or think, such deliberation 
vain. But of things impossible which we think possible we may de- 
liberate; not knowing it is in vain. And it is called 'deliberation,' 
because it is a putting an end to the 'liberty' we had of doing or 
omitting according to our own appetite or aversion. 

This alternate succession of appetites, aversions, hopes, and fears, 
is no less in other living creatures than in man; and therefore beasts 
also deliberate. 

Every 'deliberation is then said to 'end' when that whereof they 
deliberate is either done or thought impossible; because till then we 
retain the liberty of doing or omitting, according to our appetite or 
aversion. 

In 'deliberation,' the last appetite, or aversion, immediately ad- 



344 THOMAS HOBBES 

hering to the action, or to the omission thereof, is that we call the 
'will'; the act, not the faculty, of 'willing.' And beasts that have 
'deliberation' must necessarily also have 'will.' The definition of the 
'will' given commonly by the schools, that it is a 'rational appetite,' 
is not good. For if it were, then could there be no voluntary act 
against reason. For a 'voluntary act' is that which proceedeth from 
the 'will' and no other. But if instead of a rational appetite we shall 
say an appetite resulting from a precedent deliberation, then the 
definition is the same that I have given here. Will, therefore, is the 
last appetite in deliberating. And, though we say in common dis- 
course a man had a will once to do a thing, that nevertheless he 
forbore to do, yet that is properly but an inclination, which makes 
no action voluntary; because the action depends not of it, but of 
the last inclination or appetite. For if the intervenient appetites 
make any action voluntary, then by the same reason all intervenient 
aversions should make the same action involuntary; and so one 
and the same action should be both voluntary and involuntary. 

By this it is manifest that not only actions that have their be- 
ginning from covetousness, ambition, lust, or other appetites to 
the thing propounded, . but also those that have their beginning 
from aversion, or fear of those consequences that follow the omission, 
are 'voluntary actions.' 

The forms of speech by which the passions are expressed are 
partly the same, and partly different from those by which we express 
our thoughts. And, first, generally all passions may be expressed 
'indicatively,' as 'I love,' 'I fear,' 'I joy,' 'I deliberate,' 'I will,' 'I 
command,' but some of them have particular expressions by them- 
selves, which nevertheless are not affirmations, unless it be when they 
serve to make other inferences besides that of the passion they pro- 
ceed from. Deliberation is expressed 'subjunctively,' which is a 
speech proper to signify suppositions, with their consequences : as, 'if 
this be done, then this will follow,' and differs not from the language 
of reasoning, save that reasoning is in general words; but delibera- 
tion for the most part is of particulars. The language of desire, 
and aversion, is 'imperative,' as 'do this,' 'forbear that,' which when 
the party is obliged to do, or forbear, is 'command'; otherwise 
'prayer,' or else 'counsel.' The language of vain-glory, of indignation, 



OF MAN 345 

pity and revengefulness, 'optative,' but of the desire to know there is 
a pecuhar expression, called 'interrogative,' as 'what is it' ? 'when shall 
it'? 'how is it done'? and 'why so'? Other language of the passions 
I find none; for cursing, swearing, reviling, and the like, do not 
signify as speech, but as the actions of a tongue accustomed. 

These forms of speech, I say, are expressions, or voluntary signifi- 
cations of our passions; but certain signs they be not, because they 
may be used arbitrarily, whether they that use them have such 
passions or not. The best signs of passions present are either in the 
countenance, motions of the body, actions, and ends, or aims, which 
we otherwise know the man to have. 

And because in deliberation the appetites and aversions are raised 
by foresight of the good and evil consequences, and sequels of the 
action whereof we deliberate, the good or evil effect thereof de- 
pendeth on the foresight of a long chain of consequences of which 
very seldom any man is able to see to the end. But for so far as a 
man seeth, if the good in those consequences be greater than the 
evil, the whole chain is that which writers call 'apparent' or 'seeming 
good.' And, contrarily, when the evil exceedeth the good, the whole 
is 'apparent' or 'seeming evil,' so that he who hath by experience, 
or reason, the greatest and surest prospect of consequences, deliberates 
best himself, and is able, when he will, to give the best counsel unto 
others. 

'Continual success' in obtaining those things which a man from 
time to time desireth, that is to say continual prospering, is that 
men call 'felicity' — I mean the felicity of this life. For there is no 
such thing as perpetual tranquility of mind while we live here, be- 
cause life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor 
without fear, no more than without sense. What kind of felicity 
God hath ordained to them that devoutly honour Him a man shall 
no sooner know than enjoy, being joys that now are as incom- 
prehensible as the word of schoolmen 'beatifical vision' is unin- 
telligible. 

The form of speech whereby men signify their opinion of the 
goodness of anything is 'praise.' That whereby they signify the 
power and greatness of anything is 'magnifying.' And that whereby 
they signify the opinion they have of a man's felicity is by the 



346 THOMAS HOBBES 

Greeks called fj.aKapi.an6s for which we have no name in our tongue. 
And thus much is sufficient for the present purpose, to have been 
said of the 'passions.' 

CHAPTER VII 
Of the Ends, or Resolutions of Discourse 

Of all 'discourse,' governed by desire of knowledge there is at last 
an 'end,' either by attaining or by giving over. And in the chain of 
discourse, wheresoever it be interrupted, there is an end for that time. 

If the discourse be merely mental, it consisteth of thoughts that the 
thing will be, and will not be; or that it has been, and has not been, 
alternately. So that wheresoever you break off the chain of a man's 
discourse, you leave him in a presumption of 'it will be,' or 'it will not 
be,' or 'it has been,' or 'has not been.' All which is 'opinion.' And 
that which is alternate appetite in deliberating concerning good and 
evil, the same is alternate opinion in the enquiry of the truth of 
'past' and 'future.' And as the last appetite in deliberation is called 
the 'will,' so the last opinion in search of the truth of past and future 
is called the 'judgment' or 'resolute' and 'final sentence' of him that 
'discourseth.' And as the whole chain of appetites alternate, in the 
question of good or bad, is called 'deliberation,' so the whole chain 
of opinions alternate, in the question of true or false, is called 'doubt.' 

No discourse whatsoever can end in absolute knowledge of fact, 
past or to come. For, as for the knowledge of fact, it is originally 
sense; and ever after, memory. And for the knowledge of conse- 
quence, which I have said before is called science, it is not absolute, 
but conditional. No man can know by discourse that this or that is, 
has been, or will be — which is to know absolutely; but only that if 
this be, that is; if this has been, that has been, if this shall be, that 
shall be — which is to know conditionally and that not the conse- 
quence of one thing to another, but of one name of a thing to 
another name of the same thing. 

And therefore, when the discourse is put into speech, and begins 
with the definitions of words, and proceeds by connection of the 
same into general affirmations, and of these again into syllogisms, the 



OF MAN 347 

end or last sum is called the conclusion, and the thought of the mind 
by it signified is that conditional knowledge or knowledge of the 
consequence of words, which is commonly called 'science.' But if 
the first ground of such discourse be not definitions, or if the defini- 
tions be not rightly joined together into syllogisms, then the end or 
conclusion is again 'opinion' namely of the truth of somewhat said, 
though sometimes in absurd and senseless words, without possibility 
of being understood. When two or more men know of one and the 
same fact, they are said to be 'conscious,' of it one to another; which 
is as much as to know it together. And because such are fittest wit- 
nesses of the facts of one another or of a third, it was, and ever will 
be, reputed a very evil act for any man to speak against his 'con- 
science,' or to corrupt or force another so to do: insomuch that the 
plea of conscience has been always hearkened unto very diligendy in 
all times. Afterwards men made use of the same word metaphori- 
cally, for the knowledge of their own secret facts and secret thoughts; 
and therefore it is rhetorically said that the conscience is a thousand 
witnesses. And, last of all, men vehemently in love with their own 
opinions, though never so absurd, and obstinately bent to maintain 
them, gave those their opinions also that reverenced name of con- 
science, as if they would have it seem unlawful to change or speak 
against them, and so pretend to know they are true, when they know 
at most but that they think so. 

When a man's discourse beginneth not at definidons, it beginneth 
either at some other contemplation of his own, and then it is stUI 
called opinion; or it beginneth at some saying of another, of whose 
ability to know the truth and of whose honesty in not deceiving he 
doubteth not; and then the discourse is not so much concerning 
the thing as the person; and the resolution is called 'belief,' and 
'faith' — 'faith' in the man, 'belief both of the man and of the truth 
of what he says. So that in belief are two opinions; one of the 
saying of the man, the other of his virtue. To 'have faith in' or 
'trust to' or 'believe a man' signify the same thing, namely, an opinion 
of the veracity of the man; but to 'believe what is said' signifieth only 
an opinion of the truth of the saying. But we are to observe that 
this phrase, 'I believe in,' as also the Latin credo in, and the Greek 
narkvu ?tsare never used but in the writings of divines. Instead of 



348 THOMAS HOBBES 

them in other writings are put 'I believe him,' 'I trust him,' 'I have 
faith in him,' 'I rely on him,' and in Latin credo Hit, fido Hit; and in 
Greek TiuTevuavTia; and that this singularity of the ecclesiastic use of 
the word hath raised many disputes about the right object of the 
Christian faith. 

But by 'beheving in,' as it is in the creed, is meant, not trust in the 
person, but confession and acknowledgment of the doctrine. For 
not only Christians but all manner of men do so believe in God as 
to hold all for truth they hear Him say, whether they understand 
it or not; which is all the faith and trust can possibly be had in 
any person whatsoever; but they do not all believe the doctrine of 
the creed. 

From whence we may infer that, when we believe any saying 
whatsoever it be to be true, from arguments taken not from the thing 
itself, or from the principles of natural reason, but from the authority 
and good opinion we have of him that hath said it, then is the 
speaker, or person we believe in or trust in, and whose word we take, 
the object of our faith, and the honour done in believing is done to 
him only. And consequently when we believe that the Scriptures are 
the word of God, having no immediate revelation from God Himself, 
our belief, faith, and trust, is in the Church, whose word we take 
and acquiesce therein. And they that believe that which a prophet 
relates unto them in the name of God take the word of the prophet, 
do honour to him, and in him trust and believe, touching the truth 
of what he relateth, whether he be a true or a false prophet. And 
so it is also with all other history. For if I should not believe all that 
is written by historians of the glorious acts of Alexander or Caesar, 
I do not think the ghost of Alexander or Cxsar had any just cause 
to be offended, or anybody else but the historian. If Livy say the 
gods made once a cow speak, and we believe it not, we distrust not 
God therein, but Livy. So that it is evident, that whatsoever we 
believe, upon no other reason than what is drawn from authority of 
men only, and their writings, whether they be sent from God or not, 
is faith in men only. 



OF MAN 349 



CHAPTER VIII 



Of the Virtues Commonly Called Intellectual, and Their 
Contrary Defects 

Virtue generally, in all sorts of subjects, is somewhat that is val- 
ued for eminence, and consisteth in comparison. For, if all things 
were equal in all men, nothing would be prized. And by 'virtues in- 
tellectual' are always understood such abilities of the mind as men 
praise, value, and desire should be in themselves, and go commonly 
under the name of a 'good wit,' though the same word 'wit' be used 
also to distinguish one certain ability from the rest. 

These 'virtues' are of two sorts, 'natural' and 'acquired.' By natural 
I mean not that which a man hath from his birth; for that is nothing 
else but sense, wherein men differ so little one from another and 
from brute beasts as it is not to be reckoned amongst virtues. But I 
mean that 'wit' which is gotten by use only and experience; without 
method, culture, or instruction. This 'natural wit' consisteth princi- 
pally in two things, 'celerity of imagining,' that is, swift succession of 
one thought to another, and steady direction to some approved end. 
On the contrary, a slow imagination maketh that defect or fault of 
the mind which is commonly called 'dulness,' 'stupidity,' and some- 
times by other names that signify slowness of motion or di£5culty 
to be moved. 

And this difference of quickness is caused by the difference of 
men's passions, that love and dislike, some one thing, some another; 
and therefore some men's thoughts run one way, some another; and 
are held to and observe differently the things that pass through their 
imagination. And whereas in this succession of men's thoughts there 
is nothing to observe in the things they think on, but either in what 
they be 'like one another,' or in what they be 'unUke,' or 'what they 
serve for,' or 'how they serve to such a purpose;' those that observe 
their similitudes, in case they be such as are but rarely observed by 
others, are said to have a 'good wit,' by which in this occasion is 
meant a 'good fancy.' But they that observe their differences and 
dissimilitudes, which is called 'distinguishing' and 'discerning' and 
'judging' between thing and thing, in case such discerning be not 



350 THOMAS HOBBES 

easy, are said to have a 'good judgment;' and, particularly in matter 
of conversation and business, wherein times, places, and persons, are 
to be discerned, this virtue is called 'discretion.' The former, that is, 
fancy, without the help of judgment, is not commended as a virtue; 
but the latter, which is judgment and discretion, is commended for 
itself, without the help of fancy. Besides the discretion of times, 
places, and persons, necessary to a good fancy, there is required also 
an often application of his thoughts to their end, that is to say, to some 
use to be made of them. This done, he that hath this virtue will be 
easily fitted with similitudes that will please not only by illustrations 
of his discourse, and adorning it with new and apt metaphors, but 
also by the rarity of their invention. But without steadiness and 
direction to some end a great fancy is one kind of madness; such as 
they have that, entering into any discourse, are snatched from their 
purpose by everything that comes in their thought, into so many and 
so long digressions and parentheses that they utterly lose themselves — 
which kind of folly I know no particular name for, but the cause 
of it is sometimes want of experience, whereby that seemeth to a 
man new and rare which doth not so to others, sometimes pusil- 
lanimity, by which that seems great to him which other men think 
a trifle; and whatsoever is new or great, and therefore thought fit 
to be told, withdraws a man by degrees from the intended way of 
his discourse. 

In a good poem, whether it be 'epic' or 'dramatic,' as also in 'son- 
nets,' 'epigrams,' and other pieces, both judgment and fancy are 
required; but the fancy must be more eminent, because they please 
for the extravagancy, but ought not to displease by indiscretion. 

In a good history the judgment must be eminent, because the 
goodness consisteth in the method, in the truth, and in the choice of 
the actions that are most profitable to be known. Fancy has no place 
but only in adorning the style. 

In orations of praise, and in invectives, the fancy is predominant, 
because the design is not truth, but to honour or dishonour, which is 
done by noble or by vile comparisons. The judgment does but sug- 
gest what circumstances make an action laudable or culpable. 

In hortatives and pleadings, as truth or disguise serveth best to 
the design in hand, so is the judgment or the fancy most required. 



OF MAN 351 

In demonstration, in counsel, and all rigorous search of truth, 
judgment does all, except sometimes the understanding have need 
to be opened by some apt similitude, and then there is so much use 
of fancy. But for metaphors, they are in this case utterly excluded. 
For seeing they openly profess deceit: to admit them into counsel 
or reasoning were manifest folly. 

And in any discourse whatsoever, if the defect of discretion be 
apparent, how extravagant soever the fancy be, the whole discourse 
will be taken for a sign of want of wit; and so will it never when the 
discretion is manifest, though the fancy be never so ordinary. 

The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, 
clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame; which 
verbal discourse cannot do farther than the judgment shall approve 
of the time, place, and persons. An anatomist or a physician may 
speak or write his judgment of unclean things, because it is not to 
please but profit; but for another man to write his extravagant and 
pleasant fancies of the same is as if a man, from being tumbled into 
the dirt, should come and present himself before good company. 
And it is the want of discretion that makes the difference. Again, 
in professed remissness of mind, and familiar company, a man may 
play with the sounds and equivocal significations of words, and that 
many times with encounters of extraordinary fancy; but in a sermon, 
or in public, or before persons unknown, or whom we ought to 
reverence, there is no jingling of words that will not be accounted 
folly; and the difference is only in the want of discretion. So that, 
where wit is wanting, it is not fancy that is wanting but discretion. 
Judgment therefore without fancy is wit, but fancy without judg- 
ment, not. 

When the thoughts of a man that has a design in hand, running 
over a multitude of things, observes how they conduce to that design 
or what design they may conduce unto, if his observations be such 
as are not easy or usual, this wit of his is called 'prudence,' and 
depends on much experience and memory of the like things and 
their consequences heretofore. In which there is not much difference 
of men as there is in their fancies and judgments, because the experi- 
ence of men equal in age is not much unequal as to the quantity, but 
lies in different occasions, every one having his private designs. To 



352 THOMAS HOBBES 

govern well a family and a kingdom are not different degrees of 
prudence, but different sorts of business; no more than to draw a 
picture in little, or as great or greater than the life, are different 
degrees of art. A plain husbandman is more prudent in affairs 
of his own house than a privy-councillor in the affairs of another 
man. 

To prudence, if you add the use of unjust or dishonest means, such 
as usually are prompted to men by fear or want, you have that 
crooked wisdom which is called 'craft,' which is a sign of pusillanim- 
ity. For magnanimity is contempt of unjust or dishonest helps. 
And that which the Latins call versutia, translated into English 'shift- 
ing,' and is a putting off of a present danger or incommodity by 
engaging into a greater, as when a man robs one to pay another, is 
but a short-sighted craft, called versutia, from versura, which signifies 
taking money at usury for the present payment of interest. 

As for 'acquired wit,' I mean acquired by method and instruction, 
there is none but reason, which is grounded on the right use of 
speech, and produceth the sciences. But of reason and science I have 
already spoken, in the fifth and sixth chapters. 

The causes of this difference of wits are in the passions; and the 
difference of passions proceedeth partly from the different constitu- 
tion of the body, and partly from different education. For if the 
difference proceeded from the temper of the brain and the organs 
of sense, either exterior or interior, there would be no less difference 
of men in their sight, hearing, or other senses, than in their fancies 
and discretions. It proceeds therefore from the passions, which are 
different not only from the difference of men's complexions, but also 
from their difference of customs and education. 

The passions that most of all cause the difference of wit are 
principally the more or less desire of power, of riches, of knowledge, 
and of honour. All which may be reduced to the first, that is, desire 
of power. For riches, knowledge, and honour, are but several sorts 
of power. 

And, therefore, a man who has no great passion for any of these 
things, but is, as men term it, indifferent, though he may be so far a 
good man as to be free from giving offence, yet he cannot possibly 
have either a great fancy or much judgment. For the thoughts are 



OF MAN 353 

to the desires as scouts and spies, to range abroad and find the way 
of the things desired, all steadiness of the mind's motion, and all 
quickness of the same, proceeding from thence; for as to have no 
desire is to be dead, so to have weak passions is dulness; and to have 
passions indifferently for everything, 'giddiness' and 'distraction'; 
and to have stronger and more vehement passions for anything than 
is ordinarily seen in others is that which men call 'madness.' 

Whereof there be almost as many kinds as of the passions them- 
selves. Sometimes the extraordinary and extravagant passion pro- 
ceedeth from the evil constitution of the organs of the body, or harm 
done them; and sometimes the hurt and indisposition of the organs 
is caused by the vehemence or long continuance of the passion. But 
in both cases the madness is of one and the same nature. 

The passion whose violence, or continuance, maketh madness is 
either great 'vain-glory,' which is commonly called 'pride' and 'self- 
conceit,' or great 'dejection' of mind. 

Pride subjecteth a man to anger, the excess whereof is the madness 
called 'rage' and 'fury.' And thus it comes to pass that excessive 
desire of revenge, when it becomes habitual, hurteth the organs, and 
becomes rage; that excessive love, with jealousy, becomes also rage; 
excessive opinion of a man's own self, for divine inspiration, for 
wisdom, learning, form and the like, becomes distraction and giddi- 
ness; the same, joined with envy, rage; vehement opinion of the 
truth of anything contradicted by others, rage. 

Dejection subjects a man to causeless fears; which is a madness; 
commonly called 'melancholy,' apparent also in divers manners, as in 
haunting of solitudes and graves, in superstitious behaviour, and in 
fearing, some one some another particular thing. In sum, all pas- 
sions that produce strange and unusual behaviour are called by the 
general name of madness. But of the several kinds of madness he 
that would take the pains might enrol a legion. And if the excesses 
be madness, there is no doubt but the passions themselves, when 
they tend to evil, are degrees of the same. 

For example, though the effect of folly in them that are possessed 
of an opinion of being inspired be not visible always in one man by 
any very extravagant action that proceedeth from such passion, yet, 
when many of them conspire together, the rage of the whole multi- 



354 THOMAS HOBBES 

tude is visible enough. For what argument of madness can there 
be greater than to clamour, strike, and throw stones at our best 
friends? Yet this is somewhat less than such a multitude will do. 
For they will clamour, fight against, and destroy, those by whom 
all their lifetime before they have been protected and secured from 
injury. And if this be madness in the multitude, it is the same in 
every particular man. For, as in the midst of the sea though a man 
perceive no sound of that part of the water next him, yet he is well 
assured that part contributes as much to the roaring of the sea as any 
other part of the same quantity, so also, though we perceive no great 
unquietness in one or two men, yet we may be well assured that their 
singular passions are parts of the seditious roaring of a troubled 
nation. And if there were nothing else that bewrayed their madness, 
yet that very arrogating such inspiration to themselves is argument 
enough. If some man in Bedlam should entertain you with sober 
discourse, and you desire in taking leave, to know what he were, 
that you might another time requite his civility, and he should tell 
you he were God the Father, I think you need expect no extravagant 
action or argument of his madness. 

This opinion of inspiration, called commonly private spirit, begins 
very often from some lucky finding of an error generally held by 
others; and not knowing, or not remembering, by what conduct of 
reason they came to so singular a truth (as they think it, though it 
be many times an untruth they light on) they presently admire 
themselves, as being in the special grace of God Almighty, who hath 
revealed the same to them supernaturally by His Spirit. 

Again, that madness is nothing else but too much appearing pas- 
sion may be gathered out of the effects of wine, which are the same 
with those of the evil disposition of the organs. For the variety of 
behaviour in men that have drunk too much is the same with that of 
madmen: some of them raging, others loving, others laughing, all 
extravagantly, but according to their several domineering passions; 
for the effect of the wine does but remove dissimulation and take 
from them the sight of the deformity of their passions. For I beHeve 
the most sober men, when they walk alone without care and employ- 
ment of the mind, would be unwilling the vanity and extravagance 
of their thoughts at that time should be publicly seen; which is a 



OF MAN 355 

confession that passions unguided are for the most part mere mad- 
ness. 

The opinions of the world, both in ancient and later ages, concern- 
ing the cause of madness have been two. Some deriving them from 
the passions; some from demons, or spirits, either good or bad, which 
they thought might enter into a man, possess him, and move his 
organs in such strange and uncouth manner as madmen use to do. 
The former sort, therefore, called such men madmen; but the latter 
called them sometimes 'demoniacs,' that is, possessed with spirits; 
sometimes energumeni, that is, agitated or moved with spirits; and 
now in Italy they are called not only pazzi, madmen, but also spiritati, 
men possessed. 

There was once a great conflux of people in Abdera, a city of the 
Greeks, at the acting of the tragedy of Andromeda upon an extreme 
hot day; whereupon a great many of the spectators falling into fevers 
had this accident from the heat and from the tragedy together, that 
they did nothing but pronounce iambics, with the names of Perseus 
and Andromeda; which, together with the fever, was cured by the 
coming on of winter; and this madness was thought to proceed from 
the passion imprinted by the tragedy. Likewise there reigned a fit 
of madness in another Grecian city, which seized only the young 
maidens, and caused many of them to hang themselves. This was 
by most then thought an act of the devil. But one that suspected 
that contempt of life in them might proceed from some passion of 
the mind, and supposing that they did not contemn also their honour, 
gave counsel to the magistrates to strip such as so hanged themselves, 
and let them hang out naked. This, the story says, cured that mad- 
ness. But, on the other side, the same Grecians did often ascribe 
madness to the operation of Eumenides, or Furies; and sometimes 
of Ceres, Phoebus, and other gods; so much did men attribute to 
phantasms as to think them aerial living bodies, and generally to call 
them spirits. And as the Romans in this held the same opinion with 
the Greeks, so also did the Jews, for they called madmen prophets, 
or, according as they thought the spirits good or bad, demoniacs; 
and some of them called both prophets and demoniacs madmen; and 
some called the same man both demoniac and madman. But for 
the Gentiles it is no wonder, because diseases and health, vices and 



356 THOMAS HOBBES 

virtues, and many natural accidents, were with them termed and 
worshipped as demons. So that a man was to understand by demon 
as well sometimes an ague as a devil. But for the Jews to have such 
opinion is somewhat strange. For neither Moses nor Abraham pre- 
tended to prophesy by possession of a spirit; but from the voice of 
God, or by a vision or dream; nor is there anything in his law, moral 
or ceremonial, by which they were taught there was any such enthu- 
siasm or any possession. When God is said {Numb. xi. 25) to take 
from the spirit that was in Moses, and give to the seventy elders, 
the Spirit of God (taking it for the substance of God) is not divided. 
The Scriptures by the Spirit of God in man mean a man's spirit, 
inclined to godliness. And where it is said {Exod. xxviii. 3) 'whom 
I have filled with the spirit of wisdom to make garments for Aaron' 
is not meant a spirit put into them that can make garments, but the 
wisdom of their own spirits in that kind of work. In the like sense, 
the spirit of man, when it produceth unclean actions, is ordinarily 
called an unclean spirit, and so other spirits, though not always, yet 
as often as the virtue or vice so styled is extraordinary and eminent. 
Neither did the other prophets of the Old Testament pretend enthu- 
siasm, or that God spake in them, but to them, by voice, vision, or 
dream; and the 'burthen of the Lord' was not possession, but com- 
mand. How then could the Jews fall into this opinion of possession ? 
I can imagine no reason but that which is common to all men, 
namely the want of curiosity to search natural causes, and their 
placing felicity in the acquisition of the gross pleasures of the senses 
and the things that most immediately conduce thereto. For they 
that see any strange and unusual ability or defect in a man's mind, 
unless they see withal from what cause it may probably proceed, can 
hardly think it natural; and, if not natural, they must needs think it 
supernatural; and then what can it be but that either God or the 
devil is in him ? And hence it came to pass, when our Saviour {Mar\ 
iii, 21 ) was compassed about with the multitude, those of the house 
doubted He was mad, and went out to hold Him; but the Scribes 
said He had Beelzebub, and that was it by which He cast out devils; 
as if the greater madman had awed the lesser; and that (John x, 20) 
some said 'He hath a devil, and is mad,' whereas others holding Him 



OF MAN 357 

for a prophet said 'these are not the words of one that hath a devil.' 
So in the Old Testament he that came to anoint Jehu (2 Kings ix, 11) 
was a prophet; but some of the company asked Jehu 'what came 
that madman for'? So that in sum it is manifest that whosoever 
behaved himself in extraordinary manner was thought by the Jews 
to be possessed either with a good or evil spirit, except by the Sad- 
ducees, who erred so far on the other hand as not to believe there 
were at all any spirits, which is very near to direct atheism; and 
thereby perhaps the more provoked others to term such men demo- 
niacs rather than madmen. 

But why then does our Saviour proceed in the curing of them, as 
if they were possessed, and not as if they were mad? To which I 
can give no other kind of answer but that which is given to those 
that urge the Scripture in like manner against the opinion of the 
motion of the earth. The Scripture was written to show unto men 
the kingdom of God, and to prepare their minds to become his 
obedient subjects, leaving the world, and the philosophy thereof to 
the disputation of men, for the exercising of their natural reason. 
Whether the earth's or sun's motion make the day and night, or 
whether the exorbitant action of men proceed from passion or from 
the devil, so we worship him not, it is all one, as to our obedience 
and subjection to God Almighty; which is the thing for which the 
Scripture was written. As for that our Saviour speaketh to the dis- 
ease as to a person, it is the usual phrase of all that cure by words 
only, as Christ did and enchanters pretend to do, whether they speak 
to a devil or not. For is not Christ also said {Matt, viii, 26) to have 
rebuked the winds? Is not He said also {Lul{e iv, 39) to rebuke a 
fever ? Yet this does not argue that a fever is a devil. And whereas 
many of the devils are said to confess Christ, it is not necessary to 
interpret those places otherwise than that those madmen confessed 
Him. And whereas our Saviour {Matt, xii, 43) speaketh of an un- 
clean spirit, that having gone out of a man wandereth through dry 
places, seeking rest and finding none, and returning into the same 
man with seven other spirits worse than himself, it is manifestly a 
parable alluding to a man that after a little endeavour to quit his 
lusts is vanquished by the strength of them, and becomes seven 



358 THOMAS HOBBES 

times worse than he was. So that I see nothing at all in the Scripture 
that requireth a belief that demoniacs were any other thing but 
madmen. 

There is yet another fault in the discourses of some men, which 
may also be numbered amongst the sorts of madness, namely that 
abuse of words, whereof I have spoken before in the fifth chapter, 
by the name of absurdity. And that is when men speak such words 
as, put together, have in them no signification at all, but are fallen 
upon by some, through misunderstanding of the words they have 
received and repeat by rote, by others from intention to deceive by 
obscurity. And this is incident to none but those that converse in 
questions of matters incomprehensible, as the schoolmen, or in ques- 
tions of abstruse philosophy. The common sort of men seldom speak 
insignificantly, and are therefore by those other egregious persons 
counted idiots. But, to be assured their words are without anything 
correspondent to them in the mind, there would need some ex- 
amples, which if any man require, let him take a schoolman in his 
hands and see if he can translate any one chapter concerning any 
difScult point, as the Trinity, the Deity, the nature of Christ, transub- 
standation, free-will, etc., into any of the modern tongues, so as to 
make the same intelligible, or into any tolerable Latin, such as they 
were acquainted withal, that lived when the Latin tongue was vulgar. 
What is the meaning of these words: 'The first cause does not neces- 
sarily inflow anything into the second, by force of the essential sub- 
ordination of the second causes, by which it may help it to work?' 
They are the translation of the title of the sixth chapter of Suarez, 
first book. Of the Concourse, Motion, and Help of God. When men 
write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not mad, or intend to 
make others so? And particularly in the question of transubstantia- 
tion, where, after certain words spoken, they that say the whitenew, 
xonndness, n\2,gmtude, quaU/y, corruptibility, all which are incor- 
poreal, etc., go out of the wafer into the body of our blessed Saviour, 
do they not make those 'nesses,' 'tudes,' and 'ties' to be so many 
spirits possessing his body ? For by spirits they mean always things 
that, being incorporeal, are nevertheless movable from one place to 
another. So that this kind of absurdity may rightly be numbered 
amongst the many sorts of madness, and all the time that guided by 



OF MAN 359 

clear thoughts of their worldly lust they forbear disputing or writing 
thus, but lucid intervals. And thus much of the virtues and defects 
intellectual. 

CHAPTER IX 

Of the Several Subjects of Knowledge 

There are of 'knowledge' two kinds, whereof one is 'knowledge 
of fact,' the other 'knowledge of the consequence of one affirmation 
to another.' The former is nothing else but sense and memory, and 
is 'absolute knowledge,' as when we see a fact doing or remember it 
done; and this is the knowledge required in a witness. The latter is 
called 'science,' and is 'conditional,' as when we know that 'if the 
figure shown be a circle, then any straight line through the centre 
shall divide it into two equal parts.' And this is the knowledge re- 
quired in a philosopher, that is to say of him that pretends to 
reasoning. 

The register of 'knowledge of fact' is called 'history,' whereof 
there be two sorts: one called 'natural history,' which is the history 
of such facts or effects of Nature as have no dependence on man's 
'will,' such as are the histories of 'metals,' 'plants,' 'animals,' 'regions,' 
and the like. The other is 'civil history,' which is the history of the 
voluntary actions of men in commonwealths. 

The registers of science are such 'books,' as contain the 'demonstra- 
tions' of consequences of one affirmation to another, and are com- 
monly called 'books of philosophy,' whereof the sorts are many, 
according to the diversity of the matter, and may be divided in such 
manner as I have divided them in the following table (pp. 360-361). 

CHAPTER X 
Of Power, Worth, Dignity, Honour, and Worthiness 

The 'power of a man,' to take it universally, is his present means, 
to obtain some future apparent good; and is either 'original' or 
'instrumental.' 

'Natural power' is the eminence of the faculties of body or mind, 



36o 



THOMAS HOBBES 



SCIENCE, 
that is 
knowledge 
of conse- 
quences, 
which is 
called also 

PHUOSOPHY 



Consequences 
from the 
accidents of 
bodies nat- 
ural: which 
is called 

NATURAL 
PHILOSOPHY 



Consequences irom the accidents common to all 
bodies natural; which are quantity and motion. . 



Physics c 
conse- 
quences 
from 
qualities 



Consequences 
from the 
accidents of 
politic bod- 
ies, which' 
is called 

POLITICS, 

and CIVIL 

PHILOSOPHY 



Consequences from the qualities of 
bodies transient, such as sometimes 
appear, sometimes vanish, Meteor- 
ology 

Consequences from 
the quahties of the 
stars 
Consequences of the 
qualities from liquid 
bodies, that fill the 
space between the 
stars, such as are 
the air or sub- 
stances ethereal 
Consequences from 
the qualities of 
bodies terrestrial 



1. Of consequences from the institution of Common- 

wealths, to the rights and duties of the body 
politic or sovereign 

2. Of consequences from the same, to the duty and 

right of the subjects 



Consequences 
from the 
qualities 
of bodies 

, permanent 



OF MAN 

Consequences from quantity, and motion indeterminate, which, 
being the principles or first foundation of philosophy, is called 
PhUosophia Prima 



361 



Consequences 
from quanti- 
ty, and mo- 
tion deter- 
mined 



Consequences 
from motion 
and quantity 
determined 



Consequences 
from the mo- 
tio n , and 
quantity of 
bodies in 
special 



By Figure 



By Number 
Consequences 
from the mo- 
t io n and 
quantity of 
the greater 
parts of the 
world, as the 
ear <^ and 
stars 
Consequences 
from the mo- 
tion of spe- 
cial kinds, 
and figures 
of body 



Mathematics 



Philosophia 
Prima 

Geometrv 



Ariihmetic 



Cosmography 



Mechanics 
Doctrine of 

weight 



fASTEONOMY 

[Geography 



Science 
of En Gi- 

NEERS 

Architec- 
ture 
Navigation 



Meteorology 

Consequences from the light of the stars. Out of this, and the \ <;_„„„ __-, 

motion of the sun, is made the science of yOCiOGEAPHY 

Consequences from the influences of the stars Astrology 

In ir' c ii i:*:.. -c ...: i. 



Consequences 
from the parts 
of the earth- 
tliat are mth- 
otit sense 



Consequences 
from the quali- 
ties of animals 



Consequences from the qualities of minerals, 
as stones, metals, etc. 



Consequences from the qualities of vegetables 
ConsequencesfConSequences from vision 



from the 
qualities of 
animals in 
general 



Consequences 
from the 
qualities of 
men in spe- 
cie 



Optics 
Music 



Consequences from sounds 

Consequences from the rest 

of the senses 
Consequences from the #<"-\pTHirs 

sions of men J 



Consequences 
from speech 



In m^gnifyingX 



vilifying, etc. 
In persuading 
In reasoning 
In contracting 



Poetry 

Rhetoric 

Logic 

The Science of 

Just and 

Unjust 



362 THOMAS HOBBES 

as extraordinary strength, form, prudence, arts, eloquence, liberality, 
nobility. 'Instrumental' are those powers which, acquired by these 
or by fortune are means and instruments to acquire more, as riches, 
reputation, friends, and the secret working of God, which men call 
good luck. For the nature of power is in this point like to fame, 
increasing as it proceeds; or like the motion of heavy bodies, which 
the further they go make still the more haste. 

The greatest of human powers is that which is compounded of 
the powers of most men, united by consent, in one person, natural or 
civil, that has the use of all their powers depending on his will such 
as is the power of a commonwealth. Or depending on the wills of 
each particular, such as is the power of a faction or of divers factions 
leagued. Therefore to have servants is power; to have friends is 
power; for they are strengths united. 

Also riches joined with liberality is power, because it procureth 
friends and servants; without liberality, not so; because in this case 
they defend not, but expose men to envy, as a prey. 

Reputation of power is power, because it draweth with it the 
adherence of those that need protection. 

So is reputation of love of a man's country, called popularity, for 
the same reason. 

Also, what quality soever maketh a man beloved or feared of many, 
or the reputation of such quality, is power, because it is a means to 
have the assistance and service of many. 

Good success is power, because it maketh reputation of wisdom 
or good fortune, which makes men either fear him or rely on him. 

Affability of men already in power is increase of power, because 
it gaineth love. 

Reputation of prudence in the conduct of peace or war is power, 
because to prudent men we commit the government of ourselves 
more willingly than to others. 

Nobility is power, not in all places but only in those common- 
wealths where it has privileges, for in such privileges consisteth their 
power. 

Eloquence is power, because it is seeming prudence. 

Form is power, because, being a promise of good, it recommendeth 
men to the favour of women and strangers. 



OF MAN 363 

The sciences are small power, because not eminent and there- 
fore not acknowledged in any man; nor are at all, but in a few, 
and in them but of a few things. For science is of that nature as 
none can understand it to be but such as in a good measure have 
attained it. 

Arts of public use, as fortification, making of engines, and other 
instruments of war, because they confer to defence and victory, are 
power; and though the true mother of them be science, namely the 
mathematics, yet, because they are brought into the light by the 
hand of the artificer, they be esteemed, the midwife passing with the 
vulgar for the mother, as his issue. 

The 'value,' or 'worth,' of a man is, as of all other things, his price; 
that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power; 
and therefore is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and 
judgment of another. An able conductor of soldiers is of great 
price in time of war present, or imminent; but in peace not so. A 
learned and uncorrupt judge is much worth in time of peace, but 
not so much in war. And, as in other things so in men, not the 
seller but the buyer determines the price. For let a man, as most men 
do, rate themselves [himself] at the highest value they [he] can, yet 
their [his] true value is no more than it is esteemed by others. 

The manifestation of the value we set on one another is that which 
is commonly called honouring and dishonouring. To value a man 
at a high rate is to 'honour' him; at a low rate, 'to dishonour' him. 
But high and low, in this case, is to be understood by comparison to 
the rate that each man setteth on himself. 

The public worth of a man, which is the value set on him by the 
commonwealth, is that which men commonly call 'dignity.' And 
this value of him by the commonwealth is understood by offices of 
command, judicature, public employment, or by names and titles 
introduced for distinction of such value. 

To pray to another for aid of any kind is 'to honour,' because a 
sign we have an opinion he has power to help; and the more difficult 
the aid is, the more is the honour. 

To obey is to honour, because no man obeys them whom they 
think have no power to help or hurt them. And consequently to 
disobey is to 'dishonour.' 



364 THOMAS HOBBES 

To give great gifts to a man is to honour him, because it is buying 
of protection and acknowledging of power. To give Httle gifts is 
to dishonour, because it is but alms and signifies an opinion of the 
need of small helps. 

To be sedulous in promoting another's good, also to flatter is to 
honour, as a sign we seek his protection or aid. To neglect is to 
dishonour. 

To give way or place to another in any commodity is to honour, 
being a confession of greater power. To arrogate is to dishonour. 

To show any sign of love or fear of another is to honour, for both 
to love and to fear is to value. To contemn, or less to love or fear 
than he expects, is to dishonour, for it is undervaluing. 

To praise, magnify, or call happy, is to honour, because nothing 
but goodness, power, and felicity, is valued. To revile, mock, or 
pity, is to dishonour. 

To speak to another with consideration, to appear before him with 
decency, and humility, is to honour him, as signs of fear to offend. 
To speak to him rashly, to do anything before him obscenely, 
slovenly, impudently, is to dishonour. 

To believe, to trust, to rely on another, is to honour him, a sign of 
opinion of his virtue and power. To distrust, or not believe, is to 
dishonour. 

To hearken to a man's counsel or discourse, of what kind soever, 
is to honour, as a sign we think him wise, or eloquent, or witty. To 
sleep, or go forth, or talk the while, is to dishonour. 

To do those things to another which he takes for signs of honour, 
or which the law or custom makes so, is to honour, because in ap- 
proving the honour done by others he acknowledgeth the power 
which others acknowledge. To refuse to do them is to dishonour. 

To agree with in opinion is to honour, as being a, sign of approving 
his judgment and wisdom. To dissent is dishonour, and an upbraid- 
ing of error, and, if the dissent be in many things, of folly. 

To imitate is to honour, for it is vehemently to approve. To imi- 
tate one's enemy, is to dishonour. 

To honour those another honours is to honour him, as a sign of 
approbation of his judgment. To honour his enemies is to dishon- 
our him. 



OF MAN 365 

To employ in counsel or in actions of difficulty is to honour, as a 
sign of opinion of his wisdom or other power. To deny employment 
in the same cases to those that seek it is to dishonour. 

All these ways of honouring are natural, and as well within as 
without commonwealths. But in commonwealths, where he or they 
that have the supreme authority can make whatsoever they please 
to stand for signs of honour, there be other honours. 

A sovereign doth honour a subject with whatsoever title, or office, 
or employment, or action, that he himself will have taken for a sign 
of his will to honour him. 

The King of Persia honoured Mordecai when he appointed he 
should be conducted through the streets in the king's garment upon 
one of the king's horses, with a crown on his head and a prince 
before him, proclaiming 'Thus shall it be done to him that the king 
will honour.' And yet another king of Persia, or the same another 
time, to one that demanded for some great service to wear one of the 
king's robes, gave him leave so to do; but with this addition, that he 
should wear it as the king's fool; and then it was dishonour. So that 
of civil honour the fountain is in the person of the commonwealth, 
and dependeth on the will of the sovereign; and is therefore tem- 
porary, and called 'civil honour,' such as magistracy, offices, titles, and, 
in some places, coats and scutcheons painted; and men honour such 
as have them, as having so many signs of favour in the common- 
wealth: which favour is power. 

'Honourable' is whatsoever possession, action, or quality, is an 
argument and sign of power. 

And therefore to be honoured, loved, or feared of many, is hon- 
ourable, as arguments of power. To be honoured of few or none, 
'dishonourable.' 

Dominion and victory is honourable, because acquired by power; 
and servitude, for need or fear, is dishonourable. 

Good fortune, if lasting, honourable, as a sign of the favour of 
God. Ill fortune and losses dishonourable. Riches are honourable, 
for they are power. Poverty, dishonourable. Magnanimity, liber- 
ality, hope, courage, confidence, are honourable, for they proceed 
from the conscience of power. Pusillanimity, parsimony, fear, dif- 
fidence, are dishonourable. 



366 THOMAS HOBBES 

Timely resolution, or determination of what a man is to do, is 
honourable, as being the contempt of small difficulties and dangers. 
And irresolution, dishonourable, as a sign of too much valuing of 
litde impediments and little advantages; for when a man has weighed 
things as long as the time permits, and resolves not, the difference 
of weight is but litde, and therefore, if he resolve not, he over- 
values little things, which is pusillanimity. 

All actions and speeches that proceed, or seem to proceed, from 
much experience, science, discretion, or wit, are honourable, for all 
these are powers. Actions or words that proceed from error, igno- 
rance, or folly, dishonourable. 

Gravity, as far forth as it seems to proceed from a mind employed 
on something else, is honourable, because employment is a sign of 
power. But, if it seem to proceed from a purpose to appear grave, 
it is dishonourable. For the gravity of the former is like the steadi- 
ness of a ship laden with merchandise, but of the latter like the 
steadiness of a ship ballasted with sand and other trash. 

To be conspicuous, that is to say to be known, for wealth, office, 
great actions, or any eminent good, is honourable, as a sign of the 
power for which he is conspicuous. On the contrary, obscurity is 
dishonourable. 

To be descended from conspicuous parents is honourable, because 
they the more easily attain the aids and friends of their ancestors. 
On the contrary, to be descended from obscure parentage is dis- 
honourable. 

Actions proceeding from equity joined with loss are honourable, as 
signs of magnanimity; for magnanimity is a sign of power. On the 
contrary, craft, shifting, neglect of equity, is dishonourable. 

Covetousness of great riches, and ambition of great honours are 
honourable, as signs of power to obtain them. Covetousness and 
ambition of little gains or preferments is dishonourable. 

Nor does it alter the case of honour whether an action, so it be 
great and difficult and consequently a sign of much power, be just 
or unjust; for honour consisteth only in the opinion of power. There- 
fore the ancient heathen did not think they dishonoured, but greatly 
honoured, the gods when they introduced them in their poems com- 
mitting rapes, thefts, and other great but unjust or unclean acts; 



OF MAN 367 

insomuch as nothing is so much celebrated in Jupiter as his adul- 
teries; nor in Mercury as his frauds and thefts: of whose praises, in a 
hymn of Homer, the greatest is this, that, being born in the morning, 
he had invented music at noon, and before night stolen away the 
cattle of Apollo from his herdsmen. 

Also amongst men, till there were constituted great common- 
wealths, it was thought no dishonour to be a pirate or a highway 
thief, but rather a lawful trade, not only amongst the Greeks but 
also amongst all other nations as is manifest by the histories of ancient 
time. And at this day, in this part of the world, private duels are and 
always will be honourable, though unlawful, till such time as there 
shall be honour ordained for them that refuse, and ignominy for them 
that make the challenge. For duels also are many times effects of 
courage, and the ground of courage is always strength or skill, which 
are power; though for the most part they be effects of rash speaking 
and of the fear of dishonour, in one or both the combatants, who, 
engaged by rashness, are driven into the lists to avoid disgrace. 

Scutcheons and coats of arms hereditary, where they have any 
eminent privileges, are honourable; otherwise not: for their power 
consisteth either in such privileges, or in riches, or some such thing 
as is equally honoured in other men. This kind of honour, com- 
monly called gentry, hath been derived from the ancient Germans. 
For there never was any such thing known where the German cus- 
toms were unknown. Nor is it now anywhere in use where the 
Germans have not inhabited. The ancient Greek commanders, when 
they went to war, had their shields painted with such devices as they 
pleased; insomuch that an unpainted buckler was a sign of poverty 
and of a common soldier; but they transmitted not the inheritance 
of them. The Romans transmitted the marks of their families: but 
they were the images, not the devices, of their ancestors. Amongst 
the people of Asia, Africa, and America, there is not, nor was ever, 
any such thing. The Germans only had that custom; from whom 
it has been derived into England, France, Spain, and Italy, when in 
great numbers they either aided the Romans or made their own 
conquests in these western parts of the world. 

For Germany, being anciently, as all other countries in their begin- 
nings, divided amongst an infinite number of little lords, or masters 



368 THOMAS HOBBES 

of families, that continually had wars one with another, those mas- 
ters, or lords, principally to the end they might when they were 
covered with arms be known by their followers, and pardy for orna- 
ment, both painted their armour or their scutcheon or coat with the 
picture of some beast or other thing, and also put some eminent and 
visible mark upon the crest of their helmets. And this ornament both 
of the arms and crest descended by inheritance to their children; 
to the eldest pure, and to the rest with some note of diversity, such 
as the old master, that is to say in Dutch, the Here-alt, thought fit. 
But when many such families, joined together, made a greater mon- 
archy, this duty of the Here-alt to distinguish scutcheons was made a 
private office apart. And the issue of these lords is the great and 
ancient gentry, which for the most part bear living creatures, noted 
for courage and rapine; or castles, battlements, belts, weapons, bars, 
palisadoes, and other notes of war; nothing being then in honour 
but virtue military. Afterwards not only kings but popular common- 
wealths gave divers manners of scutcheons to such as went forth to 
the war, or returned from it, for encouragement or recompense to 
their service. All which, by an observing reader, may be found in 
such ancient histories, Greek and Latin, as make mention of the 
German nation and manners in their times. 

Titles of 'honour,' such as are duke, count, marquis, and baron, 
are honourable, as signifying the value set upon them by the sov- 
ereign power of the commonwealth; which titles were in old time 
titles of office and command, derived some from the Romans, some 
from the Germans and French : dukes, in Latin duces, being generals 
in war; counts, comites, such as bear the general company out of 
friendship and were left to govern and defend places conquered and 
pacified; marquises, marchiones, were counts that governed the 
marches or bounds of the empire. Which titles of duke, count, and 
marquis, came into the empire about the time of Constantine the 
Great, from the customs of the German militia. But baron seems to 
have been a title of the Gauls, and signifies a great man, such as were 
the king's or prince's men, whom they employed in war about their 
persons, and seems to be derived from vir, to 'ber,' and 'bar,' that 
signified the same in the language of the Gauls, that vir in Latin, 
and thence to 'bero' and 'baro' so that such men were called 'berones,' 



OF MAN 369 

and after 'barones,' and in Spanish, 'varones.' But he that would 
know more particularly the original o£ titles of honour may find it, 
as I have done this, in Mr. Selden's most excellent treatise of that 
subject. In process of time these offices of honour, by occasion of 
trouble and for reasons of good and peaceable government, were 
turned into mere titles, serving for the most part to distinguish 
the precedence, place, and order of subjects in the commonwealths; 
and men were made dukes, counts, marquises and barons, of places 
wherein they had neither possession nor command; and other titles 
also were devised to the same end. 

'Worthiness' is a thing different from the worth or value of a man, 
and also from his merit, or desert, and consisteth in a particular 
power or ability for that whereof he is said to be worthy: which 
particular ability is usually named 'fitness,' or 'aptitude.' 

For he is worthiest to be a commander, to be a judge, or to have 
any other charge, that is best fitted with the qualities required to the 
well discharging of it; and worthiest of riches that has the qualities 
most requisite for the well using of them: any of which qualities 
being absent, one may nevertheless be a worthy man, and valuable 
for something else. Again, a man may be worthy of riches, office, 
and employment, and nevertheless can plead no right to have it 
before another; and therefore cannot be said to merit or deserve it. 
For merit presupposeth a right and that the thing deserved is due 
by promise; of which I shall say more hereafter, when I shall speak 
of contracts. 

CHAPTER XI 
Of the Difference of Manners 

By manners I mean not here decency of behaviour, as how one 
man should salute another, or how a man should wash his mouth, 
or pick his teeth before company, and such other points of the 'small 
morals'; but those qualities of mankind that concern their living 
together in peace and unity. To which end we are to consider that 
the felicity of this life consisteth not in the repose of a mind satisfied. 
For there is no such finis ultitnus (utmost aim), nor summum bonum 



370 THOMAS HOBBES 

(greatest good), as is spoken of in the books o£ the old moral philoso- 
phers. Nor can a man any more live whose desires are at an end 
than he whose senses and imaginations are at a stand. Felicity is a 
continual progress of the desire from one object to another, the 
attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter. The 
cause whereof is that the object of man's desire is not to enjoy once 
only and for one instant of time, but to assure for ever the way of 
his future desire. And therefore the voluntary actions and inclina- 
tions of all men tend not only to the procuring, but also to the 
assuring, of a contented life, and differ only in the way; which ariseth 
partly from the diversity of passions in divers men, and partly from 
the difference of the knowledge or opinion each one has of the 
causes which produce the effect desired. 

So that in the first place I put for a general inclination of all man- 
kind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth 
only in death. And the cause of this is not always that a man hopes 
for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to, or that 
he cannot be content with a moderate power; but because he cannot 
assure the power and means to live well which he hath present, with- 
out the acquisition o£ more. And from hence it is that kings, whose 
power is greatest, turn their endeavours to the assuring it at home 
by laws, or abroad by wars; and, when that is done, there succeedeth 
a new desire, in some of fame from new conquest, in others of ease 
and sensual pleasure, in others of admiration or being flattered for 
excellence in some art or other ability of the mind. 

Competition of riches, honour, command, or other power, inclineth 
to contention, enmity, and war; because the way of one competitor, 
to the attaining of his desire, is to kill, subdue, supplant, or repel the 
other. Particularly, competition of praise inclineth to a reverence of 
antiquity. For men contend with the living, not with the dead, to 
these ascribing more than due, that they may obscure the glory of 
the other. 

Desire of ease, and sensual delight, disposeth men to obey a com- 
mon power, because by such desires a man doth abandon the pro- 
tection that might be hoped for from his own industry and labour. 
Fear of death, and wounds, disposeth to the same, and for the same 



OF MAN 371 

reason. On the contrary, needy men, and hardy, not contented with 
their present condition, as also all men that are ambitious of military 
command, are inclined to continue the cause of war, and to stir up 
trouble and sedition, for there is no honour military but by war, nor 
any such hope to mend an ill game as by causing a new shuffle. 
Desire of knowledge, and arts of peace, inclineth men to obey a 
common power; for such desire, containeth a desire of leisure, and 
consequently protection from some other power than their own. 

Desire of praise disposeth to laudable actions, such as please them 
whose judgment they value; for, of those men whom we contemn, 
we contemn also the praises. Desire of fame after death does the 
same. And though after death there be no sense of the praise given 
us on earth, as being joys that are either swallowed up in the un- 
speakable joys of Heaven or extinguished in the extreme torments of 
hell, yet is not such fame vain; because men have a present delight 
therein, from the foresight of it, and of the benefit that may redound 
thereby to their posterity, which, though they now see not, yet they 
imagine; and anything that is pleasure in the sense, the same also is 
pleasure in the imagination. 

To have received from one to whom we think ourselves equal 
greater benefits than there is hope to requite disposeth to counterfeit 
love, but really secret hatred; and puts a man into the estate of a des- 
perate debtor that, in declining the sight of his creditor, tacitly wishes 
him there where he might never see him more. For benefits oblige, 
and obligation is thraldom, and unrequitable obligation perpetual 
thraldom, which is to one's equal, hateful. But to have received 
benefits from one whom we acknowledge for superior inclines to 
love; because the obligation is no new depression: and cheerful 
acceptation, which men call 'gratitude,' is such an honour done to 
the obliger as is taken generally for retribution. Also to receive 
benefits, though from an equal or inferior, as long as there is hope 
of requital, disposeth to love; for, in the intention of the receiver, the 
obligation is of aid and service mutual, from whence proceedeth an 
emulation of who shall exceed in benefiting, the most noble and 
profitable contention possible, wherein the victor is pleased with his 
victory, and the other revenged by confessing it. 



372 THOMAS HOBBES 

To have done more hurt to a man than he can or is willing to 
expiate inclineth the doer to hate the sufferer. For he must expect 
revenge or forgiveness, both which are hateful. 

Fear of oppression disposeth a man to anticipate or to seek aid 
by society; for there is no other way by which a man can secure his 
life and liberty. 

Men that distrust their own subtilty are, in tumult and sedition, 
better disposed for victory than they that suppose themselves wise 
or crafty. For these love to consult the other, fearing to be cir- 
cumvented, to strike, first. And in sedition, men being always in 
the precincts of battle, to hold together and use all advantages of 
force is a better stratagem than any that can proceed from subtilty 
of wit. 

Vain-glorious men, such as without being conscious to themselves 
of great sufficiency delight in supposing themselves gallant men, are 
inclined only to ostentation, but not to attempt; because, when danger 
or difficulty appears, they look for nothing but to have their insuf- 
ficiency discovered. 

Vain-glorious men, such as estimate their sufficiency by the flat- 
tery of other men or the fortune of some precedent action, without 
assured ground of hope from the true knowledge of themselves, are 
inclined to rash engaging, and in the approach of danger or difficulty 
to retire if they can; because, not seeing the way of safety, they will 
rather hazard their honour, which may be salved with an excuse, 
than their lives, for which no salve is sufficient. 

Men that have a strong opinion of their own wisdom in matter of 
government are disposed to ambition. Because without public em- 
ployment in council or magistracy the honour of the wisdom is lost. 
And therefore eloquent speakers are inclined to ambition, for elo- 
quence seemeth wisdom, both to themselves and others. 

Pusillanimity disposeth men to irresolution, and consequently to 
lose the occasions and fittest opportunities of action. For after men 
have been in deliberation till the time of action approach, if it be not 
then manifest what is best to be done, it is a sign the difference of 
motives, the one way and the other, are not great: therefore not to 
resolve then is to lose the occasion by weighing of trifles, which is 
pusillanimity. 



OF MAN 373 

Frugality, though in poor men a virtue, maketh a man unapt to 
achieve such actions as require the strength of many men at once; 
for it weakeneth their endeavour, which is to be nourished and kept 
in vigour by reward. 

Eloquence, with flattery disposeth men to confide in them that 
have it; because the former is seeming wisdom, the latter seeming 
kindness. Add to them military reputation, and it disposeth men to 
adhere and subject themselves to those men that have them. The 
two former having given them caution against danger from him, 
the latter gives them caution against danger from others. 

Want of science, that is, ignorance of causes, disposeth, or rather 
constraineth, a man to rely on the advice and authority of others. 
For all men whom the truth concerns, if they rely not on their own, 
must rely on the opinion of some other whom they think wiser than 
themselves and see not why he should deceive them. 

Ignorance of the signification of words, which is want of under- 
standing, disposeth men to take on trust not only the truth they 
know not, but also the errors, and which is more, the nonsense of 
them they trust; for neither error nor nonsense can, without a perfect 
understanding of words, be detected. 

From the same it proceedeth that men give different names to one 
and the same thing, from the difference of their own passions: as 
they that approve a private opinion call it opinion, but they that 
mislike it, heresy: and yet heresy signifies no more than private 
opinion, but has only a greater tincture of choler. 

From the same also it proceedeth that men cannot distinguish, 
without study and great understanding, between one action of many 
men and many actions of one multitude; as for example, between 
the one action of all the senators of Rome in killing Catiline, and the 
many actions of a number of senators in killing Cxsar; and there- 
fore are disposed to take for the action of the people that which is a 
multitude of actions done by a multitude of men, led perhaps by the 
persuasion of one. 

Ignorance of the causes and original constitution of right, equity, 
law, and justice, disposeth a man to make custom and example the 
rule of his actions; in such manner as to think that unjust which it 
hath been the custom to punish, and that just of the impunity and 



374 THOMAS HOBBES 

approbation whereof they can produce an example, or, as the lawyers 
which only use this false measure of justice barbarously call it, a 
precedent; like little children, that have no other rule of good and 
evil manners but the correction they receive from their parents and 
masters; save that children are constant to their rule, whereas men 
are not so; because, grown strong and stubborn, they appeal from 
custom to reason, and from reason to custom, as it serves their turn; 
receding from custom when their interest requires it, and setting 
themselves against reason as oft as reason is against them; which is 
the cause that the doctrine of right and wrong is perpetually dis- 
puted, both by the pen and the sword; whereas the doctrine of lines 
and figures is not so, because men care not in that subject what be 
truth, as a thing that crosses no man's ambition, profit, or lust. For 
I doubt not but, if it had been a thing contrary to any man's right of 
dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, 'that the 
three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square,' 
that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning 
of all books of geometry, suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned 
was able. 

Ignorance of remote causes disposeth men to attribute all events to 
the causes immediate and instrumental, for these are all the causes 
they perceive. And hence it comes to pass that in all places men 
that are grieved with payments to the public, discharge their anger 
upon the publicans, that is to say farmers, collectors, and other officers 
of the public revenue, and adhere to such as find fault with the public 
government; and thereby, when they have engaged themselves be- 
yond hope of justification, fall also upon the supreme authority, for 
fear of punishment or shame of receiving pardon. 

Ignorance of natural causes disposeth a man to credulity, so as to 
believe many times impossibilities; for such know nothing to the 
contrary but that they may be true, being unable to detect the impos- 
sibility. And credulity, because men like to be hearkened unto in 
company, disposeth them to lying, so that ignorance itself without 
malice is able to make a man both to believe lies and tell them, and 
sometimes also to invent them. 

Anxiety for the future time disposeth men to inquire into the 
causes of things; because the knowledge of them maketh men the 
better able to order the present to their best advantage. 



OF MAN 375 

Curiosity, or love of the knowledge of causes, draws a man from 
the consideration of the effect to seek the cause, and, again, the cause 
of that cause; till of necessity he must come to this thought at last 
that there is some cause whereof there is no former cause, but is 
eternal; which is it men call God. So that it is impossible to make 
any profound inquiry into natural causes without being inclined 
thereby to believe there is one God eternal; though they cannot have 
any idea of Him in their mind answerable to His nature. For as a 
man that is born blind, hearing men talk of warming themselves by 
the fire and being brought to warm himself by the same, may easily 
conceive and assure himself, there is somewhat there, which men call 
'fire' and is the cause of the heat he feels, but cannot imagine what 
it is like, nor have an idea of it in his mind such as they have that 
see it, so also by the visible things of this world, and their admirable 
order, a man may conceive there is a cause of them, which men call 
God, and yet not have an idea or image of Him in his mind. 

And they that make little or no inquiry into the natural causes of 
things, yet, from the fear that proceeds from the ignorance itself of 
what it is that hath the power to do them much good or harm, are 
inclined to suppose and feign unto themselves several kinds of 
powers invisible, and to stand in awe of their own imaginations, and 
in time of distress to invoke them, as also in the time of an expected 
good success to give them thanks, making the creatures of their own 
fancy their gods. By which means it hath come to pass that, from 
the innumerable variety of fancy, men have created in the world 
innumerable sorts of gods. And this fear of things invisible is the 
natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion, and 
in them that worship or fear that power otherwise than they do, 
superstition. 

And this seed of religion, having been observed by many, some of 
those that have observed it have been inclined thereby to nourish, 
dress, and form it into laws; and to add to it of their own invention 
any opinion of the causes of future events by which they thought 
they should be best able to govern others, and make unto themselves 
the greatest use of their powers. 



37& THOMAS HOBBES 

CHAPTER XII 
Of Religion 

Seeing there are no signs nor fruit of 'religion' but in man only, 
there is no cause to doubt but that the seed of 'religion' is also only 
in man; and consisteth in some peculiar quality or at least in some 
eminent degree thereof not to be found in other living creatures. 

And, first, it is peculiar to the nature of man to be inquisitive into 
the causes of the events they see, some more, some less; but all men 
so much as to be curious in the search of the causes of their own good 
and evil fortune. 

Secondly, upon the sight of anything that hath a beginning, to 
think also it had a cause which determined the same to begin, then 
when it did, rather than sooner or later. 

Thirdly, whereas there is no other felicity of beasts but the enjoy- 
ing of their quotidian food, ease, and lusts, as having little or no 
foresight of the time to come, for want of observation and memory 
of the order, consequence, and dependence of the things they see, 
man observeth how one event hath been produced by another, and 
remembereth in them antecedence and consequence; and, when he 
cannot assure himself of the true causes of things (for the causes of 
good and evil fortune for the most part are invisible), he supposes 
causes of them, either such as his own fancy suggesteth, or trusteth 
the authority of other men, such as he thinks to be his friends and 
wiser than himself. 

The two first make anxiety. For, being assured that there be 
causes of all things that have arrived hitherto or shall arrive here- 
after, it is impossible for a man, who continually endeavoureth to 
secure himself against the evil he fears and procure the good he 
desireth, not to be in a perpetual solicitude of the time to come; so 
that every man, especially those that are over-provident, are in a 
state like to that of Prometheus. For as Prometheus, which inter- 
preted is 'the prudent man,' was bound to the hill Caucasus, a place 
of large prospect, where an eagle feeding on his liver devoured in the 
day as much as was repaired in the night, so that man, which looks 
too far before him in the care of future time, hath his heart all the 



OF MAN 377 

day long gnawed on by fear of death, poverty, or other calamity, 
and has no repose nor pause of his anxiety but in sleep. 

This perpetual fear, always accompanying mankind in the ignor- 
ance of causes, as it were in the dark, must needs have for object 
something. And therefore, when there is nothing to be seen, there 
is nothing to accuse, either of their good or evil fortune, but some 
'power' or agent 'invisible' in which sense perhaps it was that some 
of the old poets said that the gods were at first created by human 
fear; which spoken of the gods, that is to say of the many gods of 
the Gentiles, is very true. But the acknowledging of one God, 
eternal, infinite, and omnipotent, may more easily be derived, from 
the desire men have to know the causes of natural bodies and their 
several virtues and operations, than from the fear of what was to 
befall them in time to come. For he that from any effect he seeth 
come to pass should reason to the next and immediate cause thereof, 
and from thence to the cause of that cause, and plunge himself pro- 
foundly in the pursuit of causes, shall at last come to this, that there 
must be, as even the heathen philosophers confessed, one first mover, 
that is, a first and an eternal cause of all things, which is that which 
men mean by the name of God, and all this without thought of their 
fortune; the solicitude whereof both inclines to fear and hinders them 
from the search of the causes of other things, and thereby gives 
occasion of feigning of as many gods as there be men that feign 
them. 

And, for the matter or substance of the invisible agents so fancied, 
they could not by natural cogitation fall upon any other conceit, but 
that it was the same with that of the soul of man; and that the soul 
of man was of the same substance with that which appeareth in a 
dream to one that sleepeth, or in a looking-glass to one that is awake; 
which, men not knowing that such apparitions are nothing else but 
creatures of the fancy, think to be real and external substances, and 
therefore call them ghosts; as the Latins called them imagines and 
umbrce, and thought them spirits, that is thin aerial bodies, and those 
invisible agents which they feared, to be like them, save that they 
appear and vanish when they please. But the opinion that such 
spirits were incorporeal, or immaterial, could never enter into the 
mind of any man by nature, because, though men may put together 



378 THOMAS HOBBES 

words of contradictory signification, as 'spirit' and 'incorporeal,' yet 
they can never have the imagination of anything answering to them; 
and therefore men that by their own meditation arrive to the ac- 
knowledgment of one infinite, omnipotent, and eternal God chose 
rather to confess He is incomprehensible and above their under- 
standing than to define His nature by 'spirit incorporeal,' and then 
confess their definition to be unintelligible; or, if they give Him 
such a title, it is not 'dogmatically' with intention to make the 
divine nature understood, but 'piously,' to honour Him with attri- 
butes of significations as remote as they can from the grossness of 
bodies visible. 

Then for the way by which they think these invisible agents 
wrought their effects, that is to say, what immediate causes they 
used in bringing things to pass, men that know not what it is that 
we call 'causing,' that is almost all men, have no other rule to guess 
by but by observing and remembering what they have seen to 
precede the like effect at some other time or times before, without 
seeing between the antecedent and subsequent event any dependence 
or connection at all; and therefore from the like things past they 
expect the like things to come, and hope for good or evil luck, super- 
stitiously, from things that have no part at all in the causing of it: as 
the Athenians did for their war at Lepanto, demand another Phor- 
mio; the Pompeian faction for their war in Africa, another Scipio; 
and others have done in divers other occasions since. In like manner 
they attribute their fortune to a stander-by, to a lucky or unlucky 
place, to words spoken, especially if the name God be amongst them, 
as charming and conjuring, the liturgy of witches; inasmuch as to 
believe they have power to turn a stone into bread, bread into a 
man, or anything into anything. 

Thirdly, for the worship which naturally men exhibit to powers 
invisible, it can be no other but such expressions of their reverence, 
as they would use towards men; gifts, petitions, thanks, submission 
of body, considerate addresses, sober behaviour, premeditated words, 
swearing, that is assuring one another of their promises by invoking 
them. Beyond that, reason suggesteth nothing, but leaves them either 
to rest there, or, for further ceremonies, to rely on those they be- 
lieve to be wiser than themselves. 



OF MAN 379 

Lastly, concerning how these invisible powers declare to men the 
things which shall hereafter come to pass, especially concerning their 
good or evil fortune in general or good or ill-success in any particular 
undertaking, men are naturally at a stand, save that, using to con- 
jecture of the time to come by the time past, they are very apt not 
only to take casual things, after one or two encounters, for prog- 
nostics of the like encounter ever after, but also to believe the like 
prognostics from other men of whom they have once conceived 
a good opinion. 

And, in these four things, opinion of ghosts, ignorance of second 
causes, devotion towards what men fear, and taking of things cas- 
ual for prognostics, consisteth the natural seed of 'religion,' which, 
by reason of the different fancies, judgments, and passions of sev- 
eral men, hath grown up into ceremonies so different that those 
which are used by one man are for the most part ridiculous to 
another. 

For these seeds have received culture from two sorts of men. One 
sort have been they that have nourished and ordered them according 
to their own invention. The other have done it by God's command- 
ment and direction; but both sorts have done it with a purpose to 
make those men that relied on them the more apt to obedience, 
laws, peace, charity, and civil society. So that the religion of the 
former sort is a part of human politics, and teacheth part of the 
duty which earthly kings require of their subjects. And the religion 
of the latter sort is divine politics, and containeth precepts to those 
that have yielded themselves subjects in the kingdom of God. Of 
the former sort were all the founders of commonwealths and the 
lawgivers of the Gentiles; of the latter sort, were Abraham, Moses, 
and our blessed Saviour, by whom have been derived unto us the 
laws of the kingdom of God. 

And, for that part of religion which consisteth in opinions con- 
cerning the nature of powers invisible, there is almost nothing that 
has a name that has not been esteemed amongst the Gentiles, in 
one place or another, a god or devil, or by their poets feigned to be 
inanimated, inhabited, or possessed, by some spirit or other. 

The unformed matter of the world was a god by the name of 
Chaos. 



380 THOMAS HOBBES 

The heaven, the ocean, the planets, the fire, the earth, the winds, 
were so many gods. 

Men, women, a bird, a crocodile, a calf, a dog, a snake, an onion, 
a leek, were deified. Besides that, they filled almost all places with 
spirits called 'demons': the plains with Pan and Panises or Satyrs, 
the woods with Fauns and Nymphs, the sea with Tritons and other 
Nymphs, every river and fountain with a ghost of his name and 
with Nymphs, every house with its 'Lares' or familiars, every man 
with his 'Genius,' hell with ghosts and spiritual officers, as Charon, 
Cerberus, and the Furies, and in the night-time, all places with 
'larvae,' 'lemures,' ghosts of men deceased and a whole kingdom of 
fairies and bugbears. They have also ascribed divinity, and built 
temples to mere accidents and qualities, such as are time, night, day, 
peace, concord, love, contention, virtue, honour, health, rust, fever, 
and the like; which when they prayed for or against they prayed 
to, as if there were ghosts of those names hanging over their heads, 
and letting fall or withholding that good or evil for or against which 
they prayed. They invoked also their own wit by the name of 
Muses, their own ignorance by the name of Fortune, their own lust 
by the name of Cupid, their own rage by the name of Furies, their 
own privy members by the name of Priapus; and attributed their 
pollutions to Incubi and Succubae: insomuch as there was nothing 
which a poet could introduce as a person in his poem which they 
did not make either a 'god' or a 'devil.' 

The same authors of the religion of the Gentiles, observing the 
second ground for religion, which is men's ignorance of causes, 
and thereby their aptness to attribute their fortune to causes on 
which there was no dependence at all apparent, took occasion to 
obtrude on their ignorance, instead of second causes, a kind of 
second and ministerial gods, ascribing the cause of fecundity to 
Venus, the cause of arts to Apollo, of subtlety and craft to Mercury, 
of tempests and storms to jEoIus, and of other effects to other gods; 
insomuch as there was amongst the heathen almost as great variety 
of gods as of business. 

And to the worship which naturally men conceived fit to be used 
towards their gods, namely, oblations, prayers, thanks, and the rest 
formerly named, the same legislators of the Gentiles have added 



OF MAN 381 

their images, both in picture and sculpture, that the more ignorant 
sort, that is to say the most part or generaUty of the people, thinking 
the gods for whose representation they were made were really in- 
cluded and as it were housed within them, might so much the more 
stand in fear of them; and endowed them with lands, and houses, 
and officers, and revenues, set apart from all other human uses, that 
is consecrated and made holy to those their idols, as caverns, groves, 
woods, mountains, and whole islands; and have attributed to them 
not only the shapes, some of men, some of beasts, some of monsters, 
but also the faculties and passions of men and beasts, as sense, speech, 
sex, lust, generation; and this not only by mixing one with another 
to propagate the kind of gods, but also by mixing with men and 
women to beget mongrel gods, and but inmates of heaven, as 
Bacchus, Hercules, and others; besides anger, revenge, and other 
passions, of living creatures, and the actions proceeding from them, 
as fraud, theft, adultery, sodomy, and any vice that may be taken 
for an effect of power or a cause of pleasure; and all such vices 
as amongst men are taken to be against law rather than against 
honour. 

Lastly, to the prognostics of time to come, which are naturally but 
conjectures upon experience of time past, and supernaturally, divine 
revelation, the same authors of the religion of the Gentiles, partly 
upon pretended experience partly upon pretended revelation, have 
added innumerable other superstitious ways of divination, and 
made men believe they should find their fortunes, sometimes in the 
ambiguous or senseless answers of the priests at Delphi, Delos, 
Ammon, and other famous oracles, which answers were made am- 
biguous by design, to own the event both ways, or absurd, by the 
intoxicating vapour of the place, which is very frequent in sul- 
phurous caverns: sometimes in the leaves of the Sibyls, of whose 
prophecies, like those perhaps of Nostradamus (for the fragments 
now extant seem to be the invention of later times), there were 
some books in reputation in the time of the Roman Republic; some- 
times in the insignificant speeches of madmen supposed to be 
possessed with a divine spirit, which possession they called en- 
thusiasm, and these kinds of foretelling events were accounted 
theomancy, or prophecy; sometimes in the aspect of the stars at 



382 THOMAS HOBBES 

their nativity, which was called horoscopy and esteemed a part o£ 
judiciary astrology; sometimes in their own hopes and fears, called 
thumomancy, or presage; sometimes in the prediction of witches, 
that pretended conference with the dead, which is called necromancy, 
conjuring, and witchcraft, and is but juggling and confederate 
knavery; sometimes in the casual flight or feeding of birds, called 
augury; sometimes in the entrails of a sacrificed beast, which was 
'aruspicina'; sometimes in dreams; sometimes in croaking of 
ravens or chattering of birds; sometimes in the lineaments of the 
face, which was called metoposcopy; or by palmistry in the lines of 
the hand; in casual words, called 'omina'; sometimes in monsters 
or unusual accidents, as eclipses, comets, rare meteors, earthquakes, 
inundations, uncouth births, and the like, which they called 'por- 
tenta' and 'ostenta,' because they thought them to portend or fore- 
show some great calamity to come; sometimes in mere lottery, as 
cross and pile, counting holes in a sieve, dipping of verses in Homer 
and Virgil; and innumerable other such vain conceits. So easy are 
men to be drawn to believe anything from such men as have gotten 
credit with them and can with gentleness and dexterity take hold of 
their fear and ignorance. 

And therefore the first founders and legislators of common- 
wealths among the Gentiles, whose ends were only to keep the 
people in obedience and peace, have in all places taken care, first 
to imprint in their minds a behef that those precepts which they 
gave concerning religion might not be thought to proceed from their 
own device but from the dictates of some god or other spirit, or 
else that they themselves were of a higher nature than mere mortals, 
that their laws might the more easily be received: so Numa Pompilius 
pretended to receive the ceremonies he instituted amongst the 
Romans from the nymph Egeria; and the first king and founder of 
the kingdom of Peru pretended himself and his wife to be the 
children of the Sun, and Mahomet, to set up his new religion, 
pretended to have conferences with the Holy Ghost in form of a 
dove. Secondly, they have had a care to make it believed that the 
same things were displeasing to the gods which were forbidden by 
the laws. Thirdly, to prescribe ceremonies, supplications, sacrifices, 
and festivals, by which they were to believe the anger of the gods 



OF MAN 383 

might be appeased, and that ill success in war, great contagions 
of sickness, earthquakes, and each man's private misery, came from 
the anger of the gods, and their anger from the neglect of their 
worship or the forgetting or mistaking some point of the ceremonies 
required. And, though amongst the ancient Romans men were not 
forbidden to deny that which in the poets is written of the pains 
and pleasures after this life, which divers of great authority and 
gravity in that state have in their harangues openly derided, yet that 
belief was always more cherished than the contrary. 

And by these and such other institutions they obtained in order to 
their end, which was the peace of the commonwealth, that the 
common people in their misfortunes, laying the fault on neglect 
or error in their ceremonies or on their own disobedience to the 
laws, were the less apt to mutiny against their governors, and, being 
entertained with the pomp and pastime of festivals and public games 
made in honour of the gods, needed nothing else but bread to keep 
them from discontent, murmuring, and commotion against the state. 
And therefore the Romans, that had conquered the greatest part 
of the then known world, made no scruple of tolerating any religion 
whatsoever in the city of Rome itself, unless it had something in it 
that could not consist with their civil government; nor do we read 
that any religion was there forbidden but that of the Jews, who, being 
the peculiar kingdom of God, thought it unlawful to acknowledge 
subjection to any mortal king or state whatsoever. And thus you 
see how the religion of the Gentiles was part of their policy. 

But where God Himself by supernatural revelation planted 
religion, there He also made to Himself a peculiar kingdom, and 
gave laws not only of behaviour towards Himself but also towards 
one another; and thereby in the kingdom of God the policy and laws 
civil are a part of religion; and therefore the distinction of temporal 
and spiritual domination hath there no place. It is true that God 
is king of all the earth, yet may He be king of a peculiar and chosen 
nation. For there is no more incongruity therein than that he that 
hath the general command of the whole army should have withal 
a peculiar regiment or company of his own. God is king of all 
the earth by His power, but of His chosen people He is king by 
covenant. But to speak more largely of the kingdom of God, both 



384 THOMAS HOBBES 

by nature and covenant, I have in the following discourse assigned 
another place. 

From the propagation of religion it is not hard to understand 
the causes of the resolution of the same into its first seeds or prin- 
ciples, which are only an opinion of a deity and powers invisible 
and supernatural that can never be so abolished out of human nature 
but that new religions may again be made to spring out of them, by 
the culture of such men as for such purpose are in reputation. 

For, seeing all formed religion is founded at first upon the faith 
which a multitude hath in some one person whom they believe 
not only to be a wise man, and to labour to procure their happiness, 
but also to be a holy man, to whom God Himself vouchsafeth 
to declare His will supernaturally, it followeth necessarily, when 
they that have the government of religion shall come to have either 
the wisdom of those men, their sincerity, or their love suspected, or 
when they shall be unable to show any probable token of divine 
revelation, that the religion which they desire to uphold must be 
suspected likewise, and, without the fear of the civil sword, con- 
tradicted and rejected. 

That which taketh away the reputation of wisdom, in him that 
formeth a religion or addeth to it when it is already formed, is 
the enjoining of a belief of contradictories, for both parts of a con- 
tradiction caimot possibly be true; and therefore to enjoin the belief 
of them is an argument of ignorance, which detects the author in 
that, and discredits him in all things else he shall propound as 
from reveladon supernatural; which revelation a man may indeed 
have of many things above but of nothing against natural reason. 

That which taketh away the reputation of sincerity is the doing 
or saying of such things as appear to be signs that what they require 
other men to beUeve is not believed by themselves, all which doings 
or sayings are therefore called scandalous, because they be stumbling- 
blocks that make men to fall in the way of religion, as injustice, 
cruelty, profaneness, avarice, and luxury. For who can believe that 
he that doth ordinarily such actions as proceed from any of these 
roots believeth there is any such invisible power to be feared, as he 
aflrighteth other men withal for lesser faults? 

That which taketh away the reputation of love is the being de- 



OF MAN 385 

tected of private ends, as when the belief they require of others 
conduceth or seemeth to conduce to the acquiring of dominion, 
riches, dignity, or secure pleasure to themselves only or specially. 
For that which men reap benefit by to themselves they are thought 
to do for their own sakes, and not for love of others. 

Lastly, the testimony that men can render of divine calling can 
be no other than the operation of miracles, or true prophecy, which 
also is a miracle, or extraordinary felicity. And, therefore, to those 
points of religion which have been received from them that did 
such miracles, those that are added by such as approve not their 
calling by some miracle obtain no greater belief than what the 
custom and laws of the places in which they be educated have 
wrought into them. For, as in natural things, men of judgment 
require natural signs and arguments, so in supernatural things they 
require signs supernatural, which are miracles, before they consent 
inwardly and from their hearts. 

All which causes of the weakening of men's faith do manifestly 
appear in the examples following. First, we have the example of 
the children of Israel, who when Moses, that had approved his 
calling to them by miracles and by the happy conduct of them out 
of Egypt was absent but forty days, revolted from the worship of 
the true God, recommended to them by him, and setting up (Exod. 
xxxii, I, 2) a golden calf for their god relapsed into the idolatry 
of the Egyptians, from whom they had been so lately delivered. 
And again, after Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and that generation which 
had seen the great works of God in Israel {Judges ii, 11) were dead, 
another generation arose and served Baal. So that, miracles failing, 
faith also failed. 

Again, when the sons of Samuel (i Sam. viii, 3) being constituted 
by their father judges in Bersabee, received bribes, and judged un- 
justly, the people of Israel refused any more to have God to be their 
king in other manner than He was king of other people, and there- 
fore cried out to Samuel to choose them a king after the manner of 
the nations. So that, justice failing, faith also failed; insomuch as 
they deposed their God from reigning over them. 

And whereas in the planting of Christian religion the oracles 
ceased in all parts of the Roman Empire, and the number of Chris- 



386 THOMAS HOBBES 

tians, increased wonderfully every day and in every place by the 
preaching of die Apostles and Evangelists, a great part of that 
success may reasonably be attributed to the contempt into which 
the priests of the Gentiles of that time had brought themselves by 
their uncleanness, avarice, and juggling between princes. Also the 
religion of the Church of Rome was partly for the same cause 
abolished in England and many other parts of Christendom, inso- 
much as the failing of virtue in the pastors maketh faith fail in the 
people; and partly from bringing of the philosophy and doctrine 
of Aristotle into religion by the schoolmen, from whence there arose 
so many contradictions and absurdities as brought the clergy into a 
reputation both of ignorance and of fraudulent intention, and in- 
clined people to revolt from them, either against the will of their 
own princes, as in France and Holland, or with their will, as in 
England. 

Lastly, amongst the points by the Church of Rome declared 
necessary for salvation, there be so many manifestly to the advantage 
of the Pope and of his spiritual subjects residing in the territories of 
other Christian princes that, were it not for the mutual emulation of 
those princes, they might without war or trouble exclude all foreign 
authority as easily as it had been excluded in England. For who 
is there that does not see to whose benefit it conduceth to have it 
believed that a king hath not his authority from Christ unless a 
bishop crown him? That a king, if he be a priest, cannot marry? 
That whether a prince be born in lawful marriage or not must be 
judged by authority from Rome? That subjects may be freed from 
their allegiance, if by the Court of Rome the king be judged an her- 
etic ? That a king, as Chilperic of France, may be deposed by a pope, 
as Pope Zachary, for no cause, and his kingdom given to one of his 
subjects? That the clergy and regulars, in what country soever, 
shall be exempt from the jurisdiction of their king in cases crimi- 
nal? Or who does not see to whose profit redound the fees of 
private masses and vales of purgatory, with other signs of private 
interest enough to mortify the most lively faith, if, as I said, the civil 
magistrate and custom did not more sustain it than any opinion 
they have of the sanctity, v^dsdom, or probity of their teachers? 



OF MAN 387 

So that I may attribute all the changes of religion in the world to 
one and the same cause, and that is, unpleasing priests; and those 
not only amongst Catholics but even in that Church that hath pre- 
sumed most of reformation. 



CHAPTER XIII 

Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning Their 
Felicity and Misery 

Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of the body and 
mind, as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly 
stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is 
reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so 
considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any 
benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. For, as 
to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the 
strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others 
that are in the same danger with himself. 

And, as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded 
upon words and especially that skill of proceeding upon general and 
infallible rules called science, which very few have and but in few 
things, as being not a native faculty born with us, nor attained, as 
prudence, while we look after somewhat else, I find yet a greater 
equality amongst men than that of strength. For prudence is but 
experience, which equal time equally bestows on all men in those 
things they equally apply themselves unto. That which may per- 
haps make such equality incredible is but a vain conceit of one's 
own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater 
degree than the vulgar, that is, than all men but themselves, and a 
few others whom by fame or for concurring with themselves they 
approve. For such is the nature of men that, howsoever they may 
acknowledge many others to be more witty or more eloquent or 
more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise 
as themselves, for they see their own wit at hand and other men's 
at a distance. But this proveth rather that men are in that point 



388 THOMAS HOBBES 

equal than unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of 
the equal distribution of anything than that every man is contented 
with his share. 

From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the 
attaining of our ends. And therefore, if any two men desire the 
same thing which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they be- 
come enemies; and, in the way to their end, which is principally 
their own conservation and sometimes their delectation only, en- 
deavour to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it 
comes to pass that, where an invader hath no more to fear than 
another man's single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess, 
a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared 
with forces united to dispossess and deprive him not only of the 
fruit of his labour but also of his life or liberty. And the invader 
again is in the like danger of another. 

And from this diffidence of one another there is no way for any 
man to secure himself so reasonable as anticipation, that is, by force 
or wiles to master the persons of all men he can so long till he see 
no other power great enough to endanger him; and this is no more 
than his own conservation requireth and is generally allowed. Also, 
because there be some that, taking pleasure in contemplating their 
own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than 
their security requires, if others, that otherwise would be glad to 
be at ease within the modest bounds, should not by invasion increase 
their power, they would not be able long time, by standing only 
on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmenta- 
tion of dominion over men being necessary to a man's conservation, 
it ought to be allowed him. 

Again, men have no pleasure, but on the contrary a great deal of 
grief, in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe 
them all. For every man looketh that his companion should value 
him at the same rate he sets upon himself, and, upon all signs of 
contempt or undervaluing, naturally endeavours as far as he dares 
(which amongst them that have no common power to keep them in 
quiet, is far enough to make them destroy each other) to extort 
a greater value from his contemners by damage, and from others 
by the example. 



OF MAN 389 

So that in the nature of man we find three principal causes of 
quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory. 

The first maketh man invade for gain; the second, for safety; 
and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make them- 
selves masters of other men's persons, wives, children, and cattle; 
the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, 
a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct 
in their persons or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their 
nation, their profession, or their name. 

Hereby it is manifest that, during the time men live without a 
common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition 
which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against 
every man. For 'war' consisteth not in battle only or the act of 
fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by batde 
is sufficiently known, and therefore the notion of 'time' is to be 
considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. 
For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of 
rain but in an inclination thereto of many days together, so the 
nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting but in the known 
disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the 
contrary. All other time is 'peace.' 

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time ot war where every 
man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent to the time 
wherein men live without other security than what their own strength 
and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such con- 
dition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is 
uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation 
nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no com- 
modious building, no instruments of moving and removing such 
things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the 
earth; no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and, which 
is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the 
life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. 

It may seem strange to some man that has not well weighed 
these things that Nature should thus dissociate and render men 
apt to invade and destroy one another; and he may therefore, not 
trusting to this inference made from the passions, desire perhaps to 



390 THOMAS HOBBES 

have the same confirmed by experience. Let him therefore consider 
with himself, when taking a journey, he arms himself and seeks to 
go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks his doors; when 
even in his house, he locks his chests; and this when he knows 
there be laws and public officers armed to revenge all injuries shall 
be done him; what opinion he has of his fellow-subjects when he 
rides armed; of his fellow-citizens, when he locks his doors; and of 
his children and servants, when he locks his chests. Does he not 
there as much accuse mankind by his actions as I do by my words? 
But neither of us accuse man's nature in it. The desires and other 
passions of man are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions 
that proceed from those passions, till they know a law that forbids 
them; which, till laws be made, they cannot know, nor can any 
law be made till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it. 

It may peradventure be thought there was never such a time nor 
condition of war as this; and I believe it was never generally so 
over all the world, but there are many places where they live so 
now. For the savage people in many places of America, except the 
government of small families the concord whereof dependeth on 
natural lust, have no government at all, and live at this day in 
that brutish manner as I said before. Howsoever, it may be perceived 
what manner of life there would be where there were no common 
power to fear, by the manner of life which men that have formerly 
lived under a peaceful government use to degenerate into, in a 
civil war. 

But, though there had never been any time wherein particular 
men were in a condition of war one against another, yet in all times 
kings and persons of sovereign authority, because of their inde- 
pendency, are in continual jealousies and in the state and posture of 
gladiators, having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on 
one another, that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns, upon the 
frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neigh- 
bours: which is a posture of war. But because they uphold thereby 
the industry of their subjects, there does not follow from it that 
misery which accompanies the liberty of particular men. 

To this war of every man against every man this also is conse- 
quent, that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, 



OF MAN 391 

justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common 
power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud 
are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none 
of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they 
might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses 
and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not 
in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition that there 
be no propriety, no dominion, no 'mine' and 'thine' distinct, but 
only that to be every man's that he can get, and for so long as he 
can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition which man by mere 
nature is actually placed in, though with a possibility to come out 
of it, consisting partly in the passions, partly in his reason. 

The passions that incline men to peace are fear of death, desire 
of such things as are necessary to commodious living, and a hope by 
their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient 
articles of peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement. 
These articles are they which otherwise are called the Laws of 
Nature, whereof I shall speak more particularly in the two following 
chapters. 

CHAPTER XIV 

Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and of 
Contracts 

'The right of Nature,' which writers commonly call jus naturale, 
is the liberty each man hath to use his own power as he will himself 
for the preservation of his own nature, that is to say, of his own life; 
and consequently of doing anything which in his own judgment and 
reason he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto. 

By 'liberty' is understood, according to the proper signification 
of the word, the absence of external impediments; which impedi- 
ments may oft take away part of a man's power to do what he 
would, but cannot hinder him from using the power left him 
according as his judgment and reason shall dictate to him. 

A 'law of Nature,' lex naturalis, is a precept or general rule found 
out by reason by which a man is forbidden to do that which is 



392 THOMAS HOBBES 

destructive of his life or taketh away the means of preserving the 
same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may be best pre- 
served. For, though they that speak of this subject use to confound 
jus and lex, 'right' and 'law,' yet they ought to be distinguished; 
because 'right' consisteth in hberty to do or to forbear, whereas 
'law' determineth and bindeth to one of them; so that law and 
right differ as much as obligation and liberty; which in one and the 
same matter are inconsistent. 

And because the condition of man, as hath been declared in the 
precedent chapter, is a condition of war of every one against every 
one, in which case every one is governed by his own reason, and 
there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto 
him in preserving his life against his enemies, it followeth that in 
such a condition every man has a right to everything, even to one 
another's body. And therefore, as long as this natural right of 
every man to everything endureth, there can be no security to any 
man, how strong or wise soever he be, of living out the time which 
Nature ordinarily alloweth men to live. And consequently it is 
a precept or general rule of reason 'that every man ought to en- 
deavour peace as far as. he has hope of obtaining it, and, when he 
cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages 
of war.' The first branch of which rule containeth the first and 
fundamental law of Nature, which is, 'to seek peace, and follow it.' 
The second, the sum of the right of Nature, which is, 'by all means 
we can, to defend ourselves.' 

From this fundamental law of Nature, by which men are com- 
manded to endeavour peace, is derived this second law, 'that a man 
be willing, when others are so too, as far-forth as for peace and 
defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right 
to all things, and be contented with so much liberty against other 
men as he would allow other men against himself.' For as long 
as every man holdeth this right of doing anything he liketh, so 
long are all men in the condition of war. But if other men will not 
lay down their right as well as he, then there is no reason for any 
one to divest himself of his; for that were to expose himself to prey, 
which no man is bound to, rather than to dispose himself to peace. 
This is that law of the Gospel: 'whatsoever you require that others 



OF MAN 393 

should do to you, that do ye to them.' And that law of all men, 
quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne jeceris. 

To 'lay down' a man's 'right' to anything is to 'divest' himself of 
the 'liberty,' of hindering another of the benefit of his own right to 
the same. For he that renounceth or passeth away his right giveth 
not to any other man a right which he had not before, because there 
is nothing to which every man had not right by Nature; but only 
standeth out of his way that he may enjoy his own original right 
without hindrance from him, not without hindrance from another. 
So that the effect which redoundeth to one man, by another man's 
defect of right, is but so much diminution of impediments to the 
use of his own right original. 

Right is laid aside either by simply renouncing it, or by transferring 
it to another. By 'simply renouncing' when he cares not to whom the 
benefit thereof redoundeth. By 'transferring,' when he intendeth the 
benefit thereof to some certain person or persons. And, when a man 
hath in either manner abandoned or granted away his right, then is 
he said to be 'obliged' or 'bound' not to hinder those to whom such 
right is granted or abandoned from the benefit of it; and that he 
'ought,' and it is his 'duty,' not to make void that voluntary act of 
his own; and that such hindrance is 'injustice' and 'injury' as being 
sine jure, the right being before renounced or transferred. So that 
'injury' or 'injustice,' in the controversies of the world, is somewhat 
like to that which in the disputations of scholars is called 'absurdity.' 
For, as it is there called an absurdity to contradict what one main- 
tained in the beginning, so in the world it is called injustice and 
injury voluntarily to undo that from the beginning he had volun- 
tarily done. The way by which a man either simply renounceth or 
transferreth his right is a declaration or signification, by some volun- 
tary and sufficient sign or signs, that he doth so renounce or transfer, 
or hath so renounced or transferred, the same, to him that accepteth 
it. And these signs are either words only or actions only, or, as it 
happeneth most often, both words and actions. And the same are 
the 'bonds' by which men are bound and obliged: bonds that have 
their strength not from their own nature, for nothing is more easily 
broken than a man's word, but from fear of some evil consequence 
upon the rupture. 



394 THOMAS HOBBES 

Whensoever a man transferreth his right or renounceth it, it is 
either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to 
himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby. For it is a 
voluntary act; and of the voluntary acts of every man the object is 
some good 'to himself.' And therefore there be some rights v^rhich 
no man can be understood by any words or other signs to have 
abandoned or transferred. As first a man cannot lay down the 
right of resisting them that assault him by force to take away his 
life, because he cannot be understood to aim thereby at any good 
to himself. The same may be said of wounds, and chains, and im- 
prisonment, both because there is no benefit consequent to such 
patience, as there is to the patience of suffering another to be 
wounded or imprisoned, as also because a man cannot tell when he 
seeth men proceed against him by violence whether they intend his 
death or not. And lastly the motive and end for which this re- 
nouncing and transferring of right is introduced is nothing else 
but the security of a man's person in his life and in the means of 
so preserving life as not to be weary of it. And therefore, if a man 
by words or other signs seem to despoil himself of the end for which 
those signs were intended, he is not to be understood as if he meant 
it or that it was his will, but that he was ignorant of how such 
words and actions were to be interpreted. 

The mutual transferring of right is that which men call 'contract.' 

There is difference between transferring of right to the thing and 
transferring or tradition, that is delivery of the thing itself. For the 
thing may be delivered together with the translation of the right, 
as in buying and selling with ready money, or exchange of goods 
or lands, and it may be delivered some time after. 

Again, one of the contractors may deliver the thing contracted 
for on his part, and leave the other to perform his part at some 
determinate time after, and in the meantime be trusted; and then 
the contract on his part is called 'pact,' or 'covenant'; or both parts 
may contract now to perform hereafter; in which cases he that 
is to perform in time to come, being trusted, his performance is 
called 'keeping of promise,' or faith, and the failing of performance, 
if it be voluntary, 'violation of faith.' 



OF MAN 395 

When the transferring of right is not mutual, but one of the parties 
transferreth in liope to gain thereby the friendship or service from 
another or from his friends, or in hope to gain the reputation of 
charity or magnanimity, or to deHver his mind from the pain of com- 
passion, or in hope of reward in heaven, this is not contract but 'gift,' 
'free gift,' 'grace,' which words signify one and the same thing. 

Signs of contract are either 'express' or 'by inference.' 'Express' 
are words spoken with understanding of what they signify, and 
such words are either of the time 'present' or 'past,' as 'I give,' 'I 
grant,' 'I have given,' 'I have granted,' 'I will that this be yours'; 
or of the future, as 'I will give,' 'I will grant,' which words of the 
future are called 'promise.' 

Signs by inference are sometimes the consequence of words, some- 
times the consequence of silence, sometimes the consequence of 
actions, sometimes the consequence of forbearing an action; and 
generally a sign by inference of any contract is whatsoever suiSciently 
argues the will of the contractor. 

Words alone, if they be of the time to come and contain a bare 
promise, are an insufficient sign of a free gift, and therefore not 
obligatory. For if they be of the time to come, as 'to-morrow I 
will give,' they are a sign I have not given yet, and consequently 
that my right is not transferred, but remaineth till I transfer it 
by some other act. But if the words be of the time present or past, 
as 'I have given,' or 'do give to be delivered to-morrow,' then is my 
to-morrow's right given away to-day, and that by the virtue of 
the words, though there were no other argument of my will. And 
there is a great difference in the signification of these words volo 
hoc tuum esse eras and eras dabo, that is, between 'I will that this 
be thine to-morrow,' and 'I will give it thee to-morrow,' for the 
word 'I will,' in the former manner of speech, signifies an act of 
the will present, but in the latter it signifies a promise of an act 
of the will to come; and therefore the former words, being of the 
present, transfer a future right; the latter, that be of the future, 
transfer nothing. But if there be other signs of the will to transfer a 
right besides words, then, though the gift be free, yet may the right 
be understood to pass by words of the future; as, if a man propound 
a prize to him that comes first to the end of a race, the gift is free; 



396 THOMAS HOBBES 

and, though the words be of the future, yet the right passeth; for if 
he would not have his words so be understood, he should not have 
let them run. 

In contracts the right passeth not only where the words are of 
the time present or past, but also where they are of the future; 
because all contract is mutual translation or change of right, and 
therefore he that promiseth only because he hath already received 
the benefit for which he promiseth is to be understood as if he 
intended the right should pass, for, unless he had been content to 
have his words so understood, the other would not have performed 
his part first. And for that cause, in buying and selling and other 
acts of contracts, a promise is equivalent to a covenant, and therefore 
obligatory. 

He that f)erformeth first in the case of a contract is said to 'merit' 
that which he is to receive by the performance of the other, and he 
hath it as 'due.' Also when a prize is propounded to many which is 
to be given to him only that winneth, or money is thrown amongst 
many to be enjoyed by them that catch it, though this be a free gift, 
yet so to win or so to catch is to 'merit,' and to have it as 'due.' 
For the right is transferred in the propounding of the prize and in 
throwing down the money, though it be not determined to whom 
but by the event of the contention. But there is between these two 
sorts of merit this difference, that in contract I merit by virtue of 
my own power and the contractor's need, but in this case of free gift 
I am enabled to merit only by the benignity of the giver: in contract 
I merit at the contractor's hand that he should depart with his right; 
in this case of gift I merit not that the giver should part with his 
right, but that, when he has parted with it, it should be mine rather 
than another's. And this I think to be the meaning of that dis- 
tinction of the schools between meritum congrui and meritum con- 
digni. For God Almighty, having promised Paradise to those men 
hoodwinked with carnal desires that can walk through this world 
according to the precepts and limits prescribed by Him, they say 
he that shall so walk shall merit Paradise ex congruo. But because 
no man can demand a right to it by his own righteousness or any 
other power in himself, but by the free grace of God only, they say, 
no man can merit Paradise ex condigno. This, I say, I think is the 



OF MAN 397 

meaning of that distinction; but, because disputers do not agree 
upon the signification of their own terms of art longer than it serves 
their turn, I will not affirm anything of their meaning: only this 
I say — when a gift is given indefinitely as a prize to be contended 
for, he that winneth meriteth, and may claim the prize as due. 

If a covenant be made wherein neither of the parties perform 
presendy but trust one another, in the condition of mere nature, 
which is a condition of war of every man against every man, upon 
any reasonable suspicion, it is void; but, if there be a common power 
set over them both with right and force sufficient to compel per- 
formance, it is not void. For he that performeth first has no assur- 
ance the other will perform after, because the bonds of words are 
too weak to bridle men's ambition, avarice, anger, and other passions, 
without the fear of some coercive power, which in the condition 
of mere nature, where all men are equal and judges of the justness 
of their own fears, cannot possibly be supposed. And, therefore, he 
which performeth first does but betray himself to his enemy, con- 
trary to the right, he can never abandon, of defending his life and 
means of Uving. 

But in a civil estate, where there is a power set up to constrain 
those that would otherwise violate their faith, that fear is no more 
reasonable, and for that cause he which by the covenant is to perform 
first is obliged so to do. 

The cause of fear, which maketh such a covenant invalid, must 
be always something arising after the covenant made, as some new 
fact or other sign of the will not to perform; else it cannot make 
the covenant void. For that which could not hinder a man from 
promising ought not to be admitted as a hindrance of performing. 

He that transferreth any right transferreth the means of enjoying 
it as far as lieth in his power. As he that selleth land is understood 
to transfer the herbage and whatsoever grows upon it; nor can he 
that sells a mill turn away the stream that drives it. And they that 
give to a man the right of government in sovereignty are under- 
stood to give him the right of levying money to maintain soldiers, 
and of appointing magistrates for the administration of justice. 

To make covenants with brute beasts is impossible, because, not 
understanding our speech, they understand not nor accept of any 



398 THOMAS HOBBES 

translation of right; nor can translate any right to another; and 
without mutual acceptation, there is no covenant. 

To make covenant vi^ith God is impossible, but by mediation 
of such as God speaketh to, either by revelation supernatural or by 
His lieutenants that govern under Him and in His name; for 
otherwise we know not whether our covenants be accepted or not. 
And therefore they that vow anything contrary to any law of Nature 
vow in vain, as being a thing unjust to pay such a vow. And, if 
it be a thing commanded by the law of Nature, it is not the vow 
but the law that binds them. 

The matter or subject of a covenant is always something that 
falleth under deliberation, for to covenant is an act of the will, that 
is to say an act, and the last act of deliberation, and is therefore 
always understood to be something to come, and which is judged 
possible for him that covenanteth to perform. 

And therefore to promise that which is known to be impossible is 
no covenant. But, if that prove impossible afterwards which before 
was thought possible, the covenant is valid and bindeth, though not 
to the thing itself, yet to the value, or, if that also be impossible, to 
the unfeigned endeavour of performing as much as is possible, for 
to more no man can be obliged. 

Men are freed of their covenants two ways: by performing or 
being forgiven. For performance is the natural end of obligation, 
and forgiveness the restitution of liberty, as being a retransferring 
of that right in which the obligation consisted. 

Covenants entered into by fear, in the condition of mere nature, 
are obligatory. For example, if I covenant to pay a ransom or 
service for my life to an enemy, I am bound by it, for it is a contract 
wherein one receiveth the benefit of life; and the other is to receive 
money or service for it; and consequently where no other law, as 
in the condition of mere nature, forbiddeth the performance, the 
covenant is valid. Therefore prisoners of war, if trusted with the 
payment of their ransom, are obliged to pay it; and, if a weaker 
prince make a disadvantageous peace with a stronger for fear, he 
is bound to keep it, unless, as hath been said before, there ariseth 
some new and just cause of fear to renew the war. And even in 
commonwealths, if I be forced to redeem myself from a thief by 



OF MAN 399 

promising him money, I am bound to pay it, till the civil law dis- 
charge me. For whatsoever I may lawfully do without obligation, 
the same I may lawfully covenant to do through fear, and what 
I lawfully covenant I cannot lawfully break. 

A former covenant makes void a later. For a man that hath 
passed away his right to one man to-day hath it not to pass to- 
morrow to another, and therefore the later promise passeth no right, 
but is null. 

A covenant not to defend myself from force by force is always 
void. For, as I have shown before, no man can transfer or lay down 
his right to save himself from death, wounds, and imprisonment, 
the avoiding whereof is the only end of laying down any right; 
and therefore the promise of not resisting force, in no covenant 
transferreth any right, nor is obliging. For, though a man may 
covenant thus, 'unless I do so or so, kill me,' he cannot covenant 
thus, 'unless I do so or so, I will not resist you when you come to 
kill me.' For man by nature chooseth the lesser evil, which is 
danger of death in resisting, rather than the greater, which is certain 
and present death in not resisting. And this is granted to be true 
by all men, in that they lead criminals to execution and prison with 
armed men, notwithstanding that such criminals have consented to 
the law by which they are condemned. 

A covenant to accuse oneself, without assurance of pardon, is 
likewise invalid. For in the condition of nature, where every man 
is judge, there is no place for accusation; and in the civil state 
the accusation is followed with punishment, which, being force, 
a man is not obliged not to resist. The same is also true of the 
accusation of those by whose condemnation a man falls into misery, 
as of a father, wife, or benefactor. For the testimony of such an 
accuser, if it be not willingly given, is presumed to be corrupted 
by nature, and therefore not to be received; and where a man's 
testimony is not to be credited he is not bound to give it. Also 
accusations upon torture are not to be reputed as testimonies. For 
torture is to be used but as a means of conjecture and light, in 
the further examination and search of truth; and what is in that 
case confessed tendeth to the ease of him that is tortured, not to 
the informing of the torturers, and therefore ought not to have 



400 THOMAS HOBBES 

the credit o£ a sufficient testimony, for, whether he deliver himself 
by true or false accusation, he does it by the right of preserving his 
own life. 

The force of words being, as I have formerly noted, too weak 
to hold men to the performance of their covenants, there are in 
man's nature but twa imaginable helps to strengthen it. And those 
are either a fear of the consequence of breaking their word, or a 
glory or pride in appearing not to need to break it. This latter is 
a generosity too rarely found to be presumed on, especially in the 
pursuers of wealth, command, or sensual pleasure, which are the 
greatest part of mankind. The passion to be reckoned upon is fear, 
whereof there be two very general objects: one, the power of spirits 
invisible, the other, the power of those men they shall therein offend. 
Of these two, though the former be the greater power, yet the 
fear of the latter is commonly the greater fear. The fear of the 
former is in every man his own religion, which hath place in the 
nature of man before civil society. The latter hath not so, at least 
not place enough to keep men to their promises; because in the 
condition of mere nature the inequality of power is not discerned 
but by the event of battle. So that before the time of civil society, 
or in the interruption thereof by war, there is nothing can strengthen 
a covenant of peace agreed on against the temptations of avarice, 
ambition, lust, or other strong desire, but the fear of that invisible 
power which they every one worship as God and fear as a revenger 
of their perfidy. All therefore that can be done between two men 
not subject to civil power is to put one another to swear by the God 
he feareth, which 'swearing,' or 'oath,' is 'a form of speech, added 
to a promise; by which he that promiseth signifieth that, unless he 
perform he renounceth the mercy of his God or calleth to Him for 
vengeance on himself.' Such was the heathen form, 'Let Jupiter kill 
me else, as I kill this beast.' So is our form, 'I shall do thus, and 
thus, so help me God.' And this, with the rites and ceremonies 
which every one useth in his own religion, that the fear of breaking 
faith might be the greater. 

By this it appears that an oath taken according to any other 
form or rite than his that sweareth is in vain, and no oath; and 
that there is no swearing by anything which the swearer thinks not 



OF MAN 401 

God. For though men have sometimes used to swear by their kings, 
for fear or flattery, yet they would have it thereby understood they 
attributed to them divine honour. And that swearing unnecessarily 
by God is but profaning of His name; and swearing by other things, 
as men do in common discourse, is not swearing but an impious 
custom, gotten by too much vehemence of talking. 

It appears also that the oath adds nothing to the obligation. For a 
covenant, if lawful, binds in the sight of God without the oath 
as much as with it: if unlawful, bindeth not at all, though it be 
confirmed with an oath. 



CHAPTER XV 
Of Other Laws of Nature 

From that law of Nature by which we are obliged to transfer to 
another such rights as, being retained, hinder the peace of mankind, 
there followeth a third, which is this, 'that men perform their 
covenants made'; without which covenants are in vain, and but 
empty words: and the right of all men to all things remaining, we 
are still in the condition of war. 

And in this law of Nature consisteth the fountain and original of 
'justice.' For, where no covenant hath preceded, there hath no right 
been transferred, and every man has right to everything; and con- 
sequently, no action can be unjust. But when a covenant is made, 
then to break it is 'unjust'; and the definition of 'injustice' is no 
other than 'the not performance of covenant.' And whatsoever is 
not unjust is 'just.' 

But because covenants of mutual trust, where there is a fear of 
not performance on either part, as hath been said in the former 
chapter, are invalid, though the original of justice be the making 
of covenants, yet injustice actually there can be none, till the cause 
of such fear be taken away, which, while men are in the natural 
condition of war, cannot be done. Therefore, before the names of 
just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power 
to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants, by 
the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect 



402 THOMAS HOBBES 

by the breach of their covenant; and to make good that propriety 
which by mutual contract men acquire in recompense of the uni- 
versal right they abandon; and such power there is none before the 
erection of a commonwealth. And this is also to be gathered out of 
the ordinary definition of justice in the schools; for they say that 
'justice is the constant will of giving to every man his own.' And 
therefore where there is no 'own' there is no propriety, there is no 
injustice; and where there is no coercive power erected, that is, 
where there is no commonwealth, there is no propriety, all men 
having right to all things: therefore, where there is no common- 
wealth, there nothing is unjust. So that the nature of justice con- 
sisteth in keeping of valid covenants; but the validity of covenants 
begins not but with the constitution of a civil power sufficient to 
compel men to keep them; and then it is also that propriety begins. 
The fool hath said in his heart there is no such thing as justice, 
and sometimes also with his tongue, seriously alleging that every 
man's conservation and contentment, being committed to his own 
care, there could be no reason why every man might not do what 
he thought conduced thereunto; and therefore also to make or not 
make, keep or not keep, covenants was not against reason when it 
conduced to one's benefit. He does not therein deny that there be 
covenants, and that they are sometimes broken, sometimes kept, 
and that such breach of them may be called injustice, and the ob- 
servance of them justice; but he questioneth whether injustice, tak- 
ing away the fear of God, for the same fool hath said in his heart 
there is no God, may not sometimes stand with that reason which 
dictateth to every man his own good; and particularly then when it 
conduceth to such a benefit as shall put a man in a condition to 
neglect not only the dispraise and revilings, but also the power, 
of other men. The kingdom of God is gotten by violence; but what 
if it could be gotten by unjust violence? Were it against reason so 
to get it, when it is impossible to receive hurt by it? And, if it be 
not against reason, it is not against justice, or else justice is not to be 
approved for good. From such reasoning as this, successful wicked- 
ness hath obtained the name of virtue, and some that in all other 
things have disallowed the violation of faith, yet have allowed it when 
it is for the getting of a kingdom. And the heathen that believed that 



OF MAN 403 

Saturn was deposed by his son Jupiter believed nevertheless the 
same Jupiter to be the avenger of injustice, somewhat like to a piece 
of law in Coke's Commentaries on Littleton, where he says, if the 
right heir of the crown be attainted of treason, yet the crown shall 
descend to him, and eo instante the attainder be void; from which 
instances a man will be very prone to infer that, when the heir ap- 
parent of a kingdom shall kill him that is in possession, though his 
father, you may call it injustice or by what other name you will, 
yet it can never be against reason, seeing all the voluntary actions 
of men tend to the benefit of themselves; and those actions are most 
reasonable that conduce most to their ends. This specious reasoning 
is nevertheless false. 

For the question is not of promises mutual, where there is no 
security of performance on either side, as when there is no civil power 
erected over the parties promising, for such promises are no cove- 
nants, but either where one of the parties has performed already, 
or where there is a power to make him perform, there is the ques- 
tion whether it be against reason, that is against the benefit of the 
other to perform or not. And I say it is not against reason. For the 
manifestation whereof we are to consider, first, that when a man 
doth a thing which notwithstanding anything can be foreseen and 
reckoned on tendeth to his own destruction, howsoever some accident 
which he could not expect, arriving may turn it to his benefit, yet 
such events do not make it reasonably or wisely done. Secondly, 
that, in a condition of war, wherein every man to every man, for 
want of a common power to keep them all in awe, is an enemy, there 
is no man who can hope by his own strength or wit to defend him- 
self from destruction without the help of confederates; where every 
one expects the same defence by the confederation that any one else 
does; and therefore he which declares he thinks it reason to deceive 
those that help him can in reason expect no other means of safety 
than what can be had from his own single power. He therefore that 
breaketh his covenant, and consequently declareth that he thinks 
he may with reason do so, cannot be received into any society that 
unite themselves for peace and defence but by the error of them 
that receive him; nor, when he is received, be retained in it without 
seeing the danger of their error; which errors a man cannot reason- 



404 THOMAS HOBBES 

ably reckon upon as the means of his security; and therefore, if he 
be left or cast out of society, he perisheth; and if he live in society, 
it is by the errors of other men which he could not foresee nor 
reckon upon, and consequently against the reason of his preserva- 
tion; and so, as all men that contribute not to his destruction, for- 
bear him only out of ignorance of what is good for themselves. 

As for the instance of gaining the secure and perpetual felicity 
of heaven by any way, it is frivolous; there being but one way 
imaginable; and that is not breaking, but keeping of covenant. 

And, for the other instance of attaining sovereignty by rebellion, 
it is manifest that, though the event follow, yet, because it cannot 
reasonably be expected, but rather the contrary, and because by gain- 
ing it so, others are taught to gain the same in like manner, the 
attempt thereof is against reason. Justice therefore, that is to say 
keeping of covenant, is a rule of reason by which we are forbidden 
to do anything destructive to our life; and consequently a law of 
Nature. 

There be some that proceed further, and will not have the law 
of Nature to be those rules which conduce Co the preservation of 
man's life on earth, but to the attaining of an eternal felicity after 
death; to which they think the breach of covenant may conduce; and 
consequently be just and reasonable; such are they that think it a 
work of merit to kill or depose or rebel against the sovereign power 
constituted over them by their own consent. But, because there is 
no natural knowledge of man's estate after death, much less of the 
reward that is then to be given to breach of faith, but only a belief 
grounded upon other men's saying that they know it supernaturally, 
or that they know those that knew them, that knew others, that 
knew it supernaturally; breach of faith cannot be called a precept 
of reason or nature. 

Others that allow for a law of Nature the keeping of faith do 
nevertheless make exception of certain persons as heretics and such 
as use not to perform their covenant to others; and this also is 
against reason. For if any fault of a man be sufficient to discharge 
our covenant made, the same ought in reason to have been sufBcient 
to have hindered the making of it. 

The names of just, and unjust, when they are attributed to men, 



OF MAN 405 

signify one thing; and when they are attributed to actions, another. 
When they are attributed to men, they signify conformity or in- 
conformity of manners to reason. But, when they are attributed 
to actions, they signify the conformity or inconformity to reason, 
not of manners or manner of life but of particular actions. A just 
man, therefore, is he that taketh ail the care he can that his actions 
may be all just, and an unjust man is he that neglecteth it. And such 
men are more often in our language styled by the names of righteous 
and unrighteous than just and unjust, though the meaning be the 
same. Therefore a righteous man does not lose that title by one 
or a few unjust actions that proceed from sudden passion or mistake 
of things or persons; nor does an unrighteous man lose his character 
for such actions as he does, or forbears to do, for fear, because his 
will is not framed by the justice but by the apparent benefit of what 
he is to do. That which gives to human actions the relish of justice 
is a certain nobleness or gallantness of courage, rarely found, by 
which a man scorns to be beholden for the contentment of his life 
to fraud or breach of promise. This justice of the manners is that 
which is meant where justice is called a virtue, and injustice a vice. 

But the justice of actions denominates men not just, 'guiltless'; 
and the injustice of the same, which is also called injury, gives them 
but the name of 'guilty.' 

Again, the injustice of manners is the disposition or aptitude to 
do injury, and is injustice before it proceeds to act, and without 
supposing any individual person injured. But the injustice of an 
action, that is to say injury, supposeth an individual person injured, 
namely him to whom the covenant was made; and therefore many 
times the injury is received by one man when the damage re- 
doundeth to another. As when the master commandeth his servant to 
give money to a stranger: if it be not done, the injury is done to 
the master, whom he had before covenanted to obey; but the damage 
redoundeth to the stranger, to whom he had no obligation, and 
therefore could not injure him. And so also in commonwealths. 
Private men may remit to one another their debts, but not robberies 
or other violences whereby they are endamaged, because the de- 
taining of debt is an injury to themselves, but robbery and violence 
are injuries to the person of the commonwealth. 



406 THOMAS HOBBES 

Whatsoever is done to a man conformable to his own will signified 
to the doer is no injury to him. For, if he that doeth it hath not 
passed away his original right to do what he please by some ante- 
cedent covenant, there is no breach of covenant, and therefore no 
injury done him. And if he have, then his will to have it done 
being signified is a release of that covenant, and so again there is 
no injury done him. 

Justice of action is by writers divided into 'commutative' and 
'distributive'; and the former they say consisteth in proportion 
arithmetical^ the latter in proportion geometrical. Commutative, 
therefore, they place in the equality of value of the things contracted 
for; and distributive, in the distribution of equal benefit to men 
of equal merit. As if it were injustice to sell dearer than we buy, 
or to give more to a man than he merits. The value of all things 
contracted for is measured by the appetite of the contractors; and 
therefore the just value is that which they be contented to give. 
And merit, besides that which is by covenant, where the perform- 
ance on one part meriteth the performance of the other part, and 
falls under justice commutative not distributive, is not due by 
justice, but is rewarded of grace only. And therefore this dis- 
tinction, in the sense wherein it useth to be expounded, is not right. 
To speak properly, commutative justice is the justice of a contractor; 
that is, a performance of covenant in buying and selling, hiring 
and letting to hire, lending and borrowing, exchanging, bartering, 
and other acts of contract. 

And distributive justice, the justice of an arbitrator; that is to say, 
the act of defining what is just. Wherein, being trusted by them 
that make him arbitrator, if he perform his trust he is said to 
distribute to every man his own; and this is indeed just distribution, 
and may be called, though improperly, distributive justice, but more 
properly equity, which also is a law of Nature, as shall be shown in 
due place. 

As justice dependeth on antecedent covenant, so does 'gratitude' 
depend on antecedent grace, that is to say, antecedent free gift; and 
is the fourth law of Nature; which may be conceived in this form, 
'that a man, which receiveth benefit from another of mere grace, 
endeavour that he which giveth it have no reasonable cause to re- 



OF MAN 407 

pent him of his good will.' For no man giveth but with intention of 
good to himself; because gift is voluntary; and of all voluntary acts 
the object is to every man his own good, of which, if men see they 
shall be frustrated, there will be no beginning of benevolence, or 
trust, nor consequently of mutual help, nor of reconciliation of one 
man to another; and therefore they are to remain still in the condi- 
tion of 'war,' which is contrary to the first and fundamental law of 
Nature, which commandeth men to 'seek peace.' The breach of this 
law is called 'ingratitude,' and hath the same relation to grace that 
injustice hath to obligation by covenant. 

A fifth law of Nature, is 'complaisance,' that is to say, 'that every 
man strive to accommodate himself to the rest.' For the under- 
standing whereof, we may consider that there is in men's aptness 
to society, a diversity of nature, rising from their diversity of affec- 
tions, not unlike to that we see in stones brought together for 
building of an edifice. For as that stone which by the asperity and 
irregularity of figure takes more room from others than itself fills, 
and for the hardness cannot be easily made plain, and thereby 
hindereth the building, is by the builders cast away as unprofitable 
and troublesome, so also a man that by asperity of nature will strive 
to retain those things which to himself are superfluous and to others 
necessary, and for the stubbornness of his passions cannot be cor- 
rected, is to be left or cast out of society as cumbersome thereunto. 
For seeing every man, not only by right but also by necessity of 
nature, is supposed to endeavour all he can to obtain that which 
is necessary for his conversation, he that shall oppose himself against 
it for things superfluous is guilty of the war that thereupon is to 
follow; and therefore doth that which is contrary to the funda- 
mental law of Nature, which commandeth 'to seek peace.' The 
observers of this law may be called 'sociable' — the Latins call them 
commodi; the contrary, 'stubborn,' 'insociable,' 'froward,' 'intract- 
able.' 

A sixth law of Nature is this, 'that, upon caution of the future 
time, a man ought to pardon the oflfences past of them that, re- 
penting, desire it.' For 'pardon' is nothing but granting of peace, 
which, though granted to them that persevere in their hostility, be 
not peace but fear; yet not granted to them that give caution o£ 



408 THOMAS HOBBES 

the future time is sign of an aversion to peace, and therefore con- 
trary to the law of Nature. 

A seventh is, 'that in revenges,' that is, retribution of evil for 
evil, 'men look not at the greatness of the evil past but the greatness 
of the good to follow.' Whereby we are forbidden to inflict punish- 
ment with any other design than for correction of the offender or 
direction of others. For this law is consequent to the next before it, 
that commandeth pardon, upon security of the future time. Besides, 
revenge, without respect to the example and profit to come, is a 
triumph or glorying in the hurt of another tending to no end; for 
the end is always somewhat to come; and glorying to no end is 
vain-glory and contrary to reason, and to hurt without reason 
tendeth to the introduction of war, which is against the law of 
Nature, and is commonly styled by the name of 'cruelty.' 

And because all signs of hatred or contempt provoke to fight, 
insomuch as most men choose rather to hazard their life than not 
to be revenged, we may in the eighth place, for a law of Nature, set 
down this precept, 'that no man by deed, word, countenance, or 
gesture, declare hatred or contempt of another.' The breach of 
which law is commonly called 'contumely.' 

The question who is the better man has no place in the condition 
of mere nature; where, as has been shown before, all men are equal. 
The inequality that now is has been introduced by the laws civil. 
I know that Aristotle, in the first book of his Politics, for a founda- 
tion of his doctrine, maketh men by nature some more worthy to 
■command, meaning the wiser sort, such as he thought himself to be 
for his philosophy, others to serve, meaning those that had strong 
bodies but were not philosophers as he; as if master and servant 
were not introduced by consent of men but by difference of wit, 
which is not only against reason but also against experience. For 
there are very few so foolish that had not rather govern themselves 
than be governed by others; nor, when the wise in their own conceit 
contend by force with them who distrust their own wisdom, do they 
always, or often, or almost at any time, get the victory. If Nature 
therefore have made men equal, that equality is to be acknowledged; 
or, if Nature have made men unequal, yet because men that think 
themselves equal will not enter into conditions of peace but upon 



OF MAN 409 

equal terms, such equality must be admitted. And therefore for 
the ninth law of Nature I put this, 'that every man acknowledge 
another for his equal by nature.' The breach of this precept is 
'pride.' 

On this law dependeth another, 'that at the entrance into condi- 
tions of peace no man require to reserve to himself any right which 
he is not content should be reserved to every one of the rest.' As it is 
necessary for all men that seek peace to lay down certain rights of 
nature, that is to say, not to have liberty to do all they list, so is it 
necessary for man's Ufe to retain some, as right to govern their own 
bodies, enjoy air, water, motion, ways to go from place to place, and 
all things else without which a man cannot live or not live well. If 
in this case, at the making of peace, men require for themselves that 
which they would not have to be granted to others, they do contrary 
to the precedent law, that commandeth the acknowledgement of 
natural equality, and therefore also against the law of Nature. The 
observers of this law are those we call 'modest,' and the breakers 
'arrogant' men. The Greeks call the violation of this law ■iT\eovt^ia, 
that is, a desire of more than their share. 

Also if 'a man be trusted to judge between man and man,' it is a 
precept of the law of Nature 'that he deal equally between them.' 
For without that the controversies of men cannot be determined 
but by war. He therefore that is partial in judgment doth what in 
him lies to deter men from the use of judges and arbitrators, and 
consequently against the fundamental law of Nature, is the cause 
of war. 

The observance of this law, from the equal distribution to each 
man of that which in reason belongeth to him, is called 'equity,' 
and, as I have said before, distributive justice; the violation, 'ac- 
ception of persons,' irpocraiirolvqtpla. 

And from this followeth another law, 'that such things as cannot 
be divided be enjoyed in common, if it can be; and, if the quantity 
of the thing permit, without stint; otherwise proportionably to the 
number of them that have 'right.' For otherwise the distribution is 
unequal and contrary to equity. 

But some things there be that can neither be divided nor enjoyed 
in common. Then the law of Nature, which prescribeth equity, 



410 THOMAS HOBBES 

requireth 'that the entire right, or else making the use alternate, 
the first possession, be determined by lot.' For equal distribution is 
of the law of Nature, and other means of equal distribution cannot 
be imagined. 

Of 'lots' there be two sorts, 'arbitrary,' and 'natural.' Arbitrary is 
that which is agreed on by the competitors; natural is either 'primo- 
geniture,' which the Greeks call KKripovoixia, which signifies 'given by 
lot' or 'first seizure.' 

And therefore those things which cannot be enjoyed in common 
nor divided ought to be adjudged to the first possessor; and in 
some cases to the first born, as acquired by lot. 

It is also a law of Nature 'that all men that mediate peace, be 
allowed safe conduct.' For the law that commandeth peace as the 
end, commandeth intercession as the 'means' and to intercession 
the means is safe conduct. 

And because, though men be never so willing to observe these 
laws, there may nevertheless arise questions concerning a man's 
action; first, whether it were done or not done; secondly, if done, 
whether against the law or not against the law; the former whereof 
is called a question 'of fact,' the latter a question 'of right,' therefore, 
unless the parties to the question covenant mutually to stand to the 
sentence of another, they are as far from peace as ever. This other 
to whose sentence they submit is called an 'arbitrator,' And there- 
fore it is of the law of Nature 'that they that are at controversy 
submit their right to the judgment of an arbitrator.' 

And, seeing every man is presumed to do all things in order to 
his own benefit, no man is a fit arbitrator in his own cause, and if 
he were never so fit, yet, equity allowing to each party equal benefit, 
if one be admitted to be judge, the other is to be admitted also; 
and so the controversy, that is, the cause of war, remains against 
the law of Nature. 

For the same reason no man in any cause ought to be received for 
arbitrator to whom greater profit, or honour, or pleasure, apparently 
ariseth out of the victory of one party than of the other; for he hath 
taken, though an unavoidable bribe, yet a bribe, and no man can 
be obliged to trust him. And thus also the controversy and the con- 
dition of war remaineth, contrary to the law of Nature. 



OF MAN 411 

And in a controversy o£ 'fact,' the judge, being to give no more 
credit to one than to the other if there be no other arguments, must 
give credit to a third, or to a third and fourth, or more; for else 
the question is undecided and left to force, contrary to the law of 
Nature. 

These are the laws of Nature, dictating peace, for a means of the 
conservation of men in multitudes, and which only concern the 
doctrine of civil society. There be other things tending to the destruc- 
tion of particular men, as drunkenness and all other parts of intem- 
perance; which may therefore also be reckoned amongst those things 
which the law of Nature hath forbidden, but are not necessary to be 
mentioned, nor are pertinent enough to this place. 

And though this may seem too subtle a deduction of the laws of 
Nature to be taken notice of by all men, whereof the most part are 
too busy in getting food and the rest too negligent to understand, 
yet, to leave all men inexcusable, they have been contracted into 
one easy sum, intelligible even to the meanest capacity; and that is, 
'Do not that to another which thou wouldst not have done to thy- 
self; which showeth him that he has no more to do in learning 
the laws of Nature but when weighing the actions of other men 
with his own, they seem too heavy, to put them into the other part of 
the balance and his own into their place, that his own passions and 
self-love may add nothing to the weight; and then there is none of 
these laws of Nature that will not appear unto him very reasonable. 

The laws of Nature oblige in foro interno, that is to say, they bind 
to a desire they should take place; but in foro externa, that is, to the 
putting them in act, not always. For he that should be modest and 
tractable and perform all he promises, in such time and place where 
no man else should do so, should but make himself a prey to others 
and procure his own certain ruin, contrary to the ground of all laws 
of Nature, which tend to Nature's preservation. And, again, he 
that, having sufficient security that others shall observe the same 
laws towards him, observes them not himself, seeketh not peace 
but war, and consequently the destruction of his nature by vio- 
lence. 

And whatsoever laws bind in foro interno may be broken, not 
only by a fact contrary to the law but also by a fact according to it, 



412 THOMAS HOBBES 

in case a man think it contrary. For, though his action in this case 
be according to the law, yet his purpose was against the law; which, 
where the obligation is in joro interna, is a breach. 

The laws of Nature are immutable and eternal; for injustice, in- 
gratitude, arrogance, pride, iniquity, acception of persons, and the 
rest, can never be made lawful. For it can never be that war shall 
preserve life, and peace destroy it. 

The same laws, because they oblige only to a desire and endeavour 
— I mean an unfeigned and constant endeavour — are easy to be 
observed. For, in that they require nothing but endeavour, he that 
endeavoureth their performance fulfilleth them, and he that ful- 
filleth the law is just. 

And the science of them is the true and only moral philosophy. 
For moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is 
'good' and 'evil' in the conversation and society of mankind. 'Good' 
and 'evil' are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which, 
in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men, are different; 
and divers men differ not only in their judgment on the senses of 
what is pleasant and unpleasant to the taste, smell, hearing, touch, 
and sight, but also of what is conformable or disagreeable to reason 
in the actions of common life. Nay, the same man in divers times 
differs from himself, and one time praiseth, that is calleth good, what 
another time he dispraiseth and calleth evil; from whence arise dis- 
putes, controversies, and at last war. And therefore, so long as a 
man is in the condition of mere nature, which is a condition of war, 
as private appetite is the measure of good and evil, and consequently 
all men agree on this, that peace is good, and therefore also the way 
or means of peace, which, as I have showed before, are 'justice,' 
'gratitude,' 'modesty,' 'equity,' 'mercy,' and the rest of the laws of 
Nature, are good; that is to say, 'moral virtues'; and their contrary 
'vices,' evil. Now the science of virtue and vice is moral philosophy, 
and therefore the true doctrine of the laws of Nature is the true 
moral philosophy. But the writers of moral philosophy, though they 
acknowledge the same virtues and vices, yet, not seeing wherein 
consisted their goodness, nor that they come to be praised as the 
means of peaceable, sociable, and comfortable living, place them in a 
mediocrity of passions; as if not the cause, but the degree of daring 



OF MAN 413 

made fortitude; or not the cause, but the quantity, of a gift, made 
liberality. 

These dictates of reason men used to call by the name of laws, but 
improperly; for they are but conclusions or theorems concerning 
what conduceth to the conservation and defence of themselves; 
whereas law, properly, is the word of him that by right hath com- 
mand over others. But yet if we consider the same theorems, as 
delivered in the word of God, that by right commandeth all things, 
then are they properly called laws. 

CHAPTER XVI 
Of Persons, Authors, and Things Personated 

A person is he 'whose words or actions are considered, either as his 
own or as representing the words or actions of another man, or of 
any other thing, to whom they are attributed, whether truly or by 
fiction.' 

When they are considered as his own, then is he called a 'natural 
person'; and, when they are considered as representing the words and 
actions of another, then is he a 'feigned' or 'artificial person.' 

The word person is Latin; instead whereof the Greeks have 
■wp6au)-Kov, which signifies the 'face,' as persona in Latin signifies 
the 'disguise' or 'outward appearance' of a man, counterfeited on the 
stage, and sometimes more particularly that part of it which dis- 
guiseth the face, as a mask or vizard, and from the stage hath been 
translated to any representer of speech and action, as well in tribunals 
as theatres. So that a 'person' is the same that an 'actor' is, both on the 
stage and in common conversation; and to 'personate' is to 'act,' or 
'represent,' himself or another; and he that acteth another is said to 
bear his person, or act in his name, in which sense Cicero useth it 
where he says : Unus sustineo tres personas; met, adversarii, et judicis: 
I bear three persons: my own, my adversary's, and the judge's; and 
is called in diverse occasions, diversely: as a 'representer' or 'repre- 
sentative,' a 'lieutenant,' a 'vicar,' an 'attorney,' a 'deputy,' a 'procura- 
tor,' an 'actor,' and the like. 

Of persons artificial some have their words and actions 'owned' 



414 THOMAS HOBBES 

by those whom they represent. And then the person is the 'actor,' 
and he that owneth his words and actions is the 'author,' in which 
case the actor acteth by authority. For that which in speaking of 
goods and possessions is called an 'owner' and in Latin dominus, in 
Greek Kvpios; speaking of actions is called author. And as the right 
of possession is called dominion, so the right of doing any action is 
called 'authority.' So that by authority is always understood a right of 
doing any act, and 'done by authority,' done by commission or 
licence from him whose right it is. 

From hence it followeth that, when the actor maketh a covenant 
by authority, he bindeth thereby the author no less than if he had 
made it himself, and no less subjecteth him to all the consequences 
of the same. And therefore all that hath been said formerly (chap, 
xiv) of the nature of covenants between man and man in their natu- 
ral capacity is true also when they are made by their actors, repre- 
senters, or procurators, that have authority from them, so far forth 
as is in their commission, but no further. 

And therefore he that maketh a covenant with the actor or repre- 
senter, not knowing the authority he hath, doth it at his own peril. 
For no man is obliged by a covenant whereof he is not author, nor 
consequently by a covenant made against or beside the authority 
he gave. 

When the actor doth anything against the law of Nature by com- 
mand of the author, if he be obliged by former covenant to obey 
him, not he but the author breaketh the law of Nature; for, though 
the action be against the law of Nature, yet it is not his; but, con- 
trarily, to refuse to do it, is against the law of Nature, that forbiddeth 
breach of covenant. 

And he that maketh a covenant with the author by mediation of 
the actor, not knowing what authority he hath, but only takes his 
word, in case such authority be not made manifest unto him upon 
demand, is no longer obliged, for the covenant made with the author 
is not valid without his counter-assurance. But if he that so cove- 
nanteth knew beforehand he was to expect no other assurance than 
the actor's word, then is the covenant valid, because the actor in this 
case maketh himself the author. And therefore, as when the au- 
thority is evident, the covenant obligeth the author, not the actor, so. 



OF MAN 415 

when the authority is feigned, it obHgeth the actor only, there being 
no author but himself. 

There are few things that are incapable of being represented by 
fiction. Inanimate things, as a church, an hospital, a bridge, may be 
personated by a rector, master, or overseer. But things inanimate 
cannot be authors, nor therefore give authority to their actors; yet 
the actors may have authority to procure their maintenance, given 
them by those that are owners or governors of those things. And 
therefore such things cannot be personated before there be some 
state of civil government. 

Likewise children, fools, and madmen, that have no use of reason, 
may be personated by guardians or curators, but can be no authors, 
during that time, of any action done by them longer than, when 
they shall recover the use of reason, they shall judge the same reason- 
able. Yet during the folly he that hath right of governing them may 
give authority to the guardian. But this again has no place but 
in a state civil, because before such estate there is no dominion of 
persons. 

An idol, or mere figment of the brain, may be personated, as were 
the gods of the heathen, which, by such officers as the state appointed, 
were personated, and held possessions and other goods and rights, 
which men from time to time dedicated and consecrated unto them. 
But idols cannot be authors, for an idol is nothing. The authority 
proceeded from the state; and therefore before introduction of civil 
government the gods of the heathen could not be personated. 

The true God may be personated. As He was, first, by Moses, 
who governed the Israelites, that were not his, but God's people, not 
in his own name, with hoc dicit Moses, but in God's name, with hoc 
dicit Dominus. Secondly, by the Son of man, His own Son, our 
blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, that came to reduce the Jews, and 
induce all nations into the kingdom of His Father, not as of Him- 
self but as sent from His Father. And thirdly, by the Holy Ghost 
or Comforter, speaking and working in the Apostles, which Holy 
Ghost was a Comforter that came not of Himself, but was sent and 
proceeded from them both. 

A multitude of men are made 'one' person when they are by one 
man or one person represented, so that it be done with the consent 



4l6 THOMAS HOBBES 

of every one of that multitude in particular. For it is the 'unity' of 
the representer, not the 'unity' of the represented, that maketh the 
person 'one.' And it is the representer that beareth the person, and 
but one person; and 'unity' cannot otherwise be understood in mul- 
titude. 

And because the multitude naturally is not 'one' but 'many,' they 
cannot be understood for one, but many authors, of everything 'their 
representative saith or doth in their name, every man giving their 
common representer authority from himself in particular, and own- 
ing all the actions the representer doth, in case they give him 
authority without stint; otherwise, when they limit him in what and 
how far he shall represent them, none of them owneth more than 
they gave him commission to act. 

And, if the representative consist of many men, the voice of the 
greater number must be considered as the voice of them all. For if 
the lesser number pronounce, for example in the affirmative, and the 
greater in the negative, there will be negatives more than enough to 
destroy the affirmatives; and thereby the excess of negatives, standing 
uncontradicted, are the only voice the representative hath. 

And a representative of even number, especially when the number 
is not great, whereby the contradictory voices are oftentimes equal, 
is therefore oftentimes mute and incapable of action. Yet in some 
cases contradictory voices equal in number may determine a ques- 
tion, as in condemning or absolving, equality of votes, even in that 
they condemn not, do absolve, but not on the contrary condemn in 
that they absolve not. For when a cause is heard, not to condemn 
is to absolve; but, on the contrary, to say that not absolving is con- 
demning is not true. The like it is in a deliberation of executing pres- 
ently or deferring till another time; for when the voices are equal, 
the not decreeing execution is a decree of dilation. 

Or if the number be odd, as three or more, men or assemblies, 
whereof every one has by a negative voice authority to take away 
the effect of all the affirmative voices of the rest, this number is no 
representative; because, by the diversity of opinions and interests of 
men, it becomes oftentimes, and in cases of the greatest consequence, 
a mute person and unapt, as for many things else; so for the govern- 
ment of a multitude, especially in time of war. 



OF MAN 417 

Of authors there be two sorts. The first simply so called; which 
I have before defined to be him that owneth the action of another 
simply. The second is he that owneth an action or covenant of 
another conditionally, that is to say, he undertaketh to do it if the 
other doth it not at or before a certain time. And these authors con- 
ditional are generally called 'sureties,' in Latin, fidejussores, and 
sponsores, and particularly for debt, praedes; and for appearance 
before a judge or magistrate, vades.