D'Holbach: The System of Nature, Vol. I, Chapter VI { Philosophy Index }

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Baron D’Holbach

The System of Nature

Chapter VI: Moral and Physical Distinctions of Man.—His Origin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The System of Nature by Baron D’Holbach