An Essay On Man ePUB ä An Essay PDF/EPUB ²


  • Paperback
  • 80 pages
  • An Essay On Man
  • Alexander Pope
  • English
  • 19 March 2016
  • 9780023134609

10 thoughts on “An Essay On Man

  1. says:

    Portrait of Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 by Jonathan Richardson ca 1736 Know then thyself presume not God to scan;The proper study of Mankind is Man While reading Arthur O Lovejoy's very interesting Essays in the History of Ideas I finally understood the intellectual context of Alexander Pope's famous philosophical poem An Essay On Man Perhaps best known as an author of satirical verses and a most engaging translation of the Iliad Pope also produced an edition of Shakespeare and ventured into philosophical waters as did so many writers in the 18th century The various components of An Essay On Man appeared scattered through the years 1732 1734 Together they constituted only the first part of a much larger project one which Pope's lifelong poor health did not permit to be realized Their purpose was in Pope's words to vindicate the ways of God to Man a clear play on Milton's purpose in Paradise Lost to justify the ways of God to Man though I think that Pope rather explained the ways of Man to Man And he did it in heroic couplets As those of you who follow my reviews surely have deduced I am convinced that one cannot fully understand a work of art or any other fabrication of Man without grasping its historical and intellectual context Not that I believe that the work can be reduced to its context or is an epiphenomenon of that context or of the Weltgeist and the like any than I think that it can be reduced to the author's life experience or even less his psychological constitution These are all just components of the circumstances that led to the creation of the work which itself is yet both and less than these In the late 17th century and through at least the first half of the 18th century a particular complex of ideas permeated many of the cognoscenti of the time Two foundational aspects of this complex are the idea that human nature is independent of time and place and that the only matters of real importance are those that are understood or at least are understandable in exactly the same way by everyone This latter point bears some emphasis since it directly contradicts the prevailing attitude here at the beginning of the 21st century anything that reuires recondite theory anything that is not universally accessible to all human beings is either error or essentially irrelevant to anything of significance To grasp the Truth reuires no special abilities knowledge or revelation; it just reuires an unprejudiced use of the gifts common to all human beings Both of these notions and are subsumed in the then current meanings of the words Nature and Natural Law and are directly reflected in Pope's poem In this representative passage instinct stands in for the gifts common to all; one also sees along the way a conseuence of the application of this complex of ideas to religion Say where full Instinct is th'unerring guideWhat Pope or Council can they need beside?Reason however able cool at bestCares not for service or but serves when pressedStays 'till we call and then not often near;But honest Instinct comes a volunteerSure never to o’er shoot but just to hit;While still too wide or short is human Wit;Sure by uick Nature happiness to gainWhich heavier Reason labours at in vainThis too serves always Reason never long;One must go right the other may go wrongSee then the acting and comparing pow'rsOne in their nature which are two in ours;And Reason raise o’er Instinct as you canIn this ’tis God directs in that ’tis Man There are further elements of the then contemporary intellectual atmosphere such as the Great Chain of Being which play important roles in this striking text but my review is already long and I want Pope to come to word again in this passage on the peculiar position of Mankind in the order of things Know then thyself presume not God to scan;The proper study of Mankind is ManPlac'd on this isthmus of a middle stateA being darkly wise and rudely greatWith too much knowledge for the Sceptic sideWith too much weakness for the Stoic’s prideHe hangs between; in doubt to act or rest;In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer;Born but to die and reas'ning but to err;Alike in ignorance his reason suchWhether he thinks too little or too muchChaos of Thought and Passion all confus'd;Still by himself abus'd or disabus'd;Created half to rise and half to fall;Great lord of all things yet a prey to all;Sole judge of Truth in endless Error hurl'dThe glory jest and riddle of the world I'd say he nailed it Let me end though on a note of optimism with Pope's version of a wisdom which truly seems to be nearly universal and which we can all hope is therefore true All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;All Chance Direction which thou canst not see;All Discord Harmony not understood;All partial Evil universal GoodAnd spite of Pride in erring Reason’s spiteOne truth is clear whatever is is RIGHT He translated only half of a subseuent version of the Odyssey that appeared under his name This complex of ideas was proselytized by Voltaire among many others besides Pope On a side note the business with understood in exactly the same way by everyone was theory; in practice it could become understood in exactly the same way by me and my kind Consider for example this passage from Voltaire's Poème sur la Loi naturelle Est ce le peuple altier conuérant de Byzance Le tranuille Chinois le Tartare indompté ui connaît son essence et suit sa volonté? Différents dans leurs moeurs ainsi u'en leur hommage Ils lui font tenir tous un différent langage Tous se sont donc trompés Mais détournons les yeux De cet impur amas d'imposteurs odieux The son and sa refer to the Supreme Being; the donc is very telling In a note Voltaire did deign to exclude Confucius from this impur amas d'imposteurs odieux since he s’en est tenu à la religion naturelle Elsewhere Voltaire writes uite positively about Chinese culture like many European free thinkers from the 16th through the 18th centuries such as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff he valued Chinese government and ethics above their European counterparts For other authors of the age reason refers to this universal set of gifts


  2. says:

    Another English Lit class find This was wasn't exciting and I remember nothing from it


  3. says:

    What an exuisite philosophical poetry It is the best philosophy in poetic version and Every word has immense meaning so deeply around various topics but merely comprehend basics of man and their surroundings Intensely and supremely knitted in blossoming beauty of poetrySome of Greatest lines Two principles in human nature reign; Self love to urge andreason to restrain; Nor this a good nor that a bad we call Eachworks its end to move or govern all And to their proper operationstill Ascribe all Good to their imprope​ Oh fool to think God hates the worthy mind The lover and the love of human kind Whose life is healthful and whose conscience clear Because he wants a thousand pounds a year Honour and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part there all the honour lies ​​ Fortune her gifts may variously dispose And these be happy call’d unhappy those; But heav’n’s just balance eual will appear While those are plac’d in hope and these in fear Not present good or ill the joy or curse But future views of better or of worse ​​Nor ends the pleasure with the fierce embrace; They love themselves a third time in their race Thus beast and bird their common charge attend The mothers nurse it and the sires defend; The young dismiss’d to wander earth or air There stops the instinct and there ends the care; The link dissolves each seeks a fresh embrace Another love succeeds another race ​​ “Together let us beat this ample field Try what the open what the covert yield; The latent tracts the giddy heights explore Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar; Eye Nature’s walks shoot folly as it flies And catch the manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must be candid where we can; But vindicate the ways of God to man” “Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher death; and God adore” “Hope springs eternal in the human breast Man never is but always to be blest” “Call imperfection what thou fanciest such Say here He gives too little there too much Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust Yet cry If man’s unhappy God’s unjust” “All Nature is but art unknown to thee; All chance direction which thou canst not see; All discord harmony not understood; All partial evil universal good And spite of pride in erring reason’s spite One truth is clear Whatever is is right” “Know then thyself presume not God to scan The proper study of mankind is man” “See and confess one comfort still must rise ‘Tis this Though man’s a fool yet God is wise” “For forms of government let fools contest; Whate’er is best administered is best For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight; His can’t be wrong whose life is in the right In faith and hope the world will disagree But all mankind’s concern is charity All must be false that thwart this one great end; And all of God that bless mankind or mend” “The good must merit God’s peculiar care; But who but God can tell us who they are? One thinks on Calvin Heaven’s own Spirit fell; Another deems him instrument of hell; If Calvin feel Heaven’s blessing or its rod This cries There is and that There is no God” “For wit’s false mirror held up Nature’s light; Showed erring pride Whatever is is right; That reason passion answer one great aim; That true self love and social are the same; That virtue only makes our bliss below; And all our knowledge is Ourselves to know” ​


  4. says:

    Overall I agree with Samuel Johnson’s view on Pope’s An Essay on Man “The Essay on Man was a work of great labour and long consideration but certainly not the happiest of Pope's performances The subject is perhaps not very proper for poetry and the poet was not sufficiently master of his subject; metaphysical morality was to him a new study he was proud of his acuisitions and supposing himself master of great secrets was in haste to teach what he had not learned” The Life of Pope 1781“Whatever is is right” is Pope’s theme as he aims to “vindicate the ways of God to Man” According to Pope we are to accept our place in life Any suffering we experience is from our wanting material or immaterial than is allotted us in our roleplace We should just be happy with who we are – whether we are a fat prince chasing peasant girls for a lark or hungry in the streets without a home We can all be happy if we just accept our place Buck up you crippled sick hungry mentally ill and homeless people Believe me kings and lords don’t really have it any better then you – they can be uite sad at timesRather than “vindicate the ways of God to Man” Pope simply tries to excusewhitewash the ways of God to Man through tautologies and wise sounding contradictions His logical incongruities are many If man’s knowledge of the world is imperfect and incomplete how does he know the world is complete and infinitely wise? He says the world is beyond our understanding a la Job yet he contends to understand our proper role Further we are to accept that there is a god that god is good and there is an afterlifeheaven For someone who thinks the proper focus of man is mankind he’s throwing in a lot of external variables that can’t be determined through observation or deduction Added to the illogical statements is the form – heroic couplets The rhymed couplets make what are already worn out sentiments into trite commonplaces In places it sounds like a book of banal aphorisms And these mostly consist of contradictory statements that are meant to be wise but really tell you nothing; like statements such as “Man is less than an angel but than worm” Brilliant – I’m glad that’s resolvedTom Jones’ new edition provides an ample introduction and notes His primary focus however is on placing Pope’s thought system in the philosophical discussions of his time That makes for some dry reading of mostly obscure writers And while he does explain historical figures mentioned in the poem he makes very little effort to explain difficult to understand lines – and there are uite a few of these I’ve never read Pope and I think I started with the wrong book I’d only recommend this to people with a fervid interest in 17th and 18th century European philosophy Or those who like trite aphorisms that haven’t really been thought through


  5. says:

    Pope’s Essay on Man ironically enough is not exactly an essay and it’s not exactly on Man; It’s rather in verse which might be considered as an attempt to reduce the considerable amount of yawning which happens during reading it an attempt doomed to failure at least by universal consensus Also Mr Pope is not exactly laconic when it comes to matters concerning everything but man from Universe to Society to Happiness to God The latter I guess makes sense considering the special form of humanism which was pervasive in Pope’s time the kind of humanism which regarded the man in the middle of a great chain called the Great Chain of Being and inspected the relationship of man to everything around him That’s precisely what Pope does in his essay with the initial premise of trying to “vindicate the ways of God to men” which is an exact echo of John Milton in his Paradise Lost This again is understandable considering the neoclassical obsession with imitating their predecessors although Pope had probably had older predecessors in mind namely the classics; most prominent of all would be Horace Just like Horace Pope passionately warns his readers to “Know then thy place” the place which is located at the middle between the lowest forms of living and the highest God In his case however this claim seems especially contradictory for a man who himself is trying to do the most ambitious of all jobs Justifying the ways of God to Man and write an essay on the universal conception of Man All of this being said I personally enjoyed the heroic couplet a great deal and was amazed by his perception of love love of Man and love of God resulting in creation of Government and Religion respectively and despised the confidence with which he stated his own opinions as the absolute and universal truths


  6. says:

    such a shapeshifting work of literature at times I think god Pope is just an idealistic show off and I;m really bored but then he slips in a line or two that I really like but I felt nothing reading this probably because he wanted so hard to be such a witty guy that he put no actual humanity in it almost like he dehumanized himself to talk about humanity I dont think it worked


  7. says:

    I have to thank Andrew Marr for pointing me to Pope who for no other reason than that I was a silly teenager at school I had always assumed to be dull Not a bit of it Andrew Marr in “We British The Poetry of a People” had called Pope a genius; I thought it was about time I became acuainted with him “Know then thyself ; presume not God to scan;The proper study of mankind is man” An Essay on ManI liked this very much It suits my present age as it must have suited Pope’s who wrote poetry when he was young as one does followed by translation in his middle age and finally his great works of morality and satire As I read I came across a few well known expressions I hadn’t known were Pope’sThere was so much in this I liked – even though most of the classical and contemporary references passed me by and the occasional Latin phrase used as a preface to a new section proved too much for my self taught Latin of a half a century ago With all this to contend with my finding Pope so accessible – so witty and challenging so ordinary and down to earth in so many respects – is a tribute to the strength of his writingHe chose to write in rhyming couplets I wasn’t really expecting that from a book described as “An Essay” He makes clear that he felt poetry was so much stronger and easily retained and also that he found its brevity the best way of expressing what he wanted to say “ much of the force as well of grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness” In an introductory paragraph to each “epistle” of the essay whose full structure was not realised before his death he explains the argument and then goes on to knock us for six He had me fooled for a couple of minutes by a few pleasant lines containing the following“Call if you will bad rhyming a diseaseIt gives men happiness or gives them ease”No ‘fraid not Here we go“Walk sober off; before a sprightlier ageComes tittering on and shoves you from the stage;Leave such to trifle with grace and easeWhere folly pleases and whose follies please”He is happy to use modified Milton’s famous intention “To justify the ways of God to man” but although Pope expresses his intention as “to vindicate the ways of God to man” he is writing in a later age and dealing as Milton did not with the uestions of whether God exists at all and what then is man? I’ve decided to include the whole excerpt from which the “proper study of mankind” comes at the end of this review from the magnificent “Epistle II” of the essayThere is a seriousness about these epistles that allows us well me anyway to accept that Pope is telling it straight for instance when he asserts in Epistle IV “Know then this truth enough for man to know‘virtue alone is happiness below” But there is a distinct shift from this in the “Moral Essays” to a focus on witty observance Much of his perception seems very modern although probably embedded in his consciousness from several sources in the philosophical age he lived in; for instance this from “Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men”“ the difference is as great betweenThe optics seeing as the object seenAll manners take a tincture from our own;Or come discoloured through our passions shown Or fancy’s beam enlarges multipliesContracts inverts and gives ten thousand dyes”And so on to the characters of women here he uses a word beginning with ‘wh’ a lot which was asterisked out in my version I decided it made for an easy rhymeHe writes in the two remaining moral essays of money and riches building in his “principles maxims or precepts” When I came to the “Satires” I was bowled over by his descriptions of statesmen and courtiers – bitingly relevant today especially when reform of the social security system has caused widespread misery and has been only slightly modified when the government has been forced to a conciliatory measure Thus Pope describes the wielders of political power“There where no passion pride or shame transportLulled with the sweet nepenthe of a court;There where no father’s brother’s friend’s disgraceOnce break their rest or stir them from their placeBut past the sense of human miseriesAll tears are wiped for ever from all eyes;No cheek is known to blush no heart to throbSave when they lose a uestion or a job”I’ll stop there because I could go on uoting Pope ‘ad infinitum’ see how my Latin’s already coming back I just want to say that he does not hold back when it comes to replying to criticisms that have been made of his writing Much that he writes in response could not have been written today But he was obviously hurt by what must have been very personal attacks He finds some consolation in this lovely precept from Horace“In moderation placing all my glory” Satire on the first Book of HoraceI’ll go on to read Pope’s earlier poetry principally “The Rape of the Lock” in another book of his works that I bought following the comment in Andrew Marr but I have other books to read first I’ll savour “The Essay on Man” as a fine dish not to be scoffed on an everyday basis and look forward to my next encounter with this razor sharp mind and uilluote“Know then thyself ; presume not God to scan;The proper study of mankind is manPlaced on this isthmus of a middle stateA being darkly wise and rudely great;With too much knowledge for the sceptic sideWith too much weakness for the stoic’s sideHe hangs between; in doubt to act or rest;In doubt to deem himself a god or beast;In doubt his mind or body to prefer;Born but to die and reasoning but to err;Alike in ignorance his reason suchWhether he thinks too little or too muchChaos of thought and passion all confused;Still by himself abused or disabused;Created half to rise and half to fall;Great lord of all things yet a prey to all;Sole judge of truth in endless error hurledThe glory jest and riddle of the world”


  8. says:

    Before I began reading these poems I thought these would be just typical satires of the monarchy and filled with aristocratic 'wit' But far beyond my expectations these poems took me by surprise His Essay on Man is a deep meditation of big uestions and because it is told through verse it makes reading it not only profound but entertaining I was particularly in love with his poem Rape of the Lock At times it was silly but it was also filled with beautiful descriptions and metaphors All in all I am inspired to go out read the rest of his poems


  9. says:

    Mr Pope is the Dr Seuss of philosophy


  10. says:

    This rating is just for Essay On Man which I love My kindle edition includes some other works from Pope including his Horace satires a poem to a lady which concludes that men some to business some to pleasure take but every woman is at heart a rake and what seems to be a poem about his dissatisfaction with the pretentious landscaping conventions of his day


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About the Author: Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope is generally regarded as the greatest English poet of the eighteenth century best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer He is the third most freuently uoted writer in the English language after Shakespeare and Tennyson Pope was a master of the heroic couplet.