Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man.Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride, He 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 such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much: Chaos 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'd: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world! 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 Good: And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite, One truth is clear, whatever is, is RIGHT.(*) He translated only half of a subsequent version of the Odyssey that appeared under his name.(**) This complex of ideas was proselytized by Voltaire, among many others besides Pope.Man’s prideful speculations, not the external universe, are the cause of his misery.
" “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?
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 conquérant de Byzance, Le tranquille Chinois, le Tartare indompté, Qui connaît son essence, et suit sa volonté?
Différents dans leurs moeurs ainsi qu'en leur hommage, Ils lui font tenir tous un différent langage: Tous se sont donc trompés. 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. 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.
Elsewhere, Voltaire writes quite 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. 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.
The poem’s orderly exposition of ideas, its concentration on universals rather than specifics, and its heroic couplet verses, reflect the ideas of balance, subordination, and harmony better than even the finest prose.
Portrait of Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) by Jonathan Richardson, ca.
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.