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Title: Man a Machine
Author: Mettrie, Julien Offray de la
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Man a Machine" ***

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                             MAN A MACHINE


                      Julien Offray de la Mettrie


                   "THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SOUL"

                         GERTRUDE CARMAN BUSSEY
                        M. A., WELLESLEY COLLEGE

                     THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING CO.

                              COPYRIGHT BY
                     THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING CO.



    Preface                                                         v
    Frederic the Great's Eulogy on Julien Offray De La Mettrie      1
    L'Homme Machine                                                11
    Man a Machine                                                  83
    The Natural History of the Soul: Extracts                     151
    Appendix                                                      163
    La Mettrie's Relation to His Predecessors and to His
    Successors                                                    165
    Outline of La Mettrie's Metaphysical Doctrine                 175
    Notes                                                         176
    Works Consulted and Cited in the Notes                        205
    Index                                                         209


The French text presented in this volume is taken from that of a Leyden
edition of 1748, in other words, from that of an edition published
in the year and in the place of issue of the first edition. The
title page of this edition is reproduced in the present volume. The
original was evidently the work of a Dutch compositor unschooled in
the French language, and is full of imperfections, inconsistencies,
and grammatical blunders. By the direction of the publishers these
obviously typographical blunders have been corrected by M. Lucien
Arréat of Paris.

The translation is the work of several hands. It is founded on a
version made by Miss Gertrude C. Bussey (from the French text in the
edition of J. Assezat) and has been revised by Professor M. W. Calkins
who is responsible for it in its present form. Mademoiselle M. Carret,
of the Wellesley College department of French, and Professor George
Santayana, of Harvard University, have given valued assistance; and
this opportunity is taken to acknowledge their kindness in solving
the problems of interpretation which have been submitted to them. It
should be added that the translation sometimes subordinates the claims
of English structure and style in the effort to render La Mettrie's
meaning exactly. The paragraphing of the French is usually followed,
but the italics and the capitals are not reproduced. The page-headings
of the translation refer back to the pages of the French text; and
a few words inserted by the translators are enclosed in brackets.

The philosophical and historical Notes are condensed and adapted
from a master's thesis on La Mettrie presented by Miss Bussey to the
faculty of Wellesley College.


Julien Offray de la Mettrie was born in Saint Malo, on the twenty-fifth
of December, 1709, to Julien Offray de la Mettrie and Marie Gaudron,
who were living by a trade large enough to provide a good education
for their son. They sent him to the college of Coutance to study the
humanities; he went from there to Paris, to the college of Plessis;
he studied his rhetoric at Caen, and since he had much genius and
imagination, he won all the prizes for eloquence. He was a born orator,
and was passionately fond of poetry and belles-lettres, but his father
thought that he would earn more as an ecclesiastic than as a poet,
and destined him for the church. He sent him, the following year,
to the college of Plessis where he studied logic under M. Cordier,
who was more a Jansenist than a logician.

It is characteristic of an ardent imagination to seize forcefully
the objects presented to it, as it is characteristic of youth to be
prejudiced in favor of the first opinions that are inculcated. Any
other scholar would have adopted the opinions of his teacher but
that was not enough for young La Mettrie; he became a Jansenist,
and wrote a work which had great vogue in that party.

In 1725, he studied natural philosophy at the college of Harcourt,
and made great progress there. On his return to Brittany, M. Hunault,
a doctor of Saint Malo, had advised him to adopt the medical
profession. They had persuaded his father, assuring him that a
mediocre physician would be better paid for his remedies than a
good priest for absolutions. At first young La Mettrie had applied
himself to the study of anatomy: for two years he had worked at the
dissecting-table. After this, in 1725, he took the degree of doctor
at Rheims, and was there received as a physician.

In 1733, he went to Leyden to study under the famous Boerhaave. The
master was worthy of the scholar and the scholar soon made himself
worthy of the master. M. La Mettrie devoted all the acuteness of
his mind to the knowledge and to the healing of human infirmities;
and he soon became a great physician.

In the year 1734, during his leisure moments, he translated a
treatise of the late M. Boerhaave, his Aphrodisiacus, and joined to
it a dissertation on venereal maladies, of which he himself was the
author. The old physicians in France rose up against a scholar who
affronted them by knowing as much as they. One of the most celebrated
doctors of Paris did him the honor of criticizing his work (a sure
proof that it was good). La Mettrie replied; and, to confound his
adversary still more, he composed in 1736 a treatise on vertigo,
esteemed by all impartial physicians.

By an unfortunate effect of human imperfection a certain base jealousy
has come to be one of the characteristics of men of letters. This
feeling incites those who have reputations, to oppose the progress
of budding geniuses. This blight often fastens on talents without
destroying them, but it sometimes injures them. M. La Mettrie, who was
advancing in the career of science at a giant's pace, suffered from
this jealousy, and his quick temper made him too susceptible to it.

In Saint Malo, he translated the "Aphorisms" of Boerhaave, the
"Materia Medica," the "Chemical Proceedings," the "Chemical Theory,"
and the "Institutions," by this same author. About the same time,
he published an abstract of Sydenham. The young doctor had learned
by premature experience, that if he wished to live in peace, it was
better to translate than to compose; but it is characteristic of
genius to escape from reflection. Counting on himself alone, if I
may speak thus, and filled with the knowledge he had gained from his
infinitely skilful researches into nature, he wished to communicate
to the public the useful discoveries he had made. He published his
treatise on smallpox, his "Practical Medicine," and six volumes of
commentary on the physiology of Boerhaave. All these works appeared at
Paris, although the author had written them at Saint Malo. He joined
to the theory of his art an always successful practice, which is no
small recommendation for a physician.

In 1742, La Mettrie came to Paris, led there by the death of
M. Hunault, his old teacher. Morand and Sidobre introduced him to
the Duke of Gramont, who, a few days after, obtained for him the
commission of physician of the guards. He accompanied the Duke to
war, and was with him at the battle of Dettingen, at the siege of
Freiburg, and at the battle of Fontenoy, where he lost his patron,
who was killed by a cannon shot.

La Mettrie felt this loss all the more keenly, because it was at
the same time the reef on which his fortune was wrecked. This is
what happened. During the campaign of Freiburg, La Mettrie had an
attack of violent fever. For a philosopher an illness is a school of
physiology; he believed that he could clearly see that thought is
but a consequence of the organization of the machine, and that the
disturbance of the springs has considerable influence on that part of
us which the metaphysicians call soul. Filled with these ideas during
his convalescence, he boldly bore the torch of experience into the
night of metaphysics; he tried to explain by the aid of anatomy the
thin texture of understanding, and he found only mechanism where others
had supposed an essence superior to matter. He had his philosophic
conjectures printed under the title of "The Natural History of the
Soul." The chaplain of the regiment sounded the tocsin against him,
and at first sight all the devotees cried out against him.

The common ecclesiastic is like Don Quixote, who found marvelous
adventures in commonplace events, or like the famous soldier, so
engrossed with his system that he found columns in all the books he
read. The majority of priests examine all works of literature as
if they were treatises on theology, and filled with this one aim,
they discover heresies everywhere. To this fact are due very many
false judgments and very many accusations, for the most part unfair,
against the authors. A book of physics should be read in the spirit
of a physicist; nature, the truth, is its sole judge, and should
absolve or condemn it. A book of astronomy should be read in the same
manner. If a poor physician proves that the blow of a stick smartly
rapped on the skull disturbs the mind, or that at a certain degree
of heat reason wanders, one must either prove the contrary or keep
quiet. If a skilful astronomer proves, in spite of Joshua, that the
earth and all the celestial globes revolve around the sun, one must
either calculate better than he, or admit that the earth revolves.

But the theologians, who, by their continual apprehension, might make
the weak believe that their cause is bad, are not troubled by such
a small matter. They insisted on finding seeds of heresy in a work
dealing with physics. The author underwent a frightful persecution,
and the priests claimed that a doctor accused of heresy could not
cure the French guards.

To the hatred of the devotees was joined that of his rivals for
glory. This was rekindled by a work of La Mettrie's entitled "The
Politics of Physicians." A man full of cunning, and carried away
by ambition, aspired to the place, then vacant, of first physician
to the king of France. He thought that he could gain it by heaping
ridicule upon those of his contemporaries who might lay claim to
this position. He wrote a libel against them, and abusing the easy
friendship of La Mettrie, he enticed him to lend to it the volubility
of his pen, and the richness of his imagination. Nothing more was
needed to complete the downfall of a man little known, against whom
were all appearances, and whose only protection was his merit.

For having been too sincere as a philosopher and too obliging as
a friend, La Mettrie was compelled to leave his country. The Duke
of Duras and the Viscount of Chaila advised him to flee from the
hatred of the priests and the revenge of the physicians. Therefore,
in 1746, he left the hospitals of the army where he had been placed by
M. Sechelles, and came to Leyden to philosophize in peace. He there
composed his "Penelope," a polemical work against the physicians in
which, after the fashion of Democritus, he made fun of the vanity of
his profession. The curious result was that the doctors themselves,
though their quackery was painted in true colors, could not help
laughing when they read it, and that is a sure sign that they had
found more wit than malice in it.

M. La Mettrie after losing sight of his hospitals and his patients,
gave himself up completely to speculative philosophy; he wrote his
"Man a Machine" or rather he put on paper some vigorous thoughts
about materialism, which he doubtless planned to rewrite. This work,
which was bound to displease men who by their position are declared
enemies of the progress of human reason, roused all the priests of
Leyden against its author. Calvinists, Catholics and Lutherans forgot
for the time that consubstantiation, free will, mass for the dead,
and the infallibility of the pope divided them: they all united
again to persecute a philosopher who had the additional misfortune
of being French, at a time when that monarchy was waging a successful
war against their High Powers.

The title of philosopher and the reputation of being unfortunate
were enough to procure for La Mettrie a refuge in Prussia with a
pension from the king. He came to Berlin in the month of February
in the year 1748; he was there received as a member of the Royal
Academy of Science. Medicine reclaimed him from metaphysics, and
he wrote a treatise on dysentery, another on asthma, the best that
had then been written on these cruel diseases. He sketched works on
certain philosophical subjects which he had proposed to look into. By
a sequence of accidents which befell him these works were stolen,
but he demanded their suppression as soon as they appeared.

La Mettrie died in the house of Milord Tirconnel, minister
plenipotentiary of France, whose life he had saved. It seems that
the disease, knowing with whom it had to deal, was clever enough
to attack his brain first, so that it would more surely confound
him. He had a burning fever and was violently delirious. The invalid
was obliged to depend upon the science of his colleagues, and he did
not find there the resources which he had so often found in his own,
both for himself and for the public.

He died on the eleventh of November, 1751, at the age of forty-three
years. He had married Louise Charlotte Dréano, by whom he left only
a daughter, five years and a few months old.

La Mettrie was born with a fund of natural and inexhaustible gaiety;
he had a quick mind, and such a fertile imagination that it made
flowers grow in the field of medicine. Nature had made him an orator
and a philosopher; but a yet more precious gift which he received
from her, was a pure soul and an obliging heart. All those who are
not imposed upon by the pious insults of the theologians mourn in La
Mettrie a good man and a wise physician.


                            L'HOMME MACHINE.

                Est-ce là ce Raion de l'Essence suprème,
                Que l'on nous peint si lumineux?
                Est-ce là cet Esprit survivant à nous même?
                Il naît avec nos sens, croit, s'affoiblit comme eux.
                Helas! il périra de même.


                                À LEYDE,

                     De l'Imp. d'ELIE LUZAC, Fils.




Il ne suffit pas à un sage d'étudier la nature et la vérité; il doit
oser la dire en faveur du petit nombre de ceux qui veulent et peuvent
penser; car pour les autres, qui sont volontairement esclaves des
préjugés, il ne leur est pas plus possible d'atteindre la vérité,
qu'aux grenouilles de voler.

Je réduis à deux les systèmes des philosophes sur l'âme de l'homme. Le
premier, et le plus ancien, est le système du matérialisme; le second
est celui du spiritualisme.

Les métaphysiciens qui ont insinué que la matière pourrait bien avoir
la faculté de penser, n'ont pas déshonoré leur raison. Pourquoi? C'est
qu'ils ont cet avantage (car ici c'en est un) de s'être mal
exprimés. En effet, demander si la matière peut penser, sans la
considérer autrement qu'en elle-même, c'est demander si la matière peut
marquer les heures. On voit d'avance que nous éviterons cet écueil,
où Mr. Locke a eu le malheur d'échouer.

Les Leibniziens, avec leurs monades, ont élevé une hypothèse
inintelligible. Ils ont plutôt spiritualisé la matière, que matérialisé
l'âme. Comment peut-on définir un être dont la nature nous est
absolument inconnue?

Descartes, et tous les Cartésiens, parmi lesquels il y a longtemps
qu'on a compté les Malebranchistes, ont fait la même faute. Ils ont
admis deux substances distinctes dans l'homme, comme s'ils les avaient
vues et bien comptées.

Les plus sages ont dit que l'âme ne pouvait se connaître que par les
seules lumières de la Foi: cependant, en qualité d'êtres raisonnables,
ils ont cru pouvoir se réserver le droit d'examiner ce que l'Ecriture
a voulu dire par le mot Esprit, dont elle se sert en parlant de l'âme
humaine; et dans leurs recherches, s'ils ne sont pas d'accord sur ce
point avec les théologiens, ceux-ci le sont-ils davantage entr'eux
sur tous les autres?

Voici en peu de mots le résultat de toutes leurs réflexions.

S'il y a un Dieu, il est auteur de la Nature, comme de la Révélation;
il nous a donné l'une, pour expliquer l'autre; et la Raison, pour
les accorder ensemble.

Se défier des connaissances qu'on peut puiser dans les corps animés,
c'est regarder la Nature et la Révélation comme deux contraires qui
se détruisent; et par conséquent, c'est oser soutenir cette absurdité:
que Dieu se contredit dans ses divers ouvrages, et nous trompe.

S'il y a une Révélation, elle ne peut donc démentir la Nature. Par la
Nature seule, on peut découvrir le sens des paroles de l'Evangile,
dont l'expérience seule est la véritable interprète. En effet,
les autres commentateurs jusqu'ici n'ont fait qu'embrouiller
la vérité. Nous allons en juger par l'auteur du Spectacle de la
Nature. "Il est étonnant, dit-il (au sujet de Mr. Locke), qu'un homme
qui dégrade notre âme jusqu'à la croire une âme de boue, ose établir
la Raison pour juge et souverain arbitre des mystères de la Foi;
car, ajoute-t-il, quelle idée étonnante aurait-on du Christianisme,
si l'on voulait suivre la Raison?"

Outre que ces réflexions n'éclaircissent rien par rapport à la Foi,
elles forment de si frivoles objections contre la méthode de ceux
qui croient pouvoir interpréter les Livres Saints, que j'ai presque
honte de perdre le temps à les réfuter.

1º. L'excellence de la Raison ne dépend pas d'un grand mot vide de
sens (l'immatérialité); mais de sa force, de son étendue, ou de sa
clairvoyance. Ainsi une âme de boue, qui découvrirait, comme d'un coup
d'oeil, les rapports et les suites d'une infinité d'idées difficiles
à saisir, serait évidemment préférable à une âme sotte et stupide
qui serait faite des éléments les plus précieux. Ce n'est pas être
philosophe, que de rougir avec Pline de la misère de notre origine. Ce
qui parait vil, est ici la chose la plus précieuse, et pour laquelle
la nature semble avoir mis le plus d'art et le plus d'appareil. Mais
comme l'homme, quand même il viendrait d'une source encore plus vile
en apparence, n'en serait pas moins le plus parfait de tous les êtres,
quelle que soit l'origine de son âme, si elle est pure, noble, sublime,
c'est une belle âme, qui rend respectable quiconque en est doué.

La seconde manière de raisonner de Mr. Pluche me parait vicieuse, même
dans son système, qui tient un peu du fanatisme; car si nous avons
une idée de la Foi, qui soit contraire aux principes les plus clairs,
aux vérités les plus incontestables, il faut croire, pour l'honneur
de la Révélation et de son Auteur, que cette idée est fausse, et que
nous ne connaissons point encore les sens des paroles de l'Evangile.

De deux choses l'une; ou tout est illusion, tant la Nature même, que la
Révélation; ou l'expérience seule peut rendre raison de la Foi. Mais
quel plus grand ridicule que celui de notre auteur? Je m'imagine
entendre un péripatéticien, qui dirait: "Il ne faut pas croire
l'expérience de Toricelli: car si nous la croyions, si nous allions
bannir l'horreur du vide, quelle étonnante philosophie aurions-nous?"

J'ai fait voir combien le raisonnement de Mr. Pluche est vicieux,
[1] afin de prouver premièrement que s'il y a une Révélation, elle
n'est point suffisamment démontrée par la seule autorité de l'Eglise
et sans aucun examen de la Raison, comme le prétendent tous ceux qui
la craignent. Secondement, pour mettre à l'abri de toute attaque la
méthode de ceux qui voudraient suivre la voie que je leur ouvre,
d'interpréter les choses surnaturelles, incompréhensibles en soi,
par les lumières que chacun a reçues de la nature.

L'expérience et l'observation doivent donc seules nous guider
ici. Elles se trouvent sans nombre dans les Fastes des médecins, qui
ont été philosophes, et non dans les philosophes, qui n'ont pas été
médecins. Ceux-ci ont parcouru, ont éclairé le labyrinthe de l'homme;
ils nous ont seuls dévoilé ces ressorts cachés sous des enveloppes
qui dérobent à nos yeux tant de merveilles. Eux seuls, contemplant
tranquillement notre âme, l'ont mille fois surprise, et dans sa misère,
et dans sa grandeur, sans plus la mépriser dans l'un de ces états, que
l'admirer dans l'autre. Encore une fois, voilà les seuls physiciens qui
aient droit de parler ici. Que nous diraient les autres, et surtout
les théologiens? N'est-il pas ridicule de les entendre décider sans
pudeur, sur un sujet qu'ils n'ont point été à portée de connaître,
dont ils ont été au contraire entièrement détournés par des études
obscures, qui les ont conduits à mille préjugés, et pour tout dire
en un mot, au fanatisme, qui ajoute encore à leur ignorance dans le
mécanisme des corps.

Mais, quoique nous ayons choisi les meilleurs guides, nous trouverons
encore beaucoup d'épines et d'obstacles dans cette carrière.

L'homme est une machine si composée, qu'il est impossible de s'en
faire d'abord une idée claire, et conséquemment de la définir. C'est
pourquoi toutes les recherches que les plus grands philosophes ont
faites à priori, c'est à dire, en voulant se servir en quelque sorte
des ailes de l'esprit, ont été vaines. Ainsi ce n'est qu'à posteriori,
ou en cherchant à demêler l'âme comme au travers les organes du corps,
qu'on peut, je ne dis pas découvrir avec évidence la nature même de
l'homme, mais atteindre le plus grand degré de probabilité possible
sur ce sujet.

Prenons donc le bâton de l'expérience, et laissons là l'histoire de
toutes les vaines opinions des philosophes. Etre aveugle, et croire
pouvoir se passer de ce bâton, c'est le comble de l'aveuglement. Qu'un
moderne a bien raison de dire qu'il n'y a que la vanité seule qui ne
tire pas des causes secondes le même parti que des premières! On peut
et on doit même admirer tous ces beaux génies dans leurs travaux les
plus inutiles, les Descartes, les Malebranche, les Leibnitz, les Wolf,
etc.; mais quel fruit, je vous prie, a-t-on retiré de leurs profondes
méditations et de tous leurs ouvrages? Commençons donc et voyons, non
ce qu'on a pensé, mais ce qu'il faut penser pour le repos de la vie.

Autant de tempéraments, autant d'esprits, de caractères et de moeurs
différentes. Galien même a connu cette vérité, que Descartes, et non
Hippocrate, comme le dit l'auteur de l'histoire de l'Ame, a poussée
loin, jusqu'à dire que la médecine seule pouvait changer les esprits
et les moeurs avec le corps. Il est vrai, la mélancolie, la bile, le
phlegme, le sang etc., suivant la nature, l'abondance et la diverse
combinaison de ces humeurs, de chaque homme font un homme différent.

Dans les maladies, tantôt l'âme s'éclipse et ne montre aucun signe
d'elle-même; tantôt on dirait qu'elle est double, tant la fureur la
transporte; tantôt l'imbécilité se dissipe: et la convalescence d'un
sot fait un homme d'esprit. Tantôt le plus beau génie devenu stupide,
ne se reconnait plus. Adieu toutes ces belles connaissances acquises
à si grands frais, et avec tant de peine!

Ici c'est un paralytique, qui demande si sa jambe est dans son lit: là
c'est un soldat qui croit avoir le bras qu'on lui a coupé. La mémoire
de ses anciennes sensations, et du lieu où son âme les rapportait,
fait son illusion et son espèce de délire. Il suffit de lui parler de
cette partie qui lui manque, pour lui en rappeller et faire sentir
tous les mouvements; ce qui se fait avec je ne sais quel déplaisir
d'imagination qu'on ne peut exprimer.

Celui-ci pleure, comme un enfant, aux approches de la mort, que
celui-là badine. Que fallait-il à Caius Julius, à Sénèque, à Pétrone
pour changer leur intrépidité en pusillanimité ou en poltronnerie? Une
obstruction dans la rate, dans le foie, un embarras dans la veine
porte. Pourquoi? Parceque l'imagination se bouche avec les viscères;
et de là naissent tous ces singuliers phénomènes de l'affection
hystérique et hypocondriaque.

Que dirais-je de nouveau sur ceux qui s'imaginent être transformés
en loups-garous, en coqs, en vampires, qui croient que les morts
les sucent? Pourquoi m'arrêterais-je à ceux qui voient leur nez, ou
autres membres, de verre, et à qui il faut conseiller de coucher sur
la paille, de peur qu'ils ne se cassent, afin qu'ils en retrouvent
l'usage et la véritable chair, lorsque mettant le feu à la paille on
leur fait craindre d'être brûlés: frayeur qui a quelquefois guéri la
paralysie? Je dois légèrement passer sur des choses connues de tout
le monde.

Je ne serai pas plus long sur le détail des effets du sommeil. Voyez
ce soldat fatigué! il ronfle dans la tranchée, au bruit de cent
pièces de canons! Son âme n'entend rien, son sommeil est une parfaite
apoplexie. Une bombe va l'écraser; il sentira peut-être moins ce coup
qu'un insecte qui se trouve sous le pied.

D'un autre côté, cet homme que la jalousie, la haine, l'avarice
ou l'ambition dévore, ne peut trouver aucun repos. Le lieu le plus
tranquille, les boissons les plus fraîches et les plus calmantes, tout
est inutile à qui n'a pas délivré son coeur du tourment des passions.

L'âme et le corps s'endorment ensemble. A mesure que le mouvement du
sang se calme, un doux sentiment de paix et de tranquillité se répand
dans toute la machine; l'âme se sent mollement s'appesantir avec les
paupières et s'affaisser avec les fibres du cerveau: elle devient ainsi
peu à peu comme paralytique, avec tous les muscles du corps. Ceux-ci ne
peuvent plus porter le poids de la tête; celle là ne peut plus soutenir
le fardeau de la pensée; elle est dans le sommeil, comme n'étant point.

La circulation se fait-elle avec trop de vitesse? l'âme ne peut
dormir. L'âme est-elle trop agitée, le sang ne peut se calmer;
il galope dans les veines avec un bruit qu'on entend: telles sont
les deux causes réciproques de l'insomnie. Une seule frayeur dans
les songes fait battre le coeur à coups redoublés, et nous arrache
à la nécessité, ou à la douceur du repos, comme feraient une vive
douleur ou des besoins urgents. Enfin, comme la seule cessation des
fonctions de l'âme procure le sommeil, il est, même pendant la veille
(qui n'est alors qu'une demi-veille), des sortes de petits sommeils
d'âme très fréquents, des rêves à la Suisse, qui prouvent que l'âme
n'attend pas toujours le corps pour dormir; car si elle ne dort pas
tout-à-fait, combien peu s'en faut-il! puisqu'il lui est impossible
d'assigner un seul objet auquel elle ait prêté quelque attention,
parmi cette foule innombrable d'idées confuses, qui comme autant de
nuages remplissent, pour ainsi dire, l'atmosphère de notre cerveau.

L'opium a trop de rapport avec le sommeil qu'il procure, pour ne
pas le placer ici. Ce remède enivre, ainsi que le vin, le café,
et chacun à sa manière, et suivant sa dose. Il rend l'homme heureux
dans un état qui semblerait devoir être le tombeau du sentiment,
comme il est l'image de la mort. Quelle douce léthargie! L'âme n'en
voudrait jamais sortir. Elle était en proie aux plus grandes douleurs;
elle ne sent plus que le seul plaisir de ne plus suffrir et de jouir
de la plus charmante tranquillité. L'opium change jusqu'à la volonté;
il force l'âme qui voulait veiller et se divertir, d'aller se mettre
au lit malgré elle. Je passe sous silence l'histoire des poisons.

C'est en fouettant l'imagination, que le café, cet antidote du vin,
dissipe nos maux de tête et nos chagrins, sans nous en ménager,
comme cette liqueur, pour le lendemain.

Contemplons l'âme dans ses autres besoins.

Le corps humain est une machine qui monte elle-même ses ressorts;
vivante image du mouvement perpétuel. Les aliments entretiennent
ce que la fièvre excite. Sans eux l'âme languit, entre en fureur et
meurt abattue. C'est une bougie dont la lumière se ranime, au moment
de s'éteindre. Mais nourrissez le corps, versez dans ses tuyaux des
sucs vigoureux, des liqueurs fortes; alors l'âme généreuse comme
elles s'arme d'un fier courage et le soldat que l'eau eut fait fuir,
devenu féroce, court gaiement à la mort au bruit des tambours. C'est
ainsi que l'eau chaude agite un sang que l'eau froide eut calmé.

Quelle puissance d'un repas! La joie renaît dans un coeur triste;
elle passe dans l'âme des convives qui l'expriment par d'aimables
chansons, où les Français excellent. Le mélancolique seul est accablé,
et l'homme d'étude n'y est plus propre.

La viande crue rend les animaux féroces; les hommes le deviendraient
par la même nourriture; cela est si vrai, que la nation anglaise,
qui ne mange pas la chair si cuite que nous, mais rouge et sanglante,
parait participer de cette férocité plus ou moins grande, qui vient
en partie de tels aliments, et d'autres causes, que l'éducation
peut seule rendre impuissantes. Cette férocité produit dans l'âme
l'orgueil, la haine, le mépris des autres nations, l'indocilité et
autres sentiments, qui dépravent le caractère, comme des aliments
grossiers font un esprit lourd, épais, dont la paresse et l'indolence
sont les attributs favoris.

Mr. Pope a bien connu tout l'empire de la gourmandise, lorsqu'il dit:
"Le grave Catius parle toujours de vertu, et croit que, qui souffre
les vicieux est vicieux lui-même. Ces beaux sentiments durent jusqu'à
l'heure du diner; alors il préfère un scélérat, qui a une table
délicate, à un saint frugal.

"Considérez, dit-il ailleurs, le même homme en santé, ou en maladie;
possédant une belle charge, ou l'ayant perdue; vous le verrez chérir
la vie, ou la détester, fou à la chasse, ivrogne dans une assemblée
de province, poli au bal, bon ami en ville, sans foi à la cour."

Nous avons eu en Suisse un bailli, nommé Steiguer de Wittighofen;
il était à jeûn le plus intègre et même le plus indulgent des juges;
mais malheur au misérable qui se trouvait sur la sellette, lorsqu'il
avait fait un grand diner! Il était homme à faire pendre l'innocent,
comme le coupable.

Nous pensons, et même nous ne sommes honnêtes gens, que comme nous
sommes gais, ou braves; tout dépend de la manière dont notre machine
est montée. On dirait en certains moments que l'âme habite dans
l'estomac, et que Van Helmont, en mettant son siège dans le pylore,
ne se serait trompé qu'en prenant la partie pour le tout.

A quels excès la faim cruelle peut nous porter! Plus de respect
pour les entrailles auxquelles on doit ou on a donné la vie; on les
déchire à belles dents, on s'en fait d'horribles festins; et dans la
fureur dont on est transporté, le plus faible est toujours la proie
du plus fort.

La grossesse, cette émule désirée des pâles couleurs, ne se contente
pas d'amener le plus souvent à sa suite les goûts dépravés qui
accompagnent ces deux états: elle a quelquefois fait exécuter à l'âme
les plus affreux complots; effets d'une manie subite, qui étouffe
jusqu'à la loi naturelle. C'est ainsi que le cerveau, cette matrice
de l'esprit, se pervertit à sa manière, avec celle du corps.

Quelle autre fureur d'homme ou de femme, dans ceux que la continence
et la santé poursuivent! C'est peu pour cette fille timide et modeste
d'avoir perdu toute honte et toute pudeur; elle ne regarde plus
l'inceste, que comme une femme galante regarde l'adultère. Si ses
besoins ne trouvent pas de prompts soulagements, ils ne se borneront
point aux simples accidents d'une passion utérine, à la manie, etc.;
cette malheureuse mourra d'un mal, dont il y a tant de médecins.

Il ne faut que des yeux pour voir l'influence nécessaire de l'âge
sur la raison. L'âme suit les progrès du corps, comme ceux de
l'éducation. Dans le beau sexe, l'âme suit encore la délicatesse du
tempérament: de là cette tendresse, cette affection, ces sentiments
vifs, plutôt fondés sur la passion que sur la raison, ces préjugés,
ces superstitions, dont la forte empreinte peut à peine s'effacer,
etc. L'homme, au contraire, dont le cerveau et les nerfs participent
de la fermeté de tous les solides, a l'esprit, ainsi que les traits
du visage, plus nerveux: l'éducation, dont manquent les femmes,
ajoute encore de nouveaux degrés de force à son âme. Avec de tels
secours de la nature et de l'art, comment ne serait-il pas plus
reconnaissant, plus généreux, plus constant en amitié, plus ferme dans
l'adversité? etc. Mais, suivant à peu près la pensée de l'auteur des
Lettres sur les Physionomies, qui joint les grâces de l'esprit et du
corps à presque tous les sentiments du cœur les plus tendres et les
plus délicats ne doit point nous envier une double force, qui ne semble
avoir été donnée à l'homme, l'une, que pour se mieux pénétrer des
attraits de la beauté, l'autre, que pour mieux servir à ses plaisirs.

Il n'est pas plus nécessaire d'être aussi grand physionomiste que cet
auteur pour deviner la qualité de l'esprit par la figure ou la forme
des traits, lorsqu'ils sont marqués jusqu'à un certain point, qu'il ne
l'est d'être grand médecin pour connaître un mal accompagné de tous
ses symptomes évidents. Examinez les portraits de Locke, de Steele,
de Boerhaave, de Maupertuis, etc. vous ne serez point surpris de leur
trouver des physionomies fortes, des yeux d'aigle. Parcourez-en une
infinité d'autres, vous distinguerez toujours le beau du grand génie,
et même souvent l'honnête homme du fripon. On a remarqué, par exemple,
qu'un poète célèbre réunit (dans son portrait) l'air d'un filou,
avec le feu de Prométhée.

L'histoire nous offre un mémorable exemple de la puissance de l'air. Le
fameux Duc de Guise était si fort convaincu que Henri III. qui l'avait
eu tant de fois en son pouvoir, n'oserait jamais l'assassiner, qu'il
partit pour Blois. Le chancelier Chyverni apprenant son départ,
s'écria: voilà un homme perdu! Lorsque sa fatale prédiction fut
justifiée par l'événement, on lui en demanda la raison. Il y a vingt
ans, dit-il, que je connais le Roi; il est naturellement bon et même
faible; mais j'ai observé qu'un rien l'impatiente et le met en fureur,
lorsqu'il fait froid.

Tel peuple a l'esprit lourd et stupide; tel autre l'a vif, léger,
pénétrant. D'où cela vient-il, si ce n'est en partie, et de la
nourriture qu'il prend, et de la semence de ses pères, [2] et de ce
chaos de divers éléments qui nagent dans l'immensité de l'air? L'esprit
a, comme le corps, ses maladies épidémiques et son scorbut.

Tel est l'empire du climat, qu'un homme qui en change se ressent
malgré lui de ce changement. C'est une plante ambulante, qui s'est
elle-même transplantée; si le climat n'est plus le même, il est juste
qu'elle dégénère, ou s'améliore.

On prend tout encore de ceux avec qui l'on vit, leurs gestes, leurs
accents, etc., comme la paupière se baisse à la menace du coup dont
on est prévenu, ou par la même raison que le corps du spectateur imite
machinalement, et malgré lui, tous les mouvements d'un bon pantomime.

Ce que je viens de dire prouve que la meilleure compagnie pour un homme
d'esprit, est la sienne, s'il n'en trouve une semblable. L'esprit se
rouille avec ceux qui n'en ont point, faute d'être exercé: à la paume,
on renvoie mal la balle à qui la sert mal. J'aimerais mieux un homme
intelligent, qui n'aurait eu aucune éducation, que s'il en eût eu une
mauvaise, pourvu qu'il fût encore assez jeune. Un esprit mal conduit
est un acteur que la province a gâté.

Les divers états de l'âme sont donc toujours corrélatifs à ceux du
corps. Mais, pour mieux démontrer toute cette dépendance et ses causes,
servons-nous ici de l'anatomie comparée; ouvrons les entrailles de
l'homme et des animaux. Le moyen de connaître la nature humaine, si
l'on n'est éclairé par un juste parallèle de la structure des uns et
des autres!

En général, la forme et la composition du cerveau des quadrupèdes est
à peu près la même que dans l'homme. Même figure, même disposition
partout; avec cette différence essentielle, que l'homme est de tous
les animaux celui qui a le plus de cerveau, et le cerveau le plus
tortueux, en raison de la masse de son corps. Ensuite le singe, le
castor, l'éléphant, le chien, le renard, le chat, etc., voilà les
animaux qui ressemblent le plus à l'homme; car on remarque aussi chez
eux la même analogie graduée, par rapport au corps calleux, dans lequel
Lancisi avait établi le siège de l'âme, avant feu Mr. de la Peyronnie,
qui cependant a illustré cette opinion par une foule d'expériences.

Après tous les quadrupèdes, ce sont les oiseaux qui ont le plus de
cerveau. Les poissons ont la tête grosse; mais elle est vide de sens,
comme celle de bien des hommes. Ils n'ont point de corps calleux et
fort peu de cerveau, lequel manque aux insectes.

Je ne me répandrai point en un plus long détail des variétés de la
nature, ni en conjectures, car les unes et les autres sont infinies,
comme on en peut juger en lisant les seuls traités de Willis, De
Cerebro, et De Anima Brutorum.

Je conclûrai seulement ce qui s'en suit clairement de ces
incontestables observations: 1o que plus les animaux sont farouches,
moins ils ont de cerveau; 2o que ce viscère semble s'agrandir, en
quelque sorte, à proportion de leur docilité; 3o qu'il y a ici une
singulière condition imposée éternellement par la nature, qui est
que plus on gagnera du côté de l'esprit, plus on perdra du côté de
l'instinct. Lequel l'emporte, de la perte ou du gain?

Ne croyez pas, au reste, que je veuille prétendre par là que le seul
volume du cerveau suffise pour faire juger du degré de docilité des
animaux; il faut que la qualité réponde encore à la quantité, et que
les solides et les fluides soient dans cet équilibre convenable qui
fait la santé.

Si l'imbécile ne manque pas de cerveau, comme on le remarque
ordinairement, ce viscère péchera par une mauvaise consistance, par
trop de mollesse, par exemple. Il en est de même des fous; les vices
de leur cerveau ne se dérobent pas toujours à nos recherches; mais si
les causes de l'imbécilité, de la folie, etc. ne sont pas sensibles,
où aller chercher celles de la variété de tous les esprits? Elles
échapperaient aux yeux des lynx et des argus. Un rien, une petite
fibre, quelque chose que la plus subtile anatomie ne peut découvrir,
eut fait deux sots d'Erasme et de Fontenelle, qui le remarque lui
même dans un de ses meilleurs Dialogues.

Outre la mollesse de la moëlle du cerveau, dans les enfants, dans
les petits chiens et dans les oiseaux, Willis a remarqué que les
corps cannelés sont effacés et comme décolorés dans tous ces animaux,
et que leurs stries sont aussi imparfaitement formées que dans les
paralytiques. Il ajoute, ce qui est vrai, que l'homme a la protubérance
annulaire fort grosse; et ensuite toujours diminutivement par dégrés,
le singe et les autres animaux nommés ci-devant, tandis que le veau,
le boeuf, le loup, la brebis, le cochon, etc. qui ont cette partie
d'un très petit volume, ont les nattes et testes fort gros.

On a beau être discret et réservé sur les conséquences qu'on peut tirer
de ces observations et de tant d'autres sur l'espèce d'inconstance
des vaisseaux et des nerfs, etc.: tant de variétés ne peuvent être
des jeux gratuits de la nature. Elles prouvent du moins la nécessité
d'une bonne et abondante organisation, puisque dans tout le règne
animal l'âme, se raffermissant avec le corps, acquiert de la sagacité,
à mesure qu'il prend des forces.

Arrêtons-nous à contempler la différente docilité des animaux. Sans
doute l'analogie la mieux entendue conduit l'esprit à croire que les
causes dont nous avons fait mention produisent toute la diversité qui
se trouve entr'eux et nous, quoiqu'il faille avouer que notre faible
entendement, borné aux observations les plus grossières, ne puisse
voir les liens qui règnent entre la cause et les effets. C'est une
espèce d'harmonie que les philosophes ne connaîtront jamais.

Parmi les animaux, les uns apprennent à parler et à chanter; ils
retiennent des airs et prennent tous les tons aussi exactement qu'un
musicien. Les autres, qui montrent cependant plus d'esprit, tels que
le singe, n'en peuvent venir à bout. Pourquoi cela, si ce n'est par
un vice des organes de la parole?

Mais ce vice est-il tellement de conformation, qu'on n'y puisse
apporter aucun remède? en un mot serait-il absolument impossible
d'apprendre une langue à cet animal? Je ne le crois pas.

Je prendrais le grand singe préférablement à tout autre, jusqu'à ce que
le hasard nous eût fait découvrir quelque autre espèce plus semblable à
la nôtre, car rien ne répugne qu'il y en ait dans des régions qui nous
sont inconnues. Cet animal nous ressemble si fort, que les naturalistes
l'ont appelé homme sauvage, ou homme des bois. Je le prendrais aux
mêmes conditions des écoliers d'Amman; c'est-à-dire, que je voudrais
qu'il ne fût ni trop jeune ni trop vieux; car ceux qu'on nous apporte
en Europe sont communément trop âgés. Je choisirais celui qui aurait
la physionomie la plus spirituelle, et qui tiendrait le mieux dans
mille petites opérations ce qu'elle m'aurait promis. Enfin, ne me
trouvant pas digne d'être son gouverneur, je le mettrais à l'école de
l'excellent maître que je viens de nommer, ou d'un autre aussi habile,
s'il en est.

Vous savez par le livre d'Amman, et par tous ceux [3] qui ont traduit
sa méthode, tous les prodiges qu'il a su opérer sur les sourds de
naissance, dans les yeux desquels il a, comme il le fait entendre
lui-même, trouvé des oreilles; et en combien peu de temps enfin il leur
a appris à entendre, parler, lire, et écrire. Je veux que les yeux
d'un sourd voient plus clair et soient plus intelligents que s'il ne
l'était pas, par la raison que la perte d'un membre ou d'un sens peut
augmenter la force ou la pénétration d'un autre: mais le singe voit
et entend; il comprend ce qu'il entend et ce qu'il voit; il conçoit
si parfaitement les signes qu'on lui fait, qu'à tout autre jeu, ou
tout autre exercice, je ne doute point qu'il ne l'emportât sur les
disciples d'Amman. Pourquoi donc l'éducation des singes serait-elle
impossible? Pourquoi ne pourrait-il enfin, à force de soins, imiter,
à l'exemple des sourds, les mouvemens nécessaires pour prononcer? Je
n'ose décider si les organes de la parole du singe ne peuvent,
quoiqu'on fasse, rien articuler; mais cette impossibilité absolue me
surprendrait, à cause de la grande analogie du singe et de l'homme,
et qu'il n'est point d'animal connu jusqu'à présent, dont le dedans
et le dehors lui ressemblent d'une manière si frappante. Mr. Locke,
qui certainement n'a jamais été suspect de crédulité, n'a pas fait
difficulté de croire l'histoire que le Chevalier Temple fait dans
ses Mémoires, d'un perroquet qui répondait à propos et avait appris,
comme nous, à avoir une espèce de conversation suivie. Je sais
qu'on s'est moqué [4] de ce grand métaphysicien; mais qui aurait
annoncé à l'univers qu'il y a des générations qui se font sans oeufs
et sans femmes, aurait-il trouvé beaucoup de partisans? Cependant
Mr. Trembley en a découvert, qui se font sans accouplement, et par la
seule section. Amman n'eût-il pas aussi passé pour un fou, s'il se
fût vanté, avant que d'en faire l'heureuse expérience, d'instruire,
et en aussi peu de temps, des écoliers tels que les siens? Cependant
ses succès ont étonné l'univers, et comme l'auteur de l'Histoire des
Polypes, il a passé de plein vol à l'immortalité. Qui doit à son génie
les miracles qu'il opère, l'emporte à mon gré sur qui doit les siens
au hasard. Qui a trouvé l'art d'embellir le plus beau des règnes,
et de lui donner des perfections qu'il n'avait pas, doit être mis
au-dessus d'un faiseur oisif de systèmes frivoles, ou d'un auteur
laborieux de stériles découvertes. Celles d'Amman sont bien d'un
autre prix; il a tiré les hommes de l'instinct auquel ils semblaient
condamnés; il leur a donné les idées, de l'esprit, une âme en un mot,
qu'ils n'eûssent jamais eue. Quel plus grand pouvoir!

Ne bornons point les ressources de la nature; elles sont infinies,
surtout aidées d'un grand art.

La même mécanique, qui ouvre le canal d'Eustachi dans les sourds, ne
pourrait-il le déboucher dans les singes? Une heureuse envie d'imiter
la prononciation du maître, ne pourrait-elle mettre en liberté les
organes de la parole, dans les animaux qui imitent tant d'autres
signes, avec tant d'adresse et d'intelligence? Non seulement je défie
qu'on me cite aucune expérience vraiment concluante, qui décide mon
projet impossible et ridicule; mais la similitude de la structure et
des opérations du singe est telle, que je ne doute presque point, si
on exerçait parfaitement cet animal, qu'on ne vînt enfin à bout de lui
apprendre à prononcer, et par conséquent à savoir une langue. Alors
ce ne serait plus ni un homme sauvage, ni un homme manqué: ce serait
un homme parfait, un petit homme de ville, avec autant d'étoffe ou
de muscles que nous-mêmes, pour penser et profiter de son éducation.

Des animaux à l'homme, la transition n'est pas violente; les vrais
philosophes en conviendront. Qu'était l'homme, avant l'invention des
mots et la connaissance des langues? Un animal de son espèce, qui avec
beaucoup moins d'instinct naturel que les autres, dont alors il ne
se croyait pas roi, n'était distingué du singe et des autres animaux
que comme le singe l'est lui-même; je veux dire par une physionomie
qui annonçait plus de discernement. Réduit à la seule connaissance
intuitive des Leibniziens, il ne voyait que des figures et des
couleurs, sans pouvoir rien distinguer entr'elles; vieux, comme jeune,
enfant à tout âge, il bégayait ses sensations et ses besoins, comme
un chien affamé, ou ennuyé de repos, demande à manger ou à se promener.

Les mots, les langues, les lois, les sciences, les beaux-arts
sont venus; et par eux enfin le diamant brut de notre esprit a été
poli. On a dressé un homme, comme un animal; on est devenu auteur,
comme portefaix. Un géomètre a appris à faire les démonstrations
et les calculs les plus difficiles, comme un singe à ôter ou mettre
son petit chapeau, et à monter sur son chien docile. Tout s'est fait
par les signes; chaque espèce a compris ce qu'elle a pu comprendre:
et c'est de cette manière que les hommes ont acquis la connaissance
symbolique, ainsi nommée encore par nos philosophes d'Allemagne.

Rien de si simple, comme on voit, que la mécanique de notre
éducation! Tout se réduit à des sons, ou à des mots, qui de la bouche
de l'un passent par l'oreille de l'autre dans le cerveau, qui reçoit
en même temps par les yeux la figure des corps, dont ces mots sont
les signes arbitraires.

Mais qui a parlé le premier? Qui a été le premier précepteur du
genre human? Qui a inventé les moyens de mettre à profit la docilité
de notre organisation? Je n'en sais rien; le nom de ces heureux et
premiers génies a été perdu dans la nuit des temps. Mais l'art est
le fils de la nature; elle a dû longtemps le précéder.

On doit croire que les hommes les mieux organisés, ceux pour qui la
nature aura épuisé ses bienfaits, auront instruit les autres. Ils
n'auront pu entendre un bruit nouveau, par exemple, éprouver de
nouvelles sensations, être frappé de tous ces beaux objets divers
qui forment le ravissant spectacle de la nature, sans se trouver
dans le cas de ce sourd de Chartres dont le grand Fontenelle nous
a le premier donné l'histoire, lorsqu'il entendit pour la première
fois à quarante ans le bruit étonnant des cloches.

De là serait-il absurde de croire que ces premiers mortels essayèrent
à la manière de ce sourd, ou à celle des animaux et des muets
(autre espèce d'animaux), d'exprimer leurs nouveaux sentiments
par des mouvements dépendants de l'économie de leur imagination,
et conséquemment ensuite par des sons spontanés propres à chaque
animal, expression naturelle de leur surprise, de leur joie, de leurs
transports, ou de leurs besoins? Car sans doute ceux que la nature
a doués d'un sentiment plus exquis, ont eu aussi plus de facilité
pour l'exprimer.

Voilà comme je conçois que les hommes ont employé leur sentiment,
ou leur instinct, pour avoir de l'esprit, et enfin leur esprit, pour
avoir des connaissances. Voilà par quels moyens, autant que je puis
les saisir, on s'est rempli le cerveau des idées, pour le réception
desquelles la nature l'avait formé. On s'est aidé l'un par l'autre;
et les plus petits commencements s'agrandissant peu à peu, toutes les
choses de l'univers ont été aussi facilement distinguées qu'un cercle.

Comme une corde de violon ou une touche de clavecin frémit et rend
un son, les cordes du cerveau, frappées par les rayons sonores, ont
été excitées à rendre ou à redire les mots qui les touchaient. Mais
comme telle est la construction de ce viscère, que dès qu'une fois
les yeux bien formés pour l'optique ont reçu la peinture des objets,
le cerveau ne peut pas ne pas voir leurs images et leurs différences:
de même, lorsque les signes de ces différences ont été marqués, ou
gravés dans le cerveau, l'âme en a nécessairement examiné les rapports;
examen qui lui était impossible sans la découverte des signes, ou
l'invention des langues. Dans ces temps, où l'univers était presque
muet, l'âme était à l'égard de tous les objets, comme un homme qui,
sans avoir aucune idée des proportions, regarderait un tableau, ou
une pièce de sculpture: il n'y pourrait rien distinguer; ou comme
un petit enfant (car alors l'âme était dans son enfance) qui, tenant
dans sa main un certain nombre de petits brins de paille ou de bois,
les voit en général d'une vue vague et superficielle, sans pouvoir les
compter ni les distinguer. Mais qu'on mette une espèce de pavillon,
ou d'étendard, à cette pièce de bois, par exemple, qu'on appelle mât,
qu'on en mette un autre à un autre pareil corps; que le premier venu
se nombre par le signe 1 et le second par le signe ou chiffre 2; alors
cet enfant pourra les compter, et ainsi de suite il apprendra toute
l'arithmétique. Dès qu'une figure lui paraîtra égale à une autre par
son signe numératif, il conclûra sans peine que ce sont deux corps
différents; que 1 et 1 font deux, que 2 et 2 font 4, [5] etc.

C'est cette similitude réelle, ou apparente, des figures, qui est la
base fondamentale de toutes les vérités et de toutes nos connaissances,
parmi lesquelles il est évident que celles dont les signes sont moins
simples et moins sensibles sont plus difficiles à apprendre que les
autres, en ce qu'elles demandent plus de génie pour embrasser et
combiner cette immense quantité de mots par lesquels les sciences
dont je parle expriment les vérités de leur ressort: tandis que les
sciences qui s'annoncent par des chiffres, ou autres petits signes,
s'apprennent facilement; et c'est sans doute cette facilité qui a
fait la fortune des calculs algébriques, plus encore que leur évidence.

Tout ce savoir dont le vent enfle le ballon du cerveau de nos pédants
orgueilleux, n'est donc qu'un vaste amas de mots et de figures,
qui forment dans la tête toutes les traces par lesquelles nous
distinguons et nous nous rappellons les objets. Toutes nos idées se
réveillent, comme un jardinier qui connaît les plantes se souvient
de toutes leurs phases à leur aspect. Ces mots et ces figures qui
sont désignés par eux, sont tellements liés ensemble dans le cerveau,
qu'il est assez rare qu'on imagine une chose sans le nom ou le signe
qui lui est attaché.

Je me sers toujours du mot imaginer, parceque je crois que tout
s'imagine, et que toutes les parties de l'âme peuvent être justement
réduites à la seule imagination, qui les forme toutes; et qu'ainsi
le jugement, le raisonnement, la mémoire ne sont que des parties de
l'âme nullement absolues, mais de véritables modifications de cette
espèce de toile médullaire, sur laquelle les objets peints dans l'oeil
sont renvoyés, comme d'une lanterne magique.

Mais si tel est ce merveilleux et incompréhensible résultat de
l'organisation du cerveau; si tout se conçoit par l'imagination,
si tout s'explique par elle; pourquoi diviser le principe sensitif
qui pense dans l'homme? N'est-ce pas une contradiction manifeste
dans les partisans de la simplicité de l'esprit? Car une chose
qu'on divise ne peut plus être, sans absurdité, regardée comme
indivisible. Voilà où conduit l'abus des langues, et l'usage de ces
grands mots, spiritualité, immatérialité, etc., placés à tout hasard,
sans être entendus, même par des gens d'esprit.

Rien de plus facile que de prouver un système, fondé comme
celui-ci sur le sentiment intime et l'expérience propre de chaque
individu. L'imagination, ou cette partie fantastique du cerveau, dont
la nature nous est aussi inconnue que sa manière d'agir, est-elle
naturellement petite, ou faible? elle aura à peine la force de
comparer l'analogie, ou la ressemblance de ses idées; elle ne pourra
voir que ce qui sera vis-à-vis d'elle, ou ce qui l'affectera le plus
vivement; et encore de quelle manière! Mais toujours est-il vrai
que l'imagination seule aperçoit; que c'est elle qui se représente
tous les objets, avec les mots et les figures qui les caractérisent;
et qu'ainsi c'est elle encore une fois qui est l'âme, puisqu'elle
en fait tous les rôles. Par elle, par son pinceau flatteur, le froid
squelette de la raison prend des chairs vives et vermeilles; par elle
les sciences fleurissent, les arts s'embellissent, les bois parlent,
les échos soupirent, les rochers pleurent, le marbre respire, tout
prend vie parmi les corps inanimés. C'est elle encore qui ajoute à
la tendresse d'un coeur amoureux le piquant attrait de la volupté;
elle la fait germer dans le cabinet du philosophe, et du pédant
poudreux; elle forme enfin les savants comme les orateurs et les
poëtes. Sottement décriée par les uns, vainement distinguée par les
autres, qui tous l'ont mal connue, elle ne marche pas seulement à
la suite des Grâces et des beaux-art, elle ne peint pas seulement
la nature, elle peut aussi la mesurer. Elle raisonne, juge, pénètre,
compare, approfondit. Pourrait-elle si bien sentir les beautées des
tableaux qui lui sont tracés, sans en découvrir les rapports? Non;
comme elle ne peut se replier sur les plaisirs des sens, sans en
goûter toute la perfection ou la volupté, elle ne peut réfléchir sur
ce qu'elle a mécaniquement conçu, sans être alors le jugement même.

Plus on exerce l'imagination, ou le plus maigre génie, plus il prend,
pour ainsi dire, d'embonpoint; plus il s'agrandit, devient nerveux,
robuste, vaste et capable de penser. La meilleure organisation a
besoin de cet exercice.

L'organisation est le premier mérite de l'homme; c'est en vain que
tous les auteurs de morale ne mettent point au rang des qualités
estimables celles qu'on tient de la nature, mais seulement les
talents qui s'acquièrent à force de réflexions et d'industrie: car
d'où nous vient, je vous prie, l'habileté, la science et la vertu, si
ce n'est d'une disposition qui nous rend propres à devenir habiles,
savants et vertueux? Et d'où nous vient encore cette disposition,
si ce n'est de la nature? Nous n'avons de qualités estimables que
par elle; nous lui devons tout ce que nous sommes. Pourquoi donc
n'estimerais-je pas autant ceux qui ont des qualités naturelles, que
ceux qui brillent par des vertus acquises, et comme d'emprunt? Quel
que soit le mérite, de quelque endroit qu'il naisse, il est digne
d'estime; il ne s'agit que de savoir le mesurer. L'esprit, la beauté,
les richesses, la noblesse, quoiqu'enfants du hasard, ont tous leur
prix, comme l'adresse, le savoir, la vertu, etc. Ceux que la nature
a comblés de ses dons les plus précieux, doivent plaindre ceux à qui
ils ont été refusés; mais ils peuvent sentir leur supériorité sans
orgueil, et en connaisseurs. Une belle femme serait aussi ridicule
de se trouver laide, qu'un homme d'esprit de se croire un sot. Une
modestie outrée (défaut rare à la vérité) est une sorte d'ingratitude
envers la nature. Une honnête fierté, au contraire, est la marque
d'une âme belle et grande, que décèlent des traits mâles moulés comme
par le sentiment.

Si l'organisation est un mérite, et le premier mérite, et la source
de tous les autres, l'instruction est le second. Le cerveau le mieux
construit, sans elle, le serait en pure perte; comme sans l'usage du
monde, l'homme le mieux fait ne serait qu'un paysan grossier. Mais
aussi quel serait le fruit de la plus excellente école, sans une
matrice parfaitement ouverte à l'entrée ou à la conception des
idées? Il est aussi impossible de donner une seule idée à un homme
privé de tous les sens, que de faire un enfant à une femme à laquelle
la nature aurait poussé la distraction jusqu'à oublier de faire une
vulve, comme je l'ai vu dans une, qui n'avait ni fente, ni vagin,
ni matrice, et qui pour cette raison fut démariée après dix ans
de mariage.

Mais si le cerveau est à la fois bien organisé et bien instruit, c'est
une terre féconde parfaitement ensemencée, qui produit le centuple de
ce qu'elle a reçu: ou (pour quitter le style figuré souvent nécessaire,
pour mieux exprimer ce qu'on sent et donner des grâces à la Vérité
même), l'imagination élevée par l'art à la belle et rare dignité de
génie, saisit exactement tous les rapports des idées qu'elle a conçues,
embrasse avec facilité une foule étonnante d'objets, pour en tirer
enfin une longue chaîne de conséquences, lesquelles ne sont encore
que de nouveaux rapports, enfantés par la comparaison des premiers,
auxquels l'âme trouve une parfaite ressemblance. Telle est, selon moi,
la génération de l'esprit. Je dis trouve, comme j'ai donné ci-devant
l'épithète d'apparente à la similitude des objets: non que je pense
que nos sens soient toujours trompeurs, comme l'a prétendu le Père
Malebranche, ou que nos yeux naturellement un peu ivres ne voient pas
les objets tels qu'ils sont en eux mêmes, quoique les microscopes
nous le prouvent tous les jours, mais pour n'avoir aucune dispute
avec les Pyrrhoniens, parmi lesquels Bayle s'est distingué.

Je dis de la vérité en général ce que Mr. de Fontenelle dit de
certaines en particulier, qu'il faut la sacrifier aux agréments de
la société. Il est de la douceur de mon caractère d'obvier à toute
dispute, lorsqu'il ne s'agit pas d'aiguiser la conversation. Les
Cartésiens viendraient ici vainement à la charge avec leur idées
innées; je ne me donnerais certainement pas le quart de la peine qu'a
prise Mr. Locke pour attaquer de telles chimères. Quelle utilité,
en effet, de faire un gros livre, pour prouver une doctrine qui était
érigée en axiome il y a trois mille ans?

Suivant les principes que nous avons posés, et que nous croyons vrais,
celui qui a le plus d'imagination doit être regardé comme ayant le
plus d'esprit, ou de génie, car tous ces mots sont synonymes; et
encore une fois c'est par un abus honteux qu'on croit dire des choses
différentes, lorsqu'on ne dit que différents mots ou différents sons,
auxquels on n'a attaché aucune idée ou distinction réelle.

La plus belle, la plus grande, ou la plus forte imagination, est donc
la plus propre aux sciences, comme aux arts. Je ne décide point s'il
faut plus d'esprit pour exceller dans l'art des Aristotes, ou des
Descartes, que dans celui des Euripides ou des Sophocles; et si la
nature s'est mise en plus grands frais pour faire Newton que pour
former Corneille (ce dont je doute fort), mais il est certain que
c'est la seule imagination diversement appliquée qui a fait leur
différent triomphe et leur gloire immortelle.

Si quelqu'un passe pour avoir peu de jugement, avec beaucoup
d'imagination; cela veut dire que l'imagination trop abandonnée à elle
même, presque toujours comme occupée à se regarder dans le miroir de
ses sensations, n'a pas assez contracté l'habitude de les examiner
elles-mêmes avec attention; plus profondément pénétrée des traces,
ou des images, que de leur vérité ou de leur ressemblance.

Il est vrai que telle est la vivacité des ressorts de l'imagination,
que si l'attention, cette clé ou mère des sciences, ne s'en mêle,
il ne lui est guères permis que de parcourir et d'effleurer les objets.

Voyez cet oiseau sur la branche, il semble toujours prêt à s'envoler;
l'imagination est de même. Toujours emportée par le tourbillon du
sang et des esprits, une onde fait une trace, effacée par celle qui
suit; l'âme court après, souvent en vain: il faut qu'elle s'attende
à regretter ce qu'elle n'a pas assez vite saisi et fixé: et c'est
ainsi que l'imagination, véritable image du temps, se détruit et se
renouvelle sans cesse.

Tel est le chaos et la succession continuelle et rapide de nos
idées; elles se chassent, comme un flot pousse l'autre; de sorte
que si l'imagination n'emploie, pour ainsi dire, une partie de ses
muscles pour être comme en équilibre sur les cordes du cerveau, pour
se soutenir quelque temps sur un objet qui va fuir et s'empêcher de
tomber sur un autre, qu'il n'est pas encore temps de contempler, jamais
elle ne sera digne du beau nom de jugement. Elle exprimera vivement ce
qu'elle aura senti de même; elle formera des orateurs, des musiciens,
des peintres, des poètes, et jamais un seul philosophe. Au contraire
si, dès l'enfance, on accoutume l'imagination à se brider elle-même,
à ne point se laisser emporter à sa propre impétuosité, qui ne fait
que de brillants enthousiastes, à arrêter, contenir ses idées, à les
retourner dans tous les sens, pour voir toutes les faces d'un objet,
alors l'imagination prompte à juger embrassera par le raisonnement
la plus grande sphère d'objets, et sa vivacité, toujours de si bon
augure dans les enfants, et qu'il ne s'agit que de régler par l'étude
et l'exercice, ne sera plus qu'une pénétration clairvoyante, sans
laquelle on fait peu de progrès dans les sciences.

Tels sont les simples fondements sur lesquels a été bati l'édifice
de la logique. La nature les avait jetés pour tout le genre humain;
mais les uns en ont profité, les autres en ont abusé.

Malgré toutes ces prérogatives de l'homme sur les animaux, c'est lui
faire honneur que de le ranger dans la même classe. Il est vrai que,
jusqu'à un certain âge, il est plus animal qu'eux, parce qu'il apporte
moins d'instinct en naissant.

Quel est l'animal qui mourrait de faim au milieu d'une rivière de
lait? L'homme seul. Semblable à ce vieux enfant dont un moderne
parle d'après Arnobe, il ne connait ni les aliments qui lui sont
propres, ni l'eau qui peut le noyer, ni le feu qui peut le réduire
en poudre. Faites briller pour la première fois la lumière d'une
bougie aux yeux d'un enfant, il y portera machinalement le doigt,
comme pour savoir quel est le nouveau phénomène qu'il aperçoit; c'est
à ses dépens qu'il en connaîtra le danger, mais il n'y sera pas repris.

Mettez-le encore avec un animal sur le bord d'un précipice! lui seul
y tombera; il se noie, où l'autre se sauve à la nage. A quatorze ou
quinze ans, il entrevoit à peine les grands plaisirs qui l'attendent
dans la reproduction de son espèce; déjà adolescent, il ne sait pas
trop comment s'y prendre dans un jeu que la nature apprend si vite aux
animaux: il se cache, comme s'il était honteux d'avoir du plaisir et
d'être fait pour être heureux, tandis que les animaux se font gloire
d'être cyniques. Sans éducation, ils sont sans préjugés. Mais voyons
encore ce chien et cet enfant qui ont tous deux perdu leur maître dans
un grand chemin: l'enfant pleure, il ne sait à quel saint se vouer;
le chien, mieux servi par son odorat que l'autre par sa raison,
l'aura bientôt trouvé.

La nature nous avait donc faits pour être au dessous des animaux, ou du
moins pour faire par là même mieux éclater les prodiges de l'éducation,
qui seule nous tire du niveau et nous élève enfin au-dessus d'eux. Mais
accordera-t-on la même distinction aux sourds, aux aveugles-nés,
aux imbéciles, aux fous, aux hommes sauvages, ou qui ont été élevés
dans les bois avec les bêtes, à ceux dont l'affection hypocondriaque
a perdu l'imagination, enfin à toutes ces bêtes à figure humaine,
qui ne montrent que l'instinct le plus grossier? Non, tous ces hommes
de corps, et non d'esprit, ne méritent pas une classe particulière.

Nous n'avons pas dessein de nous dissimuler les objections qu'on peut
faire en faveur de la distinction primitive de l'homme et des animaux,
contre notre sentiment. Il y a, dit-on, dans l'homme une loi naturelle,
une connaissance du bien et du mal, qui n'a pas été gravée dans le
coeur des animaux.

Mais cette objection, ou plutôt cette assertion est-elle fondée sur
l'expérience, sans laquelle un philosophe peut tout rejeter? En
avons-nous quelqu'une qui nous convainque que l'homme seul a été
éclairé d'un rayon refusé à tous les autres animaux? S'il n'y en a
point, nous ne pouvons pas plus connaître par elle ce qui se passe
dans eux, et même dans les hommes, que ne pas sentir ce qui affecte
l'intérieur de notre être. Nous savons que nous pensons et que nous
avons des remords: un sentiment intime ne nous force que trop d'en
convenir; mais pour juger des remords d'autrui, ce sentiment qui est
dans nous est insuffisant: c'est pourquoi il en faut croire les autres
hommes sur leur parole, ou sur les signes sensibles et extérieurs
que nous avons remarqués en nous-mêmes, lorsque nous éprouvions la
même conscience et les mêmes tourments.

Mais pour décider si les animaux qui ne parlent point ont reçu
la loi naturelle, il faut s'en rapporter conséquemment à ces
signes dont je viens de parler, supposé qu'ils existent. Les faits
semblent le prouver. Le chien qui a mordu son maître qui l'agaçait,
a paru s'en repentir le moment suivant; on l'a vu triste, fâché,
n'osant se montrer, et s'avouer coupable par un air rampant et
humilié. L'histoire nous offre un exemple célèbre d'un lion qui ne
voulut pas déchirer un homme abandonné à sa fureur, parce qu'il le
reconnut pour son bienfaiteur. Qu'il serait à souhaiter que l'homme
même montrât toujours la même reconnaissance pour les bienfaits et le
même respect pour l'humanité! On n'aurait plus à craindre les ingrats,
ni ces guerres qui sont le fléau du genre humain et les vrais bourreaux
de la loi naturelle.

Mais un être à qui la nature a donné un instinct si précoce, si
éclairé, qui juge, combine, raisonne et délibère, autant que s'étend
et le lui permet la sphère de son activité; un être qui s'attache
par les bienfaits, qui se détache par les mauvais traitements et
va essayer un meilleur maître; un être d'une structure semblable à
la nôtre, qui fait les mêmes opérations, qui a les mêmes passions,
les mêmes douleurs, les mêmes plaisirs, plus ou moins vifs suivant
l'empire de l'imagination et la délicatesse des nerfs; un tel être
enfin ne montre-t-il pas clairement qu'il sent ses torts et les
nôtres, qu'il connait le bien et le mal et, en un mot, a conscience
de ce qu'il fait? Son âme qui marque comme la nôtre les mêmes joies,
les mêmes mortifications, les mêmes déconcertements, serait-elle
sans aucune répugnance à la vue de son semblable déchiré, ou après
l'avoir lui-même impitoyablement mis en pièces? Cela posé, le don
précieux dont il s'agit n'aurait point été refusé aux animaux; car
puisqu'ils nous offrent des signes évidents de leur repentir, comme
de leur intelligence, qu'y a-t-il d'absurde à penser que des êtres,
des machines presque aussi parfaites que nous, soient, comme nous,
faites pour penser et pour sentir la nature?

Qu'on ne m'objecte point que les animaux sont pour la plupart des êtres
féroces, qui ne sont pas capables de sentir les maux qu'ils font; car
tous les hommes distinguent-ils mieux les vices et les vertus? Il est
dans notre espèce de la férocité, comme dans la leur. Les hommes qui
sont dans la barbare habitude d'enfreindre la loi naturelle, n'en sont
pas si tourmentés que ceux qui la transgressent pour la première fois,
et que la force de l'exemple n'a point endurcis. Il en est de même des
animaux, comme des hommes. Les uns et les autres peuvent être plus
ou moins féroces par tempérament, et ils le deviennent encore plus
avec ceux qui le sont. Mais un animal doux, pacifique, qui vit avec
d'autres animaux semblables, et d'aliments doux, sera ennemi du sang
et du carnage, il rougira intérieurement de l'avoir versé; avec cette
différence peut-être que, comme chez eux tout est immolé aux besoins,
aux plaisirs et aux commodités de la vie, dont ils jouissent plus
que nous, leurs remords ne semblent pas devoir être si vifs que les
nôtres, parceque nous ne sommes pas dans la même nécessité qu'eux. La
coutume émousse et peut-être étouffe les remords, comme les plaisirs.

Mais je veux pour un moment supposer que je me trompe, et qu'il n'est
pas juste que presque tout l'univers ait tort à ce sujet, tandis
que j'aurais seul raison; j'accorde que les animaux, même les plus
excellents, ne connaissent pas la distinction du bien et du mal moral,
qu'ils n'ont aucune mémoire des attentions qu'on a eues pour eux,
du bien qu'on leur a fait, aucun sentiment de leurs propres vertus;
que ce lion, par exemple, dont j'ai parlé après tant d'autres, ne se
souvienne pas de n'avoir pas voulu ravir la vie à cet homme qui fut
livré à sa furie, dans un spectacle plus inhumain que tous les lions,
les tigres et les ours; tandis que nos compatriotes se battent, Suisses
contre Suisses, frères contre frères, se reconnaissent, s'enchaînent,
ou se tuent sans remords, parce qu'un prince paie leurs meurtres: je
suppose enfin que la loi naturelle n'ait pas été donnée aux animaux,
quelles en seront les conséquences? L'homme n'est pas pétri d'un limon
plus précieux; la nature n'a employé qu'une seule et même pâte, dont
elle a seulement varié les levains. Si donc l'animal ne se repent
pas d'avoir violé le sentiment intérieur dont je parle, ou plutôt
s'il en est absolument privé, il faut nécessairement que l'homme
soit dans le même cas: moyennant quoi adieu la loi naturelle et tous
ces beaux traités qu'on a publiés sur elle! Tout le règne animal en
serait généralement dépourvû. Mais réciproquement si l'homme ne peut
se dispenser de convenir qu'il distingue toujours, lorsque la santé le
laisse jouïr de lui-même, ceux qui ont de la probité, de l'humanité,
de la vertu, de ceux qui ne sont ni humains, ni vertueux, ni honnêtes
gens; qu'il est facile de distinguer ce qui est vice, ou vertu, par
l'unique plaisir ou la propre répugnance qui en sont comme les effets
naturels, il s'ensuit que les animaux formés de la même matière,
à laquelle il n'a peut-être manqué qu'un degré de fermentation pour
égaler les hommes en tout, doivent participer aux mêmes prérogatives
de l'animalité, et qu'ainsi il n'est point d'âme, ou de substance
sensitive, sans remords. La réflexion suivante va fortifier celles-ci.

On ne peut détruire la loi naturelle. L'empreinte en est si forte dans
tous les animaux, que je ne doute nullement que les plus sauvages
et les plus féroces n'aient quelques moments de repentir. Je crois
que la fille sauvage de Châlons en Champagne aura porté la peine de
son crime, s'il est vrai qu'elle ait mangé sa soeur. Je pense la même
chose de tous ceux qui commettent des crimes, même involontaires, ou de
tempérament: de Gaston d'Orléans qui ne pouvait s'empêcher de voler;
de certaine femme qui fut sujette au même vice dans la grossesse, et
dont ses enfants héritèrent; de celle qui dans le même état, mangea son
mari; de cette autre qui égorgeait les enfants, salait leurs corps,
et en mangeait tous les jours comme du petit salé; de cette fille
de voleur anthropophage, qui la devint à 12 ans, quoiqu'ayant perdu
père et mère à l'âge d'un an elle eût été élevée par d'honnêtes gens,
pour ne rien dire de tant d'autres exemples dont nos observateurs
sont remplis, et qui prouvent tous qu'il est mille vices et vertus
héréditaires, qui passent des parents aux enfants, comme ceux de la
nourrice à ceux qu'elle allaite. Je dis donc et j'accorde que ces
malheureux ne sentent pas pour la plupart sur le champ l'énormité
de leur action. La boulimie, par exemple, ou la faim canine, peut
éteindre tout sentiment; c'est une manie d'estomac qu'on est forcé
de satisfaire. Mais revenues à elles-mêmes, et comme désenivrées,
quels remords pour ces femmes qui se rappellent le meurtre qu'elles
ont commis dans ce qu'elles avaient de plus cher! quelle punition d'un
mal involontaire, auquel elles n'ont pu résister, dont elles n'ont eu
aucune conscience! Cependant ce n'est point assez apparemment pour les
juges. Parmi les femmes dont je parle, l'une fut rouée, et brûlée,
l'autre enterrée vive. Je sens tout ce que demande l'intérêt de la
société. Mais il serait sans doute à souhaiter qu'il n'y eût pour
juges que d'excellents médecins. Eux seuls pourraient distinguer le
criminel innocent, du coupable. Si la raison est esclave d'un sens
dépravé, ou en fureur, comment peut-elle le gouverner?

Mais si le crime porte avec soi sa propre punition plus ou moins
cruelle; si la plus longue et la plus barbare habitude ne peut
tout-à-fait arracher le repentir des coeurs les plus inhumains;
s'ils sont déchirés par la mémoire même de leurs actions; pour quoi
effrayer l'imagination des esprits faibles par un enfer, par des
spectres, et des précipices de feu, moins réels encore que ceux
de Pascal [6]? Qu'est-il besoin de recourir à des fables, comme un
pape de bonne foi l'a dit lui-même, pour tourmenter les malheureux
mêmes qu'on fait périr, parce qu'on ne les trouve pas assez punis
par leur propre conscience, qui est leur premier bourreau? Ce n'est
pas que je veuille dire que tous les criminels soient injustement
punis; je prétends seulement que ceux dont la volonté est dépravée,
et la conscience éteinte, le sont assez par leurs remords, quand ils
reviennent à eux-mêmes; remords, j'ose encore le dire, dont la nature
aurait dû en ce cas, ce me semble, délivrer des malheureux entraînés
par une fatale nécessité.

Les criminels, les méchants, les ingrats, ceux enfin que ne sentent
pas la nature, tyrans malheureux et indignes du jour, ont beau se
faire un cruel plaisir de leur barbarie, il est des moments calmes et
de réflexion, où la conscience vengeresse s'élève, dépose contr'eux,
et les condamne à être presque sans cesse déchirés de ses propres
mains. Qui tourmente les hommes, est tourmenté par lui-même; et les
maux qu'il sentira seront la juste mesure de ceux qu'il aura faits.

D'un autre côté, il y a tant de plaisir à faire du bien, à sentir,
à reconnaître celui qu'on reçoit, tant de contentement à pratiquer
la vertu, à être doux, humain, tendre, charitable, compatissant et
généreux (ce seul mot renferme toutes les vertus), que je tiens pour
assez puni quiconque a le malheur de n'être pas né vertueux.

Nous n'avons pas originairement été faits pour être savants;
c'est peut-être par une espèce d'abus de nos facultés organiques,
que nous le sommes devenus; et cela à la charge de l'Etat, qui
nourrit une multitude de fainéants, que la vanité a decorés du nom
de philosophes. La nature nous a tous créés uniquement pour être
heureux; oui, tous, depuis le ver qui rampe, jusqu'à l'aigle qui
se perd dans la nue. C'est pourquoi elle a donné à tous les animaux
quelque portion de la loi naturelle, portion plus ou moins exquise
selon que le comportent les organes bien conditionnés de chaque animal.

A présent, comment définirons-nous la loi naturelle? C'est un sentiment
qui nous apprend ce que nous ne devons pas faire, parce que nous ne
voudrions pas qu'on nous le fît. Oserais-je ajouter à cette idée
commune, qu'il me semble que ce sentiment n'est qu'une espèce de
crainte, ou de frayeur, aussi salutaire à l'espèce qu'a l'individu;
car peut-être ne respectons-nous la bourse et la vie des autres, que
pour nous conserver nos biens, notre honneur et nous-mêmes; semblables
à ces Ixions du Christianisme qui n'aiment Dieu et n'embrassent tant
de chimériques vertus, que parce qu'ils craignent l'enfer.

Vous voyez que la loi naturelle n'est qu'un sentiment intime,
qui appartient encore à l'imagination, comme tous les autres,
parmi lesquels on compte la pensée. Par conséquent elle ne suppose
évidemment ni éducation, ni révélation, ni législateur, à moins qu'on
ne veuille la confondre avec les lois civiles, à la manière ridicule
des théologiens.

Les armes du fanatisme peuvent détruire ceux qui soutiennent ces
vérités; mais elles ne détruiront jamais ces vérités mêmes.

Ce n'est pas que je révoque en doute l'existence d'un Etre suprême; il
me semble au contraire que le plus grand degré de probabilité est pour
elle: mais comme cette existence ne prouve pas plus la nécessité d'un
culte, que toute autre, c'est une vérité théorique, qui n'est guère
d'usage dans la pratique: de sorte que, comme on peut dire, d'après
tant d'expériences, que la religion ne suppose pas l'exacte probité,
les mêmes raisons autorisent à penser que l'athéisme ne l'exclut pas.

Qui sait d'ailleurs si la raison de l'existence de l'homme ne serait
pas dans son existence même? Peut-être a-t-il été jeté au hasard
sur un point de la surface de la terre, sans qu'on puisse savoir ni
comment, ni pourquoi, mais seulement qu'il doit vivre et mourir,
semblable à ces champignons, qui paraissent d'un jour à l'autre,
ou à ces fleurs qui bordent les fossés et couvrent les murailles.

Ne nous perdons point dans l'infini, nous ne sommes pas faits pour en
avoir la moindre idée; il nous est absolument impossible de remonter
à l'origine des choses. Il est égal d'ailleurs pour notre repos,
que la matière soit éternelle, ou qu'elle ait été créée, qu'il y ait
un Dieu, ou qu'il n'y en ait pas. Quelle folie de tant se tourmenter
pour ce qu'il est impossible de connaître, et ce qui ne nous rendrait
pas plus heureux, quand nous en viendrions à bout.

Mais, dit-on, lisez tous les ouvrages des Fénelon, des Nieuventit, des
Abadie, des Derham, des Raï, etc. Eh bien! que m'apprendront-ils? ou
plutôt que m'ont-ils appris? Ce ne sont que d'ennuyeuses répétitions
d'écrivains zélés, dont l'un n'ajoute à l'autre qu'un verbiage,
plus propres à fortifier qu'à saper les fondements de l'athéisme. Le
volume des preuves qu'on tire du spectacle de la nature, ne leur donne
pas plus de force. La structure seule d'un doigt, d'une oreille,
d'un oeil, une observation de Malpighi, prouve tout, et sans doute
beaucoup mieux que Descartes et Malebranche; ou tout le reste ne prouve
rien. Les déistes, et les Chrétiens mêmes devraient donc se contenter
de faire observer que, dans tout le règne animal, les mêmes vues sont
exécutées par une infinité de divers moyens, tous cependant exactement
géométriques. Car de quelles plus fortes armes pourrait-on terrasser
les athées? Il est vrai que si ma raison ne me trompe pas, l'homme et
tout l'univers semblent avoir été destinés à cette unité de vues. Le
soleil, l'air, l'eau, l'organisation, la forme des corps, tout est
arrangé dans l'oeil, comme dans un miroir qui présente fidèlement à
l'imagination les objets qui y sont peints, suivant les lois qu'exige
cette infinie variété de corps qui servent à la vision. Dans l'oreille,
nous trouvons partout une diversité frappante, sans que cette diverse
fabrique de l'homme, des animaux, des oiseaux, des poissons, produise
différents usages. Toutes les oreilles sont si mathématiquement
faites, qu'elles tendent également au seul et même but, qui est
d'entendre. Le hasard, demande le déiste, serait-il donc assez grand
géomètre, pour varier ainsi à son gré les ouvrages dont on le suppose
auteur, sans que tant de diversité pût l'empêcher d'atteindre la même
fin? Il objecte encore ces parties évidemment contenues dans l'animal
pour de futurs usages, le papillon dans la chenille, l'homme dans
le ver spermatique, un polype entier dans chacune de ses parties,
la valvule du trou ovale, le poumon dans le foetus, les dents dans
leurs alvéoles, les os dans les fluides, qui s'en détachent et se
durcissent d'une manière incompréhensible. Et comme les partisans
de ce système, loin de rien négliger pour le faire valoir, ne se
lassent jamais d'accumuler preuves sur preuves, ils veulent profiter
de tout, et de la faiblesse même de l'esprit en certain cas. Voyez,
disent-ils, les Spinoza, les Vanini, les Desbarreaux, les Boindin,
apôtres qui font plus d'honneur que de tort au déisme! La durée de la
santé de ces derniers a été la mesure de leur incrédulité: et il est
rare en effet, ajoutent-ils, qu'on n'abjure pas l'athéisme, dès que
les passions se sont affaiblies avec le corps qui en est l'instrument.

Voilà certainement tout ce qu'on peut dire de plus favorable à
l'existence d'un Dieu, quoique le dernier argument soit frivole, en ce
que ces conversions sont courtes, l'esprit reprenant presque toujours
ses anciennes opinions et se conduisant en conséquence, dès qu'il a
recouvré ou plutôt retrouvé ses forces dans celles du corps. En voilà
du moins beaucoup plus que n'en dit le médecin Diderot dans ses Pensées
philosophiques, sublime ouvrage qui ne convaincra pas un athée. Que
répondre en effet à un homme qui dit? "Nous ne connaissons point
la nature: des causes cachées dans son sein pourraient avoir tout
produit. Voyez à votre tour le polype de Trembley! ne contient-il
pas en soi les causes qui donnent lieu à sa régénération? quelle
absurdité y aurait-il donc à penser qu'il est des causes physiques
pour lesquelles tout a été fait, et auxquelles toute la chaîne de ce
vaste univers est si nécessairement liée et assujettie, que rien de ce
qui arrive ne pouvait pas ne pas arriver; des causes dont l'ignorance
absolument invincible nous a fait recourir à un Dieu, qui n'est pas
même un être de raison, suivant certains? Ainsi, détruire le hasard, ce
n'est pas prouver l'existence d'un Etre supreme, puisqu'il peut y avoir
autre chose qui ne serait ni hasard, ni Dieu, je veux dire la Nature,
dont l'étude par conséquent ne peut faire que des incrédules, comme
le prouve la façon de penser de tous ses plus heureux scrutateurs."

Le poids de l'univers n'ébranle donc pas un véritable athée, loin
de l'écraser; et tous ces indices mille et mille fois rebattus d'un
Créateur, indices qu'on met fort au-dessus de la façon de penser
dans nos semblables, ne sont évidents, quelque loin qu'on pousse cet
argument, que pour les Antipyrrhoniens, ou pour ceux qui ont assez
de confiance dans leur raison pour croire pouvoir juger sur certaines
apparences, auxquelles, comme vous voyez, les athées peuvent en opposer
d'autres peut-être aussi fortes et absolument contraires. Car si
nous écoutons encore les naturalistes, ils nous diront que les mêmes
causes qui dans les mains d'un chimiste et par le hasard de divers
mélanges ont fait le premier miroir, dans celles de la nature ont
fait l'eau pure, qui en sert à la simple bergère: que le mouvement
qui conserve le monde, a pu le créer; que chaque corps a pris la
place que sa nature lui a assignée; que l'air a dû entourer la terre,
par la même raison que le fer et les autres métaux sont l'ouvrage
de ses entrailles; que le soleil est une production aussi naturelle,
que celle de l'électricité; qu'il n'a pas plus été fait pour échauffer
la terre et tous ses habitants, qu'il brûle quelquefois, que la pluie
pour faire pousser les grains, qu'elle gâte souvent; que le miroir et
l'eau n'ont pas plus été faits pour qu'on pût s'y regarder, que tous
les corps polis qui ont la même propriété: que l'oeil est à la vérité
une espèce de trumeau dans lequel l'âme peut contempler l'image des
objets, tels qu'ils lui sont représentés par ces corps: mais qu'il
n'est pas démontré que cet organe ait été réellement fait exprès
pour cette contemplation, ni exprès placé dans l'orbite; qu'enfin
il se pourrait bien faire que Lucrèce, le médecin Lamy et tous les
Epicuriens anciens et modernes eûssent raison, lorsqu'ils avancent que
l'oeil ne voit que par ce qu'il se trouve organisé, et placé comme il
l'est, que posées une fois les mêmes règles de mouvement que suit la
nature dans la génération et le développement des corps, il n'était
pas possible que ce merveilleux organe fût organisé et placé autrement.

Tel est le pour et le contre, et l'abrégé des grandes raisons qui
partageront éternellement les philosophes. Je ne prends aucun parti.

    "Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites."

C'est ce que je disais à un Français de mes amis, aussi franc
Pyrrhonien que moi, homme de beaucoup de mérite, et digne d'un meilleur
sort. Il me fit à ce sujet une réponse fort singulière. Il est vrai,
me dit-il, que le pour et le contre ne doit point inquiéter l'âme d'un
philosophe, qui voit que rien n'est démontré avec assez de clarté
pour forcer son consentement, et même que les idées indicatives qui
s'offrent d'un côté, sont ausitôt détruites par celles qui se montrent
de l'autre. Cependant, reprit-il, l'univers ne sera jamais heureux,
à moins qu'il ne soit athée. Voici quelles étaient les raisons de
cet abominable homme. Si l'athéisme, disait-il, était généralement
répandu, toutes les branches de la religion seraient alors détruites et
coupées par la racine. Plus de guerres théologiques; plus de soldats
de religion; soldats terribles! la nature infectée d'un poison sacré,
reprendrait ses droits et sa pureté. Sourds à toute autre voix, les
mortels tranquilles ne suivraient que les conseils spontanés de leur
propre individu, les seuls qu'on ne méprise point impunément et qui
peuvent seuls nous conduire au bonheur par les agréables sentiers de
la vertu.

Telle est la loi naturelle; quiconque en est rigide observateur,
est honnête homme, et mérite la confiance de tout le genre
humain. Quiconque ne la suit pas scrupuleusement, a beau affecter les
spécieux dehors d'une autre religion, est un fourbe, ou un hypocrite
dont je me défie.

Après cela, qu'un vain peuple pense différemment; qu'il ose affirmer
qu'il y va de la probité même, à ne pas croire la Révélation; qu'il
faut en un mot un autre religion que celle de la nature, quelle
qu'elle soit! quelle misère! quelle pitié! et la bonne opinion que
chacun nous donne de celle qu'il a embrassée! Nous ne briguons point
ici le suffrage du vulgaire. Qui dresse dans son coeur des autels à
la superstition, est né pour adorer des idoles, et non pour sentir
la vertu.

Mais puisque toutes les facultés de l'âme dépendent tellement de
la propre organisation du cerveau et de tout le corps, qu'elles ne
sont visiblement que cette organisation même: voilà une machine bien
éclairée! car enfin quand l'homme seul aurait reçu en partage la
loi naturelle, en serait-il moins une machine? Des roues, quelques
ressorts de plus que dans les animaux les plus parfaits, le cerveau
proportionnellement plus proche du coeur, et recevant aussi plus de
sang, la même raison donnée; que sais-je enfin? des causes inconnues
produiraient toujours cette conscience délicate, si facile à blesser,
ces remords qui ne sont pas plus étrangers à la matière que la pensée,
et en un mot toute la différence qu'on suppose ici. L'organisation
suffirait-elle donc a tout? oui, encore une fois. Puisque la pensée
se développe visiblement avec les organes, pourquoi la matière dont
ils sont faits ne serait-elle pas aussi susceptible de remords,
quand une fois elle a acquis avec le temps la faculté de sentir?

L'âme n'est donc qu'un vain terme dont on n'a point d'idée, et dont
un bon esprit ne doit se servir que pour nommer la partie qui pense
en nous. Posé le moindre principe de mouvement, les corps animés
auront tout ce qu'il leur faut pour se mouvoir, sentir, penser,
se repentir, et se conduire en un mot dans le physique, et dans le
moral qui en dépend.

Nous ne supposons rien; ceux qui croiraient que toutes les difficultés
ne seraient pas encore levées, vont trouver des expériences, qui
achèveront de les satisfaire.

1. Toutes les chairs des animaux palpitent après la mort, d'autant
plus longtemps que l'animal est plus froid et transpire moins: les
tortues, les lézards, les serpents, etc. en font foi.

2. Les muscles séparés du corps, se retirent, lorsqu'on les pique.

3. Les entrailles conservent longtemps leur mouvement péristaltique,
ou vermiculaire.

4. Une simple injection d'eau chaude ranime le coeur et les muscles,
suivant Cowper.

5. Le coeur de la grenouille, surtout exposé au soleil, encore mieux
sur une table ou une assiette chaude, se remue pendant une heure et
plus, après avoir été arraché du corps. Le mouvement semble-t-il
perdu sans ressource? il n'y a qu'à piquer le coeur, et ce muscle
creux bat encore. Harvey a fait la même observation sur les crapauds.

6. Bacon de Verulam, dans son Traité Sylva-Sylvarum, parle d'un homme
convaincu de trahison, qu'on ouvrit vivant, et dont le coeur jeté
dans l'eau chaude sauta à plusieurs reprises, toujours moins haut,
à la distance perpendiculaire de 2 pieds.

7. Prenez un petit poulet encore dans l'oeuf; arrachez lui le coeur;
vous observerez les mêmes phénomènes, avec à peu près les mêmes
circonstances. La seule chaleur de l'haleine ranime un animal prêt
à périr dans la machine pneumatique.

Les mêmes expériences que nous devons à Boyle et à Sténon, se font dans
les pigeons, dans les chiens, dans les lapins, dont les morceaux de
coeur se remuent, comme les coeurs entiers. On voit le même mouvement
dans les pattes de taupe arrachées.

8. La chenille, les vers, l'araignée, la mouche, l'anguille offrent
les mêmes choses à considérer; et le mouvement des parties coupées
augmente dans l'eau chaude, à cause du feu qu'elle contient.

9. Un soldat ivre emporta d'un coup de sabre la tête d'un coq
d'Inde. Cet animal resta debout, ensuite il marcha, courut; venant à
rencontrer une muraille, il se tourna, battit des ailes, en continuant
de courir, et tomba enfin. Etendu par terre, tous les muscles de
ce coq se remuaient encore. Voilà ce que j'ai vu, et il est facile
de voir à peu près ces phénomènes dans les petits chats, ou chiens,
dont on a coupé la tête.

10. Les polypes font plus que de se mouvoir, après la section; ils
se reproduisent dans huit jours en autant d'animaux qu'il y a de
parties coupées. J'en suis fâché pour le système des naturalistes
sur la génération, ou plutôt j'en suis bien aise; car que cette
découverte nous apprend bien à ne jamais rien conclure de général,
même de toutes les expériences connues, et les plus décisives!

Voilà beaucoup plus de faits qu'il n'en faut, pour prouver d'une
manière incontestable que chaque petite fibre, ou partie des corps
organisés, se meut par un principe qui lui est propre, et dont l'action
ne dépend point des nerfs, comme les mouvements volontaires, puisque
les mouvements en question s'exercent sans que les parties qui les
manifestent aient aucun commerce avec la circulation. Or, si cette
force se fait remarquer jusques dans des morceaux de fibres, le coeur,
qui est un composé de fibres singulièrement entrelacées, doit avoir la
même propriété. L'histoire de Bacon n'était pas nécessaire pour me le
persuader. Il m'était facile d'en juger, et par la parfaite analogie
de la structure du coeur de l'homme et des animaux; et par la masse
même du premier, dans laquelle ce mouvement ne se cache aux yeux,
que parce qu'il y est étouffé; et enfin parce que tout est froid et
affaissé dans les cadavres. Si les dissections se faisaient sur des
criminels suppliciés, dont les corps sont encore chauds, on verrait
dans leur coeur les mêmes mouvements qu'on observe dans les muscles
du visage des gens décapités.

Tel est ce principe moteur des corps entiers, ou des parties coupées en
morceaux, qu'il produit des mouvements non déréglés, comme on l'a cru,
mais très réguliers, et cela, tant dans les animaux chauds et parfaits,
que dans ceux qui sont froids et imparfaits. Il ne reste donc aucune
ressource à nos adversaires, si ce n'est que de nier mille et mille
faits que chacun peut facilement vérifier.

Si on me demande à présent quel est le siège de cette force innée dans
nos corps, je réponds qu'elle réside très clairement dans ce que les
anciens ont appellé parenchyme; c'est à dire dans la substance propre
des parties, abstraction faite des veines, des artères, des nerfs,
en un mot de l'organisation de tout le corps; et que par conséquent
chaque partie contient en soi des ressorts plus ou moins vifs, selon
le besoin qu'elles en avaient.

Entrons dans quelque détail de ces ressorts de la machine humaine. Tous
les mouvements vitaux, animaux, naturels et automatiques se font par
leur action. N'est-ce pas machinalement que le corps se retire, frappé
de terreur à l'aspect d'un précipice inattendu? que les paupières
se baissent à la menace d'un coup, comme on l'a dit? que la pupille
s'étrécit au grand jour pour conserver la rétine, et s'élargit pour
voir les objets dans l'obscurité? n'est-ce pas machinalement que les
pores de la peau se ferment en hiver, pour que le froid ne pénètre
pas l'intérieur des vaisseaux? que l'estomac se soulève, irrité par
le poison, par une certaine quantité d'opium, par tous les émétiques,
etc.? que le coeur, les artères, les muscles se contractent pendant
le sommeil, comme pendant la veille? que le poumon fait l'office d'un
souflet continuellement exercé? n'est-ce pas machinalement qu'agissent
tous les sphincters de la vessie, du rectum, etc.? que le coeur a
une contraction plus forte que tout autre muscle? que les muscles
érecteurs font dresser la verge dans l'homme, comme dans les animaux
qui s'en battent le ventre, et même dans l'enfant, capable d'érection,
pour peu que cette partie soit irritée? Ce qui prouve, pour le dire
en passant, qu'il est un ressort singulier dans ce membre, encore peu
connu, et qui produit des effets qu'on n'a point encore bien expliqués,
malgré toutes les lumières de l'anatomie.

Je ne m'étendrai pas davantage sur tous ces petits ressorts
subalternes connus de tout le monde. Mais il en est un autre plus
subtil, et plus merveilleux qui les anime tous; il est la source de
tous nos sentiments, de tous nos plaisirs, de toutes nos passions, de
toutes nos pensées; car le cerveau a ses muscles pour penser, comme
les jambes pour marcher. Je veux parler de ce principe incitant,
et impétueux, qu'Hippocrate appelle enormôn (l'âme). Ce principe
existe, et il a son siège dans le cerveau à l'origine des nerfs,
par lesquels il exerce son empire sur tout le reste du corps. Par là
s'explique tout ce qui peut s'expliquer, jusqu'aux effets surprenants
des maladies de l'imagination.

Mais, pour ne pas languir dans une richesse et une fécondité mal
entendue, il faut se borner à un petit nombre de questions et de

Pourquoi la vue ou la simple idée d'une belle femme nous cause-t-elle
des mouvements et des désirs singuliers? Ce qui se passe alors dans
certains organes, vient-il de la nature même de ces organes? Point
du tout; mais du commerce et de l'espèce de sympathie de ces muscles
avec l'imagination. Il n'y a ici qu'un premier ressort excité par le
bene placitum des anciens, ou par l'image de la beauté, qui en excite
un autre, lequel était fort assoupi, quand l'imagination l'a éveillé:
et comment cela, si ce n'est par le désordre et le tumulte du sang
et des esprits, qui galopent avec une promptitude extraordinaire,
et vont gonfler les corps caverneux?

Puisqu'il est des communications évidentes entre la mère et l'enfant
[7], et qu'il est dur de nier des faits rapportés par Tulpius et
par d'autres écrivains aussi dignes de foi (il n'y en a point qui le
soient plus), nous croirons que c'est par la même voie que le foetus
ressent l'impétuosité de l'imagination maternelle, comme une cire
molle reçoit toutes sortes d'impressions; et que les mêmes traces,
ou envies de la mère, peuvent s'imprimer sur le foetus, sans que
cela puisse se comprendre, quoiqu'en disent Blondel et tous ses
adhérents. Ainsi nous faisons réparation d'honneur au P. Malebranche,
beaucoup trop raillé de sa crédulité par les auteurs qui n'ont point
observé d'assez près la nature et ont voulu l'assujettir à leur idées.

Voyez le portrait de ce fameux Pope, au moins le Voltaire
des Anglais. Les efforts, les nerfs de son génie sont peints
sur sa physionomie; elle est toute en convulsion; ses yeux
sortent de l'orbite, ses sourcils s'élèvent avec les muscles du
front. Pourquoi? C'est que l'origine des nerfs est en travail et que
tout le corps doit se ressentir d'une espèce d'accouchement aussi
laborieux. S'il n'y avait une corde interne qui tirât ainsi celles
du dehors, d'où viendraient tous ces phénomènes? Admettre une âme,
pour les expliquer, c'est être réduit à l'opération du St. Esprit.

En effet, si ce qui pense en mon cerveau n'est pas une partie
de ce viscère, et conséquemment de tout le corps, pourquoi,
lorsque tranquille dans mon lit je forme le plan d'un ouvrage,
ou que je poursuis un raisonnement abstrait, pourquoi mon sang
s'échauffe-t-il? pourquoi la fièvre de mon esprit passe-t-elle dans
mes veines? Demandez-le aux hommes d'imagination, aux grandes poètes,
à ceux qu'un sentiment bien rendu ravit, qu'un goût exquis, que les
charmes de la nature, de la vérité ou de la vertu transportent! Par
leur enthousiasme, par ce qu'ils vous diront avoir éprouvé, vous
jugerez de la cause par les effets: par cette harmonie que Borelli,
qu'un seul anatomiste a mieux connue que tous les Leibniziens, vous
connaîtrez l'unité matérielle de l'homme. Car enfin si la tension des
nerfs qui fait la douleur, cause la fièvre, par laquelle l'esprit
est troublé et n'a plus de volonté; et que réciproquement l'esprit
trop exercé trouble le corps, et allume ce feu de consomption qui a
enlevé Bayle dans un âge si peu avancé; si telle titillation me fait
vouloir, me force de désirer ardemment ce dont je ne me souciais
nullement le moment d'auparavant; si à leur tour certaines traces
du cerveau excitent le même prurit et les mêmes désirs, pourquoi
faire double ce qui n'est évidemment qu'un? C'est en vain qu'on se
récrie sur l'empire de la volonté. Pour un ordre qu'elle donne, elle
subit cent fois le joug. Et quelle merveille que le corps obéisse dan
l'état sain, puisqu'un torrent de sang et d'esprits vient l'y forcer,
la volonté ayant pour ministres une légion invisible de fluides plus
vifs que l'éclair, et toujours prêts a la servir! Mais comme c'est
par les nerfs que son pouvoir s'exerce, c'est aussi par eux qu'il est
arrêté. La meilleure volonté d'un amant épuisé, les plus violents
désirs lui rendront-ils sa vigueur perdue? Hélas! non; et elle en
sera la première punie, parceque, posées certaines circonstances,
il n'est pas dans sa puissance de ne pas vouloir du plaisir. Ce que
j'ai dit de la paralysie, etc. revient ici.

La jaunisse vous surprend! ne savez vous pas que la couleur
des corps dépend de celle des verres au travers desquels on les
regarde! Ignorez-vous que telle est la teinte des humeurs, telle
est celle des objets, au moins par rapport à nous, vains jouets
de mille illusions? Mais ôtez cette teinte de l'humeur aqueuse de
l'oeil; faites couler la bile par son tamis naturel: alors l'âme
ayant d'autres yeux, ne verra plus jaune. N'est ce pas encore ainsi
qu'en abattant la cataracte, ou en injectant le canal d'Eustachi,
on rend la vue aux aveugles, et l'ouie aux sourds? Combien de gens
qui n'étaient peut-être que d'habiles charlatans dans des siècles
ignorants, ont passé pour faire de grands miracles! La belle âme et
la puissante volonté, qui ne peut agir qu'autant que les dispositions
du corps le lui permettent, et dont les goûts changent avec l'âge et
la fièvre! Faut-il donc s'étonner si les philosophes ont toujours eu
en vue la santé du corps pour conserver celle de l'âme, si Pythagore
a aussi soigneusement ordonné la diète, que Platon a défendu le
vin? Le régime qui convient au corps, est toujours celui par lequel
les médecins sensés prétendent qu'on doit préluder, lorsqu'il s'agit
de former l'esprit, de l'élever à la connaissance de la vérité et de
la vertu; vains sons dans le désordre des maladies et le tumulte des
sens! Sans les préceptes de l'hygiène, Epictète, Socrate, Platon,
etc. prêchent en vain: toute morale est infructueuse, pour qui n'a
pas la sobrieté en partage: c'est la source de toutes les vertus
comme l'intempérance est celle de tous les vices.

En faut-il davantage (et pourquoi irais-je me perdre dans l'histoire
des passions, qui toutes s'expliquent par l'enormôn d'Hippocrate) pour
prouver que l'homme n'est qu'un animal, ou un assemblage de ressorts,
qui tous se montent les uns par les autres, sans qu'on puisse dire
par quel point du cercle humain la nature a commencé? Si ces ressorts
diffèrent entr'eux, ce n'est donc que par leur siège et par quelques
degrés de force, et jamais par leur nature; et par conséquent l'âme
n'est qu'un principe de mouvement, ou une partie matérielle sensible
du cerveau, qu'on peut, sans craindre l'erreur, regarder comme un
ressort principal de toute la machine, qui a une influence visible
sur tous les autres, et même parait avoir été fait le premier; en
sorte que tous les autres n'en seraient qu'une émanation, comme on
le verra par quelques observations que je rapporterai et qui ont été
faites sur divers embryons.

Cette oscillation naturelle, ou propre à notre machine, et dont est
douée chaque fibre, et, pour ainsi dire, chaque élément fibreux,
semblable à celle d'une pendule, ne peut toujours s'exercer. Il faut
la renouveler, à mesure qu'elle se perd; lui donner des forces, quand
elle languit; l'affaiblir, lorsqu'elle est opprimée par un excès de
force et de vigueur. C'est en cela seul que la vraie médecine consiste.

Le corps n'est qu'une horloge, dont le nouveau chyle est l'horloger. Le
premier soin de la nature, quand il entre dans le sang, c'est d'y
exciter une sorte de fièvre, que les chimistes, qui ne rêvent que
fourneaux, ont dû prendre pour une fermentation. Cette fièvre procure
une plus grande filtration d'esprits, qui machinalement vont animer
les muscles et le coeur, comme s'ils y étaient envoyés par ordre de
la volonté.

Ce sont donc les causes ou les forces de la vie qui entretiennent
ainsi durant 100 ans le mouvement perpétuel des solides et des
fluides, aussi nécessaire aux uns qu'aux autres. Mais qui peut dire
si les solides contribuent à ce jeu, plus que les fluides, et vice
versa? Tout ce qu'on sait, c'est que l'action des premiers serait
bientôt anéantie, sans le secours des seconds. Ce sont les liqueurs
qui par leur choc éveillent et conservent l'élasticité des vaisseaux,
de laquelle dépend leur propre circulation. De là vient qu'après la
mort le ressort naturel de chaque substance est plus ou moins fort
encore suivant les restes de la vie, auxquels il survit, pour expirer
le dernier. Tant il est vrai que cette force des parties animales peut
bien se conserver et s'augmenter par celle de la circulation, mais
qu'elle n'en dépend point, puisqu'elle se passe même de l'intégrité
de chaque membre, ou viscère, comme on l'a vu.

Je n'ignore pas que cette opinion n'a pas été goûtée de tous les
savants, et que Stahl surtout l'a fort dédaignée. Ce grand chimiste
a voulu nous persuader que l'âme était la seule cause de tous nos
mouvements. Mais c'est parler en fanatique, et non en philosophe.

Pour détruire l'hypothèse Stahlienne, il ne faut pas faire tant
d'efforts que je vois qu'on en a faits avant moi. Il n'y a qu'à jeter
les yeux sur un joueur de violon. Quelle souplesse! Quelle agilité
dans les doigts! Les mouvements sont si prompts, qu'il ne paraît
presque pas y avoir de succession. Or, je prie, ou plutôt je défie
les Stahliens de me dire, eux qui connaissent si bien tout ce que peut
notre âme, comment il serait possible qu'elle exécutât si vite tant de
mouvements, des mouvements qui se passent si loin d'elle, et en tant
d'endroits divers. C'est supposer un joueur de flûte qui pourrait faire
de brillantes cadences sur une infinité de trous qu'il ne connaitrait
pas, et auxquels il ne pourrait seulement pas appliquer le doigt.

Mais disons avec Mr. Hecquet qu'il n'est pas permis à tout le monde
d'aller à Corinthe. Et pourquoi Stahl n'aurait-il pas été encore plus
favorisé de la nature en qualité d'homme, qu'en qualité de chimiste et
de praticien? Il fallait (heureux mortel!) qu'il eût reçu une autre
âme que le reste des hommes; une âme souveraine, qui non contente
d'avoir quelque empire sur les muscles volontaires, tenait sans peine
les rênes de tous les mouvements du corps, pouvait les suspendre, les
calmer, ou les exciter à son gré. Avec une maîtresse aussi despotique,
dans les mains de laquelle étaient en quelque sorte les battements
du coeur et les lois de la circulation, point de fièvre sans doute;
point de douleur; point de langueur; ni honteuse impuissance, ni
facheux priapisme. L'âme veut, et les ressorts jouent, se dressent,
ou se débandent. Comment ceux de la machine de Stahl se sont-ils sitôt
détraqués? Qui a chez soi un si grand médecin, devrait être immortel.

Stahl, au reste, n'est pas le seul qui ait rejeté le principe
d'oscillation des corps organisés. De plus grands esprits ne l'ont pas
employé, lorsqu'ils ont voulu expliquer l'action du coeur, l'érection
du penis, etc. Il n'y a qu'à lire les Institutions de médecine de
Boerhaave, pour voir quels laborieux et séduisants systèmes, faute
d'admettre une force aussi frappante dans tous les corps, ce grand
homme a été obligé d'enfanter à la sueur de son puissant génie.

Willis et Perrault, esprits d'une plus faible trempe, mais observateurs
assidus de la nature, que le fameux professeur de Leyde n'a connue
que par autrui et n'a eue, pour ainsi dire, que de la seconde main,
paraissent avoir mieux aimé supposer une âme généralement répandue
par tout le corps, que le principe dont nous parlons. Mais dans
cette hypothèse qui fut celle de Virgile et de tous les Epicuriens,
hypothèse que l'histoire du polype semblerait favoriser à la première
vue, les mouvements qui survivent au sujet dans lequel ils sont
inhérents viennent d'un reste d'âme, que conservent encore les parties
qui se contractent, sans être désormais irritées par le sang et les
esprits. D'où l'on voit que ces écrivains dont les ouvrages solides
éclipsent aisément toutes les fables philosophiques, ne se sont trompés
que sur le modèle de ceux qui ont donné à la matière la faculté de
penser, je veux dire, pour s'être mal exprimés, en termes obscurs,
et qui ne signifient rien. En effet, qu'est ce que ce reste d'âme,
si ce n'est la force motrice des Leibniziens, mal rendue par une
telle expression, et que cependant Perrault surtout a véritablement
entrevue. Voy. son Traité de la Mécanique des Animaux.

A présent qu'il est clairement démontré contre les Cartésiens, les
Stahliens, les Malebranchistes, et les théologiens peu dignes d'être
ici placés, que la matière se meut par elle-même, non seulement
lorsqu'elle est organisée, comme dans un coeur entier, par exemple,
mais lors même que cette organisation est détruite, la curiosité de
l'homme voudrait savoir comment un corps, par cela même qu'il est
originairement doué d'un souffle de vie, se trouve en conséquence orné
de la faculté de sentir, et enfin par celle-ci de la pensée. Et pour
en venir à bout, ô bon Dieu, quels efforts n'ont pas faits certains
philosophes! et quel galimatias j'ai eu la patience de lire à ce sujet!

Tout ce que l'expérience nous apprend, c'est que tant que le mouvement
subsiste, si petit qu'il soit dans une ou plusieurs fibres, il n'y a
qu'à les piquer, pour réveiller, animer ce mouvement presque éteint,
comme on l'a vu dans cette foule d'expériences dont j'ai voulu accabler
les systèmes. Il est donc constant que le mouvement et le sentiment
s'excitent tour à tour, et dans les corps entiers, et dans les mêmes
corps dont la structure est détruite; pour ne rien dire de certaines
plantes qui semblent nous offrir les mêmes phénomènes de la réunion
du sentiment et du mouvement.

Mais de plus, combien d'excellents philosophes ont démontré que la
pensée n'est qu'une faculté de sentir, et que l'âme raisonnable
n'est que l'âme sensitive appliquée à contempler les idées, et
à raisonner! Ce qui serait prouvé par cela seul que lorsque le
sentiment est éteint, la pensée l'est aussi, comme dans l'apoplexie,
la léthargie, la catalepsie, etc. Car ceux qui ont avancé que l'âme
n'avait pas moins pensé dans les maladies soporeuses, quoiqu'elle
ne se souvint pas des idées qu'elle avait eues, ont soutenu une
chose ridicule.

Pour ce qui est de ce développement, c'est une folie de perdre le
temps à en rechercher le mécanisme. La nature du mouvement nous
est aussi inconnue que celle de la matière. Le moyen de découvrir
comment il s'y produit, à moins que de ressusciter avec l'auteur de
l'Histoire de l'Ame l'ancienne et inintelligible doctrine des formes
substantielles! Je suis donc aussi consolé d'ignorer comment la
matière, d'inerte et simple, devient active et composée d'organes,
que de ne pouvoir regarder le soleil sans verre rouge: et je suis
d'aussi bonne composition sur les autres merveilles incompréhensibles
de la nature, sur la production du sentiment et de la pensée dans un
être qui ne paraissait autrefois à nos yeux bornés qu'un peu de boue.

Qu'on m'accorde seulement que la matière organisée est douée d'un
principe moteur, qui seul la différencie de celle qui ne l'est pas
(eh! peut-on rien refuser à l'observation la plus incontestable?) et
que tout dépend dans les animaux de la diversité de cette organisation,
comme je l'ai assez prouvé; c'en est assez pour deviner l'énigme des
substances et celle de l'homme. On voit qu'il n'y en a qu'une dans
l'univers et que l'homme est la plus parfaite. Il est au singe, aux
animaux les plus spirituels, ce que le pendule planétaire de Huygens
est à une montre de Julien le Roi. S'il a fallu plus d'instruments,
plus de rouages, plus de ressorts pour marquer les mouvements des
planètes, que pour marquer les heures, ou les répéter; s'il a fallu
plus d'art à Vaucanson pour faire son Fluteur, que pour son Canard,
il eût dû en employer encore davantage pour faire un Parleur; machine
qui ne peut plus être regardée comme impossible, surtout entre les
mains d'un nouveau Prométhée. Il était donc de même nécessaire que la
nature employât plus d'art et d'appareil pour faire et entretenir une
machine, qui pendant un siècle entier pût marquer tous les battements
du coeur et de l'esprit; car si on n'en voit pas au pouls les heures,
c'est du moins le baromètre de la chaleur et de la vivacité, par
laquelle on peut juger de la nature de l'âme. Je ne me trompe point,
le corps humain est une horloge, mais immense, et construite avec
tant d'artifice et d'habileté, que si la roue qui sert à marquer les
secondes vient à s'arrêter, celle des minutes tourne et va toujours
son train, comme la roue des quarts continue de se mouvoir; et ainsi
des autres, quand les premières, rouillées, ou dérangées par quelque
cause que ce soit, ont interrompu leur marche. Car n'est-ce pas ainsi
que l'obstruction de quelques vaisseaux ne suffit pas pour détruire,
ou suspendre le fort des mouvements, qui est dans le coeur, comme dans
la pièce ouvrière de la machine; puisqu'au contraire les fluides dont
le volume est diminué, ayant moins de chemin a faire, le parcourent
d'autant plus vite, emportés comme par un nouveau courant, que la
force du coeur s'augmente en raison de la résistance qu'il trouve
à l'extrémité des vaisseaux? Lorsque le nerf optique seul comprimé
ne laisse plus passer l'image des objets, n'est-ce pas ainsi que
la privation de la vue n'empêche pas plus l'usage de l'ouïe, que la
privation de ce sens, lorsque les fonctions de la portion molle sont
interdites, ne suppose celle de l'autre? N'est-ce pas ainsi encore
que l'un entend, sans pouvoir dire qu'il entend (si ce n'est après
l'attaque du mal) et que l'autre qui n'entend rien, mais dont les
nerfs linguaux sont libres dans le cerveau, dit machinalement tous les
rêves qui lui passent par la tête? Phénomènes qui ne surprennent point
les médecins éclairés. Ils savent à quoi s'en tenir sur la nature de
l'homme; et pour le dire en passant: de deux médecins, le meilleur,
celui qui mérite le plus de confiance, c'est toujours, à mon avis,
celui qui est le plus versé dans la physique, ou la mécanique du corps
humain, et qui laissant l'âme et toutes les inquiétudes que cette
chimère donne aux sots et aux ignorans, n'est occupé sérieusement
que du pur naturalisme.

Laissons donc le prétendu Mr. Charp se moquer des philosophes qui ont
regardé les animaux, comme des machines. Que je pense différemment! Je
crois que Descartes serait un homme respectable à tous égards, si,
né dans un siècle qu'il n'eût pas dû éclairer, il eût connu le prix de
l'expérience et de l'observation, et le danger de s'en écarter. Mais
il n'est pas moins juste que je fasse ici une authentique réparation
à ce grand homme, pour tous ces petits philosophes mauvais plaisants,
et mauvais singes de Locke, qui, au lieu de rire impudemment au nez
de Descartes, feraient mieux de sentir que sans lui le champ de la
philosophie, comme celui du bon esprit sans Newton, serait peut être
encore en friche.

Il est vrai que ce célèbre philosophe s'est beaucoup trompé, et
personne n'en disconvient. Mais enfin il a connu la nature animale;
il a le premier parfaitement démontré que les animaux étaient de pures
machines. Or, après une découverte de cette importance et qui suppose
autant de sagacité, le moyen, sans ingratitude, de ne pas faire grâce
à toutes ses erreurs!

Elles sont à mes yeux toutes réparées par ce grand aveu. Car enfin,
quoiqu'il chante sur la distinction des deux substances, il est visible
que ce n'est qu'un tour d'adresse, une ruse de style, pour faire avaler
aux théologiens un poison caché à l'ombre d'une analogie qui frappe
tout le monde, et qu'eux seuls ne voient pas. Car c'est elle, c'est
cette forte analogie qui force tous les savants et les vrais juges
d'avouer que ces êtres fiers et vains, plus distingués par leur orgueil
que par le nom d'hommes, quelque envie qu'ils aient de s'élever,
ne sont au fond que des animaux et des machines perpendiculairement
rampantes. Elles ont toutes ce merveilleux instinct, dont l'éducation
fait de l'esprit, et qui a toujours son siège dans le cerveau, et à son
défaut, comme lorsqu'il manque ou est ossifié, dans la moëlle allongée,
et jamais dans le cervelet; car je l'ai vu considérablement blessé,
d'autres [8] l'ont trouvé squirreux, sans que l'âme cessât de faire
ses fonctions.

Etre machine, sentir, penser, savoir distinguer le bien du mal, comme
le bleu du jaune, en un mot être né avec de l'intelligence et un
instinct sûr de morale, et n'être qu'un animal, sont donc des choses
qui ne sont pas plus contradictoires qu'être un singe ou un perroquet
et savoir se donner du plaisir. Car, puisque l'occasion se présente de
le dire, qui eut jamais deviné à priori qu'une goutte de la liqueur
qui se lance dans l'accouplement fit ressentir des plaisirs divins,
et qu'il en naîtrait une petite créature, qui pourrait un jour,
posées certaines lois, jouir des mêmes délices? Je crois la pensée
si peu incompatible avec la matière organisée, qu'elle semble en
être une propriété, telle que l'électricité, la faculté motrice,
l'impénétrabilité, l'étendue, etc.

Voulez vous de nouvelles observations? En voici qui sont sans réplique
et qui prouvent toutes que l'homme ressemble parfaitement aux animaux
dans son origine, comme dans tout ce que nous avons déjà cru essentiel
de comparer.

J'en appelle à la bonne foi de nos observateurs. Qu'ils nous disent
s'il n'est pas vrai que l'homme dans son principe n'est qu'un ver,
qui devient homme, comme la chenille papillon. Les plus graves [9]
auteurs nous ont appris comment il faut s'y prendre pour voir cet
animalcule. Tous les curieux l'ont vu, comme Hartsoeker, dans la
semence de l'homme, et non dans celle de la femme; il n'y a que les
sots qui s'en soient fait scrupule. Comme chaque goutte de sperme
contient une infinité de ces petits vers lorsqu'ils sont lancés à
l'ovaire, il n'y a que le plus adroit, ou le plus vigoureux qui ait la
force de s'insinuer et de s'implanter dans l'oeuf que fournit la femme,
et qui lui donne sa première nourriture. Cet oeuf, quelquefois surpris
dans les trompes de Fallope, est porté par ces canaux à la matrice, où
il prend racine, comme un grain de blé dans la terre. Mais quoiqu'il y
devienne monstrueux par sa croissance de 9 mois, il ne diffère point
des oeufs des autres femelles, si ce n'est que sa peau (l'amnios)
ne se durcit jamais, et se dilate prodigieusement, comme on en peut
juger en comparant les foetus trouvés en situation et près d'éclore
(ce que j'ai eu le plaisir d'observer dans une femme morte un moment
avant l'accouchement), avec d'autres petits embryons très proches
de leur origine: car alors c'est toujours l'oeuf dans sa coque,
et l'animal dans l'oeuf, qui, gêné dans ses mouvements, cherche
machinalement à voir le jour; et pour y réussir, il commence par
rompre avec la tête cette membrane, d'oû il sort, comme le poulet,
l'oiseau, etc., de la leur. J'ajouterai une observation que je ne
trouve nulle part; c'est que l'amnios n'en est pas plus mince, pour
s'être prodigieusement étendu; semblable en cela à la matrice dont
la substance même se gonfle de sucs infiltrés, indépendamment de la
réplétion et du déploiement de tous ses coudes vasculeux.

Voyons l'homme dans et hors de sa coque; examinons avec un microscope
les plus jeunes embryons, de 4, de 6, de 8 ou de 15 jours; après ce
temps les yeux suffisent. Que voit-on? la tête seule; un petit oeuf
rond avec deux points noirs qui marquent les yeux. Avant ce temps,
tout étant plus informe, on n'aperçoit qu'une pulpe médullaire, qui
est le cerveau, dans lequel se forme d'abord l'origine des nerfs,
ou le principe du sentiment, et le coeur qui a déjà par lui-même dans
cette pulpe la faculté de battre: c'est le punctum saliens de Malpighi,
qui doit peut-être déjà une partie de sa vivacité à l'influence des
nerfs. Ensuite peu-à-peu on voit la tête allonger le col, qui en
se dilatant forme d'abord le thorax, où le coeur a déjà descendu,
pour s'y fixer; après quoi vient le bas ventre qu'une cloison (le
diaphragme) sépare. Ces dilatations donnent l'une, les bras, les
mains, les doigts, les ongles, et les poils; l'autre les cuisses,
les jambes, les pieds, etc., avec la seule différence de situation
qu'on leur connait, qui fait l'appui et le balancier du corps. C'est
une végétation frappante. Ici, ce sont des cheveux qui couvrent le
sommet de nos têtes; là, ce sont des feuilles et des fleurs. Partout
brille le même luxe de la nature; et enfin l'esprit recteur des plantes
est placé où nous avons notre âme, cette autre quintessence de l'homme.

Telle est l'uniformité de la nature qu'on commence à sentir,
et l'analogie du règne animal et végétal, de l'homme à la
plante. Peut-être même y a-t-il des plantes animal, c'est-à-dire
qui en végétant, ou se battent comme les polypes, ou font d'autres
fonctions propres aux animaux?

Voilà à peu près tout ce qu'on sait de la génération. Que les parties
qui s'attirent, qui sont faites pour s'unir ensemble et pour occuper
telle ou telle place, se réunissent toutes suivant leur nature; et
qu'ainsi se forment les yeux, le coeur, l'estomac et enfin tout le
corps, comme de grands hommes l'ont écrit, cela est possible. Mais,
comme l'expérience nous abandonne au milieu des ces subtilités,
je ne supposerai rien, regardant tout ce qui ne frappe pas mes sens
comme un mystère impénétrable. Il est si rare que les deux semences
se rencontrent dans le congrès, que je serais tenté de croire que la
semence de la femme est inutile à la génération.

Mais comment en expliquer les phénomènes, sans ce commode rapport
de parties, qui rend si bien raison des ressemblances des enfants,
tantôt au père, et tantôt à la mère? D'un autre côté, l'embarras d'une
explication doit-elle contrebalancer un fait? Il me parait que c'est
le mâle qui fait tout, dans une femme qui dort, comme dans la plus
lubrique. L'arrangement des parties serait donc fait de toute éternité
dans le germe, ou dans le ver même de l'homme. Mais tout ceci est
fort au-dessus de la portée des plus excellents observateurs. Comme
ils n'y peuvent rien saisir, ils ne peuvent pas plus juger de la
mécanique de la formation et du développement des corps, qu'une taupe
du chemin qu'un cerf peut parcourir.

Nous sommes de vraies taupes dans le champ de la nature; nous n'y
faisons guères que le trajet de cet animal; et c'est notre orgueil qui
donne des bornes à ce qui n'en a point. Nous sommes dans le cas d'une
montre qui dirait: (un fabuliste en ferait un personnage de conséquence
dans un ouvrage frivole) "Quoi! c'est ce sot ouvrier qui m'a faite, moi
qui divise le temps! moi qui marque si exactement le cours du soleil;
moi qui répète à haute voix les heures que j'indique! non, cela ne se
peut pas." Nous dédaignons de même, ingrats que nous sommes, cette
mère commune de tous les règnes, comme parlent les chimistes. Nous
imaginons ou plutôt supposons une cause supérieure à celle à qui
nous devons tout, et qui a véritablement tout fait d'une manière
inconcevable. Non, la matière n'a rien de vil, qu'aux yeux grossiers
qui la méconnaissent dans ses plus brillants ouvrages; et la nature
n'est point une ouvrière bornée. Elle produit des millions d'hommes
avec plus de facilité et de plaisir, qu'un horloger n'a de peine à
faire la montre la plus composée. Sa puissance éclate également et dans
la production du plus vil insecte, et dans celle de l'homme le plus
superbe; le règne animal ne lui coûte pas plus que le végétal, ni le
plus beau génie qu'un épi de blé. Jugeons donc par ce que nous voyons,
de ce qui se dérobe à la curiosité de nos yeux et de nos recherches,
et n'imaginons rien au delà. Suivons le singe, le castor, l'éléphant,
etc., dans leurs opérations. S'il est évident qu'elles ne peuvent
se faire sans intelligence, pourquoi la refuser à ces animaux? et si
vous leur accordez une âme, fanatiques, vous êtes perdus; vous aurez
beau dire que vous ne décidez point sur sa nature, tandis que vous lui
ôtez l'immortalité; qui ne voit que c'est une assertion gratuite? qui
ne voit qu'elle doit être ou mortelle, ou immortelle, comme la nôtre,
dont elle doit subir le même sort quel qu'il soit! et qu'ainsi c'est
tomber dans Scilla pour vouloir éviter Caribde?

Brisez la chaîne de vos préjugés; armez-vous du flambeau de
l'expérience et vous ferez à la nature l'honneur qu'elle mérite,
au lieu de rien conclure à son désavantage, de l'ignorance où elle
vous a laissé. Ouvrez les yeux seulement, et laissez-là ce que vous
ne pouvez comprendre; et vous verrez que ce laboureur dont l'esprit
et les lumières ne s'étendent pas plus loin que les bords de son
sillon, ne diffère point essentiellement du plus grand génie, comme
l'eût prouvé la dissection des cerveaux de Descartes et de Newton:
vous serez persuadé que l'imbécile ou le stupide sont des bêtes à
figure humaine, comme le singe plein d'esprit est un petit homme
sous une autre forme; et qu'enfin tout dépendant absolument de la
diversité de l'organisation, un animal bien construit, à qui on a
appris l'astronomie, peut prédire une éclipse, comme la guérison
ou la mort, lorsqu'il a porté quelque temps du génie et de bons
yeux à l'école d'Hippocrate et au lit des malades. C'est par cette
file d'observations et de vérités qu'on parvient à lier à la matière
l'admirable propriété de penser, sans qu'on en puisse voir les liens,
parce que le sujet de cet attribut nous est essentiellement inconnu.

Ne disons point que toute machine, ou tout animal, périt tout-à-fait,
ou prend une autre forme, après la mort; car nous n'en savons
absolument rien. Mais assurer qu'une machine immortelle est une
chimère, ou un être de raison, c'est faire un raisonnement aussi
absurde que celui que feraient des chenilles, qui, voyant les
dépouilles de leurs semblables, déploreraient amèrement le sort de
leur espèce qui leur semblerait s'anéantir. L'âme de ces insectes
(car chaque animal a la sienne) est trop bornée pour comprendre
les métamorphoses de la nature. Jamais un seul des plus rusés
d'entr'eux n'eût imaginé qu'il dût devenir papillon. Il en est de
même de nous. Que savons-nous plus de notre destinée, que de notre
origine? Soumettons-nous donc à une ignorance invincible de laquelle
notre bonheur dépend.

Qui pensera ainsi, sera sage, juste, tranquille sur son sort,
et par conséquent heureux. Il attendra la mort, sans la craindre,
ni la désirer; et chérissant la vie, comprenant à peine comment le
dégoût vient corrompre un coeur dans ce lieu plein de délices; plein
de respect pour la nature, plein de reconnaissance, d'attachement et
de tendresse, à proportion du sentiment et des bienfaits qu'il en a
reçus, heureux enfin de la sentir, et d'être au charmant spectacle de
l'univers, il ne le détruira certainement jamais dans soi, ni dans les
autres. Que dis-je! plein d'humanité, il en aimera le caractère jusques
dans ses ennemis. Jugez comme il traitera les autres! Il plaindra
les vicieux, sans les haïr; ce ne seront à ses yeux que des hommes
contrefaits. Mais en faisant grâce aux défauts de la conformation
de l'esprit et du corps, il n'en admirera pas moins leurs beautés et
leurs vertus. Ceux que la nature aura favorisés lui paraîtront mériter
plus d'égards que ceux qu'elle aura traités en marâtre. C'est ainsi
qu'on a vu que les dons naturels, la source de tout ce qui s'acquiert,
trouvent dans la bouche et le coeur du matérialiste des hommages que
tout autre leur refuse injustement. Enfin le matérialiste convaincu,
quoi que murmure sa propre vanité, qu'il n'est qu'une machine, ou
un animal, ne maltraitera point ses semblables; trop instruit sur la
nature de ces actions, dont l'inhumanité est toujours proportionnée
au degré d'analogie prouvée ci devant; et ne voulant pas en un mot,
suivant la loi naturelle donnée à tous les animaux, faire à autrui
ce qu'il ne voudrait pas qu'il lui fît.

Concluons donc hardiment que l'homme est une machine; et qu'il n'y a
dans tout l'univers qu'une seule substance diversement modifiée. Ce
n'est point ici une hypothèse élevée à force de demandes et de
suppositions: ce n'est point l'ouvrage du préjugé, ni même de ma
raison seule; j'eusse dédaigné un guide que je crois si peu sûr, si
mes sens portant, pour ainsi dire, le flambeau, ne m'eûssent engagé à
la suivre, en l'éclairant. L'expérience m'a donc parlé pour la raison;
c'est ainsi que je les ai jointes ensemble.

Mais on a dû voir que je ne me suis permis le raisonnement le
plus rigoureux et le plus immédiatement tiré, qu'à la suite d'une
multitude d'observations physiques qu'aucun savant ne contestera; et
c'est encore eux seuls que je reconnais pour juges des conséquences
que j'en tire; récusant ici tout homme à préjugés, et qui n'est ni
anatomiste, ni au fait de la seule philosophie qui soit ici de mise,
celle du corps humain. Que pourraient contre un chêne aussi ferme et
solide ces faibles roseaux de la théologie, de la métaphysique et
des écoles; armes puériles, semblables aux fleurets de nos salles,
qui peuvent bien donner le plaisir de l'escrime, mais jamais entamer
son adversaire. Faut-il dire que je parle de ces idées creuses et
triviales, de ces raisonnements rebattus et pitoyables, qu'on fera
sur la prétendue incompatibilité de deux substances qui se touchent
et se remuent sans cesse l'une et l'autre, tant qu'il restera l'ombre
du préjugé ou de la superstition sur la terre? Voilà mon système,
ou plutôt la vérité, si je ne me trompe fort. Elle est courte et
simple. Dispute à présent qui voudra!


It is not enough for a wise man to study nature and truth; he should
dare state truth for the benefit of the few who are willing and able
to think. As for the rest, who are voluntarily slaves of prejudice,
they can no more attain truth, than frogs can fly.

I reduce to two the systems of philosophy which deal with man's
soul. The first and older system is materialism; the second is

The metaphysicians who have hinted that matter may well be endowed
with the faculty of thought{1} have perhaps not reasoned ill. For
there is in this case a certain advantage in their inadequate way of
expressing their meaning. In truth, to ask whether matter can think,
without considering it otherwise than in itself, is like asking
whether matter can tell time. It may be foreseen that we shall avoid
this reef upon which Locke had the bad luck to make shipwreck.

The Leibnizians with their monads have set up an unintelligible
hypothesis. They have rather spiritualized matter than materialized
the soul. How can we define a being whose nature is absolutely unknown
to us?{2}

Descartes and all the Cartesians, among whom the followers of
Malebranche have long been numbered, have made the same mistake. They
have taken for granted two distinct substances in man, as if they
had seen them, and positively counted them.

The wisest men have declared that the soul can not know itself save by
the light of faith. However, as reasonable beings they have thought
that they could reserve for themselves the right of examining what
the Bible means by the word "spirit," which it uses in speaking of
the human soul. And if in their investigation, they do not agree with
the theologians on this point, are the theologians more in agreement
among themselves on all other points?

Here is the result in a few words, of all their reflections. If there
is a God, He is the Author of nature as well as of revelation. He has
given us the one to explain the other, and reason to make them agree.

To distrust the knowledge that can be drawn from the study of animated
bodies, is to regard nature and revelation as two contraries which
destroy each the other, and consequently to dare uphold the absurd
doctrine, that God contradicts Himself in His various works and
deceives us.

If there is a revelation, it can not then contradict nature. By nature
only can we understand the meaning of the words of the Gospel, of which
experience is the only true interpreter. In fact, the commentators
before our time have only obscured the truth. We can judge of this
by the author of the "Spectacle of Nature."{3} "It is astonishing,"
he says concerning Locke, "that a man who degrades our soul far
enough to consider it a soul of clay should dare set up reason as
judge and sovereign arbiter of the mysteries of faith, for," he adds,
"what an astonishing idea of Christianity one would have, if one were
to follow reason."

Not only do these reflections fail to elucidate faith, but they also
constitute such frivolous objections to the method of those who
undertake to interpret the Scripture, that I am almost ashamed to
waste time in refuting them.

The excellence of reason does not depend on a big word devoid of
meaning (immateriality), but on the force, extent, and perspicuity
of reason itself. Thus a "soul of clay" which should discover,
at one glance, as it were, the relations and the consequences of
an infinite number of ideas hard to understand, would evidently be
preferable to a foolish and stupid soul, though that were composed
of the most precious elements. A man is not a philosopher because,
with Pliny, he blushes over the wretchedness of our origin. What
seems vile is here the most precious of things, and seems to be the
object of nature's highest art and most elaborate care. But as man,
even though he should come from an apparently still more lowly source,
would yet be the most perfect of all beings, so whatever the origin
of his soul, if it is pure, noble, and lofty, it is a beautiful soul
which dignifies the man endowed with it.

Pluche's second way of reasoning seems vicious to me, even in his
system, which smacks a little of fanaticism; for [on his view] if we
have an idea of faith as being contrary to the clearest principles,
to the most incontestable truths, we must yet conclude, out of respect
for revelation and its author, that this conception is false, and
that we do not yet understand the meaning of the words of the Gospel.

Of the two alternatives, only one is possible: either everything
is illusion, nature as well as revelation, or experience alone can
explain faith. But what can be more ridiculous than the position of
our author! Can one imagine hearing a Peripatetic say, "We ought not
to accept the experiments of Torricelli,{4} for if we should accept
them, if we should rid ourselves of the horror of the void, what an
astonishing philosophy we should have!"

I have shown how vicious the reasoning of Pluche is [10] in order to
prove, in the first place, that if there is a revelation, it is not
sufficiently demonstrated by the mere authority of the Church, and
without any appeal to reason, as all those who fear reason claim: and
in the second place, to protect against all assault the method of those
who would wish to follow the path that I open to them, of interpreting
supernatural things, incomprehensible in themselves, in the light
of those ideas with which nature has endowed us. Experience and
observation should therefore be our only guides here. Both are to be
found throughout the records of the physicians who were philosophers,
and not in the works of the philosophers who were not physicians. The
former have traveled through and illuminated the labyrinth of man; they
alone have laid bare to us those springs [of life] hidden under the
external integument which conceals so many wonders from our eyes. They
alone, tranquilly contemplating our soul, have surprised it, a thousand
times, both in its wretchedness and in its glory, and they have no
more despised it in the first estate, than they have admired it in the
second. Thus, to repeat, only the physicians have a right to speak on
this subject.{5} What could the others, especially the theologians,
have to say? Is it not ridiculous to hear them shamelessly coming to
conclusions about a subject concerning which they have had no means
of knowing anything, and from which on the contrary they have been
completely turned aside by obscure studies that have led them to a
thousand prejudiced opinions,--in a word, to fanaticism, which adds
yet more to their ignorance of the mechanism of the body?

But even though we have chosen the best guides, we shall still find
many thorns and stumbling blocks in the way.

Man is so complicated a machine{6} that it is impossible to get a
clear idea of the machine beforehand, and hence impossible to define
it. For this reason, all the investigations have been vain, which the
greatest philosophers have made à priori, that is to say, in so far
as they use, as it were, the wings of the spirit. Thus it is only à
posteriori or by trying to disentangle the soul from the organs of
the body, so to speak, that one can reach the highest probability
concerning man's own nature, even though one can not discover with
certainty what his nature is.

Let us then take in our hands the staff of experience,{7} paying no
heed to the accounts of all the idle theories of philosophers. To be
blind and to think that one can do without this staff is the worst
kind of blindness. How truly a contemporary writer says that only
vanity fails to gather from secondary causes the same lessons as
from primary causes! One can and one even ought to admire all these
fine geniuses in their most useless works, such men as Descartes,
Malebranche, Leibniz, Wolff and the rest, but what profit, I ask, has
any one gained from their profound meditations, and from all their
works? Let us start out then to discover not what has been thought,
but what must be thought for the sake of repose in life.

There are as many different minds, different characters, and different
customs, as there are different temperaments. Even Galen{8} knew this
truth which Descartes carried so far as to claim that medicine alone
can change minds and morals, along with bodies. (By the writer of
"L'histoire de l'âme,"{9} this teaching is incorrectly attributed to
Hippocrates.{10}) It is true that melancholy, bile, phlegm, blood
etc.--according to the nature, the abundance, and the different
combination of these humors--make each man different from another.{11}

In disease the soul is sometimes hidden, showing no sign of life;
sometimes it is so inflamed by fury that it seems to be doubled;
sometimes, imbecility vanishes and the convalescence of an idiot
produces a wise man. Sometimes, again, the greatest genius becomes
imbecile and loses the sense of self. Adieu then to all that fine
knowledge, acquired at so high a price, and with so much trouble! Here
is a paralytic who asks if his leg is in bed with him; there is
a soldier who thinks that he still has the arm which has been cut
off. The memory of his old sensations, and of the place to which they
were referred by his soul, is the cause of his illusion, and of this
kind of delirium. The mere mention of the member which he has lost is
enough to recall it to his mind, and to make him feel all its motions;
and this causes him an indefinable and inexpressible kind of imaginary
suffering. This man cries like a child at death's approach, while this
other jests. What was needed to change the bravery of Caius Julius,
Seneca, or Petronius into cowardice or faintheartedness? Merely
an obstruction in the spleen, in the liver, an impediment in the
portal vein? Why? Because the imagination is obstructed along with
the viscera, and this gives rise to all the singular phenomena of
hysteria and hypochondria.

What can I add to the stories already told of those who imagine
themselves transformed into wolf-men, cocks or vampires, or of those
who think that the dead feed upon them? Why should I stop to speak
of the man who imagines that his nose or some other member is of
glass? The way to help this man regain his faculties and his own
flesh-and-blood nose is to advise him to sleep on hay, lest he break
the fragile organ, and then to set fire to the hay that he may be
afraid of being burned--a fear which has sometimes cured paralysis. But
I must touch lightly on facts which everybody knows.

Neither shall I dwell long on the details of the effects of sleep. Here
a tired soldier snores in a trench, in the middle of the thunder of
hundreds of cannon. His soul hears nothing; his sleep is as deep as
apoplexy. A bomb is on the point of crushing him. He will feel this
less perhaps than he feels an insect which is under his foot.

On the other hand, this man who is devoured by jealousy, hatred,
avarice, or ambition, can never find any rest. The most peaceful spot,
the freshest and most calming drinks are alike useless to one who
has not freed his heart from the torment of passion.

The soul and the body fall asleep together. As the motion of the
blood is calmed, a sweet feeling of peace and quiet spreads through
the whole mechanism. The soul feels itself little by little growing
heavy as the eyelids droop, and loses its tenseness, as the fibres
of the brain relax; thus little by little it becomes as if paralyzed
and with it all the muscles of the body. These can no longer sustain
the weight of the head, and the soul can no longer bear the burden
of thought; it is in sleep as if it were not.

Is the circulation too quick? the soul can not sleep. Is the soul
too much excited? the blood can not be quieted: it gallops through
the veins with an audible murmur. Such are the two opposite causes
of insomnia. A single fright in the midst of our dreams makes the
heart beat at double speed and snatches us from needed and delicious
repose, as a real grief or an urgent need would do. Lastly as the
mere cessation of the functions of the soul produces sleep, there
are, even when we are awake (or at least when we are half awake),
kinds of very frequent short naps of the mind, vergers' dreams, which
show that the soul does not always wait for the body to sleep. For
if the soul is not fast asleep, it surely is not far from sleep,
since it can not point out a single object to which it has attended,
among the uncounted number of confused ideas which, so to speak,
fill the atmosphere of our brains like clouds.

Opium is too closely related to the sleep it produces, to be left
out of consideration here. This drug intoxicates, like wine, coffee,
etc., each in its own measure and according to the dose.{12} It makes
a man happy in a state which would seemingly be the tomb of feeling,
as it is the image of death. How sweet is this lethargy! The soul
would long never to emerge from it. For the soul has been a prey to
the most intense sorrow, but now feels only the joy of suffering past,
and of sweetest peace. Opium even alters the will, forcing the soul
which wished to wake and to enjoy life, to sleep in spite of itself. I
shall omit any reference to the effect of poisons.

Coffee, the well-known antidote for wine, by scourging the imagination,
cures our headaches and scatters our cares without laying up for us,
as wine does, other headaches for the morrow. But let us contemplate
the soul in its other needs.

The human body is a machine which winds its own springs. It is
the living image of perpetual movement. Nourishment keeps up the
movements which fever excites. Without food, the soul pines away,
goes mad, and dies exhausted. The soul is a taper whose light flares
up the moment before it goes out. But nourish the body, pour into
its veins life-giving juices and strong liquors, and then the soul
grows strong like them, as if arming itself with a proud courage,
and the soldier whom water would have made flee, grows bold and runs
joyously to death to the sound of drums. Thus a hot drink sets into
stormy movement the blood which a cold drink would have calmed.

What power there is in a meal! Joy revives in a sad heart, and infects
the souls of comrades, who express their delight in the friendly songs
in which the Frenchman excels. The melancholy man alone is dejected,
and the studious man is equally out of place [in such company].

Raw meat makes animals fierce, and it would have the same effect on
man. This is so true that the English who eat meat red and bloody,
and not as well done as ours, seem to share more or less in the
savagery due to this kind of food, and to other causes which can be
rendered ineffective by education only. This savagery creates in the
soul, pride, hatred, scorn of other nations, indocility and other
sentiments which degrade the character, just as heavy food makes a
dull and heavy mind whose usual traits are laziness and indolence.

Pope understood well the full power of greediness when he said:{13}

    "Catius is ever moral, ever grave,
    Thinks who endures a knave is next a knave,
    Save just at dinner--then prefers no doubt,
    A rogue with ven'son to a saint without."

Elsewhere he says:

    "See the same man in vigor, in the gout
    Alone, in company, in place or out,
    Early at business and at hazard late,
    Mad at a fox chase, wise at a debate,
    Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball,
    Friendly at Hackney, faithless at White Hall."

In Switzerland we had a bailiff by the name of M. Steigner de
Wittighofen. When he fasted he was a most upright and even a most
indulgent judge, but woe to the unfortunate man whom he found on the
culprit's bench after he had had a large dinner! He was capable of
sending the innocent like the guilty to the gallows.

We think we are, and in fact we are, good men, only as we are gay or
brave; everything depends on the way our machine is running. One is
sometimes inclined to say that the soul is situated in the stomach,
and that Van Helmont,{14} who said that the seat of the soul was in
the pylorus, made only the mistake of taking the part for the whole.

To what excesses cruel hunger can bring us! We no longer regard even
our own parents and children. We tear them to pieces eagerly and make
horrible banquets of them; and in the fury with which we are carried
away, the weakest is always the prey of the strongest....

One needs only eyes to see the necessary influence of old age on
reason. The soul follows the progress of the body, as it does the
progress of education. In the weaker sex, the soul accords also with
delicacy of temperament, and from this delicacy follow tenderness,
affection, quick feelings due more to passion than to reason,
prejudices, and superstitions, whose strong impress can hardly be
effaced. Man, on the other hand, whose brain and nerves partake of
the firmness of all solids, has not only stronger features but also a
more vigorous mind. Education, which women lack, strengthens his mind
still more. Thus with such help of nature and art, why should not
a man be more grateful, more generous, more constant in friendship,
stronger in adversity? But, to follow almost exactly the thought of
the author of the "Lettres sur la Physiognomie,"{15} the sex which
unites the charms of the mind and of the body with almost all the
tenderest and most delicate feelings of the heart, should not envy
us the two capacities which seem to have been given to man, the one
merely to enable him better to fathom the allurements of beauty,
and the other merely to enable him to minister better to its pleasures.

It is no more necessary to be just as great a physiognomist as this
author, in order to guess the quality of the mind from the countenance
or the shape of the features, provided these are sufficiently marked,
than it is necessary to be a great doctor to recognize a disease
accompanied by all its marked symptoms. Look at the portraits of Locke,
of Steele, of Boerhaave,{16} of Maupertuis,{17} and the rest, and
you will not be surprised to find strong faces and eagle eyes. Look
over a multitude of others, and you can always distinguish the man
of talent from the man of genius, and often even an honest man from
a scoundrel. For example, it has been noticed that a celebrated poet
combines (in his portrait) the look of a pickpocket with the fire
of Prometheus.

History provides us with a noteworthy example of the power of
temperature. The famous Duke of Guise was so strongly convinced that
Henry the Third, in whose power he had so often been, would never dare
assassinate him, that he went to Blois. When the Chancelor Chiverny
learned of the duke's departure, he cried, "He is lost." After this
fatal prediction had been fulfilled by the event, Chiverny was asked
why he made it. "I have known the king for twenty years," said he;
"he is naturally kind and even weakly indulgent, but I have noticed
that when it is cold, it takes nothing at all to provoke him and send
him into a passion."

One nation is of heavy and stupid wit, and another quick, light and
penetrating. Whence comes this difference, if not in part from the
difference in foods, and difference in inheritance, [11] and in part
from the mixture of the diverse elements which float around in the
immensity of the void? The mind, like the body, has its contagious
diseases and its scurvy.

Such is the influence of climate, that a man who goes from one climate
to another, feels the change, in spite of himself. He is a walking
plant which has transplanted itself; if the climate is not the same,
it will surely either degenerate or improve.

Furthermore, we catch everything from those with whom we come in
contact; their gestures, their accent, etc.; just as the eyelid is
instinctively lowered when a blow is foreseen, or as (for the same
reason) the body of the spectator mechanically imitates, in spite of
himself, all the motions of a good mimic.{18}

From what I have just said, it follows that a brilliant man is
his own best company, unless he can find other company of the same
sort. In the society of the unintelligent, the mind grows rusty for
lack of exercise, as at tennis a ball that is served badly is badly
returned. I should prefer an intelligent man without an education,
if he were still young enough, to a man badly educated. A badly
trained mind is like an actor whom the provinces have spoiled.

Thus, the diverse states of the soul are always correlative with
those of the body.{19} But the better to show this dependence, in
its completeness and its causes, let us here make use of comparative
anatomy; let us lay bare the organs of man and of animals. How can
human nature be known, if we may not derive any light from an exact
comparison of the structure of man and of animals?

In general, the form and the structure of the brains of quadrupeds
are almost the same as those of the brain of man; the same shape,
the same arrangement everywhere, with this essential difference,
that of all the animals man is the one whose brain is largest, and,
in proportion to its mass, more convoluted than the brain of any
other animal; then come the monkey, the beaver, the elephant, the
dog, the fox, the cat. These animals are most like man, for among
them, too, one notes the same progressive analogy in relation to
the corpus callosum in which Lancisi--anticipating the late M. de la
Peyronie{20}--established the seat of the soul. The latter, however,
illustrated the theory by innumerable experiments. Next after all the
quadrupeds, birds have the largest brains. Fish have large heads,
but these are void of sense, like the heads of many men. Fish have
no corpus callosum, and very little brain, while insects entirely
lack brain.

I shall not launch out into any more detail about the varieties
of nature, nor into conjectures concerning them, for there is an
infinite number of both, as any one can see by reading no further
than the treatises of Willis "De Cerebro" and "De Anima Brutorum."{21}

I shall draw the conclusions which follow clearly from these
incontestable observations: 1st, that the fiercer animals are, the
less brain they have; 2d, that this organ seems to increase in size
in proportion to the gentleness of the animal; 3d, that nature seems
here eternally to impose a singular condition, that the more one gains
in intelligence the more one loses in instinct. Does this bring gain
or loss?

Do not think, however, that I wish to infer by that, that the size
alone of the brain, is enough to indicate the degree of tameness in
animals: the quality must correspond to the quantity, and the solids
and liquids must be in that due equilibrium which constitutes health.

If, as is ordinarily observed, the imbecile does not lack brain, his
brain will be deficient in its consistency--for instance, in being too
soft. The same thing is true of the insane, and the defects of their
brains do not always escape our investigation. But if the causes of
imbecility, insanity, etc., are not obvious, where shall we look for
the causes of the diversity of all minds? They would escape the eyes
of a lynx and of an argus. A mere nothing, a tiny fibre, something
that could never be found by the most delicate anatomy, would have
made of Erasmus and Fontenelle{22} two idiots, and Fontenelle himself
speaks of this very fact in one of his best dialogues.

Willis has noticed in addition to the softness of the brain-substance
in children, puppies, and birds, that the corpora striata are
obliterated and discolored in all these animals, and that the
striations are as imperfectly formed as in paralytics....

However cautious and reserved one may be about the consequences
that can be deduced from these observations, and from many others
concerning the kind of variation in the organs, nerves, etc.,
[one must admit that] so many different varieties can not be the
gratuitous play of nature. They prove at least the necessity for a
good and vigorous physical organization, since throughout the animal
kingdom the soul gains force with the body and acquires keenness,
as the body gains strength.

Let us pause to contemplate the varying capacity of animals to
learn. Doubtless the analogy best framed leads the mind to think
that the causes we have mentioned produce all the difference that is
found between animals and men, although we must confess that our weak
understanding, limited to the coarsest observations, can not see the
bonds that exist between cause and effects. This is a kind of harmony
that philosophers will never know.

Among animals, some learn to speak and sing; they remember tunes,
and strike the notes as exactly as a musician. Others, for instance
the ape, show more intelligence, and yet can not learn music. What is
the reason for this, except some defect in the organs of speech? But
is this defect so essential to the structure that it could never be
remedied? In a word, would it be absolutely impossible to teach the
ape a language?{23} I do not think so.

I should choose a large ape in preference to any other, until by
some good fortune another kind should be discovered, more like us,
for nothing prevents there being such an one in regions unknown to
us. The ape resembles us so strongly that naturalists have called it
"wild man" or "man of the woods." I should take it in the condition
of the pupils of Amman,{24} that is to say, I should not want it to be
too young or too old; for apes that are brought to Europe are usually
too old. I would choose the one with the most intelligent face, and
the one which, in a thousand little ways, best lived up to its look of
intelligence. Finally not considering myself worthy to be his master,
I should put him in the school of that excellent teacher whom I have
just named, or with another teacher equally skilful, if there is one.

You know by Amman's work, and by all those [12] who have interpreted
his method, all the wonders he has been able to accomplish for those
born deaf. In their eyes he discovered ears, as he himself explains,
and in how short a time! In short he taught them to hear, speak,
read, and write. I grant that a deaf person's eyes see more clearly
and are keener than if he were not deaf, for the loss of one member
or sense can increase the strength or acuteness of another, but apes
see and hear, they understand what they hear and see, and grasp so
perfectly the signs that are made to them, that I doubt not that they
would surpass the pupils of Amman in any other game or exercise. Why
then should the education of monkeys be impossible? Why might not
the monkey, by dint of great pains, at last imitate after the manner
of deaf mutes, the motions necessary for pronunciation? I do not
dare decide whether the monkey's organs of speech, however trained,
would be incapable of articulation. But, because of the great analogy
between ape and man{25} and because there is no known animal whose
external and internal organs so strikingly resemble man's, it would
surprise me if speech were absolutely impossible to the ape. Locke,
who was certainly never suspected of credulity, found no difficulty
in believing the story told by Sir William Temple{26} in his memoirs,
about a parrot which could answer rationally, and which had learned
to carry on a kind of connected conversation, as we do. I know that
people have ridiculed [13] this great metaphysician; but suppose some
one should have announced that reproduction sometimes takes place
without eggs or a female, would he have found many partisans? Yet
M. Trembley{27} has found cases where reproduction takes place without
copulation and by fission. Would not Amman too have passed for mad if
he had boasted that he could instruct scholars like his in so short
a time, before he had happily accomplished the feat? His successes
have, however, astonished the world; and he, like the author of "The
History of Polyps," has risen to immortality at one bound. Whoever
owes the miracles that he works to his own genius surpasses, in
my opinion, the man who owes his to chance. He who has discovered
the art of adorning the most beautiful of the kingdoms [of nature],
and of giving it perfections that it did not have, should be rated
above an idle creator of frivolous systems, or a painstaking author
of sterile discoveries. Amman's discoveries are certainly of a much
greater value; he has freed men from the instinct to which they seemed
to be condemned, and has given them ideas, intelligence, or in a word,
a soul which they would never have had. What greater power than this!

Let us not limit the resources of nature; they are infinite, especially
when reinforced by great art.

Could not the device which opens the Eustachian canal of the deaf,
open that of apes? Might not a happy desire to imitate the master's
pronunciation, liberate the organs of speech in animals that imitate
so many other signs with such skill and intelligence? Not only do I
defy any one to name any really conclusive experiment which proves my
view impossible and absurd; but such is the likeness of the structure
and functions of the ape to ours that I have very little doubt that
if this animal were properly trained he might at last be taught to
pronounce, and consequently to know, a language. Then he would no
longer be a wild man, nor a defective man, but he would be a perfect
man, a little gentleman, with as much matter or muscle as we have,
for thinking and profiting by his education.

The transition from animals to man is not violent, as true philosophers
will admit. What was man before the invention of words and the
knowledge of language?{28} An animal of his own species with much
less instinct than the others. In those days, he did not consider
himself king over the other animals, nor was he distinguished from
the ape, and from the rest, except as the ape itself differs from the
other animals, i. e., by a more intelligent face. Reduced to the bare
intuitive knowledge of the Leibnizians he saw only shapes and colors,
without being able to distinguish between them: the same, old as young,
child at all ages, he lisped out his sensations and his needs, as a
dog that is hungry or tired of sleeping, asks for something to eat,
or for a walk.

Words, languages, laws, sciences, and the fine arts have come, and by
them finally the rough diamond of our mind has been polished. Man has
been trained in the same way as animals. He has become an author,
as they became beasts of burden. A geometrician has learned to
perform the most difficult demonstrations and calculations, as a
monkey has learned to take his little hat off and on, and to mount his
tame dog. All has been accomplished through signs, every species has
learned what it could understand, and in this way men have acquired
symbolic knowledge, still so called by our German philosophers.

Nothing, as any one can see, is so simple as the mechanism of our
education. Everything may be reduced to sounds or words that pass from
the mouth of one through the ears of another into his brain. At the
same moment, he perceives through his eyes the shape of the bodies
of which these words are the arbitrary signs.

But who was the first to speak? Who was the first teacher of the
human race? Who invented the means of utilizing the plasticity of our
organism? I can not answer: the names of these first splendid geniuses
have been lost in the night of time. But art is the child of nature,
so nature must have long preceded it.

We must think that the men who were the most highly organized, those
on whom nature had lavished her richest gifts, taught the others. They
could not have heard a new sound for instance, nor experienced new
sensations, nor been struck by all the varied and beautiful objects
that compose the ravishing spectacle of nature without finding
themselves in the state of mind of the deaf man of Chartres, whose
experience was first related by the great Fontenelle,{29} when,
at forty years, he heard for the first time, the astonishing sound
of bells.

Would it be absurd to conclude from this that the first mortals tried
after the manner of this deaf man, or like animals and like mutes
(another kind of animals), to express their new feelings by motions
depending on the nature of their imagination, and therefore afterwards
by spontaneous sounds, distinctive of each animal, as the natural
expression of their surprise, their joy, their ecstasies and their
needs? For doubtless those whom nature endowed with finer feeling
had also greater facility in expression.

That is the way in which, I think, men have used their feeling and
their instinct to gain intelligence and then have employed their
intelligence to gain knowledge. Those are the ways, so far as I can
understand them, in which men have filled the brain with the ideas,
for the reception of which nature made it. Nature and man have helped
each other; and the smallest beginnings have, little by little,
increased, until everything in the universe could be as easily
described as a circle.

As a violin string or a harpsichord key vibrates and gives forth sound,
so the cerebral fibres, struck by waves of sound, are stimulated to
render or repeat the words that strike them. And as the structure
of the brain is such that when eyes well formed for seeing, have
once perceived the image of objects, the brain can not help seeing
their images and their differences, so when the signs of these
differences have been traced or imprinted in the brain, the soul
necessarily examines their relations--an examination that would have
been impossible without the discovery of signs or the invention of
language. At the time when the universe was almost dumb, the soul's
attitude toward all objects was that of a man without any idea of
proportion toward a picture or a piece of sculpture, in which he could
distinguish nothing; or the soul was like a little child (for the
soul was then in its infancy) who, holding in his hand small bits of
straw or wood, sees them in a vague and superficial way without being
able to count or distinguish them. But let some one attach a kind of
banner, or standard, to this bit of wood (which perhaps is called a
mast), and another banner to another similar object; let the first
be known by the symbol 1, and the second by the symbol or number 2,
then the child will be able to count the objects, and in this way he
will learn all of arithmetic. As soon as one figure seems equal to
another in its numerical sign, he will decide without difficulty that
they are two different bodies, that 1 + 1 make 2, and 2 + 2 make 4,
[14] etc.

This real or apparent likeness of figures is the fundamental basis of
all truths and of all we know. Among these sciences, evidently those
whose signs are less simple and less sensible are harder to understand
than the others, because more talent is required to comprehend and
combine the immense number of words by which such sciences express
the truths in their province. On the other hand, the sciences that
are expressed by numbers or by other small signs, are easily learned;
and without doubt this facility rather than its demonstrability is
what has made the fortune of algebra.

All this knowledge, with which vanity fills the balloon-like brains of
our proud pedants, is therefore but a huge mass of words and figures,
which form in the brain all the marks by which we distinguish and
recall objects. All our ideas are awakened after the fashion in which
the gardener who knows plants recalls all stages of their growth at
sight of them. These words and the objects designated by them are
so connected in the brain that it is comparatively rare to imagine
a thing without the name or sign that is attached to it.

I always use the word "imagine," because I think that everything is
the work of imagination, and that all the faculties of the soul can be
correctly reduced to pure imagination in which they all consist.{30}
Thus judgment, reason, and memory are not absolute parts of the soul,
but merely modifications of this kind of medullary screen upon which
images of the objects painted in the eye are projected as by a magic

But if such is the marvelous and incomprehensible result of the
structure of the brain, if everything is perceived and explained
by imagination, why should we divide the sensitive principle which
thinks in man? Is not this a clear inconsistency in the partisans
of the simplicity of the mind? For a thing that is divided can no
longer without absurdity be regarded as indivisible. See to what one is
brought by the abuse of language and by those fine words (spirituality,
immateriality, etc.) used haphazard and not understood even by the
most brilliant.{31}

Nothing is easier than to prove a system based, as this one is, on
the intimate feeling and personal experience of each individual. If
the imagination, or, let us say, that fantastic part of the brain
whose nature is as unknown to us as its way of acting, be naturally
small or weak, it will hardly be able to compare the analogy or the
resemblance of its ideas, it will be able to see only what is face
to face with it, or what affects it very strongly; and how will it
see all this! Yet it is always imagination which apperceives, and
imagination which represents to itself all objects along with their
names and symbols; and thus, once again, imagination is the soul,
since it plays all the rôles of the soul. By the imagination, by its
flattering brush, the cold skeleton of reason takes on living and ruddy
flesh, by the imagination the sciences flourish, the arts are adorned,
the wood speaks, the echoes sigh, the rocks weep, marble breathes, and
all inanimate objects gain life. It is imagination again which adds
the piquant charm of voluptuousness to the tenderness of an amorous
heart; which makes tenderness bud in the study of the philosopher
and of the dusty pedant, which, in a word, creates scholars as well
as orators and poets. Foolishly decried by some, vainly praised by
others, and misunderstood by all; it follows not only in the train
of the graces and of the fine arts, it not only describes, but can
also measure nature. It reasons, judges, analyzes, compares, and
investigates. Could it feel so keenly the beauties of the pictures
drawn for it, unless it discovered their relations? No, just as it can
not turn its thoughts on the pleasures of the senses, without enjoying
their perfection or their voluptuousness, it can not reflect on what
it has mechanically conceived, without thus being judgment itself.

The more the imagination or the poorest talent is exercised, the
more it gains in embonpoint, so to speak, and the larger it grows. It
becomes sensitive, robust, broad, and capable of thinking. The best
of organisms has need of this exercise.

Man's preeminent advantage is his organism.{32} In vain all writers
of books on morals fail to regard as praiseworthy those qualities
that come by nature, esteeming only the talents gained by dint of
reflection and industry. For whence come, I ask, skill, learning,
and virtue, if not from a disposition that makes us fit to become
skilful, wise and virtuous? And whence again, comes this disposition,
if not from nature? Only through nature do we have any good qualities;
to her we owe all that we are. Why then should I not esteem men with
good natural qualities as much as men who shine by acquired and as
it were borrowed virtues? Whatever the virtue may be, from whatever
source it may come, it is worthy of esteem; the only question is,
how to estimate it. Mind, beauty, wealth, nobility, although the
children of chance, all have their own value, as skill, learning and
virtue have theirs. Those upon whom nature has heaped her most costly
gifts should pity those to whom these gifts have been refused; but,
in their character of experts, they may feel their superiority without
pride. A beautiful woman would be as foolish to think herself ugly,
as an intelligent man to think himself a fool. An exaggerated modesty
(a rare fault, to be sure) is a kind of ingratitude towards nature. An
honest pride, on the contrary, is the mark of a strong and beautiful
soul, revealed by manly features moulded by feeling.

If one's organism is an advantage, and the preeminent advantage,
and the source of all others, education is the second. The best made
brain would be a total loss without it, just as the best constituted
man would be but a common peasant, without knowledge of the ways of
the world. But, on the other hand, what would be the use of the most
excellent school, without a matrix perfectly open to the entrance and
conception of ideas? It is ... impossible to impart a single idea to
a man deprived of all his senses....

But if the brain is at the same time well organized and well educated,
it is a fertile soil, well sown, that brings forth a hundredfold
what it has received: or (to leave the figures of speech often
needed to express what one means, and to add grace to truth itself)
the imagination, raised by art to the rare and beautiful dignity
of genius, apprehends exactly all the relations of the ideas it has
conceived, and takes in easily an astounding number of objects, in
order to deduce from them a long chain of consequences, which are
again but new relations, produced by a comparison with the first,
to which the soul finds a perfect resemblance. Such is, I think, the
generation of intelligence.{33} I say "finds" as I before gave the
epithet "apparent" to the likeness of objects, not because I think that
our senses are always deceivers, as Father Malebranche has claimed,
or that our eyes, naturally a little unsteady, fail to see objects as
they are in themselves, (though microscopes prove this to us every
day) but in order to avoid any dispute with the Pyrrhonians,{34}
among whom Bayle{35} is well known.

I say of truth in general what M. de Fontenelle says of certain
truths in particular, that we must sacrifice it in order to remain
on good terms with society. And it accords with the gentleness of
my character, to avoid all disputes unless to whet conversation. The
Cartesians would here in vain make an onset upon me with their innate
ideas. I certainly would not give myself a quarter of the trouble
that M. Locke took, to attack such chimeras. In truth, what is the
use of writing a ponderous volume to prove a doctrine which became
an axiom three thousand years ago?

According to the principles which we have laid down, and which we
consider true; he who has the most imagination should be regarded
as having the most intelligence or genius, for all these words are
synonymous; and again, only by a shameful abuse [of terms] do we
think that we are saying different things, when we are merely using
different words, different sounds, to which no idea or real distinction
is attached.

The finest, greatest, or strongest imagination is then the one most
suited to the sciences as well as to the arts. I do not pretend to say
whether more intellect is necessary to excel in the art of Aristotle
or of Descartes than to excel in that of Euripides or of Sophocles,
and whether nature has taken more trouble to make Newton than to make
Corneille, though I doubt this. But it is certain that imagination
alone, differently applied, has produced their diverse triumphs and
their immortal glory.

If one is known as having little judgment and much imagination, this
means that the imagination has been left too much alone, has, as it
were, occupied most of the time in looking at itself in the mirror of
its sensations, has not sufficiently formed the habit of examining the
sensations themselves attentively. [It means that the imagination] has
been more impressed by images than by their truth or their likeness.

Truly, so quick are the responses of the imagination that if attention,
that key or mother of the sciences, does not do its part, imagination
can do little more than run over and skim its objects.

See that bird on the bough: it seems always ready to fly
away. Imagination is like the bird, always carried onward by the
turmoil of the blood and the animal spirits. One wave leaves a mark,
effaced by the one that follows; the soul pursues it, often in vain:
it must expect to regret the loss of that which it has not quickly
enough seized and fixed. Thus, imagination, the true image of time,
is being ceaselessly destroyed and renewed.

Such is the chaos and the continuous quick succession of our
ideas: they drive each other away even as one wave yields to
another. Therefore, if imagination does not, as it were, use one set
of its muscles to maintain a kind of equilibrium with the fibres of
the brain, to keep its attention for a while upon an object that is on
the point of disappearing, and to prevent itself from contemplating
prematurely another object--[unless the imagination does all this],
it will never be worthy of the fine name of judgment. It will express
vividly what it has perceived in the same fashion: it will create
orators, musicians, painters, poets, but never a single philosopher. On
the contrary, if the imagination be trained from childhood to bridle
itself and to keep from being carried away by its own impetuosity--an
impetuosity which creates only brilliant enthusiasts--and to check,
to restrain, its ideas, to examine them in all their aspects in
order to see all sides of an object, then the imagination, ready in
judgment, will comprehend the greatest possible sphere of objects,
through reasoning; and its vivacity (always so good a sign in children,
and only needing to be regulated by study and training) will be only
a far-seeing insight without which little progress can be made in
the sciences.

Such are the simple foundations upon which the edifice of logic has
been reared. Nature has built these foundations for the whole human
race, but some have used them, while others have abused them.

In spite of all these advantages of man over animals, it is doing him
honor to place him in the same class. For, truly, up to a certain
age, he is more of an animal than they, since at birth he has less
instinct. What animal would die of hunger in the midst of a river of
milk? Man alone. Like that child of olden time to whom a modern writer,
refers, following Arnobius,{36} he knows neither the foods suitable for
him, nor the water that can drown him, nor the fire that can reduce him
to ashes. Light a wax candle for the first time under a child's eyes,
and he will mechanically put his fingers in the flame as if to find
out what is the new thing that he sees. It is at his own cost that
he will learn of the danger, but he will not be caught again. Or,
put the child with an animal on a precipice, the child alone falls
off; he drowns where the animal would save itself by swimming. At
fourteen or fifteen years the child knows hardly anything of the
great pleasures in store for him, in the reproduction of his species;
when he is a youth, he does not know exactly how to behave in a game
which nature teaches animals so quickly. He hides himself as if he
were ashamed of taking pleasure, and of having been made to be happy,
while animals frankly glory in being cynics. Without education, they
are without prejudices. For one more example, let us observe a dog and
a child who have lost their master on a highway: the child cries and
does not know to what saint to pray, while the dog, better helped by
his sense of smell than the child by his reason, soon finds his master.

Thus nature made us to be lower than animals or at least to exhibit all
the more, because of that native inferiority, the wonderful efficacy
of education which alone raises us from the level of the animals
and lifts us above them. But shall we grant this same distinction to
the deaf and to the blind, to imbeciles, madmen, or savages, or to
those who have been brought up in the woods with animals; to those
who have lost their imagination through melancholia, or in short to
all those animals in human form who give evidence of only the rudest
instinct? No, all these, men of body but not of mind, do not deserve
to be classed by themselves.

We do not intend to hide from ourselves the arguments that can
be brought forward against our belief and in favor of a primitive
distinction between men and animals. Some say that there is in man
a natural law, a knowledge of good and evil, which has never been
imprinted on the heart of animals.

But is this objection, or rather this assertion, based on
observation? Any assertion unfounded on observation may be rejected by
a philosopher. Have we ever had a single experience which convinces
us that man alone has been enlightened by a ray denied all other
animals? If there is no such experience, we can no more know what
goes on in animals' minds or even in the minds of other men, than
we can help feeling what affects the inner part of our own being. We
know that we think, and feel remorse--an intimate feeling forces us to
recognize this only too well; but this feeling in us is insufficient to
enable us to judge the remorse of others. That is why we have to take
others at their word, or judge them by the sensible and external signs
we have noticed in ourselves when we experienced the same accusations
of conscience and the same torments.

In order to decide whether animals which do not talk have received the
natural law, we must, therefore, have recourse to those signs to which
I have just referred, if any such exist. The facts seem to prove it. A
dog that bit the master who was teasing it, seemed to repent a minute
afterwards; it looked sad, ashamed, afraid to show itself, and seemed
to confess its guilt by a crouching and downcast air. History offers
us a famous example of a lion which would not devour a man abandoned
to its fury, because it recognized him as its benefactor. How much
might it be wished that man himself always showed the same gratitude
for kindnesses, and the same respect for humanity! Then we should no
longer fear either ungrateful wretches, or wars which are the plague
of the human race and the real executioners of the natural law.

But a being to which nature has given such a precocious and enlightened
instinct, which judges, combines, reasons, and deliberates as far
as the sphere of its activity extends and permits, a being which
feels attachment because of benefits received, and which leaving a
master who treats it badly goes to seek a better one, a being with
a structure like ours, which performs the same acts, has the same
passions, the same griefs, the same pleasures, more or less intense
according to the sway of the imagination and the delicacy of the
nervous organization--does not such a being show clearly that it
knows its faults and ours, understands good and evil, and in a word,
has consciousness of what it does? Would its soul, which feels the
same joys, the same mortification and the same discomfiture which we
feel, remain utterly unmoved by disgust when it saw a fellow-creature
torn to bits, or when it had itself pitilessly dismembered this
fellow-creature? If this be granted, it follows that the precious gift
now in question would not have been denied to animals: for since they
show us sure signs of repentance, as well as of intelligence, what
is there absurd in thinking that beings, almost as perfect machines
as ourselves, are, like us, made to understand and to feel nature?

Let no one object that animals, for the most part, are savage
beasts, incapable of realizing the evil that they do; for do all men
discriminate better between vice and virtue? There is ferocity in our
species as well as in theirs. Men who are in the barbarous habit of
breaking the natural law are not tormented as much by it, as those who
transgress it for the first time, and who have not been hardened by
the force of habit. The same thing is true of animals as of men--both
may be more or less ferocious in temperament, and both become more
so by living with others like themselves. But a gentle and peaceful
animal which lives among other animals of the same disposition and of
gentle nurture, will be an enemy of blood and carnage; it will blush
internally at having shed blood. There is perhaps this difference,
that since among animals everything is sacrificed to their needs, to
their pleasures, to the necessities of life, which they enjoy more
than we, their remorse apparently should not be as keen as ours,
because we are not in the same state of necessity as they. Custom
perhaps dulls and perhaps stifles remorse as well as pleasures.

But I will suppose for a moment that I am utterly mistaken in
concluding that almost all the world holds a wrong opinion on this
subject, while I alone am right. I will grant that animals, even
the best of them, do not know the difference between moral good and
evil, that they have no recollection of the trouble taken for them,
of the kindness done them, no realization of their own virtues. [I
will suppose], for instance, that this lion, to which I, like so many
others, have referred, does not remember at all that it refused to
kill the man, abandoned to its fury, in a combat more inhuman than
one could find among lions, tigers and bears, put together. For our
compatriots fight, Swiss against Swiss, brother against brother,
recognize each other, and yet capture and kill each other without
remorse, because a prince pays for the murder. I suppose in short
that the natural law has not been given animals. What will be the
consequences of this supposition? Man is not moulded from a costlier
clay; nature has used but one dough, and has merely varied the
leaven. Therefore if animals do not repent for having violated this
inmost feeling which I am discussing, or rather if they absolutely
lack it, man must necessarily be in the same condition. Farewell
then to the natural law and all the fine treatises published about
it! The whole animal kingdom in general would be deprived of it. But,
conversely, if man can not dispense with the belief that when health
permits him to be himself, he always distinguishes the upright, humane,
and virtuous, from those who are not humane, virtuous, nor honorable:
that it is easy to tell vice from virtue, by the unique pleasure and
the peculiar repugnance that seem to be their natural effects, it
follows that animals, composed of the same matter, lacking perhaps
only one degree of fermentation to make it exactly like man's,
must share the same prerogatives of animal nature, and that thus
there exists no soul or sensitive substance without remorse.{37}
The following consideration will reinforce these observations.

It is impossible to destroy the natural law. The impress of it on
all animals is so strong, that I have no doubt that the wildest and
most savage have some moments of repentance. I believe that that
cruel maid of Chalons in Champagne must have sorrowed for her crime,
if she really ate her sister. I think that the same thing is true
of all those who commit crimes, even involuntary or temperamental
crimes: true of Gaston of Orleans who could not help stealing; of a
certain woman who was subject to the same crime when pregnant, and
whose children inherited it; of the woman who, in the same condition,
ate her husband; of that other woman who killed her children, salted
their bodies, and ate a piece of them every day, as a little relish;
of that daughter of a thief and cannibal who at twelve years followed
in his steps, although she had been orphaned when she was a year old,
and had been brought up by honest people; to say nothing of many other
examples of which the records of our observers are full, all of them
proving that there are a thousand hereditary vices and virtues which
are transmitted from parents to children as those of the foster mother
pass to the children she nurses. Now, I believe and admit that these
wretches do not for the most part feel at the time the enormity of
their actions. Bulimia, or canine hunger, for example, can stifle
all feeling; it is a mania of the stomach that one is compelled to
satisfy, but what remorse must be in store for those women, when they
come to themselves and grow sober, and remember the crimes they have
committed against those they held most dear! What a punishment for
an involuntary crime which they could not resist, of which they had
no consciousness whatever! However, this is apparently not enough
for the judges. For of these women, of whom I tell, one was cruelly
beaten and burned, and another was buried alive. I realize all that
is demanded by the interest of society. But doubtless it is much to
be wished that excellent physicians might be the only judges. They
alone could tell the innocent criminal from the guilty. If reason is
the slave of a depraved or mad desire, how can it control the desire?

But if crime carries with it its own more or less cruel punishment,
if the most continued and most barbarous habit can not entirely blot
out repentance in the crudest hearts, if criminals are lacerated by the
very memory of their deeds, why should we frighten the imagination of
weak minds, by a hell, by specters, and by precipices of fire even less
real than those of Pascal? [15] Why must we have recourse to fables, as
an honest pope once said himself, to torment even the unhappy wretches
who are executed, because we do not think that they are sufficiently
punished by their own conscience, their first executioner? I do
not mean to say that all criminals are unjustly punished; I only
maintain that those whose will is depraved, and whose conscience is
extinguished, are punished enough by their remorse when they come to
themselves, a remorse, I venture to assert, from which nature should in
this case have delivered unhappy souls dragged on by a fatal necessity.

Criminals, scoundrels, ingrates, those in short without natural
feelings, unhappy tyrants who are unworthy of life, in vain take
a cruel pleasure in their barbarity, for there are calm moments of
reflection in which the avenging conscience arises, testifies against
them, and condemns them to be almost ceaselessly torn to pieces at
their own hands. Whoever torments men is tormented by himself; and
the sufferings that he will experience will be the just measure of
those that he has inflicted.

On the other hand, there is so much pleasure in doing good, in
recognizing and appreciating what one receives, so much satisfaction
in practising virtue, in being gentle, humane, kind, charitable,
compassionate and generous (for this one word includes all the
virtues), that I consider as sufficiently punished any one who is
unfortunate enough not to have been born virtuous.

We were not originally made to be learned; we have become so perhaps
by a sort of abuse of our organic faculties, and at the expense of
the State which nourishes a host of sluggards whom vanity has adorned
with the name of philosophers. Nature has created us all solely to be
happy{38}--yes, all of us from the crawling worm to the eagle lost
in the clouds. For this cause she has given all animals some share
of natural law, a share greater or less according to the needs of
each animal's organs when in normal condition.

Now how shall we define natural law? It is a feeling that teaches us
what we should not do, because we would not wish it to be done to
us. Should I dare add to this common idea, that this feeling seems
to me but a kind of fear or dread, as salutary to the race as to the
individual; for may it not be true that we respect the purse and life
of others only to save our own possessions, our honor, and ourselves;
like those Ixions of Christianity{39} who love God and embrace so
many fantastic virtues, merely because they are afraid of hell!

You see that natural law is but an intimate feeling that,
like all other feelings (thought included), belongs also to
imagination. Evidently, therefore, natural law does not presuppose
education, revelation, nor legislator,--provided one does not propose
to confuse natural law with civil laws, in the ridiculous fashion of
the theologians.

The arms of fanaticism may destroy those who support these truths,
but they will never destroy the truths themselves.

I do not mean to call in question the existence of a supreme being;
on the contrary it seems to me that the greatest degree of probability
is in favor of this belief. But since the existence of this being goes
no further than that of any other toward proving the need of worship,
it is a theoretic truth with very little practical value. Therefore,
since we may say, after such long experience, that religion does not
imply exact honesty, we are authorized by the same reasons to think
that atheism does not exclude it.

Furthermore, who can be sure that the reason for man's existence
is not simply the fact that he exists?{40} Perhaps he was thrown by
chance on some spot on the earth's surface, nobody knows how nor why,
but simply that he must live and die, like the mushrooms which appear
from day to day, or like those flowers which border the ditches and
cover the walls.

Let us not lose ourselves in the infinite, for we are not made to have
the least idea thereof, and are absolutely unable to get back to the
origin of things. Besides it does not matter for our peace of mind,
whether matter be eternal or have been created, whether there be or
be not a God. How foolish to torment ourselves so much about things
which we can not know, and which would not make us any happier even
were we to gain knowledge about them!

But, some will say, read all such works as those of Fénelon,{41} of
Nieuwentyt,{42} of Abadie,{43} of Derham,{44} of Rais,{45} and the
rest. Well! what will they teach me or rather what have they taught
me? They are only tiresome repetitions of zealous writers, one of
whom adds to the other only verbiage, more likely to strengthen than
to undermine the foundations of atheism. The number of the evidences
drawn from the spectacle of nature does not give these evidences any
more force. Either the mere structure of a finger, of an ear, of an
eye, a single observation of Malpighi{46} proves all, and doubtless
much better than Descartes and Malebranche proved it, or all the
other evidences prove nothing. Deists,{47} and even Christians, should
therefore be content to point out that throughout the animal kingdom
the same aims are pursued and accomplished by an infinite number of
different mechanisms, all of them however exactly geometrical. For what
stronger weapons could there be with which to overthrow atheists? It
is true that if my reason does not deceive me, man and the whole
universe seem to have been designed for this unity of aim. The sun,
air, water, the organism, the shape of bodies,--everything is brought
to a focus in the eye as in a mirror that faithfully presents to the
imagination all the objects reflected in it, in accordance with the
laws required by the infinite variety of bodies which take part in
vision. In ears we find everywhere a striking variety, and yet the
difference of structure in men, animals, birds, and fishes, does not
produce different uses. All ears are so mathematically made, that
they tend equally to one and the same end, namely, hearing. But would
Chance, the deist asks, be a great enough geometrician to vary thus,
at pleasure, the works of which she is supposed to be the author,
without being hindered by so great a diversity from gaining the
same end? Again, the deist will bring forward as a difficulty those
parts of the animal that are clearly contained in it for future use,
the butterfly in the caterpillar, man in the sperm, a whole polyp in
each of its parts, the valvule in the oval orifice, the lungs in the
foetus, the teeth in their sockets, the bones in the fluid from which
they detach themselves and (in an incomprehensible manner) harden. And
since the partisans of this theory, far from neglecting anything that
would strengthen it, never tire of piling up proof upon proof, they
are willing to avail themselves of everything, even of the weakness
of the mind in certain cases. Look, they say, at men like Spinoza,
Vanini,{48} Desbarreau,{49} and Boindin,{50} apostles who honor deism
more than they harm it. The duration of their health was the measure
of their unbelief, and one rarely fails, they add, to renounce atheism
when the passions, with their instrument, the body, have grown weak.

That is certainly the most that can be said in favor of the
existence of God: although the last argument is frivolous in that
these conversions are short, and the mind almost always regains its
former opinions and acts accordingly, as soon as it has regained or
rather rediscovered its strength in that of the body. That is, at
least, much more than was said by the physician Diderot,{51} in his
"Pensées Philosophiques," a sublime work that will not convince a
single atheist. What reply can, in truth, be made to a man who says,
"We do not know nature; causes hidden in her breast might have produced
everything. In your turn, observe the polyp of Trembley:{52} does it
not contain in itself the causes which bring about regeneration? Why
then would it be absurd to think that there are physical causes by
reason of which everything has been made, and to which the whole chain
of this vast universe is so necessarily bound and held that nothing
which happens, could have failed to happen,{53}--causes, of which we
are so invincibly ignorant that we have had recourse to a God, who, as
some aver, is not so much as a logical entity? Thus to destroy chance
is not to prove the existence of a supreme being, since there may be
some other thing which is neither chance nor God--I mean, nature. It
follows that the study of nature can make only unbelievers; and the
way of thinking of all its more successful investigators proves this."

The weight of the universe therefore far from crushing a real atheist
does not even shake him. All these evidences of a creator, repeated
thousands and thousands of times, evidences that are placed far above
the comprehension of men like us, are self-evident (however far one
push the argument) only to the anti-Pyrrhonians,{54} or to those who
have enough confidence in their reason to believe themselves capable of
judging on the basis of certain phenomena, against which, as you see,
the atheists can urge others perhaps equally strong and absolutely
opposed. For if we listen to the naturalists again, they will tell
us that the very causes which, in a chemist's hands, by a chance
combination, made the first mirror, in the hands of nature made the
pure water, the mirror of the simple shepherdess; that the motion which
keeps the world going could have created it, that each body has taken
the place assigned to it by its own nature, that the air must have
surrounded the earth, and that iron and the other metals are produced
by internal motions of the earth, for one and the same reason; that
the sun is as much a natural product as electricity, that it was not
made to warm the earth and its inhabitants, whom it sometimes burns,
any more than the rain was made to make the seeds grow, which it often
spoils; that the mirror and the water were no more made for people to
see themselves in, than were all other polished bodies with this same
property; that the eye is in truth a kind of glass in which the soul
can contemplate the image of objects as they are presented to it by
these bodies, but that it is not proved that this organ was really made
expressly for this contemplation, nor purposely placed in its socket,
and in short that it may well be that Lucretius,{55} the physician
Lamy,{56} and all Epicureans both ancient and modern were right when
they suggested that the eye sees only because it is formed and placed
as it is,{57} and that, given once for all, the same rules of motion
followed by nature in the generation and development of bodies,
this marvelous organ could not have been formed and placed differently.

Such is the pro and the con, and the summary of those fine arguments
that will eternally divide the philosophers. I do not take either side.

    "Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites."{58}

This is what I said to one of my friends, a Frenchman, as frank a
Pyrronian as I, a man of much merit, and worthy of a better fate. He
gave me a very singular answer in regard to the matter. "It is true,"
he told me, "that the pro and con should not disturb at all the soul of
a philosopher, who sees that nothing is proved with clearness enough
to force his consent, and that the arguments offered on one side
are neutralized by those of the other. However," he continued, "the
universe will never be happy, unless it is atheistic."{59} Here are
this wretch's reasons. If atheism, said he, were generally accepted,
all the forms of religion would then be destroyed and cut off at the
roots. No more theological wars, no more soldiers of religion--such
terrible soldiers! Nature infected with a sacred poison, would regain
its rights and its purity. Deaf to all other voices, tranquil mortals
would follow only the spontaneous dictates of their own being the
only commands which can never be despised with impunity and which
alone can lead us to happiness through the pleasant paths of virtue.

Such is natural law: whoever rigidly observes it is a good man and
deserves the confidence of all the human race. Whoever fails to follow
it scrupulously affects, in vain, the specious exterior of another
religion; he is a scamp or a hypocrite whom I distrust.

After this, let a vain people think otherwise, let them dare affirm
that even probity is at stake in not believing in revelation,
in a word that another religion than that of nature is necessary,
whatever it may be. Such an assertion is wretched and pitiable;
and so is the good opinion which each one gives us of the religion
he has embraced! We do not seek here the votes of the crowd. Whoever
raises in his heart altars to superstition, is born to worship idols
and not to thrill to virtue.

But since all the faculties of the soul depend to such a degree
on the proper organization of the brain and of the whole body,
that apparently they are but this organization itself, the soul is
clearly an enlightened machine. For finally, even if man alone had
received a share of natural law, would he be any less a machine for
that? A few more wheels, a few more springs than in the most perfect
animals, the brain proportionally nearer the heart and for this very
reason receiving more blood--any one of a number of unknown causes
might always produce this delicate conscience so easily wounded, this
remorse which is no more foreign to matter than to thought, and in a
word all the differences that are supposed to exist here. Could the
organism then suffice for everything? Once more, yes; since thought
visibly develops with our organs, why should not the matter of which
they are composed be susceptible of remorse also, when once it has
acquired, with time, the faculty of feeling?

The soul is therefore but an empty word, of which no one has any
idea, and which an enlightened man should use only to signify the
part in us that thinks.{60} Given the least principle of motion,
animated bodies will have all that is necessary for moving, feeling,
thinking, repenting, or in a word for conducting themselves in the
physical realm, and in the moral realm which depends upon it.

Yet we take nothing for granted; those who perhaps think that all the
difficulties have not yet been removed shall now read of experiments
that will completely satisfy them.

1. The flesh of all animals palpitates after death. This palpitation
continues longer, the more cold blooded the animal is and the less
it perspires. Tortoises, lizards, serpents, etc. are evidence of this.

2. Muscles separated from the body contract when they are stimulated.

3. The intestines keep up their peristaltic or vermicular motion for
a long time.

4. According to Cowper,{61} a simple injection of hot water reanimates
the heart and the muscles.

5. A frog's heart moves for an hour or more after it has been removed
from the body, especially when exposed to the sun or better still when
placed on a hot table or chair. If this movement seems totally lost,
one has only to stimulate the heart, and that hollow muscle beats
again. Harvey{62} made this same observation on toads.

6. Bacon of Verulam{63} in his treatise "Sylva Sylvarum" cites the
case of a man convicted of treason, who was opened alive, and whose
heart thrown into hot water leaped several times, each time less high,
to the perpendicular height of two feet.

7. Take a tiny chicken still in the egg, cut out the heart and you
will observe the same phenomena as before, under almost the same
conditions. The warmth of the breath alone reanimates an animal about
to perish in the air pump.

The same experiments, which we owe to Boyle{64} and to Sténon,{65}
are made on pigeons, dogs, and rabbits. Pieces of their hearts beat
as their whole hearts would. The same movements can be seen in paws
that have been cut off from moles.

8. The caterpillar, the worm, the spider, the fly, the eel--all exhibit
the same phenomena; and in hot water, because of the fire it contains,
the movement of the detached parts increases.

9. A drunken soldier cut off with one stroke of his sabre an Indian
rooster's head. The animal remained standing, then walked, and ran:
happening to run against a wall, it turned around, beat its wings
still running, and finally fell down. As it lay on the ground, all the
muscles of this rooster kept on moving. That is what I saw myself,
and almost the same phenomena can easily be observed in kittens or
puppies with their heads cut off.

10. Polyps do more than move after they have been cut in pieces. In a
week they regenerate to form as many animals as there are pieces. I
am sorry that these facts speak against the naturalists' system of
generation; or rather I am very glad of it, for let this discovery
teach us never to reach a general conclusion even on the ground of
all known (and most decisive) experiments.

Here we have many more facts than are needed to prove, in an
incontestable way, that each tiny fibre or part of an organized
body moves by a principle which belongs to it. Its activity, unlike
voluntary motions, does not depend in any way on the nerves, since
the movements in question occur in parts of the body which have no
connection with the circulation. But if this force is manifested even
in sections of fibres the heart, which is a composite of peculiarly
connected fibres, must possess the same property. I did not need
Bacon's story to persuade me of this. It was easy for me to come to
this conclusion, both from the perfect analogy of the structure of the
human heart with that of animals, and also from the very bulk of the
human heart, in which this movement escapes our eyes only because it is
smothered, and finally because in corpses all the organs are cold and
lifeless. If executed criminals were dissected while their bodies are
still warm, we should probably see in their hearts the same movements
that are observed in the face-muscles of those that have been beheaded.

The motive principle of the whole body, and even of its parts cut in
pieces, is such that it produces not irregular movements, as some have
thought, but very regular ones, in warm blooded and perfect animals
as well as in cold and imperfect ones. No resource therefore remains
open to our adversaries but to deny thousands and thousands of facts
which every man can easily verify.

If now any one ask me where is this innate force in our bodies,
I answer that it very clearly resides in what the ancients called
the parenchyma, that is to say, in the very substance of the organs
not including the veins, the arteries, the nerves, in a word, that it
resides in the organization of the whole body, and that consequently
each organ contains within itself forces more or less active according
to the need of them.

Let us now go into some detail concerning these springs of the human
machine. All the vital, animal, natural, and automatic motions are
carried on by their action. Is it not in a purely mechanical way
that the body shrinks back when it is struck with terror at the
sight of an unforeseen precipice, that the eyelids are lowered at
the menace of a blow, as some have remarked, and that the pupil
contracts in broad daylight to save the retina, and dilates to see
objects in darkness? Is it not by mechanical means that the pores
of the skin close in winter so that the cold can not penetrate to
the interior of the blood vessels, and that the stomach vomits when
it is irritated by poison, by a certain quantity of opium and by all
emetics, etc.? that the heart, the arteries and the muscles contract
in sleep as well as in waking hours, that the lungs serve as bellows
continually in exercise, ... that the heart contracts more strongly
than any other muscle?{66}...

I shall not go into any more detail concerning all these little
subordinate forces, well known to all. But there is another more
subtle and marvelous force, which animates them all; it is the source
of all our feelings, of all our pleasures, of all our passions, and
of all our thoughts: for the brain has its muscles for thinking,
as the legs have muscles for walking.{67} I wish to speak of this
impetuous principle that Hippocrates calls enormôn (soul). This
principle exists and has its seat in the brain at the origin of the
nerves, by which it exercises its control over all the rest of the
body. By this fact is explained all that can be explained, even to
the surprising effects of maladies of the imagination....

Look at the portrait of the famous Pope who is, to say the least,
the Voltaire of the English. The effort, the energy of his genius are
imprinted upon his countenance. It is convulsed. His eyes protrude
from their sockets, the eyebrows are raised with the muscles of the
forehead. Why? Because the brain is in travail and all the body must
share in such a laborious deliverance. If there were not an internal
cord which pulled the external ones, whence would come all these
phenomena? To admit a soul as explanation of them, is to be reduced to
[explaining phenomena by] the operations of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, if what thinks in my brain is not a part of this organ and
therefore of the whole body, why does my blood boil, and the fever of
my mind pass into my veins, when lying quietly in bed, I am forming
the plan of some work or carrying on an abstract calculation? Put
this question to men of imagination, to great poets, to men who are
enraptured by the felicitous expression of sentiment, and transported
by an exquisite fancy or by the charms of nature, of truth, or of
virtue! By their enthusiasm, by what they will tell you they have
experienced, you will judge the cause by its effects; by that harmony
which Borelli,{68} a mere anatomist, understood better than all the
Leibnizians, you will comprehend the material unity of man. In short,
if the nerve-tension which causes pain occasions also the fever by
which the distracted mind loses its will-power, and if, conversely,
the mind too much excited, disturbs the body (and kindles that inner
fire which killed Bayle while he was still so young); if an agitation
rouses my desire and my ardent wish for what, a moment ago, I cared
nothing about, and if in their turn certain brain impressions excite
the same longing and the same desires, then why should we regard as
double what is manifestly one being? In vain you fall back on the
power of the will, since for one order that the will gives, it bows a
hundred times to the yoke.{69} And what wonder that in health the body
obeys, since a torrent of blood and of animal spirits{70} forces its
obedience, and since the will has as ministers an invisible legion of
fluids swifter than lightning and ever ready to do its bidding! But
as the power of the will is exercised by means of the nerves, it is
likewise limited by them.....

Does the result of jaundice surprise you? Do you not know that the
color of bodies depends on the color of the glasses through which
we look at them,{71} and that whatever is the color of the humors,
such is the color of objects, at least for us, vain playthings of a
thousand illusions? But remove this color from the aqueous humor of
the eye, let the bile flow through its natural filter, then the soul
having new eyes, will no longer see yellow. Again, is it not thus, by
removing cataract, or by injecting the Eustachian canal, that sight
is restored to the blind, or hearing to the deaf? How many people,
who were perhaps only clever charlatans, passed for miracle workers
in the dark ages! Beautiful the soul, and powerful the will which
can not act save by permission of the bodily conditions, and whose
tastes change with age and fever! Should we, then, be astonished
that philosophers have always had in mind the health of the body,
to preserve the health of the soul, that Pythagoras{72} gave rules
for the diet as carefully as Plato forbade wine?{73} The regime
suited to the body is always the one with which sane physicians
think they must begin, when it is a question of forming the mind,
and of instructing it in the knowledge of truth and virtue; but
these are vain words in the disorder of illness, and in the tumult
of the senses. Without the precepts of hygiene, Epictetus, Socrates,
Plato, and the rest preach in vain: all ethics is fruitless for one
who lacks his share of temperance; it is the source of all virtues,
as intemperance is the source of all vices.

Is more needed, (for why lose myself in discussion of the passions
which are all explained by the term, enormôn, of Hippocrates) to prove
that man is but an animal, or a collection of springs which wind each
other up, without our being able to tell at what point in this human
circle, nature has begun? If these springs differ among themselves,
these differences consist only in their position and in their degrees
of strength, and never in their nature; wherefore the soul is but
a principle of motion or a material and sensible part of the brain,
which can be regarded, without fear of error, as the mainspring of
the whole machine, having a visible influence on all the parts. The
soul seems even to have been made for the brain, so that all the other
parts of the system are but a kind of emanation from the brain. This
will appear from certain observations, made on different embryos,
which I shall now enumerate.

This oscillation, which is natural or suited to our machine, and with
which each fibre and even each fibrous element, so to speak, seems
to be endowed, like that of a pendulum, can not keep up forever. It
must be renewed, as it loses strength, invigorated when it is tired,
and weakened when it is disturbed by excess of strength and vigor. In
this alone, true medicine consists.

The body is but a watch, whose watchmaker is the new chyle. Nature's
first care, when the chyle enters the blood, is to excite in it a
kind of fever{74} which the chemists, who dream only of retorts, must
have taken for fermentation. This fever produces a greater filtration
of spirits, which mechanically animate the muscles and the heart,
as if they had been sent there by order of the will.

These then are the causes or the forces of life which thus sustain for
a hundred years that perpetual movement of the solids and the liquids
which is as necessary to the first as to the second. But who can say
whether the solids contribute more than the fluids to this movement or
vice versa? All that we know is that the action of the former would
soon cease without the help of the latter, that is, without the help
of the fluids which by their onset rouse and maintain the elasticity
of the blood vessels on which their own circulation depends. From this
it follows that after death the natural resilience of each substance
is still more or less strong according to the remnants of life which
it outlives, being the last to perish. So true is it that this force
of the animal parts can be preserved and strengthened by that of
the circulation, but that it does not depend on the strength of the
circulation, since, as we have seen, it can dispense with even the
integrity of each member or organ.

I am aware that this opinion has not been relished by all scholars,
and that Stahl especially had much scorn for it. This great chemist
has wished to persuade us that the soul is the sole cause of all our
movements. But this is to speak as a fanatic and not as a philosopher.

To destroy the hypothesis of Stahl,{75} we need not make as great an
effort as I find that others have done before me. We need only glance
at a violinist. What flexibility, what lightness in his fingers! The
movements are so quick, that it seems almost as if there were no
succession. But I pray, or rather I challenge, the followers of
Stahl who understand so perfectly all that our soul can do, to
tell me how it could possibly execute so many motions so quickly,
motions, moreover, which take place so far from the soul, and in so
many different places. That is to suppose that a flute player could
play brilliant cadences on an infinite number of holes that he could
not know, and on which he could not even put his finger!

But let us say with M. Hecquet{76} that all men may not go to
Corinth.{77} Why should not Stahl have been even more favored by nature
as a man than as a chemist and a practitioner? Happy mortal, he must
have received a soul different from that of the rest of mankind,--a
sovereign soul, which, not content with having some control over
the voluntary muscles, easily held the reins of all the movements
of the body, and could suspend them, calm them, or excite them,
at its pleasure! With so despotic a mistress, in whose hands were,
in a sense, the beating of the heart, and the laws of circulation,
there could certainly be no fever, no pain, no weariness,...! The
soul wills, and the springs play, contract or relax. But how did the
springs of Stahl's machine get out of order so soon? He who has in
himself so great a doctor, should be immortal.

Moreover, Stahl is not the only one who has rejected the principle
of the vibration of organic bodies. Greater minds have not used
the principle when they wished to explain the action of the heart,
... etc. One need only read the "Institutions of Medicine" by
Boerhaave{78} to see what laborious and enticing systems this great
man was obliged to invent, by the labor of his mighty genius, through
failure to admit that there is so wonderful a force in all bodies.

Willis{79} and Perrault,{80} minds of a more feeble stamp, but careful
observers of nature (whereas nature was known to the famous Leyden
professor only through others and second hand, so to speak) seem to
have preferred to suppose a soul generally extended over the whole
body, instead of the principle which we are describing. But according
to this hypothesis (which was the hypothesis of Vergil and of all
Epicureans, an hypothesis which the history of the polyp might seem
at first sight to favor) the movements which go on after the death of
the subject in which they inhere are due to a remnant of soul still
maintained by the parts that contract, though, from the moment of
death, these are not excited by the blood and the spirits. Whence it
may be seen that these writers, whose solid works easily eclipse all
philosophic fables, are deceived only in the manner of those who have
endowed matter with the faculty of thinking, I mean to say, by having
expressed themselves badly in obscure and meaningless terms. In
truth, what is this remnant of a soul, if it is not the "moving
force" of the Leibnizians (badly rendered by such an expression),
which however Perrault in particular has really foreseen. See his
"Treatise on the Mechanism of Animals."

Now that it is clearly proved against the Cartesians, the followers of
Stahl, the Malebranchists, and the theologians who little deserve to be
mentioned here, that matter is self-moved,{81} not only when organized,
as in a whole heart, for example, but even when this organization has
been destroyed, human curiosity would like to discover how a body,
by the fact that it is originally endowed with the breath of life,
finds itself adorned in consequence with the faculty of feeling,
and thus with that of thought. And, heavens, what efforts have not
been made by certain philosophers to manage to prove this! and what
nonsense on this subject I have had the patience to read!

All that experience teaches us is that while movement persists, however
slight it may be, in one or more fibres, we need only stimulate them
to re-excite and animate this movement almost extinguished. This has
been shown in the host of experiments with which I have undertaken
to crush the systems. It is therefore certain that motion and feeling
excite each other in turn, both in a whole body and in the same body
when its structure is destroyed, to say nothing of certain plants which
seem to exhibit the same phenomena of the union of feeling and motion.

But furthermore, how many excellent philosophers have shown that
thought is but a faculty of feeling, and that the reasonable soul
is but the feeling soul engaged in contemplating its ideas and in
reasoning! This would be proved by the fact alone that when feeling
is stifled, thought also is checked, for instance in apoplexy, in
lethargy, in catalepsis, etc. For it is ridiculous to suggest that,
during these stupors, the soul keeps on thinking, even though it does
not remember the ideas that it has had.

As to the development of feeling and motion, it is absurd to waste
time seeking for its mechanism. The nature of motion is as unknown
to us as that of matter.{82} How can we discover how it is produced
unless, like the author of "The History of the Soul," we resuscitate
the old and unintelligible doctrine of substantial forms? I am then
quite as content not to know how inert and simple matter becomes
active and highly organized, as not to be able to look at the sun
without red glasses; and I am as little disquieted concerning the
other incomprehensible wonders of nature, the production of feeling
and of thought in a being which earlier appeared to our limited eyes
as a mere clod of clay.

Grant only that organized matter is endowed with a principle of motion,
which alone differentiates it from the inorganic (and can one deny
this in the face of the most incontestable observation?) and that
among animals, as I have sufficiently proved, everything depends
upon the diversity of this organization: these admissions suffice
for guessing the riddle of substances and of man. It [thus] appears
that there is but one [type of organization] in the universe, and
that man is the most perfect [example]. He is to the ape, and to the
most intelligent animals, as the planetary pendulum of Huyghens{83}
is to a watch of Julien Leroy.{84} More instruments, more wheels and
more springs were necessary to mark the movements of the planets than
to mark or strike the hours; and Vaucanson,{85} who needed more skill
for making his flute player than for making his duck, would have needed
still more to make a talking man, a mechanism no longer to be regarded
as impossible, especially in the hands of another Prometheus. In like
fashion, it was necessary that nature should use more elaborate art
in making and sustaining a machine which for a whole century could
mark all motions of the heart and of the mind; for though one does
not tell time by the pulse, it is at least the barometer of the warmth
and the vivacity by which one may estimate the nature of the soul. I
am right! The human body is a watch, a large watch constructed with
such skill and ingenuity, that if the wheel which marks the seconds
happens to stop, the minute wheel turns and keeps on going its round,
and in the same way the quarter-hour wheel, and all the others go
on running when the first wheels have stopped because rusty or,
for any reason, out of order. Is it not for a similar reason that
the stoppage of a few blood vessels is not enough to destroy or
suspend the strength of the movement which is in the heart as in the
mainspring of the machine; since, on the contrary, the fluids whose
volume is diminished, having a shorter road to travel, cover the
ground more quickly, borne on as by a fresh current which the energy
of the heart increases in proportion to the resistance it encounters
at the ends of the blood-vessels? And is not this the reason why the
loss of sight (caused by the compression of the optic nerve and by
its ceasing to convey the images of objects) no more hinders hearing,
than the loss of hearing (caused by obstruction of the functions of the
auditory nerve) implies the loss of sight? In the same way, finally,
does not one man hear (except immediately after his attack) without
being able to say that he hears, while another who hears nothing, but
whose lingual nerves are uninjured in the brain, mechanically tells
of all the dreams which pass through his mind? These phenomena do not
surprise enlightened physicians at all. They know what to think about
man's nature, and (more accurately to express myself in passing) of two
physicians, the better one and the one who deserves more confidence is
always, in my opinion, the one who is more versed in the physique or
mechanism of the human body, and who, leaving aside the soul and all
the anxieties which this chimera gives to fools and to ignorant men,
is seriously occupied only in pure naturalism.

Therefore let the pretended M. Charp deride philosophers who have
regarded animals as machines. How different is my view! I believe
that Descartes would be a man in every way worthy of respect, if,
born in a century that he had not been obliged to enlighten, he had
known the value of experiment and observation, and the danger of
cutting loose from them. But it is none the less just for me to make
an authentic reparation to this great man for all the insignificant
philosophers--poor jesters, and poor imitators of Locke--who instead
of laughing impudently at Descartes, might better realize that without
him the field of philosophy, like the field of science without Newton,
might perhaps be still uncultivated.

This celebrated philosopher, it is true, was much deceived, and no
one denies that. But at any rate he understood animal nature, he was
the first to prove completely that animals are pure machines.{86}
And after a discovery of this importance demanding so much sagacity,
how can we without ingratitude fail to pardon all his errors!

In my eyes, they are all atoned for by that great confession. For after
all, although he extols the distinctness of the two substances, this
is plainly but a trick of skill, a ruse of style, to make theologians
swallow a poison, hidden in the shade of an analogy which strikes
everybody else and which they alone fail to notice. For it is this,
this strong analogy, which forces all scholars and wise judges to
confess that these proud and vain beings, more distinguished by their
pride than by the name of men however much they may wish to exalt
themselves, are at bottom only animals and machines which, though
upright, go on all fours. They all have this marvelous instinct, which
is developed by education into mind, and which always has its seat
in the brain, (or for want of that when it is lacking or hardened, in
the medulla oblongata) and never in the cerebellum; for I have often
seen the cerebellum injured, and other observers [16] have found it
hardened, when the soul has not ceased to fulfil its functions.

To be a machine, to feel, to think, to know how to distinguish good
from bad, as well as blue from yellow, in a word, to be born with
an intelligence and a sure moral instinct, and to be but an animal,
are therefore characters which are no more contradictory, than to
be an ape or a parrot and to be able to give oneself pleasure.... I
believe that thought is so little incompatible with organized matter,
that it seems to be one of its properties on a par with electricity,
the faculty of motion, impenetrability, extension, etc.

Do you ask for further observations? Here are some which are
incontestable and which all prove that man resembles animals perfectly,
in his origin as well as in all the points in which we have thought
it essential to make the comparison....

Let us observe man both in and out of his shell, let us examine young
embryos of four, six, eight or fifteen days with a microscope; after
that time our eyes are sufficient. What do we see? The head alone;
a little round egg with two black points which mark the eyes. Before
that, everything is formless, and one sees only a medullary pulp,
which is the brain, in which are formed first the roots of the nerves,
that is, the principle of feeling, and the heart, which already
within this substance has the power of beating of itself; it is the
punctum saliens of Malpighi, which perhaps already owes a part of its
excitability to the influence of the nerves. Then little by little, one
sees the head lengthen from the neck, which, in dilating, forms first
the thorax inside which the heart has already sunk, there to become
stationary; below that is the abdomen which is divided by a partition
(the diaphragm). One of these enlargements of the body forms the arms,
the hands, the fingers, the nails, and the hair; the other forms the
thighs, the legs, the feet, etc., which differ only in their observed
situation, and which constitute the support and the balancing pole of
the body. The whole process is a strange sort of growth, like that
of plants. On the tops of our heads is hair in place of which the
plants have leaves and flowers; everywhere is shown the same luxury
of nature, and finally the directing principle of plants is placed
where we have our soul, that other quintessence of man.

Such is the uniformity of nature, which we are beginning to realize;
and the analogy of the animal with the vegetable kingdom, of man with
plant. Perhaps there even are animal plants, which in vegetating,
either fight as polyps do, or perform other functions characteristic
of animals....

We are veritable moles in the field of nature; we achieve little more
than the mole's journey and it is our pride which prescribes limits
to the limitless. We are in the position of a watch that should say
(a writer of fables would make the watch a hero in a silly tale):
"I was never made by that fool of a workman, I who divide time, who
mark so exactly the course of the sun, who repeat aloud the hours
which I mark! No! that is impossible!" In the same way, we disdain,
ungrateful wretches that we are, this common mother of all kingdoms,
as the chemists say. We imagine, or rather we infer, a cause superior
to that to which we owe all, and which truly has wrought all things
in an inconceivable fashion. No; matter contains nothing base, except
to the vulgar eyes which do not recognize her in her most splendid
works; and nature is no stupid workman. She creates millions of men,
with a facility and a pleasure more intense than the effort of a
watchmaker in making the most complicated watch. Her power shines
forth equally in creating the lowliest insect and in creating the
most highly developed man; the animal kingdom costs her no more than
the vegetable, and the most splendid genius no more than a blade
of wheat. Let us then judge by what we see of that which is hidden
from the curiosity of our eyes and of our investigations, and let
us not imagine anything beyond. Let us observe the ape, the beaver,
the elephant, etc., in their operations. If it is clear that these
activities can not be performed without intelligence, why refuse
intelligence to these animals? And if you grant them a soul, you are
lost, you fanatics! You will in vain say that you assert nothing about
the nature of the animal soul and that you deny its immortality. Who
does not see that this is a gratuitous assertion; who does not see that
the soul of an animal must be either mortal or immortal, whichever
ours [is], and that it must therefore undergo the same fate as ours,
whatever that may be, and that thus [in admitting that animals have
souls], you fall into Scylla in the effort to avoid Charybdis?

Break the chain of your prejudices, arm yourselves with the torch
of experience, and you will render to nature the honor she deserves,
instead of inferring anything to her disadvantage, from the ignorance
in which she has left you. Only open wide your eyes, only disregard
what you can not understand, and you will see that the ploughman whose
intelligence and ideas extend no further than the bounds of his furrow,
does not differ essentially from the greatest genius,--a truth which
the dissection of Descartes's and of Newton's brains would have proved;
you will be persuaded that the imbecile and the fool are animals with
human faces, as the intelligent ape is a little man in another shape;
in short, you will learn that since everything depends absolutely on
difference of organization, a well constructed animal which has studied
astronomy, can predict an eclipse, as it can predict recovery or death
when it has used its genius and its clearness of vision, for a time,
in the school of Hippocrates and at the bedside of the sick. By this
line of observations and truths, we come to connect the admirable
power of thought with matter, without being able to see the links,
because the subject of this attribute is essentially unknown to us.

Let us not say that every machine or every animal perishes altogether
or assumes another form after death, for we know absolutely nothing
about the subject. On the other hand, to assert that an immortal
machine is a chimera or a logical fiction, is to reason as absurdly
as caterpillars would reason if, seeing the cast-off skins of their
fellow-caterpillars, they should bitterly deplore the fate of their
species, which to them would seem to come to nothing. The soul of these
insects (for each animal has his own) is too limited to comprehend
the metamorphoses of nature. Never one of the most skilful among them
could have imagined that it was destined to become a butterfly. It
is the same with us. What more do we know of our destiny than of our
origin? Let us then submit to an invincible ignorance on which our
happiness depends.

He who so thinks will be wise, just, tranquil about his fate, and
therefore happy. He will await death without either fear or desire, and
will cherish life (hardly understanding how disgust can corrupt a heart
in this place of many delights); he will be filled with reverence,
gratitude, affection, and tenderness for nature, in proportion to his
feeling of the benefits he has received from nature; he will be happy,
in short, in feeling nature, and in being present at the enchanting
spectacle of the universe, and he will surely never destroy nature
either in himself or in others. More than that! Full of humanity,
this man will love human character even in his enemies. Judge how he
will treat others. He will pity the wicked without hating them; in his
eyes, they will be but mis-made men. But in pardoning the faults of the
structure of mind and body, he will none the less admire the beauties
and the virtues of both. Those whom nature shall have favored will
seem to him to deserve more respect than those whom she has treated in
stepmotherly fashion. Thus, as we have seen, natural gifts, the source
of all acquirements, gain from the lips and heart of the materialist,
the homage which every other thinker unjustly refuses them. In short,
the materialist, convinced, in spite of the protests of his vanity,
that he is but a machine or an animal, will not maltreat his kind,
for he will know too well the nature of those actions, whose humanity
is always in proportion to the degree of the analogy proved above
[between human beings and animals]; and following the natural law
given to all animals, he will not wish to do to others what he would
not wish them to do to him.

Let us then conclude boldly that man is a machine, and that in
the whole universe there is but a single substance differently
modified. This is no hypothesis set forth by dint of a number of
postulates and assumptions; it is not the work of prejudice, nor even
of my reason alone; I should have disdained a guide which I think to
be so untrustworthy, had not my senses, bearing a torch, so to speak,
induced me to follow reason by lighting the way themselves. Experience
has thus spoken to me in behalf of reason; and in this way I have
combined the two.

But it must have been noticed that I have not allowed myself even the
most vigorous and immediately deduced reasoning, except as a result
of a multitude of observations which no scholar will contest; and
furthermore, I recognize only scholars as judges of the conclusions
which I draw from the observations; and I hereby challenge every
prejudiced man who is neither anatomist, nor acquainted with the
only philosophy which can here be considered, that of the human
body. Against so strong and solid an oak, what could the weak reeds of
theology, of metaphysics, and of the schools, avail,--childish arms,
like our parlor foils, that may well afford the pleasure of fencing,
but can never wound an adversary. Need I say that I refer to the empty
and trivial notions, to the pitiable and trite arguments that will be
urged (as long as the shadow of prejudice or of superstition remains
on earth) for the supposed incompatibility of two substances which
meet and move each other unceasingly? Such is my system, or rather
the truth, unless I am much deceived. It is short and simple. Dispute
it now who will.

                    THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SOUL.

                     BY JEAN OFFRAY DE LA METTRIE.



All philosophers who have examined attentively the nature of matter,
considered in itself, independently of all the forms which constitute
bodies, have discovered in this substance, diverse properties
proceeding from an absolutely unknown essence. Such are, (1) the
capacity of taking on different forms, which are produced in matter
itself, by which matter can acquire moving force and the faculty of
feeling; (2) actual extension, which these philosophers have rightly
recognized as an attribute, but not as the essence, of matter.

However, there have been some, among others Descartes, who have
insisted on reducing the essence of matter to simple extension,
and on limiting all the properties of matter to those of extension;
but this opinion has been rejected by all other modern philosophers,
... so that the power of acquiring moving force, and the faculty
of feeling as well as that of extension, have been from all time
considered as essential properties{87} of matter.

All the diverse properties that are observed in this unknown principle
demonstrate a being in which these same properties exist, a being
which must therefore exist through itself. But we can not conceive,
or rather it seems impossible, that a being which exists through
itself should be able neither to create nor to annihilate itself. It
is evident that only the forms to which its essential properties
make it susceptible can be destroyed and reproduced in turn. Thus,
does experience force us to confess that nothing can come from nothing.

All philosophers who have not known the light of faith, have thought
that this substantial principle of bodies has existed and will exist
forever, and that the elements of matter have an indestructible
solidity which forbids the fear that the world is going to fall to
pieces. The majority of Christian philosophers also recognize that the
substantial principle of bodies exists necessarily through itself,
and that the power of beginning or ending does not accord with its
nature. One finds that this view is upheld by an author of the last
century who taught theology in Paris.


Although we have no idea of the essence of matter, we can not refuse to
admit the existence of the properties which our senses discover in it.

I open my eyes, and I see around me only matter, or the
extended. Extension is then a property which always belongs to all
matter, which can belong to matter alone, and which therefore is
inseparable from the substance of matter.

This property presupposes three dimensions in the substance of bodies,
length, width, and depth. Truly, if we consult our knowledge, which is
gained entirely from the senses, we cannot conceive of matter, or the
substance of bodies, without having the idea of a being which is at
the same time long, broad, and deep; because the idea of these three
dimensions is necessarily bound up with our idea of every magnitude
or quantity.

Those philosophers who have meditated most concerning matter do not
understand by the extension of this substance, a solid extension
composed of distinct parts, capable of resistance. Nothing is united,
nothing is divided in this extension; for there must be a force which
separates to divide, and another force to unite the divided parts. But
in the opinion of these physical philosophers matter has no actually
active force, because every force can come only from movement, or from
some impulse or tendency toward movement, and they recognize in matter,
stripped of all form by abstraction, only a potential moving force.

This theory is hard to conceive, but given its principles, it is
rigorously true in its consequences. It is one of those algebraic
truths which is more readily believed than conceived by the mind.

The extension of matter is then but a metaphysical extension, which
according to the idea of these very philosophers, presents nothing to
affect our senses. They rightly think that only solid extension can
make an impression on our senses. It thus seems to us that extension
is an attribute which constitutes part of the metaphysical form,
but we are far from thinking that extension constitutes its essence.

However, before Descartes, some of the ancients made the essence of
matter consist in solid extension. But this opinion, of which all the
Cartesians have made much, has at all times been victoriously combated
by clear reasons, which we will set forth later, for order demands that
we first examine to what the properties of extension can be reduced.


The ancients, persuaded that there is no body without a moving
force, regarded the substance of bodies as composed of two primitive
attributes. It was held that, through one of these attributes, this
substance has the capacity for moving and, through the other, the
capacity for being moved.{88} As a matter of fact, it is impossible
not to conceive these two attributes in every moving body, namely,
the thing which moves, and the same thing which is moved.

It has just been said that formerly the name, matter, was given to
the substance of bodies, in so far as it is susceptible of being
moved. When capable of moving this same matter was known by the name
of "active principle".... But these two attributes seem to depend so
essentially on each other that Cicero, in order better to state this
essential and primitive union of matter with its moving principle,
says that each is found in the other. This expresses very well the
idea of the ancients.

From this it is clear that modern writers have given us but an inexact
idea of matter in attempting (through a confusion ill understood)
to give this name to the substance of bodies. For, once more, matter,
or the passive principle of the substance of bodies, constitutes only
one part of this substance. Thus it is not surprising that these
modern thinkers have not discovered in matter moving force and the
faculty of feeling.

It should now be evident at the first glance, it seems to me, that
if there is an active principle it must have, in the unknown essence
of matter, another source than extension. This proves that simple
extension fails to give an adequate idea of the complete essence or
metaphysical form of the substance of bodies, and that this failure is
due solely to the fact that extension excludes the idea of any activity
in matter. Therefore, if we demonstrate this moving principle, if we
show that matter, far from being as indifferent as it is supposed
to be, to movement and to rest, ought to be regarded as an active,
as well as a passive substance, what resource can be left to those
who have made its essence consist in extension?

The two principles of which we have just spoken, extension and moving
force, are then but potentialities of the substance of bodies; for
in the same way in which this substance is susceptible of movement,
without actually being moved, it also has always, even when it is
not moving itself, the faculty of spontaneous motion.

The ancients have rightly noticed that this moving force acts in the
substance of bodies only when the substance is manifested in certain
forms; they have also observed that the different motions which it
produces are all subject to these different forms or regulated by
them. That is why the forms, through which the substance of bodies
can not only move, but also move in different ways, were called
material forms.

Once these early masters had cast their eyes on all the phenomena
of nature, they discovered in the substance of bodies, the power
of self-movement. In fact, this substance either moves itself, or
when it is in motion, the motion is communicated to it by another
substance. But can anything be seen in this substance, save the
substance itself in action; and if sometimes it seems to receive a
motion that it has not, does it receive that motion from any cause
other than this same kind of substance, whose parts act the one upon
the other?

If, then, one infers another agent, I ask what agent, and I demand
proofs of its existence. But since no one has the least idea of such
an agent, it is not even a logical entity. Therefore it is clear
that the ancients must have easily recognized an intrinsic force of
motion within the substance of bodies, since in fact it is impossible
to prove or conceive any other substance acting upon it.

Descartes, a genius made to blaze new paths and to go astray in them,
supposed with some other philosophers that God is the only efficient
cause of motion, and that every instant He communicates motion to all
bodies. But this opinion is but an hypothesis which he tried to adjust
to the light of faith; and in so doing he was no longer attempting
to speak as a philosopher or to philosophers. Above all he was not
addressing those who can be convinced only by the force of evidence.

The Christian Scholastics of the last centuries have felt the full
force of this reflection; for this reason they have wisely limited
themselves to purely philosophic knowledge concerning the motion of
matter, although they might have shown that God Himself said that He
had "imprinted an active principle in the elements of matter (Gen. i;
Is. lxvi)."

One might here make up a long list of authorities, and take from the
most celebrated professors the substance of the doctrine of all the
rest; but it is clear enough, without a medley of citations, that
matter contains this moving force which animates it, and which is
the immediate cause of all the laws of motion.


We have spoken of two essential attributes of matter, upon which
depend the greater number of its properties, namely extension and
moving force. We have now but to prove a third attribute: I mean the
faculty of feeling which the philosophers of all centuries have found
in this same substance. I say all philosophers, although I am not
ignorant of all the efforts which the Cartesians have made, in vain,
to rob matter of this faculty. But in order to avoid insurmountable
difficulties, they have flung themselves into a labyrinth from which
they have thought to escape by this absurd system "that animals are
pure machines."{89}

An opinion so absurd has never gained admittance among philosophers,
except as the play of wit or as a philosophical pastime. For this
reason we shall not stop to refute it. Experience gives us no less
proof of the faculty of feeling in animals than of feeling in men....

There comes up another difficulty which more nearly concerns our
vanity: namely, the impossibility of our conceiving this property as a
dependence or attribute of matter. Let it not be forgotten that this
substance reveals to us only ineffable characters. Do we understand
better how extension is derived from its essence, how it can be moved
by a primitive force whose action is exerted without contact, and a
thousand other miracles so hidden from the gaze of the most penetrating
eyes, that (to paraphrase the idea of an illustrious modern writer)
they reveal only the curtain which conceals them?

But might not one suppose as some have supposed, that the feeling
which is observed in animated bodies, might belong to a being distinct
from the matter of these bodies, to a substance of a different nature
united to them? Does the light of reason allow us in good faith to
admit such conjectures? We know in bodies only matter, and we observe
the faculty of feeling only in bodies: on what foundation then can
we erect an ideal being, disowned by all our knowledge?

However, we must admit, with the same frankness, that we are ignorant
whether matter has in itself the faculty of feeling, or only the power
of acquiring it by those modifications or forms to which matter is
susceptible; for it is true that this faculty of feeling appears only
in organic bodies.

This is then another new faculty which might exist only potentially
in matter, like all the others which have been mentioned; and this was
the hypothesis of the ancients, whose philosophy, full of insight and
penetration, deserves to be raised above the ruins of the philosophy
of the moderns. It is in vain that the latter disdain the sources
too remote from them. Ancient philosophy will always hold its own
among those who are worthy to judge it, because it forms (at least
in relation to the subject of which I am treating) a system that is
solid and well articulated like the body, whereas all these scattered
members of modern philosophy form no system.


                          OUTLINES AND NOTES.

                       BY GERTRUDE CARMAN BUSSEY.


I. The Historical Relation of La Mettrie to René Descartes (1596-1650).

The most direct source of La Mettrie's work, if the physiological
aspect of his system is set aside, is found in the philosophy of
Descartes. In fact it sometimes seems as if La Mettrie's materialism
grew out of his insistence on the contradictory character of the
dualistic system of Descartes. He criticises Descartes's statement
that the body and soul are absolutely independent, and takes great
pains to show the dependence of the soul on the body. Yet though La
Mettrie's system may be opposed to that of Descartes [17] from one
point of view, from another point of view it seems to be a direct
consequence of it. La Mettrie himself recognizes this relationship and
feels that his doctrine that man is a machine, is a natural inference
from Descartes's teaching that animals are mere machines. [18] Moreover
La Mettrie carries on Descartes's conception of the body as a machine,
and many of his detailed discussions of the machinery of the body
seem to have been drawn from Descartes.

It should be noted that La Mettrie did justice to Descartes, and
realized how much all philosophers owed to him. He insisted moreover
that Descartes's errors were due to his failure to follow his own
method. [19] Yet La Mettrie's method was different from that of
Descartes, for La Mettrie was an empiricist [20] without rationalistic
leaning. As regards doctrine: La Mettrie differed from Descartes in
his opinion of matter. Since he disbelieved in any spiritual reality,
he gave matter the attributes of motion and thought, while Descartes
insisted that the one attribute of matter is extension. [21] It
was a natural consequence of La Mettrie's disbelief in spiritual
substance that he could throw doubt on the existence of God. [22]
On the other hand the belief in God was one of the foundations of
Descartes's system. La Mettrie tried to show that Descartes's belief
in a soul and in God was merely designed to hide his true thought
from the priests, and to save himself from persecution. [23]

IIa. The Likeness of La Mettrie to the English Materialists, Thomas
Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Toland (1670-1721).

The influence of Descartes upon La Mettrie cannot be questioned but it
is more difficult to estimate the influence upon him of materialistic
philosophers. Hobbes published "The Leviathan" in 1651 and "De Corpore"
in 1655. Thus he wrote about a century before La Mettrie, and since
the eighteenth century was one in which the influence of England upon
France was very great, it is easy to suppose that La Mettrie had read
Hobbes. If so, he must have gained many ideas from him. The extent
of this influence is, however, unknown, for La Mettrie rarely if ever
quotes from Hobbes, or attributes any of his doctrines to Hobbes.

In the first place, both Hobbes and La Mettrie are thoroughgoing
materialists. They both believe that body is the only reality, and that
anything spiritual is unimaginable. [24] Furthermore their conceptions
of matter are very similar. According to La Mettrie, matter contains
the faculty of sensation and the power of motion as well as the
quality of extension. [25] This same conception of matter is held by
Hobbes, for he specifically attributes extension and motion to matter,
and then reduces sensation to a kind of internal motion. [26] Thus
sensation also may be an attribute of matter. Moreover Hobbes and
La Mettrie are in agreement on many smaller points, and La Mettrie
elaborates much that is suggested in Hobbes. They both believe that
the passions are dependent on bodily conditions. [27] They agree in
the belief that all the differences in men are due to differences
in the constitution and organization of their bodies. [28] They both
discuss the nature and importance of language. [29]

Hobbes differs from La Mettrie in holding that we can be sure that God
exists as the cause of this world. [30] However even though he thinks
that it is possible to know that God exists, he does not believe that
we can know his nature.

La Mettrie's system may be regarded as the application of a system like
that of Hobbes to the special problem of the relation of soul and body
in man; for if there is nothing in the universe but matter and motion,
it inevitably follows that man is merely a very complicated machine.

There is great similarity also between the doctrine of La Mettrie and
that of Toland. It is interesting to note the points of resemblance
and of difference. Toland's "Letters to Serena," which contain much
of his philosophical teaching, were published in 1704. There is
a possibility therefore that La Mettrie read them and gained some
suggestions from them.

The point most emphasized in Toland's teaching [31] is that motion
is an attribute of matter. He argues for this belief on the ground
that matter must be essentially active in order to undergo change,
[32] and that the conception of the inertness of matter is based
on the conception of absolute rest, and that this absolute rest
is nowhere to be found. [33] Since motion is essential to matter,
there is no need, Toland believes, to account for the beginning of
motion. Those who have regarded matter as inert have had to find some
efficient cause for motion, and to do this, they have held that all
nature is animated. But this pretended animation is utterly useless,
since matter is itself endowed with motion. [34] The likeness to
La Mettrie is evident. La Mettrie likewise opposes the doctrine of
the animation of matter, and the belief in any external cause of
motion. [35] Yet he feels the need of postulating some beginning
of motion, [36] and although he uses the conception so freely, he
does not agree with Toland that the nature of motion is known. He
believes that it is impossible to know the nature of motion, [37]
while Toland believes that the nature of motion is self-evident. [38]

Another point of contrast between Toland and La Mettrie is in
their doctrines of God. Toland believes that God, "a pure spirit
or immaterial being," is necessary for his system, [39] while La
Mettrie questions God's existence and insists that immateriality and
spirituality are fine words that no one understands.

It must be admitted, in truth, that La Mettrie and Toland have
different interests and different points of view. Toland is concerned
to discover the essential nature of matter, while La Mettrie's problem
is to find the specific relation of body and mind. On this relation,
he builds his whole system.

b. The Relation of La Mettrie to an English Sensationalist: John Locke

Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" was published in 1690,
and La Mettrie, like most cultured Frenchmen of the Enlightenment,
was influenced by his teaching. The main agreement between Locke
and La Mettrie is in their doctrine that all ideas are derived from
sensation. Both vigorously oppose the belief in innate ideas, [40]
teaching that even our most complex and our most abstract ideas are
gained through sensation. But La Mettrie does not follow Locke in
analyzing these ideas and in concluding that many sensible qualities
of objects--such as colors, sounds, etc.--have no existence outside
the mind. [41] He rejects Locke's doctrine of spiritual substances,
[42] and opposes Locke's theistic teaching, laying stress, on the
other hand, upon Locke's admission of the possibility that "thinking
being may also be material." [43]

IIIa. The Likeness, probable but unacknowledged, to La Mettrie, of
the French Sensationalists, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780)
and Claude Adrien Helvetius (1715-1771).

Condillac's "Traité des sensations" was published about ten years
after La Mettrie's "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," and therefore it
is probable that Condillac had read this work, and gained some ideas
from it. Yet Condillac never mentions La Mettrie's name nor cites
his doctrines. This omission may be accounted for by the fact that
the works of La Mettrie had been so condemned that later philosophers
wished to conceal the similarity of their doctrines to his. Whether
the sensationalists were influenced by his teachings or not, there
is such a profound likeness in their teachings, that La Mettrie may
well be regarded as one of the first French sensationalists as well
as one of the leading French materialists of the time.

Condillac and La Mettrie agree that experience is the source of all
knowledge. As Lange suggests, [44] La Mettrie's development of reason
from the imagination may have suggested to Condillac the way to develop
all the faculties from the soul. La Mettrie asserts that reason is but
the sensitive soul contemplating its ideas, and that imagination plays
all the rôles of the soul, while Condillac elaborates the same idea,
and shows in great detail how all the faculties of the soul are but
modifications of sensation. [45]

Both La Mettrie and Condillac believe that there is no gulf between
man and the lower animals; but this leads to a point of disagreement
between the two philosophers, for Condillac absolutely denies that
animals can be mere machines, [46] and we must suppose that he
would the more ardently oppose the teaching that man is merely a
complicated machine! Condillac finally, unlike La Mettrie, believes
in the existence of God. A final point of contrast also concerns the
theology of the two writers. La Mettrie insists that we can not be sure
that there is any purpose in the world, while Condillac affirms that
we can discern intelligence and design throughout the universe. [47]

Like La Mettrie and Condillac, Helvetius teaches that all the faculties
of the mind can be reduced to sensation. [48] Unlike La Mettrie,
he specifically distinguishes the mind from the soul, and describes
the mind as a later developed product of the soul or faculty of
sensation. [49] This idea may have been suggested by La Mettrie's
statement that reason is a modification of sensation. Helvetius,
however, unlike La Mettrie, does not clearly decide that sensation
is but a result of bodily conditions, and he admits that sensation
may be a modification of a spiritual substance. [50] Moreover, he
claims that climate and food have no effect on the mind, and that the
superiority of the understanding is not dependent on the strength of
the body and its organs. [51]

La Mettrie and Helvetius resemble each other in ethical doctrine. Both
make pleasure and pain the ruling motives of man's conduct. They claim
that all the emotions are merely modifications of corporeal pleasure
and pain, and that therefore the only principle of action in man is
the desire for pleasure and the fear of pain. [52]

b. The Likeness to La Mettrie of the French Materialist, Baron Paul
Heinrich Dietrich von Holbach (1723-1789).

As Condillac and Helvetius emphasize the sensationalism taught by La
Mettrie, so Holbach's book is a reiteration and elaboration of the
materialism set forth in La Mettrie's works. The teaching of Holbach
is so like that of La Mettrie, that the similarity can hardly be
a coincidence.

La Mettrie regards experience as the only teacher. Holbach dwells
on this same idea, and insists that experience is our only source
of knowledge in all matters. [53] Holbach likewise teaches that man
is a purely material being. He disbelieves in any spiritual reality
whatsoever, and makes matter the only substance in the world. He lays
stress, also, on one thought which is a natural consequence of La
Mettrie's teaching. La Mettrie has limited the action of the will and
has insisted that the will is dependent on bodily conditions. Holbach
goes further and declares repeatedly that all freedom is a delusion,
and that man is controlled in every action by rigid necessity. [54]
This teaching seems to be the natural outcome of the belief that man
is a machine.

Holbach's atheistic theology is more extreme than his predecessor's,
for La Mettrie admits that God may exist, while Holbach vigorously
opposes the possibility. Moreover Holbach holds the opinion,
barely suggested by La Mettrie, that an atheistic doctrine would
ameliorate the condition of mankind. [55] He insists that the idea
of God has hindered the progress of reason and interfered with
natural law. Holbach is indeed the only one of the philosophers here
discussed, who frankly adopts a fatalistic and atheistic doctrine of
the universe. In these respects, his teaching is the culmination of
French materialism.


                                                            PAGES [56]

I. Insistence on the Empirical Standpoint          16f.; 88f.; 72, 142

II. Arguments in Favor of Materialism:

    a. The "Soul" is Affected,
        1. By Disease                                        18f.; 90f.
        2. By Sleep                                          19f.; 91f.
        3. By Drugs                                             20; 92
        4. By Food                                          21f.; 93ff.
        5. By Age and Sex                                    23f.; 95f.
        6. By Temperature and Climate                       24f.; 96ff.
    b. There is No Sharp Distinction Between Men and Animals
       (Machines)              28f., 100ff.; 41ff., 113ff.; 75f., 142f.
    c. Bodily Movements are Due to the "Motive Power" of the
       Body                                               51ff., 129ff.

III. Conception of Matter.

    a. Matter is Extended                                         154f.
    b. Matter Has the Power of Motion                   70, 140; 156ff.
    c. Matter Has the Faculty of Feeling                         159ff.

IV. Conception of Man:

    a. Man is a Machine               17, 89; 21, 93; 56, 128; 69, 140f.;
                                                       73, 143; 80, 148
    b. All Man's Faculties Reduce to Sense and Imagination         35ff.,
    c. Man is Like Animals in Being Capable of Education        38, 110
    d. Man is Ignorant of His Destiny                           79, 147

V. Theological Doctrine:

    a. The Existence of God is Unproved and Practically
       Unimportant                                              50, 122
    b. The Argument from Design is Ineffective Against the
       Hypothesis of Mechanical Causality                  51ff., 124ff.
    c. Atheism Makes for Happiness                             55, 126f.

NOTES. [57]


This translation is made from the third volume, pp. 159 ff. of "OEuvres
de Fréderic II., Roi de Prusse, Publiées du vivant de l'Auteur,"
Berlin, 1789.

La Mettrie was received at the court of Frederick the Great, when he
had been driven from Holland on account of the heretical teaching of
"L'Homme Machine," The "Eloge" was read by Darget, the secretary of
the king, at a public meeting of the Academy of Berlin, to which,
at the initiative of Frederick, La Mettrie had been admitted.

The careful reader will not fail to note that Frederick's arithmetic
is at fault, and that La Mettrie died at the age of forty-one, not
forty-three, years.

At a few points, perhaps, the Eloge demands elucidation. Coutances,
like Caen, is a Norman town. St. Malo lies, just over the border,
in Brittany. La Mettrie's military service was with the French in
the Silesian wars against Maria Theresa. The battle of Dettingen was
fought in Bavaria and was won by the Austrians through the aid given
by George II of England to Maria Theresa. The battle of Fontenoy in
the Netherlands was the only victory of the French in this war.

Other accounts of the life of La Mettrie are:

J. Assézat, Introduction to "L'Homme Machine," Paris, 1865.

F. A. Lange, "History of Materialism."

Ph. Damiron, "Histoire de la philosophie du dix-huitième siècle,"
Paris, 1858.

N. Quépat, "La philosophie matérialiste au XVIIIe siècle. Essai sur
La Mettrie, sa vie, et ses oeuvres." Paris, 1873.


1. "Matter may well be endowed with the faculty of thought." Although
La Mettrie attempts to "avoid this reef," by refraining from the use
of these words, yet he asserts throughout his work that sensations,
consciousness, and the soul itself are modifications of matter
and motion.

The possibility of matter being endowed with the faculty of thought,
is denied by Elie Luzac, the publisher of "L'homme machine," in his
work "L'homme plus que machine." In this work he tries to disprove the
conclusions of "L'homme machine." He says: "We have therefore proved
by the idea of the inert state of matter, by that of motion, by that
of relations, by that of activity, by that of extension, that matter
can not be possessed of the faculty of thinking".... "To be brief,
I say, that if, by a material substance, we understand that matter
which falls under the cognizance of our senses, and which is endowed
with the qualities we have mentioned, the soul can not be material:
so that it must be immaterial, and, for the same reason, God could
not have given the faculty of thinking to matter, since He can not
perform contradictions." [58]

2. "How can we define a being whose nature is absolutely unknown to
us?" La Mettrie uses this as an argument against the belief in a soul,
and yet he later admits that the "nature of motion is as unknown to
us as the nature of matter." It is difficult then to see why there
is more reason to doubt the existence of spirit, than to doubt the
existence of matter. Locke makes this point very well. "It is for want
of reflection that we are apt to think that our senses show us nothing
but material things. Every act of sensation, when duly considered,
gives us an equal view of both parts of nature, the corporeal and
spiritual." [59]... "If this notion of immaterial spirit may have,
perhaps, some difficulties in it not easy to be explained, we have
therefore no more reason to deny or doubt the existence of such
spirits, than we have to deny or doubt the existence of body because
the notion of body is cumbered with some difficulties, very hard and
perhaps impossible to be explained or understood by us." [60]

3. "Author of the 'Spectacle de la nature.'" Noel Antoine Pluche
(1688-1761) was a Jansenist author. He was Director of the College
of Laon, but was deprived of his position on account of his refusal
to adhere to the bull "Unigenitus." Rollin then recommended him to
Gasville, intendant of Normandy, who entrusted him with his son's
education. He finally settled in Paris. His principal works are:
"Spectacle de la nature," (Paris, 1739); "Mécanique des langues et
l'art de les enseigner," (Paris, 1751); "Harmonie des Psaumes et de
l'Evangile," (Paris, 1764); "Concorde de la géographie des différents
ages," (Paris, 1765). [61]

La Mettrie describes Pluche in the "Essais sur l'esprit et les beaux
esprits" thus: "Without wit, without taste, he is Rollin's pedant. A
superficial man, he had need of the work of M. Réaumur, of whom he
is only a stale and tiresome imitator in the flat little sayings
scattered in his dialogues. It was with the works of Rollin as with
the 'Spectacle de la Nature,' one made the fortune of the other:
Gaçon praised Person, Person praised Gaçon, and the public praised
them both." [62]

This quotation from La Mettrie occurs in Assézat's edition of La
Mettrie's "L'homme machine," which was published as the second
volume of the series "Singularités physiologiques" (1865). Assézat
was a French publisher and writer. He was at one time Secretary of
the Anthropological Society, and collaborated with other writers
in the publication of "La Revue Nationale," "La Revue de Paris,"
and "La Pensée nouvelle." His notes to "L'Homme Machine" show great
knowledge concerning physiological subjects. He intended to publish a
complete edition of Diderot's works, but overwork on this undermined
his health, so that he was unable to complete it. [63]

4. Torricelli was a physicist and mathematician who lived from 1608
to 1647. He was a disciple of Galileo, and acted as his amanuensis
for three months before Galileo's death. He was then nominated
as grand-ducal mathematician and professor of mathematics in the
Florentine Academy. In 1643, he made his most famous discovery. He
found that the height to which a liquid will rise in a closed tube,
depends on the specific gravity of the liquid, and concludes from this
that the column of liquid is sustained by atmospheric pressure. This
discovery did away with the obscure idea of a fuga vacui, and laid
bare the principle on which mercurial barometers are constructed. For
a long time the mercurial thermometer was called the "Torricellian
tube," and the vacuum which the barometer includes is still known as a
"Torricellian vacuum." [64]

5. "Only the physicians have a right to speak on this subject." Luzac
says: "'Tis true that if the materiality of the soul was proved,
the knowledge of her would be an object of natural philosophy, and
we might with some appearance of reason reject all arguments to the
contrary which are not drawn from that science. But if the soul is not
material, the investigation of its nature does not belong to natural
philosophy, but to those who search into the nature of its faculties,
and are called metaphysicians." [65]

6. "Man is ... a machine." This is the first clear statement of this
theory, which as the title of the work indicates, is the central
doctrine of this work. Descartes had strongly denied the possibility
of conceiving man as a machine. "We may easily 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 which
cause a change in its organs,... but not that it should emit them
variously so as appositely to reply to what is said in its presence,
as men of the lowest grade of intellect can do." [66]

7. "Let us then take in our hands the staff of experience." La
Mettrie repeatedly emphasizes the belief that knowledge must come from
experience. Moreover he confines this experience to sense experience,
and concludes "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme" with these words:
"No senses, no ideas. The fewer senses there are: the fewer ideas. No
sensations experienced, no ideas. These principles are the necessary
consequence of all the observations and experiences that constitute
the unassailable foundation of this work."

This doctrine is opposed to the teaching of Descartes, who insists
that "neither our imagination nor our senses can give us assurance of
anything unless our understanding intervene." [67] Moreover Descartes
believes that the senses are fallacious, and that the ideal method
for philosophy is a method corresponding to that of mathematics. [68]
Condillac and Holbach agree with La Mettrie's opinion. Thus, Condillac
teaches that man is nothing more than what he has become by the use
of his senses. [69] And Holbach says: "As soon as we take leave of
experience, we fall into the chasm where our imagination leads us
astray." [70]

8. "Galen (Galenus) Claudius, 130 to circa 210 A. D. An eminent
Greek physician and philosopher. Born at Pergamus, Mysia, he studied
both the Platonic and Peripatetic systems of philosophy. Satyrus
instructed him in anatomy. He traveled extensively while young to
perfect his education. About 165 A. D. he moved to Rome, and became
very celebrated as a surgeon and practising physician, attending
the family of Marcus Aurelius. He returned to Pergamus, but probably
visited Rome three or four times afterwards. He wrote in philosophy,
logic, and medicine. Many, probably most, of his works are lost. He
was the one medical authority for thirteen centuries, and his services
to logic and to philosophy were also great." [71]

9. The author of "L'histoire de l'âme" is La Mettrie himself.

10. Hippocrates is often termed the "father of medicine." He was
born in Cos in 460 B. C. He studied medicine under his father,
Heraclides, and Herodicus of Selymbria; and philosophy under Gorgias
and Democritus. He was the first to separate medicine from religion
and from philosophy. He insisted that diseases must be treated by
the physician, as if they were governed by purely natural laws. The
Greeks had such respect for dead bodies that Hippocrates could not
have dissected a human body, and consequently his knowledge of its
structure was limited, but he seems to have been an acute and skilful
observer of conditions in the living body. He wrote several works on
medicine, and in one of them showed the first principles on which the
public health must be based. The details of his life are hidden by
tradition, but it is certain that he was regarded with great respect
and veneration by the Greeks. [72]

11. "The different combinations of these humors...." Compare this
with Descartes's statement that the difference in men comes from the
difference in the construction and position of the brain, which causes
a difference in the action of the animal spirits. [73]

12. "This drug intoxicates, like wine, coffee, etc., each in its own
measure, and according to the dose." Descartes also speaks of the
effect of wine. "The vapors of wine, entering the blood quickly, go
from the heart to the brain, where they are converted into spirits,
which being stronger and more abundant than usual are capable of
moving the body in several strange fashions." [74]

13. The quotation from Pope is from the "Moral Essays," published
1731 to 1735, Epistle I, 1, 69.

14. Jan Baptista Van Helmont (1578-1644) was a Flemish physician and
chemist. He is noted for having demonstrated the necessity of the
balance in chemistry, and for having been among the first to use the
word "gas." His works were published as "Ortus Medicinae," 1648. [75]

15. The author of "Lettres sur la physiognomie" was Jacques Pernety
or Pernetti. He was born at Chazelle-sur-Lyon, was for some years
canon at Lyons, and died there in 1777. [76]

16. Boerhaave. See Note 78.

17. Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759) was a French
mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. He supported the Newtonian
theory against the Cartesians. In 1740 he became president of the
Academy of Berlin. He was the head of the expedition which was sent
by Louis XV to measure a degree of longitude in Lapland. Voltaire
satirized Maupertuis in the "Diatribe du Docteur Akakia." [77]

18. Luzac sums up the preceding facts by saying: "Here are a great
many facts, but what is it they prove? only that the faculties of the
soul arise, grow, and acquire strength in proportion as the body does;
so that these same faculties are weakened in the same proportion as
the body is.... But from all these circumstances it does not follow
that the faculty of thinking is an attribute of matter, and that all
depends on the manner in which our machine is made, that the faculties
of the soul arise from a principle of animal life, from an innate
heat or force, from an irritability of the finest parts of the body,
from a subtil ethereal matter diffused through it, or in a word,
from all these things taken together." [78]

19. "The diverse states of the soul are therefore always correlative
with those of the body." This view is in diametrical opposition to
the teaching of Descartes, who says: "The soul is of a nature wholly
independent of the body." [79] Yet Descartes also states that there is
an intimate connection between the two. "The Reasonable Soul ... could
by no means be educed from the power of matter ... it must be expressly
created; and 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 ... 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." [79]

Holbach later emphasizes this close connection between body and soul,
which is so insisted upon by La Mettrie. "If freed from our prejudices
we wish to see our soul, or the moving principle which acts in us, we
shall remain convinced that it is part of our body, that it can not
be distinguished from the body except by an abstraction, that it is
but the body itself considered relatively to some of the functions
or faculties to which its nature and particular organization make
it susceptible. We shall see that this soul is forced to undergo
the same changes as the body, that it grows and develops with the
body.... Finally we can not help recognizing that at some periods it
shows evident signs of weakness, sickness, and death." [80]

20. "Peyronie (François Gigot de la), a French surgeon, born in
Montpellier, the fifteenth of January, 1678, died the twenty-fifth
of April, 1747. He was surgeon of the hospital of Saint-Eloi de
Montpellier and instructor of anatomy to the Faculty; then, in 1704,
served in the army. In 1717 he became reversioner of the position of
first surgeon to Louis XV; in 1731, steward of the Queen's palace;
in 1735, a doctor of the King; in 1736, first surgeon of the King,
and chief of the surgeons of the kingdom. The greatest merit of
La Peyronie is for having founded the Academy of Surgery in Paris,
and for having gained special protection for surgery and surgeons in
France. He wrote little." [81]

21. "Willis, Thomas (1621-1675), English physician, was born at Great
Bedwin, Wiltshire, on 27th January, 1621. He studied at Christ Church,
Oxford; and when that city was garrisoned for the king he bore arms
for the Royalists. He took the degree of bachelor of medicine in 1646,
and after the surrender of the garrison applied himself to the practice
of his profession. In 1660, shortly after the Restoration, he became
Sedleian professor of natural philosophy in place of Dr. Joshua Cross,
who was ejected, and the same year he took the degree of doctor of
physic.... He was one of the first members of the Royal Society, and
was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in
1664. In 1666, ... he removed to Westminster, on the invitation of
Dr. Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury.... He died at St. Martin's on
11th November, 1675, and was buried in Westminster Abbey." [82]

22. "Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de. Born at Rouen, France,
February 11, 1657; died at Paris, January 9, 1757. A French advocate,
philosopher, poet, and miscellaneous writer. He was the nephew (through
his mother) of Corneille, and was 'one of the last of the Précieux, or
rather the inventor of a new combination of literature and gallantry
which at first exposed him to not a little satire' (Saintsbury). He
wrote 'Poésies pastorales' (1688), 'Dialogues des morts' (1683),
'Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes' (1686), 'Histoire des oracles'
(1687), 'Eloges des académiciens' (delivered 1690-1740)." [83]

23. "In a word, would it be absolutely impossible to teach the ape a
language? I do not think so." Compare with this Haeckel's statement
of the relation between man's speech and that of apes. "It is of
especial interest that the speech of apes seems on physiological
comparison to be a stage in the formation of articulate human
speech. Among living apes there is an Indian species which is musical;
the hylobates syndactylus sings a full octave in perfectly pure
harmonious half-tones. No impartial philologist can hesitate any
longer to admit that our elaborate rational language has been slowly
and gradually developed out of the imperfect speech of our Pliocene
simian ancestors." [84]

24. Johann Conrad Amman was born at Schaffhausen, in Switzerland,
in 1669. After his graduation at Basle, he practised medicine at
Amsterdam. He devoted most of his attention to the instruction of deaf
mutes. He taught them by attracting their attention to the motion of
his lips, tongue, and larynx, while he was speaking, and by persuading
them to imitate these motions. In this way, they finally learned to
articulate syllables and words, and to talk. In his works "Surdus
Loquens," and "Dissertatio de Loquela," he explained the mechanism of
speech, and made public his method of instruction. From all accounts
it seems that his success with the deaf mutes was remarkable. He died
about 1730. [85]

25. "... the great analogy between ape and man...." Compare Haeckel:
"Thus comparative anatomy proves to the satisfaction of every
unprejudiced and critical student the significant fact that the body of
man and that of the anthropoid ape are not only peculiarly similar, but
they are practically one and the same in every important respect." [86]

26. Sir William Temple was born in London in 1628. He attended the
Puritan College of Emmanuel, Cambridge, but left without taking
his degree. After an extensive tour on the continent, he settled
in Ireland in 1655. His political career began with the accession
of Charles II in 1660. He is particularly noted for concluding "The
Triple Alliance" between England, the United Netherlands, and Sweden,
and for his part in bringing about the marriage of William and Mary,
which completed the alliance of England and the Netherlands. Temple
was not as successful in political work at home as abroad, for he was
too honest to care to be concerned in the intrigues in English affairs,
at that time. He retired from politics and died at Moor Park in 1699.

Temple wrote several works on political subjects. His "Memoirs" were
begun in 1682; the first part was destroyed before it was published,
the second part was published without his consent, and the third part
was published by Swift after Temple's death. His fame rests more on
his diplomatic work than on his writings. [87]

27. "Trembley (Abraham) a Swiss naturalist, born in Geneva, the third
of September, 1700, died in Geneva, the twelfth of May, 1784. He
was educated in his native city, and in the Hague, where he became
tutor of the son of an English resident, and later the tutor of
the young duke of Richmond, with whom he traveled in Germany and
Italy. In 1760, he obtained the position of librarian at Geneva,
and gained a seat in the council of the 'Two Hundred.' His admirable
works on the fresh-water snake procured for him his election as
member of the Royal Society of London, and as correspondent of the
Academy of Sciences in Paris. From 1775 to 1782 he published several
works on natural religion, and articles on natural history in the
'Philosophical Transactions,' 1742-57. His most important work is
'Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire d'un genre de polype d'eau douce'
(Leyden, 1744; Paris, 2 volumes)." [88]

28. "What was man before the invention of words and the knowledge
of language? An animal." Compare this with the statement of Hobbes:
"The most noble and profitable invention of all others was that of
Speech, consisting of names or appellations, and their connexion,
... without which there had been amongst men neither commonwealth,
nor society, nor contract, nor peace, no more than amongst lions,
bears, and wolves." [89]

29. Fontenelle. See note 22.

30. "All the faculties of the soul can be correctly reduced to
pure imagination." Compare with this La Mettrie's statement in
"L'histoire naturelle de l'âme": "The more one studies all the
intellectual faculties, the more convinced one remains, that they
are all included in the faculty of sensation, upon which they all
depend so essentially that without it the soul could never perform
any of its functions." [90] This resembles Condillac's doctrine of
sensation: "Judgment, reflexion, desires, passions, etc., are nothing
but sensation itself which is transformed in diverse ways." [91]
Helvetius also says: "All the operations of the mind are reducible
to sensation." [92]

31. "See to what one is brought by the abuse of language, and
by the use of those fine words (spirituality, immateriality,
etc.)." Compare Hobbes, "Though men may put together words of
contradictory signification, as spirit and incorporeal; yet they can
never have the imagination of anything answering to them." [93]

32. "Man's preëminent advantage is his organism." Luzac says: "This
no more proves that organization is the chief merit of man, than
that the form of a musical instrument constitutes the chief merit
of the musician. In proportion to the goodness of the instrument,
the musician charms by his art, and the case is the same with the
soul. In proportion to the soundness of the body, the soul is in
better condition to exert her faculties." [94]

33. "Such is, I think, the generation of intelligence." Luzac argues
against this statement thus: "But if thought and all the faculties
of the soul depended only on the organization as some pretend, how
could the imagination draw a long chain of consequences from the
objects it has embraced?" [95]

34. Pyrrhonism is "the doctrine of Pyrrho of Elis which has been
transmitted chiefly by his disciple Timon. More generally, radical
Scepticism in general." [96]

35. Pierre Bayle was born at Carlat in 1647. Although the child
of Protestant parents, he was converted by the Jesuits. After his
reconversion to Protestantism, he was driven out of France, and
took refuge first in Geneva, and then in Holland. In 1675 he became
professor of philosophy at the Protestant College of Sedan, and in
1681 professor of philosophy and history at Rotterdam. In 1693 he was
forced to resign from his position on account of his religious views.

Bayle was one of the leading French sceptics of the time. He was a
Cartesian, but questioned both the certainty of one's own existence,
and the knowledge derived from it. He declared that religion is
contrary to the human reason, but that this fact does not necessarily
destroy faith. He distinguished religion not only from science, but
also from morality, and vigorously opposed those who considered a
certain religion necessary for morality. He did not openly attack
Christianity, yet all that he wrote awakened doubt, and his work
exerted an extensive influence for scepticism.

His principal work is the "Dictionnaire historique et critique,"
published 1695-1697, and containing a vast amount of knowledge,
expressed in a piquant and popular style. This fact made the book
widely read both by scholars and by superficial readers.

36. Arnobius the Elder was born at Sicca Venerea in Numidia, in the
latter part of the third century A. D. He was at first an opponent of
Christianity, but was afterwards converted, and wrote "Adversus Gentes"
as an apology for Christianity. In this work, he tries to answer the
complaints made against Christians on the ground that the disasters
of the time were due to their impiety; vindicates the divinity of
Christ; and discusses the nature of the human soul. He concludes
that the soul is not immortal, for he believes that the belief in
the immortality of the soul would have a deteriorating influence
on morality. For translation of his work compare Vol. XIX of the
"Ante-Nicene Christian Library." [97]

37. "There exists no soul or sensitive substance without
remorse." Condillac had said: "There is something in animals besides
motion. They are not pure machines: they feel." [98] La Mettrie also
attributed remorse to animals, but believed that they are none the
less machines. Luzac said in comment: "What renders these systems
completely ridiculous, is, that the persons who pronounce men machines,
give them properties which belie their assertion. If beings are but
machines, why do they grant a natural law, an internal sense, a kind
of dread? These are ideas which can not be excited by objects which
operate on our senses." [99]

38. "Nature has created us solely to be happy." This is a statement of
the doctrine, which La Mettrie develops in his principal ethical work
"Discours sur le Bonheur." He teaches that happiness rests upon bodily
pleasure and pain. In "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," La Mettrie
states that all the passions can be developed from two fundamental
passions, of which they are but modifications, love and hatred, or
desire and aversion. [100] Like La Mettrie, Helvetius makes corporeal
pleasure and pain the ruling motives for man's conduct. Thus he writes:
"Pleasure and pain are and always will be the only principles of action
in man." [101]... "Remorse is nothing more than a foresight of bodily
pain to which some crime has exposed us." [102] He definitely makes
happiness the end of human action. "The end of man is self-preservation
and the attainment of a happy existence.... Man, to find happiness,
should save up his pleasures, and refuse all those which might change
into pains.... The passions always have happiness as an object: they
are legitimate and natural, and can not be called good or bad except
on account of their influence on human beings. To lead men to virtue,
we must show them the advantages of virtuous actions." [103] Holbach,
finally, goes further than La Mettrie or Helvetius, and makes purely
mechanical impulses the motives of man's action. "The passions are
ways of being or modifications of the internal organs, attracted or
repulsed by objects, and are consequently subject in their own way
to the physical laws of attraction and repulsion." [104]

39. "Ixions of Christianity." Ixion, for his treachery, stricken
with madness, was cast into Erebus, where he was continually scourged
while bound to a fiery wheel, and forced to cry: "Benefactors should
be honored."

40. "Who can be sure that the reason for man's existence is not
simply the fact that he exists?" Luzac opposes this by saying:
"If the reason of man's existence was in man himself, this existence
would be a necessary consequence of his own nature; so that his own
nature would contain the cause or reason of his existence. Now since
his own nature would imply the cause of his existence, it would also
imply his existence itself, so that man could no more be considered
as non-existent than a circle can be considered without radii or a
picture without features or proportions.... If the existence of man
was in man himself, he would then be an invariable being." [105]

41. "Fénelon (François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon), born at
Château de Fénelon, Dordogne, France, August 6, 1651, died at Cambrai,
France, January 7, 1715. A celebrated French prelate, orator, and
author. He became preceptor of the sons of the dauphin in 1689,
and was appointed archbishop of Cambrai in 1695. His works include
'Les aventures de Télémaque' (1699), 'Dialogues des morts' (1712),
'Traité de l'éducation des filles' (1688), 'Explication des maximes
des saints' (1697), etc. His collected works were edited by Leclère
(38 vols., 1827-1830)." [106]

42. "Nieuwentyt (Bernard), a Dutch mathematician, born in
West-Graftdijk the tenth of August 1654, died at Purmerend the
thirtieth of May, 1718. An unrelenting Cartesian, he combated the
infinitesimal calculus, and wrote a polemic against Leibnitz,
concerning this subject. He wrote a theological dissertation
translated into French under the title "L'existence de Dieu
démontrée par les merveilles de la nature" (Paris, 1725)." [107]

43. "Abadie, James (Jacques), born at Nay, Basse-Pyrénées, probably in
1654; died at London, September 25, 1725. A noted French Protestant
theologian. He went to Berlin about 1680 as minister of the French
church there, and thence to England and Ireland; was for a time
minister of the French church in the Savoy; and settled in Ireland as
dean of Killaloe in 1699. His chief work is the 'Traité de la vérité
de la religion chrétienne' (1684), with its continuation 'Traité de
la divinité de nôtre Seigneur Jesus-Christ' (1689)." [108]

44. "Derham (William), English theologian and scholar, born in
Stoughton, near Worcester, in 1657, died at Upminster in 1735. Pastor
of Upminster in the county of Essex, he could peacefully devote
himself to his taste for mechanics and natural history. Besides
making studies of watch-making, and of fish, birds, and insects,
published in part in the Transactions of the Royal Society, he
wrote several works on religious philosophy. The most important,
which was popular for a long time and was translated into French
(1726), has as title 'Physico-Theology, or the Demonstration of the
Existence and the Attributes of God, by the Works of His Creation'
(1713). He wrote as complement, in 1714, his 'Astro-Theology, or the
Demonstration of the Existence and Attributes of God by the Observation
of the Heavens.'" [109]

45. Rais, or Cardinal de Retz (1614-1679), was a French politician
and author. From his childhood he was intended for the church. He
took an active part in the movement against Cardinal Mazarin, and
later became cardinal, but lost his popularity, and was imprisoned
at Vincennes. After escaping from there he returned to France and
settled in Lorraine, where he wrote his 'Mémoires,' which tell of
the court life of his time. [110]

46. Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) was a renowned Italian anatomist
and physiologist. He held the position of lecturer on medicine at
Bologna in 1656, a few months later became professor at Pisa, was made
professor at Bologna in 1660, went from there to Messina, though he
later returned to Bologna. In 1691 he became physician to Pope Innocent
XII. Malpighi is often known as the founder of microscopic anatomy. He
was the first to see the marvelous spectacle of the circulation of the
blood on the surface of a frog's lung. He discovered the vesicular
structure of the human lung, the structure of the secreting glands,
and the mucous character of the lower stratum of the epidermis. He
was the first to undertake the finer anatomy of the brain, and he
accurately described the distribution of grey matter, and of the fibre
tracts in the cord. His works are: "De pulmonibus" (Bologna, 1661),
"Epistolae anatomicae narc. Malpighi et Car. Fracassati" (Amsterdam,
1662), "De Viscerum Structura" (London, 1669), "Anatome Plantarum"
(London, 1672), "De Structura Glandularum conglobatarum" (London,
1689). [111]

47. Deism is a system of thought which arose in the latter part
of the seventeenth century. Its most important representatives in
England were Toland, Collins, Chubb, Shaftsbury, and Tindal. They
insisted on freedom of thought and speech, and claimed that reason
is superior to any authority. They denied the necessity of any
supernatural revelation, and were consequently vigorously opposed by
the church. Partly because of this opposition by the church, many of
them argued against Christianity, and tried to show that an observance
of moral laws is the only religion necessary for man. They taught that
happiness is man's chief end, and that, since man is a social being,
his happiness can best be gained by mutual helpfulness. Although
they declared that nature is the work of a perfect being, they had
a mechanical conception of the relation of God to the world, and did
not, like later theists, find evidence of God's presence in all the
works of nature. [112]

48. "Vanini, Lucilio, self-styled Julius Cæsar. Born at Taurisano,
kingdom of Naples, about 1585; burned at the stake at Toulouse, France,
February 19, 1619. An Italian free thinker, condemned to death as an
atheist and magician. He studied at Rome and Padua, became a priest,
traveled in Germany and the Netherlands, and began teaching at Lyons,
but was obliged to flee to England, where he was arrested. After his
release he returned to Lyons, and about 1617 settled at Toulouse. Here
he was arrested for his opinions, condemned, and on the same day
executed. His chief works are: 'Amphitheatrum aeternae Providentiae'
(1615), 'De admirandis naturae reginae deaeque mortalium arcanis'
(1616)." [113]

49. Desbarreaux (Jacques Vallée). A French writer, born at Paris
in 1602, who died at Chalon-sur-Saône the ninth of May, 1673. He
wrote a celebrated sonnet on penitence, but was rather an unbeliever
and sceptic than a penitent. Guy Patin, hearing of his death, said:
"He infected poor young people by his licence. His conversation was
very dangerous and destructive to the public." [114]

50. Boindin (Nicolas), French scholar and author, born the twenty-ninth
of May 1676 at Paris, where he died the thirtieth of November 1751. He
was in the army for a while, but retired on account of ill health. He
then gave himself up to literature, and wrote several plays. In
1706 he was elected Royal censor and associate of the Academy of
Inscriptions. His liberty, or, as it was then called, license of mind,
shut the doors of the French Academy to him, and would have caused
his expulsion from the Academy of Inscriptions if he had not been so
old. He died without retracting his opinions. [115]

51. Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was one of the leaders of the
intellectual movement of the eighteenth century. He was at first
influenced by Shaftsbury, and was enthusiastic in his support of
natural religion. In his "Pensées philosophiques" (1746) he tries to
show that the discoveries of natural science are the strongest proofs
for the existence of God. The wonders of animal life are enough to
destroy atheism for ever. Yet, while he opposes atheism, he also
opposes vigorously the intolerance and bigotry of the church. He
claims that many of the attributes ascribed to God are contrary to
the very idea of a just and loving God.

Later, Diderot was influenced by La Mettrie and by Holbach, and became
an advocate of materialism which he set forth in "Le rêve d'Alembert"
and in the passages contributed to the "Système de la nature." Diderot
was the editor of the "Encyclopédie." [116]

52. Trembley. See note 27.

53. "Nothing which happens, could have failed to happen." An
enunciation of the doctrine so insisted upon by Holbach. "The whole
universe ... shows us only an immense and uninterrupted chain of cause
and effect." [117]... "Necessity which regulates all the movements
of the physical world, controls also those of the moral world." [118]

54. "All these evidences of a creator, repeated thousands ... of times
... are self-evident only to the anti-Pyrrhonians." La Mettrie holds an
opinion contrary not only to that of Descartes and Locke, but also to
that of Toland, Hobbes, and Condillac. Descartes, for instance, says:
"Thus I very clearly see that the certitude and truth of all science
depends on the knowledge alone of the true God." [119] Hobbes asserts:
"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, ... 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." [120] Toland's words are: "All the jumbling
of atoms, all the Chances you can suppose for it, could not bring the
Parts of the Universe into their present Order, nor continue them in
the same, nor cause the Organization of a Flower or a Fly.... The
Infinity of Matter ... excludes ... an extended corporeal God,
but not a pure Spirit or immaterial Being." [121] Condillac writes:
"A first cause, independent, unique, infinite, eternal, omnipotent,
immutable, intelligent, free, and whose providence extends over all
things: that is the most perfect notion of God that we can form in
this life." [122] Locke declares: "From what has been said it is plain
to me we have a more certain knowledge of the existence of a God than
of anything our senses have not immediately discovered to us. Nay I
presume I may say, that we more certainly know that there is a God,
than that there is anything else without us." [123]

55. "Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus). Born at Rome, probably about
96 B.C., died October 15, 55 B.C. A celebrated Roman philosophical
poet. He was the author of 'De rerum natura,' a didactic and
philosophical poem in six books, treating of physics, of psychology,
and (briefly) of ethics from the Epicurean point of view. He committed
suicide probably in a fit of insanity. According to a popular but
doubtless erroneous tradition, his madness was due to a love-philter
administered to him by his wife." [124]

56. "Lamy (Bernard) was born in Mans in the year 1640. He studied
first in the college of this city. He later went to Paris, and
at Saumar studied philosophy under Charles de la Fontenelle,
and theology under André Martin and Jean Leporc. He was at length
called to teach philosophy in the city of Angers. He wrote a great
many books on theological subjects. His philosophical works are:
'L'art de parler' (1675), 'Traité de méchanique, de l'équilibre, des
solides et des liqueurs' (1679), 'Traité de la grandeur en général'
(1680), 'Entretiens sur les sciences' (1684), 'Eléments de géométrie,'
(1685)." [125]

57. "The eye sees only because it is formed and placed as it is." La
Mettrie doubts whether there is any purpose in the world. Condillac, on
the other hand, teaches that purpose and intelligence are shown forth
in the universe. "Can we see the order of the parts of the universe,
the subordination among them, and notice how so many different things
compose such a permanent whole, and remain convinced that the cause
of the universe is a principle without any knowledge of its effects,
which without purpose, without intelligence, relates each being to
particular ends, subordinated to a general end?" [126]

58. "Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites." Vergil, Eclogue
III, line 108.

59. "The universe will never be happy unless it is atheistic." Although
La Mettrie calls this a "strange opinion" it is clear that he
secretly sympathizes with it. Holbach affirms this doctrine very
emphatically. "Experience teaches us that sacred opinions were the
real source of the evils of human beings. Ignorance of natural causes
created gods for them. Imposture made these gods terrible. This idea
hindered the progress of reason." [127] "An atheist ... is a man who
destroys chimeras harmful to the human race, in order to lead men
back to nature, to experience, and to reason, which has no need of
recourse to ideal powers, to explain the operations of nature." [128]

60. "The soul is therefore but an empty word." Contrast this with
Descartes's statement: "And certainly the idea I have of the human
mind ... is incomparably more distinct than the idea of any corporeal
object." [129] Compare this doctrine, also, with Holbach's assertion:
"Those who have distinguished the soul from the body seem to have only
distinguished their brains from themselves. Truly the brain is the
common center, where all the nerves spread in all parts of the human
body, terminate and join together.... The more experience we have,
the more we are convinced that the word 'spirit' has no meaning even
to those who have invented it, and can be of no use either in the
physical or in the moral world." [130]

61. William Cowper (1666-1709) was an English anatomist. He was
drawn into a controversy with Bidloo, the Dutch physician, by
publishing under his own name Bidloo's work on the anatomy of human
bodies. His principal works are: "Myotamia reformata" (London, 1694)
and "Glandularum descriptio" (1702). [131]

62. William Harvey (1578-1657), an English physician and physiologist,
is renowned for his discovery of the circulation of the blood. He was
educated at Canterbury and Cambridge, and took his doctor's degree at
Cambridge in 1602. During his life he held the position of Lumleian
lecturer at the College of Physicians, and of physician extraordinary
to James I. His principal works are: "Exercitatio de motu cordis
et sanguinis" (1628), and "Exercitationes de generatione animalium"
(1651). [132]

63. Francis Bacon (1551-1626) was one of the first to revolt
against scholasticism and to introduce a new method into science
and philosophy. He claimed that to know reality, and consequently
to gain new power over reality, man must stop studying conceptions,
and study matter itself. Yet he did not himself know how to gain
a more accurate knowledge of nature, so that he could not put into
practice the method which he himself advocated. His works are full
of scholastic conceptions, though many of the implications of his
system are materialistic. Lange claims, [133] indeed, that if Bacon
had been more consistent and daring, he would have reached strictly
materialistic conclusions. The account of the motion of the heart
of the dead convict is found in "Sylva Sylvarum." [134] This book,
published in 1627, a year after Bacon's death, contains the account
of Bacon's experiments, and of his theories in matters of physiology,
physics, chemistry, medicine, and psychology.

64. Robert Boyle, one of the greatest natural philosophers of his age,
studied at Eton for three years, and then became the private pupil of
the rector of Stalbridge. He traveled through France, Switzerland,
and Italy, and while at Florence, studied the work of Galileo. He
decided to devote his life to scientific work, and in 1645 became
a member of a society of scientific men, which later grew into the
Royal Society of London. His principal work was the improvement of
the air-pump, and by that the discovery of the laws governing the
pressure and volume of gases.

Boyle was also deeply interested in theology. He gave liberally for
the work of spreading Christianity in India and America, and by his
will endowed the "Boyle Lectures" to demonstrate the Christian religion
against atheists, theists, pagans, Jews, and Mohammedans. [135]

65. Nicolas Sténon was born at Copenhagen, 1631, and died at Schwerin
in 1687. He studied at Leyden and Paris, and then settled in Florence,
where he became the physician of the grand duke. In 1672 he became
professor of anatomy at Florence, but three years later he gave up
this position and entered the church. In 1677 he was made Bishop
of Heliopolis and went to Hanover, then to Munster, and finally
to Schwerin. His principal work is the "Discours sur l'anatomie du
cerveau" (Paris, 1669). [136]

66. La Mettrie's account of involuntary movements is much like that of
Descartes. Descartes says: "If any one quickly passes his hand before
our eyes as if to strike us, we shut our eyes, because the machinery
of our body is so composed that the movement of this hand towards
our eyes excites another movement in the brain, which controls the
animal spirits in the muscles that close the eyelids." [137]

67. "The brain has its muscles for thinking, as the legs have muscles
for walking." Neither Condillac nor Helvetius go so far. Helvetius
explicitly states that it is an open question whether sensation is
due to a material or to a spiritual substance. [138]

68. Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1670) was the head of the so-called
iatro-mathematical sect. He tried to apply mathematics to medicine in
the same way in which it had been applied to the physical sciences. He
was wise enough to restrict the application of his system to the motion
of the muscles, but his followers tried to extend its application and
were led into many absurd conjectures. Borelli was at first professor
of mathematics at Pisa, and later professor of medicine at Florence. He
was connected with the revolt of Messina and was obliged to leave
Florence. He retired to Rome, where he was under the protection of
Christina, Queen of Sweden, and remained there until his death in
1679. [139]

69. "For one order that the will gives, it bows a hundred times to
the yoke." Descartes, on the other hand, teaches that the soul has
direct control over its voluntary actions and thoughts, and indirect
control over its passions. [140] La Mettrie goes further than to
limit the extent of the will, and questions whether it is ever free:
"The sensations which affect us decide the soul either to will or
not to will, to love or to hate these sensations according to the
pleasure or the pain which they cause in us. This state of the soul
thus determined by its sensations is called the will." [141] Holbach
insists on this point and contends that all freedom is a delusion:
"[Man's] birth depends on causes entirely outside of his power; it
is without his permission that he enters this system where he has
a place; and without his consent that, from the moment of his birth
to the day of his death, he is continually modified by causes that
influence his machine in spite of his will, modify his being, and
alter his conduct. Is not the least reflexion enough to prove that
the solids and fluids of which the body is composed, and that the
hidden mechanism that he considers independent of external causes,
are perpetually under the influence of these causes, and could not act
without them? Does he not see that his temperament does not depend
on himself, that his passions are the necessary consequences of his
temperament, that his will and his actions are determined by these same
passions, and by ideas that he has not given to himself?... In a word,
everything should convince man that during every moment of his life,
he is but a passive instrument in the hands of necessity." [142]

70. The theory of animal spirits, held by Galen and elaborated by
Descartes, is that the nerves are hollow tubes containing a volatile
liquid, the animal spirits. The animal spirits were supposed to
circulate from the periphery to the brain and back again, and to
perform by their action all the functions of the nerves.

71. Berkeley uses the fact that the color of objects varies, as one
argument for his idealistic conclusion. [143]

72. It is hard to tell what Pythagoras himself taught, but it is
certain that he taught the kinship of animals and men, and upon
this kinship his rule for the abstinence from flesh was probably
based. Among the writings of the later Pythagoreans we find strange
rules for diet which are plainly genuine taboos. For example they are
commanded "to abstain from beans, not to break bread, not to eat from
a whole loaf, not to eat the heart, etc." [144]

73. Plato forbade the use of wine in his ideal republic. [145]

74. "Nature's first care, when the chyle enters the blood, is to
excite in it a kind of fever." Thus, warmth is the first necessity
for the body. Compare with this, Descartes's statement: "There is a
continual warmth in our heart, ... this fire is the bodily principle
of all the movements of our members." [146] This is one of the many
instances in which La Mettrie's account of the mechanism of the body
is similar to that of Descartes.

75. "Stahl (George Ernst), born at Ansbach, Bavaria, October 21, 1660;
died at Berlin, May 14, 1734. A noted German chemist, physician of the
King of Prussia from 1716. His works include: 'Theoria medica vera'
(1707), 'Experimenta et observationes chemicae' (1731), etc." [147]

76. Philip Hecquet (1661-1737) was a celebrated French physician. He
studied at Rheims, and in 1688 became the physician of the nuns of Port
Royal des Champs. He returned to Paris in 1693 and took his doctor's
degree in 1697. He was twice dean of the faculty of Paris. In 1727
he became the physician of the religious Carmelites of the suburb of
Saint Jacques, and remained their physician for thirty-two years. [148]

77. The quotation: "All men may not go to Corinth," is translated from
Horace, Ep. 1, 19, 36. "Non cuivis homini contigit adire Corinthum."

78. Hermann Boerhaave was born at Voorhout near Leyden, on December 31,
1668. His father, who belonged to the clerical profession, destined
his son for the same calling and so gave him a liberal education. At
the University of Leyden, he studied under Gronovius, Ryckius and
Frigland. At the death of his father, Boerhaave was left without any
provision and supported himself by teaching mathematics. Vandenberg,
the burgomaster of Leyden, advised him to study medicine, and he
decided to devote himself to this profession. In 1693 he received his
degree and began to practice medicine. In 1701 he was made "Lecturer
on the Institutes of Medicine" at the University of Leyden. Thirteen
years later he was appointed Rector of the University, and the same
year became Professor of Practical Medicine there. He introduced into
the university the system of clinical instruction. Boerhaave's merit
was widely recognized, and his fame attracted many medical students
from all Europe to the University of Leyden. Among these was La Mettrie
whose whole philosophy was profoundly influenced by the teaching of
Boerhaave. In 1728 Boerhaave was elected into the Royal Academy of
Sciences of Paris, and two years later he was made a member of the
Royal Society of London. In 1731 his health compelled him to resign
the Rectorship at Leyden. At this time he delivered an oration, "De
Honore, Medici Servitute." He died after a long illness on April 23,
1738. The city of Leyden erected a monument to him in the Church of
St. Peter, and inscribed on it: "Salutifero Boerhaavii genio Sacrum."

Boerhaave was a careful and brilliant student, an inspiring teacher,
and a skilful practitioner. There are remarkable accounts of his skill
in discovering symptoms, and in diagnosing diseases. His chief works
are: "Institutiones Medicae" (Leyden, 1708); "Aphorismi de cognoscendis
et curandis Morbis" (Leyden, 1709), "Libellus de Materia Medica et
Remediorum Formulis" (Leyden, 1719), "Institutiones et Experimentae
Chemicae" (Paris, 1724). [149]

79. Willis. (See Note 21.)

80. Claude Perrault (1613-1688) was a French physician and
architect. He received his degree of doctor of medicine at Paris
and practised medicine there. In 1673 he became a member of the
Royal Academy of Sciences. Although he never abandoned his work in
mathematics, in the natural sciences, and in medicine, he is more noted
as an architect than as a physician or scientist. He was the architect
of one of the colonnades of the Louvre, and of the Observatory. [150]

81. "Matter is self-moved." In "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme" La
Mettrie claims that motion is one of the essential properties of
matter. See "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chap. V.

82. "The nature of motion is as unknown to us as that of
matter." Unlike La Mettrie, Toland holds that it is possible to
know the nature of matter, and declares that motion and matter can
not be defined, because their nature is self-evident. [151] Holbach,
resembling La Mettrie, teaches that it is futile to seek to know the
ultimate nature of matter, or the cause for its existence. "Thus
if any one shall ask whence matter came, we shall say that it has
always existed. If any one ask, whence came movement in matter, we
shall answer that for this same reason matter must have moved from
eternity, since motion is a necessary consequence of its existence,
its essence, and of its primitive properties, such as extent, weight,
impenetrability, shape, etc.... The existence of matter is a fact;
the existence of motion is another fact." [152]

83. Huyghens (Christian) was born at The Hague, 1629, and died there
in 1695. He was a Dutch physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. He is
celebrated for the invention of the pendulum clock which could measure
the movements of the planets, for the improvement of the telescope,
and for the development of the wave-theory of light. His principal
work is "Horologium Oscillatorium" (1673). [153]

84. Julien Leroy (1686-1759) was a celebrated French watchmaker. He
excelled in the construction of pendulums and of large clocks. Some
have attributed the construction of the first horizontal clock to him,
but this is doubtful. Among many other inventions and improvements
of clocks, he invented the compensating pendulum which bears his
name. [154]

85. Jacques de Vaucanson (1709-1782) was a French mechanist. From his
childhood he was always interested in mechanical contrivances. In 1738
he presented to the French Academy his remarkable flute player. Soon
after, he made a duck which could swim, eat, and digest, and an asp
which could hiss and dart on Cleopatra's breast. He later held the
position of inspector of the manufacture of silk. In 1748 he was
admitted to the Academy of Sciences. His machines were left to the
Queen, but she gave them to the Academy, and in the disturbances which
followed the pieces were scattered and lost. Vaucanson published:
"Mécanisme d'un flûteur automate" (Paris, 1738). [155]

86. "[Descartes] understood animal nature; he was the first to prove
completely that animals are pure machines." Contrast this with
La Mettrie's former reference in "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme"
to "this absurd system 'that animals are pure machines.' Such a
laughable opinion," he adds, "has never gained admittance among
philosophers.... Experience does not prove the faculty of feeling any
less in animals than in men." [156] It is evident that La Mettrie's
opposition to this 'absurd system' was based upon his insistence on
the similarity of men and animals. In "L'homme machine" he argues
from the same premiss, that animals are machines, that men are like
animals, and that therefore men also are machines.


87. Matter, according to La Mettrie, is endowed with extensity,
the power of movement, and the faculty of sensation. As La Mettrie
says, this conception was not held by Descartes, who thought that
the essential attribute of matter is extension. "The nature of
body consists not in weight, hardness, color, and the like but
in extension alone--in its being a substance extended in length,
breadth and height." [157] Hobbes's conception of matter is very
similar to that of La Mettrie. He specifically attributes motion to
matter: "Motion and magnitude are the most common accidents of all
bodies." [158] He does not name sensation as an attribute of matter,
but he reduces sensation to motion. "Sense is some internal motion in
the sentient." [159] Since motion is one of the attributes of matter,
and since matter is the only reality in the universe, sensation must
be attributed to matter.

88. La Mettrie always insists that matter has the power of moving
itself, and resents any attempt to show that the motion is due to an
outside agent. In this opinion he is in agreement with Toland. Toland
says that those who have regarded matter as inert have had to find
some efficient cause for motion; and to do this, they have held that
all nature is animated. This pretended animation, however, is utterly
useless, since matter is itself endowed with motion.

89. "This absurd system ... that animals are pure machines." (See
Note 86.)


(An asterisk indicates the edition to which reference is made.)


           1745       "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme." The Hague. (This
                      work appears as "Traité de l'âme" in La Mettrie's
                      collected works.)
           1748       "L'homme machine." Leyden.
                      "L'homme machine par La Mettrie, avec une
                      introduction et des notes." J. Assézat. Paris,
           1751       "OEuvres philosophiques." London (Berlin).
           1764   *   "OEuvres philosophiques de Monsieur de la
                      Mettrie," Amsterdam. Besides "L'homme machine"
                      and "Traité de l'âme," the "OEuvres
                      philosophiques" contain the following (dates of
                      first publication added in parentheses):

                          "Abrégé des systèmes."
                          "L'homme plante" (1748).
                          "Les animaux plus que machines" (1750).
                          "L'Anti-Sénèque" (1748).
                          "L'art de jouir" (1751).
                          "Système d'Epicure."


           1748       "L'homme plus que machine." London (Leyden).
                  *   "Man More than a Machine," translated from the
                      French of Elie Luzac, and printed with the
                      translation of "Man a Machine" for G. Smith,


           1637       "Essais philosophiques," including "Discours de
                      la méthode."
                  *   "The Discourse on Method," translated by John
                      Veitch. Open Court Publishing Co., 1903.
           1641       "Meditationes de prima philosophia."
           1644       "Principia philosophiae."
                  *   "The Meditations and Selections from the
                      Principles of Philosophy," translated by John
                      Veitch. Open Court Publishing Co., 1905.
           1650       "Les passions de l'âme."
                  *   "OEuvres de Descartes," Vol. IV. Edited by Victor
                      Cousin, Paris, 1824.


           1704   *   "Letters to Serena." London. Printed for Bernard


           1650       "Human Nature or the Fundamental Elements of
                      Policie." London.
           1651       "Leviathan; Or the Matter, Form, and Power of a
                      Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical & Civil." London.
           1655       "Elementorum Philosophiae Sectio Prima: De
                      Corpore." London.
                  *   English Works edited by Sir William Molesworth,
                      1839-45. Volume III. Leviathan.
                      Volume IV. Human Nature.


           1690       "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding."
                  *   Edition of Books II and IV (with omissions)
                      preceded by the English version of Le Clerc's
                      "Eloge historique de feu Mr. Locke," ed. M. W.
                      Calkins. Open Court Publishing Co., 1905.


           1754       "Traité des sensations." Paris and London.
           1755       "Traité des animaux." Paris and London.
                  *   "OEuvres complètes," 23 vols. Edited by Guillaume
                      Arnoux and Mousnier. Paris, 1798. Vol. III.
                      "Traité des sensations." "Traité des animaux."


           1770       "Système de la nature," par M. Mirabaud [really
                      Von Holbach].
                  *   Nouvelle edition avec des notes et des
                      corrections par Diderot. Paris, 1821.


           1758       "De l'esprit." Paris.
                  *   "De l'esprit, or Essays on the mind and its
                      several faculties," translated from the French by
                      William Mulford. London, 1810.
           1772       "De l'homme, de ses facultés, et de son
                      éducation." 2 vols. London.
                  *   "A Treatise on Man; His Intellectual Faculties
                      and His Education," translated from the French,
                      with notes, by W. Hooper, M. D., 1810.


                  *   "OEuvres de Frederic II., Roi de Prusse, publiées
                      du vivant de l'auteur." Berlin, 1789: "Eloge de
                      Julien Offray de la Mettrie," Vol. III, pp. 159


                  *   "Sylva Sylvarum, sive Historia Naturalis,"
                      transcripta a J. Grutero Lug. Batavor. 1648.

    F. A. LANGE.

                  *   "History of Materialism," translated by Ernest
                      Chester Thomas, Boston, 1877.


                  *   "History of Philosophy," translated by J. H.
                      Tufts, New York, 1898.

    A. W. BENN.

                  *   "History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth
                      Century." London, 1906.
                      "La Grande Encyclopédie. Inventaire Raisonné des
                      Sciences, des Lettres, et des Arts, par une
                      Société de Savants et de Gens de Lettres." Paris,
                      "The Encyclopaedia Britannica. A Dictionary of
                      Arts, Sciences, and General Literature." Ninth
                      "The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia." New
                      "Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology," edited
                      by J. M. Baldwin. London and New York, 1901.


[1] Il péche evidemment par une pétition de principe.

[2] L'histoire des animaux et des hommes prouve l'empire de la semence
des pères sur l'esprit et le corps des enfants.

[3] L'auteur de l'Histoire naturelle de l'âme etc.

[4] L'auteur de l'Hist. de l'âme.

[5] Il y a encore aujourd'hui des peuples, qui, faute d'un plus grand
nombre de signes, ne peuvent compter que jusqu'à 20.

[6] Dans un cercle, ou à table, il lui fallait toujours un rempart
de chaises, ou quelqu'un dans son voisinage du côté gauche,
pour l'empêcher de voir des abîmes épouvantables dans lesquels il
craignait quelquefois de tomber, quelque connaissance qu'il eut de ces
illusions. Quel effrayant effet de l'imagination, ou d'une singulière
circulation dans un lobe du cerveau! Grand homme d'un côté, il était
à moitié fou de l'autre. La folie et la sagesse avaient chacun leur
département, ou leur lobe, séparé par la faux. De quel côté tenait-il
si fort à Mrs. de Port-Royal? J'ai lu ce fait dans un extrait du
traité du vertige de Mr. de la Mettrie.

[7] Au moins par les vaisseaux. Est-il sûr qu'il n'y en a point par
les nerfs?

[8] Haller dans les Transact. Philosoph.

[9] Boerhaave, Inst. Med. et tant d'autres.

[10] He evidently errs by begging the question.

[11] The history of animals and of men proves how the mind and the
body of children are dominated by their inheritance from their fathers.

[12] The author of "The Natural History of the Soul."

[13] The author of "The History of the Soul."

[14] There are peoples, even to-day, who, through lack of a greater
number of signs, can count only to 20.

[15] In a company, or at table, he always required a rampart of chairs
or else some one close to him at the left, to prevent his seeing
horrible abysses into which (in spite of his understanding these
illusions) he sometimes feared that he might fall. What a frightful
result of imagination, or of the peculiar circulation in a lobe of
the brain! Great man on one side of his nature, on the other he was
half-mad. Madness and wisdom, each had its compartment, or its lobe,
the two separated by a fissure. Which was the side by which he was
so strongly attached to Messieurs of Port Royal? (I have read this
in an extract from the treatise on vertigo by M. de la Mettrie.)

[16] Haller in the Transact. Philosoph.

[17] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," chapters XI, VIII.

[18] "Man a Machine," p. 142. Cf. La Mettrie's commentary on
Descartes's teaching in "Abrégé des systèmes philosophiques," OEuvres,
Tome 2.

[19] "Abrégé des systèmes, Descartes," p. 6, OEuvres Philosophiques,
Tome 2.

[20] "Man a Machine," page 89. Cf. "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme"
(or "Traité de l'âme"), OEuvres, 1746, p. 229.

[21] Descartes, "Principles," Part II, Prop. 4.

[22] "Man a Machine," pp. 122-126.

[23] Ibid., p. 142.

[24] Hobbes, "Leviathan," Part III, Chap. 34; Part I, Chap. XII,
Open Court Edition, p. 169.

[25] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chapters III, V, and VI.

[26] "Leviathan," Part I, Chap. I. Cf. "Concerning Body," Part IV,
Chap. XXV, 2.

[27] "Man a Machine," pp. 90-91.

[28] "Leviathan," Part I, Chap. VI, Molesworth Ed., p. 40. Cf. "Man
a Machine," p. 90.

[29] Ibid., Part I, Chap. IV. Cf. "Man a Machine," p. 103.

[30] Ibid., Part I, Chap. XII.

[31] "Letters to Serena," V, p. 168.

[32] Ibid., p. 196.

[33] Ibid., p. 203.

[34] Ibid., p. 199.

[35] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chap. V, p. 94.

[36] "Man a Machine," p. 139.

[37] "Man a Machine," p. 140.

[38] "Letters to Serena," V, p. 227.

[39] Ibid., V, p. 234.

[40] John Locke, "Essay Concerning Human Understanding," Book I,
Book II, Chap. I.

[41] Locke, "Essay," Book II, Chap. 8.

[42] Ibid., Book II, Chap. 23.

[43] Ibid., Book IV, Chap. 10. For La Mettrie's summary of Locke,
cf. his "Abrégé des systèmes," OEuvres, Tome 2.

[44] F. A. Lange, "History of Materialism," Vol. II, Chap. II.

[45] "Traité des sensations," Part I.

[46] "Traité des animaux," Chap. I, p. 454.

[47] "Traité des animaux," Chap. VI, p. 577 ff.

[48] "Treatise on Man," Sect. II, Chap. I, p. 96.

[49] Ibid., Sect. II, Chap. II, p. 108.

[50] "Essays on the Mind," Essay II, Chap. I, p. 35.

[51] "Treatise on Man," Chap. XII, p. 161.

[52] Ibid., Chap. IX, p. 146; Chap. VII, p. 129.

[53] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. I, p. 6.

[54] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. VI, p. 94.

[55] Ibid., Vol. II, Chap. XVI, p. 451, and Chap. XXVI,
p. 485. Cf. "Man a Machine," pp. 125-126.

[56] The references are to pages of this book.

[57] Page-references are to the editions cited on pp. 205-207, except
references to "Man a Machine" which are to this translation. The
translated or original title of a French book is cited according as
the editor has made use of translation or of French text.

[58] "Man More than a Machine," pp. 10, 12. For statement of the
editions to which these Notes make reference, see pp. 205-207.

[59] Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding," Book
II. Chap. XXIII, § 15.

[60] Ibid., § 31.

[61] Condensed and translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 26.

[62] Translated from a note of Assézat in "L'homme machine."

[63] Condensed and translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 4.

[64] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed.,
Vol. XXIII. All references are to this edition.

[65] "Man More than a Machine," p. 5.

[66] "Discourse on Method," Part. V.

[67] "Discourse on Method," Part IV.

[68] "Meditations," II.

[69] "Traité des sensations," Part IV, Chap. IX, § 5.

[70] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. I.

[71] Quoted from Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology,
Vol. I.

[72] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XI.

[73] "Les passions de l'âme," Part I, Art. XV, and Art. XXXIX.

[74] Ibid., Part I, Art. XV.

[75] Condensed from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[76] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 26.

[77] Condensed from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[78] "Man More than a Machine," p. 23.

[79] "Discourse on Method," V, last paragraph.

[80] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. VII.

[81] Translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 26.

[82] Quoted from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XXIV.

[83] Quoted from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[84] E. Haeckel, "The Riddle of the Universe," Chap. III.

[85] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. I.

[86] "The Riddle of the Universe," Chap. II.

[87] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XXIII.

[88] Translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 31.

[89] "Leviathan," Part I, Chap. IV.

[90] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chap. XIV. p. 199.

[91] "Traité des sensations," p. 50. Cf. ibid., Chap. XII (2).

[92] "Treatise on Man," Sect. II, Chap. I, p. 4. Cf. "Essays on Mind,"
Essay I, Chap. I, p. 7.

[93] "Leviathan," Part I, Chap. XII.

[94] "Man More than a Machine," p. 25.

[95] Ibid., p. 26.

[96] Quoted from Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy, Vol. II.

[97] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. II.

[98] "Traité des animaux," Chap. I, p. 454.

[99] "Man More than a Machine," p. 65.

[100] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chap. X, § XII.

[101] "Treatise on Man," Chap. X.

[102] Ibid., Chap. VII.

[103] "Le vrai sens du système de la nature," Chap. IX.

[104] Ibid., Vol. I, Chap. VIII, p. 140.

[105] "Man More than a Machine," pp. 71 and 72.

[106] Quoted from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[107] Translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 24.

[108] Quoted from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[109] Translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 14.

[110] Condensed from the Century Dictionary, Vol. X.

[111] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XV.

[112] Cf. A. W. Benn, "History of English Rationalism," Vol. I,
Chap. III.

[113] Quoted from the Century Dictionary, Vol. X.

[114] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 14.

[115] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 7.

[116] Condensed from F. A. Lange, "History of Materialism," Vol. II,
Chap. I, and from W. Windelband, "History of Philosophy," Part V,
Chap. I.

[117] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. I, p. 12.

[118] Ibid., Vol. II, Chap. XI. Cf. Vol. I, Chap. VII.

[119] "Meditations," III and V.

[120] "Leviathan," Part I, Chap. XII.

[121] "Letters to Serena," V, p. 235.

[122] "Traité des animaux," Chap. VI, p. 585.

[123] "Essay Concerning Human Understanding," Book IV, Chap. X.

[124] Quoted from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[125] Translated and condensed from the Dictionnaire des Sciences
philosophiques, Vol. III, Paris, 1847.

[126] "Traité des animaux," Chap. VI.

[127] "Système de la nature," Vol. II, Chap. XVI, p. 451.

[128] Ibid., Chap. XXVI, p. 485. Cf. Luzac's criticism in "Man More
than a Machine," p. 94.

[129] "Meditations," IV.

[130] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. VII, pp. 121-122.

[131] Condensed and translated from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 13.

[132] Condensed from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[133] F. A. Lange, "History of Materialism," Vol. I, Sec. II,
Chap. III.

[134] "Sylva Sylvarum sive Historia Naturalis Latio Transcripta a
J. Gruteo." Lug. Batavos, 1648. Cf. Bk. IV, Experiment 400.

[135] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. IV.

[136] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 30.

[137] "Les passions de l'âme," Part I, Art. 13.

[138] "Essays on the Mind," Essay I, Chap. I, pp. 4ff.

[139] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. IV.

[140] "Les passions de l'âme," Part I, Art. 41.

[141] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chap. XII,
p. 164. Cf. Chap. XII, p. 167.

[142] "Système de la nature," Vol. I, Chap. VI, pp. 89ff.

[143] "Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous," I, Open Court edition;
pp. 27, 28, 29. Cf. "Principles of Human Knowledge," par. 10, 15.

[144] Quoted from J. Burnet, "Early Greek Philosophy," Chap. II.

[145] Republic, III, 403.

[146] "Les passions de l'âme," Part I, Art. VIII.

[147] Quoted from the Century Dictionary, Vol. X.

[148] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 19.

[149] Condensed from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. III.

[150] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 26.

[151] "Letters to Serena," V.

[152] "Système de la nature," Vol. II, Chap. II, p. 32.

[153] Condensed from the Century Dictionary, Vol. IX.

[154] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 22.

[155] Translated and condensed from La Grande Encyclopédie, Vol. 31.

[156] "L'histoire naturelle de l'âme," Chap. VI.

[157] "Principles of Metaphysics," Part II, Prop. 4.

[158] "De Corpore," Part III, Chap. XV.

[159] Ibid., Part IV, Chap. XXV, (2).

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