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devoted to the authority of the priests, and to tradition. The jansenists are enthusiasts, and zealous promoters of the passionate devotion, and of the inward life; little influenced by authority; and, in a word, but half catholics. The consequences are exactly conformable to the foregoing reasoning. The jesuits are the tyrants of the people, and the slaves of the court: And the jansenists preserve alive the small sparks of the love of liberty, which are to be found in the FRENCH nation,
E S S AY X.
Of the DIGNITY or MEANNESS of HUMAN
HERE are certain feets, which secretly form
themselves in the learned world, as well as factions in the political ; and though sometimes they come not to an open rupture, they give a different turn to the ways of thinking of those who have taken part on either fide. The most remarkable of this kind are the sects, founded on the different sentiments with regard to the dignity of human nature; which is a point that seems to have divided philosophers and poets, as well as divines, from the beginning of the world to this day. Some exalt our species to the skies, and represent man as a kind of human demigod, who derives his origin from heaven, and retains evident marks of his lineage and descent. Others insist upon the blind sides of human nature, and can discover nothing, except vanity, in which man furpasses the other animals, whom he affects so much to despise. If an author possesses the talent of rhetoric and declamation, he commonly takes part with the former : If his turn lies towards irony and ridicule, he naturally throws himself into the other extreme.
I am far from thinking, that all those, who have depreciated our fpecies, have been enemies to virtue, and have exposed the frailties of their fellow-creatures with any bad intention. On the contrary, I am sensible that a delicate fenfe of morals, especially when attended with a splenetic temper, is apt to give a man a disgust of the world, and to make him consider the common courfe of human affairs with too much indignation. I must, however, be of opinion, that the sentiments of those, who are inclined to think favourably of mankind, are more advantageous to virtue, than the contrary principles, which give us a mean opinion of our nature. When a man is possessed of a high notion of his rank and character in the creation, he will naturally endeavour to act up to it, and will scorn to do a base or vicious action, which might sink him below that figure which helmakes in his own imagination. Accordingly we find, that all our polite and fashionable moralists infift upon this topic, and endeavour to represent vice as unworthy of man, as well as odious in itself.
We find few disputes, that are not founded on fome ambiguity in the expression; and I am persuaded, that the present dispute, concerning the dignity or meanness of human nature, is not more exempt from it than any other. It may, therefore, be worth while to consider, what is real, and what is only verbal, in this controverfy.
That there is a natural difference between merit and demerit, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly, no reasonable man will deny: Yet is it evident, that, in affixing the term, which denotes either our approbation of blame, we are commonly more influenced by comparison than by any fixed unalterable standard in the nature of
things. In like manner, quantity, and extension, and
In forming our notions of human nature, we are apt