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On its publication, An Essay on Man received great admiration throughout Europe.Voltaire called it "the most beautiful, the most useful, the most sublime didactic poem ever written in any language".It is an effort to rationalize or rather "vindicate the ways of God to man" (l.16), a variation of John Milton's claim in the opening lines of Paradise Lost, that he will "justify the ways of God to men" (1.26).
According to his friend and editor, William Warburton, Pope intended to structure the work as follows: The four epistles which had already been published would have comprised the first book.
The second book was to contain another set of epistles, which in contrast to the first book would focus on subjects such as human reason, the practical and impractical aspects of varied arts and sciences, human talent, the use of learning, the science of the world, and wit, together with "a satire against the misapplication" of those same disciplines.
Pope began work on it in 1729, and had finished the first three by 1731.
They appeared in early 1733, with the fourth epistle published the following year.
Pope argues that humanity should make a study of itself, and not debase the spiritual essence of the world with earthly science, since the two are diametrically opposed to one another: man should "presume not God to scan".
“Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or Thee?By doing this, one would justify the happenings of life, and the workings of God, for there is a reason behind all things that is beyond human understanding.Pope’s endeavor to highlight the infallibility of nature is a key aspect of the Augustan period in literature; a poet’s goal was to convey truth by creating a mirror image of nature.They are as follows: In the introduction to Pope’s first Epistle, he summarizes the central thesis of his essay in the last line.The purpose of “An Essay on Man” is then to shift or enhance the reader’s perception of what is natural or correct.In the above example, Pope's thesis is that man has learnt about nature and God's creation through science; consequently, science has given man power, but having become intoxicated by this power, man has begun to think that he is "imitating God".In response, Pope declares the species of man to be a "fool", absent of knowledge and plagued by "ignorance" in spite of all the progress achieved through science.Because man cannot know God's purposes, he cannot complain about his position in the Great Chain of Being (ll.33-34) and must accept that "Whatever IS, is RIGHT" (l.292), a theme that was satirized by Voltaire in Candide (1759).More than any other work, it popularized optimistic philosophy throughout England and the rest of Europe.Furthermore, in line 12, Pope hints towards vital middle ground on which we are above beats and below a higher power(s).Those who “blindly creep” are consumed by laziness and a willful ignorance, and just as bad are those who “sightless soar” and believe that they understand more than they can possibly know.