The System of Nature (Myth and Romanticism Series) (3 Volumes)

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9780824035624: The System of Nature (Myth and Romanticism Series) (3 Volumes)
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"The source of Man's unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature."D'Holbach believed that the misery he saw in mankind around him was caused by religion and its superstitious beliefs - that there was a God who controlled destiny and would reward or punish individuals. The System of Nature was written to replace these delusions with a schema of understanding based solely on the physical workings of nature. "Let Man study this nature, let him learn her laws, contemplate her energies." For d'Holbach the soul is only the physical body, understood from a certain point of view, which dies when the body dies. All the events and the nature of the world can be understood in terms of the motion and properties of matter; even the tiniest causes contribute to huge events - a simple change in the diet of an Emperor (or some other such insignificant cause), he suggests might have been capable of "saving kingdoms." For him, nature's laws are fixed and necessary, and if Man wants to find happiness it is best to accept this - if governments want to rule wisely they should base themselves on this principle. Man's fear of death and desire for immortality should be resisted and those in power should not be allowed to play upon these passions.Clinamen Press has issued the book with a fully modernized text and a newly commissioned introduction by Michael Bush. Recently retired from Manchester University, where he was a reader in History, his previous works include the very successful What is Love? Richard Carlile's Philosophy of Sex for Verso (1998) and Pilgrimage of Grace: a Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 (1996). He is a keen collector of rare books, specializing in radical authors.

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From the Back Cover:

The System of Nature, known as the Atheists' Bible, is the most radical expression of atheist materialism to come from the eighteenth century milieu of the philosophes in Paris. D'Holbach (1723-1789) was a central figure of the French intellectual enlightenment, contributing prolifically to Diderot's Encyclopedie, and undertaking numerous translations of British free thought. His intention in this work was to extend the stand of his contemporaries against religion and the church into a fully-fledged system which would replace religion as a foundation for belief. In so doing he both outstripped the polemic of his earlier work, and adopted a position which was considered radical even among the illustrious and subversive circle of the philosophes. Volume One represents the programmatic elaboration of d'Holbach's belief in the necessaary and immutable laws of nature as the only possible explanation for physical events.

Denis Diderot's contribution to The System of Nature is decisive and well-established, lending an authority and style to the work that is evident throughout. This edition is fully modernised, with all foreign language quotations newly translated and an introduction by Michael Bush.

About the Author:

Paul Henri Thiery Baron d'Holbach (1723 - 1789), philosopher of the Parisian school of the 18th century, was born at Heidelsheim in the Palatinate in 1723. Of his family little is known; according to J.J. Rousseau, his father was a rich parvenu, who brought his son at an early age to Paris, where the latter spent most of his life. Much of Holbach's fame is due to his intimate connection with the brilliant coterie of bold thinkers and polished wits whose creed, the new philosophy, is concentrated in the famous Encyclopedie. Possessed of easy means and being of hospitable disposition, he kept open house for such men as Helvetius, D'Alembert, Diderot, Condillac, Turgot, Buffon, Grimm, Hume, Garrick, Wilkes, Sterne, and for a time Rousseau, who, while enjoying the intellectual pleasure of their host's conversation, were not insensible to the material charms of his excellent cuisine and costly wines.

Although an atheist, or at least a materialist of the most material school, Holbach seems to have been endowed with a more than average share of virtue, and, whether by his courtesy, gentleness, or benevolence, inspired a warm affection in all he met. Even his failings, of which his simple credulity was perhaps the most prominent, were amiable. He was one of the best informed men of his day, and his excellent memory placed at his immediate disposal all the learning he had amassed. He visited England on one occasion, but the solemn stiffness of the British, even while amusing themselves, and the peculiar relations of society, disgusted as much as they surprised him. For the Encyclopedie Holbach compiled and translated a large number of articles on Chemistry and mineralogy, chiefly from German sources. He attracted more attention, however, in the department of philosophy. In 1767 Christianisme Devoile appeared, in which he attacked Christianity and religion as the source of all human evils. Regarding religion a blind superstitious bondage, maintained on mens' minds by the self-interest of priests, he tried to prove it not only unnecessary but absolutely prejudicial to human morality. This was followed in 1770 by a still more open attack in his most famous book, Le Systeme de la Nature, in which it is probable he was assisted by Diderot, and the latter is certainly its editor. Denying the existence of a deity, and refusing to admit as evidence all a priori arguments, Holbach saw in the universe nothing save matter in spontaneous movement; what men call their souls become extinct when the body dies. Le Systeme de la Nature struck horror into the minds of even the most 'enlightened' of the Parisian philosophers. Charmed by the novelty of their own opinions, and dazzled by the glittering wit and argument with which they had supported them, they had never realised into what extremities they had hurried until this lurid torch revealed the hideous abyss from which they were so little removed. Voltaire hastily seized his pen to refute the philosophy of the Systeme, in the article "Dieu" in his Dictionnaire Philosophique, while Frederick the Great also drew up an answer to it. There can be no doubt that d'Holbach created in the System of Nature a work which would be remembered far better than its author, nor that with it he would start rolling a ball which would knock the Christian Church from the pedastal upon which it had stood for so long, and do so permanantly.

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