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Pope: "Essay on Man"
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Pope: "Essay on Man"
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Pope's "Essay on Man" is a theodicy--a work written to explain God's ways to man.

Current examples: books about why bad things happen to good people

 

Epistle 1 is the only epistle in our text.

In it, Pope discusses the idea that man sees only part whereas God sees the whole.

Pope explains that man's ignorance and weaknesses are right because they fit humans into the divine plan; in fact, humans cannot be perfect and maintain their station on the Great Chain of Being.

Pope further demonstrates that humans do not have the capacity to understand that all is right. When humans see confusion, they do not realize that the confusion is only in the eye of humans who do not understand the harmony of God's total plan.

The first epistle is divided into ten segments. Pope provided a prose overview of the poem to explain what each of the segments would cover. In our text, this overview of segments occurs on pages 510-511.

Pope published the first 3 epistles in 1733, 4th in 1734

In "Essay on Man," God's will is vindicated because apparent evil only exists in man's inability to understand God's universal balance

To Pope, and to most neoclassicist, "whatever is, is right." This does not mean all is perfect but that for every apparent imperfection, there is a reason. This reason is simply beyond human comprehension.

The Great Chain of Being is the chain that connects God to the angels to man to animals to fish to insects to amoebas. Everything is connected on the chain, in its proper place. Everything knows all that it needs to know to maintain its proper place and be in harmony with God's universe. If humans want to know what God knows, they are threatening the very balance of their existence. Pope says all that humans need to do to know ALL is to wait until after death.