Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Human Nature

Voltaire, Candide, chapter 21 (tr. T. Smollett, rev. J.C. Thornton):

"Do you think," said Candide, "that mankind always massacred one another as they do now? Were they always guilty of lies, fraud, treachery, ingratitude, inconstancy, envy, ambition, and cruelty? Were they always thieves, fools, cowards, gluttons, drunkards, misers, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, and hypocrites?"

"Do you believe," said Martin, "that hawks have always been accustomed to eat pigeons when they came in their way?"

"Doubtless," said Candide.

"Well then," replied Martin, "if hawks have always had the same nature, why should you pretend that mankind change theirs?"
One difference is this. Given the opportunity, all hawks will eat pigeons. But not all men are always thieves, fools, etc.

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