READING-DHolbach-Of the System of Mans Free Agency.pdf

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Of the System of Man's Free Agency Paul Henri Thiery (Baron D'Holbach) The System of Nature; or, The Laws of the Moral and Physical World , was first published in 1770 under the pseudonym "Jean- Baptiste de Mirabaud." The text used here is taken from the 1821 translation by Robert D. Richardson, Jr. Prefatory remarks This selection from D'Holbach's book The System of Nature focuses on the notion of "free agency" or free will. D'Holbach argues vigorously against the idea that humanity ("man") has free will, using a variety of arguments focused on what we understand about how decisions are made and what explanations of behavior seem appropriate. While you might find reading this a bit of a challenge, it is full of discernible arguments, and you should keep an eye out for those as you proceed. Baron D'Holbach About the philosopher Baron D'Holbach (1723-1789) was a philosopher working in the midst of the French Enlightenment period. He published under pseudonyms so as to avoid persecution for his often unpopular views, especially his atheism, materialism, and— as you see here—his rejection of free will.
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D'Holbach, "Of the System of Man's free agency," p. 1 Of the System of Man's Free Agency (Chapter 11 of The System of Nature) Paul Henri Thiery (Baron D'Holbach) Note: Some minor modifications have been made to modernize spelling, and removed text is indicated with the symbol [...]. Those who have pretended that the soul is distinguished from the body, is immaterial, draws its ideas from its own peculiar source, acts by its own energies, without the aid of any exterior object, have, by a consequence of their own system, enfranchised it from those physical laws according to which all beings of which we have a knowledge are obliged to act. They have believed that the soul is mistress of its own conduct, is able to regulate its own peculiar operations, has the faculty to determine its will by its own natural energy; in a word, they have pretended that man is a free agent. It has been already sufficiently proved that the soul is nothing more than the body considered relatively to some of its functions more concealed than others: it has been shown that this soul, even when it shall be supposed immaterial, is continually modified conjointly with the body, is submitted to all its motion, and that without this it would remain inert and dead: that, consequently, it is subjected to the influence of those material and physical causes which give impulse to the body; of which the mode of existence, whether habitual or transitory, depends upon the material elements by which it is surrounded, that form its texture, constitute its temperament, enter into it by means of the aliments, and penetrate it by their subtlety. The faculties which are called intellectual, and those qualities which are styled moral, have been explained in a manner purely physical and natural. In the last place it has been demonstrated that all the ideas, all the systems, all the affections, all the opinions, whether true or false, which man forms to himself, are to be attributed to his physical and material senses. Thus man is a
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