all-powerful and could have prevented all your woes. Never hope that your woes will end, for you exist for no reason, if it is not to suffer and die." I do not know what such a doctrine could offer that is more comforting than Optimism, or even Fatalism; for myself, I admit it seems even more cruel than Manicheism. If the problem of the origin of evil drives you to challenge God’s perfection, why uphold His powerfulness at the cost of His goodness? If one is an error, I prefer it to be the first.
4You do not want us, Monsieur, to read your poem as denying Providence, and I shall be careful not to give it that name—even though you described as a book against humanity the text in which I tried to defend humanity from itself. [RLS: Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, 1755.] I know we must distinguish between an author and the conclusions some may draw from his writings [doctrine]. Self-defence requires me only to note that, in painting human misery, my intention was honourable and even praiseworthy—at least as I see it. For I showed men how they were the cause of their own unhappiness and, in consequence, how they might avoid it. I do not see how one can search for the source of moral evil anywhere but in man’s freedom and perfection—which are also his corruption. As for our physical pains: if sensate and impassible matter is, as I think, a contradiction in terms, then pains are inevitable in any world of which man forms a part—and the question them becomes not ‘why is man not perfectly happy’ but ‘why does he exist at all?’ Moreover, I think I have shown that most of our physical pains, except for death—which is hardly painful,except for the preparations that precede it—are also our own work. Without leaving your Lisbon subject,concede, for example, that it was hardly nature who assembled there twenty-thousand houses of six or seven stories. If the residents of this large city had been more evenly dispersed and less densely housed, the losses would have been fewer or perhaps none at all. Everyone would have fled at the first shock, and would have been seen two days later, twenty leagues away and as happy as if nothing had happened. But we have to stay and expose ourselves to further tremors, many obstinately insisted, because what we would have to leave behind is worth more than what we could carry away. How many unfortunates perished in this disaster for wanting to take—one his clothing, another his papers, a third his money? They know so well that a person has become the least part of himself, and that he is hardly worth saving if all the rest is lost.You would have liked—and who would not have liked—the earthquake to have happened in the middle of some desert, rather than in Lisbon. Can we doubt that they also happen in deserts? But no one talks about those, because they have no ill effects for city gentlemen (the only men about whom anyone caresanything). For that matter, desert earthquakes have little effect on the animals and scattered savages who inhabit such spots—and who have no reason to fear falling roofs or tumbling buildings. What would
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