Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Religion of Nature

"I feel therefore I am."

"Man was born free but is everywhere in chains."

"Existence is nothing but a succession of moments perceived through the senses."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau [1712-1778] observed while in a rowboat on a lake in the wilderness that he became completely at one with nature; anxieties about the past, frets about the future disappeared. 

The belief in the "beauty and innocence of nature" was a reaction to 18th century European squalor, brutality, corruption.

On Rousseau's Discourse on the Inequality of Man, where he argues that natural man is virtuous, Voltaire [1694-1778] remarked that "no one has ever used more intelligence to prove that he is stupid." Nevertheless it became one of the motive powers of the next half-century, intensified by the newly discovered "uncorrupted islanders" - the "savages" of Tahiti and the South Pacific.