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Pope’s Essay on Man: Epistle I (An Outline)

Invitation to Bolingbroke [1-16]

        A. Purpose: to look at humanity
        B. Purpose: to know our design

I.   The limits of humanity’s vision [17-34]

    1. Humans know only what they see [17-22]
    2. Only God can see humans as they are [23-34]

II.   Humanity in our place [35-76]

    1. Foolishness of human presumption of greatness, though created and not creator [35-42]
    2. Possibility of humans being out of place in the created order [43-50]
    1. infinite wisdom, or God, exists
    2. in its creation, it forms the best
    3. creation formed in increasing degrees of coherency and reason
    4. in such a scale, a place must exist for humanity
    5. thus humanity is justly placed

III.   Humanity’s ignorance and hope allow happiness [77-112]

    1. Each level of being learns from the one below [77-80]
    2. Like the lamb, a human must appear foolish in his or her ignorance of the future [81-84]
    3. Ignorance of the future allows Providence to treat creatures equitably [85-90]
    4. Hope for the future replaces knowledge of it [91-98]
    1. hope as a blessing [91-94]
    2. hope as human nature [95-98]

         E.   Hope as universal faculty [99-112]

    1. The American Indian lacks Science [99-102]
    2. But Nature has given them hope [103-104]
    3. Hope gives them a vision of a better world [105-112]

IV.  Folly of humanity’s attempt to place a vision of a better world [105-112]

    1. Humans overstep their bounds, then blame God for their discomfort [113-118]
    2. Humanity tries to judge God [-119-122]
    3. Pride is humanity’s downfall [123-130]
    1. pride encourages beings to forsake their rightful place [123-124]
    2. both humans and angels have tried to assume a greater place [125-128]
    3. this upsets the laws of order [129-130]

V.   Folly of humanity’s attempt to be the center of creation [131-172]

    1. Pride causes a person to imagine himself or herself the reason for creation [131-140]
    2. But one must reconsider that position in the face of natural evil [141-164]
    1. reality of natural evil [141-144]
    2. in such a case, God acts in general laws [145-146]
    3. except in rare cases, when God acts in partial laws [147-148]
    4. if Nature is inconsistent, so must be humanity [149-150]
    5. evil appears to the inconsistencies of natural laws and thus in the inconsistencies of human passion [151-156]
    6. God alone knows why inconsistencies exist [157-160]
    7. the need to blame pride and not God, for evil [161-164]

VI.  Folly of humanity’s complaints against Providence [173-206]

    1. Humans desire to be more like angels and animals simultaneously [173-188]
    1. nature has given out faculties fittingly [179-185]
    2. humans alone imagine themselves cheated [186-188]

        B.  Humans should be content with their place [189-206]

    1. we do not need any other natural faculty [189-200]
    2. access to angelic senses would cause us to desire our former ignorance [201-206]

VII.  The natural gradations of sensual and mental faculties [207-232]

    1. Increase in sensual faculties up to humanity [207-224]
    2. Elements of Reason [225-228]
    3. How levels of sense give people dominion over animals [229-232]

VIII.   The importance of this order of gradations [233-268]

    1. Extent of this order above, below, and beyond humanity. [233-241]
    2. How the removal of a single link would destroy the entire Chain of Being [241-246]
    3. How confusion could commence total destruction [251-256]
    4. How a single confusion could commence total destruction [251-256]
    5. How humanity threatens to disrupt natural order [257-258]

IX.   The pride of humanity’s desire to upset this order [259-280]

    1. Foolishness of one part of any attempt to upset order [263-266]
    2. Taken as an example of the foolishness of any attempt to upset order [263-266]
    3. How all are part of one whole [267-280]

X. The importance of humanity’s acceptance of their place in the order [281-294]

    1. A person should submit to his or her own weakness and imperfections [281-285]
    2. Humanity is in a secure place [285-288]
    3. Though unknown, all is right [289-294]

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding