Interpretation of Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Man"

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Alexander Pope, in his work "An Essay of Man," aims to explain the nature of man, his relationship with him, as well as the society that surrounds him. Moreover, in this essay, Pope attempts to draft a system of ethics that can guide man in his daily affairs.


He explains that man should have a sense of inner equilibrium, between how he views himself with respect to his surroundings. With this, man has to understand his purpose, as well as the universal order in which he is a part of. Only after understanding his purpose and the universal order around him can man be truly contented. As Pope explains:
Man was made perfect, based on the intended purpose that God created him for. Moreover, God gave man sufficient knowledge, based on the purpose that he was made for, and in relation to the surroundings that he will live in.
The author cautions that man should not overshoot his intended purpose. Man was made to be man, and was made perfectly for his intended purpose, with respect to the universal order, of which man is a part of. Therefore, any desire to deviate from man's intended purpose consequently inverts or subverts the universal order that exists:
As Pope explains, aspiring to be like the Gods or like the Angels is deemed as a rebellion against the universal order that man should respect. Implicit in this argument is the possibility that man might go astray, away from his intended purpose, should he desire to become more than what he was created for. Effects such as pride, tyranny and corruption might signal the downfall of man, if he desires to become more than what he was created for.
The stress that the author puts on the importance of understanding man's intended purpose suggests that it is ...
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