The System of Nature


The System of Nature

"The System of Nature" ("Système de la Nature") is a philosophical book by Baron d'Holbach (Paul Henri Thiry, 1723-1789). It was originally published under the name of Jean-Baptiste de Mirabaud, a deceased member of the French Academy of Science. D'Holbach wrote this book (with the assistance of Diderot) anonymously in 1770, describing the universe in terms of philosophical materialism (i.e., the mind is the same thing as the brain, there is no "soul" without a living body, etc.), strict determinism (free will is an illusion, and whatever happens, must), and especially atheism.

The book was considered extremely radical in its day; even Voltaire rebuked him for it. Though not a scientist himself, d'Holbach was scientifically literate and he developed his philosophy consistent with the known facts of nature and the scientific knowledge of the day.

The book has been nicknamed "The Atheist's Bible". It makes a critical distinction between mythology as a more or less benign way of bringing law ordered thought on society, nature and their powers to the masses and theology. Theology which when it separates from mythology raises the power of nature above nature itself and thus alienates the two (i.e. "nature", all that actually exists, from its power, now personified in a being outside nature) is by contrast a pernicious force in human affairs without parallel.

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