The Natural Wants of MankindSeptember 30, 2015
Cheapness or plenty is the most proper way of procuring wealth and abundance.
Cheapness is the same thing with plenty. Water is so cheap because it is so plentiful. Diamonds are so dear because of their scarcity (Their real use seems not yet discovered).
To ascertain the most proper method of obtaining these conveniences, we should=
- consider what are the natural wants of mankind which are to be supplied,
- show wherein opulence consists.
If we differ from common opinions, we shall at least give the reasons for our non-conformity.
Nature produces everything that is needed to support every animal. It does not need to improve the original production. Food, clothes, and lodging are all the wants of any animal. Most of the animals are sufficiently provided for by nature in all their wants.
Only man does not have any object produced to his liking. He finds that improvement is needed in everything. The food of savages needs no preparation. But after being acquainted with fire, he finds that it can be made more wholesome and easily digested and may preserve him from many violent diseases.
But it is not only his food that requires this improvement. His puny constitution is also hurt by the intemperature of the air which is not very capable of improvement. But it must be brought to a proper temperament for his body. An artificial atmosphere is prepared for this purpose. The human skin cannot endure the inclemencies of the weather.
Even in those countries where the air is warmer than the natural warmth of the constitution, and where they have no need of clothes, it must be stained and painted to be able to endure the hardships of the sun and rain. Generally however, man’s necessities are not so great. They can be supplied by the unassisted labour of the individual.
Everyone can provide all the above necessities for himself, such as=
- animals and fruits for food, and
- skins for clothing.
The delicacy of a man’s body requires more provision than that of any other animal.
The same or rather the much greater delicacy of his mind requires a still greater provision to which all the different arts [are] subservient. Man is the only animal who is possessed of such a nicety that the very colour of an object hurts him. Among different objects a different division or arrangement of them pleases.
The taste of beauty consists chiefly in=
- proper variety,
- easy connection, and
- simple order
These are the cause of all this niceness. We are not pleased with monotony. A long uniform wall is a disagreeable object. Uniformity tires the mind.
Too much variety, such as the crowded objects of a parterre, is also disagreeable as it over-dissipates the mind.
Easy connection also renders objects agreeable. When we see no reason for the contiguity of the parts, when they are without any natural connection, when they have neither a proper resemblance nor contrast, they never fail of being disagreeable.
If the simplicity of order be not observed, so as that the whole may be easily comprehended, it hurts the delicacy of our taste.
Again, imitation and painting render objects more agreeable. To see upon a plain, trees, forests, and other such representations, is an agreeable surprise to the mind. Variety of objects also renders them agreeable.
What we are every day accustomed to does but very indifferently affect us. Gems and diamonds are on this account much esteemed by us. Similarly, our pinchbeck and many of our toys were so much valued by the Indians. In bartering their jewels and diamonds for them, they thought they had made by much the better bargain.