What Is Man?

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Essay by Clemens based on his paper, “What is Happiness?,” delivered before the Monday Evening Club of Hartford (Feb. 1883), rewritten (1898), privately published without the author's name (1906), and posthumously collected in What Is Man? and Other Essays (1917).

In this Platonic dialogue between a Young Man and a disillusioned Old Man, the mouthpiece of the author's pessimistic view of mankind, the Old Man considers human beings to be merely mechanisms, lacking free will, motivated selfishly by a need for self-approval, and completely the products of their environment. In an “Admonition to the Human Race,” he pleads for the raising of ideals of conduct to a point where the individual's satisfaction will coincide with the best interests of the community.

Subjects: Literature.

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