Francois Fenelon

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In existographies, Francois Fenelon (304-240 BE) (1651-1715 ACM) (IQ:180|#217) (ID:2.81|64) (Cattell 1000:102) (PR:6,517|65AE / philosopher:276) (CR:6) (LH:3) (TL:9) aka "De Cambria" (Meslier, 1729), was a French Catholic theologian, philosopher, poet, and writer, noted for []


In 1712, Fenelon, in his On The Existence of God, section: "Of the Soul, which Alone, Among all Creatures, Thinks and Knows" (§43:91-92), stated that children will laugh at you if you assert that stones ‘think and know’ or that beasts are ‘mere machines’, as follows:[1]

“But the body of man, which appears to be the masterpiece of nature, is not to be compared to his thought. It is certain that there are bodies that do not think: man, for instance, ascribes no knowledge to stone, wood, or metals, which undoubtedly are bodies. Nay, it is so natural to believe that matter cannot think, that all unprejudiced men cannot forbear ‘laughing’ when they hear any one assert that beasts are but mere machines; because they cannot conceive that mere machines can have such knowledge as they pretend to perceive in beasts. They think it to be like children's playing, and talking to their puppets, the ascribing any knowledge to mere machines. Hence it is that the ancients themselves, who knew no real substance but the body, pretended, however, that the soul of a man was a fifth element, or a sort of quintessence without name, unknown here below, indivisible, immutable, and altogether celestial and divine, because they could not conceive that the terrestrial matter of the four elements could think, and know itself: Aristotle ‘considers a certain nature to be ‘è quà sit mens. For to think, and to provide, and to learn, and to teach, he thinks that there is none in these four genera; the fifth class uses a vacant name’.”

This "children will laugh" at you remark, eventually became the punchline to Jean Meslier's Testament.

A comparison of a rock and a human, each shown with their characteristic molecular formula, the key difference being that rocks are aluminum and silicon based types of matter, whereas humans are CHNOPS+ based types of matter. Mind derives from the geometric properties of column 14 elements. Two of these are carbon C, the key element of human minds, and silicon Si, the key element of computer minds.

Matter Cannot Think

Next, in his section: "Matter Cannot Think" (§44:92-93), he says:

“But let us suppose whatever you please, for I will not enter the lists with any sect of philosophers: here is an alternative which no philosopher can avoid. Either matter can become a thinking substance, without adding anything to it, or matter cannot think at all, and so what thinks in us is a substance distinct from matter, and which is united to it. If matter can acquire the faculty of thinking without adding anything to it, it must, at least, be owned that all matter does not think, and that even some matter that now thinks did not think fifty years ago; as, for instance, the matter of which the body of a young man is made up did not think ten years before he was born. It must then be concluded that matter can acquire the faculty of thinking by a certain configuration, ranging, and motion of its parts. Let us, for instance, suppose the matter of a stone, or of a heap of sand. It is agreed this part of matter has no manner of thought; and therefore to make it begin to think, all its parts must be configurated, ranged, and moved a certain way and to a certain degree.

Fenelon here, to digress, is attempting to ridicule the idea that one can turn stone or sand into a thinking animal or thinking human. In this period of time, matter was defined by only four elements, the sulfur principle of fire, and a fifth element, hence this idea might have floated as conceivable.

  • Rock [composition]: Al, Si - based (+ H, O, K, Na, Fe, Mg)
  • Human [composition]: C - based (+ H, O, K, Na, Fe, Mg) + 19 other element.

Fenelon continues:

Now, who is it that knew how to find, with so much niceness, that proportion, order, and motion that way, and to such a degree, above and below which matter would never think? Who is it that has given all those just, exact, and precise modifications to a vile and shapeless matter, in order to form the body of a child, and to render it rational by degrees? If, on the contrary, it be affirmed that matter cannot become a thinking substance without adding some. thing to it, and that another being must be united to it, I ask, what will that other thinking being be, whilst the matter, to which it is united, only moves? Therefore, here are two natures or substances .very unlike and distinct. We know one by figures and local motions only; as we do the other by perceptions and reasonings. The one does not imply, or create the idea of the other, for their respective ideas have nothing in common.”

Then, in his section: "Matter Cannot Think" (§45:95-96), he says, in a very humorous manner:

“Nothing is more absolute than the command of the mind over the body. The mind wills, and, instantly, all the members of the body are in motion, as if they were acted by the most powerful machines. On the other hand, nothing is more manifest than the power and influence of the body over the mind. The body is in motion, and, instantly the mind is forced to think either with pleasure or pain, upon certain objects. Now, what hand equally powerful over these two divers and distinct natures has been able to bring them both under the same yoke, and hold them captive in so exact and inviolable a society? Will any man say it was chance? If he does, will he be able either to understand what he means, or to make it understood by others?
Has chance, by a concourse of atoms, hooked together the parts of the body with the mind? If the mind can be hooked with some parts of the body, it must have parts itself, and consequently be a perfect body, in which case, we relapse into the first answer, which I have already confuted. If, on the contrary, the mind has no parts, nothing can hook it with those of the body, nor has chance wherewithal to tie them together.”

Fenelon here is attempting to refute the Epicurean + Descartes model of things, based on the Epicurus model that all things form from a "fortuitous concourse of atoms"[2], wherein the mind forms from atoms "hooking together", by the first principle of "chance".



Fenelon was influenced by: Homer


Fenelon was contemporary with: Jean Meslier (attacked by), Nicolas Malebranche (attacked him).


Fenelon influenced: Jean Rousseau, Charles Montesquieu, Thomas Jefferson, Johann Herder, Alfred Tennyson, Baron Holbach (refuted).


Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Fenelon:

“On the other hand the work is no less to be admired in little than in great: for I find as well in little as in great a kind of infinite that astonishes me. It surpasses my imagination to find in a hand-worm, as one does in an elephant or whale, limbs perfectly well organized ; a head, a body, legs, and feet, as distinct and as well formed as those of the biggest animals. There are in every part of those living atoms, muscles, nerves, veins, arteries, blood; and in that blood ramous particles and humors; in these humors some drops that are themselves composed of several particles : nor can one ever stop in the discussion of this infinite composition of so infinite a whole.”
— Francois Fenelon (1712), The Existence of God (§21: Wonders of the Infinitely Little”, pgs. 49-50)
Atoms cannot make any compound by the motion the Epicureans assign to them. These atoms of so many odd figures — some round, some crooked, others triangular, etc., — are by their essence obliged always to move in a straight line, without ever deviating or bending to the right or to the left; wherefore they never can hook one[3] another, or make together any compound.”
— Francois Fenelon (1712), On the Existence of God (pg. 171)
Matter cannot think or feel and the people, even children, cannot be persuaded otherwise. People and children are far from believing that matter is capable of thinking and feeling in anyway, so that they could not help laughing if you told them that a stone, a piece of wood, a table, or their dolls felt pain or pleasure and joy or sadness.”
— Francois Fenelon (1712), On the Existence of God (pg. 91); cited by Jean Meslier (1729) in Testament (pg. 560)

Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Fenelon:

“Now that is a lovely argument for a person of such rank, merit, and erudition! People and even children could really have a reason to laugh and make fun of those who to amuse themselves would like to make them believe that stones, tables, boards, furniture, or dolls had knowledge and sentiment because they know, indeed, that these sorts of things cannot know or feel anything. But, their laughter would not come, as Fenelon would like to make them understand, from the fact that these kinds of things are only matter or made of matter, but because they would see that these things are not ‘animate’ and do not have life like animals and consequently they cannot think or feel.”
Jean Meslier (1729), Testament (pg. #)[4]

End matter


  1. Fenelon, Francois. (1712). On the Existence of God (translated by anon in 1713). Cassell, 1894.
  2. Fortuitous concourse of atoms – Hmolpedia 2020.
  3. Hooked atoms – Hmolpedia 2020.
  4. Meslier, Jean. (1729). The Testament: Memoir of the Thoughts and Sentiments (translator: Michael Shreve; preface: Michel Onfray) (pgs. 560-61). Prometheus, 2009.


External links

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