What Is Man?

Cover image for


Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Published: 1906
Language: English
Wordcount: 95,538 / 273 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 87.2
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 4,844
mnybks.net#: 7080
Genre: Satire

ing-machine, possibly--nothing more, perhaps.

O.M. Men would admire the other engine and rapturously praise it?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. But not the stone one?

Y.M. No.

O.M. The merits of the metal machine would be far above those of the stone one?

Y.M. Of course.

O.M. Personal merits?

Y.M. PERSONAL merits? How do you mean?

O.M. It would be personally entitled to the credit of its own performance?

Y.M. The engine? Certainly not.

O.M. Why not?

Y.M. Because its performance is not personal. It is the result of the law of construction. It is not a MERIT that it does the things which it is set to do--it can't HELP doing them.

O.M. And it is not a personal demerit in the stone machine that it does so little?

Y.M. Certainly not. It does no more and no less than the law of its make permits and compels it to do. There is nothing PERSONAL about it; it cannot choose. In this process of "working up to the matter" is it your idea to work up to the proposition that man a


Average Rating of 5 from 3 reviews: *****
Lisa Carr

A book of essays. The first two are among the best things Twain wrote. What Is Man? (the essay) is the cynical and completely reasonable instruction of a young man by an old man. Man, he says, is completely unable to come up with an original thought or action, and his conscience is as learned as his prejudices. A number of modern philosophers cite the essay.
The second essay, The Death of Jean, was written Christmas Eve of 1909 with his daughter lying dead in the next room. It is very hard to read.
There are also accounts of two assassinations, trivial magazine articles, an appreciation of Switzerland, and one of William Dean Howells, a funny explanation of his learning to ride a pennyfarthing bicycle, and his contribution to exposing Shakespeare as a fraud.
Please read at least the first two essays.


It\'s pretty cool beans.


Absolutely loved the What is Man essay. The essence of human nature so captured in the dialog between the old man & the young man.

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