In the late 17th century and through at least the first half of the 18th century a particular complex of ideas permeated many of the cognoscenti of the time.
Two foundational aspects of this complex are the idea that human nature is independent of time and place and that the only matters of real importance are those that are understood (or at least are understandable) in exactly the same way by everyone.
This latter point bears some emphasis, since it directly contradicts the prevailing attitude here at the beginning of the 21st century: anything that requires recondite theory, anything that is not universally accessible to all human beings is either error or essentially irrelevant to anything of significance.
To grasp the Truth requires no special abilities, knowledge or revelation; it just requires an unprejudiced use of the gifts common to all human beings.(**) Both of these notions (and more) are subsumed in the then current meanings of the words "Nature" and "Natural Law" and are directly reflected in Pope's poem.
Elsewhere, Voltaire writes quite positively about Chinese culture (like many European free thinkers from the 16th through the 18th centuries such as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff, he valued Chinese government and ethics above their European counterparts).(***) For other authors of the age, "reason" refers to this universal set of gifts. to think God hates the worthy mind, The lover and the love of human-kind, Whose life is healthful, and whose conscience clear, Because he wants a thousand pounds a year.
Honour and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part, there all the honour lies.
One thinks on Calvin Heaven’s own Spirit fell; Another deems him instrument of hell; If Calvin feel Heaven’s blessing, or its rod, This cries, There is, and that, There is no God.” “For wit’s false mirror held up Nature’s light; Showed erring pride, - Whatever is, is right; That reason, passion, answer one great aim; That true self-love and social are the same; That virtue only makes our bliss below; And all our knowledge is, - Ourselves to know.” Overall, I agree with Samuel Johnson’s view on Pope’s An Essay on Man: “The Essay on Man was a work of great labour and long consideration, but certainly not the happiest of Pope's performances.
The subject is perhaps not very proper for poetry, and the poet was not sufficiently master of his subject; metaphysical morality was to him a new study, he was proud of his acquisitions, and, supposing himself master of great secrets, was in haste to teach what he had not learned.” (The Life of Pope, 17Overall, I agree with Samuel Johnson’s view on Pope’s An Essay on Man: “The Essay on Man was a work of great labour and long consideration, but certainly not the happiest of Pope's performances.
Furthermore, we are to accept that there is a god, that god is good and there is an afterlife/heaven.
For someone who thinks the proper focus of man is mankind, he’s throwing in a lot of external variables that can’t be determined through observation or deduction.