the first cause: want of early attention and habit

Category: Education | Type: Discussion | Title: Mansfield Park (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Ch: Chapter XXXIV

An important example of Austen's conviction, common to Enlightenment optimists and progressivists from Locke and Rousseau to Hartley, Bentham, and Godwin, that education, good or bad, effective or not, reinforced by habit, is the first cause of our conduct or misconduct.

This is a significant departure from most 17th-c. Christians, who would attribute misconduct to Original Sin. The political philosopher Thomas Hobbes would agree with part of that statement: we are innately savage, and nothing but fear can restrain us. 

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