"He thought that, with some patience, he'd be able to transform everything into gold. He read the lives of various people who had succeeded in doing so: Helvetius, Elias, Fulcanelli, and Geber. They were all fascinating stories: each lived out his Personal Legend to the end." (81-82)
Santiago is a thoughtful character who really emabraces everything around him. In this quote from the story, Santiago is impressesd and inspried by the alchemists mentioned. He likes how each man followed his Personal Legend, a theme discussed throughout the book, until the very end of their lives. This inspires Santiago to continue on with his journey.
Who Was Helvetius?
Claude Adrien Schweitzer, or Helvetius, was born on February 26th, 1715 in Paris, France. He was born into a family of respected physicians; in fact, his father was the primary doctor to Marie Leszczyńska, the queen of France. Helvetius grew older, he attended College Louis-le Grand to study finance, while learning about poetry and literature in his spare time. When Helvetius turned twenty three in 1738, he was assigned the job to be the Queen’s tax collector, and not much later was appointed the position of her chamberlain, or noble. In 1751 Helvetius married Anne Catherine "Minette" of Ligniville. He later retired in a small section of France called Vore in Perche. He designated his time to encouraging agriculture, helping those in poverty, and producing philosophical ideas. Helvetius was a philosopher, a philanthropist, and an important figure in the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a period in history during the 1700s when ideas and beliefs that were previously accepted as true were questioned. It was a time of great thinkers and clever ideas. The Enlightenment brought around many reforms to benefit the people. Helvetius had many great beliefs relating to this period. He believed that each person was born with a“tubula rasa”, or “blank tablet”. He believed that each person is born pure; they have no knowledge, reputation, or prejudice. Over time, that person will gain information through experiences and the environment in which they live their daily lives. Helvetius wrote a book, De l'esprit, which became so popular that it was printed in almost every language spoken in Europe. The book consisted of four main ideas which were talked about throughout the work:
1. The only difference between human beings and lower animals are our external organization.
2. Decisions that humans make are based off circumstances and prior knowledge.
3. Humans are born naïve; however, they are not born unintelligent. It is their education that makes them unintelligent in the end.
4. The emotions and ideas linked to the powerful words genius, imagination, talent, taste, and good sense.
Helvetius died on December 26th, 1771; he was 56 years old. Before he died he traveled to England and Germany, and he wrote a poem entitled De l'homme, de ses facultes intellectuelles et de son Mucation which translates to A Treatise on Man; his Intellectual Faculties and his Education. This poem discussed his feelings on true happiness. The poem was published year after his death. Helvetius was a great philosopher who contributed much to the world with his wisdom and knowledge for humanity.
"Helvetius." The New Encyclopaedia. 15. 5. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1991. Print.
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de Saint-Aubin , Augustin. Claude Adrien Helvétius. Web. 5 April 2012.