The late 17th Century in England presents the reader of that country's literature with the first minds definitely of the modern model, perceiving and convinced of the sole sufficiency of the material world to explain all phenomena. Indeed, they are less prone to residual illusions of transcendence than many in the present. Others before them had perceived the superiority of materialist explanations, but were not fully convinced, or staved off conviction with very reasonable scepticism.

The new conviction struck men in different ways, for all philosophies come in various flavours, sour, salt, and sweet. Hobbes describes his conclusions without a tremor; Butler weeps, and Mandeville shrugs his shoulders and laughs. Hobbes saw it plain, and took it for what it was worth; Butler regretted the lies of the past and the opportunities foregone; Mandeville embraced the freedom and consequent riches of the present, come what may.