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The Contemporary Review, Volume 36, September 1879

But rendering it still more incoherent and irrational


the simple direct tendency to

an object--the uneasiness which sought its cure without reflection either upon itself or upon anything else--becomes changed, on the one side, into a gigantic ambition and greed, which would make the whole world tributary to the lust of the individual, and, on the other, into a love of humanity in which self-love is altogether transcended or absorbed. Neither of these, however, nor any lower form of either, is in such wise _external_ to reason, that we can talk of them as determining it to an end which is not its own. Both are simply the expression in feeling of that essential opposition of the self to the not self, and at the same time that essential unity of the self with the not self, which are the two opposite, but complementary, aspects of the life of reason. And the progressive triumph of altruism over egoism, which constitutes the moral significance of history, is only the result of the fact that an individual, who is also a conscious self, cannot find his happiness in his own individual life, but only in the life of the whole to which he belongs. A selfish life is for him a contradiction. It is a life in which he is at war with himself as well as with others, for it is the life of a being who, though essentially social, tries to find satisfaction in a personal or individual good. The "intelligence" and the "heart" equally condemn such a life; it is not only a crime but a blunder. For a spiritual being as such is one who can only save his life by losing it in a wider life,
one who must die to himself in order that he may live. In the progress of man's spirit, therefore, there is no necessary or possible schism between the two parts of his being; but, on the contrary, the development of each is implied in the development of the other. It is the more comprehensive idea, as well as the higher social purpose, which always triumphs; and if what is called intellectual culture sometimes seems to have the worse, it is because it is a superficial or formal culture, and does not really represent the most comprehensive idea.

This leads us to observe that the opposition of the heart to the intelligence is Comte's key to the whole history of the past, especially in relation to religion. Theology is to him a system growing out of a natural, though partially erroneous, hypothesis, a hypothesis which in its first appearance was well suited to excite the nascent intelligence and satisfy the primary affections of man, but which, in its further development, tended to secure moral and social ends at the expense of truth, and became more and more irrational as it became more and more useful. Fetichism, the first religion, was the spontaneous result of man's primitive tendency to exaggerate the likeness of all things to himself. It is "less distant from Positivity" than any other sort of theology,[29] for its error is only that it supposes the existence of life wherever it finds activity--an error which can "easily be brought to the test of verification" and corrected. "We can show it to be an error, and so get rid of it." But Polytheism, seeking for greater generality, refers phenomena to beings who are not identified with them, to "indirect wills belonging to beings purely imaginary," whose "existence can no more be decisively disproved than it can be demonstrated." Further, Polytheism extended to the order of man's life that kind of explanation which Fetichism necessarily confined to nature, because the latter sought to explain everything by man, and never thought of man himself as requiring explanation. But this, while it had the advantage of bringing human life within the domain of speculation, at the same time reduced theology into a palpable instance of reasoning in a circle. For "humanity cannot legitimately be included in the synthesis of causes, from the very fact that its type is found in man."[30] Last of all came Monotheism, concentrating still further the theological explanation of the universe, but rendering it still more incoherent and irrational, for "the conception of a single God involves a type of absolute perfection complete in each of the three aspects of human nature, affection, thought, and action. Now such a conception unavoidably contradicts itself, for either this all-powerful Being must be inferior to ourselves, morally or intellectually, or else the world which he created must be free from those radical imperfections which, in spite of Monotheistic sophistry, have been always but too evident. And even were this second alternative admissible, there would remain a yet deeper inconsistency. Man's moral and mental faculties have for their object to subserve practical necessities, but an omnipotent Being can have no occasion either for wisdom or for goodness."[31]


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