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The Contemporary Review, Volume 36, September 1879

By the Comtist denunciation of specialism

be a very bad one;--on the other

hand, it is desirable that he should have his due influence, as the teacher of those general truths out of which all practical improvement must ultimately spring. But the natural difference of the tastes and capacities of men should, in a well-organized State, be sufficient to secure due influence to those who are the natural representatives of man's spiritual interests (whether they be religious, philosophic, or scientific), without tempting them from their proper task of discovering and teaching the truth, to the less appropriate work of determining how much of it comes within "the sphere of practical politics." Comte, indeed, by organizing them as an independent power apart from, and outside of, the State, would make such a perversion extremely probable. A hierarchy of priests, under a despotic Pope, would soon cease to be, in any sense, a spiritual power; and this would be only the more certain if, by the Comtist denunciation of specialism, they were prohibited from any division of labour according to capacity in their own peculiar sphere of scientific research. For by this prohibition their attention would be drawn more and more from the truth of their doctrines to their immediate practical effects, not to mention that, in the case of all but a few comprehensive minds, the natural result would be an omniscient superficiality, which would be the enemy of all real culture. For he who knows one thing well may find the whole in the part; but he who knows the whole superficially,
inevitably reduces it to the level of something partial and subjective. Deprived of its natural aim, the Comtist Church of the future would inevitably throw itself, with all its energy, into the task of directly influencing the practical life of men, and there it would find itself in the presence of a number of communal States, none of them large enough to offer any effective resistance. Positivism must indeed alter human nature, if such a priesthood would not seek to make itself despotic, especially if it could wield such a formidable weapon as the Positivist excommunication is supposed to be.[42]

The truth is that Comte commits the same error which misled Montesquieu and his followers, when they supposed that the great security of a free State lay in the separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers,--_i.e._, in treating the different organs through which the common life expresses itself as if they were independent organisms. In doing so, they forgot that, if such a balance of power was realised, the effect must either be an equilibrium in which all movement must cease, or a struggle in which the unity of the State would be in danger of being lost. The true security against the dangers involved, on the one hand, in the direct application of theory to practice, and, on the other hand, in the separation of practice from theory, must lie, not in giving them independent positions as spiritual and temporal powers, but in the organic unity of the society--communal, national, or, if it may be, universal--to which the representatives of both belong. And organic unity, though it does not mean any special form of government, means at least two things: in the first place, that each great class or interest should have for itself a definite organ, and should therefore be able to act on the whole body in a regular and constitutional manner, so as to show all its force without revolutionary violence; and, in the second place, that no class or interest should have such an independent position, that there is no legal or constitutional method of bringing it into due subordination. But Comte, losing his balance in his jealousy of the individualistic and democratic movement of modern society, has built up a social ideal, which fails in both these points of view. And he is consequently obliged, against his will, to contemplate revolution and war as necessary resources of the Constitution.

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