The Philosophy of Progress/Second Letter
OF CERTAINTY AND ITS CRITERION
Sainte-Pélagie, December 1, 1851.
The question that you pose to me in your second letter could not be more judicious, and if I have not addressed it first, it is because it seemed to me to pertain to the circle of proofs and justifications that I would have to furnish later, not the general outline that I needed to make for you. Since you ask, I can no longer refuse your wish, and I am going to try, if I can, to explain myself clearly on this difficult matter.
The problem of certainty is most certainly within the domain of philosophy: the theory of Progress admits it as well, and that theory alone, in my opinion, can resolve it in a satisfactory manner. But certainty is one thing; what the Greeks called χριτηριον, the criterion of certainty, is another. Certainty is, as I just said, rational and philosophical by right; the alleged criterion is only an importation from theology, a prejudice of religious faith without sense within the limits of reason, and is even, from the point of view of the intellectual movement which constitutes reason, a contradictory hypothesis.
But, you ask, how do you conceive of certainty without a criterion? And if certainty cannot be conceived without a criterion, how, without that means of discernment and of guarantee, is science possible? How, with regard to certainty, can faith be more favored than reason? It is precisely contrary to what is always assumed; it is by virtue of that very assumption that philosophy exists, and opposes itself to faith. The negation of the criterion, in philosophy, is the strangest thing imaginable...
I hope, sir, that that negation will soon seem to you most natural, and that you will see in it, with me, no longer the condemnation, but the glory of science.
Saint Paul said: Faith is the argument for things unseen, that is, things which are without evidence or intuitive certainty, argumentum non apparentium. Now, unseen things form the majority of the objects that occupy the mind and consciousness of men. This means, according to the Apostle, that we know nothing, or almost nothing, of the things of the universe and of humanity, except by faith. It is thus that faith has become a criterion for the human mind.
All societies begin from here, and, surprisingly perhaps in our epoch of discussion and doubt, the mass, in which I include the University and the State, has no other rule. In doubtful questions, and all practical question are of that sort, most men know only faith. If they follow reason, it is without knowing it; for, I repeat, they do not conceive of reason without a decree, or philosophy without a criterion.
Let us explain this.
The Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God, sent to earth and born of a virgin to teach men the truths necessary for political order, domestic society and personal salvation.
He believes that this Christ has transmitted his powers to his Church, that he is with it permanently by the Spirit which he has communicated to it, and that by virtue of that continued revelation, the Church rules worship and morals with an infallible authority.
Provided with that faith, the Christian possesses, or believes he possesses, for all questions, not only of theology, but of politics and morals, which do not come directly under common sense, an instrument of control which excuses him from reflecting and even from thinking, and the use of which could not be more simple. It is only a matter of comparing the controversial questions, either with the words of Christ reported in the Gospels, or with the ecclesiastical interpretation, the value of which is equal for the Christian.
Every proposition that confirms the Gospel or that supports the Church is true;
Every proposition that refutes the Gospel or that condemns the Church is false;
Every proposition on which neither the Gospel nor the Church has pronounced is irrelevant.
The words of the messiah and the canonical definition are, for the Christian, the absolute truth, from which all other truth emanates. Here is, consequently, the criterion.
It is clear that a similar judiciary process is nothing other than the tyranny of intelligence. Likewise, all governments, constituted on the divine type of the Church, are eager to imitate it. But reason protests: "That saying is hard!" Even in the presence of Jesus Christ the apostles said, Durus est hic sermo! For in the end, the Gospel has not said everything, foreseen everything; as for the Church, it has so often and so scandalously failed! And what if I showed in a moment that the so-called criterion has never served to discern a single truth, to render a single judgment!...
Yet, instead of dismissing as doubtful the Christian criterion, we have tried first to render it more universal and more exact. To correct the criterion of truth could pass for real folly: So what! There has been no means to do otherwise. And the thing was seen as no greater difficulty than a rectification of weights and measures.
Thus, following the Reformation, Christ is God, or nearly so; his teaching is sovereign, and as criterion, in the questions to which it can be applied immediately, it is infallible. As for the episcopal exegesis and the authority of the councils and the pope, the Reformation rejects them all as narrow, partial, subject to haste and to contradiction. In place of the Church, each of the faithful is invested with the right to read by herself the sacred text and to seek its sense. In other words, the evangelical criterion, which formerly only the Roman Church had had the right to use, has been put back in the hands of the baptized: such has been the result of the Reformation.
Lamennais, in his Essai sur l'indifférence en matière de religion, puts it in a different way. According to that Croyant, God is revealed at all times to humanity, not only by the patriarchs, priests and prophets of the Old Testament, not only by Jesus and his Church, but by all the founders of religion: Zoroaster, Hermes, Orpheus, Buddha, Confucius, etc. All the moral and religious ideas that Humanity has possessed come from that single, permanent revelation. As the States of modern Europe are the product of Christianity, more or less adapted to circumstances and races, so the States of antiquity were the product of the primitive religion, professed by Adam, Noah, Melchizedek, etc. At base, the legislations, like the cults, are identical: all rest on an original communication from the Divinity. If one made an inventory of the political and religious institutions of all peoples, and separated the content from the form, one would obtain a code of perfectly homogeneous formulas, which one could regard as wisdom revealed from on high, the criterion of the human species.
Clearly this way of envisioning Christianity weakens it, in the sense that it folds it back into the general system of religious manifestations, and obliges it to fraternize with all the cults on which it has cast the anathema for so long. But, for all that it loses, one can say that it increases as well, creating a larger Catholicism than that which the first Christians conceived. The cults are generally regarded as in solidarity as well; their cause is now common, and Edgard Quinet, in writing the Génie des religions, has clearly posited the principle of modern religiosity. The university is agreed in principle with the Jesuits, and the Pope can offer his hand to the sultan and the grand lama. The great reconciliation is accomplished, faith is one like the Logos, and the universal republic has found its criterion.
I fear, however, that this Christianity of poets and archeologists has only led to a mystification, and that by generalizing the criterion, they have lost it.
The Reformation said: All the faithful receive, by the baptism and communion, the Holy Spirit. All are, as a consequence, interpreters of the words of Christ: the canonical definition is useless.
Lamennais, Quinet, Mazzini and others add: All the peoples have received, by their individual initiations, the Holy Spirit; all cults are consequently versions of the Gospel, and the authority of these versions together takes precedent over that of the Church of Rome.
However you look at it, as soon as you reject special authority, in order to put in its place either individual sentiment, or, what amounts to the same thing, universal testimony, doesn't this break the link with faith, and make an appeal to reason? We thought we had secured our criterion: it has vanished.
Since we are forced to return to reason, let us see what it offers. Does it also have a criterion?
Nothing new under the sun! Early on reason, under the name of science, knowledge, επιστημη, γνωσις, or under the more modest one of philosophy, aspiration to science, opposed itself to faith and claimed the possession of truth, no longer through the words of a spirit-medium, fides ex auditu, but by a contemplation that is direct and, so to speak, face-to-face, sicuti est facie ad faciem. To see truth in itself, on the sole guarantee of one's eyes and one's reason, is clearly to reject the hypothesis of a criterion: I am astonished that philosophy has not been able to understand that apologue. Such was, however, the thought of that multitude of religionists, contemporaries of Jesus and the apostles, who, under the general name of gnostics, knowers, stood up to the Church for more than six centuries, and disappeared completely only with the arrival of the Reformation.
Gnosticism, I have no doubt, would have soon suppressed Christianity, and become the universal religion, if it had shown itself more true to its name, if it had been more practical, more empirical, and less illuminated. But that supposed gnosis was five times more complicated, more mysterious, more hyper-physical that the emerging faith that it despised: so much so that, in his letters, Paul, the doctor par excellence of faith, the man of the transcendental criterion, treated the sublimities of the gnosis as old wives' tales, and heaped his sarcasm on them. Alas! The common sense is the last to arrive in the human mind, and he who is believed wise because he protests against a certain degree of superstition, is himself only superstitious in a more malign and incurable manner. Gnosticism, which made in its own times only an attempt at religious fusion, analogous to that which is attempted in our own times, was defeated then, as much by its own contradictions as by the real superiority of its adversary. Those who claimed to have a direct knowledge were persuaded to experience only the chimeras of their own brains; and now more than ever one will call for a preservative against the illusions of the encephalon. Thanks to them, science has been postponed for fifteen centuries. It would never have developed, if it had depended on the modern theosophists.
It was with Bacon and the Renaissance that science was formed, apart from the supernatural and the absolute, experimental, positive, certain and, I dare say, without criterion. I will first explain this apparent paradox: you will see soon how, after the example of the Greeks, the moderns could put back into question the certainty of knowledge, and how their minds, incompletely purged of theological notions, fell again into the criteriomania of the ancients.
All that exists, I said in my first letter, is necessarily in evolution; everything flows, everything changes, modifies, and transforms itself unceasingly. Movement is the essential condition, almost the material, of being and thought. There is nothing fixed, stable, absolute, or invincible, except the very Law of movement, that is the relations of weight, number, and measure, according to which all existence appears and conducts itself. Here, the philosophy of progress absorbs that of Pythagoras, and gives it its rank and character.
Thus, the entirety of the universe is identical and adequate to the entirety of the series or evolution. For example, the entirety of animal existence is contained in the period included between conception and death: the living being, in whatever moment of that period, is only a fraction of itself. It follows from this that all actuality is imperfect and unreal, always representing only a movement of the evolution, a term in the series, in short a fraction or approximation of existence, conveying only incompletely the law.
The law in itself is thus definite, and we can have an exact idea of it by successive observations of the partial manifestations that reveal it. But nothing sensible, nothing present, nothing real can ever represent it: such a realization, at a given hour, is contradictory. There is then no specimen of movement possible, no exact and authentic copy. The archetype, Plato said, is and always will be only an idea; no power knows how to obtain a standard.
If it is thus for existence considered in its plenitude, if reality exists only fractionally in relations and in things, it follows:
That we can know well the law of our thoughts, the rule of our actions, the system of our evolutions, the course of our institutions and of our mores; that we conform as best we can, in the exercise of our liberty, to that law, to that rule, to that system, to that providential course; that we can finally, in the practice of life, render equitable judgments, but that we can never render these judgments just. God himself could not do it. His reason, just like ours, only pronounces correctly on the ensemble, never on the details: on that condition only can one say, with the psalmist, that divine judgments are absolute, justificata in semetipsa.
Let us render this more sensible by some examples.
The idea of value is elementary in economics: everyone knows what is meant by it. Nothing is less arbitrary than this idea; it is the comparative relation of products which, at each moment of social life, make up wealth. Value, in a word, indicates a proportion.
Now, a proportion is something mathematical, exact, ideal, something which, by its high intelligibility, excludes caprice and fortune. There is then, on top of supply and demand, a law for comparison of values, therefore a rule of the evaluation of products.
But that law or rule is a pure idea, of which it is impossible, at any moment, and for any object, to make the precise application, to have the exact and true standard. Products vary constantly in quantity and in quality; the capital in the production and its cost vary equally. The proportion does not remain the same for two instants in a row: a criterion or standard of values is thus impossible. The piece of money, five grams in weight, that we call the franc, is not a fixed unity of values: it is only a product like others, which with its weight of five grams at nine-tenths silver and one-tenth alloy, is worth sometimes more, sometimes less than the franc, without us ever being able to know exactly what is its difference from the standard franc.
On what then does commerce rest, since it is proven that, lacking a standard of value, exchange is never equal, although the law of proportionality is rigorous? It is here that liberty comes to the rescue of reason, and compensates for the failures of certainty. Commerce rests on a convention, the principle of which is that the parties, after having sought fruitlessly the exact relations of the objects exchanged, come to an agreement to give an expression reputed to be exact, provided that it does not exceed the limits of a certain tolerance. That conventional expression is what we call the price.
Thus, in the order of economic ideas, the truth is in the law, and not in the transactions. There is a certainty for the theory, but there is no criterion for practice. There would not even have been practice, and society would be impossible, if, in the absence of a criterion prior and superior to it, human liberty had not found a means to supply it by contract.
From economics, let us pass on to morals. Justice, according to Roman law, consists in rendering to each what is due to them, suum cuique. I will hold myself to that definition, in order to avoid all dispute.
The law of justice is absolute: the civil law, written or usager, rests on it. No one ever disputes the validity of that law: on the other hand, the world resounds with complaints against its applications. Where then is the criterion? I observed in my first letter that the maxim, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is not an instrument for exact assessment, since it would be necessary to know what we should legitimately desire to be done to us. The economic formula that socialism substitutes for that ancient adage, To each according to his capacity, to each capacity according to its product, is more certain, since it poses at once the right and the duty, the benefit and its condition. But it is no more a criterion than the other, since, according to what has just been said about value, we never know exactly what a thing is worth, or what a man deserves.
I profoundly respect property, as I respect every institution, every religion. But those who accuse socialism of wanting to abolish property, and who have taken such useless care to defend it, would be deeply embarrassed to say how they recognize, with certainty, that such a thing is the property of such a one, and that there is not in that thing another right. What, in a word, is the criterion of property? If some part of revelation must have had to intervene in human judgments, it is definitely in those which concern property. How much land and how much personal property must return to each? It seems to me that at that question the big eyes of our conservatives are troubled, and that their egoist side is disconcerted.
Is it conquest, first occupation, which creates property? — I observe that force does not make law, and that at the first occasion I would know, without further ado, to take my revenge.
Is it the institution of the State? — I respond that what the state has made, the State can unmake; and as I have the greatest interest in the thing, I am going to try to make myself master of the State.
Is it labor? — I ask what must be the wages of labor? if each has labored? if those who have labored have received what ought to come back to them, cuique suum, neither more nor less?...
Some philosophers who think themselves profound, and who are only impertinent, imagine that they have found a flat refusal of the principle of equality, which forms the basis of the anti-proprietary critique. They say that there are not two equal things in the whole universe. — Very well. Let us admit that there have not been two equal things in the world: at least one will not deny that all have been in equilibrium, since, without equilibrium, as without movement, there is no existence. What then is the equilibrium of fortunes? What are its minima and its maxima? What is the relation between the minima and maxima of fortunes, and the minima et maxima of capacities? Allow me to ask: because without an answer everything again becomes usurpation, and the most ignorant, the most incompetent of humans has the right to be treated as well as the most learned and the most valiant, if only as a compensation for his weakness and his ignorance.
Clearly, this is no criterion for property, neither for its measure, nor its acquisition, nor its transmission, nor its enjoyment. Note also that from that lack of criterion for just appropriation of goods, the author of the Gospel has concluded, following Lycurgus, Pythagorus, Plato, for communism, all of antiquity for slavery, and malthusian economics for the salariat.
What now does the new science, the theory of Progress, say about property?
It says that property, like the price of things, is originally the product of a contract, that that contract is determined by the necessity of labor, just as the convention which fixes the price of things is determined by the necessity of exchange; but that, just as with time and competition the price of each thing approaches more and more their true value, just as with time and credit property tends more and more to approach equality. Only, while the price of merchandise, or the just remuneration of the laborer, generally reaches its normal rate in a rather short period, property only arrives at its equilibrium after a much longer time: somewhat as if one compared the annual movement of the earth to the revolution of the equinoxes.
Here then, I'll repeat it, there exists a rule for law-maker; but there is not a criterion for the judge. While eternal justice slowly accomplishes its work, jurisprudence is forced to obey custom, to obey the religion of the contract.
The natural sciences offer examples of that distinction between the law of things and their realization: the first is absolute and unchanging; the second essentially mobile, approximate and untrue. Thus it is a law that the stars weigh on one another in direct relation to their masses and inverse to the square of their distances; that they sweep areas proportional to time, etc. But these laws, that we can grasp only by embracing in thought immense and numerous revolutions, are practically all that is true in the existence of the worlds; as for phenomena, they are as irregular as one can imagine. It is a fact, for example, that the sidereal circles are not round, nor are they oval. More than that, their shaky curves do not return on themselves, etc. Where do they tend, finally? No one knows. The celestial army rolls in a space without bounds, without ever presenting twice in a row the same positions. Is it necessary to conclude that geometry and arithmetic, by which we calculate these movements, are false, and the science illustrated by Newton, Laplace, and Herschel, is a chimera? No. All these variations of the eternal mode prove one thing, namely, that certainty is not in the phenomenon, which considered separately is nothing more than an accident, but in the series of evolution, which alone is law.
But let us remain with the things of humanity, for it is there above all that the question of certainty takes on its gravity, and interests us.
I have said that the idea of a criterion of certainty was an importation from theology into the philosophical domain; I have proven, with regard to economics and morals, that the supposed criterion was without possible application. More curious still, it is powerless in religion, the very order of idea that produced it and for which it had been invented. Religion, like justice and economics, is subject to the law of Progress; for that reason, it no longer has a criterion, so that faith, that reason of things unseen, resolves itself in mental alienation, or returns to the dialectic.
Did Christianity exist in Jesus? I do not address this question to the Christian, but to the philosopher. Did it exist in St. Paul, in Augustine, in Photios, in Thomas, in Bossuet? Does it exist in Pious IX, in Nicholas or in Victoria?
Christianity would be truncated, if one reduced it to any particular profession of faith. The ancients did not know all that the moderns accept; the moderns, for their part, do not retain all that the ancients accepted. At no epoch has the form been the same for all contemporaries. According to Christ and the apostles, the kingdom of the Gospel is not of this world; according to Hildebrand and the ultramontanes, the pope, elevated above all power, is the master of the world; according to the Greeks and the Anglicans, the natural head of the Church is the head of State. All these oppositions can be equally justified by tradition, by Scripture, and by the general system of religions; and it would not be difficult to show that the difference of opinions on the independence or the subordination of the temporal power leads to a similar case in dogma. Who is one to believe, Christ speaking for himself, or the Church affirming its supremacy? Gallicans who separate the two powers, or Russians and Anglicans who reunite them? All that is equally a part of Christianity, and it is in perfect contradiction. What becomes the criterion?
The theory of Progress alone can give a reasonable explanation of the variations of the Christian faith, but on the condition that Christianity loses its Absolute character. That theory considers Christianity as a current of opinions, which formed in the time of Alexander all across Greece and the Orient; which grew and became complicated by a multitude of tributaries, from Augustus to Theodosius; which divided next at Photius; which, under the name of Catholicism, seemed to reach its apogee, from Gregoire VII to Boniface VIII; which subdivided again with Luther; which finally, while frightened of its own movement, attempted to fix itself at Trent, and, killed as Catholicism by the negation of it inevitable mobility, went on to scatter and lose itself, as protestantism, in the sables of American democracy.
To know Christianity is not to affirm such and such a system of dogma, more or less harmonically combined and aiming for stasis; it is to have traveled and visited the Christian river, first in its oriental, Jewish, Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Germanic, and Slavic sources, then in its tumultuous and so often divided course, and finally in the innumerable ramifications where it little by little lost its character and disappeared.
Religion, like the State, like all human institutions, manifests itself in a series of essentially opposed and contradictory terms: it is for this reason alone that it is intelligible. Its true criterion is its variations. When Bossuet pointed to the instability of the dogma in reformed churches, and demanded of his own a constancy of faith which does not exist, he made, without knowing it, an apology for his adversaries, and pronounced the condemnation of catholicism.
Religion is like speech. Nothing is more mobile, more varied, more elusive than human language, and yet language is one in its essence, and the laws of language, much more than formulas of the law and the definitions of theology, are the very expression of reason. Here, as everywhere, the absolute is a pure idea, while the accident is reality itself. Do you say that speech is only a vain sound, grammar a folly, poetry a dream, because the universal language is and can only be an abstraction?...
All truth is in history, as all existence is in movement and the series; consequently every formula, philosophical or legislative , has and can have only a transitional value. Neglect of that maxim is the fecund source of all our aberrations and misfortunes.
Cicero regarded universal consent as the highest degree of moral certainty, and all our treatises of philosophy still cite it as the most explicit proof of the existence of God. But is it clear, by all that has just been said, that universal consent only has value if one takes it in the succession of its testimonies. Outside of that, it is only contradiction and falsehood. Considered at any one moment of its manifestations, universal consent loses its name; it becomes universal suffrage, the fantasy of the moment set up as an absolute.
Do you then want universal suffrage, which forms at this moment the basis of our public rights, to acquire all the authority of which it has need? It is not a question of abolishing it: the people have tasted the forbidden fruit; it is necessary, for its absolution or condemnation, that it be rectified until to the end. Abandon your systems of electoral voting, each more absurd than the last, and which only give birth to the tyranny of the majority or its abdication. Make universal suffrage in the image of universal consent. Consider that mass that you are going to question as a representation of all the ages of Humanity. There are day laborers, domestics, wage-earners, the poor and ignorant multitude, called constantly by its poverty to crime, and which represent for you the primitive generations; above that multitude, a middle class, composed of laborers, artisans, and merchants, the mores, opinions and fortunes of which express rather well the second degree of civilization; finally, an elite, formed of magistrates, civil servants, professors, writers, and artists, who mark the most advanced degree of the species. Ask of these diverse interests, these semi-barbaric instincts, these stubborn habits, these so-high aspirations, their intimate thought; classify all theses wishes according to the natural progression of groups; then you will find in it a coordinated formula which, embracing the contrary terms, expressing the general tendency and expressing the will of no one person, will be the social contract, will be the law. This is how the general civilization has advanced, behind the backs of the legislators and the men of state, under the cover of oppositions, revolutions and wars...
I believe, sir, that I have sufficiently demonstrated that the criterion of certainty is an anti-philosophical idea borrowed from theology, and the assumption of which is destructive of certainty itself. Not only do metaphysics, politics, legislation, economics, history, and all the sciences reject this idea: the very religion which gave birth to it is rendered inexplicable by it. That proposition seems to me novel enough to merit some elaboration: I come now to the heart of the difficulty.
Following the example of the Greeks, modern philosophy first asks us how we recognize what the understanding calls law, but which is inaccessible to the senses; — in the second place, it asks if these alleged laws, which we suppose rule beings, are not simply the effects of our intellectual activity, or, in other words, an involuntary application of the forms of our reason to phenomena; — finally, it asks if we are certain of the reality of objects, and if the opinion that we have of their existence is anything but a subjective faith. That is the transcendent doubt, in proof of which are cited the contradictory propositions of metaphysics, that Jouffroy among others has declared invincible.
My response will be brief, since it is made in advance, and so it will have the hope of being as clear as it is decisive.
On the first point, namely by what sign we recognize the general idea or law, I respond that it is recognized by the unity of diversity which constitutes the series, genus, or species, in short, by the group. It is like the knowledge of things themselves, a simple intuition. Will you ask next how the mind perceives unity? That amounts to asking how there is something or someone who sees and who thinks. I will not respond to that question any more than to this other: How does something exist? Thought, the faculty of discovering and expressing the diversified unity, is the original, prior, immediately given, and thus inexplicable fact of science and of the universe. Without the faculty of perceiving unity, there is no more thought, no more consciousness, no more existence, nothing more at all. I am, I think, I possess unity. Or, leaving aside that grammatical personality, which is itself only an accident, something is, something thinks, something is one: all these propositions are identical for me. They signify that the essential condition of my thought is to see the law, and to see only the law. I do not prove that perception; I affirm it with Descartes, and with Malebranche: as I think only by virtue of my faculty to perceive unity, on the one hand I discover unity everywhere, and on the other I see everything in unity.
On the second point, — that is, if the unity or law that my thought discovers, which consequently becomes immediately the law or form of my thought, is a product of my thought, or if it is at the same time the law of things, and if consequently, third point, it implies the existence, external to my thought, of what I call things — I respond that this double question is not one for me, and that it can only be addressed to those who, not acknowledging the synthetic idea of movement as the basis of ontology and logic, depart from the distinction of substances, and from the diverse degrees of being make so many different beings.
Indeed, if it is true, as I believe I have proven, that ontological dualism is the result of the analysis of the idea of movement and of the subsequent realization of the concepts given by that analysis, all the objections drawn from the distinction of me the not-me fall with that distinction itself.<ref>If to think [penser] and to weigh [peser] are impersonal [anonymes], as etymology proves, the gulf that the ancient ontology had dug between mind and matter is filled in; the vibrations of the ether can transmit the impressions of the brain; consciousness is no longer anything but a source of movements, which the crudest of bodies can echo. By the sole fact that I think, I move; by the conception in my brain of the idea of movement, that idea is executed; and the muscles which receive the effect via the nerves, tend to execute it in their turn. They would undoubtedly execute it, if a thought contrary in sense did not suspend their action, and make the first impulse die at the extremity of the nerves. If two, three, or a greater number of thinking subjects put themselves in relation by any conductor, if a word is cast in their midst, it will produce, unbeknownst to them, a general commotion, translatable into ideas, and the spontaneity of which would indicate to superstitious persons the presence of a demon familiar, of a departed soul. Would a career open up, from that, for the soothsayers and the necromancers? Perish the thought. Nature, by its harmonies, by the constancy of its laws, by the fixity of its types, teaches us enough to scoff at prodigies and monsters; and it is the sign of a great abasement of intelligence, a prelude to great catastrophes, when the people, incapable of scientific toil, abandon reason and nature to chase after evocations and miracles.</ref> The being, at its highest degree of existence, is at once me and not-me: he can say equally, speaking of himself as of others, I, you, he, we, you all, they. What establishes in him the identity and the adequacy of persons, in the singular, the dual and the plural, is precisely their conjugation.
Just as Descartes could not doubt that he thought, and as doubt raised on his thought would be illegitimate, just so and for much stronger reasons, I cannot doubt that I move, since thought is only a form of movement: in this case, as in the former, and much more than in that case, doubt is contradictory and illegitimate.<ref>Zeno of Elea denied movement, and pretended to justify his negation by a mathematical reasoning, based on the principle of the infinite divisibility of space. But it is clear: 1) that the demonstration of Zeno is itself only a movement of his mind, which involves him in a contradiction; 2) that is rests, like the idea of space traveled across, on an analysis of movement, which is another contradiction; 3) that in posing the infinite division, he requires an infinite retrogradation, which is a third contradiction.</ref>
Now, whoever says movement says series, diversified unity, or group, consequently moi and non-moi, I and thou, us and them, etc., to infinity. The revelation that I have of myself necessarily implies the one that I have of others, and vice-versa, or rather these two revelations amount to only one: from which it follows that the laws of that thought are at the same time and necessarily the laws of things. The contrary would be a contradiction.
Besides, that decisive identity of moi and non-moi, so difficult to establish in the realm of pure ideas, will be proven directly and empirically by the physiology of the collective man, by the demonstration of his faculties, of his ideas and his operations.
When one has seen how, in the human species, the individual and society, indivisibly united, form however two distinct beings, both thinking active and progressive; how the first receives a part of its ideas from the second, and exercises in its turn an influence on it; how then the economic relations, products of individual analysis, and contradictory among them insofar as one considers them in individual, resolved into synthetic ideas in society, so that each man reasons and acts by virtue of a double self, enjoys a double intelligence, speaks a double language, pursues a double interest; which, I say, one will take into account that organic dualism sensed by all religions, and which compose at once collective existence and individual existences, one will conceive more easily the resolution of the contraries in ontology and metaphysics, and the scandal of the divergence and contradiction of the philosophies will reach its end.
These philosophies will all appear true, as special analytic deductions of the universal theory of movement; but each of them will also appear false, insofar as they aspire to make a schism, and exclude their rivals.<ref>The philosophy of Progress reconciles systems by showing that their apothegms all rest on analytic notions which are only true to the extent that they are coupled to other notions that are equally analytic, but diametrically opposed, in a common synthesis; so that each is true, but on the condition that the contrary is as well:
- All ideas come from the senses. Locke.
- All ideas are conceived in the understanding. Descartes.
The first proposition is true only if one admits at the same the second, and vice-versa. It is the same for the following:
- Bodies do not exist. Barclay.
- Minds do not exist. Hume.
- Philosophy is the study of first principles. All the dogmatists.
- There are no first principles. The skeptics.
- It is necessary to draw up a table of the categories. Aristotle and Kant.
- There is no table of the categories. Cousin.
- Every philosophy comes from empiricism. The Scottish.
- Every philosophy tends to free itself from empiricism. The Germans.
- The ideas of cause and substance, going beyond sensation, are chimeras. Hume.
- The ideas of cause and substance, going beyond sensation, are necessarily conceived by the mind, and prove it. Kant.
- Every positive science defines its object and its method. Jouffroy.
- Every positive science tends, by its progress, to overcome its limits. Ch. Renouvier.
- Genera and species are things. Realism.
- Genera and species are conceptions. Conceptualism.
- Genera and species are names. Nominalism.
In that example, the three terms clearly boil down to two, since, in order to create a name, one needs a thing or a conception, that is to say an idea.
- There is one God. Monotheism.
- There are many gods. Polytheism.
- All is God. Pantheism.
- There is no God. Atheism.
- There are two persons or hypostases in God. Magism.
- There are three persons in God. Christianity.
- There are four, seven, ten, etc., persons in God. Gnosticism.
- There is no company in God. Mohammedanism.
All these formulas, which seem to combat one another, draw in one another and resolve themselves in the idea of the being (group, series, evolution or movement), raised to its highest power and analyzed by these concepts. </ref> Thus, the philosophical problem being resolved, it will be true to say that the philosophical movement is accomplished: in the place of systems, starting from an arbitrary conception and leading to a fatal contradiction, we would have progressive science, the ever-greater apprehension of being, of law and of unity.
Thus religious dogmatism would also receive its rational interpretation, and the political order its free constitution: every theosophy dying away in the realm of morals, every cult in education, all government in economics, all authority in contracts.
Thus, finally, we would know why, the economic science having until recently been lacking, general equity must arrive so late; why the humanitary evolution which ended a first time, for the cults at the fall of polytheism, for politics at the ruin of empire Roman Empire, had to begin again with Christianity, feudalism and modern philosophy; why, in a word, leaving aside the progress of industry and the sciences, civilization has been for fifteen centuries only a repetition.
Since the theory of interests had been neglected, it was necessary for us to copy all, to repeat all from the Romans and the Greeks, from the antique tyranny up to eclecticism, from slavery to communism, from the most ferocious superstition to mysticism, the kabbala and gnosis. Now nothing remains for us to take; the tradition is exhausted: we are forced to become original in our turn, and to continue the movement.
But nothing in nature is produced without pain: the last revolution of Humanity did not escape that law. The interests, surprised in their foolishness, are frightened; superstition roars, pedantry bellows, the status quo protests. These are triumphant symptoms, which indicate to us that the revolution penetrates, that it acts on and possesses society.
Sleep in peace, reformers: the world has no need of you.
Economic science, although its constitution is not achieved, is already too powerful for it to allow the old prejudices to undertake anything against its decrees, which are the decrees of the revolution itself.
No more barbarians, capable of imposing on civilization the torture of a new feudalism. Were they our masters, the Cossacks would be nothing: they would no sooner set foot on the sacred ground of Progress than they would become its apostles.
No more religious current which could, as in the first century of our era, absorb and recast in a superior cult the multiplicity of Churches; no more Christ nor Mohamed, who dares to repeat, after Voltaire:
- We need a new cult, we need new irons,
- We need a new god for the blind universe!
All is finished! We have salvation only in innovation and movement. It is not to you, sir, that one must cry: Those who have ears, let them hear! You hear and, better than any other, you know how to express to the public these two very simple propositions:
Affirmation of Progress:
Negation of the Absolute.
I am, etc.