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CHAPTER XIII.: Conclusion. - Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, A Treatise On Political Economy 
A Treatise on Political Economy: to which is Prefixed a Supplement to a Preceding Work on the Understanding or Elements of Ideology; with an Analytical Table, and an Introduction on the Faculty of the Will (Georgetown: Joseph Milligan, 1817).
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This is not properly a treatise on political economy, but the first part of a treatise on the will; which will be followed by two other parts, and which is preceded by an introduction common to all the three.
Thus we ought not to have entered into many details, but to ascend carefully to principles founded in the observation of our faculties, and to indicate as clearly as possible the relations between our physical and moral wants.
This is what I have endeavoured to do. Incontestible truths result from it.
They will be contested however, less through interest than passion.
A new bond of union between economy and morality; a new reason for analizing well our different sentiments, and for enquiring with care whether they are founded on just or on false opinions.
Let us now consider our sentiments.
A TREATISE ON POLITICAL ECONOMY, &c.
SUPPLEMENT TO THE First Section of the Elements of Ideology.
In proportion as I advance in the digestion of these elements. I am incessantly obliged to return to objects, of which I have already treated. At the commencement of the grammar it was necessary to recall the attention of the reader to the analysis of the judgment, to render still more precise the idea of that intellectual operation, and of its results, and to repeat several of the effects already recognized in the signs, and several of their relations, with the nature of the ideas which they represent.
At the commencement of the volume which treats more especially of logic. I of necessity looked back on the ancient history of the science, to show, that true logic is absolutely the same science with that of the formation, the expression, and combination of our ideas; that is to say, that which has been since called Ideology, general grammar, or analysis of the understanding; and to show that my two first volumes are but the restoration, more or less fortunate, of the two first parts of the ancient logics, and the supplement of that which has always been wanting to these very important preliminaries. I have moreover been under the necessity of insisting also on the explication of the idea of existence, and on that of the reality of our preceptions, and of their necessary concordance with the reality of the beings which cause them, when they are all legitimately deduced from the first and direct impressions, which these beings make on us.
At present I find myself, in like manner, constrained to speak again of the conclusions of this logic, before advancing further, and not to apply my theory of the causes of certitude and error, to the study of the will and its effects, without having given it some new developements. The reader ought to pardon these frequent retrospects; for they arise almost necessarily from the nature of the subject, from the manner in which it has been treated hitherto, and from the necessity we are under, of anticipating a crowd of objections, when we wish to render a new opinion acceptable.
Let me be permitted then to mention here again, that I have reduced the whole science of logic to the observation of two facts, which result manifestly from the scrupulous examination of our intellectual operations. The first is, that our perceptions being every thing for us, we are perfectly, completely, and necessarily sure of all that we actually feel. The second, which is but a consequence of that, is that none of our judgments, taken separately, can be erroneous, since, for the very reason that we see one idea in another, it must be actually there; but that their falsity, when it takes place, is purely relative to all the anterior judgments, which we permit to subsist, and consists in this, that we believe the idea, in which we see a new element, to be the same we have always had under the same sign, while it is really different, since the new element we actually see there is incompatible with some of those which we have previously seen there. So that, to avoid contradiction, it would be necessary either to take away the former, or not to admit the latter.
After having established these two principles, or rather these two facts, I have given some elucidations, I have met in advance some objections, I have shown that these two objections are equally true, whatever be the nature of our ideas, and whatever the use we make of them; and hence I have concluded, that all the rules whatsoever which have been prescribed for the form of our reasonings, to assure us of their justice, are absolutely useless and illusory; and that our sole and only means of preserving ourselves from error, is to assure ourselves well that we comprehend the idea of which we judge, and if it be doubtful, to make the most complete enumeration possible of the elements which compose it, and principally of those which may either implicitly contain or exclude that whose admission or exclusion is in question. It is here that, without more details, I have terminated my treatise on logic, which consequently finishes almost at the point at which all the others commence. This ought so to be, as I meant to speak only of the science; while other logicians, neglecting the science almost entirely, have occupied themselves only with the art. I confess my belief, that my labour is more useful than theirs; because, in every matter, it is always very difficult, from premature consequences, to remount to the principles which ought to have served as their foundation. Whereas, when we have well established the first truths, it is easy to deduce the consequences which flow from them. Yet this second operation is important also, and as a subject is not completely treated of, but when it is executed, I will present, before proceeding further, summarily, but methodically, the series of practical maxims, which result from my method of considering our means of knowledge. The use I shall afterwards make of these same means, in the study of the will and its effects, will be an example of the manner in which these rules are applied in all our researches.
We know our existence only by the impressions we experience, and that of beings other than ourselves, but by the impressions which they cause on us.
In like manner, as all our propositions may be reduced to the form of enunciative propositions, because at bottom they all express a judgment, so all our enunciative propositions may afterwards be always reduced to some one of these: I think, I feel, or I perceive, that such a thing is in such a manner, or that such a being produces such an effect; propositions of which we are ourselves the subject, because in fact we are always the subject of all our judgments, since they never express but the impression which we experience.
From hence it follows: 1st. That our perceptions are all of them always such as we feel them, and are not susceptible of any error, taken each separately, and in itself.
2dly. That if in the different combinations, we make of them, we add to them nothing which is not primitively comprised in them, implicitly or explicitly, they are always conformable to the existence of the beings which cause them, since that existence is not known to us but by them, and consists for us only in those perceptions.
3dly. That we know nothing but relatively to ourselves, and to our means of receiving perceptions.
4thly. That these perceptions are every thing for us; that we know nothing ever but our perceptions; that they are the only things truly real for us, and that the reality which we recognize in the beings that cause them is only secondary, and consists only in the permanent power of always causing the same impressions under the same circumstances, whether on ourselves, or on other sensible beings, who give us an account of them (also by the impressions which they cause in us) when we have become able to hold communication with them by signs.
Since our perceptions are all of them always such as we feel them, when we perceive one idea in another, it is actually and really there, from the very circumstance of our perceiving it there: hence no one of our judgments taken separately and detached, is false. It has always and necessarily the certitude which belongs inevitably to each of our actual perceptions.
None of our judgments then can be false, but relatively to anterior judgments, and that suffices to render them false relatively to the existence of beings, the causes of our impressions, if these anterior judgments were just, relatively to that existence.
When we see in an idea, or a perception, an element incompatible with those which it included before, this idea is different from what it was, for, such as it was, it excluded this new element which we see there; and, such as it is, it excludes those which are incompatible with it.
That it may then be the same idea which it was before, we must exclude from it the elemen which we see there at present, or if those which are repugnant to it, are misplaced in this idea, they must themselves be excluded from it; that is to say, it must be rendered such as it was, when they were erroneously admitted into it, which is to restore it again to the same state in which it was, before it was changed by a false judgment, without our perceiving it.
When we form a judgment of an idea, when we see in it a new element, one of these four things must necessarily happen: Either the judgment which we now form is consequent to a just idea, in which case it is just; and the idea without changing its nature has only developed and extended itself.
Or it is inconsequent to a just idea, in which case it is false; and the idea is changed, and is become false.
Or it is consequent to an idea already false, then it is false, but the idea is not changed; it is when it has become false previously, that it has changed in relation to what it was primitively.
Or it is inconsequent to a false idea, then it may be just or false; but never certain, for the idea is changed. But it may have become just, such as it was originally, or false, in a manner different from the preceding.
Remark always, that an idea infected with false elements, and consequently meriting the name of false, taken in mass, may also contain many true elements. We may form then, in consequence of these true elements, just judgments, and then they will be completely true; as we may also form from them false judgments, which shall be completely false; but these judgments will not be formed from that idea, inasmuch as it is false, and in consequence of that which it has of falsity; they ought therefore to be considered as formed from a true idea, and enter into what we have said of these.
This is what most frequently happens to us, so few compound ideas have we which are perfectly pure, and without mixture of imperfection. Perhaps we have none. Perhaps it would suffice for us to have one alone, to render all our others the same, by the sole force of their relations and combinations, proximate or remote.
Thus all our perceptions are originally just and true, and error is only introduced to them at the moment when we admit an element which is opposed to them. That is to say, which denaturalises and changes them, without our perceiving it.
This would never happen to us, if we had always present to the mind, that which the idea comports, of which we judge. Thus all our errors really come from this: that we represent the idea imperfectly to ourselves.
What precedes not appertaining to any circumstance peculiar to any one of our perceptions rather than to another, agrees generally with all.
Hence it follows, 1st. That our manner of proceeding is the same for our ideas of every kind.
2dly. That all our errors originate from the basis of our ideas, and not from the form of our reasonings.
3dly. That all the rules which can be prescribed for the forms of these reasonings, can contribute nothing to avoid error; or at least can contribute to it but accidentally.
We have then no other effectual means of avoiding error, but to assure ourselves well of the comprehension of the idea of which we judge, that is to say, of the elements of which it is composed.
That is not possible, unless we commence by well determining the extension of this idea, for it contains many elements in certain degrees of its extension, which it does not in others, that is to say, it is not exactly similar to itself, it is not rigorously the same idea in their different degrees of extension.
This general and only method embraces several others, and first that of studying with care the object, or objects, from which the idea in question emanates, and afterwards that of guarding ourselves with the same care from the affections, passions, prejudices, dispositions, habits and manners of being, by which the idea could be altered.
These two precautions are necessary, the first to assemble, as far as possible, all the elements which really appertain to the idea in question, the second to separate from it in like manner all those which are foreign to it, and which might mingle themselves with it, and alter it, without our perceiving it.
After these two necessary preliminaries, if we are still in doubt as to the judgment we are to form, the most useful expedient of which we can avail ourselves, is to make an enumeration the most complete possible of the elements composing the idea, which is the subject of the judgment, and principally of those which have relation to the idea which we propose to attribute to it, that is to say, to the attribute of the contemplated judgment.
The effect of this operation is to recal to ourselves, or to those whom we wish to convince of the truth or falsity of a proposition, the elements of the subject which implicitly comprehend the proposed attribute, or which on the contrary may exclude it.
It is the object which the logicians propose to attain by what they call definitions; but in my opinion they fall into several errors relatively to definitions, and they greatly mistake their effects and properties.
1st. They believe that there are definitions of words, and definitions of things, while in truth there are none but definitions of ideas. When I explain the sense of a word, I do nothing but explain the idea which I have when I pronounce that word, and when I explain what a being is, I still do nothing but explain the idea I have of that being, and which I express when I pronounce its name.
2d. They aver that definitions are principles, and that we cannot dispute about definitions. These two assertions are contraries, and yet both of them false.
In the first place they are contradictory, for if definitions are principles, we can and we ought frequently to question their truth, as we ought never to recognise any principle as true without a previous examination, and if we cannot contest definitions, they cannot be principles, since every principle should be proved before it is admitted.
Again, these two assertions are both false. Definitions are not principles; for facts are the only true principles; and definitions are not facts, but simple explanations founded on facts, as all our other propositions whatsoever. Now we may contest a definition, as every other proposition; for when I explain the idea that I have of a being, I do not pretend to say merely that I have this idea; I pretend also to affirm that this idea agrees with that being, and that we may so conceive it without error; now this is what may be false, and what may be contested. So also when I explain the idea which I have of the sense of a word, I do not solely pretend that I have this idea, I pretend further that it does not affect the real relations of this word with an infinity of others, that we may employ it in this sense without inconvenience and without inconsequence; now this is what again may be contested with reason. In fine, if I should pretend by a definition only to explain the complex and compound idea that I have actually in my head, yet it should always be allowed to show me that this idea is badly formed, that it is composed of judgments inconsequent the one to the other, and that it includes contradictory elements. Then definitions never are principles, and yet they always are contestible.
3dly. The logicians have believed that the definition is good, and that the idea defined is perfectly explained when they have determined it, per genus proximum et differentiam specificam, as they say; that is to say, when they have expressed that one of its elements which constitutes it of such a genus, and the one which in this genus distinguishes it from the ideas of the neighbouring species. Now this is still false, and is only founded on the fantastical doctrine, in virtue of which they believed they were able to distribute all our ideas into different arbitrary classes called categories.
That is false, first, because these arbitrary classifications never represent nature. Our ideas are connected the one to the other by a thousand different relations. Seen under one aspect they are of one genus, and under another they are of another genus; subsequently each of them depends on an innumerable multitude of proximate ideas, by an infinity of relations, of natures so different that we cannot compare them together, to decide which is the least remote. Thus we can never, or almost never find really the proximate genus or specific difference which deserves exclusively to characterise an idea.
Moreover, if we should have found in this idea the elements which in fact determine the genus and species in which it is reasonably permitted to class it, the idea would still be far from sufficiently explained, to be well known.
These two elements might even be absolutely foreign to the decision of the question which may have given place to the definition. Assuredly when I say that gold is a metal, and the heaviest of metals except platina, I have correctly ranged gold in the genus of beings to which it belongs, and I have distinguished it by a characteristic difference from those nearest to it in that genus. Yet this does not help me to know whether the use of gold, as money, is useful to commerce, or pernicious to morality, nor even whether it is the most ductile of metals. The two first questions depend on ideas too foreign to those which fix gold in a certain place amongst metals; and though the latter may be less distant, yet we do not know the direct and necessary relation between weight and ductility.
Logicians have been mistaken respecting the nature, the effects and properties of definitions. They are incapable of answering the end which they propose to attain by their means, that of presenting the idea of which we are to judge in such a manner that we cannot avoid forming a just judgment. The only mean of attaining this is to make the best description possible of the idea, and with the precautions which we have indicated.
It is necessary to observe that all that we have advised in the 8th, 9th and 10th aphorisms, and also what we shall advise hereafter to be done, to know well the idea, the subject of the judgment in question is equally applicable to the idea which is the attribute of the same judgment, a knowledge of which is equally essential, and can only be acquired by the same mean.
The means indicated above of knowing well the idea of which we are to judge, are the only really efficacious ones in bringing us to the formation of just judgments; but they may very possibly be insufficient to give us a certitude of having succeeded. We must therefore add subsidiary means.
The best and most useful of our secondary means is to see, on the one hand, if the judgment we are to form is not in opposition to anterior judgments, of the certitude of which we are assured; and on the other if it does not necessarily lead to consequences manifestly false.
The first point is that which has so strongly accredited the usage of general propositions; for, as we can confront them with a number of particular propositions, we have frequently had recourse thereto, and we have habituated ourselves to remount no further, and to believe that they are the primitive source of truth. The second is the motive of all those reasonings which consist in a reduction to what is absurd.
The process recommended in this aphorism is a species of proof to which we submit the projected operation. It is very useful to avoid error, for if the judgment we examine is found in opposition to anterior ones which are just, or necessarily connected with false consequences, it is evidently necessary to reject it; but this same process does not lead us directly and necessarily to truth, for it may be that no determining motive for the affirmative may result from the research.
In a case in which we want decisive reasons to determine us, no other resource is left us but to endeavour to obtain new lights, that is to say, to introduce new elements into the idea which is the subject of the judgment we are to form. This can be done in two ways only, either by seeking to collect new facts, or by endeavouring to make of those already known combinations which had not previously occurred to us, and thence to draw consequences which we had not before remarked.
The advice contained in this aphorism, is only the developement of the first part of aphorism 9th, and it can be nothing else; for when we are assured that we are not sufficiently acquainted with a subject to judge of it, there is no other resource but to study it more.
Finally, when the motives of determination fail us invincibly, we should know how to remain in complete doubt, and to suspend absolutely our judgment, rather than rest it on vain and confused appearances, since in these we can never be sure that there are not some false elements.
Remark and conclusion.
This is the last and most essential of logical principles; for in following it we may possibly remain in ignorance, but we can never fall into error; all our errors arising always from admitting into that which we know elements which are not really there, and which lead us to consequences which ought not to follow from those that are there effectively.
In effect, if from our first impressions the most simple to our most general ideas, and their most complicated combinations, we have never recognized in our successive perceptions but what is there, our last combinations would be as irreproachable as the first act of our sensibility. Thus, in logical rigour, it is very certain that we ought never to form a judgment but when we see clearly that the subject includes the attributes: that is to say, that the judgment is just.
But at the same time it is also very certain that in the course of life we seldom arrive at certitude, and are frequently obliged, nevertheless, to form a resolution provisionally; to form none being often to adopt one of the most decisive character, without renouncing the principle we have just laid down, or in any manner derogating from it. It is now proper to speak of the theory of probability. It is a subject I encounter with reluctance. First, because it is very difficult, and as yet very little elucidated; next, because one cannot hope to treat it profoundly when one is not perfectly familiar with the combinations of the science of quantities, and of the language proper to them. Finally, because even with these means the nature of the subject deprives us of the hope of arriving at almost any certain result, and leaves us only that of a good calculation of chances. Let us, however, endeavour to form to ourselves an accurate and just idea of it; this will perhaps be already to contribute to its progress.
The science of probability is not a part of logic, and ought not even to be regarded as forming a supplement to it. Logic teaches us to form just judgments, and to make series of judgments: that is to say, of reasonings which are consequent. Now, properly speaking, there are no judgments or series of judgments which are probable. When we judge that an opinion or a fact is probable, we judge it positively; and this judgment is just, false, or presumptuous, according as we have perfectly or imperfectly observed the principles of the art of logic. But it will be said, that the science of probability in teaching us to estimate this probability of an opinion, teaches us to judge justly whether this opinion is or is not probable. I admit it: but it produces this effect as the science of the properties of bodies, physics, teaches us to form the judgment that such a property appertains to such a body; as the science of extension teaches us to form the judgment that such a theorem results from the properties of such a figure; as the science of quantity teaches us that such a number is the result of such a calculation; finally, as all the sciences teach us to form sound judgments of the objects, which belong to their province. Nevertheless we cannot say, and we do not say, that they are but parts of logic, nor even that they are supplements to it. They all on the contrary throw light on the subjects of which they treat only in consequence of the means and processes with which they are furnished by sound logic. This is useful to all the sciences; but none of them either aid it immediately, supply its place, make a part of it, or are supplements to it. The science of probability has in this respect no particular privileges under this aspect; it is a science similar to all the others.
But I go further; the science to which we have given the name of the science of probability, is not a science: or to explain myself more clearly, we comprehend erroneously under this collective and common name a multitude of sciences or of portions of sciences quite different among themselves, strangers to one another, and which it is impossible to unite without confounding them all. In effect, that which is called commonly the science of probability comprehends two very distinct parts, of which one is the research, and the valuation of data, the other is the calculation, or the combination of these same data.
Now the success of the research and valuation of data, if the question is on the probability of a narration, consists in a knowledge of the circumstances, proper to the fact in itself, and to all those who have spoken of it:—thus it depends on and forms a part of the science of history. If the question is on the probability of a physical event, this research of data consists in acquiring a knowledge of anterior facts and of their connection:—thus it appertains to physics. If the question is on the probable results of a social institution, or of the deliberations of an assembly of men, the anterior facts are the details of the social organization, or of the intellectual dispositions and operations of these men:—thus it depends on social and moral science, or on ideology. Finally, when it is only to foresee the chances of the play of cross and pile, the data would be the construction of the piece, the manner of resistance of the medium in which it moves, that of the bodies against which it may strike, the motion proper to the arm which casts it, and which are more or less easy to it. Thus these data would still depend on the physical constitution of animate and inanimate bodies. Then as to the research of data, and to the fixation of their importance, the pretended science of probability is composed of a multitude of different sciences, according to the subject on which it is employed; and consequently it is not a particular science.
As to the combination of the data once established, the science of probability is nothing, when we employ calculation therein, but the science of quantity or of calculation itself; for the difficulty does not consist in giving to abstract unity any concrete value whatever, and sometimes one and sometimes another, but in knowing all the resources which perfect calculation furnishes to make of this unity and of all its multiplied combinations the most complicated, and to connect them regularly without losing their clue.
We see then that neither in regard to the research and valuation of data, nor in regard to the combinations of these same data, the pretended science of probability is not a particular science distinct from every other.
We might rather consider it either as a branch of the science of quantities, and as an employment which we make of it in certain parts of several different sciences which are susceptible of this application, or as the reunion of scattered portions of many sciences, strangers the one to the other, which have only so much in common as to give place to such questions as can only be resolved by a very learned and very delicate employment of the admirable means of calculation furnished by the science of quantities in the state of perfection which it has at this time attained; but this is not seeing the theory of probability in its full extent, for we cannot always employ calculation in the estimation of probability. Nevertheless this manner of considering and decomposing what is called the science of probability explains to us already many of the things which concern it, and puts us in the way of forming to ourselves an accurate and complete idea of it.
We see first why it is the mathematicians who have had the idea of it, and who have, if we may so say, created and made it entirely. It is because such as they have conceived it, it consists principally in the employment of a powerful agent which was at their disposal; they have been able to push to a great length speculations which other men have been obliged to abandon in consequence of a want of means to pursue them.
We also see why these mathematicians principally and almost entirely employed themselves on subjects of which the data are very simple, such as the chances of games of hazard, and of lotteries, or the effects of the interest of money lent; it is because their principal advantage consisting in their great skill in calculation, they have with reason preferred the objects where this art is almost every thing, and where the choice and valuation of data present scarcely any difficulty; and it is in fact in cases of this kind that they have obtained a success both curious and useful.
We moreover see why it is that all the efforts of these mathematicians, even the most skilful, when they have undertaken to treat in the same manner subjects of which the data were numerous, subtile and complicated, have produced little else than witty conceits which may be called difficiles nugae, learned trifles. It is because the farther they have pursued the consequences resulting from the small number of data which they have been able to obtain, the farther they have departed from the consequences which these same data would have produced, united with all those often more important, which they have been obliged to neglect from inability to unravel and appreciate them. This is the cause why we have seen great calculators, after the most learned combinations, give us forms of balloting the most defective, not having taken into account a thousand circumstances, inherent in the nature of men and of things, attending only to the circumstance of the number of the one and of the other. It is the reason why Condorcet himself, when he undertook to apply the theory of probabilities to the decisions of assemblies, and particularly to the judgments of tribunals, either has not ventured to decide any thing on actual institutions, and has confined himself to reasoning on imaginary hypothesis, or has often been led to expedients absolutely impracticable, or which would have inconveniencies more serious than those he wished to avoid.
Whatever respect I bear to the great intelligence and high capacity of this truly superior and ever to be regretted man, I do not fear to pass so bold a sentence on this part of his labors, for I am in some measure authorized to do it by himself. The title of Essay which he has given to his treatise, and the motto which he has prefixed to it, prove how much he doubted of the success of such an enterprise, and what confirms it is, that in his last work, composed on the eve of an unfortunate death, in which he has traced with so firm a hand the history of the progress of the human mind, and in which he has assigned to the theory of probabilities so great a part in the future success of the moral sciences, he uses with all the candour which characterises him these expressions, page 362—“This application, notwithstanding the happy efforts of some geometricians, is still, if I may so say, but in its first elements, and it must open to following generations a source of intelligence truly inexhaustible.” Yet he had then made not only the learned essay of which we are speaking, but also a work greatly superior, the elements of the calculation of probabilities and of its application to games of hazard, to lotteries and to the judgments of men, which were not published till the year 1805.
I believe, then, that I have advanced nothing rash in observing that in subjects difficult by the number, subtility, complexity and intimate connexion of the circumstances to be considered, without the omission of any of them, the great talent of well combining those, not sufficiently numerous, which have been perceived, has not been sufficient to preserve the most skilful calculators from important errors and great misreckonings. We perceive that that was to be expected. But now I must go further, and all this leads me to a last reflection, which flows from the nature of things, like those which have just been read, which confirms several important principles established in the preceding volumes, which far from annihilating the great hopes of Condorcet tends to assure and realise them, by restraining them within certain limits; but which appear to me to show manifestly, how far the calculation of probabilities is from being the same thing with the theory of probability. Observe in what this observation consists.
The principal object of the theory of probability and its great utility, is in setting out from the reunion of a certain number of given causes, to determine the degree of the probability of the effects which ought to follow; and setting out from the reunion of a certain number of known effects, to determine the degree of the probability of the causes, which have been able to produce them. We may even say that all the results of this theory are but different branches of this general result, and may be traced to be nothing more than parts of it.
Now we have previously seen, and on different occasions, that for beings of any kind, to be successfully submitted to the action of calculation, it is necessary they should be susceptible of adaptation to the clear, precise and invariable divisions of the ideas of quantity, and to the series of the names of numbers and of cyphers, which express them. This is a condition necessary to the validity of every calculation from which that which has probability for its object, cannot be any more exempt, than that which conducts to absolute certainty.
Hence it rigorously follows, that there is a multitude of subjects of which it would be absolutely impossible to calculate the data, if even (which is not always the case) it should be possible to collect them all without overlooking any.
Assuredly the degrees of the capacity, of the probity of men, those of the energy and the power of their passions, prejudices and habits, cannot possibly be estimated in numbers. It is the same as to the degrees of influence of certain institutions, or of certain functions, of the degrees of importance of certain establishments, of the degrees of difficulty of certain discoveries, of the degrees of utility of certain inventions, or of certain processes. I know that of these quantities, truly inappreciable and innumerable in all the rigour of the word, we seek and even attain to a certain point, in determining the limits, by means of number, of the frequency and extent of their effects; but I also know that in these effects which we are obliged to sum and number together as things perfectly similar, in order to deduce results, it is almost always and I may say always impossible to unravel the alterations and variations of concurrent causes, of influencing circumstances, and of a thousand essential considerations, so that we are necessitated to arrange together as similar a multitude of things very different, to arrive only at those preparatory results which are afterwards to lead to others which cannot fail to become entirely fantastical.
Is an example desired, very striking, drawn from a subject which surely does not present as many difficulties of this kind as moral ideas? Here is one. Certainly none of those who have undertaken to estimate the effort of the muscles of the heart, have erred against the rules of calculation, nor, what is more, against the laws of animated mechanics, the certainty of which should still preserve them from many errors. Yet some have been led to estimate this effort at several thousands of pounds, and others only at some ounces; and nobody knows with certainty which are nearest to truth. What succour then can we derive from calculation, when even availing ourselves properly of it we are subject to such aberrations and to such prodigious incertitude?
It is then true, and I repeat it, that there is a multitude of things to which the calculation of probabilities like every other calculation is completely inapplicable. These things are much more numerous than is generally believed, and even by many very skilful men, and the first step to be taken in the science of probability is to know how to distinguish them. It is for the science of the formation of our ideas, for that of the operations of our intelligence, in a word for sound ideology, to teach us the number of these things, to enable us to know their nature, and to show us the reasons why they are so refractory. And it is a great service which it will render to the human mind, by preventing it in future from making a pernicious use of one of its most excellent instruments. It already shows us that the science of probability is a thing very distinct from the calculation of probability with which it has been confounded, since it extends to many objects to which the other cannot attain. This is what I principally proposed to elucidate.
Finally, as I have before announced, this observation does not destroy the great hopes which the pirecing genius of Condorcet had made him conceive from the employment of calculation in general, and from that of probability in particular, in the advancement of the moral sciences; for if the different shades of our moral ideas cannot be expressed in numbers, and if there are many other things relative to social science, which are equally incapable of being estimated and calculated directly, these things depend on others which often render them reducible to calculable quantities, if we may use the expression. Thus for example, the degrees of the value of all things useful and agreeable, that is to say, the degrees of interest we attach to their possession cannot be noted directly by figures, but all those which can be represented by quantities of weight or extension of a particular thing, become calculable and even comparable the one with the other; in like manner the energy and durability of the secret springs which cause and preserve the action of the organs constituting our life are not susceptible of direct appreciation, but we judge of them by their effects. Time and different kinds of resistance and waste are susceptible of very exact divisions. This is sufficient for us, and we derive thence a great multitude of results and of valuable combinations; now there is an infinity of things in the moral sciences which offer us similar resources; but there are also many which offer none, and once more it is of great importance to discriminate perfectly between them: For first, in respect to these latter, every employment of calculation is abusive; and moreover there are often species of quantities presented which appear calculable, but which are inextricably complicated by mixture with those other species of quantities which I permit myself to call refractory, and then if calculation be applied thereto, the most skilful mathematicians are inevitably led into enormous errors; against this in my opinion they have not always been sufficiently on their guard. As to these two latter cases we may say of calculation what has been said of the syllogistic art as to all our reasonings whatsoever; that is, that it conducts our mind much less correctly than the simple light of good sense aided by sufficient attention.
This is all I had to observe on the science and calculation of probability, and I draw from it the following consequences: The theory of probability is neither a part of nor a supplement to logic. This theory moreover is not a science separate and distinct from all others. All sciences have a positive and a conjectural part. In all of them the positive part consists in distinguishing the effects which always and necessarily follow certain causes, and the causes which always and necessarily produce certain effects. In all of them also the conjectural part consists in proceeding from the reunion of a certain number of given causes to determine the degrees of probability of the effects which ought to follow from them, and in proceeding from the reunion of a certain number of known effects to determine the degree of probability of the causes which have been able to produce them. In these two parts, when the ideas compared are not of a nature to comport with the application of the names of numbers and of figures, we can only employ the ordinary instruments of reasoning, that is to say our vulgar languages, their forms, and the words which compose them. In these two parts equally when the ideas compared by the clearness, constancy, and precision of their subdivisions are susceptible of adaptation to the divisions of the series of the names of numbers, and of figures, we can employ with great advantage, instead of the ordinary instruments of reasoning, the instruments proper to the science of the ideas of quantity, that is to say, the language of calculation, its formulas, and its signs. It is this which constitutes in respect to the conjectural part the calculation of probability. It is necessary to distinguish it carefully from the science of probability; for the one is of use in all cases in which the object is a likelihood of any kind whatsoever; it is properly the conjectural part of all other sciences, whereas the other calculation has place only in those cases in which we can employ the language of calculation; it is but an instrument, of which unhappily the science of probability cannot always avail itself.
The science of probability consists in the talent and sagacity necessary to know the data, to chuse them, to perceive their degrees of importance, to arrange them in convenient order, a talent to which it is very difficult to prescribe precise rules, because it is often the product of a multitude of unperceived judgments. On the contrary, the calculation of probability, properly so called, consists only in following correctly the general rules of the language of calculation in those cases in which it can be employed.
This calculation is often extremely useful and extremely learned; but it is necessary carefully to distinguish the occasions on which we can avail ourselves of it, for however little the ideas which we attempt to calculate are mingled with those which I have named refractory, and which are truly incalculable, we are inevitably led into the most excessive misreckonings. It is what I think has happened but too frequently to skilful men, who by their knowledge, and even by their mistakes, have put us into the way of discovering their cause.
I will limit myself to this small number of results. I perceive that it is to diffuse but little direct light on a subject, which is so much the more important and the more extensive, as unfortunately certitude is for the most part far from us. But if I have contributed to the formation of a just and clear idea of it I shall not have been useless. I have much more reason than Condorcet for saying “I have not thought that I was giving a good work, but merely a work calculated to give birth to better ones, &c.”∗
Not wishing to occupy myself longer with the conjectural part of our knowledge, and not believing it necessary to add to the small number of principles which I have established before this long digression, and which embrace in my opinion every thing of importance in the logical art, such as it proceeds from true logical science; it only remains for me to endeavour to make a happy application of this art to the study of our will and its effects. It is this I am going to undertake, with a hope that my instruments being better, I may better succeed than perhaps men more skilful but not so well armed.
SECOND SECTION OF THE Elements of Ideology, or a treatise on the will and its effects.
The faculty of willing is a mode and a consequence of the faculty of feeling.
What has been now read is the end of all that I had to say of human intelligence, considered under the relation of its means of knowing and understanding. This analysis of our understanding, and of that of every other animated being, such as we conceive and imagine it, is not perhaps either as perfect or as complete as might be desired; but I believe at least that it discovers clearly to us the origin and the source of all our knowledge, and the true intellectual operations which enter into its composition, and that it shows us plainly the nature and species of certitude of which this knowledge is susceptible, and the disturbing causes which render it uncertain or erroneous.
Strengthened with these data we can therefore endeavour to avail ourselves of them, and employ our means of knowledge either in the study of the will and its effects to complete the history of our intellectual faculties, or in the study of those beings which are not ourselves; in order to acquire a just idea of what we are able to know of this singular universe delivered to our eager curiosity.
I think for the reasons before adduced, that it is the first of these two researches which ought to occupy us in the first place. Consequently I shall go back to the point at which I endeavoured to trace the plan; and I shall permit myself to repeat here what I then said in my logic, chap. 9th, page 432. Obliged to be consequent, I must be pardoned for recalling the point from whence I set out.
“This second manner I have said of considering our individuals, presents us a system of phenomena so different from the first, that we can scarcely believe it appertains to the same beings, seen merely under a different aspect. Doubtless we could conceive man as only receiving impressions, recollecting, comparing and combining them always with a perfect indifference. He would then be only a being, knowing and understanding without passion, properly so called (relatively to himself) and without action relatively to other beings, for he would have no motive to will, and no reason and no means to act; and certainly on this supposition whatever were his faculties for judging and knowing they would rest in great stagnation, for want of a stimulant and agent to exercise them. But this is not man; he is a being willing in consequence of his impressions and of his knowledge, and acting in consequence of his will.∗ It is that which constitutes him on the one part susceptible of sufferings and enjoyments, of happiness and misery, ideas correlative and inseparable, and on the other part capable of influence and of power. It is that which causes him to have wants and means, and consequently rights and duties, either merely when he has relation with inanimate beings only, or more still when he is in contact with other beings, susceptible also of enjoying and suffering; for the rights of a sensible being are all in its wants, and its duties in its means; and it is to be remarked that weakness in all its forms is always and essentially the principle of rights; and that power, in whatsoever sense we take this word, is not and can never be but the source of duties, that is to say of rules for the manner of employing this power.” Where there is nothing, the old proverb justly says the king loses his right: but a king as another person cannot lose his rights, but in as much as another individual loses his duties in regard to him; which is saying in an inverse sense, that he who can do nothing, has no more duties to fulfil, has no longer any rule to follow for the employment of his power, since it has become null. That is very true.
Wants and means, rights and duties, arise then from the faculty of will; if man willed nothing he would have nothing of all these. But to have wants and means, rights and duties, is to have, is to possess, something. These are so many species of property, taking this word in its most extensive signification: They are things which appertain to us. Our means are even a real property, and the first of all, in the most restrained sense of the term. Thus the ideas, wants and means, rights and duties, imply the idea of property; and the ideas of riches and deprivation, justice and injustice, which are derived from them, could not exist without that of property. We must begin then by explaining this latter; and this can only be done by remounting to its origin. Now this idea of property can only be founded on the idea of personality. For if an individual had not a consciousness of his own existence, distinct and separate from every other, he could possess nothing, he could have nothing peculiar to himself. We must first therefore examine and determine the idea of personality; but before proceeding on this examination, there is yet a necessary preliminary; it is to explain with clearness and precision what the willing faculty is, from which we maintain that all these ideas arise, and on account of which we wish to give its history. We have no other means of seeing clearly how this faculty produces these ideas, and how all the consequences which result from it may be regarded as its effects It is thus that always by remounting, or rather by descending step by step, we are inevitably led to the study and observation of our intellectual faculties, whenever we wish to penetrate to the bottom of whatever subject engages us. This truth is perhaps more precious in itself than all those we shall be able to collect in the course of our work. I will commence then by an exposition of that in which the willing faculty consists.
This faculty, or the will, is one of the four primordial faculties, which we have recognized in the human understanding, and even in that of all animated beings, and into which we have seen that the faculty of thinking or of feeling necessarily resolves itself when we decompose it into its true elements, and when we admit into it nothing factitious.
We have considered the faculty of willing as the fourth and last of these four primitive and necessary subdivisions of sensibility; because in every desire, in every act of willing or volition, in a word, in every propensity whatsoever, we can always conceive the act of experiencing an impression, that of judging it good either to seek or avoid, and even that of recollecting it to a certain point, since by the very nature of the act of judging we have seen that the idea, which is the subject of every judgment, can always be considered as a representation of the first impression which this idea has made. Thus more or less confusedly, more or less rapidly, an animated being has always felt, recollected and judged, previously to willing.
It must not be concluded from this analysis that I consider the willing faculty as only that of having definitive and studied sentiments which are specially called desires, and which may be called express and formal acts of the will. On the contrary I believe that to have a just idea of it, we must form one much more extensive; and nothing previously established prevents us from it: for since we have said that even in a desire the most mechanical, and the most sudden, and in a determination the most instinctive, the most purely organic, we ought always to conceive the acts of feeling, recollecting and judging, as therein implicitly and imperceptibly included, and as having necessarily preceded it, were it only for an inappreciable instant, we can without contradicting ourselves regard all these propensities, even the most sudden and unstudied, as appertaining to the faculty of willing; though we have made it the fourth and the last of the elementary faculties of our intelligence. I even think it is necessary to do so, and that the will is really and properly the general and universal faculty of finding one thing preferable to another, that of being so affected as to love better such an impression, such a sentiment, such an action, such a possession, such an object, than such another. To love and to hate are words solely relative to this faculty, which would have no signification if it did not exist; and its action takes place on every occasion on which our sensibility experiences any attraction or repulsion whatsoever. At least it is thus I conceive the will in all its generality; and it is by proceeding from this manenr of conceiving it that I will attempt to explain its effects and consequences.
Without doubt the will, thus conceived, is a part of sensibility. The faculty of being affected in a particular manner cannot but be a part of the faculty of being affected in general. But it is a distinct mode, of it, and one which may be separated from it in thought. We cannot will without a cause, (this is a thing very necessary to be remarked, and never to be forgotten,) thus we cannot will without having felt, but we may always feel in such a manner as never to will. We have already said that we can imagine man, or any other animated and sensible being, as feeling in such a manner that every thing would be equal to him; that all his affections, although distinct, would be indifferent to him; and that consequently he could neither desire nor fear any thing; that is to say he could not will, for to desire and to fear is to will: and to will is never but to desire something and to fear the contrary, or reciprocally. On this supposition an animated and sensible being would yet be a feeling being. He could even be discerning and knowing, that is to say judging. It will be sufficient for this that he should feel the difference of his various perceptions, and the different circumstances of each, although incapable of a predilection for any of them, or for any of the combinations of them which he can make; only, and we have before made the remark, the knowledge of the animated being thus constituted would necessarily be very limited. Because his faculty of knowing would have no motive of action; and his faculty of acting, if even it existed, could not exercise itself with intention, since to have an intention he must have a desire, and every desire supposes a preference of some sort.
I will observe, by the way, that this supposition of a perfect indifference in sensibility shows very clearly, in my opinion, that it is erroneously that certain persons have wished to make of what they call our sentiments and affections, modifications of our being essentially different from those which they name perceptions or ideas, and refuse to comprehend them under those general denominations of perceptions or ideas; for the quality of being effective, which certain of our perceptions have, is but a particular circumstance, an accidental quality, with which all our modifications might be endowed; and of which, as we have just seen, all might likewise be deprived. But they would not be the less, as they are in effect perceptions, that is to say things perceived or felt. The proof is that some of these modifications, after having possessed the quality of being effective, lose it by the effect of habit, and others which acquire it through reflection, all without ceasing to be perceived, and consequently without ceasing to be perceptions. I think therefore that the word perception is truly the generic term.
As to the distinction established between the words perception and idea, I do not think it more legitimate if founded on the pretended property of an idea being an image. For the idea of a peartree is no more the image of a tree, than the perception of the relation of three to four is the image of the difference of these two figures, and no one of the modifications of our sensibility is the image of any thing which takes place around us. I think then, that we may regard the words perception and idea as synonimous in their most extensive signification, and for the same reasons the words think and feel as equivalent also when taken in all their generality: For all our thoughts are things felt; and if they were not felt they would be nothing; and sensibility is the general phenomenon which constitutes and comprehends the whole existence of an animated being, at least for himself; and inasmuch as he is an animated being, it is the only condition which can render him a thinking being.
However this may be, none of the animated beings which we know, nor even of those we can imagine, are indifferent to all their perceptions. It is always comprised in their sensibility, in their faculty of being affected, of their being so affected as that certain perceptions appear to them what we call agreeable, and certain others disagreeable. Now it is this which constitutes the faculty of willing. Now that we have formed to ourselves a perfectly clear idea of it we shall easily be able to see how this faculty produces the ideas of personality and property.
From the faculty of willing arise the ideas of personality and property.
Every man who pronounces the word I (myself) without being a metaphysician understands very well what he means to say, and yet being a metaphysician he often succeeds very badly in giving an account of it, or in explaining it. We will endeavour to accomplish this by the aid of some very simple reflections.
It is not our body such as it is to others, and such as it appears to them which we call our self. The proof is that we know very well to say how our body will be when we shall exist no more, that is to say when our self shall be no more. There are then two very distinct beings.
It is not moreover any of the particular faculties we possess, which is for us the same thing as ourself. For we say I have the faculty of walking, of eating, sleeping, of breathing, &c. Thus I or my self, who possess, am a thing distinct from the thing possessed.
Is it the same with the general faculty of feeling? At the first glance it appears that the answer must be yes, since I say in the same manner I have the faculty of feeling. Notwithstanding, here we find a great difference if we penetrate further. For if I ask myself how I know that I have the faculty of walking? I answer I know it because I feel it, or because I experience it, because I see it, which is still to feel it. But if I ask myself how I know that I feel, I am obliged to answer I know it because I feel it. The faculty of feeling is then that which manifests to us all the others, without which none of them would exist for us, whilst it manifests itself that it is its own principle to itself; that it is that beyond which we are not able to remount, and which constitutes our existence; that it is every thing for us; that it is the same thing as ourselves. I feel because I feel: I feel because I exist; and I do not exist but because I feel. Then my existence and my sensibility are one and the same thing. Or in other words the existence of myself and the sensibility of myself are two identical beings.
If we pay attention that in discourse I or myself signifies always the moral being or person who speaks, we shall find that (to express ourselves with exactness) instead of saying I have the faculty of walking I ought to say the faculty of feeling, which constitutes the moral person who speaks to you has the property of reacting on his legs in such a manner that his body walks. And instead of saying I have the faculty of feeling, I ought to say the faculty of feeling which constitutes the moral person who speaks to you exists in the body by which he speaks to you. These modes of expression are odd and unusual I agree, but in my opinion they paint the fact with much truth; for in all our conversations, as in all our relations, it is always one faculty of feeling which addresses itself to another.
The self of each of us is therefore for him his proper sensibility, whatsoever be the nature of this sensibility; or what he calls his mind, if he has a decided opinion of the nature of the principle of this same sensibility. It is so true that it is this that we all understand by our self, that we all regard apparent death as the end of our being, or as a passage to another existence, according as we think that it extinguishes or does not extinguish all sentiment. It is then the sole fact of sensibility which gives us the idea of personality, that is to say which makes us perceive that we are a being, and which constitutes for us ourself, our being.
There is, however, and we have already remarked it,∗ another of our faculties with which we often identify our self, that is our will. We say indifferently it depends on me, or it depends on my will to do such or such a thing; but this observation very far from contradicting the preceding analysis confirms it, for the faculty of willing is but a mode of the faculty of feeling; it is our faculty of feeling so modified as to render it capable to enjoy and to suffer, and to react on our organs. Thus to take the will as the equivalent of self, is to take a part for the whole; it is to regard as the equivalent of this self the portion of sensibility which constitutes all its energy, that from which we can scarcely conceive it separated, and without which it would be almost null, if it would not even be entirely annihilated. There is then nothing there contrary to what we have just established. It remains then well understood and admitted that the self or the moral person of every animated being, conceived as distinct from the organs it causes to move, is either simply the abstract existence which we call the sensibility of this individual, which results from his organization or a monade without extension; which is supposed eminently to possess this sensibility, and which is also clearly an abstract being (if indeed we comprehend this supposition,) or a little body, subtile, etherial, imperceptible, impalpable, endowed with this sensibility and which is still very nearly an abstraction. These three suppositions are indifferent for all which is to follow. In all three sensibility is found; and in all three also it alone constitutes the self, or the moral person of the individual, whether it be but a phenomenon resulting from his organization, or a property of a spiritual or corporeal mind resident within him.
There remains then but one question, which is to know if this idea of personality, this consciousness of self, would arise in us from our sensibility in the case in which it would not be followed by will, in the case in which it would be deprived of this mode which causes it to enjoy and suffer, and to react on our organs, which in a word renders it capable of action and of passion. This question cannot be resolved by facts, for we know no sensibility of this kind, and if any such existed it could not manifest itself to our means of knowledge. For the same reason the question is more curious than useful; but whatever is curious has an indirect utility, above all in these matters which can never be viewed on too many different sides: we must not then neglect it.
On the point in question we certainly cannot pronounce with assurance that a being which should feel without affection, properly so called, and without reaction on its organs, would not have the idea of personality, and that of the existence of its self. It even appears to me probable that it would have the idea of the existence of this self: for in fact to feel any thing whatever, is to feel its self feeling, it is to know its self feeling: it is to have the possibility of distinguishing self from that which self feels; from the modifications of self. But at the same time it is beyond doubt that the being which should thus know its own self would not know it by opposition with other beings, from which it would be able to distinguish and separate it; since it would know only itself and its modes. It would be for itself the true infinite or indefinite, as I have elsewhere remarked,∗ without term or limit of any kind, not knowing any thing else. It would not then properly know itself in the sense we attach to the word to know, which always imports the idea of circumscription and of speciality; and consequently it would not have the idea of individuality and of personality, in opposition and distinction from other beings as we have it. We may already assure ourselves that this idea, such as it is in us and for us, is a creation and an effect of our faculty of willing; and this explains very clearly why, although the sole faculty of feeling simply constitutes and establishes our existence, yet we confound and identify by preference our self with our will. Here I think is a first point elucidated.
A thing still more certain, perhaps, and which will advance us a step further, is that if it is possible that the idea of individuality and personality should exist in the manner we have said, in a being conceived to be endowed with sensibility without will, at least it is impossible it should produce there the idea of property such as we have it. For our idea of property is privative and exclusive: it imports the idea that the thing possessed appertains to a sensible being, and appertains to none but him, to the exclusion of all others. Now it cannot be that it exists thus in the head of a being which knows nothing but itself, which does not know that any other beings besides itself exists. If then we should suppose that this being knows its self with sufficient accuracy to distinguish it from its modes, and to regard its different modifications as attributes of this self, as things which this self possesses, this being would still not have completely our idea of property. For this it is necessary to have the idea of personality very completely, and such as we have just seen that we form it when we are susceptible of passion and of action. It is then proved that this idea of property is an effect, a production of our willing faculty.
But what is very necessary to be remarked, because it has many consequences, is, that if it be certain that the idea of property can arise only in a being endowed with will, it is equally certain that in such a being it arises necessarily and inevitably in all its plenitude; for as soon as this individual knows accurately itself, or its moral person, and its capacity to enjoy and to suffer, and to act necessarily, it sees clearly also that this self is the exclusive proprietor of the body which it animates, of the organs which it moves, of all their passions and their actions; for all this finishes and commences with this self, exists but by it, is not moved but by its acts, and no other moral person can employ the same instruments nor be affected in the same manner by their effects. The idea of property and of exclusive property arises then necessarily in a sensible being from this alone, that it is susceptible of passion and action; and it rises in such a being because nature has endowed it with an inevitable and inalienable property, that of its individuality.
It was necessary there should be a natural and necessary property, as there exists an artificial and conventional one; for there can never be any thing in art which has not its radical principle in nature;— we have already made the observation elsewhere.∗ If our gestures and our cries had not the natural and inevitable effect of denoting the ideas which affect us, they never would have become their artificial and conventional signs. If it were not in nature that every solid body sustained above our heads necessarily sheltered us we should never have had houses made expressly for shelter. In the same manner, if there never had been natural and inevitable property there never would have been any artificial or conventional. This is universally the case, and we cannot too frequently repeat, man creates nothing, he makes nothing absolutely new or extra-natural, (if we may be allowed the expression) he never does any thing but draw consequences and make combinations from that which already is. It is also as impossible for him to create an idea or a relation which has not its source in nature as to give himself a sense which has no relation with his natural senses. From this it also follows that in every research which concerns man it is necessary to arrive at this first type; for as long as we do not see the natural model of an artificial institution which we examine we may be sure we have not discovered its generation, and consequently we do not know it completely.
This observation will meet with many explications. It appears to me that we have net always paid sufficient attention to it, and that it is for this reason we have often discoursed on the subject which now occupies us in a very useless and vague manner. We have brought property to a solemn trial at bar and exhibited the reasons for and against it as if it depended on us, whether there should or should not be property in this world. But this is entirely to mistake our nature. It seems were we to listen to certain philosophers and legislators that at a precise instant people have taken into their heads spontaneously, and without cause, to say thine and mine, and that they could and even should have dispensed with it. But the thine and the mine were never invented. They were acknowledged the day on which we could say thee and me; and the idea of me and thee or rather of me and something other than me, has arisen, if not the very day on which a feeling being has experienced impressions, at least the one on which, in consequence of these impressions, he has experienced the sentiment of willing, the possibility of acting, which is a consequence thereof, and a resistance to this sentiment and to this act. When afterwards among these resisting beings, consequently other than himself, the feeling and willing being has known that there were some feeling like himself, it has been forced to accord to them a personality other than his own, a self other than his own and different from his own. And it always has been impossible, as it always will be, that that which is his should not for him be different from that which is theirs. It was not requisite therefore to discuss at first whether it is well or ill that there exists such or such species of property, the advantages and inconveniences of which we shall see by the sequel; but it was necessary first of all to recognize that there is a property, fundamental, anterior and superior to every institution, from which will always arise all the sentiments and dis-sentiments which are derived from all the others; for there is property, if not precisely every where that there is an individual sentient, at least every where that there is an individual willing in consequence of his sentiment, and acting in consequence of his will. These, or I am greatly mistaken, are eternal truths, against which will fail all the declamations that have nothing for their base but an ignorance of our true existence; and which are indebted to this ignorance for the great credit they have enjoyed at different times, and in different countries.
As no authority can impose on me when it is contrary to evidence, I will say frankly that the same forgetfulness of the true condition of our being is found in this famous precept, so much boasted: Love thy neighbour as thyself. It exhorts us to a sentiment which is very good and very useful to propagate, but which is certainly also very badly expressed; for to take this expression in all the rigour of the injunction it is inexecutable; it is as if they should tell us, with your eyes, such as they are, see your own visage as you see that of others. This cannot be. Without doubt we are able to love another as much and even more than ourselves, in the sense that we should rather die, bearing with us the hope of preserving his life, than to live and to suffer the grief of losing him. But to love him exactly as ourself, and otherwise than relatively to ourself, once more I say is impossible. It would be necessary for this, to live his life as we do our own.∗ This has no meaning for beings constituted as we are. It is contrary to the work of our creation, in what manner soever it has been operated.
I am very far from saying the same things of this other precept, which people regard as almost synonimous with the first. Love ye one another, and the law is accomplished. This is truly admirable, both for its form and substance. It is also as conformable to our nature as the other is repugnant to it; and it enounces perfectly a very profound truth. Effectively sentiments of benevolence being for us, under every imaginable relation, the source of all our good of every kind, and the universal means of diminishing and remedying all our evils as much as possible, as long as we maintain them amongst ourselves the great law of our happiness is accomplished, in as great a degree as possible.
I shall be accused perhaps of futility for the distinction which I establish between two maxims, to which nearly the same meaning has been commonly attributed; but it will be wrong. It is so different to present to men as a rule of their conduct a general principle, drawn from the recesses of their nature, or one repugnant to it, and it leads to consequences so distant among themselves, that one must never have reflected on it at all not to have perceived all its importance. To myself it appears such, that I cannot conceive that two maxims so dissimilar should have emanated from the same source;8† for the one manifests to me the most profound ignorance, and the other the most profound knowledge of human nature. One would lead us to compose the romance of man, and the other his history. The one consecrates the existence of natural property, resulting from individuality, and the other seems to disregard it, [la meconnaitre.] Perhaps it may be wondered that I should treat at the same time the question of the property of all our riches, and that of all our sentiments, and thus mingle economy and morality; but, when we penetrate to their fundamental basis, it does not appear to me possible to separate either these two orders of things or their study. In proportion as we advance, the objects separate and subdivide themselves, and it becomes necessary to examine them separately; but in their principles they are intimately united. We should not have the property of any of our goods whatsoever if we had not that of our wants, which is nothing but that of our sentiments; and all these properties are inevitably derived from the sentiment of personality, from the consciousness of our self.
It is then quite as useless to the purpose of morality or economy, to discuss whether it would not be better that nothing should appertain exclusively to each one of us, as it would be to the purpose of grammar to enquire whether it would not be more advantageous that our actions should not be the signs of the ideas and the sentiments which produce them. In every case it would be to ask whether it would not be desirable that we should be quite different from what we are; and indeed it would be to enquire, whether it would not be better that we did not exist at all; for these conditions being changed our existence would not be conceivable. It would not be altered, it would be annihilated.
It remains therefore certain that the thine and the mine are necessarily established amongst men; from this alone, that they are individuals feeling, willing, and acting distinctly the one from the other, that they have each one the inalienable, incommutable, and inevitable property, in their individuality and its faculties; and that consequently the idea of property is the necessary result, if not of the sole phenomenon of pure sensibility, at least of that of sensibility united to the will. Thus we have found how the sentiment of personality or the idea of self, and that of property which flows from it necessarily, are derived from our faculty of willing. Now we may enquire with success, how this same faculty produces all our wants and all our means.
From the faculty of willing arise all our wants and all our means.
If we had not the idea of personality, and that of property, that is to say the consciousness of our self, and that of the possession of its modifications, we should certainly never have either wants or means; for to whom would appertain this suffering and this power. We should not exist for ourselves; but as soon as we recognize ourselves as possessors of our existence, and of its modes, we are necessarily by this alone a compound of weakness and of strength, of wants and means, of suffering and power, of passion and action, and consequently of rights and duties. It is this we are now to explain.
I commence by noticing that, conformably to the idea I have before given of the willing faculty, I will give indifferently the name of desire or of will to all the acts of this faculty, from the propensity the most instinctive to the determination the most studied; and I request then that it may be recollected that it is solely because we perform such acts that we have the ideas of personality and of property. Now every desire is a want, and all our wants consist in a desire of some sort; thus the same intellectual acts, emanating from our willing faculty, which cause us to acquire the distinct and complete idea of our personality, our self, and of the exclusive property of all its modes, are also those which render us susceptible of wants, and which constitute all our wants. This will appear very clearly.
In the first place every desire is a want. This is not doubtful, since a sensible being, who desires any thing whatsoever, has from this circumstance alone a want to possess the thing desired, or rather, and more generally we may say, that he experiences the want of the cessation of his desire; for every desire is in itself a suffering as long as it continues. It does not become an enjoyment but when it is satisfied, that is to say when it ceases.
It is difficult at first to believe that every desire is a suffering; because there are certain desires, the birth of which in an animated being is always, or almost always, accompanied by a sentiment of well being. The desire of eating for example, that of the physical pleasures of love, are generally in an individual the results of a state of health, of which he has a consciousness that is agreeable to him. Many others are in the same case; but this circumstance must not deceive us. These are the simultaneous manners of being of which we have spoken in our logic,∗ which mingle themselves with the ideas, come at the same time with them and alter them; but which must not be confounded with them which consequently it is necessary well to distinguish from desire in itself. For first, they do not always co-exist with it. We have often the want of eating, and even a violent inclination to the act of reproduction, in consequence of sickly dispositions, and without any sentiment of well being; and it is the same of other examples which might be chosen. Secondly, were this not to happen, it would not be less true that the sentiment of well being is distinct and different from that of desire; and that that of desire is always in itself a torment, a painful sentiment as long as it continues. The proof is, that it is always the desire of being delivered from that state, whatsoever it is, in which we actually are; which consequently appears actually a state of uneasiness, more or less displeasing. Now in this sense a manner of being is always in effect what it appears to be, since it consists only in what it appears to be to him who experiences it: a desire then is always a suffering either light or profound, according to its force, and consequently a want of some kind. It is not necessary for the truth of this that this desire should be founded on a real want, that is to say on a just sentiment of our true interest; for, whether well or ill founded, while it exists it is a manner of being felt and incommodious, and from which we have consequently a want of being delivered. Thus every desire is a want.
But moreover all our wants, from the most purely mechanical to the most spiritualized, are but the want of satisfying a desire. Hunger is but a desire of eating, or at least of relief from the state of langour which we experience; as the want, the thirst of riches, or that of glory, is but the desire of possessing these advantages, and of avoiding indigence or obscurity.
It is true, however, that if we experience desires without real wants, we have also often real wants without experiencing desires; in this sense that many things are often very necessary to our greater well being, and even to our preservation, without our perceiving it, and consequently without our desiring them. Thus for example, it is certain that I have the greatest interest, or if you please want, that certain combinations, of which I have no suspicion, should not take place within me, and from which it will result that I shall have a fever this evening; but to speak exactly I have not at present the effective want of counteracting these injurious combinations, since I am not aware of their existence; whereas I shall really have the actual want of being delivered from the fever, when I shall suffer the anguish of it, and because I shall suffer the anguish of it; for if the fever were not of a nature to produce in me, for some reason or other, the desire of its cessation, when I should be aware of its proximate or remote effects, I should not have in any manner the want of causing it to cease. We may absolutely say the same things of all the combinations, which take place in the physical or moral order, without our being aware of, or without our foreseeing, the consequences. If then it be true, as we have seen, that every desire is a want, it is not less so that every actual want is a desire. Thus we may lay it down as a general thesis, that our desires are the source of all our wants, none of which would exist without them. For we cannot too often repeat it, we should be really impassive if we had no desires; and if we were impassive we should have no wants. I must not be reproached with having taken time for this explication; we cannot proceed too slowly at first: and if I overleap no intermediate proofs, I omit nevertheless, many accessaries, at least all those which are not indispensable.
A first property then of our desires is now well explained; and it is the only one they have, so long as our sensitive system acts and re-acts only on itself. But so soon as it re-acts on our muscular system, the sentiment of willing acquires a second property very different from the first, and which is not less important. It is that of directing all our actions, and by this of being the source of all our means.
When I say that our desires direct all our actions; it is not that many movements are not operated within us, which the sentiment of willing does not in any manner precede, and which consequently are not the effect of any desire. Of this number are particularly all those which are necessary to the commencement, maintenance and continuation of our life. But first it is permitted to doubt whether at first, and in the origin, they have not taken place in virtue of certain determinations or tendencies really felt by the living molecules, which would make them still the effect of a will more or less obscure; unless it be by the all powerful effect of habit or by the preponderance of certain sentiments more general and predominant, that they become insensible to the animated individual, that is to say, to all results of the combinations which they operate, and finally if it is not for this reason, that they are entirely withdrawn from the empire of perceptible will, or from its sentiment of desiring and willing. These are things of which it is impossible for us to have complete certitude; besides these movements, vulgarly and with reason named involuntary, are certainly the cause and the basis of our living existence: but they furnish us no means of modifying, varying, succouring, defending, ameliorating it, &c. They cannot therefore properly be placed in the rank of our means, unless we mean to say that our existence itself is our first mean, which is very true but very insignificant; for it is the datum without which we should have nothing to say, and certainly should say nothing. Thus this first observation does not prevent its being true that our will directs all our actions, which can be regarded as the means of supplying our wants.
The movements of which we have just spoken are not the only ones in us which are involuntary. They are all continued or at least very frequent, and in general regular. But there are others involuntary also, which are more rare, less regular, and which depend more or less on a convulsive and sickly state. The involuntary movements of this second species cannot, any more than the others, be regarded as making part of our individual power. Generally they have no determinate object. Often even they have grievous and pernicious effects for us, and which take place although foreseen, and contrary to our desires. Their independence of our will then does not prevent our general observation from being just. Thus, putting aside these two species of involuntary movements, we may say with truth, that our desires have the effect eminently remarkable of directing all our actions, at least all those that really merit this name, and which are for us the means of procuring enjoyments or knowledge, which knowledge is also an enjoyment; since these are things desired and useful. And we must comprehend in the number of these actions our intellectual operations; for they also are for us means, and even the most important of all, since they direct the employment of all the others.
Now to complete the proof that the acts of our will are the source of all our means, without exception, it only remains to show that the actions submitted to our will are absolutely the only means we have of supplying our wants, or otherwise satisfying our desires; that is to say, that our physical and moral force, and the use we make of them, compose exactly all our riches.
To recognize this truth in all its details, it would be necessary that we should have already followed all the consequences of the different employments of our faculties, and to have seen their effect in the formation of all that we call our riches of every kind. Now it is this we have not yet been able to do, and which we will do in the sequel: it will even be a considerable part of our study. But from this moment we may clearly see that nature, in placing man in a corner of this vast universe, in which he appears but as an imperceptible and ephemeral insect, has given him nothing as his own but his individual and personal faculties, as well physical as intellectual. This is his sole endowment, his only original wealth, and the only source of all which he procures for himself. In effect, if even we should admit that all those beings, by which we are surrounded, have been created for us; (and assuredly it needs a great dose of vanity to imagine it, or even to believe it,) if, I say, this were so, it would not be less true that we could not appropriate one of those beings, nor convert the smallest parcel of them to our use, but by our action on them and by the employment of our faculties to this effect.
Not to take examples but in the physical line.—
A field is no means of subsistance but as we cultivate it. Game is not useful to us unless we pursue it. A lake, a river, furnish us no nourishment, but because we fish therein. Wood or any other spontaneous production of nature is of no use whatever, until we have fashioned it, or at least gathered it. To put an extreme case, were we to suppose an alimentary matter to have fallen into our mouths ready prepared, still it would be necessary, in order to assimilate it to our substance, that we should masticate, swallow and digest it. Now all these operations are so many employments of our individual force. Certainly if ever man has been doomed to labour, it was from the date of the day in which he was created a sensible being, and having members and organs; for it is not even possible to conceive that any being whatsoever could become useful to him without some action on his part, and we may well say, not only as the good and admirable La Fontaine, that labour is a treasure; but even that labour is our only treasure, and this treasure is very great because it surpasses all our wants. The proof is, that like the fortune of a rich man whose revenue surpasses his expenses, the funds of the enjoyment and power of the human species, taken in mass, are always sufficient although often and even always very badly husbanded.
We shall soon see all this with greater developements, and we shall see at the same time that the application of our force to different beings is the sole cause of the value of all those which have a value for us, and consequently is the source of all value; as the property of this same force which necessarily appertains to the individual who is endowed with it, and who directs it by his will, is the source of all property. But from this time I think we may safely conclude, that in the employment of our faculties, in our voluntary actions, consists all the power we have; and that consequently the acts of our will which direct these actions, are the source of all our means, as we have seen already that they constitute all our wants. Thus this fourth faculty, and last mode of our sensibility, to which we owe the complete ideas of personality and property, is that which renders us proprietors of wants and means, of passion and of action, of suffering and of power. From these ideas arise those of riches and poverty.
Before proceeding further let us see in what these last consist.
From the faculty of willing arise also the ideas of riches and of poverty.
If we had not the distinct consciousness of our self, and consequently the ideas of personality and of property, we should have no wants. All these arise from our desires. And if we had not wants, we should not have the ideas of riches and of poverty; because to be rich is to possess the means of supplying our wants, and to be poor is to be deprived of these means. An useful or agreeable thing, that is to say a thing of which the possession is an article of riches, is never but a means proximate or remote, of satisfying a want or a desire of some kind; and if we had neither wants nor desires, which are the same things, we should have neither the possession nor the privation of the means of satisfying them.
To take these things in this generality, we perceive plainly that our riches are not composed solely of a precious stone, or of a mass of metal, of an estate in land, or of an utensil, or even of a store of eatables, or a habitation. The knowledge of a law of nature, the habit of a technical process, the use of a language by which to communicate with those of our kind, and to increase our force by theirs, or at least not to be disturbed by theirs in the exercise of our own, the enjoyment of conventions established, and of institutions created in this spirit, are so far the riches of the individual and of the species: for these are so many things useful towards increasing our means, or at least for the free use of them, that is to say, according to our will, and with the least possible obstacle, whether on the part of men or of nature, which is to augment their power, their energy, and their effect.
We call all these goods; for by contraction we give the name of goods to all those things that contribute to do us good, to augment our well being, to render our manner of being good or better; that is to say, to all those things, the possession of which is a good Now whence come all those goods? We have already summarily seen, and we shall see it more in detail in the sequel. It is from the just, that is to say from the legitimate, employment, according to the laws of nature, which we make of our faculties. We do not often find a diamond, but because we search for it with intelligence; we have not a mass of metal, but because we have studied the means of procuring it. We do not possess a good field or a good utensil, but because we have well recognised the properties of the first material, and rendered easy the manner of making it useful. We have no provision whatsoever, or even a shelter, but because we have simplified the operations necessary for forming the one, or for constructing the other. It is then always from the employment of our faculties that all these goods arise.
Now all these goods have amongst us, to a certain point, a value determinate and fixed. They even have always two. The one is that of the sacrifices which their acquisition costs us; the other that of the advantages which their possession procures us. When I fabricate an utensil for my use, it has for me the double value of the labour which it costs me in the first place, and of that which it will save me in the sequel. I make a bad employment of my force, if its construction costs me more labour than its possesion will save me. It is the same, if instead of making this utensil, I buy it, if the things I give in return have cost me more labor than the utensil would have cost me in making it, or if they would have saved me more labour than this will, I make a bad bargain, I lose more than I gain, I relinquish more than I acquire. This is evident. In the acquisition of any other good than an instrument of labour, the thing is not so clear. However, since it is certain that our physical and moral faculties are our only original riches; that the employment of these faculties, labour of some kind, is our only primitive treasure; and that it is always from this employment that all those things which we call goods arise, from the most necessary to the most purely agreeable, it is certain, in like manner, that all these goods are but a representation of the labour which has produced them; and that if they have a value, or even two distinct ones, they can only derive these values from that of the labour from which they emanate. Labour itself then has a value; it has then even two different ones, for no being can communicate a property which it has not. Yes labour has these two values, the one natural and necessary, the other more or less conventional and eventual. This will be seen very clearly.
An animated being, that is to say sensible and willing, has wants unceasingly reproduced, to the satisfaction of which is attached the continuation of his existence. He cannot provide for them but by the employment of his faculties, of his means; and if this employment (his labour) should cease during a certain time to meet these wants, his existence would end. The mass of these wants, is then the natural and necessary measure of the mass of labour which he can perform whilst they cause themselves to be felt; for if he employs this mass of labour for his direct and immediate use it must suffice for his service. If he consecrates it to another, this other must at least do for him, during this time, what he would have done for himself. If he employs it on objects of an utility less immediate and more remote, this utility, when realised, must at least replace the objects of an urgent utility, which he will have consumed whilst he was occupied with those less necessary. Thus this sum of indispensable wants, or rather that of the value of the objects necessary to supply them, is the natural and necessary measure of the value of the labour performed in the same time. This value is that which the labour inevitably costs. This is the first of the two values, the existence of which we have announced; it is purely natural and necessary.
The second value of our labour, that of what it produces, is from its nature eventual: It is often conventional and always more variable than the first. It is eventual, for no man in commencing any labour whatever, even when it is for his own account, can entirely assure himself of its product; a thousand circumstances, which do not depend on him and which often he cannot foresee, augment or diminish this product. It is often conventional; for when this same man undertakes a labour for another, the quantity of its product, which will result to himself, depends on that which the other shall have agreed to give him in return for his pains, whether the convention were made before the execution of the labour, as with day labourers or hirelings, or does not take place until after the labour has been perfected, as with merchants and manufacturers. Finally this second value of labour is more variable than its natural and necessary value; because it is determined not by the wants of him who performs the labour, but by the wants and means of him who profits from it, and it is influenced by a thousand concurrent causes, which it is not yet time to develope.
But even the natural value of labour is not of an absolute fixture: for first the wants of a man in a given time, even those which may be regarded as the most urgent, are susceptible of a certain latitude; and the flexibility of our nature is such that these wants are restrained or extended considerably by the empire of will and the effect of habit. Secondly, by the influence of favourable circumstances, of a mild climate, of a fertile soil, these wants may be largely satisfied for a given time by the effect of very little labour, while in less happy circumstances, under an inclement sky, on a sterile soil, greater efforts will be requisite to provide for them. Thus, according to the case, the labour of the same man, during the same time, must procure him a greater or smaller number of objects, or of objects more or less difficult to be acquired, solely that he may continue to exist.
By this small number of general reflections we see then, that the ideas of riches and poverty arise from our wants, that is to say from our desires, for riches consist in the possession of means of satisfying our wants, and poverty in their non-possession. We call these means goods, because they do us good. They are all the product and the representation of a certain quantity of labour; and they give birth in us to the idea of value, which is but a comparative idea; because they have all two values, that of the goods which they cost and that of the goods which they produce. Since these goods are but the representation of the labour which has produced them, it is then from labour they derive these two values. It has them then itself. In effect labour has necessarily these two values. The second is eventual, most generally conventional, and always very variable. The first is natural and necessary; it is not however of an absolute fixture, but it is always comprehended within certain limits.
Such is the connexion of general ideas, which necessarily follow one another on the first inspection of this subject. It shows us the application and the proof of several great truths previously established. In the first place we see that we never create any thing absolutely new and extra-natural. Thus, since we have the idea of value, and since artificial and conventional values exist among us, it was necessary there should be somewhere a natural and necessary value. Thus the labour, from whence all our goods emanate, has a value of this kind, and communicates it to them. This value is that of the objects necessary to the satisfaction of the wants, which inevitably arise in an animated being during the continuance of his labour.
Secondly, we have seen further, that to measure any quantity whatsoever, is always to compare it with a quantity of the same species, and that it is absolutely necessary that this quantity should be of the same species, without which it could not serve as an unit and a term of comparison.∗ Thus, when we say that the natural and necessary value of the labor which an animated being performs during a given time is measured by the indispensable wants which arise in this being during the same time, we give really for the measure of this value the value of a certain quantity of labour; for the goods necessary to the satisfaction of these wants, do not themselves derive their natural and necessary value but from the labour which their acquisition has cost. Thus labour, our only original good, is only valued by itself, and the unit is of the same kind as the quantities calculated.
Thirdly, in fine we have seen that, for a calculation to be just and certain, the unit must be determined in a manner the most rigorous, and absolutely invariable.† Here unhappily we are obliged to acknowledge that our unit of value is subject to variations, although comprehended within certain limits. It is an evil we cannot remedy, since it is derived from the very nature of an animated being, from his flexibility and his suppleness. We must never dissemble this evil. It was essential to recognize it. But it ought not to prevent us from making combinations of the effects of our faculties, in taking the necessary precautions; for since the variations of our sensible nature are comprehended within certain limits, we can always apply to them considerations drawn from the theory of the limits of numbers. But this observation ought to teach us how very delicate and scientific is the calculation of all moral and economical quantities, how much precaution it requires, and how imprudent it is to wish to apply to it indiscreetly the rigorous scale of numbers. However it be, as this rapid glance on the ideas of riches and poverty, derived from the sentiment of our wants, leads us to speak summarily of all our goods, we ought not to pass in silence the greatest of all, that which comprehends them all, without which none of them would exist, which we may call the only good, of a willing being, Liberty. It merits a separate article.
From the faculty of willing arise likewise the ideas of liberty and constraint.
Nothing would be more easy than to inspire some interest in all generous souls, by commencing this chapter with a kind of hymn to this first of all the goods of sensible nature, Liberty. But these explosions of sentiment, have no object but to electrize one's self, or to excite the feelings of those whom we address. Now a man who sincerely devotes himself to the search of truth, is sufficiently animated by the end he proposes, and counts on the same disposition in all those by whom he wishes to be read. The love of what is good and true is a real passion. This passion is I believe sufficiently novel, at least it seems to me that it could not exist in all its force, but since it has been proved by reasonings, and by facts, that the happiness of man, is proportionate to the mass of his intelligence, and that the one and the other does and can increase indefinitely. But since these two truths have been demonstrated, this new passion which characterizes the epoch in which we live is not rare, whatever may be said of it, and it is as energetic and more constant than any other. Let us not then seek to excite but to satisfy it, and let us speak of liberty as coolly, as if this word itself did not put in motion all the powers of the soul.
I say that the idea of liberty arises from the faculty of willing; for, with Locke, I understand by liberty, the power of executing our will, of acting conformably with our desire. And I maintain, that it is impossible to attach any clear idea to this word when we give it another signification. Thus there would be no liberty were there no will; and liberty cannot exist before the birth of will. It is then real nonsense, to pretend that the will is free to exist or not.∗ And such were almost all the famous decisions, which subjugated the mind before the birth of the true study of the human understanding. Accordingly the consequences which were drawn from these pretended principles, and especially from this one, were for the most part completely absurd. But this is not the time to occupy ourselves with them.
Without doubt, we cannot too often repeat it, a sensible being cannot will without a motive, he cannot will but in virtue of the manner in which he is affected. Thus his will follows from his anterior impressions, quite as necessarily as every effect follows the cause which has the properties necessary for producing it. This necessity is neither a good nor an evil for a sensible being. It is the consequence of his nature; it is the condition of his existence; it is the datum which he cannot change, and from which he should always set out in all his speculations.
But when a will is produced in an animated being, when he has conceived any determination whatsoever, this sentiment of willing, which is always a suffering, as long as it is not satisfied, has in recompense the admirable property of reacting on the organs, of regulating the greater part of their movements, of directing the employment of almost all the faculties, and thereby of creating all the means of enjoyment and power of the sensible being, when no extraneous force restrains him, that is to say when the willing being is free.
Liberty, taken in this its most general sense, (and the only reasonable one) signifying the power of executing our will, is then the remedy of all our ills, the accomplishment of all our desires, the satisfaction of all our wants, and consequently the first of all our goods, that which produces and comprehends them all. It is the same thing as our happiness. It has the same limits, or rather our happiness cannot have either more or less extension than our liberty; that is to say than our power of satisfying our desires. Constraint on the contrary, whatsoever it be, is the opposite of liberty; it is the cause of all our sufferings, the source of all our ills. It is even rigorously our only evil, for every ill is always the contrariety of a desire. We should assuredly have none, if we were free to deliver ourselves from it whenever we should wish; it is truely the Oromazis and Orismanes, the good and the evil principle.
The constraint from which we suffer, or rather which we suffer, since it is itself which constitutes all suffering, may be of different natures, and is susceptible of different degrees. It is direct and immediate, or only mediate and indirect. It comes to us from animate or from inanimate beings, it is invincible or may be surmounted. That which is the effect of physical forces, which enchains the action of our faculties, is immediate, while that which is the result of different combinations of our understanding, or of certain moral considerations, is but indirect and mediate, although very real likewise. The one and the other, according to circumstances, may be insurmountable, or may be susceptible of yielding to our efforts.
In all of these different cases, we have different methods of conducting ourselves, to escape from the suffering of constraint, to effect the accomplishment of our desires, in a word to arrive at satisfaction, at happiness. For once again I say these three things are one and the same Of these different methods of arriving at the only end of all our efforts as of all our desires, of all our wants, as of all our means, we should always take those which are most capable of conducting us to it. This is likewise our only duty, that which comprehends all others. The mean of fulfilling this only duty, is in the first place, if our desires are susceptible of satisfaction, to study the nature of the obstacles opposed, and to do all that depends on us to surmount them; secondly, if our desires cannot be accomplished, but by submitting to other evils, that is to say by renouncing other things, which we desire, to balance the inconveniences, and decide for the least; thirdly, if the success of our desires is entirely impossible, we must renounce them, and withdraw without murmuring within the limits of our power. Thus all is reduced to the employment of our intellectual faculties: First, in properly estimating our wants, then in extending our means, as far as possible; finally in submitting to the necessity of our nature, to the invincible condition of our existence.
But I perceive that I have mentioned the word duty. The idea which this word expresses well merits a separate chapter. It is sufficient in this to have terminated the examination of all our goods, by showing that since all our means of happiness consist in the voluntary employment of our faculties, Liberty, the power of acting according to our will, includes all our goods, is our only good, and that our only duty is to encrease this power, and to use it well, that is to say so to use it as not ultimately to cramp and restrain it.
Would it be desired, before quitting this subject, to apply to this first of all goods, Liberty, the idea of value, which we have seen arise necessarily from the idea of good? And would it be asked, what is the value of liberty? It is evident that the sum of the liberty of a being feeling and willing, being the power of using his faculties according to his will, the entire value of this liberty is equal to the entire value of the employment of the faculties of this being: that if from this sum of liberty a portion only be detracted, the value of the portion detracted is equal to the value of the faculties, from the exercise of which he is debarred, and that the value of that which remains to him is the same with that of the faculties, the use of which he still preserves; and, finally, it is also manifest that, however feeble the faculties of an animated being, the absolute loss of his liberty is for him a loss truly infinite, and one to which he cannot set any price, since it is absolutely every thing for him, it is the extinction of every possibility of happiness; it is the loss of the sum total of his being; it can admit of no compensation, and deprives him of the disposal of what he might receive in return.
These general notions suffice for the moment. I will add but one reflection. It is commonly said that man, entering a state of society, sacrifices a portion of his liberty to secure the remainder. After what we have just said, this expression is not exact. It does not give a just idea either of the cause or of the effect, nor even of the origin of human societies. In the first place, man never lives completely insulated; he cannot exist thus, at least in his first infancy. Thus the state of society does not commence for him on a fixed day, or from premeditated design; it is established insensibly, and by degrees. Secondly, man in associating himself more and more, with his fellow beings, and in daily connecting himself more closely with them, by tacit or express conventions, does not calculate on diminishing his anterior liberty, or on weakening the total power of executing his will, which he previously had. He has always in view its increase. If he renounces certain modes of employing it, it is that he may be assisted, or at least not opposed, in other uses which he may wish to make of it, and which he judges more important to him. He consents that his will should be a little restrained, in certain cases, by that of his fellow beings: but it is that it may be much more powerful over all other beings, and even on these themselves on other occasions, so that the total mass of power, or of liberty, which he possesses should be thereby augmented. This I think is the idea which should be formed of the effect and the end of the gradual establishment of the social state. Whenever it does not produce this result, it does not attain its destination: but it attains it always in a greater or less degree, notwithstanding its universal and enormous imperfections. We will elsewhere develope the consequences of these observations. Now let us go on to the examination of the idea of duty.
Finally, from the faculty of willing arise the ideas of rights and of duties.
The ideas of rights and of duties are, by some, said to be correspondent and correlative. I do not deny them to be so, in our social relations; but this truth, if it is one, requires many explanations. Let us examine different cases.
Let us make in the first place a supposition absolutely ideal. Let us imagine a being feeling and willing, but incapable of all action, a simple monad endowed with the faculty of willing, but deprived of a body, and of every organ on which its will can react, and by which it could produce any effect, or have influence on any other being. It is manifest that such a being would have no right, in the sense we often give to this word, that is to say none of those rights which comprehend the idea of a correspondent duty in another sensible being, since it is not in contact with any being whatsoever. But to the eyes of reason and of universal justice, such as the human understanding can conceive them, (for we can never speak of other things) this monad has clearly the right to satisfy his desires and to appease his wants; for this violates no law, natural or artificial. It is, on the contrary, to follow the laws of his nature and to obey the conditions of his existence.
At the same time this monad, having no power of action, no means of laboring for the satisfaction of his wants, has no duty: for it could not have the duty of employing in one way rather than another the means which it has not, of performing one action rather than another, since it cannot perform any action.
This supposition then shows us two things; first, as we have already said, that all our rights arise from wants, and all duties from means; secondly, that rights may exist, in the most general sense of this word, without correspondent duties on the part of other beings, nor even on the part of the being possessing these rights: Consequently these two ideas are not as essentially and necessarily correspondent, and correlative, as is commonly believed; for they are not so in their origin. Now let us state another hypothesis.
Let us suppose a being feeling and willing, constituted as we are, that is to say endowed with organs and faculties which his will puts in action, but completely separated from every other sensible being, and in contact only with inanimate beings, if there be such, or at least only with beings which should not manifest to him the phenomenon of sentiment, as there are many such for us. In this state this being still has not those rights, taken in the restrained sense of this word, which embrace the idea of a correspondent duty in another sensible being, since he is not in relation with any being of this kind; yet he has clearly the general right; like the monad of which we have just spoken, of procuring for himself the accomplishment of his desires, or, which is the same thing, of providing for his wants; because this is for him, as for it, to obey the laws of his nature, and to conform himself to the condition of his existence; and this being is such that it cannot be moved by any other impulsion, nor have any other principle of action. This willing being has then, in this case, all imaginable rights. We may even see that his rights are truly infinite, since they are bounded by nothing. At least they have no limits but those of his desires themselves, from which these emanate, and which are their only source.
But here there is something more than in the first hypothesis. This being, endowed like ourselves with organs and faculties which his will puts into motion, is not as the simple monad of which we spoke before. He has means, therefore he has duties; for he has the duty of well employing these means. But every duty supposes a punishment incurred by an infraction of it, a law which pronounces this punishment, a tribunal which applies this law; accordingly in the case in question the punishment of the being of which we speak, for not rightly employing his means, is to see them produce effects less favorable to his satisfaction, or even to see them produce such as are entirely destructive of it. The laws which pronounce this punishment, are those of the organization of this willing and acting being: they are the conditions of his existence. The tribunal which applies these laws is that of necessity itself, against which he cannot guard himself. Thus the being which occupies us has, incontestably, the duty of well employing his means, since he has them; and of observing that this general duty comprehends that of well appreciating, in the first place, the desires or wants which these means are destined to satisfy, of well studying afterwards these means themselves, their extent and their limits, and, finally, of labouring in consequence to restrain the one and extend the other as much as possible: for his unhappiness will never proceed but from the inferiority of means relatively to wants, since if wants were always satisfied there would be no possibility of suffering. The insulated being in question, has then rights proceeding all from his wants, and duties arising all out of his means; and, in whatever position you place him, he will never have rights or duties of another nature: for all those of which he may become susceptible will arise from these, and will only be their consequences. We may even say that all proceed from his wants, for if he had not wants he would not need means to satisfy them; it would not even be possible he should have any means. Thus it would not be conceivable that he could have any duty whatsoever. If you wish to convince yourself of this, try to punish an impassive being. I have then had reason to say, that from the willing faculty arise the ideas of rights and of duties; and I can add, with assurance, that these ideas of rights and duties are not so exactly correspondent, and correlative, the one with the other, as they are commonly said to be: but that that of duties is subordinate to that of rights, as that of means is to that of wants, since we can conceive rights without duties, as in our first hypothesis; and in the second there are duties only because there are wants, and that they consist only in the general duty of satisfying these wants.
The better to convince ourselves of these two truths, let us make a third supposition: let us place this being, organised as we are in relation with other beings, feeling and willing like himself, and acting also in virtue of their will, but which are such that he cannot correspond fully with them, nor perfectly comprehend their ideas and their motives. These animated beings have their rights also, proceeding from their wants: but this operates no change in those of the being whose destiny we investigate. He has the same rights as before, since he has the same wants. He has, moreover, the same general duty of employing his means so as to procure the satisfaction of his wants. Thus he has the duty of conducting himself with those beings which show themselves to be feeling and willing, otherwise than with those, which appear to him inanimate; for as they act in consequence of their will it is his duty to conciliate or subjugate that will in order to bring them to contribute to the satisfaction of his desires, and as he is supposed incapable of communicating completely with them, and consequently of forming any convention with them, he has no other means of directing their will towards the accomplishment of his desires, and the satisfaction of his wants, than immediate persuasion or direct violence. And he employs, and ought to employ, the one and the other according to circumstances, without any other consideration than of producing the effects he desires.
In truth this being, organized as we are, is such, that a view of sensible nature inspires in him the desire to sympathize with it, that it should enjoy of his enjoyments and suffer of his sufferings. This is a new want which it produces in him, and we shall see in the sequel that it is not one of those of which he ought to endeavour to rid himself, for it is useful for him to be submitted to it. He ought then to satisfy it as the others, and consequently he is under the duty of sparing to himself the pain which the sufferings of sensible beings cause him, so far as his other wants do not oblige him to support this pain. This is still a consequence of the general duty of satisfying all his desires.
The picture which we have just drawn according to theory is the simple exposition of our relations with animals taken in general, which relations are afterwards modified in particular cases according to the degree of knowledge we have of their sentiments, and according to the relations of habit and reciprocal benevolence which take place between us and them, as between us and our fellow beings. I believe this picture to be a very faithful representation of these relations; for it is equally remote from that sentimental exaggeration which would make criminal in us any destruction whatever of these animals, and from the systematic barbarity which would make us consider as legitimate their most useless sufferings, or even persuade us that the pain which a sensible being manifests, is not pain when this sensible being is not made exactly like ourselves.
In fact these two systems are equally false. The first is untenable, because in practice it is absolutely impossible to follow it rigorously. It is evident that we should be violently destroyed, or slowly famished and eaten, by the other animated beings if we never destroyed them; and that even with the most minute attention it is impossible for us to avoid causing a great number of beings, more or less peroeptible to our senses, to suffer and die. Now we have incontestably the right to act and to live, since we are born for the one as well as for the other.
The second system is not less erroneous, for in theory it rashly establishes between the different states of sensible nature a line of separation which no phenomenon authorizes us to admit. There is absolutely no one fact which gives us a right to affirm, nor even to suppose that the state of suffering in the animated beings with which we communicate imperfectly, is not exactly the same thing as it is in us or in our fellow beings;∗ and on this gratuitous supposition, this system condemns us to combat and destroy as a weakness the sentiment, the want the most general and imperious of human nature, that of sympathy and commiseration; a want which we shall soon see is the most happy result of our organization, and without which our existence would become very miserable, and even impossible. Moreover, in practice this system is opposed to the usage the most universal of all times and of all individuals; for there has never been, I believe, an animal in the human form, which has sincerely and originally felt that a sight of suffering, accurately expressed, was a thing of indifference. The indifference which is the fruit of habit, and the pleasure even of cruelty, for cruelty sake, a frightful pleasure, which may have been produced in some denaturalized beings by accidental causes, proves that it is the case of a natural inclination surmounted by time, or overcome by effort, and by the pleasure which arises in us from every effort followed by success. As to that cruelty which is the product of vengeance, it is a proof the more of the thesis I sustain; for it is because of the profound sentiment that the vindictive being has of suffering, that he wishes to produce it in the one that is odious to him, and he always partakes more or less involuntarily and forcibly of the evil which he causes.
These two opposite systems, but both fruits of a derangement of the imagination, are then equally absurd in theory and practice; this, of itself, is a great presumption in favour of the intermediate opinion which I establish, which moreover is found to be conformable to the usage of all times and all places, and to furnish reason from the conditions of our nature, well observed, for what our manner of being, in respect to the animals, has in it singular and contradictory at the first glance. But what is more forcible, and absolutely convincing, in my opinion, is that the same principle which I have established, that our rights are always without limits, or at least equal to our wants, and that our duties are never but the genral duty of satisfying our wants, will explain to us all our relations with our fellow beings, and establish them on immoveable bases, and such as will be the same everywhere, and always, in all countries, and in all times, in which our intimate nature shall not have changed.
Let us now make a fourth hypothesis which is that in which we are all placed. Let us suppose the animated being we are now considering in contact with other beings like himself. These beings have wants, and consequently rights, as he has, but this makes no change in his. He has always as many rights as wants, and the general duty of satisfying these wants. If he could not communicate completely with these beings like himself, and make conventions with them, he would be in respect to them in the state in which we all are, and in which as we have just seen we have reason to be in regard to the other animals.
Will any one say this is a state of war? He will be wrong. This would be an exaggeration. The state of war is that in which we incessantly seek the destruction of one another; because we cannot assure ourselves of our own preservation, but by the annihilation of our enemy. We are not in such a relation, but with those animals whose instinct constantly leads them to hurt us. It is not so as to the others; even those which we sacrifice to our wants, we attack only inasmuch as these wants, more or less pressing, force us. There are some of them which live with us in a state of peaceable subjection, others in perfect indifference. With all we wound their will only because it is contrary to ours, and not for the pleasure of wounding it. There is even in regard to all this general necessity of sympathising with sensible nature, which pains us at the sight of their suffering, and which unites us more or less with them. This state then is not essentially a state of hostility. It frequently becomes such: but this is by accident. It is essentially the state of alienage (d'etrangete) if we may thus express ourselves. It is that of beings, willing and acting separately, each for his own satisfaction, without being able to explain themselves mutually, or to make conventions for the regulation of the cases in which their wills are opposed.
Such, as we have said, would be the relations of man with his fellow men, if his means of communicating with them were very imperfect. He would not be precisely for them an enemy, but an indifferent stranger. His relations would even then be softened by the necessity of sympathising, which is much stronger in him in the case of animals of his own species; and we must still add to this necessity that of love, which strengthens it extremely in many circumstances, for love has not perfect enjoyment without mutual consent, without a very lively sympathy; and when this sympathy, necessary to the full satisfaction of the desire, has existed, it frequently gives birth to habits of good will, from whence arises the sentiment of fraternity, which produces in its turn ties more durable and more tender.
Nevertheless, in this state quarrels are frequent; and, properly speaking, justice and injustice do not yet exist. The rights of the one do not affect the rights of the other. Every one has as many rights as wants, and the general duty of satisfying these wants without any foreign consideration. There does not begin to be any restrictions on these rights and this duty, or rather on the manner of fulfilling this duty, but at the moment in which means of mutual understanding are established; and consequently conventions tacit or formal. There solely is the birth of justice and injustice, that is to say of the balance between the rights of one and the rights of another, which necessarily were equal till this instant. The Greeks who called Ceres Legislatrix were wrong. It is to grammar, to language, they ought to have given this title. They had placed the origin of laws, and of justice, at the moment in which men have amongst them relations more stable, and conventions more numerous. But they ought to have remounted to the birth of the first conventions, informal or explicit. In every way the duty of moderns is to penetrate further and more profoundly than the ancients. Hobbes, then, was certainly right in establishing the foundation of all justice on conversations; but he was wrong in saying before, that the anterior state is rigorously and absolutely a state of war, and that this is our true instinct, and the wish of our nature. Were this the case we should never have withdrawn from it.∗ A false principle has led him to an excellent consequence. It has always appeared to me singularly remarkable, that this philosopher, who of all men who have ever written is perhaps the most recommendable for the rigorous concatenation and close connexion of his ideas, should not however have arrived at this fine conception of the necessity for conventions, the source of all justice, but, by starting from a false or at least an inexact principle, (a state of war the natural state); and that from the just and profound sentiment of the want of peace among men, he has been led to a false idea the necessity of servitude. When we see such examples, how ought we to tremble in enouncing an opinion?∗
Yet I cannot help believing that which I have just explained to be true.
It seems to me proved, that from our faculty of willing proceed the ideas of rights and duties; that from our wants proceed all our rights, and from our means all our duties; that we have always as many rights as wants, and the single duty of providing for these wants; that the wants and the rights of other sensible beings, whether of our own or a different species, do not affect ours; that our rights do not begin to be restrained, but at the moment of the birth of conventions; that our general duty is not changed for this as to its foundation, but only to the manner of fulfilling it; and that it is at this moment alone, that justice and injustice properly so called commence.
It is not yet the time to develope all the consequences of these principles, but it is time to terminate this long preliminary, by the reflections to which it gives rise.
The general considerations on which we have just dwelt, are those which first present themselves to our understanding when we begin to observe our will. However little we reflect thereon, we see first that it is a mode of our sensibility, which arises from a judgment, clear or confused, formed on what we feel, that if our pure and simple sensibility begins to give us an obscure idea of our self, and of the possession of its affections, this admirable mode of our sensibility, which we call will, by the resistance it experiences, causes us to know beings different from us, and completes our idea of individuality, of personality, and property, exclusive of whatsoever affects us.∗ It is not less visible, that this faculty of willing is the source of all our wants, and of all our miseries; for an indifferent being would be impassive; and it is equally manifest that this same faculty, by the wonderful power it has of putting our organs into action, and of giving motion to our members, is also the source of all our means and of all our resources; for all our power consists in the employment of our physical and intellectual forces.
It follows from this, that every animated being, in virtue of the laws of his nature, has the right of satisfying all his desires, which are his wants, and the sole duty of employing his means in the best possible manner for the attainment of this object; for endowed with passion, he cannot be condemned to suffer but as little as possible, and endowed with action, he ought to avail himself of it to this end. It follows thence, further, that liberty, the power of executing his will, is for a willing being the first good, and includes them all, for he would be always happy if he had always the power of satisfying all his desires; and all his ills consist always in constraint, that is to say in the inability to satisfy himself.
We see moreover that the employment of our force, labour of every kind, is our only primitive riches, the source of all others, the first cause of their value, and that labour itself has always two values. The one is natural and necessary: it is that of all those things which are indispensable to the satisfaction of the wants of the animated being which performs this labour during the time he is performing it. The other is eventual, and often conventional: it consists in the mass of utility that results from this same labour.
In fine we see, with equal clearness, that the manner of fulfilling our single duty, that of well employing our means, varies according to the circumstances in which we are placed; whether it be when we are in contact with those beings only which do not manifest any sensibility, or when we have to do with animated beings, but to which we can make ourselves but imperfectly understood, or when we are in relation with sensible beings like ourselves, with whom we can perfectly correspond and make conventions. At this point justice and injustice, properly so called, and true society, commence; the object and motive of which is always to augment the power of every one, by making that of others concur with it, and by preventing them from reciprocally hurting one another.
All these first ideas are good and sound, at least I think so, and begin already to throw some light on the subject with which we are occupied; but they are far from being sufficient. They do not sufficiently inform us what are the numerous results of the employment of our force, of our labour, in a word of our actions, and what new interests their combinations produce among us, nor what are the different sentiments which germinate from our first desires, or what they have useful or injurious to the happiness of all and every one: nor, finally, what is the best possible direction of these actions and sentiments. These are, however, so many subjects necessary to be treated of in order to give a complete history of the will and its effects; and it is there we find again the division we announced. It is requisite then to enterinto further details, and I will now begin to speak of our actions.
OF OUR ACTIONS.
FIRST PART OF THE TREATISE ON THE WILL AND ITS EFFECTS.