Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 7: What Makes the Minds of Democratic Peoples Incline toward Pantheism a - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 3
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
chapter 7: What Makes the Minds of Democratic Peoples Incline toward Pantheism a - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 3 
Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la démocratie en Amérique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, translated from the French by James T. Schleifer. A Bilingual French-English editions, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). Vol. 3.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This bilingual edition of Tocqueville’s work contains a new English translation of the French critical edition published in 1990. The copyright to the French version is held by J. Vrin and it is not available online. The copyright to the English translation, the translator’s note, and index is held by Liberty Fund.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
What Makes the Minds of Democratic Peoples Incline toward Pantheisma
I will show later how the predominant taste of democratic peoples for very general ideas is found again in politics; but now I want to point out its principal effect in philosophy.
It cannot be denied that pantheism has made great progress in our time. The writings of a portion of Europe clearly carry its mark. The Germans introduce it into philosophy, and the French into literature. Among the works of the imagination that are published in France, most contain some opinions or some portrayals borrowed from pantheistic doctrines, or allow a sort of tendency toward those doctrines to be seen in their authors. This does not appear to me to happen only by accident, but is due to a lasting cause.b
As conditions become more equal and each man in particular becomes more similar to all the others, weaker and smaller, you get used to no longer envisaging citizens in order to consider only the people; you forget individuals in order to think only about the species.
In these times, the human mind loves to embrace all at once [and to mix up in the same view] a host of diverse matters; it constantly aspires to be able to connect a multitude of consequences to a single cause.
The mind is obsessed by the idea of unity, looking for it in all directions, and, when it believes unity has been found, it embraces it and rests there. Not only does the human mind come to discover in the world only one creation and one creator, this first division of things still bothers it, and it readily tries to enlarge and to simplify its thought by containing God and the universe in a single whole. If I find a philosophical system according to which the things material and immaterial, visible and invisible that the world contains are no longer considered except as the various parts of an immense being that alone remains eternal amid the continual change and incessant transformation of everything that composes it, I will have no difficulty concluding that such a system, although it destroys human individuality, or rather because it destroys it, will have secret charms for men who live in democracy; all their intellectual habits prepare them for conceiving it and set them on the path to adopt it. It naturally attracts their imagination and fixes it; it feeds the pride of their mind and flatters its laziness.c
Among the different systems by the aid of which philosophy seeks to explain the world, pantheism seems to me the one most likely to seduce the human mind in democratic centuries.d All those who remain enamored of the true grandeur of man must join forces and struggle against it.
[a. ] In the first page of the manuscript: “ ≠Very small chapter done afterward and that I think should be placed after general ideas. Think more whether it must be included and where to place it. Perhaps it is too unique to be separate. ≠”
It carries the number 3bis in the manuscript, and the first paragraph clearly indicates that at the moment of drafting it followed the current chapter 4, consecrated to general ideas in politics. The jacket of the chapter in the manuscript also contains a rough draft of the chapter.
[b. ] In the margin, in pencil: “[illegible word]. Ampère.”
[c. ] Religious .-.-.-.-.-.- of a unique being regulating all men by the same laws is an essentially democratic idea. It can arise in other centuries, but it can have its complete development only in these centuries. Example of that in the Christianity of the Middle Ages when populations, without losing the general idea of a unique god, split up the divinity in the form of saints. So in democratic centuries a religion that wants to strike minds naturally must therefore get as close as possible to the idea of unity, of generality, of equality” (With the notes of chapter 5. Rubish, 1).
[d. ] “Democracy, which brings about the idea of the unity of human nature, brings men back constantly to the idea of the unity of the creator./
“Household gods, particular saints of a family, patrons of cities and of kingdoms, all that is aristocratic.
“To accept all these different celestial powers, you must not believe all to be of the same species.
[With a bracket that includes the last two paragraphs: Hic.]” (In the rubish of chapter 5. Rubish, 1).