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Full text of "Authority and the individual"

AUTHORITY   AND   THE    INDIVIDUAL
with no sense of shame and no feeling that you have
been wasting your time. It is dangerous to allow
politics and social duty to dominate too completely
our conception of what constitutes individual excel-
lence. What I am trying to convey, although it is not
dependent upon any theological belief,  is in close
harmony  with  Christian  ethics.   Socrates   and  the
Apostles laid it down that we ought to obey God
rather than man, and the Gospels enjoin love of God
as emphatically as love of our neighbours. All great
religious leaders, and also all great artists and in-
tellectual discoverers, have shown a sense of moral
compulsion to fulfil their creative impulses, and a
sense of moral exaltation when they have done so.
This emotion is the basis of what the Gospels call
duty to God, and is (I repeat) separable from theo-
logical belief. Duty to my neighbour, at any rate as
my neighbour conceives it, may not be the whole of
my duty. If I have a profound conscientious conviction
that I ought to act in a way that is condemned by
governmental   authority,   I   ought   to   follow   my
conviction. And conversely, society ought to allow
me freedom to follow my convictions except when
there are very powerful reasons for restraining me.
But it is not only acts inspired by a sense of duty
that should be free from excessive social pressure.
An artist or a scientific discoverer may be doing
what is of most social utility, but he cannot do his
proper work from a sense of duty alone. He must
have a spontaneous impulse to paint or to discover,
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