Skip to main content

Full text of "Albert Salomon Collection 1926-1959"

See other formats

K^ ^J^ 

^/*r;:[Va>v f^yJt'sre^ A'~Z_-^ 



■^■■w " ' ." y* . '* . ' ry^^w*^^*^^** 

"... /.-■"^•v 




r^;^f ■ 


-*. n - 







Joseph W. Cohen 

Reprinted without change of paging from University of Colo- 
rado SttKiie9, Vol. 1, No. 2, Boulder, Colorado, June, 1940 


M V > . 'P. ...m > 



<./■■!'■' '.[1 TS-,? ', ■ 1 . , 

.•',^1,- ::.'V/::ä::;|7^*!'^;-:^' 

^ J-. 

^^' Vv*- 





^^ ^ By Joseph W. Cohen* 

The influence of philosophy upon literature and the interrelations, historical 
and contemporary, between ideas and creative writing have always constituted 
an important aspect of the work of historians of culture. Students in literary 
criticism and biography and in the field of aesthetics are also constantly con- 
fronted with the task of treating among many other things the impact of beliefs 
upon creative expression, whether in a Single writer or in a whole period of letters. 
The study of influences of particular scientific, religious, or philosophical ideas 
upon a given writer or literary work, in a given period of literature, is one of the 
most populär preoccupations of academic research in our leamed language and 
literature Journals. One can point to publications with such titles as Philosophy 
and Literature, Three Philosophical Poets, Poetry and Religion, to extensive studies 
of the philosophy of Lucretius, Dante, Molike, Goethe, Rousseau, Coleridge, 
Hardy, and others, to studies of the ndvel and ideas, the drama and ideas. Here 
and there outstanding historians and Interpreters of literature or of general 

* culture will illumin'e a whole epoch by their ability to exhibit the general relations 
— between significant thought currents of 2u period or a nation and its literary ex- 
pression. There are numerous studies (Jesding with the influence in letters of 
particular philosophies or of particular philosophers ancient or modern. Yet 
despite the wide ränge of attention to the unpact of ideas upon letters it is stränge 
that there exists no satisfactory study of the very complex problems, philosoph- 
ical, aesthetic, critical, and social which underlie every sudi specific or general 
treatment of the influence of philosophy on creative literature. 

. It is the purpose of this paper to try to indicate what some of these problems 

* are to explore some of the foundations upon which they rest both in literatiure 

• Assocbite Profeuor of PhUot(^>hy, University oi Colorado. 





■■, ^»■^'""'if.' 

-'.■-.'" -■;i'^r 


■l't •< . .*■ ij 




and in phflosopliy, and the advantages which may accrue from more systematic 
study of this subject by doing justice to the implications of these problems. 

To discuss the problems of the mfluence of philosophy upon literature implies 
taking literature seriously in its füll creative significance. It involves taking 
philosophy with equal seriousness. It is easy enough to trivialize our approach to 
either of these realms of human achievement by regarding philosophy or litera- 
ture as luxury activities of the human mind. Many indeed do so. It b also 
true that some literary critics will regard philosophy as the lofty lucubrations of 
academic minds. Some philosophers take literature as a realm of practice remote 
from their arduous intellectual specialties with far less excuse indeed than the 
critics have. Many philosophers and critics who do neither, however, and who 
approach at any time the topic of the relation between these two realms can 
vitiate their treatment of the subject by dealing with the problem from too 
casual an angle. The philosopher may condescend towards what he regards as 
stale popularizations of ideas in literature, the bellettrist may note With interest 
some intellectual Invasion in a work, treat it with too distant a respect and con- 
sequently, at best, over-simplify its role within the body of writing of which he 
treats. The result in each case is superficiality. 

There have, however, been some serious if partial approaches to this problem 
by philosophers, either in such above-mentioned studies of selected philosophical 
poets in Isolation or through occasional illustrations of the impact of a particular 
line of philosophical influence upon a literary epoch. 

On the other band, a wide movement has just begim for a study of the history 
of ideas under the leadership of A. O. Lovejoy, and a new Journal of the History 
of Ideas has just appeared. For a considerable number of years Lovejoy has been 
one of the few philosophers contributing to literary and language Journals 
occasional important evaluations of the influence of certain ideas upon creative 
writers. An enumeration of the topics upon which this new Journal invites 
contributions will in itself indicate that most of the sins of Omission implied 
above have now been recognized. It calls for studies of : 

l. The influence of dassical on modern thought, and of European traditions and writings on 
American literature, arts, philosophy, and social movements. 2. The influence of philosophical 
ideas in literature, the arts, religion, and social thought, induding the impact of pervasive general 
conceptions upon Standards of taste and morality and educational Xheories and methods. 3. 
The influence of scientific discoveries and theories in the same provUices of thought, and in 
philosophy; the cultural effects of the applications of sdence. 4. The history of the develop- 
ment and the effects of individual pervasive and widely ramifying ideas or doctrines, such as 
evolution, progress, primitivism, diverse theories of human motivation and appraisals of human 
nature, mechanismic and organismic conceptions of nature and sodety, metaphysical and 
historical determinism and indeterminism, individualism and collectivism, nationalism and 


■ -^\ '^ 

• *■■ 

,:>V _ 

■ • •■^^'^;:H, . . 

■* . ' '' . . J**'*-*- ■■■"■■ '-■ \<* -,,,■ 


June, 1940) * : 




'.'■*: '!■■ ' 

Such a program is mclusive enough, and the subject of this paper finds a place 
within its wider scope. / ■ ;•/ ^ >o 

There is reason for some deviation from Professor Lovejoy's approach given 
in his two lengthy and indispensable introductions to the problems of the study 
of the history of ideas, one, in his book Tke Great Chain of Beingj and the other, 
an introductory article to the new Journal above mentioned. In the first, he 
presented an analysis of the various factors which in his opinibn are of the 
greatest importance to the study of "philosophy not as a science but as a factor 
in history," meaning by history all the concrete expressions of the life of men, 
including landscape gardening as well as literature. Thus formulated, the prob- 
lem is a much wider one than that with which we are dealing, because Lovejoy 
includes all phases of men*s reflective life. As a result it might be expected that 
some factors more specifically pertinent to the influence of philosophy in creative 
literature are dealt with only indirectly. 

The factors of greatest importance to Professor Lovejoy, are components of 
the larger "isms" by which we ordinarily identify philosophies, revealing them- 
selves within larger movements and tendencies like idealism, rationalism, trans- 
scendentalism, naturalism. The latter he says are names for complexes, not 
simples. He stresses instead, with ample and precise illustrations, the explicit 
or implicit assumptions of a generation or of individuals, which pervade a com- 
mon body of beliefs and are seen in writers as types of imagery or characteristic 
methods of approach. There are besides not only implied or expressed logical 
preferences, "dialectical motives" as he calls them, but also certain types of 
"metaphysical pathos" or modes of aesthetic charm which accompany recurring 
varieties of speculative vision. FinaUy there are, says Lovejoy, the linguistic 
stereotypes of an age, Bacon's familiär idols of the market place. 

Lovejoy is presenting in this work one of many "unit-ideas" — the idea of a 
Scale of being — which appear continuously in the collective thought of many 
persons and "not merely in the doctrines or opinions of a small number of pro- 
found thinkers or eminent writers . . . ideas which attain a wide diffusion, which 
become a part of the stock of many minds."^ it foUows, therefore, that this 
leads often to the detailed study of the work of forgotten minor writers of slight 
or of no present importance but, as Lovejoy says, often more significant to the 
historian of ideas than the great writers of literature. 

, This whole program is of the greatest importance to the study of the inter- 
relations between philosophy and literature. But it seems to omit at löast one 
set of considerations very essential to that study, namely, the specific dynamic 
relations between a particular mode of thought and the needs of society at any 
given time, and between the representative, creative writers and the social and 
intellectual pattems of thought and value in their generation. Lovejoy does 





, ;;■' 

^ •'■'■ 

""< ■ 


• 4- 

i • ■ 


'■' iv 


■ ■■.'•<.■:''■■ 


>• .' 

;.. . 

; ■ 



'■■-.V;.! ,' 


''•sr/' : 

■ ■•■■•, 


■ %,'■■'':•' 

■ ■ !'■. ' 

■ ■■ 




[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

envisage the possibility of a conöbution to oiir understanding of how new beliefs 
and inteUectual fashions appear and replace old ones, but wams against the 
temptation toward merely imaginative historical generalizations which are likely 
to inveigle the Student of the history of ideas. 

In the second introductory artide referred to above, he is more explicit both 
with regard to the aesthetic problems which arise in the study of ideas in litera- 
ture and with respect to the specific theory of history which underlies his whole 
approach. He raises new questions about the relevance of the biography of the 
writer to the intrinsic aesthetic worth of his creative product, and rightly Stresses 
art^s function of communication and the apperceptive nature of his audience's 
response to every work. Whüe tolerant of opposing views, he considers the 
above as a quite sufficient minimum justification for the study of the wnter's 
ideas, and for regardmg such study as a significant approach to literature. 

He then tums specificaUy to matters of historical interpretation and wams us 
of the danger of new trends toward affective and sociological explanations of the 
explicit facts of history. At this point he subscribes quite definitely to the 
osciUatory view of history and of cHmates of thought.» This is one form of the 
unhistorical view of history which, appüed to Uterature, mterprets statically, 
as altemations of taste, the changes in basic orientation which are part of the 
history of every art. This position of Lovejoy's seems to explain why he omitted 
in his earlier introduction the dynamic factor which we have stressed above, 
which is in the writer's opinion of the greatest significance in the study of the 
role of ideas in the works of great writers. It also explams why Professor Love- 
joy dismisses so lightly the unportant contribution which the concept of ideology 
has made in recent years to the study of ideas in any field so prof oundly rooted in 
concrete living as'Hterature inevitably is, however vaUd the rejection may be m 
the sphere of "pure inteUection"; although he expUcitly states that "it would be 
a misconception to suppose that the intellectual historian is concemed solely 
with the history of intellection." 
^ Behind this position of Lovejoy's there seems to lurk the concem lest the 
Claims of theory be jeopardized by an eye too searchingly cast upon practice. 

But this seems gratuitous. „ . .£ j 

The extended attention here paid to these two artides appears whoUy justified 
in view of the launching of a new research joumal whose aim is to deal with all 
the Problems germane to the subject of this paper. A point of major emphasis 
. m what foUows, though it is not our sole concem, will be related to the very mat- 
ter here stressed as having been slighted in Professor Lovejoy's analysis. But 
it is not the intention to carry any further in this paper the issue of controversy 

which has been raised. 
Our purppse is to deal, within the brief limits available, with topics whidi seem 

■* S] 




June, 1940) | 





central to the general problem, with the hope that some contribution willbe 
made towards their clarification. . \ 




Creative literature is primarily an art, and like all art is sensuous first through 
its medium, the language of power. It is the sphere of lyricism, of spontaneities 
of feeling and imagination, of subtly intuitive metaphor, of ages-old and con- 
tinuous traditions of technical development. What then can it share in common 
with philosophy or how can it be influenced by this realm, par excellence, of 
abstractions, and the critique of abstractions, of severely intellectual discipline, 
of methodological investigations — the critical ahalysis of fundamental concepts 
and beliefs? 

But both literature and philosophy include considerably more than this. Are 
there any more intimate connections between these two realms of cultural ex- 
pression than the fact that philosophy takes cognizance of the total ränge of 
human experience, making no exception of literature and the arts, in its persistent 
efifort to achieve a critical interpretation of experience as a whole? 

The existence of philosophical poets like Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe would 
at once indicate that writers of scope may be as much concemed with ideas, as 
materials of literature, as they are with sensuous existence, and that the concem 
of philosophers with literature is matched by a reciprocal concern of literature 
with philosophy. 

. The philosopher's interest in literature, as philosopher, is by far the simpler side 
of the problem, and, though subject to some difference of philosophical opinion, 
can be more easily stated. Philosophy's task has been variously defined. We 
have already mentioned two aspects: the analysis of fimdamental concepts and 
beliefs, and the critical interpretation of experience as a whole. We should add 
at least one more: the determination as far as possible of the sense of direction of 
our civilization,ln order to bring it to the rational cognizance of men as a guide 

to action. 

To perform these tasks philosophy must take into its purview not only every 
major field of human experience, including the field of creative expression in art 
and literature, but also consider present directions in the light of tiie past. It 
must consider the history of experience if it would fathom its present Import and 
direction. Hegel, indeed, regarded philosophy as primarily a study of its own 
history and transformations. The classical contemplative view of knowledge- 
able activity has been yielding for some time to the demand that knowledge must 
give guidance in the concrete aflfairs of men. So philosophy, rightly seen, em- 
braces analysis, S3mthesis, and orientation. In the first task, analysis, it is the 
critical investigation of the foundations of assumptions, ideas, and beliefs in 



• ^: .:■: 


. ..■„s-^N-.-i Vi.-;- ?.•••:■ i 





[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

. s 

•>1 . 


.-:;.. •♦\ ' 


every major fieki of experience; in the second, synthesis, it seeks as far as possible 
to arrive at a consensus of the total fabric of our experience; in the third, orienta- 
tion, it looks backward into the history of experience and forward into the reahn 
of alternatives and possibilities as far as the total data permit, sometimes indeed 
much farther than available insight actually allows. Its primary concem in all 
of this is to understand and control nature, society, and man through the struc- 
tures of knowledge and value which man has reared. Sciences, arts, religions, 
and the ethics of social institutions and human personality, historically and ana- 
lytically considered, have been the main realms of philosophical concem. Ac- 
cording as one or the other of these has dominated in a given age or time, the 
philosophical S3rstems and verdicts of particular philosophers have varied in 
their central emphasis. Old problems which were once important have been 
replaced by new ones which seem more germane in a widened ränge of human 
experience. \i '- 

This summary of the tasks of philosophy in civilization, if correct, must not be 
taken to mean that the world's philosophies have always approximated to such 
formulae. The varieties of philosophy have been as numerous as the alterna- 
tives of emphasis indicated in its threefold function and in its numerous special 
fields. It is only of philosophy as a cxiltural form which seeks to render explicit 
the total Import of civilization that this description will hold true. Many major 
traditional philosophies like those of the classical schools and medieval Christi- 
anity, and the systematic structures reared by modern schools and mdividual 
thinkers, however much they may actually depend upon each other in the con- 
tinuous course of philosophical thought, are studied and savored as distinct uni- 
ties and have at times exercised a relatively independent influence upon thought 
and feeling in many communities of cultivation and in periods far removed in 
time from the original cUmate of thought which gave them birth. Dogmatic 
Claims, so often persuasively incorporated in such Systems, of the etemal and 
unchanging validity of their vision of the nature of things, have undoubtedly 
played their part in bringing this about. And no small blame lies with the 
methods by which the discipline of philosophy hi^s been taught. But in mitiga- 
tion it may be said that the same has been true of literature and art, and most 
other cultural forms until relatively recent times, a fact which has always tended 
to the distortion and misuse of the heritage of culture. 

The important considefration for our topic, however, is the recognition that 
the philosophical task o^jcritical analysis necessarily precedes all synthesis and 
evaluation of direction. The cultivated as well as the populär mind tends to 
regard philosophy solely in terms of its synoptic and spcculative cubninations, 
The trained philosopher is thoroughly awarc of the limited validity of grandiose 



-; " . i ■■•♦,■, '.l--. , .■ ,, 1... ' ' , . 

■ ':C\ '•. ■' 

June, 1940] 




and cosmic speculations based on feeling ör failli alone, or bound to the unex- 
amined dogmas of traditional authority. They are more of ten private ideologies 
or the mere manifestations of a cult rather than a culture. 

The concem of philosophy for the proper orientation of man in his personal 
and social action in the light of a total picture of reality will inevitably lead to a 
doctrine of values for the individual, for society, or for both. Philosophy as a 
way of life, therefore, is the coneeption most familiär to the layman and has the 
greatest concrete and populär appeal. It is in this sense, therefore, that litera- 
ture has for the most part been more or less influenced by philosophy, sometimes 
in divorce from, and sometimes with the inclusion of , the wider critical founda- 
tions upoh which a particular philosophy of life rests.— 

There are, however, for literature more complex and far subtler modes of con- 
tact with philosophical Systems of the past and the philosophical thought of the 
present, and with tjiese we shall deal below. Philosophy's own concem with 
literature and art is most obviously indicated in its branch of study called aes- 
thetics, the theory of beauty and ugliness. Since philosophy studies the mind 
of man and the mind's ways of knowing reality, it cannot leave out of account 
the Creative activity of the artist, which is one of the riebest and most positive 
modes of apprehension, and one the study of which is most calculated to widen 
our insight into the domains of mind and value. As one philosopher has em- 
phatically proclaimed, — "The first, the plainest, and the most certain evidence 
of what mind is is to be found in the experience of beauty contemplated and en- 
joyed . . . .Beauty is a character or feature of things which nothing but mind 
can create or behold."* 

However, apart from fumishing the data for its special branch of aesthetics, 
literature has further claims upon the attention of philosophy. "It is in litera- 
ture that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression. Accordingly, 
it is to literature that we must look, particularly in its most concrete forms in 
poetry and drama, if we hope to discover the inmost thoughts of a generation."* 
^ The "inmost thoughts" of strecessive epochs and generations are a major con- 
cem of the history of philosophy and of the social philosopher. Philosophers 
have tended to remain absorbed in the study of their own explicit rational pro- 
cedures and Systems and to neglect the serious literary and artistic embodiments 
of human experience. Nevertheless, it is the conviction of the writer that this 
study is an indispensable aspect of philosophy's approach to experience, capable 
of widening the scope of aesthetic theory and of enriching and concretizing 
philosophical studies of the history of ideas and the nature of mind by bringing 
them into closer relationship to the inner dynamics of cultural expression and 
change. On the whole this task has been left in the past to critica and historians 







:■'- >■ 

■■. 'M 




[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 


of art, literature, and culture, who, with f ew exceptions, though paying attention 
to ideas in literature, but rarely reveal more than passing acquaintance or con- 
rcem for philosophy. 

Plato's dualism of attitude towards poetry, his quarrel with what we might 
call its lyrical irresponsibility on the one band, and on the other, his half-ironic 
theory of Inspiration combined with the doctrine of love and beauty, has given 
philosophy ever since a certain ambivalence toward the creative arts. Indif- 
ference has altemated with idealization. When philosophers have taken litera- 
ture in all seriousness, and this has been more true since romantic idealism, they 
have been, from Hegel to Croce, dominated by idealistic presuppositions. De- 
spite important contributions to aesthetic, the tendency to deprecate naturalistic 
considerations, and to consider the work of art as an autonomous realm of the 
realization of ends, has led to a distrust of social analysis and a neglect of the 
social Import of art and artists. Taine^s valuable insights by way of a naturalis- 
tic orientation were nfever given due weight until very recent times. Nor did 
the movement of modern realism work out an adequate realistic aesthetic. It 
remained analytical and contemplative with respect to the arts. 

Pragn^tism might have been expected to approach more nearly to the fuller 
social context of art, and indeed it did so through Dewey's influence. His 
aesthetic laArt and Experience^ remains an isolated contribution. His Stimulus 
for f urther study in the arts undoubtedly is visible in the more naturalistic in- 
vestigations into the history of literature which have been appearing in America. 
But the new program for the study of the history of ideas, which has been de- 
•scribed in our introductory remarks and which manifests a strong interest in 
letters, seems to be more closely connected with the movement of American 
reaUsm than with pragmatism. Its approach to the problems of philosophy and 
literature, if we are to take Professor Lovejoy's views as a criterion, reflects, 
as our brief critical remarks indicated, the residual contemplative character of the 
American realistic movement, despite its naturalistic foundations. The charac- 
ter and influence of Santayana's aesthetics and metaphysics are likewise subject 
to the same characterization. 


.. , !• ,. » 

We have pointed to some of the most general features of philosophy's concem 
with literature. It is our Intention now, in what follows, to select for special 
consideration two characteristic problems which must be faced in dealing with 
the influence of philosophy upon letters. The first is that of the general influence 
of some traditional philosophies of the West upon Uterature. The second is that 
of the influence of the more contemporary trends of thought upon the creative 
writer. In selecting these two very large problems for treatment in the brief 
Space of a paper like this, and in trying at the same time to do justice to the limits 




■:■■. f. ■ '■; ■■i'<. 


'•■'w ■■■■' > ' 



June, 1940J 



within which ideas play a significant role m creative literature, the writer is 
aware of the ciangers of under- and of over-statement, of inadequate qualification 
and Illustration, which must needs accompany so wide-flung an inquiry. He 
can only hope to substantiate some of the pomts already made through the more 
concrete approach to these two important problems in our realm of discourse. 
They cannot of course be treated in isolation, since they inevitably interpenetrate 
and the discussion of one must throw additional light upon the other. The 
unifying principle in their juxtaposition, however, though they are apparently 
diverse, can perhaps be the direct light which they may cast upon another ques- 
tion of great significance to the arts, that of the rektion of the past to the present, 
of traditional to contemporary values. 

The available dominating contemporary beliefs and values rooted in varieties 
of existing circumstance, and the background of the western cultural tradition 
already incorporated in the literature of the past, constitute the two poles be- 
tween which the writer's ideas may move, from which he may derive his sense 
of direction and his own eventual orientation. With wide individual variations, 
depending upon education, associations with other writers, existing schools of 
criticism, and his ränge of active intercourse with his fellows, it is the feit life 
around him on which the writer takes his stand. Therefore, after some initial 
attention to the nature of literature as an art, we shall proceed to discuss, with 
greater brevity, the influence of traditional philosophies, and then move for- 
ward to the more recent past f or a discussion and illustration of the more pressing 
Problem of the relation of the artist to the thought of his age. 



All the arts are modes of communication of vividly realized experience. Lit- 
erature by virtue of its unique medium, language, the ubiquitous accompaniment 
of human life, has complete access to the expression of all forms of experiences 
from the light and populär, the subtle and evanescent, to the most massive and 
profound. Literature has a ränge of content denied to the plastic arts, but like 
every other art it is sensuous first. It is the product of the sound-discriminating 
ear and the more deeply moved sensibilities of men who have well chosen words 
with power to intrigue and to delight. It is the product of theu: own greater 
capacity both to respond to experience and to choose the precise verbal equivalent 
appropriate to that response. 

The arts entertain and delight us first — ^hence arise superficial theories of art 
as entertainment, as anodyne, as decorative accompaniment of privileged leisure. 
But they do not stop there. They also vivify and intensify our experience, in- 
terpret it for us, and inform us of modes of being and feeling which have hitherto 
been beyond our ken, warn and prophesy, condemn, satirize, give solace, and 


' ■ -.. ■_,. /_■ .■■"'.' 

' V" ,'■:'■'' '.V 

'■■; :\:,\ ■:■ -: -iv?. -1,:; 

.*<■:;. . ■'■) ::■■.', ' ■ 

■ . ■'' : " 

i :■ [r'-'; '■■' 
' 1 r 



[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

' 'v 

call US to battie. Some or all of these functions they perform while remaining 
arts in every relevant meaning of the word. 

"'Art is the intensification, the vivification, the clarification of experience. 
When, confronted with a work of art, this results, we call it beautifnl. If we 
call it a "mysterious enhancement," a magical and indefinable achievement, 
that is precisely because it has brought to consciousness sometning hitherto 
unrealized, lef t behind it reverberations and overtones of affirmation and ordered 
valuation where previously was formless confusion and vagary of thought and 
feeling. A particular realm of experience which we traversed unseeing, unfeeling, 
unillumined, or which we had passed whoUy by, has suddenly become a realized 
body of lifer— — — — —^ — '/"" ' "'"'" "'' ' — ^"" '' ' ' '" " — ~ 

What is true of the arts in general is doubly true of literature. With language 
used afresh to shatter the dull routine of our casual practical speech, through 
imagery, through a discipline imposed by the rhythm appropriate to the depth 
and sincerity qI the experience conveyed, it can if it will, penetrate into every 
cranny of personal and public affairs, blast every pretense, clarify every insight, 
embody unforgettably the concrete experience of men ever3rwhere. "Poetry is 
the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science/' said 
Wordsworth. It is in the countenance of all things seen or done, feit or thought, 
remembered or imagined — provided they have been sensitively explored and 
masterfully embodied in the language of living men. Art is imitation because 
it objectifies for us the realized actuaUties and potentialities of men and their 
World. .;;• '^ ■■:.':-•.:■ /■■>; ;;.v-^..i'.;s;-- ■■■-.- 

Such has been the nature of art since the Magdalenian draughtsmen. It 
has grown in power and scope as men have increased their ränge of control while 
suffering the vicissitudes of strüggle with nature and with themselves. Victory, 
defeat, crisis and its resolution, irom primitive tribalism to advanced democracy, 
have variously contributed to the growth of art*s expressive power. Com- 
pounded, like religion, of love and fear as life expanded or retreated, increasingly 
personal in its essence as it matured out of the communal anonymity of dance and 
tribal chant, passional always, but from the first subjected to "the cadence of 
consenting feet," now curbed in its expression by traditional usage and Conven- 
tion or thinly reduced by prolonged periods of social decay, now bursting old 
bonds as restless human energy and widening experience generated positive 
institutional change and demanded new forms for their artistic expression and 
realization, art and literature have had a variegated history of emergence, 
decadence, and renewaL They are the reflection and fruition of shared experi- 
ence. We include them with religions, philosophies, the sciences, and the pro- 
fessions as the cultural flowering of civilization. Their history is a part of the 
total history of culture, — culture which emanates from and is precariously 


■ '■''5''. V; i 

'■ '^ .V 


■•,■■■ V'^ .-•..:.' .'.i.'ii.V'.'M-:, - • •.ii<i> j '■■••.:■ J" 
■^■' -■ t"''- ."■'■■''■'!'>■' ;'". >■'"'■ •/ ■ ■ '■ ■■'■y-v'/'^i ^ 'i "'■ ' ' 

June, 194CH 

•■!•.■:"•■' ;.J 




JM , 


,1 ., 

perched over the incalculable cauldron of dynamic social forces, which is called 
upon at times to soothe or strengthen, threatened itself at other times with de- 
struction. At times, and especially in most recent times, culture raises its own 
challenge of integrity and vision against the forces which would destroy it and 
life itself. 

Literature reflects the motives both of the men who are its makers, and of the 
men who sustain the artist in his work by furnishing him with his material and 
by seeking the grace which he can lend to their lives. It is not as some few would 
still romantically profess, the mysterious and unique product of isolated genius. 
The artist is sustained by and, in his own way, sustains society. True, as John 
Dewey has said of him, in an increasingly corporate World his is almost the one 
remaining sphere of rieh individuälity, but this in no way modifies the deeper 
truth that individuälity and sociality are interdependent. The individual is a 
source of creative Innovation, but he is also a focal point of the society which 
fashioned him and of the experiences and energies, wills and habits, traditions 
and belief s which are there in flux. 

The writer selects his content from the experience into which he has matured 
and within a context of social traditions and Conventions, a body of common 
knowledge anc^feeling, convictions, compulsions and assumed or real freedoms of 
his day and generation. These link and bind him with his audience as thoroughly 
as the language which is the writer*s medium and his reader's speech. The 
writer may have ranged more or less widely into the experience of the past. 
Out of his total experience his own work emerges, as he fashions sensuous and 
psychical unities with varying degrees of success. His technical mastery of his 
medium, his powers of metaphorical Statement, choice of diction, discrimination 
in selection and^ emphasis, and in character creation will be as important to the 
outcome as his qualities of sensibility and intelligence, sincerity and integrity, 
with which he confronts his world. 

This simple review of the obvious aspect of the writer's role, though ignoring 
at this point the complexities and contradictions in his relation to his culture, 
is suflScient to indicate the point at which ideas and values inevitably confront 
him — both in his life as a man and his work as an artist — and in turn emerge out 
of the product of his pen. His work is both a synthesis and communication 
of reality. - - 

C. Day Lewis asks, "What is a poet?" He answers — a sensitive Instrument, 
a sounding board. 

A wireless Station: maäts rooted in earth, stretching towards heaven, sensitive to the horizon- 
tal waves of sound. An instrument receptive of the messages which crowd the air: another in- 
strument translating these messages out of code into universal language, selecting and co- 
oidinating them, transmitting them to whomsoever will tum a dial. The poet listens to the 



.-s ■ .■ 



•'■^-•>.' '.■'.Vi'. 

' ^ ■■ ; :.■ /'.'/''\''v-P-''J''^ 




[Sewes B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

8.'-. '..■ 


universe, bis senses are filaments which conduct experience into thc mstruinent of bis imagina- 
tion. That instrument's ränge of receptivity is one measure of bis greatness as a poet. All 
men possess it but tbe poet's is espedally adapted. Tbe second instrument is tbe conscious 
process by wbicb tbe filtered stream of experience is directed into a poem, tbe process we call 
tecbnique. His ability in conducting tbe process is tbe second measure of a poet's greatness. 
It is tbe nature of tbe poetic Imagination to become aware of tbe cryptic links wbicb bind our 
universe togetber— to find similarity in difference and to make coberence out of contradiction.' 

The artist is first a man; living with his fellows at a given historical period, 
his sensibility and mtelligence is formed by an infinitely complex play of forces 
from infancy to maturity— increasingly refined by innumerable acceptances, 
spontaneities, conflicts, and compulsions, beliefs adopted, modified, and dis- 
carded. He will have become a writer through a more or less continuous and 
conscious effort to record in words whatever in his life focused itself mto a com- 
pulsive experience of objectification. In this indeed the artist will differ from 
the non-artist. He not only responds sensitively to aspects of the life around 
him, but in addition feels the need and has the will to a&m that response in 
the appropriate language of power which will objectify the experience to himself 
and communicate it to his fellows. From this derives the universal function of 
the artist, to realize the experience of his group through the inclusive and repre- 
sentative character of his personal sensibility and through the mastery of a 
sensuous medium of expression. He at the least restores freshness and feit 
reality to words, to actions, to things, to feelings, to moods and ideas. At the 
best he integrates into significant living unities the incoherence and slackness of 
casual or disordered existence. 

In this function of art resides the significance of the realistic thesis as opposed 
to every doctrine which would divorce art from time and life, which would 
transfer it to an ethereal, supermundane reahn of etemal unchanging values, or 
to the World of private imagination, of dreams, or to an ineffable void of pure 
technique. At certain historical periods, particular conditions and traditions 
have led some men to find reality in moods and experiences of this kind. Some 
have, mdeed, given them memorable embodiment in art and literature. But 
they are significant as feit experiences objectively conveyed in literature not as 
theories about all literature. They are themselves understandable only in tenns 
of actual States to which the sensitive personality at times is subject and their 
criterion can be only whether such states are authentic and have been convinc- 
ingly recorded. 

The test is a test of reality within the total and changing bounds of experience, 
Vision, and unagination. The actual, the possible, the probable— in conflict 
with the imagined and the impossible form an amalgam of psychic reality whose 
test must remain its relevance to humane requirements of present civilized 



,; ■ =■'>'( i.r.,,-. ■• 

June, 1940] 





I. A. Richards, in his Principles of Lüerary Criticism, writes: 

The arts are our storehouse of recorded values. They spring f rom and perpetuate hours in 
the lives of exceptional people, when their control and command of experience is at its highest, 
hours when the varying possibilities of ezistence are most clearly seen, and the different activities 
which may arise are most exquisitely recondled, hours when habitual narrowness of interests or 
conf used bewilderment are replaced by an intricately wrought composure .... They record the 
most important judgments we possess as to the values of experience .... In the arts we find the 
record in the only form in which these things can be recorded of the experiences which have 
seemed worth having to the most sensitive and discriminating persons.' 

This Statement of Richards underestimates the frequent agony and sense of 
fnistration which have also found expression in literature and art, and over- 
estimates the clarity of artists' vision when they move beyond conj&nes which 
their feeling and intelligence have penetrated. It may also give art too exclu- 
sive a claim upon the creation of value. Yet it is essentially a valid verdict 
upon the role of the arts and the significance of great literature. The strength 
of a work of art is derived from the positive aspects of the civilization which gave 
it birth. But art is a slow growth maturing often when the original impetus for 
such positive process has already lost its momentimi and when its present sur- 
roundings are no longer congenial. It is thereafter sustained often only by 
living traditions from the past. In the long run, however, it is subject to exhaus- 
tion whenever negative conditions in a society long persist. There are always 
conditions which the artist does not create nor can control but which he must 
take into account. If they are positive, he will afl&rm them, if negative he will 
express himself in a literature of waming and struggle. But when negative 
forces reach a sufficient degree of dominance in any society art may escape, 
retreat from, or variously evade the present. Mysticism is one way, extreme 
individualism and privacy is another, abstractionism, rigid conventionalism, 
retreat to and over-idealization of the past, claims for the absolute autonomy of 

art, are others. . ^ 

To present art as mvariably triumphant over life is worse than a mere exag- 
geration. It is misrepresentation, because it falls to recognize the frequently 
precarious Status of culture, its vulnerability, the delicacy of the balance which 
sustains art in a world of arbitrary or unreconciled conflicting forces and interests, 
But even in negation art retains its positive core. 

Stress upon the positive values and vision intrinsic to art should not conceal 
the equally important fact that when the human experience which is the artist's 
essen tial material happens to be negative, he cannot ignore it. His very stake 
in value forces him to respond to prevailing disvalue, for the very reason that 
he is in a dynamic sensitive relation to life. The Output of a single writer as 
well as that of a whole epoch will frequently reveal altemations of buoyancy and 



■ ■ * , , - .. • ' :■■.' ' . ^ 

f .., '• '. ■■:■ ' y ' 

..'-.1 •■ '^ •. n-. ■ 

A' ::■' -. ..':■ .'■•.''.-■;..■'■•■ /■.Kv^:-'V. J^bu;^^ 'i>'.^'' ':-.,'• •', 

• ■'',■ 'l' / 




[Semes B; Vol. 1, Nb. 2 


depression, affirmation and disillusion. Changes in style, in values, in Vision 
are a product of impelling historical, social, and personal conditions in an indi- 
vidual lifetime and in the experience of an age. Historians of literature and 
criticism have of ten presented such changes as unmotivated cydic altemations 
of taste, from classicism to romanticism, to realism, to neoromanticism, and 
back to classicism again. This is the oversimplified picture of a prevailing mode 
of Vision exhausting its momentum f ollowed by a swing of the pendulum in the 
other direction to which Lovejoy's adherence to an oscillatory version of literary 
cycles leads. -• - . . . 

It is tnie that an art develops its own inner and, in a lunited sense, independent 
traditions of technique and value. New schools arise m the womb of older ones 
and in aesthetic Opposition to them. Important changes, however, are never 
divorced from transformed environmg conditions m society, from economic, 
social, and intellectual changes which make new demands upon the artist by 
altermg the human situations and the materials with which he works. Jnstitu- 
tional change openmg up lif e to new layers of men will breed new types of experi- 
ence, new forms of feeling and thought, which demand artistic exploration. 

The romantic-individualistic theory has generated a view of the artist as a 
transcendent genius setting him and his art either pontifically above or rcbel- 
liously in Opposition to society. He has too often regarded himself and been 
taken at his word, as "lawless, winged, and unconfined," as a lonely soul, invio- 
late, a sacred ego remote from any integral relation to the life around him, free 
to choose "pure" poetry and "art for art's sake" and to remain indifferent, 
"paring his finger nails" to the conscience of his world. 

What is really another version of this, the theory of abstract or "piure" art, 
was widely promulgated especially in painting and literature from 1880 to 1930. 
Pure sensations, pure moods, pure forms— writers have sought to find in thesc 
or in technique alone and by the elimination of all but private mental content, 
the "essence" of reality. 

^ The Creative Intuition of the artist responsible only to his own obsessive mood 
may dictate the elimination of all representational content, moral value, and 
the ordinary concems of humanity. In painting the movement proceeded from 
pure impressions to pure geometrical design. In literature it progressed from 
symbolism to imagism or from the vivid moments of a consciousness to the 
total inchoate stream of consciousness, replete with obscurity and remote ailu- 
sion; then to the mere creation of verbal pattems of sound, and the assimilation 
of literature to music. From there it was but a step from the polyphonic inter- 
weaving of musical themes to the polysemantic verbal pattems of Joyce's latest 
work. The gap between writer and audience became imbridgeable, content de- 
liquesced into insubstantial phantoms, remotcr allusions, and noctumal obscurity. 





•■',■'•■. '■■■ '!' ' ' ■'■ •■*,■ 1 ' ■' •'■ 

- '. ... ' -.,■>■. ' ■• •■ ■?"...■: , 


■' v'r-;-".-.'.;i-(ii^; 

June, 19401 




A great talent like James Joyce became progressively estranged f rom all but an 
inj&nitesimal, select audience of the sophisticate and the erudite. But more 
important, a great talent betrayed its promise and ultimately failed to express 
to bis age what was vital to its existence. He became a magnificent Symptom of 
the defeat of art. There remained only a süperb technique extended beyond 
the competence, and contradictory to the social nature of its medium. It was 
too tenuous a Substitute in itself for the amplitude of art^s service to man — ^Joyce 
had indeed told bis friend Cranly in The Portrait that "he would not serve." 
Finnegans Wake is the result. As Lewis says, the greatness of a writer is to be 
measured both by the ränge of experience to which he can give artistic coherence 
~ and feit realization, and by his technical mastery of bis social medium, languager^ 
The theory of "pure" art has led either to an exaggerated Isolation of the tech- 
nical criterion alone, or to what MacNeice has called luxury writing and luxury 
art, instead of to an art which is a vital synthesis of human experience. 


The traditional philosophies of the Greeks, which were living bodies of thought 
in their own day, have a special Status in the subsequent course of thought and 
expression in westem culture. I refer to Plato and Platonism, Aristotle, Stoicism, 
and Epicureanism. The partial incorporation of the first two into Christian 
thought and aspiration and the füll revival and excited absorption of them all in 
the period of the Renaissance have given them ever since a prominent central 
place in the cultural tradition of the West. They have, consciously and uncon- 
sciously, moulded in varying degrees both thought and expression in succeeding 
generations. Their wider influences have been more c^refuUy studied than those 
of any other body of thought. Each is a complex tradition in itself having gone 
through many vicissitudes of selective emphasis, of accretion, of fusion with 
subsequent Systems of ideas, and of application to changed conditions of existence. 

Their influence upon literature is therefore a dual one. On the one band they 
-r have moulded the larger context of the thought of whole generations by entering 
into their basic concepts and "ideologies." Their doctrines and values will 
often be expressed unconsciously by the writer without any awareness of their 
original source, since he has foünd them already adapted to the life of his own 
day, and is himself subject to "varying susceptibilities which give certain ideas 
and Systems plausibility."' They are "influences" in the most complete sense 
of the term through their afl&nity with the practical, emotional, and imaginative 
requirements of tiie times. As Oliver Elton says, "... an influence hardly 
does its füll work until it has become invisible — until the graft has bome fruit 
which is not that of its own tree."*° 

On the other band, the writer will often tum conscipusly to an available cul- 

* "' ■ 
■ J * • . , 

ff*s i.y i _'■: ; 


',.. i-'''' ,- ■'.'.' - .■ 




[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

tural tradition as he finds in it corroboration or support for his own convictibns, 
values, nfedes of vision, or prevailing moods.^^ He may have become aware of 
these traditional philosophies through his education, indiscriminate reading, or 
because one or the other of them has been brought strikingly to the attention 
of his generation, or of his literary and artistic confr^res. He will know of them 
in any case through his knowledge of the creative writers of the past who have 
more explicitly embodied portions of a specific classical philosophy. 

T. S. Eliot afl&rms, in oft-quoted passages, his view of the poet's relation to 
tradition: ■ ,'-i:v''--^^ ^■-■■;: '^fev:,^^^-'': . ■.::-:•:■, 

Jie must be aware that the mind of Eiirope . . . of his own country . . . is a mind which changes, 

and that this change is a development which abandons nothing en route What is to be in- 

sisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he 
should contmue to develop this consciousness throughout his career.** 

Eliot, himself a traditionalist and convinced that every poet should be as erudite 
as he is, probably is being dogmatic in demanding so much of every writer. The 
poet today, he says elsewhere, must be difficult. He probably means that he 
himself has found it difficult to achieve clarity of mind and has tumed to the 
classical and Anglo-Catholic traditions to find it. 

What is true of the classical, is equally true of the Christian tradition in its 
Catholic or Protestant forms. A great historical religion will also rear a complex 
speculative structure — a Compound of belief and value. It needs no argument 
that Christianity mcorporated much of Platonism and of Aristotle. Its Hel- 
lenic and Hebraic sources are an important part of its essence. The Christian 
unagination, as it finds expression in great literature, is replete both today and 
yesterday with the complex overtones of ancient and medieval philosophy— 
from Dante*s Divine Comedy to Thomas Mann's recent affirmation of faith in 
his Standards and Values}^ The well-educated Catholic of today cannot but 
be conscious both of Thomism and Aristotelianism, of Christian mysticism and 
of its philosophical sources in Neoplatonism; but whether he is or not, he will 
hardly avoid one or the other of these when he expresses hunself as a creative 
writer on human nature and man's fate. 

These classical philosophies and Christian thought cannot of course be regarded 
as sufficient in themselves to fumish the orientation of a writer in the modern 
World,, although there are philosophers and classicists who still regard them as 
quite competent to do so. The writer*s mind and imagination rarely live by 
traditions alone, and there are other philosophical motivations than the tradi- 
tional classical and Christian ones. He usually takes his point of departure 
from the thought and values of his own day because he can hardly do otherwise. 
But he selects, rejects, and modifies in part accordmg as he feels compelled to do 
so by the inner logic of his own experience and development, or by the social 
pressures, conscious and unconscious, which weigh upon him — usually by both. 



June, 1940] 



The Renaissance perhaps was the only modern period whöse creative expression 
was dominated by the philosophies of the European tradition. And the reasons 
f or it were the current demands of the age f or something to replace the Christian 
System of values which had broken down. Old established institutions and 
ideas were being slowly replaced by new ones. But no body of ideas had as yet 
emerged in the 15th and 16th centuries to answer to the needs of men. In this 
transition period the Renaissance turned to the classical past for a new orienta- 
tion. Montaigne said — "there should be nothing more airy, more gay, more 
frolic and I should like to have said more wanton than philosophy." He 
expresses in his Essays the characteristic eclecticism of his age, which literally 
"Wantoned" indiscriminately in the revived secular Systems of the Greeks, 
finding in them a source of freedom from those medieval Christian dogmas which 
were losing their hold. The age turned to the Greeks both as a source and cor- 
roboration of new experiences. Plato's doctrine of love and beauty, Aristotle's 
politics and his ethics of "the mean," the Epicurean apotheosis of individual 
pleasure, the Stoic affirmation of secular virtue — these were consciously acclaimed 
as superior to the Christian Ideals of asceticism, humility, and other-worldliness. 
Some, like Ficino and Erasmus, attempted to reconcile the new values of the 
ancients with Christian values. For the time being, before the growing forces 
of the new world matured — a world of sovereign states, of power, of capitalistic 
ambitions to master and control the sources of material wealth and to break the 
old bonds of feudalism, a world of science and invention — sensitive minds turned 
for guidance to the pre-Christian Ideals, while confident from the experience of 
their own day that the varied lif e of individual effort and desire was all that really 
mattered. Men tum to traditional modes of thought when, for reasons within 
their present age, they can find a present use for those traditions — either to affirm 
the insights of a new dispensation or to escape unpalatable truths of surrounding 
decay. The writers of the Renaissance were in the former position. Tradi- 
tionalists today are probably a case of the latter. The first is more likely to be 
deliberate and conscious, the second will be more indirect and partly compulsive. 

The traditional philosophies, again, exercise an influence on literature at all 
times as systematizations of moods and values, as well as speculative orderings 
of ideas. They thus meet directly the needs of diflferent types of mind and 
sensibility, or of the alternating attitudes towards life in the same individual 
according to the changing character of his experience. While in their day they 
were both critical and technical as well as speculative structures of thought, 
they establish themselves in later periods primarily in the latter form. Tbey 
become authoritative formulae, for definitely recurring evaluations of experience 
in all ages, whatever the varying underlying reasons for them may be in any 
particular age. Large-scale or subtle differences of feeling, mood, temperament, 
are intrinsic to the imaginative sensibilities of writers as well as to the quality 


H ■:;■' -Iff/'i'"' ■■■!■?■ 

'.'■■. *■':','■•'::■ :[' 


'. •! ■' ■' 



:t'- • ■ > ■/. 



[Semes B; Vot. 1, No. i 

of the imagination of difFercnt age» and cpochs. For this reason philosophies 
which carry with them distinct emotional and imaginative responses to experi- 
ence and do so on a universal scale, will deeply appeal to a writer or to a whok 
school of writers who can always find afl&nities and support in a particular System 
of philosophy for a particular type of vision or feeling. Indeed, the appeal may 
be limited to one or two of the striking insights or evocative formulae of a phüo- 
sophical System. The writer may exploit these to the exclusion of everything 
eise which a distinct body of philosophical thought will contain. The writer 
takes what he needs or can use and lets it go at that. But what he does use may 
be enough at times to color the whole Output of his pen. Lovejoy uses the 
excellent term, "types of metaphysical pathos." He mentions specifically the 
Pathos of the incomprehensible and esoteric, the etemalist, monistic, pantheistic 
and voluntaristic types of metaphysical pathos, and one could list many more. 
Epicureanism, from Lucretius to Walter Pater and Rupert Brooke, Stands as 
the traditional systematizer of the mood of sensuous delight, regarded as an 
ultunate value and its own justification, or again for the attitude expressed by 
Virgil whilc still young and Epicurean in conviction, "felix qui potuit rerum 
cognoscere causas." The latter attitude reflects the more serious phase of 
Epicureanism— the materialistic "pathos." Both moods, sensuous delight and 
knowledge of nature, recur in changed form in modern hedonisms and utili- 
tarianism and in modern materialism. Stoicism likewise expresses that view of 
life which corroborates the mood of facing adversity with firm resolution, of 
Puritan sternness towards loose emotionalism, of cosmic order and rationality, 
of conscious recognition of necessity, m general, of secular idealism. Epicu- 
reanism may appeal to the poet when young, only to be replaced by Stoicism when 
he grows mature, and again by some mode of Platonism in old age. 

Aristotle supplies the historic formula of the "mean" in life and the avoidance 
of extremes, of the measured and discriminating self-sufficiency of a man of 
parts and responsibility, the prosaic and matter-of-fact competence which sus- 
pects an overabundance of 61an. He fits perfectly the emotional criteria of the 
classic temper in letters, just as, in thought, he is traditionally the "maestro di 
color che sanno." This is but one of the mnumerable mfluences he has had upon 
expression, for most of the categories of his metaphysics have entered like 
Platonism into other philosophies at other times, into the sciences, and into 
Christian thought. The westem cultured mind was once in a State of complete 
Saturation with his basic concepts. 

But Platonism has been the most continuously and variously influential 
philosophy in its appeal to the literary mind amid changing conditions of culture. 
Its influcnce indeed has probably been the subject of wider study than that of 
any other Single philosophy. The line from Plato's dialogues, through Plotinua 


■■>\ ri 

X l/. 

■ ; . ' ■.'•"->j , ' .\'fi ■ .-r ,' 

'.■■ ■ < 

■■•'' v''''t'"'^ri-v!v;^^ ■■■SN ^■: •'•*■■ 

June, 1940] 



and Neoplatonism to Augustine and Christian theology, to all western mysticism, 
to the Renaissance doctrines of love and beauty, utopianism, and neoplatonic 
pantheism, to the emergence of mathematical physics, to romanticism and even 
to the contemporary philosophy of A. N. Whitehead, forms one of the major 
speculative Strands of westem thought and cxpression. In Flatonism we find 
the fundamental pattem for all t3rpes of mysticism, the desire to flee from tem- 
poral chaos and confusion to an alluring realm of eternal ideas and ideals, the 
mood of the passionate lover convinced of a deeper worth than meets the senses 
in the object of his love. It is the historic inteltectual and passional matrix of all 
forms of idealism, as Lucretian Epicureanism might be called the criterion for 
"the materialistic conviction. It is a prevaüing fashion to treat Platonism solely 
as the philosophy of escape and retreat from reality. Certainly it has vicd with 
religion in proffering the solace of etemity to those cnished by intoleraWe actuali- 
ties. But this is too partial a view, for it has also sustained with its Qloctrine of 
love and beauty the earthly lyrics of generations of sensuous poetry. Its critical 
roots in a devoted pursuit of mathematics and astronomy, and its vision of a 
Society ordered by intelligence, indicate that it has also been a philosophy of 
afltoaation and strength. Its positive or negative influence depended upon the 
particular period and the particular dress in which it was apprehended. The 
fact is that there were many Piatonisms, and no two had the same sort of career. 
Each has appealed to a different sort of mood which recurs in the lives of sensi- 
tive men in every generation.; -^3';^^^^ ^^^^^^^ : »^ 

All the varieties of mood and value incorporated in the philosophies which 
we have briefly surveyed can be traced through the history of westem literature. 
They express themselves in ways which reveal the accompanying influence of 
the appropriate philosophy. An age or a generation or a particular school of 
writers, will lean predominantly towards a particular type of expression closer 
to one or the other of these pattems. Thus the Renaissance was mildly Epicu- 
rean and Piatonic, the 17th Century more Stoic, the 18th more Epicurean and 
materialistic. But these are very rough estimates of trends. The reality in 
each successive age is infinitely complex, with subsequent current philosophies 
like those of the 17th and 18th centuries. Locke, Descartes, Rousseau, for 
example, wielding the more significant influence upon literary men because they, 
rather than the traditional philosophies, embody the new orientation of the 


It therefore must not be assumed, from our sketch of the influence of tradi- 
tional modes of thought, that they are the sole universally valid alternatives for 
the philosophical orientation of men of letters. This, of course, wpuld be far 
from the tnith. On the contrary, the prevailing Systems of thought and value 
in his day are far more important to the creative writer. The Zeitgeist always 

; ''«■ 

:-. i'-- 

■:s<-.-^-':/y -v 

>^u: ,v- --i 

' >.: ■i;'•^.';^•,'„^, 



[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

beckons first— like Hardy 's blind will it "heayes through space and moulds 
the times with mortals for its fingers." The writer is never a free agent to choose 
bis World view, eise he were a god rather than a man. He finds one imbedded 
in bis Society, and with it he must first make bis reckoning. 

Let US say bere, for fear of being misinterpreted, that a writer seldom takes 
over any philosopby too accurately. Generally, it is only a diluted version of a 
pbilosopby or an aspect of one, as has been indicated, which gets expressed in 
letters. But the value lies in the depth of feeling and vividness with which 
it is realized. We leam m literature how it feels to be a philosopher of this or 
that kind. >- ^^^ ',..-••••;-.-■•■••• \ •-.= ..,:•: ^;;'. 

Again, it is not wholly true that writers always confine themselves to the 
speculative conclusions of a phüosophy. These may be passionately pursued 
to their technical foundations if the writer's ränge of inteUigence and interest 
is great enough. Lucretius goes into the utmost detail in f ollowing the technical 
foundations of the Epicurean doctrine of nature. We can witness Dante's 
intricate mastery of the critical bases of medieval philosopby and Goethe's and 
SchiUer's laborious and prolonged study from 1795 to 1805 of the phüosophy 
of Immanuel Kant. It is the writer of the widest ränge and power of synthesis- 
who will naturally tend to prepare stronger intellectual foundations than mere 
cursory reading can afford, to carry the broader edifice of experience encom- 
passed by imagination. It is dangerous to be dogmatic as some philosophers 
tend to be on the exclusive concem of poets with the less abstract and easier 
aspects of a phüosophy. For example, Boas says in bis Phüosophy and Poetry 
that "Ideas in poetry are usuaUy stale and often false and no one older than 
sixteen would find it worth bis whüe to read poetry merely for what it says."" 

Such pomts of view are probably widely encouraged by the tendency not to 
distmguish in a litöary work between incidental aUusions of an extemal kind 
to phüosophical ideas and to phüosophers of reputation in their day, and the 
more serious influence of these phüosophies in mouldmg a writer's vision, whether 
consciously or not. Such a genume influence is to be found in the writer's mode 
of Observation and selection of his material, m the working of bis imagination 
upon what he has selected and finaUy in the feit values, partly or whoUy per- 
vading his expression, which he espouses. Or apart from the writer himself , we 
may look for such important influence in the schools of criticism which at certain 
times through their dominatmg ideas can mould the course of letters with respect 
to each of the above-mentioned factors in the writer 's work. An incidental 
phüosophical commentary, a witty epigram, an occasional scientific metaphor 
are not m themselves weighty enough considerations to be regarded as evidence 
of the influence of phüosophy in literature, nor are the f ulsome praises by minor 
poets bere and there of thinkers Uke Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Descartes, which are 


;*l:^^:-r^' «■;:'"■ ^^ 

;,'•:..;• ,•;■-.<_ .>v-^'' 

"'•. ■." 

June, 1940] 



I • 


likely to be presented in corroboration of the influence of tliese men. Too many 
research energies, however, are devoted to this sort of evidence. If space per- 
mitted many examples could be cited. v ; . i ;r 


The classical and Christian traditions are the major cultural axes of reference 
Coming f rom the conscious past of which any serious treatment of our topic must 
first take note. We must turn next to the nearer background of thought since 
the Renaissance which has been moving with a tempo increasing in successive 
generations, and in directions quite different from those older traditions. Earlier 
modes of orientation were predominantly aristocratic. The new were increas— 
ingly middle class. That difference alone accounted for much. The rate of 
change in ideas as in the institutions and habits of the life underlying them was 
accelerated under the more dynamic pressure of emerging capitalism and Protes- 
tantism, individualism, and democracy. Economic, technological, social, and 
political transformations underlay these changes. The lineaments of a new 
cosmos emerged from the sciences of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 
took on ever clearer definition, and transformed the convictions of milennia. 
The new sciences themselves rapidly reached maturity — mathematics and physics 
in the seventeenth, chemistry in the eighteenth, biology in the nineteenth cen- 
turies. The theory of evolution created a new ferment of ideas surpassing that 
of the seventeenth Century of scientific genius. Newton's wörld-machine was 
revealed as somethmg which grew into its estate, and was still growing and 
changing along with society, man, and his works, all products of its own energies. 
By a few, Einstein was regarded as having summed it all up in a doctrine of 
relativity, mercifully incomprehensible to any still tradition-bound layman. 
But Freud and later Marx especially became symbolic to many of the challenge 
to a new scientific orientation. 

New philosophies followed in the wake of every major innovation and dis- 

covery each more widely read than its predecessor because increasing numbers 

of men were, decade by decade, participating in affairs, seeking education, 
requiring guidance. We can in the light of these changes appreciate the growing 
gap between the life of the agrarian past and that of industrialized modernity. 
Descartes and Cartesianism, Locke and Newtonianism have their day in moulding 
the age of literary neoclassicism. Leibnitz and Rousseau, Kant and Hegel take 
philosophical Charge of a romantic reaction which follows. But each such epoch 
is relatively brief. Both classicism and romanticism are shot through with 
tendencies which follow neither, with visions and revisions of the unforgotten 
knd impressive past, or anticipations of what was in the making and soon to 
follow. The larger leisurely cÜmates of thought to which men had been accus- 

;-('•• ■•;■■ 

'■;•;>;< ;^;;f' 


•■Vi l'l. ■'•*■. ' ' 'i " '■ 

'1 ^. ■<:■'-:.■■ ■t-:- 



[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

tomed refused to return. No sooner did one take bearings and set out upon nis 
course than fresh intellectual squalls appeared over the horizon. Utilitarianism 
and positivism, liberalism, evolutionary naturalism, tentative returas to idealism, 
Marxism, voluntarism, philosophies of progress replaced by Schopenhauerian 
pessimism — these are but gross indications of winds of doctrine, cross-currents 
of intellectual tumult, in a rapidly changing world. Yet none of them so decply 
agitated the minds of preceding generations as have the welter of forces and 
theories now in flux in the catastrophic transformation between this war and 
the last. To appreciate the complex life of today not only must the multiplica- 
tion of new forms of associated life, the growing corporateness of existence, the 
increasing specialization of thought reflecting the growing division of labor in 
societies, be bome in mind, but also the rival modern nationalisms and impe- 
rialisms, the struggle of capital and labor, of democratic and capitalistic interests, 
the underlying and increasingly conscious conflict of class interest, the State 
in crisis, the actuality or imminence of war and the potential destruction of all 
civilization and culture. Now, if ever, the world is adrift with change, with 
dangerous possibilities and unwelcome alternatives breeding a vast unease. 

The above all too swif t resum6 of the last f our hundred years has been sketched 
in Order to bring clearly to mind the powerf ul streams of tendency which invade 
literature in successive modern generations. The artist cannot but be bound 
in a fundamental way to the life of his age and to the modes of thought not only 
generated by it, but imperative, on the one band, to the continued existence of 
its positive institutions, and on the other, to the uninterrupted maintenance of 
the existing Organization of power.^*^ Roughly speaking, an age will be progres- 
sive or in decay according to the existing relationship between mstitutions of 
power and institutions of welfare or between the groups of people who are 
primarily concemed with the protection of one or the other of these. The 
distinction between an advancing society and a contracting one needs clarification 
because it is of the utmost importance in considering the relation of the writer 
^ to his age and the impact of existmg modes of thought upon his life and work. 
It is a distinction especially significant for the period since the emergence of 
the forms of democracy, because only in a society where such an idea has found 
root will there be articulate forces in the Community working for an expansion 
of the well-being of the whole of society and mcreasingly struggling against any 
effort of power forces to curtail such expansion. There may not be any clear- 
cut rivalry of ideas. This will occur only when a major crisis of transition is 
approaching. But, under the dynamic conditions of modern society, there will 
always be more or less indirect manifestations of opposing types of value and 
idea— the one gravitating toward the Status quo, the other toward some form 
of critidsm and disavowal of any negative prevailing doctrines. 



;-::-;*;;^ ...:■-, v^'v>:; 

•■I-, ;■' .'■'.' 

^1 '• 

■'•■:/■ i>', 



I • 


Courthope, in his essay on "Poetry and the People," poihts out that 


all through the history of England . . . we see a tendency in the life of the nation to concentratc 
itself in some particular part of the Constitution or in some particular class, which becomes f or 
the time being the sovereign power, rallies around itself all the faculties of the people, represents 

them to the world, and at last falls into a State of exhaustion Carry on this idea of the in- 

timate connection between the national life and national poetry into the periods foUowing the 
Revolution of 1688 and you will see that it helps to expUUn the changes of taste in the imagina- 
tion of the people.^* ' '^y ''■'[■'/'''-' \j3'y'-^ 

The literature of chivalry under the aegis of feudal aristocracy, the liturgical 
poetry under the Church, the writing done under the patronage of Renaissance 
merchant princes, and of the courts and monarchies of England and France in 
the 16th Century, the aristocratic background of the poised stylists of the Au- 
gustan Age — are all cases in point of what Courthope means. 

The writer — in modern times more specifically, in earlier times much more 
indirectly — accepts or rejects the dominant intellectual and ethical values of 
his age, or more of ten alternates between the two during some or all of his creative 
career, and the greater his scope as a writer the more applicable this distinction 
is likely to be." The writer who accepts his age will be strong if his age be so, 
weak or decadent if his society itself is in decline, or corrupt with power which 
will not yield its prerogatives before the obvious requhrements of genuine sta- 
bility or growth. On the other band, the writer who rejects the values of his 
age may manifest it in very diflferent ways. He may escape to "faery lands 
forlom" or to imagined conditions compatible or incompatible with the realities 
which Surround him, or to some form of subjectivism valuable or valueless as 
the case may be. Or again, the writer may struggle with his age, may combat 
it in behalf of the positive aspects of life which are threatened by the prevailmg 
power and by pattems of ideas and values which are of ten no more than justifica- 

tions of that power. 

If this seems to be too neat a schematism it is only because no allowance is 
made in so bald a Statement for the fact that there is no absolute one-to-one 
correspondence between an age and its cultural expression. Art with its accom- 
panymg artistic vision matures slowly. It has a continuity withm itself quite 
apart from society. Once developed it will carry on for a considerable time after 
the positive forces m society which permitted it to come to fruition have begun 
to disintegrate. It has often reached its zenith indeed after decay has sei in. 
The time line of artistic and social advance and decay, if plotted on the same 
Chart, would show the former roughly following the latter but trailmg it, some- 
what unevenly . On the whole, however, there has been a general correspondence. 

When we attend more to the briefer span covered by a generation, particularly 
in modern times, we shall find much apparent disparity between the two. Crosa- 
currents from the whole of westem tradition, dassical and Christian, Catholic 



,■ .>'■.''.•:. 




[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

and Protestant, tentative innovations from afar, the compresence of a ränge of 
purely lyrical expression in minor poets or of non-doctrinal exploration of hitherto 
unexamined comers of contemporary exp^rience, the resurrection of old themes 
and techniques from the literature of the past — all of these may seem to justify 
the oft-repeated judgment that literature deals with the etemal and unchanging 
realities of experience, and indeed much discussion of the influenae of philosophy 
upon literature seems to take its departure from an assumption of this kind. 
This has been especially true of traditionalists today while the controversy over 
Propaganda and literature has been raging since the emergence in our generation 
of a literature of Marxist conviction, a more realistic variant of the older con- 
troversy of the eighteen-nineties over art and morality, which, again, is probably 
as old as the quarrel between Plato and the poets in the Republic. 

In such disputes, Shakespeare has always been held up by the eternalists as a 
final crushing proof that the great writer transcends all temporal vistas and holds 
the mirror up to life without any admixture of doctrine. An extraordinary 
fallacy when one considers how completely Shakespeare expressed the mind of 
the Renaissance era — his vast gusto for a delighted realization of human experi- 
ence, which he shares with Rabelais and Montaigne; his drama of the will to 
power, the new ethos of ambition in prince, prelate, and king; his reflection of 
the splendor of the public life of the court, the reorientation which he shares with 
his age towards the secular ethos of the classics and the relative absence of reli- 
gion in his works; in its place the Stoic secular conscience in many a Stoic speech 
which he puts in the mouths of his dramatic protagonists as misf ortune or death 
overtakes them; the intrmsic Platonism of the sonnets, and the overtones 
throughout of Macchiavelli, Bacon, Montaigne, and Plutarch. Shakespeare 
realizes completely the new outlook which had replaced mediaeval conceptions. 
This was, as has often been pomted out, not that men desire the Good, but that 
they call good that which they desire, an Inversion underlying the conflict of 
wills which is basic to Renaissance drama and to the whole epoch which follows. 
Ambition is the new dynamics of civilization, — ambition for conquest, for knowl- 
edge. As Tarne said, here are "all the instincts which forcing man upon himself 
and concentrating within himself prepare him for Protestantism and combat." 
The complex of forces and the psychology of his day permeate Shakespeare*s 
work, determining his method of characterization, his treatment of history, his 
moral and political ideas. The timeless values of "the world of tragedy, man, 
the crowd, the elements, woman, destiny" are immersed in a temporal tide and 
undergo ^e erosions and transformations of human will. They have here 
"a temporal substratum and occasion." 

If it be argued, however, that we read Shakespeare not for his manifest tem- 
poral content but for the vividness of his affective, metaphorically crystallized 


%:.*■ f 



June, 1940) 




coloring, that we can dissociate the latter from the fonner and afl&rm its timeless 
validity, the only answer we must give is that art cannot be divorced from the 
experience out of which, and through which alone it is created. We do tend to 
judge all poets, and especially those belonging to remoter epochs, in terms of 
affective coloring alone. We have become thoroughly familiär with their world 
of content. What was new reality in their day has now become embodied in 
our conscious f eeling and total experience or has even been outgrown and become 
discordant with our present objective reality. The affective values then alone 
are cherished and regarded as beyond tune. Out of a mistaken dichotomy 
between the writer's actual experience in his day and its product in his work 
derives every form of academic falsification of the role of art m lif e and inability 
to do justice to the actual achievement of a writer in the emotional Organization 
of a great ränge of new reality in one's own time. It is an abstract and static 
Version of the artistic consciousness entertained for purposes of facile pedagogy 
in the arts, or for mere edification. ^ 

Intellectually, if the etemalist theory of art were the true one, there is only 
one philosophy which consistently could have had any influence upon the arts— 
the Piatonic. How incompatible this logical implication is with the actuality, 
both past and pre^nt, and especially since the emergence of modern societyl 
We have referred above to the wide-ranging variety of successive philosophical 
interpretations of reality which have arisen out of and moulded expression in 
modern experience. How few of them are versions of Platonism! Naturalism 
and materialism, democratic individualism and liberalism, nominalism, volun- 
tarism, and subjectivism, have dominated the last four centuries of directive 
doctrine and find wholesale incorporation in the works and lives of creative 
writers. Idealism is an accompanying or recurrent afcmation of the worth 
and power of mind, of the preeminence of the cognitive and affective Organization 
of reality which is indispensable to the continuity of civilized life. A whole 
period of expression like Romanticism will enlist under its banners against the 
threat of emerging negative forces, or of new forces themselves as yet half 
understood, but seen temporarüy as destructive of values, like industrialism or 
mechanism. It will in part tum to the past for consolation or admonition, but 
it will also hl part restore or re-orient insight to meet the requirements of the age. 
This was the function of phüosophy from Kant to Hegel— the parent influence 
m aU subsequent ideaHsm. Romanticism wedded to organic concepts gave 
meaning to the evolutionary and historical perspectives of reaüty and began the 
correction of the rigidities of Newtonian science. Modem idealism is itself in 
many ways far removed from the eternalism and unhistoricity of the Piatonic 

philosophy. ' . 

The writer then is to be set in the context of his age and generation, and his 

./ V' 



'■'?'.■■. 'j' v^- ,;•' -if .ni'-';.,',/"-!-^'-' 

■»p-.,!i' ,■-,;,■■■■;■, 


J« '.. 

■'••' ^"'- ■/.''- •' 


art is to be seen, at least in cönsiderable part, in terms of bis function of bringing 
into affective focus a ränge of the new experience of bis day in wbich as a man he 
plays bis part. We must see tbat according as be takes one or tbe otber ot tue 
alternative attitudes above outlined, accessible pbüosopbies, eitber contemporary 
or remote, wbich form a part of tbe culture in wbicb be is embedded, wiU play 
some role in bis expression. Tbat role wiU be in part miconscious tbrou^ the 
basic types of imagery, selection and treatment of content, traditions and beh^s 
assumed to be shared by bimself and bis audience-or quite conscious in the 
form of bis expUcit theories and convictions about life in bis day, about tbe func- 
tion of bis art, about bis technical procedures. Tbe young artist eams bis spurs 
in a particular atmospbere of critical doctrine, establisbed reputations, and nval 
coteries, to say notbing about tbe continuous traditions of bis craft, and tbe 
present requirements of his patronage, bis publishers, or bis audience. When we 
consider the variant approach of poet, novelist, and dramatist, instead of thinkmg 
primarüy in terms of tbe poet alone, tbis becomes doubly clear, althougb it 
appUes with only sUght modification to tbe poet as weU. Tbe writer is directly 
as well as indirectly participant in the experience and beUefs wbich Surround 
bim It is not to the point to make the claim, as one French critic does, tbat 
writers are to be divided into "esprits spectaculaires" and "esprits messianiques, 
in the sense tbat Jane Austen, Thackeray, Pater, the Georgian poets, Val6ry, 
Frost or James Joyce can be classified as in tbe one group and Dante, Müton, 
Blake, Rousseau, Ibsen, D. H. Lawrence, Steinbeck in the otber. This distmc- 
tion, as indicated by the very variety of writers wbo fall under each category, 
will hardly serve. It is ratber tbat the total impact of life upon the sensibility 
of the writer always f orces upon bim a conscious choice or conscious acquiescenc» 
amidst contending values and forces. So tbat even the "esprit spectaculaure 
in one sense may choose deliberately, f or good or bad reasons, to avoid or evade 
the firambit. '^ ■■- -^"^ '.':'■■■■.''>.».• a, ■,•■■■ 

The theoty tbat the writer must be impersonal or must "see life steadily änd 
see it wbole," sub specie aeternitatis, like Plato's philosopher, "a spectator of all 
life and all existence," is after all only a deduction from a particular phüosopby 
of value; it is a parti-pris in a debate about the function of art, and, more impor- 
tant, its vogue is certainly partly derived from the desure of some artists m 
modern times to remain above tbe battle. 

"Me for the hüls where I don't have to choose," says Frost 
The categories of acceptance and rejection applied to writers, with tbfe various 
alternatives included in each, point to the most dynamic impacts of phüosopby 
upon literature, because what phüosopby the writer embodies is not itself a 
matter of aestbetic choice, but stems from his active relation to tbe life around 
him. We are not primarüy concemed in tbis paper witb questions of soaology 




■••' ■■>:■ 



June, 1940) 



or of social psychology, of politics or economics, though accusations of that kind 
may be in the reader's mind. But philosophies of life, as syntheses which include 
the varying sense of direction prevalent in society, and detennined by basic 
divergences in the experience and consciousness of an age, are precisely at the 
heart of our topic. 

Lest this approach be regarded as emphasizing too much the exclusive concem 
of the writer with contemporary life, foregomg portions of this paper have akeady 
stressed the role of past experience and traditional values, the continuity of tradi- 
tions, the absence of any exact equivalence between the consciousness of art 
and that of its contemporary society. There is probably, moreover, a constant 
ambivalence of attitude on the part of the writer towards conflicting orientations 
in his day and m tradition— more acute and conscious when relative instability 
and uncertamty succeed an era of relative confidence,— reaching its apogee when 
eras of major transition arrive. In this way smaller cycles of change are super- 
imposed upon, or contained within, larger ones. Philosophical alternatives will 
likewise dovetail, interpenetrate, or supersede each other. Most mclusive and 
final will appear those long-range orientations which, for example, differentiate 
the ancient classical world, the medieval period, and modemity. It is common- 
place that the concept of spirit dominated medieval culture in a way only paral- 
leled by the concept of etemal nature subsumed under the mathematics and 
astronomy of Greek culture, and by the fundamental concept of change and 
relativity in the modern mind. These are ordering concepts which will diflferen- 
tiate Dante from Goethe or Proust. But they are very gross differentia which 
teil US only of things long embodied in our thought, however important for the 
total history of culture. They must be taken into consideration when we esti- 
mate the impact of traditional philosophies upon subsequent eras of expression; 
hence the changing nature of the Piatonic influence to which we referred else- 
where in this paper. And the same distmctions must be bome in mind with 
respect to every other major tradition. The Epicureanism of young Horace is 
vastly different from that of Pater. His "Qarpe diem" is far removed from the 
latter's invocation to "bum always with this hard gem-like flame." To take 
another example: ^ 

The One remains, the many change and pass; 

Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly ; ^ . 

Life, like a dorne of many-colored glass, 

Stains the white radiance of Etemity 

Until death tramples it to f ragments. 

.1 , 

Shelley's famous simile is not imdiluted neoplatonic mysticism, not only because 
the metaphor of the dome mtervenes to indicate the cone of shadow which New- 
tonian astronomy had demonstrated to be the constant accompaniment of the 

;/■* v'.v. .-., ■, >s. 


'; '. *•'■'■' '' • 

, i ■■-■ 

. V 



[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

,iV:ft ■ ..i>. 

earth's path through the blue heavens, but also because we know that Shelley's 
is neither the substantial spiritualism of the mediaeval mystic nor thecontempla- 
tive Beupla of the ancient Platonists. He was also the Shelley of "Prometheus 
Unbound." We must correct any one-dimensional interpretation of Shelley's 
Platonism in terms of tradition alone. Grabo indeed goes to another extreme 
and mterprets him as A Newton among the Poets}^ The circle of Godwin and 
the radicals, the background of the French Revolution, the world of scientific 
thought, the philosophy of Romantic Idealism are the intellectual and experi- 
ential context to which Shelley had to adapt or reconcile or in relation to which 
he had to maintain, his avowed Platonism of the later period. Acceptance, 
struggle, escape are all living realities in juxtaposition within Shelley's short life. 

A Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Moli^re, Rousseau, Goethe, or Wordsworth — 
any great writer — must needs reflect divergent patterns of intellectual orientation, 
but he will, in the total Output of his pen, or in his major and culminating achieve- 
ment of expression, attain to some characteristic vision which marks him as 
predominantly a writer who has accepted or rejected, struggled with or escaped 
from, the imperatives of belief which were embodied in his age. The fact that 
he has redirected through affective apprehension the established orientation of 
his time, stamps him as creative. He may have directed life back to an older 
reality or forward to a new, frequently both. In periods of minor changes the 
old will be as important as the new. In the rare periods of major transition such 
as apparently we live in today, the new can become vastly more important. 
Moreover every period of new conviction will reinterpret and rediscover the past 
in its own image, so that the past is never an identical body of belief. 

Historians and critics of literature are agreed that a series of movements or 
ages of varying duration mark the course of westem letters in all leading countries. 
We discuss the 12th Century Renaissance, the era of epic and romance or tte 
age of chivalry, the 13th Century synthesis, the Chaucerian age, the Renaissance, 
the Pl^iade, the Elizabethan age, the Jacobean age, the Puritan revolution, 
the Restoration, the Augustan age, the ages of Reason and Neo-classicism in 
France, or just the 17th Century, the 18th Century, the "Romantic revival" 
or "reaction" or "period," the Aufklärung, Sturm und Drang, the Victorian age, 
the movement of realism, of rationalism, the Pamassians, the Symbolists, the 
"1890*s" or the decadents or the "art for art's sake" movement, the Georgians, 
the Edwardians, etc. These designations present a stränge medley of criteria 
of Classification and there is neither precision nor adequacy in the nomenclature. 
But they have been, and still are in constant use. And primarily because each 
connotes some dominating trend of vision and selection as applied by writers to 
human experience. Each has its own "philosophy" or philosophies, and each 
its characteristic interpretation of a utilizable tradition. The movements of 




I ■^' ■ ' '••' ' 




June, 1940] 



thought roughly traced earlier which appear during the period of time of the 
above succession of "ages," all variously affect these epochs of literary expression 
and in some way guide their course. This can only mean that writers in each 
age.have, consciously or not, come under the impact of prevailing doctrines and 
beliefs, an understanding of which is essential to the füll appreciation of their 
works.i» It is upon the relation of the writer in his day to the driving forces of 
action and thought with which he is in contact that the study of philosophy in 
literature, if it is to be meaningful, must essentially be focused. 

We are not concemed here with passive reflection; all writers in one way or 
another reflect their age. Whatever be their attitude to its prevailing beliefs, 
there is little to debate here. An age may be more effectively reflected by minor 
writers than by major ones. Historians are never weary of reminding us of the 
homely or pregnant flavor of a past period in writings of its forgotten essayists, 
poets, novelists. In a great number of minor writers the spirit of an age is never 
objectified. They are manifestations of their time. Their thoughts, attitudes, 
phrases, techniques are but fragments and products of Community life in which 
they are immersed. The phüosophy which is embodied there is of interest to 
the historian of ideas rather than to the phüosophical criticism or Illumination 
of literature. It is perhaps to writers of this category that Prof. Lovejoy's 
implicit assumptions, unconscious mental habits, categories and types of imagery, 
assumptions of method, congenial Symbols, phrases, formulae, more significantly 
apply. Once a new movement in letters has estabUshed itself, minor talents of 
all kinds will become imitative practitioners of the new techniques, will explore 
old angles of the new vistas. And there are always the fads and fashions of 
beUettrists, of young enthusiasts, and voluble minor critics which accompany 
the career'of art. But it is the writer of wider scope, the great writer, who 
expresses and not merely reflects his age, with whom we are chiefly concemed. 
Let US then take the artist who accepts his age when it is advancing. At such 
a time deeper institutional foundations are being given to the life of the com- 
- munity Superior forms of social Organization are emerging. There are signifi- 
cant breaks with the fetters of outwom institutions. New layers of human 
energy are seeking and attaining the prerogatives of civilized life. The writer's 
task is then to realize in his art new modes of feeling and value and to embody 
them in the instinctive outlook of his day. It is to be expected that affirmative 
phüosophies of action which sustain a belief in the meaningful exertion of will, 
the intrinsic worth of man, the healthy character of his Impulses, his harmony 
with nature wiU be most influential. Besides a deUghted exploration of new 
tvDes of Situation, new characters, and new experiences, there wiU be a cnticism 
of Aat which is outwom in the life of his day in the Hght of new Standards of 
value and in modem times, there wiU be a prevailing expansive phüosophy of 




[Serbes B; Vol. 1, Nq. 31 


individualism. Those aspects of traditional thought which cohere with such 
outlook will be selected and others will be ignored. This can be said of thfl 
writers of the Renaissance, of Shakespeare or Marlowe, of Rabelais, and Motiff 
taigne. It can be said of Moli^re with his naturalism, his philosophy of "bo^t 
hommie," his attack upon hj^ocrisy in the character of TartufiFe and upoil 
the pedantry of the new science in "Les Femmes Savantes," and also of his gen^ 
eral afl&liations with the more earthy spokesmen of science, Gassendi and 
his circle. ■; :_;.'•,. - ■■y::;a ■■■,;<•■.r^:..- ;;K;:---''^; ;A'r>.-< '-.:..■.■•: . 

Negative acceptance I apply to the writer who aflSrais the dominant values 
of his age when that age is actually in decay — when the positive sources of vital 
living are definitely in decline, when great institutions have remained unmodiüed 
before new requirements of human existence, when among the cultivated and 
the powerful of the age convictions have become Conventions, and morals 
degenerated into mere manners, when time-servers and sycophants increasingly 
discharge the duties of high office.^® It is the picture of Goldsmith's "Deserted 
Village" or of Gray's "Elegy." ; ,. v>^/ ,,;<^^ 

But not to one in this benighted age 
Is that diviner Inspiration given 
Which bums in Shakespeare's or in Milton's page, 
' ^ V :: V / J The pomp and prodigality of heaven. 

Most artists have responded to such a period in terms of rejection rather 
than acceptance. Those who do frankly accept for whatever reasons, have been 
minor talents, limited in ränge of sensibility and of intelligence, decorative 
artists, writers of light pastiche — the school not of a "dolce stil nuova" but of 
the "dolce far niente." Here there is no need to seek any philosophy other than 
luxury doctrines, playfully sung, or sweetly moumed, to purvey amusement to 
the bored and surfeited, to massage the emotions of the imdiscriminating and 
unawakened. It is the literature of "panem et circenses" — "panem" for the 
writer, and "circenses" for his readers. It is the defeat of art and thought. 
Such writers may have started with both sensibility and promise but they have 
never matured, — casualties of the temptation to please, and of their unfertile 
time. Their aflärmations by virtue of which they may still be called minor 
artists are slight, and at best they may have added something of passing grace 
to their age through wit or gaiety or an occasional song.^^ 

•x^. i:u. '.■• 



The writer who rejects his age in whole or in part; and in rejecting struggles 
with or seeks escape from the criteria which it would impose, belongs to the 
longest traditions of letters, and is a member of the largest and most populoua 




"■.'''' ; 

■ ''i< 

■■ ■ *' i\*< •, 

June, 1940] 




fratemity of artists.« It is in relation to the life and work of such writers that 
the study of our topic is most significant. Some would claim that all writers of 
stature without exceptipn fall into this category. Our category of writers of 
positive acceptance indicates an alternative view. But even here it is the ten- 
sions within an advancing society consciously reflected in the writer which supply 
a dynamic relationship far removed from the designation of detached observer. 
The writer who rejects is a critic of his age, of its motives and values in action, 
and of their intellectual foundations, unplicitly or explicitly formulated. When 
he sees pride, corruption and weakness, hypocrisy, arbitrariness and suffering, 
he penetrates by the very intensity of his feeling beyond the individual occasion 
to some criterion of good and evil, of beauty and ugliness, of justice and injusticc, - 
of God and Satan. The ränge of his responsiveness will make him take his 
orientation from some version of fate, of divine, cosmic, or human causation, 
of the soul of man, of nature, of history, of material atoms, of reason or will, of 
ßlan Vital or over-soul, of the social order. The Greek dramatists, Lucretius, \ 
Dante, Milton, Goethe, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tolstoy, Hardy, Lawrence, 
Mann, Makaux— merely to survey their names is to bring to mind the varying 
types of unifying vision under which writers at very different times have sought, 
like the philosopher, to bring to bear upon the world of affairs a total vision in 
terms of which they formulate their values as against the disvalues manifest in 
human affairs. If their society adheres to traditions of culture, organized bodies 
of theory, sciences and philosophies, corroborative or contradictory to their own 
personal and directive convictions, they actively adapt or combat them, but in a 
manner appropriate to art, not to abstract intellectual debate. Yet it is common 
enough for writers like those mentioned above even to enter the lists in the füll 
accoutrements of controversy, to write tracts for the times in addition to their 

creative works. -^ '^./.::: ■■■■'. fri^-'-y- 

Writers of rejection we have said, often take the path of escape or of struggle. 

As Louis MacNeice has said: 

it is a difference of degree. In a sensc all art is an escape, like a boat in which we ride over life. 
But the real escapist is the man who sits in his boat while keeping it moored to the bank. The 
escapist tums to art to forget life, not to be able to face it more securely.*» 

TThe artist of struggle will be more rugged, more "tough minded" to use 
William James^s phrase. The artist of escape will be more tender minded, more 
easily bruised by his contacts with life, and sooner or later he may seek to avoid 
any further contamination and retire to a world of his own, to a safer reahn 
^ beyond the battle. Such rejection has the air of finality. It has many forms 
but they are reducible to two which often interpenetrate. Escape is from tem- 
poral to etemal or from public to private perspectives. The two poles of escape 


,<V:-; :'.'-:■'•. 

:'•■' ''.."^'J' 



[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

are the universe and the individual soul. Recourse to the fonner was more fre- 
quent in the past, but in modern times it is the latter to which writers have of tener 

gravitated«' i. i • i 

Again we are here concemed less with the sociological and psychological 
reasons for these trends, than with theu: impUcations for philosophy. Both 
forms of escapist criticism of life have always required some sort of justification, 
aU the more so because the writer, tied to concrete existence by his artistic 
instincts, techniques, and traditions, feels more strongly the contradiction in his 
effort to remain aloof . He is more in need of a justifying phüosophy— and it 
wiU play a larger and more expHcit role in his work than in the work of a writer 
who is more hnmersed in the füll ränge of the experience of his time. 

If he takes the road of escape to some universal source of causation or of value 
he will adapt to his purpose any one of a variety of traditional or modern world 
Views— the God and heaven of the Christian tradition, some form of Platonism, 
Stoic pantheism, the Rantian thing-in-itself, the absolute, in one of its more 
modern forms, Hegelian or Bradleian, the Schopenhauerian blind will, or even 
the Bergsonian flux and the ßlan vital. Since the romantic movement, one of 
these may become identified with a retreat to nature conceived as an eternal, 
unsuUied, and consoling reahn of value. A version of this will be primitivism, 
the search for a condition of society unspoüed by civilization— such as partiy 
motivated D. H. Lawrence. The latest form, officially imposed, however, m 
Germany, is the mystical unity of Volk, Blut und Boden. 

If the escapist orientation of the writer be towards the privacy of his soul, he is 
equaUy faced with the need of a phüosophy— both of the personality and of the 
nature of experience. Since the Renaissance the world has been pervaded with 
phüosophies of individualism which have taken varied practical and cultural 
forms. These ränge from Descartes' mind, conceived as the individual rational 
consciousness, and Locke's understanding, treated as a complex of individual 
sensations and rational intuitions, to Berkeleyan subjectivism, to the Humean 
flux of consciousness, to the vastly different individual of "genius" of romanti- 
cism; from Hobbes' enUghted egoism to the practical self-made man and the 
capitalist magnate, or to the Benthamite calculating hedonist and mdividual 
voter of optimistic UberaUsm. In these is traceable the wide sweep of individu- 
aUstic theories in the era of modern social advance. Organic concepts entered 
in from biology. They were further adapted and refined by psychology to trans- 
form the whole traditional view of the soul and personaUty for contemporary 
generations. Obviously some of these mdividualisms are oriented toward 
struggle, and some toward escape. We are here concemed with the latter. 

The traditional escape to privacy was mysticism. From Plotinus' doctrine 
of absorption of the individual soul m the One, to the Christian mystics' com- 


.1 ',' ■ 

■'■x- ■.:■ ■ 


June, 1940] 




munion with the Divine, and on to more secular m)rsticisms of the romantic 
soul we are still dealing with the whole of the individual's personality, regarded 
as a fragment, a spark of divinity, which finds completeness and release in the 
ecstasy of union with God or the One or the Spirit of Beauty. Mysticism is a 
form of escape which is wider than solipsism. But in our contemporary world 
developments in psychology have f umished the conception of the soul as a private 
stream or river of consciousness, or as a searchlight over the darkness.^ Or 
again, biology and psycho-analysis have presented it as a vast subterranean 
ocean, upon the surface of which play, like smaller or larger waves, the disturb- 
ances of consciousness. Escape to the seif can be an isolation, supported by an 
interpretive science and by philosophical elaborations of that science — ^an isola- 
tion which permits of no ultimate mystical release or Solution and which eflFec- 
tively encloses the writer within "his own dark walls.**^ 

It is escape in a more complete sense of the term than traditional mysticism. 
The other pole of escape still left the writer at least with a wider perspective of 
value. To gaze at life on earth even while ignoring the earthly disciplines of 
that life, but holding fast some vision of etemity, is still an approach which need 
not always exclude intensity, fervor, and even prophecy. But^n^hen reality is 
reduced to the privacy of the individual mind, as in the stream of consciousness 
method, or plunged into the depths of undiluted Freudianism, all objectivity is 
likely to disappear. It has been especially true of the stream of consciousness 
novelists. Originally indeed, it was in behalf of a stricter psychological realism 
than extemal realism could provide that the short story and the novel tumed to 
the exploration of inner consciousness. Checkhov and Katherine Mansfield 
had led the way in seeking to register the vivid moments of consciousness at a 
crucial tum in the individuaPs experience. But in the course of its develop- 
ment, other forces, and as we are here indicating, motives of escape from reality, 
tumed the trend into this new and extreme subjectivism. 

It becomes a task for the philosophical criticism of literature and aesthetics to 
recognize the limits of value for the expression of reality which such techniques, 
and the writer's System of conviction supporting them, involve. The very 
subtlety and sophistication which accompany this type of escape make that need 
for clarification more urgent. At the same time it cannot be denied that when 
talents of such authenticity or magnitude as those of Woolf or Joyce take this 
path of expression they cannot but contribute, within the narrower ränge to 
which it restricts them, to an Illumination of personal experience which has great 
value to the philosopher and psychologist if not to the conmion reader. But the 
f unction of art as conununication of experience is progressivdy ignored in this 
mode of writmg. Social reality deliquesces. The larger problem remains of 
what the conditions and beliefs are which generate such relative waste of great 

:■'. ^ 

■ t ■;' , ■ 




-'■M' :-^^ '■■■■..■ ^•;d;t^•:- 




[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

talent. A whole generation is cheated of the advantages which naturally flow 
from the engagement of its creative talents with the füll ränge of its life. Such 
works are really expressions of disillusionment and Symptoms of objective decay. 

It is obviously Joyce's undertaking both in Ulysses and in Finnegans Wake 
to abjure all beliefs and convictions, to work with some mystical doctrine of 
identity in which all values as well as all extemal or internal realities are in flux 
in that river of time of which his whole last work is a symbol. All criteria vanish, 
— of objective and subjective, of good and evil, of language itself. Character 
creation, events, things, words, disappear in the flux. His commentators explain 
that Vico's antiquated theory of historical cycles, Adler^s theory of recapitulation 
of racial history in the individual, and Einstein's theory of relativity are the 
deeper sources of Joyce^s method. It is notable that no one of these indicates a 
doctrine of ends in life. A method remains just that. The writer need not 
choose or prefer in the realm of human alternatives whether social or personal. 
He simply exhibits a neutral atmosphere, a set of interlocking perspectives. 

Philosophical theory has had its versions of the flux of experience, since David 
Hume's famous (Jissociation of the substantial soul. Here lies the real parentage 
of the stream of consciousness method — bom in the mind of a famous modern 
skeptic. Its more modern successors are William James^s stream of pure ex- 
perience — and James was the teacher of Gertrude Stein — ; Bertrand Russell's 
erstwhile theory of neutral monism; HusserPs phenomenology, and some aspects 
of contemporary logical positivism. A variant of importance, because it influ- 
enced the symbolists and Proust, is the stream of the £lan vital of Bergson made 
up of the living continuity of intuitions of pure duration. Another is Gentile's 
philosophy of the pure act, and aspects of Benedetto Croce's philosophy and 
aesthetics. It is therefore an error to stress the exclusive role of modern psy- 
chology in dete.rmining the literature which escapes to the flux of personality. 
A whole ränge of factors, social and intellectual, have played their part in it. 
To see this is to recognize the complex role of the Zeitgeist in determining the 
direction taken by the creative writer. 

It is true, however, that by a purely descriptive technique, this literary trend 
can seek to avoid or evade artistic evaluation of human affairs or commitment 
to any of the positive or negative directions which they may be taking. It is 
the outlook more appropriate to the suspended judgments of science than to the 
aflärmative character of art, and when imported into an art makes it an escape 
from life rather than a participation in it. This has always been the danger 
which lurks in too close an identification of the categories of art and science, 
however true it be that for the modern mind verisimilitude and value will have 
important roots in the verdicts of the sciences. We shall deal with this phase of 
our subject later in this paper. Yet despite intent to be noncommittal, the fact 
remains that the motive of escape becomes visible in a larger social approach to 

w " 



"7^ ■'•'>'. -^-''W.- -T» 

■^^"^ ,V >'t'.*S-. 

• ■'^l; V'■■^■*.■ 

June, 1940] 




such art. It Stands out as eloquent of a criticism and rejection of society. The 
stream of consciousness writers f requently combine a modern derivation from the 
traditional psychology of conscious experience with Freudian insights. Litera- 
ture for twenty-five years has leaned heavily on psychoanalysis. Its accom- 
panying philosophy of the unconscious stems from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche 
and from the influence of modern biology and evolution, and of Psychiatric 
studies. Its orientation therefore is that of voluntarism andanti-intellectualism* 
The Romantic and mystical Evolutionism of Bergson is likewise to be seen as 
part of this whole 20th Century pattern of thought which has been focused upon 
literature through the inevitable appeal of the work of Freud. Schopenhauer 
since 1860, the Evolutionary theory since 1870, Nietzsche since 1890, and Berg- 
son — ^had all produced the atmosphere appropriate to the reception of Freud. 
Hardy, who is not a Freudian, is to be linked with Evolutionism and Schopen- 
hauer. Mann associates himself explicitly with Schojjenhauer, Nietzsche, and 
Freud. D. H. Lawrence undertook to write his own private version of psycho- 
analysis. V 

It is not surprising then that escapist poets and painters of the post-war 
generation have given birth to the movement of surrealism, and indicated most 
definitely the drastic logic both for thought and art of a strict adherence to the 
older Freudian orientation. The writer has no duties except to his own depths-^ 
the subterranean jungle of his psyche. He registers automatically what they 
send forth^ He abjures all conscious effort or selection for the reason that his 
dreams, reveries, and automatic states are to reveal the heart of reality. The 
World of men and events, of objectivity, has lost all significance. Art expresses 
the subconscious. Communication, if it be a function of art at all, is from the 
artist's "id*' or libido to that of the reader or beholder. All reason has departed. 
It is not at all art for art's sake. It is a plunge into Walpurgisnacht. Here we 
see in birth the ultimate irrationality of Fascism, when such doctrines, having 
had their day in an individualistic formulation, are transferred out of the same 
atmosphere of thought which nurtured them and are imposed upon the outlook 
of a great Community. The individualism of the subconscious, like that of the 
stream of consciousness, ends in its own annihilation. In Germany it culminates 
in the mystical irrationality of the national and folk spirit in which the sub- 
conscious seif is merged^ and for which true individuahty of men's reason and will 
in society is superfluous.«* The Fascist poet sings: 

Die Erde ist heilig und der Mensch ist gering. 

It must by no means be assumed that escape to the "darkness of the womb" 
was the only role in letters of the biological evolutionary and Freudian combina- 
tion of ideas. It should be emphasized that the age of Freud hs^s found a great 


'.■■ ■ •': 

' ''i'.'' 


• . .1 


,v^ — ^-^ 

••./, .'it. 

■■.!''.'(, ■ 

, ; i''. 



::>; ./ 




ränge of positive direction in other interpretations of this philosophy. 'W 
tionary naturalism in which Freudian doctrine is deeply rooted has also 
the disciplined recognition of real process in nature, society, and history, 
meaning of change, progress and regress, a deeper understanding of how chaÄ 
ter is formed in events and many other advances of insight. 

Hardy, Ibsen, Mann, D. H. Lawrence, who are variously related to this coll^ 
text of thought, are great writers who are not primarily escapist. We have re- 
f erred to the ambivalent character of the relation of every artist of scope to hti 
age. This can be well illustrated in the shifts and altemations of attitude m 
the above writers. Yet Thomas Mann, who has elaborately afl&rmed and in hi* 
Creative works embodied the influenae of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Freudf 
seems in his great Joseph story to be exploring regions of racial mythology m 
definitely irrational terms. His characters, like Mynheer Peeperkorn and Mario 
the Magician, are concretions of organic and Freudian mysticism. Likewiae 
D. H. Lawrence, in all his later works, comes ever nearer, in his mode of selectioi 
of content and m his characters, to the expression of the isolated personality ol 
ecstatic and orgiastic impulsion. He is the prophet of a vision of pure feeling 
which falls tragically short and in the end gets lost m a frenzied irrationalism. 

But it is in terms of the wider impact of the society in which these writers 
move that such negative orientations of their world-views must find an ex- 
planation.*^ The uneasy conscience of artists towards their age in our day, the 
desire to evade communication of social reality, to elimmate it from their creative 
concem, the pretended contempt for their public, the undertaking to rely upon 
their individual resources of private meaning, allusion, and imagery, with the 
accompanying cult of technique, of atmospheric values, of pure music, of ob- 
scurity— these are all embodied more specifically in the movements of poetry 
than in the novel and drama. They are variously exhibited from the symbolists 
to the surrealists, from the "art for art's sake" movement around Pater in 
England, to imagism in America and the expatriate experimenters of Transütan, 
T followers mostly of James Joyce. The context of those writers was that of a 
World moving towards the great war and accompanymg its aftermath. The 
nobler convictions of the preceding Victorian age had lost theip anchorage in 
society. The naturaUstic unflinching concem with an objective social world had 
tumed away discouraged with Flaubert and the De Goncourts, disillusioned by 
what minute investigations of "slices of life" were revealing. Art tumed from 
objective to subjective realism and, again discouraged, to those subjective dis- 
sociations and disintegrations which we have already indicated above. 
As MacNeice points out they 

wcre all attempts to divorce art from lif e— unsuccessful attcmpts because their poems still repre- 
scnted life, but successhil in so f ar as this lif e was whittled away to a shadow of a portion of 
itsdf— the make-beUeve of aesthetes, the life of dreams, a life divoiced from morals, or iht 



June, 1940J 



m' 1' 



reason, or Community values, a parasite, a luxuiy. This was a logical process, f or the poet was 
already a luxury himself .*' 

What ideas cbuM fumish justification and support to a literary movement of 
this kind? What types of directive vision could find embodiment in it? Ob- 
viously only detached fragments from larger bodies of thought, refinements of 
older doctrines and tortured segments of new ones which were discoverable in 
the science and philosophy of the day, often curious amalgams of science and 
mysticisms new and old. Some sort of contemplative phenomenology was 
needed based on the ultimacy of sensations, images, and feelings, moving in 
a neutral medium of private experience. The discussions of the stream of con- 
sciousness writers above has referred to some of the philosophical ideas which 
served here too, for, chiefly, these movements were,intending to skim the surface 
of life. The Symbolists appealed to the Bergsonian mystery of an "intuition 
of pure duration" appropriate to their rarefied individualism. Pater gave 
philosophical assurance to the "art for art*s sake" writers by his refinement upon 
traditional Epicureanism. He called it the new Cyrenaicism and ruminatively 
explored it in Maritis the Epicurean and in his conclusion to The Renaissance. 
The f ortuitous concourse of atoms lef t no other choice than to catch the moment 
for that moment's sake. Oscar Wilde's character, Lord Henry Wotton, was 
delightfully busy doing so throughout Dorian Gray. 

Poetry, with the aid of such philosophical sweepings, thought it could Start 
cleansing verse of the impurities with which realism, Victorianism, and naturalism 
had foully cluttered it. Einsteinian relativity was invoked to justify private 
Systems of reference. An abstractionism of geometrical statics was found com- 
patible with some parts of this outlook, but given application more easily in 
sculpture and painting. This promised purity with a vengeance. 'Euclid alone 
had gazed on beauty bare.* The Piatonic pathos flickers faintly in the ofläng, 
but overlaid with William James's stream of pure experience as in Gertrude 
Steines doctrine of "beginning again and again," and confusions with the mathe- 
matical foundations of music. T. E. Huhne, an American imagist, whose work 
SpeculcUions^^ was widely influential, moves from one to the other of these ideas 
and finds them compatible with Bergsonism. A new abtruse philosophy of mean- 
ing, a body of semantics, is fashioned to justify the exclusion of meaning. It 
had its füllest realization in Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Clive Bell formulated 
his doctrine of "significant form" which found literature the more significant the 
more of content it omitted. A perusal of the conmientaries on Joyce's "Work 
in Progress" called by the brave title Our Exagmination round his Factifica^ 
tionfor Incamination of Work in Progress* will 3rield a medley of those fragments 
of philosophical orientation based on Bruno, Vico, Dante, Einstein, semantics, 
dreams, and night thoughts. 

What these writers and critics were most effectively arriving at was the ex- 


.*■, ■'• • '■' .' 

. .'.■ , .V' •■ ..',1 ,'' ,., 

■ • .'■.' •" \ . •■>. 



[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

perience of a void or of literary dilettanteism or of egocentric individualism 
sustained by an artified and sophisticated pride. They are all very similar to 
each other. Their greatest fear was lest they be understood by the profane 
masses of men. The process of "epater le bourgeois," which had in a sense 
Started with Balzac's and Flaubert's intense hatred for the new middle class, 
had culminated in this impasse of disbelief in any sharable reality. Dionysius 
was in doubt. It is not surprising. A sense of the sickness of civilization was 
pervading letters f ar beyond the ränge of this particular group of f rankly escapist 
writers. Within the personality which the movement of modern introspection 
was so minutely exploring, few positive values were being fomid. Again only a 
wider approach from the direction of a philosophy of society can set this epoch 
into perspective and explain to us why sensitive and able minds could move in 
directions so barren of mature creative fruition. Reality as well as their philos- 
ophy was coercing them into these ways. A recent writer has referred to Thomas 
Mann's remark that Marx must read Hölderlin. But in this group of writers 
Hölderlin tended to reign supreme. 

The coexistence in this stränge literary world, and mdeed the partial emergence 
from it, of such great talents as Joyce, Woolf , Lawrence, Mann, and Proust, re- 
veals the inutility of purely condemnatory evaluations. Li many ways the 
works of these men, for example, A Portrait and Ulysses of Joyce and the Ä la 
Recherche of Proust, are both profound explorations and indictments of their 
age. The explorations of inner reality by men of such introspective ränge and 
technical power will provide their most positive and creative contribution. 
The indictments are the mark of the real underlying conflict of values between 
art and society in our times. Yet both these aspects of theü: work are accom- 
panied by a prevailing negativism in Joyce, and a hectic privacy in Proust which 
cast a Strange pall over their total creations. 


- Proust^s portrayal of a whole layer of French aristocratic families is as complete 
a disavowal of tiie inner life of the powerful as can be found. Against this 
background must be evaluated the delicate apologia for his whole career, which 
he gives us in the last volume of his novel, explaining in the most meticulous de- 
tail and illustrating from the experiences which his own characters have found 
valuable, his whole philosophy of art, life, and personality. Here we find his 
avowal of a lyrical sensationalism expanded by memory, the subjectivism of in- 
trospektive revery which enabled him to achieve such astonishing fidelity to 
fleeting moods and half-conscious obscurities of feeling. He teils us that 

only the subjective Impression, however inferior the material may seem to be and however im- 
probable the outline, is a criterion of truth and for that reason it alone merits being apprehended 




/■-•:•V•.^■'^^"''''V- ;'''>:W^* ■',:'■":' Tif'i^l^ 

■%'■ >, 

June, 1940] 



by the mind, for it alone is able if the mind can extract this truth, to lead the mind to a greater 
perfection and impart to it a pure joy. The subjective impression is for the writer what experi- 
mentation is for the sdentist, but with this difference, that with the sdentist the work of the 
intelligence precedes and with the writer it comes afterwards . . . anything that was dear before 
we intervened, is not our own.*" 

The reader of Proust will watch with astonished incredulity the vast expansion 
of this theme in passage after passage through this last volume. These passages 
continually revert to such episodes as the dipping of madeleine in tea, the sound 
of a hammer, the clink of a spoon against a plate, the accidental stepping upon 
uneven flagstones, the lacing of a shoe — for these have been the subjective im- 
pressions which in retrospective memory were filled out. The Bergsonian in- 
tuition of pure duration thus took on its required amplification — and that is life. 
Truth is psychological. It has no truck with an extemal nature or with a world 
of objective social realities. 

There is only one sure value in the world for Proust, the recomposing of vivid 
portions of our personal past through art, rescuing in this way from flux and semi- 
darkness, fragments which we can call our soul. As to other values and ideals, 
they reside in a realm apart and have no roots in this world. Nature, society, 
thought have nothing to do with value. Proust retums to the great answers of 
the religious tradition, but only in this lone passage of his vast work. 

Everything happens in our lives as though we had entered upon them with a bürden of Obligation 
contracted in an anterior existence; there is nothing in our earthly existence to make us feel 
that we are under an Obligation to be good, to be morally sensitive, even to be polite; nor to the 
artist to begin over again twenty times a passage which will probably be admired only when his 
body has been devoured by worms. ... All these obligations which have no sanction in our 
present life seem to belong to a different world, a world f ounded on goodness, on mond scruple, 
on sacrifice, a world entirely different from this one [He has been depicting the actual world in 
volume after volume and finding only this emptiness], a world whence we come when we are bom 
on earth, perhaps to retum there and live once more under the rule of the unknown laws which 
we have obeyed here because we carried their prindples within oursdves without knowing who 
decreed that they should be; those laws to which every deep intellectual labor draws us nearer 
and which are invisible only— and not always— to fools.» 

It is curious to note here how a writer who utilizes a refined application of a 
contemporary science like psychology, both in its analysis of consciousness and 
in its Freudian developments, can at the same time remain impervious to so 
much of the experience and thought of three hundred years and, however tenta- 
tively, with a kind of innocent surmise, suggest the most traditional answer to the 
Problem of the source and sanction of values. It is in keeping with other pas- 
sages in which he elaborates an aesthetic Platonism. But if truth be psy- 
chological only, how can one be at the same time a true Piatonist? 

What Proust undoubtedly should mean is that truth must always be filtered 



' ' X'' 







(Series B; Vol. 1, 




through the creative act of the artist, which is a very different thing. 
writer is not concemed with presenting ideas and truths as such, but with 
impact on feeling, their embodiment in personalities and concrete exist< 
This is what Thomas Mann has managed to do in his characters, Naphta 
Settembrini in The Magic Mountain. It is what we expect from every grett^ 
novelist. Yet Thomas Mann in his "Freud and the Future" also aflanns in terms 
somewhat similar to but more explicit than Proust's that: 

there has remained with me the desire for a psychological interpretation of knowledge ftii|||p, 
tnith. I still equate them with psychology and feel the psychological will to truth as a desiie 
for truth in general; still interpret psychology as truth in the most actual and courageous sense of 

the Word It forms a precondition of receptivity for the natural science of the psyche— in 

other words for what is known as psychoanalysis. 

This Statement of Mannas is presented by him as an explanation of his debt 
to Nietzsche, whom he regards as a forerunner of Freud. He regards Schopen- 
hauer, upon whom he has recently written a book, along with Nietzsche and 
Freud, as the pioneers of the modern, by no means Socratic, ideal of courageous 
self-knowledge. It is not to "know thyself ," but to "know with ironic humor the 
worst about thyself" which is a Freudian correction of Socrates by way of the 
sense of guilt. It is not your ignorance which conceals the truth about reality 
but it is the vital motives, inner drives, instmctual privations of your psyche and 
of the whole race. Moreover, Mann would add that some of the distortions of 
the psyche are by far the most valuable things in human life. They generate 
artists. Man is "Das kranke Tier." Truth therefore must be and must remain 
psychological. Mann is evolutionary, organic, and Psychiatric in his thinking — 
Proust relatively cerebral and traditional, but both meet at the portal of psy- 
chology and expect truth to emerge from it. The philosopher might suggest to 
both from some modest point of vantage that they might very often be dis- 
appointed, though truth would welcome their friendly intent were she to appear. 
_ Thomas Mann certainly in part expresses the motive of escape. His volim- 
taristic philosophy has taken him on the Joseph journey. He says of it: 

When as a novelist I took the step in my subject matter from the bourgeois and individual to the 
mythical and the typical, my personal conncction with the analytic field passed into its acute 
stage. The mythical interest is as native to psychoanalysis as the psychological interest is to 
all creative writing. Its penetration into the diildhood of the individual soul is at the same time 
a Penetration into the childhood of all mankind, into the primitive and mythical ... for the myth 
is the foundation of life, it is the timeless Schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it 
reproduces its traits out of the unconsdous. 

He talks of "the ironic and superior gaze of the mythically oriented artist," of 
"life as a sacred repetition, the father, the mother, the son, Aphrodite in her 



•/ ^r 



JüNE, 19401 



many incamations," of "searching the past for a pattern in terms of which to face 
the present problem."'*^ This is Thomas Mannas later Solution of the problems 
of existence. He creates a deeply suggestive atmosphere with his Tiefenpsy- 
chologiCj and fumishes a new pathos of the psychological continuity of human 
life. But he leaves us perilously strancjed in his magical formulae at the very 
brink of some racial subconscious abyss into which his own coimtry has ideologi- 
cally plunged, and from whichpe had himself the practical courage and the good 
fortime to get himself exiled. v ; *v ^ ? ^^^^^^ 

Mann, it is true, wams us in another much earlier work : ' * •! • ?^ 

'n/x- '■'<-■ tt.K 

"'!•:■,' -'Jti 

to take an intellectual idea proffered in a work of art as an end in itself , is to misunderstand it. 
It is not to be judged on its intellectual merits— a fact that even subtle critics are at times prone 
to forget or ignore. It is contrived with an eye to the compositional scheme. It claims validity 
solely within this scheme. Taken absolutely and from a literary point of view, it may be 
banal. While taken in its setting it may impress one as original and brilliant." 

This passage deserves inclusion in a paper like this for its own sake. But Mann 
is referring here to the ideas incorporated within the compositional scheme. We 
are referring to the ideas which are not only foimd mside his creations but to 
those which clearly express the convictions about reality out of which he fashions 
his compositional schemes, corroborated, moreover, by his own quite frequent 
and explicit afl&rmations of belief. 

Yet Mann is not an artist of escape. As W. H. Auden has pointed out^ in a 
valuable essay on the influence of Freud, 

There must always be two kinds of art, escape art, for man needs escape as he needs food and 
deep deep, and parable art, that art which shall teach men to unleam hatred and leam love . . . 

The massive achievement of Mann is in the latter category predominantly, and 
that is why his voice is being heard today within the battle as well. He has come 
close to, but not gone over the brink. 

D. H. LÄwrence is, like, Mann, a novelist, who, for all his mysticism of the 
£lan vital, expresses a great ränge of objective reality ordered by an intensely 
feit philosophy of life, and like Mann again is untroubled by any Inhibition to 
expound and defend at great length both in his novels and in prose commentary 
what that philosophy is. No two writers so much deserve study by those who 
would determine what the impact of ideas upon letters can be at its füllest. We 
may find great inadequacies in their philosophies as logical Systems or as incon- 
sistent with our own grasp of reality. But there is this which is undebatable 
about these men, that they present a vision of reality which is the product of 
tremendous tension between their individualism and their environment. 





[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

Lawrence and Mann are writers who stniggle witli their age. So for the 
most part are Gide, Dos Passos, Jules Romains, Aragon. Lawrence and 
Mann are philosophical novelists as Lucretius, Dante, Milton, Goethe are 
philosophical poets. Too much attention has in past discussions of philosophy 
and literature been exclusively paid to the poet as such. Li modern tunes it is 
the novel form which can most effectively include the füll ränge of experience 
and do it artistic justice. Our greatest talents have used the novel rather than 
poetry as the form most appropriate to the effective expression of the complex 
totality of modern experience. The novel is unhampered by poetry's require- 
ment of condensation and elision, of intense economy of Statement, within a 
dimension of feeling tone, and the metaphoric Imagination. It is likewise not 
hampered in space and time as is the drama, even the drama of ideas. It can 
as no other art form include everything past or present to which language has 
access. The novel today can combine the concentration of poetry, the dynamic 
of the stage, and then all the rest of life. Economics, politics, science, philoso- 
phies can appear there not indeed in the form of treatise and text-book exposition, 
but m their detailed Import for the ebb and flow of sensitive experience, and m 
all the variety of inward and outward behavior from which they spring and to 
which they find their application. 4 :^^ - ■'''■'"■■:-': 

As Lawrence himself has written: 

It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. And here lies the 
vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can infonn and lead into new places the 
flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things 
gone dead. Therefore the novel properly handled can reveal the most secret places of life, above 
all, that the tide of sensitive awareness needs to ebb and flow, cleansing and freshening.** 

When a Ijrrical writer like Lawrence, feeling that the idealism of the past has 
gone rancid and that nothing short of a new man and a new society must be en- 
visaged to create life afresh, moves with a sort of agonized passion through Euro- 
pean society and culture, we are boimd to hear in bis works, both within and 
between the lines the ring of prophecy, the denunciation in vivid character crea- 
tion and imaginative prose of a whole System of living. He will fashion for him- 
self a view of that world appropriate to his intense rejection of the prevailing 
one. Lawrence gives us an extraordinarily explicit Statement of this fact in a 
passage worth quotmg at length, for it drives to the heart of our whole discussion. 

It seems to me that even art is utterly dependent on philosophy: orifyou prefer it, on a meta- 
physic. The metaphysic or philosophy may not be anywhere very accurately stated and may be 
quite unconsdous, in the artist, yet it is a metaph}rsic that govems men at the time, and is by all 
men morc or less comprehended, and lived. Men live and see according to some gradually 
developing and gradually withering vision. This vision exists also as a dynamic idea or meta- 
physic— exists first as such. Then it is unfolded into life and art. Our vision, our belief, our 

ti^ ■ '>. 

■f v^-^^TSiTT-iiyji 




June, 1940] 



metaphysic is wearing woefully thin, and the art is wearing absolutely threadbare. We havc no 
future; neither for our hopes nor our aims nor our art. It has all gone gray and opaque. 

We've got to rip the old veil of a vision across, and find what the heart really believes in, after 
all: and what the heart really wants, for the next future. And we've got to put it down in terms 
of belief and of knowledge. And then go forward again, to the fulfillment in life and art." 

In Lawrence's struggle with the ideas and values of bis time, bis prophetic and 
ecstatic quality, bis searcb for a different orientation, he is like Blake and Rous- 
seau. Unlike them he never ultimately found peace or reconciliation. But 
Blake like Lawrence said,^ , ry-:-:]/::^-.:'--;;^-^.:j'^Hy'r'i,^. 

"I must Create a System or be enslav'd by another Man*s. 
"I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create." 
Blake was struggling against the smug matter-of-fact world of the England of 
Locke, Newton, and Joshua Reynolds: 

. . . "May God us keep, . vJ 

From Single vision, & Newton's sleep!" 
cried Blake in wrath. Alexander Pope, accepting the age, had chanted com- 


"Nature and Natureis laws lay hid in night: 
God said, Let Newton bei and all was light." 
The poetic vitality of Lawrence made it possible for him, to a degree which 
H. G. Wells could never achieve, to carry bis readers along aesthetically with a 
very wide ränge of ideas and with a Propaganda in their behalf. But he did it 
successfully only when he stuck to the novel. His later poetry— the volume 
called Pansies for example — unlike his earlier verse, was an almost complete 
failure as poetry. Lawrence*s bitterness against the cerebral spirit, the wordy 
intellectualism of cultured Europe, and his desperate insistence that people must 
alter and put some virility into their pale and impoverished lives was, like Blake's, 
a Protest against commercialism and materialism. He called onus: 

To feel fresh air in our throats, to have fresh air in our breasts, 
to make new words with our Ups, to escape the foul dream 

. ■,-, . - .. ■ ■; of having and getting and owning. 

Here he struggled with the power forces which were moulding the times. On 
the other band, his social vision stopped short at this point. Lawrence was no 
advocate of a socialist philosophy as so many of the writers of the present genera- 
tion since 1930 are. But Lawrence died in 1930 at the age of forty-five. Thomas 
Mann who in another artistic idiom but without the personal proletarian back- 
ground of Lawrence, lives on through the thirties, has now become politicalized 
and is certainly moving towards some explicit version of socialist democracy. 
So that Lawrence might, during the decade of the emergence of a fuU-fledged 
fasdst philosophy of life, have changed even more radically than Mann. 

■'.'■' h ■ \- • 

--'-■> / ü. ^ 

' ' ■ ■ ''''-. ■ . , ('*■ ■)■•,•'■ ■ ■ 1 ■ * t *'* ■■ '' ' ' < - • < 




[Skrtks B; Vol. 

For thc living Lawrence, however, the only reality remained his own ve: 
a new individual whom he held up to the gaze of his generation as the m 
salvation. He depicted him in terms of instinct, intuition, the blood, the 
savagely guarding his inviolable dark seif from cerebral contamination 
others. Just as he could marvellously portray a horse or a tree — and conVJ^jr 
unknown modes of animate being profoimdly to our imaginations, so he titod 
to depict a virile humanity. Let men first change themselves into this image aiüf 
they will change society, make it answer to the call of the heart. LawrencÜi 
seems to be the last great artist-propagandist for individualism, but a phallk 
individual, an asocial, orgiastic personality, impossible of achievement before 
the vast institutional requirements of a complex society and culture. Lawirencf 
came uncomfortably near, as did Mann, to the reactionary requirement of th^^ 
Fascist Weltanschauung where civilized individuality must actually be swallowea 
up in the mystery of the racial spirit, and where the Fuehrer is conceived in terms 
strikingly analogous to the Lawrentian hero. Yet there was too much of the 
artist's integrity in Lawrence, there were too many detailed sincerities of feeling 
in his work to make him welcome to the world of Nazidom. 

In Lawrence, too, the psychoanalysis of Jimg and Freud combined with evolu- 
tionary naturalism to determine his wider orientation. But, convinced that "all 
scientists are liars," as G. B. Shaw once said, he wrote his own books, two of them^ 
of analysis. In the introduction to one of them, Fantasia of the UnconsciouSf 
he modestly says: 

This pseudophilosophy of mine . . . is deduced from the novels and poems, not the reverse, 
The novels and poems come unwatched out of one's i>en. And then the absolute need which one' 
has for some sort of satisf actory mental attitude towards oneself and things in general makes 
one try to abstract some definite conclusions from one's experiences as a writer and as a man. 
The novels and poems are pure passionate experience. These "poUyanalytics" are inferencet 
made afterwards, from the experience. 


We have surveyed a considerable ränge of modern creative expression in order 
to depict more concretely the way in which the writer both as man and as artist 
is caught up in the fabric of his generation, and is influenced in his philosophical 
orientation by the resulting tension and interdependence of art and life. We 
can see that this is the case even when, as in the movement for pure art, it became 
the conviction of writers that art was utterly dissociated from life. It has been 
possible to indicate that the artist does not select at haphazard, or for their 
purely aesthetic worth, either prevailing or traditional modes of thought. It is 
only as they answer to his creative needs and can be accommodated to convictions 
and beliefs found within, and formed in response to his material, feit human 
experience, that he utilizes them. 

',■■" ;(. ' 

■ ?.' .■. ,' 


• -v-v 


June, 1940] 




'V ':r.i'-ll^-< 

The role of ideas in letters is seen most clcarly in this eontext bi tiie writer and 
his age. It is quite untrue that in afl&rming this we commit ourselves to any 
facile deterministic thcory about the automatic domination of the artist's mind 
by the thought of his times. The variety of available alternatives of orientation, 
due to the coexistence in his society and in its cultural forms of a wide ränge of 
conviction, belief, and value, the relative autonömy of artistic tradition with its 
own inner variety of approach, the central importance of a personal unification 
of Vision by each writer, and the requirements of individual integrity in dealing 
with his own affective ränge — all these make environment and biography, tradi- 
tion and artistic techniques, the minimum variables which must always be con- 
sidered. It makes the task of eflfective estimation of the role of philosophy in 
letters very complex and difficult and one, therefore, which must be handled 
with a minimum of dogmatic assurance about any one line of approach. 

To complete the thesis which we have stressed in this paper, and especially to 
illustrate fully, from the eontext of modern times with which we have chosen to 
deal, the category of writers who struggle more directly with the intellectual 
imperatives of their age, it would be necessary to tum to the major world-wide 
movement in letters since 1930. It has been named, mistakenly I think, the 
proletarian movement in literature. This is a very large theme which can be 
treated only in a separate article if it is to be handled with a minimum of ade- 
quacy. Moreover, it is a subject which has been receiving the continuous at- 
tention of poets, novelists, dramatists and critics in an almost uninterrupted 
stream of Statement and counter-statement. Some of the views which dominate 
this most recent course of creative expression have been embodied in the perspec- 
tives of this article. With that the writer will remain content, hoping only that 
he has in this way contributed something to the general problem of the influence 
of philosophy upon letters. ^ >< -•. 

Before closing this paper, however, it has seemed desirable, for the purpose of 
completer Statement of the most general aspects of the problem, and in view of 
the frequent references to sciences in the course of the above discussion, to add a 
further brief consideration of the role of science in literature. 


Studies have appeared in recent ycars on scientific thought in literature, on the 
influence there of specific individual sciences like astronomy, medicine, and 
psychology or of particular scientific ideas like evolution. The role of the new 
science of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the literature of the age of 
reason has been repeatedly explamed. In the preceding pages there has been 
frequent reference to sciences and to scientific ideas of one kind or another. 

i . ■■ - 






[Seeies B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

It would appear then that science exetts an influence upon letters similar to that 
of phüosophy. i; v^:^ 

It is important, however, to recognize that there is rarely any direct influence 
of science in the stricter sense of the word. Incidental allusions to science can 
readily be gathered aplenty in the literature of the world since science became a 
factor in the affairs of men, but this is hardly of any great importance as evidence 
of real influence. We do not tum to literature for scientific information, and 
creative art has little to do with the descriptive concems pf science. 

Science has at times been "an object of love and hatred, of apprehensions and 
wishes" but largely, in literature, of a vast indifference.'^ The classical tradition 
is secular and humanistic but it is not scientific. There is little or no evidence of 
the influence of science upon the letters of antiquity. Stoicism and Epicureanism 
were philosophies based originally upon a scientific foundation, however limited. 
Platonism was more specificaUy so, founded as it was on the mathematics and - 
astronomy of the Academy. But these philosophies enter into culture and those 
circles of the cultivated whence literature appeared, by way of their larger 
speculative doctrines. We have seen them exercise their influence on literature 
as ethical, semj-religious cosmical views of man's practical goals and his place in 
reality, or agäin as systematizations of mood and feeling. The Epicureans 
adopted/ and adapted the Demokratean materialism of atoms and the void. 
But it is their individualism and hedonism and conscious secularism which 
deteipined their appeal and, with the rare exception of Lucretius, brought only 
an mcidental bow to their scientific doctrine as in VirgiFs desire "rerum cognos- 
ce^ causas." It is only when science was revived m the wake of Renaissance 
humanism that these scientific foundations of the old philosophies began, as 
such, to have some effects, but by that time the new science itself is the main 
influencing factor in this regard. The Renaissance literature was, like the clas- 
sical, untouched by science as a source of insight. It was absorbed in action, and 
secular often rhetorical speculation upon human affairs. It was lyrical about the 
present and critical about the immediate past. y 

The middle ages possessed a religion and a theology with a philosophy and 
cosmology tied to both, but no science in our sense of the term. Dante's cos- 
mology was carefully worked out in terms of the erudition of his day. In spirit 
and precision he paralleled to perfection the close attention to what passed for 
available knowledge which we find in Lucretius. Both these poets, diametrically 
opposite as they are in their world views, can be said to come as near in literature 
as any writer since ever has to the description of being scientifically minded. 
Yet in both it is the world view which comes first and the "science"^ in its wake. 
The compulsive power of a world view upon their imaginations dictated the pas- 
sionate review of what each regarded as scientific evidence for it. 

And this indeed is the primary truth of the matter when we deal with the in- 

^ '^gT:T''T*'\y"*.j<"r' 'w' ■ 

^«^- ;---5L 









fluence of science up to the present upon the field of letters. A science will 
carry its weight with the writer only through the larger view of nature, man, and 
Society which it bears along with it in a sphere of what seems legitimate specula- 
tion from its data — legitimate usually to the laymen of his day or to its most ar- 
ticidate Interpreters, who are most often its philosophers. Bacon, himself no 
scientist, Descartes the philosopher, not the founder of analytical geometry, 
Clarke and Locke, philosophical Interpreters of Newton, not Newton himself, 
Leibnitz the philosopher not the same man who discovered calculus — these are 
the men through whom the literature of an age of science absorbed whatever 
scientific influence was exercised by the mathematico-physical achievement of 
the age. — 

The literature of romanticism was negatively influenced by the spience of the 
preceding age. It expressed, in part, the reaction against this science which 
had shocked old belief s and values and the Imagination steeped in their traditions. 
But it was the vast speculative conception of a world machine, quantitative, 
precise, excluding divine presence and human emotions, and not the equations 
of calculus or the laws of planetary motion, to which writers from Blake and 
Rousseau to Coleridge and Wordsworth reacted, and this view had been matured 
among the generally cultivated and the philosophical rather than by science as 
such. The outlook of the age of science was, moreover, a complex of views which 
included also a new psychological, economic, and political orientation to which 
the romantic writers were reacting just as much as to scientific mechanism and 
materialism. Was it not Wordsworth who said poetry is the impassioned 
expression which is in the countenance of all science? 

Romantic literature's positive aflSirmations were dominated by philosophical 
ideals of synthesis and organic unity, by traditionalism defined with a new his- 
torical sense, but chiefly by a desire to vindicate Imagination, and to see nature 
as a locus of value, rather than as the domain of mathematical particles. This 
romantic outlook toward exact science has been a dommating one in all subse- 
quent literature, and we can trace a profound literary hostility to science up to 
the recent movement of humanism in the America of the twenties. Aldous 
Huxley's fantasy Brave New World is a later example. Huxley has recently been 
well analyzed as a thwarted romantic. There can be no doubt that industrialism 
and tedinology, identified both with science and with the ethics of capitalism, 
and all four seen as one negative whole had much to do with this long-established 
trend. Only in the past decade has the realization been expressed that literature 
has long neglected the exceptionally vital theme of the ardors and endurances 
of men of science; that here was an opportimity for character creation of the first 
magnitude, which was never handled. Until very recent times, then, science 
has rarely been a welcome visitant in the realm of letters. 

It is understandable in another way. The writer has to do justice to the lyrical 


i'',' -■'■ 



[Series B; Vot. 

' » ' " '») ' 1,V ' 

Situation and to the concrete instance of character and drcumstance. 
that he generalizes in a realm of values of all kinds. Analysis, mathi 
or logical, periodicities of process, ultimate conceptual units like electroi 
molecules, laboratory or clinical experiment are remote from his n^iajor pi 
pation. This is in great part what the oft quoted hostility of Wordsworth 
"murdering to dissect" really meant; what Blake meant too, in his expi 
dislike of Newton and Locke; and what Coleridge meant when he left for 
many to find an answer to Hume. 

Art has no place for science's precise descriptive labors. Some writers dt 
the 19th Century movement of literary naturalism thought it did. 
Roman ExpirimentaP^ is the locus classicus of the assumption, disproved 
Zola's own practice, that the artist is like the scientist performing clinical e: 
ments upon his hiunan material. As everyone knows, the documentary idei) 
and the "slice of life" criterion followed in the wake of this naive enthusiasflfi 
for experiments, facts, and exactitude. It was partly a reaction from romantic 
afflatus, partly the desire to explore the hitherto neglected world of common 
men, and partly an emotional need for artistic fidelity and integrity. The nelTi 
attitude was in the air. Balzac outlined his Comidie Eumaine in the same yeal^ 
as Comte delivered his Coms de Philosophie Podtive. Physiology and medicine, 
the new laboratory sciences, were Coming to the general attention. There can 
be no question that naturalism was the first f ully conscious response of letters to 
science as an awareness of its method. But that consciousness came through 
the influence of the young Hegelians, of the philosophy of Comte and the posi- 
tivism of Taine, — the literary critic who applied its principles to his treatment of 
writers and their works — of John Stuart Mill, and later of Spencer. Theodore 
Dreiser in his autobiography explains the influence of the last philosopher upon 
his mind, but what really moved him, he says, was the vision of the following 
over the editor's desk in a newspaper office: "Facts! Facts! FactsI What? 
When? Where? How?" Even in so lowly a context it is the ^^goüt du vrai" 
which is crucial, — a preference for actuality "raised to the power of an emotion"*' 
— ^not, certainly, the scientist's view that all emotion must be suspected. 

Naturalism, from the first sociological and biological, takes on wider scope 
through Darwinian evolution. Philosophies of evolution, evolutionary versions 
of ethics and human history and their intense controversy with religion, Schopen- 
hauer, Nietzsche, Samuel Butler, Bergson, are the media through which the 
evolutionary pathos is embodied in letters. 

It is true both of philosophy and science in their influence upon literature that 
it has been through the individual philosophers and scientists that they make 
their strongest impress upon writers. The magnetism of a personality, of the 
idiom of a personal synthesis, of a felicitous style, is usually required bef ore the 


June, 1940] 





writer^s mind can become engaged. Writers of scope rarely tum in these matters 
to crabbed expositions of science at second band, as the evidence of their letters 
and notebooks often reveal. Shelley, Goethe, Flaubert, Hardy, Mann, and many 
others give proof of this. Philosophers like Plato, Lucretius, Schopenhauer, 
Nietzsche, Santayana exercise an accentuated influence upon letters by virtue 
of their imaginative power and diction, for they are artists as well as philosophers. 
Great works in the exact sciences, however, for example the Principia Mathema- 
tica of a Newton or the works of an Einstein cannot play this role. A Darwin^s 
Origin of Species, a Freud's Interpretation oj Dreams, a Marx's Das Kapital are , 
m a different case. Biology and medicine, the evolution theory, psychology 
and, today, social science, have been closer to the vision of modern writers because 
they could more nearly approach them at first band and because their subject 
matter comes nearest to the materials of experience. Exact science enters into 
the writer's world, however, more through its absorption by society in its applica- 
tions. Industrialism and technology produce the technical expert, the engineer, 
the conveyor belt and the pylon, but they also produce the financiers, promoters, 
industrialists, factory foremen and workers. For one hundred years, old classical 
and humanist traditions in letters and other social factors have kept these themes 
suppressed. The absence of any clear difference between business and industry 
in writers' minds has contributed to it. Literature has always been uneasy before 
the realities of capitalist economic man. But this whole subject matter has 
finally invaded the novel and even poetry in the most recent social movement in 
letters— in the ill-named proletarian movement. , 

Scientists like Newton, Darwin, Marx, Freud become representatives or 
Symbols of a certain attitude to life and living relationships and therefore im- 
portant to creative art— in its evaluation of experience, in its modes of Observa- 
tion, in the increasing presence in society of men and women to whom life is 
ordered by the scientific vision and who as such may become materials of the 
novelist's, dramatist's, or poet's art. Now when science has sufficiently moulded 
the common outlook of culture, by its prestige in a world of technology, if not 
by a genuinely scientific education, it would be folly for writers to neglect its 
contributions when they become germane to the artist's penetration into human 
character and circumstance. The immediate and feit relevance of some modern 
psychology in the writer's approach to bis human materials has made it a major 
influence for twenty-five years in the literature of the present Century. But as 
has been demonstrated in other connections in this paper it enters literature 
through a speculative construction beyond the purlieus of the science itself. 
Moreover such constructions do not remain the same with respect to a given 
scientific body of knowledge. There are sometimes two or three variant versions 
of philosophical implication and speculation which accompany a particular sei- 

■r--; ,1 •.■,■..,. V 




[Series B; Vol. 1, No. 2 

ence. It is true of Evolution. It is now true of Freudianism, which has taken 
on a new emphasis in a new orientation towards socialism in such different writers 
as Auden and Lewis, the English poets, Thomas Mann, and the changing Sur- 
realist movement, to mention only a few. It is obviously true of Marxian eco- 
nomics and politics. -'■■■■'^'^'■■^■'■>--^-' ^^■'<' 

One could isolate for study in literature problems apparently scientific, like 
those, for example, which have been indicated in the course of this paper, as 
absorbing the minds of modern writers^the problems of evolution, of time, of 
mind and consciousness, of organism, of the individual and society. But any 
effective treatment of them in literature would be a futile thing if it were under- 
taken in terms exclusively of the relevant modern science. Philosophy, ethics, 
and aesthetics along with the principles of literary criticism would be of primary 
importance for such treatment, and a knowledge of the scientific basis in each 
case would be a contributory factor only to the solidity of the philosophical ap- 

A controversy is even now going on among scientists and philosophers as to 
alternative values to be placed on science as a whole, just as it did in the days of 
Bacon and Descartes. Is science an end in itself or does it find its true signifi- 
cance in a conscious devotion to human Service, and a conscious effort to prevent 
its distortion by economic and political power? 

The fact is that while science, for all its ultimate importance in human affairs, 
can indicate what we can do, it cannot teil us what we must do, nor what in- 
tegrally at any given time, we are. 

■ ..■.^>.v'^ ... \ NOTES . ■■..■■-:.'■'■' ■:{■-, " " 

1 In A. 0. Lovejoy's article, "ReflecUons on the Hiatory of Ideas" in Journal of the History of Utas. Vol. I. 
No. 1., Jan. 1940, p. 7. 

« Harvard Univ. Press, 1936, p. 19. For Prof. Lovejoy's whole ezposition see pp. 7-20. ' ' '■ ' 

* op. dt. p. 20. H •: 

« J. A. Smith in "The Nature of Mind and the Reality of Genuine Intercourse between Minds" in Proceedings oflht 
Sixth International Congress of Philosophy. N. Y. 1926, p. 130-131. Scealso.I. Edmaninilr/* afid/*« Jfa«. N. Y, 
1939, p. 122. The arU "posit issues of morals and knowl^ige and truth that no philosopher worthy of the designation 
can ignore." 

*A.lf.'mitthe»d,Sci9nc4 and the Modtm World. N. Y. 1926. p. HO. 

•N.Y.1934. K-.-.-;-- ,•:-.-•.--. .,5 :-..v .,;■-■■ .:.,.. K 

iABopeforPottry,Ojdmd,l9U. ,^ ' 

• N. Y. 1930, p. 32. ■■■,-''„ '■'■'-.'■■ '-^V' • 

• A. O. Lovejoy, Tho Great Chain of Bring, p. 11. ^ ; - ^ ..r/ • " . 
" O. Elton, "The Entente in Literature" in A Sheaf of Papers, London, 1922, p. 73. 

u Cf . "Influence is a modification of consciousness from without; and such action, to become effective, must have 
had the way prepared for it by previous tendencies in the consciousness concerned." F. W. Stokoe, Gorman Influonc* 
in the Bnglish Romamic Period, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1926, p. vi. 

K In his essay •'Tradition and Individual Talent" In The Sacred Wood, London 1934, 4th ed., p. 51, 52. 

u Mass und Wert, Thomas Mann's introductory artide to the magasine by the same name which he founded in 
Zürich after his ezile from Germany. Vol. I, No. 1, 1937. 

MWheatonCoU.PreM. 1932. p. 9. 

u The two types of protagoniat In Malrauz's novels, the hero and the conqueror, are a good Illustration of thia 
poInt. Th^ are weU pretented in PhiUp Blair Rice's article, «'Malraoz and the Individual WUl," International Jour- 
ntltfBMes,VvL4A. 0-Jl 1937-^38, p. 190. 






«• W. J. Courthope, Lift in f^ry: Law in Taste, London, 1901, p. 12«-30. 

»» See E. Muir, Transition, N. Y. 1026, p. 4-5 where this point is brought out in a diBCunion of the Zeitgeist. 

»• C. H. Grabo, A Newton among tke ftets: Shelley' s Use of Science in Frometkens Unbound, Univ. o£ North Carol. 
Presi. 1930. >^ . 

w Cf . C. Day Lewis, A Hopefor Poetry, p. 61 : «Ideas are not material for the poetic mind until they have become 
common places for the practical mind." This is only partly true. T. S. Eliot and H. J. C. Grierson, in their euays 
on the metaphysical poets are likely to convince the Student of literature, on the other hand, that the most abstruse 
ideas are natural materials for poetry. The truth of Lewls's opinion seems to me to lie in the point here made in the 

«• See H. J. C. Grierson's essay "Classical and Romantic" in Backgronnd of Englisk Literature, London, 1925, 
p. 34 ff. In this essay Grierson makes an approach to the dynamic view of the relation between the writer and his 
age. He unfortimately limits his ezposition to the categories of classical and romantic, which are too narrow and 
ambiguous for identification respectively with contracting and ezpanding aget. '- -.^ :^ . V 

M Cf. William Blake's poem of invocation "To the Muses." 

» £. Muir in Transition, loc. cit. affinns that all writers of stature fall into the catego^ of writers of rejection. 
This is not our view. ' ■- ■-■':■," '•'\.-'"" >^'.:\?^V, ■;-'^-'>^;^;-';.'/'' '"'''■' 

M L. MacNeice, Modem Poetry: a Personal Essay, Oxford Univ. Press, 1938, p. 6. 

«« Virginia Woolf is quite explicit in her essay, "Modern Fiction."— "The mind receives a myriad impressiona— 
trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. . . . Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetri- 
cally arranged; but a luminous halo, a semi- transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness 
to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircxmiscribed spirit, what* 
ever aberration or complezity it may display, with as Uttle mixture of the allen and external as possible? . . . Let us 
record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they taJÜ, let us trace the pattern, however dis- 
connected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incUent scores upon the consciousness. Let us not take 
it for granted that life exists more fuUy in what is commonly thoughtikig than in what is commonly thought small." 
Tke Common Reader, N. Y. 1925, p. 212-213. 

tt Stephen Spender in an essay on Lawrence has this to say : "The danger witk writers who are strongly individ- 
ualistic is that they are creating a culture which depends only on a personal experience aM personal beliefs; which has 
no roots in the life aroiind it; which is not the fruit of the beliefs held by many people; whiCk i« blas6, and not even 
rebellious. Therefore society may wake up at any moment and find that it can do without the uulividual creators 
of this art, because the art is the possession of certain people, and not the life-blood of the civilization; this has 
happened to the majority of the artists of Germany." The Destmetive Element, London 1935, p. 181. 

*• Christopher Caudwell in his essay on Lawrence in Studios in a Dying Culture, London, 1938, remarks thav "a 
civilization's return to a primitive Solution is unhealthier than primitive life itself ." 

»* Says D. H. Lawrence in one of his letters, "What ails me is the absolute frustration of my primitive societal 
instinct ... I think societal instinct much deeper than sex instinct— and societal repression much more devastatmg. 
There is no repression of the societal instinct comparable to the repression of the societal man in me, by the individual 
ego, my own and everybody eise's. I am weary of my own individuality, and simply nauseated by other people's." 

«» Op. cit. p. 3. 

» Speculations, Essays on Humanism and tke Pkilosopky of Art, London, 1924. 

** In Ala Rechtrehe last volume, Le Temps RetrouU. See Random House translation, Tke Past Recaptured, p. 207 
10 Op. cit. La Prisonnüre. See Random House translation, Tke Captive, p. 250-51. I use another, and better 
translation of this passage by Edith Wharton in The Writing of Pidion, N. Y. 1925, p. 175 ff. 

u In an address "Freud and the Future." Printed in Life and Lottors, autumn 1936, and in Froud, Goetito, Wagner , 

N. Y. 1937. 

n Beachtungen Eines Unpolitischen, Berlin, 15th-18th ediüon, 1920, p. 211. 

>sinhlsarticle"PsychologyandArtTo-Day" in The Arts To-Day, Geoffrey Grigson (Editor). London, 1935, 


M In an introduction to Lady Ckatterley*s Lover. 

» Pantasia of tke ünconscious, N. Y. 1922, p. xiv-rv. 

*• Jerusalem: I, 10. 

•1 A. N. Whitehead, op. cit. p. 111: "So far as literature is concemed sdence might never have been heard of. 
Until recently nearly all writers have been soaked in classical and renaissance literature. For the moat part neither 
philosoi^y nor sdence interested them, and thur minda were trained to ignore them." If true, this would be a suf- 
fidently negative comment on the relevance of our whole thesis. The writer is naturally in disagreement, espedally in 
so far as the judgment applies to philosophy. It is, however, partly true of sdence. 

•• Translated as, The Experimental Novel and Olkar Essays^ N. Y. 1893. 

•• A. McDowall, Realism, a Study in Art and Tkougkt, London, 1918, p. 36. 




[Off-printed from Mind : a Quarterly Review of Psychology and 
PhilMophy. Vd, LXIL, N.S,, Nö. 24«, April, 1953.] 

f ^ <l 



■y:^'-^ Vt'-^ 


By W. D. Falk ' / 





SoME years ago, it was said * we aMiow happy about ethica \ 
The thanks were due to the emotiW theory. TLere are ßignß 
now of a more reflective mood. The new therapy has revived 
the patient, but he is still too unlike his once boißteroua seif. 
What then has gone wrong ? • 

Hume flaid of moral judgments that they * are suppoeed tö 
influence our p^asions and actiona, and go beyond the calm 
and indolent judgiixents of the understanding '. Muoh of the 
metit of the modern approach lies, I think, in the development 
of his Observation. What is etressed ia the similarity between 
moral and other kinds of prescriptive speech. * You ought not 
to smoke here ' is more like * JDon't smoke hexe ' than like 
* Smoking k expensive here '. It is typically said for direotion, 
as a Way of telling someone to do gomething ; not just foi^ 
instnujtionf ' calsaly ' as a pie<^öf g^p or infortnation. We 
cannot say * you onght ' and deny that we meant to influence« 
or be surpiiaed at having said somethaog ayocative. Hence, we 
fk^ } not f«^ to :1^ bottom of moral ^poech unlesB we treat the 
study ^f it M pMt of a study of languige as an instrument of 
piuapAHon A|i4 {ü^M^^l dirdotioni rather than one purely of the 
disaeBunation of Imowledge. 

Qbseivation lik^ the«e bave given ^ fresh impulse to enquiiy ; 

fknd SP fa^iip good. But there axt ^i^ffa claims ; they are aJso 

Bai4 to ^ptttii a new Solution. ' You onght to ' plays a practÜoal 

role l^e^ '49 ' > ^Miioe it ftlso ato^e» ita bgical properbi«B ; H 

^ 146 " 

'■f*?'";' v'^'-''*'''^'-'" 

, ' ^•-■■''^i*^ii^:^'.'-i •♦v'.'iy" 


W. D. FALK: 




i! I ■. 

iiii " «iii < ;. n' 

is another and specialised way of using the imperative mood. 
There are good reasons why this Suggestion should have been 
welcomed. Ethical theory of the recent past has cidminated 
in what to many appears a dilemma. If moral statements were 
to assert moral tniths, these would allow in principle of only two 
interpretatioDs : such as are * natuialistic ' and false, and such 
as are non-naturalistic and, except to the initiated, mystifying^ 
To me, this disjunction is neither unambiguous, nor convincing. 
But, if accepted, it may well appear a dilemma ; and the emotive 
theory has the merit of evading it without having to deny it. 
Itß welcome has been proportionate to the hope of relief it 
raised. But this welcome would not be justified puxely on the 
ground that if true the theory would dispose of an embarrassment. 
It will not dispose of anythmg unless it is true ; and the test for 
this must be in its conformity with linguistic usage. This con- 
formity is being claimed for it ; I shall try to show on insufficient 

I shall press here only one point. It is not contended that 
moral Statements are simply imperatives. Stevenson calls them 

* quasi-imperatives ', stressing that they are different from or- 
dinary ones. And this is as well, for plainly *you ought to * 
has at best a similar use, not the same use as * do '. * You ought 
not to smoke here ' cannot be replaced by * anyway, don*t * 
without a drafitic change of tune. But, then, is it safe to say that 

* you ought to *is only a special way of saying * do ' ? Surely not, 
unless the dissimilarities have been scrutinised as well as the 
resemblances. What is the special work which * you ought to ' 
does and * do ' does not do ? There is evasion on this point, 
covered by remarks about the dangers of pressing language 
too hard. But language, though flexible, is not without definite 
shapes which pressing, and only hard pressing, can reveal ; 
and there can be no assurance that * you ought to ' is logically 
like * do ', unless the dissimilarities have been pressed, and shown 
to be irrelevant to the issue. The emotive theory lies open to 
attack on this point. 

It may be said ' but we are agreed " you ought to " teils 
fiomeone to do things, and not just aboiU things ; what eise then 
should it be but a way of saying " do " ? ' It often seems that 
there is implicit reliance on this. If ' you ought ' serves to change 

* attitudes *, that it should also serve to impart some elusive 
species of moral belief is treated a« a piain case for Ockham's 
razor. Yet might *you ought to * not also play its practical 
role not by being a kind of ordering, but the communicating of a 
special evocative truth ? This alternative reoeives scanty 

consideration ; there are even suggestions that it can be in 
principle ruled out. I shall try to show that complacency on 
this point is as unjustified as on the previous one. 

- As a preliminary, two slogans need disposing of which have all 
too easily gained currency. 

One is that moral statements cannot be assertions, since 
we are agreed to call them * normative ', and a normative 
Statement is one like ' keep ofE the grass ', one which gives an 
Order, * prescribes a norm '. This short way with dissenters turns 
on an unsettled point of language. One can grant that, * norma- 
tive Statement ' tends to suggest * statement that prescribes a 
norm '. But the term is not one of ordinary language, and there 
are no settled rules for using it ; and it is certain that if there 
were no other use, there would be no general agreement about 
using it of moral statements. In f act , it is ob vious how it has been 
used in the past. Moral statements have been treated as an 
analogue of statements reporting that some law is in force, the 
sort of statements about the state of the law that are made by 
solicitors, jurists, and legal commentaries ; they were called 
'normative ' in the sense of a * statement about a norm, or 
prescription '. And this is a defensible alternative to the use of 
* normative statement ' for .one which issues a prescription, or 
enunciates a law, like the statements found in legal Statutes or 
public notices. The point of the present controversy is whether 
moral statements are more properly conceived as being in type 
like a * normative ' statement in the one or in the other sense. 
This issue cannot be prejudged by ref eience to the unsettled usage 
of a technical term. 

Confusions of greater interest are contained in another argu- 
ment. * You ought to ', it is said, cannot be an assertion about 
a kind of law because of its admitted practical role. It serves 
to teil others to do things ; hence it does not eerve to teil them 
that something is the case, whether the State of some law or 
anything eise. Professor Barnes, in a paper on Ethics without 
Propositions, has made the point by asking rhetorically * how can 
a statement both assert a fact and prescribe a norm V It is 
assumed that it is piain that it cannot. And, in a sense, this 
is correct. One can ask : what is the point, the characteristic 
objective, of a prescriptive utterance, a command, entreaty, 
waming, admonition « It is proper to reply , to induce people to 
do things, and not to teil them a story ; to be evocative, and 


W. D. :?ALK 



not to be informative. In this sense, a statement used to 
* prescribe a norm ' is obviously not one nsed to * assert a fact *. 
But also, tliis is trivial, and to let the matter rest bere misleading. 
One conld not say eitber tbat * to fisb ' is * to sit by tbe water 
bolding a rod ' ; for tbe point about fisbing is not tbis, but to try 
and catcb fisb. But one could not use tbis as an argument to 
sbow tbat one cannot botb fisb and sit by tbe water bolding a rod. 
On tbe contrary, tbe latter, tbougb it is not to fisb, may yet be tbe 
way we fisb, or part of tbe way, or öne way among oibers. Tbe 
same appHes wben one says tbat to speak prescriptively is not to 
teil a story. Tbis does not entail in tbe sligbtest tbat one cannot 
speak prescriptively by way of telling a story, or tbat tbis cannot 
be part of bow it is done, or be one way among otbers. 

In fact, quite evidently, tbe contrary is tbe case. It is 
commonly said tbat orders are not used to teil tbat sometbing 
is the case, and certainly ' get out ' is not meant to State a fact. 
But * I want you to leave ' may also be an order ; and, among 
otber tbings, it uses as a means of being evocative a statement 
about tbe speaker's wisbes. An order becomes * unconvincing ', 
among otber tbings, wben we tbink tbe Speaker is untrutbful 
or in error in wbat be communicatee about bis wisbes. Orders 
in tbe imperative mood do not of course make Statements about 
tbe speaker's wisbes ; and tbey are tbe paradigm of an utterance 
wbicb is purely prescriptive witbout being assertive. But tbe 
imperative mood is only one way of giving orders, a point too 
commonly overlooked ; moreover, orders in tbe imperative 
mood rely also, as a rule, on communicating some matter of fact. 
* Leave me alone ' is not sayi/ng * I want you to leave me ' but we 
use it to convey tbis, by tbe use of descriptive terms togetber witb 
a conventional grammatical sign, as surely as if we bad said it. 
A story may be told by binting at it, as well as by expressly 
stating it ; and tbe imperative mood is, among otber tbings, 
a conventional formula for giving a bint. 

Moreover, it is onesided to refer to orders as tbe only way in 
wbicb we can prescribe to otbers. * You will burst if you don't 
stop eating ' is not an order ; but it may do tbe work of * stop 
eating '. In eitber case, you cannot complain tbat you bad not 
been wamed. But * you will burst if . . . ' obviously reUes 
for being a waming on making a statement of fact. As a warning, 
its point is to influence, and not to teil a story ; but also it is tbe 
type of waming tbat depends for effect primÄtily on telling a 
deterrent story, and on baving it believed. A statement like 
tbis may be as manifestly evocative in tone and manner as an 
order, but it aims at * cbanging attitudee ' only by way of 




* imparting beliefs '. One can ask ' wbat did it say ? ' and 

* was it true 1 * 

Tbe case is of special interest for our problem. For plainly 
tbere may also be warnings wbicb rely for effect on a statement 
aboiU a prescription. ' Smoking is forbidden bere ' may be used 
to restrain a f ellow traveller, as well as * you are making me 
cougb ', or * don't '. Here tbe state of some law is reported, not 
bowever for information, as in a lecture on railway by-laws, 
but for direction, as a way of telling someone to stop doing some- 
tbing. A report on anyone's order or plea may be so used. 
Fatber's *don't be bome after ten ' will be a prescription, 
manifestly evocative in purpose and manner. Motber's * fatber 
says don't ' may report tbis, and tbe reporting may be no less 
prescriptive and in purpose and manner manifestly evocative. 
So far tben from it being tbe case tbat a statement cannot botb 
be prescriptive and assert a fact, it may well be prescriptive by 
way of asserting a fact ahovi a prescription ; and if orders can 
perform a practical role, so can reports about tbem. 
' Tbe new observations about tbe evocative cbaracter of saying 

* you ougbt ' sbould not tberefore lead to premature conclusions. 
Tbey may imply tbat * you ougbt not to smoke bere ' is a way of 
saying * don't ' ; but tbey need not. Tbey could also be com- 
patible witb tbe traditional view tbät it is a way of saying 

* Smoking is forbidden bere '. All tbat tbey demand is tbat 
moral speecb sbould be accounted for in a way tbat explains bow 
it bas tbe pre-eminently prescriptive capacity wbicb its use 
exbibits. Tbe candidates are to be looked for eitber m a specially 
evocative way of speaking, or in a way of saying sometbing 
specially fit to be evocative. Wbetber tbe case for tbe one or 
tbe otber is tbe stronger, must depend on furtber considerations. 


If one were to treat tbe matter purely as one of tracki^ down a 
quarry from tbe traces left by it bere and tbere, bow sbould one 
proceed ? Tbere is, I tbink, an approacb wbicb bas not yet 
sufficiently been tried out. We are agreed tbat ' you ougbt to is 
prescriptive ; we are in doubt wbetber it is ^o after tbe manner 
of * do ' or * tbe law says *. Botb forms are, or may be, used 
to direct otbers, but tbey differ in type ; * do ' goes about directmg 
otbers in one way, * tbe law says ', or you are making me 
cougb ' in anotber. Tbe differences extend to tbe logic, tbe 
metbods, and tbe evocative attitudes typic^i of eacb form. 




^ . 


These difEerences liave not passed unnoticed ; they are ref erred 
to in recent discnssions as the difEerences between * non-rational ' 
and * rational ' methods of persuasion. But they have not been 
explored snfficiently, and there has been bias in the treatment of 

* rational methods ' as largely a way of * supporting ' non- 
rational methods of persuasion by other meanB. With a 
clearer view of these two types of approach it will become 
possible to locate more reliably the place of moral speech on 
the logical map. 

Let me illustrate what I mean. K one says * do *, * please do *, 

* I want you to ', * I should be glad if you did *, one will not 
deny that one is telling or asldng someone to do something ; 
and this is one type of evocative address. But if one merely says 
pointedly * smolmig is forbidden here ', or * heavy smokers die 
early ', and the other retorts, with a touch of indjgnation, * are 
you telling or asking me to stop ? *, then one tm^lni reply, * not 
at all, I was merely pointing out a fact, I was making no demand *. 
But the denial would be thin. It would be met by * surely, you 
were not saying this merely to let me know, but to make me äo 
something '. And the fair reply would be * well, then, I was 
indirectly telling or asking you to do something ; but still not 
straightout or directly *. One would have used an evocative 
address, but of difEerent type. 

The two types may be referred to respectively as * direct ' and 

* indirect ' Performances öf telling or asking. The first comprises 
most, though not all, speech in the imperative mood, and any 
other Statement which can be said to be a way of straigJUoiU 
making a demand. The other comprises any statemeDt, used 
evocatively, on which one can comment by saying * I was not 
directly telling or asking you to do anything, I was merely 
sayii^ so and so *. The distinction is logically basic to prescrip- 
tive speech, and cuts across its grammatical forms. The im- 
perative mood is not always used for a direct telling or asking ; 
it is not in * my advice is, do this ', or in * take ten eggs '. Mrs. 
Beeton is not telling us to cook, but how to cook ; and to make 
recommendations is incompatible with making demands. Con- 
versely, all three of * I want you to go ', * your bus is about to 
leave ', * if you don't leave, I shall show you the door ', use a 
Statement of fact or prediction, and all may be prescriptive. 
But the first, as a rufe, teils directly, Mid is used like * go * ; 
the second teils indirectlip; and the third, a threat, is character^ 
istically in between the two. 

FuiiÄiermore, there are striking difEerences in detail. A 
policeman may warn * parking is forbidden here ', or order * I 


. ' . j. 

] ■ 




■ Wi . 




want you to move on.* One would say that one complied with 
the waming * because of what was said ', with the order * because 
one was told to '. People are good at indirect pleading when 
they are apt at convincing others ; good at direct pleading when 
they know how to speak with fiirmness, charm, or pathos. One 
would call someone rüde, disobedient, or disobliging if * do stop 
emoking ' met with no response ; but not rüde, only perverse, 
weakminded, or dif&cult to convince, if * heavy smokers die 
early * met the same fate. There is some measure of coercion in 
every direct telling or asking, even the mildest * please ' ; one 
feels one is being goaded into responding. But coercive intention 
can be denied of every indirect plea ; the Speaker can claim that 
he is only trying to guide, not to goad ; he is not himself doing the 
urging, he is only * letting the facts speak ' for him. * I am not 
saying " go ", only your bus is about to leave * ; * not saying 
" don't play with matches ", only people bum their fingers if they 
do * ; * not saying " don't drive so fast '*, only it is against the 
law '. One will bring up one's children quite difEerently whether 
one favours the one or the other approach. Their comparative 
merits, as ways of directing other people, are a matter for debate 
among educationalists, moralists and politicians. 

Here are tests which should help to settle to what family 
of utterance * you ought to * belongs. Is it compatible, or not, 
with the disclaimer * I am not telling or asking you to, I am only 
saying you ought to * ? Can one say * you ought to ' and claim 
one is only seeking to guido, not at all to goad ? Does one comply 
because it was said impressively, or because one was convinced 
of what it said ? Would one be in tune in calling someone rüde, 
disobliging or disobedient for being deaf to having been told 
* you ought to * ? Or should one only call him hard to convince, 
perverse, or weakminded ? Tests lie these should be of use. 
They will still not be enough to run down what exactly * you 
ought to ' is used to do. They will only show whether in type it 
does the Work of a direct or indirect telling, is more üke * do *, 
or like * the law says ' ; and it is certain that, whichever of 
the two it resembles more, it does not exactly do the work 
of either, but one peculiar to itself. But there would have 
b«en a methodical narrowing down of the direction for further 


I shall take up the question of these comparisons in the last 
part of this paper. My first and main concem must be with the 
two prototypes and the contrast between them. 


^^ W. D. FALK : 


What is it to be directly prescriptive ? In tlie first place, wLat 
is the method ? It has been referred to as * non-rational,* and 
contrasted with the * rational method ' of persuading by telling 
an evocative story. But this is too simple. Direct pleading 
may be entirely * non-rational * in its metbods, but it is not so as a 
rule, only in marginal cases. * Shoo ' if said to drive away tbe cat, 
or * attention ' on the parade-groimd, are Orders which don*t 
rely on telling any story. The cat could not grasp a story, the 
well-drilled soldier need not. EfEect is sought here not by using 
speech to relate something evocative, but to make an evocative 
noise : one to which, one hopes, cats are constitutionally ill- 
disposed, and to which soldiers have been drilled to respond as 
the * mere Word of command '. But the more usual forms of 
direct pleading do not rely purely on the act of speaking and its 
manner. * I want you to go *, we have noted, states a fact, and 
* go ' signalises what * I want you to go ' states. The Speaker 
relies on a communication being understood and believed ; 
and the same appHes to threats or bribes which may support 
direct pleading. They either state or hint at matters of fact 
calculated to be evocative. 

It is characteristic of direct pleas that, threats and bribes apart, 
what they put forward for persuasion are the speaker's oWn 
wishes, and never an impersonal fact Hke * your bus is about to 
leave *. But the mere fact that they voice our wishes does not 
make them directly prescriptive either. I may say * I want 
you to stay ', and add, * but please I am not telling or asking you 
to, and don't feel committed by my saying so ; just bear it in 
mind '. Here I have voiced my wishes persuasively, but divested 
my doing so of being directly prescriptive. 

"What makes pleading direct is not therefore that it never relies 
on telling a story calculated to be evocative, but that this is 
never all that it relies on. Characteristically, when one is 
anxious to get one*s way, one troubles to voice one*s wishes, even 
when thinlang them known. That one voices them, one thinks, 
will add to the impressiveness of the known fact one is voicing ; 
and there is a f amihar excuse for inaction in saying * I guessed 
your wishes well enough, but after all you did not say so *. 
The f orce of an asking is in the saying, not only in what 
iß said. 

Much Combines to make speaking impressive. I have men- 
tioned the evocative impact of sounds ; and no less hypnotic in 
efEect may be gestures, facial expressions, and the whble impact 



of the Speaker 's personality. A telling or asking is more im- 
pressive in person than over the telephone or by letter. 

Moreover, in addition to the story told and the mechanics 
of teUing it, there is the force of the story that transpires from 
the telling. Saying * I want you to ' is something one does to 
influence someone ; it is the display in action of the same desire 
one reports. The Speaker is not, and could not, be saying that it 
is this : a statement cannot be used to comment upon itself . 
The Speaker cannot report that he is ordering or aeking in the 
same words in which he does so. But the story of one's purpose 
in speaking can transpire ; the hearer can piece it together from 
one's tone of voice, the fact that one volunteers one's wants, 
the circumstances in which one does. One is not thought to 
have made a request when one says * I want you to ', or * do this ' 
in answer to a question about one's wishes. Any prescriptive 
utterance thus tendß to manifest something about one's own mood 
and concem in speaking ; and in direct pleading one relies for 
effect on what one's speaking makes manifest as much as on what 

it says.' 

Furthermore, merely because one has spoken, others will find 
it harder to resist one. One has shown one's band and courted 
rebufE, created a Situation which others may be too timid, too 
softhearted or too embarrassed to resist. One has committed 
them by what one is doing to give consideration to more than 

what one is saying. 

Finally, some of these effects can also be bettered deliberately. 
One can vary the direct force, and the suggestiveness, öf one's 
voice or bearing, or wear down others by sheer persistence. 
Direct pleading can be a skill, if not an art. 

All this makes it direct. The act of relating one's wishes, 
complete with what it both says and shoWs about itself, its 
manner, and the Situation it creates, is one's act of telling or 
asking ; and persuasion is made dependent on the whole act : 
directly on what one is daingy and not merely indirectly on what 
one is saying. Hence the way people explain their compliance 
with direct -pleas : * because one was told to ' ; not just * because 
one was told something '. j i t 

Hence also the catch in asking in relation to an order what 
did he teil you about ? ', and * was it trae ? ' This does not apply 
to a saying whose persuasive significance on the whole is in whafc it 
is trying on, not in what it is trying to say. But the present 
fashion is to oversimplify this. There is generally something 
which, in giving an order, is meant to be believed and understood ; 
and this part can be challenged apart from the rest in the ordinary 


w. D. palk: 

* what do you mean, a toy liorse or a real one V ; * I want you 
to lend me your brains ' by * don*t talk nonsense '. It depends 
partly on wbat is said in the ordering wbetlier an order is * con- 
vincing ' and ' clear ' ; and hence also whether it "will be effective: 
Only this need not be all. Even an order expressed in terms which 
are unconvincing may carry weigbt by the sbe^ f orce of the giving. 

More consideration must be given to the most telling feature 
of direct pleading, its peculiar coerciveness. Even the mildest 

* please ' and * if you don't mind ' seems intent on dragging some- 
one where he had not intended to go ; and, in cx)niplying jmrely 
on the ground of someone's pleading, one says * I did it, but not at 
all voluntarily, only because I was asked to '. One may, of 
course, buy a child a toy not because of his asking, but thinking 
it anyway a good thing for him to have it. A telling or asking 
only coerces if one is made to yield by its own method of per- 
suasion. But the method is intrinsically coercive, and contrasts 
with others which seek to make people do things, but not other- 
wise than * voluntarily '. 

This brings up the distinction between * rational ' methods 
and the * non-rational ' methods of direct pleading. Persuasion 
by * rational methods ', it is said, is * purely by reasons * and not 
coercive. But when are methods * rational ' and when not ? 
Direct pleading suiely also provides reasons for doing things ; 
Orders, threats, bribes are referred to as supplying them. Why 
then not here speak of * rational methods * ? 

The point is partially met by distinguishing * reason ' from 

* cause '. One speaks of a * reason * where one can ask for the 
consideration which induced someone to do something ; but not 
all behaviour has reasons. A shout makes one flinch, but it is the 
cause of one's flinching, not the consideration which induced one 
to flinch ; and direct pleading partly causes behaviour directly by 
what it does. One may succumb to the policeman's voice or 
bearing not from any considerations, but like the snake obeying its 
charmer. This much, direct pleading is the continuation of 
violence by other means. It is coercive in the sense of Controlling 
others whüe bypassing, if not paralysing, any kind of voluntary 
^Kontribution to their own behaviour. 

^ But direct pleas are not always, or entirely obeyed in robot 
fashion. They are also obeyed for reasons suppHed by them- 
selves ; by what the Speaker sajrs and shows about his wishes 
and mood, the Situation he otherwiae creates, and by threats 



and bribes, and compliance for such reasons is no enforced reflex. 

* Ten days in jail if you keep resisting ' will make one come 

* ofE one's own bat ' rather than be dragged. Surely, this is to 
yield to * rational ' methods, and * voluntarily *. 

There is a sense in which one persuades by * rational methods ' 
when one purely adduces or profEers a reason. This is 7wt 
what * I want you to leave * does. Instead of merely adducing 
a persuasive circumstance by what it says, it Imports one into 
the Situation by what it does. It does not jyroffer, it creates a 
reason. Threats and bribes, though less obviously so, do the 
same. * If you don't leave, I shall show you the door ', * if you do, 
you can take what you want ' does in form profEer a reason. It 
has the air of being indirectly prescriptive. * I am not telling 
or asking, am I ? I am merely saying so and so *. But the air 
is spurious, for the reason which is profEered is also imported. The 
Situation would not contain it independently, as a pre-existing 
feature ; it only will for the speaker's deliberate Intervention. 

Compared with having force used on one's body or^ nervous 
System to yield to put up incentives is to yield to * rational 
methods ' and * voluntarily \ But, in another use of thfese terms, 
this would be a travesty of the facts. A chüd is not taking its 
medicine * purely of its own accord ' if only because it was ofEered 
a sweet, or thieatened to have to go without it ; nor would this be 
the occasion to boast of how amenable to * reason ' it was. Had it 
taken the medicine on the ground that it would do it good, this 
would have been a different matter. Here, what is meant by 

* rational methods ' is to persuade purely by adducing reasons 
which pre-exist in the nature of the act and its cu:cumstances ; 
and by * acting of one's own accoid ' to act purely from the con- 
sideration that there are such reasons. And, m this sense, 
telling, asking, threatening, or bribing are the negation of using 
rational methods, and a way of making people do things otherwise 
than of their own accord. One does not wait for them to con- 
sider a case on its merits, either because one knows there is no 
case, or does not trust them to appreciate it, or is ]ust impatient 
to get results. Instead, one creates a case to goad them along, 
giving them a sense of unfreedom in succumbing. ihis un- 
freedom consists in dependence in action on the dehberate 
Intervention of another's wiU ; its contrary is domg things 
freely \ not here in any absolute sense, but simply m the sense 
of depending in action not on anyone eise, but purely on con- 
siderations relating to the merits of the case. 

Not aU goading however is coeräng. One is goaded, or coaxed 
when one 18 ofEered abribeoratemptingdeal. But no one can 


W. D. FALK: 

Claim that he was coerced by bribery. This is leaeiyed for 
threats and direct pleae. The point is, the yoke of being goaded 
may be bom willingly or not ; and this involves another sense of 
*voluntary' cutting across the two distinguished abeady. 
What is done to obtain something wanted is said to be done 
* volimtarily ' or * willingly * ; what is done to avoid something 
unwanted * not volnntarily ' or * unwillingly '. Such is the time 
honoured case of the saüor throwing his goods overboard to 
lighten ihe ship. There is no paradox in saying that he acted 
pnrely volimtarily (on the merits of the case alone, not jnst 
under captain's ordere), and yet not at all volnntarily or will- 
ingly, oniy mider compulsion. Actions from put up incentives 
may bear these same traits. A bribe solicit« action for the 
sake of obtaining something wanted ; a threat for the sake of 
avoiding something unwanted. Hence when bribed one responds 
willingly to being goaded, when threatened imwillingly. A 
threat adds insult to injury. It makes one act otherwise than 
of one's own accoid and for no more than the avoidance of a 
trumped-up unpleasantness. Hence bribes only seduce and 
corrupt ; threats coerce and break the will. 

All direct pleading tends to coerce in this way, though with 
varying insistence. This is piain of tellings which rely for a 
great part on threats, but it applies also to askings which do not. 
An asking does not coerce like a threat by holding out a future 
unpleasantness to be avoided, but by creating a present one to be 
got rid of . One is called on to comply to escape a quandary put 
up for one : either to pay ransom, and be badgered no longer, or 
to make oneself unpleasant. The coercion one yields to is only 
less patent, but often more insidious, than that of any straight 

' It has been said that the typical purpose manifest ed by 
prescriptive speech is to reach * agreement in attitude '. One 
speaks in the first place to make others favour what one oneself 
desires, to get one's own way with them. I think that, as an 
account of the typical objectives of aW prescriptive speech, this is 
either too vague to be of use, or, if taken at its face value, a 
travesty of the facts. But it does describe direct pleading. The 
evocative attitude it manifests is one of * getting one's own way *. 
Actually, in its füll sense this notion is complex. It suggests 
that someone is trying to gain some purely personal, or at 
least capricioiiß end ; that he should be *goa^ng in aim * ; and 
also an attitude of readiness to gain his end by a liberal use of 
means, by * goading in method '. Plainly, much direct pleading 
18 carried out fully in this spirit ; it is the characteristic note 




one often senses in it. But there are variations on the theme. 
An asking does not display the same evocative attitude as a telling 
even if they ^re both goading in their aim. It is self-limiting 
in its attitude towards the means, and correspondingly in its 
insistence on gaining the end : one shoWs that one is restricting 
oneself to using some means, and not others (not threats or 
shouts), or is ready to withdraw in some circumstances (if one 
were to cause avowed inconvenience, as in * please, if you don't 
mind *). Some direct pleas, again, may display an uncom- 
promising determination to be goading in method while not being 
goading in aim. A parent who firmly Orders his ofEspring about 
may claim he is not doing it for a purely personal or capricious 
end. Still, all direct pleading is getting one's own way at 
least by being goading in method ; and, frequently, by being 
goading in aim as well. Nor should the last cause surprise. 
Direct pleading is exactly suited to the role. It is not restricted 
to pre-existing incentives. It can liberally create them, and 
pile them up to enforce any end, however purely personal, or 
capricious. It is the open and natural method for the purpose, 
with no need either for making bones about it. 

What is it, by contrast, to be indirectly prescriptive ? In 
most ways, the reverse. One pleads indirectly when one puts 
f orward a f act for consideration, like * your bus is about to leave ; 
and the fact must belong to the Situation as it is, and not be one 
of one's own importing. * If you don't leave, I shaU show you the 
door ' resembles an indirect plea, but is none. Moreover an 
indirect plea rehes purely on what it says, on * lettmg the facts 
speak for themselves ' ; and not also on bemg a tellmg . 
It is a telling, and manifestly so. But it is not efEective direct y 
by being a telling, or by showing itself to be one ; but mdirectly 
by the Story it teils. It is alwayB in place to a^k of an mdu-ect 
telling * what did it say ? \ and * was it true ? ' 

One may state one's own wishes, just as a feature of the 
Situation tobebome in mind; one wiU then voice them without 
making a direct plea. But this is exceptional. I want you to 
is normally part of a direct pleading, and wül be so, uiüess one 
desires otherwise, and takes special steps One would have to 
say ' don't take this as a request ', don't do anythmg merely 
b^use I say so ; only if you want to of your own accord , just 
bearthefactinmind'; and one must take care not to sppü one s 



words by one's deeds, as by an insistent, pathetic, or agitated 
tone of voice. Otherwise, one will still be taken to be asking. 

But as a rule one relates sometbing impersonal of concern to 
others. • Indirect pleading is the way to widen one's persuasive 
appeal beyond saying ' I want ' ; and, wbat is more, tbis widening 
of appeal is not logically possible except tbrougb pleading wbich 
is indirect. No one expects one to put forward one's wisbes not 
* tellingly ', but just for consideiation ; if one does, it is one's own 
choice. But one is expected not to put foiwatd inipersonal 
facts, except purely for consideration. To add to *your bus 
is about to leave ' * tbis is not to uige you to go, only to remind 
you ' invites * naturaUy, I sbould expect so '. 

Tbis is not to say tbat impersonal facts may not be related in a . 
deliberately evocative or pleading manner, and tbe plea succeed 
on tbis account. People often put tbem foiward not at all 
intending to give otbers tbe cbance to be influenced puiely * by 
a reason ', and to act of tbeir own accord alone. Tbey want to be 
able to appeal to impersonal facts witb tbe aid of tbe same 
metbods of goading by wbicb one can aid tbe stating of one's 
wisbes. Tbe point is not tbat tbis cannot be dcffi^, but tbat 
tbere is an incongruity in doing it. Tbe test is tbat a too empbatic 
Speaker can bere be beld up for inconsistency ; and an obstinate 
bearer can pretend tbat no more surely could bave been intended 
tban tbe proffering of a reason. * Your bus is about to leave ' 
you say fiimly, ill-disguising a desire to see tbe last of me. * Not 
yet, in anotber bour ',1 can reply unco-operatively ; or * never 
mind, I need not burry, tbere are more buses later ' ; and you 
cannot rigbtly call me rüde or disobbging for tbis. Or, if you do, 
referring to tbe pleadingness of your speaking, I can say * but 
surely, considering wbat you saidy tbis was neitber bere nor tbere. 
Wby not be bonest, and teil me to go straigbt-out ? ' People 
sometunes act on an admonition or waming, not because tbe 
reasons were convincing, but quietly taking a bint, or being brow- 
beaten by firm speaking. But one cannot reasonably expect tbis, 
or insist on it ; nor sbould one bere say tbat tbese were sufficient 
grounds for yielding. 

"Wby is tbere a logical bar to stating impersonal facts * tellingly ', 
but not one's wisbes ? Because in tbe first case, wbat is said, 
and wbat is dode by tbe saying, diverge in tbeir influence ; in 
tbe otber tbey converge. 

* I want you to go ' puts forward one's wisbes, and sbows 
and exercises tbem in tbe speaking. "Wbat is sbown makes wbat is 
said more impressive, for it confirms and amplifies it ; wbat is 
done by voice or manner is consistent witb tbe purpose stated 






and sbown. Tbe bearer is subjected to influences all of a piece ; 
if ready to yield to one, be will yield to all unless told not to. 

* Your bus is about to leave ' puts forward a fact otber tban 
one's wisbes ; and it gives understand tbat tbis fact alone 
is to count as incentive. To be precise, tbis is not said. Per- 
suasive Statements of tbis form State notbing except a fact about 
-tbe Situation. Tbey don't state, wbat would be a distinct - 
proposition, that tbe fact is sufficient to provide a reason. But 
tbis goes witbout saying. Tbe story is manifestly told to per- 
suade. Hence tbe Speaker must wisb to claim tbat it provides 
a reason and a decisive one ; for otberwise wby teil tbe story, 
or tbis story and not anotber ? Tbe bearer can certainly take 
bim up on wbat be said as mucb as on wbat be implied : dispute 
tbe facts, or grant tbem and add * but tbis is no reason '. And 
tbe Speaker can expect tbe bearer to consider tbat mucb, but no 

more. • • a 

Tbis is wby any impersonal plea is logically indurect. A 
prescriptive Statement manifests tbe speaker's concern ; but tbe 
speaker's concern is bere irrelevant to tbe fact on wbicb per- 
suasion bas been openly made to tum. Tbe bearer is not com- 
mitted to consider it, since be was not invited to ; nor could be 
do so witbout deserting tbe point openly at issue. An impersonal 
plea is a cballenge to be influenced only by wbat is said about a 
feature of tbe Situation, and suggested about it providing a 
reason. It is met to all intents wben botb claims are considered, 
and as adequately by tbeir bonest acceptance or rejection. 
Tbe«peaker cannot tberefore grumble if no beed was given to bis 
own persuasive concern, wbicb was sbown but not mentioned. He . 
bas staked success on asserting sometbing evocative, and un- 
personal ; it is not tben eitber bere or tbere tbat the a^sertion 
sbould bave been made evocatively. In any appeal to unpersonal 
reasons, as distinct from direct pleading, tbe manifestly pre- 
scriptive purpose of tbe utterance does not logically figure as an 
instrument of persuasion. 

Nor again would it bere be consistent for tbe Speaker even 
to try to be effective by a deüberately evocative manner. To be 
iroa(ünc in metbod is to exercise one's wisb for someone to do 
somel^ To exercise it wben one bas also put forward one s 
wißbes iß aU of a piece ; io do so for good mea^ure wben ope^y m- 
viting someone to accept some impersonal fact as a good and 
sufficient reason is so t« mix persuasive metbods as to make 
nonsense of botb. One can try to put up impersonal facts, and 
not * let tbem speak for tbemselves ', to tum impersonal pleadmg 
into tbe continuation of direct pleading by otber means ; but 


W. D. FALK : 

one cannot do so consistently. It invites the protest * what are 
yoii after ? tryiag to give me a reason for doing this ? or badger- 
ing me into doing it ? you can't have it both ways '. Nor is it 
any more becoming, instead of mixing the two methods, to let 
them succeed each other. * You will cut yonr tongue with the 
knife, dear'. *No, tbis is the blunt one.V *Well, any way 
put it down ' won't endear one to an intelligent child. It shows 
that the first plea had been insincere, or that one was just being 
muddled. •■ /^ • 

Where goading is a piain incongruity, inipersonal pleading is 
conj&ned to its own method, whicb by contrast I may c&W guiding. 
To influence by guiding is to influence without compulsion. 
One is not creating an evocative Situation ; one is merely using 
the Situation as it is. One is trying to make others do only what 
they will acknowledge they have independently a reason for 
doing. While goading is intrinsically detrimental to producing 
actions * purely on the merits of the caee ', and * of people's 
own accord ', guiding is intrinsically and purely in aid of producing 
such actions. 

All this afEfects the evocative attitudes appropriate to this 
fonn of pleading. * Get out * and * your bus is about to leave * 
cannot both be simply * aiming at agreement with one in attitude *, 
* bringing you round to favouring what I favour ', * getting my 
own way with you '. In their ordinary meaning these descrip- 
tions fit direct, but not indirect pleading. If they were meant to 
Cover both, they would have to mean something difEerent in each 


■■ ^ . ■■ >nw* '^"i 

For one thing, the ordinary notion of ' getting one's own way ' 
carries the Suggestion of fordng one's will on others ; one is 
familiär with sensing the note of this being intended and tried 
in direct pleas. But the note is absent from an indirect pre- 
scription. One is being beckoned to do something in * your bus is 
leaving ' as in * get out ' ; but here with no Suggestion of dragging 
or harrowing, and with a note of deference to oiieself as someone 
able to appreciate reasons, and quite unanxious to do things 
otherwise than of his own accord. To be addressed guidingly 
bears no resemblance to being addressed goadingly ; and if it 
does it shouldn't. 

Moreover, to be trying to get one's own way suggests that one is 
after some purely personal end ; and this too is inconsistent 
with indirect plea(£ng. This is not because one may not be 
both guiding in method and goading in aim. Commercial 
advertisers notoriously, but if moderately honest, quite properly, 
guide to goad by makuig evocative observations about their wares. 



The point is rather that thß goading aim is perforce here qualified 
by the means chosen. Indirect pleading is intrinsically less well 
adapted to gaining purely personal ends than direct pleading. 
One is at the mercy of coincidence. There need be no reasons 
for others to do what one wants them to do for reasons of one's . 
own ; and even if one thinks there are, one is still dependent on 
finding them appreciated. At best, therefore, guiding as a- 
method is only suited to a goading severely seif -limited in aim : 
to try to make others do as one wants them to do, but no further 
than within the linrits in which they are ready to do so for reasons 
of their own. 'Dentex will keep your dentures clean ' shows 
someone intent on persuading for gain ; but one takes it that 
he is not after more than can be achieved by leaving us free to 
buy only when we believe him, and need to. And not only is this 
in a restricted sense only to * try and make others fall in with one's 
own ends ' ; it cannot be jmrely called this at all. For there is 
another side to it : it is also to ' try and make others fall in with 
what would be an end for them '. Wherever guiding is used as a 
method, persuasion ha^ an other-regarding orientation : looking at 
actions from other people's point of view, trying to make others 
do what they would want, or Would have an incentive to do, 
if they were not ignorant or obtuse. And where one is guiding 
to goad one is still trying to make them act as one wants on£self 
only by means of trymg to make them act as they would want 
themselves. Surely then not all prescriptive speech aims purely 
and typically at bending the hearer's attitudes to those of the 
Speaker. This language is more than misleading. It unphes 
disreeard of what is an outstanding characteristic of prescnptive 
speech : that it may have a dual orientation, egocentnc as well 
as centred on others. It can serve both to make others favour 
what we favour ; and to aid them in leaming to favour what 
they do not favour but would, or might, for mdependent and 
acknowledged reasons of their own. . ^ ■>- . 

In fact, on occa^ions, the last may be the one and only object 
of prescriptive speech. Instead of guiding to goad, one may ]ust 
hequiding to guide. I may give you the news about the time- 
table not in order to get rid of you without having to say so ; 
but purely from a concem that you should not get mto trouble 
for being late for supper. One may put fact« to peo^e purely 
so that they should not act rashly or in ignorance. The wheel 
here comes round füll circle, and prescriptive speech loses the 
IsÄt vestige of an egocentric objective. To refer to its ob]ect 
one would have to say * I am putting this to you, not to see you 
influenced by it for a personal reason-; only to prevent you from 


W. D. FALK: 

acting raslily or in ignorance ; or so tliat cogent reasons ßhould 
prevail with you '. None of this is said, One only says * your 
bus iß about to leave '. But one would need words like these 
to explain one's persuasive attitude, or defend it against tbe 
Charge of being purely interested. And other words might be 
used as well. * I only want you to act sensibly, reasonably, 
rationally'; *to show a rational attitude', 'to do what the 
Situation requires ', * what it is desirable for you to do '. All 
these notions present familiär difficulties. But there seems here 
a natural soil for them to grow on. They cannot be dispensed with 
if one is to descrihe one's characteristic aim in persuading others 
bygiving them reasons. It is piain then that these terms cannot be 
only formulae of direct pleading, conventional trumpet-calls to 
press others into conformity with one's own attitudes. For they 
have a place in the description of the implicit intentions of a 
form of prescriptive speech which does not use them for persuasion 
at all, and has neither the aims nor employs the methods of 
direct pleading. One cannot call on prescriptive speech to 
account for them if they are needed, in some of its^ionns, to 
account for it. 

Persuasion by rational methods has been treated as if it 
had none of these implications ; and this raises a last point 
about it. The silence is due in some measure to a biased interest 
in its use in a special context : where it serves in support of 

* non-rational ' or direct methods of pleading. One says * please 
take the evening ofE : come out with me. You need distraction ; 
your work can wait '. Here a direct plea is supported by ob- 
'servations of evocative fact. In this context, it certainly does not 
foUow that the evocative observations will be made genuinely to 

* guide ' . They may be made not to guide, but to misguide ; they 
will serve their purpose as well if they successfully do the one or 
the other. In fact, evocative observations are a really useful 
tool for supporting direct pleading only if they are not used 
squeamishly. The f acts as they are, or as one thinks them to be, 
need not be at all suitable for the purpose. But they can be 
taken in band. One can allege that something is the case, 
knowing it is not ; or quietly not mention what one knows is the 
case besides ; or put forward what is the case knowing it would 
provide no good reason on dispassionate consideratipn. If Eve 
had said * come on, eat ', praising the apple knowing it to be 
rotten, and quietly ignoring the taboö, Adam would fallen 
for all the wiles. The Eves are now joined by advertisers and 
politicians ; and there are still Adams. 

For an account of how d/kect pleading is supported by evooative 



(^servations it is therefore irrelevant whether they are used to 
guide or misguide, and the distinction can be suppressed. But 
this iß not at all irrelevant to an account of persuasion byratimal 
methods. It is not only significant that they can be used in either 
of two ways ; what is more, only guiding and not misguiding 
can be properly described as using rational niethods at all. 
One hesitates to say that an unscrupulous advertißer or friend, iß _ 
ufiing * rational methods ' on one ; or that persuasion by a ; 
deliberately imisguiding story is properly called * waming sonae- 
one ', or * commending something '. Or eise, one will distinguish 
between using rational methods in form, but not * really ' ; and 
between an honest waming or recommendation, and a lying one. 
The point is that misguidmg is not a varknt of guiding, but its 
• corruption. It is goading in method dressed up as guiding ; 
a form of speech which is not what it gives out to be. The be 
is not only in misstating the facts ; they may be correct as far 
as they go. It is in the false claim, imphcit m mentiomng the 
facts for persuasion, that they provide good and sufficient 
reasons for a doing. Where this claim is made dishonestly, or 
with wishful carelessness, just to make others thmk, or deceive 
themselves into thinking, that there is a good reason where there 
iß none, pleading by evocative observations of fact does not aim 
at guidance ; but it is not then either perswxding by rational 

Eecent discussions have bypassed or suppressed these dis- 
tinctions by falsely treating the original and the fake under 
the same name. 


I shaU now retuin to moral speech, and try to locate its place 
on the logical map of prescriptive speech. There are two dia- 
metrically oppsed prototypes. To which doe« you ought not 
to smoke her^ or ' you ought to leave now bear the »ceater 
resemblance 1 To ' don't smoke here or smokmg « forbidden 
here"? To 'leave now ', or 'your bus is about ^to leave ? 

There is often, no doubt, a resemblance to dnrect pleading. 
' You ouirht to ' may be said goadingly, crossly, entreatmgly, 
peremptorily, insinuatingly, with the deployment of all coercive 
devices of a direct telling or asking. , ,, , , 

eXwe have seen th,t whether in fact such methods are used 
does not decide whether an utterance is directly or imiiiectly 
wescriptive in type. The devices may have been used mcon- 

. f 




one to rely on saying sometliing evocative, and not on being 
a form of evocative speaking. Here tests from the grammar of 
direct and indirect pleading must be ußed ; and by tbese tests 

* you ougbt to ' is more like indirect than direct pleading. I ßhall 
enumerate a few. 

(1) If I crossly eay 'you ought not to smoke here', you 
can say * what are you trying to do ? Teil me that I ought not 
to? or ordering me not to do it ? ' And I can answer apologeti- 
cally * sorry, I got excited ; I am not telling or asking or begging 
you not to smoke here, I am only saying you ougbt not to.* 

(2) It is proper to say * I complied with him wben be said 
I ought to, because I was convinced what he said was right '. 
If I said, * I just complied because he said " you ought to '* so 
firmly ', one might remark, * Surely, this was not a very adequate 
reason '. 

(3) If I say * you ought to ', and you reply * honestly, I don't 
see this at all, I don't think I need to ', I shall feel, unless I 
can argue back that my plea has been properly met and disarmed. 
I have said something calculated to be evocative, and failed 
to carry conviction. I can say that you are * difficult to convince *, 

* perverse *, * unreasonable ' ; but not * how rüde ', * how dis- 
obliging ' of you to refuse me when I said * you ought to ' so 
firmly, so pathetically, or so nicely. 

(4) * You ought to leave now * is compatible with * I have 
no personal interest in your going ', I am not * goading in aim * ; 
and * I am not trying to coerce you in any way * ; I am not 

* goading in method *. I am only trjring to make you * see 
reason ' ; * to make you act in accord with the realities of the 
Situation ', * to aid you to act as you would of your own accord 
if you were not ignorant or obtuse '. Moral pleading can claim 
for itself to be guiding in both aim and method. 

None of this one could say if it were a special formula for 
being directly prescriptive by speaking evocatively. All of it 
fits in with saying that it is a way of being indi/rectly prescriptive 
by asserting some evocative truth. 

All, at any rate, but one thing. * You ought to ' is like * the law 
says ' or * your bus is leaving * indirectly prescriptive in grammar ; 
but otherwise it is not like either. 

It is familiär ground that the analogy with * the law says ' 
cannot be pressed. * The law says ' reports that one is being 
addressed commandingly by someone,«like *captain*s Orders: 
everyone to throw his goods overboard *. But * you ought to *, 
if UBed to report anything, i& not used to report on the deliverances 
of any moral captain. If it Were, what was done purely because 



one ought to would be done regardless of whether one also had 
cause for doing it of one's own accord, for reasons purely in the 
nature of the act or its circumstances ; it would, once again, be 
done purely because someone had spoken coercively, though not 
here the Speaker himself but the agent whose conmiand he is 
reporting. But usage suggests the opposite. What is done purely 
because one ought to, one tends to say, is done purely fiom con- 
siderations relating to the nature of the act and its circumstances ; 
it iß precisely not what is done purely because one was told to. 
Moral persuasion coneists no more in reporting, as an incentive, 
a featuje imported ad hoc into the Situation by someone, than in 
importing such a feature by * telling ' speaking. At the best one 
might say, as has been said, it consifets in reporting that some 
doing iß * commanded ' or * demanded ' by the nature of the act 
itself and its circumstances. But, whatever it may mean to say 
thiß, it only underlines further the failüre of the analogy with 

* the law says *. * Commands ' or *demands ', in their ordinary 
sense, can issue only from persons, capable of displaying their 
will impressively. Whatever *the nature of the act and its 
circumßtances ' may be able to * do ', it is not this. 

Is one to say then that * you ought to ' is more like * your bu^ 
is leaving ' than like * the law says ' ? That it is used to per- 
ßuade by reporting some evocative feature of the Situation which 
naturally inheres in it ? Strangely, this too has its difficulties. 
It is common ground that * you ought to ' cannot be said to 
report a f eatuie of the Situation of the same type as * your 
buß is leaving \ If at all, it is said, it reports a * non-natuial * 
feature, not a * natural ' one. But observations like these do not 
get down to the root of the difficulty. The trouble is not that 

* you ought to ' cannot be said to persuade by reporting as a 
reason for a domg the same type of feature of the Situation as * your 
buß is leaving ' ; but that what it reports does not seem to figure 
among the reasons put forward for any doing at all. One may 
put forward * your bus iß leaving ' aß an evocative feature of 
the ßituation ; or, again, * you are expected for dinner ' as another 
such feature, either to add to the weight of the first, or m its 
place. But what about * you ought to go now ' ? Kit were alßo 
reported as a reason one would expect it to be put forward along 
with the others, either as an alternative, or m addition to them. 
But, plainly, it is not. I do not try to persuade you to go 
(alternatively) by saying either * you ought to go ar your bus 
ißleaving*; nor would * you ought to go ' be on a ;)ar with you 
are expected for dinner ', to be mentioned m addition to your 
bus is leaving ' as ä further feature of the Situation to count 


W. D. FALK: 



■ '.■ V M . ■■ 

towardß going. The f act is * you ought to ' iß not used to refhce or 
Supplement any of the features of the Situation ordinarily put 
forward in persuasion by rational methods. On the contrary, 
it only Works in conjunction with them. * You ought to go now * 
is incompletely persuasive by itself . It needs support from 
* your bus is leaving ', or * you are expected for dinner ', or any 
other natural feature of the Situation which may count as a - 
reason for going, the same features in fact which one might also 
have brought to the hearer's notice without saying expressly that 
he ought to go at all. In order to make moral persuasion as 
efiective as it might be one will mention any feature of the Situa- 
tion whatever which may count in the circumstances in f avour of 
the doing which one is trying to induce ; and only then will one 
add, if one does, * and so you ought '. It foUows that * you 
ought to ' is not used either to persuade by reporting some evoca- 
tive feature of the Situation which pre-exists in it. It is not one 
among the features put forward as counting towards some par- 
ticular domg ; it is only said once all of these have been enumera- 
ted, and, as one says, * on the strength of them *. 

The oddity of this conclusion needs stressing, * You ought 

to' seems part of the machinery of persuasion by * rational 

methods ' ; it is used when they are used, seems to share the 

grammar of Statements doing this work, and, apparently, is 

persuasive in its effects. * And so you ought to go ' seems to 

Clinch what * you are expected for dinner ' has begun. But also 

it seems a logically redundant part of this machinery. One 

persuades by rational methods when one gives reasons, reports 

those features of the Situation likely to count in favour of a doing. 

And, when all reasons have been given, one should expect, all 

that rational persuasion can try to do, should have been done. 

What eise but another reason could add persuasive f orce to the 

reasons already given ? But * you ought to ' is said afier 

everything to count as a reason has been enumerated. It 

seems persuasive, and like adducing a reason, and yet it is not. 

It seems both to belong to persuasion by rational methods, 

and not to be part of it. Odd as this may seem, it needs 

facing. The oddity is the logical tuming point for the under- 

Standing of the special function of moral and similar types of 

speecn. e ^^• ■* i 

It is tempting to account for this by once more fallmg back 
on the imperative view. Moral persuasion, it has been suggested, 
is not purely either by rational methods or by direct pleading, 
but by a mixture of both. * You ought to * is a way of saying 
* come on, do ' which one is prepared to support by rational 

methods, or which one uses in order to support them. One says, 
* you ought to go, your bus is leaving ' : here it assists persuasion 
by reasons as a kind of imperative hors-d'oeuvre. Od one says 
*your bus is leaving, and so you ought to go ; here it assists 
rational persuasion as a kind of imperative dessert. * You ought 
to * is shown to belong to persuasion by rational methods without 
being part of it. 

The Suggestion is persuasive, but once again it won't pass the 
test of usage. It rests on taking it for granted that direct and 
indirect pleading can without hitch be used as complemmtary 
methods of persuasion. But there are logical incompatibilities 
between these t wo -methods ; and they also rule out any account 
of moral persuasion as consistiug, in essentials, in a kind of 
mixed pleading. 

* You ought to ', it is said, expresses the speaker's desire to 
make the hearer conform with the speaker's wishes. Eeasons 
are ädduced in praotical support of a pleading of this sort. The 
whole broadly is * moral persuasion'. But if so, there is no 
assurance here that misguiding won't be used as well as guiding. 
For it is not specified that the aim of adducing reasons need be 
any other than * goading ' ; and misguiding may serve this aim as 
well as or better than guiding. It may equally suit the Speaker 
to support ' you ought to ' by a tmthful and complete as by a 
deliberately distorted presentation of the facts. But then this 
is implicitly to define moral persuasion so as to make usiug 
'rational methods' not a necessary, but only an inddental, 
part of it; and to make it comprise indiscriminately both 
scrupulous guiding, and unscrupulous special pleading. And 
this plainly would be a travesty of the f acts. Part of the common 
understanding of * moral persuasion ' is that it should be distmct 
from unprincipied goading ; and it would not be necessarily 
dis^.inct from this if its aim were to advance persuasive ar^- 
mens simply for the sake of bending \he hearer's will lo ihe 
expressed will of the Speaker. . 

Another example wül underline this pomt. The notion of 
mixed pleading can be applied to aesthetics as well as to ethics. 
' This picture is good ', * look at the coherence and assurance of 
the lines, the varied and balanced colouring, the unusual decora- 
tive design ' can be taken as an invitation to the onlooker to share 
the speaker's sense of appreciation, followed up by deeds tc^get 
him into the right frame of mind. One may agree that the whole 
Performance is correctly described as a way of trying to teach 
someone to appreciate something. But is it also correctly 
4e8cribed as a way oijust making the onlooker share the Speaker s 



W. D. FALK : 

.■■''. <■ 

'\< '.< ■'■ . 

eense of appreciation ? Surely, one needs a way of distinguisliing 
between the manner appreciation is taught by a cunning dealer, 
and by a conscientious critic. If the tbfeory were correct, both 
wonld be equally intent on making ns appreciate tbings in tbe 
way they happen to desire ; and * this is good * sbould have 
prepared us for an assanlt of this kind and nothing eise, by ex- 
pressing no more than * come on, like it as I do '. In fact, 
one thmks, * this is good ' no less than * you onght to ' entüles 
one to expect guiding and not goading in its support : a scmpu- 
lons attempt at least to convert one to an attitude, as it might 
be in response to a truthful and comprehensive appreciation of 
the relevant facts. One may agree that both announcements 
are properly f oUoWed up less by proving to someone that something 
which they state is the case, than by Converting him to a novel 
attitude of appreciation, whether of a Work of art, or of a line of 
conduct. But the procedure is surely hitched on to the wrong 
bandwaggon if one describes it as consisting in the ill-assorted 
companionship of the use of rational methods in the service of the 
intentions of a purely personal plea. 

It is also piain that there would here again be a case for the 
hearer to challenge the mixing of the rational appeal with 
coercion. * You are expected for supper *, sandwiched itx 
between ' do go ', and * so be gone ' is open to be challenged by 
* make up youx nund, are you leaving it to me to decide for 
myself , or have you decided for me ? ' When the issue is 
pressed, one cannot insist on persuading by a mixture of telling 
and arguing. One either says * all right, I am not arguing, I am 
"telling you ' ; or one is ready to rely on arguing, and to be done 
with telling. 

There is one form of imperative speech which can be combined 
'with persuasion by rational methods without being open to these 
objections ; and it teaches a lesson of special interest. * Do 
this ' may be used in the sense of * my advice to you is, do this ' ; 
it may express a recommendation. One might say, with some 
force, that this is what * you ought to ' is used to express, * Do 
this ', as advice, is not direct pleading, in spite of its grammatical 
form. One can say it, and deny that one is telling, or asking, 
or in any way trying to coerce ; one is * merely saying, my advice 
b, do this * ; nor can one consistently take personal umbrage 
at having what was * purely advice * rejected. It is also logically 
assured here that none but rational methods will be used in 
support. Adviie can be * good * or * bad ' ; it has an implicit 
canon of achievement, defined in terms of what it is understood 
to S6t out to do. And this is purely to * guide *, to make people 

■■ ■('■..■' 




act as they would have valid and sufficient reasons for acting and 
not otherwise. * My advice is, do this ' can consistently only 
be supported by evocative observations of fact thought, and 
implicitly claimed, to constitute reasons of this kind; one 
cannot honestly say it without having formed an opinion con- 
ceming the facts of the Situation all round, as well as conceming 
their relevance^is reasons for the hearer. In fact, * do this ', as_ 
advice, may also be treated as the stating of an opinion to this 
efEect. One can say * my opinion is, do this * as if one were saying 
*my opinion is that you have the best of reasons for doing 
this, the facts all round being so and so ' ; and one disarms 
advice by challenging either the facts or their alleged force as 
reasons. Hence * do this ', as advice, foots the bill of being an 
imperative expression necessarily, and not merely incidentally 
supported by * guiding in method \ The imperative view would 
be free of inconsistencies if it claimed that * you ought to ' was 
used to express no more than precisely this. 

But, if reduced to this, it would also then be too anaemic to 
survive. * Do *, as advice, is effective not as a plea but an account 
of the opinion it ventures. One foUows advice when one thinks 
it sound, believing its claim that there are valid reasons for doing 
the thing suggested. One can give advice without stating this 
Claim. * Go ; you are expected for supper ' dofes not mention it. 
But, also, one might as well have explicitly made it, as certainly 
the hearer must take it to have been made for advice to be under- 
stood and to be efEective as such. One might say * go, there is the 
-best of reasons, you are expected for supper ' ; and mstead also 
' go, it's reasonable . . . ', or * it's what the circumstances reqmre 
' • or again, to someone with hesitations, * go, it's what you 
ought to do . . . \ The last is here of a type with the otheis, 
and is no way of saying ' go ' any more than they Go, you 
ought to go ' is no more just repetitive than ' go, it s reasonable 
to go'- what would be repetitive, though there would be 
a shade of difference, is * you ought to go, it's reasonable to go . 

Lastly one may give advice by using these expressions alone 
without the exhortative prefix * go '. , ^i- ^ 

The imperative view was called in to account for this type 
of expression. It trums out that the only imperative e3q)ression 
which would otherwise fit the requirements is one which for its 
description, and iU efEective understanding, presupposes an 
independent and descriptive use for the expr^ions which the 
imperative view had been devised to account for. 




> It is outside tlie scope of tliis paper to argue the use of these 
expressions in detail. I have attempted no more than to locate 
their place on the logical map of prescriptive speech. And tliis 
place sliould by now be reasonably ässnred. * You ought to \^ 
* it is reasonable to ', * desirable to ' are expressions belonging 
to prescriptive speech pnrely in ite capacity to guide ; and tbey are 
of a type to answer the needfor making üs implidt intentions and 
functions explicit. What tends to obscnre this is that * persuading 
by giving someone a reason ' is an ambiguous notion. It may 
mean * by stating a fact calculated to act as a reason ' ; and 
also * by stating such a fact and stating that, if considered, it will 
act as sucb a reason *. Prescriptive speech of the guiding type 
reaches a new level of concepts and propositions whenit tnrns from 
pnrely stating persuasive facts to announcing the claim thatthej 
constitute reasons, ' good ' reasons, * valid ' reasons, * sufficient * 
reasons, * reasons on the whole, or despite connter-reasons '. No 
wonder * it is reasonable ', * it is desirable ', ' you ought to 'are 
not among the reasons one puts f orward f or persuasion. "What one 4 
puts so forward are the pre-existing features of the Situation ; 
claiming that thev are reasons is not to put forward a reason, but 
claiming that this is what one is doing. Nevertheless the ex- 
plicit claim or reminder that something put forward as a reason 
is one seems to have a persuasive function of its own ; something 
seems to be capable of turning on emphasising * and so you 
ought to go * after * you are expected for supper ' has been said. 
But how this is so is another story. 

Much more needs saying to reach final conclusions, but the 
Position which emerges may be characterised as follows. * You 
ought to go *, * this picture is good * State something, the one 
; something like that there would be reasons for a doing if the facts 
of the Situation were known and borne in mind ; the other 
something like that there would be reasons for appreciation if the 
features of a work of art were all noted and attended to with 
discrimination. But the bare statement is vacuous here unless 
its claim is put to the test by a demonstration ad oculos not only 
to the hearer but on the hearer. What is more, it is not in order to 
jyrove what we say that we insist on the demonstration ; but 
because we desire the hearer to have the benefit of experiencing 
what we claim. * You ought to *, * thiff is good * are in this 
respect one of a type with * you will like it S you try *. One 
does not say this just for Information, but for converswn. One 
is making an objective claim, and the claim may be falsified or 



confirmed as things tum out. But one is not in the first place 
interested in what happens to the claim, but in that what was 
claimed should occur. * You ought to go *, * this picture is good ', 
foUowed up by relevant observations of fact, is an attempt 
to teach someone to appreciate somethingy a line of conduct, or a 
work of art. And * teaching appreciation * is a type of activity^ 
of its own, difEerent both from telling a story, and from exhorting 
or preaching, though related to both. It shares with the first 
that it involves making an objective claim ; and with the second 
that it aims at practical conversion, 

Melbourne üniversity 








Reprinted for private drculation from 

Vol. LXVI, No. 2, January 1956 



M4 ^r:.£-> 

• "t. 

raiMTXD IN U.8JL. 


l/v-. : 

,'.y.''iW ■. 



W. D. FALK : ^ „ . 



EVERY age'^häs its moral perplexities, but 
our own seems to us have more than 
its share. And this is not only so because 
tbe old days are always the good old days, 
tbfough there may be something in this too. 
But it is fair to say that there is less agree- 
n^ent and more uncertainty about moral 
matters today than, let us say, in the late 

may say: there is after all no more to the 
moral condition of our time than could be 
expected from its character generally. Ours 
is a time which requires adaptation to big 
changes all-round. What were sound prac- 
tices of public finance yesterday are so no 
longer today; and why should the same not 
apply to what used to be sound moral prac- 

nineteenth Century. There is more dispute, tices? Moral codes are rules of thumb for 

about the rights and duties of pärents^aEd 
children, of husbands and wives, of indi- 
viduals and the State. There is a rejection 
of ready-made rules, and, generally, an air 
of unsettlement. 

And there is something eise too, namely, 
a sense of uneasiness about the fact that 
we are so divided and unsure. We are used 
tobelieving that there is a right and wrong 
about choices and ways of life, and that 
right thinking, here as elsewhere, can dis- 
cern truth and dispel error. But now there 
are not a few who feel that this view itself 
IS on trial. What is added to our moral per- 
plexities is perplexity abouf morals. People 
put this by saying that there is some radi- 
cal error in the traditional view that "rea- 
son'^ can solve moral issues: according to 
some that ^'reason" can solve them at all, 
according to others that it can solve them 
unaided by religion. There was a time when 
Immanuel Kant could speak of the two 
great certainties, the starry heavens above 
US and the moral law, known by pure rea- 
son, within us. In our time both of these 
seem to be fading into the nebulae. 

Such viewsi are a measure of some peo- 
ple's bewUdemient, but they need not be 
correct as a diagnosis. And one may look at 
the Situation more soberly. Because one 

the advancement of individual and social 
weif are, and as they have been learned they 
may have to be unlearned. Consider our 
views on the relations between men and 
women. At a time when women have ca- 
reers, when technology changes the ^o- 
nomics of the household, medical scilS|ice 
the care of the body, psychology our knoM- 
e6%e of mental hygiene, some traditionti 
rules must lose their point, and new ways 
have to be evolved. This may not be easy^ 
and uncontroversial. But it involves none 
but practical problems. And there is no 
need for taking the birth-pangs of adapta- 
tion for the crack of doom. 

So one may have different views on the 
causes of our perplexities. One may attrib- 
ute them simply to the complexities of a 
time of change, or to deeper causes, to er- 
rors or confusions about right thinking in 
moral matters. And what I want to discuss 
are these dififerent diagnoses of the Situa- 

I might say straightaway that I think 
that our troubles are both on the practical 
and on the deq)er i^ulosophica! level. And 
this should not be surprising. One cannot 
doubt that our time is setting us problems 
for conduct to whkh we have no i^eady an- 
swers, or which the answer of the past will 


'^ ■ •"''V^^' -r '"'. !■: 

■>'^ •'■".■ 



no longer fit. And it is quite a usual feature 
of the growth of thought, whether in sci- 
ence or elsewhere, that with big new ques- 
tions to solve one also has to query what 
sort of questions these are, and how to 
solve them. And this is why philosophical 
questions come up, bediusgi philosophy 
deals with the lopJrof questions. I might 
say here, by the^ay, that philoäophers are 
much misunderstood people. They are ei- 
ther looked down on or admired more than 
they should be, much as a foreigner in con- 
servative English society. Philosophers have 
not got a secret key to solving problems at 
which others fall. Their job is rather to as- 
sist question-solving when it gets bogged 
down in confusion about the questions and 
about the answers which they permit. This 
is why there is not really a separate animal 
in the academic zoo called "philosophy," 
over and above such creatures as history or 
physics or economics. Philosophy sits on all 
thought rather like the shell on the back of 
the tortoise; and where the tortoise goes 
there it goes, and as long as the tortoise 
keeps going it keeps going. 

And now let us get on with the job. And 
here let me say first that not all moral dis- 
agreements lead to philosophical worries. 
Moral disagreements/may have different 
origins, and this is the first point which we 
- must note. —^. — ■. — y. — v^ . . ■ . '■■ ■ " ■ . " . ■'■ ■: — ^ 
Many of them are simply about the best 
means toward achieving good ends. Take 
two parents who^are disagreed on the up- 
bringing of their children. Both will think 
that they should further their good, but 
one thmks that disciplinarian methods are 
right, and the other that they are piain 
wicked and wrong. This would be simply a 
disagreement about the means toward an 
agreed end, and, though there may be snags 
in practice, it is not in principle hard to 
solve. The facts about child development 
should decide who is right. And if there ac- 
tually is much disagreement and uncer- 
tainty about this matter today, we may lay 
this at the door of a new science of infants 
still in its infancy. And many moral dis- 

putes are like this one. A dispute about the = 
wrongness of gambling could be resolved 
by studying the efifects of gamblmg on 
people*s daily lives. The social effects of 
ownership will be relevant to disagreement 
about the right to property. And one could 
easily multiply examples, so much so that 
one may come to think that all moral dis- 
putes are of this kind. People have said: 
there is one ultimate end on which agree- 
ment can be presupposed: that, above all, 
we ought to do most good and least härm 
all-round; and all moral disputes are sun- 
ply about the best means toward this end. 
And without doubt it would be a comfort 
if this were so. Because then, in the last re- 
sort, we could solve all moral problems 
with the aid of science. Psychology, medi- 
cine, sociology, economics teil us the story 
of what leads to what, of the effects of 
bashing children, of gambling, of private 
ownership. These sciences would then be 
our proper advisers on all matters of right 

and wrong. 

Unfortunately this is too sweeping. And 
it is too sweeping because not all moral dis- 
putes arise from disagreement about the 
best means toward agreed ends. But before 
I turn to this, let me say that one may also 
easily underrate the importance of this 
view. Moral codes, like institutions in gen- 
eral, tend to settle in fixed grooves. We de- 
velop a jealous attachment to them. And 
when one feels most defensive about them, 
this is often the very moment for revising, 
"in a cool hour," as Bishop Butler said, 
what good or härm they really do. And to 
consult the findings of science at this point 
will not come amiss. 

But, as I say, science cannot help us all 
the way, because there is another area of 
moral dispute which relates not to means 
but to ends. And let me first mtroduce this 
area, and then consider how it raises prob- 

It seems so natural to say: there is one 
ultimate end, "above all, do most good and 
least härm all-round," and on this we are 
agreed. But, for several reasons, this is far 



too simple. For one, the formula is too 
vague. It says we ought to promote people's 
welfare. But when does a man really fare 
well? There are many constituents of a 
good life: freedom from want or fear, 
health and leisure, justice, freedom of self- 
expression. And not all of these can be real- 
ized to the same extent at the same time. 
One may have to choose between the one 
and the other, as, for instance, between eco- 
nomic security and freedom from restraints. 
So it foUows that "do most good and least 
härm all-round" does not really relate to 
one ultimate end but to a family of such 
ends; and that there is a question for de- 
ciding in what order of priorities these ends 
should be realized. 

Moreover, even if we are agreed on how 
to do most good all-round, can one really 
assume that everyone must be agreed on 
this as his first aim? I don't think that we 
can just presuppose this. Someone might 
come along and say: "Why this at all? 
Why concern myself with general good in- 
stead of my own?" And this raises the 
Problem of convincing him in some way 
that the furtherance of general good is an 
end that he ought to make his own. So the 
ultimate ^nöral premise may be a matter 
for dispute; and unless there- is a way of 
supporting it, the whole edifice of obliga- 
tions based on it will fall apart. 

And, finally, it is also too simple to say 
that doing most good all-round is what ev- 
eryone ought to attempt every time and 
above all. Because there are at any one 
moment many claimants for a good turn, 
and one cannot satisfy them all: there are 
ourselves and others, our children, parents, 
our group, the present generation and the 
next, and there is the good of mankind at 
large. We think that we have some Obliga- 
tion to further most good all-round, but 
that we have also got special obligations 
toward those near us, and that we have 
some rights ourselves. So, once more, there 
may be situations for choice: where we 
have to decide which of two conflicting ul- 
timate Claims should come first. Remember 

our example about the upbringing of chil- 
dren. Few parents will dispute that their 
children's good is their concern. But how 
much so, this is already another matter. 
It may be true that infinite patience will 
rear children free of hate and aggression. 
But to do so to perfection may also con- 
sume the time and energy of their parents. 
How much of their own lives then should 
parents make over to their children? This 
is no longer a question of means to ends. It 
is quite a different sort of question, one of 
deciding between legitimate and conflicting 
ends, of how to distribute one's good turns. 

And now let us look at the moral per- 
plexities of our time again. It is pretty 
piain that our major worries are in this 
area of ultimate ends, and of decisions be- 
tween them. There have been times when 
these issues were more concealed by a gen- 
eral consensus of opinion. But in our own 
time, all the devils of dissent and disorienta- 
tion seem to be let loose. A Nazi will allow 
that the good of his children is his responsi- 
bility. He will allow high priority to the good 
of his group, far above that of his parents 
or friends or of any single individual. But 
he will deny that the good of other groups 
is his business; and nothing will persuade 
him of a right for everyone to be treated 
humanely. A pacifist will put the preserva- 
tion of human life before everything eise. 
A Communist will put social justice and 
economic security before freedom of deci- 
sion or thought. And he will be far more 
ready than a liberal Individualist would 
think right to sacrifice the good of the pres- 
ent generation to that of the next. These 
are all differences about moral premises. 
And when people apply these premises to 
daily life, then quite different choices will 
become right or wrong for them: with the 
effect that, as we are all in this, we become 
targets to one another of disapproval and 
dismay. Everyone feels that the other is 
wrong-headed beyond comprehension ; and 
opportunities abound for feeling this way. 

I said before that perplexity about mor- 
als is one of the signs of our time. It is the 



1 1 f^fliii'MMi^ 





'■: ■! 

area of dissent which I have just indicated 
which is mainly responsible for this. Be- 
cause dissent about first things raises the 
question of how to settle it. And on this 
question we find ourselves in a dilemma. 
As I Said, everyone feels that the other is 
wrong-headed in placing his priorities 
where he does. And if the other really is 
wrong-headed, then there must be a right 
and a wrong in these matters, and a way of 
showing what it is. But, in practice, is 
there such a way? There are few who have 
not at some time tried and failed. We all 
know how disputes about first things begin 
in argument only to end in recrimination; 
and it is where words fail one that one re- 
sorts to bad language. But surely words 
should not fail one here. If the other is 
wrong, then there should be a way of put- 
ting him right. We have been taught, and 
believe, that by using "reason" we can put 
him right. But, as reason is understood, it 
does not seem to work. 

And this is how the philosophical issue 
has come to be raised. Persistent failure at 
solving a problem suggests that one has got 
the wrong measure of it: that one expects 
too much or the wrong things. So out of the 
trials and tribulations of our daily experi- 
ence we are being made to ask: "How can 
one decide the rights and wrongs of ulti- 
mate choices or ways of life at all?" 

I must say a little about contemporary 
trends in response to this question. The 
keynote, as one would expect, is skepticism 
of reason. But different conclusions are 
drawn from this. A very fashionable view 
is to say that we only fail to convince each 
other because there is nothing to convince 
each other of: there just is no arguable 
right or wrong of ultimate choices. To some 
people independence ultimately matters 
more than security and to others not; to 
some the good of their children is far more 
important than personal achievement and 
to others less so. And this is all there is to 
it. There is no saying that one choice is 
more "proper" or "rational" than the other. 
There is no disputing of ultimate tastes. 

And the reason given is that if there were 
it should be possible to prove to people that 
they ought to choose one ultimate course 
rather than another: one should be able to 
offer a reason for this. And in the nature 
of the case, this is impossible. First things, 
like liberty or doing good to others, one 
values for themselves. And one cannot give 
people a reason for valuing things for them- 
selves or for valuing one of them more than 
the other. Because the only reason for valu- 
ing things in themselves is in what they 
are, and if people don't want them knowing 
what they are, there is nothing to teil them 
that could convert them. Hume once said 
that "it was not against reason to prefer 
the scratching of my little finger to the de- 
struction of the whole world." For if you 
asked "and why not?" there is nothing one 
could say. So in the matter of ultimate 
choices we must tolerate, or may bash each 
other, but we must not be perplexed at 
making no headway with arguing. 

One may find this "Solution" a little hard 
to take, if not its tolerance too complaisant 
to tolerate. And let me say that its logic 
is not as strong as it sounds. It is possible 
that one ultimate choice should be more 
right than another even if there is no argu- 
ment from which to prove this, because not 
all truths are known by a formal proof . One 
does not prove by argument that it is rain- 
ing outside, one just goes and looks. And, 
maybe, that some ultimate choices are more 
proper for a human being than others is 
also something which everyone just has to 
see for himself. Supposing that one said: 
"You may not feel this now, but if you 
thought, you would not have it in your 
heart to stand by while others suffer." I 
cannot prove this to you, but it may be 
true of you, and you would be the one to 
check on it for yourself . And by saying that 
one ultimate choice may be more "proper" 
or "rational" than another, one may just 
mean this: that it would recommend itself 
more than the other to a human being who 
was thoughtful and sincere. 

In fact, the main European tradition in 



ethics is built on a conception like this, and 
great hopes for a universal and objective 
ethics used to be pinned on it. Man, it was 
said, has the moral order in his own nature 
because he has both a social nature and can 
reflect. By reflection he can put it to him- 
self what it is to do good or härm; his so- 
cial nature enables him to respond to these 
ideas. So when guided by reflection any 
human being will find the Obligation to 
doing good and not doing härm in his own 
heart. The right order of choices is laid 
down for all in their own natures, piain 
for everyone to see who will trouble to look 
into himself. 

I am referring to this root conception of 
our ethical tradition because, as we are 
looking at contemporary trends, it is also 
under fire today. Its most challenging critic 
is Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existential- 
ist. Sartre's ideas developed during the war, 
when Frenchmen were up against having to 
choose between collaboration and resist- 
ance, and where anyone might be in the 
sort of conflict which Sartre reports of one 
of his students: should he stay with his 
widowed mother whose life depended on 
him, or join the Free French in an uncertain 
gamble on doing some good for an anony- 
mous cause? Here was the iypicdX challenge 
to moral thinking: to solve conflict about 
ultimate ends and ways of life. And, ac- 
cording to Sartre, none of the traditional 
formulae will stand the test. Should the 
Student do what will cause most good all- 
round? The calculus is impossible. And 
even if possible there would still be the 
choice between causing most good all-round 
and protecting his mother. Would it help 
him to consider which choice would be 
more right by being more properly human? 
Again, the formula is too wide and vague 
to meet the concrete case. Human nature 
is not uniform and fixed enough to allow 
expression only in one choice and not in 
any other. The conception of the human 
heart as a book of rules prescribing the 
same for all, if only consulted properly, is 
a metaphysical fiction. Should he then seek 

guidance from his personal feelings, scruti- 
nize his motives, and decide on that which 
in truth matters to him most? Sartre will 
not let him have this way out either. One 
cannot ask: "is it more proper for me to 
Protect my mother or my country?" any 
more than one can ask: "is it more proper 
for a human being to protect his mother or 
his country?" And one cannot ask this be- 
cause it is an Illusion that by reflection a 
man could find out about his true feelings 
so as to guide his choice by them. The 
only proof of one's true feelings is in the 
acting. One only knows one's seif by what 
one has decided. And, therefore, in the Sit- 
uation of conflict there is no known guide 
to turn to. Man, Sartre concludes, is "de- 
serted," he must choose in darkness, he 
must opt for his ultimate goals in default 
of any knowledge of a better or worse. All 
the consolation he has is that in freely 
committing himself one way or another he 
is not drifting but exercising his human 
power of cutting the Gordian knot. 

This doctrine destroys the Illusion that 
in every complex Situation there is one 
choice which, for everyone alike and quite 
unmistakably, is more properly human than 
any other. But, if it has a point here, it 
does not stop at this. For it goes on to deny 
that not even in any more personal and 
more fallible sense could our ultimate 
choices be guided by any conception of a 
better or worse. We cannot wait to see on 
which side our Gordian knot is buttered. 
Moral thinking in the past was naive and 
hopeful enough to think that we could. But 
the conflicts of modern man have found 
this out. 

One need not foUow Sartre all the way, 
as we shall see in a moment. But even so 
it becomes clear that right choices of ulti- 
mate ends may often have no sure guide 
in reason. And not everyone will, like 
Sartre, accept this with stoic pride as the 
cross of human freedom. So it is not sur- 
prising that the present should show one 
more trend. The tnist in reason as a guide 
to conduct has historically succeeded the 




view that reason in morals requires the 
backing of religion. The emancipation of 
morality f rom religion on the contemporary 
Scale is a product of recent history. And 
now that the limits of reason have become 
more apparent, there are also voices which 
cry "we told you so." That reason falls us 
does not mean that there is no right or 
wrong for human choices; but it shows that 
we have f orgotten to look for Instruction in 
the right place. The true lesson of the pres- 
ent is that we must go back on the divorce 
of morals from religion. 

And with this, the picture of the phil- 
osophical Situation is complete. Skepticism 
of reason is its keynote. And if it leaves 
US with a Problem, it is the problem of re- 
assessing what part reason can play. 

I should like to say some more about this. 
And I shall begin with a word about the 
last view, that return to religious anthority 
is the key to the Situation. This is a wide 
topic, and I cannot do it justice here. All 
I want to say is that in my opinion this 
Solution would be no cure-all. Because mo- 
rality, as we understand it, is logically in- 
dependent of religious authority. And if the 
skeptics were right, and there were no bet- 
ter or worse in ultimate choices discernible 
by "reason," then religious authority could 
not mend things either. 

Because how could any authority settle 
that well-doing is the right, and harm-doing 
the wrong, choice for a human being? One 
may say: "But if God says so, surely this 
should settle it." And, in a way, this is fair 
enough, for believers at any rate. But we 
must be clear about the sense in which this 
is to be taken. For some people will mean 
by this: "God settles the matter by saying 
so, by commanding us to choose in these 
ways." But this would not be to settle the 
matter in the required way. It might make 
people do good or avoid härm in obedience 
to an Order. But it could not produce the 
conviction that this choice was a morally 
right one or produce actions Which could 
be called "moral" because they flowed from 
this conviction. Because one understands 

by a morally right choice one which is justi- 
fied purely on the merits of the case and 
one which one makes independently of any- 
one's "say-so." And one understands by 
moral conduct, conduct which is quite un- 
forced from without, Coming purely from 
the inner conviction that the action is right 
for one in itself. God's command as such, 
therefore, could not do in place of a rational 
conviction of right or wrong. Morality, as 
we understand it, still Stands or falls on 
the possibility of arriving at such a con- 
viction independently of any authority. 

But if it is Said that "if God says so, this 
should settle it," one may also mean some- 
thing eise: that what should settle it is that 
it is God who says so, rather than God say- 
ing so. For one will then be saying: "If 
God has given the command, then one must 
take it that he is commanding the right 
thing; and it is reasonable to take one's 
Instructions from a superior being." And 
this would be fair enough. But, again, this 
is not a view which could do in place of an 
ability on our part to arrive at rational 
convictions. For, in the first place, it would 
presuppose that we can form these convic- 
tions. We could not even conceive of God 
as telling what ultimate choices are right 
for US unless we knew what it was like to 
distinguish by ourselves between a right or 
wrong choice. So if skepticism of reason 
were correct, this view of how God could 
Support US in our ultimate choices would 
fall to the ground too. And, in the second 
place, God's support here could not replace 
independent thinking as much as one may 
hope. Because the divine rulings tend to be 
general, as general, in fact, as the general 
enjoinders to doing well or dealing justly, 
which one thinks have a piain support in 
reason too. And, like them, they still leave 
US without a sure guide when it comes to 
complex cases: to a choice like that of 
Sartre's Student or to a problem like de- 
ciding on the Tight measure of liberty or 
social justice in the Institution of a given 
Society. Moreover, as the philosophers and 
divines of the eighteenth Century used to 



stress, without the recourse to "right rea- 
son" and independent moral thinking, there 
would be no check on the interpretations of 
the divine will by fallible human minds. 

I do not therefore think that, if skepti- 
cism were right, the return to religion, even 
if possible on a wide-enough scale, could 
provide enough of a remedy; nor that our 
present bewilderment is, in the first place, 
due to confusions about the right place of 
religion in morals. The crucial question re- 
mains that of skepticism of reason. We 
must ask: How far is it really justified? 

Skepticism often comes from the disap- 
pointment of misplaced expectations. There 
is no comfort in anything, because nothing 
is good enough to replace the lost hope. 
And Sartre's views illustrate this. He finds 
that there is no sure way of choosing be- 
tween one's mother and one's country. So 
he concludes that there can be no way of 
choosing anything rather than anything 
eise. But this is precisely what does not 
follow; and the truth, as I see it, is rather 
that the power of thought to guide ultimate 
choices is a matter of degree. Some of them 
are plainly right or wrong — for anyone who 
deserves the name of a human being. One 
would have to be a fiend not to have it in 
one to see that some thought must be given 
to the good or härm of others. But when it 
comes to concrete cases, and to matters of 
conflict, then the big certainties begin to 
evaporate. How much of one's own life is 
one to give to others? How much is one to 
prefer independence to security? How much 
the good of human kind to that of one's 
group? These are issues of a different kind, 
and this must be acknowledged. One has 
not got enough ground here for saying that 
only one choice and no other could be right 
for everyone who is properly human. But 
nor could one say that every natural basis 
for a better or worse choice has gone, but 
rather that the basis for choice has become 
more personal. One may still make these 
choices judiciously or not, be guided in 
them by impartial reflection and honest 
self-scrutiny, or follow one's blind leanings. 

For there are qualities of mind on which 
judiciousness in choice depend at all times. 
In hard cases they cannot be exercised 
easily; but this is not enough for saying 
with Sartre that there is no guide in them 
at all. If there is not always a choice which 
is the one that is properly human, there is 
always a properly human way of making 
one's choices. 

We keep confusing ourselves when we 
call this the way of "reason," and this con-_ 
fusion accounts for much of our disorienta- 
tion. The point is not that the right choice 
may not be called the one "guided by rea- 
son" but that "reason" may mean so many 
things. "Reason" makes one think of cal- 
culation, of deduction, of learning from ex- 
perience. But the reason which can guide 
ultimate choices is none of these; and one 
draws attention to this when one says that 
"the good" need not be "the clever." The 
"reason" of the clever finds out about 
things unknown. But everyone knows what 
it is to do good or härm; and if people fail 
to take notice, then this is not for lack of 
knowledge. And yet one may say, if loosely, 
that it is for lack of "using reason." Be- 
cause "using reason" may also mean: "re- 
minding one's seif of what one knows al- 
ready," "putting it to one's seif clearly, 
vividly, and without reserve." And the 
properly human choice is the one which is 
directed by such reminders. In a thought- 
less frame of mind one may not mind hurt- 
ing others; if roused, one may even enjoy 
it. But if one reminds one's seif, sympathet- 
ically and plainly, of what doing härm 
does, one will find that one's own nature 
will not let one. One finds that harm-doing 
could not be one's choice as a reflective and 
normal human being. 

And the same principle applies to the 
more tricky choices between ultimate al- 
ternatives. I should say that even with as 
trivial a choice as that between lambs fry 
and Wiener schnitze!, one is not con- 
demned, as Sartre will have it, to choose 
in darkness. Even here one may choose 
rashly or considerately, with one's eyes 






open or not, in order to elicit which al- 
ternative would truly deserve priority for 
one. And to choose considerately would 
here mean: making quite clear to one 's seif 
the nature of the alternatives before one; 
presenting it to one's seif that having the 
one would be forsaking the other; and 
eliciting one's response to the thought of 
still opting for the one even in füll view of 
thereby sacrificing the other. A choice so 
determined will be the one more truly 
proper for one than any other; one which 
I can defend to myself and others; one to 
the thought of which I can hope to return 
ever afterward without regret. And to 
choose between one's mother and one's 
country, between independence and securi- 
ty, between one's own good and that of 
others, is only harder and beset more by 
! inner conflict, but in principle no different. 
Here, too, it is a matter of distinguishing 
between one's immediate leanings and the 
well-considered order of one's priorities: 
the one which sincere reflection on the com- 
peting alternatives would show one to ex- 
press one's true evaluation, the one again 
with which one could afterward hope to 
live in peace. 

But I want to emphasize that these cases 
also show more clearly what diverse quali- 
ties of mind right choice requires. Philos- 
ophers' talk about a simple and unique 
faculty of moral Intuition has here done 
much to befog the truth. There is not one 
: faculty, there are many qualities of mind 
which must co-operate. One must have ex- 
perience of what one is choosing between. 
One cannot choose well between independ- 
ence and security any more than between 
lambs fry and Wiener Schnitzel if all one 
knows is the basic meaning of the words. 
One must know the savor of living the one 
as one must know the savor of eating the 
other. Experience of life and the chance of 
living it as well as the enterprise to seek 
it are conditions for making right choices. 
The real worth of things must be explored; 
it cannot be deduced. And with big issues 
like freedom or security this is just the dif- 

ficulty. We cannot vary the balance of a 
social order just for the sake of deepening 
our experience, and if we put our money 
on trying the one, we easily destroy our 
Chance of trying the other, perhaps even 
our fitness to try it. This is why it has been 
Said that freedom is more easily lost than 
gained. Moreover, our own experience is not 
always enough. To be clear about the good 
or härm of others, one requires Imagination 
as well, the ability to put one's seif into the 
other fellow's shoes, to extend one's sym- " 
pathies from the familiär to the unfamiliar 
by noticing a human being behind the cur- 
tain of color, age, class, and distance. This 
ability, as everyone knows, is not easily 
exercised; and failure to exercise it lies be- 
hind many of our disagreements about the 
ethics of group relations in the international 
field. (Though, I should hasten to add, not 
of all.) And then again right choice requires 
still another quality of mind. For in order 
to present the issues to ourselves effectively, 
we must also be able to relive in the Im- 
agination what we know already. One may 
know of 3,000 flood victims and feel no com- 
punction to help because, as Arthur Koest- 
1er once said, "statistics don't bleed"; and, 
one might add, not unless one makes them 
bleed. And, finally, merely to put the al- 
ternatives before one, as when one is choos- 
ing between one's seif and another, may 
still not be enough — ^because one may also 
do this either half-heartedly or without re- 
serve, with or without self-deceit. And only 
if done without reserve, will one's proper 
choice come before one. Now one may fol- 
low custom and call this "the choice of rea- 
son." But, then, let us be quite clear that 
moral reason is not that of the scientist or 
mathematician, whose "reason" has in our 
time become the paradigm of all reason. 
One's proper choice is not found under the 
microscope or by calculation, but it can be 
found; and not by the exercise of one spe- 
cial faculty but, rather, by the whole man 
testing himselj out against an objective 
view of the issues for choice. 
I shall only say a little more by way of 



a summing up. I hope that I have shown 
why contemporary skepticism goes too far. 
It is not true that Sartre's Student had 
nothing to guide him. It was up to him to 
be judicious about his choice or not. True 
enough, no one eise could have handed him 
the answer: your conscience cannot teil me 
what I ought to do. But it is also needlessly 
tough to pretend that in matters like these 
there could be no answer, no helpful or 
critical exchange. One cannot prove how 
anyone ought to choose, but one need not 
therefore take everyone eise's views on ulti- 
mate ends, or ways of life, in silence or 
leave each other confined to the ivory tow- 
ers of our private consciences. The Out- 
sider may help from his experience to make 
the issues stand out more clearly; he may 
work on the other's imagination; he may 
prompt him to reflect in the right way; he 
may deflate his self-deceits by a calm "if 
you seriously feel that way, then go right 
ahead." One should not think that where 
there is no argument there can be no con- 

This applies to small things and large, 
and our big contemporary disagreements 
about ways of life are not therefore be- 
yond treatment. We do in f act f ail in treat- 
ing them. But then, rather than blame the 
Instrument, we might blame our tardiness 
in using it in matters in which our interests, 
er our conceits, are involved. 

But I said before that skepticism comes 
from the disappointment of misplaced ex- 
pectations. And skeptical disorientation 
will remain a sign of our time until we 

have learned to accept moral thinking for 
what it is and with its limits. What every- 
one hopes for as a guide are rules by which 
to settle all cases, applicable with ease, and 
in the same way to everyone alike. Instead, 
what we have available is a procedure, call- 
ing on many and fallible qualities of mind; 
a procedure which yields some broad and 
fairly obvious answers, but which for the 
rest leaves us to puzzle things out for our- 
selves, with a margin for error and dis- 
agreement too wide for comfort. It may be 
that we still have to grow up to leam to 
accept this for a fact: there is no moral 
Santa Claus in pure reason. 

And let me conclude with one gentle 
reminder. It would not be fair to blame 
philosophers or "sophists" for forcing this 
recognition on to us. For what is doing it 
are once more the circumstances of our 
time, and philosophers are at best their 
mouthpiece. Our circumstances are com- 
plicating the issues beyond the powers of 
any book of rules. Not every society has to 
choose between freedom and social welfare 
as hard as ours. In the days when econom- 
ic laissez faire was a working proposition, 
one could have freedom along with eco- 
nomic welfare without much of a need for 
choice, or so one could think. But today, 
with the new means for procuring economic 
welfare, we must choose. To choose one 
must think. And even if thinking came to 
no more than to having a heart and keeping 
one's head, it would not come to nothing. 

University or Melbourne 


^- '-lJ 

SammluDg sozialwissenschaftlicher Mdst^ 

in selbständigen Bänden herausgegeben yß^ 


Professor Dr. Heinrich Waentig 

in Münster i.W. 
Zweites Bäaddien. 

AbhandluBg über die GesehieWr 

-L i -L i -unn-r -- - • - ■■ '■ *■■ ■■i.i«»«»»i%*»* » i%%iwrw>»*i%w»i<».»<«i*i»" 

der bürg 






Adam Ferguson. 

Aus dem englischen Original, und zwar der Ausgabe 
letzter Hand (7. Aufl. 18l4) ins Deutsche übertragen 
'^^'^y^^.^ von Valentine P<3irn v>^^>~^x^^~ 
und eingelleitet von Prof. Dr. Heinrich Waentig 




Verlag von Gustav Fischer. 


■■f ■■• :■' ,-:■' n 



Adam Ferguson wurde am 20. Juni 1723 zu Logierait, 
Perthshire, in Schottland geboren. Einer Geistlichenfamilie 
entstammend, ward auch er für den geisthchen Stand er- 
zogen, und erhielt, nachdem er seine vorbereitenden Studien 
an den Universitäten St. Andrews und Edinburgh abgeschlossen, 
1745 die Stelle eines Feldpredigers, die er bis 1754 bei ver- 
schiedenen Regimentern in Krieg und Frieden erfolgreich 
ausfüllte. Sicher ist diese Zeit nicht ohne nachhaltigen 
Einfluß auf seinen Charakter geblieben. Insbesondere ist es 
wahrscheinlich, daß der von Sir William Hamilton seiner 
Moralphilosophie nachgerühmte „kriegerische Geist" und die 
starre ünbeugsamkeit seines Wesens, die seinem praktischen 
Fortkommen öfters im Wege stand, namentlich dieser mili- 
tärischen Periode seines Lebens ihren Ursprung verdankten. 

1757 als Nachfolger David Hume's zur Leitung der 
Bibliothek der Faculty of advocates zu Edinburgh berufen, 
erhielt er 1759 den Lehrstuhl für Naturphilosophie an der 
dortigen Universität, den er 1764 bereitwillig mit dem für 
Moralphilosophie vertauschte. Seine Heirat mit Katharine 
Bumett i. J. 1766 fällt beinahe zusammen mit der Ver- 
öffentlichung seines ersten größeren Werkes, des Essay on 
the history of civil society (1767), der, auf einen bereits 
1759 vollendeten Essay on refinement zurückgehend, seinen 
Namen alsbald in weiten Kreisen bekannt machte. 

Nach mehreren Jahren einer fruchtbaren Lehrtätigkeit 
kamen unruhige Zeiten. Als Begleiter des Earl of Chester- 
field bereiste er den europäischen Kontinent und eine, aller- 
dings erfolglose, diplomatische Mission führte ihn für kurze 
Zeit sogar nach den Yereinigten Staaten. An seine Uni- 
versität zurückgekehrt, erwarb er sich 1782 durch seine 
History of the progress and termination of the Roman 

IV — 

republic erneutes Ansehen als gelehrter Schriftsteller, zog 
sich jedoch schon 1785 definitiv von seiner Professur zu- 
rück, seinen Schülern gleichsam als wissenschaftliches Yer- 
mächtnis die 1792 erschienenen Principles of moral and 
political science, being chiefly a retrospect of lectures 
delivred in the College of Edinburgh, zurücklassend. 

Eine vorwiegend zu wissenschaftlichen Zwecken i. J. 
1793 unternommene zweite Reise nach dem Kontinent trug 
ihm in Italien, besonders aber in Deutschland, wo man ihn 
zum Ehrenmitgliede der Berliner Akademie der Wissen- 
schaften ernannte, mannigfache Auszeichnungen ein. Nach 
dem 1795 erfolgten Tode seiner Frau zog er sich ganz in 
die Einsamkeit zurück, indem er vierzehn Jahre lang in 
Hallyards in größter Einsamkeit als Farmer lebte. Er starb 
am 22. Februar 1816 zu St. Andrews, nicht ohne noch mit 
ganzer Seele an den welterschütternden napoleonischen 
Kämpfen teilgenommen zu haben. 

Ein Schüler Montesquieu's , dessen Meisterschaft er be- 
geistert preist, hat sich Ferguson als Historiker, Philosoph und 
Soziolog hervorgetan. Als Philosoph gewürdigt, ist er, glaube 
ich, als sozialwissenschaftlicher Denker bis auf die neueste Zeit 
unterschätzt worden. Konnte doch Karl Marx ihn als „den 
Lehrer Adam Smiths" bezeichnen, dessen epochemachendes 
Werk er den Zeitgenossen mit prophetischen Worten ankün- 
digte, und Karl Bücher betonen, daß der große Schotte seine 
Lehre von der Arbeitsteilung „in wesentlichen Punkten dem 
Essay on the history of civil society seines Landsmannes Adam 
Ferguson entlehnt" habe. Allerdings soll David Hume dem 
Freunde, wohl aus praktischen Gründen, die Yeröffentlichung 
des Werkes widerraten haben, und Victor Cousin nennt es, 
„\m ouvrage sans aucun caractere, oü regne un ton de mora- 
lit6 fort estimable, mais oü la faiblesse des idees le dispute ä 
Celle de l'erudition", sich selbst damit ein Armutszeugnis aus- 
stellend. Auch der Erfolg des Buches hat gegen ihn entschieden. 


\i ' 

Erlebte es doch bis zum Tode des Verfassers nicht weniger 
als sieben Auflagen, ja, noch heute bildet es für den Jünger 
der Wissenschaft eine anregende und lehrreiche Lektüre. 

Und zwar sind es, wie mir scheinen will, vor allem 
yier Momente, die Ferguson mit der allerjüngsten Ent- 
wicklung der Sozialwissenschaft verknüpfen. Das ist 
erstens seine realistische Auffassung der Dinge, die ihn 
alles spekulative Theoretisieren abseits von der festen 
Orundlage der Erfahrungstatsachen spöttisch ablehnen läßt 
und ihm meist ein nüchternes und gerechtes Urteil auch über 
soziale Institutionen ermöglicht, gegen die sein leidenschaft- 
liches Herz laut und vernehmlich gesprochen. Das ist zweitens 
seine evolutionistische Betrachtungsweise, die dahin strebt, 
jedes geschichtliche Ereignis in den Fluß der Entwicklung 
hineinzustellen, sich jedoch dabei nicht mit der später 
zeitweise üblich gewordenen schablonenhaften Übertragung 
der Phänomene des organischen Lebensprozesses auf die 
sozialen Vorgänge begnügt. Das ist drittens seine sozio- 
logische Einsicht, die ihn das Individuum regelmäßig als 
Teil eines sozialen Ganzen und jede Erscheinungsform des 
gesellschaftlichen Daseins in Wechselwirkung mit allen an- 
deren betrachten lehrt, und endlich seine hohe Einschätzung 
der inneren geistigen Faktoren der sozialen Entwicklung 
im Gegensatz zu ihren äußeren materiellen, wobei er inner- 
halb der Geisteswelt den Primat der Gefühle, und zwar 
insbesondere auch der sittlichen Gefühle anerkennt. So wird 
er denn nicht müde, angesichts der Korruption des fran- 
zösischen ancien regime, das ihn gelegentlich die großen 
Seiten der monarchischen Staatsform über iliren Schwächen 
vergessen läßt, das Evangelium von der sieghaften und segen- 
bringenden Kraft der auf sich selbst gestellten, freien Persön- 
lichkeit zu predigen, eine Botschaft, die auch an uns Kinder 
eines militärischen Zeitalters gerichtet ist. .. 

■-■■^■■>■-*■ "W. • 


, '■-."•'.jv.'. ; 




n *- 

eil. Über die Grondzüge der menschlichen Natur 

1. Kapitel. Über den Naturzustand. . . . „ 

Über die Grundsätze der Selbster- 

Über die Prinzipien der Vereinigung 
unter den Menschen .... 

Über die Grundursachen von Krieg 
und Zwietracht 

Über Verstandeskräfte ..... 

Über das sittliche Gefühl . , « ' ». 

über das Glück ..... . . 





„ Fortsetzung desselben Gegenstandes 

„ Über das Gemeinwohl 

„ ' Fortsetzung desselben Gegenstandes 

II. Teil. Über die Geschichte wilder Völker . . . 

• , i . 1. Kapitel. Über die Auskunft, die das Altertum 
;^' '; . über diesen Gegenstand erteilt 

"' "%' „ Über wilde Völker vor der Ein- 

>y, führung des Eigentums . . , 

8. „ Über wilde Völker unter dem Ein- 

fluß von Eigentum u. Eigennutz 

III. Teil. Über die Geschichte der Politik und der 



1. Kapitel. Über den Einfluß von Klima und 
^ - geographischer Lage .... 


1— 13 

14— 21 

21— 26 

27— 34 
35— 43 
43- 55 
56— 67 
67— 80 
80— 8T 






— YII — \ ^;:v.0:i^.':: 

2. Kapitel. Die Geschichte politischer Ver- 
fassungen 169—188 

8. „ über nationale Zwecke im allge- •. . -; o . 
- meinen und über Einrichtungen .-^''■V^.:.'^'--^ 
. und Sitten, die damit zusammen- 
hängen 189 — 192 

4. „ Über Bevölkerung und Keichtum . 192 — 205 
b. f, Über nationale Verteidigung und Er- 
oberung ^ ^ 205—216 

6. „ ' Über die bürgerliche Freiheit .. 216— 235 

7. „ • Über die Geschichte der Künste . 235—240 

8. ^ Über die Geschichte der Literatur 240 — 252 

IV. Teil. Über die Folgen, die sich aus dem Fort- ! .ylj;^. ' 

schreiten bürgerlicher und gewerblicher '"^'-^ 

Künste ergeben 253—286 

• 1. Kapitel, über die Teilung der Künste und 

Berufe 253—258 

2. „ Über die Unterordnung als Folge der 

Teilung der Künste und Berufe 258—264 

^, ^^fi" über die Sitten zivilisierter und 

Handelsvölker 264—270 

4. „ Fortsetzung desselben Gegenstandes 270—286 

V. Teil. Über den Niedergang der Völker . . . 287-331 

1. Kapitel, über angebliche nationale Größe 

und den Unbestand menschlicher 

Angelegenheiten. 287—295 

2. ,j . über die zeitweiligen Anspannungs- 

und Erschlaffungszustände des 

nationalen Geistes 295-301 

* :» Über das Erschlaffen nationalen 

Geistes, wie es bei gesitteten 

Nationen vorkommt .... 301—316 

4« ji Fortsetzung desselben Gegenstandes 316 — 326 

6. f, Über nationale Verschwendung . 327 — 331 

— Yni — 

VI. Teil. Über Korruption und politische Knecht- 
schaft .......*. 

Über Korruption im allgemeinen . 

Über den Luxus 

Über die Korruption, wie sie bei ge- 
sitteten Yölkern vorkommt . . 

Fortsetzung desselben Gegenstandes 

Inwiefern Korruption der politischen 
Knechtschaft die Wege ebnet 

Über das Fortschreiten und das 
Ende des Despotismus . ... 

1. Kapitel. 

2. n 

3. „ 

4. „ 

O. n 

' • Seite 




3ß.4— 394 


■ • « 

. ./ 

•i'r ■>' ". *■■ 

'; aj...Wi»i 

L Teil. 

Ober die Grundzüge der menschlichen Natur, 

'» ■' ■ ■ ■■ 

1. Kapitel. 

Über den Naturzustand. 

Die Erzeugnisse der Natur bilden sich im allgemeinen 
stufenweise. Die Pflanzen entwickeln sich aus zarten Spröß- 
lingen, die Tiere aus einem Zustande der Hilflosigkeit. Die 
letzteren, die sich bewegen, erweitern zugleich den Kreis 
ihrer Verrichtungen und ihre Kräfte, und zeigen einen Fort- 
schritt sowohl in dem, was sie vollführen, wie in den 
Fähigkeiten, welche sie erwerben. Diese r Fortsch ritt ist beim 
Menschen größer als bei irgend einem anderen Lebewesen. ___ y y ^.^^ 
Nicht allein schreitet das Individuum von der Kindheit zur t^v^^^^^v 

Mannheit fort, sondern auch die Gat tung selbst vom ZustMide 

der Wüdhßit-Äur Zivilisation. Daher das angebliche Ausgehen 
Ies"Menschengeschlechts vom Naturzustande, daher unsere 
Vermutungen und verschiedenen Meinungen über das, was 
der Mensch im Anfange seiner Existenz gewesen sein muß. 
Der Dichter, der Geschichtschreiber und Moralist spielen häufig 
auf diese alten Zeiten an, und unter dem Sinnbilde von Gold 
oder Eisen stellen sie einen Zustand oder eine Lebensform 
(Jar, von der das Menschengeschlecht entweder herabgesunken, 
oder von der aus es gewaltig fortgeschritten ist. Unter 
jeder Voraussetzung aber kann das, erste Stadium unserer vA; 
Existenz keine Ähnlichkeit mit dem gehabt haben, was der 
. Ferguson, Geschichte d. bürgerl. Gesellschaft. 1 



^ — — _ 2 — • ' ^ ■;."--,.•: 

Mensch in irgend einer späteren Periode dargestellt hat. 
Geschichtliche Zeugnisse, selbst solche aus ältester Zeit, 
müssen als jüngeren Ursprungs betrachtet werden, und die 
allergewöhnlichsten Einrichtungen der menschlichen Gesell- 
schaft sind unter die Eingriffe zu rechnen, die Betrug, Unter- 
drückung oder geschäftige Erfindung in das Reich der Natur 
gemacht haben, wodurch die vornehmsten unserer Leiden oder 
Glückseligkeiten in gleicher Weise hintangehalten wurden. 

Unter den Scliriftstellern , welche versucht haben, die 
ursprünglichen Eigenschaften der Menschennatur zu unter- 
scheiden, und die Grenzen zwischen Natur und Kultur fest- 
zustellen, haben einige das Menschengeschlecht so geschildert, 
als hätte es nur tierische Instinkte besessen, ohne irgend welche 
Betätigung jener Fähigkeiten, die es den Tieren überlegen 
machen, ohne politischen Verband, ohne Mittel, seinen Ge- 
fühlen Ausdruck zu verleihen, ja selbst ohne Furcht und 
ohne Leidenschaft, die mitzuteilen Stimme und Bewegung 
doch so geeignet sind. Andere meinen, der Naturzustand 
habe in dauernden Kriegen bestanden, die durch den "Wett- 
streit um Herrschaft und Vorteil entfacht wuiden, wobei jeder 
einzelne einen besonderen Streit mit seinen Geschlechtsge- 
nossen hatte, und die bloße Gegenwart eines Nebenmenschen 
das Zeichen zum Kampfe war. 

Der Wunsch, einen Lieblingsgedanken zu begründen, 
oder vielleicht die törichte Hoffnung darauf, daß wir die 
Geheimnisse der Natur bis zur Quelle des Seins erforschen 
können, haben in dieser Hinsicht zu vielen fnichtlosen 
Untersuchungen und zu vielen seltsamen Voraussetzungen 
geführt. Von den vielen Eigenschaften, welche die Mensch- 
heit besitzt, wählen wir eine oder mehrere einzelne aus, 
um darauf eine Theorie zu gründen, und indem wir unsere 
Berichte abfassen über das, was der Mensch in einem früheren, 
eingebildeten Naturzustande gewesen ist, übersehen wir, wie 


, 'i "^ ,* -•.• 

, .■■■■*' ■ ■>■' 

_--w »-.-^/T/W 

— 3 — 

e r tatsächlich im iger im Bereiche unserer eigenen Beobach- 
tung und in den Annalen der Geschichte erschienen ist. 

Bei jeder anderen Gelegenheit glaubt sich der Naturforscher 
verpflichtet, Tatsachen zu sammeln, anstatt Mutmaßungen an- 
zubieten. Wenn er eine besondere Tierspezies behandelt, 
nimmt er an, daß ihre gegenwärtigen Anlagen und Instinkte 
dieselben sind, die sie m-sprünglich besessen hatte, und daß 
ihre gegenwärtige Lebensweise die Fortsetzung ihrer ersten 
Bestimmung ist. Er gibt zu, daß seine Kenntnis von dem 
materiellen Weltsystem aus einer Sammlung von Tatsachen 
besteht, oder höchstens aus allgemeinen Grundsätzen, die aus 
besonderen Beobachtungen und Experimenten hergeleitet sind. 
Nur in bezug auf sich selbst, und in Dingen, die zu kennen 
am wichtigsten und am leichtesten ist, setzt er Hypothesen 
an Stelle der Wirklichkeit, und vermengt die Gebiete von 
Einbildung und Vernunft, Dichtung und Wissenschaft. 

Aber ohne weiteres Eingehen auf moralische oder physi- 
kalische Fragen in bezug auf die Art oder die Quelle unserer 
Erkenntnis, ohne Geringschätzung jener Spitzfindigkeit, die 
jedes Gefühl zerlegen und jeder Lebensform bis zu ihrem 
Ursprung nachspüren möchte, kann ruhi g; behauptet werden, 
Jlaß^^er „Charakter des üenschen, wie er jetzt ist, und die 
Gesetze seines animaUschen und intje^llektueU^ 

dem heute" sein Glück abhängt, unser Hauptstudium ver- ^ 

"^dienen, und ferner, daß allgemeine Prinzipien Mnsichtüch__//>^^ 

dieser oder anderer Fragen nur in soweit nützlich sind^ als '„J^'^^^ 
"sie auf richtiger Beobachtung beruhen und zur Kenntnis £_^ 

wichtiger Konsequenzen führen, oder insoweit sie uns in deii__ 

"Stand setzen, mit Erfolg zu handeln, wenn wir intellektuelle 

""odeFpHysische^aturkräfte für die Zwecke des menschlichen 

Daseins anwenden woUen. 

Wenn nun sowohl die frühesten wie die letzten Berichte aus 

allen Erdteilen die Menschen in Gruppen und Vereinigungen /jf^ 

lebend darstellen, wenn der einzelne sich immer durch Neigung /^^<^'^^-'^. 



einer Partei zugesellt, während er möglicherweise der Gegner 
einer anderen ist, wenn er der Erinnerung und Voraussicht 
fähig ist, und bestrebt, seine Gefühle anderen mitzuteilen 
und diejenigen der anderen kennen zu lernen, so müssen 
diese Tatsachen als Fundament angenommen werden für 
all unser Nachdenken über den Menschen. Seine doppelte 
Fähigkeit, Freundschaft und Feindschaft zu empfinden, seine 
Vernunft, der Gebrauch der Sprache und artikulierter Laute, 
sowie die Gestalt und die aufrechte Haltung seines Körpers, 
müssen als eben so viele Merkmale seiner Natur betrachtet 
werden. Sie sind seinem Geschlecht erhalten gebheben, wie 
der Flügel und die Tatze dem des Adlers und des Löwen, 
und wie verschiedene Grade der Wildheit, Wachsamkeit, 
Furchtsamkeit oder Schnelligkeit in der Naturgeschichte ver- 
schiedener Tiere ihren Platz haben. 

Wenn die Frage gestellt wird: Was könnte der 
Menschengeist vollbringen, wenn er sich selbst überlassen, 
und ohne fremde Leitung bliebe? müssen wir in der Ge- 
schichte der Menschheit nach der Antwort darauf suchen. 
Besondere Experimente die sich bei Feststellung der Prinzipien 
anderer Wissenschaften so nützlich erwiesen haben, könnten 
uns wahrscheinhch in bezug auf diesen Untersuchungsgegen- 
stand nichts Wichtiges oder Neues lehren. Wir müssen auf 
die Geschichte eines jeden tätigen Wesens schließen aus 
seinem Benehmen in der Lage, für die es geschaffen ist, und 
nicht aus dem Eindruck, den es in einer erzwungenen oder 
ungewöhnlichen Lage macht. Ein Wilder, der in den Wäl- 
dern gefangen wird, wo er immer fern von Wesen seiner 
Art gelebt hat, ist daher ein einzelnes Beispiel, kein Probestück 
irgend allgemeinen Charakters. Wie die Anatomie eines Auges, 
welches nie das Licht aufgefangen hat, oder eines Ohres, in 
das nie ein Ton gedrungen ist, wahrscheinlich Fehler im 
Bau der Organe selbst aufweisen würden, die davon her- 
rühren, daß letztere niemals die ihnen angemessenen Funk- 

-.::£:'* ::'>^'\- : 

— 5-^:::^ 

tionen ausgeübt haben, so würde ein einzelner FaQ obiger 
Art nur zeigen, in welchem Maße Verstandes- und Gefühls- 
kräfie selbst dort existieren konnten, wo sie nicht geübt 
worden waren, und welche die Fehler und Schwächen eines 
Herzens sein würden, das nie jene Regungen empfunden 
hätte, die im gesellschaftlichen Leben erwachen. 

Das Menschengeschlecht muß in Gruppen beob aohtet 
werden^ wie sie immer bestanden haben. Die "Geschichte 
des einzelnen Menschen ist ja nur eine Aufzählung der Gefühle 
und „Gedanken, die er mit Rücksicht auf seine Art gehabt 
hat, und jedes Experiment in dieser Hinsicht sollte darum nur 
mit ganzen Gesellschaften und nicht mit einzelnen Menschen 
jemacht werden. Wir haben indessen allen Grund zu 
glauben, daß, im Falle daß ein derartiges Experiment mit, 
nehmen wir an, einer Schar aus der Kinderstube ver- 
pflanzter Kinder gemacht würde, denen man es überließe 
ununtemchtet und ungeschult eine Gesellschaft für sich 
selbst zu büden, wir nur die Wiederholung derselben Dinge 
sehen würden, die in so vielen verschiedenen Teilen der 
Erde bereits vor sich gegangen sind. Die Mitglieder unserer 
kleinen Gesellschaft würden essen und schlafen, herdenweise 
leben und spielen, ihre eigene Sprache haben, sich streiten 
und trennen, sie würden für einander die wichtigsten Per- 
sonen des ganzen Schauspiels sein, und im Eifer ihrer 
Freundschaft und ihres Wettstreites ihre persönliche Gefahr 
übersehen und die Sorge für ihre Selbsterhaltung vergessen. 
Ist nicht das Menschengeschlecht in derselben Weise ge- 
pflanzt worden, wie die eben geschilderte Kolonie? Wer 
hat seinen Weg geleitet? Wessen Vorschriften hat es gehört 
oder wessen Beispiel ist es gefolgt? ' 

Wir müssen also annehmfiii,_daß die Natur, die jej ein 
Tiere sein e Daseinsform^seine^Anlagen und seine L§beDaweise_ 

jeg eben hat, auf dieselbe Art mit dem Menschengeschlecht, 
vorgeg apgen i st, und der Naturforscher, der die Eigen- 

— 6 — 

Schäften dieser Gattung sammela wollte, kann heute, ebenso 
gut wie früher, jeden einzelnen Punkt bestimmen. Die Er- 
rungenschaften des Yaters vererben sich nicht auf seine Kinder, 
noch ist der Fortschritt des Menschen als eine physische Yerän- 
derung zu betrachten. Das Individuum hat in jedem Zeitalter 
denselben Weg von der Kindheit bis zum Mannesalter zu durch- 
laufen, und jedes unmündige Kind oder jede unwissende 
Person von heute ist ein Bild dessen, was der Mensch in 
seinem ursprünglichen Zustande gewesen ist. Er beginnt 
seine Laufbahn mit den Vorteilen, die seinem Jahrhundert 
eigentümlich sind, aber sein natürliches Talent ist wahr- 
scheinlich dasselbe. Der Gebraucli und die Anwendung 
dieses Talentes wechseln, und die Menschen setzen ihre 
Arbeit fort, gemeinsam vorwärts schreitend durch viele Zeit- 
alter. Sie bauen auf dem Grunde, der von ihren Vorfahren 
gelegt ist, und in einer Abfolge von Jahren streben sie 
nach einer Vollkommenheit in der Anwendung ihrer Kräfte, 
wozu die Hilfe einer langen Erfahrung erfordert wird 
und viele Generationen ihre Bemühungen vereinigt haben 
müssen. Wir sehen den Fortschritt, den sie gemacht haben, 
wir zählen deutlich viele ihrer Schritte, wir können sie bis 
in eine graue Vorzeit zurückverfolgen, von der keine Kunde 
übrig geblieben, noch irgend ein Denkmal erhalten ist, um 
uns davon zu unterrichten, was der Anfang dieses wunder- 
baren Schauspiels gewesen ist. Das Ergebnis ist, daß wir, 
anstatt uns mit dem Charakter unserer Gattung zu befassen, 
dessen Einzelheiten von den sichersten Autoritäten bezeugt 
sind, uns bemühen, sie durch unbekannte Zeitalter und 
Begebenheiten zu verfolgen; und anstatt anzunehmen, daß 
der Anfang unserer Geschichte beinahe im Einklang mit der 
Folge war, glauben wir uns berechtigt, jeden Umstand unserer 
gegenwärtigen Lage und Gestalt als hinzugekommen und 
unserer Natur fremd zu verwerfen. Der Fortschritt der 
Menschheit aus einem angeblichen Zustande tierischen Emp- 

— 7 — 

findens zur Erlangung der Yernunft, zum Gebrauch der 
Sprache und zur Gewohnheit des Gesellschaftslebens ist dem- 
gemäß mit einer Stärke der Einbildungskraft gezeichnet 
und seine einzelnen Stufen mit einer Kühnheit der Erfin- 
dung bestimmt worden, die uns verleiten könnten, neben 
dem Geschichtsmaterial die Einflüsterungen der Phantasie 
gelten zu lassen, und vielleicht als Vorbild unseres ursprüng- 
lichen Naturzustandes eines der Tiere anzunehmen dessen 
Gestalt mit der unseren die meiste Ähnlichkeit hat.*) 

Es wäre lächerlich, als eine Entdeckung zu betonen, 
daß die Spezies des Pferdes wahrscheinlich niemals dieselbe 
wie die des Löwen war. Dennoch sind wir genötigt, im 
Gegensatz zu den Behauptungen der ausgezeichnetsten Schrift- 
steller zu betonen, daß die Menschen immer als ein ge- 
trenntes und überlegenes Geschlecht unter den Tieren erschie- 
nen sind, und daß weder der Besitz gleicher Organe, noch die 
Annäherung an ihre Gestalt, noch der Gebrauch der Hand**), 
noch der fortgesetzte Umgang mit diesem souveränen Künstler 
irgend eine andere Spezies befähigt hat, ihre Natur oder ihre 
Erfindungen mit den seinen zu vermischen ; daß er in seinem 
rohesten Zustand noch über ihnen steht, und wenn er noch so 
entartet ist, niemals auf ihr Niveau herabsinkt. Er is t, kurz 
gesagt, ein Mensch in jeder Lage, und wir können in bezug 
auf seine" Nätür^chts aus der Analogie der anderen Tiere 
"Tiernen. Wenn wir ihn kennen wollen, müssen wir auf ihn 
selbst achten, auf den Gang seines Lebens und den Inhalt 
seines Benehmens. Bei ih m scheint die Gesel l8cbaft_so al t 
zu sein, wie das Individuum, und der Gebrauch der Sprache 
so allgemeiHT wie der der Hand oder des Fußes. "Wenn es 
wirklich eine Zeit gab, wo er erst mit seiner eigenen Gattung 
bekannt werden und seine Fähigkeiten erwerben mußte. 

*) Roqgsean, Snr F origine de I'in6galit6 panni les homines. 
♦*) Tratte de Tesprit. ^^;^^^^^^^^^^^^\ ' v ' ^ 

■r v'p^ '*■*" 



SO ist es eine Zeit, von der wir keine Kunde besitzen, und 
hinsiclitlich deren unsere Meinungen zwecklos sind und 
von keinem Beweis unterstützt werden. 

Wir werden oft in diese grenzenlosen Regionen der Un- 
wissenheit oder Mutmaßungen gelockt von einer Phantasie, 
die sich mehr darin gefällt. Formen zu schaffen, als diejenigen, 
die sich ihr darbieten, einfach festzuhalten. Wir sind die 
Narren einer Spitzfindigkeit, die verspricht, jedem Mangel 
unseres Wissens abzuhelfen, und indem sie einige Lücken 
in der Geschichte der Natur ausfüllt, vorgibt, unser Ver- 
ständnis näher an die Quelle des Seins zu leiten. Auf 
die Glaubwürdigkeit einiger Beobachtungen hin, sind wir 
geneigt, vorauszusetzen, daß das Geheimnis bald ergründet 
werden kann und daß , was in der Natur mit „Weisheit" 
bezeichnet wird, auf die Wirkungen physikalischer Kräfte 
zurückgeführt werden kann. Wir vergessen, daß physika- 
lische Kräfte, die nacheinander oder zusammen verwendet 
und zu heilsamen Zwecken verbunden werden, gerade jene 
Beweise einer planmäßigen Anordnung bilden, von denen wir 
die Existenz Gottes herleiten, und daß wir, nachdem diese 
Wahrheit einmal zugegeben ist, nicht länger nach der Quelle 
des Seins zu forschen haben. Wir können nur die Gesetze 
sammeln, die der Schöpfer der Natur gegeben hat, und so- 
wohl in unseren spätesten wie frühesten Entdeckungen nur 
eine Form der Schöpfung oder Vorsehung wahrnehmen, die 
zuvor unbekannt war. ' * 

Wir reden davon, daß die Kunst sich von der Natur 
unterscheide; allein die Kunst selbst ist dem Menschen 
-natürlich. Er ist in gewissem Maße sowohl der Künstler 
.^seiner eigenen Gestalt als seines Glückes, und ist bestimmt, 
von der ersten Zeit seiner Existenz an zu erfinden und aus- 
zuführen. Er wendet dieselben Talente zu mannigfachen 
Zwecken an, und spielt fast dieselbe Rolle in sehr verschie- 
denen Szenen. Er wird seine Sache immer verbessern wollen, 

' 'I 

''.' r*--' 

— 9 


und er trägt diese Absicht überall mit sich, wohin er geht, 
durch die Straßen der volksreichen Stadt und in die Wild- 
nis des Waldes. Während er für jeden Zustand gleich gut 
zu taugen scheint, ist er gerade darum unfähig, in einem 
zu verbleiben. Zugleich hartnäckig und unbeständig, beklagt 
er sich über Neuerungen, und ist doch niemals mit Neuheit 
gesättigt. Er ist unausgesetzt mit Verbesserungen beschäftigt, 
und klebt beständig an seinen Irrtümern. Wenn er in einer 
Höhle lebt, möchte er sie in eine Hütte verwandeln, und wenn 
er bereits gebaut hat, wird er in noch größerem Umfange 
bauen wollen. Aber er ist nicht geneigt zu raschen und 
hastigen Übergängen. Er geht langsam Schritt für Schritt 
und seine Kraft drängt, gleich der einer Sprungfeder, im 
Stillen jeden Widerstand bei Seite. Manchmal wird ein Effekt 
hervorgerufen, ehe die Ursache wahrgenommen wird, und 
bei all seinem Talente für Projekte ist sein Werk oft voll- 
endet, ehe der Plan fertig entworfen ist. Es scheint viel- 
leicht gleich schwer zu sein, seinen Tritt zurückzuhalten oder 
zu beschleunigen. Während der Projektenmacher sich beklagt, 
daß er zu langsam ist, hält ihn der Moralist für unbeständig ; 
ob seine Bewegungen schnell oder langsam sind, die Vor- 
gänge des menschlichen Lebens wechseln fortwährend unter 
seiner Handhabung. Sein Sinnbild ist ein fließender Strom, 
nicht ein stehender Teich. Wir mögen wünschen, seine Ver- 
besserungslust auf das rechte Ziel zu lenken, und nach Be- 
ständigkeit in seinen Betragen verlangen, aber wir mißver- 
stehen die menschliche Natur, wenn wir eine Beendigung der 
Arbeit, oder ein Schauspiel der Ruhe herbeisehnen. 

Die Beschäftigungen der Menschen in jedem Zustande 
zeigen ihre Freiheit in der Wahl, ihre mannigfachen Mei- 
nungen und die Menge der Bedürfnisse, durch die sie an- 
getrieben werden; aber sie genießen und leiden mit einer 
Empfindsamkeit oder einer Kaltblütigkeit, die in jeder Lage 
fast dieselben sind. Sie besitzen die Küsten des Kaspischen 

- 10 - : .: 

Meeres oder des Atlantischen Ozeans in verschiedener 
Weise, aber mit gleicher Ruhe. An dem einen sind sie an 
den Boden gebunden und scheinen für feste Niederlassungen 
und die Bequemlichkeit der Städte geschaffen zu sein ; die 
Namen, die sie einem Volke und seinem Gebiete verleihen, 
sind dieselben. An dem anderen sind sie einfach Zugvögel, 
gerüstet, die Erde zu durchstreifen und mit ihren Her- 
den, auf der Suche nach neuen Weideplätzen und günstige- 
ren Jahreszeiten, der Sonne in ihrem Jahreslaufe zu folgen. 
Der Mensch findet seine Wohnung ebenso in der Höhle 
wie in der Hütte und im Palast, und seinen Unterhalt gleicher- 
weise in den Wäldern, auf der Yiehweide und in der Land- 
wirtschaft. Er nimmt die Unterscheidungszeichen von Titeln, 
Ausrüstung und Kleidung an; er entwirft regelrechte Re- 
gierungssysteme und einen komplizierten Gesetzeskörper ; oder 
er hat, nackt in den Wäldern lebend, kein anderes Kenn- 
zeichen seiner Überlegenheit als die Kraft seiner Glieder 
und seinen Scharfsinn ; keine andere Regel für das Benehmen 
als die Willkür ; kein anderes Band zwischen sich und seinen 
Mitmenschen als die Zuneigung, die Liebe zur Geselligkeit und 
das Verlangen nach Sicherheit. Er ist vieler verschiedener 
Künste fähig, aber von keiner im besonderen zur Erhaltung 
seines Daseins abhängig. In welchem Maße er seine Kunst- 
fertigkeit immer entwickelt hat, er scheint dabei die Annehm- 
lichkeiten, die seiner Natur entsprechen, zu genießen, und den 
Zustand gefunden zu haben, für den er bestimmt ist. Der 
Baum, den ein Amerikaner an den Ufern des Orinoko ge- 
wählt hat, um ihn als Zufluchtsort zu erklettern, und als 
Wohnung für seine FamiHe, ist für ihn ein passender Aufent^ 
halt. Das Sofa, der gewölbte Dom und die Säulenhalle 
befriedigen ihre eingeborenen Bewohner nicht wirk- 
samer. .; ■ ,..' : -,.^-;. >;;.;; ,/''^-'-X.\. X'^:i. ■. 

Wenn wir daher gefragt werden, jwo d er Naturzustand^ 
zu finden_ist,. so können wir antworten: hier ist er, und es 


■•'"**ö»'8^ ■ 

— 11 

kommt nicht darauf an, ob man meint, daß wir von den Inseln 
"^Großbritanniens sprecben, oder vom Kap der guten Hoffnung, 
oder von der Meerenge von Magellan. So lang e dies tätige^ 
Wesen im Begriff ist, seine Talente zu verwenden und auf 
alle Ge genstände rings herum zu wirken, sind alle Zustände,^ 
gleich natürlich. Wenn uns gesagt wird, daß das Laster 
züin~wenigsten der Natur entgegen ist, können wir ant- 
worten : es ist noch schlimmer ; es ist Torheit und Erbärm- 
lichkeit. Aber wenn die Natur nur der Kunst gegenüber- 
gestellt wird, in welchem Zustande der Menschenrasse sind 
Spuren der Kunst wohl unbekannt? In der Lebenslage des 
Wilden wie des Zivilisierten gibt es viele Beweise mensch- 
licher Erfindungsgabe und keine von beiden ist ein dauernder 
Zustand, sondern einfach eine Station, die zu passieren dies 
wandernde Wesen bestimmt ist. Wenn der Palast unnatür- 
lich ist, die Hütte ist es nicht weniger, und die höchste Ver- 
feinerung der pohtischen und moralischen Auffassung ist in 
ihrer Art nicht künstlicher, als die ersten Betätigungen des 
Gefühls und der Yernunft. '-^s ['::::■ :-i-''-.::.:-i'y.'':'-' 

Wenn wir zugeben, daß der Mensch der Verbesserung 
fähig ist und in sich selbst das Prinzip des Fortschrittes, 
und den Wunsch nach Vollendung trägt, erscheint es un- 
richtig zu sagen, daß er seinen Naturzustand verlassen habe, 
als er anfing fortzuschreiten, oder, daß er in eine Lage 
komme, für die er nicht bestimmt war, wenn er, gleich 
anderen Lebewesen nur seinen Anlagen folgt, und die Kräfte 
anwendet, die die Natur ihm gegeben hat. 

Die spätesten Äußerungen menschlicher Erfindungsgabe 
sind nur eine Fortsetzung gewisser Kunstgriffe, die in den 
ersten Zeiten der Welt und im rohesten Zustande der 
Menschheit ausgeübt wurden. Was der Wilde im Walde 
ersinnt oder beobachtet, sind die Stufen, die vorgeschrittenere 
Völker von dem Bau der Hütte zu dem des Palastes führten, 


;..■->• ,y; ■■' ■-• 

— 12 — 

und den menschlichen Geist von den Wahrnehmungen der 
Sinne zu den Hauptschlüssen der Wissenschaft leiteten. 

Erkannte Fehler sind für den Menschen in jeder Lebens- 
lage Gegenstand des Mißfallens. Unwissenheit und Ver- 
standesschwäche erwecken Geringschätzung. Scharfsinn und 
moralische Führung zeichnen aus und rufen Achtung her- 
vor. Wohin sollten seine Gefühle und Vorstellungen in diesen 
Punkten ihn führen? Zu einem Fortschritt, ohne Zweifel, bei 
dem der Wilde sowohl wie der Philosoph beteiligt ist, in dem 
sie verschieden weit vorgerückt sind, aber dasselbe Ziel 
verfolgen. Die Bewunderung, welche Cicero für Lite- 
ratur, Beredsamkeit und bürgerliche Bildung hegte, war 
nicht echter als die eines Skythen für ein Maß ähnlicher 
Vorzüge , wie es seiner Fassungskraft erreichbar war. 
„Wenn ich mich eines Dinges rühmen sollte", sagt ein 
Tatarenprinz*), „würde es die Weisheit sein, die ich von 
Gott erhalten habe. Denn, wie ich einerseits keinem etwas 
nachgebe in der Kriegsführung, in der Aufstellung der Armeen, 
sowohl zu Pferde wie zu Fuß, und in der Leitung der Be- 
wegungen großer und kleiner Heere, so habe ich anderseits 
mein Talent zu schreiben, das vielleicht nur dem der Be- 
wohner der großen Städte Persiens und Indiens nachsteht. 
Von anderen mir unbekannten Völkern spreche ich nicht." 

Der Mensch mag die Zwecke seiner Bestrebungen ver- 
kennen; er mag seinen Fleiß falsch anwenden und seine 
Verbesserungen übel anbringen. Wenn er im Gefühle solch 
möglicher Irrtümer einen Maßstab finden möchte, um sein 
eigenes Vorgehen zu beurteilen, und den besten Zustand 
seiner Natur zu erreichen, so kann er ihn vielleicht nicht in 
den Gewohnheiten eines einzelnen Menschen oder irgend 
eines Volkes finden, nicht einmal in dem, was die Mehrzahl 
denkt, oder, in der herrschenden Meinung seiner Geschlechts- 

*) Abulgaze Balladur Chan, History of the Tartars. 

^"13 — 

genossen. Er muß ihn in den besten Yorstellungen seines 
Verstandes, in den besten Regungen seines Herzens suchen. 
Von da aus muß er die Vollkommenheit und das Glück 
entdecken, deren er fähig ist. Er wird bei genauer 
Nachforschung finden, daß der besondere Zustand seiner 
Natur, in diesem Sinne genommen, nicht ein Zustand 
ist, von dem die Menschheit für immer entfernt ist, sondern 
einer, den sie jetzt erreichen kann; nicht ein Zustand, der 
über ihre Fähigkeiten hinausginge, sondern der erlangt wird 
durch ihre richtige Anwendung. 

Von allen Ausdrücken, die wir bei Behandlung mensch- 
licher Angelegenheiten verwenden, sind die Worte „natürlich" 
und „unnatürlich" am wenigsten bestimmt in ihrer Bedeu- 
tung. Im Gegensatz zu Ziererei, Widerspenstigkeit und 
anderen Fehlern des menschlichen Temperamentes und 
Charakters ist „natürlich" ein lobendes Beiwort. Aber 
wenn es zur Spezifizierung eines Benehmens angewandt 
wird, das aus der Natur des Menschen hervorgeht, kann es 
zu keiner Unterscheidung dienen, denn alle Handlungen der 
Menschen sind gleichmäßig das Ergebnis ihrer Natur. 
Höchstens kann sich dieser Ausdruck auf die allgemeine und 
vorherrschende Sinnesart oder Gewohnheit der Menschheit be- 
ziehen, und dem Zwecke jeder wichtigen Untersuchung über 
diese Fragen kann durch den Gebrauch eines ebenso 
vertrauten und genaueren Ausdruckes gedient werden. Was 
ist recht oder unrecht, was glückhch oder unglücklich in 
den Sitten der Menschen? Was in ihren mannigfachen 
Lagen ist ihren liebenswürdigen Eigenschaften günstig oder 
abträglich? Das sind Fragen, auf die wir eine befriedigende 
Antwort erwarten können ; undjwas jmmer d er ursprüiigliche- 
Zustand_ unserer Gattung gewesen sein mag, es ist weitaus 
"wichtiger, den Zustand zu kennen, nach dem wir selbsl 
"^Rtrehe n sollten 1^ a ls denjenige n , den unser ft Ynrfahren an. 
geblich verfassen haben» , >^ 

— 14 — 

2. Kapitel. 
Über die Grundsätze der Selbsterhaltung. 

Wie es in der menschlichen Natur Eigenschaften gibt, 
durch welche sie von allen anderen Teilen der beseelten 
Schöpfung unterschieden ist, so ist diese Natur selbst unter 
verschiedenen Himmelsstrichen und in verschiedenen Zeit- 
altern außerordentlich abgestuft. Diese Yerschiedenheiten 
sind unserer Aufmerksamkeit wert, und der Lauf eines jeden 
Elusses, in den dieser gewaltige Strom sich teilt, verdient 
bis zu seinem Ursprung verfolgt zu werden. Indessen 
scheint es nötig, auf die allgemeinen Eigenschaften unserer 

Natur zu achten, ehe^wir die Verscmedenheiten in Betracht 
"ziehen und versuchen, Unterschiede zu erklären, die in dem 
ungleichen Besitz oder der ungleichen Anwendung von 
Anlagen und Kräften bestehen, die allen Menschen in ge- 
wissem Maße gemein sind. 

Der Mensch hat, gleich anderen Lebewesen, gewisse 
• /u^Jtf' V>v/<^ instinktive Neigungen , die , der "Wahrnehmung von Lust 

oder Schmerz und der Erfahrung dessen, was verderblich 
oder nützlich ist, vorhergehend, ihn dazu führen, viele Ge- 
schäfte zu verrichten, die auf ihn selbst begrenzt sind, oder 
eine Beziehung zu seinen Nebenmenschen haben. Er hat 
--*^ eine Reihe von Anlagen, die auf seine tierische Erhaltung 
und die Fortpflanzung seiner Gattung hinzielen, andere, die ihn 
zur Gesellschaft anleiten, und indem sie ihn auf die Seite eines 
U^ ^^^iy^x^,,,^ Stammes oder einer Gemeinschaft bringen , häufig in Krieg 
und Streit mit der übrigen Menschheit verwickeln. Seine 
Urteilskraft oder seine intellektuellen Fähigkeiten, die unter 
dem Namen „Vernunft" von den analogen Gaben anderer 
• Lebewesen unterschieden werden, beziehen sich auf die 
Dinge um ihn herum, entweder insoweit sie Gegenstände 
reiner Erkenntnis, oder auch der Billigung oder des Tadels 

-,;„•■. ti.. ■-^J-ij-' 



^ __ .^ 1 5 _ ■ — — - 

sind. Er ist geschaffen nicht nur zu erkennen, sondern auch 
zu bewundem und zu verachten, und diese Vorgänge seines 
Geistes stehen in einer Hauptbeziehung zu seinem eigenen 
Charakter und dem seiner Mitmenschen, da sie die Personen 
sind, auf die er am meisten achtet, um zu unterscheiden, 
was recht und unrecht ist. Er genießt sein Glück ebenfalls 
unter gewissen bestimmten und festgesetzten Bedingungen, 
und er muß als isoliertes Individuum oder als Glied einer 
bürgerlichen Gesellschaft einen besonderen Weg gehen, um 
die Yorteile seiner Natur zu ernten. Er ist außerdem in hohem 
Grade Gewohnheiten unterworfen, und kann durch Ausübung 
oder Bekämpfung derselben seine Talente und Anlagen so 
weit schwächen, stärken, oder selbst verändern, daß er 
in hohem Maße als Schiedsrichter seines eigenen Ranges in 
der Natur erscheint und als Schöpfer all der Verschieden- 
heiten, die in der tatsächlichen Geschichte seiner Gattung 
dargestellt werden. Unterdessen müssen, wenn wir irgend 
einen Teü dieser Geschichte behandeln wollen, die allgemein 
charakteristischen Züge, auf die wir jetzt verwiesen haben, 
den ersten Gegenstand unserer Aufmerksamkeit bilden, und 
sie verdienen nicht allein aufgezählt, sondern genau be- 
trachtet zu werden. 

Solange die Anlagen, die zur Erhaltung des Indivi- 
duums dienen, in der Art instinktiver Wünsche wirken, 
sind sie beim Menschen fast dieselben wie bei den anderen 
Tieren. Aber bei ihnen werden sie früher oder später mit 
Überlegung und Voraussicht verbunden; sie erwecken sein 
Verständnis für den Begriff des Eigentums und machen ihn 
bekannt mit jenem Gegenstand der Sorge, den er sein 
Interesse nennt. Ohne die Instinkte, die den Biber und das 
Eichhörnchen, die Ameise und die Biene lehren, ihre kleinen 
Vorräte für den Winter zu sammeln, zuerst unbekümmert, 
und wo keine unmittelbare Ursache zum Eifer vorhanden ist, 
der Trägheit ergeben, wird er im Ijaufe der Zeit der größte 


'yfj-v ■'. 


Sparmeister unter den Tieren. Er findet in einem aufgesparten 
Schatze, denerwahrschienlich nie gebrauchen wird, den Gegen- 
stand seiner größten Sorge und den Abgott seiner Seele. 
Er empfindet einen Zusammenhang zwischen seiner Person und 
seinem Eigentum, der das, was er sein eigen nennt, ge- 
wissermaßen zu einem Teil seiner selbst, zu einem wesent- 
lichen Bestandteil seines Ranges, seiner Lage und seines 
Charakters macht, durch den er, unabhängig von irgend 
einem wirklichen Genuß, glücklich oder unglücklich, und 
unabhängig von irgend einem persönlichen Verdienst, Gegen- 
stand der Beachtung oder Yemachlässigung sein kann, und 
in dem er verwundet oder beleidigt werden kann, während 
seine Person sicher, und jedes Bedürfnis seiner Natur voll- 
ständig befriedigt ist. 

"Während andere Leidenschaften nurcgelegentlich wirken, 
finden die Eigennützigen in diesen Befürchtungen den 
Gegenstand ihrer gewöhnlichen Sorge, ihren Beweg- 
grund zur Ausübung mechanischer und kaufmännischer 
Künste, ihre Yersuchung, die Rechtsgesetze zu übertreten, 
und wenn sie außerordentlich verdorben sind, den Preis 
ihrer Erniedrigung und den Maßstab für ihre Anschauungen 
von Gut und Böse. Unter diesem Einfluß würden sie, wenn 
nicht durch die Gesetze der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft zu- 
rückgehalten, ein Schauspiel der Gewalttätigkeit oder der 
Gemeinheit bieten, das unser Geschlecht abwechselnd in 
einem Zustande zeigen würde, der schrecklicher und wider- 
licher, oder nichtswürdiger und verächtlicher wäre, als der 
irgend eines Tieres, das die Erde bewohnt. 

Obgleich sich nun die Rücksicht auf den Eigennutz auf 
die Erfahrung der tierischen Bedürfnisse und "Wünsche 
gründet, so ist sein Zweck nicht, irgend ein besonderes Ver- 
langen zu befriedigen, sondern die Mittel zur Befriedigung 
aller zu sichern, und er legt häufig gerade den "Wünschen, 
denen er entsprungen ist, eine mächtigere und strengere Zu- 

i I 



r wo"^/ 

:-■ ',v:^ :^^ 



V- ''■^ :'• ' 

3'^'r "■■■'''''*; 

II -8- 10 

'-- ' '^ ' ''■:■'' ' '■'■:■ ■ ' ■ ■'- ■ ".- ' ' 

'■ ' „ ^' • ' * 

\ . 

■ ■■■■^■■^-#v:;.■^:,f 


■ ■'^:: 

f'y'^y-i'^-::^h -:^'.'-'y;/ 

' ;■ ■ 




"■"•.■': ARON GURWITSCH ■■''-^^^^^'-^^^ 

D'apres Husserl, il faut faire une distinction entre rabstraction g6ne- ^ 
ralisatrice et Tabstraction fonnalisatrice. Par Pabstraction g&ieralisatrice 
on parvient k des notions telles que «rouge», «couleur», «qualite sensible» - 
ou bien «triangle», cfigure planim6trique», «forme spatiale», etc. Chacune 
de ces notions se rapporte k ce que Husserl appelle une «region materielle», 
c*est k dire une region bien circonscrite, parce que d^finie par un certain 
contenu qualitatif des 616ments qui en relevent. Si donc un objet, un fait, 
un phenomene, etc. peut etre considere en tant que cas particulier d'une de 
ces notions, c'est en raison de sa nature materielle et qualitative. Chacune 
des notions dont il s'agit exprime un invariant par rapport k des variations 
et des variet6s. En partantd*un certain rouge par exemple, pn peut en varier, 
ne serait-ce qu'en imagination, la clart6; on peut meme varier la nuance 
de la teinte fondamentale tout en prenant soin que les varietes r^ultantes 
demeurent rouges. Or, puisque les variations concement un certain contenu 
qualitatif et materiel dont elles laissent intacts quelques traits, Pinvariant 
qui leur correspond — dans Texemple consid6r6e la notion «rougfe» — est, 
lui aussi, essentiellement de nature materielle et qualitative. r ^ 

Le cas des notions que Ton obtient par Pabstraction formalisatrice est 
tout k fait diff^rent. Des notions purement formelles telles que «objet», 
«propriet6», «rapport», «relation sym^rique», «relatlon transitive», «plura- 
lit6», «dasse», «Clement d'une classc», «nombre», <ftout», «partie», etc. ne 
se rapportent k aucune region materielle specifique. Toutes ces notions qui 
jouent uh role prepond6rant dans les sciences purement formelles, c'est k 
dire en logique et dans les mathematiques strictement analytiques ou, pour 
mieux dire, qui seules figurent dans ces sciences, sont qualifi6es par Husseri 
de fonnes d^v6es du concept de «quelque chose en g^n^ral». Puisqu'elles 
ne se rapportent k aucune region materielle en particuüer, les notions de 
ce genre se rapporterir ou peuvent se rapporter k chacune de ces regions, 
c'est ä dire k n'importe quel objet, contenu ou phdnom^ne, quelle qu'en 
soit la nature quaUtative et mat^rieUe. De lä, la validit^ et l'appUcabiUte 
universelles et ülimitees des notions logiques et mathematiques. Par con- 
sequent, il ne peut pas ßtre question de parvenir k des notions formalis6es 




■ 1 '). 

V ' • ' ; ARON ouRwrrscH 

par la Variation de contenus mat6riels et qualitatifs. £n effet, aucune de 
ces notions ne peut 6tre consid^ree comme un invariant par rapport ä de 
telles variations. Par Opposition au passage au g6n6ral, le passage au formel 
s'accomplit par la Substitution, pour des contenus qualitatifs et materiels, 
de termes completement indetermin^s quant k leur signification mat6rielle 
et qui ne sont d^finis que par des relations existant entre eux. A un niveau 
plus 61eve de la formalisation, meme la nature sp^cifique des relations est 
laiss^e dans Tindetermine, et les relations ne sont d6finies que par certaines 
propri6t6s toutes formelles. --^^V^^^- 
■ Ces vues 6tablies par Husseri se trouvent dans un accord presque com- 

- plet avec Celles que Monsieur Piaget a formul^es r^cemment. Selon* 
M. Piaget, il faut distinguer «l'abstraction ä partir de Tobjet» de «Fab- 
straction ä partir de Taction». Les notions formelles qui figurent en logique 
et dans les mathtoatiques — arithm^tique aussi bien que g^m6trie — 
rel^vent, d'apr^ M. Piaget, de «Pabstraction ä partir de raction>. En fin 
d*analyse, ces notions se tirent des actions les plus simples ou, pour plus 
d'exactitude, des coordinations de telles actions. Par des actions les plus 
simples, il faut entendre le classement ou groupement d'objets, la s6riation, 
la r^imion, le partage, le d6placement, etc. En ^tudiant du point de vue 
g^n^tique T^laboration graduelle des syst^mes op^ratoires dWuctifs — tels 
que Tarithm^tique et la g6ometrie sous forme pleinement d6veloppee— , 
M. Piaget remonte aux actions les plus simples telles qu'elles sont accomplies 
au d6but de la vie, et il insiste sur leur stabilisation et sur leur coordination 
progressives au cours du developpement. L'aspect le plus important de 
cette stabilisation est P^volution des actions dans le sens de la r^versibilit6. 

. Puisque les actions en question sont ind^pendantes de la nature sp6cifique 
des objets auxquels elles s'appliquent et que, par cons^ueht, elles peuvent 
s'appliquer k des objets de toutes sortes — les objets ne figurant, pour 
ainsi dire, qu*ä titre d*aliments de la fonction ou de l'action —, la validit^ 
universelle ou, pour Pexprimer en termes de Husseri, le caract^re tout 
formel des notions math^matiques, s'explique ais^ent par le fait qu*elles 
d^coulent de «l'abstraction ä partir de Taction» et non de cl'abstraction ä 

• partir de Tobjet». 

II serait tr^ int6re8sant et hautemcnt instructif d*6tudier, au point de 
vue ph6nom6nologique, la th^rie de M. Piaget tant en g&i^ral, quant k 
Yidie mgme de T^pist^mologie g6n6tique, qu'en ce qui conceme le point 
particulier dont il s'agit ici. Ce n'ett cependant pas dans cette direction 
que nous allons nous engager. En nous r^damant de quelques vues de 
M. Piaget et encore de quelques r^sultats auxquels sont parvenus les 
th^riciens de la forme, nous cherchons ä fixer, avec un peu de pr^dsion^ 



certaines structures perceptives desquelles, ä ce qu*il nous semble, les Pro- 
cessus d'abstraction, g^n^ralisatrice aussi bien que formalisatrice, prennent 
leur depart. Nos analyses s'inspireront du principe, etabli par Husseri, 
d'apres lequel c'est dans les structures de la vie perceptive qu'il faut cher- 
cher l'origine des formes logiques. Bien que nous soyons loin de vouloir 
niveler la diff6rence entre la g^neralisation et la formalisation, cette distinc- 
tion joue un moindre röle dans une etude de la base perceptive des Pro- 
cessus d'abstraction qu'elle le ferait dans une analyse portant siu: les 
Processus d'abstraction eux-memes. 

La structure perceptive qui semble m^riter le plus d'attention dans le 
contexte actuel est ce que, suivant Husseri, nous allons d^gner comme 
horizon int^rieur. Une chose pergue n'est pas qu'une somme de qualit^s 
sensibles qui, au moment de la perception, tombent sous les sens, comme 
par exemple une certaine couleur, forme, grandeur, ime donn^ auditive, 
des propri^tes tactiles, thermiques, etc. La chose per^ue n'est pas non plus 
ime somme de telles qualites actuellement donnees auxquelles s'ajoutent 
d'autres qualites semblables mais qui ne sont que rappel^es. Certes, par 
toute perception particuliere, la chose per^ue ne se präsente que de fa^n 
\milat6rale; eile apparait sous un certain aspect, ä Texclusion de tout autre, 
d'un cdt6 d6termin6, dans teile orientation plutöt que dans teile autre, etc. 
Or, toute Präsentation unilaterale d'une chose contient des renvois ä des 
aspects sous lesquels la chose n'apparait pas au moment, mais sous lesquels 
eile s'offrirait dans certaines conditions, par exemple si le sujet percevant 
se pla^ait ä un point d'observation determin^. Ces renvois ne doivent pas 
€tre interpr^tes conune des Souvenirs ou conune des images qui se sura- 
joutent simplement k ce qui est donn6 dans l'exp^rience sensorielle. Au 
contraire, ils sont comme inscrits dans Tapparition actuelle de la chose et 
ils contribuent essentiellement k determiner le sens du per^u, k tel point 
que celui-ci ne saurait etre tel qu'il se presente k la conscience perceptive, 
si ce n'6tait pour les renvois en question. Pour illustrer, regardons la per- 
ception d'une maison. Ce que nous percevons n'est pas tant une fa^ade 
que la maison meme se pr6sentant par teile de ses fa^ades. De par le sens 
meme de ce qui s'offre dans la perception actuelle, celle-ci renvoie k 
d'autres perceptions par lesquelles la maison apparattra de cotes differents. 
Les renvois dont il s'agit peuvent d'ailleurs etre plus ou moins d6termin6s. 
Cela veut dire que les cötÄs qui ne sont pas vus au moment mais auxquels 
la perception actuelle renferme des renvois peuvent etre donn^i avec plus 
ou moins de pr^cision quant k leurs d^tails. Si c'est pour la premiere fois 
que nous percevons la maison et que nous ne sommes donc pas familiers 
avec les fa^ades autres que celle que nous voyons, les renvois en question 



i ^HH.. 

.'>;a^t:^.: -^ ■■■■■•- 


seront tout k fait indaennin^. Tout de m&ne, afin que ce que nous 
percevons puisse ßtre une maison qui se prtente d'un certain c6t6, il faut 
que dans la perception actuelle soient inscrits des renvois k d'autres c6t&, 
; quel qu'en soit rarrangement des details et quelle que soit leur ind^ter- 

Le ph^nom^ne de rhorizon int^rieur t^moigne de la d6pendance dans 
laqueUe la perception presente se trouve ä Pegard d'exp^riences anterieures. 
Or, si le pass6 a de Tefficacite pour le present, ce n*est pas que des r6sidus 
d'experiences ant6rieures — Images ou Souvenirs — se surajoutent aux don- 
n^es sensorieUes actuelles. Apprendre par l'exp^rience c'est, d'apr^ la 
_ th^rie de la forme, acqu^rir des modes de voir, d*entendre, de percevoir,- 
mais aussi d'agir. L'efficacit6 du pass^ tient ä la permanence de certaines 
structures et formes d'organisation qui se produisent lors d*exp6riences en 
question faites dans le pass^. Pour Fexprimer en termes de M. Kaget, au 
cours de P^volution de Tindividu des «schtees» se forment, s'^tablissent, 
et se consoUdent. En raison de son pouvoir assimilateur, chacun de ces 
; «schtees» s'appHque ou, du moins, tend k s'appUquer k tout objet qui est 
rencontr^. Aussi M. Piaget qualifie-t-ü de bonne raison ces csch^es» 
d'^uivalents sensori-moteurs de concepts. Or — et sur ce point nous sui- 
vons des id^es dues k la thferie de la forme plutöt que ceUes de M. Piaget — 
la reorganisation et la restructuration concement non seulement la fonction 
psychique — cette fonction qui se cristallise en «schemes» — , mais encore 
et surtout le corr^latif objectif de cette fonction, k savoir les objets soit 
assimil^, soit k assimüer aux «schteies». Les objets deviennent ce que les 
«schtees» assimilateurs fönt d'eux; par exemple «quelque chose pour 
6crire», «quelque chose k manier de teUe fa^on», etc. Les objets apparais- 
sent k la lumi^re des «sch&mes»; ils sont per^us k travers la perspective de 
ceux-ci. Son assimilation — soit actueUe, soit virtueUe — ä un certain 
«schäme» d^termine et d^finit un objet donn6 tel qu'ü figure dans la vie 
consciente, c'est k dire tel qu'il se pr^nte, donc tel qu'ü est au point de 
vue ph6nom6nal. Aussi avons-nous pu parier tout k Fheure de l'horizon 
Interieur comme d'un composant intrins^ue, essentiel et constitutif de 
toute Präsentation perceptive d'un objet. Tout cela s'appHque 6galement 
k ces actions simples desquelles, d'apr^ M. Piaget, les Operations logiques 
et math^matiques finissent par surgir. Ces actions 6tabUes et coordonn^es 
entre eUes, n'importe quel objet apparait ou, du moins, peut apparaitre 
en raison m&ne du caract^re 6iementaire des actions en question, donc en' 
raison de leur univeisalit6, comme assimilable k eUes, comme se prgtant k 
un certain maniement qui correspond k une certaine action, ou bien comme 
un alunent, du moins virtuel, de la fonction dont ü s'agit. 



Insistons encore sur la tendance assimilatrice des «sch^mes». Puisque le 
rapport k un certain «scheme» d'assimilation est inscrit ä titre de caract^re 
constitutif dans le sens du pergu en tant que tel, les objets que nous 
percevons apparaissent toujours dans une certaine typique g6n6rique. Ce 
que nous percevons ne sont pas simplement des choses individuelles et 
smguli^res; ce sont, au contraire, des choses appartenant k une certaine 
classe, relevant d»un certain type, pr6sentant un certain style. Type et style 
peuvent d'aiUeurs Stre donn6s avec plus ou moins de pr^cision. Pourtant 
meme dans le cas extreme, c'est ä dire quand nous percevons un objet pour 
la premi^re fois et que tous ses detaüs que nous ne voyons pas pour Tinstant 
nous sont inconnus et, par cons6quent sont tout k fait indetermines, Tobjet 
en question se presente tout de meme comme relevant d*un certain type 
dont, du moins, quelques grandes lignes caracteristiques sont donn6es avec 
une daermination relative. Aussi Finfamiliarite totale se revele-t-eUe comme 
un mode privatif de la familiarit6. 

TeUe est la structure perceptive de laqueUe, k ce qu'il nous semble, ü 
faut partir pour rendre compte du processus de Tabstraction. Etant don- 
nte les limites que nous devons nous imposer ici, nous ne pouvons pas 
aborder Tanalyse de ce processus lui-meme. Bomons-nous k deux remarques 
final^. Dans le processus de Tabstraction, Foperation de la thematisation 
doit etre mise en jeu. La thematisation consiste k degager et k expliciter 
des facteurs qui, ant^rieurement k cette Operation, etaient dejä efficaces, 
mais ne T^taient qu'implicitement et, pour ainsi dire, sous forme muette. 
Le d6gagement peut porter sur les actions en tant que telles et sur leurs 
coordinations des unes avec les autres ou bien il peut porter sur ce qui, 
quand la thematisation sera accomplie, apparaitra comme principe ou point 
de vue par rapport auquel certains objets ont et^ soumis ou peuvent etre 
soimiis k un maniement ou k une Operation d6termin6e. II se peut bien 
d'ailleurs que cette Operation soit completement int6rioris6e. Selon la direc- 
tion que Ton donne k la thematisation, on parviendra, dans le premier cas, 
k la formalisation, dans le deuxi^me cas, k Tabstraction generalisatrice. 

Brandeis University 

WALTHAM, Massachusetts, U.S.A'. 





r .*'"•:'■ ';V ^■'s- '•'V., 





I f . ^-'- 

.'"V ■^ 

&. - 




■ .,-■■'- 

^V ■.'■ 

«*• ., 

•• »V • 

'•■**' ,.' 

* ■. " 

»ü '■'••- 

-,^- ,. *v-v. • ' ■-.;•■-. —• 

-? ■'»> 

v.^;^fe';^ '--'•^"■:. 

»• ' 



-• «*■ ■■ * 


I^BBF^'?:'" ■ , irti ■., 

**h». ■»> . 


[i^tiifc. •' '^■■^',' a»"';^'*.i"rf"i«'"-5'*= 

■« '*PKÄ«t 


-.V''''* * ■' 

■■'■ ■ . •-. , 

Reprinted from The Philosophical Review, September, 1941 

*\i; <,i 




■; ■■>;-; ' .' • '..,',■♦-►^''.■^.1^,; 



TO MANY it seems an inconsistency that Peirce, the exponent of 
exact reasoning, should have made a place in his philosophy for 
metaphysics and, perhaps still worse, for theology. Are the f requent 
references to God which occur in his writings to be taken seriously as 
indicating an integral part of his philosophy, or do they merely repre- 
sent his failure to carry his program through so far as religion was 
concerned? I wish to suggest that, while Peirce's treatment of the 
theological problem is, as it Stands, consistent neither in itself nor with 
the rest of his philosophy, there is a way of revising it so as to make 
it internally consistent and integral to his System as a whole, or at 
least, to a good part of it. ' - 

Peirce held, in his doctrine of Critical Commonsensism, that all our 
most fundamental and indubitable ideas are vague,* and that the 
^^.-moment we undertake to "precide" them, to State them in definite terms, 
we are likely to misstate them, and fall into error and contradiction.^ 
In thorough consistency with this he regarded the idea of God, which 
is clearly fundamental in intent at least, as necessarily vague, and was 
therefore suspicious of definite theologies. On the other hand he 
thought that atheists were in reality belying their own subconscious 
belief through failure to distinguish between the vague content of this 
belief and the too definite propositions of whatever theology they were 
acquainted with.^ 

Peirce also suggested that such an idea as that of God is more 
emotional and practical than intellectual and theoretical. This might 
seem to place him with contemporary positivism. But there is an 
irreducible difference ; for to say that we are aware of God chiefly by 
feeling and living our relation to Him, is not at all, according to 
Peirce's logic, to say that we are aware, in this relation, only of our 
own emotional State or our own practical af¥airs. It is not to say that 
the word "Grod" has subjective connotation but not objective connota- 
tion or denotation, but only to say that it connotes and denotes through 
emotion and practice. All ideas, according to pragmatism, mean 
through practice, through conceivable practical bearings, but an idea 
so basic as that of God can be given meaning only through outlines of 

* See the CoUccted Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vols. I-VI. Harvard 
Univcrsity Press, 1931-35. Ed. by Charles Hartshomc and Paul Weiss. On 
vasue bclicfs see 5-446ff. (Vol. V par. 446). 

*^d466, 496, 499. *0496. 


No. s.] 



practice so large, fundamental, and, because they affect all aspects of 
life, so intimate, that it is difficult to make them explicit.* Peirce seems 
to have thought that what existence fundamentally is, not only in us 
but in the world generally, is realized chiefly through rather vague 
intuitions, and that theoretical clarification tends to achieve any high 
degree of success only in regard to details of existence (and even the 
most general laws of physics are but details, contingent matters of 
fact) while the strictly general or necessary features of existence tend 
to escape clear thought.'' He says somewhere of his categories that they 
are rather tints and tones upon conceptions than conceptions. He is 
fond of stressing the predominance of the subconscious or dimly 
conscious in our experience, and views all science as the exploitation 
of basic animal instincts. Nor does the fact that an idea refers to 
value, as the idea of God clearly does — since, as Peirce says, to under- 
stand what God is and to adore Him are inseparable*— deprive the idea 
of objective reference. All ideas express value and purpose, according 
to pragmatism, but value has an objective as well as a subjective 
aspect. True, the three sciences of value, the normative studies of 
aesthetics, ethics, and logic, are sciences of mind, but not just of the 
human mind. Peirce insists that, as logic is the normative study, not 
of human reasoning but of reasoning, so aesthetics is the normative 
study not of human feeling but of feeling, and ethics the study of 
reflective action. In other words there is a general f ramework of mind 
which is no more peculiar to man than existence is peculiar to him, and 
indeed it is only through this generic element in thought that we can 
talk about being in general or the universe as that of which man is a 
mere special case or part.^ It is impossible to generalize beyond all 
meaning, to peel off the layers of sig^s and arrive at bare sig^less 
existence. Signs are objectively there in the transhuman universe. The 
very reality of natural laws, or of real regularities or general trends, 
which are the objects of natural science, consists in the immanence of 
generals, which are signs, in events, quite apart from human thought, 
though not of course from all thought.® 

The religious construction of the immanent, universal thought which 
constitutes the order of the universe is that it is the thought of God. 
How do we know that this construction is true ? Not, Peirce contends, 
by a mere inference. To be knowable by induction, Grod would have to 
be expressible as a probability ratio, an affair of f requency, which is 
absurd. To be knowable as an explanatory hypothesis. He would have 
to be a contingent being, only so necessary as the facts to be explained. 
To be knowable by mere deduction. He would have to be purely formal 
in nature. Furthermore, the doctrine of "synechism" implies the imme- 

* 6.502. 



* 5.128. 

■ S.93-IO7. 







[Vol. L. 




diäte perception of God* Peirce might perhaps also have argued that 
God is the ground of order and connection in the world, hence the pre- 
supposition rather than the result of inference. In many passages 
Peirce denies that inference presupposes any ground of order or unity, 
but I am not sure that this is the whole story of his view on the matter. 
He certainly does say that to engage in science is implicitly to believe 
in God.^** In any case, it is clear that he believes the idea of God to have 
another origin than inference. "No", he concludes, "as to God, open 
your eyes — and your heart, which is also a perceptive organ — and you 

seeHim."" " ,, : ,- ^ ,-.-......-... ... . "'^': ~ 

In spite of this, Peirce declares also that he has carefully examined 
thirteen arguments for God and fomid something valid in each of 
them, though he suggests that some of them are not capable of leading 
to the conception of God involved in religion.^* How can Peirce admit 
arguments for what he has shown cannot be based upon argument? I 
do not believe there is here an incurable inconsistency. God may be 
directly though obscurely known, and the hypothesis that this is the 
case may be used as a premiss from which deductions may be made 
about the fundamental structure of our experience and knowledge.^* 
It will then appear whether the consequences agree with what we all 
admit to be true of experience and thought. Such reasoning is a way 
of clarifying already existent relations to objects, not a way of reach- 
ing new objects. It is one with the method of Peirce's phenomenology, 
which only makes clear what everyone inevitably knows with some 
degree of clearness. The most remarkable implication of Peirce's 
Position that God is directly apprehended is that really He is a phe- 
nomenon ; hence the almost complete silence conceming God which is 
a feature of Peirce's discussions of phenomenology^* is a streng indi- 
cation of an incompletely developed position. There is need for a con- 
sideration of the categories as applicable to an immediate datum which 
includes God, even though obscurely. 

That the notion of God is "anthropomorphic" Peirce does not deny.^* 
But he holds that if by anthropomorphism is meant the doctrine that 
there is always some analogy between ourselves and other things, then 
the only alternative is the invalid assumption of things-in-themselves 
which, being whoUy different from our nature and experience, are 
consequently unknowable and strictly unthinkable.^' The issue is be- 
tween a sufficiently critical anthropomorphism and uncritical ones, 
just as the issue is between critical and uncritical "common-sensisms". 


*• 1.127, 316, 2.24f., 769, 5.107, 6.503. For an early, seemingly later aban- 
doned, argument against the harmony of science with theism see 6419. This 
passage precedes, and is perhaps incompatible with, tychism and the idca of 
an original "chaos". 

ui^93,A97. "6.504. "6.487. 

"But see 1.364» 5."9. "547», 6.502. "1.316, 5-212, 45«, 536. 



■ '•Vi 

No. 5.] 



In the case of God, whose analogy to us must, by definition, be of a 
uniquely remote kind, it is natural that our idea of this being should 
be vague.^^ But Peirce, as we have! seen, was not in the habit of sug- 
gesting an equation between the real and the readily knowable or 
intellectually manageable, just as he avoided the opposite extreme of 
supposing that the real may be absolutely unknowable or completely 
unmanageable by the human intellect. Somewhat similarly, he was able 
to admit his own inability to make much of aesthetics, while at the same 
time admitting and emphasizing the fundamental place of this study 
in the System of knowledge. What he could not more than slightly 
understand he thought others might find much more perspicuous ; and 
what the whole human race can at best but dimly grasp he thought 
might none the less be real and, to some mind, intelligible. This is a kind 
of objectivity of attitude which not all who speak of objectivity, or of 
scientific rigor, are able to attain. That the human inability to grasp 
the divine is relative not absolute Peirce was bound by his own logical 
principles to hold. And he says that the success of science shows that 
we catch a fragment of God's thought as constitutive of the structure 
of the universe. 

Yet there is something seriously amiss in Peirce's sketch of his 
theological position, granting that it is intended to be no more than the 
mereöt sketch, and granting that there are limits to the clearness we can 
attain in such matters. The trouble is that at times he virtually Substi- 
tutes for the idea of God that of the simply unknowable, the intellect- 
ually completely unmanageable, and that at other times he makes his 
doctrine of the vagueness of ultimate ideas an excuse for relaxing 
crticism in regard to theological doctrines which are not particularly 
vague, though they may be selfcontradictory or erroneous. In other 
words, he oscillates between an untenable extreme of his own theory 
of vague ideas, and an uncritical acceptance of doctrines which profess 
to be precise, but which are not perhaps consistent with his own 
logical and cosmological principles. 

On the one band, Peirce says that all discussion of the divine omni- 
science or omnipotence is mere "gabble".^® He derides those who 
doubt the goodness of God because the universe does not please "some 
silly scold", or who speak as though Tom, Dick, or Harry could have 
any idea of what God ought to do.^' On the other band, he defines God 
as the Ens Necessarium,^®deduces from this that He is disembodied 
spirit, and definitely and consistently denies that God "exists" if by 
that is meant, as in his terminology would be meant, that God interacts 
with other real things.'* Such a notion would be "fetichism", he re- 
marks. In short, we find ourselves confronted with the traditional 
notion of God as sheerly absolute, too exalted and necessary and in- 


■'. If 



" 5.536. 

" 6.49s. 






[Vol. L. 


't t .'-' 

dependent to be subject to influence from anything eise. It is true that 
this idea is essentially negative, but its negations are definite, not 
vague. And we have to ask whether anything in Peirce's philosophy 
justifies them. 

To say that God does not interact with other things is to say that 
He is not subject to Peirce's category of "secondness" or reaction. Is 
this compatible with the ultimacy claimed for the categories? More- 
over, Peirce insists that without secondness there can be no "firstness" 
or "thirdness", no quality or meaning or purpose, so that it is hard to 
see how the exemption of God from reaction could mean anything 
but the complete meaninglessness of the idea of God in terms of 
Peirce's System. Moreover, is such a purely negative conception of God 
in conformity with Peirce's defence of anthropomorphism? Give me, 
Said Peirce, the natural anthropomorphic idea of the deity rather than 
the latest "patent absolute". But what is the Ens Necessarium (as tradi- 
tionally interpreted) but such a patent absolute? As for fetichism, does 
not high religion, with its notion, of which Peirce explicitly approves, 
that God is love,** necessitate, no less than primitive 'ritual, an inter- 
action between God and His creatures by which He is made joyous by 
their joy and sorrowful by their suffering? 

But tolerance for the theological tradition gets Peirce into other 
difficulties. If there is no action upon God, if He is necessary in all His 
nature, "impassive", without accidents, \o use the old terms, what can 
we make of Peirce's tychism, or the doctrine that existence is a vast 
assemblage of contingencies or accidents? How are these accidental 
features related to God? If they belong to Him, He has accidents; if 
not, then He is less than all of reality, so not absolute after all. This 
is a paradox of old Standing, but that is no reason for Peirce to have 
burdened himself with it. And in fact he manifests embarrassment 
here. He actually suggests that perhaps no other world than just the 
real one, with all its arbitrary aspects, is so much as possible, if God 
is omnipotent.** (Or eise, he hints, the other possible worlds are all 
somehow actual.) In short we have Spinozism, the farthest from 
tychism it is possible to get. What is must be, what can be also in- 
evitably is. What God can create he does create. Otherwise He would 
not be absolute ; for He would f ail to do something which He is able 
to do, and therefore, since doing and being are inseparable, He would 
be less than He might be. (The traditional Solution, other than this one, 
was to say that in God being is whoUy independent of doing, so that 
God is all that He could be without doing all that He could do. His 
intrinsic potentiality was nil, while His extrinsic possibilities were 
inexhaustible — ^as though inventing such phrases gave assurance of 
meanings to correspond!) Seeing the difficulties of such notions, 
Peirce, in the same passage, throws up his hands and declares that all 

"6.157.287. "6.509. 



No. 5.] 



discussion of these problems is gabble. Perhaps it is, assuming that 
God is in all respects the absolute, in all aspects complete and perfect. 
In the same context Peirce suggests, in effect, that God is not the 
absolute. Omniscience, he says, may not mean that God knows every- 
thing. "For this thought is creative."" Elsewhere we find the Sug- 
gestion that the cosmic teleology, the teleology of evolution, is itself 
an evolutionary affair, a developing teleology— a very clear anticipa- 
tion of Bergson.2« The implication of the two passages is that, as 
Tychism in any case seems to imply, the future is partially indetermin- 
ate so long as it is future, and therefore perfect knowledge, which 
knows all things as they are, will not know the future as a set of 
definite details— for the future is not such a set— but as a set of more 
or less indefinite potentialities which will through creative action 
(perhaps man's as well as God's) become some set of details or other, 
though there is no one such set which it is now destined to become. 
This too is an old doctrine, though not the main stream of the tradition. 
But if followed out it results in a definite alternative to the timeless 
absolute, in the idea of a being which, fetichism or no, genuinely inter- 
acts with other individuals, in short a really social deity, in an honest 
sense a God of love ; and upon such an assumption Peirce's categories 
and cosmology of contingent, evolving realities, composed of socially 
Interactive feelings, becomes relevant to theology. And this social 
theology is also anthropomorphic in the critical sense which, according 
to Peirce, is the only way of escaping both uncritical anthropo- 
morphism and the empty notion of an unknowable or thing in itself, 
bare of all analogy to ourselves and our experience. It is not even 
required, for such a conciliation, to drop the definition of God as 
the "necessary being", provided one guards against an ambiguity 
concealed in this definition, one of the most persistently overlooked 
and fatal of all double meanings. God may be necessary as to His 
existence, and as to some essential properties which identify Him as 
God, but He may also be subject to contingent properties or accidents. 
He may have an essence which exists necessarily and in absolute in- 
dependence of other things (and He may be the only being with 
such an essence), but how does this contradict the assumption that 
He has also accidental properties ? From "some properties of God are 
necessarjr" to "all properties of God are necessary" there seems to be 
no logical path, and I believe it can be clearly shown that the two 
assertions are incompatible rather than essentially connected. There 
is a whole nest of ambiguities of this type in the traditional idea of 
the absolute.*« 
An advantage of the foregoing idea of God is that it can really 

-6.508. "6.i56f. 

" See my Beyond Hutnanism (Willett, Qark & Co., 1937). pp. 12-15. 41-44. 
49-50 ; and my Man's Vision of God (Willett, CUrk & Co., 1941). ^ ^ ^ 






[Vol. L. 

rtfr -■ 

make something of the requirement, which I believe Peirce was right 
in insisting upon, that God be no mere inference. For if God has a 
relative aspect He need not be purely transcendent of the space- 
time World. Peirce says that God is "not immanent in but creative 
of the World". But how then can He be immanent in our experience, 
directly apprehended P*'^ If He is so immanent, in what guise? Now I 
shall merely suggest here that space-time itself, as something above 
the human individual, is directly given (even though not with the 
sharpness necessary to settle mathematical problems like that of the 
accuracy of Euclidian geometry), and that this superindividual unity 
of space-time, when reflectively clarified, turns out to be an aspect 
of what we should expcct the unity of God to be like. For it is a 
medium of impartiality making possible the social interrelations of 
finite beings. The past, for instance, is feit to be fixed as a realm 
of objective fact, but in our individual experiences memory is not 
fixed. Again, the Space we occupy contains others on the same terms. 
From these and other indications we see that the unity of space-time, 
which seems directly intuited, is not the unity of our individual ex- 
periences. It seems to fall between things, to belong to none of them. 
But it must belong to something. What could it belong to but an in- 
clusive life having the unique property of being able to take upon 
itself all the modes of thought and feeling and quality, and thus to 
interrelate them without, in this multiplicity, losing its own identity 
and coherence? This may be very obscure as I have briefly stated it, 
but space-time is inclusive and is an obvious fact, and it can hardly 
be obvious that it is not an aspect of deity, provided we are not com- 
pelled to regard deity as entirely above change and extension. And 
this, I have suggested, we are by no means compelled to do.** 

"For a clear Statement of such direct apprehension, see 6.162. 

" There is perhaps some difficulty in reconciling the idea of God as spatio- 
temporal with Peirce's apparent attempt to derive Space and time from an 
original chaos, "non-existent" but yet not nothing (i.489f., 6.i89ff.). But 
one may hold that everv item of existence (except God or space-time as 
such) is derivative, and yet not regard • space-time as so. To the infinite 
collection of past eventSj new members can from all infinity have been added. 
Going back in thought mto the past, one must conoeive a continual subtrac- 
tion of items from existence. Existence run through backwards in time con- 
tains less and less determinate form, and thus seems to be approaching 
chaos; but, if the number of elapsed events is infinite, chaos is always 
infinitely remote. The one idea of Peirce's that seems definitdy incompatible 
with the Position I have taken is his notion that the laws of nature are getting 
more and more absolute, so that spontaneity, on which he (agreeing, as in 
so many things, with Bergson) admits consciousness and value depend, is 
forever diminishing. Is it true that this idea is required by his explanation of 
the origin of law. as the tendency of habit-taking to increase? One might 
seek escape by holding that porticular Strands of law are f ormed in this way, 
as a man's habits are, but that an opposite tendency also exists, whercby 
monotony creates reaction, rebcUion, leading to the destruction of habit, 
and the bcginmng of a new cyde of habit-taking. Peirce secmed almost un- 
aware of the existence of resistancc to monotony, just as, in his doctrine 
that WC are cells in the social organism and should renouncc individuality in 


No. 5] 



I close with a question. Why did Peirce, who was so little bound by 
tradition, fall a victim to the old absolutistic paradoxes ? Why did he 
push his doctrine of vague ideas to an extreme in theology, as he did 
not in ethics, aesthetics, or metaphysics, which he held should strive 
for clarity, however imperfectly they might expect to succeed? His 
admiration for Royce, "our American Plato" as he called him — partly 
due to the fact that Royce was the one metaphysician of his time with 
a taste for mathematics and exact logic, and partly, I suppose, due to 
the polished finish of Royce*s writing and system-making, contrasted 
to the rugged, disorganized style of Peirce's compositions — may have 
strengthened his traditionalism in theology. (This admiration was not 
destroyed by his perception that you "could drive a coach^and four" 
through some of Royce's arguments ! ) But perhaps the main reason 
for his conservatism and confusion in theology was simply his pre- 
occupation with other matters, particularly natural science and logic. 
We must remember too that the tradition toward which he inclined 
with more tolerance than his principles justify had enjoyed an almost 
undisputed reign for a thousand years and more, and that most serious 
attacks upon it date since the time when Peirce reached his mature 
convictions. Of course there had been atheists and skeptics, and 
squabbles within theism, but what had scarcely occurred was any vigor- 
ous attempt to explöre the possibilities of a theology which should 
take contingency and interaction and "love" seriously enough to apply 
them to God, by distinguishing between an essence and accidents (the 
latter partially passive to, or in reaction with, other things) in the 
divine nature. If Peirce had been a pioneer here, in addition to all 
his other prophetic innovations, so largely confirmed by twentieth- 
century trcnds, he would have been great indeed. But he is great 
enough as he is, all the more since not only did he himself throw out 
a clear hint as to the type of theology that might escape the paradoxes 
of the absolute, but his entire System seems almost as though designed 
to Support such a non-absolutistic theism.^' 

Charles Hartshorne 

The Univeksity op Chicago 

favor of social continuity, he forgot that relative discontinuity is also requi- 
site to existence, synechism indeed implying that continuity is absolute only 
if possibility as well as actuality be taken into account. 

"This essay is the enlargement of a paper read beforc the American 
Philosophical Association, at Columbia University, December 29, 1939. 

V' - 



' ■>-• it, ■ f. 

■„' '■ >... 




.r ff.-*"Tt''' 

— •«•#' 


.. 'li^K^ 


%A.»-<ijasii».-i,j-,..ii«<j^^ >■■- 

:>■-.,- V, 

' ^^'■^'-\ 

■■' ^ u 


V» ».•,.• *■ 


«{■.,.;. j V 

^ * r <• 



.*»: *-^i 

» ■«•• 


7 5^ As 

. 1 . ' ..i/ ' i'; 


' JC <; . 

Is There a Jewish Problem? 




. . »1 '*'-"' , 

- - . ' i; 

, John Haynbs Holmes 

' ■ . ■■'' '>■''■ -" - ■ ■ ■■ '■•■ •'■'•- VW»."-'. 

Price, Ten Cents ^ v 

' '■ ' ■" '*'* " 

.-r- -• 

t^' ,v-' 

The Community Church 
new york city 


■^■'.,vr; .rr^": ■\^y-'^'^:'^r:^^ >;' .yy^^f^;;' '^ • v-f'/X 

■ ■>-j^, ;v?. 




The Community Pulpit is published 
annually in a series of ten numbers, each 
containing a füll sermon or address. Jpic 
subscription price is one dollar "($1), post- 
paid. Appiy to the Secrctary, Churdi Office, 
550 West llOth Street, New York Qty. 

Series 1938-1939; No. 3 

■ 1 




Is There a Jewish Problem?* 

HE FIRST thing for me to say to you this moming 
is to confess that I have badiy bungled the wording 
of my subject. Is there a Jewish problem? Of coursc 
there is! Go to Germany if you do not believe it. If 
you are not satisfied with what you find in Germany, 
then turn your attention to Roumania, or Hungary, or Poland, 
or Yugoslavia. You might even look around you right here 
in America. And if you wonder where this Jewish problem 
came from, and go back in history to find out, you will see 
it marching down the centuries in the monstrous form of 
anti-Semitism. The Jew, like the poor, we have always with us. 
The question therefore is not the question as to whether or 
not there is a Jewish problem. We must unfortunately take 
this problem for granted, and then ask — what is the problem, 
and why? Who is responsible for the saddest drcumstance in 
cur Christian civilization? 

The best Statement of the Jewish problem that I have ever 
Seen is offered by Mr. Lewis Browne, himself a Jew, formerly 
a rabbi, now a successful author and lecturer. In his book ai- 
titled How Odd of God — a phrase taken from the familiär 

rhyme — 

How odd 
Of God 
To choose 
TTic J< 

• An address deüvered tt the senrices of the QMnmunity Oiufdi on 
Suoday moming, Octöber 23, 1938. 


TT"r^f,T"v "?"/ ' 

Mr. Browne contends that there is a Jewish pioblem for thc ^ 
two-fold reason that the Gentiles have rcfused to let the Jews 
live, and the Jews have refused to die. It is a case, in human 
relations, of an irresistible force Coming into contact with an 
immovable object. The resulting collision is what constitutes 
the Jewish problem. The essence of this problem is summed 
up by Mr. Browne as follows: "Why is it that, of all thc 
minorities on the face of the earth, this one almost alone is 
accorded such a fate, what is there in the Jew that makes him 
so unworthy to live and yet so unable to die?" 

You will notice in this question the phrase, "What h th$re 
in the ]ew?" Mr. Browne himsclf is here putting it up to thc 
Jew to explain his own plight. I propose to foUow this 
Suggestion this moming, and thus approach what we call thc 
Jewish problem from this particular point of vicw. Is there 
anything in the Jew which explains the fate which hc has 
sufiFcred.^ Is the Jew himsclf to bc blamed for thc Jewish 

(1 ) In the past, there has bcen one answer to this question. 
The mark of the Jew is his religion, and thc reason for all 
thc hostility against him is his stiff-ncdccd adherence to this 
religion. You know how thc argument runs! Two thousand 
ycars ago there came into thc world the true religion in thc 
rcvelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This Jesus Christ, 
in his carthly incamation, was a Jew — which means that the 
Jews werc chosen by God to serve as thc media of divine dis- 
closurc and salvation unto men! But thc Jews rcjccted Üicfr 
mission ; they tumed against Christ and killed him. Thcy pcr- 
sisted, in other words, in thc superstition of their fathers, and 
thus betrayed thc salvation offered to mankind. Since that 
time, whcrever they have gone, thc Jews have taken with them 
Üicir persistent faith. They have built their synagogucs, rearcd 



their altars, proclaimed their law, observed their holy days, and 
therefore indirectly, if not directly, have bome witness against 
Christ. Their fault is their repudiation of the Son of God. Let 
them confess this fault and come to Christ, and all will be 
forgiven them. A Jew has only to bc Christianized, in other 
words, in order to be received as the cqual of other men. 

Such is the reproach of the Jew— that he has rcjccted 
the rcvelation of Christianity, and therewith laid the basis of 
that anti-Semitism from which he has suffered so terriblyr 
Such is the remedy of this reproach — that hc accept thc 
rcvelation of Christ, and thus become a Christian! But surely 
there must bc something wrong about this analysis of the 
question, for millions of Jews, in the centuries gone by, have 
in one way or another, voluntarily or under duress, entcred 
into the fold of the church, but have still found themselves 
a group set apart in ignominy and shame. In Germany at 
this moment there is no distinction of any kind between thc 
traditional Jew in the synagogue and thc converted Jew iii the 
, church, since both have bcen cast into the same pit of private 
misery and public degradation. Furthermore, there are millions 
of Jews today who profess no religion of any kind, as there 
are millions of Christians who are altogether divorced from 
Christianity, but this fact does not end the alicnation between 
them. In the last analysis it must bc said that wc are living in 
an age of tolcrance, when the hatred and pcrsccution of relig- 
ion is no longer populär. We are beginning to understand to- 
day that theological differences constitutc no excuse for personal 
prcjudice or group hostilities. Wc no longcr bclicve that Chris- 
tianity is a rcvcaled religion in thc sense that all other religions 
are f alsc and it alone is true. Wc think of religion as an cvolu- 
tionary cxperience of all humanity, and of Christianity spedfi- 
cally as a Spiritual outgrowth from thc religion of thc Hcbrew 


prophets. As for the idea that }esu5 was the Son of God, 
that this divine being was slain by the Jews, and that the Jews 
therefore exist under the curse of God, these are notions which 
are slowly but surely fading from the Qiristian consciousness. 
Yet at this vety time, when religious differences are so unim- 
portant, anti-Semitism is worse than it has ever been before 
in modern history. All of which means that the religious 
issue is not involved in the Jewish problem as we know it 
today! If cvery Jew gave up his religion tomorrow moming, 
he would still be among the despised and rejected of men. 

(2) It is because the religious indictment of the Jew is 
no longer tenable, because men respect rather than despise the 
Jewish faith, and the devotion of Israel to this faith, that the 
Jewish problem in our time has been advanced to a new base 
of Operations. For the reproach of the Jew today runs not 
along religious but racial lines. The Jew is despised and per- 
secuted, not because of what he believes or does not belicve, 
but because of what he is. It is not his religion but his her- 
edity that sets him apart — not his faith but his blood that 
brings him humiliation. There is anti-Semitism in the world 
for the very simple reason that the Jew is a Semite — that is, a 
member of an alien, inferior, and defiling tribe. 

If we would understand the real nature of this argument, 
we have only to tum to Germany, where racialism has become 
a phobia in the public mind. But it is not necessary, as it cer- 
tainly is not pleasant, to describe or analyze what is so patent a 
superstition. I say, a superstition — for one tfaing to bc noted 
in the matter of this radal argument is the simple truth that 
there is no such thing in the world as a pure race, no such 
thing as racial types or biological characteristics, no such thing 
as pure or impure blood, no such thing as the Aryan as oon- 
trasted with the Semitc, or the Semitc as contrasted with 


the Aiyan. We talk about the "melting pot" here in America, 
as though it were in this country alone that races and nation- 
alities and religions had £rst come into contact and been fused 
into a new and all-indusive human entity. As a matter of fact, 
the **melting pot" has been boiling in all parts of the world 
from the earliest days of history, and into it has been cast, at 
one time or another, every racial ingredient, so-called, that 
is known to man. We are all mixed up, you and I, and every 
person and every group among us, so that it may be said 
that it is indeed a wise child that knows its own radal identity. 

Take the Gentiles, for example! Are we Gentiles to be 
described as Gentiles in the sense that there is no Jewish 
blood flowing in our veins.' I do not believe it for a Single 
moment! I suppose that I am a pure Gentile, as Gentiles go 
in this world. My father's family came to this country from 
England in 1621, and my mother's family came to Boston in 
1631. For nearly three centuries these two f amilies have lived 
in the Cape G>d region and along the shores of eastem Mas- 
sachusetts. They have married and intermarried with people 
of their own kind. If there is a pure Aryan stock, it is from 
this stock that I have Sprung. Yet I would not place even the 
smallest wager on the proposition that I have no Jewish blood. 
Jewish blood has been flowing in the veins of all mankind, 
at least from the time of the first exile. Thus, in the andent 
days» hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the Jews weie 
organized, you will remember, into twdve tribes. Ten of tfaese 
tribes were carried away into ezile by their conquerors, and 
thus became "lost." We have a picture in our minds of these 
ten tribes wandering through desert places of the earth, cross- 
ing seas and penetrating continents, and always preserving 
unbroken their radal identity and tribal Organization. Thett 
tit tbose who believe that die ten tribes finally tmdbtd the 


British Isles and there became the progenitors of the present- 
day English people. All this, however, is utterly fantastic 
The tcn tribes became "lost" in the sense not that thcy wan- 
dered away into unknown places, but rather that, by an 
inevitable process of amalgamation they disappeared into the 
great body of humanity. They were absoAed into mankind, 
as flowing water is absorbed into sandy soil. They became a 
constituent part, in other words, of the Gentile world, in the 
veins of which their blood has been flowing tö this very day. 
Apart from the experience of these ten tribes is the persistent 
inter-marriage and inter-mating which has gone on between 
the Gentiles and the Jews, as between all peoples everywhere. 
We are cousins, whether we will have it so or not. The 
Gentile in ample measure is himself a Jew. 

On the other band, and from this same point of view, take 
the Jews themselves! Are the Jews to be described as Jews 
in the sense that their blood is pure of all Gentile Infiltration? 
This is as impossible as it is that die blood of the Gentile is 
pure of all Jewish infiltration. The relationship between these 
two is of course reciprocal. It is true, to be sure, that the two 
tribes of Judah, which were driven from Palestine in 70 A. D. 
and dispersed through the westem world, have preserved to 
an extraordinary degree their religious and cultural, even radal 
identity. This was helped, of course, by the Isolation forccd 
upon them by the persecution of the Christian world. Exiled 
into the ghettos of medievalism, the Jews were driven in upon 
themselves so to speak and there reared and maintained thdr 
own isolated and exclusive society. Nevertheless, through all 
this period of exile and suffering, there went on an unbroken 
process of inter-mingling between the persecuted and their 
persecutors. Remember that, in the Qiristian world, the Jews 
have atways constituted a repressed minority group, and that 



it is a law of history that the membcrs of such a group, espe- 
cially the women, are the more or less helpless victims of thosc 
among whom they are forced to live. When was there a po- 
grom, on a large or a small scale— when a conquest by alien 
invaders — that was not accompanied by the wholesale rape of 
Jewish women .> When was there a seduction of women not 
specifically aimed against the Jews, as witness the familiär 
Story of Jessica, the daughter of Shylock, in Shakespeare's 
Merchant of Venice? Then there has always been the fact of 
honest love as between Christians and converted Jews, and the 
love also which has persisted in every age of overleaping bar- 
riers of church and synagogue. All these influences have done 
their work in the inter-mingling of Jewish and Gentile blood. 
and in the making of the two groups one. 

"^'take tiw"so-called biological characteristics of the Jew-- 
his complexion, his hair, his head formation, and such facial 
features as the nose, the eyes, and the Ups! We think of these 
characteristics as distinctive — you can teil a Jew anywhere! 
Yet is there no superstition which can be more easily exposed 
than this idca that there is a distinct Jewish type which prevails 
throughout the world. As a matter of fact, there are all sorts 
of Jewish types. I have seen Jews who are as swarthy as Arabs, 
Jews who are as fair as Swedes, Jews who are as red-headed as 
Scotchmcn. I have been told of Jews who are as bladc as Ne- 
grocs, and others who are as yellow and slant-eyed as Chinese. 
In Central India there is a Community of Jews who daim 
Abraham as their father, give obediencc to the law of Moses, 
and kccp solcmnly the holy days of their people, and yet aic 
utterly indistinguishable from the surrounding multitudcs of 
Hindus. There are people who boast that they can recogni» 
t Jew by his features, but thcy are no more to be takcn 
seriously than the medieval monks who daimed that thcy could 


' * . ■ ' ll ? ' ■ l'l 

recognize a Jew by his smdi. One has no difficulty in recog- 
nizing an orthodox Jew in Eastem Europe, for the reason 
that this Jew wears the outward badges of his tribe in his 
beard, his earlocks, and his gabardine. But an assimilated, oi 
semi-assimilated, Jew in this country, or in England and Ger- 
many, cannot in most cases be surely identi£ed unless we 
know his name, his religion, his occupation, his personal inter- 
ests and social connections. Is this not the reason why in Ger- 
many it has recently been decreed that every Jewish man must 
take the name of Israel, and every Jewish woman the name of 
Sara? Not otherwise, the Nazis have discovered, can the Jcws 
of Germany be distinguished from the so-called pure-blooded 
Aryans by whom they are surrounded. 

Let US look at some statistics on this point! It is commonly 
believed that all Jews, or at least the overwhelming majority 
of Jews, are dark complexioned. Some years ago, in Germany, 
the famous Professor Virchow, one of the most distinguished 
anthropologists of his day, made a scientific inquiry into this 
question of the complexion of the Jews. He studied system- 
atically a group of 75,000 Jewish school children, and he 
found that in this group 32 percent were fair-haired, and 
46 percent had light blue eyes. As large a proportion of 
Jewish blonds was found in Austria, and almost as large in 
England. The same is true here in America, where it has been 
discovered, as a result of scientific inquiry, that no less than 
44 percent of the Jews are blond rather than brünette. 

The most distincttve f eature of the Jew is oomnumly tibou^ 
to be his aquiline nose. A cartoonist of the Jews would be 
completely lost if he could not use the familiär hook-nose to 
identify his characters. Yet when Dr. Maurice Fishberg, of 
New York, investigated systematically the distribution of noses 
^^tooag Jews, he found that of 2,836 aduk male Jews in this 



city, 37 percent had straight noses, 22 percent snub noses, 
and only 14 percent aquiline noses. An examination of 1,284 
Jewish women revealed an even more amazing result — of 
these Jewesses, 39 percent had noses as straight as any Aryan, 
and only 12 percent had aquiline noses. 

How can you teil a Jtw? The answer is perfectly simple. 
You can't! Not at least from any racial point of view. So def- 
initely and completely is the Jew a part of the human f amily 
as a whole, that he is today in a majority of cases unrecog- 
nizable as a member of a separate or distinctive group. It 
happens that, in recent weeks, I have had two interesting ex- 
periences to confirm this fact. Only a few days ago, a young 
girl, about nineteen or twenty years of age, came to me to 
seek advice on a personal matter that was troubling her. She 
was fair-haired, with light blue eyes, petite and pretty and 
rather fragile. She told me, with a gpod deal of embarrass- 
ment, that she had recently become engaged to a Gentile 
youth who believed her to be a Protestant. But she was a 
Jew, and she wanted to know if she must teil her fiance this 
fact before she married him. It was only a few days later that 
a more mature woman came to see me to make a similar oon- 
fession. This woman was dark and beautiful, of the extreme 
brünette type, cultured, refined, intellectual, elegant in breed 
and bearing. She had a French name, and I took her to be 
a French woman. But she told me that her French name had 
been assumed to hide her Jewish origin, and that she was 
passing as a Gentile to overcome the difficulty of secucing 
employment in New York as a Jew. In neither case would I 
have guessed that either one of these women, so utterly diflfer- 
ent in appearance, were Jews. And they were only two among 
hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews who have 
"passed," as the phrase has it,.into the Gentile world. As to 

whether Jews should thus desert their tribe, I do not say — that 
is another subject for discussion! I am simply here recording 
evideace of the fact that there are today no universal radal 
distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. 

(3) The racial indictment of the Jew is thus as untenable 
as the reli^ious indictment. But the anti-Semite is resourceful. 
Beaten on the leligious ground, driven in retreat upon the 
racial ground, he now falls back upon his last defence, which 
is that of a personal indictment of the Jew. He is like the 
traditional lawyer in court who, when he finds he has no case, 
proceeds violently to attack the lawyer on the other side. 

The Jew, declares the anti-Semite, is personally objection- 
able. He is coarse, vulgär, noisy, aggressive. Many Jews are 
dirty, most Jews are unscrupulous and dishonest. They push 
in where they are not wanted; they invade, capture and mo- 
nopolize whole businesses and professions; they are sharp in 
their money dealings; they are dannish in a sense antagonistic 
to the interests of other people; they are materialistic in their 
philosophy and way of iife; they are generally disagreeabie, 
degrading, even disgusting. Wherever they go, the Jews con- 
stitute an irritating element in the Community. 

As I listen to these charges, I am tempted at once to ask 
for spedfications. When I seek for such specifications myself, I 
find them interesting. The Jew, you say, is coarse and vulgär. 
If this is true, then logically a Jew like Benjamin Gurdozo, 
late Justice of the Supreme Court, must have been a coarse 
and vulgär man. As a matter of fact, he was the most ex- 
quisite of gentlemen. Of all great men whom I have ever had 
die privilege of meeting or knowing, Benjamin Cardozo Stands 
in my mind as the most elegant, refined and personally distiii- 
guished of them all. The Jew, you say, is unscmpulous and 
dishonest in his business activities. This must mean, if Jews 


are Jews, that Edward A. Filene, a Jew of Boston, greatest 
of Boston merchants for a period of more than a generation, 
must have been unscrupulous and dishonest in his commercial 
practices. As a matter of fact, Mr. Filene was the soul of in- 
tegrity, as honest in his dealings with his customers and com- 
petitors as he was wise and generous in his treatment of his 
employees. The Jews, you say, are materialistic and greedy, 
loving money and grabbing it by any device and under all 
conditions. This must mean that S. O. Levinson, "Jew lawyer" 
of Chicago, benefactor of this church, is a materialistic and 
greedy man. Need I remind you of what this man did for us? 
For four years, after we had fallen on disaster in our new 
church building enterprise, Mr. Levinson fought to save our 
property and the very Iife of our church. When at last he 
triumphed and set us on our feet again, he refused to accept 
one copper cent in recompense for his Services. He would not 
even consent to be reimbursed for his expenses, which must 
have amounted to many thousands of dollars. The Jew, you 
say, is selfish, self-assertive, self-seeking. This means, of course, 
that Nathan Straus, most generous of philanthropists, most 
humble of men, was a selfish, self-seeking Jew, and that Lil- 
üan D. Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement, was 
self-assertive when she plunged into the slums of the Hast 
Side and established the nursing service which has brought 
comfort and eure to millions of the sick poor. What logic i$ 
there in such arguments, what justice in such indictments? 
Name your Jews, and how many of those who are the best 
and most distinguished of their type embody the qualities 
which you impose upon the tribe? 

"But these men and women are the exceptions," says the 
anti-Semite; "I am talking about Jews in general." Which re- 
minds me immediately of Edmund Budce's famous remaik 


that he did aot know how to bring an indictment against an 
entire people. Every question of this kind is a question of 
"exceptions;" or rather, shall I say, of exact specifications, for 
how can a people be judged except from the Standpoint of the 
individuais who comprise the gfoup? That there are indivi- 
duals among the Jews who are objectionable I will grant, for 
the Jews have faiilts like other people. I must concede in other 
words, that the Jew is human, and that he carries with him all 
the features invariably characteristic of human beings reared 
under like circumstances with himself. Yes, I will grant sped- 
fications on the other side. I have seen Jews as generally 
objectionable as any Gentiles I have ever met in my life. To 
be specific — I have seen dirty Jews, as dirty as many of the 
poor Negroes in Harlem who have to live in tenements not 
fit for pigs, or as Irish peasants who live in the wretched 
turf huts of the Irish countryside. I have seen mean, dishonest, 
seif ish Jews — as contemptible in these qualities as any Yankee 
Storekeeper down in New England. We have a name for 
these Yankees — ^we call them "skinflints," and I havcn't a 
doubt the name may well apply to many a sharp Jewish trader. 
I have seen Jews who were loud and coarse — as vulgär in 
every indecent respect as any American tourist I ever saw 
traveling abroad. I have known Jewish lawyers who were 
shysters, and thus fit competitors for the Gentile shystecs 
among us. There are Jewish hoodlums in this town, not easily 
to be distinguished from Italian, Polish and Irish hoodlums. 
Yes, the Jews have their ample share of the worst qualities of 
humankind. But note what I am saying — the qualities of 
humankind! For these qualities are characteristic not of the 
Jew as an individual but of his history, environment, and 
cruel fate. Wherever men have lived as the Jew has had to 
live, have suffered as the Jew has had to sufier, have struggled 


to survive as the Jew has had to struggle to survive, there you 
find qualities stamped deep into the spirit as the scars of whip- 
lash or swordstroke are stamped into the flesh. I recall a State- 
ment by the late Bishop Potter, distinguished churchman of 
New York: "The characteristics of the Jew are in no sense 
identical with their race but rather with those of the un- 
educated and unrefined of those races among whom they have 
been reared. In other words, the prejudice has not been 
against them as Israelites but as persons of manners and habits 
common to Germans, Poles and Americans." 

Do you know what breaks a people down— coarsens their 
fibre, degrades their habits, vulgarizes their spirit? I would 
name three things — first, poverty; secondly, exploitation ; 
thirdly, persecution. Take any people anywhere, reduce them 
to poverty, subdue them to exploitation, punish them with 
persecution, and they will come forth scarred and maimed, 
wounded and brow-beaten, dirtied and degraded, by the mon- 
strous experience imposed upon them. The Jews have suf- 
fered a more dreadful poverty, a more cruel exploitation, a 
more merciless persecution than any other people in the whole 
history of Qiristendom. What wonder that they have mani- 
fested, perhaps to an extreme degree, all the qualities shared 
by all peoples who have at any time been forced to bear these 
yokes. If the Jews are in any way exceptional and therefore 
conspicuous it is in the fact that they have never been satisfied 
to suffer without resistance, have never under any circum- 
stances been willing to die. Always they have struggled, first 
to perpetuate themselves in their bondage, and secondly to 
struggle back to liberty and life. The task of survival has 
not been pleasant; the struggle to be free has frequently been 
ugly. What wonder that the Jew has been not always a pleas- 
ant, even frequently an ugly person? But the test of the 


-? ' ' 

Jew's quality comes not when he is down in the gutter, nor 
yet when he is stmggling painfuUy and pitifuliy to his feet, 
but only when at last he has risen to füll stature and won his 
place as a man. Grant the Jew freedom with other men, give 
him time to use this freedom, and then see who and what he 
is. I know these Jews who have behind them generations of 
liberty, culture, enlightenment, family devotion. and hich pur- 
suits of mind and spirit. I know them! And I say to you that 
thete are no other people in the world to compare with them. 
Free the tribe, as certain individuals and groups in the tribc 
have long been freed, and you will have indeed the chosen 
of mankind. 

"What is there in the Jew?" We are looking in the wrong 
direction when we ask that question in search for an explana- 
tion of the Jewish problem. For this problem, today as yester- 
day, lies not in the life of the Jew but in the mind of the 
Gcntile. The problem inheres not in the Jew's relirion, nor 
in his race, least of all in his personal qualities which are 
the consequence and not the cause of his cruel plight, but in 
the inward psychology of those who have hated and hunted 
him through the years. Not without in the world where the 
Jew lives, but within in the world where the Gentile thinks, 
you find the source of this age-old infamy. 

Anti-Semitism began in two accidents of history. One was 
the dispersion of the Jews by the Romans in the first Century 
of the Christian era. "Until the Jewish nation was scattered 
abroad," says Dr. Hugo Valentin, in his History oj AnU-Semu 
fism, "it was no more exposed to hatred than other peoples. 
Anti-Semitism was born of the Dispersion." But if anti-Semi- 
tism was thus born of the Dispersion, it was bred, trained and 
reared to maturity by the scom and hatred of the Jews by 
the Christians in the first years of our enu These early Chris- 


tians, themselves Jews, turned upon their fellow-Jews who re- 
fused to accept the gospel of Christ, and denounced them 
for their fidelity to the faith of their fathers. Then came the 
satanic charges of killing Christ, betraying the Messiah, and 
fighting against God's kingdom. 

It was in this double soil, the dispersion of the Jews by the 
Romans and the despisal of the Jews by the Christians, that 
there sprang, and as the years went by flourished, this foul 
growth of anti-Semitism. As a result, three things happened 
inside the Gentile mind: 

The first thing was hatred. By a well-known law of psycho- 
logy, the Gentile came to hate the Jew because he had abused 
him. For we hate not those who abuse us, but invariably those 
whom we ourselves abuse. It is our victims who have a case 
against us, and whom therefore we first fear and finally hate. 

The second thing was defamation. To justify himself in 
his fear and hate of the Jew, the Gentile proceeded to make 
the Jew into a aeature fit for hate. Thus did he deliberately 
visit upon him every foul quality which he could imagine, 
and therein found excuse for the contempt and loathing al- 
ready planted deep within his soul. 

Tlie third thing was what the psychologists call trartsference. 
The Gentile now proceeded to lay upon the Jew the bürden 
of his own sins. He made him, in other words, the scape- 
goat of the Gentile world. Whatever was wrong in this world 
was described as the work of the Jew. Whatever was wicked 
in this world was explained as the conspiracy of the Jew. 
Anti-Semitism, like another witchaaft, placed upon a Single 
group in the Community responsibility for all the ills of the 
communitf . The Jew, thus made the source of all evil, became 
the Center of all shame. 


In this thrcc-fold psvfchological phcnomenon lies thc secret 
of anti-Semitism. The problem of the Jcw, as we know it to- 
day, is the product of the Gentile mind, just as the plight of 
the Jcw is the product of Gentile history. The whole thing 
belongs to you and me, as Gentiles. And that is the tragedy 
of it! For, alas, there is nothing that the Jew can do. He 
can be patient and brave, as he has been these many centuries. 
He can be loyal to the heritage of his people, and therein 
find his strength. He can rear his children in fidelity to the 
faith of Israel, and therewith preserve the integrity of his 
tribe. He can realize the best and never the worst within 
himself. He can cultivate leaming and ideals, and dream ot 
the day of deliverance. But the yoke of bondage must still 
rest upon him until it is lifted by the Gentiles who placed 
it there. If anti-Semitism is to end, it is not so much the 
Jew who must be changed, as the Gentile who must be 
awakened, chastened, and freed at last of sin. Only as we 
Gentiles save ourselves can we save the world, and the Jew 
who bears the bürden of the world. 

In Lessing's great play, Nathan, The Wise, there is an 
exhortation which the Gentiles may well take to heart. Would 
we solve this Jewish problem.^ Then, 

*\ . . Free fiom prejudice let etch one tim 
To emulate his bretfaten in the strife 
B7 Offices of kindness and of love^ 
And tnist in God." 

. '■it,' 


Sonder^bdrHck aus ^Stüäiiml^enerah'' , iPi^g,,Jti€ß2y 1957 


Götüngen -HMttttrg 

■*v "^ ^' - ■ . /•■"• 

•^<»»-^ ~*^^ 



Bemerkungen zum Systembegriff und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 

.. -•- .■•. ,;w. ■•.'«. j<r..*. ■ ■' » - - • : < : ' >■ ,-r ■■- ,~- '»•■,—> •, ■■ ; ■ ., 




^ ■ ... • '- - "t'i'x ..-■.1 

,.^.<. .-; ■ .«4,. 

»,■;•♦<, 1 

T^^iäfefc^v./ -''•^' 

\ * . . «. 






H. JONAS: Bemerkungen zum 

Systembegriff und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 


Jahrgang 10 
Heft 2 (1957) 

H. JONAS: Bemerkungen zum Systembegriff und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 


^ - ■ 

Bemerkungen zum Systembegriff und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 

<■ -f'.. 

■■.'■i'Vi.-i;''', ••■ * 





'" ■ y 

. *! .,•■..-■.,.■;-■• 

Wir hifera uns gewöhnt, den Ausdruck „System« 
in erster Linie auf Gebilde des Denkens zu be- 
-.iiiehen und damit eine bestimmte Form der Theorie 
?'im Hinblidc entweder auf ihr Ergebnis, d. h. 
die Ordnung des Erkannten, oder auf ihre Ver- 
fahrensweise, d. h. die Ordnung der Folge des 
Erkennens, zu bezeidmen. Beides kann zusammen- 
fallen. Eine ideale Wissensdiaft wie die euklidisdie 
Geometrie bildet ein System von Sätzen, gegründet 
in einem System von Begriffen. Reflektierend auf 
■. die Art seiner Hervorbringung m einem Nadiein- 
\ ander von Schritten spridit man etwa von einem 
"^ deduktiven System, und darüber hinaus dann auch 
von einem System der Deduktion, Induktion, Dia- 
lektik, etc., als soldier: In diesem Fall meinen wir 
das System der Methode, die nidit notwendig Me- 
thode eines Systems ist. Daß eine Methode systema- 
tisch ist, heißt im Grunde nidits anderes, als dal^ sie 
eben Methode und nicht Unmethode ist, und ist 
völlig vereinbar mit Abwesenheit eines systemati- 
schen Prhizips im Gegenstande. In soldien Fallen 
wie dem der mathematisdien Deduktion oder der 
Hegelsdien Dialektik sdiließt freilidi der Sinn der 
Methode die Idee ein, daß ihre Systematik einer 
Systematik der Sadie selber entspridit, ihr folgt und 
sie in der Form des Prozesses gewissermaßen nach- 
bildet: Dies stellt Einsicht mindestens in das for- 
^'male Wesen ihres Gegenstandes, oder Erkenntnis 
* der Prinzipien, an den Anfang. Induktion sieht von 
einem soldien antizipatorisdien Ansprudi ab, setzt 
aber dodi die Tatsache einer wie immer gearteten 
Gesetzmäßigkeit oder Regelhaftigkeit i« 'hrem 
Gegenstand allgemein voraus, die dann nad, MaiS- 
Ägabe des Erfolges der Induktion -in der Form be- 
^Lderer Hypothesen - einer n**folgen^n I^- 
iduktion zur Grundlage dienen kann (das geläufigst 
■Beispiel hiervon ist Vorhersage). Es smd aber auch 
gänzlich unverbindliche Formen der Beziehung zwi- 
sdien Gesetz der Methode und Gegenstand moglidi. 
Selbst die bloße Kollektion kann System haben, wie 
l B die Numismatik. Hier ist die Ordnung aus- 

sdiließUA in der gedanklidien E«^"!"'!^/!!^'^- 
„ung im Gedanken ist das systematisdie Wissen 
einer- Sache möglich, wo die Sadie an sich keine 
Ordnung, nicht einmal einen Zusammenhang, auf- 
weist "^er systematisdi die Wolkenformen grup- 


piert, will damit den Wolken sejst kane Syst - 
matik imputieren. Soga, das per Definition Regel- 
b Li. »tatistisdi in eine Regel gebracht werden: 
Die Sterblidikeitstabellen der VersiAerungsgese 1- 
sdiaften sind die Systematisierung des wesenhaft 

^^DniLTkeine Erklärung der Tatsadien, d h. keine 
Einsidit in den Zusammenhang der Teile des Gan- 
zen, vorliegt, muß man im Theoretisdien offenbar 
bloße Einteilungs- oder Ordnungssysteme von Ab- 
leitungs- oder Erklärungssystemen untersdieiden. Du 
letzteren wollen die Verknüpfung c^er Dinge durdi 
Gründe nadizeidinen und daher Erkenntnis bieten, 
während die ersteren ISf Überblid. f^f-^f^' ^^f^ 
eben hierin die Erklärung der Mannigfaltigkeit aus 
Prinzipien vorbereiten können. Das Lmnesdie System 
der Pflanzen war ein Ordnungssystem oder reine 
Morphologie, konnte aber durdi Einführung des 
genealogisdien Prinzips im Rahmen der Abstam- 
mungslehre in ein System der zweiten Art über- 
führt werden, soweit nidit eben die neuen Prin- 
zipien des Zusammenhangs zu einer Berichtigung 
früherer Einteilungen nötigten. Audi die bloße Em- 
teilung gesdiieht nadi Prinzipien, deren gemem- 
sames Prinzip die Ähnlidikeit ist. Da es für diese 
beliebig viele Hinsiditen gibt, ist der Gebraudi einer 
bestimmten Hinsidit Sadie der Wahl ««d msofern 
der Willkür. Die Wahl kann aber, durdi GluÄ oder 
Ahnung, die Einsidit in die Ordnung «adi Ursadien 
vorwegnehmen und im rediten Zeitpunkt beinah 
unmerklidi in sie übergehen«. Goethes Morphologie 
ist ein Beispiel. Ein anderes die Einteilung der Tiere 
in Wirbellose und Wirbeltiere, die, der Abstam- 
mungslehre vorangehend, dann im Erklärungssystem 
der letzteren im Sinne ihrer Zugehörigkeiten und 
Abhängigkeiten als wesentlidi, nidit nur gruppie- 
rungstedinisdj nützlidi, bestätigt wurde. 

Die Möglidikeit von Erklärungssystemen nun, 
während die von Ordnungssystemen ledigUdi in 
Fähigkeit und Bedürfnis des Mensdien ihren Grund 
haben mag, sagt nidit nur etwas über das Denken 
aus dessen Gebilde sie sind, sondern audi über das 

« Die BaconisAe Methode, auf die Natur »am Werke" 
bezogen, postulierte dies, zu. UnreAt. sogar als »"«»»»"f*^. 
Erfolg der gründlichen Obersdia». Vergleidiung und Einte.- 

lung an sidi. 

Sein, dem die Erklärbarkeit eben in Gestalt gewisser 
Eigenschaften innewohnen muß. Selbst die Einteil- 
barkeit des Gegebenen ist streng genommen an Be- 
dingungen des Seins selber gebunden, 2. B. über die 
Existenz bloßer Mannigfaltigkeit hinaus an eine 
hinreichende Wiederholung von Ähnlichkeiten und 
eine gewisse Beständigkeit von Unterschieden. Ohne 
diese wäre nicht einmal Statistik, die doch ihre 
Gruppen definieren können muß, möglidi. Aber 
während das Prinzip der Ähnlichkeit und Unähn- 
lichkeit dem Denkgebrauche beliebig freisteht, ist 
das des Grundes und der Bedingtheit, wenn es über- 
haupt im Sein eine Entsprediung hat, für ihn ver- 
bindlich, und das heißt, daß in seinem Gebrauch das 
Denken das Sein jeweils entweder treffen oder ver- 
fehlen, entweder wahr oder falsch sein muß, und 
nur in seinem Gebrauch eins von beiden, d. h. eben 
Denken mit der Möglichkeit des Wissens und der 
Gefahr des Irrtums, sein kann. Von Seiten des Seins 
aber heißt diese Verbindlichkeit, daß es selber in sich 
verbunden ist, einen Verband oder Zusammenhang 
von Abhängigkeiten bildet und, soweit dies Band 
reicht, eben ein Ganzes und nicht nur ein Vielfadies 
ist. Daher scheint die Möglichkeit von theoretischen 
Systemen die Wirklichkeit von Dingsystemen vor- 
auszusetzen, und die Idee eines Gesamtsystems des 
Wissens, oder eines systematischen Wissens vom 
Ganzen, die Idee der ganzen Wirklichkeit als eines 

Es erhebt sidi nun, neben vielen andern, die 
Frage: in welchem Sinne Seiendes (und die ganze 
Welt ist ebenso ein Seiendes wie einzelne Teile von 
ihr) „System" sein kann. Denn nur analogisch kann 
ja der gleiche Name auf Begriffliches und Wirk- 
liches zutreffen — es sei denn, daß ein Begriff von 
Sein angenommen wird, der den Unterschied von 
Sein und Begriff aufhebt und die Analogie in Iden- 
tität überführt. Wir fragen aber unsere Frage im 
Horizont des (naiven) Unterschieds von Begriff und 
Sache, demnach von Denksystem und Dingsystem; 
und wir fragen sie als Vorbereitung auf die spe- 
ziellere Frage, in welchem Sinne lebendige Objekte 
— individuelle Organismen oder kollektive Lebens- 
gebilde — als Systeme beschreibbar sind. 

Formal ist der Sinn von „System" durch den Be- 
griff des Zusammen bestimmt, der ein Mehreres 
voraussetzt, das eben in die Beziehung des Zusam- 
men zu stehen gekommen ist, oder nicht anders als 
in ihr stehend sein kann. System ist also notwendig 
ein Mannigfaltiges, aber darüber hinaus ist der Sinn 
des Zusammen hier, daß das Mannigfaltige ein wirk- 
sames Prinzip seiner Einheit hat. Das gilt sowohl 
für ein System von Sätzen wie für ein System von 
Dingen, nur daß »Wirksamkeit" in beiden Fällen 

verschiedenes bedeutet. Das Zusammen der Teile 
ist nicht neutrales Beieinander, sondern gegenseitiges 
Bestimmen, und wiederum ein solches Bestimmen, 
daß das Zusammen eben dadurdi erhalten bleibt. 
Da aber andrerseits im Bereich der Dinge das Be- 
stimmen ein Wirken is't und Wirken ein Verändern, 
so geschieht hier die Erhaltung durch Veränderung, 
wie die Einheit durch Vielheit — beides aber durch 
Krafb, die genau genommen das Einzige der physi- 
schen Wirklichkeit ist, das aus Vielem Eines werden 
kann. Auch das „Bestehen" der Einheit ist daher in 
Wahrheit ein Geschehen. So befinden wir uns mit 
dem Thema „System" im Bereich der klassischen 
ontologischen Probleme des Einen und Vielen und 
des Bestandes im Wedisel. 

Die Unterschiedenheit der Teile wird durch die 
Ganzheit, zu der sie vereint sind, nicht aufgehoben, 
die Ganzheit nicht durch die Unterschiedenheit der 
Teile, aus denen sie besteht. Beide sind notwendige 
Aspekte eines Systems, keiner darf zugunsten des 
andern verschwinden. Weder ein bloßer Haufe von 
Steinen, nodi die Wasserlache, zu der viele Tropfen— 
zusammengeflossen sind, ist ein System seiner Teile; 
denn im Haufen bleibt das Viele einfach Vieles, 
ohne durch die Verbindung modifiziert zu werden 
— er ist Vielheit ohne Einheit; und in der Lache 
hört das Viele auf, als Vieles der einzelnen Tropfen 
zu existieren — sie ist Einheit ohne Vielheit. Aber 
der Tropfen ist ein dynamisches System der ihn bil- 
denden Moleküle, so regellos diese sich auch im Ein- 
zelnen bewegen, denn die Tropfenform als solche 
ist in ihrer Begrenzung das Gleichgewicht des Gegen- 
spiels vieler Kräfte, das nur eine endliche Höchst- 
zahl von Molekülen als wirkende Teile zuläßt. Der 
hier erscheinende Begriff der Grenze legt den Ge- 
danken nahe, daß es ein unendlich vielfaches System, 
überhaupt ein System des Unendlidien, sowenig wie 
ein System des absolut Einfachen geben kann: es ist 
ein Mittleres zwischen dem absolut Einen und dem 
unendlich Vielen; Endlichkeit und eine Art Ge- 
schlossenheit gehören zum System, und damit ein 
Außen, gegen das es unterschieden ist. Auch wenn 
das Universum ein System sein sollte, kann es dies 
nur insoweit sein, als es endlich ist. 

Die „Grenze" aber ist nicht lediglidi Begrenzung 
des Vielen der Zahl nach, oder bestimmte Menge, 
sondern zugleich, innerhalb der Anzahl, Begrenzung 
der Anordnung nach, oder bestimmte Form; und 
wiederum innerhalb der Anordnung Begrenzung 
dem Kräfteverhältnis nach, oder bestimmtes Maß. 
Die allgemeinste und mindeste Determination die- 
ser Grenzen folgt einfach aus der Bedingung der 
Kompossibilität, oder der bloßen Existen2ifähigkeit 
des Produktes, und ist uns als solche schon in den 

■t i-y.v 






H. Jonas : Bemerkungen zum Systembegrifi und sedier Anwendung aul Lebendiges 


'Jahrgang 10 
Heft 2 (1957) 

H. JONAS: Bemerkungen zum Systembegriff und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 



Begriffen der Erhaltung, des Bestandes und des 
GleidigewiditS begegnet: Ober eine gewisse Zahl von 
Teilen hinaus, oder über eine gewisse Ungleidiheit 
von Kräften hinaus, oder über gewisse Variationen 
der Anordnung hinaus, wird eine Kombination sol- 
<lier Art, sei es Wassertropfen oder Planetensystem, 
unstabil und kann nicht dauern, oder mit diesen 
Gegebenheiten gar nicht erst Zustandekommen; und 
dies gilt wie für einzelne Systeme auch für das Zu- 
sammenbestehen von Systemen als ein größeres 
System bis hinauf zum Gesamtsystem der Welt. Dies 
ist ein negatives Prinzip der Auslese des Wirklichen 
nidit durch Wahl zwisdien Möglichem, sondern 
durch Ausfall des auftauchenden Unmöglidien, 
und nach ihm könnte eine absichtslose Natur, 
im Untersdiied zu absiditsvoUer Kunst, harmo- 
nische Systeme, und sich selbst als eine Har- 
monie harmonischer Systeme hervorgebracht haben 
aus blinder Kraft, d. h. dem bloßen Prinzip der 
Veränderung an sich mit keinen anderen Prin- 
zipien der Lenkung als Möglidikeit (im Sinne der 
Existenzfähigkeit) und Gelegenheit (die audi Ge- 
legenheit zu Unmöglidiem sein kann). Gelegen- 
heit aber, „im Anfang" vor allem System Sadie des 
regellosen Zufalls und so des weitesten Spielraums, 
wird mit jedem Erfolg ihrer Vorgänger selber ein 
Teil der - bestimmteren Möglichkeiten ihres Ergeb- 
nisses, also eben dessen, was von „System" jeweils 
schon in der Situation da ist: Insofern dieses eine — 
wie immer zuerst zufällige — Entscheidung für 
eine Wirklichkeit bedeutet, die durdi ihre bloße 
Tatsache viele alternative Möglichkeiten zum Nicht- 
sein verurteilt, engt es selber als Ausleseergebnis der 
Vergangenheit für die Zukunft die Möglichkeiten 
ein> die seine einmal gesetzten Bedingungen zu- 
lassen, und die Gelegenheiten, die in seiner eigenen 
Veränderungsserie nocii vorkommen können. Was 
geschehen ist, wird zum Gesetz für das, was ge- 
sAehen wird — aus Gesetzlosigkeit wird Gesetz, 
und zwar von einem Minimum an Gesetz fort- 
schreitend zu seinem Maximum. Denn da sidi der 
Vorgang mit jeder neuen Selektion solcher selber 
sdion sddttiven Gelegenheiten wiederholt, so wer- 
den einerseits die Bedingungen der Kompossibilität 
zunehmend schärfer durch das Ganze definiert und 
damit wird die Mechanik der Auslese immer einsinni- 
ger, -anderseits werden die vorkommenden Gelegen- 
heiten unÜ damit das der Auslese dargebotene Ma- 
terial iöiniei' spezifischer — kurz, Möglichkeit wie 
Gelegeniieit werden in mehr und mehr bestimmte 
i^idS^tijtng kanalisiert, bis das vollendete System nur 
nodi^ seine eigene Möglichl^eit übrigläßt und selber 
die perniftli^te Gelegenhdt zu. ihrer Realisierung 
darstdJt» i it. zu Veränderung in der einzigen Form 

der Wiederholung. Jene Gerichtetheit, die ganz das 
Ansehen der Teleologie hat, ohne es zu sein, kann 
ein Werden genannt werden; die Selbstwiederholung 
der Bewegung des Systems nidit mehr. Die Richtung 
war zu mehr Ordnung und mehr Notwendigkeit, 
d.h. zu bestimmter Form und ihreni Gesetz, Wer- 
den also Abnahme von Zufall und Indeter mini tat 
(um den Ausdruck „Freiheit" zu vermeiden) — also 
fortschreitende Abnahme seiner eigenen Möglidi- 
keitsbedingung. Wie sich diese Gerichtetheit zum 
Entropiebegriff verhält oder mit ihm verein- 
baren läßt, soll hier nicht untersucht werden. Aber 
zwei Aspekte dieses der Ontologie neuzeitlicher 
(„klassischer") Mechanik entnommenen hypotheti- 
schen Bildes vom Seinssinn des Systems und seinem 
Werden sind von spezieller Bedeutung für die Frage 
der Angemessenheit des Systembegriffes für die 
Erfassung von Lebenstatsachen. Der eine betrifft die 
Auffassung von Werden, der andere die von Sein. 
Sie können nur zusammen als Verhältnis von Sein 
und Werden behandelt werden. 

~^ Was das Werden anlangt, so madien wir uns 
klar, daß soviel Gelegenheit zu Neuem vorkommt, 
wie Ungleichgewicht da ist, und die Nutzung solcher 
Gelegenheit, d.h. das tatsächliche Werden von 
Neuem, einzig der Dynamik des vorhandenen Un- 
gleidigewichts entspringt. Mit der Erreichung von 
Gleichgewicht aber, zu dem diese Dynamik natür- 
lich hinführt, hört „Gelegenheit" auf (oder entsteht 
nur „unnatürlich" durch Störung des Gleichgewichts). 
Zwar wird das Gleidigewicht ein dynamisches sein, 
das System also ein funktionierendes, sich bewegen- 
des; aber die Bewegung ist die periodische der 
Wiederkehr identischer Zustände und die Periode 
die dem System eigene Zeit. Dies nun bedeutet 
nichts anderes, als daß es Geschichte nur gibt, wo 
System erst wird oder wieder vergeht, als Prozeß 
der Bildung oder Auflösung, System selber aber, 
soweit es aktuell ist, keine Geschichte hat, es sei 
denn als Erscheinung seines Mangels. Die Aspekte 
der Harmonie und der Geschichtlichkeit schließen 
sidi gegenseitig aus, Harmonie aber ist das Maß 
der Vollkommenheit eines Systems. Es ist daher 
verständlidi, daß die antike Ontologie, die den Kos- 
mos als harmonisches System faßte und ihm nadi 
dem Maße seiner Vollkommenheit nur zyklische 
Wiederholung des Gleichen zuschrieb, für die Idee 
der Geschichte keinen Raum hatte: Den niederen 
Teilen des Systems eignet zwar Veränderlidikeit 
nach dem Maße ihrer Unvollkommenheit, aber eben 
nur als Zoll des Unveränderlichen an die Korrupti- 
bilität des Stofflichen, somit als bloßes Auf und Ab 
von Entstehen und Vergehen des kurzlebigien im 
immerwährenden Gleidhien. „Nidits Neues unter der 

Sonne" drückt die tiefste Überzeugung antiken 
Seinsverständnisses aus, nachdem der Himmel ein- 
mal existiert/ Wie aber konnte er selber zu existieren 
beginnen? Da der Gedanke einer Geburt von Ord- 
nung aus den Kräften der Unordnung selber, des 
Vernünftigen aus dem Vernunftlosen, nachjonischer 
antiker Seinsspekulation mit Ausnahme der Atomi- 
stik rational unvollziehbar war, so ist das Postulat 
der Ewigkeit der Welt die notwendige Ergänzung 
der Kosmos-Idee als solcher. Die seiende Ordnung 
des Seins, das System im ganzen, ist ungeworden, 
nur in seinem Rahmen findet Werden des Einzelnen, 
als vergänglicher Teile des unvergänglidien Ganzen 
der Natur, statt. Natur und unveränderliches Prinzip 
der Veränderung sind gleichbedeutend. Es gibt dem- 
nach keine Geschichte der Welt oder Gesdiichte der 
Natur, nicht einmal eine Geschichte von Teilen der 
Natur, d. h. besonderen Arten von Naturdingen im 
Bereidie des Veränderlichen, sondern nur Beschrei- 
bung der solchen Arten eigentümlichen Weisen des 
Entstehens und Vergehens ihrer Individuen. Selbst 
bei diesen läßt sich dem Begriff nach das zu er- 
wirkende Sein von dem Schicksal ihres Werdens 
unterscheiden. Werden ist eine notwendige und 
mindernde Bedingung, nicht ein innerer Charakter 
des Seins; und der permanente Grund dieser Be- 
dingung ist die nidit endgültige Begrenzbarkeit des 
indifferenten Substrates, genannt Stoff. — Die On- 
tologie neuzeitlicher Wissenschaft hat diese Konz< 
tion sowohl im Großen wie im Kleinen von Grund 
auf revidiert, indem sie den Begriff des passiven 
Stoffes durdi den des Körpers ersetzte, der als 
Träger positiver Kräfte (z.B. der Bewegung) und 
damit als selbständige Substanz der Wirklidikeit in 
sidi selber den Bestimmungsgrund der Konfigura- 
tionen hat, in denen die Summe der Körper jeweils 
das Sein darstellt. Die Fälle dynamisdien „Gleich- 
gewichts", die im (grundsätzlidi gleidiwertigen) 
Nacheinander solcher Konfigurationen in der be- 
schriebenen Weise der „Auslese" auftreten mögen 
und uns im Großen als dauerhafte Ordnung von 
Systemen begegnen, können zwar dem antiken 
Harmoniemodell verglichen werden — d.h. audi 
das bloße Gleichgewicht der Wediselwirkung kann 
im E£Fekt, wenn auch nicht im Ursprung, als Har- 
monie betraditet werden (wie wir oben durdi Ge- 
brauch des Wortes taten), so wenig das Prinzip der 
mechanischen Summation mit dem der immanenten 
Vernunft gemein hat — , aber der Begriff des Zieles 
mi^ß ersetzt werden durch den des bloßen Ergeb- 
nisses, folglich der Begriff des Werdens durch den 
des Prozesses an sich; Es liegt in der Konsequenz des 
modenten Energiebegriff ^ und seiner zentralen 
Stellung im Verständnis der Wirklichkeit, daß Ge- 

schehen als fortgesetzte Umwandlung von Energie 
zum wesentlichen Aspekt des Seins wird und Ver- 
änderung sein adäquater Ausdruck. Damit verliert 
die Beständigkeit des „Systems" die ontologisdie 
Auszeichnung vollkommenerer Darstellung des Seins, 
die es in der antiken Antithese von Sein und Wer- 
den hatte, und wird zu einem Sonderfall von Pro- 
zeß, dessen Dynamik von der allgemeinen nicht ver- 
schieden ist, und der endgültig nur sein kann als 
Ende der Geschichte des Seins, andernfalls aber nur 
eine Phase derselben ist. Gilt dies von Phänomenen 
der Natur im allgemeinen, so niacht bei lebendigen 
Dingen unsere Vorstellung von Geschichtlichkeit es 
vollends zum Problem, wie weit der Systerfibegriff 
ihrem Wesen gerecht werden kann, oder wie. er durch 
Berücksichtigung der Zeitdimension modifiziert wer- 
den muß, um es zu können. 

Wir veranschaulichen das bisher Gesagte am Bei- 
spiel und bringen es dabei zugleich schärfer in den 
Focus unserer besonderen Frage. Als ein Mannig- 
faltiges muß ein System aus mindestens zwei Kör- 
pern bestehen, wovon die Doppelsterne ein geläu- 
figes Beispiel sind, wie denn überhaupt die Astro- 
nomie in dem aus wenigen gezählten Gliedern be- 
stehenden Sonnensystem der modernen Mechanik 
den Prototyp eines voll analysierbaren Natursystems 
geliefert hat. Von den exzeptionellen Vorzügen, die 
dieses Modell für die Zwecke der Theorie hat (zu 
der kleinen Zahl der Komponenten — Permanenz 
und Klarheit der Anordnung, Geschlossenheit nadi 
laußen durch räumliche Isolierung, vollkommene 
binnere Determination, vollkommene Berechenbar- 
Ikeit der Größen und Bewegungen) betrachten wir 
für einen Augenblick den der vollkommenen Peri- 
odizität. Periode begreift eine Folge von Verände- 
rungen, und es erhebt sich sogleich die Frage, ob 
man in dem Begriff der Einheit zu der Mannigfaltig- 
keit der Elemente auch die Mannigfaltigkeit der 
Zustände fügen muß, d. h. zur Mannigfaltigkeit im 
Räume auch die in der Zeit. Dies wäre der Fall, 
wenn die aufeinander folgenden Zustände Teile des 
Ganzen wären, und dies wären sie, wenn jeder von 
ihnen mit seinem Eintreten dem Ganzen etwas hin- 
zufügte und es so durch sich vervollständigte, das 
Ganze also eben durdi die qualitative Vielfalt der 
Serie hindurch sukzessive seine Ganzheit gewinnt 
und das besondere Ganze wird, das es ist. Denn 
diesen Sinn von Teil hat doch die Mannigfaltigkeit 
der simultanen Elemente, aus denen ein System be- 
steht: hier macht jedes Mehr oder Weniger einen 
Unterschied für das Ganze, und das System ist ein 
anderes mit der Anwesenheit oder Abwesenheit jed^ 
Teiles. Nim kann man von einem Lehen in der 
Tat sagen, daß es sicii^ aus den Momenten zi}- 



H. JONAS: Bemerkungen zum Systembegritf und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 


Heft 2 (1957) 

H. JONASt Bemerkungen 2um SystembegriiS und seiner Anwendung au£ Lebendiges 



> '■-l^T-r^«. 




■'■■ V' 


sammensetzt, in denen es gelebt wird; daß es in 
Keim, Wadistum, Blüte und Frudit, in Kindheit, 
Jugend, Mitte und Alter je ein anderes ist; daß 
jede seiner Phasen, ja jeder seiner Momente, ihm ein 
Neues hinzufügt, das in ihren Vorgängern nicht 
schon enthalten war, also nidit nur eine Umwand- 
lung des Selben ist; daß selbst in der Wiederholung 
von Erfahrungszyklen (wie Sättigung und Entlee- 
rung, Wachen und Schlafen usw.) der mitgegen- 
wärtige Hintergrund der durchlebten Vergangen- 
heit — das Alter des Subjektes — den Augenblick 
qualitativ verschieden und zum Gliede einer un- 
umkehrbaren einmaligen Folge macht; daß somit 
das Leben erst im Nacheinander aller seiner Zu- 
stände seine Ganzheit erreidit, ohne sie je zu haben, 
und daß seine Identität nicht in der Äquivalenz der 
Glieder seiner Zeitreihe besteht, sondern gerade ihre 
Mannigfaltigkeit selber zusammenhält. All dies läßt 
sich vom Leben sagen, aber nicht von der Zeitreihe 
eines Systems von der Art des Planetensystems. 
Denn dieses wird gerade als durch seine simultanen 
Elemente vollständig definiert vorgestellt, so daß 
jeder beliebige Querschnitt durdi seine Zeitreihe in 
seiner Vektoranalyse das Ganze enthält, da alle 
Querschnitte, d. h. Gleidizeitigkeiten, einander äqui- 
valent sind und so jeder für alle anderen als Reprä- 
sentant der Serie eintreten kann. Das ist ja der 
Grund der wissenschaftlichen Tatsadie, daß eine 
vollständig analysierte momentane Konfiguration 
genügt, um die ganze Serie abzuleiten und nach 
Wahl einzelne Positionen in ihr präzise vorherzu- 
sagen. Also sind die wechselnden Zustände hier 
nidit „Teile** des Ganzen, die Zeitserie keine zu- 
sätzlidie Mannigfaltigkeit seiner Einheit, sondern 
nur der fortgesetzte Ausdruck ihrer einmal gegebe- 
nen räumlichen Mannigfaltigkeit. Damit ist der 
Sinn der „Ungeschichtlidikeit" näher bestimmt. Was 
immer hiervon dem Systembegriff bei seiner An- 
wendung auf Lebendiges anhaftet, muß ernsthafte 
theoretische Schwierigkeiten zur Folge haben. 

Nun könnte selbst beim Planetensystem die in 
vollendeter Harmonie begründete Ungesdiiditlidi- 
keit (die sich als vollkommene Periodizität zeigt) 
nur ein Schein menschlicher Dauermaßstäbe sein. 
* Sogar ohne die thermodynamische Seite einzube- 
zieho^y deren Prozesse nadi dem Entropiegesetz den 
Charakter nicht-umkehrbarer Entwicklung haben, 
folglich jedem Augenblick eine der Periodizität 
widersprechende Einmaligkeit mitteilen, könnte auch 
im rein Mechanischen die ansdieinende Wiederholung 
der Umweg langsamerer Veränderung soldier Art 
sein (so x. B., wenn die /Ce/^/ersche Planetenellipse 
eine unmerkliche Spirale verbirgt), daß ihr stetiger 
Fortschritt den anscheinenden Erweis des Gleidi- 

gewichts (und damit der vollkommenen Kompossi- 
bilität des Vielen im Einen) in sein Gegenteil, d. h. 
letztlich in den Erweis der Existenzunfähigkeit des 
Systems, verkehrt. Dies ist nadi moderner Kennt- 
nis mehr als nur eine Möglichkeit und eröffnet für 
die Auffassung des Sinnes von System den inter- 
essanten Gedanken, daß, was klassische Ontologie 
und noch Leihniz in der Theodizee für die Recht- 
fertigung des Bestehenden aus der Idee des Seins 
und zugleidi für die Garantie seines Bestandes hiel- 
ten, nämlich die Existenz des harmonischen Systems 
als solchen, in Wahrheit die langausgezogene Ge- 
schichte seiner Seibatwiderlegung, der hinausge- 
zögerte Beweis der Bestandsunmöglichkeit des ge- 
gliederten „Einen im Vielen", das umwegige Unter- 
wegs zum Nichts des unterschiedslosen Gleichen ist. 
System wäre hier die Verzögerung, aber auch das 
Unterwegs, so daß wir zur früher erwähnten Be- 
stimmung, daß es ein Mittleres zwischen dem Ein- 
fachen und dem unendlich Vielen ist, die kritisdiere 
hinzufügen müssen, daß es ein Mittleres zwisdien 
Werden und Vergehen, zwischen Sein und Nichtsein^ 
ist. Ein Mittleres aber nicht in dem indifferenten 
Sinne, in dem etwas sich einfadi in der Mitte be- 
findet, sondern in dem kritisdien Sinne, daß es die 
Mitte hält und durch sein Existieren den Sturz auf- 
hält, aber in eben dem Vollzug seiner wiederholen- 
den Funktion nicht vunhin kann, auch ihn mitzu- 
vollziehen, da es nur ihm die Mittel zu seinem Auf- 
enthalt abgewinnen kann und so die „Mitte** jeweils 
weiter flußabwärts neu darstellen muß. Für das 
vom Tode dauernd bedrohte und ihm sdiließlidi 
anheimfallende Leben hat dieser Aspekt von System 
etwas eigentümlich passendes; nur darf nicht über- 
sehen werden, daß er den Sinn von Organisation in 
die Erhaltung legt und Neues im sdion Organisier- 
ten nur in der Form des Verfalls zuläßt. In der 
Tat können wir angesichts der zentralen Stellung 
der Selbsterhaltung in der neuzeitlidien Lebenslehre 
sagen, daß die Angemessenheit des SystembegrifFs für 
das Verständnis des Lebendigen genau so weit wie die 
des Erhaltungsbegriffs reicht und die Grenzen mit ihm 
teilt. Unsere abschließenden Bemerkungen sind der 
Beziehung zwischen diesen beiden Begriffen gewidmet, 
die letztlich vermittelt ist durch den Begriff des 
Gleichgewichts, das moderne und entzauberte Gegen- 
stück des antiken HarmoniebegriflFs. 

Die erste Anwendung des Systembegriffs auf 
lebendige Körper in der Neuzeit ist in Descartes* 
Theorie des tierischen Organismus als einer Masdiine 
oder eines natürlichen Automaten zu sehen, der Ge- 
bilde mechanischer Kunst nur durch Vielheit und 
Kleinheitder Teile übertrifft. Der Umweltbeziehung, 
die solche Automaten vom abgesdilossenen Uhrwerk 

unterscheidet, suchte Descartes durdi eine (in den 
Passions de l'äme vorgelegte) Reflextheorie gerecht 
zu werden, die sogar, zur unteleologischen Erklä- 
rung des „Lernens**, den Begriff der bedingten Re- 
flexe, d. h. durdi Außenreize mechanisch veränder- 
ter Sensor-Motor- Verbindungen, vorwegnimmt. Den- 
nodi beruht die Cartesisdie Konzeption wesentlich 
auf dem klassisdien Modell des Medianismus als 
eines individuell gesdilossenen und isolierbaren 
Systems. Bedeutsam gegenüber älteren Lehren ist, 
daß es ohne „Seele** „leben**, d. h. alle mit dem 
Lebensprozeß verbundenen Funktionen krafl: der ge- 
gebenen Anordnung seiner Teile ausüben kann und 
in ihrem Zusammenspiel ausüben muß. Der Gesamt- 
effekt der Funktionen ist Selbsterhaltung, und die 
Systeme sind zu diesem Effekt konstruiert. 

Neuere Einsicht in das Wesen des Stoffwechsels 
als eines die ganze Zusammensetzung des Organis- 
mus fortlaufend erneuernden (also über die Analogie 
der Brennstoffversorgung einer Maschine weit hin- 
ausgehenden) Dauerprozesses, der mit dem Lebens- 
vorgang zusammenfällt, sowie ferner Einsicht in die 
fundamentale, nicht nur gelegentliche Rolle von 
Außen- und Innen-I nfqrmation für alle Tätigkeiten 
des lebenden Körpers, haben in der Gegenwart zu 
Verfeinerungen des Cartesisdien Modells geführt, 
von denen ich einerseits des Biologen L. von Berta- 
lan ff ys Theorie des „offenen Systems**, andererseits 
die „cyber netische** Theorie N. Wieners und seines 
technologischen Kreises hier erwähne. Beides sind 
ausgesprodiene System theorien des Organischen; 
beide tragen andererseits der Einheit von Organis- 
mus und Umwelt weit mehr Rechnung als die Auto- 
matentheorie Descartes'. Die „Offenheit** im erste- 
ren Fall besteht in der erwähnten Tatsache des steti- 
gen und umfassenden Stoffaustausdies des orga- 
nischen Systems mit seiner Umwelt, in dessen Voll- 
ziehung es sich als dasselbe also nicht der Substanz, 
sondern der dynamischen Funktion nach (oder, nicht 
der Materie, sondern der Form nach) erhält. Die 
definierende Systemeigenschaft ist hier also nicht eine 
Anordnung (Struktur), sondern ein dynamisdies Ver- 
halten (Prozeß), für dessen Träger verschieden- 
artigste Anordnungen in Frage kommen, die aber 
durdi die Theorie nicht weiter spezifiziert sind. Aus 
der Eigenschaft der Offenheit in Verbindung mit ge- 
wissen Gleichgewichtskonstanten, mathematisch for- 
malisiert als Axiom angesetzt, lassen sich nach 
von Bertalan ffy andere diarakteristische Eigenschaf ten 
des Organismus (darunter solche, für die H. Driesch 
den außerwissenschaftlidien Entelechiebegriff zu be- 
ftötigen glaubte) als immanente 5j'5femeigensdiaften 
einer so definierten Mannigfaltigkeit analytisdi ab- 
leiten, oder niin^est^ns in ihrer Möglidikeit ver- 

Studium G^er^klet 10. Jahr^. 

Ständlich machen: z. B. Selbstregulierung, Wadis- 
tum und Wachstumsgrenze, Regeneration, Anpas- 
sung, Fähigkeit zu Zielerreidiung auf Umwegen. 
Die Wirksamkeit der Methode bleibe hier un- 
erörtert*. In unserem Zusammenhang ist nur die 
Beobachtung wichtig, daß die regulierende Dynamik 
für alle jene quasi-teleologischen Ersdieinungen in 
einem besonderen GleichgewidftshegriS gefunden 
wird, dem im Unterschied zum statisdien von 
von Bertalan ff y sogenannten „Fließgleidigewicht**. 

Die engverbundenen Begriffe des Gleichgewichts 
und der Regulierung (engverbunden, da die Regu- 
lierung eben durdi Dynamik auf Gleidigewidit zu 
erfolgt) sind implizite auch für das cybernetisdie 
Modell zentral, das aus der modernen Kommunika- 
tions- und Automationstechnik erwachsen ist und 
seinen Namen dem Begriff der Steuerung oder Len- 
kung entlehnt (kybernetes = Steuermann). Die 
„Offenheit** im Betrachte der Substanz und Energie, 
die das vorige Modell auszeidinet, wird hier ergänzt . 
durdi Offenheit im Modus der „Information**, d. h. 
der Wahrnehmung als kontinuierlicher sensorischer j^ 
Rückmeldung des Handlungsergebnisses von der 
Peripherie zum Zentrum. Das Ergänzungsverhält- 
nis zum vorigen Modell ist nicht beabsiditigt, aber 
in der Sache begründet: Offenheit als Metabolismus 
fordert Offenheit als Fühlen, wobei dieses lediglidi 
nach seiner regulierenden Funktion der Meldung 
(nicht als Qualität in sich selbst) verstanden ist. 
Umgekehrt ist leidit zu sehen, daß die perzeptive 
Weltoffenheit in ihrem funktionellen Sinn die an- 
dere Offenheit voraussetzt, da ohne diese und die in 
ihr begründeten Bedürfnisse der Handlung kein In- 
teresse an Lenkung, weil kein in seiner Verfolgung 
zu lenkendes Interesse, bestünde, ein Mechanismus 
der Lenkung aber ohne das Lenkung Erfordernde 
sinnlos wäre '. Der cybernetische Beitrag zur System- 
auffassung des Organischen besteht in der Anwen- 
dung des sogenannten „feedback** -Begriffes auf das 
Zusammenspiel von Meldungs- und Leistungsappa- 
rat: Durch die Art der Kuppelung zwischen beiden 
(z. B. im zentralen Nervensystem) wird die fort- 
laufende sensorische Rückmeldung jedes partiellen 
Leistungsergebnisses automatisch zum irrtumsaus- 
gleichenden Steuer der fortsetzenden Leistungsphase, " 
mit der sich das gleiche bezüglich der nächsten wie- 
derholt, und so fort, bis das Handlungs-„zier er- 
reidit ist. An Stelle des festgelegten Ablaufs des 
klassischen Maschinenmodells haben wir derart eine 


* Vgl. General System Theory: A new approadi to uaity 
of science (L. v. Bemlanffy, C. G. Hempel, R, E. Bkisf» 
H. Jonas). In: Human Biology 23 (1951), No. 4. 

» Vgl. H. Jonas: K Cfitiqueof Cybernetics. 

-» rj» ■, ( 


H. JONAS: Bemerkungen' zum Systembegritf und seiner Anwendung auf Lebendiges 


bewegliche und soscusagen improvisatorische Anpas- 
sungi an wechselnde Situation, die, obwohl automa- 
tisch,^ in ihrer konvergierenden Reihe von Irrtum 
und Korrektur die bezeidinenden Merkmale teleo- 
logischen Verhaltens hat. In der Tat wird von den 
Cybernetikern teleologisches als „feedback-kontrol- 
liertes** Verhalten definiert; woraus folgt, daß ent- 
sprechend konstruierte Automaten teleologischen 
Verhaltens fähig sind und umgekehrt lebendiges 
Verhalten (wie bei Descartes) nur durch größere 
Komplexität des Systems und demnach der Leistung 
von dem künstlidier Automaten dieses Typus ver- 
schieden ist. j:?|..Ä>';i., .1 '■:,,. •v.-,;:,>v. .,,- ■..,. ..^ .,:..." -.^v.-- 

Der kritische Begriff ist hier riatürlidi der des „Zie- 
les", der wie bei von Bertalan ff ys Teleologie des offe- 
nen Systems durch den Begriff eines Gleidigewidits- 
zustandes bestimmt ist, auf den die Dynamik des 
Systems hintendiert; nur daß im Falle des cyber- 
netischen Modells der Sinn von Gleichgewicht über 
den physikalischen eines Verhältnisses von Kräften 
hinaus ausgedehnt ist auf das Verhältnis von ge- 
richteter „Einstellung" und Inhalt der „Informa- 
tion", deren Spannung die Dynamik des Systems 
rege hält, und mit deren Deckung sie zur Ruhe 
konunt. Im Unterschied zum geschlossenen System 
der klassischen Mechanik ist bei diesen Modellen die 
Funktion des Systems nicht Ausdruck bestehenden 
Gleidigewidits, sondern Herstellung und Wieder- 
herstellung von Gleichgewicht. Daß Wiederherstel- 
lung nötig ist, hängt mit der Offenheit selber zu- 
sammen, z. B. im Falle des Stoffwechsels mit der in 
natürlicher Folge der Funktion selber eintretenden 
Störung des Gleichgewidits durch Mangel, die zu 
dem schon von Plato beobachteten Auf und Ab von 
„Auffüllung und Entleerung" führt*. Die hier auf- 
tretende Art von Periodizität ist nicht mehr die des 
Kreislaufs äquivalenter Zustände, sondern die des 
Aussdilags zwischen Sein und Nichtsein, als Ganze 
ein bewegtes Gleichgewicht von Werden und Ver- 
gehen, und insofern echtes Geschehen. Die Er- 
haltung des Systems ist hier von seiner Leistung ab- 
hängig, nidit einfadi in ihr vollzogen. Die Leistung 
des Sich-selbst-erhaltens durch die Erneuerung von 
Gleichgewiditszuständen, die die Umweltabhängig- 
keit nidit dauern läßt — Erhaltung also als ständige 
Herstellung — ist der Inhalt der Funktion des 
Systems, somit der Sinn seiner Existenz. 

* Vgl. Philehus 31 d ff., 34 e ff. -über die Alternation ion 
ilust und Lust. \ 


Ist es auch der Sinn von „Leben"? Ist; Leben 
durdi Organismus oder vielmehr Organismtts durch 
Leben definiert? Ist entsprechend das Wesen des 
Organismus „Organisation", die als System ihrer 
eigenen Mannigfaltigkeit da ist, oder „Organ**, das 
einem durch che Organisation wirkenden und zu- 
gleich ihren Bedingungen unterworfenen Interesse 
dient? Ist System Bedingung d6s Lebens oder es 
selbst? Ist die Dynamik der Bedingung der Inhalt 
des Bedingten? Ist Spannung und Entspannung das- 
selbe wie Verlange und Erfülkmg? Ist das Gleich- 
gewidit, das mit der Zielerreidiung eintritt, selber 
das Ziel? Ist Vollkommenheit des Systemzustandes 
VoUkommenheitdesLebens? Ist Erhaltung Mittel oder 
Zweck? Sind die Modi der Weltoffenheit — Fühlen, 
Sehen, Tun — nur das Wodurdi oder auch das Warum 
der Erhaltung? Apparate der Regulierung und Stabili- 
sierung eines Apparates, oder im Zweck den Appa- 
rat transzendierende Betätigung des Lebensanliegens 
selbst? — Dies sind einige der Fragen, mit denen 
Angemessenheit und Grenzen des Systembegriffes 
für das Verständnis des Lebensphänomens zu prü- 
fen sind, nachdem die begrifflichen Implikationen 
von „System" an sich klargestellt sind. Zu der letz- 
teren Voraufgabe allein haben die obigen Bemer- 
kungen — im Rahmen einer philosophisdien Lebens- 
lehre nichts als Prolegomena — beitragen wollen. 

^ ,-» Literatur 

Bertalanffy, L. von: Das biologisdie Weltbild, Band 1, 
Kap. 4—6. Bern 1949. 

— : Zu einer allgemeinen Systemlehre. In: Biologia Gene- 
ralis 19 (1949), Heft 1, pp. 114— 128. 

— ; An outline of general System theory. In: British Jour- 
■ <^-y nal for the Philosophy of Science 1 (1950), No. 2, 
pp. 134—165. 

— : The theory of open Systems in physics and biology. In: 
Science 111 (1950), No. 2872, pp. 23— 29. 

Foerster, H. von (ed): Transactions of the 6th Confe- 
,. rence on Cybernetics, New York 1949. New York: 
' J. Macy Foundation 1950. 

Jonas, H.: Materialism and the theory of organism. In: 
The U. of Toronto Quarterly 21 (1951), No. 1, 
pp. 39—52. 

— : Is God a mathematician? In: Measure 2 (1951), No. 4, 
pp. 404— 426. 

— : Comment on general system theory. In: Human Bio- 
logy 23 (1951), No. 4, pp. 329—334. 

— r Motility and emotion. In: Proceedings of the Uth In- 
ternational Congress of Philosophy 7> pp. 117 — 122. 
Amsterdam and Louvain, 1953. 

— : A critique of cybernetics. In: Social Research 20 (1953), 
No.2, pp. 172— 192. 

Rosenbluethy A., N. Wiener, and /. fiige/owr Behavior, pur- 
pose, and teleology. In: Philosophy of Science iO (1943) 
No. 1, pp. 18—24. ., 

Wien^er, N..- Cybernetics. New York, Pari» 1948. 


C "»'l 



h i 

(Prof.. Dr. H. Jonas, The Graduate Fäculty of Politickl and Social Science, 66 West 12 Street New York 11, N.Y.) , 


i'^T.« >v-y;.- :■,,. 


[•• ♦ 





«.'/. a /i^s''7 

•' ■ ■^. ■'*■••..'V^'<>,/^■• 


- -:VU- 


■' '■' ■ ? . 


" * .!•'?"', 

WiTHiN the Soviet orbit of Eastem European states, the East German 
Democratic Rq)ublic {Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) occupies 
a rather atypical place.^ The policy of its administration serves a dual pur- 
pose. First, it aims at speedy Integration with the other Communist-directed 
countries and furthers as much social change as that process requires. In 
addition, it is expected to pave the way for the eventual absorption of all^ 
Germany into the Eastern world. Hence, the pace of integration into the 
Eastem bloc is not simply conditioned by the prevailing economic and social 
Situation, but is also subject to counterchecks in that a kind of ideological 
competition with Western Germany's Federal Republic somehow remains 
on the agenda.^ . . 

*This article will constitute a chapter in a forthcoming book, Politics and the Adminis- 
tration of Justice. The support of the Rockefeiler Foundation for this study is gratefully 
acknowledged. A. R. Gurland rendered invaluable assistance in the preparation of the 
section on Doctrimü Gyrations by undertaking to select the original Russian texts other- 
wise accessible to the author only in so far as they have been translated. 

fProfessor of Political Science, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, The 
New School for Social Research. 

1. .. For a recent study of the legal System of Soviet Russia itself, see Berman, Scfviet 
Law Rejorm^Dateline Moscow 1957, 66 Yale LJ. 1191 (1957). This article, especially 
valuable for its searching exploitation of coUoquial Statements by Soviet legal authorities, 
rests on the impHed thesis tiiat Soviet juridical Performance somehow may be traced to 
a dichotomy between legality and force, and that their respective provinces are dependent 
on the pressures and circumstances of the moment. In the light of this thesis, the present 
period — with inevitable deviations and countercurrents — could be considered as one of ex- 
panding legality, a development made possible by the fact that "a totalitarian System of 
government which operates by despotic methods in politics can create a legal order 
which operates with considerable stability and independence in matters considered non- 
political." Id. at 1212 n.7S. 

But whether Professor Berman's dichotomy, applicable as it might be to other Systems, 
is a meaningful point of departurc for analyzing the Communist concept of legality and 
the fimctioning of its judidal machincry, is not so dear. Legality (sakonnosf) in Com- 
munist parlance has a complementary or possibly counterconcept : pariiinost* This 
untranslatable term denotes both the party-subservicnt quatity of ideas and institutions 
and the party allegiances of men. 

Understanding how the Icgality-force or political-nonpolitical dichotomy relates to 
the presuppositions underlying the interplay between legality and partiinosf is fundamental 
to comprdiending the Communist "rule of law." This Article will study some facets 
of that relationship under the judicial administration of a territory which, since the end of 
World War II, has formcd an integral part of the Communist political System. 

.2. The curtain separating the two parts of Germany is not tightly drawn. Private 
individuals constantly cross the border for visits; dtizens of Hast Germany have been 


■■ ■ c: 



[Vol. 68: 705 

Eastern Integration and Western rivalry have produced contradictory effects. 
No continuous sequence of bloody purges in the ranks of the ruling party, 
after the pattern of the US SR and the majority of its satellites, has cramped 
the DDR's style; no show trials have announced a prefabricated alternative 
reality ; neither intraparty fighting over policy nor repercussions of party shifts 
in Russia have duplicated Moscow trials, a fact repeatedly emphasized, with 
caution but not without satisfaction, by Frau Hilde Benjamin, now at the heim 
of the DDR Ministry of Justice.^ Nevertheless, dealing with a population 
somewhat less submissive than that of some neighboring countries, DDR 
rulers have at times feit less secure and have acted more harshly than their 
colleagues abroad. Whenever the screws are tightened, there is a great deal more 
hesitation about releasing them. 

In spite of heavy borrowing from Soviet concepts of the judUcial process,* 
conditions peculiar to the Eastern Zone have impressed upon the DDR judicial 
apparatus certain traits which give it a special flavor. The absence of what 
may be called totalitarian extremism and, in contrast, an aversion to liberalizing 
experiments help illuminate the political problems that inhere in any Sovietized 
administration of justice. When the effects of both inordinately severe and lenient 
tendencies are lacking, the typical Stands out in bold relief. 


The Institutions of Justice 

Although the present Organization of the dispensers and administrators of 
justice in the DDR dates from the autumn of 1952,*^ the Statutes of that year only 
elaborate pattems which were discernible long before. As early as 1950, various 
postwar administrative organs had been dispensed with^ and their functions 
transferred to the Ministry of Justice. A new High Court and an attomey 

registering protest votes against the Government by transferring their domicile from the 
Jurisdiction of the Communist bosses to the greener pastures of the West German 
Federal Republic All this is not without influence on the DDR administration. 

3. For the most recent example, see Editorial, Ergehnisse der Diskussion ueber die 
Anwendung der STPO, 11 Neue Justiz [hereinafter cited as N.J.] 601 (1957). 

4. Borrowing is made easy. An official monthly, Rechtswissenschaftlicher Informa- 
tionsdienst, prints most of the important Soviet (and other orbit) legal discussions; a 
number of Soviet textbooks of law have been translated. Scholars are requircd to absorb 
Soviet concepts and judges and prosecutors also may take notice. Occasionally embarrassing 
incidents arise when a German translation comes off the press after the Soviet author— 
for example, Andrey Yao Vishinskii — ^has just been removed from the pedestal. 

5. The two main Statutes, the one on court Organization (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz 
[hereinafter cited as G.V.G.]), [1952] Gesetzblatt der D.D.R. [hereinafter cited as 
G.B.D.D.R.] 983, and the Code of Criminal Procedure [hereinafter cited as C.C.P.], 
[1952] G.B.D.D.R. 996, carry the date of October 2, 1952; the Statute on the Organization 
of the Prosecutor's Office (Staatsanwaltschaftsgesetz [hereinafter cited as S.A.S.]) ante- 
dates them half a year, carrying the date of May 23, 1952, [1952] G.B.D.D.R. 408. 

6. They were formally dissolved together with the State govemments and State parlia- 
ments by the "Law on the Further Democratization of the Organization and Working 
Conditions of Public Bodies in the Stetes of the D.D.R." of July 23, 1952, [1952] G.B.D.JD^R, 




V^^ ■:^ 

generars office for the whole republic had been established as far back as 1949, 
when the State was permitted to take its final shapeJ By 1952, the two principal 
administrative agencies, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney 
General,® functioning separately, had clearly become the central focus for 
directing activities in the legal field. UnHke the usual ministry of justice found in 
Continental democracies, these two agencies assumed much more than the usual 
tasks of selecting judges and prosecutors, instructing the prosecuting staff, 
doing part of the housekeeping job for the courts, and functioning as drafting 
Office for nonspecialized legislation. They became responsible for the satisfactory 
functioning of the judicial order. They are the guarantors of the intellectual 
content of the judiciary's Output. They ensure that the courts will deliver 
judgments in harmony with the goals of the administration.® In explaining the^ 
Organization of the various tribunals, in delineating their hierarchical relation- 
ship, this role must constantly be kept in mind. The judicial hierarchy of the 
East German Republic does not terminate in its highest tribunal, the High 
Court, but extends beyond it and culminates in the two coordinated administra- 
tive Organs, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General.^^ 
Both have more or less formalized means at their disposal for influencing the 
disposition of individual cases and directing the course of future legal decisions. 
The lowest basic tribunal is the county court, with at least one for each of the 
217 counties. Large centers of population may have as many county courts as 
there are city districts. Such a court consists of one professional judge and two 
lay assessors,*^ and has original Jurisdiction over all criminal cases except those 
specifically assigned to other courts.^^ It has füll Jurisdiction over civil suits, 
regardless of the amount involved, with the exception of controversies involving 
property of public bodies in which the amount at issue exceeds DM 3,000. 


7. Law of Dec. 8, 1949, [1949] G.B.D.D.R. 111. 

8. While the Minister of Justice holds cabinet rank, the Attorney General is elected 
for a fixed five-year term by the People's Chamber, S.A.S. § 3 ; however, this is a minor 
difference since the Attorney General has no superior other than the Council of Ministers, 
S.A.S. § 1; § 16(2) establishes his right to partidpate in the sessions of the Council of 

9. However, in one important field the Ministry of Justice has had to relinquish Juris- 
diction altogether. The prison Services originally in its bailiwick passcd into the hands of 
the Ministry of the Interior in 1950. Decree of Nov. 16, 1950, [1950] G.B.D.D.R. 1165, 
now codified in C.CP. § 336(1). The Attorney (}eneral's office excrdses some general 
control function over the execution of punishment and the pertinent Services. 

10. The point is hardly controversial. It was forcefully repeated recently when Hilde 
Benjamin, the incumbent Minister of Justice, fought attempts to follow recent Soviet pat- 
tems of decentralization in the admirastration of justice. Benjamin, Aktuelle Fragen der 
Gerichtsorganisation, in Staat und Recht im Lichte des grossen Oktober 189 (1957). 

11. G.V.G. § 43(1). 
1^ G.V.G. §41(1). 

13. G.V.G. § 42. However, as now authorizcd by G.V.G. § 9, access to the courts has 
been closed in a number of important controversies : lawsuits between "people's" enterprises 
belong before the State Contract Conmiission, Decrees of Dec 6, 1951, [1951] G.B.D.D.R. 
1143, June 11, 1953, [1953] 2 G.B.D.D.R. 854; damage Claims against the sUte so far are not 




Registration of land titles, busitiess firms and other associations, and guardian- 
ship and orphans' äff airs, traditionally handled by the local court, have, however, 
been transferred to administrative agencies. Even so, the county courts handle 
most of the DDR's legal business. Ninety-three per cent of all criminal and 
ninety-nine per cent of all civil cases are tried in these courts.^^ 

Next in line are fourteen district courts which exercise both original and 
appellate Jurisdiction. In civil matters, they function mostly as courts of appeal^^ 
Their original criminal Jurisdiction embraces crimes against the DDR, murder, 
and aggravated f orms of economic crimes ; the prosecutor may also Upgrade 
other offenses and bring them before these tribunals.^« As appellate courts, they 
handle protests— that is, the prosecution's appeals— and defendants' appeals 
from county court judgments.^*^ Ordinarily, a district court sits as a division 
composed of one fuU-time judge and two lay assessors in cases of original 
Jurisdiction and three full-time judges in appellate cases.^» Each of the fourteen 
district courts has a president who may in his discretion preside over any case.*^ 
Otherwise, the distribution of cases among the judges and divisions remains 
in the hands of each court's administrative unit. This unit leads an existence 
apart from the judicial members; it receives its cues from and owes obedience 
to the Ministry of Justice. 

The High Court was established in 1949. After 1953, when its most colorful 
and energetic member, Frau Benjamin, surrendered her job as vice president of 
the court to become Minister of Justice, the court settled back to elaborate the 
details of the official legal program and ceased to participate in charting the 
DDR's Overall legal course. Within its present framework, it still fulfiUs an 
essential role : it transmits to the lower courts the messages of the administrative 
agencies of justice. A given message may concem the introduction of a totally 
new program or the rectification of some isolated but symptomatic mistake 
Spotted by the Ministry or the Attorney GeneraFs office. In this role, the High 
Court neither advances governmental policy nor lags far behind it. Loyally 
following official gyrations, the court tries to keep in line with changing require- 


This highest court has both original and appellate Jurisdiction. The field of 

dealt with in any court; nor can the question of personal liability of the functionary in- 
volved be established in court proceedings. Some administrations grant a certain amount 
of indemnity on the basis of considerations of individual need. For a limited program 
of reopening access to the courts, see Schreier, Gedanken zu einer gesetzlichen Regelung 
der Staatshaftung, 12 N.J. 195-98 (1958). 

14. The figures are given by Hilde Benjamin, Aktuelle Fragen der Gerichtsorganisation, 
in Staat und Recht im Lichte des grossen Oktober 203 (1957). 

15. Original suits against People's Enterprises, even though admissible, would at 
present lead to no practical result, as judgments could only be enforced with the consent 
of a divisdon of the Ministry of Interior. 

16. G.V.G. § 49(1). 

17. G.V.G. § 49(2). 

18. G.V.G. §§ 51(1), (3). 

19. G.V.G. § 51(4). 


'ti'CJt^-*, "*■. "'■''' '^v-*' 

,-,-yWm^-^A-.-^, - 







original Jurisdiction over criminal cases is not determined in advance by the 
law, but on an ad hoc basis by the Attorney General.^^ As an appellate tribunal, 
the High Court considers protests, appeals and complaints against decisions 
issued by the district courts sitting as courts of original Jurisdiction. 21 The 
DDR thus has abolished the possibility of carrying appeals based on points of 
law through two judicial levels — a long-standing but by no means uncontro- 
versial German tradition. Instead, it opens for the State, but only for the State, 
a new Channel of attack upon final judgments. Borrowing from the Soviet 
System and the criminal procedure of the Third Reich, the East German Republic 
has instituted an extraordinary appeal. Both the Attorney General and the 
President of the High Court may bring any civil or criminal case before a 
plenary meeting of the court 22 within a year ^3 from the date final judgment_ 
has been issued, whether by a lower court or by a three-judge division of the 
High Court itself. Such an extraordinary appeal, styled "Cassation," may be 
based on a simple error of law or on an allegation that the attacked decision is 
"fundamentally incorrect so far as the sentencing is concerned."24 The pro- 
ceedings upon extraordinary appeal usually are conducted in great haste, and 
rarely exhaust the four-week limit provided for them in the code of criminal 
procedure.25 The defendant, though permitted to be represented, is a passive 
object of, rather than a participant in, the proceedings.^» Frequently, the court 
will exercise its prerogative to enter a final judginent rather than send the 
case back to a lower tribunal. 

From the viewpoint of the Government, the extraordinary appeal has a major 
advantage. By preserving the immutability of final judgments, the legal System 
of the DDR theoretically allows discrete problems to be settled in a manner which 
might not conform to the ever-shifting policies which characterize Communist 
regimes. The extraordinary appeal reduces the inconvenience that might arise 
from such a Situation. No decision of any consequence can ever be established 
as a precedent unless it conforms to the official policy of the day. And, since 
every important High Court decision is instantly brought to the attention of 
judges at all levels, lower courts are quick to apply the doctrines enunciated 
by the High Court. Inasmuch as no case has been found in which the High 
Court refused to follow the policy directives of the Attorney General, that court 
is readily seen to provide the principal means of transmitting policy decisions 
from the govemment to the judiciary. 

20. G.V.G. § 55(1)1. 

21. G.V.G. § 5S(l)2(a). 

22. In the USSR the extraordinary appeal, until the recent reform, has not been dc- 
pendent on Observation of a time limit; hcnce, in contrast to DDR decisions, Soviet judg- 
ments heretofore lacked the character of finality. For descripticm of the USSR practice, 
see Government, Law and Courts in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe 539 
& app. (Gsovski & Grzbowski ed., in press). 

23. G.V.G. §§ 55(1)3, 56. 

24. CCP. §§ 301(2a), (2b), V,. 
v;2S. CCP. §309(3). Ux 




[Vol. 68: 705 

The plenary assembly of the High Court exercises yet anotiier, more far- 
reaching, prerogative. Upon a tnotion by its president or the Attorney General 
or the Minister of Justice, it may issue directives of a general nature in the 
interest of unified application of the law.^^ To date, twelve of these directives, 
binding on all courts, have been published. Some of them are simply 
authoritative interpretations of existing legislative enactments.^® Others have, 
by implication, abrogated existing legislation. In this category belong directives 
two and three of October 28 and 31, 1953, rendering inapplicable the penal 
provisions of certain Statutes designed to protect the People's property and 
domestic German trade.^* The less severe strictures of pre-existing law were 
thus partially re-established. Both of these directives came at a time when the 
DDR govemment, impressed with the extent of populär disaffection shown in- 
the June 1953 uprising, was eager to make a populär gesture.^^ 

Whether amending previous legislation issued via normal enactment, or 
establishing new law,^* or implementing existing Statutes, the High Court exer- 
cises delegated legislative power by setting general rules for an indeterminate 
number of cases. Both the issuance and revocation ^^ of norms is performed in 

27. G.V.G. § 58. 

28. Here, for example, belongs Directive No. 9 concerning paragraph 8 of the divorce 
decree of 1955, issued July 1, 1957, reprinted in 11 N.J. 441 (1957), which sets out the 
preferred interpretation of a loosely worded Provision, the indeterminate concepts of 
which allowed for a great degree of discretion in applying the decree to concrete situations. 

29. Reprinted in the official edition of the penal code, Strafgesetzbuch der Deutschen 
Demokratischen Republik 200 (1956). 

30. More recently, Directive No. 7 of Nov. 20, 1956, [1956] G.B.D.D.R. 425, has 
changed article 11 of the decree on dismissal protection of June 7, 1951, [1951] G.B.D.D.R 
550, by introducing a new prerequisite for validity of employment dismissals : simultaneity 
of trade union confirmation of dismissal and written dismissal notice from the employer. 
See, Langner, Haben die Richtlinien des Obersten Gerichts rueckwirkende Kraft?, 11 N.J. 
624 (1957). r, V : 

31. However, a number of directives pertain to new fields, where incipient, and at times 
conflicting, practices existed without benefit of a recognizable body of statutory law. This 
may have been due either to the novelty of the field (for example, Directive No. 6 setting 
out definite rules for the use and evaluation of blood typing in paternity cases, reprinted 
in 9 N.J. 447 (June 29, 1955)), or to the legislators' neglect to deal with more detailed 
Problems, an especially prevalent failing in procedural fields. See, e.g., Directive No. 10 
of July 1, 1957, setting out procedures in Implementation of the decree handling divorce 
proceedings of Feb. 7, 1956, [1956] G.B.D.D.R. 145, reprinted in 11 N.J. 445 (1957), and 
the most recent Directive No. 12 issued April 28, 1958, 12 N.J. 317 (195$), giving detailed 
Instructions on the proceedings to be followed in the application of CC.P. § 268. This 
Provision caicerns the pursuit of damage claims against a defendant by way of supplemen- 
tary proceedings before the same court in which the criminal case is pcnding. 

32. Directive No. 1 was revoked by a curt announcement from the High Court on 
April 30, 1956, 10 N.J. 263 (1956). The directive of April 29, 1953 concemed the pre- 
requisites for remittance of sentences according to CC.P. § 346. Defending the High 
Court against criticism in regard to this removal procedure, the vice President of the 
court pointed out that this way of proceeding had been necessitatcd by the need to 
release prisoners beyond the frame of the normal application of § 346 in the "interest of 
the relaxation of the international Situation." Ziegler, Zur Kritik am Obersten Gericht^ 

'.■ ';•;■; ;»,•. '.'.'.: 





close liaison with, and at times at the immediate demand of , the executive organs. 
The unwillingness of Communist doctrine to recognize the norm-creating 
capacity of the High Court, and that doctrine's insistence on the court's purely 
interpretive function,^» find some justification both in the Marxist theory of 
norm-creation and in the High Court's place in the de facto chain of command. If 
the court, in a technical sense, creates norms, it does so only on sufferance. 


Recruiting and Tenure of the Judiciary 

This hierarchy of courts operates with a corps of judicial officers which has 
been almost completely changed since 1945.«* Virtually all judges and prose- 
cutors in office at the end of the Second World War were displaced at an early^ 
date by new personnel. The barring of Nazis and related categories from office 
accounted for eighty per cent of the incumbents. Of those who remained, many 
were presumed to have steered clear of the Nazi party mainly because of its 
plebeian complexion. This group did not entirely satisfy the new rulers. Fur- 
thermore, the Communists sought a radical change in social structure and 
property relations ; to have inexperienced personnel handle the administration 
of justice in this Situation was not as risky and costly as it might have been if 
superficial political change alone had been intended. 

The new dispensers of justice— called "People's judges" and "People's at- 
tomeys"— first took office in the summer of 1945. At first, mandatory qualifica- 
tions were simply graduation from primary school and recommendation by the 
local political group enjoying the confidence of the occupation authorities. Some- 
what later, the completion of a four-to-six-month training course becanie a 
further requirement. By April 1953, ninety-one per cent of all judges and over 
ninety-eight per cent of all prosecutors were of the new, People's variety. Eighty- 
five per cent of the judges and ninety-eight per cent of the prosecutors were 
members of the Communists' Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands ( SED ) . 
The old legal profession was out except for some Weimar survivors and Nazi 
persecutees devoted to the SED, and a handful of undaunted and adaptable 
careerists. Eventually, the term of the lawyers' cram courses was extended to 

10 N.J. 715, 716 (1956). Directives 2 and 3 have been superseded by §§ 30-31 of the 
Penal Law Amendment Act of Dec. 11, 1957, [1957] G.B.D.D.R. 646. 

33. See, e.g., Deutsches Institut fuer Rechtswissenschaft, Lehsbuch des 
Strafrechts der Deutschen Demokratischen Repubuk— Allgemeiner Teil 242 
(1957). Section 9 of the new Statute of the Suprcme Court of the Soviet Union of Feb. 12, 
1957, indicates a diffcrentiation between directive rulings on general questions raised by the 
application of legislation, constituting a legitimate function of the Supreme Court, and sug- 
gestions for legislative interpretations or changes to be forwarded by the plenary Session 
of the court to legislative authorities. The difference, however, seems to rest more on an 
attempt to safeguard the prevailing Eastem theory of the sources of legal rules than on 
discemible diff erences in fact situations ; for a discussion see (Jsovski, Reform of the Su^ 
preme Court of the Soviet Union, 5 Highlights of Current Legislation and Activities 
IN MiD-EuROPE 507 (1957). 

34. For the Initiation of the new judiciary, with local variations as remembered by 
participants, see Aus der Ersten Zeit Unserer Justis, 9 N.J^ 267 (1955). 

i *»- . - ; *t 



[Vol. 68: 705 


approximate traditional university training in duration. The curriculum centered 
around political indoctrination. "On-the-job training" was conducted in courts 
and prosecutors' offices which, in turn, underwent far-reaching structural change. 
Zeal in pursuing the Government's objectives ranked much higher than famili- 
arity with obsolete legal doctrine or technical skill in settling legal claims. The 
old law itself withered, although in most fields it was not formally abrogated.^^ 
By 1960, all members of the judiciary who do not have an academic back- 
ground must pass a qualifying examination ; they will be assisted by three-to-five- 
year correspondence courses with the Walter Ulbricht German Academy for 

' Political and Legal Sciences, the fountainhead of official wisdom.^^ In 1955, the 
first crop of the Academy's fuU-fledged graduates took their places next to the 

-original "People's judges" and "People's prosecutors." After a high-school 
education at the hands of "worker and peasant faculties," these students had 
been educated at the Academy during a two-year full-time program. Judicial 
qualifications are also provided by completely revamped university law schools 
in a four-year curriculum. The majority of aspirants for a judicial or State 
attorney career are still being routed toward the universities. Recruits for the 
more important administrative Jobs pursue their studies at the Ulbricht 

Academy. ^^^^^ ^ ; . v: 

Hitherto, the Ministry of Justice has appointed lower-court judges for three- 
year terms, while the judges of the High Court have been elected for five-year 
terms by the People's Assembly. According to recent SED decisions, this System 
of election by assembly will, in the future, be extended to the lower courts, whose 
members will be elected by the district assemblies and, in the more distant future, 
by the people. This extension will not bring any material changes in actual 
selection practices. The Ministry of Justice will still exercise control, edthough 
the middle ranks of the SED hierarchy might be more closely and continually 
associated with the selection of the judicial "cadres." 

Any judge may be removed by the appointing agency on account of a criminal 

record, for "violation of the Constitution and other laws" and — an elastic concept 

^__"for manifest violation of [his] duty as [judge] ."^"^ Removal grounded on 

inefficiency or unreliability arising from policy disputes, possibly engineered by 

the party cell ^^ of the court itself, is a regulär if not frequent occurrence.^» 

Uncertain tenure, use of the extraordinary appeal, and the fact that, as a last 
resort, a rubber-stamp legislature can dexterously remove the long-range conse- 
quences of an unsatisfactory judgment, serve to diminish the import of the 

35. For a survey of developments in the field of DDR judicial administration by its 
. principal arohitects, see Benjamin & Melsheimer, Zehn Jahre demokratische Justiz in 

Deutschland, 9 N.J. 259 (1955). 

36. From the ranks of justice prosecution, people's police, and other administrative 
Offices, 474 members of correspondence coürses passed their State examinations in the spring 
of 1958. 12 N.J. 407 (1958). 

37. G.V.G. §§ 16(l)a-b. 

38. See paragraph preceding note 44 injra. 

39. Recent cases of removal have been reported in 12 N.J. 369, 623 (1958). Disdplinary 
transfers may be considered conunon practice. 

' ■•>. 




judicial function. Unshakable validity over a substantial Span of time is what 
lifts the legal judgment out of the stream of administrative orders changing 
rapidly under the impact of new impulses or an appraisal of political conditions. 
Such validity is not a characteristic of a judgment arrived at under the East 
German System. But, one might argue, an East German judge, following the 
provisions of the DDR Constitution,*^ is still free to decide individual cases 
according to pre-established rules and on the basis of evidence submitted to his 
court. His decisions may not be upset unless certain fixed procedures are ob- 
served. Thus he is unlike other officials, who may see their decisions uncere- 
moniously discarded or ignored by their respective hierarchical superiors. This 
line of argument cannot be accepted. /. - 



The Informal Structure of Authority 

The legal System of the DDR knows a number of mformaVdevices which exert 
enormous influence on the final effect of a judicial decision. In East Germany's 
legal universe, private commentaries are as rare as privately sponsored law 
Journals. A monopoly of legal interpretation rests with the official legal authori- 
ties. If a judge finds himself in need of ducidation on a point of law which 
the reports or the official textbook do not provide, he may tum to the equally 
official law Journal. But this law Journal is as much an educational as an inter- 
pretative enterprise. Although controversy may be artificially stirred up for 
didactic purposes, the Journal is primarily concemed with the "correct" indoctri- 
nation of court and prosecution personnel and carries only such articles and 
reports on judicial decisions as fit the purpose. Real controversy does arise 
if the most recent party directives and resolutions are susceptible of a variety of 
interpretations. But, once the authoritative gloss on the interpretation is pro- 
vided, and possibly calculated ambiguities are clarified, everybody falls in line. 

The absence of private commentaries is not accidental.*^ Nor is it due to a 
"phonograph" theory of law of the kind that inspired the great legal enactments 

40. Art. 127 of the Constitution, reiterated in G.V.G. § 5, reads as follows : "the judges 
are independent in their judicial function and only subject to the Constitution and the 
laws." However, the Provision should be read in the context of G.V.G. § 11(1), which not 
only ties the judicial office holder to the Observation of the Constitution but demands from 
him that he "unreservedly stand for the goals of the DDR." The job of the East German 
"functionary of justice," as he is officially and oorrectly called, has recently been described 
"as Organizer of masses in the societal process of law formation and realization" rather 
than "as arbiter between contending parties." Strohbach, Sorgfaeltiges Studium der 
Parteibeschluesse verhindert Dogmatismus und Formalismus, 12 N.J. 689, 693 (1958). 

41. A few years ago the official law Journal permitted a judge to ask why the DDR 
published no law commentaries by outstanding jurists. Volkland, lieber das Verhaeltnis 
zwischen Rechtwissenschajt und lustispraxis, 8 N.J. 221, 229 (1954). The answer was 
supplied by the highest-ranking official of the Ministry of Justice; recommending to the 
readers an edition of legislative texts, he disposed of the subject by saying that "brief'. 
commentaries were notoriously "insufficient and worthless." Toeplitz, Zum Erscheinen der 
neuen Textausgaben, 8 N.J. 292, 293 (1954). The circumlocution made it abundantly 
clear that the very subject of comprehensive commentaries was tabu; the same phenomenon 
in Soviet Russia is described in David & Hazard, 1 Le Droit Sovietique 220 (1954). 

-.'•.-.■■»r-'V/if =»■•'-' /■'Y vrT-lT:^ 

■■' :...'..' 



[Vol. 68: 705 

of the era of enlightenment, such as Prussia's Allgemeines Landrecht or the 
Codes of the French Revolution. DDR doctrine certainly does not regard law 
as a.<slosed System wherein the judge has nothing to do but draw logical con- 
clusions from rigidly fixed premises. The ban on private Interpretation is de- 
liberate and political ; it serves to prevent the emergence of a rival center of legal 
doctrine which uncontrollable minds could use to disseminate independent 
opinion. Nothing could come of such independence of juridical thought but the 
obstruction of the Government's effort to train the judge to make unquestioning 
application of the frequently changing norm to the case on the docket. 

Yet not even the DDR, despite its stress on the judge's continuing "educa- 
tion," despite exhortations and cajolery, can force him to absorb all of the official 
wisdom it is so eager to purvey. So, where the call to study fails, more accentu- 
ated pressure appears. Under any legal System, cases arise that, when scruti- 
nized by higher courts, reveal delays below and insufficient attention to one or 
more phases in the proceedings ; nevertheless, appellate courts often are unwill- 
ing to conclude that these factors constitute reversible error. While upholding 
a decision, a higher court may mention such shortcomings in passing. As the 
judgment on appeal— especially under the East German System, which only 
knows per curiam opinions— will, of necessity, concentrate on the reasons for 
upholding the lower court's decision, it will touch only slightly on more prob- 
lematic points. Consequently, the lower-court ordinarily need not be unduly 
exercised over the appellate opinion, even though it may be critical in part. 
The institutionalization of judicial criticism, as introduced in paragraph four of 
the East German Code of Criminal Procedure, is designed to fill this gap. When- 
ever a case comes up on appeal, perhaps to as low a tribunal as a district court, 
the appellate bench may take action even when no sufficient ground to modify 
or set aside the judgment of the lower court exists. For example, in the event 
of delays in arraigning prisoners, undue adjoumments or procedural mistakes 
of one kind or another, the appellate court may expose shortcomings at the lower 
level by publishing a piece of educational criticism. This criticism does not affect 
-.the validity of the judgment. But, reprinted in the official law Journal, it is 
supposed to induce the court in question and other courts facing similar problems 
to discontinue the condemned practices. It is also within the authority of the 
higher courts to keep score on lower-level coUeagues in a kind of index file 
which records typical mistakes— both political and legal— and serves as a vade- 
mecum for self-improvement.** 

Both institutionalized criticism and an occasional index file of typical mistakes 
focus only upon the segment of cases which come to the higher court's knowl- 
edge by way of ordinary or extraordinary appeals or protests. In actual practice, 
only a fraction of lower-court cases attract the attention of the courts above. 
Review of the lower-court proceedings at the request of the prosecutor general 

42. See the proclamation of the Leipzig Administration of Justice, reprinted in 7 N.J. 
725 (il953) ; Grass, Trautzsch & Stiller, Die Selhstverpßchtungen des Besirksgerichts 
Leipsig eum Jahr der grossen ImtiaHve, 7 N.J. 759 (1953). 





or by Order of the High Court president takes place, as a rule, only when this 
or that Segment of the SED especially interested in upsetting a specific judg- 
ment exerts sufficient pressure.** ^^. . 

Seen from the authorities* viewpoint, these institutionalized checks — ^appeals, 
extraordinary appeals, judicial criticism, helped along by some measure of law 
periodical comments — ^have one essential shortcoming. They leave open to what 
extent and with what dispatch the lower courts will be able to produce decisions 
in conformity with announced official policies. Consequently, a network of politi- 
cal and moral pressures influencing and determining the attitudes of the judiciary 
has been built up to complement both the educational processes and the institu- 
tionalized checks on the judges' individual decisions. The call to self-improve- 
ment is the central theme of these additional controls. 


Self-improvement does not come automatically. A double-pronged machinery 
sets it in motion : on the Upper level, the Ministry of Justice and, for the prose- 
cutors, the Attorney General's office ; on the lower level, the individual court*s 
party unit. This unit comprises all party members from the presiding judge to 
the charwoman. Often, the court's administrative officers, who make the assign- 
ments and supervise the docket, enjoy a higher party rank and corresponding 
influence on the cell's resolutions than does the judicial personnd. It is before 
this body that the judge, as any other party worker, undergoes the ritual of 
"self-commitment." The "self-commitment" pledge specifies areas of mandatory 
improvement, either along the lines of previous criticism by superiors or party 
officials, or eise simply in dutiful observance of recent policy pronouncements. 
In addition, each court holds frequent judicial Conferences. Every judge is 
expected to submit a progress report ; the individual members' weak spots are 
discussed, and the more advanced ones straighten out those who fail. When 
necessary, the party "plant unit" deals with obstinately repeated "mistakes." 

How effective is self-improvement guidance by higher courts and party pres- 
sure ? Much though it may upset the Government, the answer always depends on 
the individual judge's zeal and application — another uncertain factor. Strong 
emphasis is therefore placed on continuing supervision by "instructors" who 
are expected to give the every day activity of the judiciary a steadier direction 
than could emanate from the higher courts. In the person of the instructor, the 
Job of functional and political supervision merge; he studies, compares, evalu- 
ates and criticizes the judge's Performance from both professional and political 
viewpoints. Instructors operating out of the Ministry of Justice and the Office 
of the Attorney General reach down to the level of district courts and district 
prosecutors ; in tum, instructors at the district level are assigned to the local 
courts. In addition, a whole brigade of inspectors, namely all the district in- 
structors, some district court judges, and personnel officers accompanied by 
the executive officer of the local court under review, administer an annual 

.43. In a reply to critics, such operational breaks were cited by High Court Deputy 
President Walter Ziegler as a chief reason for the highest tribunars shortcomings in the 
implementation of governmental policy. Ziegler, supra note 32, at 717. 



[Vol. 68: 705 

evaluation of each court's Performance.'** The court's executive officer is then 
of particular value, both on account of his familiarity with the judges' records, 
as well as for his standing in the party Organization, which casts him in the 
role of the court's permanent political Supervisor."*^ 

One Story teils of an over-eager chief instructor who, feeling misgivings 
about a specific decision, went out to interview local people. When he had 
assembled the facts, he discovered that the court indeed had been at fault and 
the reasons for the error."*^ Was this his real mission ? Not according to pre- 
vailing opinion in the mid-1950's. Most comments have expressed the view that 
it is not the instructor's function to retry individual cases. The emphasis is on im- 
proving the quality of the court's work rather than on securir^g justice in particu- 
lar instances. Cultural and political problems are to be investigated. Judges are 
to be counselled as to the political and social imperatives and why judgments 
based on proper fact finding and sound legal reasoning may be utterly wrong 
when the social and political implications of both the incriminating act and the 
judicial decision are left unheeded. Within this framework, judicial opinions 
are thoroughly studied. The Performance of the individual judge and the po- 
litical eflfect of his overall judicial record are evaluated by instructor s and 
discussed with him. Beyond this, the annual inspection is to ascertain the 
extent to which each court's collective efTort contributed to the fulfillment of the 
judiciary's political and ideological obligations. As the political Situation 
changes, however, so may that of the inspection brigade. The greater the 
pressure on functionaries of the judicial apparatus for active political participa- 
tion, the more pronounced is the inspectors' tendency to reinvestigate cases, to 
expose their class contents and the roles of the parties and the judge's "formal- 
istic" neglect of these factors.'*'' 

Among the various techniques devised to make the judge concentrate on doing 
a political Job for the Government, the combination of everyday supervision and 
counselling by instructors and annual roundups Stands out. This combination 
is pervasive and has become symbolic of the courts' role and position. Whether 
a judge is good or bad is measured on a scale which registers his ability to grasp 
and assimilate, at any given moment and without delay, the government view 

44. Inspection reports are freqiiently discussed and suggestions for improvement offered 
in print. See Boehme & Krueger, Die Arbeit der Instrukteurbrigaden bei Revisionen 
verbessern, 10 N.J. 11 (1956) ; Ostmann, Ueber die Justizverwaltung, 8 N.J. 37 (1954) ; 
Streit, Aus den Erfahrungen einer Brigade im Bezirk Potsdam, 12 N.J. 620 (1958); 
Windisch, Die Veraenderung der Instrukteurtaetigkeit in der Staatsanwaltschaft, 12 N.J. 
839 (1958). 

45. Separate inspection teams within one Jurisdiction, assigned to the court, the 
prosecutor's office, and the police department, actually proceed with a degree of coordina- 
tion — ^though not necessarily in complete agreement with one another — so as to bring into 
the open interdepartmental friction and rivalry and obtain uniform corrective results. 
Cf. Gerhardt, Ueber die Durchfuehrung von Revisionen, 10 N.J. 600 (1956). 

i 46. Becker, Eine praktische Methode der Revision, 10 N.J. 359 (1956). 
'47. See the recital of the experiences of the inspection brigade in the Potsdam district 
in Streit, Aus den Erfahrungen einer Brigade im Bezirk Potsdam, 12 N.J. 620, 621 (1958). 




of the political and social Situation. "First and foremost in the instructor's 
work," as one of the architects of the System put it, "is immediate transmission 
from the top to the bottom ; . . . he is a helper and political advisor."*^ 

But however faithful and eager the transmitting agents may he, the Govern- 
ment's political vista is bound to suffer in transmission. Even agents who knew 
all the answers and could correct all conceivable mistakes would not be able 
to eliminate or prevent error, deviation, and lack of intuitive political adapta- 
bility. The true test of their achievement is in the frequency and intensity of 
the judges' voluntary, spontaneous identification with the DDR's political 
leadership. Ideally, the judicial act would be transformed into an abstraction 
unrelated to social reality. All societal differentiations would become sub- 
merged in universal identity, wherein the mind of the judge unconsciously but 
unremittingly communicates with the all-pervasive mind of the Government — 
totalitarian reality taking the form of uhrademocratic chimera. 

The Judge and the Other Organs of the State 

It is doubtful whether in German trial practice an equilibrium ever existed 
between the defense lawyer and the prosecution. Somehow, in spite of his theo- 
retical Status as officer of the court, private counsel could never quite compete 
with the prestige of the prosecutor, representative of the most "objective office" 
of the World, as it was known in official parlance. But, whatever the previously 
existing dement of imbalance, it has increased many times over in the practice 
of the DDR. The lawyer has lost in Status as a professional man and conse- 
quently in usefulness to his dient. This is as much due to the fact that the 
DDR is too busy reforming the life habits of its members to care much about 
equipping them with efficient means to def end their claims as to special measures 
aimed at narrowing the prerogatives of the profession. The Code of Criminal 
Procedure is not overly concemed with the lawyer's prerogative. But it is the 
disregard for the Code by prosecutor and judge and *® — as important — the re- 
evaluation of the respective position of defense and State authority, to which 
the System constantly draws the lawyer's attention, that has limited his field 
of activity. Moreover, since 1953 the lawyer has increasingly been unable to 
exist as an independent professional entity conducting his business either alone 
or in free association. New lawyers can be admitted to practice only as mem- 
bers of the official lawyers' cooperative. Disabilities for nonmembers and Privi- 
leges for the joiner make continued independent practicing a hazardous affair f^ 

48. Benjamin, Der Instructeur— Helfer und politischer Berater, 8 N.J. 285, 290 (1954) . 
For more recent discussion see Bildermann, Eimge Hinweise fuer die Revision der Kreisge- 
richte, 11 N.J. 272 (1957). 

49. During the short-lived thaw of 1956, the President of the Berlin Lawyers* Coopera- 
tive drcw up a kind of list of grievances. See the report on the meeting of the chairmen 
of lawyers' cooperatives, Fragen des Strafrerfahrens vom Standpunkt des Verteidigers, 10 

N.J. 434 (1956). 

50. The decree on the formation of lawyers' cooperatives dates from May 15, 1953. 
[1953] 1 G.B.D.D.R. 725. The "model Statute" attached to the decree has been consider- 



[Vol. 68: 705 

the net effect is to undermine the fundamental relationship of trust between 
lawyer and dient. In tum, the cooperative's administration — which assigns 
cases and clients — has recently been the object af special attention and "ideo- 
logical schooling" on the part of the Ministry of Justice.*^^ Whether the depro- 
fessionalizing influence of this new bureaucratic fetter is balanced by the 
radical elimination of the lawyer's predominantly pecuniary motivation, on 
which official criticism of the capitalist lawyer lays such stress, is an interesting 
if debatable point.'^^ At any rate, as the prestige of the profession is incom- 
mensurably Iower than that for other law Jobs, and as the style and condition 
of the new society allow for only limited use of the lawyers' intellectual equip- 
ment, its members scarcely do now, nor can they in the future, form any 
counterweight against the prosecutor in his present role. 

Inasmuch as the Attomey GeneraFs and Minister of Justice's activities are 
coordinated by the incumbents' common zeal to transform into administrative 
practice the impulses and Orders received from the highest party authorities 
and formalized by the Council of Ministers, the independent position of the 
Attorney Generalis office may be of more symbolic than actual importance in 
the DDR scheme of things. Nevertheless, its enhanced Status has some impact 
on the style and method of DDR policy. Through its determination of the 
competent criminal court and its power over extraordinary appeals, the Attor- 
ney GeneraFs office plays a primordial role in blocking out penal policy. 

The political importance of the case rather than the fine art of legal Classi- 
fication determines the conduct of the prosecution. Political guidance may take 
a variety of förms. The first Job of the prosecution is to spot the possible 
political implication of a given Situation. The more tightly the Government 
Controls opinion-molding, the more visibly will political coloring tinge every 
seemingly private Situation. Divorce, libel, assault, the mistreatment of animals 
— all might acquire a political meaning.*^* Slight stirrings of misgivings, doubts, 

ably changed through the introduction of tight official supcrvision of the cooperatives* 
activities by Decree of March 22, 1958, [1958] G.B.D.D.R. 311. 

~ 51. A list of grievances against the lawyers' cooperatives* lack of social consciousness 
together with recital of officially applied remedies has recently been furnished by the 
ministry's specialist in charge of lawyers' affairs. Helm, Fragen der Entwicklung einer 
sozialistischen Rechtsanwaltschaft, 12 N.J. 298 (1958). Mixed control brigades with the par- 
ticipation of the Ministry of Justice, the SED and the Association of Democratic Jurists 
are now recommended for supplementing the feeble activities of the lawyers' cooperatives' 
own control commissions and as a means of bringing the cooperatives up to required 
Standards. See the official report reprinted in 12 N.J. 665 (1958). 

52. Lawyers' cooperatives still try to keep membership down in Order to maximize 
members' incomes, see Helm, supra note 51, at 300, but this may be part and parcel of the 
"unsatisfactory political and ideological condition" of the cooperative. 

53. The interaction between public opinion, the various echelons of the party bureau- 
cracy and the corresponding legal authorities is illustrated in the curious story of an all-too- 
conscientious SED factory guard. He was tripped up by the irate staff of his plant when 
he was caught maltreating and cruelly killing a vagrant dog which somehow had gotten 
on the plant property. Ejected under public pressure from'both his job and the party, he 

r" .>." TV 1* 

-.■..'■■'•*■"*" v*' ^;-'i "'"'^ .r ' "'> ■ 




passive resistance or more active insubordination may pass through devious 
Channels before they appear in the trial setting as private quarreis or trifling 
brushes with the lower fringes of authority. The very frequence of such cases 
betrays crammed living in a climate where complaining and personal gnidges 
take the place of self-expression and personal endeavor. In the eyes of the 
rulers, even the least significant and most ludicrous or banal run-in necessarily 
assumes a more sinister complexion. In every aimless individual reaction, the 
exponents of governmental power are bound to look for traces of a repetitive, 
rebellious design. : \ .v,; 

Such are the situations with which judge and prosecutor, without special 
Signals from higher authorities, must deal, day in, day out, in the required 
political manner. They are on their own, at least at the trial stage; in a way, 
the individual setting is unpatterned in the development of the plot attentively 
watched by participants and bystanders. Without genuine newspaper coverage, 
repercussions of scenes on the judicial stage are weak. The most limited effect 
remains hidden from the actors for the identical reason. It is the educational 
Job of the Office of the Attomey General to train even the lowest local staff 
meniber to recognize incipient political situations and their implications on 
his own. .... ^,- ;; .■ .,.v<,v. .,^;.--. 

If a case has been referred to the Attorney Generalis office by political author- 
ity, if it has the making of a catise ceUhre or at least suggests that it could be 
widely used for propaganda purposes, the prosecutor may be under Orders to 
teil the court unequivocally how he would like the case to be handled with 
regard both to penalty and applicable law. Thus, the expected roles are reversed. 
In theory, under the DDR code no less than under most continental codes, it 
is up to the court to choose the legal formula to be applied in a given criminal 
Situation. Deprived of this interpretive function, the court is hamstning in its 
punitive role as well. With respect to the punishment to be imposed, the court, 
under a widely accepted doctrine, may disregard the authority of the Govern- 



;'; ''J ' 

was also sentenced by the local court to one year in prison and a fine. When the defendant 
managed to get the ear of the higher authorities, the story took a different complexion. 
The personnel chief of the plant was removed from both the plant and the party roster 
and the local party secretary was severely taken to task for having lost the ability to recog- 
nize the enemies of the working class. A week before the discussion of the incident at the 
SED's fourth party congress, the High Court— on an extraordinary appeal by the Attorney 
General — quashed lower court proceedings and acquitted the defendant as having acted 
within the purview of his duties. The judgment sharply castigated the local prosecutor 
and both the local and the district court judges, who on appeal had only rescinded the 
prison sentence without otherwise modifying the conviction, for having allowed themselves 
to become bamboozled by the class enemy. High Court Judgment of March 29, 1954, 8 N.J. 
242 (1954) ; Verhandlungen des 4. Parteitags der sozialistischen Einheitspartei 
Deutschlands 30. März bis 6. April 1954, at 180 (1954) (Ulbricht) ; id. at 559-60 (discus- 
sion Speaker Kiefer). The story of the "dog of Muehlhausen" has entered the legal hagiogra- 
phy of Rastern (iermany as the fourth party congress's legacy to the legal fraternity, the living 
example of the dialectical unity of legality and "Parteilichkeit" See Benjamin, Vom IV. 
gum V. Parteitag der sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands, 12 N.J. 437 (1958). 

■■■■•■/- ■■:!<■ 7 

n^.f'"' '•-■ 



[Vol. 68: 705 

ment, as represented by the prosecutor, only if it holds a basically divergent 

View.*** • ' •;.- .^■.. :.■:.■.......■.. :. •--...■-. 

Of course, the bürden of the judge in a case tried under Klieg-light conditions 
might be eased by his administrative superiors. The official intervention of 
the prosecution's representative might go hand in band with direct — though 
behind the stage — ^intervention from the higher echelons of the Ministry of 
Justice. In these instances, ranking officials of the Ministry would confer with 
the judge about the disposition of the case. This, however, is mostly limited 
to exceptional situations justifying spectacular legal or propaganda Perform- 
ances. Frequent repetition would expose too many fissures; show trials as 
an everyday affair might generate indifference and cynicism instead of that 
tremor which electrifies the faithful and makes the timid pledge active allegi- 
ance. The requisite minute preparation of the show to be staged and the 
public reaction to be evoked pays off only in cases of outstanding fK)litical 
importance. But, while individualized high-level production design and stage 
direction are infrequent, the political approach to justice is never absent. 

It is for this reason that the prosecutor, who embodies the permanent State 
interest and who, at least in theory, is fully cognizant of the actüal needs of 
the political powers '^^ at each and any moment, has a far stronger impact at 
the trial stage than that of a mere counterbalance against the defense, as he 
was conceived in old-style continental doctrine (now deemed rather unrealistic 
— not without obvious justification — ^by East German penal practitioners). 
True, at the pretrial stage, a preventive detention Warrant must be signed by 
a judge. But here the judge's power ends ; at least on paper, the prosecutor is 
in Charge of everything else.^^ 

In everyday practice, the stature of the prosecutor's office, tremendously 
enhanced vis-a-vis defense and court alike, does not appear quite so big. The 
criminal procedure code's "investigative organs," the criminal police and the 
ubiquitous security Services, tend to relegate the prosecutor to the role of 
manager or writ-signer. This much was officially admitted during the brief 

54. Attorney General Melsheimer, Sosialistische Gesetelichkeit im Strafverfahren, 10 
N.J. 289, 295 (1956). 

55. The gap between theory and practice, however, is considerable, and the "revision 
reports" are füll of complaints about wrong political estimates and lack of political- 
ideological clarity and of unified political line in the district and county prosecutors* Offices. 
For a recent criticism on the basis of experience in the Magdeburg district, see Spranger 
& Wunsch, Ueherwindung von Maengeln in der Arbeit der Justizorgane und der Staats- 
anivaltschaft im Bezirk Magdeburg, 12 N.J. 267 (1958). 

56. Judicial pretrial investigation has been abolished, leaving pretrial proceedings con- 
centrated in the hands of the prosecution or the "investigative organs." If necessary, 
the prosecutor Orders search and seizure. See C.C.P. § 116. The "investigative organs" 
may do likewise, with the judge relegated to confirmation within forty-eight hours. See 
C.C.P. § 140. During the trial, the prosecutor may put direct questions to the defendant, 
while the latter's lawyer may question only through the presiding officer of the court. 
C.C.P. § 201 (2) -(3). The prosecutor sets conditions on lawyers' visits with defendants 
during pretrial investigation. See C.C.P. § 80.3. 

:.-• ,1-," -*","',;; ■^"»'■/T'' 

■ir;':-'!; -■ ^--a-" 

•i "r~ ' ','i r.'v ■ 





political thaw of 1956 when the prosecuting staff*s position as second fiddle 
to the security police was deplored and remedial action suggested. - ^^ 

Notwithstanding the extended role of the police, the prosecution's power 
remains spectacular, especially since the DDR, following the Soviet example, 
has made the prosecutor's office the kingpin of what might be called an attempt 
to establish an intrabureaucratic balance. Because the Communist regime's 
parliamentary bodies lack populär backing and because the interests of their 
members too closely intertwine with those of the executive to allow them to play 
the role of their brethren's keepers, those bodies cannot fulfiU the Job of watch- 
dog and critic of the administration. Thus, in order to avoid entrusting control 
completely to hierarchical superiors, departmental duties must be parcelled out 
in such a way as to make one department supervise and criticize the activity 
of another. The premise is that, within one departnwntal branch, the higher 
echelons are too much involved in the quality and detail of that department's 
Performance to be honestly and impartially critical. Consequently, criticism 
should be the function of an outside agency. This sums up at least part of the 
reasoning which made the DDR foUow the Russian model in assigning to the 
prosecutor's office the task of watching over the legality of administrative 
Performance across the entire ränge of governmental Services.^'' 

The flaw in this kind of reasoning is obvious. No matter how päinstakingly 
the prosecutor's men may wade through collections of laws and ordinances, 
make their inspection trips and investigate individual Citizens' complaints, they 
will always be on the outside.^^ Unfamiliar with the day-by-day techniques 
and shortcuts of the agencies under review, the best they can do is detect 
manifest violations of the law. The prosecutor's office then may enter a protest 
and, if it carries enough weight at the moment, compel change. But the change 

57. S.A.S. §§ 10-15. ;., 

58. In 1957 the purely bureaucratic character of the prosecutor's function as general 
watchdog of legality was established by the then Deputy Attorney General. Haid, Einige 
Aktuelle Probleme der Staatsanwaltschaftlichen Arbeit, 11 N.J. 796 (1957). His job was 

— defined as one of following up complaint signals, but not as undertaking investigations 
on his own. But meanwhile this ranking official had been found "to have knuckled under to 
the attacks of the imperialists and (in conjunction with the Wollweber group) to have 
taken a revisionist position." Neues Deutschland, June 13, 1958, p. 4. See also Böhm, 
Verbesserung der Arbeit der obersten Staatsanwaltschaft, 12 N.J. 629, 630 (1958). By 
summer 1958, we therefore find the members of district attorneys' offices developing the 
"new style of work" prescribed by thc.fifth SED party congress. It may even go so far 
as to include putting in . a two-weiek stint with agricultural cooperatives (present day 
"points of concentration," sec note 97 m/rö), in order to be always at band when advice and 
Support is needed. But in spitc of this feverish activism it seems doubtful whether control 
includes systematic, around-the-clock and seif -initiated inspection of legality. Even the intro- 
ductory text accompanying the Attorney General's new directives of July 23, 1958, Starts 
with the admission that the prosecutor has a hard enough time to take cäre of his in-box. 
Attorney General Melsheimer, therefore, sticks to the ritual of recommending close Co- 
operation with other power holders and of prescribing the special initiatives needed for 
taking care of present "points of concentration." Melsheimer, Die Aufgaben der Staatsan- 
', waltschaft nach dem V, Parteitag, \2l!i.},S\\\l9^). 


•■."■■,/■ '• Ä/Ä 



[Vol. 68: 705 

will not eradicate the evil rooted in a chain of command over which the prosc- 
cutor*s Office has no Jurisdiction. 

In the mutual supervision schemes cönceived to maintain intrabureaucratic 
equilibrium, local and district courts are on both the giving and receiving ends. 
The institution of judicial criticism enables them, if pertinent facts should come 
to their attention, to expose administrative activity inconsonant with the law. 
So far, they have not made extensive use of this privilege — out of laziness, 
some critics assert.*^® The courts themselves are obligated to report regularly 
to the local and district municipal bodies' committees on administrative and 
police affairs. In addition, since 1957, an obligatory annual report is submitted 
to the local deliberative assemblies, whose critical objections must be answered 
within four weeks. — — — ^ : — .■: ■:.■ \ ' — — — ^~ — — 

Such intrabureaucratic criticism is no Substitute for public reaction, but under 
certain circumstances it may provoke, Channel or, more often, simulate genuine 
public response. There is no way to predict whether local power positions will 
suffer from being pitted against each other or whether they will merge into 
Consolidated power blocs, all local machines uniting to form a single mutual- 
aid Society. Preservation of the intrabureaucratic balance must never be taken 
for granted, even though hierarchic dependencies, Performance reports, and 
deadlines are designed to ensure it in a mechanical way. 

'■ '-'-'^The Judge and the Community 

In so far as the working of intrabureaucratic controls is at best a haphazard 
affair, they must be supplemented by drawing the people at large into a role 
which the official institutions perform unsatisfactorily : that of the friendly critic 
who voluntarily and actively participates in the development of the country*s 
institutions. But the attainment of this goal depends upon whether the judge 
succeeds in winning the trust of the population.. Developing proficiency in 
performing just such a feat has been one of the regime's permanent and urgent 

— How is the judge to prove worthy of trust? As he nb longer freely arbi- 
trates when the individual clashes with the Government, what does his 
superior knowledge of established norms or his keen insight into tlie hardships 
and conflicts of daily living matter to the public? In fact, the judge can win 
acclaim only if he has a chance to apply a good law or help enforce a govern- 
ment program that makes scnse to people. Apparently, Soviet jurists and their 
colleagues within the Soviet orbit recognize this problem ; when the party, in 
the wake of the Twcntieth Congrcss of the Commuhist Party of the Soviet 
Union, denoimced them for inhuman, burcaucratic and formalistic handling 
of the law, they retaliated in kind and publicly urged that the people be given 
good Statutes, carefuUy drafted and easy to understand. 

But then, what laws are "good" in the judgment of the people? Many norms 

59. Streit, Einige Hinweise swr Auswertung der 3. Parteikonjerena der SED » 10 N.J. 
257, 258 (1956) ; Berg, Zur Anwendung der GerichtskriHk, 10 NJ. 307 (1956). 

ro;"v:,irT;, Ti »-? . .•.»■, '■;>>i-; 






the judges must observe exist in the area of purely technical regulations or 
fields unrelated to the actual distribution of power ; they do not represent con- 
tentious issues to the average Citizen. In other spheres — ^for example, violence 
against persons — the System that most unobtrusively ensures peace and quiet 
in interpersonal relations and prevents turbulent flare-ups will meet with the 
widest approval. 'k -::■:■''■:'■'■-■'. :-yr.,'.:t'--.f 

In a more controversial area — divorce — neither legislation nor the judiciary 
has been able to establish clear-cut normative Standards. The search for guilt 
has been eliminated by legislative fiat.^ The courts now oscillate between, on 
the one band, required societal Standards — the welfare of the children and the 
stability of interpersonal relations as a prerequisite of labor stability — ^and, on 
the other, the objective degree of a couple's alienation. Yet, especially in lowei;- 
courts, something akin to guilt enters, so to say, through a legitimate sidedoor. 
Courts invoke the legislatively sanctioned consideration of "intolerable hard- 
ship*' for the respondent when refusing a divorce. While the perplexity of the 
courts before this problem is evident, they should, in the public's mind, soft- 
pedal the cynical emphasis on the State's interest evident in earlier decisions. 
And the courts have leamed that, at least in this context, State interest is ambigu- 
ous and far f rom easy to determine in the individual case. The public undoubt- 
edly will give them credit for a measure of honest and realistic striving to solve 
the riddles of jwrhat, in spite of all exhortations to the parties concemed to 
demonstrate higher forms of "socialist consciousness," remains an essentially 
private relationship.®* 

As for laws dealing with the protection of the economic order, populär 
response is probably ambivalent. Offenses in this sphere may give oppressed 
Citizens the same feeling of satisfaction which they derive from any act flouting 
the public order, especially a violation with political overtones. But tacit 
emotional complicity may be replaced by hostility when the offense has caused 
inconvenience or material damage to known groups of Citizens. Perhaps judicial 
sanctions will not then be questioned ; they may even evoke applause. A psycho- 
analyst, arguing from transference theory, might suggest that such behavior 
would provide a vicarious outlet for aggressive feeling that otherwise would con- 
verge upon the prevailing authorities. 

In any event, the Government is always eager to use the judge's contacts 
with the citizenry to gain greater resonance. The men of the judiciary are 
saddled with heavy chores foreign to the judicial function as conceived by the 
Western mind. Judges are called upon to take part in varipgated election 

>60. Marriagc Dccree of Nov. 24, 1955, [1955] G.B.D.D.R. 849, § 8. 

61. The High Court Dircctives No. 9 and 10 of July 1, 1957. 11 N.J. 441-49 (1957), 

the first discussing the Substantive problem of divorce, the second the procedural aspects 

of divorce and alimony, testify to the dilemma discussed above. Standards of "objective 

alienation" scem to vary. They are more severe when children are still to be taken carc 

' iof than where only the mutual relations of the partners are concerned. At any rate, in the 

o latter case the by no means unambiguous terms of the directive strive towards limiting 

' ' the invocation of "intolerable hardship" as grpunds for refusing a divorce. 

-^- -i ';. r- -J-M - 




[Vol. 68: 705 

campaigns; sometimes this adds — ^in an ambiguous way — to their political 
prestige. As part of the regulär routine, they attend and address plant meet- 
ings, Conventions of farm cooperatives and other officially sponsored gather- 
ings;®2 there, they may either vaingloriously orate on general subjects or, 
talking about their workaday business, try to obtain a sympathetic hearing for 
the courts' problems and diffkulties. 

Many a campaign to bring the judiciary and the population closer together 
has been tested. For example, two have been launched, after careful prepara- 
tion and a great deal of publicity, to mobilize public interest and Cooperation 
in the election of lay judges.^^ Considerable effort has been exerted to make the 
individual Citizen pay attention to and assume responsibility for the work of the 
courts. Special courses are set up to train lay assessors; those elected are 
organized in "coUectives" and required to report to the plants and Offices from 
which they were elected. In some places lay assessors attend, over and above 
their trial duties, court sessions focused on criticism of past judicial Perform- 


Shunned by the average Citizen, the lay assessor's part-time office at first 
attracted the wrong people. Many elected assessors had to be eliminated as 
unfit. By stressing the educational aspects of judicial work, the Government 
expects to obtain more willing participation on a wider ränge. The expectation 
may not be altogether baseless, since people in the DDR cai^ hardly escape 
"honorific" public duties of one kind of another, and service as a lay judge 
may be tempting as a politically uncolored and uncompromising chore. As the 
employer of some 40,000 lay assessors, the Government perhaps should not teil 
a reluctant candidate : " You don't hold any office yet, Heinrich, why don't you 
tackle the lay assessor's Job on the local court? You won't have anything to 
do there but nod your head once in a while so you won't fall asleep."^* But 
the formula works with some success. 

The duty of protecting adherents and functionaries of the regime against 
outbreaks of populär hostility keeps the judge from entering very far into the 
people's confidence. To an average Citizen, the declared enemy of the regime, 

62. In quantitative terms the turnout looks impressive. In 1957 courts conducted 
11,280 populär meetings on administration of justice problems. These meetings were at- 
tended by 530,000 visitors. But the prosecutors did even better. Their 15,130 meetings drew 
830,000 visitors. To these figures 11,000 "judicial accounts" before populär meetings and 
14,000 meetings preparing the election of lay assessors must be added. These stati&tics are 
given by Benjamin, Die dialektische Einheit von Gesetzlichkeit und Parteilichkeit durch- 
setzenl, 12 N.J. 36S (1958). 

63. Trial by jury was virtually abolished in Germany as early as 1923. Instead lay 
assessors, seleoted from panels drawn by municipal bodies, were made voting tribunal 
members. After the collapse of Nazi rule, this Weimar setup was fully restored in East 
and West. The main Innovation subsequently introduced in the DDR was election of lay 
assessors at places of employment, i.e., industrial plants, offices, collective farms, etc. 

64. This Suggestion is drawn from comments by a law assessor in Die gegenwärtigen 
Aufgaben der Schöffen. Zentrale Schaff enkonjerens am 3. und 4. November 1956, at 43 
(published l^ the DDR Ministry of Justice, Berlin, 1956). 




the spy, or the deviator within high party ranks remains a figure from another 
World. But the local hero of labor, the rural party potentate or the meticulous 
police officer are familiär to everybody. During a drunken brawl, many a 
pent-up hatred may take the fomi of an insult or, if inebriety progresses further, 
an assault against these worthies. With an assist from local witnesses, the 
county court judge, given a chance, might try to reduce such rather frequent 
occurrences to their lowest legal denominator.o^ But the party functionary, 
the higher court judges, the instructor from the Ministry of Justice will be 
on the watch to ensure that these insults and affrays are not downgraded to 
harmless disturbances of the public order, and are correctly treated and pun- 
ished as major threats against the security of the country.«« The judge's 
friendly contact with the Community must never advance to the point where_ 
he loses his complete identification with the powers that be. 

The same need to protect loyal adherents of the regime lies at the bottom 
of the new-fangled concept, "socially justified criticism." What is at stake 
under this rubric is not so much the judge's popularity with the Community 
at large as the law court's duty to protect third-party interests. "Socially 
justified criticism" accords judicial protection to the criticism of individuals by 
other individuals, a process popularly called "denunciation" and rooted in the 
spontaneity of petty interest, envy, rivalry and personal animosity. Carry a 
tale about X to the personnel director of the plant or make a derogatory com- 
ment about Y in every neighbor's hearing in the village Square, and the DDR 
High Court will commend you for "socially justified criticism" so long as X's 
or F*s actions or their possible consequences may be construed as harmful to 
Society. This atmosphere permits a woman party niember in good Standing 
who holds a grudge against a female neighbor to go to the personnel office 
of the plant where she works and mention male visitors entering or leaving the 
neighbor's apartment (even when the neighbor was not at home). Her "criti- 
cism" will be "socially justified" provided she does not forget at the start to 
mention a brief case of papers that the suspect neighbor brings home every 


By the courtesy of the high tribunal, a new evidentiary privilege has been 

65. Complaints against lower judges' failure to sense the correct political implication 
of such insults and brawls are frequent in the official legal literature. For an example from 
recent months, see Spranger & Wunsch, supra noit 55, at 270; Streit, Fuer einen neuen 
Arbeitsstil in der Justiz, 12 N.J. 368 (1958) ; Streit, Aus den Erfahrungen einer Brigade 
im Bezirk Potsdam, 12 N.J. 620 (1958); --^ -r 

66. See, e.g., High Court Judgment of Feh. 11, 1958, confirming a district court judg- 
ment sentencing the drunken attacker of a 'liero of labor" to eighteen months penal servi- 
tude by applying § 19(3) of the Penal Cxxle Amendment Act of Dec. 11, 1957, [1957] 
G.B.D.D.R. 645— an aggravated case of state-endangering agitation. 12 N.J. 323 (1958). 
For a parallel case involving party-school students, see High Court Judgment of March 21, 
1958, 12 N.J. 391 (1958). 

67. Lower court proceedings in Streit, Über die Abrenzung von Kritik und Beleidigung, 
10 N.J. 176 (1956) ; High Cburt Decision of March 2, 1956, id. at 217. For further com- 

; ment, see id. at 230. 

j',.T'-T'^^^«Vr^^i^V'i ^"^ ''fi;;, 




[Vol. 68: 705 

born, one that does away with the search for truth or falsehood.*® "Socially 
justified" allegations require no evidence. Further, the "critic" need not bother 
to adduce proof of legitimate interest, despite the fact that a defendant in a libel 
suit may have to supply such proof even though the formally libelous Statements 
admittedly be truthful. No "socially justified" informer has to hide his face 
in shame; he has done his duty as a patriot and the Government will insist 
that the Community honor him for undaunted civic devotion.^® 

To be sure, any government may use, encourage and protect informers. But 
to insist that the public lavish praise on them, and to hold them in so high 
esteem as to deny the aggrieved individual the right to legal relief from their 
abuses, are imusually bizarre procedures. Surely, this brazen "social justifica- 
tion" may swell the ranks of informers. But it also may overrrate the malle^ 
ability of public sentiment. The public's verdict may continue to depend upon 
a populär and realistic evaluation of the "critic's" motives or of the cause he 
Claims to serve. 

Public response and civic activity are elusive and hard to come by under the 
DDR's unrelenting control. Even so, a shaky pedestal for the volunteer in- 
former is a skimpy reward for the Govemment's continuous eflFort to produce 
such populär participation in the new rule. This failure may be a measure of 
the fissure between party theory and public acceptance. Yet, "socially justified" 
and extoUed as a boon to society, the informer may at least add a more lively 
beat and genuine unpredictability to the prearranged motions of the intra- 
bureaucratic pendulum. 

"SociALiST Legality": Doctrinal Gyrations 

Since de-Stalinization was officially inaugurated at the Twentieth Con- 
gress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, strict observance of "social- 
ist legality" has been the theme of many party and government pronouncements 
in the DDR no less than in othei* countries of the Soviet bloc, and the protection 
of individual rights has been steadfastly emphasizedJ® This purportedly 
libertarian philosophy was part of the general reaction to the denounced "ex- 

68. Refusing to test the veracity of a defendant's allegation to the effect that plaintiff 
had placed milk to be delivered to a dairy center in his toilet cabinet for overnight storage, 
the court said that it was the defendant's duty to criticize unhygienic conditions, for improved 
hygiene was an element of social progrcs?. 5ee High Court Dedsion of Sept. 1, 1955, 
9 N.J. 634 (1955). Actual presence of unhygienic conditions obviously is immaterial ; the 
mere possibility of the occurrence is a threat to social progrcss and must be denounced. 

69. The underlying policy and principle has been expressly reaffirmed by a plenary 
High Court Decision of Feb. 21, 1958, r endered in pursuance of an extraordinary appeal 
of the Attorney General. 12 N.J. 289 (1958). For a comment in a similar direction, see 
12 N.J. 315 (1958). 

70. Both points were stressed in the Central Committee's report to the congress. 
Khrushchev, Otchetnyi doklad TsK KPSS XX /yesdu partii 109 (1956). The resolution 
subsequently adopted by the congress insisted on the "strengthening of Soviet legality" and 
urged that the rights of Citizens guaranteed by the soviet constittttion be "rigorously re- 




cesses" marking the close of the Stalinist era. Yet, "socialist legality" or 
"Soviet legality" (called "revolutionary" in earlier years) is not a recent 
Innovation, nor is its essential meaning encapsuled in guarantees of personal 
security. The concept goes far beyond anti-Stalin polemics. 

In the early days of Soviet power, "revolutionary legality" was governed 
by the practica! requirements of a factual Situation. Communist teaching clearly 
stated that the working class had taken hold of governmental power and would 
use it to further its own interests. Subservience of the government machine 
to proletarian class interest was deliberately flaunted; to quite some extent, 
legal "formalities" were considered unnecessary. The standard-bearers of the 
victorious revolution took pride in divesting power relationships of legal adorn- 
ments. '^Bourgeois legality" was exposed as a fraudulent maneuver to prevent 
the oppressed from recognizing the true balance of power. Law, then, was 
just another ideological mask of domination, not necessarily the most important 

one. • ' 

It was not-for abstraet philosQ^cal reasons alone that Lenin feit irked by the 
emphatic concern for the principles ot justice and personal freedom which his 
short-term non-Communist People's Commissar for Justice displayed. The 
maker of the revolution, who once had practiced civil and criminal law 
before Tsarist courts, avowedly had no patience with what to him was a 
matter of form without intrinsic value, even though considerations of expediency 
made occasional observance of the principle of legality advisible.'^^ When he in 
turn insisted on strict adherence to revolutionary legality, he meant only that 
all action emanating from organs of the revolutionary government must foUow 
the pattern outlined by the central authority and must keep within the rigid 
confines of its directives. In essence, the concept of legality was directed against 
decentralization of power, uncoordinated action, and spontaneous initiative 
beyond that specifically authorized by the party's governing body, or by 
agencies to which that organ had delegated power.''^ . , 


71. One writer has narrated the following episode: 

We were discussing a harsh police measure with far-reaching terroristic potentialities. 
Lenin resented my Opposition to it in the name of revolutionary justice. So I called 
out in exasperation, "Then why do we bother with a Conunissariat of Justice? Let's 
call it frankly the Commissariat for Social Extermination and be done with it!" 
Lenin's face suddenly brightened and he replied, "Well put . . . that's exactly what 
it should be . . . bot we can't say that" ^ : - 
Steinberg, The Workshop of the Revolution 145 (1953). 

72. By this very token, "revolutionary legality" was to bar abuse of power by individual 
government or party officials. In his last active period Lenin repeatedly insisted on com- 
batting abuse of power, a task he thought it best to entrust to the prosecutors' Offices with 
the rigid proviso that all cases of violation be referred to the courts. See Lenin, 'dvoinom* 
podchi nenii i sakonnistiy 33 Sochineniya 326-30 (4th cd. 1922). Later, in Stalin's inter- 
pretation, things were to be simpliüed to the extreme. In Stalin's view, which until his 

% death was the law of the land, tiie history of revolutionary legality was reduced to two 

major phases. In the NEP period, when private enterprise was deemed indispensable, 

V legality was to prevent excessive levies and conRscation of private property, but after the 

1 '^■'^■"■•.'■'^'■'^"'^ '■„■■■T.r.'^*'":; 

( ■• . ■*. 



[Vol. 68: 705 


In this view, legality is nothing but a technique of domination. The party 
alone decides whether law or another Instrument of social control should be 
given precedence. Law serves the ruling class as a tool for modifying or shap- 
ing the development of society, and revolutionary legality Stands for planned, 
coordinated and disciplined exercise of class ruleJ* 

Not substantially molded by the institutional setup in which it appears, 
legality takes its contours from the class that imposes it. Law is oppressive, 
fraudulent and reactionary when in the hands of a class doomed to defeat; it 
is an instrument of liberation and progress when serving a class destined to 
Chart society 's future course. Judged by its result rather than the modes of 
action it embodies, legality is like the twin but respectable brother of terror 
to whom a more specific task is assigned : ensuring the regularity and predicta- 
bility of behavior. v^^ : . 

According to the Leninist interpretation of the historical process, the prin- 
ciple of revolutionary legality takes added validity as a guide to action from 
the historical function which it must perform. Seizure of the government 
machine by the proletarian vanguard is not just the fortuitous outcome of 
transitory factual elements. It is an historically necessary event which marks 
a specific stage in the evolution of human society. The revolutionary working 
class, the first class to gain scientific insight into the objective laws of social 
development, is given the unique chance of adapting its action to historical 
necessity. From the laws of history, the workers derive binding norms of 
conduct endowed with objective validity. Revolutionary legality sums up the 
set of such norms applicable after the conquest of power and enables the vic- 
torious working class to fulfiU its historical mission. For those in charge of 
making the new System work, legality is more than any single one of many 
conflicting directives, more than a warning to those who may be exjx)sed to 
the new govemment's coercive pressure. A manifestation of the objective 
historical process, socialist law sets an inescapable behavior pattem for a clearly 
defined historical period and prescribes norms of conduct hallowed by recog- 
nizable and recognized historical necessities. 

Though Lenin did not elaborate the historical role of revolutionary legality, 
it is easily deduced from his doctrine of the proletarian revolution. An eminent- 
ly pragmatic thinker, however, Lenin always took care not to detract from 

completion of the "foundations of socialism" its function had become protection of public 
property. This Stalinist gospel was severely taken to task in the very first official comment 
released after the Twentieth Congress. It was authoritatively stated that Stalin's version 
was neither "exact" nor "comprehensive." Soviet legality was defined as (1) "a precon- 
dition of and means to organize and develop societal relations," (2) "the foundation of 
governmental discipline" and in addition (3) "it safeguards the rights and legitimate interests 
of the Soviet Citizens." Strogovich (Corrresponding Member, US SR Academy of Sciences), 
Teoreticheskiye voprosy sovetskoi zakonndsti^ Sovetskoye gosudarstvo i pravo, No. 4, at 15 
(passed for publication on June 22, 1956). 

73. Cf. Rudolph Schlesingeb, Soviet Legal Theory 43 (1945). For an unusually 
frank, unembellished comment from a DDR source, see Klenner, Formen und Bedeutunp 
DSR Gesetzuchkeit als einer Methode in dgr Fuehrung des Klassenkampfes (1953). 


■ ;•■•■'' > '■■r^ -1 '■-,£■•■• 





the sovereign role of the Communist Party, which to him was the only revo- 
lutionary Instrument conceivable under the laws of history. The supremacy 
of the party as the sole fountain of "objectively correct" thought and action 
was not to be questioned. Whatever the function of socialist law emanating 
from the revolutionary govemment, no legal norm was ever to supersede 
party decisions. ^^^^^^^=^ ^^^^^^^^-^^ - :^^^ 

True, requirements of central coordination and disciplined procedure neces- 
sitated upholding the validity of unacceptable legal norms not yet formally 
abrogated or revised. The legislative prerogative of governmental institu- 
tions was to be retained, at least in theory. But even in Lenin's lifetime, 
rigorous procedural simplification of law-making to suit party needs made 
Short shrift of the sanctity of law and reduced to naught whatever hesitant 
doctrinal attempts were undertaken to place the law, once promulgated with 
the party's approval, above shifting party decisions. ■ - ^^ . 

Later, during the three decades of Stalin's increasingly one-man rule, the 
art of interpretative distortion and retroactive revision of exj>ectedly authori- 
tative pronouncements was developed to a high point. Based on Lenin's teach- 
ings about the role of the party in the revolutionary process, an elaborate body 
of doctrine was constructed to establish the all-pervasive quality of the prin- 
ciple of partiinosf?^ This principle comprehended the unassailable primacy 
of party decisions, the inalienable authority of the party as the supreme arbiter 
in conflicts of ideas, and the all-embracing nature of the adherent's commitment 
to the party. 

Party supremacy permitted the Soviet government to tum the balance of 
social pK>wer upside down and, more than once, to revamp its basic economic 
structures. When the uprooting of millions of people generated social malaise, 
always a threat to production, when, time and again, the Soviet govemment 
found itself on the lookout for stabilizing factors, the authority of the law was 
reinforced and greater importance attached to the historical mission of, and 
the element of objective necessity in, socialist legality. Doctrinal disquisitions 
on the law*s lasting normative validity mushroomed. 

Just such a climate prevailed in Russia after the 1956 Twentieth Congress. 
"Mistakes" committed in the Stalin era were denoimced and the sovereignty 
of law was emphatically espoused. Restoration of legality became a mandatory 
topic in the official Journal of legal doctrine.'''^ In the issue sent to press on 
May 4, 1956, the tum was signalled by Soviet Prosecutor General Rudenko 
in person. "In the light of the decisions of the Twentieth Congress," legality 
was to become the focal point of all endeavor in the legal sphere.''^® More 

I •« 

74. See explanation given in note 1 supra. 

75. SovETSKOYE GosuDARSTVo I PRAVo, publisHcd by the A. Ya. Vishinskii Law Institute 
of the U.S.S.R, Academy of Sciences. 

76. Rudenko, Zadachi dal'neishego ukreplemya sotsialisticheskoi sakonnosti v svete 
reshenü XX s'yesda KPSS, 1956 Sovetskoye gosudarstvo i pravo, No. 3, at 15. Rudenko 
is a candidate member of the Central Committee of the CPSU and a member of the USSR 
Supreme Soviet. . 

■..-(r ■ ■"■ V -v; 


'. i- • ' . 



[Vol. 68: 705 

specifically, the chief prosecuting official indicated that still greater emphasis 
would be placed on the work of the prosecutors' offices, principal custodians of 
legalityJ^ New legislation in the area of Substantive criminal law would ease 
the prosecutors' job. Laws, in the future, should be made only by legislative 
bodies assigned this function by the Soviet Constitution. While there was no 
reason to downgrade decisions of the US SR Supreme Court, it was essential 
to stress that the court was without power to enact new legal norms or 
directives the equivalent of Statutes.''* 

Six weeks later, the (delayed) next issue of the Journal carried a declaration 
of theoretical principles in which lack of legal security in everyday life was 
directly linked with Stalinism: : : ^ ,^ i 

An important cause of violations of legality in the past was the cult of 
Personality. Personality cult is incompatible with the consistently main- 
tained legality, for it creates a climate which obstructs vigorous observance 
of the law and fosters the tendency of individual law-enforcers to place 
themselves above the law instead of obeying it without reservations as 
legality demands.'^* 

True devotion to legality was missing in Soviet life. Many even invoked 
Lenin's authority to justify making observance of the law dependent on con- 
siderations of usefulness and expediency. But such considerations "can only 
imply the useful application to a given case, in conformity with the law of a 
Provision authorized by law ; [they] cannot imply circumvention or violation 
of the law."8o : -^-^ ^^.-^ ■/:■■:■.■■. -:-:r-.. 

Following the lead of the Prosecutor General,®^ the Journal blamed Soviet 
legal theory for having neglected problems of legality. In particular, it attacked 
the allegedly "dialectical" denial of the validity of legal norms by the top 
legal authority of the bygone Stalinist era, who had asserted that the "dialecti- 
cal approach to law interpretation precludes stereotype interpretation and 
stereotype application of legal norms."*^ ^ot "fiexibility" but "unbending 
rigidity" must be displayed in the enforcement of Statutes. Participants in a 
1954-1955 discussion were castigated for having defended "flexible" attitudes : 

• ' Theses absolutely incompatible with actual implementation of legality 
are sometimes offered on the pretext that it was necessary to combat 
formalism in the application of the law, or that the law had to be treated 
dialectically. Whenever it accepts this, the science of law, instead of fight- 
ing for the strengthening of legality, embarks on the dangerous venture 
^ of laying the theoretical foundations for permissible departure from the 
^ law.®* 

77. Id. at 17. 

78. Id. at 20. -- 

79. Strogovich, supra notc 72, at 16. 

80. Id. at 17. 

81. Rudenko, supra note 76, at 18. 

82. Denisov, Teoriya gosudarstva i prava 480 (1948) 

83. Strogovich, supra note 72, at 20. 



■;-^i..-.,T^^^]H;_^-y'-, .-*{-. -T^-T^ 




Many a reiteration foUowed. By the end of 1956 an editorial restatement 
of immediate objectives once more spelled out the implications of the Twentieth 
Congress's stand on legality. The editors urged the active defense of the rights 
of Soviet Citizens, the correction of "the most flagrant violations of Soviet 
legality" that had grown out of the "cult of personality," improved legislation, 
the codification of existing law, better training of judicial personnel, and clear 
demarcation of overlapping jurisdictions.^ Then the tide changed and the 
topic was abruptly dropped from the columns of the official law Journal. 

A different mood prevailed when the discussion flared up anew in March 
1957. Violation of legality was no longer the subject of grave misgivings. 
What now disturbed the rulers' peace of mind was the apprehension that all 
legal norms might be held sacred by the uninitiated. Clarification was supplied 
in a signed editorial by the associate chief editor. 


On the whole the Communist Party and the Soviet State express cor- 
rectly (in legislative acts) the people's conscious thinking; but this does 
not imply that every normative act always automatically, as it were, pro- 
vides an adequate Solution to economic requirements that must be met, 
nor that every such act expresses exactly what the people thinks . . • • 
Legal studies, however, have been prone to lift on the shield any judicial 
decision, even many an incorrect one, and any legislative act, including 
such as had to be rescinded later because of their temporary, transient 
nature or because they had been erroneous ; theoretical justifications have 
been construed to prove that such decisions and acts have been correct 
and in accordance with the interest and \yll of the people. 

Because this objectionable practice defied Lenin's teaching, its discontinuance 
was urged.®*^ 

Harping on the mistakes and excesses of the Stalinist era was abandoned, 
and the rights of the individual were no longer in the foreground. The party's 
stand on law and legal order once more was shifting. Another blackout fol- 
lowed. Then the atmospheric change came into piain view, as so often happens 
in the totalitarian realm, in a peripheral piece of doctrinal polemics. Made up 
as a special feature, a critical broadside was hurled by a writer of little re- 
nown ^^ at the very same scholar who the year before had been commissioned 
to expound the anti-Stalin theory of legality. This scholar's 1956 book on 
procedural law and the evaluation of evidence in criminal trials ^^ was severely 
criticized for having undialectically drawn a line between the "material truth" 
of factual evidence and the relative validity of judicial evaluation. The dia- 
lectical approach, so recently and vigorously condemned, was en vogue again. 


84. Editorial, Dd'neisheye ukrepleniye sotsialisHcheskoi sakonnasH, 1956 Sovbtskoye 
GOSUDARSTVO I PRAVO, No. 10, at 3 (pfinting authorized Dec. 11, 1956). 

85. Bratus, Uchifsya u VJ. Lenina resheniyu teoreticheskikh i parkHcheskikh voprdsov 
prava (Editorial), id., April, 1957, at 3, 6. 

86. Rivlin, Zakonnost' i istinnosf sudebnogo piigovora, id., July, 1957, at 114. 

87. Stbogovich, Matewal' naia istina i sumbnoye dokazatel'stvo V sovetskom 




[Vol. 68: 705 

The last touch was applied — not very gently — in an editorial denouncing 
the "antiparty activity" of Kaganovich, Malenkov and Molotov. "Strengthen- 
ing of socialist legality" was no longer the focal theme. The headline slogan, 
once again fed into courtroom loudspeakers, clamored "for the strengthening 
of the Socialist Soviet State under the leadership of the Communist Party."^® 
The party, hitherto unmentioned in discussions of the doctrines inaugurated 
at the Twentieth Congress, re-emerged overnight as the sole architect and 
custodian of socialist legality.^^ On behalf of Soviet juridical science, the 
editors of the law Journal took a solemn oath to obey the decisions of the 
Twentieth Congress and carry on unwaveringly the fight against the "luckily 
unmasked antiparty group." This, however, was not enough ; the science of 
law "still owes the party a tremendous debt." "Scholarly juridical literature^ 
has presented but weakly, and has failed to expound elaborately, the directing 
of the Communist Party in the construction and functioning of the State, and 
. . . as the living foundation of Soviet legal and governmental institutions 
and processes." The jurists must do their utmost to redeem this onerous debt.^^ 

Thus, the widely publicized stress on the role of legality had evaporated. 
Official recognition was again given the party's role as the "living foundation" 
of law and govemment. Although the contents of the new rules might well 
continue to mark important departures from Stalinist practices— witness the 
new criminal code — the rank order of the party as initiator, motor and regulator 
of social processes and the legal order as an implementing device emphatically 
was reconfirmed.®^ ^- 

In other countries of the Communist bloc, these gyrations of Soviet doctrinal 
thought were echoed resoimdingly but not followed precisely. What reaches 
the consumer at the end of the line is not necessarily a true copy of the original. 
Even in the DDR, a faithful adapter, stereotypes already discarded and replaced 
in Moscow are used simultaneously with brand new ones. The ensuing con- 
fusion tends to make life under the DDR regime uncertain and unpredictable. 

Percolating into DDR jurisprudence with little delay, the Soviet legality 
course with its apologia of the supremacy of law became the official doctrine by 
spring 1956. But only briefly, for the Soviet Union was to shelve it within less 
than a year. Still, some legality enthusiasts found enough time to procede so 
far as virtually to repudiate the principle of partiinosf (or its German party- 
slang equivalent, Parf^i/tr/i^^O • M : 

88. Editorial, Pod rukovodstvont Kommunisticheskoi partii za dal 'neisheye ukre- 
pleniye Sovetskdgo sotsialisticheskago gosudarstva, Sovetskoye gosudarstvo i pravo, 
Aug., 1957, at 3. A 

89. Id. at 8-11. 

90. Id. at 10. 

91. This, however, should not be taken to imply definite abandonment of legality 
teachings. It may be taken for granted, for example, that new emphatic admonitions to 
observe legality will accompany the turbulent rebuilding of rural party and government 
structures set in motion with the abolishment of Machine and Tractor Depots (MTS). 




The most extreme of these views^^ implied that, inasmuch as socialist 
legality expressed objective requirements of the historical process, it necessar- 
ily limited the choice of ways and means appropriate for attaining society's goals 
to those encompassed by established legal norms. In the light of this doctrine, 
rules of action should be drawn from normative acts passed by the Govern- 
ment*s legislative bodies rather than from ad hoc decisions of party bodies. 
Correspondingly, judicial Interpretation would not be identical with ensuring 
that law, or the rationale of its application, met party specifications in the 
individual case before the court. Partiinosf, under such a theory, could no longer 
override the law. It would have to be regarded as inherent in the legal norm, 
a quality imparted to the normative act in the lawmaking process by virtue 
of the fact that the legislators represented the party in translating the objectivfi_ 
laws of social development into rules applicable to specific situations. 

eiearly, this reasoning stripped the party of the power informally to cast 
overboard legal norms no longer to its liking. If a legal norm proved a dead 
weight because the legislators had misread history's "objective" requirements 
or had miscalculated the malleability of social reality, it was up to the legislative 
bodies to remove the discrepancy by changing the law.»» Intended to curtail 
the arbitrariness of party interference, this interpretation disregarded possible 
arbitrariness on the part of the lawmaker. It is indeed conceivable that the law- 
maker, concemed with his own prestige and position, would, though fully 


92. See Artzt (Director, DDR Institute of Civil Law), Zu einigen Fzagen^der^ 
sozialistischen Gesetzlichkeit in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 10 N.J. 581 
(1956), where the principle of legality finds consistent affirmation from what may be termed 
an "objectivist" or "positivist" point of view. Artzt meanwhile has duly recanted his errors. 
He admitted that his teachings as to "a certain independence of the law" and its Separation 
from the politics of the party are in contradiction with the Marxist-Leninist theories of State 
and law. Staats und Rechtswissenschaftliche Konferenz in Babelsberg am 2 & 3 

Mai 1958, at 154 (1958). "''■"'- 

Of the scores of Soviet and satellite papers on legality that have been translated for DDR 
publications, only a few betray an "objectivist" viewpoint. Strongly pointing in this direction 
are two papers by Kerimov, Fragen der Theorie der sozialistischen Gesetzlichkeit, 11 N.J. 
385-390 (1957), and Die wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen der Rechtsschoepfung des Sowjet- 
staates, in 6 Staat und Recht 580 (1957), both adapted from his Zakonodatel'naya 
deyatei'most' Sovetskogo gosudarstva (1955), a beginner's theoretical inquiry into the legal 
structure of Soviet legislative processes, which drew heavy fire during the short-lived era 
of legality raptures. See 1956 Sovetskoye gosudarstvo i pravo, No. 5, at 95-96, 129, 132 
No. 9, at 9. A premature forerunner of the 1956 campaign, Kerimov had considerably oyer- 
shot the mark. What was worse, he then misjudged the meaning of the elaborate dressing- 
down he had taken. While tuning down, for the (Jerman ver&ion, the "objectivist" theme, 
he unperturbedly went on disparaging lawmaking by agencies not constitutionally empowered 
to legislate. As bad luck would have it, his re-emphasized demand that the legislators— and 
they alone— be the ones to correct faulty legislation came out in (iermany just in time to 
clash with Moscow's renewed oath of allegiance to the party as the "living" sovereign 
above the law. 

93. Kerimov, Fragen der Theorie der sozialistischen Gesetzlichkeit, 11 N.J. 385, at 387 

(1957). ' , ,-..y-:..-^^,v.: _;-.^: 




[Vol. 68: 705 

aware of the discrepancy between norm and reality, nevertheless fail to "put 
socialist law in step with life," intransigently use the unrealistic norm as a 
whip, and insist on norm-prescribed goals beyond the social energies already 
harnessed. Who then would correct the lawmaker? 

For obvious reasons, enthusiasm for legality in this extreme form conflicted 
with the party's traditional philosophy, in that "historical necessity" here ap- 
peared "objectively" expressed by legal norms, not by party action. Essentially, 
however, the new doctrine substituting the legislative for the party ma- 
chine, merely exchanged one institutional agent of "historical necessity" 
for another. The agent, whatever its designation, was still ascribed a 
mystical mission in the pursuit of an abstract society's presumed goals, which 
in turn were assigned an infinitely higher rank than the interests of indi- 
viduals who make up the actual and immediate society. 

Still, when legality, no longer seen as a mere shorthand code for class rule, 
Stands for concrete programs of social and economic action, the individual 
is bound to slip in through the back door. When the law serves as the chosen 
instrument for making wide-range governmental plans come true, the activity 
of the individual must be planned as well; to fulfiU plan objectives, the indi- 
vidual must have some latitude of action, at least within a sphere circumscribed 
by the plan. If he remains passive, actual achievement will fall short of plan 
objectives. Accordingly, the individual is theoretically granted certain pre- 
rogatives. But, in so far as his area of freedom is wholly directed toward plan 
objectives, these prerogatives shrink in practice. 

The struggle for the fulfillment of plan objectives, varying but never relax- 
ing, holds an entrenched priority. The prime concern of the party and govern- 
ment is to overcome all conceivable resistance to the overall program, whether 
it originate in recalcitrant moods, individual entanglements, inadequate under- 
standing of objectives, or any other retarding factor rooted in the given social 
Situation. The legal order adapted to this central policy requirement does not em- 
phasize protection of the individual against loss of freedom, judicial restraints on 
administrative action, legal buttressing of private positions, or guarantees for 

droits acquis. { 

Technological, organizational and manpower bottlenecks constantly delay 
and endanger the attainment of objectives set by party and goyemment de- 
cisions. Naturally enough, those in power are reluctant to multiply such im- 
pediments by lending support and privilege to private interests (with the 
exception, of course, of those interests disguised in terms of office authority 
and public title). To be sure, individuals may file complaints with hierarchic 
superiors and the prosecutor's office will accept requests for the review of 
allegedly illegal administrative decisions.»* But beyond these measures, no 
legal remedy to preserve the rights of the individual against the administrative 

94. Deutsches Institut fue Rechtswissenschaft, Das Verwaltungsrecht der 
Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, Allgemeiner Teil 197 (1957). 




machine exists. Legal norms to protect such rights will remain a dead letter so 
long as there are no organized social groups to compel enforcement. In plural- 
istic societies, norms become effective to the extent they create subjective 
rights that individuals or groups find advantageous to invoke and, if necessary, 
uphold in organized action. The interplay of individual, group and govern- 
mental interests competitively determines the selection of norms to be enforced. 
While the choice hinges on the relative strength of the interests affected, the 
function of interpreting disputed norms devolves upon an independent arbiter. 
Presumably removed from the interests involved, the judge is expected to 
apply Standards free from unilateral change by a party to the dispute. 

Free competition of ideas and social forces is anathema in a society that 
outlaws voluntary Organization and Substitutes centralized planning and direc- 
tion. There, the individual has little chance actively to invoke the protection 
of the law, and governmental authorities are the only ones to decide which 
norm is to be operative. The abstract thesis that every nonn, once enacted, must 
be enforced as part of the all-embracing plan of social improvement will not 
apply in the absence of organized pressure to protect even those rights that 
interfere with the government's monopoly of action. Only a few areas of 
norm enforcement are within the individual's reach, and those are mostly 
in interpersonal relations. More recently, however, a narrow path has been 
opened through which a few individuals can squeeze into the restricted area 
where personal freedom is protected from physical encroachment by govem- 

ment agencies.*** 

The government, whose attention remains fixed on plan objectives, deter- 
mines the vigor and intensity with which any chosen legislative program is 
niade to operate in everyday Hfe. By so doing, the central administration 
avoids relegating a wide area of choice to individual departments or regional 
agencies, which as a rule are less conscientious and tend to neglect a number 
of central projects, especially those that add to their administrative and Propa- 
ganda chores.®* 

As the focal emphasis, if not the very content, of the norm enforcement 
changes, the significance of "legality" becomes less evident. The gyrations must 
then be rationalized in terms of legality's shifting content. In actual practice, 
varying Clusters of norms are designated from time to time as "points of concen- 

95. This field concerns stricter enforcement of the rules governing preventive detention 
of defendants awaiting trial and preliminary arrest. Intrabureaucratic controls were 
strengthened in 1956. Melsheimer, Unsere Staatsanwaelte sind Hueter den sosialisHshen 
Gesetzlichkeit, 10 N.J. 225, 226 (1956) ; Melsheimer, Sozialistische Gesetzlichkeit im 
Strafifer Jahren, 10 N.J. 289, 291 (1956) ; Herrmann, Voranssetzungen fuer die Anordnung 
der Untersuchungshaft, 10 N.J. 392 (1956). 

96. Official opinion contends, for example, that plans for setting up a giant corps of 
lay judges met with wide-range apathy at the lower level— that is to say, among munidpal 
and Union officials and local magistrates— and that only unrelenting perserverance on the 
part of high judidal authorities made it possible to effcctuatc the plans. Benjamin, Zu 
Fragen der Gesetzlichkeit und der Leitung innerhalb des Justizapparates, 9 N.J. 387 (1955) . 

'. r 

i y^-t^.-'f^-' 

1 1/' ■ ' 



[Vol. 68: 705 

tration" on which law enforcement must be stressed.®^ This is part and parcel 
of the legal setup as it affects both administrative implementation and judicial 
interpretation of the law, provinces largely overlapping in the framework of 
socialist legality. The formula, "changing content of legality," entails varia- 
tions in the sets of norms singled out for preferential enforcement as well as 
interpretative changes in the meaning of specific norms. 

The East German version of the Russian accent on legality, whatever its 
suspect doctrinal fruit, has not abounded in practica! conclusions. As early 
as May 1956, when the cult of legality blossomed out in Moscow as a by- 
product of de-Stalinization, East Berlin developed an ingeniously simple formula 
for combining lip Service to legality with a rescue Operation to salvage the pri- 
macy of nonlegislated norms of imidentified origin. Addressing a national Con- 
ference of judges and prosecutors, DDR Premier Otto Grotewohl stated that 
"democratic legality consists not only of the observance of existing written 
law but also of the fact that whatever makes up our socialist Standard of right 
[unser sozialistisches Recht], and increasingly will be expressed in our Statutes, 
is now already being put into effect."*® Adjustment to policy changes, how- 
ever radical, presents no troublesome ideological problems when whatever is 
"put into effect" makes law. 

"Socialist Legality": Adaptable Practice 

In DDR judicial practice, the notion of legality has taken variegated forms. 
Until 1953, there were unmistakable efforts to bring as many types of factual 
situations as possible under the scope of article 6 of the DDR Constitution, 
which penalizes inciting the "boycott" of democratic institutions and organiza- 
tions, instigating the assassination of democratic politicians, committing other 
acts "directed against the principle of equality," and expressing religious, racial 
or national hatred, or militarist Propaganda. Instead of enumerating and de- 
fining categories of reprehensible political acts, this catalogue supplies defama- 
tory labeis and relies upon the discretion of the courts to pin an appropriate 
name on any individual suspect as inimical to the regime, and to impose any 
of the penalties, ranging from a fine to the death penalty, that the Criminal 
Code provides. For example, the code was invoked to penalize, under a Soviet 
military administration order, the attempted removaJ of corporation assets 
to West Germany.^® A "piece of clearly discemible war propaganda" punish- 
able under the code was seen in "idle talk of Jehovah's Witnesses,"^**® who thus 

97. Present points of concentration are: increased labor productivity, protection of 
socialist property, and furtherance of the socialist transformation of agriculture. See 
Melsheimer, supra note 58, at 513. 

98. Neues Deutschland, May 20, 1956, p. 1. 

99. High Court Judgment of Feb. 28, 1951, 1 Entscheidungen des Obersten Gerichts 
in Strafsachen 104 (1952). 

100. High Court Judgment pf Fcb. 12, 1952, 2 Entscheidungen des Obersten Gerichts 
in Strafsachen 7 (1953). t • • ^ 

'■» .' ■ 



737 . 

faced under the DDR regime a treatment scarcely less ferocious than the one 
they had suffered under the Third Reich. During the Korean conflict, "utter- 
ances of national hatred" were discovered in rumors about the fate of soldiers 
taken prisoners by the North Koreans.^^^ A case arising from a brawl at a 
social gathering, in the course of which a Communist was hit for having ranted 
against "American dancing," was remanded to a lower court for possible appli- 
cation of article 6 on the grounds that, "claiming to have been drunk or suffered 
insults, enemies of the established order use the slightest provocation brutally 
to assault holders of public office."^®^ 

This unmitigated prosecution of actual or imaginary enemies suffered a 
major setback in June 1953, when the DDR govemment, belatedly drawing 
conclusions from the political change which had taken place in the Soviet 
Union after Stalin's death, inaugurated a "new course." Announced early 
in June, the liberalization program was carried beyond its limited objectives 
by the force of general unrest culminating in the populär uprising of June 17. 
Minister of Justice Max Fechner, subsequently dismissed for excessive liber- 
alizing zeal, took sensational steps to prove the sincerity of the new spirit. In 
the course of five days — ^June 15-20 — the administration of justice wallowed 
in a true orgy of clemency: 2,427 detention orders were cancelled, 1,484 
convicts paroled, 1,363 cases held not to merit prosecution, and 927 cases 
returned by the courts to the prosecutors' offices for a nolle prosequi decision.^^^ 

Mass application of nol. pros. dismissals merits special attention as a feature 
of "socialist legality." Certainly, the nol. pros. technique is not uncommon in 
most legal Systems. It is principally applied when the prosecution considers 
the reprehensible action too unimportant to Warrant trial, or too inconsequen- 
tial when viewed against the off ender 's personal background to justify sanctions 
which would blot his record. While such benevolence — or just common sense 
in human relations — ^may wipe out the consequences for the offender, it will 
not make black white nor erase the fact that an unlawful act has been com- 
mitted. Yet this is precisely what DDR jurisprudence seeks to achieve. 

FoUowing the model of the US SR Penal Code, DDR jurists have developed 
a concept of offense which, in a way, equates the criminal act with its conse- 
quences for Society. Even though all subjective and objective Clements of a 
criminal act are present, established judicial doctrine refuses to treat the 
incriminating action as an offense unless it entails specific danger to society. 
The existence of this danger may be denied because of the insignificant nature 
of the interests inf ringed upon, or because -no härm ensued for society as a 
whole, or, because — characteristic twist— either society had changed in such a 
way as to make the still prohibited act socially innocuous or the offender had 

101. High Court Judgment of Dec. 7, 1951, 2 Entscheidungen des Obersten Gerichts in 
Strafsachen 283 (1953). 

102. High Court Judgment of Dec. 9, 1952, 7 N.J. 25 (1952). 

103. See Fechner, Der neue Kurs der Regierung und die Aufgaben der Justis, 7 N.J. 
381 (1953). 




[Vol. 68: 705 

experienced so radical a reversal of his personality structure as to purge the 
perpetrated wrongdoing of its criminal characteristic.*^ *• 

The spy who, in redeeming himself in the eyes of his accusers, has erased his 
offense is among the examples most frequently cited to illustrate that trans- 
formation of personality which erases the criminal nature of the initially prose- 
cuted act. To be sure, the renegade spy tumed state's witness will be compen- 
sated in one way or another, more often than not in a left-handed way, by any 
political System that benefits from his "conversion." But hardly anywhere 
will love of the turncoat informer reach the point of ascribing to him, as 
does this concept of justice, a moral metamorphosis so sweeping in nature 
as to engulf his misdeeds. 

- The underlying doctrine, which revolves arbund the "material concept of 
the offense," serves the rulers as another tool to punish enemies and reward 
friends. In individual instances, it permits the relaxation of an overly harsh 
System of criminal law; it shields beneficiaries of the power setup from the 
fangs of the law; and it marks the intrusion of unadulterated arbitrariness 
into criminal prosecution. Affecting all decisions to withhold the prosecution 
of acts punishable under the law, this doctrine jeopardizes legality at one of 
its most sensitive spots.*®* 

The original Soviet teaching — ^that danger to society is an essential char- 
acteristic of the criminal act — ^has been subject to criticism in recent debate in 
the Soviet Union and other countries of the Soviet bloc.^®* In the DDR, it 
still provides the doctrinal background, in many instances, for refusal to prose- 
cute. The converse doctrine, applied as frequently but serving the opposite 
purpose, is one of extreme penalization. By this theory, the State holds a 
defendant criminally liable for socially damaging consequences of his action 
regardless of subjective guilt. Combined, these doctrinal constructs may serv^ 
as a perfect switch for turning criminal sanctions on and off ad lib. Their 
contribution to strict observance of legality is as dubious as that of the hodge- 
podge of opprobrious labcls in article 6 of the Constitution. 

An abortive attempt to limit the applicability of article 6 was imdertaken 
in the early days of 1953*s "new course." Treading rather cautiously after the 
revolt had been crushed by Soviet tanks, the SED central committee decided 
on June 21 that, in the prosecution of the rebels, a distinction should be made 
between instigators and passive participants inadvertently swept along by the 
mainstream of events. Minister of Justice Fechner thereupon decided that 

104. For offidal definitions, see Deutsches Institut fuer Reghtwissenschaft, 
op. cit. supra note 33, at 254, 266. 

105. Interesting parallels in Nazi practice havc been pointed out by Lange, Die 
Anwendung des Sowjetischen Stratrechtes nach Inhalt und Form in der sowjet- 
zonalen Praxis, Entwicklungen des Sowjetstrafrechts und sein Einfluss auv 
die Rechtsprechung in der Sowjetzone 55 (1956). 

106. Cf. Maurach, Zur Entwicklung des materiellen Verbrechensbegriffs im sow- 
jetischen Strafrecht, 1 Recht in Ost und West 137 (1957). 

,■! "•T.-:'^-. "■l('^""."'<. 





participation in strikes aimed at economic objectives, conduct which had pro- 
vided the background for the uprising, did not fall under the purview of 
article 6. The High Court and lower Berlin courts foUowed suit in sentences 
meted out in the latter part of June.^®'' The Minister himself was removed 
from Office in a matter of days, however, and arrested.^^^ He was denounced 
as an enemy of the State for having shielded behind the protective mantle of 
a justifiable strike a conspiracy to overthrow the "democratic order." The 
courts at all levels thereupon began tuming out assortments of ruthlessly severe 
sentences. They cooperated fully with the newly-appointed Minister of Justice, 
Frau Hilde Benjamin, who was to declare with braggadocio that "the judges 
had leamed within a few days'' how to apply the central committee's distinction 
between enemy agents and misguided but basically decent worker participants 
in the June events.^®* vv . ^^^^^^^ v-i 

Reprisais did not clarify the Government's intentions. The dismissed head 
of the judiciary was blamed by his successor both for leniency toward enemies 
of the State and for inexcusably harsh judgment ; he was also accused of having 
fostered violations of legality.^^^ The new Minister of Justice and the High 
Court took pains to explain reprisals against the June rebels as a special 
emergency measure which in no way detracted from the "new course" as set 
forth by the DDR cabinet on June 11.*" Specific legal implications of the 
liberalizing line were not spelled out. 

In actual practice, administration of justice continued zigging and zagging 
until the spring of 1956. Enforcement of discipline through "educational" 
pressure vied with disciplinary reprimands and the much severer arsenal of 
sanctions imposed by special legislation or derived from the cure-all provisions 
of article 6. At the highest level, efforts were made to have the courts observe 
rather subtle criteria for distinguishing individual lapses calling for disciplinary 
correction or lesser penal sanctions from deliberate acts undermining the 

107. High Court Judgment of June 30, 1953, 7 N.J. 410 (1953) ; Berlin Munidpal Court 
Judgments of June 23, 24, 25, 1953, Berlin Appeal Court Judgment of June 26, 1953, 7 
N.J. 421 (1953). 

108. Fechner was released from prison in 1956 and received a handsome indemnity for 
his unwonted sufferings. 

109. Benjamin, Unsere Justis^-ein wirksames Instrument bei der Durchjuehrung des 
neuen Kurses, 7 ^.], A77, A79 {\9Sy), 

110. Benjamin, Die Hauptaufgabe der Justiz bei der Durchfuehrung des neuen 
Kurses. Überarbeitetes und ergänztes Stenogramm einer Rede, gehalten vor Funk- 
tion aeren der Justiz am 29. August 1953, at 24 (1953). 

111. The DDR Law Journal carried only a few writcups of the crucl sentences 
imposed by the court on participants in the June events. And the DDR High Court, 
assembled in plenary session on August 29, even set aside a previous judgment of one of 
its sections and said that the sentence had been imnccessarily harsh and application of 
article 6 unlawful, for its provisions must not be invoked in cases other than those of 
"direct interference with the public order." See 3 Entscheidungen des Obersten Gerichts 
in Strafsachen 99, 102 (1954). 



[Vol. 68:705 

foundations of the State. In point of fact, however, decisions as to what 
sets of sanctions should apply depended as before on the magistrates' State of 
mind and the pressures and campaigns to which they were exposed, rather 
than on the character of the offense or the Situation of the offender.^^^ 

Increasingly, the courts were directed to combat the continuing exodus froni 
the DDR. While migration to West Germany was not punishable per se *^^ 
and indirect prosecution was possible only in cases that involved violation of 
interzonal trade regulations, "boycott" provisions under article 6 were invoked 
against Citizens who instigated the moves, those "who know that every member 
of the labor force is urgently required for the expansion of the peace econo- 
my."^^* A lower court went so far as to apply this provision to a lady fortune 
teller whose readings were alleged to have inspired her customers to leave 
the DDR.iiö 

All this changed suddenly, if temporarily, in March 1956, when the spirit 
of reform espoused by the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party 
began to touch East German society through the medium of the Third Party 
Conference of the SED, held March 24-30, 1956.^^® Socialist legality became 
the Slogan of the day. Critics were permitted to say that the "new course" of 
1953 had not been consistently steered. The party was urged to abandon 
''inordinate over-emphasis on governmental authority" and the pretense that 
the judiciary was "absolutely infallible."^^'' Ref erring to the preceding years, 
Minister of Justice Benjamin was later to say that, "as a consequence of the 
erroneous doctrine of the exacerbation of the class struggle, emphasis on the 
application of this or that norm shifted repeatedly." She added: "While we 

112. Comments by Walter Ziegler, High Court Vice-President, summed up practical 
advice for the courts on when to apply article 6, and incorporated certain trends which 
had crystallized by that time. Ziegler, Verbrechen gegen die Deutsche Demokratische 
Republik, 9 N.J. 677 (1955). For example, the time had come to dispel the doubts that 
had prevailed in the fall of 1953 with respect to pressure in favor of collective farms 
which might be exerted on farmers and rural officials. By 1955 even lower courts saw 
"Sabotage" under article 6 in such crimes against collective enterprise as collective farmers' 
private animal holding in excess of a fixed ratio, together with use of collective farm produce 
for feeding such "excess" animals, or unsterile vaccination by a veterinarian of livestock 
owned by a collective farm. Reports on such lower court rulings in April and June 1955 
were reported in 9 N.J. 417-18, 504-05 (1955).--^- 

113. Not until December 1957 was unauthorized departure from the DDR made a 
punishable offenseregardless of destination. See text accompanying note 135 }njra. 

114. High Court ruling of Jan. 27, 1956, 10 N.J. 99 (1956). 

115. Judgment of the District Court of Suhl, Thuringia, April 16, 1956, 10 N.J. 479 

116. Between national congresscs which meet once in three or four years, the SED holds 
"Conferences," in which the party's governing and functional bodies meet with regional and 
district bosses. 

117. Schulze, Neve Masstaebe, 10 N.J. 645 (1956). Schulze, the most outspoken inside 
critic of governmental policy, was to be severely reprimanded in 1957 for his critical ex- 
ploits of 1956. The editors of Neue Justiz were harshly upbraided for having published 
Schulze's attack on the party and legal leadership. 





kept within the framework of the law, we still violated legality.""^ On a 
number of specific issues, governmental policy was radically reversed."® 

Had the jurists and the party authorities seen the light overnight? Was 
legality more than just a way to find a peg— called norm— on which to hang 
whatever rules were slated for confirmation by the courts under the latest gov- 
ernment Instructions as to desirable attitudes? Had criminal law a special Job 
to perform in society, or was it merely a faint echo of the class struggle? The 
Twentieth Congress had explicitly rejected Stalin's contention that the class 
struggle was bound to become more intensive and ruthless as a result of the 
establishment of the "foundations of socialism in the USSR." Since too great 
significance had been attached to the role of criminal law in the regulation of 
human conduct, the importance of criminal sanctions was de-emphasized. 

Accordingly, DDR legal theorists now found that, while criminality was 
related to class struggle in the infinite chain of causal links, many violations 
of the criminal law mirrored nothing more than social relationships in which 
human beings conducted themselves as individuals rather than as representa- 
tives of class interests or class positions. Oflfenders who committed unlawful 
acts as a result of personal entanglements neither visualized nor cared about 
the effect of their actions on specific class situations. Accordingly, they should 
not be held liable for consequences prejudicial to the conduct of the class 
struggle.^20 Views of such an extreme deviationist slant were vented and dis- 
cussed in the course of a 1956 public debate on class struggle and the criminal 


Applied to political jurisprudence, such views posed dangerous implications. 
The scope of the crucial article 6 would be narrowed down to acts inten- 
tionally directed at the overthrow of the DDR regime. Those guilty under 
the erstwhile official Interpretation of various articles 6 offenses — ^for failure 
to meet approved Standards of "class consciousness" — could no longer be 
prosecuted. It would then be virtually impossible to designate as enemies of 
the commonweal, punishable under article 6 regardless of motives and degree 
-.of involvement, persons merely guilty of having run afoul of regulations cover- 

118. Benjamin, Fragen des Beweisrechts im Straf prosess, in Deutsches Institut fuer 
Rechtswissenschaft 107 (1957). ^-.■■^■.■^,,,-.^,r.^^.^;:.__^-..^:^^^...^^ 

119. The fortune teller's contribution to "escape from the Republic" was dismissed 
with contemptuous irony. The High Court quashed the judgment of a lower court which 
had sentenced a public transport white-collar employee with good professional contacts 
in Western Germany for having advised fellow workers to move to the Federal Republic 
where, according to his information, they would fare better. Nor did the High Court find 
any "elements" of a hostile act in the defendant's view that every hour one remains in the 
DDR was wasted time. See High Court Ruling of Nov. 2, 1956, 10 N.J. 766 (1956). 
But a year later, when the political climate and policy towards flight from the DDR 
changed again, the ruling became "'wrong and detrimental." Haid, Einige aktuelle Probleme 
der staatsanwaltschaftlichen Arbeit, 11 N.J. 794, 797 (1957). 

120. For a summary presentation of this train of thought, see Schuessler, über Rechtsver- 
letzung und Klassenkampf in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republic, 5 Staat und Recht 
825 (1956). 



[Vol. 68: 705 

ing the delivery of farm produce, an increase in work quota3» or an embargo 
on emigration. 

Predictably, the liberal deviations of 1956 were soon repudiated. The Soviet 
bloc's misfortunes in Hungary hastened the resumption of repressive policies. 
Those who had questioned the omnipresence of the class struggle in the realm 
of criminal law were castigated. Aniong other things, they were told that it 
would be impossible to maintain strict Standards of legality unless the criminal 
act as such were penalized, irrespective of subtle differences between political 
hostility to the established systeni of govemment and other asocial attitudes. In 
addition, the all-pervasiveness of the class struggle was vigorously reasserted.^^^ 
Delaying or obstructing the attainment of society's objectives, every criminal 
act was bound to influence class relations no matter what the perpetrator 
may have had in mind. Intentions and motivations mattered as little as did 
the defendant's social background; the concrete facts alone would determine 
the category of charges to be preferred.^^^ 

Formal reappraisal of 1956's liberal positions also foUowed in the wake of 
the Hungarian uprising. In January 1957, the thirtieth plenary session of 
the SED Central Committee condemned the doctrine that had viewed spon- 
taneity and economic self-govemment as stages in the "withering-away of the 
state."^^ It also criticized mistakes in the judicial implementation of decisions 
by the Twentieth Congress and the Third Party Conference of the SED, and 
deplored the fact that less harsh judicial and penal practice had resulted in 
flagging vigilance for reactionary and imperialist Subversion. On March 9, the 
"boycott" Provision of article 6 was invoked to convict a party ideologist for 
the attempted revision of party principles and alleged efforts to establish 
contacts with Social-Democrats.^^* The judiciary was stemly admonished to 
heed "warning signals" from the *Vorking class," reportedly indignant over 
the recent leniency in sentencing policy.^^** ;? > , 

During the summer months of 1957, even more persistent criticism was 
directed at "liberalism" and ''subjectivism," judges were taken to task for 
failing to study the debates and conclusions of the January meeting of the 

121. "A simplified and vulgarized class struggle discussion" was the verdict of Attorney 
General Ernst Melsheimer when drawing up his list of particulars against the recent 
"revisionisni." Melsheimer, Das Strajrechtsergaensungsgesets — ein Gesetz der sosialisii' 
sehen Dtmokratie, 12 N.J. 42 (1958). 

122. Klassenkampf und Strafrecht. Protokoll einer Tagung der Abteilung 
Strafrecht des Deutschen Instituts für Rechtswissenschaft in Berlin am 16. 
Novemrer 1956 (1956). 

123. The time apparently had come to make use of the formula prematurely coined 
by Minister of Justice Benjamin the year before, which invited the courts "to make decisions 
independently from local influences but without underestimating local points of concentration 
of the dass struggle." Her speech of April 16, 1956, is reported in 10 N.J. 259, 260 (1956). 

124. See excerpts from the Harich judgmcnt in 11 N.J. 166-70 (1957). 

125. Editorial, Nach dem 30. Plenum des Zentralkomitees der SED, 11 N.J. 129 (1957). 
Criminal law theoreticians then worked overtime to show the dangers of subjectivism 
in criminal law and to draw up an impressive list of early culprits, starting with von Liszt 




• , V .-i. 




.(T,^,-»-' ^.< ■*;,'• 

",<. • 

central committee thoroughly enough. The principle of '*Parteilichkeit"^^^ 
in judicial decisions was given new emphasis and was distinctly contrasted 
with "methods of Interpretation based on formal logic."^^^ In October 1957, 
SED boss Ulbricht once more endorsed the widest possible application of 
article 6 in redefining the area of freedom in the DDR. Freedom, in this 
Version, ends "where an action benefits NATO and Western revenge mongers 
or violates the.laws of the Republic."^^ ^ ^ 

By late spring 1958, "impartial" application of the law had become the 
deadliest reproach which might be levied against a member of the judiciary, 
and "Parteilichkeit,'' together with the fight against revisionism, was the pass- 
word on everybody's tongue. Legality, while not entirely smothered in theory, 
now is invariably coupled in an indissoluble "dialectical unity" with "Partei- 
lichkeit:*^^ -■■.:-::---^'--:^r---..^^^^..: 

The end of the 1956 trend resembled a rout. The treatment given the draft 
of a reform of criminal procedure submitted by a special commission appointed 
at the height of the liberalization wave was characteristic. The Minister of 
Justice went so far as to deny that any basic reforms had been included in the 
commission's terms of reference. The need for a revision of criminal procedure 
was refuted point by point. Among the public's major grievances had been 
the persistent use in trials of testimony given before the police, a practice based 
on section 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This section implied that, 
in the event of discrepancies between a defendant's trial testimony and his 
Statements made before police officials, police transcripts were to be read in 
court. While it was up to the court to choose the most believable verson,^^® 
judges generally tended to give the benefit of the doubt to testimony supplied 
by police interrogators.^^^ The commission had suggested a complete reversal 
of this practice. The Minister of Justice, the Attorney General and the highest 
judicial officer now insisted, however, that improvements in recording tech- 
niques used by the police would be sufficient; no change of the law was re- 
quired.132 >: ; ^ 

— 126. This German slang term denotes partiinasf. 

127. 11 N.J. 493 ( 1957) . See also Benjamin, Die Schoeffenwahlen 1958, Neues Deutsch- 
land, Oct. 31, 1957, p. 1. For official comment on the Thirtieth Plenary Session, see Der 
Kampf gegen buergerliche Ideologie und Revisionismus, 12 Einheit Zeitschrift fueä 
Theorie und Praxis des wissenschaftuchen Soziausmus 129, 136 (1957). 

128. Address by Walter Ulbricht at the Thirty-third Plenary Session of the SED 
Central Committee, Neues Deutschland, Oct. 20, 1957, special section (Beila<?e), p. 30. 

129. For some official Statements, see Benjamin, Die dialektische Einheit von 
Gesetzlichkeit und Parteilichkeit durchsetsen!, 12 N.J. 365 (1958) ; Streit, Fuer einen 
neuen Arbeitsstil in der JusHa, 12 N.J. 368 (1958). 

130. Police officer s who have taken pretrial testimony generally are not heard by the 
court and are not cross-cxamincd. Circumstances surrounding pretrial interrogations can 
hardly be elidted within the normal procedural framework. 

131. This had been brought out by many DDR lawyers. See Benjamin, Fragen des 
'Beweisrechts im Straf prosess, in Deutsches Institut fuer Rechtwissenschaft, 84, 87, 

,174 (1957). 

132. Editorial, Ergebnisse der Diskussion ueber die Anwendung der STPO, 11 N.J. 

601. 605 (1957). 




The ytipslaot a few months later was a group of amendments which, among 
4hings, finally defined the offenses catalogued in, or just shoved under 
the umbrella of, article 6. One commentator, writing in the period of reaction 
against the 1956 "revisionism," insisted that the amendments add nothing 
fundamentally new and do not put the organs of criminal repression before 
terra incognita.^^^ Despite its political coloring, this evaluation, with one ex- 
ception, is generally correct. The touchy problem of flight from the DDR, an 
issue disagreeable both from the viewpoint of the prestige of the regime and for 
the dilemma caused by the need to encourage the lost sheep's return into the 
fold, is now resolutely solved by treating both the fact of flight and most cases 
of incitement to flee the DDR as punishable crimes against the State. In line 
with SED boss Ulbrichts injunction that leaving the DDR connotes treasöa. 
against the interest of the people, unauthorized emigration from the DDR is 
now subject to a maximum of three years' imprisonment.^^^ Furthermore, 
agents who, in serving a "mercenary" military estabhshment or recruiting for 
business enterprises, induce people to flee are liable to penal servitude. Who- 
ever by promises, threats, or misrepresentations incites a youthful person, an 
apprentice, or a person with special professional qualifications to leave the 
DDR is liable to a minimum of six months' imprisonment.^^*^ With a touch 
of involuntary humor, the commentator adds that incitement grounded on 
family or sexual relations is not encompassed by the criminal law.*^* 


' 133. Renneberg, Die neuen Straf bestimmungen zum Schutze der deutschen demo- 
kratischen Republik, 12 N.J. 7 (1958). The decisions of the High Court on State security 
matters during the first half of 1958 bear out this contention. While substituting the no- 
menclature of the Penal Code Amendment Act— officially styled the milder law and hence 
retroactively applicable — for article 6 of the Constitution, the court has in no instance found 
it necessary to change the sentence as determined by the lower court, on the basis of article 
6. See, for example, the latest reported Jehovah's Witnesscs case, where the espionage 
and agitators provisions of §§ 14 and 19 of the P.C.A.A. are substituted for article 6 of 
the Constitution. High Court Decision of Feb. 28, 1958, 12 N.J. 248 (1958). 

134. Amendment to Passport Law § 8, [1957] G.B.D.D.R. 650 (Dec 11). Ccsare 
Beccaria, in chapter 32 of his essay on Crime and Punishment, uses the example of the 
uselessness of penal provisions against emigration in order to show the similar foolishness 
of attempts to punish suicide. While part of his argument is datedr— the subject of the 
eighteenth-century Hapsburg monarchy did not foresee the effectiveness and ruthlessness 
of the twentieth-century totalitarian regimes— his insistence on the difficulty arising from 
punishing retuming "criminals" still applies to modern totalitarian governments which, 
like many of their mercantilist predecessors, want to induce able-bodied and sldlled nationals 
to return to the fold. 

. r 135. Penal Code Amendment Act of Öec. 11, 1957, § 21, [1957] G.B.D.D.R. 643. The 
vice President of the High Court recently gave a rather extensive interpretation of both 
the meaning of inducement to flee and an aggravated case of inducement. His understanding 
of the needs of "the present class struggle Situation" would qualify inducement by Jehovah's 
Witnesses or an evangelical academy under § 21(1). 1. Jahn, Einige Fragen der Verleitung 
zum Verlassen der DDR, 12 N.J. 840, 843 (1958). 

136. Renneberg, Die neuen Strafbestimmungen zum Schutze der deutschen demokrati- 
schen Republik, 12 N.J. 7, 11 (1958). 







In most other respects, the amendments restate pre-existing concepts em- 
ployed to Interpret the nomenclature of article 6. Each theoretical term is 
carefuUy conceived to allow füll latitude for the ever-shifting needs expressed 
in changing "points of concentration." 

The material concept of the offense is now a construct formally enshrined 
in the DDR criminal law.^^^ Characteristic of the State of mind with which 
the authorities approach the job of reformulating the State security legislation 
is the law governing illicit relations with organizations the DDR deems hostile. 
While the corresponding West German enactment/^® as construed in the cele- 
brated John and Agartz cases/^^ conditions punishability on a finding that 
the defendant has become an instrument of the hostile power, the DDR enact- 
ment omits such qualifications. As the official commentator makes quite clear, 
establishment of contacts for purely private purposes (registration, gathering 
of information) unrelated to any political rule or activity would come within 
its Prohibition and would be punishable by a maximum of three years' im- 
prisonment.^*® Along with the typically totalitarian offense of "diversion" — 
permitting a great number of common crimes to be identified as offenses against 
the State security — reappears the concept of "Sabotage." It is defined as "im- 
peding the work of governmental and aßiliated organizations for the purpose 
of creating disturbances to destroy or undermine socialist reconstruction."^*^ 
Perpetrated by acts of commission such as misallocation of labor, or acts of 
Omission such as negligence in the exercise of official duties, Sabotage is pun- 
ishable with penal servitude. Espionage, treason, diversion and Sabotage may 
in a number of specifically enumerated circumstances be punished with penal 
servitude for life, or with death. The new formulation will, as East German 
comments emphasize, exclude these extreme penalties in all other cases.^*^ 
This "advantage" is obliterated by the fact that among the aggravated cir- 

137. Penal Code Amendment Act § 8. See text accompanying notes 105-07 supra. 
Moreover, courts are now at liberty to pass conditional sentences of a maximum of two 
years' imprisonment ; they also may Substitute "public censure," either alone or in con- 
junction with a fine for short-term prison sentences. P.C. A.A. §§ 1-6. However, these 
provisions, issued during a period of sharp reaction against all forms of revisionism and 
liberalism, are officially interpreted in a rather restrictive manner. The High Court and 
administration are concemed to narrow down their field of application and oppose lower 
court practices of resorting to tiiem routinely (considered a manifestation of the presently 
much-vituperated practice of "sentencing with a discount"). See Renneberg, Die neuen 
Strafarten in der Praxis unserer Gerichte, 12 N.J. 372 (1958). 

138. Penal Code § 100d(2). 

139. Otto John, Dec. 22, 1956, 2 St E 15/56 (Bundesgerichtshof 3. Strafsenat) ; Viktor 
Agartz, Dec. 13, 1957, 1 St. E 8/57 (Bundesgerichtshof 3. Strafsenat), 2 Hochrerrat und 
Staatsgefährdung, Urteile des Bundesgerichtshofs 77, 132 (1958) (John); id. at 187, 220 

140. Penal Code Amendment Act § 16; Renneberg, Die neuen Strafbestimmungen zum 
Schutze der deutschen demokratischen Republik, 12 N.J. 7, 9 (1958). 

141. Penal Code Amendment Act §§ 22, 23. 

142. Penal Code Amendment Act § 24; Lelcschas, Das STEG — das müdere Gesetz 
im Verhaeltnis zu Art 6 der Verfassung, 12 N.J. 84 (1958). 


-/.- ■•^«-t-3r;r-"*', "n ■.t, 




[Vol. 68: 705 

cumstances allowing the imposition of these penalties are found two definitions 
sufficiently vague to constitute a blank check: violation of a relationship of 
trust and the existence of a period of increased danger for the DDR.^**'* 

Difficulties of interpretation have arisen in applying the penal code amend- 
ments to hostile Propaganda. Criteria are lacking for distinguishing between 
mere defamation of the State ^** and state-endangering threats and agitation.^**^ 
At the height of the early 1958 movement against revisionism, penal policy 
veered sharply toward finding calculated hostility and intended, or at least 
probable, sedition in critical behavior that merely expressed personal dis- 
pleasure.^^^ More recently, the counsel of moderation has prevailed. The evalu- 
ation sheets that all courts must send to the Ministry of Justice in connection 
with any case involving questions of state security are being used to direct 
lower Organs toward educational rather than penal treatment of the ill- 
tempered.^*"' In state-defamation cases, the courts have frequently denied 
the very punishability of the act because a prerequisite of the material concept 
of the offense — danger to the public at large — ^is missing.^*® Or, the court may 
forego punishment in response to a fundamental change in the offender's atti- 
tude.^*® Whether this policy is anything more than an attempt to rescue courts 
f rom swamps of trivialities in which f riends of the regime or political neutrals ^°® 
become mired as often as do the more cautious agents of the class enemy cannot 
now be ascertained. 

Conceivably, a new shift in tenor might be introduced under cover of the 
present campaign, initiated at the fifth SED congress, to emulate Soviet en- 
»deavors toward all-embracing codification.^*^ But even if the codification 
campaign should signify that the high tide of the battle against revisionism is 
receding, the limited meaning of ''formulated legal enactments"^'^^ mithin the 


143. Penal Code Amendment Act § 24(2) (d)-(e). r ■■■■.r:\\ .:.'..:,../.. ■■■■c.i-,;.- 

144. Defamation may incur no more than two years* imprisonment. Penal Code Amend- 
ment Act § 20. ;:. : ^ 

145. Such crimes are punishaWe by imprisonment and, in aggravated cases, penal 
servitude. Penal Code Amendment Act § 19. 

, 146. See cases cited note 66 supra. 

j 147. Leim, Abgrenzung der Heise von der Staatsverleumdung, 12 N.J. 694 (1958). 

148. High Court Judgment of Sept. 16, 1958, 12 N.J. 716 (1958) (complaints over 
delivery quotas and comparisons between attitudes of present agricultural authorities and 
behavior of former estate owners judged to be without damaging consequences and to 
fall under § 8 of the Penal Code Amendment Act). 

149. Judgments of the District Court of Dresden, Aug. 8, 1958, 12 N.J. 680 (1958), 
and of a local court in Riesa, Sept. 5, 1958, 12 N.J. 681 (1958). 

150. See High Court Judgments of Sept. 5, 1958 (jokes hostile to regime, if reported 
disapprovingly to third person, held not to constitute state-endangering threat), and July 
25, 1958 (importation of hostile pcriodicals by politically inactive individual does not 
establish presumption of intention to circulate such material among wider circles, and 
therefore held not punishable as state-endangering threat), 12 N.J. 717 (1958). 

151. Buettner, Die Aufgabe der Gesetsgehung im Kampf um den Sieg des Sogialismus 
in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 7 Staat und Recht 968 (1958). 

152. Id. at 963. 



''YrT.j.''-:s--«- 'v ' V' 

■ '■-'•"■■':'''■■, ':':'-?"i''. ■■"••■."' 

..1- ■■ '';•- 
.'■•■• / 





f ramework of a social order intent on both speedy institutional change and, more 
significantly, on alteration of the consciousness structure of its hviman material, 
is overwhelmingly important. So long as the ministries and the central appa- 
ratus of the party itself maintain their tight check on both prosecution and court 
work/*^® the ebb and flow of changing slogans only show the extent to whidi 
the law remains at the disposal of party authority. 


In the superficially deceptive propensity of recent Communist legal doctrine 
to emphasize the normative element/" an anxious maintenance of the dosest 
possible relation between the legal norm and its creator and protector, the party- 
controUed govemment machine, displays traits reminiscent of legal positivism. 
The resemblance is superficial, however. Under the East German System, the 
sovereign does not use a comprehensive and tightly knit body of law as his main 
Channel of communication with the subjects, nor are the sovereign's orders neces- 
sarily issued by functionally competent authorities with a constitutionally defined 
Jurisdiction. What the lower-level authorities have as mandatory guides may 
be a law, an administrative order, a resolution passed by a party body, a public 
Speech delivered by a ranking official, an article published in a party publication, 
or a lecture on a fine point of doctrine. Such documents, only a few of which 
are officially classified as "normative acts," may either provide a high degree of 
specificity, or — ^more often — ^leave concretization to the executive agendes in 
Charge. The lower-level office holder will be well advised to watch out con- 
stantly for reactions of the authorized primary Interpreter in order to protect 
himself and assure obedience from his subordinates. Administrative objectives 
may be indicated by indirection, as in the criticism of operational mistakes or the 
designation of new "points of concentration." 

This elastic System, which more often than not is at cross purposes with strict 
observance of legality, infuses a calculated dement of spedficity. It grants those 

.Ijijl. See Benjamin, Vom IV. sum V. Parteitag der Sasialistischen Einheitspartei 
Deutschlands, 12 N.J. 437, 438 (1958). In her evaluation of the tasks set by the SED fifth 
party congress, she reemphasizes the need for central direction of the courts' work. At any 
rate, the recent discussion in Russia of the locus and extent of court supervision and the ensu- 
ing reformulation of article 10 of the Principles of Criminal Procedure, though initially 
reported in 6 Rechtswissenschaftlicher Informationsdienst 341 (1957), so far has 
found no receptive ear in Eastern Germany. For an English version of this discussion, see 
Judicial vs. Executive Supervision Over the Courts, 10 The Current Digest of the Soviet 
Press, No. 20, at 6 (1958). As recently as 1957, Minister of Justice Benjamin and other 
members of her ministry, citing the Czech example, have insisted on the need for continued 
direction of the courts by the Ministry of Justice, conditioned as it is by the concrete 
economic and political Situation of East Germany, drcumstanccs deemed to be at variance 
with those in the Soviet Union. Benjamin, Aktuelle Fragen der Gerichtsorganisation, in 
Staat und Recht im Lichte des grossen Oktober 189 (1957) ; Ostmami, Ueber die 
Organisation der Justizverwaltung, 11 N.J. 357 (1957). 

154 David & Hazard, 1 Le Droit SoviETiguE 78 (1954) ; Kslsen, The Communist 
Theory of Law 129 (1955). 



[Vol. 68: 705 

.: : 

in power the opportunity to single out for condemnation whichever specific ap- 
proach they may deem inopportune. As Instruments of command, the sovereign 
uses vituperation, criticism and exhortation as much as he does clear-cut Orders 
or formalized laws setting forth generalized rules of conduct. The backfiring of 
individual decisions may always be blamed on lower echelons whose Job it is 
to institutionalize and individualize policies laid down by a superior agency. 

The formal law on the Statute books is overgrown with numerous interpreta- 
tive glosses of varying origin and age, yet as authoritative as the law itself. 
The judge-administrator must follow the latest signals from above. Simultane- 
ously, he is expected to accommodate possible reactions of an undefined grass- 
roots public, though not in the traditional way of striking a balance between 
norm requirements and the divergent interests of affected parties. Instead, his 
is the Job of an errand boy ordered to deliver a letter and to bring back a receipt 
signed by the addressee. The receipt symbolizes the widely advertised "educa- 
tional" function of the law. While there is no doubt that the government pro- 
gram will be carried out regardless of public volition, the official — no matter 
where he Stands in the chain of command — is under the Obligation to transform 
the Citizens' passive obedience or recalcitrant obtuseness into cheerful Coopera- 

The essence of "socialist legality," then, is guaranteeing that Orders and 
Signals are unfailingly observed at all subordinate levels. A measure of obedi- 
ence may be ensured by establishing regulär and permanent Channels for imple- 
mentation ; this may even include procedures permitting the individual to react 
f reely within such limits as suit the government's convenience and tally with the 
objectives to be obtained. But it is the objectives which count, not any degree 
of harmony between what the government wants and what grows out of institu- 
tional or legal positions accorded individuals or groups. When policies and official 
interpretations change, legality attaches to the new task at band. Under no 
condition is it called upon to mediate between today's objectives of the sovereign 
and yesterday's expectations of the subject. At the Service of a fixed policy 
rather than as a purveyor of societal equilibrium, l^^lity represents a marriage 
between law and efficiency drive. It Stands for the avoidance of lost motions ; 
it becomes the government's whip to secure the attainment of top-priority 
goals. -^ -_ 

Under such circumstances, what can be the natura of the law? No doubt, 
the SED and DDR government are fully aware of the beneficial effect guaran- 
teed expectations have on all factors which make the individual maximally 
cooperative with his neighbors and the authorities. A great number of initia- 
tives formalized in legal enactments might be adduced to show how laboriously 
the various DDR administrations have toiled to produce a maximum of such 
satisfactions.^*^^ If the judge had adequate Standing in the Community to pro- 



155. The quest for individual security was stressed in a recent attempt to bring some 
Order into the rather chaotic business of norm creation. See Gentz, Zu einigen Grundsaetsen 
der Rechtsetzung, 12 N.J. 225-30 (1958). 




gress from individualizing these isolated norm complexes to independently 
deciding upon their respective priorities, he might help to create a longer- 
range balance between the claims of the individuals and those of the State. 
At the present stage of the DDR society, however, the problem simply does not 
present itself in such terms. The regime simultaneously assumes too many 
new ventures and faces or, at times, intentionally conjures up too many prob- 
lems, to be able to allow anyone outside its political leadership to decide on the 
elements which should enter the momentary balance between the requirements 
of the regime and the allowable satisfactions of the citizenry. When the regime's 
major goals have been fulfilled and its Spiritual and social dominion safely 
anchored, the eternal guard against individual slackening may be relaxed — 
and a referee allowed to mark points for both sides. Until that day, however, 
the judge remains a simple party servant correctly called by the regime itself 
"fuctionary of the apparatus of justice." Like his peers in other departments, 
he may become tired or too sympathetic with the stragglers in whom he recog- 
nizes his own image. Nevertheless, so long as the political front line is moving 
and the chow line forming at the rear, he falls in step. Thus, the variables in 
the guessing game called interpretation of the law reduce themselves rather 
drastically to the shifting policies of the Communist regime. 


\' . i i';, ' -V'' 

; j^,— .,'~-fct. .*ii-., 

■•"■/ J-y''"'/ 

^-' ■' 


U/. taju(- *^-^^*t«^-. 


OuüuJ * 







./J- ;, f ■' '. 





- y 



La Philosophie du Moyen Äge est, en quelque sorte, une de- 
couverte toute r&entc. Jusqu a il y a relativement peu d'annees, 
le Moyen Äge tout entier etait represente sous des couleurs les 
plus sombres : triste epoque oü Tesprit humain, asservi ä l'auto- 
rit^ — double autorite du dogme et d'Aristote — s*6puisait dans 
des discussions steriles de problemes imaginaires. Aujourd'hui en- 
core le terme « scolastique y> a pour iious tm -scns twttement p6- 

Sans doute, tout n'est pas faux dans ce tableau. Tout n'est 
pas vrai non plus. Le Moyen Äge a connu une epoque de barbarie 
profonde, barbarie politique, economique, intellectuelle — epoque 
qui s'^tend ä peu pres du VI« au XI« siecle ; mais il a connu aussi 
une epoque extraordinairement f^onde, epoque de vie intellectuelle 
et artistique d'une intensite sans pareille, qui s'etend du XI« au 
XIV« siecle (inclus) et ä laquelle nous devons, entre autres, Tart 
gothique et la philosophie scolastique. 

Or, la Philosophie scolastique — nous le savons maintenant — 
a it€ quelque chose de tr^ grand. Ce sont les scolastiques qui ont 
accompli TMucation philosophique de TEurope et ont cr^ notre 
terminologie, celle dont nous nous servons encore ; ce sont eux 
qui, par leur travail, ont permis ä l'Occident de reprendrc ou 
m^e, plus exactcment, de prendre contact avec Toeuvre philoso- 
phique de rantiquit6. Aussi, malgr^ les apparences, y a-t-il une 



■ ■%•:! 



'■'-! • • 

»\ ,;.J.7.>„i(' 

continuite veritable — et profonde — entre la philosophie me- 
dievale et la philosophie moderne. Descartes et Malebranche, 
Spinoza et Leibniz, ne fönt bien souvent que continuer Toeuvre 
de leurs predecesseurs medieyaux. > w ^ 

Quant aux questions ridicules et oiseuses dont discutaient ä 
perte de vue^les professeurs et les eleves des universites de Paris, 
d'Oxford et du Caire, etaient-elles tellement plus ridicules et plus 
oiseuses que Celles dont ils discutent aujourd'hui ? Peut-etre ne 
nous paraissent-elles telles que parce que nous ne les comprenons 
pas bien, c'est-ä-dire parce que nous ne parlons plus le meme lan- 
gage et ne voyons pas la portee et les implications des questions 
discutees, ni le sens, volontairement paradoxal souvent, de la forme 
sous laquelle elles sont presentees. 

Ainsi, quoi de plus ridicule que de se demander combien 
d'anges peuvent prendre place sur la pointe d'une aiguille ? Ou 
encore, si l'intellect humain est place dans la lune, ou ailleurs ? 
Sans doute. Mais seulement tant que Ton ne sait ou ne comprend 
pas ce qui est en jeu. Or, ce qui est en jeu, c'est de savoir si l'esprit, 
si un etre ou un acte spirituel — un jugement par exemple — occu- 
pent, oui ou non, une flace dans l'espace. . . Et cela n'est plus 
ridicule du tout. De meme pour l'intellect humain. Car ce qui est 
en jeu dans cette doctrine bizarre des philosophes arabes, c'est de 
savoir si la pensee — la pensee vraie — est individuelle ou non. 
Et si nous admirons Lichtenberg pour avoir afl&rme qu'il vaudrait 
mieux employer une forme impersonnelle, et dire non pas : ;V 
penset mais : // pense en mo't ; si nous acceptons, ou du moins dis- 
cutons, les theses durkheimiennes sur la conscience coUective, ä la 
fois immanente et transcendante ä l'individu, je ne vois pas pour- 
quoi — laissant de cote la lune — nous ne traiterions pas avec 
tout le respect qu'elles meritent, les th^ories d'Avicenne et d'Aver- 
roes sur l'unite de l'intellect humain. 

!-V «■=!,-"). 

'1' ; I*. 






■ir/'y'v^>»y^'='ir-f ^^V,#:« -l« •-;__T^^. -«v*^ 




' Tfr". --•"' ■T- 


t I 


La barbarie medievale, economique et politique — ainsi qu'il 
resulte des beaux travaux du grand Historien beige, Pirenne — 
a eu pour origine bien moins la conquete du monde romain par 
des tribus germaniques que la rupture des relations entre l'Orient 
et rOccident, le monde latin et le monde grec. Et c'est la meme 
raison — le manque de rapports avec l'Orient hellenique — qui a 
produit la barbarie intellectuelle de l'Occident. Comme c'est la re- 
prise de ces relations, c'est-ä-dire la prise de contact avec la pensee 
antique, avec l'heritage grec, qui a produit l'essor de la philosophie 
medievale. Certes, ä l'epoque qui nous occupe, c'est-ä-dire au 
Moyen Äge, l'Orient — en dehors de Byzance — n'etait plus grec. 
II etait arabe. Aussi, ce sont les Arabes qui ont ete les inaUres et 
les educateurs de l'Occident latin. 

J'ai souligne : maitres et educateurs et non seulement et sim- 
plement, ainsi qu'on le dit trop souvent, intermediaires entre le 
monde grec et le monde latin. Car si les premieres traductions 
d'ceuvres philosophiques et scientifiques grecques en latin furent 
faites non pas directement du grec mais ä travers l'arabe, ce ne 
£ut pas seulement parce qu'il n'y avait plus — ou encore — per- 
sonne en Occident ä savoir du grec, mais encore, et peut-etre surtout, 
parce qu'il n'y avait personne capable de comprendre des livres 
aussi difiiciles que la Physique ou la Metaphysique d'Aristote ou 
V Almageste de Ptolemee et que, sans l'aide de Farabi, d'Avicenne 
ou d'Averroes, les latins n'y seraient jamais parvenus. C'est qu'il 
ne suffit pas de savoir du grec pour comprendre Aristote ou Piaton 
— c'est la une erreur frequente chez les philologues classiques — 
il faut encore savoir de la philosophie. Or les latins n'en ont ja- 
mais SU grand'chose. L'antiquite latine paienne a ignore la phi- 

II est curieux de constater — et j'insiste lä-dessus, parce que 
cela me parait etre d'une importance capitale et que, bien que 
connu, cela ne soit pas toujours remarque — il est curieux de cons- 







.' . ■ . .. r 



tater ImdifF^rence presque totale du Romain pour la science et la 
Philosophie. Le Romain s'interesse aux choses pratiques : i'agri- 
culture, l'architecture, l'art de la guerre, la politique, le droit, la 
morale. Mais qu'on cherche dans toute la litterature latine clas- 
sique une ceuvre scientifique digne de ce nom, on n'en trouvera 
pas; une oeuvre philosophique, pas davantage. On trouvera 
Pline, c'est-ä-dire un ensemble d'anecdotes et de racontars de bonne 
femme ; Seneque, c'est-ä-dire un expose consciencieux de la morale 
et de la physique stoiciennes, adaptees — c*est-ä-dire simplifiees — 
ä Tusage des Romains; Ciceron, c'est-ä-dire des essais philoso- 
phiques d'un homme de lettres dilettante ; ou Macrobe, un manuel 

d'ecole primaire. 

C'est vraiment etonnant, lorsqu'on y songe, que, ne produisant 
rien eux-memes, les Romains n'aient meme pas 6prouve le besoin 
de se procurer des traductions. En eflFet, en dehors de deux ou trois 
dialogues traduits par Gceron (dont le TimSe) — traduction 
dont presque rien n'est parvenu jusquä nous — ni Piaton, 
ni Aristote, ni Euclide, ni Archim^de n'ont jamais dt6 traduits 
en latin. Du moins ä l'^poque classique. Car si YOrganon d' Aris- 
tote, et les Enneades de Plotin le furent, en fin de compte, ce n'est 
que tres tard, et ce fut l'oeuvre de chretiens ^^\ 

Sans doute peut-on invoquer des circonstances att6nuantes, 
expliquer l'indigence de la litterature scientifique et philosophique 
romaine par la grande diflFusion du grec : tout Romain « bien n6 » 
apprenait du grec, allait faire des 6tudes en Gthct . . . On savait 
du grec, comme jadis, en Europe, on savait du fran^. N*cxag6- 
rons pas, cependant, le degr6 de cette diflFusion. Uaristocratie ro- 
maine elle-meme n'^tait pas entierement « grdcis^ », ou du moins. 


(1) 1» Enniades oot M traduites par Marius Victormus, au IV« siiclc; 
YOrzanon, par Bo^e, au VI«. La traduction de Plotin est perdue ; quant l edle 
d' Aristote, eile Test ^galement, en grande partic : les Catigorhs et les Topiques 
seuls ont M connus du haut Mojren Age. 

[ 78 ] 



^_, -•*■- t- . ■'i^■"r•l^ 

,'W ■■•:<.- 






^': ■iA'**i- ■!>''- 

en ddiors de cerdes fort 6troits, ne lisait ni Piaton, ni Aristote, 
ni men^es manuels stoiciens : c'est pour eile, en eflFet, qu'ecri- 
vaient Ciceron et Sen^ue. ^ K 

Or ce n'est pas ainsi que les choses se passent dans le monde 

arabe. C'est avec une ardeur surprenante, la conquete politique 
ä peine achev6e, que le monde arabe-islamique se lance ä la con- 
quete de la civilisation, de la science, de la philosophie grecques. 
Toutes les ceuvres scientifiques, toutes les oeuvres philosophiques 
seront, soit traduites, soit — c'est le cas pour Piaton — exposees 
et paraphrasees. ^ 

Le monde arabe se sent, et se dit, h^ritier et continuateur du 
monde hellenistique. En quoi il a bien raison. Gu: la brillante et 
riebe civilisation du Moyen Äge arabe — qui n'est pas un moyen 
äge mais plutot une Renaissance — est, en toute v^rit6, conti- 
nuatrice et heritiere de la civilisation hellenistique ^^\ Et c'est pour 
cela qu'elle a pu jouer, vis-ä-vis de la barbarie latine, le role Emi- 
nent d'^ducatrice qui a 6te le sien. 

Sans doute, cette floraison de la civilisation arabe-islamique 
a et^ de tres courte dur6e. Le monde arabe, apr^ avoir transmis 
ä rOccident latin l'heritage dassique qu'il avait recueilli, l'a lui- 
meme perdu et meme r6pudi6. 

Mais, pour expliquer ce fait, on n'a pas besoin d'invoquer, 
ainsi que le fönt, bien souvent, les auteurs allemands — et meme 
frangais — une repugnance congenitale de 1* Arabe pour la philo- 
sophie ; une Opposition irr^ductible entre l'esprit grec et l'esprit 
semitique ; une imp6ntoabilit6 spirituelle de l'Orient pour l'Occi- 
dent — on dit beaucoup de sottises sur le th^e Oricnt-Ocddent. . . 
On peut expliquer les choses beaucoup plus simplement, par Tin- 
fluence d'unc r6action violente de i'orthodoxie islamique qui, non 
Sans raison, reprochait k la philosophie son attitude anti-religieuse. 


(2) a. R. Merz, RMnaissance im Islam, Bilc. 1914. 



-V-TV^- ■ .^■■.'. 




et surtout par l'effet devastateur des vagues d'invasions barbares, 
turques, mongoles (berberes en Espagne) qui ont ruine la civili- 
sation arabe et ont transforme l'Islam en une religion fanatique, 
farouchement^hostile ä la philosophie. ,^_J r ^^^12 _ 

II est probable que, sans cette derniere « influence », la philo- 
sophie arabe aurait poursuivi un developpement analogue ä celui 
de la scolastique latine ; que les penseurs arabes auraient su trouver 
des reponses aux critiques d'Al Gazal (Gazali), auraient su « isla- 
miser » Aristote. . . Ils n'en ont pas eu le temps. Les sabres turcs 
et berberes ont, brutalement, arrete le mouvement et ce £ut ä 
rOccident latin qu'echut la tache de recueillir l'heritage arabe, 
concurremment avec l'heritage grec que les arabes lui avaient 
transmis/ ■"'•' ■■^t'■'v^ '•^;-.''■ ■"!■'■ :?''•-'." 

Je viens d'insister sur l'importance et le role de l'heritage 
antique. C'est que la philosophie, du moins notre philosophie se 
rattache tout entiere ä la philosophie grecque, suit les lignes tracees 
par la philosophie grecque, realise des attitudes prevues par celle-ci. 

Ses problemes, ce sont toujours les problemes du savoir et 
de l'etre poses par les grecs. C'est toujours l'injonction delphique 
ä Socrate : rvwöio-tovTov, connais-toi toi-meme, reponds aux 
questions : que suis-je ? et oü suis-je ? c'est-ä-dire qu'est-ce qu'etre 
et qu'est-ce que le monde ? et enj&n, qu'est-ce que j'y fais, et que 
dois-je y faire, moi, dans ce monde ? 

Et Selon qu'on donne ä ces questions l'une bu l'autre r6ponse, 
Selon qu'on adopte l'une ou l'autre attitude, on est Platonicien, ou 
Aristotelicien, ou encore, Plotinien. A moins toutefois qu'on ne 
seit Stoicien. CXi Sceptique. 


>' •X«'^'^!- 

; '•'- 

:<'^-y • ■ ■«'•.,- 

^':-^' i- 









•nKiiXir.-^_:. :>^,.--^l 


'■ ' .-'•'' 

arjstotSlisme et platonisme 

• (.'■.-'. 


Ȁ- J'3^_ 

Ibans la pMosophie du moyen äge — puisquelle est philo- 
sophie — nous retrouvons fadlement les attitudes typiques que 
je viens de mentionner. Et pourtant, generalement parlant, la Si- 
tuation de la Philosophie medievale — et celle, bien entendu, du 
philosophe — sont assez diff^rentes de celle de la philosophie 
antique. t;, 

La Philosophie medievale — qu'il s'agisse de philosophie chre- 
tienne, juive ou islamique — se place, en eflFet, ä Tinterieur d'une 
religion r6v616e. Le philosophe, ä une exception pr^, celle no- 
tamment de l'Averroiste, est croyant, Aussi certaines questions 
sont-elles pour lui resolues d'avance. Ainsi, comme le dit tres per- 
jünemment M. Gilson ^^\ le philosophe antique peut se demander 
s'il y a des Dieux et combien il y en a. Au Moyen Äge — et gräce 
au Moyen Äge, il en est de meme dans les temps modernes, — on 
ne peut plus se poser de questions pareilles. On peut, sans doute, 
se demander si Dieu existe ; plus exactement, on peut se demander 
comment on peut en d^nontrer l'existence. Mais la pluralite des 
Dieux n'a plus aucun sens : tout le monde sait que Dieu — qu'il 
existe ou non — ne peut etre qu'unique. En outre, tandis que 
Piaton ou Aristote se forment librement leur conception de Dieu, 
le philosophe m^di^val sait, generalement parlant, que son Dieu 
tst un Dieu createur, conception tres difficile, ou peut-etre meme 
impossible, ä saisir pour la philosophie ^*\ 

II sait encore, sur Dieu, sur lui-meme, sur le monde, sur son 
idestln, beaucoup d'autres choses que lui enseigne lä religion. II 
sait, du moins, qu'elle les enseigne. En face de cet enseignement 
il lui faut prendre parti. II lui faut, en outre, en face de la reli- 
gion, justifier son activit^ philosophsque ; et, d'un autre cote, il 

(3) Cf. R GttSON, Esprit de la philosophie midiivaU, 2 v., Paris. 1932. 

(4) Aussi est-dle ni^ ptr ceux des philosophes m^^auz qui ont le plus 
fidMement malntenu l'exigence de la philosophie i la Suprematie et k l'autocratie, 
c'est-ä-dire par les Averrolstes. 


Gants du Cid -^ 6 

tiTT r;--?»*^ ■■* ■ ■'..' 


Im taut, en face de la philosophie, justifier rexistence de la re- 
Cela cree, evidemment, une Situation extremement tendue et 

compliquee. Fort heureusement d'ailleurs, car c'est cette tension et 
cette complication dans les rapports entre la philosophie et la re- 
ligion, la raison et la foi, qui ont nourri le developpement philo- 
sophique de TOccident. ' ' ' - 

Et pourtant. . . malgrl cette Situation toute nouvelle, des qu'un 
philosophe — qu'il soit juif, musulman ou chretien — aborde le 
Probleme central de la metaphysique, celui de l'ßtre et de l'essence 
de rfitre, il retrouve dans son Dieu Createur le Dieu-Bien de Piaton, 
le Dieu-Pensee d'Aristote, le Dieu-Un de Plotin. 

;?■>■■ p'4.' 

La philosophie medievale nous est, le plus souvent, presentee 
comme dominee enti^rement par l'autorite d'Aristote. C'est vrai 
Sans doute, mais pour une periode determinee seulement ^^\ Et 
pour celle-ci, la raison en est assez facile ä comprendre. ^ '' 

D'abord Aristote fut le seul philosophe grec dont l'ceuvre 
tout entiere — du moins toute celle qui etait connue dans l'anti- 
quite — ait ete traduite en arabe et plus tard en latin. Celle de 
Piaton n'eut pas cet honneur et fut donc moins bien connue. 

Ceci non plus n'est pas un effet du hasard. L'ceuvre d'Aristote 
forme une veritable encyclopedie du savoir humain. En dehors de 
la medecine et des mathematiques, on y trouve tout : logique — ce 
qui est d'une importance capitale — , physique, astronomie, meta- 
physique, sciences naturelles, psychologie, ethique, politique. . . II 
n'est pas etonnant que pour le haut Moyen Äge, ebloui et ecrase 

(5) Cf. Leo Strauss, Philosophie und Gesetz, Berlin, 1935. 

(6) Grosso modo, \ partir de la deuxi^me moiti6 du XIII« siecle. 

[ 82 ] 


.» ' 

■^ ( 

y^r^t^n.:;: ^' 


^-!'.1vf.^ r 


X . ' 


par cette masse de savoir, subjügu6 par cette mtelligence vraiment 
hors ligne, Aristote soit devenu le representant de la verite, le 
sommet et la perfection de la nature humaine, le prince di colof' 
che sannö^ commt dira Dante. Le prince de ceux qui savent. Et 
surtout de ceux qui enseignent. 

; ■■>-^^ 

Car Aristote, en plus, est une aubaine pour le professeur. 
Aristote enseigne et s'enseigne ; se discute et se commente. 

Aussi n'est-il pas etonnant que, une fois introduit dans l'ecole, 
il y prit immediatement racine (d'ailleurs, en tant qu'auteur de la 
logique, il y etait dejä, depuis toujours), et qu'aucune force hu- 
maine n'ait pu Ten chasser. Les interdictions, les condamnations 
resterent lettre morte. On ne pouvait enlever Aristote aux pro- 
fesseurs sans leur donner quelque chose ä la place. Or jusqu*ä 
Descartes, on n'avait rien, absolument rien, ä leur donner. 

Piaton, en revanche, s'enseigne mal. La forme dialoguee nest 
pas une forme scolaire. Sa pens6e est sinueuse, difficile ä saisir, 
et souvent presuppose un savoir scientifique considerable et donc 
assez peu repandu. C'est pourquoi, sans doute, des la fin de l'anti- 
quite dassique, Piaton n'est plus Studie en dehors de l'Academie. 
Oü, d'ailleurs, il est moins etudi6 qu'interpr6te. C'est-ä-dire trans- 

forme. ^-^^.■-•'-.^w •.,;,-: , 

Partout ailleurs, c'est le manuel qui remplace le texte. Le 
manuel — comme nos manaels ä nous — assez ^lectique, syncr^- 
tiste, inspir6 surtout par le Stoicisme et le Nteplatonisme. Cest 
pourquoi, dans la tradition historique, Piaton apparatt-il en quelque 
Sorte neo-platonise. Pas seulement chez les Arabes qui bien souvent 
le confondent avec Plotin, mais aussi chez les latins, et m&ne chez 
les grecs byzantins qui le voient ä travers les commentaires, ou les 
manuels, n6o-platoniciens. II en est, d'ailleurs, de meme en ce 

qui concerne Aristote. 

Et pourtant, ä travers les toits n6o-platonidens, ä travers 
Gc^roh, Bo^e, Ibn, Gabirol (Avencebrol) et surtout et avant 




■^ i 

,,-i ■'•,:., :-"■.■, ■ : "■»•-,;•■ ••,' »'..•'\'V."'"'' '■'". 






•;■)« ■ 

■■". '.-; 


' 'M--.- 

tout ä travers Tceuvre grandiose et magnlfique de saint Augustin, 
certains themes, certaines doctrines, certaines attitudes subsistent 
qui, Sans doute transposees et transformees par le cadre religieux 
^dans lequei iis s'ins^rent, persistent et nous permettent de parier 
d'un platonisme medieval. Et meme d'affirmer que ce platonisme, 
^ ; qui a inspire la pensee m^dievale iatine aux XI« et XII« siedes, 

' n*a pas disparu avec l'arriv6e triompiiale d'Aristote dans les 
ficoles ^'^KBn fait, le plus grand des aristoteliciens chr6tiens, S. Tho- 

v^ mas, et le plus grand des platoniciens, S. Bonaventure, sont exac- 

? tement contemporains. 

r--' s* ■ 


Je viens de dire que le Moyen Äge connaissait Piaton surtout 
de seconde main. Surtout. . . mais pas uniquement. Gir, si le Menon 
et le Phedon, traduits au cours du XII« siecle, resterent ä peu pres 
inconnus, en revanche le Timee, traduit et muni d'un long com- 
mentaire par Chalddius (au IV« siMe), est dans toutes les mains. 
iLe Timee c'est l'histoire — ou, si Ton prefere, le mythe — 
de la cr^ation du Monde. Piaton y raconte comment le Demiurge, 
ou le Dieu supreme, apr^s avoir forme dans un cratere un melange 
du Meme et de VAufre — ce qui veut dire, en Toccurrence, du 
permanent et du changeant — en forme TÄme du Monde, per- 
durante et mobile ä la fois, les deux cercles du Meme et de TAutre, 
(c'est-ä-dire, les cercles du Zodiaque et de l'&liptique) qui, par 
leurs r^olutions circulaires, determinent les mouvements du monde 
sublunaire. Les Dieux inferieurs, les Dieux astraux, les ämes sont 
formes avec ce qui reste. Ensuite en d^oupant dans l'espace des 
petits triangles, Dieu en forme des corps 61toentaires et, de ces 
ildments, les corps r^ls, les plantes, les animaux, Thomme, 6tant 
dans son travail aid6 par Taction des Dieux inferieurs. 

(7) Le contenu platonisaat des doctrines se dlssimule parfois -^ pour nous — 
söus le v^tement d'une tenninologie aristot^lisante. 





-■ vi'- ■•■■•■■ •'-■:. 


1 ■ , 






:/r '.?-■'*. 


Curieux mflange (Je 1^^^^ mythique et de m^anique 

Celeste, de th6ologie et de physique mathematique. . . L'ouvrage 
eut une vogue considerable ; les bibliotheques europeennes sont 
pleines de manuscrits et de commentaires inedits du Timee ^^K II 
inspira l'enseignement de l'ficole de Chartres ; des poemes ; les 
enqrclopedies medi^vales ; des oeuvres d'art. Sans doute la notion 
de Dieux inferieurs etait-elle choquante ; mais il suffisait de les 
remplacer par des anges, pour rendre le Timee acceptable. 

En Orient, la vogue du Timee fut aussi grande qu'elle le fut 
en Occident. II inspira notamment, ainsi que l'a recemment montre 
JA. Kraus ^^\ une bonne partie de Talchimie arabe. Ainsi, par 
exemple, la doctrine de la transformation des metaux de Jäbir — 
que nous appelons Geber — est fond^e tout entiere sur Tatomisme 
mathematique du Timee. Les alchimistes s'evertuent ä calculer 
les poids sp^fiques des metaux, en se basant sur des consid^ra- 
tions visiblement inspir^es par l'oeuvre de Piaton. Avec peu de 
succes assurement. Mais ce n'etait pas de leur faute. L'id6e etait 
bonne. Nous nous en apercevons aujourd'hui. 

Le Timee ne contient sans doute pas tout le platonisme. II 
presente cependant certaines de ses doctrines fondamentales ; celle 
des Idees-Formes notamment, ainsi que la notion de la Separation 
du monde sensible et du monde intelligible : en eflFet, c'est en 
s'inspirant des modeles ^ternels que le D6miurge construit notre 
monde. En meme temps, le Timee oflFre un essai de Solution — par 
Taction divine — du probl^me des rapports entre les id^es et le 
'^r^el sensible. II est compr6hensible que les philosophes m6di6vaux 
y virent une doctrine fort acceptable et bien compatible avec la 
notion du Dieu-cr^ateur. On peut meme dire, inversement, que la 


(8) Cf. R. KuBANSKY, The Continuhy of tbe Piatonic tradition, Loodon, 1939. 

(9) Cf. Paul Kraus, Jt^ir et les origimes de ftdchimie arabe, Le Gure, 
(M^moires de llnstitut d'£gypte), 1942. 


>-1^ .■i"'"'-" 





notion du Dieu-createur s'enrichit et se precise, gräce au Timee, 
par Celle d'un plan ideal precon^ par lui de toute eternite. 

Le monde arabe — sans le connaitre tres bien — a, tout de 
meme, connu Piaton beaucoup mieux que ne purent le connaitre 
les latins. II connaissait en particulier sa doctrine politique. Aussi, 
comme l'a bien montre M. Strauss ^^^\ des Farabi, le plus mal 
connu, mais peut-etre le plus grand philosophe -de l'Islam, la doc- 
trine politique de Piaton prend place dans la pensee arabe. 

La doctrine politique de Piaton culmine, on le sait bien, dans 
la double idee de la Cite ideale et du Chef ideal de la Cite, le 
roi-philosophe qui contemple l'idee du Bien, les essences eternelles 
du monde intelligible, et fait regner la loi du Bien dans la Cite. 
Dans la transposition farabienne, la Cite ideale devient la Cit6 de 
rislam ; la place du roi-philosophe est prise par le prophete. C'est 
dejä assez clair chez Farabi. C'est, si possible, encore plus clair 
chez Avicenne qui decrit le prophete — ou l'Imam — comme le 
roi-philosophe, le Politique de Piaton. Rien n'y manque — meme 
pas le mythe de la caverne oü retourne le voyant. Le prophete, le 
roi-philosophe — et c'est lä sa superiorite sur le philosophe tout 
court — est le philosophe, homme d'action, qui sait — ce dont n'est 
pas capable le philosophe — traduire l'intuition intellectuelle en 
termes d'imagination et de mythe, en termes accessibles au commun 
des mortels. Le prophete — le roi-philosophe — est donc le legis- 
lateur de la Cite ; le philosophe, lui, ne sait qu'interpreter la loi 
du prophete et en decouvrir le sens philosophique ; c'est cela qui 
explique en derniere analyse la concordance de la pensee philoso- 
phique et de la loi . . . bien comprise. 

Curieuse utilisation de la doctrine de Piaton en faveur de 
l'autocratie du Commandeur des croyants. Mais, chose plus cu- 
rieuse encore, Tutilisation theologicp^politique du platonisme ne 

1 1 


i vv (10) Op. cit. 

•.«•• j!',}.- 
«*■, /, 


N^i <;'"',); ii^i'T;.-'i^>*7!V :;■"■.;■-■«: 


» ■ p. I . II I.« • ■- 


s'arrete pas lä : la prophetologie d'Avicenne va, ä son tour, etre 
utilisee pour etayer les pretentions de la papaute ä la theocratie 
universelle ; et le moine franciscain Roger Bacon ya froidement 
copier Avicenne en appliquant, tout tranquillement, au Pape ce- 
que celui-ci nous dit de l'Imam. Ceci, cependant, reste un cas isole 
et — ä cote du droit romain et de Ciceron — c'est Aristote qui fit 
l'education politique de l'Europe* . ^ 

L'utilisation de la Re publique At Platon par les penseurs po- 
litiques de l'Islam et celle de la Politique d' Aristote par ceux de 
l'Europe est un fait extremement curieux, et plein de consequences 
importantes ; l'examiner nous entrainerait trop loin ^^^\. Aussi 
n'est-ce pas comme doctrines politiques que je me suis propos6 
d'envisager ici l'Aristotelisme et le Platonisme, mais comme doc- 
trines, ou attitudes, metaphysiques et morales. 

L'attirance exercee par le Platonisme — ou le N^-platonisme 
— sur une pensee religieuse va, pour ainsi dire, de soi. Comment, en 
eflFet, ne pas reconnaitre l'inspiration profondement religieuse de 
Platon ? ne pas voir dans son Dieu qui nee fallit nee fallituf, son 
Dieu qui est soit le Bien transcendant lui-meme, soit le Demiurge 
qui forme l'Univers pour le bien et qui, ä vrai dire, ne cree que le 
■-bien, comment ne pas y voir quelque chose d'analogue au Dieu 
des religions de la Bible ? Le theme de l'äme naturellement chre- 
tienne — ou islamique — theme constant chez les penseurs du 
Moyen Äge, peut-il trouver une preuve plus belle que l'exemple 
de Platon? c ; ftt^. - . 

Et quant ä Plotin, comment une äme mystique pourrait-elle ne 
pas chercher ä identifier le Dieu transcendant de la religion avec 
rUn, transcendant ä Tfitre et ä la Pensee, du dernier des grands 
philosophes grecs ? Aussi tous les mysticismes, des qu'ils deviennent 

r./-t'-- ' ■ 

(11) Cf. G. de Lagardb, La naissance de fesprh läque au dhlin du Moyen 
Age, 2v., Saint Paul Trois Chatcaux, 1934. 

:'" -- .,-■<'' 




: ^y> 



' y. 

.. '.''V". '3. r- !■'• 

► '•■=•;?.■■■/• 

;l>. ■■ 

; »,; 



speculatifs, des qu'ils veulent se penser et non seulement se vivre, 
se tournent naturellement, et meme in^vitablement, vers Plotin. 
. ; f^- C'est lecture de livres platoniciens que S. Augustin fut 
amen6 ä Dieu. C*est dans ces livres, ainsi qu'il nous le raconte 
lui-meme dans les pages inoubliables, que son äme tourmentee et 
inquiete, bouleversee par le spectade du mal regnant dans le monde 
au point d'admettre Texistence d'un Dieu du Mal, d'un Dieu me- 
chant ä cote d'un Dieu hon, avait appris qu'il n'y a qu'un seul Dieu. 
Ce sont les platoniciens qui avaient enseign^ ä saint Augustin que 
Dieu est le Bien createur lui-meme, source inepuisable de perfection 
et de beaut6. Le Dieu des platoniciens — le meme, selon saint Au- 
gustin, que celui de la religion chretienne — c'est lä le bien que, 
Sans le savoir, a toujours cherche son cceur angoisse : le bien de 
Tarne, le seul bien ^ternel et immuable, le seul qui vaille la peine 
d'etre poursuivi. . . 

« Qu'est<e que tout cela qui n'est pas eternel », r^pete saint 
Augustin et l'echo de ses paroles ne sera jamais oubli6 en Occident. 
Quinze siecles plus tard, un autre penseur, violemment anti-biblique 
celui-ci, Spinoza, nous parlera encore de Dieu, seul bien dont la 
possession remplit l'äme d'un bonheur 6ternel et immuable. 

L'ame — voilä le grand mot des platoniciens, et toute Philo- 
sophie platonicienne est toujours, finalement, centree sur l'äme. 
Inversement, toute philosophie centree sur l'äme est toujours une 
Philosophie platonicienne. 

Le platonicien m6di6val est, en quelque sorte, Aloui par son 
äme, par le fait d'en avoir une ou plus exactement, par le fait 
d*efre une äme. Et lorsque, suivant le pr^epte socratique, le plato- 
nicien m6di6val cherche la connaissance de soi, c'est la connaissance 
de son äme qu'il cherche, et c'est dans la connaissance de son äme 
qu'il trouve sa fdlidt6. 

L'äme, pour le platonicien m^dval, est queique chose de 
tellement plus haut, de tellement plus parfait que le reste du 


''■1;'V5i>i^f;'''-f ■ 

' !'.■■■ 


•>.■■'■ •..«■ 



■r -.'V 



■'■ ^^K.>'>i-^ 

monde, qu'ä vrai dire, avec ce reste, eile n'a plus de mesure com- 
mune. Aussi n'est-ce pas vers le monde et son etude, c'est vers 
l'ame que doit se tourner le philosophe. Car c'est lä, dans l'interieur 
de i'ame, qu'habite la v6rite. 

Rentre dans ton ame, dans ton for Interieur, nous enjoint 
Saint Augustin. Et ce sont a peu pres les memes termes que nous 
trouvons, au XI^ si^le, sous la plume de saint Anselme, comme, 
encore deux siecles plus tard, sous celle de saint Bonaventure. 
■H. hat verite habite ä l'interieur de l'äme — on reconnait l'ensei- 
gnement de Piaton ; mais la v^rit6 pour le platonicien medieval 
c'est Dieu meme, verite eternelle et source de toute v^rit^, soleil 
et lumiere du monde intelligible : encore un texte, encore une 
image platonicienne qui revient constamment dans la philosophie 
m^dievale et qui permet, ä coup sür, de deceler l'esprit et l'inspi- 
ration de Piaton. 

,,.... La v6rite est Dieu ; c'est donc Dieu lui-m6me qui habite notre 
äme, plus proche de l'äme que nous n'en sommes nous-memes. 
Aussi comprend-on le desir du platonicien m^di^val de connaitre 
^ äme, car connaitre son äme dans le sens plein et entier du 
terme, c'est d6jä presque connaftre Dieu. Deum et animam scire 
cupiOf soupire saint Augustin, Dieu et l'äme, car on ne peut con- 
naitre i'un Sans connaitre l'autre ; noverim me, noverim fe,. . . car 
— et c'est lä une notion d'une importance capitale, d^cisive — pour 
le platonicien m6di6val, inter Deum et animam nulla est interpossta 
natura \ l'äme humaine est donc, litteralement, une image, une 
similitude de Dieu. C'est pour cela, justement, qu'elle ne peut. se 
connaitre entierement ^*^*. 

On comprend bien qu'une teile äme ne soit pas, ä proprement 
parier, unie au corps. Elle ne forme pas avec lui une unit6 indisso- 

(12) L'lffle se coniult directement et imm^atement ; eile saisit soa hxt, mais 
noa soa esseoce. L'lme ne possMe pas l'id^ d'elle-mdiiie, car son kUe, c'est Dien, 
nous expliquera Malebranche. 


-T>m.R.x-;-'»:- T: »'^^,''^ r»'..' v-.'v?^, ,5:,i 


J 1; , 



luble et essentielle. Sans doute est-elle dans le corps. Mais eile 
y est « comme le pilote est dans le navire » : il le commande et le 
guide mais dans son etre il ne depend pas de lui. 

II en est de meme en ce qui concerne Thomme. Car Thomme, 
pour le platonicien medieval, n'est rien autre qu'une amma immof- 
falis mortdi utens corpore, une ame affublee d'un corps. Elle en 
use, mais, en elle-meme, eile en est independante et plutot genee 
et entravee qu'aidee par lui dans son action. En effet, l'activite 
propre de Thomme, la pensee, la volonte, c'est Tarne seule qui en 
est douee. Ä tel point que, pour le platonicien, il ne faudrait pas 
dire : \ komme pense, mais \ame pense et pergoit la verit6. Or 
pour cela, le corps ne lui sert ä rien. Bien au contraire, il s'interpose 
comme un ecran entre eile et la verite ^^^\ 

L'ame n'a pas besoin du corps pour connaitre et se connaitre 
elle-meme. C'est immediatement et directement qu'elle se saisit. 
Sans doute ne se connait-elle pas pleinement et entierement dans 
son essence. Neanmoins son existence, son etre propre, est-il ce 
qu'il y a pour eile de plus sür et de plus certain au monde. C'est 
lä quelque chose qui ne peut etre mis en doute. La certitude de 
l'äme pour elle-meme, la connaissance directe de l'ame par elle- 
meme — ce sont lä. des traits fort importants. Et bien platoniciens. 
Aussi, si nous nous trouvions jamais en face d'un philosophe qui 
nous explique qu'un homme, depourvu et prive de toutes sensa- 
tions externes et internes se connaitra quand meme dans son etre, 
dans son existence, n'hesitons pas : meme s'il nous dit le contraire, 
ce philosophe-lä est un platonicien ^^*\ 

Mais ce n'est pas tout. L'äme pour le platonicien ne se borne 
pas ä se connaitre elle-meme. Car, en se connaissant elle-meme, si 

(13) Aussi rtme dfeincam^ retrouve-t-elle la plfeitude de ses facultas. En 
forcant un peu les termes on pourrait dire que l'äme est enfcrm^e dans son corps 
comme dans une prison. En elle-mame eile est presqu'un ange. 

(14) On a, Sans doute, reconnu Avicenne. 



'."•v.V" :f.: 

I '.V 

ff-'",*:; -ii". w^ ■■*''.. "I'fCI'-'iV''*/ ■•■'l'^" 1 



peu que ce soit, eile connait aussi Dieu, puisqu'elle est son Image, 
si imparfaite et si lointaine soit-elle, et dans la lumiere divine qui 
Imonde, eile connait tout le reste. Du moins, tout ce qui puisse etre 
connu par eile et qui vaille la peine d'etre connu. 

La lumiere divine qui illumine tout homme venant au monde, 
lumiere de verite qui emane du Dieu-verite, soleil intelligible du 
monde des idees, imprime ä l'äme le reflet des idees eternelles, 
idees de Piaton devenues des id6es de Dieu, idees selon lesquelles 
Dieu a cree le monde ; idees qui sont les archetypes, les modeles, 
les exemplaires eternels des choses changeantes et fugitives d'ici- 

bas. ■•■.;■..■,.%>,>:;"- 

? * Aussi n*est-ce pas en etudiant ces choses-lä — les objets du 
monde sensible — que l'äme connaitra la verite. La verite des 
choses sensibles n'est pas en eile : eile est dans leur conformite 
aux essences eternelles, aux idees eternelles de Dieu. C'est celles-ci 
qui sont l'objet v^ritable du savoir vrai : ces idees, c'est l'id^e 
de la perfection, l'idee du nombre ; c'est vers eile que doit se 
porter la pensee en se detournant du monde donne ä nos sens 
(le platonicien est toujours porte vers les mathematiques, et la 
connaissance math^matique est toujours pour lui le type meme du 
savoir). Ä moins qu'elle ne per^oive dans la beaute de ce monde 
sensible la trace, le vestige, le Symbole de la beaute surnaturelle 
de Dieu. 


: . Or, si c'est autour de l'äme, image divine, que s'organise la 
conception epistemologique et metaphysique du platonicien me- 
di^val, cette conception se fera valoir dans toutes les demarches 
de la pensee. Aussi les preuves de l'existence de Dieu, probleme 
central de la metaphysique m6dievale, ont-elles dans cette pensee 
une toumure extremement caracteristique. 




>' jV.-fJi ■ 



::,t: • ■J 1 . 






, V ^ - s;, 

,■'- <■(.•■'. 



^ Le philosophe utilisera sans doute la preuve qui affirme Texis- 
tence du Cr6ateur en partant de celle de la cr^ature ; ou celle qui, 
de l'ordre, de la finalite regnant dans le monde conclut ä l'existence 
d'un ordonnateur supreme. En d'autres termes, les preuves qui se 
basent sur les principes de causalite et de finalite. 
j! Mais ces preuves-lä ne disent pas grand'chose ä l'esprit du 
platonicien m^dieval. Une bonne demonstration doit etre cons- 
truite tout autrement. Elle ne doit pas partir du monde materiel 
et sensible : pour le platonicien, en effet, il est ä peine, il n'est 
que dans la mesure tres faible oü, d*une maniere tr^s lointaine et 
tres imparfaite, il reflete quelque chose de la splendeur et de lä 
gloire de Dieu ; dans la mesure meme oü il en est un Symbole. 
G)ncevoir Dieu comme createur du monde materiel, ephemere 
et fini, pour le platonicien c*est le concevoir d'une maniere tr^s 
pauvre, trop pauvre. 

/^' Non, c'est sur des realit^s beaucoup plus profondes, plus 
riches et plus solides que doit se fonder une demonstration digne 
de ce nom, c'est-ä-dire sur la r6alite de l'ame ; ou sur celle des 
id6es. Et comme les id6es ou leurs reflets se retrouvent dans l'ame, 
on peut dire que pour le platonicien m6di6val Vltinerarium Mentis 
in Deum passe toujours par Vame. 

Une preuve platonicienne, c'est la preuve par les degres de 
perfection, preuve qui du fait de ces degres conclut ä l'existence 
de la perfection supreme et infinie, mesure et source de la per- 
fection partielle et finie. 

Une preuve platonicienne, c'est la preuve que j'ai d^jä men- 
tionn^e, par l'id^e de la v6rit6, preuve qui de l'existence de v6rit6s 
fragmentaires, particuli^res et partielles, conclut k celle d'une 
v6rit^ absolue et supreme, d'une v^rit^ infinie. 

Perfection absolue, v6rit6 absolue, etre absolu : pour le pla- 
tonicien c'est ainsi que i'on congoit le Dieu infini. 

D'ailleurs, nous enseigne saint Bonaventure, on n'a pas be- 


''Vf^.:.' 'I ..: 


' «- 

■'^■v *i 



•• •'-3 ' .'^:v..v\::-^^; 




■■ .'"■■->■«'■.; '.;^■'•';•'>v -'>.■' 

soin de s'arreter ä ces preuves « par degr6s » : le fini, rimparfait» 
le relatif impliquent directement (dans l'ordre de la pens^e comme 
dans celui de l'etre) l'absolu, le parfait, rinfini. Cest pour cela 
justement que, tout finis que nous soyons, nous pouvöns concevoir 
Dieu et, comme nous Ta appris saint Anselme, ddmontrer l'existence 
de Dieu ä partir de son idee meme : il suffit d'inspecter, en quelque 
Sorte, l'idee de Dieu que nous trouvons dans notre ame pour voir 
immediatement que Dieu, perfection absolue et supreme, ne peut 
pas ne pas etre. Son etre, et meme son etre necessaire, est en 
quelque sorte inclus dans sa perfection qui ne peut etre pens^e 
comme non-existante. 

G>ncluons donc : la primaute de l'ame, la doctrine des idees, 
rilluminisme qui Supporte et renforce Tinneisme de Piaton, le 
monde sensible congu comme un pale reflet de la realite des id^es, 
Tapriorisme, et meme le mathematisme — voilä un ensemble de 
traits qui caracterisent le Platonisme medievd. 






Tournons-nous maintenant vers TAristotelisme. 
^ Jai dejsL dit que le Platonisme du Moyen Äge, celui d'un 
Saint Augustin, d'un Roger Bacon ou d'un saint Bonaventure, 
n*6tait pas, il s'en faut de beaucoup, le platonisme de Piaton. 
De meme, TAristotelisme, meme celui d'un Averroes et, a fortiori^ 
celui d'un Avicenne ou, pour ne parier que des philosophes 
du Moyen Äge occidental, TAristot^lisme de saint Albert le Grand, 
de Saint Thomas ou de Siger de Brabant n'^tait pas, non plus, 
celui d'Aristote. 

Ced, d'ailleurs, est normal. Les doctrines changent et se mo- 
difient au cours de Icur existence historique : tout ce qui \it est 
soumis au temps et au changement. Les choses mortes et disparues 
seules restent immuablement les m^es. L'Aristot^iisme m6di6val 



■^\, - y^\nT. \Bf^ .p>y* ' -■ ' 

_^-^\T^^^\ "TV 




■( ■'■'• 

ne pouvait etre celui d'Aristote ne £ut-ce que parce qu'il vivait dans 
un monde different : dans un monde dans lequel, ainsi que je Tai 
dit plus haut, on savait qu'il n'y avait et ne pouvait y avoir qu'un 
seul Dieur 

Les ecrits aristoteliciens arrivent en Occident — d'abord par 
ITspagne, en traductions faites sur l'arabe, puis en versions faites 
directement sur le grec, — au cours du XIII« siecle. Peut-etre 
meme vers la fin du XIP. 

Des 1210, en elf et, rautorite ecclesiastique interdit la lec- 
ture — c'est-ä-dire l'etude — de la physique d'Aristote. Preuve 
certaine qu'elle etait connue depuis un temps suffisamment long 
dejä pour que les effets nefastes de son enseignement se fassent 

sentir. .„- .^-v, ■;_•, ;.;>>.;-:,;;: 

L'interdit est reste lettre morte : la diffusion d'Aristote va de 
pair avec celle des ecoles, ou plus exactement, avec celle des Uni- 

Ceci nous revele un fait important : le milieu dans lequel se 
propage TAristotelisme n'est pas le meme qui absorbait les doc- 
trines platonicieimes de l'Augustinisme medi^val ; et lattrait qu'il 
exerce n est pas le meme non plus ^^^\ -- ^ * 

L'Aristotelisme, ai-je dit tout ä Theure, se propage dans les 

Universites. II s'adresse ä des gens avides du savoir. II est science 
avant d'etre autre chose, avant meme d'etre philosophie, et c'est 
par sa valeur propre de savoir scientifujue, et non par sa parente 
avec une attitude religieuse, qu'il s'impose. 

Bien au contraire : l'Aristot^lisme apparait tout d'abord comme 
incompatible avec l'attitude spirituelle du bon chr^tien comme du 
bon musulman ; et les doctrines qu'il enseigne — l'^ternit^ du 
monde, entre autres — paraisswit nettement contraires aux verit6s 

\:y ^-t 

(15) Cf. G. Robert, Les icoUs et V enseignement de la thiologie pendant la 
^^remihe moitii du Xll* stiele, 2 <d. OtUwa — Paris, 1933. 

... f 

"! •'■'>,-.'*'> 




-i '■' ■ 

'■■'■■. .■ >.. • 



de la religion i6vü6e^^^\ et m6me ä la coiÄreption fondamentale 
du Dieu<reateur. Aussi comprend-on fort bien que l'autorite, ou 
que lorthodoxie, religieuse ait partout condamne Aristote. Et que 
les philosophes du Moyen Äge aient ete obliges de Tinterpreter, 
c*est-ä-dire de le repenser dans un sens nouveau, compatible avec 
le dogme religieux. Eflfort qui n'a que partiellement reussi ä Avi- 
cenne ^^^\ mais qui a brillamment reussi ä saint Thomas : aussi 
Aristote, christianise en quelque Sorte par saint Thomas, est-il 
devenu la base de l'enseignement en Occident. 

Mais revenons ä l'attitude spirituelle de l'aristotelisme : j'ai 
dit qu'il est pousse par le desir du savoir saentifique, par la passion 
de l'etude. Mais ce n'est pas son äme, c'est le monde qu'il etudie — 
physique, sciences naturelles ... Car le monde, pour raristotelicien, 
ce n'est pas le reflet ä peine consistant de la perfection divine, 
livre symbolique dans leguel — et encore bien mal ! — on peut 
d^chiffrer la gloire de TEternel ; le monde s'est, en quelque sorte, 
solidifie. C'est un « monde », une nature, ou un ensemble, hierar- 
chise et bien ordonne, de natures, ensemble tres stable et tres 
ferme et qui possede un etre propre; qui le possede meme en 
propre. Sans doute, pour un aristot61icien medi6val, cet etre est-il 
derive de Dieu, caus^ par Dieu et meme cr6e par Dieu ; mais cet 
etre que Dieu lui confere, une fois re^, le monde, la nature, 
la cr^ature, le possede. II est ä eile, il n'est plus ä Dieii. 

Sans doute ce monde, — et les etres de ce monde, — est-il 
mobile et changeant, soumis au devenir, ä l'ecoulement du temps : 
Sans doute s'oppose-t-il par lä meme ä l'etre immuable et supra- 
temporel de Dieu; mais tout mobile et temporel qu'il soit, le 

(16) L'Aristot^lismc, k vrai dire, est incompatible avec la notion mÄrnc de 
la religion thrü^e. 

(17) II $e peut, d'ailleurs, que la doctrine vraie, 6sot6rique, et soigneusement 
cach^ au vulgaire, d'Avicenne — et il en est de mime en ce qui conceme Farabi — 
soit aussi irreligieuse, et mteie anti-religieuse, que celle d'Averro^. 







^y^i .-; V 

• ■■!■ V . 

r • > ,''1, 


)«• ,.'/" 



monde n*est plus 6ph6m^re et sa mobilite n'cxdut aucunement la 
permanence. Bien au contraire : on pourrait dire que, pour Taris- 
totelicien, plus 9a change, plus c'est la meme chose ; car si les 
individus changent, paraissent et disparaissent dans le monde, le 
Monde, lui, ne change pas : les natures restent les memes. C'est 
m^me pour cela qu'elles sont des natures. Et c'est pour cela que 
la verite des choses est en elles. 

L'esprit de l'aristotelicien n'est pas, comme celui du platoni- 
cien medi^val, tourne spontanement vers lui-meme : il est natu- 
rellement braqu6 sur les choses. Aussi ce sont les choses, l'existence 
des choses, qui est ce qu'il y a de plus sur pour lui. L'acte premier 
et propre de l'esprit humain n'est pas la perception de soi-meme ; 
c'est la perception d'objets naturels, de chaises, de tables, d'autres 
hommes. Ce n'est que par un detour, une contorsion, ou un rai- 
sonnement, <ju'il arrive ä se saisir et ä se connaitre lui-meme. 

L'aristotelicien a, sans doute, une äme ; mais certainement il 
n'est pas une äme. II est un homme. 

Aussi ä la question socratique, ä la question : que suis-je ? 
c'est-ä-dire : qu*est-ce que l'homme } donnera-t-il une reponse tout 
autre que ne l'a fait le platonicien. L'homme n'est pas une äme 
enfermee dans le corps, äme immortelle dans un corps mortel : 
c'est lä une conception qui, selon l'aristot^lisme, brise l'unite de 
l'etre humain ; l'homme est un animal rationale mortale, un animal 
rationnel et mortel. 

Autrement dit, l'homme n'est pas quelque chose d'6tranger 
et — en tant qu'äme — d'infiniment sup^rieur au monde ; il est 
une nature parmi d'autres natures, une nature qui, dans la hi6rar- 
chie du monde, occupe une place ä eile. Une place assez 61ev6e 
Sans doute, mais qui se trouve cependant dans le monde, 

Autant la philosophie du platonicien est centr^e sur la notion 
Same, autant celle de raristot^licien est centr^ sur celle de nature, 
Or, la nature humaine embrasse son corps autant qu'elle embrasse 




,.■■■.<', ".v. 

♦ 'i. 


'.'l" '''■'.'.■> 

vH- '■; 

^^^•'^^■•^^VVV. e^n 





•s-'<.,/;.t:-.- ■ 



lame; eile est l'unit^ des deux. Aussi les actes humains sont-ils 
tous, ou presque, des actes mixtes ; et dans tous, ou presque — je 
reviendrai tout ä Theure sur rexception — ie corps intervient 
comme un facteut int^grant, indispensable et necessaire. Prive de 
son Corps, l'homme ne serait plus homme ; mais ü ne serait pas 
un ange non plus. Reduit ä n'etre qu'une dme, il serait un etre 
incomplet et imparfait. Ne pas Tavoir compris, c est U l'erreur 
du platonicien. 

^ D'ailleurs, qu'est<e que l'äme ? Selon une d6finition celebre, 
c'^t la forme du corps organise ayant la vie en puissance ; d6fi- 
nttion qui exprime admirablement la correlation essentielle entre 
la forme, Tarne et la mattere, le corps, dans le compos^ humain. 
Aussi si rien n'est plus facile pour un platonicien que de d^montrer 
rimmortalit6 de l'äme, tellement eile est, d^s le d6but, congue 
comme quelque chose de complet et de parfait <">, rien n'est plus 
difficile pour un aristotelicien. Et ce n'est qu'en devenant infid^le 
ä Tesprit de l'Aristotelisme historique — ou si Ton pr6ftre, en r6- 
formant et en transformant sur ce point (comme sur d'autres) 
TAristot^lisme d'Aristote — en creant de toutes pi^es une esp^e 
nouvelle de formes substantielles pouvant se passer de matiere 
que Saint Thomas a pu se conformer ä la verite de la religion. 

V?-».;- <'• 

Mais revenons ä l'homme et ä ses actes. L'homme, nous l'avons 
vö; est, par sa ruiture, un etre mixte, un compose d'äme et de corps. 
Or, tous les actes d'un etre doivent etre conformes ä sa nature. 
L'acte propre de l'homme, la pens^, la connaissance, ne peut donc 
ne pas engager toute sa nature, c'est-ä-dire son corps et son äme 

(18) Afin de lui coof^rcr Ic cartctire de substantialit*. le platonicien m^iival 
en arrive i la doter d'une matiire spirituelle. 



GantsduGel — 7 

"■* "/."..■" ^' 

.->: .'^r-r^or »,. ?vi-«,_-- -jr.'-v?' "■;■. '^i'-'';," ■.fr-"; 





•- ■ i ,■ 
,7, '^ 

ä la fois. Aussi, non seulement la pensee humaine se revelera-t-elle 
ä nous comme debutant par la perception des choses materielles 
et donc par la perception sensible, mais cet element en formera 
un moment n^cessaire et integrant. ""■"", ;-•;••.:,.:;■>■.:,. v^ '■::;• ■:- ^-/r^" 

Pour l'Aristotelisme le domaine du sensible est le domaine 
propre de la connaissance humaine. Pas de Sensation, pas de science. 
Sans doute l'homme ne se borne-t-il pas ä sentir — il elabore la 
Sensation. II se souvient, il imagine, et par ces moyens dejä, il se 
libere de la necessite de la presence effective de la chose pergue. 
Puis, ä un degre superieur, son intellect abstrait la forme de la 
chose per^ue de la matiere dans laquelle eile est naturellement 
engagee, et c'est cette faculte d'abstraction, la capacite de penser 
abstraitement, qui permet ä l'homme de faire de la science et le 
distingue des animaux. La pensee abstraite de la science est tres 
loin de la Sensation. Mais le lien subsiste {Nihil est in intellectu 
quod non prius fuerit in sensu, . .) Aussi les etres spirituels sont-ils 
inaccessibles ä la pensee humaine, du moins directement, et ne 
peuvent etre atteints par eile que par le raisonnement. Ceci vaut 
pour tous les etres spirituels, jusques, et y compris, l'äme humaine. 

Ainsi, tandis que l'ame platonicienne se saisissait elle-meme 
immediatement et directement, c'est par le raisonnement seulement 
que l'äme aristotelicienne parvient ä se connaitre ; par une espece 
de raisonnement causal de l'effet ä la cause, de l'acte ä l'agent. Et 
de meme que l'ame augustinienne — image de Dieu — avait ou 
trouvait en elle-meme quelque chose qui lui permettait de con- 
cevoir Dieu, de se former une idee — bien imparfaite sans doute 
et lointaine, mais quand meme une idee — de Dieu, son archetype 
et son original, cette voie est completement fermee pour l'aristo- 
' telicien. C'est seulement par raisonnement, par raisonnement causal, 
qu'il peut atteindre Dieu, prouver et d^montrer son existence. 

Aussi toutes ses preuves de l'existence de Dieu sont-elles 
' fondees sur des considerations causales et partent-elles, toutes, de 

"■• '^r'-^: 'f 








■rf. T ■■ 


l'existence des chfös^, du monde exterieur. Ön pourrait meme 
aller plus loin : c'est en prouvant l'existence de Dieu que l'aristo- 
telicien en acquiert la notion. C'est, nous l'avons yu, exactement 
ie contraire pour le platonicien. ; '{% \ i / " '^ -■ 

■>(■ ■ 

Les preuves de l'existence de Dieu de l'aristot^licien demon- 
trent son existence en tant que cause premiere ou fin derniere 
des etres. Et elles se fondent sur le principe de l'avayxi/ <rTrfvai 
il faut s'arreter, c'est-ä-dire sur l'impossibilite de prolonger sans 
fin une serie causale ^^^\ de remonter sans fin de l'effet ä la cause : 
il faut s'arreter quelque part, poser une cause qui, elle-meme, n'est 
plus causee, n'est plus un effet. -^-^ ^^^^^^^ 

On peut raisonner d'une maniere analogue en construisant 
une s6rie non plus de causes (efficientes), mais de fins : il faudra 
poser quelque part une fin derniere, une fin en soi. On peut aussi 
examiner certains aspects particuliers de la relation causale, partir 
du phenomene eminemment important du mouvement : dans l'aris- 
totelisme, en effet, tout se meut, et rien ne se meut de soi-meme, 
tout mouvement presuppose un moteur. — Alors, de moteur en 
moteur, on arrivera au dernier, ou premier, moteur immobile lequel 
se revelera etre en meme temps la fin premiere ou derniere des 
etres ; on peut enfin argumenter ä partir de la contingence des 
etres — preuve preferee d'Avicenne — et faire voir que la serie 
des etres contingents ne peut se prolonger indefiniment, et qu'on 

(19) II s'agit bien entendu d'une sitie bien ordonnie, non d'une s^rie tem- 
porelle ; cette demiire, au contraire, peut ^e prolong^ indefiniment. Aussi la 
Option dans le temps est-elle ind^montrable. 


■•,* ■■ y- 

I ■ 

, - '■:■'■:. • V, >.:'»■''■;"'.;.:■■.■•,. ■: ■ ^■^:^i^-(■«ifV■■■'-^■•^^'^■■V'-'' 

■; ■ ■:■■■■■ ''■<•- ff,:' 

■■:.' i...: 



.» • 



, '' ■> ■ 


/ /■.:■ 

■;«',-. -..^ • 


doit l'accrocher quelque part ä un ^rc non contingent, c'est-ä-dire 
n^essaire ^^®^ 

On le yoit bien, toutes ces preuves — sauf peut-etre celle qui 
nous präsente Dieu comme la fin derniere des etres, bien supreme 
et Tobjet demier, ou premier, de leur d6sir ou de leur amour — 
ne nous le presentent que comme cause, meme pas necessairement 
cr6atrice, du monde. Et nous nous souvenons combien cela pa- 
raissait insuffisant au platonicien. 

Sans doute retrouvons-nous, chez l'aristotelicien, les preuves 
par les degr^s de perfection et de l'etre. . . Mais lä encore, tandis 
que le platonicien sautait en quelque sorte directement du relatif 
k Tabsolu, du fini ä Tinfini, c est par degres que procede Taristo- 
telicien en se fondant, lä encore, sur Timpossibilite d'une serie 

Aussi Duns Scot, le parfait et subtil logicien de l'ficole — 
beaücoup plus platonicien au fond qu'on ne le croit d'habi- 
tude — estime-t-il que ces preuves n'aboutissent pas et ne peuvent 
pas aboutir. On ne peut, en partant du fini et en s'appuyant sur 
le principe qu'il faut s'arreter quelque part, ddmöntrer l'existence 
d'un Dieu infini. Aristote le fait, sans doute. Et aussi Avicenne. 
Mais d'une part Avicenne n'est pas, ainsi que Duns Scot le re- 
marque tr^ bien, un aristotelicien de stricte observance, Avicenne 
est un croyant. En outre, Avicenne, aussi bien qu' Aristote, suppo- 
sent expressement un monde eternel : il faut bien un moteur infini 
pour pouvoir entretenir ^temellement le mouvement. Mais si le 
monde n'est pas 6ternel et s'il est fini, — un moteur fini suffit 
amplement... Enfin, plus logique qu Avicenne, Aristote ne fait 
pas de son Dieu moteur un Dieu a^ateur. Avicenne, et aussi saint 
Thomas, partent d'un Dieu cr6ateur : c'est pour cela aussi qu'ils y 

(20) La d^monstntion Avicenmenne va, d'ailleurs, ptrfois directement du 
coodngetit au n^essaiie. II y a, oo le sait bien, beaücoup de Platonisme dans 

[ 100 ] 




■'■; "'■) 

r .':, 




f.- .■ . . 


..J' '"'"l^; 




< . '• . ■ 

." .. V, 




::f'^ ' vi •, '•, 

^ *• ^. ■ . 

aboutissent : 6tan£ l*un musulman et l'autre chr^tien, ils transfor- 
ment, consciemment ou non, la vraie philosophie d'Aristote ^^^K 

Je crois que Duns Scot a raison. Peu nous Importe, d'ailleurs. 
L'Aristotelisme medieval n'est pas celui d'Aristote ; il est domin6, 
transform^, transfigur6 par l'idee religieuse du Dieu cr6ateur, 
du Dieu infini. II est n6anmoins suffisamment fid^le k l'enseigne- 
ment de son maitre pour s'opposer — et meme violemment — aux 
thteries du Platonisme medieval. 

^ Sans doute accepte-t-il la conception — piatonicienne et n^- 
platonicienne — d'id^es eterneUes dans l'esprit de Dieu. Mais ces 
id^s-lä, ce sont des id^es divines ; ce ne sont pas les notres ; et 
aucune lumiere ne parvient d'elles ä nous. Pour nous dclairer, 
nous avons notre lumiere, notre lumiere humaine, Tintelligence 
qui est notre. Sans doute nous vient-elle de Dieu, comme toute 
diose d'ailleurs. Mais, si Ton me permet cette image : ce n'est 
pas un miroir qui refl^te la lumiere divine, c'est une lampe que 
Dieu a allumee en nous, et qui luit maintenant de sa propre lu- 
miere. Cette lumiere suffit amplement pour nous permettre d'^lai- 
rer — de connaitre — le monde et de nous diriger dans le monde. 
C'est pour cela, d'ailleurs, qu'elle est faite. Elle suffit egalement 
pour prouver, ä l'aide de raisonnements comme ceux que nous 
venons d'esquisser, l'existence d'un Dieu a6ateur. Elle ne suffit 
pas pour nous permettre de nous en former une id6e v^ritable. 
Une idee qui rendrait valable — pour nous — les arguments du 

Ainsi la prcuve par l'idee — la preuve anselmienne — serait- 
dle bonne pour un ange, c*est4-dire pour un 6tre purement spi- 
rituel, un etre qui la poss6derait, cette id^e de Dieu que pr6suppose 
Saint Anselme. Elle ne vaut rien pour nous qui ne la poss6dons pas. 

(21) Cf. E. GiLSON. « Les setze preiniers theoremata et la peas^ de Duns 
Scot », Archives d'Histpire doctrinalt et liff^aire au Mayen Afe, vol. 12-13, 
Paris, 1938. 


>. ■ "/ 

■ y ■ : .■' 

■ '( , "• 






.■ .4" 


On voit bien, c'est toujours la meme chose, la meme idee 
centrale : nature humaine, pensee humaine, et si j'etudiais la mo- 
rale, ce serait : conduite humaine. . . Nature, pensee, conduite d'un 
etre composite, d'un etre dont 1 ame est intimement et presque 
indissolublement liee ä son corps. 7 - .^ . 

Or, chose curieuse, il y a un point oü TAristotelisme aboutit 
ä briser l'unite de la nature humaine, un point oü c'est l'aristo- 
telicien infidele ä son maitre, saint Thomas, qui, contre celui-ci, 
retablit l'unite. ; ;r?^ ^ -; : r; 

t -,.■'■•*.■■» 

- ■-:-„,. , ',..-,- .,.'- ■■■.■;■ .; g*^^- 

L'aristotelicien a un respect profond de la pensee. De la pensee 
vraie, bien entendu. II l'explique autrement que Piaton ; il nous 
la montre s'elaborant peniblement et lentement ä partir de la Sen- 
sation brüte. Au fond, il ne Ten estime que davantage. Et qu'un 
etre humain, c'est-ä-dire composite, puisse parvenir ä la pensee vraie, 
puisse atteindre ä la verite scientifique et meme metaphysique, cela 
le plonge dans un ravissement et dans un etonnement sans bornes. 

Car la pensee, pour l'aristotelicien, est l'essence meme de Dieu. 
Son Dieu, nous le savons bien, est pensee pure. Pensee qui se pense 
elle-meme, parce qu'elle ne trouve nulle part ailleurs d'objet digne 
d'etre pense par eile/' v'— ^'^^ -:^ 

Or, dans l'homme, la pens6e est aussi quelque chose de divin. 
Ou presque. Car l'aristotelicien a beau nous la montrer s'elaborant 
ä partir du sensible, ainsi que je viens de le dire, il constate nean- 
moins qu'ä un certain moment, ä un certain degre, le sensible est 
entierement depasse. La pensee — celle du philosophe, du meta- 
physicien, la pens6e qui saisit et formule les lois essentielles de 
l'fitre et de la Pensee, la pensee qui prend conscience d'elle-meme — 
est une activite purement et entierement spirituelle. Alors, com- 
ment peut-elle appartenir k un etre humain ? Aristote ne donne pas 
de r^ponse bien nette ä cette question capitale. Un passage celebre 



; ■(♦■ <?'' 

[ 102} 



,;,i}.:.}";. j:- 


nous dit bien que rintellect ageiit (vov? irofiyrtKos) est pur (^afiiyrfs) 
et immortel (aöawTos Kat awaOrjs^f est separe (Kopio-ros) et nous 
jyient du dehors (^vpargy )/ " •' '"nt/y:-.^ ■:>^^^^;./;j - i' 

Des generations de commentateurs se sont escrimees sur ce 
texte, en en proposant des interpretations les plus diverses et les 
plus invraisemblables. En gros, il n'y a que deux Solutions pos- 
sibles : celle d' Alexandre d'Aphrodise que — en la modifiant — 
adopteront les Arabes, et celle de Themistius que — en l'elabo- 
rant et en la parachevant — adoptera saint Thomas. 

Nous allons examiner brievement ces deux Solutions ; mais 
auparavant, precisons ce qu'est « l'intellect agent » ^^^K 

11 est incontestable qu'il y a, dans notre pensee, un element 
actif et un aspect passif. Aristote distingue donc en nous deux 
intellects : intellect agent, et intellect patient. Le premier est celui 
du maitre, le second, celui de l'eleve. Le premier est celui qui ensei- 
gne, le second celui qui apprend ; le premier est celui qui donne, 
le second celui qui regoit. 

Aristote, contrairement ä Piaton, qui enseigne qu'on ne peut 
rien apprendre que ce que Ion sait dejä, estime qu'on ne peut rien 
savoir que ce qu'on a appris. Et aussi qu'on ne peut apprendre 
quelque chose que s'il y a quelqu'un qui l'a appris avant nous, qui 
le sait et qui nous transmet — nous impose — ce savoir. 


"'-'T-'-'^^" * 

(22) La notion de rintellect agent est assez difficile, et Aristote Jui-mÄme 
se voit forc^ de recourir ä une comparaison, ou mieux, k une analogie : l'apprehension 
, de la v^rit6 par l'intellect est quelque chose d'analogue ä la perception sensible, et 
rintellect se comporte envers son objet ä peu pres comme l'oeil le fait envers le sien ; 
il est intellection « en puissance », de mSme que l'oeil est vision « en puissance ». 
Or, de meme qu'il ne suffit pas d'avoir des yeux pour voir, et que, sans l'intervention 
de la lumidre aucune vision effective (en acte) n'est possible, de m§me n'est-il pas 
süffisant de poss^er un intellect « en puissance du savoir » pour que connaissance 
effective s'ensuive : il faut encore l'intervention ou l'action d'un facteur sp^ial, 
l'intellect agent, ou l'intellect en acte, qui joue donc, par rapport k l'intellect humain 
le rdle que la lumi^re joue par rapport ä l'oeil. 


[ 103 ] 

... ^^ 

K<' Vll»..»;' 

!■ J> fc 




■ > . ':-• ,,^J .-;_ 

'(■■ C'"^. '■■■:'' 
.■'. i -"/:■'.• ■. ),•' 

'".r.-i-v •' ■ ■";.: 

l.. Vi 

;. ' 

■.:- ■• ^>' 


j- :i ' 

^•■- v; 

vt, . J 

vi C'est pourquoi la pensee — que Piaton interprete cx)mme iin 
dialogue, dialogue de Täme avec elle-meme, dialogue qui la fait 
d^couvrir par elle-meme, en elle-meme, la v6rite qui lui est innee — 
est con^ie par le Stagirite sur le modele d'une legon. Une legon 
que ron fait ä soi-meme, c'est-ä-dire, une le^on que Tintellect agent 
fait au patient. 

Or, il est dejä assez difficile d'etre 61^e, d'apprendre et de 

^cdmprendre la v6rite des sciences, de la m6taphysique. Mais l'in- 
venter, la d^couvrir par ses forces propres ? C'est trop demander 
ä la nature humaine, purement humaine. Aussi f aut-il que la legon 

^nous vienne « du dehors ». 

C'est pourquoi Alexandre, et apres Alexandre, Farabi, Avi- 
cenne, Averro^ — avec des diflF6rences qu'il serait trop long d etu- 

^ dier ***^ — ont-ils estim6 que ce maltre qui possede la v^rit6 — 
ne le faut-il pas pour pouvoir enseigner ? — qui la possede tou- 
jours, ou, en termes d'Aristote, est toujours en acte, ne fait pas 
partie du compos^ humain. II agit sur Thomme, sur l'intellect 
humain (patient ou possible, waöijTixo«) « du dehors », et c'est 
en fonction de cette action que l'homme pense, c*est-ä-dire, apprend 
et comprend. 

L'intellect agent n'est pas propre ä chaque homme ; il est seul 
et unique et commun au genre humain tout entier. En effet, l'erreur 
seule nous appartient en propre ; eile est mienne ou tienne. La 
v^rit6, eile, n'appartient k personne. Une pens^ vnue est identi- 
quement la meme chez tous ceux qui la pensent. II s'ensuit qu'elle 
doit 6tre unique, car ce qui est multiple doit 6tre diflF6rent. 

La theorie arabe de « i'unit^ de l'intellect » humain explique 

(23) Cf. R. P. M. Mandonnbt, Sigtr dg Bräbänt #/ fApirrohme Uuin 
Xlll* siicU. 2« <d. Louvain, 1911. 




.'•^■•'■^- . ■■;■,,:: ,.: i'?!- ■■,-*i;^V ■■.•■■••: r*l-}''.^f ,, 

•••■'.,1 •;■* ■ ■ 



^ :v 


1. •, 

f'i ' ; -^ 

bien pourquoi la verit6 est une pour tout le monde, pourquoi la 
raison est une egalement. Mais un probl^me se pose : que devient 
l'ame humaine dans cette th^rie qui lui refuse l'exercice de l'ac- 
tivite spirituelle proprement dite ? — Logiquement, une teile äme 
ne peut ^tre immortelle, ne peut exister apres la mort de son 
Corps... ^^*^ Avicenne cependant se refuse d'accepter cette cons^- 
quence ou, du moins, de l'accepter enti^rement. La pens^, en effet, 
est quelque chose de tellement divin que le fait d'avoir pense, 
d'avoir appris et compris, d'avoir atteint le savoir de la v6rite, 
transforme l'intellect patient en un intellect acquis. Et c'est cet 
intellect lä qui demeure apres la mort du corps, et persiste ä pen- 
scr — 6ternellement — les v^rites qu'il avait faites siennes dans 
la vie. 

Nous le voyons : T&ole, T^de de la science et surtout de la 
Philosophie, m^e ä tout ; eile mene au bonheur supreme qui, pour 
rhomme comme pour Dieu, consiste dans l'exercice de la pens^e ; 
eile m^e aussi k Timmortalit^ *^*^ 

La Solution avicennienne est visiblement une Solution batarde, 
Solution d'un homme qui a peur d'admettre les cons6quences des 
principes qu'il a lui-m^e pos6s. Aussi Averroes ne Taccepte-t-il 
pas. L'unit^, ou mieux Tunicit^ de l'intellect humain (de tout le 
genre humain), le caract^re non-individuel, impersonnel de la 
pens6e impliquent n6cessairement la n6gation de Timmortalit^. 
L'individu humain — comme tous les individus de toutes les autres 
esp^es animales — est essentiellement temporel, passager et morteL 
La d^finition aristot^licienne de l'homme — animal fationnel et 
mortel — est ä prendre au s^rieux, dans son sens litt6ral le plus 



(24) L*lffle ^tant U « forme » du corps ne peut subsister sans celui*d ; l'cxis- 
teoce d'tctes purement spirituels accomplis par l'intellect humain est la seule chose 
qui nous permette de l'envisager comme « s^parable ». Or, d'apr^ la doctrine des 
Arabes, ces actes ne sont pas ies actes. 

(25) A une immortalit^ impersoonelle» bien enteodu. 


^1 *T"-f * :"r *tTVT,vn ; %\'f^ '" '['.'f/'t' '•■'7 ^, * ;■■' V '"'"jS^; 

-^..-,. ^.^f 



• f ■ 

K i 

■•.V -".V '. ■ ■: S ■■- "■.,*. 

' ,' ■ A ■ 

»;- -.vv- ^^v;- /- ;^- 


■■•i * 


strict. Alors, qu'est-ce que l'homme ? Nous l'avons entendu : un 
etre animal, rationnel et mortel ; un etre qui vit dans le monde 
et qui dans le monde agit et accomplit son destin. Et que doit-il 
y faire ? La aussi la reponse est formelle : le mieux, dans la me- 
sure du possible, c'est faire de la science, de la philosophie. Ceci 
simplement parce que la pensee etant l'activite la plus haute, son 
exercice nous procure le contentement le plus pur et le plus pro- 

L'Averroisme constitue une puissante entreprise de laicisation 
de la vie spirituelle, de la negation, plus ou moins camouflee, du 
dogme religieux ^^^\ Mais il n'est pas seulement cela. Du point de 
vue philosophique, l'Averroisme implique la negation de l'indivi- 
dualite spirituelle et, bien plus profondement et bien plus dange- 
reusement que le platonisme, brise l'unite de l'etre humain. 
En effet, si ce n'etait pas l'homme, mais l'äme qui pensait et voulait 
dans le platonisme, c'etait du moins mon ame, mon äme qui etait 
moi-meme. Ce n'est plus moi, ni meme mon äme qui pense pour 
l'averroiste : c'est l'intellect agent impersonnel et commun ä tous 
qui pense en moi . . . :,,,x^,,>-^^^'-- .j,^,:i:y^,:-,,.,,^^^ . 

> ßtrange consequence d'une doctrine humaniste qui finit par 
priver l'homme de ce qui constitue sa nature et fonde sa dignite. 
Comme on comprend bien que saint Thomas se soit insurge contre 
eile ! Non seulement au nom de la foi, ainsi qu'on l'a dit bien 
souvent, mais aussi au nom de la raison. Car la philosophie aver- 
roiste n'est pas seulement, pour lui, une philosophie impie : c'est 
aussi, et peut-etre surtout, une mauvaise philosophie. 

Aussi sa Solution du probleme pose par le texte d'Aristote 
prend-elle le contrepied des Solutions arabes. Elle est aussi la seule 

(26) Emest Renan a dit dans son beau livre sur Aperrois et fAverrohme que 
personne, en dehors des Juifs, n'a pris Averro^s au sörieux. C'est \k une erreur 
compl^te : rAverroTsme a jou^ un röle de toute ' premi^re importance dans le 
Moyen Age et la Renaissance. 






''■-; r" K •' 

l'i' i:'.",j 1 



I * 

qui, dans le cadre de l'Aristotelisme, permet de sauvegarder l'unite 
et l'individualite de la persoime humaine, du compose humain. 

Cette Solution nous enseigne, grosso modo, que Tactivite et 
la passivite, Imtellect agent et l'intellect patient sont inseparables 
et que, par consequent, si l'homme pense, il doit, necessairement, 
posseder les deux. Or, si Aristote nous dit que l'intellect agent nous 
vient « du dehors », il a bien raison, ä condition qu on entende 
qu'il nous vient directement de Dieu ; que c'est Dieu qui, ä chacun 
de nous confere, en nous aeant, un intellect agent. C'est cela jus- 
tement qui nous constitue en creatures spirituelles et explique, en 
derniere analyse, l'activite purement intellectuelle de notre raison : 
la conscience de soi, la connaissance metaphysique, l'existence de 
la Philosophie. Et c'est la spiritualite de notre äme qui explique, 
ä son tour, le fait qu'elle soit separable du corps et subsiste, immor- 
telle, lorsque meurt celui-ci. 

Je viens de dire que la Solution thomiste est la seule qui, dans 
le cadre de l'Aristotelisme permet de sauvegarder la spiritualite 
de l'äme et l'unite du compose humain. II serait, peut-etre, plus 
exact de dire qu'elle deborde les cadres de l'Aristotelisme ; le Dieu 
d' Aristote (et d'Averroes), ce Dieu, qui ne pense que lui-meme, 
et qui ignore le monde qu'il n'a pas cree, est incapable de jouer 
le role que lui assigne saint Thomas. La Solution thomiste pre- 
suppose un Dieu createur et un monde cree. Car c'est seulement 
dans un tel monde, oü singula propriis sunt creata rationibus, que 
l'individualite spirituelle, que la personnalite humaine est possible. 
Elle ne Test pas dans le Cosmos d' Aristote. C'est lä la legon que 
nous enseigne l'histoire bien curieuse du Platonisme et de l'Aristo- 
telisme m6dievaux. 

Alexandre KOYRM 

[ 107} 


^fMu. '. i./4:/ycjA^(^'Ac. /jUC^ ^ fl^ ^^/7 W /i^^< //vT/r/ > 


^ /^yiA^^^ji»^ /^^^ i^/Ci^Sxj'f h'^r*^ i^/C/iPUdc.^ Aä^ -^^ 

Ji di/L^ 

— <- /a; 




^ÄiU.>^' - \4^CU4A^y^ ' M^Ul'f^'^^^'^'^'^*' 

^^^/c^'Z-XX^ ^hu*^ jfiC'/*' 


1^ j>^*^*^Jf^'^'^/'h' 



f '' 

^^ 7^/k*»v)U-4n^*«i>*%Ä^^ ^^*i*^W 


:JUa^ iu^^a4^ 

' f ''■,' ■•■- 


JiUmUICi ^^^^^^ 

J U^-^U^ /^Lx^h/-^ jü>t*fa^ t^'^H^-A^ 


»" > < ^A , » " " 



/^tVi^/C««^ **«-»Jt 

j^ l'tt4af<A*uC^ ^ ^^i*^^ ^ 






i.-i^- . *•■ 

%:^^^§-id^ ^-^ H'"" "y^y 

%, PkU^l^ 


C'M'^ fU:üJriiü 


imf r ■ > ' — »p 

■./■':^ - 

'tyu^c,^:. LjJ^u^^^ r^f.,,^^^^^ 

UU^\ 44^*X 



iL^UiAr fti^ A'^^ 





■ i,. - "*. '/j"'' 

^^^^J^ . lAHi^S^f^^^^'^-^-'f-^^ • ^ Z^'^^^*^ 

f :':'/:. \:v- :--j:. 


^ /< /^(^^^ '-^^'•^H^ - 




/Ct^^ ^^^f^ 

< ,; '■■. .■. . r • <.. 




JIM jfiAuv 


^A'M^A^^^^^f-A'f /^ ^^^^^^^f ^'^ 


lA iM^ds^K^ 4v K^ 6^Jl>^^y 









iX^A i! %*^ 

•lük^A<f^^<^^'i^ •u^'t^'y^ *^>^^^<>//^ 


UU^ li^icfiOy^^ 



A< /jj-iAf^^t^^ 

, J7i I^JsJUi^M^^'^^^ju^d^ ^>/>'^ AH^l^Zjr^^^ 

<■■ K "..■-•*■• 


"^Z^— *-'><«^ y*i^ 








/l^ /^«Jt-^^-^^ÄiCV^ ^^xi*> 




llh^HA-: ^ 

/>^ ; 4uUt%A^ >^>^ -o^ 

V tA'J^'f^^^^ //U^y^^A^2^'^^ 'f ***'/^'' 


.. . ■. ^■. ;>J; .•■•(.tl.>.-.l 


Beprinted from Journal of the Histoey of Idea8, October, 1943, Vol. IV, No. 4, 

pagee 400-428. j; .:: V 

■ '-;■> . 

■ \ •■•• 


By Albxandbb KoYBB ; V 

The name of Galileo Galilei is indissolubly linked with the scien- 
tific revolution of the sixteenth Century, one of the prof oundest, if 
not the most profound, revolution of human thought since the 
invention of the Cosmos by Greek thought : a revolution which 
implies a radical intellectual **mutation," of which modern physi- 
cal science is at once the expression and the f ruit.^ 

This revolution is sometimes characterized, and at the same 
time explained, as a kind of spiritual upheaval, an utter transf or— 
mation of the whole fundamental attitude of the human mind ; the 
active life, the vita activa taking the place of thee€«pla, the vita 
contemplativa, which until then had been considered its highest 
form. Modern man seeks the domination of nature, whereas medi- 
eval or ancient man attempted above all its contemplation. The 
mechanistic trend of classical physics— of the Galilean, Cartesian, 
Hobbesian physics, scientia activa, operativa, which was to render 
man *'master and possessor of nature*' — ^has, therefore, to be ex- 
plained by this desire to dominate, to act; it has to be considered 
purely and simply an outflow of this attitude, an application to 
nature of the categories of thinking of homo faber.^ The science 
of Descartes— and a fortiori that of Galileo — is nothing eise than 
(as has been said) the science of the craftsman or of the engineer." 

I must confess that I do not believe this explanation to be 
entirely correct. It is true, of course, that modern philosophy, as 
well as modern ethics and modern religion, lays much more stress 
on action, on irpa^ts, than ancient and medieval thought. And it is 
just as true of modern science: I am thinking of the Cartesian 
physics and its analogies of puUeys, strings and levers. Still the 
attitude we have just described is much more that of Bacon — ^whose 

^Cf. J. H. Randall, Jr., The Making of the Modern Mind (Boston, 1926), 
220 sq., 231 sq.; cf. also A. N. Whitehead, Science and the Modem World (New 

York, 1925). 

* This widespread conception must not be eonf used with that of Bergson, f or 
whom all physics, the Aristotelian just as much as the Newtonian, is in the last 
analysis the work of homo faber. 

3 Cf. L. Labertonniere, ittudes aur Descartes (Paris, 1935), II, 288 sq.; 297; 
304 : "physique de Texploitation des ehoees." 






röle in the history of science is not of the same order* — ^than that 
of Galileo or Descartes. Their science is made not by engineers 
or craf tsmen, but by men who seldom built or made anything more 
real than a theory/ The new ballistics was made not by artificers 
and gunners, but against them. And Galileo did not learn his 
business from people who toiled in the arsenals and shipyards of 
Venice. Quite the contrary: he taught them theirs.^ Moreover, 
this theory explains too much and too little. It explains the tre- 
mendous scientific progress of the seventeenth Century by that of 
technology. And yet the latter was infinitely less conspicuous than 
the former. Besides, it forgets the technological achievements of 
the Middle Ages. It neglects the lust f or power and wealth which, 
throughout its history, inspired alchemy. 

Other scholars have insisted on the Galilean fight against 
authority, against tradition, especially against that of Aristotle: 

^ Bacon is the announcer, the huccinator of modern science, not one of its 

^ The Cartesian and Galilean science has, of course, been of extreme importance 
for the engineer and the technician; ultimately it has prodnced a technical revolu- 
tion. Yet it was created and developed neither by engineers nor technicians, bnt 
by theorists and philosophers. 

* "Descartes artisan" is the conception of Cartesianism developed by Leroy 
in his Descartes social (Paris, 1931), and brought to absurdity by F. Borkenau in 
his book Ber TJ ehergang vom feudalen zum bürgerlichen Weltbild (Paris, 1934). 
Borkenau explains the birth of the Cartesian philosophy and science by that of 
a new form of economic enterprise, i.e., manufacturing. Cf. the criticism of the 
work of Borkenau, a criticism much more interesting and instructive than the book 
itself, by H. Grossmann, "Die gesellschaftlichen Grundlagen der mechanistischen 
Philosophie und die Manufaktur," Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung (Paris, 1935). 

As for Galileo, he is linked with the traditions of the artisans, builders, engi- 
neers, etc., of the Renaissance by L. Olschki, Galileo und seine Zeit (Halle, 1927), 
and more recently by E. Zilsel, "The Sociological Roots of Science," The American 
Journal of Sociology, XL VII (1942). Zilsel stresses the röle played by the "su- 
perior artisans" of the Renaissance in the development of the modern scientific 
mentality. It is, of course, perfectly true that the artists, engineers, architects, etc., 
of the Renaissance played an important part in the struggle against the Aristotelian 
tradition, and that some of them — ^like Leonardo da Vinci and Benedetti — attempted 
even to develop a new, anti- Aristotelian dynamics; yet this dynamics, as was con- 
clusively shown by Duhem, was in its main f eatures that of the Parisian nominalists, 
the impetus dynamics of John Buridan and Nicole Oresme. And if Benedetti, by 
f ar the most remarkable of these "f orerunners" of Galileo, transcends sometimes the 
level of the "Parisian" dynamics, it is not because of his work as eng^eer and 
gunner but because of his study of Archimedes and his decision to apply "mathe- 
matical philosophy" to the investigation of nature. 

^'Vr'" •••V,'. 

<■'■•■»■■ • '}'' 

>^- '",- 

■ f. •",v;> ■• <■- 

* ■';:•:<.■' 

.-■ ■.•;.:; ^:'V ;^;^ 







against the scientific and philosophical tradition, upheld by the 
Church and taught in the nniversities. They have stressed the 
role of Observation and experience in the new science of nature/ 
It is perfectly trne, of course, that Observation and experimenta- 
tion form one of the most characteristic f eatures of modern science. 
It is certain that in the writings of Galileo we find innumerable 
appeals to Observation and to experience, and bitter irony toward 
men who didn't believe their eyes becanse what they saw was con- 
trary to the teaching of the authorities, or, even worse, who (like 
Cremonini) did not want to look through Galileo 's telescope for 
fear of seeing something which would contradict their traditional 
theories and beliefs. It is obvious that it was just by building a 
telescope and by looking through it, by caref ul Observation of the 
moon and the planets, by his discovery of the satellites of Jupiter, 
that Galileo dealt a crushing blow to the astronomy and the cos- 
mology of his times. 

Still one must not forget that Observation and experience, in 
the sense of brüte, common-sense experience, did not play a major 
role — or, if it did, it was a negative one, the role of obstacle — ^in 
the foundation of modern science.* The physics of Aristotle, and 
even more that of the Parisian Nominalists, of Buridan and Nicole 
Oresme, was, as stated by Tannery and Duhem, much nearer to 
common sense experience than those of Galileo and Descartes.' 

^ Quite recently a friendly critic has reproached me for having neglected this 
side of Galüeo's teaching. (Cf. L. Olschki, "The Scientific Personality of Galileo," 
Bulletin of the History of Medicine, XII [1942].) I must confess I do not believe 
I have merited this reproach, though I do indeed believe that science is primarily 
theory and not the gathering of "facts." 

•fi. Meyerson, IdentitS et rSalite, 3 ed. (Paris, 1926), 156, shows very con- 
vincingly the lack of accord between "experience'' and the pnnciples of modern 

• F. Duhem, Le Systeme du Monde (Paris, 1913), 1, 194 sq. : "Cette dynamique, 
en effet, semble s'adapter si heureusement auz observations courantes qu'elle ne 
pouvait manquer de s'imposer, tout d'abord, ä Tacceptation des premiers qui aient 
sp^cul^ sur les f orces et les mouvements. . . . Pour que les physiciens en viennent h 
rejeter la Dynamique d'Aristote et ä construire la Dynamique moderne, il leur 
faudra comprendre que les faits dont ils sont chaque jour les t^moins ne sont 
aucunement les faits simples, ^^mentaires, auzquelles les lois f ondamentales de la 
Dynamique se doivent imm^diatement appliquer; que la marche du navire tir^ par 
les haleurs, que le roulement sur une route de la voiture attel^ doivent Stre regard^ 
comme des mouvements d'une extreme complexit^; en un mot que pour le principe 
de la science du mouvement, on doit, par abstraction, consid^rer un mobile qui, sous 
l'action d'une f orce unique, se meut dans le vide. Or, de sa Dynamique Aristote va 
jusqn'ä condure qu'un tel mouvement est impossible.'' 

'"■'-.:'';•-/• ^■^.'r:''^'^:: 


S' :...*) 

•■>. • ';. 



It is not **experieiice,'' but **experiinenV' which played — ^but only 
later — a great positive role. Experimentation is the methodical 
interrogation of nature, an interrogation which presupposes and 
implies a language in which to formulate the questions, and a dic- 
tionary which enables us to read and to interpret the answers. 
For Galileo, as we know well, it was in curves and circles and tri- 
angles, in mathematical or even more precisely, in geometrical 
language — ^not in the language of common sense or in that of pure 
Symbols — that we must speak to Nature and receive her answers. 
Yet obviously the choice of the language, the decision to employ it, 
could not be determined by the experience which its use was to 
make possible. It had to come f rom other sources. ' —^— — 

Still other historians of science and philosophy^® have more 
modestly tried to characterize modern physics, as physics, by some 
of its salient traits : for instance, by the role which the principle of 
inertia plays in it. Perf ectly right, once more : the principle of 
inertia, in contradistinction to that of the Ancients, holds an out- 
standing place in classical mechanics. It is its fundamental law of 
motion ; it implicitly pervades Galilean physics and quite explicitly 
that of Descartes and of Newton. But this characteristic seems to 
me to be somewhat superficial. In my opinion it is not enough 
simply to state the fact. We have to understand and to explain 
it — ^to explain why modern physics was able to adopt this principle ; 
to understand why, and how, the principle of inertial motion, which 
to US appears so simple, so clear, so plausible and even seif -evident, 
acquired this status of self-evidence and a priori truth whereas for 
the Greeks as well as for the thinkers of the Middle Ages the idea 
that a body once put in motion will continue to move forever, 
appeared as obviously and evidently f alse, and even absurd.^^ 

I shall not try to explain here the reasons and causes that pro- 
duced the spiritual revolution of the sixteenth Century. It is for 
our purpose sufficient to describe it, to describe the mental or intel- 
lectual attitude of modern science by two (connected) character- 
istics. They are: 1) the destruction of the Cosmos, and therefore 

^^ Cf. Ktird Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik (Hamburg und Leipzig, 1890), 
n, 23 sq.; E. Mach, Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwicklung, 8 ed. (Leipzig, 1921), 117 
sq.; E. Wohlwill, "Die Entdeckung des Beharrunggesetzes," Zeitschrift für Völker- 
psychologie und Sprachwissenschaft, vols. XIV and XV (1883 and 1884), and E. 
Cassirer, Das Erkenntnisprohlem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren 
Zeit, 2 ed. (Berlin, 1911), I, 394 sq. 

^* Cf . A. Meyerson, op, dt., 124 sq. 


• i...--' 





•■<, .,,'A 

the disappearance in science of all consideratioös based on that no- 
tion;" 2) the geometrization of space — that is, the Substitution of 
the homogeneous and abstract space of Euclidian geometry f or the 
qualitatively differentiated and concrete world-space conception of 
the pre-galilean physics. These two characteristics may be 
summed up and expressed as f oUows : the mathematization (geo- 
metrization) of nature and, therefore, the mathematization (geo- 
metrization) of science. 

The dissolution of the Cosmos means the destruction of the idea 
of a hierarchically-ordered finite world-structure, of the idea of a 
qualitatively and ontologically differentiated world, and its re- 
placement by that of an open, indefinite and even infinite universe, 
united and governed by the same universal laws; a universe in 
which, in contradiction to the traditional conception with its dis- 
tinction and Opposition of the two- worlds of Heaven and of Earth, 
all things are on the same level of Being. The laws of Heaven and 
the laws of Earth are merged together. Astronomy and physics 
become interdependent, and even unified and united." And this 
implies the disappearance f rom the scientific outlook of all consid- 
erations based on value, on perf ection, on harmony, on meaning 
and on purpose." They disappear in the infinite space of the new 
Universe. It is in this new Universe, in this new world of a geom- 
etry made real, that the laws of classical physics are valid and find 
their application. 

The dissolution of the Cosmos — I repeat what I have already 
said : this seems to me to be the most prof ound revolution achieved 
or suffered by the human mind since the invention of the Cosmos 
by the Greeks. It is a revolution so prof ound and so far-reaching 
that mankind — ^with very f ew exceptions, of whom Pascal was one 

12 The tßf^ remains, of course, and Newton still speaks of the Cosmos and its 
Order (as he speaks of impetus), but in an entirely new meaning. 

13 As I have endeavoured to show elsewhere {Müdes GaliUennes, III, Galilee 
et la loi d'inertie [Paris, 1940]) modern science results from this unification of 
astronomy and physics which enables it to apply the methods of mathematical in- 
vestigation, tili then employed in the study of celestial phenomena, to the study 
of the phenomena of the sublunar world. 

i*Cf. fi. Br^hier, Histoire de la philosophie, t. II, fasc. 1 (Paris, 1929), 95: 
"Descartes degage la physique de la hantise du Cosmos hellenique, c'est-ä-dire de 
rimage d'un certain 6tat privil^e des choses qui satisfait nos besoins esthetiques. 
. . . n n'y a pas d'^tat privü^gi^ puisque tous les etats sont Äquivalents. II n^ a 
donc aucune place en physique pour la recherche des causes finales et la consid^ra- 
tion du meilleur." 



;•^. ^. ^.f 



'• >" ■> . 



X -^'i-ii 

— f or centuries did not grasp its bearing and its meaning ; which, 
even now, is often misvalued and misunderstood. 

Therefore what the founders of modern science, among them 
Galileo, had to do, was not to criticize and to combat certain f aulty 
theories, and to correct or to replace them by better ones. They 
had to do something quite different. They had to destroy one 
World and to replace it by another. They had to reshape the 
framework of our intellect itself , to restate and to reform its con- 
cepts, to evolve a new approach to Being, a new concept of knowl- 
edge, a new concept of science — and even to replace a pretty natural 
approach, that of common sense, by another which is not natural 
at all." 

This explains why the discovery of things, of laws, which today 
appear so simple and so easy as to be taught to children — the laws 
of motion, the law of f alling bodies — required such a long, strenu- 
ous, and often unsuccessf ul effort of some of the greatest geniuses 
of mankind, a Galileo, a Descartes/® This fact in turn seems to 
me to disprove the modern attempt to minimize, or even to deny, 
the originality, or at least the revolutionary character, of Galileo 's 
thinking; and to make clear that the apparent continuity in the 
development of medieval and modern physics (a continuity so 
emphatically stressed by Caverni and Duhem)" is an Illusion. It 

^^ Cf . P. Tannery, "Galilee et les principes de la dynamique," in Memoires 
scientifiques, VI (Paris, 1926), 399 : "Si pour juger le Systeme dynamique d^Aristote, 
on Jait abstraction des prejuges qui d^rivent de notre ^ducation moderne, si on 
cherche ä se replacer dans P^tat d^esprit que pouvait avoir un penseur ind^pendant 
au commencement du XVIIe siede, il est difficile de meconnaitre que ce Systeme est 
beaucoup plus conforme que le notre h ^Observation imm^diate des f aits/' 

^® Cf. my ^tudes Galüeennes, II, La loi de la chute des corps (Paris, 1940). 

^■^ Cf. Caverni, Storia del metodo sperimentale in Italia, 6 vols. (Firenze, 
'1891-96), particularly vols. IV and V; P. Duhem, Le mouvement ahsolu et le 
mouvement relatif (Paris, 1905) ; "De racceleration produite par une force con- 
stante," Congres International de Vhistoire des sciences, Ille session, (Geneva, 
1906) ; ttudes sur LSonard de Vinci: Ceux quHl a lu et ceux qui Vont lu, 3 vols. 
(Paris, 1909-1913), particularly vol. III, Les pricurseurs parisiens de Galilee. 
Quite recently the thesis of continuity has been upheld by J. H. RandaU, Jr., in bis 
brilliant artide "Scientific Method in the School of Padua," Journal of the History 
of Ideas, I (1940) ; Randall convincingly shows the progressive elaboration of the 
method of "resolution and composition" in the teaching of the great logicians of 
the Renaissance. Yet Randall himself states that there was "one element lacking 
in Zabarella's formulation of method: he did not insist that the principles of 
natural science be mathematical" (p. 204), and that Cremonini's Tractatus de 
paedia "sounds like the solemn waming of the great tradition of Aristotelian 

' cy ■*■. 


.■;;•• K> 

V: !• 



is true, of course, that an unbroken tradition leads f rom the works 
of the Parisian Nominalists to those of Benedetti, Bruno, Galileo 
and Descartes. (I myself have added a link to the history of that 
tradition^®). Still the conclusion drawn therefrom by Duhem is a 
delusion : a well-prepared revolution is nevertheless a revolution, 
and in spite of the fact that Galileo himself in bis youth (as well as 
at times Descartes) shared the views and taught the theories of the 
medieval critics of Aristotle, modern science, the science born f rom 
bis efforts and discoveries, does not foUow the Inspiration of the 
''Parisian forerunners of Galileo '^ it places itself at once on a 
quite different level — on a level which I should like to call the 
Archimedian one. The trne forerunner of modern physics is 
neither Buridan, nor Nicole Oresme, nor even John Philoponos, 
but Archimedes." 

-»•-.v, J.-,->-' 

The history of the scientific thought of the Middle Ages and of 
the Eenaissance, now beginning to be somewhat better known,*° 
can be divided into two periods. Or better, as the chronological 
Order öorresponds only very roughly to that division, the history of 
scientific thought may be, grosso modo, divided into three stages or 
epochs, which correspond in turn to three different types of think- 
ing: the Aristotelian physics first; then the physics of Impetus, 
inaugurated, like everything eise, by the Greeks, and elaborated in 
the current of the Fourteenth Century by the Parisian nominal- 
ists ; and finally modern, mathematical, Archimedian or Galilean 
physics. V K 

rational empiricism to the triumphant mathematicians" {ibid.), As a matter of 
fact, it is just this "mathematical emphasis added to the logical methodology of 
Zabarella" (p. 205) which forms, in my opinion, the content of the scientific revolu- 
tion of the seventeenth Century; and, in the opinion of the time, the dividing line 
between the followers of Plato and those of Aristotle. 

^* Cf. ttudea GaliUennes, I, A Vaube de la science classique (Paris, 1940). 

1» The sixteenth Century, at least its latter half, is the period of the reception of 
the study and of the gradual understanding of Archimedes. 

*oWe owe that knowledge chiefly to the works of F. Duhem (to the works 
cited above, n. 17, must be added: Lee Origines de la statique, 2 vols. [Paris, 1905], 
and Le Systeme du monde, 5 vols. [Paris, 1913-17]) and to those of Lynn Thom- 
dike (cf. bis monumental History of Magic and Experimental Science, 6 vols. 
[New York, 1923-41]). Cf. equally F. J. Dijksterhuis, Wal en Worp (Groningen, 



■^ '^y-\ \-^. 






It is these stages that we find represented in the works of the 
young Galileo, which thus not only give us Information on the his- 
tory — or the prehistory-— of his thought, on the mobiles and mo- 
tives which dominated and inspired it, hut present us at the same 
time, Condensed and as it were clarified hy the admirable mind of 
its author, a striking and deeply instructive picture of the whole 
history of pre-galilean physics. Let us briefly foUow this story, 
beginning with Aristotelian physics. 

Aristotelian physics is false, of course; and utterly obsolete. 
Nevertheless, it is a *' physics," that is, a highly though non-mathe- 
matically elaborated" science. It is not a childish phantasy, nor 
a brüte and verbal restatement of conunon sense, but a theory, that^ 
is, a doctrine which, starting of course with the data of common 
sense, subjects them to an extremely coherent and systematic treat- 
ment.** ^"-'"■■■^'■^- '■■'"-■'■' 

The facts or data which serve as a basis for this theoretical 
elaboration are very simple, and in practice we admit them just as 
did Aristotle. It still seems to all of us ** natural'' to see a heavy 
body fall **down." And just like Aristotle or St. Thomas, we 
should be deeply astonished to see a ponderous body — a stone or a 
bull — rise freely in the air. This would seem to us pretty **unna- 
turaP' ; and we would look for an explanation in the action of some 
hidden mechanism. 

In the same way we still find it ** natural'' that the flame of a 
match points **up," and that we place our pots and paus **on" the 
fire. We should be astonished and should seek for an explanation 
if, for instance, we saw the flame turn about and point **down." 
Shall we call this conception, or rather this attitude, childish and 
simple! Perhaps. We can even point out that according to Aris- 
totle himself science begins precisely by looking for an explanation 
for things that appear natural. Still, when thermodynamics 
asserts as a principle that **heat" passes from a hot to a cold body, 
but not from the cold to a hot one, does it not simply translate an 
Intuition of conamon sense that a **hot" body *'naturally" becomes 
cold, but that a cold one does not **naturally" become hot! And 
even when we are stating that the center of gravity of a System 

*^ The Aristotelian physics is essentially non-mathematical. To present it, as 
Dnhem does, De VacciUration produite par une force conatante, p. 859, simply as 
based npon anotiier mathematical formnla than onrs, is an error. 

**The systematic character of Aristotelian physics is often not suffioiently 
appreciated by the modern historian of scientific thought. 

j' , . ' ■ ■ ,- ',■■' .■■■'/.-■ .• ' ■■,•'■. 


v^.u. •.. L .■• 




tends to take the lowest position and does not rise by itself , are we 
not simply translating an Intuition of common sense, the self-same 
intuition which Aristotelian physics expresses by its distinction of 
movement into * * natural ' ' and * * violent ' ' !" 

Moreover, Aristotelian physics no more rests content than 
thermodynamics with merely expressing in its language the ^*fact" 
of common sense just mentioned ; it transposes it, and the distinc- 
tion between ** natural' ' and ** violent" movements takes its place 
in a general conception of physical reality, a conception of which 
the principal features seem to be: (a) the belief in the existence of 
qualitatively determined **natures," and (b) the belief in the exis- 
tence of a Cosmos — ^that is, the belief in the existence of principles" 
of Order in virtue of which the entirety of real beings form a hier- 
archically-ordered whole. 

Whole, cosmic order, and harmony: these concepts imply that 
in the Universe things are (or should be) distributed and disposed 
in a certain determined order ; that their location is not a matter of 
indifference (neither for them, nor for the Universe) ; that on the 
contrary each thing has, according to its nature, a determined 
* * place ' ' in the Universe, which is in some sense its own.** A place 
for everything, and every thing in its place : the concept of ** natural 
place" expresses this theoretical demand of Aristotelian physics. 

The conception of ** natural place" is based on a purely static 
conception of order. Indeed, if everything were *4n order," 
everything would be in its natural place, and, of course, would 
remain and stay there forever. Why should it depart from itT 
On the contrary, it would offer a resistance to any attempt to expel 
it therefrom. This expulsion could be effected only by exerting 
some kind of violence, and the body would seek to come back, if , and 
when, owing to such a violence, it found itself out of its" place. 

Thus every movement implies some kind of cosmic disorder, a 
disturbance of the world-equilibrium, being either a direct effect 
of violence, or, on the contrary, the effect of the effort of Being to 
compensate for the violence, to recover its lost and troubled order 
and balance, to bring things back to their natural places, places 
where they can rest and remain. It is this returning to order 

28 Cf . E. Mach, Die Mechanik, 124 sq. 

** It is only in "its" place that a being comes to its accomplishment and becomes 
tmly itself. And that is the reason why it tends to reach that place. 

: 'v/; ,■ ;< 'L-?- 

■•'•! ■■■'. 





which constitutes precisely what we have called "natural" move- 
ment." \-'--\:-y:-:.r'---^'--\-:-y^ri;.}--%--:-': 

Upsetting equilibrimn, returning to order : it is perf ectly clear 
that Order constitutes a firm and durable state which tends to 
extend itself indefinitely. There is therefore no need to explain 
the State of rest, at least the state of a body at rest in its natural, 
proper place ; it is its own nature which explains it, which explains, 
for instance, the earth's being at rest in the center of the world. 
It is obvious likewise that movement is necessarily a transitory 
State : natural movement ends naturally when it reaches its goal. 
And as for violent movement, Aristotle is too optimistic to admit 
that this abnormal status could endure; moreover, violent move- 
ment is disorder creating disorder, and to admit that it could en- 
dure indefinitely would mean, in f act, to abandon the very idea of a 
well-ordered Cosmos. Aristotle therefore holds the reassuring 
belief that nothing which is contra naturam possit esse per- 

Thus, as we have just said, in the Aristotelian physics move- 
ment is an essentially transitory state. Taken literally, however, 
this Statement would be incorrect, and even doubly incorrect. As 
a matter of fact movement, though it is for each of the moved 
hodies, or at least for those of the sublunar world, for the movable 
things of our experience, a necessarily transitory and ephemeral 
State, is nevertheless for the whole of the world a necessarily eter- 
nal, and therefore an eternally necessary phenomenon^^ — a phe- 
nomenon which we cannot explain without discovering its origin 
and cause in the physical as well as the metaphysical structure of 
the Cosmos. Such an analysis would show that the ontological 
structure of material Being prevents it f rom reaching the state of 
perf ection implied in the notion of absolute rest, and would enable 
US to see the ultimate physical cause of the temporary, ephemeral 
and variable movements of sublunar bodies in the continuous, uni- 
form, and perpetual movement of the heavenly spheres.*® On the 
other band, movement strictly speaking is not a state: it is a 

; ^^ The conceptions of "natural places" and "natural motions" imply that of a 
finite Universe. 

2« Aristotle, Physics, VIII, 8, 215 b. 

*^ Movement can result only from a previous movement. Therefore every 
actual motion implies an infinite series of preceding ones. 

«8 In a finite Universe the only uniform movement which can persist indefinitely 
is a circular one. 




' • vi . ■ 




process, a flux, a hecoming, in and by wMch things constitute, 
actualize and accomplish themselves.*® It is perf ectly true that 
becoming has Being as its end; and that movement has rest as its 
goal. Yet this immutable rest of a f uUy actualized being is some- 
thing utterly different f rom tbe heavy and impotent immobility of 
a being nnable to move itself ; the first is something positive, is 
''perfection and actus''; the second is only a **privation." Move- 
ment, therefore — a processus, a becoming, a change — ^finds itself 
placed ontologically between the two. It is the being of everything 
that changes, of which the being is alteration and modification and 
which is only in changing and in modifying itself. The famous 
Aristotelian definition of movement — actus entis in potentia in 
quantum est in potentia — ^which Descartes will find perf ectly unin- 
telligible — expresses admirably the f act : movement is the being — 
or the actus — of everything which is not öod. 

To move is thus to change, aliter et aliter se habere, to change 
in itself and in respect to others. This implies on the one band a 
term of relation or of comparison, in respect to which the thing 
moved changes its being or relation ; which implies — if we are deal- 
ing with local movement*" — ^the existence of a fixed point in respect 
to which the moved moves itself, a fixed unmovable point; which 
obviously can only be the center of the Universe. On the other 
band the f act that every change, every process needs a cause to 
explain it, implies that every movement needs a mover to produce 
it, which, as long as the movement endures, keeps it going. Move- 
ment indeed does not maintain itself, as rest does. Rest — a state 
or a privation — does not need the action of any cause to explain its 
persistence. Movement, change, any process of actualization (or 
of decay), and even of continuous actualization or decay cannot 
dispense with such action. If you remove the cause, movement 
will stop. Cessante causa cessat effectus.^^ 

If we are dealing with ** natural" movement, this cause, this 
motor is the very nature of the body, its '*form," which seeks to 

*» Cf. Kurt Rieder, Physics and Reality (New Haven, 1940). 

*° Local movement — ^locomotion — ^is only one, though a particularly important, 
kind of "motion" («Iin^rw), motion in the realm of space, in contradistinction to 
alteration, motion in the realm of quality, and generation and decay, motion in the 
realm of being. 

»1 Aristotle is perfectly right. No process of change or becoming can dispense 
with a cause. And if motion, in modern physics, persists by itself, it is becanse 
it ia no longer a process. 

•^ y ■ 

■'■ ' r .-;■:.■ ••■'.; 





bring it back to its place, and tbus keeps the movement going. 
Vice versa, movement "v^^hich is contra naturam requires through- 
ont its duration the continuous action of an external mover con- 
joint to the moved. Remove the mover, and the movement will 
stop. Detach it from the moved, and the movement will equally 
stop. Aristotle, as we know well, does not admit action at a dis- 
tance;" every transmission of movement implies according to hiTYi 
a contact. Therefore there are only two kinds of such transmis- 
sion : pressure and traction. To move a body you bave either to 
push or to pull it. There is no other means. 

Aristotelian physics thus forms an admirable and perfectly 
cöherent theory which, to teil the truth, has only one flaw (besides" 
that of being false) : that of being contradicted by everyday prac- 
tice, by the practice of throwing. But a theoretician deserving the 
name does not allow himself to be troubled by an objection from 
common sense. If and when he encounters a **fact'* that does not 
fit into his theory, he denies its existence. And if he cannot deny 
it, he explains it. And it is in the explanation of this everyday 
f act, the f act of throwing, a movemejit continuing in spite of the 
absence of a *' mover," a fact apparently incompatible with his 
theory, that Aristotle gives us the measure of his genius. This 
answer consists in the explanation of the apparently motorless 
movement of the projectile by the reaction of the ambiant medium, 
the air, or the water." The theory is a stroke of genius. Unfor- 
tunately (besides being false), from the point of view of conamon 
sense it is utterly impossible. No wonder therefore that the criti- 
cism of Aristotelian dynamics turns always to the same questio 
disputata: a quo moveantur projectaf , , ,.:,.,■ 

" I T . 'i .,'i ' ". iy 


"We shall come back in a moment to this questio, but we must 
first turn our attention to another detail of Aristotelian dynamics : 
the negation of any vacuum and of movement in a vacuum. In 
this dynamics, indeed, a vacuum does not enable movement to pro- 
ceed more easily; on the contrary, it renders it utterly impossible; 
this f or very prof ound reasons. 

We have already said that in Aristotelian dynamics, every body 
is conceived as endowed with a tendency to find itself in its natural 

'* The body tends to its natural place, but it is not attracted by it. 
" Cf. Aristotle, Physica, IV, 8, 215 a; Vin, 10, 267 aj De Coelo, HI, 2, 301 b; 
£. Meyerson, IdentiU et ridliti, 84. 

' •.=;" ^ 



place, and to come back to it when, and if , by violence it is moved 
away f rom it. This tendency explains its (natural) movement : a 
movement which brings it to its natural place by the shortest and 
the speediest way. It foUows that every natural movement pro- 
ceeds in a straight line, and that every body travels to its natural 
place as fast as possible ; that is, as fast as its environment, which 
resists and opposes its movement, allows it to do. If therefore 
there were nothing to arrest it, if the surrounding medium did not 
oppose any resistance to its movement through it (as would be the 
case in a vacuum) the body would travel to **its" place with an 
infinite speed.** But such a movement would be instantaneous 
and this — ^with good reason — seems to Aristotle to be utterly 
impossible. The conclusion is obvious: no (natural) movement 
can possibly take place in the void. As f or violent movement, that, 
for example, of throwing, movement in a vacuum would be equiva- 
lent to movement without a motor ; it is obvious that the vacuum is 
not a physical medium and cannot receive, transmit and keep up a 
movement. Moreover, in a vacuum (as in the space of the 
Euclidian geometry) there are no privileged places or directions. 
In a vacuum there are not, and there cannot be, ** natural" places. 
Therefore a body put into a vacuum would not know where to go, 
would not have any reason to move in one direction rather than in 
any other, and thus would not have any reason to move at all. 
Vice versa, once moved, it would have no more reason to stop here 
rather than there, and thus it would have no reason to stop at all." 
Both of which are utterly absurd. 

Aristotle is once more perfectly right. An empty space (the 
space of geometry) is utterly destructive of the conception of a 
cosmic Order: in an empty space there are not only no natural 
^places," there are no places at all. The idea of a vacuum is not 
compatible with the interpretatian of movement as change and as 
process — ^perhaps not even with that of the concrete movement of 
concrete **real,'' perceptible, bodies : I mean the bodies of our com- 
mon every day experience. The vacuum is a wow-ews;" and to 
place things in such a non-ens is absurd." Geometrical bodies 
alone can be ' * placed " in a geometrical space. 

»* Cf. Aristotle, Physics, VII, 5, 249 b, 250 a; De Coelo, IH, 2, 301 e. 
w Cf. Aristotle, Physics, IV, 8, 214 b; 215 b. 

»• If one likes it better, one can say that in a vacuum all places are the natural 
places of every kind of body. 

«^ Kant called empty space an "Unding/' 

•* Such was, as we know, the opinion of Descartes ; and of Spinoza. 





The physicist investigates real things, the geometer reasons 
about abstractions. Therefore, contends Aristotle, nothing could 
be more dangerous than to mingle together geometry and physics, 
and to apply purely geometrical method and reasoning to the study 
of physical reality. 

I have already mentioned that Aristotelian dynamics, in spite — 
or perhaps because — of its theoretical perfection, was burdened 
with an important draw-back ; that of being utterly implausible and 
completely unbelievable and unacceptable to piain sound common- 
sense, and obviously contradictory to the commonest everyday 
experience. No wonder therefore that it never enjoyed universal 
recognition, and that the critics and adversaries of the dynamics 
of Aristotle always opposed to it the common-sense fact of the 
persistence of movement separated f rom its original motor. Thus 
the classical examples of such movement, f or instance the continu- 
ing rotation of the wheel, the flight of the arrow, the throwing of 
a stone, were persistently marshalled against it, beginning with 
Hipparchus and John Philoponos, through John Buridan and 
Nicole Oresme, down to Leonardo da Vinci, Benedetti and Galileo.'* 
.1 do not propose to analyze here the traditional arguments 
which since John Philoponos*® have been repeated by the partisans 
of his dynamics. Grosso modo they can be classified into two 

'* For the history of the medieval criticism of Aristotle cf . the works cited 
above, n. 17, and B. Jansen, "Olivi, der älteste scholastische Vertreter des heutigen 
Bewegungsbegriffes,*' Philosophisches Jahrbuch (1920) ; K. Michalsky, "La physique 
nouvelle et les diff^rents courants philosophiques au XlVe si^le," Bulletin inter- 
national de VAcadimie polonaise des sciences et des lettres (Cracovie, 1927) ; S. 
Moser, Grundbegriffe der Naturphilosophie hei Wilhelm von Occam (Innsbruck, 
1932) ; E. Borchert, Die Lehre von der Bewegung hei Nicolaus Oresme (Münster, 
1934); R. Marcolongo, "La Meccanica di Leonardo da Vinci," Ätti della reale 
accademia dellesciense fisiche e matematiche, XIX (Napoli, 1933). 

*° On John Philoponos, who seems to be the real inventor of the theory of the 
impetus, cf. E. Wohlwill, "Ein Vorgänger Galileis im VI. Jahrhundert," PhysicaU 
ische Zeitschrift, VII (1906), and P. Duhem, Le Systeme du Monde, I. The 
Physics of John Philoponos,^ not having been translated into Latin, remained in- 
accessible to the scholastics, who had at their disposal only the brief account given 
by Simplicius. But it was well known to the Arabs,.and the Arabic tradition, 
directly and through the translation of Avicenna, seems to have influenced the 
'Tarisian" school to a hitherto unsuspected degree. Cf . the very important artiole 
of S. Pines, "fitudes sur Awhad al-Zamän Abu! Barakat al-Baghdadi," Bevue des 
ttudesJuives (1938). 

■■'i J^I'";^: 



/ '• , '■ 



i'\ :■ 


groups : a) the first arguments are material and stress the improb- 
ability of the aösumption that a big and heavy body, a bullet, a re- 
volving mill-stone, an arrow flying against the wind, could be 
moved by the reaction of the air; b) the others are formal and 
point out the contradiction involved in attributing to the air a 
double role, that of resistance and that of being a mover, as well as 
the illusory character of the whole theory which only shifts the 
Problem f rom the body to the air and is, in f act, obliged to endow 
the air with the same ability to maintain its movement in spite of 
its Separation from its extemal cause which it denies to other 
bodies. If so, they ask, why not assume that the mover transmits 
to the moved, or impresses it with, something which enables it to 
move — a something which is called Biwafus, virtus motiva, virtus im- 
pressa, Impetus, Impetus impressus, sometimes forza or even 
motio, and which is always thought of as some kind of power or 
force, which passes from the mover to the mobile, and which then 
carries on the movement, or better, which produces the movement 

asits cause. 

It is obvious, as Duhem himself recognized, that we are back 
with common sense. The partisans of the impetus physics are 
thinking in terms of everyday experience. Is it not clear that we 
need an effort, a deployment and an expenditure of force, in order 
to move a body, for instance in order to push a carriage along its 
path, to throw a stone or to bend a bowf Is it not clear that it is 
this force which moves the body, or better, which makes it movet— 
that it is this force which the body receives from the mover that 
enables it to overcome resistance (like that of the air) and to strike 

atobstacles? > ;- 
- ■ The medieval foUowers of impetus dynamics discuss at great 
length, and without success, the ontological status of impetus. 
They try to fit it into the Aristotelian Classification, to Interpret it 
as some kind of forfn, or as a kind of hahitus, or as a kind of quality 
such as heat (like Hipparchus and Galileo). These discussions 
only show the confused, imaginative nature of the conception, 
which is a direct product or, if one may say so, a condensation, of 

common sense. 

As such it is even more in accord than the Aristotelian view 
with the **facts" — real or imaginary— which form the experiential 
basis of medieval dynamics ; and particularly with the well known 
**fact" that every projectile begins by increasing its speed and 

:•(■■ > ■ 

,'■ \' -v. 

, Ai,". -, ''t^" 



acquires the maximum of its velocity some time after its Separa- 
tion f rom the mover/^ Everybody knows that in order to jump an 
obstacle one has to **make a take-off ;" that a chariot which one 
pushes, or pulls, Starts slowly and little by little increases its speed ; 
it too takes off and gathers momentum ; just as everybody — even a 
child throwing a ball — ^knows that in order to hit the goal hard he 
has to place himself at a certain distance f rom it, and not too near, 
in order to allow the ball to gather momentum. The physics of 
impetus is not at pains to explain this phenomenon ; f rom its stand- 
point it is perfectly natural that impetus should require some time 
before it '* takes hold'' of the mobile — just as, for example, heat 
needs time to permeate a body. . - 

The conception of movement underlying and supporting im- 
petus physics is quite different f rom that of the Aristotelian view. 
Movement is no longer understood as a process of actualization. 

*^It is interesting to note that this absurd belief , shared and taught by 
Aristotle {De Coelo, II, 6), was so deeply rooted and so imiversally accepted that 
Descartes himself did not dare to deny it outright, and as so often with him pre- 
ferred to explain it. In 1630 he writes to Mersenne (A. T., I, 110) : "Je voudrais 
bien aussi s^avoir si vous n'avez point exp^rimente si one pierre jettee avec une 
fronde, ou la bale d'un mousquet, ou nn traist d'arbaleste, vont plus viste et ont 
plus de f orce au milieu de leur mouvement qu'ils n'en ont au commencement, et s'ils 
fönt plus d'effet. Car e'est lä la creance du vulgarre, avec laquelle toutefois mes 
raisons ne s'accordent pas; et je trouve que les choses qui sont poussees et qui ne se 
meuvent pas d'elles memes, doivent avoir plus de f orce au commencement qu'inconti- 
nent apr^." In 1632 (A. T., I, 259) and once more in 1640 ( A. T., II, 37 sq.) he 
explains to his friend what is true in this belief : "In motu projectorum, ie ne croie 
point que le Missile aille jamais moins vite au commencement qu'ä la fin, h. conter 
d^ le Premier moment qu'il cesse d'etre pouss^ par la main ou la machine; mais je 
crois bien qu'un mousquet, n'estant ^oign^ que d'un pied et demi d'une muraille 
n'aura pas tant d'effet que s'U en 6tait ^oign^ de quinze ou de vingt pas, ä cause que 
la bale, en sortant du mousquet ne peut si aisement chasser l'air qui est entre lui et 
cette muraille et ainsi doit aller moins viste que si cette muraille estoit moins proche. 
Toutefois c'est ä Pexp^rience de determiner si cette diff^rence est sensible et je 
doute fort de toutes Celles que je n'ai pas faites moi-meme." Descartes' friend, 
Beckmann, on the contrary, denies flatly the possibility of an acceleration of the 
projectile and writes (Beekmawn ä Mersenne, Apr. 30, 1630, cf. Correspondance du 
Pdre Mersenne [Paris, 1936], II, 437) : "Funditores vero ac pueri omnes qui ex- 
istimant remotiora f ortius f erire quam eadem propinquiora, certo certius f alluntur.'' 
Tet he admits that there must be something true in this belief and tries to explain : 
"Non dixeram plenitudinem nimiam aeris impedire effectum tormentorii globi, sed 
pulverem pyrium extra bombardam jam existentem forsitan adhuo rarefieri, ideoque 
fieri posse ut globus tormentarius extra bombardam nova vi (simili tandem) propul- 
BUS velocitate aliquamdiu cresceret." 


r>; j:.'""^-^' 





. »,. 



Yet it is still a change, and as such it must be explained by the 
action of a definite force or cause. Impetus is just that immanent 
cause which produces the movement, which is converso modo the 
effect produced by it. Thus the Impetus impressus produces the 
movement; it moves the body. But at the same time it plays 
another very important role : it overcomes the resistance opposed 
by the medium to the movement. 

Owing to the confused and ambiguous character of the impetus 
conception, it is rather natural that the two aspects and roles 
should merge together, and that some of the partisans of the 
impetus dynamics should come to the conclusion that, at least in 

^some special cases such as the circular movement of the heavenly^ 
spheres, or, more generally, the roUing movement of a circular 
body on a level plane, or even more generally in all the cases where 
there is no external resistance to movement, such as would be the 
case in a vacuumy the impetus does not weaken but remains **im- 
mortal.'* This seems to be a close approach to the law of inertia, 
and it is therefore of particular interest and importance to note 
that Galileo himself, who in his De Motu gives us one of the best 
expositions of impetus dynamics, resolutely denies the possibility 
of such an assumption, and asserts most vigorously the essentially 
perishable nature of impetus. 

Galileo is obviously perfectly right. If movement is under- 
stood as the effect of impetus considered as its inmaanent — and not 
natural — cause, it is unthinkable and absurd not to admit that the 
cause or force which produces it must necessarily spend and finally 
exhaust itself in this production. It can never remain unchanged 
f or two consecutive moments, and therefore the movement which it 
produces must necessarily slow down and come to an end.** Thus 

^it is a very important lesson that we learn from the young Galileo. 
He teaches us that impetus physics, though compatible with move- 
ment in a vacuum, is like that of Aristotle incompatihle with the 
principle of inertia. And this is not the only lesson that Galileo 
teaches with regard to impetus physics. The second is at least as 
valuable as the first. It runs that, like that of Aristotle, the 
dynamics of impetus is incompatihle with mathematical treatment. 
It leads nowhere. It is a blind alley. 

Impetus physics, during the thousand years that separate John 
Philoponos from Benedetti, made very little progress. But in the 
«> Cf . Galileo Galilei, De Motu, Opere, Ed. Nas., I, 314 sq. 



i ^T-. ..,. 

V C-... 





latter 's works, and even more clearly, more consistently and con- 
sciously, in those of the young Galileo, we find — under the obvious 
and tmmistakable influence of the **suprahmnan Archimedes"*' a 
determined attempt to apply to this physics the principles of 
* * mathematical philosophy. ' '** 

Nothing is more instructive than the study of this attempt — or, 
more exactly, of these attempts — and of their f ailure. They show 
tis that it is impossible to mathematize, i.e., to transform into an 
exact, mathematical concept, the rüde, vague and conf used concep- 
tion of Impetus. In order to build up a mathematical physics fol- 
lowing the lines of the statics of Archimedes, this conception had 
to be dropped altogether/" A new and original concept of motion 
had to be f ormed and developed. It is this new concept that we 
owe to Galileo. 

"■V..-"' ' : rvr ;---:;j''W^ 

We are too well acquainted with, or rather too well accustomed 
to, the principles and concepts of modern mechanics, so well that 
it is abnost impossible for us to see the difficulties which had to be 
overcome for their establishment. They seem to us so simple, so 
natural, that we do not notice the paradoxes they imply and con- 
tain. Yet the mere f act that the greatest and mightiest minds of 
mankind — Galileo, Descartes — ^had to struggle in order to make 
them theirs, is in itself sufficient to indicate that these clear and 
simple notions — ^the notion of movement or that of space — are not 
so clear and simple as they seem to be. Or they are clear and 
simple only f rom a certain point of view, only as part of a certain 
set of concepts and axioms, apart f rom which they are not simple 
at all. Or, perhaps, they are too clear and too simple : so clear and 
so simple that, like all prime notions, they are very difficult to 
grasp. , 

Movement, Space — ^let us try to f orget for a while all we have 
learnt at school; let us try to think out what they mean in me- 
chanics. Let US try to place ourselves in the Situation of a con- 
temporary of Galileo, a man accustomed to the concepts of Aris- 

^> GalUeo GalUei, 2)0 If otti, 300. 

** J. B. Benedetti, Biversarum speculatiowum mathematicarum liber (Taurmi, 
1585), 168. 

*6 The persistence of the terminology — the word impetua is used by Galfleo and 
his pupils and even by Newton — ^must not ptevent ns from recognizing the disap- 
pearanoe of the idea. 

■-FWi -r.y 

'•>-..V;' ■•■;•:• •.• 

s t 




;■ :'^ 

"•'7'. ".;■;- ^'' 

totelian physics which he learnt at Ms school, and who encounters 
for the first time the modern concept of motion. What is it! In 
fact something pretty stränge. It is something which in no way 
affects the body which is endowed with it : to be in motion or to be 
at rest does not make any difference for, nor any change in, the 
body in motion or at rest. The body, as such, is utterly and abso- 
lutely indifferent to both.** Theref ore, we are not able to ascribe 
motion to a determined body considered in itself . A body is in mo- 
tion only in relation to some other body which we assmne to be at 
rest. All motion is relative. And theref ore we may ascribe it to 
the one or to the other of the two bodies, ad Uhitum.*'^ 

Thus motion seems to be a relation. But at the same time it is 
a State, just as rest is another state, utterly and absolutely opposed 
to the former ; besides which they are both persistent states,*^ The 

f amous first law of motion, the law of inertia, teaches us that a body 


left to itseK persists eternally in its state of motion or of rest, and 
that we must apply a f orce in order to change a state of motion to 
a State of rest, and vice versa.^^ Yet not every kind of motion is 
thus endowed with an eternal being, but only uniform movement 
in a straight line. Modern physics ^affirms, as well we know, that 
a body once set in motion conserves eternally its direction and 
speed, provided of course it is not subject to the action of any 
external force.''° Moreover, to the objection of the Aristotelian 
that though as a matter of fact he is acquainted with eternal motion, 
the eternal circular motion of the heavenly spheres, he has never 
yet encountered a persistent rectilinear one, modern physics re- 
plies : of course I rectilinear, uniform motion is utterly impossible, 
and can take place only in a vacuum. 

Let US think it over, and perhaps we will not be too harsh on 
' the Aristotelian who feit himself unable to grasp and to accept this 

*^ In the Aristotelian physics, motion is a process of change and always affects 
the body in motion. 

*^ A given body, theref ore, can be endowed with any number of different mo- 
tions, which do not interf ere with each other. In the Aristotelian as well as in the 
impetus physics every motion interferes with every other and sometimes even 
prevents it from taking place. 
i:"x «8 Motion and rest are thus placed on the same ontological level, and theref ore 
persistence of motion becomes just as seif -evident and without need of explanation 
as persistence of rest had previously been. 

«• In modern terms : in the Aristotelian and impetus dynamics, f orce produces 
motion; in modern dynamics, force produces acceleration. 

»0 This implies necessarily the infinity of the Universe. 


r'-.-: «'.• 



-n—^ -; — - 

unlieärä of notion, the notion of a persistent, substantial relation- 
state, the concept of something which to him seemed just as ab- 
struse, and just as impossible, as the ill-f ated substantial f orms of 
the scholastics appear to us. No wonder that the Aristotelian feit 
himself astonished and bewildered by this amazing attempt to 
explain the real by the impossible — or, which is the same thing, to 
explain real being by mathematical being, because, as I have men- 
tioned already, these bodies moving in straight lines in infinite 
empty space are not real bodies moving in real space, but mathe- 
matical bodies moving in mathematical space. 

Once more, we are so accustomed to mathematical science, to 
mathematical physics, that we no longer f eel the strangeness of a 
mathematical approach to Being, the paradoxical daring of Gali- 
leo 's utterance that the book of Nature is written in geometrical 
characters.** For us it is a f oregone conclusion. But not f or the 
contemporaries of Galileo. Therefore it is the right of mathe- 
miatical science, of the mathematical explanation of Nature, in 
Opposition to the non-mathematical one of common sense and of 
Aristotelian physics, much more than the Opposition between two 
astronomical Systems, that f orms the real subject of the Dialogue 
on the Two Greatest Systems of the World, As a matter of fact 
the Dialogue, as I believe I have shown in my ill-f ated volume, is 
not so much a book on science in our meaning of the term as a book 
on philosophy — or to be quite correct and to employ a disused but 
time-honored expression, a book on natural philosophy — ^for the 
simple reason that the Solution of the astronomical problem de- 
pends on the Constitution of a new Physics ; which in turn implies 
the Solution of the philosophical question of the role played by 
mathematics in the Constitution of the science of Nature. 

The role and the place of mathematics in science is not in fact 
a very new problem. Quite the contrary : for more than two thou- 
sand years it has formed the object of philosophical ineditation, 
inquiry and discussion. And Galileo is perf ectly aware of it. No 
wonder I Even as a young boy, a student in the University of Pisa, 

»* G. Galilei, II Saggiatore (Opere, VI, 232) : "La filosofia h scritta in qneeto 
grandissimo libro, che oontinnamente ci sta aperto innanri a gli occhi (io dico Funi- 
▼erso), ma non si puö intendere se prima non s'impara a intender la ling^, e 
conoscer i caratteri, ne* qnali k scritto. Egli h scritto in lingua matematica, e i 
caratteri son triangoli, cerchi, ed altre figore geometriche, senza i qnali mezi h 
impossibile a intendeme nmanamente parola." Cf. Letter to Liceti of Jan. 11, 
1641 (Opere, XVin, 293). 

-■ ... .r. , . ■/; .. .• i. ; - 

,■,■■; .i-- " ■■ .;•; ;- ■•■■ 

.■• y 





he could have learned from the lectüres of his master, Francesco 
Buonamici, that the **question" about the role and the nature of 
mathematics constitutes the principal subjeet of Opposition be- 
tween Aristotle and Plato.*** And some years later when he came 
back to Pisa, this time a prof essor himself , he could have learned 
from his f riend and coUeague, Jacopo Mazzoni, author of a book on 
Plato and Aristotle, that 'Hhere is no other question which has 
given place to more noble and beautif ul speculations . . . than the 
question whether the use of mathematics in physical science as an 
Instrument of proof and a middle term of demonstration, is oppor- 
tune or not ; in other words, whether it brings us some profit, or on 
the contrary is dangerous and harmf ul. " ' ' It is well known, ' ' says 
Mazzoni, **that Plato believed that mathematics was quite particu- 
larly appropriate f or physical investigations, which was the reason 

^^ The enormous compilation of Buonamici (1011 pages in folio) is an invalaable 
source-book for the study of medieval theories of motion. Though frequently 
mentioned by historians of Galileo it has never been utilized by them. Buonamiei's 
book is very rare. I aUow myself therefore to quote it at some length: Francisci 
Bonamici, Florentini, e primo loco philosophiam ordinariam in Almo Gymnasio 
Pisano profitentis, De Motu, libri X, quihiis generalia naturalis philosophiae prin- 
dpia summo studio collect a continentur (Florentiae, 1591), lib. X, cap. XI. Jurene 
mathematicae ex ordine scientiarum expurgantur, p. 56 : . . . '^Itaque veluti ministri 
sunt mathematicae, nee honore digpiae et habitae nponaxbzUij id est apparatus quidam 
ad alias disciplinas. Ob eamque potissime caussam, quod de bono mentionem facere 
non videntur. Etenim onme bonum est finis, is vero cuiusdam actus est. Omnis 
vero actus est cum motu. Mathematicae autem motum non respiciunt. Haec nostri 
addunt. Omnem scientiam ex proprüs effici : propria vero sunt necessaria quae alicui 
[f] quatenus ipsum et per se insunt. Atqui talia principia mathematicae non 
habent. . . . Nullum caussae genus accipit . . . proptereaquod omnes caussae de- 
finiuntur per motum: efäciens enim est principium motus, finis cuius gratia motus 
est, forma et materia sunt naturae; et motus ig^tur principia sint necesse est. At 
vero mathematica sunt inmiobilia. Et nullum igitur ibi caussae genus existit." 
Ihid,, lib. I, p. 54 "Mathematicae cum ex notis nobis et natura simul efäciant id 
quod cupiunt, sed caeteris demonstrationis perspicuitate praeponentur, nam vis 
rerum quas ipsae tractant non est admodum nobilis; quippe quod sunt accidentia, 
id est habeant rationem substantiae quatenus subiicitur et determinatur quanto; 
eaque considerentur longe secus atque in natura existant. Attamen nonnullamm 
rerum Ingenium tale esse comperimus ut ad certam materiam sese non applicent, 
neque motum consequantur, quia tamen in natura quicquid est, cum motu existit; 
opus est abstractione cuius beneficio quantum motu non comprehenso in eo munere 
contemplamur; et cum talis sit earum natura nihil absurdi exoritur. Quod item 
confirmatur, quod mens in omni habitu verum dicit ; atqui verum est ex eo, quod res 
ita est. Huc accedit quod Aristoteles distinguit scientias non ex ratione notionum 
sed entium.'' 




t. , 

why he himself had many times recourse to it for the explanation 
of physical mysteries. But Aristotle held a quite different view 
and he explained the errors of Plato by his too great attachment 
to mathematics."^® 

One sees that for the scientific and philosophical consciousness 
of the time — Buonamici and Mazzoni are only giving expression to 
the commimis opinia — ^the Opposition, or rather the dividing line, 
between the Aristotelian and the Piatonist is perf ectly clear. If 
you Claim for mathematics a superior status, if more than that you 
attribute to it a real value and a commanding position in Physics, 
you are a Piatonist. If on the contrary you see in mathematics an 
abstract science, which is theref ore of a lesser value than those— ^ 
physics and metaphysics — ^which deal with real being; if in par- 
ticular you pretend that physics needs no other basis than experi- 
ence and must be built directly on perception, that mathematics has 
to content itself with the secondary and subsidiary röle of a mere 
auxiliary, you are an Aristotelian. 

What is in question in this discussion is not certainty — ^no 
Aristotelian has ever doubted the certainty of geometrical propo- 
sitions or demonstrations — ^but Being ; not even the use of mathe- 
matics in physical science — no Aristotelian has ever denied our 
right to measure what is measurable and to count what is numer- 
able — ^but the structure of science, and therefore the structure of 
Being. v^ 

°^ Jacob! Mazzoni, Caesenatis, in Almo Gymnasio Pisano Aristotelem ordinarie 
Platonem vero extra ordinem profitentis, In Universam Piatonis et Äriatotelis 
Phüosophiam Praeludia, sive de comparatione Piatonis et Aristotelis (Venetiis, 
1597), 187 sq.: Disputatur utrum usus mathematicarum in Physica utilitatem vel 
detrimentum afferat, et in hoc Piatonis et Aristotelis comparatio. Non est enim 
inter Platonem et Aristotelem quaestio, sen differentia, quae tot pnlchris, et nobilissi- 
mis speculationibus scateat, ut cum ista, ne in minima quidem parte comparari 
possit. Est antem differentia, utrum usus mathematicarum in soientia Physica 
tanquam ratio probandi et medius terminus demonstrationum sit opportunus, vel 
inopportunus, id est, an utilitatem aliquam afferat, yel potius detrimentum et 
damnum. Credidit Plato Mathematicas ad speculationes physicas apprime esse ac- 
commodatas. Quapropter passim eas adhibet in reserandis mysterüs physicis. At 
Aristoteles omnino secus sentire videtur, erroresque Piatonis adscribet amori Mathe- 
maticarum. . . . Sed si quis voluerit hanc rem diligentius considerare, forsan, et 
Piatonis def ensionem inveniet, videbit Aristotelem in nonnullos errorum scopulos 
impegisse, quod quibusdam in locis Mathematicas demonstrationes proprio consilio 
valde consentaneas, aut non intellexerit, aut certe non adhibuerit. Utramque con- 
olusionem, quarum prima ad Piatonis tutelam attinet, secunda errores Aristotelis 
ob Mathematicas male rejectas profitetur, brevissime demonstrabo." 




■•»■-.•:''^-/v,;^ ..' : 



These are tlie discussions to wmch Galileo alludes continuously 
in the course of his Dialogue. Thus at the very beginning Sim- 
plicio, the Aristotelian, points out that **concerning natural things 
we need not always seek the necessity of mathematical demonstra- 
tions."" To which Sagredo, who allows himself the pleasure of 
misunderstanding Simplicio, replies : **0f course, when you cannot 
reach it. But, if you can, why not T " Of course. If it is possible 
in questions pertaining to natural things to achieve a demonstra- 
tion possessing a mathematical necessity, why shouldn't we try to 
do itl But is it possible? That is precisely the problem, and 
Galileo, in the margin of the book, sums up the discussion and f or- 
mulates the real meaning of the Aristotelian: **In natural demon^ 

strations,'' says he, **one must not seek mathematical exactitude.'* 
One must not. Why? Because it is impossible. Because the 
nature of physical being is qualitative and vague. It does not 
conf orm to the rigidity and the precision of mathematical concepts. 
It is always **more or less.'' Therefore, as the Aristotelian will 
explain to us later, philosophy, that is the science of the real, does 
not need to look at details, nor need it have recourse to numerical 
determinations in f ormulating its theories of motion ; all that it has 
to do is to develop its chief categories (natural, violent, recti- 
linear, circular) and to describe its general qualitative and abstract 

The modern reader is probably f ar f rom being convinced. He 
finds it diflScult to admit that ** philosophy" had to content itself 
with abstract and vague generalization and not try to establish 
precise and concrete universal laws. The modern reader does not 
know the real reason of this necessity, but Galileo 's contemporaries 
knew it quite well. They knew that quality, as well as form, being 
non-mathematical by nature, cannot be treated in terms of mathe- 
matics. Physics is not applied geometry. Terrestrial matter can 
never exhibit exact mathematical figures; the **forms" never *4n-i 
form'' it completely and perfectly. There always remains a gap. 
In the skies, of course, it is different ; and therefore mathematical 
astronomy is possible. But astronomy is not physics. To have 
missed that point is precisely the error of Plato and of those who 
foUow Plato. It is useless to attempt to build up a mathematical 

'* Cf . Galileo Galilei, Dialogo aopra i due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo, Opere, 
Ed. Naz.,VII,38;cf. 256. 
" Cf . JDioiopo, 242. 


,» '!'■' 

' T,!r. 



philosophy of nature. The enterprise is doomed even before it 
Starts. It does not lead us to truth but to error. 

.**A11 these mathematical subtleties,'* explains Simplicio, **are 
true in abstracto. But applied to sensible and pbysical matter, 
they do not work.'"' In real nature there are no circles, no tri- 
angles, no straight lines. Theref ore it is useless to leam the lan- 
guage of mathematical figures: the book of Nature, in spite of 
Galileo and Plato, is not written in them. In fact, it is not only 
useless, it is dangerous : the more a mind is accustomed to the pre- 
cision and to the rigidity of geometrical thought, the less it will be 
able to grasp the mobile, changing, qualitatively determined yariety 
of Being. ^ '~ ^ ' . 

This attitude of the Aristotelian is very f ar f rom being ridicu- 
lous." To me, at least, it seems perf ectly sensible. You cannot 
establish a mathematical theory of quality, objects Aristotle to 
Plato ; not even one of motion. There is no motion in numbers. 
But ignorato motu ignoratur natura. And the Aristotelian of 
Galileo 's time could add that the greatest of the Platonists, the 
divus Archimedes himself ," was never able to establish more than 
a statics. Not a dynamics. A theory of rest. Not one of motion. 

The Aristotelian was perf ectly right. It is impossible to f ur- 
nish a mathematical deduction of quality. And well we know that 
Galileo, like Descartes somewhat later, and for just the same 
reason, was f orced to drop the notion of quality, to declare it sub- 
jective, to ban it f rom the realm of nature.*^® This at the same time 
implies that he was obliged to drop sense-perception as the source 
of knowledge and to proclaim that intellectual, and even a priori 
knowledge, is our sole and only means of apprehending the essence 
of the real. 

As for dynamics, arid the laws of motion — ^the posse is only to 
be proved by the esse; in order to show that it is possible to estab- 
lish mathematical laws of nature, you have to do it. There is no 
other way and Galileo is perf ectly conscious of it. It is theref ore 
by giving mathematical Solutions to concrete physical problems — 
the Problem of falling bodies, the problem of projectile motion — 

e« 7&td(., 229, 423. 

'^ As we know, it was shared by Pascal, and even by Leibniz. 

^^It is perhaps worth mentioning that for all the dozographic tradition, 
Archimedes is a philosophua platonicus, 

8» Cf . B. A. Burtt, The Metaphysicäl Foundationa of Modem Physical 8ciene$ 
(London and New York, 1925). 

Jk"i ■ 

• "■■•>;■ : ,•),..■ 

> . ,-. 





that he leads Simplicio to the confession '*that to want to study 
natural problems without mathematics is to attempt something 
that cannot be done." 

It seems to me that we are now able to understand the meaning 
of this significant text of Cavalieri, who in 1630 writes in his 
Specchio üstorio: "How mueh is added by the knowledge of the 
mathematical seiences, which the famous schools of Pythagoreans 
and Platonists considered supremely necessary for the compre- 
hension of physical things, I hope will shortly become clear with 
the publication of the new science of movement promised by this 
marvellous Assayer of Nature, Galileo Galilei. "®® 

And we understand too the pride of Galileo the Piatonist, who 
in his Discourses and Demonstrations announces that **about a 
most ancient subject he will promote a quite new science," and will 
prove something that nobody has proven tili then, namely that the 
movement of falling bodies is subjected to the law of numbers.®^ 
Movement governed by numbers ; the Aristotelian objection had at 
last met its ref utation. 

It is obvious that for the disciples of Galileo just as for his con- 
temporaries and eiders mathematicism means Platonism. There- 
fore when Torricelli teils us **that among the liberal disciplines 
geometry alone exercises and sharpens the mind and renders it 
able to be an ornament of the City in time of peace and to defend 
it in time of war," and that **caeteris paribus, a mind trained in 
geometrical gymnastics is endowed with a quite particular and 
virile strength,"®* not only does he show himself an authentic 

®® Bonaventura Cavalieri, Lo Specchio Ustorio overo trattato Delle Settioni 
Coniche e alcuni loro mirdbili effetti intorno al Lume etc. (Bologna, 1632), 152 sq. : 
''Ma qnanto vi aggiunga la cognitione delle scienze Matematiche, giudicate da 
quelle f amosissime scuole de' Pithogorici et de' Tlatonici,' sommamente necessarie 
per intender le cose Fisiche, spero in breve sarä manif esto, per la nuova dottrina del 
moto promessaci dall'esquisitissimo Saggiatore deUa Natura, dico dal Sig. Galileo 
Galilei, ne* suoi Dialoghi. . . ." , 

®^ Galileo Galileo, Discorsi^ e dimostrazioni mathematiche intorno a due nuove 
scienze (Opere, Ed. Naz., VIII, 190) : "nullus enim, quod sciam, demonstravit, 
spatia a mobile descendente ex quiete peracta in temporibus aequalibus, eam inter 
se retinere rationem, quam habent numeri impares ab unitate consequentes.'' 

•2 Evangelista Torricelli, Opera Geometrica (Florentiae, 1644), II, 7: "Sola 
enim Geometria inter liberales disciplinas acriter ezacuit Ingenium, idoneumque 
reddit ad civitates adomandas in pace et in bello def endendas : caeteris enim paribus, 
Ingenium quod exercitatum sit in Geometrica palestra, peculiare quoddam et virile 
robur habere solet: praestabitque semper et antecellet, circa studia Architecturae, 
rei bellicae^ nauticaeque, etc.'' 


.*•: .V" 



disciple of Plato, he acknowledges and proclaims himself to be one. 
And in doing it he remains a f aithf ul disciple of his master Galileo, 
who in his Response to the Phüosophical Exercitations of Antonio 
Eocco addresses himself to the latter, asking him to judge f or him- 
self the value of the two rival methods, i.e., the purely physical and 
empirical method and the mathematical one, adding : * * and decide 
at the same time who reasoned better, Plato, who said that without 
mathematics one could not learn philosophy, or Aristotle, who 
reproached this same Plato for having too much studied Geom- 
etry."«« ^ . - u r-. ..-■ ■■.- .>.-,.v. 

I have just called Galileo a Piatonist. And I believe that nobody 
will doubt that he is one.** Moreover, he says so himself. In the 
very first pages of the Dialogue Simplicio makes the remark that 
Galileo, being a mathematician, is probably sympathetic to the 
numerical specnlations of the Pythagoreans. This enables Galileo 
to declare that he deems them perf ectly meaningless, and to say at 
the same time: **I know perf ectly well that the Pythagoreans had 
the highest esteem for the science of number and that Plato himself 
admired the human intellect and believed that it participates in 
divinity solely because it is able to understand the nature of num- 
bers. And I myself am well inclined to make the same judgment. ' '*'* 

®^ Galileo Galilei, Esercitazioni filosofiche di Antonio Bocco, Opere, Ed. Naz., 
VII,744. . . . 

®* The Plationism of Galileo Galilei has been more or less clearly recognized by 
certain modern historians of science and philosophy. Thns the author of the 
German translation of the Dialogo notes the Piatonic influence (the doctrine of 
anamnesis) on the very form of the book (cf. G. Galilei, Dialog über die beiden 
hauptsächlichsten Weltsysteme, aus dem italienischen übersetzt und erläutert von 
E. Strauss [Leipzig, 1891], p. XLIX) ; E. Cassirer {Das Erkenntnisproblem in der 
Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit, 2 ed. [Berlin, 1911], I, 389 sq.) 
insists upon the Platonism of Galileo's ideal of knowledge; L. Olschki {Galileo und 
seine Zeit, Leipzig, 1927) speaks about the "Piatonic vision of Nature" of Galileo, 
etc. It is E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modem Physical Science 
(New York, 1925), who seems to me to have given the best account of the meta- 
physical substructure (Piatonic mathematicism) of modern science. Unfortunately 
Burtt failed to recognize the existence of two (and not one) Piatonic traditions, 
that of mystical arithmology, and that of mathematical science. The same error, 
which in the case of Burtt was a venial sin, was made by his critic, E. W. Strong, 
Procedures and Metaphysics (Berkeley, Cal., 1936), and in this case it was a mortal 
one. — On the distinction between the two Piatonisms cf. L. Brunschvicg, Les Jßtapes 
de la Philosophie mathematique (Paris, 1922), 69 sq., and Le Progrds de la con- 
science dans la philosophie occidentale (Paris, 1937), 37 sq. 

« Dialogo, 35. 

'•y^\"^ ,;.vf7vi;:/<:!'-''': /.: 

'.■^■'.'i, .v"i ■ ->" 







How could he be of a diflferent opinion, he who believed that in 
mathematical knowledge the human mind attains the very perf ec- 
tion of the divine nnderstanding! Does he not say that ** exten- 
sive, that is in respect of the multiplicity of things to be known, 
which is infinite, the human mind is as nothing (even if it under- 
stood a thousand propositions, because a thousand compared with 
infinity is like zero) : but taking the nnderstanding intensive, in so 
f ar as this term means to grasp intensely, that is, perf ectly a given 
proposition, I say that the human mind understands some propo- 
sitions as perf ectly and has of them as absolute certainty as Nature 
herseif can have ; and of that kind are the pure mathematical sci- 
ences, that is, geometry and arithmetic, of which the divine intellect 
knows of course infinitely more propositions, f or the simple reason 
that it knows them all; but as for those few understood by the 
human intellect, I believe that our knowledge equals the divine in 
objective certainty, because it succeeds in nnderstanding their 
necessity, beyond which it does not seem that there can exist a 
greater certainty."*' 

Galileo could have added that the human nnderstanding is so 
excellent a work of God that ah initio it is in possession of these 
clear and simple ideas of which the very simplicity is a guarantee 
of truth, and that it has only to turn to itself in order to find in its 
*'memory" the true foundations of science and knowledge, the 
aiphabet, i.e., the Clements, of the language — the mathematical lan- 
guage — spoken by the Nature God has created. There is to be 
found the true foundation of a real science, a science of the real 
World — ^not of a science endowed with a purely formal truth, the 
intrinsic truth of mathematical reasoning and deduction, a truth 
which would not be affected by the non-existence in Nature of the 
objects studied by it: it is obvious that Galileo would no more than 
Descartes ever rest content with such an Ersatz for real science 
and knowledge. 

It ie of this science, the true **philosophic" knowledge which is 
knowledge of the very essence of Being, that Galileo proclaims: 
** And I, I say to you that if one does not know the truth by himself, 
it is impossible for anyone eise to give him that knowledge. It is 
indeed possible to teach those things that are neither true nor 
f alse ; but the true, by which I mean necessary things, that is, those 
for which it is impossible to be otherwise, every average mind 

«• Dialogo, 128 sq. 


.v^>--: ■';■■; '^•; 

.;•#'.- '■';\-" 






either knows by itself, or it is impossible for it ever to learn 
them/'" Assuredly. A Platonist cannot be of a different opinion 
because for him to know is nothing eise than to understand. 

The allusions to Plato so numerous in the works of Galileo, and 
the repeated mention of the Socratic maieutics and of the doctrine 
of reminiscence, are not superficial Ornaments born f rom his desire 
to conform to the literary mode inherited from the concern of 
Renaissance thought with Plato. Nor are they meant to gain for 
the new science the sympathy of the ** common reader," tired and 
disgusted by the aridity of Aristotelian scholastics ; nor to cloak 
himself against Aristotle in the authority of his "master and rival, 
Plato. Quite the contrary : they are perf ectly serious, and must 
be taken at their face value. Thus, that no one might have the 
slightest doubt concerning his philosophical standpoint, Galileo 
insists:*® **Salviati: The Solution of the question under discussion 
iniplies the knowledge of certain truths that are just as well known 
to you as to me. But, as you do not remember them, you do not see 
that Solution. In this way, without teaching you, because you know 
them already, but only by recalling them to you, I shall make you 
solve the problem yourself . " 

**SiMPLicio: Several times I have been Struck by your manner 
of reasoning, which makes me think that you incline to the opinion 
of Plato that nostrum scire sit quoddam reminisci; pray, free me 
from this doubt and teil me your own view." 

*<Salv: What I think of this opinion of Plato I can explain by 
words, and also by f acts. In the arguments so f ar advanced I have 
already more than once declared myself by f act. Now I will apply 
the same method in the inquiry we have in band, an inquiry which 
may serve as an example to help you more easily to understand my 
ideas concerning the acquisition of science. ..." 

The inquiry **we have in band'' is nothing eise than the deduc- 
tion of the fundamental propositions of mechanics. We are in- 
f ormed that Galileo judges he has done more than merely declare 
himself a foUower and a partisan of Piatonic epistemology. In 
addition, by applying it, by discovering the true laws of physics, 
by letting them be deduced by Sagredo and Simplicio, that is, by 
the reader himself, by us, he believes he has demonstrated the truth 
of Platonism *'by fact.'* The Dialogue and the Discourses give 

•^ Dialogoy 1S3, 
•« Dialogo, 217. 


i' ■?■■■■/';' 

.•■■ i> ■ ^'^^^' 



US the history of an intellectual experiment — of a conclusive experi- 
ment, because it ends with the wistf ul conf ession of the Aristotelian 
Simplicio, acknowledging the necessity of the study of mathe- 
matics, and regretting that he himself had not learned them in his 
youth. -.::: c '■■•>■■■■■ :\^^^'/'::\--'^-:'^- ::^y-';r-:>^.y-yy 

The Dialogue and the Discourses teil us the history of the dis- 
covery, or better still, of the rediscovery of the language spoken by 
Nature. They explain to us the manner of questioning her, i.e., 
the theory of that scientific experimentation in which the formu- 
lation of postulates and the deduction of their implications pre- 
cedes and guides the recourse to Observation. This too, at least 
for Galileo, is a proof **by fact.'' The new science is for him an 
experimental proof of Platonism. ^^ ■ x 

£cole Libre des Hautes fitudes. 


... c, .-: , 

<\ ■• |- « i . i i i | ii 


Uttf^M^iAkk^^^d^Hfj^j^^ . 

A^U^d^ - j ._ 

J[l C/l-jh^jU'rA^ W**it^-feflM» ^\^j<^V.// t^L>^^^ 

-J^^.^lj*}id^h/tfJAyjl^ J-jL 

^,„ iÖr_.„_<m,._ : ^^^___ ^^ „ :„_.„„:_„.^_^ 

' A/>\i!*^dj h.A»> -' *'^'A~'^ 

-^ I U I» U l i« >ii > i' » »« c »t a » n itmtifgf)iifKiimtmrfff9>fi>mmmmn'^ 

f _ ^_ 

>;"'\; -• •" 

. -•>.■•«.. 

Rcprinted from The Philosophical Review, July, 1943 


li/r ODERN science did not spring perfect and completc, as j 
Athena from the head of Zeus, from the minds of Galileo 

and Descartes. On the contrary, the Galilean and Cartesian revolu- . 

'tion— which remains, nevertheless, a revolution— had been pre- 
pared by a strenuous effort of thought. And there is nothing more 
interesting, more instructive, nor more thrilling, than to study the 
history of that effort ; to write the story of the human mind deal- 
ing obstinately with the same everlasting problems, encountering 
the same difficulties, struggling untiringly with the same obstacles, 
and slowly and progressively forging for itself instruments and 
tools, new concepts, new methods of thinking, which will enable it 
to overcome them. 

It is a long and thrilling story ; too long to be told hcre. Yet, in 
Order to understand the origin, the bearing and the meaning of the 
Galileo-Cartesian revolution, we cannot dispense with throwing 
at least a glance backwards, on some of the contemporaries and 
predecessors of Galileo. :. 

~ Modem physics studies, in the first line, the motion of ponderous 
bodies, i.e., the motion of bodies which Surround us. Thus it is 
from the effort to explain the f acts and the phenomena of common, 
everyday, experience— the act of f alling, the act of throwing— that 
proceeds the trend of ideas which leads to the establishment of 
its fundamental laws. Yet it does not proceed theref rom exclu- 
sively, or even principally, or in a direct way. Modem physics 
does not originate from earth alone. It comes, just as well, from 
the skies. And it is in the skies that it finds its perfection and end. 
This fact, the fact that modern physics has its "prologue" and 
its "cpiloguc" in the skies, or, to speak a more sober language, 

* the fact that modern physics takes its origin from the study of 

■ -L. •■•■<*'<• ■■" I.';- 


■M », 




astronomical problems and maintains this tie throughout its his- 
tory, has a deep meaning, and carries important consequences. It ex- 
presses the replacement of the classic and medieval conception of 
the Cosmos— closed unity of a qualitatively determined and 
hierarchically well ordered whole in which different parts (heaven 
and earth) are subject to different laws— by that of the Universe, 
that is of an open and indefinitely extended entirety of Being, gov- 
eraed and united by the identity of its fundamental laws ; it deter- 
mines the merging of the Physica coelestis with Physica terrestris,- 
which enables the latter to use and to apply to its problems the 
methods — the hypothetico-deductive mathematical treatment — de- 
veloped by the former ; it implies the impossibility of establishing 
and elaborating a terrestrial physics, or, at least, a terrestrial mer 
chanics, without a celestial one; it explains the partial failure 
of Galileo and Descartes. 

Modem physics, which, in my opinion, is bom with, and in, the 
works of Galileo Galilei, looks upon the law of inertial motion as 
its basic and fundamental law. It does so quite correctly, for 
ignorato motu ignoratur natura, and modern science aims at the 
explaining of everything by "number, figure, and motion". True, 
it was Descartes, and not Galileo— as I believe I have established 
in my illf ated Galüean Studies^ — ^who for the first time f uUy under- 
stood its bearing and its meaning. And yet Newton is not whoUy 
incorrect in giving füll credit for it to Galileo. As a matter of f act, 
though Galileo never explicitly formulated this principle — ^nor 
-^could have — ^his mechanics, implicitly, is based upon it. And it is 
only his reluctance to draw, or to admit, the ultimate consequences 
—OT implications — of his own conception of movement, his reluc- 
tance to discard completely and radically the experiential data for 
the theoretical postulate he worked so hard to establish, that pre- 
vented him from making the last step on the road which leads 
f rom the finite Cosmos of the Greeks to the infinite Universe of 
the Modems. 

The principle of inertial motion is very simple. It states that 
a body, left to itself, remains in its State of rest or of motion as 
long as it is not interfered with by some exteraal f orce. In other 

* A. Koyr^ Biudes Galüiennes, Paris, 1940. 

' »«rf" 

->••.;-.:■• w:M--:--r^- 

■ \ 

- > ■ 


-:** -.T • 

vVr -.-■.. i- 



words, a body at rest will remain etemally at rest unless it is 
"put in motion". And a body in motion will continue to move, and 
to persist in its rectilinear uniform motion, as long as nothing 
prevents it from doing so.' ^ ->.^-.-^.-/,::;-^,-':..- 

The principle of inertial motion appears to us perfectly clear, 
plausible, and even, practically, seifevident. It seems to us pretty 
obvious that a body at rest will remain at rest, i.e., will stay where 
it is — wherever that may be — and will not move away on its own- 
accord. And that, converso modo, once put in motion, it will con- 
tinue to move, and to move in the same direction and with the 
same speed, because, as a matter of fact, we do not see any reason 
nor cause why it should change either. All that appears to us not 
only plausible, but even natural. Yet it is nothing less than that. 
In fact, the "evidence** and the "naturalness" which these concep- 
tions and considerations are enjoying are very young: we owe 
them to Galileo and Descartes, whereas to the Greeks, as well as 
to the Middle Ages, they would appear as "evidently" false, and 
even absurd. ■- '^'■:: 'i. ■ .•• .-■.:>^'^^^v:: ;V:^ 

This fact can only be explained if we admit — or recognize — 
that all these "clear" and "simple" notions, which form the basis 
of modern science, are not "clear" and "simple" per se et in se, 
but only as a part of a certain set of concepts and axioms, apart 
from which they are not "simple" at all. This, in turn, enables us 
to understand why the discovery of such simple and easy things 
as, for instance, the fundamental laws of motion, which today are 
taught to, and understood by, children, has needed such a tremen- 
dous effort — ^and an efFort which often remained unsuccessful — ^by 
some of the deepest and mightiest minds ever produced by man- 
kind: they had not to "discover" or to "establish" these simple 
and evident laws, but to work out and to build up the very f rame- 
work which made these discoveries possible. They had, to begin 
with, to reshape and to re-f orm our intellect itself ; to give to it a 
series of new concepts, to evolve a new approach to being, a new 
concept of nature, a new concept of science, in other words, a new 

*Sir Isaak Newton, Philoso phiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica; 
Axiomata sive leges motus; Lex I: Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo 
quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus 
impressis cogitur statum ille mutare. 

« (' 

/ .' 


.:j ,■>•. ,■ .'»•■ 




We are so well acquainted with, or rather so well accustomed 
to, the concepts and principles which form the basis of modern 
science, that it is nearly impossible f or us to appreciate rightly either 
the obstacles that had to be overcome for their establishment, or 
the difficulties that they imply and encompass. The Galilean con- 
cept of motion (as well as that of space) seems to us so "natural" 
that we even believe we have derived it from experience and 
Observation, though, obviously, nobody has ever encoimtered an_ 
inertial motion for the simple reason that such a motion is utterly 
and absolutely impossible. We are equally well accustomed to the 
mathematical approach to nature, so well that we are not aware 
of the boldness of Galileo's Statement that "the book of nature is 
written in geometrical characters", any more than we are conscious 
of the paradoxical daring of his decision to treat mechanics as 
mathematics, that is, to Substitute for the real, experienced world 
a World of geometry made real, and to explain the real by the 

In modern science, as well we know, motion is considered as 

purely geometrical translation from one point to another. Motion, 

theref ore, in no way affects the body which is endowed with it ; 

to be in motion or to be at rest does not make any djfFerence to, 

or produce a change in, the body whether in motion or at rest. 

The body, as such, is utterly indifferent to both. Consequently, we 

are unable to ascribe motion to a determined body considered in 

itself . A body is only in motion in its relation to some other body, 

which we assume to be at rest. We can, therefore, ascribe it to 

the one or to the other of the two bodies, ad libitum. All motion 
is relative. ■ •■.,.,..,. ,^...~,.,v^^.r- 

Just as it does not affect the body which is endowed with it, the 
motion of a body in no way interferes with other movements that 
it may execute at the same time. Thus a body may be endowed 
with any number of motions, which combine to produce a result 
according to purely geometrical rules ; and, vice versa, every given 
motion can be decomposed, according to these same rules, into any 
number of component ones. 

Yet, all this notwithstanding, motion is considered to be a State, 
and rest another State, utterly and absolutely opposed to the former, 

.'•:.■; ''■(': 


... .. y 


so that we must apply a force in order to change a State of motion 
of a given body to that of rest, and vice versa, 

It is therefore perfectly evident that a body in a State of motion 
will persist in this State forever; and that it will no more need a 
force or a cause by which to explain, or to maintain, its uniform, 
rectilinear movement, than it will need one by which to explain 
or to maintain its rest. 

Thus, in order to appear evident, the principle of inertial motion 
presupposes (a) the possibility of isolating a given body from all 
its physical environment, (b) the conception of Space which 
identifies it with the homogeneous, infinite Space of Euclidian 
geometry, and (c) a conception of movement — and of rest — 
which considers them as states and places them on the same 
ontological level of being. 

No wonder that these conceptions appeared pretty difficult to 
admit — and even to understand — ^to the contemporaries and prede- 
cessors of Galileo ; no wonder that to his Aristotelian adversaries 
the notion of motion as a persistent, substantial relation-state 
appeared just as abstruse and contradictory as the famous sub- 
stantial forms of the scholastics appear to us; no wonder that 
Galileo Galilei had to struggle before he succeeded in forming that 
conception, and that great, but somewhat lesser, minds, such as 
Bnmo and even Kepler, failed to reach that goal. As a matter of 
fact, even today, the conception we are describing is by no means 
easy to grasp, as anyone who ever attempted to teach physics to 
students who did not leam it at school will certainly testify. 
Common sense, indeed, is — ^as it always was — ^medieval and 

We must now give our attention to the pre-Galilean, chiefly 
Aristotelian, conception of motion and of space. I will not, of 
course, endeavor to give here an exposition of Aristotelian physics ; 
I will only point out some of its characteristic f eatures as opposed 
to the modern; and I would like to stress, because it is fairly 
widely misappreciated, that the Aristotelian physics is a very 
thoroughly thought out, and very coherent, body of theoretical 
knowledge, which, besides having a very deep philosophical 


K . 



( .• ■:'' 

foundation, is, as stated by P. Duhem and P. Tannery,* in pretty 
good accordance — sl much better one, indeed, than the Galilean — 
with the experience, at least with the commonsense experience, of 
our everyday life. 

Aristotelian physics is based on sense-perception, and is therefore 
decidedly non-mathematical. It refuses to Substitute mathematical 
abstractions for the colorful, qualitatively determined facts of 

i^common experience, and it denies the very possibility of a mathe- 
matical physics on the ground (a) of the nonconformity of mathe- 
matical concepts to the data of sense-experience, (b) of the inabil- 
ity of mathematics to explain quality and to deduce movement. 
There is no quality, and no motion, in the timeless realm of figure 
and number. 

As for motion — ^Ktvtjatg — or rather "local motion" — ^Aristotelian 

i physics considers it a kind of process of change — in contradis- 
tinction with rest, which, being the goal and the end of motion, 
is to be recognized as a State.* Motion is change (actualization or 
decay) and consequently a body in motion changes not only its 
relations to other bodies, but, at the same time, undergoes itself 

■ a Processus of change. Motion, therefore, always affects the body 
which endures it, and, consequently, if a body is endowed with 
two (or more) movements, these movements interfere with each 
other, impede each other, and even are, sometimes, incompatible 
with each other. Besides, Aristotelian physics does not admit the 
right, nor even the possibility, of identifying the concrete world- 
space of its well ordered and finite Cosmos with the "space" of 
geometry, no more than it admits the possibility of isolating a given 
body from its physical (and Cosmical) environment. In dealing 
with a concrete physical problem it is, therefore, always necessary 
to take into account the world order, to consider the realm of being 
(the "natural place") to which a given body belongs by its nature ; 
and, on the other hand, it is impossible to try to subject these 
diflFerent realms to the same laws, even — and perhaps especially — 
to the same laws of motion. E.g., heauy things descend whereas 

•P. Duhem, Le Sysüme du Monde I (Paris, 1915) I94 sq; P. Tannery, 
"Galilee et les principes de la Dynamique", Mimoires scientifiques VI (Paris, 
1926) 399 sq. 

* For Aristotle rest, being a deficiency, privatio, is on a lower ontological 
level than motion, actus entis in potentia inquantum est in potentia. 


• " \ 


Hght ones ascend ; terrestrial bodies move in right lines, celestial 
ones in circles, and so on. 

It is evident, even from this brief account, that motion, con- 
sidered as Processus of change (and not as State) j cannot go on 
spontaneously and automatically, that it requires, for its persist- 
ence, a continuous action of a mover or cause, and that it stops 
dead as soon as this action does not exercise itself upon the body 
in motion, i.e., as soon as the body in question is separated from 
its mover. Cessante causa, cessat effectus. It foUows therefrom, 
with absolute necessity, that the kind of motion which is postulated 
by the principle of inertia is utterly and perfectly impossible, and 
even contradictory. 

And now we must come to the facts. I have said already that 
modern science originated in close connection with astronomy; 
more precisely, it takes its origin in, and from, the necessity of 
meeting the physical objections formulated by some of the leading 
scientists of the time against the Copemican astronomy. As a 
matter of fact, these objections were nothing less than new: quite 
to the contrary, though presented sometimes in a slightly modem- 
ized form, as by replacing the throwing of a stone of the older 
argument by the firing of a cannon ball, they were fundamentally 
identical with those that Aristotle and Ptolemy raised against the 
possibility that the earth moves. It is very interesting, and very 
instructive, to see them discussed and rediscussed by Copemicus 
himself, by Bruno, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo.' 

Divested from the imaginative clothing which they gave them, 
the arguments of Aristotle and Ptolemy can be boiled down to the 
Statement that, if the earth were moving, this movement would 
affect the phenomena occuring on its surface in two perfectly 
definite ways: (i) the tremendous velocity of this (rotational) 
movement would develop a centrifugal force of such a magnitude 
that all the bodies not connected with the earth would fly away, 
and (2) this same movement would cause all bodies not con- 
nected, or temporarily disconnected with it, to lag behind. There- 
fore, a stone f alFmg from the summit of a tower would never land 

■Cf. my ßtudes Galüeennes, III, Galilie et le principe d'inertie, Paris, 

■: . ■^■,\ 


■■^■■^•■■.': '^\ 

■ ■■.. •■:■'> ■ ■'K-^y.ii:-' ■■■•■': 




at its foot, and, a fortiori, a stone (or a bullet) thrown (or shot) 
perpendicularly into the air would never fall back to the place 
from which it departed, because, during the time of its fall or 
flight, this place would be "quickly removed from below it and 
rapidly moved away", 

We must not smile at this argument. From the point of view of 
the Aristotelian physics it is perfectly sound. So sound that, on the 
basis of this physics, it is utterly irrefutable. In order to destroy it 
we must change the System as a whole and evolve a new concept 
of movement : The concept of movement of Galileo. 

As we have already seen, motion f or the Aristotelian is a process 
which aflFects the moved, which takes place "in" the body in 
motion. A falling body moves from A to B, from a certain place, 
situated above the earth, toward the latter, or, more exactly, 
towards its center. It follows the straight line which connects 
these two points. If during this movement the earth revolved 
around its axis, it would describe, in respect to this line (the line 
leading from A to the center of the earth) a movement in which 
neither this line, nor the body which follows it, take any part 
whatever: the movement of the earth does not affect the body 
which is separated from it. The fact that the earth beneath it 
moves away has no effect on its trajectory. The body cannot run 
after the earth. It follows its path as if nothing happened because, 
in fact, nothing happened to it. Even the fact that the point A 
(the summit of the tower) did not stay still, but participated in 
the movement of the earth, does not have any bearing on its 
motion: what happened to the point of departure of the body 
(after it left it) has not the slightest influence on its behavior. 

This conception may appear stränge to us. But it is by no means 
absurd : it is exactly in that way that we represent ourselves the 
movement — or propagation — of a ray of light. And it implies that, 
if the earth were moving, a body thrown from the top of a tower 
would never fall at its foot ; and that a stone, or a cannonball, shot 
vertically in the air, would never fall back to the place where it 
went from. It implies, a fortiori, that a stone or a ball falling from 
the top of the maist of a moving ship will never fall at its foot. 

What G>pemicus himself has to reply to the Aristotelian is very 
poon He argues that the unhappy consequences deduced by this 








latter would follow, indeed, in the case of a "violent" movement. 
But not in that of the movement of the earth, and to the things 
that belong to the earth : f or them it is indeed a natural movement. 
This is the reason why all these things, clouds, birds, stones, etc., 
etc., partake in the movement, and do not lag behind. 

The arguments of Copemicus are very poor. And yet they bear 
the seed of a new conception which will be developed by later 
thinkers. The reasonings of Copemicus apply the laws of "celestial 
mechanics" to terrestrial phenomena, a step which, at least implic- 
itly, involves abandoning the old, qualitative division of the Cosmos 
into two different worlds. Besides this, Copemicus explains the 
apparently rectilinear path of the falling body by its participation 
in the movement of the earth ; this movement, being common to the 
earth, to the body, and to ourselves, remains for us "as if it were 

The arguments of Copemicus are based on the mythical con- 
ception of a "Community of nature" between the earth and 
"earthen" things. Later science will have to replace it by the 
concept of the physical System, of the System of things sharing 
the same movement ; it will have to rely upon the physical and not 
only upon the optical relativity of motion. All of which is im- 
possible on the basis of the Aristotelian philosophy of motion and 
makes it necessary to adopt another philosophy. As a matter of 
fact, as we shall see more and more clearly, it is with a philo- 
sophical Problem that we are dealing in this discussion. 
* The conception of physical or, rather, mechanical System, which 
was implicitly present in the arguments of Copemicus, was worked 
otit by Giordano Bruno. By a strpke of genius Bruno saw that it 
was necessary for the new astronomy to abandon outright the 
conception of a closed and finite world, and to replace it by that 
of an open and infinite Universe. This involves the abandonment 
of the notions of "natural" places and motions as opposed to non- 
natural, violent ones. In the infinite universe of Bruno, in which 
the Piatonic conception of space as "receptacle" (x<ä»pa) takes the 
place of the Aristotelian conception of space as envelope, all 
"places" are perfectly equivalent and therefore perfectly natural 
for all bodies. Therefore whereas Copemicus distinguishes be- 
tween the "natural" movement of the earth and the "violent" 





♦ > 



movement of the things upon it, Bruno expressly assimilates them. 
All that happens on the earth if we suppose it in movement has, 
as he explains, its exact coxmterpart in what happens on a ship 
gliding on the surface of the sea ; and the movement of the earth 
has no more influenae upon the movement on the earth than the 
movement of the ship on those of the things that are in the ship. 
The consequences deduced by Aristotle would only take place if 
the origin, i.e., the place of departure, of the moving body were 
external to, and not connected with, the earth. 

Bruno states that the' place of origin as such does not play any 
role in the determination of the motion (the path) of the moving 
body, that what is important is the connection — or lack of connec- 
tion — of this "place" with the mechanical System. It is even pos- 
sible — horrihile dictu — for the seifsame "place" to pertain to two 
or more Systems. Thus, for instance, if we imagine two men, 
one of them on the top of the mast of a ship passing under a 
bridge, and the other on that bridge, we may imagine, f urther, that 
at a certain moment, the hands of both of them will be in the seif same 
place. If, at that moment, each of them shall let a stone fall, the 
stone of the man on the bridge will fall down (and in the water), 
but the stone of the man on the mast will foUow the movement of 
the ship, and (describing, relatively to the bridge, a peculiar curve) 
fall at the f oot of the mast. The reason for this different behavior, 
explains Bruno, is simply the f act that the last stone, having shared 
the movement of the ship, retains in it a part of the "moving virtue" 
which has been impressed into it. 

As we see, Bruno Substitutes for the Aristotelian dynamics the 
tm/>^/Mj-dynamics of the Parisian nominalists. It seems to him 
that. this dynamics provides a sufficient basis for his construction. 
A belief which, as history has shown us, was an error. It is true 
that the conception of the Impetus, virtue, or power, which animates 
the moving body, produces its motion, and uses itself up in this 
production, enabled him to refute the arguments of Aristotle; at 
least some of them. Yet it was not able to meet all of them ; still 
less was it able to carry the structure of modern science. 

The argimients of Giordano Bruno appear to us perfectly 
reasonable. Yet in his time they made no impression whatever; 
neither on Tycho Brahe, who in his polemics with Rothmann 


repeats imperturbably the old Aristotelian objections (though in a 
somewhat modemized presentation) ; nor even on Kepler, who, 
though influenced by Brimo, deems himself obliged to return to 
those of Copemicus, replacing, indeed, the great astronomer's 
mythical conception of the Community of nature by a physical con- 
ception, that of the force of attraction. 

Tycho Brahe flatly denies that a bullet falling from the top of 
the mast of a moving ship will come down at its foot. He affirms 
that, quite on the contrary, it will lag behind, and lag behind the 
more the faster the ship is moving. Just as cannonballs, shot verti- 
cally in the air, would never — on a moving earth — ^be able to 
come back to the cannon. 

Tycho Brahe adds that, if the earth were moving, as Copemicus 
wants it, it would never be possible to send a cannonball to the 
same distance to the east and to the west: the extremfely rapid 
movement of the earth, if it were shared by the ball, would 
impede its own movement and even, if the ball had to move in a 
direction opposite to that of the movement of the earth, render it 
utterly impossible. The point of view of Tycho Brahe appears to 
US pretty stränge. Yet we must not forget that to him the theories 
of Bruno seemed utterly unbelievable and even exaggeratedly 
anthropomorphic. To pretend that two bodies, falling from the 
same place and going to the same point (the center of the earth), 
will foUow two different paths, describe two different trajectories, 
for the reason that one of them was associated with the ship, 
whereas^the other was not, means for the Aristotelian to pretend 
that the bullet in question remembers its past association, knows 
where it has to go, and is endowed with the power and the ability 
to do so. Which, in tum, implies that it is endowed with a soul. 

Besides, as we have already mentioned, from the point of view 
of the Aristotelian dynamics — ^as well as from the point of view 
of the dynamics of the Impetus — two different movements always 
impede each other, which is proved by the well known fact that 
the speedy motion of the bullet (in a horizontal flight) prevents it 
from moving downwards and enables it to stay in the air much 
longer than it would be able to do if we simply let it fall to the 

In short, Tycho Brahe does not admit the mutual independence 










Ty^ *^. ?» n »^y . ■** •— -^^^^»M'.'t^ iW^«| 

-^ * '» % 

*■• *»••<-» i, 


- >< ■••-•,-.■. 

•( -' 



h .V 



of motions— nobody did tili Galileo ; he is theref ore perf ectly right 
not to admit the f acts, and the theories, which imply it 

The Position taken by Kepler is of a quite particular interest and 
importance. It shows us, better than any other, the ultimate 
philosophical roots of the Galilean revolution. From a purely seien- • 
tific point of view, Kepler— to whom we owe, inter alia, the very 
term inerfio—is, undoubtedly, one of the foremost— if not the 
_f oremost — ^genius of his time : it is needless to insist upon his out- ^ 
Standing mathematical gifts, equalled only by the intrepidity of 
his thought. The very title of one of his works, Physica coelesHs, 
is a challenge to his contemporaries. And yet, philosophically, he 
is much nearer to Aristotle and the Middle Ages than to Galileo 
and Descartes. He still reasons in terms of the Cosmos ; f or him 
motion and rest are still opposed as light and darkness, as being 
and privation of being. Consequently, the term inertia means for 
him the resistance that bodies oppose, not to change of State, as 
for Newton, but only and solely to movement; therefore, just like 
Aristotle and the physicists of the Middle Ages, he needs a cause 
or a force to explain motion, and does not need one to explain 
rest; just like them, he believes that, separated from the mover, or 
deprived from the influenae of the moving virtue or power, bodies 
in motion will not continue their movement, but, on the contrary, 
will immediately stop. Therefore, in order to explain the fact that, 
on the moving earth, bodies, even if they are not attached to it 
by material bounds, do not "lag behind", at least not perceptibly ;* 
that stones thrown upwards come down to the spot they were 
thrown from ; that cannonballs fly (nearly) as f ar to the west as 
to the east, he must admit — or find out — sl real force which binds 
them to the earth, and pulls them along. 

This force is found by Kepler in the mutual attraction of all 
material, or at least of all terrestrial, bodies, which means, for all 
practical purposes, in the attraction of all terrestrial things by the 
earth. Kepler conceives all these things as bound to the earth by 
innumerable elastic chains ; it is the traction of these chains which 
explains that clouds, vapors, etc., stones, and bullets, do not stay 
immobile in the air, but f oUow the earth in its movement ; and the 
fact that these chains are everywhere explains, in Kepler's opinion, 

* Ci. ibid. 172-94- 




the possibility of throwing a stone or firing a cannon against its 
movement : the attracting chains pull the bullet to the East as well 
as to the West and thus their influence is nearly neutralized. The 
real movement of the body (the cannonball shot vertically) is, of 
course, a combination or mixture of (a) its own movement and 
(b) that of the earth. But, as the latter is common to all the 
examined cases, it is the former only that counts. It is therefore 
clear (though Tycho Brahe did not grasp it) that, while the length 
of the path of a bullet shot to the east and of another shot to the 
west differ, as measured in the space of the universe, neverthe- 
less their paths on the earth are the same or nearly the same. 
Which explains why the same force, produced by the same amount 
of powder, can throw them to the same distance in both directions. 

The Aristotelian or Tychonian objections against the movement 
of the earth are thus satisfactorily disposed of . And Kepler points 
out that it was an error to assimilate the earth to the moving ship : 
in fact, the earth "magnetically attracts" the bodies it transports, 
the ship does not. Therefore, on a ship we need a material bond, 
which is perfectly useless in the case of the earth. 

We need not dwell upon this point any longer: we see that 
Kepler, the great Kepler, the fotmder of modern astronomy, the 
same man who proclaimed the unity of matter in the whole uni- 
verse and stated that ub\ materia, ibi geometria, f ailed to establish 
the basis of modern physical science f or one and only one reason : 
he still believed that motion is, ontologically, on a higher level of 
being than rest. 

If now, after our brief historical summary, we tum our atten- 
tion to Galileo Galilei, we shall not be surprised that he, too, dis- 
cusses at great, and even at a very great, length, the timeworn 
objections of the Aristotelians. We shall, moreover, be able to 
appreciate the consummate skill with which, in his Dialogues on the 
tzvo great est world Systems, he marshalls his arguments and pre- 
pares for the final assault on Aristotelianism. 

Galileo is well aware of the tremendous difficulty of his task. 
He knows perfectly well that he has to deal with powerful ene- 
mies : authority, tradition, and — worst of them all — common sense. 
It is useless to present proofs to minds not able to grasp their 
value. Useless, for instance, to explain the difference between 






linear and radial velocity (the confusion between which is the 
>vhole basis of the first of the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic objec- 
tions) to people not accustomed to mathematical thinking. You 
must begin by educating them. You must proceed slowly, step by 
Step, discussing and rediscussing the old and the new arguments ; 
you must present them in various forms; you must multiply 
examples, invent new and striking ones : the example of the rider 
throwing his spear in the air and catching it again ; the example 
of the bowman straining his bow more and less and thus giving 
to the arrow a greater or a lesser speed; the example of the bow 
placed on a moving carriage and able to compensate the speed of 
the carriage by a greater or lesser speed given to his arrows. In- 
numerable other examples which, step by step, lead us, or rather 
his contemporaries, to the acceptance of this paradoxical, unheard 
of point of view, according to which motion is something which 
persists in Ibeing in se et per se and does not require any cause, or 
force, for its persistence. A hard task. Because, as I have already 
Said, it is not natural to think of motion in terms of speed and of 
direction instead of those of eflfort, of impetus, and of momentum. 

But, as a matter of fact, we cannot Mnk of motion in terms of 
effort and impetus: we only can imagine in this way. Thus we 
must choose : either to think or to imagine. To think with Galileo, 
or to imagine with common sense. 

For it is thought, pure unadulterated thought, and not experi- 
ence or sense-perception, as until then, that gives the basis for the 
"new science" of Galileo Galilei. 

Galileo is perfectly clear about it. Thus discussing the famous 
example of the ball falling from the top of a mast of a moving 
ship, Galileo explains at length the principle of the physical rela- 
tivity of motion, the difference between the motion of the body 
as relative to the earth, and as relative to the ship, and then, 
without making any apped to experience, concludes that the mo- 
tion of the ball, in relation to the ship, does not change with the 
motion of the latter. Moreover, when his empirically minded 
Aristotelian Opponent asks him, "Did you make an experiment?" 
Galileo proudly declares : "No, and I do not need it, as without 
any experience I can affirm that it is so, because it cannot be other- 





Thus necesse determines esse. Good physics is made a priori, 
Theory precedes fact. Experience is useless because before any 
experience we are already in possession of the knowledge we are 
seeking for. Fimdamental laws of motion (and of rest), laws that 
determine the spatio-temporal behavior of material bodies, are laws 
of a mathematical nature. Of the same nature as those which 
govem relations and laws of figures and of numbers. We find 
and discover them not in Nature, but in ourselves, in pur mind^ 
in our memory, as Plato long ago has taught US. 

And it is therefore that, as Galileo proclaims it to the greatest 
dismay of the Aristotelian, we are able to give to propositions 
which describe the "Symptoms" of motion strictly and purely 
mathematical proofs, to develop the language of natural science, 
to question Nature by mathematically conducted experiments,®* and 
to read the great book of Nature which is "written in geometrical 

The book of Nature is written in geometrical characters: the 
new, Galilean, physics is a geometry of motion, just as the physics 
of his true master, the divus Archimedes, was a geometry of rest. 

Geometry of motion, a priori, mathematical science of nature 

How is it possible? The old, Aristotelian objections against the 
mathematization of nature by Plato, have they, at last, been dis- 
proved and refuted? Not quite. There is, indeed, no quality in the 
realm of number, and therefore Galileo — ^as, for the same reason, 
Descartes — is obliged to renounce it, to renounce the variegated, 
qualitative world of sense-perception and common experience and 
to Substitute for it the colorless, abstract Archimedian world. And 
as for motion . . . there is, quite certainly, no motion in numbers. 
Yet motion — at least the motion of Archimedian bodies in the 
infinite homogeneous space of the new science — is govemed by 
number. By the leges et rationes numerorum, 

Motion is subjected to number; that is something which even 
the greatest of the oy Platonists, the superhuman Archimedes 

*■ Experiment — in contradistinction to mere experience — is a question we 
put to Nature. In order to receive an answer we must f ormufate it in some defi- 
nite language. The Galilean revolution can be boiled down to the discovery 
of that language, to the discovery of the fact that mathematics is the gram- 
mar of science. It is this discovery of the rational structure of Nature which 
gave the apriori foundations to the modern experimentd science and made 
its Constitution possible. 


•."»■V^.;;_, ,^^;{:'■.^- 

'•' ''"^VW' 

■ ■ ." .^\,> ■.'1 




himself, did not know, something which was left to discöver to 
this "marvelous Assayer of Nature", as hia pupil and friend 
Cavallieri calls him, the Piatonist Galileo Galilei. 

The Platonism of Galiko Galilei (a problem discussed by me 
elsewhereO is, indeed, quite diflFerent from that of the Florentine 
Academy, just as his mathematical i^ilösophy of nature is differ- 
ent from their neo-pythagorean arithmology. But in the history of 
philosophy there are more than one Piatonic school, more than one^ 
Piatonic tradition, and it is still a question whether the trend of 
ideas represented by lamblichus and Proclus is more or less 
Piatonic than the trend represented by Archimedes.* 

I will not discuss this problem here. Yet I must point out that 
f or the contemporaries and pupils of Galileo, as well as f or Galileo 
himself, the dividing line between Aristotelianism and Platonism 
was perf ectly clear. In their opinion the Opposition between these 
two philosophies was determined by a diflferent appreciation of 
mathematics as science, and of its role for the Constitution of the 
science of Nature. According to them, if one sees in mathematics 
an auxiliary science which deals with abstractions and is, there- 
fore, of a lesser value than sciences dealing with real being, such 
as physics, if one affirms that physics can and must be built directly 
on experience and sense-perception, one is an Aristotelian. If , on 
the contrary, one claims for mathematics a superior value, and a 
commanding position in the study of things natural, one is a 
Piatonist. Accordingly, for the contemporaries and pupils of Gali- 
leo, as well as for Galileo himself, the Galilean science, the Galilean 
philosophy of Nature, appeared as a retum to Plato, a victory of 

Plato over Aristotle. 

I must conf ess that, to me, this interpretation seems to be per- 

f ectly sensible. ^ ^^^^^^^^^ ^^ ' -^^^ 

. ■ 7 . C;' vvvV^ Alexandre KI0YRI& 


' Cf . my article, "Galileo and Plato". in the Journal of the History of 

^''•To/^^ whole doxographic tradition Archimedes is a philosophus 



'«; -> i-' »> 




«. /^' 

* ■■. •■». 






>"■»! ii'^,, „■'"7 

,"<■!" j'L 

■iÖ .- ■ 

'.v> ' 



ß;^ Professor Alexandre Koyr6 
University of Paris, Ecole Ubre Des Haufes Etudes 

The year 1543, the year of the publication of die De Revolutioni- 
hus orhium Caelestium and of the death of its author, Nicolas 
Copemicus, marks an important date in die history of human 

dlOUght. '- — ;, ,. ; ;. ' -■ .. ;,v. -■- -.■-^■^.y ;,;:.'- 

One is tempted to consider it as that of die "end of die middle 
ages and die beginning of die modern times," because, mudi more 
dian die conquest of Constanrinople by die Turks, or die discovery 
of America by Christx)pher Coiumbus, it marks the end of a worid 
and the beginning of a new one. 

Yct, perhaps this would still be a misvaluarion: the cut made by 
Copernicus does not mark the end of the Middle Ages alone. It marks 
the end of a period which embraces both the Middle Ages and Antiq- 
uity; for it is with Copernicus, and only since then, that man no 
longer Stands in the center of the World, that the Cosmos does not 
revolve around him.2 - :.-.:..-■.■:.::,■■:■. ..-vr^r :^':. 

It is rather diflicult for us, to-day, fully to understand, to realize 
and to appreciate in their overwhelming greatness the intellectual 
effort, the daring and the moral courage embodied in the work of 
Copernicus. In order to be able to do so, we would have to f orget the 
Spiritual development of a couple of centuries; we would have to 
force ourselves to go back to the naive and unquesrioned certitude 
with which common sense accepts the immediate evidence of the 
immobility of the earth and of the motion of the skies. 

Even that would not be sufficient. To this evidence we should be 
ible to add the influence of a direefold teaching: scientific, philo- 
sophical, theological. A threefold tradition, a threefold authority of 

^The foHowii^ paper was read 9t the Copcrnictis celebration in the Tofish 
Ilistitute of Arts and Sdenee on May 5, 1945. 

»The heliocentric System, as evcrything or nearly everything eise, originates, of 
course, in the Greck thought (cf. Sir Thomas L. Heath, Aris/archos of Samos, London, 
1^3, aad Pier»e Duhem, Le Sjxümt du. Momde, vol I aad II, Paris, 1913-17). Vet, 
itoever receiTcd cecognitioft (a> because it ncwet was developed into c real, workablc 
astrottomic tiieory, and (b) because it could never meet the physical objectioos 
againse the motion of the Earth. On the importanee of these cf. A. Koyr^, Btudet 
GdiliemKs, HI» Piris^ 1940, and "Galiko and the Scientific rerohition of the XVIhb 
oatuiy," FMibrsephkd RwUw, 1943. 

y;f?;,T,^T .-f^Tv^Tiyf^tyjf- v.r- .^:* - . 

■a n ■'■■■ f.-j-i- 

calculus, of reasoning, of revelation.^ Then, but only then, would 
we be able to render to ourselves an account of die incomparable 
boldness of die Copernican thought, which tore die Eardi from its 
foundations and huried it in die skies. 

If it is dif&cult for us — or even impossible otherwise than in 
imagination — to realize the liberating effort of Copernicus, it is 
just as difficult to grasp the depth and the strangeness of the im- 
pression that the reading of his work could not fail to make on raen 
of his time; the destruaion of a world that all, science, philosophy, 
religion represented as centered upon man and created for him; 
the crumbling of the hierarchical order which, opposing the sub- 
lunar world and the skies, united them in and through this Oppo- 
sition itself ... 

The impact was too great. The new world conception seemed 
too crazy to be taken seriously. Besides, the book, as a whole, was 
much too difficult for readers not trained in mathematics and as- 
tronomy.* > 

As Copernicus expressed it himself: mathemata mathematicis 
scrihuntur, Let us leäve it to mathematicians. It's only a new hypoth- 
esis; new and old at the same time. A scheme for calculation, with 
no more real importance than those of various astronomers tili 
then.^ This is what, in spite of the Narratio Prima of Joachim Rheti- 
cus, and thanks to Osiander's clever introductory "letter to the 
reader" prefixed to the work of Copernicus, was commonly thought 
for about half a Century or so. The Church didn't stir; Melanchton 
(and Luther) alone realized at once the bearing and the meaning 
of the work.® . 

*The authority of the Biblc weighed heavily against the hellocentric System and 
prevented its universal recognition until the XVIIIth Century. But in the times of 
G>pernicus — and until Galileo and Descartes — the Opposition of the Aristotelian 
philosophy and physics was at least as potent. 

* Joachim Rheticus, the only disciple of Copernicus (cf. injra, p. 717) insists there- 
fore that "the staff of the astronomer is mathematics, or geometry," Narratio Prima, 
p. 164 in E. Rosen, Three Copernican treatises, New York, 1938. 

^ cf. infra p. 721. 

« Apelt, in his old but still valuable book, Die Reformation der Sternkunde, Jena, 
1842, p. 166, writes: "The new doctrine of the catholic canon, an essentially German 
plant, just as protestantism itself, has been conserved and worked out diiefly by 
protestants. . . . The destiny of the new astronomy was, in some sense, bound with 
the destinies of protestantism." I quote this phrase in order to point out what 
nonsense can be written — even by a good historian — ünder the damaging and blinding 



It is only later, much later, when it became obvious that the work 
of Copernicus was not a matter for "mathematicians" alone; when 
it became visible that the blow it dealt to the geocentrical and an- 
thropo-centrical world was a mortal one; when, in the works of 
Giordano Bruno, it had time to develop some of its metaphysical 
and religious implications — that the old world reacted. A twofold 
reaction: the condemnation of Copernicus and of Galileo, the at- 
tempt to suppress the new world conception; the Pensees of Pascal, 

an endeavour to reply. 

~ ^ — — -* « ♦ — — — — — — ^ •"' ' •■ ■ • 

It would be of deep, of priceless value for the history and the 
phenomenology of human thought to be able to foUow the de- 
velopment, to reconstruct and to reconstitute the various Steps, of 
Copernicus' thought. Alas, I must at once confess: this is an im- 
possible task. Copernicus left no intellectual autobiography; his bio- 
graphy by his pupil Joachim Rheticus, is lost; the few indications 
he gives us in his proud and beautif ul letter to Pope Paul the Third, 
which constitutes the foreword to De Revolution fbus, are very scant 
and, moreover, not very reliable. As for his opus itself, he presents 
it to US — even in the Commentariolus — in a State of perf ection that 
is the despair of the historian. 

Still, if we have to abandon the hope of writing the history of 
Copernican thought, we must, at least, make an attempt at grasping 
it in its historical meaning and truth . . . to bring it nearer to our 
own thinking while avoiding every modernization of it. And, in 
order to do so, we must try not to see in Copernicus the forerunner 
of Galileo and of Kepler and not to interpret him in the light of 
later devclopments.'' 

influence of national and religious prejudice. As a matter of fact, though Rheticus 
and Kepler were protestants, protestantism had just as much to do with the new 
astronomy as Germanism, that is, absolutelj nothing. Indeed, while Catholic authorities 
remained quiet until 1616, Luther condemned Copernicus as early as 1541 (cf. 
Tischreden, vol. IV, p. 575) and Melanchton, who, in a letter to Bernardus Mithobius 
(Ort. 16, 1541) dedared that the attempt of Copernicus (whom he called Sarmaticus 
Astronomus) "to move the Earth and to hold still the Sun" was absurd, opposed 
it in his Physics (Wittenberg, 1552, p. 60 sq. 99 sq.) and was foUowed by nearly all 
the Protestant divines. Thus the Physics of Comenius, reprinted through the whole 
of the XVIIth Century, violently opposed the new astronomy. 

TThc conception of the "forerunner" is a very dangerous one. Though it is true, 
that ideas have a quasi autonomous development, i.e. that ideas born in one mind 
mature and bring fruit in another; though it is certain that, for later generations, the 
older ones are interesting chiefly as their "forerunners" and "ancestros," it is — or 
should be — nevertheless obvious that nobody ever had, nor could have had, considered 
himself as a "forerunner." He could hope, of course, that later generations will solvc 
ptoblems that he had to leave unsolved. But that is quite another thing. 

This is a very important task, — a task which, in my opinion, has 
been radier neglecred until now. As a matter of fact, whereas we 
have a number of good expositions of the astronomy of Copernicus,^ 
and whereas treasures of ingenuity and erudition were spent on 
the problem of his biography,^ or better to say, whereas innumer- 
able efforts were spent in order to prove Copernicus to be a Pole or 
a German (an interesting but still a subordinate problem^ ^), the 
study of his physics has seldom been seriously attempted. And yet, 
as Schiaparelli has already stated with his habitual insight,^^ the 
Copernican problem was above all a problem of physics and of 
cosmology. ■ v : 

•'.■" ■■• ' .. " * ♦ ' ♦ 

Nicolas Kopernik was born at Torun, in Polish Prussia (Po- 
morze), on February 19, 1473. His father, whose name too, was 
Nicolaus, was a burgher of Krakow, his mother Barbara Watzelrode, 
a daughter of an old patrician Torun f amily. 

As both of them died when Copernicus was 12 years old, he, as 
well as his brother Andreas, was adopted by his uncle, Lucas Wat- 
zelrode, his mother's brother, who later (in 1489) became prince- 
bishop of Warmia. Was Copernicus a Pole or a German ? I must con- 
fess that, to me, this question, or rather the importance given 
to ity appears somewhat anachronistic. Copernicus lived in a 
time which, with some exceptions,^^ was not yet poisoned by nation- 
alism and nationalistic passions, which still enjoyed the blessings of 
a common culture and of a common scientific language.^^ Besides, 
he lived in an Empire (medieval Poland was not a national State, 

8 Cf. J. L. Dreyer, History of the Plane tary Systems, Cambridge, 1906, A. Armitage, 
Copernicus, London, 1938. 

•Thus the great work of Prowe, Nicolaus Copernicus, Berlin, 1813-4 deals with the 
biography of Copernicus, the history of his time, but neglects the physical and 
philosophical problems of the Copernican Revolution. 

10 An exception are, of course, the magnificent works of Ludwik A. Birkenmajer; 
Mikolaj Kopernik — Studya nad Pracami Köper nika oraz Materyaly Biograficzne, Cz§U 1, 
Krakow, 1900; Mikolaj Kopernik— Jako Uczony i Twörca, Krakow, 1923, and Stromata 
Copemiciana, Krakow, 1924. 

11 Cf. G. V. Schiaparelli, / Precursori del Copernico nell'antichitä, Milano, 1873. 

12 National Opposition and national strife is not quite a new phenomenon; we en- 
counter it, cven during the Middle Ages, in Spain, in the Balkans, in Asia Minor, 
etc. It is especially strong where it coincides with a religious Opposition, as between 
Christians and Moslems, or Orthodox and Catholics; sometimes it takes places even 
without religious background, so in Bohemia between Czechs and Germans. Yet these 
cases are rather infrequent. 

i'I would like to point out that Copernicus — ^and there was nothing unusual in 
his case— began his stiidies in Krakow, and continued them in Bologna, Ferrara and 

-•Q--' S 



but an Empire) , whose multi-national subjeas, united by and through 
common allegiance to the State {Res Publica) happily ignored min- 
ority problems and rights — (which, by the way they fuUy enjoyed), 
frequently intermarried and, generally speaking, got along pretty 

If we were able to put to Copernicus himself the question, '*are 
you a German or a Pole?" he certainly would not have understood 
US, and probably would have answered that, of course he was 
Polonus, meaning that he was a burgher of Torun^son of a burgher 
of Krakow, a good Catholic, a canon of Frauenburg in Warmia, a 
faithful subject of the Kingdom of Poland, and a bitter enemy of 
the Teutonic Order. That, for his scientific work as well as for 
intercourse with his peers, he used the language of science and 
culture i.e. latin; but that, of course, when he had to deal with com- 
mon people, he used their Speech, Polish in Krakow and German in 

If we would insist, and try to make him understand that we are 
looking for something different, that we intend to explain his work 
and his genius by his "nation" or his "race," he probably would 
have become cross and would have informed us that the idea of 
explaining the individual by the specific or the general is perfealy 
stupid, that such a procedure is only valid when and where we 
have to explain general (or specific) features of individual beings; 
that it may be applied with good success in realms of nature which 
lack of true incÜviduality (e.g. minerals, plants, animals), but not 
to man, who, as a Spiritual substance, cannot be explained by fea- 
tures and f aaors pertaining to his material being. I am afraid that, 
if we would allow him to become somewhat anachronistic (as our- 
selves), he would add that Taine's theory according to which a 
man or a work of genius can be "explained" by "race, environment, 
and historical moment" could only be invented and shared by bar- 
barians utterly devoid of philosophical training. 

Yet, as we cannot avoid being anachronistic, I will add that, as a 
matter. of fact, we have no reason whatever to suppose that Coper- 
nicus was anything but a Pole. Besides, until the middle of the 
XIXth Century, nobody ever doubted it. And it is only since the 
growing nationalism of European and, especially, of German thought 
and historiography, that some German historians, ready to serve the 
aims of German imperialism, have made a daim on Copernicus. A 




Claim just as well founded as analogous claims with regard to 
Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Michel Angelo and so many others. 

* * * 

In 1491 we find Copernicus in the University of Krakow. We 
need not speculate about the reasons which guided his choice: the 
University of Krakow enjoyed a very high reputation at that time.^^ 
It was, as a matter of fact, since the downfall of Prague, the most 
important of the Eastern Universities, a famous place of learning 
and humanistic culture. Besides, Krakow was not far away from 
Torun, and it is safe to assume that Copernicus still had relatives 
in the birthplace of his father. 

We lack Information about the course of studies pursued by 
Copernicus in Krakow. Yet — though it is obvious that he made 
a thorough study of astronomy there — we have no reason to doubt 
that he followed the habitual curriculum of the Faculty of Arts, 
including dialectics and philosophy. Copernicus, as a matter of fact, 
is not a narrow specialist, an "astronomer" as Peurbach or Regio- 
montanus, but a man deeply imbued with all the rieh and complex 
culture of his time, an artist, a classical scholar, a scientist, a man 
of action: a humanist in the best sense of this word. 

Because of his astronomical studies, the biographers of Coper- 
nicus admit that he enjoyed, quite particularly, the teaching of Albert 
of Brudzewo (Brudzewski). Yet, Albert of Brudzewo, who in- 
deed, for a long time taught astronomy with great success and dis- 
tinction (in 1482 he wrote for his pupils a Commentary on the 
Theorica Nova Planetarum by Peurbach) ^^ was by no means the 
only Professor of astronomy in the University of Krakow. On the 
contrary, there were fourteen of them. Besides, since 1490, Albert 
of Brudzewo did not teach astronomy any more, but lectured on 
Aristotle's D^ Cä^/ö. 

Albert of Brudzewo left Krakow in 1494 and the biographers 
of Copernicus admit usually that Copernicus left it too about the 
same time. 

This is as it may be; in any case, in 1496 he went to Italy, to study 
law at the University of Bologna. On January 6, 1497 we find his 
name inscribed on the roll of the Natio Germanorum of the Uni- 

^^ Mathematical and astronomical studies were quite particularly flourishing in 

i'This commentary, the first of the numerous commentaries of this very populär 
textbook, was printed in 1493 in Milano. 


versity. Which, by the way, does not imply that Copernicus was, or 
even considered himself, as a German. "Nationes" of a mediaeval 
university have nothing to do with nations in the modern sense of 
the word^®; the German Nation (in Bologna), on the roUs of 
which there is quite a lot of non-German names, was the "smart" 
one and, as such, was usually joined by young Polish noblemen. 
Copernicus, indeed, was not a nobleman but a commoner. Yet as the 
nephew of a bishop, and of a high ranking one at that, he could 
not decently join a socially less prominent "nation." 

Copernicus stayed in Bologna for about three years. He studied 
astronomy, of course, though he seems already to have known 
enough of it to be received by the famous astronomer, Domenico 
Maria Navarra, non tarn discipulus quam ad]utor et testis ohserva- 
tionum; but, at the same time, he studied a lot of other things: law, 
medicine, philosophy; he learned Greek; he read Plato . . . Once 
more, we must never forget that Copernicus is not an "astronomer" 
but one of the most all-round minds of his time. 

In 1500 he went to Rome (1500 was the year of the Jubilee which 
attracted thousands of pilgrims to the capital of Christendom), 
where, as his pupil Rheticus informs us, he gave a course of lectures 
on mathematics; Rheticus, unfortunately, does not say what specifi- 
cally he lectured about. 

It seems that Copernicus did not crave going home. Yet it be- 
came necessary to do so, in order to take possession of a canonry at 
the cathedral church of Frauenburg, to which he had been elected, 
owing to the protection of his uncle, Lucas Watzelrode. 

* In 1501 he is back in Poland; but not for a long time. After his 
formal installation in the canonry he asks for leave, and, having 
obtained it, returns to Italy. This time he goes to Padova, famous 
for its schools of medicine and law. In 1503 he goes to Ferrara, but 
does not stay there and, after being received Doctor utriusque iuris 
(on May 3 Ist) , returns to Padova. 

Copernicus seemed to be well pleased with his life in Italy. Alas, 
all good things-^-even, and perhaps particularly, leaves of absences 
— come to an end. Chapters do not like non-resident members and 

i«The "Nations" of a Medieval University (in the University of Paris there were 
four "nations" among which we find the Burgundian and the Picardian "nations") 
are rather to be compared with modern fraternities, endowed, moreover, with some 
public functions. 

^f.;.'?j^.~j^^^ - 


',f. ,.' ' 

Copernicus, though nephew o£ the Bishop, had to abide by the rule. 
In 1506 he rejoins his diocese, never to leave it until his death. 

The life that awaited Copernicus at home was not, as we may 
be indined to picture it to ourselves the life of a canon, the quiet 
and easy life of thought and of prayer. Quite on the contrary, it 
was a life of action. A mediaeval bishopric, and quite particularly 
such a one as the bishopric of Warmia, was a political as much as 
an ecclesiastic institution and had to do with worldly as much as 

"with religious affairs.^*^ And Copernicus who, for years, until the 
death of Lucas Watzelrode, aaed as his secretary (and his doc- 
tor) , entrusted among other things, with the economic administra- 
tion of the bishopric — we owe to this activity his treaty on money^^ 
— didn't have much time left for meditation, for study, for calcu- 
lations . v . So it is only gradually, bit by bit, that his immortal 
work grew and took shape. 

I Said: meditation, calculus ... not observations. We must not 
think of Copernicus as spending his nights scrutinizing the skies 
in Order to discover some new facts, some new determinations of 
the positions of the heavenly bodies. Copernicus is not a practical 

'astronomer. He is not Tycho Brahe. He made, of course, some ob- 
servations; but very few. He gives us some determinations of his 
own of the positions of the planets. Yet these are neither numer- 
ous,^® nor very important. Perhaps, not at all. The greatness of 
Copernicus — and I would like to stress that point — consists in his 
having framed and developed a new theory, not in having provided 
US with new facts. Indeed, his theory, or better to say, his System, 
is based entirely on data already available then, chiefly on those of 
Ptolomy. And, to say the truth, his System — a new interpretation of 
these old data — at least insofar as we are concerned with calcula- 
tion of observable phenomena — is no more in accordance with 
them^ö (han that of Ptofomy which it endeavours to replace. 

17 The bishopric of Warmia was an important political and even military position, 
and churchmen had even to act as soldiers. Thus, during the war with the Teutonic 
Order (in 1520) the episcopal city of Olsztyn was beleaguered by the troops of Albert 
of HohenzoUern and stubbornly and skillfully defended by Copernicus, who, at this 
occasion, acted as Commander in chief. 

^^De Monetae cudendae ratio, in 1326. 

1» 27 in all. Cf. Dreyer, op. est. p. 316. 

20 cf. Apclt, op. cit. p. 150: "If we ask: what practical advantages did astronomy 
receive from the theory of Copernicus? we must reply: immediately, none whatsoever. 
The System of Copernicus, such as it came out from the hands of its author is oo 
more in accordance with the skies than that of Ptolomy." 

Those of US who are not very well acquainted with the history of 
astronomy will, probably, be slightly astonished. And yet it is a 
fact that, for all practical purposes, the Ptolomaic astronomy gave 
a most satisfactory account of the observational data. We must never 
forget (a) that, until Galilei who was the first man to use a (newly 
discovered) optical instrument — the telescope — to look at the skies, 
all astronomical Observation were made with the naked eye and (b) 
that, mathematically speaking, the astronomy of Ptolomy is one of 
the most wonderful achievements of the human mind. As a matter of 
fact, its device of superposing and of combining of circular motions, 
of epicycles and excentrics, enables it to represent — though, of 
course, in a rather cumbrous way — almost any given curve and to 
establish nearly as well as our modern theory of functions a mathe- 
matical relationship between any given datas. 

It is only from the point of view of cosmology, that is, only when 
the astronomer tried to treat his circles and orbs as real objects in 
real Space that he encountered some difficulties; the circles and 
orbs pertaining to different planets sometimes intersected and em- 
braced each other, which looked rather bad in et per se, and more- 
over, flatly contradicted the Aristotelian cosmology, which (worked 
out long before Ptolomy) persisted in using spheres and assigned 
to each planet, and to the whole of its moving mechanism, a definite 
spherical region of the Universe. That is the reason why, since the 
revival of Ptolemaic astronomy, and especially in the second half 
of the XVth Century, the Opposition between the "philosophers" and 
the "mathematicians" gave birth (a) to attempts to harmonize the 
Systems of Aristotle and of Ptolomy and (b) to attempts to explain 
away the whole problem by presenting the mathematical astronomy 
as a merely mathematical device not concerned with reality.^i 

The central idea of his System seems to have been conceived by 
Copernicus rather early, perhaps even before he left Italy. In the 

21 This Situation is not particular to Copernicus' times. The development of 
mathematical astronomy by the predecessors of Ptolomy and Ptolomy himself was ac- 
companied by a growing conviction that their geometrical construction did not rep- 
resent the physical truth, and that astronomy, which seemed not to be able to dis- 
cover the real causes of the celestial phenomena, i.e. the real motions of the planets, 
had to abandon this aim, and to content itself with a purely phenomenalistic theory, 
which would enable the astronomer to atittiv ra <t>aiv6fi€va, salvare apparentias. The 
same discussions are to be found in the arabic philosophical and astronomical literature 
{e.g. Averroes flatly denies the physical reality of the circles and spheres of the 
astronomers), and are well known to scholastics. Cf. Dreyers History of Planetary 
Systems, London, 1906 and of course P. Duhems magnificent Le Systeme du monde, 
Paris, 1913-1917. 

■r v~' ! 

•••':>.- 7 


letter-foreword of the De Revolutionibus Copernicus says that he 
kept his work secret not for nine years (as the Pythagoreans pre- 
scribed), but four times nine years. Of course that cannot be taken 
literally, as concerning the book itself, only its main conception. 
In that case it would mean that "four time nine years" were spent 
in the elaboration and perfection of the theory. Copernicus under- 
" stood that it was o£ no use to formulate a new idea, or even, as it 
was in his case, to try to revive an old one. He was perfectly aware 
that, if he had to succeed, he had something quite different to do, 
something that nobody had done before, i.e. to present a theory of 
planetary movements, a theory just as complete, and just as work- 
able, enabling prediction and calculation of observable celestial 
phenomena, as that of Ptolomy or his mediaeval commentators and 

We do not know exactly when Copernicus completed the elabora- 
tion of the De Revolutionibus. Certainly not before 1530, perhaps. 
even some years later. 

It seems that some time before the final working out of his System, 
Copernicus wrote, and had circulated among his friends, a short 
and schematic exposition of the new astronomy, the so<alled Com- 
mentariolus which remained unedited tili 1876. ^^ 

- The Commentariolus which, from the point of view of astronomy, 
that is, of the concrete arrangement of the movements of celestial 
bodies and orbs, differs somewhat from the De Revolutionibus,^^ is 
very interesting because it reveals to us at least some of the reasons 
which guided and moved the thought of Copernicus. 

Copernicus begins by pointing out that the astronomy of Calippos 
-and Eudoxos^ö did not succeed in explaining the observable and 

«2 In his Commentariolus (cf* infra) G>permcus writes: "Let no one suppose that 
I have gratuitously asserted with the Pythagoreans the motion of the Earth; strong 
proof will be found in my exposition of circles." (p. 59 of E. Rosen's translation, 
cf. infra, n. 23). 

^Nicolai Copermci de hypothesibus motuum coelestium a se constitutis Com- 
mentariolus. An excellent English translation, with notes and a very interesting and 
scholarly introduction was published, in 1939, by M. E. Rosen, cf. Three CopernJca» 
treatises, New York. 

2* The» System of the Commentariolus is *'concentro-biepicyclic" whereas that of the 
De Revolutionibm is "eccentro-epiqrdic." Cf. Aleksander Birkenmajer, "Le premier 
Systeme h^liocentrique imagin^ par Nicolas Copemic," in La Pologne au Vlle 
Congris International des Sciences historiques, Warsaw, 1933. 

ssQdyppos and Eudoxos used only homocentric spheres. Their astronomy formed 
the bosis of the Cosmology of Aristotle. 

IQ ' 

indubitable variations of the distances between the Planets and the 
Earth; that the System of Ptolomy, though much more successful 
concerning this point, failed in respea of another, namely, it did 
not succeed in presenting the movements of the planets as composed 
of uniform circular motions; and in order to save some kind of uni- 
formity, he was compelled to introduce into his calculations the rather 
dubious concept of "equant."^^ This proceeding constitutes, from 
the point of view of Copernicus, a somewhat dishonest device.^'' 
Consequently, astronomy had to try out something eise. 

Seven "axioms" or "petitions" (axiomata vel petitiones: it is 
interesting to note this Euclydian and Archimedian terminology) 
present the chief characteristics of the new System. 

The first and foremost of these axioms or petitions states the 
necessity for building up a System of celestial movements "in which 
everything would move uniformly around its proper center,^^ as the 
rule of absolute motion requires." 

The second states that, "the center of the Earth is not the center 
of the Universe, but only of gravity and of the lunar sphere." 

The third, that "all the spheres revolve about the sun as their 
mid-point, and therefore the sun is the center of the Universe." 

The fourth and the fifth explain that the common motion of the 
celestial phenomena is due not to the motion of the firmament but 
to that of the Ealth. 

The sixth explains that the Sun Stands still and that its apparent 
motion is only the projection of the motion of the Earth; the seventh, 
that the retrogradation and other peculiarities of the motion of the 
planets are only apparent, not real motions, and that these appear- 

20 In Order to simplify the System and lessen the accumulation of circles and orbs, 
Ptolomy let the planets move on their circles with a non-uniform velocity. Yet, in 
Order to preserve some kind of uniformity, he used only motions the angular velocity 
of which, in respect to some point in the interior of the circle {not its center) was 
uniform. This point was called punctum aequans. 

27 It is, probably, the conception of the equant, combined with that of excentricity 
of the orb of the Earth, which led Kepler to his discovery of the ellyptical character 
of the planetary orbits. Yet, from his point of view, Copernicus was completely 
right in stating that {Commentariolus, p. 1.) "Valde enim absurdum videbatur coeleste 
corpus in absolutissima rotunditate non semper aeque moveri. . . . Yet Ptolomy 
coiüd not "save the appearances," N/// etiam aequantes quosdam circulos imaginarentur 
, , . qua propter non satis absoluta videbatur huius modi speculatio neque rathnali 
satis cominna." 

28 Commentariolus, E. Rosen's translation, p. 76. 



I r 

änces are due to the projection on the firmament of the annual 
motion of the Earth. 

:; Seven small chapters deal with the threefold movement of die 
earth; they explain the order of die celestial orbs; they suggest the 
advantage of referring the movement to the fixed Stars, and not, as 
commonly, to the equinoxial points (just because the latter are not 
frxeä, but — though very slowly — shift their positions) ; they describe 
the mechanism of the planetary movements (the Moon, the superior 
planets, Venus, Mercurius, Earth) and give an account of the dimen- 
sions of the epiq^cles and orbs. AU that without demonstrations and 
proofs of any kind, the latter being reserved to the larger work, 
majori volumini. i > ■ 

It seems that Copernicus, though he persistently and obstinately 
opposed the publication of his work, nevertheless made no secret 
of his views. The Commentariolus seems to have circulated fairly 
widely. Not only was it known to his immediate friends, but, ac- 
cording to Tiraboschi,^^ it found its way even to Rome, where the 
Austrian Chancellor Johann Widmanstadt presented it to Pope 
Clement VII in 1533 and explained to him the principles of the 
new astronomical System. In Rome neither the Pope, nor anybody 
eise seems to have been very much Struck by the new theory. It is 
possible that the title of the little work with its use of the term 
hypothesis^^ gave the impression that it was only a new, and some- 
what extreme, mathematical construction which did not pretend to 
give a description of the real world. It is possible that this was the 
Interpretation which Widmanstadt gave to the new theory. It is, 
on the pther hand, just as possible that the Pope and the cardinals 
did not grasp its implications. 

In any case, nobody raised any objections whatever. More than 
that, some three years later, one of the members of the Roman curia, 
the Cardinal archbishop of Capua, Nicolas Schonberg, wrote to 
Copernicus (Nov. Ist, 1536) suggesting to him publication of his 
discoveries and asked him to order that a copy (for which the 
Cardinal oflFered to pay the expenses) be made of his work. 

Copernicus did not foUow the friendly advice of the Cardinal 

2»N. Tiraboschi, Storia della Utteratura Ualiana, Milano, 1824, vol. VII, p. 706, 
quoted by Dreyer, op. cit. p. 511. 

80 The term hypothesis as employed by Copernicus is practically equivalent to 
theory, and does not imply the non assertion of its tnith. Cf. E. Rosen's Introduction 
to his translation of the Commentariolus, New York, 1939. 




of Capua. As f ar as we know, he did not even order the copy Schon- 
berg asked for! In point of fact, the Cardinal of Capua was by no 
means the first who urged him to publish his work. Quite on the 
contrary, all his friends, and above all, "his very dear Tiedeman 
Giese, Bishop of Kulm" had, for a long time, insisted on publication, 
representing it to Copernicus as his duty toward science and man- 
kind. But Copernicus could not decide. He knew better. He feared 
calumniatorum morsus. And at 60, he obviously valued nothing more 
than tranquility. . 

In the year 1539, a young professor of the University of Witten- 
berg, Joachim Rheticus by name, came to Frauenburg. He had heard 
about the new theories of Copernicus. He wanted to find out the 
truth about them. 

Well received by Copernicus, he stayed with him for about two 
years, studying the manuscript of the De Revolutionibus, working 
with the old man whom he always calls his Dominus Doctor Prae- 

Joachim Rheticus was at once conquered and convinced. Con- 
quered and seduced by the greatness of mind and the charm of 
Copernicus' personality; convinced and enticed by the beauty of his 
work. And, in order that the light remaineth not under the bushel, 
he Started a bare couple of months after his arrival, and long before 
he had completely mastered the new aströnomy,^^ to compose a 
Short account of it which he sent to his master, Johaimes Schöner. 
The latter, just as quickly, had it printed. 

In this report — that is the famous Narratio Prima — ^^ which later 
used to be printed in nearly all the editions of the De Revolutionibus, 
we find besides an exposition of the Copernican Astronomy and 
some very precious biographical data, a very curious astrological 
explanation of the historical importance of the Variation of the ex- 
centricity of the orb of the Earth. ^^ 

The Narratio Prima insists on the fact, even more strongly than 
Copernicus, that the new astronomy is true to the principle of the 

81 "I have mastered the first three books, grasped the general idea of the fourth 
and begun to conceive the hypotheses of the rest," writes Rheticus to Schöner; cf. 
Narratio Prima, p. 110 (Ed. Rosen). 

82 The Narratio Prima is now available in an excellent translation of E. Rosen, 
published in his Three Copernican treatises, New York, 1939; as for the Com- 
mentariolus, I am quoting Rosen's translation. 

88 In the Copernican System the orb of the Earth has its center on a small cxcentric 
cirde, whose center is in the sun. 



uniform circular motion of the celestial bodies. Thus, explaining 
the theory of the lunar motions Joachim Rheticus States (p. 135): 
"here, in the case of the Moon we are liberated from an equant by 
the assumption of this theory which, moreover, corresponds to ex- 
perience and all the observations." To this Rheticus adds: "my 
teacher dispenses with equants for die other planets as well," where- 
fore (p. 136) : "only on the basis of this theory could all the circles 
in the universe be satisf aaorily made to revolve uniformly and regu- 
Jarly about their own centers and not^about other centers— -an es- 
sential property of circular motion." 

For Rheticus the new astronomy is the revival of an old philoso- 
phical lore. According to him, it is "foUowing Plato and the Pytha- 
goreans, the greatest mathematicians of that divine age, that my 
teacher thought that in order to determine the cause of the phenom- 
ena, circular motions must be ascribed to the spherical Barth." (p. 
147). Besides, "the ancients, not to mention the Pythagoreans, were 
sufficiently clear about the faa (that) the planets evidently have the 
centers of their deferents in the sun, as die center of the Universe." 

The Narrati o Prima is rather helpful toward an understanding 
of the teaching of Nicolaus Copernicus, and I shall have to quote it 
f requently. But now let us come back to its historical astrology. 

Rheticus — ^but, personally I have no doubt that it was Copernicus 
speaking through his pen— ^* states that, when the excentricity was 
- at its maximum, "the Rorpan government became a monarchy; as 
the excentricity reached its boundary and quadrant of mean value, 
the Mohammedan faith was established; another great empire came 
into being and grew very rapidly with the change in the excentricity. 
A hundred years hence, when the excentricity will be at its minimum, 
this empire will have completed its period. In our time it is at its 
pinnacle from which equally swiftly, God willing, it will fall with 
a mighty crash. We look forward to the Coming of our Lord Jesus 
Qirist when the center of the excentric reaches the outer boundary 
of mean value, for it was in that position at the creation of the 
World. This calculation does not diflFer very much from the saying 
of Elijah, who, under divine inspiration prophesied that the world 

8* Dr. E. Rosen points out that, in contradistinction with Rheticus, Copernicus 
nowhere in his books, asserts a belief in astrology. Dr. Rosen is perfectly rigjit. And 
yet it seems — to me, at least — difficult to admit that Rheticus, who wrote his NarraSh 
with the knowledge and probably under the supervision of Copernicus, would have 
dared to express these views if they were opposed to those of his master. 



would endure only 6000 years, during which time nearly two revo- 
lutions are completed. Thus it appears diat this small cirde is in 
very truth the Wheel of Fortune, by whose turning the kingdoms of 
the World have their beginnings and vicissitudes." (p. 122) 

This astrological exploitation of the new, heliocentric, astronomy 
may appear astonishing to us. And even ludicrous. Yet we must not 
forget that astrology belonged to the best established belief of that 
time. Kepler himself shared it, not to mention Campanella. 

The Narratio Prima met with considerable success. A new edition 
was published in 1541 cura et studio of Achille Ganarus, a Basler 
physieian. The learned world was thus in possession of the first 
elements of the doctrine. 

The first reactions were rather favorable. Thus Erasmus Rein- 
hold, Professor in the University of Wittenberg who, in 1542, 
issued a reprint.of die text book of Peurbach, expresses in its preface 
the hope to see astronomy restpred by Copernicus, whom he calls 
"a new Ptolemy." 

The publication of the Narratio Prima made the withholding of 
the De Kevolutionihus senseless. We must .not be amazed, therefore, 
to See Copernicus, at last yielding to the urgings of his friends. The 
priceless manuscript is entrusted to Tiedeman Giese. The latter 
transmits it to Joachim Rheticus who has it printed by the f amous 
Nuremberg typographer, Johannes Petreius. Tiedeman Giese teils 
US that Copernicus received the first copy of his work on his death- 
bead, on May 24, 1543. 

All that is f airly well known. We know too, diat Joachim Rheticus, 
appointed professor in the University of Leipzig in 1542, left the 
supervision of the printing to his f riend Andreas Osiander, a f amous 
— and somewhat heretical — Lutheran divine. We know further that 
Osiander, who had a personal experience of the rabies theologorum 
— and who recognized that there was some danger in the thesis 
advocated by the new astronomy, — decided to shield it against 
die ire of the theologians and the Aristotelians, and to take some 
precautions. As a matter of faa, the boldhess of Copernicus troubled 
Osiander himself. The new world conception was, obviously, con- 
trary to the scriptures and he was himself a good enough — though 
heretic — ^Lutheran, to doubt their literäl divine inspiration. 



■Thus, as early as 1541^'^, he devised a rather elegant Solution 
pf the difficulty by accepting a phenomenist theory of science. 

Science, — and especially astronomy, — thinks Osiander has only 
one purpose, which is to "save the phenomena," salvare apparentias, 
The goal and aim of the astronomer is not to find out the hidden 
causes nor the real movements of the heavenly bodies, — ^which he 
is unable to do — ^but to connect his observations by means of 
hypotheses enabling him to calculate the (visible and apparent) 
positions of the stars and the planets. These hypotheses, that of 
Copernicus no more than those of others, make (or need not to 
make), therefore, any pretension (or claim) for being true or even 
verisimilar or probable; they are nothing more than calculatory 
devices, and the best of them is not the truest but the simplest and 
the most convenient. 

,This is what Osiander explains in a letter-prefa^e "To the reader 
of this work," which he prefixes without his signature to the text 
of the De Revoluüonibus, thus making the reader believe that its 
author was Copernicus himself . ^ 

This very interesting and very modern looking piece of epis- 
temology, very curious and very valuable from the point of view 
of the history of philosophy and science, ^^ nevertheless had the mis- 
fortune to be very severely judged by the friends of Copernicus. 

Tiedeman Giese ascribes it to the envy and the cowardice of a 
man who himself refuses to abandon his traditional views and be- 
liefs and prefers to commit a real forgery, aggravating it by a 
breach of confidence. 

Tiedeman Giese wants Osiander to make a public declaration of 
authorship. He asks the magistrate of Nuremberg to order the 
suppression of the foreword. He even asks for the reimpression of 
the first pages of the De Revolutionihus with an announcement that 
the foreword is a forgery. Giese thinks that Joachim Rheticus 

85 April 20, 1541 he wrote, on the same day, to Rheticus and to Copernicus him- 
self, exhorting them to adopt the phenomenistic epistemology and, in order to placate 
the theologians and the Aristotelians, to present the new world System as a purely 
mathematical "hypothesis." Copernicus answered with a refusal. The whole story 
is told by Kepler in his — ^unfortunately unfinished and inedited — Apologia Tychonis 
contra Ursum, printed for the first time by Frisch in his edition of Kepler's Opera 

•^As I have mentioned already, the epistemology of Osiander is by no means new 
and modern, but on the contrary, very old and trivial. Cf. Pierre Duhem, La thiorie 
physique, Paris, 1906. 


should take the matter in hand. It is to him that he sends his com- 
plaint to the magistrate. 

It is probable that Joachim Rheticus saw things in a diflFerent 
light from Leipzig than Tiedeman Giese saw them from Kulm. He 
seems to have done nothing. Not only did he not assail Osiander, 
nor did he contradict him,— but he even suffered the foreword to be 
reprinted in the second, Basle 1566, edition of the De Revolutionihus, 
an edition to which his own Narratio prima was added as introduc- 
tion, without any mention of Osiander^ 

We must confess that, though they believed the foreword to 
emanate from Copernicus himself, this. declaration of phenomenist 
f aith did not deceive the initiated. They thought, simply, that Coper- 
nicus took precautions.^*^ 

As a matter of fact, Copernicus took very few, if any, pre- 
cautions.3® He joined to his book the letter he had received from 
the Cardinal of Capoua some years before. He dedicated his work 
to Pope Paul III. But in his own, very noble forewarding letter 
(which Osiander did not publish), he insists proudly and unflinch- 
ingly upon the rights of science and philosophy. Mathemata Mathe- 
maticis scribuntur, he proclaims; the Ignorant should better keep 
silent. And the allusion to Lactantius who made himself ludicrous 
by not wanting to believe in the rotundity of the Earth, is a rather 
broad hint: it is not enough to be a good Chrisian, or even a good 
theologian in order to be qualified to discuss things astronomical. 
In this forewarding letter Copernicus explains why he attempted 
the elaboration of a new theory of planetary movements. It was the 
disagreement among the mathematicians, the variance that prevailed 
among them, the multiplicity of the astronomical Systems (Coper- 
nicus quotes the Systems of homocentric spheres, of epycicles, of 
excentrics), as well as the failures of all of them to represent 
exactly the apparent movements, or to remain faithful to the prin- 
ciple of the uniform circular motion of the heavenly bodies, that 
made him think that the "mathematicians" had either neglected some 
essential principle, or, on the contrary, had introduced some false 
assumption into their construaions. This would explain their failure. 
But what was their error? 

87 Thus Petrus Ramus reproached Copernicus for his lack of courage, wherefore 
Kepler vigorously defended him. Cf. Kepler, Astronomia Nova, ed. Frisch vol. III, 
p. 136. Gassendi mentions the facts in his Vita Copemici, Paris, 1654, p. 391. 

«8 In the body of his work he deals with the physical objections formulated by 
Ptolomy against the motion of the Earth: cf. injra. 



i y 

I y V- • 

I! I 




' * 1 


G)pernic:us informs us that in order to discover that error he 
had read all the books o£ the philosophers dealing with this ques- 
tion. He discovered that some o£ them believed in the movement 
o£ the Earth. This gave him heart to try out this hypothesis him- 
self, and to see if it did not furnish a better explanation of the 
celestial phenomena. As a matter of faa, he found that such was 
precisely the case, and that, moreover, one obtained in this way 
a perfealy well ordered Universe. ^® 

-- It had been the error of the mathematicians to have xnade the 
Earth the center of the world and of the celestial movements. 

M. Dreyer, the author of one of the best modern histories of 
astronomy, remarks in this conneaion (p. 312): According to this 
Statement Copernicus first noticed how great was the diflFerence of 
opinion among learned men as to the planetary motions, next he 
noticed that some had even attributed some motion to the Earth 
and finally he considered whether any assumption of that kind 
would help matters. We might have guessed as much even if he had 
not told US. 

M. Dreyer who, obviously, has slight confidence in the sincerity and 
outspokenness of Copernicus' writing to the Pope, thinks that the 
information given to us by the former does not enable us to give 
an answer to the question: What urged Copernicus to place the 
sun in the center of the word ? Was he influenced by his reading of 
the ancient philosophers? Does he owe the first idea of his System 
to Aristarchus of Samos? Or eise did he work out the heliocentric 
astronomy first and then find in the writings of the ancients en- 
couragement and corroboration?*® 

It is true that the account of Copernicus is somewhat reserved and 
reticeat. And yet, if he does not give us the history of his thought, 
he gives us, nevertheless, some precious, though scanty, indications 
about its incentives and its motives. 

Copernicus, as a matter of faa, teils us, and very clearly so, -his 
objections to all the other Systems of ancient and medieval astron- 
omy: it is, in the first place, the faa that they are unable to remain 

••N. Copernicus, D^ Revolutionihus. Preface: "The order tnd the magnitude o£ 
the Stars and their orbs aod the heaven itsclf are so connected that in no part can 
anytfaing be transposed without confusion to the rest and to the whole Univcrsc." 

^ Aristarchos of Samos is not mentioned in the printed worlc. Yet, in the MS his 
name follows those of Philolaos and Hiketas. 


1 » 

faithful to the principle of the uniformity of the circular motion 
of the heavenly bodies, which in Copernicus' opinion means that 
they are physically impossihle, It is, in the second place, the faa 
that they giwt us a disconnected and irrational picture of the 

* * ♦ 

In the body of his book, Copernicus, in setting f orth the difficulties 
inherent in the theory of the movements of Venus and Mercury, 
gives an account of a theory, mentioned by Martianus Capella, ao^ 
cording to which both planets center their movements around the 
Sun, or, more simply, revolve around the Sun. He adds that if any- 
body were to foUow this hint, he would make the Sun the center of 
the movements of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, and would have found 
the true explanation of their movements. Is this perhaps a reminis- 
cence of the path his thought had f oUowed 7 

In the Narratio prima J. Rheticus says that it was the great varia- 
tions in the brightness of the planet Mars . . . which no geocentric 
theory could explain that convinced Copernicus that this planet 
did not revolve around the Earth, but had the center of its move- 
ments in the Sun. This seems to point to the same trend of thought. 
And yet, if Copernicus had reasoned according to this pattern, he 
would have developed the System of Tycho Brahe.*^ Not his own. 

It may be, as Apelt and Dreyer point out, that Copernicus noticed 
that the movement of the sun along the zodiac played a very im- 
portant part in the astronomy of Ptolemy; particularly, that the 
period of revolution of the def erent of the inner, was equal to one 
year and that of the epicycles of the outer to the synodic period. ^^ 
Joachim Rheticus seems to confirm this assumption. He says in his 
Commentariolus (p. 139) that "Under the commonly accepted prin- 
ciples of astronomy, it could be seen that all the celestial phenomena 
conf orm to the mean motion of the sun and that the entire harmony 
of the celestial motions \s established and preserved under its con- 

*i In Tycho Brahe's astronomy the planets revolve around the sun, and the whole 
System revolves around the immobile Earth. From the point of view of calculations — 
which deal only with relative positions and motions — ^there is absolutely no difference 
between this System and that of Copernicus. The reason why Tycho Brahe imagined 
this device seems to be the fact that the Copemicans were i unable to refute the 
pbysical objections against the motion of the Earth. l 

**Cf. Dreyer, op. cit., p. 312: "It must have Struck him asV stränge coinddence 
that the revolution of the sun round the zodiac and the revolution of the epicycles' 
Centers of Mercury and Venus round the zodiac should take the same period, a 
year, while the period of the three outer planets in their epicycles was the synodic 
period, i.e. the time between two successive oppositions to the sun." 


^ift-a-- " 

■ « :.K ■■••tf'.-i.-- 



trol. Hence the sun was called by the ancients leader, governor o£ 
natura, and king." (p. 139). It was not very difficult to deduce from 
this Statement that the above mentioned circles were nothing eise 
than the projection of the orbital motion o£ the Earth around the 
Sun; and, perhaps, to back this discovery by the contention that, 
in Order to exercise his power and leadership the Sun had no need 
to travel around the world; just as "the Emperor does not hurry 
from place to place to impose his rule and authority on his realm" 
(id.) ; and finally, to affirm that, after having created the Sun 

To whose rhythm the gods move, and the world 
- Receives its laws and keeps its pace ordained 

"God stationed in the center of the stage this governor of nature, 
king of the entire Universe, conspicuous by its divine splendor" 
(p. 142). 

All that is possible. Copernicus, as well as Rheticus, is füll of 

Copernicus objects to the Astronomy of his time because of its 
great complication. It is better to admit the movement of the Earth, 
says he, though it may appear absurd, than to let one's mind be 
distorted and torn asunder by the nearly infinite multitude of circles 
and orbs of the geocentric astronomy. And, as a matter of f act, when 
we See the schematic picture of his System of the Universe, we are 
taken in by its apparent simplicity and beauty. Yet, this impression 
is not quite correct. The number of circles in the astronomy of 
Ptolemy was not as large as he says. And they were by np means 
absent in that of Copernicus. There were 42 cycles in the System 
of Ptolemy. And there are 34 in the Copernican. Eight cycles is all 
we gain. Those who thought that the gain was not big enough for 
the price cannot be blamed. 

Strange as it seems, Copernicus does not particularly insist in the De 
Revolutionihus on the real gain of his System: on its physical systema- 
tization and simplification, on the f act that a great number of 
particular movements of the celestial bodies are, from now on, ex- 
plained as the apparent result of one and only one real movement, 
namely the movement of the Earth. Nor does he insist on the faa 
that the role of the Sun or of the solar period in all of the planetary 
motions is from now on explained in a perfealy easy and natural 


Yet if Copernicus falls to do so, his pupil does it for him. Rheticus 
does not 'only reproach the Ptolemaic System for its endless invention 
of spheres but opposes to it: "the remarkable symmetry and inter- 
connection of the motions and spheres, as maintained by the as- 
sumption of the foregoing hypotheses, are not unworthy of God's 
workmanship and not unsuited to these divine bodies" (p. 145). 
Rheticus does not stop with that. He sees a deep meaning and a 
confirmation of the Copernican astronomy not only (as Copernicus 
himself) in the fact that the speed — or the slowness — of the 
planetary movements correspond to their distance from the Sun, but 
even in the fact that this astronomy reduces their number from seven 
to six: There are, in the Copernican world, no more than "six mov- 
ing spheres which revolve about the sun, the center of the universe." 
And Rheticus adds (p. 146, 7), "Who could have chosen a more 
suitable and more appropriate number than six? By what number 
could anyone more easily have persuaded mankind that the whole 
Universe was divided into spheres by God the Author and Creator 
of the World } For the number six is beyond all others in the sacred 
prophesies of God and by the Pythagoreans and other philosophers. 
What is more agreeable to God's handiwork than that his first and 
most perfect work should be summed up in the first and most 
perfect number.?** 

Another objection of Copernicus to the Ptolemaic astronomy 
— a philosophical one — appears at first glance to be very strong. 
Copernicus says — and, of course, he is quite right — that it is absurd 
to want to move the locus and not the locatum, and that, therefore, 
the starry sky which, according to Aristotle, is the locus of the Uni- 
verse, must be considered as unmoved. 

This seems to us a perfealy well reasoned out argument. Indeed, 
we feel that it is contrary to reason (and even, perhaps, to common 
sense) to let the whole immense (or, for us, infinite) Universe re- 
volve around a tiny speck of dust. We feel convinced. But the Aris- 
totelian (or Ptolemaic) is not. His Universe, diough pretty large,*^ 

*8The Universe of Copernicus is immensum, that is immeasurable; yet not infinite. 
It is much larger than the Universe of Ptolemy (though this, too, was rather large) 
because Copernicus must explain why — if the Earth does move on its orbit around 
the sun — ^the (fixed) stars appear always in the same position; in other terms, why 
there is no paralax? Copernicus answers by assuming that the dimensions of the 
sphere of the fixed stars is "in no proportion" with that of the orb of the Earth, 
and therefore, literally, immeasurable. No wonder that this answer did not appeal 
to his contemporaries. We must not blame them: we must admire the boldness 
of Copernicus. 


II, ^:-: 

is by no means inimense (and he objects to its— from his pomt of 
View— motiveless extension by Copernicus**) ; he feels thatthere is 
a fundamental, qualitative, Opposition between the heavy, inert 
Barth and the imponderable heavenly spheres: to move the first an 
external, material motor of a tremendous power would be needed; 
the motion of the latter, on the contrary, is a sequel of their perfec- 
tion, of their nature itself . Therefore, concludes the Ptolemaic f rom 
the seif same premises as Copernicus, the mobile sphere is not the 
locus of the Universe, and thus, we must admit above it another 
one, which is the true, immobile sphere (the eighth, or ninth, or 
tenth . . .) 

The proofs that Copernicus advances for his System are curious. 
In fact, they do not prove anything at all. From the point of view 
of his adversaries they are worthless. His refutation of the physical 
objeaions of the Ptolemaics against the motion of the Barth are, 
too, rather feeble. Withal, they are of a tremendous historical im- 

Copernicus shows us that, from the optical point of view, it is 
impossible to decide whether it is the observer or the observed who 
are in motion. Quite right, would the Ptolemaic answer; the well 
known relativity of motion* ^ implies doubtlessly that the motion of 
the Barth is optically possihle. But it implies at the same time— 
always from the optical point of view— that it does not present any 
• advantage as compared with its immobility. 

To the physical objection that the rotation of the Barth would 
engender a tremendous centrif ugal power which would blow it to 
pieces, Copernicus replies that the seif same objeaion could be 
raised against the motion of the skies,*the more so as the velocity 
of their motion is infinitely greater than that of the Barth. - 

As a matter of f aa, from the point of view of the Ptolemaic, 
Copernicus is wrong, because the motion of the heavenly spheres, 
considered as imponderables, is of a quite different nature from that 
of the ponderable Barth, and could not give birth to a centrifugal 
force. Besides, the revolution of the skies being for them a natural 

44 0nce more wc must not blame Copernicus for that, but on the contrary, admire 
him more because, as a matter of fact, no proof was possible without an extensive 
use of optical instruments and without an elaboration of a new physics, i.e. not 
before the middle, or even the end, of the XVIIth Century. 

^On the theories of Space and motion cf. P. Duhem, Le tnouvement absolu ft 
X$ mouvment rela/if, Paris, 1905. 


motion, cannot be the cause of an eflfect which would endanger 
their conservation and being. 

We must not smile at these arguments."*^ From the point of view 
of the Aristotelian physics they are perfectly valid. Besides, Coper- 
nicus himself makes use of them in order to show that, if the 
Barth revolved around its axis, it would be a natural motion, where- 
fore none of the effects deduced (hypothetically) by Ptolemy, on 
the assumption that this motion would he a v'tolent one and contra 
naturam, would, as a matter of fact, take place. ~~~^ 

We see that Copernicus — as everybody until Galileo and Des- 
cartes — accepts the distinction between natural and violent motions; 
he only asserts that the same laws apply to the Heavens and to the 
Barth and, by doing this, he lays the ground for that deep-reaching 
transformation of human thought to which History has given the 
name of Copernican Revolution. 

But this we shall see more clearly by glancing at the Copernican 


♦ « * 

The dynamics of Copernicus is by no means "modern." Never- 
theless, an abyss separates it from that of his contemporaries, be- 
cause, spontaneously and unhesitatingly he applies the geometrical 
point of view to the Universe. Even his esthetics is a geometrical 
one: the esthetics of geometry, or more exactly, of geometrical 
optics. His physics, too — though he never says so expressis verhis, 
and perhaps does not even recognize it clearly and distinaly — is 
a geometrical physics. 

Not quite, of course. Copernicus still uses a "physics," that is a 
theory of nature, or better to say, a theory of natures; and yet the 
geometrization of his thought is deep and strong enough to trans- 
form completely the fundamental Aristotelian notion of form itself. 
Thus, when and where medieval and classical physics talked 
about form, they usually meant: substantial forms; Copernicus, on 
the contrary, has geometrical form in mind. 

The implications, as may be seen readily, are numerous and far- 
reaching. For instance, whereas for ancient physics it was the specific 

^^^For the discussion of these arguments cf. my N. Copernic, Des Rivolutions d*s 
Orbes cilestes, I.I., texte, traduction, notes, Paris, 1933 et my Etudes GaliUennes, 
V. III, Paris, 1940. 





. . ^ . ■•■ y 

nature of a definite substantial form (and, of course, of the corre- 
sponding matter) which dctermined the kind of natural movement 
pertaining to a body (rectilinear for the sublunar, circular for the 
heavenly bodies), it is its geometrical form which plays that röle for 
Copernicus. If the celestial bodies move around themselves, it is not 
because they have a specific nature, it is simply because they are 
spherical. ^—'"" 

^ Copernicus seems to believe that the spherical shape, — ^die geo- 
metrically most perfect form that all natural bodies seek for this 
reason — naturally engenders the most perfect, the most natural 
movement, i.e. the circular one. Thus (a) the same reasoning en- 
ables and even obliges us to ascribe to the Earth the same circular 
motion with which the planets are endowed (and this is the reason 
why Copernicus dwells at such length and with such a profusion 
of arguments upon the sphericity of the Earth which nobody in his 
time doubted, and which — if it were not so tremendously important 
— could therefore be treated as a matter of common knowledge) 
(b) the same laws of motion which apply to the planets, are valid 
also for the Earth, (c) partaking of the same circular form, and 
foUowing the same laws of motion, the Earth no longer Stands in 
Opposition to the moving heavenly bodies as a world apart — an 
Underworld — ^but forms with them 2i Single and unique Universe. 

The geometrization of the concept of form placed the Earth 
among the stars, and, so to say, lifted it into the skies. 

We understand now why Copernicus attributes such an impor- 
tance to the rule or principle of the uniform circular motion and 
considers it as the basis of his whole celestial mechanics. 

It was, for him, the only means to put the machina mundi into 
motion. In the dynamics of Copernicus — a curious dynamics, as 
we are seeing, a dynamics which he had, perhaps, inherited from 
Nicolaus of Cues,*'' the (circular) movement is caused by (or due 
to) the (spherical) form of the bodies. The bodies tum around be- 
cause they are round, without an extemal (or even internal) motor. 
Put a round body (a sphere) into Space, and it will tum around. 
Place an orb into it: it, too, will revolve aroimd itself, without having 
any need either of a motor to keep up its movement, or of a physical 
Center which would support it. And this is the dynamical reason 

47 Cf. Ricdoli, Almsgestum Novam, Bononiae, 16)1, and L. Birkenintjer, MikcUf 
Kopirnik, Knicöw, 1900, p. 461. 


why, having expelled the Earth from the center of the movements 
of the World, Copernicus can leave it empty. 

It is a fact that, if Copernicus places the Sun in the center of the 
Universe, he does not place it in the center of the celestial move- 
ments. The sun does not play any role in the celestial mechanics of 
Copernicus. Its role is quite di^erent. It is purely optical. It lights, 
or gives light, to the Universe — and that is all. 

Yet I am quite wrong in saying: that is all. For the funaion per- 
formed by the sun, the function of illuminating and lighting the 
Universe, is, for Copernicus, of extreme and supreme importance. 
It is this function which explains and secures the place that it holds 
in the World: first in dignity and central in position. It is in order 
to give light to the Universe that die sun, this lampada pulcherrima, 
is placed in its center — a position that is, obviously, the most fitting 
for this end. And this is the reason— the true reason— -which in- 
spired the thought and the soul of Copernicus. It is not a purely 
scientific reason. It is much more than that. 

Old traditions, the tradition of the metaphysics of light (meta- 
physics which during the entire Middle Ages bears and accompanies 
the study of the geometrical optics) , Piatonic and New Piatonic or 
Pythagorean reminiscences and revivals (the visible sun representing 
die invisible one, die sun being the master and king of die visible 
world and thus representing God) can alone — at least in my opin- 
ion, — explain the emotion with which Copernicus speaks about the 
Sun. He adores it, and almost deifies it."*® 

People who, like Digby and Bruno, and others, have linked the 
Copernican astronomy widi a kind of heliolatry, who, at the same 
time have feit themselves raised into the skies, were by no means 
infidel to the inspiration of the great Polish thinker. 

Copernicus, as I have said it so often and as Dreyer has said it 
long before me, is not a Copernican. He is not a "modern." His 
Universe is not the infinite Space of the classical physics. It has 
limits, just as that of Aristotle. It is larger, of course, much larger, 

48 N. Copernicus, De Revoluthnibus, cap. X "For who could in this most beau)- 
tiful temple place this lamp in another or better place than that from which it can 
at the same time illuminate the whole? Which some not unsuitably call the light of 
the world, others the soul of the ruler. Trismegistus calls it the visible Cjod, the 
Electra of Sophodes the All seeing. So indeed the Sun, sitting on the royal throne, 
steers the revolving family of stars." 


' 'i:-;'^' 


so laree as to be immeasurable {tmmensum), and yet fimte, con- 
tained in, and limited by. the sphere of the fixed Stars. The sun is 
in its Center. And, around the sun rise the orbs (whidi bear and 
carry the planets), orbs just as real as the crystalline spheres of the 
mecüeval cosmology." The orbs revolve because of their form and 
carry with them the wandering planets, which are set m them as 
jewels are set in their mount. . . . - 

: Splendid order, luminous astro-geometry, magnificent cosmo- 
%tics, which rcplaces the astro-biology of the Ancients. 


The ways of Spirit, as the ways of God, are quaint and curious. 
And truly great minds are only inflamed and inspired by mfinite 


« A. I have alteady »Utcd cf. Supra p. 71}, n 21; p. 720) not •" ««"~»f» 
M\^ in the Dhvsiaü «ality of their sphetes, orb», and citcles. Tycho Btahe, for 
bei eved '° *~ PJ^*^ ." ^d the other band, certainly did. This may appear stränge 
'tTr^^ may'ISS.^ - -^^ how could he bllieve -. *« o* of ü. E^ 
YeTiceoler confims my intetpreution (Ö. Kepler, Opeta Omnia, VH, p. 181). Once 
^re wi mu^^m^dernize the thought of Copernicus. Besides, we must not or»rt 
Z ev'n dS^« found no difficulty whatever in this cooception mA. feit hunsdf 
comJdMK« to explain the movement» of the Barth «k1 of the pUnets. to «taut. 
CÄic «^». the «i't"ce of some Icind of orb. (which he called /.«rW/o«). 






H- .'■■•• 





' .■<- T. 


y . 

.1 *•>•■-. 






'•■^' '. 

' 'J . ^ ' * 


'"i^ ■• *•.-, 


Reprinted for private circulation from 


Vol. LV, No. 2, January 1945 
ntnnxD in tbx u.s^ 


./ •; • 

•'"■' ■>,•'" 


.■'. * ' ' 


\'. ■<;.■.. -."/■ 



'•' ■' r' '' f .'• .■'■'"•'' 


- .' '■ ', • 


V .. ^ . ' 

; . ; . 

. " ' 

' - •• . - . 


•^ . 

■ ■■//••• "I- . 


^•■:.;:f::'- ■ 

;,'._- ■' ■.^. 





-■.■>i,^:: V 

7 V * 





^^vU V:'': ALEXA1«)RE KOYRE 

1'IDEE que la democratie et le christia- 
^ nisme sont solidaires, ou du moins, 
etroitement lies, est tres populaire dans les 
pays anglo-saxons, et tout particulierement 
en Amerique oü, ainsi que le remarque 
M. MarJtain, Jes hommes d'Etat ... en 
defendant la democratie ... invoquent 
ajourd'hui le Discours sur la Montagne» 
(p. 66). Une teile evocation eut ete incon- 
cevable sur le Continent europeen, oü, 
ainsi qu'on le sait bien, l'ideologie demo- 
cratique et Tideologie chretienne se trou- 
vent, le plus souvent, ^tre opposees, sinon 
violemment hostiles, l'une ä l'autre. II 
n'en est que d'autant plus significatif et 
important de voir M. Maritain aflärmer 
avec une force et une nettete incomparable 
que «les chances de la religion, de la con- 
science et de la civilisation coincident 
avec Celles de la liberte, les chances de la 
liberte coincident avec Celles du message 
evang^lique» (p. 47). 

' En effet, la these, defendue par M. 
Maritain dans son profond et eloquent 
petit livre, pourrait etre resumee comme 
suit: la democratie est un phenomene 
essentiellement chretien. La lutte entre le 
principe democratique et le christianisme, 
qui est le ph6nomene caracteristique des 
temps modernes — lutte qui a mis en danger 
la civilisation occidentale — est un accident 
historique, le resultat 

d'un malentendu tragique dont les democraties 
modernes, surtout en Europa, ont ete les vic- 
times. Dans son principe essentiel cette forme 
et cet ideal de vie commune qu'on appelle 
d6mocratie vient de l'inspiration evangelique 
et ne peut pas subsister sans eile: et en vertu de 
l'aveugle logique des conflits historiques et des 
m6canismes de la memoire sociale qui n'ont 
rien ä voir avec la logique de la pensee, on a vu 
les forces directrices des democraties modernes 

»English translation, Christianity and Democ- 
racyy by Doris C. Anson (New York: Charles Scrib- 
ner*sSons, 1944). 

renier pendant un siecle l'evangile et le chris- 
tianisme au nom de la liberte humaine, et les 
forces directrices des couches sociales chre- 
tiennes combattre pendant un siecle les aspira- 
tions democratiques au nom de la reUgion. 
- [p. 33] 

«L'etat d'esprit democratique vient de In- 
spiration evangelique,» repete M. Maritain 
(p. 67), «et il ne peut subsister sans eile.» 
C*est ce qui explique la diffusion de la 
democratie au XIX® siecle, et son eclipse, 
du moins en ce qui concerne l'Europe, au 
XX«. C'est que 

la civilisation du XIX® siecle ... gardait ... dans 
ses fondations Theritage de valeurs divines et 
humaines qui vient des combats de nos peres 
pour la liberte, de la tradition judeo-chretienne 
et de Tantiquite classique. Et eile restait ... 
chretienne dans les principes reels auxquels 
eile devait Texistence, bien qu'elle les meconnut 
largement, — dans les racines sacrees auxquelles 
tenait son idee de l'homme et du progres 
humain, du droit, de la valeur de Tesprit, — 
dans la liberte religieuse, si contrariee qu'elle 
ait pu etre ä certains moments et dans certains 
pays, qu'elle conservait bon gre, mal gr6, — 
et jusque dans cette assurance elle-meme en la 
raison et en la grandeur de l'homme dont ses 
libres penseurs se faisaient une arme contre le 
christianisme, — et dans ce sentiment chretien 
secularise qui, en dtpit d'ideologies erronees 
inspirait ses r6alisations et ses esperances 
pohtiques et sociales. 

Aussi est-ce l'affaissement de l'inspiration 
chretienne qui a affaibli Taspiration demo- 
cratique en Europe. Et la plus grande 
vitalit6 de la democratie en Amerique 
s'explique par lä-mtoe: 

Le nom meme de democratie a une reson- 
nance tres differente en Am6rique et en Europe. 
... En Am6rique, oü malgr6.1a puissance des 
grands int6rets economiques la democratie a 
p6n6tr6 beaucoup plus prof ondement l'existence 
et oü eile n'a jamäis oubUe ses origines chr6- 
tiennes, il 6voque un instinct vivant, plus fort 



que les erreurs de l'esprit qui le parasitent. 
Peut-^tre parce qu' en Amerique, le christia- 
nisme a piis des formes diffuses et dilu6es au 
^ point de n'fitre plus, souvent, qu'un ingr6dient 
sentimental de morale humaine, le divorce entre 
le principe d6mocratique et le principe chr6tien 
ne s'y est jamais fait sentir aussi intens^ment 
qu*en Europe, oü les esprits se partagent entre 
ün christianisme irr&luctiblement form6 dans 
sä structure et sa doctrine, mais pendant trop 
d'ann6es isol6 de la vie du peuple, et rinfid61it6 
ouverte et militante ou la haine de la religion 
[p. 37]-- - 


La democratie provient de Finspiration 
evangelique, nous dit M. Maritain, et le 
lecteur profane en conclura, sans deute, 
qu^ä combattre pendant un siecle les 
aspirations democratiques au nom de la 
religion,» «les forces directrices des couches 
sociales chretiennes» se sont rendues coüpa- 
bles d*un aveuglement singulier; qu'elles 
ont 6t6 infideles au message evangelique et 
qu'il est temps pour elles de s'amender et 
de faire p6nitence. Le lecteur profane 
s'ättendra probablement ä voir M. Mari- 
tain expliquer leur erreur ä ces «forces di- 
rectrices.» Le lecteur profane aura tort. 
Car rprigine, et Inspiration, chretiennes, 
de la democratie ne la rendent pas du tout 
obligatoire au chretien. C*est que la religion 
et la politique fönt deux. Et M. Maritain 

En ce qui concerne les rapports de la poli- 
tique et de la religion, — ^il est clair que le chris- 
tianisme et la foi chretienne ne sauraient ßtre 
inf6odes, non plus qu'ä aucune forme politique 
quelconque, ni ä la democratie comme forme de 
gouvernement, ni ä la democratie comme Phi- 
losophie de la vie humaine et poUtique. Cela re- 
sulte de la distinction fondamentale introduite 
par le Christ entre les choses qui sont ä, Cesar 
et les choses qui sont ä Dieu, distinction qui 
se developpe ä. travers toutes sortes d'accidents 
au cours de notre histoire, et qui deUvre la 
religion de tout asservissement temporel en 
depouillant l'Etat de toute pretention sacree, 
autrement dit, en laldsant l'Etat [p. 43J. 

Quant ä la forme de cet etat le chris- 
tianisme ne nous prescrit rien. 

Aucune doctrine ou opinion d'origine simple- 
ment humaine, si vrale qu'eUe puisse etre, 

seule, les choses revfiiees par Dieu s'imposent jI 
la foi de l'äme chretienne. On peut etre chretien- 
et faire son salut en militant pour n'importe 
quel regime politique, ä condition toutefpis 
qu'il n'offense pas la loi naturelle et la loi de 
Dieu. On peut etre chretien et faire son salut en 
defendant une autre philosophie politique que 
la Philosophie democratique, comme on pouvait 
etre un chretien, au temps de l'Empire Romain, 
en acceptant le regime social de l'esclavage, ou 
au XVII^ sidcle, en adherant au regime poli- 
tique de la monarchie absolue. 

On pourrait se demander sans deute 
pourquoi M. Maritain limite ainsi, dans le 
temps, rinterindependance de la religion 
et de la politique. Car ce serait grave-— 
pour les chretiens — si, apres la chute de 
TEmpire Romain, on ne pouvait plus etre 
chretien et faire son salut en admettant le 
regime social de Tesclavage, ni, apres le 
XVII® si^le, en defendant le regime poli- 
tique de la monarchie absolue. Mais laissons 
cela, et ecoutons M. Maritain: 

Ce qui Importe ä la vie poütique du monde 
et ä la Solution de la crise de la civilisation n'est 
nuUement de pretendre que le christianisme 
serait Ue ä la democratie -et que la foi chretienne 
obligerait chaque fidele ä etre democrate; 
c*est de constater que la democratie est Uee au 
christianisme, et que la poussee democratique 
a surgi dans l'histoire humaine comme une 
manifestation temporelle de l'inspiration 
evangelique [pp. 42-44J. 

Nous avouerons ne pas tres bien com- 
prendre comment cette assertion pourra 
s'accorder avec celle que nous avons citee 
plus haut, et selon laquelle «les chances de 
la religion coincident avec Celles de la 
Uberte»; et de ne pas comprendre davantage 
pourquoi, si le christianisme, ainsi que nous 
venons de Fentendre, peut s'accommoder 
d'ä peu pr^s n^importe quel regime, et 
3*aUier k k peu pr^s n'importe quelle phi- 
losophie politique, en d'autres termes, si 
rien n*empeche le chretien d^ßtre' anti- 
democrate, pourquoi il est tellement im- 
portant pour les tenants de la democratie 
de reconnaltre Tinspiration fondamentale- 
ment chretienne de cellc-ci? On pourrait 
bie& se demander, en outre, quel est cet 


■- .•'•■•^.•■f*^"<».7J 





'■■0 Ü^ 








Strange rapport de d^pendance purement 
unilaterale qui fait que la d^mocratie soit 
«une manifestation temporelle de r.mspira- 
tion 6vang61ique» sans que, pour cela, le 
christianisme soit int6ress6 ä son maintien? 

A la'premiere question, M. Maritain 
nous r6pond qu*il est de toute premiere 
importance pour une doctrine politique 
d'ßtre consistente, et que Tesprit d6mo- 
cratique et la philosophie d^mocratique, 
f ondee sur «la f oi en les droits de la personne 
humaine, en tant mtoe que personne 
humaine,» en face jde T^tat qu'elle «tran- 
scende par le mystere inviolable de sa liberte 
spirituelle»; «la foi en la justice comme 
fondement n^essaire de la vie commune 
et de la propri6t6 essentielle de la loi»; la 
foi en «la dignit6 du peuple et de Thomme 
de rhumanit6 commune» (p. 57) ne peut 
6tre 6rig6e sur «une soi-disant philosophie 
de l'6mancipation de la pens^ qui vide la 
personne humaine de toute substance, la nie 
et la d&agrege en pr6tendant *6teindre 
les etoiles' au nom de la science et en faisant 
de rhomme im singe sans äme auquel les 
hasards des mutations zoologiques ont 
r^ussi.» Pourtant, s^il semble clair que le 
naturalisme pur soit incapable de foumir 
une base philosophique ä une doctrine poli- 
tique fond^ sur Taflärmation de la liberte 
humaine, 11 ne s'ensuit aucun6ment qu'il 
faille n6cessairement la chercher dans le 
humaine, il ne s'ensuit aucun^ment qu'il 
faille n6:essairement la chercher dans le 
christianisme. II se pourrait fort bien 
qu'elle soit aiUeurs encore car, apr^s tout, 
naturalisme et christianisme ne s'opposent 
pas comme les comes d'un dilemme. 

A la seconde, M. Maritain r6pond par 
une distinction curieuse et sur laquelle 
nous aurons ä revenir: «Ce n'est pas sur 
le christianisme conune credo religieux et 
_voie vers la vie ^temelle que la question 
porte ici; c'est sur le christianisme conune 
ferment de la vie sociale et politique des 
peuples et comme porteur de Tespoir tem- 
porel des hommes» (p. 44). 

«Ce n'est pas dans les hauteurs de la 
th^logie, c'est dans les profondeurs de la 
conscience profane et de Texistence pro- 

fane que le christianisme» (p. 44) provoque 
une espece de «Stimulation secrete» (p. 65) ; 
«le christianisme a enseign^ aux peuples 
runit6 du genre humain, r^galit^ de nature 
de tous les hommes, enfants du mtoe Dieu, 
la dignite du travail et la dignit6 des 
pauvres, la primaut6 des valeurs interieures 
sur les valeurs externes, Tinviolabilit^ des 
consciences» (p. 51), et c'est «en vertu du 
travail obscur de l'inspiration evang^lique» 
que la conscience profane a compris «qu'il y 
a dans le message ^vang^lique des implica-- 
tions politiques et sociales qui doivent ^ tout 
prix se deployer dans Fhistoire» (p. 50). Or, 
s*il en est ainsi, si le message 6vang61ique a 
des implications politiques, on pourrait se 
demander comment il se fait qu'il soit — 
ainsi que nous Fa dit M. Maritain — ^par- 
faitement loisible au chretien de ne pas 
admettre, ou möme de combattre, ces im- 
plications? Et aussi, comment il se fait 
que ces implications, obscur6ment — ou 
clairement — ^perfues par la conscience pro- 
fane, ne le soient pas par la conscience 
inform^e par la foi et la doctrine th6o- 
logique? En d'autres termes, on pourrait 
— et on devrait m^me — se demander, com- 
ment il se fait que ce travail obscur de 
l'esprit 6vang61ique dans l'histoire, ait du 
se faire non pas dans et par mais en dehors 
et conire Teglise et, le plus souvent m&me, 
la foi? 

NV a-t-il pas quelque chose d'^trange 
dans cette histoire de la pens6e ddmocra- 
tique? M. Maritam nous dit lui-m^me: 

Si sa source est 6vangelique, ^i eile procede 
de cette action de Stimulation cachee ... par 
laquelle le christianisme active obscur6ment 
rhistoire terrestre^ c'est n6anmoins en s'alliant 
ä des id^ologies erron6es et ä des tendances 
aberrantes qu'elle a fait son apparition dans le 
monde. Ni Locke ni Jean Jacques ni les En- 
cyclop6distes ne peuvent passer pour des pen- 
seurs fideles k rint6grit6 du d6p6t chr6tien 
[p. 46]. 

Et, d'autre part, nous dit-il: 

II n'a pas 6t6 donn6 k des croyant» int^grale- 
ment fiddles au dogme catholique, il a 6t6*donn6 
ä des rationalistes de proclamer en France les 



droits de Thonmie et du dtoyen, ä des puritains 
de porter en Am6rique les demiers coups a 
Tesclavage [pp. 44 ff.]. 

Tout se passe donc comme si la fidelite 
int6grale au dogme constituait un obstacle 
solide ä la perception du sens politique, 
du sens social, et mtoe du sens humain, 
du message ^vangelique. M. Maritain au 
fond n*en disconvient pas, puisqu'il nous 
dit que Inspiration evangelique agit «par- 
fois» (il aurait du dire: «presque toujours») 

en prenant des formes heretiques ou'hi^me des 
formes de r6volte oü eile parait se nier elle- 
m^me comme si les morceaux de la cle du 
Paradis, tombant dans notre vie de misere 
et s^alliant aux metaux de la terre reussissaient 
mieux que la pure essence du metal Celeste ä 
activer Thistoire du monde [p. 44J. 

Aussi, pourrait-on conclure, afin que This- 
toire du monde soit «activ6e,» oportet here- 
ticos esse; 6t meme oportet esse atheos, 

Quoiqu'il en soit de cette explication 
th6ologique, l'explication purement psy- 
chologique de cette impermeabilit6 de la 
pensee religieuse ou, plus exactement, de la 
pens6e eccl6siastique, pour les implications 
humaines et sociales du message evangilique 
n'est pas particuli^rement difficile. II semble 
mtee assez normal qu'une pensee centr6e 
sur le dogme et se mouvant, entre Tenfer 
et le paradis, sur l'axe «danmation» et 
«salut,» demeure relativement insensible 
aux appels et surtout aux revendications 
de rhomme purement homme dans sa 
vie de misere dans le monde d'ici bas. Pre- 
occup€e uniquement, ou principalement, de 
la vie etemelle, de la b^atitude ä atteindre 
dans le monde de Tau-delä, c^est dans 
l'insignifiance que retombe pour eile la 
vie temporelle dans le «monde» pour lequel 
eile n'a, le plus souvent, qu'hostilit^ et 
mdpris. La vie temporelle, le Status viae, 
n*a de sens, pour eile, que comme pr6pa- 
ratioti et 6preuve et, au fond, la misere 
du viaior p&heur est un 6tat normal et 
peut-fttre mtoe favorable pour son salut. 
Aussi comprend-on que la pens6e th6o- 
logique regarde habituellement avec quel- 

que ddfaveur les tentatives, trop orgueil- 
leuses, de l'homme de rem6dier ä sa misere 
bien m6rit6e, et qu^elle se soit refus^ de 
reconnaltre Inspiration chr6tienne dans 
les mouvements d^^mancipation politique 
et sociale de l'histoire moderne, «la Revo- 
lution Fran^aise et Pexplosion de Pid^alisme 
chretien lalcis^ qu'elle a provoqu6e» (p. 28), 
le mouvement ouvrier de 1848, etc. — mouve- 
ments qui, tous, jusqu'ä, Tabolition de 
l'absolutisme du profit prive en Russie 
par les communistes ath6es (p. 44), sont 
mterpret6s par M. Maritain comme des 
effets «de Tinspiration 6vangeiique, m&on- 
nue souvent et d^figur^e» (pp. 55, 57), 
«en travail dans Thistoire» (p. 55). 

II se peut, apr^s tout, que M. Maritain 
ait raison. Encore que ce soit, de toute 
evidence, un jugement m6ta-historique. 
L'action secrete, Tinfluence cachee et ob- 
scure, ne se r^vele pas ä l'historien profane 
qui sera, sans doute, tente d'objecter qu'il 
est invraisemblable que Tideologie demo- 
cratique soit une traduction profane du 
message Evangelique, puisqu'elle le procede 
de plusieurs siecles; que l'ünite du genre 
humain est un lieu commun de la. philo- 
sophie antique et qu'il est assez paradoxal, 
ou, du moins, significatif, que les implica- 
tions politiques et sociales de r6vangile ne 
se soient manifest^es dans l'histoire qu'avec 
la diffusion du rationalisme et l'affaiblisse- 
ment de la religion. Ces objections et ces 
remarques peuvent, sans doute, 6tre r6cus6^ 
par la m^ta-histoire fond^e sur la foi. Pour 
l'historien profane elles gardent n&mmoins , 
leur valeUr. Or, l'historien profane, qui ne 
m^connait pas l'impact historiqüe du Ser- 
mon sur la Montagne et du Discours de 
S. Paul sur l'Areopage, l'individualisme 
des proph^tes et l'universalisme de la 
morale chr6tienne, sait bien que les mythes 
de la crdation et de la r6demption, 
de la fratemite humaine «en Adam» et 
dans le Christ, ont jouE un röle d'assez 
grande impprtance dans la formulation 
des revendications populaires. II sait, par 
exemple, que les Lollards avaient posE 
la question insidieuse: When Adam delved 

..vii' - 









• *^» 





and Eva spariy/Wkere was then the gmtleman? 
Mais ü sait aussi que les th^ologiens — et, 
ma foi, les th6ologiens devaient bien le 
savoir! — ^leür ont vite enseign6 que pr6ten- 
dre d^uire un droit ä T^galiti politique 
et sociale du Jait de la descendance com- 

|inune d'Adam 6tait une erreur abominable 

tet une h6resie extrßmement pemicieuse. 
L*historien profane sait, sans doute, que 

'' pour le christianisnae tous les hommes sont 
des enfants de Dieu et que, pour Dieu, 
toute äme est infininjent pr^cieuse (encore 
que cette croyance ä la valeur de Päme 
humaine n'a jamais empöch^ les chr^tiens 
de croire en mtoe temps ä la danination 
6ternelle de Fimmense majorite de ces en- 
fants de Dieu, de tous ceux notamment qui 
ne faisaient pas partie de F^glise, ou mtoe 
de leur 6glise, et de traiter ces reprouv^s 
en cons6quence), mais il sait aussi que 
la filiation divine n^implique aucunement 
que nos fr^res en Dieu, qui sont nos freies, 
ä'quelque groupe social^ d quelque classe quHls 
appartiennenty mime sHls sont esclaveSy 
puissent, de ce fait, pr6tendre changer la 
Situation sociale de leur personne, ou du 
groupe social auquel ils appartiennent. H 
sait que TEglise Catholique (et il en est de 
.möne en ce qui concerne TEglise Ortho- 
doxe) n*a jamais formeUement condanin6 
Pesclavage et n*a jamais interdit aux 
chr6tiens de posseder des esclavesl Sans 
doute a-t-elle cherch6 ä, en all^vier le sort, 
ä mitiger les cons^uences funestes de 
Tesclavage, ^ en combattre les abus.' 
Mais il a f allu attendre la fin du XDC*' 

. si^le pour que la Pape L6on XIII 
s'aperjoivc'que Tesclavage etait incom- 
patible avec «cette fratemit6 qui unit tous 
les hommes, tous provenant d'une mtoe 
origine, tous sauves par une m^me t6- 
demption, tous appel6s au mtoe bonheur 
6temel.» Aussi lorsque M. Maritain r^pete: 
«Quand on est tous faits pour la b^atitude 
on ne se r^igne pas ä Foppression et k 

* Ainsi en 1689 Urbain Vm avait interdit, sans 
beaucoup de suco^ d'ailleurs de r^duire les Indiens 
ens^lvitude, et tu 1839 Gr^ire XVI s'eleva contre 
la trtite des noin. 

Tesclavage de ses frferes,» Thistorien pro- 
fane objectera que, pourtant, pendant 
dix-neuf siecles on s'y est bei et bien r6sign6. 
Et mtoe qu'on a raisonn6 d'une fajon 
toute diflF6rente en disant, au contraire, 
que puisqu'ils seront recompens^s pat 
la b6atitude (ou par Tenfer) quelle im-' 
portance cela a-t-il qu'ils soient opprim6s 
et rÄluits ä Tesclavage dans cette vie 
terrestre, dans cette vall^ de larmes qui, 
apr^s tout, n'est qu'un lieu de passage? 
La libert^ individuelle, la libertö de con- 
science, ia libert6 politique — ^l'historien 
profane sait que toutes ces «libert6s» que 
M. Maritain d6duit du message 6vangelique 
n*ont 6t6 conquises par Fhumanit^ que 
contre Topposition violente des 6glises. 
H se peut sans doute que Bergson ait raison 
(encore que Ton eut pT6i6i6 un ttooignage 
plus autorise dans cette mati^re), et que la 
fratemite d6mocratique soit d'origine et 
d'essence 6vang61ique. N6anmoins, mtoe si 
Ton opposait ä la mani^re de Bergson «Fas- 
piration» chr6tienne ä la «pression» eccl6sias- 
tique, le christianisme aux ^glises, This- 
torien profane ne pourirait n^gliger le fait 
que les r^publicains qui ont invent^e a 
fratemit6 dtoocratique et qui, en outre, 
insistaient davantage sur la libert^ que sur 
la fratemit6 ou, du moins, sur la fra- 
temite des hommes libres et non sur la 
b*bert6 des hommes fraiernelSj 6taient d'un 
avis sensiblement difförent; apres tout, leur 
opinion n'est pas n^gligeable. Et lorsqü'ils, 
nous disent s*6tre inspir6s non pas de Tideal 
chr^tien de la cit6 de Dieu, mais du modele 
antique de la cit6 humaine, de la cit6 
d6mocratique, cit6 des hommes libres, 
il n'est pas sür que nous ayons le droit 
de rÄ:user leur ttooignage et de leur 
r^pondre, conmie le fait M. Maritain 
(qui reconnait, par ailleiurs, Fimportance, 
de rh^itage classique) en citant Berg- 
son: «Ce furent. de fausses dömocraties 
que les cit6s antiques, bÄties sur Tesclavage, 
d6barrass6es par cette iniquitö londamen^ 
tale des plus gros et des plus angoissants 
probltoes» (p. 73). Car s'il est vrai que 
la citi antique n'avait aucunement rdalis6 



son propre id^al et n*en f ut qu'une approxi- 
mation (autant, d'ailleurs, que la d^mo- 
cratie am6ricaine qui, eile aussi, s'accom- 
modait de Tesclavage), eile en avait formul^ 
les principes. En outre, il n'est pas tr^s 
exact de dire que la democratie antique 
6tait «fondöe sur Tesclavage»: le citoyen 
ath^hien, en grande majorite, vivait du 
travail de ses mains et c*est justement ce 
fait lä qui rendait le fonctionnement de la 
democratie antique tellement difficile: le 
citoyen n'avait pas le temps de s'occuper 
des affaires de la cite, ä moins que la cite ne 
lui verse une indemnit^ correspondante, et 
de ce fait, la masse des hommes libres 
6tait 6caxt6e des affaires publiques au profit 
d'une Oligarchie. Tout comme chez nous. 
Quoi qu'il en soit, il n'en reste pas moins 
vrai que ce n'est pas la politique tir^e de 
l'Ecriture Sainte, mais la politique tiree 
des discours de P6ricles et de D^mosthene, 
la conception de l'honmie maltre de ses 
destin6es terrestres et ne se pr^occupant 
que de celles-ci, qui a form6 la base de 
l'id^ologie dtoocratique. 

Cette conception de l'homme, maltre 
de lui-mtoe et de ses destin6es, est-elle 
«chretienne»? Franchement parlant, nous 
n'en croyons rien. Cette conception sup- 
pose, en effet, d'une maniere explicite, ou 
implicite, la n6gation d'un ^l^ment cardinal 
de l'anthropologie chretienne — ^la concep- 
tion de l'homme comme picheur. Et qu'on 
ne nous dise pas que c'est lä de la theologie 
et que nous ne nous occupons pas de chris- 
tianisme comme doctrine et comme dogme. 
Car de ce fait — et c'est lä le reproche que 
nous adressons ä M. Maritain — on fausse 
irr6m6diablement la realit^ historique. Dans 
la j:6alite historique, du moins dans celle. 
qui est accessible ä l'historien profane, le 
christianisme n'a pas 6tir uniquement, ni 
principalement un «ferment,» ou une «In- 
spiration.» II n'a pas 6t6 seulement l'lvan- 
gile; il a 6t6 aussi, et mtoe surtout, une 
doctrine ou, si l'on pr^f^re, une foi doctri- 
nale, et une Institution, c'est-ä-dire, dogfne 
et iglise. 

Or, si l'on tient compte de cela — et il est 
impossible pour l'historien profane de ne 

pas en tenir compte — le probleme des rap- 
ports entre le christianisme (ou les chris- 
tianismes)' et la democratie nous apparaltra 
soüs un aspect assez different. Et nous n'au- 
rons pas besoin d'expliquer par un mal- 
heureux accident historique la lutte entre 
«le christianisme» et la dtoocratie en 
Eiu:(4)e et leur alliance recente en Am6rique. 
Nous comprendrons — car ce n'est pas seule- 
ment le terme «democratie,» c'est aussi 
celui de «christianisme,» qui ont, des deux 
cötes de l'Atlantique, des resonnances 
differentes — qu'il s'agit, dans les deux cäs, 
de choses sensiblement differentes. 

En effet, en Amerique oü, ainsi que M. 
Maritain nous l'avait dit lui-mtoe, «le 
christianisme ... n'est plus, souvent, qu'un 
ingr6dient sentimental de la morale hu- 
maine,» en d'autres termes, en Amerique 
oü le christianisme — ce qui est peut-^tre 
l'aboutissement normal des «variations des 
eglises protestantes» — est devenu adog- 
matique, nondenominaiional et nonsectariany 
et s'est finalement entierement latcisij oü il 
a oublie, sinon repudie, la notion de peche 
et remplace la poursuite du salut par celle 
du bonheur (ä la tres grande et, ä notre 
avis, parfaitement justifiee Indignation des 
contemporains de Jefferson), il a aussi 
r6pudie le «rendez ä Cesar» et a Sub- 
stitute la notion d'egalite politique des 
hommes devant les hommes ä celle de 
regalite religieuse des ämes devant Dieu. 
C'est aussi pour les m^mes raisons, c'est-ä- 
dire parce que pour lui le dogme etait, de 
chose divine, devenu chose humaine, qu'il 
a pu adopter, et defendre,. la these de la 
liberte de conscience. 

Rien de tel ne s'est passe, et n'a pu se 
passer en Europe oü, gräce ä la defaite du 
Calvinisme et le succes de la Contre- 
reforme, le christianisme ne fut, pratique- 
ment, represente que par le lutheranisme 
et le catholicisme. Ce qui veut dire que 
l'esprit democratique y avait affaire non 
pas ä une multitude de sectes, nees, toutes, 
de la revolte contre l'eglise et le pouvoir 

* «L'essence du christianisme» ne peut fitre 
donn6e qu'ä la foi. Pour l'historien profane le 
christianisme est ce que les chrdtiens disent qu'il est. 



l 'lll ■ 


I ■."•'■ 




■•'.>. '\ 







i- ^ 

s6culier qui la soutenait (et en 6tait soutenu 
ä. son tour), sectes qui, dans cette r^volte 
s'6taient d6barassees de la forte Organisa- 
tion et de la structure hierarchique de 
r^glise, mais soit ä des 6glises lutheriennes, 
des Torigine fortement inf6od6es ä la puis- 
sance de Tetat, soit k l'^gUse catholique. Le 
röle du luth^ranisme qui, par son int^riorisa- 
tion de la vie religieuse, a 6t6 un parfait 
instrument de domestication des masses 
populaires auxquelles il a r6ussi ä inculquer 
le respect religieux de rautorit6 et de Vordre 
^tabli, est bien connu. Quant ä T^glise 
catholique, eile a su sortir de la tourmente 
en maintenant, et mtoe en renforgant, 
son Organisation, ainsi que son unit^ doc- 
trinale, et n*a pas laiss6 «la'iciser» son en- 
seignemwit. Aussi n'a-t-elle jamais admis 
comme «impliquese» dans le «message 6van- 
gaique» les cons6quences politiques qu'y 
ddcouvre M. Maritain, et ce n'est pas en 
vertu d*une erreur, mais en vertu d'une tra- 
dition de toujours que, en 1848, «la puis- 
: sance sociale de la religion a jou6 ... en fayeur 
de la bourgeoisie, comme eile ayait joue 
auparavant en faveur de la politique du 
tröne et de TauteU (p. 34). Pour l'his- 
- torien profane, Proudhon, qui «croyait que 
la soif de la justice est le privilfege de la 
Revolution et Tobjet des craintes attentives 
de VEglise» (p. 55)> avait vu juste. 

Le ch!ristianisme a beau avoir 6te une 
r6volution, T^glise, le plus souvent, et 
surtout lorsqu'il lui est f avorable, est du 
cöte de r.ordre dtabli»: n'est-ce pas Dieu, 
en effet, qui 6tablit Vordre? Ceci nous 
explique bien pourquoi «les forces diri- 
geantes des couches sociales chr6tiennes» 
ont toujours combattu les aspirations popu- 
laires, entre autres, et peut-6tre surtout, 
les aspirations d^mocratiques. Car, ne nous 
y trompons pas: T^glise n'est pas d6mo- 
cratique. Ceci ne veut pas dire, bien en- 
tendu, qu'un chr^tien, ou mtoe un catho- 
lique, ne puisse pas 6tre tr^s sinc^rement 
dtoocrate; l'exemple de M. Maritain lui- 
mfeme, comme de tant d'autres, le röle ad- 
V mirable jou^ par des groupes cathoHques 
dans la Resistance de la France ä Toppres- 
sion hitldrienne et ä la perversion vychiste, 

sufl&raient ^ prouver qu'il n'en est rien; 
ni mtoe que r^glise soit irreductiblement 
hostile ä la la dtoocratie eile peut tr6s bien 
s^accommoder de ce regime, Taccepter 
comme legitime et intoe en profiter (comme 
aux Etats-Unis ou au Canada). EUe peut 
mtoe, en face de Tennemi commun, comme 
aujourd'hui en face du paganisme hit- 
lerien, faire cause commune avec les 
forces dtoocratiques et conclure une al- 
liance avec elles (sans beaucoup d'enthousi- 
asme, toutefois, si ce n'est ä contre coeur), 
mais il est bien clair que c'est le paganisme, ^ 
et non Tautoritarisme, ni mtoe le totali- 
tarisme, qu'elle combat et que ses pr6fer- 
ences, a eile, vont non ä la democratie, 
mais a un regime autoritäre et totalitaire 
«chr6tien,» c'est-ä-dire catholique, tel que 
celui de Schuschnigg en Autriche, du g6neral 
Franco, de Salazar, etc. 

Cela se comprend, d'ailleurs, car si M. 
Maritain nous dit (p. 6o),«lechristianisme 
a jete le filet de l'Evangüe sur FEmpire 
paien et TEmpire paien en est mprt,» un 
historien profane repondra sans doute: 
«Voire! il en est mort, mais pour ressusciter 
comme empire chretien, sanctifie par r6glise 
et alli6 de l'eglise.» Et c'est pour cela aussi 
que Teglise— quoi qu'il en ait du chris- 
tianisme— n'a, jamais et nulle part, con- 
senti ä admettre la laicit6 de l'^tat. Elle a 
pu s'y resigner, sans doute, eile ne l'a 
jamais encore accept^e comme de droit. 

II f ait dire toutefois que l'alliance avec les 
pouvoirs 6tablis n'est, en quelque sorte, 
qu'une vieille habitude. Elle n'est pas 
liee ä la structure dogmatique, ni mtoe 
ä la structure institutionnelle du catholi- 
cisme. C'est pourquoi le «rendez ä C6sar» 
qui a d6jä servi pour fonder la soumission 
loyale du chr6tien a l'^tait paien, infid^le, 
h6retique, et mtoe laic, pourrait, sans 
trop de difficult6s peut-^tre, recevoir une 
interpr^tation ^largie. L'6glise pourrait, 
par exemple, en accentuant la Separation 
entre «Clsar» et «le Christ,» admettre 
r6ellement l'interind^pendance de la reli- 
gion et de la politique dont nous a parl^ 
M. Maritain; admettre par cons6quent 
que l'activite politique, comme l'activitd 

scientifique ou l'activit6 technique, appar- 
tient au domaine des activit6s puremment 
naturelles de l'homme et que, donc, l'homme 
est aussi libre de construire — et d'abattre — 
ses r^gimes politiques qu'il est de construire 
et d'abattre ses lieux d'habitation. Et 
S. Thomas pourrait bien 6tre intejpr6t6 
dans ce sens. 

Une teile 6volution n'est pas impossible. 
L'eglise a toujours su — c'est cela sa grande 
force — s'accommoder, avec quelque re- 
tard sans doute, avec les donn^ et les 
conditions de la civilisation de son temps. 
II n'est pas impossible mtoe qu'elle s'ac- 
commode de l'att^nuation progressive de 
la notion et du sentiment du p6ch6 (ä 
lire certains Uvres catholiques modernes on 
pourrait croire que nous y sommes d6jä 
arrives) et accepte la «Declaration des 
Droits de L'homme» conmie expression 
laique du message chretien. 

Mais ce n'est pas chose faite. Et ne sera 
pas chose facile. Car dans sa structure — 
structure qui d^termine si largement ses 
modes et ses habitudes de pens6e — l'eglise 
n'est pas dtoocratique. Sans doute a-t-elle, 
avec une Energie et un radicalisme dont 
l'histoire du monde ne connalt pas d'ex- 
emple — en dehors de celul de l'etat Mame- 
luk d'Egypte — ^brise la tendance, naturelle 
dans toutes les soci^t6s humaines, de se 
constituer eii caste her^ditaire; sans doute 
a-t-elle ouvert l'acc^ h. ses plus hautes 
dignit6s ä tous les fideles, quelle que soit 
leur naissance: mais cela, ce n'est pas de 
la dSmocrcUie, c'est de la bmeaucratie^ et la 
bureaucratie, mtoe ouverte, est tout autre 
chose que la democratie. L'accession aux 
postes et aux emplois est bien une condi- 
tion de cette demiere, eile n'en constitue 
cependant pas l'essence: rarm6e napol6o- 
nienne oü chaque soldat portait un bäton de 
mar&hal — en puissance — dans son sac, 
n'^tait nullement, ä cause de cela, une 
formation d^mocratique. 

L'6glise dans sa vie propre n'est pas 
d^mocratique. Car si pour la disignation de 
ses hauts dignitaires eile recourt parfois 
(de moins en moins, d'ailleurs) ä l'^lection, 
ce n'est pas de cette 61ection que les digni- 

taires 6his tiennent leur pouvoir et leur 
autoriti, mais de la confirmation par une 
autorit^ sup^rieure qui remonte finalement, 
indirectement ou directement, ä celle de 
Dieu. Aussi est-il parfaitement logique que, 
dans l'eglise oü l'autorit6 vient toujours 
d'en haut, le dignitaire 61u ne soit ni re- 
sponsable devant ses ^lecteurs, ni contrö- 
lable par eux. Et il est tr^s caract^ristique 
que, dans son projet de r^forme consti- 
tutionnelle pour la France (cf . Republique 
franqaise^ nn. 3 et 4), M. Maritain ne laisse 
aux assembl6es 61ues que le role de desig- 
nation et de consultation, en les privant 
du droit de contröle et en supprimant 
la responsabilite de l'executif devant elles. 

En outre, il y a un domaine dans lequel 
l'6glise ne poiura jamais, croyons-nous, 
accepter int^gralement l'attitude spirituelle 
de la democratie. C'est que la dtoocratie — 
et C. Schmitt, avec la clairvoyance de la 
haine, l'a vu beaucoup mieux que maints 
theoriciens de celle-ci — est le regime de la 
discussion qui ne se termine jamais, et qui 
implique, par cons^quent, un certain rela- 
tivisme de la v^rit^ et un droit certain ä 
l'erreur. La verit^ d'aujourd'hui peut 6tre 
l'erreur de demain, l'opposition d'aujourd' 
hui, majorite de demain. La discussion 
continue; toute d6cision est toujours pro- 

Aussi est-il inexact de d6terminer la 
democratie comme un regime majoritaire, 
car un regime qui ne sauvegarderait pas 
les droits de la minorit^, les droits de 
l'opposition, les droits de l'adversaire, ne 
saurait pretendre ä 6tre un regime demo- 
cratique. Or c'est la quelque chose que 
l'eglise, de toute ^vidence, ne peut admettre. 
Mettre sur le mßme pied la wiriti et l'erreur, 
la v€rit6 qu'elle d^tient et qu'elle a pour 
devoir de propager et de defendre, serait, 
pour eile, ddchoir et faillir ä sa mission. 
Aussi la libertd de conscience et la libert6 
d'enseignement (qu'elle revendiqueta pour 
eile si on la lui refuse) n'6tant, de son point 
de vue, rien d'autre que la libert6 d'errer 
et de propager l'erreur, ne peuvent 6tre 
sinc^rement acceptfe par eile. Un pis aller 
temporaire, oui. Siurtout lorsqu'on est en 


""^'^ 'M ' ■ ' %"' '^ ' I |M... I ^ ^ n ||^p^ii^lB>^^^fe^^i^y*Wi^^il^ . ^^ll ^ ) "n i t~i J i -ttt- i*« iw h 


-' -S^-: '-.'■■; .x. ■■ -•■':i: -^^ '•;:••- ^'■.■' • <^ ■■^■•'i?''- ; j;. ;■- ■ 



;.r;'. r'.wViC 

;r , '^/j(* 


. 1 ':' 

'-■«■V ■; 

minorit^. Un 6tat de droit, qui vaudrait 
m6me si on €tait la majorit6 et avait le 
pouvoir — ^non. L'intol6rance, Tindex, et 
l'imprimatur ne sont pas des efifets du 
hasard historique, mais Texpression n6ces- 
saire du principe de Tautorit^ institu- 
tionnelle d'un organisme qui detient le 
monopole de la vörite r6vel6e. Et il est bien 
caract6ristique que le thomisme lui-m6me, 
c'est-ä-dire une philosophie qui s'6tait 
pr&ent6e jadis comme un savoir r6sultant 
de l'exercice libre et autonome de la pensee 
humaine, ait et6 de nos jours impos^ 
aux croyants j^ar fl«/m/^. ; .^^ ,....;, ^v 
> II nous semble que nous pouvons com- 
C'V » prendre maintenant pourquoi le sort de; 
/ • v^ ^ la d^mocratie a et6 si diffirent dans les 

.■}'•'■■""■ _ _'- ;^yVv -■ ,, ■'.!'.' ^•^>,-. '■■- ; \.^f[^i,i;:v/).;yvj:;-.o;: . 
jS' 'j-'^'^^ U'!:n .tu:-' ■■-■■■ ^^-'-t , .■ •:,•. /Y ■'. i .-^V"- ' - 

■. : • ' ^tm^'^ny^' ■' ■ ♦• ^ ■••• ■- ^ ■ i-; ' 

. -.ü^^^- ■A/r>T-V'':a:- : -^ '■'v :'-''*' '>-/.v^' ; ^'ri"::5ii(, ;> 

""^i^i ■ ■■X.-,.-." ', , ■■ ..-.'\ ■■- / ' • : "t^w "■ '■ ..i) '?■"<> -^ ^ .' 

V- ,-;;^>;f A....; ,.vi,,rjf*i :4;,jB^J|ä.1.' m-: ^*lt}t(*<>>:^4^.t>:;' ,- ■ 

pays catholiques et les pays protestants 
et pourquoi il n'a pas 6t6 donni aux 
chr6tiens catholiques (pas plus qu'aux 
orthodoxes) ni de proclamer les droits 
de rhomme ni d'abolir Tesclavage. Nous 
comprendrons, que, afin que le «levain» 
^vangeliqüe puisse agir sur la päte sociale 
il faut que «raspiration chr6tienne» soit 
lib&6e de T^tau dogmatique et de la fixa- 
tion ecclesiastique. Et cela nous fait com- 
prendre, enfin, pourquoi, tandis que dans 
les pays protestants la Providence a pu se 
contenter «d'h6r6tiques,» dans les pays 
catholiques eile a du faire appel aux athfe. 

V • .1 ^<. 

' ■•'! '1'" ■■ 

5 ->. „.i.{-:i^\.r'(0\: 


<.' ..: 


i*i !;i! Graduate Faculty 
New School for Social Research 

<>. ■' - '.I 















Reprinted froro 


Vol. vT, No. 3, March, 1046 

Müde in üniUd States of Anierica 

, ! 




lABClt V 

/. - 


^V^-'^ ■'^i^ir 

Jlf od« in United States of America 

Reprinted from Philosophy ako Phbhombnolooicai. R 
Vol. VI, No. 8, March, 1046 


The CretaD, Epimemdes, said "AU Cretaiis are fiars." But Epimenides 
is a Cretan, therefore Ä« is a liar and, consequently, bis assertion is false. 
Ergo, Cretans aie not liare— and this implies that Epimenides did not lie 
but spoke tnily. Accordingly .... ^ 

The paradox of the Liar, it seems, was populär among the Greeks. In 
the Middle Ages its populaiity did not wane; medieval logicians unfailingly 
mention it, and propose Solutions for the "insoluble" sophism.* Slowly, 
it was put aride and was asleep* when, in our times, Lord Russell noticed 
that its logical structure was identical with that of the mathematical 
paradoxes which he discovered.» The Greek sophism was, on this occasion, 
elevated to the rank of aniantinomy. 



In the twentieth Century, the logico-mathematical paradoxes played an 
important r^le, as is well known, in the evolution of mathematical or, more 
precisely, metamathematical thought. It was their discovery which 
determined the "crisis of the foundations" of mathematics; and we owe the 
rieh development of symbolic logic, the intuitionism of Brouwer, the axio- 
maücs of Zermelo and ffilbert to the desire to solve or to avoid them.* 
In bis brilliant and important paper, A. Fraenkel» says that this discovery 
has had a "terrifying" eflfect. The most secure foundations of science, 
indeed, of reason itself, seemed to be undermined. 

Today it is different.— No longer does the mathematician feel bimself in 
danger. "It was lecognized rather soon that the paradoxes were not of a 
purely mathematical nature."« Moreover, "now we know that the authen- 
tically mathematical theorems and disciplines are not' touched by the 
antinomies; that the fear of Poincare that the mathematicians in their 
attempt to f ound the clasrical analysis and the theory of aggregates had 
built a wall around mathematical conceptfr— a wall which protects them 

t V. Alexander Rüstow, Der Lügher, Dias., Erlangen 1907 (Lpz. Teubner, 1908); 
Ch. Baldwin, Dictumary of Philotophy, a.v. Inedubilia. 

« B. RuaeeU, PrincipUi of MathenuUiet, I, cap. DC, I. pp. 96 ff. App B. pp. Ö25 
ff., Cambridge, 1903; Principia Mathematica, 2 Vol. I, pp. 8 ff.; 23 ff.; 41 ff.; 64 ff., etc. 

Cambridge, 1926. -, . ^ » , r • 

» Cf . bibUography of Rüatow, opj eil. ; Cf . also Jörgenwn, Treatue of Formal Legte, 
3 V. Copehhagen, 1931 ; J. CavaUl^, Remarquee ew laformation de la thSorie abatratte 
des ensemblee, Paris, 1937; and Methode amonu»Hque et fomuüieme, Paria, 1937. 

« Cf . Heyting, MathemoHeche Orundlagenforechung, Berlin, 1984. 

» A. Fraenkel, "Le problÄme doa antinomies et son d^veloppement r^oent," Repue 
deMitaphy9iqueetdeMorale,l93». *,««.., u i 

• Ib., p. 227. Cf . also the report by M. Jean Cavaillte on M. R. Poiner a book, 
r^ iVombr«, Paria, 1988 in the Äawi« de AfWapÄytHTtt« «< <fa Morofe, 1989. 


The Liab 


from extemal dangers, but leaves inside unsuspected elements of decomposi- 
tion— was imfounded. We know how to restrict the Operations in order to 
avoid the antinomies, and it has been recognized that the mathematician 
never penetrates the dangerous area, because it is, for him, without any 
interest whatever. The waming given by the antinomies has been, never- 
theless, of lasting value, showing, in the first place, the necessity for a 
systematie limitation of mathematical Operations and, furthermore, for a 
reform of the traditional Aristotelian logic. Therefrom logic received an~ 
astonishing unpulse and developed itself in an extremely fecund way, 
following a direction that has been foreseen only by Bolzano and Leibniz."'^ 
So all is for the best in this best posdble world. Still, the imeasiness 
continues— the threat was not destroyed, it was only avoided. The math- 
ematician has contained the scourge; he has built a fence around it. 
Nevertheless he is still in jeopardy. In the No Man's Land of pure logic, 
the Liar,. negotium perambulans in tenebris, hides out and continues in bis 
r61e of the ghostly Sword of Damocles.» Hence, it is not a cause for aston- 
ishment that the discussion of the problem has not been abandoned.^ 

' K. Grelling, Der Einfluas der Antinomien auf die Entmcklung der Logik im £0. 
Jahrhundert. Travaux du IXe Cöngrfes International de Philosophie (Congr^e 
Descartes), fasc. VI, p. 9., Paris, 1937: "Das Problem der Antinomien . . . hat . . . 
wie mir scheint, auf den Gang der Entwicklung der Logik in unserem Jahrhundert 
einen beherrschenden Einfluss geübt, der sich bis in die letzten Jahre verfolgen 
lässt und wohl auch heute noch nicht ganz aufgehört hat." Ibid., p. 15: "Wie 
Hilbert selbst an, verschiedenen Stellen hervorhebt, war der Wunsch, die Logik und 
Mathematik von Antinomien zu reinigen, der Hauptbeggrund für die Aufstellung 
seines Lehrgebäudes." According to Mr. Grelling {ibid., p. 9.)— the Solution of 
antinomies is accomplished in three steps. 1) Russell founds the theory of types 
with the axiom of reductibility. 2) Ramsey divides antinomies into two groups. 
The first group receives its Solution from the simple theory of types; alone, the 
enlarged groupe requires the axiom of reductibility. 3) Hilbert founds the meta- 
mathematical theory of the proof , which the Polish logicians elaborate into a metho- 
dology. Gödel discovers arithmetisation and proves the existence of insoluble 
propositions. Tarsky shows that the concept of truth can be defined without contra- 
diction only in meta-language. Camap generalizes this result, and it thus comes 
about that syntactic antinomies are of no härm to science. According to Mr. Grelling 
{op dt. p. 17), "die Ueberwindung von Antinomien lu den wissenschaflichen Ruh- 
mestaten unseres Jahrhunderts." Cf. also K. Grelling, "The Logical Paradoxes,*' 
Kind, vol. XLV (1936), p. 486. 

• H. Behmann, Zu den Widersprüchen der Logik und der Mengenlehre," Jahres- 
beHcht der deutschen Mathematiker Verenigung, vol. 40, 1931), p. 38; speaking of 
Solutions to paradoxes says that: "Sie alle sich damit begnflden . . . dem entscheid- 
endeQ Punkt in mehr oder weniger weitem Bogen aus dem Wege su «eben, die Wider- 
sprüche SU vermeiden, statt sie im eigentlichen Sinne aufzulösen^" 

• Ch. Perelman, Une soliUion des paradoxes de la logique etees coneiquences pour la 
eonception de Vinfini, Travaux du IXe Congr^ de Philosophie (Congr^ Descartes), 
fasc. VI, p. 206, Paris, 1937. "Husicurs Solutions ont M propos^es pour sauver des 
paradoxes la th^orie des ensembles, teile qu'elle a M d^volopp^ par Cantor et par 


'•;,-•" .'■"<"■ 

:■• ^ 4" 


Philosopht and Phenomenolooical Resharch 

' 1 

Although much ingenuity has gone into the study of the paradoxes, no 
completely satisfactory Solution has been achieved. Indeed, in my opinion, 
no genuine progress has been made in this direction (with the exception, 
perhaps, of F. M. Ramsay's analysis), since Lord Russell's attempts to 
solve it. Russell was, in my judgment, already in possession of the basic 
elements of the answer. But his belief in the virtue of formalization and 
symbolization, and his contempt for traditional logic — ^which landed him 
in the labyrinth of the theory of types— barred the way to his unfoldment 
of that answer. I do not share these Russellian prejudices and, accord- 
ingly, I shall analyze them without translation into Symbols. For anti- 
nomies neither merit the honor of a symbolic translation nor the euphemism 
of the name itself . They are just piain sophisms, for the most part, and a 
reformation of logic is not necessary to solve theni.^® The principle of 
identity sufiices, i.e., the phrases and terms used should have a clear and 
certain meaning, and not be shifted in the progress of the argument. 

It would be a work of supererogation to narrate the history of the dis- 

set successeura ayant conserv^ le concept naif de 'classe' ou 'd'ensemble.' Ces 
diverses solutioos ont pour but de limiter la th^orie des ensembles 'classique,'' de 
Sorte que Ton obtienne un Systeme dMuctif exempt de contradictions et aussi riebe 
que poesible. Cependant tout le monde se rend parfaitement compte du caractdre 
arbitraire de ces limitations. En ^vitant la contradiction on parvient, certes, de 
cette faQon k formuler une condition süffisante pour que les antinomies ne se pro- 
duisent plus, mais cette condition süffisante n'est nullement n^essaire. II en r^sulte 
deux cons^quences regrettables: d'une part, ces limitations, tiop importantes, 
^artent des propositions dont l'affirmation ne prösente aucun inconv^nient; d'autre 
part, comme ces r^es limitatives ne constituent pas des conditions süffisantes et 
nöcessairee pour ^viter les antinomies, il est impossible de comprendre pourquoi 
leur transgression entrainerait, dans chaque cas, des contradictions dans le Systeme.'' 
1* Gh.* Perelman, "Les Paradoxes de la logique," Mind, vol. XLV (19^), p. 205, 
remarque, par contre: ''Voici de probl^me pos^ par ces antinomies: on suppose que 
les hypothdses dont oq part sont parfaitement valables pour la logique classique, 
et que, malgr6 leur Kgitimat^, on parvient k en d^duire des cons^quences contradic- 
toires. On en oonclut qui'U fsut restreindre les rdgles de la logique classique qui 
toldrent ces hypothdees nous entrainnant dans d'inextricables antinomies; on les 
modifie; ön impose des conditions suppMmentaires k la construction de propositions 
valables. On cb^rche k remMier aux antinomies par teile ou teile modification des 
r^es de la logique classique, oe qui malheureusement, entraine d'ordinaire Tobliga- 
tion de sacri6er d'ftutres propositions logiques ou matlUmatiques, pr^oieuses celles-l& 
et qui deviennent d'innooentes victimee de l'oeuvre de purifioation entreprise sans 
piti^. Si Ton veut sawer oes propositions, dont personne n'avait auparavant 
contest^ ni la Mgtiimit^ ni la f^oondit^, on en est r^duit k des expMients plus ou 
moins ing^nieux et raremtoi oonvaincants . . . ce ne sont pas les r^gles de la logique 
classique qu'il fautrendre responsables des paradoxes, mais bien les transgression» 
dft oes r^es, oommiaes en posant les hypothöses qui miteent aus antinomiei ." 

The Liar 


covery and the analysis of the logico-mathematical paradoxes; and itis 
unnecessary to study each and every one of them: this would be both use- 
less and impossible. It would be impossible because one may construct 
them freely and ad IMtum: the pattem of paradoxes is simple— il is the 
pattem of the cavsa aui or of the suicide. It would be useless, because 
most of them are formed on the basis of that pattem. I shall discuss only a 
few, but the few which are important-^especially that of the Ldar. 

The paradox of the Liar may be presented in a number of different forms. 
However, the most important are: (a) the Epimenides form, which heads 
this article; (b) the simplified and Condensed form: /// say that I am lyin^, 
dol lieordol speak the truth? These two forms are not equivalent, and 
it is mteresting, therefore, to analyze them in tum. 

The Ldar appears aa a typical antinomic judgment: the tmth of the 
asserted proposition entails its falsehood; its falsehod, in tum, entails its 
tmth. But, importantly, the reasons why its pretensions to be one must 
be rejected are not the same in both cases. The Epimmidea is not an 
antinomy, it is a self-contradictory judgment, a counter-sense"; the / am 
lying is not an antinomy because it is not a judgment. 

A. Ejnmenidea 

To grasp the stmcture of this form, attention must be given to, first, the 
meanmg of the proposition asserted by Epimenides and, secondly, the fact 
that it is Epimenides who asserts it. 

Consider first the meaning of the proposition, "All Cretans are Liars." 
Epimenides does not thereby wish to convey any appreciation of the moral 
character of the Cretans. Indeed, if his assertion carried this nieaning and 
had this purport, the major "All Cretans are liars" coupled with the minor 
"Epimenides is a Cretan" would give the conclusion "Epimenides is a 
liar." This conclusion would be unobjectionable, the reasoning would find ^ 
its end then and there, exactly as the case would be if Epimenides had 
characteriaed the Cretans as "braves" or "cowards," "sober men" or 
"drunkards."" The syllogism would be perfectly legitimate, exac% as 
the case would be if Socrates, from the general proposition that all men are 
mortal, and the fact that he is a man, deduced his own mortality. The 
fact that Epimenides himaelf characterizes the Cretans as liars does not 
change the Situation. A man can be a liar and admit it, without ceasing 

tt The reasoning would also end if Epimenides had said: "AU Cretans alwayi teil 
the trutli.'-t 

„•':;./•*- i 

!■ f 

:•••:V:.,•^*,•f . ,,. ,. 

, V 

;'■>■■■''' ■" f'' 



Philosophy and Phenombnoloqical Rbseabch 




-\ , , 



■> ''.r;' 

■ ; - 


■» ■ . . 

— '■' .\ '- 

to be one; and without creating by ms avowal an antinomy or even a 

? In Order to create a paradox and establish a kind of reasoning which can 
" go on forever, or better, which is not able to stop at a conclusicm, the sen- 
tence, "All Cretans are liars," must be differently interpreted, namely, as 
a logical and not as a moral judgment. The meaning must be, "All Cre- 
tans lie always," i.e., all judgments or all assertions made by Cretans are 

All this, of course, goes without saying; bat, as it will be shown herein- 
irfter, to dot all the i*s and to cross all the t*8, is of supreme importance to a 
correct analysis of the problem. The implicit meaning of each assertion 
must be made explicit, for thought is unstable and volatiler— it glides easily 
and without notice from one intention to another." 

Thus,' "All Statements made by a Cretan are false," we admit, is what 
Epimenides wants to say. This assertion aflSrms the essential and imi- 
versal falsehood of each and every judgment made by a Cretan and, as a 
proposition, it is formally unimpeachable. If Epimenides were an Athe- 
nian or a Spartan and not a Cretan, the sentence, "The Spartan, Epimen- 
ides, says that the Cretans always err," would not be paradoxical. It 
would, of course, be a false assertion, for even the ahnighty Cartesian God 
could not create a being who would always be in error. Nevertheless, this 
falsehood would be material, not formal. 

' Consider next that it is Epimenides who asserts it. Epimenides is 
neither a Spartan nor an Athenian; he is a Cretan. Therefore, from the , 
major, "All Cretans, etc." and the minor, "Epimenides is a Cretan" it 
follows:— "Epimenides lies always," i.e., "All the assertions of Epimenides 
are false." But this last proposition, taken as a major, together with "the 
assertion 'all Cretans, etc.* is an assertion of Epimenides," entails the 
conclusion,— the assertion 'all Cretans, etc." is false. 

But this conclusion is equivalent to the assertion, Not all the Cretans 
are liars, i.e., the Statements of Cretans are not all and necessarily false. 
We must conclude from this that there are certain Cretans who speak the 
truth, i.e., that certain judgments made by Cretans are (or can be) true. 
However, it does not follow therefrom that Cretans are always truthful, 
and that all the judgments of the Cretans are true always. 

Thus, we are not entitled to the conclusion that Epimenides is a truthful 
Cretan, and conseqüently that his assertion about the Cretans is true. 
On the contrary (and be it as it may as to other Cretans), as Epimenides's 
Statement is oertainly false, Epimenides is without doubt a liaf— which is 
the imique and only concluMOn we can draw from what he saysl 

IS Mr. Perelman very justly obfervet {op. dt,, p. 207) how much the formalisation 
fftvon this gliding. 

f • 

The Liab 


The proposition, "Epimenides the Cretan says, 'all Cretans, etc.,'" 
considered in its entirety, is necessarily false; for, either the Cretans are 
not all (and always) liars, or it is false that Epimenides has said it. Or, 
again, if he did say it, he could not be a Cretan, 

Thus, the eomposite proposition, "Epimenides- etc." is false in that it 
contains incompatible members, subassertions that cannot be true to- 
gether and at the same time. Then, what is it? A witty story, a "coun- 
ter-sense," a sophism: but not an antinomy. ._ 

Vo Epimenides tbe assertion, "All Cretans, etc." is forbidden. He can- 
not make it. In his mouth it suffers a perversion, it becomes a corUre-sense, 
a self-contradiction. However, this case is not unique. If someone said, 
"The boat that I travelled on was lost with all hands,"we could,and should, 
doubt either the truth of the assertion or the truthfuhiess of the Speaker, 
orboth. Certamly,to extend these doubts to a doubt of the validity of the 
laws of logic, is an exaggeration. It is curious and even stränge, perhaps 
(but not mcomprehensible or contradictory), and it haÄ not been sufficiently 
noticed, that some propositions may not be uttered by everybody, that 
certam verbs may not be used in the first person. It is not permissible, for 
example, truly to say, "I am sUent," "I am absent" or "I am dead." Nor 
is it permissible meaningfully to say, "I am Jying." 

B. "/ am lying" 

The meaning of the assertion "I am lying" is not quite identical with the 
meaning of the assertions "I am silent" or "I am dead." The latter are 
self-contradictory Statements, but the former is not self-contradictory— it 
is meaningless. This is old lore ; and long before Lord Russell»» recognized 
it anew, the medieval logicians were fully aware that this utterance, taken 
verbatim, means nothing at all, therefore, being no judgment, is neither 

true nor false. 

Although this was widely admitted in the Middle Ages, none the less 
the meaninglessness of "I am lying" has often been doubted, even denied. 
Let US look into it more closely. 

At first sight, it appears that the assertion "I am lying" is meaningful. 
This error arises because, in the last analysis and in general, language ex- 
presses our thought in a very imperfect and incomplete manner. We 
seldom say what we mean, or mean what we say. Moreover, we do not 
often know what we mean and intend to say. Besides, the words we speak, 
the sentences we hear, take their complete and füll meaning only in and 
through the context— we do not say or hear everything. Conseqüently, 
in Order to interpret the words we hear we have to reconstitute and to re- 
store the whole of the intended meaning; since, however, we are accus- 

u Principia MathemaHea, I, p. 39 sq., ef . Rüstow, op. oi. 

,; .^. ':„<'.. .i 

,' V 

> fli 

.'■- -i* :■« 

■^- '^ '. / 



. <■- 


Philobopat and Phbnombnolqgical Keseabch 

tomed to meaningful speech" to hearing sentences that haye a meaning 
(or at least, that pretend to have one), nothiog is more difl&cult for us than 
to apprehend a pure nonsense. We give a meaning even to what has none.*» 

Accordingly, when someone says "I am lying" we Interpret this utter- 
ance, we Substitute, we &dd, we qualify. We understand the sentence as 
meaning either "I have been lying" or, "I sometimes lie" or "I often lie," 
which can be true or false and, in any case, is a perfectly correct Statement; 
or even "I am always lying," a judgment of the type qf Epimenides, — self- 
contradictory, but therefore meaningful. 

Yet, the expression "I am lying" means or pretends to mean something 
eise, something quite dififerent, which does not extend its application to the 
past or to the future, but confines itself to the present. This expression 
Claims to mean "I am lying now, in this moment" or, "It is in this moment 
that I am making a false assertion" or, "The assertion that I am makmg 
in this moment is false." 

But, as Russell has rightly pointed out,** this expression contains not 
one but two assertions, namely, (a) there is an assertion that I am making 
in this moment, and, (b) this assertion is f aJse. Now, where is thfe assertion 
(a) to which the quaüfication "false" is applied in the assertion (b)? Obvi- 
ously, there is no such thing; the assertion which is declared to be false 
simply does not exist. The problem may be elucidated by comparing this 
assertion with the assertions "I am silent" or "I am dead." 

If I say, "I am silent," or "I am dead," I say something that can be as 
**X is silent," or "X is dead"; for example, "Epimenides is silent" or "Epi- 
menides is dead." Here we deal with authentic judgments— something 
is Said about something; a predicate is asserted about a subject. Even 
were I to Substitute myself for the subject we would still have an authentic 
judgment, though a necessarily false one, for in this case it is impossible to 
link the subject to the predicate— it is impossible to speak (as I am speak- 
ing) being silent or dead. 

But if I say "I am lying" the objectivation reveals a much more complex 
structure, viz,, "The assertion Y that the person X is making, is false," 
e.g., "The assertion Y which Epimenides is making, is false." Still, this can 


** Even when we speak "in order to say nothing.' 

^* JuBt 88 we put Order and logic into our dreams. 

" Cf. Principia Mathematica, I, p. 30 sq. As a matter of fact, if I say: "the 
expression written between the ( ) is true or false," that assumes that something 
is written there. Or, if nothing is written there, we have no judgement; unless the 
formula is interpreted as meaning 1) there is a judgment written between the ( ) 
and 2) that this judgment is false. In that case we shall have a false assertion, 
beoause its first tenn is falsa. 

The Liar 


be an authentic judgment if Epimenides, in this moment, genuinely makes 
an assertion; and, correspondingly, our judgment will be true or false 
according to the falsehood or truth of this assertion. Here everything is 
perfectly correct: a predicate is asserted about a subject. But, if Epi- 
menides does not make any assertion, the subject about which toc speak, 
the subject of our judgment, does not exist. In its place there is a void — 
something (falsehood) is predicated of nothing. 

Yet (as was sometimes advocated by logicians), the non-existence of the 
subject does not prevent a proposition to be meaningful: it prevents it 
f rom being true only . For example, if I were to say "The long of France is 
living in Versailles" or "is bald," this proposition would be false, since 
there is no king of France; nevertheless it would be perfectly meaningful. 
In the same manner the judgment "The assertion being made by Epi- 
menides is true (or false)," or "The proposition written on the blackboard 
is false (or true)" does not btcome meaningless if it tums out that Epi- 
menides does not make an assertion, or that nothing is written on the black- 
board^t becomes false. It is to be observed, however, that from the 
falsehood of one of these propositions, we have no right to conclude to the 
truth of its opposite: i.e., from the fact that it is not true that the king of 
France lives in Versailles, it does not follow that he lives elsewhere; nor 
does it follow from the fact that it is not true that the sentence written on 
the blackboard is false, that this sentence is true. If no sentence is written 
on the blackboard, this afiBrmation would be just as false as the previous 
one, the validity of the law of excluded middle to the contrary notwith- 

Now, the expression "I am lying" (equivalent to "I am making a fabe 
Statement"), may be interpreted to mean, "The statement that I am mak- 
ing is false." But here there is no statement, Y, to which this judgment 
could be appUed, therefore the judgment will be a false one. However, no 
paradox arises. If, for example, I were to say instead, "The song I am 
singing is a French one," that statement too would be false, for no song is 
now being sung by me — (it'is impossible to speak and to sing at the same 
time), the quaüfication "French" possesses no object to which it can be 
applied. Similarly, it is impossible to make two judgments, namely, a 
judgment, and also a judgment about this judgment — that it is false or 
true. Further, if from the fact "It is false that I am singing a French song," 
it cannot be concluded that I am singing an English one, so too, from the 
fact that "It is false that the statement Y that I am making is false," one 
cannot conclude that I am making a true statement. The proposition — 
"The statement Y that I am making is true" — ^is equally, and for the same 
reasons, as false as the, first one. 

1.^:1 1 

f^'rn. ' 

- 7»- . HjT ■ 



vT."- : 



■ ■" • j .'■ 

.i . 

•'- y.' :> ■ 



■■•■ ■■•--••..».»'.,. '^ ",■' • T ■■: ';>/;■■■ 

: ■•;;'A''- 


Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 

Yet it is claimed that the expression **I am lying" lea4s to a paradox. 
It pretends to be a judgment about itself, that is to say, it Claims to be its 
own subject. In this case (to be carefully distinguished from the preced- 
ing one) it becomes nonsense, a "meaning" impossible to realize, or, what 
amounts to the same thing, it is an expression which falsely pretends to 
have a meaning. 

It is self-evident that a judgment cannot be its own subject. This im- 
possibility was clearly perceived by Russell.^^ Quite' unneoessarily, how- 
ever, he rai^d this fact to the rank of a principle, the famous 'Vicious 
circle principle," which (although quite mistakenly) rules out every appli- 
cation of a judgment to itself." Nevertheless, as it is not yet the com- 
munis opinio of the logicians, let me quote at some length the excellent 
analysis by C. K. Langford^» of the Situation which would arise if a judg- 
ment were to become its own subject. 

*'Let US take, to hegin with, what is perhaps the simplest and best known 

^ example in connection with which we get a logical paradox; namely, that in 

whioh we consider what significance the words "I am speaking falsely" or, 

perhaps better, "This proposition is false" can have, where, if we had a 

" Cf . Prinäpia Mathematica, I., p. 171 : "A proposition can never be about itself." 
" As an example of difficulties and confusion produced by the non-distinction of 
the two meanings of the "I am lying" analysed by us, we shall quote B. Russell, 
"Les paradoxes de la logique," Revue de Mitaphysique ei de MoraUt vol. XIV (1906), 
p. 643: "Nous pouvons maintenant r^soudre le paradoxe de Thomme qui dit: *je 
mens." Ce jugement est susceptible de diverses interpr^tations; la plus sinaple 
est : *I1 y a une proposition p que j'affirme et qui est fausse." Ce jugement contient 
une variable apparante p; il n'^nonce donc pas une proposition d^finie, au sens que 
nous avons donnö au mot 'proposition.' Cette ^nonciation peur 6tre fausse si 
j'aflirme une proposition p, qui est vraie, ou si je n'aflSrme pas de proposition. La 
premiÄre hypoth^se entralne la contradiction. La second n'est possible que si une 
^nonciation gönörale n'aflarme pas une proposition d^termin^. C'est cette derniöre 
hypoth^ que nous adoptons. Donc l'dnonciation de Thomme qui dit : 'je mens' est 
fausse, non parce qu'il toonce une proposition vraie, mais parce que tout en faisant 
une Änonciation, il n'tfnonce pas une proposition. Ainsi quand il dit qu'il ment, il 
ment, mais on ne peut pas en conclure qu'il dit la v^ritÄ. II ne peut pas vouloir 
dire: 'je fais en ce moment une ^nonciation qui est fausse,' parce qu'il n'y a pas 
moyen de parier d'^nonciations en ginirali on peut parier d'önonciations de proposi- 
tions contenant une, deux, trois variables apparentes, mais non de propositions 
en g^n^ral. Si l'on veut dire 'je fais une ^nonciation fausse contenant n variables 
apparentes,' il faut dire quelque chose comme ceci: *il y a une fonction proposition- 
nelle ^ (Xi, Xf-X^ teUe que j'afllrme que ^ (X,, X, • • • XiJ est vraie pour n'importe 
quelles valeura de Xi, Xi • • • X«, et cela est faux.' Cette toonciation contient 
n -M variables apparentes, savoir Xi, Xi • • • X, et v. Donc eile ne s'applique pas k 
elle-mAme. De cette manidre nous ^vitons tous les paradoxes du type de l'Epimtf- 
nide, puisque'poor toute ^nonoiation propoe^, nous pouvons montrer qu'elle ne 
s'applique pas k elle-m6me.'^ 

*• C. Lewis and C. Langford, Symbolie Logic, New York-London, 1802, pp. 438 ff. 

The Liar 


genuine statement, we should have one that was its own subject. In the 
expression "this proposition is false,". the words "this proposition" pretend ^ 
to designate the whole statement as well as the subject, since these would 
be theÄwne; and it is clear, therefore, that we can represent the Situation 
in the following way. Let P be the name of a proposition, and let the propo- 
sition of which it is the name be "P is false," so that we can write 

P - P is false 

_^ It looks as if these words expressed a genuine statement, and yet, in view of 
certain considerations, it would seem that this could not possibly be the 
case; so that we have two iücompatible appearances, both claiming assent. 
If P names a proposition, then it could be replaced by its meaningf and we 
should have "(P is false) is false," that is, P is true. But, if in turn P were 
replaced by its meaning in "P is true," we should have " (P is false) is true," 
that is, P is false. Thus, not only would P imply its own contrad.iction, 
but this contradiction would in turn imply it. That is to say, one should 
have both P < '^ P and '^ P < P and this is what is known as a vicious 
circle. So if P stood for a proposition it would have to stand for one that 
was both true and false: from which it foUows, of course, that P does not 
stand for a proposition at all." 

Yet the contradiction, the vicious circle or the vicious regression, is by 
no means relevant. Exactly the same Situation would arise if instead of 
writing P = P is false, we would write 

P = P is true. 

In this case, exactly as in the former one, we would haye "an infinite se- 
quence of more and more compUcated expressions, each of which requires 
explanation before its import becomes definite; so that no one of the expres- 
sions can be significant unless the sequence terminates, which it does not 
do . . . owing to the fact that the sequence of Substitution never ends; and 
so never ends in any undefined expression. What has happened is, of 
course, that" the symbol P has no meaning at all. 

Thus, the statement "I am silent" has both a predicate and a subject; 
the vice is that it is impossible to link them together. Therefore, it is a 
false judgment. However, and on the one band, the statement "I am 
singing a French song," has a predicate, but it lacks an existent subject; 
it too, is a false judgment. On the other band, the expression *1 am 
lying," has no subject and, accordingly, it is not a judgment. Concisely 
put: every proposition must have a subject; no proposition can be its own 




\ ' 

'^*»;;L' ^i^jJ^'-' 


.1 . ' •*.* 




, ,! ' ■>:■■■■> 


.'■•i .\ , 


Philosophy and Phenombnological Reseakch 

The validity of this rule has sometimes been contested. It has been 
j urged*«» that the expression "The phrase that I am uttering is false," is not 

any more destitute of meaning than the expression "The phrase that I am 
: uttering is composed of English words"— a sentence which, concededly, 
i; not only ha« a meaning but is even true. Here, however, the sentences 
•; are not analogical. It is not true that the latter sentence is its own sub- 
\ ject, any more than the sentence "The words I am uttering are English 
_ words." These propositions are not about themselves, but about their 
> verbal Contents or their verbal fonns. Such j>ropositions are as legitunate 

as propositions about "the movements I am executing." 
It is not the temporal coincidence of the judgment and its subject, but 

its Claim to identify them, which empties the expression "I am lying" of 

meaning. It attempts to put the judgment within itself or in its own 


Although sentences such as, "I am speaking" "I am singing" have legiti- 
, mate structures and clear meanings,»* it is not so as to "I am lying." More- 
over, the negative"^ moment within the notion of "lying" (falsehood)— 
which play so preponderant a röle in the apparently paradoxical structure 
of the Epimenides and entailed its self-contradiction— plays no röle in "I 
am lying." Indeed, the proposition "I am speaking the truth," and even 
the neutral one "I am making a judgment" are just as objectionable on the 
same grounds. 

I maintain, therefore, (with B. RusseU) that the expression "the proposi- 
f tion that I am yttering is false (or true)" is meaningless. The meaning 
> which it seemÄ^to have is an illusion. The longer the sentence, the more 
easily we succumb to that illusion. For sentences are atomistically con- 
structed of meaningful parts (words), and we start off with an unclear 
understanding and vague Impression of a meaning of the wfiole. This 
impression of meaning endures, although the effort to unite the parts 
would disclose that it is not a meaningful whole. As Husserl, and Plato 
before him, pointed out, the effort to realize what is meant by a sentence, 
the eam^ effort needed to effectuate the intentional Contents of the 
thought, is postponed or avoided as long as possible, and consequently it 
is seldom, if «ver, made, and this initial illusion of meaning is never dis- 

When'objectionable or paradoxical expressions are presented in the form 
of Symbols— particularly where, instead of pointing directly to itself it does 
so by mean s of a long cirouit (and the longer the better), in which every 

•• Cf. R. Poirier, Le Nombre, Pari«, 1938. The term "phraae" is used here in a 
vague sense, and should not be underetood as meaning : "judgment. " To be entirely 
exact, it would have been necessary to gay, as a matter of fact, "the wortU which I am 
pronouneing are French words." - «u 

» The firsi one is even necessarily true, and the second necessarily false. 

The Liar 


Step in and of itself is legitimate and understandable — ^the illusion that we 
deal with meaningful Statements is especially strong. For an example of 
such a circle, I quote the "very elegant form" given to the Ldar by the well- 
known Polish logician, Professor Lucasievicz:^^ 

"Let the letter Q be an abbreviation for the phrase: *the proposition 
occupying the 12th line of this page." Then let us write: 

(1) Q is a false proposition. 

- By counting the lines we can verify: — - — - — — 

(2) Q is identical with the proposition (i). 

As definition of the concept "false" we assume, in accordance with M. 
Perlman, Def . : P is a false proposition is equivalent to non-P. By sub- 
stituting Q for the variable P in this definition, we get: 

(3) Q is a false proposition is equivalent to non-Q. 

The first member of this equivalence (printed in italics) is our proposi- 
tion (1). Thus we have: 

(4) The proposition (1) is equivalent to non-Q. 

But in virtue of (2) the proposition (1) can be replaced by Q. Thus 
results the contradiction: 

(5) Q is equivalent to non-Q. . / 

The Operations performed by us in this deduction are all legitimate in 
classical logic, i.e., according to classical logic they lead from the premises 
to a true conclusion. We have substituted the constant Q for the variable 
P in' the definition of a false proposition and we have replaced the proposi- 
tion (1) by (4) by the description Q (this letter was introduced only for the 
sake of typological brevity) whose identity with the proposition (1) can be 
verified by the reader himself. ..." 

Thus, Grelling writes: "The paradox of the Liar does not presuppose 
anything but the rules of classical logic, the definition of falsehood, and an 
easily verifiable empirical proposition." 

Now, I submit, it is perfectly clear that the use of the letters P and Q — 
the Substitution of "Q" as an "abbreviation" for a certain proposition or 
expression — is not only useless but even worse than useless. The letters 
substituted in Heu of the proposition enable the reader to foUow the subse- 
quent reasoning, the prospective Operations, without obUgation to account 
to himself for the meaning of the proposition Avith which he deals. The 
Steps which beguile him into the region of meaninglessness are thereby 
made more difficult to recognize. 

On the one band, we are entitled to write: "The proposition occupying 
the 12th line of this page is false." This expression can stand for a true or 
false proposition, for it depends upon what we find or do not find on the 
12th line. On^the other band, we can write this expression itself on the 
12th line of the page— and even fill the whole page with it. This expres- 

« Cf . K. GrelUng, "The Logical Paradoxes,'? Mind, 1986, p. 486 ff. 



•V, "\, 

■Vi . 


■ --l- 'i :' 



f'i. ?.; 

.'' (•■■:■'■■ ■' '■ -'•■'■'-■ ' ■'■ ■ ' ■ - ■'■ • 

U'.h ■ ■ -. ■ :■■,...' V ' 

.'• •;'-'' 

T ..,». 



Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 

ßion, written on the 12th line, will then indirectly point to itself and raise 
the Claim to be its own subject. The fact that this claim is expressed in a 
circuitous and not in a direct way, does not make its fulfillment any more 
possible than in the case of the simpler direct form. Nothing is changed 
logically: the expression written on the 12th line is as objectionable as the 
expression *1 am lying." It is no cause of wonderment, therefore, that, 
when the rules of classical logic (rules made for meaningful propositions 
tmd judgments) are applied to it, there is obtained a paradox, even an an- 
tinomy. Consider more closely the "elegant form" Professor Lucasievicz 
has given to the Ltar. 

Q is Said to be an abbreviation of *'The proposition occupying the 12th 
line of this page." The formula (1) says: "Q is a false proposition," which 
means: "TÄ€ proposition occupying the 12th line of this page is a false proposi- 
tion." The formula (2) is "Q is identical with the proposition (1)." But 
this is quite false. Q is not identical with the proposition (1), and Q is 
not a proposition. Q is an abbreviation for an expression forming only 
the subject of the proposition (1). Q does not stand for "The proposition 
occupjdng the 12th line of this page is a false proposition," but only Stands 
for "TÄc proposition etc. . . ." In other words, Q does not mean "Q is a 
false proposition." Therefore Q cannot be identical with the expression 
written on line 12. Or, vice versa, if it is, then the expressiX)n written on the 
12th line is not "The proposition occupying the 12th line of this page is a 
false proposition," but only "The proposition occupying the 12th line of 
this page." Which expression is not a proposition at all. It is therefore 
impossible to operate with it as if it were one. The paradox — ^if only we 
are careful enough not to change the meaning of our sjrmbols — does not 
^rise. If, on the other band, we Substitute for the original meaning of Q 
the "meaning** "Q is false," we have no right to identify it with Q. Fi- 
nally, if we start from the identification of Q and "Q is false," i.e., Q and 
non-Q, we must not wonder that we come to contradictions. And we have 
no rigjht to incriminate the rules of classical logic. 


41 • 

«V^^ We must now tum to another attempt — ^that of Professor A. P. Ushenko 
< — to improve the presentation of the Liar and thus to vindicate its legit- 
imacy. In bis article, "A New Epünenides"^ Professor Ushenko writes: 

All propofitioiu written within 
the reotangle of Fig. 1 are falte. 

Fif. 1 

Fig. 2 

The Liar 


» Gr. A. P. Uohenko, "A New EpiaoABidet," Mind, 1037, p. 646 ff. 

"Let the expression within the rectangle of Fig. 1 be called A. Either 
A is a proposition, or not. Suppose A is a proposition, then either it is 
true or false. But if A is true, then it cannot be dealing with any other 
proposition than itself (since there are no others withm the rectangle), 
and therefore it is false. But if it is false, then the only proposition within 
the rectangle, viz. A, is true. Now this a vicious circle, and the famiUar 
resolution would be to the effect that A is meaningless and only appears 
to be a significant proposition. 

"But then, if A is not a proposition, there are no propositions within the 
rectangle at all. The Statement It is false that ther6 are propositions 
within the rectangle of Fig. 1' is true. But if it is true, then the Statement 
"It is false that there are true propositions within the rectangle of Fig. 1" 
is also true. But this Statement is the same as A, since, "'^ (3x) -fx • '^gx" 
is the same as "(x) -fxgx." Hence, if A is not a proposition, A is true; but 
since nothing but a proposition can be true, if A is not a proposition, then 
A is a proposition. A vicious circle reappears." 

Professor Ushenko's presentation of his analysis is interesting and in- 
genious. Alas, again, it seems to show that symboHzation does not bring 
forth, necessarily, more clarity and precision in our thinking. 

Indeed, from the fact (or proposition) that there are no propositions 
written in the rectangle 1, Professor Ushenko deduces (rightly) that "It 
is false that there are true propositions within the rectangle of Fig. 1;" 
and therefrom, with the aid of symboHsation, he deduces that "All proposi- 
tions written within the rectangle of Fig. 1 are false." It is rather stränge 
that Professor Ushenko does not notice that from the fact that there are no 
propositions within the rectangle 1, we can deduce, just as rightly, that 
"There are within the rectangle 1 no false propositions," and, therefore, 
that "It is false there are no false propositions within the rectangle of Fig. 
1," which, according to him, would imply that "All propositions written 
within the rectangle of Fig. 1 are true. We would, then, have the super- 
paradox of being able to deduce two obviously incompatible Statements 

from a Single, and true proposition But if this reasoning were to be 

accepted as correct, then, from the fact that no numbers are written within 
the Said rectangle and that, therefore, no even (or odd) number is written 
within it, we would be able to deduce that all numbers written in the 
rectangle are odd, or even, and, therefore, odd and even in the same time 
and so forth. We would be able to deduce a great many interesting things. 
It is even possible that from the fact that no cat has two tails we would be 
able to deduce that all cats have three 

Professor Ushenko, as a matter of fact, forgets to take into account 
the existential purport of his Statements. He does not seön to notice 
that the existence, or the non-existenoe of the object we are speakmg about 




w .w. 

Philosophy and Phenomenological Reseabch 

(or: the subject of a propositiön) does make a diflference and that positive 
judgments about non-existent objects are all fahe, It is, therefore, not 
tnie, but false that all propositions written etc. are false; and it is just as 
false that they are true. 

' Professor Ushenko continues: "Observe that with reference to Fig. 2 
the Statement There are no true propositions within the rectangle of Fig. 
2' will be recognized as a true propositiön precisely because there are no 
propositions within the rectangle of Fig. 2. But the meaning of this propo- 
sitiön has no reference to, ^d therefore, should not depend on, the place 
or date of its formulation. If it is meaningful and true as written above, 
it should not cease to be true and meaningful when one chooses to write 
it within the rectangle of Fig. 2." Here too we are forced to disagree with 
him. The meaning of a propositiön, even if it has no explicit reference to a 
date or place, depends quite often on the place and date of its formulation 
because it refers to them implicitly. We have already seen that some verbs 
cannot be used in the present tense, some others not even in the past one. 
There are things that I can say about "you," or "he," but not about "I," 
terms such as "this," "heTe," "now," etc. cannot be understood without a 
reference to date and place. Besides, if we admit Professor Ushenko's 
contention that the meaning — and the truth — of .the propositiön "There 
are no propositions within the rectangle 2" does not change, and wiU not 
cease to be meaningful and true if we write it within the rectangle 2, we 
must admit that, even if we do so, there still will be no propositions written 
within the said rectangle. ... 


** I shall not study the Richard paradox which is perfectly analogous, nor the 
paradox of the barber, etc. Cf. my ''Ensemble and Category,'' to be published in 
this Journal. 

**Cf. Jörgensen, III, 132 sq. Cf. Russell-Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, 
Vol. I, p.63. 

Let US examine now another famous "antimony," that of Berry.** I 
must confess that, for my part, I cannot admit of its being anything but a 
pure and simple sophism, built according to one of the classical modes of 
sophism, which consists in taking as dictum simpliciter something which 
is only dictum secundum quid, 

The Berry paradox is formed in the following manner:** "The number of 
syllables in the English names of finite integers tend to increase as the 
integers grow larger and must gradually increase indefinitely, since only a 
finite nimiber of names can be made with a finite number of syllables. 
Hence the names of some integers must consist of at least nineteen syl- 

The Liar 


lables and among these there must be a least. Hence *the least integer 
not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables' must denote a definite 
integer; iii fact 111 777.** "One hun/dred and el/ev/en thou/sand se/ven 
hun dred and se/ven ty se/ven" (19 syllables) is "the least integer not 
nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables" (18 syllables). But 'the least 
integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables' can be named in 
eighteen syllables, which is a contradiction." Undoubtedly. And yet 
it is doubtful if the existence of this "contradiction" entitles us to proclaim 
the doom of classical logic and the imperious necessity to reform it. The 
contradiction, as a matter of fact, could be avoided on less onerous terms. 
Thus, for instance, we could, in the first of the two expressions or "names," 
drop the two "ands", obviously superfluous. We would, in this way, 
save two syllables and the contradiction would disappear. But I shall 
not insist. That would be too cruel. 

As for the "paradox" itself, it seems rather obvious that its existence is 
based entirely on an equivocation, or still worse, on a complete lack of 
precision and even of determinatiön in the use of the term"nameable." 
Nameable how? In what language? By what means? As long as this 
is not told, nothing is told. 

It is evident that there would be no contradiction (and even nothing 
unusual) in the fact that a number "nameable" in 19 syllables in English 
could be "named" in 15 syllables in French and in only two in Chinese. 

Even if we were told that "to name" means to name in English and in 
words, this specification would not give to the term "to name" ä precision 
permitting an unambiguous use. It is clear that the reader of Berry com- 
pletes* involuntarily and imconsciously his lax and unprecise expression. 
He believes that we have to deal with proper or common "names" of the 
numbers and, therefore, he accepts his method of Classification. It is 
quite certain that the "proper names" of the numbers (of which every 
number has one and only one) can be ordered according to their length 
(in syllables or even in letters). But it is at the same time just as certain 
that this Classification appHes only to "names" properly so-called. There 
is therefore nothing paradoxical nor even astonishing in the fact that a 
given number whose "proper name" contains n syllables can at the same 
time be designated by an expression which is no "name" and which con- 
tains a different, larger or smaller, number of syllables. 

Now this is just what Berry is doing. He Starts by classifying the 
(proper) "names" of the integers, thus creating in the mind of the reader 
the — ^false — ^impression that the term "to name" is used by him in a certain 
determined and univocal sense. Then, suddenly and without waming, 
he changes the meaning of the term and extends it to any kind of designa- 
tion. No wonder that this ambiguous use of the term produoes an ap- 
pearance of contradicticm. 



■. '-f-i. 


I > 

i , 

,M':; ^•■ 



Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 

The objection will probably be raised that my Solution is much too easy 
and too simple, and that the paradox arises from the fact that Berry uses 
for "naming" the numbers the Classification itself that he is establishing.^« 
This, of course, is quite particularly objectionable and sophistic; yet, in 
my opinion, this is not the decisive point. 

The paradox arises from the fact that Berry uses the term "to name" 
in two quite different acceptations: the first time in the very precise sense 
of "to name by a proper name," because otherwise he would not be able to 
establish his Classification of mtegers; and a secondnbune in the perfectly 
general and mdetermined meaning of '*to denote by whatever means," 
because otherwise he would not be able to claim that he has "named" the 
number 111,777 by denoting it by the means of the Classification of "proper 

names." i 

Let US repeat once more : to say, "to name," "to denote," "to determine" 
without saying how and by what means is to say rwthing whskver, because 
in this case all and everything can be "named" or "denoted." Indeed, 
if in Order to "name" a number we are entitled to denote it "by whatever 
means," by the means of its "proper name" as well as by any other means, 
for instance afi the n**» prime number, or as the n**» power of m, or as the 
sum, quotient, product or difference of m and n, or even afi the number of 
Verses, syllables or letters of the Bible, the Iliad or the Koran, etc., etc., 
etc., the Classification proposed by Berry would become, obviously, im- 
possible. To the question: is it possible, or not, to "name" a oertain num- 
ber in less than n syllables, it woujd be impossible to give a determinate 
answer because the question would have no determinate meaning. And 
if, furthermore, in the process of "naming," we gave ourselves the right 
to create new "names" new manners and pattems of "naming," the very 
idea of such a Classification would lose any meaning whatever. 

In Order that it may have one, in order that the question, "Is it or is it 
not possible?" may be answered by a "yes" or a "no," it is first of all neces-, 
sary to give a precise meaning to the terms we are using, to determine the 
means we are entitled to employ for the "nammg." Then, our classifica- 

MB. Russell, Principia Mathemaiica, I, pp. 66 f., proposes a Solution based od 
the theory of types (c/. above, p. 362): "6. The paradox about 'the least iiiteg;er 
not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables embodies, as is at once obvious, a 
vicious circle fallacy. For the word "nameable" refers to the totality of names, 
and yet is allowed to occur in what professes to be one among names. Hence there 
can be no such thing as a totality of names, in the sense in which the paradox speaks . 
of "names." It is easy to see that in virtue of the hierarchy of functions, the tjieory 
of types renders a totality of names impossible. But on no stage can we give a 
meaning to the vord "nameable" unless we specify the order of names to be em- 
ployed; and any name in which the phrase "nameable by names of order n occurs is 
necessarily of a higher order than the n^. Thus the paradox disappears." 


The Liab 


tion having been established, nothing Stands in the way of our using it as a 
new means of denoting, a new means which is added, to or substituted for, 
the previously employed means. The fact that sotae Operations, impos- 
sible to execute as long as we are employing the means N become easily 
executable if we add to them a new one, the N -f- 1, involves" no contradic- 
tion. Thus, a problem, insoluble as long as we use only the rule and the 
compass, may quite easily be solved with the aid of conic sections. 

Berry's paradox is the result of an equivocation and imprecision in the 
use of the term "to name." If , on the contrary, we specify it eyery time 
that it is employed, we shall fiind ourselves before the following Statements: 
let US make a Classification of integers according to the length (in syllables) 
of their "proper names." Among those, the "proper names" of which have 
at least 19 syllables, there is at least one. This mteger is 111,777. We 
can also denote or name it as: the least integer whose "proper name" has 
at least 19 syllables. It is obvious that this last expression is not a "proper 
name" and, therefore, irrespective of the number of syllables, of which it is 
composed, it cannot be compared with the first one. Thus no contradiction 
whatever can possibly result from the fact that an expression of the second 
type may be shorter than that of the first one. 

To deny it, and to pretend that we are confronted with a paradox would 
be the same as to pretend that there is a paradox (or a contradiction) in the 
fact that, having classified the books in our library according to the length 
of their titles (in words), we can denote or "name" a certain volume by the 
expression: "the first volume (or the smallest, or the largest) the title of 
which has at least a hundred words." 

Let US now retum to the Ejnmenides. In our analysis of the assertion 
"All Cretans are liars," we have found and submitted that this assertion 
(in contradistmctionto the "I am lying") is meaningful but self-destructive. 
We have made a distinction, that is to say, between the cases in which, on 
the one band, a proposition pretends to reflect directly upon itself, i.e , to 
be its own subject; and, pn the other band, the differently constituted 
sentence which formulates or expresses a general or universal proposition 
that can be applied to itself as a particular. 

It is the failure to distmguish these two cases that is at the root of Rus- 
sell's theory of types; and also of the corresponding semantic theories of 
Camap and Tarski of a hierarchy of languages aiid meta-languages. 

The distinction which I have made, a distinction which is nothing eise 


t I 


,> ^ " 


'^V^ .'■•;j ■;.■,,<- :^^ r'ii^; 

■i:: .■'?""". ^■■. '<■: 

. \'f4 



^-•: • "v^ ■•■■ , ?.-» '- 


Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 

but HusserPs distinction between nonsense and counter-sense," enables 
US to avoid all these painful consequences, to subject logic to its own rules, 
to count numbers, and to write the grammar of a given language in this 
language itself. 

As I will show in a later publication," this distinction, which, by the way, 
is indispensable for the possibility of the theory öf types itself— in order 
that it should not rule itself out— leads us to the resolute abandonment of 
.the extentionalist (class extension) interpretatioii of lögic, and by way of 
consequence to a Solution of all the logico-mathematical paradoxes dis- 
covered by and since Bertrand Russell. 

Sorbonne, Paris. 

«T **Un8inn** and "Widersinn." Cf. E. Husserl, Logische Untersuchungen, Vol. I, 
pp. 112 £f.; Marvin Farber, The Foundation of Phenomenology, pp. 120 ff.; 324 ff., 
Cambridge (March), 1943. 

«» "Ensemble and Category."- 

^,- :■'.': .■- '■':> 







.y.'-:-> ■",' 

■ •! -|V 



THE NE3 MIDOLE 0LÄ3S : N,' ^-^^^ 
(Der Neue Mittelstand) Yy^;(:§^; 

Grundrjgs der Sozialokonomlk :£^^ 
IX# Abteilung, I, Teil, Tubingen 1926' -U. 

f T* * 'P - ^ ■'■';;■"■ 

Transieted by 


♦ ♦ 




NSW YORK 1957 

"Pübliahed by the State Department of Social \^elfare and 
the Department of Social Science, Columbia University, 
as a report on Project No. 165^97-^ 999-6027 conducted 
under the auapices of the ^Vorks Progre es Administration»" 


■,, \. 


' >■';/(, 




1. *,'.'■ 




The follüwing trmxslation of «The NeiLlüddle Ol&sa'» by 
Drs. Lederer and torschak ia a sequel to, and an amplification of,. the 
...former's previous investigation "The Problem of the Modem White-Collar 
li-llwoi^ Statistical Basis" which forma part of a 

larger work entitled "White Collar Workers in Modem Economic Development» 
'■^■f^Both this trän slation and thot of the earlier analyais, ahortly to appear, 
|::^i^tPSdke^ a^ in Engliah two monographa which come in the firat rank of 

5^ /- t^^ Studios of ^White collar Yorkers" to which thia project le 

^ moinly devoted» , ^ '^^ 

... . ." ' ' • *" ■>'*■•''>- ■/.■■'■', '"'' '"' ' 

The authora uae the concopt "the new middlc cIgsb" in 


-•'■^ ,.. . .'-r 

critical and inductivo fcahion to chnrcoterize tho chcnging statuo cnd 
oocio-cconomic cligimcnts of both public cnd private aclaricd cmployocs. 
Thcy doocribe tho prinoipal trcnd in thia bror.d clc.aa r.a the rcplcocmcnt 
of both ita prcwnr ideological idcntificotion with the "old middlo cIdss" 
of employcrs, indcpondonts, etc., rnd of o bclicf in ita ecparatencaa er 
»pcculiar poaition" by c growing poatnar allionco with orgc.nizod labor. 
Thia dovolopmont followcd from the impact of oconomic criaoa c.nd ouotainod 
inaocurity cnd of tho colloctivc action of cmployara. Both hiatoricnl cnd 
statiatical matorial crc offorcd in oubatcntiatlon of thia intcroating thooia. 

Thia trcnslntion haa boen implcmontcd by tho Worko Progros« 
idifnistration whooo conotant Cooperation ia gratofUlly cicknowlodgod. 

Tho Publishing houoo of J. 0. B. Mohr (Ptul Siobcok)^ 
Tubingoii, hao boon kind cnou^ to conaont to tho publicfttion of thlo 
monograph in Englioh« 




NEW YORK 1957i 






1. DEFINITiav • :^-^.:'r ^ 


a. Private Employeea . . . • • • • • ; ♦^^ cf^^ 

__^__„ b. Public Servants . . . ^ ^ ^ , , :>;;;:: •^..-^^ ♦;-:,> 10 


a, Salaried Employees . t . • . • • • v .♦ -. ^5 

b. Civil Servants i^^* • • • -^7 


a. Salaried Enployeüs .••'••• • • • • ^J- 

b. The Social Policy of Civil Servants . ... 51 




6. SUMMARY * v^: : * 



4 . J- 







The oollective term "new middle olasa" goes back in ite 
origin to prewar days. It purporta to desigiato a largo number of 
wholly diatinct occupational groups with q catciiworä, whioh at the 
sanfc timo suggesta d theory of higtorical devolopmant. This thoory 
maintains thr.t ccpitc.liam by rocson of ita iiihorent tendsncica irre- 
sistibly leads to c ooncontration of coÄiorcitl nnd industricl ontor- 
priaca cnd, conacqucntly, to a decrccso in the nuinbcr of indcpondent 
buaincoo mon, aa well aa to the diaintcgrction of the old middlo 
olaao r.nd ita loss of importancc; it r.lao mr.intc.ina thr.t tho oxiot- 
encc of c rr.pidly growing olrao of dcponäant workcro, T^hich containa 
no mcnucl workcro, die cka the apror.d of prolctrrizction rxid acta ao 
c buffer bctviocn c.-.pitnliom cnd labor. ThSa nev7 clasa ia clao oup- 
poood to trko ovcr certrin aocirl functiona v»hich the "old middle 
claoD« in no longcr rblc to fulfill,' bocnuac " lacka tho ncccoaary 
numcricr.l atrongth ^nd to somc oxtont c:lao th. rcquisito aocic.l and 
cultural qur.lificr.tions. Tho hypothoaia, too, callo mora or Icoo for 
c oooparrtionbot^ccnäc old rnd ^ctiöw middle claao. Furthormoro, 

■ l.lll.i p ^l^tMw ^" 

it ia tho exproaoion of an optimiatic attitudc vJhich tf-kca, aa a 
matter of couroc, the bridging ovor of claaa contraato ond tho balan- 
cing of clcoD intcrcato. Thio attitudc waa co otrongly ontrcnchod ihat 
ita adhcrcnta, complotely fciling to cppreoiatc the exiating conditiono 
of political po^er, cxpectcd the "ne^ middle claaa- to plcy the rolc of 

^or lack of apaoo, our account of tho «nc« middle claaa« hao of noccoaity 
Seen limited 1; eaaentiala. Thereforo, hiatorical f Pj-^Ji«"^' "^^^^^ 
'ould bc copcoirlly r.pproprirte in our diacuoaion of tho civil acrvanto, 

havc boon cntircly omittod« 





social mediator betweon capit^^ and labor in industricl diaputee 
and to help in furtherintr the principles of industricl doiaocracy« 
Accordingly, thc "now middle class* was to put cn end to tho 
instability of tho social systcm and to stron^hen thc inner co- 
hosion bctwcon thc clr.ssos. These hopcs, hcrc skotchily indicatcd^ 
üh'ich wcrc pinncd on thc ''ncv? läi'ddlö cldös,* worc occasioncilly ao 
intcrprotcd by tho entreproncurs thcit tho "new middle claas" was 
callGd upon to cbsorb thc uppcr Irycrs of thc workcrs; thus, mcrged 
^7ith tho lattcr socir.lly, it ivould bo in a position to act ao tho 
economic rnd social vanguard of thc Proletariat and ap thc connccting . 

link bctwecn the Proletariat and thc other social classes» Such idoas 
arc inhcrcnt in all thcories of social oolidarity; the"ncw middle claso" 
was suppoocd to mitigato thc conflict betncen capital and labor, botr/cen 
cmploycr ^nd cmployoc, nhich might imperil the existing economic order« 
The advocates of social solidarity must be particularly sensitive to those 
tendencies which help to span the gulf of social inequalities. No doubt, 
such tendencies toward equalization are to be found in the capitalistic 

T _ . ■' * .. 

econoray; but the question is whether the "ne\7 middle class" can be ra- 
gardcd and construod as a real factor in thc dovelopment of social 

solidarity« /'•''- ^''^■■■'^ ')' '''^-^ 'y--\- y-^^. .,.:. 

The term "new middle class" and the dofinitions applied to 

it must, perforcq be rejcctad by all thoso who scc in capitalism an 

unavoidable inten sification of class contrcsts and oxpect from such 

a hei^toning of contrasts the ultimatc swocping chango in the con- 

ditions of production rnd politicr.l power« Tliis group, voicing 

socialistic doctrinos, spcoks of the "now middle class" nimply as 

part of thc Proletariat, oftcn rcfcrring to it aa "white collar 



Proletariat" ( Stehkragen Proletariat )» Its interests, the group Claims, 
are thoröu^ly identical with thosa of the Proletariat and its eventual 
Union with the general proletarian movement, both in its political and 
associational policies, would follow as a matter of course. Ihe white 
collar proletarian is primarily identified with the rank and file of the 
sQlaried employees and of the civil 36 rvarits, while a thin upper layer 
from these strata is aocially assigned to the class of entrepreneura. 

It is only natural that whenever an (ittempt is made to de- 
fine and oxplcin this rising group as c.n indepcndent phßnomcnoii, jits 
characterization should be detormined by the interests of the exist- 



historicr.l classes. ThG peculiar position of the "ncw middlo 
class" which ccmnot be rcgarded as an isolated social Stratum, but 
rather as cn intermodiate position bctwoon othcr classos of a woll- 
ostabliohed socic.l cnd economic status, has madc it extraordinarily 
difficult to devclop in the so ncw strata a uniform charactor r.nd a 
common consciousness. For it is but natural that the ontire group 
of occupations which made up the "new middle class" should be judged 
according to the viewpoint of the individual observer and the inter- 
ests of the various classes; that is to say, on the basis of such of 
its component parts as might serve to prova this or that interpre- 
tation» But perhaps of still greater iraportance are the attempts of 
the old historical classes to influence the active policy of the "new 
middle class." Accordingly, we find that within the "new middle class" 
specific groups follow a policy which corresponds to one or the other 
of the above-mentioned fundamcntally different concepts. In addition, 
there is a third school v/hich seeks to explain the peculiar position 
of the omployeüs "botwocn the classes" as well as its postulatos aa 






indcpcndcnt of tho organizations and tho idealistic and material- 
istic idoologios of the ontroprcnour and tho labor classoB» Tho 
proponents of thip theory regard tho "now middle claos/ porticulr.rly 
thc private omployeos, es c group aui genorig. r.nd otrivo to emcjicipata 
it f rom tho policioa of thc othor claaoes» ; ^ ^^^^^::^;^^^^^^^ 

Although thorc is unonimity in rogard to the "new middlo 
class" as acparatc from thc othor cXassos, novcrtholoso, it is dif- 
ficult to doviGO r. univeracl critcrion aa to the group a that belong 
to it, Ordinarily, the now middle cltao io idcntificd with tho 
salariod cmploycoa rnd tho civil acrvcnta, But it ia extrcmoly dif- 

ficult to or-y which of tho "gainfully employod" are to bo conaidored 
aa aalaried employeea and civil aervanta. The definition given by 
social Insurance legialationre CO gnizing brain work aa the deciaive 
characteriatic of theae two groupa cannot be accepted, since the new 
middle claaa," i.e., the claas of aalaried employeea and civil aervanta, 
ine lüde anumericallyiinportanioccupation groupa, whoae activity ia not 
mental but ^vhich in reapect" to their qualificationa are claased below 
that of akilled labor. In the caae of public employeea and officiala, 
the line of demarcation is indicated by their official doaignation and 
"legal Status. As regards ac.laried employeea, it can only bo aaid that 
their activity ia e i the r pure ly mcnucl, likGj:'^^'^ o" ^^^^ laborer, 
excopt that a ccrtain mental performr.noc atampa the occupation with a 
apecial character (tochnical employeea), or their activity is not at 
all mental and haa nothing to do i7ith production but only with dia- 
tribution (commcrcial employeea). Theae are the borderline typce of 
thc group. Within, wo find the purely mental activity of the hi^icr 
official in induatry r.nd commerce; outaide ia tho eaaentially manual 




work of the laboror« Jn amclgamation of thoso hi^ly hotcrogonoou» 
groups ccnnot, thcn| bo basod upon soxne technicr.l or economic function 
common to all of thcm, but rather upon thcir common socicl poaition* 
Still, thc critcrion of this aocitl Position is onything but positive, 
Tho fact thQt tho position of tho "new middlc cIdsb" io an intormcdicwto 
onc betwoon tho clasoca mr.kea tho critorion rathcr q negative one. 
Although ito pooition betwoen tho claooos is recogiizod as 

The IcgGl dcfinition of tho term "sr.lariod employec" wj^s attempted 
in thc EmployoGo' Insurmco Act (VeroicherungsgOGctz für Angeate^lto; 
of 1911 p.nd Diso, rccently in tho Works Councils Act (Botriobajfratoge- 
setz) of 1920. In soction one, Paragrap h one of the formor, the folf 
lowing groupo aro copccially mcntioned; 

1. Employoca in oxecutive positions, whon oich activity 
is thcir chiaf occupation» 

2. Factory officialo, foromcn , and othcr employeos in 
a Gimilar high position, rogardlooo of their train- 
ing; offico cmployoes who are not occupied v/ith small 
or routinc tasks and when such activity is thcir chief 
obc?upation« \:':y\-::t:rr-:::-:'(-\''.:: - 

5« Commercial clcrko :^nd drug Clerks. : -;: V- 

4. Muoicians and actoro, rogardloso of tho artiotic mcrit 
of their Performances. 

5. Tcachcro and cducatoro. :. . v--^^;- 



Captaino, dock officero, engincers of Gorman soa-going 
vosoels rnd of craft engaged in Inland navigation; also 
purocra r.nd their assiatr-nts and other membero of the 
crcws vtho are likowiac ongagod in oomc high capacity, 
rdthout rogard to thcir training, and when such activity 
conatitutos their chief occupation. 

On tho othcr hand, the Works Councils Act, acction twclvo, extenda tho 
lowor limito of the aalaried omployooa by taking in alao tho oi^pce 
omployooa in the lowcr grade a rnd apprcnticoa, while it restricto ito 
Upper limito by cxcluding "buDinoos managoro and dcpartmont hcads who 
S? ompowered to hire or diacharg« other employcoo in thoir buaineaa 
or in onc of ito divisiono and upon whom partir.l or fVill power of 
attomoy ia confcrrod." 


t' :■: 



tho oooirl oritorion of thc «novj middlc claoo," otiU the aocir.l 
pooitlon of ito conotltuont groupo io,iwt uniform. Indood, it io 
aa varicblo aa In thcothcrclaboso vfllich likcvjlac oxhibit con- 
oidcrrblc latcrcl oxtcnBions the entrepreneur claas taksa In the 
small manufaoturer and the oommercial entrepreneur, as well as 
the induBtrial magnate.' Äe laborere« claae includes the 

unskilled proletariane of the lowegl etrata (lum2en£roletarier), 
low-pcdd and unskilled femle wage •earners, as wall as the skilled, 
regulär ly employed and viell-paid innle v;ß|o-er.mere. 3ut the 

■ - 

- employees« group has c particularly broad rcnge , rind it crn ba 

oomprehendcd as an ontity only in contrf.distinotion to the other 
clc-.aaes. Within it the differanoes botwecn the vc.rioua 
aubgroups; still, it mr.y bo asaorted thct thcrc ia hr.rdly another 
accir.l strr.tun oomposed of so many hetcrogencoua Clements, which, 
inaofcr rs coEunon intcroatn concomod, proaontg auch r. rclatively 
unitod front r.a that ahorm by the Br.laried eiaployoca r.nd civil 
acrvanto» • ; ' ''■'■■■' "'iv;- ■•.:-.'•:: 

Tlic laanifold and complcx oc.uacs which account for the riso 
and grov/th of tho «acw niddlo claaa" (salrricd employcca a^d civil . 
acrvants) in the last fcw docadca mifht, rbove all, bc r-.acribcd to 

• ■ 

gcncrr.l economic dovclopmant, and, in the caac of civil acrvants, 
also to ccrtain changco in tho atatc and ita f\inction3. 

a* Private Smploycoa 
The intimato rolation bctTvocn oconomic cvolution and tho 




growth of thG claoo of salaricd cmployoos is boot illuotratcd 
by tho caao of thc tGchnioal employaoo. The tcchnical employQO 
wao knov/n neithcr to tho handicrafts nor to induotry in its 
infancy« For thc magtor craftaiaan of old, aa thc independant 
proprictor of a manufactory, wao totally diffcrcnt from tho , ^ - 
tcclinical ofx*icial of today^o manunoth concern» Tlicae modern 
induotrial conccrns have deviaed a wholc oupcr-otructurc or 
mechanism, of which the- technical omployoe must form v.n intogrcil 
part. Thio inGchanioTr. rcmovos r.nd drav/s in rll poaEsible brain rnd 
routinc work from the ahop; cverything io ccintored in the plcinning 


cxid Icvine-out dcpr-rtmcnt. In thicj oyotematized buaineoo, the 
technicrl employcco plry rn importrnt role, c.nd will play v.n in« 
crcasin^.ly importr.nt rolc thc more big busineoc amall 
undortrkingo, At thc same timo, nith the growth of thc induotrial 
cntcrprioe, thc iniividual rol'^ of the tochnicrl oniploycc tendü to 
becoma Iooq importrnt, for cio cm individual he is eaoily rcplticed. 
Thuo, the rioc of big buaineos hao crcr.tcd the technicrl eraployoe 
of todry r.nd put him in a diotinct category. It hro rloo brou^t 
into oxiotence r rr.pidly growing clroü of clerical cmployoGo who 
uork in fr?.ctory officco r.nd v/hooe nunbero r.t thc prcoent time in- 
crct.oe c.ll thc morc, rc.pidly c.o thc introduction of Ancricrn buoincoo 
methodo requirco o. minuto coot-rxcounting oystüm r.nd, in conscquenco, 
r Irrgc peroonncl. Tlieoc clerical employcco of induotry c.rc no longer 
in touch with the individual technicrl aopccts of tho buoineoo. Tlioy 
typify, pcrhrpo better thr.n cny othcr group, tho prcoent-day employcc, 
who, in hio narticulr.r function, hao lost c.ll contoct v/ith the proccoo 
of Droduction ao r. wholc» 






F Äo in tho OQoo of the tcohnicrl and clorical omployoea 
of induatry/ tho rcpid incrcciac in tho numbor of cloriccJ cmployoos 
muot Xikcv/ioc bo attributcd ~ although looo directly — to economic 
cvolution and tho trr.nafornr.tion of buoincsfi« The salcricd omployoo 
hc3 lon^: bcon Imov/n to tho iKrgo po v/cll qo to thc omr.ll buainooo« 
Trade io thc apccirl of tho cmployce« All tho oo cmploycd in 
it, ovan in pcoitiono whorc no mcntrJ uork ia roquircd, cxq kno\7n cq 
oalaricd crnploycco rnd not v/ago •carncra. Tliorcforc, thc tranoforciGtion 
of buoincoo did not proparc tho ground for tho clcrical craployccr , but 
only causcd thcir numbcrs to be greatly augmcntod. This increase was 
far morc rapid than that of tho indopendonts ongagod in commerce, whilo 
in thc modern largo commcrcial concorns it made poesible an extensive 
division of v/ork aiid thc cmpioyment of persons without special training. 

The 7/ar and thc revolution gavc a trcncndous inpetus to tho 
growth of the salaricd onployoes* class* Tlie conscription of all mcn 
Qblc to bcar arms, and the rush of war ordors, couplcd with the aimul- 
tancous aggravation of tho gcnoral economic Situation, causod the 
emergcncc of nev/ groups of gainfully cmployed, in thc majority of women. 
Whcthcr thesc groupa bolongcd to thc "old middlo class" or camc from 
families of salaried emplcyees and public functionaries, they took 
such positions in the econoray as were best suited to their education 
and social background« In othar words, they exercised ths functions 
of salaried employees. Tlie appearance of these new groups was inten- 
sified by the fact that the transformation of the national economy, 
in response to war needs, had greatly fostered the above-mentioned 




tendenciea which favored the growth of this claas of amployoosj 
for war oconomy moons thc gxpeunsion of big busincss, as well aa 
cxtonaive "orgcnization," or burcaucratization, which multiples 
thc functiona of the aalaricd cmpioyee. But noithor thc tcrmin- 
ation of thc v/ar and the demobilization of the army, nor the 
abandonmcnt of tlic war cconoiny reoatcblished thc aocial atrati- 
fication of thc prcwar poriod. In thc first place, the tendenciea 
of induotrialization rnd of orgrnization, cvcn though the latter 
Y/ae now to bc found not in the exigcnciea of ti atate engagcd in a 
war but in big private corporationo, wcrc not checkcdt Sccondly, 

thc diaintcgration of the "old middlc" waa accelcrated at an 
unprccedcntod pace in consequence of the nonctary devnluation r.nd 
thc ^^iping out of private fortunea« As a reault, thoac v/ho had becn 
reduccd to dcpendencc turned nov; to thc aocir.lly kindred ocoupr.tiona 
of thc ealaried cmpioyce, although these, too, shoned a eterdy detor- 
ioration of thc ir economic atatuo and an approximation to (if not on 
r.ctual drop belou) thc living atandarda of thc wagc-'cr.rnera. On the 
othcr hand, conoidcration of claoa r.nd tradition turned thc young 
gcncration av/ay from poesiblo tranafcrencc to rarjiual occupations. One 
_iaujt cdtoit thatAhiG hypcrtrophy of cmployeea is bound to Icad to a 

reaction undcr thc preaaurc of unfavorable conditiona of thc labor 

1 .. .- . 

market. Pr.rticularly, monctary atabilization muat effect a atringent 


Eapcci«:^.lly commercial and office cmploycea ouffer from an ovcr- 
crov/ding of -their occupation. Thua, in 19^1 thc comiuercial 
occupationo, in compariaon r/ich othcr buGincoa indexea v.hich 
roco'rdcd a oatiafactory economic pooition, chov/ed one of the 
moat unfavorable conditiono of the labor marketjthhrc were 
519 male rnd IÖ5 apolicmto for overy 100 r.vailablc 
pocitiona. The tcchnical omploycoa, thrjika to thc requirencnto 
of r apocializcd training, havc f arcd bcttcr. 





roduction of pcroonnel in thc ovcratoffed commorciftl rnd induo- 
tricl cntcrpriscs cnd, cspccirlly, in bcnko. Still, incomuch cd 
tha nunbor of the "ncw middlu olr.oo" will rcmain thc ormc, thc 
conposition of the body aocirl nill bc conplctcly c^ht^ngcd ao coor 
parod nith thc prencr period. ■ ■; v : >:^-' -■^^. • ''^ 

b. Publ 

ic vtn/f«"^ 


The numbar of public aervants in the last decades ahows 
an extraordinary increaae due, in'the firs^ place, to the high tempo 
of the development of the industrial atate and their grov/ing f\,nctiona 
vxhich require a large staff of govemmen t gffl^lo yeea. Tiieae last were^ 
bound to increase faater than the population, preciaely becauae in- 
duatrialization and changes in the geographical diatribution of the 
Population of neceaaity imAltiplied the taaka of the varioua governmental 
agoncies. Not only tho internal adminiatration propar, but alao the Ad- 
ministration of juaticG has witneascd cn cnormous exp-nsion of ita ccl- 
cndar, whilo thc functions of the civil aorvioc hcvc becomo incrccisingly 
complox. ThiB ia also truc, if not m^e truc, of tho c.dminiatration of 
Bunicipcl govcmncnta. Furthermorc, both cnd municipclitiea hc^ve 
cxtcndcd thcir activities by opcratinFoort^in induatrirl ontcrpriaca 
"(chiefly in trcnaportr.tion) undcr dircct managcment. These tcndencics 
towards nmicipnlization rnd nationnlizati^h|rvc brought into bcing 
Icgiono of public scrvrntn, «hich, proporly apcc.king, r.rc rnother con- 
ocqucnco of thc orpitalistic aystom cnd of tho industrializction of thc 

nr.tion'l acononör» 

Thc War stimulnted thc sc tcndencics vory conoidcrrbly. Thc 

.^- fcr-rcaching atatc rcgulrtion of nrtionf^l production nnd diatribution. 






tho eystenatio Organization of the state on a «war econo^ basis, 
added new functiona 'to the machinery of administration. In ad- 
dition, there was a large expanaicm of the manifold funotions ^ioh 
the modern «service state" perf orias., To be eure, in the yeara after 
the War a reaction set in against the "emergenoy economy" and 
"statiaia." In Germany and elseivhere, a " retrenchment of the army 
of civil servanta" and a definite return to private life of public 
servnnts waa urged Dnd, pcrtly, carried out. But thia does not 
me£n that there «es c retum tci prowai^ conditions. The f aat absorption 
di.ring the War of former indepsndentabythe^lar ge r.nd complex economic 

orgrnizctions could not bo undone. Moreover, it should be noticed 
that it is becoffiing increaaingly diffioult to drew, from the aocio- 
logical stnndpoint, thou^ not from the legal standpoint, the line 
of demarcation botwoon "civil aorvant" and "aalaried om?loyee." For, 
on the onc hand, the relationahip bctncon the sr.laried employec and 
the impcraonai, compl^'buainosa Organization a, which in many caaoa 
extend over generations and arrogatc to themaolvea the poaition of 
public corporationa aa to power and jurpcae, aoproximatos that of the 
civil acrvant; on tha othcr hand, the relr.tion of the public acrvant 
to the atato haa chr.nged. The public aervant doea not exhibit the 
acmc loyalty towarda the atate aa of old,;Jhe grip of the atate'a 
authority over the civil aorvant hns relaxed and a oontractual re- 
lationahip ia aought inatead of one of public law. The convcrgence 
of theae two groupa of the "new middle claaa« (which before the War 
alrecdy followed in the wake of a rapid incrcaae of cmploycco in 

■'.'' -v ■ 


"incidentcllv. thcac demanda formod an important part of the 
economic progrrjn of Italien faaciam, but thoy alao characterizc 
the policy of othcr countries In timoo of economic elacknoas 
cnd othcr aooio-political inatability. 

.«•■ « ■/ 



otato-operatod enterpriaea in contraet to the officials exor- 
cising functions of the sövereign atate) explains why the retum 
to private life of many public aervanta and the contracting of 
the atate ^a ränge of activity cannot serioualy affect the aocial 
atratification in f avor of the "new middle olaas". which v/aa produced 


during and after the War« : ^ Ü : v: i 

The geueral economic developmenta accounted not only for 
the tremendoua increaae of employesa and civil aervanta, but alao 
for a qualitative change in the aocial composition of both of theae 
groupa, büfore aa well aa after the War. New typoa of undertakinga 
cnd atcte functiona p/ppearcd r.nd, aimultaneoualy v/ith them, new 
categorics of craploycea nnd civil aorvc.nta, whoac poaition differod 
in nir.ny raapccta f roW thc.t of their "old-time" colleaguea. It ia 
thoöo ncvj cctcgorica of employcca r.nd civil aorvr.nta who have atarted 
the arlr.ricd cmployces* cnd civil aervnnts' movement r.nd drtrm 
the entirc claaa from ita relative perxo rnd accurity into the tur- 
bulent currcnta of socir.l movcmcnts. 

Tlie forcgoing pointa to thoac forceo Y/bich are of signifi- 
cr.ncG in the aalnricd employoea' -^nd civil servr.nts' movement. In 
its aggrosaivü-r.spcct, thia movement ia the retiction of the great 
mc.snea of employeca whom tho new economic ayatem hca drivcn into 
vn unfavorable poeition and kcpt there. It ia truc that the employco 
of old v;ao clao a depcndent v/^ker; otill, the door remaincd opcn to 
hira, aa r.n individual, to bocome economically indepcndont or to rioc 
to a Position which, economically 'nd socir.lly, put him on the same 
lovel with the indcpendent. For a largc majority of employeea cnd 
oivil oorvr.nta of the lowcr ranka thia had beoomc impooaible ovon 


"bcforc thc Y/ar. Ths aalaried employee and the civil servant 
of today move throughout life in a rather narrow cirolej they 
can neither rise to q higher poat, nor can they even hope to 
improve their economic and social statust Ihe very conditions 
which have brought into being the great armies of employee s and 
civil servant 8 also tend to keep them down in the social and 
economic scale. Just as the labor movement ie a rebellion against 
the insGCurity of existence and the inauperable obstacles which are 
placed in the path leading to independencc and nn cxdoquate incorae, 
likewiae similcir conditions fccing che employee of today give rise 
to social movemcnts of which we shall say more prescntly« Trans- 
formrtions Y?ithin the sc atratci took boforc thc War rather slowly, 
for thcrc were still large groups whose status hr.d suffercd little, 
if at all, and whoso intcrosts r.nd sympathics prompted thcm to adopt 
a cold cnd lyircsponsivG attitudc toward the new movcm-jnts; but after 
thG rcvolution, abrupt chr.ngos act in as the economic collapso, the 
social degradation, thc dissolution of traditionr.l bonds, and the 
inaecurity of existence particularly affccted thc amployecs and civil 
sorvants« ^ ;■ '^ /. ^^' .-^''•.-'■•^.■;- "''''^ ''"■'' '' 




^•P 5TATISTI 0S ^:; :;• 
r. Salaried Employecs :^ ^ ' ' 
A fcw figurcs aufficc to ahow that in thc case of aalaried 
cmployces wc to dcal with groups which are still in thc proccos 
of formation. By way of illuatration wc cite the following figureo: 
tho numbor of those engaged in industry and mining aa cntrcprcnours 




feil off 2.52^ bctwccn 1895 r.nd 1907, thc numbcr of wagc-oarncro 
;7ithin thc ocjnc pGriod incrcaoa^ by 44.285^, rnd that of thc 
omployooo by l60.11%. Oompcircd v/ith 1882, thc yccir 190? ohowo 
7.09% fcv/cr cntrcprcncuro, 109.78fo moro TOgc-ocrncro r.nd 592,4lj5 
morc oalaricd omploycco. In rclr.tion to thc numbor of individuclo 
gaini^ally cmploycd thc proportion of cmployocs in induotry, mining 
rnd thc building tradco incrcaocd from 1.54fo in 1882 to 6.0955 in 1907. 
Thc arme dcvelopmcnt Ig noticcd rmong thc cmployoco cngagcd in com- 
racrcc, rlthough thcir incrpr^oc io looa rr.oid ov/ing to thc fact thct 
in thia ficld thc oalaricd cmploycco r.lwayo bcon numcrouo. — 

Accurccy in dctcrmining thc cxcct figurc of thc oalaricd 
cmployoco io difficult to obtain on cccount of thc nccconarily in- 
volvcd mcthoda of inquiry'into thio oubjcct. If wc Icavc out thooc 
groupo v;hich do not bclong to thia catcgory, v/c gct thc follov/ing 

rough eotimrtcQ: > 



All persona cngagcd in grdnful occupntiono 18,720,778 25,994,255 

Saaiicd omploycca ^^^^^: • V 028,509 1»620,510 

Pcrcentcigo of employcoo .;, ;::,./;;;; 4.4^% 

If \7c tckc into nccount only thc urbr.n populction (Groupo B 

cnd C: Induatry r.nd Comncrcc), nc gct thc follordng figurco: 

■ .■ ■ \_^':M::.,-,,^.^.^^. 1895 1907 

All gainfully occupicd pcrsono 
Sclaricd cmployoco 
^ Pcrcontagc of employcoo 

10,240, l4l 






'in thin connection, occ copcciclly my book: Dic_^_Prj,vatanfiootclltcn 
in der modernen Wir tachaftocntv/ioklung , pp. 28 et ocq. 




^^^^^^^>^^^^^^ 'T^ of the employees in the principaX 

categories is a^a follows: l'r:r^^:'''}^\^-:.-^ 

/;. ^' ' ; ;;:;- r ; ;- ^''^^^;' ■'■■;'::';:;::':^:;^^^^^ 1095 . 1907 

Main Group B (industry, Mining, Building Trades) 265,7^5 686,007 
Main Group (Commerce and Transportation) 468,491 855,505 

We notice that the number of salaried employees in industry 
increases, absolutely as well as relatively, faster tiian in commerce« 
Agnin, in industry the most rapid increase is found in the clerical 
staffs- G consequence of a technically more thorou^h Organization, of 
the continuino: rationaiization of büsiness, r.nd of the introduction 
of American cost-c.ccounting methods. Thus, the contre of gravity — 
gradually shifts, es far as numbcrs are concerncd, from the commor- 
cirl to the industrirJ employees, the more so as the Icttcr arc 
for the most pr.rt concGntratod in the Ir.rge-scrlc Industries wherc 
their massive strcngth givcs thom a decidcd economic rnd social 
advr.ntagc. The tcndency is manifest in tho relatively largo 
Proportion of employees in the big citios. Thoir Proportion (from 
1882 to 1907) in the economic divisions, nr.mcly, r.griculturc, 
industry, rnd corjiniercc, shows r more than scven-fold absolute increase 
(from 69,000 to 541,000). Rolativoly spcaking, the increase is from 
6.5 to 12.7^5 this is very significnnt considering the proportionate 


decline of independents in the Ir.rge eitles, nrjiiely, from 51*9% to 

In the big concems (having more thr.n fifty employees) of the 
four industrir.l groups (Mcchine, Textile, Food nnd Building Indus-^ 
tries) v/hich employ the largest number of employees we find con- 
centrated thirty-four percent of rll industrirl employees. On 
the other hr.nd, only tv/enty-tno percent of the total number of 
gainfully employed in industry crc employed by large concems. 






lß.e>% in 1907. 

It follüws from the Statistical data relating to private 
employees that the rapid growth of the emgloyees' class must be 
regarded aa a consequence of a continuoua economic development, 
particularly of big busineas, and of the new methoda bf business 
Organization« This rapid awelliug of the nuwber of emplojrees 
which runs parallel with a de cl ine in the number of independents, 
prevento the great majority of them from ahifting to the clasa of 
independents and forcea them, collectively as well as individually, 
to_remain permanent aalaried employees« The increaae of employees is 

not a uniform ona throughout the economic system; it is particularly 
noticeable in industry cnd, here ag?^in, oiily in 0. few large industrios 
where the rapid increase of clerical employees mrkea poasible a social 
and orgrnizationf.l union of these two large groupa of employees. yhe 
rapid increase of the employees enhances their effective power and 
activity as a group, particularly in the larger cities where we find 
them concentrated in large number s. Lastly, all these facta have as 
further consequence that the employees, by tlieir sheer numbers, offer 
a countorweight to the increasing numerical stfength of the laboring 
claso. In tha social and political field, and elsawhare, the employees 
could adopt a policy aimed against tliq oxcessive concentration of 
business and against the elimination of the small independent from the 
cconomy — a policy which might be supported by the vr.rious groups of 
employees in the r/holc national oconomy. Similarly, the employees 
could infinitely strengthen the poaition of the wage cr.mers in the 
struggle betwoon copitr.l r.nd labor, r.nd considorcbly impcril the power 




of thc cntrcpronourt Hie following survcy \7ill no\i show thc linos 
Glong Y7hich thosc possibilitios have bocn rcalized« 

;■;'■;■•:'■'"■': ^^^: •:-;■■ b. Civil Scrvf^rits'^;:'.;^;^/^-^^^ 
In thc üccupr.tiorr.l censua, thc civil scrvcnt is not 
givon r. distinct place. Officir.l atctistics ignorc thc civil 
aervantsasa separate giroup and, therefore, do not permit unam- 
biguous determination of their numbers. The determining factor in 
Classification is the nature of the occupation and, accordingly, 
public and private officials (or civil servants and salaried 
~employees),^ho are~engäged in the some activity, öre grouped — — 
together. Still, it is perhaps right that a line of demarcation 
should be drawn between the two categories. The occupational cenaus 
of 1907 contoins the following Information. 

1. Civil aervants in the diplomrtic servico; in the federrJ, state, 
county r.nd municipc.l cdministrationsj c.dminiatrator s of the domcdns of 
the Upper nobility and of other large estates; officials in the ndmin- 
iatration of juatice, including inapectors -nd the service per sonne 1 
of priaona, of other pen-.l institutions n.nd reformatories, and of 
poor^-houaes rnd institutions, etc. (Group E2 of the occu- 
pationr.l cenaus)! 

a. Higher off icirls, Ir.wycrs, notaries 55,058 

b. Other functionarios in thc middle civil scrvicc clrss, in- 
apectors rnd Office peraonncl, c^lculatora rnd clcrka ^''^'^n 

c. Service peraonncl, meosengcre, office portera JLli^££. 

:^; • ^^ 590,005 

2, Tcachers in imivcraitieo, O^nanagien, R25^_lj55j^^i5:Ii/ grammar 

^-^ schoola, trade rnd technical schoolo, orphan aaylumsj proprietoro 



pf private schools and their teaching staffs, boarding schools, 

Institutes for the blind, deaf and dumb; private teachers and tutors, 

etc. (Group E4 of the oenkAS)!."' V r^v:;^^^^^^ 

a. Managing and teaching staff . • ;:• •♦« # ¥j»rr 277#155 

b« Administrative personnel •♦* 4, 127 

c. Service personnel, Institutes included 18,116 

.y :;;:;■;;:. ;.,;-:V:;;:v:v^^ 299,596 

Both of the following large groups include also salaried 

employees, as is evident from the enumerationi 

5» Civil servants in the Post Office, Telegraph and 

Telephone service. ..•..•...,.•,,.,... 252,571 

4* State Railway employees (1908).. f.. 276,512 

These four groups, taken together, comprise about 1,200,000 
persons« But these figures do not take into account civil servants 
in other public and municipal enterprises« For governrnent employees 
employcd GS foresters cnd gamokeepers, in mining, blast furnaces and 
foundries, salt-v/orks, v/atcr-works, as v/ell afj in the building, read, 
harbor r.nd pilot Services, etc., were allocatcd to their respective 
occupations together with the private employees working in the 
fields» Like^.7ise, t?ic given for civil servr.nts cmployed in the 
postal, tclegraph r.nd railwcy Services do not sccm to be ciccuratc; 
the figurgs given by the authorities arc in ovcry crae considerr.bly 

»^^^— iii m Will i ^ ^ J j^M^.*»!— *- 

higher than thosc of the occupational census. At any rate, for 1907^ 
the year of the occupationr.l census, the numbcjr of civil servrnts may 
be placed at 1,500,000; but sincc then this number muet hnvc bcen appre- 
ciably increascd. Let it be c.dded thr.t the rrto of in the 
number of civil servcnts, particularXy in cnterpriscs operatcd by the 
govcrnmcnt hao bcen extraordina^rily rapid: 





Poot cind Telegraph 

Civil Other 

Servants Employeea 



Temporary Civil 


















16, 165 

Labor er 9 


48a, 799 







--/'■_.:' *J!he intensive retrenchment of the administrative personnel, ae 
well as of the civil servants in public enterprises, ;7hich, as already 
stated, took place in the period of the currency atabilization, is shown in 
the following table* :- ' ■ . '[■ \^''.;^./VC'-'\Vyv.::. . .---:.i.' - 

: !f^^ of 

Civil Servants 

No. of 

Mo. of 

^^f-^^j^^- __ 

Oct. 1 Oct. 1 Oct, 1 Oct. 1 Oct. 1 Oct. 1 
1925 1924 1925 1924 1925 1924 

iTFederal civil servants JH^ 95,895 51,594 24, 120 50,046 45,257 

State fiscal officors 
in this clasB 

78,222 71,650 25,690 11,995 

II. Government Entorprises: 

Post Office ': 295,892 249,969 7,585 5,524 71,217 ^7,687 

Government Printing . 

Office 255 .. 188 1,109 445 8,166 2,748 

Railroads (Since Scpt# ; ; i^^ 

1, 1924 transferred to .j. :!^^ 

Reichsbahn-Aktien - Oct. 1 Juno 50 Oct. 1 June 50 Oct. 1 Junc_50 

1924 1925 




Geeellschafty in accord- 1925 

ance ;7ith the London 

agreement of Aug. 1924 • 425,852 556,159 86I 5^ 576,085 5ö9,482 

The total of xjivil servants in the föderal govcmmont (including 

railway employeos), in the states r.nd in the municipalities, is estiraatcd at 

1,500,000 for 1925. Of thcso, the fcdorcl govcrnmcnt Claims 546,000, the 

föderal railro-ds 556,000, Prussia 164,000, Bavaria 57,000 and the munici- 

National Railroad Coriporation. 







palitiee 500,000. The majority are found in enterprises operated 
bythe föderal gcvernmont, such as railroade, the postal service, 
and in atate and miuiicipal undertakings« ■■/% 

The Statistical data show that the nuraerical importance 
of the old-time civil servanta, who perform purely governmental 
functions and ropresent governmental power and atate authority, is 
constaiitly diminishing. By far the great majority in the civil 
Service is claimcd by the employees in public undertakings, and here 
the grovjth hasbeenmost rapid. This is evident from the above-cited 
figures. Insofar as their occupational activity is concemed, 

, , ^ ■' ■ , ; ■ ■ " ■■■ ■ ■.■■■■- ■..,■. — ■■■, ...i ■ ■ I M« • ■■l.» r . li r ,,l.i»i , i. M l ' ill^ll! ) W.II«l '»' ■ ' lll ' ■■ '■ ■ !■■■■■. ' ■■ .— ■■ . . , » W^ ip.».! — ; 

civil aervcnts in state enterprises cr.nnot be distinguished from 

salaried employeos doing the same kind of work. Their status as 

"civil servc^nts" rests rather on r historical and c legal basis. Tho 

concept "civil servcjit". and his social position had originally been 

associatcd with the functions of the civil servrnt of the old school 

c^ad weis lat^r trrnsferred to the large groups of governmental employees 

in State entorprises. To bo sure, thcse ne\7 categories of civil scr- 

vants havG no impcrium ; nevc rtheless, a modicum of ruthority, -:hich de- 

rivas from the power invcstod in the old-time public official, still 

clings'to thoir ^ositLns. Similarly, the legal status of the civil 

... .-,.':;.. " 1 

scrvants cxercising governmental power. Thia mcc.nri that thcse 

govcmmont employees enjoy a ccrtain pcrmcaiencc of tcnure rnd so 

The terms "civil scrvants cxercising governmental cuthority 
( Hohejtsbcamte ) and "civil scrvants of governmental buoiness cntcr- 
prises" ( Betrieb sbeamte) appear to bc grrdually finding their way 
into currcnt litcraturc, although their use, eepccially of the 
former, is not consietent. 


havc c.n advantage over the salaried employee in privata business; 
but it also impiies a reatriction of their freedom of movenent and 
a hindrance to the assertlonof their edonoinic power by independent 
Qction« Hence, the appearance in the civil servanta' movenent of 
special problerns, of which \m shall say inore later»:;;:^:: v; 





^4^^^^ POLIGY 
u, Salaried Employee s 
Tho social policy of the salaried employees MAst be studied 
in tho light of their paculiar social position. Tha salaried cmployecs 
represcnt a now Stratum of the gainfully Qmplojroä, the bulk of whom find 
themsclves in circumatanccs which are in aharp contrast to the trodition- 
al Views of the position of the salaried employee. To be specific, 
his permanent depcndcncc on an cmploycr; the fcct thct he ia at tho 
mercy of the labor merket; tho davelopmont of a rcmimerativo syatcm 
based on the prevailin.q; economic r.nd financial Situation,' finnlly, 

the cver growing practice of compenaation in proportion to onc a 
cfficiency - which mcrns thr.t the employee 's pr.y the oldcr 
he grows - all theso factors hclp to underminc tho social and economic 
Status of the salaried employee, who thus finds himsclf exposcd to tho 
dangor of prolctarization. Wlicn the aalaried employecs firat bocr.rae con- 
sciouo of their numarical atrength and thu importance of their function 
in induatry, they entcrtaincd tho notion that they v/ould be ablc to 
play the rolc of mediatora betwecn ccpital and labor and to rcconcilo 
the conflicting intercats of employcr and wage oarncr. But this 
Illusion was givon up long ago and in its place wg now find social 
pcsainasm. The grcat majority of aalaried employcea havc come to 






rocognizc thj fündainchtnl incoapatibility bctv70Gn cr.pitcl md 
Ir.bor, bctv/ccn c:aploycr r.nd jmploycC| but thoy arc in no ponition 
to bridge thia gcp; thcy crnnot utr.nd bctuccn tlic ty/o wcjrriup; claaac3, 
and nuat thcrcforc chooac thrt oidc v/hich bcat 3crvc3 thcir intcrccta. 

TiiQ Problem o2 finding hia ri^t pIgcg v/co rcndcrcd otill 
raorc difficult to thc ar.lciriad cnploycc by thc fact that hio claso 
io compoocd of hirhly hctoro,?cnoou3 clcmonto« Tlic cmployccG, for 
thc moat pr.rt, conic from former indcpendonto or, at any rate, frora 
"bourgcoio" atrata. Bcforc thc collapcc of 1918, thcir incomc wao 
conaiderably hig her th an thc avcragc incomc of thc v;age earncrs^ Coro- 

pared v;ith tho latter, their 7/ork in gcnerally charactcrized by defi- 
nito qur.lificatioilo; it cnjoya higher social prcotige and bringo thcm 
in direct touch v.'ith the cntrcprcncur claoo. Moreovcr, rccently, it 
v/as po3oiblc for the aalaricd cmploycc to attain r. porjition conoiatent 
T;ith hiG abilitica or to become himaelf an ir.dcpendent. Such con- 
oidorationG footer rjuong the Gmplo3^ceG those tindencica vaiich acck to 
check the natcrial rnd 30cial degradation of tiicir claao md aim at 
the proGcrvation, of their middlc-claaa standarde of living and of 
thcir jocial preotigc, Thc rjituation haj given rioe to claima rhich 
if rcalizcd uoulc rcciilt in the improvcment of thc condition of thc 
Galaried cmployecc as individualo^ particularly v/iüi regard to nalcing • 
their poGitiono inore accurc ^nd rclativcly pcrEicnent, djopitc their 
dcpcndcnce upon thc cntrcprcncur. Haturally, the policy of thc cnploycc 
ic a labor policy, but apart fron this, it hao rn unniatakable rniddlc- 
claoc charactcr, -/riich diatinguiohc3 it fron thc policy of the Prole- 


H. - t _■ '. ' ■■ 1 '. 

■;./'•".■■..•>>'-■ '^.■.■■•4 ' 


To indicate the essential identity of class interests, it 
is interesting to nbte tha!t^^ 1^^^^ demande of the various employee groups, 
as a whole, coincide, Thi 3 identity of interests should eventually 
lead to a common orientation of large atrata of empioyjesw Thia 
united front waa especially evident, prior to the revolution^ in the 
demand for empioyees' oid age insurance, vvhich waa deumed to be the 
logical counterpart of the civil aervants' pension. Similarly, other 
demanda aimed at a minimm aalary Provision, the abrogation of any 
clause in employment contracta which restrained (with r. view to obtain- 
ing long-term contracta) the empioyeo from entering tho scrvice of a __ 

rival concem, the safe|ucrding of the employee «a proporty ri^ts to 
hia inventions, the regulation of r.pprenticeahip, and the establiah- 
ment of uniform diacharge noticea, etc. Theae and othor clr.ima atompcd 
the policy of the employeea' orgonizations with a diatinctive merk, thus 
diffcrentiating it from the aocir.l program of the wage oarnera. Nover- 
thclcaa, the aalaried cmploycc adopted the main points of labor's aocial 
progrcjn, prrticularly omphaaizing the unqualifiod right to organize, 
claiming also, with auitrble modificr.tions, tho extonaion to the cmployeea 
df thoae protcctivo moaaures which wcre r.lroady cnjoyed by the v/orkera. 


T^e middio-claag charnctor of the employee s^ policy ia clearly brought 
out by the modification of thoae domr.nda, that ia, by tho effort to make 
the poaition of the individual employee socurc -.nd atr.blc in the oatab- 
liahmcnt whore ho ia cmployed and thua to rcalizc, ac far aa poaaiblc, 
the principal demanda of the middlc-claaa policy within the framcwork 
of dcpcndent occupationa« 

Within thia gcnoral program, which charactcrizcd the employoo 


movement bcforc t?iG War, Import an t diffcrenccs cxistcd bctwccn 
the coinponcnt gi-oupa, WherccLD in thc orgmization of conmicrcial 
amployees conserv&tive claas tendencies prevailad and the tradition- 
al notion of one united mercantile claas ma de it possible f or ^ei]3r- 
ployers to becomc members in many employees* imions and effectively 
precluded the adoption of all trade-union policies (strikes, col- 
lect ive bargaining, etc. ) the technical employees, v7ho firat appeared 
as a compact group in the centrea of masa production, were atrongly 
influenced by modern labor policioa. The combatin- of theac idoaa 
by the entreproneur was not in ■& leaat reaponaiblc for thc adoption 
Of a radical progrom. Stili, up to thc time of tho collapao in 1918 
cven radical employec orgo.nizr.tions would uncompromiaiiigly.rc joct^ any 
Cooperation with thc workcra^ trade-union movcmGnt; nor v/ould they 
acccpt thc latter »s'socialiatic idcology (aprrt fron, r few inai^ifi- 
cant exccptiona, whoae failurc waa conapicuous). Indeod, evcn in thc 
radical wing of the employec a' movement onc could casily detect ita 
fundamentally middlc-claaa charactcr with all ita social and tradition- 
al carmarks, nßmely, that individual atamp which atood aa aymbol for thc 
presGrvntion of thc employcca' place "between thc classea" and r^iich 
shunncd a fusion v:ith thc v/orkcra' as \7ell aa the employcrs' claas. 
Thc siturtion chr.ngcd fundcmcntr.lly aftcr 1918. Tho 

Durine tho War thc uniona of aalcricd employcon - particulr.rly thc 
rcdiorl oiica - oho'.;od r. Jcorcac of mcmbcrahip- In opitc of this, 
these unions gained in importance inasimch as they wäre integratod 
into the wartime Organization together with the trade uiiions and 
employera' a^sociation. Beaidee, even before the collapse of 191Ö, 
the denreciatioa of the national currency had etiinulatsd their 
campai'oi for more lay. üevarthelesa, it v/as only thrcugh the 
revolution of lyl8 that the movement reoeived ita essentially 
now oriontation cni attainod its present äuccess. 







"middle-clftss" character of the salaried employee had to capitulate 
before the growing notion of the laere wage eamer« Proletarization 
of the middle-claaa etrata, which on at an unprecedented paoe, 
and the raisine of the aocial statu sof the "manual worker," which 

" . . " .''■'''•,'"■ '."''- '.•■ l ■''.','''..' •'''•'''.■' '"'.1 * 

brouglit him ateadily closer to thi Griploye.3^ proved strenger than 
cny class trcdition» These economic conditions, the political