Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 71 pages of information about Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy.
and leave us for ever a confessed failure.  When life is understood to be a process of redemption, its various phases are taken up in turn without haste and without undue attachment; their coming and going have all the keenness of pleasure, the holiness of sacrifice, and the beauty of art.  The point is to have expressed and discharged all that was latent in us; and to this perfect relief various temperaments and various traditions assign different names, calling it having one’s day, or doing one’s duty, or realising one’s ideal, or saving one’s soul.  The task in any case is definite and imposed on us by nature, whether we recognise it or not; therefore we can make true moral progress or fall into real errors.  Wisdom and genius lie in discerning this prescribed task and in doing it readily, cleanly, and without distraction.  Folly on the contrary imagines that any scent is worth following, that we have an infinite nature, or no nature in particular, that life begins without obligations and can do business without capital, and that the will is vacuously free, instead of being a specific burden and a tight hereditary knot to be unravelled.  Some philosophers without self-knowledge think that the variations and further entanglements which the future may bring are the manifestation of spirit; but they are, as Freud has indicated, imposed on living beings by external pressure, and take shape in the realm of matter.  It is only after the organs of spirit are formed mechanically that spirit can exist, and can distinguish the better from the worse in the fate of those organs, and therefore in its own fate.  Spirit has nothing to do with infinite existence.  Infinite existence is something physical and ambiguous; there is no scale in it and no centre.  The depths of the human heart are finite, and they are dark only to ignorance.  Deep and dark as a soul may be when you look down into it from outside, it is something perfectly natural; and the same understanding that can unearth our suppressed young passions, and dispel our stubborn bad habits, can show us where our true good lies.  Nature has marked out the path for us beforehand; there are snares in it, but also primroses, and it leads to peace.

V

THE PRESTIGE OF THE INFINITE

“The more complex the world becomes and the more it rises above the indeterminate, so much the farther removed it is from God; that is to say, so much the more impious it is.”  M. Julien Benda[12] is not led to this startling utterance by any political or sentimental grudge.  It is not the late war, nor the peace of Versailles, nor the parlous state of the arts, nor the decay of morality and prosperity that disgusts him with our confused world.  It is simply overmastering respect for the infinite. La Trahison des Clercs, or Treason of the Levites, with which he had previously upbraided the intellectuals of his time, now appears to consist precisely in coveting a part in this world’s inheritance, and forgetting that the inheritance of the Levites is the Lord:  which, being interpreted philosophically, means that a philosopher is bound to measure all things by the infinite.

Follow Us on Facebook