Jacques Maritain Center

Moral Philosophy


Closed Cosmic Morality and Open Cosmic Morality

I John Dewey and the Objectivity of Values
-- the Inconsistency of Absolute Naturalism

Classification of the principal moral theories posterior to the Kantian System
1. In order to clarify matters I should like to try at the beginning of this chapter to draw up a synoptic table of the principal moral theories, subsequent in the history of ideas to the Kantian revolution and the ethics of the categorical imperative, which in my opinion most deserve our attention. Such a table would present itself in this fashion:

I. Post-Kantian dialectic A cosmic (pseudo-cosmic) idealist ethics: Hegel
  • Based on Metaphysics (Onto-logical idealist).
  • Politico-normative morality.

Cosmic (pseudo-cosmic) realist-materialist ethics: Marx

  • Based on a dialectic of the Hegelian type (historical materialism).
  • Socio-normative morality.
II. The Anti-Kantian reaction:

1. Positivism

Messianic positivism: "De-philosophized" cosmic (fetishist) ethics: Auguste Comte.
  • Based on a sociologically required Myth (from the point of view of the subject -- the Religion of Humanity).
  • Socio-normative morality.

Secularized positivism: The "de-philosophic" liquidation of ethics: Sociologism.

  • Ethics replaced by the science of social facts.
  • Non-normative "morality".
III. The Anti-Kantian reaction:

2. In search of an authentically cosmic ethics


  • Based on a philosophy of nature: Dewey.
  • Equivocally normative morality.

realist-metaphysical (in the broad sense of the word)

  • Based on a Metaphysics of the Subjectivity inhabited by God, and on Faith: Kierkegaard.
  • Religiously normative morality (corresponding to the singularity of the relation between God and the self).
  • Based on an atheistic phenomenology of the subjectivity, and on Freedom: Sartre.
  • Non-normative morality (unless arbitrarily normative, corresponding to the singularity of the situation, in which each one saves himself or not through his own freedom).
  • Based on a Metaphysics of the Elan Vital, and on the call of creative love: Bergson.
  • Mystically normative morality.

2. What is most significant in the third large category of our table is the effort to rediscover a properly philosophical ethics (unlike the ethics of messianic positivism and the non-ethics of secularized positivism) which would be intrinsically related to a conception of being and of nature, and which, freeing itself from idealism, would take into account the situation of man in the midst of a world which exists independently of our thought, would recognize that the way in which he orders his life depends on what things are, and would refuse to separate the world of freedom from the world of nature.

Here we have a remarkable recovery of the general perspective of philosophical morality, which Kant had distorted.

But the undertaking in question did not go forward without misunderstandings and false starts, because it was still burdened with views that were too partial, with prejudices that became more aggressive the less they were submitted to examination, and, sometimes, with very grave errors. In particular, the notion of cosmic morality, whose fundamental importance we have emphasized, was often proposed in its truncated, and deceptive, form (closed-cosmic or cosmic-with-nothing-beyond-this-world)) -- this was notably the case with Dewey and with atheistic existentialism -- instead of being proposed, as was the case with Kierkegaard and with Bergson for example, in its authentic form (cosmic-open or cosmic-transcosmic). Many philosophers in our century, while re-installing the laws and movement of human morality quite rightly within the laws and movements of nature, have not seen that this morality has its primary foundation in the transcendent principle from which nature is suspended, and that it implies a transcosmic relation between man and this principle. They thought they ought to remain piously faithful to the prejudices negating metaphysical knowledge with which Kantianism, positivism, and materialism had vitiated and debilitated the thought of the preceding century.

3. I shall only mention in passing a kind of morality in which this antimetaphysical attitude appears in a particularly simplist and futile form. I am thinking of that so-called ethics with scientific pretensions for which the only reality to be considered is biology, and, in biology, the evolution of species conceived in the Darwinian manner.

The evolution of species, as a datum of existence and a frame of historical reference (whatever may be the explanations which science and philosophy can advance to account for the historical datum in question), has become, we should note, a kind of axiom or postulate for the majority of scientists. A similar phenomenon occurred in connection with the Galilean conception of inertia. Such notions are more in the nature of postulates than in the nature of demonstrable conclusions, but once they arise in the mind they offer such a satisfactory way of conceiving of things, and possess such a high degree of simplicity and generality, that, by virtue of their outstanding contribution to economy of thought, they impose themselves almost in the manner of self-evident principles.

It is true that the idea of evolution thus forces itself on the mind only as a purely historical idea, or insofar as it signifies that the species of the biological world derive in fact from more primitive forms and are subject to a process of development and diversification in time. How are we to explain this? It is the business of scientific hypotheses, none of which up to the present has shown itself to be fully satisfactory. This is particularly the case with the Darwinian hypothesis, very much in favor to-day but philosophically untenable, according to which fortuitous change, natural selection and the survival of the fittest account for the history and the formation of the world of organisms.

Yet for the popularizers and for current opinion, evolution as an historical idea is not distinguished from evolution as a scientific theory or scientific hypothesis, and the scientific hypothesis profits unduly from the authority which the idea spontaneously acquires over the mind. Furthermore, a scientific theory is hardly formulated before the thinking world seizes upon it to take advantage of it by extrapolation. It is in this way that Darwinism has influenced every sector of the modern intelligence. In the realm of ethics in particular, not only, as Sidgwick remarks, do all contemporary authors admit -- rightly -- an evolution of morality and of moral reflexion, but the theory (or rather the opinions, the table-talk, the current assertions) which can be called the "morality of evolution" or "evolutionist morality" is not content to insist upon the historical fact of the progress of moral consciousness in the course of the development of humanity, but pretends to find in evolution, and especially in Darwin's idea of evolution, the criteria of judgment of morality itself.{1} Once this point is reached, we encounter not a few minds who consider themselves very acute, assuring us (especially when it is a matter of acquiring power) that the survival of the fittest, while furnishing us with the key to biological evolution, at the same time instructs us in the inflexibly promulgated law of nature concerning human conduct, and concerning the primordial and ineluctible duty to which human conduct is constrained.

I bring up these excessively impoverished ethical views, by-products of Darwinism for which Darwin himself is not responsible, only because they furnished to a Nietzsche a basis or rather a decor and a pseudo-scientific imagery which he could use as a point of reference in appealing (for quite different reasons in reality) to the will to power as the authentic morality of masters, and condemning as a slave morality the respect of the human person, the sense of love and of pity taught by the Judeo-Christian tradition. On the contrary, our critical examination arrives now at the consideration of an authentically philosophical doctrine, as little Nietzschean as possible, moreover, and quite different from the evolutionist pseudo-morality.

The Naturalism of John Dewey
Hegel again, and again an incomplete rupture

4. "From Absolutism to Experimentalism",{2} it is thus that John Dewey himself characterized his own intellectual history. In his youth, in the period when a philosopher formulates the primary controlling apperceptions through which he becomes conscious of his vocation, he had been a Hegelian, under the influence of W. T. Harris and the "School of St. Louis". At the age of thirty, he was still definitely an idealist, and spoke of nature as a moment in the "self-determination of the mind". In the case of a thinker as fundamentally American as Dewey, this Hegelian fervor was no doubt, as has been remarked,{3} the result of a misunderstanding, if it is true that "Hegel can never be Americanized".{4} The fact remains that the imprint of Hegel on Dewey was a very deep one, and that in a sense it was never effaced, no matter how violent and persevering his effort to root Hegel out of his flesh, to the point of making the need to go counter to Hegel one of the fundamental criteria employed in his thought.{1}

Dewey's revolt against Hegel was incomparably more forceful and more effective than Marx's had been. While Marx remained in the last analysis an Hegelian, by virtue of the fact that the dialectic conceived in the manner of Hegel remained for him the true knowledge, which gives mastery over things, and the instrument of thought par excellence, Dewey totally rejected the Hegelian dialectic. In this respect his effort at emancipation was victorious; and, although at a high price, he rendered an outstanding service to the philosophy of the present century, in particular to American philosophy.

5. Nevertheless we can say of him too that his rupture with Hegel was an incomplete rupture. For he certainly liberated himself from the Hegelian dialectic, and from Hegelian idealism, and this was the main thing. But he retained from Hegel the nostalgia for monism;{2} the very notion of philosophy remained for him identified with an effort of thought to absorb all things into one, and to eliminate, all the while respecting and maintaining the differences, every species of duality as well as every species of transcendence.

In reality such an operation is only possible at the level of the grand sophistics to which the Hegelian dialectic is the key. In refusing the latter with all the force of his native honesty of mind, Dewey condemned himself to search for monism the more ardently because he would never be able to arrive at it, and to conceal from himself, by pretending to eliminate "structure" in favor of "process",{3} the irreducible conflicts which rendered his thought rich in tensions but also, in spite of all his efforts, intrinsically contradictory and finally inconsistent.

In short, for Dewey as for Marx, although with very different connotations, we might speak of a reversal of Hegelianism. This time, in putting philosophy back on its feet, it is no longer Matter -- Matter animated by a dialectical movement -- which replaces and exorcises the Spirit; it is Nature{1} -- Nature as the source and object of the perpetual creative reshapings and perpetual readjustments of human action. We no longer find ourselves faced with a dialectical materialism, but with an instrumentalist naturalism.

And it is by virtue of this Hegelian monism, reversed and become naturalism -- in other words it is insofar as Hegel continues in spite of everything to haunt him -- that Dewey remains a philosopher and rises above positivism, and, though he continues to see in science the unique type of knowledge, that he maintains the reality and the value of philosophical knowledge -- at the price of serious logical inconsistency, no doubt, with honest awareness of the problem and attempting an original solution to it (practical verification as an extension and equivalent for philosophy of what experimentation is for science).{2} It is by reason of this incomplete rupture with Hegelianism that Dewey gives in his philosophy a pseudo-Hegelian interpretation and flavor to the typically American conviction of the inherent necessity for things to change, to progress; whereas in fact this feeling has absolutely nothing to do with a metaphysics of pure Becoming and derives solely from a moral disposition combining creative energy and detachment.{3}

Toward an absolute naturalism
6. John Dewey's effort can be considered as one of the most significant made by modern philosophical thought toward the achievement of an integral or absolute naturalism. We may add that by virtue of this very fact it was one of the efforts of thought most typically subject to a radical ambiguity.

This radical ambiguity shows itself in a perpetual, and equivocal, alternation between "nature" as the object of the investigations of science (in the modern or empiriological sense of this word) -- in this use the word "nature" carries a completely phenomenal connotation -- and "Nature" as a philosophical entity, with a value all the more prized by a thinker like Dewey because in his passionate desire to arrive at a total organic unification of the field of knowledge he posited Nature to replace Spirit as an antithesis and antidote of Spirit.

The ambiguity in question appears also in another connection, still more instructive for us. Taken in its authentic sense, the notion of nature is an essentially analogical notion, which, given the structure of our intellect, directed first toward exterior realities, is realized for us first and above all in the things which fall within the experience of sense; in other words, it has for us its primary analogue in the nature of material things. But this same notion of nature is encountered also -- analogically -- in the case of spirits (either of the human spirit or of pure spirits); they have a nature; and even God has a nature. With such an analogical notion of nature one understands that the nature of material things is transcended by the immaterial or spiritual natures (in other words by the order called metaphysical in Aristotle's sense, or "super-natural" in the Hindu sense); and that every created or creatable nature is transcended by the divine nature and by grace, which is a participation in it (in other words, by the order called supernatural in the Christian sense).

No philosophy can completely forget or reject the authentic sense of the word "nature". But Dewey's philosophy, by the very fact that it wants to be an absolute naturalism, relegates as far as it can this authentic sense of the word "nature", which relates properly to an abstract notion, to the background in order to adopt another sense which for Dewey is evident, sunflooded, and glorious, a sense in which the word is univocal and mythical and relates to a concrete whole.

This second sense is required by the monism which every absolute naturalism implies. At this point -- and notably in the case of Dewey, by virtue of the denial-reversal of Hegelianism which we have pointed out -- we have to do with a Nature essentially posited in place of the Spirit and exclusive of the Spirit, in which physis in Aristotle's sense finds itself, by the same token, infinitely enlarged, and confused with being in the whole amplitude of the word. Such a Nature is now the reality, univocally one and mythically substantialized, which embraces and vivifies all things: Nature as excluding any possible beyond (any metaphysical beyond as well as any supernatural beyond), Nature absolutized, in which absolute naturalism has its first postulate and the source of its seductive power, but also its radical weakness. To the extent that it realizes this, it must come back more or less openly, but without ever recognizing its analogical character, to the authentic sense of the word "nature" as referring properly to an abstract notion, the sense which it tried to keep in the shadow.

These considerations explain for us why integral naturalism is condemned always to seek itself in vain. On the one hand, the rejection of the absolute is at the very root of every philosophy which wants to be totally naturalist. On the other hand, it is impossible to be totally naturalist without enclosing universal reality in a giant all-embracing Nature, that is, in an absolutized Nature, and thereby re-introducing the absolute in a surreptitious and contradictory manner. In short, there is no integral naturalism without an absolutized Nature -- therefore without a reintegration of the absolute which is incompatible with integral naturalism.

But this is not the point on which I wish to insist at this moment; I would prefer rather to stress another typical theme of Dewey's philosophy, one in connection with which, in spite of his naturalist prejudice, the intellectual honesty of which I spoke above and which from the point of view of our present analyses is of particular importance, is clearly evident. Dewey professed an integral naturalism, and yet he maintained (after his fashion no doubt and with his own limitations and paralogisms) the objectivity of values, notably of moral values.

A purely Experimentalist theory of Value
Common Sense vs. Logical Positivism

7. In the great contemporary debate concerning values and value judgments, Dewey, while decrying "absolutism", ranged himself, on the whole, on the side of philosophical tradition, thus furnishing us a remarkable testimony, however deficient it may be. I am alluding to his rigorous critique of the theses of the logical positivists, of Alfred J. Ayer in particular, in his Theory of Valuation,{1} for the second volume of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science.

Dewey has in common with logical positivism an energetic anti-metaphysical prejudice. Hence the minute care with which he proceeds, in order to guard himself, while reinstating the objectivity of values, from seeming in the least to admit the abhorred values "in themselves". He was to remain decisively enclosed within the empirical perspective of that which pertains to the always relative findings made by an observer, and his own contribution was to show that within this very perspective the notion of value possessed an authentic objectivity, in other words that value judgments cannot be excluded from the domain of science (of empiriological science) -- or rather, from a certain scientific domain, that of the human sciences.

The operation he was to undertake had therefore an extremely limited philosophical significance, and a very depressed angle of vision. But it was to be all the more efficacious as an argument ad hominem against logical positivism. In itself, moreover, it amounts to a vigorous protest by common sense, faced with the chimeras of a scientism drunk with abstractions.

Dewey begins by conceding -- far too quickly in our opinion -- that the notion of value has no place in the sciences of nature. (In reality, what zoologist will refrain from speaking of "superior" animals and "inferior" animals, or of the greater or lesser degrees of perfection of organization of the nervous system or the ocular apparatus in the animal series or in a given phylum? What physicist will refrain from calling the law of increase of entropy the "law of the degradation of energy"? What scientist will ever exorcise from his thought the idea dear to Auguste Comte that the most complex phenomena are also the "highest" phenomena, and that a virus is "higher" in its structure and properties than a crystal of sodium?) What is true is that on the one hand there is obviously no place in the sciences of nature for any moral value, or for any value proper to human conduct, and, on the other hand, that the notion of value in general plays no directly constructive or explanatory role in these sciences. Yet we find it in them, inevitably.

However this may be, it is exclusively in the domain of the sciences that have to do with man and with human conduct that Dewey grants a legitimate role to the notion of value. And in this domain it is true that the notion of value has an indispensable practical role.

Disagreeing with those who maintain that the words designating so-called values have a purely emotional signification and are pure interjections or ejaculations by means of which feelings are expressed, and that therefore there can be no value judgments, Dewey remarks in the first place that the theory in question derives from a "mentalist" psychology, depending upon "states of consciousness" considered introspectively, to which he denies any scientific status. The truth is, he maintains, that feelings taken as entities separated from the external world and envisaged as simple subjective states, as pure thrills of consciousness, have nothing to do with a sane theory of values. What we must start out with in good behaviorist psychology is the concrete whole, accessible to observation, of a given organic situation, of which a cry, tears, a word of appeal or aversion, form only one of the constitutive elements, tending as such to bring about an observable change in observable conditions of behavior.{1} Then we will see that value and valuation depend on desire and interest (through a reversal deriving from the empirical perspective, it is no longer value which creates or provokes desire but desire which creates or determines value), but we will also see that desire and interest themselves must be considered in the existential context of which they form a part, and in relation to which the tension which they envelop is or is not adapted "to the needs and demands imposed by the situation".{2}

Consequently, "since the situation is open to observation, and since the consequences of effort-behavior as observed determine the adaptation, -- the adequacy of a given desire can be stated in propositions. The propositions are capable of empirical test because the connection that exists between a given desire and the conditions with reference to which it functions are ascertained by means of observations."{1} By the same token it appears that if Dewey does not fully understand the importance of the object of desire or interest, he nevertheless sets off this importance. "Everything depends upon the objects involved in desires."{2} It is not, then, insofar as it is a "feeling", but insofar as it has a given object that the desire or interest counts, once we take the point of view of the concrete context or the existing situation, to the demands or needs of which the act we propose to accomplish will respond more or less adequately. The neo-positivist thesis according to which all desires or interests, by virtue of the fact that they are "feelings" manifested by some gesture or some exclamation, "stand on the same footing with respect to their function as valuators is contradicted by observation of even the most ordinary of everyday experiences".{3}

8. Thus appears the possibility of propositions or judgments about valuations, such as those of an anthropologist, for example, about the defamatory character attributed by primitive peoples to intra-tribal marriage.

These are still not value-judgments in the proper sense of the term. In the latter case, acts of valuation are themselves valuated (we say that a given valuation is better than another); and this valuation of acts of valuation can modify the direct acts of valuation which follow, since it involves a rule or "norm" (that is, a condition with which one will have to conform when one undertakes a given sort of activity).{4}

That such value judgments and rules of conduct may be objectively based and justified is quite clear, for example, in the case of the rules of hygiene laid down by the medical profession, or the evaluation made by an engineer of the resistance and other qualities of materials to be used. The appreciation of a given procedure as better or worse, more or less advantageous or harmful, is as experimentally justified, as "scientific", as the simple observations with no value component by which a fact is established.{5}

Now the same thing is true, Dewey adds, for all values, including ethical values, which have to do with the conduct of the human being. A person finding himself in a given situation must always estimate the relation of means to end; and the validity of this estimate falls within the realm of observation, is experimentally verifiable.

How can this be? Does not the estimate in question presuppose that one has already recognized a value in the end as such, independent of the means, and in a way which is not that of experimental verification? God forbid! Here Dewey deploys all the resources of his argumentation to buttress the solution he has found, a solution peculiar to himself which permits him at the same time to exorcise the metaphysical phantom of ends having value in themselves, and to satisfy his monistic passion, his desire to reduce all duality to the unity of interaction. In the concrete context in which it must be examined, the end itself, he says, is judged good or desirable only insofar as it involves consideration of the means necessary for its realization; and in this way, since the means become part of the very constitution of the end, the traditional division between ends desirable in themselves and means desirable (precisely as means) for the sake of something else appears illusory. The object finally evaluated as an end to be attained is determined in its concrete composition by appraisal of existing conditions as means.{1} And again: "Anything taken as end is in its own content or constituents a correlation of the energies, personal and extrapersonal, which operate as means."{2}

Henceforward it is this indivisible concrete ends-means whole which at the end of the deliberation appears as the object of desire and the repository of value. And it is according as it has or has not been constituted on the basis of real conditions, positive or negative, on which its realization depends that it leads to the satisfaction or frustration of the desire it specifies, and can be objectively, experimentally, "scientifically" verified as possessing a real value or an illusory value, and as an end to be pursued or not to be pursued by a reasonable man.

Value judgments are, then, possible in the ethical realm. It is not that for Dewey they are the job of moral philosophy itself; no, they are the job of men who are hic et nunc engaged in action, and who fix their own norms of conduct. On this level they are possible, they can constitute authentic objective judgments, but only because they are experimentally verifiable in the same manner as all the other judgments of the sciences of phenomena. And this can only be because the end itself has been brought down to the level of utility and of means. For it is only "in the case of evaluation of things as means" that propositions "having evidential warrant and experimental test are possible".{3}

It is in this definitely empirical and utilitarian perspective that Dewey insists on the distinctively human necessity of a rational recasting of desires, and on the essential role of intelligence in the appraisal of values. Wherever there is an end-in-view, he says,{1} there is not only affective-motor but ideational activity. "Nothing more contrary to common sense can be imagined than the notion that we are incapable of changing our desires and interests" as a result of the lesson of experience, "by means of learning what the consequences of acting upon them are, or, as it is sometimes put, of indulging them".{2}

Thus the notion of what is desirable, as opposed to what is simply desired, or the notion of what ought to be desired or valued, emerges, not as descending "out of the a priori blue" or "from a moral Mount Sinai" -- nor as depending on a normality of functioning expressed by the natural law (natural law and Sinai provoke the same allergies in Dewey) -- but purely as a result of the fact that "experience has shown that hasty action upon uncriticized desire leads to defeat and possibly to catastrophe".{2}

Weaknesses of the theory
9. It is certainly moving to see a philosopher's struggle to break the fetters of his own prejudices in the effort to re-establish certain rudimentary truths rejected by colleagues who are sunk even more deeply than he in the empiricist mire. Alas, try as he may, he does not get very far.

The weaknesses of Dewey's experimentalist theory consist above all in a vain effort to reformulate the notion of ends and means, and in a radical misunderstanding of the bonum honestum (the good as right).

In the most general way, what Dewey envisages is a systematic and rigorous reduction of value to the relation between means and end. This is another way of saying that he completely eliminates the perspective of formal causality in favor of that of final causality.

In the first place, as a result of the singular confusion of ideas already mentioned above, he makes the means enter into the very constitution of the end. Everyone knows that if in order to find a treasure it is necessary to pass through a country whose inhabitants are going to cut your throat, you will prefer to renounce the treasure, finding that the game is not worth the risk. Thus the means to be employed could cause you to lose an end a (your own life) more precious in value than the end b (coming into possession of the treasure) at which you are aiming -- and for this reason you give up end b. But for Dewey this means (under the pretext of considering only concrete cases in concrete instants) that end b itself possesses a certain value only in terms of the means to be employed in attaining it: so that in the concrete situation in which the decision is made (and in which Dewey places himself to argue his point) this end b has a negative value (an object not to be pursued), in other words is not an end, not a desirable object. This in itself reveals how sophistical such an argument is, which brings the end down to the level of the means and defines the value of an end in terms of the general serviceability (relative to the other ends which enter into consideration) of the means by which it can be attained in a given case.

Dewey forgets that, as an end once really wished for, end b (the discovery of the treasure), once renounced, remains a desirable object, and the end of a possible wish, so much so that in certain cases (for there are many sorts of treasure) regret at having had to renounce a given end can cause one to suffer for the rest of one's life. He forgets too that for the sake of being the first to reach the top of a mountain, or of making a certain profit, or of satisfying some ambition, man is prepared to risk his life and a great many other goods more precious than the object in question -- so true is it that every end (even if in other respects it is a means in relation to other ends) is, insofar as it is an end, endowed with a value in itself, because it is a good that fits the subject. Otherwise it would not be possible to understand how a reasonable man can risk his life to explore a new land or to push science forward a step, or how an irrational man can risk his life to win an automobile race or enjoy the pleasures of heroin or opium.

In the second place, Dewey not only holds that the value of the end is to be measured by the value of the means (whereas in a healthy philosophy the contrary is true -- the means as such, existing only for the sake of the end, derives its value only from the end); he also holds that this very end is an end with respect to the means to be used only because and insofar as it is itself a means to an ulterior end, and so on ad infinitum. There is no ultimate end, the notion of an ultimate end being considered a chimera of metaphysicians and churchmen, designed to assure the privileges of certain social groups -- and we find ourselves faced with an endless series of means and of ends which are themselves only means. This is what Dewey calls the continuum of ends-means,{1} by reason of which a purely experimentalist evaluation is possible, in which all values are measured from the angle of that which is useful-to-procure-a-result, or according to whether a line of conduct is the means to an end (which is itself a means to something else).

It is quite true, we should note in passing, that all of the particular ends which man can wish for here below are also means to other ends and desired for the sake of other ends, so that in the perspective of time and of particular ends the course or spiral of means and ends runs on to infinity. But at the same time this is only possible because there is in man a natural desire for an end -- happiness -- which is not particular but universal and which as such is superior to time, and for the sake of which all the rest is willed -- a final end, in short. But the notion of happiness as a final end arouses Dewey's suspicion, and not without reason: it is a dangerous notion for any anti-metaphysical philosophy because, being in itself highly indeterminate and apt to lean in one direction or another, it inevitably requires a choice by which we place our ultimate end or happiness in one concrete thing or another -- in the subsistent Good or in some other thing. Awareness of such a fact is as vexing for an experimentalistic monist as it is for a Hegelian or a positivist, for the other thing in question, whatever it may be, obviously remains so far from being able to satiate our desires completely that (at least to the extent to which speculative judgment and philosophical refiexion are concerned) the alternative really leaves too much chance for God.

But let us return to the theory of John Dewey. It must meet the objection which reproaches the continuum of ends-means with involving a regressus ad infinitum which renders all choice irrational and arbitrary. The objection is not valid, Dewey answers, and a final end from which the whole chain of ends and means would be suspended is not necessary, because each link in the chain takes form by itself without any need of the succeeding link. It is a question in every case of remedying a state of affairs which involves need, deficit or conflict, and it is uniquely according to whether in the given case they are or are not likely to eliminate the need, deficit or conflict that means are judged valid or invalid, good or bad, without having to search for any further reason.{1}

But we must look further if -- in accord with common sense which by reason of the subordination of ends only decides actually to pursue an end if the means employed do not compromise a higher end, and in accord with Dewey's own thesis, which, wrongly interpreting the conduct of common sense, claims to measure the value of the end by the means -- we do not want to be satisfied with just any means at all of remedying a loss or satisfying a given desire, in other words, to conduct ourselves like the people in Charles Lamb's Dissertation on Roast Pig. (In this story which Dewey delights in telling,{2} some men come upon a house which has burned down, and find the pigs in the pigsty roasted by the flames. They happen to pass their hands over the burned animals and when they lick their fingers they are so pleased with the taste that ever afterwards they apply themselves to building houses with pigstys and setting fire to them, thus supplying the lack in the existential situation with respect to their taste for roast pork.)

If in fact some means likely to attain the end in a given case are not employed, it is because the consequences relative to other ends must be considered; and we then find ourselves involved in "coordinations or organizations of activity" or, more precisely, with a "continuous temporal process of organizing activities"{3} -- in other words, to use a term dear to Dewey, with a process of growth, which implicates the human being's whole capacity for desire, and which, without Dewey's wishing to recognize it, is nothing but a denatured equivalent or empirical counterfeit of happiness as final end.{1}

In addition, the idea (common to Dewey and to all who want to find in biology the primary origin of every process of evaluation) that a desire only arises in a situation where some uneasiness, loss or conflict affects the "vital impulses" does not stand up under scrutiny. For on the one hand, not every tendency or aspiration natural to the human being is identical with a "vital impulse", and on the other hand every desire as such no doubt tends toward a good that one lacks, but not necessarily toward a good that would not be desired except for some previous uneasiness which the satisfaction of natural tendencies or aspirations, or even more the fulfillment of the vital impulses, would have sufficed in the beginning to render immune to lack or to conflict.

10. Concerning the moral value par excellence, the bonum honestum, all the preceding remarks show that this type of value could not fail to be entirely misunderstood by Dewey. For the bonum honestum is precisely a value which, in opposition to values of simple utility, is not appraised or measured as a means to an end, and transcends any order of means.{2}

The bonum honestum is the good by reason of which an act emanating from the freedom of man is good purely and simply, by the nature or ethical constitution of its object, and not because it serves to attain a goal or bring about a good state of affairs (good being here a synonym of "advantageous"). This is to say that it derives essentially from formal causality, not from final causality. It is the good as right, in relation to which an act is good or bad in itself, and in consequence is prescribed or forbidden in an unconditional way.

Here it would be useful to dissipate a certain number of confusions and misunderstandings. Dewey assures us that every quality and especially every value is "intrinsic" or "inherent" by the simple fact that it really belongs to the thing in question, even though this thing be envisaged only as a means, as his theory of evaluation requires. Strictly speaking, then, the expression "extrinsic value" would involve a contradiction in terms.{3}

These assertions rest on an equivocation. When we say that a quality or a value is "inherent" or "intrinsic", we do not mean only that it belongs to a certain object, but that it belongs to it by reason of what that object is in its proper constitution, not by reason of its relation to something foreign to what it is in itself, notably an end to which it is the means. In this latter case the value of an object can be called extrinsic, for whatever its own qualities may be, as means it has no other goodness than that of the end.

Then it must be noted that the term bonum honestum designates not only an intrinsic value (like that which belongs to some end taken in itself, like honors, health, pleasure . . .); it designates an intrinsic value which is, further, ethically good or desirable in an unconditional way, or absolutely speaking.

Is this to say that the bonum honestum is "out of relation to everything else",{1} an absolute fallen from heaven like a meteorite in virtue of the a priori "you ought" of Kant, or of an arbitrary decree issued either by a God conceived as pure will or by makers of moral codes who take His place? It is by putting things in this light that Dewey is able to overwhelm with his avenging blows the "absolutism"{2} that he attributes to all who refuse to believe that good and evil consist in serving either to restore to order or to further unsettle "states of affairs" which a lack or conflict renders disadvantageous.{3}

Here again, unhappily, Dewey's argument and his avenging blows are lost in a disastrous confusion of ideas (for which Kant is doubtless responsible in part). The fact is that to say that what has the value of bonum honestum, the just for example, is morally good in an unconditional way, or absolutely speaking, in no sense signifies that the bonum honestum is without relation to anything else. For this "absolute" only has meaning in relation to the nature or essence of man, and to the practical requirements of his normality of function. It is the relation of conformity or non-conformity with reason which makes the object of the act what it is morally, confers upon it its ethical nature or constitution, renders it good or bad in itself and unconditionally.

Thus the bonum honestum, the good in and for itself of the moral order, is certainly an intrinsic value, present in the object to which it belongs by reason of what that object is in its own constitution, not by reason of its relation to something foreign to what it is in itself. But it is not for this reason without all relation -- it is not without relation to the very thing which gives it its own constitution, and by the same token its unconditional character. It is independent (ab-solute) of any advantage or disadvantage of the individual or the social group, of any condition, of no matter what proviso -- "if you want to attain a given end"; but it is not independent of human nature and its essential inclinations, nor of practical reason; it is measured by them.

On Naturalist Ethics
11. The great problem to which a philosophy like John Dewey's draws our attention is that of the possibility of an ethics regulated exclusively by the positive sciences or the sciences of phenomena. On this question the positions taken by Auguste Comte and those taken by Dewey seem to be in conflict. Both of them reject (with Kant) any metaphysically based morality, and both (contrary to Kant) are seeking a cosmic morality; and it is upon the rational and objective knowledge furnished by the positive sciences, the sciences of phenomena, that this morality is to rest. But for Comte the sciences as such do not suffice; a reversal of point of view must occur, as a result of which, in the name of feeling, the religious fetishism with which human history began will be restored in a superior form, and will change scientists into priests of humanity in order to entrust to them the conduct of the human being.

For Dewey, on the contrary, it is the sciences of phenomena themselves, from physics and biology to sociology, which must suffice for man to regulate his conduct, once they are sufficiently developed and once they are integrated into an experimentalist philosophy of the same type as themselves, a philosophy designed to unify the field of knowledge and train men to judge according to scientific procedures. Then "the operation of desire in producing the valuations that influence human action" will be "ordered by verifiable propositions regarding matters-of-fact".{1} The void between the world of things and the world of man will be filled; and "science will be manifest as an operating unity . . . when the conclusions of impersonal non-humanistic science are employed in guiding the course of distinctively human behavior", characterized by "desire having ends-in-view, and hence involving valuations"{2} science will be in fact as well as by right "the supreme means of the valid determination of all valuations in all aspects of human and social life".{3}

We see, then, in what sense Dewey condemned "failure to recognize the moral potentialities of physical science".{4} "It is impossible to tell," he added, "the extent of the suffering in the world, avoidable or remediable in itself, which is due to the fact that physical science is considered purely physical."{5}

12. I think that the "moral potentialities" which "physical science" possesses, at least in certain respects, must indeed not be neglected. One can speak with good reason of a moral guidance offered by the medical sciences, the psychological sciences,{6} the social sciences, as they make known to man what value certain acts are possessed of and what rules of conduct are indicated with respect to the requirements of physical health, or psychological health, or of adjustments in human relations calculated to reduce conflict, distress or despair. The moralist ought to attach a great deal of significance to all of this, for it is perfectly true that certain conditions required for a healthy moral life can be established, and a great deal of pain and error avoided through these moral directions of "physical science". Further, by the very fact that they keep closer to the level of the sensible and do not claim to descend from on high, they more easily capture the attention of the rational animal. Although in this case as in others, as Aristotle pointed out, knowledge is not very effective in producing virtue, it is no small thing for a man to know that if he wants to keep his digestive and nervous systems in good condition he must practise sobriety and control his emotions, even, according to Dr. Carton, abstain from the use of foul language and avoid lying.

The fact remains that the guidance in question involves only a kind of pre-morality, and only acquires authentically ethical significance if it is regulated and controlled from a higher level by the aid of criteria concerned with the conscience proper. It is true that such pre-moralities, especially if their psychological and social evaluations are sufficiently elaborate, can in the case of many individuals be grafted into the sense of good and evil and natural law instinctively operating in man and henceforward enjoy in their case a moral status properly so called, by virtue of the kind of misapprehension or natural illusion we have previously alluded to (in connection with Marxist morality and Comtian morality, and with the way they are understood by some of those to whom they are taught).{1} But in themselves, deprived of any fixed point and of any final signpost with regard to the conscience, they are unable to provide man with a testing device consistent and definite enough to permit him to regulate his conduct as a man, or as an agent master of his actions.

For it happens -- and this is one of the points on which Dewey remains confused -- that the ends of a being deprived of reason are determined by nature, so that to help a grape-vine or a horse or a dog to be a good grape-vine, a good horse, or a good dog, it is enough to know under what conditions it profits or prospers best in its specific development. But to profit or prosper in his specific development is quite another matter for the human being, because it is he who fixes for himself the ends of his actions (in conformity or not with the proper ends of the human essence or nature), and who fixes for himself the supreme good (identical or not with his true ultimate end) toward which he directs his life. And the pre-moralities of which we are speaking, like the sciences on which they depend, are interested neither in the human essence as such nor in the ultimate end of human life, any more than in any unconditional value or norm. With respect to these things all their determinations remain up in the air, and all that a sufficiently comprehensive sociology can show is that without individuals capable of sacrificing everything for the sake of supra-sociological imperatives, the human species would be in a very bad way.

Separated from superior and authentically ethical criteria whose basis is in the metaphysical order, the moral guidance furnished by the positive sciences remains not only completely relative and conditional, it also remains irremediably fluid and arbitrary. Medicine can recommend sobriety, psychology can recommend humility and even, if need be, religious faith as detergents and lubricants for our human springs; but what answer can they give, if not by virtue of some conscious or unconscious metaphysics or anti-metaphysics, when they ask themselves, for example, whether trial marriage, euthanasia, scientifically controlled abortion, the sterilization of certain categories of a-social individuals, the elimination of aggressive instincts by the surgical or bio-chemical manipulation of the nerve centers, are to be recommended or advised against; when they ask themselves whether, when a desire becomes obsessive, it is or is not more reasonable to yield to it to avoid giving rise to a morbid fixation in the psyche; whether for a nation at war it is a crime or a duty to insure victory by using a weapon which annihilates millions of innocent people; and whether it is a sign of mental maturity or a sign of immaturity and infantile pride to risk one's life and the security of one's family and aggravate the tensions of the social milieu on the pretext of defending an innocent man or refusing to deny the truth?

13. A naturalist ethics is one for which what we have called the moral guidance of the positive sciences, or the pre-moralities emanating from these sciences, constitute morality itself. Given the irremediable indetermination and arbitrariness which, as we have just seen, characterize these pre-moralities when they are isolated from higher criteria, a naturalist ethics will be faced with a choice between two very different positions, one rigorously nonnormative, the other normative to some degree, and more or less avowedly.

The rigorously non-normative position gives the upper hand to the pure exigencies of the scientific method and scientific objectivity. It demands that the sciences to which man appeals for the improvement of his conduct enlighten him as completely as possible about the immediate and remote consequences of a given line of action; but it holds that it is not at all the business of these sciences to give the clients who consult them any counsels or prescriptions concerning the conduct of their lives. What is to be done in a given case? Insure my career by marrying the stupid and repulsive daughter of an all-powerful executive, or forego the boon my success might bestow upon my country in order to follow the inclinations of my heart? Or try to settle everything by becoming the husband of the executive's daughter and the lover of the young newspaperwoman I adore? The biologist, the geneticist, the psychiatrist, the expert in the social and political sciences, the expert in human relations furnish me with a complete table of the consequences that each of these three lines of action is likely to entail. After that it is up to me to decide what suits me best, not according to any rationally justified moral principle (since by hypothesis there is no other valid morality than the naturalist morality, and this refers me purely and simply back to the sciences of phenomena), but according to the mental habits my educators and environment have inculcated in me, or the ideas on life that I have gathered by chance from my experience, or the calculation of what best serves the interests that happen by chance to predominate in me, or simply, if I like to follow my impulses, according to my own taste and pleasure. I may make a mistake -- time will tell. But all things considered, things will turn out well, if not for me then for my species. For if naturalist morality refrains from guiding me, it is that it has confidence in human nature -- a limited confidence, it is true, as far as human nature in me is concerned, but unlimited in respect to human nature in the average man. Naturalist morality thinks it is emancipated from metaphysics, but it remains subject to the metaphysics of natural goodness as Rousseau conceived it.{1}

The normative position, on the contrary (normative to some degree and more or less avowedly), gives the upper hand to the human subject and its need to know how to direct its life. Hence it demands of the positive sciences that they fulfill the function of guidance, which they can only do if they are integrated into some coherent system possessing firm principles and a definite ideal. Will the requirement in question be met by any anti-metaphysical philosophy whatever, positivist or experimentalist, which, because it does not know of any order superior to the actual course of the world and of human life in time, abstains from frankly proposing a code of life to man? If naturalism really wants to be in a position to guide human life effectively, will it not have to resolve to be fully normative, and thus (since this is impossible for it inasmuch as plain philosophy) make itself into a "religion" in the full social sense of the word? Auguste Comte's religion had at least the merit of undertaking seriously to deliver us once and for all of metaphysics by putting in its place a fetishism and a set of social sanctions more powerful as a constraining force than any abstract precepts, however well-grounded in the invisible. Alone -- because he had greater lucidity and intrepidity in his aberration than all the zealots of "physical science" who succeeded him -- Comte alone, the prophet of messianic positivism, went to the necessary logical extreme for a fully naturalist morality. It is understandable that those who would like to see morality constituted in a complete metaphysical void should be embarrassed by their great ancestor, and throw a modest veil over the implacable logic by which he leads us to the ultimate regime of conscious and organized sociolatry.

14. At first glance Dewey seems to have chosen the rigorously non-normative position. In his eyes any moral theory that envisages a system of values and norms of conduct is headed toward absolutism. It is up to each individual to find the norm to be followed in a given situation, moral education as experimentalist philosophy conceives it consisting in learning how to proceed correctly in the analysis of particular situations and the consequences of various possible modes of conduct, and the correctness of the decision remaining hypothetical until the predicted consequences have been compared with the real consequences.{1} Is this not a kind of morality of situation,{2} however different it may be from that of Sartre by virtue of its scientism and the rationality it expects in the decisions of man once he is duly enlightened by science?

But here is exactly the point at which the perspective is reversed and Dewey swerves in reality from the rigorously non-normative position. If one looks at it closely one sees that his morality is, in spite of everything, and unadmittedly, normative, or directive of human acts -- not directly and in itself, but through the intermediary of apprenticeship in rational or "scientific" methods of valuation.

Not only was Dewey a moralist and a meliorist to his marrow,{3} with a religious passion for the growth of life, the perpetual renewal of ends, the expansion of human nature and of its potentialities, the enrichment of existence in significance and powers{4} (however vague these notions may be, they nevertheless point to supreme values and general directions of conduct proposed by his moral philosophy itself); not only did his insistence on the rationality and maturity of mind to be manifested in our choices have a clearly normative significance; but above all, being like every naturalist philosopher more interested in human nature and the human species than in the human person as such, it was toward the social, and toward reciprocal adjustment between the individual and his environment that his whole moral philosophy was oriented.{1} And he conceived of freedom itself in terms of interaction between man and his environment, in such a way that "human desire and choice count for something" in the matter.{2} Here it is only a question of "an adjustment to be reached intelligently", and "the problem shifts from within the personality to an engineering issue", in other words, "to the establishment of the arts of education and social guidance".{3} What does this mean if not that in the last analysis it is the philosophy of Dewey -- which proposes no rules of conduct, but teaches rules and procedures of investigation to be used in determining the value of various possible modes of conduct in a given situation{4} -- which will be the guiding spirit of "the arts of education and social guidance"?

In this sense, and with a view not, certainly, toward a Comtian type of "spiritual power", but toward a democratic society that would be controlled without even being conscious of it by a host of well-indoctrinated educators and social guides, Dewey's naturalist morality, in spite of his horror of despotism, does not open up very reassuring perspectives for the human person.

The truth is that Dewey never decisively ranged himself with either of the two positions -- rigorously non-normative or more or less normative -- which we delineated above. His own position remained ambivalent. And his morality can be described as an equivocally normative morality.

A good many other ambiguities have been pointed out in Dewey's thought.{5} We have already spoken of the ambiguity in his very notion of nature.{6} He wrote a book on Human Nature and Conduct, and in his introduction, attacking a pharisaical morality which is nothing more than a caricature of normative systems of morality and even of the Kantian imperative, he says: "Give a dog a bad name and hang him. Human nature has been the dog of professional moralists and the consequences fit the proverb."{7} As for himself, he refuses to separate morality from human nature, and calls for a morality "based on the study of human nature".{8} So it is that when it is a question of morality the concept of human nature is valid. But when it is a question of theory of knowledge (in which for Dewey the sciences of phenomena are the type of all knowledge) this same concept is no longer worth anything. There is no nature, there is only process. It is more difficult than one would suppose to be a consistent naturalist.{1} And, as Santayana has shown,{2} Dewey certainly did not succeed.

Bergsonian Morality and the Problem of Supra-Morality

The Bergsonian themes

Pressure and Aspiration

1. When Bergson writes: "there can be no question of founding morality on the cult of reason",{3} does he wish to say simply that it is not the business of philosophical reason (the reason of the theorists of ethics) to discover or invent, and to make effective on the mind the rules of human conduct, in other words, to found them creatively, by an act of initial establishment, in the manner for example in which the science of naval engineering makes the plans for a ship, directs its construction, and provides for its armament, and by the same token binds the officers and the crew to the set of rules without whose observance the ship could not put out to sea? In that sense Bergson's assertion would be correct.

But this assertion goes much further. For Bergson it does not mean that moral philosophy is a reflexive knowledge, prior to which one must presuppose moral experience and the moral life of humanity, the norms of conduct recognized by it in the course of its long gropings and difficult advances -- in such a way that the reason of the philosophers and the theorists of ethics validates indeed and confirms, no doubt, the laws recognized spontaneously by conscience, but does so after the event and reflexively, not by initial establishment, and thus explains, refines and makes precise these laws, and submits them to critical examination, but in no way creates or engenders them.

No; what Bergson means to say is that morality and moral philosophy presuppose, as their constitutive sources, forces which do not depend on reason (either philosophical reason or reason in its natural and spontaneous functioning), but on "life" and "the principle of life"{1} there is on one hand an infra-rational or infra-moral energy, which is essentially of the social order, and on the other hand a supra-rational or supra-moral energy, which is essentially of the mystical order. Our morality, and our diverse, more or less "intellectualistic" systems of moral philosophy are a rationalization in which this infra-rational component and this supra-rational component "intermingle and interpenetrate"{2} and mutually influence each other on the level of concepts and logic, and in which the first component passes to the second something of its compulsive force", the second communicates to the first something of its perfume".{3} Thus doubtless each of them loses its proper quality for the philosopher who keeps to the conceptual level; they conserve it however for the acting man, in whom, above and below this level, the living sources and the "two moralities" always exercise their power.

2. It will be necessary then for Bergson, by resorting to a method whose disadvantages he is clearly aware of, but which is imposed on him by the nature of things, to consider pure cases which are ideal limits. "Pure aspiration is an ideal limit, just like obligation unadorned."{4}

"The fundamental theme of The Two Sources is the distinction and opposition between that which in moral life proceeds from pressure and that which proceeds from aspiration. Pressure comes from social formations and from the law of fear to which the individual is subject with regard to the rules of life imposed by the group and intended to assure its preservation, and which seeks only to turn to the routine and ferocious automatism of matter. -- Aspiration comes from the call of superior souls who commune with the élan of the spirit and who penetrate into the infinitely open world of liberty and love, which transcends psychological and social mechanisms; it comes from the call of the hero, and from the propulsive force of the emotion" -- Plotinus would have said the "conversion" -- which turns the soul toward the very principle of life. "To this law of pressure and this law of aspiration are linked two quite distinct forms of morality: closed morality, which, to put it briefly, is that of social conformism; open morality, which is that of saintliness."{1}

Although human society is "composed of free wills" while an organism is subject to inexorable laws",{2} society imitates as much as it can an organism in which habit would play "the same role as necessity in the works of nature";{3} or rather it imitates as much as it can, with its system of habits which weigh on the will of each, the purely instinctive "societies" of which the ant-hill is the prototype. Immanent in each of its members,{4} society makes us, in the most general case, travel the roads laid out by it without our even noticing; or, when we find ourselves faced with a problem or a temptation which necessitates a personal decision, it brings to bear on us a force which can be called "the totality of obligation",{5} and which is "the concentrated extract, the quintessence of innumerable specific habits of obedience to the countless particular requirements of social life".{6}

In a hive or an ant-hill "each rule is laid down by nature, and is necessary", while in human society "only one thing is natural, the necessity of a rule".{7} "Thus the more, in human society, we delve down to the root of the various obligations to reach obligation in general, the more obligation will tend to become necessity, the nearer it will draw, in its peremptory aspect, to instinct. And yet we should make a great mistake if we tried to ascribe any particular obligation, whatever it might be, to instinct. What we must perpetually recall is that, no one obligation being instinctive, obligation as a whole would have been instinct if human societies were not, so to speak, ballasted with variability and intelligence. It is a virtual instinct. . ."{8}

With the call of the hero an entirely different universe reveals itself. Then it is "by turning back for fresh impetus, in the direction whence that impetus came"{9} -- in other words, in turning toward the very principle of that life which has produced, at one stage of its evolution, the human race and human society, naturally closed -- that the soul communicates intuitively with a reality which transcends evolution itself and its products. "It would be content to feel itself pervaded, though retaining its own personality, by a being immeasurably mightier than itself, just as an iron is pervaded by the fire which makes it glow."{10} And it gives itself "by excess" to society, but to a society "comprising all humanity, loved in the love of the principle underlying it".{11}

The saints, the great mystics are rare. They soar so high that it must be said of each of them that "such a one is in fact more than a man".{1} But in the inner being of most men there is "the whisper of an echo".{2} "They have no need to exhort; their mere existence suffices."{3} Let one of these exceptional personalities rise up, and his experience and his example will awaken in the depths of the human race a nostalgia which will cause it to make a kind of leap forward; our moral life with its system of obligations, social in origin, will be pervaded by a superior element and to that extent transformed. This superior element comes from the second morality,{4} from open morality, which "differs from the first in that it is human instead of being merely social".{5} And if it is human, it is because the soul is liberated there in a supra-intellectual{6} emotion in which it yields to the attraction of the very principle of life, and which is the love of Creative Love. "The truth is that heroism may be the only way to love."{7} It is "from the contact with the generative principle of the human species" that man has felt "he drew the strength to love mankind".{8} We are then drawn by the great discoverers who march ahead of us and who have encountered God, by those great mystics for whom the task "is to effect a radical transformation of humanity by setting an example",{9} and who are "the imitators, and original but incomplete continuators, of what the Christ of the Gospels was completely".{10}

3. What I would like to point out first of all in connection with these Bergsonian themes are two contrasting aspects whose importance seems to me to be considerable. On one hand, Bergson insists on a crucial fact which philosophers ordinarily endeavor to conceal -- namely, the fact that moral life, considered in its true concrete reality, is wrapped in a double envelope; the stays of social existence, with the pressures to which it submits us, and the atmosphere of mystic and religious experience, with the desire for that union with God and His love of which the saints are the great witnesses. The morality effectively lived by men, with its rules of conduct which they recognize in conscience and which they apply or reject in practice (rejecting more often than practicing them) does not exist without this double envelope. But on the other hand, from this double envelope, the one infra-moral in itself, the other supra-moral, Bergson makes two halves which constitute morality itself, or two moralities, closed morality and open morality, whose coalescence in the course of historical development supposedly makes up morality in the ordinary meaning of the word.

Such systematization makes the Bergsonian theory open to criticism; we will have to come back to this point. For the moment, what matters to us is to note that in seeing in the constraints exercised by the social quasi-instinct and in the attraction of the great mystics the two halves of morality itself, Bergson apparently proceeded as a pure philosopher, in whose ethical theory the sociological element and the mystical element were absorbed. In reality, however, what he proposed to us is a moral philosophy not exclusively philosophical, because not only did it take over data received from sociology and ethnology, reinterpreted by it or elevated to ita own level; it also received data and testimony which came from a higher source than philosophy. Bergsonian ethics learns from the mystics; it nourishes its philosophic substance itself with the Sermon on the Mount{1} and the morality of the Gospel. And in this it is profoundly revolutionary with respect to the whole modern rationalist tradition (as also, in another sense, with respect to the Medieval tradition, which in ethical matters was turned entirely toward theology, not philosophy; in fact, if not by right, it was with the schools of pagan antiquity and its sages that for the Middle Ages the notion of moral philosophy was associated; and if medieval thinkers were to retain, and with what care, the teachings of the Nicomachean Ethics, it was solely to forge with them an instrument for the use of moral theology).

From the moment that one recognizes that mystical contemplation is a supreme (experiential) wisdom of divine things rooted in faith (as Bergson thought from the time of The Two Sources, all the while seeming to underestimate the role of faith); and from the moment that one also recognizes (which Bergson at the time of The Two Sources left completely aside) that the analysis of the "proper causes" or "proper reasons" of mystical experience pertains to theology, one must conclude that what Bergson proposes to us in reality, and has introduced for the first time into the field of philosophical knowledge, is -- still in an inchoate and merely implicit stage -- a moral philosophy adequately taken, or which makes its own the data concerning human existence received from a superior knowledge. And in this respect whoever has a correct idea of moral philosophy owes him a special debt of gratitude.

Fortunes of Ambiguity
4. From the very fact that he thought he was concerned with a work of pure philosophy when in reality he was philosophizing under the influx of a higher world than that of reason alone, Bergson could not avoid a kind of ambiguity which, varied as might be its forms, consists fundamentally in enclosing within the same notion things which, when one sets about clarifying and distinguishing them with more precision, appear as belonging to different orders.

In a general way the ambiguities which could thus be pointed out in The Two Sources could just as well have turned toward a kind of naturalistic biologism as toward the Christian conception of the world. In fact it is in the Christian direction that they have turned, and Bergson from the outset saw his friends winding up in an authentically Christian mode of thought when he asked them to "read between the lines" of his book.{1} This is why they appear to us as happy or propitious ambiguities.

After having explained that, if one wishes to understand how society obliges individuals, it is necessary to delve, beneath social accretions, down to life -- and if one wishes to understand how the individual can judge society and bring it to greater heights, it is necessary to delve right down to the principle of life{2} -- Bergson writes: "Let us then give to the word biology the very broad meaning it should have, and will perhaps have one day, and let us say in conclusion that all morality, be it pressure or aspiration, is in essence biological."{3} There is here, it seems, an attempt to reduce the spiritual to the biological (to the biological rendered itself so transcendent that it is conceived as the creative source of worlds).{4} But if one considers that for Bergson "the principle of life" is Subsistent Love, or the super-abundance in pure act of the purely spiritual, then, quite to the contrary, one finds oneself confounded with an attempt at transfiguration of the biological into the spiritual.

The Bergsonian morality is cosmic in so strong and extreme a sense that ethics seems to be absorbed in metaphysics -- in the metaphysics of the vital impetus -- and that the unforeseeable, more than human adventures of the heroes of the moral life appear there as the peak of the very evolution which has produced the world of the insects and that of the vertebrates. But no! A radical discontinuity enters in. It is in reascending, beyond the whole impetus of evolution, to its first source, and by communing with the pure spirituality of Creative Love, infinitely superior to the whole universe of nature, that the heroes whose call attracts us elevate and transform little by little the moral life of humanity; so that in short if the whole cosmos is interested in the moral effort of men, it is in the sense noted by Saint Paul: all creation travails and aspires to be transformed, groans in awaiting the revelation of the sons of God.

5. When Bergson speaks of nature, he has in view neither the abstract and essentially analogical notion of ousia or of intelligible constituent, nor the notion of that which, in contradistinction to the participation by grace in the Uncreated Himself, is called the natural order. He has in mind the concrete power of the vital impetus (in combat with the relapse of matter and grasped again at each step by matter) whose greatest success was the appearance on our globe of the human species and human society. It is then allowable for him to speak -- in a completely metaphorical way, as he does not fail to emphasize -- of what nature "intends", or of what it "wants". Here we have a kind of metaphorical personification of the Aristotelian physis. And when one comes to the human race and human society, what nature "wants" is precisely the maintenance and reinforcement of this hard-won success; in fact, what Bergson ascribes to nature is the behavior of the homo animalis or psuchikos anthrôpos of whom Saint Paul spoke,when he considers man in his concrete state as a simple result of evolution -- a concrete state where he is capable by himself alone (or, as a Christian would say, by the forces of nature alone) only of a very imperfect and very limited good.

One understands consequently why Bergson, with a realism whose perspicacity far outdistances the optimistic illusions of the great prophets of naturalism, insists on the extreme limitation of the ethical capacities with which nature has provided the human being. Nature tends toward the closed society and closed morality; and what this society and morality were with primitive man remains the real and active centre, always ready to spread its flames, of the effort and ruses of nature in the very fabric of our civilized societies.{1} It is in the manner of bees in the hive or ants in the ant-hill that nature unifies men among themselves, in drawing the outsider away from their horizon and their heart.{2} If nature does not want war for the sake of war, it at least wants the closed society to be always ready for war against an eventual enemy. "The origin of war is ownership, individual or collective, and since humanity is predestined to ownership by its structure, war is natural."{3} And once war comes, the rules of morality which were respected up to that time yield place quite naturally to the morality of the primitive closed society. "Murder and pillage and perfidy, cheating and lying become not only lawful, but they are actually praiseworthy. The warring nations can say, with Macbeth's witches: 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair.'{4}

Such is nature's ethics, or the thrust of the vital impetus passing through matter at the human level. (We have already noted that Bergson is not interested in the notion of human nature as a universal essence. This lack -- one may note in passing -- explains why the idea of natural law is absent from his philosophy; not only with the positivists, but also with their adversaries, one could say that for a century this notion disappeared from the thought of philosophers, while among the jurists the need to return to it was increasingly felt. To-day philosophical thought has started once again to be concerned with it, and it is surely one of the notions that philosophers of the next generation will have to re-examine and make valid again.) But let us end this digression. What we are concerned to note is that for Bergson every moral progress in mankind has taken place under the influence of the second morality, the morality of aspiration, and against the grain of nature. Even when its impetus is insufficient or opposed, dynamic religion is of itself "a leap outside of nature".{1}

A remarkable opposition appears at this point between spirit and nature; and if the source at which the spirit is fed when it goes back to the very principle of life is a beyond-nature at once in the Hindu sense{2} and in the Christian sense,{3} this ambiguity at least leaves the door open for grace, for the supernatural as Christianity understands this word, and it even leans in this direction, since, in the last analysis, it is only by virtue of the Gospel and the Christian mystics that open morality, thanks to its long effort through the centuries, has succeeded in fully revealing itself and setting the world in motion.

Authentic love of Humanity
6. It is by virtue of an emotion analogous to the creative emotion of the poet, but higher and more transforming -- and with which the person "becomes one"{4} -- that the mystics, says Bergson, stir up in humanity the "irresistible attraction"{5} which draws it beyond nature. He takes care however to insist on the fact that the "open morality" of which he speaks is in no way a "moral philosophy of sentiment".{6}

The "emotion" in question has nothing to do with those "disturbances"{7} and that soft-heartedness of the sensible-organic order, even with those pleasures at feeling one's own goodness,{8} where the self remains always central, and which the words "sentiment" and "sentimental" connote. This emotion tears us away from our ego, decenters us from ourselves, centers us in another. It is essentially spiritual. Bergson knew its name; it is called charity.{9}

Having decided to ignore all theology, he says nothing either of the supernatural order on which such "emotion" depends, or of the faith which is at the root of it, according to the testimony of the great mystics whose experience he has examined. However, not only does he leave his doctrine open to these theological truths, but it is in their direction that the ambiguity here again present in his exposition resolves itself: for on one hand the core of the matter, in his eyes, is indeed participation in that love which is the very essence of God -- "the divine love is not a thing of God: it is God Himself";0) -- on the other hand, to say that the love which makes the saints the cooperators of God{1} is a "supra-intellectual" emotion, and that "never before" has the soul which feels it "been so charged with thought",{2} is to admit by the same token that it proceeds, not doubtless from an "idea", but from a veiled communication from the divine reality to the knowing faculty.

Saint Thomas teaches on the one hand that every creature naturally loves God more than itself,{3} and on the other hand that the charity by which we love God as His sons and share in His intimate life is essentially supernatural.{4} In an incomplete and ambiguous fashion made inevitable by his decision to remain on a purely philosophical level even when what he is speaking of goes beyond philosophy at all points, Bergson describes to us the impetus of love which, at the call of the saints, carries humanity beyond the closed society and closed morality in terms whose affinity with this twofold doctrine seems to us undeniable. Our deepest wish is to get out of ourselves in order to unite ourselves with the very source of life, this is the instinct which makes men yearn after any kind of rapture; if such a wish emanates from our nature, it is only in a desire and a love which derive from grace that it assumes authentic form and can truly be fulfilled. . . .

But what matters to us above all in the doctrine of The Two Sources is the central theme which insists that it is not at all through a progressive extension of love for the family and the city, or, to speak like Auguste Comte, of "sympathetic inclinations" and "instincts of sociability", that man passes to the love of humanity. No; what nature and our instinct of sociability induce us to love is our closed group, those who are our people, excluding the outsider whom we naturally tend to ignore, misunderstand or scorn.{5} In order truly to love humanity one must run upwards against the grain of nature and instinct, one must, by a leap of which spirit alone is capable, and a liberation of which God alone can be the author, be transported and carried away in this sovereign love which has made everything, which is at the very origin of worlds and life, and which opens our hearts to all men, making us love them with the same love with which He first loves them. "The utmost we can say is that family and social feeling may chance to overflow and to operate beyond its natural frontiers, with a kind of luxury value; it will never go very far. The mystic love of humanity is a very different thing. It is not the extension of an instinct, it does not originate in an idea. It is neither of the senses nor of the mind. It is of both, implicitly, and is effectively much more. For such a love lies at the very root of feeling and reason, as of all other things. Coinciding with God's love for His handiwork, a love which has been the source of everything, it would yield up, to anyone who knew how to question it, the secret of creation. It is still more metaphysical than moral in its essence. What it wants to do, with God's help, is to complete the creation of the human species and make of humanity what it would have straight away become, had it been able to assume its final shape without the assistance of man himself."{1}

7. In the course of a preceding chapter{2} we found in the sentimental hedonism of the philosopher of altruism -- "what pleasures can be greater than those of self-devotion?" -- an outstanding example of false love or abortive love. Love of humanity does not play any less central a role in Bergsonian ethics than in the ethics of Auguste Comte; it is the very criterion of the "open morality" and the "open society". But Bergson makes us see in what consists genuine love of humanity; he shows us that authentic love and the authentic gift of self by which we dedicate ourselves to all men pass necessarily through God,{3} and that their true name is that fraternal charity which is but one with the love of God. What constitutes the exceptional historic bearing of Bergson's moral philosophy is the fact that it is a testimony borne at the heart of modern thought, both against the pseudo-Christianity of Hegel and the anti-Christianity of Comte. I don't believe that in writing The Two Sources Bergson ever thought of Auguste Comte and the religion of Humanity. Yet he sets against them a singularly significant riposte, a moral philosophy where the impetus toward Christianity and the person of Jesus stands out in place of the aversion which Comte nourished in regard to them, and which shuns substituting the "sympathetic impulsions located in the anterior region of the brain" for the grace of God, as the Positivist Catechism wished to do.

While for Auguste Comte the notion of right must disappear, "every human right" being "absurd as well as immoral",{1} it is quite remarkable that Bergson insists with a particular emphasis on justice,{2} that justice which, as we have previously noted, true love consummates and does not supplant. It is no less striking to observe that while Comte becomes intoxicated with the authoritarianism of his sociolatric regime, Bergson holds a democracy where mechanics and mysticism call upon each other to be the temporal hope of mankind.{3} A powerful instinct warned the high priest of humanity to be wary of democratic justice and democratic liberties. Bergson knew that the forward leap by which the idea of justice was extended to humanity in its entirety was due to Christianity; {4} -- as he knew that taken in its original inspiration "democracy is evangelical in essence" and that "its motive power is love".{5}

If one thinks of the aspirations of human nature metaphysically considered, and of the demands of natural law, one must say that nothing is more natural than the groping effort by which peoples tend toward democratic achievement. But it is by a motion issuing from a higher source than nature, it is by the inspiration of the Gospel at work in secular consciousness, that this effort has been awakened in human history. And if we remember the concrete and limited sense, more biological than metaphysical, and centered on the collective egotism of the species, in which Bergson understood the word "nature", we realize why he "wanted to show, in the democratic mind, a mighty effort in a direction contrary to that of nature",{6} warning us in this manner that the great historical adventure of democracy would go bankrupt if democracy should deny its spiritual origins and relax in its struggle to dominate the animal instincts.

Moral Obligation
8. In order to preserve whatever is valid in the position of the sociologists and to expose the enormous part which the invasion of the social into the recesses of the individual psyche has in our moral life, the Bergsonian theory of closed morality strikes deeper than sociology and sociologism themselves, for it is not only social structures and social taboos that it takes into consideration; it is, behind them, beneath them, the very impulse of nature or "life" to which the human species and human society owe their existence. "Obligation as a whole" which we sense with a mysterious reverential fear weighing on us in each of the particular obligations to which social rules bind us derives its power from the vital impetus itself. "The pressure of it, compared to that of other habits, is such that the difference in degree amounts to a difference in kind."{1} Bergson's analysis in the first pages of The Two Sources, in particular his analysis of the drive which pushes a criminal to denounce himself,{2} contain, from the point of view we have just indicated, unquestionable truths.

The trouble is that this "obligation" at whose root "there is a social claim",{3} which "binds us to the other members of society" by a link "of the same nature as that which unites the ants in the ant-hill or the cells of an organism",{4} this "force of unvarying direction, which is to the soul what force of gravity is to the body" and "which ensures the cohesion of the group by bending all individual wills to the same end"{5} -- "that force is moral obligation",{6} writes Bergson -- well, no, all this is not moral obligation, all this is only a purely factual force, of the same order as cosmic and organic energies and necessities, which is grafted from the outside on authentic moral obligation and increases its power but at the price of an alien contribution, and sometimes initiates it and sometimes enters into direct conflict with it. Of itself this almost physical constraint so well analyzed by Bergson has nothing to do with moral obligation, by which I am bound in conscience to refuse to do what appears as evil in my own eyes, even though all of society and the whole universe and the whole power of cosmic evolution may bring pressure to bear on me to force me to do it.

9. One must say the same of the quasi-obligation which depends on the second morality", or open morality. Bergson's presentation, moreover, reveals here, and this was inevitable, a certain embarrassment. On the one hand it is essential to the Bergsonian theory that it oppose obligation to aspiration -- the obligation of the closed morality to the aspiration of the open morality. Obligation is characteristic, then, of closed morality. On the other hand, however, one must indeed recognize that the morality of aspiration itself admits of a kind of obligation: not only because the two moralities are in fact intermingled, and the attractions felt under the call of the hero happen to be captured in regulations and formulae which depend on the habits developed by obligation as social pressure; but also and primarily because in the very order of open morality we are aware of a duty not to withdraw ourselves from what love asks of us -- and "is there such a thing as a duty which is not compulsory ?"{7} Not only, then, "should obligation radiate" "and expand", but even come "to be absorbed into something that transfigures it".{8}

In open morality, in other words, "there is still obligation, if you will"{9} (if you will, says Bergson, and it is the avowal of his uneasiness). But such an obligation is no longer obligation strictly speaking, the quasi-instinctive necessity of the system of habits required for the cohesion of the group; it is "the force of an aspiration of an impetus, of the very impetus which culminated in the human species" . . . Then "the primitive impetus here comes into play directly".{1}

The fact remains -- and this is what is important for us to note -- that this improperly called (Bergsonian) obligation, this "obligation, if you will" which belongs to the morality of aspiration, is no more an authentic moral obligation than the properly so-called (Bergsonian) obligation. In a sense it is closer to genuine obligation because it is not a force primarily extrinsic to the soul, the force of the social group penetrating and invading the recesses of the individual psyche; it is from the moment of its origin, although coming from a higher source, interior to the soul which undergoes it. But it too has nothing to do with the typical, essential element of moral obligation as such, I mean the paradox of this bond by which free will is held and which nevertheless is connatural to it and leaves intact all its spontaneity, the paradox of this unique constraint which does not result from any force exercising an efficient power on the will. Whether he is placed in the perspective of open morality or in that of closed morality, the philosopher of The Two Sources passes by authentic moral obligation.

It is so because "the obligation, if you will" which belongs to open morality remains, too, a purely factual force, which no longer brings pressure on the will but draws it and attracts it, a force which is no longer of the same order as the cosmic and organic energies but of a trans-cosmic order and emanates from creative love, and whose power, no longer one of constraint or coercion, but one of aspiration and attraction, has a transcendent efficacy. "This is no longer," Bergson says, "a more or less attenuated compulsion, it is a more or less irresistible attraction", manifested by "a certain stirring up of the soul, which you call emotion".{1} He is right to add: "In both cases you are confronted by forces which are not strictly and exclusively moral."{2} Attraction or compulsion, supra-intellectual emotion or quasi-instinctive constraint, these forces exercise a physical causality on us, they do not bind us morally by virtue of what the conscience sees, they do not at all concern this power that the judgment of conscience has to hold in the purely moral order a will which remains physically free to escape from it.

And on the one hand the pressure exercised within me by the ant-hill to which I belong is indeed a constraint, but it is in no way that entirely immaterial constraint, devoid of the least physical compulsion, which constitutes authentic moral obligation. On the other hand the emotion which lifts me up under a more or less irresistible attraction isn't constraint at all -- not even that purely immaterial constraint on the free will, without a shadow of physical compulsion, which constitutes authentic moral obligation; it is not physical obligation and it is not moral obligation, it is not obligation at all (even "obligation, if you will").

10. Obligation-in-conscience is an absolutely primary and absolutely irreducible datum of moral experience. And it is something so simple that philosophical reflection either grasps it right away or misses it completely. When he writes that moral obligation "is in no sense a unique fact, incommensurate with others",{3} Bergson shows that his own reflection has completely missed it.

This accident can be attributed to the diminished idea which Bergson had of intelligence in general and of its role in the moral life in particular, and to the "ontological lack" which has been noticed in his doctrine. When he criticizes what he calls intellectualism and the attempts to give an account of moral obligation in dependence on intelligence,{4} he is often right against the theories of philosophers, but in what concerns the function that the intellect really performs in the matter, the remarkably sharp and subtle analyses and discussions which he offers to us simply overlook the issue.{5}

The truth is that moral obligation is actually a unique fact incommensurable with any other, and to be mistaken about this fact is to be mistaken about the ethical order as such. Kant had indeed seen the importance of it, but he treated it as a kind of irruption of the sacred realm into the domain of reason, a fact not only primary but inscrutable and defying analysis, and he constructed on it a doctrine so irritating to the mind that the very concept of obligation has been compromised in the thought of philosophers for more than a century.

In reality the fact of which we are speaking can be analyzed by philosophical thought -- in the manner however of primary data, and in dependence on self-evident apperception which the cult of the problematic and of the conceptual constructions to be built risks finding too simple.

Everything in this connection boils down, on the one hand, to the relationship between the intellect and the will and to their mutual envelopment, on the other hand to that original and irreducible object of intellectual intuition, that specifically moral determination of being which is the bonum honestum, or the good pure and simple, "substantial", in itself and for itself, of the ethical order.

The bonum honestum, the quality of an act ethically good by reason of what it is, or of its relation to what man is, independently of all consideration of advantage or utility, as well as pleasure -- independently also of every pressure which could weigh on us, and of every emotion and aspiration which could stir us up -- the "good as right" is as remarkably absent from Bergson's ethics as from John Dewey's ethics. It is certainly not that Bergson is ignorant of it, he knows it naturally like every man, and he makes allusions to it here and there, particularly in The Two Sources when he writes: "To betray the confidence of an innocent soul opening out to life is one of the most heinous offences for a certain type of conscience, which is apparently lacking in a sense of proportion, precisely because it does not borrow from society its standards, its gauges, its system of measurement."{1} But he allots no place to it in his philosophical elaboration. And it is significant that when he believes he is discussing obligation Bergson employs a purely despotic formula, which fits in fairly well with the Kantian imperative and very well with pure social pressure -- "you must because you must"{2} -- but never dreams of the formulation: "you must because it is good".

The bonum honestum is remarkably absent also from the theories of most modern philosophers. Should we be astonished at this? It is a question here of one of those entirely primary and entirely simple things which mankind's common consciousness grasps by so spontaneous, so ordinary, and so banal an exercise of the intellectual faculty that no one pays any attention to it, and which escape by the same token the investigators given to philosophical reflection, unless they possess the gift of the simple metaphysical gaze. From this point of view the bonum honestum is to morality what being is to philosophy. And one can say of it what we said of being: "We must remember that the best way of hiding anything is to make it common, to place it among the most ordinary objects. . . . Nothing is more ordinary than being, if we mean the being of everyday knowledge, nothing more hidden, if we mean the being of metaphysics. Like the great saints of poverty it is hidden in light."{1}

11. Let us understand however that on the one hand the good as right, the bonum honestum is the good itself of the moral order -- that by which, insofar as we belong to human nature and depend on its normality of functioning, a human act is purely and simply good, and a man purely and simply good.{2} And let us understand on the other hand, according to the axiom so often repeated by Saint Thomas in a sense which is not only moral but absolutely universal, that the will tends by necessity of nature to the good which is presented to it by the intellect, and cannot will evil as evil. At the same time we understand that if, at the level of the practical decision or the "practico-practical judgment", it is entirely possible for me to wish to do evil (moral evil) and to want to be bad (morally bad), because then, freely breaking loose from the moral order, I still tend to a good, but one which is not the moral good, and still want to be "good" or to acquire a certain plenitude of being, but not morally -- on the contrary, as long as I remain within the moral perspective itself and keep, on the level of the (speculativo-practical) judgment, viewing my conduct in the sole light of universal moral values and norms, prior to my practical decision, as long as I consider my possible action and my possible behavior with respect to the human value that they have of themselves, leaving out of account the inclinations of my subjectivity in the given situation, in short, as long as I listen to my conscience, it is impossible for me to wish to do moral evil and to be morally bad: because, insofar as I keep on this level of thought and actually consider the moral rule, to wish to do moral evil and to be morally bad would be tantamount to wishing to be purely and simply bad and to wishing evil as evil, which is contrary to the very nature of the will. So long as I consider right here and now the law, or listen to my conscience, I feel myself bound by it, prevented from willing what is morally bad.

Such is authentic moral obligation, where the force which binds me is absolutely nothing which exercises any "physical" causality on me whatsoever, pressure or aspiration, constraint of society or attraction of creative love. This force is purely that of intellectual knowledge conditioning the exercise of the will. It relates not to efficient causality nor to final causality, but to formal causality, and it is in passing through the will itself, and in virtue of the very nature of the will that it is necessitating.

Thus appears what is unique, irreducible and incommensurable with any other fact, in the fact of moral obligation; thus the paradox to which we alluded above is resolved, the paradox of that bond by which the free will is held and which nevertheless is connatural to it and leaves all its spontaneity intact. For in the heaven of the soul where intelligence and will contain each other, not only is it connatural to the will to emanate from knowledge and to be formed in the light of the intellect, but it is by itself or by its own nature that the will is obliged or necessitated to will that which is morally good and not to will that which is morally bad as long as the gaze of the intellect is set on the law of human conduct or on the value in itself of human conduct. A singular constraint, a constraint unique in its kind, this constraint which the intellect considering the moral universe exercises on the will, and which properly constitutes moral obligation.{1} The will is obliged, it is constrained, certainly -- and so to speak by a torturing iron hand in what concerns the particular movements, whether of desire and passion, or of pure will itself, which, however hopelessly intense they may be, are forbidden (as long as I consider the exigencies of the moral realm) to express themselves in free decision. But in what concerns its very nature, or the first immanent principle of its activity, the will exercises rather than undergoes this constraint; for the iron hand of which I just spoke is nothing else but the nature itself of the will; it is by its very nature itself that, under the light of what the intellect sees, the will is constrained or obliged. So that, by a unique exception, it is possible, in the case of moral obligation, to speak of a constraint naturally undergone, and which does not impede the volitive faculty from remaining master of its action -- constraint which implies no element of physical coercion, but only the vision of what is good or bad -- and from which I am free consequently to withdraw myself, no longer on the level of the judgment of conscience but of the practico-practical judgment or election, on condition that I voluntarily detach my gaze from the moral perspective, or to put it another way, that in my act of choice I voluntarily cease to "consider the rule".

Supra-morality and the call of Creative Love
The regime of life of the great mystics and the liberty of the Spirit

12. The preceding discussion about moral obligation has shown us that it is useless to wish to make a morality come forth from the mixture and interpenetration of an infra-morality of the social order and a supra-morality of the mystical order. One might as well hope to establish a metaphysics by combining physics and religion, or wish to fabricate wine by mixing brandy and nectar. From this point of view one can say that the morality of The Two Sources keeps all of morality except morality itself. But what it has at least revealed to modern philosophy, and with an undeniable authority, is the importance of what one might call the "supra-morality" in the moral life of mankind.

For Bergson this supra-morality, or "open morality", is one of two heterogeneous components which permeate each other in the general behavior of men. One should rather see there in reality a certain regime of moral life where the best among us enter. Be that as it may, Bergson has admirably seen that supra-morality has its pure prototype in the great Christian mystics; and "outside of the analysis by proper causes, which the instruments of theology alone allow us to carry out, by informing philosophers of those realities which are grace, the theological virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to speak of mystical experience with more depth, and with a more intense farsighted sympathy than the author of The Two Sources has done". We have insisted on this point elsewhere and by quoting him at length.{1}

What Bergson also saw quite clearly is that there is no entirely right moral life without that aspiration (it may be more or less unconscious, and more lived than known) which he held to be awakened in the human race by the call of the heroes and saints and which is aspiration to the perfection of love. To find the highest image of the perfection of love and the one richest in meaning, Bergson was right in turning toward the great mystics become one single spirit and love with Subsistent Love Itself, and causing to overflow to all human beings this love that makes a man ready to give his life for one he loves. At the same time he understood that the liberation to which man aspires from the depths of his being is but one with this supreme love. The great philosophers have all sensed the central importance of the problem of deliverance, or the conquest of the freedom of autonomy; Bergson is one of that small number who have sought the solution elsewhere than in substitutes.

But from that moment on the problem of morality and supra-morality is posed in unavoidable terms. For if it is true that the perfection of evangelic love and the superior freedom experienced by the mystics are the peak of moral life, it is also true that this peak surpasses the level at which the realm of morality itself is established. The realm of morality applies to human acts the measures of reason, but evangelic love has its source in an order superior to nature and reason. The realm of morality submits man to a law and to a set of rules which not only bind him in conscience, according to that kind of constraint connatural to the will to which we referred above, but also constrain in the proper sense of the word, curb and chain instincts, passions, ardors of nature spontaneously rebellious to the yoke of reason; but the freedom of the saints has passed beyond all constraint properly so-called, even that of the law. In this they have reappropriated to some degree something of the state of innocence. As a spiritual writer puts it, "Adam and Eve knew that it was evil to disobey God. How else would their fault have been a sin, and have had such terrible consequences? But they knew it without having had the experience of evil, and without being subject to the regime of constraints imposed by the Law on a weak and rebellious nature, the regime of morality, as it can be called. Mankind did not live under the regime of morality, did not learn morality, did not begin to acquire explicit knowledge of the particular rules of morality, did not begin to acquire the science of good and evil, until the day when it had the experience of evil."{1} Its moral science has been "acquired through the experience of sin".{2} "We have received the legacy of sin and the inclination toward evil from our first forbears, but also we have received the instinct for a knowledge of good better than ours; the memory, darkened as it may be, of a state where the relations between man and the universe, and God, were more just and more real. Here is doubtless the origin of this sentiment, so profound, that the Law must be surmounted, and that it is necessary, at any price, to rediscover the pure sources of love and freedom."{3}

Bergson's error was to call "first morality" a purely social code and a system of purely social pressures which far from pertaining to the authentic order of morality constitute only an infra-morality (which moreover plays an enormous part in human life). But he has touched upon important truths in his doctrine of the "second morality", which is however, truth to tell, a supra-morality through which authentic morality itself is super-elevated and consummated -- and transfigured.

13. If he had wanted to gather the testimony not only of the great Christian mystics, but also of the faith itself from which they declare their experience proceeds,{4} and of the theological doctrines through which they give us an idea of their mysterious ways, he would have turned first of all to Saint Paul. In what concerns the problem which occupies us -- the problem of supra-morality and the regime of life of those who have entered into the fullness of love -- the testimony of Saint Paul (to which we have already referred many times in the course of this work) has in itself, as in the history of ideas, a prime authority. "But if you are led by the Spirit," he writes, "you are not under the Law."{1} "For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Now you have not received a spirit of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are sons of God."{2} "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."{3}

Thereupon follows the commentary which Saint Thomas has given on these celebrated texts in the Summa contra Gentiles, and which not only the theologian, but also the philosopher who treats of human conduct always profits by meditating upon. "We must observe," Saint Thomas says,{4} "that the sons of God are moved by the Spirit of God not as though they were slaves, but as being free. For, since to be free is to be cause of one's own actions, we are said to do freely what we do of ourselves. Now this is what we do willingly: and what we do unwillingly, we do as slaves, not as free persons, either because we act under absolute compulsion, or because compulsion is mixed with voluntary decision, as when a man is willing to do or suffer that which is less opposed to his will, in order to avoid that which is more opposed to it. Well, by the very fact that He infuses in us the love of God, it is in making us act according to the very motion of our will that the Spirit of sanctity inclines us to act. (For it is proper to friendship that the friend be at one with the loved one in the things which the latter wishes.) Hence the sons of God are moved by the Spirit of God to act freely and for love, not slavishly and for fear: Now you have not received a spirit of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, Abba! Father!

"Now the will is by its nature directed to that which is truly good: so that when a man, under the influence of passion, of a vice or an evil disposition, turns away from what is truly good, this man, if we consider the essential direction itself of the will, acts slavishly, since he allows himself to be inclined against this direction by some extraneous principle. But if we consider the act of the will as it is here and now inclined toward an apparent good, this man acts freely when he follows his passion or his corrupted disposition, and he acts slavishly if, his will remaining inclined in this way, he holds back from what he wants by fear of the law which forbids the fulfilment of his desire.

"But here it is that the Spirit of God inclines the will to the true good by love; by love it causes the will entirely to lean, here and now, toward that indeed which is in line with its deepest wish. The Holy Spirit, therefore, removes both that servitude whereby a man, the slave of passion and sin, acts against the natural inclination of his will, and that servitude whereby a man, the slave and not the friend of the law, acts in obedience to the law against the present movement of his will: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, says the Apostle Paul, there is freedom; and: If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law."

We are here in the presence of a regime of life which is peculiar to those who have crossed the threshold of "perfection" -- I mean that perfection of evangelic love where one must always progress and which will never be completed here below. Here again I must use the language of theologians: "Led by the Spirit of God", they live no longer under the regime of morality but under the regime of contemplation and of the gifts of the Spirit; in other words these gifts over which theologians are invited to ponder by a famous text of Isaiah, and which make men docile to divine inspiration, have become the habitual principles of their conduct, henceforth animating and guiding them in such a way that their state of life is characterized thereby. These men are borne by the breath of the Spirit, and "no one knows whence it comes or where it goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit".{1} They walk upon the earth as others do and nothing distinguishes them from others externally. But they run, because the wings of an eagle which have invisibly sprouted forth on their shoulders make their steps lighter.{2} Bergson used the word aspiration to designate the most typical characteristic of "open morality". He should have used the word inspiration. If we leave aside all the apparatus of extraordinary phenomena, with which common usage, whether it be a question of poetry or sanctity, has foolishly dressed up this word, we must say that those who attain to the perfection of the moral life are necessarily inspired men.

The soul which has passed under the regime of the gifts acts according to higher standards than those of human reason; the medium virtutis, the just mean of which Aristotle spoke, has been carried to a higher level than that of the natural virtues.{3} This is why the saints ordinarily surprise us; their style is not the one to which we are accustomed.

It is our reason that (even when we make use of the theological virtues) heads our activity. With them, it is the Spirit of God who heads their activity; their reason commands only in being itself acted upon. The man who lives under the regime of the gifts has been -- although freer than ever{4} -- dispossessed of himself. He has had to pass through mutations worse than death in order to attain this state of deprivation, the condition of his transformation. But in being dispossessed of himself he has entered into the freedom of autonomy to which we all aspire, from however far it may be. He is no longer under the regime of the law; the law no longer curbs his will. He does what the law prescribes, and incomparably better than those who have not crossed the threshold of the inspired life, but he does it by following the attraction of his love and the very instinct of his will, which has ceased to belong to him, and belongs only to the one he loves. He henceforth does only what he wishes, wishing only what the loved one wishes.

14. The truths which I have just recalled were not discovered and formulated by moral philosophy. They spring from a higher source. They correspond, nevertheless, to an aspiration (a trans-natural aspiration) so deeply rooted in man that many philosophers have undergone its attraction, and have tried to transpose it into purely rational terms,{1} an attempt which, lacking the indispensable data, could only be disappointing. And the fact remains that if moral philosophy is really concerned with concrete human conduct and possesses the least existential and genuinely practical value, it cannot be ignorant of that in which the perfection of moral life precisely consists, and of the supreme point whose attraction is exercised upon the ocean of the human heart, either to raise it up to the heroism of true freedom or to spill its energies in pathetically vain tidal waves.

If moral philosophy attempts to express the truths in question in its own language, it will be led to say, I believe, that if most men (even when they have received gifts superior to nature, but leave them more or less unused) live in fact under the regime of morality -- where reason exercises its office as immediate rule of human acts only in imposing constraint on a world of desires, instincts and passions drawn of itself toward forbidden goods -- a certain number of men, on the other hand, live under a regime which is not that of morality, and which can be called the regime of supra-morality, where they have conquered their freedom of autonomy and are delivered from all servitude, even in regard to the moral law and reason. In this sense we can say, adopting the phrase of Pierre Mesnard à propos of Kierkegaard, that they have "cracked the ceiling of morality" -- not, certainly, to pass beyond the distinction between good and evil, but to do the good without their will being curbed by the law.

Such a regime pertains to an order superior to nature, as, each in his own way, Kierkegaard and Bergson have given witness. Here we must point out that Kierkegaard has shown a good deal more deeply and explicitly than Bergson the properly supernatural character, in the Christian sense of the word, of the regime of life in question, and the essential role that faith plays in it. But what Bergson has pointed out better than Kierkegaard is that the "absolute relation", to speak like Kierkegaard, which then exists, above the whole cosmos, between God and the individual subjectivity -- let us say the relation of person to person, in the bosom of that other world which is the world of the Godhead and of participation in the Godhead through grace, between the human self and the Divine Self -- is normally established, not in virtue of a singular command received from the Almighty through faith, but in virtue of the communion of love, still more singular, still more unique (and which overflows in charity upon the whole of humanity and the whole created universe) with the Ultimate End which is Subsistent Love, and into the very life of which man has been introduced. In loving all men the saint is more than ever alone with God. As Bergson has put it so well, "any mind that sets out on the mystic way, beyond the city gates, feels more or less distinctly that he is leaving men and gods behind him".{1}

We have noted above that one of Bergson's conspicuous merits in the domain of moral philosophy is to have opposed the abortive love which atheistic altruism offers us with the authentic love for all men -- "through God, in the strength of God, he loves all mankind with a divine love"{2} -- and to have called it by its true name, which is charity. It is this love of charity which, when it has entered into possession of a soul and assumes there without obstacle its full dimensions, introduces man into the regime of supramorality. That love is not sentimentality, it passes through the intellect and bathes in its light. One of its peculiar signs is that by this very charity with which man loves Him from whom moral law emanates, he also loves moral law itself -- the psalms of the Bible are flowing with this love of charity for the divine law. If any false love whatsoever, carried away by an intoxication with mystical quietism, or by an intoxication with pride, or by an intoxication with pity, claims to bring us a freedom of its own making by usurping the place of authentic love, it is not into the regime of supra-morality that it will introduce the human being, but into a regime of self-deception whose destructive power is without limits.

15. How can we characterize the regime of supra-morality? We will say that the soul has left the level at which comes into being the system of values, norms and prescriptions which are proper to morality and which concern, in the last analysis, all those things which, whatever their intrinsic worth may be, play the part of means in relation to the Ultimate End of human life. The soul is no longer centered in that specifically human world, in that world apart from the Ultimate End, which is the world of morality. It has moved to a higher level, where life with the Ultimate End Itself has begun here and now, the level of mutual relations of love with the ultimate End. Only one thing matters for man from that point on, only one thing gives form to his actions: to do what God, whom he loves, wishes. For all that, it is necessary for him to know in fact what God wishes; he knows it through the moral law, by which God beckons to him, and -- in what concerns the manner (more unique than ever) of applying the law in a given particular situation -- through the inspiration which guides his natural powers of practical discernment. Kierkegaard was in quest of a perfect individualization in the relationship between God and the subjectivity. Well, it is through love that this perfect individualization is brought about. And on this plane it is a question only of loving, and following what love demands; on this plane the celebrated saying: love and do what you wish, is realized in its fullness.

In the regime of morality the human soul is in contact with God (with God as First Cause) through the intermediary of the law, under which it finds itself. In the regime of supra-morality, the human soul is in direct and immediate contact with God (with God as Friend), and it is no longer under the law but in connivance with it.

Morality is neither supplanted, nor abolished, nor "suspended". It is present in its entirety, but transferred to a level which is not its own. Absorbed in love, not by way of disintegration, but by way of transfiguration, it is there (formaliter-eminenter) under a more elevated mode than its own, that of the freedom proper to the regime of supra-morality.

Moral law is observed better than ever, but it is no longer a yoke which constrains the will, it is a message which informs the intelligence how to please Him Whom one loves. It is in riveting his eyes on the hands of the beloved that the friend does what he wants -- what they want.

Moral obligation is always present, and is exercised with a delicacy more inflexible than ever, but the impalpable force with which what is perceived by the intellect binds the will is no longer only connatural with the essence of the will and with its primordial natural determination; it is connatural also with the love in which the freedom of the will is fulfilled, and the option to which the will commits itself takes shape; the bonds of obligation are now means for the freedom or autonomy of love.

Reason remains the proximate rule of human acts: but it is so no longer insofar as it is mere reason, or even insofar as it is reason enlightened by faith; it is so insofar as it is reason elevated to the superhuman in its very mode of operation, and carried beyond itself by an inspiration which proceeds from the Spirit of God, and from the experience of divine things. From this very fact its standards, as I have previously pointed out, are no longer the same. Moreover, reason has lost its royal function in regard to the governing of human conduct. It still holds the helm, but it does so in being moved by Another -- and a better One (since, as Aristotle says, the principle of reason is better than reason), to whom love, at last freeing us from -- ourselves, and from every servitude, has freely handed over everything.

Theological and Moral
16. Hence what Bergson called open morality in opposition to closed morality must really be considered as supra-morality consummating or transfiguring, in raising it up to itself, morality strictly speaking. And if one takes this supra-morality in the state of fullness or in the integrity of its dimensions, one sees that it constitutes the regime of life which theology characterizes as connected with mystical ways and the habitual influence of the gifts of the Spirit.

In this perspective it appears that the law performs, as Saint Paul said, a pedagogical function, and little by little educates us to pass on to a stage where the very law becomes connatural to us and we become capable of the "freedom of sons". The rules of morality, as they have taken shape in the course of the development of culture -- and with the assistance of the social codes of the tribe, then of the city -- of themselves impose on the individual so heavy a yoke that many, as a matter of fact, choose the course of violating them more or less openly and in a greater or lesser degree, and that certain theorists, led astray by the kind of tragic pity to which Luther had submitted, regard these rules, as Freud did, for example, as a nemesis responsible for the torments of mankind.

These theorists do not see that the rules in question, while exacting hard sacrifices from individuals, are the safeguard of the human race, which can live only in a state of culture and has no protection against stagnation and death unless difficult things are constantly required of it, let us say, in extreme terms, unless the impossible is demanded of it, and unless it is drawn, even though by force, toward an ideal superior to the behavior of which the average man is naturally capable.

Let us add that if, in fact, although by right all are called to it, the entrance into the regime of supra-morality remains the privilege of a small number (smaller certainly than it could and should be), in return however the energies and gifts of a superior order whose blooming coincides with the entrance into the regime of supra-morality are already -- if human liberty does not resist God -- substantially present for us, I mean for the huge mass of the "imperfect", at the very core of morality, in such a way as to diminish the heaviness of the law's yoke, and to make possible what was naturally impossible. For grace is given to everyone who does not refuse it. The main element in the Old Law, Saint Thomas said, consisted of the moral prescriptions and the rites, it did not bring with it the Holy Spirit, by whom charity is diffused in our hearts;{1} while "what matters above all in the law of the new covenant, and that in which all its virtue consists, is the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given by living faith".{2} "The main element in the New Law consists in the spiritual grace infused into hearts", and this is why "it is called the law of love".{3} Let us say, using our own vocabulary, that what the New Law has, by right, opened to mankind is the regime of supra-morality (even though for many, in fact, it may remain in an inchoate and merely nascent state, and be consequently substituted for, concealed and masked by the regime of morality).{4}

17. As we have already noted in a preceding chapter,{5} one of the basic changes introduced by Christianity with respect to the moral systems of antiquity has been to place above the virtues called moral the virtues called theological, which belong to an order superior to nature and reason, and whose object is the mystery of the Godhead. It is these virtues (accompanied by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as auxiliary forces) which henceforth have the primacy in the moral life of men. Prudence has lost its supreme rank, love passes above it; charity is the "form" of all the other virtues, and without it man is morally only an invalid. It is by charity, which is superior to nature, that man is called to love efficaciously the Principle of Being above all things.

These are the truths on which, implicitly or explicitly, Bergson has directed the attention of moral philosophy. As we have previously written, "in having the moral appendant to the supra-moral, that is to say the theological, in having the law appendant to love and freedom, Bergson saves morality".{6}

By the same token he makes us see, let me observe in passing, one of the two most basic reasons why there is no true ethics where the existence of the transcendent God is not recognized. This reason is that moral life is firmly established in rectitude only by charity. The other reason is that only the transcendent God who is Subsistent Truth can in the last analysis establish a moral law and moral values which impose themselves on the conscience in an unconditional way -- and without which there is no longer anything to guide our conduct, except means justified by the end. The great theories of atheism do not hesitate to make the negation of God the first principle of their moral philosophies. It is strange that philosophers for whom God exists show themselves more faint-hearted, and set to work constructing an ethics without making it essentially depend, as on its first principle, on that Existence in pure act which no philosophy can recognize as it ought without finding itself, by such an acceptance of the mystery of transcendence, totally separated from the world of faint-heartedness of mind.

But let us leave this parenthesis. The fact that the moral order is suspended from the theological order, or, if you prefer another perhaps more accurate formula, that the theological order is at the core of the moral order, is not true only for men who live under the regime of supra-morality, it is true also for all of us, who remain in the clutches of the law's constraint, even when the good news of the Gospel and the life of grace have planted freedom in us. Whence it comes that we yearn for the freedom of the Spirit. It is the theological, it is the love of charity, along with faith and hope, which foments in us the aspiration to pass under the regime of the gifts. It is the same fire which here smolders under the ashes, and there inflames the whole soul.

18. Bergson comes back again and again to the theme that the two moralities, closed morality and open morality, interpenetrate each other. "The general formula of morality accepted today by civilized humanity . . . includes two things, a system of orders dictated by impersonal social requirements, and a series of appeals made to the conscience of each of us by persons who represent the best there is in humanity."{1} On the one hand an obligation originally and basically infra-intellectual; on the other hand, a supra-intellectual emotion. "The two forces, working in different regions of the soul, are projected on to the intermediary plane, which is that of intelligence. They will henceforth be represented by their projections. These intermingle and interpenetrate. The result is a transposition of orders and appeals into terms of pure reason. Justice thus finds itself continually broadened by charity; charity assumes more and more the shape of justice . . ."{2}

I have pointed out above the shortcomings of this theory. What I would like to remark now is that the Bergsonian theme of the interpenetration of the "two moralities" keeps its worth if, from the typically Bergsonian perspective of the relationship between closed morality and open morality, you transfer it into the truer perspective of the relationship between morality and supra-morality. Morality and supra-morality necessarily interpenetrate one another. Why should we be surprised at this if all that has been said in the two preceding sections is true?

That the moral penetrates the supra-moral is true in many senses. Have we not seen that in the whole regime of supra-morality, morality still remains, transfigured no doubt, but safeguarded in its entirety? Is it not clear, moreover, that if the soul of the saints is constantly ready to be moved by divine inspiration, in many cases however it does not act under any particular inspiration given here and now? Their reason then rules their conduct according to its ordinary natural mode, not as elevated to and as carrying a suprahuman mode and moved by an instinct which transcends it. They live under the breath of the Spirit, but sometimes the high winds risk blowing the sails away, sometimes, and more often, it is a light breeze which merely helps the work of the oars.

If it is a question now of the multitude of those who are not saints, we must say that the very regime of morality, the regime of the law curbing rebellious hearts, is necessary for them -- I mean under a certain aspect, or to the extent to which the life of the spirit, supposing they have received it, is not yet fully developed in them (although it already bears witness in them, even though inchoatively and intermittently, to the primacy of the theological).

But there is in addition a completely different way -- this time I am speaking of an aberrant phenomenon, and of a betrayal of the spirit -- in which it happens that the moral flows back in us upon the supra-moral: one witnesses then an attempt of the regime of morality to submit to itself purely and simply, and without any longer taking account of the primacy of the theological, those for whom, as I just observed, this regime remains necessary because they have not yet become fully what they are, but who have nevertheless received in its principle and in its germ the condition of freedom proper to the New Law and to the children of "that Jerusalem which is above".{1} Is it not a natural tendency (all too natural) for many Christians to try unconsciously to transform their religion into a mere system of orders and constraints, or into a mere moral system? Then, and by a kind of counterattack of the sociological factor, they look as if they were forgetting grace in order to think only of the law. Thus certain ministers of the Gospel apply themselves less to preaching the Gospel than to a constant reiteration of obligations upheld by the law of fear; and thus in former days Christian crowds milled together around the pillory in order to taste the joys and the spectacle of punishment; and thus the Puritans believed themselves bound, if not to stone, at least to mark with a scarlet letter, in order to separate her from the group and spread in everyone the terror of the law, the one of whom Jesus had said: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

19. And that the supra-moral penetrates the moral is equally true, in many senses. Have we not seen that in fact, in the concrete condition in which humanity finds itself, the supra-moral is at the core of the moral? Isn't it prescribed to everyone -- even to those who although set free by the New Law keep on living, at least as regards the immense mass of their most frequent acts and problems, under the regime of fear and morality -- to tend toward the perfection of human life, that is to say toward the perfection of theological charity, each according to his condition and his potentialities? Doesn't Saint Thomas Aquinas teach, in a text which I cited above, that "what matters above all in the law of the new covenant, and that in which all its power consists, is the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given by living faith"?{1} These are the truths which Bergson really affirmed when in reference to the advent of Christianity he said in his own way that "the essence of the new religion was to be the diffusion of mysticism",{2} or again that "in this sense, religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science".{3} Let us not forget either that under the impact of the supra-moral the moral has been rendered and continues to be progressively rendered more refined in its own order, more demanding on the one hand and more comprehensive and compassionate on the other, in short more authentically human, and has descended much deeper into the inner movements and invisible recesses where prior to every exterior act man already commits himself to decisive responsibilities.

A final point should be mentioned: at the very heart of the regime of morality which in fact remains prevalent in the vast human family of those who have never taken and will never take the decisive step, it is necessary that touches of what is peculiar to the regime of supra-morality intervene from time to time in human life, if it is finally to escape failure, and attain in spite of everything to a kind of melodic form or completion which gives it a value superior to time, and to death.

At this point the theologians tell us in their language that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which man is made ready to be moved by divine inspiration, are necessary for salvation, and are therefore present in whoever has not refused grace.{4} In his own words the philosopher will say that in the evening of his pilgrimage every man -- except the saints perhaps -- has, in going over his past, the more or less keen feeling that he has bungled his life; as regards, in particular, what was morally required of him he sees so many gaps and weaknesses in what he has done that the chain of his acts appears, taken as a whole, decidedly beneath the demands of the law. Where, in looking at the tableau of his life, will he find hope, if not in some act perhaps, however small it may be, which was not required by the law but to which a movement of love or compassion carried him, and which, going beyond what is strictly demanded in the manner of the evangelical counsels, may perhaps have been somehow capable of raising things to their proper level?

The supererogatory ways of acting of which I have just spoken depend on a moment when the human soul went beyond the standard of sole reason. Some will hold this moment, as we do, to be a moment of secret inspiration. Others, to whom it seems that then reason has lost control, will regard it as a moment of bewilderment of the mind. As a matter of fact the name is of little importance. What matters is the fact that in such moments the ordinary rules are displaced, and in a manner which responds to the spirit of the Gospel -- in order to give assistance to human life and to straighten it out. A trifle then, a certain act of giving, of giving away, of forgiving, made almost without thinking, a little water offered to a poor man, a little suffering accepted through pity, a refusal to demand one's due, the simple fact of being present at the material or moral distress of another, or of listening to his despair, a word said for justice or for truth, any task whatever undertaken and pursued through fidelity to some singular call and with a little fraternal love; or else, on the contrary, an exceptionally great act, the long acceptance of a suffering which revolts nature, or of an intolerable burden carried in order to relieve the needs of an ungrateful person, a sacrifice in which the soul truly immolates what it most treasures; there is no common measure for the different kinds of "bewilderment" in question. It is sufficient that there passes into them the force of a love which has no bounds and which is like the breath of Uncreated Love; a human life has borne fruit.

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