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His first literary attempt was a criticism of English utilitarianism and evolutionism (La morale Anglaise contemporaine, 1879). Here he takes the ground that English moral philosophy must inevitably lead to the uncertainty and illusoriness of the moral feelings themselves due to their psychologico-genetic explanation of these feelings: i.e. if conscience is evolved from more elementary feelings it is really nothing more than a pure elementary feeling itself! There exists an immediate impulse however towards self-development, an impulse which may assume the character of devotion, of altruism, without the assistance of any association of ideas and evolution!—In his own theories he endeavors to avoid the difficulties which he charges against the English school (Esquisse d' une morale sans obligation ni sanction, 1885). The development of life is the goal which nature has set for itself, and ethics in the theory of the ways and means by which the highest and fullest development of life may be realized. It is necessary to maintain and develop both the subjective and the objective phases of life, and the sympathetic emotions and social life are of the highest importance for both phases, because isolation and egoism restrict the horizon and the efficiency of the individual. The highest virtue—the attribute of character which makes for the highest development of life—is therefore generosity. Reflection and analysis are thus not construed as hostile powers (as under the presuppositions of
and the will. (See the poem, Illusion féconde in Vers d'un Philosophie.)—Guyau enjoyed a home-life which was peculiarly favorable to his activity as a student and author. Early in life however he fell a victim to an incurable disease of the chest, but this did not suppress the energy of his intellect and his vital courage.