Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/31

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17
LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

has corrupted all"[1] (fragment 294); "Veri juris. We have it no longer" (fragment 297).

Moreover, mere observation showed Pascal the absurdity of the theory of natural right; if this theory was correct, we ought to find laws which are universally admitted; but actions which we regard as criminal have at other times been regarded as virtuous. "Three degrees of latitude nearer the Pole reverse all jurisprudence, a meridian decides what is truth; fundamental laws change after a few years of possession, right has its epochs, the entry of Saturn into the constellation of the Lion marks to us the origin of such and such a crime. A strange justice that is bounded by a river! Truth on this side of the Pyrenees becomes error on the other. … We must, it is said, get back to the natural and fundamental laws of the State, which an unjust custom has abolished. This is a game certain to result in the loss of all; nothing will be just on the balance" (fragment 294; cf. fragment 379).

As it is thus impossible for us to reason about justice, we ought to appeal to custom; and Pascal often falls back on this precept (fragments 294, 297, 299, 309, 312). He goes still further and shows how justice is practically dependent on force: "Justice is subject to dispute; might is easily recognised and is not disputed. Thus it is not possible to attribute might to justice, because might has often contradicted justice, and said that it itself was just. And thus not being able to make what was just strong, what was strong has been made just" (fragment 298; cf. fragments 302, 303, 306, 307, 311).

This criticism of natural right has not the perfect clearness that we could give it at the present day, because we know now that it is in economics we must seek for a

  1. It seems to me that Pascal's editors in 1670 must have been alarmed at his Calvinism. I am astonished that Sainte-Beuve should have said nothing more than that there "was in Pascal's Christianity something which they could not understand, that Pascal had a greater need than they had of Christian faith (Port Royal, vol. iii. p. 383).