Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/38

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REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

against its practical possibility. It appears, on the contrary, that I had made a most unfortunate choice, for while some told me that myths were only suitable to a primitive state of society, others imagined that I thought the modem world might be moved by illusions analogous in nature to those which Renan thought might usefully replace religion.[1] But there has been a worse misunderstanding than this even, for it has been asserted that my theory of myths was only a kind of lawyer's plea, a falsification of the real opinions of the revolutionaries, the sophistry of an intellectualist.

If this were true, I should not have been exactly fortunate, for I have always tried to escape the influence of that intellectualist philosophy, which seems to me a great hindrance to the historian who allows himself to be dominated by it. The contradiction that exists between this philosophy and the true understanding of events has often struck the readers of Renan. Renan is continually wavering between his own intuition, which was nearly always admirable, and a philosophy which cannot touch history without falling into platitudes; but, alas, he too often believed himself bound to think in accordance with the scientific opinions of his day.

The intellectualist philosophy finds itself unable to explain phenomena like the following—the sacrifice of his life which the soldier of Napoleon made in order to have had the honour of taking part in "immortal deeds" and of living in the glory of France, knowing all the time that "he would always be a poor man"; then, again, the extraordinary virtues shown by the Romans who resigned themselves to a frightful inequality and who suffered so much to conquer the world;[2] "the belief in

  1. The principal object of these illusions seems to me to have been the calming of the anxieties that Renan had retained on the subject of the beyond (cf. an article by Mgr. d'Hulst in the Correspondant on October 25, 1892, pp. 210, 224–225).
  2. Renan, Histoire du peuple d'Israël, vol. iv. p. 191.