Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/45

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31
LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

intelligible. Starting from a study of these artificial constructions which embrace everything that interests us, several philosophers, inspired by Bergsonian doctrines, have been led to formulate a rather startling theory. Edouard Le Roy, for example, says: "Our real body is the entire universe in as far as it is experienced by us. And what common sense more strictly calls our body is only the region of least unconsciousness and greatest liberty in this greater body, the part which we most directly control and by means of which we are able to act on the rest."[1] But we must not, as this subtle philosopher constantly does, confuse a passing state of our willing activity with the stable affirmations of science.[2]

These artificial worlds generally disappear from our minds without leaving any trace in our memory; but when the masses are deeply moved it then becomes possible to trace the outlines of the kind of representation which constitutes a social myth.

This belief in "glory" which Renan praised so much quickly fades away into rhapsodies when it is not supported by myths; these myths have varied greatly in different epochs: the citizen of the Greek republics, the Roman legionary, the soldier of the wars of Liberty, and the artist of the Renaissance did not picture their conception of glory by the help of the same set of images. Renan complained that "the faith in glory" is compromised by the limited historical outlook more or less prevalent at, the present day. "Very few," he said, "act with a view to immortal fame. … Every one wants to enjoy his own glory; they eat it in the green blade, and do not gather the sheaves after death."[3] In my opinion, this limited historical outlook is, on the contrary,

  1. E. Le Roy, Dogme et critique, p. 239.
  2. It is easy to see here how the sophism creeps in; the universe experienced by us may be either the real world in which we live or the world invented by us for action.
  3. Renan, op. cit. vol. iv. p. 329.