Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/292

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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

The belief may be intellectually absurd. The doctrine of inherited guilt is monstrous, says Pascal: can a child be damned for an action committed six thousand years before its birth? Nothing, he admits, so shocking; and yet, he adds, it is essential to understanding man. It is simply one aspect of that profound antinomy from which we start. Is there, then, any such antinomy? Is human nature absolutely corrupt? Divines calmly tell us that it is a fact. Doubtless it is a fact, if you mean that men have bad impulses, and if you further assume that all good influences come from a supernatural source. But why should I? Why interpret man and the world as the meeting-place of these tremendous contradictions? Why divide a single though exceeding complex process into a battle-ground between two wholly opposed forces? I confess that I should correct Montaigne, so far as he needs correction, by allowing more liberally for the nobler impulses of human nature—not by stripping man of all virtue and handing over the good to an inconceivable and inscrutable force. If you once begin by introducing an omnipotent struggling with a finite being, this may be the logical result; but I do not see my way to the first step. Meanwhile, I do see some