Works of Auguste Blanqui 1869

Notes on Positivism

etching of Blanqui as an older man

Source: Auguste Blanqui. Instruction pour une prise d'armes. L'Éternité per les astres, hypthèse astronomique et autres textes, Société encyclopédique français, Editions de la Tête de Feuilles. 1972;
Translated: by Andy Blunden for, 2003;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

1st April 1869

(Positive Philosophy, No 5, March-April 1869) article by Hippolyte Stupuy, a remark on Condorcet, pages 201 and following.

A pile of nonsense and sillinesses concerning Christianity and the Middle Ages wrongly attacked by the Revolutionaries, according to the author. Claimed benefits of Catholicism and feudalism. Execrable doctrines of historical fatalism, fatalism in humanity. Everything that happens is for the good, for only what exists, is solely that which happens.

Catholicism is irreproachable so long as it is the strongest. Its wrongs begin only with its weakness. Feudalism also is a good thing as long as it crushes. It becomes plague only by virtue of its decline.

The most audacious misrepresentation of the facts just as inept for the justification of this sinister theory of progress as for things carrying on the same. The grotesque self-satisfaction of these systematisers (in their pedantry). Their alleged sociology sets itself up as an almost mathematical science. The most stupid observations, more (manifestly) ridiculous, presented (unashamedly) as scientifically demonstrated truths.

Auguste Comte did not discover anything in any domain. He classified, categorised, pedantised. His system varies according to his liking of (events and of) the circumstances. This alleged founder of positive science ultimately threw himself into the extravagances of mysticism. This destroyer of dogmas improvised his own religion of humanity with its sacraments and priesthood. Why? The coup d'état [by Napoleon, December 1851] terrified him. It manifested the sudden and unexpected triumph of the past. To bend it and seduce it, he offered an ultra-aristocratic religion, the system of the castes, the control of the masses, the absolute domination of the rich, all the accumulated insanities of Brahmanism and Christianity.

Why do the orthodox disciples refuse to follow him along these lines? By what right do they foreswear this outcome of his philosophy, while proclaiming Comte the supreme prophet who has uttered the last word of humanity?

They speak on his behalf but at the same time disavow him! If he was extravagant in his last prophecies, he cannot infallible in the first.

Positivism, which accuses everyone outside of itself of wrong and travesty, and claims to be the negation of Protestantism, Deism, Atheism, is the very model of negation, thorough, systematic scepticism to the point of the absurdity, dressed up as religion. It is not Positivism, but Negativism, or rather Nihilism. It is a rationalisation, a deception, a trick.

To show its sociological science, it tortures and disguises the historical record with an audacity which would make even Father [Jean] Loriquet jealous. And this is an imposing audacity. It is enough for it to be entitled science, dressed up with a name universally respected so as to turn it into something sacrosanct. Nobody dares to look it in the eye. One must be humble and take off your hat to it.

One also has to say that it has the protection of the cowards, very powerful protection. It is used as shelter for atheists and for shamefaced materialists who make a point of living in peace with the reigning force and never get mixed up with the radical movement. If it were not for this support, the spoon-fed doctrines of distortion and of the equivocation would soon have sunk. But, no matter what one says, the cowards are a first-class rampart.

“Spiritual authority, though respectable and respected in the Middle Ages”, said Stupuy page 203, “discredited itself more and more in the 16th century due the public spectacle of its misconduct and by the endless conflicts surrounding its elections (with the papal elections) ... “.

How could the misconduct of the popes and the scandals of the Conclave in 16th century be compared, even at a stretch, with the infamies (depravity) and the atrocities of the papal competitions of 8th, 9th, 10th centuries, the time when he depicts the spiritual authority as being so established!

Respectable, because it is uncontested and omnipotent thanks to wiping out its opponents (its ferocity). Christianity would certainly not have got very far without (lived only by) violence. Right from the start violence was its single method (the use of the rack which is its ...). Already by the 1st century, in the Dark Ages, it proceeds by force (oppression), spying, calumny. It has as a citadel its organisation, for its weapon, all forms of violence. This formidable organisation resists all, triumphs over all. The first victim is the Roman Empire. Victorious, Christianity is maintained, like that which it conquered, by crushing.

Without this system, it would have died in its cradle, and once master, would not have lasted two hundred years if it had relaxed. Its militia, its wars without quarter, the steel, the flame, torture, enslavement, trickery, the shackling of thought laying siege to every individual, the immediate crushing of any opposition, consolidated it through the centuries and past all obstacles. Fire, carnage, destruction mark its road.

What would have happened, if Christianity had succumbed in any of the fights in which it triumphed? No one can say, even speculate. Even the briefest conjecture on this subject would be a silliness, Because things followed this course, it seems that they could not have followed any other. The accomplished fact has an irresistible power. It is destiny even. The spirit (finds itself) is overwhelmed by it and does not dare to revolt (to resist). It has no foundation. It could base itself only on a vacuum (on nothing).

What a terrible force for the fatalists of history, admirers of this accomplished fact! All the atrocities of the victor, its long series of crimes are coldly transformed into a regular, inescapable evolution, like that of nature. Nothing stops these imperturbable systematisers. Jean XII, Marozie, Théodora, Mathilde, etc, constitute a respectable and respected “spiritual authority”! All that is, is legitimate, useful, essential. One must simply observe the natural procession of things, obligatory for mankind. Unparalleled logic without peer, everything is connected and follows one from another, there is a constant relationship to be found in events, each time is the product of the previous time.

What a beautiful discovery and what a beautiful argument! Without doubt, all things are interconnected and enmeshed with one another. Every second follows according the second before. But the gears of human things are not fatalistic like that of the natural universe. They are modifiable at every moment. A couple are going to marry. I kill the man and take the woman. The children of this woman will then be mine. Couldn’t they have been those of the man who was killed? The murder intervened and changed the father. There is always relationship, but the descent? (is very different).

Nevertheless, it is immoral, it is a crime to glorify the past, to justify it by alleged immutable laws, to call upon the dignity of history which demands respect or even indulgence for the horrors of times gone by. To speak about the services of Catholicism could be, at certain moments, a deception, an illusion of the times. Today however, after the lessons of recent years, one may no longer, in the name of fatalism, plead the cause of this harmful religion. From beginning to end, it has produced nothing and will do only evil. It was no more useful for humanity than small pox, the plague or cholera are necessary to a man’s health.

The doctrine of continuous progress is a fantasy of times of transition. It gave a few years of vogue to Catholicism under the reign of Louis-Philippe. It was one of the forms of the reaction against the mercenary attitude, a reaction to democracy caused by the boiling over and cynical outpouring of material interests. The middle class established without shame the worship of the golden calf and seemed to set it up as the universal religion. Honest thoughts, ideas of social justice were outlawed, self-enrichment at all costs was proclaimed the only virtue.

For a moment, in the initial disgust at this stench, the Revolution forgot the crimes of Catholicism and remembered only its spirituality, and almost had the illusion of seeing in its deposed adversary, an ally against the filthy enemy which had emerged suddenly before it. The Middle Ages were suddenly and universally the fashion, in the popular camp, by mistake and naivety, and among the conservatives by instinct and calculation. This was a shallow unanimity! The mistake disappeared (dissipated, cleared up), the instinct was made into a doctrine. Everything again took on its own colour. The future recognised in Christianity its enemy mortal, the past its last farewell.

Positivism, sewn (attached) to the coat-tails of a Prophet, remains fixed in the admiration of the Middle Ages. Auguste Comte, at the time of this transitory passion, laid down the foundations of his heavy sociological construction. It would have been better if the disciples had buried themselves in the brickwork of their Master. They distort, they cripple history to make it fit in with the ravings of the new holy books. The Bible was a divine inspiration. The volumes of Auguste Count are revealed science. Which is the worse impertinence?

In its systematisation of the Middle Ages, positivism sacrifices with neither pity nor scruple all the martyrs of thought and justice, Abélard, Arnaud de Brescia, Rienzi, etc. Certainly, it does not dare condemn them, it confines itself to concealing their names or their roles, and to simply erasing from history the great figures which contradict its thesis of the legitimacy of the Papacy ... legitimate, and rational, just so long as they had a value in preserving the very powerful, to be damned, as soon as they no longer succeeded in preserving it from decline.

This positivism is truly a rare impudence. It is positivism which discovered the sun, the moon and stars. It is continually making up a mass of things as marvellous as they are ignored, such as bread, wine, candles, etc. Nothing existed before it. It veritably created, arranged (enumerated) everything. Its process of manufacture is curious. It consists in bogging down in a vast marsh of what everyone already knows, two words of the most limpid water. In this way, the simple truth: “One is always a part of one’s own time”, positivism gives to the world twisted in fifty unreadable pages.

Other discoveries by the same method: “All epochs (produce) have retrograde stages and the advanced stages”. Who had discovered (found) that and many other things before Auguste Comte? It is surely he who planted a whole a positive nose in the middle of our faces. Until the arrival of this Messiah, we had only false noses (cardboard noses).

* * *

From its alleged science of sociology, as well as from its philosophy of history, positivism excludes the idea of justice. It does not admit that the law of progress (but at the same time) continues fatalism. Each thing is excellent in its time since it takes place (marks a stage) in the series of improvements (the relationship of progress). All is always the best of all possibilities. There is no criterion to appreciate the good or the bad. Any such criterion would be preconceived, a priori, metaphysics.

The experiment of the centuries shows that the only agent of progress is education, that the light spouts (almost) only out of the exchange (and the shock) of human thought, that consequently all that supports and multiplies this exchange is to the good, all that removes it or obstructs it is evil. However, Christianity has as a fundamental principle the destruction of freedom of thought and the communication of thought. From this observation, it is therefore the darkness and the evil.

Hay! that’s all metaphysics and twaddle! the positivist answers. The truth it is that, it doesn’t matter by what means, Christianity fought and reigned over 1500 years, and was necessarily progressive throughout this period of struggle and power. It started to become evil and an obstacle to progress only from its decline, and only because it declined. — However, at the beginning, at its apogee and in its decline, its method was always the same: “extermination of the thought” That doesn’t matter! Hosannah! Glory to its triumph! Hurrah! (Hou! Hou!) Down! Down! with its defeat!

Such is positive philosophy, as generous as it is just, as noble as it is comforting.

The mania of progress nevertheless, to these blind systematisers, goes up until the charge of retrograde movement and of negative impetus, which is made against the renaissance of Greco-Latin art, and according to them this victory over the infamous work of the Middle Ages is a retreat. It broke the regular evolution of Christianity! It fraudulently introduced old-fashioned paganism into the new world (modernity). Antiquity is an intruder who deceived us; (while causing an ebb tide in the river of the ages) because it made the flow of the ages go back up.

It is true that in reappearing in that day, like the Rhone after its disappearance [under Lake Geneva], antiquity was able to give the lie to (blast) the infatuation of continuous development. Stopping short, then repressed in the night the Middle Ages, it reinstated the idea of freedom on the ruins of the Christiano-absolutist tradition, and the Republic was preserved (remained) in safekeeping in the entrails of the Greek and Latin idioms.

Thus, this theory of uninterrupted and fatalistic progress is false. For Greco-Roman civilisation leapt over Christianity to regenerate modern civilisation in spite of it, against it. There is no clearer proof that this religion, this terrible disease, for nearly two thousand years kept humanity nailed to a bed of sorrows.

If science had a birth, it is with the printing press, which rested on the old world (Antiquity), delivered (saved) of the tiger which had watched over it from the cradle. The positivists like science and sing its praises. Eh! bien, it is the daughter of Antiquity. Christianity failed to kill it. Witch! to the stake! shouted this infamy. Science did not escape without punishment, witness Roger Bacon, Raymond Lully and so many others. She lives again today in order to punish the monster. By what right are the panegyrists of the assassin made the cantors of the victim?

Positivism is just one long series of tricks. The first and best are its name, which grabs for itself the right to all that is truth and reality! It is joined with science from the beginning and endorses it by this marriage. “Positive science”, say the vulgar. “Before Comte there only existed negative science”.

However, this coupling is a redundancy: would “lighting lamp” [lumière éclatante] be more ridiculous, but what does the sin of pleonasm count for positivist gibberish, this corroding scab on our language?

* * *

Positivism calls each of the various known sciences ‘particular science’, and science in general, positive philosophy, that is to say, Comtist classification. It thus modestly installs (introduces) in the humanities as the Science of Sciences, what? the fantasies of a pedant! A nomenclature without any practical value, without any current application, a useless trinket (toy) to be put away (to look good) under a bell jar (glass).

The public carries on and follows, with their eyes closed, quite dazed by the appalling gibberish which seems to them at least to have come out of the cave of Trophonius ...

The whole value of positivism is its materialism. Take away this quality, and nothing any more remains but errors and impertinence. No-one demonstrates the truth of materialism better and, strange to say! it refuses to draw the conclusion and treats materialism as metaphysics. What a joke!

Eh! Messieurs,

You give your qualities to others so ponderously,
and we do not accept them so slowly.

To affirm, in the name of the experiment, the mortality of the soul and the eternity of matter, but to refuse the characterisation of materialist, is a refinement of casuistry inaccessible to the intelligence of a simple mortal. What is materialism, if not the doctrine which declares the universe infinite in time and space, and the spirit a property inseparable from the nervous substance, in life as in death?

With its twisting and turning and its subtleties, positivism more or less says the same thing. To be frank, where is the difference between the two doctrines? — ah! here: one just a particularism — German-style; the other, the universality of human knowledge. So has positivism invented this knowledge? no, it quite simply strings them together in a rosary and delivers up this rosary as its own work.

Positivism is a demigod who knows all, which embraces all, from the furthest boundaries of transcendental mathematics to the meanest details of sociology, past, present and future. Atop its omniscient throne, with a scornful glance, it turns its back on the Myrmidon [loyal followers of Achilles] who dare to make a similar claim and says to them as to a weak insect: “What is there between us?”

auguste comte

* * *

Page 375 — (positive philosophy, No 3, Déc Nov. 1869) article from The Revolution by Littré.

The dreadful pathos of Aug. Comte on the philosophies of Voltaire and Rousseau. The bad faith of the so called Prophet [Révélateur] who makes the pretence of recognising in the 18th century only two schools, both the one and the other deist, without uttering a word about the materialist and atheist school represented by the Pléiade: Diderot, d'Holbach, d'Alembert, Lamétrie, etc (Helvétius, etc).

The good man had his reasons to erase this Pléiade. Put simply, he wanted to invent atheism in the name of positivism. Following the example of the Master, the disciples also pretend to see in atheism only a metaphysics. But take away from their gibberish the atheistic idea and the materialism, and what remains? a whimsical system of classification (of collating). With this word: “positivism”, it almost succeeded in posing as the creators of all the social sciences.

What terrible gibberish is this style of Aug. Comte! could a similar writer ever extract something serious from his brain? [The positivist Emile] Littré finds in this patois an explanation of the reactionary consequences of Thermidor.

“It is”, he says, “the interference (sic) of the Reaction in the Thermidorian movement. Robespierre’s violence had made the reaction imminent.”

This reason is that of Diaforius: “Why does opium make one sleep? — Because it has a dormitive property”; “From whence comes the interference of the Reaction in the Thermidorian movement?” What made it possible? Having already been crushed, why was it that it could raise its head and triumph so suddenly?

The fault was with the composition of the parliaments, all bad without exception, since 1789. The Constituent Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, the Convention were collections of egoistical and cowardly bourgeois, rows of nonentities and mediocrities where people with talent were to be found in small number and rarer still were people of any character.

Crushed by the Revolutionary minority on May 31, then recalled thanks to being rescued from the dictatorship of Robespierre by the Montagnards, the retrograde majority of the Convention found itself free on 9 Thermidor and in control the next day.