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MANY readers will no doubt be tempted to exclaim on seeing my title: "Rousseau and no end!” The outpour of books on Rousseau had indeed in the period immediately preceding the Far become somewhat portentous. This preoccupation with Rousseau is after all easy to explain. It is his somewhat formidable privilege to represent more fully than any other one person a great international movement. To attack Rousseau or to defend him is most often only a way of attacking or defending this movement.
It is from this point of view at all events that the present work is conceived. I have not undertaken a systematic study of Rousseau's life and doctrines. The appearance of his name in my title is justified, if at all, simply because he comes at a fairly early stage in the international movement the rise and growth of which I am tracing, and has on the whole supplied me with the most significant illustrations of it. I have already put forth certain views regarding this movement in three previous volumes. Though each one of these volumes attempts to do justice to a particular topic, it is at the same time intended to be a link in a continuous argument. I hope that I may be allowed to speak here with some frankness of the main trend of this argument both on its negative and on its positive, or constructive, side. Perhaps the best key to both
sides of my argument is found
i See, for example, in vol. ix of the Annales de la Société Jean-Jacques Rousseau the bibliography (pp. 87-276) for 1912 — the year of the bicentenary.
? Literature and the American College (1908); The New Laokoon (1910); The Masters of Modern French Criticism (1912). ,
in the lines of Emerson I have taken as epigraph for “Literature and the American College":
There are two laws discrete
On its negative side my argument is directed against this undue emphasis on the “law for thing," against the attempt to erect on naturalistic foundations a complete philosophy of life. I define two main forms of naturalism - on the one hand, utilitarian and scientific and, on the other, emotional naturalism. The type of romanticism I am studying is inseparably bound up with emotional naturalism.
This type of romanticism encouraged by the naturalistic movement is only one of three main types I distinguish and I am dealing for the most part with only one aspect of it. But even when thus circumscribed the subject can scarcely be said to lack importance; for if I am right in my conviction as to the unsoundness of a Rousseauistic philosophy of life, it follows that the total tendency of the Occident at present is away from rather than towards civilization.
On the positive side, my argument aims to reassert the “law for man," and its special discipline against the various forms of naturalistic excess. At the very mention of the word discipline I shall be set down in certain quarters as reactionary. But does it necessarily follow from a plea for the human law that one is a reactionary or in general a traditionalist? An American writer of distinction was once heard to remark that he saw in the world to-day but two classes of persons, — the mossbacks and the mountebanks, and that for his part he preferred to be a mossback. One should think twice before thus consenting to seem a mere relic of the past. The ineffable smartness of our young radicals is due to the conviction that, whatever else
they may be, they are the very pink of modernity. Before sharing their conviction it might be well to do a little preliminary defining of such terms as modern and the modern spirit. It may then turn out that the true difficulty with our young radicals is not that they are too modern but that they are not modern enough. For, though the word modern is often and no doubt inevitably used to describe the more recent or the most recent thing, this is not its sole use. It is not in this sense alone that the word is used by writers like Goethe and Sainte-Beuve and Renan and Arnold: What all these writers mean by the modern spirit is the positive and critical spirit, the spirit that refuses to take things on authority. This is what Renan means, for example, when he calls Petrarch the "founder of the modern spirit in literature,” or Arnold when he explains why the Greeks of the great period seem more modern to us than the men of the Middle Ages.
Now what I have myself tried to do lis to be thoroughly modern in this sense. I hold that one should not only welcome the efforts of the man of science at his best to put the natural law on a positive and critical basis, but that one should strive to emulate him in one's dealings with the human law; and so become a complete positivist. My main objection to the movement I am studying is that it has failed to produce complete positivists. Instead of facing honestly the emergency created by its break with the past the leaders of this movement have inclined to deny the duality of human nature, and then sought to dissimulate this mutilation of man under a mass of intellectual and emotional sophistry. The proper procedure in refuting these incomplete positivists is not to appeal to some dogma or outer authority but rather to turn against them their own principles. Thus Diderot, a notable example of the incomplete positivist and a chief source of naturalistic tendency, says that "everything is experimental in man." Now the word experimental has somewhat narrowed in meaning since the
· See his Oxford address on On the Modern Element in Literature.