§6. Morality and Sham Reasoning


56. The effect of mixing speculative inquiry with questions of conduct results finally in a sort of half make-believe reasoning which deceives itself in regard to its real character. Conscience really belongs to the subconscious man, to that part of the soul which is hardly distinct in different individuals, a sort of community-consciousness, or public spirit, not absolutely one and the same in different citizens, and yet not by any means independent in them. Conscience has been created by experience just as any knowledge is; but it is modified by further experience only with secular 1) slowness.

57. When men begin to rationalize about their conduct, the first effect is to deliver them over to their passions and produce the most frightful demoralization, especially in sexual matters. Thus, among the Greeks, it brought about pæderasty and a precedence of public women over private wives. But ultimately the subconscious part of the soul, being stronger, regains its predominance and insists on setting matters right. Men, then, continue to tell themselves they regulate their conduct by reason; but they learn to look forward and see what conclusions a given method will lead to before they give their adhesion to it. In short, it is no longer the reasoning which determines what the conclusion shall be, but it is the conclusion which determines what the reasoning shall be. This is sham reasoning. In short, as morality supposes self-control, men learn that they must not surrender themselves unreservedly to any method, without considering to what conclusions it will lead them. But this is utterly contrary to the single-mindedness that is requisite in science. In order that science may be successful, its votaries must hasten to surrender themselves at discretion to experimental inquiry, in advance of knowing what its decisions may be. There must be no reservations.

58. The effect of this shamming is that men come to look upon reasoning as mainly decorative, or at most, as a secondary aid in minor matters — a view not altogether unjust, if questions of conduct are alone to interest us. They, therefore, demand that it shall be plain and facile. If, in special cases, complicated reasoning is indispensable, they hire a specialist to perform it. The result of this state of things is, of course, a rapid deterioration of intellectual vigor, very perceptible from one generation to the next. This is just what is taking place among us before our eyes; and to judge from the history of Constantinople, it is likely to go on until the race comes to a despicable end.


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