The Belief in Intuition: Individuality and Authority in Henri Bergson and Max Scheler
 9780812252934, 9780812297911

Table of contents :
The Belief in Intuition
Chapter 1. Individuality and Diversity in Bergson and Scheler
Chapter 2. Attempts at Free Choice: Bergson and Scheler on Agency and Freedom
Chapter 3. Bergson and the Morality of Uncertainty
Chapter 4. Varieties of Sympathy: Max Scheler’s Critique of Sentimentalism
Chapter 5. Personal Authority and Political Theology in Bergson and Scheler

Citation preview

The Belief in Intuition

INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF THE MODERN AGE Series Editors Angus Burgin Peter E. Gordon Joel Isaac Karuna Mantena Samuel Moyn Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen Camille Robcis Sophia Rosenfeld

The Belief in Intuition Individuality and Authority in Henri Bergson and Max Scheler

Adriana Alfaro Altamirano

universit y of pennsylvania press phil adelphia

Copyright © 2021 University of Pennsylvania Press All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of review or scholarly citation, none of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 A Cataloging-in-Publication record is available from the Library of Congress ISBN 978-0-8122-5293-4




Chapter 1. Individuality and Diversity in Bergson and Scheler


Chapter 2. Attempts at Free Choice: Bergson and Scheler on Agency and Freedom


Chapter 3. Bergson and the Morality of Uncertainty


Chapter 4. Varieties of Sympathy: Max Scheler’s Critique of Sentimentalism


Chapter 5. Personal Authority and Political Theology in Bergson and Scheler











In 1973, Hannah Arendt wrote that Henri Bergson was “the last philosopher to believe firmly in ‘intuition.’ ”1 Two years later, in 1975, a reviewer writing for The Review of Metaphysics said of a book on Max Scheler that the contribution that its author intends to make in ethics “can be made only if there is a prior acceptance of Scheler’s philosophical belief in intuition. That, however,” the reviewer adds, “is a belief which few English and American philosophers share.”2 As these quotations indicate, Bergson and Scheler pertain to a time or a context in which it was a sensible thing for a philosopher to believe in intuition; their tone suggests, moreover, that the disappearance of such a belief entails some kind of loss. Today, more than four decades after these passages were written, the belief in intuition that Arendt and the reviewer ascribe to Bergson and Scheler, respectively, has admittedly gained some ground.3 However, it continues to be challenged from a number of fronts, both in philosophy and in the social sciences. The original motivation behind this book is to understand what it means—ontologically, ethically, and politically—to entertain such a belief and what is lost in these respects if we neglect it. It is an exploration of the implications of the belief in intuition in relation to the self, human agency, and authority. What does intuition mean for Bergson and Scheler? In order to see its distinctiveness, it might be useful to distinguish “intuition” in their sense from at least two other ways in which the term is regularly used in moral and political philosophy. The first one is the conception of “moral intuitions” as used in Rawlsian debates, which refers to our considered convictions and judgments about particular instances or cases, originally made intuitively and later revised, in reflective equilibrium, in light of the principles and rules that we believe to ground them.4 The second one is used by so-called ethical intuitionists, according to whom intuitions are basic, self-evident moral propositions, such that they can be known without the need of argument.5 Neither of these corresponds to “intuition” in either Bergson’s or Scheler’s sense. Convictions and judgments about the morality of particular actions



(i.e., intuitions in Rawls), as well as self-evident moral propositions (i.e., intuitions in ethical intuitionism), are objects of thought or understanding. Instead, for Scheler and Bergson, intuition is, first of all, a human ability or, perhaps we could say, a human power.6 It is distinct from both reason and sensibility because it addresses something that is neither rational nor sensuous. In Bergson’s words, intuition aims at something that, being ineffable and immaterial, “slips away” (s’envole) at the philosopher’s attempt to see it and grasp it.7 Against idealism (both ancient and modern), as well as against the empiricism and materialism of the Enlightenment, Bergson and Scheler see intuition as the key to something that is both deeper and more complex than matter but still empirical, that is, something given in experience but not only through the senses—hence, the title of Bergson’s first book, Les données immédiates de la conscience (in English, The Immediate Data of Consciousness), and Scheler’s designation of what is given in intuition as “das materiale Apriori” (something simultaneously material and a priori). Their appeal to intuition is an invitation to turn to “the things themselves” as they are given in experience; for that reason, both authors are usually identified with, or at least related to, what is known in philosophy as phenomenology.8 Now, such an appeal to intuition has been often identified with irrational, essentialist, or romantic perspectives, turning it into the likely seed of potentially violent positions—especially when transferred into ethical or political debates.9 It cannot be denied that the connections between intuition in politics, on the one hand, and violence, on the other, are plausible and, indeed, historically true.10 However, at a time when the moral psychology of liberalism—with its double emphasis on both reason and will—has, once more, been found wanting in terms of its resources to articulate a meaningful and strong enough conception of freedom, collectivity, and authority,11 it might not be unwise to turn back and scrutinize our tradition in pursuit of different perspectives, even if they strike us today as a bit foreign or obscure. Through a hermeneutical approach to Bergson and Scheler’s texts, I offer a politicophilosophical reading of them intended to show that intuition, in their sense, has three main implications. First, it translates into a conception of freedom that—compared to the modern view focused on the sovereignty of the will—becomes more capable of coping and coexisting with things such as hierarchy, uncertainty, and alterity. Second, as we will see, such a conception of freedom can only be predicated of a self that remains true to its constitutive “inner multiplicity.” In a distinct critique of the liberal notion of the self—which, however, rejected several assumptions that were present at the time in both Romanticism and



socialism—they put forward a “deep” or “dense” conception of the person, whose uniqueness turns it into the eminent site of experience and whose prominent way of access to reality resides, again, not in reason or in sensibility but in intuition. Notice, however, that the acknowledgment of individuality as multiple does not mean for Scheler and Bergson that the person is “illusory,” as perhaps later some poststructuralist currents would eventually have.12 Rather, in their common battle against what they saw as “depersonalizing currents”— namely, first, a formalistic philosophical background dominated by Enlightenment rationalism and Hegelian idealism; second, a religious environment dominated by pantheism; and, finally, an emerging materialist social science dominated by associationist psychology and evolutionary biology—they both tried to keep a first-personal perspective, without therefore renouncing the reference to truth, reality, or objectivity. These, according to Scheler and Bergson, are given uniquely to a person through intuition. Hence, their theoretical approach is sometimes described as “personalism.” Accordingly—and this is the third politicophilosophical implication I want to draw from their texts—the kind of authority best suited to address the individual in their sense will not be that of the law but of another person. (This does not mean, though, that the law cannot properly address us; in fact, the way it can do so will be part of the focus of Chapter 2.) This yields a conception of personal authority that, compared to Weberian rational authority or, perhaps more recently, to Raz’s epistemic authority, is allegedly better at speaking to us meaningfully—that is, both persuasively and compellingly— as an authority. The conception of authority that corresponds to their personalist outlook is known as “exemplarity.” What do we learn from these implications? As I will try to argue, focusing on the complex inner lives that drive human action, as Bergson and Scheler did, leads us to appreciate the moral and empirical limits of liberal devices that mean to regulate our actions “from the outside.” These devices, such as law and rights, may not only carry pernicious side effects for freedom but also, more troublingly, oftentimes “erase their traces,” concealing the very ways in which they are detrimental for a richer notion and experience of subjectivity.13 This is especially true, as I will delve further into in the conclusion of the book, at a time when the behavioral sciences, backed by the power of both neuroscience and big data, are being used to affect—or, as a commentator puts it, plainly manipulate—human action, both for commercial and political purposes.14 Today, as back in the 1940s, it remains an unsettling concern that perhaps “the peculiarity of the self is a socially conditioned  . . . commodity



misrepresented as natural.”15 In this scenario, Bergson and Scheler provide important resources, so to speak, to decommodify the self and thus can help us navigate contemporary worries in that respect. Now, to be sure, political concerns related to the phenomenon of personal authority are long-standing. Such concerns have found a preeminent place in Western political thought under diverse labels, such as tyranny, dictatorship, the problem of false prophets, Bonapartism, Caesarism, charismatic leadership, and finally, today, populism.16 In many of these discussions, the accent is put on the dangers associated to the “rule of men,” in contrast to “the rule of law.” Such dangers gain relevance in light of contemporary discussions about populism, and therefore, the political stakes of whether it is possible at all to find a legitimate conception of personal authority are high. As I will try to show, Bergson and Scheler’s conception of exemplarity constitutes a relevant alternative to previous treatments about the “rule of men” and therefore puts populism in a different light: it shows that liberalism would only at its own peril deny the anthropological, moral, and political importance of those figures that, in the words of Rousseau, can “compel without violence, and persuade without convincing.”17 Personal authority in our authors’ sense relies on a dense but primarily elusive notion of personality, which, as I will try to show, makes room for a way in which personal authority can not only be consistent with freedom but also even contribute to it, as it fosters the development of our personality. Interestingly, such a conception of authority will require that we take distance not only from the rational ideal of autonomy—the freedom that pertains to the “sovereign self ”—but also from the ideal of authenticity and the ethics that corresponds to it (as in, for instance, Charles Taylor). This shall be done for the sake of a more humble “ethics of emulation,” which goes, however, beyond prescribing the mere copying of an exemplar. For that reason, as we will see, such an ethics prescribes humility to the exemplar as well. The centrality of intuition in Bergson and Scheler’s respective works must not suggest that it exhausts the philosophical resources that both Bergson and Scheler make use of. A further feature of their works, one that I hope to capitalize on here, is what we would call today the “interdisciplinarity” of their approach: writing at a time when disciplinary boundaries did not yet exist as we know them today, they were engaged in an intellectual and spiritual enterprise that would now find its place in the overlap of philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology, theology, and natural science. In view of today’s academic landscape, this feature offers, I think, the possibility of connecting several spheres of knowledge in different and refreshing ways.



Still, this book is written from the perspective of political philosophy. It forms part of a series of ongoing efforts to rehabilitate these authors within the intellectual history of political ideas, in the hope of illuminating some of the most pressing ethicopolitical debates of our time.18 Even if, perhaps, Scheler and Bergson have now receded from the more mainstream politicophilosophical canon, it is important to remember that both were widely influential in the philosophical, sociological, cultural, and political debates of the first half of the twentieth century. The poet Paul Valéry referred to Bergson as “the last great name of the history of European intelligence.”19 His influence, moreover, was not confined to Europe: at the beginning of the twentieth century, he had far-reaching impact in philosophy and the arts in other continents as well.20 His fame was not limited to intellectual and artistic circles: he became “the mundane hit of Parisian high life”21 and presumably caused one of the first traffic jams on Broadway in New York, as “well-dressed auditors” wanted to arrive at his lectures at Columbia University.22 Bergson served as a French diplomat after World War I,23 but his influence in politics was widespread much earlier. Despite his personal democratic and liberal convictions,24 Bergson’s ideas had plenty of contemporary illiberal sympathizers on both sides of the political spectrum (and, as I said before, many of them markedly violent). He was an inspiration for anarchists, syndicalists, and communists—most famously George Sorel in France but also others in Italy and Britain25—as well as for Catholics such as Charles Péguy, Emmanuel Mounier, and Jacques Maritain, through whom he became an important figure behind the Christian Democratic Movement.26 Prominent anticolonialists were also among his followers: Léopold Sédar Senghor, first president of Senegal (and, more generally, the Négritude movement in its resistance to French colonialism and racism), as well as Muhammad Iqbal, the main intellectual and spiritual figure behind the creation of Pakistan from the British Indian Empire, acknowledged him as one of their guides.27 Nationalists, such as José Vasconcelos in Mexico and Charles de Gaulle in France, recognized his influence—the latter was a great reader of Bergson and explicitly interpreted his leadership in a Bergsonian light.28 Finally, he also exerted fascination among fascists, an example of which is Mussolini’s cultural politics.29 Scheler, for his part, even if less widely influential than Bergson in the English-speaking world, had a significant impact both in Germany and in other parts of Europe.30 Heidegger referred to him as “the strongest philosophical force in Germany, nay, in contemporary Europe, and even in contemporary philosophy as such.”31 Scheler is considered one of the most original contributors to phenomenology in the early twentieth century, in



metaphysics as well as in moral and social psychology.32 Additionally, in the words of one scholar, he was “the spiritual-metaphysical founder of philosophical anthropology as a philosophical approach,”33 whose importance in twentieth-century philosophy can be shown by the fact that, according to the same commentator, “the whole argument between [Heidegger and Cassirer] before, in and after Davos raged around the status of philosophical anthropology.”34 Moreover, such an approach remains very much alive today in critical theory circles and in debates about identity politics, collective intentionality, and joint action.35 Scheler was also the main founder of the sociology of knowledge in Germany, whose later continuation by Karl Mannheim, among others, sparked an important debate between more idealist and more materialist positions within German sociology (e.g., between Alfred Weber and Max Horkheimer, respectively).36 He was an important interlocutor for significant cultural and political figures at the time, such as Walther Rathenau and Konrad Adenauer,37 as well as one of the major influences for Catholic leaders of the past century, such as Romano Guardini and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II).38 Bergson and Scheler’s relative absence in contemporary debates is a symptom, I think, of political philosophy having forgotten some important alternatives it did not take—and, perhaps, could not take—after the decisive wars of the twentieth century. This book is an effort to recover key elements within those alternatives and to show how doing so enriches our present discussions.




Scheler and Bergson are the protagonists of this book. However, there are other “supporting characters” in it who will keep us company as we move forward. Thus, in the first two chapters, John Stuart Mill and David Hume have a couple of lines; in Chapter 2, Kant and Dostoevsky have costarring roles; Jean-Marie Guyau and Adam Smith are supporting actors in Chapters 3 and 4, respectively; Max Weber makes an appearance in Chapter 5; and finally, there are several cameos by Hannah Arendt and members of the Frankfurt School scattered along the text. Except for Guyau, these are wellknown faces in the history of ideas. My hope is that their presence in the following pages will not so much complicate the picture as provide illuminating points of contrast, so that we can better appreciate what Bergson and Scheler have to say about individuality, agency, and authority. Chapter 1 offers an introduction to Bergson and Scheler’s respective notions of individuality and inner diversity. Half a century after John Stuart



Mill wrote On Liberty, Bergson and Scheler also affirmed the importance of individuality and its significance for human development. In addressing that topic, Mill worried that people tend to undervalue or ignore individuality; in contrast, Bergson and Scheler worry that the latter is very easily misconceived. Individuality deserves special consideration, not on account of the risk of it becoming stifled under a despotic government or an oppressive society but rather because, in defending it, we are very prone to pervert it. In other words, they saw already what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer would articulate more poignantly four decades later, namely, that the “progress of individuation [was being done] at the expense of the individuality in whose name it took place.”39 Why is individuality so vulnerable? Why can’t it be safe even at the hands of its sponsors? Bergson and Scheler’s respective answers have to do with how individuality is related to diversity. Recall that, according to Mill, social diversity is crucial for the exercise of individuality because it nourishes the intellect and reinvigorates our beliefs. In contrast, for Bergson and Scheler, individuality is fragile because diversity is its principal characteristic, and this makes individuality very difficult to grasp (what is unitary and simple is easier to understand and keep in sight). Thus, “defending individuality” becomes less a question of how to protect it against external threats of control and more a matter of being able to discern it—not throughout society but within ourselves. In Bergson, this primarily means relating to our past in a certain way and, in Scheler, discovering the inner hierarchy of value and the corresponding feelings that characterize our emotional life. This chapter evinces their interesting position in the history of ideas, as it makes clear the extent to which they anticipate important themes of postmodern thought—especially the sensibility to culture and language in the construction of the self—while maintaining some key modernist elements, such as the belief in intuition as a vehicle for knowledge and truth, as well as a substantial, even if not “solid,” conception of the self. Chapter 2 constitutes a reflection on the kind of freedom that corresponds to the conception of the self that was developed in Chapter 1. More precisely, it discusses Bergson and Scheler’s respective theories of moral agency, expounding on their respective criticisms of Kant’s universalistic approach. Bergson contests Kant’s equation of the will with practical reason and underscores the character of the will as force. Following this understanding of the will, he contests Kant’s conclusion that freedom must be given through reason. Rather, freedom is found in “the relation of the concrete self to the act which it performs,”40 and therefore it is not necessarily related with what one does but with how it is done.



Building on Bergson’s theory of action, I show that, from a phenomenological standpoint, both our moral motivation to obey the law and our disposition to break it share a common source. In other words, Bergson helps us realize that temptation is not only what traps us and gets us entangled in crime but also the key to understanding how we become, as Kant says, “interested in the law.” Such common source is to be found in our character as agents. The failure to integrate these two phenomena—namely, morality and temptation—leads to an “schizophrenic” division of the self, which in turn jeopardizes action. The price of setting morality and temptation apart is our own freedom or our capacity to act. Scheler, for his part, rejects the Kantian notion of autonomy, that is, the notion of giving the law to oneself, for being overly formalistic. In his opinion, the categorical imperative as a solution to the problem of how to combine morality and freedom—or, as Rousseau says, how to “follow the law and remain as free as before”—wrongly assumes, first, that morality can be fully expressed in terms of laws and, second, that freedom is simply a matter of obeying only oneself. For him, freedom as autonomy is not about not obeying others but rather about gaining access to one’s self. In other words, autonomy must be primarily about how we relate to ourselves, instead of just a certain relation to potential oppressors. It must focus on discerning, above all, the autonomous agent in question. In this chapter, I turn to narrative in order to enrich the theoretical analysis in precisely the phenomenological spirit that animates the authors. My goal is to “go back to the action itself ” and assess how Bergson and Scheler’s respective principles fare when confronted with moral experience. Thus, I test their hypotheses on human action by examining two case studies: on the one hand, the Gallows Man example, which Kant provides in the Critique of Practical Reason, and, on the other, the case of Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Through a close reading of the cases, I conclude that the ethical problem in both of them cannot be truly captured by the presence or lack of the clear orientation that only a categorical imperative can give but rather by their respective capacity to “calibrate” or “attune” their agency in the face of temptation, which only a “phenomenology of hesitation” can disclose. Furthermore, I propose—against more traditional readings of the two cases—that these show how moral action becomes more endangered by a failure to access what is truly individual than by a failure to see the humanity that we have in common. I see this chapter as a mise-en-scène of the principles that—as explained in Chapter 1—teach us how to observe the inner diversity that characterizes true individuality.



Chapters 3 and 4 are each devoted to one of our authors, in order to deepen our understanding of human agency and freedom in each case. Chapter 3 focuses solely on Bergson and explores the moral and political implications of our relation to the future or, to put it differently, of the role of uncertainty in human agency. Moral and political theories, as far as they take into account the fragility of human nature, usually incorporate a reflection on the role of uncertainty or contingency. The question remains, however: how exactly do we experience uncertainty? Can uncertainty have different faces, to which we then react in different ways? If so, what is the meaning of such multiplicity for the exercise of agency? Comparing Bergson’s inquiry into the modern belief in chance with Jean-Marie Guyau’s reflections on the love of risk, I examine the moral significance of different ways of relating to uncertainty and analyze their respective pedagogical purchase regarding the constitution of human freedom.41 Here I argue that when confronted with the unknown future, agents become easily trapped in the vicious and vertiginous circle of impotence and omnipotence. From this perspective, freedom can be seen as the art of avoiding those two extremes. The contrast between Bergson and Guyau illuminates this problem, showing how our relation to uncertainty informs our inner self, our capacity for action, and our sense of obligation. Chapter 4 focuses exclusively on Scheler. I examine his phenomenology of emotions, with special attention to their social and political dimensions. In particular, I explore how moral agency can be properly exercised only on condition that we fully experience inner diversity through emotions. First, I offer a close reading of Scheler and Adam Smith on sympathy, analyzing the differences between both approaches to moral psychology and underscoring the ethicopolitical concerns that animated the author in each case. In the early twentieth century, Max Scheler disputed—against Smith and other eighteenth-century philosophers—the salutary character of sympathy, dismissing it as an ultimately perverse foundation for human association. However, unlike later critics of sympathy as a political principle (e.g., Rawls, Arendt), Scheler rejected it for being ill-equipped to salvage what, in his opinion, should be the proper basis of morality, namely, moral value. I argue that, even if Scheler’s objections against Smith’s project prove to be ultimately mistaken, he had important reasons for calling into question its moral suitability in his own time. Finally, in Chapter 5, I turn to questions about authority and explore what we can learn on this score from their respective insights on individuality and agency. What can authority be, in light of the personalist anthropology that



they both offer? How can authority claims be laid on someone whose character is unfixed and always unique, on a self whose “innermost essence” is ineffable? Can such a being be bound to authority and free? As I said before, in both Scheler and Bergson, I find a model of authority founded on the notion of exemplarity, that is, the kind of authority that lies in a person, whose example seems to have some moral claim on other people. In this chapter, I contrast such a model with Max Weber’s notion of charismatic authority and indicate the political relevance of their alternative, especially for a time such as ours, where worries about the oppressive and antidemocratic dimension of populist leaders abound. To recall, according to Weber, the charismatic type—contrary to bureaucratic and traditional authority—is not based on either rational commands or time-honored and customary practices but relies instead on the gift and qualities of individual personalities. Like Weber, both Bergson and Scheler thought this kind of authority was of primary contemporary importance. However, Weber’s relativism toward values and his Kantian metaphysical approach yield a notion of personality that, as we will see, is overly reified from a Bergsonian or Schelerian point of view. For Weber, a “personality” is characterized by being able to display rational-teleological action, consistent with a unified moral framework. Charismatic authority can be instrumental for a personality in this sense since it furnishes it with an ethical and practical horizon. In contrast, Bergson and Scheler’s ideas on personal authority rely on a deep but slippery notion of personality, which, as I stated before, makes room for an alternative understanding of the relation between personal authority and freedom. Such a way is found in exemplarity—the situation in which we follow an example and thus become free. Several late twentieth-century authors saw the importance of the Weberian notion of personal, charismatic leadership but considered, however, that the social and political conditions under which it could flourish were pathological on the whole—for example, anomie in Talcott Parsons, the deeply corrupt and unjust circumstances of postcolonialism in Immanuel Wallerstein and David Apter, or the necessary inconveniences of any transition toward political maturity, as Seymour Martin Lipset regards the case of George Washington. 42 Unlike these thinkers, in the early twentieth century, Bergson and Scheler still considered it possible to talk positively about personal authority because they were not yet totally dissuaded by fears about ideology and mass mobilization, which certainly became preeminent after World War II. As I said before, in view of the contemporary relevance of both left- and rightwing populism in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, as well as



of the (allegedly both positive and negative) roles that so-called charismatic leaders have played in recent political developments at the international level, these reflections are totally pertinent: they can help us to avoid seeing the twenty-first century exclusively through the eyes of the twentieth. Bergson and Scheler’s views on exemplarity relied on many Christian— and, in particular, Catholic—resources. As I will show, Bergson and Scheler’s reflections on Christianity bring some of their key respective philosophical perspectives—in epistemology, anthropology, and psychology—together with political questions regarding power, obedience, equality, and freedom. Moreover, they drew upon Christianity in order to mount a fierce denunciation of bourgeois capitalism and to articulate an alternative to it.43 Both Scheler and Bergson held high hopes that Christianity could contribute with significant politicopedagogical resources to the fragile post–World War I international political and economic scene, contributing thus to early twentieth-century debates about the political and economic role of religion.44 It is important to keep this in mind, as it makes it even more appropriate to bring Weber to the table, who, as is well known, connected the emergence and initial development of capitalism with the Protestant way of life.


Individuality and Diversity in Bergson and Scheler

In his essay On Liberty, published in 1859, John Stuart Mill articulated a notion of individuality that is still influential today. Despite 150 years of Marxist, communitarian, and postmodern criticisms, Mill’s defense of individual freedom and personal development gives voice to many concerns that remain alive in our current ethicopolitical debates. For him, as for many among us, the “free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well-being.”1 Mill worried that people tended to overlook this fact and that they would therefore undervalue individuality, allowing for an increasing control of society over its members.2 Half a century later, Henri Bergson and Max Scheler would affirm the importance of individuality as well. For both, individuality was necessary for the realization of the full potential of human beings. However, their main worry was not, as for Mill, that people would undervalue it. Fifty years after On Liberty, this danger had receded to some extent. The problem for them had become instead that individuality can be very easily misconceived. For Scheler and Bergson, it deserves special consideration, not (or, at least, not primarily) on account of the risk of it becoming stifled under governmental despotism or under homogenizing social pressures but rather because, in defending it, we are very prone to pervert it. In the words of Bergson, “Individuality . . . harbors its enemy at home.”3 In their view, individuality remains vulnerable even in the company of those who believe in it, and the reason for this has to do with the character of individuality as something multiple. For Mill, in 1859, a diverse society was important because it helped to preserve individuality. “The demand that all other people shall resemble ourselves, grows by what it feeds on. If resistance waits till life is reduced nearly to one uniform type, all deviations from

Individuality and Diversity


that type will come to be considered impious, immoral, even monstrous and contrary to nature.”4 In Mill’s view, social diversity nourishes the intellect and reinvigorates our beliefs: it has a preeminent pedagogical character. Thus, he says, “Mankind speedily become unable to conceive diversity, when they have been for some time unaccustomed to see it.”5 For Bergson and Scheler, however, the problem with individuality is not so much that “mankind speedily become unable to conceive it” but that we might become incapable even of perceiving it. Individuality is fragile not only because of the menaces posed to it by external forces that disrupt the environment of diversity in which it can develop, as Mill pointed out; it is fragile also because diversity, being the principal internal characteristic of the individual self, is easily overlooked—and this despite a socially diverse atmosphere or maybe sometimes even as a result of it.6 What is simple and unified is easier to grasp; a more complex conception of the self is more difficult to comprehend, convey, and remember. Therefore, “defending individuality” becomes less a question of how to protect it against external pressures toward conformism and control and more a matter of learning how to discern it, not necessarily throughout society but within the individual self. Individuality, in this sense, requires, first and foremost, that we enhance our cognitive apparatus in order to better identify inner diversity. Scheler and Bergson’s respective works, as I read them, are efforts to put us in a position to observe inner multiplicity and to live or experience individuality accordingly. This entails a strong link between epistemology and morality: as we will see, perception conditions our moral horizon, just as moral action conditions our perception. In this chapter, I will address the three following questions: first, what is the kind of inner diversity that our authors are interested in, and what makes their account different from other interpretations of the inner life that portray it as also composed of multiple parts? Second, why did they think that such a way of conceiving diversity is so fragile or elusive and therefore easy to overlook? Third, how is the perception of this kind of diversity related to the exercise of individuality? For now, I will emphasize the similarities between the two authors instead of their disagreements; however, as it will become clear throughout the book, their respective philosophical projects were different enough.7 So, for instance, while Bergson and Scheler agree that individuality is grounded on internal diversity, they disagree on the role each one of them expects language to play in the exercise of individuality. They differ in the extent to which they think the elusiveness of personality can be effectively


Chapter 1

addressed through words, signs, and other kinds of expression. Consequently, as we will explore along the way, each view yields different implications regarding the sociopolitical character of language and rhetoric.

“Dissociationist” Psychology Bergson and Scheler’s insistence on inner multiplicity should be distinguished from another account of the multiplicity of the self, against which they articulated some of their main insights—namely, the empiricist account of the self in associationist psychology. David Hume, one of the main exponents of this view, held that “the capacity of the mind is not infinite; consequently, no idea of extension or duration consists of an infinite number of parts or inferior ideas, but of a finite number, and these simple and indivisible.”8 In contrast to this, for both Scheler and Bergson, experience is not originally divided. Rather, it is a stream or a flux, which is certainly divisible—but that happens only later (by means of language, for instance) and sometimes at a cost. The heterogeneity of our inner life is not, in their view, an assemblage of discrete parts associated with one another but a result of the process of dissociation of experience. Relying on empirical research in the field of child psychology, Scheler claims that, at first, experiences do not belong to individual persons. On the contrary, in his view, emotions, memories, and expectations become “ours” only through a “gradual formation of ever more stable vortices” in our stream of experience.9 Children, as they grow up, he says, “raise [their] mental head, as it were, above [the] stream flooding over it”10 and only then become able to isolate particular ideas and feelings, identifying them as their own. This happens, typically, as they learn how to speak.11 Adults can have, in his view, a similar experience when they learn a foreign language. Allegedly, as people become aware of the peculiarities of their own native tongue, they become able to rearrange or reappropriate certain experiences that only then become utterable.12 For Scheler, this process of dissociating and gradually appropriating perceptions applies not only to outer but also to inner perception. He argues that we can hardly be aware of any experience within our stream of consciousness that lacks a name or some other socially valid expression to identify it.13 In other words, our social world codifies and simplifies our inner life. In that sense, he says, not even a solitary life is a solipsistic one because we use language and other socially constructed frameworks to identify experiences

Individuality and Diversity


within ourselves. Consequently, according to Scheler, the potential social relevance of an experience “virtually overshadows the private life of the individual, and conceals it, as it were, from the possessor himself.”14 This is, however, something that associationism would miss: assuming that the mind is only constituted by that which we are conscious of and interpreting consciousness as a conglomerate of pieces, it fails to notice that we regularly, as it were, select from the whole of our consciousness only what we have a name for. Thus, associationism cannot see that our inner life is richer than what we are able to perceive.15 Bergson defends the same idea. “Association is not the primary fact: dissociation is what we begin with.”16 For him, associationism begs the question of why things become associated in the first place: “The truth is that this independent image is a late and artificial product of the mind. In fact, we perceive the resemblance before we perceive the individuals which resemble each other; and in an aggregate of contiguous parts, we perceive the whole before the parts.”17 So, like Scheler, Bergson begins with dissociation and understands perception as a process of selection guided by our intellect. The latter’s work, he contends, is to prepare the field of action in accordance with practical interests, either material or affective. In other words, according to Bergson, we are capable of paying attention only to what concerns us practically.18 The brain, in turn, he says, is best understood not as a “receptacle of representations” or as a “holder of sensations” but as a filter, whose main task is not to store knowledge but to coordinate movement.19 Its role, just as in the case of the human intellect, is mainly practical, not speculative: “That which is commonly called a fact is not reality as it appears to immediate intuition, but an adaptation of the real to the interests of practice and to the exigencies of social life.”20 Indeed, both authors agree that the discovery of lawfulness and regularities in nature (i.e., science) depends primarily on practical necessities. This does not mean that lawfulness in nature is illusory but that the selection of these natural laws and not others responds mainly to pragmatic reasons. Thus, Bergson says, our intellect is like a photographic camera, which takes “partial views” of experience to facilitate our action. “It is philosophers who are mistaken when they import into the domain of speculation a method of thinking which is made for action.”21 Intellectual “clarity and distinctness” are, what he calls, “interruptions” or “cuts” of what is originally given to our consciousness. The intellect, therefore, has a clear idea only of what is discontinuous and motionless.22 Likewise, Scheler holds that “both the mechanical view of nature and its counterpart, association psychology, select [from


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all existing things and relations] only those . . . that can have significance as points of departure for conduct to control nature.”23 In sum, according to our authors, a mechanistic view of the mind achieves, at best, a clumsy reconstruction of our mental life. This “Frankenstein’s monster,” they think, made out of bits and pieces of sensation, cannot ever possibly come to life.24 On the contrary, for Scheler and Bergson, true individuality must have its roots in something real, alive, and more “original.” The question is, then, the following: what constitutes, for our authors, this original source of experience in which individuality can be directly intuited? For Bergson, “true reality” is constituted by movement and change. He argues, for instance, that the movement of my hand from A to B does not pertain to the same degree of reality as the infinity of points that satisfy the equation of the trajectory that my hand has traversed. The latter is the curve that my intellect models; the former is more real. The same happens in cases where movement is not immediately obvious. Take, for instance, the painting on a canvas. He argues that the painting as a whole is more real than the mosaics into which my eye decomposes the painting. The intellect can analyze a painting, but it will always leave unexplained the mobility that is essential to it. How is mobility “incorporated” in the painting? Bergson explains, I have here a piece of paper on which I have drawn a few lines. What are these lines? Somehow, they are the movement of the hand that traced those lines, but already halted, immobilized. Movement constitutes true reality. What is this piece of paper? It is the activity of the worker that turned the chunks of wood into paper, but already solidified, concretized, immobilized. Those chunks of wood, what are they? They are the work of the sun, that is, a vibrating movement executed during many years by the sun, which made the tree grow, the cotton plant, and so on.25 Furthermore, says Bergson, mobility is both more and less than the aggregation of points encompassed in a trajectory.26 It is more because, being more original, it gives rise to those points in the first place, but it is also less since the aggregation of points requires further intellectual elaboration—mobility, being more original, is characterized by simplicity.27 This ontological difference between movement (original and simple) and its “static” renditions (derived and complex) is further evinced, he says, by the following example. Think of the contrast between, on the one hand, the simplicity and unity of the function of an organ—say, the eye—and, on the

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other, the complexity of its mechanism.28 The mechanism through which we are able to see, he claims, does not have the same degree of reality as the unified and simple act of vision. The latter, as lived experience, has, in Bergson’s view, the highest degree of reality. Its character as movement makes it more original. Biological mechanisms, in contrast, are explanations offered by the intellect to interpret biological realities—which, as such, cannot be explained but only recorded and described. Analogously, Scheler rejects any reduction of the real to what is given through the senses. The real is always richer than the sensuously given, he says, and therefore any mechanistic outlook on experience is essentially deflationary: “It approaches everything on the false assumption that whatever happens to be simplest and least valuable must also have the character of ontological priority and causal antecedence.”29 To escape such cognitive reductionism, he proposes to leave behind the opposition between subject and object. A subject will always be an object among objects, Scheler says—even if a privileged one, as in Kant’s view.30 In other words, a subject will always be a thing. Thus, he relies instead on a set of distinctions that put lived experience at the forefront. The most important one is that between act and content. An act—an act of thinking, loving, walking—cannot be given through sense perception (either inner or outer) and cannot be objectified. It belongs to a completely different ontological level.31 When we see someone walking, we can objectify any given step or maybe isolate her leg taking that step or the distance that the leg has traversed. However, Scheler thinks, the act of walking—that is, the act as it is lived by the walker—cannot be objectified. Even more, Scheler distinguishes between, on the one hand, the lived experience of the walker and, on the other, the outer perception she has of herself walking, as she sees her own feet taking steps in a consecutive way.32 Notice, then, that Scheler’s emphasis on acts is analogous to Bergson’s interest in movement: both are realities that associationism, or any mechanistic take on perception, cannot account for.33 Now, what does associationism lose by overlooking the reality of acts or movement? Why would that be a loss we should regret? Does it have any moral or political implications? In the view of our authors, associationism is condemned to perpetuate prejudice and stereotypes in what we know about others and about our own selves because it takes for granted what are only contingent divisions of the self—divisions that correspond to values and categories relative to specific societies or contexts. To illustrate, take the case of Hume. He explains that “our passions descend with greater facility than they ascend,” and therefore “’tis more natural for us to love the son upon account


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of the father, than the father upon account of the son; the servant for the master, than the master for the servant; the subject for the prince, than the prince for the subject.”34 While passions go “from the greater to the lesser,” Hume goes on, ideas do the opposite. The mention of the provinces of any empire conveys our thought to the seat of the empire; but the fancy returns not with the same facility to the considerations of the provinces. The idea of the servant makes us think of the master; that of the subject carries our view to the prince. But the same relation has not an equal influence in conveying us back again. . . . On the same principle is founded that common custom of making wives bear the name of their husbands, rather than husbands that of their wives; and also the ceremony of giving the precedency to those, whom we honour and respect.35 As these examples show, associationism relies on certain “laws” or “general rules” according to which passions and ideas relate to each other. However, as Bergson suggests, the question is, why do we find something related to anything else? Or, more precisely, how do we pick the traits according to which we will consider the relevant similarities and differences? Politically speaking, as the Hume example shows, the categories through which we organize reality are very much determined by the power relations that structure our social life. Missing the original (whole) dimension of our conscience, associationism does not realize the contingent character of the “laws” that it picks in order to explain how the mind works, upholding therefore the power relations that it assumes.36 Ontologically speaking, as Bergson’s example of the eye and the act of vision illustrate, there are different “degrees of reality” that we assign to objects and the relations between them, through which we prioritize some of them over others, as we perceive and understand reality. Scheler is of the same mind here. Thus, he invites the reader to consider why, even if we can “easily reproduce in ourselves the joys and sorrows of characters in fiction, or the persons in a play,” we do not go so far as “tak[ing] their part as if they were real.”37 His answer is that even if our passions respond to relations of similarity, they will not respond to any kind of similarity: we are able to understand the emotional situation of a character of fiction, but we can only experience what he calls “true sympathy” for someone who is real.38 However, he thinks, the difference between the feelings of fictional characters and those of real people is something that associationism

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cannot account for. Therefore, a mechanistic view of the mind fails to see the ultimate grounds of the acts of association because it does not have any independent ontological criterion with which to understand why we regard something as similar. So far, we have seen that both Bergson and Scheler criticize associationism for considering experience as an assemblage of bits instead of an original flux that only afterward becomes dissociated. This, they argue, answers to practical purposes, and it overlooks the different degrees of reality in what is given to us. Furthermore, we saw that they are interested in a kind of givenness that happens in movement and in acts, respectively. However, what is given to us in movement or in acts? What is that which can be perceived other than the sensuous? And if it is not through the senses, how do we perceive it? Moreover, how is all this connected with individuality and diversity?

In Search of the Elusive Personality Let us take up Scheler first. To put it shortly, for him, what we perceive in acts is a person. How so? Against the empiricists, he claims that we never perceive a person merely as a body: “I do not merely see the other person’s eyes, for example; I also see that ‘he is looking at me’ and even that ‘he is looking at me as though he wished to avoid my seeing that he is looking at me.’ ”39 Even less, he argues against Kant, do we perceive a person as an idea, as an “homo noumenon—i.e., . . . man as a ‘thing in itself.’ ”40 For Scheler, a doctrine according to which “a factor in cognition must be either a ‘sensible content’ or something ‘thought’”41 is simply unable to perceive persons as such. Instead, he claims, persons are perceived in their acts: if I see someone laughing, the laughter “is not first given to me as [a] symbol of a body in motion,”42 which is later to be interpreted as a sign of some attitude or state of mind. Rather, Scheler says, in his or her laughter, I immediately see the joy or the sarcasm that the person displays; that is, I see the person in joy or in a sarcastic state of mind. The mouth is merely a part of the content that corresponds to the act of laughter that is being displayed. Similarly, a person does not correspond to any concept. For Scheler, we must distinguish the “I” that we use as “a placeholder for expressing the idea of a person, for instance, when I say that ‘I go for a walk,’ ”43 from the “I” of the objectified psychic ego that we study in psychology or that we perceive in our own selves when we examine our feelings and our conduct. The “I” in the first sense, Scheler explains, cannot ever be reduced to an object or be


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said to correspond to any particular “bit” of matter. “Just as a person can ‘go for a walk,’ he can also ‘perceive’ his ego. . . . However, this psychic ego that the person perceives can no more perceive, than it can go for a walk or act.”44 Along the same lines, he says that no knowledge of the nature of love or judgment will get us any closer to the knowledge of how person A loves person B or how person A judges person B. Both in inner and outer perception, “a self is always given, indeed a ‘totality’ of a self, as the background against which this or that content stands out in relief.”45 In Scheler’s view, the givenness of the self of individual experience through intuition is an incontestable phenomenon, which, however, “does not coincide with any special content of experience, with the sum of this givenness, or with relations and orders among such contents.”46 Thus, the perception of the self does not happen, he argues, by hypothesis or by inference and, again, even less by a metaphysical assumption of a substance.47 Rather, “the only and exclusive kind of givenness of the person is the execution of his acts.”48 Still, for Scheler, it would be misleading to identify a person with any particular act. While, as we already saw, an act is not an object, the person is, so to speak, one further level away from objectivity. The perception of different acts, Scheler thinks, leads necessarily to a question whose answer, however, remains impossible to articulate: “Which unitary executor ‘belongs’ to the essence of an execution of acts that are so different in their kinds, forms and directions?”49 Notice Scheler’s rhetorical strategy: instead of simply saying “the person is the one who acts,” he asks about the “unitary executor” who belongs to the execution of its acts. This question, in turn, is presented as a contrast between difference and unity or between complexity and simplicity—as if only through such a strategy we could finally put ourselves in a position to ask about individuality and to appreciate its diversity: “It is precisely here—and not ‘earlier’ within the order of problems involved—that the problem of personality confronts us.”50 The elusiveness of personality and of individuality is present in Bergson’s thought as well. On this point, he says, “Is my own person, at a given moment, one or manifold? If I declare it one, inner voices arise and protest—those of the sensations, feelings, ideas, among which my individuality is distributed. But if I make it distinctly manifold, my consciousness rebels quite as strongly; it affirms that my sensations, my feelings, my thoughts are abstractions which I effect on myself, and that each of my states implies all the others.”51 It is not easy to catch sight of our own person. For Bergson, it requires training. Furthermore, he says, we are constantly deceived about the true character of experience by the metaphors we use to refer to it. In his view,

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language leads to inauthenticity, insofar as it crudely portrays through signs and symbols what originally resists all conceptualization. Even if, as human beings, we cannot avoid the use of words and concepts—we have been rightly called the “language animals”—according to Bergson, they make us miss the true insight within the continuous flux of our inner life.52 To illustrate: imagine that today I say that I feel happier than yesterday; this might suggest that I have more happiness now than before. However, according to Bergson, that is misleading. His point is not only that pain and pleasure cannot be measured with accuracy but rather that they cannot be put in quantitative terms at all. For instance, I cannot even say, he argues, that I love my mother more than I love my father or that when I was a teenager, I was less annoyed by a song that now irritates me very much (again, even if, obviously, I do not specify how much). For Bergson, those are, at best, useful metaphors to talk about what in reality are different ways of loving and different reactions to a particular song.53 Notice, then, Bergson’s deep skepticism about language: for Bergson, our uniqueness is often more challenged than supported by our linguistic, expressivist, and dialogical resources. According to one of his most radical formulations, “the word does not indicate anything beyond what is trivial and impersonal in a psychic state.”54 This applies not only to inner perception and affective emotions but also to experience in general, including impressions of the senses. Thus, he says, that “a more intense heat is really another kind of heat”55 and that “rose-scent” is only “that part of the scent of the rose which is public property and thereby belongs to space.”56 In other words, intensity is only a quantitative metaphor to talk about quality, but strictly speaking, it cannot be measured.57 For Bergson, language contains at its core “an element of generality” (the sign) that makes it little suited to render the always changing and heterogeneous contents of our inner self.58 Moreover, for Bergson, this tendency toward generality is fierce and unstoppable; signs have such a force, he says, “that in virtue of a sort of immanent energy, [they] tend to become more and more general.”59 For him, both science and common sense go equally wrong in this respect. They tend to conceive movement only as a difference in distance, as a change from point A to point B. There is no way, he admits, of expressing movement and action except in this way. But that inevitably falsifies human experience because it obliterates the fact that “nobody loves as somebody else, or not even a single person loves in the same way twice.”60 For Bergson, experience becomes human only insofar as it follows a particular rhythm, which is unrepeatable, irreversible, and inescapable.61


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Again, it is not easy to attune ourselves to this duration and to perceive the “unsuspected details” with which “sensation is pregnant.”62 However, the rare moments when we are able to accomplish this bear the unmistakable mark of making us present in our action: they involve our whole person. “Then and not earlier,” to paraphrase Scheler, we gain access to our individuality. To sum up so far: we have seen that, even if both Bergson and Scheler take inner diversity to be a necessary condition for the exercise of individuality, they both reject the way in which this diversity is conceived by empiricist approaches. Their criticism of associationism is that, in agreement with results yielded by contemporary empirical psychology, perception is not our only “access to reality.” Actually, they argue, by focusing exclusively on sensuous perception, associationism obliterates the “real citadel” of inner diversity.63 The gray area between matter and spirit gives us access to different degrees or levels of reality and points in the only direction in which we can properly experience individuality.64 In what follows, I will give a more detailed account of how each author conceives the inner diversity of the self. Here, the differences between Scheler and Bergson will become apparent. Those contrasts will invite us to reflect on the degree to which language can foster or hinder the exercise of individuality and on the extent to which it (that is, language) can become a vehicle for true sociability.

Scheler and the Power to Discriminate For Scheler, the possibility of experiencing inner diversity lies primarily in what he calls “perception of value” or Wertnehmung.65 In his view, values are different from ideas or propositions in that we do not think of them or judge them. They do not constitute alternatives either, which lie ahead of us so that we can choose between them. Rather, he claims, they are perceived through feelings. However, they are different from sensations. As I mentioned before, for Scheler, against Kant, cognition is not exhausted by sensation and understanding. Values are data of perception, which yet are not sensible in character. Again, that is why he regards them as “material a priori.”66 Scheler proposes a hierarchy of values—from the material to the spiritual—and a parallel stratification of our emotional life, according to which

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Table 1. Scheler’s Hierarchy of Values and Feelings Hierarchy of Values (a priori and material) Spiritual values: The beautiful and the ugly Right and wrong Knowledge of truth

Feelings (receptors of value)

Feeling States

Spiritual feelings

Bliss and despair

Psychic feelings

Hunger and disgust Delight and guilt Joy and sorrow

Vital values: The noble and the vulgar The excellent and the bad Well-being and ill-being

Vital feelings

Health and illness Strength and weakness Life and oncoming death

Sensible values: The agreeable and the disagreeable

Sensible feeling

Pleasure and pain

Psychic values: Well-being and ill-being

different types of feelings correspond to different spheres of value. At each level, the feelings are, so to speak, the “receptor organs” with which we perceive the corresponding values.67 The importance of this hierarchy lies in that, for Scheler, individuality becomes possible only through the proper identification of the different ranks of value. Moreover, this “power to discriminate,”68 as one might call it, is crucial for one further purpose: for Scheler, as we will see, especially in Chapter 4, true sociability—that is, the possibility of having things in common—also depends on it. Let’s begin with a brief overview of Scheler’s theory. Three different elements operate at each level of the hierarchy: values, the feelings with which we perceive values (Fühlen),69 and the “feeling-states” that result from the perception of values (Gefühlen).70 These are presented in Table 1. At the lowest level, we find the values ranging from the agreeable to the disagreeable, which are perceived, in turn, through sensible feeling. The respective “feeling-states” are pleasure and pain.71 At this level, we may encounter diversity across people regarding what triggers different feelingstates (e.g., some people like negative incentives at the workplace, while some like positive ones), and what is more, we might also encounter people who deliberately choose what they find disagreeable—for instance, the masochist, who chooses to suffer pain. The key thing to keep in mind, says Scheler, is


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that even the masochist must find pain unpleasant; otherwise, he would not be a masochist. More generally, the idea is that even if not everyone finds the same stimuli equally pleasant (or unpleasant), “the difference between the values of [the] agreeable and disagreeable as such is an absolute difference, clearly given prior to any cognition of things.”72 Therefore, such a distinction should be independent from observation and induction. Against empiricism, this ambitious scheme intends to provide a criterion to distinguish goodness from pleasure, capable nonetheless of taking into account empirical diversity across cultures and ages. For Scheler, both the good and the pleasant exist in their own right but at two different levels of value, limiting thus the relativism that ensues from the acknowledgment of “hedonic diversity.” Therefore, “to will” or “to choose” must be distinguished from preferring. The masochist chooses the disagreeable, but he must assume, by definition, that the agreeable is preferable.73 The following sphere of value is what he calls the vital sphere. It constitutes, according to him, an “entirely original modality,” which contains the values of the noble and the vulgar, “the ‘good’ in the pregnant sense of ‘excellent,’ as opposed to ‘bad’ rather than ‘evil.’ ”74 Some examples of feelingsstates associated with these are health and illness, the sense of aging and of “oncoming death,” and weakness and strength. Hedonists, utilitarians, and even Kant, says Scheler, reduce vital values to the lower ones of “the agreeable” and “the useful,” interpreting, for instance, fear in terms of pain and safety in terms of pleasure. But that is a mistake, he thinks, because pleasure and pain (which pertain to the first and lowest sphere) can vary independently of what is good and bad from the point of view of the vital sphere. Thus, we can experience strength or health, even in pain; we can feel weakness and illness, even in pleasure.75 Likewise, vital feelings cannot be deduced either from the upper sphere— that of psychic values—since that would turn them into mere psychosomatic reactions. If we did so, Scheler says, we would not be able to make sense, for instance, of the difference between “hunger” (a psychic feeling) and “appetite” (a vital one).76 The former involves the self more broadly and has individual and even collective implications of higher significance.77 Or, to give another example, without differentiating between vital and psychic values, we would not be able to distinguish, say, between “disgust,” on the one hand, and the “impulse to vomit,” on the other—the former of which, again, has important philosophical and political implications, as several moral and political theorists have shown.78

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Finally, we have the sphere of spiritual values and feelings. These are roughly comprehended in three main categories: the values of the beautiful and the ugly, the values of right and wrong, and the values, as he puts it, of “the pure cognition of truth.” The feeling-states that pertain to this sphere are, Scheler claims, bliss and despair. These should be distinguished from the vital feelings of cheerfulness or anxiety since what characterizes the former, he says, is that they are not dependent on an objectified self or state of affairs—for instance, my character as a scholar, as a daughter, or as a woman. Rather, they take possession, so to speak, of the whole of our being.79 Just as “being glad or sad about something” is not the same as experiencing a “deep feeling of joy or sorrow,” the latter two should be distinguished, in turn, from bliss or despair. It is incorrect, he thinks, to say that we are “in despair about something” or “blissful about something”: “The use of these phrases is immediately felt to be an exaggeration. It can even be said that if this ‘something’ is given or if it is subject to explanation, we are certainly not yet blissful or in despair.”80 The spiritual character of bliss and despair is attested, Scheler claims, by the fact that they result from our personal history as a whole and that they can “vary independently” while holding other things constant.81 At the lowest bottom, on the contrary, feelings of pain and pleasure can be localized precisely, and therefore, very importantly, they can be more easily controlled and manufactured (for instance, by commercial or political campaigns). The unity and originality of spiritual feelings is further revealed, according to Scheler, in that the lower values “ought to be” sacrificed to them.82 For instance, without distinguishing vital from spiritual values, he explains, it would be impossible to discriminate between suicide and martyrdom. For Scheler, suicide is “genuine murder,” while martyrdom “occurs when life, with all its goods, is given away for [a] higher good.”83 Such a capacity to discriminate, prefer, and eventually sacrifice lesser for higher values—the readiness of moral tenor (Gesinnung) to do so—is what makes a person good.84 To recapitulate: for Scheler, there is a hierarchy of values, to which there is a corresponding rank of feelings. These feelings are “receptors of value” because without them, we would become blind to value and, more important, to value differences. In his view, introspection, or a close examination of our emotional life, yields conclusive evidence of these strata—namely, the independent variation in terms of extension, localization, susceptibility of control, and duration of the different feelings that can be found at each one of the levels of our mental life. As we have seen, in Scheler, in contrast to what


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we find in Bergson, we do have (limited) access through language to such evidence since words and definitions provide certain means to explore our inner life and our inner diversity, as well as to communicate it.85 Through the distinctions that words make available to us, we can make sense of the difference between, for instance, “genuine repentance about something done yesterday” (a truly spiritual value, according to Scheler) and “feeling its unfavorable effects with an accompanying displeasure” (a merely agreeable one).86 These two emotional experiences should be distinguished, in turn, from “merely using my past deed to indulge my penchant for selftorment,” as well as from “wallowing with secret delight in the sweetness of my sins,” both of which correspond to psychic values related to guilt and delight, respectively.87 These four, Scheler insists, are not just different assessments or interpretations of the same feeling-state. Rather, they are different facts, which we ignore only at the risk of losing access to several types of value.88 Thus, for him, our inner life is ineffable to a great extent, but language can indeed “bring the most hidden of all phenomena to givenness” and guide us in “the direction of the phenomenon . . . by way of images.”89 As can be appreciated, for Scheler, value should not be reduced to need, pleasure, interest, utility, or, for that matter, duty. To value something because we need it, derive pleasure from it, regard it useful, have an interest in it, or even because we consider it to be our duty begs the question of what makes something valuable in the first place. In this way, his scheme becomes an “antireductionist” platform from where to criticize consequentialism, eudaemonism, hedonism, and an ethics based on imperatives. For our purposes, the main problem Scheler identifies in moral reductionism is that it distorts our notion of individuality and, as a consequence, of community. I will explore this issue further in Chapter 4, in relation to Scheler’s conception of sympathy. For now, however, let me briefly review two ways in which such distortions can happen. Scheler identifies a paradigmatic instantiation of these distortions in what he calls “the idols of self-knowledge.” It has become common currency, he says in 1912, to assume that knowledge of one’s own self is evident (or, in any case, more evident than knowledge about others). Such self-certainty, he argues, has evolved into a widespread human attitude, constituting thus one of the greatest obstacles to man’s insight into his true depths. “This theory, stemming from Descartes . . . is one of the foundations of that false kind of confident self-certainty which has grown up in the course of the development of our culture.”90 To assume that knowledge of one’s own self is evident in this

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sense entails, says Scheler, overlooking the deep and hierarchical structure of the soul. Some of its regions are more accessible than others, and therefore it is much easier to access relatively superficial layers of the souls of others than really deep ones of ours.91 The political relevance of this resides in the insight that we become more manipulable, both politically and commercially, not only to the extent that we are not as informed as voters (or consumers) or as involved as citizens as we should be but insofar as we are living superficial inner lives, out of touch with the deeper layers of our individuality. Scheler’s insight here is that, as we will see further in Chapter 4, cancelling the depths of ourselves carries important risks that cannot be corrected by merely reading the newspaper every morning. A further and related distortion is the assumption that the mental dimension of our lives is somehow “private” or “nontransferable” in a sense that the material one is not: while you can certainly see my body, you cannot read my thoughts, and you cannot feel my feelings. This is normally referred to in philosophy as “the problem of other minds.” The plausibility of this assumption lies on the undeniable fact that, while I would need the ring of Gyges if I wanted to hide my body from you, it is you who would need a sophisticated X-ray-like technology or some kind of telepathic capacities if you wanted to read my thoughts. However, Scheler would rejoin that, if, instead of taking a deflated view of the self, we set off from the perspective of a hierarchy of values and feelings, together with the different registers of our mental life that it uncovers, then we could very well end up concluding that we ourselves also need some training to read our own thoughts.92 Likewise, if we acknowledge that perception is a process of selection by which we dissociate an original whole, we can see that, even facing one another, you might perfectly well miss important features or movements of my body if your practical interests and your memory do not direct your attention to them.93 Scheler adds that, at any rate, the “absolutely private” lies in our physical sensations: you certainly cannot feel the physical pain of my broken leg or somebody else’s pangs of birth.94 However—and this takes us to the point about community and sociability—if the difference between the physical and the mental is to have any meaning, Scheler argues, then the latter must be the communicable par excellence: “Anyone who holds that mental events are only accessible to one person at a time, will never be able to explain the exact meaning of phrases like: ‘All ranks were fired with the same enthusiasm,’ ‘The populace was seized with a common joy, a common grief, a


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common delight,’ and so on. Custom, language, myth, religion, the world of the tale and the saga—how can they be understood on the assumption that mental life is essentially private?”95 Thus, sensualism and materialism run the risk of underestimating the collective dimension of our mental lives—what is sometimes called the “symbolic” dimension of societies. However, Scheler says, this dimension is truly common: it is not “imaginary” in the sense of existing merely “in the head” of each one of its members. Again, for Scheler, language can help us, to some extent, to get at the relevant distinctions. A coin, for instance—to recall one of his examples—taken merely as currency, is a symbol of value and has no possibility of conveying any meaning at all. Nothing, he says, is given in a mere sign. However, he claims, there is true symbolic value, for example, in something such as a regimental flag, “in which honor and dignity are symbolically concentrated.”96 According to him, a flag can possess a “phenomenal value” that has nothing to do with its material value as a piece of cloth. Similarly, a word can have a mere transaction role, or alternatively—if uttered in the right circumstance, in the right way, and to the right person—it can very well be a repository of value. Both the “idols of self-knowledge” and the so-called other-minds problem reveal the difficulties that we face as we relate to our own individual selves and to others. A mechanistic or deflated view of the soul reads diversity only “at one level”—namely, among different people. However, if diversity is conceived not only “horizontally” across society but also “vertically” within one same person, there appear ways in which individuality and community are connected, without giving ontological priority to either one. After all, it is not that uncommon to realize that we are more “in touch” with others with whom we share certain social or cultural features than with ourselves at a deeper level. Moreover, this might not be altogether negative to the extent to which it can help us to identify a common ground with other people different from that which is found by instrumental or contractual means.97 Take the puzzle of sociability as it has been faced by the contractualist tradition. As a commentator notes, “Whether it is set within the Hobbesian threat of natural disorder or within the Grotian promise of an ideal natural order, the idea that humanity from the hand of nature is engaged in an open-ended, uncoordinated bargaining process about the maintenance of their several rights leads to the question of how a common life— morality and society—is possible.”98 Such a possibility, however, is Scheler’s moral-psychological assumption. Seventy years before communitarianism addressed this problem, Scheler proposed a moral-psychological point of

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departure in which even within the bargaining process of liberalism, any claim of right (such as the right to defend oneself) or any individualist passion (such as fear or vainglory) constitutes an experience that does not originally “belong” to anyone but becomes gradually “appropriated” by all of us (to recall: for Scheler, even the hermit, insofar as he is able to talk, lives in the shared world of words). Likewise, assuming a continuity between our material and spiritual parts gives us more resources to draw from in order to understand the different ways we can be bound together: perhaps we do not have to be explicitly shaking hands or taking an oath of citizenship out loud in order to partake in community or association. We might not even be said to enjoy certain benefits offered in society or hypothetically agree on a set of common principles: other connections are possible and legitimate besides the Lockean alternative between explicit and implicit consent, as well as the Rawlsian overlapping consensus.99 Notice, then, that Scheler’s case is not only that the hierarchy of values and the corresponding regions of the soul, together with its complex understanding of the relationship between body and mind, can accommodate inner diversity in the service of individuality, without for that reason giving up on the possibility of community. Rather, it is the stronger claim that true sociability is possible only if we first acknowledge the kind of inner diversity that he has called our attention to.

Bergson’s Labor Theory of Value As we saw before, for Bergson, the primary datum of experience is movement and change—hence, the centrality of the notion of duration and time for an adequate comprehension of individuality. However, Bergson warns us, what is primarily given can be, at the same time, most difficult to see. Therefore, given that duration makes individuality elusive and obscure, some rare or abnormal phenomena can serve as heuristic resources to give us a clearer idea of what the exercise of individuality is about. With that in mind, let us review Bergson’s interpretation of the famous phenomenon known as déjà vu and the lessons he derives from it. By 1908, when Bergson entered this debate, there were already quite a few theories trying to explain the phenomenon.100 Most of them suggested a confused or incomplete recall of a real memory, based on the grounds of some brain failure.101 Even if today it does not generate much scientific interest


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anymore, contemporary approaches to incidents of déjà vu go along the same lines. The essential point is that it constitutes a momentary lapse or illusion, which can be explained physically, chemically, or even psychosomatically. The experience of déjà vu (or, as it was called in Bergson’s time, “false recognition”) is the feeling of living again something that we have already lived before. As Bergson describes it, it is the experience of having not only some distinct and unmistakable familiarity with specific characteristics of a situation—an image, a sound, or a smell—or not even with a certain circumstance in general but of feeling that one lives again some past experience in the exact same way without, however, being able to predict what is going to happen next. Ironically, Bergson notes, according to the reports of people who have experienced it, this “going through the exact same circumstance” does not issue in a feeling of familiarity—quite the opposite. It does not give us the confidence that comes normally from being acquainted with our surroundings but results, instead, in the feeling of being a stranger, even to oneself. Such a “feeling of depersonalization” comes in part, says Bergson, from the fact that one is, simultaneously, “outside” and “inside” of a situation. It seems that, on the one hand, we are watching a well-known succession of events with a feeling of inevitability to it (like a spectator watching a play, of which she knows the story), while, on the other, being part of the action, we feel unable to know how it is going to end.102 Again, this whole sense of disorientation and confusion is generally taken to be a result of some kind of brain lapse. However, according to Bergson, such an approach gets things wrong. The experience of déjà vu, he says, is no false recognition, illusion, or mistake— even when he admits that he has never experienced it.103 Rather, he claims, it is the way we would normally experience reality if it were not for the fact that our intellect, as we have already said, focuses on action and its practical interests. In view of this, Bergson asks, what would be more useless than to remember the present? After all, we are living it, so there is no need to remember it. However, if the pragmatic orientation of the intellect is suspended, he thinks, something like “remembering the present” should be possible since—Bergson thinks—the past never disappears. Rather, it is preserved in its entirety, and the business of the brain is not to remember but to forget. This is an interesting but also quite strange theory; therefore, it is worth explaining it in detail. According to Bergson, it is not possible to draw a precise line between past and present, between the function of recollection and the function of perception, between memory and consciousness. Everything forms part of the totality of the given; what we call “the past” forms just one part of that totality, and its main distinction from “the present” is that it is

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relatively useless for action.104 Put differently, “to remember” is the name we have for the ability to cognize the past, and “to forget” is, strictly speaking, just not to be able to perceive it anymore. In this theory, the brain’s mnemonic function is not to “store” memories but rather to select perceptions from the totality of the given. What he calls “the cinematographic illusion” makes us think that the past disappears, as the images of a film disappear from the screen. It is the illusion that we first perceive and only afterward recall what we have perceived.105 Instead, he proposes, the past duplicates the present incessantly.106 The difference between past and present is that the latter is actual and can be acted upon, while the former is virtual. The virtual is just as real as the actual, but, says Bergson, it belongs to a different level of existence. “Every moment of our life presents two aspects; it is actual and virtual, perception on the one side and memory on another. Each moment of life is split up as and when it is posited. Or rather, it consists in this very splitting.”107 Thus, a déjà vu happens, according to this interpretation, when we become conscious of the constant duplication of our existence, and therefore the present appears simultaneously as perception and as memory.108 Now, Bergson’s theory of déjà vu is relevant for us here because, I want to say, by showing that the present can be remembered, this phenomenon helps us to make sense of a complementary proposition—namely, that we can, indeed, act on the past.109 This is important, in turn, because, as I will argue next, for Bergson, the exercise of individuality depends precisely on learning how to act on or relate to the inner diversity that our own past encloses. To restate: first, the phenomenon of déjà vu indicates that the past always accumulates, never disappears, which means, in turn, that it exercises an important influence on the present. Second, having realized the selective character of our intellect, we become aware that we can actively modify the ways in which the past influences us. For Bergson, as it were, the past is always being created, it can never be destroyed, and it can always be transformed. Now, the idea that the past can exert an influence on the present is something that no sensualist would deny. However, that we can, in turn, modify the past is not uncontroversial. Take Hume, who says that, all things equal, we observe “superior effects [on the will] of the same distance in futurity above that in the past. This difference with respect to the will—he explains—is easily accounted for. As none of our actions can alter the past, ’tis is not strange it shou’d never determine the will.”110 Notice that a related criticism can be issued against Kant. According to Bergson, the Critique of Pure Reason had relegated the human mind to a


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Figure 1. Bergson’s “memory cone” as presented in chapter 3 of Matter and Memory.

corner where “like a schoolboy in disgrace, it [could not] turn its head around to see reality as it is.”111 In the face of this, Bergson’s claim is that phenomena such as déjà vu show a way out of such unnecessary self-mortification: putting at our disposal “the past in its form and the present in its matter,”112 episodes of déjà vu suggest that there are different kinds of cognition, other than sensible intuition and the intellect. Consider the diagram presented in Figure 1. Bergson illustrated the coexistence of the past and the present through his famous “cone metaphor.” The idea is that we stand at the apex of this inverted cone, which represents the constant accumulation of the past. At each level, we find the totality of the past but at different degrees of contraction or expansion.113 More specifically, it displays different levels of consciousness, at which we experience different ways of relating to our past. For him, the only possible access to individuality is gained by “digging tunnels” into this cone, exploring the multiple ways in which we can traverse its different levels. In other words, what Bergson shows us is that the past is of those who mix their labor with it, and the more you “appropriate” your past, the more you put yourself in a position to exercise individuality. This is what I call Bergson’s “alternative labor theory of value.” What does such “labor” consist in, more precisely? How does it result in the “value” of individuality? The first question can be further clarified through his account of “intellectual effort.”114 Intellectual effort is, according to Bergson, something present in a whole range of phenomena, from mechanical memorizing to invention or creation. In a sort of reprise of Plato’s theme in the Meno, Bergson examines the nature of the mind by reflecting on our learning processes. In the Meno, those processes throw light into the transcendent wanderings of the soul because, it is proposed, all learning amounts to remembering the truths with which a soul had contact before transmigrating into a human body. For Bergson, in turn, the intellectual

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effort involved in the learning processes by which we memorize and create reveals our mental depths.115 In Bergson’s view, intellectual effort always involves an oscillation between different levels of consciousness, which range from the concrete plane of the image to the abstract level of what he calls a “scheme.” Thus, it offers evidence against the associationist claim that memory can be explained as the play of concrete images, all operating at a single level. From the reproductive process by which we learn a poem by heart to the creative process of writing one, passing through chess playing, dance learning, technical invention, scientific research, and artistic creation, Bergson finds that mnemonic techniques never work through mere contiguity of concrete and discrete images. Instead, he thinks, these techniques show that, for instance, in order to memorize a text, one must “devise its internal organization,” finding “substantial formulas” that are condensed into “suggestive words,” which, in turn, will “converge into single points” indicating the “abstract directions” that our memory should follow in order to eventually find a concrete image—that is, a word, a sound, a smell.116 He claims that all memorizing that requires an effort, however minimal, proceeds in a similar fashion. This dynamic scheme “does not contain images themselves so much as the indication of what we must do to reconstruct them.”117 “When we make an effort to recollect, it seems that we are concentrating on a higher plane in order to descend progressively towards the images we want to evoke.”118 In this case, he explains, the movement of the mind “is vertical and . . . it makes us pass from one plane to another.”119 He identifies the same process in the mental procedure of chess players engaged in some especially difficult challenge, for instance, playing blindfold or playing several matches simultaneously. Bergson reviews several firsthand reports, according to which the players do not have the images of the chessboard in mind, “as if projected on a screen,” or behold the pieces distinctly, one by one. Instead, they claim that they conceive them in terms of forces and movements. “A bishop is not a piece of wood of more or less fantastic shape: it is an ‘oblique force.’ The castle is a certain power of ‘going in a straight line.’ The knight, a piece ‘which is almost equal to three pawns and which moves according to a quite special law,’ and so on.”120 And the game, he adds, is not conceived in terms of the mental images of the board or of the different pieces but as a “relation between allied or hostile powers.”121 This relation is not grasped visually but, according to the testimony of one player, “as a musician grasps a chord.”122 “A mind working only with images could but recommence


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its past or arrange the congealed elements of the past, like pieces of mosaic, in another order. But for a flexible mind, capable of utilizing its past experience by bending back along the lines of the present, there must be, besides the image, an idea of a different kind, always capable of being realized into images, but always distinct from them. The scheme is nothing else.”123 The scheme, Bergson says, “is tentatively what the image is decisively”: it contains virtually what the image actualizes.The feeling of effort is the “labor” that allows the passage through different planes of consciousness, from the scheme to the concrete image.124 Therefore, Bergson explains, such a feeling is not evinced by any image in particular but by “an expectation of images.”125 It is, in other words, the intellectual attitude that prepares the advent, so to speak, of more concrete ideas. Notice, then, that the act of memorizing implies a peculiar contrast between effort and expectation, activity and passivity, engagement and patience. In this way, Bergson’s theory of “intellectual effort” indicates that such contrasts inevitably characterize the relation to our past. It teaches us that navigating these tensions is the kind of “labor” that produces “value”— the value of individuality. How exactly is this so? How is our relation to our past connected to individuality? Bergson claims that the same operation by which we recollect and memorize is the operation by which we create and invent. Between mere reproduction and full creation, there is a spectrum. The difference between a more reproductive and a more creative effort resides in how we move from one level to another. Cases of artistic creation, technical invention, or scientific discovery work exactly like the examples previously reviewed, with the difference that, unlike the cases of mere reproduction or execution, here the scheme changes as we oscillate between more concrete images and more abstract directions. As we try to convert impulses into ideas in successive attempts, the scheme is transformed, and thereby we are able to explore and create new things. Now—and this is the key point—for Bergson, individuality is self-creation, “the creation of self by self, the growing of the personality by an effort which draws much from little, something from nothing, and adds unceasingly to whatever wealth the world contains.”126 If creation, as we just saw, is the end point of a spectrum that opens up with mere reproduction and displays all the possibilities of memory, individuality as self-creation must be intimately connected with memory and with the way we relate to our own past.127 Putting together Bergson’s theory of memory—which connects the latter to creation via intellectual effort—and his conception of individuality, we finally see that individuality, as self-creation, is achieved by toiling with

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our memories at different “levels of condensation.” In the most proximate and condensed levels, our relation with the past is more straightforward, but as we enter into the more expanded areas, things become open-ended and unsettled. Again, the past is not some remote territory, a field beyond reach, impervious to our action. On the contrary, it never vanishes, and only by mixing our labor with it, by appropriating it, we can exercise our individuality.128 But, again, notice the irony here. The feeling of effort—that is, an attitude in which we take ourselves to be primarily active and even “busy”— turns out to be, at the same time, an attitude in which we “passively” expect and endure. As our memory does not trade with ready-made images but is engaged in a dynamic process in which they eventually appear, our intellectual effort is the attitude that “prepares the advent” of the concrete. This bewildering mix of a “work ethic” focused on effort, which is nonetheless characterized by expectation, endurance, and patience, contains the key to Bergsonian individuality.129 Furthermore, notice also that his emphasis on the feeling of effort is no accident given his ontological and epistemological presuppositions. Such a feeling is the inner sensation corresponding to what is more immediately given, namely, movement. Through the feeling of effort, we intuit ourselves as movement and change, or in other words, we intuit ourselves as agents—an idea that I will explore further in the following chapter. In sum, for Bergson, the effortful operation of memory evinces the ultimate facts of our existence. That is why Bergson says that “the existence of the scheme is a fact”130 and that the gradual and dynamic operation between the scheme and the idea “is the very operation of life.”131 In my opinion, this means that, if we look closely, the feeling of effort subtly discloses our “way of being.” Just as “the effort of recall consists in converting a schematic idea, whose elements interpenetrate, into an imaged idea, the parts of which are juxtaposed,”132 in our everyday life, we are constantly moving between the inner, heterogeneous dimension of our inner selves and the outer, homogeneous dimension, in which we capture and organize things according to stable categories. Again, individuality as self-creation is based on our capacity to play this rhythm gracefully.133 What is the role of language in this movement from a deeper dimension of consciousness to a more superficial one and back? Expression and communication are possible only through the symbols and rules of language, which provide homogeneity and stability. Therefore, for Bergson, sociability is only possible at the “superficial” level where we orient ourselves through stable categories. As he puts it, “Our tendency to form a clear picture of this


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externality of things and the homogeneity of their medium is the same as the impulse which leads us to live in common and to speak.”134 In other words, our interactions with others take us “out of our inner selves,” “forcing” us to play by the rules of the symbols and signs of the spatial and social dimension. Now, for Bergson, language’s capacity to codify reality in expression and communication indicates that it has also the power of modeling perception. Like Scheler, Bergson thinks that as soon as we have a name for something, we are ready to “look for it” in reality. In his view, this has damaging consequences for the most part: it simplifies the diversity of our inner life and fosters prejudice about others because it allows us to see only what we have learned to expect. Thus, for Bergson, language is never a legitimate articulation of that inner reality. On the contrary, it is a “disarticulation of the real,” and even in poetry, “the word turns against the idea,” and “the letter kills the spirit.”135 This goes for philosophy as well: its great disadvantage against mathematics or even the natural sciences is that while language liberates the intellect, it traps and encapsulates what philosophy should care about. However, he says, very often the philosopher forgets this “and proceeds like geographer, who, in order to discriminate between different regions of the globe and indicate the physical connections between them, relies on the frontiers traced in maps.”136 Furthermore, and in contrast with Scheler, the liberation of the intellect poses dangers not only for individuality but also for our social life. The intellect is good at dealing with the inert. However, when dealing with life, of either the body or the mind, “it proceeds with the rigor, the stiffness and the brutality of an instrument not designed for such use. The history of hygiene or of pedagogy teaches us much in this matter.”137 However, at some point, Bergson acknowledges that, for the same reason, language can also expand perception. As he says, the vision of the great painters has become the vision of all men: the ways they depict landscapes or human gestures have later on become cues for what we seek in nature and in ourselves. Similarly, the great poets have uncovered shades of emotion and thought that would have remained invisible otherwise.138 Notice, moreover, the personal significance of this point: deeply skeptical about the possibilities or the promises of language, Bergson was nonetheless a very popular orator, a Nobel Prize laureate in literature, and a public intellectual with an important diplomatic role after World War I—that is, he was an exemplary public figure whose authority resided mostly in speech.139 I will explore some implications of this tension in the following chapters. For now, let me conclude by indicating a couple of further points.

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First, in Bergson, the exercise of individuality is, as we saw, a toilsome enterprise, which has, moreover, only rare and extraordinary moments of success: “We must, by a strong recoil of our personality on itself, gather up our past which is slipping away, in order to thrust it, compact and undivided, into a present which it will create by entering. Rare indeed are the moments when we are self-possessed to this extent: it is then that our actions are truly free.”140 We will review Bergson’s notion of freedom in the next chapter, but let’s just say for now, it consists in such an “entrance” in the present. In this way, individuality and freedom are deeply intertwined. They both depend— to use again the labor metaphor—on the extent to which we toil in our pasts, feeling an effort with which we “recoil on ourselves,” to finally enter into the present we thereby create.141 It follows from this, I think, that “freedom of expression” and “freedom of association” as ideals harbor as many dangers as they offer paths for liberty. By this, of course, I do not mean that the practices of expression and association as such endanger freedom or even less that one should support restrictions in expression and association. Rather, my point is that freedom of expression and association should not be turned into symbols of our freedom because we cannot rely on the existence of such practices in order to guarantee the exercise of individuality. Second, it is important to notice that even if, for Bergson, the moments of freedom are rare and toilsome, that does not mean he thinks that they are the exclusive privilege of some particular way of life. It is not necessary to live a life of leisure or, alternatively, a life of suffering in order to have access to them. Rather, individuality as self-creation, Bergson says, potentially allows all of us to partake in the joys that are commonly reserved for the few who do have the privilege of being able to create or invent new things in the fields of the arts and the sciences.142

Conclusion This chapter shows that what Hannah Arendt once said of Isak Dinesen— namely, that for her, “the chief trap in life [was] one’s own identity”143—would also be true of Scheler and Bergson. As we saw, for both of them, the exercise of individuality depends on the capacity to perceive inner multiplicity. However, as we saw as well, they conceive such diversity in different ways. Scheler speaks of coextensive hierarchies of values and feelings that go from the most sensuous to the most spiritual, while Bergson refers to the different


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planes of consciousness, according to varying degrees of condensation of our past. Despite these differences, there is an important overlap in two respects. First, in terms of method, they both rely, phenomenologically, on the intuition of what is immediately given: values, in the case of Scheler; movement and change, in the case of Bergson. This implies a common rejection of empiricism and rationalism on the basis that they both reduce perception to sensuous experience.144 Second, there is a parallelism in the way they both theorize the character of the “immediately given”: on the one hand, Scheler’s conception of the person and his opposition of act versus content; on the other, Bergson’s conception of time and his emphasis on movement and change. The moment we objectify the person and time, we fall into the traps of personal identity (Scheler) and of language (Bergson). The exercise of individuality depends on avoiding those traps without, for that reason, denying the reality of the personal self. This last point is what distinguishes them from empiricist conceptions of inner multiplicity. Finally, connecting their respective theories on individuality and inner diversity to their respective approaches to language, I find both coincidences and discrepancies in how language fosters and hinders the exercise of individuality in each case. As we saw, for Bergson, language is and will always remain a social phenomenon, a bait calling us in the direction of the solidification of true life and the disarticulation of the real. For him, we need to go back to what is given immediately in perception. The exercise of individuality relies on merging together what language, our needs, and more generally our tendency to live outside of ourselves have pulled apart. That, of course, is not an easy task. Just as Scheler warns against what he calls the “idols of selfknowledge,” Bergson says that “everyone can notice that it is more difficult to make progress in the knowledge of oneself than in the knowledge of the external world.”145 In Scheler, for his part, we find relatively more confidence in language and in the kind of orientation it can provide. For him, language does have some power to articulate the real, even if perception of value does not necessarily depend on it. It can guide us in introspection through the levels of feelings and values. As we saw above, he trusts language to the extent that he uses it to distinguish between, say, “the value of a symbol,” which is only a transaction value, and “the symbolic value of a sign,” such as a flag or a word, which, for him, can convey true value in its essence. Still, it is important to keep in mind that he shared some of Bergson’s reservations on this point: as we saw in the Introduction, their shared emphasis on intuition, unmediated perception,

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and introspection sets them apart from the focus on interpretation that would characterize the hermeneutic turn of the late twentieth century. As we have seen in this chapter, their endorsement of the value of individuality and—as we will see more clearly in the following one—the kind of freedom that corresponds to it does not entail an unequivocal defense of a way of life that is normally associated with the convergence of those two notions—namely, the liberal convergence between individuality and freedom. Consequently, neither the existence of social diversity as such nor the clear demarcation between the public and the private or even the protection of freedom of expression per se can serve to guarantee the kind of diversity that, according to them, characterizes true individuality. Rather, as I said before, we learn from them that our attention should turn to the creation of the conditions in which we can perceive diversity within ourselves.


Attempts at Free Choice Bergson and Scheler on Agency and Freedom

The previous chapter examined Scheler and Bergson’s respective notions on individuality. This chapter, in turn, explores their conceptions of agency and freedom. The authors’ shared emphasis on the uniqueness and ineffability of the self suggests already that, from their perspective, it is impossible to find a solution to the problem of freedom by intellectual and rational means alone. Therefore, in phenomenological fashion, I propose to approach the question about what constitutes free action for them by examining “things as they appear to the agent itself.” For these purposes, I will examine two paradigmatic “case studies” of how freedom and agency are related to each other: on the one hand, the Gallows Man example, which Kant provides in the Critique of Practical Reason, and, on the other, the case of Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The former is an emblematic illustration of Kant’s conception of how freedom and moral action come together: it tells the story of a man who experiences the socalled awareness of the ought and who, therefore, realizes that he is free. I will contest Kant’s own interpretation of the facts of the case and will offer, with the help of Bergson and Scheler—but still based on Kant’s own report of what happened—a different reading of the Gallows Man’s experience. Raskolnikov’s case, for its part, will prove to be an interesting counterexample. Against the standard interpretation of Raskolnikov’s story as one in which he loses his moral integrity and freedom by engaging in murder, I will propose, with the help of Bergson, that losing his freedom is less about what Raskolnikov chooses to do and more about how he does it. Similarly, and this time with the help of Scheler, I will argue that Raskolnikov’s freedom was compromised not so much by his failure to “obey the moral law” by killing someone—or, more broadly, by using his victim as a means to his

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moral or intellectual ends—but rather by his lack of adequate self-knowledge. Together, these reflections will allow us to contest more rationalistic theories of obligation in favor of a more phenomenological account of how we relate to duty and the law. The insights that we gain along the way about the pedagogical role of the law in our ethicopolitical lives will help us to contest, in turn, some epistemological presuppositions present in liberal criminal law. Both the more traditional (largely Kantian) interpretation of Raskolnikov’s case and Kant’s example of the Gallows Man constitute an especially appropriate backdrop for our examination of Bergson and Scheler’s respective accounts of agency and freedom. That is because their phenomenological approaches explicitly contest, albeit in different ways, Kant’s distinction between noumena and phenomena, his formalistic and universalistic approach to morality, and his conception of duty and obligation.1

Introducing the Cases and the Clue to the Discovery of Freedom Kant held that morality reveals us the objective reality of freedom. That is the so-called fact of reason. As he puts it in the second Critique, “For, had not the moral law already been distinctly thought in our reason, we should never consider ourselves justified in assuming such a thing as freedom.”2 As this passage shows, according to Kant, morality has epistemological priority over freedom: as soon as we know our duty, we know that it can determine our will or that we can be motivated to act according to it (“we ought, therefore we can”). However, at the same time, for Kant, freedom has ontological priority over morality. The former makes the latter possible because freedom is our capacity to reject our empirically determined interests—that is, inclination—in favor of a moral course of action. Thus, the passage just quoted continues, “But were there no freedom, the moral law would not be encountered at all in ourselves.”3 In Kant’s famous words, morality is the ratio cognoscendi of freedom, and freedom is the ratio essendi of morality.4 To illustrate his theory, Kant presents the example of a man who is demanded by his prince, on pain of immediate execution, to give false testimony against an honorable person whom the prince would like to get rid of. This man, like everybody else, is empirically determined by his multiple desires and instincts. Such multiplicity of inclinations orients his action in very different and often conflicting directions. For example, Kant explains, if a gallows were erected in front of the house where this man could find


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the opportunity of gratifying his lust, making him certain that he would be hanged on it immediately afterward, he would be able to restrain his lustful inclinations in order to save his life. This capacity for self-control, however, has nothing to do with true morality in Kant’s sense because it still answers to empirical and contingent motives—namely, saving his own life. Yet, Kant goes on, when our man is presented with the prince’s mortal threat, he is capable of overcoming what determines him empirically because as soon as he becomes aware of his duty, he discovers freedom. Let’s take a closer look at Kant’s well-known description of the episode. But ask him whether, if his prince demanded, on pain of the same immediate execution, that he give false testimony against an honorable man whom the prince would like to destroy under a plausible pretext, he would consider possible to overcome his love of life, however great it may be. He would perhaps not venture to assert whether he would do it or not, but he must admit without hesitation that it would be possible for him. He judges, therefore, that he can do something because he is aware that he ought to do it and cognizes freedom within him, which, without the moral law, would have remained unknown to him.5 With this example, Kant vividly illustrates the moment of awareness of the ought, the famous fact of reason that obliges us and, at the same time, makes us discover freedom. Freedom is thus “forced upon us”: we ought, therefore we can, and then—as the example shows—freely, we do. As I mentioned before, I want to propose a different reading of Kant’s story. According to this reading, the Gallows Man case suggests that, contrary to Kant’s own interpretation, “inclination” is key for understanding the moral decision that the Gallows Man makes and his corresponding discovery of freedom.6 However, by “inclination,” I do not mean exactly what Kant understood by this term—that impersonal bundle of desires and instincts that characterizes human beings as phenomena and is just negatively defined as the opposite of, in this case, practical reason. Rather, by “inclination,” I mean a force that addresses the Gallows Man personally, that is, as an agent and not merely as part of the phenomenal world. It is a force that is tailored, so to speak, to his individual self. It appeals to his very capacity for action and not just to him as a sentient creature. In other words, from a phenomenological perspective—that is, according to the way things appear to the Gallows Man, as reported by Kant himself—it is not duty that reveals freedom to him

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but rather the experience of temptation. What this case shows—or so I will argue—is that, to put it in Kantian terms, temptation is the ratio cognoscendi of freedom. Now, Raskolnikov is a young college student of the introverted and eccentric type, feeble but fairly smart, who plans and executes the murder of Alëna Ivánovna, the old moneylender in town. He truly dislikes her, and indeed, for all we know, she is an extremely disagreeable person: exploitative to people in need and cruel even to her own sister. Much has been discussed about Raskolnikov’s motives. Combining hatred, compassion, and pride, they go from social and humanitarian purposes (social justice and redistribution) to existential and nihilist considerations (moral anarchy and the creation of moral values), passing through religious motives (suffering as a possible path to redemption) and psychological ones (the revolt against the love and sacrifice of his mother, whom he arguably assimilates to the moneylender, or a mixture of both self-hate and a sense of heroism).7 It is not my intention here to assess which motives are more relevant for understanding Raskolnikov’s actions or to deny the importance of simultaneously considering a number of them and how they relate to one another. In other words, I will not “dissect” inclination into a set of discrete and differentiated passions or feelings—according to Bergson, that is rather the way in which the analytical psychologist (wrongly) proceeds.8 Instead, similarly to the approach I propose for the Gallows Man case, I want to focus on Raskolnikov’s experience of his capacity for action. The way I read it, Dostoevsky tells us a story of a young man who realizes that he could do something that is morally problematic—it occurs to him that he could kill the moneylender— and then his problem consists in coming to terms with that open possibility: is he really capable of doing what he has in mind, or is it just some fantasy, something absurd? Raskolnikov’s experience of his capacity for action constitutes what I will call, paraphrasing Kant, an “awareness of the could.” Just as the “awareness of the ought” refers to the moment in which we cognize the moral law, the “awareness of the could” can be seen as the moment in which we “cognize temptation.” By “cognizing temptation,” I mean becoming aware that we can attempt a given course of action, asserting our agency against a given circumstance. Notice, then, that the experience of temptation, in this sense, refers exclusively (no more, but also no less, than) to the experience of identifying a relevant occasion in which to assert our agency. Now, it could be objected that I am using the term very broadly to suggest any kind of affective inclination toward something, whereas temptation


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usually carries the sense of being drawn to something that is wrong. In other words, the objection goes, we can only be tempted insofar as we already experience the sense of duty, and therefore the notion of temptation seems to be parasitic on the notion of duty—disproving thereby the more original character that I want to attribute to it.9 While I agree that temptation is usually understood in a way that implies moral wrong, that usage is by no means uncontested. According to a commentator, for instance, even if “for a person to be tempted she must believe that what she desires is in some way wrong,”10 that leaves enough room for it to be correct to say that some “people are tempted to do the right thing.”11 As an example, he cites the case of “Oskar Schindler bribing German soldiers to spare the lives of Jews otherwise destined for extermination.”12 Even if this example does not fully contradict the stated objection because the duty not to kill Jews (or anybody) can be said to ground Schindler’s action, what it does show, I think, is that temptation, in a broader—and I would say, deeper— sense, is the phenomenon in which a command or a prohibition (or what is understood to be so) elicits our agency—it summons us and calls for our action, independently of whether we, in fact, think that the command or prohibition is good or bad. Such a meaning is deeper from a Bergsonian perspective because it corresponds to his metaphysics of action: “temptation” comes from the Latin temptare, which means “to feel, try out, attempt to influence, or test,” and is related to tentare, “to handle, touch, try, or test.” Notice how both terms—temptare and tentare—convey the idea of something that happens in time. They indicate actions or movement, and the latter—as we have seen in Chapter 1 and will expound on further in this chapter—is the original dimension of reality, according to Bergson.13 Still, from a Kantian perspective, one might rejoin that the experience of temptation—the “awareness of the could”—as experienced by Raskolnikov is not comparable to the awareness of duty since, as we know from Dostoevsky’s narration, the open possibility of killing is almost always experienced by him in a frantic and violent manner: it is a drive, an instinct, or a desire— and, even worse, one to kill and destroy—and, therefore, frankly not akin to any possible fact of reason. However, as we will see, Raskolnikov’s impulse to kill is not really captured by Kant’s notion of inclination either. As I said before, inclination in the Kantian sense is too sensuous—very much constrained by the stigma of not-being-a-noumenon—to be able to capture the specific character of the “drive” as experienced by Raskolnikov. From a Bergsonian conception of action, inclination is better understood not as a set of discrete passions and

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feelings that result in this or that course of action but as a force that implicates the whole self, which the latter must, so to speak, address back in its own terms. Again, one such force can be the phenomenon of temptation, understood in the broad, phenomenological sense that I indicated before. As in the case of the Gallows Man, temptation lets Raskolnikov feel his agency, giving him as well the opportunity to discover freedom—an opportunity that, however, unlike the Gallows Man, he will not take. Still, as I will try to show, that is not because he decides to commit murder instead of letting the moneylender live but rather because of how he performs what he chooses to do. Before we begin, let me offer a brief clarification with regards to my own reading of Kant. Scheler and Bergson were fierce critics of Kant’s alleged rationalism and formalism. While I voice those criticisms here, that does not mean that I necessarily endorse them as the most compelling interpretation of what Kant was doing. Still, I do think they provide correct insights of an interpretation of Kant that is both possible and pervasive, especially at the time Bergson and Scheler were writing. Today, there are important efforts to read Kant otherwise—for instance, as being closer to moral particularism and sensitive to contingency.14 As I hope to make clear in what follows, I offer a reading of the “fact of reason” that acknowledges and is inspired by Bergson and Scheler’s insights but that also pushes against their own interpretations of Kant and engages (in the notes) with more contemporary readings of this important piece of Kant’s moral theory.15 Let us turn now to an examination of Bergson’s theory of action: it will give us the necessary interpretative framework to review in detail right after the facts of our cases. Then, in the last section of the chapter, I will explore with Scheler’s help the relation between freedom and morality that both cases lay bare.

Data for a Theory of Freedom: Bergson’s “Phenomenology of Hesitation” As we saw in Chapter 1, for Bergson, the primary datum of consciousness is movement: as he puts it, “reality is mobility.”16 For him, nothing is more real than the flux that characterizes both our inner, psychic life, as well as external reality. Therefore, he says, “There do not exist things made, but only things in the making, not states that remain fixed but only states in process of change.”17 Bergson rejects the metaphysical distinction between noumena and phenomena—or between being and appearances—and articulates instead a


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philosophical method based on a “reversal” that prioritizes the dynamic over the static. This method, he explains, is made possible by intuition. Let us see what he means. Guided by intuition, our mind “can be installed in the mobile reality, adopt its ceaselessly changing direction; in short, grasp it intuitively.”18 It allows us to approach objects “from within” and to access the duration that is proper to them. Intuition as a philosophical method, Bergson argues, is our only way to overcome the shortcomings of both “flat empiricism” and “shallow rationalism.”19 As he says, “If metaphysics is possible, it can only be an effort to re-ascend the slope natural to the work of thought, to place oneself immediately, through a dilation of the mind, in the thing one is studying, in short to go from reality to concepts and not from concepts to reality.”20 According to these ideas, human action must be considered primarily as movement unfolding in time. Bergson’s contribution to the long-established debate about free will takes off from this premise and poses one main objection to the terms in which the debate is normally conducted. In Bergson’s view, even though freedom certainly concerns our capacity to choose, it must be approached independently from the existence of alternatives and from the content of those alternatives. It has more to do with the activity of choosing than with the menu of options that lies ahead of us. Or, as I said before, it is more a question of how we choose than of what we choose. Our capacity to choose has been described in several ways. It has been conceived “thinly,” simply as the absence of necessity in our actions. What this negative conception of free will must prove is that our actions are not determined, that our will is indeed an “uncaused cause.” Historically, this position has encountered numerous difficulties—among them that the world as we know it is full of regularities, suggesting therefore that everything is determined. Furthermore, if the alternative to necessity is randomness, then freedom loses its appeal as something meaningful and worth pursuing.21 “Thicker” or more substantive conceptions of our capacity to choose try to avoid these problems by giving a positive determination of freedom. For instance, some philosophers have tried to show how certain choices, independently of their place in one or various causal chains, amount to an acknowledgment of truth (Plato) or of morality (Kant). Others, more dialectically, contend that some choices lead to self-realization, allowing us to discover a higher or an authentic self (Hegel). Finally, in an existentialist fashion, it has been argued that there are certain choices that create our personal identity, which in turn is supposed to be made up solely of our individual elections (Sartre).22

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From a Bergsonian perspective, all these conceptions—different as they are—place undue emphasis on the alternatives. Either by saying that the will is free only when it is not determined to pick any of the alternatives available or that only certain alternatives satisfy the condition of freedom of the will, these conceptions “intellectualize freedom.” They do so, according to Bergson, because they overlook the immediate experience of freedom and prioritize instead the different paths available to it, as depicted, say, in a diagram. They look at freedom “from the outside” instead of “from the inside.” Looking at it “from the inside” means, as Arendt says, that for Bergson, freedom is “no less an ‘immediate datum of consciousness’ . . . than the I-think in Kant or the cogito in Descartes.”23 The “outside perspective” on freedom, for its part, is characterized, according to Bergson, by a very familiar epistemological trap: we tend to think that possibilities precede reality. So, for instance, we picture that before the event, Raskolnikov had two possibilities ahead of him: to kill the moneylender or not to do it. Likewise, we imagine that as the prince threatens him, the Gallows Man had two roads ahead of him: accuse the man and save his own life or save the man and condemn himself. To put it in Leibnizian language, we imagine that the actual world is one among many possible ones. Bergson, however, claims that this is an illusion. Of course, he does not mean to say that it was necessary for us to act in such or such a way: he is a famous defender of freedom and criticizes deterministic positions in this respect. Rather, he thinks that possibilities are retroactive. Alternative possibilities exist, but they do so only after the fact: they presuppose the actual. The idea seems complicated, but it is actually fairly simple: counterfactuals exist only as an alternative to “actual facts,” to things that have already happened. As Bergson puts it, possibilities are not “contained in reality” beforehand, like “a phantom awaiting its hour,” as if in line for some “transfusion of blood or life.”24 On the contrary, he says, they only begin to exist as reality is actualized. Thus, possibilities add something to reality: they are “the combined effect of reality once it has appeared and of a condition which throws it back in time.”25 Bergson invites us to consider the diagram presented in Figure 2. It is meant to be a symbolical representation of voluntary activity, where an agent who has traversed a series MO of conscious states finally finds himself at point O, where two directions, OX and OY, are equally open.26 Bergson’s claim is that this symbolical operation is misleading because it does not capture “the deed in the doing but the deed already done.”27 We fall prey to such an operation not only if we actually draw that image or represent


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Figure 2. Geometrical representation of the process of making a decision as presented in chapter 3 of Time and Free Will.

action formally through sophisticated methods of rational choice. Rather, we appeal to it whenever we analyze action. Still, in Bergson’s view, this approach is unfaithful to the experience of action as we encounter it. If instead we approach the matter “from the inside” and stick to things as they appear to us, then, says Bergson, freedom “must be sought in a certain shade or quality of the action itself and not in the relation of this act to what it is not or to what it might have been.”28 Now, what is this “shade” or “quality” of an action that Bergson is after and that cannot be captured by simply operationalizing our deeds as “X” or “Y”? Where can we find it, and why does it escape us? A Bergsonian answer to these questions would suggest that the traditional dominance of the notion of the will in our philosophical debates about freedom has led us to pose the wrong kind of questions. Let us see what this means. As I said before, many defenders of the existence of free will have been quite invested in showing that the will is an uncaused cause—hence the centrality of the notion of “cause” for any account of morality.29 Now, according to Bergson, there is an ambiguity or confusion regarding the concept of causality. On the one hand, causality means, to use Hume’s words, “regular attendance”: whenever we notice that certain things occur together regularly, the idea of cause is suggested to us. This happens only through stable and almost perfect regularity and therefore goes hand in hand with the idea of necessity. However, Bergson adds, there is another meaning

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of causality, which cannot be derived from the phenomenon of regular attendance. We can only get it, he claims, from our inner experience of agency. We experience action, capability, effort, purpose, success, and failure, and it is those experiences, says Bergson, that are the source of our idea of cause as “force.”30 An example of this can be found in the feeling of intellectual effort, examined in Chapter 1.31 To recall, the experience of effort or “strong endeavor” has such a preeminent place in Bergson’s theory because, as we saw, it is the inner sensation corresponding to what is more immediately given, namely, movement.32 Causality understood as regularity—that is, according to the first sense of cause—applies perfectly well, Bergson argues, to the physical world. To attest this, we need only look around at all the things that it allows us to create and develop. Technology bears witness to the extent to which physics gets it right when it works with that meaning of causality. Now, this notion of causality, goes his argument, involves a very peculiar trade-off between space and time. The point is easily illustrated through the idea of “number.” Numbers, for Bergson, are a sort of compromise made possible because, as he likes to say, we “interpret time in terms of space.” We represent time in a line, putting side by side separable bits that once succeeded each other. Thus, succession is replaced by simultaneity.33 This “compromise” between space and time fully tilts to the side of the former, he says, whenever we start weighing bodies or calculating forces and velocities. Again, this is admissible in physics because we can know and explain many things about the external world, about nature, through numbers and calculations. However, for the same reason, Bergson claims, we must tip the scales in favor of time if we want to say something meaningful about the inner self.34 The problem is that such an operation has been truly difficult to perform for theorists of the will, their differences in approach notwithstanding. Consider both Hume and Kant’s respective approaches to the question of whether we are allowed to use nature to model our understanding of human action. In this respect, Hume says, “I do not ascribe to the will that unintelligible necessity, which is supppos’d to lie in matter. But I ascribe to matter, that intelligible quality, call it necessity or not, which the most rigorous orthodoxy does or must allow to belong to the will.”35 Kant, for his part, suggests a rule of judgment according to which we can evaluate concrete actions, which he famously calls the “typic of the moral law”: “Ask yourself whether, if the action you propose were to take place by a law of the nature of which you were yourself a part, you could indeed regard it as possible through your will.”36 As these passages show, for Hume and Kant, it is both licit and useful


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to take nature and freedom as analogous—even if they do so in very different ways. For both thinkers, the parallel between nature and freedom provides a useful metaphor for understanding the meaning of the latter. Unlike Hume and Kant, Bergson argues that nature cannot be used as a prototype for discussing questions regarding action, freedom, and morality. In his view, whenever we use matter to model the dimension of the spirit, we are forced into a compromise between two radically different dimensions—the outside and the inside, matter and the psyche, space and time—which inevitably reifies human action. The will is, as it were, the symbol of that reifying compromise, just as in physics numbers illustrate the compromise between space and time. Think of it this way: mathematical variables are symbols that can be defined in terms of other variables, as established by an equation. Similarly, the will is the symbol that represents human action—a dependent variable, which in turn can be expressed as a function of human nature (as in Hobbes), the moral law (as in Kant), the law of history (as in Hegel), and so on. As I said, for Bergson, this is wrong: both science (or intellectualized philosophy) and common sense make the same mistake. To be sure, such a “mistake” might be necessary in order to build bridges between metaphysics and other fields of knowledge, such as psychology, ethics, and politics, among them.37 However, going back to one of the fundamental lessons that we drew in Chapter 1, we must not forget that the will is only a symbol, a proxy, a conceptual shortcut to talk about what is otherwise in constant flux—namely, human agency.38 In Bergson’s view, only metaphysics can properly study freedom because it is “the science [that] claims to dispense with symbols.”39 We have seen why, according to a Bergsonian interpretation, intellectualized philosophy and common sense have made it difficult to access the shades or qualities of action that are constitutive of freedom. The question remains, however, where can we find them? How can we approach freedom in the right way, according to Bergson? How can we “tip the scales in favor of time” as we try to say something meaningful about the inner self? We can begin to answer those questions, I think, if we turn to the second, more dynamic meaning of cause—namely, cause as force. For Bergson, freedom requires that we feel ourselves as forces because only thus can we observe our inner duration, our inner life displayed in time. Therefore, the key to the discovery of freedom—that is, the key to realizing that freedom is an “immediate datum of consciousness” and not something that must be inferred or presupposed—cannot be a law or a universalizing principle but an analogous force—one that matches, so to speak, the force of our agency. As I proposed earlier, the phenomenon of temptation is a paradigmatic instance of such a force.40 Bergson seems to confirm this—and

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thus he seems to be working with the phenomenological conception of temptation that I have detailed above—when he says in the opening line of his last book, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, that “the remembrance of the forbidden fruit is the earliest thing in the memory of each of us, as it is in that of mankind.”41 And a few pages later, he adds, “Never, in our hours of temptation, should we sacrifice our interest, our passion, our vanity to the mere need for logical consistency. Because in a reasonable being reason does indeed intervene as a regulator to assure this consistency between obligatory rules or maxims, philosophy has been led to look upon it as a principle of obligation. We might as well believe that the fly-wheel drives the machinery.”42 Temptation, according to Bergson’s suggestion here, might not explain why we “take an interest in the law”—even Kant himself acknowledged the difficulty of such a question and, as a commentator notes, considered it “the philosopher’s stone.”43 However, it can show indeed how that happens: through the movements by which we channel the force of temptation one way or another, reaching into our pasts through memory to be wholly present at the moment of action and acting assertively as the moment requires it. In the face of the limits of reason to reach into the immediate data of our consciousness and of the limits of language to capture experience in words, those movements become our primary source to investigate freedom. Therefore, as we shall see, from a Bergsonian standpoint, an adequate theory of moral action should be properly informed by a careful “phenomenology of temptation” or, alternatively, what I will call a “phenomenology of hesitation”—that is, an account of the oscillations that precede or, better still, constitute action as we relate to the objects of our temptation. Different accounts of the experience of vacillation and reluctance correspond to different accounts of moral action; therefore, the meaning of blame and righteousness, guilt and innocence, partly hinges on an accurate phenomenology of qualm, misgiving, and indecision.44 As we know, Kant does acknowledge that we can perceive moral worth with more clarity when the latter conflicts with inclination, so that the stronger the inclination, the clearer we hear the voice of conscience. However, for Bergson, freedom is not about the intensity of inclination. Rather, again, we need to pay heed to its quality as a force.45 Even moral obligation, in his view, should be understood thus: as a “a force of unvarying direction, which is to the soul what force of gravity is to the body.”46 This force is “the concentrated extract, the quintessence of innumerable specific habits of obedience.”47 It is not any specific principle or rule, and “if it could speak (whereas it prefers to act), it would say: You must because you must.”48 For Bergson, only this


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conception of morality can properly address “our hours of temptation.” If that is so—if, for Bergson, an appropriate conception of morality must meet the needs of “our hours of temptation”—then, conversely, we are led to conclude that temptation cannot play a marginal role in moral formation.49 Now, let us pause for a moment and ask, is there really no trace in Kant of the moral and philosophical importance of temptation? Some might think of the following as anecdotal, given that the Conjectural Beginning of Human History is only a short essay and not one of the author’s canonical works. Still, I think it is significant. In this short text, Kant tells the story of what he calls “the first attempt” in human history at a free choice (“der erste Versuch von einer freien Wahl”50): “Now the harm might have been as insignificant as you like, yet about this it opened the human being’s eyes. He discovered in himself a faculty of choosing for himself a way of living and not being bound to a single one, as other animals are.”51 What Kant is talking about is the story of the Garden of Eden, and what is remarkable about his version of the tale is that there is no reference at all to God’s initial prohibition against eating the apple, any suggestion that eating the apple was especially wrong, or, finally, any straightforward mention of the idea of temptation.52 In Kant’s version of Genesis, instead of being tempted, man (there is no explicit reference to Eve in the text) uses his powers of comparison and, interestingly, realizes that he could eat the apple: he initially did not have a natural inclination to eat apples; however, he sees that other animals eat apples; he is similar to these animals in important respects; therefore, he concludes that, even if his natural instinct does not lead him to eat apples, he could eat the apple, so he goes ahead and eats it.53 Among the reasons that might explain why Kant tells the story this way, there is his contempt for the doctrine of the original sin54 or—in line with the objection I presented above, according to which temptation as a phenomenon presupposes duty—the fact that, in order to have temptation, morality has to be assumed, and according to the story, man has not yet discovered it.55 Still, it is striking that Kant’s philosophical instinct picked none other than the paradigmatic story about temptation to give an account of the discovery of both freedom and morality. Moreover, it is worth noting that the word Kant uses to name the incident is Versuch. Some translations render that as “experiment” (“the first experiment in free choice”), but the one I use here (by Allen Wood) suggests “attempt” (“the first attempt at free choice”) in order to explicitly bring out the related meaning of Versuchung, which means “temptation.”56 In this way, the relation between agency, or our capacity for attempting things, and temptation surfaces in Kant’s treatment, even if “unofficially.”

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The concern might remain up to this point: how do we explain the transition from the experience of temptation to the appeal of duty? In other words, some might want to ask, how do we explain the movement from (a) being aware that you could do something to (b) the realization that you ought to do it? Surely, within our philosophical tradition, this seems like an important question to investigate.57 However, before trying to articulate a theoretical answer to such a theoretical question, we might as well pay heed to Bergson’s objection against traditional pursuits of giving theoretical accounts of movement. Often, he says, we have made the mistake of posing first that “movement is made up of points, [and then] that it comprises in addition the obscure, mysterious passing from one position to the next. As though the obscurity did not come wholly from the fact that we have assumed immobility to be clearer than mobility, the halt to precede movement!”58 So, let’s try to answer the question instead by following Bergson’s invitation to start off from mobility. For our purposes, such an invitation is best captured, I think, by going back to the things as they appeared to the agents themselves and studying the Gallows Man and Raskolnikov’s respective transitions not from a theoretical perspective but through a close examination of the narratives that tell us about them. Those narratives should be, in principle, a good place to test Bergson’s idea that our multiple conscious states “permeate and melt into one another, and each is to be tinged with the colouring of [the] other.”59 From this perspective, the passage from temptation to the appeal of duty might pose not such an inscrutable puzzle. Schopenhauer said of Goethe that in his book Data for a Theory of Color, he had not undertaken to provide a complete theory or a “real explanation of the nature of color” but he had “really postulated it as a phenomenon, [teaching] only how it comes into existence, not what it is.”60 The same can be said of Bergson in the field of human action and freedom: he provided rich material for a theory of freedom without ever attempting an explanation of it. He told us not what human action is but how it appears. For him, freedom—like duration and movement—is a fact, and as such, it should be taken note of but left undefined.61

The Facts and Alternative Theories of the Cases One of the most noteworthy facts of Raskolnikov’s state of mind before he commits the crime is how, at first, the whole thing seems to him a fantasy, a “dream,” an “idle fancy,” something “definitely unrealizable.”62 Dostoevsky


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reports that “he could not, for example, picture himself ceasing at a given moment to think about it, getting up and—simply going there” (60). What captures Raskolnikov’s mind most acutely before committing the crime is not whether it is right or wrong to do it (although he does consider that) but whether it would be possible for him to do it or not. He oscillates between the idea, on the one hand, that his plan is sound and, on the other, that it is mere “nonsense,” a feverish hallucination, an absurd product of delirium. At first, he seems to be closer to thinking the latter, and only gradually—as by the force of habit, somewhat mechanically—does the whole project start to gain plausibility in his mind. At the outset, says Dostoevsky, “[Raskolnikov] did not believe in the reality of his imaginings, and their audacity, which both repelled and fascinated him at the same time, was merely irritating. Now, a month later, he saw them in a different light, and had somehow grown used to regarding the ‘ugly’ dream as a real project, and reproached himself for his own weakness and lack of resolution” (3, italics added). Further, as events unfold, his “imaginings” not only gain plausibility but even, progressively, to his own eyes, start to become inevitable: “His reactions during this last day, which had come upon him so unexpectedly and settled everything at one stroke, were almost completely mechanical, as though someone had taken his hand and pulled him along irresistibly, blindly, with supernatural strength and without objection. It was as if a part of his clothing had been caught in the wheel of a machine and he was being dragged into it” (60). It is not clear how exactly this transition takes place. Dostoevsky only tells us that “a month earlier, and even yesterday, [the project] had been no more than a bad dream, but now . . . it was revealed as no dream, but in a new, unfamiliar and terrible form” (39). Moreover, it is interesting that, during the time previous to committing the crime, Raskolnikov tries hard to find a valid objection against the execution of his project (60). It is as though the novel related how our protagonist plans a murder, just as much as how he tries to prevent it from happening. In Dostoevsky’s words, “One noticeable peculiarity characterized all the final decisions he arrived at in this affair: the more settled they were, the more hideous and absurd they appeared in his eyes” (59). Finally, after learning by chance one day that the old woman would be at home by herself the day after, the project acquired, so to speak, a life of its own: “It was only a few steps farther to his lodging. He went in like a man condemned to death. He did not reason about anything, he was quite incapable of reasoning, but he felt with his whole being that his mind and will were no longer free, and that everything was settled, quite finally” (53, italics added). All this shows that beyond the question of whether the crime

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is justified or not, and apart from any discussion about specific motives, Raskolnikov is mainly confronted with the famous question of whether such an action springs from a free will or from necessity. His experience is polarized as it combines, on the one hand, the feeling of omnipotence—somebody else’s life is in his hands, and he can decide whether the moneylender continues to live or not—with, on the other, the experience of having no agency at all, of being “condemned to death” himself and involved in a series of determined events, of which he is not more than one tiny piece, so that he is “no longer free,” and “everything is settled.” Quite tellingly in this respect is the moment when it occurs to him for the first time that he could commit the crime. The realization that the life of the moneylender could depend on his decision—the awareness of the could, as I have called it—is, ironically, perceived by him as surrounded by a strong sense of fatefulness, as if it were part of a higher plan beyond his control. While drinking tea at a little tavern, right after meeting the old lady for the first time, the idea of killing her, Dostoevsky says, appears in Raskolnikov’s mind “pecking away in his head, like a chicken emerging from the shell” (54). To be sure, the image of a chicken emerging from the shell points more to a “blind” process of nature than to a consciously devised plan. Moreover, right after this happens, he overhears a conversation at a nearby table between a student and a young officer who coincidentally were talking about the moneylender, her cruel character, and how she did not deserve to live. They even discussed whether it would be just to kill her for the sake of the welfare of those she abused. Raskolnikov is greatly impressed by such a “strange coincidence,” which—according to the narrator—is of great significance in the story: “This casual public-house conversation had an extraordinary influence on the subsequent development of the matter, as if there were indeed something fateful and fore-ordained about it” (57). More explicitly, Dostoevsky says in this respect, “Raskolnikov had recently become superstitious. Traces of this superstition remained in him long afterwards, almost ineradicable. And after years he was always inclined to see something strange and mysterious in all the happenings of this time, as if special coincidences and influences were at work” (54). Raskolnikov’s display of assertiveness and superstition, his ambiguity between power and powerlessness, is further illustrated by the fact that he spends asleep most of the time before committing the crime. Actually, he oversleeps and almost misses the time span when the moneylender was supposed to be alone in the house (59). Again, our protagonist combines two contrasting elements: on the one hand, his voluntarism, the decision to kill someone, in which agency is almost


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an instance of arbitrary power and control, and, on the other, superstition, fatefulness, and the lack of agency that is proper to it. The contrast between voluntarism and superstition indicates Raskolnikov’s incapacity to have a proper ontological sense of his own agency. That constitutes, in my view, the main obstacle that he faces in trying to “discover his freedom.” Furthermore, it is remarkable that, as he plans the crime, Raskolnikov’s opinions, actions, and emotions are characterized by an inexorably oscillating pattern, which constantly hinders his capacity for action. For instance, he vacillates between, on the one hand, wanting to avoid all social contact, experiencing an “exasperated dislike for any person who violated, or even seemed desirous of disturbing his privacy” (9), and, on the other, moments of intense “wish for contact” and sudden “thirst for society” in his soul (8–9). Or, alternatively, he goes from a strong impulse to help a young girl in danger on the street to a complete indifference toward her (40–43). Equally revealing in this respect is his proclivity to distraction: on his very way to the crime scene, for instance, he suddenly “becomes very interested” in the construction of fountains and other amenities in public gardens and in how they add to the beauty of cities (62). Finally, he not only vacillates mentally but even “performs” such a mental state physically, as he continually wanders throughout the city, in oscillations without a purpose. To reiterate, from a phenomenological point of view, the drama that we see unfolding in Raskolnikov’s case is not the dilemma of whether murder is right or wrong but rather the ambiguity between being active and being passive, being in control and being determined, together with the protagonist’s incapacity to situate himself between those two poles. From this perspective, it would be misleading to align passivity and inclination, on the one hand, and reason and activity, on the other. Rather, inclination—or, better still, temptation, as I have indicated—is what puts the whole thing in motion: temptation (in this case, the temptation to kill the woman, the realization that such an action is a possibility open to him) provides him, in principle, with the occasion to “calibrate his agency” between the poles of activity and passivity. By “calibrating our agency,” I mean an operation that, in contrast to the categorical imperative’s invitation to subsume the maxim of our actions under the universal law, proceeds case by case, constantly adjusting our agency—more assertive at times, less so in others—to meet the requirements of the circumstances that we face. From a Bergsonian perspective focused on agency as a force, such process of calibration is what freedom is all about.63 Now, to be sure, Raskolnikov’s story is not one about the discovery of freedom. (Let us ignore for the moment the question about the protagonist’s

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future redemption through expiation.) As we have seen, instead of a calibration process toward freedom, he oscillates viciously between activity and passivity.64 However, notice that from a Bergsonian perspective, the reason for his unfreedom is not that he ended up choosing the immoral option of killing the woman, as a Kantian reading would suggest, or that he ended up walking the path of self-punishment in turning himself into a murderer, according to a more Nietzschean interpretation. Rather, according to a Bergsonian reading of his experience, it is because he did everything with morbid hesitation, with no clear sense of his own agency, that is, of his character as a force in movement. In order to understand the point better, let us consider Kant’s example of the Gallows Man, which presents both similarities and differences when compared to Raskolnikov’s case. In my reading, the evidence that Kant offers suggests that something like an awareness of a certain capacity for action comes before the moment of the awareness of the ought—at least chronologically speaking. As we saw, Kant’s story begins with the moment when the threatened subject realizes that he could do something: the man in question would normally try to preserve his life, but when confronted with the alternative of accusing an innocent person, he realizes that he could refrain from doing it; he realizes that he could forgo his life. At first, Kant says, the man “would perhaps not venture to assert whether he would do it or not, but he must admit without hesitation that it would be possible for him.”65 Thus, the first categorical experience, so to speak, that confronts the Gallows Man is not the unequivocal character of the moral law or the conviction that he will follow it but the certainty of his capacity to do so: he must admit without hesitation that it would be possible for him to disobey the prince and save the innocent man. In other words, the absence of hesitation—his lucidity and clarity—refers originally not to duty but to action. The epiphanic moment, at least to begin with, addresses him as an agent. Kant continues his narration as follows: the man “judges, therefore, that he can do something because he is aware that he ought to do it and cognizes freedom within him, which, without the moral law, would have remained unknown to him.”66 Notice that, as it stands, there seems to be an ambiguity in Kant’s report of the facts of the case. We are told that the man became aware that he could do something and therefore judges that he can do it (in other words, “he could, therefore he can”). However, Kant adds immediately after, this happens because he was aware that he ought to do it (the famous “he ought, therefore he can”). Let us imagine for a moment that we are a group of detectives trying to assess the evidence of the case. Which causal connector indicates the true


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ratio cognoscendi of freedom: the previous “therefore” or the following “because”? Which one points to the decisive element that allowed this man to discover his freedom? If we pick the first one, “therefore,” we shall conclude that it was the awareness of his agency or, again, paraphrasing Kant, the awareness of the could: he first realizes that something would be possible for him, and he judges therefore that he can actualize that possibility. If we pick the second one instead, “because,” we will go for the awareness of duty: he realizes he ought to do it, so he judges that he can.67 There seems to be no straightforward answer to the question of which connector should be given priority—not, at least, from the information Kant makes available. Taking him seriously as a witness of the event (that is, as an acute observer of human nature, which he was), we might want to ask him the following question: what is the relation between the initial unhesitating awareness that the man could do something and the later awareness that he ought to do so? On the one hand, the connector “therefore” comes before the connector “because,” enjoying in this way some chronological presumption of priority. However, on the other hand, as Kant would surely reply—not as a witness anymore but as the author of the first and second Critiques—chronological priority says nothing about the metaphysical priority enjoyed by the second connector. Consider the peculiar way in which Kant presents his example. Notice that the prince forces the man to bear false witness under the threat of death. This means that the coercive end of the alternative is “occupied” by the prince, who orders him to accuse an honorable person because otherwise he would be killed. Therefore, on the other end of the dilemma, the possibility of sacrificing his life appears as liberating—as a way of escaping the coercion of the prince. The moral alternative of not bearing false witness appears to our man as a temptation and not as a restriction (which is the way duty or obligation normally looks like). It is an open possibility, something through which he could actualize his agency or exercise his control. In other words, it is an invitation to act, as Kant says, “without hesitation.”68 From the perspective of agency as a force, Kant’s mini-story illustrates, I think, the way in which temptation is not only what traps us and gets us entangled in crime—as in many stories of crime and punishment—but also the clue to understanding how we become, as Kant says, “interested in the law.” As I said before, temptation is a desire or an instinct that concerns us personally, that challenges us as agents; therefore, it only makes sense if events are seen “from within,” as Bergson suggests. As we answer the call of temptation—either to give into it or to avoid it—we are transformed and

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potentially defined in those terms. So, for example, if what tempts you is alcohol, you might become an alcoholic (or sober, of course, if you fight the temptation successfully). If what tempts you is violence, you might become a murderer, like Raskolnikov. If what tempts you is the alleviation of suffering, you might become a philanthropist. And, finally, if what tempts you is justice, you might become, like the Gallows Man, a martyr.69 In the Gallows Man example, a Bergsonian interpretation of the facts would hold fast to Kant’s report that, in the face of the prince’s threat, what our man experienced first was the unhesitating awareness that he could disobey the prince. In other words, the first unequivocal experience of the Gallows Man concerns his agency as a force, his “inner” experience of capacity for action, and not his reason. Admittedly, in this case, such awareness is rapidly transformed, asserting itself as an “ought,” the famous fact of reason. Still, this shows that, phenomenologically speaking, the appeal of duty—the way in which the ought addresses us—goes hand in hand with the experience of temptation, namely, again, the experience of identifying a relevant occasion in which to assert our agency. As we know, that is not Kant’s interpretation of the case. In the end, for him, the Gallows Man judges that he can save the man because he ought to do it, disregarding thus his initial unhesitating awareness of his capacity.70 Can this interpretation—one of such a privileged witness—be contradicted? A Bergsonian attempt to do so would proceed as follows. Please bear with me while we review the evidence once again. After realizing that he could save the prince’s prisoner, the Gallows Man “judges, therefore, that he can do something because he is aware that he ought to do it and cognizes freedom within him, which, without the moral law, would have remained unknown to him.”71 Recall Bergson’s diagram of retrospective thinking: a bifurcated arrow showing the different paths equally open to the agent. A Bergsonian theory of the case would be that the first connector, “therefore,” allows us to follow the progression of the activity, whereas the following “because” makes us halt, as it were, just after the bifurcation, when the agent has already decided X or Y, forcing us to turn around and see the action retrospectively. According to this perspective, when Kant says “because,” he is looking at the experience from the outside. He intellectualizes freedom and misrepresents agency by establishing a priori what counts as free action. In other words, this reading would suggest that by endorsing the categorical imperative, he obliterates the reality of movement, the phenomenological priority of duration—in this case, the inner duration of the Gallows Man as he acted in reaction to the prince’s threat.72


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To be sure, Kant is offering only a vignette, a very short story, and therefore it would be unreasonable to expect, as readers, to be able to trace with all detail the trajectory that made the Gallows Man act in the way he did at that precise moment. Indeed, from a Bergsonian perspective, only a “real-time” biography of the Gallows Man would allow us to do that because only thus would we be able to get into the character’s “inner duration.”73 Still, Bergson would say, to the extent that Kant’s description remains true to what happened, it is due to the fact that Kant, as a narrator, in the act of writing, “got into the personage himself ” and “coincided” with him in a simple and indivisible feeling. (Perhaps the “therefore” that remains in the text despite Kant’s overwhelming metaphysical framework privileging the “because” in the second Critique could be taken as a piece of evidence that Kant indeed followed this procedure in writing.74) For Bergson, only such a method—one that aims at capturing the “inner duration” of the characters involved—can produce a reliable narration of an event.75 A Bergsonian detective, so to speak, would have to trace this inner duration and rely on it in order to obtain the best evidence available. But what exactly is inner duration? In Bersgon’s words, it is “the continuous life of a memory which prolongs the past into the present, whether the present distinctly contains the ever-growing image of the past, or whether, by its continual changing of quality, it attests rather the increasingly heavy burden that we drag along behind each one of us, the older we grow.”76 Tracing the “continuous life of a memory” in such a way can be understood as the opposite method to depicting different courses of action. The first corresponds to intuition, the second to analysis. From the point of view of intuition, Bergson says, the idea that two courses of action were possible is “meaningless” because it is tantamount to “represent[ing] a thing and not a progress.”77 Like Kant’s “because,” it “displaces the activity of the self ”78 and falsifies the “dynamic progress in which the self and its motives, like real living beings, are in a constant state of becoming.”79 Freedom, for Bergson, is a reality that can only appear in action, that is, dynamically. It can only be grasped in duration through intuition. Thus, equating free action with “freedom of choice” puts the focus on the wrong place, stimulating indeed the obsessive pathologies that Raskolnikov is afflicted by: his lack of resolution, his mental and physical oscillations. How so? By reducing agency to reasons, an intellectualized approach to freedom— one focused exclusively on what to choose, without heeding how we do so— runs the risk of getting obsessed with “the different possibilities available,” as Raskolnikov’s vacillations make clear.80

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Indeed, as we saw, Raskolnikov is a sharp illustration of the way action is “frozen” or “halted” when this happens. His wanderings around Saint Petersburg are mere “oscillations in space.” They constitute a degraded version of what action should normally look like: a current of events flowing in time.81 Raskolnikov stumbles at each step: every action gives him trepidation, and he wavers and quivers about every single decision he must make. A good example is the scene when he finally decides to confess to Sonya. “He stopped before the door, asking himself, ‘Need I really tell her who killed [the woman]?’ The question was a strange one, because at the very same moment he felt not only that he must tell her, but that he could not put it off even for a short time. He did not yet know why he could not, he only felt it, and the tormenting consciousness of his helplessness before the inevitable almost crushed him.”82 Raskolnikov’s action is pulled in opposite directions, interrupted or, as Bergson says, “crystallized.”83 “Need I tell her?” he wonders. At the same time, he feels forced to do so. This degree of hesitation represents an “abnormal and morbid” version of human agency, not unlike the case of “the doubter who closes a window, then returns to verify its closing, then verifies his verification, and so forth.”84 The original source from where agency emerges—namely, the feeling of capacity or the “feeling of effort”—is swollen to the extent of jeopardizing action.85 Now, is Bergson’s theory then an apology of boldness? I do not think so. Notice that the extremely hesitating man is only the other side of the coin of the man who exalts or glorifies “daring”: if the former loses his freedom amid an infinite iteration of possibilities, the second loses it in mere fearlessness. That is manifest in Raskolnikov’s case. As he attempts to explain to Sonya why he committed murder, he says, “I realized then, Sonya . . . that power is given only to the man who dares stop and take it. There is only one thing needed, only one—to dare! I had a thought then, for the first time in my life, that nobody had ever had before me! Nobody! It was suddenly as clear as daylight to me: how strange that not one single person passing through this nonsensical world has the courage, has ever had the courage, to seize it by the tail and fling it to the devil! I . . . I wanted to have the courage, and I killed . . . I only wanted to dare, Sonya, that was the only reason!”86 The same man who hesitates and is stuck in constant oscillations is the one who will justify his crime in terms of courage, cloaking his deed in the virtue associated with the risk of acting.87 Moreover, notice that the punishment Dostoevsky reserves for Raskolnikov is almost perfect—the envy of any champion of proportionality. After committing the crime, even more so than before, he only hesitates, constantly wandering through the city, not knowing whether to


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disclose his truth to Sonya or not, whether to give himself up to the police or not, whether to confide in his friend Razumikhin and his sister Dunya or not, whether to address the concerns of his mother or not, and so on. In other words, just as Hobbes says that there is a natural punishment for drinking in the agony of hangover, the natural punishment for Raskolnikov’s temerity is the loss of his agency. In fact, he acknowledges this when he exclaims, “Did I murder the old woman? I killed myself, not that old creature! Then and there I murdered myself at one blow, for ever!”88 Compare this to the Gallows Man. He need not declare, as Raskolnikov did, that “power is given only to the man who dares stop and take it.”89 He just acted, sure of himself and with no equivocation. However, again, the contrast between the Gallows Man and Raskolnikov in this respect does not amount to a blank check for boldness. Rather, as I said before, it calls our attention to the way things are done. The lesson is not that we should act assertively always. In the previous chapter, as we saw, for Bergson, individuality is built through a “work ethic” that combines effort and patience. Similarly, here we find a phenomenology of hesitation that recommends assertiveness at times and hesitation or pause at others, depending on the circumstances. Following Bergson, freedom is only possible through a proper insight into our own agency as it unfolds in time. And that is precisely what distinguishes our two cases from one another: from a phenomenological approach to freedom, the difference between the Gallows Man and Raskolnikov is not that the former saved a man and the latter killed a woman. That is, of course, an important difference, but it would not be the difference between being free and being unfree.90 Rather, as Bergson says, freedom is found in “the relation of the concrete self to the act which it performs”91 because it means “becoming one with our action” or being “wholly present in our actions.”92 Whereas we find Raskolnikov always vacillating, half asleep, and distracted, the Gallows Man acts unhesitatingly.

Autonomy Reconsidered: Scheler and the Voice of Conscience In contrast to Bergson, Scheler’s notion of freedom is closer to Kant, in the sense that, for him, freedom is related to morality in more “substantive” ways: what we choose to do reenters the picture, and thus, somehow, freedom loses the ineffability that characterized it in Bergson. However, on the other hand, Scheler’s notion of freedom is at odds with Kant’s notion of autonomy since

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it is related to morality on unequivocally particularistic grounds. For Scheler, freedom and morality do not depend on the “universalization of the maxim of our actions” but rather—like individuality in the previous chapter—on our ability to perceive value distinctions. Thus, while for Bergson, as I tried to show, the experience of temptation is the ratio cognoscendi of freedom, in Scheler, as we shall see, freedom is known through our capacity to capture and bring out the specificity of particular values, feelings, and actions. Let us review Scheler’s ideas on autonomy. He argues that autonomy is a predicate not of reason but of the agent.93 Therefore, freedom as autonomy cannot be a matter of obeying a law dictated by reason. It cannot be either a matter of not obeying others or even of merely obeying oneself. In fact, it cannot be exclusively a function of obedience (or the absence thereof). Rather, it must involve the agent in a more substantive way and not only in relation to potential oppressors. More precisely, since freedom concerns primarily the agent as such (and not as a rational being), the effort to solve the enigma of autonomy must focus primarily on self-knowledge of the person qua agent. Now, for Scheler, conscience provides one of the most important vehicles for such knowledge. In consonance with what we saw in the previous chapter, according to him, the voice of conscience speaks to each one of us in a personal way. As this voice becomes clearer and sharper, says Scheler, “it must tell each person something different for the same situation.”94 The voice of conscience informs us about the shades of value that we find in our individual self and its internal diversity. Conscience, properly understood, he says, informs us of what is objectively good for each one of us as individuals.95 This does not mean, in Scheler’s view, that universal moral truths do not exist or that the voice of conscience is always and obviously accessible. Rather, on this point, he says, “The true relation between universalism and individualism in values is preserved only when every individual moral subject submits those value-qualities which he alone can grasp to a special moral cultivation and culture, though of course without neglecting universally valid values.”96 Scheler’s effort to combine what we now call “moral realism” (the idea that moral truths exist “out there” independently from our volition and situation) with the so-called moral particularism (the idea that moral action must respond to context and other contingent considerations in order to be truly moral) is apparent here. For him, moral values exist, although they do not necessarily yield universal laws, nor can universal laws exhaust morality. Moral action requires the translation and adaptation—what Scheler calls “cultivation” in the quotation above—of these values into the particular situation in which moral agents find themselves. This is part of what we do in the


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process in which we acquire self-knowledge. However, as we saw in Chapter 1—and as Raskolnikov’s case illustrates so well—self-knowledge is a very difficult thing to achieve and, therefore, the voice of conscience should not be assumed to speak clearly and distinctly to untrained ears. In his view, our reluctance to see the absolutely singular basis of morality— our tendency to think of morality in terms of laws—is fueled by a deterioration of our moral sense regarding our capacity to perceive value. It is, if you like, a problem akin to color blindness: just as the color blind cannot perceive colors distinctly, lawlike ethical thinking cannot perceive value differences. Now, why is this perceptual deficiency so strong, according to Scheler? According to Scheler, such a deficiency is based on the fact that, compared to things we perceive through the senses (a table or a chair, for instance), values are generally more difficult to comprehend and to assess. However, this is not because they are incorporeal or somehow intangible. Rather, in his view, this happens because cognition of moral values is, according to him, immediately connected with our volition. The fact that we can choose, that we are willing agents and certain things depend on us, makes us inclined, he says, “to justify[ing] and excus[ing] our actions by saying that ‘someone else has acted in this way.’ ”97 Our weakness in standing alone and affirming our values, independently of what other people might feel, leads us, in turn, he claims, to expect less disagreement than we should. Why is that so? The mechanism is psychological and should not be unfamiliar to anyone who has undergone the experience of high school: simply put, we want to belong to a moral community; thus, moral disagreement “makes us nervous,” becoming more conspicuous than other kinds of disagreement. The tendency to look for social support in this respect is so strong, Scheler says, that it “led Kant to the mistake of trying to establish the mere principle of turning a maxim of the will into a universal law as the measure of moral correctness.”98 Of course, this tendency to overestimate moral agreement can lead to different results. The Gallows Man arrived at the categorical imperative, while Raskolnikov, as we will see in a moment, came up with his theory of the two types of men. Some others could, just as well, turn to moral skepticism. All these possibilities are logically open, and again, depending on which one a person finds more tempting, he or she will become an egalitarian, a defender of hierarchy, or a moral skeptic. What all these positions have in common, though, following Scheler’s interpretation, is that they spring from an inability to tolerate moral singularity, which is one of the cornerstones of Scheler’s

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ethics. With that in mind, let us go back and consider, first, Raskolnikov’s case again. Unlike in the previous section, I will delve now into Raskolnikov’s motives and the content of his actions and examine why, from a Schelerian perspective, Raskolnikov failed to act both freely and rightly and how that differs from a Kantian interpretation of the case, based on the latter’s idea of autonomy. Let’s first spell out what a Kantian reading of Raskolnikov’s case would be. To be sure, killing the woman was wrong. However, the precise explanation of why this is so would vary depending on how we interpret Raskolnikov’s motives. If one focuses, for instance—as some psychoanalytical interpretations do—on Raskolnikov’s hatred toward his mother, as well as on the association he establishes between his mother and the moneylender, one can make a case that inclination (in this case, hatred) defeated duty and reason: Raskolnikov resented his mother; he associated the latter with other feminine figures such as the moneylender or the landlady; finally, he killed one of those figures.99 In other words, unlike the Gallows Man, Raskolnikov was not able to overcome his inclinations and thus killed. (A very similar argument can be built from self-hatred instead, where Raskolnikov identifies not his mother but himself with the moneylender.100) If, on the other hand, the focus is placed on Raskolnikov’s theory of the two types of men—the theoretical framework under which he explains and justifies his crime, which we will review shortly—the interpretation of his moral failure changes. Of course, such a theory can be read simply as a rationalization of what is otherwise a series of egoistic, vainglorious, hateful, and revengeful emotions. However, if we take it seriously—as I think we should—Raskolnikov’s crime must be understood—still from a Kantian perspective—not simply as the triumph of inclination over reason but as the misuse of the latter.101 Put briefly, Raskolnikov’s theory is as follows. There are two types of men: the ordinary and the extraordinary. For the former, there is nothing degrading in obedience and abiding by the law. On the contrary, that is “their destiny,” and in fact, they fulfill a historical conservative function, which is beneficial for both them and the world. However, things are completely different for the latter type. “Well, for example, the law-givers and regulators of human society, beginning with the most ancient, and going on to Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were without exception transgressors, by the very fact that in making a new law they ipso facto broke an old one, handed down from their fathers and held sacred by society.”102


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As we know, Raskolnikov wants to persuade himself that he belongs to the second group: the ones who, out of their greatness, create the law and cannot possibly be bound to obedience. He kills the woman in an attempt to prove somehow that he is immune to the law.103 Of course, some degree of vainglory is at work behind such an attempt, since what he wants to prove is that he is a great man. However, more profoundly—again, taking seriously Raskolnikov’s own explanation of the motives for the crime—the murder is not prompted simply by a disregard of duty and reason but rather by the belief that the right and even the duty of great men are to create new laws and values. In Raskolnikov’s mind, this entails that they cannot be possibly bound by existing prescriptions, say, the prescription not to kill.104 In both cases—the interpretation that highlights inclination and the one that focuses on the rights and duties of great men—Raskolnikov’s actions reveal a clear breach of the Kantian moral law.105 In killing the moneylender, he used her as a means to his ends: either those of satisfying the impulse of resentment or hatred or that of proving his theory of the two types of men. In the latter case, moreover, he used her not only to prove his theory but how he would fit in it. What is more, his theory explicitly breaches the moral law: it does not fully recognize humanity in the old woman, and more generally, it postulates a division of the human race into two parts, thereby ignoring that all human beings share in rational nature and thus deserve consideration as ends in themselves. On top of that, it establishes that great men, by definition, defy and escape the requirement to universalize the maxim of their actions. Now, would a Schelerian approach, with its focus on moral singularity, be deprived of the moral resources necessary to resist Raskolnikov’s actions? Not at all. However, it would show that Raskolnikov’s moral failure, as well as his incapacity to act freely, resulted not from being unable to acknowledge what he and the moneylender had in common—namely, humanity—but from his inability to situate himself in his particular circumstance, fully experiencing his individuality. Below is Raskolnikov’s explanation of his actions, as he confesses his crime to Sonya: The point is this: on one occasion, I put this question to myself: what if, for example, Napoleon had found himself in my shoes, with no Toulon, no Egypt, no crossing of Mont Blanc, to give his career a start, but instead of those monumental and glorious things, with simply one ridiculous old woman, who must be killed to get money from her trunk (for that career of his, you understand?)—well, would he have made up his mind to do it if there was no other way? Would he

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have shrunk from it, because it was so un-monumental and . . . and so sinful? Well, I tell you I tormented myself over that “problem” for a terribly long time.106 As we will see more fully in Chapter 5, Scheler’s notion of moral singularity goes hand in hand with his acknowledgment of the ethicopolitical importance of exemplarity. However, exemplarity as an element of our moral education presupposes the ability to infer adequately from one case to another—an art at which Raskolnikov is especially incompetent. As the passage above shows, he uses Napoleon as an example to orient his actions. He asks himself what Napoleon would have done if he had found himself in his shoes. On the face of it, the question sounds silly: Napoleon simply would have never been in Raskolnikov’s situation. However, it is important to understand what exactly is wrong with the comparison. First, notice that we are often ready to accept moral comparisons where the terms are very dissimilar. For instance, think of the familiar question “What would Jesus do in my situation?” and, more generally, of the powerful thought experiment of “putting ourselves in the shoes of others,” even (or especially) when they are considerably different from us—an idea that has an important moral purchase in our ethicopolitical tradition, as we shall see in detail in Chapter 4. If that is so, then, is it that comparisons with other people are appropriate only under certain circumstances or that only certain exemplary figures are amenable for the kind of moral inference that such thought experiments require? And further, does that reveal a problem with exemplarity as a tool for moral education—subject as it is to the arbitrariness and the contingency of the figure that is chosen as an exemplar? As I said, I will address some of these questions more fully in later chapters, but for now, I will limit myself to show why Raskolnikov’s self-comparison with Napoleon is not a good instance of exemplarity as an exercise in moral particularism. Notice first that Raskolnikov’s “problem” abstracts “Napoleon” from his “career.” Napoleon is who he is, in good part because of his deeds and the situations that sparked them. Going back to Bergson’s criticism of retrospective thinking, it is senseless to ask what Napoleon would do “if he did not have Toulon or Egypt” to get his career going, as if his career were something “there,” independent from Toulon or Egypt and, moreover, something “transplantable” to Raskolnikov’s life in such a literal manner. Exemplarity as a pedagogical tool in ethics requires us to be able to think by analogy. In other words, the formulation “What would X do?” should not be taken literally but as meaning something like, “What can I learn from X’s


Chapter 2

life and deeds to better address my situation?” When Raskolnikov asks what would Napoleon do if he simply had “one ridiculous old woman, who must be killed to get the money from her trunk (for that career of his, you understand?),”107 he ignores the obvious fact that he himself does not have any such career in front of him.108 More important, he also ignores the fact that he does not have the moneylender “in his way” in any relevant sense: she is neither an obstacle nor an opportunity for him. She is just an excuse. Following the aforementioned psychoanalytical interpretations of the novel, the choice of the moneylender as his victim answers most surely to certain repressed aspects of Raskolnikov’s personal story—either conflicts with his mother or self-hatred—more than to anything that would concern the moneylender in particular. Thus, Raskolnikov’s appeal to Napoleon’s situation is a trick to escape from his own situation rather than a heuristic resource to delve into his own self; it is a moral caricature, rather than a serious exercise of inference from the life of the exemplar to his life story. Such an exercise of inference must be rooted, as we have said, in an exercise of self-knowledge. The voice of conscience should translate the life of the exemplar into teachings that are relevant for the one who emulates, and the latter should train himself or herself to be able to listen to it. And that is precisely what Raskolnikov did not manage to do. He was incapable of engaging in an examination of his motives and of disentangling them—as, of course, Dostoevsky does, giving way to endless debates about the character’s inner life. Take, for instance, vainglory, which plays an important role in Raskolnikov’s life. According to Scheler, we must parse out this emotion further, distinguishing, for instance, between “vainglory” and “amour-propre”—two key passions in our politicophilosophical tradition.109 Of course, both are less than virtuous, but for Scheler, they present significant differences and thus cannot be equated with each other. The former consists, Scheler says, in “comparing the values given in oneself with those of somebody else—as in ‘choosing a hero,’ whom one wishes to equal,” while the latter is a situation where “[someone] is given to himself as ‘valuable’ only when he knows himself to be of ‘more value than another.’ ”110 Thus, what he calls “vainglory” allows us to “choose a hero,” avoiding—to some extent, at least—the pitfalls of self-deprecation (and of deprecating others). Amour-propre is more contemptible, as it decenters the self from its source of value. Here again, we appreciate Scheler’s use of language as a tool to distinguish between different emotional sets, whose examination is a requirement for true moral agency to develop—that is, for the exercise of both freedom and morality.

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From a Schelerian perspective, Raskolnikov could have legitimately used an example (Napoleon or other) to think through his own situation.111 Exemplarity must not necessarily entail arbitrariness and voluntarism, as Raskolnikov’s case is often taken to prove. His approach to the problem that “tormented himself terribly for a long time” is misguided because he, so to speak, losses himself in the comparison.112 Raskolnikov’s use of Napoleon does not result from a rejection of universal laws derived from a “particularistic” position. Rather, Scheler would say, he wants Napoleon to “keep him company” because of his inability to “stand alone” in moral matters. “Standing alone” entails a degree of self-knowledge that would have allowed Raskolnikov to appreciate both his own individuality and the individuality of others (in this case, those of the moneylender and of Napoleon himself). Such incapacity, in turn, perverted both his experience of freedom and his moral quest. Notice further that, even if in Raskolnikov’s theory of the two types of men, both groups are diametrically opposed, they still share the standard that defines them: the presence or the absence, respectively, of valid laws for each one of them. In that sense, Raskolnikov’s “solution” shares important assumptions about morality with Kant’s categorical imperative. The latter is Kant’s reply to the question about the meaning of freedom as autonomy. If one is to give the law to oneself, the only possible answer is the categorical imperative. However, since for Raskolnikov it was an inescapable historical and sociological fact that great men exist—“Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on”—he was not willing to accept that the law should apply equally to everyone. He was more impressed by the Rousseauian figure of the legislator and not so much by Rousseau the egalitarian, as Kant was. Therefore, the solution to the conundrum of both preserving morality, on the one hand, and admitting the existence of human greatness, on the other, was to divide men into two categories and to say that either laws apply completely or not at all. Even if the result is different, both solutions avoid a serious engagement with moral singularity: they share the presupposition that morality should be spelled out in terms of laws (presence or absence thereof) and that freedom is merely a function of obedience. What does moral singularity mean? And how is it related, in Scheler, to the exercise of freedom? This can be best captured in Scheler’s discussion of the notion of maturity, especially in contrast to Kant’s. The latter said in his famous essay “What Is Enlightenment?” that immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. The motto of the Enlightenment is, as we know, “Have the courage to use your own


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understanding.”113 In Kant, maturity is intellectual freedom, and it means to think for ourselves; similarly, autonomy is practical freedom, and it means to give the law to ourselves. Now compare this with Scheler’s idea of maturity. He accepts that someone is immature when she takes an alien will for her own and her own for an alien one. However, his argument goes, a person can still be considered immature if, in differentiating her will in general from the will of others, she does not do so by referring to the content of what is willed and to the context in which it is willed, that is, to the “interconnections of meaning” that surround her will.114 In other words, if she can only differentiate her will, Scheler says, “by referring to the expressions and enunciations of the will in different, physically separate, people,”115 she is not mature yet, because then, if the “merely contingent” reference to other people disappears, “the immature human being’s own will and an alien will become indistinguishable.”116 Put differently, if our only reference in morality or intellectual maturity is the absence of others (as in “do not obey others” or “think only for yourself”) and not certain values themselves, we will remain intellectually immature and be morally dependent—in this case, on the absence of others. However, if we really aim at understanding “without another’s guidance” as Kant’s demands, the concept of maturity, thinks Scheler, should change accordingly. It not only should refer to the “formal independence” from others (that is, to physical separateness between persons) but also should be more substantive: it must make reference to specific values and emotions, that is, as Scheler puts it, to the “web of interconnections of meaning” that give support to our autonomy.117 It follows that autonomy, for Scheler, is not fundamentally a matter of self-determination—partly because, as we saw in Chapter 1, the self is not an object that can be determined but also because that would miss, to paraphrase William James again, the “real citadel of moral insight.”118 That citadel lies, for Scheler, not in sensation, as James declared, but neither in judgment nor in understanding, as Kant argued. For him, the real alternative to sensible intuition is not intellectual intuition—namely, an intuition that produces what it perceives, according to Kant’s formulation.119 Instead, Scheler traces a nonsensible, albeit finite, intuition, capable of perceiving the realm of what is both nonformal and still a priori—namely, values and emotions.120 Now, let’s go back to the Gallows Man case. The relation between selfknowledge and duty in Scheler suggests a different interpretation of Kant’s mini-story from the ones I examined in the previous section, both from Kant’s and Bergson’s viewpoints, respectively. Kant, as we saw, focused exclusively on the “awareness of the ought.” For its part, the Bergsonian reading I

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offered above focused exclusively on what I have called the “awareness of the could.” For Bergson, agency is phenomenologically prior to any “fact of reason,” and this entailed, in turn, that freedom—as something that belongs to the agent—concerns action, movement, and change instead of arguments: the how instead of the what. In contrast, Scheler highlights both agency—what he calls the “experience of ability,” das Könnenserleben—and duty.121 Both are “immediate facts of experience,” which cannot be reduced to one another. Freedom and morality require that we experience them together but always keeping them apart. According to him, Kant’s proposition that the ability to do something must follow if required by the moral law—“I ought, therefore I can,” as the Gallows Man realized in Kant’s interpretation of the case—is as mistaken as the opposite proposition that duty be reduced to ability, according to which “might makes right” and “can entails ought.”122 For Scheler, just as the latter proposition amounts to an unwarranted voluntarism, ignoring the genuine character of the experience of duty, the former mistakenly considers that we do not have independent access whatsoever to our feeling of agency. If ought entailed can, he says, “then ‘virtue’ would merely be a disposition to our duty. Virtue would not be an autonomous ethical category.”123 On the other hand, he claims, “If there were no immediate ought-experience of something, but only a reproduction of an experience of ability . . . virtue and aptitude would indivisibly merge. Virtue, however—he claims—is not aptitude for anything but willing and doing something that is given and experienced as ideally obligatory.”124 Thus, for Scheler, the equal originality of both agency and duty is demonstrated by language. The meaningfulness of the concept of virtue “proves” that they are both equally original: such a term constitutes a signpost, so to speak, that the two experiences are possible and irreducible to one another—otherwise, he thinks, the notion of virtue would be superfluous or incoherent. As these passages show, similarly to Bergson’s focus on agency, what Scheler calls “ability” does not rest on any intellectual analysis of what one must be able to do, given past experiences and future expectations. In other words, it does not depend on remembering that we can do something—that is, that we are trained and skilled enough to do it—together with the expectation that we will have the opportunity to repeat the act.125 Rather, the experience of ability rests, he says, on an “immediate consciousness” that I can do certain things, even in completely new situations. It is not a copy or a reproduction of something done in the past but a consciousness of a certain power that, in fact—he claims—often makes it possible for us to learn how to


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do new things. In other words, it often antedates the empirical acquisition of the ability to do something in the first place.126 As can be appreciated, Scheler intends to keep a systematic approach to human experience—one that is as capacious and as particularized as possible. In this chapter, this was reflected, first, in his effort to capture both the experience of agency and the experience of duty in their respective originality. As we saw as well in Chapter 1, he refuses to reduce anything to anything else in order to preserve the complexity of the human experience. Second, his personalistic outlook yielded two main vehicles of moral education: the voice of conscience and exemplarity. Unlike the moral law with its universalistic approach, these work together to build a moral personality that, aware of its uniqueness, is nonetheless connected with the rest of the world, among other things, through its acknowledgment of exemplary figures that can help to morally orient itself with and amid others.

Conclusion In this chapter, I explored Bergson and Scheler’s respective notions of freedom through the analysis of two “case studies”: that of the Gallows Man, narrated by Kant, and that of Raskolnikov, narrated by Dostoevsky. The analysis of these two “attempts at free choice,” to use Kant’s words, allowed us to see what I take to be the most meaningful parallelism between both Scheler and Bergson, namely, their respective anti-intellectualist and antiformalistic approaches. As we saw, the authors’ respective accounts of freedom and moral action emerge, to a good extent, from a direct engagement with Kant’s ethical theory. As is well known, one of the latter’s main goals is to eliminate ambiguity and contingency in the principles that guide our action. For Kant, only reason can furnish appropriate tools to that effect. Bergson, on the contrary, sees action primarily as movement, corresponding to the vital impulse of our inner life. In his view, looking at human agency through the lens of reason only solidifies it and distorts it. He is interested in the “shade or quality” that characterizes action rather than in its definition through the alternative actions to which it could be opposed. This shade or quality, I have argued, can be thought of in terms of hesitation and resolution in action. Both excessive vacillation and relentless daring (two sides of the same coin, as in the case of Raskolnikov) betray an intellectualized sense of agency, one that is “out of tune” with the fluidity that

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alone makes freedom possible. The Gallows Man example, on the contrary, is an instance of resolution that, in itself, illustrates freedom. It must be clear, however, that the aim is not to equate freedom with boldness and audacity. Action is movement—therefore, oscillation and vacillation always form part of it. As Bergson says, freedom is not absolute; “it admits of degrees.”127 Therefore, a better rendition of freedom can be achieved through a “phenomenology of hesitation”—one that accounts not for what we decide but for how we come to choose this or that course of action. Freedom, from this perspective, is not the victory of reason over inclination—the triumph of our active dimension over our passive one, as Kant proposed. Rather, it is the capacity to integrate the more passive and the more active phases of our agency—both powerlessness and omnipotence in our relations toward others, as a more psychoanalytical approach would put it—in an adequate balance that, among other things, would allow the agent to act without hesitation when needed and to be cautious otherwise.128 Furthermore, temptation becomes a key to the discovery of freedom as it triggers off our oscillating agency. Even more, it has a special moral import, since it appeals to our agency in allegedly more personal and, therefore, penetrating ways than the appeal of duty—understood as solely based on reason—does.129 Kant himself admitted that reason was not enough to account for the “interest we take” in the law and enlisted the feeling of respect to play an important role in the way we relate to duty. Even if, as we saw, he does not go so far as to explicitly acknowledge temptation as a morally relevant experience, he tellingly recast the story of the Garden of Eden as to preserve at least the etymological root of temptation in what he calls “the first attempt at free choice.” Scheler, for his part, denounces the Kantian notion of autonomy for being overly formalistic. Such formalism—that the will should be determined only through the categorical imperative—derives from Kant’s appropriation of what captured him in the pages of the Social Contract: as Rousseau put it there, freedom is about living with others, while obeying only oneself (that is, for Kant, the part of oneself that is not subject to change), and therefore “remaining as free as before.” However, for Scheler, freedom is not merely about not obeying others (our inclinations included) but about gaining access to one’s own self. Autonomy, therefore, as Scheler says, cannot be predicated of reason but only of the person, and accordingly, morality cannot be put in terms of laws but only dictated by the singular voice of conscience. Therefore, being capable of moral motivation means, for him, being capable of listening to that voice.


Chapter 2

From a Kantian perspective, this conception of conscience is troubling for two reasons. First, it risks being arbitrary as it admits of endless variation. However, as we saw in Chapter 1, such variation is, for Scheler, a mark of moral richness. It speaks of the human capacity to experience duty, ability, and virtue to a full extent. It attests to our capacity, as well, for a thorough perception of value distinctions. Second, the Schelerian conception of moral singularity and the individual voice of conscience might suggest to Kantian ears the idea that the good is self-evident on a nonrational basis, welcoming therefore all sorts of moral, religious, and political fundamentalism. However, that relies, I think, on a misinterpretation. Conscience is an “organ” that needs training in order to be able to deliver its nuanced message, and despite its “inner” character, it must work hand in hand with the outside world—for instance, with exemplars—in order to communicate its truths. Therefore, a proper sentimental education is necessary to listen to the voice of conscience in all its complexity. Especially since, as we saw also in Chapter 1, self-knowledge, for Scheler, is far from self-evident. I will explore this point further in Chapter 4. Now, despite the similarities between both authors, there is an important point in which they differ. As we saw, for Scheler, duty constitutes an independent and original insight, which is also liable to theorization. His objection is rather against formalism in ethics, where universal values and norms are the only valid currency in moral trade. Bergson, on the contrary, thinks that every step toward conceptualization, categorization, or generalization— let alone the formulation of a law—already implies that we have left behind the original source of morality, namely, the fluid current of inner life. As we enter the rocky stream of social conventions, morality loses some of its original force. Thus, for him, a theory of obligation that seeks to justify it—insofar as any justification will depend on concepts and categories—is condemned to missing “the force of the law.” This opposition, to be sure, is one more instance of the contrast between Scheler and Bergson that I explored in the previous chapter—namely, their divergent views regarding the ethicopolitical role of language. Laws and conventions can only be expressed through language, and any effort of generalization requires the use of concepts. Thus, it comes as no surprise that a Bergsonian perspective would be relatively more reluctant about the moral purchase of laws, conventions, and concepts in guiding our moral and political education. To illustrate, from a Bergsonian viewpoint, it is only understandable that when Raskolnikov confesses to Sonya, her admonitions cannot mean anything to him. She insists that he must “accept suffering and achieve atonement

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through it.”130 But for Raskolnikov, these are “mere words,” “ready-made concepts,” as Bergson would say, which can fit whatever you put in them because they are made beforehand—they do not spring out of Raskolnikov’s own situation and cannot speak directly to him.131 Thus, expectedly, the only reaction he is capable of when she admonishes him is to call Sonya “a child” and to accuse her of “not understanding” what his crime was all about.132 However, when Raskolnikov experiences Sonya’s love and care during his period in Siberia, seeing her day by day for many years, how she takes care of him and of other inmates and their families, he is finally able not to understand but to live the meaning of those words. What this shows is that moral education cannot be achieved by communicating a definitive list of commands—a series of truths “inscribed” once and for all, either in tablets of stone or in our hearts—but that, on the contrary, it has an inescapable temporal dimension to it. From a Bergsonian point of view, the period in jail—those years in which he “pays for his crime”—are worth the time not as they finally bring about “repentance” in Raskolnikov’s heart but because they allow him—thanks to Sonya’s example—to be wide awake, conscious of the emotions of his inner life, so as to be finally cured from the frantic oscillations that impaired him for action. I will dwell on the question of exemplarity in Chapter 5. Even if in a less radical way than Bergson, Scheler also indicates the limits of concepts and categories. Thus, as we saw in Chapter 1, in his view, a person as such cannot be judged. In this case, Raskolnikov killed, but from a Schelerian perspective, he is more than any one of his acts: more than a murderer and more than a penitent. Similarly, the Gallows Man is both more than a libertine and more than a martyr. This reminds us of an important distinction in criminal law regarding the justification of punishment and the limits within which it is justified. According to some paradigmatic antiliberal views, punishment should address what a person is; in contrast, from a liberal perspective, punishment should address only what a person has done. For the latter position, “Judgment cannot deal with the morality, or the character, or any other substantial dimension of the personality of the defendant, but only with criminally prohibited deeds which are attributed to her and that are, for their part, the only thing that can be empirically proved by the prosecution, and refuted by the defense. The judge, therefore, cannot subject to scrutiny the soul of the accused, nor can she issue any moral verdict about her person, but rather only investigate her prohibited behavior.”133 Notice that, from a Bergsonian-Schelerian perspective, focusing on acts rather than on persons in criminal law would be entirely commendable. Informed by Bergson and


Chapter 2

Scheler’s views, one would subscribe to the idea of judging and punishing acts only because the law—based as it is on concepts and rules—will always be illequipped to address the person as a whole, with all its singularities, including everything that is covered by his or her past and projected in his or her future. However, from a Bergsonian-Schelerian standpoint, the epistemological presuppositions that typically support such a guarantee in liberal fronts are to be called into question. In the words of Luigi Ferrajoli, liberal criminal epistemology claims that “the human soul is inscrutable”—a statement that, he says, offers a “guarantee for the citizen’s immunity against investigations into his conscience, which are as uncontrollable as they are indiscreet,” as well as enunciates “a limit to the possibilities of knowledge and proof.”134 To be sure, making the citizen immune to such investigations is something criminal law does well in offering. But as we saw in the previous chapter, Bergson’s and Scheler’s respective conceptions of human personality rest on the belief that we can surely know “the human soul”—that is just what their belief in intuition warrants. That does not mean, of course, that we can define it or describe it in specific terms: one of the main lessons that we have learned so far is that the inner self (Bergson) or the author of his or her acts (Scheler) cannot be objectified. Still, what it does mean is that we should be cautious when confronted with a legal philosophy that goes as far as holding that while the citizen “has the legal duty not to commit crimes, [he or she also] has the right to be internally evil and to keep on being what he [or she] is.”135 Such a statement might be intended just as a provocation on the part of Ferrajoli. However, circumspection would be in place for the following reason. According to Scheler’s theory of the act and to Bergson’s theory of time, actions should not be detached from the whole that articulates and gives meaning to them. As we have seen, according to Bergson, our past is alive in our present action, and in order to be free, our “whole personality” should be brought to act. Likewise, for Scheler, the self is related to its acts—certainly not as a “personality-type” that determines the acts that are associated with it (which is the position that the liberal approach criticizes) but rather as a “given totality,” which forms “the background against which this or that content stands out in relief.”136 Indeed, as we saw, Scheler says that “the only and exclusive kind of givenness of the person is the execution of his acts.”137 For a view that takes seriously our inner lives—that attributes a serious ontological status to the person—it would be quite frivolous to state that we have a “right to be internally evil,” especially if that is taken to be the mark of freedom. Moreover, as we have seen, for Scheler and Bergson, it is easy to forget or neglect the reality of our inner or true self: we can quickly become

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“phantoms of ourselves,” as Bergson would say, or automatons “living outside of themselves,” as Scheler would put it. That happens partly because of the influences that we inevitably come under in society—many of which originate, it should be noted, in the legal structures that model our lives. Therefore, it would be naive, from their perspective, to establish a clear-cut line between law and morality138 and to overlook the inevitable pedagogical dimension of the former.139 In other words, the strict-legality principle of judging acts only should not be read as an invitation to dismiss the person as a whole at the moment of judging the act itself, as probably some liberals would be happy to do.140 Even if the “letter of the law” cannot pretend to cover more than it is capable of, its “spirit” cannot overlook either its inescapable existential reach. As we saw in Chapter 1, Bergson says that the painter and the poet give us new resources to look, with fresh eyes, at the outer and the inner life, respectively. Just as the painter and the poet can teach us how to look at things differently, the legislator and the jurist can shape our subjectivity through positive law and its implementation. Even if, at the limit, a person cannot be judged and freedom cannot be defined, the law and the categories established by our institutions should aim at approaching that limit, developing the necessary resources to identify the nuances and gradations in action.141 They must be able to capture the “shades of color” that constitute it. That is because they determine, as William James says, the set of “possibles” that we constantly face—some of which will tempt us and some of which will not.142 Hence the importance of such a task.


Bergson and the Morality of Uncertainty

As we saw in the previous chapter, Bergson’s conception of freedom relies upon an acceptance of—and even, we might say, a reconciliation with—the hesitant character of our agency. Freedom and morality, in his view, are not categorical: they admit of degrees and can only exist against a background of continuous oscillations. Another way of putting this is to say that action happens always against a background of uncertainty. In that sense, the Bergsonian insistence on time and duration highlights the moral relevance of contingency in action. Of course, such an emphasis is not new. Moral and political theories, insofar as they take into account the finitude and fragility of human life, incorporate or otherwise assume a reflection on the role of contingency in individual and collective pursuits. Even if often the goal is to curtail its effects, uncertainty always informs them in some way or another—whether in Plato’s effort to arrange the political community and the life of the soul according to immutable and eternal ideas, in Hobbes’s project to eliminate insecurity within the Leviathan, in Kant’s rejection of any source of variability at the foundation of morals, or, finally, in Rawls’s proscription of luck in the overlapping consensus of justice. According to Martha Nussbaum, however, any theory disposed to accommodate uncertainty will most surely have the virtue of acknowledging, as Aristotle did, two important truths: first, the centrality of action as an object of moral and political reflection, regardless of its always vulnerable character, and, second, that fragility and finitude not only threaten sociability and virtue but constitute their very conditions of possibility as well. Perfection, universality, and the eternal thus lie beyond both the practical aims of ethics and the normative aims of politics.1 Once we acknowledge the moral and political significance of uncertainty, making visible its close relation to action and sociability, the question

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remains, however, how exactly do we understand or experience the “fact of uncertainty”? Does it simply mean that when we act, there is no certainty regarding the future? In other words, is its meaning just a negative one: that we are not omniscient and omnipotent gods? Or, alternatively, is it something more substantial (a “positive name,” as Hobbes would say2), susceptible to multiple translations? Can uncertainty show us different faces to which we would then react in different ways? If so, what is the meaning of such various possibilities for the exercise of agency? Bergson’s reflections on time are best known for dealing with memory. As we saw in the previous two chapters, he articulates a defense of freedom based on an examination of our relation to our own past and how it affects our capacity to act in the present. However, the ways in which the prospect of the future and the fact of uncertainty affect our character as agents (and thus our capacity to be free) have been less assiduously explored.3 I want to undertake such a task here. As we will see, put in historical perspective, Bergson’s reflections on uncertainty suggest a critical approach to the sociopolitical effects of speculation and risk management, which is different from—although not necessarily incompatible with—later critical perspectives, such as poststructuralism and communitarianism. While communitarians have given us reasons to be suspicious of how chance, risk, and uncertainty taint our institutions and our collective practices from the point of view of justice,4 Bergson’s treatment—and in this he is close to poststructuralism—will bring out instead how our relation to uncertainty shapes our identity and our agency. Still, in contrast with the poststructuralist outlook,5 he will be less concerned with developing “resistance strategies” in the face of the power relations that gain relevance in contexts of uncertainty and, alternatively, will invite us to consider the ways in which we can adapt, adjust, and make our agency more flexible in the face of unforeseen and changing circumstances. For these purposes, I will turn not to his early work on time and freedom but instead to the study of the modern belief in chance that he offers in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, published originally in 1932, against nothing less than an immediate background of increasing political uncertainty in Europe and elsewhere. There, Bergson presents his elucidation of the modern “belief in chance” as part of a debate about the differences between the so-called primitive and civilized mentalities—or, put differently, between the enchanted world of magic and the disenchanted world of science. For our purposes, one of the main arguments advanced in the book is that there is only one human nature underlying both kinds of mentalities and therefore—the


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radical opposition between the two notwithstanding—that they are best interpreted as responding to similar anthropological conditions.6 One of the key anthropological conditions common to both mentalities is their respective susceptibility to what I have called here the “fact of uncertainty.” Both the primitive and the civilized mentalities must develop strategies to cope with the series of challenges that the unknown future poses to action. The relevance of such strategies resides in that they constitute important pedagogical mechanisms in the exercise of human agency. This strongly suggests, in turn, that—besides memory and our relation to the past—our relation to the future has, from a Bergsonian perspective, a very important role to play in our moral formation as free agents. Yet, since Bergson’s own treatment in The Two Sources will not fully bring to light the point that I intend to investigate, I will resort to the French philosopher and poet Jean-Marie Guyau and his reflections on what he calls “the love of risk.” His work is especially pertinent, because, as we will see, Guyau’s “love of risk” constitutes yet another way of dealing with the unexpected, which, on the one hand, amplifies agency—making it sharper and more assertive—and, on the other, by the same token, ends up threatening it as well. Thus, the spectrum that opens up between Bergson’s “belief in chance” and Guyau’s “love of risk” adequately illustrates the moral stakes that human agency has in its relation to uncertainty. Moreover, Guyau and Bergson were intellectually and biographically connected. Bergson, only four years younger than Guyau, was a student at the Lycée Condorcet, while the latter served there as a professor in 1876. In 1885, Guyau published a couple of articles offering a theory of time, which were later posthumously edited by the French philosopher Alfred Fouillée (his stepfather) with Bergson’s help. Bergson himself published a review of the book in 1891.7 Guyau lived a short and yet intellectually vigorous and passionate life. He was a precocious and prolific author—his first substantial investigation on utilitarianism (more than 1,000 pages long) was written at age twenty, and before dying when he was thirty-three, he had published various books on aesthetics, morality, sociology, and education, in addition to poetry and some illustrated manuals of morals.8 He is normally appreciated for his intellectual optimism and moral enthusiasm, although one scholar intriguingly observes that “his earnestness led him to a serene, resigned, and smiling sadness.”9 Even if Guyau remains a considerably obscure figure, especially outside of the French-speaking world, important studies of his thought have appeared as of late. These works show that in his own time, Guyau was meticulously

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studied by Durkheim,10 highly regarded by Nietzsche,11 and considerably influential for a good number of artists and anarchists.12 While the extent of Guyau’s influence on Bergson has been adequately assessed and their affinities on the topics of time and obligation already explored,13 their respective treatments of risk and chance have not, to my knowledge, been contrasted yet.

The Half-Personal Face of Chance and Its Pedagogical Value For a being endowed only with instinct, uncertainty does not exist. “An animal,” says Bergson, “is sure of itself. In its case nothing intervenes between aim and act.”14 However, for a being that, besides instinct, possesses intelligence, a gap is soon opened between projects and outcomes, which discloses in turn the sole ground in which expectation, desire, fear, and hope can ever possibly grow. We call this gap “uncertainty.” Thus, even if, on the one hand, we tend to think that intelligence reduces uncertainty through foresight, planning, and regulation, it is, on the other hand, true that without intelligence, the problem of control would not even arise in the first place. Therefore, we are forced to admit, Bergson thinks, that intellectual activity is originally not what facilitates action by its command over nature but what compromises it.15 Intelligence itself will solve part of the problem, but there will always be some margin of uncertainty left, against which it remains powerless. In order to circumvent paralysis, nature endows the intelligent being with what Bergson calls “virtual instinct.” Such an instinct, he argues, will allow human beings, the intelligent species par excellence, to resist the discouragement in action that follows from the limits of rational insight into the future.16 But what is this virtual instinct? And how does it provide the necessary impulse for movement? According to Bergson, our capacity for fabulation performs precisely such an instinctive function.17 Fabulation (la fonction fabulatrice), or our “myth-making faculty,” as it has been sometimes translated into English, is our capacity to create certain “phantasmic images” (images phantasmatiques),18 which constitute what he calls a defensive reaction of nature “against the representation, by intelligence, of a depressing margin of the unexpected between the initiative taken and the effect desired.”19 Fabulation, Bergson claims, is manifest in the so-called primitive societies, where the appeal to mystic causes is a regular practice. So, for example, if a beloved friend was killed in an accident, the primitive man will posit a mystic cause to explain the tragic event. Contesting Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s interpretation of


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the phenomenon, Bergson observes that the primitive man does not recur to mystic causes to explain every possible happening in the world but rather only those that have a particular human significance—say, as in the example above, the death of a man. He concludes therefore that what the supernatural cause explains is never the physical effect but its meaning.20 Put differently, for Bergson, the primitive man does not deny the operation of proximate causes but merely recognizes that, in addition to those, there are “momentous facts” that remain to be explained. Because of their significance, the primitive man thinks, these facts surely pertain to a different ontological order, and therefore it is only appropriate to look not just for any reason to explain them but for an intention behind them. Bergson claims that there is nothing illogical, prelogical, or impervious to experience in such a belief.21 Now, most important, in Bergson’s view, evidence shows that the so-called civilized mentality is actually very close to the primitive one in this respect. While the former sees mystic causes operating everywhere, the latter sees chance at work all over the place. Admittedly, those are prima facie opposite views: the one lives in an animated world, the latter in a mechanistic one. However, says Bergson, whenever the civilized man reproaches the primitive one for not believing in chance or even when he simply states that one of his characteristics is “not to believe in chance,” the civilized man inevitably admits the existence of chance (147). Of course, he will rejoin that he “admits” the existence of chance only to the extent that it amounts to a negation of the animated world: chance is just a name for such refutation and for the set of probabilities left in the absence of mystic causes, but properly speaking, it is nothing. Nothing substantial, at least. It is clear, Bergson concedes, that the civilized man does not make of chance a completely active force. Chance is certainly impersonal, but if it were a “mere nothing,” he suggests, we would not even consider using the word (147).22 And indeed, Bergson thinks, despite all the civilizing elements that inform it, modern mentality will naturally glide into a more “personal” conception of chance. He gives the example of a roulette gambler who, by attributing his success or failure to good or bad luck, already conceives of chance in terms of a favorable or unfavorable intention (145). Thus, from being a purely mechanical outcome, the event is transformed so as to be of human significance. Certainly, the gambler is completely capable of explaining the result by appealing to natural causes (the force with which the roulette was turned, the weight of the ball, etc.), but when, on top of that, says Bergson, the thought crosses his mind that “it was good (or bad) luck,” he is already “objectifying

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his will to win, and the resistance to this will . . . in order to feel the presence of a hostile or friendly power, and thus give its full interest to the game” (146). Luck, therefore, resembles the mystic cause. This proves, our author thinks, “the kinship of this spontaneous intelligence with the primitive mentality”: “Scratch the surface, abolish everything we owe to an education which is perpetual and unceasing, and you find in the depth of our nature primitive humanity, or something very near it” (127). Provided we distinguish in the primitive mind between the faculty for myth, on the one hand, and full-fledged mythology, taboos, and magic (in sum, primitive religion), on the other, this kinship will easily become apparent. While primitive religions are, according to Bergson, only late products and even fixations and distortions of the initial impulse that gave rise to them, fabulation is, he says, their original force. This initial impulse is the source of indeterminate forces, which oscillate around the physical and the moral, orienting human action accordingly (126–29). Bergson speculates, for instance, that even if taboos ended up being associated with particular things or places, this must have been a “late solidification” of what was originally a “naked prohibition,” that is, a sheer force that resists and pushes against certain actions (126). More specifically, he insists that concrete taboos are the end point of a force expressed in fabulation, which “before it completed its work” in primitive societies, it must have yielded “many prohibitions which are semi-physical, semi-moral restraints on certain individual acts” (126). Bergson’s examination shows that modern people do orient themselves in a similar fashion by appealing to semi-personal forces. He argues, for example, that the sight of a signboard saying “Trespassers will be prosecuted” makes us perceive first of all the sheer prohibition as a resistance to our will, whereas only later we “have the vision of the constable lying in wait to report us” (126). Building on contemporary child psychology research, he explains that the child who knocks his head against a table and then hits the table back is not simply venting his anger on the table or mistakenly thinking that the table is a person who struck him. “The truth is that between the identification of the table with a person and the perception of the table as an inanimate object, there lies an intermediate representation which is neither that of a thing nor of a person” (125). What the child perceives is the action of striking, the intention to hit; the table as an object is an accessory to the perception. Bergson offers two more examples, which are truly remarkable: William James’s description of his experience during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, in which he had the “irresistible perception” of facing such a natural phenomenon as “a living agent” (153–57), and Bergson’s own report of his reaction


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to the 1914 French war declaration, when he felt struck by the rather concrete character of the threat—that is, when a set of initially dispersed actions and events came together and, suddenly acquiring almost a personality of their own, formed that which we would eventually call World War I (159–60).23 Now, the crucial point to have in mind here is that, according to Bergson’s phenomenology of perception and action, human beings share the ambiguous character of the forces that they take themselves to be surrounded by, such as the mystic cause, the figure of chance or luck, the earthquake, and the war. For human beings, this ambiguity is expressed by the fact that, existing in both time and space, we always do two things. On the one hand, as we saw in Chapter 1, in trying to remain true to perception, we attune ourselves to the heterogeneity of the so-called vital impulse, present both in the flux-like character of our inner life (inner perception), as well as in the manifold of sensations that we receive from all over (outer perception). On the other hand, however, insofar as we are bodies moving in space, we must always “translate” the dense heterogeneity of perception into distinct and clear-cut, even if interconnected, actions.24 As we saw in Chapter 2, against what is really a dense background of movement in time, human agents must make particular decisions that will inevitably stand out, reductively, as simply choosing “X” or “Y” (the simplicity of the what instead of the complexity of the how). Such an ambiguity shared between human agency, on the one hand, and notions such as the “mystic cause” and “chance,” on the other—in the case of the former, the ambiguity of being in both time and space and, in the case of the latter, that of being both physical and moral—indicates that the “mystic cause” and “chance,” as images, can turn into important pedagogical tools for the exercise of the former. Let me explain what I mean. In Chapter 1, we saw how, in Bergson’s view, language distorts memory and our relation to the past by “compartmentalizing” perception, therefore hindering a proper exercise of individuality. Similarly, in Chapter 2, we explored how the experience of freedom, for Bergson, depends on our ability not to “halt” or “crystallize” our inner lives, bringing therefore our whole past to bear in our present as we act. When it comes to dealing with the future, however, Bergson’s approach to agency loses some of its ineffability, incorporating some pragmatism to its outlook instead without, however, losing sight of the most original dimension of action—namely, movement. The way we engage with reality at the most pragmatic level can be best appreciated, in Bergson, in the way agency relates to what he calls “images”— signs, symbols, concepts, and all kinds of similar representations. While, as we have seen so far, signs and symbols as instruments of knowledge take us

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away from the reality of duration, their “execution” as instruments of action can indeed put us in touch with our agency. Once we have seen how our agency “interacts” with reality through signs and symbols, we will be in a position to see more clearly how certain “images of uncertainty” help us relate to reality in better or worse ways.

The “Comradeship” Between Agency and Reality In Bergson’s view, human beings qua agents are engaged with reality in exchange and joint action. Now, in this “peer exchange” with reality, images are the accepted currency, which, as such, are always “in circulation” to serve the interests of practice and not of theory. Consider concepts—as Bergson says, the signs par excellence. They are the most abstract images; however, he says, they do not have the speculative role that philosophers ascribe to them. They do not represent reality but an adaptation of reality to the interests of practice. That is why Bergson says that the concept (any concept) has “very humble origins.”25 Take the concept of “number.” In his view, it is the result of certain actions that we must carry out to count things. “Place a dog in front of three apples and three houses. It will not be able to obtain the resemblance ‘three.’ We do because, in both cases, the same action is required from us: the action that consists in counting ‘one, two, three.’ ”26 No matter how sophisticated, Bergson says, the concept is something that belongs to the realm of action. That is why, for him, it is an instrument of action and not an element of theory. In his view, if we consider things as they are offered to perception, there is no reason we should put together certain things and not others. As we saw in Chapter 1, for pure perception, everything is different from everything else: everything is part of the heterogeneous vital impulse. It is only because we need to act that our brain “spontaneously” groups things under certain labels depending on our practical necessities. Otherwise, he claims, there would be no possible explanation for the mechanism through which we classify things.27 Take the label “blue flowers.” Bergson asks, “Who authorized us to compare a nuance of blue with another nuance of blue, instead of with a sound, or an animal?”28 He thinks that there is no way we could have “come up with the idea” of putting together different shades of blue unless we somehow had some sense of similarity between them available beforehand. But then, to understand how this sense of similarity is possible in our minds, we would need to go back again to perception—the perception of such a resemblance between different objects—entering some kind of circularity. Therefore, he


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concludes, a theory of perception by itself cannot break the circle and solve the question of how we put things together into categories. The puzzle is solved, however, if we understand the practical origin of concepts and of signs in general and therefore the eminently practical character of conceptual knowledge. Only when we need to distinguish between colors for the sake of some further vital or practical interest does it make sense to draw those distinctions. Again, these distinctions are the currency of our exchange with reality as agents.29 That is why, according to Bergson, “concepts are questions that we ask to reality from a practical point of view, regarding the stance that we should take toward her, or the stance that she takes toward us.”30 More generally, the images that we perceive in reality always “pose a question to our agency.”31 The psychological process behind this operation is explained by Bergson in his account of how artistic signs “act upon us.” For him, we do not “contemplate” art as something inert laying in front of us. Rather, the artistic sign issues a “call to action” for us: the sign is the determination of a certain attitude, stance, gesture, or motion on our part, without which it could not be interpreted. It can be easily appreciated that the arts . . . act upon us, not really through the representation of things, but through the attitude in which they place us. Either in painting, sculpture, and in music above all, there are undoubtedly certain inchoate attitudes that are determined in us, in which the artist places us; and the feelings that the artist wants to suggest to us become progressively incorporated into such inchoate attitudes. It is through the appeal to certain attitudes—either already carried out or only initiated, inchoate, or imagined—that the sign acts upon us. The sign is the fastening of a certain attitude which, in most cases, determines in us a similar or complementary attitude, and the feelings that guided the symbolism of the artist become progressively incorporated in this attitude. In sum, the suggested attitude is a bridge thrown between the soul of the artist and our own.32 Without interaction between sign and agency, interpretation is not possible. In Bergson’s opinion, if we merely consider the sign, on the one hand, and the signified thing, on the other, we will miss the bridge that makes their connection possible. As the passage above shows, for him, such a transition requires action—literally, movement. The sign demands from us, as it were, that we “take it or leave it.”33 This is most evident in his explanation for how interpretation of linguistic signs is possible.

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Interpretation can only happen if there is, on our part, a series of actions—I do not mean fully carried out, but merely inchoate—by means of which we inwardly emphasize what we listen to. There is a sort of inward repetition, not thorough but schematic, that serves us to chant, to stress what we hear. Without this active process by which we situate, with the help of our imagination, in the position of that who speaks—so that once having adopted such material attitudes we can enter into her feelings and ideas—without such inward process, interpretation is impossible.34 As we can see, for Bergson, language as an activity—that is, the enactment of signs that elicit certain reactions on our part and not merely as a system of representation—does address an original dimension in us—namely, movement or our character as moving bodies. In other words, language might not allow us to know reality, but it does allow us to move in it, giving us a code in which to trade with it. Again, this is true for images in general, beyond specifically linguistic signs: in Bergson’s view, images or representations of any type—as instruments of action and not of knowledge—are what allow us, qua agents, to engage with reality in a pragmatic sense of the term. Now, and this is one of the key points, this exchange is always fluid. In it, clearly defined concepts and neatly defined bodies come only secondarily, as we saw in the example of the child and the table. Something similar happens in the case of the fencer—one more of Bergson’s examples—who, in order to lunge properly—that is, in order to adequately anticipate and react to the reality that confronts him—“knows that it is the movement of the point which has drawn the foil [of his adversary] forward, that it is the foil that has drawn the arm forward, [and] that it is the arm that stretched out the body by stretching out itself.”35 As these examples show, for Bergson, perception of movement as a datum of experience to which we respond in action has preeminence over the perception of fixed matter and over the production of clear-cut concepts. Reality “summons” us as agents, urging us to meet it in its own (ambiguous) terms. Thereby, Bergson concludes that there is an original way of relating to the world as agents: flexibly and intuitively. And yet, as we know, the paradigm of moral action in modernity often requires otherwise: it is based on the rigidity of reason and conceptual clarity. Action is considered moral only when it is autonomous—completely voluntary and consciously endorsed, with no place for unreflective habit or improvisation. Thus, moral theory establishes a wellknown dichotomy: it reduces all possible activity to absolute voluntarism, on


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the one hand, and absolute automatism, on the other. For Bergson, however, this places inappropriate demands for moral agency: it requires us to make fully conscious decisions at every moment, supposing, therefore, an almost omnipotent will. Worse still, such demands are not just mistakes attributable to some lack of insight on the part of modern philosophers but rather—as we have seen in Chapters 1 and 2—they have their very root in intelligence’s natural tendency to, as Bergson says, solidify flexibility into categories.36 Given this powerful tendency, it seems to me that our ability to attune ourselves to the original vagueness of agency should not be taken for granted. We must learn how to do so. Consequently, we need a model of what non-fully-voluntary activity should look like. Bergson’s account of how human agency interacts with the forces that it encounters in reality suggests that it finds in them some kind of “peer” whose company can perform precisely such a pedagogical function. Notice, then, that these semipersonal forces presumably serve us in more than one way: they not only provide consolation in the face of frustration and disappointment, as Bergson himself explicitly maintains in The Two Sources, but also offer a “mirror” as well on which to reflect and shape our own agency. In Bergson’s words, these forces “escort” human agency as it transits through space.37 In doing so, they help us to maintain the dual condition of our agency, which—constituted both by the density of the vital impulse and the discrete requirements of action—is not fully delineated but still somehow stands out from the continuity of the given. Thus, in my reading, the virtual instinct of our fabulation function shows us a bridge or a compromise between voluntary and distinctly personal action, on the one hand, and dead matter subject to blind necessity, on the other. In doing so, it “trains” us to better deal with uncertainty. Let us put it in yet one more way: uncertainty “offends” a completely defined and established personality, for which only the categorical will suffice. On the contrary, contingency is not necessarily an embarrassing match for what remains supple and unfinished anyway. As we come to acknowledge non-fully-voluntary or semiautomatic activity in the world, we grasp a deflated and more flexible version of our own will. Again, this virtual instinct “coaches” us not only by encouraging action in the face of the depressing margin between our expectations and an eventual failure (as Bergson says) but also, I think, by enabling us to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and happy fortuities. Indeed, by transforming occurrences into “peers” or “Events,” which, according to Bergson, “resemble a human being,” fabulation establishes “a

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certain comradeship” between our circumstances and ourselves, which in itself carries great pedagogical value.38 In this way, we come to see that while, for Bergson, our relation to our past is central to elucidate the meaning of individuality—and therefore of freedom—his account of action shows that a certain relation to the future—and, consequently, to uncertainty—plays a paramount role as well.39

Superstition and the Belief in Chance As I said before, according to Bergson, primitive religions are a late development of what started off as an original and healthy tendency to identify semipersonal forces in the outside world. Such a tendency, however, often gets out of control: following a “logic of absurdity,” “primitive” religion endlessly piles up one superstition over another, “lead[ing] the mind even further and further astray towards wilder and wilder consequences.”40 As Frédéric Keck explains, these religions are, according to Bergson, “a sign of a morbid tendency, the human tendency to think without acting, a form of collective dream or hallucination.”41 The mind embarks on an imaginative race, by which the once healthy fabulation function engages in an hallucinatory multiplication of absurdities, without any scruple about the intellectual superiority of its inventions.42 However, notice that this tendency, even if it ends up in the realm of the irrational, the absurd, and even the monstrous, is not in itself foreign to intelligence. As Bergson writes, “An essentially intelligent being is naturally superstitious, and . . . intelligent creatures are the only superstitious beings.”43 Moreover, as we saw, for Bergson, “the intelligence of primitive peoples is not essentially different from our own; [both have a tendency] to convert the dynamic into the static, and solidify actions into things.”44 Hence, following Bergson, we might conclude that this superstitious inclination should be present in both primitive and civilized mentalities. If this is so, then the question is, what would such a tendency look like in the civilized context? If in primitive religion, fabulation “fashion[s], out of the elementary personalities looming up at the outset, gods that assume more and more exalted form like those of mythology,”45 what kind of godlike figure can be fashioned out of the belief in chance? As we saw before, due to our fabulation function, the belief in chance already takes the form of the semipersonal force of luck. What would it mean, then, for our belief in chance to take one more step forward and transmogrify into an absurd “collective


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dream or hallucination,” as it is pulled by the corrupting influence of a hypertrophic imagination and an intelligence that solidifies action and “converts the dynamic into the static”? Bergson does discuss cases of superstition in the civilized world, and we have already reviewed some of his examples of our tendency to personify events (James and the earthquake, himself and the war, the child and the table). But he fails to offer a more sustained reflection, parallel to that on primitive religion, about the morbid proclivities of the reification of chance when it is aggravated and exaggerated along the lines of superstition in the primitive mentality. Such an omission is due, in my view, to the fact that, in The Two Sources, Bergson has a very different agenda—namely, exploring what he calls “open morality.” The key purpose of the book is to examine the “leap” that is required to arrive from the “closed” to the “open” perspective on morality and sociability (which we will explore further in Chapter 5). And, to be sure, the “insurance device”46 against the type of contingency specific to the open sphere will not be some corrupt version of chance but, on the contrary, that mystical confidence that “lifts the soul to another plane,” the kind of hope that is proper to open religion and that “[ensures] to a preeminent degree, the security and the serenity which is the function of the static religion to provide.”47 However, as Bergson himself admits, “true mysticism is rare.”48 Thus, we cannot generally expect to see and experience the confidence that bolsters the mystic feeling of humanity. Rather, more often than not, the believer in chance, by “the very application of intelligence to life, open[s] the door to the unforeseen and let[s] in the feeling of risk.”49

Risk: The Twin Brother of Chance As we have seen already, in Bergson’s account, chance lies on the border between the personal and the impersonal. “Chance is mechanism as though possessing an intention” or “an intention emptied of its content.”50 In contrast, by the “feeling of risk,” I will denote here the civilized mind’s relation to uncertainty as it yields to the tendency to reify the semipersonal force of luck, looking in it for an increasingly more defined “counterpart.”51 Just as, for Bergson, the belief in mystic causes and the belief in chance (either in the form of good or bad luck) are analogous, in that they are both products of our fabulation function, I understand the feeling of risk as being analogous to the belief in the “extravagant gods of mythology.” To put it in

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Roman terms, risk is chance when it is no longer an appeal to good or bad luck but the full-fledged goddess Fortuna. As we will see with the help of Jean-Marie Guyau’s reflections on the “love of risk,” compared to chance’s wink, risk’s appeal is much more unequivocal. While chance gives rise to expectations and predictions, risk—the “wild” twin brother of chance—always elicits our love or our aversion. It has a more defined face, and it asks for a more definite gesture.52 In order to better appreciate the extent to which Guyau’s insights are pertinent here, I will first review the overlap between his and Bergson’s respective theories of obligation.53 Like Bergson, he rejects both rationalist and sentimentalist accounts of duty. Both authors share an ontological conviction that there is something, beyond reason and emotions, that ultimately accounts for it. This “something” is directly related in both cases to action and movement. Let’s begin with Bergson. As we learn in the very first page of The Two Sources, the general project of the book is to “discover [the] deeper sources of our moral feelings”54 and to explain “how a moral motive can have a hold upon the souls of men.”55 According to Bergson, no theory of moral obligation in terms of reason or sentiments is possible. As we saw in Chapter 2, for Bergson, moral obligation “is to the soul what force of gravity is to the body,”56 and thus, for him, moral conscience is the pressure of obligation “as weighing on the will like a habit, each obligation dragging behind it the accumulated mass of [all] the others.”57 Just as the most we can do with gravity is devise a formula to figure out velocity and acceleration, without entertaining the hope of “explaining it away” by appealing to elements beyond the force it exerts, Bergson claims that we can build systems of duties that explain why we must do x or y, but ultimately, we must come to a point in which we confront obligation simply as force. Reason intervenes by regulating, but it cannot push us to action. Sentiments might solve part of the problem, but they do not explain why we have to regulate them in the first place. Again, if obligation could speak, Bergson says—pointing at the uncompromising limits of language—it would only articulate the following words: “You must because you must.”58 Given this, he thinks that the only way to scrutinize obligation is not to look for its cause but rather to recur to phenomena that present similar effects. Thus, Bergson turns to instances that, like obligation, have the effect of producing or motivating actions: instincts in animals and habits in men. That is, in fact, the reason why he turns to fabulation as well: it is similar to duty because its effects (that is, the belief in mystic causes and the belief in chance)


Chapter 3

are forces that exert pressure on acting beings that—to put it in Kantian terms—pertain not only to the noumenal but also to the phenomenal world. For his part, in A Sketch of Morality Without Obligation or Sanction, Guyau argues that morality should be looked for in action, in “a kind of natural power, preceding knowledge—a power which impels us to act and to produce.”59 For him, duty is a fact “imposing itself on consciousness as a superior force” (91). Furthermore, he asserts that we must “try to clearly show this fact [of obligation] in its essential variations, and in its relations with other similar facts of consciousness” (90). Notice, then, the similarity in their respective conceptions of obligation and duty in terms of facts and forces, as well as the parallelism in the strategies they both pursue to investigate it: Bergson searches for phenomena with analogous effects to those of obligation, and Guyau sets out to look for “admissible ‘equivalents’ or ‘substitutes’ of duty” (5).60 Among the suitable equivalents of duty, Guyau identifies “the love of risk in action and of struggle” (117).61 Both rationalists and hedonists, he claims, consider moral dilemmas as if the uncertainty of the outcomes could be somehow overcome (119).62 Instead, his treatment makes manifest that the love of risk is much more than just a disposition that can “vary” without substantially affecting agency itself, as economists assume in the notions of high or low risk aversion. In microeconomic theory, our disposition toward risk is just one more datum in the agent’s “given preferences.” In Guyau’s picture, instead, the love of risk is more than just a preference: it concerns the agent’s moral capacity itself. Let us analyze more closely what this means. Guyau explores uncertainty as it is experienced by the agent. He acknowledges at the outset that the pleasure of victory and conquest tinges to a great extent the lure exerted by certain types of risk (121). However, he notices that victory, as the positive outcome or result of a risky undertaking, is merely one element among others that mark more deeply its moral meaning. At stake is not only victory but also one’s deeds. Risk—as either danger or opportunity—implies a challenge, a call to action, which requires a disposition for adventure: “In calculating we must not take into account only good and bad chances, but also the pleasure of running these chances” (123, italics added). In other words, risk lets us become aware of our character as agents. Moreover, this awareness varies depending on the character of the opponent. We can be confronted, he explains, to other human beings in war or to animals in hunting. We then identify ourselves as soldiers or hunters, respectively. He says further that we can also be challenged by nature or by objects, as the sailor who wrestles with the sea, the hiker with the mountain,

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the employee with a concrete task, and, we might add, the writer with the blank page. Furthermore, we can resist the assault of “faceless” or impersonal enemies, like the patient who fights a mortal illness, the investor who struggles with a volatile and capricious financial world, or any “fighter in life” facing “difficulties of all sorts to be conquered” (122). Notice that in all the cases described by Guyau, risk—unlike chance—provides a much more personal epistemological compass: it defines both events and our identity more thoroughly.63 It is undeniable that in Guyau, there is something of an “ethics of danger and adventure,” potentially implying that “the more intrepid, the more excellent.” He is certainly closer to Nietzsche than Bergson ever was. Still, I do not think that the main epistemological insight in Guyau’s reflections on risk results necessarily in a straightforward invitation to boldness. As I see it, the point is not that those who are more prone to adventure feel more alive than people who are risk averse, being therefore capable of superior action.64 Rather, the lesson is that, no matter if we pursue risk or avoid it, it lets us feel our life and allows us to become aware of its value. Being tempted by risk means being challenged by it, regardless of your “revealed preferences” on that respect.65 Guyau indicates, furthermore, that “to the pleasure of risk is often added that of responsibility” (124). For Guyau, risk is all the more thrilling when it combines adventure and gravity. To put it in Kantian terms, risk is sublime when it involves something that commands respect. However, notice the difference between the sublimity of risk in Guyau and the sublimity of the law in Kant. Guyau’s risk involves not only the presence of a lofty goal or principle but also the momentousness of being, there and then, accountable for it. What matters is the weightiness of undertaking the risk necessary for the achievement of a certain goal or for the actualization of a certain principle. Put differently, Guyau’s “love of risk” is analogous to Kantian “respect” but with agency added. The “divinely great tension of mind and feelings” that we experience when confronted by risk is sublime only as it combines loftiness with the sense that “it depends on us” (124).66 Kant’s notion of respect displays already a curious mix of activity and passivity—it is a feeling but without the flaws of inclination; that is why it gives us a clue to how we “gain an interest” in the law, as Kant says. In Guyau, however, the feeling of hope produced in the undertaking of risks goes deeper into how we can be morally motivated. Risk and hope—like temptation in the previous chapter—concern us as agents and thereby are capable of motivating us, of putting us in motion (146). Guyau’s examination of the “experience of risk” in light of Bergson’s reflections on “the belief in chance” suggests several points. First, both constitute


Chapter 3

two different ways of dealing with the unexpected—the latter moderate, the former extreme—and, second, relatedly, they are both analogous to duty or obligation. Risk, however, as we have seen, indicates the way toward an always latent distortion of the civilized mind in its relation to uncertainty. Risk has an extraordinary capacity to summon our agency in a way a simple number indicating the odds would never be able to. It produces a type of excitement or a type of fear that distorts agency because—independently of whether we are risk takers or risk averse—risk presents an appeal that strikes us as urgent, capable of blinding us to all other concerns.67

The Ambiguities of Risk Guyau claims that our struggles (with war, nature, illness, or difficulties in general) all share the character of the passionate duel: “In truth, he says, the doctor who starts for Senegal has decided upon a kind of duel with the yellow fever” (122). And indeed, the metaphor of the duel illustrates very well why the love of risk is a useful antidote for the shortcomings of the semipersonal belief in chance. Since the fight will define the identity and the future of the fighters, there is no way in which the duelist could not take it as something fully personal. Again, risk sharpens our agency and defines our identity— and, from a certain point of view, those might be good things. However, the history of dueling presents interesting transformations that hint, in turn, at the moral ambiguities of the “love of risk.” The passionate duel finds its ancestor in the judicial duel of the Middle Ages, which was a procedure used to settle accusations in cases where there was no other evidence available, such as witnesses or a confession of one of the parties. The parties involved would engage in a single combat, and the assumption was that God would reveal his will in the outcome. In that sense, the judicial duel was not really supposed to be a contest between two adversaries but only the occasion for God to communicate the truth. The significance of the combat derived not from action but from knowledge, and victory did not really mean greatness but goodness. Whereas the judicial duel had at its center the discovery of truth, during its historical transformations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it came to be seen not only as an instance of pernicious and uncivil violence but mainly as something absurd: a mere display of narcissistic and megalomaniac tendencies. Conrad’s short story “The Duel” illustrates this folly: the contenders have repeatedly fought each other for a lifetime, but

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neither of them really knows anymore why they both keep doing it or the original basis of their enmity. The only motive that pushes them into fighting each other over and over is pure vainglory combined with imprudence.68 Exploring further Guyau’s suggestion to model our attitudes toward the struggles of life after the paradigm provided by the passionate duel, it is interesting to note that the duel—whether in its medieval or its modern version— represents, as an institution, a way of dealing with uncertainty. The judicial duel was supposed to be a medium for truth in the face of uncertainty (who is responsible for this crime?), while the passionate duel also seeks some kind of certitude in a given conflict between two adversaries (who is the best—the more courageous, the more honorable—among the opponents?). Whereas in the judicial duel, innocence was in doubt, the passionate duel is meant to prove the courage and honor of the rivals in question. In the former case, the combat was a medium for the revelation of a higher truth, while in the latter, it is the direct test of a mundane one. Now, this transformation in the history of dueling suggests that the moral purchase that Guyau wants to draw from the latter might not be as unproblematic as he seems to assume. The dueling attitude that he identifies as the paragon of moral agency might be closer to the vanity of the boastful man than to the important task of seeking truth and delivering justice. In the judicial duel, the legitimacy of the result comes from (divine) knowledge, while in the passionate one, it comes from mere force, usually motivated by effrontery or, even worse, by domineering impulses. If indeed the love of risk partakes in the character of the passionate duel, then perhaps the only relation with uncertainty that this experience can offer to the modern mind oscillates dangerously between truth and absurdity, justice and force, meaning and meaninglessness. That is, it has the ambiguity of always moving between the model found in the judicial duel and the experience of the duelists in Conrad’s story. Thus, it is not clear the extent to which the love of risk can in fact be a good substitute for the moral shortcomings of the belief in chance: it might be able to make up for the frustratingly notfully-personal character of the latter, offering in principle an arena in which to exercise agency more assertively. But then, paradoxically, by simultaneously exposing our agency in all its empowerment and all its vulnerability (that is, displaying uncertainty in all its magnitude), the feeling of risk has very often left us with a well-known dilemma—a grim one, indeed, which can be seen most clearly in the field of politics. Whenever risk, contingency, and insecurity are given a preeminent focus in political thought—when they are turned into the main problems


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to be addressed—we are usually left with two options: either total insurance against risk at the cost of liberty (think of Hobbes’s Leviathan) or the absurdity of experiencing risk for the mere joy of it (the “intoxication with danger,” as Guyau calls it, illustrated by the extolment of—or at least the compliance with—violence in different versions of nationalism, colonialism, capitalism, and terrorism and displayed by a number of adventurers in politics, war, and finance) (122–24). I understand this dilemma as the “instability of agency”: it shows the difficulty of achieving a middle ground in our dealings with uncertainty, one that neither stultifies agency by reducing it to pure obedience nor distends it through megalomania or recklessness.

Conclusion As I said before, beginning with Plato, uncertainty has always informed moral and political theories in some way or another. More recently, Michael Sandel has articulated a communitarian attack against the legitimacy that speculation has acquired in contemporary economic systems.69 The claim is that speculation has corroded the values that we presumably uphold in the legal and political spheres, as distinctive of the way of life that the people living in constitutional democracies collectively endorse. In today’s global capitalism, he explains, “people increasingly make money, not by producing goods and providing services, but by managing risk.”70 Practices that have become regular—such as purchasing death insurance for employees, for very sick or old people, or even for complete strangers—show the extent to which the world of finance feeds on the “speculation on life and death.” This is troubling because “an ethic of speculation [is] corrosive of moral and civic norms worth caring about.”71 Others, from a more Foucauldian perspective, have explained how, in neoliberal contexts, the power dynamics in which subjectivities are produced in society (what is known as “governmentality”) fosters a subjugating attitude of boldness and audacity in the face of risk, under the banner of a particular work ethic and a rhetoric of self-responsibility. Thus, for instance, “discourse[s] on fiscal self-realization extolling the virtues of entrepreneurship and voluntarism as a personal ethic” really instantiate a framework of oppression, in which people are enjoined to fulfill an ideal in which risks should be fearlessly tamed and uncertainty courageously faced.72 As a response, for example, one critic has suggested that procrastination can be endorsed as a resistance strategy, even if it represents “just one opening into the wider

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question of the contemporary practice of temporal counterconduct within the context of neoliberal governmentality.”73 Rather than viewing the love of risk as a corroding practice in which speculation bets on the life and death of other people or as the epitome of “the production of the neoliberal subject as a self-producing subject,”74 following Bergson and Guyau, we see that, anthropologically speaking, our relation to uncertainty “naturally” displays a wide spectrum that allows for more or less assertive ways of addressing it. Or, to put it in a Bergsonian fashion, uncertainty displays a spectrum that allows for more or less assertive ways of “letting us be addressed” by it.75 As we have seen, there are advantages and disadvantages to the different positions in such a spectrum. Guyau’s analysis of the love of risk shows that a more voluntaristic way of relating to uncertainty might have the advantage of boosting agency by giving us a more defined identity, enhancing our sense of responsibility or momentousness, and bringing forward the feeling of hope. However, his reflections suggest as well that the love of risk presents a worrying tendency toward polarization: just as in primitive religion superstition proliferated, gravitating toward the absurd and the monstrous, we tend to “dramatize” uncertainty through the pressing injunction to take on challenges and risks in the personal, professional, and political spheres. The phenomenological bridge between the belief in chance and the feeling of risk that I have traced here shows two things. First, that the tendency to replace the former with the latter—what I have called the dramatization of uncertainty—is rooted in our anthropological condition.76 In other words, independently of the current capitalistic and neoliberal context, the love of risk is an ever-present human possibility—one that, moreover, has advantages and disadvantages of its own. Second, with Bergson, we explored the pedagogical purchase of the more moderate attitude toward uncertainty, expressed in the belief in chance. In my interpretation, for Bergson—and in contrast to the Sandelian criticism of speculation that seeks to defend a set of shared ethical values and to a more Foucauldian denunciation of risk-taking attitudes as a strategy of resistance within social power structures—the virtues of such moderate attitude have to do, as we saw, with the proper cultivation of human agency.77 We saw, for example, that by way of an appeal to luck, events acquire a status that “matches” our capacity to have some influence in them. This gives us the occasion of asserting our agency but without assuming omnipotence or complete control, and therefore it represents a moderate way of relating to the uncertainty of the future. Given that luck is “a semi-voluntary choice that


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may serve as a counterpart to [one’s] own [choice],”78 it seems to provide, at least in principle, some check to an inflated notion of the will, becoming a potentially suitable model for our own agency. As we have seen, Bergson rejects a fixed personal identity in favor of one capable of relying on both habit and improvisation.79 This kind of personality has the advantage, regarding uncertainty, of giving us resources for accepting challenges and taking risks, without expecting to be in complete control of an envisaged plan or putting our whole identity at stake. With its help, we would be able to accept the dictates of fortune and deal with them both through the solidity of routine and the grace of spontaneity. To reiterate, while Bergson is famous for having articulated an account of agency in which freedom is made possible through a particular relation to our past, the relevance of uncertainty for action, as we have seen here, makes it clear that our relation to the future is significant for a Bergsonian understanding of freedom as well. From that perspective, we do not approach the self from the side of memory but rather focus on its character as a “moving body,” capable—as Bergson says—of answering to reality “with a yes or a no,” depending on what the circumstances require.80 In that sense, in contrast to the Kantian notion of the autonomous subject, as well as in contrast to a Guyauian/Nietzschean risk-lover Übermensch, Bergson offers a more modest but also more versatile notion of free agency in the face of uncertainty.


Varieties of Sympathy Max Scheler’s Critique of Sentimentalism

In Chapter 2, we examined Scheler’s condemnation of Kant’s universalistic notion of autonomy and his corresponding endorsement of a personalistic and particularistic conception of what the “voice of conscience” tells each one of us in each case. Moreover, before that, in Chapter 1, we saw that feelings have a fundamental place in Scheler’s ethics: the objective hierarchy of values is given to us through them. Putting these two elements together, we see that he rejects formalism in ethics, conceding instead a fundamental role to emotions, which, however, is not intended to refute moral objectivism. In order to understand what this combination consists of more precisely and what is, in Scheler’s view, the nature and role of emotions in our moral and social life, I will turn now to his conception of sympathy and to his critique of Enlightenment sentimentalism. My interest in addressing the topic of sympathy is twofold. First, sympathy is key to understanding Scheler’s philosophical outlook, since—together with ressentiment—it is the emotion to which he devoted more systematic and detailed analysis. Thus, it provides a privileged vantage point from which to appreciate his thought.1 Second, both sympathy and emotional identification are key phenomena from a politicotheoretical perspective. Indeed, more generally, in the past two decades, political theorists have once again become intensely concerned about the overall place of emotions in political life.2 In reaction to what has been seen as an undue emphasis on deliberation, philosophers have sought to understand the undeniable—and salutary—role of rhetoric in the public sphere,3 as well as the importance of nondeliberative forms of participation in democratic politics.4 Furthermore, these concerns have an important counterpart in political science and in politics more broadly, as seen in recent scholarly and public attention put on


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the phenomena of populism, identity politics, mobilization, and alternative forms of representation.5 As we know, contemporary political theory has often approached such themes with the help of the Enlightenment sentimentalists, such as Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith. However, Scheler offered a critique that cast serious doubt on the salutary character of sympathy as it was conceived by that tradition, on the grounds that it provided an unsatisfactory and ultimately perverse foundation for human association. In the context of a wider set of investigations intended to provide a phenomenological basis for ethics,6 he set out to identify what he saw as sympathy’s true character and its legitimate place within human emotional life, distinguishing it from related but nonetheless different phenomena, which he thought eventually led to the corruption of human relationships. Concerns about the noxious influence of sympathy have certainly not been absent in more contemporary thinkers either. For instance, both Arendt and Rawls questioned sympathy’s aptness as a political principle, owing to its illiberal, even violent, potential.7 Adam Smith’s account of sympathy—in my view, both the most subtle one among the sentimentalists and the most aware of its political import—has been defended against these charges as constituting a “distinctively liberal conception of justice.”8 Yet, before Arendt and Rawls, Scheler criticized Smith on different grounds. He argued that Smith’s project was ill-equipped to identify and appreciate what, in his opinion, should be the proper basis of morality, namely, moral value.9 Even if, as we will see, Scheler’s objections to Smith’s “ethics of sympathy” are ultimately mistaken, he did have good political, anthropological, and pedagogical reasons to call into question the moral purchase of Smith’s project in his own time. Moreover, as we will see, those reasons might be also relevant for our own times. Smith’s proposal is a powerful and complex means to combat the vices that afflicted his own sociopolitical context, as well as to foster its required virtues. When we read Smith, we realize that the social bond, as he saw it, was mainly threatened by ambition, partiality, dissent, vanity, and faction—hence his interest in the advancement of impartiality through self-command.10 The appeal to the “impartial spectator” is for those purposes an incredibly rich moral vehicle, both from a political and an anthropological point of view. However, the invitation to “identify” with the impartial spectator, to “enter into” his motives, as Smith would say, or, worse still, to “make the impartial spectator enter into the principles of [one’s] conduct,”11 might not be the best moral training if your concern is, as Scheler’s own was, with “emotional contagion” and “emotional identification.” As we will see, these phenomena

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present a social challenge that goes beyond the divisiveness and sedition that instead pervade Smith’s work.12 Today, in light of the predicaments of what has been called “audience democracy” (where citizens play the allegedly passive role of spectators rather than the active one of civic participation)13 and of the capacity of populist politics to realign sociopolitical identities through the use of rhetoric in the public sphere,14 considering the up- and downsides of sympathy and emotional identification is an indispensable task. As we will see, Scheler’s qualms about the ethical and political promises of sympathy will prove helpful in this respect, provided that we first make—as Martha Nussbaum suggests—a good diagnosis of the particular obstacles to appropriate sympathetic feelings that we face in our societies.15

Scheler’s Misreading of Smith Scheler’s general criticism of the “ethics of sympathy” is directed toward any system that claims to find in sympathy a proper foundation for morality. Thus, he is not arguing against the importance of sympathy but rather against regarding it either as the criterion for distinguishing moral from nonmoral action or as the mechanism through which morality can be realized. Again, as we have seen in Chapters 1 and 2, he is interested in showing that morality cannot be grounded in either reason or feeling but only in the adequate perception of value. Scheler criticizes the account of sympathy offered generally by eighteenthcentury British psychologists for explaining sympathy away, insofar as it traces sympathy back to the principles of pleasure or utility.16 However, he acknowledges that Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Smith escape such a charge since they do not take natural egoism for granted or conceive altruism and sympathy in terms of self-interest.17 Indeed, on this score, Smith says that “it is not the view of this utility or hurtfulness which is either the first or principal source of our approbation and disapprobation. These sentiments are no doubt enhanced and enlivened by the perception of the beauty or deformity which results from this utility or hurtfulness. But still, I say, they are originally and essentially different from this perception.”18 Despite this considerable advantage, Scheler thinks, Smith begs the question of morality by presupposing moral value, which is what he allegedly attempts to deduce. In Smith’s view, claims Scheler, moral judgment arises ultimately from adopting the standpoint of the “impartial spectator”: only “by participating, through


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fellow-feeling, in the [latter’s] hatred, anger, indignation and impulses of revenge” can we eventually judge others and even ourselves.19 In other words, the charge is that Smith wrongly supposes that “an ethical judgment can only arise through the medium of fellow-feeling.”20 Thus, Scheler concludes, “According to Adam Smith, a man unjustly condemned and universally considered to be guilty should also acknowledge his guilt himself. Indeed (apart from errors of fact), he really would be ‘guilty.’ ”21 This is clearly a gross misreading of Smith.22 For the latter, the consciousness of a real standard of propriety and merit are the necessary conditions for sympathy to arise and not vice versa, even if they arise through sympathy. In other words, the distinction between good and evil does not depend, ontologically speaking, on the actual acknowledgment of such qualities. In Smith’s words, “The applause of the whole world will avail but little if our own conscience condemns us; and the disapprobation of all mankind is not capable of oppressing us when we are absolved by the tribunal within our own breast, and when our own mind tells us that mankind are in the wrong.”23 While Smith certainly emphasizes the role of other people’s gratitude in the process of learning what counts as good actions or the role of resentment and hatred in the process of identifying bad ones, he repeatedly underscores the “reality of virtue”24 and the importance of the “consciousness of merit.”25 He makes clear more than once that virtue is what makes the action worthy of gratitude and vice what makes it worthy of resentment and not the other way around. He observes, for instance, that “whatever appears to be the proper object of gratitude appears to deserve reward.”26 That is different from saying that whatever appears to be the object of gratitude actually deserves it. In other words, the claim is not that sympathy is the ultimate source of virtue but only the “natural and original measure of [its] proper degree.”27 Moreover, in Smith, sympathy is an especially fine “detector of virtue,” capable of nuanced and subtle measures of it. He is very clear, for example, that “the love of praise-worthiness is by no means derived altogether from the love of praise,”28 thereby sharply distinguishing love of virtue from vanity. Furthermore, in the spectrum that opens up between those two, he finds “love of true glory”—an intermediate passion, inferior to the love of virtue, but still attached to a correct and sincere reference to it.29 The seeker of glory, says Smith, is able to see and cherish virtue for what it is, whereas the vain man, the one who loves only praise, either “desires praise for qualities which are not praise-worthy in any degree, or not in that degree in which he expects to be praised for them,” or “desires praise for what indeed very well deserves it, but what he perfectly knows does not belong to him.”30 In sum, Smith

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offers a careful phenomenology of emotions, where sentimental diversity— something crucial from a Schelerian perspective, as we have seen—is very rarely neglected.31 This means, in my opinion, that sympathy in Smith actually incorporates something very similar to Scheler’s Wertnehmung or “perception of value,” a notion according to which, again, feelings are some kind of in-built moral antenna through which we cognize values.32 To be sure, Smith lacks the conceptual apparatus and the terminology Scheler uses to approximate the nuances of value and feeling. However, as we saw, for Smith, sympathy is an imaginative faculty apart from reason and sensibility, with the capacity—not unlike Scheler’s feelings with respect to value—of “detecting” virtue. Virtue, in turn—not unlike Scheler’s values—has an ontologically independent status apart from pleasure or utility. For Smith, the faculty of sympathy is the one responsible for our capacity to approve and disapprove of (and not merely to be affected by) the actions, opinions, and feelings of others. Moral value resides in sympathy’s necessary relation to the consciousness of what he calls propriety and merit. All this, and no less, is meant when we say that, for Smith, sympathy is a moral sentiment insofar as it refers to what is virtuous.33 Therefore, I think, it would not be completely misleading to say about Smithian sympathy what Scheler says about love and hate—namely, that it is an “act [that] plays the disclosing role in our value-comprehensions.”34 Even if, again, the terminology would be totally foreign to him, Smith’s sympathy is something like an “intentional act,” which “relates originally” to moral value, just as Scheler would say about love.35 Still, when faced with such an obvious misreading in the history of philosophy as in the case of Scheler with respect to Smith, it is important to inquire not so much what the mistake was as why it happened. What kind of concerns made it more likely that Scheler would overlook these aspects of Smith’s work?

Smith’s Impartial Spectator: The Problem of Contagion and the Exercise of Comparison Before we set out to answer that question, it is important to notice that Smith avoids one further feature that Scheler condemns in his more general attack against the ethics of sympathy (one that, admittedly, he does not charge Smith with): the problem of “contagion of feeling.” According to Scheler, philosophers and psychologists tend to reduce sympathy to a phenomenon of automatic transmission of emotions, depicting it as a mere “reaction” akin to


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communicable diseases, leaving out all agency in the moral act of sympathizing.36 On the contrary, Scheler distinguishes between “true fellow-feeling,” “mere emotional infection,” and “emotional identification”—a set of distinctions that we will explore shortly. On this point, let us recall that Smith says that sympathy “does not arise so much from the view of the passion, as from that of the situation which excites it.”37 Therefore, we can safely say that he depicts sympathy not as a passive process of transmission but as a reflective process intertwined with judgment. In Smith’s account, we cannot sympathize with the gratitude of another unless we approve of the motives of the benefactor; likewise, we cannot sympathize with her resentment unless we simultaneously disapprove of the person who did the mischief.38 Even more, according to Smith, we are capable of feeling, through sympathy, passions of which the person sympathized with seems to be altogether incapable: “We blush for the impudence and rudeness of another, though he himself appears to have no sense of the impropriety of his own behaviour; because we cannot help feeling with what confusion we ourselves should be covered had we behaved in so absurd manner.”39 Thus, on top of the acknowledgment of virtue as the real basis of the moral sentiments, we find no trace in Smith of a story about “contagion,” such as would devalue the act of sympathizing.40 However, there is another point of Scheler’s critique that does touch Smith’s theory, even if Scheler does not explicitly draw that connection. His observations on the “exercise of comparison” as an inaccurate portrayal of the experience of sympathy seem to address much more directly what I take to be the cornerstone of Smith’s theory of moral sentiments: the notion of the impartial spectator. The impartial spectator is an artificial standpoint at which we arrive by way of comparing ourselves to others. This comparison, according to Smith, allows us to gradually get rid of all predispositions toward ourselves, achieving eventually an impartial perspective on every particular situation. Such impartiality constitutes the pillar of morality. Throughout his book, Smith presents several wordings for the mental exercise involved in it. Among others, we find that it is a comparison that “bring[s] somebody else’s case back home” or that “transport[s] myself, at least in fancy, to a different station,”41 from which I can pick up the right proportion of a situation, an experience, or an event. These can all be seen as variations of the familiar idea of “placing oneself in another’s shoes.” Scheler critiques this premise and argues that a comparison can never be solid basis for true sympathy to arise, for the latter must be “a genuine

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out-reaching and entry into the other person and his individual situation, a true and authentic transcendence of one’s self.”42 For him, the impartial onlooker is a nonstarter since “true fellow-feeling betrays itself in the very fact that it includes the existence and character of the other person as individual, as part of the object of commiseration or rejoicing.”43 The way I would feel or what I would do if I underwent the same situation as another is simply irrelevant to the kind of act that genuine sympathy should look like, for to be such, it must preserve the individual uniqueness of the feelings of the other. Comparison, therefore, Scheler concludes, “must be ruled out as insufficient for an understanding of the situation.”44 This concern is rooted, in turn, in what, as we have seen, is probably the central aspect of Scheler’s metaphysical project: the preservation of absolute personal uniqueness; the affirmation of the irreducibility of the person to matter, concepts, sensations, or even reason45; and the corresponding identification of the values that belong to the ontological level of the individual person as the highest ones. Before we assess whether this criticism really undermines Smith’s theory, I will give an overview of Scheler’s classification of the different phenomena of fellow-feeling, that is, the set of related feelings that have to do with partaking in the emotions of others. This will allow us, first, to become acquainted with Scheler’s approach to the constellation of emotional variations related to sympathy and their role in the constitution of social ties; second, it will prepare the ground for identifying more precisely what, from a Schelerian perspective, is really problematic in Smith’s account.

Varieties of Sympathy As we have seen in previous chapters, for Scheler, individuality and moral agency depend on the diversity of feelings of which we are capable—hence the importance of appreciating all the nuances and distinctions among them. He identifies four categories of fellow-feeling, arranged in a hierarchical structure. Their moral value varies in direct proportion to their capacity for connecting people through shared feelings and emotions while maintaining a distance between them. In other words, for Scheler, “true sympathy”—that is, morally valuable sympathy—unites people through feeling but prevents them from confounding themselves with each other. First, Scheler finds what he calls “community of feeling” (Miteinanderfühlen), in which two or more people share the same sorrow or joy with one another. What characterizes this phenomenon is that people enjoy or suffer


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something in common and not that they experience it identically. Scheler’s example is that of two parents standing beside the dead body of a beloved child. What matters here, he says, is not that the parents are afflicted by each other’s pain or that they experience similar feelings but that they are both originally afflicted by the same pain.46 This feeling preserves the individuality of the experience while creating a bond between people. Second, he identifies the experience in which we are able to perceive another’s suffering or joy without partaking in it. We visualize the feeling, but we do not feel it (he calls it Nachgefühl, which means “reproduced or vicarious feeling”). This is a crucial distinction for Scheler and, as we will see below, one of great political significance. His contention is that one can see suffering more or less as one can see a tree, in the sense that you do not need to “infer” its existence from the gestures of other people. Rather, expressions of feelings convey the experiences themselves directly. Just as I do not “infer” that there is a tree in front of me from the fact that I perceive its image but actually see the tree, Scheler says that “it is in the blush that we perceive shame, in the laughter joy.”47 The result of rejoicing with others, he says, is not that we “are joyful on their account, for this would then be simply our own joy, but that we are able to savour their joy without thereby needing to get into a joyful mood ourselves.”48 Again, just as we do not become an apple as we eat it (despite claims that “we are what we eat”), we do not need to become sad to be able to perceive sadness. A comparison with Smith on this point is worth keeping in mind. As I said before, sympathy in Smith is not exclusively made out of feelings but refers to a more complex phenomenon composed of reflection, judgment, and passions, whereby I can sympathize with someone even if that person herself does not feel sad or happy. Still, I do need to feel sad or happy on her behalf.49 Not in the case of Scheler, for whom, again, the reproduction or replication of the feeling of another is necessarily excluded in cases of “true sympathy.” Next in Scheler’s hierarchy, we find “emotional infection” (Einfühlung), which is what, according to him, most theorists have in mind when they talk about sympathy. Emotional infection is the transference of emotional states in a quite involuntary and unconscious fashion.50 It covers relatively innocuous cases, as when someone surrounds herself with cheerful people to be merrier for a while, as well as more serious ones, “where we are so caught up, as it were, in the other’s changing moods and interests that we no longer seem to lead a life of our own.”51 He finds typical examples of emotional contagion in all mass excitement and in the formation of public opinion.52

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For Scheler, the problem with this account of sympathy, as we saw, is the exclusion of what should be at the core of true fellow-feeling: seeing other people’s emotions as really pertaining to others. Emotional infection cancels this possibility by erasing the distance between those involved. In his view, sympathy does not require us to “bring others’ case home to our breast,” as Smith likes to say, or to look for situations where the sentiments of others “give occasion, coincide, and tally with our own.”53 Rather, in sympathy, we must acknowledge that we do not need to experience the same thing as someone else to be able to know what she is going through.54 In short, sympathy is a matter of adequate perception and not of harmony, attunement, or coordination. Finally, we get to what Scheler calls “emotional identification” (Einsfühlung). If the previous category already conveyed the idea of a pathological transference of sentiments, this one is its extrapolation.55 He offers a representative list of cases. Not all of them are necessarily negative or even avoidable: some are just a normal phase of our personal development (some traits of the child’s mental life), and some others are preeminently desirable (truly loving sexual intercourse).56 However, the list includes the mass’s self-identification with a leader that engenders “a sense of identity among the members themselves”57 or the further outcome of, as he puts it, “the mutual coalescence of [different people] into a single stream of instinct and feeling, whose pulse thereafter governs the behavior of all . . . so that ideas and schemes are driven wildly before it, like leaves before a storm.”58 In the second edition of Scheler’s book on sympathy, published in 1922, he remarks that “if there is any one thing within recent experience which serves to confirm these observations, it is the experience of the World War.”59 Scheler thinks that these phenomena depend on a “region” that is intermediate between the body and the mind or between matter and spirit,60 which, when “activated,” sets off a process where not only isolated feelings of another are unconsciously taken as one’s own (as in cases of emotional infection) but in which one’s own self is wholly identified with that of another.61 Hence, contrary to other interpretations of the experience of war and mass mobilization as something either brutal or holy for those involved in them, for Scheler, these experiences cause “body and soul [to] go under together in a single passionate surge of collective activity.”62 Now, it is precisely in light of the phenomenon of identification and the corresponding “intermediate region” of the human psyche that I wish to go back and consider again Smith’s impartial spectator. The comparison between Smith’s account of sympathy as crystallized in the standpoint of the impartial spectator, on the one hand, and Scheler’s own understanding of sympathy,


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on the other, shows that, at times, both authors are in outright opposition to each other in terms of their respective conceptions of the self and of moral agency. However, most interestingly, part of the distance that separates them seems to be best understood in more “strategic” terms: not so much as a substantive difference between them but as a similar response to different moral and political problems. Such disparity in context will allow us, in turn, to single out the concerns that underpin Scheler’s criticism of Smith.

Phenomenology of the Impartial Spectator and the Problem of Identification As I said before, a more proper criticism of Smith’s impartial spectator from a Schelerian perspective is that a comparison can never be a solid basis for true sympathy to arise because the latter is supposed to be a “genuine outreaching” or a real transcendence of one’s self.63 Admittedly, Smith’s choice of words as he elucidates the character of the impartial spectator might indeed sometimes suggest a deep self-centeredness. However, Smith does tackle the issue explicitly as he attempts to exonerate his construct from charges of egoism. On that score, he affirms, “When I condole with you for the loss of your only son, in order to enter into your grief I do not consider what I, a person of such a character and profession, should suffer, if I had a son, and if that son was unfortunately to die: but I consider what I should suffer if I was really you, and I not only change circumstances with you, but I change persons and characters.”64 This passage, among others, proves that it would be unfair to hold the charge of corrupting self-regard against Smith’s impartial spectator. However, still from a Schelerian perspective, it is worth looking at the opposite danger. Considering the foregoing reflections on emotional identification, the problem might not be that in Smith’s account, the sympathizer loses the “phenomenological reference to the other person as such”65 but rather the phenomenological reference to her own self. In one of his characterizations of the impartial spectator, Smith says that as soon as someone “identifies himself with the ideal man within the breast, he soon becomes himself the impartial spectator of his own situation.”66 In other words, in moral reasoning, the person should lose sight of himself and adopt the persona—the motives, the passions, and the reasons—of the impartial spectator. Now, this is not to suggest that the relation of identification that is established between, say, a hypnotist and his patient or a charismatic despot

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and his subjects is exactly the same as that which exists between someone’s “inmate of the breast” and himself. The fact that the latter is “merely a man in general,”67 a “supposed” character that lives only in our imagination with no particular connection to us or the people around us68 and, more important, someone that comes to existence through our own efforts of reflection aiming at impartiality, makes the “inmate of the breast” probably not the best candidate for the kind of phenomena that worries Scheler primarily. Freud’s theory of the superego notwithstanding, it might be a stretch to say that both are equally instances of domination. Still, as a pedagogical mechanism, the impartial spectator will be insufficient and perhaps even counterproductive to fight the moral problem that Scheler finds most pernicious—namely, emotional identification.69 In the face of massive psychic usurpation, the answer cannot possibly be to advise people to become the impartial spectators of their own situation but, on the contrary, to teach them how to become moral agents. Just as ambition, faction, vainglory, and self-love are the main villains of Smith’s story, the “almighty social authority”70 and the “complete and total infection of the very roots of individuality”71 are those of Scheler’s. In this context, the appeal to impartiality cannot do the job anymore.72 As we will see, where the most dangerous idol is not self-love but “illusory self-knowledge,” stoicism will appear as a poor remedy, and the virtue of self-command will not suffice. Where “identification with others” threatens the social bond more deeply than faction, “standing alone” in moral matters will prove much more urgent to protect moral value.73 Vain men consciously play a game in order to project a certain image in society, but as Scheler says, it is still they who present it: “they oscillate between this picture and an awareness of themselves as they really are.”74 On the contrary, for mental parasites—as he calls those thrown into a clinical condition by a morbidly bloated vanity—“the presence of an onlooker immediately upsets [their] natural self-possession, [their] consciousness of [themselves] being replaced by the image [of themselves] as seen by the onlooker, and as judged by the latter’s standards of preferences.”75 People affected in this way, he goes on, “will not be content, like the still normal prima donna type, to put on a stricken air so as to make others feel sorry for [them], or a gay one to cheer them up”76; rather, in their minds, “the picture comes to life,” and they really stage the desired calamity or hilarity.77 Such a mise-en-scène, he claims, results from a “consciousness of internal emptiness and nullity,” “a vacuity which drives [a person] out of ‘himself,’ ” prompting him “to fill his empty belly with the experience of others.”78


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Similarly to cases of hypnosis, where “the ‘seat’ of the hypnotic subject’s own intellectual activity is usurped by that of the hypnotist,”79 the mental parasite’s capacity for self-awareness is displaced by the presence of the spectator. Admittedly, Scheler is talking here about specific clinical cases of the thencalled hysteria, but as mentioned before, he draws a link between individual and social afflictions of this kind and clearly finds collective manifestations of such type of identification in mass society. Further, the maladies that Scheler diagnoses are all the more insidious insofar as, according to him, they often pass unavowed. This, he thinks, is due to the false confidence fostered by what he calls, as we saw in Chapter 1, “the idols of self-knowledge.”80 We tend to think that we have “first-hand knowledge” about ourselves and know about others only in a secondary way. As we saw before, Scheler thinks this is wrong: taking self-knowledge for granted, we have forgotten the wisdom and the task underlying the Socratic dictum Know thyself. For Scheler, we live first “in others” and only gradually acquire a better sense of our own individuality.81 He worries that such “illusory self-certainty” has become increasingly widespread, while in reality, in his view, the roots of individuality are being depleted by the force of social authority. Thus, while Smith’s whole arrangement is designed to save us from—as he puts it—the “delusions of self-love,”82 for Scheler, a far more dangerous threat to moral development comes from our naive and arrogant self-certainty.83 Given this diagnosis, the adequate corrective is not to become aware, as Smith would suggest, of the degree to which we “see ourselves through the eyes of others” but—as we have seen in Chapters 1 and 2—to understand the individual processes in which we gain access into our “true depths”84 and in which we learn how to listen to the voice of our individual conscience.85 This contrast is further illustrated by their respective interpretations of the Christian injunction to “love our neighbor.” Given Smith’s concern with the pathological swelling of self-love, he says that just as “to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.”86 See that Smith’s invitation is, first, to blur the lines between our own person and that of our neighbor (in making the object of self-love and of love-of-theneighbor indistinct) and, second, to take distance from our own agency (we should love ourselves only as our neighbor is capable of loving us). In other words, for Smith, we must falsify both the object of love and the kind of love experienced in order to love in the appropriate measure. However, Scheler thinks, that is just to move away from the only place from which love (and

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hatred) can become significant—namely, that of the agent herself. Only from the perspective of the agent, he says, can love (and hatred) “afford an evidence of their own.”87 What evidence is that? Love—like other emotions, including “true sympathy”—is, for Scheler, a way of apprehending values. That is why he says that love is “a vision of a higher value,”88 an emotional act, whose essence is a “movement of intention” by which values are “enhanced.”89 Therefore, for Scheler, love cannot either be blind or desire to fuse itself with the loved one. Like “true sympathy,” it requires us not to lose sight of the other person’s distinct and separate character; it entails a “whole-hearted endorsement of ‘his’ reality as an individual, and ‘his’ being what he is.”90 Thus, for Scheler, it is misleading to think of self-love and the love of another interchangeably or to think that the latter is a mere “quantitative extension” of the former.91 Taking the other’s interests into account at the expense of mine and therefore “forgetting” that I have a special relation with my own interests is for Scheler a falsification of reality. It is delusive because it forces you to act “as if ” you were not yourself, and it invites you to treat the other “as if he were essentially identical with [your]self.” It obliterates the basic fact that there are two people and gets rid of the puzzle of finding the meaning of the relationship called “love” by effectively cancelling the relationship.92 Phenomenologically speaking, Smith’s failure to theorize the depths of human personality is perhaps most clearly revealed in the impartial spectator’s “extremely low time-discount rate,” as economists would say. On this score, Smith indicates, “The impartial spectator does not feel himself worn out by the present labour of those whose conduct he surveys; nor does he feel himself solicited by the importunate calls of their present appetites. To him their present, and what is likely to be their future situation, are very nearly the same: he sees them nearly at the same distance, and is affected by them very nearly in the same manner.”93 Strengthening the “man within” means overlooking time: placing the “solicitations of our present appetites” at the same level as those of the future and, for the most part, letting go of the past (in economics parlance, it means assuming equal treatment of present and future, or what is called “zero discounting”). “Lived-time” is replaced here by time considered from afar. In fact, one of the most important differences—if not the chief one—between Smith’s early modern phenomenology of emotions and the phenomenological approach of the late nineteenth century has to do with their respective treatments of time.94 For the latter, time constitutes one of the most important dimensions of the self, and this—at least in Scheler—has partly to do with the fact that, as we said in Chapter 2, only in


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time we can come to know ourselves. The “depths of our personality” can only be traversed with patience, endurance, and perseverance, all of which are virtues that would not make sense if we “flattened” time, so to speak, “pondering equally” every single moment. So even if we grant, first, that part of Smith’s approach to time is a matter of prudence95 and, second, that it does not go as far as the Epicurean solution of annulling time in order to cancel both pain and pleasure,96 it is inescapable that Smith finds certain “pedagogical purchase” in time, which consists precisely in that we can learn how to neglect it. The impartial spectator must treat time not as the proper and only dimension in which individuality can exist—as a more Schelerian approach would have it—but as that “great and universal comforter, [which] gradually composes the weak man to the same degree of tranquillity which a regard to his own dignity and manhood teaches the wise man to assume in the beginning.”97 As this quotation shows, for Smith, the stakes of “zero discounting” are high: “suppressing” time is an exercise in dignity. Pedagogically speaking, the engagement with “lived experience” loses prominence in favor of the insight that “in all the irreparable calamities which affect himself immediately and directly, a wise man endeavours, from the beginning, to anticipate and to enjoy before-hand, that tranquillity which he foresees the course of a few months, or a few years, will certainly restore to him in the end.”98 Wisdom is thus acquired through tranquility and self-command. Moreover, the absolute centrality of self-command in Smith’s scheme of virtues is a further characteristic that runs counter to the notion of individuality, conceived from a Schelerian standpoint. This is not to say that the life of the libertine is commendable for or compatible with a proper exercise of Schelerian individuality; rather, curbing certain impulses and passions will be pursued through other means and not by cultivating self-control. According to Smith, “self-command is not only itself a great virtue, but from it all the other virtues seem to derive their principal lustre.”99 Only through it can our sentiments and feelings be “in exact proportion to the vivacity and force with which we enter into and conceive of [the other’s] sentiments and feelings.”100 In other words, the propriety and merit of our sentiments and passions depend to a large extent on self-command, as it allows us to harmonize with other people’s feelings. Indeed, harmony is the key metaphor to understand both the problems that Smith addresses and the kind of solutions that he is able to offer. Its lack is Smith’s central sociopolitical diagnosis, and thus sympathy is that exercise of “prodigious effort” in which we “get attuned,” through self-command, to

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other people’s feelings until we arrive at the position of the impartial spectator. Reaching the latter’s pitch, so to speak, involves a formative process where—as Smith says—the person “must flatten, if I may be allowed to say so, the sharpness of [the passions’] natural tone, in order to reduce [them] to harmony and concord with the emotions of those who are about him.”101 Compare this to Scheler’s strategy. Like Smith, he thinks that the development of moral character depends on an appropriate “sentimental education,” but for him, the latter is achieved not through self-control but rather through adequate perception. Scheler’s conception of a proper moral training pursues not a modulated sensibility—as Smith recommends—but simply an accurate one. Morality is not about feeling less or more but about being able to perceive, as we have said, all the nuances and gradations of value by means of nuances and gradations of feeling. The expectation is that the “equilibrium” obtained from self-command in the former scheme will be already, so to speak, “built into the system” through a refined perception.102 To stick to the acoustic metaphors, Scheler’s conception of moral education requires us to “sharpen our ears” instead, making them more precise, in order to be able to listen to all the nuances of our emotional life. The ideal is not harmony but something like a perfect pitch.103 The primary virtue is not self-command but, as he says, the ability to “stand alone” in moral matters, independent of other people and even sometimes of universal norms.104 Now, what can be the political advantages of conceiving sympathy that way? As I said before, one of the alleged pitfalls of grounding political and social ties on sympathy, as Smith envisages, is that it carries along highly exigent demands of probity and incorruptibility, which can eventually end up in political oppression. Given the difficulty of enforcing commitment to the principles of sympathy (how can it be proved that someone is or is not experiencing sympathy or compassion toward others?), any politics of sympathy is said to be potentially illiberal and violent—think of the connections to the Reign of Terror (Arendt’s example) or to the fight against terrorism and its appeal to unity and loyalty against a common enemy.105 Scheler’s position, as we have seen, goes a bit further in its rejection of sympathy thus understood. His criticism is not of a consequentialist nature (it can potentially become oppressive) but rather touches the phenomenon intrinsically. He thinks that the collective bond should not depend on the actual transmission of feelings or its integrity be protected by trying to prove or disprove the presence of such feelings. On the contrary, he claims, striving to reproduce what other people feel will just end up in pretense and simulation, without providing a true path to sociability or a strong foothold for liberty


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in difficult political times. On this point, the extent to which Scheler’s diagnosis turned out to be accurate—and even premonitory—can be appraised, for instance, by the weight that, five decades later, Hannah Arendt would give to the fact that someone such as Karl Jaspers “always stood entirely alone and was independent of all groupings. . . . The magnificence of this position,” she added, “which is sustained solely by the weight of the person, is precisely that without representing anything but his own existence he could provide assurance that even in the darkness of total domination . . . reason can be annihilated only if all reasonable men are actually, literally slaughtered.”106 Another drawback associated with sympathy as a political principle is Rawls’s claim that the impartial spectator definition of justice cannot, on its own, avoid what, in his view, constitutes classical utilitarianism’s main drawback—namely, failing to take seriously the distinction between persons.107 In his view, while the impartial and sympathetic spectator does not necessarily lead to the collapse of individuality, given that it does not spring from a commitment to the distinction between persons, it will not be a proper guarantee against such a collapse either. Similarly, as we saw, from a Schelerian perspective, the impartial spectator is not a good guard against the phenomenon of excessive identification that undermines individuality. Moreover, in Scheler’s context—where the political developments jeopardized people’s capacity to remain conscious of their own person—the invitation to “apprehend our common humanity” through sympathy even pushes in the opposite way: focusing on what is common, it prescribes, so to speak, a fever reducer to someone with hypothermia. Rawls proposes that if we were to prevent the impartial observer from impairing individuality, a viable option would be to let him “be guided by the principles someone would choose if he knew that he is to split, so to speak, into the many members of society.” That is, instead of aiming at a common denominator, “he is to imagine that he is to divide into a plurality of persons whose life and experiences will be distinct in the usual way.”108 Thus, in Rawls’s view, an adequate corrective to the impartial spectator would take us precisely in the direction of a full recognition of diversity: since the construct proposes only one spectator, this “single individual is literally to become many persons.”109 Interestingly, Rawls advances here somehow in the Schelerian direction of “inner diversity.” However, as we know, Rawls’s theory of justice does not follow such a “corrective” and instead develops the construct of the original position, in which, on the contrary, individual experiences and memories are deemed morally irrelevant. Many have argued, from different fronts, that Rawls is

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insufficiently attentive to individuality and to diversity.110 I do not pretend to review or assess those arguments here. Instead, I will only indicate the reason why, from a Schelerian perspective, the original position looks indeed like a “depersonalizing device.” It concerns the fundamental cognitive and ethical role that emotions play in Scheler’s ethical theory. As we saw, for Scheler, we can access moral value only through seeing others in all their particularity through our emotions as “organs of cognition.” The original position, therefore—with its injunction to anonymity, where people’s faces lie behind a veil of ignorance—does not seem an attractive starting point. Moreover, Scheler would have rejected the claim that benevolence and sympathy (understood in his own sense) lead only to confusion once the claims of people conflict with each other, as Rawls thinks. In Rawls’s (Kantian) view, “benevolence is at sea as long as its many loves are in opposition in the persons of its many objects.”111 For Scheler, on the contrary, the lack of determinacy and universal rules does not condemn us to be amiss in moral matters.112 One further objection to Smithian sympathy concerns its high emotional prescriptions (that is, the requirement that people actually feel what others do and that they then moderate their sentiments up to the point of “perfect equilibrium”), which can eventually lead us to the way of anxiety, guilt, and hypocrisy. Being emotionally taxing, the argument goes, Smithian sympathy is morally implausible and even politically dangerous.113 In light of this, I want to briefly suggest that Scheler’s view of sympathy, unlike Smith’s, might offer a plausible account of the way in which certain people—say, those with the strenuous job of administering justice in a trial court of a malfunctioning and unfair criminal justice system—can “become vulnerable to the upset of another”114 without therefore losing what it takes to carry out their commission. The best example I have of this is a judge of such kind, whom I once had the chance to interview.115 Unlike many of her peers, she showed a great command of the personal and technical details of the cases. She seemed to know a good deal about the stories not only of the defendants themselves but—quite impressively—of their nuclear and extended families as well. It was clear to me that she was personally acquainted with all these people and totally capable of what Nussbaum calls “eudaimonistic judgment,” that is, seeing someone as an “end whose good is to be promoted.”116 However, at the same time, she struck me as being especially “insensitive” and “pragmatic” compared to other judges I met with. I do not mean to say that she was uninvolved, uninterested, or unresponsive. Quite the opposite: as I said, she knew the cases very well, and she was lively and energetic—clearly


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the highly effective, sturdy, and resolute type at work. But at the same time, you could tell that it was other people and not her who were going through the ordeal of facing a highly inefficient, bureaucratic, punitive, and discriminatory criminal justice system, even if she could portray it very well. She managed somehow to remain “unaffected by” but was still “receptive to” the cases she tried. I left her office feeling encouraged rather than depressed, and I remember thinking back then that without such a moral disposition, it would have been impossible to carry out a job such as hers—emotionally taxing, indeed, especially if one is capable, as she was, of taking others as ends in themselves—in the effective way it seemed she did.

A Smithian Alternative to Identification? I have argued so far that the injunction to identify oneself with the impartial spectator will do poorly against the social maladies with which Scheler is concerned. However, “identification” is admittedly not the only metaphor that Smith offers for the relation between myself and the impartial spectator. There are other ways in which Smith depicts it. At some point, he clarifies that the “inmate of the breast” is not actually the impartial spectator as such—it cannot be since the latter is “supposed” or “imaginary,” while the former is certainly more real—but rather his representative. “Representation” is, however, an ambiguous term. Hence, we can ask, what kind of representative is the “man within”? What kind of message does he transmit from that “great judge and arbiter of our conduct”? Smith is clear: “It is he who whenever we are about to act so as to affect the happiness of others, calls to us, with voice capable of astonishing the most presumptuous of our passions, that we are but one of the multitude, in no respect better than any other in it.”117 In this striking passage, we find then that the alternative to full identification is not the preservation of individuality properly but an immediate lapse into the Hobbesian injunction that we are “just one more” within the multitude. The voice of conscience reminds us of “the real littleness of ourselves” and frees us from “the natural misrepresentations of self-love.”118 Nothing could be more different from what Scheler’s “voice of conscience” has to say. As we saw in Chapter 2, according to Scheler, “the more clearly the voice of conscience speaks, the more it must tell each person something different for the same situation.”119 For Smith, conscience speaks through, among other things, our capacity to arrive at general rules.120 For Scheler, on the contrary, conscience, properly understood, is “a cognitive organ insofar as it is the objective good for an individual.”121

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Conscience, in this legitimate sense, he says, protects the moral individual qua individual from “false claims of merely universal moral laws.”122 So even if it can be rightly argued that Smith’s recourse to spectatorship succeeds in preserving the distance between people, thus jettisoning complete identification, it is also true that his approach curtails individuality insofar as it is not positively interested in uniqueness.123 Smith’s emphasis on the social construction of the self and—to put it in a somewhat postmodern fashion— on how we come to exist only through the eyes of others does undermine a concern for uniqueness, thereby threatening (Schelerian) individuality. After all, as it has been aptly put, in Smith we realize that “we do not have a moral self outside of human community.”124 Scheler, as we saw in Chapter 1, pushes us in just the opposite direction. In an admittedly obscure remark, he observes that the core of individuality remains even if we abstract from all physical and psychical differences. Scheler argues that having got rid of the particularity of bodies, “including their hereand-nowness,” and of the particularities of “mental and spiritual content,” including specific thoughts, feelings, volitions, virtues, vices, and so on, “the individual diversity of their central personalities would still remain, despite the fact that the idea of personality would be the same in each of them.”125

Conclusion The examination I have offered in this chapter shows important contrasts between Smith and Scheler’s respective conceptions of moral agency. In each case, the moral import of time, the voice of conscience, and the conception of the moral self reflect very different views. From these, we can conclude that Smith and Scheler’s respective moral phenomenologies correspond to incommensurable understandings of moral experience. Consequently, we see different assessments of spectatorship and its role in the formation of moral character. For Smith, the spectator brings the moral sanction of publicity and reciprocity into our actions, whereas for Scheler, it taints them with the curse of inauthenticity and cowardice. However, we saw as well that the differences between them are the result not only of their contrasting conceptions of the self but also of the different social threats that each one of them had to address: faction in Smith, emotional identification in Scheler. Thus, Smith encourages us to have the strength to overcome partiality by stepping out of ourselves and taking distance from our own interests, while Scheler’s injunction is to have the courage


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to “stand alone” in moral matters or, to put it differently, to be able to respond for ourselves as individuals, even if we are alone in the world. Smith’s catchword is “harmony,” while Scheler exhorts us to stand on our feet, even if we cannot count on the solid ground of universalizability. Morality, for Smith, can still safely trace the greatest human fears and desires—the desire to be beloved and the fear of being alone. In other words, in trying to fulfill our desires and avoid our fears, we can pursue a moral life. For Scheler, those cannot provide a safe path anymore since sociability has become importantly threatened by them, as well by our tendency to “enter into” other people’s position to the point of collective fusion, where we no longer recognize our individual features. While Smith does acknowledge that the applause of the whole world cannot guarantee the impartiality that only “inmate of the breast” can offer, he still relies on gratitude and condemnation as appropriate tools for our sentimental education. Scheler, on the other hand, appeals to other resources. Failing other people’s approbation and disapprobation as suitable guides in our moral education, the “external reference” to harmony must be lost and replaced by another framework. Such a task is largely to be met, in Scheler’s scheme, by the emotional hierarchy constitutive of the inner self, which— through its gradations of feelings and corresponding values—is supposed to provide us with a sharp and reliable moral compass. For Scheler, the experience of sympathy not only becomes a bulwark against selfishness and ambition (as in Smith) but also fosters an adequate awareness of one’s own individuality. In fact, it is ideally expected to do both things simultaneously and allegedly at a “deeper” level. On the one hand, since true sympathy is not based on a comparison and therefore avoids reasoning by analogy, it helps to dissipate what Scheler calls the “illusion of egocentricity,” that is, “the illusion of taking one’s own environment to be the world itself.”126 On the other hand, and by the same token, “true sympathy” counters the opposite threat—namely, that of losing ourselves in emotional identification with others. By keeping a radical separation between people and eliminating the requirement of reproducing the feeling that is being sympathized with, Schelerian sympathy is meant to address the danger posed to individuality by collective frenzy and the weight of public opinion—concerns that became especially pressing after the Great War. In addition to that, I suggested that in especially strenuous circumstances—which are, however, by no means exceptional, such as those of the judge I interviewed—Scheler’s approach might provide an accurate account of the moral disposition of some people

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whose moral resourcefulness should serve as a model for civil servants and citizens alike. What kind of sympathy, then, is especially called for in our times? A Smithian one or a Schelerian one? Which one is more necessary, given the social and political problems that we face now? As I see it, both threats animating the authors—that of faction and division, as in the case of Smith, and that of “emotional contagion,” as in the case of Scheler—are alive today. The first one is present in phenomena such as political polarization, economic inequality, and xenophobia.127 The second one is present in the dangers posed by mass ideology and digital manipulation for political and commercial purposes, whereby citizens are unaware of the forces molding their preferences and actions.128 The first set of concerns calls for social solidarity and the leaving behind of the sense of entitlement entertained by the privileged classes throughout the world. The second calls for emotional maturity in the Schelerian sense—namely, the condition that results from a substantive intellectual and emotional independence, as we saw in Chapter 2.129 If I am right that both threats are alive today, does it follow that we need both types of sympathy in our societies? Are both types of corrective needed to address different problems and even to check one another? That might be valid to some extent. However, it is also true that, as we saw in this chapter, both conceptions of sympathy respond not only to different social and political contexts but also to different conceptions of the person and, as I said before, to incommensurable understandings of moral experience. Thus, I would entertain some reservations as to the extent to which both can be put together “as needed.” Regrettably, I cannot offer here a more definitive or thorough answer to the question of which approach to sympathy seems better suited to address the multiple problems of our day. I remain satisfied for now if the parallel exploration of Smith and Scheler’s respective treatments on the subject proves illuminating to understand our contemporary ethicopolitical challenges and the potential drawbacks that any one solution to them might bring.


Personal Authority and Political Theology in Bergson and Scheler

In the previous chapters, I explored Bergson and Scheler’s respective notions of the person, which, as it became clear, are characterized by a “thick” but not “solid” picture of the self. This picture is “thick” as they both acknowledge the inner diversity that characterizes true individuality but not “solid” because they consider this multiplicity to be in some sense ineffable, by virtue of their respective emphasis on movement (Bergson) and action (Scheler). For them, human agency, because of its very nature, cannot be captured by fixed concepts, and therefore, their respective notions of freedom avoid universalizing rules or principles. The question that I want to address in this last chapter is, what can authority be, in light of the personalist anthropology they both offer? What kind of authority can be claimed on someone whose character is unfixed and always unique, on a self whose “innermost essence” defies definition? Can such a being be even bound by authority? And if so, can it remain free? As we will see in this chapter, both Scheler and Bergson offer answers to these questions in their respective reflections on exemplarity. This notion refers to the kind of authority that resides in a person whose example appears to have some moral claim on other people. As such, it befits Bergson and Scheler’s respective philosophical approaches in two ways. First, it is congruent with the ethical and metaphysical centrality that they both accord to the person (or to the “inner self,” as Bergson usually refers to it), and second, it also agrees with their conception of personal freedom based on action. More specifically, as we will see in this chapter, exemplars have a special claim on persons in the Bergsonian and Schelerian sense because they alone provide insights that can properly guide action without therefore compromising the personality and the agency of those who follow them.

Personal Authority and Political Theology


In both cases, the importance of exemplarity grows out of their criticisms of ethical rationalism. As we saw before, for Scheler and Bergson, formalistic approaches to morality cannot preserve what is unique in the self; therefore, authority based on reason—that is, either on rational argument or on rational deliberation—will not suffice to engage the person as such and cannot be an appropriate ground for freedom. Their emphasis on the uniqueness of the person, however, should not be understood either in the sense of Taylorian “authenticity,” according to which freedom is based on originality.1 Rather, as we will see, in Bergson and Scheler, we find an ethics of imitation or emulation, which—compared to Taylor’s injunction to “find the design of [one]self, against the demands of external conformity”2—proves to be superior, I think, in preserving personal uniqueness. Behind such an ethics rests the idea that when one imitates or emulates an exemplar, the latter’s authority can not only be consistent with one’s freedom but also even contribute to it, as it fosters the development of one’s individual personality.3 Bergson and Scheler’s contemporary Max Weber famously developed a conception of authority, which, like theirs, puts personal figures at the forefront. In contrast to “bureaucratic” and “traditional” authority, Weber’s socalled charismatic authority is not based on either rational commands or time-honored and customary practices but relies instead on the gift and qualities of individual personalities and on their capacity to subvert existent norms and create new ones. However, as we will see, Weber’s notion of charismatic authority corresponds to conceptions of personality and freedom very different from those we find in both Bergson and Scheler. For that reason, exemplarity in their sense constitutes a significant alternative to Weber’s charisma. Still, as we will see below, the normative concerns that motivate our authors’ respective interests in exemplary authority were actually not far removed from Weber’s own diagnosis of what afflicted the modern age. Therefore, Bergson and Scheler’s respective conceptions of exemplarity should not be understood so much as antitheses of Weber’s charismatic authority but rather as different conceptions, which, nevertheless, result from considerations similar to those of Weber on this point. Such alternatives were possible for our authors by virtue of both their epistemological premises and their respective interpretations of certain religious phenomena, which, as I will discuss below, surely differ from those of Weber’s. Given the preeminence that the Weberian notion of charismatic authority has acquired since he first wrote about it, both in the social sciences and in political reality,4 the politicophilosophical relevance of Bergson and Scheler’s exemplarity can be better appreciated in contrast to it. Moreover, as I


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announced in the Introduction, exemplarity, as they understood it, might be better equipped to face some of the questions that charisma has been called to address in our days, in the contemporary context of populist politics and after the experiences of mass politics in the twentieth century. As I will argue, Bergson and Scheler’s reflections on exemplarity suggest that, indeed, there are ways of thinking about personal authority that escape the dilemma between hierarchy and autonomy and thus preserve a democratic and emancipatory dimension to it. To the extent that we are interested in understanding the complex relationship between populism and democratic politics—that is, in elucidating what Margaret Canovan has called the “redemptive face of democracy”5—we might want to discern more clearly what the authority that is held by people we consider exemplary or admirable consists in. Only thus will we be able to understand the promises of personal authority while keeping an eye on its potential excesses or deviations. Weber always reflected on charismatic authority and the political vocation, in contrast to and together with the phenomenon of religious authority. More generally, his understanding of the sociological and existential significance of religious phenomena shaped to a good extent his approach to politics. For their part, Bergson and Scheler’s reflections on religion—and on Christianity in particular—bring their philosophical insights together with questions of power, obedience, equality, and freedom. For that reason, I shall turn to their religious and even theological views, as well as to their perspectives on the relation between modern democracy and Christianity, in order to examine their respective conceptions of exemplarity. As I hope to be able to show, in their reflections on the Christian mystics (Bergson) and the saints (Scheler), we can find a model of authority that yields important social and political insights. The chapter proceeds in three steps. First, I will review Bergson and Scheler’s opposing views on the relation between Christianity and modern democracy. Bergson thought that Christianity was the source of the spiritual insight at the core of the modern “religion of humanity.” On the contrary, Scheler thought that Christian love and solidarity were diametrically opposed—and definitely superior—to what he deprecatingly called “modern humanitarianism.” What is more, Scheler saw the latter as a product of bourgeois ressentiment. However, interestingly, these contrasting conclusions spring, in each case, from a shared set of ontological, epistemological, psychological, and moral commitments—all of them part of their personalist philosophy— which, as we have seen in the previous four chapters, coincide to a fair extent. Second, I will explore their ideas about exemplarity and obligation, delving into their respective theorization of the social and normative role of the

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authority held by the Christian mystics, the saints, and Christ himself. Here we will see that, in both Scheler and Bergson, the social and political significance of the authority these figures exerted was largely pedagogical in nature. I will then contrast such an authority with the guidance that Weber expected charismatic leaders to provide, indicating the moral and epistemological differences that separate his approach from that of our authors, as well as the normative shared ground that can be found in all three thinkers. Finally, given the relevant similarities between Scheler and Bergson—both with respect to their conceptions of the person and the models of authority that are found in their texts—I will explore the question of what explains the difference between Bergson and Scheler’s respective assessments of the relation between Christianity and democracy. As we will see, such a difference is best understood in light of their respective views on sociability and equality. Bergson assumes a relatively higher degree of human sociability, while Scheler has a more Hobbesian picture of human interaction. Furthermore, in the case of Bergson, Christianity (and the model of exemplarity contained in it) vindicates moral equality, while for Scheler, as we will see, Christianity refutes equality fundamentally. Therefore, it is not surprising that Bergson saw modern democracy in a positive light, while Scheler disparaged it as a perversion of what he saw as true love and solidarity. Each of those assessments, I want to say, illuminates different angles of democratic societies and regimes that are still visible today and continue to pose unavoidable moral and political challenges for our times.

Mysticism and Modern Democracy in Bergson In The Two Sources, Bergson claims that true cosmopolitanism requires a “qualitative leap” from the “closed” to the “open society.” Arguing mainly against Durkheim—according to whom, cosmopolitan sociability is the result of the progressive widening of initially narrow social circles—Bergson contends that the embrace of humanity as a whole is not “continuous” with group solidarity. For him, the “religion of humanity” (another name for what Bergson calls “open morality”) is a commitment to equality that does not issue from “logically extending” our particularistic moral relations—the tribe, the family, the community, or the nation-state. Rather, it is an insight made possible only by the moral creativity of certain visionary figures. Such moral creativity rests not on reason but on intuition.6 Who are these visionary figures on whom Bergson relies as the only possible historical source of the concern for humanity as a whole? Paradoxically, he


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turns to mysticism—an allegedly very personal and intimate phenomenon—to find the root of “true cosmopolitanism.” The “great mystic,” in Bergson’s depiction, connects the universal with the particular: “In reality, the task of the great mystic is to effect a radical transformation of humanity by setting an example.”7 Before we begin to assess the meaning of this idea, let’s clarify what Bergson understands to be the “highest” or “most complete” sort of mysticism. Briefly reviewing the mysticism of classical antiquity, as well as its Hindu variants, he concludes that in the “absolute sense” that he wants to give to the word, mysticism did not exist either in Greece or in ancient India. “Complete mysticism,” Bergson says, must be found, instead, in “the great Christian mystics” since they offer a unique combination of three different things (227ff.). First, according to him, their conception of God as a creator makes manifest, in turn, humanity’s “creative vocation.” It can be easily affirmed that, beyond any further piece of religious dogma, what really interests Bergson in Christian theology is this creative or vital dimension. He sees religion as merely the crystallization of what is alive and moving in the mystic soul. In his view, religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science, and therefore the mystic’s mission is not to spread any dogmatic belief but to be an intensifier of religious faith (239). Second, unlike philosophy, which posits “a motionless Mover, a Thought thinking itself, self-enclosed, operative only by the appeal to its perfection” (242), Christianity “regards God as a Being who can hold communication with us” (241). God is not to be contemplated but interacted with. However, most important, such interaction or communication can never be the source of clear and positive directives regarding world affairs. In Bergson’s view, God is not a “closed concept,” and his messages cannot be well defined, “such as might enable us to conclude what the world is like or what it should be like” (262).8 Third, even though he acknowledges that the mystical approach “is more metaphysical than moral” (234), for Bergson, mysticism is never mere contemplation. Considering figures such as Saint Paul, Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis, George Fox, and Joan of Arc, he asserts that Christian mysticism is essentially active: “What it wants to do, with God’s help, is to complete the creation of the human species” (234).9 Drawing on direct sources (that is, testimonies of the mystics themselves), as well as on what he takes to be reliable systematic studies on the topic, he observes that their way of life is never aloof from worldly demands and concerns (240).10 Together, these three points—the essence of human beings as creatures that can create in turn, the personal and ambiguous character of the divine

Personal Authority and Political Theology


message, and the bent toward action informed by a claim for justice—are, for Bergson, the unique core of Christian mysticism. Now, as I said, he affirms that what he takes to be true cosmopolitanism, the “religion of humanity,” was first made available in history only through the exemplary lives of the Christian mystics. That seems to be a partly historical, partly metaphysical assertion, but Bergson is not very clear on this respect. Still, I am not chiefly interested here in assessing his argument from a historical point of view.11 Rather, what concerns me now is to explore the connections that Bergson draws between mysticism, humanity, and democracy in order to understand what precisely he is looking for in the “great mystics.” Contrary to Kant’s “formula of humanity,” Bergson thinks that the best way to respect and protect what is human among human beings is not through any rational formula but by the example of some privileged individuals who lead a mystic life. For Bergson, one of the strengths of the “force of exemplarity” is the protection it offers against the corruption of moral insight via formal, institutional, or bureaucratic channels. Thus, a master plan of social and political reform aimed at the realization of humanity would be, for him, a selfdefeating method (235). On the contrary, he welcomes “the superabundant energy spent [by the great mystics] in founding convents or religious orders” (236) as the only appropriate way of furthering the “mystic impetus” in favor of humanity. Such an impetus can be preserved only through “to a tiny handful of privileged souls which together would form a spiritual society” (236) and by the eventual multiplication of societies of this kind, “until such time as a profound change in the material conditions imposed on humanity by nature should permit, in spiritual matters, of a radical transformation” (236). Still, even if Bergson does not see any systematic project of social and political reform as the adequate translation of the mystic insight on humanity, he does think that modern democracy finds its decisive element in it—the one that glues the rest of the normative pieces of modern democracy firmly together. Without mysticism, the democratic ideal, composed only by the values of liberty and equality, establishes merely a direction, he says, but never “an arriving place”—hence democracy’s original “negative” or “contestatory” character. In his view, “it was more than anything else as a protest that [democracy] was introduced into the world. Every sentence of the Declaration of the Rights of Man is a challenge to some abuse. The main thing was to put an end to intolerable suffering” (244). Democracy’s values, he thinks, are adequate to “prevent, reject, and overthrow” but not to yield any “positive indication of what is to be done” (283). However, he thinks, that is not a bad thing. “How is it possible”—Bergson inquires rhetorically—“to


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ask for a precise definition of liberty and equality when the future must lie open to all sorts of progress, and especially to the creation of new conditions under which it will be possible to have forms of liberty and equality which are impossible of realization, perhaps of conception, today?” (282). Because democracy is indeterminate, it is liable to constant “re-creation.” Mysticism, according to Bergson, is key for that to happen.12 Given the ambiguity of the negative character of democratic values, fraternity was needed, says Bergson, as the principle capable of integrating, reconciling, and giving direction to the other two. Fraternity is mysticism’s legacy, and therefore, in Bergson’s words, “democracy is evangelical in essence and . . . its motive power is love” (282). This applies, he thinks, for both the French and the American varieties of democracy, whose religious character, he claims, is often misunderstood.13 For Bergson, liberty and equality can only be sketched in general outlines; however, “their content will improve as and when fraternity provides” (282).14 As I interpret this passage, it means that democracy’s ideal will adapt to new circumstances, becoming better and more persuasive (whatever that means, at each particular moment in history) as fraternity provides the spur to further the democratic project.15 However, Bergson is adamant that mystic fraternity is very different from that which the philosophers foster “in the name of reason” (233). The great mystics’ spur toward humanity is what he calls an “already active ideal,” one that immediately motivates us rather than binding us through reasons.16 I have reviewed Bergson’s understanding of Christian mysticism and of what he takes to be its contribution to modern democracy. What will ultimately interest me here will be to flesh out the notion of exemplarity contained in Bergson’s interpretation of the “great Christian mystics” and to argue why exemplarity thus enacted can claim to be preeminently democratic. However, before doing so, let’s review Scheler’s contrasting interpretation of Christianity and democracy.

Christian Love Versus Modern Humanitarianism in Scheler Contrary to Bergson, Scheler thinks that “Christianity does not contain the germ of modern socialist and democratic tendencies and value judgments.”17 On the contrary, Scheler contends that “the Christian conception of love was . . . completely distorted by the positive alliances with the modern idea of humanitarian love into which all the Christian denominations entered to an increasing degree” (92).

Personal Authority and Political Theology


Scheler’s interpretation of the relation between Christianity and modern democracy takes the form of a refutation of Nietzsche’s argument that Christian morality springs from ressentiment of the weak against the strong. To recall, for Nietzsche, Christian love of the neighbor, as well as its praise of the weak, poverty, and suffering, springs from the frustration and bitterness that come with powerlessness.18 Those who lack power are able, nonetheless, to create new values that praise their morbid way of life and condemn the vitality of the strong. Scheler acknowledges that Nietzsche made a profound psychological discovery—to wit, that powerlessness and the resentment that ensues from it can be the source of new values—but argues that he misattributed the phenomenon to Christianity. For him, Nietzsche was right in seeing modern democratic humanitarianism as the product of ressentiment. Even if Scheler admits that, historically, Christian morality and democratic humanitarianism have sided with each other, merging philosophically, ideologically, and politically, he claims—contra Nietzsche and contrary to Bergson’s position as well—that whenever that has happened, the true meaning of Christianity has been perverted. First, according to Scheler’s interpretation, the notion that all men are equivalent in God’s eyes is foreign to Christianity, and thus, in his view, the latter is not, properly speaking, an egalitarian religion: “God sees an immeasurable abundance of differences and value distinctions where our eyes, fixed on outward appearances, see nothing but a seeming uniformity in the values of men, races, groups and individuals” (75–76). Notice the consistency between Scheler’s theological perspective on this point and his deep and complex notion of the self. Even if Scheler acknowledges that Christianity refutes antiquity’s axiomatic belief that equal rights are always unjust, it only does so, he says, “by making an even greater qualitative distinction between men, which penetrates much more deeply into the ontological depths of the person” (90).19 For him, the assumption that there is a uniform spiritual structure across humanity and that the disposition for salvation is everywhere identical is “as foreign to the genuine Christian doctrine as it is to true antiquity” (89). Whenever equality has been introduced by Christianity, he explains, it is not as a truth but “as a mere pragmatic-pedagogic assumption, indispensable for rendering missionary work possible and meaningful” (90). Second, according to Scheler, Christianity’s conception of love and its corresponding conception of solidarity do not spring from the experience of powerlessness but, on the contrary, from the experience of a surplus of power, vitality, and a superabundance of love. Comparing Christian love to


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the ancient (e.g., Platonic) conception, Scheler says that in the latter, there is always an “element of anxiety”: ancient love is an ascent, “aspiration of the lower towards the higher” (57), and thus a sign of need and lack. In that scheme, “the noble fears the descent to the less noble, [it] is afraid of being infected and pulled down” (61). However, Christian love traverses the opposite direction—from the nobler to the vulgar, from the healthy to the sick, from the rich to the poor, from the handsome to the ugly, from the good and saintly to the bad and common, and, finally, from the Messiah to the sinners and publicans (57)—and therefore, Scheler claims, displays its “inner security and vital plenitude” (60). Notice, then, the similarities to Bergson’s conception of Christianity and its strain of mysticism. To begin with, for Scheler, Christian love corresponds to a notion of life, whose goal is not merely self-preservation but rather “expansion, development, growth in plenitude” (59). According to him, Christianity’s lack of concern with the body and physical well-being does not spring from a lack of vitality or from indifference to life and its preservation—even less, he says, from an infatuation with “blind obedience” or discipline per se (94). Rather, it springs from the conviction that “all voluntary concentration on one’s own bodily well-being, all worry and anxiety, hampers rather than furthers the creative force which instinctively and beneficently governs all life” (60).20 Second, as in Bergson, Christian love, according to Scheler, is eminently personal and creative: “the Christian Deity is a personal God who created the world out of an infinite overflow of love . . . —only to express this superabundance of love. This new notion of the deity is the conceptual theological expression of the changed attitude toward life” (63). Third, for Scheler, as well as for Bergson, Christian love is not contemplation; it is action. In Scheler’s words, “Christian love is essentially a spiritual action and movement, as independent of our body and senses as the acts and laws of thinking” (80). Thus, in Christianity, “there is no longer a ‘highest good’ independent of and beyond the act and movement of love” (58). That makes love the deepest root of Christian morality (92). Moreover, this shared bent for action found in both Scheler and Bergson does not mean for any of them that a certain sociopolitical program can be derived from such a tendency in any straightforward or programmatical manner. Still, Scheler went further on this last point than Bergson would ever do. He not only was suspicious of clear-cut derivations of political programs and policies from the principle of love but also declared that all such projects would amount to a “turbid amalgamation” with utilitarianism (93). Even

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more radically, and this time in outward opposition to Bergson, he claimed that in the notion of humanity, there is nothing more than a mere aggregation of individuals, which does not respect the individuality of persons (80).21 Both authors agree that modern democracy is based on a negative set of claims and has thus a primarily antagonistic character. As we saw in the previous section, for Bergson, democracy has an inherent contestatory character, while Scheler, along similar lines, claimed that modern humanitarianism is “in every respect a polemical and protesting concept” (80). However, they both have very different conceptions of the kind of protest that is involved in the democratic project. While in Bergson’s view, democracy protests against the closed society or perhaps merely against what it finds unjust within it— implying, therefore, that it is ultimately a legitimate and salutary protest—for Scheler, the protest of democracy is one that “fruitlessly resent[s] the sting of authority” (27, italics added). Again, following Nietzsche, he sees modern democratic principles as a resentful and barren reaction from the weak against the strong. Now, against whom exactly is directed the protest issued by modern humanitarianism, according to Scheler? How does he know that such a protest is pervaded by ressentiment? In Scheler’s reading, modern democracy is not—as the standard historical interpretation would have it—a protest against the ancien régime and the unfairness of an aristocratic structure of society. Rather, it has a “deeper meaning.” First, Scheler says, it is a protest against God and, more generally, against the divine. Modern humanitarianism loves “natural man” and not what is divine in him; it loves man as a member of the human race and not as part of the kingdom of God.22 Humanitarian love, according to him, loves an aggregation of human beings and therefore necessarily corresponds to a utilitarian outlook, interested merely in material welfare. On the contrary, Scheler says, Christian love looks at the individual person and specifically at his or her salvation. It is essentially different from benevolence: it is interested in the act of love, not in its consequences (62). As he puts it, Christian love “is not an institution of charity” (62).23 Second, he claims, “universal love of mankind” is a protest against the immediate circle of community and its values, in both time and space. More emphatically, the “intense enthusiasm for mankind” manifests, in Scheler’s view, a repressed hatred against our ascribed community. Similarly, he interprets its emphasis on the welfare of the future generations as a protest against the dead, that is, against one’s own ancestors (86). Finally, Scheler holds that modern humanitarianism is a protest against one’s own self: it is an expression of self-hatred. Altruism—in his view, “the


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love of others, just insofar as they are others” (87–88)—is a way of fleeing from oneself and therefore, he says, a morbid way of living and a sign of declining life, as Nietzsche rightly saw (88). In contrast to this, Christian love is directed to others as to one’s self. For the Christian, his “own salvation is as important to him as the love of his neighbor” (87). Thus, he concludes, “Christianity knows a form of self-love that is basically different from all egoism” (87, translation slightly modified).24 In sum, even if both Scheler and Bergson think that democracy has a negative or polemical character, they have contrasting assessments about it: for the latter, it is an open-ended and therefore fertile ground for the mystic insight to sow its seed, while for the former, it is contaminated with ressentiment. In consequence, they hold opposite conclusions regarding the link between Christianity and democracy.25 Nonetheless, as we saw before, there is significant common ground in their respective interpretations of Christianity. First, and most important, they have a shared philosophical approach to Christian theology, tinged with personalist elements and based on a conception of love understood as action. Second, they both have important reservations about the translation from the spiritual to the material and in fact agree about the impossibility of turning spiritual principles into welldefined political programs without perverting the former. Such common elements, moreover, were not isolated or merely idiosyncratic within Christianity. Rather, they are best understood in the context of religious Modernism, which refers to a set of related theological efforts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—especially in France, but not only—to make religion relevant in the face of science, both in the sense of Geisteswissenschaften—history, anthropology, psychology—and of natural science, conceived along vitalist, experimental, and evolutionary lines.26 So far, we have reviewed both authors’ conceptions of the relation between Christianity and modern democracy. With this in mind, it is time to turn to the reflections on exemplarity that are contained in their respective theological approaches.

Bergson on Mysticism as Political Pedagogy Bergson’s theory of the spiritual origins of modern democracy raises the question of why, for him, should the mystics be the ultimate instantiation of democratic exemplarity and not, say, Pericles or Lincoln?27 What is so special about mysticism? On this score, some have pointed to the undeniable

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personal dimension of Bergson’s philosophical argument, according to which the book can be read as an account of his spiritual itinerary from Judaism to Christianity.28 To be sure, as Henri Gouhier has said, “Every serious philosophy has a biographical dimension”29; however, if that were the whole story, the author’s treatment would be solely the result of his own religious idiosyncrasies, and philosophically, it would not be especially interesting. Certainly, that is not the case. Others have identified a direct coincidence between Bergson’s theory of philosophical intuition, on the one hand, and Christian mystical experience, on the other.30 Indeed, in The Two Sources, both the mystic and the philosopher are always presented alongside each other— the latter speaking for the more contemplative side of an enterprise that has its active and reassuring side in the dispositions of the former.31 Among the main parallels that Bergson draws between the great mystic and the philosopher, we find that they are both embarked on a creative enterprise whose message is never clear-cut. The mystic, as we saw, does not transmit a concrete message, concept, or belief; rather, his legacy is his own life as a holder of faith. Such a legacy, moreover, has to do with the character of human beings as creators. The mystic sets an example, instead of providing a formula. The philosopher, for his part—in what can be seen as Bergson’s version of the parable of the cave—goes “back” (instead of “up”) to a different plane where he is in touch with philosophical insights. Then, as in Plato, some kind of “force” is exerted upon the philosopher (the “return,” in Plato’s case), and he is pushed to “create.”32 Even if the “truths” with which he is in contact “back there” were only seen or clearly felt once in a lifetime, Bergson says, they will let their demands be felt in a lasting way, “compelling” the philosopher to work with language, reshaping it in order to provide new and fresh insights to humanity.33 If this task is successfully accomplished, humanity will be enriched by it. For Bergson, the philosopher is entitled to be heard only insofar as he or she is capable of doing what I just described. In other words, this process legitimizes the kind of authority that, according to Bergson, the philosopher is entitled to. However, unlike in Plato’s cave, in Bergson’s case, the people cannot be forced to listen. They should be prompted and wooed into philosophy, just as Bergson himself—the “mystic master,” as a commentator calls him34—did throughout his life in numerous lectures given in halls full of eager listeners. More important, as suggested by Bergson’s theories of cognition and recognition, in his view, the philosopher/mystic’s audience does not sit passively as a “receptacle” of his message. In the process of reflectively recognizing what the philosopher says and does, listeners will engage in an active


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process, thus enhancing their agency. I cannot expound on Bergson’s theory of what he calls “reflective perception” or “attentive recognition,” developed in his early book, Matter and Memory. Suffice it to say that according to this theory, as someone pays increased attention to an object, the person does not receive more and more information from it but rather “puts in” a whole lot more in order to be able to recognize it.35 Similarly, then, understanding the ideas and attitudes that the philosopher/mystic has to teach would involve a process in which the audience has to “put in” in order to receive. These three elements together—Bergson’s conception of the message and the task of the philosopher/mystic, his conception of what it takes to recognize and learn what this figure has to teach, together with the fact that the audience cannot be forced to listen—suggest that Bergson is offering here a sort of modern and “democratized” defense before the city, of the authority to which the philosopher and the mystic, as exemplary figures, are entitled. He would not argue, as Plato did, that the great mystic or the philosopher may become king but just that the majority should be persuaded of the benefits of listening to them. Their role in the city thus is primarily pedagogical.36 Such, moreover, is presumably not a utopian idea since, for Bergson, common sense is in certain respects much closer to philosophical intuition than it ever was for Plato. Even if common sense easily departs from philosophy, it is certainly closer to it than any highly intellectualized scientific approach. Two more things add to the relatively democratic character of the exemplary authority exercised by the philosopher/mystic as Bergson conceives it. First, his vindication of these figures differs crucially from Plato’s defense of the philosopher, in that the insight provided by philosophical/mystical intuition, according to Bergson, is thoroughly egalitarian: unlike the hierarchy of souls presented in the Republic, in Bergson’s account, as I said before, the mystic’s message has made the religion of humanity “available to the world.” Second, not only the content of the message is democratic but also the scope or the reach that the message is supposed to have: the philosopher’s message concerns everyone equally (or, at least, more equally than the message of other disciplines or fields of knowledge, say, physics or art). That is, indeed, the most reiterated lesson offered by Bergson in the essays and lectures compiled in the book titled La pénsee et le mouvant (translated in English as The Creative Mind)—an anthology that puts together some of the most important texts and discourses by which Bergson popularized his ideas throughout his career. “Satisfactions which art will never give save to those favoured by nature and fortune, and only then upon rare occasions,

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philosophy thus understood will offer to all of us, at all times, by breathing life once again into the phantoms which surround us and by revivifying us.”37 Bergson promises that we can expect from philosophy the “joy and the strength of feeling” that “we are participating, creators of ourselves, in the great work of creation which is the origin of all things and which goes before our eyes.”38 Such is the pedagogical character of the authority Bergson identifies in the Christian mystics, as well as in the philosopher. Confronted with these figures, he thinks, the majority can hold the expectation that, through a certain type of education, they can partake in the insights and, above all, in the way of life, of which they are an example.39 According to Phillip Soulez, Bergson’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1928 marks the occasion when the philosopher publicly poses the question that would eventually become one of the main focuses of The Two Sources, namely, he says, that of the moral and ontological status of humanity. Expanding on Soulez’s hermeneutic hint, I suggest that we connect the Nobel speech and The Two Sources in yet one more respect. In his speech, Bergson says that “the political problem par excellence is the problem of education.”40 Putting together this statement from the speech and the notion of exemplary authority articulated in The Two Sources as we just reviewed it underpins the idea that the political significance of the latter is eminently pedagogical and that Bergson’s political expectations regarding the “great mystics” and the future of humanity in the early 1930s relied on the idea that a proper civic education should be a philosophical and mystical education. Now, the most relevant contemporary alternative for the model of personal authority that results from Bergson’s reflections on mysticism is Max Weber’s notion of charismatic authority. The latter constituted (and still does) the paradigm of personal authority for those who—unlike Bergson and Scheler—assume a post-Kantian skeptic stance: the so-called modern disenchantment. Moreover, it is worth taking note of the extent to which— theoretical and methodological differences notwithstanding—Weber and Bergson (and Scheler) shared a set of normative concerns that motivated them to turn to personal authority in the modern world. Briefly said, Weber is as worried as our authors were about how intellectualization, rationalization, and bureaucratization stifle individuality and are therefore sources of oppression. Even if, as we will explore further in a moment, what counts as “personal” is different in Weber’s view, he thought—as Bergson and Scheler did—that freedom is only possible from a personal perspective and that the only way we can answer as human beings is from an individual or personal standpoint.41 For those reasons, Weberian charisma seems the most


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appropriate point of contrast to understand and adequately assess the psychological, moral, sociological—and even existential—implications of the model of authority that our thinkers were exploring. Weber conceives charismatic authority as that which “rest[s] on devotion to the specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism, or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.”42 According to Weber, these normative patterns find no other ground outside of the leader’s own extraordinary qualities, which are, moreover, acknowledged through constant “proofs” that confirm the “possession” of charisma (typically the performance of miracles or of great and heroic deeds).43 Interestingly, he observes further that “charisma can only be ‘awakened’ and ‘tested’; it cannot be ‘learned’ or ‘taught.’ ”44 Moreover, in Weber’s account, the message conveyed by those with charismatic authority (especially but not only in cases of prophetic revelation, that is, in religious instantiations of such an authority) “involves for both the prophet himself and for his followers . . . a unified view of the world derived from a consciously integrated and meaningful attitude toward life. To the prophet, both the life of man and the world, both social and cosmic events, have a certain systematic and coherent meaning.”45 In sum, the allure of the charismatic leader resides in the fact that he or she reveals or ordains normative patterns that are capable of giving coherence and constancy to a life, that is, to a “personality” in Weber’s sense. Personality, for Weber, refers not to a random pattern of behavioral propensities and character dispositions but, rather, to the display of coherent action with regards to a framework of meaning.46 In Weber’s words, personality is “a concept which entails a constant and intrinsic relation to certain ultimate values and meanings of life, values and meanings which are forged into purposes and thereby translated into rational-teleological action.”47 Notice that such a notion has substantial normative connotations since, as has been argued, for Weber, having a personality is the only way of “being one’s own self ”48—that is, of achieving self-determination through an “inner distance” that elevates the individual from the ordinary and undifferentiated background of the world.49 Only thus can we have a “unitary individuality”50 and so bear “our necessary burden and gift,” which is to “make sense” or to have meaning. In words of Tracy Strong, for Weber, “the more sense we know ourselves to make, the more human we acknowledge ourselves to be.”51 The charismatic leader speaks directly to a personality in this sense, providing therefore the necessary framework of meaning for it to be formed as a unity.52

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How is then Weber’s notion of charismatic authority different from Bergson’s conception of exemplarity? Notice, first, that Weber’s conception of personality as a unitary individuality is in stark contrast to the multiplicity that characterizes Bergson’s notion of the “inner self.” Furthermore, as we have seen, for Bergson, such multiplicity is betrayed as soon as it is given concrete meaning. Free agency, in Bergson’s view, is equally ineffable. Compare this to Weber’s conception of freedom, in which heterogeneity is certainly acknowledged at the outset but is then given up, so to speak, through choice. For Weber, freedom is found in the conflict between “different gods”—that is, different values—among which a person must choose in order to make sense of the reality that surrounds her.53 Notice, in turn, that the differences between their respective conceptions of personality and freedom are of an epistemological nature: they correspond to Weber’s post-Kantian skepticism and to Bergson’s belief in intuition. Given such contrasts, the kind of personal authority that can effectively “speak” to the person in each case will vary accordingly. First, as I said before, Bergson’s conception of exemplarity is not concerned at all with dogma or doctrine, let alone with a “unified worldview.” For him, the allure exerted by the great mystics does not depend on either handing down specific commands or revealing to others a concrete set of directives. Of course, this does not mean that actual recognition by others is dispensable. If the interest is in exemplarity (and not merely in mystic experience as such), the acknowledgment from others is, by definition, decisive, as Weber rightly observes.54 However, for Bergson, recognition (of an example or an exemplar included) is, as I said before, something that we can certainly learn how to do, and moreover, according to his theory of memory, we do it piecemeal.55 Thus, for him, we would not suddenly become “awakened” to an example or to the phenomenon of charisma, as Weber claims. Recognition is never an instantaneous or miraculous process; rather, it depends instead on a gradual “education of the senses.”56 Subjectively, for Weber, “recognition [of charisma] is a matter of complete personal devotion to the possessor of the quality, arising out of enthusiasm, or of despair and hope.”57 Even in the case of what he calls “exemplary prophets” of the East, as opposed to the “ethical prophets” of the West, their sociological role consists of “an effort to systematize all the manifestations of life; that is, to organize practical behavior into a direction of life, regardless of the form it may assume in any individual case.”58 In short, charismatic leaders always articulate an exhaustive discipline of life, which will be adopted by those from whom they can obtain a fully devotional attitude.59


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In contrast to Weber’s charismatic authority, the alternative that Bergson finds in mysticism—and which we shall explore further shortly with the help of Scheler—offers a way of following that escapes such a disciplinary structuring. Following an exemplar consists, for Bergson, in imitating him, and the only expectation that these figures can have in terms of influence or impact is, by way of their example, to provide insights that are, as it were, “more than advice and less than a command, an advice which one may not safely ignore.”60 Several questions surface right away. How can one realistically aspire to imitate such extraordinary figures, as the mystics presumably are? Whatever difference with the Platonic philosopher-king notwithstanding, isn’t Bergson presenting us in truth with an aristocratic model of authority, one in which the followers cannot reasonably expect to be on a par with those whose authority they recognize? Even more, can we affirm that everybody would eventually recognize such an authority? Or if that is not so, in what sense can the model be said to be “democratic”? In order to work our way through these questions, it might be illuminating to compare briefly Bergson’s model of the Christian mystics to what is perhaps its most adequate precedent in Western politicophilosophical thought—namely, the Rousseauian legislator. As it is well known, Rousseau’s legislator cannot operate either by force or by reason, and thus “he must have recourse to an authority of a different order, which can compel without violence and persuade without convincing.”61 His authority plays a crucial role within the body politic not because he enlightens people, providing them a clearer or more accurate understanding of justice, but because he alone awakens in the citizens the desire or the disposition to be just.62 He does not perform miracles; rather, says Rousseau, his “great soul” is “the real miracle which must give proof of his mission.”63 The figure of the mystic in Bergson is similar to Rousseau’s legislator in that his authority is based neither on force nor on reason: he cannot force his audience to accept his message, but neither is he set about convincing people since he does not transmit a concrete message, concept, or belief. Rather, he woos them by way of his example, and his legacy is his own life as a holder of faith. Moreover, as Christopher Kelly has compellingly argued, the language of Rousseau’s legislator is very much modeled upon the language of the imitative arts. Unlike the philosopher who proceeds “by demonstration,” the legislator proceeds like the imitative artist, who mobilizes his aesthetic resources to transmit moral and intellectual impressions. These, in turn, can be imitated by his audience.64 The imitative arts, for Rousseau, have a privileged place in moral education since they both depend on and elicit our moral feelings.

Personal Authority and Political Theology


By imitating the inflections of the voice, melody expresses plaints, cries of suffering or of joy, threats, moans; all the vocal signs of the passions fall within its province. It imitates the accents of various languages as well as the idiomatic expressions commonly associated in each one of them with given movements of the soul; it not only imitates, it speaks; and its language, though inarticulate, is lively, ardent, passionate, and a hundred times more vigorous than speech itself. This is where musical imitation acquires its force; this is where song acquires its hold on sensitive hearts.65 Thus, the sounds of the legislator’s voice, like those of a melody, “act on us not only as sounds but as signs of our affections, of our sentiments.”66 Therein resides the ethicopolitical importance of such a figure. As Judith Shklar says, “The altering of public opinion, the revolution in attitudes that impinge on behavior can only be done by an example so impressive that it imposes the will to imitate.”67 Likewise, the authority of the Bergsonian mystics is exerted in that they elicit imitation. It is not that there is an obligation to imitate them—as if we could first “deduce” the existence of the obligation and then impose it upon potential imitators. Rather, the obligation toward them is, as Bergson would say, “an ideal already active”68 in that the mystics, like Rousseau’s legislator, awaken in others the desire to imitate them. Now, of course, whether the figure of the legislator compromises the democratic character of Rousseau’s theory is a controversial and widely discussed question, and I presume a similar set of opposing arguments could be deployed for the political role that the Bergsonian mystics are expected to play.69 Not to rehearse the same arguments here, I will instead limit myself to offering a comparison between, on the one hand, Bergson’s philosopher/mystic and, on the other, two alternative exemplary figures—namely, the hero and the genius—in order to further appreciate the mystic’s democratic potential as a source of authority.70 Regarding the hero, consider Lincoln for a moment. I suppose that Lincoln’s leadership sparked in more than one, out of admiration, the desire to imitate him or become like him. However, upon reflection, it is easy to see that, most surely, such was not the kind of leadership that Lincoln primarily exercised: people did not follow him, on the whole, out of a desire to become like him but rather out of deference. Furthermore, taken seriously, the expectation to become like him would have been unsound and even immature: heroes are unique and completely exceptional. To illustrate this last point, I shall borrow an example provided by Scheler: teenagers often dream that they become not only like the figures they admire,


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the hero(ine)s of their favorite novels and films, but also these characters themselves.71 Yet, the appeal of the juvenile fantasy of actually becoming these figures lies precisely in the fact that one cannot be reasonably satisfied with even a very good imitation of one’s heroes. Given their unique and exceptional character, imitating them cannot possibly constitute (except perhaps for a talented impersonator) a morally desirable goal in life. Therefore, “following a hero” preserves, by definition, the gap between leader and follower.72 In contrast, the role model offered by a mystic or a philosopher seems, as it were, to “make room for others” in a way the exemplarity of Pericles or Lincoln does not.73 To put it in Weberian terms, for Bergson, the mystic and the philosopher hold charismatic authority in a distinctive democratic fashion, which the exemplary politician does not seem to be capable of. Mystics are not heroes.74 Put differently, if you want to become a mystic or a philosopher, it makes sense to imitate one, whereas if you want to become, say, a charismatic statesperson, it would be unsound to adopt imitation as your method to attain so.75 Such a fact is certainly related to the requirements of the political vocation, which involve specialized talents and skills, in a way mysticism and philosophy—at least in Bergson’s view—do not. (Of course, notice that this requires a conception of mysticism and of philosophy that we might call “Socratic” in its appeal to ignorance and simplicity as the appropriate conditions for wisdom.76) The same can be said about the comparison with geniuses. Bergson calls the mystic “more than a man” and admittedly adds that “the same can be said of other forms of genius,” thereby suggesting that the mystics could be regarded as such.77 However, despite the phrase just quoted, it is plain that Bergson is not thinking of their extraordinary character along the lines of genius as it was conceived, for instance, by the German Romantics. The mystics’ exceptional character, in Bergson’s view, does not have anything to do with originality. Evelyn Underhill—together with William James, one of Bergson’s main sources on the character of mysticism—explains that all true saints detested eccentricity and singularity.78 Instead, Bergson would say, their unique character is better captured by the intriguing idea that they “constitute a species composed of a single individual.”79 Again, what this seems to suggest is that the mystics paradoxically unite the particular and the generic: they are exemplary figures, but somehow, they do not “stand out” as geniuses do.80 Therein lies their specifically democratic exemplarity, which, as such, requires, in turn, what I shall call an “ethics of imitation.” The latter is, in my reading, the main pedagogicopolitical lesson of The Two Sources. Such a lesson suggests a possible way out of the dichotomy between heteronomous

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following, on the one hand, and autonomous freedom, on the other. In the face of Rousseau’s question of how to obey while preserving our freedom, Bergson’s appeal to mysticism suggests that imitation is not only compatible with freedom but also a paramount resource to achieve it.81 Still, a democrat today might not be persuaded and ask, how can the great mystics offer a truly democratic model of authority if they are by definition exceptional beings? The problem is easily illustrated by the practice of Imitatio Christi. Such a practice immediately poses questions within theological debates about the extent to which the imitation of Christ can be successful, given the latter’s semidivine character. I will argue that Bergson’s treatment of the figure of Jesus Christ offers an answer to this, which, whatever its immediate metaphysical motivation, has a clear political dimension and, within our politicotheological tradition, unequivocal democratic implications. However, in order to see this more clearly, we need to review first Scheler’s conception of exemplarity.

Scheler on Sainthood: Following Without Subjection Scheler’s treatment of sainthood is fairly analogous to Bergson’s treatment of mysticism: they both see sainthood and mysticism, respectively, through the lens of the personalist elements within Christianity. Scheler’s reflections on exemplarity—and, more specifically, saintly exemplarity—also portray a way of following that, through the right kind of emulation, enhances the follower.82 There, I find—again, in contrast with Weber, as well as with important variants of democratic political theory—a model of authority, in which following does not amount to subjection (in the sense of an intellectual or spiritual capitulation of sorts) and therefore is allegedly consistent with autonomy.83 Like Bergson, Scheler’s “ethics of emulation” is rooted in his theory of the self. In contrast to Bergson, however, for Scheler, the type of emulation that enhances the follower is not democratic since it is not founded on a morally egalitarian conception of human nature. Rather, it is rooted in the hierarchy of values that sustains his ethical theory from beginning to end, which yields a moral hierarchy of people as well. By opening up different possibilities within theological Modernism, the contrast between Scheler and Bergson on this point will allow us to appreciate different political trade-offs between equality and freedom.84 The importance of personal authority within Scheler’s philosophical outlook springs both from his moral personalism and from the corresponding


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antiassociationist psychology, as reviewed in Chapter 1. For him, leaders and exemplars are effective in a way rules, norms, and principles would never be. Personal exemplars motivate us by a “faith” that our minds build upon them. There is no greater error as that [committed] in psychology or sociology that says we love or hate persons only because they say or did this or that, or because they have certain traits of character, or because of the looks of their noses or smiles. Our souls are not so didactic as our understanding, which always lags behind our loves and hates. We entertain attachments and apathies we cannot explain to ourselves. Rather, we love or hate, first of all, whole and total persons on the basis of an impression of their personal cast. Whenever we love or hate we also tend to consent or reject, to follow or to neglect. A teacher hated as a person can cause in us a disgust for an entire field of knowledge.85 In Chapter 2, we saw that, for Scheler, the voice of conscience, at its best, speaks to us not by universalizing norms or by relying on tradition but as individuals. Similarly, persons and the example they set constitute as well a privileged vehicle for the transmission of moral insights.86 That is because personal leadership and exemplarity appeal to us as persons and therefore constitute a fundamental component of our moral world and one of the most important resources for moral formation.87 Scheler distinguishes between leaders, on the one hand, and exemplars, on the other, suggesting that—morally and sociologically—the latter are more fundamental. Leaders, he says, “demand our will”: they demand specific actions on our part. Exemplars, on the contrary, “demand our being.”88 Leaders must intend to lead and must be recognized as such by the followers. On the contrary, exemplars can orient and inspire action without being aware of it. Followers, for their part, can be influenced by them without even being conscious of it. Indeed, Scheler claims, it is when we are less aware of somebody’s influence that he or she can have a more profound and definitive impact on us: a “vividly effective” model has a superior influence than the one that is merely “reflected upon” (129, 140). More important, however, he argues that exemplars determine the normative horizon in which leaders are selected: either negatively or positively, they set the actual, empirical standards that operate in the selection of leaders. The choice of leaders is, as he says, “a result of the gods we want

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to serve” (135)—that is why he claims that “a theory of personal exemplars is much more important and fundamental than the question of leaders, which is given so much one-sided attention today” (135). Exemplars, as moral types, are not “obtained empirically” through either inference or abstraction from historical and worldly experience (133). Rather, he claims, on the one hand, they are “given immediately”—just as the hierarchy of values is given to our consciousness, and on the other, they are complemented “materially” in history. In Scheler’s words, “these tender and shadowy casts must drink the appropriate blood from the wells of the experience of history. It is only when they do this that they become concrete models” (142). Now, how does Scheler characterize the act of following an exemplar? What is the relation that this “following without subjecting ourselves” establishes between the exemplar and the follower? In other words, what is the model of exemplary authority that we are supposed to learn from Scheler? In order to answer this, first notice that Scheler distinguishes between, on the one hand, “true followship,” or what is translated here as “emulation” (nachfolgen), and, on the other, “mere copying” and “imitating” (folgen) (158). In contrast to the latter, the former is supposed to indicate a way of following that is autonomous, one that springs “from the center of the personality” (84). According to Scheler, this occurs only if the soul of the follower is “attuned to” its exemplar and is thus able to “grow into” the exemplary cast, forming itself “into” it (139). When it does so, it “measures its own being, life and actions by this exemplar, either in a secret or deliberate fashion; it affirms, praises, negates, or disapproves of itself after his cast of value” (139). Like Bergson, Scheler thinks that moral value is most safely and profoundly transmitted by this kind of following. On this score, he says, “If we look at the series of exemplars in families, especially those of parents, or at those found in estates, occupations, and peoples . . . as well as at saintly exemplars, it is as if human beings pull themselves up by such interhuman exemplary strings. It is by the personal exemplars that our past remains present, alive and effective in the golden fabric of their moral value; it is through this past that all gracious geniuses dwell in the presence of the moment and release their forces toward a better future” (143, italics modified). The “pulling-up” metaphor in this passage aims at capturing the distinction between “mere reproduction” and “true following.” Unlike the former, the latter refers to the practice of modeling oneself after the cast of the exemplar, which—similar to his notion of “true sympathy” examined in the previous chapter—entails “intelligent receptiveness” instead of contagion or simulation (145).


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Now, as we saw in Chapter 1, for Scheler, there are different spheres in the hierarchy of values, the highest of which is the spiritual one. In the author’s systematic fashion, each sphere has its own type of exemplar, and the one corresponding to the spiritual sphere is the saint. In what follows, I will focus on this figure.89 According to Scheler, the saint is not only superior to the rest of exemplars but also “encompasses” and “inspires” all of them. In his words, “all other types of exemplary persons, ranging from the genius and hero, down to economic leaders, are either directly or indirectly dependent on prevailing religious exemplars” (152, translation slightly modified). As I understand this claim, the efficacy of religious models in every sphere of life and culture is due to the fact that, in his view, the core of our personality is spiritual. We are not primarily material or even psychological beings. Our essence is spiritual, and that explains, in my view, why saints are, for Scheler, both morally and sociologically the most decisive or influential type of exemplar.90 The effect they exert does not have to be conscious or deliberate, neither on the part of exemplars nor of the followers (134, 141, 153, 163–65). That is because, as I indicated above, for Scheler, this influence is not exerted upon our will as something “isolated” within the self; rather, it falls upon the constitution of the self as a whole, with its hierarchy of values and feelings. That is why, he says, we cannot “choose” exemplars as we choose, say, our favorite color (141).91 Since, for him, following does not mean “subjecting” our will to something—not even to our own selves (Rousseau) or to the demands of reason (Kant)—he allegedly escapes the problem of unfreedom that results from “negating one’s own will” in the face of authority. Among the saints, Scheler reserves a special place to what he calls “the original saint,” who, in the case of Christianity, is Jesus Christ. “Just as God is one, the person to whom he communicates his essence in the fullest way, is only one” (154). All the other saints—whom he calls “derived” or “following” saints—are below Jesus Christ. How, then, do the derived saints follow Jesus Christ without subjecting themselves to him? What does the relation between them consist in? Here, again, we see Scheler’s effort to capture the effect of the exemplar on the follower without betraying the ineffability of the persons involved—that is, without reducing them to any of their concrete characteristics. According to Scheler, following the original saint consists in the act of “sharing” and “co-experiencing” with the exemplary figure, of whose virtue the true follower becomes then a “living mirror” (162). Admittedly, this whole language is very obscure (i.e., what does “co-experiencing with the exemplary figure” mean?). However, I ask the reader to bear with me

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as we review the way Scheler describes the phenomenon of “true following.” Part of what interests me in this description is, precisely, the way in which his “verbal acrobatics” point to the moral and political difficulties involved in capturing the kind of personal authority that can truly preserve freedom. Just as with the “pulling-up” metaphor, according to which there is a chain of exemplary figures that pull up the ones below, Scheler uses the metaphor of the “living mirror” mentioned above to indicate a set of conceptual nuances regarding the way followers relate to such an exceptional figure. Unlike the genius, Scheler says, the saint is not admired; unlike the hero, he is not honored. Rather, he claims, the followers have faith in him. As we saw before, according to the author, exemplars in general elicit a sort of faith that is quite different from what we commonly understand by “rational belief.” This is even more so, he says, in the case of saints. Faith in the original saint concerns his person: it is not faith in an idea or a principle. For Scheler, his deeds and words are not “proofs” but only “testimony” of his unique relation to God. “The highest, purest, and most spiritual form that the effectiveness of exemplars can assume is the faith, or lack of it, in a whole person whom we have learned to grasp from out of the spiritual center of his life by way of placing ourselves into him and by co-executing that person’s moral tenor and acts” (147, italics in the original, translation slightly modified). Following the original saint, says Scheler—admittedly very cryptically—means to “reflect the rays” that he emanates in all directions (162)—rays that, moreover, bring salvation to those who are able to “flash them back” (162). In doing so, he explains, the followers do not understand the exemplar “from his outer appearance, as someone who only imitates would” (147, translation slightly modified), but again, “out of the spiritual center of his life” and by “placing themselves into” him (147). On this basis, he criticizes the ideal of Imitatio Christi as one that yields only an inauthentic relation to the exemplar. To go back to the question that interests us here: what exactly about the exemplar do the followers emulate? Do they emulate his actions? His words and opinions? Or is it rather his thoughts? Facing, again, the difficulty of indicating precisely how this following can happen, Scheler says that unlike the genius, who “lives” in his works, and unlike the hero, who is who he is by virtue of his actions, the saintly exemplar has only his person. The holy man is “effective only through the being of his person, and not through virtues, and even less through acts, works, deeds, or actions. These are only pointers to his being and holiness” (157, translation slightly modified). Paraphrasing Schiller on the “noble soul,” Scheler says that the original saint pays with what he is, not with what he does (157).


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So, if it is not with respect to works, words, or deeds, how is it that the rest of the saints “follow” the “original saint”? Or, as Scheler puts it, “what is it that the saints who ‘followed Christ’ wanted, experienced, or did?” (161). He answers (again in consonance with what we saw in Chapter 4): they did not want to be infected by him, “as if hypnotized by a leader” (161), or merely want to copy him, “say, to live in Galilee, or be in despair in Gethsemane, or die on the cross” (161). They did not want to have sympathy with him, not even, Scheler adds, to “share ‘with him’ the joy [Mitfreude ‘mit’] of his glorification” (161, translation slightly modified). In Scheler’s view, they only wanted to “co-live and re-live in one act the Spirit of his historically fortuitous, small, and poor life” (161). It is only by “summoning” his presence that they are able to do this. The exemplar lives—is “really present”—among the followers: “His factual givenness is the in-dwelling in his followers, of which,” he says, “the Scripture cast a first symbolic shadow” (157).92 Now, as I said, all of this is admittedly quite obscure. However, let us stop for a moment and notice that Scheler’s theory of exemplarity builds upon an important theological debate about the relative importance of grace versus human action in salvation. Put very briefly, on the one hand, there is the Augustinian position that grace does not respond to merit: in view of the fallen condition of man, salvation is a grace from God, conceded especially through the atonement. Forgiveness not only for past sins but also for our condition as a whole—that is, our condition as sinners—was given to human beings by the crucifixion of Christ. On the other hand, there is the position—most famously articulated by Pelagianism—that holds that human action is paramount for salvation, such that divine grace is not really a gift but the rightful reward for being good. As a result, this position tends to make room for human freedom, turning salvation into a matter of justice and subscribing to a view of human perfectibility. Relatedly, this position minimizes the role of the atonement and of Christ more generally, interpreting him “merely” as an example or, alternatively, as a teacher. As has been argued by Eric Nelson, the politicophilosophical importance of these debates is that they already contain the main arguments that would be played out both in early modern political thought, regarding freedom and dignity of human beings, and in contemporary political theory, regarding moral luck and desert.93 Seen in this context, Scheler seems to be trying to carve a space for himself in the middle of these two positions. On the one hand, the importance that he gives to Christ as “the original saint,” his character as a person to whom we relate directly in the act of love and faith, as well as the impossibility of being

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indifferent to his presence, corresponds to the Augustinian position that underscores human fallenness and helplessness in the face of divine grace. In this sense, his position undermines, at least to some extent, human freedom and what later would be called “human dignity.”94 However, there are other elements in his treatment of exemplarity that pull in the opposite direction, opening a space for freedom by other means, so to speak. Consider Scheler’s conception of Christ as an exemplar. This is a typically Pelagian motif, as it assigns him the role of a teacher or an example at the expense of that of being our Savior. Scheler seems to aim thus at a middle point, making Christ a sort of primus inter pares: he is the original saint, among others who are also called saints. Additionally, there are two other resources that make Scheler’s position an interesting “third way” in the debate between Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Such resources are clear Modernist aspects of his theology. First, consider Scheler’s downplaying of doctrinal content. Interpreters of Hobbes have showed us that reducing the required doctrinal beliefs to a bare minimum has the effect of making room for freedom, as it decreases the scope of what the sovereign can legitimately demand from the subjects.95 For Hobbes, the only article of faith necessary to salvation was that Jesus is the Christ.96 Now, Scheler goes even beyond Hobbes’s minimalist theology on this point. In his view, “Christianity does not mean to believe in an idea, for instance, to believe in the idea that Christ is the son of God, or to believe in the everlasting, central, and living presence of the person of Christ in the world and in history.”97 Rather, as we have seen, Scheler says that only the “immediate, clear presence [of the exemplar] belongs to the essence of the holy” (156). Indeed, the most perfect and complete revelation, he says, is simply self-revelation (156). What do we gain thus? Scheler is clear on this respect: what we lose in doctrinal content, we gain with respect to what he deems the “essence of personhood.” As we saw in Chapter 1, for him—and he reiterates this word by word in his reflections on exemplarity—“the person exists only in the execution or the movement of acts” (157, translation slightly modified).98 Thus, the ties between the original saint and the follower do not consist in subscribing to any particular doctrine or belief but rather “in the ‘immediate co-experience’ that the right way of following makes possible” (156–57). The derived saint, according to Scheler, “does not follow [the original saint] like someone who is obedient to laws, but he follows with him” (158, translation and italics slightly modified). Scheler calls this type of obedience “free following” (147) and claims that, as such, obedience “is only the path on which


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[one] will reach free following in love” (158, italics added). The concern with freedom is, again, a typical Pelagian motive. Moreover, as the idea cited a few pages above regarding the Scripture as a “symbolic shadow” suggests, the latter has mainly a symbolic and pedagogical value. The reading of the sacred text, says Scheler, is “contemplation, edification, and mental exercise” (157). Unlike the reading of scientific works, he explains, this practice is “an exercise in attitudes, regulation of one’s own positions, psychic techniques” (157, translation slightly modified). He says further: “Religious knowledge is not wholly present before liturgical expression; ritual is an essential vehicle of its growth. Thus, while the religious act is certainly rooted in the mind and the spirit, in execution it invariably takes the form of a psycho-physical rather than purely psychic unit. In this respect religious cognition is far closer to an artistic apprehension of the world than to science and metaphysics.”99 So, while, in Scheler’s reading, the original saint is indeed a “specific positive source of cognition and experience,”100 bequeathing to the followers what they will later transmit by way of the gospel and their own examples, he is mainly interested—similarly to Bergson’s treatment of the mystic insight—in the Scripture as something apart from its dogmatic content. Second, another Modernist resource that Scheler uses to make room for freedom in the midst of his partially Augustinian picture of the self is his insistence on the independence of the original exemplar from any kind of material symbols. In his view, it is necessary that the original saint does not leave any written work “that would make his person directly accessible to us in subsequent history” (157). That is, he says, one of the necessary but not sufficient conditions of his “boundless efficacy” (157). Hence, he explains, in antiquity, Socrates “came closest to holiness” (158). For our purposes, the importance of this point is the effect it has on freedom. The absence of any specific empirical requirements for true following to occur broadens the space, so to speak, in which the follower can move. Given the absence of any other “material” with which the original saint can work and create—like “wood, stone, or paint” (162)—the only requirement left is to act over and through persons as such. It does not matter by means of which materials or rituals. For Scheler, the original saint “can only be present through, and in, persons” (162).101 Now, how can we make sense of Scheler’s personalist model of authority and its corresponding mode of following? What can its significance be, for instance, as an alternative to the obedience that is paid to a Weberian charismatic leader, whose message provides a “unified worldview” by which we

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structure “rational-teleological action”? In my view, its importance lies on the way it tries to balance two related tensions. The first tension is that, on the one hand, in following the original saint, the followers are attracted by something they do not choose. Scheler says that even before we can choose them, exemplars “possess us and attract us” (141). Moreover, contrary to, say, a subject matter such as music or history, which we can study at will, “no person is knowable by way of spontaneous penetration, but only by way of free self-disclosure toward another person” (153). Thus, again, allegedly constraining human freedom of choice, true following is “directed from the outside,” that is, by the exemplar. On the other hand, however, this constraint is “open” or “indeterminate” in the senses indicated above: by the irrelevance of the material or empirical conditions surrounding the ritual and by the importance of the latter at the expense of doctrine. In other words, the follower is bound by the allure of the exemplar and yet left with much to be further decided. Such boundedness reminds him that freedom is never sovereign or absolute but not therefore impossible.102 The second tension is that, as Scheler claims, it is only by emulating another, in the ineffable manner that we have so far described, that the followers can truly become themselves. Emulation, as we saw, should be sharply distinguished, in his view, from “mere copying,” even if it does constitute “the ever new reproduction of the cast of the person” whom you emulate (156). To put the tension most graphically, think of Scheler’s metaphor of the “human chain.” As we saw before, he proposes a chain by which exemplary figures “lift” those below them, as if freedom could be attained only by “tying ourselves” to this chain and following the “pull” it exerts. In this process, “man is initially drawn up by his more fitting models, whose highest kinds are drawn by God. . . . Man ascends up this pyramid but on winding paths to reach out for his deepest self: ‘become who you are’” (143, translation slightly modified).103 If we want to become “who we are,” we have to “lock up” ourselves to others in this chain in order to be lifted up by them.104 Another way of looking at this second tension is as follows. The original saint, the holy person, Scheler claims, does not possess an individuality (167). That is, he says, because an individual must be one among many, and the original saint, like God, is only one. However, ironically, it is only by emulating an exemplar who does not have an individuality that the followers acquire one—only in this way can they become persons. If we translate this proposition into more contemporary debates about authority and identity, it suggests that personhood cannot be properly intended: just as the following saints gain individuality only by emulating someone who does not have one, the project


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of becoming autonomous and free—in sum, an individual—cannot be carried out in a fully intentional, self-conscious, and voluntary way—at least not without it turning into a self-defeating enterprise. Personhood cannot be a well-defined project, which we can envisage beforehand, and personal identity cannot be self-consciously sought for because somehow in doing so, we lose its personal substance.105 As soon as we “try to find ourselves,” as the contemporary defenders of authenticity invite us to do, we lose ourselves; as soon as we try to define our “identity,” we betray it.106 As I said before, in my reading, these tensions show that, in his reflections on exemplarity, Scheler is, indeed, carving out some space between freedom and grace—that is, between what is under our control and what is not—trying to make room for what today has been called a nonsovereign conception of action.107 Such a conception is consistent with his theory of the self as we examined it in previous chapters—namely, an individuality that is aware of its inner multiplicity and of its unique, personal, character. To sum up what we have seen in the last two sections, in both Scheler and Bergson, we find a conception of authority exercised by an exemplary figure, together with a conception of following characterized by emulation (Scheler) or imitation (Bergson). Both authors share the Weberian idea that personal authority is a rich and indispensable source of moral education. They are both aware—just as Weber was regarding charisma—that the ethicopolitical significance of exemplarity consists in its being able to preserve freedom by way of authority. In both cases, the differences with Weber spring from their respective theories of personality. As we saw before, Weber’s conception of personality points to a unified and coherent whole, oriented by ultimate values that—due to Weber’s ethical relativism—cannot really defeat one another. Rather, one must choose among those values; that is the meaning of freedom. For that reason, ultimate values must be distinct and clearly spelled out: they are the signposts without which a person would be lost because he or she would be unable to develop a personality in Weber’s sense. Charismatic authority can become instrumental in this process, insofar as it is freely chosen and helps the follower articulate his or her ethical and practical horizon. On the contrary, as we have seen in these pages, Bergson and Scheler’s respective conceptions of personality are both dense and deep but nonetheless elusive. For a personality in their sense, the normative horizon is not marked by the “agonism of values,” either because that would mean reifying and objectifying them (Bergson) or because there is rather a hierarchy among them (Scheler). Since freedom for our authors does not refer to the

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freedom of choosing but is grounded instead on the elusiveness of personality in action, it welcomes exemplary authority as a guide, although never as a guidebook, by which we can orient our behavior. To illustrate a bit crudely by way of a contrast: the way of following or imitating that seems to be contained in Bergson and Scheler’s conception of exemplarity is the exact opposite of the way in which entertainers or pop stars are followed in our present societies. The recent documentary Leaving Neverland portrays the devotion and the urge to literally imitate—dance style, haircut, and apparel—that a figure such as Michael Jackson was capable of eliciting, thereby purportedly cancelling any potential source freedom in his followers—both children and their parents—and making it impossible to resist his charm and alleged sexual abuse.108 The film is a remarkable illustration of the domination that can be exerted when there is a corrupt notion of personal authority and a misconceived type of following. However, Jackson’s story as portrayed by the documentary also shows the ineluctable power of personal figures and alerts us to the fact that such a phenomenon should not be dismissed from a social, cultural, and political perspective. What we need to look for instead is a kind of exemplarity that preserves the elusiveness of personality in action on which freedom is founded. To say that freedom is grounded on the elusiveness of personality in action means to endorse a “deflated,” “nonsovereign” conception of the will. In Chapter 3, we saw that, from a Bergsonian point of view, clear benefits ensue from a will that is to some extent amorphous, capable of accommodating change as it comes. Only such a will is capable of accepting that it cannot be the sole author of its own life story, since parts of the latter are written by others and by the surrounding circumstances.109 Likewise, I think, only such a conception of the will would be capable of dealing successfully with the tensions that we just explored with Scheler—namely, that identity should not be intended (that is, that it cannot spring directly from our will) and that following others is not necessarily contrary to individuality and freedom. How does this relate to Scheler and Bergson’s belief in intuition? Exemplarity in their sense crucially depends on such a power. As I said in the Introduction, their philosophical insights and proposals depend on the assumption that there is a power of cognition, different from both the understanding and sensibility, that makes reality richer than what concepts and sensations offer. Exemplarity is no exception to this. In contrast to a more formal or rational conception of authority, the one exercised by exemplars in Bergson and Scheler’s sense cannot be captured by reason.110 It would not


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be captured by our senses either or even by our power of judgment.111 It is captured rather by intuition (Wertnehmung, in Scheler; our sense of inner duration, in Bergson). That is why, for Scheler, the kind of following that corresponds to personal exemplarity is sustained by faith in a person and not by believing in an idea. Likewise, that is why, for Bergson, modern democracy— the modern religion of humanity—rests not on reason but on intuition. However, notice that despite all the similarities between the authors’ respective approaches to exemplarity, there is, as I have already indicated, one important difference. Whereas in Bergson I have identified a democratic—that is, egalitarian—model of exemplarity, Scheler’s conceptual distinctions—in this case, between folgen and nachfolgen or between admiring, honoring, and reflecting—provide the clue for conceiving freedom, even in the midst of inequality or hierarchy. Notice, moreover, that such a difference maps onto their contrasting assessments about democracy (Bergson, positive; Scheler, negative), as we saw them in the first two sections of this chapter. In order to examine their opposition in this respect, it will be helpful to compare their respective treatments of the figure of Jesus Christ.

Bergson’s Modern Defense of Ostracism Versus Scheler’s Elusive Aristocracy As we just saw, Scheler reserves a special place to Jesus Christ as Christianity’s “original saint.” Even if such superiority is extremely elusive—it does not seem to require any positive belief but just some kind of receptivity to Christ’s presence among the followers—Scheler unfailingly insists on the distinction between the original saint and the ones who follow him. On the contrary, and despite all the similarities between Scheler’s treatment of sainthood and Bergson’s treatment of mysticism, the latter decidedly refuses any special treatment of Christ.112 At most, we find a couple of references that, instead of underscoring Jesus Christ’s extraordinary character, focus on him as a sign of man’s divinity. On this score, Bergson says, “From our standpoint, which shows us the divinity of all men, it matters little whether or not Christ be called a man. It does not even matter that he be called Christ. Those who have gone so far as to deny the existence of Jesus cannot prevent the Sermon on the Mount from being in the Gospels, with other divine sayings. Bestow what name you like on their author, there is no denying that there was one. The raising of such problems does not concern us here.”113 Why is that? Why would Bergson decide not to dwell into—to the point of not even caring about his name—the

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groundbreaking figure that gave rise to what he considers the highest moral exemplars in human history? How can we make sense of Bergson’s treatment, and what can we learn from it? And more specifically, what can we learn from the contrast offered by Scheler’s emphasis on the original saint in his treatment of exemplarity? Scholars have noticed this aspect of Bergson’s Christology. As Henri Gouhier has said, for Bergson, the “Christ of the Gospel” exists “even without any civil registration”; he is such “even if he should ever remain an unidentified mystic [mystique inconnu].”114 Gouhier and others have attributed this approach to Bergson’s metaphysics and, in particular, to his ontological and biological views as portrayed in his book Creative Evolution.115 While not essentially disagreeing with arguments along such lines, I want to suggest a different interpretation of Bergson’s conception of Christ—one that, moreover, is capable of answering to accusations regarding his alleged optimism or naivety with respect to the political role of mysticism. In my view, Bergson offers not only a “philosophical Christology”—one where “metaphysics is grounded in testimony” instead of dogma,116 and the contemplation of God is understood “as an extension of the [Bergsonian] primordial philosophical act”117—but a politicophilosophical one, which amounts to what I will call Bergson’s “modern defense of ostracism.” Scheler was onto something when he denounced the formula Imitatio Christi as an inaccurate depiction of what our relation to Christ should be. However, it is as if, for Bergson, the problem did not reside in the first term, Imitatio, but in the second one, Christi. In one of the very few instances in which Bergson mentions the name of Christ, he does so to depict his relation to the mystics in the following terms: “If the great mystics are indeed such as we have described them, they are the imitators, and original but incomplete successors [continuateur], of what the Christ of the Gospels was completely.”118 As I said before, imitation, for Bergson, does not evoke the perils of inauthenticity or lack of autonomy that we saw with Scheler. He is comfortable with the idea that, by imitating Christ, the mystics carry forward in an original although incomplete way what Jesus was completely and perfectly before them. Moreover, he adds, “[Christ] Himself may be considered as the successor [continuateur] of the prophets of Israel.”119 For Bergson, just as the mystics imitate Jesus, Christ is imitating, furthering, or continuing something that came before him—he is not “breaking ground” in history, properly speaking. Compare this position to Scheler’s treatment of Christ, as we just studied it. By depicting Christ as an imitator himself, Bergson seems to be “downgrading” him, metaphorically expelling him from the picture.


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We can make sense of Bergson’s strategy if we turn to his theory of personality and, relatedly, of language. The “lessening” of the greatest figure of Christianity, as well as Bergson’s almost exclusive focus on “subordinate figures” of Christian mysticism (that is, subordinate to Christ himself), amounts, in my reading, to a tacit acknowledgment of the easiness with which models become icons and character becomes image. For Bergson, language’s inability to provide a stronghold from which to resist the “force of the example”120 makes it difficult to distinguish between admiring, honoring, and reflecting someone’s brightness, as Scheler would have it. The easiness with which the flux of our inner life can be frozen by concepts and readymade images makes it difficult to resist—to use Scheler’s language now—the “force of the idol.”121 Think of it this way: due to his importance and uniqueness, Christ is dangerously close to becoming a hero (he is indeed called “our Savior”). True, Scheler asserts that Christ is not a hero, but, again, from the Bergsonian vantage point of the inability of language to provide stable and meaningful distinctions, Christ’s uniqueness makes him, and especially figures like him, problematic in our psychosociological horizon. In that sense, Bergson’s Christology offers an interesting insight regarding the exercise of moral and political power, as well as the dynamics of freedom and domination. To put it in terms of the Schelerian distinction between leaders and exemplars, we could say that certain exemplars, because of their originality, become powerful resources in the hands of leaders, where they serve better the goals of command and domination rather than those of the formation of moral autonomy. Confronted with this challenge, Bergson’s theory of exemplarity metaphorically “ostracizes” Christ (or, more precisely, blurs enough the contours of his figure), minimizing thus the conditions under which imitation becomes indeed problematic—namely, the presence of overwhelmingly extraordinary figures. “Expelling” them sparks the virtues of the Imitatio formula, making it easier to engage in such a practice without becoming the potential victims of subjection or manipulation. To be clear, by calling this Bergson’s modern defense of ostracism, I do not mean that he wanted certain people “out of the city,” as it was done in antiquity.122 Rather, I call his defense “modern” to line it up with modern concerns about “the popularity of potent subjects,” as Hobbes would say, and for humility and modesty as cardinal political virtues.123 Thus, by “ostracizing” preeminent figures, I mean here, above all, being aware of the political and moral problem that they represent and approaching them accordingly. Moreover, such an emphasis allows us to contest charges of political gullibility that

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have been issued against Bergson, as it underscores instead the lessons of prudence and moderation that can be obtained from The Two Sources.124 Contrastingly, in Scheler, the distinction between imitation and emulation, together with the proposed elusiveness or ineffability of the holy person, is meant to assuage this danger. That is why I propose to understand his approach as “elusively aristocratic.” Elusive means “hard to find” or “hard to express or define,” and indeed, Scheler’s approach is less pragmatic than Bergson’s. However, its virtue resides, I think, in laying out for us the tensions regarding individuality and freedom that I indicated above—namely, that individuality and identity (as well as the freedom that comes with their realization) cannot be sought in a straightforward manner but only by way of following another whose personality eludes us. Again, in the face of these difficulties, the Bergsonian perspective invites us instead to preserve uniqueness without an appeal to the extraordinary—to make uniqueness, so to speak, anonymous.125 Finally, notice that, interestingly, Weber has his own version of the theoretical strategy that I identify here in both Scheler and Bergson. As Tracy Strong has argued, Weber simultaneously posed the image of the leader and sought to “make it impossible for the audience to recognize” anyone as such. As Strong further puts it, “To those who think they have found such a leader and most especially to those who might even think themselves possessed with the ‘inner charisma’ of such a leader, Weber counsels ten years of patience in a ‘polar night of icy darkness.’ ”126

Conclusion Patrick Riley used to say that “theology is political theory elevated to a higher power.” As this chapter hopefully makes clear, such a claim is absolutely true in the case of our authors. Bergson and Scheler’s theological reflections offer a space in which considerations about moral equality, individuality, and liberty come together. First, regarding equality, as we saw, for Bergson, the “open society” made possible by Christian mysticism is fundamentally egalitarian, and the religion of humanity challenges “closed society” preeminently by erasing the distinctions and hierarchies related to the tribe, race, family, or the nation. The contrast with Scheler on this point is acute since equality for him is unfaithful to the innumerable distinctions between persons, which Christianity, in his reading, duly preserves.127


Chapter 5

Indeed, their contrasting evaluations of equality within Christianity explain to a good extent their disagreement about the character of democracy. To recall, Bergson saw a moral affinity between democracy and Christianity (and saw the former in a positive light), while Scheler saw them as morally opposed (and was particularly concerned about democracy’s moral drawbacks). Additionally, there is one more antithesis in the way they understand modern democracy, which explains the approval of the one and the disapproval of the other. As I mentioned in Chapter 3, for Bergson, open religion—the religion of humanity or modern democracy—constitutes, just as closed religion does, a strategy to face uncertainty: it is an “uplifting of the soul” and thus a way of restoring trust and confidence in the face of what we do not know and cannot control.128 This means that, sociologically speaking, the main characteristic of the “open religion” is that it fosters a kind of civic trust under which sociability and hope emerge in modern society. For Scheler, in contrast, it is precisely on the issue of trust that modern democracy displays one of its main moral faults. According to him, “modern morality is in every respect founded on distrust of men, particularly of their moral values.”129 Taking Hobbes and Rousseau at their word and observing closely the industrial bourgeois society of his day, Scheler does not think that, as a matter of empirical observation, trust in others can be warranted a safe place in modern democracy. Instead, its core of distrust, which is “so closely akin to ressentiment, has brought about modern moral individualism and the denial of the principle of solidarity—attitudes that seem perfectly ‘self-evident’ nowadays.”130 Together, these two differences—the issue of whether there is moral equality between persons and the trust that can be presumed in democratic societies—explain, in my view, the contrasting interpretations of democracy of two philosophical approaches that, otherwise, share so much. Now, more importantly in terms of the political significance of our authors’ theological considerations, Bergson and Scheler’s respective reflections on the exemplarity of the mystics and the saints offer important insights on democratic power dynamics—that is, on the question of whether authority and liberty can be made to coexist in democratic societies. As we saw in the previous section, Bergson’s “modern defense of ostracism,” as I have called it, amounts to a reflection on the conditions in which exemplarity can exert its force without being oppressive and, especially, on the difficulty of attaining such conditions. For its part, Scheler’s “defense of an elusive aristocracy” carves a space for a free individuality capable, nonetheless, of acknowledging and honoring authority and hierarchy. The puzzling—and sometimes

Personal Authority and Political Theology


admittedly baffling—treatment of what it means to follow an exemplar attests to the difficulty of attaining such a balance. How is it, then, that personal authority can enhance our agency as it obliges us? To use Richard Flathman’s term, the “authoritative” character of an exemplar is rooted, in both Scheler and Bergson, in the privileged ontological status of the person, which, in turn, is revealed to us by intuition.131 Put differently, only persons, endowed with intuition, can recognize the exemplarity of another person. The latter obliges because and insofar as it “matches” the ontological status of the perceiver. Thus, admittedly, faced with the problem of false prophets, Bergson and Scheler’s reflections will not be able to offer a clear set of criteria that would allow us to distinguish falsehood from truth in this respect. However, their respective treatments of exemplarity do tell us two things. First, they show us that we, as agents, surely have the power to recognize the force of an example, and therefore they show that not to be attentive to such phenomena would be negligent on our part. Second, more importantly, we learn from them that given our condition as persons, exemplarity has a privileged place in our moral formation. Notice, moreover, that their respective treatments of the problem of obligation are both narrower and broader than the problem of political obligation. They are narrower because exemplary authority cannot be said to always trump political obligation understood in a more positive or juridical sense— although sometimes it might, as in cases of political and civil disobedience or even of rebellion and revolution, in which claims derived from exemplary authority often play a very important role. The latter issue, however, must remain outside of the scope of this book. However, they are also broader than the question about who should rule because they regard what constitutes us as potential subjects to any kind of obligation—moral, religious, or political. Their political relevance in this sense comes from their anthropological significance: Bergson and Scheler’s reflections on exemplarity suggest that, indeed, there are ways of thinking about personal authority that escape the dilemma between hierarchy and autonomy. Still, as we have seen, for that to be possible, several things are required. First, agency should not be equated with self-determination (either through universalization of our maxim, à la Kant, or through the choice of our own gods, à la Weber) or with control or mastery over things or over others. Rather, agency, in order to be autonomous, needs to be humbler and more flexible. Second, imitation should be explored as a pedagogical paradigm, both at the individual level for the cultivation of autonomy and at the collective level, in terms of civic education. Third, compared with Weber, for


Chapter 5

whom the vocation of politics and charismatic authority are exercised paradigmatically at the level of the state, Bergson and Scheler’s exemplarity invites us to “think smaller” without therefore necessarily running the risk of losing political relevance. Such a risk was detected by Arendt, who saw in the massive and impersonal character of modern society and modern politics a threat for human action to appear. However, as Patchen Markell has recently argued, Arendt’s conception of action is more complicated than her apparently neat theoretical contrasts with both labor and work suggest at first.132 In Markell’s reading, Arendt accepts that, in the modern world, something like what he calls “anonymous glory” should be possible (for instance, in her treatment of the figure of the “Unknown Soldier” in World War I).133 On this respect, he says, “The seemingly contradictory combination of anonymity and glory isn’t simply a sign that the aspiration to individual glory has been made obsolete by social power on the scale of modern bureaucratic rule . . . instead, it’s the condition both of any possible action that could effectively transform either of those structures, and of its extraordinary difficulty and unlikelihood.”134 After the experiences of mass politics and populism, both in the previous and current centuries, it might be worth caring for something such as “anonymous” and “elusive” glory, so that personal authority becomes as politically fruitful as it can be. Operating at a smaller scale (perhaps less like the leaders Arendt deals with in On Revolution and more like the array of characters that she examines in Men in Dark Times), exemplarity in Bergson and Scheler’s sense might be a better fit than Weberian charismatic authority to face some of the challenges of our (populist) times.135 Thus, immersed as they are in deeply theological and religious debates, our authors’ reflections on exemplarity hold the promise of making us familiar with a notion of personal authority, capable of accounting for an encumbered or complex self, without renouncing, however, to the aspiration of individuality and freedom.


This book has explored and developed the ethicopolitical implications of Bergson and Scheler’s belief in intuition as a distinctive human power in three different respects: one, with regards to their conception of individuality; second, concerning their ideas on agency and freedom; and finally, in relation to their conception of authority, understood as exemplarity. On the first point, we saw that, in the case of both authors, the belief in intuition led to a notion of individuality or, more specifically, of personal uniqueness as the acknowledgment of some kind of inner diversity. In Bergson, as we saw in Chapter 1, this meant the articulation of a notion of the “inner life” as something always in flux, changing, and heterogeneous. The inner self thus understood escapes definition through concepts and through language more generally. This conception of the self, I argued, entails a particular “work ethic,” according to which, in order to attain true individuality, we should mix our labor with our past and acknowledge that it continues to act upon us. For Bergson, the past is neither fixed nor “gone for good,” even if it has, as one says, “passed.” Bergson’s conception of individuality as inner diversity lived in time took us, in turn, to a notion of agency that I explored in Chapters 2 and 3. In the former chapter, I showed how Bergson’s phenomenology of agency yields— against the Kantian conception of morality as categorical and universal— what I called a “phenomenology of hesitation,” in which the oscillations of action in time and space are accepted as constitutive of moral character. This was furthered in Chapter 3, where I examined with Bergson and Guyau different ways of conceiving and dealing with uncertainty. There, I explained in what sense a Bergsonian conception of agency—founded on a nonsovereign will and propped by habit and improvisation—is better endowed to deal with chance and contingency, that is, with the future and our lack of control over it. I argued that whether we are able to display this kind of agency depends on our capacity to grasp our individuality along Bergsonian lines—or, put differently, on our capacity to intuit the duration of our inner self.



In Chapter 2, I also explored the implications that Bergson’s conception of intuition has for a theory of obligation. From his perspective, obligation cannot be based on reason because the latter cannot bind us: only something that “matches” our agency can do so. I argue that temptation is an instance of such a thing. It follows that, from our perspective as agents, our relation to the law—namely, obligation—is comparable to our relation to crime or offense—namely, temptation. In other words, both obligation and temptation concern us as agents and, therefore, have an irreducible personal dimension. In the case of Scheler, as we saw in Chapter 1, our faculty of intuition is exercised through a hierarchy of emotions, which gives us access to a corresponding hierarchy of value. Together, these parallel hierarchies exhibit the emotional complexity and the ethical richness of human life. Individuality is realized through our ability to discriminate between different nuances of emotions and values, without reducing them to one another. Such a conception of individuality leads, in turn, to distinctive notions of both autonomy and sympathy, as we saw in Chapters 2 and 4, respectively. Scheler’s notion of autonomy, based on the individuality of experience, as well as on the emotional and moral complexity of the self, presented a challenge to Kant’s principle of publicity: the voice of conscience speaks always in particulars, and therefore, being responsible does not mean, as in Kant, publicly justifying the maxims of our actions. Rather, responsibility means to be able to listen and then respond to what the singularity of the voice of conscience tells us. Its singularity is, indeed, what gives it its authority: only something that matches, so to speak, the ontological status of the person can speak to it bindingly. The sincerity required by the worth of one’s own personal self obliges more than any rational or positive law. Again, our access to particularity in this sense is based on the power of intuition, which is understood, however, not as “magical,” “innate,” or “spontaneous” but rather as something that should be trained and nurtured throughout our whole life. Scheler’s conception of individual moral existence—our own, as well as that of others—is the ground for his conception of “true sympathy.” As we saw in Chapter 4, the latter consists in the capacity to understand the feelings of others, without, however, the injunction of feeling ourselves as they do—to put it in Platonic terms, we must “live in common” without therefore “having pains and pleasures in common.”1 Compared to the Enlightenment sentimentalists—not to say to nineteenth-century psychologists who held an empiricist and reductionist view of the psyche and of human moral capacities—Schelerian sympathy offers, or so I argued, distinctive protections for individuality against the sociopolitical threats that characterize mass society.



Finally, in Chapter 5, we saw that exemplarity, for Scheler and Bergson, is the authority that resides in a person whose example obliges us. Their treatment of exemplarity shows us a way in which authority can be consistent with—and even, sometimes, preeminently conducive to—human freedom. However, as we saw, this conception of authority requires a “deflated” notion of the will: one in which emulation or imitation, habit, improvisation, and a good sentimental education, more broadly, gain relevance at the expense of any emphasis on “voluntary” action. Such a conception of authority, or so I argued, gains relevance in the current context where liberalism faces important challenges from populism at a global level.

Individuality and Freedom in Liberalism Reconsidered As I indicated in the Introduction, in Bergson and Scheler, we find various resources that help us appreciate the drawbacks and limitations of the liberal notion of subjectivity, its conception of freedom, and its stance toward authority. To be sure, this line of criticism is not new. Since its earliest manifestations in the nineteenth century, liberalism has been called to confront the challenge of whether its politics of freedom can fully capture the meaning of such a value. From the Burkean assessment of liberalism as barbaric and destructive2 to the communitarian assault on the “unencumbered self ” of liberalism,3 critics have tried to expose the liberal promise of freedom as false or, at least, as deeply inadequate. In particular, they are concerned about whether liberalism’s fight against absolute power has ultimately yielded a “sovereign individual” incapable of making moral, anthropological, and political sense. Critics today continue to insist that liberalism has fallen short of the expectations it has raised for the past two hundred years. According to Patrick Deneen, for instance, as we move toward a postliberal age, it should be “recogniz[ed] that while liberalism’s initial appeal was premised upon laudatory aspirations, its successes have often been based on a disfigurement of those aspirations.”4 Such aspirations were originally concerned with freedom, the indictment goes, but as they became increasingly anchored in a “false anthropology” centered on human voluntarism—that is, a notion in which everything is the product of choice—they have created an ideological construct whose failure, it is said, has become largely invisible (especially for those who have been more or less privileged by the system).5 The result of all this, according to Deneen, is that “we effectively possess little



self-government, either as citizens over our leaders or as individuals over our appetites.”6 Liberal freedom has also been criticized as insufficient from other standpoints in the political spectrum. Current defenders of socialism, such as Axel Honneth, have rejected the notion of individual freedom in favor of a more social conception. “Social freedom,” as Honneth presents it, calls into question “mere” individual freedom and presents an alternative in which the freedom of others is a precondition for my own freedom. In this sense, the individual agent cannot be free unless she is so with others.7 Unlike these critics, who see in individuality a more or less direct route to the calamities of individualism, Bergson and Scheler, as we have seen, offer a peculiar defense of it—namely, a defense of individuality as personal uniqueness, which, however, resists the idea of a person endowed with an identity and a will that are “clear and distinct.” Thus, in my view, Bergson and Scheler’s defense of individuality is not exactly a liberal one—not, at least, in the recognizable form of modern constitutionalism’s emphasis on the protection of individual rights and limited government—and therein lie, I think, the perspectives that they can make available for us today.8 At present, the strength of the so-called populist wave, together with the possibility of digital manipulation by way of big data and the behavioral sciences, has opened the door for the nightmarish prospect of a double tyranny: the domination exerted by the charismatic leader is coupled with the more novel, impersonal tyranny of technology. Here the danger associated with the strong personality who is capable of overwhelming the res publica comes together with the risk of a hack aimed at manipulating the electoral (and commercial) landscape. The view of such a double tyranny has set off liberal alarms, pointing to the importance of three main issues: the safeguard of democratic institutions and individual rights (in particular, the rights to “own our data”), the confinement of political emotions in favor of the use of reason as we decide as citizens (and consumers), and the chastening of personal authority in the public sphere and the public imaginary.9 Among the voices that have alerted us to such dangers, Tamsin Shaw has argued, for instance, that the behavioral sciences not only have a very simplistic and inaccurate theory of the mind, but more worryingly, they make possible a whole range of practices with problematic ethicopolitical implications: from the so-called liberal paternalism of Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler—the “liberal mandarins,” as she calls them, in whose “benign hands” neuroscience and big data are applied to “turn us into better versions of ourselves” (that is a quote from Thaler)10—to the commercial priming done by



the firms in Silicon Valley or the techniques adopted by political and military forces around the world to influence elections and group behavior in conflict zones through techniques that go from “digital microtargeting” to the more traditional torture.11 In Shaw’s view, the behavioral techniques that are being employed by governments and private corporations are objectionable because they do not appeal to our reason, oppressing thus the subjects they are directed upon. The argument is that these techniques are pernicious insofar as they do not seek to persuade us consciously with information and argument. Rather, she says, they change behavior by appealing to our intuitions, in the sense of our nonrational motivations, our emotional triggers, and unconscious biases. Against the psychological threat that these techniques present to moral reasoning, Shaw urges us not to let them take the place of moral reflection, in which we, employing our own intuitions and principles, weigh them against one another and judge as best we can. This, she says, is necessary labor for all of us. Now, I think that Bergson and Scheler’s respective conceptions of the self as I have developed them here give us resources to criticize phenomenologically and normatively both the picture of the mind offered by the behavioral sciences and the practices that they give rise to—criticisms and concerns that I fully share with people such as Shaw—but without necessarily turning to reason or to a view of the self in which informed and sovereign choice is held as paramount to freedom. Rather, as I tried to show in the book, they call our attention to the importance of things such as the education of the senses and the emotions, to habit and emulation, among others, as features of the self that connect individuality, agency, and authority in different and promising ways. Moreover, as I have argued, such a deep and dense conception of the self points to the moral limitations that liberal devices such as law and rights present, insofar as they pretend to regulate our actions from the outside. Incapable of ontologically measuring up to us as persons, such devices cannot perform certain moral tasks that only the “voice of conscience” (Scheler), an adequate consciousness of out temporality (Bergson), and exemplarity (Scheler and Bergson) can accomplish. This last point constitutes, perhaps, the most critical lesson that I want to draw from our authors in terms of contemporary politics and political theory: there is more to personal authority than what contemporary concerns with despotism and autocracy are able to apprehend or recognize. Not that we should disregard such concerns, of course. But we should supplement them with two things. First, we must have clarity about the ethicopolitical importance of exemplarity and about the fact that the rule of the most



admirable persons cannot be fully replaced or superseded with the rule of the best laws. Second, we need to couple this clarity with a healthy antidote to the potential hubris of exemplarity.12 Such a corrective, I think, is found in the virtue of humility. I would like, then, to bring this book to a conclusion with an examination, first, of the way in which Bergson and Scheler compare with contemporary treatments of exemplarity and, second, of how they can contribute to the ongoing revival of humility within democratic theory.

Exemplarity and Humility in Contemporary Moral and Political Theory, in Contrast with Scheler and Bergson Recently, Linda T. Zagzebski has taken up the defense of exemplarism as the starting point of a moral theory, in which, moreover, moral development takes place primarily through the imitation of models.13 Her defense of exemplarism, I think, carries forward part of the potential contained in our authors’ reflections regarding exemplarity as a condition of possibility of freedom. As I see it, the first and most important overlap between Bergson and Scheler’s notion of exemplarity and Zagzebski’s moral theory is the latter’s foundation in the experience of admiration. The latter is the emotion that we feel toward exemplars, and it can serve as a plausible ground of a moral theory because it is primarily a way of perceiving moral value (31)—hence its proximity to the Schelerian Wertnehmung. For her, the cognitive and the feeling aspect of emotions cannot be detached (34). Just as, for Scheler, feelings are detectors of value, admiration, for Zagzebski, lets us identify the good and the desirable.14 There are also interesting similarities between admiration, as she conceives it, and Bergsonian intuition. For her, we cannot refer adequately to the meaning of the good and other basic moral terms by defining them. Like Bergson, who denied that any fixed concepts could capture the meaning of liberty, personality, and exemplarity and relied instead on intuition to grasp them, Zagzebski says that we identify exemplars not by describing them but merely by pointing at them: “That is an exemplar.”15 When we talk about exemplars, it is not by appealing to definitions that we gain access to them but to narratives. In other words, for Zagzebski, we cannot know what terms such as “good person” mean without referring to narratives and pictures of virtuous actions (187). Most crucially, Zagzebski’s proposal is similar to Bergson and Scheler’s respective approaches in her defense of the “trustworthiness of admiration.” I



began this book by saying that what characterized both Scheler and Bergson was that they, unlike many philosophers who followed them, believed in intuition. It seems to me that Zagzebski trusts admiration in the same way. She has a deep epistemic confidence in what the “universal human experience” of admiration can yield (2).16 That is not to deny that there is disagreement and change in what we admire or that stereotypes and biases are absent in this respect (56–60): admiration needs reflection in order to be an adequate test for exemplarity (45ff., 63). Thus, in her view, it is not that exemplarity cannot be properly talked about, even if, admittedly, it cannot be fully contested through argument. What she calls “reflective admiration” is relevant in two different ways, vis-à-vis a more deliberative approach to authority. First, she says that “we are more certain that [people] are admirable than we are of what is admirable about them” (10). Just as Bergson argued that there are different levels of reality, according to which the “act of vision” is “prior” to or “more real” than the mechanism of the eye that makes vision possible, Zagzebski says that narratives and pictures of virtuous actions are more directly identifiable than or prior to the explanation of what is admirable about them. Second, she insists on distinguishing admiration from (mere) desire in that “we trust the connection between admiration and the admirable more than the connection between desire and the desirable” (32). Even if their respective epistemological and ontological premises are not exactly the same, I find such an assertion very much in tune with Scheler’s project of distinguishing between sensible, vital, psychic, and spiritual values: every sphere has real value in it, but some are higher than others. Similarly, for Zagzebski, admiration aims “higher” than desire, and it places different demands on us.17 And what would those demands be? What would admiration demand from us or invite us to do, according to her? The answer is “emulation”: the attractiveness of the exemplar “typically gives rise to the urge to imitate or emulate the object, assuming certain practical conditions are satisfied” (35).18 She thinks that “emulation flows directly from admiration” because the admirer projects herself in the admired person, and that motivates emulation (134–36).19 In that way, “exemplars not only show us what morality is, but they make us want to be moral and they show us how to do it” (129). In other words, they give us a reason and a motive to be moral. Again, in Bergson’s words, they are an “already active ideal.”20 At this point, Zagzebski tackles the obvious concern regarding emulation: that it might not be compatible with autonomy or with morality. Ever since Aristotle, people have reflected on the moral potential of mimesis and have asked whether morality requires us not merely to act rightly (say, by



imitating someone) but to act for the right motive. The concern is that if emulation is our chief moral resource, nothing prevents us from imitating a bad model. I cannot go into much detail here, but Zagzebski argues that, since admiration is an emotion that already refers to what is good, “[those problems] are solved if the moral learner admires the person she emulates. Admiration explains why she would want to be like the person she emulates, not just for the pleasure of imitation, but because she sees the person she emulates as good. . . . Emulation arising from admiration can explain how virtuous motives develop. Pleasure alone cannot do so” (135). In her view, reflective admiration should eventually have the resources needed for preempting bad models. Moreover, she explains, having to rely on others as we build our moral lives is not a bad thing. Autonomy is not the same as self-reliance: it is often developed through the aid of others and is nevertheless self-directed. As she puts it, “Emulating the admired person is something [one] does in virtue of [one’s] trust in [one]self. It is a dictate of self-direction” (151). Zagzebski acknowledges that emulation “does not exhaust the creation of a moral self, and [it] is not sufficient to become morally virtuous in the highest degree” (155). However, she does think that it constitutes a key part of moral development, which moreover cannot be eventually disregarded: “we need exemplars all the time” (154)—even when we have already grown up. Finally, Zagzebski distinguishes between admiration and what she refers to as “adoration.”21 The former, she explains, “leads to the internalization and emulation of the admired person, whereas [the latter] leads to adherence to the teachings and expectation of a divine or superhuman meaning maker” (44). As I see it, such a distinction is similar to the one I have drawn between Bergson and Scheler’s exemplarity, on the one hand, and Weber’s charismatic authority, on the other. For a person, in our authors’ sense, emulation seems to be a suitable method for moral learning, while adoration might be the only option available for a personality (as Weber understands the term) in its relation to the charismatic leader.22 Zagzebski’s work shows that Bergson and Scheler’s approach to exemplarity is alive in the present day. That is no accident, I think, since—as I have repeatedly said—ethically and politically, the phenomenon of personal authority calls for renewed attention in our times, with both the promises and the risks that it carries. Now, regarding the latter, I would like to conclude by suggesting that Bergson and Scheler’s reflections on exemplarity point to the virtue of humility as an adequate and necessary corrective to the potential excesses of personal authority. With Bergson, we saw that humility



is an important political virtue for leaders to be conscious of the dangers posed by their leadership and preeminence. With Scheler, we learned that the elusiveness of hierarchy and individuality calls for modesty as a protective virtue capable of regulating the interaction between persons.23 Such insights, I think, add to the currently increasing interest in the value of humility as a political virtue. For democratic sensitivities, humility has often invited suspicion for its emphasis on the unworthiness of man and for the negative conclusions it yields regarding human autonomy and empowerment. In recent years, however, we find some efforts to recover humility as a virtue with unexpected political implications and operating at unexpected junctures in history. Mark Button has argued, for instance, that what he calls “democratic humility” is a “cultivated sensitivity toward the incompleteness and contingency of both one’s personal moral powers and commitments, and of the particular forms, laws, and institutions that structure one’s political and social life with others.”24 In his view, humility can become a democratic asset if we consider it not only as an interior, self-referencing, or passive quality but as an “active, other-regarding civic virtue and public ethos,”25 which “puts us on guard against the ethical and political dangers of complacency, premature closures, and dogmatism.”26 For these purposes, he articulates a conception of humility that feeds on several sources—Catholic, Nietzschean, and liberal—intended to do the “ethical work on the self that can facilitate a critical attentiveness toward those differences that may have only been tolerated before.”27 Thus, in Button’s view, humility offers the epistemological and psychological missing link that a democratic ethos needs. As his incorporation of postmodern and liberal sources suggests, Button thinks that Christian thought is not enough. Something else is needed for humility to be turned into a properly democratic virtue. Sara Rushing goes further on this point, arguing that “Christianity bequeathed a notion [of humility] that is largely incompatible with our contemporary democratic ethos”; therefore, “if humility is to make a comeback as a political virtue, we will need to broaden and deepen our understanding of what this disposition entails, examine how it can be cultivated in non-theistic contexts, and discuss the other virtues of social and political engagement that it supports and enables.”28 Thus, she turns to Confucianism with the hope of finding a conception of humility that can contribute to our democratic practices. According to others, however, we do not need to go that far. From a more historical perspective, Julie Cooper has sought to recover a narrative within modern Western political thought, where humility has a preeminent place.



For her, secularization is not tantamount to self-deification since “the sovereign self ” is not the only or most important form of modern subjectivity.29 In her view, there is more to our tradition than the Augustinian legacy, according to which the fight for autonomy and human dignity carries along a hidden agenda of “dethroning God” and usurping his place in the conduction of world affairs.30 In modernity, she says, we find—above all in Hobbes and Spinoza, as well as to a different and more problematic extent in Rousseau—an appeal to humility that seeks not to debase humanity but to empower human agency in the absence of God. To that extent, in her view—and even granting that “Promethean aspirations permeate texts of modern philosophy” (6)—secularity offered back then “a new experience of finitude and its constraints” (104) and “afford[ed] a compelling new way to understand the relationship between agency and dependence” (104). So, for instance, she shows that Hobbes’s indictment of vainglory as one of the main “causes of quarrell” among humans led him to “craft an ethos of modesty” in which “consciousness of individual vulnerability elicits recognition of collective power” (56)—namely, the power of creating a mortal god. To be sure, such a project can reactivate the danger of vainglory, as the sovereign is said to have absolute power, and the Leviathan is called a god, its mortality notwithstanding (62). However, Cooper argues, the main lesson that Hobbes takes from the book of Job is that its “unfathomable God” leaves room for human agency while exposing its limits. Thus, in her view, modesty in Hobbes’s project need not be equated with mortification, abasement, or dejection. Rather, it fosters human initiative, and “it is animated by a kind of humility, namely, consciousness of equality” (54).31 Cooper’s revision seems totally pertinent. As she explains, the narrative according to which sovereignty exhausts secular subjectivity, is a caricature that, moreover, postmodern theorists are ready to exploit, as it gives certain urgency to their callings for an “attunement to finitude” that can only correct an “earlier, ethically suspect, forgetting of [it]” (31–32). Cooper is right, I think, that modern political thought does not necessarily fall into the trap of the “Augustinian demand to choose between God and man, humility and pride, sovereignty and finitude” (158). It has, indeed, managed to think secularly without always falling prey to delusions of grandeur that magnify our capacities and ignore our limitations.32 However, while I agree that sovereignty does not exhaust secular subjectivity (my reading of Kant here, in fact, hopes to add to that assessment), this book has shown that Augustinian humility does not exhaust Christian



or Christian-inspired conceptions of subjectivity either. As we saw in the previous chapter, the Augustinian legacy has been contested and reinterpreted within nonsecular thought as well: Bergson and Scheler, with their Catholic Modernist background, attest to this. In doing so, they open different avenues for political thought from the ones Cooper identifies in Hobbes or Spinoza. Briefly, let us see how. As Cooper says, Spinoza’s ethic of individual empowerment is “strikingly impersonal” (99–100). By this she means that, in his approach, the self-affirmation of the individual is achieved only at the cost of “erasing the person”33 and conceiving the individual merely in terms of a self that exercises reason. The “reduction” of the person to the rational individual is famously present in Hobbes as well.34 In other words, their appeals to humility seem to be rooted in and depend on their philosophical rationalism. A very interesting example of their appeals to humility in this sense is presented by Cooper in what she calls Hobbes and Spinoza’s respective “protocols of authorial modesty” (144).35 Here she refers to certain strategies that they used in writing, which display their commitment to humility: for instance, Hobbes’s interest in starting off by settling definitions (instead of with his personal convictions because “the ‘nature’ of philosophy ‘dependeth not on Authors’” [145]) and Spinoza’s intention of publishing anonymously. These strategies, Cooper explains, rely on their conviction that the persuasive force of a philosophical text must come from reason and not from the author’s charisma or identity (145). In contrast to the prophet who depends on the faith of his audience, philosophers, in Hobbes and Spinoza’s view, depend on transparent, rational argument. To be sure, such protocols express not merely their philosophical rationalism (145). Rather, as Cooper says, they are “part of a secular project to discredit existing authorities” (148) and to “enfranchise” the audience of the philosophical text (146). These strategies present “an egalitarian alternative to hierarchical cults of personality (144)” because—unlike prophets, who establish “a (false) epistemological hierarchy between [them] and [their] audience” (146)—the authority of the philosopher is “impersonal and egalitarian.” Without denying that modernity’s philosophical rationalism was partly devised to sustain such a liberation project, I also think—as it should be clear by now—that it presents important drawbacks. For one, it shuns the possibility of understanding liberty in the ways I have explored in this book, with the help of Scheler and Bergson. In other words, the concerns about the subject of rationalism are not only that it has entertained spurious claims to sovereignty but that it might not be able to access any “joys of finitude”



other than those that Spinoza’s rationalism—and its egalitarian promise of “a heightened sense of self to those who exercise reason” (99)—is able to envisage. Therefore, while I truly appreciate the project of identifying humility in secularity, as Cooper proposes, and would not object in principle to looking for it in Nietzsche and in Confucianism, as Button and Rushing respectively suggest, I rescue what Bergson and Scheler—with their Catholic Modernist background—offer in this respect. As I said before, Bergson examines the way in which leaders depend upon humility in order to be conscious of the dangers posed by their preeminence. Likewise, with Scheler, we learned that the elusiveness of hierarchy and individuality calls for modesty as a protective virtue capable of regulating the interaction between persons: only thus can the person benefit from exemplarity while being guarded against domination. As has been aptly shown by several scholars, Christian thought thoroughly informs our politicophilosophical tradition.36 Many of our contemporary, allegedly secular, politicophilosophical debates find their sources there. Therefore, not to be conscious of what Judeo-Christian thought has bequeathed to us and of the different theoretical possibilities comprised in that tradition will most certainly obscure our understanding of our own position. As I hope to have shown, the study of Bergson and Scheler allows us to go back and revisit some of those alternatives that, underexplored as they are today, contain valuable insights for the present.


Introduction 1. Hannah Arendt, “Thinking,” in The Life of the Mind (New York: Harcourt, 1978), 122. 2. A.G., review of Process and Permanence in Ethics: Max Scheler’s Moral Philosophy, by Alfons Deeken, Review of Metaphysics 29, no. 1 (1975): 135. 3. Moral realism, as present, for instance, in philosophers such as Charles Taylor, is an important example of this. 4. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 17. See also Norman Daniels, “Reflective Equilibrium,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 ed.), ed. Edward N. Zalta, accessed February 8, 2019, /archives/win2016/entries/reflective-equilibrium/. 5. See Philip Stratton-Lake, “Intuitionism in Ethics,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 ed.), ed. Edward N. Zalta, accessed February 8, 2019, https://plato.stanford .edu/archives/win2016/entries/intuitionism-ethics/. 6. I thank Larry McGrath for discussion and clarification on this point. 7. Henri Bergson, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. T. E. Hulme (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill, 1955), 45, cited in Arendt, “Thinking,” in The Life of the Mind, 122; Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Mabelle L. Andison (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2007), 155. 8. For an account of the phenomenological dimension of their philosophies, see Michael R. Kelly, Bergson and Phenomenology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), and Eugene Kelly, Structure and Diversity: Studies in the Phenomenological Philosophy of Max Scheler (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1997). 9. Bergson’s philosophy has been vehemently denounced throughout the years as “anarchic mysticism” (León Blum, quoted in Robert C. Grogin, “Rationalists and Anti-Rationalists in Pre–World War I France: The Bergson-Benda Affair,” Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 5, no. 2 [1978]: 225), as a banal eulogy of “activity without purpose” (Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Bergson [London: Macmillan, 1914], 25), or as an impractical and dangerous “aesthetic substitute for a lost religion and an emotionally unacceptable science” (Judith Shklar, “Bergson and the Politics of Intuition,” Review of Politics 20, no. 4 [1958]: 636). See also the more recent charges pressed by Donna V. Jones, “Bergson and the Racial Élan Vital,” in The Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy: Negritude, Vitalism, and Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 81–128. For Scheler, see Zachary Davis, “The Values of War and Peace: Max Scheler’s Political Transformations,” Symposium 16, no. 2 (2012): 128–49, where the author recounts in detail the transformations in Scheler’s political ideas, and John Raphael Staude,


Notes to Pages 2–5

Max Scheler, 1874–1928: An Intellectual Portrait (New York: Free Press, 1967), 29–94, for a critical assessment. 10. For Bergson, see, among others, Ellen Kennedy, “Bergson’s Philosophy and French Political Doctrines: Sorel, Maurras, Péguy and de Gaulle,” Government and Opposition 15, no. 1 (1980): 75–91; Mark Antliff, Inventing Bergson: Cultural Politics and the Parisian Avant-Garde (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), Avant-Garde Fascism: The Mobilization of Myth, Art, and Culture in France, 1909–1939 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), and “From Class War to Creative Revolution: Bergson’s Communist Legacy in Britain,” in Annales bergsoniennes VII (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2014), 236–58; and Hisashi Fujita, “Anarchy and Analogy: The Violence of Language in Bergson and Sorel,” in Bergson, Politics, and Religion, ed. Alexandre Lefebvre and Melanie White (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 126–43. For Scheler, see Frank H. W. Edler, “Philosophy, Language, and Politics: Heidegger’s Attempt to Steal the Language of the Revolution in 1933–34,” Social Research 57, no. 1 (1990): 197–238, and Hermann Lübbe, Politische Philosophie in Deutschland: Studien zu ihrer Geschichte (Basel: Schwabe, 1963), chap. 4. For both, see R. N. Stromberg, “The Intellectuals and the Coming of War in 1914,” Journal of European Studies 3, no. 2 (1973): 109–22. 11. Two quite different, recent examples of this diagnosis are Sharon R. Krause, Freedom Beyond Sovereignty (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015), and Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019). 12. Such a position can be found in some texts by Michel Foucault, even if there is certainly variation and ambiguity in his approach on this respect. For a nuanced position, in which the subject is understood as the effect of power but nonetheless free, see Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” Critical Inquiry 8, no. 4 (1982): 777–95. 13. I very much thank Sharon Krause for her help in articulating this point. 14. Tamsin Shaw, “Invisible Manipulators of Your Mind,” New York Review of Books 64, no. 7 (2017): 62; Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (New York: Public Affairs, 2019); and references cited in the Conclusion, n. 11. 15. Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 125. 16. See, among others, Peter Baehr and Melvin Richter, Dictatorship in History and Theory: Bonapartism, Caesarism, and Totalitarianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Helena Rosenblatt, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), chap. 5; and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Pierre Ostiguy, The Oxford Handbook of Populism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 17. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and The First and Second Discourses, ed. Susan Dunn (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 182. 18. See, for example, references in nn. 9 and 10, as well as in Chapter 5, nn. 6 and 87. 19. Paul Valéry, “Allocution prononcée à l’occasion de la mort de M. Henri Bergson,” accessed February 8, 2019, -de-la-mort-de-m-henri-bergson (my translation). 20. On Bergson’s international fame and influence, see Anthony E. Pilkington, Bergson and His Influence: A Reassessment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976); Tom Quirk, Bergson and American Culture: The Worlds of Willa Cather and Wallace Stevens (Chapel Hill:

Notes to Pages 5–6


University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Mary Ann Gillies, Henri Bergson and British Modernism (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996); Hilary L. Fink, Bergson and Russian Modernism, 1900–1930 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999); and Enrique Dussel, “Philosophy in Latin America in the Twentieth Century: Problems and Currents,” in Latin American Philosophy: Currents, Issues, Debates, ed. Eduardo Mendieta (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 11–53. 21. George Steiner, “Mystic Master,” Times Literary Supplement, February 28, 2003, http:// Steiner goes on: “The grandes dames dispatched their valets [to Bergson’s lectures at the Collège de France] to secure seats. No lecturehall was spacious enough to accommodate the throng.” 22. Larry McGrath, “Bergson Comes to America,” Journal of the History of Ideas 74, no. 4 (2013): 599. 23. See Philippe Soulez and Frédéric Worms, Bergson: Biographie (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), 163–214. 24. See Florence Caeymaex, “Les Discours de Guerre (1914–1918): Propagande et Philosophie,” in Annales bergsoniennes VII (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2014), 143–66. 25. See references cited in nn. 9 and 10. 26. Paul Michael Cohen, “Reason and Faith: The Bergsonian Catholic Youth of Pre-War France,” Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 13, nos. 2–3 (1986): 473–97; Dries Deweer, “The Political Theory of Personalism: Maritain and Mounier on Personhood and Citizenship,” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 74, no. 2 (2013): 108–26; Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); and Matthew W. Maguire, Carnal Spirit: The Revolutions of Charles Péguy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). 27. Donna V. Jones, The Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); Souleymane Bachir Diagne, African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Negritude (New York: Seagull Books, 2011) and Bergson Postcolonial: L’élan vital dans la pensée de Léopold Sédar Senghor et de Mohamed Iqbal (Paris: CNRS, 2011); and Nadia Yala Kisukidi, Bergson ou l’humanité créatrice (Paris: CNRS, 2013). 28. Patrick Romanell, “Bergson in Mexico: A Tribute to Jose Vasconcelos,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 21, no. 4 (1961): 501–13, and Kévin Buton, “Usages de Bergson dans Le Fil de L’Epée de Charles de Gaulle,” in Annales bergsoniennes VII (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2014), 259–84. 29. Walter L. Adamson, “Modernism and Fascism: The Politics of Culture in Italy, 1903– 1922,” American Historical Review 95, no. 2 (1990): 359–90, and references in nn. 9 and 10. 30. Contemporary scholarship on Scheler has been advanced mainly under the auspices of the Max Scheler Gesellschaft and, in the English-speaking world, by the Max Scheler Society of North America. 31. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 50. 32. See Eugene Kelly, “Max Scheler,” in The Routledge Companion to Phenomenology, ed. Sebastian Luft and Søren Overgaard (New York: Routledge, 2012), 40–49. 33. Hans-Peter Krüger, “Life-Philosophical Anthropology as the Missing Third: On Peter Gordon’s Continental Divide,” History of European Ideas 41, no. 4 (2015): 433. See also Martin Buber, “The Philosophical Anthropology of Max Scheler,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 6, no. 2 (1945): 307–21; Karl-Siegbert Rehberg, “Philosophical Anthropology from the


Notes to Pages 6–9

End of World War I to the 1940s and in a Current Perspective,” Iris 1, no. 1 (2009): 131–52; and Jerome Carroll, “‘Indirect’ or ‘Engaged’: A Comparison of Hans Blumenberg’s and Charles Taylor’s Debt and Contribution to Philosophical Anthropology,” History of European Ideas 39, no. 6 (2013): 858–78. 34. Krüger, “Life-Philosophical Anthropology as the Missing Third,” 433. As this commentator informs, philosophical anthropology was the explicit theme of one of Cassirer’s lectures in Davos, while his other lecture was on Max Scheler. See also Vida Pavesich, “Hans Blumenberg’s Philosophical Anthropology: After Heidegger and Cassirer,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 46, no. 3 (2008): 421–48, and Peter E. Gordon, “Reflections on Continental Divide: An Author’s Response,” History of European Ideas 41, no. 4 (2015): 454–69. 35. Just to mention two examples of this vast literature, see Lars Rensmann and Samir Gandesha, eds., Arendt and Adorno:  Political  and  Philosophical  Investigations (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), and Axel Honneth, Reification: A New Look at an Old Idea, ed. Martin Jay, with contributions by Judith Butler, Raymond Geuss, and Jonathan Lear (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). 36. See Martin Jay, “The Frankfurt School’s Critique of Karl Mannheim and the Sociology of Knowledge,” Telos, no. 20 (1974): 72–89; Volker Meja and Nico Stehr, Knowledge and Politics: The Sociology of Knowledge Dispute (New York: Routledge, 1990); David Frisby, The Alienated Mind: The Sociology of Knowledge in Germany, 1818–1933 (New York: Routledge, 1992); and Michael D. Barber, Guardian of Dialogue: Max Scheler’s Phenomenology, Sociology of Knowledge, and Philosophy of Love (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1993). Scheler’s sociology of knowledge will remain, for the most part, outside of the scope of this book, which will focus mainly on the author’s ethical theory, his phenomenology of emotions, and his theologicopolitical reflections. For a positive assessment of Scheler’s sociology of knowledge, see the work by Barber cited above; for a negative one, see Frisby’s. 37. For the influence of Schelerian ideas on Konrad Adenauer, see James Chappel, “Nihilism and the Cold War: The Catholic Reception of Nihilism Between Nietzsche and Adenauer,” Rethinking History 19, no. 1 (2014): 1–16. For Scheler’s thoughts on Rathenau, see Max Scheler, Walther Rathenau, eine Würdigung zu seinem Gedächtnis (Cologne: Marcan-Block, 1922). 38. Karol Wojtyla, The Acting Person (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1979); John Nota, “Existential Personalism: Max Scheler and Karol Wojtyła,” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 60 (1986): 135–47; Robert Krieg, “Romano Guardini’s Theology of the Human Person,” Theological Studies 59, no. 3 (1998): 457–74; Stephanie Mar Brettmann, Theories of Justice: A Dialogue with Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II and Karl Barth (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014); and Andrea Meissner, “Against ‘Sentimental’ Piety: The Search for a New Culture of Emotions in Interwar German Catholicism,” German History 32, no. 3 (2014): 393–413. 39. Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, 125. 40. Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, trans. F. L. Pogson (New York: Macmillan, 1913), 219. 41. Jean-Marie Guyau is a largely forgotten figure of the French philosophical, artistic, and pedagogical landscape of the late nineteenth century. Even if Guyau remains a considerably obscure figure in the English-speaking world, important studies of his thought have recently appeared. These works show that in his own time, Guyau was meticulously studied by Durkheim, highly regarded by Nietzsche, and considerably influential for a good number of artists and anarchists (among them, most famously, Kropotkin but also a few of them in Spain, Italy, and Latin America).

Notes to Pages 10–14


42. Joshua Derman, Max Weber in Politics and Social Thought: From Charisma to Canonization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 206–15. 43. For Bergson, see “Final Remarks: Mechanics and Mysticism,” in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), 266–317, and for Scheler, “Der Bourgeois,” “Der Bourgeois und die religiösen Mächte,” and “Die Zukunft des Kapitalismus,” in Gesammelte Werke III, ed. Maria Scheler and Manfred Frings (Bern: Francke, 1955). 44. This is especially relevant in the present context, where the Christian legacy within the liberal tradition is being acknowledged and discussed either with contempt or with delight. See Charles Taylor and James Heft, A Catholic Modernity? Charles Taylor’s Marianist Award Lecture, with responses by William M. Shea, Rosemary Luling Haughton, George Marsden, and Jean Bethke Elshtain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Hans Joas, The Sacredness of the Person: A New Genealogy of Human Rights (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013); Jan-Werner Müller, “Towards a New History of Christian Democracy,” Journal of Political Ideologies 18, no. 2 (2013): 243–55; Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014); Moyn, Christian Human Rights; and Eric Nelson, The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019). Bergson and Scheler’s thought constitutes one more instance confirming the deeply religious character of democratic sensibilities at the turn of the century and, therefore, provides further insight regarding the concerns and commitments behind a theologicopolitical worldview that is presumably still with us. Chapter 1 1. John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty,” in On Liberty and Other Writings, ed. Stefan Collini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 57. 2. Ibid. 3. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998), 13. In the quotation, Bergson is discussing biological reproduction, though. He explains that the need for an individual organism to “perpetuat[e] itself in time condemns it never to be complete in space.” When the individual organism reproduces itself, Bergson says, it “harbors its enemy at home.” 4. Mill, “On Liberty,” 74. 5. Ibid. 6. Although this would not imply, of course, that a socially homogeneous atmosphere is a sufficient or even necessary condition to make inner diversity distinct. 7. See also Hans Urs von Balthasar, Apokalypse der deutschen Seele III (Salzburg: Anton Pustet, 1937), 100–111; Günther Pflug, “Die Bergson-Rezeption in Deutschland,” Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 45, no. 2 (1991): 257–66; Michele Averchi, “Le immagini della percezione sensibile in Scheler e Bergson,” in Max Scheler: Esistenza della persona e radicalizzazione della fenomenologia, ed. Guido Cusinato (Milano: FrancoAngeli, 2007), 257–74; Arnaud François, “La critique schélérienne des philosophies nietzschéenne et bergsonienne de la vie,” Bulletin d’Analyse Phénoménologique 6, no. 2 (2010): 73–85; and Caterina Zanfi, Bergson e la filosofia tedesca: 1907–1932 (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2013). 8. David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge and P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 39. There are as many versions of associationism as there are exponents of it—take, for instance, Mill and Hume. These differ on their accounts of human personality, development, and freedom. For that reason, it is not surprising that Bergson


Notes to Pages 14–15

and Scheler are not at odds with all associationist philosophers on every point. For instance, both of them, like Mill—all the differences notwithstanding—conceive individuality as indeterminate (Mill affirms that “individuality is the same thing with development,” suggesting thereby that the cultivation of individuality is an open-ended process [Mill, “On Liberty,” 64, italics added]). However, in general, both Bergson and Scheler argue that associationism as such is inevitably flawed and that experience itself proves its premises to be unacceptable. 9. Max Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, trans. Peter Heath (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2008), 246. 10. Ibid., 247. 11. Charles Taylor, whose approach to language I briefly compare to Bergson’s below (see n. 52 in this chapter), shares Scheler and Bergson’s views on the ontogenesis of language. See Charles Taylor, The Language Animal (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016), 44, 66. Cf. Henri Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps: cours au collège de France: 1902–1903 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2016), 253. 12. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, 250. 13. Ibid., 248. 14. Ibid. 15. The critique of psychologism is just part of a broader phenomenological approach in the philosophy of the mind and the cognitive sciences that began to take form in the nineteenth century and had as its foundation the notion of “intentionality.” For a comprehensive and clear review of these debates, including some references to Scheler’s contributions to them, see Dermot Moran, “Intentionality: Some Lessons from the History of the Problem from Brentano to the Present,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 21, no. 3 (2013): 317–58. 16. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and William Scott Palmer (New York: Macmillan, 1912), 215. For a positive assessment of Bergson’s theory of cognition and perception in light of contemporary scientific debates, see John Mullarkey, “Philosophy of the Mind,” in Bergson and Philosophy (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), 31–61. 17. Bergson, Matter and Memory, 214. 18. This does not necessarily mean, for Bergson, that we are cognitively doomed to be egoists. He distinguishes what he calls “racial attention” from our “personal” or “voluntary attention.” Mind-Energy: Lectures and Essays, trans. H. Wildon Carr (New York: H. Holt, 1920), 95, 178. Only the former is, in his view, directed toward practical concerns. That does mean that we cannot show personal consideration toward things that do not have to do with us personally: in fact, our “racial attention” is, for him, the framework in which something such as generosity becomes possible. Bergson is rather making an epistemological assertion about what we can and cannot normally cognize. Still, notice that in The Two Sources, he takes this conclusion further and affirms that “intelligence would counsel egoism first” (115). This means indeed that, in Bergson, we find the proposition that the intellect provides a framework in which we are relatively focused on ourselves and our immediate surroundings. That is the background for the argument in his last book that open society is possible only through an intuitive insight into humanity and not through reason. I will come back to this point in Chapter 5. 19. Bergson, Matter and Memory, 19–21. 20. Ibid., 239. 21. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 155.

Notes to Pages 15–18


22. See ibid., 155, and Histoire de l’idée de temps, 30–34. Bergson’s idea that the intellect produces epistemological “interruptions” might be worth clarifying further. It is best illustrated by his conception of the mathematical study of reality. As we have seen, according to him, matter is not fixed, and there is no ultimate unit or particle of matter. Studying it through mathematics amounts to “taking pictures” of something that is always in movement, thus betraying its true character. Still, for him, even if mathematical constructs are not “immanent in matter,” the latter does “possess everything necessary to adapt itself to our formulae.” Creative Evolution, 219. This mutual connection reveals, for Bergson, the pragmatic character of intellect. It tends to fabrication and control, and “it is characterized by the unlimited power of decomposing according to any law and of recomposing into any system” (157). For contemporary research agreeing with Bergson on the character of matter, see the accessible approach offered by Don Lincoln, “The Ultimate Building Blocks of Matter,” Fermilab, accessed January 17, 2020, .com/watch?v=m2sr6n6JWhc. 23. Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values: A New Attempt Toward the Foundation of an Ethical Personalism, trans. Manfred S. Frings and Roger L. Funk (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 218–19n45. 24. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 31. 25. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 278–79. 26. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 91. 27. Ibid., 91. In that sense, mathematics is never an abstraction from reality but, on the contrary, a reconstruction of the more original phenomenon that makes it possible. Similarly, grammatical analysis always brings additional elements to the simple act of communication (where “simple” means only that no analysis of the phenomenon is necessary to practice it). 28. Ibid., 88–90. 29. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 182. 30. For a more detailed examination of this criticism, see Philip Blosser, Scheler’s Critique of Kant’s Ethics (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1995). 31. Scheler, Formalism, 374–75. 32. Ibid., 398ff. 33. One key difference, however, is that, for Scheler, acts are by no means the sole “data of consciousness,” to put it in the former’s terms. According to Scheler, we can have immediate intuition of “essences” that do not take part of the mobile character of an act. See the section titled “Scheler and the Ability to Discriminate” in this chapter. 34. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, 342. 35. Ibid., 342–43. 36. Sharon Krause acknowledges this problem with respect to Hume and argues, therefore, that his perspective should be “supplemented by a commitment to democratic equality, liberal rights, and contestatory public debate,” that is, by liberal-democratic politics. Civil Passions: Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 77. 37. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 98. Only the teenager reader does that, Scheler says, but that is, again, because she is not mature enough yet. A similar point is made by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1953), §282. On this topic, see also Íngrid Vendrell Ferrán, “Imaginative Einteilnahme und empatische Erkenntnis,” in Die Vielfalt der Erkenntnis: Eine Analyse des kognitiven Werts der Literatur (Paderborn: Mentis, 2018), 245–78.


Notes to Pages 18–21

38. In Chapter 4 of this book, I will explore Scheler’s distinction between “true sympathy” and “emotional contagion” or “empathy.” 39. Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, 261. 40. Scheler, Formalism, 373. 41. Ibid., 63. 42. Scheler, “The Idols of Self-Knowledge,” in Selected Philosophical Essays (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 80–81. 43. Scheler, Formalism, 390. 44. Ibid., translation slightly modified. 45. Scheler, “The Idols of Self-Knowledge,” 37. 46. Ibid., 377. 47. Scheler, Formalism, 391–92. 48. Ibid., 387. 49. Ibid., 381. 50. Ibid. Notice the similarity with Bergson, for whom, as we said before, the contrast between the simplicity of movement and the complexity of mechanism indicates different degrees of reality. See the section titled “‘Dissociationist’ Psychology” in this chapter. 51. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 257–58. 52. The first one to provide such a conceptualization was, of course, Aristotle (The Politics and the Constitution of Athens, ed. Stephen Everson [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996], 1253a5–10. More recently, Charles Taylor has famously advanced a position according to which authenticity—one of the most important values for him—depends on our capacity for speech. See Charles Taylor, “Self-Interpreting Animals,” Human Agency and Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 45–76, henceforth cited as HAL, and The Language Animal. For Taylor, as is well known, to be authentic—to become oneself—one must engage in a continuous exercise of self-reflection, through which we articulate our identity and our ethical evaluations. In this exercise, “language is essential . . . because it articulates insight or makes insight possible” (HAL, 71). A brief comparison between Taylor and Bergson on language should be instructive. For Taylor, “to say that language is constitutive of emotion is to say that experiencing an emotion essentially involves seeing that certain descriptions apply” (HAL, 71, italics added). According to him, concepts serve as signposts that illuminate and orient our quest for identity or as marks for what characterizes each one of us particularly. As is well known, for Taylor, without language, there is no identity, and without identity, we lack a framework to inform our choices and build our agency (HAL, 76). From what we have shown, Bergson would have dismissed, in principle, the full-fledged pursuit of a project of self-interpretation, such as the one defended by Taylor, aiming instead at a truer grasp, through intuition, of what he calls the “vital impulse.” For him, Taylor’s injunction that we should “striv[e] for conceptual innovation,” because that “will allow us to illuminate some matter, say an area of human experience which would otherwise remain dark and confused” (HAL, 41), is nothing but a hopeless fight against the ever-increasing force of “mere symbols” that draw us away from what makes us human—namely, the particular “rhythm” of our “inner duration.” Our inner self, which is always in flux, would be irremediably forced by Taylor’s project into external rigid categories. Therefore, in Bergson’s view, something like the Taylorian quest for “the right description” is, from the very beginning, an ill-fated enterprise (for Taylor’s notion of “the right description,” or what he calls “intrinsic rightness,” see The Language Animal, 26, 47).

Notes to Pages 21–22


As this book will show, Bergson’s deep mistrust of language is embedded in a theory of the self that holds that the latter exists originally not in language but in time, and therefore he invites us to replace any such project of articulation and conceptual innovation with one of building a truer relation to our past and a more flexible relation to our future. From his perspective, memory and habit acquire important moral and political dimensions at the expense of language and identity. Memory, as we will shortly see in this chapter, is intimately related to the preservation of the kind of inner diversity that Bergson is interested in—one that it would be impossible to translate into concepts. Habit, in turn, is a key element in Bergson’s comprehensive rejection of the modern ideal of the “sovereign self,” as well as in his articulation of a notion of freedom based not on reason and descriptions but—as we will see in Chapter 2—on action and hesitation. 53. On this point, Scheler says, “It is Bergson’s special merit to have shown how we are all inclined to import a quasi-spatial multiplicity into the mental field, despite the fact that the two things are utterly dissimilar.” The Nature of Sympathy, 257, translation modified. 54. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 47. 55. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 47. 56. Ibid., 162. 57. However, this does not mean that there cannot exist regularities in our psychic life. Bergson assumes not only that they can be identified but also recommends explicitly that they should be investigated. See “Phantasms of the Living,” in Mind-Energy, 99. 58. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 53. All translations from this text are mine. 59. Ibid., 53. 60. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 16. 61. See Bergson, Creative Evolution, 339, and Matter and Memory, 254. For Bergson, these characteristics make time more original than space. This originality is attested by the fact that we can travel in space but not in time—time marks an absolute limit for us. Notice as well that despite the “inevitability” or “necessity” that characterizes time and the particular velocity it “imposes” on us, it is also, paradigmatically, the dimension of the unfixed and the ever-changing. This contrast, again, between what is so unyielding and, at the same time, so fluctuating calls our attention to a degree of reality that would otherwise escape us. Such reality, moreover, is the one that makes experience properly human. For more on Bergson’s conception of time and his famous argument with Einstein on this point, see Jimena Canales, The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016). 62. Bergson, Matter and Memory, 270. 63. This expression paraphrases William James when he says that sensation is the “proper citadel” of “all inward originality and spontaneity.” The Principles of Psychology, vol. 2 (New York: H. Holt, 1907), 517–18. Notice that even if this quote suggests otherwise, Bergson claimed to be in agreement with James’s metaphysical and psychological theories and vice versa. See Bergson, “On the Pragmatism of William James: Truth and Reality,” in Creative Mind, 177–86, and William James, “Bergson and His Critique of Intellectualism,” in The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 561–80. 64. That is why both Scheler and Bergson present a strong opposition to the Cartesian distinction between body and soul. For them, such dichotomy taints the possibility of perceiving the essence of acts, in Scheler’s vocabulary, and the heterogeneity of movement, in Bergson’s words. That is because it obliterates the only “field” in which they can be intuited—namely, the


Notes to Pages 22–24

area between matter and spirit—leaving us with no option except sensualism or dogmatism. See, however, Bergson’s praise of Descartes in Histoire de l’idée de temps, 285–300. 65. Wertnehmung is a term coined by Scheler, which combines value (Wert) with perception (Wahrnehmung). 66. On this point, see Hans Joas, “The Value-Feeling and Its Object (Max Scheler),” in The Genesis of Values (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 84–102. 67. See the detailed analysis by Imtiaz Moosa, “Are Values Independent Entities? Scheler’s Discussion of the Relation Between Values and Persons,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 24, no. 3 (1993): 265–75. 68. I owe this formulation to Rodrigo Chacón. 69. I will use the terms “feeling” and “emotion” indistinctly. As it will become clear in what follows, as well as in Chapter 4, these feelings or emotions are ontologically different from the feelings of the Enlightenment tradition both in its rationalist and sentimentalist variants. 70. In using “feeling-states” as the English term for Gefühlen, I am following Frings’s translation. Some people might object to such a term, and I do not particularly like it either. Michael Frazer suggested “states of mind” or “affects” as better choices. I agree with him; however, I prefer not to innovate on this point. 71. Scheler, Formalism, 105. 72. Ibid. 73. Notice further that the phenomenon of masochism cannot be properly understood by sensualism or by the utilitarian point of view that is correlative to it. If the ultimate criterion of goodness is pleasure, the utilitarian must say that the masochist is not really such from his own standpoint: since the latter derives pleasure from pain, pain for him is really pleasure. In other words, from the sensationalist perspective, the masochist is seen as such only by a society that does not share the latter’s values or preferences. 74. Scheler, Formalism, 107, punctuation modified. 75. In an interesting observation, Scheler says that “only a person who fails to recognize the unity and autonomy of vital feelings . . . and views them as mere consequences of sensible feelings, can be astonished that . . . severe lung diseases and severe mental disorders can be accompanied by sensible pleasure, and that the presence or absence and the degree of sensible pleasure and displeasure do not correspond exactly to the magnitude of damages and advancements in the life of the entire organism.” Formalism, 357–58. The personal relevance of this observation is clear: it is well known that Scheler used to smoke at some point up to seventy cigarettes per day and thus was well aware of the self-destructive potential of certain pleasures. However, more broadly, Scheler is concerned not to explain away the “vital area” within our psychosomatic disposition. As we will see in Chapter 4, Scheler associates the mental pathologies of “emotional infection” and “emotional identification” to this “vital zone” and establishes a link between them and the phenomena of fascism and charismatic authority. 76. Scheler is less clear with respect to the character of this type of feelings. However, it is more or less apparent that he wants to be able to identify the shades or nuances in different types of feelings, depending on whether they are more or less extended, more or less localized, more or less susceptible of control, and finally, whether they are short lived or last longer. 77. On the political, philosophical, existential, and cultural implications of hunger in history and human character, see Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994); Knut Hasmun, Hunger, trans. Sverre Lyngstad (New York: Penguin, 1998); Sharman Apt Russell, Hunger: An Unnatural

Notes to Pages 24–28


History (New York: Basic Books, 2005); and Ramón Andrés, “El Reparto,” in Pensar y no caer (Barcelona: Acantilado, 2016). 78. See Aurel Kolnai, On Disgust (Chicago: Open Court, 2004), and Martha C. Nussbaum, Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004). 79. Scheler, Formalism, 342–43. 80. Ibid., 343. The original German reads as follows: “Wir können nicht im selben Sinne ‘über etwas’ verzweifelt und ‘über etwas’ selig sein wie über etwas froh und unfroh, glücklich und unglücklich usw. Wo diese Wendung sprachlich gebraucht wird, da wird sie auch als Übertreibung ohne weiteres empfunden. Man kann geradezu sagen: Wo das Etwas noch gegeben und angebbar ist, ‘über das’ wir selig und verzweifelt sind, da sind wir sicher noch nicht selig und verzweifelt.” Gesammelte Werke II, ed. Manfred S. Frings (Bonn: Bouvier, 2009), 355. 81. Ibid., 108. 82. Ibid., 107. 83. Ibid., 316n100. 84. Ibid., 111ff. See also Scheler, “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders,” in Person and SelfValue: Three Essays, trans. Manfred S. Frings (Dordrecht: M. Nijhoff, 1987), 141–42. 85. Cf. Michael D. Barber, Guardian of Dialogue, esp. chaps. 4 and 6 on dialogue, rationality, and intersubjectivity, who is decidedly more optimistic than I am in this respect. 86. Scheler, Formalism, 195. 87. Ibid. 88. Scheler’s distinctions constitute a useful light under which to revisit some arguments about the political significance of repentance and forgiveness, for instance, in discussions about transitional and criminal justice, reparations, and collective memory. See Panu Minkkinen, “Ressentiment as Suffering: On Transitional Justice and the Impossibility of Forgiveness,” Law and Literature 19, no. 3 (2007): 513–12, who uses Nietzsche, Scheler, and Améry’s reflections to interpret resentment as a continuation of the original suffering of the victim, and Rinat KitaiSangero and Itay Lipschits, “The Place of Repentance in Retributive Sentencing,” International Journal of Punishment and Sentencing 7, no. 4 (2011): 107–37, who use Scheler (among other philosophers, writers, and legal theorists) to argue that while repentance might not be a legal institution, it should be given recognition in sentencing. 89. Scheler, Formalism, 385. 90. Scheler, “The Idols of Self-Knowledge,” 3. 91. See also John Cutting, “Max Scheler’s Theory of the Hierarchy of Values and Emotions and Its Relevance to Current Psychopathology,” History of Psychiatry 27, no. 2 (2016): 220–28. 92. Despite Scheler’s disagreements with Freud and the school of psychoanalysis, they agree on this respect. 93. See the famous experiment by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, reported in their book The Invisible Gorilla (New York: Crown, 2010), where they demonstrate how people who are focused on one particular task can become blind to objects or other stimuli that would normally draw their attention. 94. For a contemporary endorsement of this idea, see Elaine Scarry, “Pain and Imagining,” in The Body in Pain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 161–80. 95. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 258. 96. Scheler, Formalism, 104.


Notes to Pages 28–31

97. For an examination of Scheler’s social ontology in connection with his theory of sympathy, see Matthias Schloßberger, “The Varieties of Togetherness: Scheler on Collective Affective Intentionality,” in The Phenomenological Approach to Social Reality: History, Concepts, Problems, ed. Alessandro Salice and Hans Bernhard Schmid (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016), 173–95; Thomas Szanto and Dermot Moran, Phenomenology of Sociality: Discovering the We (New York: Routledge, 2015), esp. the contributions by Íngrid Vendrell Ferrán on affective intentionality in early phenomenology and by Thomas Szanto on collective intentionality in Scheler; and Barber, Guardian of Dialogue, where he argues that Scheler’s attempt to uphold an objective order of being and value results, at the political and cultural levels, in the ethical mandate to engage in intercultural dialogue (127). 98. Knud Haakonssen, “Hugo Grotius and the History of Political Thought,” Political Theory 13, no. 2 (1985): 241, italics added. 99. Important efforts in this direction, in a way that is not altogether foreign to some of Scheler’s insights, can be found in Jennifer Nedelsky, “The Multidimensional Self and the Capacity for Creative Interaction,” in Law’s Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 158–99. 100. He treats this subject in the essay titled “Memory of the Present and False Recognition,” in Mind-Energy, 134–85. 101. An interesting case was Pierre Janet, who, while interpreting it as a misperception, attributed the phenomenon a more metaphysical meaning than the rest. He thought that the episodes of déjà vu constituted “a denial of the present.” According to a commentator, for Janet, “In pathological cases, defensive stress reduction takes the form of a refuge from temporality, and in fatigued but sane people it appears as a recreative putting on hold of time for a while— usually the while of distraction and entertainment.” Peter Krapp, Déjà vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), xvi–xvii. (I thank Jaime del Palacio for calling my attention to this work.) And indeed, Bergson acknowledges that Janet’s studies “raise more delicate questions.” Mind-Energy, 137–40. 102. Bergson, Mind-Energy, 136, 168–69. 103. Ibid., 182. 104. Still, notice that, from a certain perspective, these two functions indicate two different metaphysical dimensions. See n. 109. 105. Bergson, Mind-Energy, 160. Notice that this is the same illusion that allows us to imagine that remembering amounts to reviewing some sort of “recording” of what happened in the past, as one of the most popular episodes of the TV series Black Mirror suggests. See Jesse Armstrong, “The Entire History of You,” Black Mirror, season 1, episode 3, directed by Brian Welsh, aired December 18, 2011, available on Netflix. 106. Bergson, Mind-Energy, 165. 107. Ibid., punctuation slightly altered. 108. Ibid., 166. 109. That we can act on the past does not mean that, conversely, the past can “act on us” to the same extent or in the same way that the present does. This can be seen in Bergson’s famous analogy of the mirror: “A memory seems to be to a perception what the image reflected in the mirror is to the object in front of it. The object can be touched as well as seen; acts on us as well as we on it; is pregnant with possible actions; it is actual. The image is virtual, and though it resembles the object, it is incapable of doing what the object does.” Mind-Energy, 165, translation slightly modified.

Notes to Pages 31–35


110. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, 430, italics modified. 111. Bergson, Creative Mind, 49–50. 112. Bergson, Mind-Energy, 167. 113. The classic study about Bergson’s conception of the actual and the virtual is Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism (New York: Zone Books, 1991). See also Keith Ansell-Pearson, Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life (New York: Routledge, 2002), esp. chaps. 6 and 7. 114. This account is offered in the essay titled “Intellectual Effort,” in Mind-Energy, 186–230. 115. Leonard Lawlor has indeed argued that we witness here a Bergsonian reversal of Platonism. “For Plato, there is a fall into matter that makes us forget our original contact with the ideas; for Bergson, matter puts forgetfulness in us.” “The Ontology of Memory: Bergson’s Reversal of Platonism,” Epoche: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 8, no. 1 (2003): 97. 116. Bergson, Mind-Energy, 194–95. 117. Ibid., 196. 118. Ibid., 201. 119. Ibid., 201–2. 120. Ibid., 198. Bergson is quoting directly from reports of chess players, where they explain how they understand or experience the game. 121. Ibid. 122. Ibid. 123. Ibid., 228, translation modified. 124. Thus, he explains, the efficiency of any given mnemonic technique will reside in the extent to which it can provide the most parsimonious and economical instructions to get across different mental planes. 125. Ibid., 214. 126. Ibid., 31. 127. The coincidence in Scheler and Bergson on this point is almost perfect. See Scheler “Repentance and Rebirth,” in On the Eternal in Man (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2010), 40–41, where he says that “since, however, the total efficacy of an event is, in the texture of life, bound up with its full significance and final value, every event of our past remains indeterminate in significance and incomplete in value until it has yielded all its potential effects. . . . Before our life comes to an end the whole of the past, at least with respect to its significance, never ceases to present us with the problem of what we are going to make of it.” For the resemblances between the two authors on this point, see Vladimir Jankélévitch, Le Pardon (Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1967), and Graham J. McAleer, “New Spartans: Jankélévitch, Scheler, and Tolkien on Vanity,” in Vladimir Jankélévitch and the Question of Forgiveness, ed. Alan Udoff (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013), 129–42. 128. I find a consonant approach in Leonard Lawlor when he observes that “[though] the memories have passed out of the present, they have not, as we have seen Bergson also claims, passed out of time; insofar as they constitute our character, they continue to affect the present.” “What Immanence? What Transcendence? The Prioritization of Intuition over Language in Bergson,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 35, no. 1 (2004): 32. Along the same lines, Lawlor notes that “if there is alterity in . . . experience, it is going to be dependent on my own interior life, on my memory, on my sense.” The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics (New York: Continuum, 2003), 75. “Sense,” Lawlor explains, must be understood here in a technical way as precisely the “dynamic schema” that we have been


Notes to Pages 35–41

discussing. See also a similar idea in Mark Muldoon when he explains that “in duration the personal past influences the personal present, not as static state of affairs, but as dynamic process.” This means, he expounds, that “each moment possesses its own ‘life-story.’ ” Tricks of Time: Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur in Search of Time, Self and Meaning (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2006), 82. 129. For an interesting mise-en-scène of this process, see Nick Payne, Wanderlust, season 1, episode 5, directed by Lucy Tcherniak, BBC One, aired October 2, 2018, available on Netflix. 130. Bergson, Mind-Energy, 228. 131. Ibid., 230. 132. Ibid., 203. 133. On this point, it is interesting to note that both Matter and Memory and “Intellectual Effort” are early texts in Bergson’s career, a period when allegedly he did not draw so a sharp distinction between intelligence and intuition as he would do in later works. In this respect, Lawlor observes that “intelligence refers here to a specific mental effort, which coincides with Bergson’s philosophical method of intuition.” “The Ontology of Memory,” 91. 134. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 138. 135. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 127. 136. Bergson, Two Sources, 173–74, translation modified. 137. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 165. 138. Bergson, Creative Mind, 112. 139. The same paradoxical position is explicitly developed by Thomas Mann in his Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, trans. Walter D. Morris (New York: Ungar, 1987), 1–24 passim, where he argues against civilization, acknowledging, however, that, as a writer, he is part—and a very significant one—of the civilization he is disparaging of. I thank Michael Rosen for calling my attention to this reference. 140. Bergson, Creative Evolution, 200. 141. De Gaulle, for instance, said, in full Bergsonian spirit, “By what sign do we ordinarily recognize the man of action, who leaves his mark on the events into which fate throws him? Isn’t it because he embraces a more or less long succession in an instantaneous vision? The greater the share of the past that he includes in his present, the heavier the mass he pushes into the future so as to weigh on the events in preparation: his action, like an arrow, moves forward with a strength proportional to that with which its representation was bent backwards.” Quoted in Stanley Hoffmann and Inge Hoffmann, “The Will to Grandeur: De Gaulle as Political Artist,” Daedalus 97, no. 3 (1968): 843. 142. Bergson, Creative Mind, 89. 143. Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), 96. 144. Bergson and Scheler’s respective critiques of Kantianism will be the focus of the next chapter. 145. Bergson, Creative Mind, 28, translation slightly modified. Chapter 2 1. As Keith Ansell-Pearson states, “For Bergson the problem of freedom is in large part bound up with the legacy Kant bequeaths to modern thought.” Thinking Beyond the Human Condition (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 56. Scheler, for his part, built his “non-formal alternative” in ethics in direct opposition to Kant’s formalism. For a detailed treatment of the contrast between Scheler and Kant, see, again, Blosser, Scheler’s Critique of Kant’s Ethics.

Notes to Pages 41–42


2. Immanuel Kant, “Critique of Practical Reason,” in Practical Philosophy, trans. and ed. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 140. All translations of the Critique of Practical Reason are from this edition, henceforth abbreviated as PP. This reference will be followed by that of the Akademie edition: A.A. 5:5. 3. Kant, PP, 140; A.A. 5:5. 4. Different interpretations of Kant’s “fact of reason” are offered by Lewis White Beck, “The Fact of Reason: An Essay on Justification in Ethics,” in Studies in the Philosophy of Kant (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), 200–214; Henry E. Allison, “The Fact of Reason and the Deduction of Freedom,” in Kant’s Theory of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 230–49; Paweł Łuków, “The Fact of Reason: Kant’s Passage to Ordinary Moral Knowledge,” Kant-Studien 84, no. 2 (1993): 204–21; Dieter Henrich, “The Concept of Moral Insight and Kant’s Doctrine of the Fact of Reason,” in The Unity of Reason: Essays on Kant’s Philosophy, ed. Richard L. Velkley (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 55–88; Paul W. Franks, “The Fact of Reason and the Standpoint of German Idealism,” in All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 260–336; Dean Moyar, “Unstable Autonomy: Conscience and Judgment in Kant’s Moral Philosophy,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 5, no. 3 (2008): 327–60; Bryan Lueck, “Kant’s Fact of Reason as Source of Normativity,” Inquiry 52, no. 6 (2009): 596–608; Pauline Kleingeld, “Moral Consciousness and the ‘Fact of Reason,’ ” in Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason: A Critical Guide, ed. Andrews Reath and Jens Timmermann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 55–72; and Jeanine Grenberg, Kant’s Defense of Common Moral Experience: A Phenomenological Account (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), part III. In what follows, I will comment on some of these, primarily in notes. 5. Kant, PP, 163–64; A.A. 5:30. The original in German, reads like this: “Fragt ihn aber, ob, wenn sein Fürst ihm unter Androhung derselben unverzögerten Todesstrafe zumutete, ein falsches Zeugnis wider einen ehrlichen Mann, den er gerne unter scheinbaren Vorwänden verderben möchte, abzulegen, ob er da, so groß auch seine Liebe zum Leben sein mag, sie wohl zu überwinden für möglich halte. Ob er es tun würde oder nicht, wird er vielleicht sich nicht getrauen zu versichern; daß es ihm aber möglich sei, muß er ohne Bedenken einräumen. Er urteilt also, daß er so etwas kann, darum weil er sich bewußt ist, daß er es soll, und erkennt in sich die Freiheit, die ihm sonst ohne das moralische Gesetz unbekannt geblieben wäre.” Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, ed. Karl Vorländer (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1906), 30: 20–30. 6. There are various accounts of the role that inclination and sensibility play in moral behavior in Kant. Andrews Reath, for instance, claims that every feeling—the feeling of respect included—operates solely through “reasons that resemble moral reasons in form, in the sense that they provide justification for the action in question.” “Kant’s Theory of Moral Sensibility: Respect for the Moral Law and the Influence of Inclination,” in Agency and Autonomy in Kant’s Moral Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 18. Therefore, rejecting more “mechanical” interpretations of Kant’s moral psychology, he argues that “inclinations influence the will through the value that the agent supposes them to have” (italics added), and that, in turn, “the moral law can limit their influence by showing that they do not have this value, and by presenting a higher form of value” (18). In Reath’s view, that is the only way in which we can make sense of Kant’s idea that reason can be practical and that the feeling of respect can limit the influence of inclinations. In contrast, for a balance-of-forces model, in which Kant is interpreted as endorsing a “two-worlds metaphysics” that combines psychological determinism, on the one hand, with human freedom, on the other, see Richard McCarty, “Moral Motivation,” in Kant’s


Notes to Pages 42–45

Theory of Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 167–200. The Bergsonian account of morality that I will present shortly differs from both of the above in that it will reject, to begin with, Kant’s sharp distinction between noumena and phenomena. 7. See, among others, W. D. Snodgrass, “Crime for Punishment: The Tenor of Part One,” Hudson Review (Summer 1960): 202–53; Robert Louis Jackson, Twentieth Century Interpretations of Crime and Punishment: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall, 1973), esp. the contributions by Konstantin Mochulsky and F. I. Evnin; Edward Wasiolek, “Raskolnikov’s Motives: Love and Murder,” American Imago 31, no. 3 (1974): 252–69; and Gennaro Santangelo, “The Five Motives of Raskolnikov,” Dalhousie Review 54 (1974): 710–19. 8. The analytical psychologist, in Bergson’s disapproving description, “begins by disregarding the person’s special coloration, which can be expressed only in common and known terms. He then strives to isolate, in the person thus already simplified, this or that aspect which lends itself to an interesting study. If, for example, it is a question of inclination, he will leave out of account the inexpressible shading which colors it and which brings it about that my inclination is not yours; he will then fix his attention on the movement by which our personality tends towards a certain object; he will isolate this attitude, and it is this special aspect of the person, this point of view on the mobility of the inner life, this ‘schema’ of the concrete inclination which he will set up as an independent fact.” Creative Mind, 143, translation slightly modified. 9. I very much thank Sharon Krause and Lydia Moland for pressing me on this point. Their comments allowed me to substantially clarify my argument here. 10. Paul M. Hughes, “Temptation and the Manipulation of Desire,” Journal of Value Inquiry 33, no. 3 (1999): 378. 11. Ibid., 379. 12. Ibid., 379. For further discussion of whether temptation necessarily implies moral wrong, see A. T. Nuyen, “Nature of Temptation,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 35, no. 1 (1997): 91–103, who argues that even if temptation does always involve a special kind of conflict, it “is a good thing insofar it is a good thing to be tried or tested” (98). This author even claims that in temptation, “most of the human characteristics are involved, so much so that temptation could well be the defining feature of the human condition” (102–3). 13. Etymonline, s.v. “temptare,” accessed January 8, 2019, /word/tempt?ref=etymonline_crossreference, and Lewis &Short Online, s.v. “tento,” accessed January 8, 2019, 1999.04.0059:entry=tento-contents. Etymologically, it might be tempting to relate “temptation” and “time” (temps, in French); however, that seems to be incorrect. Still, insofar as temptare (to try, to attempt, to prove, put to the test) and tentare (to handle, touch, feel a thing) are the frequentative forms of tenere (to hold, keep, have in the hand, in the mouth, etc.), the former terms carry a temporal nuance and, as I said above, convey the idea of movement. The possible temporal implication of the words tentare and temptare can perhaps be best seen in the word “tentative,” which means, first, “of the nature of, or made or done as a trial, experiment, or attempt; experimental,” but also “unsure, uncertain, not definite or positive, hesitant.” In the latter meaning, the notion of movement and, therefore, of time (in Bergson’s terms) is clear. I thank Juan Torbidoni for originally calling my attention to the issues raised by the etymology of the word and David Moreno Guinea for clarifying them to me. 14. For instance, see Elisabeth Ellis, Provisional Politics: Kantian Arguments in Policy Contexts (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008). I thank Felipe Curcó for calling my attention to this reference and for his observations on this point. For a reading of Kant that calls into

Notes to Pages 45–49


question his alleged empty rationalism and interprets him instead as someone committed to exploring the limits of reason, see Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997). Indeed, Heidegger’s reading of Kant constitutes one of the fundamental points of departure of this book. 15. More precisely, my reading of “the fact of reason” can add to the debate in Kantian scholarship regarding whether the standpoints of the Groundwork (where Kant seems to give a justification or a deduction of freedom) and that of the second Critique (where Kant seems to presuppose freedom since any justification seems impossible on his own premises) are compatible or not (see Garrath Williams, “Kant’s Account of Reason,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Summer 2018 ed.], ed. Edward N. Zalta, -reason/#FreImpMorConForCatImp). Kant scholars hold differing opinions on this point. The interpretation I offer here gives a Groundwork-like reading of the Gallows Man passage (which, as we know, appears in the second Critique), showing thus a possible link between both works. I thank Michael Frazer for calling my attention to this point and suggesting the way my interpretation can contribute to the debate. 16. Bergson, Creative Mind, 158. 17. Ibid., 158–59. 18. Ibid., 160. 19. Ibid., 145–47, 164–69. 20. Ibid., 154–55. 21. That is Hume’s objection to conceiving freedom as the opposite of necessity in human action. See his Treatise of Human Nature, 410ff. 22. For helpful overviews of the debate, see Robert Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), and Timothy O’Connor, “Free Will,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2016 ed.), ed. Edward N. Zalta, accessed February 16, 2019, 23. Hannah Arendt, “Willing,” in The Life of the Mind, 5. 24. Bergson, Creative Mind, 82. 25. Ibid., 82–83. The problem, then, with the idea that “we live in the best possible world” is not only—as Voltaire pointed out—that we become blind to the evils that surround us but that we claim to see more than what we actually can. “One might as well—Bergson says—claim that the man in flesh and blood comes from the materialization of his image seen in the mirror, because in that real man is everything found in this virtual image with, in addition, the solidity which makes it possible to touch it” (83). 26. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 176. 27. Ibid., 180. 28. Ibid., 182–83, italics added. 29. See the course taught by Bergson from 1906 to 1907 in the Collège de France, on “Theories of the Will,” in Mélanges: L’idée de lieu chez Aristote, Durée et simultanéité, Correspondance, Pièces diverses, Documents, ed. André Robinet (Paris: Presses Universitaries de France, 1972), 685–722. 30. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 211–14. 31. See the section titled “Bergson’s Labor Theory of Value” in Chapter 1. 32. Interestingly enough, Hume expresses a similar idea regarding the origin of our notion of force and power: “It may be pretended, that the resistance with which we meet with our bodies, obliging us frequently to exert our force, and call up all our power, this gives us the idea


Notes to Pages 49–51

of force and power. It is this nisus, or strong endeavour, of which we are conscious, that is the original impression from which this idea is copied.” Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 67. More recently, the idea of cause as force has also been regarded as primitive in our experience by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, who claim to follow Jean Piaget on this point. See Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 70–76. 33. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 75–88. 34. Although, see his observations of the way in which, ideally, metaphysics and science should converge and collaborate. Creative Mind, 162. 35. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, 410. 36. Kant, PP, 195–96; A.A. 5:69. 37. Bergson, Creative Mind, 141, 154. 38. For a good overview of this topic, see Ansell-Pearson, “Bergson on Time, Freedom, and the Self,” in Thinking Beyond the Human Condition, 55–72. It would be interesting to compare Arendt’s objections against understanding freedom in terms of a free will and the Bergsonian implications against the will that I just stated. Unfortunately, I cannot do so at length here, but suffice it to indicate that, coming from two very different (and in some sense, opposite) places—Arendt’s concern about the internalization of liberty as a result of the persecution felt by the early Christians and her criticism of the contempt she thinks philosophy feels for politics, as well as Bergsonian metaphysics of the “inner self ”—they both end up impugning the value of “the will” in order to approach freedom appropriately. See Arendt, “What is Freedom?” in Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, introduction by Jerome Kohn (New York: Penguin, 2006), 155–63. More on this below. 39. Bergson, Creative Mind, 136. 40. The feeling of uncertainty, or the way we relate to the future in this respect, can be seen as another instance of a force capable of “matching our agency.” That is the topic of Chapter 3. 41. Bergson, Two Sources, 9. 42. Ibid., 23, translation slightly modified. Notice that, for Bergson, reason does have a role to play in moral action; however, it is not a foundational one. This can be read as Bergson’s rejoinder to the rationalizing picture of moral motivation that Reath spells out in his interpretation of Kant and, more specifically, to what is known as Kant’s “Incorporation Thesis.” The latter refers to the idea that freedom of choice “cannot be determined to action through any incentive except so far as the human being has incorporated it into his maxim (has made it a universal rule for himself, according to which he will to conduct himself).” Kant, Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, trans. and ed. Allen Wood and George di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 49; A.A. 6:24. For more on the notion of “Incorporation Thesis,” see Henry E. Allison, Kant’s Theory of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 39ff. 43. More precisely, for Dieter Henrich, the “philosopher’s stone” concerns, in Kant, “the question of the significance of the unique nature of moral insight.” “The Concept of Moral Insight and Kant’s Doctrine of the Fact of Reason,” 87. 44. On how hesitation relates to meaning, see the following passage (which deals with the rejection of determinism): “The act by which one makes a decision after hesitation [hésitation], after deliberation [délibération], can be explained by that which antedates it . . . but not before, which means that events that come before give an explanation about what follows, but are never enough to determine it.” Histoire de l’idée de temps, 239. See also Time and Free Will, 177.

Notes to Pages 51–52


45. And what is more, as we saw in Chapter 1, for him, the contrast between quantity and quality obscures the relevant distinctions in our inner life (see the section “In Search of the Elusive Personality” in Chapter 1), which, well understood, are all of the latter kind. 46. Bergson, Two Sources, 229. 47. Ibid., 13. 48. Ibid. I will further explore Bergson’s conception of obligation in Chapter 3. However, for now, let us note that, on this point, Bergson is significantly opposed to Kant’s principle of publicity—namely, the idea that the moral law, which alone bears the light of the public sphere and can make our motivations accountable to others, is the only morally relevant factor. As a commentator notes, according to this principle, “we always choose maxims that we suppose carry some form of universal validity,” and ordinary moral consciousness leads us to “submit [our] actions to public scrutiny and to supply reasons and explanations of a certain kind.” Reath, “Kant’s Theory of Moral Sensibility,” 19. Even if Bergson is contrary to this, his argument—as F. C. T. Moore has observed—is not part of a broader defense of privacy or of a Wittgensteinian private-language argument. Bergson’s position against publicity results rather, Moore says, from an argument for the lack of distinctiveness of the inner life. Bergson: Thinking Backwards (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 44–45. Now, for a different interpretation of Kant, which focuses on the notion of integrity, at the expense of that of publicity, see Moyar, “Unstable Autonomy.” I will have more to say about Moyar’s reading later, in relation to Scheler. 49. William James admits as much when he criticizes the opinion of those who argue that human action is unintelligible under the assumption of liberty, on the grounds that it supposes our lives to be a sea of pure randomness. This chaotic picture where “the mother may strangle her first-born child, the miser may cast his long-treasured gold into the sea, the sculptor may break in pieces his lately-finished statue,” James says, results from not being able to distinguish “between the possibles which really tempt a man and those which tempt him not at all.” Instead, he rejoins, any theorization of the problem of freedom should deal “with the former possibles exclusively.” The Principles of Psychology, vol. 2, 577, italics added. In other words, for James, morality and freedom become a problem only when temptation has set in and never before. 50. Kant, “Conjectural Beginning of Human History,” in Anthropology, History, and Education, ed. Günter Zöller and Robert B. Louden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 166; A.A. 8:112. 51. Ibid. 52. Kant concedes that “perhaps” the apple was relatively “disadvantageous” for man, compared to other animals “whose nature was suited to such a gratification,” but then insists that the harm that resulted from eating it might very well have been “as insignificant as you like.” “Conjectural Beginning,” 165–66; A.A. 8:112. 53. Ibid., 165–66; A.A. 8:112. 54. The late Patrick Riley reminded me of this point. Notice also that in Religion Within the Limits, Kant argues that evil as a human trait is “inexplicable” from merely anthropological premises. He says further that “the Scriptures express this incomprehensibility in a historical narrative,” in which the human being “is represented as having lapsed into [evil] only through temptation, hence not as corrupted fundamentally (in his very first predisposition to the good).” Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, ed. Allen Wood and George de Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 64–65; A.A. 6:43–44. Thus, while in Conjectural Beginning, temptation is only omitted, without any theorization of why this is so, in Religion Within the Limits (published seven years later), Kant explicitly presents temptation as


Notes to Pages 52–58

something “external” to human beings—Satan in the form of a serpent plays such a role—and backs it up with a theory about a predisposition to the good in human nature. To be sure, this responds to the project of advancing a more optimistic and liberating anthropology, one in which humans are not, as he says, “corrupted fundamentally.” Still, in “saving man” from this fatalistic narrative, Kant is oblivious, I think, to a phenomenological trait of agency, according to which temptation is not “not fundamental.” 55. I thank Christine Korsgaard for pointing this out to me. See also her “Kant’s Formula of Humanity,” in Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 112–13. 56. Kant, “Conjectural Beginning,” 166 (note a); A.A. 8:112. 57. The puzzle posed by this question is somewhat analogous to the one that has largely occupied Kant scholars concerned with the way in which the moral law can move us to action. 58. Bergson, Creative Mind, 153. 59. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 164. 60. Arthur Schopenhouer, On Vision and Colors, trans. and ed. Georg Stahl (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010), 43. 61. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 219. 62. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Jessie S. Coulson (New York: Norton, 1989), 60, italics added; henceforth cited as CP. 63. To clarify, it is of course relevant that what tempts Raskolnikov is to murder someone (and not, say, to consume drugs to the point of risking his own life) and, specifically, that he intends to murder a moneylender. Again, the object of temptation says important things about the tempted—that is partly why, as I said before, temptation addresses us in particular (and, of course, Raskolnikov’s only way to overcome the pathologies of action that afflict him might be to reflect about his motives). My point is that the dilemma, as it is posed to him originally, is primarily not about the moral character of murder (and of this particular one) but about whether or not he is able to do it. Of course, a Kantian would say (along Reath’s lines) that the latter question troubles him so much precisely because it is imbued with moral considerations: “I am really able to commit that hideous crime?” I normally do not wonder whether I am “really able” to eat an apple—unless, of course, I am sitting in the Garden of Eden. However, I want to say that the question becomes pressing not so much because Raskolnikov had thought through the moral implications of murder, or because he had become aware of the duty not to kill and therefore feels pressed about how he could “submit his actions to public scrutiny,” but just because killing is prohibited (as Bergson says “you must because you must”). In my view, it is the prohibition not to kill that addresses us as agents and triggers off the pressing moral self-inspection. 64. In that sense, according to my interpretation, the act of murder is not, in Raskolnikov’s case, an instance of action and assertion of power, properly speaking. Rather, it is more like a tangent line that escapes an oscillating pattern over a circumference, almost by mistake. On Bergson’s metaphysical interpretation of the tangent line, see Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 281. 65. Kant, PP, 163–64; A.A. 5:30, italics added. 66. Ibid., italics added. 67. Going back to the debate in Kantian scholarship mentioned in n. 15, it could be thought that the connector “therefore” corresponds to the approach that we associate normally with the Groundwork, while the connector “because” corresponds to the “official” approach of the second Critique. Paul W. Franks interprets the fact of reason and the Gallows Man example in ways that

Notes to Pages 58–59


I take to be both metaphysically and methodologically consonant to the reading that I propose here. In “The fact of reason and the standpoint of German idealism,” Franks argues that, both philologically and substantially, “it is entirely plausible that what Kant means when he speaks of the Factum der Vernunft is an act of reason” (278). Philologically, he indicates, “Factum is of course derived from the verb facere, meaning ‘to do or make’” (278). Furthermore, in his reading, the story about the Gallows Man is entrusted with a performative task within the text— namely, that of producing in the reader the feeling of respect as she reads the story (289). Franks brings to light the process in which the reader (or any moral agent confronted with a similar stimulus) makes the transition between the moral law and freedom (293), stressing thus the temporal character of moral awareness. His argument is congenial with my interpretation, in that it brings to the fore the extent to which the fact of reason is fundamentally something about agency. In that respect, he argues that, in Kant, it is not so much the moral law that is the ratio cognoscendi of freedom but, more precisely, that “my self-legislation of the moral law—manifesting itself through the feeling of respect—provides a ratio cognoscendi or epistemic ground for my cognition of freedom, while the actualization of my freedom provides a ratio essendi or ontic ground for my self-legislation of the moral law” (293–94). In other words, for Franks, it is the activity of self-legislating manifesting itself by way of respect that allows me to know my freedom. Notice, then, that even though—unlike Bergson—Franks would be willing to endorse the Kantian idea that I cannot be immediately conscious of my freedom, he does emphasize—as Bergson would do—the extent to which the Gallows Man example is, at bottom, a story about personal transformation, that is, a phenomenon that happens in time. For another reading favorable to an act-centered interpretation of the fact of reason, see Moyar, “Unstable Autonomy,” which I will discuss in the next section. 68. In other words, what strikes me as peculiar about the Gallows Man story is that following the moral law amounts in effect to a disobedience of the positive law (the prince) so that, comparatively speaking, it is “liberating.” Therefore, despite Kant’s characterization of respect as a constraint placed by reason in order to keep inclinations at bay and not as a potential source of temptation, in the Gallows Man example it seems to be something that “attracts” the agent, instead of “deterring” him by curbing his inclinations (see Kant, PP, 204–5; A.A. 5:80). 69. A quick clarification might be in place. Notice that, even if I am drawing upon Bergson’s notion of obligation as he portrays it in The Two Sources, the phenomenon that I am trying to capture in this chapter—namely, temptation—is different from the “closed morality” that Bergson describes in the first chapter of the book, where he presents his theory of obligation. Actually, the experience of agency, which, in my argument, the “force of temptation” is correlated to, might be closer to Bergson’s “open morality” than to the closed one. For more on this distinction, see my approach to The Two Sources in Chapter 3. 70. Jeanine Grenberg has proposed another phenomenological but perhaps much more recognizably Kantian interpretation of the Gallows Man case in her Kant’s Defense of Common Moral Experience, esp. chaps. 7–9. I agree with her that Kant’s presentation of the Gallows Man “is, indeed, Kant at his phenomenological best” (177) and celebrate her emphasis on a “firstpersonal perspective” and on “felt experience,” as well as her insistence that, in order to capture Kant’s practical philosophy, one must look at human beings as agents. Furthermore, her claim that “our felt experience of categorical obligation [is] an object of wonder, not of knowledge” (223), and that the fact of reason is best understood in Kant as a “felt force” (143) are compatible, in principle, with Bergson’s anti-intellectualist approach. However, our respective readings of


Notes to Pages 59–60

the Gallows Man passage pursue very different projects and understand phenomenology in very different ways. First, Grenberg does accept the idea that the Gallows Man passage successfully illustrates the “ought-implies-can” principle. She is happy to acknowledge that “for this potentially corrupt and self-deceived agent [the Gallows Man], it is only when he is able really to understand his moral obligations that he is really able also to recognize both his agential power and the limits thereof ” (176). One of the reasons for this is that, unlike Bergson and Scheler, she endorses the Kantian conviction that we cannot have consciousness of freedom but only infer it from our consciousness of a categorical obligation (262n9). Second, even if Grenberg gives a central epistemic role to the feeling of respect (175, 281) that could make it similar to the force of temptation, which I claim addresses the agent as such, she understands respect in at least two ways that make her approach incompatible with mine, as I present it here. She claims that the feeling of respect is something sensuous, even if she denies that it is an inclination (173), whereas, in my reading, the Gallows Man confronts or intuits a force that, as we will see in the next chapter, must have an ontological character analogous to that of the agent. Second, in the reading I propose here, what is grasped, intuited, or felt by the Gallows Man is eminently not constraining: he is presented with an invitation to act, whereas Grenberg characterizes the feeling of respect as “a felt experience of constraint [that plays] an enabling role in accessing our awareness of a necessary, imperative constraint in our will” (218). Finally, it is worth mentioning that, for Grenberg, the realization of the autonomously imposed duty allows the Gallows Man to “simultaneously discover his capacity to act” (255). Even when she thinks that Kant goes too far in saying in the second Critique that the fact of reason and the consciousness of freedom are identical (262n9), she does think that both happen “simultaneously.” However, as we have seen, Bergson’s primary complaint about both philosophy and common sense is that they tend to substitute simultaneity for succession. Thus, probably, the main piece of evidence that a Bergsonian interpreter could offer in order to challenge Grenberg’s account as a “trustworthy witness” to the case is this: that two things cannot happen simultaneously. 71. Kant, PP, 163–64; A.A. 5:30. 72. Although, to clarify, I do not mean to suggest that Kant’s explanation entails the preexistence of alternative possibilities in a Leibnizian way (the confusion could arise given that Bergson’s diagram is partly a criticism directed against such a conception). 73. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 184ff. 74. And to be sure, one must remember that Kant—not unlike Bergson—was ready in the Groundwork to indicate the gap between action and idea and by no means pretended to bridge it by way of the intellect. As is well known, that work ends precisely with the following perplexing words intended to show that there are limits to the reasons that we can adduce for why we take an interest in the law: “And thus we indeed do not comprehend the practical unconditioned necessity of the moral imperative, but we do comprehend its incomprehensibility, which is all that can be fairly required of a philosophy that strives in principles up to the boundary of human reason.” (Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, in PP, 108; A.A. 4:463). See also nn. 14 and 15. In relation to this, Camille Riquier is undoubtedly right when he argues that Bergson’s relation to Kant is much more complex than a straightforward refutation of the latter’s metaphysics as overly intellectual—even if I would not go as far as saying, with him, that the task should be to “restor[e] the Kantianism that is completed in Bergson.” “The Intuitive Recommencement of Metaphysics,” Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 24, no. 2 (2016): 64.

Notes to Pages 60–61


I agree with Riquier that Bergson “breaks with Kant from the inside of his philosophy” (64), and indeed, this chapter is an attempt to show how reading Bergson and Kant against each other illuminates important aspects of both authors. More specifically, I hope to add to the Bergson-and-Kant scholarship in two ways. First, in the face of the generalized tendency among scholars to relate Bergson only to the first Critique (e.g., Riquier notes that “Bergson belongs, rather, to those who meditated deeply on the first Critique,” so that, he continues, the first Critique is “the only one [Bergson] took into consideration” [65]), confronting instead, as I do here, the former’s theory of freedom with the second Critique—and, specifically, with the so-called fact of reason—promises to yield new insights into its ethical implications. Second, after the appearance of The Two Sources, whenever Bergson’s scholarship has said something on his ethics, it has typically drawn on Bergson’s last work. In focusing rather on his prewar writings, I hope to explore previously neglected ethical implications of his thought. 75. Bergson, Creative Mind, 134, and Histoire de l’idée de temps, 21–23. 76. Bergson, Creative Mind, 150, translation slightly modified. 77. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 181. 78. Ibid., 177. 79. Ibid., 183. Despite some differences, Dieter Henrich’s examination of the fact of reason remains close to the interpretation I offer here of the Gallows Man example, as it regards the question of moral insight in Kant as pertaining to a totally different metaphysical standpoint from that of theoretical reason. More specifically, he holds that the practical standpoint is constitutive of the self in ways that pure reason can never be: “We can say that by means of [moral] approval, the self first constitutes itself as a self. For the self of theoretical reflection is as little capable of achieving an act of consent as the nous which ‘touches’ the first principles in intuition. Knowledge can only ‘let be.’ . . . However, moral insight is also part of the self. Without the consent of the self it cannot come to be; and this self is in turn rooted in its approval” (“The Concept of Moral Insight,” 63). Henrich’s idea that, in Kant, “the self constitutes itself as a self ” through the experience of the fact of reason is akin to the idea that I have put forward in this chapter that the “awareness of the could” is constitutive of human beings as agents. Moreover, Henrich explicitly acknowledges the efforts of “the phenomenological school in Brentano, Scheler, Hartmann, and von Hildebrandt” regarding moral insight (55n1). However, insofar as his emphasis is not on agency or on the temporal dimension that is inherent to it, his approach remains different from the reading I have provided here, informed by Bergson (83). 80. Notice again the similarities to Arendt’s analysis of the implications of conceiving freedom in terms of a free will. She says that “the two-in-one of solitude which sets the thought process into motion has the exactly opposite effect on the will: it paralyzes and locks it within itself; willing in solitude is always velle and nolle, to will and not to will at the same time” (Arendt, “What Is Freedom,” 157). See n. 38. 81. An analysis of the importance of space in Dostoevsky’s narrative structures can be found in Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, trans. R. W. Rotsel (Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1973). A map and a slide show illustrating Raskolnikov’s journey to the pawnbroker’s apartment, provided by Professor Julian Connolly, can be found at .edu/projects/jconnolly/index.php?sid=5&pid=1 and show.swf, respectively (accessed February 16, 2019). 82. Dostoevsky, CP, 343. 83. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 177.


Notes to Pages 61–65

84. Bergson, Creative Mind, 47. 85. For Bergson, the intellect (i.e., reason) is the source of hesitation in agency. He claims that for an animal with no reason (that is, endowed only with instinct), reality is movement, with no pause or hesitation at any point in life. See Time and Free Will, 177–79, as well as the section “The Half-Personal Face of Chance and its Pedagogical Value” in Chapter 3. Kant seems to acknowledge something similar when he says that it is reason, not instinct, that leaves man standing “as it were, on the brink of an abyss; for instead of the single objects of his desire to which instinct had up to now directed him, there opened up an infinity of them, and he did not know how to relate to the choice between them.” “Conjectural Beginning,” 166; A.A. 8:112. 86. Dostoevsky, CP, 353. 87. The relation of agency to risk will be the topic of the following chapter. 88. Dostoevsky, CP, 354. 89. Ibid., 353. 90. Cf. Bergson’s ideas about the art of writing: in his opinion, such an art has less to do with what we say and more with how we say it. That does not entail that what we do or say is irrelevant. The choice of words is always very important, but that is not what the art of writing consists in. See Creative Mind, 221n14. 91. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 219. 92. Ibid., 172ff. 93. Scheler, Formalism, 126. 94. Ibid., 325, italics added. 95. Ibid., 325. 96. Ibid., 492, translation slightly modified. 97. Ibid., 318. 98. Ibid., 319. David Velleman has argued that Kant’s categorical imperative is best understood as a “summary” of something more complex and deep, namely, the first-personal address that conscience makes to each of us. See “The Voice of Conscience,” in Self to Self: Selected Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 110–28. For him, the moral law is not, in the first instance, a universal rule (although it is also that). Rather, he claims that it is no accident that Kant’s maxims are always phrased in first-personal terms and that the moral law in Kant is “better understood as an ideal for the will to emulate” (112), whose prescriptive force depends on our reverence for the “mere dignity of humanity” in ourselves (127)—an attitude that is, in turn, “our response to something that we have internalized from real people in the course of moral development” (128, italics added). Velleman offers a Freudian reading of Kant that, I think, highlights important aspects of Kant’s merits as a moral psychologist. Still, Kant’s conscience, as depicted by Velleman, departs from Scheler’s in a central aspect. For Velleman, the universality of the moral law is better captured as the “reverb” that the voice of conscience must have, so that it can be authoritative (115, 126). Such “reverb” is the degree of publicity that it can enjoy. In other words, the authority of the voice of conscience “just consists in [it] being what anyone would think that anyone would think” (119). As should be clear by now, that is just what Scheler wants to avoid. 99. See the works by W. D. Snodgrass and Edward Wasiolek cited in n. 7. 100. Early in the novel, Raskolnikov has a terrible dream in which a helpless animal is beaten to death. In his dream, he witnesses the event as a little boy, and it is clear that he sympathizes with the victim since he is horrified by the deed. The way the animal is killed is not so different from the way he murders the moneylender, suggesting a possible identification with her. See Richard R. Rosenthal, “Raskolnikov’s Transgression and the Confusion Between

Notes to Pages 65–69


Destructiveness and Creativity,” in Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? A Memorial to Wilfred R. Bion, ed. James S. Grotstein (London: Karnac Books, 1990), 197–235. I thank Jaime del Palacio for this reference. In addition to this, as we saw before, Raskolnikov explicitly identifies with the moneylender when he admits that he had killed himself through the crime. 101. Kant accepts the possibility that reason can misguide us. “Yet it is a property of reason,” says Kant, “that with the assistance of the power of the imagination it can concoct desires not only without a natural drive directed to them but even contrary to it.” “Conjectural Beginning,” 165; A.A. 8:111. See also Christine Korsgaard, “Kant’s Formula of Humanity,” 111–13. 102. Dostoevsky, CP, 220. 103. It is not exactly clear what could possibly prove that, in killing her, Raskolnikov remained immune to the law. Probably lack of remorse. However, as I will comment shortly in the text, that would need further argumentation because in Raskolnikov’s view, there should be consequentialist considerations, according to which breaking the law is justified within a broader framework—say, the creation of new values or a great project that would require, in turn, the commission of the crime. 104. See F. I. Evnin, “Raskolnikov’s Theory on the ‘Rights’ of Great Men and Napoleon III’s History of Caesar,” in Twentieth Century Interpretations of Crime and Punishment, ed. Jackson, 91–93. 105. Following Korsgaard’s interpretation of Kant’s moral law, the latter has two parts: on the one hand, its form, which is given by its universalizability (being universal, the law rests on the identification of an unconditional end—an end in itself), and, on the other hand, its content, which is given by humanity (humanity, for Kant, is distinguished from animality as “the power to set an end,” a capacity that is only “completed and perfected when our ends are fully determined by reason, [that is] when we respond to moral incentives” [“Kant’s Formula of Humanity,” 114]). Putting these together, the moral law yields the argument that every human being (or, rather, every rational creature) should be treated not merely as a means but as an end in itself, capable of self-legislation. 106. Dostoevsky, CP, 350. 107. Ibid. 108. Even though he is an educated and intelligent young man, as I said before, he does not have a personal or political project for which the money is necessary. He is certainly sensitive to the suffering of people who are close to him and generous to them; he is also capable of appreciating friendship (even if unable to enjoy it). However, he is totally unmoved by projects of humanitarian reform. 109. These emotions are normally associated with the works of Hobbes and Rousseau, respectively. For two important treatments of these topics, see Frederick Neuhouser, Rousseau’s Critique of Inequality: Reconstructing the Second Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), and Julie E. Cooper, Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013). 110. Scheler, Formalism, 354. 111. Although the fact that he chose the figure of Napoleon is not accidental. See Laure Murat, The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Toward a Political History of Madness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), who offers a political and cultural reading of the history of psychiatry in the mid-nineteenth century, when it became common for people with mental disorders to think themselves to be Napoleon. 112. For Scheler’s assessment of comparison in moral matters, see Chapter 4.


Notes to Pages 70–71

113. Kant, PP, 17; A.A. 8:35. 114. Scheler, Formalism, 472, 478–79, 494–501. 115. Ibid., 479. 116. Ibid. 117. Dean Moyar offers a reading of Kant that makes the latter much less vulnerable to Scheler’s criticism. Taking a cue from Fichte’s reading of Kant’s autonomy, which favors the self at the expense of the universality of the law, Moyar shows how Kant’s late moral philosophy reflects a tension between the authority of the moral law based on its universality and the moral law as a function of self-imputation (that is, of giving the law to myself). For him, “The fundamental concept of conscience [in Kant] is the basic capacity to impute actions to ourselves, to take responsibility for our actions and for our dispositions.” “Unstable Autonomy,” 359. Thus, against a more universalistic reading of Kant, in which conscience plays only a limited role, he claims that “the reference to the authority of the self in difficult moral judgments cannot be viewed just as a question of application [of the moral law]” (330). This leads Moyar to the very interesting conclusion that “we should take Kant’s doctrine of conscience, rather than the narrow doctrine of respect, as the key to Kant’s theory of ‘moral sensibility.’ Only conscience is a general enough notion to accommodate all the dimensions of moral feeling, rather than simply the oppositional feeling of respect” (357, italics added). Notice, then, that in accordance with what I have said before (see n. 70), for Moyar, respect is overly “oppositional” (or, as we have said above, “constraining”) to account for the more “positive” or “nonpassive” activity that morality requires—at least, the author claims—in Kant’s late writings. I am very sympathetic to Moyar’s reading. Still, I think Scheler might have wanted to push back against this position since, as Moyar says, Kant’s conception of conscience as an “internal court” entails that “the individual must take himself to be divided or doubled” (345). As he says further, in Kant, “Conscience must be figured as someone other than the person acting or else ‘conscience would be in contradiction with itself ’ [A.A. 6:438]. In conscience, the agent has ‘to think of someone other than himself as the judge of his action’ [A.A. 6:438]” (345). However, the idea of an internal unfolding—even if the real self ’s counterpart is a divinity, an omniscient God, “a scrutinizer of hearts, [that is] set up within the human being” (A.A. 6:439)—is contrary to Scheler’s idea of “standing alone in moral matters.” I will explore this topic in full in Chapter 4, where I contrast Scheler’s position to Adam Smith’s “impartial spectator.” The latter has, indeed, many similarities with Kant’s “inner judge.” 118. James, The Principles of Psychology, vol. 2, 517–18. 119. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. and ed. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 253; A.A. B145, where he says that an understanding that itself intuited, “as say, a divine understanding,” “would not represent given objects” but rather would be that “through whose representation the objects would themselves at the same time be given, or produced” (italics added). 120. And indeed, such a contrast should allow us to see more clearly the difference between Scheler’s and Moyar’s Kant, since the latter takes it to be his “last and most radical Fichtean claim . . . that this Kantian conscience licenses an inference to a synthetic a priori act of selfconstitution” (359, italics added). In other words, the self produces or constitutes itself, in what “Fichte calls the absolutely self-active I, or intellectual intuition, the pure concept of activity that makes possible the construction of concepts of duty and right” (359). That is something that, in my opinion, Scheler would never accept. 121. Scheler, Formalism, 237–38; Gesammelte Werke II, 252.

Notes to Pages 71–77


122. Scheler, Formalism, 236–38. 123. Ibid., 238. 124. Ibid. 125. Ibid., 232. 126. Notice, then, that Scheler’s notion of “ability” is different from the “capabilities approach” in contemporary moral theory. See, for instance, Martha C. Nussbaum, Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011). Lucas Swaine offers a different criticism of this approach as insufficient for a satisfactory moral theory in Ethical Autonomy: The Rise of Self-Rule (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). 127. Bergson, Time and Free Will, 166. 128. I thank Jaime del Palacio, because my conversations with him allowed me to reach this formulation. For more information about this model of “integration” of different mental aspects of the person, as used in psychoanalysis, see Avner Bergstein, “The Psychotic Part of the Personality: Bion’s Expeditions into Unmapped Mental Life,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 66, no. 2 (2018): 193–220. And for the relation between such a strand within psychoanalysis and Bergson, see Nuno Torres, “Intuition and Ultimate Reality in Psychoanalysis: Bion’s Implicit Use of Bergson and Whitehead’s Notions,” in Bion’s Sources: The Shaping of His Paradigms, ed. Nuno Torres and R. D. Hinshelwood (New York: Routledge, 2013), 38–52. 129. I do not mean that duty cannot have a personal appeal to certain people, only that, insofar as it does, it is not solely grounded on reason. I thank Sharon Krause for pressing me on this point. 130. Dostoevsky, CP, 355. 131. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 287–88. 132. Dostoevsky, CP, 355. 133. Luigi Ferrajoli, Derecho y razón: Teoría del garantismo penal, trans. Perfecto Andrés Ibañez (Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 2009), 223. All translations from this book are mine. 134. Ibid., 489. 135. Ibid., 223. 136. Scheler, “Idols of Self-Knowledge,” 37. 137. Scheler, Formalism, 387. 138. Cf. Ferrajoli, Derecho y razón, 218–30. 139. Cf. ibid., chap. 5 passim. 140. To be sure, Ferrajoli would agree with this idea to some extent. He acknowledges that the goal of limiting the power the state does not exclude the importance of issuing value judgments whenever those, instead of punishing the defendant beyond the crimes committed, serve to rule out her responsibility or to reduce punishment according to the specific circumstances that surround the case (see Derecho y razón, 39). Disregarding for the moment the perhaps too quick distinction between facts and values behind such an exception, its character as an exception betrays the extent to which this approach remains oblivious to the fact that the law serves a pedagogical function, whether we like it or not, and independently from whether it is used to inculpate or exculpate. 141. For a work in this direction, see Krause, “Agency, Inequality, and Responsibility,” in Freedom Beyond Sovereignty, 58–97, where she distinguishes between three different types of responsibility—namely, culpability, accountability, and responsiveness. 142. See n. 49.


Notes to Pages 78–81

Chapter 3 1. Martha C. Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 290ff. 2. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 30. 3. Although see, for instance, the work by Frédéric Keck, which I have found particularly useful (see infra section “The Belief in Chance and Superstition”). 4. Michael Sandel, “The Moral Economy of Speculation: Gambling, Finance, and the Common Good,” The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at University of Utah, February 27, 2013,, and “Markets in Life and Death,” in What Money Can’t Buy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 131–62. 5. Sam Binkley, “The Work of Neoliberal Governmentality: Temporality and Ethical Substance in the Tale of Two Dads,” Foucault Studies 6 (2009): 61. I thank an anonymous reviewer for this bibliographic suggestion. 6. That is one of Bergson’s main contentions against the anthropologist Lucien LévyBruhl. Most probably in relation with this claim, Bergson normally uses scare quotes for the terms “primitive” and “civilized.” That said, I will not use scare quotes for these terms in this chapter. 7. See John A. Michon, “Jean-Marie Guyau (1854–1888),” in Guyau and the Idea of Time, ed. John A. Michon et al. (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1988), 19–36, and Jordi Riba, La moral anomique de Jean-Marie Guyau (Paris: Harmattan, 1999), 21–32. 8. Regarding the last listed (very peculiar) material, see Jean-Marie Guyau, L’année enfantine de lecture courante (Paris: Armand Colin, 1907), accessed February 17, 2019, https://archive .org/details/lanneenfantined00jeagoog/page/n3. 9. Riba, La moral anomique, 32, my translation. 10. See Émile Durkheim, “L’irréligion de l’avenir, étude de sociologie,” Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger 23 (1887): 299–311. For comparative assessments of the two authors, see Marco Orru, “The Ethics of Anomie: Jean Marie Guyau and Émile Durkheim,” British Journal of Sociology 34 (1983): 499–518, where the author claims that Durkheim took the term “anomie” from Guyau and then transformed it to fit his own approach, and, more recently, Michael Behrent, “Le débat Guyau-Durkheim sur la théorie sociologique de la religion: Une nouvelle querelle des universaux?” Archives de sciences sociales des religions 142 (2008): 9–26. 11. See Ilse Walther-Dulk, “Regard sur la réception de Guyau par Nietzsche à la lumière de ses annotations sur L’irréligion de l’avenir,” in L’effet Guyau: de Nietzsche aux anarchists, ed. Jordi Riba (Paris: Harmattan, 2014), 7–16, and Keith Ansell-Pearson, “Contra Kant and Beyond Nietzsche: Naturalizing Ethics in the Work of Jean-Marie Guyau,”  Hegel Bulletin 35 (2014): 185–203. 12. Among them, most famously, Kropotkin but also a number of them in Spain, Italy, and Latin America. See Geoffrey C. Fidler, “On Jean-Marie Guyau, Immoraliste,” Journal of the History of Ideas 55 (1994): 75–97. 13. See, for example, Vladimir Jankélévitch, “Deux philosophes de la vie: Bergson, Guyau,” Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger 97 (1924): 402–49; Enrique Molina, Dos filósofos contemporáneos: Guyau-Bergson (Santiago de Chile: Nascimento, 1925); Jordi Riba, La moral anomique de Jean-Marie Guyau; Renzo Ragghianti, “Décomposer un texte: La genèse de l’idée de temps de Guyau,” in Jean-Marie Guyau, La mémoire et l’idée de temps: Édition critique

Notes to Pages 81–84


de la genèse de l’idée de temps, ed. Alfred Fouillée (Paris: Harmattan, 2011); and Keith AnsellPearson, “Morality and the Philosophy of Life in Guyau and Bergson,” Continental Philosophy Review 47 (2014): 59–85. 14. Bergson, Two Sources, 139. 15. As we saw in Chapter 2, this happens because the intellect introduces hesitation into action. See Bergson, Time and Free Will, 177–79. 16. Bergson, Two Sources, 152. 17. As can be noted, Bergson’s method is teleological: by asking “what could the function of our myth-making faculty possibly be?” he is attributing an “intention” to nature. I will not examine this aspect of Bergson’s methodological apparatus more thoroughly now. Suffice it to say, for the sake of exonerating him of crude teleologism, that he declares to be using the notion of “intention of nature” as a metaphor (see Two Sources, 110). On this topic, see Étienne Gilson, From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species, and Evolution (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 90–104. 18. Bergson, Two Sources, 110. 19. Ibid., 140. Compared to “myth-making faculty,” the notions of “fabulation function” or “myth-making function” seem more appropriate translations for Bergson’s notion of la function fabulatrice. This responds, first, to the fact that they are both closer to the original term but, more substantively, to the challenge that the experimental psychology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (to which Bergson is related) issued against what is known as “faculty psychology.” See Martin Kusch, Psychologism: A Case Study in the Sociology of Philosophical Knowledge (New York: Routledge, 1995), and John A. Goldsmith and Bernard Laks, Battle in the Minds Field: The First Four Generations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019). I thank Larry McGrath again for clarification on this point. 20. According to Mark Muldoon, fabulation “is perhaps one of the most underrated notions in Bergsonian scholarship.” Tricks of Time, 108. Muldoon signals Gilles Deleuze and Phillippe Sergeant, though, as notable exceptions (see 296n56). My work in this chapter is an effort to cover that deficit. 21. Bergson, Two Sources, 145. 22. Notice the similarity of approach with what we said in the previous chapter with respect to Scheler’s analysis of the meaning of the term “virtue” (see the section “Autonomy Reconsidered: Scheler and the Voice of Conscience”). This might suggest that, after all, Bergson’s “disdain” for language is not so radical. However, I think that conclusion would be mistaken. That is because here Bergson is dealing with how language allows us to interact with reality and not with the extent to which it allows us to know it. On this point, see the sections “The Half-Personal Face of Chance and Its Pedagogical Value” (last four paragraphs) and “The ‘Comradeship’ Between Agency and Reality” in this chapter. 23. For a more contemporary argument describing a similar phenomenon, see George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s comments on, for instance, the economic notion of “inflation”: “Viewing inflation as an entity allows us to refer to it, quantify it, identify a particular aspect of it, see it as a cause, act with respect to it, and perhaps even believe that we understand it.” Metaphors We Live By, 26. Moreover, as we “personify” a notion such as inflation, they explain, we can make sense of it as an adversary and prepare ourselves to confront it, as when we say, “Inflation has attacked the foundation of our economy,” “Inflation has robbed me of my savings,” “Inflation has outwitted the best economic minds in the country,” or even “Inflation has given birth to a money-minded generation” (33). More generally, they argue, this type of metaphors


Notes to Pages 84–90

“allow us to make sense of phenomena in the world in human terms—terms that we can understand on the basis of our own motivations, goals, actions, and characteristics” (34). 24. See Histoire de l’idée de temps, 53–85, and Matter and Memory, chap. 1. 25. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 69. 26. Ibid., 73. Animals do not have concepts but, Bergson says, they do have something “equivalent” to them within the realm of instinct (63–64). 27. For an illustration of this, see Jorge Luis Borges, “Funes el memorioso,” in Cuentos completos (México: Lumen, 2011), 163–70 (usually translated as “Funes, the Memorious”). 28. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 61. 29. For Bergson’s theory of perception and action, as well as the role of the body and the brain in it, see Matter and Memory, chaps. 1–2. On this topic, see David Morris, “The Logic of the Body in Bergson’s Motor Schemes and Merleau-Ponty’s Body Schema,” Philosophy Today 44 (2000): 60–69, and Vittorio Gallese and George Lakoff, “The Brain’s Concepts: The Role of the Sensory-Motor System in Conceptual Knowledge,” Cognitive Neuropsychology 22, nos. 3–4 (2005): 455–79. 30. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 73. 31. Bergson, Matter and Memory, 40–41. 32. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 54. 33. Ibid., 65. 34. Ibid., 54. 35. Bergson, Two Sources, 125–26. 36. Ibid., 128. 37. On the notion of “escorting,” see Histoire de l’idée de temps, 71, where Bergson says that different stimuli “accompany” (accompagner) and “demand” (exiger) analogous reactions on our part. 38. Bergson, Two Sources, 157. 39. See the short but very sharp and helpful article by David Lapoujade, “The Normal and the Pathological in Bergson,” MLN 120, no. 5 (2005): 1146–55. Lapoujade distinguishes two different kinds of “health” in Bergson, corresponding to the closed and the open morality, respectively. For Lapoujade, each one displays a different kind of confidence and attachment to life. I find Lapoujade’s reading highly congenial to mine and very instructive for my own project. 40. Bergson, Two Sources, 137. 41. Frédéric Keck, “The Virtual, the Symbolic, and the Actual in Bergsonian Philosophy and Durkheimian Sociology,” MLN 120 (2005): 1142, italics added. 42. On the difference between fabulation as a legitimate “faculty of the mind,” capable of “creating personalities whose stories we relate to ourselves,” and imagination as a morbid tendency to invent without intellectual scruple, see Two Sources, 195. 43. Bergson, Two Sources, 109. As Keck notes, for Bergson, “religion is first an intelligent reaction to a specific situation through adequate affects, but it then becomes a generalized fear of non-identified threats, which can be called superstition.” “The Virtual, the Symbolic, and the Actual in Bergsonian Philosophy and Durkheimian Sociology,” 1141, italics added. 44. Bergson, Two Sources, 128. 45. Ibid., 164–65. 46. The designation of “insurance device” is used by Frédéric Keck in his “Bergson dans la societé du risque,” in Lire Bergson, ed. Frédéric Worms and Camille Riquier (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2011), 163–84.

Notes to Pages 90–92


47. Bergson, Two Sources, 213. 48. Ibid. 49. Ibid., 138–39, italics added. In his work, Keck contrasts the different kinds of assurance provided by static (primitive) religion, on the one hand, and by dynamic religion (the religion of humanity), on the other: in the former, we have the primitive storyteller obtaining assurance through the identification of mystic causes operating behind events; in the latter, we have the mystic’s confidence that intuits the totality of humanity, “which does not need any materiality to manifest itself.” “Assurance and Confidence in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion,” in Bergson, Politics, and Religion, 265–80. I see two differences between Keck’s treatment and what I am trying to do here. First, I compare the assurance provided by primitive religion, not with the mystic’s confidence, which is what he does, but with the assurance established by the modern belief in chance. Second, I want to understand the significance of such a contrast, not for belief or intelligibility, as Keck intends, but for action. However, I have found his work illuminating and, we might say, reassuring. 50. Bergson, Two Sources, 148–49. 51. To clarify, the notion of “risk” in its current usage in the social sciences immediately suggests the possibility of quantification. As it will become clear shortly, this is not the connotation that I want to attribute to the word. I thank Christine Zabel for indicating to me the importance of clarifying this point. 52. Keck observes as well the link between “intentionality” and “personality” in Bergson’s account of fabulation. “Assurance and Confidence in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion,” 274. 53. Interestingly, while Bergson’s model of the closed society in Two Sources follows Durkheim for the most part, his reflections on the force of obligation ostensibly coincide with Guyau’s. 54. Bergson, Two Sources, 16. 55. Ibid., 65. 56. Ibid., 229. 57. Ibid., 25. 58. Ibid., 23. 59. Jean-Marie Guyau, A Sketch of Morality Independent of Obligation or Sanction (London: Watts, 1898), 89. 60. To clarify: Guyau does not think of his work as debunking Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative. He refers to it as “psychologically exact and deep as the expression of a fact of consciousness” (Sketch of Morality, 89). But he regards it as insufficient: universalization will only get us so far, after which we must, so to speak, decide on the exception. His purpose is then to examine the different forces that help us become, as it were, moral sovereigns of our life. For an assessment of Guyau’s possible influence on Bergson’s Two Sources, see Renzo Ragghianti, “Décomposer un texte,” 22–26. Notice that Bergson’s book appeared forty-eight years later than Guyau’s. 61. More specifically, he does so as part of a reflection on the possibility of self-sacrifice in a context of moral dissolution. He asks, what could possibly parallel a “duty to sacrifice oneself ”? Given that, according to him, neither the categorical imperative nor hedonistic calculus is enough, the question becomes, how can we account for such a duty? The “love of risk” is an answer to this. 62. The categorical imperative of “acting in such a way that you could universalize the maxim of your action” leaves out, by definition, any consideration about the probabilities


Notes to Pages 92–98

associated with consequences of the action. It tries to situate morality in a terrain impervious to contingency. For its part, hedonist calculus either assumes with certainty that such and such pleasure or pain will follow or at best ponders probabilities with the help of statistics, assuming that the “uncertainty-factor” can be appropriately subdued in that way. Guyau, however, will not be satisfied by either treatment. 63. See Susan Gubar, Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer (New York: Norton, 2012), who claims that a patient should not understand her situation as a struggle against illness since otherwise she will let herself be defined by it. 64. As it is also not the case that those who are risk averse hold such preference due to a higher valuation of their lives, as a rational-choice theorist could very well argue. 65. That is why, for him, what economists call “risk-indifference” would designate either someone who feels ambivalent about risk (i.e., both attracted to and repelled by it to the same degree) or, alternatively, a potential symptom of an atrophy of agency. 66. The exact phrase comes from a speech made by a German marshal, quoted by Guyau, in which the former talks about the “elevated sentiment” of “knowing that the destiny of your country may depend on the orders which you give—this tension of mind and of feelings is divinely great!” (Sketch of Morality, 124). 67. In this respect, see that even Hobbes, the fear-theorist par excellence, does not think that fear paralyzes. Thus, he distinguishes between fear and “being afraid.” De Cive, ed. Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 25. 68. I thank Jaime del Palacio for bringing Conrad’s story to my attention. 69. See references in n. 4. 70. Sandel, “The Moral Economy of Speculation,” 335. 71. Ibid. 72. Binkley, “The Work of Neoliberal Governmentality,” 61. 73. Ibid., 78. 74. Ibid. 75. See Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 53–54. 76. Notice that “dramatize” here refers both to the tendency to exaggerate uncertainty and to put it into a narrative form. 77. See that the notion of “flexibility in agency” has important resonances with Richard Vernon’s political interpretation of Two Sources. He reads in Bergson’s opposition between the closed and the open a conflict that, “in its public form . . . requires continual boundarycrossings, which produce a mingled and hybrid political morality, and one that is inherently unstable.” “Bergson’s Two Sources Revisited: The Moral Possibility of Nationalism,” Contemporary Political Theory 2, no. 3 (2003): 287. Such instability is, for Vernon, both the result of an unavoidable dilemma between the closed and the open in modern democracies (287) and, for that same reason, a call for moderation and prudence in Bergson’s theory. See also Chapter 5, n. 124. I find Vernon’s observation to be very congenial to my overall interpretation of Bergson. 78. Bergson, Two Sources, 146. 79. On the importance of habit in Bergson’s thought, see Melanie White, “Habit as a Force of Life in Durkheim and Bergson,” Body & Society 19, nos. 2–3 (2013): 240–62; David Bissell, “Agitating the Powers of Habit: Towards a Volatile Politics of Thought,” Theory & Event 15, no. 1 (2012); and Olivia Brown, “Habit as Resistance: Bergson’s Philosophy of Second Nature,” European Journal of Philosophy 2019: 1–16. Less attention has been paid to improvisation, though. 80. Bergson, Histoire de l’idée de temps, 65–67.

Notes to Pages 99–100


Chapter 4 1. Bergson also uses the term “sympathy” to articulate some of his claims, especially with respect to his conception of the evolution of life, of art, and of ethics. However, I will not explore this aspect of Bergson’s thought here, since I think his usage is not exactly analogous to Scheler’s and would, therefore, derange the course of the argument that I intend to I explore in this chapter. Still, certain connections with Bergson’s work will be duly noted along the way, mainly in notes. For more on this topic, see David Lapoujade, “Intuition et sympathie chez Bergson,” Eidos 9 (2008): 10–31, and Melanie White, “The Politics of Sympathy in Bergson’s Two Sources of Morality and Religion,” in Beyond Bergson: Examining Race and Colonialism Through the Writings of Henri Bergson, ed. Andrea Pitts and Mark Westmoreland (Albany: SUNY Press, 2019). I thank an anonymous reviewer for calling my attention to this point. 2. See, among many others, Martha C. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Cheryl Ann Hall, The Trouble with Passion: Political Theory Beyond the Reign of Reason (New York: Routledge, 2005); Sharon R. Krause, Civil Passions: Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008); Michael L. Frazer, The Enlightenment of Sympathy: Justice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century and Today (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); and Rebecca Kingston, Public Passion: Rethinking the Grounds for Political Justice (Montreal: McGillQueen’s University Press, 2011). 3. Bryan Garsten, Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). 4. Michael Walzer, “Deliberation, and What Else?” in Thinking Politically: Essays in Political Theory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007). 5. See Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser et al., The Oxford Handbook of Populism, esp. Francisco Panizza’s contribution, “Populism and Identification,” 406–25; Mónica Brito Vieira, Reclaiming Representation: Contemporary Advances in the Theory of Political Representation (New York: Routledge, 2017); and Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (New York: HarperCollins, 2017). 6. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, li. 7. See Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (London: Penguin Books, 1990), 71–95, and John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), 160ff. 8. Frazer, Enlightenment of Sympathy, 89. 9. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 5. 10. The main discussions about faction in Smith’s book were added only to the sixth edition in 1790 (see, e.g., The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie [Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1982], 155–56, 215–16, 231–32, 242, 245). Many scholars agree that these additions were influenced by the French Revolution. Still, the problem of faction is present in Smith’s thought from early on. For instance, in a letter to Shelburne from 1759 (the year when the book was first published), Smith writes, “I hear there is no faction in parliament, in which I am glad of. For tho’ a little faction now and then gives spirit to the nation the continuance of it obstructs all public business and puts it out of the power of the best Minister to do much good,” cited in Donald Winch, Adam Smith’s Politics: An Essay in Historiographic Revision (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 160. Moreover, as Winch says, the problem of faction and dissent “provides the clue to Smith’s view of the colonial assemblies in America.


Notes to Pages 100–102

Like the ‘troublesome jealousy’ of some small European republics, they had departed from the golden mean in becoming prey to ‘rancorous and virulent factions’” (160). Finally, as Richard Tuck suggested to me, further evidence of the early importance of this topic in Smith’s thought is David Hume’s essays “Of Parties in General” and “Of Parties in Great Britain,” published in 1741: Hume and Smith were close and shared many political views and opinions. Therefore, even if many of the explicit discussions of faction appear only in later editions and are nurtured by both the American and the French Revolutions, they find a “natural home” in Smith’s book. That, I think, is because the sociopsychological context was already there, which corresponds to faction as a decisive political concern in Smith’s thought. 11. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 191. 12. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 43. The relevant sociopolitical context for Scheler’s reflections is, first, the rise of mass movements in Europe, especially in Germany. In dialogue with the works of Gustav Le Bon, Gabriel Tarde, and Sigmund Freud, Scheler argues that what he calls “emotional contagion” and “emotional identification” are forms of collective interaction that emerge distinctively—even if not exclusively—in mass movements and other “psychopathic group-movements” (16). Second, his reflections on sympathy should be read against the background of the so-called spirit-of-1914 narrative. According to this narrative, the outbreak of World War I was a moment of unification and collective renewal for the German nation, which remained a rich nationalistic reference throughout World War II. For many, the experiences of August 1914 constituted a “holy” and “heroic” moment, a “rebirth through war,” in which individual and collective identities were “fused and transformed,” and the soul of the German people was purified. See Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). On this point, see also Thomas Mann, Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, chap. 7. In the second edition of Scheler’s The Nature of Sympathy, published in 1922 (the first one appeared in 1912), he added that his observations had been confirmed by World War I. For Scheler’s changing positions regarding the spiritual meaning of the war, see Hans Urs von Balthasar, Apokalypse der deutschen Seele III, 89–100; Hermann Lübbe, Politische  Philosophie  in  Deutschland (Basel: B. Schwabe, 1963), 221–27; John Raphael Staude, Max Scheler, 63–136; John Nota, Max Scheler: The Man and His Work, trans. Theodore Plantinga and John Nota (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983), 27–29, 99–104, 143; Wolfhart Henckmann, “Schelers Idee von Europa im ‘Weltalter des Ausgleichs,’ ” Zeitschrift für Politik 44, no. 2 (1997): 129–48; and Davis, “The Values of War and Peace.” 13. Jeffrey Green,  The Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). 14. See references cited in n. 5. 15. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, 447. 16. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 130. 17. Ibid., 40. This is one of the reasons why the contrast with Smith is more interesting than the one with, say, Bentham or Hume. 18. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 188. 19. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 6. 20. Ibid., 6. 21. Ibid. 22. This misreading might be easily explained by the fact that, as Keith Tribe holds, discussion in Germany about Theory of Moral Sentiments during the second half of the nineteenth century developed in the absence of readily available copies of the work. Two German

Notes to Pages 102–104


translations of Smith’s book had been published in the eighteenth century, but, Keith says, at the time, German university libraries did not routinely purchase translations of English works. Further, no new German edition was available until Eckstein’s edition of 1926. This leads Tribe to conclude that “most of those who wrote in German about Theory of Moral Sentiments had not read the book.” “‘Das Adam Smith Problem’ and the Origins of Modern Smith Scholarship,” History of European Ideas 34, no. 4 (2008): 518. In Scheler’s private library, there is only a German translation of the Wealth of Nations (by Max Stirner, published in 1911) but no copy of Theory of Moral Sentiments. Scheler’s English was not very good, so he most surely used a translation, but it is unclear which one. Most likely, it was one from a public library in Jena or Munich. However, since there are no records of their book exchange, and in Scheler’s few lecture notes, there seem not to be any bibliographical notes concerning Adam Smith, it is difficult to know. I thank Wolfhart Henckmann for providing me with this information. Scheler’s reading of Adam Smith might have been influenced by Gustav Störring’s Moralphilosophischen Streitfragen (Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1903), which Scheler cites in the Ressentiment book. I thank Zachary Davis for pointing this out to me. 23. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 129. 24. Ibid., 309. 25. Ibid., 82. 26. Ibid., 67–69, italics added. 27. Ibid., 306. 28. Ibid., 114. 29. Ibid., 309. 30. Ibid. 31. Cf. Remy Debes, “From Einfühlung to Empathy,” in Sympathy: A History, ed. Eric Schliesser (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 286–321, who also recognizes Scheler’s “wrongheaded reading” and “dismissive tone” with respect to both Smith and Hume (313) but does not explore the extent to which Smith can actually push back against Scheler, thereby missing what I see as the real contrast between them. 32. In Chapter 1, see the section “Scheler and the Power to Discriminate.” 33. On the issue of Smith’s “sophisticated emotivism” or “qualified moral objectivism,” see Charles Griswold, Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 129–30, chap. 4. 34. Scheler, Formalism, 261. 35. Ibid., 257. To put it in more technical terms, sympathy, I think, is closer to Scheler’s Fühlen (feelings) than to his Gefühlen (feeling-states). For this distinction, see Formalism, 253–64, and Íngrid Vendrell Ferran, Die Emotionen: Gefühle in der realistischen Phänomenologie (Berlin: Akademie, 2008), 205–10. 36. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 14–18. 37. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 12. 38. Ibid., 71. 39. Ibid., 12. 40. Cf. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, 302n10, who states that Smith associates sympathy with contagion of feeling. I think this is imprecise but probably not wrong if by that she means (as I think she does) that Smith requires us actually to experience the feeling of the person that we sympathize with. 41. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 135.


Notes to Pages 105–107

42. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 46. 43. Ibid., 39, italics added. 44. Ibid., 40. Notice that this does not mean that we should not ever draw any comparisons between us and others. That would actually be, to Scheler’s mind, morally defective. The problem comes when such a comparison turns into the “epistemological basis” of the terms that it relates, transforming thus how we perceive them. On this respect, see the following passage, which furthermore displays the kind of Schelerian distinctions that interest me and that I will explore later in this chapter, as well as in Chapter 5: “We cannot agree with Georg Simmel, who says that the ‘noble man’ refuses to compare himself with anyone. A man who refuses any comparison is not noble, but an ‘oddity; in the Goethean sense, a ‘unique buffoon,’ or perhaps a snob. Yet Simmel has the right thing in mind. A comparison can be conceived in different ways. The two terms of a relation may be apprehended separately, prior to and independently of any comparison or other relation (such as ‘similarity’ or ‘identity’). Conversely, the perception of the terms may be the actualization of a previously apprehended but still indeterminate relation. . . . The attitude which Simmel calls ‘nobility’ is distinguished by the fact that the comparison of values, the ‘measuring’ of my own value as against that of another person, is never the constitutive precondition for apprehending either. Moreover, the values are always apprehended in their entirety, not only in certain selected aspects. The ‘noble person’ has completely naive and non-reflective awareness of his own value and of his fullness of being, an obscure conviction which enriches every conscious moment of his existence, as if he were autonomously rooted in the universe. This should not be mistaken for ‘pride.’ ” Max Scheler, Ressentiment, trans. William W. Holdheim (Milwaukee: Marquette University, 1994), 31. See also Chapter 2, the section “Autonomy Reconsidered: Scheler and the Voice of Conscience,” on how Raskolnikov compares himself to Napoleon. 45. Scheler, Formalism, 371–74. 46. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 13. 47. Ibid., 10. 48. Ibid., 42. 49. Cf. the recent work by the psychologist Paul Bloom, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion (New York: HarperCollins, 2016), 67–70, in which he claims that such is not the case for Smith. In Bloom’s reading, Smith does not require us to feel what others feel. However, see Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, 302n10, mentioned above, who interestingly suggests that Smith is actually closer to contagion than I admit. 50. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 15–16. 51. Ibid., 41–42. 52. Ibid., 15. 53. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 19. 54. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 10. 55. By “pathological,” I mean just passive as opposed to active, related to the senses instead of to the spirit. 56. The examples he gives include instances of identification in “primitive societies,” where a member of the totem believes he is the totem animal; the literal identification of a man with certain inanimate objects (for instance, stones) or with his ancestors; identification with deities in the mystery religions of antiquity; the belief in reincarnation; the relation between a hypnotist and his subject; any instance of crowd behavior; multiple traits of the mental life of children, which are mostly exhibited in play; mental pathologies such as the so-called divided

Notes to Pages 107–110


consciousness or, more commonly now, multiple personality disorder; truly loving sexual intercourse; and the early bond between mother and child (19). 57. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 19. 58. Ibid., 25. 59. Ibid., 36. See references cited in n. 12. 60. Ibid., 33. 61. Ibid., 18. 62. Ibid., 36, italics added. 63. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 46. 64. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 317. 65. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 40. 66. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 148, italics added. 67. Ibid., 129. 68. Ibid., 129–35. 69. Cf. Elisa Aaltola, “Varieties of Empathy and Moral Agency,” Topoi 33, no. 1 (2013): 243– 53. Aaltola associates Smith with a “projective” notion of sympathy, which leads her to attribute to it the potential drawbacks of “feed[ing] atomism and detachment” (246). My analysis highlights the opposite danger. 70. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 6. 71. Ibid., 19. 72. Scheler interpreted the rise of fascism in Europe, specifically among German youth, as a “reversal” of values, in which spiritual values were subverted in favor of vital values. Such vital dimension corresponds, in turn, to the “intermediate region” that—as we have seen—is activated, in his view, in cases of emotional contagion and identification. See Zachary Davis, “A Phenomenology of Political Apathy: Scheler on the Origins of Mass Violence,” Continental Philosophy Review 42, no. 2 (2009): 149–69. 73. Scheler, Formalism, 319. Griswold has rightly denominated Smith’s pedagogical strategy as the “internalization of spectatorship.” Cf. Vivienne Brown’s suggestive interpretation, according to which we find in Smith (at least in Theory of Moral Sentiments) a much richer notion of agency than I allow here, based on a distinction between action and judgment, as well as how they are respectively affected (or not) by motives. “Agency and Discourse: Revisiting the Adam Smith Problem,” in Elgar Companion to Adam Smith, ed. Jeffrey Young (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009), 52–72. 74. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 43. 75. Ibid., 44. 76. Ibid. 77. Ibid., 43. 78. Ibid., 43. 79. Ibid., 21. 80. See the section “Scheler and the Power to Discriminate” in Chapter 1. 81. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 247. 82. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 159. 83. This is not to say that, for Smith, self-love is always bad but that its corrupted or delusory version is. See Vivienne Brown’s discussion of Smith’s Stoic interpretation of self-love, according to which “love for oneself ” can become the basis for loving others and thus cannot be conceived merely as an individualistic concern. Adam Smith’s Discourse: Canonicity, Commerce,


Notes to Pages 110–113

and Conscience (London: Routledge, 1994), 95–96. Still, my point is that without the appropriate moral treatment, for Smith, self-love becomes the main source of moral trouble. This does not seem to be true for Scheler. 84. Scheler, “Idols of Self-Knowledge,” 4. 85. In a sharp interpretation, Samuel Fleischacker has argued that self-deception, not akrasia, is the real problem that the impartial spectator is meant to address. “True to Ourselves? Adam Smith on Self-Deceit,” in The Adam Smith Review, vol. 6, ed. Fonna Forman-Barzilai (London: Routledge, 2011), 75–92. However, notice that self-deception is not the same as lack of self-knowledge. They differ crucially on what the object of knowledge is. In Fleischacker’s account, self-deceit happens when I misuse my moral resources and talk myself into what I already know is not my ideal and my standard (88–89). So, even if, with Fleischacker, one acknowledges a cognitive problem at the root of partiality in Smith’s treatment, it would still be different from Scheler in two respects: first, self-deceit regards, for Smith, not knowledge about myself but about my standard of morality. For Scheler, on the contrary, self-knowledge concerns me as a person and not as a rational being capable of having standards or forming judgments. See Formalism, 371–86. Second, even if the problem is put in terms of self-deceit, it is still true, I think, that for Smith, self-love (and not illusory self-certainty) constitutes the main reason behind it. 86. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 25. 87. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 150. 88. Ibid., 70. 89. Ibid., 152–54. 90. Ibid., 70. 91. Ibid. Bergson’s criticism of certain interpretations of Christian love of humanity, as the gradual extension of the concentric circles of love and solidarity, goes along the exact same lines as Scheler’s point here. See the section “Mysticism and Modern Democracy in Bergson” in Chapter 5. 92. For the place of love within Scheler’s personalism, see John Crosby, “The Individuality of Human Persons: A Study in the Ethical Personalism of Max Scheler,” Review of Metaphysics 52, no. 1 (1998): 21–50. See also the section “Christian Love Versus Modern Humanitarianism in Scheler” in Chapter 5. 93. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 215. 94. See Christel Fricke and Dagfinn Føllesdal, Intersubjectivity and Objectivity in Adam Smith and Edmund Husserl: A Collection of Essays (Frankfurt: Ontos, 2012). 95. It could be argued that, in Smith, a long-term approach is given priority mainly for the sake of prudence but without, for that reason, allowing it to have the last say in all kinds of situations. However, I do not think this rejoinder is valid since Smith gives a consistent treatment of time—one that favors a long-term approach—not only in the context of prudence but also of duty and of utility. See, for example, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 190. I thank Charles Griswold for helping me to clarify this point. 96. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 295. 97. Ibid., 151. 98. Ibid., italics added. 99. Ibid., 241. 100. Ibid., 152, italics added. 101. Ibid., 22.

Notes to Pages 113–115


102. Cf. Leonidas Montes’s very interesting interpretation, according to which the virtue of self-command in Smith should not be traced to the Stoic tradition of apatheia but to the Socratic doctrine of enkrateia. The latter refers to an enabling and empowering notion of inner power and rule over oneself rather than to self-control, suppression, and restraint. “Adam Smith as an Eclectic Stoic,” in Adam Smith Review, vol. 4, ed. Vivienne Brown (Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2008), 30–56. Notice also that Scheler’s main objection against self-control seems to be its perversion in the cultural and socioeconomic context of capitalism. On this respect, he says, “Originally, ‘self-control’ meant primarily the sovereignty of the spiritual person over the chaos of sensuous impulses, the knightly will to dominate one’s ‘appetites,’ the proud feeling—ruled by humility before and ‘in’ God—that one is strong enough to tame them, regardless of whether the consequences are good or bad from the point of view of personal utility. But now self-control becomes a mere means to run one’s business successfully with the aid of ‘soberness,’ ‘solidity,’ and ‘moderation’—if possible to the point of prevailing over one’s competitor. When there is no such goal, self-control is not considered as a positive value.” Scheler, Ressentiment, 112. Notice in this passage how—in accordance with the argument I have tried to advance in this chapter—the meaning and therefore the assessment that we make of certain virtues can change profoundly depending on the context where it is exercised. 103. Admittedly, the ideal of harmony does not amount to total homogeneity and would actually be contrary to it. As Bodin says, in the context of arguing against total community of property, “for no things can be publike, where nothing is privat: neither can it be imagined there to be anything had in common, if there be nothing to be kept in particular; no more than if all the citizens were kings, they should at all have no king; neither any harmonie, if the diversitie and dissimilitude of voyces cunningly mixed together, which maketh the sweet harmony, were al brought unto one and the same tune.” The Six Bookes of a Commonweale, trans. Richard Knolles (London: Bishop, 1606), 11. Thus, my argument here would not be that Smith’s ideal requires total sameness but coordination enough to endanger Scheler’s conception of individuality. I thank Eric Nelson for pressing me on this point. 104. See Scheler, Formalism, 318–27. 105. Cf. Frazer’s defense of Smith on this point, which consists, as I said, in showing that his version of sentimentalism “fully appreciates the distinctions among individuals in a way Hume’s public-interest-based theory fails to do.” Enlightenment of Sympathy, 90. 106. Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times, 76. Arendt praises the same capacity for “standing alone” in the exemplary cases of Rosa Luxemburg, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, and Waldemar Gurian, all of them examined in her Men in Dark Times. 107. Rawls, Theory of Justice, 163–64. 108. Ibid., 166. Rawls says that he takes the idea from Thomas Nagel. 109. Ibid. 110. For a relatively recent discussion of this topic, see Matt Zwolinski, “The Separateness of Persons and Liberal Theory,” Journal of Value Inquiry 42, no. 2 (2008): 147–65. 111. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 166. 112. For Scheler on the particularity of moral judgment, see Formalism, 203–32. 113. That is one of the main arguments against empathy, contained in the aforementioned work by Bloom, Against Empathy, even though, as I indicated above, Bloom does not identify Smith as being liable to this charge. 114. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, 325.


Notes to Pages 115–121

115. I did so as a recent college graduate, for a project sponsored by the Freie Universität Berlin to investigate the administration of criminal justice in Mexico City. I conducted twentyseven in-depth interviews with trial court judges who specialized in criminal cases. 116. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, 321. 117. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 137. 118. Ibid. Interestingly, the voice of conscience in Smith has been interpreted (and with reference to the exact same passage just quoted) along Kantian lines instead. See Samuel Fleischacker, “Adam Smith and Cultural Relativism,” Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 4, no. 2 (2011): 33. See also Chapter 2, nn. 97 and 116, on Velleman’s and Moyar’s respective interpretations of Kant. 119. Scheler, Formalism, 324. 120. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 159–70. To be clear, in Smith, general rules are not the only or the main moral resource available. For a good discussion of the role of general rules, see Fleischacker, “True to Ourselves?” 84–88. 121. Scheler, Formalism, 325. 122. Ibid., italics added. As I said in Chapter 2, his conception could convey the idea that the good is self-evident, welcoming thus religious and political intolerance. However, as clarified before as well, I think that is a misinterpretation. Just as someone with a “trained ear” can actually find more things in a melody than those who are not familiar with music, conscience is an “organ” that needs training to be able to deliver its message with all its subtlety. This same idea is echoed in Scheler’s sociology of knowledge, which will remain out of the scope of this book. According to Scheler, there are three types of knowledge: metaphysical, religious, and positive. In his view, metaphysical knowledge is “an absolute yet thoroughly individually valid form of knowledge.” Cited in Barber, Guardian of Dialogue, 22. 123. See both Griswold, Adam Smith and the Virtues of the Enlightenment, 88–91, who argues that Smith’s theatrical scheme preserves the distance between myself and the impartial spectator standpoint, and Brown, Adam Smith’s Discourse, chap. 3, where she argues that, hermeneutically, Theory of Moral Sentiments “displays a radical doubt concerning the viability of the spectator mechanism,” precisely on account of the impossibility of achieving complete identification with the “man within” (251–56). Brown also argues that there is textual evidence that Smith himself was skeptical of the desirability of such a complete identification (255). Still, a concern about individuality is certainly absent from the picture. 124. Griswold, Adam Smith and the Virtues of the Enlightenment, 105. 125. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 34. 126. Ibid., 58. 127. See, among many others, Anna Lindley, Crisis and Migration: Critical Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2014); Branko Milanović, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016); and Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal. 128. Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. 129. See the section “Autonomy Reconsidered: Scheler and the Voice of Conscience” in Chapter 2. Chapter 5 1. Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991). 2. Ibid., 67–68.

Notes to Pages 121–124


3. For now, I am not distinguishing between imitation and emulation, but as we will see later in the chapter, Scheler does make a distinction between the two. 4. For an intellectual history of the notion of charisma in the twentieth century, see Joshua Derman, “Max Weber and Charisma: A Transatlantic Affair,” New German Critique 113, vol. 38, no. 2 (2011): 51–88. For recent uses of the term, see, for example, Lucia Michelutti, Daniel Hellinger, and Anthony Petros Spanakos, “‘We Are All Chávez’: Charisma as an Embodied Experience,” Latin American Perspectives 44, no. 1 (2017): 232–50. 5. Margaret Canovan, “Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy,” Political Studies 47, no. 1 (1999): 2–16. 6. Durkheim’s rational version of cosmopolitanism can be understood as a result of his “socialization” of Kantianism. See Steven Lukes, Émile Durkheim. His Life and Work: A Historical and Critical Study (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1973), esp. chaps. 2 and 22. Thus, Bergson’s reaction against Durkheim can be partly explained by the former’s idea that morality and freedom are not dependent on the universalization of maxims or on the logical deduction of categorical imperatives. Cf. Lefebvre, “Bergson and Human Rights,” in Bergson, Politics, and Religion, who argues, instead, that Bergson “performs an exemplary Kantian critique” on Durkheim by “limiting the closed tendency to its proper place” (like Kant had done with religion), “and in so doing, introduc[ing] the open tendency as necessary to both describe and direct our [democratic] institutions” (207). For details about the disagreements between Bergson and Durkheim, see Vernon, “Bergson’s Two Sources Revisited”; Keck, “The Virtual, the Symbolic, and the Actual in Bergsonian Philosophy and Durkheimian Sociology”; and Alexandre Lefebvre, Human Rights as a Way of Life (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 32–48. 7. Bergson, Two Sources, 239, italics added. All the Bergson quotations in this section come from The Two Sources. 8. He acknowledges, though, that this feature is not exclusive of the Christian religion or present in all its variants. 9. All these figures are characterized by their political activity and social roles as missionaries, founders of monasteries or religious orders, or even military advisers. To the first group pertains Saint Paul (c. 5–c. 67); to the second, Saint Francis (1181/1182–1226, founder of numerous orders, of both friars and nuns), Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380, widely involved in politics and founder of a women’s monastery), Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556, founder of the Society of Jesus, i.e., Jesuits), Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582, reformer in the  Carmelite Order), and George Fox (1624–1691, founder of the Religious Society of Friends, i.e., Quakers); and, finally, to the last one, Joan of Arc (1412–1431, who played an important military role during the last and final phase of the Anglo-French Hundred Years’ War). 10. Specifically, he is influenced by or in dialogue with William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002 [1902]); Henri Delacroix, Etudes d’histoire et de psychologie du mysticisme les grands mystiques chrétiens (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1908); Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: The Preeminent Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness (New York: Doubleday, 1990 [1911]), and The Mystic Way: A Psychological Study in Christian Origins (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1913); and Jean Baruzi, Saint Jean de la Croix et le problem de l’expèrience mystique (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1924). For Bergson’s biographical and philosophical relation to mysticism, see Ghislain Waterlot, “Le mysticisme, ‘un auxiliaire puissant de la recherche philosophique’?” in Bergson et la religion: Nouvelles perspectives sur Le deux sources de la moral et de la religion, ed. Ghislain Waterlot (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2008), 249–77, who argues that the belief in mysticism and the way of


Notes to Pages 124–127

life associated with it made Bergson believe in the “world-opening” character of the gospel and not the other way around. 11. For some discussions about the distinctions between ancient and modern cosmopolitanism, as well as about Christianity’s cosmopolitan character, see Paul Veyne, “Humanitas: Romans and Non-Romans,” in The Romans, ed. Andrea Giardina, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); John Sellars, “Stoic Cosmopolitanism and Zeno’s Republic,” History of Political Thought 28, no. 1 (2007): 1–29; and Costas Douzinas, Human Rights and Empire: The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism (New York: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007). And for a historical argument defending the Christian pedigree of democratic ideas, especially that of human rights, see Moyn, Christian Human Rights. 12. On this point, Paulina Ochoa Espejo has argued that Bergson’s distinction between the closed and the open society can help us to make sense of the notion of “the people” in a democracy, as a collective united by habits and rules, which, at the same time, is always open to transformation and renewal. “Creative Freedom: Henri Bergson and Democratic Theory,” in Bergson, Politics, and Religion, 159–73. Democratic legitimacy, in her Bergsonian reading, resides in the “creative freedom” that characterizes the people as a “process,” that is, something that is never fully formed and always open to transformation. For her, the open character of society means that it cannot be captured, so to speak, by any definitive moral content and that, normatively, it cannot “reduced to an ideology appropriated by a leader” (171). From this perspective, the mystic emotion that characterizes open society is indeterminate and objectless and thereby distinctively egalitarian (at least in principle, since it is a kind of love that is not filial or romantic [171]). However, Ochoa Espejo does not discuss mysticism’s religious and theological dimensions, thereby putting aside what some have called the “aristocratic challenge” that Bergson’s “religion of humanity” allegedly poses to democratic theory. For more on this subject, see n. 39. 13. Bergson’s assessment of the existing interpretations of the French and American Revolutions might have been true in 1932, when it was issued, but it is, of course, no longer valid today. Regarding the religious character of these historical events, see, among many others, Dale K. Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution, 1560–1791 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996); Patricia U. Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); and Carla Gardina Pestana, Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010). 14. The original reads, “On ne peut que tracer des cadres, ils se rempliront de mieux en mieux si la fraternité y pourvoit.” Henri Bergson, Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1932), 301. 15. On the role of motives of love and fraternity in democracy, see Hauke Brunkhorst’s intellectual history of solidarity, from antiquity to the present age, Solidarity: From Civic Friendship to a Global Legal Community (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005). 16. On this point, Bergson says, “The truth is that an ideal cannot become obligatory unless it is already active, in which case it is made obligatory, not by the idea contained in it, but by its action.” Two Sources, 270. For more on Bergson’s theory of obligation, see the section “Risk: The Twin Brother of Chance” in Chapter 3. 17. Scheler, Ressentiment, 75, italics added. All the Scheler quotations in this section come from Ressentiment. 18. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2003). 19. He cites evidence in the Christian dogma that this is so. Given that my purpose is not directly theological, I will not review it at length, but suffice it to say that he cites, for instance,

Notes to Pages 127–130


the Christian distinction between the state of nature and the state of grace, between carnal and reborn man, and between sinners and redeemed people, as well as the existence of purgatory and hell and the aristocratic structure of Christian ecclesiastic society—a structure that, he claims, “is continued and culminates in the invisible kingdom of God” (Ressentiment, 75). That does not mean that Scheler rejects the universal character of Christianity, in the sense of it concerning all human beings. It just means that, for him, Christianity makes distinctions among the “universe” of people. 20. Notice here that, apart from condemning the object of such a way of focusing our energy—namely, the body and mere material well-being—Scheler is also condemning its manner—that is, its “voluntary” aspect. I will come back later to this point in the section “Scheler on Sainthood: Following Without Subjection.” 21. Recall, however, that for Bergson, the love for humanity is based on mystic intuition and not on the logical gradual aggregation of more and more people from wider circles and networks. Thus, he seems to be able to escape Scheler’s charge of consequentialism and utilitarianism. In other words, I take Bergson’s emphasis on the leap between the open and the closed to be his “philosophical antidote” against utilitarianism and consequentialism in his endorsement of democracy—and thus, he might not be substantially different from Scheler in this respect. Still, Scheler’s position is fairly representative of a certain group of German intellectuals who held exactly this set of suspicions about democracy. See, again, Mann, Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, chap. 7. 22. For Scheler, Christian morality cannot be severed from Christian religion. Any “secularized version” of the Christian principles, any “religion of humanity” that thinks it can do without God, will necessarily pervert them. See Ressentiment, 72. 23. Moreover, for Scheler, “humanitarian love is a feeling, and a passive one, which arises primarily by means of psychical contagion when we perceive the outward expression of pain and joy.” Ressentiment, 80. In that sense, modern humanitarian love is akin to the kind of sympathy that he condemns, as we saw in Chapter 4. 24. Similarly, Scheler contrasts the “morbid urge for self-sacrifice” with “true sacrifice,” which he sees as the essence of love. See his essay “On the Meaning of Suffering,” trans. Daniel Liderbach, in Max Scheler (1874–1974): Centennial Essays, ed. Manfred Frings (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1974), 121–63. 25. However, it must be given due consideration to the fact that the texts that I am contrasting in this chapter were written on considerably different dates: The Two Sources, by Bergson, written in the early 1930s, and Ressentiment, by Scheler, written twenty (very significant) years earlier, in 1912. Furthermore, notice two things. First, in light of Bergson’s radical early rejection of any translation from the spiritual to the material (think of Bergson’s work on the ontological difference between time and space), his claim in The Two Sources that, as I said before, the example of certain people can adequately serve to carry the mystic insight to democratic shores (translating thus the more philosophical/mystical to a practical sphere) could be seen as a theoretical moderation. Second, while in the Ressentiment book, Scheler does not distinguish between, on the one hand, democracy as a set of practices and institutions and, on the other, democratic principles and sentiments—such as egalitarianism and humanitarianism—equally condemning them all, by 1917, he (together with many other people) had changed his mind on democracy, finally endorsing a mixture of socialism and Christianity: “Taking all these things into consideration, we may conclude that Stockholm and Rome will come much closer together: in this way, the oldest and the newest will be enabled to reinforce each other in the cultural reconstruction of Europe” (On the Eternal in Man, 445). Therefore, considering the difference in


Notes to Pages 130–131

dates between the two texts, it is possible to identify a shared progression from a very skeptical position about the possibility of translating the spiritual into the material to a more nuanced one on this respect. See, further, Zanfi, Bergson e la filosofia tedesca, chaps. 4 and 5. For an overview of Scheler’s intellectual transitions regarding the Europe’s political project before and after World War I, see the references cited in Chapter 4, n. 12. For Scheler’s intellectual transitions more generally, see Michael D. Barber, “Modern and Post-modern Aspects of Max Scheler’s Personalism,” in Max Scheler’s Acting Persons: New Perspectives, ed. Stephen Frederick Schneck (New York: Rodopi, 2002), 19–36. 26. Generally speaking, the Modernists endorsed an anti-intellectualist approach to religion and an allegorical approach to the Scriptures. Against orthodox Catholicism, Modernism entailed a rejection of Thomism and Scholasticism in favor of a more mystical approach to religion, one in which revelation was understood as experience and religion conceived not as a theological system but “as a spiritual organism in whose life we participate.” George Tyrrell, quoted in James C. Livingston, Modern Christian Thought (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006), 377. They were committed to historical-critical scholarship of the Bible, and while not necessarily uninterested in doctrine, they pronounced themselves in favor of the notion that both dogma and the Church can evolve. Furthermore, Modernists contested Protestantism’s sense of interiority and emphasized the public and collective character of religion. They put solidarity at the center and considered humanity and not only God as a religious “object.” Although some of the Modernists (e.g., Maurice Blondel and Lucien Laberthonnière) were very critical of Bergson’s “vitalist philosophy,” others saw it as totally congenial to the main Modernist ideas (e.g., Eduard Le Roy, who, moreover, was Bergson’s disciple and thought the latter’s ideas were very similar to those of Alfred Loisy’s, one of the main exponents of Modernism). See Alexander Roper Vidler, A Variety of Catholic Modernists (London: Cambridge University Press, 1970), and James C. Livingston, “Roman Catholic Thought at the End of the Century: The New Apologetics and Modernism,” in Modern Christian Thought, 356–83. Scheler’s approach to religion shares as well many of the insights present in Modernism while rejecting others. See Hanna Hafkesbrink, “The Meaning of Objectivism and Realism in Max Scheler’s Philosophy of Religion: A Contribution to the Understanding of Max Scheler’s Catholic Period,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 2 (1941): 292–309, who argues that Scheler presents a synthesis of Thomism, as well as realist and objectivist approaches in Catholicism, on the one hand, and Modernism and phenomenology, on the other, “which took into equal consideration the vital motifs of both” (293). For Hafkesbrink, “Scheler’s mastery in connecting motifs of thought which long have seemed irreconcilable” is “admirable” (308). 27. Pericles is Aristotle’s example, and Lincoln is Weber’s. 28. See Soulez and Worms, Bergson: Biographie, 240–24, where the authors refer to those arguments. 29. Henri Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles (Paris: Arthème Fayard, 1961), 116. 30. This is Soulez’s own reading. See Soulez and Worms, Bergson: Biographie, 232. Accounts of Bergson’s approach to mysticism in relation primarily to his metaphysics and his thoughts on evolution, as presented in The Creative Evolution (which I do not focus on in this chapter), are found in Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles, chaps. 1–4, and in Jean-Louis Viellard Baron, “Le mysticisme comme cas particulier de l’analogie chez Bergson,” in Bergson et la religion, ed. Ghislain Waterlot, 233–48. 31. For different examinations of the relation between the mystic and the philosopher (and the artist) in Bergson, see Frédéric Worms, Bergson  ou les  deux  sens  de  la  vie (Paris: Presses

Notes to Pages 131–133


Universitaires de France, 2004), 179–207, 297–318; Waterlot, “Le mysticisme, ‘un auxiliaire puissant de la recherche philosophique’?”; and Caterina Zanfi, Bergson, la tecnica, la guerra: Una rilettura delle Due Fonti (Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2009), 115–24. 32. Bergson, Two Sources, 253–54. 33. Ibid., 253. 34. George Steiner, “Mystic Master,” Times Literary Supplement. 35. That is why Bergson thinks this type of recognition is mainly a “centrifugal” and not a “centripetal” process: once we have initially perceived an object, our memory acts as a centrifugal force upon it, “sending” in its direction all the memory-images that resemble it, so that, according to him, “the elementary work of attention [is similar] to that of the telegraph clerk, who on receipt of an important despatch, sends it back again, word for word, in order to check its accuracy.” Matter and Memory, 123. Recognition of objects in space happens as a result of this job. As Bergson puts it, images stored in memory “go out to meet the perception, and, feeding on its substance, acquire sufficient vigour and life to abide with it in space” (125). Notice that there is a substantial analogy between this process and the model that I examined in Chapter 1 regarding the proper relation to our own pasts. While the latter is developed in Time and Free Will, the former is presented in Matter and Memory. 36. The educational role of the mystic is discussed, among others, by Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles, 136–40; Waterlot, “Le mysticisme, ‘un auxiliaire puissant de la recherche philosophique’?”; and Vieillard-Baron, “L’exception mystique et la guerre,” in La mystique face aux guerres mondiales (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010), 127–28, although not exactly in the terms I propose here. 37. Bergson, Creative Mind, 106. Bergson presents some version of this idea in “The Possible and the Real,” “Philosophical Intuition,” “The Perception of Change,” and “Introduction to Metaphysics,” all contained in Creative Mind. 38. Bergson, Creative Mind, 86. 39. There is a significant disagreement among Bergson scholars on whether his treatment of mysticism has an aristocratic tenor to it, which this chapter intends to bear upon. For an answer in the affirmative, see, for instance, Ghislain Waterlot, who argues that while the figure of the philosopher remains perhaps more democratic, that of the mystic fails on this respect, insofar as mysticism requires more than a wider public would accept (theological doctrine) or achieve (the mystical ascent). See “Le mysticism ‘un auxiliaire puissant de la recherche philosophique’?” 276–77. Similarly, Thierry Gontier argues that someone like Voegelin “overcome[s] the hidden aristocratic ground of the Bergsonian distinction between the minority of spiritual heroes and the majority of dormant mystics.” “Open and Closed Societies: Voegelin as Reader of Bergson,” Politics, Religion & Ideology 16, no. 1 (2015): 31–34. For an answer in the negative, see Alexander Lefebvre, Human Rights as a Way of Life, who has argued that Bergson vindicates democracy, particularly its institution of human rights, as the political heir of Christian mysticism. For him, human rights are religious in the relevant sense of the word (relevant, at least, for Bergson in Lefebvre’s reading) since they share with Christianity their origin (mystical or open love), their goal (opening what was closed, making love distinct from esteem or preference, and independent from any particular content), and their method (inducing a particular disposition toward an open way of life) (115). However, notice that, for Lefebvre, mysticism in Bergson refers not so much to what unites a group of “exceptional beings” but rather to “a capability, more or less pronounced in every human being, to exceed, however temporarily, the limits that evolved morality has set upon the


Notes to Pages 133–134

species” (106). In this way, he diffuses the “aristocratic challenge” posed by the exemplarity of the mystics. In the context of this disagreement, my reading tries to preserve (unlike Lefebvre) the theological dimension of Bergson’s discussion of mysticism while maintaining, at the same time, a democratic reading of the text (vs. Waterlot and Gontier). I start developing this argument in this section (just now with the comparison to Plato’s philosopher and right after in the text with the contrast between the mystic and other exemplary figures such as the genius and the hero) and conclude doing so in the last section of this chapter, with a reading of Bergson’s approach to the figure of Christ, in contrast to that of Scheler’s. On this point, there are important overlaps between my position and the one developed by Anthony Steinbock in Phenomenology and Mysticism: The Verticality of Religious Experience (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007), where he argues that mysticism is not elitist, since “it is a possibility open to every person” (165), but acknowledges at the same time that mystic experiences do not “correspond” to our own efforts and, therefore, cannot be said to answer to a meritocratic criterion (32). Steinbock’s work does not share the philosophicopolitical character of my approach; however, I think it is accurate to say that, in his view, while mysticism is not undemocratic, it certainly departs from the more liberal view on the relationship between merit and freedom. I thank Anthony Steinbock for the feedback he kindly gave me on an early draft of this chapter presented at the Meeting of the Max Scheler Society of North America in 2016. 40. Henri Bergson, “Banquet Speech,” The Nobel Prize in Literature 1927, http://www As this website informs, prior to the speech, Professor Gösta Forssell made the following brief comment on behalf of the Nobel Prize organization: “Henri Bergson has given us a philosophical system which could have served Nobel’s idea as a basis and support, the idea of acknowledging with his Prizes not human deeds but new ideas revealed through select personalities. Bergson’s highminded works strive to regain for man’s consciousness the divine gift of intuition and to put reason in its proper place: serving and controlling ideas.” 41. See references cited in n. 49. 42. Max Weber on Charisma and Institution Building: Selected Papers, ed. S. N. Eisenstadt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 46. 43. Ibid., 22–26. According to Weber, the “authentication of charisma” is always by way of the performance of deeds. However, he does talk about charisma as a “possession” (196) and even of it being a “transferable entity” (57). 44. Ibid., 58. 45. Ibid., 266. 46. See E. B. Portis, Max Weber and Political Commitment: Science, Politics, and Personality (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986), 55. 47. Max Weber, Roscher and Knies: The Logical Problems of Historical Economics (New York: Free Press, 1975), 192, italics added. 48. David Owen and Tracy B. Strong, “Introduction,” in Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures, trans. Rodney Livingtsone (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2004), xxvii. 49. See Ralph Schroeder, “‘Personality’ and ‘Inner Distance’: The Conception of the Individual in Max Weber’s Sociology,” History of the Human Sciences 4, no. 1 (1991): 61–78, and David Owen, “Autonomy and ‘Inner Distance’: A Trace of Nietzsche in Weber,” History of the Human Sciences 4, no. 1 (1991): 79–91.

Notes to Pages 134–135


50. Sara R. Farris, “Religion as the Source of the Self: Max Weber’s Hypothesis,” Social Compass 59, no. 1 (2012): 37–38. Only the behavior that responds to meaning in this sense can become, for Weber, the proper subject of social science. See Portis, Max Weber and Political Commitment, 56. 51. Tracy B. Strong, “Weber and Freud: Vocation and Self-Acknowledgement,” Canadian Journal of Sociology 10, no. 4 (1985): 397. 52. This does not mean that, historically, a charismatic leader is a necessary condition for a personality to obtain. For Weber, people can have a personality in a calling or a vocation, based on things other than a leader. However, according to him, charisma gains relevance as a factor that allows us to make sense of the reality that has been given “in fragments” to us, moderns. In other words, given the conditions of the modern world, in which we must face the threat of nihilism, or the loss of the ready availability of meaning, charisma becomes more important as a condition for “personalities” to be possible. 53. Of course, Weber’s thoughts on freedom can be interpreted so as to highlight either the word “conflict” or the words “must choose” in this sentence. If you do the latter, you obtain a more “fundamentalist” Weber. See Dana Villa, “Max Weber: Integrity, Disenchantment, and the Illusions of Politics,” Constellations 6, no. 4 (1999): 540–60, for whom Weber’s “overly solicitous[ness] of our need for meaning” lies at the root of “his focus on leadership rather than on citizenship” (541). On this kind of reading, Weber has sometimes been criticized for laying the groundwork for fascism (as referred by Strong and Owen, “Introduction,” in Weber, The Vocation Lectures, lxi). On the other hand, if you do the former, the result will be, for some, a more nihilist Weber (Strauss) and, for others, a soberly equivocal one (Aron). I cannot expound on this point here; however, I will limit myself to a couple of comments. First, notice Weber’s personal tolerance for “axiological ambiguity” within his own scheme. On the question of what was his own leading value, he answered that values for him were like instruments, which he heard playing distinctly. And added, “Only inspired men are able to make a melody out of this—prophets, statesmen, artists, those who are more or less charismatic. I am a scholar who arranges knowledge so it can be used. My instruments are to be found in bookcases, but they make no sound. No living melody can be made out of them.” Quoted in Wilhelm Hennis, Max Weber: Essays in Reconstruction, trans. Keith Tribe (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1988), 165. This points away from a fundamentalist picture of Weber. Moreover, as Strong and Owen have noticed, the notion of vocation in Weber is interestingly ambiguous, in that it is neither passive nor active. Owen and Strong, “Introduction,” xiii. This problematizes Weber’s notion of personality and shows why, as I said before, his conception is an alternative but not properly antithetical to those of Bergson and Scheler’s. 54. Max Weber on Charisma and Institution Building, 49. For Weber, de facto acknowledgment is key for charismatic authority to exist (although it is never its ultimate normative basis; the latter is constituted instead by the exceptional character of the leader). Bergson identifies a similar circularity when he says, “An ideal cannot become obligatory unless it is already active, in which case it is not the idea contained in it, but its action, which makes it obligatory.” Bergson, Two Sources, 210. 55. See the brief explanation in the previous section and n. 35. 56. See, more generally, Matter and Memory, chap. 2. 57. Max Weber on Charisma and Institution Building, 49. 58. Ibid., 267. 59. Now, the accent on “complete devotion” of the followers to the charismatic leader does not necessarily support an interpretation of Weber as a “precursor of fascism.” As Strong has


Notes to Pages 135–138

argued, “Weber is rather constantly concerned to distance his audience from their desires, much in the manner that the man who truly has the vocation for politics must also have a distance on himself. It is, in fact, the intention of the whole lecture on ‘Politics as a vocation’ to simultaneously hold up the image of the transfiguring hero and make it impossible for his audience to recognize any individual as that hero.” “Weber and Freud: Vocation and Self-Acknowledgement,” 399–400. For more on this, see the Conclusion in this chapter. 60. Theodor Mommsen, Römische Staatsrecht, vol. 3 (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1888), 1034, quoted in Hannah Arendt, “What Is Authority?” in Between Past and Future, 122, as she examines the authority held by the Senate in Rome. In that context, Arendt says that “the most conspicuous characteristic of those in authority is that they do not have power.” 61. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and The First and Second Discourses, 182. 62. Christopher Kelly, “‘To Persuade Without Convincing’: The Language of Rousseau’s Legislator,” American Journal of Political Science 31, no. 2 (1987): 323. 63. Rousseau, The Social Contract and The First and Second Discourses, 183. 64. See also Christopher Kelly, Rousseau’s Exemplary Life: The Confessions as Political Philosophy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987). 65. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Essay on the Origin of Languages,” in The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings, ed. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 287. 66. Ibid., 288. 67. Judith Shklar, Men and Citizens: A Study of Rousseau’s Social Theory (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 157–58, cited in Kelly, “‘To Persuade Without Convincing,’ ” 325. The parallel between the authority exercised by the legislator and that exercised by the Christian mystics is acknowledged by Kelly in this work when he states, “It is this desire to imitate the great soul of the legislator which will make the people ‘good and upright’ citizens, just as it was the desire to imitate Jesus and the saints that made good and upright Christians” (325–26). 68. Bergson, Two Sources, 270. 69. In addition to the references cited in nn. 64 and 67, see Kevin Inston, “Representing the Unrepresentable: Rousseau’s Legislator and the Impossible Object of the People,” Contemporary Political Theory 9, no. 4 (2010): 393–413; Pamela K. Jensen, “Rousseau’s French Revolution,” in The Challenge of Rousseau, ed. Eve Grace and Christopher Kelly (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Lee Ward, “Gods Would Be Needed to Give Men Laws: Rousseau on the Modern Republican Legislator,” Perspectives on Political Science 43, no. 1 (2014): 41–51. 70. I take these from Scheler’s typology of exemplars, which we will review shortly. It is important to acknowledge that Bergson himself does not distinguish neatly between these types of figures and occasionally suggests that mystics can be seen as either “moral heroes” or “moral geniuses.” Even if Bergson does refer sometimes to the mystics in such ways, in what follows, I want to make the argument that, on his own terms, those characterizations are not accurate. 71. Scheler, Nature of Sympathy, 98. On this point, see Ferrán, Die Vielfalt der Erkenntnis. 72. It seems to be a completely different matter whether the exemplary politician is or is not “representative” of those under his or her authority. An exemplary politician can represent the people—either because she shares with them certain socioeconomic characteristics or because she defends their interests and ideals—and still be unique and hence not imitable. Lincoln is, again, a case in point. 73. Joan of Arc might be a limit case between saint and heroine.

Notes to Pages 138–140


74. Cf. Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles, 136–37, and Vladimir Jankélévitch, “Le deux souces de la morale et de la religion,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale 40, no. 1 (1933): 110–11, neither of whom, contrary to what I am saying here, see a distinction between heroes and mystics in Bergson (as I said before, partly because Bergson himself does not establish it neatly either). Cf. Vieillard-Baron, “Le mysticisime commme cas particulier de l’analogie chez Bergson,” 243, who does draw a line, at least in principle, between both figures in Bergson’s treatment. 75. To be sure, if you want to become the president of your own country, it makes sense to follow certain general directives, as others have done, in order to pursue a certain career path that can eventually land your dream job. However, aspiring to become the president of your country, as well as doing what is needed for that purpose, has much more to do with bureaucratic authority than with charisma. 76. Notice further that Weber’s interpretation of mysticism as an otherworldly disposition explains why, contrary to Bergson, he would not see this phenomenon as politically relevant. See Michael Symonds and Jason Pudsey, “The Forms of Brotherly Love in Max Weber’s Sociology of Religion,” Sociological Theory 24, no. 2 (2006): 140–43. 77. Bergson, Two Sources, 213. 78. Underhill, Mysticism, 59. 79. Bergson, Two Sources, 268. 80. Cf. Zanfi, Bergson, la tecnica, la guerra, 120–21, where she discusses Bergson’s idea that the mystics are like “moral geniuses,” thereby not identifying the difference that I want to draw here. 81. Cf. Gabriel Tarde, Les lois de l’imitation (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1907), and Félix Ravaisson, De l’habitude (Paris: Félix Alcan 1927). For Bergson’s praise of Tarde and Ravaisson, see, respectively, “Discours sur Gabriel Tarde [1909],” in Mélanges, 799–801, and “The Life and Work of Ravaisson,” in Creative Mind, 187–216. 82. As it will become clear below, Scheler distinguishes what I am translating here as “emulation” (nachfolgen) from “mere imitation” (folgen), which he condemns on the same ground as that on which he condemns sympathy as contagion, as we saw in Chapter 4. 83. The position developed here shares much with what Arthur Steinbock calls “verticality” or “vertical givenness” in human experience. See Phenomenology and Mysticism, 211–40— even if I would not necessarily go as far as endorsing his conception of “idolatry” as the opposite of such an experience. 84. For Bergson and Scheler’s religious Modernism, see n. 26. 85. Scheler, “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders,” 147, translation slightly modified. The punctuation in the quotations from this text is often slightly modified. 86. In addition to the normative and psychological reasons, Scheler also has sociological reasons to be interested in personal authority, namely, his conviction that—following the economist Friedrich von Wieser, the sociologist Robert Michels, and other important researchers focusing at the time on the political role of elites—the course of history is pulled always by a minority. See Scheler, “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders,” 130–35; and Staude, Max Scheler, 163–202. 87. More specifically, for Scheler, the authority that resides in a morally good person is superior to that which resides in tradition, on the one hand, or in contracts and consent, on the other. The reason is that this type of authority has the potential of appealing to people not only as members of a given community or, alternatively, of a voluntarily formed society but by combining both the independency and the coresponsibility that characterize, in his view, true moral individuality. On this point, see Thomas Szanto, “Collectivizing Persons and Personifying


Notes to Pages 140–145

Collectives: Reassessing Scheler on Group Personhood,” in The Phenomenology of Sociality: Discovering the “We,” ed. Thomas Szanto and Dermot Moran (New York: Routledge, 2016), 296–312, and Schloßberger, “The Varieties of Togetherness.” 88. Scheler, “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders,” 135. 89. The other types of exemplars Scheler considers are the genius (which includes artists, philosophers, sages, legislators, and judges); the hero; the “leading mind of civilization” (“der führende Geist der Zivilisation”) in the fields of science, technology, and economics; and the “master in the art of living” (der “Künstler des Genusses”) (133–34). 90. Today, however, it is certainly more difficult to assert that saints have the comprehensive character as spiritual exemplars that Scheler wanted to attribute to them at the time he was writing. 91. More specifically, for Scheler, it is mistaken to take the will to be the “substrate of all our acts.” For him, “there exists a large number of acts that are by no means acts of willing.” Scheler, Formalism, 29. 92. In fact, “summoning” might not be the right word because, according to Scheler, it is not as if the exemplar could be “invited” to be among the followers. Without being irresistible, one cannot be “indifferent” toward it: that is why he says that the exemplar can be forgotten but not “not remembered” (162). 93. See Nelson, The Theology of Liberalism. I very much thank Eric Nelson, whose course on theodicy and liberalism helped me to articulate the following claims. 94. The Augustinian character of Scheler’s thought can be further seen in the stand he takes on a number of subjects. Consider, for example, his view of humility as the main virtue over and above dignity (“Rehabilitation of Virtue,” trans. Eugene Kelly, American Catholic Quarterly 79, no. 1 [2005]: 21–37), his notion of collective instead of individual responsibility for all sins of mankind (On the Eternal in Man, 33–66, written in the aftermath of World War I), and his conception of shame as a positive virtue that somehow protects the self from evil and allows the self to mature, as if within a cocoon or shell (“Shame and Feelings of Modesty,” in Person and Self-Value, 1–86). However, see n. 23 of the Conclusion of the book for a qualification of his treatment of shame and humility as not fully Augustinian. Further, notice that on the important question of what comes first, whether an “active” repentance or a more “passive” reception of grace, in order for conversion to take effect, he takes a middle point: according to him, the guilt of sin is “truly erased and eradicated” only when the “vital, deeper act of repentance” occurs together with “free grace entering,” therefore adopting a somewhat Arminian position in this respect. On the Eternal in Man, 48. This is not the place, however, to examine in detail Scheler’s theological positions in all these respects, exploring how they coincide with and differ from previous debates about grace, dignity, and freedom. Such a project would yield the extent to which his thought can indeed open untaken roads in contemporary political theory. On Scheler’s Augustinianism regarding religious knowledge, see Mary Evelyn Clarke, “The Contribution of Max Scheler to the Philosophy of Religion,” Philosophical Review 43, no. 6 (1934): 577–97. Clarke examines as well the anti-Augustinian developments of Scheler’s late philosophy of religion, namely, the rejection of God as the creator of the world and the postulate that God and Man are mutually dependent, which took Scheler to conceive man as a “microcosm” and a “microtheos,” a cocreator with God (593–94). 95. See Richard Tuck, introduction to Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes, xl–xlv. 96. Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 43, 407. 97. Scheler, “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders,” 156.

Notes to Pages 145–148


98. Notice, however, that according to Scheler, the original saint does not even exist in his acts. His person is beyond works, words, and deeds. See below in this section for more on Scheler’s point that the original saint does not have an individuality. 99. Scheler, On the Eternal in Man, 265. For the (especially late) importance of ritual in Scheler’s philosophy of religion, see Clarke, “The Contribution of Max Scheler to the Philosophy of Religion,” 586, and Hafkesbrink, “The Meaning of Objectivism and Realism in Max Scheler’s Philosophy of Religion,” 305–6, according to whom, for Scheler, “the only fact which guarantees the religious object absolutely authentically [sic] is the existence of specific religious acts and intentions” (305). This does not mean that, for Scheler, the reality of God depends on us—but only, Hafkesbrink says, that religious acts and intentions “exhibit,” “indicate,” or “guarantee” (without therefore proving, as the rational or “philosophical” proofs of God intended to do) the religious object (305). 100. Scheler, “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders,” 152. 101. I take this analysis to be consistent with John F. Crosby’s identification of several socalled antiauthoritarian elements in Scheler’s personalist philosophy. Among them, he lists the following: Scheler’s aversion to moral obligation, expressed in the claim that the more people become awakened to values and come to know them intimately, the less they live by obligation; his idea that reward and punishment make no proper moral sense and that God does not reward and punish human beings; his idea of emulation of an exemplar, as opposed to the obeying of teachings and commands of a master; and his preference of the method of “relaxation of the will” as opposed to undergoing conscious effort and exertion of the will as a way of cultivating one’s soul. “Person and Obligation: Critical Reflections on the Anti-Authoritarian Strain in Scheler’s Personalism,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 79, no. 1 (2005): 92. Crosby, however, is critical of these antiauthoritarian elements and intends to restore the place of obligation and duty within a personalist outlook that he otherwise endorses. 102. See Krause, Freedom Beyond Sovereignty, for a contemporary exploration of freedom and the self that speaks for such a lesson. 103. Examples of people who have engaged in this process are, for Scheler, Bernhard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), St. Francis (1181–1226), and Thomas a Kempis (1380–1471). The first one was a French abbot and primary reformer of the Cistercian order. Scheler appreciates his mysticism, his emphasis on faith at the expense of doctrine, and his distinction between different types of knowledge. St. Francis, a Roman Catholic friar, was admired by Scheler for his conception of love in terms of a relation to God and the world, as well as his emphasis on poverty and frugality. The last one was the author of The Imitation of Christ, which is an important Christian book on devotion. Despite Scheler’s concerns regarding imitation, he approves of him for his emphasis on ritual, imitation, and humility. For a nice exploration of St. Francis’s place in Scheler’s thought, see John White, “Exemplary Persons and Ethics: The Significance of St. Francis for the Philosophy of Max Scheler,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 79 (2005): 57–90. 104. Notice again how the role of the will in Scheler’s picture of the self is diminished. As the conception of God leaves behind the (more Greek) notion of a self-sufficient and perfect substance, to become instead a person with whom we can have direct communication, the human will seems to “subside” accordingly. 105. On this point, see the interesting discussion offered by Steinbock in “On Individuation,” in Phenomenology and Mysticism, 168–78.


Notes to Pages 148–152

106. There are other recent efforts to criticize Taylor’s defense of the value of authenticity and the ethics that follow from it, such as Simon Feldman, Against Authenticity: Why You Shouldn’t Be Yourself (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015). However, Feldman criticizes Taylor on grounds that Scheler would also find objectionable. 107. See n. 102. 108. Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, USA, Amos Pictures, 2019. 109. For similar arguments, see Arendt’s assessment of Isak Dinesen’s mistake that life could be like a work of art. “Isak Dinesen,” Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times, 95–110, as well as Steinbock’s attack upon the assumption of the self as self-grounding. Rather, Steinbock says, “the person finds him- or herself ‘in’ an inter-Personal relation from the very start.” Phenomenology and Mysticism, 168. 110. That is, it cannot be captured by our faculty of reason; although, from a different standpoint, that does not mean that such an authority cannot, in itself, constitute what some people would call “a reason” for acting in certain way. For the difference between the so-called first-person and third-person reasons, see Linda T. Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), which I will discuss in the conclusion of the book. A thirdperson reason, Zagzebski says, is “a proposition that can be laid out on the table for all to consider. Typically, what we mean by evidence is in this category” (143). A first-person reason, instead, “is a psychic state that directly justifies a belief for the person who has it, and only for the person who has it” (143). She goes on to say that one’s emotions, beliefs, perceptual states, memories, and intuitions can constitute such kind of reasons. 111. Cf. Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). See Jonathan P. Schwartz, Arendt’s Judgment: Freedom, Responsibility, Citizenship (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), where he documents Arendt’s transition from a more hermeneutical understanding of judgment, inspired in Heidegger (and similar to what we find in Gadamer), to a more “discursive” one, based on her reading of Kant’s Third Critique. Schwartz explains that according to the hermeneutical theories of judgment, the latter is a precognitive faculty to act practically, while what we normally understand, based on her mature work, as “Arendtian judgment” is a faculty of “enlarged mentality” based on sensus communis, which must be presupposed in order to act without pregiven rules (156–62). Bergson and Scheler’s respective conceptions of intuition would be closer to the hermeneutical understanding of judgment, found in Heidegger, Gadamer, and the early Arendt, than to the more Kantian conception of judgment. 112. I thank John Harpham, who originally called my attention to this point. 113. Bergson, Two Sources, 239–40. 114. Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles, 164, my translation. 115. See n. 30. 116. Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles, 150. 117. Waterlot, “Le mysticisme, ‘un auxiliaire puissant de la recherche philosophique’?” 262. The term “philosophical Christology” is used by Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des Évangiles, 173ff. 118. Bergson, Two Sources, 240. 119. Ibid. 120. I take the phrase from Alessandro Ferrara, The Force of the Example: Explorations in the Paradigm of Judgment (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). 121. On this topic, see Scheler, “Idols of Self-Knowledge.”

Notes to Pages 152–156


122. For an examination of such a practice and of its symbolic character in ancient Greece, see Sara Forsdyke, Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005). 123. See Isabelle Bardou, “L’humilité comme clef de Le deux sources: La raison philosophique face a l’expérience mystique,” Philopsis (2004), _Experience-Isabelle-Bardou.pdf. I will take this up this point in the conclusion of the book. 124. Cf. Waterlot, “Situation de guerre et état d’âme mystique chez Bergson: Ce que peut nous apprendre une ‘analogie lontaine,’ ” in La mystique face aux guerres mondiales, ed. Dominique de Courcelles et al. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010), 131–51, who criticizes Bergson for holding, in The Two Sources, an excessive optimism regarding political ideas (especially with respect to the French cause) in the context of World War I. On the contrary, Richard Vernon has claimed that, from a political point of view, Bergson’s book is a warning against cosmopolitan naivety, according to which the modern state represents a historical achievement of universality and toleration and thus can effectively leave the logic of exclusion and oppression behind. See “Bergson’s Two Sources Revisited” and Chapter 3, n. 77. 125. Waterlot uses this term “anonymous mystic” but to refer to the Christian mystics as portrayed by Bergson, who are, as we have seen, generic and model figures (“Le mysticisme, ‘un auxiliaire puissant de la recherche philosophique’?” 265). However, if we compare Bergson’s to Scheler’s treatment—which I think is appropriate, since it gives us a relevant contemporary alternative within theological debates in the first half of the twentieth century—we notice that, in Bergson, Christ is just as anonymous as his mystics are. 126. Strong, “Weber and Freud: Vocation and Self-Acknowledgement,” 400. See also n. 59. 127. Interestingly, for Weber, what he calls “the ethics of brotherliness” is only present in Christianity in its medieval rendition, which, according to Weber—and in accordance with Scheler’s interpretation of the “true” version of this religion—is eminently inegalitarian. See Symonds and Pudsey, “The Forms of Brotherly Love in Max Weber’s Sociology of Religion,” 143–45. 128. In this, I follow Frederic Keck’s terminology in interpreting Bergson’s Two Sources. 129. Scheler, Ressentiment, 101. 130. Ibid. 131. Richard Flathman uses the term “authoritative” to indicate the authority of the set of values and beliefs that form the normative background and bedrock of the life of a community, which is the foundation of whatever legitimacy is enjoyed by “mere” procedural authority. To illustrate, Flathman gives the example of the Fox Indians, for whom no one was allowed to be in a relation of authority to anybody else, but nonetheless, he says, authoritative beliefs supporting precisely the idea of complete independence and individual autonomy formed the evaluative background of such a practice. See The Practice of Political Authority: Authority and the Authoritative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 25–26, 159–67. 132. Patchen Markell, “Anonymous Glory,” European Journal of Political Theory 16, no. 1 (2017): 89. 133. Ibid., 83–87. 134. Ibid., 87. 135. As Michael Symonds and Jason Pudsey remind us, Weber, against Nietzsche, thought that an “ethics of brotherliness” was both necessary in the modern world in facing the problem of suffering and commendable even in politics were it not for the fact that, for Weber, in such a sphere, the “logic of necessity” pulls otherwise. “Heroic Love: The Ethic of Brotherliness in


Notes to Pages 156–162

Max Weber’s ‘Vocation’ Lectures,” Max Weber Studies 7, no. 1 (2007): 63–87. Even if one concedes with Weber that in politics, the logic of violence and the dirty-hands problem often make brotherliness impossible as a practice today, when “sovereignty is in fragments,” we might want to revise the full applicability of that thought. See Hent Kalmo and Quentin Skinner, eds., Sovereignty in Fragments: The Past, Present and Future of a Contested Concept (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Conclusion 1. Plato, Republic, ed. C. D. C. Reeve, trans. G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992), 464a–b. 2. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. J. G. A. Pocock (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1987), 33–34, 66, 69, 70, 163. 3. See, for instance, Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), and Alasdair C. MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues (Chicago: Open Court, 1999). 4. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, 186–87. 5. Ibid., 31–34, 37, 83, 87, 103, 165–66. 6. Ibid., 186. 7. Axel Honneth, The Idea of Socialism: Towards a Renewal, trans. Joseph Patrick Ganahl (Cambridge: Polity, 2017), chap. 1. 8. Cf. George Kateb, The Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), esp. introduction and chaps. 1–3. Kateb presents a conception of individuality that is very similar to Bergson and Scheler’s; however, unlike what I want to learn from them, Kateb argues that constitutionalism and individual rights are the best protection to it that can ever be devised. 9. See, among others, Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2017); Yuval N. Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2018); and Yascha Mounk, The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018). 10. See, mainly, Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), and Amos Tversky and Shafir Eldar, Preference, Belief, and Similarity: Selected Writings (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004). Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky are the psychologists whose work has provided the foundation for the field and who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. 11. Tamsin Shaw, “The Psychologists Take Power,” New York Review of Books 63, no. 3 (2016): 38; “Invisible Manipulators of Your Mind,” New York Review of Books 64, no. 7 (2017): 62; “Beware the Big Five,” New York Review of Books 65, no. 6 (2018): 33; and “The New MilitaryIndustrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops,” NYRDaily, March 21, 2018, /daily/2018/03/21/the-digital-military-industrial-complex/. See also the documentary The Great Hack, directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, USA, Netflix, 2019. 12. I very much thank Lucas Swaine for helping me articulate this point. 13. Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory. 14. On this point, Zagzebski also has, to my mind, a very Smithian conception of emotions, according to which these are not the opposite of reason but instead can give us reasons to believe certain things and act in certain ways (see esp. ibid., 116). Admiration in her theory is analogous to Smith’s sympathy, in the sense that the latter allows us to “detect virtue” and

Notes to Pages 162–164


“measure its degree.” For how Scheler and Smith compare on this point, see the section “Scheler’s Misreading of Smith” in Chapter 4. 15. On this point, she follows Hilary Putnam and his “reference theory of meaning,” for which definition is not primordial. See Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory, 10ff. 16. She is keen to say that that does not mean that admiration is a more trustworthy emotion than, say, indignation or many others. Just as admiration structures her theory, other emotions can structure other theories (Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory, 28). She wants to “show that our moral beliefs and practices can be derived from admiration in the way [she] describe[s], [but does] not mean that they must be derived in this way” (Ibid., 168). 17. More generally, both Scheler and Zagzebski coincide to a fair extent in their moral realism and their moral particularism. Regarding the latter, she says the following, which is practically the same conclusion we obtained with Scheler in Chapter 2 on the question of where exactly does Raskolnikov’s use of Napoleon as an exemplar go wrong: “The right way for A to learn what to do is not by merely following someone else’s judgement, but involves an adaptation of the exemplar’s process of making a moral judgment to her own particular circumstances, with due regard for the fact that there is something uniquely different about each person” (Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory, 205). 18. Zagzebski says “typically” because, as she explains, the emotion of admiration can be caught up in a downward spiral, in which admiration becomes, first, what Aristotle called zēlos (“a painful feeling with the desire to emulate”) and then transforms progressively into envy (“a painful feeling without the desire to emulate”), spite (“a painful feeling with the desire to deprive the object of the good he possesses”), and eventually into ressentiment (“a pervasive rejection of the admirable, particularly, the moral admirable”) (58). In connecting exemplarity to ressentiment, Zagzebski also hits a very Schelerian tone. 19. Here, Zagzebski follows David Velleman, “Motivation by Ideal,” Philosophical Explorations 5, no. 2 (2002): 89–103, and Hallavard Fossheim, “Habituation as Mimesis,” in Values and Virtues: Aristotelianism in Contemporary Ethics, ed. Timothy Chappell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 105–17. Also, notice that “projecting” in the quoted sentence means “seeing one’s ideal self in the admired person” (Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory, 136), which, I think, maintains the reference to both persons involved and therefore does not carry the danger, which worried Scheler so much, of collapsing the distinction between them. As I read Zagzebski, the emotion of admiration is supposed to keep the distance between the admirer and the admired. On this point, she says, “It is fortunate that we cannot become exactly like the exemplars because we would not want to be, nor would they want us to be” (Ibid., 154). 20. See the section “Mysticism and Modern Democracy in Bergson” in this chapter. 21. Here she follows the work of Ines Schindler et al., “Admiration and Adoration: Their Different Ways of Showing and Shaping Who We Are,” Cognition and Emotion 27, no. 1 (2013): 85–118. As I mentioned before, Scheler says that the saints are not “admired”; rather, we have faith in them. This could suggest a disagreement between Scheler and Zagzebski’s respective approaches. However, I do not think that is correct. As I have been trying to argue, Scheler’s conceptual distinctions serve to get us closer to a certain phenomenon—in this case, a particular way of following—that he tries to describe. I think that Scheler’s “true following” is not very far away from what Zagzebski calls “admiration.” 22. It is important to note that, unlike me, Zagzebski distinguishes between exemplarity and personal authority. Considering the case of Simeon Stylites, a Syriac ascetic saint, she argues that, presumably, “we treat some admirable persons as models for ourselves, but we treat others


Notes to Pages 164–168

as authorities” (Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory, 27) Still, she “believe[s] that there is a connection between the authority of an exemplar and the exemplar as model for ourselves,” which she develops in her book Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). As we saw in the previous chapter, Scheler makes a parallel conceptual distinction between exemplars and leaders but thinks that the latter are parasitic upon the former. In any case, what interests us here is exemplarity, or personal authority, independently of whether it translates into conscious and/or legal authority over others. 23. See Scheler, “Shame and Feelings of Modesty,” in Person and Self-Value, where he presents modesty and shame as virtues with a preeminent protective character. He praises them, to a good extent, because he thinks that, compared to “humility” as he understands it, they lack an awareness of unworthiness. In shame, he says, a positive worthiness of the self is given (19). 24. Mark Button, “‘A Monkish Kind of Virtue’? For and Against Humility,” Political Theory 33, no. 6 (2005): 841. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid., 861. 27. Ibid., 859. 28. Sara Rushing, “Comparative Humilities: Christian, Contemporary, and Confucian Conceptions of a Political Virtue,” Polity 45, no. 2 (2013): 214. 29. Cooper, Secular Powers. 30. Another interesting example of this type of effort is Daniel Gross, “Virtues of Passivity in the English Civil War,” in The Secret History of Emotion: From Aristotle’s Rhetoric to Modern Brain Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 85–112, where it is shown that the revolutionary character of Puritanism during the English Civil War presupposed the existence and cultivation of the “passive virtues of the soul,” without which its subversive potential is incomprehensible. 31. Modesty, Cooper says, is not the same as humility. She clarifies that while they belong to the same affective constellation, humility bears more resonance as a signature Christian conviction (27). Scheler agrees: see n. 23. 32. By secular theory, Cooper means a position for which “the political [is conceived] as a realm of human agency, independent of divine oversight of authorization,” and not necessarily an atheist one (3). 33. This is my expression, not Cooper’s. 34. See Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, trans. Rebecca Balinski (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). 35. Admittedly, she says, these protocols sometimes backfired, but that is a different story. 36. See, again, Joas, The Sacredness of the Person; Müller, “Towards a New History of Christian Democracy”; Siedentop, Inventing the Individual; Moyn, Christian Human Rights; and Nelson, The Theology of Liberalism.


Adenauer, Konrad, 6 admiration, 162–64 Adorno, Theodor, 7, 170n15 agency/action, 7–9, 120; in Bergson, 45–53, 59, 62, 71–72, 78–80, 84–86, 88, 98; and freedom, 40–41, 50, 56, 60, 72–73; and hesitation, 51; and identification, 108–9; and positive law, 77; and risk, 92–97; in Scheler, 68, 71, 104–5; and self-determination/autonomy 155; and temptation, 43–45, 52, 58, 59, 73; and uncertainty/ contingency, 79, 84, 88, 92, 94, 96–98. See also individuality anarchism, 5, 81 anthropology, 4, 11, 130, philosophical, 6, personalist, 9, 120, liberal, 159 Arc, Joan of, 124, 216n73 Arendt, Hannah, 1, 47; on Dinesen, 37; on Jaspers, 114; and sympathy, 100, 113; and the “Unknown Soldier,” 156 associationism, 3, 14–15, 17–19, 22 Augustinianism, 144–45, 166–67 authenticity, 4, 121, 148 authority, 1–4, 9–10, 120–21, 159–61, 163–64; charismatic, 108, 121–23, 133–36, 138, 146, 148, 156, 164, 178n75, 215nn53–54, 215n59; and freedom/autonomy, 154–55; and identity, 147. See also exemplarity autonomy, 4, 8, 122, 155, 164; in Kant, 69, 70; in Scheler, 63, 70, 73, 139. See also freedom “awareness of the could,” 43–44, 55, 58–59, 71, 191n79 Bergson, Henri: and his “alternative labor theory of value,” 32–33; and “attentive recognition,” 132; and the brain, 15, 29–31, 85; and the “cinematographic illusion,” 31; and the “cone metaphor,” 32; and déjà vu,

29–32; and illiberal sympathizers, 5; and image/symbol, 15, 33–34, 50, 84–89, 152; and improvisation, 87, 98, 157, 159; and intellectual effort/feeling of effort, 32–35, 49; metaphysics, 46, 50, 151; and mobility/ movement, 16–17, 19, 21, 35, 38, 44–46, 49, 51, 53, 59, 71–73, 84, 86–87; as “mystic master,” 131; and Nobel Prize, 36, 133, 214n40; and numbers, 49–50, 85, 94; and political convictions, 5; as public intellectual, 36; and quality vs. quantity, 21, 48, 51, 60, 72; and reality, 16–19, 22, 32, 34–36, 46–47, 87; and relation with the future, 9, 78–80, 84, 89, 97–98; and relation to our past, 7, 30–35, 60, 98, 157, 177n52, 180n109, 182n141; and the “scheme,” 33–35; and time vs. space, 21, 177n61; and virtual vs. actual, 31, 180n109, 185n25. See also duration; intellect Black Mirror (series), 180n105 bliss, 23, 25 Button, Mark, 165, 168 Canales, Jimena, 177n61 capitalism, 11, 96, 207n102 Cassirer, Ernst, 6 categorical imperative, 8, 56, 59, 64, 69, 73, 192n98, 199nn60–62 Catherine of Siena, Saint, 124 Catholic/Catholicism, 5, 6, 11, 165, 167, 168, 212n26 causality, 47–50 chance, the belief in (Bergson), 9, 79, 80, 82, 89, 93–95, 97. See luck/fortune; uncertainty charisma, 121–23, 133–35, 148, 153, 167. See also authority: charismatic Christian Democratic Movement, 5



Christianity, 11; Bergson on, 123–26; and humility, 165; and “love of the neighbor,” 110; and Modernism, 130, 139, 144–146, 167–168, 212n26; from a politicotheological perspective, 122–23, 153–154; Scheler on, 126–30, 145–47, 210n19. See also democracy: Christianity; mysticism; Scheler: sainthood communitarianism, 12, 28, 79, 96, 159 community, 26–29, 117, 123, 129. See also sociability Confucianism, 165, 168 Conrad, Joseph, 94–95 consciousness: in Bergson, 15, 20, 32–35, 38, 47, 50–51; in Guyau, 92; in Scheler, 14, 15, 41, 71. See also experience Cooper, Julie, 165–68 Davis, Zachary, 169n9, 205n72 de Gaulle, Charles, 5 deliberation, 99, 121, 163 democracy: audience, 101; in Bergson, 123–26, 150, 154, 214n39; and Christianity, 122–23, 154; and humility, 162, 165; and its “negative” character, 125–26, 129–30; and personal authority, 122, 136–39; in Scheler, 126–30, 139, 150 Deneen, Patrick, 159 Descartes, René, 26, 47, 178n64 dignity, 145, 166 disgust, 23–24 Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 40, 43–44; and Crime and Punishment, 8 duel, 94–96 duration, 22, 29, 46, 50, 59–60, 85, 150, 176n71. See also experience; inner diversity Durkheim, Émile, 81, 123, 196n10, 199n53, 209n6 duty, 26, 41–42, 44, 52–53, 57–59, 66, 70–74, 91–92, 94. See also obligation education: moral, 67, 72, 75, 88–89, 113, 135–37, 148; and philosophy, 133; political/ civic, 11, 74, 133, 155; sentimental, 74, 113, 118, 159, 161; and time, 112, 135 egoism/selfishness, 101, 108, 118, 130, 174n18 emotions, 9, 14, 178n69; in Bergson, 21, 36, 75, 91; and emotional identification/contagion, 100, 103–4, 106–9, 117–19; and fiction, 18, 137–38; inner hierarchy of/distinctions between (Scheler), 7, 22–29, 68, 70, 99,

105–8, 113, 115, 118, 158; as “organs of cognition,” 102, 115, 162; phenomenology of (Scheler), 9, 103, 111; in political life, 99, 100, 107, 160–61; in Smith, 113. See also admiration; bliss; disgust; fear; guilt; hope; love; resentment; sympathy; vainglory empiricism/materialism, 2–3, 14, 19, 22, 24, 28, 38, 46, 158 equality, 11, 122–23, 153–54; and Christianity, 127, 132, 153–54, 166; as democratic ideal, 125–26; and freedom, 139; and philosophy, 132, 133, 167 ethical relativism, 10, 17, 24, 148 evolution/evolutionary biology, 3, 130, 201n1, 212n30 exemplarity/exemplars, 3, 4, 10–11, 69, 120–23, 159, 162; and anonymity, 153, 156; in contemporary moral theory, 162–64; and democratic ethos, 150–53; and faith, 124, 131, 136, 140, 143, 150; and false prophets, 4, 155; and freedom/individuality, 149, 152, 154–56; and heroes & geniuses, 137–38, 142–43; and humility, 162, 168; and imitation/emulation, 68, 136–39, 141–44, 147, 149–53; and moral/ political education, 10, 67, 72, 133–37, 140, 148–49, 155, 161; and salvation, 143–45. See also Jesus Christ; mysticism; Rousseau: legislator; Scheler: sainthood experience, 2–3, 17, 38, 43, 51, 59, 71–72, 82, 87, 117–19; and individuality, 9, 13–16, 20–22, 29, 112, 158. See also phenomenology fabulation/myth-making faculty, 81, 83, 88, 89–91, 197n17, 197n19 faction, 100, 109, 117, 119 fact of reason, 41–45, 59, 71, 183n4, 185n15, 186n43, 188–89n67, 189–90n70, 191n74, 191n79 fear, 24, 29, 61, 81, 94, 96, 118, 198n43, 200n67 feelings. See emotions Ferrajoli, Luigi, 76 Fox, George (Quaker), 124 Francis, Saint, 124, 219n103 Franks, Paul, 188–89n67 fraternity, 126 Frazer, Michael, 178n70, 201n2 freedom, 2, 7–9, 10–11, 37, 40–41, 46–51, 73; of association/of expression, 37; in Bergson, 37, 48, 50, 53, 56, 59–60, 62, 78; of choice, 46, 60, 147, 159, 186n42; and Christianity,

Index 144–46; discovery of, 41–42, 50, 52, 56, 73; and liberalism, 3, 39, 76, 159–62; and morality, 41; and personal authority, 4, 149; in Scheler, 8, 62–63, 68–69, 71, 148; as self-realization, 46; social freedom, 160; as uncaused cause, 46, 48; in Weber, 135, 148. See also agency; individuality Freud, Sigmund, 109, 179n92, 192n98, 202n12 Gallows Man (Kant’s example), 8, 40–41, 57, and agency/freedom, 42, 59, 62; and the awareness of the ought, 57, 59, 71; and inclination, 42; and temptation, 59 Garden of Eden/Genesis, 52, 73, 188n63 German Romantics, 138 Gesinnung, 25 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 53 Gouhier, Henri, 131, 151 Great Hack, The (documentary), 222n11 Grenberg, Jeanine, 189–90n70 Guardini, Romano, 6 guilt, 23, 26, 51, 102, 115, 218n94 Guyau, Jean-Marie, 9, 80, 90–98 habit, 87, 98, 157, 159, 161, 177n52 hedonism/hedonists, 24, 26, 92 Hegel, G. W. F., 3, 46, 50 Heidegger, Martin, 5–6, 185n14, 220n111 hesitation/oscillation/vacillation: and Bergson, 78, 186n44, 192n85; and the Gallows Man, 42, 57, 58; phenomenology of, 8, 45, 51, 62, 72–73, 157; and Raskolnikov, 54, 56–57, 60–61, 75 Hobbes, Thomas, 28, 50, 62, 78–79, 96, 116, 123, 152, 154; and humility, 166–67; and his minimalist theology, 145 Honneth, Axel, 160 hope, 81, 90, 93, 97, 135, 154 Horkheimer, Max, 6–7 Hume, David, 14, 17–18, 31, 48–50, 100, 185n32 humility, 4, 152, 162, 164–68, 218n94, 219n103, 224n23 hunger, 23–24 Hutcheson, Francis, 100–101 identification. See emotions: emotional identification/contagion identity: and agency/freedom, 46, 79, 93–94, 97–98; personal, 147–49, 153, 160; and politics, 6, 100, 107; as a trap, 37, 38; in Taylor, 176–77n52


imitation/emulation, 4, 148, 155, 159, 209n3; in contemporary moral theory, 161–64; ethics of, 121, 138–39; and Imitatio Christi, 139, 143, 151–52; vs. “mere copying,” 68, 141, 147, 149, 153, 217n82; and originality/ authenticity, 4, 121; and Rousseau, 136–37 impartial spectator, 100–101, 103–4, 107–9, 111–14, 116 inclination/appetites, 41–44, 51–52, 56, 65–66, 73, 111, 183n6, 184n8 individuality/personality, 3–4, 12, 16, 23, 76, 148–49; and authority, 9, 153–54, 56; in Bergson, 29, 31–32, 34–37, 62, 135; and diversity, 6–8, 13, 19, 39, 115; elusiveness of, 7, 10, 20, 148; exercise of, 22, 31–32, 35, 38, 84; and freedom, 4, 39, 149, 153, 156; and identity, 147–49, 153; of Jesus Christ, 147; in the modern world, 133; and personality-type, 76; as personal uniqueness, 105, 117, 121, 152–53, 157, 160; in Scheler, 23, 26–27, 105, 112, 114, 117–18; as self-creation, 34–35, 37; and society/community, 7, 26–29, 109–10; and uncertainty, 88 inner multiplicity/inner diversity, 2, 6–9, 13–15, 21, 31, 35–38, 53, 76–77, 84, 152; and duration (Bergson), 50, 59, 60, 150; and emotions/feelings (Scheler), 22, 26–27, 29, 114–15; and Rawls, 114. See also individuality intellect, 15–17, 30–32, 36, 47, 50, 59–60, 71–72, 132–33, 174n18, 175n22, 192n85 intention, 82–83, 90, 103, 111, 148, 174n15, 197n17, 199n52 intuition, 1–3, 7, 157–58, 162–63; as ability or power of cognition, 2, 15, 20, 38; in Bergson, 46, 60, 123, 131–32, 135, 182n133; in ethical intuitionism, 1–2; and exemplarity, 149–50, 155; and irrationality/violence, 2; in Rawlsian debates, 1–2; in Scheler, 70, 76; and self, 3, 7, 155 Iqbal, Muhammad, 5 Jackson, Michael (pop singer), 149 James, William, 70, 77, 90, 138, 187n49 Jaspers, Karl, 114 Jesus Christ, 139, 150–53; as divine humanity, 150; Hobbes on, 145; as the “original saint,” 142, 144–46; as “our Savior,” 145, 152; and philosophical Christology, 151; as the “successor of the prophets of Israel,” 151 John Paul II (pope), 6



Kant, Immanuel, 22, 40–45; and autonomy/ freedom; 7, 62, 70, 73; and Critique of Practical Reason, 8, 40–41, 58, 60, 185n15, 188n67; and the “formula of humanity,” 125; and inclination, 41–42, 51–52, 73; and interest in the law, 51, 58, 73, 93, 194n74; and maturity, 69–70; as narrator, 57–60; and the principle of publicity, 158, 187n48, 192n98; and his universalistic/formalistic approach, 7–8, 41, 64, 73. See also categorical imperative; fact of reason; Gallows Man; moral law; respect; temptation Keck, Frédéric, 89, 196n3, 199n49 Krause, Sharon, 170n11, 195n141, 219n102 language, 38, 74–75, 152; in Bergson, 21, 35–36, 84, 86–87, 91, 131; and the imitative arts, 136–37; and individuality, 13, 22, 38; Scheler 14, 26, 28, 68, 71 law, 3, 4, 74; criminal, 75–76; law-givers, 65, 69–70; letter vs. spirit of, 77; obedience to, 8, 40, 63–66; pedagogical role of, 41, 77. See also autonomy; Kant: interest in the law, moral law; obligation leaders, 156, 160, 165, 168; charismatic, 11, 123, 135, vs. exemplars (Scheler), 140–41, 152 Lefebvre, Alexandre, 209n6, 213–14n39 Lévy-Bruhl, Lucien, 81 liberalism, 29, 39, 159–62; and criminal law, 75–77; and moral psychology, 2, 4; and rights, 3, 161 Lincoln, Abraham, 130, 137–38 Locke, John: and explicit/implicit consent, 29 love: in Bergson, 20–21, 123, 126; Christian vs. humanitarian (Scheler), 126–30; of the neighbor, 110, 127, 130; in Scheler, 103, 111, 122, 140, 144, 146; self-love, 109–10, 116, 206n83 Loyola, Saint Ignatius of, 124 luck/fortune, 78, 82–84, 89–91, 97–98, 144 manipulation: political and commercial, 3, 27, 119, 160; and subjection 152 Mann, Thomas, 182n139 Mannheim, Karl, 6 Maritain, Jacques, 5 Markell, Patchen, 156 martyr/martyrdom, 25, 59, 75 masochism, 24, 178n73 memory, 30–35, 51, 60, 79–80, 84, 98, 135, 177n52, 213n35. See also Bergson: relation to our past

Mill, John Stuart, 7, 12–13 mobility/movement. See Bergson: mobility/ movement moral law, 41, 49–50, 57, 188–89n67, 192n98, 193n105, 194n117 moral particularism/singularity, 63–64, 66–67, 69, 223n17 moral realism, 63, 223n17 moral universalism/rationalism/formalism, 73–74, 121 Mounier, Emmanuel, 5 Moyar, Dean, 194n117 Mussolini, Benito, 5 mystic cause, 81–84, 90–91 mysticism, 90, 130; Christian mysticism, 123–26; and equality, 137–39; and its pedagogical role, 133, 138–39; and the philosopher/mystic, 131–33 Napoleon Bonparte, 65–69, 193n111 narrative, 8, 53, 162–63 Négritude, 5 Nelson, Eric, 144, 218n93 neuroscience, 3, 160 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 57, 81, 93, 98, 127, 129–30, 165, 168 Nussbaum, Martha, 78, 101, 115 obligation: in Bergson, 9, 58, 74, 81, 91, 94, 158, 187n48, 189n69; and exemplarity, 122, 137; in Guyau, 91–92; in Kant, 189n70; political, 155; rationalistic theories of, 41, 51; and temptation, 51 Ochoa-Espejo, Paulina, 210n12 open morality, 90, 123, 189n69, 198n39 “other minds,” problem of, 27, 28 pantheism, 3 passions. See emotions Paul, Saint, 124 Péguy, Charles, 5 Pelagianism, 144–46 perception/cognition, 22, 38–39; in Bergson, 15–16, 31–32, 36, 83–87, 132, 174n16; in Scheler, 14, 17, 19–20, 22–23, 27, 74, 101, 103, 107, 113, 178n65 Pericles, 130, 138 person/personalism, 3–4, 19–22, 42, 76–77, 114–15, 120–23, 160; in Bergson, 30, 34, 37, 82–83, 88–90, 93–95, 158; and Christianity, 122–24, 127–30; and exemplarity, 149–50, 155–56, 161, 164; in Scheler, 25, 38, 63,

Index 72–76, 99, 105, 108, 111–12, 117, 139–48, 158; and temptation, 58, 64, 73 phenomenology/phenomenological, 2, 8, 38, 40, 42, 53, 56, 84, 97, 100, 111, 117 Plato, 46, 78, 96, 128, 158; and the Meno, 32; and the parable of the cave, 131–32, 136; and the ring of Gyges, 27 pleasure, 21, 23–26, 164, 178n75; in risk, 92–93; in Smith, 101, 103. See also masochism political theology, 120, 153 populism, 4, 10, 100–101, 122, 156, 159, 160 poststructuralism/postmodernism, 3, 7, 12, 79, 117, 165–66 power, 11, 18, 61, 71, 79, 96–97, 122, 127, 149, 152, 154, 156, 159, 166 primitive vs. civilized mentality/man, 79–83, 89–90, 94, 97 Protestantism, 11 psychology, 4, 11, 14–19, 22, 50, 130, 140; child, 14, 83; moral, 2, 6, 9; psychologism, 174n15, 197n19; social, 6. See also associationism punishment, 57, 58, 61–62, 75, 195n140 Raskolnikov: 40, 43, 53–57, 60–62, 65–69, 75 Rathenau, Walther, 6 Rawls, John, 1–2, 9, 29, 78, 100, 114–15 Raz, Joseph, 3 reason, 2, 4, 41, 51, 56, 59, 63, 65–66, 72–73, 87, 91, 103, 121, 123, 126, 136, 150; practical, 7, 42, 142. See also intellect; Kant: fact of reason religion, 11, 122–23, 130; open/of humanity, 90, 122–23, 125, 127, 132, 150, 153–54; primitive/closed, 83, 89–90, 97 resentment/ressentiment, 66, 99, 102, 122, 127, 129–30, 154, 179n88, 223n18 respect, 73, 93, 183n6, 189nn67–68, 190n70, 194n117 Riley, Patrick, 153 Riquier, Camille, 190–91n74 risk, 9, 80, 90–96 Romanticism, 2 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 4, 8, 73, 142, 154, 166; and the legislator, 69, 136–37 Rushing, Sara, 165, 168 Sandel, Michael, 96–97 San Francisco earthquake, 83, 84 Scheler, Max: and act/content distinction, 17, 19–20, 38, 70, 76, 117; and inequality, 127–29, 139, 150, 153–54; and the inner


hierarchy of values and feelings, 7, 22–29, 99, 105–8, 118, 139, 141–42; and the “material a priori,” 22; and maturity, 69–70, 119; and “perfect pitch,” 113; and reductionism, 17, 24, 26, 72, 105, 158; and relativism, 24; and sainthood, 139–50; and “standing alone,” 64, 69, 109, 113–14, 118; and universal moral truths/laws 63, 117; and value distinctions, 28, 63, 70, 74, 104–5, 113, 127, 150, 152, 163, 179n88; and value perception, 22–23, 38, 64, 74, 101, 103, 115. See also emotions Schiller, Friedrich, and the “noble soul,” 143 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 53 science: and the arts, 37; behavioral, 160–61; and common sense, 21, 50; natural, 4, 15, 130 Scripture/Bible, 144, 146, 187n54, 212n26 self-knowledge: and Raskolnikov, 41, 68, 69; in Scheler, 26, 28, 38, 41, 63–64, 70, 74, 109; and Socrates, 110 Senghor, Léopold Sédar, 5 sentimentalists (Enlightenment), 99, 100, 158 sentiments. See emotions Shaftesbury, 3rd Earl of (Anthony Ashley Cooper), 100–101 Shaw, Tamsin, 160–61 Shklar, Judith, 137 Smith, Adam, 100–101; and faction, 109, 117, 119; and harmony, 107, 112–13, 118, 207n103; and moral value, 102–3; and selfcommand, 100, 109, 112–13, 207n102; and time, 111–12. See also impartial spectator; sympathy sociability, 22–23, 27–29, 78, 123, 154; in Bergson, 35, 90; in Scheler, 23, 28, 113, 118 social diversity, 7, 13, 24, 28, 39. See also inner diversity socialism, 3, 160, 211n25 society: and control/conventions/pressures, 12, 77, 109–10; mass, 100, 106–7, 109–10, 156, 158, 202n12; and stereotypes, 17 sociology, 4, 6, 80, 140 Socrates/Socratic, 110, 138, 146, 207n102 solidarity, 119, 122–23, 127, 154 Sorel, George, 5 Soulez, Phillip, 133 Spinoza, Baruch, 166–68 Steinbock, Anthony, 214n39, 217n83, 219n105 Strong, Tracy, 134, 153



superstition, 55–56, 89–90, 97 sympathy/fellow-feeling: 9, 99; in Bergson, 201n1; and comparison with others, 104–5; as emotionally taxing, 115; ethics of, 100–101, 103; as illiberal, 100, 113; judicial, 115–16; as liberal, 100; and moral value 101–3, 109; in politics, 99–100, 113, 122; in Smith, 103–6; and true sympathy/fellow-feeling, 104–5, 107–8, 118; varieties of, 105–8; and virtue, 100, 102, 104, 109, 112 Swaine, Lucas, 195n126 Taylor, Charles, 4, 121, 176n52 Temptation, 8, 93, 158, 184nn10–13, 187n49, 188n63, 189nn68–69; cognition of, 43; in Kant, 52, 187–88n54, 190n70; and morality/ duty, 43, 51–53, 59; phenomenology of, 51; as the ratio cognoscendi of freedom, 43–45, 50–51, 56, 58–59, 63, 73 Teresa of Ávila, Saint, 124 time. See Bergson: relation to our past, relation with the future, time vs. space; duration; education: time; phenomenology; Smith: time twentieth century, 5–6, 11, 122 uncertainty, 2, 9, 78, 88, 90, 93–97. See also Bergson: relation with the future Underhill, Evelyn, 138

utility/utilitarianism, 26, 80, 101, 103, 114, 128–29, 211n21 vainglory, 29, 66, 68, 95, 102, 109, 166 Valéry, Paul, 5 value. See Scheler: inner hierarchy of values and feelings, “material a priori,” value distinctions, value perception Vasconcelos, José, 5 Velleman, David, 192n98 virtue: and humility, 162, 164–65, 168; in Scheler, 71, 74, 197n22; in Smith, 102–4, 109, 112–13 voice of conscience, 51, 62–64, 68, 72–74, 99, 116–17, 140, 158, 161, 192n98, 204n44 Wanderlust (series), 182n129 Weber, Max, 10–11, 133, 139, 153, 155; and authority types, 121–22; and personality, 10, 134–35, 148, 164. See also authority: charismatic; charisma Wertnehmung, 103, 150 will: in Bergson, 50, 186n38, 191n80; and liberalism, 2; as nonsovereign, 98, 149, 157, 159; in Scheler, 135, 218n91, 219n104. See also freedom World War I, 5, 11, 36, 84, 107 World War II, 10, 202n12 Zagzebski, Linda, 162–64


I have incurred many debts while working on this project. I want to thank, first of all, the members of my committee at Harvard: Richard Tuck, Michael Rosen, and Danielle Allen. Richard Tuck oriented and encouraged me with his knowledge, patience, humor, and curiosity. Michael Rosen’s advice and support were key to this project, and the European Philosophy Workshop, which he organizes every year, constituted twice a welcoming and stimulating venue to present my work. Danielle Allen gave me very helpful and timely advice on how to structure and present my ideas. My work benefited greatly from her rigorous reading and her wide-ranging approach. I also thank Michael Frazer, who helped me to articulate and clarify the project, especially in its very early and final stages, and Eric Beerbohm, for his support and feedback, especially during my year as a fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. I am beholden to the late Patrick Riley, whose presence in the halls of CGIS meant only joy and inspiration. For conversations and valuable feedback in the course of writing this book, I thank Jacob Abolafia, Tim Beaumont, Avishay Ben Sasson-Gordis, Matthew Boyle, Felipe Curcó, Zachary Davis, Ignat Kalinov, Frances Kamm, Charlie Lesch, Larry McGrath, Lydia Moland, David Moreno, Eric Nelson, Zeynep Pamuk, Lowry Pressly, Anthony Steinbock, Aleksy Tarasenko-Struc, Juan Torbidoni, Beth Truesdale, and Íngrid Vendrell. For their encouragement and orientation, especially at the beginning of the process, when it was much needed, I am grateful to Josh Cherniss, Andrea Tivig, Don Tontiplaphol, and Bernardo Zacka. I would also like to express my profound gratitude to Richard Boyd, Josh Cherniss, Stefan Eich, Michael Frazer, Sharon Krause, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Lucas Swaine for the invaluable discussion at the book manuscript workshop held at Georgetown University. The session was not only very rich and fruitful but also a truly enjoyable experience. Special thanks go to Alejandro Hernández and Alberto Simpser for their initiative and support in organizing the workshop and to Josh Cherniss for hosting the event. (Sadly, during



my stay in Washington, D.C. for the workshop, my visa, passport, and money were stolen. Several friends helped me to get on the plane back to Mexico. I thank each one of them!) I am greatly indebted to Samuel Moyn, whose generosity and interest in the project were key to its finally becoming a book. At the University of Pennsylvania Press, I am very grateful to my editors Damon Linker, who guided me through most of the publication process, and Robert Lockhart, who oversaw it in its final stages, as well as to Erica Ginsburg, Lily Palladino, and Gillian Dickens, for their splendid help with the manuscript, and to Zoe Kovacs and Lily Simmons for walking me through the administrative steps of the process. I also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. I am grateful to Les Harris, Jess Miner, Luz Noguez, and Mark Westmoreland for their help editing different parts of the book. My research was supported by the Mexican government through the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT), as well as by the Fundación México en Harvard, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, and the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Slightly different versions of Chapters 3 and 4 appeared in “Bergson and the Morality of Uncertainty,” Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 24, no. 2 (2016): 41–61 and “Max Scheler and Adam Smith on Sympathy,” Review of Politics 79, no. 3 (2017): 365–87, respectively. Many thanks for their permission to reuse the material. I thank my professors, colleagues, and friends at ITAM, where I first discovered my interest in political philosophy and where I am now fortunate to pursue its study. I will always be in debt to Eric Herrán, under whose guidance I read for the first time many of the authors whom I keep going back to. I am grateful to José Ahumada, Rodrigo Chacón, and Noam Gidron for their friendship and intellectual company as I developed this project and up to this day. As my writing partner, Tae-Yeoun Keum has shared with me for more than six years the joys and sorrows of writing a book, and I have been truly lucky that we went through this process together. Jaime del Palacio gave me important emotional and intellectual support, which enriched many of the pages in this book. I also take this moment to acknowledge Natalia Gutkowski, Mauricio Fernández, Luigi Patruno, Roberto Ponce, Azucena Rojas, Chiara Superti, and Cecilia Zenteno for being my extended family in Cambridge; los Sánchez for being part of my extended family in Mexico City; “mis amigas de la Corte” for being both a personal and professional community for the past ten years; Gabriela Calderón, my very first friend in college, and Francisco Cantú, my



conference partner, for their long friendship and their ever-present company and support as I worked on this project; Gema Santamaría for (among many other things) taking care of me the day I landed in the United States to begin graduate school; and José Cruz for being my oldest, indispensable friend. Finally, I am indebted to my family, which is big and comprises multiple sources of affection and good wishes. However, most of all, I am grateful to my parents, Cecilia and José Luis, and my siblings, Mónica, José Luis, and Andrea. Their love and support allowed me to start and finish this book. I dedicate my work to them.