On the Evident

Source: Ouevres Complètes, Vol IV. Paris, Garnier Frères, 1875;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.

Another reasoning not yet made in favor of the evident is that which occurs in affairs of taste. Has it never happened that a good work has been taken for bad? Has a bad one ever consistently been taken for a good one? Who sanctions works of taste? Is it the multitude? No. It hardly reads, understands nothing, knows nothing, doesn’t think, doesn’t feel. It is thus just a small handful of enlightened men who guide them towards their sentiments, their voice. And in what genre does this wonder operate? In a genre very fine, very delicate, the least susceptible to enlightenment, to principles, to demonstrations? And doesn’t the slope end as well? Obstacles, enemies, parties, prejudices, mores, usages, customs, ignorance, passion, the very time or moment? For an author arrives too early. What! The phenomenon takes place in this circumstance and not in another? In matters of taste men are led to the formal idea of sentiment where nothing is demonstrated, and they will be always be divided on objects susceptible to a rigorous demonstration? If interest supposes absolutely on one side, can we not see that interest must render progress easier on the other? We should allow not only to be thought, but to be said that all questions are to be clarified; and let us use in the teaching of political matters the same methods as in religious matters; let the nation be convinced that one of these ...[1], as it is in the other. Let the moment arrive when the peasant who reads a council edict can, without any effort, draw either the favorable or unfavorable consequences, then we will see. In order to properly appreciate the might of an educated nation, rather than to discouraged philosophers I would refer to the efforts of despots to stupefy. What is the source of these efforts by despots if it’s not that they instinctively know that it is easier to deal with ignorant than with educated subjects?

1. B1ank in the manuscript.