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Art. II. — 1. Charles Fourier, sa Vie et sa Théorie.
Par Ch. Pellarin, Docteur en Médecine. Paris : à Librairie de l'Ecole Sociétaire. 1843. 2d ed. 12mo.
2. The Phalanx ; Organ of the Doctrine of Associalion. Semi-monthly. New-York. .
Vol. I. Nos. 14 and 15.
The remarks we made, incidentally and for the purpose of illustrating an argument, in our number for July, on the moral and religious bearings of some of the leading dogmata of the Fourierists, seem to have given some offence to the American Associationists; and their organ, The Phalanx, in its 14th and 15th numbers, replies to them with considerable spirit and severity. It treats us personally with very little respect, accuses uis of gross, almost culpable, ignorance ; calls us superficial, stupid, arrogant, self-conceited ; and asserts that we have wholly misapprehended and misrepresented the principles of the new Fourier religion. What relates to us personally in the reply of The Phalanz we shall pass over unnoticed, (save so far as to tell its editor, that his statement, that Mr. Brownson was formerly a blacksmith, is not true,) for it is Fourierism, and not we, that is on trial, and it is not good logic to conclude from our personal character to the truth or falsity of Fourier's doctrines. But to the charge of having misrepresented Fourierism, we feel bound, in justice to ourselves and our readers, to offer a reply.
It was far from our purpose in the remarks we made, as was apparent on their very face, to enter into any general exposition of Fourierism, or special discussion of its truth or falsity. We referred to Fourierism only incidentally, and for the sole purpose of illustrating certain points in an argument we were conducting. Yet, we own, that, in alluding to it, and setting forth some few of its principles, we were bound to set forth these principles fairly; and, if we misstated, misrepresented, or in any way falsified them, we were inexcusa
ble. We have read over the " notes" The Phalanx has appended to our remarks, with the care and attention they deserve. We hoped to discover from them that we were mistaken in our estimate of Fourierism, for it affords us no pleasure to see any portion of our brethren advocating immoral and infidel doctrines; but we are obliged to confess that we cannot perceive that they convict us of having done the Fourierists any injustice, and the charges we brought, instead of being removed, have, we are sorry to say, been confirmed.
The charges we brought against Fourierism were substantially three; l. It is repugnant to Christianity; 2. It supersedes the necessity of the Church ; 3. Even admitting its speculative truth, it is impotent to effect the social ameliorations it promises. These, no doubt, are serious charges, and, if they can be sustained, or any one of them, Fourierism is not only unworthy of our support, but deserving of our decided opposition. Are these charges well founded ? or are they false, growing, as The Phalanx pretends, out of the ignorance or malice of him who prefers them? This is the question before us, and which we propose to discuss at some little length, and with sufficient thoroughness to satisfy our Fourierists that the charges were not made inconsiderately, nor on slight grounds.
Before proceeding to this discussion, a word must be said as to the criterion by which we are to determine what is or is not Christianity. That the Fourierists very generally in public, and some of them in private, profess to be Christians, and that many of them may even believe themselves to be Christians, and really are Christians, according to their reading of Christianity, we have never denied, but frankly admitted, in the article which has given the offence. But this is not the question. The real question is, Are the Fourier dogmata repugnant or not to Christian dogmata? In asking this question, we of course assume that Christianity is something certain and fixed, not vague and fluctuating, varying with each individual interpreter. We do not propose our own private interpretations, and ask that they be accepted as Christianity, nor do we accept as Christianity the private interpretations of others. It is idle to talk about Christian truth at all, unless there be a common standard, a fixed and invariable standard, to which all are bound to conform, on pain of losing their right to the Christian name. This standard is the word of God, as preserved and interpreted by the Church. The Church is the only authorized interpreter of Christian truth; and to know what really are the Christian dogmata, we must consult her symbols, the decrees of councils, and the writings of the Fathers and accredited doctors. This is the only practicable rule. Any other rule would oblige us to accept the vagaries of every enthusiast, visionary, or ignorant speculator, however repugnant to truth and morals, as the revealed word of God. Is Fourierism, in its leading principles, — not in its
merely practical arrangements, concerning which we have as yet instituted no inquiry, — repugnant to Christianity, as authoritatively interpreted by the Church? We say that it is. In proof of this, we have said, addressing the Fourierists, –
"Your very starting point is at the opposite pole from Christianity, and your method [of reform) is the very opposite of that enjoined by the ever-blessed Son of God. You assume the perfection of human nature, the essential holiness of all man's instincts, passions, and tendencies, and contend that the evil in the world comes from causes extraneous to man; from causes which restrain, repress, his natural instincts and passions, and hinder their free, full, and harmonious development. This is your starting point. Christianity, all the world knows, teaches that evil comes from within, from man's abuse of the freedom essential to his being as man, and that, in consequence of this abuse, man's nature has become exceedingly disordered, his appetites and affections depraved, his moral tastes vitiated, so that he craves and relishes the meat that perisheth, rather than the meat that endureth unto everlasting life."
Assuming this statement of the view which the Christian religion takes of human nature, the origin of evil, and its effects on the moral nature of the sinner, to be correct, and assuming also our assertion with regard to Fourierism to be warranted by the facts in the case, the repugnance of Fourierism to Christianity on this capital point is too obvious to be mistaken. The Phalanx concedes the correctness of the statement, so far as it concerns the doctrines of Christianity ; but distinguishes in regard to the statement of what the Fourierists teach. It admits that Fourierism teaches the original perfection of human nature, and the essential holiness of all the instincts, passions, &c.; but contends that by the Fall this perfection and this holiness were lost, so that man now is corrupt in nearly all his ways and his thoughts," which, it contends, conforms to the Christian doctrine. Therefore there is no discrepancy between Fourierism and Christianity.
But we deny the right of the Fourierists, on their own principles, to make this distinction. We say that they assert the essential holiness of the instincts and of human nature, even as surviving the Fall; and that the *corruption which they admit is not a corruption of man's nature, does not affect the sources of human activity, the springs of action, but is merely the effect of the medium in which man acts, and the external direction and application of his activity. In proof, we quote The Phalanx itself. “What, then," it asks, (p. 109,) "do we mean by the essential perfection of man's instincts, &c. &c. ? Why, we mean that the same essential passions, which, misdirected and misapplied, lead only to evil, would, if rightly directed, lead to good.” If this means any thing beyond a mere truism, it must mean that the instincts and passions are in themselves pure, and not at all, as such, affected by the Fall; for otherwise the evil would attach to them, and not merely to their direction and application.
Mr. Godwin, who is the writer of the reply to us in The Phalanx, says, in his Popular View of the Doctrines of Charles Fourier, (p. 42,)“Now Fourier promises to man a social system, in which order will be produced by the free action of the passions. But let no one be so silly as to conclude from this, that we ask men to abandon themselves to their inclinations in the actual state of society. Constraint is indispensable in a false
medium ; liberty is foreign to it, and engenders, when fully indulged, only disorder and confusion." Here is no condemnation of the inclinations; but simply of the actual condition of society, as a false medium. Correct the medium, reorganize the social state, and then the abandonment to our inclinations would be lawful; which supposes the inclinations themselves to be incorrupt and legitimate.
Mr. Brisbane, the great apostle of the Fourier religion in this country, who enjoyed the advantage of the personal instructions of Fourier, and to whose exertions, more than to those of any other one man, the doctrine owes its popularity among us, may be quoted to the same effect.
"Moralists, philosophers, and legislators, seeing the passions perverted by a false order of things, and shocked at the discords and enormities which they engender in their deranged and perverted action, have supposed that the evil was in man,, not in the social organization. . . . . . Instead of condemning the passions, — the most perfect work of the Divinity on this earth, we should condemn our false societies and legislators, But philosophers and legislators have had more confidence in their work ihan in God's; and, instead of blaming their social laws and institutions, they have heaped upon Man the dark load of injustice, vice, and degradation, which should rest alone on their false theories and doctrines. The condemnation of man has gone on from age to age, until he has become degraded in his own eyes, and the doctrine of the depravity of human nature has become firmly established. This blasphemous doctrine, this practical atheism, is the foundation on which all past and present societies have been and are based; and we see in their disastrous and odious results a true picture of their outrageous foundation, insulting alike to the Divinity and to the dignity of man.” — Boston Quarterly Review, Vol. IV. pp. 495 – 497.
This would seem to be conclusive. Dr. Pellarin, in the work quoted at the head of this article, - a work written by one of the early disciples of Fourier, one of his ardent friends and admirers, who lived for years in personal intercourse and intimacy with him, and which is published by the assent and with the authorization of the Fourier or Societary School in Paris, and therefore