chapter  XI
33 Pages

The Saint-Simon School

Saint-Simon, with an extremely vital intellect and eager for knowledge, curious about everything new, gifted with a kind of intuitive empathy that made him sensitive to all the aspirations of his contemporaries, succeeded in making his work a kind of synthesis of all the tendencies of his time. On the other hand, he was always dominated by the same fixed idea, and across all the experiences and accidents of his career he had but one goalto reconstitute on rational and temporal bases-that is, with the aid of science and industry-the social system which the old regime’s ruin had disorganized. Thus the very different elements that successively entered into his doctrine grouped and crystallized themselves quite naturally around this main unifying thought. His system epitomizes the spirit of his time. And as it was the very spirit of the nineteenth century that was in the process of being elaborated, it is not surprising that we found the germs of all the great intellectual movements which simultaneously or successively occupied the thought of our epoch: the historic method, positivism in philosophy, socialist theories, and finally the aspirations for a religious regeneration. But despite their close relationship, these diverse currents could not co-exist in the same mind and work except by remaining unfinished. Certainly no marked differences among them strike the observer when he views them at a certain distance from their common source; deriving from the same collective state, they can only be different aspects of a similar social conscience. But as each was very com­ plex in itself, they could develop only by dividing. The material was too rich. This is why none of his successors continued his thinking in full but divided it among themselves. Even in SaintSimon’s lifetime, Augustin Thierry first, and then Auguste Comte, had separated from their teacher and had undertaken, one his historical work and the other his philosophic labor, apart from the master and his influence. As for the social and religious

theories, after Saint-Simon’s death they became the appendage of the school, which, because it consisted mainly of the friends of his last hours, assumed and retained in history the name of the “Saint-Simonian School.” We will examine it because, follow­ ing Saint-Simon, it has played a part that has much interest for our study. But it is important to indicate that it was formed by a kind of dismemberment of the system-and consequently is its successor only in part.