What Shall We Do? : Chapter 36

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(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "People who take part in Government, or work under its direction, may deceive themselves or their sympathizers by making a show of struggling; but those against whom they struggle (the Government) know quite well, by the strength of the resistance experienced, that these people are not really pulling, but are only pretending to." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
• "Only by recognizing the land as just such an article of common possession as the sun and air will you be able, without bias and justly, to establish the ownership of land among all men, according to any of the existing projects or according to some new project composed or chosen by you in common." (From : "To the Working People," by Leo Tolstoy, Yasnaya P....)
• "You are surprised that soldiers are taught that it is right to kill people in certain cases and in war, while in the books admitted to be holy by those who so teach, there is nothing like such a permission..." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)


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Chapter 36


“But science! art! You repudiate science, art; that is, you repudiate that by which mankind live.”

I am always hearing this: people choose this way to put aside my arguments altogether without analyzing them. “He repudiates science and art; he wishes to turn men back again to the savage state; why, then, should we listen to him, or argue with him?”

But this is unjust. Not only do I not repudiate science—human reasonable activity—and art,—the expression of this reasonable activity,—but it is actually in the name of this reasonable activity and its expression that I speak what I do, in order that mankind may avoid the savage state towards which they are rapidly moving, owing to the false teaching of our time.

Science and art are as necessary to men as food, drink, and clothes,—even still more necessary than these; but they become such, not because we decide that what we call science and art are necessary, but because they are truly necessary to men. Now, if I should prepare hay for the bodily food of men, my idea that hay is food would not make it to be so. I cannot say, Why do you not eat hay when it is your necessary food? Food is, indeed, necessary, but perhaps what I offer is not food at all.

This very thing has happened with our science and art. And to us it seems that when we add to a Greek word the termination logy, and call this science, it will be science indeed; and if we call an indecency, like the painting of naked women, by the Greek word “choreography,” and term it art, it will be art indeed.

But however much we may say this, the business which we are about, in counting up the insects, and chemically analyzing the contents of the Milky Way, in painting water-nymphs and historical pictures, in writing novels, and in composing symphonies, this, our business, will not become science or art until it is willingly accepted by those for whom it is being done.

Till now it has not been accepted. If some men only were allowed to prepare food, and all others were either forbidden to do it, or be rendered incapable of producing it, I daresay that the quality of the food would deteriorate. If the men who had the exclusive privilege of producing food were Russian peasants, then there would be no other food than black bread, kvas, potatoes, and onions, which they are fond of, and which is agreeable to them. The same would be the case with that highest human activity in art and science if their exclusive privilege were appropriated by one caste, with this difference only, that in bodily food there cannot be too great digressions from the natural;—bread as well as onions, though unsavory food, is still eatable:—but in mental food there may be great digressions; and some men may for a very long time feed upon an unnecessary, or even hurtful and poisonous, mental food; they themselves may slowly kill themselves with opium or with spirits, and this sort of food they may offer to the masses of the people.

This very thing has happened to us. And it has happened because men of art and science are in privileged conditions; because art and science in our world are not that mental activity of all mankind, without any exception, who separate their best powers for the service of art and science: but it is the activity of a small company of men having the monopoly of these occupations, and calling themselves scientists and artists; and therefore they have perverted the very conceptions of art and science, and lost the sense of their own calling, and are merely occupied in amusing a small company of parasites and saving them from burdensome dullness.

Since men have existed, they have always had science in the plainest and largest sense of the word. Science, as the sum of all human information, has always been in existence; and without it life is not conceivable, and there is no necessity whatever either to attack or to defend it.

But the fact is this, that the reason of this knowledge is so various, so much information of all kinds enters into it, from information how to obtain iron up to the knowledge about movements of the celestial bodies, that man would be lost among all this varied information if he had no clew to help him to decide which of all these kinds of information is more important, and which less.

Therefore, the highest wisdom of men has always consisted in finding out the clew whereby to arrange the information of men, and to decide what kinds of information are more, and what are less, important. This which has directed all other knowledge, men have always called science in the strictest sense of the word. Such science has always been, up to the present time, in human societies which have left the savage state behind them. Since mankind has existed teachers have appeared in every nation to form science in this strict sense,—the science about what it is most necessary for men to know. The object of this science has always been the inquiry as to what was the destiny, and therefore the true welfare, of each man and of all men. This science has served as a clew to determine the importance and the expression of all other sciences. Such information and art as cooperated with the science of man's destiny and welfare were considered highest in public opinion.

Such was the science of Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Socrates, Christ, Mohammed,—science such as it has been understood by all men save our own circle of so-called educated people.

Such a science has not only always occupied the first place, but it is the one science which has determined the importance of other sciences. And this, not at all because so-called learned men of our time imagine that it is only deceitful priests and teachers of this science who have given it such an importance, but because, as, indeed, everyone can learn by his own inward experience, without the science of man's destiny and welfare, there cannot be any determining of other values, or any choice of art and science for man. And, therefore, there cannot be any study of science, for there are innumerable quantities of subjects to which science may be applied. I italicize the word innumerable, as I use it in its exact value.

Without knowledge as to what constitutes the calling and welfare of all men, all other arts and sciences become, as is really the case with us at present, only an idle and pernicious amusement. Mankind have been living long, and they have never been living without a science relative to the calling and welfare of men: it is true that the science of the welfare of men to a superficial observation appears to be different with Buddists, Brahmins, Hebrews, Christians, with the followers of Confucius and those of Laotse, though one need only reflect on these teachings in order to see their essential unity; where men have left the savage state behind them, we find this science; and now of a sudden it turns out that modern men have decided that this very science which has been till now the guide of all human information, is the obstacle in the way of everything.

Men build houses; one architect makes one estimate, another makes a second, and so on. The estimates are a little different, but they are separately correct; and every one sees that, if each estimate is fulfilled, the house will be erected. Such architects are Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Christ. And now certain men come and assure us that the chief thing to come by is the absence of any estimate, and that men ought to build anyhow according to eyesight. And this “anyhow” these men call the most exact science, as the Pope terms himself the “most holy.”

Men deny every science, the most essential science of men's calling and welfare; and this denial of science they call science. Since men have existed, great intellects have always appeared, which, in the struggle with the demands of their reason and conscience, have put to themselves questions concerning the calling and welfare, not only of themselves individually, but of every man. What does that Power, which created me, require from me and from each man? And what am I to do in order to satisfy the craving ingrafted in me for a personal and a common welfare?

They have asked themselves, I am a whole and a part of something unfathomable, infinite: what are to be my relations to other parts similar to me,—to men and to the whole?

And from the voice of conscience and from reason, and from consideration on what men have said who lived before, and from contemporaries who have asked themselves the same questions, these great teachers have deduced teachings,—plain, clear, intelligible to all men, and always such as can be put into practice.

Such men were of the first, second, third, and all magnitudes. The world is full of such men. All living men put to themselves the question, How am I to reconcile my own demands for personal life with conscience and reason, which demand the common good of all men? And out of this common travail new forms of life are evolved slowly, but unceasingly, satisfying more and more the demands of reason and conscience.

And of a sudden a new caste of men appears, who say, All these are nonsense, and are to be left behind. This is the deductive way of thinking (though wherein lies the difference between the inductive and the deductive way of thinking, nobody ever has been able to understand), and this is also the method of the theological and metaphysical periods.

All that men have understood by inward experience, and have related to each other concerning the consciousness of the law of their own life (functional activity, in their cant phrase); all that from the beginning of the world has been done in this direction by the greatest intellects of mankind,—all these are trifles, having no weight whatever.

According to this new teaching, you are the cell of an organism, and the problem of your reasonable activity consists in trying to ascertain your functional activity. In order to ascertain this, you must make observations outside yourself.

The fact that you are a cell which thinks, suffers, speaks, and understands, and that for that very reason you can inquire of another similar speaking, suffering cell whether he or she suffers and rejoices in the same way as yourself, and that thus you may verify your own experience; and the fact that you may make use of what the speaking cells, who lived and suffered before you wrote on the subject; and your knowledge that millions of cells agreeing with what the past cells have written, confirm your own experience, that you yourself are a living cell, who always, by a direct inward experience, apprehend the correctness or incorrectness of your own functional activity,—all this means nothing, we are told: it is all a false and evil method.

The true scientific method is this: If you wish to learn in what your functional activity consists, what is your destiny and welfare, and what the destiny of mankind, and of the whole world, then first you must cease to listen to the voice and demands of your conscience and of your reason, which manifest themselves inwardly to you and to your fellow-men; you must leave off believing all that the great teachers of humanity have said about their own conscience and reason, and you must consider all this to be nonsense, and begin at the beginning.

And in order to begin from the beginning, you have to observe through a microscope the movements of amœbæ and the cells of tape-worms; or, still easier, you must believe everything that people with the diploma of infallibility may tell you about them. And observing the movements of these amœbæ and cells, or reading what others have seen, you must ascribe to these cells your own human feelings and calculations as to what they desire, what are their tendencies, their reflections and calculations, their habits; and from these observations (in which each word contains some mistake of thought or of expression), according to analogy, you must deduce what is your own destiny, and what that of other cells similar to you.

In order to be able to understand yourself, you must study not merely the tape-worm which you see, but also microscopic animalcules which you cannot see, and the transformation from one set of things into another, which neither you nor anybody else has ever seen, and which you certainly will never see.

The same holds good with art. Wherever a true science has existed, it has been expressed by art. Since men have existed they have always separated out of all their activities, from their varied information, the chief expression of science, the knowledge of man's destination and welfare; and art, in the strict sense of the word, has been the expression of this.

Since men have existed, there have always been persons particularly sensitive to the teaching of man's welfare and destiny, who have expressed in word, and upon psaltery and cymbals, their human struggle with deceit which led them aside from their true destiny, and their sufferings in this struggle, their hopes about the victory of good, their despair about the triumph of evil, and their raptures in expectation of coming welfare.

Since men have existed, the true art, that which has been valued most highly by men, had no other destiny than to be the expression of science on man's destiny and welfare.

Always down to the present time art has served the teaching of life (afterwards called religion), and it has only been this art which men have valued so highly.

But contemporaneously with the fact that in place of the science of man's destiny and welfare appears the science of universal knowledge,—since science lost its own sense and meaning, and true science has been scornfully called religion,—true art, as an important activity of men, has disappeared.

As long as the church existed, and taught men's calling and welfare, art served the church, and was true; but from the moment it left the church, and began to serve a science which served everything it met, art lost its meaning, and, notwithstanding its old-fashioned claims, and a stupid assertion that art serves merely art itself, and nothing else, it has turned out to be a trade which procures luxuries for men, and unavoidably mixes itself with choreography, culinary art, hair-dressing, and cosmetics, the producers of which may call themselves artists with as much right as the poets, painters, and musicians of our day.

Looking back, we see that during thousands of years, from among thousands of millions of men who have lived, there came forth a few like Confucius, Buddha, Solon, Socrates, Solomon, Homer, Isaiah, David. True artist-producers of spiritual food seem to appear seldom among men, notwithstanding the fact that they appear, not from one caste only, but from among all men; and it is not without cause that mankind have always so highly valued them. And now it turns out that we have no longer any need of all these former great factors of art and science.

Now, according to the law of the division of labor, it is possible to manufacture scientific and artistic factors almost mechanically; and in the space of ten years we shall manufacture more great men of art and science than have been born among all men from the beginning of the world. Nowadays there is a trade corporation of learned men and artists, and by an improved way they prepare all the mental food which is wanted by mankind. And they have prepared so much of it, that there need no longer be any remembrance of the old producers, not only of the very ancient, but also of the more recent,—all their activity, we are told, was the activity of the theological and metaphysical period: all had to be destroyed, and the true, mental activity began some fifty years ago.

And in these fifty years we have manufactured so many great men that in a German university there are more of them than have been in the whole world, and of sciences we have manufactured a great number too; for one need only put to a Greek word the termination logy, and arrange the subject according to ready-made paragraphs, and the science is created: we have thus manufactured so many sciences that not only cannot one man know them all, but he cannot even remember all their names,—these names alone would fill a large dictionary; and every day new sciences come into existence.

In this respect we are like that Finnish teacher who taught the children of a land-owner the Finnish language instead of the French. He taught very well; but there was one drawback,—that nobody, except himself, understood it. We have learned everything very well, but the pity of it is that nobody but ourselves understands it, and that everybody else considers it good-for-nothing nonsense.

But to this also there is an explanation: Men do not understand all the utility of the scientific science because they are still under the influence of the theological period of knowledge, that stupid period when all the people of the Hebrew race, as well as the Chinese and Indians and Greeks, understood everything spoken to them by their great teachers.

But whatever may be the cause, the fact is this,—that art and science have always existed among mankind; and when they really existed, then they were necessary and intelligible to all men.

We are busy about something which we call art and science, and it turns out that what we are busy about is neither necessary nor intelligible to men. So that we have no right to give the name of art or science to our doings.

From : Gutenberg.org


November 30, 1903 :
Chapter 36 -- Publication.

February 19, 2017 16:25:13 :
Chapter 36 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

February 14, 2020 13:41:24 :
Chapter 36 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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