Dead World, Living Hearts: Elements of Romantic Mythology

Diogenes 46 (182):89-108 (1998)
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Abstract

The Reveries sur la nature primitive de l'homme are one of the important books of the dawn of the nineteenth century. In this text, Senancour limns an image of the world in accordance with the scientific thought of his time. It is a disenchanted image, dominated by mechanical necessity, and in it the distinction between good and evil no longer holds. God is absent; the world is not his creation. And Senancour expresses no regret:Everything in nature is indifferent, for everything is necessary: all is beautiful, for all is determined. The individual is nothing, as a being apart: his cause and his end lie beyond him. Only the whole exists absolutely, invincibly, with no other cause, with no other end beyond itself, with no laws but those of its nature, with no other product than its permanence…. The beautiful, the true, the just, evil, and disorder exist only for the weakness of mortals…. The same earth contains happy orchards and ruinous volcanoes. The villain triumphs, the hero dies; the orchard withers, the volcano is snuffed out; one and the same destruction devours both the animate and the inanimate, shrouded in the same oblivion; and in a world reborn, there remains not a trace of what was abhorred or deified in a bygone world.

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