Charles Fourier, Framework for the Integral Study of Nature

FOURIER
ON THE UNITY OF SYSTEM IN UNIVERSAL NATURE.
Modern sophists, particularly in France, have generally aimed at explaining the unity of system which is remarkable in universal nature, and yet the philosophical world never was farther removed from the right line of study on this subject than at present. There is hardly a correct idea abroad
concerning the fundamental basis of universalism or general unity, which may be thus resumed:—
Unity of man with man,
Unity of man with God,
Unity of man with the universe.
In this book it will be demonstrated that philosophers have either purposely or unwittingly neglected to study the first of these three primordial branches of unity: that of man with man, or man in society, and particularly of man with himself or his own passions, which, in the present incoherent slate of social organization, are in a slate of general deviation and discord, hurrying headlong to ruin those individuals who suffer them to rule.
This duplicity of action, or discord of man with his own nature, has given birth to a science called morale, which mistakes the duplicity of action in human nature for a sign of innate depravity, and the irretrievable destiny of mankind. This science teaches us to resist the impulse of our passions, and be constantly at war with our natural inclinations; and, as a necessary consequence, it places man in a state or opposition to his Maker, who created those inclinations; for those passions and instincts which animate all living beings were given to them by God as the laws of their being, and guides to their respective destinies.
To this it is objected by metaphysical casuists, that reason was given to man to control his passions; whence it would follow, 1st—That God had subjected us to the rule of two guides, which are eminently dissimilar and irreconcileable, i. e., reason and passion. (This constitutes a thorough discrepancy in theory.)
2nd—That God would be absolutely unjust towards 99 men in every 100 to whom he has not given enough reason tp govern their passions. In all countries it has been observed that the mass of the people are almost devoid of reason; and, therefore, according to this doctrine, there is a great lack of distributive justice on the part of Deity. (This constitutes a thorough discrepancy in distributive unity.)
3rd—God, in giving us reason as a means of counter-balancing the passions, would have acted very injudiciously; for it is notoriously evident that reason is totally inadequate to the government of the passions, even amongst the fell’ who have been most richly endowed with it, for those very men who talk most about reason, such as Voltaire and other philosophers, have been more subject to the impulse of their passions than any other men. (This fact constitutes a thorough discrepancy in the practical part of moralism.)
So that the boasted science of moralism sets out by a complete negation of the first branch of unity, and places man in a triple state of duplicity with himself and his fellow-beings; a principle winch is as monstrous as it is arbitrary, and which aims at nothing less than accusing Deity of a triple and wilful duplicity in creating the passions.
There is nothing admissible in these three hypotheses of moralism: they will be duly analysed and fully refuted in the three first sections of this book, wherein it will be demonstrated that all the aberrations of metaphysical sophistry have originated in one grand error; that of omitting the study of passional attraction, the analytical and synthetical calculation of which would have led to the discovery of their natural functions in the equilibrium of passion and reason, which are as perfectly accordant with each other in an associative medium as they are necessarily discordant in competitive society.
Being ignorant of the first primordial branch of unity, that of man with himself and his fellow-beings, it is not extraordinary that philosophers should be ignorant of the second and third branches of universal unity; unity of man with his Maker and with the universe. The study of the first branch being incomplete, the two others were necessarily undiscovered.
Thus, therefore, has the whole system of nature been unknown to philosophy, and the genius of man has been limited to an imperfect knowledge of a few secondary branches of nature’s laws, such as the theory of gravitation or material attraction, which is only a fragment at the third primordial branch of general unity. Newton’s discovery ought to have led the way from the study of material to that of passional attraction, in order to discover what were the natural laws of passional affinity; what was the domestic and social organization which God had pre-ordained, as being best adapted to the natural and harmonic development of human instincts and passions; what was the true Slate of industrial activity, for it has ever been abundantly evident that the present state of things is out of harmony with nature.
It has been vaguely laid down as a general principle, that man is made for society; but it has not been clearly stated that society may be organized on two fundamentally different principles: that of association and that of individualism, or competition and cooperation. The difference between the two is exactly analogous to, and correlative with, the difference between truth and falsehood, riches and poverty, justice and injustice, light and darkness, brutality and refinement; and, to go from the medium to the two extremes in the creation, the difference is analogous to that which distinguishes the planet from the comet, in the solar system, and the creeping caterpillar from the beauteous butterfly, in the world of insects.
The natural method of speculation on this subject is exceedingly simple.
There can be but two fundamentally different modes of organizing industry, namely, the divisional system of culture by isolated families and individuals as we see it now, and the associative system of culture and industry, by means of numerous bodies acting in co·operative unity, and possessing an exact science of equitable repartition to each individual, according to the respective faculties of industrial production, i. e, capital, science, and labour.
We have only to ask ourselves which of these two modes of social activity is the one especially designed by God? The competitive or the co-operative organization? There can be no room for hesitation in deciding this question. As the Supreme Economist, God must necessarily prefer the associative state of society, which is the most perfectly economical, and, in order to facilitate the establishment of this perfect state of society, the Creator must have pre-ordained a scientific basis of co·operative organization, the discovery of which was the task of human genius.
If association be the law of justice and the will of God, it follows as a matter of course that the competitive state should be the very contrary, and generate every thing which is in contradiction with justice and truth; in a word, it naturally engenders effects which are diabolical and contrary to the spirit of truth, and such are its natural results as they are manifested in poverty, fraud, violence, oppression, carnage, &c. &c.
And, moreover, since it is evident that every variety of competitive society, patriarchal, barbarian, and civilized, only tend to perpetuate these diabolical results in defiance of scientific discoveries, it is quite clear that our only resource is in the adoption of co-operative principles and organization.
The present generation ought to have turned its attention to the problem of association, but neither statesmen nor economists have thought seriously of doing so, and philosophers are too deeply enamoured of their own theories to think of abandoning the long cherished sophisms.
At length, however, the discovery is made, and what is more, it is made completely, in all its degrees; but it has one great blemish in the eyes of philosophy: it is in direct contradiction with all previous systems of social mechanism, and it dispenses at once with those uncertain sciences called politics, metaphysics, moralism, and economism.
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2108 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.