The Conditions of Existence (from “Economy”)

[Ms. 2867 contains a section on the “Principles of the Philosophy of Progress,” which focuses on the character of collective beings and collective reason. It opens with the following notes on the “conditions of existence:”]


Man is made up of parts called members or organs. What makes his reality is the animistic gathering of these organs in a whole that, as long as it lives, is called a person.

In the same way, a society is made up of parts that are persons or aggregations of persons. What established the social reality is the intellectual consent of these persons and aggregations in an ultimate whole that we call, as long as it endures, company, association, municipality, city, people, etc.

It is thus with all the existences that we can observe: it is always conglomerations of organisms or societies, formed of simpler parts, according to some unifying law.

1.—I generalize from this observation and I say: Every perceptible existence, from the grain of sand or drop of water to the man and the society, invariably and necessarily possesses the double character of unity and collectivity. So I have a right to consider the two terms as correlative and inseparable, as much in nature as in logic, and I define the being as a group.

The idea of a simple being is contradictory. Atomism is a fiction. For the same reason, substance in itself, prior to all phenomenality, is only a metaphysical notion: it does not exist.

2.—Every being, which is to say every group, or to remain within the terms of the definition, every unity-collectivity, by the very fact that it is a plurality of elements assembled according to a law, manifests an internal, radiant energy, capable at least of maintaining the unities that make up the group.

I generalize further, and I say: Existence implies force. These two ideas, like those of unity and collectivity, are correlative and inseparable, in nature as in the understanding. An existence without force is a contradiction. A force, without a group that sustains, represents and produces it, is, like substance in itself, a chimera: it does not exist.

3.—All beings, by virtue of the personal, radiant energy that constitutes them, attract and repel one another reciprocally, tend to unite to form other groups or to be absorbed and dissolved, by the centralization and dispersion of their forces. That is an empirical fact sufficiently demonstrated by molecular attraction, the phenomena of vegetation and life, and History…

I generalize once again and I say: Creation is the ascending movement of existences; the chain of beings has no end: the universe, always changing, is eternal.

4.—There is then, for every being, two manners of manifesting its existence, and it could only have two: its composition, and its action.—Action, in certain beings becomes thought and speech.

Let us apply these principles to the study of economic phenomena.

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