April 04, 2011

192 Jahre William Batchelder Greene

Eine der ungewöhnlicheren Figuren des amerikanischen Individualismus und Individualanarchismus des 19. Jahrhunderts war der unitarische Pastor William Batchelder Greene, der, neben seinen zahlreichen religiösen, philosophischen und mathematischen Schriften auch als erster den Proudhonschen Mutualismus in den USA verbreitete, wobei mehr noch als Proudhon vor allem Pierre Leroux einen maßgeblichen Einfluss auf Greene ausübte. Auch die folgende Textpassage aus dem 1849 in Boston erschienenen geschichtsphilosophischem Werk Remarks on the science of history; followed by an a priori autobiography über das alte Problem Freiheit und Notwendigkeit zeugt vom Lerouxschen Einfluss:

"One evening, while I was in a reclining posture, meditating upon Free Will and Fate, I fell into a sort of trance: I was neither awake nor asleep, but in a state bordering on ecstacy. At once, all distinct thought vanished from my mind, no object presented itself to my imagination ; but the abyss, with all its emptiness spread itself before me, Then came a certain something that was invisible, untangible, altogether vague, without character, undefinable, which seemed to be premonitory of something that was to follow. After this, I felt the essential Being, which is my soul, the I, moving itself as it were blindly forward into the Abyss. I became at once conscious of my hidden potential Being, though not of its faculties. Immediately, objects and images started up to my imagination, and the potential force instantly so coalesced with them, that I was conscious of nothing but the contemplation in imagination of the representation of a well known locality.

I had little difficulty in finding the meaning of these phenomena. I saw, at once, that all my trouble had come from my neglect to apply a sufficient stress of logic, when I endeavored to trace out the consequences of the simple and evident fact that I was a relative, and not an absolute, efficient cause. It is hard to reconcile Liberty and Necessity in a statement in words, but the reconciliation is very simple in fact. It is impossible, by any arithmetical process, to extract the square root of two exactly ; nevertheless, there is a square root of two, and it may be constructed geometrically with perfect exactness ; for the hypothenuse of a right angled triangle, having each side of the right angle equal to one, is exactly the square root of two. Every act of life is a perfect practical reconciliation of the powers of free will and destiny. In fact, Life may be defined as that which practically reconciles liberty and necessity. Every act of life is, at once, free and necessitated : free, because it is originated by an efficient cause acting by its own power, necessitated because this cause acts in concurrence with the circumstances falling under the dominion of Destiny. It is necessitated, because no Vital Principle can manifest itself, that is live, except in relations to that which it contradistinguishes from itself. "We cannot ask whether man be free or determined, in his actions ; for he is at once free and determined. The true question is this : How far is man free, and how far is he determined in his actions ? Every act of man is on one side free, because that side is originated by the self-acting power of the soul ; and on the other determined, because that other side is regulated by conditions originating in the Order of Destiny.

The soul may be compared to a fountain of water : if this fountain be situated in empty space, and well forth into an infinite vacuum, without bottom, without sides, if it be subjected to no law, it will become infinitely attenuated, it will flow as it were, no where, and will produce no effect, because there will be nothing on which it can produce an effect ; in like manner the soul, considered by itself apart, in its potential state, though perfectly free, will do nothing ; because there is no reason why it should do one thing rather than another. A perfect Liberty, that is, a Will that is determined by nothing but itself, will do nothing whatever, but remain always in the potential state - it will remain dead ; that is, without manifestation and activity, in which life consists. But, if this fountain of water be situated on the surface of the earth, where it can work its way between hard banks, it will be confined, limited, and will roll on, a noble and majestic river, taking its chara cter from the country through which it passes, and itself conferring a character upon the country wherever it flows. Alone, and by itself, the soul, though containing immeasurable capabilities, is altogether imperceptible ; but, defined and limited by the objects with which it enters into relation, it manifests itself, and becomes as the noble river.

As the soul may overcome Destiny in the outward course of nature, by studying its Laws, by understanding it, and then make a mere servant of it by bringing (through the originative power of our own souls) new principles into its fatal wheel of operation, thus cultivating it, making it bring forth what we please, even as we cultivate a field, gathering fruit from it, according to the seed we sow, - so the soul may overcome Destiny in the nearer sphere of our own bodies, by operating in like manner toward it. The soul may make a servant of Destiny, but cannot separate its actions from the movement of fatality ; and it is well for us that this is so, for Destiny is the most useful servant and instrument that is given to man : it is a present worthy of the Universal Power.

If a man live according to his instinctive tendencies, he will be moved by the impulse of nature, and will be, like the animals, under the control of Destiny. If he live according to his ruling passions, he will have escaped, to a certain extent, from the power of Destiny ; because he will live under powers which are destiny transformed by the action of his own efficient nature. If he live according to Wisdom, according to the results of the action of his intelligence upon the facts gathered from experience, and treasured up in his memory, he will be free, and Destiny will be his slave.
Upon further meditation, I found that these were far from being the only conclusions which a fair logic might draw from the principle that our life is the activity of a relative efficient cause. - This activity, which is our Life, is the relation itself which subsists between us and the object in concurrence with which we live : and this is but another statement of the magnificent formula of Pierre Leroux, that All Life Is At Once Subjective And Objective."
William Batchelder Greene, Remarks on the science of history; followed by an a priori autobiography, Boston, 1849, S.92-96.

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