Saint-simon, Claude Henri

Saint-Simon, Claude Henri,

Count of, one of the most eminent so called socialistic or communistic philosophers of modern times. He was born at Paris of an ancient and noble family, April 17, 1760. Grownc up in the midst of religious and social agitation, he entered the army and was made a captain at the age of seventeen. In 1779 he went to America, fought under Bouille and Washington, was captured with the count de Grasse in 1782, and, at the conclusion of the war, returned to France and was promoted to a colonelcy. In 1785 he visited Holland and endeavored to induce the government to join with France in an expedition against the English in the East Indies. He then went to Spain with an eccentric project of uniting Madrid by a canal with the sea. Failing in both schemes, he returned to Paris, and, finding the Revolution in full blaze, laid aside his aristocratic name, and fell in with the popular current. By speculating in confiscated property he found himself, in 1797, in possession of 144,000 francs in specie. With this capital he led, the next ten years, a life of travel, study, experiment, and pleasure, and, in the intervals, brooded over a fanciful scheme of regenerating human society. Locating himself in the Latin Quarter, Paris, he studied the whole circle of physical and social sciences. This was his theoretical education; but he wanted also an experimental education. In order to this, he endeavored to realize in his own person the whole circle of human experiences, joys, and sorrows. He entered society; he gave banquets and balls; he gambled, drank, and debauched himself; he courted contagious diseases; he tried to keep off old age by medicaments and paint; he set all moral law aside, justifying it by the maxim that the end sanctified the means. It was right for him, the reformer, to do this. How could he apply the remedy if he had not himself felt the pain! He married in 1801, but, soon dissatisfied, he put away his young wife and sought out another. From this state of dissipation and theorizing he awoke just in time to find that his money was all gone, and that poverty was staring him in the face. The germs of Saint-Simon's system are given in his first publication, Lettres d'un Habitant a Geneve (1802). All men of thought were to form the spiritual order, all men of action the temporal order — an adaptation to modern society of the mediaeval distinction of the Romish Church. This work was followed in 1807 by his Introduction aux Travaux Scientifiques du 19ieme Siecle (Paris, 1807, 2 vols.). The novelty of these views attracted to Saint-Simon a circle of admiring youth, among whom were Olinde Rodrigues, Augustin Thierry, and Auguste Comte. This was the beginning of organized Saint-Simonism. In cooperation with these disciples, he now produced in rapid succession a Prospectus d'une Nouvelle Encyclopedie (1810): — De la Reorganisation de la Societe Europeenne (1814): — L'Industrie (1817): — L'Organisateur (1819): — Systeme Industriel (1821-22): — Catchisme des Industriels (1823): Opinions Litteraires, Philosophiques et Industrielles (1825). But these ambitious works did not produce the revolution in society which Saint- Simon looked for. They fell still born from the press, or were left unread. The pretended savior of mankind was oppressed with poverty and discouragement. Reaching the lowest depths in March, 1823, he made a fruitless attempt at suicide, but succeeded only in blowing out one of his eyes. Recovering from his wounds and despondency, he now summoned up his last powers in an endeavor to give the world a new religion. The result was his Nouveau Clhristianisme (Paris, 1825). In this he used many thoughts from the Bible. God is the infinite, universal being; he is the all; everything is in him and by him; his central essence is love; he reveals himself as reason, understanding, wisdom, strength, beauty. Man is his highest revelation. Man's ideal essence is also love. The ideal condition of humanity is not the enslaving of the one by the other, but the improvement of each by the other, and the transformation of earth into a paradise. By this process all evil is to be overcome and all bliss to be attained; men are to yield obedience to the authority of wisdom; all are to labor for the happiness of all. But the God of Saint-Simon was a vague abstraction; the system was simply materialism with a slight tincture of naturalistic pantheism. Material well being was the ideal paradise; Saint-Simonism was hedonism; Christianity was but a transient form of man's endeavor to find happiness. Catholicism did a good work in its day, so also did Protestantism; but Saint-Simonism was now to supersede all previous systems. The new era was to be brought about by two principles — an end and a means. The end was, the most rapid possible amelioration, physical and moral, of the condition of the class the most numerous and poor. The means was, to each man a vocation according to his capacity, and to each capacity a reward according to its works. The result aimed at was a sort of democratic epicureanism. It was an outbirth of a one-sided brooding over the conflict between capital and labor, noble and peasant, priest and devotee. It sprang of fanatical enthusiasm lor a vaguely comprehended good; it was devoid of high ethical thoughts; it had no just appreciation of the philosophy of history: hence it was of a highly artificial and sentimental character, and its speedy collapse was a matter of logical necessity. So soon, therefore, as Saint-Simon died (May 19, 1825), and the enthusiasm of his first disciples had occasion to come into contact with the practical facts of society, the system as a whole vanished into thin air. Dissensions arose. Rodrigues, Enfantin, Leroux, Bazard, Comte, each interpreted the master for himself, and each went his own way. The last remnant of organized Saint-Simonism was dispersed by decree of a civil court in August, 1832. After this date most of the members returned to the ranks of ordinary life, and the system became simply a matter of social history. See Carove, Der Saint-Simonismus (Leipzig, 1831); Veit, Saint-Simon (ibid. 1834); Matter, in Stud. u. Krit. (1832); Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 13, 317- 320; Encycl. Brit. (8th ed.), vol. 19. (J.P.L.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.