Like many students, Marcel Proust enjoyed a night out. By early 1895, at the age of twenty-three, and in stark contrast to the popular image of Proust the sickly, bed-ridden recluse, he had become a ‘well-known personality’ in Parisian society, ‘a sort of dandy figure out of Balzac’. According to Jean-Yves Tadié, between January and April 1895, Proust was seen at some eighteen soirées and performances (musical, theatrical). Meanwhile, in spite of the frenetic rhythm of his social and night life, Proust also completed a bachelor's degree in literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne. Between October 1894 and March 1895, he attended lectures in the Latin Quarter delivered by the psychologist and epistemologist Victor Egger (receiving an unremarkable 11/20 for an essay on ‘Socrates' philosophy’), by the idealist philosopher of science and religion Émile Boutroux (whose lectures in 1894–5, judging by the topics set for the written examinations, focused on Descartes and his relation to classical philosophy), and by the aesthetician Gabriel Séailles, under whose instruction Proust became familiar with the work of the German idealists F. W. J. Schelling and Arthur Schopenhauer. He also took private lessons with Alphonse Darlu, his former philosophy master at the Lycée Condorcet (where Proust was a pupil between 1882 and 1889), on whom M. Beulier, the teacher in Jean Santeuil, is often said to be based.
While little is known about the precise content of the philosophical curriculum Proust followed either between 1894 and 1895 or in earlier years, it was, according to Tadié, Boutroux and Darlu who made the most profound impression on the young student. Through their teaching, he was introduced to ‘the notions of faith in the human spirit, Kantian idealism, . . . in a reality hidden behind appearances, and the rigours of analysis, which flew in the face of the misty imprecision dear to the Symbolists and sometimes to Bergson’ (we shall return to the influence of Bergson in due course). For Tadié, ‘this year of studying for his philosophy degree was just as vital for Proust's development as his emotional or social life’. Indeed, in a questionnaire completed around 1895, Proust names Boutroux and Darlu as his ‘heroes from real life’ (ASB, 114; CSB, 337).
Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu is a privileged object in the fields of philosophy and literary theory, as well as in rather less easily identifiable critical spaces in which literary criticism, political theory, psychoanalysis and visual theory overlap. Proust functions in multifarious ways across and between disciplines, including critical theory, deconstruction, feminism, hermeneutics, Marxism, narratology, structuralism, post-Marxism and post-structuralism. Among prominent philosophers, theorists and literary critics of the 1960s and 1970s, Roland Barthes, Leo Bersani, Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Serge Doubrovsky, Gérard Genette, René Girard, Félix Guattari, Julia Kristeva, Emmanuel Lévinas, Georges Poulet and Jean-Pierre Richard (to name only some of the most influential) have all written at length about Proust. Their understanding of Proust varies widely, but for all of them something more than straightforward exemplarity is at stake: Proust's name is not simply one among others.
It is beyond the scope of this essay to explore each significant engagement with À la recherche across two decades of radically shifting critical landscapes. Instead, I shall try to identify some non-totalizing affinities – what Gilles Deleuze, following Proust, calls ‘transversals’ – between a selection of readings of Proust's work from this period that have endured. Each of these readings provides a different response to the question posed by Deleuze at the very beginning of his Proust and Signs, first published in 1964: ‘In what does the unity of À la recherche du temps perdu consist?’
In beginning a discussion of Kant's notion of ‘Freedom’ which he himself considers to be essentially connected with his Ethical system, it seems most important to emphasize that fact that, so far as his express statements are concerned, he accepts unconditionally the view of Determinism and rejects that of Freedom, in the only sense in which the two have been generally discussed by English thinkers. In ordinary controversies on the subject, no such absolute distinction is drawn between two kinds of ‘causality’, two kinds of ‘determination’ (Bestimmung – the sense which is implied in ‘Determinism’), two kinds of ‘possibility’, or finally an ‘intelligible’ and an ‘empirical’ character, as is drawn by Kant. Professor Sidgwick, indeed, puts the question in such a form that Kant's answer would probably have to be on the Libertarian side; but this result seems only to be obtained at the cost of the above-mentioned ambiguity. ‘Is the self’ he says ‘to which I refer my deliberate volitions a self of strictly determinate moral qualities, a definite character partly inherited, partly formed by my past actions and feelings, and by any physical influences that it may have unconsciously received; so that my voluntary action, for good or for evil, is at any moment completely caused by the determinate qualities of this character together with my circumstances, or the external influences acting on me at the moment – including under the latter term my present bodily conditions?
The scope of ‘Ethics’ has been very variously defined. Without prejudging any of the questions which it will be necessary to discuss hereafter, it may be stated summarily that the subject of the present essay is an enquiry into the nature of that which we denote by the terms ‘good’ or ‘what ought to be’. It may, perhaps, be well to confine the term ‘Ethics’, as does Professor Sidgwick, for example, to ‘the science or study of what is right or what ought to be, so far as this depends upon the voluntary action of individuals’. Such a view is often roughly expressed by defining Ethics as ‘The Science’ or ‘Art of Conduct’; and such is the scope of Aristotle's Ethics, the book from which the term has been derived. ‘Ethics’ would thus take its place beside ‘Politics’, in the sense in which the latter is distinguished by Professor Sidgwick from Political Philosophy on the one hand and Political Science on the other. It is, perhaps, best on this view of its scope, to adopt Professor Mackenzie's term and call it a ‘Normative Science’; for the term ‘Art’ would seem to be most properly confined to the actual pursuit of some end or group of ends, in so far as such pursuit involves a systematic use of certain definite means, and not to include any statement of or enquiry into the rules by which such end or ends may be attained.
In the common notion of freedom the most universal characteristic seems to be the absence of external constraint, whether asserted to impel or to prevent. Where the immediate cause of a motion or change seems to lie in the thing which moves or changes and not in anything outside it, there, in a sense at all events, freedom is predicable. But this is a notion which is obviously not limited to human actions. Many of the movements and changes of animals and plants have their proximate causes in the things themselves; and the same might probably be said of any body in so far as it moved in accordance with Newton's second Law of Motion. It is thus we seem to talk of ‘free as air’, or of the wheels of a watch moving ‘freely’.
But there is an obvious defect in this wide notion, in that the limits, whether spatial or temporal, of any group we may take for our unit or thing, are always more or less arbitrary. A watch may be moving freely when its spring is driving it; but the movement of any one of its wheels is not free, because the wheel is driven by the spring or by another wheel. And, again, there seems no reason why we should single out the proximate or immediate cause for such preëminence, nor anything to determine how far back in the past a cause ceases to be proximate.
The greater part of the Dissertation, which I submitted for examination last year, has been included in the present work. Some omissions and alterations, involving an important change of view have been made; and nearly as much again of new matter has been added. I have followed the suggestions of my examiners in attempting to distinguish more clearly between my own views and those of Kant; and, in deference to the same suggestions, I have added an appendix on the chronology of Kant's ethical writings.
I have consulted the works of Caird and Adamson among English writers on Kant, and of Kuno Fischer, Benno Erdmann, J. H. Erdmann, Cohen and Vaihinger among the Germans. Had I been giving a general account of Kant's philosophy, I should, no doubt, have had large obligations to acknowledge to all of these writers: as it is, I probably owe to them more than I can estimate. But I have not consciously taken any of my views directly from them.
For my own metaphysical views, I am no doubt chiefly indebted to Bradley. But I have come to disagree with him on so many points, and those points of importance, that I doubt if I can name any special obligations. For my ethical views it will be obvious how much I owe to Prof. Sidgwick.
The scope of ‘Ethics’ has been very variously defined. Without prejudging any of the questions which it will be necessary to discuss hereafter, it may be stated summarily that the subject of the present essay is an enquiry into the nature of that which we denote by the terms ‘good’ or ‘what ought to be’. It may, perhaps, be well to confine the term ‘Ethics’, as does Professor Sidgwick, for example (p. 4), to ‘the science or study of what is right or what ought to be, so far as this depends upon the voluntary action of individuals’. Such a view is often roughly expressed by defining Ethics as ‘The Science’ or ‘Art of Conduct’; and such is the scope of Aristotle's Ethics, the book from which the term has been derived. ‘Ethics’ would thus take its place beside ‘Politics’, in the sense in which the latter is distinguished by Professor Sidgwick from Political Philosophy on the one hand and Political Science on the other. It is, perhaps, best on this view of its scope, to adopt Professor Mackenzie's term and call it a ‘Normative Science’; for the term ‘Art’ would seem to be most properly confined to the actual pursuit of some end, or group of ends, in so far as such pursuit involves a systematic use of certain definite means, and not to include any statement of, or enquiry into, the rules by which such end or ends may be attained.
Kant's ethical theory as a whole may be best characterised as a fusion of two wholly distinct doctrines. On the one hand his work contains an elaborate investigation into the nature and relations of the concept ‘ought’ – an investigation covering the ground of what may be called ‘Metaphysics of Ethics’. And on the other hand, it contains a peculiar and exclusive doctrine of Practical Ethics. Kant himself seems never to have perceived how distinct these two parts of his work were, and how completely the former is independent of the latter.
To the metaphysical department belongs Kant's recognition of the independence of moral law from natural law. What ought to be is something which perhaps never has been and never will be; and never, by considering what has been or what is, will you discover it. In his own language: the moral law is something a priori and no induction from experience. This doctrine at once distinguishes his system from any so-called naturalistic ethics; from the ethics based on psychological hedonism, or from modern evolutionistic systems.
And to the same department belongs his recognition that ethics must be based on law. Any ethical principle must be universal in the sense that if it is valid for you now, it must be valid for [everyone] else under the same circumstances.
About twenty-five years ago, when I was working on my book on G. E. Moore (G. E. Moore, Routledge, 1990), I came across the manuscripts of Moore's Fellowship dissertations which had recently been deposited in the Wren Library at Trinity College Cambridge. Realising the importance and significance of these dissertations, I formed a plan to prepare an edition of them for publication. But before this could proceed the permission of Moore's son Timothy Moore was needed, and Timothy was unwilling for this to go ahead, on the grounds that his father's reputation might be harmed by the publication of these juvenilia which his father had regarded as confused and unsatisfactory. The matter rested there until Consuelo Preti, while working recently on Moore's early papers, persuaded me to revive the plan to publish his dissertations. By this time Timothy Moore was dead and control of his literary estate had passed to Moore's grandson Peregrine Moore, who was happy to agree to the publication of his grandfather's Fellowship dissertations. We are grateful to him for agreeing to this, and we are confident that, far from being harmed, his grandfather's reputation will only be enhanced by this edition of his early philosophical writings.
In preparing this edition we have both spent a good deal of time in the Wren Library at Trinity College, and it is a pleasure to record our thanks to the Librarian, David McKitterick, and to his staff for their unfailing help and patience as we have returned again and again to check our transcripts of Moore's manuscripts.
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