April 1, 1870.--I am inclined to believe that for a woman love is the supreme authority--that which judges the rest and decides what is good or evil. For a man, love is subordinate to right. It is a great passion, but it is not the source of order, the synonym of reason, the criterion of excellence. It would seem, then, that a woman places her ideal in the perfection of love, and a man in the perfection of justice. It was in this sense that St. Paul was able to say, "The woman is the glory of the man, and the man is the glory of God." Thus the woman who absorbs herself in the object of her love is, so to speak, in the line of nature; she is truly woman, she realizes her fundamental type. On the contrary, the man who should make life consist in conjugal adoration, and who should imagine that he has lived sufficiently when he has made himself the priest of a beloved woman, such a one is but half a man; he is despised by the world, and perhaps secretly disdained by women themselves. The woman who loves truly seeks to merge her own individuality in that of the man she loves. She desires that her love should make him greater, stronger, more masculine, and more active. Thus each sex plays its appointed part: the woman is first destined for man, and man is destined for society. Woman owes herself to one, man owes himself to all; and each obtains peace and happiness only when he or she has recognized this law and accepted this balance of things. The same thing may be a good in the woman and an evil in the man, may be strength in her, weakness in him.
There is then a feminine and a masculine morality--preparatory chapters, as it were, to a general human morality. Below the virtue which is evangelical and sexless, there is a virtue of sex. And this virtue of sex is the occasion of mutual teaching, for each of the two incarnations of virtue makes it its business to convert the other, the first preaching love in the ears of justice, the second justice in the ears of love. And so there is produced an oscillation and an average which represent a social state, an epoch, sometimes a whole civilization.
Such at least is our European idea of the harmony of the sexes in a
graduated order of functions. America is on the road to revolutionize
this ideal by the introduction of the democratic principle of the
equality of individuals in a general equality of functions. Only, when
there is nothing left but a multitude of equal individualities, neither
young nor old, neither men nor women, neither benefited nor
benefactors--all social difference will turn upon money. The whole
hierarchy will rest upon the dollar, and the most brutal, the most
hideous, the most inhuman of inequalities will be the fruit of the
passion for equality. What a result! Plutolatry--the worship of wealth,
the madness of gold--to it will be confided the task of chastising a
false principle and its followers. And plutocracy will be in its turn
executed by equality. It would be a strange end for it, if Anglo-Saxon
individualism were ultimately swallowed up in Latin socialism.
It is my prayer that the discovery of an equilibrium between the two
principles may be made in time, before the social war, with all its
terror and ruin, overtakes us. But it is scarcely likely. The masses are
always ignorant and limited, and only advance by a succession of
contrary errors. They reach good only by the exhaustion of evil. They
discover the way out, only after having run their heads against all
other possible issues.
Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881) was een Zwitserse filosoof en schrijver, die nu vooral nog bekend is vanwege zijn omvangrijke dagboek.