Isaiah Berlin er hreint út sagt framúrskarandi stílisti. Hér er smá textabrot úr kafla um Enlightenment-aðalsmanninn Joseph de Maistre.
"Joseph de Maistre was a frightening figure to many of his contemporaries -- frightening because of what he wrote rather than because of what he was. [...] because of the violence, the intransigence and the extremely uncompromising and hard-headed dogmatism with which he wished to strike down the doctrines of which he disapproved
"The normal view of him is fairly stated by Émile Faguet, perhaps the most accurate and the fairest-minded critic of Maistre in France in the nineteenth century. He calls Maistre 'a fierce absolutist, a furious theocrat, an intransigent legitimist, apostle of a monstrous trinity composed of Pope, King and Hangman, always and everywhere the champion of the hardest, narrowest and most inflexible dogmatism, a dark figure of the Middle Ages, part learned doctor, part inquisitor, part executioner'. And again, 'his Christianity is terror, passive obedience and the religion of the State'; his faith is merely 'a slightly touched-up paganism'; he is a 'Praetorian of the Vatican'. Edgar Quinet, a Protestant under the influence of the German romantic, writes of Maistre's 'inexorable God aided by the hangman' [...]
Maistre is painted, always, as a fanatical monarchist and a still more fanatical supporter of papal authority; proud, bigoted, inflexible, with a strong will and an unbelievable power of rigid reasoning from dogmatic premisses to extreme and unpalatable conclusions; brilliant, embittered, a medieval doctor born out of his time, vainly seeking to arrest the current of history; a distinguished anomaly, formidable, hostile, solitary and ultimately pathetic; at best a tragic patrician figure, defying and denouncing a shifty and vulgar world into which he had been incongruously born; at worst an unbending, self-blinded die-hard pouring curses upon the marvellous new age whose benefits he was too wilful to see, and too callous to feel. His works [...] the last despairing effort of feudalism in the dark ages to resist the march of progress.[...] the only way to get people to live in societies at all is to stop them from questioning, and the only way in which you can stop them from questioning is by terror. Only if the heart of things is dark and mysterious, impenetrable, will people obey. Once they have penetrated the heart of things [...] they will not be afraid of it. They will not be in awe of it, they will not revere it, and so it will collapse. What we need, Maistre maintains, is something dark and unintelligible."
Mér finnst Maistre hreint út sagt fascinating. Berlin heldur áfram:
"What then does society rest upon? Society is part of the vale of tears where we cannot understand the sources of things, where God governs us in an inscrutable way. It rests upon terror; it rests upon obedience, blind obedience to authority. Without it institutions become chaotic and restless, and go down in a welter of disaster. What represents this element of terror? Here Maistre makes a most paradoxical observation, and writes the most famous page in all his writings. He says that the person who stands in the centre of it all is none other than that hated figure, the executioner. Let me quote the famous passage in which he speaks of him:Who is this inexplicable being?...He is like a world in himself...Hardly has he been assigned to his proper dwelling-place...when others remove their homes elsewhere...In the midst of this desolation...he lives alone with his mate and his young, who acquaint him with the sound of the human voice. But for them he would hear nothing but shrieks of agony...One of the lowest menials of justice knocks at his door and tells him that his services are wanted. He goes. He arrives in a public square where people are crowded together with faces of expectancy. A prisoner, a parricide, a man who has committed a sacrilege is flung to his feet. He seizes the man, stretches him, ties him to a cross is lying on the ground, raises his arms, and there is a terrible silence. It is broken only by the sound of the crushing of bones under the blows of the iron mace, and the screams of the victim. He unbinds the man, he carries him to the wheel; the broken limbs are wtined round the spokes and the head hangs down; the hair stands on end and from the mouth -- open like the door of a glowing furnace -- there comes at intervals only a few broken syllables of entreaty for death. The executioner has finished his task; his heart is beating, but it is with pleasure; he is satisfied with his wrok. He says in his heart, "No man breaks on the wheel better than I." He comes down from the scaffold and holds out his bloody hand, into which, from a distance, an official flings a few gold pieces. The executioner carries them off between two rows of human beings who shrink from him with horror. He sits down to table and eats, he goes to bed and sleeps, but when he awakes next morning his thoughts run on everything but his occupation of the day before. Is he a man? yes, God allows him to enter his shrines and accepts his prayers. He is no criminal, and yet no human language dares to call him, for instance, virtuous, honourable or estimable...Nevertheless all greatness, all power, all social order depends upon the executioner; he is the terror of human society and the tie that holds it together. Take away this incomprehensible force from the world, and at that very moment order is superseded by chaos, thrones fall, society disappears. God, who is the source of the power of the ruler, is also the source of punishment. He has suspended our world upon these two poles 'for the Lord is the lord of the twin poles, and round them he sets the world revolving'.
Þetta er einn rosalegasti textabútur sem ég hef lesið í langan tíma.
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