Philosophy Discussion on Auguste Comte

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COMTE.HAY
Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte (1798 - 1857)

Hayagrīva: ...Frenchman, and he is known as a positivist. He felt that positivism reconciles the heart and the intellect. He felt that theology dealt solely with the heart or the sentiments and that philosophy dealt solely with the intellect, but positivism reconciled the two. He writes, "Positivism proves more efficient than theology yet at the same time terminates the disunion which has existed so long between the intellect and the heart. It is a fundamental doctrine of positivism, a doctrine of as great political as philosophical importance, that the heart preponderates over the intellect. When it is said that the intellect should be subordinate to the heart, what is meant is that the intellect should devote itself exclusively to the problems which the heart suggests, the ultimate object being to find proper satisfaction for our various wants," meaning material wants, as well as spiritual wants.

Prabhupāda: So we have got from Bhagavad-gītā that the gross understanding are the senses, though the still finer understanding is the mind, and then intellect, and then the soul. The soul is the original, basic principle of activities. So it becomes grosser, grosser, grosser, and when the soul acts on the platform of senses and body, these are gross activities. So our calculation is the gross activities of the body, then the subtle activities of the mind and still more subtle activities of the intellect, and then spiritual platform. So that is also expressed in another way: pratyakṣa, parokṣa, aparokṣa, adhokṣaja, aprākṛta. These are different stages of knowledge. Direct perception, pratyakṣa; then receiving knowledge from others, then..., pratyakṣa par..., aparokṣa, still further Vedic knowledge. Then adhokṣaja, beyond the experience of mind and senses. Then aprākṛta, transcendental, spiritual. These are the different stages of knowledge and different stages of understanding from gross to the subtler forms of life.

Hayagrīva: He says, "Even the laws of the solar system are very far from perfect. The increasing imperfection of the economy of nature becomes a powerful stimulus to all our faculties, whether moral, intellectual or practical. Here we find sufferings which can really be alleviated to a large extent by wise and well-sustained combination of efforts." Another way, in other words, man can improve on nature. "Those who look wisely into the future of society will feel that the conception of man becoming without fear or boast, the arbiter, within certain limits, of his own destiny, has in it something far more satisfying than the old belief in providence, which implied our remaining passive." So he felt that man's improvement on nature is better than a passive belief in God.

Prabhupāda: So he is..., he does not believe..., there is no belief in God is there? There is no question of? No. But our point of view is different: that God is the ultimate decider of everything. That is called daiva-netreṇa. He may be acting through different agents, but ultimate decision is given by Him. And He is sitting in everyone's heart. He is observing the activities of the individual soul as witness, giving permission. Without God's permission, nobody can act. So He is giving intelligence also, and He is the cause of forgetting. Two things are there, remembering and forgetting. Both these things are coming from God. If He keeps him in forgetfulness, then he cannot remember, and if He gives him the power to remember, he can remember for long, long past activities. So ultimately God is the final director. That is our conception. Man cannot remain independent. Prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ (BG 3.27). Everything is being done, impelled by the three material modes of nature, and the ultimate dictator is the Supersoul, or the Personality of Godhead in His localized aspect, situated everywhere in the heart of the living entity, or even within the atom He is there, and His is the supreme director.

Hayagrīva: He says, "The universe is to be studied not for its own sake but for the sake of man, or rather of humanity. To study in any other spirit would not only be immoral but also highly irrational." This is the old Greek Sophist position, that man is the measure of all things.

Prabhupāda: So the man should be inquisitive to understand the Absolute Truth, athāto brahma jijñāsā. Human intelligence is meant for that purpose, that he should find out what is the ultimate source of everything. That is intelligence. What is the other point he said?

Hayagrīva: "To study in any..., to study in any other spirit would not only be immoral but also highly irrational." To study the universe for any other sake other than the betterment of humanity.

Prabhupāda: Betterment of humanity will depend on studying the cosmic nature or not? What does he say?

Hayagrīva: The purpose for studying the universe is to improve nature, is to improve man's situation in nature. To improve the lot of man.

Prabhupāda: How? How? So far we are concerned, that any living being is destined to a certain position of happiness and distress. By dint of his past activities he gets a particular type of body destined to suffer or enjoy. That cannot be changed. Either you call this fatalism or destiny—every man is destined—that cannot be changed. His intelligence can change only his position with reference to God. His present position is he is forgetful of God and his relationship with God. So this position, forgetfulness, can be changed, and human life is meant for that purpose. So far improvement of economic condition or other condition, that is already fixed up. One cannot change it. So that is confirmation in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: he is creating his own destiny. Just like it is said, "Man is the architect of his own fortune." Destiny cannot be changed. It is fixed up. Tasyaiva hetoḥ prayateta kovido (SB 1.5.18). Anyone who is very expert and intelligent, he should know that destiny cannot be changed, but he can change his position with reference to his relationship with God. At the present moment he is forgetful of his relationship, but by good association, by Vedic knowledge, by training, he can change his position, and in that way he can improve his destiny also, or he can change his destiny. Karmāṇi nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhājām (Bs. 5.54). A person, by engaging himself in devotional service, he can change his destiny. Otherwise destiny is very strong. It cannot be changed.

Hayagrīva: He draws a distinction between atheism and positivism. He says, "Atheism, even from the intellectual point of view, is a very imperfect form of emancipation, for its tendency is to prolong the metaphysical stage indefinitely by continuing to seek for new solutions of theological problems instead of setting aside all inaccessible researches on the grounds of their utter inutility. In a word, atheism is still concerned with studying the 'why' instead of the 'how,' and positivism, true positivism, is concerned with the 'how' instead of the 'why.' " In other words, he felt that religion quo religion, religion as religion, had best be set aside because religious questions are basically childish. They can never be answered. So atheism is rejected because atheists "occupy themselves with theological problems and yet reject the only appropriate method of handling them." And for him the only appropriate method is to forget the whole thing.

Prabhupāda: So how can he forget? Atheism will help anyone to improve his position? Just like death. Atheist, if he does not believe in God and God sends him death, how he can counteract it? He has no power to counteract it. We understand from Bhagavad-gītā that death is God for the atheist. Atheists do not believe in God, but God comes to him as death to convince him that "Here I am." So how the atheist can avoid? How it will improve his present situation by atheistic speculation? So how the atheist can become independent? That is not possible.

Hayagrīva: His philosophy is one of total materialism. He states, "A nation that has made no efforts to improve itself materially will take but little interest in mental or moral improvement."

Prabhupāda: That standard of material improvement, that is not fixed up. One person in the material existence, he is satisfied in certain condition of life. Other man is not satisfied in that position; he wants a different standard of life. Then the question will be, "What is the standard of material life?" So far our Vedic civilization is concerned, this, the material necessities are there—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These are material necessities, so they are equally visible in animal kingdom or human kingdom—everywhere. It is simply mental improvement of standard, but the standard are different. So what will be the actual standard of materialistic way of life? That is the question.

Hayagrīva: He felt that more..., even more than the vaiśya, the merchant, or the kṣatriya, the administrator, that the man who will usher in positivism will be the working man, or the śūdra. He says, "The occupation of working men are evidently far more conducive to philosophical views than those of the middle classes, since they are not so absorbing as to prevent continuous thought even during the hours of labor." In other words, when a man is working he can think of philosophical issues because he doesn't have to use his mind, oh, like a merchant or a kṣatriya.

Prabhupāda: He, he, he has used this word kṣatriya, brāhmaṇa...?

Hayagrīva: Oh, no. I'm using this.

Prabhupāda: Oh.

Hayagrīva: He says..., he's speaking of the working man.

Prabhupāda: Hm.

Hayagrīva: In this he is a..., he influenced Marx considerably in his belief in the worth of the working man.

Prabhupāda: But so far we have seen that even the working man requires a director. In the present Communist society there is working man and the manager class. So as soon as you have to accept a manager, then simply working man will not help us. There must be a managerial person. Otherwise, how the working man can be, I mean to say, systematically engaged in working?

Hayagrīva: He believed in forming working men's clubs that would be dedicated to the philosophy of positivism. He wrote, "The real intention of the club is to form a provisional substitute for the church of old times." He's referring specifically to the Catholic Church; he's a Frenchman. "Or rather, the working man is to prepare the way for the religious building of the new form of worship, the worship of humanity."

Prabhupāda: What is that humanity? The working man does not know...

Hayagrīva: Humanity is all mankind.

Prabhupāda: All mankind to do what?

Hayagrīva: The worship of humanity, he spoke of, that the working man will usher in or introduce...

Prabhupāda: These stamps are not very clear. What does it mean, "humanity"? To supply the necessities of the human being? Or what?

Hayagrīva: Well, humanity for him is all..., simply every man.

Prabhupāda: Every man is already there. So what does he mean by "every man," "humanity"?

Hayagrīva: All mankind.

Prabhupāda: That's all right, all mankind, but what is that humanity? Humanity is some activities? Or simply taking the whole human being together, that is humanity?

Hayagrīva: All human beings together.

Prabhupāda: Hm. So all human beings together, but each and every human being he has got some individuality. So even if you take all humanity, how the individuality will be the same? That is not possible.

Hayagrīva: Well this is the, also the contention of Communism...

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: ...that all men are basically the same in relation to the state.

Prabhupāda: Yes, they are under the law of state, but his thinking, feeling, willing are not under the state. One man may be thinking just in his own way, another man is thinking in his own way. How this thinking, feeling, willing, psychologically how they can be one? As human being, his quota, he has two hands and two legs and one head. That's all right. But the working of the brain, the thinking, feeling of the mind, they are, they are different. Their every activities... I want to eat something; you want to eat something. Āpan ruci khāo, everyone wants to eat according to his taste. How these things can be adjusted, taking the whole human race together? That is not possible. Everyone has got his individual taste. How you can synchronize them? What is called, synchronize?

Hayagrīva: To reconcile all mankind.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is not possible.

Hayagrīva: No one would agree with. No one is in total agreement.

Prabhupāda: That is not possible.

Hayagrīva: But he felt that positivism...

Prabhupāda: Positivism, that we can understand, that every man eats. So they have to eat. That is positive. Every man sleeps; he must sleep. But the thinking, feeling, willing, even in eating, sleeping also, everyone has got his own taste, own method. So how these things will be adjusted? If you force upon them that "You must eat these things," that will create dissatisfaction.

Hayagrīva: You discussed this in Marx.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: He felt... When Comte wrote, Communism was in its incipient state, it was just beginning to form under a philosopher called Feuerbach(?), and he felt that Communism and positivism could work hand in hand. He said, "Positivism has nothing to fear from Communism. On the contrary, it will probably be accepted by most Communists among the working classes."

Prabhupāda: Working classes? Only working classes? So why there is managerial class? If they want classless, only working class, then why they require direction and dictatorship? Why these things are required?

Hayagrīva: The dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the new idea.

Prabhupāda: Then anywhere, anywhere, somebody is working and somebody is... Just like in our body even, the hand is working, the leg is working, but the brain is giving direction. That is natural. How the working class will work without the direction of someone, experienced person?

Hayagrīva: Concerning men and women and the qualities, Comte felt that women were inferior physically, intellectually, and practically to men, but that they surpassed men in goodness and love. He writes, "In all kinds of force, whether physical, intellectual, or practical, it is certain that man surpasses women in accordance with a general law which prevails throughout the animal kingdom. If there were nothing else to do but to love, women would be supreme."

Prabhupāda: Hn. So?

Hayagrīva: Is that so?

Prabhupāda: So that is natural distinction between man and woman, so how it can be changed? Woman is meant for certain activities and man is meant for certain activities. So how this can be changed? Artificially if you change it, it cannot be changed. Then, just like woman becomes pregnant, man does not become pregnant. How it will be changed?

Hayagrīva: Well from this he concludes that woman, being dominated by love, is morally superior to man.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: And he considered woman, or all women, to be what he called "The spontaneous priestess of humanity. She personifies in the purest form the principle of love upon which the unity of our nature depends." So the woman is to act almost like the brāhmaṇas, in being a priestess or in charge of the, of the religion of man, being that she's dominated by the heart.

Prabhupāda: These are all imagination. When woman, when she is misguided, she becomes dangerous. There is no question of love. But one thing, according to Vedic conception life, that women and children are on the same level, so they should be given protection by men. In childhood the protection is from the father, in youthhood the protection is from the husband, and in old age the protection is from the grown-up sons. So they should never be given independence. They should be given protection, and their natural love for father or for husband or for children, then that propensity will grow very smoothly, and that will establish the relationship with woman and man very happy, and both of them will be able to execute their real function, spiritual life, by cooperation. The woman is known as his better half, so if she looks after the comfort of the man, a man is working and he is looking after the comfort, then both will be satisfied and their spiritual life will progress. Woman is meant for certain duties; man is meant for... Man is meant for hard working, and woman is meant for homely comfort, love. So both of them, if they are situated in their respective duties under proper training, then this combination of man and woman will help both of them to make progress in spiritual life.

Hayagrīva: Comte felt that love of God has always interfered with man's love of women. He says, "Love of God is inconsistent with love for our fellow men, and it was impiety for the knight to love his lady better than his God. And thus the best feelings of man's nature were repressed by his religious faith. Women, therefore, are not really interested in perpetuating the old system of religion."

Prabhupāda: Generally, women are interested in comfortable home life. That is woman's nature. They are not spiritually very much advanced or interested. But the..., if man is interested, and the woman helps the man, either as mother or wife or daughter, then both of them, if the woman remains subordinate and the man is making spiritual progress and the woman is helping the man, then both of them will make spiritual progress. Or the woman, without working for spiritual elevation, because (s)he is helping the man (s)he will share the profit, spiritual benefit.

Hayagrīva: The role of woman he envisioned as that of man's companion. He says, "The first aspect, then, under which positivism considers women is simply as the companion of man, irrespective of her maternal duties," and that this friendship or companionship has as its basis sex. He says, "Conjugal union becomes a perfect ideal of friendship, yet still more beautiful than friendship, because each possesses and is possessed by the other. For perfect friendship, difference of sex is essential as excluding the possibility of rivalry." So he felt that sex, there can actually be very little friendship between men, because there's no sexual basis, that sex is the basis for the friendship between the sexes.

Prabhupāda: Hmm. So woman, sex, there is sex, sexual necessity and the bodily demand. So woman not only give the sex pleasure to the man, but woman should prepare good foodstuff also for the man. The man is working very hard. When he comes home, if the wife supplies him good foodstuff and nice comfort and sex, then the home becomes very happy. That is practical experience. So after hard working, when man comes home, if he finds out good foodstuff and nicely satisfied by eating, and then the woman gives satisfaction by sex, then both of them remain fully satisfied, and then they can improve their real business, spiritual understanding, because human life is meant for making progress in spiritual understanding. Spiritual, first of all they must know that the spirit soul is the basis of material life even, and the body is built up on the soul, and within the body there is soul. This understanding is required both for the man and the woman. Although woman is less intelligent, still, by the help of the husband, he..., she can become intelligent. This we think, we see in the instruction of Kapiladeva. Kapiladeva is the son of Devahūti, and He is engaged in teaching the mother. So a woman, either as daughter, as wife or mother, remains subordinate and gets knowledge from the man, either from the father or the husband or son. Then that life is elevated. We find also in the conjugal life of Lord Śiva and Pārvatī, in the Purāṇas we see always Pārvatī is questioning and Lord Śiva is answering. In this way woman is elevated, and the comforts given by the woman, comforts of the tongue, of the belly, and the genital, in this way, cooperative life, both of them becomes advanced in spiritual life.

Hayagrīva: He felt that in the beginning stages at least, of positivism, woman should take the role of God. He says, "From childhood each of us will be taught to regard their sex as the principal source of human happiness and improvement, whether in public life or in private. In a word, man will kneel to women and to women alone. The worship of women, when it has assumed a more systematic shape, will be valued for its own sake as a new instrument of happiness and moral growth. The worship of women satisfies this condition and is so far a greater efficacy than the worship of God."

Prabhupāda: Worship of man, woman.

Hayagrīva: Yes.

Prabhupāda: Yes, to give protection to women. That is not actually worshiping, but maintaining her comfortably, that is the duty of the man. But to worship woman as God, that is not very good proposal. Then he will be henpecked. Worship of God is reserved for God only, not for anyone else. But the exchange, cooperation, between men and women for worshiping God, that is essential. Not that woman should be worshiped like God, or man should be worshiped like God. But the affection sometimes is stressed that you see him as God or see, see her as God. That is sentimental. But God is different either from man or from the woman. Both of them are living entities, both of them meant for worshiping God. Just like sometimes in the Vedic conception the wife is considered as dharma-patnī, religious wife. Means wife helps the husband in the matter of his religious life. That is found in, still in Hindu family: the man is worshiping the Deity and the woman is helping about the paraphernalia Deity worship, helping the husband so that he can immediately come into the Deity room and begin worshiping comfortably. So woman should always be engaged to assist the man in every respect in his religious life, in his social life, in his family life. That is real benefit of conjugal life. But if the woman does not agree with the man, and the man treats the woman as his servant, that is not good. The man should give the woman all protection and the woman should give all service to the man. That is ideal life, family life, conceived in the Vedic way of life.

Hayagrīva: Comte conceives the worship of woman as preparatory for the worship of mankind at large. He says, "The worship of woman begun in private and afterwards publicly celebrated is necessary in man's case to prepare him for any effectual worship of humanity," and that "Only man is the supreme being. It must not, however, be supposes that the new supreme being is like the old, merely a subjective result of our powers of abstraction. Existence in the true sense can only be predicated of humanity."

Prabhupāda: What is the idea?

Hayagrīva: That man is all there is.

Prabhupāda: Huh? Can you explain what is the idea expressed in this sentence?

Hayagrīva: He wants to do away with the Catholic religion and institute the worship of humanity, or the worship of man. He says that everything else is abstraction, is speculation, and that only man is the..., man is the only existence in the true sense. Atheism.

Prabhupāda: Man is existence?

Hayagrīva: Man is the only existence.

Prabhupāda: Then? There is nobody else? What about the animals? Man is the only existence, and what about the animals? They are also...

Hayagrīva: He doesn't seem to consider the animals.

Prabhupāda: So what, what is the position of the animals? They are also living being.

Hayagrīva: The animals would be subservient to man.

Prabhupāda: Therefore...

Hayagrīva: Man is the..., if humanity is the supreme being...

Prabhupāda: We cannot understand what does he mean, "supreme being" and "humanity." The supreme being is God. The human being is also God? Or what does he mean, "humanity"? What is the clear meaning of humanity?

Hayagrīva: Mankind, all mankind.

Prabhupāda: All mankind? There are millions and millions of mankind. So instead of worshiping God you can worship millions of millions of men. Is it possible?

Hayagrīva: He must mean mankind in a generalized sense.

Prabhupāda: That's all right, but how you can serve the mankind? Suppose if I serve one man, does it..., is it worshiping the mankind? If not, then how you can worship millions of men at a time, or in your life? How it is possible?

Hayagrīva: Well he felt, um, that the worship of humanity could be systematized, just like the worship of God, and he even devised a calendar devoted to the worship of famous dead men, and he felt that the churches could serve for a while as places to carry out these ceremonies. He says, "The buildings erected for the service of God may for a time suffice for the worship of humanity in the same way that Christian worship was carried on at first in pagan temples as they were gradually vacated."

Prabhupāda: Yes, unless one has got full sense of God, they cannot stick to the worshiping method. And we have got practical experience in Los Angeles that we purchased that church because it was not going on at all. They made plans for Sunday school and so on, so on, but somehow or other it failed. Nobody was coming to the church. At last it was sold to us. Now this same church is there, and the same Americans are there, but at the present moment in our Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Temple it is always packed up. So what is the reason? The same church is there and the same men are there, but formerly nobody was coming, so that the church was sold to us. Now it is all packed up. What is the reason? The reason is that simply religious sentiment, assembly in the church, will not help us unless there is spiritual life and based on philosophy and full understanding of the goal of life. That will make religion perfect; otherwise no.

Hayagrīva: Here is his conclusion and the last point. He says, "The whole effect of positive worship will be to make men free...," excuse me, "The whole effect of positive worship will be to make men feel clearly how far superior in every respect in the synthesis founded on the love of humanity to that founded on the love of God." In other words, love of mankind is superior to love of, of God, or what is known as God.

Prabhupāda: The humanity, love of humanity means to raise the humanity to the real understanding of the goal of life. If the humanity or the whole human society kept into darkness as to what is the goal of life, that is not serving humanity, to keep them in darkness. But to enlighten them with knowledge, the ultimate knowledge is understanding of God and our relationship with God and activities in that relationship, that is real humanitarian work. Otherwise, if we keep the humanity in darkness, only within the jurisdiction of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, or that is, that means to keep them in, in the animal atmosphere. But to teach the humanity about real knowledge, that he is not this body, he is soul, the soul is within the body and the nature of the soul, the necessity of the soul, the goal of soul—these things, if actually taken into hand to enlighten the humanity—that is real service to the humanity. And to keep them in darkness in the animal propensities, that is no service to the humanity.

Hayagrīva: So that's the end of Comte. (end)