from *Amiel's Journal*
15th November, 1876
"...On my way through the book I perceived
many new applications of my law of irony.
Every epoch has two contradictory
aspirations which are logically antagonistic
and practically associated. Thus the
philosophic materialism of the last century
was the champion of liberty. And at the
present moment we find Darwinians in
love with equality, while Darwinism itself
is based on the right of the stronger.
Absurdity is interwoven with life: real
beings are animated contradictions, absurdities
brought into action. Harmony with self would
mean peace, repose and perhaps immobility.
By far the greater number of human beings
can only conceive action, or practise it,
under the form of war- a war of competition
at home, a bloody war of nations abroad, and
finally war with self. So that life is a perpetual
combat; it wills that which it wills not, and wills
not what it wills. Hence what I call the law of
irony- that is to say, the refutation of the self
by itself, the concrete realisation of the absurd.
Is such a result inevitable? I think not. Struggle
is the caricature of harmony, and harmony, which
is the association of contraries, is also a principle
of movement. War is a brutal and fierce means
of pacification; it means the suppression of
resistance by the destruction or enslavement
of the conquered. Mutual respect would be a
better way out of difficulties. Conflict is the
result of the selfishness which will acknowledge
no other limit than that of external force. The
laws of animality govern almost the whole of
history. The history of man is essentially zoological;
it becomes human late in the day, and then only in the
beautiful souls alive to justice, goodness, enthusiasm,
and devotion. The angel shows itself rarely and with
difficulty through the highly-organized brute. The divine
aureole plays only with a dim and fugitive light around
the brows of the world's governing race.
The Christian nations offer many illustrations of the
law of irony. They profess the citizenship of heaven,
the exclusive worship of external good; and never has
the hungry pursuit of perishable joys, the love of this
world, or the thirst for conquest, been stronger or
more active than among these nations. Their official
motto is exactly the opposite of their real aspiration.
Under a false flag they play the smuggler with a droll
case of conscience. Is the fraud a conscious one? No-
it is but an application of the law of irony. The deception
is so common a one that the delinquent becomes
unconscious of it. Every nation gives itself the lie
in the course of its daily life, and not one feels the
ridicule of its position..."