TRANSLATION EDITED BY THOMAS JEFFERSON
From the faculty of willing arise all our wants and all our mean;
I commence by noticing that, conformably to the idea I have before given of the willing faculty, I will give indifferently the name of desire or of will to all the acts of this faculty, from the propensity the most instinctive to the determination the most studied; and I request then that it may be recollected that it is solely because we perform such acts that we have the ideas of personality and of property. Now every desire is a want, and all our wants consist in a desire of some sort; thus the same intellectual acts, emanating from our willing faculty, which cause us to acquire the distinct and complete idea of our personality, our self and of the exclusive property of all its modes, are also those which render us susceptible of wants, and which constitute all our wants. This will appear very clearly.
In the first place every desire is a want. This is not doubtful, since a sensible being, who desires any thing whatsoever, has from this circumstance alone a want to possess the thing desired, or rather, and more generally we may say, that he experiences the want of the cessation of his desire; for every desire is in itself a suffering as long as it continues. It does not become an enjoyment but when it is satisfied, that is to say when it ceases.
It is difficult at first to believe that every desire is a suffering; because there are certain desires, the birth of which in an animated being is always, or almost always, accompanied by a sentiment of well being. The desire of eating for example, that of the physical pleasures of love, are generally in an individual the results of a state of health, of which he has a consciousness that is agreeable to him. Many others are in the same case; but this circumstance must not deceive us. These are the simultaneous manners of being of which we have spoken in our logic,* which mingle themselves with the ideas, come at the same time with them and alter them; but which must not be confounded with them which consequently it is necessary well to distinguish from desire in itself. For first, they do not always co-exist with it. We have often the want of eating, and even a violent inclination to the act of reproduction, in consequence of sickly dispositions, and without any sentiment of well being; and it is the same of other examples which might be chosen. Secondly, were this not to happen, it would not be less true that the sentiment of well being is distinct and different from that of desire; and that that of desire is always in itself a torment, a painful sentiment as long as it continues. The proof is, that it is always the desire of being delivered from that state, whatsoever it is, in which we actually are; which consequently appears actually a state of uneasiness, more or less displeasing. Now in this sense a manner of being is always in effect what it appears to be, since it consists only in what it appears to be to him who experiences it: a desire then is always a suffering either light or profound, according to its force, and consequently a want of some kind. It is not necessary for the truth of this that this desire should be founded on a real want, that is to say on a just sentiment of our true interest; for, whether well or ill founded, while it exists it is a manner of being felt and incommodious, and from which we have consequently a want of being delivered. Thus every desire is a want.
But moreover all our wants, from the most purely mechanical to the most spiritualized, are but the want of satisfying a desire. Hunger is but a desire of eating, or at least of relief from the state of languor which we experience; as the want, the thirst of riches, or that of glory, is but the desire of possessing these advantages, and of avoiding indigence or obscurity.
It is true, however, that if we experience desires without real wants, we have also often real wants without experiencing desires; in this sense that many things are often very necessary to our greater well being, and even to our preservation, without our perceiving it, and consequently without our desiring them. Thus for example, it is certain that I have the greatest interest, or if you please want, that certain combinations, of which I have no suspicion, should not take place within me, and from which it will result that I shall have a fever this evening; but to speak exactly I have not at present the effective want of counteracting these injurious combinations, since I am not aware of their existence; whereas I shall really have the actual want of being delivered from the fever, when I shall suffer the anguish of it, and because I shall suffer the anguish of it; for if the fever were not of a nature to produce in me, for some reason or other, the desire of its cessation, when I should be aware of its proximate or remote effects, I should not have in any manner the want of causing it to cease. We may absolutely say the same things of all the combinations, which take place in the physical or moral order, without our being aware of, or without our foreseeing, the consequences. If then it be true, as we have seen, that every desire is a want, it is not less so that every actual want is a desire. Thus we may lay it down as a general thesis, that our desires are the source of all our wants, none of which would exist without them. For we cannot too often repeat it, we should be really impassive if we had no desires; and if we were impassive we should have no wants. I must not be reproached with having taken time for this explication; we cannot proceed too slowly at first: and if I overleap no intermediate proofs, I omit nevertheless, many accessories, at least all those which are not indispensable.
A first property then of our desires is now well explained; and it is the only one they have, so long as our sensitive system acts and re-acts only on itself. But so soon as it re-acts on our muscular system, the sentiment of willing acquires a second property very different from the first, and which is not less important. It is that of directing all our actions, and by this of being the source of all our means.
When I say that our desires direct all our actions; it is not that many movements are not operated within us, which the sentiment of willing does not in any manner precede, and which consequently are not the effect of any desire. Of this number are particularly all those which are necessary to the commencement, maintenance and continuation of our life. But first it is permitted to doubt whether at first, and in the origin, they have not taken place in virtue of certain determinations or tendencies really felt by the living molecules, which would make them still the effect of a will more or less obscure; unless it be by the all powerful effect of habit or by the preponderance of certain sentiments more general and predominant, that they become insensible to the animated individual, that is to say, to all results of the combinations which they operate, and finally if it is not for this reason, that they are entirely withdrawn from the empire of perceptible will, or from its sentiment of desiring and willing. These are things of which it is impossible for us to have complete certitude; besides these movements, vulgarly and with reason named involuntary, are certainly the cause and the basis of our living existence: but they furnish us no means of modifying, varying, succouring, defending, ameliorating it, &c. They cannot therefore properly be placed in the rank of our means, unless we mean to say that our existence itself is our first mean, which is very true but very insignificant; for it is the datum without which we should have nothing to say, and certainly should say nothing. Thus this first observation does not prevent its being true that our will directs all our actions, which can be regarded as the means of supplying our wants.
The movements of which we have just spoken are not the only ones in us which are involuntary. They are all continued or at least very frequent, and in general regular. But there are others involuntary also, which are more rare, less regular, and which depend more or less on a convulsive and sickly state. The involuntary movements of this second species cannot, any more than the others, be regarded as making part of our individual power. Generally they have no determinate object. Often even they have grievous and pernicious effects for us, and which take place although foreseen, and contrary to our desires. Their independence of our will then does not prevent our general observation from being just. Thus, putting aside these two species of involuntary movements, we may say with truth, that our desires have the effect eminently remarkable of directing all our actions, at least all those that really merit this name, and which are for us the means of procuring enjoyments or knowledge, which knowledge is also an enjoyment; since these are things desired and useful. And we must comprehend in the number of these actions our intellectual operations; for they also are for us means, and even the most important of all, since they direct the employment of all the others.
Now to complete the proof that the acts of our will are the source of all our means, without exception, it only remains to show that the actions submitted to our will are absolutely the only means we have of supplying our wants, or otherwise satisfying our desires; that is to say, that our physical and moral force, and the use we make of them, compose exactly all our riches.
To recognize this truth in all its details, it would be necessary that we should have already followed all the consequences of the different employments of our faculties, and to have seen their effect in the formation of all that we call our riches of every kind. Now it is this we have not yet been able to do, and which we will do in the sequel: it will even be a considerable part of our study. But from this moment we may clearly see that nature, in placing man in a corner of this vast universe, in which he appears but as an imperceptible and ephemeral insect, has given him nothing as his own but his individual and personal faculties, as well physical as intellectual. This is his sole endowment, his only original wealth, and the only source of all which he procures for himself. In effect, if even we should admit that all those beings, by which we are surrounded, have been created for us; (and assuredly it needs a great dose of vanity to imagine it, or even to believe it,) if, I say, this were so, it would not be less true that we could not appropriate one of those beings, nor convert the smallest parcel of them to our use, but by our action on them and by the employment of our faculties to this effect.
Not to take examples but in the physical line.—
A field is no means of subsistence but as we cultivate it. Game is not useful to us unless we pursue it. A lake, a river, furnish us no nourishment, but because we fish therein. Wood or any other spontaneous production of nature is of no use whatever, until we have fashioned it, or at least gathered it. To put an extreme case, were we to suppose an alimentary matter to have fallen into our mouths ready prepared, still it would be necessary, in order to assimilate it to our substance, that we should masticate, swallow and digest it. Now all these operations are so many employments of our individual force. Certainly if ever man has been doomed to labour, it was from the date of the day in which he was created a sensible being, and having members and organs; for it is not even possible to conceive that any being whatsoever could become useful to him without some action on his part, and we may well say, not only as the good and admirable La Fontaine, that labour is a treasure; but even that labour is our only treasure, and this treasure is very great because it surpasses all our wants. The proof is, that like the fortune of a rich man whose revenue surpasses his expenses, the funds of the enjoyment and power of the human species, taken in mass, are always sufficient although often and even always very badly husbanded.
We shall soon see all this with greater developements, and we shall see at the same time that the application of our force to different beings is the sole cause of the value of all those which have a value for us, and consequently is the source of all value; as the property of this same force which necessarily appertains to the individual who is endowed with it, and who directs it by his will, is the source of all property. But from this time I think we may safely conclude, that in the employment of our faculties, in our voluntary actions, consists all the power we have; and that consequently the acts of our will which direct these actions, are the source of all our means, as we have seen already that they constitute all our wants. Thus this fourth faculty, and last mode of our sensibility, to which we owe the complete ideas of personality and property, is that which renders us proprietors of wants and means, of passion and of action, of suffering and of power. From these ideas arise those of riches and poverty.
Before proceeding further let us see in what these last consist.