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Egoism (1906) by Louis Wallis, a study in the social premises of religion

Egoism (1906)  by Louis Wallis

Egoism (1906)  by Louis Wallis

This essay falls naturally into three parts, taking its main title from the first. The thesis of the first division is not in any sense original, although the treatment possibly has points of novelty. The idea that all human activity is either directly or indirectly egoistic, or selfish, is not new. 

We lay this down as a universal fact of history in the proposition: "Egoism is the only ' force ' propelling the social machine." The second and largest part of the essay illustrates this proposition from a quarter which, we maintain, offers the most dramatic evidence in its favour biblical history. We hold that the Bible, interpreted from the standpoint of so-called higher criticism, brings us more directly and vividly into relation with the fundamental facts of personality (i. e., the struggle of the ego for life) than anything else.

 The egoistic proposition is within the domain of sociology; and if we would grasp the significance of the Bible, we must approach it, first of all, as a social phenomenon. The logical ultimate of higher criticism is, that the total body of religious concepts in the Bible arose out of, and in dependence upon, the so-called secular experience of Israel, The critical movement has been approaching this position for some time, although deficient sociological insight has impeded its progress.

 There is nothing anomalous about the sociological deficiency of biblical scholarship, for the biblical higher criticism itself is but a part of that wider historico-critical movement which is a necessary antecedent of sociology. The order is not: sociology; then, criticism. It is the reverse. The critical movement at large clears the way for true historical insight, and thus (among other factors) helps to make possible the science of sociology. There is then a halt while certain men are deployed in order to become familiarized with the social process per se. Then the sociologists return to modify the critical movement, whereupon the entire intellectual process is ready to advance another stage.

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