By José Enrique Rodó
Trans., ed. Margaret Sayers Peden
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Additional info for Ariel
This monstrous concept is, certainly, no model to oppose to the false egalitarianism that aspires to bring everyone down to a common level of vulgarity. Fortunately, as long as there exists in the world the possibility of placing together two pieces of wood in the form of a cross— that is, always—humanity will continue to believe that love is the basis of every stable order and that hierarchical superiority in that order can derive only from a superior capacity to love. As a source of inexhaustible moral inspirations the new science demonstrates to us, in clarifying the old physical laws, how the democratic principle can be reconciled in the social structure with an "aristarchy" of morality and culture.
And its confidence in its superiority over the original Atlantic states is based on the conviction that they are too reactionary, too European, too traditional. History confers no tides when the election process entails auctioning off the purple. To the degree that the generic utilitarianism of that civilization assumes more defined, more open, and more limiting characteristics, the intoxication of material prosperity increases the impatience of its children to propagate that doctrine and enshrine it with the historical importance of a Rome.
We should not, nevertheless, conclude that this tradition has led to true principles of selflessness, jjorth American religion, a derivation from and exaggeration of English religion, actually serves to aid and enforce penal law that will relinquish its hold only on the day it becomes possible to grant to moral authority the religious authority envisioned by John Stuart Mill. Benjamin Franklin represents the highest point in North American morality: a philosophy of conduct whose ideals are grounded in the normality of honesty and the utility of prudence.