“Considered as discrete works, The Philosophy of Disenchantment and The Anatomy of Negation stand as valuable contributions to the literature of philosophical pessimism and supernatural skepticism respectively. Taken together, the effect is alchemic-and volatile.”
-Chip Smith, from the foreword
“I wrote The Philosophy of Disenchantment, which is, I think, the gloomiest and worst book ever published. Out of sheer laziness, I then produced a history of atheism, The Anatomy of Negation, which has been honored by international dislike. Need I state that of all my children it is the one that I prefer?”
On Edgar Saltus.
“America has not produced a round dozen of authors who equal him in brilliancy of style. The neglect of this man is one of the most astounding phenomena in the history of American letters.”
-Carl Van Vechten
“There are three mysteries in American literature: the appearance of Edgar Allen Poe, the disappearance of Ambrose Bierce, and the burial alive of Edgar Saltus.”
“Returning to an estimate of Saltus, let us sum up by saying we have in him a temperament saturated with pessimism which expresses itself by the beautiful decoration of sinister themes. To see grandeurs in vast horrors is the last thing a commonplace person can do. Neither can commonplace persons accumulate effortlessly a legend about themselves. This Edgar Saltus has done…
In The Philosophy of Disenchantment and The Anatomy of Negation he has written two compact readable and scholarly resumes of pessimism and of skepticism… perhaps the best handbooks ever published on these subjects”
- Broom, Vol. 2
The Philosophy of Disenchantment.
“Mr. Saltus is a scientific pessimist, as witty, as bitter, as satirical, as interesting and as insolent to humanity in general as are his great teachers, Schopenhauer and Von Hartmann. there is a prodigious and prodigal display of genius in his work that is a history of antitheism from Kapila to Leconte de Lisle.”
“A whole library of pessimism compressed into one small volume by a writer whose understanding of the value of words amounts almost to genius.”
-Boston Saturday Review.
On Evolution, Will, Art:Since morality cannot be the great aim of evolution, perhaps it may be art and science; but the further back one looks, the more does scientific progress appear to be the exclusive work of certain rare and gifted minds, while the nearer one approaches the present epoch, the more collective does the work become. Hartmann points out that the first thinkers were not unlike the magicians who made a monument rise out of nothing, whereas the laborers who work at the intellectual edifice of the present day are but corporations of intelligent builders who each, according to their strength, aid in the construction of a gigantic tower. “The work of science hereafter will,” he says, “be broader and less profound; it will become exclusively inductive, and hence the demand for genius will grow gradually less. Similarity of dress has already blended the different ranks of society; meanwhile we are advancing to an analogous leveling of the intelligence, which will result in a common but solid mediocrity. The delight in scientific production will gradually wane, and the world will end in knowing only the pleasures of passive understanding. But the pleasure of knowledge is tasteless when truth is presented like a cake already prepared: to be enjoyed it must cost an effort and a struggle.
Art will be handicapped in much the same manner. It is no longer now what it was for the youth of humanity, a god august dispensing happiness with open hands; it is simply a matter of amusement, a remedy for ennui, and a distraction from the fatigues of the day. Hence the increase of dilettantism and the neglect of serious study. The future of art is to Hartmann self-evident. “Age has no ideal, or rather, it has lost what it had, and art is condemned in the increasing years of humanity to hold the same position as the nightly ballets and farces now do to the bankers and brokers of large cities.
This consistent treatment of the subject Hartmann cleverly founds on the analogy of the different ages of the life of the individual with the development of humanity. It is, of course, merely a series of affirmations, but not for that reason necessarily untrue. The great thinkers have disappeared, as have also the great artists; and they have done so, Hartmann would say, because we no longer need them. Indeed, there can be little doubt that could the Greeks come back, they would tell us our art was barbarous; even to the casual observer it has retrograded, nor is it alone in painting and sculpture that symptoms of decadence are noticeable; if we look at the tendencies in literature, nothing very commendable is to be found, save in isolated instances, where the technicalities of style have been raised very near to perfection; but, apart from a few purists who can in no sense be called popular, the majority of the manufacturers of fiction have nothing to offer but froth and rubbish.
The modern stage, too, brings evidence that a palpitant tableau is more appreciated than a polished comedy, and the concert-hall tells a story which is not dissimilar. Music, which with Mozart changed its sex, has been turned into a harlot by Offenbach and his successors; and there are but few nowadays who would hesitate between Don Juan and the last inanity of Strauss. One composer, however, of incontestable genius, has been slowly fighting his way into the hearts of cultivated people, and, curiously enough, has sought to translate with an orchestra some part of the philosophy of pessimism. Schopenhauer, it is said, shook his head at Wagner, and would have none of him; yet if Schopenhauer was ever wrong, he was certainly wrong in that; for Wagner has expressed, as no one will do again, the flooding rush of Will, and the unspiritual but harmonious voice of Nature.
On Scientific Pessimism:Broadly stated, scientific pessimism in its most advanced form rests on a denial that happiness in any form ever has been or ever will be obtained, either by the individual as a unit or by the world as a whole; and this for the reason that life is not considered as a pleasant gift made to us for our pleasure; on the contrary, it is a duty which must be performed by sheer force of labor, a task which in greater matters, as in small, brings in its train a misery which is general, an effort which is ceaseless, and a tension of mind and body which is extreme, and often unbearable. Work, torment, pain, and misery are held to be the unavoidable lot of nearly every one, and the work, torment, pain, and misery of life are considered as necessary to mankind as the keel to the ship. Indeed, were it otherwise, were wishes, when formed, fulfilled, in what manner would the time be employed? Imagine the earth to be a fairyland where all grows of itself, where birds fly roasted to the spit, and where each would find his hearts best love wreathed with orange flowers to greet his coming; what would the result be? Some would bore themselves to death, some would cut their throats, while others would quarrel, assassinate, and cause generally more suffering than is in the present state of affairs actually imposed upon them. Pain is not the accident, but the necessary and inevitable concomitant of life; and the attractiveness of the promise “that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, is, in consequence, somewhat impaired.
On Sin and Forgiveness:Mr. Froude relates that when St. Patrick preached the gospel on Tarah Hill, the Druids shook their heads. The king, Leoghaire, marked their disapproval wonderingly, and asked, “Why is it that that which the cleric preaches seems so dangerous to you? “Because, they answered, “he preaches repentance, and the law of repentance is such that a man shall say, I may commit a thousand sins, and if I repent it will be not worse with me; I shall be forgiven; therefore will I continue to sin.
PURCHASE THE BOOK HERE.