30 August 2013

What End Do We Propose Ourselves?

Étienne Pivert de Senancour, Obermann (Letter LXIII), tr. Arthur Edward Waite (London: William Rider & Son, 1909), pp. 255-256:
Every cause is hidden, each end deceptive. Every form changes, all duration slips away; and the agony of the insatiable heart is but the blind course of a meteor wandering in the void where it must be lost. Nothing is possessed as we anticipate, nothing known as it is. We perceive relations only, not essences. We do not make use of things, but of their images. Sought without us and impenetrable within us, Nature is dark everywhere. "I feel," is the sole affirmation for him who would have truth only. And that which constitutes the certitude of my existence is also its torture. I do feel, I do exist, but it is to be consumed by unconquerable desires, to be plunged in the sorcery of a fantastic world, to be overwhelmed by its voluptuous deception.
What! Is happiness not the first law of human nature, pleasure not the first motive spring of the sensible world? If we do not seek pleasure, what end do we propose ourselves? If to live be merely to exist, what need have we to live? We can discover neither the first cause nor the true motive of any being; the wherefore of the universe remains inaccessible to individual intelligence. The end of our existence is unknown to us; every act of life is void of object; our desires, our cares, our affections are ridiculous, if these acts do not tend to pleasure, if these affections do not propose it to themselves.