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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

8 - The Last Flurry of Activity: The Testament and Synthèse subjective

Summary

Without ceasing to live with our best ancestors, I am going to live especially with our descendants, until I relive in them and by them, after having lived sufficiently for them.

Auguste Comte, “Seventh Annual Circular,” 1856

COMTE'S TESTAMENT AND LAST WISHES

In the last years of his life, Comte worried about completing the works he had promised his public and finding a successor before he died. His mission required him to live until at least 1865. But in case he died early, he wanted his affairs in order and thus wrote a twenty-page testament in late November and December 1855. He wrote in prayer-like fashion. Though he later stated that this “visit to posterity” brought him closer to de Vaux and reinvigorated him, while writing it, he felt he was “stuck in a tomb,” an experience that profoundly disturbed him. Anxiety-laden emotions raged within him for three weeks, bringing on the same digestive problems that plagued him whenever he wrote anything of importance. “Overexcitation” prevented him from eating for three entire days. One of his difficulties was finding a “posthumous language,” one free of the “diverse prejudices” that celebrated only the intellectual aspects of life. He was certain that such prejudices would not be held by future generations, who would judge him on the basis of whether he was an altruistic person. He decided to focus on his relationship to de Vaux to prove his goodness and ensure her the immortality that he had promised her.

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