UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Romain Rolland: sociologue et ecrivain Griffiths, David Albert


CHAPTER I:a survey of the life and works of Rolland, based, for the early years of his life, on the biographies of Seippel and Zweig, and for the post-war period, on material compiled from various periodicals. CHAPTER II: an attempt to elaborate Rolland's social philosophy, which is succinctly expressed in the preface to Compagnons de Route: - the concept of dynamic change together with the conflict between spirit and being, individualism and collectivism, and between contemplation and action. Section (i) deals with the study - pursued by Rolland in the spirit of the sociologists of knowledge - of the relation of the intellectual (including the philosophical and artistic) activities of man to the society in which he lives. Under the influence of the First World War and its consequences, the author arrived at the conclusion that knowledge has a class basis. Hence in so far as Rolland espoused the interests of the modern European proletariat, one can profit to examine his philosophy in the light of dialectical materialism. Section (ii) Although, in his ontological thinking, Rolland cast aside the doctrines of materialism and idealism as mere jugglerly of words, nevertheless, deeply impressed since his student days by the monism of Spinoza, he preached the necessity for regarding matter and spirit as an essential unity. He therefore attacked the "faux idéalisme" which tended to dissociate and isolate ideas from their setting in reality; he rejected the theory of "ideas for ideas' sake'’. This philosophy of realism is incorporated in Jean-Christophe and l’ Ame enchantée. In studying social development, Rolland approached the standpoint of historical materialism; he lent importance to the collective action of the masses as an instrument in forging the structure of society. At the same time, he extolled the creative abilities of individual great men who seemed to dominate their age. At first unable to reconcile the two principles of collectivism and individualism, the author finally evolved a new type of humanism in which the interests of the One and the Many were correlated. Section (iii) traces the historical basis for the dialectical philosophy of the author. In the works of Heraclitus, Empedocles, Rousseau and Goethe, Rolland found present the principle of universal movement and change, to which he gave expression in Jean-Christophe and other literary productions. He proceeded to attribute the evolution of the world to the conflict of opposites and thus considered love and hate as two important factors impelling the development of the universe. Section (IV) treats of the epistemological theory of the author. Rolland admired the degree to which the early Greek philosophers verified their knowledge by putting it into use. Consequently he was reluctant to accept a criterion of truth which was based solely on reason or faith, on rationalism or empiricism. He endorsed the logic of Faust: "In the beginning was the deed”, and adjured the intellectuals to test their ideas in the practical activity of the working class. CHAPTER III: the position of the author in the conflict of our age. Early in his career, Rolland had abandonned the nationalist tradition of the French Revolution and had set about to strengthen the cultural bonds between France and Germany. As a result of the first World War, he realized the interdependence not only of the countries of Europe but also of those throughout the world. To this doctrine of internationalism, Rolland joined that of socialism and, in his desire to further the interests of radical elements, was led to moral support of the experiment of the Soviet Union.

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