The Mind in the Making Part 10

The Mind in the Making -

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I often think of the economic historians of, say, two centuries hence who may find time to dig up the vestiges of the economic literature of to-day. We may in imagination appeal to their verdicts and in some cases venture to forecast them. Many of our writers they will throw aside as dominated by a desire merely to save the ill-understood present at all costs; others as attempting to realize plans which were already discredited in their own day. Future historians will, nevertheless, clearly distinguish a few who, by a sort of persistent and ardent detachment, were able to see things close at hand more fully and truly than their fellows and endeavored to do what they could to lead their fellows to perceive and reckon with the facts which so deeply concerned them. Blessed be those who aspire to win this glory. On the monument erected to Bruno on the site where he was burned for seeing more clearly than those in authority in his days, is the simple inscription, "Raised to Giordano Bruno by the generation which he foresaw."

We are all purblind, but some are blinder than others who use the various means available for sharpening their eyesight. As an onlooker it seems to me safe to say that the lenses recommended by both the "radicals" and their vivid opponents rather tend to increase than diminish our natural astigmatism.

Those who agree, on the whole, at least, with the _facts_ brought together in this essay and, on the whole, with the main _inferences_ suggested either explicitly or implicitly, will properly begin to wonder how our educational system and aims are to be so rearranged that coming generations may be better prepared to understand the condition of human life and to avail themselves of its possibilities more fully and guard against its dangers more skillfully than previous generations. There is now widespread discontent with our present educational methods and their elaborate futility; but it seems to me that we are rather rarely willing to face the fundamental difficulty, for it is obviously so very hard to overcome. _We do not dare to be honest enough to tell boys and girls and young men and women what would be most useful to them in an age of imperative social reconstruction._

We have seen that the ostensible aims of education are various,[33]

and that among them is now included the avowed attempt to prepare the young to play their part later as voting citizens. If they are to do better than preceding generations they must be brought up differently.

They would have to be given a different general att.i.tude toward inst.i.tutions and ideals; instead of having these represented to them as standardized and sacred they should be taught to view them as representing half-solved problems. But how can we ever expect to cultivate the judgment of the young in matters of fundamental social, economic, and political readjustment when we consider the really dominating forces in education? But even if these restraints were weakened or removed, the task would remain a very delicate one. Even with teachers free and far better informed than they are, it would be no easy thing to cultivate in the young a justifiable admiration for the achievements and traditional ideals of mankind and at the same time develop the requisite knowledge of the prevailing abuses, culpable stupidity, common dishonesty, and empty political buncombe, which too often for statesmans.h.i.+p.

But the problem has to be tackled, and it may be tackled directly or indirectly. The direct way would be to describe as realistically as might be the actual conditions and methods, and their workings, good and bad. If there were better books than are now available it would be possible for teachers tactfully to show not only how government is supposed to run, but how it actually is run. There are plenty of reports of investigating committees, Federal and state, which furnish authentic information in regard to political corruption, graft, waste, and incompetency. These have not hitherto been supposed to have anything to do with the _science_ of government, although they are obviously absolutely essential to an _understanding_ of it. Similar reflections suggest themselves in the matter of business, international relations, and race animosities. But so long as our schools depend on appropriations made by politicians, and colleges and universities are largely supported by business men or by the state, and are under the control of those who are bent on preserving the existing system from criticism, it is hard to see any hope of a kind of education which would effectively question the conventional notions of government and business. They cannot be discussed with sufficient honesty to make their consideration really medicinal. We laud the brave and outspoken and those supposed to have the courage of their convictions--but only when these convictions are acceptable or indifferent to us. Otherwise, honesty and frankness become mere impudence.[34]

No doubt politics and economics could be taught, and are being taught, better as time goes on. Neither of them are so utterly unreal and irrelevant to human proceedings as they formerly were. There is no reason why a teacher of political economy should not describe the actual workings of the profit system of industry with its restraints on production and its dependence on the engineer, and suggest the possibility of gathering together capital from functionless absentee stockholders on the basis of the current rate of interest rather than speculative dividends. The actual conditions of the workers could be described, their present precarious state, the inordinate and wasteful prevalence of hiring and firing; the policy of the unions, and their defensive and offensive tactics. Every youngster might be given some glimmering notion that neither "private property" nor "capital" is the real issue (since few question their essentiality) but rather the new problem of supplying other than the traditional motives for industrial enterprise--namely, the slave-like docility and hard compulsion of the great of workers, on the one hand, and speculative profits, on the other, which now dominate in our present business system. For the existing organization is not only becoming more and more patently wasteful, heartless, and unjust, but is beginning, for various reasons, to break down. In short, whatever the merits of our present ways of producing the material necessities and amenities of life, it looks to many as if they could not succeed indefinitely, even as well as they have in the past, without some fundamental revision.

As for political life, a good deal would be accomplished if students could be habituated to distinguish successfully between the empty declamations of politicians and statements of facts, between vague party programs and concrete recommendations and proposals. They should early learn that language is not primarily a vehicle of ideas and information, but an emotional outlet, corresponding to various cooings, growlings, snarls, crowings, and brayings. Their attention could be invited to the rhetoric of the bitter-enders in the Senate or the soothing utterances of Mr. Harding on accepting the nomination for President:

"With a Senate advising as the Const.i.tution contemplates, I would hopefully approach the nations of Europe and of the earth, proposing that understanding which makes us a willing partic.i.p.ant in the consecration of nations to a new relations.h.i.+p, to commit the moral forces of the world, America included, to peace and international justice, still leaving America free, independent, self-reliant, but offering friends.h.i.+p to all the world. If men call for more specific details, I remind them that moral committals are broad and all-inclusive, and we are contemplating peoples in the concord of humanity's advancement."

After mastering the difference between language used to express facts and purposes and that which amounts to no more than a pious e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.i.o.n, a suave and deprecating gesture, or an inferential accusation directed against the opposing party, the youth should be instructed in the theory and practice of party fidelity and the effects of partisans.h.i.+p on the conduct of our governmental affairs. In fine, he should get some notion of the motives and methods of those who really run our government, whether he learned anything else or not.

These _direct_ attempts to produce a more intelligently critical and open-minded generation are, however, likely to be far less feasible than the _indirect_ methods. Partly because they will arouse strenuous opposition from the self-appointed defenders of society as now regulated, and partly because no immediate inspection of habits and inst.i.tutions is so instructive as a study of their origin and progress and a comparison of them with other forms of social adjustment. I hope that it has already become clear that we have great, and hitherto only very superficially worked, resources in History, as it is now coming to be conceived.

We are in the midst of the greatest intellectual revolution that has ever overtaken mankind. Our whole conception of mind is undergoing a great change. We are beginning to understand its nature, and as we find out more, intelligence may be raised to a recognized dignity and effectiveness which it has never enjoyed before. An encouraging beginning has been made in the case of the natural sciences, and a similar success may await the studies which have to do with the critical estimate of man's complicated nature, his fundamental impulses and resources, the needless and fatal repressions which these have suffered through the ignorance of the past, and the discovery of untried ways of enriching our existence and improving our relations with our fellow men.

There[35] is a well-known pa.s.sage in Goethe's "Faust" where he likens History to the Book with Seven Seals described in Revelation, which no one in heaven, or on the earth or under the earth, was able to open and read therein. All sorts of guesses have been hazarded as to its contents by Augustine, Orosius, Otto of Freising, Bossuet, Bolingbroke, Voltaire, Herder, Hegel, and many others, but none of them were able to break the seals, and all of them were gravely misled by their fragmentary knowledge of the book's contents. For we now see that the seven seals were seven great ignorances. No one knew much (1) of man's physical nature, or (2) the workings of his thoughts and desires, or (3) of the world in which he lives, or (4) of how he has come about as a race, or (5) of how he develops as an individual from a tiny egg, or (6) how deeply and permanently he is affected by the often forgotten impressions of infancy and childhood, or (7) how his ancestors lived for hundreds of thousands of years in the dark ignorance of savagery.

The seals are all off now. The book at last lies open before those who are capable of reading it, and few they be as yet; for most of us still cling to the guesses made in regard to its contents before anyone knew what was in it. We have become attached to the familiar old stories which now prove to be fictions, and we find it hard to reconcile ourselves to the many hard sayings which the book proves to contain--its constant stress on the stupidity of "good" people; its scorn for the respectable and normal, which it often reduces to little more than sanctimonious routine and indolence and pious resentment at being disturbed in one's complacent a.s.surances. Indeed, much of its teaching appears downright immoral according to existing standards.

One awful thing that the Book of the Past makes plain is that with our animal heritage we are singularly oblivious to the large concerns of life. We are keenly sensitive to little discomforts, minor irritations, wounded vanity, and various danger signals; but our comprehension is inherently vague and listless when it comes to grasping intricate situations and establis.h.i.+ng anything like a fair perspective in life's problems and possibilities. Our imagination is restrained by our own timidity, constantly reinforced by the warnings of our fellows, who are always urging us to be safe and sane, by which they mean convenient for them, predictable in our conduct and graciously amenable to the prevailing standards.

But it is obvious that it is increasingly dangerous to yield to this inveterate tendency, however comfortable and respectable it may seem for the moment.

History, as H. G. Wells has so finely expressed it, is coming more and more to be "a race between education and catastrophe. Our internal policies and our economic and social ideas are profoundly vitiated at present by wrong and fantastic ideas of the origin and historical relations.h.i.+p of social A sense of history as the common adventure of all mankind is as necessary for peace within as it is for peace between the nations". There can be no secure peace now but a common peace of the whole world; no prosperity but a general prosperity, and this for the simple reason that we are all now brought so near together and are so pathetically and intricately interdependent, that the old notions of n.o.ble Isolation and national sovereignty are magnificently criminal.

In the bottom of their hearts, or the depths of their unconscious, do not the conservatively minded realize that their whole att.i.tude toward the world and its betterment is based on an a.s.sumption that finds no least support in the Great Book of the Past? Does it not make plain that the "conservative", so far as he is consistent and lives up to his professions, is fatally in the wrong? The so-called "radical" is also almost always wrong, for no one can foresee the future. But he works on a right a.s.sumption--namely, that the future has so far always proved different from the past and that it will continue to do so.

Some of us, indeed, see that the future is tending to become more and more rapidly and widely different from the past. The conservative himself furnishes the only ill.u.s.tration of his theory, and even that is highly inconclusive. His general frame of mind appears to remain constant, but he finds himself defending and rejecting very different things. The great issue may, according to the period, be a primeval taboo, the utterances of the Delphic oracle, the Athanasian creed, the Inquisition, the geocentric theory, monarchy by the grace of G.o.d, witchcraft, slavery, war, capitalism, private property, or n.o.ble isolation. All of these tend to appear to the conservative under the aspect of eternity, but all of these things have come, many of them have gone, and the remainder would seem to be subject to undreamed-of modifications as time goes on. This is the teaching of the now unsealed book.


[27] Mr. James Branch Cabell has in his _Beyond Life_ defended man's romantic longings and inexorable craving to live part of the time at least in a world far more sweetly molded to his fancy than that of natural science and political economy. There is no reason why man should live by bread alone. There is a time, however, for natural science and political economy, for they should establish the conditions in which we may rejoice in our vital lies, which will then do no harm and bring much joy.

[28] The relation of our kinesthesia or muscular sense to fanaticism on the one hand and freedom of mind on the other is a matter now beginning to be studied with the promise of highly important results.

[29] _Drift and Mastery_, pp. 196-197.

[30] G. Stanley Hall, "The Message of the Zeitgeist", in _Scientific Monthly_, August, 1921--a very wonderful and eloquent appeal by one of our oldest and boldest truth seekers.

[31] _Delineator_, August, 1921, p. II.

[32] Adopting Mr. Veblen's definition of a vested interest which caused some scandal in conservative circles when it was first reported. Doubtless the seeming offensiveness of the latter part of the definition obscured its rea.s.suring beginning.

[33] See Section 2 above.

[34] The wise Goethe has said, _"Zieret Starke den Mann und freies, muthiges Wesen, O, so ziemet ihm fast tiefes Geheimniss noch mehr"_, --Romische Elegien, xx.

[35] The closing reflections are borrowed from _The Leaflet_, issued by the students of the New School for Social Research, established in New York in 1919, with a view of encouraging adults to continue their studies in the general spirit and mood which permeate this essay.



It may happen that among the readers of this essay there will be some who will ask how they can most readily get a clearer idea of the various newer ways of looking at mankind and the problems of the day.

The following list of t.i.tles is furnished with a view of doing something to meet this demand. It is not a bibliography in the usual sense of the term. It is confined to rather short and readily understandable presentations appropriate to the overcrowded schedule upon which most of us have to operate. All the writers mentioned belong, however, to that rather small cla.s.s whose opinions are worth considering, even if one reserves the imprescriptible right not to agree with all they say. There may well be better references than those with which I happen to be acquainted, and others quite as useful; but I can hardly imagine anyone, whatever his degree of information, unless he happens to be a specialist in the particular field, failing to gain something of value from any one of the volumes mentioned.

For the astounding revelations in regard to the fundamental nature of matter and the ways in which the modern chemist plays with it, see John Mills, _Within the Atom_ (D. Van Nostrand Company), and Slosson, _Creative Chemistry_ (The Century Company).

A general account of the evolutionary process will be found in Crampton, _The Doctrine of Evolution_ (Columbia University Press), chaps, i-v. For our development as an individual from the egg see Conklin, _Heredity and Environment_ (Princeton University Press).

The general scope of modern anthropology and the influence of this study on our notions of mankind as we now find it can be gathered from Goldenweiser, _Early Civilization, Introduction to Anthropology_ (Knopf). This should be supplemented by the remarkable volume of essays by Franz Boas, _The Mind of Primitive Man_ (Macmillan).

Of the more recent and easily available books relating to the reconstruction of philosophy and the newer conceptions in regard to mind and intelligence the following may be mentioned: Dewey, _Reconstruction in Philosophy_ and _Human Nature and Conduct_ (Holt); Woodworth, _Dynamic Psychology_ (Columbia University Press); _Trotter, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War_ (Macmillan)--especially the first two sections, pp. 1-65; Bernard Hart, _The Psychology of Insanity_ (Putnam), an admirable little introduction to the importance of abnormal mental conditions in understanding our usual thoughts and emotions; McDougall, _Social Psychology_ (J. W. Luce); Everett D.

Martin, _The Behavior of Crowds_ (Harpers); Edman, _Human Traits_ (Houghton-Mifflin). For the so-called behavioristic interpretation of mankind, see Watson, _Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist_ (Lippincott). Haldane, _Mechanism, Life, and Personality_ (Dutton), is a short discussion of some of the most fundamental elements in our modern conception of life itself.

When it comes to gaining an idea of "Freudianism" and all the overwhelming discoveries, theories, and suggestions due to those who have busied themselves with the lasting effects of infantile and childish experiences, of hidden desires--s.e.xual and otherwise, of "the Unconscious" and psychoa.n.a.lysis, while there are many books, great and small, there would be no unanimity of opinion among those somewhat familiar with the subjects as to what should be recommended. It would be well if everyone could read in Havelock Ellis, _The Philosophy of Conflict_ (Houghton-Mifflin), the essay (XVIII) on Freud and his influence. Wilfred Lay, _Man's Unconscious Conflict_ (Dodd, Mead), is a popular exposition of psychoa.n.a.lysis, and Tansley, _The New Psychology_ (Dodd, Mead), likewise. Harvey O'Higgins, _The Secret Springs_ (Harpers), reports, in a pleasing manner, some of the actual medical experiences of Dr. Edward Reede of Was.h.i.+ngton. But much of importance remains unsaid in all these little books for which one would have to turn to Freud himself, his present and former disciples, his enemies, and the special contributions of investigators and pract.i.tioners in this new and essential field of psychological research and therapy.

Turning to the existing industrial system, its nature, defects, and recommendations for its reform, I may say that I think that relatively little is to be derived from the common run of economic textbooks. The following compendious volumes give an a.n.a.lysis of the situation and a consideration of the proposed remedies for existing evils and maladjustments: Veblen, _The Vested Interests and the Common Man_, also his _The Engineers and the Price System_ (Huebsch); J. A. Hobson, _Democracy after the War_ (Macmillan) and his more recent _Problems of a New World_ (Macmillan); Tawney, _The Acquisitive Society_ (Harcourt, Brace); Bertrand Russell, _Why Men Fight_ (Century) and his _Proposed Roads to Freedom_ (Holt), in which he describes clearly the history and aims of the various radical leaders and parties of recent times.

As for newer views and criticism of the modern state and political life in general, in addition to Mr. Hobson's books mentioned above, the following are of importance: Graham Wallas, _The Great Society_ (Macmillan); Harold Laski, _Authority in the Modern State_ and _Problems of Sovereignty_ (Yale University Press); Walter Lippmann, _Preface to Politics_ and _Drift and Mastery_ (Holt).

J. Russell Smith, _The World's Food Resources_ (Holt), is a larger and more detailed discussion than most of those recommended above, but contains a number of general facts and comment of first-rate importance.

One who desires a highly thoughtful and scholarly review of the trend of religious thought in recent times should read McGiffert, _The Rise of Modern Religious Ideas_ (Macmillan).

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The Mind in the Making Part 10 summary

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