Part 2 out of 3
As our philosopher explains, the influence of common sense is above all
appreciation of daily events. "We have," he continues, "very rarely in
life the opportunity of making grave decisions, but we are called upon
daily to resolve unimportant problems, and we can only do it in a
judicious way, if we are allowed to devote ourselves to certain kinds of
"This is what may be called to judge with discrimination, otherwise, with
"Without this faculty, it is in vain that our memory amasses the
materials, which must serve us in the comparative examination of facts.
"And this examination can only be spoiled by decrepitude, if common sense
did not succeed in dictating its conclusions to us.
"Thanks to this faculty, we possess this accuracy of mind which permits
us to discern truth from falsehood.
"It is this power which aids us in distinguishing what we should consider
as a duty, as a right, or as a thing conforming to equity, established by
the laws of intelligence.
"Without common sense we should be like an inexperienced gardener, who,
for want of knowledge, would allow the tares to grow and would neglect
the plants whose function is to nourish man.
"In order to conform to the habit of judging with common sense, one ought
first to lay down the following principle:
"No fact can exist, unless there is a sufficient motive to determine
"It is when operating on the elements furnished us by common sense that
we are able to discern the quality of the object of our attention.
"One day, a sage, whom people gladly consulted, was asked by what means
he had learned to know so well the exact proportion of things, so that he
never failed to attribute to them their real value.
"'Why' they added, 'can you foresee so exactly the evil and direct us to
that which is right and just?'
"And the superstitious people added:
"'Are you not in communication with the spirits, which float in space,
which come from the other world?
"Would you not be counseled by voices which we have not the power to
hear, and do you not see things which are visible to you alone?'
"'You are right,' replied the saintly man, smiling:
"'I have indeed the power to hear and to see that which you do not
perceive; but sorcery has no relation to the power which is
attributed to me.
"If you wish, you will be able to possess it in your turn, for my means
are not a secret.
"'I keep my eyes and ears open.'
"And as every one burst out laughing, believing it a joke, the sage
"'But this is not all; after having seen and heard, I call to my aid all
the qualities which constitute common sense and, thanks to this faculty,
I draw my conclusions from my experience, from which enthusiasm, fancy,
as well as personal interest are totally excluded.
"'This done, and my judgment being formulated in my thought, I adapt it
to the circumstances, and especially to the material situation and to the
mentality of those who consult me.'
"From these counsels," thinks the Shogun, "we must draw a precious
"It is true that an exigency, physical or moral, can determine, in
different individuals, a very different resolution.
"According to the manner of life adopted, or the direction given to one's
duties, different resolutions can be made without lacking common sense.
It is indisputable that what represents social obligations does not
demand the same conduct from the peasant as from the prince.
"We should outrage common sense in presenting a workman with a gorgeous
robe suitable for great ceremonies, in which to do his work, but reason
would be equally outraged if one put on a shabby costume to go to the
palace of the Mikado."
The nature of resolutions inspired by common sense varies according to
environment, the time, and the state of mind in which one is.
These conditions make of this quality a virtue really worth acquiring,
for it is more difficult to conquer than many others and its effects are
of infinite variety.
But as always, Yoritomo, after having signaled the danger, and indicated
the remedy, gives us the manner of its application.
That which follows is marked by that simplicity of conception and
facility of execution which render the doctrine of the Nippon philosopher
Instead of losing himself by digressing from his subject and by placing
himself on the summits of psychology, he remains with us, puts himself on
the level of the most humble among us, and says to us all:
"The best way to use common sense in daily life consists in declaring
one's honest intentions.
"What should I do if I were in the place of the person with whom I am
"I found myself one day on the slope of a hill named Yung-Tshi, and I
remarked that the majority of the trees were stript of their foliage.
"The season seeming to me not sufficiently advanced for this condition of
vegetation, I exprest my astonishment to a passer-by, who replied to me:
"'Alas! This occurs every year at the same time, and it is not well to
cultivate trees on the height of Yung-Tshi, for the sun, being too hot,
dries them up before the time when the foliage ought to fall.'
"A few days afterward my steps lead me on the opposite slope of the
"There the trees were covered with foliage, still green but uncommon, and
their appearance indicated an unhealthy condition of growth.
"'Alas!' said a man who was working in the hedges to me, 'it is not well
to cultivate trees on the height of Tung-Tshi, for the sun never shines
there, and they can only acquire the vigor they would possess if they
were planted in another country.'
"And, altho recognizing the truth of these two opinions, so
contradictory, I could not help thinking that they were the reproduction
of those which men, deprived of common sense, express every day.
"The same hill produced a vegetation, affected in different ways, by
reason of different causes; and the people, instead of taking into
consideration how carelessly they had chosen the location of their
plantation, preferred to attribute the defect to the site itself, rather
than to their lack of precaution.
"Both of them were suffering from a hurtful exaggeration, but each one
explained it in a way arbitrarily exclusive.
"He of the north made out that the sun never shone on the summit of
Yung-Tshi, and the inhabitant of the south affirmed that the
health-giving shade was unknown there."
This is why it is indispensable to the successful resolution of the
thousand and one problems of daily life, both those whose sole importance
is derived from their multiplicity and those whose seriousness justly
demands our attention, to employ the very simple method which prescribes
that we place ourselves mentally in the position and circumstances of the
person with whom we are discussing.
If each one of the inhabitants of Yung-Tshi had followed this precept,
instead of declaring that the hill never received the sun or that shade
never fell upon it, they would each one have thought for himself.
"At what conclusions should I arrive, if I had planted my trees on the
From the reasoning which would have ensued, the following truth would
most certainly have been revealed.
"If I were in the other man's place, I should certainly think as he
This premise once laid down, the conclusion would be reached; all the
more exact, because, without abandoning their arguments, each one would
present those which it is easy to turn against an adversary.
Before solving a problem, he who desires to avoid making a mistake must
never fail to ask himself this question:
What should I do if my interests were those of the opposite party?
Or, yet again:
What should I reply if my adversaries used the same language to me as I
purpose using when addressing them?
This method is valuable in that it raises unexpected objections, which
the mind would not consider if one had simply studied the question from
one's own point of view.
It is a self-evident fact that, according to the state of mind in which
we are, things assume different proportions in the rendering of
judgment on them.
We must not argue as children do, who, not having the sense of
calculating distances, ask how the man standing near to them will be able
to enter his house, which they see far away, and which seems to them of
One departs from common sense when one attributes to insignificant things
a fundamental value.
We neglect to consider it in a most serious way when we adopt principles
contrary to the general consensus of opinion accredited in the
environment in which we are living.
"A high dignitary of the court," says Yoritomo, "would be lacking in
common sense if he wished to conduct himself as a peasant and, on the
other hand, a peasant would give a proof of great folly were he to
attempt the remodeling of his life on the principles adopted by
"He who, passing his life in camps, wished to think and to act like the
philosopher, whose books are his principal society, would cause people to
doubt his wisdom; and the thinker who should adopt publicly the methods
of a swashbuckler would only inspire contempt."
In ordinary life, one ought to consider this faculty of common sense as
the ruling principle of conduct.
One can be lacking in thought, in audacity, in brilliant qualities, if
only one possesses common sense.
It takes the place of intelligence in many people, whose minds,
unaccustomed to subtle argument, only lend themselves to very simple
A versatile mentality rarely belongs to such minds, because it is not
their forte to unfold hidden truths.
It walks in the light and keeps in the very middle of the road, far from
the ambushes which may be concealed by the hedges of the cross-roads.
Many people gifted with common sense but deprived of ordinary
intelligence have amassed a fortune, but never, no matter how clever he
may be, has a man known success, if he has not strictly observed the laws
of common sense.
It is not only in debates that the presence of this virtue should make
itself felt, but every act of our life should be impregnated with it.
There are no circumstances, no matter how insignificant they may appear,
where the intervention of common sense would be undesirable.
It is only common sense which will indicate the course of conduct to be
pursued, so as not to hurt the feelings or offend the prejudices of
There are great savants, whose science, freed from all puerile beliefs,
rises above current superstition.
They would consider it a great lack of common sense if they expounded
their theories before the humble-minded, whose blind faith would be
Of two things one is certain: either they would refuse to believe such
theories and this display of learning would be fruitless, or their
habitual credulity would be troubled and they would lose their
tranquility without acquiring a conviction sufficiently strong to give
them perfect peace of mind.
Even in things which concern health, common sense is applicable to
It is common sense which will preserve us from excesses, by establishing
the equilibrium of the annoyances which result from them, with reference
to the doubtful pleasure which they procure.
Thanks to common sense, we shall avoid the weariness of late nights and
the danger of giving oneself up to the delights of dissipation.
"It is common sense," says the philosopher, "which forces us at a banquet
to raise our eyes to the hour-glass to find out how late it is.
"It is under the inspiration of this great quality of mind that we shall
avoid putting to our lips the cup already emptied many times.
"Common sense will reflect upon the mirror of our imagination the specter
of the day after the orgy; it will evoke the monster of the headache
which works upon the suffering cranium with its claws of steel; and, at
some future day, it will show us precocious decrepitude as well as all
bodily ills which precede the final decay of those who yield to their
passions. It will also impose upon us the performance of duty under the
form which it has adopted for each individual.
"Common sense represents for some the care of public affairs; for others
those of the family; for us all the great desire to leave intact to our
descendants the name which we have received from our fathers.
"For some of those still very young, it is like a lover long desired!
"For sages and warriors, it blows the trumpet of glory.
"Finally, common sense is the chosen purpose of every one, courted,
demanded, desired or accepted, but it exists, and under the penalty of
most serious inconveniences it does not permit us to forget its
Coming down from the heights where he allows himself to be transported at
times for a brief moment, Yoritomo tells us the part played by common
sense with reference to health.
"Common sense" he assures us, "is the wisest physician whom it is
possible to consult.
"If we followed its advice, we should avoid the thousand and one little
annoyances of illnesses caused by imprudence.
"The choice of clothing would be regulated according to the existing
"One would avoid the passing at once from extreme heat to extreme cold.
"One would never proffer this stupid reflection: Bah! I shall take care
of myself, which impudent people declare when exposing themselves
carelessly to take cold.
"We should understand that disease is a cause of unparalleled disorder
"In addition to the thought of possible sufferings, that of grief for
those whom we love, joined to the apprehension of a cessation of social
functions, on whose achievement depends our fortune, would suffice to
eliminate all idea of imprudence, if we had the habit of allowing common
sense to participate in all our actions of daily life.
"To those who walk under its guidance; it manifests itself without
ceasing; it dominates all actions without their being compelled to
separate themselves from it.
"It is unconsciously that they appeal to common sense and they have no
need of making an effort to follow its laws.
"Common sense is the intelligence of instinct."
POWER OF DEDUCTION
Before entering the path which relates directly to the intellectual
efforts concerning the acquisition of common sense, the Shogun calls our
attention to the power of deduction.
"It is only," said he, "where we are sufficiently permeated with all the
principles of judgment that we shall be able to think of acquiring this
quality, so necessary to the harmony of life.
"The most important of all the mental operations which ought to be
practised by him who desires common sense to reign supreme in all his
actions and decisions, is incontestably deduction.
"When the union of ideas, which judgment permits, is made with perception
and exactness, there results always an analysis, which, if practised
frequently, will end by becoming almost a mechanical act.
"It is, however, well to study the phases of this analysis, in order to
organize them methodically first.
"Later, when the mind shall be sufficiently drilled in this kind of
gymnastics, all their movements will be repeated in an almost unconscious
way, and deduction, that essential principle of common sense, will be
"In order that deductions may be a natural development, the element
relating to those which should be the object of judgment should be
"The association of statements is an excellent method for it introduces
into thought the existence of productive agents.
"We have already spoken of the grouping of thoughts, which is a more
synthetical form of that selection.
"Instead of allowing it to be enlarged by touching lightly on all that
which is connected with the subject, it is a question, on the contrary,
of confining it to the facts relating to only one object.
"These facts should be drawn from the domain of the past; by comparison,
they can be brought to the domain of the present in order to be able to
associate the former phenomena with those from which it is a question of
"It is rarely that these latter depend on one decision alone, even when
they are presented under the form of a single negation or affirmation.
"Deduction is always the result of many observations, formulated with
great exactness, which common sense binds together.
"That which is called a line of action is always suggested by the
analysis of the events which were produced under circumstances analogous
to those which exist now.
"From the result of these observations, the habit of thinking permits of
drawing deductions and common sense concludes the analysis.
"The method of deduction rests upon this.
"One thing being equal to a previous one should produce the same effects.
"If we find ourselves faced by an incident that our memory can assimilate
with another incident of the same kind, we must deduce the following
chain of reasoning:
"First, the incident of long ago has entailed inevitable consequences.
"Secondly, the incident of to-day ought to produce the same effects,
unless the circumstances which surround it are different.
"It is then a question of analyzing the circumstances and of weighing the
causes whose manifestation could determine a disparity in the results.
"We shall interest ourselves first in the surroundings for thus, as we
have said, habits of thought and feeling vary according to the epoch and
"A comparison will be established between persons or things, in order to
be absolutely convinced of their degree of conformity.
"The state of mind in which we were when the previous events were
manifested will be considered, and we shall not fail to ascertain
plainly the similarity or change of humor at the moment as related to
that of the past.
"It is also of importance to observe the state of health, for under the
affliction of sickness things assume very easily a hostile aspect.
"It would be wrong to attribute to events judged during an illness the
same value which is given to them at this present moment.
"When one is absolutely decided as to the relation of new perceptions and
mental representations, one can calculate exactly the degree of
"The moment will then have arrived to synthesize all the observations and
to draw from them the following deductions:
"First, like causes ought, all things being equal, to produce like
"Secondly, the event which is in question will therefore have the same
consequences as the previous one, since it is presented under the same
"Being granted the principle that like causes produce like effects, as I
have just affirmed, and that there exist certain incompatibilities
between the contingencies of the past and those of to-day, one must allow
that these incompatibilities will produce different results.
"And, after this reasoning, the deductions will be established by
constituting a comparison in favor of either the present or past state
But the philosopher, who thinks of everything, has foreseen the case
where false ideas have obscured the clearness of the deductions, and he
said to us:
"The association of false ideas, if it does not proceed from the
difficulty of controlling things, is always in ungovernable opposition to
the veracity of the deduction.
"What would be thought of a man of eighty years who, coming back to
his country after a long absence, said, on seeing the family roof from
"'When I was twenty years old, in leaving here, it took me twenty
minutes to reach the home of my parents, so I shall reach the threshold
in twenty minutes.'
"The facts would be exact in principle.
"The distance to be covered would be the same; but legs of eighty
years have not the same agility as those of very young people, and in
predicting that he will reach the end of his walk in the same number
of minutes as he did in the past, the old man would deceive himself
"If, on the contrary, on reaching the same place he perceived that a new
route had been made, and that instead of a roundabout way of approach, as
in the past, the house was now in a straight line from the point where he
was looking at it, it would be possible to estimate approximately the
number of minutes which he could gain on the time employed in the past,
by calculating the delay imposed upon him by his age and his infirmities.
"Those to whom deduction is familiar, at times astonish thoughtless
persons by the soundness of their judgment.
"A prince drove to his home in the country in a sumptuous equipage.
"He was preceded by a herald and borne in a palanquin by four servants,
who were replaced by others at the first signs of fatigue, in order that
the speed of the journey should never be slackened.
"As they were mounting, with great difficulty, a zigzag road which led up
along the side of a hill, one of these men cried out:
"'Stop,' said he, 'in the name of Buddha, stop!'
"The prince leaned out from the palanquin to ask the cause of this
"'My lord,' cried the man, 'if you care to live, tell your porters to
"The great man shrugged his shoulders and turning toward his master of
ceremonies, who was riding at his side, said:
"'See what that man wants.'
"But scarcely had the officer allowed his horse to take a few steps in
the direction of the man who had given warning when the palanquin, with
the prince and his bearers, rolled down a precipice, opened by the
sinking in of the earth.
"They raised them all up very much hurt, and the first action of the
prince, who was injured, was to have arrested the one who, according to
him, had evoked an evil fate.
"He was led, then and there, to the nearest village and put into a cell.
"The poor man protested.
"'I have only done what was natural,' said he. 'I am going to explain it,
but I pray you let me see the prince; I shall not be able to justify
myself when he is ill with fever.'
"'What do you mean,' they replied, 'do you prophesy that the prince will
have a fever?'
"'He is going to have it.'
"'You see, you are a sorcerer,' said the jailer, 'you make predictions.'
"And then he shut him in prison, to go away and to relate his
conversation to them all.
"During this time, they called in a healer who stated that the wounds of
the great nobleman were not mortal in themselves, but that the fever
which had declared itself could become dangerous.
"He was cured after long months.
"During this time the poor man languished in his prison, from whence he
was only taken to appear before the judges.
"Accused of sorcery and of using black magic, he explained very simply
that he had foreseen the danger, because in raising his eyes he had
noticed that the part of the ground over which the herald had passed was
sinking, and that he had drawn the following conclusions:
"The earth seemed to have only a medium thickness.
"Under the feet of the herald he had seen it crumble and fall in.
"He had deduced from this that a weight five times as heavy added to that
of the palanquin, would not fail to produce a landslide.
"As to the prediction concerning the fever, it was based on what he had
seen when in the war.
"He had then observed that every wound is always followed by a
disposition to fever; he therefore could not fail to deduce that the
serious contusions occasioned by the fall of the prince would produce the
"The judge was very much imprest with the perspicacity of this man; not
only did he give him his liberty, but he engaged him in his personal
service and in due time enabled him to make his fortune."
We do not wish to affirm--any more than Yoritomo, for that matter--that
fortunate deductions are always so magnificently rewarded as were those
of this man.
However, without the causes being so striking, many people have owed
their fortune to the faculty which they possest of deducing results
where the analogy of the past circumstances suggested to them what
He warns us against the propensity which we have of too easily avoiding a
conclusion which does not accord with our desires.
"Too many people," said he, "wish to undertake to make deductions by
eliminating the elements which deprive them of a desired decision.
"They do not fail either to exaggerate the reasons which plead in favor
of this decision; also we see many persons suffer from reasoning, instead
of feeling the good effects of it."
Those who cultivate common sense will never fall into this error, for
they will have no difficulty in convincing themselves that by acting thus
they do not deceive any one except themselves.
By glossing over truth in order to weaken the logical consequences of
deductions they are the first to be the victims of this childish trick.
That which is called false deduction is rarely aught save the desire to
escape a resolution which a just appraisement would not fail to dictate.
It might be, also, that this twisting of judgment comes from a person
having been, in some past time, subjected to unfortunate influences.
By devoting oneself to the evolution of thought, of which we have already
spoken when presenting the symbolical fan, and above all, by adopting the
precepts which, following the method of Yoritomo, we are going to develop
in the following lessons, we shall certainly succeed in checking the
errors of false reasoning.
"The important thing," said he, "is not to let wander the thought, which,
after resting for a moment on the subject with which we are concerned and
after touching lightly on ideas of a similar character, begins to stray
very far from its basic principles.
"Have you noted the flight of certain birds?
"They commence by gathering at one point, then they describe a series of
circles around this point, at first very small, but whose circumference
enlarges at every sweep.
"Little by little the central point is abandoned, they no longer approach
it, and disappear in the sky, drawn by their fancy toward another point
which they will leave very soon.
"The thoughts of one who does not know how to gather them together and to
concentrate them are like these birds.
"They start from a central point, then spread out, at first without
getting far from this center, but soon they lose sight of it and fly
toward a totally different subject that a mental representation has
"And this lasts until the moment when, in a sudden movement, the first
one is conscious of this wandering tendency.
"But it is often too late to bring back these wanderers to the initial
idea, for, in the course of their circuits, they have brushed against a
hundred others, which are confounded with the first, weaken it, and take
away its exact proportions.
"The great stumbling-block again is that of becoming lost in the details
whose multiplicity prevents us from discerning their complete function in
the act of practising deduction.
"It is better, in the case where our perception finds itself assailed by
the multitude of these details, to proceed by the process of elimination,
in order not to become involved in useless and lazy efforts.
"In this case we must act like a man who must determine the color of a
material at a distance where the tiny designs stand out in a relief of
white on a background of black.
"Suppose that he is placed at a distance too great to perceive
"What should he do to be able to give the best possible description?
"He will proceed by elimination.
"The material is neither red nor green; orange and violet must be set
aside, as well as all the subordinate shades.
"It has a dull appearance, hence, it is gray; unless.... And here mental
activity comes into play and will suggest to him that gray is composed of
black and white.
"He will then be sure to form a judgment which will not be spoiled
by falsity, if he declares that the material is a mixture of black
"Later, by drawing nearer, he will be able to analyze the designs and to
convince himself of their respective form and color, but by deducing that
the material was made up of the mixture of two colors he will have come
as near as possible to the truth:
"Deduction never prejudges; it is based on facts; only on things
accomplished; it unfolds the teaching that we ought to obtain as a
Again the Shogun recommends to us the union of thoughts and the
continuous examination of past incidents in the practise of deductions.
"If on entering a room," said he, "we are at times confused, it happens
also that we correct this impression after a more attentive examination.
"The gilding is of inferior quality; the materials are of cotton, the
paintings ordinary, and the mattings coarse.
"At first sight we should have deduced, judging from appearances, that
the possessor of this house was a very rich man, but a second examination
will cause us to discover embarrassment and anxiety.
"It is the same with all decisions that we must make.
"Before devoting ourselves to deductions inspired by the general aspect
of things, it is well to examine them one by one and to discover their
defects or recognize their good qualities.
"We shall be able thus to acquire that penetration of mind whose
development, by leading us toward wise deductions, will bring us to the
discovery of the truth."
HOW TO ACQUIRE COMMON SENSE
Common Sense is a science, whatever may be said; according to Yoritomo,
it does not blossom naturally in the minds of men; it demands
cultivation, and the art of reasoning is acquired like all the faculties
which go to make up moral equilibrium.
"This quality," said the philosopher, "is obscure and intangible, like
the air we breathe.
"Like the air we breathe, it is necessary to our existence, it surrounds
us, envelops us, and is indispensable to the harmony of our mental life.
"To acquire this precious gift, many conditions are obligatory, the
principle ones being:
"Sincerity of perception.
"Art of the situation.
"And lastly the putting of the question.
"It is very clear that without exactness of perception we could not
pretend to judge justly; it would then be impossible for us to hear the
voice of common sense, if we did not strive to develop it.
"Perception is usually combined with what they call in philosophical
"Otherwise it is difficult, when recognizing a sensation, not to
attribute it at once to the sentiment which animated it at the time of
"The first condition, then, in the acquiring of common sense is to
maintain perfection in all its pristine exactness, by abstracting the
contingencies which could influence us.
"If we do not endeavor to separate from our true selves the suggestions
of sense-consciousness, we shall reach the point where perception is
transformed into conception, that is to say, we shall no longer obtain
reality alone, but a modified reality.
"With regard to perception, if we understand its truthfulness; it will be
a question for reawakening it, of placing ourselves mentally in the
environment where it was produced, and of awakening the memory, so as to
be able to distinguish, without mistake, the limits within which it is
"The art of situation consists in reproducing, mentally, past facts,
allowing for the influence of the surroundings at that time, as compared
with the present environment.
"One must not fail to think about the influences to which one has been
subjected since this time.
"It is possible that life during its development in the aspirant to
common sense may have changed the direction of his first conceptions
either by conversation or by reading or by the reproduction of divers
"It would then be a lack of common sense to base an exact recollection of
former incidents on the recent state of being of the soul, without
seeking to reproduce the state of mind in which one was at the epoch when
those incidents occurred.
"Activity of mind, stimulated to the utmost, is able to give a color to
preceding impressions, which they never have had, and, in this case
again, the recollection will be marred by inexactness.
"The art of situation requires the strictest application and on this
account it is a valuable factor in the acquirement of common sense.
"Attention vitalizes our activity in order to accelerate the development
of a definite purpose toward which it can direct its energy.
"It could be analyzed as follows:
"First, to see;
"Secondly, to hear.
"The functions of the other senses come afterward, and their
susceptibility can attract our attention to the sensations which they
give us, such as the sense of smell, of touch, of taste.
"These purely physical sensations possess, however, a moral
signification, from which we are permitted to make valuable deductions.
"The first two have three distinct phases:
"First degree, to see.
"Second degree, to look.
"Third degree, to observe.
"If we see a material, its color strikes us first and we say: I have seen
a red or yellow material, and this will be all.
"Applying ourselves more closely, we look at it and we define the
peculiarities of the color. We say: it is bright red or dark red.
"In observing it we determine to what use it is destined.
"The eye is attracted by:
"We have just spoken of the color.
"The movement is personified by a series of gestures that people make or
by a series of changes to which they subject things.
"The form is represented by the different outlines.
"The number by their quantity.
"The duration by their length; one will judge of the length of time it
takes to walk a road by seeing the length of it.
"The act of listening is divided into three degrees.
"First degree, to hear.
"Second degree, to understand.
"Third degree, to reflect.
"If some one walking in the country hears a dog bark he perceives first a
sound: this is the act of hearing.
"He will distinguish that this sound is produced by the barking of a dog;
this is the act of understanding.
"Reflection will lead him then to think that a house or a human being is
near, for a dog goes rarely alone.
"If the things which are presented to our sight are complex, those which
strike our ears are summed up in one word, sound, which has only one
definition, the quality of the sound.
"Then follow the innumerable categories of sound that we distinguish only
by means of comprehension and reflection, rendered so instinctive by
habit that we may call them automatic, so far as those which relate to
"The example which we have just given is a proof of this fact.
"Let us add that this habit develops each sensitive faculty to its
"The inhabitants of the country can distinguish each species of bird by
listening to his song; and the hermits, the wanderers, those who live
with society on a perpetual war footing, perceive sounds which would not
strike the ears of civilized people.
"Approximation is also one of the stones by whose aid we construct the
edifice of common sense.
"Concerning the calculations of probabilities, the application of
approximation will allow us to estimate the capacity or the probable
duration of things.
"We can not say positively whether a man will live a definite number of
years but we can affirm that he will never live until he is two hundred.
"There are, for approbation, certain known limits which serve as a basis
for the construction of reasoning, inspired by common sense.
"It can be affirmed, in a positive way, that, if the trunk of a tree were
floating easily, without sinking to the bottom of the water, it would not
float the same if thirty men were to ride astride of it.
"The initial weight of the tree permits it to maintain itself on the
surface; but if it be increased to an exaggerated total, we can, without
hesitation, calculate indirectly the moment when it will disappear,
dragging with it the imprudent men who trusted themselves to it.
"Everything in life is a question of approximation.
"The house which is built for a man will be far larger than the kennel,
destined to shelter a dog, because the proportions have been calculated,
by approximation, according to the relative difference between the
stature of the human and canine species.
"Clothing is also suited to the temperature.
"One naturally thinks that, below a certain degree of cold, it is
necessary to change light clothes for those made of thicker material.
"As with the majority of the constructive elements of common sense,
approximation is always based on experience.
"It draws its conclusions from the knowledge of known limitations, whose
affirmation serves as a basis for the argument which determines deduction
in a most exact manner.
"Experience itself depends on memory, which permits us to recall
facts and to draw our conclusions from them, on which facts reasoning
The Shogun does not fail to draw our attention to the difference between
experience and experimentation.
"This last," said he, "only serves to incite the manifestation of
"It consists of determining the production of a phenomenon whose
existence will aid us in establishing the underlying principles of an
observation which interprets the event.
"That is what is called experience.
"Comparison is a mental operation which permits us to bring things that
we desire to understand to a certain point.
"It is comparison which has divided time according to periods, which the
moon follows during its entire length.
"It is by comparing their different aspects and by calculating the
duration of their transformations, that men have been able to divide time
as they do in all the countries of the world.
"The science of numbers is also born of comparison, which has been
established between the quantities that they represent.
"This is the art of calculating the differences existing between each
thing, by determining the relativeness of their respective proportions.
"Comparison acts on the mind automatically, as a rule.
"It is indispensable to the cultivation of common sense, for it furnishes
the means of judging with full knowledge of all the circumstances.
"Analysis is an operation, which consists of separating each detail from
the whole and of examining these details separately, without losing sight
of their relationship to the central element.
"Analysis of the same object, while being scrupulously exact, can,
however, differ materially in its application, according to the way that
the object is related to this or that group of circumstances.
"There are, however, immutable things.
"For example: the letters of the alphabet, the elementary sounds, the
colors etc., etc.
"It suffices to quote only these three elements; one can easily
understand that the most elaborate manuscript is composed of only a
definite number of letters always repeating themselves, whose
juxtaposition forms phrases, then chapters, and finally the
"Music is composed only of seven sounds whose different combinations
produce an infinite variety of melodies.
"Elementary colors are only three in number.
"All the others gravitate around them.
"Therefore, these same letters, these same notes, these same colors,
according to their amalgamation, can change in aspect and cooperate in
the production of different effects.
"The same letters can express, according to the order in which they are
placed, terror or confidence, joy or grief.
"The same is true of notes and colors.
"Common sense ought then, considering these rules, to know how to analyze
all the details and, having done this, to coordinate and to classify
them, in order to distinguish them easily.
"Coordination and classification form an integral part of common sense."
And Yoritomo, who delights in reducing the most complex questions to
examples of the rarest simplicity, says to us:
"I am supposing that one person says to another, I have just met a negro.
The interlocutor, as well as he who mechanically registers this fact,
without thinking, gives himself up to analysis and to coordination which
always precedes synthesis.
"Without being aware of this mental action, their minds will be occupied
first with the operations of perception then of classification.
"This negro was a man of a color which places him in a certain group of
the human race.
"It is always thus that common sense proceeds, its principal merit being
to know how to unite present perceptions with those previously cognized,
then to understand how to coordinate them so as to be able to group them
concretely, that is to say, to synthesize them.
"Destination is defined as the purpose or object, born of deduction and
"Destination does not permit of losing sight of the end which is
"It allows the consideration of the purpose to predominate always, and
directs all actions toward this purpose, these actions being absolutely
the demonstrations of this unique thought.
"Habits, acquired in view of certain realizations, ought to be dropt from
the moment the purpose is accomplished, or that it is weakened."
It is by absolutely perpetuating those habits, whose pretext has
disappeared, that one sees the achievement of certain actions which have
been roughly handled by common sense.
"There are," again says the philosopher, "certain customs, whose origin
it is impossible to remember; at the time of their birth, they were
engendered by necessity, but even tho their purpose be obliterated,
tradition has preserved them in spite of everything, and those who
observe them do not take into consideration their absurdity.
"People of common sense refrain from lending themselves to these useless
practises, or, if they consent to allow them a place in their thoughts it
is that they attribute to them some reason for existence, either
practical or sentimental."
Direction is indicated by circumstances, by environment, or by necessity.
There is direction of resolutions as well as direction of a journey; it
is necessary, from the beginning, to consider well the choice of a good
route, after having done everything possible to discriminate carefully
between it and all other routes proposed.
It happens, however, that the way leads also through the cross-roads; it
is even indispensable to leave the short cuts in order to trace the
outline of the obstacles.
Direction is, then, an important factor in the acquiring of common sense.
The putting of the question takes its character from comparison, from
experience, and principally from approximation; but it is in itself a
synthesis of all the elements which compose common sense.
He who wishes to acquire common sense should be impregnated with all that
Then he will discipline himself, so as to be able to judge, by himself,
of the degree of reason which he has the right to assume.
He will begin by evoking some subject, comparing its visual forms with,
those forms which he understands the best, in other words, to the
perceptions which are the most familiar to him.
If it concerns a question to be solved, he will try to recall some
similar subject, and establish harmony, by making them both relative to a
Yoritomo advises choosing simple thoughts for the beginning.
"One will say, for example:
"Such a substance is a poison; the seeds of this fruit contain a weak
dose of it; these seeds could then become a dangerous food, if one
absorbed a considerable quantity.
"Common sense will thus indicate a certain abstaining from eating of it.
"Then one may extend his argument to things of a greater importance, but
taking great care to keep within the narrow limits of rudimentary logic.
"One must be impregnated with this principle:
"Two things equal to a third demand an affirmative judgment or decision.
"In the opposite case the negative deduction is enjoined.
"It is by deductions from the most ordinary facts that one succeeds in
making common sense intervene automatically in all our judgments.
"What would be thought of one who, finding himself in a forest at the
time of a violent storm, would reason as follows:
"First: The high summits attract lightning.
"Secondly: Here is a giant tree.
"Thirdly: I'm going to take refuge there.
"Then it is that common sense demands that the state his three
propositions as follows:
"First: High summits attract lightning.
"Secondly: Here is a giant tree.
"Thirdly: I'm going to avoid its proximity because it will surely be
"If he acted otherwise; if, in spite of his knowledge of the danger, he
took shelter under the branches of the gigantic tree, exposing himself to
be struck by lightning, one could, in this case, only reproach him with
imprudence and lay the blame to the lack of common sense which allowed
him to perform the act that logic condemned."
Now the old Nippon speaks to us of the means to employ, that we may avoid
pronouncing too hasty judgments, which are always, of necessity, weakened
by a too great indulgence for ourselves and at the same time too great a
severity for others.
"I was walking one day," said he, "on the shores of a lake, when I
discovered a man sitting at the foot of a bamboo tree, in an attitude of
the greatest despair.
"Approaching him, I asked him the cause of his grief.
"'Alas!' said he to me, 'the gods are against me; everything which I
undertake fails, and all evils crush me.
"'After the one which has just befallen me only one course of action is
left to me, to throw myself in the lake. But I am young, and I am weeping
for myself before resolving to take such a step.'
"And he related to me how, after many attempts without success, he had at
last gained a certain sum of money, the loss of which he had just
"In what way did you lose it?" I asked him.
"'I put it in this bag.'
"'Has some one stolen it?'
"'No, it has slipt through this rent.'
"And he showed me a bag, whose ragged condition confirmed, and at the
same time illustrated his statement.
"'Listen,' said I, sitting down beside him, 'you are simply devoid of
common sense, by invoking the hatred of the gods! You alone are the cause
of your present misery.
"'If you had simply reasoned before placing your money in this bag, this
would not have happened to you.'
"And as he opened his eyes wide:
"'You would have thought this,' I resumed:
"'The material, very much worn, is incapable of standing any weight
"'Now, the money which I possess is heavy, my bag is worn out.
"'I shall not, therefore, put my money in this bag or, at least, I shall
take care to line it beforehand with a solid piece of leather.
"'From this moment,' I proceeded, 'there only remains one thing for you
to do, always consult common sense before coming to any conclusion, and
you will always succeed.
"'As for your opinion concerning the hatred of the gods for you, if
you will once more call common sense to your assistance you will
reason as follows:
"'Gracious divinities protect only wise people.
"'Now, I have acted like a fool.
"'It is, therefore, natural that they should turn away from me.'
"How many useless imprecations would be avoided," adds the Shogun, "if it
were given to men to know how to employ the arguments which common sense
dictates, in order to distribute the weight of the mistakes committed
among those who deserve the burden, without, at the same time, forgetting
to assume our own share of the responsibility if we have erred.
"Nothing is more sterile than regrets or reproaches when they do not
carry with them the resolution never again to fall into the same error."
Afterward the philosopher demonstrates to us the necessity of abstracting
all personality from the exercises which combine for the attainment of
"There is," said he, "an obstacle against which all stupid people
stumble; it is the act of reasoning under the influence of passion.
"Those who have not decided to renounce this method of arguing will never
be able to give a just decision.
"There are self-evident facts, which certain people refuse to admit,
because this statement of the truth offends their sympathies or impedes
their hatreds, and they force themselves to deny the evidence, hoping
thus to deceive others regarding it.
"But truth is always the strongest and they soon become the solitary
dupes of their own wilful blindness.
"The man of common sense knows how to recognize falsehood wherever he
meets it; he knows how vain it is to conceal a positive fact and also how
dangerous it is to deceive oneself, a peril which increases in power, in
proportion to the effort made to ignore it.
"He does not wish to imitate those pusillanimous people who prefer to
live in the agony of doubt rather than to look misfortunes in the
face. He who is determined to acquire common sense will use the
"Doubt is a conflict between two conclusions.
"So long as it exists it is impossible to adopt either.
"Serenity is unknown to those whom doubt attacks.
"To obtain peace, it is necessary to become enlightened.
"However, it is wise always to foresee the least happy issue and to
prepare to support the consequences.
"The man who thinks thus will be stronger than adversity and will know
how to struggle with misfortune without allowing it to master him."
It is in these terms that Yoritomo initiates us into what he calls the
mechanism of common sense; in other words, the art of acquiring by the
simplest reasoning this quality dull as iron, but, like it, also solid
COMMON SENSE AND ACTION
These qualities are two relatives very near of kin; but, just for this
reason, they must not be confounded.
While common sense is applied to all the circumstances of life, practical
sense is applicable to useful things.
Common sense admits a very subtle logic which is, at times, a
Practical sense reasons, starting from one point only; viz., material
It is possible for this sense to be spoiled by egotism, if common sense
does not come to its assistance.
It is by applying the discipline of reasoning to practical sense that it
modifies simple sense perception by urging it to ally itself with logic,
which unites thought to sentiment and reason.
"The association of common sense and practical sense is necessary," says
Yoritomo, "in order to produce new forms, at the same time restraining
the imagination within the limits of the most exact deductions and of the
most impartial judgment."
Science is, in reality, a sort of common sense to which the rules of
reasoning are applied, and is supported by arguments which practical
sense directs into productive channels.
That which is called great common sense is none other than a quality with
which people are endowed who show great mental equilibrium whenever it is
a question of resolving material problems.
These people are generally country people or persons of humble
position, whose physical organism has been developed without paying
much attention to their intellectual education; they are, in fact,
perfect candidates for the attainment of common sense, without having
been educated to this end.
Their aptitude results from a constant habit of reflection which,
rendering their attention very keen, has permitted them to observe the
most minute details, therefore they can form correct conclusions, when it
is a question of things that are familiar to them.
A peasant who has been taught by nature will be more skilled in
prophesying about the weather than others.
He will also know how to assign a limit to the daily working hours, at
the same time stating the maximum time which one can give without
developing repulsion, which follows excesses of all kinds.
In his thought, very simple, but very direct, will be formulated this
Health is the first of all blessings, since without it we are incapable
of appreciating the other joys of life.
If I compromise this possession I shall be insensible to all others.
It is, therefore, indispensable that I should measure my efforts, for,
admitting that a certain exaggerated labor brings me a fortune, I shall
not know how to enjoy it if illness accompanies it.
This is the logic which is called practical sense.
Yoritomo continues, saying that there is a very close connection between
the faculty of judging and that of deducing.
"Practical sense, allied to common sense, comes to the assistance of the
latter, when it is tempted to reject the chain of analogy, whose
representation too often draws one far from the initial subject.
"It facilitates coordination, clearness, and precision of thought.
"It knows how to consider contingencies, and never fails to have a clear
understanding of relative questions."
And to illustrate his theory, he cites us an example which many of our
young contemporaries would do well to remember.
"There was," said he, "in the village of Fu-Isher, a literary man, who
wrote beautiful poems.
"He lived in great solitude, and no one would have heard of his existence
if it had not been that my master, Lang-Ho, while walking in the woods
one day, was attracted by the harmonious sounds of poetry, which this
young man was reciting, without thinking that he had any other listeners
than the birds of the forest.
"Lang-Ho made himself known to him and began to question him.
"He learned that he did not lack ambition, but, being poor, and having no
means of approaching those who would have been able to patronize him, he
was singing of nature for his own pleasure, waiting patiently until he
should be able to influence the powerful ones of the earth to share his
"Lang-Ho, touched by his youth and his ardor, pointed out to him the
dwelling of a prince, a patron of the arts, and, at the same time, told
him how he ought to address the nobleman, assuring him that the fact of
his being a messenger from a friend of the prince would open the doors of
the palace to him.
"The next day the young poet presented himself at the home of the
great lord, who, knowing that he had been sent by Lang-Ho, received
him in spite of the fact that he was suffering intensely from a
"He learned from the young man that he was a poet and treated him with
great consideration, making him understand, however, that all sustained
mental effort was insupportable to him on that day.
"But the poet, not paying attention to the prince's exprest desire,
unrolled his manuscripts and began reading an interminable ode without
noticing the signs of impatience shown by his august hearer.
"He did not have the pleasure of finishing it.
"The prince, seeing that the reader did not understand his importunity,
struck a gong and ordered the servant who appeared to conduct the young
man out of his presence.
"Later, he declared to Lang-Ho that his protege had no talent at all, and
reprimanded him severely for having sent the poet to the palace.
"But my master did not like to be thus criticized.
"So, a little while after that, one day, when that same prince was in an
agreeable frame of mind, Lang-Ho invited him to the reading of one of
"The nobleman declared that he had never heard anything more beautiful.
"'That is true,' said Lang-Ho, 'but you ought to have said this the first
time you heard it.'
"And he revealed to the prince that these verses were those of the young
man whom he had judged so harshly."
From this story two lessons may be drawn:
The first is, that if common sense indicates that judgment should not
change from scorn to enthusiasm, when it is a question of the same
object, practical sense insists that one should be certain of
impartiality of judgment, by avoiding the influence of questions which
relate to environment and surrounding circumstances.
The second concerns opportunity.
We have already had occasion to say how much some things, which seem
desirable at certain times, are questionable when the situation changes.
Bad humor creates ill-will; therefore it is abominably stupid to
provoke the manifestation of the second when one has proved the
existence of the first.
In order that there may be a connection between the faculty of judgment
and that of deduction, it is essential that nothing should be allowed to
interpose itself between these two phases of the argument.
Harmony between all judgments is founded on common sense, but it is
practical common sense, which indicates this harmony with precision.
It is also practical common sense which serves as a guide to the orator
who wishes to impress his audience.
He will endeavor first to choose a subject which will interest those who
listen to him.
In this endeavor he ought, above all, to consult opportunity.
And, as we have remarked on many occasions, the Shogun expresses theories
on this subject, to which the people of the twentieth century could not
give too much earnest consideration.
"There are," said he, "social questions, as, for example, dress
"With time, opinions change, as do forms and manners, and this is quite
"The progress of science by ameliorating the general conditions of
existence, introduces a need created by civilization which rejects
barbarous customs; the mentality of a warrior is not that of an
agriculturist; the man who thinks about making his possessions productive
has not the same inclinations as he whose life is devoted to conquest,
and the sweetness of living in serenity, by modifying the aspirations,
metamorphoses all things.
"In order to lead attention in the direction which is governed by reason,
it is indispensable for the orator that he should expound a subject whose
interpretation will satisfy the demand of opportunity, which influences
"Practical sense will make him take care to speak only of things that he
has studied thoroughly.
"It will induce him to expound his theory in such a way that his hearers
will have to make no effort to assimilate it.
"That which is not understood is easily criticized, and practical sense
would prevent an orator from attempting to establish an argument whose
premises would offend common sense.
"He would be certain of failure in such a case.
"His efforts will be limited, then, to evoking common sense, by employing
practical sense, so far as what refers to the application of principles
which he desires to apply successfully."
Yoritomo recommends this affiliation for that which concerns the struggle
"Superstition," he says, "offends practical sense as well as common
sense, for it rests on an erroneous analysis.
"Its foundation is always an observation marred by falsity, establishing
an association between two facts which have nothing in common.
"There are people who reenter their homes if, when they reach the
threshold, they perceive a certain bird; others believe that they are
threatened with death if they meet a white cat."
Without going back to the days of Yoritomo, we shall find just as many
people who are the victims of superstitions concerning certain facts,
which are only the observance of customs fallen into disuse, and whose
practise has been perpetuated through the ages, altho, as we have said in
the preceding chapter, the purpose of the custom has disappeared, but the
custom itself has not been forgotten.
It is in this way that the origin of the superstition concerning salt
dates back to the time of the Romans, who (while at variance with the
principles of contemporary agriculture) sowed salt in the fields of their
enemies and thought that by so doing they would make them sterile.
To that far-distant epoch can be traced the origin of the superstition
concerning the spilling of salt.
Whatever may have been its cause, superstition is the enemy of common
sense, for, when it does not originate in an abolished custom, it is the
product of a personal impression, associating two ideas absolutely
"Practical sense," Yoritomo continues, "is a most valuable talent to
cultivate, for it prevents our judging from appearances.
"Frivolous minds are always inclined to draw conclusions from passing
impressions; they adopt neither foresight, nor precaution, nor
"There are people who will condemn a country as utterly unattractive,
because they happened to have visited it under unfavorable circumstances.
"Others, without considering what a country has previously produced, and
that at present the grain has not been planted, will declare unfertile
the soil which has been untilled for some months.
"On the other hand, if they visit a house on a sunny day, it would be
impossible for them to associate it with the idea of rain.
"It would be most difficult to make these people alter their judgment,
prematurely formed, and, in spite of the most authoritative assertions
and the most self-evident proofs, their initial idea will dominate all
those which one would like to instil into their minds.
"One moment would, however, suffice for reason to convince them that the
variations of atmosphere and the conditions of cultivation can modify
the aspect of a country, of a field, and of a house, to the extent of
giving them an appearance totally different from the one which they
seemed to have.
"But he who judges by appearances never rejoices in the possession of
that faculty which may be called reason in imagination.
"This is a gift, developed by practical sense and which common sense
happily directs in right channels.
"Those who are endowed with this faculty can, with the help of reasoning,
and by means of thought, build up a future reality based on a judgment
whose affirmation admits of no doubt.
"It is not a question of hypothesis, no matter how well-founded it is.
"Experience, in this case, is united with deduction to form a
preconceived but certain idea.
"By cultivating practical sense, we shall escape the danger of
idealization which, with people of unbalanced mentality, often sheds an
artificial light upon the picture."
There is still another point to which Yoritomo calls our attention, in
order to encourage us to cultivate the twin reasoning powers whose
advantages we are trying to commend in this chapter:
"Practical sense," says he, "sometimes puts common sense apparently in
the wrong, while acting, however, without the inspiration of the latter.
"This happens when it is an advantage, for the perfect equilibrium of the
projects in question, that it should be maintained at the same pitch, in
order that it may be understood by all.
"In the legendary days, snow the color of fire once fell on the
inhabitants of a little village, who were all about to attend a
"One man alone, an old philosopher, had remained at home because, at the
time they were to leave, he suddenly fell ill.
"When his sufferings were relieved, he started out to join the others and
found them committing all sorts of follies.
"Two among them were reviling one another, each one claiming that he was
the only king.
"Some were weeping because they thought that they were changed
"Others were screaming, without rime or reason, now embracing each other,
now attacking one another furiously.
"Soon the wise man recognized that they had been affected by the fall of
snow, which had made them crazy, and he tried to speak to them in the
language of reason.
"But all these crazy people turned on him, crying out that he had just
lost his reason and that he must be shut away.
"They undertook the task of taking him back to his home, but, as that was
not to be accomplished without rough usage, he assumed the part indicated
by practical sense; this man of common sense feigned insanity, and from
the moment the insane people thought that he resembled them they let him
alone and ceased to torment him.
"The philosopher profited by this fact to disarm their excitement, and,
little by little, all the time indulging in a thousand eccentricities,
which had no other object than to protect himself against them, he
demonstrated their aberration to them."
Could not this story serve as an example to the majority of
Is it not often necessary to appear to be denuded of common sense, to
make the voice of reason dominate?
In the fable of Yoritomo, his philosopher proved his profound knowledge
of the human heart, while he put in practise the power of practical sense
in apparent opposition, however, to common sense.
We said this at the opening of the chapter: practical sense and common
sense are two very near relatives, but they are two and not one.
THE MOST THOROUGH BUSINESS MAN
One of the principle advantages of common sense is that it protects the
man who is gifted with it from hazardous enterprises, the risky character
of which he scents.
Only to risk when possessing perfect knowledge of a subject is the sure
means of never being drawn into a transaction by illusory hopes.
An exact conception of things is more indispensable to perfect success
than a thousand other more brilliant but less substantial gifts.
"However," says Yoritomo, "in order to make success our own, it is
not sufficient to have the knowledge of things, one must above all
"On the great world-stage, each one occupies a place which at the start
may not always be in the first rank.
"Nevertheless, work, intelligence, directness of thought and, above all,
common sense, can exert a positive influence on the future superiority of
"Before everything else, it is indispensable that we should never delude
ourselves about the position which we occupy.
"To define it exactly, one should call to mind the wise adage which says:
"But this knowledge is rare.
"Presumptuous persons readily imagine that they attract the eyes of every
one, even if they be in the last rank.
"Timid persons will hide themselves behind others and, notwithstanding,
they are very much aggrieved not to be seen.
"Ambitious persons push away the troublesome ones, in order that they
themselves may get the first places.
"Lazy persons just let them do it.
"Irresolute persons hesitate before sitting down in vacant places and
are consumed with regrets from the time they perceive that others,
better prepared, take possession of them; the more so as they no longer
get back their own, for, during their hesitation, another has seated,
"Enthusiasts fight to reach the first rank, but are so fatigued by their
violent struggles that they fall, tired out, before they have attained
"Obstinate people persist in coveting inaccessible places and spend
strength without results, which they might have employed more
"People of common sense are the only ones who experience no nervous
tension because of this struggle.
"They calculate their chances, compute the time, do not disturb
themselves uselessly, and never abandon their present position until they
have a firm grasp on the following place.
"They do not seek to occupy a rank which their knowledge would not permit
them to keep; they draw on that faculty with which they are gifted to
learn the science of true proportion.
"They do not meddle in endeavors to reform laws; they submit to them, by
learning how to adapt them to their needs, and respect them by seeking to
subordinate their opinion to the principle on which they are based.
"Persons who have no common sense are the only ones to revolt against the
laws of the country where they live.
"The wise man will recognize that they have been enacted to protect him
and that to be opposed to their observance would be acting as an enemy
However, people will say, if laws are so impeccable in their right
to authority, how is it that their interpretation leads so often
It is easy to reply that lawsuits are rarely instituted by men of common
sense; they leave this burden to people of evil intent, who imagine thus
to make a doubtful cause triumph.
It must be conceded that this means succeeds at times with them, when
they are dealing with timid or irresolute persons; but those who have
contracted the habit of reasoning, and who never undertake anything
without consulting common sense, will never allow themselves to be drawn
into the by-paths of sophistry.
If they are forced to enter there temporarily, in order to pursue the
adversary, who has hidden himself there, they will leave these paths as
soon as necessity does not force them to remain there longer and with
delight regain the broad road of rectitude.
A few pages further on we find a reflection which the Shogun, always
faithful to his principles of high morality, specially addresses to those
who make a profession of humility.
"Obedience," he says, "ought to be considered as a means; but, for the
one who wishes to succeed, in no sense can it be honored as a virtue.
"If it be a question of submission to law, that is nothing else but the
performance of a strict duty; this is a kind of compact which the man
of common sense concludes with society, to which he promises his
support for the maintenance of a protection from which he will be the
first to benefit.
"This obedience might be set down as selfishness were it not endorsed by
"There are people, it is true, who, even altho wishing to support their
neighbor when called upon to do so by the law, seek to evade this duty if
left to themselves.
"These are pirates who have broken completely not only with the spirit of
equity, but also with simple common sense.
"It is always foolish to set the example of insubordination, for, if it
were followed, it would not be long before general disorder would appear.
"Some men were sitting one day on the edge of an inlet and were trying
with a net to catch fish, whose playful movements the men were following
through the limpid water.
"According to their character, their perseverance, their cleverness, and
the ingenuity of the means employed, they caught a proportionate number
of fish; but those who caught the least had one or two.
"This success encouraged them, and they began again in good earnest,
each one in his own way, when a stranger appeared; he was armed with a
long branch of a tree, which he plunged in the pond, touching the bottom
and stirring up the mud, which, as it scattered, rose to the surface of
"The limpidity of the water was immediately changed; one could no longer
see the fish, and the fishermen decided to discontinue their sport.
"But the man only laughed at their discomfiture and, brandishing a large
net, he threw it in his turn, chaffing them at the patient cunning by
which they had, he said, taken such a poor haul.
"He brought up some fish, it is true, but at each haul he was obliged to
lose so much time in removing the impurities, the debris, and the weeds
of all kinds from the net that very soon the fishermen had the
satisfaction of seeing him punished for his mean conduct.
"What he took was scarcely more than what the smartest among them had
taken, and his net, filthy from the mud, torn by the roots that he was
unable to avoid, was soon good for nothing."
Might it not be from this fable that we have taken the expression, "to
fish in troubled waters," of which without a doubt the good Yoritomo
furnished the origin many, many centuries ago?
His prophetic mind is unveiled again in the following advice that not a
business man of the twentieth century would reject.
"Common sense," he says, "when it is a question of the relations of men
as to what concerns business or society, ought to adopt the
characteristic of that animal called the chameleon.
"His natural color is dull, but he has the gift of reflecting the color
of the objects on which he rests.
"Near a leaf, he takes the tint of hope.
"On a lotus, he is glorified with the blue of the sky.
"Is this to say that his nature changes to the point of modifying his
"No; he does not cease to possess that which recalls the color of the
ground, and the ephemeral color which he appropriates is only a
semblance, in order that he may be more easily mistaken for the objects
"The man who boasts of possessing common sense, altho preserving his
personality, ought not to fail, if he wants to succeed, to reflect that
of the person whom he wishes to aid him in succeeding."
Let it not be understood for a moment, that we advise any one to act
contrary to the impulses of justice.
But cleverness is a part of common sense in business, and assimilation is
essential to success.
It is not necessary to abandon one's convictions in order to
reflect principles which, without contradicting them, give them a
Common sense can remain intact and be differently colored, according as
it is applied to the arts, politics, or science.
It would not deserve its name if it did not know how to yield to
circumstances, in order to adorn the momentary caprice with flowers
In the primitive ages, common sense consisted in keeping oneself in a
perpetual state of defense; attack was also at times prescribed, by
virtue of the principle that it is pernicious to allow one's rights to be
Attack was also at times a form of repression.
It was also a lesson in obedience and a reminder not to misunderstand
In later times, common sense served to make the advantages of harmony
It directed the descendants of peoples exclusively warlike toward the
secret place where science unfolds itself to the gaze of the vulgar; then
it taught them to provide for their existence by working.
It has demonstrated to them the necessity of reflection, by inciting
them to model their present course of life on the lessons which come
from the past.
It has given them the means to evoke it easily and effectively.
It has injected into their veins the calmness which permits them to draw
just conclusions and to adopt toward preceding reasonings the attitude
of absolute neutrality, without which all former presentiments are
marred by error.
Each epoch was, for common sense, an opportunity to manifest itself
At the moment when poetry was highly honored, it would have been
unreasonable to have ignored it, for the bards excited great enthusiasm
by their songs which gave birth to heroes.
And now, imbued with the principles which in his day might be taken to
represent what we to-day call advanced ideas, Yoritomo continues:
"Common sense can, then, without renouncing its devotion to truth, take
various forms or shades, for the truth of yesterday is not always the
truth of to-day.
"The gods of the past are considered simply as idols in our day and the
virtues of the distant past would be, at present, moral defects which
would prevent men from winning the battle of life, whose ideal is The
Best for which all the faculties should strive."
The Shogun also touches lightly on a subject which, already discust in
his time, has become, in our day, a burning truth; it is a question of a
fault, which in the world of practical life and in that of business can
cause considerable injury to him who allows it to be implanted in him.
We refer to that tendency which has been adorned or rather branded
successively with the names of hypochondria, pessimism, and lastly
neurasthenia, an appellation which comprises all kinds of nervous
diseases, the characteristic of which is incurable melancholy.
"There are people," he says, "who are afflicted with a special
"Everything they look at assumes immediately to their eyes the most
"They see in a flower only the germ of dry-rot; the most ideal
beauty appears to them only like the negligible covering of some
"However, they hang on to this life which they do not cease to
calumniate, and people of common sense are rarely found who will try to
reason with them from a common-sense standpoint:
"'Since life is so insupportable to you, why do you impose upon yourself
the obligation to struggle with it?
"'Only insane people try to prolong their sojourn in a place where they
"It is true that when, perchance, this argument is placed before them,
they do not fail to reply by invoking the shame of desertion.
"'Well, is not then the interest of the struggle to which we are
subjected a sufficient attraction to keep us at our post?'"
And, always enamored with the doctrine, which we are now assiduously
maintaining, he concludes:
"Common sense is, at times, the unfolding of a magnificent force which
incites us to attune our environment to actualities.
"One must not, however, fall into excess and draw a huge sword to pierce
the clouds, which obscure the sun.
"If struggle is praiseworthy when we have to face a real enemy, it
becomes worthy of scorn and laughter if we attack a puerile or imaginary
"But the number of people incapable of appreciating the true color of
things is not limited to those who enshroud them in black.
"There are others, on the contrary, who obstinately insist upon
surrounding them with a halo of sunlight only existing in their
"For such deluded people, obstacles seen from a distance take on the most
attractive appearance; they would be readily disposed to enjoy them and
only consent to allow them a certain importance if they absolutely
obstruct the way.
"But until the moment when impossibility confronts them, do they deny its
existence or underrate its importance by attributing a favorable
influence to it.
"This propensity to see all in the ideal would be enviable if it did not
wound common sense, which revenges itself by refusing to these
improvident people the help of the reasoning power necessary to sustain
them in the crisis of discouragement which brings about irresistibly the
establishment of error.
"These unbalanced people rarely experience success, for they are unable,
as long as their blindness lasts, to mark out a line of serious conduct
"All projects built on the quicksands of false deductions will perish
without even leaving behind them material sufficient to reconstruct them.
"It is impossible to combat strongly enough this tendency to
self-delusion, which inclines us to become the prey of untruth, by
preventing the birth of faith, based on preceding success.
"Sincere conviction, on the contrary, will lead us to refute strongly
all the false arguments, which impede thought and would choke it in
order to allow unadulterated pleasure to be installed on the ruins of
"The battle of life demands warriors and conquerors as well as critics,
less brilliant, perhaps, but just as worthy of admiration, for their
mission is equally important, altho infinitely more obscure.
"Whether he be a peasant tilling his field or a rich capitalist
manipulating his gold, he who works in order to satisfy the needs or
luxury of his existence is a fighter whose hours are spent in occupations
more or less dangerous.
"From time to time, however, a cessation of hostilities is produced; such
always follows the appearance of common sense which, by giving to things
their true proportions, causes the greater part of inequalities to
"Finally, he who cultivates this virtue unostentatiously will always be
protected from the caprices of fortune; if he is poor, common sense will
indicate to him the way to cease to be poor, and, if chance has given him
birth in opulence, the counsels of experience will demonstrate to him the
frailty of possessions that one has not acquired by personal effort."
This conclusion is strikingly true, for it is certain that prosperity
attained by personal effort is less likely to fade away than an inherited
fortune, whose owner can only understand the ordinary pleasure of a
possession which he has not ardently desired.
He who is the maker of his own position is more able to maintain it; he
knows the price of the efforts which he had to make in order to construct
it, and, armed with common sense, he is as able to defend his treasure as
to enjoy the sweet savor of a thing which he has desired, longed for, and
won by the force of his will and judgment, placed at the service of
circumstances and directed toward success.
COMMON SENSE AND SELF-CONTROL
"Where life manifests itself," says Yoritomo, "antagonism always
"In the eternal struggle between the individual and social soul, each of
which, in its turn, is victorious or vanquished, a truce is declared only