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The Mind in the Making by James Harvey Robinson

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(P. 10.)

[25] The general history throughout the United States of these and
similar measures, the interference with public meetings, the trials,
imprisonments, and censorship, are all set forth in Professor
Chaffee's _Freedom of Speech_, 1920.

[26] During the summer of 1921 the Vice-President of the United States
published in _The Delineator_ a series of three articles on "Enemies
of the Republic", in which he considers the question, "Are the 'reds'
stalking our college women?" He finds some indications that they are,
and warns his readers that, "Adherence to radical doctrines means the
ultimate breaking down of the old, sturdy virtues of manhood and
womanhood, the insidious destruction of character, the weakening of
the moral fiber of the individual, and the destruction of the
foundations of society." It may seem anomalous to some that the
defenders of the old, sturdy virtues should so carelessly brand honest
and thoughtful men and women, of whose opinions they can have no real
knowledge, as "enemies of the Republic"--but there is nothing whatever
anomalous in this. It has been the habit of defenders of the sturdy,
old virtues from time immemorial to be careless of others'

* * * * *


Dans les sciences politiques, il est un ordre de verites qui,
surtout chez les peuples libres ... ne peuvent etre utiles, que
lorsqu'elles sont generalement connues et avouees. Ainsi,
l'influence du progres de ces sciences sur la liberte, sur la
prosperite des nations, doivent en quelque sorts se mesurer sur
le nombre de ces verites qui, par l'effet d'une instruction
elementaire, deviennent commune a tous les esprits; ainsi les
progres toujours croissants de cette instruction elementaire,
lies eux memes aux progres necessaires de ces sciences, nous
repondent d'une amelioration dans les destinees de l'espece
humaine qui peut etre regardee comme indefinie, puisqu'elle n'a
d'autres limites que celles de ces progres memes.--CONDORCET.


Of course the kind of reasoning and the presuppositions described in
the previous section will appeal to many readers as an illustration of
excessive and unjustifiable fear lest the present order be disturbed
--a frenzied impulse to rush to the defense of our threatened
institutions. Doubtless the Lusk report may quite properly be classed
as a mere episode in war psychology. Having armed to put down the
Germans and succeeded in so doing, the ardor of conflict does not
immediately abate, but new enemies are sought and easily discovered.
The hysteria of repression will probably subside, but it is now a
well-recognized fact that in disease, whether organic or mental, the
abnormal and excessive are but instructive exaggerations and
perversions of the usual course of things. They do not exist by
themselves, but represent the temporary and exaggerated functioning of
bodily and mental processes. The real question for us here is not
whether Senator Lusk is too fearful and too indiscriminate in his
denunciations, but whether he and his colleagues do not merely furnish
an overcharged and perhaps somewhat grotesque instance of man's
natural and impulsive way of dealing with social problems. It seems to
me that enough has already been said to lead us to suspect this.

At the outset of this volume the statement was hazarded that if only
men could come to look at things differently from the way they now
generally do, a number of our most shocking evils would either remedy
themselves or show themselves subject to gradual elimination or
hopeful reduction. Among these evils a very fundamental one is the
defensive attitude toward the criticism of our existing order and the
naive tendency to class critics as enemies of society. It was argued
that a fuller understanding of the history of the race would
contribute to that essential freedom of mind which would welcome
criticism and permit fair judgments of its merits. Having reviewed the
arguments of those who would suppress criticism lest it lead to
violence and destruction, we may now properly recall in this
connection certain often neglected historical facts which serve to
weaken if not to discredit most of these arguments.

Man has never been able to adapt himself very perfectly to his
civilization, and there has always been a deal of injustice and
maladjustment which might conceivably have been greatly decreased by
intelligence. But now it would seem that this chronic distress has
become acute, and some careful observers express the quite honest
conviction that unless thought be raised to a far higher plane than
hitherto, some great setback to civilization is inevitable.

Yet instead of subjecting traditional ideas and rules to a
thoroughgoing reconsideration, our impulse is, as we have seen, to
hasten to justify existing and habitual notions of human conduct.
There are many who flatter themselves that by suppressing so-called
"radical" thought and its diffusion, the present system can be made to
work satisfactorily on the basis of ideas of a hundred or a hundred
thousand years ago.

While we have permitted our free thought in the natural sciences to
transform man's old world, we allow our schools and even our
universities to continue to inculcate beliefs and ideals which may or
may not have been appropriate to the past, but which are clearly
anachronisms now. For, the "social science" taught in our schools is,
it would appear, an orderly presentation of the conventional
proprieties, rather than a summons to grapple with the novel and
disconcerting facts that surround us on every side.

At the opening of the twentieth century the so-called sciences of man,
despite some progress, are, as has been pointed out, in much the same
position that the natural sciences were some centuries earlier. Hobbes
says of the scholastic philosophy that it went on one brazen leg and
one of an ass. This seems to be our plight to-day. Our scientific leg
is lusty and grows in strength daily; its fellow member--our thought
of man and his sorry estate--is capricious and halting. We have not
realized the hopes of the eighteenth-century "illumination", when
confident philosophers believed that humanity was shaking off its
ancient chains; that the clouds of superstition were lifting, and that
with the new achievements of science man would boldly and rapidly
advance toward hitherto undreamed-of concord and happiness. We can no
longer countenance the specious precision of the English classical
school of economics, whose premises have been given the lie by further
thought and experience. We have really to start anew.

The students of natural phenomena early realized the arduous path they
had to travel. They had to escape, above all things, from the past.
They perceived that they could look for no help from those whose
special business it was to philosophize and moralize in terms of the
past. They had to look for light in their own way and in the
directions from which they conjectured it might come. Their first
object was, as Bacon put it, _light_, not _fruit_. They had to learn
before they could undertake changes, and Descartes is very careful to
say that philosophic doubt was not to be carried over to daily
conduct. This should for the time being conform to accepted standards,
unenlightened as they might be.

Such should be the frame of mind of one who seeks insight into human
affairs. His subject matter is, however, far more intricate and
unmanageable than that of the natural scientist. Experiment on which
natural science has reared itself is by no means so readily applicable
in studying mankind and its problems. The student of humanity has even
more inveterate prejudices to overcome, more inherent and cultivated
weaknesses of the mind to guard against, than the student of nature.
Like the early scientists, he has a scholastic tradition to combat. He
can look for little help from the universities as now constituted. The
clergy, although less sensitive in regard to what they find in the
Bible, are still stoutly opposed, on the whole, to any thoroughgoing
criticism of the standards of morality to which they are accustomed.
Few lawyers can view their profession with any considerable degree of
detachment. Then there are the now all-potent business interests,
backed by the politicians and in general supported by the
ecclesiastical, legal, and educational classes. Many of the newspapers
and magazines are under their influence, since they are become the
business man's heralds and live off his bounty.

Business indeed has almost become our religion; it is defended by the
civil government even as the later Roman emperors and the mediaeval
princes protected the Church against attack. Socialists and communists
are the Waldensians and Albigensians of our day, heretics to be cast
out, suppressed, and deported to Russia, if not directly to hell as of

The Secret Service seems inclined to play the part of a modern
Inquisition, which protects our new religion. Collected in its
innumerable files is the evidence in regard to suspected heretics who
have dared impugn "business as usual", or who have dwelt too lovingly
on peace and good will among nations. Books and pamphlets, although no
longer burned by the common hangman, are forbidden the mails by
somewhat undiscerning officials. We have a pious vocabulary of high
resentment and noble condemnation, even as they had in the Middle
Ages, and part of it is genuine, if unintelligent, as it was then.

Such are some of the obstacles which the student of human affairs must
surmount. Yet we may hope that it will become increasingly clear that
the repression of criticism (even if such criticism becomes
fault-finding and takes the form of a denunciation of existing habits
and institutions) is inexpedient and inappropriate to the situation in
which the world finds itself. Let us assume that such people as really
advocate lawlessness and disorder should be carefully watched and
checked if they promise to be a cause of violence and destruction. But
is it not possible to distinguish between them and those who question
and even arraign with some degree of heat the standardized unfairness
and maladjustments of our times?

And there is another class who cannot by any exaggeration be
considered agitators, who have by taking thought come to see that our
conditions have so altered in the past hundred years and our knowledge
so increased that the older ways of doing and viewing things are not
only unreasonable, but actually dangerous. But so greatly has the
hysteria of war unsettled the public mind that even this latter class
is subject to discreditable accusations and some degree of

We constantly hear it charged that this or that individual or group
advocates the violent overthrow of government, is not loyal to the
Constitution, or is openly or secretly working for the abolition of
private property or the family, or, in general, is supposed to be
eager to "overturn everything without having anything to put in its

The historical student may well recommend that we be on our guard
against such accusations brought against groups and individuals. For
the student of history finds that it has always been the custom to
charge those who happened to be unpopular, with holding beliefs and
doing things which they neither believed nor did. Socrates was
executed for corrupting youth and infidelity to the gods; Jesus for
proposing to overthrow the government; Luther was to the officials of
his time one who taught "a loose, self-willed life, severed from all
laws and wholly brutish".

Those who questioned the popular delusions in regard to witchcraft
were declared by clergymen, professors, and judges of the seventeenth
century to be as good as atheists, who shed doubt on the devil's
existence in order to lead their godless lives without fear of future
retribution. How is it possible, in view of this inveterate habit of
mankind, to accept at its face value what the police or Department of
Justice, or self-appointed investigators, choose to report of the
teachings of people who are already condemned in their eyes?

Of course the criticism of accepted ideas is offensive and will long
remain so. After all, talk and writing are forms of conduct, and, like
all conduct, are inevitably disagreeable when they depart from the
current standards of respectable behavior. To talk as if our
established notions of religion, morality, and property, our ideas of
stealing and killing, were defective and in need of revision, is
indeed more shocking than to violate the current rules of action. For
we are accustomed to actual crimes, misdemeanors, and sins, which are
happening all the time, but we will not tolerate any suspected attempt
to palliate them in theory.

It is inevitable that new views should appear to the thoughtless to be
justifications or extenuations of evil actions and an encouragement of
violence and rebellion, and that they will accordingly be bitterly
denounced. But there is no reason why an increase of intelligence
should not put a growing number of us on our guard against this
ancient pitfall.

If we are courageously to meet and successfully to overcome the
dangers with which our civilization is threatened, it is clear that we
need _more mind_ than ever before. It is also clear that we can have
indefinitely more mind than we already have if we but honestly desire
it and avail ourselves of resources already at hand. Mind, as
previously defined, is our "conscious knowledge and intelligence, what
we know and our attitude toward it--our disposition to increase our
information, classify it, criticize it, and apply it". _It is obvious
that in this sense the mind is a matter of accumulation and that it
has been in the making ever since man took his first step in
civilization._ I have tried to suggest the manner in which man's long
history illuminates our plight and casts light on the path to be
followed. And history is beginning to take account of the knowledge of
man's nature and origin contributed by the biologist and the
anthropologist and the newer psychologists.

Few people realize the hopeful revolution that is already beginning to
influence the aims and methods of all these sciences of man. No
previous generation of thinkers has been so humble on the whole as is
that of to-day, so ready to avow their ignorance and to recognize the
tendency of each new discovery to reveal further complexities in the
problem. On the other hand, we are justified in feeling that at last
we have the chance to start afresh. We are freer than any previous age
from the various prepossessions and prejudices which we now see
hampered the so-called "free" thinking of the eighteenth century.

The standards and mood of natural science are having an increasing
influence in stimulating eager research into human nature, beliefs,
and institutions. With Bacon's recommendations of the study of common
_things_ the human mind entered a new stage of development. Now that
historic forces have brought the common _man_ to the fore, we are
submitting him to scientific study and gaining thereby that elementary
knowledge of his nature which needs to be vastly increased and spread
abroad, since it can form the only possible basis for a successful and
real democracy.

I would not have the reader infer that I overrate the place of science
or exact knowledge in the life of man. Science, which is but the most
accurate information available about the world in which we live and
the nature of ourselves and of our fellow men, is not the whole of
life; and except to a few peculiar persons it can never be the most
absorbing and vivid of our emotional satisfactions. We are poetic and
artistic and romantic and mystical. We resent the cold analysis and
reduction of life to the commonplace and well substantiated--and this
is after all is said, the aim of scientific endeavor. But we have to
adjust ourselves to a changing world in the light of constantly
accumulating knowledge. It is knowledge that has altered the world and
we must rely on knowledge and understanding to accommodate ourselves
to our new surroundings and establish peace and order and security for
the pursuit of those things that to most of us are more enticing than
science itself.[27]

No previous generation has been so perplexed as ours, but none has
ever been justified in holding higher hopes if it could but reconcile
itself to making bold and judicious use of its growing resources,
material and intellectual. _It is fear that holds us back._ And fear
is begotten of ignorance and uncertainty. And these mutually reinforce
one another, for we feebly try to condone our ignorance by our
uncertainty and to excuse our uncertainty by our ignorance.

Our hot defense of our ideas and beliefs does not indicate an
established confidence in them but often half-distrust, which we try
to hide from ourselves, just as one who suffers from bashfulness
offsets his sense of inferiority and awkwardness by rude aggression.
If, for example, religious beliefs had been really firmly established
there would have been no need of "aids to faith"; and so with our
business system to-day, our politics and international relations. We
dread to see things as they would appear if we thought of them
honestly, for it is the nature of critical thought to metamorphose our
familiar and approved world into something strange and unfamiliar. It
is undoubtedly a nervous sense of the precariousness of the existing
social system which accounts for the present strenuous opposition to a
fair and square consideration of its merits and defects.

Partisanship is our great curse. We too readily assume that everything
has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other. We
must be defending or attacking something; only the lily-livered hide
their natural cowardice by asking the impudent question, What is it
all about? The heroic gird on the armor of the Lord, square their
shoulders, and establish a muscular tension which serves to dispel
doubt and begets the voluptuousness of bigotry and fanaticism.[28] In
this mood questions become issues of right and wrong, not of
expediency and inexpediency. It has been said that the worthy people
of Cambridge are able promptly to reduce the most complex social or
economic problem to a simple moral issue, and this is a wile of the
Father of Lies, to which many of us yield readily enough.

It is, however, possible for the individual to overcome the fear of
thought. Once I was afraid that men might think too much; now, I only
dread lest they will think too little and far too timidly, for I now
see that real thinking is rare and difficult and that it needs every
incentive in the face of innumerable ancient and inherent
discouragements and impediments. We must first endeavor manfully to
free our own minds and then do what we can to hearten others to free
theirs. _Toujours de l'audace!_ As members of a race that has required
from five hundred thousand to a million years to reach its present
state of enlightenment, there is little reason to think that anyone of
us is likely to cultivate intelligence too assiduously or in harmful


Our age is one of unprecedented responsibility. As Mr. Lippmann has so
well said:

Never before have we had to rely so completely on ourselves. No
guardian to think for us, no precedent to follow without question,
no lawmaker above, only ordinary men set to deal with heartbreaking
perplexity. All weakness comes to the surface. We are homeless in a
jungle of machines and untamed powers that haunt and lure the
imagination. Of course our culture is confused, our thinking
spasmodic, and our emotion out of kilter. No mariner ever enters
upon a more uncharted sea than does the average human being born
in the twentieth century. Our ancestors thought they knew their way
from birth through all eternity; we are puzzled about day after
to-morrow.... It is with emancipation that real tasks begin, and
liberty is a searching challenge, for it takes away the guardianship
of the master and the comfort of the priest. The iconoclasts did not
free us. They threw us into the water, and now we have to swim.[29]

We must look forward to ever new predicaments and adventures. _Nothing
is going to be settled in the sense in which things were once supposed
to be settled, for the simple reason that knowledge will probably
continue to increase and will inevitably alter the world with which we
have to make terms_. The only thing that might conceivably remain
somewhat stabilized is an attitude of mind and unflagging expectancy
appropriate to the terms and the rules according to which life's game
must hereafter be played. We must promote a new cohesion and
co-operation on the basis of this truth. And this means that we have
now to substitute purpose for tradition, and this is a concise
statement of the great revolution which we face.

Now, when all human institutions so slowly and laboriously evolved
are impugned, every consensus challenged, every creed flouted, as
much as and perhaps even more than by the ancient Sophists, the
call comes to us ... to explore, test, and, if necessary, reconstruct
the very bases of conviction, for all open questions are new
opportunities. Old beacon lights have shifted or gone out. Some of
the issues we lately thought to be minor have taken on cosmic
dimensions. We are all "up against" questions too big for us, so
that there is everywhere a sense of insufficiency which is too deep
to be fully deployed in the narrow field of consciousness. Hence,
there is a new discontent with old leaders, standards, criteria,
methods, and values, and a demand everywhere for new ones, a
realization that mankind must now reorient itself and take its
bearings from the eternal stars and sail no longer into the unknown
future by the dead reckonings of the past.[30]

Life, in short, has become a solemn sporting proposition--solemn
enough in its heavy responsibilities and the magnitude of the stakes
to satisfy our deepest religious longings; sporty enough to tickle the
fancy of a baseball fan or an explorer in darkest Borneo. We can play
the game or refuse to play it. At present most of human organization,
governmental, educational, social, and religious, is directed, as it
always has been, to holding things down, and to perpetuating beliefs
and policies which belong to the past and have been but too gingerly
readjusted to our new knowledge and new conditions. On the other hand,
there are various scientific associations which are bent on revising
and amplifying our knowledge and are not pledged to keeping alive any
belief or method which cannot stand the criticism which comes with
further information. The terrible fear of falling into mere
rationalizing is gradually extending from the so-called natural
sciences to psychology, anthropology, politics, and political economy.
All this is a cheering response to the new situation.

But, as has been pointed out, really honest discussion of our social,
economic, and political standards and habits readily takes on the
suspicion of heresy and infidelity. Just as the "freethinker" who, in
the eighteenth century, strove to discredit miracles in the name of an
all-wise and foreseeing God (who could not be suspected of tampering
with his own laws), was accused of being an atheist and of really
believing in no God at all; so those who would ennoble our ideals of
social organization are described as "Intellectuals" or "parlor
Bolshevists" who would overthrow society and all the achievements of
the past in order to free themselves from moral and religious
restraints and mayhap "get something for nothing". The parallel is
very exact indeed.

The Church always argued that there were no new heresies. All would,
on examination, prove to be old and discredited. So the Vice-President
of the United States has recently declared that:

Men have experimented with radical theories in great and small ways
times without number and always, always with complete failure.
They are not new; they are old. Each failure has demonstrated
anew that without effort there is no success. The race never gets
something for nothing.[31]

But is this not a complete reversal of the obvious truth? Unless we
define "radical" as that which never does succeed, how can anyone with
the most elementary notions of history fail to see that almost all the
things that we prize to-day represent revolts against tradition, and
were in their beginnings what seemed to be shocking divergences from
current beliefs and practices? What about Christianity, and
Protestantism, and constitutional government, and the rejection of old
superstitions and the acceptance of modern scientific ideas? The race
has always been getting something for nothing, for creative thought
is, as we have seen, confined to a very few. And it has been the
custom to discourage or kill those who prosecuted it too openly, not
to reward them according to their merits.

One cannot but wonder at this constantly recurring phrase "getting
something for nothing", as if it were the peculiar and perverse
ambition of disturbers of society. Except for our animal outfit,
practically all we have is handed to us gratis. Can the most
complacent reactionary flatter himself that he invented the art of
writing or the printing press, or discovered his religious, economic,
and moral convictions, or any of the devices which supply him with
meat and raiment or any of the sources of such pleasure as he may
derive from literature or the fine arts? In short, civilization is
little else than getting something for nothing. Like other vested
interests, it is "the legitimate right to something for nothing".[32]
How much execrable reasoning and how many stupid accusations would
fall away if this truth were accepted as a basis of discussion! Of
course there is no more flagrant example of a systematic endeavor to
get something for nothing than the present business system based on
profits, and absentee ownership of stocks.

Since the invention of printing, and indeed long before, those fearful
of change have attempted to check criticism by attacking books. These
were classified as orthodox or heterodox, moral or immoral,
treasonable or loyal, according to their tone. Unhappily this habit
continues and shows itself in the distinction between sound and
unsound, radical and conservative, safe and dangerous. The sensible
question to ask about a book is obviously whether it makes some
contribution to a clearer understanding of our situation by adding or
reaffirming important considerations and the inferences to be made
from these. Such books could be set off against those that were but
expressions of vague discontent or emulation, or denunciations of
things because they are as they are or are not as they are not. I have
personally little confidence in those who cry lo here or lo there. It
is premature to advocate any wide sweeping reconstruction of the
social order, although experiments and suggestions should not be
discouraged. What we need first is a change of heart and a chastened
mood which will permit an ever increasing number of people to see
things as they are, in the light of what they have been and what they
might be. The dogmatic socialist with his unhistorical assumptions of
class struggle, his exaggerated economic interpretation of history,
and his notion that labor is the sole producer of capital, is shedding
scarcely more light on the actual situation than is the Lusk Committee
and Mr. Coolidge, with their confidence in the sacredness of private
property, as they conceive it, in the perennial rightness and
inspiration of existing authority and the blessedness of the profit
system. But there are plenty of writers, to mention only a few of the
more recent ones, like Veblen, Dewey, J. A. Hobson, Tawney, Cole,
Havelock Ellis, Bertrand Russell, Graham Wallas, who may or may not
have (or ever have had) any confidence in the presuppositions and
forecasts of socialism, whose books do make clearer to any fair-minded
reader the painful exigencies of our own times.

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

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 attitude toward
institutions 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 passes for statesmanship.

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

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 masses 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

"With a Senate advising as the Constitution contemplates, I would
hopefully approach the nations of Europe and of the earth, proposing
that understanding which makes us a willing participant in the
consecration of nations to a new relationship, to commit the moral
forces of the world, America included, to peace and international
justice, still leaving America free, independent, self-reliant, but
offering friendship 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
ejaculation, 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 partisanship 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

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
institutions 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 passage 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 assurances. 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 establishing 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
relationship of social classes. 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 noble 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 attitude toward
the world and its betterment is based on an assumption 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 assumption--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 illustration 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 God,
witchcraft, slavery, war, capitalism, private property, or noble
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 reassuring 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 titles 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 class 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

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--sexual and otherwise, of "the
Unconscious" and psychoanalysis, 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 psychoanalysis, 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 Washington. 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
practitioners 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 analysis 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

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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