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Title: Human Nature and Conduct - An introduction to social psychology
Author: Dewey, John, 1859-1952
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  An Introduction to Social Psychology






  COPYRIGHT, 1922,


  First Printing, Jan., 1922
  Second Printing, Mar., 1922
  Third Printing, June, 1922
  Fourth Printing, Aug., 1922
  Fifth Printing, Nov., 1922
  Sixth Printing, April, 1923

  The Quinn & Boden Company


In the spring of 1918 I was invited by Leland Stanford Junior University
to give a series of three lectures upon the West Memorial Foundation.
One of the topics included within the scope of the Foundation is Human
Conduct and Destiny. This volume is the result, as, according to the
terms of the Foundation, the lectures are to be published. The lectures
as given have, however, been rewritten and considerably expanded. An
Introduction and Conclusion have been added. The lectures should have
been published within two years from delivery. Absence from the country
rendered strict compliance difficult; and I am indebted to the
authorities of the University for their indulgence in allowing an
extension of time, as well as for so many courtesies received during the
time when the lectures were given.

Perhaps the sub-title requires a word of explanation. The book does not
purport to be a treatment of social psychology. But it seriously sets
forth a belief that an understanding of habit and of different types of
habit is the key to social psychology, while the operation of impulse
and intelligence gives the key to individualized mental activity. But
they are secondary to habit so that mind can be understood in the
concrete only as a system of beliefs, desires and purposes which are
formed in the interaction of biological aptitudes with a social
                                                                J. D.
  February, 1921


  INTRODUCTION                                                       1
    Contempt for human nature; pathology of goodness; freedom;
    value of science.

                           _PART ONE_

  SECTION I: HABITS AS SOCIAL FUNCTIONS                             14
    Habits as functions and arts; social complicity; subjective
  SECTION II: HABITS AND WILL                                       24
    Active means; ideas of ends; means and ends; nature of
  SECTION III: CHARACTER AND CONDUCT                                43
    Good will and consequences; virtues and natural goods;
    objective and subjective morals.
  SECTION IV: CUSTOM AND HABIT                                      58
    Human psychology is social; habit as conservative; mind and
  SECTION V: CUSTOM AND MORALITY                                    75
    Customs as standards; authority of standards; class
  SECTION VI: HABIT AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY                           84
    Isolation of individuality; newer movements.

                           _PART TWO_

  SECTION I: IMPULSES AND CHANGE OF HABITS                          89
    Present interest in instincts; impulses as re-organizing.
  SECTION II: PLASTICITY OF IMPULSE                                 95
    Impulse and education; uprush of impulse; fixed codes.
  SECTION III: CHANGING HUMAN NATURE                               106
    Habits the inert factor; modification of impulses; war a
    social function; economic regimes as social products; nature
    of motives.
  SECTION IV: IMPULSE AND CONFLICT OF HABITS                       125
    Possibility of social betterment; conservatism.
  SECTION V: CLASSIFICATION OF INSTINCTS                           131
    False simplifications; "self-love"; will to power;
    acquisitive and creative.
  SECTION VI: NO SEPARATE INSTINCTS                                149
    Uniqueness of acts; possibilities of operation; necessity of
    play and art; rebelliousness.
  SECTION VII: IMPULSE AND THOUGHT                                 169

                           _PART THREE_

  SECTION I: HABIT AND INTELLIGENCE                                172
    Habits and intellect; mind, habit and impulse.
  SECTION II: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THINKING                           181
    The trinity of intellect; conscience and its alleged separate
  SECTION III: THE NATURE OF DELIBERATION                          189
    Deliberation as imaginative rehearsal; preference and choice;
    strife of reason and passion; nature of reason.
  SECTION IV: DELIBERATION AND CALCULATION                         199
    Error in utilitarian theory; place of the pleasant;
    hedonistic calculus; deliberation and prediction.
  SECTION V: THE UNIQUENESS OF GOOD                                210
    Fallacy of a single good; applied to utilitarianism; profit
    and personality; means and ends.
  SECTION VI: THE NATURE OF AIMS                                   223
    Theory of final ends; aims as directive means; ends as
    justifying means; meaning well as an aim; wishes and aims.
  SECTION VII: THE NATURE OF PRINCIPLES                            238
    Desire for certainty; morals and probabilities; importance of
  SECTION VIII: DESIRE AND INTELLIGENCE                            248
    Object and consequence of desire; desire and quiescence;
    self-deception in desire; desire needs intelligence; nature
    of idealism; living in the ideal.
  SECTION IX: THE PRESENT AND FUTURE                               265
    Subordination of activity to result; control of future;
    production and consummation; idealism and distant goals.

                           _PART FOUR_

  SECTION I: THE GOOD OF ACTIVITY                                  278
    Better and worse; morality a process; evolution and progress;
    optimism; Epicureanism; making others happy.
  SECTION II: MORALS ARE HUMAN                                     295
    Humane morals; natural law and morals; place of science.
  SECTION III: WHAT IS FREEDOM?                                    303
    Elements in freedom; capacity in action; novel possibilities;
    force of desire.
  SECTION IV: MORALITY IS SOCIAL                                   314
    Conscience and responsibility; social pressure and
    opportunity; exaggeration of blame; importance of social
    psychology; category of right; the community as religious


"Give a dog a bad name and hang him." Human nature has been the dog of
professional moralists, and consequences accord with the proverb. Man's
nature has been regarded with suspicion, with fear, with sour looks,
sometimes with enthusiasm for its possibilities but only when these were
placed in contrast with its actualities. It has appeared to be so evilly
disposed that the business of morality was to prune and curb it; it
would be thought better of if it could be replaced by something else. It
has been supposed that morality would be quite superfluous were it not
for the inherent weakness, bordering on depravity, of human nature. Some
writers with a more genial conception have attributed the current
blackening to theologians who have thought to honor the divine by
disparaging the human. Theologians have doubtless taken a gloomier view
of man than have pagans and secularists. But this explanation doesn't
take us far. For after all these theologians are themselves human, and
they would have been without influence if the human audience had not
somehow responded to them.

Morality is largely concerned with controlling human nature. When we are
attempting to control anything we are acutely aware of what resists us.
So moralists were led, perhaps, to think of human nature as evil because
of its reluctance to yield to control, its rebelliousness under the
yoke. But this explanation only raises another question. Why did
morality set up rules so foreign to human nature? The ends it insisted
upon, the regulations it imposed, were after all outgrowths of human
nature. Why then was human nature so averse to them? Moreover rules can
be obeyed and ideals realized only as they appeal to something in human
nature and awaken in it an active response. Moral principles that exalt
themselves by degrading human nature are in effect committing suicide.
Or else they involve human nature in unending civil war, and treat it as
a hopeless mess of contradictory forces.

We are forced therefore to consider the nature and origin of that
control of human nature with which morals has been occupied. And the
fact which is forced upon us when we raise this question is the
existence of classes. Control has been vested in an oligarchy.
Indifference to regulation has grown in the gap which separates the
ruled from the rulers. Parents, priests, chiefs, social censors have
supplied aims, aims which were foreign to those upon whom they were
imposed, to the young, laymen, ordinary folk; a few have given and
administered rule, and the mass have in a passable fashion and with
reluctance obeyed. Everybody knows that good children are those who make
as little trouble as possible for their elders, and since most of them
cause a good deal of annoyance they must be naughty by nature. Generally
speaking, good people have been those who did what they were told to do,
and lack of eager compliance is a sign of something wrong in their

But no matter how much men in authority have turned moral rules into an
agency of class supremacy, any theory which attributes the origin of
rule to deliberate design is false. To take advantage of conditions
after they have come into existence is one thing; to create them for the
sake of an advantage to accrue is quite another thing. We must go back
to the bare fact of social division into superior and inferior. To say
that accident produced social conditions is to perceive they were not
produced by intelligence. Lack of understanding of human nature is the
primary cause of disregard for it. Lack of insight always ends in
despising or else unreasoned admiration. When men had no scientific
knowledge of physical nature they either passively submitted to it or
sought to control it magically. What cannot be understood cannot be
managed intelligently. It has to be forced into subjection from without.
The opaqueness of human nature to reason is equivalent to a belief in
its intrinsic irregularity. Hence a decline in the authority of social
oligarchy was accompanied by a rise of scientific interest in human
nature. This means that the make-up and working of human forces afford a
basis for moral ideas and ideals. Our science of human nature in
comparison with physical sciences is rudimentary, and morals which are
concerned with the health, efficiency and happiness of a development of
human nature are correspondingly elementary. These pages are a
discussion of some phases of the ethical change involved in positive
respect for human nature when the latter is associated with scientific
knowledge. We may anticipate the general nature of this change through
considering the evils which have resulted from severing morals from the
actualities of human physiology and psychology. There is a pathology of
goodness as well as of evil; that is, of that sort of goodness which is
nurtured by this separation. The badness of good people, for the most
part recorded only in fiction, is the revenge taken by human nature for
the injuries heaped upon it in the name of morality. In the first place,
morals cut off from positive roots in man's nature is bound to be mainly
negative. Practical emphasis falls upon avoidance, escape of evil, upon
not doing things, observing prohibitions. Negative morals assume as many
forms as there are types of temperament subject to it. Its commonest
form is the protective coloration of a neutral respectability, an
insipidity of character. For one man who thanks God that he is not as
other men there are a thousand to offer thanks that they are as other
men, sufficiently as others are to escape attention. Absence of social
blame is the usual mark of goodness for it shows that evil has been
avoided. Blame is most readily averted by being so much like everybody
else that one passes unnoticed. Conventional morality is a drab
morality, in which the only fatal thing is to be conspicuous. If there
be flavor left in it, then some natural traits have somehow escaped
being subdued. To be so good as to attract notice is to be priggish, too
good for this world. The same psychology that brands the convicted
criminal as forever a social outcast makes it the part of a gentleman
not to obtrude virtues noticeably upon others.

The Puritan is never popular, not even in a society of Puritans. In case
of a pinch, the mass prefer to be good fellows rather than to be good
men. Polite vice is preferable to eccentricity and ceases to be vice.
Morals that professedly neglect human nature end by emphasizing those
qualities of human nature that are most commonplace and average; they
exaggerate the herd instinct to conformity. Professional guardians of
morality who have been exacting with respect to themselves have accepted
avoidance of conspicuous evil as enough for the masses. One of the most
instructive things in all human history is the system of concessions,
tolerances, mitigations and reprieves which the Catholic Church with its
official supernatural morality has devised for the multitude. Elevation
of the spirit above everything natural is tempered by organized leniency
for the frailties of flesh. To uphold an aloof realm of strictly ideal
realities is admitted to be possible only for a few. Protestantism,
except in its most zealous forms, has accomplished the same result by a
sharp separation between religion and morality in which a higher
justification by faith disposes at one stroke of daily lapses into the
gregarious morals of average conduct.

There are always ruder forceful natures who cannot tame themselves to
the required level of colorless conformity. To them conventional
morality appears as an organized futility; though they are usually
unconscious of their own attitude since they are heartily in favor of
morality for the mass as making it easier to manage them. Their only
standard is success, putting things over, getting things done. Being
good is to them practically synonymous with ineffectuality; and
accomplishment, achievement is its own justification. They know by
experience that much is forgiven to those who succeed, and they leave
goodness to the stupid, to those whom they qualify as boobs. Their
gregarious nature finds sufficient outlet in the conspicuous tribute
they pay to all established institutions as guardians of ideal
interests, and in their denunciations of all who openly defy
conventionalized ideals. Or they discover that they are the chosen
agents of a higher morality and walk subject to specially ordained laws.
Hypocrisy in the sense of a deliberate covering up of a will to evil by
loud-voiced protestations of virtue is one of the rarest of occurrences.
But the combination in the same person of an intensely executive nature
with a love of popular approval is bound, in the face of conventional
morality, to produce what the critical term hypocrisy.

Another reaction to the separation of morals from human nature is a
romantic glorification of natural impulse as something superior to all
moral claims. There are those who lack the persistent force of the
executive will to break through conventions and to use them for their
own purposes, but who unite sensitiveness with intensity of desire.
Fastening upon the conventional element in morality, they hold that all
morality is a conventionality hampering to the development of
individuality. Although appetites are the commonest things in human
nature, the least distinctive or individualized, they identify
unrestraint in satisfaction of appetite with free realization of
individuality. They treat subjection to passion as a manifestation of
freedom in the degree in which it shocks the bourgeois. The urgent need
for a transvaluation of morals is caricatured by the notion that an
avoidance of the avoidances of conventional morals constitutes positive
achievement. While the executive type keeps its eyes on actual
conditions so as to manipulate them, this school abrogates objective
intelligence in behalf of sentiment, and withdraws into little coteries
of emancipated souls.

There are others who take seriously the idea of morals separated from
the ordinary actualities of humanity and who attempt to live up to it.
Some become engrossed in spiritual egotism. They are preoccupied with
the state of their character, concerned for the purity of their motives
and the goodness of their souls. The exaltation of conceit which
sometimes accompanies this absorption can produce a corrosive inhumanity
which exceeds the possibilities of any other known form of selfishness.
In other cases, persistent preoccupation with the thought of an ideal
realm breeds morbid discontent with surroundings, or induces a futile
withdrawal into an inner world where all facts are fair to the eye. The
needs of actual conditions are neglected, or dealt with in a
half-hearted way, because in the light of the ideal they are so mean and
sordid. To speak of evils, to strive seriously for change, shows a low
mind. Or, again, the ideal becomes a refuge, an asylum, a way of escape
from tiresome responsibilities. In varied ways men come to live in two
worlds, one the actual, the other the ideal. Some are tortured by the
sense of their irreconcilability. Others alternate between the two,
compensating for the strains of renunciation involved in membership in
the ideal realm by pleasurable excursions into the delights of the

If we turn from concrete effects upon character to theoretical issues,
we single out the discussion regarding freedom of will as typical of the
consequences that come from separating morals from human nature. Men are
wearied with bootless discussion, and anxious to dismiss it as a
metaphysical subtlety. But nevertheless it contains within itself the
most practical of all moral questions, the nature of freedom and the
means of its achieving. The separation of morals from human nature leads
to a separation of human nature in its moral aspects from the rest of
nature, and from ordinary social habits and endeavors which are found in
business, civic life, the run of companionships and recreations. These
things are thought of at most as places where moral notions need to be
applied, not as places where moral ideas are to be studied and moral
energies generated. In short, the severance of morals from human nature
ends by driving morals inwards from the public open out-of-doors air and
light of day into the obscurities and privacies of an inner life. The
significance of the traditional discussion of free will is that it
reflects precisely a separation of moral activity from nature and the
public life of men.

One has to turn from moral theories to the general human struggle for
political, economic and religious liberty, for freedom of thought,
speech, assemblage and creed, to find significant reality in the
conception of freedom of will. Then one finds himself out of the
stiflingly close atmosphere of an inner consciousness and in the
open-air world. The cost of confining moral freedom to an inner region
is the almost complete severance of ethics from politics and economics.
The former is regarded as summed up in edifying exhortations, and the
latter as connected with arts of expediency separated from larger issues
of good.

In short, there are two schools of social reform. One bases itself upon
the notion of a morality which springs from an inner freedom, something
mysteriously cooped up within personality. It asserts that the only way
to change institutions is for men to purify their own hearts, and that
when this has been accomplished, change of institutions will follow of
itself. The other school denies the existence of any such inner power,
and in so doing conceives that it has denied all moral freedom. It says
that men are made what they are by the forces of the environment, that
human nature is purely malleable, and that till institutions are
changed, nothing can be done. Clearly this leaves the outcome as
hopeless as does an appeal to an inner rectitude and benevolence. For it
provides no leverage for change of environment. It throws us back upon
accident, usually disguised as a necessary law of history or evolution,
and trusts to some violent change, symbolized by civil war, to usher in
an abrupt millennium. There is an alternative to being penned in between
these two theories. We can recognize that all conduct is _interaction_
between elements of human nature and the environment, natural and
social. Then we shall see that progress proceeds in two ways, and that
freedom is found in that kind of interaction which maintains an
environment in which human desire and choice count for something. There
are in truth forces in man as well as without him. While they are
infinitely frail in comparison with exterior forces, yet they may have
the support of a foreseeing and contriving intelligence. When we look at
the problem as one of an adjustment to be intelligently attained, the
issue shifts from within personality to an engineering issue, the
establishment of arts of education and social guidance.

The idea persists that there is something materialistic about natural
science and that morals are degraded by having anything seriously to do
with material things. If a sect should arise proclaiming that men ought
to purify their lungs completely before they ever drew a breath it ought
to win many adherents from professed moralists. For the neglect of
sciences that deal specifically with facts of the natural and social
environment leads to a side-tracking of moral forces into an unreal
privacy of an unreal self. It is impossible to say how much of the
remediable suffering of the world is due to the fact that physical
science is looked upon as merely physical. It is impossible to say how
much of the unnecessary slavery of the world is due to the conception
that moral issues can be settled within conscience or human sentiment
apart from consistent study of facts and application of specific
knowledge in industry, law and politics. Outside of manufacturing and
transportation, science gets its chance in war. These facts perpetuate
war and the hardest, most brutal side of modern industry. Each sign of
disregard for the moral potentialities of physical science drafts the
conscience of mankind away from concern with the interactions of man and
nature which must be mastered if freedom is to be a reality. It diverts
intelligence to anxious preoccupation with the unrealities of a purely
inner life, or strengthens reliance upon outbursts of sentimental
affection. The masses swarm to the occult for assistance. The cultivated
smile contemptuously. They might smile, as the saying goes, out of the
other side of their mouths if they realized how recourse to the occult
exhibits the practical logic of their own beliefs. For both rest upon a
separation of moral ideas and feelings from knowable facts of life, man
and the world.

It is not pretended that a moral theory based upon realities of human
nature and a study of the specific connections of these realities with
those of physical science would do away with moral struggle and defeat.
It would not make the moral life as simple a matter as wending one's way
along a well-lighted boulevard. All action is an invasion of the future,
of the unknown. Conflict and uncertainty are ultimate traits. But morals
based upon concern with facts and deriving guidance from knowledge of
them would at least locate the points of effective endeavor and would
focus available resources upon them. It would put an end to the
impossible attempt to live in two unrelated worlds. It would destroy
fixed distinction between the human and the physical, as well as that
between the moral and the industrial and political. A morals based on
study of human nature instead of upon disregard for it would find the
facts of man continuous with those of the rest of nature and would
thereby ally ethics with physics and biology. It would find the nature
and activities of one person coterminous with those of other human
beings, and therefore link ethics with the study of history, sociology,
law and economics.

Such a morals would not automatically solve moral problems, nor resolve
perplexities. But it would enable us to state problems in such forms
that action could be courageously and intelligently directed to their
solution. It would not assure us against failure, but it would render
failure a source of instruction. It would not protect us against the
future emergence of equally serious moral difficulties, but it would
enable us to approach the always recurring troubles with a fund of
growing knowledge which would add significant values to our conduct even
when we overtly failed--as we should continue to do. Until the integrity
of morals with human nature and of both with the environment is
recognized, we shall be deprived of the aid of past experience to cope
with the most acute and deep problems of life. Accurate and extensive
knowledge will continue to operate only in dealing with purely technical
problems. The intelligent acknowledgment of the continuity of nature,
man and society will alone secure a growth of morals which will be
serious without being fanatical, aspiring without sentimentality,
adapted to reality without conventionality, sensible without taking the
form of calculation of profits, idealistic without being romantic.




Habits may be profitably compared to physiological functions, like
breathing, digesting. The latter are, to be sure, involuntary, while
habits are acquired. But important as is this difference for many
purposes it should not conceal the fact that habits are like functions
in many respects, and especially in requiring the cooperation of
organism and environment. Breathing is an affair of the air as truly as
of the lungs; digesting an affair of food as truly as of tissues of
stomach. Seeing involves light just as certainly as it does the eye and
optic nerve. Walking implicates the ground as well as the legs; speech
demands physical air and human companionship and audience as well as
vocal organs. We may shift from the biological to the mathematical use
of the word function, and say that natural operations like breathing
and digesting, acquired ones like speech and honesty, are functions of
the surroundings as truly as of a person. They are things done _by_ the
environment by means of organic structures or acquired dispositions. The
same air that under certain conditions ruffles the pool or wrecks
buildings, under other conditions purifies the blood and conveys
thought. The outcome depends upon what air acts upon. The social
environment acts through native impulses and speech and moral habitudes
manifest themselves. There are specific good reasons for the usual
attribution of acts to the person from whom they immediately proceed.
But to convert this special reference into a belief of exclusive
ownership is as misleading as to suppose that breathing and digesting
are complete within the human body. To get a rational basis for moral
discussion we must begin with recognizing that functions and habits are
ways of using and incorporating the environment in which the latter has
its say as surely as the former.

We may borrow words from a context less technical than that of biology,
and convey the same idea by saying that habits are arts. They involve
skill of sensory and motor organs, cunning or craft, and objective
materials. They assimilate objective energies, and eventuate in command
of environment. They require order, discipline, and manifest technique.
They have a beginning, middle and end. Each stage marks progress in
dealing with materials and tools, advance in converting material to
active use. We should laugh at any one who said that he was master of
stone working, but that the art was cooped up within himself and in no
wise dependent upon support from objects and assistance from tools.

In morals we are however quite accustomed to such a fatuity. Moral
dispositions are thought of as belonging exclusively to a self. The self
is thereby isolated from natural and social surroundings. A whole school
of morals flourishes upon capital drawn from restricting morals to
character and then separating character from conduct, motives from
actual deeds. Recognition of the analogy of moral action with functions
and arts uproots the causes which have made morals subjective and
"individualistic." It brings morals to earth, and if they still aspire
to heaven it is to the heavens of the earth, and not to another world.
Honesty, chastity, malice, peevishness, courage, triviality, industry,
irresponsibility are not private possessions of a person. They are
working adaptations of personal capacities with environing forces. All
virtues and vices are habits which incorporate objective forces. They
are interactions of elements contributed by the make-up of an individual
with elements supplied by the out-door world. They can be studied as
objectively as physiological functions, and they can be modified by
change of either personal or social elements.

If an individual were alone in the world, he would form his habits
(assuming the impossible, namely, that he would be able to form them) in
a moral vacuum. They would belong to him alone, or to him only in
reference to physical forces. Responsibility and virtue would be his
alone. But since habits involve the support of environing conditions, a
society or some specific group of fellow-men, is always accessory before
and after the fact. Some activity proceeds from a man; then it sets up
reactions in the surroundings. Others approve, disapprove, protest,
encourage, share and resist. Even letting a man alone is a definite
response. Envy, admiration and imitation are complicities. Neutrality is
non-existent. Conduct is always shared; this is the difference between
it and a physiological process. It is not an ethical "ought" that
conduct _should_ be social. It _is_ social, whether bad or good.

Washing one's hands of the guilt of others is a way of sharing guilt so
far as it encourages in others a vicious way of action. Non-resistance
to evil which takes the form of paying no attention to it is a way of
promoting it. The desire of an individual to keep his own conscience
stainless by standing aloof from badness may be a sure means of causing
evil and thus of creating personal responsibility for it. Yet there are
circumstances in which passive resistance may be the most effective form
of nullification of wrong action, or in which heaping coals of fire on
the evil-doer may be the most effective way of transforming conduct. To
sentimentalize over a criminal--to "forgive" because of a glow of
feeling--is to incur liability for production of criminals. But to
suppose that infliction of retributive suffering suffices, without
reference to concrete consequences, is to leave untouched old causes of
criminality and to create new ones by fostering revenge and brutality.
The abstract theory of justice which demands the "vindication" of law
irrespective of instruction and reform of the wrong-doer is as much a
refusal to recognize responsibility as is the sentimental gush which
makes a suffering victim out of a criminal.

Courses of action which put the blame exclusively on a person as if his
evil will were the sole cause of wrong-doing and those which condone
offense on account of the share of social conditions in producing bad
disposition, are equally ways of making an unreal separation of man from
his surroundings, mind from the world. Causes for an act always exist,
but causes are not excuses. Questions of causation are physical, not
moral except when they concern future consequences. It is as causes of
future actions that excuses and accusations alike must be considered. At
present we give way to resentful passion, and then "rationalize" our
surrender by calling it a vindication of justice. Our entire tradition
regarding punitive justice tends to prevent recognition of social
partnership in producing crime; it falls in with a belief in
metaphysical free-will. By killing an evil-doer or shutting him up
behind stone walls, we are enabled to forget both him and our part in
creating him. Society excuses itself by laying the blame on the
criminal; he retorts by putting the blame on bad early surroundings, the
temptations of others, lack of opportunities, and the persecutions of
officers of the law. Both are right, except in the wholesale character
of their recriminations. But the effect on both sides is to throw the
whole matter back into antecedent causation, a method which refuses to
bring the matter to truly moral judgment. For morals has to do with acts
still within our control, acts still to be performed. No amount of guilt
on the part of the evil-doer absolves us from responsibility for the
consequences upon him and others of our way of treating him, or from our
continuing responsibility for the conditions under which persons develop
perverse habits.

We need to discriminate between the physical and the moral question. The
former concerns what _has_ happened, and how it happened. To consider
this question is indispensable to morals. Without an answer to it we
cannot tell what forces are at work nor how to direct our actions so as
to improve conditions. Until we know the conditions which have helped
form the characters we approve and disapprove, our efforts to create the
one and do away with the other will be blind and halting. But the moral
issue concerns the future. It is prospective. To content ourselves with
pronouncing judgments of merit and demerit without reference to the fact
that our judgments are themselves facts which have consequences and that
their value depends upon _their_ consequences, is complacently to dodge
the moral issue, perhaps even to indulge ourselves in pleasurable
passion just as the person we condemn once indulged himself. The moral
problem is that of modifying the factors which now influence future
results. To change the working character or will of another we have to
alter objective conditions which enter into his habits. Our own schemes
of judgment, of assigning blame and praise, of awarding punishment and
honor, are part of these conditions.

In practical life, there are many recognitions of the part played by
social factors in generating personal traits. One of them is our
habit of making social classifications. We attribute distinctive
characteristics to rich and poor, slum-dweller and captain of
industry, rustic and suburbanite, officials, politicians, professors,
to members of races, sets and parties. These judgments are usually too
coarse to be of much use. But they show our practical awareness that
personal traits are functions of social situations. When we generalize
this perception and act upon it intelligently we are committed by it
to recognize that we change character from worse to better only by
changing conditions--among which, once more, are our own ways of
dealing with the one we judge. We cannot change habit directly: that
notion is magic. But we can change it indirectly by modifying
conditions, by an intelligent selecting and weighting of the objects
which engage attention and which influence the fulfilment of desires.

A savage can travel after a fashion in a jungle. Civilized activity is
too complex to be carried on without smoothed roads. It requires signals
and junction points; traffic authorities and means of easy and rapid
transportation. It demands a congenial, antecedently prepared
environment. Without it, civilization would relapse into barbarism in
spite of the best of subjective intention and internal good disposition.
The eternal dignity of labor and art lies in their effecting that
permanent reshaping of environment which is the substantial foundation
of future security and progress. Individuals flourish and wither away
like the grass of the fields. But the fruits of their work endure and
make possible the development of further activities having fuller
significance. It is of grace not of ourselves that we lead civilized
lives. There is sound sense in the old pagan notion that gratitude is
the root of all virtue. Loyalty to whatever in the established
environment makes a life of excellence possible is the beginning of all
progress. The best we can accomplish for posterity is to transmit
unimpaired and with some increment of meaning the environment that makes
it possible to maintain the habits of decent and refined life. Our
individual habits are links in forming the endless chain of humanity.
Their significance depends upon the environment inherited from our
forerunners, and it is enhanced as we foresee the fruits of our labors
in the world in which our successors live.

For however much has been done, there always remains more to do. We can
retain and transmit our own heritage only by constant remaking of our
own environment. Piety to the past is not for its own sake nor for the
sake of the past, but for the sake of a present so secure and enriched
that it will create a yet better future. Individuals with their
exhortations, their preachings and scoldings, their inner aspirations
and sentiments have disappeared, but their habits endure, because these
habits incorporate objective conditions in themselves. So will it be
with _our_ activities. We may desire abolition of war, industrial
justice, greater equality of opportunity for all. But no amount of
preaching good will or the golden rule or cultivation of sentiments of
love and equity will accomplish the results. There must be change in
objective arrangements and institutions. We must work on the environment
not merely on the hearts of men. To think otherwise is to suppose that
flowers can be raised in a desert or motor cars run in a jungle. Both
things can happen and without a miracle. But only by first changing the
jungle and desert.

Yet the distinctively personal or subjective factors in habit count.
Taste for flowers may be the initial step in building reservoirs and
irrigation canals. The stimulation of desire and effort is one
preliminary in the change of surroundings. While personal exhortation,
advice and instruction is a feeble stimulus compared with that which
steadily proceeds from the impersonal forces and depersonalized
habitudes of the environment, yet they may start the latter going.
Taste, appreciation and effort always spring from some accomplished
objective situation. They have objective support; they represent the
liberation of something formerly accomplished so that it is useful in
further operation. A genuine appreciation of the beauty of flowers is
not generated within a self-enclosed consciousness. It reflects a world
in which beautiful flowers have already grown and been enjoyed. Taste
and desire represent a prior objective fact recurring in action to
secure perpetuation and extension. Desire for flowers comes after actual
enjoyment of flowers. But it comes before the work that makes the desert
blossom, it comes before _cultivation_ of plants. Every ideal is
preceded by an actuality; but the ideal is more than a repetition in
inner image of the actual. It projects in securer and wider and fuller
form some good which has been previously experienced in a precarious,
accidental, fleeting way.


It is a significant fact that in order to appreciate the peculiar place
of habit in activity we have to betake ourselves to bad habits, foolish
idling, gambling, addiction to liquor and drugs. When we think of such
habits, the union of habit with desire and with propulsive power is
forced upon us. When we think of habits in terms of walking, playing a
musical instrument, typewriting, we are much given to thinking of habits
as technical abilities existing apart from our likings and as lacking in
urgent impulsion. We think of them as passive tools waiting to be called
into action from without. A bad habit suggests an inherent tendency to
action and also a hold, command over us. It makes us do things we are
ashamed of, things which we tell ourselves we prefer not to do. It
overrides our formal resolutions, our conscious decisions. When we are
honest with ourselves we acknowledge that a habit has this power because
it is so intimately a part of ourselves. It has a hold upon us because
we are the habit.

Our self-love, our refusal to face facts, combined perhaps with a sense
of a possible better although unrealized self, leads us to eject the
habit from the thought of ourselves and conceive it as an evil power
which has somehow overcome us. We feed our conceit by recalling that the
habit was not deliberately formed; we never intended to become idlers or
gamblers or rouès. And how can anything be deeply ourselves which
developed accidentally, without set intention? These traits of a bad
habit are precisely the things which are most instructive about all
habits and about ourselves. They teach us that all habits are
affections, that all have projectile power, and that a predisposition
formed by a number of specific acts is an immensely more intimate and
fundamental part of ourselves than are vague, general, conscious
choices. All habits are demands for certain kinds of activity; and they
constitute the self. In any intelligible sense of the word will, they
_are_ will. They form our effective desires and they furnish us with our
working capacities. They rule our thoughts, determining which shall
appear and be strong and which shall pass from light into obscurity.

We may think of habits as means, waiting, like tools in a box, to be
used by conscious resolve. But they are something more than that. They
are active means, means that project themselves, energetic and
dominating ways of acting. We need to distinguish between materials,
tools and means proper. Nails and boards are not strictly speaking means
of a box. They are only materials for making it. Even the saw and hammer
are means only when they are employed in some actual making. Otherwise
they are tools, or potential means. They are actual means only when
brought in conjunction with eye, arm and hand in some specific
operation. And eye, arm and hand are, correspondingly, means proper only
when they are in active operation. And whenever they are in action they
are cooperating with external materials and energies. Without support
from beyond themselves the eye stares blankly and the hand moves
fumblingly. They are means only when they enter into organization with
things which independently accomplish definite results. These
organizations are habits.

This fact cuts two ways. Except in a contingent sense, with an "if,"
neither external materials nor bodily and mental organs are in
themselves means. They have to be employed in coordinated conjunction
with one another to be actual means, or habits. This statement may seem
like the formulation in technical language of a common-place. But belief
in magic has played a large part in human history. And the essence of
all hocus-pocus is the supposition that results can be accomplished
without the joint adaptation to each other of human powers and physical
conditions. A desire for rain may induce men to wave willow branches and
to sprinkle water. The reaction is natural and innocent. But men then go
on to believe that their act has immediate power to bring rain without
the cooperation of intermediate conditions of nature. This is magic;
while it may be natural or spontaneous, it is not innocent. It obstructs
intelligent study of operative conditions and wastes human desire and
effort in futilities.

Belief in magic did not cease when the coarser forms of superstitious
practice ceased. The principle of magic is found whenever it is hoped to
get results without intelligent control of means; and also when it is
supposed that means can exist and yet remain inert and inoperative. In
morals and politics such expectations still prevail, and in so far the
most important phases of human action are still affected by magic. We
think that by feeling strongly enough about something, by wishing hard
enough, we can get a desirable result, such as virtuous execution of a
good resolve, or peace among nations, or good will in industry. We slur
over the necessity of the cooperative action of objective conditions,
and the fact that this cooperation is assured only by persistent and
close study. Or, on the other hand, we fancy we can get these results by
external machinery, by tools or potential means, without a corresponding
functioning of human desires and capacities. Often times these two false
and contradictory beliefs are combined in the same person. The man who
feels that _his_ virtues are his own personal accomplishments is likely
to be also the one who thinks that by passing laws he can throw the fear
of God into others and make them virtuous by edict and prohibitory

Recently a friend remarked to me that there was one superstition current
among even cultivated persons. They suppose that if one is told what to
do, if the right _end_ is pointed to them, all that is required in order
to bring about the right act is will or wish on the part of the one who
is to act. He used as an illustration the matter of physical posture;
the assumption is that if a man is told to stand up straight, all that
is further needed is wish and effort on his part, and the deed is done.
He pointed out that this belief is on a par with primitive magic in its
neglect of attention to the means which are involved in reaching an end.
And he went on to say that the prevalence of this belief, starting with
false notions about the control of the body and extending to control of
mind and character, is the greatest bar to intelligent social progress.
It bars the way because it makes us neglect intelligent inquiry to
discover the means which will produce a desired result, and intelligent
invention to procure the means. In short, it leaves out the importance
of intelligently controlled habit.

We may cite his illustration of the real nature of a physical aim or
order and its execution in its contrast with the current false
notion.[1] A man who has a bad habitual posture tells himself, or is
told, to stand up straight. If he is interested and responds, he braces
himself, goes through certain movements, and it is assumed that the
desired result is substantially attained; and that the position is
retained at least as long as the man keeps the idea or order in his
mind. Consider the assumptions which are here made. It is implied that
the means or effective conditions of the realization of a purpose exist
independently of established habit and even that they may be set in
motion in opposition to habit. It is assumed that means are there, so
that the failure to stand erect is wholly a matter of failure of purpose
and desire. It needs paralysis or a broken leg or some other equally
gross phenomenon to make us appreciate the importance of objective

    [1] I refer to Alexander, "Man's Supreme Inheritance."

Now in fact a man who _can_ stand properly does so, and only a man who
can, does. In the former case, fiats of will are unnecessary, and in the
latter useless. A man who does not stand properly forms a habit of
standing improperly, a positive, forceful habit. The common implication
that his mistake is merely negative, that he is simply failing to do the
right thing, and that the failure can be made good by an order of will
is absurd. One might as well suppose that the man who is a slave of
whiskey-drinking is merely one who fails to drink water. Conditions have
been formed for producing a bad result, and the bad result will occur as
long as those conditions exist. They can no more be dismissed by a
direct effort of will than the conditions which create drought can be
dispelled by whistling for wind. It is as reasonable to expect a fire to
go out when it is ordered to stop burning as to suppose that a man can
stand straight in consequence of a direct action of thought and desire.
The fire can be put out only by changing objective conditions; it is the
same with rectification of bad posture.

Of course something happens when a man acts upon his idea of standing
straight. For a little while, he stands differently, but only a
different kind of badly. He then takes the unaccustomed feeling which
accompanies his unusual stand as evidence that he is now standing right.
But there are many ways of standing badly, and he has simply shifted his
usual way to a compensatory bad way at some opposite extreme. When we
realize this fact, we are likely to suppose that it exists because
control of the _body_ is physical and hence is external to mind and
will. Transfer the command inside character and mind, and it is fancied
that an idea of an end and the desire to realize it will take immediate
effect. After we get to the point of recognizing that habits must
intervene between wish and execution in the case of bodily acts, we
still cherish the illusions that they can be dispensed with in the case
of mental and moral acts. Thus the net result is to make us sharpen the
distinction between non-moral and moral activities, and to lead us to
confine the latter strictly within a private, immaterial realm. But in
fact, formation of ideas as well as their execution depends upon habit.
_If_ we could form a correct idea without a correct habit, then possibly
we could carry it out irrespective of habit. But a wish gets definite
form only in connection with an idea, and an idea gets shape and
consistency only when it has a habit back of it. Only when a man can
already perform an act of standing straight does he know what it is like
to have a right posture and only then can he summon the idea required
for proper execution. The act must come before the thought, and a habit
before an ability to evoke the thought at will. Ordinary psychology
reverses the actual state of affairs.

Ideas, thoughts of ends, are not spontaneously generated. There is no
immaculate conception of meanings or purposes. Reason pure of all
influence from prior habit is a fiction. But pure sensations out of
which ideas can be framed apart from habit are equally fictitious. The
sensations and ideas which are the "stuff" of thought and purpose are
alike affected by habits manifested in the acts which give rise to
sensations and meanings. The dependence of thought, or the more
intellectual factor in our conceptions, upon prior experience is usually
admitted. But those who attack the notion of thought pure from the
influence of experience, usually identify experience with sensations
impressed upon an empty mind. They therefore replace the theory of
unmixed thoughts with that of pure unmixed sensations as the stuff of
all conceptions, purposes and beliefs. But distinct and independent
sensory qualities, far from being original elements, are the products of
a highly skilled analysis which disposes of immense technical scientific
resources. To be able to single out a definitive sensory element in any
field is evidence of a high degree of previous training, that is, of
well-formed habits. A moderate amount of observation of a child will
suffice to reveal that even such gross discriminations as black, white,
red, green, are the result of some years of active dealings with things
in the course of which habits have been set up. It is not such a simple
matter to have a clear-cut sensation. The latter is a sign of training,
skill, habit.

Admission that the idea of, say, standing erect is dependent upon
sensory materials is, therefore equivalent to recognition that it is
dependent upon the habitual attitudes which govern concrete sensory
materials. The medium of habit filters all the material that reaches our
perception and thought. The filter is not, however, chemically pure. It
is a reagent which adds new qualities and rearranges what is received.
Our ideas truly depend upon experience, but so do our sensations. And
the experience upon which they both depend is the operation of
habits--originally of instincts. Thus our purposes and commands
regarding action (whether physical or moral) come to us through the
refracting medium of bodily and moral habits. Inability to think aright
is sufficiently striking to have caught the attention of moralists. But
a false psychology has led them to interpret it as due to a necessary
conflict of flesh and spirit, not as an indication that our ideas are as
dependent, to say the least, upon our habits as are our acts upon our
conscious thoughts and purposes.

Only the man who can maintain a correct posture has the stuff out of
which to form that idea of standing erect which can be the starting
point of a right act. Only the man whose habits are already good can
know what the good is. Immediate, seemingly instinctive, feeling of the
direction and end of various lines of behavior is in reality the feeling
of habits working below direct consciousness. The psychology of
illusions of perception is full of illustrations of the distortion
introduced by habit into observation of objects. The same fact accounts
for the intuitive element in judgments of action, an element which is
valuable or the reverse in accord with the quality of dominant habits.
For, as Aristotle remarked, the untutored moral perceptions of a good
man are usually trustworthy, those of a bad character, not. (But he
should have added that the influence of social custom as well as
personal habit has to be taken into account in estimating who is the
good man and the good judge.)

What is true of the dependence of execution of an idea upon habit is
true, then, of the formation and quality of the idea. Suppose that by a
happy chance a right concrete idea or purpose--concrete, not simply
correct in words--has been hit upon: What happens when one with an
incorrect habit tries to act in accord with it? Clearly the idea can be
carried into execution only with a mechanism already there. If this is
defective or perverted, the best intention in the world will yield bad
results. In the case of no other engine does one suppose that a
defective machine will turn out good goods simply because it is invited
to. Everywhere else we recognize that the design and structure of the
agency employed tell directly upon the work done. Given a bad habit and
the "will" or mental direction to get a good result, and the actual
happening is a reverse or looking-glass manifestation of the usual
fault--a compensatory twist in the opposite direction. Refusal to
recognize this fact only leads to a separation of mind from body, and to
supposing that mental or "psychical" mechanisms are different in kind
from those of bodily operations and independent of them. So deep seated
is this notion that even so "scientific" a theory as modern
psycho-analysis thinks that mental habits can be straightened out by
some kind of purely psychical manipulation without reference to the
distortions of sensation and perception which are due to bad bodily
sets. The other side of the error is found in the notion of "scientific"
nerve physiologists that it is only necessary to locate a particular
diseased cell or local lesion, independent of the whole complex of
organic habits, in order to rectify conduct.

Means are means; they are intermediates, middle terms. To grasp this
fact is to have done with the ordinary dualism of means and ends. The
"end" is merely a series of acts viewed at a remote stage; and a means
is merely the series viewed at an earlier one. The distinction of means
and end arises in surveying the _course_ of a proposed _line_ of action,
a connected series in time. The "end" is the last act thought of; the
means are the acts to be performed prior to it in time. To _reach_ an
end we must take our mind off from it and attend to the act which is
next to be performed. We must make that the end. The only exception to
this statement is in cases where customary habit determines the course
of the series. Then all that is wanted is a cue to set it off. But when
the proposed end involves any deviation from usual action, or any
rectification of it--as in the case of standing straight--then the main
thing is to find some act which is different from the usual one. The
discovery and performance of this unaccustomed act is the "end" to which
we must devote all attention. Otherwise we shall simply do the old thing
over again, no matter what is our conscious command. The only way of
accomplishing this discovery is through a flank movement. We must stop
even thinking of standing up straight. To think of it is fatal, for it
commits us to the operation of an established habit of standing wrong.
We must find an act within our power which is disconnected from any
thought about standing. We must start to do another thing which on one
side inhibits our falling into the customary bad position and on the
other side is the beginning of a series of acts which may lead into the
correct posture.[2] The hard-drinker who keeps thinking of not drinking
is doing what he can to initiate the acts which lead to drinking. He is
starting with the stimulus to his habit. To succeed he must find some
positive interest or line of action which will inhibit the drinking
series and which by instituting another course of action will bring him
to his desired end. In short, the man's true aim is to discover some
course of action, having nothing to do with the habit of drink or
standing erect, which will take him where he wants to go. The discovery
of this other series is at once his means and his end. Until one takes
intermediate acts seriously enough to treat them as ends, one wastes
one's time in any effort at change of habits. Of the intermediate acts,
the most important is the _next_ one. The first or earliest means is the
most important _end_ to discover.

    [2]The technique of this process is stated in the book of Mr.
    Alexander already referred to, and the theoretical statement
    given is borrowed from Mr. Alexander's analysis.

Means and ends are two names for the same reality. The terms denote not
a division in reality but a distinction in judgment. Without
understanding this fact we cannot understand the nature of habits nor
can we pass beyond the usual separation of the moral and non-moral in
conduct. "End" is a name for a series of acts taken collectively--like
the term army. "Means" is a name for the same series taken
distributively--like this soldier, that officer. To think of the end
signifies to extend and enlarge our view of the act to be performed. It
means to look at the next act in perspective, not permitting it to
occupy the entire field of vision. To bear the end in mind signifies
that we should not stop thinking about our _next_ act until we form some
reasonably clear idea of the _course_ of action to which it commits us.
To attain a remote end means on the other hand to treat the end as a
series of means. To say that an end is remote or distant, to say in fact
that it is an end at all, is equivalent to saying that obstacles
intervene between us and it. If, however, it remains a distant end, it
becomes a _mere_ end, that is a dream. As soon as we have projected it,
we must begin to work backward in thought. We must change _what_ is to
be done into a _how_, the means whereby. The end thus re-appears as a
series of "what nexts," and the what next of chief importance is the one
nearest the present state of the one acting. Only as the end is
converted into means is it definitely conceived, or intellectually
defined, to say nothing of being executable. Just as end, it is vague,
cloudy, impressionistic. We do not _know_ what we are really after until
a _course_ of action is mentally worked out. Aladdin with his lamp could
dispense with translating ends into means, but no one else can do so.

Now the thing which is closest to us, the means within our power, is a
habit. Some habit impeded by circumstances is the source of the
projection of the end. It is also the primary means in its realization.
The habit is propulsive and moves anyway toward some end, or result,
whether it is projected as an end-in-view or not. The man who can walk
does walk; the man who can talk does converse--if only with himself. How
is this statement to be reconciled with the fact that we are not always
walking and talking; that our habits seem so often to be latent,
inoperative? Such inactivity holds only of _overt_, visibly obvious
operation. In actuality each habit operates all the time of waking life;
though like a member of a crew taking his turn at the wheel, its
operation becomes the dominantly characteristic trait of an act only
occasionally or rarely.

The habit of walking is expressed in what a man sees when he keeps
still, even in dreams. The recognition of distances and directions of
things from his place at rest is the obvious proof of this statement.
The habit of locomotion is latent in the sense that it is covered up,
counteracted, by a habit of seeing which is definitely at the fore. But
counteraction is not suppression. Locomotion is a potential energy, not
in any metaphysical sense, but in the physical sense in which potential
energy as well as kinetic has to be taken account of in any scientific
description. Everything that a man who has the habit of locomotion does
and thinks he does and thinks differently on that account. This fact is
recognized in current psychology, but is falsified into an association
of sensations. Were it not for the continued operation of all habits in
every act, no such thing as character could exist. There would be simply
a bundle, an untied bundle at that, of isolated acts. Character is the
interpenetration of habits. If each habit existed in an insulated
compartment and operated without affecting or being affected by others,
character would not exist. That is, conduct would lack unity being only
a juxtaposition of disconnected reactions to separated situations. But
since environments overlap, since situations are continuous and those
remote from one another contain like elements, a continuous modification
of habits by one another is constantly going on. A man may give himself
away in a look or a gesture. Character can be read through the medium of
individual acts.

Of course interpenetration is never total. It is most marked in what we
call strong characters. Integration is an achievement rather than a
datum. A weak, unstable, vacillating character is one in which different
habits alternate with one another rather than embody one another. The
strength, solidity of a habit is not its own possession but is due to
reinforcement by the force of other habits which it absorbs into itself.
Routine specialization always works against interpenetration. Men with
"pigeon-hole" minds are not infrequent. Their diverse standards and
methods of judgment for scientific, religious, political matters testify
to isolated compartmental habits of action. Character that is unable to
undergo successfully the strain of thought and effort required to bring
competing tendencies into a unity, builds up barriers between different
systems of likes and dislikes. The emotional stress incident to conflict
is avoided not by readjustment but by effort at confinement. Yet the
exception proves the rule. Such persons are successful in keeping
different ways of reacting apart from one another in consciousness
rather than in action. Their character is marked by stigmata resulting
from this division.

The mutual modification of habits by one another enables us to define
the nature of the moral situation. It is not necessary nor advisable to
be always considering the interaction of habits with one another, that
is to say the effect of a particular habit upon character--which is a
name for the total interaction. Such consideration distracts attention
from the problem of building up an effective habit. A man who is
learning French, or chess-playing or engineering has his hands full with
his particular occupation. He would be confused and hampered by constant
inquiry into its effect upon character. He would resemble the centipede
who by trying to think of the movement of each leg in relation to all
the others was rendered unable to travel. At any given time, certain
habits must be taken for granted as a matter of course. Their operation
is not a matter of moral judgment. They are treated as technical,
recreational, professional, hygienic or economic or esthetic rather than
moral. To lug in morals, or ulterior effect on character at every point,
is to cultivate moral valetudinarianism or priggish posing. Nevertheless
any act, even that one which passes ordinarily as trivial, may entail
such consequences for habit and character as upon occasion to require
judgment from the standpoint of the whole body of conduct. It then comes
under moral scrutiny. To know when to leave acts without distinctive
moral judgment and when to subject them to it is itself a large factor
in morality. The serious matter is that this relative pragmatic, or
intellectual, distinction between the moral and non-moral, has been
solidified into a fixed and absolute distinction, so that some acts are
popularly regarded as forever within and others forever without the
moral domain. From this fatal error recognition of the relations of one
habit to others preserves us. For it makes us see that character is the
name given to the working interaction of habits, and that the cumulative
effect of insensible modifications worked by a particular habit in the
body of preferences may at any moment require attention.

The word habit may seem twisted somewhat from its customary use when
employed as we have been using it. But we need a word to express that
kind of human activity which is influenced by prior activity and in that
sense acquired; which contains within itself a certain ordering or
systematization of minor elements of action; which is projective,
dynamic in quality, ready for overt manifestation; and which is
operative in some subdued subordinate form even when not obviously
dominating activity. Habit even in its ordinary usage comes nearer to
denoting these facts than any other word. If the facts are recognized we
may also use the words attitude and disposition. But unless we have
first made clear to ourselves the facts which have been set forth under
the name of habit, these words are more likely to be misleading than is
the word habit. For the latter conveys explicitly the sense of
operativeness, actuality. Attitude and, as ordinarily used, disposition
suggest something latent, potential, something which requires a positive
stimulus outside themselves to become active. If we perceive that they
denote positive forms of action which are released merely through
removal of some counteracting "inhibitory" tendency, and then become
overt, we may employ them instead of the word habit to denote subdued,
non-patent forms of the latter.

In this case, we must bear in mind that the word disposition means
predisposition, readiness to act overtly in a specific fashion whenever
opportunity is presented, this opportunity consisting in removal of the
pressure due to the dominance of some overt habit; and that attitude
means some special case of a predisposition, the disposition waiting as
it were to spring through an opened door. While it is admitted that the
word habit has been used in a somewhat broader sense than is usual, we
must protest against the tendency in psychological literature to limit
its meaning to repetition. This usage is much less in accord with
popular usage than is the wider way in which we have used the word. It
assumes from the start the identity of habit with routine. Repetition is
in no sense the essence of habit. Tendency to repeat acts is an incident
of many habits but not of all. A man with the habit of giving way to
anger may show his habit by a murderous attack upon some one who has
offended. His act is nonetheless due to habit because it occurs only
once in his life. The essence of habit is an acquired predisposition to
_ways_ or modes of response, not to particular acts except as, under
special conditions, these express a way of behaving. Habit means special
sensitiveness or accessibility to certain classes of stimuli, standing
predilections and aversions, rather than bare recurrence of specific
acts. It means will.


The dynamic force of habit taken in connection with the continuity of
habits with one another explains the unity of character and conduct, or
speaking more concretely of motive and act, will and deed. Moral
theories have frequently separated these things from each other. One
type of theory, for example, has asserted that only will, disposition,
motive counts morally; that acts are external, physical, accidental;
that moral good is different from goodness in act since the latter is
measured by consequences, while moral good or virtue is intrinsic,
complete in itself, a jewel shining by its own light--a somewhat
dangerous metaphor however. The other type of theory has asserted that
such a view is equivalent to saying that all that is necessary to be
virtuous is to cultivate states of feeling; that a premium is put on
disregard of the actual consequences of conduct, and agents are deprived
of any objective criterion for the rightness and wrongness of acts,
being thrown back on their own whims, prejudices and private
peculiarities. Like most opposite extremes in philosophic theories, the
two theories suffer from a common mistake. Both of them ignore the
projective force of habit and the implication of habits in one another.
Hence they separate a unified deed into two disjoined parts, an inner
called motive and an outer called act.

The doctrine that the chief good of man is good will easily wins
acceptance from honest men. For common-sense employs a juster psychology
than either of the theories just mentioned. By will, common-sense
understands something practical and moving. It understands the body of
habits, of active dispositions which makes a man do what he does. Will
is thus not something opposed to consequences or severed from them. It
is a _cause_ of consequences; it is causation in its personal aspect,
the aspect immediately preceding action. It hardly seems conceivable to
practical sense that by will is meant something which can be complete
without reference to deeds prompted and results occasioned. Even the
sophisticated specialist cannot prevent relapses from such an absurdity
back into common-sense. Kant, who went the limit in excluding
consequences from moral value, was sane enough to maintain that a
society of men of good will would be a society which in fact would
maintain social peace, freedom and cooperation. We take the will for the
deed not as a substitute for doing, or a form of doing nothing, but in
the sense that, other things being equal, the right disposition will
produce the right deed. For a disposition means a tendency to act, a
potential energy needing only opportunity to become kinetic and overt.
Apart from such tendency a "virtuous" disposition is either hypocrisy or

Common-sense in short never loses sight wholly of the two facts which
limit and define a moral situation. One is that consequences fix the
moral quality of an act. The other is that upon the whole, or in the
long run but not unqualifiedly, consequences are what they are because
of the nature of desire and disposition. Hence there is a natural
contempt for the morality of the "good" man who does not show his
goodness in the results of his habitual acts. But there is also an
aversion to attributing omnipotence to even the best of good
dispositions, and hence an aversion to applying the criterion of
consequences unreservedly. A holiness of character which is celebrated
only on holy-days is unreal. A virtue of honesty, or chastity or
benevolence which lives upon itself apart from definite results consumes
itself and goes up in smoke. The separation of motive from motive-force
in action accounts both for the morbidities and futilities of the
professionally good, and for the more or less subconscious contempt for
morality entertained by men of a strong executive habit with their
preference for "getting things done."

Yet there is justification for the common assumption that deeds cannot
be judged properly without taking their animating disposition as well as
their concrete consequences into account. The reason, however, lies not
in isolation of disposition from consequences, but in the need for
viewing consequences broadly. _This_ act is only one of a multitude of
acts. If we confine ourselves to the consequences of this one act we
shall come out with a poor reckoning. Disposition is habitual,
persistent. It shows itself therefore in many acts and in many
consequences. Only as we keep a running account, can we judge
disposition, disentangling its tendency from accidental accompaniments.
When once we have got a fair idea of its tendency, we are able to place
the particular consequences of a single act in a wider context of
continuing consequences. Thus we protect ourselves from taking as
trivial a habit which is serious, and from exaggerating into
momentousness an act which, viewed in the light of aggregate
consequences, is innocent. There is no need to abandon common-sense
which tells us in judging acts first to inquire into disposition; but
there is great need that the estimate of disposition be enlightened by a
scientific psychology. Our legal procedure, for example, wobbles between
a too tender treatment of criminality and a viciously drastic treatment
of it. The vacillation can be remedied only as we can analyze an act in
the light of habits, and analyze habits in the light of education,
environment and prior acts. The dawn of truly scientific criminal law
will come when each individual case is approached with something
corresponding to the complete clinical record which every competent
physician attempts to procure as a matter of course in dealing with his

Consequences include effects upon character, upon confirming and
weakening habits, as well as tangibly obvious results. To keep an eye
open to these effects upon character may signify the most reasonable of
precautions or one of the most nauseating of practices. It may mean
concentration of attention upon personal rectitude in neglect of
objective consequences, a practice which creates a wholly unreal
rectitude. But it may mean that the survey of objective consequences is
duly extended in time. An act of gambling may be judged, for example, by
its immediate overt effects, consumption of time, energy, disturbance of
ordinary monetary considerations, etc. It may also be judged by its
consequences upon character, setting up an enduring love of excitement,
a persistent temper of speculation, and a persistent disregard of sober,
steady work. To take the latter effects into account is equivalent to
taking a broad view of future consequences; for these dispositions
affect future companionships, vocation and avocations, the whole tenor
of domestic and public life.

For similar reasons, while common-sense does not run into that sharp
opposition of virtues or moral goods and natural goods which has played
such a large part in professed moralities, it does not insist upon an
exact identity of the two. Virtues are ends because they are such
important means. To be honest, courageous, kindly is to be in the way of
producing specific natural goods or satisfactory fulfilments. Error
comes into theories when the moral goods are separated from their
consequences and also when the attempt is made to secure an exhaustive
and unerring identification of the two. There is a reason, valid as far
as it goes, for distinguishing virtue as a moral good resident in
character alone, from objective consequences. As matter of fact, a
desirable trait of character does not always produce desirable results
while good things often happen with no assistance from good will. Luck,
accident, contingency, plays its part. The act of a good character is
deflected in operation, while a monomaniacal egotism may employ a desire
for glory and power to perform acts which satisfy crying social needs.
Reflection shows that we must supplement the conviction of the moral
connection between character or habit and consequences by two

One is the fact that we are inclined to take the notions of goodness in
character and goodness in results in too fixed a way. Persistent
disparity between virtuous disposition and actual outcome shows that we
have misjudged either the nature of virtue or of success. Judgments of
both motive and consequences are still, in the absence of methods of
scientific analysis and continuous registration and reporting,
rudimentary and conventional. We are inclined to wholesale judgments of
character, dividing men into goats and sheep, instead of recognizing
that all character is speckled, and that the problem of moral judgment
is one of discriminating the complex of acts and habits into tendencies
which are to be _specifically_ cultivated and condemned. We need to
study consequences more thoroughly and keep track of them more
continuously before we shall be in a position where we can pass with
reasonable assurance upon the good and evil in either disposition or
results. But even when proper allowances are made, we are forcing the
pace when we assume that there is or ever can be an exact equation of
disposition and outcome. We have to admit the rôle of accident.

We cannot get beyond tendencies, and must perforce content ourselves
with judgments of tendency. The honest man, we are told, acts upon
"principle" and not from considerations of expediency, that is, of
particular consequences. The truth in this saying is that it is not safe
to judge the worth of a proposed act by its probable consequences in an
isolated case. The word "principle" is a eulogistic cover for the fact
of _tendency_. The word "tendency" is an attempt to combine two facts,
one that habits have a certain causal efficacy, the other that their
outworking in any particular case is subject to contingencies, to
circumstances which are unforeseeable and which carry an act one side of
its usual effect. In cases of doubt, there is no recourse save to stick
to "tendency," that is, to the probable effect of a habit in the long
run, or as we say upon the whole. Otherwise we are on the lookout for
exceptions which favor our immediate desire. The trouble is that we are
not content with modest probabilities. So when we find that a good
disposition may work out badly, we say, as Kant did, that the
working-out, the consequence, has nothing to do with the moral quality
of an act, or we strain for the impossible, and aim at some infallible
calculus of consequences by which to measure moral worth in each
specific case.

Human conceit has played a great part. It has demanded that the whole
universe be judged from the standpoint of desire and disposition, or at
least from that of the desire and disposition of the good man. The
effect of religion has been to cherish this conceit by making men think
that the universe invariably conspires to support the good and bring the
evil to naught. By a subtle logic, the effect has been to render morals
unreal and transcendental. For since the world of actual experience does
not guarantee this identity of character and outcome, it is inferred
that there must be some ulterior truer reality which enforces an
equation that is violated in this life. Hence the common notion of
another world in which vice and virtue of character produce their exact
moral meed. The idea is equally found as an actuating force in Plato.
Moral realities must be supreme. Yet they are flagrantly contradicted in
a world where a Socrates drinks the hemlock of the criminal, and where
the vicious occupy the seats of the mighty. Hence there must be a truer
ultimate reality in which justice is only and absolutely justice.
Something of the same idea lurks behind every aspiration for realization
of abstract justice or equality or liberty. It is the source of all
"idealistic" utopias and also of all wholesale pessimism and distrust of

Utilitarianism illustrates another way of mistreating the situation.
Tendency is not good enough for the utilitarians. They want a
mathematical equation of act and consequence. Hence they make light of
the steady and controllable factor, the factor of disposition, and
fasten upon just the things which are most subject to incalculable
accident--pleasures and pains--and embark upon the hopeless enterprise
of judging an act apart from character on the basis of definite results.
An honestly modest theory will stick to the probabilities of tendency,
and not import mathematics into morals. It will be alive and sensitive
to consequences as they actually present themselves, because it knows
that they give the only instruction we can procure as to the meaning of
habits and dispositions. But it will never assume that a moral judgment
which reaches certainty is possible. We have just to do the best we can
with habits, the forces most under our control; and we shall have our
hands more than full in spelling out their general tendencies without
attempting an exact judgment upon each deed. For every habit
incorporates within itself some part of the objective environment, and
no habit and no amount of habits can incorporate the entire environment
within itself or themselves. There will always be disparity between them
and the results actually attained. Hence the work of intelligence in
observing consequences and in revising and readjusting habits, even the
best of good habits, can never be foregone. Consequences reveal
unexpected potentialities in our habits whenever these habits are
exercised in a different environment from that in which they were
formed. The assumption of a stably uniform environment (even the
hankering for one) expresses a fiction due to attachment to old habits.
The utilitarian theory of equation of acts with consequences is as much
a fiction of self-conceit as is the assumption of a fixed transcendental
world wherein moral ideals are eternally and immutably real. Both of
them deny in effect the relevancy of time, of change, to morals, while
time is of the essence of the moral struggle.

We thus come, by an unexpected path, upon the old question of the
objectivity or subjectivity of morals. Primarily they are objective. For
will, as we have seen, means, in the concrete, habits; and habits
incorporate an environment within themselves. They are adjustments _of_
the environment, not merely _to_ it. At the same time, the environment
is many, not one; hence will, disposition, is plural. Diversity does not
of itself imply conflict, but it implies the possibility of conflict,
and this possibility is realized in fact. Life, for example, involves
the habit of eating, which in turn involves a unification of organism
and nature. But nevertheless this habit comes into conflict with other
habits which are also "objective," or in equilibrium with _their_
environments. Because the environment is not all of one piece, man's
house is divided within itself, against itself. Honor or consideration
for others or courtesy conflict with hunger. Then the notion of the
complete objectivity of morals gets a shock. Those who wish to maintain
the idea unimpaired take the road which leads to transcendentalism. The
empirical world, they say, is indeed divided, and hence any natural
morality must be in conflict with itself. This self-contradiction
however only points to a higher fixed reality with which a true and
superior morality is alone concerned. Objectivity is saved but at the
expense of connection with human affairs. Our problem is to see what
objectivity signifies upon a naturalistic basis; how morals are
objective and yet secular and social. Then we may be able to decide in
what crisis of experience morals become legitimately dependent upon
character or self--that is, "subjective."

Prior discussion points the way to the answer. A hungry man could not
conceive food as a good unless he had actually experienced, with the
support of environing conditions, food as good. The objective
satisfaction comes first. But he finds himself in a situation where the
good is denied in fact. It then lives in imagination. The habit denied
overt expression asserts itself in idea. It sets up the thought, the
ideal, of food. This thought is not what is sometimes called thought, a
pale bloodless abstraction, but is charged with the motor urgent force
of habit. Food as a good is now subjective, personal. But it has its
source in objective conditions and it moves forward to new objective
conditions. For it works to secure a change of environment so that food
will again be present in fact. Food is a "subjective" good during a
temporary transitional stage from one object to another.

The analogy with morals lies upon the surface. A habit impeded in overt
operation continues nonetheless to operate. It manifests itself in
desireful thought, that is in an ideal or imagined object which embodies
within itself the force of a frustrated habit. There is therefore demand
for a changed environment, a demand which can be achieved only by some
modification and rearrangement of old habits. Even Plato preserves an
intimation of the natural function of ideal objects when he insists upon
their value as patterns for use in reorganization of the actual scene.
The pity is that he could not see that patterns exist only within and
for the sake of reorganization, so that they, rather than empirical or
natural objects, are the instrumental affairs. Not seeing this, he
converted a function of reorganization into a metaphysical reality. If
we essay a technical formulation we shall say that morality becomes
legitimately subjective or personal when activities which once included
objective factors in their operation temporarily lose support from
objects, and yet strive to change existing conditions until they regain
a support which has been lost. It is all of a kind with the doings of a
man, who remembering a prior satisfaction of thirst and the conditions
under which it occurred, digs a well. For the time being water in
reference to his activity exists in imagination not in fact. But this
imagination is not a self-generated, self-enclosed, psychical existence.
It is the persistent operation of a prior object which has been
incorporated in effective habit. There is no miracle in the fact that an
object in a new context operates in a new way.

Of transcendental morals, it may at least be said that they retain the
intimation of the objective character of purposes and goods. Purely
subjective morals arise when the incidents of the temporary (though
recurrent) crisis of reorganization are taken as complete and final in
themselves. A self having habits and attitudes formed with the
cooperation of objects runs ahead of immediately surrounding objects to
effect a new equilibration. Subjective morals substitutes a self always
set over against objects and generating its ideals independently of
objects, and in permanent, not transitory, opposition to them.
Achievement, any achievement, is to it a negligible second best, a cheap
and poor substitute for ideals that live only in the mind, a compromise
with actuality made from physical necessity not from moral reasons. In
truth, there is but a temporal episode. For a time, a self, a person,
carries in his own habits against the forces of the immediate
environment, a good which the existing environment denies. For this self
moving temporarily, in isolation from objective conditions, between a
good, a completeness, that has been and one that it is hoped to restore
in some new form, subjective theories have substituted an erring soul
wandering hopelessly between a Paradise Lost in the dim past and a
Paradise to be Regained in a dim future. In reality, even when a person
is in some respects at odds with his environment and so has to act for
the time being as the sole agent of a good, he in many respects is still
supported by objective conditions and is in possession of undisturbed
goods and virtues. Men do die from thirst at times, but upon the whole
in their search for water they are sustained by other fulfilled powers.
But subjective morals taken wholesale sets up a solitary self without
objective ties and sustenance. In fact, there exists a shifting mixture
of vice and virtue. Theories paint a world with a God in heaven and a
Devil in hell. Moralists in short have failed to recall that a severance
of moral desire and purpose from immediate actualities is an inevitable
phase of activity when habits persist while the world which they have
incorporated alters. Back of this failure lies the failure to recognize
that in a changing world, old habits must perforce need modification, no
matter how good they have been.

Obviously any such change can be only experimental. The lost objective
good persists in habit, but it can recur in objective form only through
some condition of affairs which has not been yet experienced, and which
therefore can be anticipated only uncertainly and inexactly. The
essential point is that anticipation should at least guide as well as
stimulate effort, that it should be a working hypothesis corrected and
developed by events as action proceeds. There was a time when men
believed that each object in the external world carried its nature
stamped upon it as a form, and that intelligence consisted in simply
inspecting and reading off an intrinsic self-enclosed complete nature.
The scientific revolution which began in the seventeenth century came
through a surrender of this point of view. It began with recognition
that every natural object is in truth an event continuous in space and
time with other events; and is to be _known_ only by experimental
inquiries which will exhibit a multitude of complicated, obscure and
minute relationships. Any observed form or object is but a challenge.
The case is not otherwise with ideals of justice or peace or human
brotherhood, or equality, or order. They too are not things
self-enclosed to be known by introspection, as objects were once
supposed to be known by rational insight. Like thunderbolts and
tubercular disease and the rainbow they can be known only by extensive
and minute observation of consequences incurred in action. A false
psychology of an isolated self and a subjective morality shuts out from
morals the things important to it, acts and habits in their objective
consequences. At the same time it misses the point characteristic of the
personal subjective aspect of morality: the significance of desire and
thought in breaking down old rigidities of habit and preparing the way
for acts that re-create an environment.


We often fancy that institutions, social custom, collective habit, have
been formed by the consolidation of individual habits. In the main this
supposition is false to fact. To a considerable extent customs, or
wide-spread uniformities of habit, exist because individuals face the
same situation and react in like fashion. But to a larger extent customs
persist because individuals form their personal habits under conditions
set by prior customs. An individual usually acquires the morality as he
inherits the speech of his social group. The activities of the group are
already there, and some assimilation of his own acts to their pattern is
a prerequisite of a share therein, and hence of having any part in what
is going on. Each person is born an infant, and every infant is subject
from the first breath he draws and the first cry he utters to the
attentions and demands of others. These others are not just persons in
general with minds in general. They are beings with habits, and beings
who upon the whole esteem the habits they have, if for no other reason
than that, having them, their imagination is thereby limited. The nature
of habit is to be assertive, insistent, self-perpetuating. There is no
miracle in the fact that if a child learns any language he learns the
language that those about him speak and teach, especially since his
ability to speak that language is a pre-condition of his entering into
effective connection with them, making wants known and getting them
satisfied. Fond parents and relatives frequently pick up a few of the
child's spontaneous modes of speech and for a time at least they are
portions of the speech of the group. But the ratio which such words bear
to the total vocabulary in use gives a fair measure of the part played
by purely individual habit in forming custom in comparison with the part
played by custom in forming individual habits. Few persons have either
the energy or the wealth to build private roads to travel upon. They
find it convenient, "natural," to use the roads that are already there;
while unless their private roads connect at some point with the high-way
they cannot build them even if they would.

These simple facts seem to me to give a simple explanation of matters
that are often surrounded with mystery. To talk about the priority of
"society" to _the_ individual is to indulge in nonsensical metaphysics.
But to say that some pre-existent association of human beings is prior
to every particular human being who is born into the world is to
mention a commonplace. These associations are definite modes of
interaction of persons with one another; that is to say they form
customs, institutions. There is no problem in all history so
artificial as that of how "individuals" manage to form "society." The
problem is due to the pleasure taken in manipulating concepts, and
discussion goes on because concepts are kept from inconvenient contact
with facts. The facts of infancy and sex have only to be called to
mind to see how manufactured are the conceptions which enter into this
particular problem.

The problem, however, of how those established and more or less deeply
grooved systems of interaction which we call social groups, big and
small, modify the activities of individuals who perforce are caught-up
within them, and how the activities of component individuals remake
and redirect previously established customs is a deeply significant
one. Viewed from the standpoint of custom and its priority to the
formation of habits in human beings who are born babies and gradually
grow to maturity, the facts which are now usually assembled under the
conceptions of collective minds, group-minds, national-minds,
crowd-minds, etc., etc., lose the mysterious air they exhale when mind
is thought of (as orthodox psychology teaches us to think of it) as
something which precedes action. It is difficult to see that
collective mind means anything more than a custom brought at some
point to explicit, emphatic consciousness, emotional or

    [3] Mob psychology comes under the same principles, but in a
    negative aspect. The crowd and mob express a disintegration
    of habits which releases impulse and renders persons
    susceptible to immediate stimuli, rather than such a
    functioning of habits as is found in the mind of a club or
    school of thought or a political party. Leaders of an
    organization, that is of an interaction having settled
    habits, may, however, in order to put over some schemes
    deliberately resort to stimuli which will break through the
    crust of ordinary custom and release impulses on such a scale
    as to create a mob psychology. Since fear is a normal
    reaction to the unfamiliar, dread and suspicion are the
    forces most played upon to accomplish this result, together
    with vast vague contrary hopes. This is an ordinary technique
    in excited political campaigns, in starting war, etc. But an
    assimilation like that of Le Bon of the psychology of
    democracy to the psychology of a crowd in overriding
    individual judgment shows lack of psychological insight. A
    political democracy exhibits an overriding of thought like
    that seen in any convention or institution. That is, thought
    is submerged in habit. In the crowd and mob, it is submerged
    in undefined emotion. China and Japan exhibit crowd
    psychology more frequently than do western democratic
    countries. Not in my judgment because of any essentially
    Oriental psychology but because of a nearer background of
    rigid and solid customs conjoined with the phenomena of a
    period of transition. The introduction of many novel stimuli
    creates occasions where habits afford no ballast. Hence great
    waves of emotion easily sweep through masses. Sometimes they
    are waves of enthusiasm for the new; sometimes of violent
    reaction against it--both equally undiscriminating. The war
    has left behind it a somewhat similar situation in western

The family into which one is born is a family in a village or city which
interacts with other more or less integrated systems of activity, and
which includes a diversity of groupings within itself, say, churches,
political parties, clubs, cliques, partnerships, trade-unions,
corporations, etc. If we start with the traditional notion of mind as
something complete in itself, then we may well be perplexed by the
problem of how a common mind, common ways of feeling and believing and
purposing, comes into existence and then forms these groups. The case is
quite otherwise if we recognize that in any case we must start with
grouped action, that is, with some fairly settled system of interaction
among individuals. The problem of origin and development of the various
groupings, or definite customs, in existence at any particular time in
any particular place is not solved by reference to psychic causes,
elements, forces. It is to be solved by reference to facts of action,
demand for food, for houses, for a mate, for some one to talk to and to
listen to one talk, for control of others, demands which are all
intensified by the fact already mentioned that each person begins a
helpless, dependent creature. I do not mean of course that hunger, fear,
sexual love, gregariousness, sympathy, parental love, love of bossing
and of being ordered about, imitation, etc., play no part. But I do mean
that these words do not express elements or forces which are psychic or
mental in their first intention. They denote _ways of behavior_. These
ways of behaving involve interaction, that is to say, and prior
groupings. And to understand the existence of organized ways or habits
we surely need to go to physics, chemistry and physiology rather than to

There is doubtless a great mystery as to why any such thing as being
conscious should exist at all. But _if_ consciousness exists at all,
there is no mystery in its being connected with what it is connected
with. That is to say, if an activity which is an interaction of various
factors, or a grouped activity, comes to consciousness it seems natural
that it should take the form of an emotion, belief or purpose that
reflects the interaction, that it should be an "our" consciousness or a
"my" consciousness. And by this is meant both that it will be shared by
those who are implicated in the associative custom, or more or less
alike in them all, and that it will be felt or thought to concern others
as well as one's self. A family-custom or organized habit of action
comes into contact and conflict for example with that of some other
family. The emotions of ruffled pride, the belief about superiority or
being "as good as other people," the intention to hold one's own are
naturally _our_ feeling and idea of _our_ treatment and position.
Substitute the Republican party or the American nation for the family
and the general situation remains the same. The conditions which
determine the nature and extent of the particular grouping in question
are matters of supreme import. But they are not as such subject-matter
of psychology, but of the history of politics, law, religion, economics,
invention, the technology of communication and intercourse. Psychology
comes in as an indispensable tool. But it enters into the matter of
understanding these various special topics, not into the question of
what psychic forces form a collective mind and therefore a social group.
That way of stating the case puts the cart a long way before the horse,
and naturally gathers obscurities and mysteries to itself. In short, the
primary facts of social psychology center about collective habit,
custom. In addition to the general psychology of habit--which _is_
general not individual in any intelligible sense of that word--we need
to find out just how different customs shape the desires, beliefs,
purposes of those who are affected by them. The problem of social
psychology is not how either individual or collective mind forms social
groups and customs, but how different customs, established interacting
arrangements, form and nurture different minds. From this general
statement we return to our special problem, which is how the rigid
character of past custom has unfavorably influenced beliefs, emotions
and purposes having to do with morals.

We come back to the fact that individuals begin their career as infants.
For the plasticity of the young presents a temptation to those having
greater experience and hence greater power which they rarely resist. It
seems putty to be molded according to current designs. That plasticity
also means power to change prevailing custom is ignored. Docility is
looked upon not as ability to learn whatever the world has to teach, but
as subjection to those instructions of others which reflect _their_
current habits. To be truly docile is to be eager to learn all the
lessons of active, inquiring, expanding experience. The inert, stupid
quality of current customs perverts learning into a willingness to
follow where others point the way, into conformity, constriction,
surrender of scepticism and experiment. When we think of the docility of
the young we first think of the stocks of information adults wish to
impose and the ways of acting they want to reproduce. Then we think of
the insolent coercions, the insinuating briberies, the pedagogic
solemnities by which the freshness of youth can be faded and its vivid
curiosities dulled. Education becomes the art of taking advantage of the
helplessness of the young; the forming of habits becomes a guarantee for
the maintenance of hedges of custom.

Of course it is not wholly forgotten that habits are abilities, arts.
Any striking exhibition of acquired skill in physical matters, like that
of an acrobat or billiard-player, arouses universal admiration. But we
like to have innovating power limited to technical matters and reserve
our admiration for those manifestations that display virtuosity rather
than virtue. In moral matters it is assumed that it is enough if some
ideal has been exemplified in the life of a leader, so that it is now
the part of others to follow and reproduce. For every branch of conduct,
there is a Jesus or Buddha, a Napoleon or Marx, a Froebel or Tolstoi,
whose pattern of action, exceeding our own grasp, is reduced to a
practicable copy-size by passage through rows and rows of lesser

The notion that it suffices if the idea, the end, is present in the mind
of some authority dominates formal schooling. It permeates the
unconscious education derived from ordinary contact and intercourse.
Where following is taken to be normal, moral originality is pretty sure
to be eccentric. But if independence were the rule, originality would be
subjected to severe, experimental tests and be saved from cranky
eccentricity, as it now is in say higher mathematics. The regime of
custom assumes that the outcome is the same whether an individual
understands what he is about or whether he goes through certain motions
while mouthing the words of others--repetition of formulæ being esteemed
of greater importance, upon the whole, than repetition of deeds. To say
what the sect or clique or class says is the way of proving that one
also understands and approves what the clique clings to. In theory,
democracy should be a means of stimulating original thought, and of
evoking action deliberately adjusted in advance to cope with new forces.
In fact it is still so immature that its main effect is to multiply
occasions for imitation. If progress in spite of this fact is more rapid
than in other social forms, it is by accident, since the diversity of
models conflict with one another and thus give individuality a chance in
the resulting chaos of opinions. Current democracy acclaims success more
boisterously than do other social forms, and surrounds failure with a
more reverberating train of echoes. But the prestige thus given
excellence is largely adventitious. The achievement of thought attracts
others not so much intrinsically as because of an eminence due to
multitudinous advertising and a swarm of imitators.

Even liberal thinkers have treated habit as essentially, not because of
the character of existing customs, conservative. In fact only in a
society dominated by modes of belief and admiration fixed by past custom
is habit any more conservative than it is progressive. It all depends
upon its quality. Habit is an ability, an art, formed through past
experience. But whether an ability is limited to repetition of past acts
adopted to past conditions or is available for new emergencies depends
wholly upon what kind of habit exists. The tendency to think that only
"bad" habits are disserviceable and that bad habits are conventionally
enumerable, conduces to make all habits more or less bad. For what makes
a habit bad is enslavement to old ruts. The common notion that
enslavement to good ends converts mechanical routine into good is a
negation of the principle of moral goodness. It identifies morality with
what _was_ sometime rational, possibly in some prior experience of one's
own, but more probably in the experience of some one else who is now
blindly set up as a final authority. The genuine heart of reasonableness
(and of goodness in conduct) lies in effective mastery of the conditions
which _now_ enter into action. To be satisfied with repeating, with
traversing the ruts which in other conditions led to good, is the surest
way of creating carelessness about present and actual good.

Consider what happens to thought when habit is merely power to repeat
acts without thought. Where does thought exist and operate when it is
excluded from habitual activities? Is not such thought of necessity shut
out from effective power, from ability to control objects and command
events? Habits deprived of thought and thought which is futile are two
sides of the same fact. To laud habit as conservative while praising
thought as the main spring of progress is to take the surest course to
making thought abstruse and irrelevant and progress a matter of accident
and catastrophe. The concrete fact behind the current separation of body
and mind, practice and theory, actualities and ideals, is precisely this
separation of habit and thought. Thought which does not exist within
ordinary habits of action lacks means of execution. In lacking
application, it also lacks test, criterion. Hence it is condemned to a
separate realm. If we try to act upon it, our actions are clumsy,
forced. In fact, contrary habits (as we have already seen) come into
operation and betray our purpose. After a few such experiences, it is
subconsciously decided that thought is too precious and high to be
exposed to the contingencies of action. It is reserved for separate
uses; thought feeds only thought not action. Ideals must not run the
risk of contamination and perversion by contact with actual conditions.
Thought then either resorts to specialized and technical matters
influencing action in the library or laboratory alone, or else it
becomes sentimentalized.

Meantime there are certain "practical" men who combine thought and habit
and who are effectual. Their thought is about their own advantage; and
their habits correspond. They dominate the actual situation. They
encourage routine in others, and they also subsidize such thought and
learning as are kept remote from affairs. This they call sustaining the
standard of the ideal. Subjection they praise as team-spirit, loyalty,
devotion, obedience, industry, law-and-order. But they temper respect
for law--by which they mean the order of the existing status--on the
part of others with most skilful and thoughtful manipulation of it in
behalf of their own ends. While they denounce as subversive anarchy
signs of independent thought, of thinking for themselves, on the part of
others lest such thought disturb the conditions by which they profit,
they think quite literally _for_ themselves, that is, _of_ themselves.
This is the eternal game of the practical men. Hence it is only by
accident that the separate and endowed "thought" of professional
thinkers leaks out into action and affects custom.

For thinking cannot itself escape the influence of habit, any more than
anything else human. If it is not a part of ordinary habits, then it is
a separate habit, habit alongside other habits, apart from them, as
isolated and indurated as human structure permits. Theory is a
possession of the theorist, intellect of the intellectualist. The
so-called separation of theory and practice means in fact the separation
of two kinds of practice, one taking place in the outdoor world, the
other in the study. The habit of thought commands some materials (as
every habit must do) but the materials are technical, books, words.
Ideas are objectified in action but speech and writing monopolize their
field of action. Even then subconscious pains are taken to see that the
words used are not too widely understood. Intellectual habits like other
habits demand an environment, but the environment is the study, library,
laboratory and academy. Like other habits they produce external results,
possessions. Some men acquire ideas and knowledge as other men acquire
monetary wealth. While practising thought for their own special ends
they deprecate it for the untrained and unstable masses for whom
"habits," that is unthinking routines, are necessities. They favor
popular education--up to the point of disseminating as matter of
authoritative information for the many what the few have established by
thought, and up to the point of converting an original docility to the
new into a docility to repeat and to conform.

Yet all habit involves mechanization. Habit is impossible without
setting up a mechanism of action, physiologically engrained, which
operates "spontaneously," automatically, whenever the cue is given. But
mechanization is not of necessity _all_ there is to habit. Consider the
conditions under which the first serviceable abilities of life are
formed. When a child begins to walk he acutely observes, he intently and
intensely experiments. He looks to see what is going to happen and he
keeps curious watch on every incident. What others do, the assistance
they give, the models they set, operate not as limitations but as
encouragements to his own acts, reinforcements of personal perception
and endeavor. The first toddling is a romantic adventuring into the
unknown; and every gained power is a delightful discovery of one's own
powers and of the wonders of the world. We may not be able to retain in
adult habits this zest of intelligence and this freshness of
satisfaction in newly discovered powers. But there is surely a middle
term between a normal exercise of power which includes some excursion
into the unknown, and a mechanical activity hedged within a drab world.
Even in dealing with inanimate machines we rank that invention higher
which adapts its movements to varying conditions.

All life operates through a mechanism, and the higher the form of life
the more complex, sure and flexible the mechanism. This fact alone
should save us from opposing life and mechanism, thereby reducing the
latter to unintelligent automatism and the former to an aimless splurge.
How delicate, prompt, sure and varied are the movements of a violin
player or an engraver! How unerringly they phrase every shade of emotion
and every turn of idea! Mechanism is indispensable. If each act has to
be consciously searched for at the moment and intentionally performed,
execution is painful and the product is clumsy and halting. Nevertheless
the difference between the artist and the mere technician is
unmistakeable. The artist is a masterful technician. The technique or
mechanism is fused with thought and feeling. The "mechanical" performer
permits the mechanism to dictate the performance. It is absurd to say
that the latter exhibits habit and the former not. We are confronted
with two kinds of habit, intelligent and routine. All life has its élan,
but only the prevalence of dead habits deflects life into mere élan.

Yet the current dualism of mind and body, thought and action, is so
rooted that we are taught (and science is said to support the teaching)
that the art, the habit, of the artist is acquired by previous
mechanical exercises of repetition in which skill apart from thought is
the aim, until suddenly, magically, this soulless mechanism is taken
possession of by sentiment and imagination and it becomes a flexible
instrument of mind. The fact, the scientific fact, is that even in his
exercises, his practice _for_ skill, an artist uses an art he already
has. He acquires greater skill because practice _of_ skill is more
important to him than practice _for_ skill. Otherwise natural endowment
would count for nothing, and sufficient mechanical exercise would make
any one an expert in any field. A flexible, sensitive habit grows more
varied, more adaptable by practice and use. We do not as yet fully
understand the physiological factors concerned in mechanical routine on
one hand and artistic skill on the other, but we do know that the latter
is just as much habit as is the former. Whether it concerns the cook,
musician, carpenter, citizen, or statesman, the intelligent or artistic
habit is the desirable thing, and the routine the undesirable
thing:--or, at least, desirable and undesirable from every point of view
except one.

Those who wish a monopoly of social power find desirable the separation
of habit and thought, action and soul, so characteristic of history. For
the dualism enables them to do the thinking and planning, while others
remain the docile, even if awkward, instruments of execution. Until this
scheme is changed, democracy is bound to be perverted in realization.
With our present system of education--by which something much more
extensive than schooling is meant--democracy multiplies occasions for
imitation not occasions for thought in action. If the visible result is
rather a messy confusion than an ordered discipline of habits, it is
because there are so many models of imitation set up that they tend to
cancel one another, so that individuals have the advantage neither of
uniform training nor of intelligent adaptation. Whence an
intellectualist; the one with whom thinking is itself a segregated
habit, infers that the choice is between muss-and-muddling and a
bureaucracy. He prefers the latter, though under some other name,
usually an aristocracy of talent and intellect, possibly a dictatorship
of the proletariat.

It has been repeatedly stated that the current philosophical dualism of
mind and body, of spirit and mere outward doing, is ultimately but an
intellectual reflex of the social divorce of routine habit from thought,
of means from ends, practice from theory. One hardly knows whether most
to admire the acumen with which Bergson has penetrated through the
accumulation of historic technicalities to this essential fact, or to
deplore the artistic skill with which he has recommended the division
and the metaphysical subtlety with which he has striven to establish its
necessary and unchangeable nature. For the latter tends to confirm and
sanction the dualism in all its obnoxiousness. In the end, however,
detection, discovery, is the main thing. To envisage the relation of
spirit, life, to matter, body, as in effect an affair of a force which
outruns habit while it leaves a trail of routine habits behind it, will
surely turn out in the end to imply the acknowledgment of the need of a
continuous unification of spirit and habit, rather than to be a sanction
of their divorce. And when Bergson carries the implicit logic to the
point of a clear recognition that upon this basis concrete intelligence
is concerned with the habits which incorporate and deal with objects,
and that nothing remains to spirit, pure thought, except a blind onward
push or impetus, the net conclusion is surely the need of revision of
the fundamental premiss of separation of soul and habit. A blind
creative force is as likely to turn out to be destructive as creative;
the vital _élan_ may delight in war rather than in the laborious arts of
civilization, and a mystic intuition of an ongoing splurge be a poor
substitute for the detailed work of an intelligence embodied in custom
and institution, one which creates by means of flexible continuous
contrivances of reorganization. For the eulogistic qualities which
Bergson attributes to the _élan vital_ flow not from its nature but from
a reminiscence of the optimism of romanticism, an optimism which is only
the reverse side of pessimism about actualities. A spiritual life which
is nothing but a blind urge separated from thought (which is said to be
confined to mechanical manipulation of material objects for personal
uses) is likely to have the attributes of the Devil in spite of its
being ennobled with the name of God.


For practical purposes morals mean customs, folkways, established
collective habits. This is a commonplace of the anthropologist, though
the moral theorist generally suffers from an illusion that his own place
and day is, or ought to be, an exception. But always and everywhere
customs supply the standards for personal activities. They are the
pattern into which individual activity must weave itself. This is as
true today as it ever was. But because of present mobility and
interminglings of customs, an individual is now offered an enormous
range of custom-patterns, and can exercise personal ingenuity in
selecting and rearranging their elements. In short he can, if he will,
intelligently adapt customs to conditions, and thereby remake them.
Customs in any case constitute moral standards. For they are active
demands for certain ways of acting. Every habit creates an unconscious
expectation. It forms a certain outlook. What psychologists have
laboriously treated under the caption of association of ideas has little
to do with ideas and everything to do with the influence of habit upon
recollection and perception. A habit, a routine habit, when interfered
with generates uneasiness, sets up a protest in favor of restoration and
a sense of need of some expiatory act, or else it goes off in casual
reminiscence. It is the essence of routine to insist upon its own
continuation. Breach of it is violation of right. Deviation from it is

All that metaphysics has said about the nisus of Being to conserve its
essence and all that a mythological psychology has said about a special
instinct of self-preservation is a cover for the persistent
self-assertion of habit. Habit is energy organized in certain channels.
When interfered with, it swells as resentment and as an avenging force.
To say that it will be obeyed, that custom makes law, that _nomos_ is
lord of all, is after all only to say that habit is habit. Emotion is a
perturbation from clash or failure of habit, and reflection, roughly
speaking, is the painful effort of disturbed habits to readjust
themselves. It is a pity that Westermarck in his monumental collection
of facts which show the connection of custom with morals[4] is still so
much under the influence of current subjective psychology that he
misstates the point of his data. For although he recognizes the
objectivity of custom, he treats sympathetic resentment and approbation
as distinctive inner feelings or conscious states which give rise to
acts. In his anxiety to displace an unreal rational source of morals he
sets up an equally unreal emotional basis. In truth, feelings as well as
reason spring up within action. Breach of custom or habit is the source
of sympathetic resentment, while overt approbation goes out to fidelity
to custom maintained under exceptional circumstances.

    [4] "The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas."

Those who recognize the place of custom in lower social forms generally
regard its presence in civilized society as a mere survival. Or, like
Sumner, they fancy that to recognize its abiding place is equivalent to
the denial of all rationality and principle to morality; equivalent to
the assertion of blind, arbitrary forces in life. In effect, this point
of view has already been dealt with. It overlooks the fact that the real
opposition is not between reason and habit but between routine,
unintelligent habit, and intelligent habit or art. Even a savage custom
may be reasonable in that it is adapted to social needs and uses.
Experience may add to such adaptation a conscious recognition of it, and
then the custom of rationality is added to a prior custom.

External reasonableness or adaptation to ends precedes reasonableness of
mind. This is only to say that in morals as well as in physics things
have to be there before we perceive them, and that rationality of mind
is not an original endowment but is the offspring of intercourse with
objective adaptations and relations--a view which under the influence of
a conception of knowing the like by the like has been distorted into
Platonic and other objective idealisms. Reason as observation of an
adaptation of acts to valuable results is not however a mere idle
mirroring of pre-existent facts. It is an additional event having its
own career. It sets up a heightened emotional appreciation and provides
a new motive for fidelities previously blind. It sets up an attitude of
criticism, of inquiry, and makes men sensitive to the brutalities and
extravagancies of customs. In short, it becomes a custom of expectation
and outlook, an active demand for reasonableness in other customs. The
reflective disposition is not self-made nor a gift of the gods. It
arises in some exceptional circumstance out of social customs, as we see
in the case of the Greeks. But when it has been generated it establishes
a new custom, which is capable of exercising the most revolutionary
influence upon other customs.

Hence the growing importance of personal rationality or intelligence, in
moral theory if not in practice. That current customs contradict one
another, that many of them are unjust, and that without criticism none
of them is fit to be the guide of life was the discovery with which the
Athenian Socrates initiated conscious moral theorizing. Yet a dilemma
soon presented itself, one which forms the burden of Plato's ethical
writings. How shall thought which is personal arrive at standards which
hold good for all, which, in modern phrase, are objective? The solution
found by Plato was that reason is itself objective, universal, cosmic
and makes the individual soul its vehicle. The result, however, was
merely to substitute a metaphysical or transcendental ethics for the
ethics of custom. If Plato had been able to see that reflection and
criticism express a conflict of customs, and that their purport and
office is to re-organize, re-adjust customs, the subsequent course of
moral theory would have been very different. Custom would have provided
needed objective and substantial ballast, and personal rationality or
reflective intelligence been treated as the necessary organ of
experimental initiative and creative invention in remaking custom.

We have another difficulty to face: a greater wave rises to overwhelm
us. It is said that to derive moral standards from social customs is to
evacuate the latter of all authority. Morals, it is said, imply the
subordination of fact to ideal consideration, while the view presented
makes morals secondary to bare fact, which is equal to depriving them of
dignity and jurisdiction. The objection has the force of the custom of
moral theorists behind it; and therefore in its denial of custom avails
itself of the assistance of the notion it attacks. The criticism rests
upon a false separation. It argues in effect that either ideal standards
antecede customs and confer their moral quality upon them, or that in
being subsequent to custom and evolved from them, they are mere
accidental by-products. But how does the case stand with language? Men
did not intend language; they did not have social objects consciously in
view when they began to talk, nor did they have grammatical and phonetic
principles before them by which to regulate their efforts at
communication. These things come after the fact and because of it.
Language grew out of unintelligent babblings, instinctive motions called
gestures, and the pressure of circumstance. But nevertheless language
once called into existence is language and operates as language. It
operates not to perpetuate the forces which produced it but to modify
and redirect them. It has such transcendent importance that pains are
taken with its use. Literatures are produced, and then a vast apparatus
of grammar, rhetoric, dictionaries, literary criticism, reviews, essays,
a derived literature _ad lib_. Education, schooling, becomes a
necessity; literacy an end. In short language when it is produced meets
old needs and opens new possibilities. It creates demands which take
effect, and the effect is not confined to speech and literature, but
extends to the common life in communication, counsel and instruction.

What is said of the institution of language holds good of every
institution. Family life, property, legal forms, churches and schools,
academies of art and science did not originate to serve conscious ends
nor was their generation regulated by consciousness of principles of
reason and right. Yet each institution has brought with its development
demands, expectations, rules, standards. These are not mere
embellishments of the forces which produced them, idle decorations of
the scene. They are additional forces. They reconstruct. They open new
avenues of endeavor and impose new labors. In short they are
civilization, culture, morality.

Still the question recurs: What authority have standards and ideas which
have originated in this way? What claim have they upon us? In one sense
the question is unanswerable. In the same sense, however, the question
is unanswerable whatever origin and sanction is ascribed to moral
obligations and loyalties. Why attend to metaphysical and transcendental
ideal realities even if we concede they are the authors of moral
standards? Why do this act if I feel like doing something else? Any
moral question may reduce itself to this question if we so choose. But
in an empirical sense the answer is simple. The authority is that of
life. Why employ language, cultivate literature, acquire and develop
science, sustain industry, and submit to the refinements of art? To ask
these questions is equivalent to asking: Why live? And the only answer
is that if one is going to live one must live a life of which these
things form the substance. The only question having sense which can be
asked is _how_ we are going to use and be used by these things, not
whether we are going to use them. Reason, moral principles, cannot in
any case be shoved behind these affairs, for reason and morality grow
out of them. But they have grown into them as well as out of them. They
are there as part of them. No one can escape them if he wants to. He
cannot escape the problem of _how_ to engage in life, since in any case
he must engage in it in some way or other--or else quit and get out. In
short, the choice is not between a moral authority outside custom and
one within it. It is between adopting more or less intelligent and
significant customs.

Curiously enough, the chief practical effect of refusing to recognize
the connection of custom with moral standards is to deify some special
custom and treat it as eternal, immutable, outside of criticism and
revision. This consequence is especially harmful in times of rapid
social flux. For it leads to disparity between nominal standards, which
become ineffectual and hypocritical in exact ratio to their theoretical
exaltation, and actual habits which have to take note of existing
conditions. The disparity breeds disorder. Irregularity and confusion
are however practically intolerable, and effect the generation of a new
rule of some sort or other. Only such complete disturbance of the
physical bases of life and security as comes from plague and starvation
can throw society into utter disorder. No amount of intellectual
transition can seriously disturb the main tenor of custom, or morals.
Hence the greater danger which attends the attempt in period of social
change to maintain the immutability of old standards is not general
moral relaxation. It is rather social clash, an irreconciled conflict of
moral standards and purposes, the most serious form of class warfare.

For segregated classes develop their own customs, which is to say their
own working morals. As long as society is mainly immobile these diverse
principles and ruling aims do not clash. They exist side by side in
different strata. Power, glory, honor, magnificence, mutual faith here;
industry, obedience, abstinence, humility, and reverence there: noble
and plebeian virtues. Vigor, courage, energy, enterprise here;
submission, patience, charm, personal fidelity there: the masculine and
feminine virtues. But mobility invades society. War, commerce, travel,
communication, contact with the thoughts and desires of other classes,
new inventions in productive industry, disturb the settled distribution
of customs. Congealed habits thaw out, and a flood mixes things once

Each class is rigidly sure of the rightness of its own ends and hence
not overscrupulous about the means of attaining them. One side proclaims
the ultimacy of order--that of some old order which conduces to its own
interest. The other side proclaims its rights to freedom, and identifies
justice with its submerged claims. There is no common ground, no moral
understanding, no agreed upon standard of appeal. Today such a conflict
occurs between propertied classes and those who depend upon daily wage;
between men and women; between old and young. Each appeals to its own
standard of right, and each thinks the other the creature of personal
desire, whim or obstinacy. Mobility has affected peoples as well.
Nations and races face one another, each with its own immutable
standards. Never before in history have there existed such numerous
contacts and minglings. Never before have there been such occasions for
conflict which are the more significant because each side feels that it
is supported by moral principles. Customs relating to what has been and
emotions referring to what may come to be go their independent ways. The
demand of each side treats its opponent as a wilful violator of moral
principles, an expression of self-interest or superior might.
Intelligence which is the only possible messenger of reconciliation
dwells in a far land of abstractions or comes after the event to record
accomplished facts.


The prior discussion has tried to show why the psychology of habit is an
objective and social psychology. Settled and regular action must contain
an adjustment of environing conditions; it must incorporate them in
itself. For human beings, the environing affairs directly important are
those formed by the activities of other human beings. This fact is
accentuated and made fundamental by the fact of infancy--the fact that
each human being begins life completely dependent upon others. The net
outcome accordingly is that what can be called distinctively individual
in behavior and mind is not, contrary to traditional theory, an original
datum. Doubtless physical or physiological individuality always colors
responsive activity and hence modifies the form which custom assumes in
its personal reproductions. In forceful energetic characters this
quality is marked. But it is important to note that it is a quality of
habit, not an element or force existing apart from adjustment of the
environment and capable of being termed a separate individual mind.
Orthodox psychology starts however from the assumption of precisely such
independent minds. However much different schools may vary in their
definitions of mind, they agree in this premiss of separateness and
priority. Hence social psychology is confused by the effort to render
its facts in the terms characteristic of old psychology, when the
distinctive thing about it is that it implies an abandonment of that

The traditional psychology of the original separate soul, mind or
consciousness is in truth a reflex of conditions which cut human nature
off from its natural objective relations. It implies first the severance
of man from nature and then of each man from his fellows. The isolation
of man from nature is duly manifested in the split between mind and
body--since body is clearly a connected part of nature. Thus the
instrument of action and the means of the continuous modification of
action, of the cumulative carrying forward of old activity into new,
is regarded as a mysterious intruder or as a mysterious parallel
accompaniment. It is fair to say that the psychology of a separate and
independent consciousness began as an intellectual formulation of those
facts of morality which treated the most important kind of action as a
private concern, something to be enacted and concluded within character
as a purely personal possession. The religious and metaphysical
interests which wanted the ideal to be a separate realm finally
coincided with a practical revolt against current customs and
institutions to enforce current psychological individualism. But this
formulation (put forth in the name of science) reacted to confirm the
conditions out of which it arose, and to convert it from a historic
episode into an essential truth. Its exaggeration of individuality is
largely a compensatory reaction against the pressure of institutional

Any moral theory which is seriously influenced by current psychological
theory is bound to emphasize states of consciousness, an inner private
life, at the expense of acts which have public meaning and which
incorporate and exact social relationships. A psychology based upon
habits (and instincts which become elements in habits as soon as they
are acted upon) will on the contrary fix its attention upon the
objective conditions in which habits are formed and operate. The rise at
the present time of a clinical psychology which revolts at traditional
and orthodox psychology is a symptom of ethical import. It is a protest
against the futility, as a tool of understanding and dealing with human
nature in the concrete, of the psychology of conscious sensations,
images and ideas. It exhibits a sense for reality in its insistence upon
the profound importance of unconscious forces in determining not only
overt conduct but desire, judgment, belief, idealization.

Every moment of reaction and protest, however, usually accepts some of
the basic ideas of the position against which it rebels. So the most
popular forms of the clinical psychology, those associated with the
founders of psycho-analysis, retain the notion of a separate psychic
realm or force. They add a statement pointing to facts of the utmost
value, and which is equivalent to practical recognition of the
dependence of mind upon habit and of habit upon social conditions. This
is the statement of the existence and operation of the "unconscious," of
complexes due to contacts and conflicts with others, of the social
censor. But they still cling to the idea of the separate psychic realm
and so in effect talk about unconscious consciousness. They get their
truths mixed up in theory with the false psychology of original
individual consciousness, just as the school of social psychologists
does upon its side. Their elaborate artificial explanations, like the
mystic collective mind, consciousness, over-soul, of social psychology,
are due to failure to begin with the facts of habit and custom.

What then is meant by individual mind, by mind as individual? In effect
the reply has already been given. Conflict of habits releases impulsive
activities which in their manifestation require a modification of habit,
of custom and convention. That which was at first the individualized
color or quality of habitual activity is abstracted, and becomes a
center of activity aiming to reconstruct customs in accord with some
desire which is rejected by the immediate situation and which therefore
is felt to belong to one's self, to be the mark and possession of an
individual in partial and temporary opposition to his environment. These
general and necessarily vague statements will be made more definite in
the further discussion of impulse and intelligence. For impulse when it
asserts itself deliberately against an existing custom is the beginning
of individuality in mind. This beginning is developed and consolidated
in the observations, judgments, inventions which try to transform the
environment so that a variant, deviating impulse may itself in turn
become incarnated in objective habit.




Habits as organized activities are secondary and acquired, not native
and original. They are outgrowths of unlearned activities which are part
of man's endowment at birth. The order of topics followed in our
discussion may accordingly be questioned. Why should what is derived and
therefore in some sense artificial in conduct be discussed before what
is primitive, natural and inevitable? Why did we not set out with an
examination of those instinctive activities upon which the acquisition
of habits is conditioned?

The query is a natural one, yet it tempts to flinging forth a paradox.
In conduct the acquired is the primitive. Impulses although first in
time are never primary in fact; they are secondary and dependent. The
seeming paradox in statement covers a familiar fact. In the life of the
individual, instinctive activity comes first. But an individual begins
life as a baby, and babies are dependent beings. Their activities could
continue at most for only a few hours were it not for the presence and
aid of adults with their formed habits. And babies owe to adults more
than procreation, more than the continued food and protection which
preserve life. They owe to adults the opportunity to express their
native activities in ways which have meaning. Even if by some miracle
original activity could continue without assistance from the organized
skill and art of adults, it would not amount to anything. It would be
mere sound and fury.

In short, the _meaning_ of native activities is not native; it is
acquired. It depends upon interaction with a matured social medium. In
the case of a tiger or eagle, anger may be identified with a serviceable
life-activity, with attack and defense. With a human being it is as
meaningless as a gust of wind on a mud puddle apart from a direction
given it by the presence of other persons, apart from the responses they
make to it. It is a physical spasm, a blind dispersive burst of wasteful
energy. It gets quality, significance, when it becomes a smouldering
sullenness, an annoying interruption, a peevish irritation, a murderous
revenge, a blazing indignation. And although these phenomena which have
a meaning spring from original native reactions to stimuli, yet they
depend also upon the responsive behavior of others. They and all similar
human displays of anger are not pure impulses; they are habits formed
under the influence of association with others who have habits already
and who show their habits in the treatment which converts a blind
physical discharge into a significant anger.

After ignoring impulses for a long time in behalf of sensations, modern
psychology now tends to start out with an inventory and description of
instinctive activities. This is an undoubted improvement. But when it
tries to explain complicated events in personal and social life by
direct reference to these native powers, the explanation becomes hazy
and forced. It is like saying the flea and the elephant, the lichen and
the redwood, the timid hare and the ravening wolf, the plant with the
most inconspicuous blossom and the plant with the most glaring color are
alike products of natural selection. There may be a sense in which the
statement is true; but till we know the specific environing conditions
under which selection took place we really know nothing. And so we need
to know about the social conditions which have educated original
activities into definite and significant dispositions before we can
discuss the psychological element in society. This is the true meaning
of social psychology.

At some place on the globe, at some time, every kind of practice seems
to have been tolerated or even praised. How is the tremendous diversity
of institutions (including moral codes) to be accounted for? The native
stock of instincts is practically the same everywhere. Exaggerate as
much as we like the native differences of Patagonians and Greeks, Sioux
Indians and Hindoos, Bushmen and Chinese, their original differences
will bear no comparison to the amount of difference found in custom and
culture. Since such a diversity cannot be attributed to an original
identity, the development of native impulse must be stated in terms of
acquired habits, not the growth of customs in terms of instincts. The
wholesale human sacrifices of Peru and the tenderness of St. Francis,
the cruelties of pirates and the philanthropies of Howard, the practice
of Suttee and the cult of the Virgin, the war and peace dances of the
Comanches and the parliamentary institutions of the British, the
communism of the Southsea islander and the proprietary thrift of the
Yankee, the magic of the medicine man and the experiments of the chemist
in his laboratory, the non-resistance of Chinese and the aggressive
militarism of an imperial Prussia, monarchy by divine right and
government by the people; the countless diversity of habits suggested by
such a random list springs from practically the same capital-stock of
native instincts.

It would be pleasant if we could pick and choose those institutions
which we like and impute them to human nature, and the rest to some
devil; or those we like to our kind of human nature, and those we
dislike to the nature of despised foreigners on the ground they are not
really "native" at all. It would appear to be simpler if we could point
to certain customs, saying that they are the unalloyed products of
certain instincts, while those other social arrangements are to be
attributed wholly to other impulses. But such methods are not feasible.
The same original fears, angers, loves and hates are hopelessly
entangled in the most opposite institutions. The thing we need to know
is how a native stock has been modified by interaction with different

Yet it goes without saying that original, unlearned activity has its
distinctive place and that an important one in conduct. Impulses are the
pivots upon which the re-organization of activities turn, they are
agencies of deviation, for giving new directions to old habits and
changing their quality. Consequently whenever we are concerned with
understanding social transition and flux or with projects for reform,
personal and collective, our study must go to analysis of native
tendencies. Interest in progress and reform is, indeed, the reason for
the present great development of scientific interest in primitive human
nature. If we inquire why men were so long blind to the existence of
powerful and varied instincts in human beings, the answer seems to be
found in the lack of a conception of orderly progress. It is fast
becoming incredible that psychologists disputed as to whether they
should choose between innate ideas and an empty, passive, wax-like mind.
For it seems as if a glance at a child would have revealed that the
truth lay in neither doctrine, so obvious is the surging of specific
native activities. But this obtuseness to facts was evidence of lack of
interest in what could be done with impulses, due, in turn, to lack of
interest in modifying existing institutions. It is no accident that men
became interested in the psychology of savages and babies when they
became interested in doing away with old institutions.

A combination of traditional individualism with the recent interest in
progress explains why the discovery of the scope and force of instincts
has led many psychologists to think of them as the fountain head of all
conduct, as occupying a place before instead of after that of habits.
The orthodox tradition in psychology is built upon isolation of
individuals from their surroundings. The soul or mind or consciousness
was thought of as self-contained and self-enclosed. Now in the career of
an individual if it is regarded as complete in itself instincts clearly
come before habits. Generalize this individualistic view, and we have an
assumption that all customs, all significant episodes in the life of
individuals can be carried directly back to the operation of instincts.

But, as we have already noted, if an individual be isolated in this
fashion, along with the fact of primacy of instinct we find also the
fact of death. The inchoate and scattered impulses of an infant do not
coordinate into serviceable powers except through social dependencies
and companionships. His impulses are merely starting points for
assimilation of the knowledge and skill of the more matured beings upon
whom he depends. They are tentacles sent out to gather that nutrition
from customs which will in time render the infant capable of independent
action. They are agencies for transfer of existing social power into
personal ability; they are means of reconstructive growth. Abandon an
impossible individualistic psychology, and we arrive at the fact that
native activities are organs of re-organization and re-adjustment. The
hen precedes the egg. But nevertheless this particular egg may be so
treated as to modify the future type of hen.


In the case of the young it is patent that impulses are highly flexible
starting points for activities which are diversified according to the
ways in which they are used. Any impulse may become organized into
almost any disposition according to the way it interacts with
surroundings. Fear may become abject cowardice, prudent caution,
reverence for superiors or respect for equals; an agency for credulous
swallowing of absurd superstitions or for wary scepticism. A man may be
chiefly afraid of the spirits of his ancestors, of officials, of
arousing the disapproval of his associates, of being deceived, of fresh
air, or of Bolshevism. The actual outcome depends upon how the impulse
of fear is interwoven with other impulses. This depends in turn upon the
outlets and inhibitions supplied by the social environment.

In a definite sense, then, a human society is always starting afresh. It
is always in process of renewing, and it endures only because of
renewal. We speak of the peoples of southern Europe as Latin peoples.
Their existing languages depart widely from one another and from the
Latin mother tongue. Yet there never was a day when this alteration of
speech was intentional or explicit. Persons always meant to reproduce
the speech they heard from their elders and supposed they were
succeeding. This fact may stand as a kind of symbol of the
reconstruction wrought in habits because of the fact that they can be
transmitted and be made to endure only through the medium of the crude
activities of the young or through contact with persons having different

For the most part, this continuous alteration has been unconscious and
unintended. Immature, undeveloped activity has succeeded in modifying
adult organized activity accidentally and surreptitiously. But with the
dawn of the idea of progressive betterment and an interest in new uses
of impulses, there has grown up some consciousness of the extent to
which a future new society of changed purposes and desires may be
created by a deliberate humane treatment of the impulses of youth. This
is the meaning of education; for a truly humane education consists in an
intelligent direction of native activities in the light of the
possibilities and necessities of the social situation. But for the most
part, adults have given training rather than education. An impatient,
premature mechanization of impulsive activity after the fixed pattern of
adult habits of thought and affection has been desired. The combined
effect of love of power, timidity in the face of the novel and a
self-admiring complacency has been too strong to permit immature impulse
to exercise its re-organizing potentialities. The younger generation has
hardly even knocked frankly at the door of adult customs, much less been
invited in to rectify through better education the brutalities and
inequities established in adult habits. Each new generation has crept
blindly and furtively through such chance gaps as have happened to be
left open. Otherwise it has been modeled after the old.

We have already noted how original plasticity is warped and docility is
taken mean advantage of. It has been used to signify not capacity to
learn liberally and generously, but willingness to learn the customs of
adult associates, ability to learn just those special things which those
having power and authority wish to teach. Original modifiability has not
been given a fair chance to act as a trustee for a better human life. It
has been loaded with convention, biased by adult convenience. It has
been practically rendered into an equivalent of non-assertion of
originality, a pliant accommodation to the embodied opinions of others.

Consequently docility has been identified with imitativeness, instead of
with power to re-make old habits, to re-create. Plasticity and
originality have been opposed to each other. That the most precious part
of plasticity consists in ability to form habits of independent judgment
and of inventive initiation has been ignored. For it demands a more
complete and intense docility to form flexible easily re-adjusted habits
than it does to acquire those which rigidly copy the ways of others. In
short, among the native activities of the young are some that work
towards accommodation, assimilation, reproduction, and others that work
toward exploration, discovery and creation. But the weight of adult
custom has been thrown upon retaining and strengthening tendencies
toward conformity, and against those which make for variation and
independence. The habits of the growing person are jealously kept within
the limit of adult customs. The delightful originality of the child is
tamed. Worship of institutions and personages themselves lacking in
imaginative foresight, versatile observation and liberal thought, is

Very early in life sets of mind are formed without attentive thought,
and these sets persist and control the mature mind. The child learns to
avoid the shock of unpleasant disagreement, to find the easy way out, to
appear to conform to customs which are wholly mysterious to him in order
to get his own way--that is to display some natural impulse without
exciting the unfavorable notice of those in authority. Adults distrust
the intelligence which a child has while making upon him demands for a
kind of conduct that requires a high order of intelligence, if it is to
be intelligent at all. The inconsistency is reconciled by instilling in
him "moral" habits which have a maximum of emotional empressment and
adamantine hold with a minimum of understanding. These habitudes, deeply
engrained before thought is awake and even before the day of experiences
which can later be recalled, govern conscious later thought. They are
usually deepest and most unget-at-able just where critical thought is
most needed--in morals, religion and politics. These "infantalisms"
account for the mass of irrationalities that prevail among men of
otherwise rational tastes. These personal "hang-overs" are the cause of
what the student of culture calls survivals. But unfortunately these
survivals are much more numerous and pervasive than the anthropologist
and historian are wont to admit. To list them would perhaps oust one
from "respectable" society.

And yet the intimation never wholly deserts us that there is in the
unformed activities of childhood and youth the possibilities of a better
life for the community as well as for individuals here and there. This
dim sense is the ground of our abiding idealization of childhood. For
with all its extravagancies and uncertainties, its effusions and
reticences, it remains a standing proof of a life wherein growth is
normal not an anomaly, activity a delight not a task, and where
habit-forming is an expansion of power not its shrinkage. Habit and
impulse may war with each other, but it is a combat between the habits
of adults and the impulses of the young, and not, as with the adult, a
civil warfare whereby personality is rent asunder. Our usual measure for
the "goodness" of children is the amount of trouble they make for
grownups, which means of course the amount they deviate from adult
habits and expectations. Yet by way of expiation we envy children their
love of new experiences, their intentness in extracting the last drop of
significance from each situation, their vital seriousness in things that
to us are outworn.

We compensate for the harshness and monotony of our present insistence
upon formed habits by imagining a future heaven in which we too shall
respond freshly and generously to each incident of life. In consequence
of our divided attitude, our ideals are self-contradictory. On the one
hand, we dream of an attained perfection, an ultimate static goal, in
which effort shall cease, and desire and execution be once and for all
in complete equilibrium. We wish for a character which shall be
steadfast, and we then conceive this desired faithfulness as something
immutable, a character exactly the same yesterday, today and forever.
But we also have a sneaking sympathy for the courage of an Emerson in
declaring that consistency should be thrown to the winds when it stands
between us and the opportunities of present life. We reach out to the
opposite extreme of our ideal of fixity, and under the guise of a return
to nature dream of a romantic freedom, in which _all_ life is plastic to
impulse, a continual source of improvised spontaneities and novel
inspirations. We rebel against all organization and all stability. If
modern thought and sentiment is to escape from this division in its
ideals, it must be through utilizing released impulse as an agent of
steady reorganization of custom and institutions.

While childhood is the conspicuous proof of the renewing of habit
rendered possible by impulse, the latter never wholly ceases to play its
refreshing rôle in adult life. If it did, life would petrify, society
stagnate. Instinctive reactions are sometimes too intense to be woven
into a smooth pattern of habits. Under ordinary circumstances they
appear to be tamed to obey their master, custom. But extraordinary
crises release them and they show by wild violent energy how superficial
is the control of routine. The saying that civilization is only skin
deep, that a savage persists beneath the clothes of a civilized man, is
the common acknowledgment of this fact. At critical moments of unusual
stimuli the emotional outbreak and rush of instincts dominating all
activity show how superficial is the modification which a rigid habit
has been able to effect.

When we face this fact in its general significance, we confront one of
the ominous aspects of the history of man. We realize how little the
progress of man has been the product of intelligent guidance, how
largely it has been a by-product of accidental upheavals, even though by
an apologetic interest in behalf of some privileged institution we later
transmute chance into providence. We have depended upon the clash of
war, the stress of revolution, the emergence of heroic individuals, the
impact of migrations generated by war and famine, the incoming of
barbarians, to change established institutions. Instead of constantly
utilizing unused impulse to effect continuous reconstruction, we have
waited till an accumulation of stresses suddenly breaks through the
dikes of custom.

It is often supposed that as old persons die, so must old peoples. There
are many facts in history to support the belief. Decadence and
degeneration seems to be the rule as age increases. An irruption of some
uncivilized horde has then provided new blood and fresh life--so much so
that history has been defined as a process of rebarbarization. In truth
the analogy between a person and a nation with respect to senescence and
death is defective. A nation is always renewed by the death of its old
constituents and the birth of those who are as young and fresh as ever
were any individuals in the hey-day of the nation's glory. Not the
nation but its customs get old. Its institutions petrify into rigidity;
there is social arterial sclerosis. Then some people not overburdened
with elaborate and stiff habits take up and carry on the moving process
of life. The stock of fresh peoples is, however, approaching exhaustion.
It is not safe to rely upon this expensive method of renewing
civilization. We need to discover how to rejuvenate it from within. A
normal perpetuation becomes a fact in the degree in which impulse is
released and habit is plastic to the transforming touch of impulse. When
customs are flexible and youth is educated as youth and not as premature
adulthood, no nation grows old.

There always exists a goodly store of non-functioning impulses which may
be drawn upon. Their manifestation and utilization is called conversion
or regeneration when it comes suddenly. But they may be drawn upon
continuously and moderately. Then we call it learning or educative
growth. Rigid custom signifies not that there are no such impulses but
that they are not organically taken advantage of. As matter of fact, the
stiffer and the more encrusted the customs, the larger is the number of
instinctive activities that find no regular outlet and that accordingly
merely await a chance to get an irregular, uncoordinated manifestation.
Routine habits never take up all the slack. They apply only where
conditions remain the same or recur in uniform ways. They do not fit the
unusual and novel.

Consequently rigid moral codes that attempt to lay down definite
injunctions and prohibitions for every occasion in life turn out in fact
loose and slack. Stretch ten commandments or any other number as far as
you will by ingenious exegesis, yet acts unprovided for by them will
occur. No elaboration of statute law can forestall variant cases and the
need of interpretation _ad hoc_. Moral and legal schemes that attempt
the impossible in the way of definite formulation compensate for
explicit strictness in some lines by implicit looseness in others. The
only truly severe code is the one which foregoes codification, throwing
responsibility for judging each case upon the agents concerned, imposing
upon them the burden of discovery and adaptation.

The relation which actually exists between undirected instinct and
over-organized custom is illustrated in the two views that are current
about savage life. The popular view looks at the savage as a wild man;
as one who knows no controlling principles or rules of action, who
freely follows his own impulse, whim or desire whenever it seizes him
and wherever it takes him. Anthropologists are given to the opposed
notion. They view savages as bondsmen to custom. They note the network
of regulations that order his risings-up and his sittings-down, his
goings-out and his comings-in. They conclude that in comparison with
civilized man the savage is a slave, governed by many inflexible tribal
habitudes in conduct and ideas.

The truth about savage life lies in a combination of these two
conceptions. Where customs exist they are of one pattern and binding on
personal sentiment and thought to a degree unknown in civilized life.
But since they cannot possibly exist with respect to all the changing
detail of daily life, whatever is left uncovered by custom is free from
regulation. It is therefore left to appetite and momentary circumstance.
Thus enslavement to custom and license of impulse exist side by side.
Strict conformity and unrestrained wildness intensify each other. This
picture of life shows us in an exaggerated form the psychology current
in civilized life whenever customs harden and hold individuals enmeshed.
Within civilization, the savage still exists. He is known in his degree
by oscillation between loose indulgence and stiff habit.

Impulse in short brings with itself the possibility but not the
assurance of a steady reorganization of habits to meet new elements in
new situations. The moral problem in child and adult alike as regards
impulse and instinct is to utilize them for formation of new habits, or
what is the same thing, the modification of an old habit so that it may
be adequately serviceable under novel conditions. The place of impulse
in conduct as a pivot of re-adjustment, re-organization, in habits may
be defined as follows: On one side, it is marked off from the territory
of arrested and encrusted habits. On the other side, it is demarcated
from the region in which impulse is a law unto itself.[5] Generalizing
these distinctions, a valid moral theory contrasts with all those
theories which set up static goals (even when they are called
perfection), and with those theories which idealize raw impulse and find
in its spontaneities an adequate mode of human freedom. Impulse is a
source, an indispensable source, of liberation; but only as it is
employed in giving habits pertinence and freshness does it liberate

    [5] The use of the words instinct and impulse as practical
    equivalents is intentional, even though it may grieve
    critical readers. The word instinct taken alone is still too
    laden with the older notion that an instinct is always
    definitely organized and adapted--which for the most part is
    just what it is not in human beings. The word impulse
    suggests something primitive, yet loose, undirected, initial.
    Man can progress as beasts cannot, precisely because he has
    so many 'instincts' that they cut across one another, so that
    most serviceable actions must be _learned_. In learning
    habits it is possible for man to learn the habit of learning.
    Then betterment becomes a conscious principle of life.


Incidentally we have touched upon a most far-reaching problem: The
alterability of human nature. Early reformers, following John Locke,
were inclined to minimize the significance of native activities, and to
emphasize the possibilities inherent in practice and habit-acquisition.
There was a political slant to this denial of the native and a priori,
this magnifying of the accomplishments of acquired experience. It held
out a prospect of continuous development, of improvement without end.
Thus writers like Helvetius made the idea of the complete malleability
of a human nature which originally is wholly empty and passive, the
basis for asserting the omnipotence of education to shape human society,
and the ground of proclaiming the infinite perfectibility of mankind.

Wary, experienced men of the world have always been sceptical of schemes
of unlimited improvement. They tend to regard plans for social change
with an eye of suspicion. They find in them evidences of the proneness
of youth to illusion, or of incapacity on the part of those who have
grown old to learn anything from experience. This type of conservative
has thought to find in the doctrine of native instincts a scientific
support for asserting the practical unalterability of human nature.
Circumstances may change, but human nature remains from age to age the
same. Heredity is more potent than environment, and human heredity is
untouched by human intent. Effort for a serious alteration of human
institutions is utopian. As things have been so they will be. The more
they change the more they remain the same.

Curiously enough both parties rest their case upon just the factor which
when it is analyzed weakens their respective conclusions. That is to
say, the radical reformer rests his contention in behalf of easy and
rapid change upon the psychology of habits, of institutions in shaping
raw nature, and the conservative grounds his counter-assertion upon the
psychology of instincts. As matter of fact, it is precisely custom which
has greatest inertia, which is least susceptible of alteration; while
instincts are most readily modifiable through use, most subject to
educative direction. The conservative who begs scientific support from
the psychology of instincts is the victim of an outgrown psychology
which derived its notion of instinct from an exaggeration of the fixity
and certainty of the operation of instincts among the lower animals. He
is a victim of a popular zoology of the bird, bee and beaver, which was
largely framed to the greater glory of God. He is ignorant that
instincts in the animals are less infallible and definite than is
supposed, and also that the human being differs from the lower animals
in precisely the fact that his native activities lack the complex
ready-made organization of the animals' original abilities.

But the short-cut revolutionist fails to realize the full force of the
things about which he talks most, namely institutions as embodied
habits. Any one with knowledge of the stability and force of habit will
hesitate to propose or prophesy rapid and sweeping social changes. A
social revolution may effect abrupt and deep alterations in external
customs, in legal and political institutions. But the habits that are
behind these institutions and that have, willy-nilly, been shaped by
objective conditions, the habits of thought and feeling, are not so
easily modified. They persist and insensibly assimilate to themselves
the outer innovations--much as American judges nullify the intended
changes of statute law by interpreting legislation in the light of
common law. The force of lag in human life is enormous.

Actual social change is never so great as is apparent change. Ways of
belief, of expectation, of judgment and attendant emotional dispositions
of like and dislike, are not easily modified after they have once taken
shape. Political and legal institutions may be altered, even abolished;
but the bulk of popular thought which has been shaped to their pattern
persists. This is why glowing predictions of the immediate coming of a
social millennium terminate so uniformly in disappointment, which gives
point to the standing suspicion of the cynical conservative about
radical changes. Habits of thought outlive modifications in habits of
overt action. The former are vital, the latter, without the sustaining
life of the former, are muscular tricks. Consequently as a rule the
moral effects of even great political revolutions, after a few years of
outwardly conspicuous alterations, do not show themselves till after the
lapse of years. A new generation must come upon the scene whose habits
of mind have been formed under the new conditions. There is pith in the
saying that important reforms cannot take real effect until after a
number of influential persons have died. Where general and enduring
moral changes do accompany an external revolution it is because
appropriate habits of thought have previously been insensibly matured.
The external change merely registers the removal of an external
superficial barrier to the operation of existing intellectual

Those who argue that social and moral reform is impossible on the ground
that the Old Adam of human nature remains forever the same, attribute
however to native activities the permanence and inertia that in truth
belong only to acquired customs. To Aristotle slavery was rooted in
aboriginal human nature. Native distinctions of quality exist such that
some persons are by nature gifted with power to plan, command and
supervise, and others possess merely capacity to obey and execute. Hence
slavery is natural and inevitable. There is error in supposing that
because domestic and chattel slavery has been legally abolished,
therefore slavery as conceived by Aristotle has disappeared. But matters
have at least progressed to a point where it is clear that slavery is a
social state not a psychological necessity. Nevertheless the worldlywise
Aristotles of today assert that the institutions of war and the present
wage-system are so grounded in immutable human nature that effort to
change them is foolish.

Like Greek slavery or feudal serfdom, war and the existing economic
regime are social patterns woven out of the stuff of instinctive
activities. Native human nature supplies the raw materials, but custom
furnishes the machinery and the designs. War would not be possible
without anger, pugnacity, rivalry, self-display, and such like native
tendencies. Activity inheres in them and will persist under every
condition of life. To imagine they can be eradicated is like supposing
that society can go on without eating and without union of the sexes.
But to fancy that they must eventuate in war is as if a savage were to
believe that because he uses fibers having fixed natural properties in
order to weave baskets, therefore his immemorial tribal patterns are
also natural necessities and immutable forms.

From a humane standpoint our study of history is still all too
primitive. It is possible to study a multitude of histories, and yet
permit history, the record of the transitions and transformations of
human activities, to escape us. Taking history in separate doses of this
country and that, we take it as a succession of isolated finalities,
each one in due season giving way to another, as supernumeraries succeed
one another in a march across the stage. We thus miss the fact of
history and also its lesson; the diversity of institutional forms and
customs which the same human nature may produce and employ. An infantile
logic, now happily expelled from physical science, taught that opium put
men to sleep because of its dormitive potency. We follow the same logic
in social matters when we believe that war exists because of bellicose
instincts; or that a particular economic regime is necessary because of
acquisitive and competitive impulses which must find expression.

Pugnacity and fear are no more native than are pity and sympathy. The
important thing morally is the way these native tendencies interact, for
their interaction may give a chemical transformation not a mechanical
combination. Similarly, no social institution stands alone as a product
of one dominant force. It is a phenomenon or function of a multitude of
social factors in their mutual inhibitions and reinforcements. If we
follow an infantile logic we shall reduplicate the unity of result in an
assumption of unity of force behind it--as men once did with natural
events employing teleology as an exhibition of causal efficiency. We
thus take the same social custom twice over: once as an existing fact
and then as an original force which produced the fact, and utter sage
platitudes about the unalterable workings of human nature or of race. As
we account for war by pugnacity, for the capitalistic system by the
necessity of an incentive of gain to stir ambition and effort, so we
account for Greece by power of esthetic observation, Rome by
administrative ability, the middle ages by interest in religion and so
on. We have constructed an elaborate political zoology as mythological
and not nearly as poetic as the other zoology of phoenixes,
griffins and unicorns. Native racial spirit, the spirit of the people or
of the time, national destiny are familiar figures in this social zoo.
As names for effects, for existing customs, they are sometimes useful.
As names for explanatory forces they work havoc with intelligence.

An immense debt is due William James for the mere title of his essay:
The Moral Equivalents of War. It reveals with a flash of light the true
psychology. Clans, tribes, races, cities, empires, nations, states have
made war. The argument that this fact proves an ineradicable belligerent
instinct which makes war forever inevitable is much more respectable
than many arguments about the immutability of this and that social
tradition. For it has the weight of a certain empirical generality back
of it. Yet the suggestion of an _equivalent_ for war calls attention to
the medley of impulses which are casually bunched together under the
caption of belligerent impulse; and it calls attention to the fact that
the elements of this medley may be woven together into many differing
types of activity, some of which may function the native impulses in
much better ways than war has ever done.

Pugnacity, rivalry, vainglory, love of booty, fear, suspicion, anger,
desire for freedom from the conventions and restrictions of peace, love
of power and hatred of oppression, opportunity for novel displays, love
of home and soil, attachment to one's people and to the altar and the
hearth, courage, loyalty, opportunity to make a name, money or a career,
affection, piety to ancestors and ancestral gods--all of these things
and many more make up the war-like force. To suppose there is some one
unchanging native force which generates war is as naive as the usual
assumption that our enemy is actuated solely by the meaner of the
tendencies named and we only by the nobler. In earlier days there was
something more than a verbal connection between pugnacity and fighting;
anger and fear moved promptly through the fists. But between a loosely
organized pugilism and the highly organized warfare of today there
intervenes a long economic, scientific and political history. Social
conditions rather than an old and unchangeable Adam have generated wars;
the ineradicable impulses that are utilized in them are capable of being
drafted into many other channels. The century that has witnessed the
triumph of the scientific doctrine of the convertibility of natural
energies ought not to balk at the lesser miracle of social equivalences
and substitutes.

It is likely that if Mr. James had witnessed the world war, he would
have modified his mode of treatment. So many new transformations entered
into the war, that the war seems to prove that though an equivalent has
not been found for war, the psychological forces traditionally
associated with it have already undergone profound changes. We may take
the Iliad as a classic expression of war's traditional psychology as
well as the source of the literary tradition regarding its motives and
glories. But where are Helen, Hector and Achilles in modern warfare? The
activities that evoke and incorporate a war are no longer personal love,
love of glory, or the soldier's love of his own privately amassed booty,
but are of a collective, prosaic political and economic nature.

Universal conscription, the general mobilization of all agricultural and
industrial forces of the folk not engaged in the trenches, the
application of every conceivable scientific and mechanical device, the
mass movements of soldiery regulated from a common center by a
depersonalized general staff: these factors relegate the traditional
psychological apparatus of war to a now remote antiquity. The motives
once appealed to are out of date; they do not now induce war. They
simply are played upon after war has been brought into existence in
order to keep the common soldiers keyed up to their task. The more
horrible a depersonalized scientific mass war becomes, the more
necessary it is to find universal ideal motives to justify it. Love of
Helen of Troy has become a burning love for all humanity, and hatred of
the foe symbolizes a hatred of all the unrighteousness and injustice and
oppression which he embodies. The more prosaic the actual causes, the
more necessary is it to find glowingly sublime motives.

Such considerations hardly prove that war is to be abolished at some
future date. But they destroy that argument for its necessary
continuance which is based on the immutability of specified forces in
original human nature. Already the forces that once caused wars have
found other outlets for themselves; while new provocations, based on new
economic and political conditions, have come into being. War is thus
seen to be a function of social institutions, not of what is natively
fixed in human constitution. The last great war has not, it must be
confessed, made the problem of finding social equivalents simpler and
easier. It is now naive to attribute war to specific isolable human
impulses for which separate channels of expression may be found, while
the rest of life is left to go on about the same. A general social
re-organization is needed which will redistribute forces, immunize,
divert and nullify. Hinton was doubtless right when he wrote that the
only way to abolish war was to make peace heroic. It now appears that
the heroic emotions are not anything which may be specialized in a
side-line, so that the war-impulses may find a sublimation in special
practices and occupations. They have to get an outlet in all the tasks
of peace.

The argument for the abiding necessity of war turns out, accordingly, to
have this much value. It makes us wisely suspicious of all cheap and
easy equivalencies. It convinces us of the folly of striving to
eliminate war by agencies which leave other institutions of society
pretty much unchanged. History does not prove the inevitability of war,
but it does prove that customs and institutions which organize native
powers into certain patterns in politics and economics will also
generate the war-pattern. The problem of war is difficult because it is
serious. It is none other than the wider problem of the effective
moralizing or humanizing of native impulses in times of peace.

The case of economic institutions is as suggestive as that of war. The
present system is indeed much more recent and more local than is the
institution of war. But no system has ever as yet existed which did not
in some form involve the exploitation of some human beings for the
advantage of others. And it is argued that this trait is unassailable
because it flows from the inherent, immutable qualities of human nature.
It is argued, for example, that economic inferiorities and disabilities
are incidents of an institution of private property which flows from an
original proprietary instinct; it is contended they spring from a
competitive struggle for wealth which in turn flows from the absolute
need of profit as an inducement to industry. The pleas are worth
examination for the light they throw upon the place of impulses in
organized conduct.

No unprejudiced observer will lightly deny the existence of an original
tendency to assimilate objects and events to the self, to make them part
of the "me." We may even admit that the "me" cannot exist without the
"mine." The self gets solidity and form through an appropriation of
things which identifies them with whatever we call myself. Even a
workman in a modern factory where depersonalization is extreme gets to
have "his" machine and is perturbed at a change. Possession shapes and
consolidates the "I" of philosophers. "I own, therefore I am" expresses
a truer psychology than the Cartesian "I think, therefore I am." A man's
deeds are imputed to him as their owner, not merely as their creator.
That he cannot disown them when the moment of their occurrence passes is
the root of responsibility, moral as well as legal.

But these same considerations evince the versatility of possessive
activity. My worldly goods, my good name, my friends, my honor and shame
all depend upon a possessive tendency. The need for appropriation has
had to be satisfied; but only a calloused imagination fancies that the
institution of private property as it exists A. D. 1921 is the sole or
the indispensable means of its realization. Every gallant life is an
experiment in different ways of fulfilling it. It expends itself in
predatory aggression, in forming friendships, in seeking fame, in
literary creation, in scientific production. In the face of this
elasticity, it requires an arrogant ignorance to take the existing
complex system of stocks and bonds, of wills and inheritance, a system
supported at every point by manifold legal and political arrangements,
and treat it as the sole legitimate and baptized child of an instinct of
appropriation. Sometimes, even now, a man most accentuates the fact of
ownership when he gives something away; use, consumption, is the normal
end of possession. We can conceive a state of things in which the
proprietary impulse would get full satisfaction by holding goods as mine
in just the degree in which they were visibly administered for a benefit
in which a corporate community shared.

Does the case stand otherwise with the other psychological principle
appealed to, namely, the need of an incentive of personal profit to keep
men engaged in useful work? We need not content ourselves with pointing
out the elasticity of the idea of gain, and possible equivalences for
pecuniary gain, and the possibility of a state of affairs in which only
those things would be counted personal gains which profit a group. It
will advance the discussion if we instead subject to analysis the whole
conception of incentive and motive.

There is doubtless some sense in saying that every conscious act has an
incentive or motive. But this sense is as truistic as that of the not
dissimilar saying that every event has a cause. Neither statement throws
any light on any particular occurrence. It is at most a maxim which
advises us to search for some other fact with which the one in question
may be correlated. Those who attempt to defend the necessity of existing
economic institutions as manifestations of human nature convert this
suggestion of a concrete inquiry into a generalized truth and hence into
a definitive falsity. They take the saying to mean that nobody would do
anything, or at least anything of use to others, without a prospect of
some tangible reward. And beneath this false proposition there is
another assumption still more monstrous, namely, that man exists
naturally in a state of rest so that he requires some external force to
set him into action.

The idea of a thing intrinsically wholly inert in the sense of
absolutely passive is expelled from physics and has taken refuge in the
psychology of current economics. In truth man acts anyway, he can't help
acting. In every fundamental sense it is false that a man requires a
motive to make him do something. To a healthy man inaction is the
greatest of woes. Any one who observes children knows that while periods
of rest are natural, laziness is an acquired vice--or virtue. While a
man is awake he will do something, if only to build castles in the air.
If we like the form of words we may say that a man eats only because he
is "moved" by hunger. The statement is nevertheless mere tautology. For
what does hunger mean except that one of the things which man does
naturally, instinctively, is to search for food--that his activity
naturally turns that way? Hunger primarily names an act or active
process not a motive to an act. It is an act if we take it grossly, like
a babe's blind hunt for the mother's breast; it is an activity if we
take it minutely as a chemico-physiological occurrence.

The whole concept of motives is in truth extra-psychological. It is an
outcome of the attempt of men to influence human action, first that of
others, then of a man to influence his own behavior. No sensible person
thinks of attributing the acts of an animal or an idiot to a motive. We
call a biting dog ugly, but we don't look for his motive in biting. If
however we were able to direct the dog's action by inducing him to
reflect upon his acts, we should at once become interested in the dog's
motives for acting as he does, and should endeavor to get him interested
in the same subject. It is absurd to ask what induces a man to activity
generally speaking. He is an active being and that is all there is to be
said on that score. But when we want to get him to act in this specific
way rather than in that, when we want to direct his activity that is to
say in a specified channel, then the question of motive is pertinent. A
motive is then that element in the total complex of a man's activity
which, if it can be sufficiently stimulated, will result in an act
having specified consequences. And part of the process of intensifying
(or reducing) certain elements in the total activity and thus regulating
actual consequence is to impute these elements to a person as his
actuating motives.

A child naturally grabs food. But he does it in our presence. His manner
is socially displeasing and we attribute to his act, up to this time
wholly innocent, the motive of greed or selfishness. Greediness simply
means the quality of his act as socially observed and disapproved. But
by attributing it to him as his motive for acting in the disapproved
way, we induce him to refrain. We analyze his total act and call his
attention to an obnoxious element in its outcome. A child with equal
spontaneity, or thoughtlessness, gives way to others. We point out to
him with approval that he acted considerately, generously. And this
quality of action when noted and encouraged becomes a reinforcing
stimulus of that factor which will induce similar acts in the future. An
element in an act viewed as a tendency to produce such and such
consequences is a motive. A motive does not exist prior to an act and
produce it. It is an act _plus_ a judgment upon some element of it, the
judgment being made in the light of the consequences of the act.

At first, as was said, others characterize an act with favorable or
condign qualities which they impute to an agent's character. They react
in this fashion in order to encourage him in future acts of the same
sort, or in order to dissuade him--in short to build or destroy a habit.
This characterization is part of the technique of influencing the
development of character and conduct. It is a refinement of the ordinary
reactions of praise and blame. After a time and to some extent, a person
teaches himself to think of the results of acting in this way or that
before he acts. He recalls that if he acts this way or that some
observer, real or imaginary, will attribute to him noble or mean
disposition, virtuous or vicious motive. Thus he learns to influence his
own conduct. An inchoate activity taken in this forward-looking
reference to results, especially results of approbation and
condemnation, constitutes a motive. Instead then of saying that a man
requires a motive in order to induce him to act, we should say that when
a man is going to act he needs to know _what_ he is going to do--what
the quality of his act is in terms of consequences to follow. In order
to act properly he needs to view his act as others view it; namely, as a
manifestation of a character or will which is good or bad according as
it is bent upon specific things which are desirable or obnoxious. There
is no call to furnish a man with incentives to activity in general. But
there is every need to induce him to guide his own action by an
intelligent perception of its results. For in the long run this is the
most effective way of influencing activity to take this desirable
direction rather than that objectionable one.

A motive in short is simply an impulse viewed as a constituent in a
habit, a factor in a disposition. In general its meaning is simple. But
in fact motives are as numerous as are original impulsive activities
multiplied by the diversified consequences they produce as they operate
under diverse conditions. How then does it come about that current
economic psychology has so tremendously oversimplified the situation?
Why does it recognize but one type of motive, that which concerns
personal gain. Of course part of the answer is to be found in the
natural tendency in all sciences toward a substitution of artificial
conceptual simplifications for the tangles of concrete empirical facts.
But the significant part of the answer has to do with the social
conditions under which work is done, conditions which are such as to put
an unnatural emphasis upon the prospect of reward. It exemplifies again
our leading proposition that social customs are not direct and necessary
consequences of specific impulses, but that social institutions and
expectations shape and crystallize impulses into dominant habits.

The social peculiarity which explains the emphasis put upon profit as an
inducement to productive serviceable work stands out in high relief in
the identification of work with labor. For labor means in economic
theory something painful, something so onerously disagreeable or
"costly" that every individual avoids it if he can, and engages in it
only because of the promise of an overbalancing gain. Thus the question
we are invited to consider is what the social condition is which makes
productive work uninteresting and toilsome. Why is the psychology of the
industrialist so different from that of inventor, explorer, artist,
sportsman, scientific investigator, physician, teacher? For the latter
we do not assert that activity is such a burdensome sacrifice that it is
engaged in only because men are bribed to act by hope of reward or are
coerced by fear of loss.

The social conditions under which "labor" is undertaken have become so
uncongenial to human nature that it is not undertaken because of
intrinsic meaning. It is carried on under conditions which render it
immediately irksome. The alleged need of an incentive to stir men out of
quiescent inertness is the need of an incentive powerful enough to
overcome contrary stimuli which proceed from the social conditions.
Circumstances of productive service now shear away direct satisfaction
from those engaging in it. A real and important fact is thus contained
in current economic psychology, but it is a fact about existing
industrial conditions and not a fact about native, original activity.

It is "natural" for activity to be agreeable. It tends to find
fulfilment, and finding an outlet is itself satisfactory, for it marks
partial accomplishment. If productive activity has become so inherently
unsatisfactory that men have to be artificially induced to engage in it,
this fact is ample proof that the conditions under which work is carried
on balk the complex of activities instead of promoting them, irritate
and frustrate natural tendencies instead of carrying them forward to
fruition. Work then becomes labor, the consequence of some aboriginal
curse which forces man to do what he would not do if he could help it,
the outcome of some original sin which excluded man from a paradise in
which desire was satisfied without industry, compelling him to pay for
the means of livelihood with the sweat of his brow. From which it
follows naturally that Paradise Regained means the accumulation of
investments such that a man can live upon their return without labor.
There is, we repeat, too much truth in this picture. But it is not a
truth concerning original human nature and activity. It concerns the
form human impulses have taken under the influence of a specific social
environment. If there are difficulties in the way of social
alteration--as there certainly are--they do not lie in an original
aversion of human nature to serviceable action, but in the historic
conditions which have differentiated the work of the laborer for wage
from that of the artist, adventurer, sportsman, soldier, administrator
and speculator.


War and the existing economic regime have not been discussed primarily
on their own account. They are crucial cases of the relation existing
between original impulse and acquired habit. They are so fraught with
evil consequences that any one who is disposed can heap up criticisms
without end. Nevertheless they persist. This persistence constitutes the
case for the conservative who argues that such institutions are rooted
in an unalterable human nature. A truer psychology locates the
difficulty elsewhere. It shows that the trouble lies in the inertness of
established habit. No matter how accidental and irrational the
circumstances of its origin, no matter how different the conditions
which now exist to those under which the habit was formed, the latter
persists until the environment obstinately rejects it. Habits once
formed perpetuate themselves, by acting unremittingly upon the native
stock of activities. They stimulate, inhibit, intensify, weaken, select,
concentrate and organize the latter into their own likeness. They create
out of the formless void of impulses a world made in their own image.
Man is a creature of habit, not of reason nor yet of instinct.

Recognition of the correct psychology locates the problem but does not
guarantee its solution. Indeed, at first sight it seems to indicate that
every attempt to solve the problem and secure fundamental
reorganizations is caught in a vicious circle. For the direction of
native activity depends upon acquired habits, and yet acquired habits
can be modified only by redirection of impulses. Existing institutions
impose their stamp, their superscription, upon impulse and instinct.
They embody the modifications the latter have undergone. How then can we
get leverage for changing institutions? How shall impulse exercise that
re-adjusting office which has been claimed for it? Shall we not have to
depend in the future as in the past upon upheaval and accident to
dislocate customs so as to release impulses to serve as points of
departure for new habits?

The existing psychology of the industrial worker for example is slack,
irresponsible, combining a maximum of mechanical routine with a maximum
of explosive, unregulated impulsiveness. These things have been bred by
the existing economic system. But they exist, and are formidable
obstacles to social change. We cannot breed in men the desire to get
something for as nearly nothing as possible and in the end not pay the
price. We satisfy ourselves cheaply by preaching the charm of
productivity and by blaming the inherent selfishness of human nature,
and urging some great moral and religious revival. The evils point in
reality to the necessity of a change in economic institutions, but
meantime they offer serious obstacles to the change. At the same time,
the existing economic system has enlisted in behalf of its own
perpetuity the managerial and the technological abilities which must
serve the cause of the laborer if he is to be emancipated. In the face
of these difficulties other persons seek an equally cheap satisfaction
in the thought of universal civil war and revolution.

Is there any way out of the vicious circle? In the first place, there
are possibilities resident in the education of the young which have
never yet been taken advantage of. The idea of universal education is as
yet hardly a century old, and it is still much more of an idea than a
fact, when we take into account the early age at which it terminates for
the mass. Also, thus far schooling has been largely utilized as a
convenient tool of the existing nationalistic and economic regimes.
Hence it is easy to point out defects and perversions in every existing
school system. It is easy for a critic to ridicule the religious
devotion to education which has characterized for example the American
republic. It is easy to represent it as zeal without knowledge,
fanatical faith apart from understanding. And yet the cold fact of the
situation is that the chief means of continuous, graded, economical
improvement and social rectification lies in utilizing the opportunities
of educating the young to modify prevailing types of thought and desire.

The young are not as yet as subject to the full impact of established
customs. Their life of impulsive activity is vivid, flexible,
experimenting, curious. Adults have their habits formed, fixed, at least
comparatively. They are the subjects, not to say victims, of an
environment which they can directly change only by a maximum of effort
and disturbance. They may not be able to perceive clearly the needed
changes, or be willing to pay the price of effecting them. Yet they wish
a different life for the generation to come. In order to realize that
wish they may create a special environment whose main function is
education. In order that education of the young be efficacious in
inducing an improved society, it is not necessary for adults to have a
formulated definite ideal of some better state. An educational
enterprise conducted in this spirit would probably end merely in
substituting one rigidity for another. What is necessary is that habits
be formed which are more intelligent, more sensitively percipient, more
informed with foresight, more aware of what they are about, more direct
and sincere, more flexibly responsive than those now current. Then they
will meet their own problems and propose their own improvements.

Educative development of the young is not the only way in which the life
of impulse may be employed to effect social ameliorations, though it is
the least expensive and most orderly. No adult environment is all of one
piece. The more complex a culture is, the more certain it is to include
habits formed on differing, even conflicting patterns. Each custom may
be rigid, unintelligent in itself, and yet this rigidity may cause it to
wear upon others. The resulting attrition may release impulse for new
adventures. The present time is conspicuously a time of such internal
frictions and liberations. Social life seems chaotic, unorganized,
rather than too fixedly regimented. Political and legal institutions are
now inconsistent with the habits that dominate friendly intercourse,
science and art. Different institutions foster antagonistic impulses and
form contrary dispositions.

If we had to wait upon exhortations and unembodied "ideals" to effect
social alterations, we should indeed wait long. But the conflict of
patterns involved in institutions which are inharmonious with one
another is already producing great changes. The significant point is not
whether modifications shall continue to occur, but whether they shall be
characterized chiefly by uneasiness, discontent and blind antagonistic
struggles, or whether intelligent direction may modulate the harshness
of conflict, and turn the elements of disintegration into a constructive
synthesis. At all events, the social situation in "advanced" countries
is such as to impart an air of absurdity to our insistence upon the
rigidity of customs. There are plenty of persons to tell us that the
real trouble lies in lack of fixity of habit and principle; in departure
from immutable standards and structures constituted once for all. We are
told that we are suffering from an excess of instinct, and from laxity
of habit due to surrender to impulse as a law of life. The remedy is
said to be to return from contemporary fluidity to the stable and
spacious patterns of a classic antiquity that observed law and
proportion: for somehow antiquity is always classic. When instability,
uncertainty, erratic change are diffused throughout the situation, why
dwell upon the evils of fixed habit and the need of release of impulse
as an initiator of reorganizations? Why not rather condemn impulse and
exalt habits of reverencing order and fixed truth?

The question is natural, but the remedy suggested is futile. It is not
easy to exaggerate the extent to which we now pass from one kind of
nurture to another as we go from business to church, from science to the
newspaper, from business to art, from companionship to politics, from
home to school. An individual is now subjected to many conflicting
schemes of education. Hence habits are divided against one another,
personality is disrupted, the scheme of conduct is confused and
disintegrated. But the remedy lies in the development of a new morale
which can be attained only as released impulses are intelligently
employed to form harmonious habits adapted to one another in a new
situation. A laxity due to decadence of old habits cannot be corrected
by exhortations to restore old habits in their former rigidity. Even
though it were abstractly desirable it is impossible. And it is not
desirable because the inflexibility of old habits is precisely the chief
cause of their decay and disintegration. Plaintive lamentations at the
prevalence of change and abstract appeals for restoration of senile
authority are signs of personal feebleness, of inability to cope with
change. It is a "defense reaction."


We may sum up the discussion in a few generalized statements. In the
first place, it is unscientific to try to restrict original activities
to a definite number of sharply demarcated classes of instincts. And the
practical result of this attempt is injurious. To classify is, indeed,
as useful as it is natural. The indefinite multitude of particular and
changing events is met by the mind with acts of defining, inventorying
and listing, reducing to common heads and tying up in bunches. But these
acts like other intelligent acts are performed for a purpose, and the
accomplishment of purpose is their only justification. Speaking
generally, the purpose is to facilitate our dealings with unique
individuals and changing events. When we assume that our clefts and
bunches represent fixed separations and collections _in rerum natura_,
we obstruct rather than aid our transactions with things. We are guilty
of a presumption which nature promptly punishes. We are rendered
incompetent to deal effectively with the delicacies and novelties of
nature and life. Our thought is hard where facts are mobile; bunched and
chunky where events are fluid, dissolving.

The tendency to forget the office of distinctions and classifications,
and to take them as marking things in themselves, is the current fallacy
of scientific specialism. It is one of the conspicuous traits of
highbrowism, the essence of false abstractionism. This attitude which
once flourished in physical science now governs theorizing about human
nature. Man has been resolved into a definite collection of primary
instincts which may be numbered, catalogued and exhaustively described
one by one. Theorists differ only or chiefly as to their number and
ranking. Some say one, self-love; some two, egoism and altruism; some
three, greed, fear and glory; while today writers of a more empirical
turn run the number up to fifty and sixty. But in fact there are as many
specific reactions to differing stimulating conditions as there is time
for, and our lists are only classifications for a purpose.

One of the great evils of this artificial simplification is its
influence upon social science. Complicated provinces of life have been
assigned to the jurisdiction of some special instinct or group of
instincts, which has reigned despotically with the usual consequences of
despotism. Politics has replaced religion as the set of phenomena based
upon fear; or after having been the fruit of a special Aristotelian
political faculty, has become the necessary condition of restraining
man's self-seeking impulse. All sociological facts are disposed of in a
few fat volumes as products of imitation and invention, or of
cooperation and conflict. Ethics rest upon sympathy, pity, benevolence.
Economics is the science of phenomena due to one love and one
aversion--gain and labor. It is surprising that men can engage in these
enterprises without being reminded of their exact similarity to natural
science before scientific method was discovered in the seventeenth
century. Just now another simplification is current. All instincts go
back to the sexual, so that _cherchez la femme_ (under multitudinous
symbolic disguises) is the last word of science with respect to the
analysis of conduct.

Some sophisticated simplifications which once had great influence are
now chiefly matters of historic moment. Even so they are instructive.
They show how social conditions put a heavy load on certain tendencies,
so that in the end an acquired disposition is treated as if it were an
original, and almost the only original activity. Consider, for example,
the burden of causal power placed by Hobbes upon the reaction of fear.
To a man living with reasonable security and comfort today, Hobbes'
pervasive consciousness of fear seems like the idiosyncrasy of an
abnormally timid temperament. But a survey of the conditions of his own
time, of the disorders which bred general distrust and antagonism, which
led to brutal swashbuckling and disintegrating intrigue, puts the matter
on a different footing. The social situation conduced to fearfulness. As
an account of the psychology of the natural man his theory is unsound.
As a report of contemporary social conditions there is much to be said
for it.

Something of the same sort may be said regarding the emphasis of
eighteenth century moralists upon benevolence as the inclusive moral
spring to action, an emphasis represented in the nineteenth century by
Comte's exaltation of altruism. The load was excessive. But it testifies
to the growth of a new philanthropic spirit. With the breaking down of
feudal barriers and a consequent mingling of persons previously divided,
a sense of responsibility for the happiness of others, for the
mitigation of misery, grew up. Conditions were not ripe for its
translation into political action. Hence the importance attached to the
private disposition of voluntary benevolence.

If we venture into more ancient history, Plato's threefold division of
the human soul into a rational element, a spirited active one, and an
appetitive one, aiming at increase or gain, is immensely illuminating.
As is well known, Plato said that society is the human soul writ large.
In society he found three classes: the philosophic and scientific, the
soldier-citizenry, and the traders and artisans. Hence the
generalization as to the three dominating forces in human nature. Read
the other way around, we perceive that trade in his days appealed
especially to concupiscence, citizenship to a generous _élan_ of
self-forgetting loyalty, and scientific study to a disinterested love of
wisdom that seemed to be monopolized by a small isolated group. The
distinctions were not in truth projected from the breast of the natural
individual into society, but they were cultivated in classes of
individuals by force of social custom and expectation.

Now the prestige that once attached to the "instinct" of self-love has
not wholly vanished. The case is still worth examination. In its
"scientific" form, start was taken from an alleged instinct of
self-preservation, characteristic of man as well as of other animals.
From this seemingly innocuous assumption, a mythological psychology
burgeoned. Animals, including man, certainly perform many acts whose
consequence is to protect and preserve life. If their acts did not upon
the whole have this tendency, neither the individual or the species
would long endure. The acts that spring from life also in the main
conserve life. Such is the undoubted fact. What does the statement
amount to? Simply the truism that life is life, that life is a
continuing activity as long as it is life at all. But the self-love
school converted the fact that life tends to maintain life into a
separate and special force which somehow lies back of life and accounts
for its various acts. An animal exhibits in its life-activity a
multitude of acts of breathing, digesting, secreting, excreting, attack,
defense, search for food, etc., a multitude of specific responses to
specific stimulations of the environment. But mythology comes in and
attributes them all to a nisus for self-preservation. Thence it is but a
step to the idea that all conscious acts are prompted by self-love. This
premiss is then elaborated in ingenious schemes, often amusing when
animated by a cynical knowledge of the "world," tedious when of a
would-be logical nature, to prove that every act of man including his
apparent generosities is a variation played on the theme of

The fallacy is obvious. Because an animal cannot live except as it is
alive, except that is as its acts have the result of sustaining life, it
is concluded that all its acts are instigated by an impulse to
self-preservation. Since all acts affect the well-being of their agent
in one way or another, and since when a person becomes reflective he
prefers consequences in the way of weal to those of woe, therefore all
his acts are due to self-love. In actual substance, one statement says
that life is life; and the other says that a self is a self. One says
that special acts are acts of a living creature and the other that they
are acts of a self. In the biological statement the concrete diversity
between the acts of say a clam and of a dog are covered up by pointing
out that the acts of each tend to self-preservation, ignoring the
somewhat important fact that in one case it is the life of a clam and in
the other the life of a dog which is continued. In morals, the concrete
differences between a Jesus, a Peter, a John and a Judas are covered up
by the wise remark that after all they are all selves and all act as
selves. In every case, a result or "end" is treated as an actuating

The fallacy consists in transforming the (truistic) fact of acting _as_
a self into the fiction of acting always _for_ self. Every act,
truistically again, tends to a certain fulfilment or satisfaction of
some habit which is an undoubted element in the structure of character.
Each satisfaction is qualitatively what it is because of the disposition
fulfilled in the object attained, treachery or loyalty, mercy or
cruelty. But theory comes in and blankets the tremendous diversity in
the quality of the satisfactions which are experienced by pointing out
that they are all satisfactions. The harm done is then completed by
transforming this artificial unity of result into an original love of
satisfaction as the force that generates all acts alike. Because a Nero
and a Peabody both get satisfaction in acting as they do it is inferred
that the satisfaction of each is the same in quality, and that both were
actuated by love of the same objective. In reality the more we
concretely dwell upon the common fact of fulfilment, the more we realize
the difference in the kinds of selves fulfilled. In pointing out that
both the north and the south poles are poles we do not abolish the
difference of north from south; we accentuate it.

The explanation of the fallacy is however too easy to be convincing.
There must have been some material, empirical reason why intelligent men
were so easily entrapped by a fairly obvious fallacy. That material
error was a belief in the fixity and simplicity of the self, a belief
which had been fostered by a school far removed from the one in
question, the theologians with their dogma of the unity and ready-made
completeness of the soul. We arrive at true conceptions of motivation
and interest only by the recognition that selfhood (except as it has
encased itself in a shell of routine) is in process of making, and that
any self is capable of including within itself a number of inconsistent
selves, of unharmonized dispositions. Even a Nero may be capable upon
occasion of acts of kindness. It is even conceivable that under certain
circumstances he may be appalled by the consequences of cruelty, and
turn to the fostering of kindlier impulses. A sympathetic person is not
immune to harsh arrogances, and he may find himself involved in so much
trouble as a consequence of a kindly act, that he allows his generous
impulses to shrivel and henceforth governs his conduct by the dictates
of the strictest worldly prudence. Inconsistencies and shiftings in
character are the commonest things in experience. Only the hold of a
traditional conception of the singleness and simplicity of soul and self
blinds us to perceiving what they mean: the relative fluidity and
diversity of the constituents of selfhood. There is no one ready-made
self behind activities. There are complex, unstable, opposing attitudes,
habits, impulses which gradually come to terms with one another, and
assume a certain consistency of configuration, even though only by means
of a distribution of inconsistencies which keeps them in water-tight
compartments, giving them separate turns or tricks in action.

Many good words get spoiled when the word self is prefixed to them:
Words like pity, confidence, sacrifice, control, love. The reason is not
far to seek. The word self infects them with a fixed introversion and
isolation. It implies that the act of love or trust or control is turned
back upon a self which already is in full existence and in whose behalf
the act operates. Pity fulfils and creates a self when it is directed
outward, opening the mind to new contacts and receptions. Pity for self
withdraws the mind back into itself, rendering its subject unable to
learn from the buffetings of fortune. Sacrifice may enlarge a self by
bringing about surrender of acquired possessions to requirements of new
growth. Self-sacrifice means a self-maiming which asks for compensatory
pay in some later possession or indulgence. Confidence as an outgoing
act is directness and courage in meeting the facts of life, trusting
them to bring instruction and support to a developing self. Confidence
which terminates in the self means a smug complacency that renders a
person obtuse to instruction by events. Control means a command of
resources that enlarges the self; self-control denotes a self which is
contracting, concentrating itself upon its own achievements, hugging
them tight, and thereby estopping the growth that comes when the self is
generously released; a self-conscious moral athleticism that ends in a
disproportionate enlargement of some organ.

What makes the difference in each of these cases is the difference
between a self taken as something already made and a self still making
through action. In the former case, action has to contribute profit or
security or consolation _to_ a self. In the latter, impulsive action
becomes an adventure in discovery of a self which is possible but as yet
unrealized, an experiment in creating a self which shall be more
inclusive than the one which exists. The idea that only those impulses
have moral validity which aim at the welfare of others, or are
altruistic, is almost as one-sided a doctrine as the dogma of self-love.
Yet altruism has one marked superiority; it at least suggests a
generosity of outgoing action, a liberation of power as against the
close, pent in, protected atmosphere of a ready-made ego.

The reduction of all impulses to forms of self-love is worth
investigation because it gives an opportunity to say something about
self as an ongoing process. The doctrine itself is faded, its advocates
are belated. The notion is too tame to appeal to a generation that has
experienced romanticism and has been intoxicated by imbibing from the
streams of power released by the industrial revolution. The fashionable
unification of today goes by the name of the will to power.

In the beginning, this is hardly more than a name for a quality of all
activity. Every fulfilled activity terminates in added control of
conditions, in an art of administering objects. Execution, satisfaction,
realization, fulfilment are all names for the fact that an activity
implies an accomplishment which is possible only by subduing
circumstance to serve as an accomplice of achievement. Each impulse or
habit is thus a will to its _own_ power. To say this is to clothe a
truism in a figure. It says that anger or fear or love or hate is
successful when it effects some change outside the organism which
measures its force and registers its efficiency. The achieved outcome
marks the difference between action and a cooped-up sentiment which is
expended upon itself. The eye hungers for light, the ear for sound, the
hand for surfaces, the arm for things to reach, throw and lift, the leg
for distance, anger for an enemy to destroy, curiosity for something to
shiver and cower before, love for a mate. Each impulse is a demand for
an object which will enable it to function. Denied an object in reality
it tends to create one in fancy, as pathology shows.

So far we have no generalized will to power, but only the inherent
pressure of every activity for an adequate manifestation. It is not so
much a demand for power as search for an opportunity to use a power
already existing. If opportunities corresponded to the need, a desire
_for_ power would hardly arise: power would be used and satisfaction
would accrue. But impulse is balked. If conditions are right for an
educative growth, the snubbed impulse will be "sublimated." That is, it
will become a contributory factor in some more inclusive and complex
activity, in which it is reduced to a subordinate yet effectual place.
Sometimes however frustration dams activity up, and intensifies it. A
longing for satisfaction at any cost is engendered. And when social
conditions are such that the path of least resistance lies through
subjugation of the energies of others, the will to power bursts into

This explains why we attribute a will to power to others but not to
ourselves, except in the complimentary sense that being strong we
naturally wish to exercise our strength. Otherwise for ourselves we only
want what we want when we want it, not being overscrupulous about the
means we take to get it. This psychology is naive but it is truer to
facts than the supposition that there exists by itself as a separate and
original thing a will to power. For it indicates that the real fact is
some existing power which demands outlet, and which becomes
self-conscious only when it is too weak to overcome obstacles.
Conventionally the will to power is imputed only to a comparatively
small number of ambitious and ruthless men. They are probably upon the
whole quite unconscious of any such will, being mastered by specific
intense impulses that find their realization most readily by bending
others to serve as tools of their aims. Self-conscious will to power is
found mainly in those who have a so-called inferiority complex, and who
would compensate for a sense of personal disadvantage (acquired early in
childhood) by making a striking impression upon others, in the reflex of
which they feel their strength appreciated. The literateur who has to
take his action out in imagination is much more likely to evince a will
to power than a Napoleon who sees definite objects with extraordinary
clearness and who makes directly for them. Explosive irritations,
naggings, the obstinacy of weak persons, dreams of grandeur, the
violence of those usually submissive are the ordinary marks of a will to

Discussion of the false simplification involved in this doctrine
suggests another unduly fixed and limited classification. Critics of the
existing economic regime have divided instincts into the creative and
the acquisitive, and have condemned the present order because it
embodies the latter at the expense of the former. The division is
convenient, yet mistaken. Convenient because it sums up certain facts of
the present system, mistaken because it takes social products for
psychological originals. Speaking roughly we may say that native
activity is both creative and acquisitive, creative as a process,
acquisitive in that it terminates as a rule in some tangible product
which brings the process to consciousness of itself.

Activity is creative in so far as it moves to its own enrichment as
activity, that is, bringing along with itself a release of further
activities. Scientific inquiry, artistic production, social
companionship possess this trait to a marked degree; some amount of it
is a normal accompaniment of all successfully coordinated action. While
from the standpoint of what precedes it is a fulfilment, it is a
liberative expansion with respect to what comes after. There is here no
antagonism between creative expression and the production of results
which endure and which give a sense of accomplishment. Architecture at
its best, for example, would probably appear to most persons to be
_more_ creative, not less, than dancing at its best. There is nothing in
industrial production which of necessity excludes creative activity. The
fact that it terminates in tangible utilities no more lowers its status
than the uses of a bridge exclude creative art from a share in its
design and construction. What requires explanation is why process is so
definitely subservient to product in so much of modern industry:--that
is, why later use rather than present achieving is the emphatic thing.
The answer seems to be twofold.

An increasingly large portion of economic work is done with machines. As
a rule, these machines are not under the personal control of those who
operate them. The machines are operated for ends which the worker has no
share in forming and in which as such, or apart from his wage, he has no
interest. He neither understands the machines nor cares for their
purpose. He is engaged in an activity in which means are cut off from
ends, instruments from what they achieve. Highly mechanized activity
tends as Emerson said to turn men into spiders and needles. But if men
understand what they are about, if they see the whole process of which
their special work is a necessary part, and if they have concern, care,
for the whole, then the mechanizing effect is counteracted. But when a
man is only the tender of a machine, he can have no insight and no
affection; creative activity is out of the question.

What remains to the workman is however not so much acquisitive desires
as love of security and a wish for a good time. An excessive premium on
security springs from the precarious conditions of the workman; desire
for a good time, so far as it needs any explanation, from demand for
relief from drudgery, due to the absence of culturing factors in the
work done. Instead of acquisition being a primary end, the net effect of
the process is rather to destroy sober care for materials and products;
to induce careless wastefulness, so far as that can be indulged in
without lessening the weekly wage. From the standpoint of orthodox
economic theory, the most surprising thing about modern industry is the
small number of persons who have any effective interest in acquisition
of wealth. This disregard for acquisition makes it easier for a few who
do want to have things their own way, and who monopolize what is
amassed. If an acquisitive impulse were only more evenly developed, more
of a real fact, than it is, it is quite possible that things would be
better than they are.

Even with respect to men who succeed in accumulating wealth it is a
mistake to suppose that acquisitiveness plays with most of them a large
rôle, beyond getting control of the tools of the game. Acquisition is
necessary as an outcome, but it arises not from love of accumulation but
from the fact that without a large stock of possessions one cannot
engage effectively in modern business. It is an incident of love of
power, of desire to impress fellows, to obtain prestige, to secure
influence, to manifest ability, to "succeed" in short under the
conditions of the given regime. And if we are to shove a mythological
psychology of instincts behind modern economics, we should do better to
invent instincts for security, a good time, power and success than to
rely upon an acquisitive instinct. We should have also to give much
weight to a peculiar sporting instinct. Not acquiring dollars, but
chasing them, hunting them is the important thing. Acquisition has its
part in the big game, for even the most devoted sportsman prefers, other
things being equal, to bring home the fox's brush. A tangible result is
the mark to one's self and to others of success in sport.

Instead of dividing sharply an acquisitive impulse manifested in
business and a creative instinct displayed in science, art and social
fellowship, we should rather first inquire why it is that so much of
creative activity is in our day diverted into business, and then ask why
it is that opportunity for exercise of the creative capacity in business
is now restricted to such a small class, those who have to do with
banking, finding a market, and manipulating investments; and finally ask
why creative activity is perverted into an over-specialized and
frequently inhumane operation. For after all it is not the bare fact of
creation but its quality which counts.

That captains of industry are creative artists of a sort, and that
industry absorbs an undue share of the creative activity of the present
time cannot be denied. To impute to the leaders of industry and commerce
simply an acquisitive motive is not merely to lack insight into their
conduct, but it is to lose the clew to bettering conditions. For a more
proportionate distribution of creative power between business and other
occupations, and a more humane, wider use of it in business depend upon
grasping aright the forces actually at work. Industrial leaders combine
interest in making far-reaching plans, large syntheses of conditions
based upon study, mastery of refined and complex technical skill,
control over natural forces and events, with love of adventure,
excitement and mastery of fellow-men. When these interests are
reinforced with actual command of all the means of luxury, of display
and procuring admiration from the less fortunate, it is not surprising
that creative force is drafted largely into business channels, and that
competition for an opportunity to display power becomes brutal.

The strategic question, as was said, is to understand how and why
political, legal, scientific and educational conditions of society for
the last centuries have stimulated and nourished such a one-sided
development of creative activities. To approach the problem from this
point of view is much more hopeful, though infinitely more complex
intellectually, than the approach which sets out with a fixed dualism
between acquisitive and creative impulses. The latter assumes a complete
split of higher and lower in the original constitution of man. Were this
the case, there would be no organic remedy. The sole appeal would be to
sentimental exhortation to men to wean themselves from devotion to the
things which are beloved by their lower and material nature. And if the
appeal were moderately successful the social result would be a fixed
class division. There would remain a lower class, superciliously looked
down upon by the higher, consisting of those in whom the acquisitive
instinct remains stronger and who do the necessary work of life, while
the higher "creative" class devotes itself to social intercourse,
science and art.

Since the underlying psychology is wrong, the problem and its solution
assumes in fact a radically different form. There are an indefinite
number of original or instinctive activities, which are organized into
interests and dispositions according to the situations to which they
respond. To increase the creative phase and the humane quality of these
activities is an affair of modifying the social conditions which
stimulate, select, intensify, weaken and coordinate native activities.
The first step in dealing with it is to increase our detailed scientific
knowledge. We need to know exactly the selective and directive force of
each social situation; exactly how each tendency is promoted and
retarded. Command of the physical environment on a large and deliberate
scale did not begin until belief in gross forces and entities was
abandoned. Control of physical energies is due to inquiry which
establishes specific correlations between minute elements. It will not
be otherwise with social control and adjustment. Having the knowledge we
may set hopefully at work upon a course of social invention and
experimental engineering. A study of the educative effect, the influence
upon habit, of each definite form of human intercourse, is prerequisite
to effective reform.


In spite of what has been said, it will be asserted that there are
definite, independent, original instincts which manifest themselves in
specific acts in a one-to-one correspondence. Fear, it will be said, is
a reality, and so is anger, and rivalry, and love of mastery of others,
and self-abasement, maternal love, sexual desire, gregariousness and
envy, and each has its own appropriate deed as a result. Of course they
are realities. So are suction, rusting of metals, thunder and lightning
and lighter-than-air flying machines. But science and invention did not
get on as long as men indulged in the notion of special forces to
account for such phenomena. Men tried that road, and it only led them
into learned ignorance. They spoke of nature's abhorrence of a vacuum;
of a force of combustion; of intrinsic nisus toward this and that; of
heaviness and levity as forces. It turned out that these "forces" were
only the phenomena over again, translated from a specific and concrete
form (in which they were at least actual) into a generalized form in
which they were verbal. They converted a problem into a solution which
afforded a simulated satisfaction.

Advance in insight and control came only when the mind turned squarely
around. After it had dawned upon inquirers that their alleged causal
forces were only names which condensed into a duplicate form a variety
of complex occurrences, they set about breaking up phenomena into minute
detail and searching for correlations, that is, for elements in other
gross phenomena which also varied. Correspondence of variations of
elements took the place of large and imposing forces. The psychology of
behavior is only beginning to undergo similar treatment. It is probable
that the vogue of sensation-psychology was due to the fact that it
seemed to promise a similar detailed treatment of personal phenomena.
But as yet we tend to regard sex, hunger, fear, and even much more
complex active interests as if they were lump forces, like the
combustion or gravity of old-fashioned physical science.

It is not hard to see how the notion of a single and separate tendency
grew up in the case of simpler acts like hunger and sex. The paths of
motor outlet or discharge are comparatively few and are fairly well
defined. Specific bodily organs are conspicuously involved. Hence there
is suggested the notion of a correspondingly separate psychic force or
impulse. There are two fallacies in this assumption. The first consists
in ignoring the fact that no activity (even one that is limited by
routine habit) is confined to the channel which is most flagrantly
involved in its execution. The whole organism is concerned in every act
to some extent and in some fashion, internal organs as well as muscular,
those of circulation, secretion, etc. Since the total state of the
organism is never exactly twice alike, in so far the phenomena of hunger
and sex are never twice the same in fact. The difference may be
negligible for some purposes, and yet give the key for the purposes of a
psychological analysis which shall terminate in a correct judgment of
value. Even physiologically the context of organic changes accompanying
an act of hunger or sex makes the difference between a normal and a
morbid phenomenon.

In the second place, the environment in which the act takes place is
never twice alike. Even when the overt organic discharge is
substantially the same, the acts impinge upon a different environment
and thus have different consequences. It is impossible to regard these
differences of objective result as indifferent to the quality of the
acts. They are immediately sensed if not clearly perceived; and they are
the only _components of the meaning_ of the act. When feelings, dwelling
antecedently in the soul, were supposed to be the causes of acts, it was
natural to suppose that each psychic element had its own inherent
quality which might be directly read off by introspection. But when we
surrender this notion, it becomes evident that the only way of telling
what an organic act is like is by the sensed or perceptible changes
which it occasions. Some of these will be intra-organic, and (as just
indicated) they will vary with every act. Others will be external to the
organism, and these consequences are more important than the
intra-organic ones for determining the quality of the act. For they are
consequences in which others are concerned and which evoke reactions of
favor and disfavor as well as cooperative and resisting activities of a
more indirect sort.

Most so-called self-deception is due to employing immediate organic
states as criteria of the value of an act. To say that it feels good or
yields direct satisfaction is to say that it gives rise to a comfortable
internal state. The judgment based upon this experience may be entirely
different from the judgment passed by others upon the basis of its
objective or social consequences. As a matter of even the most
rudimentary precaution, therefore, every person learns to recognize to
some extent the quality of an act on the basis of its consequences in
the acts of others. But even without this judgment, the exterior changes
produced by an act are immediately sensed, and being associated with the
act become a part of its quality. Even a young child sees the smash of
things occasionally by his anger, and the smash may compete with his
satisfied feeling of discharged energy as an index of value.

A child gives way to what, grossly speaking, we call anger. Its felt or
appreciated quality depends in the first place upon the condition of his
organism at the time, and this is never twice alike. In the second
place, the act is at once modified by the environment upon which it
impinges so that different consequences are immediately reflected back
to the doer. In one case, anger is directed say at older and stronger
playmates who immediately avenge themselves upon the offender, perhaps
cruelly. In another case, it takes effect upon weaker and impotent
children, and the reflected appreciated consequence is one of
achievement, victory, power and a knowledge of the means of having one's
own way. The notion that anger still remains a single force is a lazy
mythology. Even in the cases of hunger and sex, where the channels of
action are fairly demarcated by antecedent conditions (or "nature"), the
actual content and feel of hunger and sex, are indefinitely varied
according to their social contexts. Only when a man is starving, is
hunger an unqualified natural impulse; as it approaches this limit, it
tends to lose, moreover, its psychological distinctiveness and to become
a raven of the entire organism.

The treatment of sex by psycho-analysts is most instructive, for it
flagrantly exhibits both the consequences of artificial simplification
and the transformation of social results into psychic causes. Writers,
usually male, hold forth on the psychology of woman, as if they were
dealing with a Platonic universal entity, although they habitually treat
men as individuals, varying with structure and environment. They treat
phenomena which are peculiarly symptoms of the civilization of the West
at the present time as if they were the necessary effects of fixed
native impulses of human nature. Romantic love as it exists today, with
all the varying perturbations it occasions, is as definitely a sign of
specific historic conditions as are big battle ships with turbines,
internal-combustion engines, and electrically driven machines. It would
be as sensible to treat the latter as effects of a single psychic cause
as to attribute the phenomena of disturbance and conflict which
accompany present sexual relations as manifestations of an original
single psychic force or _Libido_. Upon this point at least a Marxian
simplification is nearer the truth than that of Jung.

Again it is customary to suppose that there is a single instinct of
fear, or at most a few well-defined sub-species of it. In reality, when
one is afraid the whole being reacts, and this entire responding
organism is never twice the same. In fact, also, every reaction takes
place in a different environment, and its meaning is never twice alike,
since the difference in environment makes a difference in consequences.
It is only mythology which sets up a single, identical psychic force
which "causes" all the reactions of fear, a force beginning and ending
in itself. It is true enough that in all cases we are able to identify
certain more or less separable characteristic acts--muscular
contractions, withdrawals, evasions, concealments. But in the latter
words we have already brought in an environment. Such terms as
withdrawal and concealment have no meaning except as attitudes toward
objects. There is no such thing as an environment in general; there are
specific changing objects and events. Hence the kind of evasion or
running away or shrinking up which takes place is directly correlated
with specific surrounding conditions. There is no one fear having
diverse manifestations; there are as many qualitatively different fears
as there are objects responded to and different consequences sensed and

Fear of the dark is different from fear of publicity, fear of the
dentist from fear of ghosts, fear of conspicuous success from fear of
humiliation, fear of a bat from fear of a bear. Cowardice,
embarrassment, caution and reverence may all be regarded as forms of
fear. They all have certain physical organic acts in common--those of
organic shrinkage, gestures of hesitation and retreat. But each is
qualitatively unique. Each is what it is in virtue of its total
interactions or correlations with other acts and with the environing
medium, with consequences. High explosives and the aeroplane have
brought into being something new in conduct. There is no error in
calling it fear. But there is error, even from a limited clinical
standpoint, in permitting the classifying name to blot from view the
difference between fear of bombs dropped from the sky and the fears
which previously existed. The new fear is just as much and just as
little original and native as a child's fear of a stranger.

For any activity is original when it first occurs. As conditions are
continually changing, new and _primitive_ activities are continually
occurring. The traditional psychology of instincts obscures recognition
of this fact. It sets up a hard-and-fast preordained class under which
specific acts are subsumed, so that their own quality and originality
are lost from view. This is why the novelist and dramatist are so much
more illuminating as well as more interesting commentators on conduct
than the schematizing psychologist. The artist makes perceptible
individual responses and thus displays a new phase of human nature
evoked in new situations. In putting the case visibly and dramatically
he reveals vital actualities. The scientific systematizer treats each
act as merely another sample of some old principle, or as a mechanical
combination of elements drawn from a ready-made inventory.

When we recognize the diversity of native activities and the varied ways
in which they are modified through interactions with one another in
response to different conditions, we are able to understand moral
phenomena otherwise baffling. In the career of any impulse activity
there are speaking generally three possibilities. It may find a surging,
explosive discharge--blind, unintelligent. It may be sublimated--that
is, become a factor coordinated intelligently with others in a
continuing course of action. Thus a gust of anger may, because of its
dynamic incorporation into disposition, be converted into an abiding
conviction of social injustice to be remedied, and furnish the dynamic
to carry the conviction into execution. Or an excitation of sexual
attraction may reappear in art or in tranquil domestic attachments and
services. Such an outcome represents the normal or desirable functioning
of impulse; in which, to use our previous language, the impulse operates
as a pivot, or reorganization of habit. Or again a released impulsive
activity may be neither immediately expressed in isolated spasmodic
action, nor indirectly employed in an enduring interest. It may be

Suppression is not annihilation. "Psychic" energy is no more capable of
being abolished than the forms we recognize as physical. If it is
neither exploded nor converted, it is turned inwards, to lead a
surreptitious, subterranean life. An isolated or spasmodic manifestation
is a sign of immaturity, crudity, savagery; a suppressed activity is the
cause of all kinds of intellectual and moral pathology. One form of the
resulting pathology constitutes "reaction" in the sense in which the
historian speaks of reactions. A conventionally familiar instance is
Stuart license after Puritan restraint. A striking modern instance is
the orgy of extravagance following upon the enforced economies and
hardships of war, the moral let-down after its highstrung exalted
idealisms, the deliberate carelessness after an attention too intense
and too narrow. Outward manifestation of many normal activities had been
suppressed. But activities were not suppressed. They were merely dammed
up awaiting their chance.

Now such "reactions" are simultaneous as well as successive. Resort to
artificial stimulation, to alcoholic excess, sexual debauchery, opium
and narcotics are examples. Impulses and interests that are not
manifested in the regular course of serviceable activity or in
recreation demand and secure a special manifestation. And it is
interesting to note that there are two opposite forms. Some phenomena
are characteristic of persons engaged in a routine monotonous life of
toil attended with fatigue and hardship. And others are found in persons
who are intellectual and executive, men whose activities are anything
but monotonous, but are narrowed through over-specialization. Such men
think too much, that is, too much along a _particular_ line. They carry
too heavy responsibilities; that is, their offices of service are not
adequately shared with others. They seek relief by escape into a more
sociable and easy-going world. The imperative demand for companionship
not satisfied in ordinary activity is met by convivial indulgence. The
other class has recourse to excess because its members have in ordinary
occupations next to no opportunity for imagination. They make a foray
into a more highly colored world as a substitute for a normal exercise
of invention, planning and judgment. Having no regular responsibilities,
they seek to recover an illusion of potency and of social recognition by
an artificial exaltation of their submerged and humiliated selves.

Hence the love of pleasure against which moralists issue so many
warnings. Not that love of pleasures is in itself in any way
demoralizing. Love of the pleasures of cheerfulness, of companionship is
one of the steadying influences in conduct. But pleasure has often
become identified with special thrills, excitations, ticklings of sense,
stirrings of appetite for the express purpose of enjoying the immediate
stimulation irrespective of results. Such pleasures are signs of
dissipation, dissoluteness, in the literal sense. An activity which is
deprived of regular stimulation and normal function is piqued into
isolated activity, and the result is division, disassociation. A life of
routine and of over-specialization in non-routine lines seek occasions
in which to arouse by abnormal means a _feeling_ of satisfaction without
any accompanying objective fulfilment. Hence, as moralists have pointed
out, the insatiable character of such appetites. Activities are not
really satisfied, that is fulfilled in objects. They continue to seek
for gratification in more intensified stimulations. Orgies of
pleasure-seeking, varying from saturnalia to mild sprees, result.

It does not follow however that the sole alternative is satisfaction by
means of objectively serviceable action, that is by action which effects
useful changes in the environment. There is an optimistic theory of
nature according to which wherever there is natural law there is also
natural harmony. Since man as well as the world is included in the scope
of natural law, it is inferred that there is natural harmony between
human activities and surroundings, a harmony which is disturbed only
when man indulges in "artificial" departures from nature. According to
this view, all man has to do is to keep his occupations in balance with
the energies of the environment and he will be both happy and efficient.
Rest, recuperation, relief can be found in a proper alternation of forms
of useful work. Do the things which surroundings indicate need doing,
and success, content, restoration of powers will take care of

This benevolent view of nature falls in with a Puritanic devotion to
work for its own sake and creates distrust of amusement, play and
recreation. They are felt to be unnecessary, and worse, dangerous
diversions from the path of useful action which is also the path of
duty. Social conditions certainly impart to occupations as they are now
carried on an undue element of fatigue, strain and drudgery.
Consequently useful occupations which are so ordered socially as to
engage thought, feed imagination and equalize the impact of stress would
surely introduce a tranquillity and recreation which are now lacking.
But there is good reason to think that even in the best conditions there
is enough maladjustment between the necessities of the environment and
the activities "natural" to man, so that constraint and fatigue would
always accompany activity, and special forms of action be needed--forms
that are significantly called re-creation.

Hence the immense moral importance of play and of fine, or make-believe,
art--of activity, that is, which is make-believe from the standpoint of
the useful arts enforced by the demands of the environment. When
moralists have not regarded play and art with a censorious eye, they
often have thought themselves carrying matters to the pitch of
generosity by conceding that they may be morally indifferent or
innocent. But in truth they are moral necessities. They are required to
take care of the margin that exists between the total stock of impulses
that demand outlet and the amount expended in regular action. They keep
the balance which work cannot indefinitely maintain. They are required
to introduce variety, flexibility and sensitiveness into disposition.
Yet upon the whole the humanizing capabilities of sport in its varied
forms, drama, fiction, music, poetry, newspapers have been neglected.
They have been left in a kind of a moral no-man's territory. They have
accomplished part of their function but they have not done what they are
capable of doing. In many cases they have operated merely as reactions
like those artificial and isolated stimulations already mentioned.

The suggestion that play and art have an indispensable moral function
which should receive an attention now denied, calls out an immediate and
vehement protest. We omit reference to that which proceeds from
professional moralists to whom art, fun and sport are habitually under
suspicion. For those interested in art, professional estheticians, will
protest even more strenuously. They at once imagine that some kind of
organized supervision if not censorship of play, drama and fiction is
contemplated which will convert them into means of moral edification. If
they do not think of Comstockian interference in the alleged interest of
public morals, they at least think that what is intended is the
elimination by persons of a Puritanic, unartistic temperament of
everything not found sufficiently earnest and elevating, a fostering of
art not for its own sake but as a means of doing good by something to
somebody. There is a natural fear of injecting into art a spirit of
earnest uplift, of surrendering art to the reformers.

But something quite other than this is meant. Relief from continuous
moral activity--in the conventional sense of moral--is itself a moral
necessity. The service of art and play is to engage and release impulses
in ways quite different from those in which they are occupied and
employed in ordinary activities. Their function is to forestall and
remedy the usual exaggerations and deficits of activity, even of "moral"
activity and to prevent a stereotyping of attention. To say that society
is altogether too careless about the moral worth of art is not to say
that carelessness about useful occupations is not a necessity for art.
On the contrary, whatever deprives play and art of their own careless
rapture thereby deprives them of their moral function. Art then becomes
poorer as art as a matter of course, but it also becomes in the same
measure less effectual in its pertinent moral office. It tries to do
what other things can do better, and it fails to do what nothing but
itself can do for human nature, softening rigidities, relaxing strains,
allaying bitterness, dispelling moroseness, and breaking down the
narrowness consequent upon specialized tasks.

Even if the matter be put in this negative way, the moral value of art
cannot be depreciated. But there is a more positive function. Play and
art add fresh and deeper meanings to the usual activities of life. In
contrast with a Philistine relegation of the arts to a trivial by-play
from serious concerns, it is truer to say that most of the significance
now found in serious occupations originated in activities not
immediately useful, and gradually found its way from them into
objectively serviceable employments. For their spontaneity and
liberation from external necessities permits to them an enhancement and
vitality of meaning not possible in preoccupation with immediate needs.
Later this meaning is transferred to useful activities and becomes a
part of their ordinary working. In saying then that art and play have a
moral office not adequately taken advantage of it is asserted that they
are responsible to life, to the enriching and freeing of its meanings,
not that they are responsible to a moral code, commandment or special

To a coarse view--and professed moral refinement is often given to
taking coarse views--there is something vulgar not only in recourse to
abnormal artificial exigents and stimulations but also in interest in
useless games and arts. Negatively the two things have features which
are alike. They both spring from failure of regular occupations to
engage the full scope of impulses and instincts in an elastically
balanced way. They both evince a surplusage of imagination over fact; a
demand in imaginative activity for an outlet which is denied in overt
activity. They both aim at reducing the domination of the prosaic; both
are protests against the lowering of meanings attendant upon ordinary
vocations. As a consequence no rule can be laid down for discriminating
by direct inspection between unwholesome stimulations and invaluable
excursions into appreciative enhancements of life. Their difference lies
in the way they work, the careers to which they commit us.

Art releases energy and focuses and tranquilizes it. It releases energy
in constructive forms. Castles in the air like art have their source in
a turning of impulse away from useful production. Both are due to the
failure in some part of man's constitution to secure fulfilment in
ordinary ways. But in one case the conversion of direct energy into
imagination is the starting point of an activity which _shapes_
material; fancy is fed upon a stuff of life which assumes under its
influence a rejuvenated, composed and enhanced form. In the other case,
fancy remains an end in itself. It becomes an indulging in fantasies
which bring about withdrawal from all realities, while wishes impotent
in action build a world which yields temporary excitement. Any
imagination is a sign that impulse is impeded and is groping for
utterance. Sometimes the outcome is a refreshed useful habit; sometimes
it is an articulation in creative art; and sometimes it is a futile
romancing which for some natures does what self-pity does for others.
The amount of potential energy of reconstruction that is dissipated in
unexpressed fantasy supplies us with a fair measure of the extent to
which the current organization of occupation balks and twists impulse,
and, by the same sign, with a measure of the function of art which is
not yet utilized.

The development of mental pathologies to the point where they need
clinical attention has of late enforced a widespread consciousness of
some of the evils of suppression of impulse. The studies of
psychiatrists have made clear that impulses driven into pockets distil
poison and produce festering sores. An organization of impulse into a
working habit forms an interest. A surreptitious furtive organization
which does not articulate in avowed expression forms a "complex."
Current clinical psychology has undoubtedly overworked the influence of
sexual impulse in this connection, refusing at the hands of some writers
to recognize the operation of any other modes of disturbance. There are
explanations of this onesidedness. The intensity of the sexual instinct
and its organic ramifications produce many of the cases that are so
noticeable as to demand the attention of physicians. And social taboos
and the tradition of secrecy have put this impulse under greater strain
than has been imposed upon others. If a society existed in which the
existence of impulse toward food were socially disavowed until it was
compelled to live an illicit, covert life, alienists would have plenty
of cases of mental and moral disturbance to relate in connection with

The significant thing is that the pathology arising from the sex
instinct affords a striking case of a universal principle. Every impulse
is, as far as it goes, force, urgency. It must either be used in some
function, direct or sublimated, or be driven into a concealed, hidden
activity. It has long been asserted on empirical grounds that expression
and enslavement result in corruption and perversion. We have at last
discovered the reason for this fact. The wholesome and saving force of
intellectual freedom, open confrontation, publicity, now has the stamp
of scientific sanction. The evil of checking impulses is not that they
are checked. Without inhibition there is no instigation of imagination,
no redirection into more discriminated and comprehensive activities. The
evil resides in a refusal of direct attention which forces the impulse
into disguise and concealment, until it enacts its own unavowed uneasy
private life subject to no inspection and no control.

A rebellious disposition is also a form of romanticism. At least rebels
set out as romantics, or, in popular parlance, as idealists. There is no
bitterness like that of conscious impotency, the sense of suffocatingly
complete suppression. The world is hopeless to one without hope. The
rage of total despair is a vain effort at blind destructiveness. Partial
suppression induces in some natures a picture of complete freedom, while
it arouses a destructive protest against existing institutions as
enemies that stand in the way of freedom. Rebellion has at least one
advantage over recourse to artificial stimulation and to subconscious
nursings of festering sore spots. It engages in action and thereby comes
in contact with realities. It contains the possibility of learning
something. Yet learning by this method is immensely expensive. The costs
are incalculable. As Napoleon said, every revolution moves in a vicious
circle. It begins and ends in excess.

To view institutions as enemies of freedom, and all conventions as
slaveries, is to deny the only means by which positive freedom in action
can be secured. A general liberation of impulses may set things going
when they have been stagnant, but if the released forces are on their
way to anything they do not know the way nor where they are going.
Indeed, they are bound to be mutually contradictory and hence
destructive--destructive not only of the habits they wish to destroy but
of themselves, of their own efficacy. Convention and custom are
necessary to carrying forward impulse to any happy conclusion. A
romantic return to nature and a freedom sought within the individual
without regard to the existing environment finds its terminus in chaos.
Every belief to the contrary combines pessimism regarding the actual
with an even more optimistic faith in some natural harmony or other--a
faith which is a survival of some of the traditional metaphysics and
theologies which professedly are to be swept away. Not convention but
stupid and rigid convention is the foe. And, as we have noted, a
convention can be reorganized and made mobile only by using some other
custom for giving leverage to an impulse.

Yet it is too easy to utter commonplaces about the superiority of
constructive action to destructive. At all events the professed
conservative and classicist of tradition seeks too cheap a victory over
the rebel. For the rebel is not self-generated. In the beginning no one
is a revolutionist simply for the fun of it, however it may be after the
furor of destructive power gets under way. The rebel is the product of
extreme fixation and unintelligent immobilities. Life is perpetuated
only by renewal. If conditions do not permit renewal to take place
continuously it will take place explosively. The cost of revolutions
must be charged up to those who have taken for their aim arrest of
custom instead of its readjustment. The only ones who have the right to
criticize "radicals"--adopting for the moment that perversion of
language which identifies the radical with the destructive rebel--are
those who put as much effort into reconstruction as the rebels are
putting into destruction. The primary accusation against the
revolutionary must be directed against those who having power refuse to
use it for ameliorations. They are the ones who accumulate the wrath
that sweeps away customs and institutions in an undiscriminating
avalanche. Too often the man who should be criticizing institutions
expends his energy in criticizing those who would re-form them. What he
really objects to is any disturbance of his own vested securities,
comforts and privileged powers.


We return to the original proposition. The position of impulse in
conduct is intermediary. Morality is an endeavor to find for the
manifestation of impulse in special situations an office of refreshment
and renewal. The endeavor is not easy of accomplishment. It is easier to
surrender the main and public channels of action and belief to the
sluggishness of custom, and idealize tradition by emotional attachment
to its ease, comforts and privileges instead of idealizing it in
practice by making it more equably balanced with present needs. Again,
impulses not used for the work of rejuvenation and vital recovery are
sidetracked to find their own lawless barbarities or their own
sentimental refinements. Or they are perverted to pathological
careers--some of which have been mentioned.

In the course of time custom becomes intolerable because of what it
suppresses and some accident of war or inner catastrophe releases
impulses for unrestrained expression. At such times we have philosophies
which identify progress with motion, blind spontaneity with freedom, and
which under the name of the sacredness of individuality or a return to
the norms of nature make impulse a law unto itself. The oscillation
between impulse arrested and frozen in rigid custom and impulse isolated
and undirected is seen most conspicuously when epochs of conservatism
and revolutionary ardor alternate. But the same phenomenon is repeated
on a smaller scale in individuals. And in society the two tendencies and
philosophies exist simultaneously; they waste in controversial strife
the energy that is needed for specific criticism and specific

The release of some portion of the stock of impulses is an opportunity,
not an end. In its origin it is the product of chance; but it affords
imagination and invention _their_ chance. The moral correlate of
liberated impulse is not immediate activity, but reflection upon the way
in which to use impulse to renew disposition and reorganize habit.
Escape from the clutch of custom gives an opportunity to do old things
in new ways, and thus to construct new ends and means. Breach in the
crust of the cake of custom releases impulses; but it is the work of
intelligence to find the ways of using them. There is an alternative
between anchoring a boat in the harbor till it becomes a rotting hulk
and letting it loose to be the sport of every contrary gust. To discover
and define this alternative is the business of mind, of observant,
remembering, contriving disposition.

Habit as a vital art depends upon the animation of habit by impulse;
only this inspiriting stands between habit and stagnation. But art,
little as well as great, anonymous as well as that distinguished by
titles of dignity, cannot be improvised. It is impossible without
spontaneity, but it is not spontaneity. Impulse is needed to arouse
thought, incite reflection and enliven belief. But only thought notes
obstructions, invents tools, conceives aims, directs technique, and thus
converts impulse into an art which lives in objects. Thought is born as
the twin of impulse in every moment of impeded habit. But unless it is
nurtured, it speedily dies, and habit and instinct continue their civil
warfare. There is instinctive wisdom in the tendency of the young to
ignore the limitations of the environment. Only thus can they discover
their own power and learn the differences in different kinds of
environing limitations. But this discovery when once made marks the
birth of intelligence; and with its birth comes the responsibility of
the mature to observe, to recall, to forecast. Every moral life has its
radicalism; but this radical factor does not find its full expression in
direct action but in the courage of intelligence to go deeper than
either tradition or immediate impulse goes. To the study of intelligence
in action we now turn our attention.




In discussing habit and impulse we have repeatedly met topics where
reference to the work of thought was imperative. Explicit consideration
of the place and office of intelligence in conduct can hardly begin
otherwise than by gathering together these incidental references and
reaffirming their significance. The stimulation of reflective
imagination by impulse, its dependence upon established habits, and its
effect in transforming habit and regulating impulse forms, accordingly,
our first theme.

Habits are conditions of intellectual efficiency. They operate in two
ways upon intellect. Obviously, they restrict its reach, they fix its
boundaries. They are blinders that confine the eyes of mind to the road
ahead. They prevent thought from straying away from its imminent
occupation to a landscape more varied and picturesque but irrelevant to
practice. Outside the scope of habits, thought works gropingly, fumbling
in confused uncertainty; and yet habit made complete in routine shuts in
thought so effectually that it is no longer needed or possible. The
routineer's road is a ditch out of which he cannot get, whose sides
enclose him, directing his course so thoroughly that he no longer thinks
of his path or his destination. All habit-forming involves the beginning
of an intellectual specialization which if unchecked ends in thoughtless

Significantly enough this fullblown result is called absentmindedness.
Stimulus and response are mechanically linked together in an unbroken
chain. Each successive act facilely evoked by its predecessor pushes us
automatically into the next act of a predetermined series. Only a signal
flag of distress recalls consciousness to the task of carrying on.
Fortunately nature which beckons us to this path of least resistance
also puts obstacles in the way of our complete acceptance of its
invitation. Success in achieving a ruthless and dull efficiency of
action is thwarted by untoward circumstance. The most skilful aptitude
bumps at times into the unexpected, and so gets into trouble from which
only observation and invention extricate it. Efficiency in following a
beaten path has then to be converted into breaking a new road through
strange lands.

Nevertheless what in effect is love of ease has masqueraded morally as
love of perfection. A goal of finished accomplishment has been set up
which if it were attained would mean only mindless action. It has been
called complete and free activity when in truth it is only a treadmill
activity or marching in one place. The practical impossibility of
reaching, in an all around way and all at once such a "perfection" has
been recognized. But such a goal has nevertheless been conceived as the
ideal, and progress has been defined as approximation to it. Under
diverse intellectual skies the ideal has assumed diverse forms and
colors. But all of them have involved the conception of a completed
activity, a static perfection. Desire and need have been treated as
signs of deficiency, and endeavor as proof not of power but of

In Aristotle this conception of an end which exhausts all realization
and excludes all potentiality appears as a definition of the highest
excellence. It of necessity excludes all want and struggle and all
dependencies. It is neither practical nor social. Nothing is left but a
self-revolving, self-sufficing thought engaged in contemplating its own
sufficiency. Some forms of Oriental morals have united this logic with a
profounder psychology, and have seen that the final terminus on this
road is Nirvana, an obliteration of all thought and desire. In medieval
science, the ideal reappeared as a definition of heavenly bliss
accessible only to a redeemed immortal soul. Herbert Spencer is far
enough away from Aristotle, medieval Christianity and Buddhism; but the
idea re-emerges in his conception of a goal of evolution in which
adaptation of organism to environment is complete and final. In popular
thought, the conception lives in the vague thought of a remote state of
attainment in which we shall be beyond "temptation," and in which virtue
by its own inertia will persist as a triumphant consummation. Even Kant
who begins with a complete scorn for happiness ends with an "ideal" of
the eternal and undisturbed union of virtue and joy, though in his case
nothing but a symbolic approximation is admitted to be feasible.

The fallacy in these versions of the same idea is perhaps the most
pervasive of all fallacies in philosophy. So common is it that one
questions whether it might not be called _the_ philosophical fallacy. It
consists in the supposition that whatever is found true under certain
conditions may forthwith be asserted universally or without limits and
conditions. Because a thirsty man gets satisfaction in drinking water,
bliss consists in being drowned. Because the success of any particular
struggle is measured by reaching a point of frictionless action,
therefore there is such a thing as an all-inclusive end of effortless
smooth activity endlessly maintained. It is forgotten that success is
success _of_ a specific effort, and satisfaction the fulfilment _of_ a
specific demand, so that success and satisfaction become meaningless
when severed from the wants and struggles whose consummations they are,
or when taken universally. The philosophy of Nirvana comes the closest
to admission of this fact, but even it holds Nirvana to be desirable.

Habit is however more than a restriction of thought. Habits become
negative limits because they are first positive agencies. The more
numerous our habits the wider the field of possible observation and
foretelling. The more flexible they are, the more refined is perception
in its discrimination and the more delicate the presentation evoked by
imagination. The sailor is intellectually at home on the sea, the hunter
in the forest, the painter in his studio, the man of science in his
laboratory. These commonplaces are universally recognized in the
concrete; but their significance is obscured and their truth denied in
the current general theory of mind. For they mean nothing more or less
than that habits formed in process of exercising biological aptitudes
are the sole agents of observation, recollection, foresight and
judgment: a mind or consciousness or soul in general which performs
these operations is a myth.

The doctrine of a single, simple and indissoluble soul was the cause and
the effect of failure to recognize that concrete habits are the means of
knowledge and thought. Many who think themselves scientifically
emancipated and who freely advertise the soul for a superstition,
perpetuate a false notion of what knows, that is, of a separate knower.
Nowadays they usually fix upon consciousness in general, as a stream or
process or entity; or else, more specifically upon sensations and images
as the tools of intellect. Or sometimes they think they have scaled the
last heights of realism by adverting grandiosely to a formal knower in
general who serves as one term in the knowing relation; by dismissing
psychology as irrelevant to knowledge and logic, they think to conceal
the psychological monster they have conjured up.

Now it is dogmatically stated that no such conceptions of the seat,
agent or vehicle will go psychologically at the present time. Concrete
habits do all the perceiving, recognizing, imagining, recalling,
judging, conceiving and reasoning that is done. "Consciousness," whether
as a stream or as special sensations and images, expresses functions of
habits, phenomena of their formation, operation, their interruption and

Yet habit does not, of itself, know, for it does not of itself stop to
think, observe or remember. Neither does impulse of itself engage in
reflection or contemplation. It just lets go. Habits by themselves are
too organized, too insistent and determinate to need to indulge in
inquiry or imagination. And impulses are too chaotic, tumultuous and
confused to be able to know even if they wanted to. Habit as such is too
definitely adapted to an environment to survey or analyze it, and
impulse is too indeterminately related to the environment to be capable
of reporting anything about it. Habit incorporates, enacts or overrides
objects, but it doesn't know them. Impulse scatters and obliterates them
with its restless stir. A certain delicate combination of habit and
impulse is requisite for observation, memory and judgment. Knowledge
which is not projected against the black unknown lives in the muscles,
not in consciousness.

We may, indeed, be said to _know how_ by means of our habits. And a
sensible intimation of the practical function of knowledge has led men
to identify all acquired practical skill, or even the instinct of
animals, with knowledge. We walk and read aloud, we get off and on
street cars, we dress and undress, and do a thousand useful acts without
thinking of them. We know something, namely, how to do them. Bergson's
philosophy of intuition is hardly more than an elaborately documented
commentary on the popular conception that by instinct a bird knows how
to build a nest and a spider to weave a web. But after all, this
practical work done by habit and instinct in securing prompt and exact
adjustment to the environment is not knowledge, except by courtesy. Or,
if we choose to call it knowledge--and no one has the right to issue an
ukase to the contrary--then other things also called knowledge,
knowledge _of_ and _about_ things, knowledge _that_ things are thus and
so, knowledge that involves reflection and conscious appreciation,
remains of a different sort, unaccounted for and undescribed.

For it is a commonplace that the more suavely efficient a habit the more
unconsciously it operates. Only a hitch in its workings occasions
emotion and provokes thought. Carlyle and Rousseau, hostile in
temperament and outlook, yet agree in looking at consciousness as a kind
of disease, since we have no consciousness of bodily or mental organs as
long as they work at ease in perfect health. The idea of disease is,
however, aside from the point, unless we are pessimistic enough to
regard every slip in total adjustment of a person to its surroundings as
something abnormal--a point of view which once more would identify
well-being with perfect automatism. The truth is that in every waking
moment, the complete balance of the organism and its environment is
constantly interfered with and as constantly restored. Hence the "stream
of consciousness" in general, and in particular that phase of it
celebrated by William James as alternation of flights and perchings.
Life is interruptions and recoveries. Continuous interruption is not
possible in the activities of an individual. Absence of perfect
equilibrium is not equivalent to a complete crushing of organized
activity. When the disturbance amounts to such a pitch as that, the self
goes to pieces. It is like shell-shock. Normally, the environment
remains sufficiently in harmony with the body of organized activities to
sustain most of them in active function. But a novel factor in the
surroundings releases some impulse which tends to initiate a different
and incompatible activity, to bring about a redistribution of the
elements of organized activity between those have been respectively
central and subsidiary. Thus the hand guided by the eye moves toward a
surface. Visual quality is the dominant element. The hand comes in
contact with an object. The eye does not cease to operate but some
unexpected quality of touch, a voluptuous smoothness or annoying heat,
compels a readjustment in which the touching, handling activity strives
to dominate the action. Now at these moments of a shifting in activity
conscious feeling and thought arise and are accentuated. The disturbed
adjustment of organism and environment is reflected in a temporary
strife which concludes in a coming to terms of the old habit and the new

In this period of redistribution impulse determines the direction of
movement. It furnishes the focus about which reorganization swirls. Our
attention in short is always directed forward to bring to notice
something which is imminent but which as yet escapes us. Impulse defines
the peering, the search, the inquiry. It is, in logical language, the
movement into the unknown, not into the immense inane of the unknown at
large, but into that special unknown which when it is hit upon restores
an ordered, unified action. During this search, old habit supplies
content, filling, definite, recognizable, subject-matter. It begins as
vague presentiment of what we are going towards. As organized habits are
definitely deployed and focused, the confused situation takes on form,
it is "cleared up"--the essential function of intelligence. Processes
become objects. Without habit there is only irritation and confused
hesitation. With habit alone there is a machine-like repetition, a
duplicating recurrence of old acts. With conflict of habits and release
of impulse there is conscious search.


We are going far afield from any direct moral issue. But the problem of
the place of knowledge and judgment in conduct depends upon getting the
fundamental psychology of thought straightened out. So the excursion
must be continued. We compare life to a traveler faring forth. We may
consider him first at a moment where his activity is confident,
straightforward, organized. He marches on giving no direct attention to
his path, nor thinking of his destination. Abruptly he is pulled up,
arrested. Something is going wrong in his activity. From the standpoint
of an onlooker, he has met an obstacle which must be overcome before his
behavior can be unified into a successful ongoing. From his own
standpoint, there is shock, confusion, perturbation, uncertainty. For
the moment he doesn't know what hit him, as we say, nor where he is
going. But a new impulse is stirred which becomes the starting point of
an investigation, a looking into things, a trying to see them, to find
out what is going on. Habits which were interfered with begin to get a
new direction as they cluster about the impulse to look and see. The
blocked habits of locomotion give him a sense of where he _was_ going,
of what he had set out to do, and of the ground already traversed. As he
looks, he sees definite things which are not just things at large but
which are related to his course of action. The momentum of the activity
entered upon persists as a sense of direction, of aim; it is an
anticipatory project. In short, he recollects, observes and plans.

The trinity of these forecasts, perceptions and remembrances form a
subject-matter of discriminated and identified objects. These objects
represent habits turned inside out. They exhibit both the onward
tendency of habit and the objective conditions which have been
incorporated within it. Sensations in immediate consciousness are
elements of action dislocated through the shock of interruption. They
never, however, completely monopolize the scene; for there is a body of
residual undisturbed habits which is reflected in remembered and
perceived objects having a meaning. Thus out of shock and puzzlement
there gradually emerges a figured framework of objects, past, present,
future. These shade off variously into a vast penumbra of vague,
unfigured things, a setting which is taken for granted and not at all
explicitly presented. The complexity of the figured scene in its scope
and refinement of contents depends wholly upon prior habits and their
organization. The reason a baby can know little and an experienced adult
know much when confronting the same things is not because the latter has
a "mind" which the former has not, but because one has already formed
habits which the other has still to acquire. The scientific man and the
philosopher like the carpenter, the physician and politician know with
their habits not with their "consciousness." The latter is eventual, not
a source. Its occurrence marks a peculiarly delicate connection between
highly organized habits and unorganized impulses. Its contents or
objects, observed, recollected, projected and generalized into
principles, represent the incorporated material of habits coming to the
surface, because habits are disintegrating at the touch of conflicting
impulses. But they also gather themselves together to comprehend impulse
and make it effective.

This account is more or less strange as psychology but certain aspects
of it are commonplaces in a static logical formulation. It is, for
example, almost a truism that knowledge is both synthetic and analytic;
a set of discriminated elements connected by relations. This combination
of opposite factors of unity and difference, elements and relations, has
been a standing paradox and mystery of the theory of knowledge. It will
remain so until we connect the theory of knowledge with an empirically
verifiable theory of behavior. The steps of this connection have been
sketched and we may enumerate them. We know at such times as habits are
impeded, when a conflict is set up in which impulse is released. So far
as this impulse sets up a definite forward tendency it constitutes the
forward, prospective character of knowledge. In this phase unity or
synthesis is found. We are striving to unify our responses, to achieve a
consistent environment which will restore unity of conduct. Unity,
relations, are prospective; they mark out lines converging to a focus.
They are "ideal." But _what_ we know, the objects that present
themselves with definiteness and assurance, are retrospective; they are
the conditions which have been mastered, incorporated in the past. They
are elements, discriminated, analytic just because old habits so far as
they are checked are also broken into objects which define the
obstruction of ongoing activity. They are "real," not ideal. Unity is
something sought; split, division is something given, at hand. Were we
to carry the same psychology into detail we should come upon the
explanation of perceived particulars and conceived universals, of the
relation of discovery and proof, induction and deduction, the discrete
and the continuous. Anything approaching an adequate discussion is too
technical to be here in place. But the main point, however technical and
abstract it may be in statement, is of far reaching importance for
everything concerned with moral beliefs, conscience and judgments of
right and wrong.

The most general, if vaguest issue, concerns the nature of the organ of
moral knowledge. As long as knowledge in general is thought to be the
work of a special agent, whether soul, consciousness, intellect or a
knower in general, there is a logical propulsion towards postulating a
special agent for knowledge of moral distinctions. Consciousness and
conscience have more than a verbal connection. If the former is
something in itself, a seat or power which antecedes intellectual
functions, why should not the latter be also a unique faculty with its
own separate jurisdiction? If reason in general is independent of
empirically verifiable realities of human nature, such as instincts and
organized habits, why should there not also exist a moral or practical
reason independent of natural operations? On the other hand if it is
recognized that knowing is carried on through the medium of natural
factors, the assumption of special agencies for moral knowing becomes
outlawed and incredible. Now the matter of the existence or
non-existence of such special agencies is no technically remote matter.
The belief in a separate organ involves belief in a separate and
independent subject-matter. The question fundamentally at issue is
nothing more or less than whether moral values, regulations, principles
and objects form a separate and independent domain or whether they are
part and parcel of a normal development of a life process.

These considerations explain why the denial of a separate organ of
knowledge, of a separate instinct or impulse toward knowing, is not the
wilful philistinism it is sometimes alleged to be. There is of course a
sense in which there is a distinctive impulse, or rather habitual
disposition, to know. But in the same sense there is an impulse to
aviate, to run a typewriter or write stories for magazines. Some
activities result in knowledge, as others result in these other things.
The result may be so important as to induce distinctive attention to the
activities in order to foster them. From an incident, almost a
by-product, attainment of truth, physical, social, moral, may become the
leading characteristic of some activities. Under such circumstances,
they become transformed. Knowing is then a distinctive activity, with
its own ends and its peculiarly adapted processes. All this is a matter
of course. Having hit upon knowledge accidentally, as it were, and the
product being liked and its importance noted, knowledge-getting becomes,
upon occasion, a definite occupation. And education confirms the
disposition, as it may confirm that of a musician or carpenter or
tennis-player. But there is no more an original separate impulse or
power in one case than in the other. Every habit is impulsive, that is
projective, urgent, and the habit of knowing is no exception.

The reason for insisting on this fact is not failure to appreciate the
distinctive value of knowledge when once it comes into existence. This
value is so immense it may be called unique. The aim of the discussion
is not to subordinate knowing to some hard, prosaic utilitarian end. The
reason for insistence upon the derivative position of knowing in
activity, roots in a sense for fact, and in a realization that the
doctrine of a separate original power and impulse of knowledge cuts
knowledge off from other phases of human nature, and results in its
non-natural treatment. The isolation of intellectual disposition from
concrete empirical facts of biological impulse and habit-formation
entails a denial of the continuity of mind with nature. Aristotle
asserted that the faculty of pure knowing enters a man from without as
through a door. Many since his day have asserted that knowing and doing
have no intrinsic connection with each other. Reason is asserted to have
no responsibility to experience; conscience is said to be a sublime
oracle independent of education and social influences. All of these
views follow naturally from a failure to recognize that all knowing,
judgment, belief represent an acquired result of the workings of natural
impulses in connection with environment.

Upon the ethical side, as has been intimated, the matter at issue
concerns the nature of conscience. Conscience has been asserted by
orthodox moralists to be unique in origin and subject-matter. The same
view is embodied by implication in all those popular methods of moral
training which attempt to fix rigid authoritative notions of right and
wrong by disconnecting moral judgments from the aids and tests which are
used in other forms of knowledge. Thus it has been asserted that
conscience is an original faculty of illumination which (if it has not
been dimmed by indulgence in sin) shines upon moral truths and objects
and reveals them without effort for precisely what they are. Those who
hold this view differ enormously among themselves as to the nature of
the objects of conscience. Some hold them to be general principles,
others individual acts, others the order of worth among motives, others
the sense of duty in general, others the unqualified authority of right.
Still others carry the implied logic of authority to conclusion, and
identify knowledge of moral truths with a divine supernatural revelation
of a code of commandments.

But among these diversities there is agreement about one fundamental.
There must be a separate non-natural faculty of moral knowledge because
the things to be known, the matters of right and wrong, good and evil,
obligation and responsibility, form a separate domain, separate that is
from that of ordinary action in its usual human and social significance.
The latter activities may be prudential, political, scientific,
economic. But, from the standpoint of these theories, they have no moral
meaning until they are brought under the purview of this separate unique
department of our nature. It thus turns out that the so-called
intuitional theories of moral knowledge concentrate in themselves all
the ideas which are subject to criticism in these pages: Namely, the
assertion that morality is distinct in origin, working and destiny from
the natural structure and career of human nature. This fact is the
excuse, if excuse be desired, for a seemingly technical excursion that
links intellectual activity with the conjoint operation of habit and


So far the discussion has ignored the fact that there is an influential
school of moralists (best represented in contemporary thought by the
utilitarians) which also insists upon the natural, empirical character
of moral judgments and beliefs. But unfortunately this school has
followed a false psychology; and has tended, by calling out a reaction,
actually to strengthen the hands of those who persist in assigning to
morals a separate domain of action and in demanding a separate agent of
moral knowledge. The essentials of this false psychology consist in two
traits. The first, that knowledge originates from sensations (instead of
from habits and impulses); and the second, that judgment about good and
evil in action consists in calculation of agreeable and disagreeable
consequences, of profit and loss. It is not surprising that this view
seems to many to degrade morals, as well as to be false to facts. If the
logical outcome of an empirical view of moral knowledge is that all
morality is concerned with calculating what is expedient, politic,
prudent, measured by consequences in the ways of pleasurable and painful
sensations, then, say moralists of the orthodox school, we will have
naught to do with such a sordid view: It is a reduction to the absurd of
its premisses. We will have a separate department for morals and a
separate organ of moral knowledge.

Our first problem is then to investigate the nature of ordinary
judgments upon what it is best or wise to do, or, in ordinary language,
the nature of deliberation. We begin with a summary assertion that
deliberation is a dramatic rehearsal (in imagination) of various
competing possible lines of action. It starts from the blocking of
efficient overt action, due to that conflict of prior habit and newly
released impulse to which reference has been made. Then each habit, each
impulse, involved in the temporary suspense of overt action takes its
turn in being tried out. Deliberation is an experiment in finding out
what the various lines of possible action are really like. It is an
experiment in making various combinations of selected elements of habits
and impulses, to see what the resultant action would be like if it were
entered upon. But the trial is in imagination, not in overt fact. The
experiment is carried on by tentative rehearsals in thought which do not
affect physical facts outside the body. Thought runs ahead and foresees
outcomes, and thereby avoids having to await the instruction of actual
failure and disaster. An act overtly tried out is irrevocable, its
consequences cannot be blotted out. An act tried out in imagination is
not final or fatal. It is retrievable.

Each conflicting habit and impulse takes its turn in projecting itself
upon the screen of imagination. It unrolls a picture of its future
history, of the career it would have if it were given head. Although
overt exhibition is checked by the pressure of contrary propulsive
tendencies, this very inhibition gives habit a chance at manifestation
in thought. Deliberation means precisely that activity is disintegrated,
and that its various elements hold one another up. While none has force
enough to become the center of a re-directed activity, or to dominate a
course of action, each has enough power to check others from exercising
mastery. Activity does not cease in order to give way to reflection;
activity is turned from execution into intra-organic channels, resulting
in dramatic rehearsal.

If activity were directly exhibited it would result in certain
experiences, contacts with the environment. It would succeed by making
environing objects, things and persons, co-partners in its forward
movement; or else it would run against obstacles and be troubled,
possibly defeated. These experiences of contact with objects and their
qualities give meaning, character, to an otherwise fluid, unconscious
activity. We find out what seeing means by the objects which are seen.
They constitute the significance of visual activity which would
otherwise remain a blank. "Pure" activity is for consciousness pure
emptiness. It acquires a content or filling of meanings only in static
termini, what it comes to rest in, or in the obstacles which check its
onward movement and deflect it. As has been remarked, the object is that
which objects.

There is no difference in this respect between a visible course of
conduct and one proposed in deliberation. We have no direct
consciousness of what we purpose to do. We can judge its nature, assign
its meaning, only by following it into the situations whither it leads,
noting the objects against which it runs and seeing how they rebuff or
unexpectedly encourage it. In imagination as in fact we know a road only
by what we see as we travel on it. Moreover the objects which prick out
the course of a proposed act until we can see its design also serve to
direct eventual overt activity. Every object hit upon as the habit
traverses its imaginary path has a direct effect upon existing
activities. It reinforces, inhibits, redirects habits already working or
stirs up others which had not previously actively entered in. In thought
as well as in overt action, the objects experienced in following out a
course of action attract, repel, satisfy, annoy, promote and retard.
Thus deliberation proceeds. To say that at last it ceases is to say that
choice, decision, takes place.

What then is choice? Simply hitting in imagination upon an object which
furnishes an adequate stimulus to the recovery of overt action. Choice
is made as soon as some habit, or some combination of elements of habits
and impulse, finds a way fully open. Then energy is released. The mind
is made up, composed, unified. As long as deliberation pictures shoals
or rocks or troublesome gales as marking the route of a contemplated
voyage, deliberation goes on. But when the various factors in action fit
harmoniously together, when imagination finds no annoying hindrance,
when there is a picture of open seas, filled sails and favoring winds,
the voyage is definitely entered upon. This decisive direction of action
constitutes choice. It is a great error to suppose that we have no
preferences until there is a choice. We are always biased beings,
tending in one direction rather than another. The occasion of
deliberation is an _excess_ of preferences, not natural apathy or an
absence of likings. We want things that are incompatible with one
another; therefore we have to make a choice of what we _really_ want, of
the course of action, that is, which most fully releases activities.
Choice is not the emergence of preference out of indifference. It is the
emergence of a unified preference out of competing preferences. Biases
that had held one another in check now, temporarily at least, reinforce
one another, and constitute a unified attitude. The moment arrives when
imagination pictures an objective consequence of action which supplies
an adequate stimulus and releases definitive action. All deliberation is
a search for a _way_ to act, not for a final terminus. Its office is to
facilitate stimulation.

Hence there is reasonable and unreasonable choice. The object thought of
may simply stimulate some impulse or habit to a pitch of intensity where
it is temporarily irresistible. It then overrides all competitors and
secures for itself the sole right of way. The object looms large in
imagination; it swells to fill the field. It allows no room for
alternatives; it absorbs us, enraptures us, carries us away, sweeps us
off our feet by its own attractive force. Then choice is arbitrary,
unreasonable. But the object thought of may be one which stimulates by
unifying, harmonizing, different competing tendencies. It may release an
activity in which all are fulfilled, not indeed, in their original form,
but in a "sublimated" fashion, that is in a way which modifies the
original direction of each by reducing it to a component along with
others in an action of transformed quality. Nothing is more
extraordinary than the delicacy, promptness and ingenuity with which
deliberation is capable of making eliminations and recombinations in
projecting the course of a possible activity. To every shade of imagined
circumstance there is a vibrating response; and to every complex
situation a sensitiveness as to its integrity, a feeling of whether it
does justice to all facts, or overrides some to the advantage of others.
Decision is reasonable when deliberation is so conducted. There may be
error in the result, but it comes from lack of data not from ineptitude
in handling them.

These facts give us the key to the old controversy as to the respective
places of desire and reason in conduct. It is notorious that some
moralists have deplored the influence of desire; they have found the
heart of strife between good and evil in the conflict of desire with
reason, in which the former has force on its side and the latter
authority. But reasonableness is in fact a quality of an effective
relationship among desires rather than a thing opposed to desire. It
signifies the order, perspective, proportion which is achieved, during
deliberation, out of a diversity of earlier incompatible preferences.
Choice is reasonable when it induces us to act reasonably; that is, with
regard to the claims of each of the competing habits and impulses. This
implies, of course, the presence of a comprehensive object, one which
coordinates, organizes and functions each factor of the situation which
gave rise to conflict, suspense and deliberation. This is as true when
some "bad" impulses and habits enter in as when approved ones require
unification. We have already seen the effects of choking them off, of
efforts at direct suppression. Bad habits can be subdued only by being
utilized as elements in a new, more generous and comprehensive scheme of
action, and good ones be preserved from rot only by similar use.

The nature of the strife of reason and passion is well stated by William
James. The cue of passion, he says in effect, is to keep imagination
dwelling upon those objects which are congenial to it, which feed it,
and which by feeding it intensify its force, until it crowds out all
thought of other objects. An impulse or habit which is strongly
emotional magnifies all objects that are congruous with it and smothers
those which are opposed whenever they present themselves. A passionate
activity learns to work itself up artificially--as Oliver Cromwell
indulged in fits of anger when he wanted to do things that his
conscience would not justify. A presentiment is felt that if the thought
of contrary objects is allowed to get a lodgment in imagination, these
objects will work and work to chill and freeze out the ardent passion of
the moment.

The conclusion is not that the emotional, passionate phase of action can
be or should be eliminated in behalf of a bloodless reason. More
"passions," not fewer, is the answer. To check the influence of hate
there must be sympathy, while to rationalize sympathy there are needed
emotions of curiosity, caution, respect for the freedom of
others--dispositions which evoke objects which balance those called up
by sympathy, and prevent its degeneration into maudlin sentiment and
meddling interference. Rationality, once more, is not a force to evoke
against impulse and habit. It is the attainment of a working harmony
among diverse desires. "Reason" as a noun signifies the happy
cooperation of a multitude of dispositions, such as sympathy, curiosity,
exploration, experimentation, frankness, pursuit--to follow things
through--circumspection, to look about at the context, etc., etc. The
elaborate systems of science are born not of reason but of impulses at
first slight and flickering; impulses to handle, move about, to hunt, to
uncover, to mix things separated and divide things combined, to talk and
to listen. Method is their effectual organization into continuous
dispositions of inquiry, development and testing. It occurs after these
acts and because of their consequences. Reason, the rational attitude,
is the resulting disposition, not a ready-made antecedent which can be
invoked at will and set into movement. The man who would intelligently
cultivate intelligence will widen, not narrow, his life of strong
impulses while aiming at their happy coincidence in operation.

The clew of impulse is, as we say, to start something. It is in a hurry.
It rushes us off our feet. It leaves no time for examination, memory and
foresight. But the clew of reason is, as the phrase also goes, to stop
and think. Force, however, is required to stop the ongoing of a habit or
impulse. This is supplied by another habit. The resulting period of
delay, of suspended and postponed overt action, is the period in which
activities that are refused direct outlet project imaginative
counterparts. It signifies, in technical phrase, the mediation of
impulse. For an isolated impulse _is_ immediate, narrowing the world
down to the directly present. Variety of competing tendencies enlarges
the world. It brings a diversity of considerations before the mind, and
enables action to take place finally in view of an object generously
conceived and delicately refined, composed by a long process of
selections and combinations. In popular phrase, to be deliberate is to
be slow, unhurried. It takes time to put objects in order.

There are however vices of reflection as well as of impulse. We may not
look far enough ahead because we are hurried into action by stress of
impulse; but we may also become overinterested in the delights of
reflection; we become afraid of assuming the responsibilities of
decisive choice and action, and in general be sicklied over by a pale
cast of thought. We may become so curious about remote and abstract
matters that we give only a begrudged, impatient attention to the things
right about us. We may fancy we are glorifying the love of truth for its
own sake when we are only indulging a pet occupation and slighting
demands of the immediate situation. Men who devote themselves to
thinking are likely to be unusually unthinking in some respects, as for
example in immediate personal relationships. A man to whom exact
scholarship is an absorbing pursuit may be more than ordinarily vague in
ordinary matters. Humility and impartiality may be shown in a
specialized field, and pettiness and arrogance in dealing with other
persons. "Reason" is not an antecedent force which serves as a panacea.
It is a laborious achievement of habit needing to be continually worked
over. A balanced arrangement of propulsive activities manifested in
deliberation--namely, reason--depends upon a sensitive and proportionate
emotional sensitiveness. Only a one-sided, over-specialized emotion
leads to thinking of it as separate from emotion. The traditional
association of justice and reason has good psychology back of it. Both
imply a balanced distribution of thought and energy. Deliberation is
irrational in the degree in which an end is so fixed, a passion or
interest so absorbing, that the foresight of consequences is warped to
include only what furthers execution of its predetermined bias.
Deliberation is rational in the degree in which forethought flexibly
remakes old aims and habits, institutes perception and love of new ends
and acts.


We now return to a consideration of the utilitarian theory according to
which deliberation consists in calculation of courses of action on the
basis of the profit and loss to which they lead. The contrast of this
notion with fact is obvious. The office of deliberation is not to supply
an inducement to act by figuring out where the most advantage is to be
procured. It is to resolve entanglements in existing activity, restore
continuity, recover harmony, utilize loose impulse and redirect habit.
To this end observation of present conditions, recollection of previous
situations are devoted. Deliberation has its beginning in troubled
activity and its conclusion in choice of a course of action which
straightens it out. It no more resembles the casting-up of accounts of
profit and loss, pleasures and pains, than an actor engaged in drama
resembles a clerk recording debit and credit items in his ledger.

The primary fact is that man is a being who responds in action to the
stimuli of the environment. This fact is complicated in deliberation,
but it certainly is not abolished. We continue to react to an object
presented in imagination as we react to objects presented in
observation. The baby does not move to the mother's breast because of
calculation of the advantages of warmth and food over against the pains
of effort. Nor does the miser seek gold, nor the architect strive to
make plans, nor the physician to heal, because of reckonings of
comparative advantage and disadvantage. Habit, occupation, furnishes the
necessity of forward action in one case as instinct does in the other.
We do not act _from_ reasoning; but reasoning puts before us objects
which are not directly or sensibly present, so that we then may react
directly to these objects, with aversion, attraction, indifference or
attachment, precisely as we would to the same objects if they were
physically present. In the end it results in a case of direct stimulus
and response. In one case the stimulus is presented at once through
sense; in the other case, it is indirectly reached through memory and
constructive imagination. But the matter of directness and indirectness
concerns the way the stimulus is reached, not the way in which it

Joy and suffering, pain and pleasure, the agreeable and disagreeable,
play their considerable rôle in deliberation. Not, however, by way of a
calculated estimate of future delights and miseries, but by way of
experiencing present ones. The reaction of joy and sorrow, elation and
depression, is as natural a response to objects presented in imagination
as to those presented in sense. Complacency and annoyance follow hard at
the heels of any object presented in image as they do upon its sensuous
experience. Some objects when thought of are congruent to our existing
state of activity. They fit in, they are welcome. They agree, or are
agreeable, not as matter of calculation but as matter of experienced
fact. Other objects rasp; they cut across activity; they are tiresome,
hateful, unwelcome. They disagree with the existing trend of activity,
that is, they are disagreeable, and in no other way than as a bore who
prolongs his visit, a dun we can't pay, or a pestiferous mosquito who
goes on buzzing. We do not think of future losses and expansions. We
think, through imagination, of objects into which in the future some
course of action will run, and we are _now_ delighted or depressed,
pleased or pained at what is presented. This running commentary of likes
and dislikes, attractions and disdains, joys and sorrows, reveals to any
man who is intelligent enough to note them and to study their occasions
his own character. It instructs him as to the composition and direction
of the activities that make him what he is. To know what jars an
activity and what agrees with it is to know something important about
that activity and about ourselves.

Some one may ask what practical difference it makes whether we are
influenced by calculation of future joys and annoyances or by experience
of present ones. To such a question one can hardly reply except in the
words "All the difference in the world." In the first place, no
difference can be more important than that which concerns the nature of
the _subject-matter_ of deliberation. The calculative theory would have
it that this subject-matter is future feelings, sensations, and that
actions and thought are external means to get and avoid these
sensations. If such a theory has any practical influence, it is to
advise a person to concentrate upon his own most subjective and private
feelings. It gives him no choice except between a sickly introspection
and an intricate calculus of remote, inaccessible and indeterminate
results. In fact, deliberation, as a tentative trying-out of various
courses of action, is outlooking. It flies toward and settles upon
objective situations not upon feelings. No doubt we sometimes fall to
deliberating upon the effect of action upon our future feelings,
thinking of a situation mainly with reference to the comforts and
discomforts it will excite in us. But these moments are precisely our
sentimental moments of self-pity or self-glorification. They conduce to
morbidity, sophistication, isolation from others; while facing our acts
in terms of their objective consequences leads to enlightenment and to
consideration of others. The first objection therefore to deliberation
as a calculation of future feelings is that, if it is consistently
adhered to, it makes an abnormal case the standard one.

If however an objective estimate is attempted, thought gets speedily
lost in a task impossible of achievement. Future pleasures and pains are
influenced by two factors which are independent of present choice and
effort. They depend upon our own state at some future moment and upon
the surrounding circumstances of that moment. Both of these are
variables which change independently of present resolve and action. They
are much more important determinants of future sensations than is
anything which can now be calculated. Things sweet in anticipation are
bitter in actual taste, things we now turn from in aversion are welcome
at another moment in our career. Independently of deep changes in
character, such as from mercifulness to callousness, from fretfulness to
cheerfulness, there are unavoidable changes in the waxing and waning of
activity. A child pictures a future of unlimited toys and unrestricted
sweetmeats. An adult pictures an object as giving pleasure while he is
empty while the thing arrives in a moment of repletion. A sympathetic
person reckons upon the utilitarian basis the pains of others as a debit
item in his calculations. But why not harden himself so that others'
sufferings won't count? Why not foster an arrogant cruelty so that the
suffering of others which will follow from one's own action will fall on
the credit side of the reckoning, be pleasurable, all to the good?

Future pleasures and pains, even of one's own, are among the things most
elusive of calculation. Of all things they lend themselves least readily
to anything approaching a mathematical calculus. And the further into
the future we extend our view, and the more the pleasures of others
enter into the account, the more hopeless does the problem of estimating
future consequences become. All of the elements become more and more
indeterminate. Even if one could form a fairly accurate picture of the
things that give pleasure to most people at the present moment--an
exceedingly difficult task--he cannot foresee the detailed circumstances
which will give a decisive turn to enjoyment at future times and remote
places. Do pleasures due to defective education or unrefined
disposition, to say nothing of the pleasures of sensuality and
brutality, rank the same as those of cultivated persons having acute
social sensitiveness? The only reason the impossibility of the
hedonistic calculus is not self-evident is that theorists in considering
it unconsciously substitute for calculation of future pleasures an
appreciation of present ones, a present realization in imagination of
future objective situations.

For, in truth, a man's judgment of future joys and sorrows is but a
projection of what now satisfies and annoys him. A man of considerate
disposition now feels hurt at the thought of an act bringing harm to
others, and so he is on the lookout for consequences of that sort,
ranking them as of high importance. He may even be so abnormally
sensitive to such consequences that he is held back from needed vigorous
action. He fears to do the things which are for the real welfare of
others because he shrinks from the thought of the pain to be inflicted
upon them by needed measures. A man of an executive type, engrossed in
carrying through a scheme, will react in present emotion to everything
concerned with its external success; the pain its execution brings to
others will not occur to him, or if it does, his mind will easily glide
over it. This sort of consequence will seem to him of slight importance
in comparison with the commercial or political changes which bulk in his
plans. What a man foresees and fails to foresee, what he appraises
highly and at a low rate, what he deems important and trivial, what he
dwells upon and what he slurs over, what he easily recalls and what he
naturally forgets--all of these things depend upon his character. His
estimate of future consequences of the agreeable and annoying is
consequently of much greater value as an index of what he now is than as
a prediction of future results.

One has only to read between the lines to see the enormous difference
that marks off modern utilitarianism from epicureanism, in spite of
similarities in professed psychologies. Epicureanism is too worldly-wise
to indulge in attempts to base present action upon precarious estimates
of future and universal pleasures and pains. On the contrary it says let
the future go, for life is uncertain. Who knows when it will end, or
what fortune the morrow will bring? Foster, then, with jealous care
every gift of pleasure now allotted to you, dwell upon it with lingering
love, prolong it as best you may. Utilitarianism on the contrary was a
part of a philanthropic and reform movement of the nineteenth century.
Its commendation of an elaborate and impossible calculus was in reality
part of a movement to develop a type of character which should have a
wide social outlook, sympathy with the experiences of all sentient
creatures, one zealous about the social effects of all proposed acts,
especially those of collective legislation and administration. It was
concerned not with extracting the honey of the passing moment but with
breeding improved bees and constructing hives.

After all, the object of foresight of consequences is not to predict the
future. It is to ascertain the meaning of present activities and to
secure, so far as possible, a present activity with a unified meaning.
We are not the creators of heaven and earth; we have no responsibility
for their operations save as their motions are altered by our movements.
Our concern is with the significance of that slight fraction of total
activity which starts from ourselves. The best laid plans of men as well
of mice gang aglee; and for the same reason: inability to dominate the
future. The power of man and mouse is infinitely constricted in
comparison with the power of events. Men always build better or worse
than they know, for their acts are taken up into the broad sweep of

Hence the problem of deliberation is not to calculate future happenings
but to appraise present proposed actions. We judge present desires and
habits by their tendency to produce certain consequences. It is our
business to watch the course of our action so as to see what is the
significance, the import of our habits and dispositions. The future
outcome is not certain. But neither is it certain what the present fire
will do in the future. It may be unexpectedly fed or extinguished. But
its _tendency_ is a knowable matter, what it will do under certain
circumstances. And so we know what is the tendency of malice, charity,
conceit, patience. We know by observing their consequences, by
recollecting what we have observed, by using that recollection in
constructive imaginative forecasts of the future, by using the thought
of future consequence to tell the quality of the act now proposed.

Deliberation is not calculation of indeterminate future results. The
present, not the future, is ours. No shrewdness, no store of information
will make it ours. But by constant watchfulness concerning the tendency
of acts, by noting disparities between former judgments and actual
outcomes, and tracing that part of the disparity that was due to
deficiency and excess in disposition, we come to know the meaning of
present acts, and to guide them in the light of that meaning. The moral
is to develop conscientiousness, ability to judge the significance of
what we are doing and to use that judgment in directing what we do, not
by means of direct cultivation of something called conscience, or
reason, or a faculty of moral knowledge, but by fostering those impulses
and habits which experience has shown to make us sensitive, generous,
imaginative, impartial in perceiving the tendency of our inchoate
dawning activities. Every attempt to forecast the future is subject in
the end to the auditing of present concrete impulse and habit. Therefore
the important thing is the fostering of those habits and impulses which
lead to a broad, just, sympathetic survey of situations.

The occasion of deliberation, that is of the attempt to find a stimulus
to complete overt action in thought of some future object, is confusion
and uncertainty in present activities. A similar devision in activities
and need of a like deliberative activity for the sake of recovery of
unity is sure to recur, to recur again and again, no matter how wise the
decision. Even the most comprehensive deliberation leading to the most
momentous choice only fixes a disposition which has to be continuously
applied in new and unforeseen conditions, re-adapted by future
deliberations. Always our old habits and dispositions carry us into new
fields. We have to be always learning and relearning the meaning of our
active tendencies. Does not this reduce moral life to the futile toil of
a Sisyphus who is forever rolling a stone uphill only to have it roll
back so that he has to repeat his old task? Yes, judged from progress
made in a control of conditions which shall stay put and which excludes
the necessity of future deliberations and reconsiderations. No, because
continual search and experimentation to discover the meaning of changing
activity, keeps activity alive, growing in significance. The future
situation involved in deliberation is of necessity marked by
contingency. What it will be in fact remains dependent upon conditions
that escape our foresight and power of regulation. But foresight which
draws liberally upon the lessons of past experience reveals the
tendency, the meaning, of present action; and, once more, it is this
present meaning rather than the future outcome which counts. Imaginative
forethought of the probable consequences of a proposed act keeps that
act from sinking below consciousness into routine habit or whimsical
brutality. It preserves the meaning of that act alive, and keeps it
growing in depth and refinement of meaning. There is no limit to the
amount of meaning which reflective and meditative habit is capable of
importing into even simple acts, just as the most splendid successes of
the skilful executive who manipulates events may be accompanied by an
incredibly meager and superficial consciousness.


The reason for dividing conduct into two distinct regions, one of
expediency and the other of morality, disappears when the psychology
that identifies ordinary deliberation with calculation is disposed of.
There is seen to be but one issue involved in all reflection upon
conduct: The rectifying of present troubles, the harmonizing of present
incompatibilities by projecting a course of action which gathers into
itself the meaning of them all. The recognition of the true psychology
also reveals to us the nature of good or satisfaction. Good consists in
the meaning that is experienced to belong to an activity when conflict
and entanglement of various incompatible impulses and habits terminate
in a unified orderly release in action. This human good, being a
fulfilment conditioned upon thought, differs from the pleasures which an
animal nature--of course we also remain animals so far as we do not
think--hits upon accidentally. Moreover there is a genuine difference
between a false good, a spurious satisfaction, and a "true" good, and
there is an empirical test for discovering the difference. The
unification which ends thought in act may be only a superficial
compromise, not a real decision but a postponement of the issue. Many of
our so-called decisions are of this nature. Or it may present, as we
have seen, a victory of a temporarily intense impulse over its rivals, a
unity by oppression and suppression, not by coordination. These seeming
unifications which are not unifications of fact are revealed by the
event, by subsequent occurrences. It is one of the penalties of evil
choice, perhaps the chief penalty, that the wrong-doer becomes more and
more incapable of detecting these objective revelations of himself.

In quality, the good is never twice alike. It never copies itself. It is
new every morning, fresh every evening. It is unique in its every
presentation. For it marks the resolution of a distinctive complication
of competing habits and impulses which can never repeat itself. Only
with a habit rigid to the point of immobility could exactly the same
good recur twice. And with such rigid routines the same good does not
after all recur, for it does not even occur. There is no consciousness
at all, either of good or bad. Rigid habits sink below the level of any
meaning at all. And since we live in a moving world, they plunge us
finally against conditions to which they are not adapted and so
terminate in disaster.

To utilitarianism with all its defects belongs the distinction of
enforcing in an unforgettable way the fact that moral good, like every
good, consists in a satisfaction of the forces of human nature, in
welfare, happiness. To Bentham remains, in spite of all crudities and
eccentricities, the imperishable renown of forcing home to the popular
consciousness that "conscience," intelligence applied to in moral
matters, is too often not intelligence but is veiled caprice, dogmatic
_ipse dixitism_, vested class interest. It is truly conscience only as
it contributes to relief of misery and promotion of happiness. An
examination of utilitarianism brings out however the catastrophe
involved in thinking of the good to which intelligence is pertinent as
consisting in future pleasures and pains, and moral reflection as their
algebraic calculus. It emphasizes the contrast between such conceptions
of good and of intelligence, and the facts of human nature according to
which good, happiness, is found in the present meaning of activity,
depending upon the proportion, order and freedom introduced into it by
thought as it discovers objects which release and unify otherwise
contending elements.

An adequate discussion of why utilitarianism with its just insight into
the central place of good, and its ardent devotion to rendering morals
more intelligent and more equitably human took its onesided course (and
thereby provoked an intensified reaction to transcendental and dogmatic
morals) would take us far afield into social conditions and the
antecedent history of thought. We can deal with only one factor, the
domination of intellectual interest by economic considerations. The
industrial revolution was bound in any case to give a new direction to
thought. It enforced liberation from other-worldly concerns by fixing
attention upon the possibility of the betterment of this world through
control and utilization of natural forces; it opened up marvelous
possibilities in industry and commerce, and new social conditions
conducive to invention, ingenuity, enterprise, constructive energy and
an impersonal habit of mind dealing with mechanisms rather than
appearances. But new movements do not start in a new and clear field.
The context of old institutions and corresponding habits of thought
persisted. The new movement was perverted in theory because prior
established conditions deflected it in practice. Thus the new
industrialism was largely the old feudalism, living in a bank instead of
a castle and brandishing the check of credit instead of the sword.

An old theological doctrine of total depravity was continued and carried
over in the idea of an inherent laziness of human nature which rendered
it averse to useful work, unless bribed by expectations of pleasure, or
driven by fears of pains. This being the "incentive" to action, it
followed that the office of reason is only to enlighten the search for
good or gain by instituting a more exact calculus of profit and loss.
Happiness was thus identified with a maximum net gain of pleasures on
the basis of analogy with business conducted for pecuniary profit, and
directed by means of a science of accounting dealing with quantities of
receipts and expenses expressed in definite monetary units.[6] For
business was conducted as matter of fact with primary reference to
procuring gain and averting loss. Gain and loss were reckoned in terms
of units of money, assumed to be fixed and equal, exactly comparable
whether loss or gain occurred, while business foresight reduced future
prospects to definitely measured forms, to dollars and cents. A dollar
is a dollar, past, present or future; and every business transaction,
every expenditure and consumption of time, energy, goods, is, in theory,
capable of exact statement in terms of dollars. Generalize this point of
view into the notion that gain is the object of _all_ action; that gain
takes the form of pleasure; that there are definite, commensurable units
of pleasure, which are exactly offset by units of pain (loss), and the
working psychology of the Benthamite school is at hand.

    [6] I owe the suggestion of this mode of interpreting the
    hedonistic calculus of utilitarianism to Dr. Wesley Mitchell.
    See his articles in _Journal of Political Economy_, vol. 18.
    Compare also his article in _Political Science Quarterly_,
    vol. 33.

Now admitting that the device of money accounting makes possible more
exact estimates of the consequences of many acts than is otherwise
possible, and that accordingly the use of money and accounting may work
a triumph for the application of intelligence in daily affairs, yet
there exists a difference in kind between business calculation of profit
and loss and deliberation upon what purposes to form. Some of these
differences are inherent and insuperable. Others of them are due to the
nature of present business conducted for pecuniary profit, and would
disappear if business were conducted primarily for service of needs. But
it is important to see _how_ in the latter case the assimilation of
business accounting and normal deliberation would occur. For it would
not consist in making deliberation identical with calculation of loss
and gain; it would proceed in the opposite direction. It would make
accounting and auditing a subordinate factor in discovering the meaning
of present activity. Calculation would be a means of stating future
results more exactly and objectively and thus of making action more
humane. Its function would be that of statistics in all social science.

But first as to the inherent difference between deliberation regarding
business profit and loss and deliberation about ordinary conduct. The
distinction between wide and narrow use of reason has already been
noted. The latter holds a fixed end in view and deliberates only upon
means of reaching it. The former regards the end-in-view in deliberation
as tentative and permits, nay encourages the coming into view of
consequences which will transform it and create a new purpose and plan.
Now business calculation is obviously of the kind where the end is taken
for granted and does not enter into deliberation. It resembles the case
in which a man has already made his final decision, say to take a walk,
and deliberates only upon what walk to take. His end-in-view already
exists; it is not questioned. The question is as to comparative
advantages of this tramp or that. Deliberation is not free but occurs
within the limits of a decision reached by some prior deliberation or
else fixed by unthinking routine. Suppose, however, that a man's
question is not which path to walk upon, but whether to walk or to stay
with a friend whom continued confinement has rendered peevish and
uninteresting as a companion. The utilitarian theory demands that in the
latter case the two alternatives still be of the same kind, alike in
quality, that their only difference be a quantitative one, of plus or
minus in pleasure. This assumption that all desires and dispositions,
all habits and impulses, are the same in quality is equivalent to the
assertion that no real or significant conflict among them is possible;
and hence there is no need of discovering an object and an activity
which will bring them into unity. It asserts by implication that there
is no genuine doubt or suspense as to the meaning of any impulse or
habit. Their meaning is ready-made, fixed: pleasure. The only "problem"
or doubt is as to the _amount_ of pleasure (or pain) that is involved.

This assumption does violence to fact. The poignancy of situations that
evoke reflection lies in the fact that we really do not know the meaning
of the tendencies that are pressing for action. We have to search, to
experiment. Deliberation is a work of discovery. Conflict is acute; one
impulse carries us one way into one situation, and another impulse takes
us another way to a radically different objective result. Deliberation
is not an attempt to do away with this opposition of quality by reducing
it to one of amount. It is an attempt to _uncover_ the conflict in its
full scope and bearing. What we want to find out is what difference each
impulse and habit imports, to reveal qualitative incompatibilities by
detecting the different courses to which they commit us, the different
dispositions they form and foster, the different situations into which
they plunge us.

In short, the thing actually at stake in any serious deliberation is not
a difference of quantity, but what kind of person one is to become, what
sort of self is in the making, what kind of a world is making. This is
plain enough in those crucial decisions where the course of life is
thrown into widely different channels, where the pattern of life is
rendered different and diversely dyed according as this alternative or
that is chosen. Deliberation as to whether to be a merchant or a school
teacher, a physician or a politician is not a choice of quantities. It
is just what it appears to be, a choice of careers which are
incompatible with one another, within each of which definitive
inclusions and rejections are involved. With the difference in career
belongs a difference in the constitution of the self, of habits of
thought and feeling as well as of outward action. With it comes profound
differences in all future objective relationships. Our minor decisions
differ in acuteness and range, but not in principle. Our world does not
so obviously hang upon any one of them; but put together they make the
world what it is in meaning for each one of us. Crucial decisions can
hardly be more than a disclosure of the cumulative force of trivial

A radical distinction thus exists between deliberation where the only
question is whether to invest money in this bond or that stock, and
deliberation where the primary decision is as to the _kind_ of activity
which is to be engaged in. Definite quantitative calculation is possible
in the former case because a decision as to kind or direction of action
does not have to be made. It has been decided already, whether by
persistence of habit, or prior deliberation, that the man is to be an
investor. The significant thing in decisions proper, the course of
action, the kind of a self simply, doesn't enter in; it isn't in
question. To reduce all cases of judgment of action to this simplified
and comparatively unimportant case of calculation of quantities, is to
miss the whole point of deliberation.[7]

    [7] So far as I am aware Dr. H. W. Stuart was the first to
    point out this difference between economic and moral
    valuations in his essay in _Studies in Logical Theory_.

It is another way of saying the same thing to note that business
calculations about pecuniary gain never concern direct use in
experience. They are, as such, not deliberations about good or
satisfaction at all. The man who decides to put business activity before
all other claims whatsoever, before that of family or country or art or
science, does make a choice about satisfaction or good. But he makes it
as a man, not as a business man. On the other hand, what is to be _done_
with business profit when it accrues (except to invest it in similar
undertakings) does not enter at all into a strictly business
deliberation. Its use, in which alone good or satisfaction is found, is
left indeterminate, contingent upon further deliberation, or else is
left matter of routine habit. We do not eat money, or wear it, or marry
it, or listen for musical strains to issue from it. If by any chance a
man prefers a less amount of money to a greater amount, it is not for
economic reasons. Pecuniary profit in itself, in other words, is always
strictly instrumental, and it is of the nature of this instrument to be
effective in proportion to size. In choosing with respect to it, we are
not making a significant choice, a choice of ends.

We have already seen, however, there is something abnormal and in the
strict sense impossible in mere means, in, that is, instruments totally
dissevered from ends. We may view economic activity in abstraction, but
it does not _exist_ by itself. Business takes for granted non-business
uses to which its results are to be put. The stimuli for economic
activity (in the sense in which business means activity subject to
monetary reckoning) are found in non-pecuniary, non-economic activities.
Taken by itself then economic action throws no light upon the nature of
satisfaction and the relation of intelligence to it, because the whole
question of satisfaction is either taken for granted or else is ignored
by it. Only when money-making is itself taken as a good does it exhibit
anything pertinent to the question. And when it is so taken, then the
question is not one of future gain but of present activity and its
meaning. Business then becomes an activity carried on for its own sake.
It is then a career, a continuous occupation in which are developed
daring, adventure, power, rivalry, overcoming of competitors,
conspicuous achievement which attracts admiration, play of imagination,
technical knowledge, skill in foresight and making combinations,
management of men and goods and so on. In this case, it exemplifies what
has been said about good or happiness as incorporating in itself at
_present_ the foreseen future consequences that result from intelligent
action. The problem concerns the quality of such a good.

In short the attempt to assimilate other activities to the model of
economic activity (defined as a calculated pursuit of gain) reverses the
state of the facts. The "economic man" defined as a creature devoted to
an enlightened or calculating pursuit of gain is morally objectionable
because the conception of such a being empirically falsifies empirical
facts. Love of pecuniary gain is an undoubted and powerful fact. But it
and its importance are affairs of social not of psychological nature. It
is not a primary fact which can be used to account for other phenomena.
It depends upon other impulses and habits. It expresses and organizes
the use to which they are put. It cannot be used to define the nature of
desire, effort and satisfaction, because it embodies a socially selected
type of desire and satisfaction. It affords, like steeple-chasing, or
collecting postage stamps, seeking political office, astronomical
observation of the heavens, a special case of desire, effort, and
happiness. And like them it is subject to examination, criticism and
valuation in the light of the place it occupies in the system of
developing activities.

The reason that it is so easy and for specific purposes so useful to
select economic activities and subject them to separate scientific
treatment is because the men who engage in it are men who are also more
than business men, whose usual habits may be more or less safely guessed
at. As human beings they have desires and occupations which are affected
by social custom, expectation and admiration. The uses to which gains
will be put, that is the current scheme of activities into which they
enter as factors, are passed over only because they are so inevitably
present. Support of family, of church, philanthropic benefactions,
political influence, automobiling, command of luxuries, freedom of
movement, respect from others, are in general terms some of the obvious
activities into which economic activity fits. This context of activities
enters into the real make-up and meaning of economic activity.
Calculated pursuit of gain is in fact never what it is made out to be
when economic action is separated from the rest of life, for in fact it
is what it is because of a complex social environment involving
scientific, legal, political and domestic conditions.

A certain tragic fate seems to attend all intellectual movements. That
of utilitarianism is suggested in the not infrequent criticism that it
exaggerated the rôle of rational thought in human conduct, that it
assumed that everybody is moved by conscious considerations and that all
that is really necessary is to make the process of consideration
sufficiently enlightened. Then it is objected that a better psychology
reveals that men are not moved by thought but rather by instinct and
habit. Thus a partially sound criticism is employed to conceal the one
factor in utilitarianism from which we ought to learn something; is used
to foster an obscurantist doctrine of trusting to impulse, instinct or
intuition. Neither the utilitarians nor any one else can exaggerate the
proper office of reflection, of intelligence, in conduct. The mistake
lay not here but in a false conception of what constitutes reflection,
deliberation. The truth that men are not moved by consideration of
self-interest, that men are not good judges of where their interests lie
and are not moved to act by these judgments, cannot properly be
converted into the belief that consideration of consequences is a
negligible factor in conduct. So far as it is negligible in fact it
evinces the rudimentary character of civilization. We may indeed safely
start from the assumption that impulse and habit, not thought, are the
primary determinants of conduct. But the conclusion to be drawn from
these facts is that the need is therefore the greater for cultivation of
thought. The error of utilitarianism is not at this point. It is found
in its wrong conception of what thought, deliberation, is and does.


Our problem now concerns the nature of ends, that is ends-in-view or
aims. The essential elements in the problem have already been stated. It
has been pointed out that the ends, objectives, of conduct are those
foreseen consequences which influence present deliberation and which
finally bring it to rest by furnishing an adequate stimulus to overt
action. Consequently ends arise and function within action. They are
not, as current theories too often imply, things lying beyond activity
at which the latter is directed. They are not strictly speaking ends or
termini of action at all. They are terminals of deliberation, and so
turning points _in_ activity. Many opposed moral theories agree however
in placing ends beyond action, although they differ in their notions of
what the ends are. The utilitarian sets up pleasure as such an
outside-and-beyond, as something necessary to induce action and in which
it terminates. Many harsh critics of utilitarianism have however agreed
that there is some end in which action terminates, a final goal. They
have denied that pleasure is such an outside aim, and put perfection or
self-realization in its place. The entire popular notion of "ideals" is
infected with this conception of some fixed end beyond activity at which
we should aim. According to this view ends-in-themselves come before
aims. We have a moral aim only as our purpose coincides with some
end-in-itself. We _ought_ to aim at the latter whether we actually do or

When men believed that fixed ends existed for all normal changes in
nature, the conception of similar ends for men was but a special case of
a general belief. If the changes in a tree from acorn to full-grown oak
were regulated by an end which was somehow immanent or potential in all
the less perfect forms, and if change was simply the effort to realize a
perfect or complete form, then the acceptance of a like view for human
conduct was consonant with the rest of what passed for science. Such a
view, consistent and systematic, was foisted by Aristotle upon western
culture and endured for two thousand years. When the notion was expelled
from natural science by the intellectual revolution of the seventeenth
century, logically it should also have disappeared from the theory of
human action. But man is not logical and his intellectual history is a
record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in
his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical
basis. So the doctrine of fixed ends-in-themselves at which human acts
are--or should be--directed and by which they are regulated if they are
regulated at all persisted in morals, and was made the cornerstone of
orthodox moral theory. The immediate effect was to dislocate moral from
natural science, to divide man's world as it never had been divided in
prior culture. One point of view, one method and spirit animated inquiry
into natural occurrences; a radically opposite set of ideas prevailed
about man's affairs. Completion of the scientific change begun in the
seventeenth century thus depends upon a revision of the current notion
of ends of action as fixed limits and conclusions.

In fact, ends are ends-in-view or aims. They arise out of natural
effects or consequences which in the beginning are hit upon, stumbled
upon so far as any purpose is concerned. Men _like_ some of the
consequences and _dislike_ others. Henceforth (or till attraction and
repulsion alter) attaining or averting similar consequences are aims or
ends. These consequences constitute the meaning and value of an activity
as it comes under deliberation. Meantime of course imagination is busy.
Old consequences are enhanced, recombined, modified in imagination.
Invention operates. Actual consequences, that is effects which have
happened in the past, become possible future consequences of acts still
to be performed. This operation of imaginative thought complicates the
relation of ends to activity, but it does not alter the substantial
fact: Ends are foreseen consequences which arise in the course of
activity and which are employed to give activity added meaning and to
direct its further course. They are in no sense ends _of_ action. In
being ends of _deliberation_ they are redirecting pivots _in_ action.

Men shoot and throw. At first this is done as an "instinctive" or
natural reaction to some situation. The result when it is observed gives
a new meaning to the activity. Henceforth men in throwing and shooting
think of it in terms of its outcome; they act intelligently or have an
end. Liking the activity in its acquired meaning, they not only "take
aim" when they throw instead of throwing at random, but they find or
make targets at which to aim. This is the origin and nature of "goals"
of action. They are ways of defining and deepening the meaning of
activity. Having an end or aim is thus a characteristic of _present_
activity. It is the means by which an activity becomes adapted when
otherwise it would be blind and disorderly, or by which it gets meaning
when otherwise it would be mechanical. In a strict sense an end-in-view
is a _means_ in present action; present action is not a means to a
remote end. Men do not shoot because targets exist, but they set up
targets in order that throwing and shooting may be more effective and

A mariner does not sail towards the stars, but by noting the stars he is
aided in conducting his present activity of sailing. A port or harbor is
his objective, but only in the sense of _reaching_ it not of taking
possession of it. The harbor stands in his thought as a significant
point at which his activity will need re-direction. Activity will not
cease when the port is attained, but merely the _present direction_ of
activity. The port is as truly the beginning of another mode of activity
as it is the termination of the present one. The only reason we ignore
this fact is because it is empirically taken for granted. We know
without thinking that our "ends" are perforce beginnings. But theories
of ends and ideals have converted a theoretical ignoring which is
equivalent to practical acknowledgment into an intellectual denial, and
have thereby confused and perverted the nature of ends.

Even the most important among all the consequences of an act is not
necessarily its aim. Results which are objectively most important may
not even be thought of at all; ordinarily a man does not think in
connection with exercise of his profession that it will sustain him and
his family in existence. The end-thought-of is uniquely important, but
it is indispensable to state the respect in which it is important. It
gives the decisive clew to the act to be performed under the existing
circumstances. It is that particular foreseen object that will stimulate
the act which relieves existing troubles, straightens out existing
entanglements. In a temporary annoyance, even if only that caused by the
singing of a mosquito, the thought of that which gives relief may
engross the mind in spite of consequences much more important,
objectively speaking. Moralists have deplored such facts as evidence of
levity. But the remedy, if a remedy be needed, is not found in insisting
upon the importance of ends in general. It is found in a change of the
dispositions which make things either immediately troublesome or
tolerable or agreeable.

When ends are regarded as literally ends to action rather than as
directive stimuli to present choice they are frozen and isolated. It
makes no difference whether the "end" is "natural" good like health or a
"moral" good like honesty. Set up as complete and exclusive, as
demanding and justifying action as a means to itself, it leads to
narrowness; in extreme cases fanaticism, inconsiderateness, arrogance
and hypocrisy. Joshua's reputed success in getting the sun to stand
still to serve his desire is recognized to have involved a miracle. But
moral theorists constantly assume that the continuous course of events
can be arrested at the point of a particular object; that men can plunge
with their own desires into the unceasing flow of changes, and seize
upon some object as their end irrespective of everything else. The use
of intelligence to discover the object that will best operate as a
releasing and unifying stimulus in the existing situation is discounted.
One reminds one's self that one's end is justice or charity or
professional achievement or putting over a deal for a needed public
improvement, and further questionings and qualms are stilled.

It is customary to suppose that such methods merely ignore the question
of the morality of the means which are used to secure the end desired.
Common sense revolts against the maxim, conveniently laid off upon
Jesuits or other far-away people, that the end justifies the means.
There is no incorrectness in saying that the question of means employed
is overlooked in such cases. But analysis would go further if it were
also pointed out that overlooking means is only a device for failing to
note those ends, or consequences, which, if they were noted would be
seen to be so evil that action would be estopped. Certainly nothing can
justify or condemn means except ends, results. But we have to include
consequences impartially. Even admitting that lying will save a man's
soul, whatever that may mean, it would still be true that lying will
have other consequences, namely, the usual consequences that follow from
tampering with good faith and that lead lying to be condemned. It is
wilful folly to fasten upon some single end or consequence which is
liked, and permit the view of that to blot from perception all other
undesired and undesirable consequences. It is like supposing that
when a finger held close to the eye covers up a distant mountain the
finger is really larger than the mountain. Not _the_ end--in the
singular--justifies the means; for there is no such thing as the single
all-important end. To suppose that there is such an end is like working
over again, in behalf of our private wishes, the miracle of Joshua in
arresting the course of nature. It is not possible adequately to
characterize the presumption, the falsity and the deliberate perversion
of intelligence involved in refusal to note the plural effects that flow
from any act, a refusal adopted in order that we may justify an act by
picking out that one consequence which will enable us to do what we wish
to do and for which we feel the need of justification.

Yet this assumption is continually made. It is made by implication in
the current view of purposes or ends-in-view as objects in themselves,
instead of means to unification and liberation of present conflicting,
confused habits and impulses. There is something almost sinister in the
desire to label the doctrine that the end justifies the means with the
name of some one obnoxious school. Politicians, especially if they have
to do with the foreign affairs of a nation and are called statesmen,
almost uniformly act upon the doctrine that the welfare of their own
country justifies any measure irrespective of all the demoralization it
works. Captains of industry, great executives in all lines, usually work
upon this plan. But they are not the original offenders by any means.
Every man works upon it so far as he permits himself to become so
absorbed in one aspect of what he is doing that he loses a view of its
varied consequences, hypnotizing his attention by consideration of just
those consequences which in the abstract are desirable and slurring over
other consequences equally real. Every man works upon this principle who
becomes over-interested in any cause or project, and who uses its
desirability in the abstract to justify himself in employing any means
that will assist him in arriving, ignoring all the collateral "ends" of
his behavior. It is frequently pointed out that there is a type of
executive-man whose conduct seems to be as non-moral as the action of
the forces of nature. We all tend to relapse into this non-moral
condition whenever we want any one thing intensely. In general, the
identification of the end prominent in conscious desire and effort with
_the_ end is part of the technique of avoiding a reasonable survey of
consequences. The survey is avoided because of a subconscious
recognition that it would reveal desire in its true worth and thus
preclude action to satisfy it--or at all events give us an uneasy
conscience in striving to realize it. Thus the doctrine of the isolated,
complete or fixed end limits intelligent examination, encourages
insincerity, and puts a pseudo-stamp of moral justification upon success
at any price.

Moralistic persons are given to escaping this evil by falling into
another pit. They deny that consequences have anything at all to do with
the morality of acts. Not ends but motives they say justify or condemn
acts. The thing to do, accordingly, is to cultivate certain motives or
dispositions, benevolence, purity, love of perfection, loyalty. The
denial of consequences thus turns out formal, verbal. In reality a
consequence is set up at which to aim, only it is a subjective
consequence. "Meaning well" is selected as _the_ consequence or end to
be cultivated at all hazards, an end which is all-justifying and to
which everything else is offered up in sacrifice. The result is a
sentimental futile complacency rather than the brutal efficiency of the
executive. But the root of both evils is the same. One man selects some
external consequence, the other man a state of internal feeling, to
serve as the end. The doctrine of meaning well as _the_ end is if
anything the more contemptible of the two, for it shrinks from accepting
any responsibility for actual results. It is negative, self-protective
and sloppy. It lends itself to complete self-deception.

Why have men become so attached to fixed, external ends? Why is it not
universally recognized that an end is a device of intelligence in
guiding action, instrumental to freeing and harmonizing troubled and
divided tendencies? The answer is virtually contained in what was
earlier said about rigid habits and their effect upon intelligence.
Ends are, in fact, literally endless, forever coming into existence as
new activities occasion new consequences. "Endless ends" is a way of
saying that there are no ends--that is no fixed self-enclosed
finalities. While however we cannot actually prevent change from
occurring we can and do regard it as evil. We strive to retain action
in ditches already dug. We regard novelties as dangerous, experiments
as illicit and deviations as forbidden. Fixed and separate ends
reflect a projection of our own fixed and non-interacting
compartmental habits. We see only consequences which correspond to our
habitual courses. As we have said, men did not begin to shoot because
there were ready-made targets to aim at. They made things into targets
by shooting at them, and then made special targets to make shooting
more significantly interesting. But if generation after generation
were shown targets they had had no part in constructing, if bows and
arrows were thrust into their hands, and pressure were brought to bear
upon them to keep them shooting in season and out, some wearied soul
would soon propound to willing listeners the theory that shooting was
unnatural, that man was naturally wholly at rest, and that targets
existed in order that men might be forced to be active; that the duty
of shooting and the virtue of hitting are externally imposed and
fostered, and that otherwise there would be no such thing as a
shooting-activity--that is, morality.

The doctrine of fixed ends not only diverts attention from examination
of consequences and the intelligent creation of purpose, but, since
means and ends are two ways of regarding the same actuality, it also
renders men careless in their inspection of existing conditions. An aim
not framed on the basis of a survey of those present conditions which
are to be employed as means of its realization simply throws us back
upon past habits. We then do not do what we intended to do but what we
have got used to doing, or else we thrash about in a blind ineffectual
way. The result is failure. Discouragement follows, assuaged perhaps by
the thought that in any case the end is too ideal, too noble and remote,
to be capable of realization. We fall back on the consoling thought that
our moral ideals are too good for this world and that we must accustom
ourselves to a gap between aim and execution. Actual life is then
thought of as a compromise with the best, an enforced second or third
best, a dreary exile from our true home in the ideal, or a temporary
period of troubled probation to be followed by a period of unending
attainment and peace. At the same time, as has been repeatedly pointed
out, persons of a more practical turn of mind accept the world "as it
is," that is as past customs have made it to be, and consider what
advantages for themselves may be extracted from it. They form aims on
the basis of existing habits of life which may be turned to their own
private account. They employ intelligence in framing ends and selecting
and arranging means. But intelligence is confined to manipulation; it
does not extend to construction. It is the intelligence of the
politician, administrator and professional executive--the kind of
intelligence which has given a bad meaning to a word that ought to have
a fine meaning, opportunism. For the highest task of intelligence is to
grasp and realize genuine opportunity, possibility.

Roughly speaking, the course of forming aims is as follows. The
beginning is with a wish, an emotional reaction against the present
state of things and a hope for something different. Action fails to
connect satisfactorily with surrounding conditions. Thrown back upon
itself, it projects itself in an imagination of a scene which if it were
present would afford satisfaction. This picture is often called an aim,
more often an ideal. But in itself it is a fancy which may be only a
fantasy, a dream, a castle in the air. In itself it is a romantic
embellishment of the present; at its best it is material for poetry or
the novel. Its natural home is not in the future but in the dim past or
in some distant and supposedly better part of the present world. Every
such idealized object is suggested by something actually experienced, as
the flight of birds suggests the liberation of human beings from the
restrictions of slow locomotion on dull earth. It becomes an aim or end
only when it is worked out in terms of concrete conditions available for
its realization, that is in terms of "means."

This transformation depends upon study of the conditions which generate
or make possible the fact observed to exist already. The fancy of the
delight of moving at will through the air became an actuality only after
men carefully studied the way in which a bird although heavier than air
actually sustains itself in air. A fancy becomes an aim, in short, when
some past sequence of known cause-and-effect is projected into the
future, and when by assembling its causal conditions we strive to
generate a like result. We have to fall back upon what has already
happened naturally without design, and study it to see _how_ it
happened, which is what is meant by causation. This knowledge joined to
wish creates a purpose. Many men have doubtless dreamed of ability to
have light in darkness without the trouble of oil, lamps and friction.
Glow-worms, lightning, the sparks of cut electric conductors suggest
such a possibility. But the picture remained a dream until an Edison
studied all that could be found out about such casual phenomena of
light, and then set to work to search out and gather together the means
for reproducing their operation. The great trouble with what passes for
moral ends and ideals is that they do not get beyond the stage of fancy
of something agreeable and desirable based upon an emotional wish; very
often, at that, not even an original wish, but the wish of some leader
which has been conventionalized and transmitted through channels of
authority. Every gain in natural science makes possible new aims. That
is, the discovery of how things _do_ occur makes it possible to conceive
of their happening at will, and gives us a start on selecting and
combining the conditions, the means, to command their happening. In
technical matters, this lesson has been fairly well learned. But in
moral matters, men still largely neglect the need of studying the way in
which results similar to those which we desire actually happen.
Mechanism is despised as of importance only in low material things. The
consequent divorce of moral ends from scientific study of natural events
renders the former impotent wishes, compensatory dreams in
consciousness. In _fact_ ends or consequences are still determined by
fixed habit and the force of circumstance. The evils of idle dreaming
and of routine are experienced in conjunction. "Idealism" must indeed
come first--the imagination of some better state generated by desire.
But unless ideals are to be dreams and idealism a synonym for
romanticism and fantasy-building, there must be a most realistic study
of actual conditions and of the mode or law of natural events, in order
to give the imagined or ideal object definite form and solid
substance--to give it, in short, practicality and constitute it a
working end.

The acceptance of fixed ends in themselves is an aspect of man's
devotion to an ideal of certainty. This affection was inevitably
cherished as long as men believed that the highest things in physical
nature are at rest, and that science is possible only by grasping
immutable forms and species: in other words, for much the greater part
of the intellectual history of mankind. Only reckless sceptics would
have dared entertain any idea of ends except as fixed in themselves as
long as the whole structure of science was erected upon the immobile.
Behind however the conception of fixity whether in science or morals lay
adherence to certainty of "truth," a clinging to something fixed, born
of fear of the new and of attachment to possessions. When the classicist
condemns concession to impulse and holds up to admiration the patterns
tested in tradition, he little suspects how much he is himself affected
by unavowed impulses--timidity which makes him cling to authority,
conceit which moves him to be himself the authority who speaks in the
name of authority, possessive impulse which fears to risk acquisition in
new adventures. Love of certainty is a demand for guarantees in advance
of action. Ignoring the fact that truth can be bought only by the
adventure of experiment, dogmatism turns truth into an insurance
company. Fixed ends upon one side and fixed "principles"--that is
authoritative rules--on the other, are props for a feeling of safety,
the refuge of the timid and the means by which the bold prey upon the


Intelligence is concerned with foreseeing the future so that action may
have order and direction. It is also concerned with principles and
criteria of judgment. The diffused or wide applicability of habits is
reflected in the _general_ character of principles: a principle is
intellectually what a habit is for direct action. As habits set in
grooves dominate activity and swerve it from conditions instead of
increasing its adaptability, so principles treated as fixed rules
instead of as helpful methods take men away from experience. The more
complicated the situation, and the less we really know about it, the
more insistent is the orthodox type of moral theory upon the prior
existence of some fixed and universal principle or law which is to be
directly applied and followed. Ready-made rules available at a moment's
notice for settling any kind of moral difficulty and resolving every
species of moral doubt have been the chief object of the ambition of
moralists. In the much less complicated and less changing matters of
bodily health such pretensions are known as quackery. But in morals a
hankering for certainty, born of timidity and nourished by love of
authoritative prestige, has led to the idea that absence of immutably
fixed and universally applicable ready-made principles is equivalent to
moral chaos.

In fact, situations into which change and the unexpected enter are a
challenge to intelligence to create new principles. Morals must be a
growing science if it is to be a science at all, not merely because all
truth has not yet been appropriated by the mind of man, but because life
is a moving affair in which old moral truth ceases to apply. Principles
are methods of inquiry and forecast which require verification by the
event; and the time honored effort to assimilate morals to mathematics
is only a way of bolstering up an old dogmatic authority, or putting a
new one upon the throne of the old. But the experimental character of
moral judgments does not mean complete uncertainty and fluidity.
Principles exist as hypotheses with which to experiment. Human history
is long. There is a long record of past experimentation in conduct, and
there are cumulative verifications which give many principles a well
earned prestige. Lightly to disregard them is the height of foolishness.
But social situations alter; and it is also foolish not to observe how
old principles actually work under new conditions, and not to modify
them so that they will be more effectual instruments in judging new
cases. Many men are now aware of the harm done in legal matters by
assuming the antecedent existence of fixed principles under which every
new case may be brought. They recognize that this assumption merely puts
an artificial premium on ideas developed under bygone conditions, and
that their perpetuation in the present works inequity. Yet the choice is
not between throwing away rules previously developed and sticking
obstinately by them. The intelligent alternative is to revise, adapt,
expand and alter them. The problem is one of continuous, vital

The popular objection to casuistry is similar to the popular objection
to the maxim that the end justifies the means. It is creditable to
practical moral sense, but not to popular logical consistency. For
recourse to casuistry is the only conclusion which can be drawn from
belief in fixed universal principles, just as the Jesuit maxim is the
only conclusion proper to be drawn from belief in fixed ends. Every act,
every deed is individual. What is the sense in having fixed general
rules, commandments, laws, unless they are such as to confer upon
individual cases of action (where alone instruction is finally needed)
something of their own infallible certainty? Casuistry, so-called, is
simply the systematic effort to secure for particular instances of
conduct the advantage of general rules which are asserted and believed
in. By those who accept the notion of immutable regulating principles,
casuistry ought to be lauded for sincerity and helpfulness, not
dispraised as it usually is. Or else men ought to carry back their
aversion to manipulation of particular cases, until they will fit into
the procrustean beds of fixed rules, to the point where it is clear that
all principles are empirical generalizations from the ways in which
previous judgments of conduct have practically worked out. When this
fact is apparent, these generalizations will be seen to be not fixed
rules for deciding doubtful cases, but instrumentalities for their
investigation, methods by which the net value of past experience is
rendered available for present scrutiny of new perplexities. Then it
will also follow that they are hypotheses to be tested and revised by
their further working.[8]

    [8] Among contemporary moralists, Mr. G. E. Moore may be
    cited as almost alone in having the courage of the
    convictions shared by many. He insists that it is the true
    business of moral theory to enable men to arrive at precise
    and sure judgments in concrete cases of moral perplexity.

Every such statement meets with prompt objection. We are told that in
deliberation rival goods present themselves. We are faced by competing
desires and ends which are incompatible with one another. They are all
attractive, seductive. How then shall we choose among them? We can
choose rationally among values, the argument continues, only if we have
some fixed measure of values, just as we decide the respective lengths
of physical things by recourse to the fixed foot-rule. One might reply
that after all there is no fixed foot-rule, no fixed foot "in itself"
and that the standard length or weight of measure is only another
special portion of matter, subject to change from heat, moisture and
gravitational position, defined only by conditions, relations. One might
reply that the foot-rule is a tool which has been worked out in actual
prior comparisons of concrete things for use in facilitating further
comparisons. But we content ourselves with remarking that we find in
this conception of a fixed antecedent standard another manifestation of
the desire to escape the strain of the actual moral situation, its
genuine uncertainty of possibilities and consequences. We are confronted
with another case of the all too human love of certainty, a case of the
wish for an intellectual patent issued by authority. The issue after all
is one of fact. The critic is not entitled to enforce against the facts
his private wish for a ready-made standard which will relieve him from
the burden of examination, observation and continuing generalization and

The worth of this private wish is moreover open to question in the light
of the history of the development of natural science. There was a time
when in astronomy, chemistry and biology men claimed that judgment of
individual phenomena was possible only because the mind was already in
possession of fixed truths, universal principles, pre-ordained axioms.
Only by their means could contingent, varying particular events be truly
known. There was, it was argued, no way to judge the truth of any
particular statement about a particular plant, heavenly body, or case of
combustion unless there was a general truth already in hand with which
to compare a particular empirical occurrence. The contention was
successful, that is for a long time it maintained its hold upon men's
minds. But its effect was merely to encourage intellectual laziness,
reliance upon authority and blind acceptance of conceptions that had
somehow become traditional. The actual advance of science did not begin
till men broke away from this method. When men insisted upon judging
astronomical phenomena by bringing them directly under established
truths, those of geometry, they had no astronomy, but only a private
esthetic construction. Astronomy began when men trusted themselves to
embarking upon the uncertain sea of events and were willing to be
instructed by changes in the concrete. Then antecedent principles were
tentatively employed as methods for conducting observations and
experiments, and for organizing special facts: as hypotheses.

In morals now, as in physical science then, the work of intelligence in
reaching such relative certainty, or tested probability, as is open to
man is retarded by the false notion of fixed antecedent truths.
Prejudice is confirmed. Rules formed accidentally or under the pressure
of conditions long past, are protected from criticism and thus
perpetuated. Every group and person vested with authority strengthens
possessed power by harping upon the sacredness of immutable principle.
Moral facts, that is the concrete careers of special courses of action,
are not studied. There is no counterpart to clinical medicine. Rigid
classifications forced upon facts are relied upon. And all is done, as
it used to be done in natural science, in praise of Reason and in fear
of the variety and fluctuation of actual happenings.

The hypothesis that each moral situation is unique and that consequently
general moral principles are instrumental to developing the
individualized meaning of situations is declared to be anarchic. It is
said to be ethical atomism, pulverizing the order and dignity of morals.
The question, again is not what our inherited habits lead us to prefer,
but where the facts take us. But in this instance the facts do not take
us into atomism and anarchy. These things are specters seen by the
critic when he is suddenly confused by the loss of customary spectacles.
He takes his own confusion due to loss of artificial aids for an
objective situation. _Because_ situations in which deliberation is
evoked are new, and therefore unique, general principles are needed.
Only an uncritical vagueness will assume that the sole alternative to
fixed generality is absence of continuity. Rigid habits insist upon
duplication, repetition, recurrence; in their case there is accordingly
fixed principles. Only there is no _principle_ at all, that is, no
conscious intellectual rule, for thought is not needed. But all habit
has _continuity_, and while a flexible habit does not secure in its
operation bare recurrence nor absolute assurance neither does it plunge
us into the hopeless confusion of the absolutely different. To insist
upon change and the new is to insist upon alteration _of_ the old. In
denying that the meaning of any genuine case of deliberation can be
exhausted by treating it as a mere case of an established classification
the value of classification is not denied. It is shown where its value
lies, namely, in directing attention to resemblances and differences in
the new case, in economizing effort in foresight. To call a
generalization a tool is not to say it is useless; the contrary is
patently the case. A tool is something to use. Hence it is also
something to be improved by noting how it works. The need of such noting
and improving is indispensable if, as is the case with moral principles,
the tool has to be used in unwonted circumstances. Continuity of growth
not atomism is thus the alternative to fixity of principles and aims.
This is no Bergsonian plea for dividing the universe into two portions,
one all of fixed, recurrent habits, and the other all spontaneity of
flux. Only in such a universe would reason in morals have to take its
choice between absolute fixity and absolute looseness.

Nothing is more instructive about the genuine value of generalization in
conduct than the errors of Kant. He took the doctrine that the essence
of reason is complete universality (and hence necessity and
immutability), with the seriousness becoming the professor of logic.
Applying the doctrine to morality he saw that this conception severed
morals from connection with experience. Other moralists had gone that
far before his day. But none of them had done what Kant proceeded to do:
carry this separation of moral principles and ideals from experience to
its logical conclusion. He saw that to exclude from principles all
connection with empirical details meant to exclude all reference of any
kind to consequences. He then saw with a clearness which does his logic
credit that with such exclusion, reason becomes entirely empty: nothing
is left except the universality of the universal. He was then confronted
by the seemingly insoluble problem of getting moral instruction
regarding special cases out of a principle that having forsworn
intercourse with experience was barren and empty. His ingenious method
was as follows. Formal universality means at least logical identity; it
means self-consistency or absence of contradiction. Hence follows the
method by which a would-be truly moral agent will proceed in judging the
rightness of any proposed act. He will ask: Can its motive be made
universal for all cases? How would one like it if by one's act one's
motive in that act were to be erected into a universal law of actual
nature? Would one then be willing to make the same choice?

Surely a man would hesitate to steal if by his choice to make stealing
the motive of his act he were also to erect it into such a fixed law of
nature that henceforth he and everybody else would always steal whenever
property was in question. No stealing without property, and with
universal stealing also no property; a clear self-contradiction. Looked
at in the light of reason every mean, insincere, inconsiderate motive of
action shrivels into a private exception which a person wants to take
advantage of in his own favor, and which he would be horrified to have
others act upon. It violates the great principle of logic that A is A.
Kindly, decent acts, on the contrary, extend and multiply themselves in
a continuing harmony.

This treatment by Kant evinces deep insight into the office of
intelligence and principle in conduct. But it involves flat
contradiction of Kant's own original intention to exclude consideration
of concrete consequences. It turns out to be a method of recommending a
broad impartial view of consequences. Our forecast of consequences is
always subject, as we have noted, to the bias of impulse and habit. We
see what we want to see, we obscure what is unfavorable to a cherished,
probably unavowed, wish. We dwell upon favoring circumstances till they
become weighted with reinforcing considerations. We don't give opposing
consequences half a chance to develop in thought. Deliberation needs
every possible help it can get against the twisting, exaggerating and
slighting tendency of passion and habit. To form the habit of asking
how we should be willing to be treated in a similar case--which is what
Kant's maxim amounts to--is to gain an ally for impartial and sincere
deliberation and judgment. It is a safeguard against our tendency to
regard our own case as exceptional in comparison with the case of
others. "Just this once," a plea for isolation; secrecy--a plea for
non-inspection, are forces which operate in every passionate desire.
Demand for consistency, for "universality," far from implying a
rejection of all consequences, is a demand to survey consequences
broadly, to link effect to effect in a chain of continuity. Whatever
force works to this end _is_ reason. For reason, let it be repeated is
an outcome, a function, not a primitive force. What we need are those
habits, dispositions which lead to impartial and consistent foresight
of consequences. Then our judgments are reasonable; we are then
reasonable creatures.


Certain critics in sympathy with at least the negative contention, the
critical side, of such a theory as has been advanced, regard it as
placing too much emphasis upon intelligence. They find it
intellectualistic, cold-blooded. They say we must change desire, love,
aspiration, admiration, and then action will be transformed. A new
affection, a changed appreciation, brings with it a revaluation of life
and insists upon its realization. A refinement of intellect at most only
figures out better ways of reaching old and accustomed ends. In fact we
are lucky if intellect does not freeze the ardor of generous desire and
paralyze creative endeavor. Intellect is critical, unproductive while
desire is generative. In its dispassionateness intellect is aloof from
humanity and its needs. It fosters detachment where sympathy is needed.
It cultivates contemplation when salvation lies in liberating desire.
Intellect is analytic, taking things to pieces; its devices are the
scalpel and test-tube. Affection is synthetic, unifying. This argument
affords an opportunity for making more explicit those respective offices
of wish and thought in forming ends which have already been touched

First we must undertake an independent analysis of desire. It is
customary to describe desires in terms of their objects, meaning by
objects the things which figure as in imagination their goals. As the
object is noble or base, so, it is thought, is desire. In any case,
emotions rise and cluster about the object. This stands out so
conspicuously in immediate experience that it monopolizes the central
position in the traditional psychological theory of desire. Barring
gross self-deception or the frustration of external circumstance, the
outcome, or end-result, of desire is regarded by this theory as similar
to the end-in-view or object consciously desired. Such, however, is not
the case, as readily appears from the analysis of deliberation. In
saying that the actual outcome of desire is different in kind from the
object upon which desire consciously fastens, I do not mean to repeat
the old complaint about the fallibility and feebleness of mortals in
virtue of which man's hopes are frustrated and twisted in realization.
The difference is one of diverse dimensions, not of degree or amount.

The object desired and the attainment of desire are no more alike than a
signboard on the road is like the garage to which it points and which it
recommends to the traveler. Desire is the forward urge of living
creatures. When the push and drive of life meets no obstacle, there is
nothing which we call desire. There is just life-activity. But
obstructions present themselves, and activity is dispersed and divided.
Desire is the outcome. It is activity surging forward to break through
what dams it up. The "object" which then presents itself in thought as
the goal of desire is the object of the environment _which, if it were
present_, would secure a re-unification of activity and the restoration
of its ongoing unity. The end-in-view of desire is that object which
were it present would link into an organized whole activities which are
now partial and competing. It is no more like the actual end of desire,
or the resulting state attained, than the coupling of cars which have
been separated is like an ongoing single train. Yet the train cannot go
on without the coupling.

Such statements may seem contrary to common sense. The pertinency of the
illustration used will be denied. No man desires the signboard which he
sees, he desires the garage, the objective, the ulterior thing. But does
he? Or is the garage simply a means by which a divided body of
activities is redintegrated or coordinated? Is it desired in any sense
for itself, or only because it is the means of effective adjustment of a
whole set of underlying habits? While common sense responds to the
ordinary statement of the end of desire, it also responds to a statement
that no one desires the object for its own sake, but only for what can
be got out of it. Here is just the point at which the theory that
pleasure is the real objective of desire makes its appeal. It points out
that not the physical object nor even its possession is really wanted;
that they are only means to something personal and experiential. And
hence it is argued that they are means to pleasure. The present
hypothesis offers an alternative: it says that they are means of removal
of obstructions to an ongoing, unified system of activities. It is easy
to see why an objective looms so large and why emotional surge and
stress gather about it and lift it high above the floor of
consciousness. The objective is (or is taken to be) the key to the
situation. If we can attain it, lay hold of it, the trick is turned. It
is like the piece of paper which carries the reprieve a condemned man
waits for. Issues of life hang upon it. The desired object is in no
sense the end or goal of desire, but it is the _sine qua non_ of that
end. A practical man will fix his attention upon it, and not dream about
eventualities which are only dreams if the objective is not attained,
but which will follow in their own natural course if it is reached. For
then it becomes a factor in the system of activities. Hence the truth in
the various so-called paradoxes of desire. If pleasure or perfection
were the true end of desire, it would still be true that the way to
attainment is not to think of them. For object thought of and object
achieved exist in different dimensions.

In addition to the popular notions that either the object in view or
else pleasure is the end of desire, there is a less popular theory that
quiescence is the actual outcome or true terminal of desire. The theory
finds its most complete practical statement in Buddhism. It is nearer
the psychological truth than either of the other notions. But it views
the attained outcome simply in its negative aspect. The end reached
quiets the clash and removes the discomfort attendant upon divided and
obstructed activity. The uneasiness, unrest, characteristic of desire is
put to sleep. For this reason, some persons resort to intoxicants and
anodynes. If quiescence were the end and it could be perpetuated, this
way of removing disagreeable uneasiness would be as satisfactory a way
out as the way of objective effort. But in fact desire satisfied does
not bring quiescence unqualifiedly, but that _kind_ of quiescence which
marks the recovery of unified activity: the absence of internal strife
among habits and instincts. Equilibration of activities rather than
quiescence is the actual result of satisfied desire. This names the
outcome positively, rather than comparatively and negatively.

This disparity of dimensions in desire between the object thought of and
the outcome reached is the explanation of those self-deceptions which
psycho-analysis has brought home to us so forcibly, but of which it
gives elaborately cumbrous accounts. The object thought of and the
outcome _never_ agree. There is no self-deceit in this fact. What, then,
really happens when the actual outcome of satisfied revenge figures in
thought as virtuous eagerness for justice? Or when the tickled vanity of
social admiration is masked as pure love of learning? The trouble lies
in the refusal of a person to note the quality of the outcome, not in
the unavoidable disparity of desire's object and the outcome. The honest
or integral mind attends to the result, and sees what it really is. For
no terminal condition is exclusively terminal. Since it exists in time
it has consequences as well as antecedents. In being a consummation it
is also a force having causal potentialities. It is initial as well as

Self-deception originates in looking at an outcome in one direction
only--as a satisfaction of what has gone before, ignoring the fact that
what is attained is a state of habits which will continue in action and
which will determine future results. Outcomes of desire are also
beginnings of new acts and hence are portentous. Satisfied revenge may
_feel_ like justice vindicated; the prestige of learning may _feel_ like
an enlargement and rectification of an objective outlook. But since
different instincts and habits have entered into them, they are
actually, that is dynamically, unlike. The function of moral judgment is
to detect this unlikeness. Here, again, the belief that we can know
ourselves immediately is as disastrous to moral science as the
corresponding idea regarding knowledge of nature was to physical
science. Obnoxious "subjectivity" of moral judgment is due to the fact
that the immediate or esthetic quality swells and swells and displaces
the thought of the active potency which gives activity its moral

We are all natural Jack Horners. If the plum comes when we put in and
pull out our thumb we attribute the satisfactory result to personal
virtue. The plum is obtained, and it is not easy to distinguish
obtaining from attaining, acquisition from achieving. Jack Horner, Esq.,
put forth _some_ effort; and results and efforts are always more or less
incommensurate. For the result is always dependent to some extent upon
the favor or disfavor of circumstance. Why then should not the
satisfactory plum shed its halo retrospectively upon what precedes and
be taken as a sign of virtue? In this way heroes and leaders are
constructed. Such is the worship of success. And the evil of
success-worship is precisely the evil with which we have been dealing.
"Success" is never merely final or terminal. Something else succeeds it,
and its successors are influenced by its nature, that is by the
persisting habits and impulses that enter into it. The world does not
stop when the successful person pulls out his plum; nor does he stop,
and the kind of success he obtains, and his attitude toward it, is a
factor in what comes afterwards. By a strange turn of the wheel, the
success of the ultra-practical man is psychologically like the refined
enjoyment of the ultra-esthetic person. Both ignore the eventualities
with which every state of experience is charged. There is no reason for
not enjoying the present, but there is every reason for examination of
the objective factors of _what_ is enjoyed before we translate enjoyment
into a belief in excellence. There is every reason in other words for
cultivating another enjoyment, that of the habit of examining the
productive potentialities of the objects enjoyed.

Analysis of desire thus reveals the falsity of theories which magnify it
at the expense of intelligence. Impulse is primary and intelligence is
secondary and in some sense derivative. There should be no blinking of
this fact. But recognition of it as a fact exalts intelligence. For
thought is not the slave of impulse to do its bidding. Impulse does not
know what it is after; it cannot give orders, not even if it wants to.
It rushes blindly into any opening it chances to find. Anything that
expends it, satisfies it. One outlet is like another to it. It is
indiscriminate. Its vagaries and excesses are the stock theme of
classical moralists; and while they point the wrong moral in urging the
abdication of impulse in favor of reason, their characterization of
impulse is not wholly wrong. What intelligence has to do in the service
of impulse is to act not as its obedient servant but as its clarifier
and liberator. And this can be accomplished only by a study of the
conditions and causes, the workings and consequences of the greatest
possible variety of desires and combinations of desire. Intelligence
converts desire into plans, systematic plans based on assembling facts,
reporting events as they happen, keeping tab on them and analyzing them.

Nothing is so easy to fool as impulse and no one is deceived so readily
as a person under strong emotion. Hence the idealism of man is easily
brought to naught. Generous impulses are aroused; there is a vague
anticipation, a burning hope, of a marvelous future. Old things are to
pass speedily away and a new heavens and earth are to come into
existence. But impulse burns itself up. Emotion cannot be kept at its
full tide. Obstacles are encountered upon which action dashes itself
into ineffectual spray. Or if it achieves, by luck, a transitory
success, it is intoxicated, and plumes itself on victory while it is on
the road to sudden defeat. Meantime, other men, not carried away by
impulse, use established habits and a shrewd cold intellect that
manipulates them. The outcome is the victory of baser desire directed by
insight and cunning over generous desire which does not know its way.

The realistic man of the world has evolved a regular technique for
dealing with idealistic outbursts that threaten his supremacy. His aims
are low, but he knows the means by which they are to be executed. His
knowledge of conditions is narrow but it is effective within its
confines. His foresight is limited to results that concern personal
success, but is sharp, clearcut. He has no great difficulty in drafting
the idealistic desire of others with its vague enthusiasms and its
cloudy perceptions into canals where it will serve his own purposes. The
energies excited by emotional idealism run into the materialistic
reservoirs provided by the contriving thought of those who have not
surrendered their minds to their sentiment.

The glorification of affection and aspiration at the expense of thought
is a survival of romantic optimism. It assumes a pre-established harmony
between natural impulse and natural objects. Only such a harmony
justifies the belief that generous feeling will find its way illuminated
by the sheer nobility of its own quality. Persons of a literary turn of
mind are as subject to this fallacy as intellectual specialists are apt
to the contrary fallacy that theorizing apart from force of impulse and
habit will get affairs forward. They tend to fancy that things are as
pliant to imagination as are words, that an emotion can compose affairs
as if they were materials for a lyric poem. But if the objects of the
environment were only as plastic as the materials of poetic art, men
would never have been obliged to have recourse to creation in the medium
of words. We idealize in fancy because our idealizations in fact are
balked. And while the latter must start with imaginative idealizations
instigated by release of generous impulse, they can be carried through
only when the hard labor of observation, memory and foresight weds the
vision of imagination to the organized efficiencies of habit.

Sometimes desire means not bare impulse but impulse which has sense of
an objective. In this case desire and thought cannot be opposed, for
desire includes thought within itself. The question is now how far the
work of thought has been done, how adequate is its perception of its
directing object. For the moving force may be a shadowy presentiment
constructed by wishful hope rather than by study of conditions; it may
be an emotional indulgence rather than a solid plan built upon the rocks
of actuality discovered by accurate inquiries. There is no thought
without the impeding of impulse. But the obstruction may merely
intensify its blind surge forward; or it may divert the force of forward
impulse into observation of existing conditions and forecast of their
future consequences. This long way around is the short way home for

No issue of morals is more far-reaching than the one herewith sketched.
Historically speaking, there is point in the attacks of those who speak
slightingly of science and intellect, and who would limit their moral
significance to supplying incidental help to execution of purposes born
of affection. Thought too often is specialized in a remote and separate
pursuit, or employed in a hard way to contrive the instrumentalities of
"success." Intellect is too often made a tool for a systematized apology
for things as "they are," that is for customs that benefit the class in
power, or else a road to an interesting occupation which accumulates
facts and ideas as other men gather dollars, while priding itself on its
ideal quality. No wonder that at times catastrophes that affect men in
common are welcomed. For the moment they turn science away from its
abstract technicalities into a servant of some human aspiration; the
hard, chilly calculations of intellect are swept away by floods of
sympathy and common loyalties.

But, alas, emotion without thought is unstable. It rises like the tide
and subsides like the tide irrespective of what it has accomplished. It
is easily diverted into any side channel dug by old habits or provided
by cool cunning, or it disperses itself aimlessly. Then comes the
reaction of disillusionment, and men turn all the more fiercely to the
pursuit of narrow ends where they are habituated to use observation and
planning and where they have acquired some control of conditions. The
separation of warm emotion and cool intelligence is the great moral
tragedy. This division is perpetuated by those who deprecate science and
foresight in behalf of affection as it is by those who in the name of an
idol labeled reason would quench passion. The intellect is always
inspired by some impulse. Even the most case-hardened scientific
specialist, the most abstract philosopher, is moved by some passion. But
an actuating impulse easily hardens into isolated habit. It is unavowed
and disconnected. The remedy is not lapse of thought, but its quickening
and extension to contemplate the continuities of existence, and restore
the connection of the isolated desire to the companionship of its
fellows. The glorification of "will" apart from thought turns out either
a commitment to blind action which serves the purpose of those who guide
their deeds by narrow plans, or else a sentimental, romantic faith in
the harmonies of nature leading straight to disaster.

In words at least, the association of idealism with emotion and impulse
has been repeatedly implied in the foregoing. The connection is more
than verbal. Every end that man holds up, every project he entertains is
ideal. It marks something wanted, rather than something existing. It is
wanted because existence as it _now_ is does not furnish it. It carries
with itself, then, a sense of contrast to the achieved, to the existent.
It outruns the seen and touched. It is the work of faith and hope even
when it is the plan of the most hard-headed "practical" man. But though
ideal in this sense it is not _an_ ideal. Common sense revolts at
calling every project, every design, every contrivance of cunning,
ideal, because common sense includes above all in its conception of the
ideal the _quality_ of the plan proposed.

Idealistic revolt is blind and like every blind reaction sweeps us away.
The quality of the ideal is exalted till it is something beyond all
possibility of definite plan and execution. Its sublimity renders it
inaccessibly remote. An ideal becomes a synonym for whatever is
inspiring--and impossible. Then, since intelligence cannot be wholly
suppressed, the ideal is hardened by thought into some high, far-away
object. It is so elevated and so distant that it does not belong to this
world or to experience. It is in technical language, transcendental; in
common speech, supernatural, of heaven not of earth. The ideal is then a
goal of final exhaustive, comprehensive perfection which can be defined
only by complete contrast with the actual. Although impossible of
realization and of conception, it is still regarded as the source of all
generous discontent with actualities and of all inspiration to progress.

This notion of the nature and office of ideals combines in one
contradictory whole all that is vicious in the separation of desire and
thought. It strives while retaining the vagueness of emotion to simulate
the objective definiteness of thought. It follows the natural course of
intelligence in demanding an object which will unify and fulfil desire,
and then cancels the work of thought by treating the object as ineffable
and unrelated to present action and experience. It converts the surge of
present impulse into a future end only to swamp the endeavor to clarify
this end in a gush of unconsidered feeling. It is supposed that the
thought of the ideal is necessary to arouse dissatisfaction with the
present and to arouse effort to change it. But in reality the ideal is
itself the product of discontent with conditions. Instead however of
serving to organize and direct effort, it operates as a compensatory
dream. It becomes another ready-made world. Instead of promoting effort
at concrete transformations of what exists, it constitutes another kind
of existence already somewhere in being. It is a refuge, an asylum from
effort. Thus the energy that might be spent in transforming present ills
goes into oscillating flights into a far away perfect world and the
tedium of enforced returns into the necessities of the present evil

We can recover the genuine import of ideals and idealism only by
disentangling this unreal mixture of thought and emotion. The action of
deliberation, as we have seen, consists in selecting some foreseen
consequence to serve as a stimulus to present action. It brings future
possibilities into the present scene and thereby frees and expands
present tendencies. But the selected consequence is set in an indefinite
context of other consequences just as real as it is, and many of them
much more certain in fact. The "ends" that are foreseen and utilized
mark out a little island in an infinite sea. This limitation would be
fatal were the proper function of ends anything else than to liberate
and guide present action out of its perplexities and confusions. But
this service constitutes the sole meaning of aims and purposes. Hence
their slight extent in comparison with ignored and unforeseen
consequences is of no import in itself. The "ideal" as it stands in
popular thought, the notion of a complete and exhaustive realization, is
remote from the true functions of ends, and would only embarrass us if
it could be embraced in thought instead of being, as it is, a comment by
the emotions.

For the sense of an indefinite context of consequences from among which
the aim is selected enters into the _present_ meaning of activity. The
"end" is the figured pattern at the center of the field through which
runs the axis of conduct. About this central figuration extends
infinitely a supporting background in a vague whole, undefined and
undiscriminated. At most intelligence but throws a spotlight on that
little part of the whole which marks out the axis of movement. Even if
the light is flickering and the illuminated portion stands forth only
dimly from the shadowy background, it suffices if we are shown the way
to move. To the rest of the consequences, collateral and remote,
corresponds a background of feeling, of diffused emotion. This forms the
stuff of the ideal.

From the standpoint of its _definite_ aim any act is petty in comparison
with the totality of natural events. What is accomplished directly as
the outcome of a turn which our action gives the course of events is
infinitesimal in comparison with their total sweep. Only an illusion of
conceit persuades us that cosmic difference hangs upon even our wisest
and most strenuous effort. Yet discontent with this limitation is as
unreasonable as relying upon an illusion of external importance to keep
ourselves going. In a genuine sense every act is already possessed of
infinite import. The little part of the scheme of affairs which is
modifiable by our efforts is continuous with the rest of the world. The
boundaries of our garden plot join it to the world of our neighbors and
our neighbors' neighbors. That small effort which we can put forth is in
turn connected with an infinity of events that sustain and support it.
The consciousness of this encompassing infinity of connections is ideal.
When a sense of the infinite reach of an act physically occurring in a
small point of space and occupying a petty instant of times comes home
to us, the _meaning_ of a present act is seen to be vast, immeasurable,
unthinkable. This ideal is not a goal to be attained. It is a
significance to be felt, appreciated. Though consciousness of it cannot
become intellectualized (identified in objects of a distinct character)
yet emotional appreciation of it is won only by those willing to think.

It is the office of art and religion to evoke such appreciations and
intimations; to enhance and steady them till they are wrought into the
texture of our lives. Some philosophers define religious consciousness
as beginning where moral and intellectual consciousness leave off. In
the sense that definite purposes and methods shade off of necessity into
a vast whole which is incapable of objective presentation this view is
correct. But they have falsified the conception by treating the
religious consciousness as something that comes _after_ an experience in
which striving, resolution and foresight are found. To them morality and
science are a striving; when striving ceases a moral holiday begins, an
excursion beyond the utmost flight of legitimate thought and endeavor.
But there is a point in _every_ intelligent activity where effort
ceases; where thought and doing fall back upon a course of events which
effort and reflection cannot touch. There is a point _in_ deliberate
action where definite thought fades into the ineffable and
undefinable--into emotion. If the sense of this effortless and
unfathomable whole comes only in alternation with the sense of strain in
action and labor in thought, then we spend our lives in oscillating
between what is cramped and enforced and a brief transitory escape. The
function of religion is then caricatured rather than realized. Morals,
like war, is thought of as hell, and religion, like peace, as a respite.
The religious experience is a reality in so far as in the midst of
effort to foresee and regulate future objects we are sustained and
expanded in feebleness and failure by the sense of an enveloping whole.
Peace in action not after it is the contribution of the ideal to


Over and over again, one point has recurred for criticism;--the
subordination of activity to a result outside itself. Whether that goal
be thought of as pleasure, as virtue, as perfection, as final enjoyment
of salvation, is secondary to the fact that the moralists who have
asserted fixed ends have in all their differences from one another
agreed in the basic idea that present activity is but a means. We have
insisted that happiness, reasonableness, virtue, perfecting, are on the
contrary parts of the present significance of present action. Memory of
the past, observation of the present, foresight of the future are
indispensable. But they are indispensable _to_ a present liberation, an
enriching growth of action. Happiness is fundamental in morals only
because happiness is not something to be sought for, but is something
now attained, even in the midst of pain and trouble, whenever
recognition of our ties with nature and with fellow-men releases and
informs our action. Reasonableness is a necessity because it is the
perception of the continuities that take action out of its immediateness
and isolation into connection with the past and future.

Perhaps the criticism and insistence have been too incessant. They may
have provoked the reader to reaction. He may readily concede that
orthodox theories have been onesided in sacrificing the present to
future good, making of the present but an onerous obligation or a
sacrifice endured for future gain. But why, he may protest, go to an
opposite extreme and make the future but a means to the significance of
the present? Why should the power of foresight and effort to shape the
future, to regulate what is to happen, be slighted? Is not the effect of
such a doctrine to weaken putting forth of endeavor in order to make the
future better than the present? Control of the future may be limited in
extent, but it is correspondingly precious; we should jealously cherish
whatever encourages and sustains effort to that end. To make little of
this possibility, in effect, it will be argued, is to decrease the care
and endeavor upon which progress depends.

Control of the future is indeed precious in exact proportion to its
difficulty, its moderate degree of attainability. Anything that actually
tends to make that control less than it now is would be a movement
backward into sloth and triviality. But there is a difference between
future improvement as a result and as a direct aim. To make it an aim is
to throw away the surest means of attaining it, namely attention to the
full use of present resources in the present situation. Forecast of
future conditions, scientific study of past and present in order that
the forecast may be intelligent, are indeed necessities. Concentration
of intellectual concern upon the future, solicitude for scope and
precision of estimate characteristic of any well conducted affair,
naturally give the impression that their animating purpose is control of
the future. But thought about future happenings is the only way we can
judge the present; it is the only way to appraise its significance.
Without such projection, there can be no projects, no plans for
administering present energies, overcoming present obstacles.
Deliberately to subordinate the present to the future is to subject the
comparatively secure to the precarious, exchange resources for
liabilities, surrender what is under control to what is, relatively,
incapable of control.

The _amount_ of control which will come into existence in the future is
not within control. But such an amount as turns out to be practicable
accrues only in consequence of the best possible management of present
means and obstacles. Dominating _intellectual_ pre-occupation with the
future is the way by which efficiency in dealing with the present is
attained. It is a way, not a goal. And, upon the very most hopeful
outlook, study and planning are more important in the meaning, the
enrichment of content, which they add to present activity than is the
increase of external control they effect. Nor is this doctrine
passivistic in tendency. What sense is there in increased external
control except to increase the intrinsic significance of living? The
future that is foreseen is a future that is sometime to be a present. Is
the value of _that_ present also to be postponed to a future date, and
so on indefinitely? Or, if the good we are struggling to attain in the
future is one to be actually realized when that future becomes present,
why should not the good of _this_ present be equally precious? And is
there, again, any intelligent way of modifying the future except to
attend to the full possibilities of the present? Scamping the present in
behalf of the future leads only to rendering the future less manageable.
It increases the probability of molestation by future events.

Remarks cast in this form probably seem too much like a logical
manipulation of the concepts of present and future to be convincing.
Building a house is a typical instance of an intelligent activity. It is
an activity directed by a plan, a design. The plan is itself based upon
a foresight of future uses. This foresight is in turn dependent upon an
organized survey of past experiences and of present conditions, a
recollection of former experiences of living in houses and an
acquaintance with present materials, prices, resources, etc. Now if a
legitimate case of subordination of present to regulation of the future
may anywhere be found, it is in such a case as this. For a man usually
builds a house for the sake of the comfort and security, the "control,"
thereby afforded to future living rather than just for the fun--or the
trouble--of building. If in such a case inspection shows that, after
all, intellectual concern with the past and future is for the sake of
directing present activity and giving it meaning, the conclusion may be
accepted for other cases.

Note that the present activity is the only one really under control. The
man may die before the house is built, or his financial conditions may
change, or he may need to remove to another place. If he attempts to
provide for all contingencies, he will never do anything; if he allows
his attention to be much distracted by them, he won't do well his
present planning and execution. The more he considers the future uses to
which the house will probably be put the better he will do his present
job which is the activity of building. Control of future living, such as
it may turn out to be, is wholly dependent upon taking his present
activity, seriously and devotedly, as an end, not a means. And a man has
his hands full in doing well what now needs to be done. Until men have
formed the habit of using intelligence fully as a guide to present
action they will never find out how much control of future contingencies
is possible. As things are, men so habitually scamp present action in
behalf of future "ends" that the facts for estimating the extent of the
possibility of reduction of future contingencies have not been
disclosed. What a man _is_ doing limits both his direct control and his
responsibility. We must not confuse the act of building with the house
when built. The latter _is_ a means, not a fulfilment. But it is such
only because it enters into a new activity which is present not future.
Life is continuous. The act of building in time gives way to the acts
connected with a domicile. But everywhere the good, the fulfilment, the
meaning of activity, resides in a present made possible by judging
existing conditions in their connections.

If we seek for an illustration on a larger scale, education furnishes us
with a poignant example. As traditionally conducted, it strikingly
exhibits a subordination of the living present to a remote and
precarious future. To prepare, to get ready, is its key-note. The actual
outcome is lack of adequate preparation, of intelligent adaptation. The
professed exaltation of the future turns out in practice a blind
following of tradition, a rule of thumb muddling along from day to day;
or, as in some of the projects called industrial education, a determined
effort on the part of one class of the community to secure _its_ future
at the expense of another class. If education were conducted as a
process of fullest utilization of present resources, liberating and
guiding capacities that are now urgent, it goes without saying that the
lives of the young would be much richer in meaning than they are now. It
also follows that intelligence would be kept busy in studying all
indications of power, all obstacles and perversions, all products of the
past that throw light upon present capacity, and in forecasting the
future career of impulse and habit now active--not for the sake of
subordinating the latter but in order to treat them intelligently. As a
consequence whatever fortification and expansion of the future that is
possible will be achieved--as it is now dismally unattained.

A more complicated instance is found in the dominant quality of our
industrial activity. It may be dogmatically declared that the roots of
its evils are found in the separation of production from
consumption--that is, actual consummation, fulfilment. A normal case of
their relationship is found in the taking of food. Food is consumed and
vigor is produced. The difference between the two is one of directions
or dimensions distinguished by intellect. In reality there is simply
conversion of energy from one form to another wherein it is more
available--of greater significance. The activity of the artist, the
sportsman, the scientific inquirer exemplifies the same balance.
Activity should be productive. This is to say it should have a bearing
on the future, should effect control of it. But so far as a productive
action is intrinsically creative, it has its own intrinsic value.
Reference to future products and future enjoyments is but a way of
enhancing perception of an immanent meaning. A skilled artisan who
enjoys his work is aware that what he is making is made for future use.
Externally his action is one technically labeled "production." It seems
to illustrate the subjection of present activity to remote ends. But
actually, morally, psychologically, the sense of the utility of the
article produced is a factor in the present significance of action due
to the present utilization of abilities, giving play to taste and skill,
accomplishing something now. The moment production is severed from
immediate satisfaction, it becomes "labor," drudgery, a task reluctantly

Yet the whole tendency of modern economic life has been to assume that
consumption will take care of itself provided only production is grossly
and intensely attended to. Making things is frantically accelerated; and
every mechanical device used to swell the senseless bulk. As a result
most workers find no replenishment, no renewal and growth of mind, no
fulfilment in work. They labor to get mere means of later satisfaction.
This when procured is isolated in turn from production and is reduced to
a barren physical affair or a sensuous compensation for normal goods
denied. Meantime the fatuity of severing production from consumption,
from present enriching of life, is made evident by economic crises, by
periods of unemployment alternating with periods of exercise, work or
"over-production." Production apart from fulfilment becomes purely a
matter of quantity; for distinction, quality, is a matter of present
meaning. Esthetic elements being excluded, the mechanical reign.
Production lacks criteria; one thing is better than another if it can be
made faster or in greater mass. Leisure is not the nourishment of mind
in work, nor a recreation; it is a feverish hurry for diversion,
excitement, display, otherwise there is no leisure except a sodden
torpor. Fatigue due for some to monotony and for others to overstrain in
maintaining the pace is inevitable. Socially, the separation of
production and consumption, means and ends, is the root of the most
profound division of classes. Those who fix the "ends" for production
are in control, those who engage in isolated productive activity are the
subject-class. But if the latter are oppressed the former are not truly
free. Their consumptions are accidental ostentation and extravagance,
not a normal consummation or fulfilment of activity. The remainder of
their lives is spent in enslavement to keeping the machinery going at an
increasingly rapid rate.

Meantime class struggle grows between those whose productive labor is
enforced by necessity and those who are privileged consumers. And the
exaggeration of production due to its isolation from ignored consumption
so hypnotizes attention that even would-be reformers, like Marxian
socialists, assert that the entire social problem focuses at the point
of production. Since this separation of means from ends signifies an
erection of means into ends, it is no wonder that a "materialistic
conception of history" emerges. It is not an invention of Marx; it is a
record of fact so far as the separation in question obtains. For
practicable idealism is found only in a fulfilment, a consumption which
is a replenishing, growth, renewal of mind and body. Harmony of social
interests is found in the wide-spread sharing of activities significant
in themselves, that is to say, at the point of _consumption_.[9] But the
forcing of production apart from consumption leads to the monstrous
belief that class-struggle civil war is a means of social progress,
instead of a register of the barriers to its attainment. Yet here too
the Marxian reads aright the character of most current economic

    [9] Acknowledgment is due "The Social Interpretation of
    History" by Maurice Williams.

The history of economic activity thus exemplifies the moral consequences
of the separation of present activity and future "ends" from each other.
It also embodies the difficulty of the problem--the tax placed by it
upon thought and good will. For the professed idealist and the
hard-headed materialist or "practical" man, have conspired together to
sustain this situation. The "idealist" sets up as the ideal not fullness
of meaning of the present but a remote goal. Hence the present is
evacuated of meaning. It is reduced to being a mere external instrument,
an evil necessity due to the distance between us and significant valid
satisfaction. Appreciation, joy, peace in present activity are suspect.
They are regarded as diversions, temptations, unworthy relaxations. Then
since human nature _must_ have present realization, a sentimental,
romantic enjoyment of the ideal becomes a substitute for intelligent and
rewarding activity. The utopia cannot be realized in fact but it may be
appropriated in fantasy and serve as an anodyne to blunt the sense of a
misery which after all endures. Some private key to a present entering
upon remote and superior bliss is sought, just as the evangelical enjoys
a complacent and superior sense of a salvation unobtained by fellow
mortals. Thus the normal demand for realization, for satisfaction in the
present, is abnormally met.

Meantime the practical man wants something definite, tangible and
presumably obtainable for which to work. He is looking after "a good
thing" as the average man is looking after a "good time," that natural
caricature of an intrinsically significant activity. Yet his activity is
impractical. He is looking for satisfaction somewhere else than where it
can be found. In his utopian search for a future good he neglects the
only place where good can be found. He empties present activity of
meaning by making it a mere instrumentality. When the future arrives it
is only after all another despised present. By habit as well as by
definition it is still a means to something which has yet to come. Again
human nature must have its claims satisfied, and sensuality is the
inevitable recourse. Usually a compromise is worked out, by which a man
for his working-hours accepts the philosophy of activity for some future
result, while at odd leisure times he enters by conventionally
recognized channels upon an enjoyment of "spiritual" blessings and
"ideal" refinements. The problem of serving God and Mammon is thus
solved. The situation exemplifies the concrete meaning of the separation
of means from ends which is the intellectual reflex of the divorce of
theory and practice, intelligence and habit, foresight and present
impulse. Moralists have spent time and energy in showing what happens
when appetite, impulse, is indulged without reference to consequences
and reason. But they have mostly ignored the counterpart evils of an
intelligence that conceives ideals and goods which do not enter into
present impulse and habit. The life of reason has been specialized,
romanticized, or made a heavy burden. This situation embodies the import
of the problem of actualizing the place of intelligence in conduct.

Our whole account of the place of intelligence in conduct is exposed
however to the charge of being itself romantic, a compensatory
idealization. The history of mind is a record of intellect which
registers, with more or less inaccuracy, what has happened after it has
happened. The crisis in which the intervention of foreseeing and
directing mind is needed passes unnoted, with attention directed toward
incidentals and irrelevancies. The work of intellect is _post mortem_.
The rise of social science, it will be pointed out, has increased the
amount of registering that occurs. Social post mortems occur much more
frequently than they used to. But one of the things which the unbiased
mind will register is the impotency of discussion, analysis and
reporting in modifying the course of events. The latter goes its way
unheeding. The reply that this condition of matters shows not the
impotency of intelligence but that what passes for science is not
science is too easy a retort to be satisfactory. We must have recourse
to some concrete facts or surrender our doctrine just at the moment when
we have formulated it.

Technical affairs give evidence that the work of inquiry, reporting
and analysis is not always ineffectual. The development of a chain
of "nation-wide" tobacco shops, of a well managed national telephone
system, of the extension of the service of an electric-light plant
testify to the fact that study, reflection and the formation of plans do
in some instances determine a course of events. The effect is seen in
both engineering management and in national commercial expansion. Such
potency however, it must be admitted, is limited to just those matters
that are called technical in contrast with the larger affairs of
humanity. But if we seek, as we should, for a definition of "technical,"
we can hardly find any save one that goes in a circle: Affairs are
technical in which observation, analysis and intellectual organization
are determining factors. Is the conclusion to be drawn a conviction that
our wider social interests are so different from those in which
intelligence is a directing factor that in the former science must
always remain a belated visitor coming upon the scene after matters are
settled? No, the logical conclusion is that as yet we have no technique
in important economic, political and international affairs. Complexity
of conditions render the difficulties in the way of the development of a
technique enormous. It is imaginable they will never be overcome. But
our choice is between the development of a technique by which
intelligence will become an intervening partner and a continuation of a
regime of accident, waste and distress.



Conduct when distributed under heads like habit, impulse and
intelligence gets artificially shredded. In discussing each of these
topics we have run into the others. We conclude, then, with an attempt
to gather together some outstanding considerations about conduct as a


The foremost conclusion is that morals has to do with all activity into
which alternative possibilities enter. For wherever they enter a
difference between better and worse arises. Reflection upon action means
uncertainty and consequent need of decision as to which course is
better. The better is the good; the best is not better than the good but
is simply the discovered good. Comparative and superlative degrees are
only paths to the positive degree of action. The worse or evil is a
rejected good. In deliberation and before choice no evil presents itself
as evil. Until it is rejected, it is a competing good. After rejection,
it figures not as a lesser good, but as the bad of that situation.

Actually then only deliberate action, conduct into which reflective
choice enters, is distinctively moral, for only then does there enter
the question of better and worse. Yet it is a perilous error to draw a
hard and fast line between action into which deliberation and choice
enter and activity due to impulse and matter-of-fact habit. One of the
consequences of action is to involve us in predicaments where we have to
reflect upon things formerly done as matter of course. One of the chief
problems of our dealings with others is to induce them to reflect upon
affairs which they usually perform from unreflective habit. On the other
hand, every reflective choice tends to relegate some conscious issue
into a deed or habit henceforth taken for granted and not thought upon.
Potentially therefore every and any act is within the scope of morals,
being a candidate for possible judgment with respect to its
better-or-worse quality. It thus becomes one of the most perplexing
problems of reflection to discover just how far to carry it, what to
bring under examination and what to leave to unscrutinized habit.
Because there is no final recipe by which to decide this question all
moral judgment is experimental and subject to revision by its issue.

The recognition that conduct covers every act that is judged with
reference to better and worse and that the need of this judgment is
potentially coextensive with all portions of conduct, saves us from the
mistake which makes morality a separate department of life. Potentially
conduct is one hundred per cent of our acts. Hence we must decline to
admit theories which identify morals with the purification of motives,
edifying character, pursuing remote and elusive perfection, obeying
supernatural command, acknowledging the authority of duty. Such notions
have a dual bad effect. First they get in the way of observation of
conditions and consequences. They divert thought into side issues.
Secondly, while they confer a morbid exaggerated quality upon things
which are viewed under the aspect of morality, they release the larger
part of the acts of life from serious, that is moral, survey. Anxious
solicitude for the few acts which are deemed moral is accompanied by
edicts of exemption and baths of immunity for most acts. A moral
moratorium prevails for everyday affairs.

When we observe that morals is at home wherever considerations of the
worse and better are involved, we are committed to noting that morality
is a continuing process not a fixed achievement. Morals means growth of
conduct in meaning; at least it means that kind of expansion in meaning
which is consequent upon observations of the conditions and outcome of
conduct. It is all one with growing. Growing and growth are the same
fact expanded in actuality or telescoped in thought. In the largest
sense of the word, morals is education. It is learning the meaning of
what we are about and employing that meaning in action. The good,
satisfaction, "end," of growth of present action in shades and scope of
meaning is the only good within our control, and the only one,
accordingly, for which responsibility exists. The rest is luck, fortune.
And the tragedy of the moral notions most insisted upon by the morally
self-conscious is the relegation of the only good which can fully engage
thought, namely present meaning of action, to the rank of an incident of
a remote good, whether that future good be defined as pleasure, or
perfection, or salvation, or attainment of virtuous character.

"Present" activity is not a sharp narrow knife-blade in time. The
present is complex, containing within itself a multitude of habits and
impulses. It is enduring, a course of action, a process including
memory, observation and foresight, a pressure forward, a glance backward
and a look outward. It is of _moral_ moment because it marks a
transition in the direction of breadth and clarity of action or in that
of triviality and confusion. Progress is present reconstruction adding
fullness and distinctness of meaning, and retrogression is a present
slipping away of significance, determinations, grasp. Those who hold
that progress can be perceived and measured only by reference to a
remote goal, first confuse meaning with space, and then treat spatial
position as absolute, as limiting movement instead of being bounded in
and by movement. There are plenty of negative elements, due to conflict,
entanglement and obscurity, in most of the situations of life, and we do
not require a revelation of some supreme perfection to inform us whether
or no we are making headway in present rectification. We move on from
the worse and into, not just towards, the better, which is authenticated
not by comparison with the foreign but in what is indigenous. Unless
progress is a present reconstructing, it is nothing; if it cannot be
told by qualities belonging to the movement of transition it can never
be judged.

Men have constructed a strange dream-world when they have supposed that
without a fixed ideal of a remote good to inspire them, they have no
inducement to get relief from present troubles, no desires for
liberation from what oppresses and for clearing-up what confuses present
action. The world in which we could get enlightenment and instruction
about the direction in which we are moving only from a vague conception
of an unattainable perfection would be totally unlike our present world.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Sufficient it is to
stimulate us to remedial action, to endeavor in order to convert strife
into harmony, monotony into a variegated scene, and limitation into
expansion. The converting is progress, the only progress conceivable or
attainable by man. Hence every situation has its own measure and quality
of progress, and the need for progress is recurrent, constant. If it is
better to travel than to arrive, it is because traveling is a constant
arriving, while arrival that precludes further traveling is most easily
attained by going to sleep or dying. We find our clews to direction in
the projected recollections of definite experienced goods not in vague
anticipations, even when we label the vagueness perfection, the Ideal,
and proceed to manipulate its definition with dry dialectic logic.
Progress means increase of present meaning, which involves
multiplication of sensed distinctions as well as harmony, unification.
This statement may, perhaps, be made generally, in application to the
experience of humanity. If history shows progress it can hardly be found
elsewhere than in this complication and extension of the significance
found within experience. It is clear that such progress brings no
surcease, no immunity from perplexity and trouble. If we wished to
transmute this generalization into a categorical imperative we should
say: "So act as to increase the meaning of present experience." But even
then in order to get instruction about the concrete quality of such
increased meaning we should have to run away from the law and study the
needs and alternative possibilities lying within a unique and localized
situation. The imperative, like everything absolute, is sterile. Till
men give up the search for a general formula of progress they will not
know where to look to find it.

A business man proceeds by comparing today's liabilities and assets with
yesterday's, and projects plans for tomorrow by a study of the movement
thus indicated in conjunction with study of the conditions of the
environment now existing. It is not otherwise with the business of
living. The future is a projection of the subject-matter of the present,
a projection which is not arbitrary in the extent in which it divines
the movement of the moving present. The physician is lost who would
guide his activities of healing by building up a picture of perfect
health, the same for all and in its nature complete and self-enclosed
once for all. He employs what he has discovered about actual cases of
good health and ill health and their causes to investigate the present
ailing individual, so as to further his recovering; recovering, an
intrinsic and living process rather than recovery, which is comparative
and static. Moral theories, which however have not remained mere
theories but which have found their way into the opinions of the common
man, have reversed the situation and made the present subservient to a
rigid yet abstract future.

The ethical import of the doctrine of evolution is enormous. But its
import has been misconstrued because the doctrine has been appropriated
by the very traditional notions which in truth it subverts. It has been
thought that the doctrine of evolution means the complete subordination
of present change to a future goal. It has been constrained to teach a
futile dogma of approximation, instead of a gospel of present growth.
The usufruct of the new science has been seized upon by the old
tradition of fixed and external ends. In fact evolution means continuity
of change; and the fact that change may take the form of present growth
of complexity and interaction. Significant stages in change are found
not in access of fixity of attainment but in those crises in which a
seeming fixity of habits gives way to a release of capacities that have
not previously functioned: in times that is of readjustment and

No matter what the present success in straightening out difficulties and
harmonizing conflicts, it is certain that problems will recur in the
future in a new form or on a different plane. Indeed every genuine
accomplishment instead of winding up an affair and enclosing it as a
jewel in a casket for future contemplation, complicates the practical
situation. It effects a new distribution of energies which have
henceforth to be employed in ways for which past experience gives no
exact instruction. Every important satisfaction of an old want creates a
new one; and this new one has to enter upon an experimental adventure to
find its satisfaction. From the side of what has gone before achievement
settles something. From the side of what comes after, it complicates,
introducing new problems, unsettling factors. There is something
pitifully juvenile in the idea that "evolution," progress, means a
definite sum of accomplishment which will forever stay done, and which
by an exact amount lessens the amount still to be done, disposing once
and for all of just so many perplexities and advancing us just so far on
our road to a final stable and unperplexed goal. Yet the typical
nineteenth century, mid-victorian conception of evolution was precisely
a formulation of such a consummate juvenilism.

If the true ideal is that of a stable condition free from conflict and
disturbance, then there are a number of theories whose claims are
superior to those of the popular doctrine of evolution. Logic points
rather in the direction of Rousseau and Tolstoi who would recur to some
primitive simplicity, who would return from complicated and troubled
civilization to a state of nature. For certainly progress in
civilization has not only meant increase in the scope and intricacy of
problems to be dealt with, but it entails increasing instability. For in
multiplying wants, instruments and possibilities, it increases the
variety of forces which enter into relations with one another and which
have to be intelligently directed. Or again, Stoic indifference or
Buddhist calm have greater claims. For, it may be argued, since all
objective achievement only complicates the situation, the victory of a
final stability can be secured only by renunciation of desire. Since
every satisfaction of desire increases force, and this in turn creates
new desires, withdrawal into an inner passionless state, indifference to
action and attainment, is the sole road to possession of the eternal,
stable and final reality.

Again, from the standpoint of definite approximation to an ultimate
goal, the balance falls heavily on the side of pessimism. The more
striving the more attainments, perhaps; but also assuredly the more
needs and the more disappointments. The more we do and the more we
accomplish, the more the end is vanity and vexation. From the standpoint
of attainment of good that stays put, that constitutes a definite sum
performed which lessens the amount of effort required in order to reach
the ultimate goal of final good, progress _is_ an illusion. But we are
looking for it in the wrong place. The world war is a bitter commentary
on the nineteenth century misconception of moral achievement--a
misconception however which it only inherited from the traditional
theory of fixed ends, attempting to bolster up that doctrine with aid
from the "scientific" theory of evolution. The doctrine of progress is
not yet bankrupt. The bankruptcy of the notion of fixed goods to be
attained and stably possessed may possibly be the means of turning the
mind of man to a tenable theory of progress--to attention to present
troubles and possibilities.

Adherents of the idea that betterment, growth in goodness, consists in
approximation to an exhaustive, stable, immutable end or good, have been
compelled to recognize the truth that in fact we envisage the good in
specific terms that are relative to existing needs, and that the
attainment of every specific good merges insensibly into a new condition
of maladjustment with its need of a new end and a renewed effort. But
they have elaborated an ingenious dialectical theory to account for the
facts while maintaining their theory intact. The goal, the ideal, is
infinite; man is finite, subject to conditions imposed by space and
time. The specific character of the ends which man entertains and of the
satisfaction he achieves is due therefore precisely to his empirical and
finite nature in its contrast with the infinite and complete character
of the true reality, the end. Consequently when man reaches what he had
taken to be the destination of his journey he finds that he has only
gone a piece on the road. Infinite vistas still stretch before him.
Again he sets his mark a little way further ahead, and again when he
reaches the station set, he finds the road opening before him in
unexpected ways, and sees new distant objects beckoning him forward.
Such is the popular doctrine.

By some strange perversion this theory passes for moral idealism. An
office of inspiration and guidance is attributed to the thought of the
goal of ultimate completeness or perfection. As matter of fact, the idea
sincerely held brings discouragement and despair not inspiration or
hopefulness. There is something either ludicrous or tragic in the notion
that inspiration to continued progress is had in telling man that no
matter what he does or what he achieves, the outcome is negligible in
comparison with what he set out to achieve, that every endeavor he makes
is bound to turn out a failure compared with what should be done, that
every attained satisfaction is only forever bound to be only a
disappointment. The honest conclusion is pessimism. All is vexation, and
the greater the effort the greater the vexation. But the fact is that it
is not the negative aspect of an outcome, its failure to reach infinity,
which renews courage and hope. Positive attainment, actual enrichment of
meaning and powers opens new vistas and sets new tasks, creates new aims
and stimulates new efforts. The facts are not such as to yield
unthinking optimism and consolation; for they render it impossible to
rest upon attained goods. New struggles and failures are inevitable. The
total scene of action remains as before, only for us more complex, and
more subtly unstable. But this very situation is a consequence of
expansion, not of failures of power, and when grasped and admitted it is
a challenge to intelligence. Instruction in what to do next can never
come from an infinite goal, which for us is bound to be empty. It can be
derived only from study of the deficiencies, irregularities and
possibilities of the actual situation.

In any case, however, arguments about pessimism and optimism based upon
considerations regarding fixed attainment of good and evil are mainly
literary in quality. Man continues to live because he is a living
creature not because reason convinces him of the certainty or
probability of future satisfactions and achievements. He is instinct
with activities that carry him on. Individuals here and there cave in,
and most individuals sag, withdraw and seek refuge at this and that
point. But man as man still has the dumb pluck of the animal. He has
endurance, hope, curiosity, eagerness, love of action. These traits
belong to him by structure, not by taking thought. Memory of past and
foresight of future convert dumbness to some degree of articulateness.
They illumine curiosity and steady courage. Then when the future arrives
with its inevitable disappointments as well as fulfilments, and with new
sources of trouble, failure loses something of its fatality, and
suffering yields fruit of instruction not of bitterness. Humility is
more demanded at our moments of triumph than at those of failure. For
humility is not a caddish self-depreciation. It is the sense of our
slight inability even with our best intelligence and effort to command
events; a sense of our dependence upon forces that go their way without
our wish and plan. Its purport is not to relax effort but to make us
prize every opportunity of present growth. In morals, the infinitive and
the imperative develop from the participle, present tense. Perfection
means perfecting, fulfilment, fulfilling, and the good is now or never.

Idealistic philosophies, those of Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, like the
hypothesis now offered, have found the good in meanings belonging to a
conscious life, a life of reason, not in external achievement. Like it,
they have exalted the place of intelligence in securing fulfilment of
conscious life. These theories have at least not subordinated conscious
life to external obedience, not thought of virtue as something different
from excellence of life. But they set up a transcendental meaning and
reason, remote from present experience and opposed to it; or they insist
upon a special form of meaning and consciousness to be attained by
peculiar modes of knowledge inaccessible to the common man, involving
not continuous reconstruction of ordinary experience, but its wholesale
reversal. They have treated regeneration, change of heart, as wholesale
and self-enclosed, not as continuous.

The utilitarians also made good and evil, right and wrong, matters of
conscious experience. In addition they brought them down to earth, to
everyday experience. They strove to humanize other-worldly goods. But
they retained the notion that the good is future, and hence outside the
meaning of present activity. In so far it is sporadic, exceptional,
subject to accident, passive, an enjoyment not a joy, something hit
upon, not a fulfilling. The future end is for them not _so_ remote from
present action as the Platonic realm of ideals, or as the Aristotelian
rational thought, or the Christian heaven, or Spinoza's conception of
the universal whole. But still it is separate in principle and in fact
from present activity. The next step is to identify the sought for good
with the meaning of our impulses and our habits, and the specific
_moral_ good or virtue with _learning_ this meaning, a learning that
takes us back not into an isolated self but out into the open-air world
of objects and social ties, terminating in an increment of present

Doubtless there are those who will think that we thus escape from remote
and external ends only to fall into an Epicureanism which teaches us to
subordinate everything else to present satisfactions. The hypothesis
preferred may seem to some to advise a subjective, self-centered life of
intensified consciousness, an esthetically dilettante type of egoism.
For is not its lesson that we should concentrate attention, each upon
the consciousness accompanying his action so as to refine and develop
it? Is not this, like all subjective morals, an anti-social doctrine,
instructing us to subordinate the objective consequences of our acts,
those which promote the welfare of others, to an enrichment of our
private conscious lives?

It can hardly be denied that as compared with the dogmas against which
it reacted there is an element of truth in Epicureanism. It strove to
center attention upon what is actually within control and to find the
good in the present instead of in a contingent uncertain future. The
trouble with it lies in its account of present good. It failed to
connect this good with the full reach of activities. It contemplated
good of withdrawal rather than of active participation. That is to say,
the objection to Epicureanism lies in its conception of what constitutes
present good, not in its emphasis upon satisfaction as at present. The
same remark may be made about every theory which recognizes the
individual self. If any such theory is objectionable, the objection is
against the character or quality assigned to the self. Of course an
individual is the bearer or carrier of experience. What of that?
Everything depends upon the kind of experience that centers in him. Not
the residence of experience counts, but its contents, what's in the
house. The center is not in the abstract amenable to our control, but
what gathers about it is our affair. We can't help being individual
selves, each one of us. If selfhood as such is a bad thing, the blame
lies not with the self but with the universe, with providence. But in
fact the distinction between a selfishness with which we find fault and
an unselfishness which we esteem is found in the quality of the
activities which proceed from and enter into the self, according as they
are contractive, exclusive, or expansive, outreaching. Meaning exists
for some self, but this truistic fact doesn't fix the quality of any
particular meaning. It may be such as to make the self small, or such as
to exalt and dignify the self. It is as impertinent to decry the worth
of experience because it is connected with a self as it is fantastic to
idealize personality just as personality aside from the question what
sort of a person one is.

Other persons are selves too. If one's own present experience is to be
depreciated in its meaning because it centers in a self, why act for the
welfare of others? Selfishness for selfishness, one is as good as
another; our own is worth as much as another's. But the recognition that
good is always found in a present growth of significance in activity
protects us from thinking that welfare can consist in a soup-kitchen
happiness, in pleasures we can confer upon others from without. It shows
that good is the same in quality wherever it is found, whether in some
other self or in one's own. An activity has meaning in the degree in
which it establishes and acknowledges variety and intimacy of
connections. As long as any social impulse endures, so long an activity
that shuts itself off will bring inward dissatisfaction and entail a
struggle for compensatory goods, no matter what pleasures or external
successes acclaim its course.

To say that the welfare of others, like our own, consists in a widening
and deepening of the perceptions that give activity its meaning, in an
educative growth, is to set forth a proposition of political import. To
"make others happy" except through liberating their powers and engaging
them in activities that enlarge the meaning of life is to harm them and
to indulge ourselves under cover of exercising a special virtue. Our
moral measure for estimating any existing arrangement or any proposed
reform is its effect upon impulse and habits. Does it liberate or
suppress, ossify or render flexible, divide or unify interest? Is
perception quickened or dulled? Is memory made apt and extensive or
narrow and diffusely irrelevant? Is imagination diverted to fantasy and
compensatory dreams, or does it add fertility to life? Is thought
creative or pushed one side into pedantic specialisms? There is a sense
in which to set up social welfare as an end of action only promotes an
offensive condescension, a harsh interference, or an oleaginous display
of complacent kindliness. It always tends in this direction when it is
aimed at giving happiness to others directly, that is, as we can hand a
physical thing to another. To foster conditions that widen the horizon
of others and give them command of their own powers, so that they can
find their own happiness in their own fashion, is the way of "social"
action. Otherwise the prayer of a freeman would be to be left alone, and
to be delivered, above all, from "reformers" and "kind" people.


Since morals is concerned with conduct, it grows out of specific
empirical facts. Almost all influential moral theories, with the
exception of the utilitarian, have refused to admit this idea. For
Christendom as a whole, morality has been connected with supernatural
commands, rewards and penalties. Those who have escaped this
superstition have contented themselves with converting the difference
between this world and the next into a distinction between the actual
and the ideal, what is and what should be. The actual world has not been
surrendered to the devil in name, but it is treated as a display of
physical forces incapable of generating moral values. Consequently,
moral considerations must be introduced from above. Human nature may not
be officially declared to be infected because of some aboriginal sin,
but it is said to be sensuous, impulsive, subjected to necessity, while
natural intelligence is such that it cannot rise above a reckoning of
private expediency.

But in fact morals is the most humane of all subjects. It is that which
is closest to human nature; it is ineradicably empirical, not
theological nor metaphysical nor mathematical. Since it directly
concerns human nature, everything that can be known of the human mind
and body in physiology, medicine, anthropology, and psychology is
pertinent to moral inquiry. Human nature exists and operates in an
environment. And it is not "in" that environment as coins are in a box,
but as a plant is in the sunlight and soil. It is of them, continuous
with their energies, dependent upon their support, capable of increase
only as it utilizes them, and as it gradually rebuilds from their crude
indifference an environment genially civilized. Hence physics,
chemistry, history, statistics, engineering science, are a part of
disciplined moral knowledge so far as they enable us to understand the
conditions and agencies through which man lives, and on account of which
he forms and executes his plans. Moral science is not something with a
separate province. It is physical, biological and historic knowledge
placed in a human context where it will illuminate and guide the
activities of men.

The path of truth is narrow and straitened. It is only too easy to
wander beyond the course from this side to that. In a reaction from that
error which has made morals fanatic or fantastic, sentimental or
authoritative by severing them from actual facts and forces, theorists
have gone to the other extreme. They have insisted that natural laws are
themselves moral laws, so that it remains, after noting them, only to
conform to them. This doctrine of accord with nature has usually marked
a transition period. When mythology is dying in its open forms, and when
social life is so disturbed that custom and tradition fail to supply
their wonted control, men resort to Nature as a norm. They apply to
Nature all the eulogistic predicates previously associated with divine
law; or natural law is conceived of as the only true divine law. This
happened in one form in Stoicism. It happened in another form in the
deism of the eighteenth century with its notion of a benevolent,
harmonious, wholly rational order of Nature.

In our time this notion has been perpetuated in connection with a
laissez-faire social philosophy and the theory of evolution. Human
intelligence is thought to mark an artificial interference if it does
more than register fixed natural laws as rules of human action. The
process of natural evolution is conceived as the exact model of human
endeavor. The two ideas met in Spencer. To the "enlightened" of a former
generation, Spencer's evolutionary philosophy seemed to afford a
scientific sanction for the necessity of moral progress, while it also
proved, up to the hilt, the futility of deliberate "interference" with
the benevolent operations of nature. The idea of justice was identified
with the law of cause and effect. Transgression of natural law wrought
in the struggle for existence its own penalty of elimination, and
conformity with it brought the reward of increased vitality and
happiness. By this process egoistic desire is gradually coming into
harmony with the necessity of the environment, till at last the
individual automatically finds happiness in doing what the natural and
social environment demands, and serves himself in serving others. From
this point of view, earlier "scientific" philosophers made a mistake,
but only the mistake of anticipating the date of complete natural
harmony. All that reason can do is to acknowledge the evolutionary
forces, and thereby refrain from retarding the arrival of the happy day
of perfect harmony. Meantime justice demands that the weak and ignorant
suffer the effect of violation of natural law, while the wise and able
reap the rewards of their superiority.

The fundamental defect of such views is that they fail to see the
difference made in conditions and energies by perception of them. It is
the first business of mind to be "realistic," to see things "as they
are." If, for example, biology can give us knowledge of the causes of
competency and incompetency, strength and weakness, that knowledge is
all to the good. A non-sentimental morals will seek for all the
instruction natural science can give concerning the biological
conditions and consequences of inferiority and superiority. But
knowledge of facts does not entail conformity and acquiescence. The
contrary is the case. Perception of things as they are is but a stage in
the process of making them different. They have already begun to be
different in being known, for by that fact they enter into a different
context, a context of foresight and judgment of better and worse. A
false psychology of a separate realm of consciousness is the only reason
this fact is not generally acknowledged. Morality resides not in
perception of fact, but in the _use_ made of its perception. It is a
monstrous assumption that its sole use is to utter benedictions upon
fact and its offspring. It is the part of intelligence to tell when to
use the fact to conform and perpetuate, and when to use it to vary
conditions and consequences.

It is absurd to suppose that knowledge about the connection between
inferiority and its consequences prescribes adherence to that
connection. It is like supposing that knowledge of the connection
between malaria and mosquitoes enjoins breeding mosquitoes. The fact
when it is known enters into a new environment. Without ceasing to
belong to the physical environment it enters also into a medium of human
activities, of desires and aversions, habits and instincts. It thereby
gains new potencies, new capacities. Gunpowder in water does not act the
same as gunpowder next a flame. A fact known does not operate the same
as a fact unperceived. When it is known it comes into contact with the
flame of desire and the cold bath of antipathy. Knowledge of the
conditions that breed incapacity may fit into some desire to maintain
others in that state while averting it for one's self. Or it may fall in
with a character which finds itself blocked by such facts, and therefore
strives to use knowledge of causes to make a change in effects. Morality
begins at this point of use of knowledge of natural law, a use varying
with the active system of dispositions and desires. Intelligent action
is not concerned with the bare consequences of the thing known, but with
consequences _to be_ brought into existence by action conditioned on the
knowledge. Men may use their knowledge to induce conformity or
exaggeration, or to effect change and abolition of conditions. The
quality of these consequences determines the question of better or

The exaggeration of the harmony attributed to Nature aroused men to note
its disharmonies. An optimistic view of natural benevolence was followed
by a more honest, less romantic view of struggle and conflict in nature.
After Helvetius and Bentham came Malthus and Darwin. The problem of
morals is the problem of desire and intelligence. What is to be done
with these facts of disharmony and conflict? After we have discovered
the place and consequences of conflict in nature, we have still to
discover its place and working in human need and thought. What is its
office, its function, its _possibility_, or use? In general, the answer
is simple. Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation
and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like
passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving. Not that it always
effects this result; but that conflict is a _sine qua non_ of reflection
and ingenuity. When this possibility of making use of conflict has once
been noted, it is possible to utilize it systematically to substitute
the arbitration of mind for that of brutal attack and brute collapse.
But the tendency to take natural law for a norm of action which the
supposedly scientific have inherited from eighteenth century rationalism
leads to an idealization of the principle of conflict itself. Its office
in promoting progress through arousing intelligence is overlooked, and
it is erected into the generator of progress. Karl Marx borrowed from
the dialectic of Hegel the idea of the necessity of a negative element,
of opposition, for advance. He projected it into social affairs and
reached the conclusion that all social development comes from conflict
between classes, and that therefore class-warfare is to be cultivated.
Hence a supposedly scientific form of the doctrine of social evolution
preaches social hostility as the road to social harmony. It would be
difficult to find a more striking instance of what happens when natural
events are given a social and practical sanctification. Darwinism has
been similarly used to justify war and the brutalities of competition
for wealth and power.

The excuse, the provocation, though not the justification for such a
doctrine is found in the actions of those who say peace, peace, when
there is no peace, who refuse to recognize facts as they are, who
proclaim a natural harmony of wealth and merit, of capital and labor,
and the natural justice, in the main, of existing conditions. There is
something horrible, something that makes one fear for civilization, in
denunciations of class-differences and class struggles which proceed
from a class in power, one that is seizing every means, even to a
monopoly of moral ideals, to carry on its struggle for class-power. This
class adds hypocrisy to conflict and brings all idealism into disrepute.
It does everything which ingenuity and prestige can do to give color to
the assertions of those who say that all moral considerations are
irrelevant, and that the issue is one of brute trial of forces between
this side and that. The alternative, here as elsewhere, is not between
denying facts in behalf of something termed moral ideals and accepting
facts as final. There remains the possibility of recognizing facts and
using them as a challenge to intelligence to modify the environment and
change habits.


The place of natural fact and law in morals brings us to the problem of
freedom. We are told that seriously to import empirical facts into
morals is equivalent to an abrogation of freedom. Facts and laws mean
necessity we are told. The way to freedom is to turn our back upon them
and take flight to a separate ideal realm. Even if the flight could be
successfully accomplished, the efficacy of the prescription may be
doubted. For we need freedom in and among actual events, not apart from
them. It is to be hoped therefore that there remains an alternative;
that the road to freedom may be found in that knowledge of facts which
enables us to employ them in connection with desires and aims. A
physician or engineer is free in his thought and his action in the
degree in which he knows what he deals with. Possibly we find here the
key to any freedom.

What men have esteemed and fought for in the name of liberty is varied
and complex--but certainly it has never been a metaphysical freedom of
will. It seems to contain three elements of importance, though on their
face not all of them are directly compatible with one another. (i) It
includes efficiency in action, ability to carry out plans, the absence
of cramping and thwarting obstacles. (ii) It also includes capacity to
vary plans, to change the course of action, to experience novelties. And
again (iii) it signifies the power of desire and choice to be factors in

Few men would purchase even a high amount of efficient action along
definite lines at the price of monotony, or if success in action were
bought by all abandonment of personal preference. They would probably
feel that a more precious freedom was possessed in a life of ill-assured
objective achievement that contained undertaking of risks, adventuring
in new fields, a pitting of personal choice against the odds of events,
and a mixture of success and failures, provided choice had a career. The
slave is a man who executes the wish of others, one doomed to act along
lines predetermined to regularity. Those who have defined freedom as
ability to act have unconsciously assumed that this ability is exercised
in accord with desire, and that its operation introduces the agent into
fields previously unexplored. Hence the conception of freedom as
involving three factors.

Yet efficiency in execution cannot be ignored. To say that a man is free
to choose to walk while the only walk he can take will lead him over a
precipice is to strain words as well as facts. Intelligence is the key
to freedom in act. We are likely to be able to go ahead prosperously in
the degree in which we have consulted conditions and formed a plan which
enlists their consenting cooperation. The gratuitous help of unforeseen
circumstance we cannot afford to despise. Luck, bad if not good, will
always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and
showing its back to the stupid. And the gifts of fortune when they come
are fleeting except when they are made taut by intelligent adaptation of
conditions. In neutral and adverse circumstances, study and foresight
are the only roads to unimpeded action. Insistence upon a metaphysical
freedom of will is generally at its most strident pitch with those who
despise knowledge of matters-of-fact. They pay for their contempt by
halting and confined action. Glorification of freedom in general at the
expense of positive abilities in particular has often characterized the
official creed of historic liberalism. Its outward sign is the
separation of politics and law from economics. Much of what is called
the "individualism" of the early nineteenth century has in truth little
to do with the nature of individuals. It goes back to a metaphysics
which held that harmony between man and nature can be taken for granted,
if once certain artificial restrictions upon man are removed. Hence it
neglected the necessity of studying and regulating industrial conditions
so that a nominal freedom can be made an actuality. Find a man who
believes that all men need is freedom _from_ oppressive legal and
political measures, and you have found a man who, unless he is merely
obstinately maintaining his own private privileges, carries at the back
of his head some heritage of the metaphysical doctrine of free-will,
plus an optimistic confidence in natural harmony. He needs a philosophy
that recognizes the objective character of freedom and its dependence
upon a congruity of environment with human wants, an agreement which can
be obtained only by profound thought and unremitting application. For
freedom as a fact depends upon conditions of work which are socially and
scientifically buttressed. Since industry covers the most pervasive
relations of man with his environment, freedom is unreal which does not
have as its basis an economic command of environment.

I have no desire to add another to the cheap and easy solutions which
exist of the seeming conflict between freedom and organization. It is
reasonably obvious that organization may become a hindrance to freedom;
it does not take us far to say that the trouble lies not in organization
but in over-organization. At the same time, it must be admitted that
there is no effective or objective freedom without organization. It is
easy to criticize the contract theory of the state which states that
individuals surrender some at least of their natural liberties in order
to make secure as civil liberties what they retain. Nevertheless there
is some truth in the idea of surrender and exchange. A certain natural
freedom is possessed by man. That is to say, in some respects harmony
exists between a man's energies and his surroundings such that the
latter support and execute his purposes. In so far he is free; without
such a basic natural support, conscious contrivances of legislation,
administration and deliberate human institution of social arrangements
cannot take place. In this sense natural freedom is prior to political
freedom and is its condition. But we cannot trust wholly to a freedom
thus procured. It is at the mercy of accident. Conscious agreements
among men must supplement and in some degree supplant freedom of action
which is the gift of nature. In order to arrive at these agreements,
individuals have to make concessions. They must consent to curtailment
of some natural liberties in order that any of them may be rendered
secure and enduring. They must, in short, enter into an organization
with other human beings so that the activities of others may be
permanently counted upon to assure regularity of action and far-reaching
scope of plans and courses of action. The procedure is not, in so far,
unlike surrendering a portion of one's income in order to buy insurance
against future contingencies, and thus to render the future course of
life more equably secure. It would be folly to maintain that there is no
sacrifice; we can however contend that the sacrifice is a reasonable
one, justified by results.

Viewed in this light, the relation of individual freedom to organization
is seen to be an experimental affair. It is not capable of being settled
by abstract theory. Take the question of labor unions and the closed or
open shop. It is folly to fancy that no restrictions and surrenders of
prior freedoms and possibilities of future freedoms are involved in the
extension of this particular form of organization. But to condemn such
organization on the theoretical ground that a restriction of liberty is
entailed is to adopt a position which would have been fatal to every
advance step in civilization, and to every net gain in effective
freedom. Every such question is to be judged not on the basis of
antecedent theory but on the basis of concrete consequences. The
question is to the balance of freedom and security achieved, as compared
with practicable alternatives. Even the question of the point where
membership in an organization ceases to be a voluntary matter and
becomes coercive or required, is also an experimental matter, a thing to
be decided by scientifically conducted study of consequences, of pros
and cons. It is definitely an affair of specific detail, not of
wholesale theory. It is equally amusing to see one man denouncing on
grounds of pure theory the coercion of workers by a labor union while he
avails himself of the increased power due to corporate action in
business and praises the coercion of the political state; and to see
another man denouncing the latter as pure tyranny, while lauding the
power of industrial labor organizations. The position of one or the
other may be justified in particular cases, but justification is due to
results in practice not to general theory.

Organization tends, however, to become rigid and to limit freedom. In
addition to security and energy in action, novelty, risk, change are
ingredients of the freedom which men desire. Variety is more than the
spice of life; it is largely of its essence, making a difference between
the free and the enslaved. Invariant virtue appears to be as mechanical
as uninterrupted vice, for true excellence changes with conditions.
Unless character rises to overcome some new difficulty or conquer some
temptation from an unexpected quarter we suspect its grain is only a
veneer. Choice is an element in freedom and there can be no choice
without unrealized and precarious possibilities. It is this demand for
genuine contingency which is caricatured in the orthodox doctrine of a
freedom of indifference, a power to choose this way or that apart from
any habit or impulse, without even a desire on the part of will to show
off. Such an indetermination of choice is not desired by the lover of
either reason or excitement. The theory of arbitrary free choice
represents indeterminateness of conditions grasped in a vague and lazy
fashion and hardened into a desirable attribute of will. Under the title
of freedom men prize such uncertainty of conditions as give deliberation
and choice an opportunity. But uncertainty of volition which is more
than a reflection of uncertainty of conditions is the mark of a person
who has acquired imbecility of character through permanent weakening of
his springs of action.

Whether or not indeterminateness, uncertainty, actually exists in the
world is a difficult question. It is easier to think of the world as
fixed, settled once for all, and man as accumulating all the uncertainty
there is in his will and all the doubt there is in his intellect. The
rise of natural science has facilitated this dualistic partitioning,
making nature wholly fixed and mind wholly open and empty. Fortunately
for us we do not have to settle the question. A hypothetical answer is
enough. _If_ the world is already done and done for, if its character is
entirely achieved so that its behavior is like that of a man lost in
routine, then the only freedom for which man can hope is one of
efficiency in overt action. But _if_ change is genuine, if accounts are
still in process of making, and if objective uncertainty is the stimulus
to reflection, then variation in action, novelty and experiment, have a
true meaning. In any case the question is an objective one. It concerns
not man in isolation from the world but man in his connection with it. A
world that is at points and times indeterminate enough to call out
deliberation and to give play to choice to shape its future is a world
in which will is free, not because it is inherently vacillating and
unstable, but because deliberation and choice are determining and
stabilizing factors.

Upon an empirical view, uncertainty, doubt, hesitation, contingency and
novelty, genuine change which is not mere disguised repetition, are
facts. Only deductive reasoning from certain fixed premisses creates a
bias in favor of complete determination and finality. To say that these
things exist only in human experience not in the world, and exist there
only because of our "finitude" is dangerously like paying ourselves with
words. Empirically the life of man seems in these respects as in others
to express a culmination of facts in nature. To admit ignorance and
uncertainty in man while denying them to nature involves a curious
dualism. Variability, initiative, innovation, departure from routine,
experimentation are empirically the manifestation of a genuine nisus in
things. At all events it is these things that are precious to us under
the name of freedom. It is their elimination from the life of a slave
which makes his life servile, intolerable to the freeman who has once
been on his own, no matter what his animal comfort and security. A free
man would rather take his chance in an open world than be guaranteed in
a closed world.

These considerations give point to the third factor in love of freedom:
the desire to have desire count as a factor, a force. Even if will
chooses unaccountably, even if it be a capricious impulse, it does not
follow that there are real alternatives, genuine possibilities, open in
the future. What we want is possibilities open in the _world_ not in the
will, except as will or deliberate activity reflects the world. To
foresee future objective alternatives and to be able by deliberation to
choose one of them and thereby weight its chances in the struggle for
future existence, measures our freedom. It is assumed sometimes that if
it can be shown that deliberation determines choice and deliberation is
determined by character and conditions, there is no freedom. This is
like saying that because a flower comes from root and stem it cannot
bear fruit. The question is not what are the antecedents of deliberation
and choice, but what are their consequences. What do they do that is
distinctive? The answer is that they give us all the control of future
possibilities which is open to us. And this control is the crux of our
freedom. Without it, we are pushed from behind. With it we walk in the

The doctrine that knowledge, intelligence rather than will, constitutes
freedom is not new. It has been preached by moralists of many a school.
All rationalists have identified freedom with action emancipated by
insight into truth. But insight into necessity has by them been
substituted for foresight of possibilities. Tolstoi for example
expressed the idea of Spinoza and Hegel when he said that the ox is a
slave as long as he refuses to recognize the yoke and chafes under it,
while if he identifies himself with its necessity and draws willingly
instead of rebelliously, he is free. But as long as the yoke is a yoke
it is impossible that voluntary identification with it should occur.
Conscious submission is then either fatalistic submissiveness or
cowardice. The ox accepts in fact not the yoke but the stall and the hay
to which the yoke is a necessary incident. But if the ox foresees the
consequences of the use of the yoke, if he anticipates the possibility
of harvest, and identifies himself not with the yoke but with the
realization of its possibilities, he acts freely, voluntarily. He hasn't
accepted a necessity as unavoidable; he has welcomed a possibility as a

Perception of necessary law plays, indeed, a part. But no amount of
insight into necessity brings with it, as such, anything but a
consciousness of necessity. Freedom is the "truth of necessity" only
when we use one "necessity" to alter another. When we use the law to
foresee consequences and to consider how they may be averted or secured,
then freedom begins. Employing knowledge of law to enforce desire in
execution gives power to the engineer. Employing knowledge of law in
order to submit to it without further action constitutes fatalism, no
matter how it be dressed up. Thus we recur to our main contention.
Morality depends upon events, not upon commands and ideals alien to
nature. But intelligence treats events as moving, as fraught with
possibilities, not as ended, final. In forecasting their possibilities,
the distinction between better and worse arises. Human desire and
ability cooperates with this or that natural force according as this or
that eventuality is judged better. We do not use the present to control
the future. We use the foresight of the future to refine and expand
present activity. In this use of desire, deliberation and choice,
freedom is actualized.


Intelligence becomes ours in the degree in which we use it and accept
responsibility for consequences. It is not ours originally or by
production. "It thinks" is a truer psychological statement than "I
think." Thoughts sprout and vegetate; ideas proliferate. They come from
deep unconscious sources. "I think" is a statement about voluntary
action. Some suggestion surges from the unknown. Our active body of
habits appropriates it. The suggestion then becomes an assertion. It no
longer merely comes to us. It is accepted and uttered by us. We act upon
it and thereby assume, by implication, its consequences. The stuff of
belief and proposition is not originated by us. It comes to us from
others, by education, tradition and the suggestion of the environment.
Our intelligence is bound up, so far as its materials are concerned,
with the community life of which we are a part. We know what it
communicates to us, and know according to the habits it forms in us.
Science is an affair of civilization not of individual intellect.

So with conscience. When a child acts, those about him re-act. They
shower encouragement upon him, visit him with approval, or they bestow
frowns and rebuke. What others do to us when we act is as natural a
consequence of our action as what the fire does to us when we plunge our
hands in it. The social environment may be as artificial as you please.
But its action in response to ours is natural not artificial. In
language and imagination we rehearse the responses of others just as we
dramatically enact other consequences. We foreknow how others will act,
and the foreknowledge is the beginning of judgment passed on action. We
know _with_ them; there is conscience. An assembly is formed within our
breast which discusses and appraises proposed and performed acts. The
community without becomes a forum and tribunal within, a judgment-seat
of charges, assessments and exculpations. Our thoughts of our own
actions are saturated with the ideas that others entertain about them,
ideas which have been expressed not only in explicit instruction but
still more effectively in reaction to our acts.

Liability is the beginning of responsibility. We are held accountable by
others for the consequences of our acts. They visit their like and
dislike of these consequences upon us. In vain do we claim that these
are not ours; that they are products of ignorance not design, or are
incidents in the execution of a most laudable scheme. Their authorship
is imputed to us. We are disapproved, and disapproval is not an inner
state of mind but a most definite act. Others say to us by their deeds
we do not care a fig whether you did this deliberately or not. We intend
that you _shall_ deliberate before you do it again, and that if possible
your deliberation shall prevent a repetition of this act we object to.
The reference in blame and every unfavorable judgment is prospective,
not retrospective. Theories about responsibility may become confused,
but in practice no one is stupid enough to try to change the past.
Approbation and disapprobation are ways of influencing the formation of
habits and aims; that is, of influencing future acts. The individual is
_held_ accountable for what he _has_ done in order that he may be
responsive in what he is _going_ to do. Gradually persons learn by
dramatic imitation to hold themselves accountable, and liability becomes
a voluntary deliberate acknowledgment that deeds are our own, that their
consequences come from us.

These two facts, that moral judgment and moral responsibility are the
work wrought in us by the social environment, signify that all morality
is social; not because we _ought_ to take into account the effect of our
acts upon the welfare of others, but because of facts. Others _do_ take
account of what we do, and they respond accordingly to our acts. Their
responses actually _do_ affect the meaning of what we do. The
significance thus contributed is as inevitable as is the effect of
interaction with the physical environment. In fact as civilization
advances the physical environment gets itself more and more humanized,
for the meaning of physical energies and events becomes involved with
the part they play in human activities. Our conduct _is_ socially
conditioned whether we perceive the fact or not.

The effect of custom on habit, and of habit upon thought is enough to
prove this statement. When we begin to forecast consequences, the
consequences that most stand out are those which will proceed from other
people. The resistance and the cooperation of others is the central fact
in the furtherance or failure of our schemes. Connections with our
fellows furnish both the opportunities for action and the
instrumentalities by which we take advantage of opportunity. All of the
actions of an individual bear the stamp of his community as assuredly as
does the language he speaks. Difficulty in reading the stamp is due to
variety of impressions in consequence of membership in many groups. This
social saturation is, I repeat, a matter of fact, not of what should be,
not of what is desirable or undesirable. It does not guarantee the
rightness of goodness of an act; there is no excuse for thinking of evil
action as individualistic and right action as social. Deliberate
unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest is as much conditioned upon social
opportunities, training and assistance as is the course of action
prompted by a beaming benevolence. The difference lies in the quality
and degree of the perception of ties and interdependencies; in the use
to which they are put. Consider the form commonly assumed today by
self-seeking; namely command of money and economic power. Money is a
social institution; property is a legal custom; economic opportunities
are dependent upon the state of society; the objects aimed at, the
rewards sought for, are what they are because of social admiration,
prestige, competition and power. If money-making is morally obnoxious it
is because of the way these social facts are handled, not because a
money-making man has withdrawn from society into an isolated selfhood or
turned his back upon society. His "individualism" is not found in his
original nature but in his habits acquired under social influences. It
is found in his concrete aims, and these are reflexes of social
conditions. Well-grounded moral objection to a mode of conduct rests
upon the kind of social connections that figure, not upon lack of social
aim. A man may attempt to utilize social relationships for his own
advantage in an inequitable way; he may intentionally or unconsciously
try to make them feed one of his own appetites. Then he is denounced as
egoistic. But both his course of action and the disapproval he is
subject to are facts _within_ society. They are social phenomena. He
pursues his unjust advantage as a social asset.

Explicit recognition of this fact is a prerequisite of improvement in
moral education and of an intelligent understanding of the chief ideas
or "categories" of morals. Morals is as much a matter of interaction of
a person with his social environment as walking is an interaction of
legs with a physical environment. The character of walking depends upon
the strength and competency of legs. But it also depends upon whether a
man is walking in a bog or on a paved street, upon whether there is a
safeguarded path set aside or whether he has to walk amid dangerous
vehicles. If the standard of morals is low it is because the education
given by the interaction of the individual with his social environment
is defective. Of what avail is it to preach unassuming simplicity and
contentment of life when communal admiration goes to the man who
"succeeds"--who makes himself conspicuous and envied because of command
of money and other forms of power? If a child gets on by peevishness or
intrigue, then others are his accomplices who assist in the habits which
are built up. The notion that an abstract ready-made conscience exists
in individuals and that it is only necessary to make an occasional
appeal to it and to indulge in occasional crude rebukes and punishments,
is associated with the causes of lack of definitive and orderly moral
advance. For it is associated with lack of attention to social forces.

There is a peculiar inconsistency in the current idea that morals
_ought_ to be social. The introduction of the moral "ought" into the
idea contains an implicit assertion that morals depend upon something
apart from social relations. Morals _are_ social. The question of ought,
should be, is a question of better and worse _in_ social affairs. The
extent to which the weight of theories has been thrown against the
perception of the place of social ties and connections in moral activity
is a fair measure of the extent to which social forces work blindly and
develop an accidental morality. The chief obstacle for example to
recognizing the truth of a proposition frequently set forth in these
pages to the effect that all conduct is potential, if not actual, matter
of moral judgment is the habit of identifying moral judgment with praise
and blame. So great is the influence of this habit that it is safe to
say that every professed moralist when he leaves the pages of theory and
faces some actual item of his own or others' behavior, first or
"instinctively" thinks of acts as moral or non-moral in the degree in
which they are exposed to condemnation or approval. Now this kind of
judgment is certainly not one which could profitably be dispensed with.
Its influence is much needed. But the tendency to equate it with all
moral judgment is largely responsible for the current idea that there is
a sharp line between moral conduct and a larger region of non-moral
conduct which is a matter of expediency, shrewdness, success or manners.

Moreover this tendency is a chief reason why the social forces effective
in shaping actual morality work blindly and unsatisfactorily. Judgment
in which the emphasis falls upon blame and approbation has more heat
than light. It is more emotional than intellectual. It is guided by
custom, personal convenience and resentment rather than by insight into
causes and consequences. It makes toward reducing moral instruction, the
educative influence of social opinion, to an immediate personal matter,
that is to say, to an adjustment of personal likes and dislikes.
Fault-finding creates resentment in the one blamed, and approval,
complacency, rather than a habit of scrutinizing conduct objectively. It
puts those who are sensitive to the judgments of others in a standing
defensive attitude, creating an apologetic, self-accusing and
self-exculpating habit of mind when what is needed is an impersonal
impartial habit of observation. "Moral" persons get so occupied with
defending their conduct from real and imagined criticism that they have
little time left to see what their acts really amount to, and the habit
of self-blame inevitably extends to include others since it is a habit.

Now it is a wholesome thing for any one to be made aware that
thoughtless, self-centered action on his part exposes him to the
indignation and dislike of others. There is no one who can be safely
trusted to be exempt from immediate reactions of criticism, and there
are few who do not need to be braced by occasional expressions of
approval. But these influences are immensely overdone in comparison with
the assistance that might be given by the influence of social judgments
which operate without accompaniments of praise and blame; which enable
an individual to see for himself what he is doing, and which put him in
command of a method of analyzing the obscure and usually unavowed forces
which move him to act. We need a permeation of judgments on conduct by
the method and materials of a science of human nature. Without such
enlightenment even the best-intentioned attempts at the moral guidance
and improvement of others often eventuate in tragedies of
misunderstanding and division, as is so often seen in the relations of
parents and children.

The development therefore of a more adequate science of human nature is
a matter of first-rate importance. The present revolt against the notion
that psychology is a science of consciousness may well turn out in the
future to be the beginning of a definitive turn in thought and action.
Historically there are good reasons for the isolation and exaggeration
of the conscious phase of human action, an isolation which forgot that
"conscious" is an adjective of some acts and which erected the resulting
abstraction, "consciousness," into a noun, an existence separate and
complete. These reasons are interesting not only to the student of
technical philosophy but also to the student of the history of culture
and even of politics. They have to do with the attempt to drag realities
out of occult essences and hidden forces and get them into the light of
day. They were part of the general movement called phenomenalism, and of
the growing importance of individual life and private voluntary
concerns. But the effect was to isolate the individual from his
connections both with his fellows and with nature, and thus to create an
artificial human nature, one not capable of being understood and
effectively directed on the basis of analytic understanding. It shut out
from view, not to say from scientific examination, the forces which
really move human nature. It took a few surface phenomena for the whole
story of significant human motive-forces and acts.

As a consequence physical science and its technological applications
were highly developed while the science of man, moral science, is
backward. I believe that it is not possible to estimate how much of the
difficulties of the present world situation are due to the disproportion
and unbalance thus introduced into affairs. It would have seemed absurd
to say in the seventeenth century that in the end the alteration in
methods of physical investigation which was then beginning would prove
more important than the religious wars of that century. Yet the wars
marked the end of one era; the dawn of physical science the beginning of
a new one. And a trained imagination may discover that the nationalistic
and economic wars which are the chief outward mark of the present are in
the end to be less significant than the development of a science of
human nature now inchoate.

It sounds academic to say that substantial bettering of social relations
waits upon the growth of a scientific social psychology. For the term
suggests something specialized and remote. But the formation of habits
of belief, desire and judgment is going on at every instant under the
influence of the conditions set by men's contact, intercourse and
associations with one another. This is the fundamental fact in social
life and in personal character. It is the fact about which traditional
human science gives no enlightenment--a fact which this traditional
science blurs and virtually denies. The enormous rôle played in popular
morals by appeal to the supernatural and quasi-magical is in effect a
desperate admission of the futility of our science. Consequently the
whole matter of the formation of the predispositions which effectively
control human relationships is left to accident, to custom and immediate
personal likings, resentments and ambitions. It is a commonplace that
modern industry and commerce are conditioned upon a control of physical
energies due to proper methods of physical inquiry and analysis. We have
no social arts which are comparable because we have so nearly nothing in
the way of psychological science. Yet through the development of
physical science, and especially of chemistry, biology, physiology,
medicine and anthropology we now have the basis for the development of
such a science of man. Signs of its coming into existence are present in
the movements in clinical, behavioristic and social (in its narrower
sense) psychology.

At present we not only have no assured means of forming character except
crude devices of blame, praise, exhortation and punishment, but the very
meaning of the general notions of moral inquiry is matter of doubt and
dispute. The reason is that these notions are discussed in isolation
from the concrete facts of the interactions of human beings with one
another--an abstraction as fatal as was the old discussion of
phlogiston, gravity and vital force apart from concrete correlations of
changing events with one another. Take for example such a basic
conception as that of Right involving the nature of authority in
conduct. There is no need here to rehearse the multitude of contending
views which give evidence that discussion of this matter is still in the
realm of opinion. We content ourselves with pointing out that this
notion is the last resort of the anti-empirical school in morals and
that it proves the effect of neglect of social conditions.

In effect its adherents argue as follows: "Let us concede that concrete
ideas about right and wrong and particular notions of what is obligatory
have grown up within experience. But we cannot admit this about the idea
of Right, of Obligation itself. Why does moral authority exist at all?
Why is the claim of the Right recognized in conscience even by those who
violate it in deed? Our opponents say that such and such a course is
wise, expedient, better. But _why_ act for the wise, or good, or better?
Why not follow our own immediate devices if we are so inclined? There is
only one answer: We have a moral nature, a conscience, call it what you
will. And this nature responds directly in acknowledgment of the supreme
authority of the Right over all claims of inclination and habit. We may
not act in accordance with this acknowledgment, but we still know that
the authority of the moral law, although not its power, is
unquestionable. Men may differ indefinitely according to what their
experience has been as to just _what_ is Right, what its contents are.
But they all spontaneously agree in recognizing the supremacy of the
claims of whatever is thought of as Right. Otherwise there would be no
such thing as morality, but merely calculations of how to satisfy

Grant the foregoing argument, and all the apparatus of abstract moralism
follows in its wake. A remote goal of perfection, ideals that are
contrary in a wholesale way to what is actual, a free will of arbitrary
choice; all of these conceptions band themselves together with that of a
non-empirical authority of Right and a non-empirical conscience which
acknowledges it. They constitute its ceremonial or formal train.

Why, indeed, acknowledge the authority of Right? That many persons do
not acknowledge it in fact, in action, and that all persons ignore it at
times, is assumed by the argument. Just what is the significance of an
alleged recognition of a supremacy which is continually denied in fact?
How much would be lost if it were dropped out, and we were left face to
face with actual facts? If a man lived alone in the world there might be
some sense in the question "Why be moral?" were it not for one thing: No
such question would then arise. As it is, we live in a world where other
persons live too. Our acts affect them. They perceive these effects, and
react upon us in consequence. Because they are living beings they make
demands upon us for certain things from us. They approve and
condemn--not in abstract theory but in what they do to us. The answer to
the question "Why not put your hand in the fire?" is the answer of fact.
If you do your hand will be burnt. The answer to the question why
acknowledge the right is of the same sort. For Right is only an abstract
name for the multitude of concrete demands in action which others
impress upon us, and of which we are obliged, if we would live, to take
some account. Its authority is the exigency of their demands, the
efficacy of their insistencies. There may be good ground for the
contention that in theory the idea of the right is subordinate to that
of the good, being a statement of the course proper to attain good. But
in fact it signifies the totality of social pressures exercised upon us
to induce us to think and desire in certain ways. Hence the right can in
fact become the road to the good only as the elements that compose this
unremitting pressure are enlightened, only as social relationships
become themselves reasonable.

It will be retorted that all pressure is a non-moral affair partaking of
force, not of right; that right must be ideal. Thus we are invited to
enter again the circle in which the ideal has no force and social
actualities no ideal quality. We refuse the invitation because social
pressure is involved in our own lives, as much so as the air we breathe
and the ground we walk upon. If we had desires, judgments, plans, in
short a mind, apart from social connections, then the latter would be
external and their action might be regarded as that of a non-moral
force. But we live mentally as physically only _in_ and _because_ of our
environment. Social pressure is but a name for the interactions which
are always going on and in which we participate, living so far as we
partake and dying so far as we do not. The pressure is not ideal but
empirical, yet empirical here means only actual. It calls attention to
the fact that considerations of right are claims originating not outside
of life, but within it. They are "ideal" in precisely the degree in
which we intelligently recognize and act upon them, just as colors and
canvas become ideal when used in ways that give an added meaning to

Accordingly failure to recognize the authority of right means defect in
effective apprehension of the realities of human association, not an
arbitrary exercise of free will. This deficiency and perversion in
apprehension indicates a defect in education--that is to say, in the
operation of actual conditions, in the consequences upon desire and
thought of existing interactions and interdependencies. It is false that
every person has a consciousness of the supreme authority of right and
then misconceives it or ignores it in action. One has such a sense of
the claims of social relationships as those relationships enforce in
one's desires and observations. The belief in a separate, ideal or
transcendental, practically ineffectual Right is a reflex of the
inadequacy with which existing institutions perform their educative
office--their office in generating observation of social continuities.
It is an endeavor to "rationalize" this defect. Like all
rationalizations, it operates to divert attention from the real state of
affairs. Thus it helps maintain the conditions which created it,
standing in the way of effort to make our institutions more humane and
equitable. A theoretical acknowledgment of the supreme authority of
Right, of moral law, gets twisted into an effectual substitute for acts
which would better the customs which now produce vague, dull, halting
and evasive observation of actual social ties. We are not caught in a
circle; we traverse a spiral in which social customs generate some
consciousness of interdependencies, and this consciousness is embodied
in acts which in improving the environment generate new perceptions of
social ties, and so on forever. The relationships, the interactions are
forever there as fact, but they acquire meaning only in the desires,
judgments and purposes they awaken.

We recur to our fundamental propositions. Morals is connected with
actualities of existence, not with ideals, ends and obligations
independent of concrete actualities. The facts upon which it depends are
those which arise out of active connections of human beings with one
another, the consequences of their mutually intertwined activities in
the life of desire, belief, judgment, satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
In this sense conduct and hence morals are social: they are not just
things which _ought_ to be social and which fail to come up to the
scratch. But there are enormous differences of better and worse in the
quality of what is social. Ideal morals begin with the perception of
these differences. Human interaction and ties are there, are operative
in any case. But they can be regulated, employed in an orderly way for
good only as we know how to observe them. And they cannot be observed
aright, they cannot be understood and utilized, when the mind is left to
itself to work without the aid of science. For the natural unaided mind
means precisely the habits of belief, thought and desire which have been
accidentally generated and confirmed by social institutions or customs.
But with all their admixture of accident and reasonableness we have at
last reached a point where social conditions create a mind capable of
scientific outlook and inquiry. To foster and develop this spirit is the
social obligation of the present because it is its urgent need.

Yet the last word is not with obligation nor with the future. Infinite
relationships of man with his fellows and with nature already exist. The
ideal means, as we have seen, a sense of these encompassing continuities
with their infinite reach. This meaning even now attaches to present
activities because they are set in a whole to which they belong and
which belongs to them. Even in the midst of conflict, struggle and
defeat a consciousness is possible of the enduring and comprehending

To be grasped and held this consciousness needs, like every form of
consciousness, objects, symbols. In the past men have sought many
symbols which no longer serve, especially since men have been idolators
worshiping symbols as things. Yet within these symbols which have so
often claimed to be realities and which have imposed themselves as
dogmas and intolerances, there has rarely been absent some trace of a
vital and enduring reality, that of a community of life in which
continuities of existence are consummated. Consciousness of the whole
has been connected with reverences, affections, and loyalties which are
communal. But special ways of expressing the communal sense have been
established. They have been limited to a select social group; they have
hardened into obligatory rites and been imposed as conditions of
salvation. Religion has lost itself in cults, dogmas and myths.
Consequently the office of religion as sense of community and one's
place in it has been lost. In effect religion has been distorted into a
possession--or burden--of a limited part of human nature, of a limited
portion of humanity which finds no way to universalize religion except
by imposing its own dogmas and ceremonies upon others; of a limited
class within a partial group; priests, saints, a church. Thus other gods
have been set up before the one God. Religion as a sense of the whole is
the most individualized of all things, the most spontaneous, undefinable
and varied. For individuality signifies unique connections in the whole.
Yet it has been perverted into something uniform and immutable. It has
been formulated into fixed and defined beliefs expressed in required
acts and ceremonies. Instead of marking the freedom and peace of the
individual as a member of an infinite whole, it has been petrified into
a slavery of thought and sentiment, an intolerant superiority on the
part of the few and an intolerable burden on the part of the many.

Yet every act may carry within itself a consoling and supporting
consciousness of the whole to which it belongs and which in some sense
belongs to it. With responsibility for the intelligent determination of
particular acts may go a joyful emancipation from the burden for
responsibility for the whole which sustains them, giving them their
final outcome and quality. There is a conceit fostered by perversion of
religion which assimilates the universe to our personal desires; but
there is also a conceit of carrying the load of the universe from which
religion liberates us. Within the flickering inconsequential acts of
separate selves dwells a sense of the whole which claims and dignifies
them. In its presence we put off mortality and live in the universal.
The life of the community in which we live and have our being is the fit
symbol of this relationship. The acts in which we express our perception
of the ties which bind us to others are its only rites and ceremonies.


  Absentmindedness, 173
  Accidents, in history, 101;
    in consequences, 49, 51, 206-208, 241, 253, 304, 309
  Acquisition, 116-118, 143-148
  Activity is natural, 118-123, 160, 226, 293
  Aims, _see_ Consequences, Ends
  Alexander M., 28, 36
  Altruism, 133, 293
  Analysis, 183
  Anger, 90, 152
  Appetite, 7, 275;
    _see_ Impulse
  Aristotle, 33, 109, 174, 224, 290
  Arts, 15, 23, 71, 159-164, 263
  Atomism moral, 243
  Attitude, 41;
    _see_ Habit
  Authority, 2, 65, 72, 79, 187, 324

  Benevolence, 133
  Bergson, 73, 178, 245
  Blame, 18, 121, 320

  Causation, 18, 44
  Calculation, 189, 199-209;
    _see_ Deliberation
  Casuistry, 240
  Certainty, love of, 236
  Character, defined, 38;
    and consequences, 47
  Childhood, 2, 64, 89, 96, 99
  Choice, 192, 304, 311
  Classes, 2, 82, 270
  Classification, 131, 244
  Codes, 103
  Compensatory, 8, 30, 33, 257, 275
  Conduct, _see_ Character, Habit, Impulse, Intelligence
  Confidence, 139
  Conflict, 12, 39, 66, 82, 194, 208, 217, 300
  Conscience, 184-188, 314
  Consciousness, 62, 179, 184, 208
  Consequences, and motives, 45-47;
    and aims, 225-229, 245-247
  Conservatism, 66, 106, 168
  Continuity, 12, 232, 239, 244, 259
  Control, 21, 23, 37, 101, 139, 148, 266-270;
    _see_ Accident
  Conventions, 6, 97, 166
  Crowd psychology, 60
  Creative and acquisitive, 143-148
  Customs and habits, 58-69;
    and standards, 75-83;
    rigidity, 103-105

  Deliberation, 189-209;
    as discovery, 216
  Democracy, 61n, 66, 72
  Desire, 24, 33, 194, 234, 299, 304;
    and intelligence, 248-264;
    object of, 249-252
  Disposition, 41;
    _see_ Habit
  Docility, 64, 97
  Dualism, 8, 12, 40, 55, 67, 71, 147, 275, 309

  Economic man, 220
  Economics, 9, 12, 120-124, 132, 143-148, 212-221, 270-273, 305
  Education, 64, 72, 91, 107, 270, 320
  Egotism, 7
  Emerson, 100, 144
  Emotion, 75, 83, 255, 264
  End, 28, 34-37;
    knowledge as, 187, 215;
    nature of, 223-237;
    of desire, 250, 261;
    and means, 269-272;
    _see_ Consequences, Means
  Environments, 2, 10, 15, 18, 21, 51, 151, 159, 179, 316
  Epicureanism, 205, 291
  Equilibration, 179, 252
  Evolution, 284-287, 297
  Execution, of desires, 33-35
  Expediency, 49, 189, 210;
    _see_ Deliberation
  Experience, 31, 245
  Experimentation, moral, 56, 307

  Fallacy, philosophic, 175
  Fanaticism, 228
  Fantasies, 158, 164, 236
  Fear, 111, 132-133, 154-155, 237
  Fiat of will, 29
  Foresight, 204-206, 238, 265-270;
    _see_ Deliberation, Ends
  Freedom, 8, 165;
    three phases of, 303-313;
    _see_ Will
  Functions, 18

  Gain, 117
  Goal, 260, 265, 274, 281, 287-289;
    _see_ Evolution, Perfection
  Good, 2, 44, 210-222, 274, 278
  Goodness, 4-8, 16, 43-45, 48, 67, 227
  Good-will, 44

  Habits, place in conduct, 14-88;
    and desire, 24;
    as functions, 14;
    as arts or abilities, 15, 64, 66, 71, 170;
    and thought, 31-33, 66-69, 172-180, 182;
    definition, 41;
    and impulses, 90-98, 107-111;
    and principles, 238
  Harmony, natural, 159, 167, 298
  Hedonistic calculus, 204
  Hegel, 312
  Helvetius, 106, 300
  Herd-instinct, 4
  History, 101, 110
  Hobbes, 133
  Human nature, 1;
    and morals, 1-13, 295;
    alterability, 106-124
  Humility, 289
  Hypocrisy, 6
  Hypothesis, moral, 239, 243

  Ideas, _see_ Ends, Thought
  Ideals and Idealism, 2, 8, 50, 68, 77, 81, 99, 157, 166, 184, 233,
    236, 255, 259-264, 274, 282-288, 301, 331
  Imagination, 52, 163, 190-192, 204, 225, 234
  Imitation, 66, 97, 132
  Impulse, place in conduct, 89-171;
    secondary, 89;
    intermediary, 169-170;
    as means of reorganization, 93, 102, 104, 179;
    plastic, 95;
    same as human instincts, 105n;
    and habit, 107-111;
    false simplification, 131-149;
    and reason, 196, 254
  Individualism, 7, 85, 93
  Industry, 11
  Infantilisms, 98
  Instinct, not fixed, 149-168;
    and knowledge, 178;
    _see_ Impulse
  Institutions, 9, 80, 102, 111, 166
  Intelligence, 10, 13, 51, 299, 312;
    place of, in conduct, 172-277;
    relation to habits, 172-180, 228;
    and desire, 248-264, 276
  Interpenetration of habits, 37-39
  Intuitions, 33, 188

  James, Wm., 112, 179, 195
  Justice, 18, 52, 198

  Kant, 44, 49, 55, 245
  Knowledge, moral, 181-188;
    _see_ Conscience, Intelligence

  Labor, 121, 144
  Language, 58, 79, 95
  Le Bon, 61
  Liberalism, 305
  Locke, 106

  Marx, 154, 273, 300
  Magic, 20, 26
  Meaning, 37, 90, 151, 207, 262, 271, 280
  Means, 20;
    relation to ends, 25-36, 218-220, 251;
    _see_ Habit
  Mechanization, 28, 70, 96, 144
  Mediation, 197
  Mind, 61, 95;
    and habit, 175-180
  Mind and body, 30, 67, 71
  Mitchell, W. C., 213
  Moore, G. E., 241n
  Morals, introduction, 40;
    conclusion, as objective, 52;
    of art, 167;
    scope, 278-281
  Motives, 43-45, 118-122, 213, 231, 329

  Natural law and morals, 296-300
  Necessity, 312
  Nirvana, 175, 286
  Non-moral, 8, 27, 40, 188, 230

  Occult, 11
  Oligarchy, 2-3
  Optimism, 286-288
  Organization, 306

  Passion, 9, 193-196
  Pathology, 4, 50
  Perfection, 173-175, 223, 282
  Pessimism, 286
  Plato, 50, 78, 134, 290
  Play, 159-164
  Pleasure, 158, 200-205, 250
  Posture, 32
  Potentiality, 37
  Power, will to, 140-142
  Pragmatic knowing, 181-188
  Principles, 2;
    and tendencies, 49;
    nature of, 238-247
  Private, 9, 16, 43, 85
  Process and product, 142-143, 280
  Progress, 10, 21, 93, 96, 101, 105n;
    in science, 149;
    nature of, 281-288
  Property, 116-118;
    _see_ Economics
  Psycho-analysis, 34, 86, 133, 153, 252
  Psychology and moral theory, 12, 46, 91;
    social, 60-63, 84-88;
    current, 118, 135, 147, 155;
    and scientific method, 150, 322-324
  Punishment, 18
  Puritanism, 5, 157
  Purpose, _see_ Ends

  Radicalism, 168
  Reactions, 157
  Realism, 176, 256, 298
  Reason, pure, 31;
    reasonableness, 67, 77, 193-198, 215
  Rebellion, 166
  Reconstruction, 164
  Religion, 5, 263, 330-332
  Responsibility, 315
  Revolution, 10, 108
  Right, 324-328
  Romanticism, 6, 100, 166, 256
  Routine, 42, 66, 70, 98, 211, 232, 238

  Satisfaction, 140, 158, 175, 210, 213, 265, 285
  Savagery, 93, 101, 103
  Science of morals, 3, 11-12, 18, 56, 224, 243, 296, 321
  Self, 16, 55, 85-87, 136-139, 217, 292, 314
  Self-deception, 152, 252
  Self-love, 134-139, 293
  Sensations, 18, 31, 189
  Sentimentalism, 17
  Sex, 133, 150, 153, 164-165
  Social, _see_ Environments
  Social mind, 60-63
  Socrates, 56
  Soul, 85, 94, 138, 176
  Spencer, 175, 297
  Standards, 75-82, 241
  Stimulation, 157
  Stimulus and response, 199-207
  Stuart, H. W., 218
  Subjective, 16, 22, 27, 52, 54, 85, 202;
    _see_ Dualism
  Sublimation, 141, 156, 164, 194
  Success, 6, 173, 254
  Sumner, 77
  Suppression, 156, 166
  Synthesis, 183-184

  Tendency, 49
  Thought, 30, 67, 98, 108, 171, 190, 200, 222, 258;
    vices of, 197
  Tolstoi, 285, 312
  Tools, 25, 32;
    intellectual, 244
  Transcendentalism, 50-52, 54, 81

  Universality, 245-247
  Utilitarianism, 50, 189, 199-209, 211, 221-222, 291

  Virtues, 4, 16, 22;
    _see_ Goodness

  War, 110-115
  Westermarck, 76
  Will, and habits, 25, 29, 40-44, 259;
    will to power, 140-143;
    freedom of, 9
  Williams, M., 273n


  page    original                      correction
  v       FUNCTIONS    13               FUNCTIONS     14
  3       go back of the                go back to the
  8       by pleasureable excursions    by pleasurable excursions
  17      infliction of retibutive      infliction of retributive
  41      some-counteracting            some counteracting
  74      an ungoing splurge            an ongoing splurge
  90      wind on a mudpuddle           wind on a mud puddle
  92      the southsea islander         the Southsea islander
  123     to find fulfillment,          to find fulfilment,
  l45     it it quite possible          it is quite possible
  163     artificial exitents           artificial exigents
  211     its every presentation        its every presentation.
  212     with only one factor,         with only one factor,
  234     only a phantasy               only a fantasy,
  236     and phantasy-building,        and fantasy-building,
  262     is as unreasonble as          is as unreasonable as
  276     reporting and analysis        reporting and analysis
  325     how to satisfy desire.        how to satisfy desire."
  334     Phantasies, 158,              Fantasies, 158,

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