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Title: Altruism - Its Nature and Varieties
Author: Palmer, George Herbert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Altruism - Its Nature and Varieties" ***







  NEW YORK  ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦  1919


  Published January, 1919



The Elias P. Ely Lectureship was founded by Mr. Zebulon Stiles Ely, May
8, 1865. The deed of gift contains the following paragraphs:

  “The undersigned gives the sum of ten thousand dollars to the Union
  Theological Seminary of the City of New York to found a Lectureship
  in the same, the title of which shall be the ‘Elias P. Ely Lectures
  on the Evidences of Christianity,’ on the following conditions:

  “The course of lectures given on this foundation is to comprise any
  topics that serve to establish the proposition that Christianity is
  a religion from God, or that it is the perfect and final form of
  religion for man. Among the subjects discussed may be the nature
  and need of a revelation; the character and influence of Christ and
  His apostles; the authenticity and credibility of the Scriptures,
  miracles, and prophecy; the diffusion and benefits of Christianity;
  the philosophy of religion in its relation to the Christian system.”

Under date of May 24, 1879, Mr. Ely addressed a communication to the
Directors of the Seminary in which the conditions of the Lectureship
are amplified as follows:

  “The conditions of the foundation of the Elias P. Ely Lectureship,
  dated May 8, 1865, are hereby modified, so that the course of
  public lectures therein provided for, may not only be on ‘The
  Evidences of Christianity,’ but on such other subjects as the
  Faculty and Directors, in concurrence with the undersigned, while
  living, may deem for the good of man.”


I here present the substance of eight Ely Lectures delivered in the
spring of 1918 at Union Theological Seminary in New York. They were
spoken without manuscript. In writing them out from the stenographer’s
notes I have condensed them considerably. In these belligerent days
publishers are disposed to economize paper and print, and readers
to prize brevity in everything except newspapers. Such restrictions
force on us loquacious bookmakers greater regard for compactness and
lucidity, and are thus not altogether an injury.

The book seeks to call attention to a section of ethics in regard to
which the public mind greatly needs clarifying. Altruism and egoism,
socialism and individualism, are in our time sentimentally arrayed
against one another as independent and antagonistic agencies, each
having its partisans. A careful examination will show, I think, that
the one has meaning only when in company with its supposed rival. I
have thought to make this clearest by tracing three stages through
which the altruistic impulse passes in every-day life, exhibiting their
varying degrees of dignity and the helpful presence in all of them of
egoistic balance. If through my notion of a conjunct self I have made
this curious partnership plain I shall count it no mean contribution to
our generous, sacrificial, self-assertive, and perplexed time.

                    GEORGE HERBERT PALMER.

  CAMBRIDGE, October 21, 1918.


  CHAPTER                          PAGE

     I. INTRODUCTION                  1

    II. MANNERS                      13

   III. GIFTS                        32

    IV. DEFECTS OF GIVING            56

     V. MUTUALITY                    75

    VI. LOVE                         91

   VII. JUSTICE                     110

  VIII. CONCLUSION                  126





I have been moving about lately through different parts of our country,
sitting down to dinner in many homes, and I have everywhere found the
family eating bread made of Indian meal, rye, barley, or oatmeal. When
I have asked, “Are you especially fond of this sort of food?” I have
pretty generally received the answer, “Why, no! We all like wheat bread
better. But we are not eating it now, for other nations need it.”

That is altruism, one of the most fundamental, familiar, and mysterious
of all the virtues. This course of lectures will be devoted to
elucidating it. To a recognition of it the Western mind has risen
slowly. The Greeks attached little importance to it; for though
philanthropy, regard for man as man, is a Greek word, it is not a
Greek idea. Plato does not include it among his four virtues nor
anywhere lay stress on its practice. In Aristotle’s _Ethics_, it is
true, there are magnificent chapters on friendship, and friendship
plays a great part in the teaching of the Epicureans and Stoics. But
all alike speak of attachment to another person chiefly as a means
of strength for oneself. The thought of whole-hearted giving without
correspondent personal gain would have puzzled a Greek.

When we turn to the other branch of our civilization and examine what
we have derived from the Hebrews, we find a nearer approach to modern
ideas. Commonly enough the Hebrews speak of mercy and grace, and pair
these off against justice and truth. Apparently when these terms are
applied to God’s dealings with us, the second pair indicates his exact
return for what we have done for him; but the first pair points to
something over and above, a surplusage of generosity, lying outside the
field of equal pay. God is conceived as altruistic and we are summoned
to imitate him in this. Jesus develops the thought to such a degree
that love becomes the centre of his teaching. We are told that without
it all other excellence is worthless. We must love as God loves,
letting our sun shine on the evil and on the good. Indeed, we must love
even our enemies.

While modern nations have allowed such precepts to stand as counsels of
perfection and have been ready to see in occasional acts an embodiment
of them, parallel with them they have always recognized a contrary and
more powerful tendency, namely, the disposition to seek one’s own. This
they have believed to be essential for carrying on the daily affairs
of life. At the same time altruistic conduct has ever been thought
“superior,” “higher”; egoistic, as containing nothing to call forth

When men, however, began to think seriously about ethics it became
impossible to allow two such springs of action to remain in permanent
discord. Attempts were made to bring them into harmony by showing that
the one is only a disguised form of the other. Hobbes, for example
(1588–1679), the first in his great book, _Leviathan_, to stir the
English mind to ethical reflection, maintains that altruism is strictly
impossible. Each of us seeks self-preservation and acts through a
passion for power. This necessarily brings us into conflict with
our neighbors and makes of society a strife of each with all. Such
universal war is soon seen to bring damage to every one and social
compacts arise, compromises, under which I concede to others the right
of acting in certain ways on condition of their allowing my action
in certain others. While this involves large sacrifice of one’s own
desires for the sake of other people, it is endured because it pays,
pays egoistically. We gain by it the largest scope for action our
crowded world permits. But there is nothing disinterested about it.
Genuine altruism is nowhere operative. A man cannot escape from himself
and feel another’s pleasure as his own. As well might I profess to
feel your toothache more keenly than my own as to declare myself more
interested in your welfare than in that of myself. Fundamentally, each
of us must be egoistic; but we can be successfully so only by taking
others into the account.

This attempt of Hobbes to resolve altruism into a larger form of
egoism naturally shocked England, and a century was spent by the
English moralists in trying to prove that the benevolent feelings
are equally original with the self-seeking. Cumberland, Shaftesbury,
Hutcheson, Butler, eagerly demonstrated benevolence to be a constant
and independent factor of human life; but when they attempted to show
the relation in which this stands to its seeming opposite, they became
vague. Apparently there are two rival forces within us. Now one acts,
now the other.

A few of the attempts that have been made to effect a junction of the
two, and to show how we cross from our egoistic to altruistic desires,
deserve notice. Hartley (1705–1757) proposed an ingenious one. The two
passions become fused through association. We are all familiar with the
man who begins to accumulate money in order to supply his daily wants
and then by degrees withdraws his attention from those wants and fixes
it upon money itself. What was originally a means becomes an end. In
just this way Hartley thought our egoistic desires become transformed.
To reach satisfaction they usually require assistance from other
people. Conscious at first of our dependence on others for aid, we
become by degrees interested in others for their own sake, and finally
seek to aid them rather than have them aid us. Our self-regarding
powers and our extra-regarding powers are thus by association blurred
into one. An important school of ethical writers, among whom the two
Mills are the most notable, have held this view.

An interesting variation was adopted by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832).
It might be called the quantitative view. The one thing desired by us
all is happiness. We seek to produce as much of it as possible, paying
little attention to the one on whom it falls. Of course our primary
desire looks toward ourselves. But in seeking to increase that bulk of
happiness from which we draw, egoism largely disappears in the search
after the greatest happiness of the greatest number. This formula must
always be convenient and valuable in a democratic state.

One of the most curious of these methods of extracting altruistic gold
from a baser metal is that of Bishop Paley (1743–1805). According to
him we have none of us an interest in our fellows’ happiness and
should never of ourselves seek it. But we read in our Bibles the
command to love our neighbor and are told that we shall fall into
eternal misery if we do not. With his customary audacious clearness
Paley states the matter thus: “The greatest virtue is doing good
to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of
everlasting happiness.” That is, the one thing of importance is
altruistic endeavor. But this is so alien to our disposition that it
can be brought about only through divine interposition, making it a
condition of our own permanent enjoyment.

A subtler doctrine, and one much closer to the facts of human nature,
is that of Adam Smith (1723–1790). He has observed how large a part
sympathy plays in our ordinary affairs. If I am near a person when
he is moved by any feeling, that feeling tends to jump across and to
become mine also. Such identification of myself and him gives pleasure
to us both. We all have experienced how sympathy heightens enjoyment
and diminishes distress. In sympathy two sets of feelings become so
nearly identified that the result can be called neither egoistic nor

Now I do not propose in these lectures to combat or defend any of these
theories. No one of them seems to me to be without weight, all deserve
consideration, and something like the operation of each I trace in
people around me. The one with which I am in largest agreement is the
last, where Adam Smith would identify the two moral aims. But all the
theories are vitiated by a false start, which in these lectures I wish
to avoid.

Each of them looks upon man in his original estate as a self-centred
being, a distinct ego. By degrees this single person discovers other
persons about him and learns that he must have relations with them.
The relations may be altruistic or egoistic, but they are subsequent
and supplemental. In himself he is separate and detached. Now, I hold
that this conception is altogether erroneous. There is no such solitary
person. One person is no person. The smallest known unit of personality
is three, father, mother, child. None of us came into the world in
separateness, nor have separately remained here. Relations have
encompassed us from birth. Through them we are what we are, social
beings, members of a whole. While it is true that the ties of parentage
loosen as the child matures, these drop away only because others,
now more formative, take him in charge. Before we have a separate
consciousness we know ourselves as members of a family, of a state, of
the community of human kind. We never stand alone.

Not that it is an error to say “I.” This, properly, is our commonest
word and commonest thought. Only with reference to it does anything
else have value. However interlocked the total frame of things may be,
at certain centres where relations converge there are unique spots
of consciousness capable of estimating reality and of sending forth
modifying influences. Such a centre of consciousness, unlike all else,
we rightly call a person, a self or ego; and because of its importance
we often fix attention on it, withdrawing notice for the moment from
the relations which encompass it. Such an abstraction, if clearly
understood, is entirely legitimate. I shall frequently make use of
it under the title of the separate or abstract self. But it should
be borne in mind that it is an abstraction and that the real person
is what I shall call the conjunct or social self, made up of that
centre of consciousness and the relations in which it stands. While
these two are usefully distinguishable, they are not separable. When
I try to detach myself from my surroundings I know I am attempting an
impossibility. How much would there be left of me were there no one
but this central ego, none with whom I might communicate, no language
prepared for communication or thought, no common affections, interests,
or undertakings? Evidently we are from the start social beings.
If with the early moralists we make the opposite assumption, our
subsequent interest in our fellow men will never quite clear itself of
artificiality and mistake.

Yet while the separate self and the conjunct self lodge in the same
being, the degree and kind of attention accorded to the latter marks
the stage of moral maturity at which man or nation has arrived. In
certain undeveloped forms of social life the conjunctive elements
are but slightly emphasized, while the separate self bulks large.
With the advance of morality the opposite principle obtains. Wider
and more subtle relationships are seen to make our lives our own.
Many as are these social varieties, I have thought they might
advantageously be examined under three headings, to which I give the
rather unintelligible names of Manners, Gifts, and Mutuality. While
recognizing that every phase of human life is altruistic in some
degree, I hold that there are higher grades which give to the principle
a prominence and scope which the lower lack. My general subject, then,
might be entitled The Forms and Stages of the Conjunct Self. I begin
where the conjunctive principle appears in its narrowest range and
advance into the broader altruism only as I am logically compelled to
do so. Endeavoring to see how small a section of human conduct need be
affected by altruism, I am ultimately forced to make it as extensive as
life itself.

Maintaining, however, as I do, that the two contrasted elements always
are and should be mutually serviceable, I naturally have nothing to
say in condemnation of self-seeking. On the contrary, I hold it to be
praiseworthy. Rightly does Aristotle assert that the good man is always
a lover of himself. But of which self is Aristotle thinking, the
conjunct or the separate? Much of the mystery surrounding the notion of
altruism is due to confusion on this point. For example, when a man is
charged with selfishness it is usually because he is thought to have
obtained some advantage. But why should he not? He is blamable only
when he detaches the thought of his own advantage from advantage to
others. My good must not be had at another’s expense. When a plate of
apples is passed and I pick out the best one, the wrong is not in my
obtaining a good apple but in my depriving somebody else of one. That
is selfishness. Whenever my gain is not inconsistent with his or, as is
usually the case, actually contributes to it, the larger the gain made
by me the better.



Where, then, does altruism appear in its simplest form? Whenever one
of us comes into the presence of another there occurs a subtle change
of personal attitude to which I give the name of Manners. We do not
act or speak precisely as if alone. In all our bearing there is a
marked adjustment of one personality to another. I take on the color
of him before whom I stand. I feel his psychological conditions and
square myself accordingly. That is, I at once perceive that he and I
are not quite independent. An acknowledgment of a certain community
between us must be established before either of us can be at ease. Such
acknowledgment may have a wide or narrow scope, but it will always
imply regard for another for his own sake and not merely regard for my

One would expect that the words which name a relation so normal and
dignified would be words suggestive of honor. Strangely enough,
they are all depreciatory. I have sought for a word to describe the
consideration of man by man which would be colorless, that neither
praised nor blamed, but simply fixed attention on the fact. No such
word do I find. A blot of disparagement is on them all. I choose
Manners as on the whole the least objectionable.

Pass them briefly in review. When I say a man is kind in Manners, do I
not suggest that there may be a contrast between his outward bearing
and his inner heart? Or shall we call the relation one of Propriety,
as Adam Smith does in his masterly discussion of this moral situation?
Propriety always stirs aversion, because it implies that we have had
little share in establishing the standard employed. It has been set up
outside us and still we are subjected to it. How exasperated a child
is when told to behave properly! Why should he care for Propriety?
Or shall we say Civility? It is a scrimping, meagre word, announcing
that only so much consideration is shown as decency requires. When we
hear a man say, “John was civil to me,” our thought continues: “Was
that all? Did he go no further than that?” How would Politeness do?
More than Manners it hints at insincerity and conduct that hopes to
gain something for itself. Beware of a polite man. He is likely to use
you for his own ends. Might we then talk of Good Breeding? When any
one calls me well-bred he praises my parents, not me. The excellence
on which I pride myself has apparently come from their training. What
shall we say of Courtesy? That it is a term of dignity, but suggests
stooping. The one with whom I deal is accounted my inferior. Or
Gentlemanliness? To call a young fellow a gentleman makes his heart
throb. Yet the word does not escape a certain limitation. It uses
the standard of a particular set, “our crowd.” If my conduct does
not accord with their usages, I am not a gentleman. The word lacks

By such questionable terms our language names the beautiful relation I
am now to set forth. Since Manners is on the whole the least stained
word among them, the one most nearly neutral, I adopt it, but I shall
read into it much more meaning than people generally intend. To cover
its full meaning I am obliged to frame a statement so burdened with
details that it will hardly be recognized as anything commonly called
Manners. But it shall be explained clause by clause, and I ask my
reader to watch whether I have introduced anything into it which might
be omitted or omitted anything which should have been introduced. The
definition runs thus: By Manners I mean such a voluntary conformity to
a code of conduct as, within a fixed field of intercourse, insures to
each person the least offense and a due opportunity of self-expression.
Four elements are here named as belonging to Manners. I will take them
up separately and in order.

In the first place Manners assume a settled code, a social arrangement
generally agreed to. They are essentially systematic, not impulsive
and incidental. An exclamation of joy uttered when I am happy may or
may not be consistent with good manners. That depends on how fully it
has been rationalized. I am expected to act to-day as I should wish
to act to-morrow. Expression must keep in view the whole personality.
Moreover, I must know how other people act and bring my action into
measurable conformity with theirs. If I am frequently doing what nobody
else does, I am sure to be thought rude. I am expected to understand
what the social code demands. Perhaps the word “code” is too formal.
It pictures a committee drawing up a plan of behavior. Of course
no such committee exists. Yet an agreement there has been, a tacit
understanding, of how we are to behave to one another. Any one ignorant
of this understanding, or neglectful of it, is reckoned boorish and
unfit for mannerly intercourse. That usage and not my own liking should
direct my bearing toward others. To do something just because I like to
shows me uncivilized. My commonest actions should be socialized. They
are expected to express something more than my separate self, namely,
my conjunct self, showing accordance with myself at other times and
also accordance with the persons around me.

Is it well or usual to have these understandings written down? Are
manuals of manners useful, teaching us just how to behave in this and
that situation? Such books exist, but I believe few would willingly
be caught reading one. Formal codes are not what we want. They are not
fine enough. They study moral situations too mechanically, with too
little regard for personality. From them one might pick up a few useful
warnings about certain bad habits not previously noticed; but a man who
followed such a manual exactly would nowhere be a welcome guest.

Conformity to a standard, however, is far from the whole of manners.
Were it so, the place to find good manners would be the State Prison.
A clear code is established there. Each man is told precisely what
he is to do throughout the entire day. For that reason we are hardly
justified in speaking of convict manners at all. A prison permits no
expression of the individual life, and a second condition of good
manners was “_voluntary_ conformity to a social code.” While every
child should be trained to know how those who are wisest and kindest
are accustomed to meet the little circumstances of daily intercourse,
still that child’s actions are worthless if they do not bear his own
stamp. Is not this what we mean by a vulgar man? His manners are
not an expression of himself, but of somebody else. Other men have
obliterated him. An evident copy is all that remains. Fine manners
play around the correct modes, departing from them here and there in
little niceties. So far is the code from fettering individuality that
it becomes the channel for its easiest outgo. A graceful gentleman is
enviable in his freedom. He is at home anywhere. Every situation has
been thought out by society beforehand. With its conclusions he has
been long acquainted and in his own way swiftly adapts them to the
delicate occasion at hand. There is no surprise, no awkwardness, no
loss of dignity. The separate self is not altogether suppressed, but is
present everywhere in the service of the conjunct.

There appears in the definition, however, a phrase which clogs it:
“Within a fixed field of intercourse.” Why is this necessary and what
does it mean? Manners need to be adjusted to different occasions. Those
that are suitable to the shop do not fit the evening party. When we
meet for the exchange of commodities or meet to exchange good wishes
and general good cheer, we approach one another from different angles,
and our manners should reflect them appropriately. When again we meet
for discussion, the social situation is so peculiar that nothing less
than a written code, a _Cushing’s Manual_, will insure freedom for
all. Left to themselves, each person would speak as often as feeling
prompted. But such rude manners are not allowed. No one must speak
without appealing to the chairman and receiving his permission by
word or nod. If a person opposing me in debate makes statements which
strike me as absurd and intended to mislead, I am not at liberty to
characterize them so. Debate could not proceed on such terms. Every
one must be respectful and conform to a parliamentary standard. Such a
standard would be out of place in the home. But much of the beauty of
human intercourse arises from noticing these differences in the field
and, with full knowledge of what is customary, adapting our manners
freshly to what the occasions require.

But readers will already be asking, “Why all this pomp and
circumstance? What object can make us willing to accept such constraint
instead of approaching one another as we happen to feel.” That object
was the fourth point in my definition: Manners are accepted “in order
to insure to each person the least offense and a due opportunity for
self-expression.” Expression is dear to all. At least to me it is
always a pleasure to give another a piece of my mind. This may not
be a pleasure to that other. If, then, we are to be social beings,
there must be some security that when I am enjoying speech I cause no
disturbance to others. Accordingly, the chief object of manners is a
negative one, to avoid offense, to put every one at ease. Suppose the
contrary; suppose A. B. asks me to meet a group of his friends; suppose
I have a fancy for colored waistcoats and dress of fantastic design;
suppose me not inclined to subordinate my taste to that of others,
but simply to dress as I please. Should I not come as an intruder and
disturber, preventing my fellow guests from thinking of anything but
me? I should not be invited again to that house. To avoid such scenes
we willingly accept a common costume, which nobody was ever known to
admire. We go out in the evening garbed in black. We know then what to
expect, securing ourselves against shock and curbing the self-asserter.
That turbulent ego is the chief obstacle to society. Better give up
much that is of value if we can thus be brought to conduct which shows
consideration for all around.

The other part of the aim of manners, self-expression, is subordinate
though desirable. Living alone, we are small; in contact with our
fellow men, we enlarge ourselves. Trouble is worth taking for such
a purpose. But there are dangers. Society is possible only where
mutual consideration is shown. To be a social person one must be
altruistically minded, continually studying another’s comfort. I am
talking with two or three old friends about some experiences of our
youth, when John Smith joins us. We go on talking, and soon all the
company except John Smith bursts into laughter. He naturally feels shut
out and we perceive that we have been rude. Manners are devised to stop
such painful feelings. We leave outside social walls whatever cannot be
shared by all alike.

I have been expounding here something so familiar that it is seldom
mentioned or even thought of, but is usually taken as a matter
of course. Yet surely it is important to perceive how wide is the
extent of altruism. It is nothing occasional, calling for exceptional
heroism. It is commonplace, spread all around us, attending the most
elementary processes of existence. We never approach one another as
separate beings, but are called on wherever we meet to put each other
at ease, whatever may be the cost to ourselves. Well does Bentham
write: “Good breeding is that deportment on occasions of inferior, and,
when separately taken, of trivial importance by which those acts are
abstained from which give annoyance to others. It is to this negative
or abstinential branch of benevolence that most of the laws of good
breeding are to be referred.” Christ in offering the Golden Rule seems
not to be urging unusual conduct, but rather to suggest that we carry
out consistently and as a plan of life a principle inwrought into the
very structure of our being. We are made conjunctive. Any attempt to
exhibit the varieties of altruism must take this beautiful fact as its

No one has set forth more clearly the scope and delicacy of manners
than Adam Smith in those chapters of his _Moral Sentiments_ which
treat of Propriety. He asks what feelings may properly be expressed
in company and what others, equally natural, the well-mannered man
suppresses. The general principle is that those which have their root
in specific circumstances of the individual, as, for example, the
physical experiences, should be kept in the background. A gentleman
does not talk of his toothache or recent cold, nor does he show his
strong appetite at table. While recognizing that all may properly be
interested in his intended marriage, he dwells on the intensity of
his affection only to the lady herself. These are matters relating to
the separate self, while manners give expression only to what all can
share. Our ardent personal passions, even when entirely justified,
often need to be flattened down before they can be fit to express.
Manifestations of the social passions, kindness and pity, are seldom
improper. These give a double opportunity for sympathy. We share the
feelings both of the sufferer and the humane speaker. But the emotions
that terminate in ourselves, like joy and grief, require care. On
the whole, Smith thinks we may count on sympathy with our small joys
and large griefs. Happiness is something delightful to share, at
least until it becomes so great as to awaken envy. And though it is
disagreeable to hear of petty annoyances, which a gentleman passes
lightly by, serious misfortune is so much a part of the common lot that
all will sympathize in hearing of it and be pleased that they have
in this instance escaped. The death of a relative may not improperly
put its mark on our very clothing, but it is indecent to speak of our
vexations from servants and children.

Here, then, we see human society reposing on a widely distributed and
systematized altruism. Mutual consideration is here the rule. The
apostle states it admirably: “Look not every man on his own things, but
every man also on the things of others.” The separate self is allowed
no place; the conjunct self is the only person recognized. Surely, any
one who undertakes to examine the varieties of altruism must begin with
these beautiful and little-noticed moralities.

Begin, but not end here. For while I believe all that has thus
far been said is true, I see so much else to be true that I devote
a section of this chapter to a criticism of manners. Wherein do
manners fail to embody altruism completely? In three respects: they
are trivial, self-protective, and enfeebling. The study of these
deficiencies will show us the way to altruism of a higher kind.

The triviality of manners requires no long demonstration. All must have
felt it and, probably enough, have been surprised at my counting such
matters deserving of a place in a serious ethical discussion. It is
as if I had devoted a section to brushing the hair. Many things more
or less connected with the comfort of daily life we do not talk or
think much about, and such are manners--never good until they become
instinctive. They express merely our superficial relations with our
fellows, our outward behavior, our acts and not our motives. The man of
considerate manners may be inwardly considerate, too; but he may be the
very reverse and have shaped his conduct with a view to social success.
Indeed, it may truly be said that manners become more prominent as
the occasions of human intercourse diminish in importance. Organized
“society,” in which manners flourish, is treated as of little
consequence by the sober body of the community. This, then, is the
first defect of manners when regarded as an embodiment of altruism:
they are of limited range and do not necessarily involve the whole man.

But they are open to a graver objection. They are fundamentally
self-protective. If my first account of them were the whole truth,
society people would be the least selfish of mankind. That is not
their reputation, for manners are, after all, grounded in distrust
of our fellow man. I said that the chief aim of manners was to avoid
offense; that is, we anticipate being offended when we meet, and take
precautions against it. The need of such precautions against the
turbulent ego I have shown already. Until I can be sure that people
will not shock me by tasteless attire and heavy talk, that they will
not unload on me what concerns only themselves, that they will not be
tedious, didactic, or intrusive, in short, that they will be trained
to play the social game for general enjoyment rather than individual
gain, I shall keep away from company. Manners express these doubts.
They preserve an interval between me and those who might press too
near. Emerson says of them that they are a contrivance of the wise for
keeping fools at a distance. No doubt they may also express affection
and pleasure in humankind. I only assert that this is not necessarily
their meaning. They may be mere social safeguards, restraints to which
each of us submits in Hobbistic fashion in order to protect ourselves.

But there is one further point in our disparagement of manners. He who
accepts the code, indorses, and practises it, finds himself in the
long run enfeebled. Accordingly, a healthy nature is always a little
restive under manners. The child rebels against being taught how to
behave. He wants to behave as nature prompts. When full of glee he
would laugh aloud, but is told that loud laughter in company is not
proper. Is there not danger that the continual check which manners
put on exuberant nature may, in the process of rubbing off social
excrescences, rub off much of nature too? How large will be the “due
opportunity for self-expression” in a society whose prime aim is “the
avoidance of offense”? It must be remembered that checking expression
checks thought. We do not develop strong interests when moving among
those who stare if we mention them. In company, people may grow quick,
clever, neat in repartee, compliment, and paradox, but they do not
become reflective, solid in judgment, distinctive in individual taste.
Such things come more readily in isolation. It is wise advice George
Herbert gives:

    “By all means use sometimes to be alone.
    Salute thyself. See what thy soul doth wear.
    Dare to look in thy chest, for ’tis thine own,
    And tumble up and down what thou find’st there.
      Who cannot rest till he good fellows find
      He shuts up house, turns out of doors his mind.”

The fact is that in bidding us all the time to be regardful of others,
manners make too sharp a division between the conjunct and the separate
self; and it is disastrous to each to be set up to the exclusion of the
other. In detachment the conjunct self grows empty, the separate self
surly and brutish. They belong together. When either has been unduly
emphasized, it is wholesome to give the other a chance. Society, the
special field for the cultivation of manners, would soon be sterile
soil were it not abandoned during lenten intervals and summers in
the country. After meeting a multitude of people and being obliged
to adjust ourselves to only such matters as all can understand, what
a relief it is to be in the open fields, social conventions dropped,
responsibilities forgotten, and no regard for others marking our words,
acts, or dress!

And now we see why all the words which name the ingenious system of
man’s best approach to man contain a tinge of evil. Every one is a
disparaging term, though meant for praise. Politeness, courtesy,
good breeding, propriety, decency, civility--manners is the best of
the long list, for it states with less of praise or blame the mutual
consideration expected whenever person meets person. But it is not
altogether clean. It lingers on the outside and so suggests triviality,
suspicion of our neighbor, and the enfeebling of originality. That
these baser qualities are not inherent in manners is true enough. A
well-mannered man may have a friendly soul. But he may have one of an
opposite sort. Manners, therefore, though altruistic in form, are not
necessarily altruistic in matter. They can, accordingly, be regarded as
only the beginning of our inquiry. No human society, it is now evident,
can be formed without recognizing the altruistic principle; but in
manners that principle may be employed as naturally for an egoistic as
for an altruistic purpose. What we are in search of is a situation in
which a man sincerely prefers another’s good to his own.



Such a higher stage of altruism is that which I have called Gifts. When
we give, we set ourselves in a low place and some one else in a high,
so intentionally putting altruism into the matter of our action and
not merely into its form. A definition of giving would therefore run
as follows: the diminution by ourselves of some of our possessions,
pleasures, or opportunities for growth, so that another person may
possess more.

Every gift, to be a real gift, must cost the giver something. When
I have just received an unexpectedly large payment and am feeling
particularly well off, I might easily take pleasure in handing a
half-dollar to a beggar. But that is an amusement, not a gift. I have
experienced no loss. For both money and beggar I cared little, but the
momentary sense of munificence was agreeable. The act was one of pride
rather than generosity. On the other hand, I give a friend a book I
love, one that has deeply influenced my life and I hope may influence
his. He has no means of obtaining a copy elsewhere. I shall miss it,
no doubt. But remembering how long I have had it, and he not at all, I
resolve to impoverish myself for his enrichment. The moment I hand it
to him he becomes the rich man and I the poor. All ownership on my part
ceases. I have cut myself off from something valuable in order to bring
about a certain superiority in him. That is the essence of a gift. To
make my friend large I make myself small.

It may be said, however, that such damage to the giver is unnecessary.
Completer giving would be that where the receiver makes up to me my
loss. But would not my act under such conditions cease to be a gift? It
would become an exchange, a trade, a bargain. Whether a wise trade or
a foolish, there was calculation directed to keeping me as well off at
the close of the transaction as at the beginning. On that account no
one will call it a gift. Or if, again, I expect positively to profit by
what I offered my friend, finding my bookshelves crowded and resolved
to lead a simpler life, my act once more will lack the quality of a
gift. Wisely I rid myself of some superfluous possessions, but I did
so quite as much for my own advantage as for that of my friend. It
is true that often in whole-hearted giving we find ourselves in the
end richer than before. But that was not contemplated. What we sought
was impoverishment for another’s gain, and it is that purpose which
constitutes a gift.

As regards what is given, a few words may be well. All gifts are not
of the same grade. In thinking of them we generally have in mind
parting with a piece of property. But this is the slenderest of
gifts. Accordingly in my definition, side by side with possessions, I
named a superior sort of gift, pleasures. To detach a pleasure from
myself for another’s sake, and to succeed in the difficult business
of transferring it from my enjoyment to his, is surely a larger gift
than parting with a piece of property. Indeed, even in giving an
article, I felt the pleasure involved in it to be the important matter.
Having been pleased with it myself I trusted it would bring my friend
pleasure too. The article was a mere means, a subordinate part of the
affair. Could I convey as much pleasure without it, the gift would
gain in delicacy. Suppose then on a beautiful afternoon, when I have
been bending over my work all the morning, I am offered a ride in the
country. A friend is standing beside me, and to him I turn. “You take
this seat. I do not care to go. You need it more than I.” And knowing
full well the refreshment that will be had, I persuade him to take my
place. Here is a gift of a higher order than a mere piece of property.
Its substance is taken more directly out of myself.

But there are gifts higher still, for we may give sections of ourselves
more important than pleasure. I may allow myself to stagnate in order
that my friend may grow. In filling out his nature, let him not merely
use me; let his use me up. Here altruism reaches its highest point
in self-sacrifice. Yet instances of it are common. In almost every
home in the land something like this is going on. In many households
parents are saying: “That boy shall have the opportunities which we
always longed for but could not attain. He shall go to college. A
little pinching on our part will make it possible.” And so the boy goes
joyously forth into an invigorating world, provided by the narrowing
life of those at home. Such gifts are incomparable. They are gifts of

Or do I distort this consummate altruism by calling it sacrifice? At
least this should be added, that true sacrifice never knows itself to
be sacrifice. Joyously the parents send their boy forth and joyously
accept their own narrow routine. They do so feeling that he to whom
they are giving their life is inseparable from themselves. They have
learned to merge their abstract isolated self in him and to conceive
themselves as living the larger conjunct life with him in his new
opportunities. How exquisitely astonished are the men in the parable
when called on to receive reward for their generous gifts! “Lord, when
saw we thee an hungered and fed thee, or thirsty and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee sick or in prison and came unto thee?” They thought
they had only been following their own desires.

Here, then, giving seems to supersede itself, the giver receiving
quite as much as he bestows. And some such paradox is unavoidable so
long as the thought of self remains properly ambiguous. Our early
English moralists saw no ambiguity in it. They understood by self the
abstract, unrelated individual. They were consequently so puzzled
by benevolence as often to deny it altogether. In our age of social
consciousness the puzzle has largely disappeared. We see giving to be
as natural as getting, and hardly to be distinguished from it. But it
will be well before advancing to criticise the higher forms of altruism
to fix firmly in mind some classic statement of the two conceptions and
once for all to see how absurd each looks from the point of view of the
other. When our Lord hung upon the cross the jeering soldiers cried:
“He saved others; himself he cannot save!” No, he could not; and his
inability seemed to them ridiculous, while it was in reality his glory.
His true self he was saving, himself and all mankind, the only self he

Giving has always impressed mankind as singularly noble. Indeed, in
the judgment of many it outclasses all other excellence and is the
only human action to call forth reverence. So nearly does generosity
become identified with goodness that if I should ask a man whether John
Smith was good to him yesterday I should be understood to ask if he
gave unselfish attention to that man’s affairs. Goodness in this sense,
the disposition to give, will in the popular mind cover a multitude
of sins. In how many stories have past ages taken pleasure where the
robber hero, crafty, merciless, and generous, bestows upon the poor
plunder taken from the rich. The man ready to give, whatever else his
quality, seemed to our ancestors always to deserve admiration.

We have become suspicious. There is a disposition to-day to question
this wholesale praise of giving and to suggest that it is not free from
danger. Instead of promoting public welfare, generosity may sometimes
impoverish the community. It may lead people to depend on others,
instead of standing on their own feet. And what a general weakening
follows! The two classes into which society always tends to fall become
more sharply contrasted--the rich, amusing themselves from time to time
with officious charity, and the poor through accepting it steadily
growing more helpless and cringing. Our fathers, less studious of
society than we, did not perceive these dangers, but only the evils of
selfishness. They accordingly eulogized giving, whatever and wherever
it was. If a man asks for your outer garment, give him your inner one
also. Give without calculating results.

Against all this a reaction has set in. It is now insisted that giving
should no more be freed from rational control than any other impulse.
It is too important a matter to be left to caprice and pursued merely
to give the giver ease. It should be scientifically treated. The
circumstances should be studied under which gifts may be permitted and
under which withheld. We should be clear about the proper grounds for
giving. Simply because somebody takes pleasure in giving he must not be
allowed that pleasure where it becomes detrimental to the community at

Such are the questionings of our time. In studying this high form of
altruism I cannot pass them by. I may fairly be asked to indicate when
it will be safe to open the hand freely and when we had better keep
it somewhat closed. As I try to classify the conditions of giving, I
notice that two are grounded in the nature of the receiver and two in
the nature of the giver; and in that order I will take them up.

Obviously, the first condition to be considered is the receiver’s
assured need. When we see need and have the means to check it we
naturally spring forward and give with reference to that particular
need. If a man needs food, I do not offer him a theatre ticket; though
if I found him worn with business and needing recreation such a gift
would be appropriate. This adaptation is the important matter in all
true giving. “Find out men’s wants and wills, and meet them there,”
says an old poet. To give anything that happens to come into my mind
is selfish and shows me unwilling to take trouble for another’s sake;
that is, I am shown to lack the very spirit of a giver. The same
considerations fix the magnitude of the gift. A small amount given for
a large need is often useless and exasperating; a large amount for a
small need, wasteful and corrupting. Wise giving demands an obedient
mind attentive to another’s requirements and not head-strong in
insistence on one’s own way. If there is any worth in giving, to keep
that giving clear of waste and make it as effective as possible becomes
an urgent duty.

I have already distinguished three varieties of gift: articles of my
own possession, pleasures which might be mine diverted to another,
and a means of growth imparted to another at my own cost. These form
successively higher stages of giving, the greatest gift of all being,
in my judgment, the gift of growth. Curiously enough, Kant denounces
this as immoral. Man, he urges, is a person, the only being, so far as
we know, who is capable of self-development. To attempt to take away
this power and substitute another’s developing agency is an intrusion.
A man’s growth is the business of no one but himself. If another person
can scatter a pleasure or two in his path, it is a worthy altruistic
act. But for any one but himself to undertake his construction is
presumptuous and, indeed, impossible. In building a house we use
plastic material, which has no will. But a person is essentially
active, self-directed, and beyond the reach of agencies other than his
own. When we teachers offer to make our pupils wiser, we promise what
we cannot perform. Ourselves we can make wiser. To our pupils we can
only offer material for their use. We may tell them that by devoting
themselves to study they will reach capacious lives. But such lives
we have no power to bestow. If our suggestions are rejected, we are
helpless. Such is Kant’s extreme theory. But has he gone far enough?
Have I any more ability to impart a pleasure? I certainly cannot pick
up a pleasure and put it into another person, regardless of how it will
be received. There must be co-operation. The receiver may turn it into
either pleasure or pain. Kant’s objection applies with nearly equal
force against the giving of pleasures. In both cases we merely provide
material, subject to acceptance or rejection, material which has
proved useful in many previous cases. I give my friend a ticket to the
theatre, bidding him enjoy himself and get the refreshment he needs.
But I cannot be sure what he will get. He may be bored and wish he
had stayed at home. There are great uncertainties in gifts, for their
receivers are indeed persons, the least calculable of all beings. A
piece of property I can convey to a person with some certainty that he
has received it. But whether it will mean for him what it meant for me
I cannot tell. In all the best affairs of life there is risk.

If the risks in offering opportunities of growth are somewhat greater
than in the case of other forms of gift, the need is greater too, and
the results, if accomplished, more considerable. Arrangements for gifts
of this highest sort are often properly made on a vast scale. They
include churches, colleges, schools, lecture-foundations, museums.
These are all public agencies for promoting growth. The private means
are surer, family life. Yet here how often parents will offer gifts
of an inferior sort, things or pleasures, careless whether they meet
the needs of growth. The truest benefactor is he who is willing to
disappoint or pain us if by so doing he can open doors for ampler
powers. Our greatest need is for enlargement. Whoever contributes to
that is our most beneficent giver.

But human need is only one of the two claims to gifts grounded in the
nature of the receiver. We should likewise pay attention to numbers.
If I have a loaf of bread to give away, and all about me hungry
persons stand, I do wrong in handing half of it to one of them for a
hearty meal and putting off the others, equally needy, with a small
slice. At the beginning I should have studied numbers and kept a fair
distribution in mind. In these days when every mail brings us three
or four demands for subscriptions to excellent causes, which we would
gladly aid, the question of distribution becomes perplexing. We wish
to make our gifts go as far as possible. If we are hardy and dutiful,
we plan according to need and number; if weak and compliant, we meet
each soliciting letter with a formal subscription, just enough to be
counted, and feel ourselves discharged from a difficult problem.

In my own experience it has been helpful to readjust slightly the
conception of number and to consider rather the scope of a gift. Many
years ago a wealthy man in the West, who had worked his way through
Harvard University, said to me that he knew there were many men at
Harvard of decided worth but unable to get the full benefit of the
place through lack of funds. He asked if he might leave a sum of money
with me for their benefit. I was not to disclose his name, was to
expend the money as if it were my own, selecting the recipients quietly
through personal acquaintance and giving account to nobody. I gladly
assented and anticipated easy and delightful work in distributing
bounty where need was abundant. But I soon discovered that giving money
away was about as difficult as earning it. I was to make investments,
with returns in human power and character--called on therefore to
exercise no less pains and sagacity than if the investment were for my
own benefit. I believe now that much of the money I at first gave away
had been better thrown into the sea. It did little good to the one who
received it, and still less to the public. I was too tender-hearted
and fixed my mind too exclusively on the hardships of some particular
student. Pity is dangerous stuff for a charity administrator. Gradually
I learned that my true object of consideration should not be the
individual student but the community. Through the student I was to
give to the public. And would that student be a good transmitter?
That became my constant question. In studying how my gifts might get
the widest scope, I gradually formulated the maxim to help only the
strong and let the feeble sink. A merciless maxim it appears at first,
and always requiring subtlety in application. But what right have
I, in investing property for the public good, to ignore questions
of return? A powerful lawyer, doctor, business man, poet, minister,
or public-spirited citizen brings blessing to a multitude, and I am
allowed to share in the shaping of that blessing. Shall I withdraw
funds from such a cause and invest them in stock of slender security
and low interest, where they can at best only ease the discomfort of an
individual? That would be to overlook the scope of my gift. I used to
tell my boys that the aid was not intended for their relief, but for
the relief of society to which they must carry forth heightened powers.
And this, I think, should be the method in all charitable outlay if we
would give to limited means the broadest range of influence.

These, then, need and numbers or scope, are the conditions of giving
so far as the receiver is concerned. By studying them we learn how to
proportion our gifts. Two more remain, equally important, grounded in
the nature of the giver. They are his ability and his knowledge; but
the former, like number, will oblige us to examine it from a twofold
point of view.

That we are to give only according to our ability seems almost too
obvious to state; yet it is something we must never lose sight of.
In making this gift shall I have enough left for that? That is our
constant question. In answering it I see that ability is only another
name for an already accumulated wealth. If our ability to give is to be
large, we must in past time, before the demand arose, have accumulated
stock, in which accumulation we are likely to receive small approval
from anybody. Spending is showy and interesting. It has a liberal air
which all commend. While engaged in it we shall not lack those who will
cheer us on. But saving is repulsive and suspicious, seldom calling
out praise; yet it is an absolute essential of subsequent giving.
The wealth accumulated may be of many kinds--money, learning, sound
judgment--but it must be gathered in the dark, before the demand
for its use becomes clear. How humiliating, when need arises and the
disposition to aid is upon us, to look into our treasury and find it
empty! A perplexed soul turns to us for wise counsel and we are obliged
to tell him, if we are honest, that we have never trained ourselves
in careful thought and should only mislead him by random suggestions.
Preparation beforehand for the numberless occasions of giving is the
perpetual business of the generous mind. So, at least, thought Jesus.
“For their sakes I sanctify myself.”

Other persons, I said, are little likely to assist us here and are
perhaps justly suspicious. Accumulation is likely enough to be prompted
by selfishness. When a man withdraws from his fellows every day to
his study or store, and isolated there with his own interests regards
little besides inflowing wealth, he certainly looks self-centred, may
actually be so, and should by no means complain if misunderstood. Being
misunderstood is, after all, not unhealthy. Without exposing ourselves
to that risk few of us can reach our full power of altruistic service.
We need to train ourselves for kindness in the long run, with some
carelessness as regards the conflicting short.

I have been pointing out how largely our ability to give depends on an
already accumulated wealth. But into ability enters one thing more,
tact. Without a good supply of this, giving irritates and misses its
mark. But tact is a word of evil omen and has such synonyms as slyness,
adroitness. I am supposed to adjust myself to the peculiarities of
somebody in order securely to gain what he would be little disposed to
give. I have studied the windings of his mind and know just the side
on which to approach him. I set myself in the very best light, play
on his weaknesses, and skilfully obtain much which in his unmanaged
moods he would never think of granting. Well, tact is often exercised
in this self-seeking fashion. But that is because it is a great power,
egoistic or altruistic. It may be employed with either aim. A good
giver needs it no less than a selfish schemer. How many would-be givers
do we know who come blundering up with gifts and drop them upon us in
a way which utterly shocks and makes us unwilling to receive them.
Others have taken some trouble to be kind, have acquainted themselves
with our circumstances, have been able to outflank our delicacies and
hesitations, and so to make their gift received with the least sense of
intrusion or obligation. What an exquisite fine art giving may be, and
how it increases altruistic power! But it is acquired with effort and
will be effective only after it has become instinctive. As in the case
of wealth, the gaining of it must not be postponed to the time when it
is needed. That will bring merely awkwardness and disappointment. It
must be accumulated beforehand. One desiring altruistic skill should be
training himself perpetually: as he walks the street, as he meets an
acquaintance, as he enters a shop, as he sits at table. Every situation
affords opportunity for swiftly sympathetic adjustment, for removing
self-absorption and substituting for it that generous imagination
without which no gift is acceptable. A well-equipped giver, putting
himself imaginatively in the other man’s place, perceives at once how
his gift may be most easily received.

But besides ability, with its two branches of wealth and tact, there is
a final condition grounded in the giver, that of knowledge. Of course,
we cannot give properly unless we understand the case, and the larger
our understanding the greater is our obligation to aid. These simple
truths illuminate some moral perplexities. I read a while ago of a
famine in China. Crops had failed and there was wide-spread suffering.
Tragic tales were reported. In the next column of the paper was an
account of airplane construction. I found both columns interesting. The
same day a man I knew broke his leg. An awful affair! I hurried to his
bedside and could think of nothing else than how I might help. Then
it occurred to me how disproportioned were my sympathies. Thousands
of squalid deaths on the other side of the globe made a spectacular
newspaper item. A broken leg next door engrossed me and called out all
my resources. We have all had the experience and, on first reflection,
have called ourselves selfish brutes. But I believe that is an error.
Helpful sympathy waits on knowledge and proportions itself by this
rather than by objective need. The sufferings of China are known to us
only abstractly and in outline, and only in outline can our sympathies
be accorded. But a case which comes under our immediate inspection,
disclosing all its significant details, is a different matter and lays
upon us a claim of giving which the other rightly does not. Nearness
counts. Knowledge heightens obligation. I would not defend absorption
in our narrow circle. I have just been urging the constant enlargement
of sympathetic knowledge. But we should never ignore the fact that the
unknown is not as the known and that only in proportion as we know can
we advantageously help.

Through overlooking these necessary limitations of human sympathy the
Stoics were led to denounce patriotism. We should honor man as man.
Why, then, regard an American sufferer more than a Chinese? Because
he is my countryman. But that rests philanthropy on selfishness and
makes the needy person’s relation to me of more consequence than his
suffering. The notion of patriotism which masquerades as a virtue
should be denounced as a vice. All will recognize in such an argument
a valuable protest against narrowness. But few will accept the
principle on which it rests. All men are not alike. Relation to me
does constitute a special moral claim. Shall I treat my mother as I
would any other old lady, as the apple woman at the corner? I say no;
and the ground of different treatment I do not find in selfishness but
in superior knowledge. I have known my mother ever since I was born.
In early years she studied my needs and now she is my special charge.
I comprehend what she requires in heart, mind, and person as I can
comprehend those of no other woman. It is at least uneconomical to
lay aside all this equipment for service and give her only the care a
stranger might receive from me. The family tie means something. The
tie of country means something. I know the habits of thought, the
half-conscious turns of feeling, of my own people. In understanding a
person of another nation I go about so far, and then run up against
a brick wall, beyond which all is blind. This measure of possible
understanding is the measure of duty. Knowledge forms one of the two
conditions of giving grounded in the nature of the giver.

Such are the conditions which the modern mind would set upon giving.
Our fathers paid little attention to them. Giving was in their
eyes the crowning virtue and they were unwilling to shut it within
bounds. Wherever need appeared they urged one another to meet it with
charity, pretty indifferent to considerations of knowledge, ability,
or social result. The altruistic purpose was so admirable that it
seemed to require no scrutiny in application. But we are not content
to leave anything uncriticised and have endeavored to rationalize even
giving. Not altogether with success, however. On examining closely the
conditions I have assembled, certain inner conflicts will be noticed.
Take, for example, the case of need; when another’s need is greatest
my ability is least. Ability does not accompany need, increasing with
its increase, but tends either to remain stationary or to fall behind
as need grows. A somewhat similar conflict is unavoidable between
knowledge and numbers. I have shown that as numbers grow large they
become empty ciphers. The mind cannot grasp their human and detailed
significance. Regrettable as this fact is, we had better recognize it
as inevitable, accepting as our particular charge those instances of
need which lie sufficiently near for careful inspection and leaving
the more vast and distant to be cared for by special experts, supplied
with our means but not our ignorance. Much of our best charity must be
exercised by deputy.

The fact that gifts cannot be entirely rationalized suggests a doubt
whether they can form more than a subordinate instrument for expressing
altruism. By what means can their defects be remedied? To answering
such questions the next chapter will be devoted.



A colleague of mine, an excellent classical scholar, received by
bequest an admirable collection of Latin authors. In the writers
themselves, in the choice editions, and the appropriate bindings he
took extreme pleasure. When talking with him about them one day I asked
what he intended to do with the books at his death. Would he have them
given to another Latinist as fine as himself? Or would he have them
go to some college library where any one might use them? He said the
question had often puzzled him, but he had finally decided to send
them to the auction-room. They were books he had so much loved that
he could not bear to have them fall into unappreciative hands. If he
gave them away, what warrant had he that they would be prized? If they
were sold, nobody would obtain one unless he were willing to get it by
some sacrifice. This was not a case where generosity could be trusted.
Probably the matter could be more wisely settled by self-interest.

This instance makes evident the uncertain character of giving. However
superior in altruistic fulness gifts are to manners, they are unfit,
unless supplemented by some other principle, to form a practical rule
of life. Let us examine them in detail and see wherein they fail to
embody complete altruism. In their very nature I find them to be
exceptional, irrational, and condescending; and I will briefly explain
each of these points.

Giving is occasional and fragmentary. It cannot occupy a life. The
great body of our time and attention must be directed upon individual
interests. I rise in the morning after eight hours of sleep, go
downstairs to breakfast, take my walk for the needed morning exercise,
on returning look over my mail and the morning paper, turn to my
studies, to my meals, to calling on a friend. It is all egoistic.
No doubt during the day I am repeatedly summoned to attend to other
people’s affairs. Begging letters, interruptions, engagements of a
public and business nature are not absent. They intervene and stand out
isolated in my egoistic day. No doubt, too, most of my occupation with
myself--in sleep, food, exercise, study--is a necessary preparation for
social service. All I am urging is that social service cannot stand
alone. It requires a large individualistic background. The care one
gives to others is occasional, one might even say exceptional. In order
to be able to meet it, our primary and preponderant care must be given
to ourselves. Such a thing as interest in altruistic giving, separate
from personal gain and established as an independent guiding principle,
is altogether impossible. Only at intervals comes the generous act; in
general, we are busied with our own affairs.

On this inseparability of egoism and altruism I received excellent
instruction many years ago out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. A
couple of little children, a girl of four and a boy of five years old,
had just been tucked into their beds. Their mother in the next room
heard them talking. Listening to learn if they needed anything, she
found them discussing one of the vast problems for which the infant
mind seems to have a natural affinity. They were inquiring why we were
ever put into the world. The little girl suggested we might have
been sent here to help others. “Why no, indeed, Mabel,” was her big
brother’s reply. “Of course not; for then what would others be here
for?” Pertinent reflection, putting the answer to one-sided altruism
into a nutshell! If our own affairs are worthless, why suppose they
can be of worth to others? It is no kindness to bestow on another what
has never been found good for ourselves. A gift should cost something.
Something properly valued by us we part with for another’s sake. A
strong egoistic sense, then, is a condition of altruistic action. The
latter cannot cover the whole of a life. No man is benevolent all the
time, but exceptionally, at intervals, when regard for himself may
safely be withdrawn.

A graver defect of giving is its arbitrary character. Our reformers
have been attempting to rationalize charity and certainly have devised
methods by which some of its worst evils may be lessened. But until
they stop it altogether they will not rid it of irrational wilfulness.
One would say that in kind and degree my gift should answer another’s
reasonable claim. But it never does. A just claim renders a gift
impossible. Gifts come from a region outside claims, outside rational
justification. They are the expression of arbitrary will. I give
because I want to, and the other knows he has no right beyond my
inclination to what he is receiving. Were there legitimate grounds for
my pretended gift it would be merely the payment of a debt and would
afford no such pleasure as does the over-and-above of a gift. A clerk
may have satisfaction in his salary, but his feeling on receiving his
employer’s gift is something altogether different. The gift dropped
from the sky. He had no idea it was coming. He really had done nothing
to deserve it. Others might have had it equally well, but by some fancy
he had been picked out for enrichment. It is this unexpectedness, this
incalculability, which makes a gift so good. Gifts at Christmas, which
have been systematized, are of a paler order. Even in these there is
usually uncertainty enough left to keep them agreeable. Our regular
giver may decide to give elsewhere this year, he may forget; what he
will select we cannot guess. The important part of the gift is not
its intrinsic worth but its expression of the giver’s will. Gladness
over the former springs from greed, over the latter from gratitude.
This arbitrary will on the giver’s part and the absence of claim in the
receiver make a reasonable gift hard to conceive. To be a gift at all
it must be capricious, undeserved, and only occasional.

But there is a feature of giving more obnoxious than either of
these two, yet no less deeply rooted in giving than exceptionality
and caprice. A gift has always something disparaging about it. It
professes to honor, but deep in the heart of it there is disparagement,
condescension at least. I declare another to be better than myself,
preferring that he shall be the owner of something prized by me. Yet
in reality I retain the superior position myself and make the one whom
I honor my dependent. Rightly did Jesus say: “It is more blessed to
give than to receive.” How could it be otherwise? The giver is the
wealthy man, the man of power and preference; the receiver confessedly
the man of need, passive to another’s will. The very attempt, then,
that I make to raise him up and provide him with something acceptable
from my store sets him beneath me. He lacks, I abound. At the very
moment when turning to him I say: “I prefer you to myself and desire
that you rather than I should possess this,” I am really also saying:
“But by all right it belongs to me and I part with it as its and
your superior.” However glad, therefore, we may be to get our wants
supplied, a disagreeable taste is apt to lurk about the acceptance of
a gift. A good share of humility is required of one who will be an
altogether happy receiver, a contented inferior. Our age has discovered
this and has grown restive over charity. It would seem that in past
ages those who lacked the things that make life worth living stood with
outstretched hands to receive them from their rightful owners, and
that those who owned counted it a prerogative of their station thus
to assist their inferiors. But this humble attitude of the needy is
disappearing, together with many other traditions of aristocratic days.
Our poorer classes now have too much self-respect to be at ease in such
relations. Certainly the poor to-day are vastly better off than at
any other period of the world’s history, yet never more discontented.
The new self-respect which has come with easier conditions makes them
resent charity and dependence. “Give us what belongs to us,” they seem
to say. “We want no benevolence. If a better living should be ours,
we will take it as of right but not by favor. We stand on our own
feet, acknowledging inferiority to no man.” This rejection of charity
on grounds of self-respect is not uncommon to-day. I have met it in
administering the little trust for the benefit of students of which I
spoke. And though I do not altogether sympathize with it, I see in it
much to honor.

Such are the possible humiliations of the receiver. But the giver
is exposed to dangers hardly less. His gifts may be selfish rather
than generous. Few pleasures are greater than giving. In it we feel
our power and catch a sense of the creative efficiency of our will.
One often gives for the sake of indulging this self-assertion, with
small regard for the receiver. Then too, while a true gift costs the
giver something, he who gives out of his abundance may hardly feel the
loss, though feeling full well the glow of raising the helpless to
prosperity. That glow is by no means reprehensible. It is one of our
purest pleasures.

    “All earthly joys go less
    To the one joy of doing kindnesses.”

But it should not be reckoned as generosity. Should we not, too, in
estimating the altruistic worth of gifts deduct the many seeming gifts
which are prompted by shame? When asked for a subscription, I cannot
well refuse and continue to hold my place in public esteem. _Noblesse
oblige._ One must pay for dignity. It will not do, then, to assume that
giving is always an altruistic act. It may be. Yet even where it is
genuinely addressed to improving the condition of some needy person,
the danger is not absent of lowering the independence of that other,
of making him through our will our conscious inferior, and accordingly
implying disparagement in our very bounty. If in giving we always keep
the better end of the transaction for ourselves and hand the poorer to
another, few adjustments of social life will call for more tact.

Yet we are all of us receivers and generally manage to be such without
loss of dignity. Under what circumstances may we and may we not
preserve our self-respect and still take money? If a stranger passing
me on the street hands me a five-dollar bill, I should feel myself
disgraced if it went into my pocket. If one I did not know wrote from
a distant State his enjoyment of a book of mine, enclosing a check, I
should return the check. If finding a person in distress and helping
him he offered me money, I should refuse it. Independence is dear to
most of us and we do not care to part with it on grounds so casual.
This is the condemnation of “tipping,” that abominable practice
introduced from countries more servile than ours. It cheapens him who
gives and him who takes. I see only four occasions where the acceptance
of money is compatible with manhood.

Where misery is so abject that self-help is impossible it is no
disgrace to confess inferiority and lean on a supporting arm. Only we
must insist that as strength returns the arm be withdrawn. Permanent
invalidism is an insidious danger. The second and best accredited
ground for taking money honorably is that of money earned. Here I give
as much as I receive. Each of the two parties at some cost gets what
he desires and each gives with reference to another’s need. No doubt
there are degrees of dignity in the work done. If as a physician I
sell intellectual power and special knowledge, I am naturally honored
more than if as a day laborer I sell only physical exertion. But work
and wages are in themselves honorable, so that if ten cents is of more
consequence to me than getting my hands dirty, I am not disgraced by
blacking another man’s shoes.

A third case is of almost equal importance, though more complicated
and more liable to error. We may accept money in trust, receiving it
from an individual and returning its results to the public. I have
already spoken of this in connection with scholarship aids. Aids for
advanced research, whether from the government or private foundations,
are of the same nature. To be selected for such aid is a high honor,
justified, however, only by the receiver’s proving himself a good
transmitter. He should regard the money as given not to him but
through him and be sure that ultimately it reaches some mark other than
himself. This may be accomplished by returning an equal sum to the
source from which the aid came, by helping some other person equally
needy, or by dedicating to public service powers raised by such aid
from ordinary to superior rank. Equivalence should be brought about. In
some way the one benefited should put back what he has received. If he
allows it to stick in himself, untransmitted, he is disgraced.

I reserve to the last the completest ground of acceptance, love. Where
love is, there is no superior or inferior, no giver or receiver. The
two make up a conjunct self with mutual gain. Or shall we say that he
who loves delights to think of himself as inferior, prides himself
on it, and would be ashamed not to look up in glowing dependence? To
him, therefore, gifts bring no disparagement, but happy gratitude. In
such unabashed dependence most of us spent our early years. And if as
we grew strong fewer gifts of money came to us, their place was taken
by loving tokens more subtle, more pervasive, and coming from more
sources. Possibly we may say that only love and exchange make the
taking of money permissible, and that my first and third grounds are
only special cases of these two. It has been well said that there can
be true giving only where the two parties ideally change places: the
giver so putting himself in the receiver’s place that he feels the
afforded relief a personal gain; and the receiver sharing the pleasure
which under the circumstances the giver must feel. There is always,
however, a difference in the way we accept what comes by exchange and
what comes by love. In the former our thought is fixed on what is
received, in the latter on him who gave.

Such are the characteristics of the second stage of altruism. I
proposed to study that great principle from three points of view
which would show the successive steps by which, without injury to
the individual, it goes on to completeness. At the very beginning of
life, and ever after, we are called on to pay attention to others
and to subject ourselves to restrictions for their sake. We find
ourselves related or conjunct beings, and on our frank acceptance of
these relations our power and peace depend. Without the restraints of
manners life would be, as Hobbes said, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish,
and short.” But the ever-present altruism here is imperfect because
primarily dictated by the desire to protect ourselves. The separate
self and the conjunct self are not necessarily united in manners. The
form of altruism may be kept for protective purposes when there is
nothing of it within.

The next higher stage, however, starts from within, the giver seeking
to promote another’s welfare at the cost of his own. But there is
always uncertainty in accomplishing this; it extends at best only to
brief portions of life, is impossible wherever rational claim enters,
and never escapes a suggestion of haughty disparagement. The trouble
in both of these stages is, after all, the same. _Alter_ and _ego_
have been conceived as distinct, and getting has been separated from
giving. But surely this is unnecessary. There are mutual situations
in life where each of two parties is at once giver and receiver. The
single self may be entirely at one with the conjunct, the conjunct
with the single. Only so in mutuality can altruism become complete.
To explaining this curious situation I shall devote my remaining
chapters. But before doing so I wish to turn back and make atonement
for a certain erroneous light in which I have placed these earlier

When I was analyzing manners my readers must have felt that those are
not the manners with which they are familiar. They have never felt the
need of barriers between friends or thought of manners as a protective
agency. Nor in gifts have they come upon my perplexities. Giving and
receiving have seemed to them matters usual and pleasant, and no notion
of superiority or inferiority has entered their heads.

No doubt this is a more frequent experience than that just described.
Yet my account is correct and important. It states the minimum of
altruism which necessarily enters into manners, what they are when
taken by themselves and unaffected by any higher range of our being.
As soon as we become acquainted with giving, it reacts on this earlier
stage and fills it with new meaning. Egoistic elements are softened.
Manners are used as an opportunity for tactful giving. An atmosphere
of kindness takes the place of restraint, the formal manners I have
described being reserved for formal occasions. Fortunately this higher
civilization is now wide-spread. Yet we can still detect what I would
call the guarded manners of some persons and set them in contrast to
the generous manners of others. People of guarded manners are ever
mindful of their own dignity, hold themselves somewhat aloof, and
make much of punctilio. Those of generous manners are ready to spend
themselves freely for the pleasure of those about them and seem able
to save any occasion from dulness with their stores of information,
wit, song, and lively anecdote. These persons look after those less
accustomed to society and unobtrusively help them on. But even their
admirable work is exceeded by those accustomed to mutuality. These
give us no impression of wealthy persons imparting to us their stores.
Their work is quieter. Their manners might be called friendly. They set
every one at ease and do not so much give as share, appearing as much
interested in our affairs as we could be in theirs. In their presence
we are simpler, cleverer, and less provincial than we had believed
ourselves to be.

In a similar way, under the influence of mutuality gifts become
transformed. Condescension disappears. The favor is on both sides. A
giver has enjoyed something so much that he wants his pleasure shared.
Will we take part with him? There is no stooping, no handing down to
one below. The two parties are on a level, joined in a mutual act.
“Will you do me the favor to accept this?” is both the language and the
feeling of the giver.

Matters of every-day life, so familiar that we seldom reflect on them,
I have attempted in the preceding chapters to analyze with something
like scientific precision. By so doing I have turned them into almost
unrecognizable abstractions. In closing, I should like to restore them
to their rightful color, and I have searched for a passage which might
present the approach of man to man just as we daily see it, with an
intimate blending of all three varieties of altruism--pure manners,
giving, and mutuality. In a passage from the Eighth Discourse of
Cardinal Newman’s _Idea of a University_ I find what I want, expressed
in language of extraordinary refinement and accuracy. It will be
noticed what prominence he gives to the negative function of manners,
how in depicting generosity he sees the danger of condescension, and
how he finds the crowning excellence of manners in that self-forgetting
mutuality which sets all at their ease.

“The true gentleman carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a
jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast: all clashing of
opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint or suspicion or gloom
or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease
and at home. He has his eyes on all his company: he is tender toward
the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absurd.
He can recollect to whom he is speaking. He guards against unseasonable
allusions or topics which may irritate. He is seldom prominent in
conversation and never wearisome. He makes fight of favors while he
does them and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never
speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a
mere retort; he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous
in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets
everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes,
never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp
sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out.
From a long-sighted prudence he observes the maxim of the ancient
sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves toward our enemy as if he
were one day to be our friend. He has too much sense to be affronted
at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too
indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned on
philosophical principles: he submits to pain because it is inevitable,
to bereavement because it is irreparable, and to death because it is
destiny. If he engage in controversy of any kind, his disciplined
intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better
perhaps, but less educated, minds who, like blunt weapons, tear and
hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste
their strength on trifles, misconceive the adversary, and leave the
question more involved than they found it.”



We have now clearly before us the two imperfect varieties of altruism.
While both recognize and honor man’s relation to man, from neither is
regard for the separate self excluded. Each may as well be prompted
by an egoistic aim as by an altruistic. For though in manners we
minutely consider how we may save another from annoyance it is always
with the understanding that we are thus ourselves protected. Nor does
giving escape a similar self-regard. We cannot make a gift without
implying that the receiver has no right to it, without bringing him
into dependence, therefore, on our will as his superior. Giving, too,
can only intermittently take the place of attention to our own good. It
would exhaust itself otherwise. Jesus is reported to have spent thirty
years in acquisition, less than three in benefaction. Indeed, unless we
heartily valued our own possessions, pleasures, and growth we could
never count them fit to constitute gifts. It is not strange, then,
that to the natural childlike mind manners are unwelcome and that to
the disciplined reflective mind gifts are obnoxious. It is true that
these disagreeable features are softened as higher altruistic stages
throw back an influence over the lower; the mind disposed to give,
for example, transforming guarded manners into generous, or even if
trained in mutuality, making them friendly and cordial. In a similar
manner, where the conjunct self has taken the place of the separate
the proud giver is superseded by the delicate giver. But these facts
only make plain the incompleteness of manners and giving when taken
by themselves, and demonstrate that altruism to be really known must
be studied in that highest stage to which I have given the name of
mutuality. To this intricate and important study I now turn.

Giving fails to reach the altruism it seeks because its generosity
is confined to one of the two parties engaged, while to the other
is assigned the inferior position of egoistic receiver. But is this
necessary? May we not conceive of a gift without this blemish, a
giving in which each side gives to the other, thus joining giving
and getting, and abolishing all inferiority? To show how this may be
I am obliged to enter into more detail than in explaining simpler
moral situations. I will, accordingly, offer a general definition of
mutuality and then take up the successively completer forms in which it
is realized.

By mutuality, then, I mean the recognition of another and myself as
inseparable elements of one another, each being essential to the
welfare of each. This duality of giving has always been recognized as
ennobling. Even Jesus did not seek simply to give, but to induce in
those to whom he gave a similar disposition. Rightly is it counted
higher than simple giving, including, as it does, all which that
contains and more.

Such mutuality is most familiar to us in certain cases which for
convenience I group together under the name of partnership. In a
partnership a specific field is marked out within which persons agree
to consider certain of their interests common. When Brown and I form a
firm for the sale of shoes it is understood that thenceforth he and I
have no separate interest so far as shoes are concerned. The stock in
the store does not belong to him or to me; and if some one seeing money
in the drawer should ask whose it was, I should have to answer, “It is
not mine,” and Brown would similarly disown it. It would be ours. All
his would be mine and mine his. Usual thought and speech would require
considerable readjustment to fit a condition so new. “I” and “he” would
pass largely out of use as no longer of practical significance, “we”
taking the place of these separate symbols. “Together” would acquire a
more intimate and compulsive meaning. Accordingly, if on some bright
morning I were inclined to go shooting instead of appearing at the
office at my usual hour, I should know I had no right to the sport
without Brown’s concurrence, my time being no longer mine. Mutuality
would everywhere supersede private control. All this is familiar
enough. Nobody finds it hard to comprehend. But when the moralist urges
that higher life is possible only as the separate self becomes merged
in a conjunct, it sounds mysterious and seems little likely to occur.

But the partnership principle is wider than the business firm. In some
degree it enters into every bargain. Buyer and seller establish a kind
of mutuality. Suppose a customer on coming to my store and putting down
his five dollars for a pair of shoes should suddenly bethink himself
and say: “I wonder if you are not cheating me. That pair of shoes cost
you not more than four dollars and seventy-five cents. By your price
you are taking twenty-five cents more from my pocket than you are
delivering to me.” Might I not answer: “It seems to me it is you who
are cheating me. You need those shoes more than you need five dollars.
You would give five dollars and a quarter rather than go without them.
Are you not, then, returning to my pocket twenty-five cents less than
you are receiving?” In reality neither of us has cheated. We have
merely made a legitimate profit from one another. Such mutual profit is
involved in all good bargaining. It yields a double gain. I gain from
my customer and he from me, and both are left in better condition than
before. If he had not cared more for the shoes than for five dollars
he would not have come to my store. If I had not counted five dollars
of greater worth to me than the shoes I should not have parted with
them. A curious situation this, where two persons draw advantage from
one another! But every sound commercial transaction proceeds on this
assumption. In all honest trade there is a gainful partnership.

In my last chapter, after discussing gifts, charity, and the generous
soul, I promised to turn to a moral situation higher still, one of
purer altruism. Are we then keeping to the order proposed? Can we
suppose that a commercial transaction is of a higher order than an
act of charity? I believe we can. As we look over the history of
civilization we certainly find gifts understood long before trade. The
savage is a not ungenerous person. When he takes a fancy to any one
he gives pretty freely, not, of course, through any claim or duty but
merely in deference to his native feeling. What he cannot conceive is
the double gift, a transaction in which each is a gainer. He is ready
enough to strip himself of advantage in behalf of one whom he likes and
is pleased when he, too, receives a gift; but that one and the same
act can yield a mutual gain he apprehends slowly and rudely. Yet on
just this condition of mutuality all honest trade is based. It is true
I must add the adjective “honest.” One can deceive under the forms of
trade as readily as under any other forms. They shelter deception well.
In dealing with a customer I may have some special information about
the quality of an article which he does not possess. He is therefore
at a disadvantage. No one would maintain that all the operations of
commerce are of a higher moral order than charity; but it may be said
that every _honest_ mercantile transaction shows altruism of a more
thoroughgoing kind than a gift does.

This may be made plainer by a contrasted vice. Living long among
college students and observing their natural pleasure in all sorts
of moral experimentation, I have come to believe gambling the vice
most likely to wreck character. All forms of vice are bad enough. It
is shocking to see a young man drunk. But drunkenness grows steadily
rarer, and, after all, a drinker remains pretty much himself when the
fit is off. I have had friends of this sort who when not in liquor
showed the same interest in worthy things as other men. But when I see
the gambling habit getting hold of a young man I despair of him. For
several reasons it is unlikely he will be good for much thereafter.
Seldom does a vice or virtue have only a single root. On the one hand
the gambler gives up rational modes of guidance, ceases to calculate
clearly, lives on the unexpected, and looks for some deliverance
to drop from the sky. A hectic anxiety takes possession of him and
disorganizes his life. But there are results worse still. Gambling,
in contrast with honest trade, admits only a single gain. I can gain
nothing for myself except by damaging another. I must directly seek his
harm. The tradesman benefits himself through benefiting his customer.
His business is grounded on the double gain. He draws profit, it is
true, from another man’s pocket, but he does not, like the gambler,
stop there. He puts back into that pocket a little more than the
equivalent of what he took out. The gambler breaks up this mutuality
and lives as a bandit by attack. Thus dehumanized and shut up to his
separate self he rots. When trade allows the double gain to drop out of
sight, it too becomes gambling and shows the same predatory tendencies.
Honest trade is a different matter. Its mutual profit carries altruism
through a community more wholesomely than can any arbitrary will.

But the partnership principle runs further still. It is the cement
which binds together a multitude of groups. A ship’s crew, a regiment
of an army, stands in just this mutual relationship. They represent
the will of no one of their members, yet no one must detach his will
from the whole. A sailor cannot withdraw to-day because he feels like
reading, a soldier because the coming attack is likely to cost his
life. Under anarchic influence something like this was lately allowed
the Russian soldier, and the army ceased to be. It can exist only as a
conjunct affair. Our States were once supposed to have established a
Union; but when South Carolina set up a separate will, regardless of
the rest, chaos came. How transformed the youngster is when he goes
out with the baseball team! He does not mind if he breaks his finger,
covers himself with dirt, or becomes utterly exhausted. What does it
matter if only the team wins? There is no longer any _me_. He thinks
in conjunct terms. He will not shirk, take himself away and leave the
others to their harm.

How far can such a notion of partnership be carried? Evidently to
all clubs whose members recognize themselves as also members one of
another, each forming no decisions of his own. Would it apply to
churches and learned societies? Not altogether, I think. We have
hitherto meant by partnership a terminable union of specified persons
for a definite time and in reference to a definite end. In scientific
societies, and especially in churches, we do not limit numbers and
usually expect the union to be a permanent one. This indefiniteness as
regards time and persons is no accident. It rightly belongs to unions
like these, which aim at developing personality. A baseball team,
a ship’s crew, gather a specially trained company for a particular
end. When this end is attained the union naturally ceases. Science
and righteousness are never attained, but appeal without limitation.
Perhaps, then, such internal and personal associations should not be
classed as partnerships at all, but that notion should be reserved for
unions of a more external and limited sort.

If I am right in this, it may help to explain the hesitation many
readers must have felt over my eulogy of business methods as examples
of altruism. Certainly we all know that commerce has a barbarous side.
Nowhere else among civilized human beings does selfishness become so
ruthless. The possibility of this comes through two limitations which
partnership sets on mutuality. When Brown and I established our firm
we limited the persons involved to himself and me, and even we were
to have relations only so far as concerned the sale of shoes. Within
these two limits mutuality was complete, but it did not extend beyond.
Supported thus by one another, we two were able to contend with the
rest of the world as neither could alone. Together we could push our
interests with little regard to the general interests of the town. If
other trades suffered, we need not care so long as the shoe business
flourished, and still less need we care if our prosperity crowded out
of existence the shoe store on the opposite side of the street. Such
clear limitation of an altruistic horizon is always dangerous. In many
restricted unions the danger is noticeable. A family warmly considerate
of its own members often shows small sympathy for persons beyond its
bounds. A ball club, a secret society will practise trickeries on other
leagues which their members as individuals would scorn. In trade, too,
the matter is made worse by a second limitation. My partner and I
understand that our mutuality operates only with reference to the sale
of shoes. We do not merge our lives. We keep a sharp line drawn between
them and our business. Possibly enough I may have little respect for
Brown. As a person I may think so meanly of him that when he suggests
being asked to my house and meeting my wife and children I find an
excuse for not inviting him. He is excellent so far as selling shoes is
concerned, but personal relations are quite another thing. Here again
the narrowing of the field within which mutuality operates lessens its
dignity and intensifies its aggressive power.

No wonder, then, we are apt to picture trade as a conscienceless
struggle of competitors for private gain. But the picture is
disproportionate and erroneous. Savagery is possible here, but so
is much else. Commerce has a deep ethical ground and wide ethical
opportunities, co-operation being as essential to it as competition.
It exists only through service to the community. The mutual relations
of partnership are constantly being extended, single trades organizing
to promote their common interests, and chambers of commerce overseeing
the business of a whole city. Those who engage in trade are no less
human beings than their fellows and are continually discovering that
honorable and high-minded methods of conducting business are in the
long run profitable. The very competitions that arise are useful
promoters of efficiency, and the general government stands ready in the
background to fix limits beyond which greed shall not go. There are, in
short, many circumstances in the life of trade which to a good degree
neutralize the limitations which I have pointed out in its application
of the principle of mutuality.

That principle, too, runs far beyond the field of partnership.
Partnership brings persons into mutual relations only with reference
to certain external ends. Brown and I joined only those fragments of
our lives which were connected with the sale of shoes. We might join
extensive portions, might merge not merely our occupations but all our
personal interests. In him I might discover what contributes to my best
growth and he find no less in me. In this way we should reach a new
species of existence to which the definition of mutuality previously
given would apply in a higher sense. I should here recognize another
and myself as more completely constituent members of one another, each
being essential to the welfare of each. Here no new elements enter
which were not included in partnership. There as here identification
of interests appears, the abolition of mine and thine, the double
gain; only here there is no restriction of the field. The lives are
identified throughout their full depth and extent. They do not merely
collaborate for a specific purpose.

Such is the attitude of love, so familiar, so mysterious, so potent
in developing whatever is best in us. In it both egoism and altruism
have ample room. If I loved Brown, I should not hesitate to own that I
sought him for my own advantage, though I should also bid him to take
of me all he wanted--the more, the better. And I should expect the same
double response from him. Edmund Spenser has stated the matter with
great precision in his “Hymn in Honor of Beauty”:

    “For love is a celestial harmony
    Of likely hearts composed of stars’ consent,
    Which join together in sweet sympathy
    To work each other’s joy and true content,
    Which they have harboured since their first descent
    Out of their heavenly bowers, where they did see
    And know each other here beloved to be.”

Spenser intends by “harmony” what I have meant by mutuality, something
where several different parts belong together and reach their full
significance in union. If the two hearts are similar and each merely
repeats what the other contains, there is no mutual profit. They must
fit one another, and in this fitting there is always something of the
unknown. They cannot of themselves entirely create the union. The
“stars’ consent” must be added. Heaven must shine upon them. Spenser
even suggests that their adaptation to one another is not begun in this
world, but is merely recognized here as having been ever of old. Once
known it brings them full content.

This, then, is the topic to which we now turn. It is that which the
ethical teachers of every age have counted fundamental. With Jesus
it supersedes all else. Writers as unlike as the Catholic statesman
Augustine, the Jew Spinoza, the Puritan Jonathan Edwards see in love
the fulfilment of righteousness. “Love God and do as you please,” says
Augustine. It is something we all experience and few understand. In
it there are paradoxes not found elsewhere. Delicate analysis will be
needed to bring out all that it involves, to show, too, how even here
limitations creep in. To this puzzling and attractive work I devote the
next chapter.



In the _Symposium of Plato_ Socrates is made to say that he can profess
knowledge of only a single subject, love, but that through acquaintance
with this he has a key to unlock all wisdom. And certainly if Socrates
understood love he deserves to be reckoned among the wise. Few have
looked into it soberly. To those who are not experiencing it, it is a
jest; to those who are, a blind passion. Novelists exploit it for cash;
poets, on the whole its most serious students, too often for graceful
fancies. Saint Paul’s compact sentences give more of its substance than
can be had in the same compass elsewhere. In undertaking an analysis
of it I believe I can best fix attention on its more important ethical
features if I ask a series of simple questions about it and then
develop their complicated answers.

(1) How does love differ from liking? Quantitatively. The degree of
emotion expressed by love is out of all proportion to that of liking.
I love my friends and like their surroundings; I like this gift and
love the giver. An exchange of terms in either of these sentences
would make moral nonsense. Liking touches only the surface; I like
strawberries. Loving goes all through; I love my old servant. Of
course, then, loving includes liking, though liking may or may not
be accompanied by loving; and equally, of course, loose talkers,
who do not know what they mean, will try to be impressive by using
the weightier word. I love automobiling, I love the opera, I love
ice-cream; these are all forms of silly exaggeration which no one will
seriously defend.

But there is a reason for this quantitative difference. An additional
factor enters into love and greatly increases its depth. Love always
implies the possibility of the loved one’s knowledge and his capacity
for response. It is applicable therefore primarily to persons and the
higher animals, and only in a metaphoric way suits things. No doubt the
response often fails, but it is always desired and sought. Love seeks
to establish a personal tie. No one ever loved without wishing to be

Furthermore, between love and liking there is a sharp contrast of
mental attitude. In liking, my thoughts are on myself; in loving, on
another. I like whatever brings me pleasure or profit. But Browning
rightly asks: “How can one love but what he yearns to help?” That is,
what we love always seems to us to have such worth as calls on us for
protection and the offering up of ourselves. To the lover it appears
august, superior, and supplemental to anything possessed by himself.
It fills him with awe and a spirit of sacrifice. Spenser addresses
his lady as “My dear dread.” There is nothing of this in liking. Our
thoughts are there fixed on ourselves, heedless of the condition of
whatever furnishes us profit. Oxen we like, because they supply our
tables and till our fields. What matter if in doing so they perish? We
tend the dog we love and do not let him be harmed in our service. In
short, loving is our forthgoing toward one possessing a worth preferred
above our own; liking, our feeling toward anything from which we derive
benefit, even though inferior in general worth to ourselves.

On account of this difference love cannot be confined to persons.
Seeing a little girl tending her rose-bush and asking her if she likes
it, I shall probably receive the indignant reply: “No, I love it.” She
means: “I think as much about giving to it as of getting from it.” It
would be improper to ask a painter, a scholar, if he likes his work. If
he follows it for gain he is untrue to it; he can really succeed only
when he loves it, _i.e._, gives himself heartily to it. In many cases,
therefore, where profit is abundant, it would be a kind of impiety to
speak of liking. I like my mother, I like God. Certainly! None gives
ampler ground for liking. But for that very reason my mind should be
set on the appropriate outgo in return. However much the patriot may
like his country, _i.e._, recognize the opportunities it affords for
life, he loves it more. Perhaps in all these cases where impersonal
beings are loved we inwardly attribute personality to them and feel
that we receive from them as much love as we give.

For that is an essential in love: it contemplates mutuality. The loved
one looks up to the lover as truly as the lover does to the loved.
Each counts himself inferior and only through the other capable of
possessing worth. “She is my essence and I leave to be, if I be not
through her fair influence,” says Shakespeare’s Valentine; and had
love reached its completion, Sylvia would have expressed no less.
This double action is characteristic of love, while liking has only a
single end. If we will speak accurately, then, we shall acknowledge
that the real object loved is neither member of the pair but just this
mutuality, the “togetherness,” which blots out regard for any separate
self and fills each with passion for the conjunct. “To the desire and
pursuit of the whole the name of love is given,” says Plato in the
_Symposium_. In his “Clasping of Hands” George Herbert charmingly
develops the puzzling reciprocity of love when he tries to comprehend
his relation to God:

    “Lord, thou art mine, and I am thine
      If mine I am; and thine much more
    Than I or ought or can be mine.
      Yet to be thine doth me restore,
    So that again I now am mine,
      And with advantage mine the more,
    Since this being mine brings with it thine,
      And thou with me dost thee restore.
    If I without thee would be mine,
    I neither should be mine nor thine.

    Lord, I am thine, and thou art mine;
      So mine thou art that something more
    I may presume thee mine than thine.
      For thou didst suffer to restore
    Not thee, but me, and to be mine,
      And with advantage mine the more;
    Since thou in death wast none of thine,
      Yet then as mine didst me restore.
    Oh be mine still! Still make me thine!
    Or rather make no thine and mine!”

Of course such a poem can have only two stanzas, and these must closely
parallel each other in every part. The resulting definition of love,
making it the completed form of mutuality, would run as follows: love
is the joint service of a common life.

(2) Is the lover, then, an unselfish person and does altruism, here
reaching its highest pitch, exclude all egoistic regard? On the
contrary, it includes and magnifies it. I have said that love always
involves liking, the knowledge that an object has brought me gain and
is capable of bringing more. In his loved one the lover knows a source
of incomparable joy. Were his lady once his, it would matter little
what else might happen. Never before has he conceived a good so great,
and he knows that hardships shared with her would be better than the
most favorable fortune alone. He is therefore an eager seeker. Such a
passion to possess is seen in no one else. Yet the opposite may be said
with equal truth. He has lost all selfishness. No one is so generous
as he, so ready for self-sacrifice. To please and benefit the loved
one is all his care. Let what he gives have cost him little, and he is
dissatisfied. He longs to suffer for her sake. These are not marks of
self-seeking. But they do indicate that the lover has reached a new
conception of self, for which he is even more ardent than ever he was
for the old. That old separate self he now despises, and knows that
only as he loses it in the loved one will he have any worth. Until he
has thoroughly cut himself off from his own detached interests he will
be unworthy of her. A scrap of Persian verse, translated by Bronson
Alcott, states the matter well: “One knocked at the beloved’s door, and
a voice asked from within, ‘Who is there?’ And he answered, ‘It is I.’
Then the voice said, ‘This room will not hold me and thee’; and the
door was not opened. Then went the lover into the desert, and fasted
and prayed in solitude. And after a year he returned and knocked again
at the door. And again the voice asked, ‘Who is there?’ And he said,
‘It is thyself.’ And the door was opened to him.” In the mutuality of
love egoism and altruism are reconciled. Each of the lovers acquires
a new apprehension of self, which conjunct being bears in the mind of
each the name of the beloved.

(3) Is the lover in his own estimate rich or poor? Incredibly rich in
what he has received, but in comparison with his lady how poor! She is
immeasurably his superior. How she stooped so low is his daily wonder.
But his own inferiority does not disturb him. “Love envieth not. Is not
easily puffed up.” On the contrary, he rejoices in emptying himself
and seeing how all that is worth while in him proceeds from her. Yet
the lover is a paradoxical fellow, full of contradictions and scorning
consistency. He prizes himself as he never did before and daily takes
on a new importance. Never till he loved was he so watchful of his
looks, speech, clothes, manners. What he brings to her must be of the
finest, and he is pleased to discover in himself excellences hitherto
unsuspected which she may well accept. Tennyson well paints the
aspiring lover in “Maud”:

    “So dark a mind within me dwells,
    And I make myself such evil cheer
    That if I be dear to some one else
    Then some one else may have much to fear.
    But if I be dear to some one else,
    Then I should be to myself more dear.
    Shall I not care for all that I think,
    Yea, even for wretched meat and drink,
    If I be dear, if I be dear, to some one else?”

(4) When once established, is love permanent? Certainly not. Being
a personal affair it has no routine fixity, but must continually be
created afresh. Effort is in it, intention, readiness to put aside
temporary fancies and to practise a loyal patience. It is true that in
the wise these practices themselves become habitual and love therefore
a matter of happy course. No action is excellent which ceases when not
consciously pressed. From the quiet of assured love old lovers look
back on the anxious fervors of early days and acknowledge them meagre
and immature. Yet still within call they keep the resolute will and
guard against decay. For just as my readers find it difficult to hold
the thought of the conjunct self steadily in mind and are obliged to
resist its tendency to disintegrate into separate selves, so do lovers
also. By degrees the sense of mutuality may decline, independent
interests arise, and then one of the lower altruistic forms may take
the place of this its highest. A pair may feel themselves drawing apart
and, finding less and less in common, may gradually content themselves
with a kind of partnership in place of love. Or one, disturbed over
the breach of affection, may seek to repair it by acts of generosity.
He may be liberal in granting his company, his friendly cheer, to the
slightly distant loved one. But that, too, is a slipping down. The two
are then no longer in equality. Perfect love knows no giving. What is
there to give? All mine is thine, all thine is mine. Together we share,
not give. But as we detach ourselves little by little, the old separate
self comes back and we hand something across the chasm. How sad when
exuberant love thus declines into intentional giving, altering “because
it alteration finds and bending with the remover to remove”! But
sadder still is it when to formerly abundant love the guarded altruism
of manners succeeds and each is satisfied to treat the other with
watchful politeness. This is the last stopping-place before confessed

(5) But is not love always open to repair through duty? Being the
highest embodiment of morality it would naturally seem peculiarly
alive to duty. But the very opposite is the case. It has, in fact, a
strange aversion to duty. Any suspicion that we are expected to love
a certain person alienates us from him. We cannot force ourselves to
love even when we see it to be desirable; nor can we expel love when
we find it unreturned or unworthy. Love insists on freedom, a certain
absence of constraint, either from a person, from circumstance, from
collateral advantages, or even from our own volition. Like giving,
it recognizes no claim. “Love is a present to a mighty king,” says
Herbert. It cannot be bought or sold. But though so little submissive
to obligation, it is highly sensitive to suggestion and unclamorous
appeal. Indeed, it soon perishes when fresh suggestion is withheld.
Indirectly, therefore, and accepting time for an ally, we can control
love. I have repeatedly spoken of intention, rational guidance,
resourceful care, as necessities if we would have a wise and lasting
love. Those who complain of its decay have generally themselves to
blame. They have imagined it constituted once for all and, while they
would be glad to have it continue, have taken little pains for that
fresh renewal on which its life is staked. “Keep on courting,” said a
sagacious mother to a young bridegroom on his wedding-day. And what has
here been said of marital love applies also, with adaptations, to the
love of God and the love of our fellow men. Nowhere will love submit
to the direct command of duty. But indirectly, gradually, through
suggestion and considerate modes of approach, it is well within our
control. The Golden Rule, bidding us love God and our neighbor, is not
a psychological blunder.

(6) How does friendship differ from love? Like love, it differs from
partnership through having an entirely personal basis. Within its
limits partnership is as genuinely mutual as love itself, but its
mutuality refers to ends outside the personal lives. These remain
detached and individual, merely co-operating for a time to accomplish
an external purpose. In both love and friendship the personalities
merge. Their interests become identified, so that one of the parties
without the other is but a fragmentary being.

But friendship differs from love in the degree of intensity of its
emotion and in the extent of the tract of life covered. In these
respects it more nearly resembles liking. We all know how slight a
friendly feeling may be, even when entirely genuine. This is because
of the well-recognized limits of friendship, limits sometimes narrow,
sometimes broad. I take John for my friend on account of his wit, James
for his scholarship, Henry for discussion of art, Charles for theology.
Outside these matters we have little in common. If I try to introduce
these friends to other sides of me, I know that our friendship would be
strained. Love knows no such limits. In it there is no holding back.
There the more we give the more we have. Not that in friendship we set
up such limits by our own volition, as is done in partnership. The
limits are ingrained in the persons, and beyond them we know it is
futile to press. When two natures have certain sides that fit, to the
advantage of each, a friendship springs up. But how embarrassing when
some friend whom we greatly value has limitations which oblige us to
pause and he, not perceiving them, attributes to our adverse will the
failure in full mutual accord! Because of its narrow bounds and because
it is sought for individual gain, friendship is of far wider currency
than love. We make and drop our friendships with comparative ease,
hardly from the first expecting them to be lasting. But a love to which
we contemplated an end, either in extent or duration, would be already
ended. The Greeks justly eulogized friendship as our best security
in an uncertain world. And, obviously, he is imprudent who does not
surround himself with a protecting band of friends.

Let me, in closing this section, call attention to these varieties of
personal contact, all of which are desirable. We all need a multitude
of acquaintances, can, indeed, hardly have too many. These are persons
whose faces and names we know, with something of their occupations
and history. While we know them only on the outside our impressions
of them are favorable, and their nod, smile, or passing greeting
brightens the moment and makes us feel at one with our species. These
do not attain the rank of friends, to whom we expose sections of our
lives, in whose characters we see admirable traits which are less
developed in ourselves, and on whom we lean in times of doubt, trouble,
and ignorance. Such steadying friends will not be a large company
and should be chosen deliberately, not through juxtaposition, but
on grounds of merit and adaptation to our needs. Closer than these,
however, should come our intimates, one or two, those to whom we give
whole-hearted love. From such an intimate we hide nothing, not even
our faults. To him we express our half-thoughts, make up our minds in
company with his, find excellence easy in his presence and yet, to our
daily astonishment, see that he obtains as much from us as we from him.
Him we love. He is another self, and all that is ours is his also.

Such, then, is love and such its varieties and shadings. Parted
from mutuality, altruism has little worth. Only where love is,
where the conjunct self has taken the place of the separate self, is
altruism completely realized. In such love morality attains its goal.
Accordingly, in every age those most impassioned for the formation of
character have exalted love as its central principle. The first to
perceive its importance and to begin an exploitation of its labyrinths
was Plato. To love he has dedicated three of his Dialogues. In the
first of them, the delightful little piece called _Lysis_, he busies
himself with the contradictions of love. He does not seek to establish
a positive doctrine. No conclusion is reached, but the enigmatic
character of love is brought out with extraordinary vividness. The
greatest of his love dialogues, and one which has profoundly influenced
all subsequent ages, is the _Symposium_, beautifully translated by
the poet Shelley under the name of _The Banquet_. Socrates and his
friends assembling one evening, it is proposed that instead of general
conversation they shall talk on some specific subject, and love is
selected. One speaker after another reports what he has seen in
love--its dignity, its heavenly and earthly types, its universality
as an underlying principle of physical nature, the supposed origin of
the separate self and its subsequent desire for completion, love as
the organizer of human life. Then Socrates points out how the true
significance of love lies in its passion for perfection and how it
continually supersedes its lower forms in the interest of what is
larger. The most obscuring of these lower forms, the least regardful
of anything beyond itself, is that instinctive passion between the
sexes which tries to monopolize the name of love. Friendship is more
intelligent. Unities of a still wider and firmer kind are disclosed
in the social, artistic, and scientific impulses. These are all
prompted by love and follow increasing grades of beauty. Religion,
however, alone reveals the full significance of these struggles toward
conjunction; for God is the only complete wholeness, and every endeavor
to unite with other things or persons is but a blind seeking after him.
Love appears once more in the _Phædrus_, where its deeper implications
are traced in connection with rhetoric and general philosophy.

At the time of the Renaissance Marcilius Ficinus translated the
_Symposium of Plato_ and carried its influence into all the literatures
of western Europe. Edmund Spenser reflects that influence in his two
superb hymns in _Honor of Love_ and in _Honor of Beauty_. A vivacious
modern statement of the ancient doctrine is that of R. W. Emerson in
his _Essay on Love_; and an amusing disparagement of love, as that
which interferes with the comforts and conveniences of the separate
self, appears in Bacon’s _Essay on Love_. It has been well said that
any one who imagines Shakespeare’s plays were written by Bacon should
read this essay and follow it with _Romeo and Juliet_. Of course, all
the poets linger in the neighborhood of love and declare it to be that
which makes the world go round. One of them, the mid-Victorian Coventry
Patmore, made himself its expositor and devoted his entire product to
the systematic analysis of its every phase. Perhaps to heighten the
impression of veracity, he has made the verse of his early volumes,
entitled _The Angel in the House_, approach as nearly as possible to
prose, while his later volume, _The Unknown Eros_, treats the same
matter in a series of rapturous odes. Admiring them both as I do in
an age when they are both out of fashion, I take up _The Angel in the
House_ when in a psychological mood I am not disturbed by absurdity,
and turn to _The Unknown Eros_ when my ear craves music and I welcome
the Platonic madness.



Before advancing further it may be well to survey the tangled ground
already traversed; for in mutuality, the third great section of
Altruism, I have not been able to employ the simple treatment which
Manners and Giving received. The principle throughout is precise and
uniform. Within a specified field the interests of two or more persons
are to be accounted identical, so that a double gain becomes possible,
altruism transforming itself into egoism and egoism into altruism. This
is the common principle which shapes every form of mutuality. But the
extent of the fields specified differs so widely as to give rise to
forms of very unlike moral value, which deserve separate examination.

In the field of partnership, for example, it is understood that the
union will not continue indefinitely and that it has been brought
about for attaining some external end. Partnership, bargaining,
voluntary association would not come into existence were it not for
the prospect of mutual gain. If one party alone gains, we see that
some unfairness has occurred. Yet because in these unions mutuality
is restricted to a small group and to the accomplishment of external
purposes, they often become engines for a selfishness more intense than
their separate members would approve. A popular proverb exaggerates but
little in saying that corporations have no souls.

But such perilous restrictions are unnecessary. There can be mutuality
without them. Instead of referring to an external end, unions can be
formed for an internal purpose. The very lives and aspirations of two
persons may be joined. That is unnecessary in business relations. I
may dislike my partner personally, yet judge it wise to identify my
commercial interests with his. When I make a purchase at a shop I do
not inquire about the character of the dealer. With that I have no
concern. His life is his, mine mine. Our mutual relation touches only
the value of the article purchased. And something similar is true of
our voluntary associations. I join my political club in the hope of
furthering public interests; but, to tell the truth, I am often ashamed
of my associates there. We have a common aim, but personally I will
keep myself as clear from my fellow workers as possible. Under none of
the conditions which I have called partnership do lives merge. To these
unions for definable ends a termination is sometimes set, sometimes
indefinitely anticipated.

Now, in the case of love, these restrictions are done away. Accordingly
the whole principle of mutuality comes out there with a lucidity,
power, and moving appeal which it cannot possibly have in the briefly
planned arrangements of trade. For though love often passes away, no
such cessation is contemplated. The eternal vows of lovers have always
been a subject of jest. No doubt limited marriages have been proposed.
But I suspect if they ever come about, what we mean by love will be
omitted. It would strike most of us as absurd for me to ask Mary to
join me in identifying our lives for a single year, sharing during that
time our home, our aims, our inmost thoughts, but always intending
at the end of that time to go our separate ways, unable to say “we.”
External relations can be formed, dropped, and resumed, the persons
involved remaining unaffected. That is not true of interior relations.
These fashion a new personality to which old forms of morals, even
old forms of language, no longer apply. Before advancing to explain
as my final topic the special modifications of mutuality which fit it
for a world principle, let me sum up the whole doctrine of love in
some majestic lines attributed to Shakespeare. In 1601 a curious book
appeared called _Chester’s Love’s Martyr_, containing a poem to which
Shakespeare’s name was affixed. This single fact, and the unlikelihood
that any one else had such compulsive power over words, are our only
grounds for thinking Shakespeare wrote the piece. It is entitled “The
Phœnix and the Turtle,” and allegorically describes the funeral of a
pair of married lovers, the man denoted by the turtle, the woman by
the phœnix. I quote only the funeral chant, omitting the picturesque
introduction and the solemn ending:

    “Here the anthem doth commence;
    Love and constancy is dead,
    Phœnix and the turtle fled
    In a mutual flame from thence.

    So they loved as love in twain
    Had the essence but in one.
    Two distincts, division none,
    Number there in love was slain.

    Hearts remote, yet not asunder,
    Distance, and no space was seen
    ’Twixt the turtle and his queen;
    But in them it were a wonder.

    So between them love did shine
    That the turtle saw his right
    Flaming in the phœnix’ sight;
    Either was the other’s mine.

    Property was thus appalled,
    That the self was not the same.
    Single nature’s double name
    Neither two nor one was called.

    Reason, in itself confounded,
    Saw division grow together.
    To themselves, yet either--neither,
    Simple were so well compounded

    That it cried how true a twain
    Seemeth this concordant one!
    Love hath reason, reason none,
    If what parts can so remain.”

What audacity of word and precision of thought! With what accuracy the
paradoxes of love are stated! “To themselves, yet either--neither.” In
the first stanza the sacred word “mutual” is introduced. Where else in
our language is the conjunct self so completely set forth?

Yet we cannot pause even here. To make love a principle capable of
universal application, it will need to be reconstituted and, while
retaining its mutuality, to be stripped of sundry restrictions.

For love is ever selective. It chooses one and leaves another. It is
exercised only toward definite persons, a little group, preferably two.
The smaller the number the warmer the love. But what we are trying to
discover is how altruism may penetrate the whole of life, organizing
society and the state. That was our ambitious ideal, and love is not
comprehensive enough for it. When we give ourselves up to the single
person or small group fitted to receive our love, will there not be
the same danger as appeared in the discussion of partnership, that the
rest of the world will be shut out? A pair of lovers is notoriously
unpleasing to everybody except themselves. In that little world of
theirs they are so engrossed with the joint service of a common life
that what happens in the needy world beyond is hardly noticed. Love of
this sort is pretty far removed from universal altruism.

Nor is this danger confined to the passion of man for woman. Broader
types of love show the same exclusive absorption. Each member of a
household may be devoted to the rest and find his own gain through
devotion to theirs. Here love attains a peculiarly beautiful mutuality.
But it is still circumscribed. The family becomes sufficient for
itself. Other families do not count. Love has been selective and,
fixing its ardor on certain persons, shuts out the rest. Even the love
of God and his children may narrow itself to interest in those only
who approach him in the same way as ourselves. Our religious sympathy
may not extend beyond our sect. Similar perils beset national love or

No doubt in all these cases the narrower field may provide training for
the broader; but so long as love is selective and waits upon personal
interest it will be hard pressed by conditioning accident. Rightly
does Spenser declare that for the combinations of love the stars’
consent is necessary. Circumstance, juxtaposition, plays a large part
at the beginning of love. The one who would interest me may not happen
to come my way; and I cannot love one whom I do not know. Obtaining
such knowledge, too, even in regard to one very near, is uncertain
business. I see some one who calls out what is best in me and am
confident that joining with her will bring about a glorious life for us
both. But can I be sure? An error in estimating will ruin not me alone
but her too, whom I would honor. Knowledge, an important condition of
love, is hard indeed to obtain. Nor in reckoning the hindrances to love
as a universal principle can we pass by the mysteries of temperament.
Many a person have we known to be lovable whom we could never love.
Peculiarities of inheritance, training, habit, instinctive feeling in
two persons, while not diminishing their worth, may render hopeless
their adaptation to one another.

Selective love, then, hampered by its need of acquaintance, nearness,
and knowledge, can never become a universal principle, binding mankind
together. It shows, however, what we want. Nowhere else does altruistic
fervor attain such depth. But it lacks breadth and is possible only
within narrow bounds. We have been seeking to extend mutuality, the
double gain, the abolition of both egoism and altruism, far beyond
those bounds and reach a method by which mankind as a whole might
engage in the joint service of a common life. Such an ideal would
preserve all characteristics of love except its limitations. But the
removal of these will affect it so deeply as to oblige a new name. I
call it Justice.

Let us examine a case where mutualistic conduct shows traits beyond
the reach of selective love. I go to a shoemaker and ask for a pair of
shoes. He hands me a pair, I pay his price, and carry them home. As I
come to wear them, I find them admirably made. They give me greater
comfort than I have ever had before and wear longer. The leather
appears to have been selected with care, and every nail and stitch to
have received attention. I return to their maker and say: “That was a
remarkable pair of shoes. Did you make them specially for me? Perhaps
you have known me before, have taken a fancy to me, and so have been
willing to put yourself to all this trouble for my convenience. That
is the way with love. It takes burdens on itself to relieve another.”
How astonished the dealer would be at such talk! Would he not answer:
“I had no thought of you, but I made the shoes as well as I could.
It is my business.” “But,” I continue, “if you never know to whom
your shoes will go, why take such pains?” “Because I mean to be true
to my job and not shirk my part in the ongoing of the world. If I do
bad work somebody, I don’t know who, will suffer. I mean to be a good
shoemaker.” Here is professional responsibility. The man deals justly
with his unknown public.

And in such professional responsibility we pass from individual love
to that noble public love which I have ventured to call Justice. Love
remains, but it is now universal love, love freed from selection and
without those restrictions of knowledge, circumstance, and temperament
on which selection is based. No doubt in individual love there is an
intimacy and a wealth of feeling which this case has not. But in it
selfishness is also more pronounced. Knowing John well, I am confident
that in joining my life with his, and with his only, we shall both be
enriched. But the shoemaker carries his blessing to the unknown and
joins himself rather with the public good. He gets his gain by giving
gain to those whom he has never seen. It is true that the transaction
may be partly explained on the grounds already noticed. An exchange
has occurred by which buyer and seller have alike profited. But
something more than calculation of profit has gone into these shoes.
They would have sold readily with half the care. But this man respected
business standards, was something more than a trader, gave not by
equivalent measure, and was more concerned over possible danger to
his customers than over extra labor for himself. That is the essence
of professionalism. While frankly seeking mutual gain and declining
anything one-sided, it abandons all thought of exact equivalence,
keeping in the foreground standards of excellence approved by its group
and looking to public service.

Or is there in the professional man something still deeper than the
characteristics just mentioned, something of which these are but the
outgrowth? The professional man enjoys his work and would rather do
it than not. Many of us, perhaps most, are driven to work by the need
to live. We will do that work faithfully and not disappoint those who
depend on us. But we often think of work as toil, do as little of it as
possible, and find our enjoyment quite outside it. Days of freedom from
that toil are eagerly anticipated. How different is the professional
spirit! It took up its work originally not as a task but as a chance to
gratify a personal interest. To following that interest through all its
windings its heart has been given. Throughout there has been a passion
for perfection, never realized, never abandoned. Each day carries
accomplishment forward and discloses wider ranges into which skill
might extend. Hardship, lack of gain, failure to be recognized are
matters of slender consequence. The work itself is its own rich reward.

Such is professional responsibility at its best. It is responsibility
to no individual, not even so much to the general public as to the
profession chosen. Perhaps we catch the spirit most readily among
artists and scholars, who proverbially show little regard for financial
results. But even where regard for money is patent and necessary, this
professional spirit is often also present.

I am ill and call a physician. He comes to my bedside day by day,
studies my case with elaborate care, gives up large amounts of precious
time to my whims, and never allows his moods to intrude, so that on
my recovery I cannot help saying: “What a sympathetic person you are!
I do not see how you can hold an interest in so many people and feel
their afflictions as if they were your own.” Such a remark would be as
inadequate as if I had said: “You have thoroughly earned your fee.”
Both would be true, and both would point to motives which might rightly
influence him. But into that complex motive would go a third factor
more influential still, if he was a worthy physician. He cares for the
healing art. Of course he is unwilling that I, this individual person,
should suffer. But it is not the “me” element nor the money element
which made him take his trouble. He would have done the same for a
stranger. And this impartial attitude is, on the whole, best. Personal
sympathy is often disturbing. Let him coolly survey me as a case of
typhus fever, and I shall get his best service. Through me he relieves
suffering, obtains for himself a due income, gains larger knowledge of
disease and skill in combating it; in short, meets the responsibilities
of an arduous and interesting profession.

One may wonder why I call this impersonal extension of love Justice.
Because justice seeks to benefit all, but all alike. It knows no
persons, or rather it knows every one as a person and insures each
his share in the common good. All the altruism of love is here, but
without love’s arbitrary selection and limited interest. We do wrong
in thinking of justice as chiefly concerned with penalties. These are
incidental, inflicted on those who refuse to find their gain in the
gain of others. The main work of justice is its equal distribution of
advantage and its insistence that each individual shall be faithful
to what he undertakes for the benefit of all. Justice is therefore
thoroughgoing love, its mutuality guarded, rationalized, stripped of
personal bias, and brought near us through the avenues of our special

Only we must not confine the professions to the four usually reckoned:
teaching, preaching, medicine, and the law. The professional spirit may
vitalize work of every sort. Here is a poor man to whom few enjoyments
are open, who goes out morning after morning to shovel gravel or to
engage in some other labor equally uninteresting. He earns his two or
three dollars a day, takes it home, and hands it to his slatternly
wife. Once he was drawn to her by romantic love. With her he figured a
real union, each continually happy in the sight of the other and each
day bringing to both an inward joy. He did not know her. He had neither
the opportunity nor the ability to study her temperament and learn
whether it was adjustable to his. It proved not to be so. Children
came, cares increased, she neglected herself, her home, her husband.
There was no longer any warmth of affection between them. But still he
goes on working for her unmurmuringly. She is a wife and mother, he
a husband and father. To these relationships he will be faithful. Is
not his a larger love than that of the courtship? I do not see that
we can say so. But it is love of a different sort and a very noble
sort. We called love the joint service of a common life. Though she
no longer joins him, he joins the community in maintaining the family
tie. What keeps him going is his professional responsibility. Being a
good husband is the task assigned him in the general division of labor.
He recognizes its justice, controls his temper, and patiently meets
the hardship involved. I cannot see how there is less professional
responsibility here than in the case of the shoemaker or physician.
Indeed, wherever any one is true to his specific task, puts his heart
into it, works not for money alone nor through interest in a single
individual, but, without calculating any equivalence between what he
gives and receives, studies how he may most fully perform the work
to which he has been called, that man is exhibiting professional
responsibility, honoring love, and exalting justice in a way to deserve
profound reverence.



Love is so often proclaimed as a social panacea that I have thought it
well to subject it to a careful criticism and indicate its defects when
regarded as a complete embodiment of altruism. Some of those defects
are incidental. Since it is an affair of human beings it cannot fail to
show the imperfections characteristic of such wayward creatures. Seldom
does even marriage, love’s best opportunity, attain that full mutuality
which I have eulogized. Self-assertion intrudes early. The interests
of one or the other party become predominant, and mutuality gradually
declines. When the simple-minded man was told that in marriage two
persons become one, he naturally enough asked: “Which one?” Yet if
the completely conjunct life is rare, it is precious as an ideal for
directing conduct. We often speak of love as something we fall into.
Rather it is something to be made, developed, steadily approximated.
The best marriages are accomplished works of art, yielding large
rewards through all their progressive stages. But love is ever
unstable. Unwatched, it slips down among the lower forms of altruism.

These defects of love are, however, but incidental and such as are
common in all man’s undertakings. There is nothing in love which can
render it immune from human infirmity. But there are also in it certain
fundamental defects which prevent it from becoming an organizing
world-principle. At least before it can weld individuals into societies
and states it must undergo large transformation and appear rather as
justice than domestic affection. For love is naturally selective and
individual, picking out one and rejecting another. It does not offer
its bounty alike to all. Private altruism, it might be called, so that
it always seems indelicate to speak of it in public. It concerns only
those immediately involved and only their most intimate experiences.
From such limitations it needs to be freed before it can become
formative over society. All that is conjunctive in it must be retained
and only its exclusions removed. In this way general justice will
supplement individual love. All the varieties of mutuality are alike in
joining self-regard with extra-regard. They differ only in the extent
of that extra-regard.

In my last chapter I began the discussion of that superpersonal love
which I called Justice. It is concerned with functions rather than
individuals, and love is thus extended to a multitude who still remain
unknown. To keep the framework of society steady large co-operation
is required, each of its members becoming responsible for the working
of some one among its many functions and having his own well-being
bound up with its. To that function each is to devote himself as the
lover does to his lady, and through it he sends his benefactions
abroad to whoever stands in need. Such is the ideal of professional
responsibility; and whether seen in shoemaker, doctor, or head of a
family, it is something of wider scope and more generous impulse than
private love.

Yet even in professional responsibility an element of selection
remains. After studying the needs of the community I pick out what
work I will do. On some single need I fasten--the need of settling
quarrels, and I become a lawyer; the need of instruction, and I become
a teacher; the needs of the breakfast-table, and I become a grocer. In
all these cases my service is given not to man as man, but only to a
section of men, to those who are conscious of a certain specific need.
It is possible, however, to extend justice and, not confining attention
to wants already known, to endeavor to enlarge the whole intellectual
horizon of our fellows. Thus love becomes peculiarly impersonal and

For example, when I become an artist or scientific man I do not know
precisely what I shall contribute to the good of the public. The public
itself has experienced no want of the wares which I shall furnish. In
devoting myself to the higher mathematics I am pursuing something for
which a practical application may never be found. But that uncertainty
should not hold me back. I know that the mind of man moves off in that
direction. I will follow and see how far it can be pressed. These
investigations I am making in astronomy are curious. They satisfy my
passion for knowing. Believing they will satisfy that passion in
others also, I ask no more. Passing beyond the immediate application of
my results, I simply aim at developing persons more fully as persons,
so that their capacity for knowledge may be increased. Just so does
the artist attempt to reveal aspects of beauty hitherto unperceived.
When he furnishes what has been done before, what men have learned to
enjoy and now demand, he is a professional workman and belongs in the
preceding class. But a true artist explores phases of unacknowledged
beauty. Having himself seen what others have not seen, he takes the
risk of announcing it, certain that if it is comprehended he will open
men’s eyes to fresh enjoyment. Rightly therefore do we hold artists
and scientific men in high honor as enlargers of humanity. We see that
altruism like theirs calls for risk and special disinterestedness. They
are discoverers, going out into wide lands, far from sure what will
be found there, but ready to sacrifice themselves for possible human
betterment. Intellectual soldiers, we may call them, accepting the
risks of doubtful battle. Theirs is a lofty altruism, and none the less
because success may bring them fame and fortune.

Perhaps I strain the word justice in applying it to them, yet they as
truly as the professional man do not pick out individuals as receivers
of their benefits. Indeed, that absence of particularity so emphasized
in justice goes to such a degree with them that their work seems to
proceed from the spirit of science or spirit of beauty rather than from
a particular person. They strike us as transcending their age, their
own peculiarities, and to embody the conjunct self of humanity.

Still another form of justice, or of love, which passes beyond the
individual, is the service of institutions. Artists, scientific and
professional men all follow interests of their own, believing, however,
that their work in the long run will benefit the public. But in the
service of institutions not only does the public receive a benefit, it
fixes also what our work toward bringing it about shall be. Personal
choice, therefore, altogether disappears. The action is conjunctive
throughout. But to understand this dark saying we must bring clearly
before our minds what an institution is. It is a large term which we
are apt to allow to fill out a big gap in our knowledge.

I mean by institutions those fairly permanent relations between
persons which past experience has established for the promotion of
human welfare and successive generations have approved. Ever since
civilization began men have been experimenting how to live together
most helpfully. The results, tested by the induction of ages, become
the inherited habits of individuals and the institutions of society.
Maintained through passing years, criticised, readjusted to meet more
fully the needs they were intended to fulfil, they furnish each of us
a working capital as soon as we enter the world. We are not obliged to
decide in childhood whether to have three meals a day, whether man’s
dress shall differ from woman’s, whether to have provision made for our
instruction, worship, settlement of quarrels, safety on the street.
These matters were considered before we were born, and judgments about
them form our most precious inheritance. It is a veritable bank stock
of experience on which to draw for our support. We accept it all as a
thing of course at first, then begin to scrutinize it, asking how far
these particular institutions save social friction, open avenues for
enlarged activity, and how far that which once served these ends serves
them no more.

Such institutions are intended for the general good. By identifying
ourselves with them we both share in that good and exercise an
impartial love for mankind. For these have an influence over men
unequalled by any other agency. They fashion us in our unconscious
years and carry forward our purposes in years of discretion. To
comprehend their consolidated wisdom and conform ourselves to it will
be our chief means of serving our fellow men; to neglect or weaken
them through individual caprice is to be an enemy of society. Only
we must discriminate in our modes of strengthening. An institution
is not proved good by the bare fact of its existence. Perhaps the
presumption should be in its favor, for it could hardly get itself
established if injurious. But its original adaptation to human wants
is unstable, and strengthening it will really mean fitting it more
neatly to present circumstances. To maintain its outward form when it
no longer serves its purpose is to be unfaithful to it. Constructive
criticism is constantly required if institutions are to be kept sweet
and wholesome. Only it should be borne in mind that changes in the
framework of society can best come about slowly and only at the desire
of large groups of those affected. Presumptuous, indeed, is he who
will attempt to stand outside any of our fundamental institutions. The
setting up of his individual will against the general will proves him
no true socialist. He should remember that since everybody is wiser
than anybody his first business is to conform to the institutions
into which he is born, then to study elaborately their meaning, and
finally to persuade his fellows to join in readjusting them with a
view to their more effective working. Our love for our fellow men is
shown each day in our maintenance, critical study, and reform of the
social institutions around us. They survive only through our constant
approval, are too important to be neglected or lightly set aside, and
too liable to decay to be left uncriticised.

It is obvious, however, that institutions are of many grades of
importance. Some are fundamental, as the family, property, democracy;
others are local and individual, as Harvard University, Boston, the
Episcopal Church, the Democratic Party. As they become narrower our
acceptance of them changes its character, affectionate loyalty playing
a larger part, dutiful obedience less. A member of a college, for
example, comes to think of it almost as a person, symbolized in Alma
Mater, and gives to it the loving devotion he would feel for a revered
friend. Members of institutions so individual are apt to take their
membership as something like a personal trust and to pride themselves
on fidelity to it. But because such institutions are of limited range
and not applicable to all mankind, failure in allegiance to them is
generally regarded not as a moral lapse, but as an error of judgment.

Such are some of the aspects of justice, the impartial love of our
fellow men. When we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself, we
cannot excuse ourselves by saying that love does not move by command
but takes its own way according to individual temperament. Even of
the simpler forms of love this is only partially true; wisdom,
purpose, and patience being also essentials of permanence even in our
private loves. But that public love to which we are summoned is no
mere emotion, arising blindly and passing with the mood. It is the
rational acceptance of our place in a social organization where all are
dependent on each. A good synonym for what I have called justice would
be public-mindedness.

And in this extended and superpersonal love altruism attains its
fullest and steadiest expression. But so does egoism, too. That
abstract egoism, it is true, which seeks its own gain regardless of
that of others, is submerged. It was always fictitious, and rapidly
conducted him who pursued it to emptiness. But that conjunct self, the
person constituted through relations, finds in this justicial love his
large opportunity. In like manner the abstract and sentimental _alter_,
figured as that uncriticisable idol to which individual interests must
daily be offered up, is overthrown and shown to have reality only in
the degree in which it fosters personal life. Socialism which does not
promote individuality, individuality which does not tend toward an
ever-completer social consciousness, are alike delusive. Each must find
its justification in the service it is able to render to its pretended
foe. Pure gifts, to individuals or the state, are rightly objects of
suspicion. Only when transmuted by mutuality can they be kept free from

Such at least is the doctrine of this book. In it there is nothing new.
Vaguely, waveringly, and with but a half understanding, I believe it
has ever guided the best endeavors of mankind. I have only hoped to
drag it into clearer light by a novel sort of approach. The dangers of
that mode of approach I readily see and wish my readers also to see.
As a pedagogue I have torn apart things which belong together and have
separately exhibited our protective, generous, and identifying impulses
as successively different aspects of the altruistic life. In this way
we teachers are obliged to proceed, picking to pieces a concrete whole,
even when our aim is to show wholeness. But my readers will not be so
simple as to imagine that things occur in experience so disjointed as
on my pages. Life is more closely compacted than our expositions.
Higher stages and lower move forward together, assisting one another.
The disparagements which I put on the lower varieties of altruism
these deserve only so far as they are detached from the higher. In
conjunction, the higher altruisms ennoble the lower and are themselves
enriched and diversified by whatever inferior stages they absorb. Among
the ingredients of character none can safely be thrown away. We study
ethics merely to find a place where each may be helpful to all.

Transcriber’s Notes

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

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