Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development


Table of Contents | Next | Previous 

82. WITH the view which we have now reached of the nature of invention in the child, we are prepared to trace its growth with his, and to point out the main aids to its progress in his life-history.

The child differs from the young animal mainly in this feature: the thought of himself as a personal being. It is in those functions through which his personal growth proceeds that we should expect to find his life mainly differentiated from the brutes. If the foregoing account be true of the method of the personal growth of the child, of his progress in his thought of himself, the means which his environment offers for the satisfaction of his demands should stand out most prominently, both in the contrast with the animal's environment, and also as prominent per se. There should be a premium put, in society, upon the formal or conventional modes of action which give constant patterns and supports to the child's need of progressive realization of himself and of knowledge of the world ; and there should be equally a general mode of social expression, a method of bringing his acquisitions to the social test ; these two features of the social whole being in their origin themselves the outcome of the very demand to which at every stage of progress they are found to minister. The child must at every

(127) stage have some general imitative copies before him, already realized in society ; he must reproduce these in his own growth. And the extent to which he can go, with the vis a tergo of heredity behind him, depends upon the degree in which his social environment is itself a thing of set and formulated convention.

On the other hand, the active method, both of his learning amid the conventions of the family, school, etc., and of the setting of his habits in the forms of social warrant and utility, must have some general modes of issue also common to the social group as a whole. Both these functions are served pre-eminently by speech; and in them, taken together, I think the true philosophy of speech is to be found. Not only is this true of the development of speech in the individual child,—its ontogenetic phase ; but it holds also of the origin and development of speech in the race — its phylogenetic phase.[1] We may confine our inquiry for the present to the social function of learning and expression in the child, by means of the acquisition and use of spoken language.

First, we may consider the acquisition of language by the child and the lessons of it in his progress as a personal and inventive being; and second, the use which he makes of speech, and its lessons as well. These two topics, it is plain, carry farther the distinction between 'imitative' and `social' invention already dwelt upon.[2]


1. Language

83. I. The Method of Learning Language.—All the theories of the child's procedure in acquiring language are based upon the very evident fact that speech is an imitative function. This is so evidently true that the temptation is strong to use speech in all cases to illustrate imitation at its purest. The process of association by which the child gradually gets the sounds of words heard connected with his own lip and tongue sensations in speaking the same words, and then uses his own sounds to control the muscular movements, instead of still waiting for the voices of others,—these processes are also commonly recognized, and I shall not delay upon them. Neither do I propose to institute an inquiry into the phonetics of the infant's progress with language, asking what letters he learns first, last, and between. All that is beside the present problem, interesting and important as it is in itself. The aspect of the case to which attention is now directed is a different one and one not so commonly discussed; indeed, I do not know of any discussions of just the function of the child's particular imitations of speech-sounds, in enabling him to come first into the language tradition and through that into all the social heritage of his people.

84. The use made by the child of the language of those about him is at first quite unreflective ; that is, the use for his own direct imitations. He gets, it is true, a large and varied sense of the meanings of words, such as 'papa, 'mamma,' 'spoon,' 'baby,' 'chair,' etc., as used by other persons before he shows at all the tendency to acquire speech for himself. He learns also a great variety of associations 

(129) between words which he hears and things which lie about him; all this is part of the general system of suggestions which his passing life-panorama of things and events impresses upon him. This indicates on the organic side the great readiness of his nerve machinery to undertake the tasks of life. His active life is somewhat behind the receptive; that is, somewhat less formed at the beginning of his career. So he brings to his first lessons in active imitation a certain mass of informations which are ready to cluster up upon his further acquisitions and assimilate them. Here we find in the child himself, therefore, a certain body of well-knitted meshes or nets ready to catch his newly acquired 'copies' as he reproduces them from out the environment, and to give them meaning in terms of safe knowledge. This is the sort of first interpretation or personal invention already signalized above.

85. But as soon as the child begins to imitate things seen or heard, he strikes into perfect gold-mines, of the richness of which he knows nothing; mines in which the wisdom and growth of ages of ancestral life are hidden in nuggets of purest intellectual ore. His efforts, it is true, merely scratch the surface. All his learning is but finding out the deeper and ever-deeper meaning of the surface-exposed strata. This we have seen in tracing the very gradual development of the sense of self. He has to go through a series of very remarkable insights, directed now outward, now inward, now outward again, all bringing him to a fuller and fuller apprehension of what people are and what their actions mean. So it is with every category of his learning; and most of all so of his learning to speak.


The case of this function is the more important and interesting since not only is it the way of his learning language in itself, but it is then through speech that he goes on to learn almost everything else. Speech has its main value not as an exercise in itself, but as an instrument ; yet it has first to be learned as any other function has to be —it has to be first itself an acquisition —in order then to be available for the uses it goes on to subserve. And the way of getting to speak by imitation is itself perhaps the profoundest pedagogical influence in the child's mental history. His instinctive imitation of word-sounds opens a door to the entrance of word-meanings.

His rapport with the person who speaks to him is a little fuller, a little more sympathetic, when the child can utter the same word. His utterance of it leads to the common observation of the thing the word denotes ; to the common doing of the act which it describes. Further, the rapport thus established now extends away from the individual thing, at first present at the learning. The distant object, the past or future event, can now be referred to. So the basis is laid for a new word-lesson : the lesson of the relation of the object which is now here on one hand, to that on the other hand which, though not here, yet can be brought here in its meaning and memory by the use of the word which has been earlier acquired. So also can the relations of space be spanned by thought through this wonderful instrumentality, just as those of time are. Not that the child does not remember his past without uttering his memories in speech or before he can utter them ; but that he does not make these memories of his past the basis of the further extension of that personal understanding with the others

(131) from whom his learning proceeds and by which his own thought of himself and the world must grow. It is because the parent or teacher has more lessons for him to learn—because they are familiar with the relations of time, space, cause, etc. — that it is important for him to learn the present words. His progress in thinking is to be like their progress before him, and, as a matter of fact, their progress is embodied in their language. They cannot impart their learning except in the moulds in which they have learned ; so in his learning he must get the meaning of the word now set before him before he can grow into a further set of meanings.[3]

The essential function of language, therefore, on the side of its acquisition by the child, is this pedagogical or 'leading-string' function. The child does not have to explore the relations of things for himself ; this his ancestors have done for him, and their discoveries have been embodied in language. Then he comes upon the scene with the hereditary capacity for speech, and the tendency, also hereditary, to imitate. So of course he falls into the speech of his social elders and so finds himself, before he knows it, and without any necessity of understanding it, right in the midst of a most intricate network of social relationships directly available to him by the use of the words picked up by pleasant and playful imitation.

For example, he learns the word 'knife,' perhaps, from his table experiences repeated daily; then he is told 'the

(132) knife cuts,' when, by a slip of his fingers, he has come in the way of his nurse's brandishments of that instrument. Now, by holding on to these two words ` knife cuts,' he is enabled to do at once what probably represents a long series of race experiences in the learning of meanings and relationships in nature. He 'conceives' the thing knife, since he is able to put into it, by means of his own personal growth, a general meaning or expectation. Speech is his means of doing this, because it is, in the first instance, the race's means of doing this, and unless the race had developed some general way of doing it, neither could he. It prepares him at once for the further understanding of the increasing and differing instances of both the ideas thus crudely learned. And his knowledge then proceeds from the more general, the safer, to the less general, the concrete, the more risky. What I mean by this last remark may he brought out a little more fully.

86. Suppose the child beginning with no tendency to generalize his experience with the knife ; he would then not expect other knives, hatchets, tools with sharp edges, to cut him. He would put them all to the same test, either intentionally or by the accidents arising from his failure to apply the lesson of the earlier knife, and the result would be that he would be cut again and again. And should he extend this haphazard experience of learning for himself to all the provinces of his action, it becomes plain that his life would not suffice to teach him the things he most needs to know. He would be forever falling by the wayside from the shock of evils which, as it is, he readily anticipates and avoids. We may call this a sort of generalization, and see in it, as we do, a case of personal accommodation by the use of a single copy of great gener-

(133) -ality for a group of similar experiences. It seems to distinguish the child from the young animal ; not, indeed, merely as the perception of resemblance (Morgan), or association by resemblance (James) —both of these, I think, many animals clearly have—and not indeed by any impassable gulf in nature; but as indicating the direction which development has taken, whereby the child's kind have become animals which reflect, while the others have not. I think that Romanes is right in holding it possible that the direction given to development through the first rude uses of movements for personal expression was really the direction taken by man, the reasoning creature, in distinction from the lower animals that do not speak nor reason.[4] Speech is the crown and climax of expressive movements, and by it development took on its highest social and personal phase.[5]

87. The child's main business with words is the absorption of meanings, rather than the discovery of them. The discovery is a matter of social usage, which comes to him in great generalizations. The child has thrust upon him words used in their general significations ; he invents general situations or meanings to interpret the general speech which he hears ; in this he shows all the aptitude arising from his hereditary readiness for the race progress which the speech he hears itself embodies ; his happy responses are encored and he clings to them as useful

(134) things. Indeed, one of the most striking phenomena of infant speech is the way in which the child uses a newly acquired word to cover objects which present only the most vague and incidental resemblance to the right one. The books on child-psychology are full of instances, and I need not cite more. The boy learns that my knee is a ' knee.' He forthwith begins to look upon the corner of the table as a 'knee' ; so is the end of the stick of firewood a 'knee' ; the mountain becomes a 'big knee,' and the pencil should have its 'little knee' sharpened. All this is his first interpretation, the generalization which he falls into by all the force of race history and habitual reaction. These objects fulfil the conditions of the first apprehension of 'knee,' which issued in the fortunate utterance of the word; so all of them also become it. So far we now understand: this is the `leading-string' function of language, just to lead him forward into this error of generalization. The power to generalize is a part of his endowment ; it is his gift of originality, in so far.

88. II. The Uses of Language. —We may say at the outset that the child's uses of language illustrate very plainly the second kind of invention described above as ' social.' It consists in a series of second interpretations of words on the basis of the first interpretation made in the way already described. The child's progress is by delimitation of the areas over which he may apply words. This comes about in his further experience in the application of his newly acquired terms. He finds himself straining the meanings of them in his efforts to make himself understood by others. When he speaks of the 'knee' of the table, I fail to understand him, perhaps, and he sees that his first apprehension is in some way not that

(135) which gets social confirmation. So he abandons his first interpretation, and either asks me why a table-corner is not a knee, or shows me by pointing what he means in speaking of the table's knee, or waits to hear in my further conversation the distinctions which resolve the puzzle for him. His use of speech is a constant test of the inventive interpretations already made through imitation.

His progress is the reverse of that of the ordinary psychological doctrine of conception, i.e., that it proceeds from the particular to the universal. It is from the more to the less general constantly.[6] He circumscribes his meanings by the very necessity of the use of language —the necessity of being understood.

This leads him on then to the second interpretation found in all valid invention. Speech of all things must work in society. And just in so far as, after each test, the meaning given to a word is found to be wrong, too inclusive, and in so far as he then gets a new sense of the right conditions for a new sense of the meaning, to that degree he makes a new meaning, a new invention, only to find it subject, as the old one was, to the tests of actual usage in his social group.

89. We find that when he does this, when he uses a word with a question on his face, waiting to see its fate in the understanding and critical treatment of others, then the first function of language, the 'leading-string' function, gets a new chance. The parent or teacher may now avail himself of the child's error to lead him into all truth. I hasten to inform the child that the table has no knees,

(136) and why. I make the occasion which reveals his wrong interpretation the occasion, also, of a new lesson whereby he takes up new elements of social suggestion for the refining of his words, and through them of his knowledge. There is no end, of course, to this give-and-take between the child and me; he takes what I give, and gives it back in his own form of assimilation or invention, only to have his construction rejected by me with further directions whereby he may make it conform better to the demands of the developed system of meanings which I have already acquired by precisely the same process. So his second interpretation becomes in turn a first interpretation for another second. And so on indefinitely.

So speech is genetically an aid of the first importance in the development of knowledge, and illustrates well the social factor which we have called `judgment' above. Further I need not go in this connection. Yet the point should not be overlooked that in this development, the method of the acquisition of language is that of the organic growth of the person as a whole, considered in his social relationships. The child learns himself and his alter, as we have seen, by reacting upon constant suggestions from the alter personalities about him. We now see that speech is, after the first year or more of his life, the great vehicle of such suggestions, and consequently the great engine of his personal development. When it is no longer a matter of learning speech, it is yet a matter of learning through speech. Both the process of taking up the projective into the subjective ego, and that of ejecting the subjective into the alter-ego, get their principal material through language. By their speech he learns of others, and by his speech he teaches others of himself.


90. III. The Uses of Reading and Handwriting.—The position now assigned to speech in the social evolution of the child gets farther confirmation from the examination of those variations of this function found in reading and handwriting. In reading we find the receptive state of mind necessary to imitative invention very greatly emphasized. Handwriting, on the other hand, and with it all the forms of inscription, printing, etc., into which it has developed in the advanced social organization of civilized peoples, represents the other pole, — that of expressive utility. Handwriting is to the writer in the first instance —as printing and publishing are to the author—he means of submitting the results of his invention to the social tests, the nature of which we have already dwelt upon. The child writes in his copy-book for the criticism of his teacher. He writes to his friend, both as a child and later as an adult, for the expression of his thought; but his expression is worthy and represents invention only as his friend's criticism tolerates and exploits it. If he thus become an author and his productions be fixed in the permanent form of print or archives, he is then appealing to a larger constituency of critics, and for a judgment extending over a longer period of time. This then is literature. It is the permanent series of recorded inventions in form and matter by which society has gradually enriched itself, and to which society has subjected itself as to a great series of limitations put upon its inventive power.

Then as to reading—the child not only learns to read, but he learns to assimilate the thoughts he reads. In learning merely to read, he is learning to reinvent for himself the forms of language, just as we have seen him doing

(138) it also in learning to speak. But in reading, the 'copy-system,' so to speak, the gauges, controls, relationships, are richer than in his speech. For in the former he is no longer compelled to wait for the presence of his father or mother to give him the forms of correct discourse, and to give them to him in forms not always correct. His books are a graded series of wisely arranged forms of increasing complexity, and in them he has the slow processes of acquisition set out for his development as fast as the growth of his inventive powers enables him to utilize them. And having thus transcended the forms of usage in his own social circle, he goes on, by the supply of literature in the library to which he has access, to transcend as well the commonplace thought of daily life, in the community in which he lives.

So by his reading and his writing he assimilates, on the one hand, and expresses himself socially for the judgment of his fellows, on the other hand. And these are the two fields, assimilation and expression, in which we have seen invention to have its place in the development of personality. This whole series of functions, therefore, which cluster about the use of language, constitute the most important of all the agencies of personal development ; not indeed because of any intrinsic peculiarity of them considered as personal performances, but entirely because in them the social Geist, the socius, comes to ever-clearer and more adequate expression.[7] In the instrumentalities

(139) of written discourse, the social conditions of the past are crystallized and made available)-and in them, as we have had occasion to see, the new individual, from the time that he is born into the world of independent action, finds much of his social heritage directly available.

2. Play [8]

91. The place of the play-instinct in the general equipment of the young of animals and of man has had much discussion recently from a biological or phylogenetic point of view.[9] Apart from questions of origin, however, we may inquire into the meaning of play in relation to the social and personal development of the individual—in short, its ontogenetic value—in the somewhat summary way which the necessary omission of details requires. Among the more important functions of play, in the education of the individual for his life-work an a network of social relationships, the following may be indicated with some reference to their natural order.

92. I. Play is a most important form of organic exercise. In so far as the tendencies involved are instinctive, the exercise is secured to the individual directly in the channels set by heredity, and required for the adult activities of the species. On the organic side, we find—what it is our main object to show also for the mental—that the actions into which the young of animals tend normally and spontaneously to indulge, are those which the finished ac-

(140) -tivities later brought into operation are to require. This is an important indication regarding the meaning of play from an historical or phylogenetic point of view, i.e., that the play-instinct as such has arisen to afford a sort of artificial recapitulation of the serious and strenuous exertions of race progress, and thereby to subserve the need, that the individual creature has, of training in the same exercises, before the time of storm and stress comes upon him.[10]

As to the individual's advantage from play, it is shown so plainly in the illustrations cited from the life of young animals by other authors, that I need not stop to do more than recall some of these illustrations. It will be remembered that young dogs play at biting, chasing, fighting, clawing, etc., up to the limits of safety. This is interpreted as showing that the play-instinct had its race-origin in the actual forms of struggle and competition by which the species has maintained and developed itself. We now see that these play-activities of the dog are also of direct value to him as a schooling in the life of self-support which he has to live as an individual dog. Another case —the play of a kitten with a mouse after catching it—is

(141) a still more striking instance of the schooling of the young into the stock-in-trade of the adult's method of support and of defence, when in a wild state. And so on through an infinite catalogue of instances.

93. II. Play is a most important method of realization of the social instincts. The summary consideration of the organic utilities of play prepares us for the part which the same group of activities play on the side of the conscious and social equipment of the young. Here the phenomena are seen in very marked form in the animal world, since in the brutes the phenomena of instinct are not complicated with those of the higher mental faculties to the same extent as in man, and the immediate urgencies are more pressing. So I may first speak with more reference to those higher animals which have well-developed collective methods of action.

The kind of social preparation which the young of animals get from their playful activities together is just the experimental verification of the benefits and pleasures of united action. The maternal and filial instincts involve a strain of play, in animals no less than in the human species. Dogs in their play at fighting often set numbers against swiftness or force, and exchange parts in the midst of the game, the chaser being chased, etc. Birds in the same flock will unite to storm a tree where a fancied enemy is perched, just as they combine against a real enemy when he has the tree to himself. Ants have sham battles with opposing hosts; thus getting the effects of military manoeuvring without bloodshed.[11]

The extended 'make believe' of animals-for example in pretending to bite one another, with the elaborate responses of pretended anger and

(142) attack—shows invaluable practice in varying and understanding quasi-social relations and situations. Mock fighting, sometimes very elaborate, is widespread in nature ducks play at fighting on the water, birds in the air, animals injure one another in their playful zeal.[12] The remarkable phenomena of leadership show just the results to be expected from game exercises. In certain packs of dogs, in the words of Hudson, "from the foremost in strength and power down to the weakest, there is a gradation in authority; each one knows just how far he can go, which companion he can bully when he is in a bad temper . . . and to which he must yield in his turn."[13] Cases of division of responsibility between individuals in trapping prey, etc., are recorded, in which it is very difficult to see the possibility of the united action becoming fixed as an instinct unless the repetition of the situation in some such artificial way as the play-instinct would seem to give opportunity for enabling the animals to learn their part ; this might be of enough importance to shield the individuals for some generations against natural selection.[14]


From the anthropological point of view also the instinct to play would have the same utility. Primitive man, we are told, indulged to a remarkable extent in games, dances, amusements of a co-operative character. This must have been a constant training to him in the benefits of sociality and a constant stimulus to the pursuits of peace.

94. But it is in the human young that this type of utility attaching to play-activities comes into greatest prominence; and here it is a matter of such importance that I may be excused for going into some detail in the following points, in order to join up this topic with the method of social development of the child in general. The child is destined to a life of personal self-consciousness which is realized in all its richness only in the social relationships into which he is reared ; and the indications that in his games he has one of his most important means of schooling in personal development should, if it be true, be given the emphasis which both its theoretical and practical importance would seem to warrant.

III. Play gives flexibility of mind and body with self-control. There is a certain plasticity of function secured by exercise which is in striking contrast to the plasticity of crude unformed movement. To do things quickly and well is more than to do them quickly or well. Just as the grace of the trained horse can be contrasted with the awkwardness of the colt, so the ready use of the mental faculties by a trained scholar may be contrasted with the mental movements of the rustic. I think all games, from the nursery to the athletic field, have this virtue.

95. IV. Play gives the child a constant opportunity for imitative learning and invention. It is evident to any one who has observed children at play that the instinct to

(144) imitate comes strongly out in many ways in the disposition of the players, in the following after the leaders, in the learning of successive situations, in the division of parts, in the novel variations and improvements which are introduced in the progress of the several games performed.

There are usually in each group of children some of greater inventive faculty than the rest ; they are more restless than their fellows, fond of leading, constantly proposing novelties. The others, on the contrary, follow these by more or less ready imitation. It matters little, of course, how valuable or how lacking in value the new elements of the game may be. The fact that the children imitate it and, by so doing, learn how to realize for themselves the new combinations of movement, new varieties of social relationship, new dispositions of persons for united co-operation and effort-this is enough to make the discipline of the game a matter of the greatest interest and importance in the origin and development of the personal and social sense. The stimulus to imitation is thus felt in the circle of the child's own equals, and action upon such a stimulus is most unreserved and natural. Besides, the child has in such cases only relatively simple and easy novelties to which to accommodate himself; and he is not embarrassed by the failure to understand what is required of him, as he so often is in the case of the interpretations which he is called upon to make of the actions of his elders.

In this learning by imitation during his games, the child is exercising himself in the art of invention as well as simply gaining new insights into situations of social value; for by imitation, as we have already seen, the first exhibitions of originality are made possible.


96. V. But it is no less true that the social aspect of invention is also well realized in the games of childhood. It will be remembered that we found the child —and the adult as well—constantly bringing his thoughts, interpretations, inventions, to the social tests represented by the judgments and sentiments which his creations meet with in society about him. Now this testing, essential to his growth as it is, finds a field of exploitation in all his games. And I may distinguish again two ways in which this advantage is secured to the young heroes of the play.

In the first place the game is essentially a thing of activity; it calls the player into action. He must make strenuous, varied, and repeated trial and effort. The end in view, the winning of the game for himself or for his 'side,' involves a series of steps, each putting him to the test in all the ways of action which the particular sport involves. It is natural to suppose, therefore, that as such a game progresses the child comes to understand himself better through his own actions and their limitations than he did before. He finds out how fast he can run, how much lie can lift, how dexterous he is in dodging, how skilful in eluding pursuit, etc. He thus comes directly to a larger and more adequate sense of his personal and social fitness for the common activities which the game represents, and with them for the real duties and undertakings which his actual life calls upon him to perform. This power to estimate self, with the self-reliance which goes with it, constitutes one of the essential constituents of sane and healthy social character.

At the same time, second, the same revelation of the personal quality of the hero who thus learns to understand himself, is made regarding him to each of his playfellows.

(146) They also learn what he can do in the various exercises of mind and body, how ingenious he is, how supple, how inventive, how swift, how strong. And the progress of the game depends, or comes to depend, upon the preserving of some degree of balance between him and them. He is given his part by a quick judgment of what he can do or what he is liable to choose to do. He must be combined against if he be strong, supplemented if he be weak, instructed if he be dull, circumvented if he be bright. All this then reacts upon the particular boy again to stimulate him to better and better judged effort for himself, and to more concerted effort for his party.

97. The outcome of it all, we may then go on to say, becomes, or tends directly to become, socially important. A premium is put upon united action just by the fact of united knowledge. To exhibit what I can do alone, is to exhibit my importance as an ally. The sense of my weakness in myself is a revelation to me of my need of you as my ally. The presence of a stronger than either is a direct incitement to the quick alliance between you and me against him. And the victory which we win over the stronger by the alliance is both a confirmation to us of the utility of social co-operation and a convincing proof to him that society is stronger than the individual. The spirit of union, the sense of social dependence as set over against the spirit of private intolerance, the habit of suspension of private utilities for the larger social good, the willingness to recognize and respond to the leadership of the more competent,— in short, all that constitutes a person a different person, a new self, a socius, all this grows grandly on the playground of every school where the natural instincts of the scholars are unmolested by ill-judged

(147) interference and artificial restrictions. Many of the organizations of developed society are exemplified in the spontaneous play-organizations of large schools ; and it is only a due recognition of these facts to say that because of them the games of childhood and youth are an engine of great social value.[15]

3. Art

98. The beginning of the art-impulse in children seems to appear in the occupations which serve to bring out the imagination ; and by imagination in this connection we mean the function of invention understood in the wide sense, as including both the aspects of originality now set out in some detail.[16] For the beginning of a career which is to be artistic even in the most meagre way, the child must make for himself new combinations of the copy-materials of his imitation. This is, of course, the first requirement. But it is evident that this does not, when taken alone, satisfy the requirements of art-production. Others may pronounce our imaginative productions grotesque, indeed we may do so ourselves. It is this appeal to others and to the matured opinion of his own better and second self that constitutes a claim on the artist's part to the appreciation which serves to bring the work of his invention into the area of art.

I do not intend in this connection to propose even the

(148) rudiments of a theory of art; but it is a common element in many theories of art that they require more than the subjective putting of materials together and the making of new shapes, if the producer is to be an artist and his work artistic. This second something we must look for, therefore, in the judgments of others than the individual, even though the individual may come by education or by heredity to have the criteria of such judgment all within himself. In other words, the judgment in which art-appreciation rests is a social judgment, whether the individual be able to rise to it or not. And the fact that an artist gets the praise of mankind for his work is just the evidence that here is a man who, in his private sense of values, does in some adequate way realize the social judgment. His work pleases mankind.

If this be true, —and its truth becomes more evident from the synthesis it enables us to make of certain current doctrines in aesthetic theory, —we find that art, like language and play, becomes capable of interpretation through its connection with the social consciousness. The personal element in art, the mere creation, in the imagination, of new but private combinations, is invention in its early imitative aspect ; the appeal then made to a wider social judgment for the sanction of the beauty of the construction, illustrates the second aspect of invention which we have now found present in so many activities of both child and adult: 'social invention' I have called it. Let us see how the child gets the rudiments of art started in him on this basis.

99. It is clear, when we think of it, that the only way that the child has of getting the appreciation of others is through action. We have seen how this works in his

(149) games. The general way, therefore, of getting the kind of social judgment which artistic appreciation renders, must also be through action ; and the child must exhibit himself on all occasions, if he would turn his imitative imaginations into things of social worth. Upon these acts, whereby he more or less explicitly exhibits himself, and upon the social recognition of the inventive thoughts which inspire them, the beginning of all art-interests in the community must have originally rested, and must rest in the child in so far as he is left to his own devices. So we should expect to find children very fond of exhibiting themselves, of 'showing off ' as the saying is —a phrase which, in its ordinary usage, may be taken to give some evidence at least of the reality of the phenomenon itself.

The point thus established may be made evident to an observer of children not only in their games, but in all the affairs of their life. No invention pleases them, as we have seen, until it is socially confirmed by mother or sister. No attainment —drawing, new speech-combination, hand-manipulation, or what-not of youthful pride—is of much value, or held in high esteem, until father has seen that his boy can do it and do it by himself. His sense of agency and originality seems to feed and grow fat upon just the sort of recognition which comes through his exhibition of himself in his social circle. His judgments are directly modified and controlled by the social effects which his attainments call out. The exhibition of his new drawing in the home circle is as much to his budding genius as is the exhibition which the artist makes in the Salon or at the World's Fair; and, I take it, his development is dependent upon it in very much the same sense, and to a greater degree.


l00. Originality in art, therefore, as is originality everywhere else, is an affair both of individual endowment and thought and of social recognition and confirmation. It is not that the art-impulse is exhausted in self-exhibition; that is to take the later aspect for the whole, to confine ourselves to the social point of view, and to make genius out of vanity. But it is to say—and this is my essential point—that the social judgment, which a work of art has to sustain, finds its correlative impulse in the self-exhibition of the producer. Only thus can his own judgment be instructed. The reaction of this social recognition upon the producer is not alone the fountain of his stimulus and the test of his success ; it is also the very source of his sense of values.

For the growth of the self-thought it is which gives the judgment of values, and that growth is by these two essential movements. This is carried out in detail in the consideration of sentiment (Chap. VIII.), where we find that a full ethical or aesthetic judgment cannot be constituted as long as the thinker resolutely excludes the sense of the knowledge or judgment of others.

101. If it were my purpose in this connection to attempt a general survey of the arts from this point of view, certain evident sources might be cited from which confirmation could be drawn. We might say that song (with the dance) is the first attempt at art, and both from an archaeological point of view and from an infantile point of view, it is one of the first instruments of personal show and the attempt at social effect. The serenade of Hamlet commends Hamlet ; the evening circle draws closely about the individual who entertains the company with song. The birds make love with notes, and the notes seem to express the

(151) excellence of the emotions by which they are inspired. In short, the idea of commending self to mate, companion, friend, seems to attach to song as a remnant of the utility which must have been great in the animal world, and to point to the time when song was the only art, and when the only function of art was that of attracting attention. In music generally, the plastic arts, and painting, the self-exhibiting impulse is more difficult to detect ; but the outcome of it, the appeal to social recognition which they all make, is what remains of it. This is what I desire to leave in the mind of the reader as my immediate thought on the subject ; the actual ground on which the art-impulse is identified, in so far, with the self-exhibiting impulse has been well indicated by another.[17]

102. It may be well to point out, in including the consideration of art as an aid to social development, that the view now given serves to free the theory of Spencer from its most embarrassing criticism. Spencer has long held that the origin of art is to be found in the play-instinct. But he fails to see the utility of the play-instinct, and so opens himself to the criticism that in the doctrine of the genesis of art he deserts the evolution hypothesis alto-

(152) -gether. If play be merely a surplus activity, as he seems to hold, then the outcome, embodied in the art-impulse, is a by-product merely, and is to be considered without utility from first to last. The theory, on the other hand, which identifies the art-impulse with the self-exhibiting impulses, is consistently evolutionary; but it has failed to find, in my view, that the self-exhibiting impulses have either the important function or the degree of exercise which the derivation of the art-impulse from them would demand. They have been connected mainly with sex. The present view seems to avoid these criticisms, I think. It makes the essential element of art-production the synthetic or creative imagination working by imitation. The social control and limitation necessary to the value of these creations are secured by the self-exhibiting impulse ; and finally the self-exhibiting impulses find their field of exercise notably in the playful tendencies.

Art-production falls, therefore, under the general function of 'selective thinking' in which the same two phases and the same utility have been discovered.[18]

Both the selective criteria, however —that of social confirmation, as well as that of imitative construction —

(153) forbid our identifying art creations with the products of play, and finding the essential feature of the aesthetic consciousness in the 'make-believe'[19] or Schein which distinguishes play from strenuous activity (v. Hartmann, Groos). The element of truth in that theory seems to be that in 'make-believe'— which is at its best in play—the sense of personal freedom and creation is strong: the sense of exaggerated self which we have found in all invention. But the need of selective criteria in judging these creations appears in both the contrasted facts that (I) the veriest 'make-believe,' seen in fancy and play, is oftener grotesque than beautiful, and (2) that the arrangements of nature, which have in our perception no elements of 'make-believe,' are beautiful as often as grotesque.


  1. Avenarius makes speech the great means of 'introjection' in its historical development: Mensch. Weltbegriff, p. 44.
  2. The consideration of speech, as well as of play and art, as social instrument, must be very sketchy in a single chapter, and the following general indications should be considered only as suggestions.
  3. The truth of this is seen in the difficulty found in teaching deaf and dumb children. Methods have to be devised which are foreign to the teacher's own normal modes of expression. Instead of natural social relations, these are conventions which are artificial, in the first place, to the teacher himself.
  4. And he is also in accord with the text (see Sects. 78, 82) in the position that the essential distinction between man and the brute "truly consists . . . in the power to thin': which is given by introspective reflection in the light of self-consciousness" (Mental Evol. in Man, p. 175), and he finds this "in its simplest manifestation . . . in judgment" (ibid., p. 178). Cf. note in Appendix H, II.
  5. In another place (Mental Devel., Chap. IV.) I have reached the conclusion that right-handedness originally served purposes of expressive movement.
  6. And prevailingly at this early period ; of course the other process is also real, but it characterizes a later period, i.e., that of logical rather than verbal instruction. Cf. the process called 'erosion' in Mental Development, p. 328.
  7. In the general position of the paragraph I may be under unconscious indebtedness to the following sentence from a ' Syllabus of Lectures' kindly sent me by Professor Royce : " It is true that Thought is greatly, although not wholly, dependent on Language; but this is due not to any peculiar magic in language, but rather to the importance of the latter as a socially Imitative Function."
  8. Since this section was written, I have fallen in with the very able work, Die Spiele der Thiere, by Professor K. Groos. His theoretical conclusion as to the function of play, from the biological point of view, is the same as that favoured here. (His book is now translated into English by Miss E. L. Baldwin.)
  9. Cf. Groos, loc. cit.
  10. See the abundant examples given in the work of Groos. I have discussed his book in Science, February 26, 1897 (reprinted as preface to the Eng. trans.). Two other indications of the function of play in race development may be suggested. It serves, first, as an index of the organic development already secured to the species; it reveals something of the amount and direction of the hereditary impulse before it is actually developed in the individual. The plays of animals are particular, according to the species just as much so as are their full-developed instincts. Second, by the exercise involved in play the animal enlarges the scope, strengthens the force, and so aids the further development of the hereditary impulse in the species in the direction of the functions thus brought into play, through the operation of organic selection (the preservation of the better adapted or accommodated individuals under natural selection).
  11. I have lost my authority for this illustration but have the citation noted.
  12. Cf. Hudson, The Naturalist in La Plata, p. 308. The reader may consult Hudson's extended account of the social plays of birds and mammals (loc. cit., esp. Chap. XIX. " Music and Dancing in Nature") and Groos' Spiele, p. 202. It is a defect, I think, of Herr Groos' treatment that he does not make adequate recognition of the social function among the utilities of play. (Cf., however, p. 71, " daher ist die sociale Bedeutung der Spiele ausserordentlich gross "). I should say that it is notably in view of the social life of the higher orders and of man that this neat sentence, propounded by Groos as something of a paradox, gets much of its truth: " Die Thiere spielen nicht weil sic jung sind, sondern sie haben einer Jugend, veil sie spielen mussen " (loc. cit., p. 68).
  13. Loc. cit., p. 337 "This masterful and domineering temper, so common among social animals," he thinks it is that "leads to the persecution of the weak and sickly."
  14. This is only a suggestion, but if facts should warrant it, it might be a resource in some of the discussions of congenital endowment, heredity, etc., in which the origin of a once-functioning or periodical instinct is in question.
  15. If all these utilities, as well as direct organic utility, are subserved by play, we seem justified in considering it a native impulse, and in discarding entirely the view which confines it to the using up of 'surplus energy.' On this also see Herr Groos' hook, Die Spiele der Thiere, Chap. 1.
  16. That is, so-called ' constructive imagination,' by which invention proceeds; not passive imagination, often called `fancy.' Groos fails to make this distinction, both in his interpretation of art and in his criticism of others (as of the present writer, loc. cit., p. 307).
  17. Marshall, Pain, Pleasure, and AEsthetics. As to the general genetic theory of art, that is not in place here ; but I may take occasion to suggest that the antithesis between decorative and imitative art may find its ground in the two psychological principles of self-exhibition and imitation by which invention always proceeds. By imitation, the new interpretations are secured; this is the principle of the imitative arts, which spring from this need of man to reach new results by the imitative handling of materials. Then by expression, in the form of self-exhibition, decoration, social display, the second need is realized; so there arises the other great class of artistic products, the decorative and ornamental, coming out earliest in the painting of the person, the decking out of the body with bright feathers, etc., on the part of rude peoples. As culture advances, these two great motives are united in the fine arts.
  18. Above, Chap. III., 3. It may have been noticed by the reader that this social determination of the selective principle in the case of the aesthetic judgment is an application of the general determination of the same principle above under the larger head of selective thinking. We will find another such case in the similar treatment of the ethical judgment. All the special instances in which selections are made, with the mental attitude of belief or judgment or sense of 'sufficiency,' should illustrate the criterion found above to be general. The further question as to the differentiation of the respective domains, as for example between the aesthetic and the ethical, concerns the objective qualities or ` coefficients' in accordance with which the matter of experience serves in this case or that to arouse this general attitude. That we cannot discuss here; but the reader may turn to the remarks made on the same distinction in the earlier connection (Sect. 55, 2).
  19. A phrase used by Stout (Anal. Psych. II., p. 262); its happy social reference is at once evident.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2