Chicago Tribune

Declares There Is an Inborn Longing for Conflict That Finds Its Expression in War, Prize Fights, and Football – Excitement the Underlying Motive –While He Speaks a Thief with a Strong Desire to Accumulate Steals His Overcoat.

"Men are naturally born gamblers, prize fighters, football players, and soldiers," said Professor W. I. Thomas of the University of Chicago in a lecture before the Teachers’ College yesterday. "It is more difficult from the standpoint of the natural emotions to explain why a man is a businessman than why he is a gambler. The Rough Riders went to war partly because they saw a chance for the most exciting game of their lives." His subject was "Why the Gambler is Not a Business-Man." After a careful study, Professor Thomas has come to the conclusion that there is an inborn longing for conflict in man, which expresses itself in war and games.

The reason why young men go to war, he believes, is as much because they see a great opportunity for the most exciting sport as from patriotic motives. The attendance at football games points to the conclusion that this "organized fight" is the most popular aspect of university life. The motive force which underlies all these expressions, Professor Thomas says, is indispensable in human life.

Professor’s Coat Stolen.

While Professor Thomas was expanding on the natural desire of man for conflict some one entered the college office and took a valuable coat and had belonging to him. He attributed the act to a natural desire for accumulation, which he says is also inborn with man.’

"War is simply an organized form of fight," said Professor Thomas, "and as such it is most attractive, or, to say the least, arouses the instincts powerfully. With the accumulation of property and the growth of sensibility and intelligence it becomes apparent that war is wasteful and an unsafe process, and public and personal interest leads us to avoid it as much as possible. But however genuinely war may be deprecated it is certainly an exciting game. The Rough Riders in this country, more recently the young men of England, went to war from motives of patriotism, no doubt, but there are unmistakable evidences that they also regarded it as the greatest sport they were likely to have a chance at in a lifetime. And there is evidence that the individual attitude of women toward war is no less intense.

Football Shows It.

"A football game is a fight with this additional qualification over a prize fight, that it is not planned that anyone shall be hurt, also with the added advantage that it is not a single-handed fight, but an organize melée, a battle where the action is more complex and strategic opportunities multiplied. It is a fact of interest in this in this connection, unless appearances are deceptive altogether, that the larger number of visitors to a university during a year are visitors to the football field.

"It is the only phase of university life that appeals directly and powerfully to the instincts, and it is consequently the only phase of university life which appeals equally to the man of culture, the artist, the business-man, the man about town, the all-around sport, in fact, to all the world.

Gaming Instinct Innate

"From the standpoint of the natural emotions our problem is not so much to account for the gambler as to account for the business-man. The interest for gaming is born in all normal individuals. It is one expression of a powerful reflex, fixed far back in animal experience. The instinct is in itself right and indispensable, but we discriminate between its applications. It is valued in war and business, it expresses itself in thousands of forms in games of children and college athletics, it is approved in such expressions as golf, tennis, and billiards as a recreation for the man of affairs, but society justly condemns the exercise of the instinct aside from activities which naturally create values. The value may be in increased wealth and vigor or in the increase of wealth by competitive business, but the gamester pure and simple is not regarded with favor by society because he creates no values, is therefore essentially parasitical, and besides a disorganizer of the habits of others."

In preparing the lecture Professor Thomas had had a number of interesting experiences. He wrote a letter to a prominent gambler, which fell into the hands of the police. The police were looking for the man, and they immediately pounced upon the university professor as having some mysterious connection with him. It took some time to satisfy them of his purpose in writing the letter.


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