Psychology, General and Applied:

Chapter 26: Ideal Relations

Hugo Münsterberg

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The Ideal Purposes.—The account of our purposive life is not yet completed. The soul creates its free acts as a response to the outer world and to the social world. It unfolds through them its own meaning. Whether man masters the things and makes them realize his individual purposes or whether he agrees or disagrees with, submits to or attacks the purposes of others, it is his personal life energy which binds his acts together. The one fundamental will act of asserting himself enlivens every response of his soul. He seeks his pleasures, he escapes his dangers, he loves his friends, he fights his foes, he strives to learn and to grow : the life tendency of his personality is not only a will to exist and to enjoy, but to advance and to gain in influence. The "will to power" has often been proclaimed as the formula of the individual life. The individual temperament decides whether it will realize itself in contact with others more by aggressive forms like ambition, courage, curiosity, stubbornness, or by the protective forms like anxiety, modesty, submission, greediness. Every inner movement is somehow directed toward selfaggrandisement or selfprotection. Whatever fulfills this demand for selfassertion gives satisfaction and is felt to be valuable. The values which one seeks may agree with the values of another. But his satisfaction depends upon his personal interest.

The values which satisfy our personal life desires are, however, not the only values which we acknowledge.

( 335) Everybody knows satisfactions which are not related to the individual needs, fulfillments of demands which have no selfish origin. We experience purposive acts which we do not feel as our individual acts; and yet which we do not refer to other particular individuals. They are not related to this or that neighbor, to this or that leader; they are not understood as expressing the desire of any other particular individual. We understand them as belonging to every subject whom we are to acknowledge as a subject at all. They are our acts, but they do not express our individuality: they express our being subjects.

Only in so far as we share these purposes do we become parts of the interpersonal community of mutual understanding and mutual acknowledgment, a community with a common world. If we do not want to enter into this community with a common world, if we want to consider our life only as a dream, not acknowledging the reality of others or of a world, then we are not bound to share these fundamental acts. But if we want to have a world in common with others and if we want to understand others, and if we want to be understood in our subjectivity, then we must affirm those acts which build up a world common to all. The fulfillment of these demands for a common world must then furnish a satisfaction which lies beyond the mere selfish pleasure and enjoyment. Its values are not simply personal, but overpersonal, absolute, eternal values. They take the fourfold form of truth, beauty, morality and religion.

The Normative Acts.—The acts which demand these logical, esthetic, ethical and metaphysical values are our acts, like those which demand the personal values of safety and pleasure and power. Yet they spring from a deeper source. They serve ideal purposes. It depends upon our performing them whether we are true subjects at all. We feel those purposive acts, therefore, as superior to our individual acts. We call them norms. We are not free to

( 337) will or not to will them; we are obliged to will them, if we will to be parts of the common interpersonal world. We acknowledge them as obligations and measure our individual acts by these overindividual standards. Just as the objects which are common to all, the physical things, form the true world as against the dreams and imaginations and hallucinations of individuals, so the values which must be common to all form the true world of satisfaction as against the haphazard pleasures of the individual man.

If I meet a man, it may be my will to ask him for advice, or to buy something of him, or to enjoy his conversation : all this is strictly personal. I will it without the least expectation that some one else may will the same. But if I see a man whom I do not know in mortal danger, my will aims to help him. The purpose of my will is now the saving of his life. It is my own will, and yet this time I do not will it for my personal ends. It is a will in me the aim of which has no reference to my personality, but to something which is of common value to everyone, the respect for human life. If I will to help and not to kill, to protect and not to steal, to speak the truth and not to lie, the purpose may be in conflict with my personal desires; and yet my will toward the painful sacrifice is stronger.

But it is no different in the intellectual field. I seek the truth, and I affirm the true judgment. I say two times three is six, and I reject every different proposition. If some one suggests that two times three may be seven, I do not will it: it does not fulfill my purpose. Yet I will the true judgment not for my personal benefit, but because it is valuable in itself. I mean by truth nothing but such .judgment which I will with the claim that every person must will them with me regardless of personal pleasure. The ancient Sophists tried to make the crowd believe that I It ore is no truth which is valuable for all and that any individual may call truth whatever fits his or his neigh-

( 338) -bor's personal purposes. But Socrates showed for all time` the inner contradictions of such "pragmatism." Whatever the Sophists pretend, they themselves want to give us a truth, and that means something that everyone who thinks at all has to accept as valuable. Hence they themselves claim that some real truth exists which has more than merely personal meaning. Of course the possibility that a personal pleasure may be added to the real value of the truth is not excluded. I may have personal advantage from knowing certain facts, but the pleasure derived from my personal gain involved in the knowledge does not make my satisfaction in the truth as such.

We have exactly the same case in the world of art and beauty. To be sure, we may have a personal pleasure in seeing a painting or hearing a symphony or reading a drama. Yet no one has understood the meaning and mission of art who does not feel that the personal enjoyment does not constitute the true value of the artistic creation. We may just as well derive pleasure from dancing and feasting, from fighting and sleeping; but the enjoyment of the tragedy and the symphony is upheld by the conviction that we are in contact with something that is more than our chance pleasure, something that must be valuable to everyone who understands the beauty of the world. Hence the purposive psychologist finds in every sphere of human life two different kinds of activity in the individual soul, personal acts and normative acts; and no account of inner life is complete which does not include the latter too. Yet, to analyze them would lead us beyond psychology; this is the task of the philosopher.


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