The Social Basis of Individuality
New York University
In the discussion of future social evolution there is to be met the recurrent expression of a fear that with the progress toward a universal culture will come a decline in the characteristic content of individuality. Especially in debates concerning alternative programs for social action has the charge been made. Socialistic schemes of reorganization in particular have been distrusted by their opponents on this ground. Under the general regimentation of mankind and of human offices which is assumed in connection with this conception, distinction and originality, it is said, will disappear because the impulse to initiative and inner differentiation will have been withdrawn, and the flavor of unique and stimulating personalities will be merged and lost in a multitudinous commonalty in which a single social type is incessantly repeated.
The hereditary foe of socialism, on the other hand, in picturing ideal society not infrequently assigns to human action a form which implies as its logical basis an untrammeled spontaneity-in other words, a complete conformity to original impulse in independence of extraneous stimulation and control. In his fear of herding men in masses until personalities become confluent and indistinguishable the radical individualist removes the will farther and farther
( 2) from the influence of a modifying environment until it is finally insulated from those very forces upon which life draws at every moment for energy as well as direction.
In this philosophy human association is endured rather than welcomed; for though it recognizes the necessity of social organization in some form and of a mutual adjustment of conduct among men, contact is still felt to be contamination and limitation the principle of individual death. It is this wild flavor of humanity which socialism fears, or rather the unregulated growth which it is supposed to betray. Where spontaneity of thought or action is claimed, a repudiation of social community is suspected; and the free motion of the individual spirit is looked upon as an uncoordinated and destructive force. To adapt the conception of spontaneity as a guiding principle of existence implies an arrest of development at a presocial stage or its criminal perversion into an antisocial direction, either of which justifies that forcible discipline which society imposes in its educational and penal institutions.
A wholesome dread of the spiritual effects of that repression and enforced conformity which are inseparable from social control is voiced in the protest of the individualist against renunciation and the procrustean authority of conventions. This energetic reaction appears as a note of almost dominant power in modern life. It is the vital breath of philosophical reflection in all its aspects. Like an endemic social ferment it stimulates the unending struggle for political liberty. In art it has broken the shackles of formalism and enriched human culture by individualizing taste in both appreciative and creative activities. It has become the ground of self-direction in morals and an inspiration to personal religion.
The centrality of self-determination, in individual reflection and action alike, cannot be questioned. It is a fundamental constituent of rational life and ideal striving. It is not, indeed, this logical aspect of the matter with which social criticism and moral reform are immediately concerned. The whole system of factors which any practical situation involves need not be passed in review, since in such cases a specific feature of the social organization necessarily becomes the point of attack. Some form of tyranny is to be uprooted, some concrete liberation to be achieved; upon
( 3) these objects attention must be concentrated until, through iterated denunciation or advocacy, public opinion is aroused and the change effected. But though action is thus single-eyed and therefore of limited vision, reflection should be circumspect in its review and consider, not the isolated value of an individual social force, but the plexus of relations in which it exists and the conditions under which it becomes effective.
The general problem which every social propaganda suggests is the relation of individual to society. These are the logical constituents, the polar terms, of human association. All change in social theory is based either upon a revaluation of the unit of society or a fresh interpretation of the place of organization in human life; and every practical movement, whether of reform or revolution, may be described as a specific disturbance of the traditional equilibrium between these two forces.
The problem of the relation of individual to society presents three general phases: philosophical, psychological, and sociological. Philosophically, the general conditions of self-realization are to be found in an objective determinant which limits, defines, and supports the original momentum of self-activity. All objective existence which comes within cognizance is part of this determinant, but its characteristic embodiment is the system of human wills with which the ego sustains relationship. Society is thus a logical ground of self-existence in the individual, the material condition of its actualization in a concrete personal character. Psychologically the form of development in the individual self consists in reaction to a system of social stimuli which are presented as objective types of ideal excellence—of skill, power, learning, culture, etc.—and assimilated by the self through an imitative act which is both receptive and assertive in its nature. The continuous reciprocal activity of self and society, therefore, in alternative accommodation and aggression, affords the psychological mechanism of development in the individual subject. Sociologically, the sum of culture possessed by any individual is a social inheritance derived from the system of specific forms—of organization and use, of stimulation and productivity—marking the human group of which he is a member. As this organized culture varies in character or extent,
( 4) so will the content and richness of individual life be limited and determined in its nature. Society is thus the general storehouse of cultural materials and personal attitudes the combinations of which give rise to the individual varieties of self-existence. Each of these three aspects must be considered in any general review of the problem.
Philosophically the individualistic reaction of modern thought is sharp and aggressive. The cry for autonomous selfhood has been a shibboleth in many literatures of social prophecy. The ego, it is said, must both be free and consciously realize its freedom. The realization of personal freedom is expressed in the consciousness of liberation from restraint and foreign oppression. In its primary aspect the self is a force, not a resistance—a form to be impressed, not a material to receive the die. To be subject, to imitate or obey, is slavery. Freedom is to be found only in self-expression, that is, in the unhampered exercise of natural activities. The self is incarnate will, which manifests itself in affirmation. Its realization therefore consists of the positive development of all those tendencies which are congenitally possessed by the individual.
Believe in yourself, the prophet cries, and obey only the inner voice. The man of destiny is he who has a positive message to bring to men and gives himself unreservedly to its utterance—who will not be stayed by any consideration for others, but has set his mind singly and steadfastly on the realization of his purpose. It is the weak-minded, the intellectually dependent and defective selves who acknowledge external limitations and submit to them. Dependence upon institutions, like appeal to law, is a mark of insufficiency in the self, which, because of its own weakness, hungers for the expression of an authoritative will. The virile ego is a law unto itself. It affords the only conditions under which there can truly exist a personal life presenting a consistent whole. The dependent will is a thing of shreds and patches without any essential belief in which to ground its actions; it looks for direction and support to something beyond itself and is consequently swept hither and thither as the currents of suggestion and of custom veer.
The world is given to each one as a theater for the working out of his will. Its materials are plastic physical substances and modifiable human attitudes. The measure of reality in any self is its effective force in the realization of an ideal purpose through the control of this system of materials. The objective datum is presented, not for acceptance and submission, but to be wrought into conformity with the inner system of purposes which the individual will represents. To deny oneself, therefore, to suppress an impulse which is clamoring for expression, is self-mutilation and stultifies the very meaning of existence. Away, then, with law and control, away with convention and restraint, away with custom and habit themselves! For this liberty of the self is to be essential spontaneity. It must no more be hampered by a subjective incubus than by a fear of external domination. The former, indeed, is the more terrible slavery of the two. In abject minds the dead past rises up against the self to accuse it, and when conditions call for a repudiation of principles, a flinging aside of habitual modes of behavior, the dread of inconsistency, like a disembodied terror, presses upon the self and inhibits all freedom of action.
The necessity of this principle is forcibly urged by egoism. The mind that does not change is dead, for life is growth and variation. Each moment of experience should be treated as a unique situation, to be responded to solely as the present conditions demand. Every problem renews its pristine novelty before the mind at each successive phase of its evolution, and must be solved afresh at whatever stage has been reached. To stand by what has been said when it no longer represents our personal attitude is not merely slavery, it is falsehood. The self of the past should have no more authority for the ego that now exists than the expectation or opinion of other men. Break with your past, says the advocate of this philosophy, spiritual freedom necessitates the renewal of the will in every moment of experience. Growth is the bursting of all the bonds imposed by habit as the ego rouses and stretches itself. Free self-realization must triumph over repression and repudiate fealty, for the incessant sloughing of the past is fundamental to the process of spiritual evolution.
Even when action is irrational and destructive, let it have way!
It s part of the ego's will that such anarchical and iconoclastic impulses should exist and have freedom to work themselves out. Better a lack of harmony among the many aspects of the will's activity than any suppression of its powers and emotions. Out of the former comes accomplishment, though irregular, and the sense of reality; out of the latter can arise only stagnation and nihilism of the spirit.
Now it may at once be granted that in these positive movements f the will lie certain materials necessary to all forms of synthesis, whether they concern our understanding of the world or the rational development of our own activities. The turbulent will needs to be known in order to be interpreted and controlled. The rebellious mood, the antisocial tendency, must exist in the individual's own subjective world or it can neither be sympathized with nor modified as it appears in other wills. The very impulse to be irrational, to defy or deny the self's ideals, has its place in the ultimate attainment of wisdom and personal power. A rich, full stream of experience, fervid with conviction and imperious in its action, is the necessary basis of all high self-development.
Upon a content of positive self-assertion synthesis and control—subjection itself if it find place in the world of the ego—must proceed. The old command should be reversed, for in psychological truth we may say: He who would obey must first learn to command. Self-expression precedes self-repression. Energetic reaction upon the world in an aggressive way must, in the cycle of individual history, fore-run the subjection of the self to external authority, or the very basis of a strong and consistent personality will be imperiled. The will of the individual must never, in the absolute sense, be given up; it may only be subordinated, in its lower phases, to a higher and ideal form of self-realization which is incarnated in an external, but not foreign, authority or type of organization. In this process of ideal development through a system of social institutions to which he submits as the condition of action the individual must pass from lower to higher stage, from individual aggression to social submission, in a series of logical steps. Anger and personal resentment—aggressive wrongdoing itself—precede toleration and just dealing. The ego must assert itself roughly
( 7) and positively before it can afford to give up its claims. One must have thought and doubted before the view of another can be accepted with spiritual profit. One must have struggled for power, directly and blindly, before the beauty of obedience to a common law can be apprehended.
Teach the young child from the outset to forego his own desires, to yield and never to fight, and you endanger those very characteristics upon which all subsequent mental vigor and self-reliance ultimately depend. Let him at first claim his own and fight for it.. While he will inevitably be opposed and limited by other wills, while his place in the fabric of a social world will be impressed upon him in an unforgettable way, he will also find developing in himself those elements of stability—a resolute and unfaltering will, a capacity to take punishment serenely, quickness of observation and resourcefulness in response—upon which so much of his later success depends. The ego must lay the world under tribute before it can itself contribute; it must receive before it can give. Be bold, assert yourself! nature cries aloud. Act as you think and as you feel! See the thing through your own eyes, not through the preconceptions of any other? Let what you do be the embodiment of your own will, and what you seek the object of your own desire! In the perception of these truths lies the beginning of wisdom in all free life as well as rational appreciation.
But the formulation of a positive egoism in terms of the blank immediate assertion of the will is inevitably confronted, at the very outset, by the counter-thesis that the actual world in which the ego exists will not permit the carrying out of any such unconditioned program. Its materials are plastic in part only. They yield to our pressure, yet preserve their own laws, which we are forced to accept and recognize in our treatment. It is only in dreamland that things conform to our thought, and what we will is actualized by very virtue of imagining it. In the world of reality things are otherwise arranged. Facts are stubborn and must not be ignored. We bow to them even when we make use of them. Each class of material must be dealt with in ways determined by its own specific constitution. With wood we build in one way, with stone in another, with iron in a third; and what can
( 8) be made with steel beams simply cannot be constructed of wood or stone.
Whether it be sensible things or human attitudes one must accept the conditions which the character of the material imposes, if any rational use is to be made of it. For the reaction of the will in its social manifestation is likewise determined by the nature of the materials which it seeks to mold. Minds must be acted upon systematically if they are to be effectively modified. The world cannot be reformed by an edict, nor can any human attitude be called into existence by an act of will. The spontaneous, untrammeled development of the self in a series of acts which represent its own proper nature and take no account of external forces and conditions is a vain dream. Mutual limitation, or adaptation, is the general condition of association. In itself the will is impotent; it takes on positive form only through a reaction in which the material, or external, condition is as indispensable as the formal condition or constitution of the mind itself.
Each form of excellence must be won from a hostile world, that is, a world which does not freely supply what the self needs but only permits its attainment by directed and persistent activity. All self-realization is thus grounded upon recognition of external conditions and conformity to their requirements. It is only the madman who persistently ignores them, and in a burlesque of reality imagines himself the dictator of a world which faithfully reflects the shifts in his own subjective attitude. The action of the will, in transcending the realm of subjective organization, instantly meets opposition. It finds itself in a world where standing must be won by fighting for it. Yet the obstacles which the world opposes to free activity are at the same time means by which the self attains to its own ideal development. In subjective and objective realms alike obedience to law is the condition of rational freedom. The soul is born in slavery—slavery to weakness, to ignorance, to a chaotic mind—and must work out its liberation through long and patient service. The system of ideals of which the formal character of any individual ego consists is not originally given but developed as the self comes into possession of a knowledge of the external world and its own relations to it. Mastery is
( 9) attained, not by wild dreams of dominion, whether physical or mental, but through disciplinary exercise of the power which exists at each moment. Vain desire for knowledge on the part of a supine will must give way to strenuous and persistent study, for the vision of wisdom grows only with the mind's own endeavors.
The individual self must thus submit to the whole system of conditions logically imposed upon it if its realization, in any intelligible sense of the term, is to take place. Learning and discipline, repression and inhibition, subordination and obedience are all implied in the process. The world must be apprehended by the self not only as a means to the realization of its own purposes but also as the general source of its knowledge and ideals. Submission and faith may be exacted even when the rationality of the command is obscure, not merely because the ego finds itself face to face, in the person of human society, with a will stronger than its own and must submit as the first act of self-preservation, but also because it comes to perceive that this greater social self is wiser than it can ever hope to be as the result of its own experimentation with life, and that the laws imposed upon it are, on the whole, such as tend to the furtherance of its own purposes. Obedience, in other words, results in a course of conduct which the self would both approve and spontaneously adopt were it in possession of all the facts.
The logical relation of self to society has its analogue in the determination
of purely individual problems, for within the circle of its own inner life as
well as in its adaptations to other human wills the self finds it necessary to
subdue the impulse of the moment in view of that larger system of ends which its
purpose comprehends; it must exercise self-control and prudence. Throughout its
life self-limitation is as necessary as self-aggrandizement to the evolution of
a rational ego.
The psychological study of the empirical self has traditionally suffered from a misconception which vitiates many historical theories in the field of economics and politics as well as morals and education. The ego has been conceived as if it were an isolated
( 10) and self-dependent system. Its internal character as an organized whole has been considered, to the practical exclusion of its external relations and development. The fundamental concepts of the historical method have been slow in making their way into the field of mental science in its general theoretical form of psychology as well as in its various special and practical applications in the social relations of men. That archaic point of view in psychology has now been definitively superseded, along with the conceptions of immutability in ethics and the "economic man."
The self of psychology is historically and socially conditioned. From the outset its milieu is a spiritual community. It can neither exist nor be developed apart from the vital protoplasm of human association. Considered in such abstraction it has a merely logical existence, like that of the social mind in isolation from the individual wills which participate in a common action. The result of this perception has been a great and permanent enrichment of psychological science. It has not only added social psychology to the study of the individual mind and developed a class of special problems concerning the forms of modification which occur in the mutual adaptation of wills —the study of suggestion and imitation, of inventiveness and initiative, of docility and leadership, etc.—it has also radically affected our general conception of the nature and genesis of the empirical self.
This modification may be described as the substitution of a socialistic for the prevailing individualistic point of view. It is the conception that the self, in its psychological no less than in its metaphysical relations, must be treated as an element in a spiritual complex. To regard it as did earlier psychology is to abstract one of two logical components which existence implies, and to regard it in isolation from its correlative.
The ego and the alter come into existence together, the product of a common birth. Progressive enrichment in the content of personality affects equally the concept of the self and that of the socius. These two processes of development are reciprocally related; deepening of the self's experience is the basis of enlargement in one's conception of the character and scope of other selves. The maxim of Protagoras, that man is the measure of all things,
( 11) holds true of this whole system of conceptions; for the general interpretation which human character receives in the individual mind reflects the latter's own criteria and habitual attitudes. It may be practical illusion but it is psychological fact. The mean soul lives in a shabby world, seeing in the actions of men at large the embodiment of ignoble motives and a shameful purpose; the great soul lifts up the world in which it lives to its own measure, because it construes the activities of other men in terms of its own high nature.
Conversely, the very substance of the self, as it grows, takes on a social form. Its attitudes are expressed in a system of reactions toward other human wills. Two general phases mark its activity: first, the representation of its own states to these other wills—in confession, intercourse, and self-expression; and second, adaptation, which appears either in an aggressive modification of their attitudes or in the acceptance and incorporation of conceptions which these attitudes reveal.
In giving and receiving confidences and in learning from or impressing others is the engrossing occupation of man. This sensitive and active response to other human wills has many forms, and draws upon the whole complex of materials which the world affords. It not only appears in the struggle to maintain and extend our social prestige but is intertwined with our most ideal striving. It is the ultimate ground of our endeavor to enrich the general sum of human possessions and the immediate provocative in our utilization of this store to make a more brilliant and effective impression. It is an enduring stimulus to literary and artistic expression, while in every propaganda of self-aggrandizement or renunciation it enters as an appeal—often inarticulate or wholly unconscious—to the verdict of posterity, to abstract justice or the approval of God.
In this activity of persuasion and argument, of acquiescence and domination—in short, of giving and receiving social stimulation—the self is so absorbed that the habit is carried over into solitude and becomes the characteristic of self-consciousness. In critical reflection upon previous action it affords the most general type of mental exercise in those functions which are fundamental to successful adaptation at large; and in sentimentality it provides
( 12) an enervating solace for incapacity or defeat, through the fictitious vision of triumph which it creates.
Thus the very form in which the ego represents its own nature is social. The self is perhaps never conceived as a pure principle of existence or identity. It is thought in terms of certain possessions and ideal aims, of characteristic attitudes and reactions, of relations with the objective world and their modification. In chief part these are inter-personal relations, and the form which the sense of self-existence takes is either the representation of what the socius thinks, or that vague and poignant stirring which is aroused by the thought of a treasured possession or of any desired but hitherto unattained object. These active programs and permanent sources of stimulation are not properly things which the self possesses, they are the very tissue of its living body. I cannot think of you but in terms of myself, neither can I think of myself except in terms of you, the polar element of my being. What I am is the measure of your existence before my consciousness. If I feel, possess, aspire, so also do you; if any extension of compass or modification of quality takes place in my experience, you too are immediately conceived as the potential subject of a like change. The sign of such a conceptual reconstruction may of course be either positive or negative. I represent you in terms of myself quite as much when I deny as when I assert. To think of your discomfort when I am at ease, of your lack of accomplishments which I boast, of your ignorance, your ineptitude, your narrowness of mind or absence of prestige, to think, in short, of your defect in contrast with my own fulness is to conceive you in terms of a selfhood the conditions of which are given in the form of my own existence no less than when I project into your nature all the ideal virtues I may possess.
Similarly, my thought of myself involves a like polar reference to you. In my social alter I find both the stimulus to my own self-development and the material upon which, in its growth, it feeds. The objects of my ideal striving I find embodied —and if I but search widely enough, embodied in a transcendent degree —in other human characters. The very nature itself of such desiderata is, in general, suggested to me by my fellows. Such qualities, becom-
( 13) -ing both an incentive to development and models to be imitated, are successively incorporated in the self, which like a mosaic is constructed from a multitude of fragmentary patterns and owes whatever harmony of plan it may possess, not to unity in the sources from which its constituents are drawn, but to permanence in the selective principle which it manifests in its successive choices.
The form of activity through which new materials are assimilated by the self is no less social than are the sources to which it owes the qualitative types at which it aims. Each new attitude is made its own by a re-enacting of the original drama with the attitude of the self reversed. It learns the meaning of authority by assuming the role of master, of discipleship by entering into pupillage. To know, it must teach; to understand, it must use; to enter reflectively into any relation it must actively participate in its practical embodiment. The law applies, in its strictness, to the appreciative as well as to the reflective and active sides of life. The measure of aesthetic criticism in any self is to be found in the degree to which it has penetrated the processes of creation. The appreciation of human speech, for example, as a technical medium of expression, attains adequacy only in the literary artist whose sense of excellence has been sharpened at every point by his unremitting struggle for mastery in its use. Imitation, in other words, is never a passive receptivity but an aggressive assumption of the function imitated, involving anew the establishment of a circle of human wills through which it is mediated.
For these plastic materials the individual turns to selves of a lower order than his own, in relation to which he may successfully assume a masterful attitude as regards the function in question. He finds them in the more ignorant and unskilled persons, in the weaker and lesser wills, or, on occasion, merely in the more tolerant and accommodative individuals of his circle. The knowledge that has been displayed to him he in turn displays to them; the submission required of him he exacts from them. He plays at the office when he is not called upon to exercise it seriously, with a like result; for the significance of this reaction lies in the activity itself rather than in the motive.
In the family circle the child finds this group of receptive wills
( 14) in the members younger than himself, in the cat and dog, in the dolls and toy soldiers. These are made to run the whole gamut of human functions with which the child is acquainted; and each novel accomplishment or relation with which he comes in contact is tried out on them. They are clothed and washed, fed and tended, schooled and corrected, in a miniature reproduction of the family and its characteristic occupations. The meaning of school life is completed in the child's mind only when he has officiated as teacher in addition to sitting as pupil. He defines the significance of kinship and household relations by playing father and mother, by marketing and cooking, by visits and elaborate family confidences with pets and toys.
When a lack of physical materials, or of the system of socii, prevents the concrete enactment of the relation, it is vicariously represented in the imagination. In this ideal reconstruction the child plays a thousand parts in the drama of human affairs, drawing to himself every function that offers a field for the further extension of his dominating personality. In all this he follows an unerring instinct. The world of human attitudes and social offices, like that of things and their properties, can be possessed only by exploiting it. The positive content of selfhood is but the continuously elaborated product of reaction to the specific stimuli which the social environment affords.
Sociologically, the conditions of that concrete system of ideal consciousness, in which the life of the self consists, may be expressed in simple terms. The individual as well as society has been brought into existence through the development of human civilization. The results of that process are at once socialization and individualization. On the one hand appear progressive differentiation of function, complication of relations and integration in a system of continuously increasing mutual dependence. On the other hand appears an individual life which grows endlessly more manifold and significant through the progressive enrichment of its own inner content.
This change affects equally the life of reflection, the life of
( 15) appreciation, and the life of action. In each realm individual activity is filled with inner distinctions and affiliations, the discernment and exploitation of which constitute the functions of the empirical self. In the assumption of specific attitudes—of understanding, enjoyment, and use—and in the characterization and discovery of their objects the very reality of the self is to be found.
As this system of inner meanings develops, and immediate experience grows more complex, the awareness of his own existence as an individual increasingly pervades the consciousness of each human self. The sense of community with other men advances correlatively with discernment of his own peculiar attitudes and the differences which mark them off from the reactions of his fellows. His own appreciations and preferences, his own points of view and beliefs, his own reflection and interpretation of experience dissociate themselves from all that is communal in the society of which he is a member, and become organized as the system of elements which constitute his own individual world — a world of which he becomes conscious only through its contrast with the features of that common world to which he and all members of his own group equally belong.
In the thought of each man the world of individual life takes on a form which is independent of communal experience. It is a world within a world, which in its very nature must be differentiated from that larger social existence within which it appears. Every increase in complexity within the system of social relations serves but to add to the qualitative manifoldness of this world of individual experience, and to bring it into sharper opposition to that of public life.
The result of social evolution can thus be expressed, from this point of view, as a process of individualization. Instead of causing the sense of individual existence to be submerged in a sense of kind, it has everywhere resulted in throwing that existence into greater prominence. It has isolated and defined the system of the self, and forced a philosophical formulation of the opposition between the ego and the alter. It has multiplied a myriad-fold the points of conflict between man and man, and created the vast system of rivalries in which every civilized person is involved. Opposi-
( 16) -tion, hostility, and strife grow out of this evolutionary process, as well as distinction and contrast in the relation of self and society.
In practical life this opposition has a thousand ways of defining and realizing itself—through the wager and gage of battle, through persuasion and argument, through repartee and ironic laughter, through criticism and social reform. In the life of thought this attitude is represented generically, since reflection itself arises as an individualizing reaction upon communal beliefs and modes of social activity. Further, within the general field in question the emphasis of this particular form of opposition has given rise to a group of particular philosophical conceptions, such as idealism, subjectivism, individualism, and egoism, in which the system of the self, as contrasted with the system of society, is made the basis of metaphysical interpretation.
We cannot, therefore, describe the course of social evolution as a process in which the distinction between self and society has tended to disappear, or the opposition between the two to be narrowed in its field. On the contrary, the points of opposition have steadily increased in number and the distinction in question has grown ever sharper and clearer. The savage can, indeed, scarcely be said to have a private life—a life of his awn as individual, of which he is conscious in its discrimination from the communal life of the tribe in which he shares. If its existence be granted its content is so meager, the points at which it is developed so few, and its form so lacking in systematic unity, that it is practicable in almost every essential relation to neglect its contribution.
The significant psychical life of the savage is exhausted in his communal existence. He neither thinks for himself, nor acts in independence of custom, nor individualizes his appreciation of experience. The system of fetishism which in savage culture at once represents the religious interpretation of experience and provides a basis for social morality is accepted uncritically by each member of the tribe and is unreflectively realized in action. Conformity to the system of laws is not the result of a logical reflection upon the necessity of authority and a deliberate subjection of the
( 17) life to that form of control which exists; on the contrary, it is due to the absence of all such rational reflection and a lack of the very conception of a possible criticism.
In practical affairs the savage moves inertly within the circle of taboos which his religion has formulated for him, prescribing the whole routine of his daily life. He neither seeks to improve nor varies from the order which it imposes; for any infraction involves him and the group in potential disaster. Crime and its expiation are tribal affairs, for the conception of the individual as a moral subject has not yet been formed. Philosophy, of course, is lacking if individual reflection be non-existent, the sole metaphysical conceptions which the savage possesses being found in the myths which successive generations repeat. That whole system of attitudes upon which the consciousness of individual existence rests is thus practically lacking in the lowest forms of human culture. In that status, if anywhere, life may be described in terms of communal existence, and the idea of an isolable individual experience be neglected.
Thus at the one end of the scale is a form of human life in which the communal element is at its maximum and the individual element negligible, and at the other a form in which individual consciousness and its system of ideals is never lost to sight, even when action is directed to communal ends as such. The continuity of ideal consciousness in the individual is the most distinctive trait in the highest forms of human society.
Must we therefore say that social evolution has tended to loosen the bonds which unite the individual to his fellows, either by the disintegration of those alliances which social existence involves, or by destroying the conception of society as the logical basis upon which such individual life rests ? Clearly not; neither theoretically nor practically has the progress of civilization tended to disintegration. Every differentiation in the internal structure of society has brought its members into close functional relations with one another, and every advance in critical reflection has made more clear the essentially social basis of individual activity. These two elements, instead of being opposed and contrastable, are correlative and mutually supplementary. The internal manifoldness of indi-
( 18) -vidual experience reflects the complexity of reality as it exists for the society to which the individual belongs.
The system of objects with which anyone concerns himself is not created by him; it is a social product which is enriched generation by generation and constitutes the spiritual inheritance of each individual born to the culture in question. To each such individual it affords a system of specific stimulations, which both provokes and directs his psychical activity at every moment. The richness or inner complexity of individual experience can thus never be logically separated from the objective form of human society in which the life is cast.
In practical relations the same integrity between individual and society is found, and the successive stages of a social evolution present an increasing range in the points of contact and a growing interdependence among its members. Such development has had this single result, that in differentiating individuals and classes it has rendered each man the more helpless and dependent the more it has refined and improved his contribution to the sum of human activities. Specialization means imperfection socially as well as biologically, if by perfection we mean the capacity to perform all those elementary functions necessary to the continuance of the life of the individual. In a specialized society each person lives by virtue of the whole system of contributions made in common by the members of that society, each element of which is necessary to the maintenance of the individual life in question.
In this process of evolution every advance serves to render clearer the essential relations of individual and society, as well as to define the instrumental significance of organization. Final worth is to be found only in the values of personal experience. The reality to be considered is always the lives of individual men. Forms of association and social order at large are but means of making these lives more worth living. Since ultimate value is to be found in the individual consciousness alone each phase of social differentiation and control is to be judged by its effect upon the persons subjected to its influence. Whether the institution be economic or political, whether it primarily affect individual or communal life, whether it have or lack an obvious physical basis,
( 19) its justification must be sought in the service rendered to those who live under it.
It is the mark of a barbaric culture to attribute an absolute worth to the forms of social organization or their products. The separation of human institutions from the life of a people is the beginning of decadence and slavery when it appears among those who have already transcended the stage of barbarism. That this holds of economic life and the system of materials connected with it will perhaps not be questioned. It is not so readily recognized that truth and morality, loyalty and obedience have no meaning apart from the service they render to human life; and that it is their high functional value alone which has given them the authoritative position they hold in human estimation.
The relation between individual and society may therefore be stated by saying that social organization and social service form the logical basis of individual welfare. The prosperity of each citizen rests upon a well-organized communal life; and in order that each may thus prosper it is essential that everyone fulfil the requirements which mutual assistance and a common existence impose, whether such requirement touch the productive specialty for which the individual has been technically prepared, or the system of regulations which is made necessary by a life in common contact. That common life, therefore, must be made complex and intense as well as unitary and dominant if the ideal conditions of personal development are to be secured. If there is to be a rich and stimulating individual existence it must be sustained by a manifold social culture. The maintenance of continuity in human institutions is simply our means of conserving individual contributions to this culture and thus enriching the system of ideal stimulations for each succeeding generation. Society therefore realizes its logical end, not by the suppression of individuality, but by the fullest possible fostering of its development.
When the equilibrium of these two components is disturbed, collision results; and while it is merely a question of circumstances whether, in any given case, individuality shall be sacrificed or the state destroyed, the issue, in either event, is immediate disaster. In periods of stress human societies have again and again
( 20) been so obsessed by the need to preserve their corporate existence at all hazards that individual variations have been suppressed and the very roots of progress torn up. Public discussion, the foundation of every free state, has been prohibited, heretics have been persecuted, classes denied their political rights, and acts of conformity or of exclusion passed, lest individual criticism or initiative should subvert public order and undermine the foundations of social existence.
But those very institutions in defense of which such reactionary measures were taken owed not only their specific forms but their existence itself to the ideal striving of men like those later proscribed. The saints whom we canonize were rebels when they lived. All such measures looking to uniformity are counsels of despair. Inner differentiation is the measure of a society's evolution. That human group or institution, therefore, is highest in the scale which combines the greatest range of free individualities in an essential community, which avails itself of the contribution of every social class and interest, of all faiths and philosophies, and of each sex and age and individual gift in the solution of its theoretical problems or the realization of its practical undertakings. Society and the individual are poles of a common field, and we attempt intellectual suicide as well as invite disaster in the sphere of conduct when we sunder them.