The Genesis of the Ethical Self

IN a recent publication[1] the writer has called attention to certain facts of the child's life which lead to a view of the rise of his sense of his personal self. We find, on the one hand, that he has what we may call an ' ego-sense'; a mass of personal material -largely suggestions from other persons which he has worked up into a more or less systematic whole by his own acts of an imitative kind. When he thinks of himself, this is very largely what his consciousness is filled with. Let us now call this the ' self of habit,' or the ' habitual self,' - terms which are common and which carry their ordinary meaning. It is this self which he uses to eject' into the bodies of others, to use Clifford's phrase; and when thus used we may call it the 'alter' as opposed to the ' ego ' of his private sense. But, on the other hand, we have found that the child has another self -the self that learns, that imitates, that accommodates to new suggestions from persons in the family and elsewhere. It is this self that is in part yet ' projective,' unfinished, constantly being modified by the influences outside and, in turn, passing the new things learned over to the self of habit. Let us call this, for reason also evident from the common significance of the term, the ' accommodating self.' Not that the child has at any time two distinct thoughts of himself existing side by side -- that is not true,-but that his one thought

(226) of self at any time is at one or the other pole, is a self of habit or a self of accommodation. Which it is to be, depends upon what kind of an alter is then at the other pole. But I trust this is now clear.

It is a further result that if we are going to ask at any time for a complete notion from outside of that boy's self, we cannot say that either the self of habit or the self of accommodation adequately expresses him. The only adequate expression of the boy is that which acquaints us with the whole dialectic of his progress, which comprehends both these selves and the alter personalities which are progressive functions of his thoughts of himself - that is, with the self of all the rich social relationships, or the 'socius.'

It then seems a natural question to ask, whether the boy comes to have any sense of just this inadequacy of his thought of himself when he is thinking of himself in either way, either in the way of the habitual or of the accommodating self. In other words, does he go on to get a sense of the 'socius,' as a larger bond of union to the different private thoughts of himself ? ,This is really the question of the evolution of the ethical sense put in close psychological terms; and its importance is so great, in the present state of ethical controversy, that it may be worth while to see to what conclusions the line of distinctions now made would lead. This conclusion has been anticipated in the following quotation from the work mentioned, and it is my present object to expand and illustrate it.[2]

Whether obedience comes by suggestion or by punishment, it has this genetic value: it leads to another refinement in the sense of self . . . . The child finds himself stimulated constantly to deny his impulses, his desires, even his irregular sympathies, by conforming to the will of another. This other represents a regular, systematic, unflinching, but reasonable personality - still a person, but a very different person from the child's own. In the analysis of ' personality suggestion,' we found this stage of the child's apprehension of persons-his sense of the regularity of personal character in the midst of the capriciousness that before this stood out in contrast to the

(227) regularity of mechanical movement in things. There are extremes of indulgence, the child learns, which even the grandmother does not permit; there are extremes of severity from which even the cruel father draws back. Here, in this dawning sense of the larger limits which set barriers to personal freedom, is the `copy' forming which is his personal authority, or law. It is projective ' because he cannot understand it, cannot anticipate it, cannot find it in himself. And it is only by imitation that he is to reproduce it, and so arrive at a knowledge of what he is to understand it to be. So it is a ` copy for imitation.' It is its aim - so may the child say to himself - and should be mine, if I am awake to it, to have me obey it, act like it, think like it, be like it in all respects. It is not I, but I am to become it. Here is my ideal self, my final pattern, my ' ought' set before me. My parents and teachers are good because, with all their differences from one another, they yet seem to be alike in their acquiescence in this law. Only in so far as I get into the habit of being and doing like them in reference to it, get my character moulded into conformity with it, only so far am I good. And so, like all other imitative functions, it teaches its lesson only by stimulating to action. I must succeed in doing - he finds out as he grows older and begins to reflect upon right and wrong-if I would understand. But as I thus progress in doing, I forever find new patterns set for me; and, so my ethical insight must always find its profoundest expression in that yearning which anticipates but does not overtake the ideal.

My sense of moral ideal, therefore, is my sense of a possible perfect, regular will taken over in me in which the personal and the social self-my habits anti my social calls-arc brought completely into harmony; the sense of obligation in me, in each case, is the sense of lack of such harmony - of the actual discrepancies in my various thoughts of self, as my actions and tendencies give rise to them.[3]

Perhaps no more direct way to bring home the bearing of our present line of distinctions can be found than to cite in illustration one of the familiar social situations which are ethically embarrassing in practical life. I refer to the method of charitable relief. The dilemma of the benevolent man when a needy tramp comes to his door in a region where there are

(228) no organized agencies to investigate the status of the pauper class,--the dilemma brought upon him by the promptings of his sympathy, on the one hand, and the sense of his duty to society which only the refusal to help the man will fulfil, on the other hand, -this dilemma, which on a larger scale is one of the critical dilemmas of all social endeavor, may be translated directly into the terms of our psychological analysis. We may say that Mr. A. has two possible attitudes or courses of conduct before him. And the two are what they are according as he thinks of the tramp in one way or the other. If he thinks of him as an unfortunate, deserving mart, possibly hungry, or maimed beyond possibility of self-support, then there is an alter which arouses his ' accommodating' self, his sympathetic impulses, his desire to make an exception in this case. But when he thinks of the man under the ordinary conditions of the profession of I tramping,' as a worthless creature of drink, who will continue to burden the community and persuade others to do the same, as long as free food or lodging is given him, or money without work, then he has before him quite a different alter; one that calls out his habitual, aggressive self. His dilemma, therefore, is really due to the shifting of the poles of his inner dialectic. Suppose he be a man of benevolence only, or a man with no willingness to take trouble for the general good; then he acts at once on the first of the thoughts of self - he has no dilemma. So, on the other hand, if he be very rational in his methods of thought, or very much impressed with the dangers of the tramp tribe, or very impecunious and willing to make law a cloak for private selfishness-in any of these cases he acts promptly in terms of the habitual self; then also he finds no dilemma. So the very fact of the embarrassment, if it arise, is witness to the play of his various thoughts of the tramp.

But this, it is clear, does not exhaust the statement of the dilemma. As a matter of fact, whichever way he decides, he is afterwards haunted by the fear that he has done wrong. The two thoughts of self still remain clamorous. And the question comes up; why is this so? Why is not the choice of either course right ? What is the further standard, to which he feels

(229) he should appeal, to settle the case justly? To ask this question is to ask - is it not ? - for a further thought of self, one which should see farther, be wiser, do better than either of these ,two which come up to create his dilemma. Generally, indeed, we quiet our apprehensions in just the way which the terms of our psychological explanations are going on to require; we appeal to some one else in whom we trust as having arrived at more information or deeper insight into the conditions of the social life of the neighborhood, than we have. He then, this alter, this wise man, is a further thought of a self.

So we may trust to this instance of social embarrassment with its sharp ethical meaning in our practice-to show that the question of the further development of the sense of self, based, as we said above, on the conflicts of the two earlier partial selves, is really one of vital social meaning, and that, too, in the ethical sense.

Again, if we look at the doctrines of the rise of the ethical sense which have become historical, we see that they represent constructions based on the partial selves, described as 'habitual' and 'accommodating ' respectively. 

These historical doctrines, we may say, fall into two classes:[4] those which base the ethical sentiments upon sympathy, on the one hand ; and those, on the other hand, which base them upon custom or habit. Let us look a moment at each of these attempts to account for the genesis of the moral sentiments, taking the latter first.

This view seeks to account for the sense in a man that he ought' to do a thing, by the tendency in him to feel that things are going well when he is working along the lines guaranteed by his past actions or habits. What is best for him to do, is what is right; and what is best is that which leis been established in the course of his life by adaptation, utility, and development. The sense of right, therefore, to this view is simply the consciousness of certain habits of the mental organism. Without going into detail to justify this brief characteri-

(230) -zation of the theory of the rise of the ethical sense as held by many of the Association psychologists, I may state the lack it has in the view of those of other schools of thought who have criticised it. The lack is this : - that the theory of habit does not afford any adequate account of the sense we have in our acutest ethical - experiences that what we ought to do may run counter to our habitual tendencies. On the habit view, only that kind of action would get the right to have ethical feeling attached to it which was so prevalent and regular in the normal life of the individual as to be reflected in his everyday conduct. But the oft-recurring antithesis in practice, no less than the recognition of the same antithesis in ethical theory -see, for example, the statement of it from the pen of a scientist in the Evolution and Ethics of Huxley -between the , is' and the , ought,' serves to set the objection to this theory clearly in the light. According to Mr. Huxley the habit of being immoral should make the immoral come to seem right.

This criticism of the habit theory may be put in the terms of the view of the child's social growth without any trouble; and that may serve to show it more forcibly. The child has, as we have seen, a habitual self. It is the outcome of the assimilations and actions which he has already learned. So the tendencies to conduct in realizing the behests of this self are, it is easy to see, the same actions which the advocates of the habit theory bring forward as the acts which, as due to habit or custom, are morally right. Now if we agree with this theory, and say that those acts which are guaranteed by habit are the right ones, then what shall we do with all the tendencies to action which come from the presence of the other self which we have found the child entertaining also, the accommodating self ? The accommodating self is the learning self ; the thought of self which comes to imitate, to be teachable, sympathetic, generous. I think it only needs to be put into words that both these selves are equally real to convince us that those sharp approvals or condemnations of ourselves which we experience in our judgments of right and wrong, are not always administered in favor of the self of habit.

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Or, if we look at the question from the side of the race development of mankind, we find, as I have argued at length in the volume referred to, that the repetitions of habitual performances by an organism would not give growth. In order to grow, to be better as an organism, merely, there must be constant violations or modifications of habit. So if we put the ethical sense only on the plane that some of the advocates of the habit theory claim for it, - i.e., an index of organic utility and development, -even then we must find in it more than the outcome of repeated habit. This is not the place to carry out this thought; but it is on the surface difficult to see how we could hold that departure from habit as such arouses the sense of wrong, if all through the course of organic and mental development it is by just such violations and modifications of old habits that new adaptations have been secured to the growth and evolution of the organism. There is a sense, it is true, in which the ethical sense may be said to represent a habit; but, as its statement below will show, it, is quite different from the view developed by the associationists.[5]

In short, not to go into this theory further, we may say that the theory represents an attempt to found the moral sentiments upon one of the two selves which the social life involves-the self of habit.

And the other historical theory mentioned above does the reverse; it attempts to derive these feelings also from one of the two, but it takes the other. Sympathy, altruism,-which when reduced to its lowest terms means the retirement of the aggressive, self-seeking agent in man for a period, and in reference to a particular object,- sympathy is the watchword of the traditional English theory of the moral sentiments. Adam Smith, Darwin, Stephen, and many, of the apostles of the natural history conception in this realm, think that morality is a complex outcome of animal or social sympathy, which in its turn arose as a variation playing a successful role in the preservation of animal companies.


Put psychologically, this is the recognition of the accommodating self. Actions which are done in deference to the presence and conduct of others, which involve a departure from the first promptings of self-interest, an abeyance of the aggressions of the self of habit,--such actions, this theory holds, are good. Self-denial is the keynote of morality; that is, in so far as morality is reflective at all.

Now it might not be an adequate criticism of this view to say that it is one-sided, as the former theory is other-sided; some one-sided things are true. But the same tests which we applied to the habit theory may be brought into requisition here. Our moral approbations do not ipso facto attach to the generous man. Is generosity never wrong? Are the sudden, irresponsible, capricious appeals of our environment to our sympathies the highest ground and the final criterion of good conduct ? Then the improvident is the better man, and the ascetic the greater saint.

And is there no virtue after all in habit ? Is the incalculable, the exceptional, the impulsive, normally a higher kind, a safer kind, a more development-furthering kind of action than the regular, well-tested, smooth-acting, grounded acts of organic and intellectual habit? Or, if the reader wish to lift the question up to the higher plane of spiritual interest, apart from considerations of organic development, let me ask the question differently: Is the kingdom of spirit so chaotic that the accidental suggestions of sympathy are of more value in it than the reasonable action which is ruled by some kind of law ? Even though we do not find, with the associationists, that the law of habit is adequate, even in the lower realm of biological growth, still the absence of law, be it in a realm of higher interests, would seem to be somewhat of a hindrance-at least to our getting any sort of a doctrine of the meaning of the ethical life of man.

But, more positively, turning now to the child and observing him in the period when his personal relationships are becoming complex, say along through the third year, the dawning moral sense is then caught in the process of making, as it were. And

(233) in it we have a right to see, as I have had occasion to say in regard to other of the child's processes, the progress of the race depicted with more or less adequacy of detail.

The child begins to be dimly aware of such a presence, in his contact with others, as that which has been called in the abstract the socius. What this is to him is, of course, at this early stage simply an element of personal quality in the suggestions which he now gets from others; an element not done justice to by either of the thoughts of self to which he is accustomed on occasion to react. He notes in the behavior of his father and mother, whenever certain contingencies of the social situation present themselves, a characteristic which, in the development of , personality-suggestion,' might be termed the I regularity of personal character.' He sees the father pained when he has to administer punishment; and he hears the words, 'Father does not like to punish his little boy.' He finds the mother reluctantly refusing to give a biscuit when it is her evident desire to give it. He sees those around him doing gay things with heavy hearts, and forcing themselves to be cheerful in the doing of things which are not pleasant. He sees hesitations, conflicts, indecisions, and from the bosom of them all he sees emerge the indications of something beyond the mere individual attitudes of the actor, something which stands towards these higher persons from whom he learns, as the family law, embodied possibly in the father, stands towards him.

Now I do not mean that the child sees all this in the terms in which I have described what he 'sees.' He does not see anything clearly. He simply feels puzzled at the richness of the indications of personal behavior that pour in upon him. Brit the very puzzle of these situations is just the essential thing. It means that the categories of personality which he has so far acquired, the two selves which exhaust the possible modes of behavior he is able to depict to himself in thought, are really inadequate. Here in these situations of his father and mother is more personal suggestion, which is still quite 'projective.' It is personal; things do not show it. But

( 234) it is not yet understood. The self of habit, no less than the self of accommodation, is thrust aside, as he sees his mother's sorrow when she refuses him the biscuit; and there must needs be some other type of personal behavior, some other thought of a self, or character must after all remain to him a chaotic, capricious thing.

We may ask, before we attempt to find a way for the child to extricate himself from this confusion in his thought of personality, whether he has in his own experience any analogies which will help him to assimilate the new suggestive elements. And our observation is very superficial if we do not light upon a very evident thing in his life; the thing he has come to understand something about every time he obeys. This is so evidently a thing of value that psychologists long ago struck upon it. The , word of command' is to Bain the schoolmaster to morality. By it the child gets the habit of personal subjection which, when he illustrates it reflectively, shows itself as morality. This, I think, is true as far as the function of the schoolmaster' is concerned; but much more than this schoolmaster is needed to school the agent boy to morality. How it works, however, another appeal to the growing sense of self will serve to show.

Whenever he obeys, the boy has forced in upon him a situation which his thoughts of himself are not adequate to interpret. He is responding neither to his habitual self nor to his accommodating self. Not to the former, for if the thing he is told to do is something he does not want to do, his habits, his private preferences are directly violated. And he is not acting out his accommodating self simply, just in proportion as it comes hard to do what he is told to do. If this self held all the room in his consciousness, then obedience would be companionship, and command would be do more than approval. No, it is really his private habitual self that is mainly present; the other being a forced product, if, by dint of schooling in submission, his obedience becomes so free and unconstrained as to be there at all.

Besides these elements, his two selves, then, what more is there to the child ? Why, a dominating other self, a stew alter, is there; that is the important thing. And what does it mean ?

(235) It means, in the first instance, a line of conduct on his part which the obedience represents. But in this line of conduct we now have the real schoolmaster to the boy. It is by it that the boy learns more about character, precisely as, by his spontaneous imitations at the earlier stage, he established lines of conduct which taught him more about character. At this stage also, his intelligence is not so rudimentary as at the earlier one. It does not take him long to learn certain great things. By the actions he does through obedience, he learns the meaning of these actions-how they feel, what good or evil results they lead to. And in all his learning by this agency, he learns above all the great lesson essential to the development of his thought of self: that there is a something always present, an atmosphere, a circle of common interest, a family propriety, a mass of accepted tradition; this is his first view of the socius. For a long time it is embodied as a matter of course in the persons whom he obeys. And the social limitations which these persons represent are not always coextensive or parallel. His father and mother often embody very different family spirits to him. And it is only after many tentative adjustments, mistaken efforts to please, excesses of duty in one direction, and instances of rebellion in other directions, that he learns the essential agreements of the different persons who set law over him.

Now this is a new thought of self. How can it he otherwise when all its origin is from persons, and all its characters are learned only by the efforts of the struggling hero to realize their meaning by his own actions? Apart from the elements of a possible self, there is absolutely nothing. It is his actions felt, added to, and made to illustrate the actions of others, with which lie fills leis consciousness when lie thinks of it. And in each of his straining efforts to obey, to do what he is told to do, his success or failure is a further defining of the limitations of one or the other of his old selves, and in so far the creation of a new self.

Now this new self arises, as we have seen, right out of the competitions, urgencies, inhibitions of the old. Suppose a boy

(236) who has once obeyed the command to let an apple alone, coming to confront the apple again, when there is no one present to make him obey. There is his private, greedy, habitual self, eyeing the apple; there is also the spontaneously suggestible, accommodating, imitative self over against it, mildly prompting him to do as his father said and let the apple alone; and there is - or would be, if the obedience had taught him no new thought of self -the quick victory of the former. But now a lesson has been learned. There arises a thought of one who obeys, who has no struggle in carrying out the behests of the father. This may be vague; his habit may be yet weak in the absence of persons and penalties, but it is there, however weak. And it is not merely the faint imitation of an obedient self which he does not understand. It carries within it, it is true, all the struggle of the first obedience, all the painful protests of the private greedy self, all the smoke of the earlier battle-field. But while he hesitates, it is not merely the balance of the old forces that makes him hesitate; it is the sense of the new, better, obedient self hovering before him. A few such fights and he begins to grow accustomed to the presence of something in him which represents his father, mother, or in general, the law-giving personality. So, as he understands the meaning of obedience better, through his own acting out of its behests in varied circumstances, the projective elements of the alter which thus sets law to him, become subjective. The socius becomes more and more intimate as a law-abiding self of his own.

Then, with this self in him, he proceeds to do with it what we always do with our selves; he ejects' it into all the other members of the family and of his social circle. He expects, and rightly too, that each brother and sister will have the same responsibility to the Zeitgeist that he has - will reverence the same Penates. He exacts the same obediences to father anal mother that he himself renders. It is amusing to see the jealousy with which one child in a family will watch the others, and see that they do not transgress the law of the family. If the father makes an exception of one little being he is quickly

( 237) brought up by the protests of other little beings. It is a beautiful piece of evidence to the essential truthfulness of the process depicted above, where it was said that the alter is one with the ego as a self, and that it is impossible for the child to attach predicates to the one without, ipso facto, attaching the same predicates to the other. To say that little brother need not obey, when I am called on to obey, is to say that little brother is in some way not a person, that is all. So we constantly have to explain to our children the dollie cannot feel,' the leather elephant cannot eat,' ' the woolly dog need not be beaten when he gets in the way.' These things,' in short, we say to our children,  are not selves; they have the shapes of possible selves, it may be, and they have so far served as convenient alters for us to practise on, but they need not be expected to take up with you the responsibilities of family life.'

So, once born in the fire and smoke of personal friction, the socius lives, a presence of which the child can never rid himself. It is the germ of the ideals of life, the measure of the life to come, both in this world and the next; for it is this self that the child thereafter pursues in all his development, making it his only to find that it is farther beyond him. He is ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth."

Taking up the sense of morality, therefore, - the sense that we mean when we use the word ' ought,'- we now have it. Let the child continue to act by the rule of either of his former partial selves, -the private habitual self or the accommodating capricious self of impulse and sympathy, - and this new ideal of a self, a self that fulfils law, comes up to call him to account. My father, says the child, knows and would say what and how; and later, when the father-self has proved not to know all whats and all hows, then my teacher, my book, my inspired writer, my God, knows what and hope still. In so far as I have learned from him, I also know; and this I expect you, my brother, my friend, my alter, to know too, for our common life together. And the sense of this my self of conformity to what he teaches and would have me do -this is, once for all, my conscience.


We do not need to develop in this place a complete theory of the adult conscience: that would be outside our topic. But no account of the development of the sense of self, or of the social conditions under which the sense of self arises and grows, would be adequate which left out this highest reach of the child's constructiveness. We are wont to think that we can draw lines in the attainments of mind, interpret so far and leave the rest over; but the surging activities of stimulation and response pass right over our boundary lines, and we find the germs of the higher impregnating the lower stages. The child, when once this sense of a self which is not but ought to be, comes to him, does everything under its law - whether his action conform to what he understands of it or whether he disobey and offend it. He is henceforth never innocent with the innocence of neutrality. He must think of the better with sorrow if he choose the worse, and of the worse with joy if he choose the better; and when he makes his act only in response to the measure of good which he sees, taking a step in the dark, still there is with him the necessary conviction of a self that he groped for, but did not find, -a law behind the chaos of his struggle.

It is enough, in this connection, that one or two truths regarding the nature of this ethical self should remain in mind. It is, first of all, a slow attainment of the child. He gets it only by getting certain other thoughts of self first. Then it takes on various forms, each held to only to be superseded in turn by something higher and richer. The obligation to obey it is also slow in its rise. It is a function of the self - this self, the socius -just as the tendency to yield to the behests of habit or of sympathy are 'simply functions, the motor side of their respective contents. The ' ought' comes right tip out of the 'must.' Transfer the self to be obeyed from the environment to the inner throne, make it an ego instead of an alter, and its authority is not a whit changed in nature; it is exactly the same thing in the one case as in the other. Something of its executive compulsion is gone; it is one of the very intimate differences between an ego and an alter, that the ego is its own

(239) impulsion while the alter brings compulsion; and as the alter aspect of the new self becomes more and more adequately assimilated, this difference grows more emphatic. The developed ethical sense needs less and less to appeal to an alter self, an authority, a holy oracle, to execute the ought of conscience; it gets itself more and more promptly executed by its own inner impulsion. A history of the great world-religions, or of the inner form of their deities, might be written on the basis of this movement in the form of the ethical self, which also implicates the social Zeitgeist.

And a second point to be borne in mind: that as the socius in the mind of the child expands, there is the constant tendency to make it real - to eject it - in some concrete form in the social group. The father, mother, nurse are apt to be the first embodiment of social law, and their conduct, interpreted through obedience and imitation, the first ethical standard. And as the child finds one man or woman inadequate to the growing complications of the case, other concrete selves are erected in the same way. The church, the state, the popular vote, the king, the literature of a period, -all these are choice repositories of the ejected ethical self. Public opinion is our modern expression for the most pervasive form of this spirit, or for the purely social form of it.

Then a third point: we may ask what the law is which we find this self embodying. And we get a twofold answer. Most comprehensively it may be said that the law is in one sense always the realized self of somebody. Apart from a self it can be nothing. It must come out of somebody's apprehension of the social situation and the requirements of the case. The parents themselves over against the rest of the family are usually the source of family law. But that they are held to the actual socius - to the relationships existing between them and the others - is seen in any attempts they may make to transcend these relationships. Suppose that the father commands each of the family to dance the highland fling and then to write a book. Whether the first of these commands be obeyed, depends on whether he has had a right to include in his sense of the

(240) alter-personalities of the family, the accomplishment in question. And, as to the second, it is likely that he will get a laugh for his pains.

But further, the law, thus tempered by the thought of the other selves involved, is a function of the socius-consciousness in each of its two aspects. It is 'projective' to the child when lie first receives it and submits himself to it. He does not yet understand it; it requires him to act blindly. He, in his individual capacity, is not a judge of the wisdom or appropriateness of it. The other person sets it, the self in whom he is then finding his socius realized ; and the child is properly social only if he submit, even if he has to be made properly social by being compelled to submit. And the other aspect of the law is equally important, that set by the other thought of self which the socius includes, the 'ejective' embodiment of the law. After the child has obeyed, and learned by obedience, he himself sets the law of the house for the other members of it. And the law then becomes ' common law,' inasmuch as it is engrained in the very thought of the better self of every member of the social group. All commands and behests which are not thus embodied in the spirit of the whole, are yet to a degree really only the reflection of the highest thought of self in the group, that of the father; if to the others these have not yet become , common law,' the common dictates of the common social self, that is because the individuals are yet immature members of the circle or family. Put briefly, all lazy must arise somewhere in the family from the legitimate development of the social self; and it is realized, or obeyed as law, only as the members of the family come each in his turn to mould his social self into intelligent observance of it, and intelligent enforcement of it. And the family is typical of the community.

And a final observation is this: there is, as was intimated above, a sense in which the socius, the social self, and with it the ethical self, is a self of habit. If this thought of self which we are calling the 'socius' really be, in so far as the child understands his own thought of it, a sense of his denials of both his lower unsocial selves-the self of private interest and the self

(241) of accommodation-in favor of a law set him by an alter, then this very attitude must become to a degree a habit, a tendency to look for a higher law, a moving toward some higher authority. But it is a habit of acting, not a habit of action. It involves the most acutely painful and difficult violations of old habits of action. It is then a habit of violating habits -that is the relation of morality to habit. And it is an interesting side-light on the method of the rise of the successive selves by imitation and submission, that in the lower stages of evolution we find the organism working under the same subtlety. The organism develops only by cultivating the habit of imitating; while the very value of imitation is that by it the organism acquires new accommodations by breaking up habits already acquired. The organism must be ready, by a habit of acting, to undo the habits of action it already has. And the origin of the moral sense by this method shows it to be an imitative function. We do right by imitating a larger self whose injunctions run counter to the tendencies of our partial selves.




  1. Mental Development, Methods and Processes, ch. xi, 3.
  2. Mental Development, Methods and Processes, pp. 344 ff.
  3. The obligation side is genetically the motor side, as readers of my book may possibly recall, since, as I believe, the sense of the general is always a motor or attitude sense. But it is not necessary to develop this in the present paper.
  4. Neglecting for the time the third great historical group of theories, which may be called ' ideal.'
  5. Of course this is only one criticism of the habit views; another would be, that. they do not account for reflective morality, since they do not consider the moral sense a function of the thought of self.

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