Social Interpretations [A Reply to Tufts]

The interesting remarks made by Professor Tufts in his kindly notice of my volume on ' Social and Ethical Interpretations' in the last number of this REVIEW might profitably have extended comment. I find it difficult, however, to be sure from the condensed statements of Professor Tufts as to the exact bearings of his criticisms; and hence I shall at this time only make a general statement or two.

First, regarding the 'general' and 'ideal' self, which he thinks is not clearly enough defined in the book, he asks (p.318) Is the social or general self the outcome of the dialectic in such a way that both the ego anal the alter must enter into it, and become as such elements of it, or is it conceived as merely the undifferentiated raw material out of which ego and alter develop, but which does not include then?" He adds: "Perhaps the note on p. 266 means that both the above alternatives are true and represent successive phases in the development of the social self."

In answer to this question I may say that Professor Tufts' surmise regarding the note on p. 266 is quite correct; the note was added to make it clear that the alternative phrases used in the text at that point

(410) ('general' and 'ideal') referred to the same content looked at from the two points of view of what is 'undifferentiated,' on the one hand, and as the outcome of the dialectic into which both ego and alter must enter, on the other hand. The former is the 'ideal' self considered as having a 'projective' value, a something-over not realized in actual self-experience. The latter is the 'general' self, considered as including what is common to ego and alter at any particular stage of progress of the dialectic of personal growth. This latter is what I mean by the 'social' self when speaking of it as an organized thought. The general self is always 'social.' So also is the 'ideal' self considered as to its actual content, which is, as I said above, the content of the general self; but in so far as it is ideal it stands for the further projective something-over, which is not yet organized in experience. In short, the 'social self' is at once a 'general' self and also, by the continuance of the dialectic, the bearer of the 'ideal' values. It is the meaning and the peculiarity of the 'projective'--and this made it necessary for me to adopt the word-that there is this sense of value or worth keeping ahead all along of the actual growth of the ' general.'[1]

So I am astonished when Professor Tufts goes on to say that I do not do justice to 'conceptions of value.' The whole treatment of the origin of social judgment to which the earlier chapters of the book are devoted leads up to the social determination of ethical values. Social judgments of worth are the important things all the way through. The recognition of social approval, of the social criterion, etc., is a distinctive feature of my work. I hold the child and the genius alike, the moral informer and the social propagandist alike, close down to social tests of worth I fear in this-if I understand him--Professor Tufts has missed the forest for the trees. Possibly Professor Tufts construes what I have said about 'suggestion' in this matter exclusively under the heading of 'law and authority,' but it was not so meant. It is only in connection with law and sanction that I emphasize the parents' authority.

In the remarks on the absence of the 'value' element in cases of spontaneous desire and ethical sanction, however, I think there is a real difference between Professor Tufts' views and mine, which I cannot go into now. Part of the difference may lie due to different uses of the term 'end.'


In regard to what I have called 'reflective bashfulness' I am convinced by various reports from correspondents that my own children developed earlier than many do in this respect. In new editions of both tiny volumes I am giving; 'three years and later,' instead of 'in the second and third years,' in describing this epoch. As this 'reflective bashfulness' is what goes on to develop into self-conscious modesty, its existence sooner or later cannot be in question. The point on which more light is needed is as to the existence of an intermediate period of relative friendliness-which both my children showed-between the earlier and the later exhibitions of bashfulness.

In conclusion I may especially thank Professor Tufts for the subtle compliment implied in the words: "But I am convinced that few children develop in such a favorable moral atmosphere as that of the children observed by the author! "-that is if he do not spoil it by saying he did not know the children were my own!



  1. As for 'hoping, fearing,' etc., for 'self in general,' neither do I believe the child does it, and I am revising the passage (p. 16) with others in which slips in expression have occurred.

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