Human Nature and the Social Order

Chapter 3: Sociability and Personal Ideas

Charles Horton Cooley

Table of Contents | Next | Previous


IN this chapter I hope to show something of the origin and growth of social ideas and feelings in the mind of the individual, and also something of the nature of society as we may find it implied in these ideas and feelings. If it appears that the human mind is social, that society is mental, and that, in short, society and the mind are aspects of the same whole, these conclusions will be no more than a development of the propositions advanced in the first chapter.

To any but a mother a new-born child hardly seems human. It appears rather to be a strange little animal, wonderful indeed, exquisitely finished even to the

(82) finger-nails; mysterious, awakening a fresh sense of our ignorance of the nearest things of life, but not friendly, not lovable. It is only after some days that a kindly nature begins to express itself and to grow into something that can be sympathized with and personally cared for. The earliest signs of it are chiefly certain smiles and babbling sounds, which are a matter of fascinating observation to any one interested in the genesis of social feeling.

Spasmodic smiles or grimaces occur even during the first week of life, and at first seem to mean nothing in particular. I have watched the face of an infant a week old while a variety of expressions, smiles, frowns, and so on, passed over it in rapid succession: it was as if the child were rehearsing a repertory of emotional expression belonging to it by instinct. So soon as they can be connected with anything definite these rudimentary smiles appear to be a sign of satisfaction. Mrs. Moore says that her child smiled on the sixth day "when comfortable," [1] and that this " never occurred when the child was known to be in pain." Preyer notes a smile on the face of a sleeping child, after nursing, on the tenth day. [2] They soon begin to connect themselves quite definitely with sensible objects, such as bright color, voices, movements, and fondling. At the same time the smile gradually develops from a grimace into a subtler, more human expression, and Doctor Perez


who seems to have studied a large number of children, says that all whom he observed smiled, when pleased, by the time they were two months old. [3]When a child is, say, five months old, no doubt can remain, ih most cases, that the smile has become an expression of pleasure in the movements, sounds, touches, and general appearance of other people. It would seem, however, that personal feeling is not at first clearly differentiated from pleasures of sight, sound, and touch of other origin, or from animal satisfactions having no obvious cause. Both of my children expended much of their early sociability on inanimate objects, such as a red Japanese screen, a swinging lamp, a bright door-knob, an orange, and the like, babbling and smiling at them for many minutes at a time; and M., when about three months old and later, would often lie awake laughing and chattering in the dead of night. The general impression left upon one is that the early manifestations of sociability indicate less fellow feeling than the adult imagination likes to impute, but are expressions of a pleasure which persons excite chiefly because they offer such a variety of stimuli to sight, hearing, and touch; or, to put it otherwise, kindliness, while existing almost from the first, is vague and undiscriminating, has not yet become fixed upon its proper objects, but fiows out upon all the pleasantness the child finds about him, like that of St. Francis, when, in his "Canticle of the Sun," he addresses the sun and the moon, stars, winds, clouds, fire, earth, and water, as brothers and sisters.

(84) Indeed, there is nothing about personal feeling which sharply marks it off from other feeling; here as elsewhere we find no fences, but gradual transition, progressive differentiation.

I do not think that early smiles are imitative. I observed both my children carefully to discover whether they smiled in response to a smile, and obtained negative results when they were under ten months old. A baby does not smile by imitation, but because he is pleased; and what pleases him in the first year of life is usually some rather obvious stimulus to the senses. If you wish a smile you must earn it by acceptable exertion; it does no good to smirk. The belief that many people seem to have that infants respond to smiling is possibly due to the fact that when a grown-up person appears, both he and the infant are likely to smile, each at the other; but although the smiles are simultaneous one need not be the cause of the other, and many observations lead me to think that it makes no difference to the infant whether the grown-up person smiles or not. He has not yet learned to appreciate this rather subtle phenomenon.

At this and at all later ages the delight in companionship so evident in children may be ascribed partly to specific social emotion or sentiment, and partly to a need of stimulating suggestions to enable them to gratify their instinct for various sorts of mental and physical activity. The influence of the latter appears in their marked preference for active persons, for grown-up people who will play with them—provided

(85) they do so with tact—and especially for other children. It is the same throughout life; alone one is like fireworks without a match: he cannot set himself off, but is a victim of ennui, the prisoner of some tiresome train of thought that holds his mind simply by the absence of a competitor. A good companion brings release and fresh activity, the primal delight in a fuller existence. So with the child: what excitement when visiting children come! He shouts, laughs, jumps about, produces his playthings and all his accomplishments. He needs to express himself, and a companion enables him to do so. The shout of another boy in the distance gives him the joy of shouting in response.

But the need is for something more than muscular or sensory activities. There is also a need of feeling, an overflowing of personal emotion and sentiment, set free by the act of communication. By the time a child is a year old the social feeling that at first is indistinguishable from sensuous pleasure has become much specialized upon persons, and from that time onward to call it forth by reciprocation is a chief aim of his life. Perhaps it will not be out of place to emphasize this by transcribing two or three notes taken from life.

"M. will now [eleven months old] hold up something she has found, e.g., the petal of a flower, or a little stick, demanding your attention to it by grunts and squeals. When you look and make some motion or exclamation she smiles."

"R. [four years old] talks all day long, to real companions, if they will listen, if not to imaginary ones. As I sit

(86) on the steps this morning he seems to wish me to share his every thought and sensation. He describes everything he does, although I can see it, saying, 'Now I'm digging up little stones'' etc. I must look at the butterfly, feel of the fuzz ou the clover stems, and try to squawk on the dandelion stems. Meanwhile he is reminded of what happened some other time, and he gives me various anecdotes of what he and other people did and said. He thinks aloud. If I seem not to listen he presently notices it and will come up and touch me, or bend over and look up into my face."

"R. [about the same time] is hilariously delighted and excited when he can get any one to laugh or wooder with him at his pictures, etc. He himself always shares by anticipation, and exaggerates the feeling he expects to produce. When B. was calling, R., with his usual desire to entertain guests, brought out his pull-book, in which pulling a strip of pasteboard transforms the picture. When he prepared to work this he was actually shaking with eagerness—apparently in anticipation of the coming surprise."

"I watch E. and R. [four and a half years old] playing McGinty on the couch and guessing what card will turn up. R. Is in a state of intense excitement which breaks out in boisterous laughter and all sorts of movements of the head and limbs. He is full of an emotion which has very little to do with mere curiosity or surprise relating to the card."

I take it that the child has by heredity a generous capacity and need for social feeling, rather too vague and plastic to be given any specific name like love. It is not so much any particular personal emotion or sentiment as the undifferentiated material of many: perhaps sociability is as good a word for it as any.

And this material, like all other instinct, allies itself with social experience to form, as time goes on,

(87) a growing and diversifying body of personal thought, in which the phases of social feeling developed correspond, in some measure, to the complexity of life itself. It is a process of organization, involving progressive differentiation and integration, such as we see everywhere in nature.

In children and in simple-minded adults, kindly feeling may be very strong and yet very naive, involving little insight into the emotional states of others. A child who is extremely sociable, bubbling over with joy in companionship, may yet show a total incomprehension of pain and a scant regard for disapproval and punishment that does not take the form of a cessation of intercourse. In other words, there is a sociability that asks little from others except bodily presence and an occasional sign of attention, and often learns to supply even these by imagination. It seems nearly or quite independent of that power of interpretation which is the starting-point of true sympathy. While both of my children were extremely sociable, R. was not at all sympathetic in the sense of having quick insight into others' states of feeling.

Sociability in this simple form is an innocent, unself-conscious joy, primary and unmoral, like all simple emotion. It may shine with full brightness from the faces of idiots and imbeciles, where it sometimes alternates with fear, rage, or lust. A visitor to an institution where large numbers of these classes are collected will be impressed, as I have been, with the fact that they are as a rule amply endowed with those

(88) kindly impulses which some appear to look upon as almost the sole requisite for human welfare. It is a singular and moving fact that there is a class of cases, mostly women, I think, in whom kindly emotion is so excitable as to be a frequent source of hysterical spasms, so that it has to be discouraged by frowns and apparent harshness on the part of those in charge. The chief difference between normal people and imbeciles in this regard is that, while the former have more or less of this simple kindliness in them, social emotion is also elaborately compounded and worked up by the mind into an indefinite number of complex passions and sentiments, corresponding to the relations and functions of an intricate life.

When left to themselves children continue the joys of sociability by means of an imaginary playmate. Although all must have noticed this who have observed children at all, only close and constant observation will enable one to realize the extent to which it is carried on. It is not an occasional practice, but, rather, a necessary form of thought, flowing from a life in which personal communication is the chief interest and social feeling the stream in which, like boats on a river, most other feelings float. Some children appear to live in personal imaginations almost from the first month; others occupy their minds in early infancy mostly with solitary experiments upon blocks, cards, and other impersonal objects, and their thoughts are doubtless filled with the images of these. But, in either case, after a child learns to

(89) talk and the social world in all its wonder and provocation opens on his mind, it floods his imagination so that all his thoughts are conversations. He is never along. Sometimes the inaudible interlocutor is recognizable as the image of a tangible playmate, sometimes he appears to be purely imaginary. Of course each child has his own peculiarities. R., beginning when about three years of age, almost invariably talked aloud while he was playing alone—which, as he was a first child, was very often the case. Most commonly he would use no form of address but "you," and perhaps had no definite person in mind. To listen to him was like hearing one at the telephone; though occasionally he would give both sides of the conversation. At times again he would be calling upon some real name, Esyllt or Dorothy, or upon " Piggy," a fanciful person of his own invention. Every thought seemed to be spoken out. If his mother called him he would say, "I've got to go in now." Once when he slipped down on the floor he was heard to say, "Did you tumble down? No. I did."

The main point to note here is that these conversations are not occasional and temporary effusions of the imagination, but are the naive expression of a socialization of the mind that is to be permanent and to underlie all later thinking. The imaginary dialogue passes beyond the thinking aloud of little children into something more elaborate, reticent, and sophisticated; but it never ceases. Grown people, like children, are usually unconscious of these dialogues; as we get older we cease, for the most part, to carry them

(90) on out loud, and some of us practice a good deal of apparently solitary meditation and experiment. But, speaking broadly, it is true of adults as of children, that the mind lives in perpetual conversation. It is one of those things that we seldom notice just because they are so familiar and involuntary; but we can perceive it if we try to. If one suddenly stops and takes note of his thoughts at some time when his mind has been running free, as when he is busy with some simple mechanical work, he will be likely to find them taking the form of vague conversations. This is particularly true when one is somewhat excited with reference to a social situation. If he feels under accusation or suspicion in any way he will probably find himself making a defense, or perhaps a confession, to an imaginary hearer. A guilty man confesses "to get the load off his mind"; that is to say, the excitement of his thought cannot stop there but extends to the connected impulses of expression and creates an intense need to tell somebody. Impulsive people often talk out loud when excited, either "to themselves," as we say when we can see no one else present, or to any one whom they can get to listen. Dreams also consist very largely of imaginary conversations; and, with some people at least, the mind runs in dialogue during the half-waking state before going to sleep. There are many other familiar facts that bear the same interpretation—such, for instance, as that it is much easier for most people to compose in the form of letters or dialogue than in any other; so that literature of this kind has been common in all ages.


Goethe, in giving an account of how he came to write Werther as a series of letters, discusses the matter with his usual perspicuity, and lets us see how habitually conversational was his way of thinking. Speaking of himself in the third person, he says: "Accustomed to pass his time most pleasantly in society, he changed even solitary thought into social converse, and this in the following manner: He had the habit, when he was alone, of calling before his mind any person of his acquaintance. This person he entreated to sit down, walked up and down by him, remained standing before him, and discoursed with him on the subject he had in mind. To this the person answered as occasion required, or by the ordinary gestures signified his assent or dissent—in which every man has something peculiar to himself. The speaker then continued to carry out further that which seemed to please the guest, or to condition and define more closely that of which he disapproved; and finally was polite enough to give up his own notion.... How nearly such a dialogue is akin to a written correspon dence is clear enough; only in the latter one sees returned the confidence one has bestowed, while in the former one creates for himself a confidence which is new, ever-changing, and unreturned." [4] 'Accustomed to pass his time most pleasantly in society, he changed even solitary thought into social converse," is not only a particular but a general truth, more or less applicable to all thought. The fact is that language, developed by the race through personal intercourse

(92) and imparted to the individual in the same way, can never be dissociated from personal intercourse in the mind; and since higher thought involves language, it is always a kind of imaginary conversation. The word and the interlocutor are correlative ideas.

The impulse to communicate is not so much a result of thought as it is an inseparable part of it. They are like root and branch, two phases of a common growth, so that the death of one presently involves that of the other. Psychologists now teach that every thought involves an active impulse as part of its very nature; and this impulse, with reference to the more complex and socially developed forms of thought, takes the shape of a need to talk, to write, and so on; and if none of these is practicable, it expends itself in a wholly imaginary communication.

Montaigne, who understood human nature as well, perhaps, as any one who ever lived, remarks: "There is no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to." [5] And it was doubtless because he had many such thoughts which no one was at hand to appreciate, that he took to writing essays. The uncomprehended of all times and peoples have kept diaries for the same reason. So, in general, a true creative impulse in literature or art is, in one aspect, an expression of this simple, childlike need to think aloud or to somebody; to define and vivify

(93) thought by imparting it to an imaginary companion; by developing that communicative element which belongs to its very nature, and without which it cannot live and grow. Many authors have confessed that they always think of some person when they write, and I am inclined to believe that this is always more or less definitely the case, though the writer himself may not be aware of it. Emerson somewhere says that "the man is but half himself; the other half is his expression," and this is literally true. The man comes to be through some sort of expression, and has no higher existence apart from it; overt or imaginary it takes place all the time.

Men apparently solitary, like Thoreau, are often the best illustrations of the inseparability of thought and life from communication. No sympathetic reader of his works, I should say, can fail to see that he took to the woods and fields not because he lacked sociability, but precisely because his sensibilities were so keen that he needed to rest and protect them by a peculiar mode of life, and to express them by the indirect and considerate method of literature. No man ever labored more passionately to communicate, to give and receive adequate expression, than he did. This may be read between the lines in all his works, and is recorded in his diary. "I would fain communicate the wealth of my life to men, would really give them what is most precious in my gift. I would secrete pearls with the shell-fish and lay up honey with the bees for them. I will sift the sunbeams for the public good. I know no riches I would keep back.

(94) I have no private good unless it be my peculiar ability to serve the public. This is the only individual property. Each one may thus be innocently rich. I enclose and foster the pearl till it is grown. I wish to communicate those parts of my life which I would gladly live again." [6] This shows, I think, a just notion of the relation between the individual and society, privacy and publicity. There is, in fact, a great deal of sound sociology in Thoreau.

Since, therefore, the need to impart is of this primary and essential character, we ought not to look upon it as something separable from and additional to the need to think or to be; it is only by imparting that one is enabled to think or to be. Every one, in proportion to his natural vigor, necessarily strives to communicate to others that part of his life which he is trying to unfold in himself. It is a matter of self-preservation, because without expression thought cannot live. Imaginary conversation—that is, conversation carried on without the stimulus of a visible and audible response—may satisfy the needs of the mind for a long time. There is, indeed, an advantage to a vigorously constructive and yet impressible imagination in restricting communication; because in this way ideas are enabled to have a clearer and more independent development than they could have if continually disturbed by criticism or opposition. Thus artists, men of letters, and productive minds of all sorts often find it better to keep their productions to themselves until they are fully matured. But, after

(95) all, the response must come sooner or later or thought itself will perish. The imagination, in time, loses the power to create an interlocutor who is not corroborated by any fresh experience. If the artist finds no appreciator for his book or picture he will scarcely be able to produce another.

People differ much in the vividness of their imaginative sociability. The more simple, concrete, dramatic, their habit of mind is, the more their thinking is carried on in terms of actual conversation with a visible and audible interlocutor. Women, as a rule, probably do this more vividly than men, the unlettered more vividly than those trained to abstract thought, and the sort of people we call emotional more vividly than the impassive. Moreover, the interlocutor is a very mutable person, and is likely to resemble the last strong character we have been in contact with. I have noticed, for instance, that when I take up a book after a person of decided and interesting character has been talking with me I am likely to hear the words of the book in his voice. The same is true of opinions, moral standards, and the like, as well as of physical traits. In short, the interlocutor, who is half of all thought and life, is drawn from the accessible environment.

It is worth noting here that there is no separation between real and imaginary persons; indeed, to be imagined is to become real, in a social sense, as I shall presently point out. An invisible person may easily be more real to an imaginative mind than a visible one; sensible presence is not necessarily a matter of

(96) the first importance. A person can be real to us only in the degree in which we imagine an inner life which exists in us, for the time being, and which we refer to him. The sensible presence is important chiefly in stimulating us to do this. All real persons are imaginary in this sense. If, however, we use imaginary in the sense of illusory, an imagination not corresponding to fact, it is easy to see that visible presence is no bar to illusion. Thus I meet a stranger on the steamboat who corners me and tells me his private history. I care nothing for it, and he half knows that I do not; he uses me only as a lay figure to sustain the agreeable illusion of sympathy, and is talking to an imaginary companion quite as he might if I were elsewhere. So likewise good manners are largely a tribute to imaginary companionship, a make-believe of sympathy which it is agreeable to accept as real, though we may know, when we think, that it is not. To conceive a kindly and approving companion is something that one involuntarily tries to do, in accordance with that instinctive hedonizing inseparable from all wholesome mental processes, and to assist in this by at least a seeming of friendly appreciation is properly regarded as a part of good breeding. To be always sincere would be brutally to destroy this pleasant and mostly harmless figment of the imagination.

Thus the imaginary companionship which a child of three or four years so naively creates and expresses is something elementary and almost omnipresent in the thought of a normal person. In fact, thought and personal intercourse may be regarded as merely

(97) aspects of the same thing: we call it personal intercourse when the suggestions that keep it going are received through faces or other symbols present to the senses: reflection when the personal suggestions come through memory and are more elaborately worked over in thought. But both are mental, both are personal. Personal images, as they are connected with nearly all our higher thought in its inception, remain inseparable from it in memory. The mind is not a hermit's cell, but a place of hospitality and intercourse. We have no higher life that is really apart from other people. It is by imagining them that our personality is built up; to be without the power of imagining them is to be a low-grade idiot; and in the measure that a mind is lacking in this power it is degenerate. Apart from this mental society there is no wisdom, no power, justice, or right, no higher existence at all. The life of the mind is essentially a life of intercourse.

Let us now consider somewhat more carefully the way in which ideas of people grow up in the mind, and try to make out, as nearly as we can, their real nature and significance.

The studies through which the child learns, in time, to interpret personal expression are very early begun. On her twelfth day M. was observed to get her eyes upon her mother's face; and after gazing for some time at it she seemed attracted to the eyes, into which she looked quite steadily. From the end of the first month this face study was very frequent and long

(98) continued. Doubtless any one who notices infants could multiply indefinitely observations like the following:

"M., in her eighth week, lieR in her mother's lap gazing up at her face with a frown of fixed and anxious attention. Evidently the play of the eyes and lips, the flashing of the teeth, and the wrinkles of expression are the object of her earnest study. So also the coaxing noises which are made to please her."

"She now [four months and twenty-one days old] seems to fix her attention almost entirely upon the eyes, and will stare at them for a minute or more with the most intent expression."

The eye seems to receive most notice. As Perez says: " The eye is one of the most interesting and attractive of objects; the vivacity of the pupil set in its oval background of white, its sparkles, its darta of light, its tender looks, its liquid depths, attract and fascinate a young child.... "[7] The mouth also gets much attention, especially when in movement; I have sometimes noticed a child who is looking into the eyes turn from them to the mouth when the person commences to talk: the dashing of the teeth then adds to its interest. The voice is also the object of close observation. The intentness with which a child listens to it, the quickness with which he learns to distinguish different voices and different indections of the same voice, and the fact that vocal imitation precedes other sorts, all show this. It cannot fail to strike the observer that observation of these traits is not merely casual, but a strenuous study,

(99) often accompanied by a frown of earnest attention. The mind is evidently aroused, something important is going on, something conscious, voluntary, eager. It would seem likely that this something is the storing up, arrangement, and interpretation of those images of expression which remain throughout life the starting-point of personal imaginations.

The wrinkles about the eyes and mouth, which are perhaps the most expressive parts of the countenance, would not be so noticeable at first as the eyes, the lips, and the teeth, but they are always in the field of vision, and in time their special significance as a seat of expression comes to be noticed and studied. M. appeared to understand a smile sufficiently to be pleased by it about the end of the tenth month. The first unequivocal case of smiling in response to a smile was noticed on the twenty-sixth day of this month. Even at this age smiling is not imitative in the sense of being a voluntary repetition of the other's action, but appears to be merely an involuntary expression of pleasure. Facial expression is one of the later things to be imitated, for the reason, apparently, that the little child cannot be aware of the expression of his own countenance as he can hear his own voice or see his own hands; and therefore does not so soon learn to control it and to make it a means of voluntary imitation. He learns this only when he comes to study his features in the looking-glass. This children do as early as the second year, when they may be observed experimenting before the mirror with all sorts of gestures and grimaces



The interpretation of a smile, or of any sort of facial expression, is apparently learned much as other things are. By constant study of the face from the first month the child comes, in time, to associate the wrinkles that form a smile with pleasant experiences —fondling, coaxing, offering of playthings or of the bottle, and so on. Thus the smile comes to be recognized as a harbinger of pleasure, and so is greeted with a smile. Its absence, on the other hand, is associated with inattention and indifference. Toward the end of the fifth month M., on one occasion, seemed to notice the change from a smile to a frown, and stopped smiling herself. However, a number of observations taken in the tenth month show that even then it was doubtful whether she could be made to smile merely by seeing some one else do it; and, as I say, the first unequivocal case was noticed toward the end of this month.

Such evidence as we have from the direct observation of children does not seem to me to substantiate the opinion that we have a definite instinctive sensibility to facial expression. Whatever hereditary element there is I imagine to be very vague, and incapable of producing definite phenomena without the aid of experience. I experimented upon my own and some other children with frowns, attempts at ferocity, and pictures of faces, as well as with smiles—in order to elicit instinctive apprehension of expression, but during the first year these phenomena seemed to produce no definite effect. At about fifteen months M. appeared to be dismayed by a savage expression as-

(101)-sumed while playing with her, and at about the same period became very sensitive to frowns. The impression left upon me was that after a child learns to expect a smiling face as the concomitant of kindness, he ispuzzled, troubled, or startled when it is taken away, and moreover learns by experience that frowns and gravity mean disapproval and opposition. I imagine that children fail to understand any facial expression that is quite new to them. An unfamiliar look, an expression of ferocity for example, may excite vague alarm simply because it is strange; or, as is very likely with children used to kind treatment, this or any other contortion of the face may be welcomed with a laugh on the assumption that it is some new kind of play. I feel sure that observation will dissipate the notion of any definite instinctive capacity to interpret the countenance.

I might also mention, as having some bearing upon this question of definite hereditary ideas, that my children did not show that instinctive fear of animals that some believe to be implanted in us. R., the elder, until about three years of age, delighted in animals, and when taken to the menagerie regarded the lions and tigers with the calmest interest; but later, apparently as a result of rude treatment by a puppy, became exceedingly timid. M. has never, so far as I know, shown any fear of any animal.

As regards sounds, there is no doubt of a vague instinctive susceptibility, at least to what is harsh— sharp, or plaintive. Children less than a month old will show pain at such sounds. A harsh cry, or a

(102) sharp sound like that of a tin horn, will sometimes make them draw down the mouth and cry even during the first week.

Darwin records that in one of his children sympathy "was clearly shown at six months and eleven days by his melancholy face, with the corners of his mouth well depressed, when his nurse pretended to cry." [8] Such manifestations are probably caused rather by the plaintive voice than by facial expression; at any rate, I have never been able to produce them by the latter alone.

Some believe that young children have an intuition of personal character quicker and more trustworthy than that of grown people. If this were so it would be a strong argument in favor of the existence of a congenital instinct which does not need experience and is impaired by it. My own belief is that close Observation of children under two years of age will lead to the conclusion that personal impressions are developed by experience. Yet it is possibly true that children three years old or more are sometimes quicker and more acute judges of some traits, such as sincerity and good will, than grown people. In so far as it is a fact it may perhaps be explained in this way. The faces that children see and study are mostly full of the expression of love and truth. Nothing like it occurs in later life, even to the most fortunate. These images, we may believe, give rise in the child's mind to a more or less definite ideal of what a true and kindly face should be, and this ideal he uses

(103) with great effect in detecting what falls short of it. He sees that there is something wrong with the false smile; it does not fit the image in his mind; some lines are not there, others are exaggerated. He does not understand what coldness and insincerity are, but their expression puzzles and alarms him, merely because it is not what he is used to. The adult loses this clear, simple ideal of love and truth, and the sharp judgment that flows from it. His perception becomes somewhat vulgarized by a flood of miscellaneous experience, and he sacrifices childish spontaneity to wider range and more complex insight, valuing and studying many traits of which the child knows nothing. It will not be seriously maintained that, on the whole, we know people better when we are children than we do later.

I put forward these scanty observations for what little they may be worth, and not as disproving the existence of special instincts in which Darwin and other great observers have believed. I do not maintain that there is no hereditary aptitude to interpret facial expression—there must be some sort of an instinctive basis to start from—but I think that it develops gradually and in indistinguishable conjunction with knowledge gained by experience.

Apparently, then, voice, facial expression, gesture and the like, which later become the vehicle of personal impressions and the sensible basis of sympathy, are attractive at first chiefly for their sensuous variety and vividness, very much as other bright, moving, sounding things are attractive; and the interpreta-

(104)-tion of them comes gradually by the interworking of instinct and observation. This interpretation is nothing other than the growth, in connection with these sensuous experiences, Of a system of ideas that we associate with them. The interpretation of an angry look, for instance, consists in the expectation of angry words and acts, in feelings of resentment or fear, and so on; in short, it is our whole mental reaction to this sign It may consist in part of sympathetic states of mind, that is of states of mind that we suppose the other to experience also; but it is not confined to such. These ideas that enrich the meaning of the symbol—the resentment or fear, for instance—have all, no doubt, their roots in instinct; we are born with the crude raw material of such feelings And it is precisely in the act of communication, in social contact of some sort, that this material grows, that it gets the impulses that give it further definition, refinement, organization. It is by intercourse with others that we expand our inner experience. In other words, and this is the point of the matter, the personal idea consists at first and in all later development, of a sensuous element or symbol with which is connected a more or less complex body of thought and sentiment; the whole social in genesis, formed by a series of communications.

What do we think of when we think of a person? Is not the nucleus of the thought an image of the sort just mentioned, some ghost of characteristic expression ? It may be a vague memory of lines

(105) around the mouth and eyes, or of other lines indicating pose, carriage, or gesture; or it may be an echo of some tone or inflection of the voice. I am unable, perhaps, to call up any distinct outline of the features of my best friend, of my own mother, or my child; but I can see a smile, a turn of the eyelid, a way of standing or sitting, indistinct and flitting glimpses, but potent to call up those past states of feeling of which personal memories are chiefly formed. The most real thing in physical presence is not height, nor breadth, nor the shape of the nose or forehead, nor that of any other comparatively immobile part of the body, but it is something in the plastic, expressive features: these are noticed and remembered because they tell us what we most care to know.

The judgment of personal character seems to take place in much the same way. We estimate a man, I think, by imagining what he would do in various situations. Experience supplies us with an almost infinite variety of images of men in action, that is of impressions of faces, tones, and the like, accompanied by certain other elements making up a situation. When we wish to judge a new face, voice, and form, we unconsciously ask ourselves where they would fit; we try them in various situations, and if they fit, if we can think of them as doing the things without incongruity, we conclude that we have that kind of a man to deal with. If I can imagine a man intimidated, I do not respect him; if I can imagine him lying, I do not trust him; if I can see him receiving, comprehending, resisting men and disposing them

(106) in accordance with his own plans, I ascribe executive ability to him; if I can think of him in his study patiently working out occult problems, I judge him to be a scholar; and so on. The symbol before us reminds us of some other symbol resembling it, and this brings with it a whole group of ideas which constitutes our personal impression of the new man.[9]

The power to make these judgments is intuitive, imaginative, not arrived at by ratiocination, but it is dependent upon experience. I have no belief in the theory, which I have seen suggested, that we unconsciously imitate other people's expression, and then judge of their character by noting how we feel when we look like them. The men of uncommon insight into character are usually somewhat impassive in countenance and not given to facial imitation. Most of us become to some extent judges of the character of dogs, so that we can tell by the tone of a dog's bark whether he is a biting dog or only a barking dog. Surely imitation can have nothing to do with this; we do not imitate the dog's bark to learn whether he is serious or not; we observe, remember, and imagine; and it seems to me that we judge people in much the same way.

That which we usually speak of as "personality," in a somewhat external sense, is a sort of atmosphere, having its source in habitual states of feeling, which each of us unconsciously communicates through facial

(107) and vocal expression. If one is cheerful, confident, candid, sympathetic, he awakens similar feelings in others, and so makes a pleasant and favorable impression; while gloom, reserve, indifference to what others are feeling, and the like, have an opposite effect. We cannot assume or conceal these states of feeling with much success; the only way to appear to be a certain sort of person is actually to become that sort of person by cultivating the necessary habits. We impart what we are without effort or consciousness, and rarely impart anything else.

These visible and audible signs of personality, these lines and tones whose meaning is impressed upon us by the intense and constant observation of our childhood, are also a chief basis of the communication of impressions in art and literature.

This is evidently the case in those arts which imitate the human face and figure. Painters and illustrators give the most minute study to facial expression, and suggest various sentiments by bits of light and shade so subtle that the uninitiated cannot see what or where they are, although their effect is everything as regards the depiction of personality. It is the failure to reproduce them that makes the emptiness of nearly all copies of famous painting or sculpture that represents the face. Perhaps not one person in a thousand, comparing the "Mona Lisa" or the" Beatrice Cenci " with one of the mediocre copies generally standing near them, can point out where the painter of the latter has gone amiss; yet the difference is like that between life and a wax image.

(108) The chief fame of some painters rests upon their power to portray and suggest certain rare kinds of feeling. Thus the people of Fra Angelico express to the eye the higher love, described in words by St. Paul and Thomas Kempis. It is a distinctly human and social sentiment; his persons are nearly always in pairs, and, in his Paradise for instance, almost every face among the blest is directed in rapture toward some other face. Other painters, as Botticelli and Perugino—alike in this respect though not in most—depict a more detached sort of sentiment; and their people look out of the picture in isolated ecstasy or meditation.

Sculpture appeals more to reminiscence of attitude, facial expression being somewhat subordinate, though here also the difference between originals and copies is largely in the lines of the eyes and mouth, too delicate to be reproduced by the mechanical instruments which copy broader outlines quite exactly.

As to literature, it is enough to recall the fact that words allusive to traits of facial expression, and especially to the eye, are the immemorial and chosen means of suggesting personality.[10] To poetry, which seeks the sensuous nucleus of thought, the eye is very generally the person; as when Shakespeare says:

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state . . ."

or Milton:

Thy rapt soul sitting in shine eyes."


Poetry, however, usually refrains from minute description of expression, a thing impossible in words, and strikes for a vivid, if inexact, impression, by the use of such phrases as "a fiery eye'" "a liquid eye," and "The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling." [11]

We also get from every art a personal impression that does not come from the imitation of features and tones, nor from a description of these in words, but is the personality of the author himself, subtly communicated by something that we interpret as signs of his state of mind. When one reads Motley's histories he gets a personal impression not only of the Prince of Orange or Alexander of Parma, but also of Mr. Motley; and the same is true or may be true of any work of art, however "objective" it may be. What we call style, when we say "The style is the man," is the equivalent, in the artist's way of doing things, of those visible and audible traits of the form and voice by which we judge people who are bodily present. [12] "Every work of genius," says John Burroughs, "has its own physiognomy—sad, cheerful, frowning, yearning, determined, meditative." Just as we are glad of the presence of certain forms and faces, because of the mood they put us in, so we are glad of

(110)the physiognomy of certain writers in their books, quite apart from the intellectual content of what they say; and this is the subtlest, most durable, most indispensable charm of all. Every lover of books has authors whom he reads over and over again, whom he cares for as persons and not as sources of information, who are more to him, possibly, than any person he sees. He continually returns to the cherished companion and feeds eagerly upon his thought. It is because there is something in the book which he needs, which awakens and directs trains of thought that lead him where he likes to be led. The thing that does this is something personal and hard to define; it is in the words and yet not in any definite information that they convey. It is rather an attitude, a way of feeling, communicated by a style faithful to the writer's mind. Some people find pleasure and profit, for example, in perusing even the somewhat obscure and little inspired portions of Goethe's writings, like the " Campaign in France "; it would perhaps be impossible to tell why, further than by saying that they get the feeling of something calm, free, and onward which is Goethe himself, and not to be had elsewhere.

And so any one who practices literary composition, even of a pedestrian sort, will find at least one reward for his pains in a growing insight into the personality of great writers. He will come to feel that such a word was chosen or such a sentence framed in just that way, under the influence of such a purpose or sentiment, and by putting these impressions to

(111) "ether, will presently arrive at some personal acquaintance with any author whose character and aims are at all congenial with his own.

We feel this more in literature than in any other art, and more in prose of an intimate sort than in any other kind of literature. The reason appears to be that writing, particularly writing of a familiar kind, like letters and autobiographies, is something which we all practice in one way or another, and which we can, therefore, interpret; while the methods of other arts are beyond our imaginations. It is easy to share the spirit of Charles Lamb writing his Letters, or of Montaigne dictating his Essays, or of Thackeray discoursing in the first person about his characters; because they merely did what all of us do, only did it better. On the other hand, Michelangelo, or Wagner, or Shakespeare—except in his sonnets—remains for most of us personally remote and inconceivable. But a painter, or a composer, or a sculptor, or a poet, will always get an impression of personality, of style, from another artist of the same sort, because his experience enables him to feel the subtle indications of mood and method. Mr. Frith, the painter, says in his autobiography that a picture "will betray the real character of its author; who, in the unconscious development of his peculiarities, constantly presents to the initiated signs by which an infallible judgment may be pronounced on the painter's mind and character." [13] In fact, it is true of any earnest career that a man expresses his character in his work, and that another

(112) man of similar aims can read what he expresses. We see in General Grant's Memoirs, how an able commander feels the personality of an opponent in the movements of his armies, imagines what he will do in various exigencies, and deals with him accordingly.

These personal impressions of a writer or other artist may or may not be accompanied by a vague imagination of his visible appearance. Some persons have so strong a need to think in connection with visual images that they seem to form no notion of personality without involuntarily imagining what the person looks like; while others can have a strong impression of feeling and purpose that seems not to be accompanied by any visual picture. There can be no doubt, however, that sensible images of the face, voice, etc., usually go with personal ideas. Our earliest personal conceptions grow up about such images; and they always remain for most of us the principal means of getting hold of other people. Naturally, they have about the same relative place in memory and imagination as they do in observation. Probably, if we could get to the bottom of the matter, it would be found that our impression of a writer is always accompanied by some idea of his sensible appearance, is always associated with a physiognomy, even when we are not aware of it. Can any one, for example, read Macaulay and think of a soft and delicately inflected voice? I imagine not: these periods must be connected with a sonorous and somewhat mechanical utterance; the sort of person that speaks

(113) softly and with delicate inflections would have written otherwise. On the other hand, in reading Robert Louis Stevenson it is impossible, I should say, not to get the impression of a sensitive and flexible speech. Such impressions are mostly vague and may be incorrect, but for sympathetic readers they exist and constitute a real, though subtle, physiognomy.

Not only the idea of particular persons but that of social groups seems to have a sensible basis in these ghosts of expression. The sentiment by which one's family, club, college, state, or country is realized in his mind is stimulated by vague images, largely personal. Thus the spirit of a college fraternity seems to come back to me through a memory of the old rooms and of the faces of friends. The idea of country is a rich and various one and has connected with it many sensuous symbols—such as flags, music, and the rhythm of patriotic poetry—that are not directly personal; but it is chiefly an idea of personal traits that we share and like, as set over against others that are different and repugnant. We think of America as the land of freedom, simplicity, cordiality, equality, and so on, in antithesis to other countries which we suppose to be otherwise—and we think of these traits by imagining the people that embody them. For countless school-children patriotism begins in sympathy with our forefathers in resistance to the hateful oppression and arrogance of the British, and this fact of early training largely accounts for the perennial popularity of the anti-British side in international questions. Where the country has a permanent ruler

(114) to typify it his image is doubtless a chief element in the patriotic idea. On the other hand, the impulse which we feel to personify country, or anything else that awakens strong emotion in us, shows our imaginations to be so profoundly personal that deep feeling almost inevitably connects itself with a personal image. In short, group sentiment, in so far as it is awakened by definite images, is only a variety of personal sentiment. A sort of vague agitation, however, is sometimes produced by mere numbers. Thus public opinion is sometimes thought of as a vast impersonal force, like a great wind, though ordinarily it is conceived simply as the opinion of particular persons, whose expressions or tones are more or less definitely imagined.

In the preceding I have considered the rise of personal ideas chiefly from the point of view of the visual or auditory element in them—the personal symbol or vehicle of communication; but of course there is a parallel growth in feeling. An infant's states of feeling may be supposed to be nearly as crude as his ideas of the appearance of things; and the process that gives form, variety, and coherence to the latter does the same for the former. It is precisely the act of intercourse, the stimulation of the mind by a personal symbol, which gives a formative impulse to the vague mass of hereditary feeling-tendency, and this impulse, in turn, results in a larger power of interpreting the symbol. It is not to be supposed, for instance, that such feelings as generosity, respect, mortification, emu-

(115)-lation, the sense of honor, and the like, are an original endowment of the mind. Like all the finer and larger mental life these arise in conjunction with communication and could not exist without it. It is these finer modes of feeling, these intricate branchings or differentiations of the primitive trunk of emotion, to which the name sentiments is usually applied. Personal sentiments are correlative with personal symbols, the interpretation of the latter meaning nothing more than that the former are associated with them; while the sentiments, in turn, cannot be felt except by the aid of the symbols. If I see a face and feel that here is an honest man, it means that I have, in the past, achieved through intercourse an idea of honest personality, with the visual elements of which the face before me has something in common, so that it calls up this socially achieved sentiment. And moreover in knowing this honest man my idea of honest personality will be enlarged and corrected for future use. Both the sentiment and its visual associations will be somewhat different from what they were.

Thus no personal sentiment is the exclusive product of any one influence, but all is of various origin and has a social history. The more clearly one can grasp this fact the better, at least if I am right in supposing that a whole system of wrong thinking results from overlooking it and assuming that personal ideas are separable and fragmentary elements in the mind. Of this I shall say more presently. The fact I mean is that expressed by Shakespeare, with reference to love, or loving friendship, in his thirty-first sonnet:


"Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead,
And there reigns love, and all love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
Thou art the grave where buried love cloth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give;
That due of many now is shine alone:
Their images I loved I view in thee
And thou (all they) hast all the all of me."

In this sonnet may be discerned, I think, a true theory of personal sentiment, quite accordant with the genetic point of view of modern psychology, and very important in the understanding of social relations.

Facial expression, tone of voice, and the like, the sensible nucleus of personal and social ideas, serve as the handle, so to speak, of such ideas, the principal substance of which is drawn from the region of inner imagination and sentiment. The personality of a friend, as it lives in my mind and forms there a part of the society in which I live, is simply a group or system of thoughts associated with the symbols that stand for him. To think of him is to revive some part of the system—to have the old feeling along with the familiar symbol, though perhaps in a new connection with other ideas. The real and intimate thing in him is the thought to which he gives life, the feeling his presence or memory has the power to suggest. This clings about the sensible imagery, the personal symbols already discussed, because the latter have served as bridges by which we have entered

(117) other minds and therein enriched our own. We have laid up stores, but we always need some help to get at them in order that we may use and increase them; and this help commonly consists in something visible or audible, which has been connected with them in the past and now acts as a key by which they are unlocked. Thus the face of a friend has power over us in much the same way as the sight of a favorite book, of the flag of one's country, or the refrain of an old song; it starts a train of thought, lifts the curtain from an intimate experience. And his presence does not consist in the pressure of his flesh upon a neighboring chair, but in the thoughts clustering about some symbol of him, whether the latter be his tangible person or something else. If a person is more his best self in a letter than in speech, as sometimes happens, he is more truly present to me in his correspondence than when I see and hear him. And in most cases a favorite writer is more with us in his book than he ever could have been in the flesh; since, being a writer, he is one who has studied and perfected this particular mode of personal incarnation, very likely to the detriment of any other. I should like as a matter of curiosity to see and hear for a moment the men whose works I admire; but I should hardly expect to find further intercourse particularly profitable.

The world of sentiment and imagination, of all finer and warmer thought, is chiefly a personal world—that is, it is inextricably interwoven with personal symbols. If you try to think of a person you will find that what you really think is chiefly sentiments which you con-

(118)-nect with his image; and, on the other hand, if you try to recall a sentiment you will find, as a rule, that it will not come up except along with symbols of the persons who have suggested it. To think of love, gratitude, pity, grief, honor, courage, justice, and the like, it is necessary to think of people by whom or toward whom these sentiments may be entertained. [14]Thus justice may be recalled by thinking of Washington, kindness by Lincoln, honor by Sir Philip Sidney, and so on. The reason for this, as already intimated, is that sentiment and imagination are generated, for the most part, in the life of communication, and so belong with personal images by original and necessary association, having no separate existence except in our forms of speech. The ideas that such words as modesty and magnanimity stand for could never have been formed apart from social intercourse, and indeed are nothing other than remembered aspects of such intercourse. To live this higher life, then, we must live with others, by the aid of their visible presence, by reading their words, or by recalling in imagination these or other symbols of them. To lose our hold upon them—as, for example, by long isolation or by the decay of the imagination in disease or old age—is to lapse into a life of sensation and crude instinct.

So far as the study of immediate social relations is concerned the personal idea is the real person. That

(119) is to say, it is in this alone that one man exists for another, and acts directly upon his mind. My association with you evidently consists in the relation between any idea of you and the rest of my mind. If there is something in you that is wholly beyond this and makes no impression upon me it has no social reality in this relation. The immediate social reality is the personal idea; nothing, it would seem, could be much more obvious than this.

Society, then, in its immediate aspect, is a relation among personal ideas. In order to have society it is evidently necessary that persons should get together somewhere; and they get together only as personal ideas in the mind. Where else ? What other possible locus can be assigned for the real contact of persons, or in what other form can they come in contact except as impressions or ideas formed in this common locus? Society exists in my mind as the contact and reciprocal influence of certain ideas named "I," Thomas, Henry, Susan, Bridget, and so on. It exists in your mind as a similar group, and so in every mind. Each person is immediately aware of a particular aspect of society: and so far as he is aware of great social wholes, like a nation or an epoch, it is by embracing in this particular aspect ideas or sentiments which he attributes to his countrymen or contemporaries in their collective aspect. In order to see this it seems to me only necessary to discard vague modes of speech which have no conceptions back of them that will bear scrutiny, and look at the facts as we know them in experience.


Yet most of us, perhaps, will find it hard to assent to the view that the social person is a group of sentiments attached to some symbol or other characteristic element, which keeps them together and from which the whole idea is named. The reason for this reluctance I take to be that we are accustomed to talk and think, so far as we do think in this connection, as if a person were a material rather than a psychical fact. Instead of basing our sociology and ethics upon what a man really is as part of our mental and moral life, he is vaguely and yet grossly regarded as a shadowy material body, a lump of flesh, and not as an ideal thing at all. But surely it is only common sense to hold that the social and moral reality is that which lives in our imaginations and affects our motives. As regards the physical it is only the finer, more plastic and mentally significant aspects of it that imagination is concerned with, and with them chiefly as a nucleus or centre of crystallization for sentiment. Instead of perceiving this we commonly make the physical the dominant factor, and think of the mental and moral only by a vague analogy to it.

Persons and society must, then, be studied primarily in the imagination. It is surely true, prima facie, that the best way of observing things is that which is most direct; and I do not see how any one can hold that we know persons directly except as imaginative ideas in the mind. These are perhaps the most vivid things in our experience, and as observable as anything else, though it is a kind of observation in which

(121) accuracy has not been systematically cultivated. The observation of the physical aspects, however important, is for social purposes quite subsidiary: there is no way of weighing or measuring men which throws more than a very dim side-light on their personality. The physical factors most significant are those elusive traits of expression already discussed, and in the observation and interpretation of these physical science is only indirectly helpful. What, for instance, could the most elaborate knowledge of his weights and measures, including the anatomy of his brain, tell us of the character of Napoleon? Not enough, I take it, to distinguish him with certainty from an imbecile. Our real knowledge of him is derived from reports of his conversation and manner, from his legislation and military dispositions, from the impression made upon those about him and by them communicated to us, from his portraits and the like; all serving as aids to the imagination in forming a system that we call by his name. I by no means aim to discredit the study of man or of society with the aid of physical measurements, such as those of psychological laboratories; but I think that these methods are indirect and ancillary in their nature and are most useful when employed in connection with a trained imagination.

I conclude, therefore, that the imaginations which people have of one another are the solid facts of society, and that to observe and interpret these must be a chief aim of sociology. I do not mean merely that society must be studied by the imagination—that is true of all investigations in their higher reaches—but

(122) that the object of study is primarily an imaginative idea or group of ideas in the mind, that we have to imagine imaginations. The intimate grasp of any social feet will be found to require that we divine what men think of one another. Charity, for instance, is not understood without imagining what ideas the giver and recipient have of each other; to grasp homicide we must, for one thing, conceive how the offender thinks of his victim and of the administrators of the law; the relation between the employing and handlaboring classes is first of all a matter of personal attitude which we must apprehend by sympathy with both, and so on. In other words, we want to get at motives, and motives spring from personal ideas. There is nothing particularly novel in this view; historians, for instance, have always assumed that to understand and interpret personal relations was their main business; but apparently the time is coming when this will have to be done in a more systematic and penetrating manner then in the past. Whatever may justly be urged against the introduction of frivolous and disconnected " personalities " into history, the understanding of persons is the aim of this and all other branches of social study.

It is important to face the question of persons who have no corporeal reality, as for instance the dead, characters of fiction or the drama, ideas of the gods and the like. Are these real people, members of society? I should say that in so far as we imagine them they are. Would it not be absurd to deny social

(123) reality to Robert Louis Stevenson, who is so much alive in many minds and so potently affects important phases of thought and conduct? He is certainly more real in this practical sense than most, of us who have not yet lost our corporeity, more alive, perhaps, than he was before he lost his own, because of his wider influence. And so Colonel Newcome, or Romola, or Hamlet is real to the imaginative reader with the realest kind of reality, the kind that works directly upon his personal character. And the like is true of the conceptions of supernatural beings handed down by the aid of tradition among all peoples. What, indeed, would society be, or what would any one of us be, if we associated only with corporeal persons and insisted that no one should enter our company who could not show his power to tip the scales and cast a shadow?

On the other hand, a corporeally existent person is not socially real unless he is imagined. If the nobleman thinks of the serf as a mere animal and does not attribute to him a human way of thinking and feeling, the latter is not real to him in the sense of acting personally upon his mind and conscience. And if a man should go into a strange country and hide himself so completely that no one knew he was there, he would evidently have no social existence for the inhabitants.

In saying this I hope I do not seem to question the independent reality of persons or to confuse it with personal ideas. The man is one thing and the various ideas entertained about him are another; but

(124) the latter, the personal idea, is the immediate social reality, the thing in which men exist for one another, and work directly upon one another's lives. Thus any study of society that is not supported by a firm grasp of personal ideas is empty and dead—mere doctrine and not knowledge at all.

I believe that the vaguely material notion of personality, which does not confront the social fact at all but assumes it to be the analogue of the physical fact, is a main source of fallacious thinking about ethics, politics, and indeed every aspect of social and personal life. It seems to underlie all four of the ways of conceiving society and the individual alleged in the first chapter to be false. If the person is thought of primarily as a separate material form, inhabited by thoughts and feelings conceived by analogy to be equally separate, then the only way of getting a society is by adding on a new principle of socialism, social faculty, altruism, or the like. But if you start with the idea that the social person is primarily a fact in the mind, and observe him there, you find at once that he has no existence apart from a mental whole of which all personal ideas are members, and which is a particular aspect of society. Every one of these ideas, as we have seen, is the outcome of our experience of all the persons we have known, and is only a special aspect of our general idea of mankind.

To many people it would seem mystical to say that persons, as we know them, are not separable and mutually exclusive, like physical bodies, so that what


is part of one cannot be part of another, but that they interpenetrate one another, the same element pertaining to different persons at different times, or even at the same time: yet this is a verifiable and not very abstruse fact. [15] The sentiments which make up the largest and most vivid part of our idea of any person are not, as a rule, peculiarly and exclusively his, but each one may be entertained in conjunction with other persons also. It is, so to speak, at the point of intersection of many personal ideas, and may be reached through any one of them. Not only Philip Sidney but many other people call up the sentiment of honor, and likewise with kindness, magnanimity, and so on. Perhaps these sentiments are never precisely the same in any two cases, but they are nearly enough alike to act in about the same manner upon our motives, which is the main thing from a practical point of view. Any kindly face will arouse friendly feeling, any suffering child awaken pity, any brave man inspire respect. A sense of justice, of something being due to a man as such, is potentially a part of the idea of every man I know. All such feelings are a cumulative product of social experience and do not belong exclusively to any one personal

(126) symbol. A sentiment, if we consider it as something in itself, is vaguely, indeterminately personal; it may come to life, with only slight variations, in connection with any one of many symbols; whether it is referred to one or to another, or to two or more at once, is determined by the way one's thoughts arrange themselves, by the connection in which the sentiment is suggested.

As regards one's self in relation to other people, I shall have more to say in a later chapter; but I may say here that there is no view of the self, that will bear examination, which makes it altogether distinct, in our minds, from other persons. If it includes the whole mind, then, of course, it includes all the persons we think of, all the society which lives in our thoughts. If we confine it to a certain part of our thought with which we connect a distinctive emotion or sentiment called self-feeling, as I prefer to do, it still includes the persons with whom we feel most identified. Self and other do not exist as mutually exclusive social facts, and phraseology which implies that they do, like the antithesis egoism versus altruism, is open to the objection of vagueness, if not of falsity.[16] It seems to me that the classification of

(127) impulses as altruistic and egoistic, with or without a third class called, perhaps, ego-altruistic, is empty; and I do not see how any other conclusion can result from a concrete study of the matter. There is no class of altruistic impulses specifically different from other impulses: all our higher, socially developed sentiments are indeterminately personal, and may be associated with self-feeling, or with whatever personal symbol may happen to arouse them. Those feelings which are merely sensual and have not been refined into sentiments by communication and imagination are not so much egoistic as merely animal: they do not pertain to social persons, either first or second, but belong in a lower stratum of thought. Sensuality is not to be confused with the social self. As I shall try to show later we do not think "I" except with reference to a complementary thought of other persons; it is an idea developed by association and communication.


The egoism-altruism way of speaking falsifies the facts at the most vital point possible by assuming that our impulses relating to persons are separable into two classes, the I impulses and the You impulses, in much the same way that physical persons are separable; whereas a primary fact throughout the range of sentiment is a fusion of persons, so that the impulse belongs not to one or the other, but precisely to the common ground that both occupy, to their intercourse or mingling. Thus the sentiment of gratitude does not pertain to me as against you, nor to you as against me, but springs right from our union, and so with all personal sentiment. Special terms like egoism and altruism are presumably introduced into moral discussions for the more accurate naming of facts. But I cannot discover the facts for which these are supposed to be names. The more I consider the matter the more they appear to be mere fictions of analogical thought. If you have no definite idea of personality or self beyond the physical idea, you are naturally led to regard the higher phases of thought, which have no evident relation to the body, as in some way external to the first person or self. Thus instead of psychology, sociology, or ethics we have a mere shadow of physiology.

Pity is typical of the impulses ordinarily called altruistic; but if one thinks of the question closely it is hard to see how this adjective is especially applicable to it. Pity is not aroused exclusively by images or symbols of other persons, as against those of one's self. If I think of my own body in a pitiable condi-


tion I am perhaps as likely to feel pity as if I think of some one else in such a condition. [17] At any rate, self-pity is much too common to be ignored. Even if the resentment were aroused only by symbols of other persons it would not necessarily be non-egoistic. "A father pitieth his children," but any searching analysis will show that he incorporates the children into his own imaginative self. And, finally, pity is not necessarily moral or good, but is often mere " selfindulgence," as when it is practiced at the expense of justice and true sympathy. A "wounding pity," to use a phrase of Mr. Stevenson's, is one of the commonest forms of objectionable sentiment. In short, pity is a sentiment like any other, having in itself no determinate personality, as first or second, and no determinate moral character: personal reference and moral rank depend upon the conditions under which it is suggested. The reason that it strikes us as appropriate to call pity "altruistic" apparently is that it often leads directly and obviously to helpful practical activity, as toward the poor or the sick. But "altruistic" is used to imply something more than kindly or benevolent, some radical psychological or moral distinction between this sentiment or class of sentiments and others called egoistic, and this distinction appears not to exist. All social sentiments are altruistic in the sense that they involve reference to another person; few are so in the sense that they

(130) exclude the self. The idea of a division on this line appears to flow from a vague presumption that personal ideas must have a separateness answering to that of material bodies.

I do not mean to deny or depreciate the fact of personal opposition; it is real and most important, though it does not rest upon any such essential and, as it were, material separateness as the common way of thinking implies. At a given moment personal symbols may stand for different and opposing tendencies; thus the missionary may be urging me to contribute to his cause, and, if he is skilful, the impulses he awakens will move me in that direction; but if I think of my wife and children and the summer outing 1 had planned to give them from my savings, an opposite impulse appears. And in all such cases the very fact of opposition and the attention thereby drawn to the conflicting impulses gives emphasis to them, so that common elements are overlooked and the persons in the imagination seem separate and exclusive.

In such cases, however, the harmonizing or moralizing of the situation consists precisely in evoking or appealing to the common element in the apparently conflicting personalities, that is to some sentiment of justice or right. Thus I may say to myself, "I can afford a dollar, but ought not, out of consideration for my family, to give more," and may be able to imagine all parties accepting this view of the case.

Opposition between one's self and some one else is also a very real thing; but this opposition, instead

(131) of coming from a separateness like that of material bodies, is, on the contrary, dependent upon a measure of community between one's self and the disturbing other, so that the hostility between one's self and a social person may always be described as hostile sympathy. And the sentiments connected with opposition, like resentment, pertain neither to myself, considered separately, nor to the symbol of the other person, but to ideas including both. I shall discuss these matters at more length in subsequent chapters; the main thing here is to note that personal opposition does not involve mechanical separateness, but arises from the emphasis of inconsistent elements in ideas having much in common.

The relations to one another and to the mind of the various persons one thinks of might be rudely pictured in some such way as this. Suppose we conceive the mind as a vast wall covered with electric-light bulbs, each of which represents a possible thought or impulse whose presence in our consciousness may be indicated by the lighting up of the bulb. Now each of the persons we know is represented in such a scheme, not by a particular area of the wall set apart for him, but by a system of hidden connections among the bulbs which causes certain combinations of them to be lit up when his characteristic symbol is suggested. If something presses the button corresponding to my friend A, a peculiarly shaped figure appears upon the wall; when that is released and B's button is pressed another figure appears, including perhaps many of the same lights, yet unique as a whole though not in

(132) its parts; and so on with as many people as you please. It should also be considered that we usually think of a person in relation to some particular social situation, and that those phases of him that bear on this situation are the only ones vividly conceived. To recall some one is commonly to imagine how this or that idea would strike him, what he would say or do in our place, and so on. Accordingly, only some part, some appropriate and characteristic part, of the whole figure that might be lighted up in connection with a man's symbol, is actually illuminated.

To introduce the self into this illustration we might say that the lights near the centre of the wall were of a particular color—say red—which faded, not too abruptly, into white toward the edges. This red would represent self-feeling, and other persons would be more or less colored by it according as they were or were not intimately identified with our cherished activities. In a mother's mind, for instance, her child would lie altogether in the inmost and reddest area. Thus the same sentiment may belong to the self and to several other persons at the same time. If a man and his family are suffering from his being thrown out of work, his apprehension and resentment will be part of his idea of each member of his family, as well as part of his self-idea and of the idea of people whom he thinks to blame.

I trust it will be plain that there is nothing fantastic, unreal, or impractical about this way of conceiving people, that is by observing them as facts of the imagination. On the contrary, the fantastic,


unreal, and practically pernicious way is the ordinary and traditional one of speculating upon them as shadowy bodies, without any real observation of them as mental facts. It Is the man as imagined that we love or hate, imitate, or avoid, that helps or harms us, that moulds our wills and our careers. What is it that makes a person real to us; is it material contact or contact in the imagination ? Suppose, for instance, that on suddenly turning a corner I collide with one coming from the opposite direction: I receive a slight bruise, have the breath knocked out of me, exchange conventional apologies, and immediately forget the incident. It takes no intimate hold upon me, means nothing except a slight and temporary disturbance in the animal processes. Now suppose, on the other hand, that I take up Froude's Caesar, and presently find myself, under the guidance of that skilful writer, imagining a hero whose body long ago turned to clay. He is alive in my thought: there is perhaps some notion of his visible presence, and along with this the awakening of sentiments of audacity, magnanimity, and the like, that glow with intense life, consume my energy, make me resolve to be like Caesar in some respect, and cause me to see right and wrong and other great questions as I conceive he would have seen them. Very possibly he keeps me awake after I go to bed—every boy has lain awake thinking of book people. My whole after life will be considerably affected by this experience, and yet this is a contact that takes place only in the imagination. Even as regards the physical organism it is immeasurably

(134) more important, as a rule, than the material collision. A blow in the face, if accidental and so not disturbing to the imagination, affects the nerves, the heart, and the digestion very little, but an injurious word or look may cause sleepless nights, dyspepsia, or palpitation. It is, then, the personal idea, the man in the imagination, the real man of power and fruits, that we need primarily to consider, and he appears to be somewhat different from the rather conventional and material man of traditionary social philosophy.

According to this view of the matter society is simply the collective aspect of personal thought. Each man's imagination, regarded as a mass of personal impressions worked up into a living, growing whole, is a special phase of society; and Mind or Imagination as a whole, that is human thought considered in the largest way as having a growth and organization extending throughout the ages, is the locus of society in the widest possible sense.

It may be objected that society in this sense has no definite limits, but seems to include the whole range of experience. That is to say, the mind is all one growth, and we cannot draw any distinct line between personal thought and other thought. There is probably no such thing as an idea that is wholly independent of minds other than that in which it exists; through heredity, if not through communication, all is connected with the general life, and so in some sense social. What are spoken of above as personal ideas are merely those in which the connection with other persons is most direct and apparent.

(135) This objection, however, applies to any way of defining society, and those who take the material standpoint are obliged to consider whether houses, factories, domestic animals, tilled land, and so on are not really parts of the social order. The truth, of course, is that all life hangs together in such a manner that any attempt to delimit a part of it is artificial. Society is rather a phase of life than a thing by itself; it is life regarded from the point of view of personal intercourse. And personal intercourse may be considered either in its primary aspects, such as are treated in this book, or in secondary aspects, such as groups, institutions, or processes. Sociology, I suppose, is the science of these things.


  1. K. C. Moore, The Mental Development of a Child, p. 37.
  2. The Senses and the Will, p. 295.
  3. See his First Three Years of Childhood, p. 13.
  4. Oxenford's Translation, vol. i, p. 501.
  5. See his Essay on Vanity.
  6. Early Spring in Massachusetts, p. 232.
  7. The First Three Years of Childhood, p. 77.
  8. See his Biographical Sketch of an Infant Mind, vol. 2, p. 289.
  9. A good way to interpret a man's face is to ask one's self how he would look saying " I " in an emphatic manner. This seems to help the imagination in grasping what is most essential and characteristic in him.
  10. Only four words—"heart," "love," "man," "world"—take up more space in the index of " Familiar Quotations " than " eye."
  11. On the fear of (imaginary) eyes see G. Stanley Hall's study of Fear in The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 8, p. 147.
  12. Two apparently opposite views are current as to what style is. One regards it as the distinctive or characteristic in expression, that which marks off a writer or other artist from all the rest; according to the other, style is mastery over the common medium of expression, as language or the technique of painting or sculpture. These are not so inconsistent as they seem. Good style is both; that is, a significant personality expressed in a workmanlike manner.
  13. P. 493 .
  14. With me, at least, this is the ease. Some whom I have consulted find that certain sentiments—for instance, pity— may be directly suggested by the word, without the mediation of a personal symbol. This hardly affects the argument, as it will not be doubted that the sentiment was in its inception associated with a personal symbol.
  15. This idea that social persons are not mutually exclusive but composed largely of common elements is implied in Professor William James's doctrine of the Social Self and set forth at more length in Professor James Mark Baldwin's Social and Ethical Interpretations of Mental Development. Like other students of social psychology I have received much instruction and even more helpful provocation from the latter brilliant and original work. To Professor James my obligation is perhaps greater still.
  16. I distinguish, of course, between egotism, which is an English word of long standing, and egoism, which was, I believe, somewhat recently introduced by moralists to designate, in antithesis to altruism, certain theories or facts of ethics. I do not object to these words as names of theories, but as purporting to be names of facts of conduct I do, and have in mind more particularly their use by Herbert Spencer in his Principles of Psychology and other works. As used by Spencer they seem to me valid from a physiological standpoint only, and fallacious when employed to describe mental, social, or moral facts. The trouble is, as with his whole system, that the physiological aspect of life is expounded and assumed, apparently, to be the only aspect that science can consider. Having ventured to find fault with Spencer, I may be allowed to add that I have perhaps learned as much from him as from any other writer. If only his system did not appear at first quite so complete and final, one might more easily remain loyal to it in spite of its deficiencies. But when these latter begin to appear its very completeness makes it seem a sort of a prison-wall which one must break down to get out.

    My views regarding Spencer's sociology are given at some length in an article published in The American Journal of Sociology for September, 1920.

    I shall try to show the nature of egotism and selfishness in Chapter VI.

  17. Some may question whether we can pity ourselves in this way. But it seems to me that we avoid self-pity only by not vividly imagining ourselves in a piteous plight; and that if we do so imagine ourselves the sentiment follows quite naturally.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2