The Laws of Social Psychology

Chapter 6: The Psychological Conflict

Florian Znaniecki

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The fulfilment of the social action, once its situation has been defined, goes on through the medium of the instrumental process as the latter was determined in this definition. Like the other elements of the situation, the instrumental process has a certain range of adaptability it can be objectively modified without ceasing to be essentially the same in the eyes of the subject and without affecting the tendency. Ordinary technical difficulties are within this range of adaptability; and from the point of view of the social action all those difficulties which do not involve in the eyes of the subject any axiological problem other than the one which is being actually solved are qualified as merely technical. If such a technical obstacle should arise and prevent the subject from utilizing successfully the ways and means that he has devised for the attainment of the expected result, he will try to overcome it by adding some subsidiary ways and means to those which have proved insufficient. If this cannot be done at once it may necessitate a temporary postponement of the main process.

When a politician finds that the funds he needed for an electoral campaign are not forthcoming, he will try to raise them from some other source. If an attacking army encounters a superior defensive equipment of the enemy, it will postpone the continuation of its offensive movement

(199) until the enemy has withdrawn from behind his defenses or until more powerful weapons of aggression have arrived. If a teacher sees that he lacks certain information necessary for the realization of a purposed reform, he will try to acquire the information before continuing his educational action. The tendencies of the politician, of the army, of the teacher remain unchanged; at most, if the postponement means that the object has been withdrawn from reach, there may occur a slight idealization.

Suppose, however, that the politician thinks that the only way for him to be elected is to compromise with his opponents and to abandon the plan for social reform which he meant to promote in the course of his future political activities. He then faces the alternative of either resigning his present political ambition or giving up his plan for social reform. If the military situation be such that an invading army cannot be driven out of the country except at the cost of the total destruction of a portion of this country, the commander for the defense finds himself confronted by the alternative of resigning his tendency to drive the enemy back or sacrificing the property and perhaps the lives of those whom as fellow citizens he is bound to defend. The teacher may discover that the parents of his pupils do not approve of his proposed change in the educational system; he must choose between giving up his original plan or resigning the good understanding with the parents which he is very anxious to maintain.

In such and similar cases there is a conflict between the present social action and some other action which the subject wishes to perform or at least wishes to remain capable of performing at some otter time, and which therefore may be called a virtual action. The realization of the present action is seen to be impossible without frustrating the purpose of the virtual action, because the

(200) instrumental process of the former has encountered an obstacle which cannot be overcome except by the sacrifice of the latter. The social object, the expected reaction, the reflected self of the present action, each separately remains untouched; it is only the instrumental process which is directly affected by having an obstacle placed in the way of the attainment of its purposed end; as long as this obstacle is not overridden, the action will not go on and its fulfilment is .impossible. On the other hand, if the obstacle is eventually overridden, the fulfilment of the virtual action becomes impossible.

The conflict is thus primarily between the two situation. Since, however, the solution of each situation in the way defined is indispensable for the satisfaction of the corresponding tendency, the conflict affects indirectly the tendencies. The claim for satisfaction of the present tendency is met by 'the conflicting claim of the virtual tendency. For this reason, it may be termed a psychological conflict. The obstacle which cannot be overcome except by sacrificing the fulfilment of another action is thus an axiological obstacle, not a mere technical difficulty.

It may happen, of course, that the subject has misinterpreted the situation or failed to see that there is a way out of his dilemma which would give satisfaction to both tendencies; in other words, what is objectively a mere technical obstacle may be mistaken for an axiological one. For instance, the politician may be wrong in thinking that he cannot win the election without compromising with his opponents; there may be a majority in his favor anyway. The commander of the defending army may lack the capacity for conceiving a novel method of attack which would drive out the invader without destroying native territory, whereas a man of greater originality might do so and thus avoid the difficulty. The psychological conflict is none the less real, since it appears real to the subject; and its

(201) effects are the same as if there were objectively no way of avoiding it.

What is the relation between this psychological conflict and the social conflict which we discussed in the preceding chapter? In some cases social conflict is evidently combined with psychological conflict. This happens whenever an individual or a group interfering with a certain action of the subject is the actual or potential object of some other action of his, and the subject by opposing its interference would frustrate the purpose of his other action. Suppose a child hopes to be petted by his mother or to obtain from her a permission to go and play with his friends; if now the mother negatively interferes with his present desire to eat some fruit, the social conflict between mother and child is complicated by a psychological conflict between the tendency to eat the forbidden fruit and the tendency to be petted or to play with his friends. The mother is a common element in the situations corresponding to these tendencies; she is an obstacle in the way of eating forbidden fruit, and the obstacle can be overcome by revolt only in opposition to the positive axiological character which she possesses as the social object from which sentimental response is expected or as an indispensable link in the instrumental process by which the tendency to play is to be satisfied.

A girl who is in social conflict with her environment with regard to her sexual interests may be also in psychological conflict if she wishes, for instance, to obtain a position for which a "good character" is demanded; she knows that if she satisfies her sexual tendencies by revolting against her environment, this revolt will affect the social characterization of her person in a way which will prevent her from obtaining the position. The reflected self of the latter situation will thrust itself into the sexual situation as an obstacle to satisfying her sexual tendencies in opposition to the opinion of her social milieu.

(202) But the social conflict often exists without a psychological conflict. A business-man may think that he does not need to court the good opinion of his environment by avoiding crooked dealings, for he does not intend to obtain anything from his neighbors which he cannot get in spite of their moral condemnation; the child may be conscious of no other particular intentions with regard to his mother at the moment when she interferes with some of his actions. And the psychological conflict is by no means indispensable to prevent the anti-social tendency which is the effect of the social conflict from manifesting itself in active revolt. The business-man may refrain from doing crooked business merely because such actions are condemned by his milieu, without any further consideration; the child may stop the action which the mother forbids without considering what bearing his open revolt would have on any future plans of his. The fact is that if psychological conflict combines with social conflict, the effect of the latter upon the subject's tendency must be, of course, in some way modified by the effect of the psychological conflict. What this modification is, can be ascertained only after the effects of psychological conflict as such have been studied.

Religious life offers a very interesting illustration of the difference between social and psychological conflict. We are, of course, concerned only with those forms of religion in which the subject has the consciousness of being in contact with a divinity as a more or less idealized personality, for only in so far as this is the case is the psychology of religious life formally akin to that of social life. God then appears to man as a superior conscious and social being, a social object of human actions and the subject of social actions whose object is man. Social conflict is embodied in the ideas of "fear of God" and of "sin"; psychological conflict in those of "love of God" and of "worldliness".

(203) God forbids certain actions under threat of severe penalty which he, being all-powerful, can inflict at any moment. Therefore the subject must fear God and refrain from committing forbidden actions. If he commits one of these, he "sins against God". A tendency to perform such an action is not qualified merely by the nature of its actual object and purpose — hedonistic, economic, intellectual, social, etc. It is at the same time a revolt against God; it is qualified as anti-divine because performed in spite of divine interference, just as a tendency pursued in spite of social interference is anti-social. The conflict is between God and man.

In the second system of ideas God is defined as the subject and object of love. Man has the positive purpose of deserving God's love toward him by continually acting in a way to manifest and to develop his own love toward God, for he hopes thus to establish a permanent relation of spiritual community between God and himself. Any action which in order to be achieved requires absorption in worldly interests and involves the temporary neglect of religious activities and aspirations conflicts with the love of God; for by virtue of the absolute greatness and goodness of its object, the ideal of divine love demands that all the efforts and energies of the limited and imperfect human subject be concentrated on becoming worthy of it. The conflict is here psychological; it is a conflict between the tendency to spiritual unity with God and tendencies turned toward worldly objects.

Now, it is well known that the psychological conflict seems to lead in various cases to varying results, which abstractly speaking can be reduced to two main', types: sometimes the subject apparently resigns from pursuing the action whose instrumental process has been modified by the introduction of an axiological obstacle, sometimes again he tries to go on with it. This difference cannot be

(204) accidental, i. e., due to factors which escape scientific explanation either because of their inexhausible complexity or because of their free and creative character.

The resignation of a present action which conflicts with a virtual action means specifically and definitely that, the present situation having been modified in a certain way by the axiological obstacle which connects it with the virtual situation, this modification like every change of a given situation produces an effect upon the present tendency, which effect manifests itself in the resignation of the present action. Suppose, however, that the present action continues in spite of the axiological obstacle. Does this mean that the modification of the situation produced no effect upon the tendency? Of course not; such a possibility could not be admitted without resigning in this one case the principle of causality which social psychology, like the older sciences, tries to maintain as a fundamental norm of research. There is also an effect, though a different one. But clearly, when effects are different, the causes must also differ. In other words, in consequence of its connection with the virtual situation, the present situation must be capable of being modified in two different ways, each producing a different effect. We have thus two different causal processes and it is our task to determine them, that is, to find the exact nature of the cause and the effect, of the change of situation and the change of tendency in each process.

Our problem should be very clearly distinguished from the popular way of putting the problem of psychological conflict. Usually the psychological conflict is expressed in terms of two divergent possibilites given simultaneously, as it were, on the same plane: two values or sets of values between 'which the subject has to choose, two actions bath of which he is actually inclined to perform and only one of which can be performed, two tendencies struggling with each other for domination. The subject is assumed to

(205) stand, so to speak, before these possibilities, either as an impartial judge or as a third party. According to one conception he makes a purely arbitrary choice with his free will. According to another, he balances the conflicting values against each other and decides in favor of the one which appears in some way higher to him. Another theory assumes that association or reflective appreciation line up various motives on each side until he finally performs the action whose motives are more in accordance with his disposition. Or he is supposed to be only the passive witness .of a struggle between his tendencies which is always determined by the victory of the "stronger" one.

The first theory appeals to the metaphysical conception of the liberum arbitrium indifferentiae which gives no explanation whatever, being itself inexplicable; the second and third introduce into each particular decision the entire personality of the subject as an ethical or a psychological complex, a method which, as we have already seen (Chapter I), precludes all possibility of a scientific rationalization of the process; the fourth is tautological, since the characterization of a particular tendency as the "stronger" means precisely that this tendency has triumphed in the conflict, and there is no way of measuring the relative strength of the tendencies before the conflict has decided between them.

As a matter of fact, however, the psychological conflict occurs in quite a different way. It is never produced by having two eventualities of action set simultaneously before the subject as extraneous to his actual present behavior, as merely possible in a more or less distant future. One of these actions is always going on already — even though it be merely in its first, "mental" stage of defining the situation — when the subject realizes that the achievement of this action will prevent the achievement of some other action which he meant to perform at some other time. The conflict starts only at the moment when, the situation

(206) of one action having been defined, its solution encounters an obstacle whose significance is seen to consist in the fact that it cannot be overcome without sacrificing another, virtual action. There is no conflict unless the continuation of an action which is being actually performed is made problematic, unless in the eyes of the subject the actual satisfaction of his present tendency becomes doubtful. As long as he only balances against each other any two possibilities of behavior neither of which is actually being attempted, there may be an academic contemplation of values, an intellectual investigation of the bearing of acts, a psychological analysis of motives or tendencies, even a foresight of possible conflict; but there is no actual conflict.

This state of things is obscured by the well-known, but improperly interpreted facts of hesitation and deliberation. These facts will be taken more fully into consideration presently; but their general significance can be made clear at once. In the case of hesitation, the subject does not merely incline alternatively to one action or the other, but actually attempts to perform each of these actions, and finding his performance interfered with, tries the other, with similar consequences. As to deliberation apart from hesitation, the kind of deliberation which leads directly to a definite result, we shall find that it is not a new activity superadded by the subject to the potential activities which remain suspended in the conflict. It is a certain aspect of the very process of change which the original activity undergoes in consequence of its being interrupted; and, as we shall see later on, its nature is entirely different when the interruption comes from an axiological obstacle than when it is due merely to a technical obstacle.

Our investigation is therefore not concerned with what happens to the conflicting actions, nor with any third mental process such as is commonly, but erroneously supposed to

(207) intervene between the two and to decide in favor of one of them. We stand, just as the subject really stands, on the ground of the one present action whose continuation is interrupted by an axiological obstacle, and we ask ourselves simply what happens within this action, what changes occur in it, how does its appointed course become modified by the interference of the obstacle and of the whole virtual situation which thus becomes connected with it.

Furthermore, what we shall try to determine and to explain here, as elsewhere. is the change of the tendency which follows upon some known change of the situation. It is not our task to explain why a certain change of the situation takes place,, only how it affects the tendency if it does take place. Nor is it, on the other hand, our problem to predict whether in any particular conflict the present action will really be definitely stopped or will be actually performed to the end. We mean only to prove that in certain definite cases the tendency becomes such that if no other changes occur, the action will be stopped; whereas in other definite cases the tendency will aim to continue the action in spite of the obstacle, and if no new factors intervene the action will be continued according to the principle of achievement. But, of course, new factors may always come in and counteract the effect which should occur.


Let us describe and analyze successively a series of concrete instances in order to ascertain the immediate effect of a psychological conflict.

A boy studying his lessons wishes to go and play with a friend on the street, but is warned by his mother that if he does not finish his lessons first he will not be taken to the young folks' party in the evening to which he

(208) has been invited. The present social situation as defined by the boy contains his comrade on the street as social object, a certain playful antagonism or cooperation of this object as expected reaction, the procedure of leaving his books and going out of the house as instrumental process. The conflict begins when the mother steps into this situation by ordering him to finish his lessons; she becomes an obstacle in the way of the instrumental process. At the same time, she is also a necessary element in the other, virtual situation as instrumental toward his going to the evening party. This other situation, as originally defined by the boy when thinking of it, includes besides the instrumental process of which the mother is a part, the boys and girls whom he would meet at the party as social objects, their social response during the games as expected reaction, probably also the reflected self in new clothes. These two situations thus connected by a common element — the mother — originally involved two distinct practical problems, one of which was to be solved by the actual performance of the present action, the other by the eventual performance of a virtual action.

Now; however, owing to the interference of the mother, the two problems have become really one problem which the boy is made to face at once. The virtual situation, which was perhaps not in his consciousness at the moment, has been brought into actuality and made a component of the total present problem, because the boy is shown that it is really bound up with the present situation, that his present action will affect not only the values that it was originally meant to affect, but also those other values that up to the moment of the mother's interference seemed to have no connection with the present tendency. These latter values become thus involved in the present situation, they are brought to bear upon it with the general significance they have acquired in previous experiences and with

(209) the special meaning they were given when the virtual situation was defined — let us say when the boy first begged to be taken to the party. The other boys and girls he might see in the evening now play the rôle of social objects along with the friend on the street; the expected reaction from them appears desirable now, as does the expected reaction of this friend. Moreover, it seems worth while to him to take now into consideration the future pleasure of showing off in his new clothes.

The conflict is psychologically real precisely because the boy is made to realize now what the evening party means to him, instead of realizing its meaning only when the time comes , to wash and dress in preparation for it, because he is compelled to view his original intention of going to play on the street in the light of this other situation and its meaning. A well-known educational device is to make a child visualize the future and to remind him of the axiological significance which the elements of a virtual situation possessed for him when he was actually engaged in defining it. Thus, the mother may throw in a word about a girl who is going to be at the party and in whom the boy has showed some romantic interest; or she may mention some attractive games which will probably be played.

We know that these devices do not always succeed. The boy may simply not heed the mother's words, or may in the heat of the present interest ignore the virtual situation and after a flitting thought devoid of any axiological bearing turn all his attention to the friend on the street. Future values often seem to a child generally vague — the more vague, the more distant the future. In such cases, of course, there is no psychological conflict, though the mother who tries to "put herself' in her boy's place may judge that there is one. On the other hand, the psychological conflict may be spontaneously facilitated and

(210) influenced by factors about which the mother knows nothing; for instance, the boy may be specially interested in the evening party because he is greedy and hopes for good eats, or because he has a grudge against somebody who will be there and means to play a trick on him, or because he is vain and expects much recognition. These matters do not belong to our problem, for we do not have to explain why the conflict arose; we mean only to determine its nature and to find its effect in the cases where it actually occurs, whatever its causes.

The above described change of the present situation may be .best termed incorporation of the virtual situation into the present situation. The virtual situation becomes actual with reference to the present action; it is made a part of the latter because in this actualization its solution is dependent, though in a negative way, upon the solution of the present situation.. The complex actual situation thus produced is axiologically self-contradictory: in other words, the practical problem of continuing the present action in the face of the new complication is insoluble. The situation is self-contradictory, the problem insoluble, because values have been brought together which are all originally and actually positive for the subject, whereas, in order to continue his action, he would have to qualify actively some of these values as non-positive, that is, by his behavior to annihilate their actual positive valuation. There is the friend on the street and the friends at the party, the street game and the evening games, the reflected. self in new clothes and, perhaps by contrast, the reflected self as a rough companion. All these are actually valuable for the boy, and there is no way of preserving the significance of all of them in any possible action. If he went to play and thus satisfied his tendency to play now, it would mean that his action must qualify as non-desirable the set of values involved in going to the evening party; the actual

(211) positive appreciation of them must be rejected in dealing with them. On the other hand, if his present action deviated from its course and he actually followed the demand of his mother instead of satisfying his tendency to play, turned to study in order to be taken to the party, this behavior would imply a rejection of the actual positive appreciation of the values involved in playing on the street, would qualify them as non-desirable.

Everybody knows what is the immediate manifestation of this conflict. The present action is checked; whether momentarily or permanently, is a further question. How is this check to be interpreted? It is clearly different from that kind of check which results from a mere technical obstacle as, for instance, if the boy starting to leave the house should find the door locked. For, in the latter case, the present tendency is not affected, only some additional means of realizing the original instrumental process —going upon the street — must be devised. The check has also a different psychological significance from the one which is manifested if the mother merely forbids the boy to go and there is no other virtual situation involved. Then the original tendency changes, indeed; as we have already seen, it becomes anti-social, it turns against the mother, since it cannot be satisfied except in opposition to the mother's will. In our present case there may be this anti-social element, for the boy may revolt mentally against the mother's interference; but there is also something else. Psychological revolt may be prevented, for instance, if the mother persuades the boy that she would be willing to take him to the party, even if he did not learn his lessons, but that this would involve her in trouble with his father or his teacher, or would be against her own obligations to him; and yet the check may be no less efficient. We shall see cases where the axiological obstacle is not due to any social interference, and yet the effect is essentially the same.


The psychological nature of the check produced by the axiological obstacle results from the very fact that this obstacle puts before the present action an insoluble problem. The present tendency can no longer demand to be actively satisfied in the way originally intended, for the new, complex situation which has been created by the incorporation of the virtual situation into its own original situation is such that, if le action went on, values intrinsically positive would have to be sacrificed. Nor can it change into another active tendency, for by changing it would sacrifice its own original values, which have not ceased either to be intrinsically positive. Therefore, it simply resigns its claim for active satisfaction. It stops demanding that the action which would satisfy it should continue. Its nature changes, but this change does not lead to any other action.: it, consists merely in the fact that the tendency ceases to wish for active expression. We say then that the tendency has become inhibited and we call the process itself inhibition.

An obvious objection presents itself. Some action is being performed, it may be said. Now suppose the boy resigns his intention of playing on the street; he then turns to study and follows s his mother's injunction, which means that the place of the tendency to play is taken by the tendency to go to the evening party. The two tendencies were opposed, and the second has taken the upper hand. The problem is thereby solved: it is not a case of mere inhibition, but of substitution of one tendency for another.

This traditional interpretation, however, is inexact. First of all, if the boy turns to study instead of going to play, his original problem, which was to go to play and yet not to sacrifice his evening party, is not solved by any means: it has been given up as insoluble, and the inhibition of the actual tendency to play means precisely that he gives it up. Secondly, there is no substitution of one tendency for another, the tendency to play now does not change into

(213) the tendency to go to the party, the latter does not take the place of the former. For all these expressions have a real objective significance only when they refer to a process occurring within some closed system; whereas in the present case there is no such process, unless "the boy" is a closed system — which, as we know from the discussion in Chapter I, he is not. There was a closed system, a determined present action including the tendency to play with its corresponding situation; this closed system has been interfered with, the virtual situation has been incorporated into it, and the effect is inhibition of its tendency, f. e., the tendency to play. When now the boy turns to study, it does not mean that within this action the tendency to play changes into the tendency to go to the party, or that the latter becomes substituted for the former as the leading impulse of the action and takes its place in the system which was created by the incorporation of the virtual situation into the present situation. It means only that another action is started, an action which includes the tendency to go to the party and the situation corresponding to it.

Perhaps this second action may in turn be checked by the consideration that it would be a pity to sacrifice the chance of playing on the street, a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush; but this is another matter, which had better be postponed for the present. The point is that starting this second action is an entirely distinct matter from stopping the first. It is a new personal occurrence, causally inexplicable, just as the starting of any action at any time. There is no necessary real connection between this occurrence and the inhibition of the first tendency; for this second action may not start, even though the first has been stopped by inhibition. The boy, instead of tending to prepare for the evening party by studying, may simply sulk and do nothing, or turn his active aspirations into an entirely different direction. Indeed, cases are

(214) by no means rare in which inhibition, instead of leading to an attempt to satisfy the tendency which has conflicted with the inhibited one, is followed by discouragement and passivity, or else by the actualization of some new interests.

From the causal point of view, if no other factors interfere with the original action after the virtual situation has been incorporated into it, the conflict is terminated, as far as this action is concerned, by inhibition. The insoluble problem is given up; nothing more will be done unless some further changes take place in the self-contradictory situation. As long as the latter remains unchanged, that is, as long as ,the original action cannot be fulfilled without denying the positive axiological significance of the set of values which the virtual situation brought with it, and as long as these values preserve their positive axiological significance, remain desirable in the eyes of the subject, inhibition will continue; for any eventual attempt to go on with the present action will be checked again by the consciousness of the self-imposed loss which it would involve as well as by the consciousness of the impossibility of contradicting by one's behavior one's own 'appreciation, of certain values. The nature of the inhibited tendency, i. e., the specific character which a tendency acquires by being inhibited, will be studied later.

Let us now pass to another example which will illustrate some additional aspects of this problem. The manager of a factory sees the justice of the demands made by striking workmen and is inclined to help them by inducing and even forcing — through the medium of public opinion the board of directors to give a decision in favor of the strikers; But the father of the girl whom the manager wishes to marry is president of the board of directors and has hinted that he would not care to have a son-in-law who favored the workmen.


The original situation here includes the striking workmen as social objects, their relief as expected reaction, influencing the board of directors in their favor as instrumental process and (we may suppose) the reflected self of the manager as a moral agent acting in accordance with the voice of his conscience. The instrumental process meets an obstacle in the person of the president of the board, who might be forced to yield if sufficient pressure were brought to bear upon him, but would refuse consent to the marriage of his daughter with the manager if the latter supported the workmen. This obstacle produces a psychological conflict because it is an axiological obstacle. It involves intrinsically positive values, since the manager wants the president to consent to the marriage: the president is the social object in a virtual situation in which the expected reaction is his consent and assistance in arranging the desired marriage; persuasion is the instrumental process; and no doubt the manager's reflected self is included, for he knows that his social prestige would be raised by his becoming the son-in-law of an influential man.

This virtual situation, which would normally become actual only at some later moment when the manager actually wished to demand the girl's hand from her father, thus becomes actual now in connection with the present situation and is incorporated into it. The manager cannot help the workmen without facing right now the certainty of having his suit rejected if he does; his present action is seen to bear not only upon the values originally given, but also (negatively) upon those which the virtual action was meant to affect. The self-contradictory situation thus produced is an insoluble problem since, whatever the manager does, he must contradict by his behavior his real actual appreciation of some values, sacrifice either the workmen, their relief and his moral self, or the president as future

(216) father-in-law, his consent to the marriage and the subject's own increased prestige.

The immediate effect, as in the preceding case, is a check put upon the action by the recognition that the problem, such as it is, is insoluble; in short, the present tendency to help the workmen is inhibited. But an interesting question arises: will this inhibition be permanent, or will it be counteracted? This question is one of the essential aspects — one of the two essential aspects which, as we shall see presently, the ethical problem of "moral choice" assumes. In the opinion of the subject the present action "should be" performed for moral reasons in spite of axiological obstacles, because the moral self of the subject is included in the original situation, that is, because the subject thinks it his "duty" as moral personality to help his workmen obtain justice. If he were to discontinue this action permanently his moral self as originally defined would be thereby qualified in his own eyes as non-positive, he would have to confess himself incapable of living up to his ethical standards.[1]

Will he override the axiological obstacle and act in accordance with his personal ethics, or will he not? In this form, evidently, no scientific answer can be given in any particular case, for the entire concrete personality will contribute directly or indirectly to its final solution. We can only state it in terms of the present situation without trying to go beyond it: we can only ask what are the necessary and sufficient conditions within the situation whose realization will make the inhibition of the present tendency continue, and what necessary and sufficient con-

(217) -ditions must be realized within the situation to have the inhibition counteracted.

The first question is easily answered. The same conditions which have been the cause of the inhibition in the first place are necessary and sufficient to maintain it, for if the original tendency attempted to assert itself again, it would be again inhibited in the same way. As long as the action of helping the workmen cannot be fulfilled without sacrificing the consent and favor of the future father-in-law and the accompanying personal prestige, and the consent, favor and prestige remain as valuable as ever in the eyes of the subject, the tendency to help the workmen will remain inhibited. The point is the same as in the case of the boy. Generally, it can be said that inhibition once produced will remain in force as long as the virtual situation which conflicts with the actual situation preserves the actual significance it has acquired by virtue of its bearing upon the present action, and as long as its values preserve in the eyes of the subject their original axiological character.

We may, nevertheless, ask what are the conditions favoring the maintenance of this status? Naturally, the answer must be vague. The actual significance of the virtual situation is apt to remain permanent if the problem which this situation puts before the subject appears to him as vital, which means if many other future problems seem to be bound up with its solution. Suppose that the consent of the president to his daughter's marriage with the manager implied certain definite and very desirable consequence for the latter, for instance, a promotion and increase of salary: the problem of gaining this consent would then seem more vital to the manager then if he had no such definite expectations. And the permanence of the axiological character of each of the values involved in the virtual situation depends upon their subjective importance, that is, upon the stability

(218) and wealth of connections which these values have acquired in the past experiences and activities of the subject. If the manager has known the president for many years and admired his personality; if he has been brought up to recognize and respect class solidarity; if he has learned to regard marriage without parental consent, social ceremonies and the protection of the family group as rather irregular and undesirable; if his own social prestige has always been the center of his interests: the preservation of these values will seem to him a much more important matter than if he had no such associations.

But, as we see, all this leads us far beyond the closed system of the present action into the indefinite complexity of personal life, and precludes any exact causal formulation. And, therefore, a scientific study of the psychological conflict will do better not to illusion itself that it can explain or foresee exactly any particular 'choice, any more than a physicist illusions himself that he can explain or foresee exactly the fall of a thunderbolt on a certain tree at a certain moment. Whatever may be in each particular case the various factors contributing to preserve the actuality of an inhibiting situation and the axiological character of its values, it is enough for us to know one thing for certain: that as long as this situation remains actual and its values keep their original meaning, the tendency will remain inhibited.

Briefly, then, in this form of the problem of "moral choice", where an action which the subject considers morally obligatory is checked by morally indifferent considerations, the subject will not do his duty unless something happens which will deprive these considerations of their original validity and . make them appear irrelevant or unimportant. How this happens is a question which will be treated later on.

The second variation of the problem of moral choice is exemplified by the case of a business man who wished to avenge himself upon a hated competitor by ruining him

(219) financially but discovered that the funds of an institution for social welfare in which he was interested were deposited in the bank of his enemy, who managed them honestly and efficiently. The bankruptcy of the latter would thus seriously injure, perhaps ruin the beneficent institution. Here we have a clear case of psychological conflict. The action already commenced, "mentally" if not yet overtly, includes the desire for revenge as determining tendency, the rival as object, his humiliation and unhappiness as expected reaction, certain financial operations as instrumental process, and the subject's reflected self as triumphant avenger. If it were achieved it would frustrate through its instrumental process the purpose of another action, at the moment a virtual one — helping the poor in collaboration with the charitable institution The subject becomes conscious of this: the charitable institution is seen to be an axiological obstacle in the way of the financial operations by which he means to ruin his rival, and this obstacle brings into actuality the whole situation of his virtual philanthropic action, including the poor as social object, their economic self-dependence as expected reaction, social work through the medium of the institution as instrumental process, and the business-man's reflected self viewed as philanthropist and moral subject whose recognized duty is to cooperate in raising the economic level of the destitute, This situation by being brought into actuality in connection with the attempted action of vengeance becomes a part of the situation which the desire for revenge has to face. An axiologically self-contradictory situation is produced; the action is checked, the desire for revenge inhibited.

Here from the moral point of view it is desirable that the inhibition should be permanent, that nothing should happen to modify the situation, to make the problem of the action of vengeance in any way soluble. And this problem will remain insoluble if the situation of the virtual

(220) action remains actual as a part of the actual situation and the values involved — the poor, their economic independence, the institution, the subject's moral self — preserve their original axiological character: in short, if the influences which were sufficient to produce the inhibition remain in force and reassert themselves actually every time the action of vengeance attempts to continue its course. This in turn may be said to depend in a general way upon the vitality of the philanthropic problem for the business-man and upon the importance which the values involved possess in his eyes. But we need not take such factors into account to explain the inhibition; we need not measure by any methods the relative vitality of this problem nor weigh the relative importance of these values in order to know why the present action has been checked. Since the philanthropic problem has been vital enough and its values important enough to produce the conflict, they have also the necessary power to cause inhibition. If the matter were not a vital and important one for the subject, there would be neither inhibition nor psychological conflict: the idea of ruining the charitable institution would not have the character of an axiological obstacle, the business-man would dismiss the whole thing at once from consideration, the action of vengeance would not be checked even for a moment, but would go on unimpeded. The fact that he has given it consideration, that he has felt his action checked, proves that he saw himself facing an axiologically self-contradictory situation in which the problem was real and all the values involved were desirable.

The question is merely, will the problem stay as real and all the values as desirable as they were at the time when the conflict arose? If they do, the problem must remain unsolved; if not, the action of vengeance may go on at the cost of the philanthropic action. If the latter eventuality happens, we may assume vaguely that the

(221) philanthropic problem was not vital enough to preserve its original bearing upon the problem of vengeance, that the altruistic and moral values involved were not important enough to keep their original axiological significance within the self-contradictory situation. But, as will be shown latter, even then it will not be necessary, either, to compare and measure the vitality of the problems or the importance of the values, for the essential point will be that, for whatever reasons, the original character of the incorporated situation and its components will have undergone a change. The nature of this change can be ascertained without going back to its ultimate sources, while the effect of the change is sufficiently important from the theoretic point of view to make this process, even thus limited, very significant for social and general psychology.

One or two instances will show that psychological conflict is not limited to individual activity, but is also found in group behavior. Though, as we have already stated, causal relations in collective activity are usually not less, but often even more evident than in individual activity, this is not true in the case of psychological conflict; for psychological conflict in group behavior usually combines with on overt or hidden social conflict.

In a certain country there was a strong revolutionary agitation under the slogans of radical socialism and class hatred; a powerful workmen's organization was planning to join the revolutionary movement for the overthrow of the existing order. It appeared, however, that this movement was fomented and supported by a hostile neighboring power which intended to utilize it for its own aggressive purposes. Apart from the personal conflict that each workman had to face with regard to his own individual behavior, as a member of the organization he was confronted by a rather complicated conflict between the actual initiated participation of the organization as a body

(222) in the revolutionary movement and its virtual participation in the defense of the country against foreign aggression. In the eyes of each member this conflict involved on the one side the actual complex set of revolutionary tendencies, including class solidarity and class antagonism; the working class and the propertied class were here the social objects, the triumph of the working class over the propertied class was the desired social reaction which the revolutionary activity was expected to produce, while further domination of the propertied class was thought an evil to be remedied; ,participation in the overthrow of the existing government and substitution of another government was the instrumental process as defined in the plan; and the situation included also the reflected self of the organization, its ideal of itself as a social body serving the working class and the negative possibility of its being branded by other revolutionists as a servant of the bourgeoisie if it did not take part in the movement. On the other side, there was the set of tendencies called patriotism, and a situation involving national solidarity and national antagonism, the worker's own nation and the hostile nation, victory in a probable war as desirable, defeat as undesirable social reaction, the instrumental process of subordinating the activities of the organization in case of war to the demands of the national government, and another reflected self of the organization as a patriotic body serving the nation, with the alternative possibility of its being branded as a body of traitors if it contributed to bring about a national defeat.

The complex situation thus created was evidently selfcontradictory, and we may be sure that the set of revolutionary tendencies which the members intended to realize through the organization was inhibited in every member for whom the conflict became real. As we know from the previous analysis, inhibition lasts as long as the situation continues

(223) self-contradictory either because nothing happens to change the situation or because whatever factors might tend to remove the axiological contradiction by modifying the situation are counteracted by other factors. Here inhibition remained permanent in the case of every workmen who continued to realize that if the revolutionary movement went on it would lead to foreign invasion and perhaps to foreign domination, while he did not cease to appreciate positively his own nation, its victory, the ideal of his organization as a patriotic body, and negatively the hostile nation, the defeat of his own nation, the mark of national treachery which might be attached to his organization. With some members of the organization, however, the inhibition was removed. This means that some new factors, which need not be considered here, came to modify their self-contradictory situation.

Between the individuals whose inhibition remained in force and those who overrode the axiological obstacle a struggle began. Thus, to the psychological conflict of each individual a social conflict between individuals was added. But the matter did not end here. Gradually the individuals holding one or the other view formed a camp within the organization and the psychological conflict of every individual, being shared by a number of others, became the collective psychological conflict of his camp. Furthermore, each camp made efforts to repress socially the active expression of the tendency of the other camp and to have its own tendency institutionalized, accepted and realized as' the joint will of the organization; and in this way a social conflict between the camps was superadded to the collective psychological conflict which each camp was facing. The actual outcome in this particular case was that the patriotic camp, being more numerous and having better trained and more highly respected leaders, won the struggle and imposed its policy upon the organization.

(224) The psychological conflict was thus carried into the corporate activity of the group as a whole and the definition of the collective situation which the patriotic members had accepted became the definition to which the behavior of the group adapted itself. And since this definition implied that the situation which the revolutionary action met was axiologically self-contradictory, constituted an insoluble problem, the conflict led to the inhibition of the collective tendency of the .organization as a whole to participate in revolution.

We see that the process, though much more complex than in individual behavior, presents the same fundamental features when viewed from the causal point of view: inhibition of the present tendency due to the incorporation of the virtual situation into the present situation. The difference consists only in the fact that the tendency and the situation are not personal, but collective and corporate: collective in so far as they are shared by many, corporate in so far as every one of the group expresses and then inhibits the tendency, defining the situation not for himself, but for the whole group, and acting or ceasing to act not as an individual, but as a part of the group, in such a way that all these actions or checks combine into one common action or one common check.

Much simpler is the following case. A society club had planned to give an entertainment for its members, their families and friends. But, while the preparations were going on, a great fire destroyed a poor quarter of their city with much loss of property and some loss of life. Seveial members of the club raised the point that it would not be proper to give an entertainment under such conditions and that the money which was to be spent should go to a subscription on behalf of the sufferers.

The moral problem involved here is evidently much clearer than in the preceding case. There the moral con-

(225) -sciousness of the working class was divided: some accepted the class ideal, others the national ideal as the supreme standard of conduct. Consequently, there was a division into opposing camps and an internal struggle. Here, however, the members of the society club were bound to follow the same moral standards, for they all accepted theoretically at feast, pro foro externo, the principles of Christian charity or of secular altruism, which amounted to the same thing for the actual problem, and none of them had any moral ideal connected with the giving of their common entertainment. Therefore, the suggestion of those members who first realized the psychological conflict between the present purpose of giving an entertainment and the possible relief to the sufferers encountered no opposition. Those members who saw no connection between the situation created by the fire and the action of preparing an entertainment and those who did not care for the sufferers or their relief did not dare to voice their definition of the conflicting situations, still less to suggest that the problem of relieving the sufferers be ignored by the club as a body, lest they should be condemned by public opinion and should lose their prestige thereby. Consequently, the definition of the conflicting situations given by the initiators was accepted by all collectively as stating the corporate problem of the club; the problem being insoluble from the point of view of the preexisting tendency to give the entertainment, the tendency was inhibited.

Before drawing the final conclusion from all these cases, we must still consider more closely the alternative inhibition or hesitation which has been already noticed several times. An interesting example is that of an ambitious leader of a radical socialist party who, on the one hand, wished to take an active part in the government as cabinet minister — which would be possible only if he compromised with the other parties and joined a coalition cabinet — and,

(226) on the other hand, wanted to preserve and increase his prestige among the masses, which could be achieved only by an unyielding and loud opposition to every government, except a socialistic one —which was quite out of the question.

During a prolonged governmental crisis his tendency to keep up his systematic opposition against the other parties was inhibited by the realization that if he agreed to compromise he could obtain a place in the cabinet. Nevertheless while he was still bargaining with the chiefs of the other parties he was warned by his friends that his participation in the government under any conditions would be used by his personal adversaries to undermine his influence within his own party and with the masses whom his party represented in Parliament and who were at that time swayed by a particularly radical current. This warning in turn inhibited his ambition to be minister, and induced him to return to his old opposition tactics. The other parties, however, still cherished the hope of gaining his adherence and offered him an additional bribe in the form of a promise to support a pet project of his which would benefit the working class and which he had long before proposed to Parliament without seeing any chance of its adoption. Again his tendency to continue his opposition was inhibited and under the pressure of persuasion he privately agreed to accept the offered post. When the rumor of his acceptance brought upon him a violent attack on the part of the radical socialist press he publicly denied that his acceptance was final or official. In view of this hesitation and unwillingness to cast his lot definitely with them, the coalition cabinet was formed without him. Meanwhile his prestige with his own party had dwindled so much that he found it impossible to regain his former standing with them and sank into an obscure future.

In this case, every subsequent fact of inhibition was due to a situation very similar to the previous situations

(227) where the same tendency was inhibited, but each new situation contained some additional factors. The oppositional tendency was inhibited the first time by the offer of a seat in the cabinet; the second time by the additional promise of support of his pet project. The ambition to become a minister was inhibited the first time by the realization (due to the warning of his friends) that he might endanger his future prestige, the second time by the evidence (shown in the attack made by the press) that his prestige was now actually suffering in spite of the fact that his project ought to be approved by the masses. The rôle of these additional factors is clear. They counteract the influence of those changes which have occurred in the earlier selfcontradictory situation and which tended to weaken the conflict and to remove the opposition. The promise to support his project counteracted the influence of the friends which tended to remove the check upon his original oppositional action by showing the negative side of the coveted ministerial position; the attack of the press counteracted the influence of the promise of support which tended to remove the first inhibition upon the man's official ambitions by showing him a supposed way of pacifying the masses and retaining his prestige.

Here we find an illustration of the very principle which was emphasized in connection with the moral issue: if you wish the inhibition to remain, you must counteract those factors which tend to deprive the inhibiting situation of its original significance. The second part of this principle how to help remove the inhibition —will be better understood in the next section. At the same time, we have here a typical case of hesitation, very easy to understand, since all the inhibiting influences on both sides are manifest. We see how true it is that the conflict is not a matter of choice between two lines of behavior, but a matter of check put upon the one line of behavior which is being

(228) actually pursued. Each check raises a separate problem, and no check upon a present action can be considered the cause of the performance of another action.

Finally, another case of hesitation may be described in which one of the alternating inhibitions triumphed definitely over the other when a new factor came to reinforce it without changing its original significance. An ardent feminist, who was an active member of a woman's association for the promotion of feminist ideals, married with the understanding that she would continue her social activities. Soon, however, she found that her husband, whom she loved, felt neglected if she was absent from home during his leisure hours; and when a child came, the domestic claims upon her time and attention interfered seriously with her plans for an efficient participation in the feminist campaign. Still she could not reconcile herself to resign either line of interest, though in each line a recurrent series of axiologically self-contradictory situations developed. No sooner did she start upon some action of feminist propaganda than she felt that she should not neglect her home, husband and child; whereas every time she decided to stay at home in order to solve adequately some actual problem of family life, she felt guilty of deserting her cause and her friends and was humiliated to think that she was assuming in practice the rôle which in theory she condemned as insufficient for feminine development. The tendency to promote the feminine ideal and the tendency to be a good wife and mother were thus inhibited in turn, since the satisfaction of one would interfere with the satisfaction of the other and both lines of conduct remained actually desirable. Besides these fundamental tendencies other tendencies were involved — desire for recognition and desire for emotional response, revolt and conformism, the "instinct of workmanship", the sexual instinct, etc. —and these tendencies sometimes pushed her into one or the other

(229) line of activity in spite of the fact that the main situation was self-contradictory. But when this activity was inevitably inhibited and she came to realize that it was impossible for her to bring any of the conflicting actions to its intended fulfilment, her enthusiasm for both and her desire to achieve whatever she had once begun slowly and painfully disappeared. She regained her balance only after. the birth of another child, for this new factor made the inhibition of her feminine ideals definitive.

We may now ask, what becomes of a tendency after it has been inhibited? While ceasing to demand active satisfaction it evidently does not disappear, for we have seen that after a time it may even attempt to continue the original action, though it may be again inhibited. But what becomes of it when it is not claiming active expression?

It is a commonplace psychological observation that if we are forced to resign a purpose which we have been pursuing, there appears a feeling of regret. The boy who gives up the idea of playing now regrets that he cannot play, even while he realizes that the evening party will be "more" valuable. The factory manager whose tendency to help the workmen has been inhibited by personal considerations is sorry that he can do nothing for them, and perhaps even voices this feeling in these very words. The businessman whose desire for revenge has yielded in the face of the disastrous social consequences to which its satisfaction would lead cannot help feeling disappointed; a lingering regret at having given up his cherished plans for vengeance remains even though he has persuaded himself that it would be immoral to follow them under the given conditions. The members of the workmen's organiza. tion regret that they have to resign or to delay the hopedfor triumph of the working class for patriotic reasons even while acknowledging that the latter are decisive; the

(230) members of the society club regret their expected amusement; the socialist leader alternatively regrets his disappointed ambition and his party's policy; the married feminist when staying at home regrets her outside activities and when working for her association regrets her domestic satisfactions.

This regret is evidently a new factor which comes into the subject's behavior in consequence of the inhibition, for it was not present before. But it is not a new tendency, since it does not aim to express itself in any definite action which would satisfy it. At most, it finds expression in words or movements whose purpose is not to realize any claim involved in the regret, but either to communicate the feeling of regret to others or to alleviate it by distracting the subject's attention from it, i. e., by removing it from actuality. It can be merely a new feature which the inhibited tendency acquired when, instead of going on with the action, it was forced back upon itself, made to feed upon its own unsatisfied aspirations. The question is now, how to define this feature in the way we have defined the other features of a tendency, that is, in other terms than as a mere empirical datum of introspective psychology — for that is only to indicate, not to define it. It must be characterised with reference to the objective elements of the action, to its bearing upon the situation with which the tendency was originally associated.

When we regret something, this implies that this something is a value which has a positive axiological character, but that it is unreal for us, not actually a part of our sphere of reality; whereas we wish it to become real, though we consider its realization impossible. If we thought if possible, our tendency would express itself in performing the necessary action; since we do not, the tendency manifests itself subjectively in emotion and objectively in keeping the unreal value actually desirable, in not letting it drop out of consciousness or lose its axiological character in the

(231) way that objects normally do when they have no practical significance.

This is precisely what we find after inhibition. The original problem of the inhibited tendency proves insoluble after the other problem has become connected with it; its purpose cannot be attained; the expected result is qualified as unreal. Nevertheless, its realization does not cease to appear desirable, and the entire complex of values involved does not lose its axiological character. The tendency, instead of compelling the subject to act, stirs him emotionally; its claim for satisfaction being baffled, it spends itself in keeping the unrealizable situation within the range of actual interest and in emphasizing the positive axiological character of the complex of values which has no longer any practical significance. The result is that this axiological character comes into the foreground, whereas the practical aspect of the situation retreats. When the intended action was commenced, attention was centered not upon the axiological features of the values to be attained or utilized as instruments or materials, but upon those qualities and relations which helped or hindered the realization of the purpose; appreciation was implied in the action itself and did not need to be emphasized emotionally. Whereas after the action has been checked, the desirability of the things that cannot be practically attained becomes the important aspect of these things, for the attention now turns from the problem of achievement to the aim which should, but cannot be achieved.

This transformation can be stated briefly by saying that the tendency for active achievement changes into sentimental valuation. In accordance with Shand's theory adopted by McDougall, the term sentiment may be supposed to possess in social psychology the meaning of an emotional complex connected with a certain object (or set of objects); this makes the adjective sentimental more fitted than any other

(232) to characterize a tendency which, instead of demanding active satisfaction, expresses itself in emotional interest and emphasis upon the axiological feature of objects.

Psychology noticed long ago that an efficient check upon action resulted in the development of feeling and emotion. Even popular psychological reflection, found in its best form in works of fiction, often ascribes to thwarted active aspirations various exuberant and sometimes abnormal growths of emotional life. The same observation lies at the bottom of the theory that religion and art are emotional substitutes for active life. The Freudian school deserves recognition for having studied these emotional effects of checked activity with greater detail and thoroughness than was ever done before, although it has limited its researches to sexual tendencies and unwarrantedly exaggerated their rôle beyond the limits of scientific prudence and objectivity. This initial mistake has not been rectified by the later additions to the Freudian theory (such as Jung's idea that an inhibited "will to power" is another important source of abnormal life). The enormous and continually growing variety of human tendencies cannot be reduced, either actually or genetically, to any one or two species; the sexual instinct and the social desire for mastery are only fragments of the total complexity of volitions from which human actions spring. Every tendency, be it the scientist's search for truth, the handworker's "instinct of workmanship", or the drunkard's craving for whisky, if checked in its active expression, turns into emotional valuation with various further consequences .which should be investigated in an unprejudiced spirit by positive science.

Another great merit of the Freudian school is to have seen in conflict the cause of the check put upon active tendencies. But here again their work must be improved upon and its result modified by distinguishing clearly between the social and the psychological conflict, between

(233) repression with its anti-social effects and inhibition with its emotional effects. An inhibited tendency does not disappear any more than a repressed tendency; but it does not imply any psychological revolt, it does not continue to claim active satisfaction; it is not a forcibly compressed energy which must break out in some active way (if not along the checked line, then by some side ways). By failing to separate the two problems, the Freudian school and its indirect followers have erroneously identified inhibited and repressed tendencies and have thus ascribed to the inhibited tendency the dynamic character of the repressed tendency, and to the latter the emotional implications of the former.

An inhibited tendency can very well remain in its sentimental state; nay, it naturally and spontaneously does remain in this state unless some factors come to stir it again into action. Because our inhibited tendencies do desist from action while they stay as sentimental valuations, our world is full of emotional values of which only a small part actually possess a practical significance in our eyes. Every one of the lasting inhibitions to which our various tendencies have been subjected in the past has left an imprint upon some of the objects of our personal experience in the form of a more or less distinct sentimental meaning which these objects possess in our eyes. We may be unable to trace the origin of this meaning; but the emotional appeal which the objects make, however vague it may be, testifies to some unfulfilled desires with which they were associated, to forgotten conflicts and to regrets that under the pressure of new interests have sunk to the bottom of consciousness, but not before having colored forever a fragment of our reality. If it were not for this process our reality, instead of including an innumerable variety of sentimental meanings shading from the most burning problems which occupy the center of our emotional attention at critical

(234) moments in our lives down to the pale and uniform tone of the commonplace which we notice only if it changes, would be sharply divided into two domains — a practically important central region where the values are strongly colored and an absolutely indifferent and monotonous periphery.

Having analyzed the process of inhibition we may now attempt to formulate its law. Evidently, if the formula is to be handy for scientific use, it must abbreviate the description of the process which begins with the conflict and ends with the modification of the tendency. And in order to avoid misunderstandings, it may be well to state explicitly the nature and the reasons of these abbreviations.

The psychological conflict, as we have seen, commences when a check is put upon the instrumental process of the action which is being performed. In the formulation of the law it should not be necessary to emphasize this point, provided we make it clear that the conflict affects immediately the whole situation of this action. For, the tendency remaining the same, a whole situation can be affected immediately only by something which prevents its realization; and since its realization depends only upon the instrumental process, it is clear that only a factor interfering with the instrumental process can make the situation in general problematic.

Furthermore, in order to produce a , psychological conflict the check must come from an axiological obstacle, that is, an obstacle which, as the subject believes, cannot be overcomc except by making the achievement of another, a virtual but desired, action impossible. This mention of the axiological obstacle may be also omitted in the formulation of the law, provided the formula shows the connection and the axiologicel contradiction between the situation of the present action and that of the other, virtual action. For the axiological obstacle is distinguished from the technical obstacle merely by the fact that it is purely psychological

(235) and would not exist at all if the subject did not become conscious that the realization of his present action implied the sacrifice of a future desirable situation, and thus makes the latter actual in his mind.

Finally, the formula need not distinguish between temporary and permanent inhibition, for inhibition is permanent unless the situation which has caused it becomes modified, and this modification is another scientific problem to be solved, if possible, by the discovery of another law.

The law of inhibition may, therefore, be stated as follows:

LAW 10. If the situation of a present action is made axiologicaly self-contradictory by the incorporation of the situation of another, virtual action into it, the tendency ceases to strive for achievement and changes into sentimental valuation.

For popular use, the law can be expressed in terms more closely approaching the traditional way of treating the question: Whenever a person realizes that his present action conflicts with another action which he desires to perform, the present volition becomes inhibited and changes into emotion.


What happens when the inhibition produced by the conflict does not stay in force, and when the tendency which has been checked proceeds to achieve its purpose in spite of the axiological obstacle?

Since inhibition must remain in force if the situation which the inhibited tendency is facing remains axiologically self-contradictory, its removal is possible only if this situation ceases to ho stiff-contradictory. The axiological contradiction was brought by the incorporation into the actual situation of a virtual situation conflicting with it; the effect which this change has had upon the tendency

(236) can, therefore, be counteracted only by some new change which will neutralize its influence. As we have seen in the preceding chapter, inhibition continues as long as the problem represented by the virtual situation remains a part of the present problem and the values involved in it keep their meaning. If either the former problem ceases to demand actual solution or the values cease to appear desirable, there will no longer be any check upon the present action, and the latter can proceed.

There are thus two possibilities: something may happen to the virtual situation which will sever its connection with the original situation and deprive it of its actual bearing upon the present action; or else something may modify the axiological character of its values in such a way as to make their , sacrifice an indifferent matter. These two kinds of change may even occur together, but either one of them by itself is sufficient. Changes of the first kind seem to be the more frequent and may be illustrated by some new typical cases in addition to some of those described in the preceding chapter.

The boy whose desire to play on the street was inhibited by his mother's threat not to take him to the evening party may bethink himself that, when it comes to the point, this threat will probably not be fulfilled, for his parents will not have the heart to leave him at home, or will be ashamed to confess to having such a badly behaved son who had to be left at home for punishment; or, more vaguely, that he will find some arguments to move them when it is time to go. This reflection deprives the problem of being taken to the evening party of its actual bearing upon the present action: its solution is postponed and therefore no longer appears as now urgent, This is due to the fact that some new components have been introduced into the virtual situation; the boy assumes that between the present moment and the moment when the virtual action

(237) will have to be actually performed something will happen which will make the problem of this action soluble even after the present tendency has been satisfied. This something may be definitely qualified or as yet indefinite; but in either case it is a complementary datum which makes the virtual situation seem different from what it seemed at first when it acted an inhibiting factor. The original definition of the virtual situation yields to a new definition which eliminates the problem involved in it from the situation, heretofore axiologically self-contradictory, which the present tendency has to face; and there remains only the original present problem, a perfectly soluble one.

Every one is familiar with this way of handling a selfcontradictory situation by dividing it into two distinct situations, an actual and a virtual one,. and postponing or dismissing from actual concern the question of the realization of the latter. The virtual situation thus drops back into the realm of problems which are not to be considered now, though they may become actual at some other time. Indeed, this is the most usual way of solving those conflicts in which the virtual action is a matter of the more or less distant future; we do what we wish to do now and let the future take care of itself. Such behavior should, however, be clearly distinguished from that mere inability to see the conflict which is often found in children, in savages and, generally, in people who live exclusively "in the present" and do not connect future possibilities with their present activities. The failure to establish such a connection is not a solution of the conflict; but simply means that the conflict does not exist and never did exist for the subject, though its existence may seem evident to a more far-seeing and intelligent observer. There is a redical contrast between this inability to realize that there is a conflict and the unwillingness to keep it in mind after it has been once realized.


On the other hand, an equal emphasis must be put upon the fact that mere unwillingness to keep the conflict in mind is by no means sufficient to dismiss the virtual situation which has produced it, to postpone the solution of the virtual problem which conflicts with the present problem. How often we should be glad to get rid of an obsessing worry, to go on light-heartedly with the present action and to forget all about the future difficulties which such a course would produce; and yet these difficulties refuse to disappear from our minds, we are incapable of dissociating the virtual situation from the actual situation. The point is that the virtual situation cannot be dissociated, eliminated from the self-contradictory complex, unless it is changed; and it cannot be changed unless either some new components enter into it or some of its existing components are axiologicaly modified.

In every case in which dissociation takes the form of postponement, just as in the case of the boy who overrides his mother's warning, new components are added to the virtual situation in the shape of some real or illusory, definite or vague possibilities which the subject expects will become materialized before it is time to face the postponed problem again, and which he believes will help him escape the disastrous consequences of his present action. It does not matter whether the subject means to realize these possibilities himself or thinks they will become real by the influence of some outside agencies. Thus, the business-man whose desire for revenge has been inhibited by the consciousness that the ruin of his rival would bring disaster to a beneficient institution in which he was interested may override this axiological obstacle by reflection that, before ruin overtakes this institution, he may find a way of securing its funds and investing them safely in some .other bank. Some members of the workmen's association whose revolutionary activities were checked by the knowledge

(239) that the enemy of their country meant to profit by the expected revolution might have felt nevertheless like going on with their original plans under the impression that the interference of some allied power or a revolution in the enemy's country would in any case prevent the latter from declaring war.

In general, the uncertainty of the future due to the growing complexity of modern social life is so great as to furnish in all cases a basis for the solution of a conflict in which a present achievement is being checked by a virtual future action. Whether this basis will be actually used or not depends, of course, upon the personal or collective character of the social subject and can never be exactly predicted. All we know is that the conflict will be solved by this method only if the subject, for whatever reason, does in fact re-define the situation of the virtual action in such a way as to include in it the previously unnoticed possibility that the difficulties resulting from the performance of the present action may be counteracted in the future.

The technique of religious life, which represents the agglomerated experience of many centuries and stands in many respects on a high level of psychological efficiency, has developed into a conscious method of self-control this way of solving the conflict by postponement. Every mystic knows those periods of depression, of "dryness of heart", during which he is unable to concentrate his active aspirations upon religious values. The "lure of the world" is then particularly strong; various worldly interests which cannot be attended to unless religious interests are checked become actual and raise axiological obstacles to the continuation of religious life, thus inhibiting the mystical tendencies of the subject. The old and well-tested device in such cases is a refusal to face the conflict at the time it arises; the consideration of worldly problems becomes postponed by simply going on with all the religious practices

(240) as usual, even if only in a half-mechanical way, and by searching for additional distractions in such lines as do not conflict with religious interests. The formal discipline and numerous observances imposed upon the individuals belonging to monastic orders, coupled with the various practical, scientific and artistic occupations which most orders provide for their members in the intervals between religious activities are meant chiefly to help them during periods when religious interests are weakened, by leaving no time and no energy for dwelling on worldly situations. Underlying this method is, of course, the expectation that something will happen in the meanwhile to deprive the postponed problem of its axiological difficulties; or, in religious terms, that the grace of God will visit the subject and make him see his values in a different light. Only when mystical aspirations have been revived can the postponed problem be faced again and dealt with by more thorough and definite methods, which we shall investigate presently.

Another very usual and socially important way of separating the problem of the virtual action from that of the present action and thus removing the axiological contradiction is for the subject to entrust the performance of the virtual action to some other person. This is clearly a satisfactory solution when the conflict was due to the fact that both actions could not possibly be performed by the same person or group; but often it merely serves to shift to some one else the burden of any difficulties which may arise in consequence of the achievement of the present action by the subject, In either case the psychological conflict is solved if the subject feels that the inhibition has been removed and that he is free to continue his present activity.

For instance, the son of a European peasant was preparing to emigrate to America when his brother died.

(241) The parents being unable to manage their farm without assistance begged him to remain for the sake of the whole family. After a brief inhibition, he decided that he would go, persuading himself and his parents that he could perform his family duty as well by sending home money which might be used to hire a farm-servant to do the work in his place.

A scientist found that his work was continually hampered by the need of controlling and correcting his lazy and badly behaved son, a High School student. He finally decided to save himself trouble and loss of time by entrusting the entire care of the boy to a tutor and keeping only a general supervision.

A coal strike was declared by the organized miners in consequence of the refusal of their employers to raise their wages to correspond to the increased cost of living. As this happened in the middle of winter and the coal supply soon ran out, people began to suffer from cold, many factories were stopped and the railroads seriously crippled. Public opinion loudly called for a settlement. Though both sides of the controversy regretted the general disturbance, each continued its present course, for with each of them inhibition was counteracted by shifting upon the other party the blame for the conflict and the burden of satisfying the demands of the public. Enforced state arbitration was necessary to break the deadlock.

A common application of this method of putting upon somebody else the responsibility for the eventual solution of a problem which conflicts with the subject's present action and which he feels unable to solve is seen in nearly all the cases where a group entrusts an individual with leadership. Whenever a virtual action action stands in the way of a present action, the group can dismiss all care about the future action and continue peaceably its present activity, if it feels sure that when the time comes its leader

(242) will manage the difficulty with which the virtual action will be encumbered by the continuation of the present action. This trust in the leader thus frees collective behavior from psychological conflicts and is indispensable whenever unity and stability of purpose are required. Of course, it implies also that the group should be ready and willing to check the present action at the command of the leader, if the latter foresees that the difficulties arising from its continuation will be insoluble; but, as every one knows, it is sometimes very difficult to induce a group to abandon, its present course, and the leader who tries to enforce a present inhibition in order to avoid future entanglements is very apt to lose his prestige. One of the greatest dangers of leadership lies precisely in the very fact that social groups are much more willing to believe in the ability of a leader to guide them in the future than they are to acknowledge the wisdom of his present advice. Leaders are thus tempted to take greater risks than they would otherwise care to face.

A similar psychology often lies at the bottom of the trust in Divine Providence; man throws upon God the burden of solving for him the future problems which he is making insoluble by his present behavior.

In all those cases of delegating the virtual action to somebody else the method of dealing with the self-contradictory situation is similar in its essential features to the method of postponement. Here also the virtual situation is deprived of its actual bearing upon the present situation, its claim to immediate attention is disqualified because its problem is made to seem irrelevant for the purpose of the present action. And this modification is also performed by introducing a new element into the virtual situation, an element which was not there before and which makes the original definition of this situation appear incomplete. The only important difference is in the nature of this new

(243) element: in cases of postponement it is some possible or probable future happening which the subject expects to counteract the consequences of his present action; in cases of delegation it is the instrumentality of the other, person or group who is entrusted with the responsibility of realizing the virtual situation by some means which the subject himself does not foresee.

The third common method of removing the inhibition differs essentially from the two preceding ones in that it does not affect the relevancy of the virtual problem, but deprives the values involved in the virtual situation of the axiological character they originally possessed in the eyes of the subject.

Thus, the boy in the case analyzed above may bethink himself that, after all, the evening party to which he is invited is not worth the sacrifice of present enjoyment, because he does not really care for any of the boys or girls he is expected to meet, or because the games will be played under the supervision of some elder person who will spoil the fun; and, moreover, that new clothes are only a nuisance since one never feels free to move around as one pleases in them. He thus goes back upon his original appreciation of these elements, and consequently the complex situation ceases to, be axiologically self-contradictory because there is no longer any sacrifice of intrinsically positive values implied in going on with the present action.

In the case of the factory manager whose tendency to help the striking workmen was inhibited by the opposition of his prospective father-in-law, the inhibition might be removed by the interference of the girl whom he wished to marry, if on learning of the conflict she agreed to marry him even without her father's consent. The father as social object and his favorable reaction would then lose their axiological importance, while the other values involved

(244) in the virtual situation — personal prestige, etc. — would appear also insignificant in the light of the girl's attitude.

Other examples may be quoted to illustrate this process. A philosopher on the point of promulgating a new theory realized that this theory would give an efficient weapon to the critics of certain popular beliefs which he traditionally considered useful for the welfare of society. This acted as a check until he reflected that when beliefs can be seriously shaken by theoretic criticism, they are no longer vital enough to deserve the efforts made for their preservation; while, on the other hand, beliefs which are really bound up with fundamental social values can always be reconciled in some way with philosophic truth. This solution of the conflict was evidently a combination of the method of depreciating the values included in the virtual situation with the method first discussed of depriving the virtual problem of its claim upon actual attention. If the popular beliefs will not stand the test of philosophic criticism, the philosopher is ready to consider their social importance illusory;, if they do, some way will be found to adjust them to theoretic standards: there is therefore no need for the philosopher to worry now about their fate.

During the Great War the general staff of one of belligerent armies planned to imitate the method successfully used by Russia against Napoleon in 9 812 and to lure the opposing army into the country by pretending to retreat before it until it was worn out with hunger and cold. This, however, implied the necessity of laying waste a large portion of the national territory through which the enemy would advance and of driving into misery and despair millions of fellow-subjects whom the general staff was in duty bound to defend. The axiological obstacle seems, nevertheless, to have been overridden, chiefly by the consideration that the population of the territory in question belonged ethnically to a different national stock than the

(245) one which dominated in the given state and which alone was represented on the general staff, and that furthermore it might in any eventuality be lost by being incorporated into a new national state whose formation seemed then very probable. Consequently, an area of tens of thousands square miles was utterly devastated and its population of several millions, deprived of their homes and means of subsistence, were forcibly driven into the interior of the state.

Here again the study of religious life is very instructive, for in order to prevent mystical tendencies from being inhibited by worldly interests, the method now under discussion is used reflectively and consistently alongside with the method of postponement. Whereas in some cases the subject whose religious aspirations enter. into psychological conflict with secular tendencies is advised to turn away from the "lure of the world", to disparage the claim of worldly problems upon his immediate attention, in other cases he is made to face them as actual and relevant, but to apply to the values involved in them a systematic technique of depreciation. Many are the devices in use to attain this result. The things of this world are qualified as "a delusion and a snare", the religious man is urged to tear off the veil of illusory meaning and to discover the insignificant and disgusting reality lurking underneath the charms of the superficial appearance. Furthermore, worldly values are short-lived: few of them last throughout a lifetime; none of them can be carried over into the next world. They cannot furnish real and unalloyed satisfaction; pain always accompanies or follows pleasure. Every enjoyment is marred by uncertainty and the fear of losing it. The internal self should not depend upon external accidents, nor spirit upon matter. The God-loving man is exhorted in books of religious discipline to take these and other considerations into account; his foolishness in ascribing

(246) any real importance to secular values will then become apparent to him.

We see that in these cases the virtual situation is also re-defined; its original definition, by virtue of which it had the power to inhibit the present action, is qualified as inadequate and a new definition is substituted instead. The conflict is assumed to 'have been only apparent; the subject considers inhibition the result of a mistake. The mistake, however, did not lie in believing that the achievement of the virtual action would be .made impossible by the perfomance of the present action, for this belief is true: the present action and the virtual action cannot be reconciled. But the significance of the values which will have to be sacrificed by going on with the present action is supposed to have been. misinterpreted. The boy on second thought cannot understand how he could have wanted to go to the evening party: he may even forget that he ever did want to do so. The factory manager sees or believes he sees that he has exaggerated the importance of the president's consent to his marriage. The philosopher throws a doubt upon his original idea that the popular beliefs endangered by his theory are socially important. The members of the general staff disqualify axiologically the doomed territory and its population by reminding each other that the population does not belong to their ethnical stock but has separatistic tendencies, and that the territory will probably be lost to them anyway. The mystic treats all his previous appreciations of worldly values as mistaken.

Of course, no mistake was actually made. The values were really positive values for the subject as long as he believed them to be such, and the conflict was a real conflict as long as it appeared real: the conflict ceases because the subject no longer thinks it real and the values cease to be positive because they are disqualified. The process of disqualification consists precisely in rejecting

(247) the former appreciations as invalid. This rejection need not be reflectively conscious, there need not be any explicit contrast in the subject's mind between the original and the subsequent views: the .original view is invalidated simply because some new light has been thrown upon the data in question, which now assume a different aspect. When reflection is present, however, it manifests itself by stigmatising the original values as "illusory" and the original appreciations as "false" or "wrong", as contrasted with the subsequent "real" values and the subsequent "true" or ."right" appreciations. Such contrasts are familiar in practical life and sometimes quite incomprehensible until we realize that their source always lies in some conflict, perhaps long forgotten, in which axiological obstacles were overridden in the way described above.

There may be still other methods of dealing with selfcontradictory situations, but from the instances discussed above the following general conclusion appears. Inhibition is removed whenever the virtual situation which has been incorporated into the present situation undergoes a change which makes it irrelevant for the present problem, either by showing that it need not be actually considered in connection with this problem or by making its elements appear less valuable than they seemed at first and thus justifying their eventual sacrifice. We may characterize this change as accommodation of the virtual situation to the present situation.[2] Owing to accomodation the virtual situation ceases to be an axiological obstacle for the performance of the present action: the conflict becomes unreal in the eyes of the subject.

As we have seen, accomodation is the result of the introduction of new components into the virtual situation:

(248) previously unsuspected instrumental possibilities which make the achievement of the virtual action appear independent of the performance of the present action, or previously unnoticed axiological features which change the significance of the values involved. Since these new components have their source somewhere outside the given closed system, either in the subject's personal or social life or in unexpected influences to which he is subjected, there is no possible causal explanation of their appearance upon the theatre of the actual conflict. They count for us only from the moment they have appeared and modified the situation; this is the given fact from which we start, and our task is simply to determine more closely its effect upon the present tendency.

Usually these new components come in and change the virtual situation without any intention on the part of the subject, sometimes even against his explicit intentions. Some idea occurs to him by virtue of inexplicable associations, some unexpected event happens, somebody offers a suggestion — and the virtual situation loses its bearing upon the present, or its values cease to appear desirable. However, the technique used in religious conflicts shows that the production of such modifications in the virtual situation may become the goal of a conscious and reflective mental effort on the part of the subject. Probably every subject has his own way of attaining this goal according to his individuality. But sometimes in spite of repeated attempts he fails: the virtual situation refuses to be dismissed, its values refuse to be deprived of their axiological character. Vaguely speaking, this means that, as has been mentioned in the preceding section, the problem put by the virtual action is really vital far the subject, the values involved in it are really important in his eyes. The problem being vital, that is, connected with many other future problems, the subject feels averse to leaving its

(249) eventual solution to chance or to the instrumentality of somebody else. The values being subjectively important, deeply rooted in his past, connected with many other values and endowed with a rich and varied axiological significance, no newly discovered axiological feature contrasting with this significance can deprive them at once of their instrinsic validity.

These considerations, however, are beyond the scope of our actual investigation, though they have a practical importance, particularly with regard to the problem of moral choice. The only absolutely sure practical conclusions which ethics can draw from a study of the process of incorporation producing inhibition and the process of accomodation removing it may be briefly summed up as follows. If you wish a subject to pursue consistently a certain desirable line of behavior, you must adapt your method of control to the facts of the particular case. If, on the one hand, a present, morally undesirable tendency is being inhibited by a morally desirable situation, you must keep the inhibition in force by preventing or counteracting all changes of the inhibiting situation which might produce its accomodation by postponing it, entrusting it to somebody else, or depriving its values of their significance for the subject. But if, on the other hand, a present, morally desirable tendency is being inhibited by a morally undesirable situation, you must remove the inhibition by introducing such new components into the inhibiting situation as will result in its accomodation by postponement, delegation, or depreciation of its values.

Suppose that a process of accomodation is already given, whatever its sources. The question now is, what effect does this process have upon the tendency of the present action which was at first inhibited by the conflict? It is not enough to say that accomodation removes the inhibition and allows the tendency to proceed toward the

(250) achievement of the action; for the tendency after conflict is not the same as the tendency before conflict. Although the axiological obstacle has been removed and the complex self-contradictory situation modified and simplified in such a way as to escape the contradiction and make the continuation of the interrupted activity psychologically possible, yet this modifification is not a pure and simple return to the original situation of the present action such as it was before the other, virtual situation became incorporated into it. It is a situation whose definition has been actually put to question; it, therefore, remains potentially accessible to doubt even after the question has been dismissed. Whereas originally it was supposed to be a closed system with which no outside influences were expected to interfere, experience has proved that it was far from immune even against such influences as might destroy its very existence. In other words, though the problem which the present action proposed to solve seemed to include all the data necessary for its solution, the occurrence of the conflict showed that something was nevertheless lacking, since the solution for a time appeared impossible and was made possible only by resort to a special process of accomodation.

The present situation which the tendency faces after the virtual situation has been accomodated to it has thus a taint of insecurity, which it did not possess originally; it appears open to disturbing factors, its problem seems imperfectly defined. This change manifests itself usually in the fact that after the axiological obstacle has been removed the subject does not start at once with the original action at the point where it was checked, for in his eyes the situation requires some further determination before the action can proceed: it demands reflection.

And this demand is more or less adequately met by a modification of the tendency. In consequence of the changes which its situation has undergone first by the

(251) incorporation, then by the accomodation of another, virtual situation, it is also changed; it is no longer the simple tendency impulsively claiming satisfaction, but one whose claim, having been questioned and placed in jeopardy, must now be definitely reasserted. This reassertion ispossible only if the taint of uncertainty is removed from the situation once and forever, if it is secured against any new influences, if its problem is determined in such a way as to preclude any further doubts concerning its solution. The action has to be guaranteed against further obstacles of the kind which has been once overcome by accomodation. Its subsequent course becomes therefore modified to fit this requirement. The old elements are still there: the same object, the same expected reaction, the same instrumental process, eventually the same reflected self. But the tendency aims to give these elements a new significance and to modify their relation within the situation so as to make the whole system actually independent of any axiological difficulties which may arise before the action is achieved. A tendency which does this may be called rationalistic; whereas a tendency which proceeds to its active satisfaction without reflecting about possible axiological obstacles may be termed impulsive. Rationalization is the process of change from an impulsive to a rationalistic tendency.

Generally speaking, a rationalistic tendency provides against possible axiological obstacles by justifying its claim for active satisfaction, that is, by connecting this claim with some principle or standard which will impart to it a certain degree of validity, will raise it above the level of a mere subjective impulse. There are many such principles or standards varying as to content, degree of generality, objectivity and social importance, it often happens that such a standard is just implicitly assumed by the subject without any explicit or even conscious realization of its nature, but sometimes it is clearly and formally

(252) defined and even demonstrated by rational argumentation. Explicit or implicit, it is always an actual or potential authority to which the tendency can appeal against any axiological considerations which may try to impede its active expression.

Thus, in the case of our boy: if he decides to cease bothering about the evening party, the principle by which he justifies his going to play with his friend on the street will probably not be very explicit. Still, he will at least throw himself with particular zest into the game, feeling that the greater the enjoyment he obtains, the more justified his action is from the hedonistic point of view; or he will appeal to the standards of social recognition and seek praise from his friend for having come to him in spite of the axiological obstacle. The factory manager who takes up the cause of the striking workmen after inhibition finds that his moral standards justify him in keeping to his original purpose; further, justification may be found in social recognition accorded him by his fiancée and in additional proofs that the demands of the workmen are righteous. Both the miners and the mining companies who throw upon each other the responsibility for neglecting the interests of the public rationalize their tendencies by the same principle of social justice, which they each interpret differently.

In the same way the scientist who entrusts the education of his son to a stranger justifies his refusal to be diverted from intellectual pursuits by emphasizing to himself the great importance of intellectual achievement and his ability to attain it, in contrast to his lack of pedagogical capacity and the consequent wastefulness of using much of his time and energy in trying to educate ono hey. The general staff who doomed a portion of their country to destruction probably appealed for justification to the principle of "victory at any cost" and to notorious historical examples. The religious

(253) man justifies to himself his persistence in performing religious rites mechanically by the belief that the slackening of his religious interests is only a trial to which God temporarily subjects him; and when he has faced and solved the conflict between mystical and worldly values by depreciating the latter, his religious aspirations appear to him endowed with a new validity, and their aim has a new importance. It is a well-known observation that every human interest becomes more significant and more conscious of its bearing when it has reasserted itself after conflict, and that nobody is more certain of the righteousness of his cause than a recent convert.

Thus, the process of rationalization, alone or combined with social sublimation and idealization, plays a great rôle in the development of cultural life, for it deepens the meaning of human behavior in every line, raises the level of conscious reflection and widens the horizon of axiological possibilities. A number of well-known instances illustrate this rôle.

Early cultures show a frequent conflict between active expressions of the sexual instinct and magical fear connected with many manifestations of sexual life. The victory of the instinct has resulted in its rationalization in the form of positive religious sanctions attached to sexual activities (marriage ceremonies, sacral prostitution, etc.) and, later on, in the form of the mystical significance given to all sexual life, The latter has thus risen far above a mere biological function and acquired that deep cultural meaning which it possesses in all higher civilizations. Where, on the other hand, this conflict took the form of sexual temptations assailing a person who performs important religious activities which demand magical purity, the well-known depreciation of sexual life as essentially "evil" permitted the religious tendencies to reassert themselves in spite of temptations, but had the effect of raising the claim for purity from the magical to the properly religious level and

(254) turning the desire to avoid all magical contamination by material touch into an aspiration to maintain spiritual independence with regard to the needs of the flesh. Religion has thus come to occupy two inconsistent points of view with regard to the sexual impulse.

In modern times the conflict between the maternal instinct and the tendency of the woman to live a personal life apart from her family functions has come into prominence. We can safely assume, however, that it existed long ago, though perhaps in a less explicit form. This conclusion may be drawn from the fact that in all historical societies there were women who did not take upon themselves the duties of motherhood, but chose instead either a religious life or a looser sexual career, which was often endowed with religious significance. An even more radical break with the rôle for which woman is biologically fitted is indicated by the history of Sappho (which doubtless had many parallels), and by the legend of the Amazons. An interesting attempt at "emancipation" made by two Eskimo women is mentioned in Mr. Mason's book on Woman's Share in Primitive Culture.

Supposing that, though direct evidence is naturally rare, this conflict in some form or other has been common in all more or less civilized societies, and assuming that the situations connected with the woman's personal claims have usually had to accomodate themselves to the purposes of maternity, we should expect that the maternal instinct is not taken for granted in any civilization, but is everywhere rationalized. And, indeed, this expectation is confirmed by the facts. Wherever ethical reflection exists at all, the maternal function is not only socially sublimated by being given an institutional form and endowed with social approval, but its validity is emphasized by a deduction from higher ethical principles, from orders of the divinity or from utilitarian considerations — the permanence and

(255) development of the gens, the tribe, the nation, or humanity or finally, by the modern argument that it has a positive bearing upon the moral development of the mother.

Where, on the other hand, women have refused to sacrifice their personal aspirations to the task of maternity, these aspirations have been also ethically rationalized and their triumph over inhibition justified in various ways. In recent times we have the arguments of Malthusianism, the insistence upon the moral right of every conscious being to search for self-expression in any line that does not directly conflict with the rights of others, Nietzsche's reasoning that it is absurd to subordinate each generation to the interests of the following generation, thus permitting no generation to live for its own sake, and many other theories.

When positive social tendencies inhibited by negative social tendencies (emotional antagonism, the fighting impulse, the wish for mastery, etc.) reassert themselves after the conflict, they undergo a process of rationalization. Indeed, the altruistic ethics prevailing in the moral reflection of most civilized societies may be considered the result of the rationalization of positive social tendencies after their victory over negative ones. Its prevalence is due to the fact that positive tendencies dominate in the relations within the "we-group" — to use Sumner's terminology — and that the most marked feature of social evolution from savagery to civilization has been the extension of the limits of the "we-group" from the horde or clan to the nation, in certain respects to the race, and in a few instances to mankind at large. But since in the course of this process there have been many cases of reassertion of negative tendencies inhibited by positive ones, especially in the struggle between the "we-group" and those who at any stage ate included in the "other groups", there is no lack of reflective ethical rationalization of these tendencies; the code of military honor, the class codes of all aristocracies,

(256) the fighting ethics of the modern laboring class, the moral standards of militant nationalism (most explicitly and systematically expressed by German thought prior to the war), all furnish good illustrations of this process.

Another important instance of rationalization is that which follows a conflict between conservative tendencies aiming to preserve traditional beliefs or rules of behavior and tendencies which revolt against tradition from the point of view of the new problems brought by social evolution. If these problems are accomodated to tradition the rationalization of conservative tendencies is expressed in attempts to "interpret" the old beliefs and rules in such a way as to show that they always did provide somehow for such emergencies as have now arisen; whereas if tradition is forced to accomodate itself to the new demands, the rationalistic character which the new tendencies have consequently acquired is manifested in appeals to general principles of truth, justice, utility, etc.

The results of this long analysis of accomodation and its effects can be summed up in the following law of rationalization.

LAW 11. If the psychological conflict between a present action and a virtual action is solved by the accomodation of the virtual situation to the present situation, an impulsive present tendency becomes rationalistic, i. e., attempts with the help of a higher principle to make its claim for satisfaction valid against any axiological obstacles.

Of course, the tendency may have been originally rationalistic in some respects; that is, certain possible axiological obstacles may have been foreseen and excluded in advance. But the fact that nevertheless in the course of the action a psychological conflict did arise proves this rationalization to have been irrelevant with regard to the problem which the tendency had to face. It evidently failed to take into account the obstacle which actually did

(257) prevent the action from continuing; and with regard to this obstacle the tendency was in fact behaving impulsively, proceeding to active satisfaction as if no such obstacle existed. It must therefore be termed impulsive within the limits of the system which our law takes into consideration.

The full psychological significance of the law of rationalization will perhaps be more clearly realized if the law is stated in terms of popular psychology: When an impulse reasserts itself after conflict with another impulse, it becomes rational will.

This statement is in disaccordance with both the older intellectualistic and the more recent voluntaristic conceptions. The former saw in rational will the very source of psychological conflict, which was thought to consist in a mental act of the subject who brought various possibilities of action together before the tribunal of reason, weighed them by rational calculation and selected the most suitable. This conception of the conflict has been already discussed and rejected because it does not fit the facts. It furthermore ignores the empirical origin of rational will, which appears always in connection with some conflict and must be considered to result from the conflict, unless it be either assumed as part of the "original nature of man" — which manifestly contradicts everything we know about the evolution of the race and the development of the individual — or else ascribed a transcendent origin, which would take it beyond the proper realm of science.

Modern voluntaristic psychology has, indeed, had the merit of discovering that conscious will has somehow its source in the difficulties which arise in the course of an action; but, so far, the conditions of its appearance have not been closely defined nor their relations to one another. According to the prevailing theory, whenever an impulsive activity, instinctive or habitual, is checked by an unexpected obstacle, this fact by itself is sufficient to produce at least

(258) a rudiment of practical reflection, and, with the appearance of the latter, impulse becomes will. This theory ignores several important distinctions.

First of all, it does not take into account the fact that there are two different types or rather degrees of reflection about activity: reflection about the real conditions with which the action has to deal or, more exactly, about its practical situation, and reflection about the subject's own ideal act or, more exactly, about the tendency of the action. Only the second type of reflection can be associated with rational will; the presence of the first type of reflection is not sufficient to give the tendency the character of rational will, for as long as reflective thought bears only upon the conditions of the action, it does not affect the nature of the tendency. The latter can remain impulsive, .irrational, however much reflection and even reasoning may be employed concerning the way in which it is to be satisfied, provided the very attempt to satisfy it be not put into question. Most ingenious methods may be consciously devised and used to satisfy hunger or the sexual instinct, and yet hunger or sexual instinct remains a plain, irrational impulse, as long as the desirability of satisfying it is unquestioned. Unless the subject considers whether his tendency should be satisfied or should yield its place to some other motive — religious, altruistic or prudential — there is no rationalization of this tendency; his reflection remains merely an intellectual activity subservient to the main action, directed to the solution of its practical problem.

In what sense, now, can it be true that an 'obstacle is the source of reflection and of rational will? We must remember our distinction between technical and axiological obstacles. It may be admitted, indeed, that an unexpected technical obstacle put in the way of the achievement of a certain action does provoke reflective thought; but it can be only reflective thought of the first degree, for it

(259) concerns only the instrumental conditions of the particular action which is being performed and leads to an attempt to solve the given practical problem in a new way. It does not touch the question whether this problem should be put in spite of other impending problems; it does not concern the tendency.

Passing to axiological obstacles, it is clear that their very existence depends upon reflection of the first degree. The conscious realization of an axiological obstacle requires reflective understanding not only of the conditions of the present action, but also of those of another virtual action, and the consciousness that these conditions in some way interfere with each other. Present activity would never be checked by a virtual activity if the subject did not know when and how the present situation conflicts with a virtual one. Only after the existence of an axiological obstacle has been already realized and. understood does the subject assume that reflective and critical point of view with regard to his very tendency to achieve the present action which constitutes reflection in the second degree and belongs to the essence of the psychological conflict. It may, therefore, be assumed that the appearance of a technical obstacle originates reflection about the situation, but that reflection about the tendency is due to the appearance of an axiological obstacle. And even this is not enough to explain rational will: reflection about the tendency is its indispensable condition, but not yet its sufficient condition. For, as we know, the psychological conflict has two possible issues, and only one of these leads to a rationalization of the act. If inhibition persists, volition changes into emotion, and it would be hardly exact to ascribe the features of "will" to a process which results in a cessation of the attempt to act. Only in cases of accommodation, when a tendency reflectively conscious of itself proceeds to its active achievement with a rationally justified self-

(260) -assertion against possible axiological obstacles, reflection about activity gives the latter the character of rational will.

If the use of this concept be thus limited and an exact scientific explanation be given of the facts to which it is applied, we believe that some clearness might be introduced into the maze of problems connected with it in psychological literature.


  1. He may go further and to save his self-respect in this situation change his moral standards in general. This would, however, introduce a further complication and take us far beyond the present problem. The conflict would then involve not two, but many actions, whose analysis at this point would require too much time.
  2. The term "accomodation" is borrowed from Park and Burgess Introduction to the Science of Sociology (Chicago 1922), where it is used in a parallel sense in connection with social conflict.

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