Intellectual America

By a European (Florian Znaniecki,
edited by W. I.Thomas)


My first ‘hobbies' were geography and ethnology; later came botany and zοölοgy, then history and sociology. At the age of sixteen I began to study philosophy. I still remember the deep emotion which I experienced when I made my first philosophical reasoning, reproducing the argument of Descartes's Discours de la Μéthοde from some remarks found in Bourget's Le Disciple. This pushed me into philosophy at once. I found in the latter much more complete satisfaction than in anything I have ever studied, and I would have probably settled down very early to a peaceful student's career, if it had not been for the fact that, shortly afterwards, I came to the conclusion that my proper vocation was literary productivity, particularly poetry.

I had by then a rather wide knowledge of Polish, French, and German literature; I was a fast reader, and not only read much while at home in the country, but during my years in gymnasium used for literary reading most of the five or six hours which I spent daily in class. But I could not distract my attention entirely from what was going on in the classroom, and gave up all attempts to read there anything more difficult than literature. Thus, I think, I read more of it that was good for me, in view of my already strong romantic tendencies. I memorized an enormous amount of poetry in all the languages I knew, even in Russian, though I was ashamed of like some of the latter and never confessed it. I began, of course, to write verses rather early, at ten or eleven, but did not give much attention to them until my first fully conscious love-story, a very simple and uneventful case of a ‘platonic’ love for a girl a little younger than myself. My love lasted nearly two years. I never told the girl a word about it, but expended my feelings in a flood of poems which, to my great detriment, won much applause from my school friends and real encouragement from older and more experienced critics. At seventeen I began to publish in magazines, and at eighteen began to be noticed, so much so that one of my poems was put in an anthology. All this gave my life for several years a definite ideal toward which my ambitious efforts and aspira-

(189) -tions more and more completely converged.

I do not remember in detail the process by which my active ambition became gradually absorbed by poetic productivity, but between seventeen and eighteen my dream became very definite: it was to become the great poet whom Poland needed. For over three years this was the chief interest of my life, along with two or three romantic and purely platonic love-stories. I learned English, and partly Spanish and Italian, in order to read the poetry of these literatures in the original. The content of my poems continually grew in philosophical, social, and mystical suggestions — and the poems in size. I actually began to think that I was 'going to discover, by a half-philosophical, half-aesthetic intuition, sonic new all-wonderful meaning of life, — reveal a new ideal which would give Poland a new spiritual energy.

Gradually, however, at the end of this period some doubts began to rise in my mind, not as to my power of discovering or creating new ideals, but as to my ability to give them adequate poetic expression. The success which I had with small lyrical poems failed to extend to my larger productions. A dramatic poem was refused by the best literary review on the ground of (esthetic imperfections, and although I published it in book form, it was coolly received. An epic and two dramas which I started were greeted without enthusiasm by friendly critics to whom I read them: though my ideas were praised as deep and original, their execution was judged inadequate. I could have continued writing occasionally small pieces, and have ranked among third-rate, or even second-rate poets, while doing something else as my main occupation. But I would not even think of accepting such a modest role after my grandiose dreams.

This was also the time when my aristocratic aspirations, temporarily revived, received a final blow as a consequence of my acquaintance with the standards of the highest aristocracy. Curiously, however, this double shock, far from diminishing the intensity of my ambition or my faith in myself, seemed to raise both to a still higher pitch. I resigned all expectations of becoming a member of the aristocracy; but the consciousness that there was an unattainable limit to my ambition in this line made me want to rise higher than I had ever dreamed of in some other line. National greatness would not satisfy me any longer: I wanted world-fame and world-influence. On the other hand, I felt that I had to resign i he hope of ever getting to be very prominent as a poet, since my capacity of literary expression was limited; but this made me put more faith than ever in the content of what I could say, in the ideas which I expected to promulgate. In short, I not only did not cease to believe that I was able and destined to bring a great ‘revelation' to men, but I wanted and hoped that this revelation should regenerate, not only Poland, but all mankind.

The only difficulty was the question of the form in which my revelation was going to be promulgated, since the literary form had failed. In my cooler moments I thought, indeed, that the content of my revelation, which reduced itself to a few social, ethical, and metaphysical ideas, might and should be simply developed, with much hard work, into a more or less original philosophical theory. But in my periods of enthusiasm, which were much more lasting, this prospect of laboring for many years in order to bring forth a mere theoretic system which would appeal only to intellectuals and have none of the emotional power necessary to revolutionize the world, seemed far

(190) from satisfactory. What I wanted was a quick, direct, strongly emotional influence upon the masses, easily reaching everywhere. Examples of great religious founders and reformers stirred my imagination; and in the state of exaltation in which I found myself as a consequence of my abnormal social life, of my absorption in poetry, and probably also of suppressed and romantically idealized sexual needs, the idea of becoming a religious founder, of proclaiming an ‘ethical religion' of the type of Buddhism but radically different from Buddhism in its optimistic affirmation of life, was too suggestive not to lead to an attempt at realization. Nietzsche's works, which I read then for the first time, helped crystallize the plan.

But it was evident to me that, particularly after the time spent in luxury, flirtation, and revelry in aristocratic circles, I needed a preparation for such a task. And from the histories of religious movements I drew the conclusion that one of the chief obstacles to the success of such an enterprise was the initiator's social bonds, the social group of which he was a part, and the habitual conditions of his life. I resolved therefore to break off entirely all my social connections. Profiting by an opportunity to go abroad, I left for Switzerland and there arranged a stage-setting which made the local authorities conclude that I was drowned in a lake.

With very little money, I passed to France. I thought that what I needed most at that moment was a life of hardship and strong discipline, and also a closer acquaintance with the life and the psychology of the lower classes. With this idea, I enlisted as a private in the French army.

(After a very brief period of service, the author was discharged because of disabling injuries. He then entered the editorial service of a spiritualist magazine in France, with which he remained a few months; then went to Switzerland to continue his studies, and there married a Polish girl — a fellow student. Four years later he returned to Galicia for his doctor's degree.)


I was then twenty-eight years old. I During the five years of my studies, partly under the influence of my marriage, but chiefly perhaps because of very hard and continuous intellectual work, all my tendencies became in a large measure redefined and stabilized on the basis of intellectualism. I settled definitively upon purely theoretic aims and decided to lead a purely intellectual life, without letting any external or internal factors disturb my activities. I confined all my desire for new experiences within the field of theoretic research. I had a placidly happy home life, and lost apparently all desire for change in love-matters, which before my marriage had been very marked. I excluded all economic considerations from the field of my attention, deciding not only never to work for economic advance, but not even to bother about economic security; living on whatever I could get, much or little, without thought about the future, and giving . as much energy as possible to economically disinterested intellectual work.

This plan did not prove very wise, because it brought me more economic troubles than a regularly sustained interest in economic security would have done; but it did work for several years, and was not even disturbed by my family situation; fοr my wife willingly accepted it, and my only son, born during the time of my studies, was brought up by my wife's parents who, except later for one year, always refused to part with him. My wife spent with them a few months every year, and as

(191) I loved her, these separations were my only serious trouble. I gave no more thought to ‘aristocratic' pursuits, and became in so far a democrat that I came to the conclusion that the social rôle of birth-aristocracy, and of the specific standards evolved under its influence, and consciously or unconsciously imitated even by democratic societies, was growing more and more useless.

But I was still emotionally repulsed by any familiar contact with the uneducated, and all my reflections about social organization led me to the delusion that some aristocratic system was indispensable to prevent the further growth of ochlocracy in modern society. The only organization which appeared compatible with cultural progress was, in my opinion, an institutionally guaranteed rule of a freely recruited intellectual aristocracy, taking the term ‘intellectual' in its widest significance. But I had no ambition whatever to play a leading social or political rôle; on the contrary, I decided carefully to avoid all temptation to obtain any kind of practical influence upon social life. Neither did I return to literary activities. I was, indeed, more than ever determined to achieve greatness and fame, but exclusively in the theoretic line. This gave me a feeling of security which I had never experienced before. I felt that the success of my aspirations was almost entirely in my own hands, dependent on my conscious will alone. I knew that in the theoretic field the objective importance of human products was due at least as much, if not more, to the intensity, persistence, thoroughness, and good method of intellectual work than to original talent, and I knew that I had enough of the latter to develop a new philosophical system on the basis of the leading ideas which I already had, and which certainly were not commonplace. I had plans for philosophical work enough to fill two normal lives, all laid out, and I looked calmly into the future. However, the conditions in which I found myself after returning to Warsaw were not very propitious for the realization of my plans, and made me see, after some time, that I could not be as independent of external circumstances as I had hoped. A professorial career was practically excluded, as the University was Russian, and private Polish schools were poor, and, except for two, were on the gymnasium level: that is, they had only a little logic and psychology in the upper classes.

I took a position in a social institution and became superintendent after a year; but even this did not pay enough to make a living. Some help could be obtained from the Mianowski Institute, whose aim was precisely to assist scientific workers; but even so, I had to supplement my income by private lectures, translations, and the like, all of which left relatively little time and energy for the thorough great works which I had planned.

There was, indeed, something to compensate in a certain measure for these disadvantages. If material conditions were bad, moral conditions could not have been any better. The encouragement extended to intellectual workers by all spheres of Polish society was incomparable; I can appreciate it fully only now, in comparison with America.. Thus, when I published a philosophical book, — and a very hard one to read,—not only bibliographical and philosophical journals, but popular magazines and dally newspapers gave detailed accounts. I remember a critical review running through two issues of a monthly magazine, and one of the leading dallies giving a full-sized page to its analysis. All this was done without any personal ‘push,' and mostly by men whom I did not know.

In the congenial sphere of intellectual

(192) workers, penetrated with the highest scientific aspirations, animated by continual discussions, always ready with enlightened criticism, or appreciation, I enjoyed my theoretic activity thoroughly, and did during the three years and a half of my stay in Warsaw more work than many a scientist who has only some university teaching to do for his living. But I felt that this could not continue indefinitely; my health began to break down, and I saw that, if I wanted to realize at least a part of my philosophical plans, I had to find some way of living which would not force me to spend most of my time and energy on practical occupations.

My social work brought me in contact with the emigration problem, and I had often to study the question of the opportunities which various countries offered to the emigrant. I began to think seriously about leaving Poland and trying somewhere else for a university career, which seemed the only one compatible with free scientific work. I knew that in Western Europe universities were crowded with candidates for professorships, and that I would have to teach as Privat Dozent for many years, which was, of course, out of the question, since I had no money. In Russia it was very easy; but Russia was excluded for patriotic reasons. South America attracted me, for no definite reason — probably because of some forgotten childhood associations. But it was too isolated from intellectual centres; moreover, since I always wanted a more than national recognition and intellectual influence, I had to choose a country whose language was more generally known than either Spanish or Portuguese.

Thus, North America was the only country worth trying. I cannot say that American conditions, from what I knew about them, seemed particularly attractive. Of course, the American traditions of political liberty had a strong appeal for me; democracy, at that stage of my evolution, seemed also all right is far as it went. But I was rather repelled by the American ‘cult for money,’ is the phrase went in Europe. I well remember the unpleasant astonishment with which I heard an American statistician employed by the government, a man of high scholarly achievements, calmly tell me that few really intelligent and efficient men in his country went into university work, because there was no money in it. The practical tendency of the American mind, the heedless rush of American business, the excessive industrialism, did not seem very enticing; nor, on the other hand, did I like the reports about American religious and moral conservatism. But all these, I thought, were marks of a new country which had to build the foundations of its material prosperity before developing a higher intellectual culture, and I saw in the recent growth of American science and philosophy proofs that this development had already taken its swing.

I expected to find here a fresh enthusiasm for intellectual progress, an intense faith in the unlimited possibilities of future scientific productivity, which would give this country the leading place among the nations of the world in science, literature, and art; a desire to raise higher and higher the standards of intellectual values, and a ready welcome for every new worker who could contribute in some measure to create this wonderful future.

Besides, emigration to America was less objectionable from the Polish national standpoint than emigration to any other country, not only because of the pro-American sympathies which had existed in Poland since the time of Pulaski and Kosciuszko, but also because there already was a large and well-organized Polish population which

(193) lacked intellectual leaders; and I imagined that, on the ground of my education and of the rule which I had already begun to play in the intellectual life of Poland, I could easily become the intellectual leader of American Poles, particularly since I did not expect from them any material or political profit.


With such ideas, I took the first opportunity which presented itself, in the form of some work to be done for Professor X, a prominent American sociologist whom I met in Poland. I came here and settled in one of the most important American university centres, within a short distance of a big city. My wife accompanied me, but we decided, in view of the general uncertainty of my future and at the request of her parents, to leave our son for some time still with them.

My first impressions of the external aspect of American cities were such as I expected them to be, but my first experiences with American people were very pleasant and, in certain respects, a surprise. I came in contact, during the first few months, with three different types of Americans. The first was a university group whom I met chiefly through Professor X, and who were certainly as broad-minded and intellectual as any European group I knew, although perhaps their interest in theoretic pursuits seemed somewhat less intense, and I missed in them that enthusiasm for and faith in the future of American science which I hoped to find. The second was a small ‘society' circle to which I had some letters of introduction, and which was as refined in its intellectual and aesthetic attitudes as any European aristocracy, though it struck . me as prematurely blasé, as if it were already tired of wearing an imperfectly fitting and foreign made garb of culture, reminding me in this respect of some Russian aristocrats whom I had met in France. The third group was that of social workers, professionals and volunteers; they seemed to me as full of social idealism as European social workers and reformers and more practical, though, with few exceptions, narrower intellectually.

On the other hand, I suffered a complete disappointment with regard to American Poles, who appeared to me, at first contact, to have preserved none of the positive features of Poles in Poland, and to have acquired, in an absurdly exaggerated way, all the negative features currently associated by Europeans with American society. As to my expected intellectual leadership, I saw at once that there was not the slightest chance for it. Not only were the appreciation and the standards of intellectual values very low, but whatever demands in this line existed were already monopolized by those educated or half-educated immigrants who had come here before me, who maintained their positions by serving the interests of their political, economic, or religious ‘bosses,' and, with few exceptions, looked upon me as a very undesirable possible competitor. A dozen really superior men were scattered all through the country and had mostly very little influence. There was no possibility of any disinterested organization for intellectual purposes. I dropped therefore entirely all plans in this line, and although my opinion concerning the Poles in this country has somewhat improved since then, I maintained very little contact with the Polish colony.

Just after I left Poland, war broke out, and a year later all communication with that country was severed because of the German occupation. A few months after my arrival in America my wife died. As a consequence of all this, I found myself completely isolated from

(194) all ‘old country' associations, and for four years lived a purely American life in an exclusively American milieu. I took my ‘first papers' early enough to become a naturalized citizen immediately at the end of the five years of residence required by law. From my modest income, I contributed to all the war-funds, and I participated in some activities connected with the war, in spite of my aversion for political life.

I could read and write English before I came here, so that I begin to publish in this language after six months. I spoke it with more difficulty, and with a strong foreign accent, which, however, gradually decreased; so that after two years and a half I could not only lecture at the university but even gave several public lectures. My second marriage, with an American university girl of Irish descent, contributed still more to my taking root in America, so that now I feel perfectly at home in this country, have no feeling of strangeness connected with it, and like it sincerely. But this does not mean that I feel fully adapted, or ever expect to become fully adapted, to American conditions as they are now. I could do it only by resigning those cultural values which I have learned to appreciate after many years of hard struggle with my own character and with external circumstances, and which up to this moment I consider, and always hope to consider, the highest values which humanity has yet developed — I mean pure science, intellectual and moral freedom, and cultural idealism.

In a few details America seems to have exercised a positive influence upon me, by giving in a sense a final impulse to an evolution which was already approaching its end before I came here. Thus I freed myself from the last unreasoned remnants of my early tendencies to social distinction on the aristocratic basis, dropped much of the European social formalism, and came to appreciate the simplicity of personal relations in this country. My democracy, formerly accepted for intellectual reasons but rather distasteful to me emotionally, became more genuine, in the sense that I am no longer personally affected by any familiarity of people of the uneducated classes, although they still bore me. It may be, however, that this democratization is nothing but indifference to superficial social contacts. Theoretically, Jam still sincerely convinced that democracy should reduce itself exclusively to equality of opportunities and not be a rule of the demos; and that the slogan of the equality of men is not only false, but socially harmful in the long run, whatever may be its provisional utility in helping to overthrow old institutions which, by sanctioning a political or social hierarchy based on extrinsic circumstances, prevent the development of a hierarchy based on the social value of human individuals.

In practical matters, American influences made me revise my former contempt for economic considerations. Though I am still as much as ever disinclined to make the acquisition of money an aim of my activities, and should consider a subordination of intellectual to economic purposes in my case equivalent to complete moral decay, I see the necessity of a wise and careful use of money as an instrument helping to attain intellectual aims. Economic security on a ‘minimum of comfort' basis has become a secondary but important object of my tendencies, and I am determined to reach it, either in the form of a modest but permanent university position, or in that of a small capital which would permit me to live somewhere in very simple conditions, but free to work along theoretic lines for the rest of my days.

In theoretic work also l am conscious

(195) of having been influenced by America. I have learned to appreciate much more the value of concrete monographic research and of that particularistic, direct, free, and sincere mental attitude toward phenomena which characterizes the good American intellectual workers. This phase of my intellectual evolution was so marked, that for a time I thought of giving up philosophy for sociology. But a partial reaction came; I began to miss in sociological work the unity and continuity of purpose, the generality of fundamental problems, the wide intellectual horizons which constitute for me the charm of philosophy; and thus I finally decided to continue both types of investigation and to realize as much as possible of my old theoretic plans while remaining open to new and more concrete suggestions.


In other lines, however, I have hardly come any nearer to American life. Two reasons prevented my 'Americanization' in the deeper sense of the term: the divergences which I began to discover, after a longer stay in this country, between most of the aspirations actually predominant in American society and certain ideals which, in my cosmopolitan training, I have learned to revere as the best part of human civilization, independent of national differences; and, more particularly, the attitude of American society toward foreigners and foreign values.

The better I became acquainted with American conditions, the more I realized that my first impressions of American society were not sufficiently accurate. I saw that the group of university men whom I happened to meet first was really a select but small minority; that the majority of professors and — what seems to me even more discouraging — the majority of students lack either intellectual freedom or intellectual idealism; are either narrow-minded and unreasonably conservative, or interested, not in science but in jobs, or in both. I saw further — a thing which my American friends told me at once, but which I would not believe — that the over-refined, aesthetic group of society people whom I met were especially and with difficulty selected by my hosts, and my impression is now that, while a certain tendency to refinement in such superficial matters as home-furnishing, and a certain delicacy in personal relations outside of business, are more common in this country than anywhere in Europe, refinement in these lines curiously coexists with roughness in others; and that American cities, with their mixture of horrid business centres, slums, charming residential quarters, and beautiful parks, are a fair symbol of the average American psychology.

Finally, social idealism, active interest in other people's welfare, and willingness to make sacrifices for a humanitarian cause are certainly oftener met here than in the middle or upper classes of any European society except Polish (the lower classes seem to be more altruistic everywhere). Not being very altruistic by nature, I have frequently acknowledged and admired the superiority of many Americans in real goodness. But I cannot understand at all how, alongside of this kindheartedness, there can be so much ruthless 'struggling for existence,' and such naïve, unconcerned, often brutal egotism as is found in the whole field of American business; and I try to explain this to myself by a curious traditional separation between two domains of interest: a week-day set of practical attitudes, and a Sunday set of religious attitudes, all idealism being connected with the latter and entirety excluded from the former. The separation is no longer

(196) explicitly grounded in this distinction, and yet the two groups of associations remain divided and do not blend.

There are other features of American life which make active participation in it rather difficult for me. First of all, there is the lack of social freedom, the oppression of the individual by all kinds of traditional or recently created social norms. Since I am not politically active, this social tyranny affects me much more than any amount of political despotism could do, particularly as it extends to the intellectual domain.' I feel more bound in the expression of my opinions here than I felt under Russian censorship in Warsaw, despite the fact that I am not in the slightest measure inclined to political, social, moral, or religious revolution-ism of any kind, and was considered in Europe, even by the most radical conservatives, a perfectly ‘inoffensive,' mildly progressive intellectualist. Further, I feel the impossibility of following the ceaseless rush of American practical life without losing all power to concentrate and to reflect, and without sacrificing my hope of creating really lasting intellectual values which need time and continued effort to mature.

On the other hand, American social life has little positive attraction for me after Europe. I miss here entirely the atmosphere of intellectual encouragement, of interest manifested both in fight and in response; my social standing as a theoretic worker certainly is far from what it was there, and the amount of social recognition which can be obtained here for intellectual achievement seems not much worth struggling for.

For all these reasons, I am inclined to withdraw as much as possible from social life into solitude; two or three friends are practically all I care to see. This inclination is, moreover, in harmony with the strong revival of romantic love-attitudes — stronger than ever before — which I experienced in connection with my second marriage. My desire for response tends thus to be fully satisfied by my home-life. As to my desire for recognition, the satisfaction which it needs becomes more and more indirect. I am less and less desirous )f any kind of social recognition which can be obtained by personal contact with social groups, and inclined to work exclusively for a less dazzling, but more permanent, fame among intellectual workers only, independent of country or epoch.

And yet I am sincerely interested in America — but in the future rather than in the present America. My incipient enthusiasm for American cultural development never has had any chance to mature, because I realize at every moment that American society does not feel any need of my or any other ‘foreigner's' coöρeratiοn; that it is in general perfectly satisfied with itself and perfectly able to manage its own future in accordance with its own desires; to create all the values it wants without having any ‘imported' values thrust upon it.

In analyzing the evolution of my attitude toward this country, it seems to me that much of my growing criticism and dissatisfaction with American conditions has been due to the gradual realization of this self-complacency of American society, which, by a natural reaction, sharpened my critical tendency and made me see more clearly all the weaknesses of American life to which I should otherwise have paid less attention.

This self-complacency seemed to me particularly manifest after America entered the war. Of course, I am perfectly well aware that every healthy and normal nation should have faith in itself, should consider its fundamental values the best in the world and itself the foremost nation in potentia even

(197) if not in actu. I have met this attitude everywhere, and was not surprised at finding it here. And yet, there is a difference. In France, in Germany, in Italy, in Poland, this attitude manifests itself toward other national groups, but not toward individual foreigners when they come to live and work in the country. On the contrary, I have myself experienced, during my travels abroad, and I have seen manifested toward incomers in Poland (unless they were members of the oppressing nation) an attitude which I may call intellectual hospitality, a tendency to learn, to appreciate, and to utilize whatever values the foreigner may bring with him, unless, of course, he brings nothing but unskilled labor. No European society I know acts as if it possessed and knew everything worth while and had nothing to learn; whereas this is precisely the way American society acts toward a foreigner as soon as he ceases to play the rôle of a passing ‘curiosity,' and wants to take an active part inn American life. I do not think most Americans realize how revolting is, to a more or less educated immigrant, their naïve attitude of superiority, their astonishing self-satisfaction, their inability and unwillingness to look on anything foreign as worth being understood and assimilated. I believe, judging even less by my own experience than by the experiences of others, that the unanimously critical standpoint taken toward this country by all, even if only half-way educated and socially independent immigrants, and their universal attachment to and idealization of the ‘old country' values, are provoked by this ‘lording it over' the immigrant, his traditions, his ideals; by this implicit or explicit assumption that Americanization necessarily means progress, that the immigrant should simply leave all he brought with him as worthless stuff, — worthless, at least, for this country, — and instead of trying to introduce the most valuable elements of his culture into American life and select the most valuable elements of Americanism for himself, should merely accept everything American just as it is.

In the same line, and perhaps even more revolting to the reflecting foreigner who comes with the idea of working and settling in this country, is the current tendency of American society to interpret the relation between the immigrant and America as that of one-sided benefit and one-sided obligation. This is, again, an attitude I have not met in Europe, though European countries are incomparably more crowded than America. Here the immigrant is continually given to understand that he should consider himself privileged in being able to profit by American institutions and earn his living in this country; that he should be perpetually grateful to America for having given him the opportunities he has.

I omit here the fact that the immigrant is discriminated against in many lines simply because he is a foreigner and independently of the question of his efficiency, and thus is not given the same opportunities as the born American, while his obligations are the same. Even suppose this inequality to be nonexistent, the assumption that, when the immigrant ‘gets a job' he is getting more than giving, is to me entirely incomprehensible, since, even if he is only a working hand, his work, like every human work, creates a surplus of values which goes to increase the stock of American material culture, and the latter is, in a continually growing proportion, precisely the agglomerated surplus of immigrants' products. And perhaps because of my intellectualistic traditions — this assumption, when applied to intellectual activity, seems to me not only to be unjust but to imply

(198) a morally degrading attitude toward the highest human ideals.

I experienced this lately with regard to myself, when searching for a permanent university position. Several of the persons to whom I applied, without in the least questioning my qualifications, suggested very clearly that jobs in American universities should be reserved for American students, and gave me to understand that I need not stay in this country since I certainly could find now a position in Europe. In general, the prevalent conception was that obtaining a position would be a benefit for me, and that there was no reason for giving such benefits to a stranger, however efficient he might be. I never saw as clearly as then how wide the discrepancy still was between the average American attitude and my own, and how little I am adapted to American life in its deeper significance, in spite of my nearly complete superficial adaptation. For it seemed to me, first, that what I came to offer to this country — my scientific talent, training, enthusiasm and idealism — had no economic equivalent whatever and could not be expressed in terms of job and salary. And even if it were put on the ground of an exchange of values, I would give by my teaching alone more than I could ever receive from the institution, while my scientific work, helping to promote American culture, would be an additional surplus, establishing definitely in my favor the balance between American society and myself.


I do not want to draw too hasty generalizations from my observations. I certainly have experienced as much intellectual hospitality from some Americans as I would from any men in any country. But the fact which discourages me is that I have found this hospitable attitude only in very few, and these the most highly cultivated and intellectual men I know here. Men of this calibre are rare everywhere, and cannot in any sense be considered representative of the public spirit. The continually rising wave of narrow nationalism in internal and external policy; the growing mistrust and aversion to ‘foreigners' manifested in the press; the reaction against the first great idealistic movement of international cooperation started by President Wilson — all this makes me feel that a foreigner who does not care to live exclusively in his own racial group, but wants to be a member of American society, and who at the same time is not satisfied with passively adapting himself to existing conditions, but would like to cooperate in creating new and higher values, has no place in this country at the present moment.

Of course, I am fully conscious that my inability to adapt myself completely and really to American life is due to the fact that my tendencies and views have a different bias from those of an average American. I am also perfectly willing to acknowledge that this fact may have made me overlook some valuable elements of American civilization which, because of their specifically American character, I have failed to understand and to appreciate properly, however sincerely I have tried, for the sake of my own development, not to miss any important features of this civilization. But this does not seem to be the main point. No individual can assimilate all the values of a modern civilized society, and I know many Americans for whom American civilization contains and means much less' than it does for me.

Now, my personal bias is certainly no longer a class bias: if there are any specific class-attitudes persisting subconsciously in my personality, — and I

(199) do not think there are, — they have nothing to do with the actual problem of my adaptation to American conditions. Nor is my bias in any particular way national. However great may have been the rôle which Polish national ideals have played in my life, my psychology seems to me less specifically national, to contain less specifically racial elements, than that of any individual Pole, Frenchman, Italian, German Russian, or American I have ever met. I have been subjected to so many heterogeneous national influences even before coming to this country, French German, Russian (through literature and direct social contact); English, Italian, Spanish (through literature chiefly), — that I am probably more of a cosmopolitan, than most of the foreigners who have ever come to this country. I have, at various times, actively participated in the intellectual life of three different societies besides my own, — French, Swiss, American, — using in each case a different language, needing each time only a few months of preparation, and mixing intimately with the respective groups.

This fact seems to me sufficient proof of the lack, on my side, of any racial obstacles to my adaptation. My bias is, if anything, a professional bias. I certainly have an exalted conception of the function which the scientific profession can and should fulfill in human society, and which entitles it to demand that minimum of favorable social conditions which is absolutely indispensable for intellectual productivity. I also believe that all scientists have an obligation to maintain certain professional ideals, the most important of which are continual perfecting of the standards of theoretic validity in so far as compatible with intellectual efficiency on the given stage of human development; disinterestedness in theoretic pursuits (the only personal reward which the scientist has the right to expect is recognition based exclusively on the objective importance and intrinsic perfection of his work, and, therefore, necessarily slow to come and limited to the most intellectual part of society); freedom of mind and sincerity of expression; enthusiasm for scientific work and for the development of human knowledge in general; and, finally, ‘true brotherhood' of all scientific workers 'in the domain of science, manifested in reciprocal interest, serious and thorough criticism, deserved appreciation, encouragement and help in intellectual pursuits, all this independent of differences of class, race, or religion, which may divide scientists as social individuals, as members of concrete groups, in other fields of cultural life.

I have drawn these my conceptions about the scientific profession, not from the social tradition of any particular class or nation at any particular moment of its existence, but from a comparison of the greatest human civilizations, past and present. The more complete and highly developed a civilization, the more perfectly are the professional demands and ideals of the scientist realized in it. I was thus justified in expecting to find these ideals recognized and active in a nation with a material culture as progressive and with claims of a general civilization as high as those of American society. It seems to me, therefore, that I can hardly take upon myself the fault of my disappointment.


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