Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 19

Self-Realization as a Working Moral Principle

Author(s): Henry Sturt


Source: International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Apr., 1898), pp. 328-345
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2375787 .
Accessed: 15/05/2014 08:43
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
International Journal of Ethics.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

328

Internationaljournal of Ethics.

SELF-REALIZATION AS A WORKING MORAL


PRINCIPLE.
IN spite of the mournful utterance of the desponding
studentsof society,who tell us that while the world is more
and more,the individual is withering,it is very doubtfulif
the individual has ever had a better chance than at the end
of this nineteenthcentury. In numberlessways life is free
and richerforus than it was forour forefathers.And this is
seen to be forour good. People are growingconvinced,and
justly convinced,that education,culture,and rational amusementare all helpfulto a virtuouslife; while ignorance,coarseness, and general povertyof mind and body are its greatest
hinderances. It is inevitablethat a convictionso wide-spread,
and in many ways so salutary,should be representedin contemporaryphilosophy, which justly prides itself on being
closely in touch withlife. In moral philosophyit appears as
the theoryof self-realization. The obvious fact that modern
culture has promotedvirtue has suggested that virtue itself
may be a sort of self-culture. In all ages speculation has
asked, What is moral good ? Not a fewof our ablestthinkers
now answer, It is self-realization. And self-realizationmay
be best definedas the cultivationof character,as the formation of a rich,noble, and harmonious personality. Or again,
speaking in termsof function,
it means a lifefullof rich,noble,
and harmonious activities. The fulfilment
of such activities,
in
other
the
cultivation
of
such
a
or,
words,
character,is, the
self-realizerwould argue, what we mean by virtueor moral
goodness.
This interpretation
of virtue is, we venture to think,quite
mistaken,forreasons which cannotbe adequately set forthin
a shortarticle. It is possible in brieflimitsto state a fundamentaltruth,but scarcelypossible to controverta fundamental
mistake,since that involves a full statementof-the truth as
well. Our present scope is narrower,to show that this selfrealizationprincipledoes not work well in practice. This, of

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Se/f-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Princizple.

329

course, amountsindirectlyto a criticismof its truth; since, as


Aristotle remarked,"all experience harmonizeswith a true
principle,but a falseone is soon foundto be incompatiblewith
the facts."
The thesis which we will tryto establishis that self-realization is usefulas a rough indicationof the rightmoraldirection,
but thatwhen examined narrowly,it turnsout to be no more
than a secondaryprincipleof conduct.
First,for the formerhalf of the thesis. Self-realizationis
in harmonywith the tendenciesof the age. It is a counsel
of growthand expansion,and growthand expansionhave been
characteristicof the England of our generation. The causes
of this are largelypolitical and economic. Among them are
the increase in the food-supplyand otherkinds of wealth,the
creationof new industries,the participationof the masses in
political power,colonization,the emancipationof women,and
the weakeningof class prejudices in social life. Now, just as
in a decaying and straitenedsociety,the virtuesof resignation and self-denialmust rightlygain in favor,so in 'a free
and thrivingsociety must the virtues of self-expansionand
healthyenjoyment.
These material and political causes of the expansion of
modern English life may be left to the political economist
and social historian. They are the conditionsof self-expansion, rather than elements in it. We are concerned rather
withthe higher sides of life,with the sphere of knowledge,
religion,and art.
We need not say much of knowledge. For some hundred
years the English nationhas professedto believe in education,
but only in recentyears have we, as a nation,acted up to the
profession. No side of our national life has expanded more
than this.
Religion is anothersphere where the principleof expansion
has supplanted the principleof repression. The essence of
our Protestantismis to lay more stress upon the individual
Christianthan upon the Church,morestressupon the personal
relationof the worshipperto his Maker than upon the community of the worshippers,combined into an organization

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

330

InternationalJournal of Ethics.

and acknowledgingcommonformulaof belief. But this personal relationhas a double side. We may thinkmore of our
and dependence, or more of our aspiration. We
inferiority
may reflectthat,contrastedwith God, man is as dust and his
lifebriefas an eddy of the dust; that his wisdom is foolishness and his strengthnaught; that his righteousnessis as
filthyrags, his good intentionsmost weak and transitory. If,
in addition,we believe in the dogmas of Original Sin and
Eternal Punishment,we are forcedto admit that life should
be nothingbut a preparationfordeath,and everythingwhich
hinders the work of salvation a stumbling-blockto be cast
aside fromthe path. To the condemned wretch daily expecting the executioner mirthis but a mockery,and every
earthlyinterestbut a lure fromthe task of reconcilinghimself
withan offendedMaker.
It may be that fewhave believed withlogical thoroughness
in this death's-head theology; but it is certain that not long
ago it gave a tinge to the lives of most religious Englishmen.
The grudgingor prohibitionof amusement,such as novels or
theatres,the distrustof science,the depreciationof artand all
the realm of the beautifulwas, and in some circles is still,a
mark of a well-principledmind. But forthese old prejudices
circles,
serious middle-classlife,particularlyin non-conformist
would not be so bare and tastelessas it generallyis.
But now the tide is setting the other way. We are all
coming to think more of the possibilities than of the imperfectionsof our life,more of the promisesthan of the prohibitions of the Law, more of aspirationthan of self-abasement.
Our teacherstell us to advance towardsthe Divine Perfection,
not to grovel beforeit.
It is impossible not to connect this change in religious
thoughtwiththat revivalof English art so closely associated
withthe teachingof Ruskin. In great part it has been a reof industrialism;but many of
action against the deformities
its phenomenacarryus back in thoughtto the great Revival of
Learning. We know the storyof the St. Bernardjourneying
along the Lake of Leman and so lost in theological meditation
that he never raised his eyes to the noble landscape before

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Se/f-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Principle.

331

him. We know,too, how fourcenturieslater Europe shook


offthis load of theologyand claimed once more the rightto
live and enjoy. Somethingof the same sort has happened to
us in England on a much smallerscale. As the fifteenth
and
sixteenth centuries revolted against the Romish asceticism,
so we have revoltedagainst the self-negatingside of Protestantism; and in our case, too,withthose misguideddecedents
who would sever art frommorals,a certainamountof lawlessness has foundplace in the tumultof reconqueredfreedom.
But in the mainour art revivalhas been a power forgoodness. Ruskin, its protagonist,is a preacher of moralityas
much as of art; nor is thereany intentionof selfishnessin his
self-expansion. But though fewlives have shown more selfsacrificethan his, it is self-expansionwhich appeals to him
primarilyas a good. In a notable passage he questions the
claim of self-sacrifice
to a place among the virtues; so loath is
he to waste the riches of the human spirit.
If the foregoingestimateof the general expansive tendency
of our societyis right,then self-realizationis in a measure
justified. For no one can doubt that the widening and enrichmentof English life makes for good. The times favor
self-expansion,and the self-realizationtheoryteaches us to
seek it. It is thereforejustified as a principle of conduct.
We shall question,however,its claim to be the main principle
of conduct.
A word may be said in passing on the relation of selfrealizationto hedonism,which has manypoints in common
withit. The more modern hedonistsmaintainthat pleasures
are diverse in value, and that we ought to seek the highest.
The best lifewould be one fullof pleasures,various,persistent,
and refined. Now, as pleasure is nothing but the feelingof
activity,this high hedonistic life is much the same as a selfis that the
realizinglifeof excellentactivities. The difference
self-realizerthinks more of the permanentcharacter which
underliesthe activities. His aim is the good character rather
than the functionalexpressionsof it.
It is characteristicthat in modern days we have had an
ethical rehabilitationof pleasure. The mistakeof older times

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

332

InternationalYournal of Ethics.

was to confoundpleasurewithexcess, and bringboth into the


same condemnation. A more thorough criticismhas led us
to a milderjudgment. Pleasure is seen to be nothing more
than the feelingof the performanceof function,of the free
dischargeof vital energy. In itselfit can neitherbe harmful
nor blameworthy. Rather it is a mark of health and adaptation to environment;while pain is the mark of disease and
failureand a spiritat odds with lifeand one's fellow-men.
Now, it has become an ethical truism that forthe normal
man a good lifemustbe a lifeof congenial work and sympathetic co-operation with his fellow-citizens. It is obvious,
therefore,that a good life must be on the whole a pleasant
one. But not only is it right to make a pleasure of one's
duty,it is right also to take advantage of all those innocent
enjoymentswhich put us into a harmoniousstate of mind,increase our vigor,and make us feelkindlytowards our fellowmen. This is a truthwhich has penetratedfarbeyond philosophical circles and contributedto formpublic opinion on
the value of enjoyment. A wise liberalitytowards innocent
pleasures has in the best of our contemporariesreplaced the
-puritanism
of our forefathers.
The foregoingremarks have, it may be hoped, given some
color to the firstpart of our thesis,that the maxim of selfrealizationis valuable as a guide for the general directionof
conduct. Beforewe go on to the second partwe will,as selfrealizationis not an exact term,attemptto gain a clear view
of its meaning. We have definedit in a general way as the
cultivationof character. This may be understood in more
than one sense. When we are told to realize the self,does
this mean the entire self? If so, we must forma conception
of human excellence somewhatakin to that of Aristotle,who
says that the chief good forman must be the actualityof his
powers accordingto theirown properlaw of excellence. The
good man then will be one who has developed his nature in
every direction,or, to use a phrase of Goethe's, one who has
reared the pyramidof his being as high as he possibly can.
But surelyto live for self-realizationin this sense is a very
pagan sort of virtue. The entireself includes a great many

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Self-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Principle.

333

elementswhich are entirelyselfish. A fullydeveloped man,


according to the Greek idea, is one who is not only rich in
habits of virtue and sympathy,but also in bodily vigor,and
the various accomplishmentsof intellectand emotion. Now,
but also the
to be all this,one needs not onlygood intentions,
"furnitureof fortune,"-wealth,social position, and general
one's supreme
prosperity. So to make entire self-realization
aim impliesthe pursuitof these thingsas well as the pursuit
of virtue. But it is hardlynecessaryto point out that,according to the currentstandardof morality,at least, one must be
constantlypreparedto give up or hazard these externalgoods,
and accept with resignationthe prospect of a maimed and
stuntedlife,if dutyso requiresit.
The difficultiesin the way of all-roundself-realizationare
obvious; but some thinkershave sought to evade them by
distinguishingin man the true self fromthe false,the rational
the animal fromthe spiritual. Self-realizafromthe irrational,
tion,theymaintain,lies in developingthe higherand suppressing the lower. But this distinctionis not a sound one. We
cannot break a man's personalityinto two. We cannot say
that his bodily part has, so to speak, no business to be there,
and that his intellect and will alone formhis true self. If
feelingwere a false elementin the man,it would be separable
fromhim at least in thought. We could imagine him without it, and he would seem to us as then relieved froman encumbranceand disfigurement.But psychologytells us otherwise. Man is a creatureof feelingin everyfibreof his nature..
We cannoteven conceive him withouthis body, or his consciousness without the element that comes from sensation.
Even if we achieved the impossible and formeda character
all intellectand will to the exclusion of feeling,we should not
be realizingthe true self,but only a part of the self
To this criticisman opponent might urge that partialselfrealizationis the truestformof it; thatwe may not be able to
annihilatethe lower self,but we are most ourselves when we
indulge it as little as possible. We replythat this is asceticism, and asceticismmay or may not be a truetheoryof lifer
fromself-realization. The
but it is somethingquite different

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

334

InternationalY7ournalof Ethics.

itselfinto
has, in fact,transformed
principleof self-realization
a principleof self-sacrifice.It is true that fromone point of
view everyact of denial is also an act of affirmation.The
austerityof the hermit,the obstinacyof the martyr,are acts
in so faras they affirmone elementof the
of self-realization
of the one elementis made at the
self. But the affirmation
lies outkind of self-realization
this
the
and
rest,
expense of
side the scope of our presentargument.
A very popular and valuable form of the self-realization
doctrineis that which bids us realize what is called the social
self. One often hears people make a sharp opposition between egoism and altruism; in fact,treat themas contradictories and mutuallyexclusive. But it does not need a very
profoundstudyto see thattheyare to a verylarge extenttwo
aspects of the same thing; that the growthof the selfimplies
an increased devotion to the interestsof one's fellow-men.
The sympathiesare, indeed,a great part of the contentof the
ego; a man can only live a full lifefor himselfif he lives in
the lives of othersalso. This is a point of view which T. H.
Green did so much to impose upon our generation. A lifeof
social devotion,of service in the spheres of the family,the
parish or city,and the state,is really a lifeof self-realization
of the truestand highestkind. Such a moral ideal, he would
have argued, combines the truth in the ethical systems of
Aristotleand Hegel. While Aristotle tells us to pursue the
summumbonum,eudaimonia,Hegel insistson the moral value
of " my stationand its duties." The factis, says Green,that
happinessis realized by devotionto the dutiesof one's station.
This only requiresa little supplementingto make it the best
which our moral experiencehas so far
formof self-realization
disclosed to us. Green hardlytook enough account of the
virtuesand of the pursuitof art and science for
self-regarding
theirown sakes. But if a man,withoutneglectingthe claims
and the claims of intellectual
of prudenceand self-preservation
and artistic culture,can live a widely sympatheticlife as a
religious man and an active citizen,he has surelyformeda
characteras rich as any that we know.
The foregoing,it may be hoped, is a statementof the self-

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Self-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Principle.

335

realizationprincipleas a thinkermightexpress it. But every


one has heard this question discussed in places faroutsidethe
philosophic sphere. It has escaped out of the lecture-room
into the circulatinglibrary. Not a littleof the literatureof
the day preaches vaguely but forciblya gospel of self-realization. "Be free,""Strip off conventions,""Live your own
life,"is theburdenof manya problemnovel and problemplay.
On the ears of men of settled character and station such
phrases fall unheeded. But to the young and untrainedthey
have a delusive ring of hope and emancipation.
One can imagine a veteran exponent of this higher individualism giving counsel to a young friendenteringlife.
"My son," he will say, "cultivate character. It is the only
object in the world of permanentvalue in itself. Shun everythingthatnarrowsyour life; cast out everythingthatdeforms
it. Breadth, sweetness,equipose, these are the qualities of
the virtuousman,the man who trulysucceeds."
We have now triedto show what the maxim of self-realization means in its various forms,and to prove that it is in harmony with the tendenciesof the age and, therefore,
valuable
as a general indicationof the kind of lifeone ought to lead.
But we hold that its utilityends here. If a man attemptedto
regulate his conduct strictlyby it, his lifewould be a moral
failure. There is, in fact, a maxim which is higher than
" Realize yourself,"and that is, " Work." Let the work be
the highestwithin your reach, but let it be low and inferior
work rather than none at all. It may be objected that
Green's theoryof conduct combines these two principlesof
since it is by working in one's staworkand self-realization,
is
achieved. This is not strictlytrue.
self-realization
tion that
Devotion to the duties of one's station implies commonlya
the acquirementof a certainexcellence
certainself-realization,
of character; but not always. It may lead to a partial or
total self-suppression. Whereas if a man makes it his chief
aim to forman excellentcharacter,to enjoy a liferichin noble
and various activities,he mustrejectas unworthymostof those
formsof work withwhich men have to be content. Green's
theoryis plausible because it is not strictlylogical. Work

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

336

InternationalYournal of Ethics.

is one thing and character another. They are closely connected but notthe same. A man will look at lifein a different
way according as he makes the one or the otherhis primary
aim.
We will now see how this works out at the various ages of
man. Take firstthe young man to whom the self-realization
principleappeals so powerfully. We argue that when he is
enteringon the serious business of life he should accept
eagerlyand gratefullysuch opportunitiesof self-realization
as
present themselves,but must not make this his primaryaim.
He must not resolve to "be free"or to "live his own life."
He must resolve to live in the eye of the task-master. The
maxim of work,the spirit of service and subordination,not
the desire of personal achievement,must be his prevalent
mood if he would succeed. In supportof this we have but
to considerthe constitutionof society. It is a truthwhich
only needs recallingthat man is a social creature; apart from
societyhe is nothing. Now, the dominating,one mightalmost
say overwhelming,factabout society is its organization. In
orderthat societymay exist certainwork must be performed;
certain daily provision made forthe sustenanceof body and
mind. In a civilized society the mass of this work is enor-mous,and can onlybe accomplishedby an immenselyelaborate
industrial organization held togetherby stringentdiscipline.
On the successfulworkingof this the welfareof every citizen
depends; and everycitizen,if he would not be a useless drone,
must bear his part in it. As it is the foremostof all human
intereststhat society should flourish,so our co-operationin it
is the foremostof all our duties. Till that claim is satisfied
we must not thinkof individualself-realization.
For the young man enteringlifethese conditionsmust hold
good with special stringency. To many of us the universal
yoke of social duty may become easy throughcustom; he is
just learningto wear it. In servingthe apprenticeshipto life
a man cannot affordto thinkof forminga character,except in
a secondaryway. He has to acquire the mechanicalskill of
his profession,the knack of handling the tools, so to speak;
and this is an engrossing task, even for the aptest learner.

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Self-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Principle.

337

Moreover,he must get some notionof the compositionof his


society,of the way the social mechanism does its work,and
of the functionwhich his own employmentperformsin it.
He must studyhuman natureand,in particular,thosevarieties
of it whichhe will have to work with. Above all he must get
to know himself,his facultiesand their limitations,so that he
may lay out his talentto the best advantage. All this time he
must,apprentice-like,be subject to authority. He must, in
some measure,surrenderhis personalityto be moulded by his
masterand by the spiritof his professionalenvironment.
It is possible that the out-and-outbelieverin charactermay
remarkthat this apprenticeshipis the apprenticeshipof a Philistine,or, as Dickens would have said, of Podsnappery,and
that our docile young man will end as a soulless creatureof
routine. The case is not quite so bad as that, and yet we
must admit thatin thus becoming useful membersof society
men, forone thing,lose much of the charmof irresponsibility.
A Harold Skimpole who utterlyrefusesthe social harness
and shiftsall his burdens on to his more business-likefriends
is a much more entertainingcreature than Podsnap who has
gone to the City at ten A.M. regularlyfor the last thirty-five
years, and whose ideas, never very extensive,have become
too narrowforintelligentconversation. And, fictionapart,it
is unfortunately
true that many excellent men grow duller as
they grow older. One notes in themwith regret the withering of youthfulenthusiasms,the abandonment of youthful
studies,a general policy of mentalretrenchment.The change
but one is forced
may not be enough to dissolve friendship,
to admit that though they remain good fellows they are no
longer good company.
This factis all the sadder because so many scamps grown
gray in mischiefremain entertainingto the last. The lifeof
a ne'er-do-wellis one of adventure,of escapes and devices,
of frequentchange of scene and occupation. He does not
fossilizein the routineof business and the rearingof an unintelligentfamily. It is certain that, in many ways, Alfred
Jingle, that prince of sharpers,was more of a self-realizer
thanthe exemplaryPodsnap. His character,thoughless solid,
VOL. VIII.-No.

23

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

338

International-7ournalof Ethics.

had more wealth of experience,more variety and intricacy,


more lightand shade, and all the charm of the out-at-elbows
picturesque. The life,then,of the average usefulcitizendoes
not tendto develop and displaythe lightergracesof character.
This no doubt is due to the still imperfectdevelopmentof
society. When this imperfectionis removed,when scientific
inventionhas superseded drudgery,when everyman's life-task
is so varied, so interesting,and so congenial that his mind
growsbrighterand suppleras he grows older,then self-realizationand dutywill coincide. But thisis obviouslyin the distant
future. So much for the question how farthe lighterexcellencies of character are realized by devotionto the duties of
one's station.
Now let us turn to the solid virtues. Do we realize that
side of characterby the lifeof civic subordination? To this
our answer must be twofold. We realize them in a sense;
but not in the sense meant by one who maintainsthe ethical
theoryof self-realization. It cannot be too stronglyinsisted
that active work in society,the business-likepursuitof some
useful calling, is the only moral trainingthat rests upon a
solid base. No academic or cloisteredvirtue can pretend to
the same reality. The moralistdefinesvirtue; the preacher
inspiresus withardor to pursue it; practicalexperiencealone
can show that it is the necessaryconditionof all that gives
life its value and its dignity. But we cannot argue from
this that doing one's duty in one's station and resolving to
realize oneself are the same thing,or two ways of describing
the same moral attitude. From our humble human standpoint thereis all the difference
betweenthem. Life is a struggle, nay, a sort of fight,and a resolution to do one's best in
the fightis very different
fromthinkingforemostof the type
of characterproduced by victory. A fewconsiderationswill
make this plain. In the firstplace, there is the chance of perishing or gettingmaimed in the struggle. This chance is very
considerable in some professions,as those of the soldier,the
sailor, and even the physician. But it exists,too, in the most
peacefulwalks of life; in the way of business or in the managementof one's family. No one can be sure that he may not

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Se/f-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Princi~ple. 339


any day be required to hazard life or fortuneat the call of
duty. Now, surely,this obvious contingencyis not provided
is made the rule of life. Consider the
forwhen self-realization
professionof the soldierand imaginethe recruitenlistingwith
the aim that he may realizethe characterof theveteran. How
absurd this sounds! and yet,ifcharacteris reallythe supreme
thing,it is what he ought to do. If any recruit did talk in
this strain,the man of common-sensewould remindhim that
a bullet mightruinhis plans at the outset. So, more or less,
with the other walks of life,from chimney-sweepsto emperors. To the man of dutydeath is an incident; to the selfrealizerit is a frustration.
of
A furtherconsiderationwill show the impracticability
the scheme of lifewe are criticizing. The young man who
sets out to realize character must have some more or less
definitetype beforehis mind. No one can thinkof rivalling
such diverse kinds of excellence as Shakespeare, Napoleon,
and Sir Isaac Newton all in one lifetime. Generally,some
favoritehero strikes his fancyand shapes his ideal. Now,
grantingthat he has healthand long life,whatare his chances
of becoming what he wants to be? Surely,very slight. In
the firstplace, veryfewmen are in a positionto choose their
own career. Circumstancesare generallysuch that only two
or three places in the social organizationare open to them.
They must either take these or starve. Secondly, even if a
young man is freeto choose his career,it is impossibleto be
certainwhat will be its effecton his character. He can only
guess how the matterwill work out; for both factorsin the
problem,his own nature and his futurecircumstances,are at
known. It may be that his chosen career
best imperfectly
will turn out very differentfrom what he anticipates,and
demand a type of excellence very differentfrom what he
admires. A youth may enter the army desiring to realize
the virtuesof the Homeric warrior,and find,when in it,that
he can serve his countrybest as a statistician.
may consider the two foreThe advocate of self-realization
minor
be
of
importance. It may be true
going objections to
that when we set forthto form a noble characterwe cannot

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

340

International-7ournalof Ethics.

be sure eitherthatan accidentwill not frustrateus or that we


shall achieve exactly that type which we admire. And yet,
he might urge, under average circumstances,some sort of
excellence will undoubtedlybe achieved if we go the right
way to gain it,-i.e., by working in the social organization.
Now, in one sense this is true; but it is not true exactly in
the sense the self-realizermeans it. Undoubtedly the best
way to forma characteris by doing the dutiesof one's station.
But we must, when we throw ourselves into those duties,
be moderate in our anticipationsof the characterwe shall
achieve. It may possess a good deal of solid worth,but it is
verylikelyto be battered and flawed by rough contactwith
the world. This is not the kind of characterwhich attracts
enthusiasticyouth. The better kind of young man shows
but scant respectforwhat he calls the respectablePhilistine.
Occasionally one meets with seniors who have borne an
active part in life and yet delight us with the fulness and
beauty of their natures. They have somehow kept themselves unspotted from the world. But this is rare. The
average man who works in the world mustexpect to be more
or less spottedthereby.
Of this any one may convince himselfwho has had experience of life. Let him thinkof the business men he knows
and weigh theirvirtueswith an even hand. Take a man in
fullcontactwiththe hard realitiesof the world,a solicitoror
stock broker, for example. Respectable members of these
professionsare honest in the main. We habituallytrustour
fortunesand our dearestinterestsin their hands. But would
their general practice,and thereforetheir characters,be approved by any youth enamouredof abstractvirtue? Would
it bear to be put forwardas the goal of a self-realizinglife?
No one has writtena detailed and authentic treatiseon the
moralityof the stock-exchangeor the solicitor'soffice,though
on the latter subject there are many valuable hints in a recent paper on legal ethics in America.* It is to be hoped
that some candid and philosophicmemberof theseprofessions
* INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ETHICS for April, 1897.

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Self-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Principle.

341

will brave idle scandal and record an interestingphase of


moral practicebeforeit passes away. It is doubtful,however,
if such a treatisewill ever be written,but if it is, we may be
quite certainthatthe systemof practicewhich it will disclose,
though perhaps not unsuited to the needs of the profession,
will not square with any moral code promulgated by philosopher or religious teacher, from Confucius and Buddha
down to the presentday.
It is needless to enlarge furtheron the moral imperfections
of the worldly. The judicious student of human nature
knows them only too well. The subject is one which readily
lends itselfto cheap sarcasm. It is veryeasy to dwell on the
failingsof respectablemodern societyand then turnand ask
how we dare call ourselves Christians,or claim to be superior
to savages, who are too simple to cheat and too gentle to kill
theirfellow-men. This is ethical clap-trap. It is better to
recordwithequanimitythese two instructivefacts: we cannot
be solidly virtuous if we do not work in the world, and we
are not likelyto be perfectlyvirtuousif we do.
Of this second fact the reason is not farto seek; it lies in
the imperfectionof society. Dirty work and drudgery,the
same causes which depress our elasticityand make us dull
and formal,also tend to make us morallyimperfect. The system in which we work is imperfect,
so are the people we work
with,and the imperfectionsof all react upon us. Consider
the lawyer. Under the most favorablecircumstanceshe sees
men in an unamiable light, disputing mostly over money;
while as an agent of justice he is a sort of social scavenger.
He has a great deal of dirtywork to do and must come into
contactwith manydubious and even vile characters. All this
does not improvea man; it is difficult
to touch pitch and not
be defiled. Again, the systemof law which he has to administeris veryfaulty,and the individual can do but littleto improve it. Let him be as scrupulous as he will, he must do
many hard things; he must oftenbe the instrumentof injustice; he must make many compromisesbetweenprofessional
advancementand the dictatesof honesty.
These considerationslead us on to what is the really fatal

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

342

Internationaljournall of Ethics.

defectof the self-realizingprinciple: it preventsa man from


throwinghimselfwithall his heart into the duties of his station. At the outset of every enterpriseit calls on him to
pause and ask himself,Shall I be the better man for this?
Will not thatwork involvea deteriorationof my character?
Will notthis drudgerynarrowthe fullround of myactivities?
It bids us replace dutyby a sort of higher selfishnessand
subordinatethe interestof the communityto a sortof higher
individualism.
Now, this is a fatalmood ifone would accomplish anything
in the world. The self-realizeris like a soldier who puts his
personal characterabove the interestsof the army. He cannot embarkon this expedition because it is a wanton aggression; he cannotbesiege thatcitybecause innocentwomenand
childrenwill be starved; he cannot shoot that prisonerbecause the man was maltreatedand goaded into mutiny. Obviously,soldiers must go throughthe horrorsand brutalities
of war as best they can. Not theirsto reason why or make
replywhen orderscome. And yetwe honor the professionof
arms. So with other walks of life, more or less. We all
know the storyof Cavour,who, in the midstof his diplomatic
labors forItalian freedom,paused one day and asked himself,
" Am I not fast becoming a scoundrel?" Some professions
are less tryingthan others,and in every one we can, within
limits, reject the evil without losing the good. But in all
it is a condition of success that we think of work before
character.
It is possible that the readermay agree to some extentwith
the foregoingviews and yet be sorryto hear them spoken.
The ethical theory you attack,he may say, is visionary,but
it is elevating. It stimulatesaspiration,and in any case can
have no bad effects. We doubt this. It is of real importance
to a young man to have a theoryof virtuewhich squares with
theoryis parexperience,and this is where the self-realization
ticularlyweak. Just now this questionable theorytends to
predominatein ethical teaching. The resultis that the culturedyoung man leaves the universitywith mistaken notions
about the conduct of life; and, unless he is one of those prac-

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Self-Realizationas a WorkingMoral Principle.

343

tical sceptics who keep theiracademic theoriesin one pocket


and theirworkingmaxims in the other,he soon findshimself
at odds withhis profession. Thus it is that a hopeful career
often begins in failure. A man of vigorous mind,of course,
soon pulls himselftogether; forthe logic of lifeis prettysure
to overpower the logic of the lecture-room. He learns to
smile at ideals whose meritlies in theirinaccessibility,
at moral
preceptswhich are totallyunworkable,at counsels of perfection which, if one took them seriously,would lead society
straightto destruction. This is no great misfortune. The
misfortuneis that he grows sceptical of moral philosophy
altogether. He concludes that it is quite incompetentto
grasp the facts. He may even assert that a consistenttheory
of moral experienceis beyond the reach of the human mind.
These facts probablyaccount forthe neglect of moral philosophy among practical men. Of such men very few,
whether in politics or trade or the professions,would admit
that any text-book of ethics could help them much in the
questions with which they have to deal. The same spirit
appears in modern literature. There is a touch of it in
Charles Kingsleyand more thana touch in Mr. Kipling. The
latter,indeed, in his anxietyto insiston the stern realitiesof
duty would have it that ideals are superfluous,except to professors,and that the firststep in real wisdom is to flingthem
away. This is absurd,taken literally. The workingideal in
everyman is nothing but his systemof preferencesand antipathies,and we find this equally in the roughest Tommy
Atkins and in the most cultured professor. The fallacyto
shun is that in the ideal a purpose of self-realization,
rather
than of active service,should be the dominatingprinciple.
In estimatingthe validityand the workablenessof the selfrealization principle we have taken firstand foremostthat
epoch when a man is embarking on the serious business of
life; forthen especiallydoes one come into contactwith solid
realities and need the guidance of a solid maxim. At such
a time,we have tried to show, the principleof work-whereyou-can takes precedenceof self-realization. For the rest of
lifealso, as it seems to us, this precedence holds good. But

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

344

InternationalYournal of Ethics.

there are at least two epochs when self-realization,though


still secondary,gains in importance. One is the Lear- und
of youth,when we should strive to widen the
Wander/ahre
boundaries of our character; the other,the years of settled
middle life,when we should striveto perfectit.
In adolescence, the young man, emancipated fromschool
and not yet harnessed to a profession,has a few precious
years to devote to moral and intellectualculture. If men
were like the Olympian gods, careless of trouble and the
necessityof laboring for their daily bread, culture,no doubt,
would be the supreme principle of life. We should have
nothingto do but to devote ourselves to the most refinedand
improvinglifewe know. Now, the young man at the university is actually in an almost Olympian position. He has but
littlecare or drudgery; his business is to improvehis mind
and body as much as possible. If he does not extend his
knowledge and accomplishmentsat this propitiousseason, his
mind is likelyto remain poor and narrowfor the rest of his
life. It is right,therefore,that self-realizationshould bulk
largely in the young student's ideal, and this is one reason
why the ethical theorybased thereon is so popular in academic circles. And yet even here the judicious educator will
insistthatthe duty of work is ultimatelyhigherthan culture.
Hegel was rightwhen he taught that the sternlesson of submissionand servicemust be learned beforewe can enter into
knowledgeand freedom. The fearof the Lord, or something
like it, is undoubtedlythe beginningof wisdom.
thing.
The self-realizationof maturityis a rather different
Youth, like a barbarian conqueror,overruns more territory
than it can retain. In our college days we take up a variety
of pursuits,which have to be dropped when leisure becomes
scarce,and indulge in virtueswhich afterwardsprove too delicate forcommon use. In middlelifewe concentrateourselves
on what is practicallyattainable. A man, let us suppose, is
masterof his profession. His work,which has the firstclaim
upon him,has become easy by habituation. He thencan and
ought to tryto cultivatevirtues and facultieswhich his daily
task does not require. The relation of this conscious self-

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

The Moral V'alue of Silence.

IA5

cultivationto the disciplineof one's daily work is like that of


gymnasticsto naturalexercise. The latteris the true foundation of a good physique,but it does not bringeverymuscle
into play. A man musttrainsystematicallyifhe would have
all parts equally strong. So it is withthe active citizen,who,
havingpassed the stressof masteringhis profession,findshimself withleisureforself-cultivation.In thismatterno man can
lack employment. Innate faultsof character,faultscontracted
fromthe world,abound in everyone and usually defycomplete eradication. However diligentlythe field be cleaned,
the weeds spring up year afteryear; while in aestheticand
intellectualculturethereis literallyno end to what one may
do. But even in this quiet autumn of life,one need hardly
say, the maxim of self-realizationremains secondary. Man,
in some sort,continuesin harnessto the end. He may have
retiredfrombusiness,his familymay have grown up and gone
out into the world,but at least the dutiesof citizenshipand religion remain. So soon as he ceases to recognizethe sway of
dutyand to servean ideal whichis somethinghigherand wider
than his own personal perfection,he ceases to lead a good
moral life. If he does not actually work much,he must hold
himself ready to work,or, at least, to suffer. Death is the
only finalmanumissionfromthe service of life.
OXFORD, ENGLAND.

HENRY

STURT.

THE MORAL VALUE OF SILENCE.*


PYTHAGORAS, among the ancients,united men in voluntary
association forthe purpose of realizing,throughsuch fellowship,the moral end of life. He made it a conditionthatevery
one who desired to join his Order, before he could be admitted,should attest his worthiness by preserving silence
during five years. Nay, he allowed no one to see his face
who had not successfullypassed throughthistryingnovitiate.
* An address to the Societyfor Ethical Cultureof New York, Sunday,February6, i898.

This content downloaded from 195.78.108.89 on Thu, 15 May 2014 08:43:32 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions