Thursday, May 28, 2009


Self Portrait
Charcoal on paper, 1838
Private collection

Hippolyte Delaroche, commonly known as Paul Delaroche (17 July 1797 – 4 November 1856) was a French painter born in Paris. Delaroche was born into a wealthy family and was trained by Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros, who then painted life-size histories and had many students.
The first Delaroche picture exhibited was the large Josabeth saving Joas (1822). This exhibition led to his acquaintance with Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix, with whom he became friends. The three of them formed the core of a large group of Parisian historical painters.He visited Italy in 1838 and 1843, when his father-in-law, Horace Vernet, was director of the French Academy in Rome.
Delaroche's studio in Paris was in the Rue Mazarine. His subjects were painted with a firm, solid, smooth surface, which gave an appearance of the highest finish. This texture was the manner of the day and was also found in the works of Vernet, Ary Scheffer, Louis-Leopold Robert and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
Delaroche's paintings, with their straightforward technique and dramatic compositions, became very popular. He applied essentially the same treatment to the characters of distant historical times and the real people of his own day, such as "Napoleon at Fontainebleau," "Napoleon at St Helena," or "Marie Antoinette leaving the Convention after her sentence."
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Napoleon Crossing the Alps
Oil on canvas, 1850
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Delaroche's work was sometimes ahistorical. Cromwell lifting the Coffin-lid and looking at the Body of Charles is based on an urban legend, and The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is represented as taking place in a dungeon, which is badly inaccurate. He tended to care more about dramatic effect than historical truth. Other important Delaroche works include The Princes in the Tower.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Napoleonic subjects were proscribed for artists after 1815. But as Napoleon's reputation was gradually revived, particularly after 1830, it became possible to once again make pictures of the Emperor. There were many Bonapartists in France and the return of Napoleon's remains from St Helena to Paris in 1840 was an extremely popular event.
State commissions for art celebrating French military achievement and glory generally could now accommodate Napoleon's victories as well as, say, those of Louis XIIII. Perhaps surprisingly, there were many admirers of Napoleon in Britain, associating his memory either with enlightened progress in opposition to reactionary monarchy or alternatively with military genius. His brutal suppression of nations, huge military losses and genocidal colonial policy were somehow glossed over.
This painting was commissioned by Arthur George, 3rd Earl of Onslow, who was a passionate collector of Napoleonic material. Queen Victoria also owned one of the several versions of this picture .The story of the picture's genesis is curious. The Earl of Onslow was walking with Delaroche in the Louvre one day in 1848. Standing in front of David's famous painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps he commented on how implausibly theatrical it was and requested Delaroche to do the same subject in a more accurate way.
Delaroche studied the accounts of Napoleon's crossing of the St Bernard Pass and possibly visited the site to get first hand knowledge of the landscape. The mountain guide who had accompanied Napoleon was dead by 1848 but his account of what was probably the most important event in his life was well known as was Napoleon's own account in his memoirs and the account by the historian Adolphe Thiers.
The Emperor had crossed the St. Bernard, not on a magnificent white stallion as shown by David, but on a sure-footed mule and with someone familiar with the terrain. It is this unheroic episode that Delaroche depicts and with the viewpoint of one who might have actually been there standing next to Napoleon turning around to cast a glance at him.
Rather than Napoleon making an expansive gesture pointing onward and upward as he does in David's picture he is instead shown thoughtful, even apprehensive, about the forthcoming battles ahead. By 1848 Delaroche had already made two major paintings of Napoleon, both suggesting his reflective introspective solitude as he contemplates the tasks of genius. This third is treated similarly.
In 1850 the completed picture arrived in England and was reviewed by the critic of The Atheneum. The mundane realism of the treatment apparently did not please:
‘An Officer in a French costume, mounted on a mule, is conducted by a rough peasant through a dangerous pass, whose traces are scarcely discernible through the deep-lying snow; and his aide-de-camp is just visible in a ravine of the towering Alps. These facts are rendered with a fidelity that has not omitted the plait of a drapery, the shaggy texture of the four-footed animal, nor a detail of the harness on his back. The drifting of the imbedded snow, the pendent icicle which a solitary sun-ray in a transient moment has made-all are given with a truth which will be dear to those who exalt the Dutch School for like qualities into the foremost rank of excellence. But the lofty and daring genius that led the humble Lieutenant of Ajaccio to be ruler and arbiter of the destinies of the larger part of Europe will be sought in vain by M. Delaroche.’
Delaroche's reputation declined after about 1870, particularly as avant-garde tastes developed for various forms of more direct realism. His pictures however remained popular and the postcard of the National Gallery's 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' is one of their best sellers.
The Walker's picture was bought from Lord Onslow's sale in 1893 and presented to the Gallery in the same year by Henry Yates Thompson.
(Articles from © 2003 National Museums Liverpool)

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey
Oil on canvas, 1834
National Gallery, London
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Delaroche settled on a final composition in 1832 for The Execution of Lady Jane Grey in a watercolor found today at the University of Manchester (Whitworth Art Gallery). The Louvre drawing, a study of three figures from the tragic scene, was thus created at the same period. The figure of the executioner, although he appears younger and less intimidating than in the painting: he seems moved and touched by the fragility of his victim. The two women are Jane Grey's attendants. The position of the woman on the left would eventually be altered, but she already displays the despair present in the final version. The postures of the figures are calculated to intensify the tragic nature of the theme, while the faces express deep feelings discreetly suppressed. Through profound and concentrated observation, Delaroche depicts the overwhelmed witnesses, making a sensitive analysis of each with a careful aestheticism free from violence. This drawing perfectly illustrates the method employed by Delaroche in the preparation of his compositions. Once its respective placement was decided, each figure was then carefully studied in separate drawings. The drawing is clear, the line precise, with scrupulous attention devoted to the smallest detail. The clothing is faithful to 16-century documents, revealing a taste for research and accuracy in the service of historic credibility. The placing of the executioner on a grid indicates that the figure appears here in his definitive form, ready to be transposed by a process of enlargement onto the canvas, respecting the proportions that have been fixed in the drawing. (Articles From LOUVRE)

The children of King Edward imprisoned in the Tower
Oil on canvas, 1830
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

The two princes, imprisoned in the Tower of London, were smothered on the orders of Richard III, their uncle and usurper of their rights. Following the success of The Death of Elizabeth I (Salon Denon), Delaroche purified his style, forsaking extravagant picturesqueness for more accurate historic detail, and theatrical hyberbole for a novel sense of dramatic suspense.
Two pale-faced children cling to each other on a four-poster bed in a dark room. Edward V and his nine year-old brother Richard, children of the deceased king of England, Edward IV, have heard a noise and stopped reading. The king gazes melancholically at us, his younger brother looks anxiously towards the door; their dog watches the shadow of a foot in the light under the door. The painter is suggesting the children's imminent murder. Edward's children were smothered to death in 1483, on the orders of their uncle, who then took the throne under the name of Richard III. This tragic episode in English history had been popularized by Shakespeare's play, Richard III.
The painter Paul Delaroche chose this subject for a painting he wanted to present at the 1831 Salon, where the canvas was a huge popular success. The picture was immediately purchased by the administrators of the Royal museums. Such was the painting's fame that it inspired Casimir Delavigne to write a play, The Children of Edward (1833). Paul Delaroche made a specialty of subjects drawn from English history (The Death of Elizabeth I, 1633, Musée du Louvre) and the woes of famous victims. He had his first success at the 1824 Salon with Joan of Arc (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen). His works were widely disseminated, as they were perfectly adapted for reproduction as engravings or photographs.
Delaroche was labeled a romantic during his lifetime because of his penchant for modern history and drama and also his realism. As The Children of Edward shows, he was intent on surprising and moving the viewer, but also concerned with the historical accuracy of the setting and costumes. Delaroche introduced into large format historical subjects the realistic detail that is typical of genre paintings: this picture was therefore classified as a historical genre painting, midway between the two. Many aspects of his style are not romantic, however. As in classical art, priority is given to precise drawing and highly-finished treatment. Delaroche has also forsaken the warm colors he used in previous works, like Joan of Arc, for instance.
The picture creates a sensation of heightened reality that is perfectly suited the true vocation of this type of work.
(Articles From LOUVRE)

Hemicycle of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts
Oil on canvas, 1814
Duomo, Siena
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

In 1837 Delaroche received the commission for the great picture, 27 metres (88.5 ft) long, in the hemicycle of the award theatre of the École des Beaux Arts. The commission came from the Ecole's architect, Felix Duban. The painting represents seventy-five great artists of all ages, in conversation, assembled in groups on either hand of a central elevation of white marble steps, on the topmost of which are three thrones filled by the creators of the Parthenon: architect Phidias, sculptor Ictinus, and painter Apelles, symbolizing the unity of these arts.
To supply the female element in this vast composition he introduced the genii or muses, who symbolize or reign over the arts, leaning against the balustrade of the steps, depicted as idealized female figures. The painting is done directly on the wall, in oil paints. Delaroche finished the work in 1841, but it was considerably damaged by a fire in 1855. He immediately set about trying to re-paint and restore the work, but died on 4 November 1856, before he had accomplished much of this. The restoration was finished by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Man on motorcycle
ca 1910-1930
Courtesy The Library of Congress

1909 Model 5A ' Silent Grey Fellow'
Photo from the 'Legend of the Motorcycle'
Concours D'Elegance
Copyright © KHI, Inc.
The 'Harley-Davidson' motorcycle company's humble beginnings can be traced back to a small wood barn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back in 1903. After designing a small gas engine for mounting on a bicycle frame, William S. Harley joined with brothers' Arthur and Walter Davidson to build their first motorcycle, the "Silent Grey Fellow." The Silent Grey Fellow was an overnight sucess, and by the 1910s the original 1903 prototype for the Silent Grey Fellow was being used as a promotional mascot, having clocked over 100,000 miles. (1909 Model 5A ' Silent Grey Fellow' shown above)
(Copyright © 2009

Motorcycle Illustrated
October 1, 1914
Courtesy The Library of Congress

With the help of a childhood friend named William Harley and a dollop of good old American know-how, Arthur Davidson developed early prototypes of the world-famous Harley-Davidson (HOG) motorcycle a hundred years ago in his Wisconsin toolshed.
Ever since, virtually all Harleys have been made on U.S. turf, including the modern-day "Hogs" with their distinctive Big V-Twin engines, by now a piece of American culture. Many Harley riders wouldn't have it any other way -- one reason the company won't move production outside the U.S., company spokesman Bob Klein says.
The company resolved tense labor disputes at its big York, Pa., plant two years ago, and that plant, along with factories in Wisconsin and Missouri, continue to churn out bikes and accessories sold around the globe. Foreigners buy 30% of the bikes and gear sold by Harley-Davidson, the only major U.S. motorcycle company, helping to keep its 9,300 U.S. workers busy.
(By Michael Brush in © 2009 Microsoft)
In 1901, William S. Harley, age 21, drew up plans for a small engine with a displacement of 7.07 cubic inches (116 cc) and four-inch (102 mm) flywheels. The engine was designed for use in a regular pedal-bicycle frame.
Over the next two years Harley and his childhood friend Arthur Davidson labored on their motor-bicycle using the northside machine shop at the home of their friend, Henry Melk. It was finished in 1903 with the help of Arthur's brother, Walter Davidson. Upon completion the boys found their power-cycle unable to conquer Milwaukee's modest hills without pedal assistance. Will Harley and the Davidsons quickly wrote off their first motor-bicycle as a valuable learning experiment.
Work immediately began on a new and improved second-generation machine. This first "real" Harley-Davidson motorcycle had a bigger engine of 24.74 cubic inches (405 cc) with 9.75 inches (25 cm) flywheels weighing 28 lb (13 kg). The machine's advanced loop-frame pattern was similar to the 1903 Milwaukee Merkel motorcycle (designed by Joseph Merkel, later of Flying Merkel fame.) The bigger engine and loop-frame design took it out of the motorized-bicycle category and would help define what a modern motorcycle should contain in the years to come. The boys also received help with their bigger engine from outboard motor pioneer Ole Evinrude, who was then building gas engines of his own design for automotive use on Milwaukee's Lake Street.
The prototype of the new loop-frame Harley-Davidson was assembled in a 10- by 15-foot (3 by 5 meter) shed in the Davidson family backyard. Most of the major parts, however, were made elsewhere, including some probably fabricated at the West Milwaukee railshops where oldest brother William A. Davidson was then toolroom foreman. This prototype machine was functional by 8 September 1904 when it competed in a Milwaukee motorcycle race held at State Fair Park. It was ridden by Edward Hildebrand and placed fourth. This is the first documented appearance of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the historical record.
In 1906, Harley and the Davidsons built their first factory on Chestnut Street (later Juneau Avenue). This location remains the Motor Company's corporate headquarters today. The first Juneau Avenue plant was a 40 by 60-foot (18 m) single-story wooden structure. That year around 50 motorcycles were produced.
In 1917, the United States entered World War I and the military demanded motorcycles for the war effort. Harleys had already been used by the military in border skirmishes with Pancho Villa but World War I was the first time the motorcycle had been adopted for combat service. Harley-Davidson provided over 20,000 machines to the military forces during World War I.
By 1920, Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Their motorcycles were sold by dealers in 67 countries. Production was 28,189 machines.
In 1921, a Harley-Davidson, ridden by Otto Walker, was the first motorcycle ever to win a race at an average speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h).

WLA Pages: New Featured WW2 WLA Picture!

The A-Z of Harley-Davidson
Harley-Davidson Racing History

1923 Harley-Davidson JDCA Board Track Racer
Rigid frame Harley-Davidson
Oval Track Racing 1000cc OHV V-Twin Motorcycle
Owner: Virgil Elings, California
Photo from the 'Legend of the Motorcycle'
Concours D'Elegance
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1929 Harley-Davidson Model JDH 1200
Owner: David Reidie, Australia
Photo from the 'Legend of the Motorcycle'
Concours D'Elegance
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

Vintage 1935 Vincent HRD 500cc Comet Motorcycle
Owner: Chris Mcintosh, California
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1936 Harley-Davidson Model R
Model 36R 750cc Flathead Side-Valve V-Twin
Owner: David Reidie, Australia
Photo from the 'Legend of the Motorcycle'
Concours D'Elegance
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1948 Harley-Davidson WR 700 'Flathead' Motorcycle
Owner: Bob Fraley, California
Photo from the 'Legend of the Motorcycle'
Concours D'Elegance
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1950 Vincent Rapide Tourer - Series C Vintage Motorcycle
Owner: David Buttress, California
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1950 Vincent Series B 500cc Comet
Owner: Eric Engler, Virginia
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1954 Harley-Davidson 'Hummer' 165 Motorcycle
Harley-Davidson Two-Strokes
Owners: Paul & Renee Reed, California
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1957 Harley-Davidson XL Sportster 883 OHV 'Ironhead'
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1959 Harley-Davidson KR Flat Tracker
Harley-Davidson KR750 Flat Track Racer #98
'Marshall "Digger" Helm'
Photo from the Legend of the Motorcycle'
Concours D'Elegance
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

1965 Harley-Davidson M50 Scooter
50cc 2-Stroke by Aermacchi of
Copyright © KHI, Inc.

The racing KR engine was upgraded to the XLR in 1958, and the sportier XLC and XLCH street models were added as well. The 'C' in XLC stood for "compitition," while the 'H' in XLCH meant that it had a higher compression ratio of 9:1. The XLC Sportster had a small "peanut style" gas tank, narrow fenders and open straight pipes.
In 1972, the Sportster's 883cc engine was increased to 61-cubic-inches (1000cc). The Sportster line continued well beyond the Ironhead years, with its powereplant being replaced by the current Evolution, or "Evo" (aka "Blockhead") engine in 1984. The Evo engine's head and cylinders were made of aluminum instead of iron, saving weight and aiding in cooling.
Harley-Davidson 'Shovelhead' (1966 to 1984):
The Panhead engine was upgraded to the "Shovelhead" in 1966, with the main difference being the u-shaped rocker boxes which aided in head cooling. The engine's cylinder head and bottom end remained much the same. From the right side, the Shovelhead's rocker covers and cylinder heads looked similar to the early Sportster XL.
The next significant change came in 1970, with the introduction of the so-called "Cone Shovel" engine, which referred to the cone-shaped ignition cover on the engine's right side. The Shovelhead's external generator was also replaced with an alternator located inside the engine primary case.
Harley-Davidson Evo 'Evolution' (1983 to 1998):
Harley's Evo (V2 Evolution) engine made its way into the Big Twin bikes in 1983, being hailed as a major improvement to the engine's head design. The Evo engine was more reliable, burned less oil, and ran cooler than its predessors.
The Evolution was replaced with the so-called "Twinkie," or "Twin Cam 88" engine, which was the first complete engine redesign since the introduction of the OHV Knucklehead in 1936.
(Copyright © 2009
The Great Depression began a few months after the introduction of their 45 cubic inch model. Harley-Davidson's sales plummeted from 21,000 in 1929 to less than 4,000 in 1933. In order to survive, the company manufactured industrial powerplants based on their motorcycle engines. They also designed and built a three-wheeled delivery vehicle called the Servi-Car, which remained in production until 1973.
One of only two American cycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson again produced large numbers of motorcycles for the US Army in World War II and resumed civilian production afterwards, producing a range of large V-twin motorcycles that were successful both on racetracks and for private buyers.
Harley-Davidson, on the eve of World War II, was already supplying the Army with a military-specific version of its 45" WL line, called the WLA. (The A in this case stood for "Army".) Upon the outbreak of war, the company, along with most other manufacturing enterprises, shifted to war work. Over 90,000 military motorcycles, mostly WLAs and WLCs (the Canadian version) would be produced, many to be provided to allies.[21] Harley-Davidson received two Army-Navy ‘E’ Awards, one in 1943 and the other in 1945, which were awarded for Excellence in Production.
In 1952, following their application to the US Tariff Commission for a 40% tax on imported motorcycles, Harley-Davidson was charged with restrictive practices. Hollywood also damaged Harley's image with many outlaw biker gang films produced from the 1950s through the 1970s, following the 1947 Hollister, CA biker riot on July 4. "Harley-Davidson" for a long time was synonymous with the Hells Angels and other outlaw motorcyclists.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Replica of the "Captain America" bike from the film Easy Rider
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Harley Davidson has earned popularity and a distinct mark among the bike lovers for it's illustrious design and the exhaust note.
They are renowned more for the tradition of heavy customization that paved way for whole new cult of chopper style motorbikes.
The parts that are used by it's manufacturers for the outer design and the inner body are uniquely constructed and till this date it is difficult to emulate the Harley Davidson parts without compromising on its performance.
It is noteworthy to observe how Harley Davidson parts have been used to create a pseudo Harleys model. It is amusing to see people attempting to create a pseudo model using genuine parts, what a paradox!
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call Harley Davidson as the archetype among the wide range of existing motorbikes in the market.
Manufacturers of the motorbikes and the zealous bikers have made attempts time and again to emulate this magical bike and have tried to incorporate its features and style into other custom made bikes.
However Harley Davidson continues to be the word class and stand apart bike among the umpteen brands that crop up every year around the world. Among the carbon copy creators you will also find the group of Harley Davidsons' aficionado who prefer to remain loyal to this brand.
One of the characteristics that make this bike the most interesting invention in the history of the motorbikes is that it is a Chopper style bike, hence though creating replicas of this bike is next to impossible thing, it was originally meant to be changing and evolving regularly with pace of time and inventive technology.
The original Harley Davidson was created in such a way that it had the inherent potential flexibility and scope to be revised and redesigned by altering the parts and components that came together to create this historical bike.
However though it's virtually impossible to proclaim to have said all about this legendary bike in a single write up, at least one can arrive at the fact that Harley Davidson continues to be an iconic bike not just in US but all around the world.
(By Martin Davies at

2001 883 Sportster Hugger
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You know it's a Harley as soon as you hear it, before you even see it. The throaty pounding and off-centered drumming beat are part of the signature sound that uniquely defines the persona of the machine and clearly differentiates the manufacturer from its competitors. Owners don't just want transportation to get from one place to another. They want a riding experience which, according to Harley-Davidson, is the sum total of the Harley `Look,' 'Sound' and 'Feel.' One of the biggest parts of the riding experience is the classic sound of the bike. It's all about the "potato potato" rumble riders expect when they rev up the engine.
Few products have such a loyal following. The Harley Owners Group (HOG) numbers more than 660,000 in 115 different countries, making it the largest motorcycle enthusiasts club in the world. They certainly don't hide their passion for the machines or their demands that the bikes retain the characteristic sound these heavyweight motorcycles have had since William Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first one in 1903.
Since the early part of the 20th century, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been renowned for their 45-degree air-cooled common crankpin V-twin motor. The sound of this engine configuration has become identified with the Company. In the mid1990s, a group was assembled within Harley-Davidson to develop a motorcycle that would attract new riders to the Harley family. It was determined that high performance and handling would be essential to attract new or younger riders. Styling needed to be cutting edge yet identifiable as a Harley-Davidson.
(By Richard Pierson at © 2009 CBS Interactive Inc.)

2009 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Nightster XL1200N

2009 Harley-Davidson FXD Dyna Super Glide

2009 Harley-Davidson FLSTN Softail Deluxe

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCAW V-Rod

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF V-Rod Muscle (New 2009 Model)

2009 Harley-Davidson FLTRSE3 CVO Road Glide

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Groups may display the same individuality and sense of self hood as is exhibited by individuals. And the members of the group may come to regard the group life as something quite as important and inalienable as their own personalities and possessions. Indeed in defense of the integrity of the group life, as in the case, for example, of national honor, the individual life and possession may come to be reckoned as naught. Man's gregariousness and his instinctive sympathy with his own kind make it easy for the individual to identify his own life with that of the group. What threatens or endangers the group will in consequence arouse in him the same emotions as are aroused by threats or dangers that concern his own personality. An insult to the flag may send a thrill of danger through the millions who read about it, just as would an insult to themselves or their families.
Group feeling may exist on various levels. It may be nothing more momentous than local pride, having the tallest tower, the finest amusement park, the best baseball team, or being the "sixth largest city." It may be a belligerent imperialism, a "desire for a place in the sun." While a group does not exist save as an abstraction, looked at as a whole it may exhibit the same outstanding traits, or the same types of self hood as an individual. It may be fiercely belligerent and dogmatic; it may, like literary exponents of the German ideal, desire to spread its own conception of Culture throughout the world. It may be insistent on its own position, or its own possessions or its own glory. It may be fanatic in aggrandizement. It may be interested in the welfare of other groups, as in the case of large nationalities championing and protecting the causes of small or oppressed ones, such an ideal as was expressed, for example, by US President Wilson in his address to US Congress on the entrance of America into the Great War.
Throughout the nineteenth century (indeed throughout the history of political theory), the pendulum swung between individualism and complete socialization. Like the contrast between egoism and altruism, an emphasis on either side is bound to be artificial. The individual can only be a self in a social order; the individual is only an individual in contrast with others. It is doubtful, for example, whether a man living all his life alone on a desert island would discover any individuality at all. A man's character is displayed in action, and his actions are always, or nearly always, performed with reference to other people. And a man's best self-realization cannot be achieved save in congenial social order. A man will not readily grow into a saint among a society of sinners, and unless the social order provides opportunities for the highest type of life, it will exist only in a very fortunate and favored few. One of the charges that has been laid against democracy is that it fails to encourage the highest types of scientific and artistic interests, that it is the gospel of the mediocre.
It is too often forgotten, on the other hand, by those who emphasize the importance of society, that society is, after all, nothing more than an aggregate of selves. The "state," the "social order" is nothing but the individuals who make it up, and their relations to each other. The group exists, after all, even as the most completely socialized political doctrines insist, for the realization of individual selves, for freedom of opportunity and initiative. It is when "individualism" runs rampant, when self-realization on the part of one individual interferes with self-realization on the part of all others that individualism becomes a menace.
Individuals differ, it must further be noted, not only in specific traits, but in that complex of traits which is commonly called "intelligence." In the broadest terms, we mean by an individual's intelligence his competence and facility in dealing with his environment, physical, social, and intellectual. This competence and facility, in so far as it is a native endowment, consists of a number of traits present in a more or less high degree, traits, for example, such as curiosity, flexibility of native and acquired reactions, sociability, sympathy, and the like. In a sense an individual possesses not a single intelligence, but many, as many as there are types of activity in which he engages. But one may classify intelligence under three heads, as does Thorndike: mechanical intelligence, involved in dealing with things; social intelligence, involved in dealing with other persons; and abstract intelligence, involved in dealing with the relations between ideas. Each of these types of intelligence involves the presence in a high degree of a group of different traits. Thus, in social intelligence, a high degree of sympathy, sensitivity to praise and blame, leadership, and the like, are more requisite than they are for intelligent behavior in the realm of mechanical operations or of mathematical theory. A person may be highly intelligent in one of these three spheres and mentally helpless in the others. Thus, a brilliant philosopher may be nonplussed by a stalled motor; a successful executive may be a babe in the realm of abstract ideas. But what we rate as a person's general intelligence is a kind of average struck between his various competences, an estimate of his general ability to control himself in the miscellaneous variety of situations of which his experience consists.
Individual differences are, therefore, seen to be not simply differences with respect to given mental traits, but differences with respect to general mental capacity. Experimental investigation points to a graded difference in mental capacity, ranging from idiocy to genius, the largest group being normal or average, the size of the group diminishing with further deviation from the average in either direction.
An individual, again, to a certain extent, makes his own environment. What kind of an environment he will make depends on the kinds of capacities and interests he has to start with. Similarity of original tendencies and interests brings men together as differences among these keep them apart. The libraries, the theaters, and the baseball parks are all equally possible and accessible features of their environment to individuals of a given economic or social class. Yet a hundred individuals with the same education and social opportunities will make themselves by choice a hundred different environments. They will select, even from the same physical environment, different aspects. The Grand Canyon is a different environment to the artist and to the geologist; a crowd of people at an amusement park constitutes a different environment to the man who has come out to make psychological observations, and the man who has come out for a day's fun. A dozen men, teachers and students, selected at random on a university campus, might well be expected to note largely different though overlapping facts, as the most significant features of the life of the university.
The environment is the less important in the molding of character, the less fixed and unavoidable it becomes. If an individual has the chance to change his environment to suit his own original demands and interests, these are the less likely to undergo modification. This is illustrated in the animal world by the migratory birds, which change their habitations with the seasons. Similarly human beings, to suit the original mental traits with which they are endowed, can and do exchange one environment for another. There are a very large number of individuals living in New York City, in the twentieth century, for example, for whom a multiplicity of environments are possible. The one that becomes habitual with an individual is a matter of his own free choice. That is, it is choice, in the sense that it is independent of the circumstances of the individual's life. But an individual's choice of his environment must be within the limited number of alternatives made possible by the original nature with which he is endowed. We do originally what gives satisfaction to our native impulses, and avoid what irritates and frustrates them. We may be trained to find satisfactions in acquired activities, but there is a strong tendency to acquire habits that "chime in," as it were, with the tendencies we have to start with.
Where a country is ostensibly democratic, a few informed citizens will govern the many uninformed, unless the latter are educated to an intelligent knowledge and appreciation of their political duties and obligations. Furthermore, the citizens of a community who are prevented from using their native gifts will be both useless and unhappy. Certainly this is an undesirable condition in a society where all individuals are expected, so far as possible, to be ends in themselves and not merely means for the ends of others.
(Extract from The Project Gutenberg E Book of Human Traits and their Social Significance, by Irwin Edman)

Friday, May 22, 2009


©2009 Google
Irwin Edman was 21 when he began teaching philosophy at Columbia University. On the campus one day shortly afterwards he met his old professor, Felix Adler. "What are you doing now?" inquired the professor. "Teaching," said Edman. "Teaching what?" "Philosophy," said Edman. The old man patted the open-faced, blond youth on the back. "How cute!" he said.
At 38, Edman was made a full Professor of Philosophy. In 1938, at 41, and one of Columbia's most popular professors, he is also credited, through his writings, with an increased attendance in philosophy courses at other colleges as well. As a teacher of philosophy he no longer runs the risk of being called cute. As a philosopher in his own right, he might still tempt some old philosopher to do so.
Edman's own philosophy is a humanist cocktail whose chief ingredients are Plato, Santayana and Manhattan. It is the last component that shines, like a pickled cherry, out of Philosopher's Holiday, a tall, watery glassful of reminiscences, anecdotes and essays devoted to "persons and places, many of them obscure, about which I have occasionally told my friends over a glass of sherry. . . ." Son of a shirt & blouse manufacturer, Philosopher Edman still lives in the neighborhood where he was born and brought up, a stone's throw from Columbia University. He has "spent a long life" in Carnegie Hall and art galleries, writes light topical verse, travels much in Europe, wears thick glasses, has a bad stomach, and in general exhibits the intellectual precocity, the urbane humor, the tastes and the slightly nervous detachment which seem as native to Manhattan as The New Yorker.
Professor Edman recalls with nostalgia his pleasant childhood and youth on Morningside Heights, the teachers who stimulated him, a few of his more picturesque students (some now stuffed shirts, some leading Communists); he writes of his travels, praises the English, meditates on music, relates an encounter with a big-shot Nazi in Greece. But the spotlight is on those amateur philosophers whom he numbers among the "Society of Itinerant Humanists." One was a French doctor who came to treat Edman's indigestion, launched instead into a discourse on Platonic philosophy. Another is his maid Maria, one of the best philosophers who ever kept a bachelor's apartment in order, and Edman's tribute is probably one of the sweetest portraits of a maid in literature.
Along with these portraits Philosopher Edman does not neglect philosophical morals, which consist mainly of advice not to become panicky about the way the contemporary world is going. Spinoza, he points out, went on grinding lenses for a living while war and revolution raged around him in Holland, and Santayana, Edman's Master, meditates serenely on Essences under the very shadow of Mussolini's jaw. Readers will envy Philosopher Edman his ability to enjoy himself. They will not be able to figure out, from this book, quite how to imitate him and may wonder if his poise, his easy blend of academic and worldly man, does not derive as much from his temperament as from the study of philosophy.
(From © 2009 Time Inc, Monday, Nov. 14, 1938)


In Human Traits and their Social Significance, Irwin Edman wrote about moral and customs:
In civilized life, the whole institution of education, as has been repeatedly emphasized, is designed to transmit to the young those habits of thought, feeling, and action which their influential elders wish to perpetuate. As was noted in connection with man's gregariousness, the normal becomes the "respectable," the regular becomes the "proper." We still speak of things that it is not "nice" to do. This tendency to identify the moral with the customary is brought about through early habituating the members of the group to the group standards and securing for them thereby the emotional support that goes with all habitual action.
Morality at this stage is clearly social in its origins and its operations. The standards are group standards, and the individual's single duty is obedience and conformity to the established social sanctions. The problem of morals begins, as we have seen, in the collision of interests of similarly constituted individuals living together. Adjustments of conflicting interests are effected by group standards more or less consciously transmitted and enforced by education, public opinion, and law.
The moral problem is essentially a social problem, the problem of the adjustment of the desires of individuals living together. For an individual living altogether alone in the world there could hardly be a moral problem, a question of "ought." There might be problems of how to attain satisfaction, but no sense of duty or moral obligation. Custom is the first great stage through which morality passes, and the only form in which morality exists for many people. In civilized life there is, to be sure, considerable reflection and querying of custom, but for the vast majority of men "right" and "wrong" are determined by the standards to which their early education and environment have accustomed them. In primitive life, reflective criticism on the part of the individual is almost unknown, and custom remains the great arbiter of action, the outstanding source of social and moral control.
Customs, moreover, are the first invasion of moral chaos. They establish enduring standards; they give common and permanent bases of action. It is only through the establishment and transmission of customary standards that one generation is in any way superior to its predecessors. Customs, in civilized life, include all the established effective ways of civilization, its arts, its sciences, its industries, and its useful modes of cooperation.
While custom is thus valuable as a moral agent in establishing standards of social life and rendering them continuous and enduring, a morality that is completely based upon it has serious defects. Though customs may start as allegedly or actually useful practices, they tend, so strong is the influence of habit over the individual, to outlive their usefulness, and may become, indeed, altogether disadvantageous conventions. "Dr. Arthur Smith tells of the advantage it would be in some parts of China to build a door on the south side of the house, in order to get the breeze, in hot weather." The simple and sufficient answer to such a suggestion is, "We don't build doors on the south side."
The trivial and the important in a morality based upon custom receive the same unconsidered support. "Tithing mint, anise, and cum min are quite likely to involve the neglect of weightier matters of the law." Physical, emotional, and moral energies that should be devoted to matters genuinely affecting human welfare are lavished upon the trivial and the incidental. We may come to be concerned more with manners than with morals; with ritual, than with right. Customary morality tends to emphasize, moreover, the letter rather than the spirit of the law. It implies complete and punctilious obedience, meticulous conformity. It emphasizes form rather than content. Since conformity is the only criterion, the appearance of conformity is all that is required. The individual may fear to dissent openly rather than actually. This is seen frequently in the ritualistic performance or fulfillment of a duty in all its external details, rather than the actual and positive performance of its content.
Emphasis upon customs as already established tends to promote fixity and repetition, and to discourage change regardless of the benefits to be derived from specific changes. Custom is supported by the group merely because it is custom; and the ineffective modes of life are maintained along with those which are more useful. Progress comes about through individual variation, and conformity and individual variation are frequently in diametrical collision. It is only when, in Bagehot's phrase, "the cake of custom" is broken, that changes making for good have a possibility of introduction and support. Where the only moral sanctions are the sanctions of custom, change of whatever sort is at a discount. For change implies deviation from the ways of life sanctioned by the group, and deviation is itself, in a custom-bound morality, regarded with suspicion.
It is clear that complete conformity is impossible save in a society of automate. There will be some individuals who will not be able to curb their desires to fit the inhibitions fixed by the group; there will be some who will deliberately stand out against the group commands and prohibitions, and assert their own imperious impulses against their fellows. Where such men are powerful or persuasive they may indeed bring about a trans valuation of all values; they may create a new morality. There are geniuses of the moral as well Page 424 as the intellectual life, whose sudden insight becomes a standard for succeeding generations.
Throughout human history, there have been periods of individualism, of self-assertion against the traditional morality, which have been marked by loss of moral restraints, by a breakdown of the old standards without a substitution of new and sounder ones. There has been, in the beginning of almost every advance toward a new stage of moral valuation, the accompaniment of liberty by license.
Many men, perhaps after a first flush of altruistic rebellion in adolescence, settle down with more or less complacency to the current moral codes. They do in Rome as the Romans do. They may have an intellectual awareness of the crassness, the stupidity, the essential injustice and inadequacy of the codes by which men in contemporary society live, but they may also, out of selfish preoccupation with their own interests, let things go at that. If the established ways are not as they ought to be, at least they are as they are. And since the current system is the one by which a man must live, assent is the better part of wisdom. There are comparatively few who persist in a criticism of prevailing standards, or who are troubled very much beyond their early twenties by a tormenting conviction that things are not done as they ought to be done. It is from the few who realize intellectually the inadequacies of prevailing customs, and are emotionally disturbed by them, that moral criticism arises. And it is only by such criticism that moral progress is made possible. "The duty of some exercise of discriminating intelligence as to existing customs, for the sake of improvement and progress, is thus a mark of reflective morality—of the regime of conscience as over against custom."
Moral standards, in order to be effective, must have emotional support and be constantly applied. Men must be in love with the good, if good is to be their habitual practice. And only when the good is an habitual practice, can men be said to be living a moral life instead of merely subscribing verbally to a set of moral ideals. Justice, honesty, charity, mercy, benevolence, these are names for types of behavior, and are real in so far as they do describe men's actions. As Aristotle says, in another connection: "A person must be utterly senseless if he does not know that moral states are formed by the exercise of the powers in one way or another." The virtues are not static or frozen; they are names we give to varieties of action, and are exhibited, as they exist, only in action.
Ideals of life, when they remain mere closet-ideals, are interesting academic specimens, but are hardly effective in the helpful amendment of the lives of mankind. "Whoever contemplates the world in the light of an ideal," writes Bertrand Russell, "whether what he seeks be intellect or art, or love, or simple happiness, or all together, must feel a great sorrow in the evils which men allow needlessly to continue and—if he is a man of force and vital energy—an urgent desire to lead men to the realization of the good which inspires his creative vision." Great thinkers upon morals have not been content to work out interesting systems which were logically conclusive, abstract methods of attaining happiness. They have worked out their ethical systems as genuinely preferred ways of life, they have offered them as solutions of the difficulties men experience in controlling their own passions and in adapting their desires to the conditions which limit their fulfillment.
Happiness may, as Aristotle observes, be differently conceived by different people. To some it may mean a life of sensual enjoyment; to some men a life of money-making. But it is the attainment of complete satisfaction and self-realization by the individual that ethical theories should promote; for such self-realization constitutes happiness. It is sufficient here to point out that all so-called 'teleological' or 'relativistic' moralities, insist that the morality of an action is not determinable a priori, or absolutely. To revert to the illustration used in connection with the discussion of Absolutism, to lie in order to save a life would, on this basis, be construed as good rather than evil.
Social customs which are transmitted in education, become fixed in law. So that, as Aristotle points out in this same connection, laws are symptomatic of the moral values which the group regards as of the highest importance. Laws are customs given all the sanction, support, and significance that the group can put into them. Education transmits the values, ideals, and traditions cherished by the group, but the laws and customs already current largely control the scope and methods of education. Education proceeds ultimately from the patterns furnished by institutions, customs, and laws. Only in a just state will these be such as to give the right education.
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg E Book of Human Traits and their Social Significance, by Irwin Edman)

Monday, May 18, 2009


I know my heart
With equal freedom and veracity
I have concealed no crimes
added no virtues
the young lover
overwhelmed with sorrow and despair
returned more passionate than ever
had the happiness to find her equally constant
equally tender

how could I become cruel or vicious
I had before my eyes
only examples of mildness
I found so little to excite my desires
those I had were so seldom contradicted
I was hardly sensible of possessing any
I was an absolute stranger to caprice
The charms of her voice
remained on my memory
an old dotard like me
worn out with care and infirmity
in a voice querulous
broken by age
a heart, at once haughty and tender
a character effeminate
fluctuating between weakness and courage
luxury and virtue
set me in contradiction to myself
causing abstinence and enjoyment
pleasure and prudence
equally to shun me
my passions are extremely violent
while under their influence
nothing can equal my impetuosity
I am an absolute stranger to discretion
respect, fear, or decorum
rude, saucy, violent
no shame can stop
no danger intimidate me
the whole world is not worth a thought
I am plunged in a state of annihilation
Take me in my moments of tranquility
I am indolence and timidity itself
I am so subdued by fear and shame
I would gladly shield myself from mortal view

however sincere our love of virtue may be
sooner or later it will give way
we shall imperceptibly become unjust and wicked
however upright in our intentions
strongly imprinted on my mind
educed, though rather too late, to practice
has given my conduct
an appearance of folly and whimsicality
I affected originality
sought to act different from other people
neither endeavor to conform or be singular
I desire only to act virtuously

my pleasing inquietudes became less wandering
young desires, enchanting hopes
brilliant prospects employed my mind
every house was filled with joyous festivity
the meadows resounded with sports and revelry
the rivers offered refreshing baths
delicious fish wantoned in these streams

peace and leisure
simplicity and joy
mingled with the charm of going I knew not whither
everything I saw carried to my heart
some new cause for rapture
the grandeur, variety, and real beauty
in some measure rendered the charm reasonable

health, youth, and laziness
frequently rendered my temperament importunate
I was restless, absent, and thoughtful
I wept and sighed
for a happiness I had no idea of
this life was too delightful to be lasting
my disposition is extremely ardent
my passions lively and impetuous
my conception is clear and penetrating

when that ardent desire
for a life of happiness and tranquility
which ever follows me
for which I was born
inflames my mind
gave myself up to the soft melancholy
my heart rushed with ardor
melting to tenderness
stopping to weep more at my ease
seated on a large stone
seeing my tears drop into the water

let the warmth of my constitution be remembered
my age, and my heart intoxicated with love
let my tender attachment to her be supposed
who would guess the cause of my tears
what, at this moment, passed within me
the object in my power is the masterpiece of love
her wit and person equally approach perfection
she is as good and generous
as she is amiable and beautiful
either my heart deceives me
fascinates my senses
makes me the dupe of an unworthy slut
some secret defect of which I am ignorant
renders her odious

my sentiments became elevated
All my little passions were stifled
by the enthusiasm of truth, liberty, and virtue
this effervescence continued in my mind

who can describe how few can feel
the charms of these repasts
friendship, confidence, intimacy, sweetness of disposition
how delicious are your reasonings
sensuality did not preside at our little orgies
joy, which was preferable, reigned in them all

were I one of those men unfortunately born deaf
to the voice of nature
no sentiment of justice or humanity
ever took the least root
this obduracy would be natural
that warmth of heart, strong sensibility
facility of forming attachments
the innate benevolence
I cherished towards my fellow-creatures
the ardent love I bear
to great virtues, to truth and justice
the horror in which I hold evil of every kind
the impossibility of hating
of injuring or wishing to injure anyone
the soft and lively emotion I feel
at the sight of whatever is virtuous
generous and amiable

(Inspired by Jean Jacques Rousseau from Project Gutenberg E Book of The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau, Complete)

Friday, May 15, 2009


©2009 Google

In his book Political Ideals, Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, mathematician, and Nobel laureate from Trelleck, Wales said, “Few men can succeed in being creative rather than possessive in a world which is wholly built on competition, where the great majority would fall into utter destitution if they became careless as to the acquisition of material goods, where honor and power and respect are given to wealth rather than to wisdom, where the law embodies and consecrates the injustice of those who have toward those who have not.
The present economic system concentrates initiative in the hands of a small number of very rich men. Those who are not capitalists have, almost always, very little choice as to their activities when once they have selected a trade or profession; they are not part of the power that moves the mechanism, but only a passive portion of the machinery. Despite political democracy, there is still an extraordinary degree of difference in the power of self-direction belonging to a capitalist and to a man who has to earn his living. Economic affairs touch men’s lives, at most times, much more intimately than political questions. At present the man who has no capital usually has to sell himself to some large organization, such as a railway company, for example. He has no voice in its management, and no liberty in politics except what his trade-union can secure for him. If he happens to desire a form of liberty which is not thought important by his trade-union, he is powerless; he must submit or starve.
Exactly the same thing happens to professional men. Probably a majority of journalists are engaged in writing for newspapers whose politics they disagree with; only a man of wealth can own a large newspaper, and only an accident can enable the point of view or the interests of those who are not wealthy to find expression in a newspaper. A large part of the best brains of the country are in the civil service, where the condition of their employment is silence about the evils which cannot be concealed from them. A Nonconformist minister loses his livelihood if his views displease his congregation; a member of Parliament loses his seat if he is not sufficiently supple or sufficiently stupid to follow or share all the turns and twists of public opinion. In every walk of life, independence of mind is punished by failure, more and more as economic organizations grow larger and more rigid. Is it surprising that men become increasingly docile, increasingly ready to submit to dictation and to forego the right of thinking for themselves? Yet along such lines civilization can only sink into a Byzantine immobility.
Fear of destitution is not a motive out of which a free creative life can grow, yet it is the chief motive which inspires the daily work of most wage-earners. The hope of possessing more wealth and power than any man ought to have, which is the corresponding motive of the rich, is quite as bad in its effects; it compels men to close their minds against justice, and to prevent themselves from thinking honestly on social questions while in the depths of their hearts they uneasily feel that their pleasures are bought by the miseries of others. The injustices of destitution and wealth alike ought to be rendered impossible. Then a great fear would be removed from the lives of the many, and hope would have to take on a better form in the lives of the few.
It is a sad evidence of the weariness mankind has suffered from excessive toil that his heavens have usually been places where nothing ever happened or changed. Fatigue produces the illusion that only rest is needed for happiness; but when men have rested for a time, boredom drives them to renewed activity. For this reason, a happy life must be one in which there is activity. If it is also to be a useful life, the activity ought to be as far as possible creative, not merely predatory or defensive. But creative activity requires imagination and originality, which are apt to be subversive of the status quo. At present, those who have power dread a disturbance of the status quo, lest their unjust privileges should be taken away. In combination with the instinct for conventionality, which man shares with the other gregarious animals, those who profit by the existing order have established a system which punishes originality and starves imagination from the moment of first going to school down to the time of death and burial. The whole spirit in which education is conducted needs to be changed, in order that children may be encouraged to think and feel for themselves, not to acquiesce passively in the thoughts and feelings of others. It is not rewards after the event that will produce initiative, but a certain mental atmosphere. There have been times when such an atmosphere existed: the great days of Greece may serve as example. But in our own day the tyranny of vast machine-like organizations, governed from above by men who know and care little for the lives of those whom they control, is killing individuality and freedom of mind, and forcing men more and more to conform to a uniform pattern.
The essence of government is the use of force in accordance with law to secure certain ends which the holders of power consider desirable. The coercion of an individual or a group by force is always in itself more or less harmful. But if there were no government, the result would not be an absence of force in men’s relations to each other; it would merely be the exercise of force by those who had strong predatory instincts, necessitating either slavery or a perpetual readiness to repel force with force on the part of those whose instincts were less violent. This is the state of affairs at present in international relations, owing to the fact that no international government exists. The results of anarchy between states should suffice to persuade us that anarchism has no solution to offer for the evils of the world.
Democracy is a device—the best so far invented—for diminishing as much as possible the interference of governments with liberty. If a nation is divided into two sections which cannot both have their way, democracy theoretically insures that the majority shall have their way. But democracy is not at all an adequate device unless it is accompanied by a very great amount of devolution. Love of uniformity, or the mere pleasure of interfering, or dislike of differing tastes and temperaments, may often lead a majority to control a minority in matters which do not really concern the majority.
Few men seem to realize how many of the evils from which we suffer are wholly unnecessary, and that they could be abolished by a united effort within a few years. If a majority in every civilized country so desired, we could, within twenty years, abolish all abject poverty, quite half the illness in the world, the whole economic slavery which binds down nine tenths of our population; we could fill the world with beauty and joy, and secure the reign of universal peace. It is only because men are apathetic that this is not achieved, only because imagination is sluggish, and what always has been is regarded as what always must be.
THE world is full of preventable evils which most men would be glad to see prevented. Nevertheless, these evils persist, and nothing effective is done toward abolishing them. The unjust distribution of wealth must be obviously an evil to those who are not prosperous, and they are nine tenths of the population. Nevertheless it continues unabated. The tyranny of the holders of power is a source of needless suffering and misfortune to very large sections of mankind; but power remains in few hands, and tends, if anything, to grow more concentrated.
As to predatory instincts, we may say, broadly speaking, that in a state of nature there would be two ways of acquiring riches—one by production, the other by robbery. Under our existing system, although what is recognized as robbery is forbidden, there are nevertheless many ways of becoming rich without contributing anything to the wealth of the community. Ownership of land or capital, whether acquired or inherited, gives a legal right to a permanent income. Although most people have to produce in order to live, a privileged minority are able to live in luxury without producing anything at all. As these are the men who are not only the most fortunate but also the most respected, there is a general desire to enter their ranks, and a widespread unwillingness to face the fact that there is no justification whatever for incomes derived in this way. And apart from the passive enjoyment of rent or interest, the methods of acquiring wealth are very largely predatory. It is not, as a rule, by means of useful inventions, or of any other action which increases the general wealth of the community, that men amass fortunes; it is much more often by skill in exploiting or circumventing others. Nor is it only among the rich that our present regime promotes a narrowly acquisitive spirit. The constant risk of destitution compels most men to fill a great part of their time and thought with the economic struggle. There is a theory that this increases the total output of wealth by the community.” According to Bertrand Russell this theory is to be wholly mistaken.
He added, “Economic injustice is perhaps the most obvious evil of our present system. It would be utterly absurd to maintain that the men who inherit great wealth deserve better of the community than those who have to work for their living.” Bertrand Russell was not prepared to maintain that economic justice requires an exactly equal income for everybody. He went on to say, “Some kinds of work require a larger income for efficiency than others do; but there is economic injustice as soon as a man has more than his share, unless it is because his efficiency in his work requires it, or as a reward for some definite service. But this point is so obvious that it needs no elaboration.
The tyranny of the employer, which at present robs the greater part of most men’s lives of all liberty and all initiative, is unavoidable so long as the employer retains the right of dismissal with consequent loss of pay. This right is supposed to be essential in order that men may have an incentive to work thoroughly. But as men grow more civilized, incentives based on hope become increasingly preferable to those that are based on fear. It would be far better that men should be rewarded for working well than that they should be punished for working badly.
The most dangerous aspect of the tyranny of the employer is the power which it gives him of interfering with men’s activities outside their working hours. A man may be dismissed because the employer dislikes his religion or his politics, or chooses to think his private life immoral. He may be dismissed because he tries to produce a spirit of independence among his fellow employees. He may fail completely to find employment merely on the ground that he is better educated than most and therefore more dangerous. Such cases actually occur at present. This evil would not be remedied, but rather intensified, under state socialism, because, where the State is the only employer, there is no refuge from its prejudices such as may now accidentally arise through the differing opinions of different men. The State would be able to enforce any system of beliefs it happened to like, and it is almost certain that it would do so. Freedom of thought would be penalized, and all independence of spirit would die out.”
Bertrand Russell gave an example on his statement that there is equally little advance toward freedom. “The men employed on the railway have no more voice than they had before in the management of the railway, or in the wages and conditions of work. Instead of having to fight the directors, with the possibility of an appeal to the government, they now have to fight the government directly; and experience does not lead to the view that a government department has any special tenderness toward the claims of labor. If they strike, they have to contend against the whole organized power of the state, which they can only do successfully if they happen to have a strong public opinion on their side. In view of the influence which the state can always exercise on the press, public opinion is likely to be biased against them, particularly when a nominally progressive government is in power. There will no longer be the possibility of divergences between the policies of different railways. Railway men in England derived advantages for many years from the comparatively liberal policy of the North Eastern Railway, which they were able to use as an argument for a similar policy elsewhere. Such possibilities are excluded by the dead uniformity of state administration.”
He gave another illustration on when he said there is no real advance toward democracy. “The administration of the railways will be in the hands of officials whose bias and associations separate them from labor, and who will develop an autocratic temper through the habit of power. The democratic machinery by which these officials are nominally controlled is cumbrous and remote, and can only be brought into operation on first-class issues which rouse the interest of the whole nation. Even then it is very likely that the superior education of the officials and the government, combined with the advantages of their position, will enable them to mislead the public as to the issues, and alienate the general sympathy even from the most excellent cause.”
Bertrand Russell further said, “laziness is reinforced by love of power, which leads energetic officials to create the systems which lazy officials like to administer. The energetic official inevitably dislikes anything that he does not control. His official sanction must be obtained before anything can be done. Whatever he finds in existence he wishes to alter in some way, so as to have the satisfaction of feeling his power and making it felt. If he is conscientious, he will think out some perfectly uniform and rigid scheme which he believes to be the best possible, and he will then impose this scheme ruthlessly, whatever promising growths he may have to lop down for the sake of symmetry. The result inevitably has something of the deadly dullness of a new rectangular town, as compared with the beauty and richness of an ancient city which has lived and grown with the separate lives and individualities of many generations. What has grown is always more living than what has been decreed; but the energetic official will always prefer the tidiness of what he has decreed to the apparent disorder of spontaneous growth.
The mere possession of power tends to produce a love of power, which is a very dangerous motive, because the only sure proof of power consists in preventing others from doing what they wish to do. The essential theory of democracy is the diffusion of power among the whole people, so that the evils produced by one man’s possession of great power shall be obviated. But the diffusion of power through democracy is only effective when the voters take an interest in the question involved. When the question does not interest them, they do not attempt to control the administration, and all actual power passes into the hands of officials.
For this reason, the true ends of democracy are not achieved by state socialism or by any system which places great power in the hands of men subject to no popular control except that which is more or less indirectly exercised through parliament.
Any fresh survey of men’s political actions shows that, in those who have enough energy to be politically effective, love of power is a stronger motive than economic self-interest. Love of power actuates the great millionaires, who have far more money than they can spend, but continue to amass wealth merely in order to control more and more of the world’s finance. 2 Love of power is obviously the ruling motive of many politicians.
One of the sources of evil in modern large democracies is the fact that most of the electorate have no direct or vital interest in most of the questions that arise. The tyranny of the majority is a very real danger. It is a mistake to suppose that the majority is necessarily right. On every new question the majority is always wrong at first. In matters where the state must act as a whole, such as tariffs, for example, decision by majorities is probably the best method that can be devised. But there are a great many questions in which there is no need of a uniform decision. It will be found by those who consider past history that, whenever any new fundamental issue arises, the majority are in the wrong, because they are guided by prejudice and habit. Progress comes through the gradual effect of a minority in converting opinion and altering custom. It is of the utmost importance that the majority should refrain from imposing its will as regards matters in which uniformity is not absolutely necessary.”
©2009 Google
Bertrand Russell talked about individual liberty and public control. “Society cannot exist without law and order, and cannot advance except through the initiative of vigorous innovators. Yet law and order are always hostile to innovations, and innovators are almost always, to some extent, anarchists. Those whose minds are dominated by fear of a relapse towards barbarism will emphasize the importance of law and order, while those who are inspired by the hope of an advance towards civilization will usually be more conscious of the need of individual initiative. Both temperaments are necessary, and wisdom lies in allowing each to operate freely where it is beneficent. But those who are on the side of law and order, since they are reinforced by custom and the instinct for upholding the status quo, have no need of a reasoned defense. It is the innovators who have difficulty in being allowed to exist and work. Each generation believes that this difficulty is a thing of the past, but each generation is only tolerant of past innovations. Those of its own day are met with the same persecution as though the principle of toleration had never been heard of.
The study of past times and uncivilized races makes it clear beyond question that the customary beliefs of tribes or nations are almost invariably false. It is difficult to divest ourselves completely of the customary beliefs of our own age and nation, but it is not very difficult to achieve a certain degree of doubt in regard to them. The Inquisitor who burnt men at the stake was acting with true humanity if all his beliefs were correct; but if they were in error at any point, he was inflicting a wholly unnecessary cruelty. A good working maxim in such matters is this: Do not trust customary beliefs so far as to perform actions which must be disastrous unless the beliefs in question are wholly true.
The instinct of conventionality, horror of uncertainty, and vested interests, all militate against the acceptance of a new idea. And it is even harder to think of a new idea than to get it accepted; most people might spend a lifetime in reflection without ever making a genuinely original discovery.
It is not likely that any society at any time will suffer from a plethora of heretical opinions. Least of all is this likely in a modern civilized society, where the conditions of life are in constant rapid change, and demand, for successful adaptation, an equally rapid change in intellectual outlook. There should be an attempt, therefore, to encourage, rather than discourage, the expression of new beliefs and the dissemination of knowledge tending to support them. But the very opposite is, in fact, the case. From childhood upward, everything is done to make the minds of men and women conventional and sterile. And if, by misadventure, some spark of imagination remains, its unfortunate possessor is considered unsound and dangerous, worthy only of contempt in time of peace and of prison or a traitor’s death in time of war. Yet such men are known to have been in the past the chief benefactors of mankind, and are the very men who receive most honor as soon as they are safely dead.
The whole realm of thought and opinion is utterly unsuited to public control; it ought to be as free, and as spontaneous as is possible to those who know what others have believed. The state is justified in insisting that children shall be educated, but it is not justified in forcing their education to proceed on a uniform plan and to be directed to the production of a dead level of glib uniformity. Education, and the life of the mind generally, is a matter in which individual initiative is the chief thing needed; the function of the state should begin and end with insistence on some kind of education, and, if possible, a kind which promotes mental individualism, not a kind which happens to conform to the prejudices of government officials.
The things that men desire are many and various: admiration, affection, power, security, ease, outlets for energy, are among the commonest of motives. But such abstractions do not touch what makes the difference between one man and another. Whenever we go to the zoological gardens, we are struck by the fact that all the movements of a stork have some common quality, differing from the movements of a parrot or an ostrich. It is impossible to put in words what the common quality is, and yet we feel that each thing an animal does is the sort of thing we might expect that animal to do. This indefinable quality constitutes the individuality of the animal, and gives rise to the pleasure we feel in watching the animal’s actions. In a human being, provided he has not been crushed by an economic or governmental machine, there is the same kind of individuality, a something distinctive without which no man or woman can achieve much of importance, or retain the full dignity which is native to human beings. It is this distinctive individuality that is loved by the artist, whether painter or writer. The artist himself, and the man who is creative in no matter what direction, has more of it than the average man. Any society which crushes this quality, whether intentionally or by accident, must soon become utterly lifeless and traditional, without hope of progress and without any purpose in its being. To preserve and strengthen the impulse that makes individuality should be the foremost object of all political institutions.”
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Political Ideals by Bertrand Russell)


Irwin Edman, a professor of philosophy at Columbia University, a popular professor and a frequent contributor to literary magazines such as The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and Commentary wrote in Human Traits and their Social Significance, "Man has long been defined as the "social animal," and it is certainly characteristic of human activity that it takes place largely with reference to other people. He added, man is a human animal and as a human being he is strikingly set off by his upright posture and his large and flexible hand. But chiefly he is distinguished by his plastic brain, upon which depends his capacity to perform the complex mental activities—from administering a railroad to solving problems in calculus—which constitute man's outstanding and exclusive characteristic.
At any given time a human being is being acted upon by a wide variety of competing and contemporaneous stimuli. In walking down a street with a friend, for example, one may be attracted by the array of bright colors, of flowers, jewelry and clothing in the shop windows, blink one's eyes in the glare of the sun, feel a satisfaction in the presence of other people and a loneliness for a particular friend, dodge before a passing automobile, be envious of its occupant, and smile benevolently at a passing child. It would be difficult in so complex and so characteristically familiar a situation to pick out completely and precisely the original human tendencies at work, and trace out all the modifications to which they have been subjected in the course of individual experience. For even single responses in the adult are not the same in quality or scope as they were to start with. Even the simplest stimuli of taste and of sound are different to the adult from what they are to the child. What for the adult is a printed page full of significance is for the baby a blur, or at most chaotic black marks on white paper.
Habitual behavior which can become so completely controlling in the lives of so many people is not without its dangers. The nervous system is originally neutral, and can be involved on the side either of good or evil. A human born with a plastic brain and nervous system must acquire habits, but that he will acquire good habits (that is, habits serviceable to his own happiness and to that of his fellows) is not guaranteed by nature. Habits are indeed more notorious than famous, and examples are more frequently chosen from evil ones than from good. Promptness in the performance of one's professional or domestic duties, care in speech, in dress and in demeanor, are, once they are acquired, permanent assets. But if these fail to be developed, dishonesty or superficiality, slovenliness in dress and speech, and surliness in manner, may and do become equally habitual.
If the acquisition of bad, that is, disservice able habits, is disastrous to the individual, it is in some respects even worse in the group. The inertia of the nervous system, the tendency to go on repeating connections that have once been made is one of the strongest obstacles to change, however desirable. It is not only that habits of action have been established, but that with them go deep-seated habits of thought and feeling. The repression of people's accustomed ways of doing things may bring with it a sense of frustration almost as complete and painful as if these obstructed activities were instinctive. This is not true merely in the melodramatic instances of drug addicts and drunkards. It is true in the case of social habits which have become established in a large group. Any Utopian that dreams of revolutionizing society overnight fails to take into account the enormous control of habits over groups which have acquired them, and the powerful emotions, amounting sometimes to passion, which are aroused by their frustration.
That habit is at once the conserver and the petrifies of society has long been recognized by social philosophers. There is one habit, however, the acquisition of which is itself a preventive of the complete domination of the individual or the group by hard and fast routine. This is the habit of learning, which is necessary to the acquisition of any habits at all. Man in learning new habits, "learns to learn." This ability to learn is, of course, correlated with a plasticity of brain and nerve fiber which is most present in early youth. The disappearance of this capacity is hastened by the pressure which forces individuals in their business and professional life to cling fast to certain habits which are prized and rewarded by the group. A sedulous cultivation on the part of the individual of the habit of open-minded inquiry, of the habit of learning, and the encouragement of this tendency by the group are the only antidotes that can be provided against this marked physiological tendency to fossilization and the frequent social tendencies in the same direction.

All human action, whether on the plane of instinct, habit, or reflection, is, to a lesser or greater degree, accompanied by emotion. While there is considerable controversy among psychologists as to the precise nature of emotion, and the precise conditions of its causation, its general features and significance are fairly clear. Emotion may be most generally defined as an awareness or consciousness on the part of the individual of his experiences, both those in which he is the actor and those in which he is being passively acted upon. This awareness or consciousness is not detached intellectual perception, but is accompanied by, as it is by some held to be merely the consciousness of, certain specific bodily disturbances. Thus the emotions of fear and grief are not cold and abstract perceptions of situations that belong in the classes dangerous or deplorable, respectively. The awareness of these situations by the individual is intimately and invariably connected with certain outward bodily manifestations and certain inner organic disturbances. Fear, rage, pity, and the like are not unimpassioned judgments, but highly charged physical changes. So close, indeed, is the connection between specific bodily conditions and the subjective or inner consciousness that we call emotion. Emotions are nothing more nor less than the blending of the complex organic changes that occur in any given emotional state.
In one sense these emotional disturbances impede action, certainly action on the reflective level. It is the capacity and function of reflection to solve and adjust precisely those conflicts of competing impulses during which emotional disturbances occur. But the reflective process is confused and distorted in conflicts of native or habitual desires by these emotional disturbances which accompany them. It is proverbially difficult to think straight when angry; the surgeon in performing an operation must not be moved by pity or fear; and love is notoriously blind. The facts with which reflection must deal are presented in distorted and exaggerated form under the stress of competing impulses. Stimuli become loaded with emotional associations. They are glaring and conspicuous on the basis of their emotional urgency rather than on the ground of their logical significance. The paralysis or complete disorganization of action which occurs in extreme cases of hysteria takes place to some extent in all less extreme instances of emotional disturbances.
But just as the original nature with which man is born is modifiable, so are his emotional reactions. Each individual's emotional reactions are peculiar and specific, because of the particular contacts to which they have been exposed, and the organization of instincts and habits which have come to be their more or less fixed character. Any emotional experience consists of an intermingling of many and diverse feelings. And these particular complexes of emotions become for each individual organized about particular persons or objects or situations. The emotional reactions of an individual are, indeed, accurately symptomatic of the character of the individual and the culture of his time. They are aroused, it goes without saying, on very different occasions and by very different objects, among different men and different groups.
In the case of habit, we may upon reflection discover that our habits of walking, writing, or speech are bad; that we ought not to smoke, or drink, or waste time. We may come, through reflection, to realize with the utmost clarity the advantages to ourselves of acquiring the habits of going to bed early, saving money, keeping our papers in order, and persisting at work amid distractions. But the bad habits and the good are already fixed in our nervous system, and in physiology also possession is nine tenths of the law. We may intend to change, but by taking thought alone we cannot add a cubit to our stature. Reflection can do no more than point the way we should go. For unless the wrong actions are systematically and repeatedly refrained from, and the proper ones made habitual, thinking remains merely an impotent summary of what can be done. Conduct is governed, it must be repeated, by the satisfactions action can bring us, and unless actions are made habitual they will not be performed with satisfaction.
We come, through habit, to be alive only to certain possibilities to the practical exclusion of all others. Thinking becomes fruitful and suggestive when it is freed from the limited number of suggestions that occur through force of habit. But original thinking is rare precisely because habits do have such a compulsive power in determining the possibilities of action that suggest themselves to us. The man who moves in a rut of habitual reactions will "never think" of possibilities that "stare in the face" a less habit-ridden thinker. Inventiveness, originality, creative intelligence, whatever one chooses to call it, consists, in no small measure, in this ability to remain alive to a wide variety of stimuli, to keep sensitive to all the possibilities that are in a situation, instead of those only to which we are immediately prompted by instinct or habit. The possibility of using the current of a river as power is not the first possibility that flowing water suggests.
Past training and individual differences in temperament not only limit the possibilities that do occur to us; they seriously distort, color, and qualify those of which we become conscious. We forecast differently and with differing degrees of accuracy the consequences of those possible courses of action which do occur to us according to the influence and stimulation which particular native traits and acquired impulses have in our conduct. Ideally, the consequences which we imaginatively forecast as following from a given course of action, should tally with the consequences which genuinely follow from it. But there is too often a sad discrepancy between the consequences as they are foreseen by the individual concerned and the genuine consequences that could be foreseen by any disinterested observer. The discrepancy between the genuine and the imagined consequences of given ideas or suggestions is caused more than anything else by the hopes, fears, aversions, and preferences which, by nature or training, are controlling in a man's behavior. Facts are weighed differently according as one or another of these psychological influences is present. We intend unconsciously to substitute a desired or expected consequence for the actual one; we tend to be oblivious to consequences which we fear, and quick to imagine those for which we hope. On the day before an election the campaign managers on both sides, in the glow and momentum of their activities, are confident of the morrow's victory. The opponent of prohibition saw nothing but drug fiends and revolution as its consequences; its extreme advocates saw it as the salvation of mankind. The causes of error in appraising the consequences of any given course of action are partly individual and partly social in character.
To many people there is something terrifying about the idea of controlling life by reason. Life is a vital process of instincts which appear before thinking, and which are often more powerful than reasoned judgments. Against advice to live consciously, to be in control of ourselves, to know what we are about, comes the call "Back to Nature." A life of reflection appears chilling and arbitrary.
Reflection Page 60 in the life of the individual insures that he will not become the slave of his own habits. He will regard habits as methods to be followed when they produce good results, to be discarded or modified when they do not. But if habit in the life of the individual needs control lest it become dangerously controlling, it needs it more conspicuously still in the life of the group. Unless the individuals that compose a society are alert and conscious of the bearings of their actions, they will be completely and mechanically controlled by the customs to which they have been exposed in the early periods of their lives. What an individual regards as right or wrong, what he will cherish or champion in industry, government, and art, depends in large measure on his early education and training and on the opinions and beliefs of other people with whom he repeatedly comes in contact. A society may be democratic in its political form and still autocratic in fact if the majority of its citizens are merely machines which can be set off to respond in certain determinate ways to customary stimuli of names, leaders, and party slogans. A society becomes genuinely democratic, precisely to the extent to which there is on the part of its citizens participation in the important decisions affecting all their lives. But the participation will only be a formality if votes are decided and opinions formed on the basis of habit alone.
Thus far thinking has been discussed in its more practical aspects. And thinking is in its origins a very practical matter. Literally, most people think when they have to, and only when they have to. Given a problem, a difficulty, a maladjustment between the individual and his environment, thinking occurs. If every instinctive act brought satisfaction, thinking would be much less necessary and much less frequently practiced. This is illustrated in the performance of any act that once required attention and discrimination, and has later become habitual. We do not think how to walk, eat, and spell familiar words, how to find our way about Page 61 familiar streets or even in familiar dark rooms. We do think about where we shall spend our evenings or our summer, which courses we shall choose at college, which profession we shall enter. Where we are uneasy, drawn by competing impulses, we consider alternatives, measure consequences, and choose our course of action in the light of the results we can forecast. But while a large proportion of reflective behavior is thus practical in its origins and its results, it also occurs not infrequently where there is no immediate problem to be solved. Not all of men's energies are concerned in purely practical concerns. And part of man's superfluous vitality is expended in disinterested and curious inquiry into problems whose solutions afford no immediate practical benefits, but in the mere solving of which man finds satisfaction.
Human beings tend not only sympathetically to reproduce the instinctive actions of others, but they tend, despite themselves, to experience directly and immediately, often involuntarily, the emotions experienced and outwardly manifested by others. Almost everyone has had his mood heightened to at least kindly joy by the presence in a crowded street car of a young child whose inquiring prattle and light-hearted laughter were subdued by the gray restraints and responsibilities of maturity. One melancholy face can crush the joy of a boisterous and cheerful party; the eagerness and enthusiasm of an orator can, irrespective of the merits of the cause he is defending, provoke eagerness and enthusiasm for the same cause among an audience that does not in the least understand what the orator is talking about.
A generous degree of susceptibility to the emotions of others makes a man what is variously called "mellow," "humane," "large-hearted," "generous-souled." The possession of such susceptibility is an asset, first, in that it enriches life for its possessor. It gives him a warm insight into the feelings, emotions, desires, habits of mind and action of other people, and gives to his experiences with them a vivid and personal significance not attainable by any hollow intellectual analysis. It is an asset, moreover, in the purely utilitarian business of dealing with men. The statesman or executive who deals with men as so many animate machines, may achieve certain mechanical and arbitrary successes. But he will be missing half the data on which his decisions must be based if he does not have a live and sensitive appreciation of how men feel when placed in given situations. The placing of women in positions of labor management where women chiefly are to be dealt with is an illustration of the recognition of the importance of sympathy, fellow-feeling in the management of human affairs. One of the reasons why many university scholars make poor teachers is because they cannot place themselves back at the point where a subject was as live and fresh and virgin to them as it is to their students.
While there is a general tendency to experience sympathetically the feelings of others, this becomes specialized in most people, and one tends to experience most immediately and intensely the emotions of one's own kind, physically, socially, and intellectually. Sympathy is a specialization of man's general gregariousness, and becomes more specialized as one becomes habituated exclusively to a small group. Within this small group, individuals not only experience the emotions of others, but like to share and communicate their own emotions. The nearer people are to us in mode of life, social status, and intellectual interests, the closer is community of feeling and "consciousness of kind." Two Americans meeting in a foreign Page 94 country have a quick and sympathetic understanding of each other. Two alumni of the same college meeting in a distant city have a common basis of interest and feeling.
This easy give-and-take of feeling and emotion makes the deep attractiveness of intimate companionship. Our companion has but to mention a name or a place, and we experience the same associations, the pleasures, or antipathies which he does. A gesture, a curious glance of the eye, a pause, we understand as quickly as if he had spoken a sentence. But not only do we understand his feelings; he (or she) understands ours. And for most people, all their interests and enjoyments are heightened by the presence of an intimately known companion.
We have already had occasion to point out that education is the method by which society inculcates in its younger members habits which are regarded as socially beneficial. In its broadest sense the whole social environment is an individual's education. And it is an education chiefly through experience with other people, discovering what they will and will not tolerate, what they will cherish and what they will condemn.”
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Human Traits and their Social Significance, by Irwin Edman)