Imatges de pÓgina

" And this subject of the different characters of dispositions is one of those things wherein the common discourse of men is wiser than books—a thing which seldom happens.

Wherefore out of these materials (which are surely rich and abundant) let a full and careful treatise be constructed . . . so that an artificial and accurate dissection may be made of men's minds and natures, and the secret disposition of each particular man laid open, that, from a knowledge of the whole, the precepts concerning the cures of the mind may be more rightly formed. . . . And not only the characters of dispositions impressed by nature should be received into this treatise, but those also which are otherwise imposed upon the mind by the sex, age, country, state of health, make of body, etc. And again those which proceed from fortune, as in princes, nobles, common people, the rich, the poor, magistrates, the ignorant, the happy, the miserable, etc.”-Bacon, ' De Augmentis Scientiarum,' B. vii. ch. iii.

'... Ethology, is still to be created. But its creation has at length become practicable. The empirical laws, destined to verify its deductions, have been formed in abundance by every successive age of humanity; and the premises for the deductions are now sufficiently complete."-J. S. Mill, 'A System of Logic,' B. vi. ch. v. § 6.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

Being a Study of the Tendencies of the Emotions and






First Edition, 1914
Second Edition, 1920



A SCIENTIFIC treatment should not diminish, but increase the general interest taken in character. To bring together the various aspects of the subject,—which, in literature, are treated in isolation from one another ; to lead up to a general conception of it; to study the methods by which the know:ledge of it may be increased in accuracy and extent ; these

are to make approaches to a scientific treatment of character. While I have had chiefly to confine myself to a study of the tendencies of the emotions and sentiments, this has been, throughout, my aim. This book, then, is a study of method. Yet I do not claim that this method is essentially new. It is in the main the hypothetical method of the sciences; it has had to be adapted to the treatment of character : that is all. Yet for a long time, like the philosophers of old, I was trying to find indisputable foundations. How long it took me before I saw the necessity of being content with good working hypotheses ! Hence, as I only try to find such hypotheses, to interpret the facts of character as far as I have grasped them, I do not put them forward as finally true or adequate theories. On the contrary, I have tried to show how they may be corrected and improved as the facts come to be systematically investigated. And I have sought to give them such a form that they can be made use of and improved by others without being wholly abandoned. To make real progress possible has been my aim throughout. I have wondered whether, in following a plain method of science and common sense in the treatment of a subject, around which such an amount of valuable opinion has accumulated, we cannot ensure an


sp 6470 854



orderly development; so that each age, taking up the conclusions of the preceding age, not contemptuously, but with respect and hope, may first master its knowledge and wisdom, and discern their legitimate applications, before attempting to judge in what respects they are defective and inadequate :just as the progress of physical science depends on our first mastering the knowledge already attained in some branch of it, and on conserving that, before attempting to solve the new problems there suggested.

What has astonished me is that the thoughts of the past that bear on life and character are not thus regarded, but either despised and neglected, or reverenced in that wrong way according to which these thoughts have only to be accepted and preserved. Whence arise, in respect of the wisdom of life, what are called “platitudes," and in respect of political life, rigid institutions; and both of these, instead of protecting mankind against the revolutionary spirit, invite it.

A great difficulty which I have found in the course of my work has been to collect the facts or observations of character on which I had to rely. I wish I could have collected them on such a scale as Prof. Westermarck has achieved in his wonderful book on “The Development of the Moral Ideas.” Such material as I have obtained has been drawn much more from literature than from any other source; and this was inevitable, because psychology has hardly begun to concern itself with these questions. After our own great poets, my chief resource has been the great French prose writers; and I take this opportunity of expressing my unqualified admiration for that literature, and my indebtedness to it. Everywhere I have found in it that psychological curiosity so frequent in the dramas of Shakespeare, but so rare in our prose writings.

One of the principal hypotheses in this book is the theory of the sentiments which I published in Mind nearly twenty years ago. I have to thank Prof. G. F. Stout, who was the first to adopt it, and to make it more widely known in his admirable " Manual of Psychology.” Since then it has been accepted, or at least found serviceable, by a number of eminent writers, among whom I may mention Prof. E.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »