To all who are capable of new impressions and fresh thought, some
modification of former beliefs and hopes has been brought by the
war. What the modification has been has depended, in each case, upon
character and circumstance; but in one form or another it has been
almost universal. To me, the chief thing to be learnt through the war
has been a certain view of the springs of human action, what they are,
and what we may legitimately hope that they will become. This view,
if it is true, seems to afford a basis for political philosophy more
capable of standing erect in a time of crisis than the philosophy of
traditional Liberalism has shown itself to be. The following lectures,
though only one of them will deal with war, all are inspired by a view
of the springs of action which has been suggested by the war. And all
of them are informed by the hope of seeing such political institutions
established in Europe as shall make men averse to war—a hope which
I firmly believe to be realizable, though not without a great and
fundamental reconstruction of economic and social life.

To one who stands outside the cycle of beliefs and passions which
make the war seem necessary, an isolation, an almost unbearable
separation from the general activity, becomes unavoidable. At the
very moment when the universal disaster raises compassion in the
highest degree, compassion itself compels aloofness from the impulse
to self-destruction which has swept over Europe. The helpless longing
to save men from the ruin towards which they are hastening makes it
necessary to oppose the stream, to incur hostility, to be thought
unfeeling, to lose for the moment the power of winning belief. It is
impossible to prevent others from feeling hostile, but it is possible
to avoid any reciprocal hostility on one’s own part, by imaginative
understanding and the sympathy which grows out of it. And without
understanding and sympathy it is impossible to find a cure for the evil
from which the world is suffering.

There are two views of the war neither of which seems to me adequate.
The usual view in this country is that it is due to the wickedness
of the Germans; the view of most pacifists is that it is due to
the diplomatic tangle and to the ambitions of Governments. I think
both these views fail to realize the extent to which war grows out
of ordinary human nature. Germans, and also the men who compose
Governments, are on the whole average human beings, actuated by the
same passions that actuate others, not differing much from the rest of
the world except in their circumstances. War is accepted by men who
are neither Germans nor diplomatists with a readiness, an acquiescence
in untrue and inadequate reasons, which would not be possible if any
deep repugnance to war were widespread in other nations or classes.
The untrue things which men believe, and the true things which
they disbelieve, are an index to their impulses—not necessarily to
individual impulses in each case (since beliefs are contagious), but to
the general impulses of the community. We all believe many things which
we have no good ground for believing, because, subconsciously, our
nature craves certain kinds of action which these beliefs would render
reasonable if they were true. Unfounded beliefs are the homage which
impulse pays to reason; and thus it is with the beliefs which, opposite
but similar, make men here and in Germany believe it their duty to
prosecute the war.

The first thought which naturally occurs to one who accepts this view
is that it would be well if men were more under the dominion of reason.
War, to those who see that it must necessarily do untold harm to all
the combatants, seems a mere madness, a collective insanity in which
all that has been known in time of peace is forgotten. If impulses
were more controlled, if thought were less dominated by passion, men
would guard their minds against the approaches of war fever, and
disputes would be adjusted amicably. This is true, but it is not by
itself sufficient. It is only those in whom the desire to think truly
is itself a passion who will find this desire adequate to control the
passions of war. Only passion can control passion, and only a contrary
impulse or desire can check impulse. Reason, as it is preached by
traditional moralists, is too negative, too little living, to make a
good life. It is not by reason alone that wars can be prevented, but by
a positive life of impulses and passions antagonistic to those that
lead to war. It is the life of impulse that needs to be changed, not
only the life of conscious thought.

All human activity springs from two sources: impulse and desire. The
part played by desire has always been sufficiently recognized. When men
find themselves not fully contented, and not able instantly to procure
what will cause content, imagination brings before their minds the
thought of things which they believe would make them happy. All desire
involves an interval of time between the consciousness of a need and
the opportunity for satisfying it. The acts inspired by desire may be
in themselves painful, the time before satisfaction can be achieved
may be very long, the object desired may be something outside our
own lives, and even after our own death. Will, as a directing force,
consists mainly in following desires for more or less distant objects,
in spite of the painfulness of the acts involved and the solicitations
of incompatible but more immediate desires and impulses. All this is
familiar, and political philosophy hitherto has been almost entirely
based upon desire as the source of human actions.

But desire governs no more than a part of human activity, and that not
the most important but only the more conscious, explicit, and civilized

In all the more instinctive part of our nature we are dominated by
impulses to certain kinds of activity, not by desires for certain ends.
Children run and shout, not because of any good which they expect to
realize, but because of a direct impulse to running and shouting. Dogs
bay the moon, not because they consider that it is to their advantage
to do so, but because they feel an impulse to bark. It is not any
purpose, but merely an impulse, that prompts such actions as eating,
drinking, love-making, quarreling, boasting. Those who believe that
man is a rational animal will say that people boast in order that
others may have a good opinion of them; but most of us can recall
occasions when we have boasted in spite of knowing that we should
be despised for it. Instinctive acts normally achieve some result
which is agreeable to the natural man, but they are not performed
from desire for this result. They are performed from direct impulse,
and the impulse is often strong even in cases in which the normal
desirable result cannot follow. Grown men like to imagine themselves
more rational than children and dogs, and unconsciously conceal
from themselves how great a part impulse plays in their lives. This
unconscious concealment always follows a certain general plan. When an
impulse is not indulged in the moment in which it arises, there grows
up a desire for the expected consequences of indulging the impulse.
If some of the consequences which are reasonably to be expected are
clearly disagreeable, a conflict between foresight and impulse arises.
If the impulse is weak, foresight may conquer; this is what is called
acting on reason. If the impulse is strong, either foresight will be
falsified, and the disagreeable consequences will be forgotten, or, in
men of a heroic mold, the consequences may be recklessly accepted. When
Macbeth realizes that he is doomed to defeat, he does not shrink from
the fight; he exclaims:—

Lay on, Macduff,
And damned be him that first cries, Hold, enough!

But such strength and recklessness of impulse is rare. Most men, when
their impulse is strong, succeed in persuading themselves, usually by
a subconscious selectiveness of attention, that agreeable consequences
will follow from the indulgence of their impulse. Whole philosophies,
whole systems of ethical valuation, spring up in this way: they are
the embodiment of a kind of thought which is subservient to impulse,
which aims at providing a quasi-rational ground for the indulgence of
impulse. The only thought which is genuine is that which springs out
of the intellectual impulse of curiosity, leading to the desire to
know and understand. But most of what passes for thought is inspired
by some non-intellectual impulse, and is merely a means of persuading
ourselves that we shall not be disappointed or do harm if we indulge
this impulse.[1]

When an impulse is restrained, we feel discomfort or even violent pain.
We may indulge the impulse in order to escape from this pain, and
our action is then one which has a purpose. But the pain only exists
because of the impulse, and the impulse itself is directed to an act,
not to escaping from the pain of restraining the impulse. The impulse
itself remains without a purpose, and the purpose of escaping from pain
only arises when the impulse has been momentarily restrained.

Impulse is at the basis of our activity, much more than desire. Desire
has its place, but not so large a place as it seemed to have. Impulses
bring with them a whole train of subservient fictitious desires: they
make men feel that they desire the results which will follow from
indulging the impulses, and that they are acting for the sake of these
results, when in fact their action has no motive outside itself. A man
may write a book or paint a picture under the belief that he desires
the praise which it will bring him; but as soon as it is finished,
if his creative impulse is not exhausted, what he has done grows
uninteresting to him, and he begins a new piece of work. What applies
to artistic creation applies equally to all that is most vital in our
lives: direct impulse is what moves us, and the desires which we think
we have are a mere garment for the impulse.

Desire, as opposed to impulse, has, it is true, a large and increasing
share in the regulation of men’s lives. Impulse is erratic and
anarchical, not easily fitted into a well-regulated system; it may be
tolerated in children and artists, but it is not thought proper to
men who hope to be taken seriously. Almost all paid work is done from
desire, not from impulse: the work itself is more or less irksome,
but the payment for it is desired. The serious activities that fill
a man’s working hours are, except in a few fortunate individuals,
governed mainly by purposes, not by impulses towards those activities.
In this hardly any one sees an evil, because the place of impulse in a
satisfactory existence is not recognized.

An impulse, to one who does not share it actually or imaginatively,
will always seem to be mad. All impulse is essentially blind, in the
sense that it does not spring from any prevision of consequences. The
man who does not share the impulse will form a different estimate as
to what the consequences will be, and as to whether those that must
ensue are desirable. This difference of opinion will seem to be ethical
or intellectual, whereas its real basis is a difference of impulse.
No genuine agreement will be reached, in such a case, so long as the
difference of impulse persists. In all men who have any vigorous life,
there are strong impulses such as may seem utterly unreasonable to
others. Blind impulses sometimes lead to destruction and death, but
at other times they lead to the best things the world contains. Blind
impulse is the source of war, but it is also the source of science,
and art, and love. It is not the weakening of impulse that is to be
desired, but the direction of impulse towards life and growth rather
than towards death and decay.

The complete control of impulse by will, which is sometimes preached
by moralists, and often enforced by economic necessity, is not really
desirable. A life governed by purposes and desires, to the exclusion
of impulse, is a tiring life; it exhausts vitality, and leaves a man,
in the end, indifferent to the very purposes which he has been trying
to achieve. When a whole nation lives in this way, the whole nation
tends to become feeble, without enough grasp to recognize and overcome
the obstacles to its desires. Industrialism and organization are
constantly forcing civilized nations to live more and more by purpose
rather than impulse. In the long run such a mode of existence, if it
does not dry up the springs of life, produces new impulses, not of
the kind which the will has been in the habit of controlling or of
which thought is conscious. These new impulses are apt to be worse in
their effects than those that have been checked. Excessive discipline,
especially when it is imposed from without, often issues in impulses
of cruelty and destruction; this is one reason why militarism has a
bad effect on national character. Either lack of vitality, or impulses
which are oppressive and against life, will almost always result if the
spontaneous impulses are not able to find an outlet. A man’s impulses
are not fixed from the beginning by his native disposition: within
certain wide limits, they are profoundly modified by his circumstances
and his way of life. The nature of these modifications ought to be
studied, and the results of such study ought to be taken account of
in judging the good or harm that is done by political and social

The war has grown, in the main, out of the life of impulse, not out of
reason or desire. There is an impulse of aggression, and an impulse of
resistance to aggression. Either may, on occasion, be in accordance
with reason, but both are operative in many cases in which they are
quite contrary to reason. Each impulse produces a whole harvest of
attendant beliefs. The beliefs appropriate to the impulse of aggression
may be seen in Bernhardi, or in the early Mohammedan conquerors, or,
in full perfection, in the Book of Joshua. There is first of all a
conviction of the superior excellence of one’s own group, a certainty
that they are in some sense the chosen people. This justifies the
feeling that only the good and evil of one’s own group is of real
importance, and that the rest of the world is to be regarded merely as
material for the triumph or salvation of the higher race. In modern
politics this attitude is embodied in imperialism. Europe as a whole
has this attitude towards Asia and Africa, and many Germans have this
attitude towards the rest of Europe.

Correlative to the impulse of aggression is the impulse of resistance
to aggression. This impulse is exemplified in the attitude of the
Israelites to the Philistines or of medieval Europe to the Mohammedans.
The beliefs which it produces are beliefs in the peculiar wickedness of
those whose aggression is feared, and in the immense value of national
customs which they might suppress if they were victorious. When the war
broke out, all the reactionaries in England and France began to speak
of the danger to democracy, although until that moment they had opposed
democracy with all their strength. They were not insincere in so
speaking: the impulse of resistance to Germany made them value whatever
was endangered by the German attack. They loved democracy because they
hated Germany; but they thought they hated Germany because they loved

The correlative impulses of aggression and resistance to aggression
have both been operative in all the countries engaged in the war.
Those who have not been dominated by one or other of these impulses
may be roughly divided into three classes. There are, first, men whose
national sentiment is antagonistic to the State to which they are
subject. This class includes some Irish, Poles, Finns, Jews, and other
members of oppressed nations. From our point of view, these men may
be omitted from our consideration, since they have the same impulsive
nature as those who fight, and differ merely in external circumstances.

The second class of men who have not been part of the force supporting
the war have been those whose impulsive nature is more or less
atrophied. Opponents of pacifism suppose that all pacifists belong to
this class, except when they are in German pay. It is thought that
pacifists are bloodless, men without passions, men who can look on and
reason with cold detachment while their brothers are giving their lives
for their country. Among those who are merely passively pacifist, and
do no more than abstain from actively taking part in the war, there may
be a certain proportion of whom this is true. I think the supporters
of war would be right in decrying such men. In spite of all the
destruction which is wrought by the impulses that lead to war, there is
more hope for a nation which has these impulses than for a nation in
which all impulse is dead. Impulse is the expression of life, and while
it exists there is hope of its turning towards life instead of towards
death; but lack of impulse is death, and out of death no new life will

The active pacifists, however, are not of this class: they are not men
without impulsive force but men in whom some impulse to which war is
hostile is strong enough to overcome the impulses that lead to war. It
is not the act of a passionless man to throw himself athwart the whole
movement of the national life, to urge an outwardly hopeless cause,
to incur obloquy and to resist the contagion of collective emotion.
The impulse to avoid the hostility of public opinion is one of the
strongest in human nature, and can only be overcome by an unusual force
of direct and uncalculating impulse; it is not cold reason alone that
can prompt such an act.

Impulses may be divided into those that make for life and those that
make for death. The impulses embodied in the war are among those that
make for death. Any one of the impulses that make for life, if it is
strong enough, will lead a man to stand out against the war. Some of
these impulses are only strong in highly civilized men; some are part
of common humanity. The impulses towards art and science are among the
more civilized of those that make for life. Many artists have remained
wholly untouched by the passions of the war, not from feebleness of
feeling, but because the creative instinct, the pursuit of a vision,
makes them critical of the assaults of national passion, and not
responsive to the myth in which the impulse of pugnacity clothes
itself. And the few men in whom the scientific impulse is dominant have
noticed the rival myths of warring groups, and have been led through
understanding to neutrality. But it is not out of such refined impulses
that a popular force can be generated which shall be sufficient to
transform the world.

There are three forces on the side of life which require no exceptional
mental endowment, which are not very rare at present, and might be very
common under better social institutions. They are love, the instinct
of constructiveness, and the joy of life. All three are checked and
enfeebled at present by the conditions under which men live—not only
the less outwardly fortunate, but also the majority of the well-to-do.
Our institutions rest upon injustice and authority: it is only by
closing our hearts against sympathy and our minds against truth that
we can endure the oppressions and unfairnesses by which we profit. The
conventional conception of what constitutes success leads most men to
live a life in which their most vital impulses are sacrificed, and the
joy of life is lost in listless weariness. Our economic system compels
almost all men to carry out the purposes of others rather than their
own, making them feel impotent in action and only able to secure a
certain modicum of passive pleasure. All these things destroy the vigor
of the community, the expansive affections of individuals, and the
power of viewing the world generously. All these things are unnecessary
and can be ended by wisdom and courage. If they were ended, the
impulsive life of men would become wholly different, and the human race
might travel towards a new happiness and a new vigor. To urge this hope
is the purpose of these lectures.

The impulses and desires of men and women, in so far as they are of
real importance in their lives, are not detached one from another, but
proceed from a central principle of growth, an instinctive urgency
leading them in a certain direction, as trees seek the light. So long
as this instinctive movement is not thwarted, whatever misfortunes
may occur are not fundamental disasters, and do not produce those
distortions which result from interference with natural growth. This
intimate center in each human being is what imagination must apprehend
if we are to understand him intuitively. It differs from man to man,
and determines for each man the type of excellence of which he is
capable. The utmost that social institutions can do for a man is to
make his own growth free and vigorous: they cannot force him to grow
according to the pattern of another man. There are in men some impulses
and desires—for example, those towards drugs—which do not grow out of
the central principle; such impulses, when they become strong enough
to be harmful, have to be checked by self-discipline. Other impulses,
though they may grow out of the central principle in the individual,
may be injurious to the growth of others, and they need to be checked
in the interest of others. But in the main, the impulses which are
injurious to others tend to result from thwarted growth, and to be
least in those who have been unimpeded in their instinctive development.

Men, like trees, require for their growth the right soil and a
sufficient freedom from oppression. These can be helped or hindered
by political institutions. But the soil and the freedom required for
a man’s growth are immeasurably more difficult to discover and to
obtain than the soil and the freedom required for the growth of a
tree. And the full growth which may be hoped for cannot be defined
or demonstrated; it is subtle and complex, it can only be felt by a
delicate intuition and dimly apprehended by imagination and respect.
It depends not only or chiefly upon the physical environment, but
upon beliefs and affections, upon opportunities for action, and upon
the whole life of the community. The more developed and civilized the
type of man the more elaborate are the conditions of his growth, and
the more dependent they become upon the general state of the society
in which he lives. A man’s needs and desires are not confined to his
own life. If his mind is comprehensive and his imagination vivid, the
failures of the community to which he belongs are his failures, and its
successes are his successes: according as his community succeeds or
fails, his own growth is nourished or impeded.

In the modern world, the principle of growth in most men and women
is hampered by institutions inherited from a simpler age. By the
progress of thought and knowledge, and by the increase in command over
the forces of the physical world, new possibilities of growth have
come into existence, and have given rise to new claims which must be
satisfied if those who make them are not to be thwarted. There is less
acquiescence in limitations which are no longer unavoidable, and less
possibility of a good life while those limitations remain. Institutions
which give much greater opportunities to some classes than to others
are no longer recognized as just by the less fortunate, though the
more fortunate still defend them vehemently. Hence arises a universal
strife, in which tradition and authority are arrayed against liberty
and justice. Our professed morality, being traditional, loses its hold
upon those who are in revolt. Coöperation between the defenders of the
old and the champions of the new has become almost impossible. An
intimate disunion has entered into almost all the relations of life
in continually increasing measure. In the fight for freedom, men and
women become increasingly unable to break down the walls of the Ego and
achieve the growth which comes from a real and vital union.

All our institutions have their historic basis in Authority. The
unquestioned authority of the Oriental despot found its religious
expression in the omnipotent Creator, whose glory was the sole end of
man, and against whom man had no rights. This authority descended to
the Emperor and Pope, to the kings of the Middle Ages, to the nobles
in the feudal hierarchy, and even to every husband and father in
his dealings with his wife and children. The Church was the direct
embodiment of the Divine authority, the State and the law were
constituted by the authority of the King, private property in land grew
out of the authority of conquering barons, and the family was governed
by the authority of the pater-familias.

The institutions of the Middle Ages permitted only a fortunate few
to develop freely: the vast majority of mankind existed to minister
to the few. But so long as authority was genuinely respected and
acknowledged even by its least fortunate subjects, medieval society
remained organic and not fundamentally hostile to life, since outward
submission was compatible with inward freedom because it was voluntary.
The institutions of Western Christendom embodied a theory which was
really believed, as no theory by which our present institutions can be
defended is now believed.

The medieval theory of life broke down through its failure to satisfy
men’s demands for justice and liberty. Under the stress of oppression,
when rulers exceeded their theoretical powers, the victims were forced
to realize that they themselves also had rights, and need not live
merely to increase the glory of the few. Gradually it came to be seen
that if men have power, they are likely to abuse it, and that authority
in practice means tyranny. Because the claim to justice was resisted
by the holders of power, men became more and more separate units, each
fighting for his own rights, not a genuine community bound together
by an organic common purpose. This absence of a common purpose has
become a source of unhappiness. One of the reasons which led many men
to welcome the outbreak of the present war was that it made each
nation again a whole community with a single purpose. It did this by
destroying, for the present, the beginnings of a single purpose in the
civilized world as a whole; but these beginnings were as yet so feeble
that few were much affected by their destruction. Men rejoiced in the
new sense of unity with their compatriots more than they minded the
increased separation from their enemies.

The hardening and separation of the individual in the course of the
fight for freedom has been inevitable, and is not likely ever to be
wholly undone. What is necessary, if an organic society is to grow
up, is that our institutions should be so fundamentally changed as
to embody that new respect for the individual and his rights which
modern feeling demands. The medieval Empire and Church swept away the
individual. There were heretics, but they were massacred relentlessly,
without any of the qualms aroused by later persecutions. And they, like
their persecutors, were persuaded that there ought to be one universal
Church: they differed only as to what its creed should be. Among a
few men of art and letters, the Renaissance undermined the medieval
theory, without, however, replacing it by anything but skepticism
and confusion. The first serious breach in this medieval theory was
caused by Luther’s assertion of the right of private judgment and the
fallibility of General Councils. Out of this assertion grew inevitably,
with time, the belief that a man’s religion could not be determined
for him by authority, but must be left to the free choice of each
individual. It was in matters of religion that the battle for liberty
began, and it is in matters of religion that it has come nearest to a
complete victory.[2]

The development through extreme individualism to strife, and thence,
one hopes, to a new reintegration, is to be seen in almost every
department of life. Claims are advanced in the name of justice, and
resisted in the name of tradition and prescriptive right. Each side
honestly believes that it deserves to triumph, because two theories
of society exist side by side in our thought, and men choose,
unconsciously, the theory which fits their case. Because the battle is
long and arduous all general theory is gradually forgotten; in the end,
nothing remains but self-assertion, and when the oppressed win freedom
they are as oppressive as their former masters.

This is seen most crudely in the case of what is called nationalism.
Nationalism, in theory, is the doctrine that men, by their sympathies
and traditions, form natural groups, called “nations,” each of which
ought to be united under one central Government. In the main this
doctrine may be conceded. But in practice the doctrine takes a more
personal form. “I belong,” the oppressed nationalist argues, “by
sympathy and tradition to nation A, but I am subject to a government
which is in the hands of nation B. This is an injustice, not only
because of the general principle of nationalism, but because nation A
is generous, progressive, and civilized, while nation B is oppressive,
retrograde, and barbarous. Because this is so, nation A deserves to
prosper, while nation B deserves to be abased.” The inhabitants of
nation B are naturally deaf to the claims of abstract justice, when
they are accompanied by personal hostility and contempt. Presently,
however, in the course of war, nation A acquires its freedom. The
energy and pride which have achieved freedom generates a momentum which
leads on, almost infallibly, to the attempt at foreign conquest, or
to the refusal of liberty to some smaller nation. “What? You say that
nation C, which forms part of our State, has the same rights against
us as we had against nation A? But that is absurd. Nation C is swinish
and turbulent, incapable of good government, needing a strong hand if
it is not to be a menace and a disturbance to all its neighbors.” So
the English used to speak of the Irish, so the Germans and Russians
speak of the Poles, so the Galician Poles speak of the Ruthenes, so
the Austrians used to speak of the Magyars, so the Magyars speak of
the South Slav sympathizers with Serbia, so the Serbs speak of the
Macedonian Bulgars. In this way nationalism, unobjectionable in theory,
leads by a natural movement to oppression and wars of conquest. No
sooner was France free from the English, in the fifteenth century,
than it embarked upon the conquest of Italy; no sooner was Spain freed
from the Moors than it entered into more than a century of conflict
with France for the supremacy in Europe. The case of Germany is very
interesting in this respect. At the beginning of the eighteenth century
German culture was French: French was the language of the Courts,
the language in which Leibnitz wrote his philosophy, the universal
language of polite letters and learning. National consciousness hardly
existed. Then a series of great men created a self-respect in Germany
by their achievements in poetry, music, philosophy, and science.
But politically German nationalism was only created by Napoleon’s
oppression and the uprising of 1813. After centuries during which every
disturbance of the peace of Europe began with a French or Swedish or
Russian invasion of Germany, the Germans discovered that by sufficient
effort and union they could keep foreign armies off their territory.
But the effort required had been too great to cease when its purely
defensive purpose had been achieved by the defeat of Napoleon. Now, a
hundred years later, they are still engaged in the same movement, which
has become one of aggression and conquest. Whether we are now seeing
the end of the movement it is not yet possible to guess.

If men had any strong sense of a community of nations, nationalism
would serve to define the boundaries of the various nations. But
because men only feel community within their own nation, nothing but
force is able to make them respect the rights of other nations, even
when they are asserting exactly similar rights on their own behalf.

Analogous development is to be expected, with the course of time, in
the conflict between capital and labor which has existed since the
growth of the industrial system, and in the conflict between men and
women, which is still in its infancy.

What is wanted, in these various conflicts, is some principle,
genuinely believed, which will have justice for its outcome. The tug
of war of mutual self-assertion can only result in justice through an
accidental equality of force. It is no use to attempt any bolstering
up of institutions based on authority, since all such institutions
involve injustice, and injustice once realized cannot be perpetuated
without fundamental damage both to those who uphold it and to those who
resist it. The damage consists in the hardening of the walls of the
Ego, making them a prison instead of a window. Unimpeded growth in the
individual depends upon many contacts with other people, which must
be of the nature of free coöperation, not of enforced service. While
the belief in authority was alive, free coöperation was compatible
with inequality and subjection, but now equality and mutual freedom
are necessary. All institutions, if they are not to hamper individual
growth, must be based as far as possible upon voluntary combination,
rather than the force of the law or the traditional authority of the
holders of power. None of our institutions can survive the application
of this principle without great and fundamental changes; but these
changes are imperatively necessary if the world is to be withheld from
dissolving into hard separate units each at war with all the others.

The two chief sources of good relations between individuals are
instinctive liking and a common purpose. Of these two, a common purpose
might seem more important politically, but, in fact, it is often
the outcome, not the cause, of instinctive liking, or of a common
instinctive aversion. Biological groups, from the family to the nation,
are constituted by a greater or less degree of instinctive liking, and
build their common purposes on this foundation.

Instinctive liking is the feeling which makes us take pleasure in
another person’s company, find an exhilaration in his presence, wish to
talk with him, work with him, play with him. The extreme form of it is
being in love, but its fainter forms, and even the very faintest, have
political importance. The presence of a person who is instinctively
disliked tends to make any other person more likable. An anti-Semite
will love any fellow-Christian when a Jew is present. In China, or the
wilds of Africa, any white man would be welcomed with joy. A common
aversion is one of the most frequent causes of mild instinctive liking.

Men differ enormously in the frequency and intensity of their
instinctive likings, and the same man will differ greatly at different
times. One may take Carlyle and Walt Whitman as opposite poles in this
respect. To Carlyle, at any rate in later life, most men and women were
repulsive; they inspired an instinctive aversion which made him find
pleasure in imagining them under the guillotine or perishing in battle.
This led him to belittle most men, finding satisfaction only in those
who had been notably destructive of human life—Frederick the Great,
Dr. Francia, and Governor Eyre. It led him to love war and violence,
and to despise the weak and the oppressed—for example, the “thirty
thousand distressed needlewomen,” on whom he was never weary of venting
his scorn. His morals and his politics, in later life, were inspired
through and through by repugnance to almost the whole human race.

Walt Whitman, on the contrary, had a warm, expansive feeling towards
the vast majority of men and women. His queer catalogues seemed to him
interesting because each item came before his imagination as an object
of delight. The sort of joy which most people feel only in those who
are exceptionally beautiful or splendid Walt Whitman felt in almost
everybody. Out of this universal liking grew optimism, a belief in
democracy, and a conviction that it is easy for men to live together
in peace and amity. His philosophy and politics, like Carlyle’s, were
based upon his instinctive attitude towards ordinary men and women.

There is no objective reason to be given to show that one of these
attitudes is essentially more rational than the other. If a man finds
people repulsive, no argument can prove to him that they are not so.
But both his own desires and other people’s are much more likely to
find satisfaction if he resembles Walt Whitman than if he resembles
Carlyle. A world of Walt Whitmans would be happier and more capable of
realizing its purposes than a world of Carlyles. For this reason, we
shall desire, if we can, to increase the amount of instinctive liking
in the world and diminish the amount of instinctive aversion. This
is perhaps the most important of all the effects by which political
institutions ought to be judged.

The other source of good relations between individuals is a common
purpose, especially where that purpose cannot be achieved without
knowing its cause. Economic organizations, such as unions and political
parties are constituted almost wholly by a common purpose; whatever
instinctive liking may come to be associated with them is the result
of the common purpose, not its cause. Economic organizations, such as
railway companies, subsist for a purpose, but this purpose need only
actually exist in those who direct the organization: the ordinary
wage-earner need have no purpose beyond earning his wages. This is a
defect in economic organizations, and ought to be remedied. One of the
objects of syndicalism is to remedy this defect.

Marriage is (or should be) based on instinctive liking, but as soon
as there are children, or the wish for children, it acquires the
additional strength of a common purpose. It is this chiefly which
distinguishes it from an irregular connection not intended to lead to
children. Often, in fact, the common purpose survives, and remains a
strong tie, after the instinctive liking has faded.

A nation, when it is real and not artificial, is founded upon a faint
degree of instinctive liking for compatriots and a common instinctive
aversion from foreigners. When an Englishman returns to Dover or
Folkestone after being on the Continent, he feels something friendly
in the familiar ways: the casual porters, the shouting paper boys, the
women serving bad tea, all warm his heart, and seem more “natural,”
more what human beings ought to be, than the foreigners with their
strange habits of behavior. He is ready to believe that all English
people are good souls, while many foreigners are full of designing
wickedness. It is such feelings that make it easy to organize a nation
into a governmental unit. And when that has happened, a common purpose
is added, as in marriage. Foreigners would like to invade our country
and lay it waste, to kill us in battle, to humble our pride. Those
who coöperate with us in preventing this disaster are our friends,
and their coöperation intensifies our instinctive liking. But common
purposes do not constitute the whole source of our love of country:
allies, even of long standing, do not call out the same feelings
as are called out by our compatriots. Instinctive liking, resulting
largely from similar habits and customs, is an essential element in
patriotism, and, indeed, the foundation upon which the whole feeling

If men’s natural growth is to be promoted and not hindered by the
environment, if as many as possible of their desires and needs are to
be satisfied, political institutions must, as far as possible, embody
common purposes and foster instinctive liking. These two objects are
interconnected, for nothing is so destructive of instinctive liking
as thwarted purposes and unsatisfied needs, and nothing facilitates
coöperation for common purposes so much as instinctive liking. When a
man’s growth is unimpeded, his self-respect remains intact, and he is
not inclined to regard others as his enemies. But when, for whatever
reason, his growth is impeded, or he is compelled to grow into some
twisted and unnatural shape, his instinct presents the environment as
his enemy, and he becomes filled with hatred. The joy of life abandons
him, and malevolence takes the place of friendliness. The malevolence
of hunchbacks and cripples is proverbial; and a similar malevolence
is to be found in those who have been crippled in less obvious ways.
Real freedom, if it could be brought about, would go a long way towards
destroying hatred.

There is a not uncommon belief that what is instinctive in us
cannot be changed, but must be simply accepted and made the best
of. This is by no means the case. No doubt we have a certain native
disposition, different in different people, which coöperates with
outside circumstances in producing a certain character. But even the
instinctive part of our character is very malleable. It may be changed
by beliefs, by material circumstances, by social circumstances, and by
institutions. A Dutchman has probably much the same native disposition
as a German, but his instincts in adult life are very different owing
to the absence of militarism and of the pride of a Great Power. It is
obvious that the instincts of celibates become profoundly different
from those of other men and women. Almost any instinct is capable of
many different forms according to the nature of the outlets which
it finds. The same instinct which leads to artistic or intellectual
creativeness may, under other circumstances, lead to love of war. The
fact that an activity or belief is an outcome of instinct is therefore
no reason for regarding it as unalterable.

This applies to people’s instinctive likes and dislikes as well as
to their other instincts. It is natural to men, as to other animals,
to like some of their species and dislike others; but the proportion
of like and dislike depends on circumstances, often on quite trivial
circumstances. Most of Carlyle’s misanthropy is attributable to
dyspepsia; probably a suitable medical regimen would have given him a
completely different outlook on the world. The defect of punishment,
as a means of dealing with impulses which the community wishes to
discourage, is that it does nothing to prevent the existence of
the impulses, but merely endeavors to check their indulgence by an
appeal to self-interest. This method, since it does not eradicate the
impulses, probably only drives them to find other outlets even when it
is successful in its immediate object; and if the impulses are strong,
mere self-interest is not likely to curb them effectually, since it is
not a very powerful motive except with unusually reasonable and rather
passionless people. It is thought to be a stronger motive than it is,
because our moods make us deceive ourselves as to our interest, and
lead us to believe that it is consistent with the actions to which we
are prompted by desire or impulse.

Thus the commonplace that human nature cannot be changed is untrue.
We all know that our own characters and those of our acquaintance are
greatly affected by circumstances; and what is true of individuals
is true also of nations. The root causes of changes in average human
nature are generally either purely material changes—for instance, of
climate—or changes in the degree of man’s control over the material
world. We may ignore the purely material changes, since these do not
much concern the politician. But the changes due to man’s increased
control over the material world, by inventions and science, are of
profound present importance. Through the industrial revolution, they
have radically altered the daily lives of men; and by creating huge
economic organizations, they have altered the whole structure of
society. The general beliefs of men, which are, in the main, a product
of instinct and circumstance, have become very different from what
they were in the eighteenth century. But our institutions are not yet
suited either to the instincts developed by our new circumstances, or
to our real beliefs. Institutions have a life of their own, and often
outlast the circumstances which made them a fit garment for instinct.
This applies, in varying degrees, to almost all the institutions which
we have inherited from the past: the State, private property, the
patriarchal family, the Churches, armies and navies. All of these have
become in some degree oppressive, in some measures hostile to life.

In any serious attempt at political reconstruction, it is necessary
to realize what are the vital needs of ordinary men and women. It
is customary, in political thought, to assume that the only needs
with which politics is concerned are economic needs. This view is
quite inadequate to account for such an event as the present war,
since any economic motives that may be assigned for it are to a great
extent mythical, and its true causes must be sought for outside the
economic sphere. Needs which are normally satisfied without conscious
effort remain unrecognized, and this results in a working theory of
human needs which is far too simple. Owing chiefly to industrialism,
many needs which were formerly satisfied without effort now remain
unsatisfied in most men and women. But the old unduly simple theory of
human needs survives, making men overlook the source of the new lack
of satisfaction, and invent quite false theories as to why they are
dissatisfied. Socialism as a panacea seems to me to be mistaken in this
way, since it is too ready to suppose that better economic conditions
will of themselves make men happy. It is not only more material goods
that men need, but more freedom, more self-direction, more outlet for
creativeness, more opportunity for the joy of life, more voluntary
coöperation, and less involuntary subservience to purposes not their
own. All these things the institutions of the future must help to
produce, if our increase of knowledge and power over Nature is to bear
its full fruit in bringing about a good life.