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Beyond the Pyramid. Being-Psychology: Maslow’s Real Contribution

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IT’S UNFORTUNATE unfortunate and ironic that pioneer humanistic psychologist and the founder of positive psychology Abraham Maslow is today best known for his hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy will be familiar to most readers as the pyramid diagram found in all introductory psychology texts which places lower human needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) above higher needs like those for social affiliation and self-actualization.

It’s unfortunate because many people understandably balk at the suggestion that we have to have all material needs met before we can concern ourselves with being moral.  Ironic, because such a notion is far indeed from Maslow’s own beliefs and message.

To begin, then, let’s clear this up.  First, Maslow never used the pyramid diagram in any of his writings; this is an addition of later textbook writers.

Second, he didn’t intend the ‘hierarchy’ as an excuse for selfishness or delaying pursuit of higher needs; rather, he noted with considerable interest that there are people, like great reformers and saints, who are remarkable precisely because they subordinated material to altruism — and he implied that we all ought to emulate their example.  In other words, to the extent this hierarchy does exist, it is the condition of the fallen human race, and not how we should like it to remain.

Third, that people have basic drives for material needs is hardly a surprising or original suggestion;  the innovation of Maslow’s system is precisely that it includes higher needs at all — something surprisingly few psychologists were willing to admit when Maslow wrote.

Finally, Maslow proposed the hierarchy of needs relatively early in his career; over time he moved decisively towards a focus on higher needs; it is this emphasis which is clearly his greatest legacy.

Yet today, decades later, his legacy remains dimly understood and barely appreciated.  There are several reasons for this, including the emergence of a kind of  pseudo-positive psychology that in the 1990’s, using Maslow’s term yet ignoring him and his work.  But another reason is perhaps the regrettable tendency of human beings to latch onto a simplistic idea like a pyramid diagram and then rest there in the pretension of knowing something real and solid.

Rather than berate human folly (they very problem we’re trying to fix), let’s fight fire with fire.  That is, if we need a diagram to get a concept across, let’s supply a better one that expresses Maslow’s thought.  I propose on below.

mandala hires

The point is to give visual expression to Maslow’s real contribution, which is what he called Being psychology.  We can define Being-psychology in a number of ways.  At one level, it’s the psychology behind all the great religions and philosophies of the world — the perennial psychology.  It involves a transcendence of egoism and the inauthentic world of ‘seeming,’ and stepping into the reality of here and now fully alive: being fully in the world whilst simultaneously connected with the great Ideals of Truth, Beauty, Harmony, Love and Goodness. It is the psychology peak experiences, flow states, aesthetics, fulfillment, love and harmony.

Defined negatively, it is concerned with life free from anxieties, doubts, fears, anger and the other forms of negative cognition that oppose happy and fulfilling existence.  In short, Being-psychology is the psychology of life as we wish it to be; it is the aim of our life, what we strive for.

In future articles I’ll explain more about Being-psychology.  Here I simply wish to comment on its significance for the modern world and relevance to contemporary research.  One of the great merits of Maslow’s psychology — how it goes beyond traditional formulations of the perennial psychology like religion, Platonic Idealism and Transcendentalism — is that it is completely naturalistic.  Maslow, in fact, was more less an atheist. Yet he was convinced that all the great psychological and ethical teachings of the world’s religions are grounded in absolute truths of human nature.  He believed we are biologically designed and intended (perhaps by an intelligent universe) to be Idealists.  And unless we express this side of our nature we cannot be true to ourselves or attain to any great measure of happiness.

While not especially systematic in this thinking, Maslow was nonetheless extremely rationalistic, scientific and empirical.  His humanistic theories originated from analysis of answers to surveys and interviews he conducted.  Throughout his works he proposes practical testable hypotheses.  This empirical orientation means that Being-psychology supplies a bridge between science and religion. Maslow also considered the practical applications of Being-psychology and was especially concerned with applying it in industrial settings to improve worker satisfaction, morale and productivity.

Here then is a new way to look at Maslow’s theory: at the center of Philosophy, Religion, Science, and Culture, connecting them, and enabling ideas and discoveries to flow from one area to the others.  Let this much, then, serve as food for though and as an introduction to further posts.


Maslow, Abraham H. (1965). Eupsychian management. Homewood, IL: Irwin (reprinted Wiley, 1998).

Maslow, Abraham H. (1968). Toward a psychology of Being. 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand. Ch. 6. Cognition of being in the peak experiences. (pp. 71−102)

Maslow, Abraham H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking (republished: Arkana, 1993). Ch. 9. Notes on Being-Psychology. pp. 121−142.


Hiram K. Jones the Platonist

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HIRAM Kinnaird Jones, M.D. (1818−June 16, 1903) was an American physician and Platonist philosopher, greatly admired for his public spirit and personal character. He was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, Va., the son of Stephen Jones, a merchant and farmer, and Mildred Kinnaird. Dr. Jones’ paternal grandparents were natives of Wales and Scotland, the grandfather settling in Culpeper County in time to serve in the Revolutionary War under the direct command of George Washington.

Dr. Jones attended school in Missouri, where his family moved when he was young. Later he attended Illinois College at Jacksonville, Illinois, studying classics, medicine and law. He commenced medical practice at Troy, Missouri, then returned to Jacksonville, Illinois, where he remained.

In 1844, Dr. Jones was united in marriage with Elizabeth Orr, daughter of Judge Philip and Lucy Orr. Mrs. Jones was born December 24, 1824, and died August 30, 1891, being a woman of fine literary tastes and culture, and so perfectly adapted to her talented husband that their married life was very happy. They had no children.

In 1851 he was appointed Assistant Physician for the Illinois Hospital for the Insane, located at Jacksonville, and served as Acting Superintendent 1855, resigning the position to commence private practice. A dedicated and well-respected physician, Jones had an eclectic orientation which included homeopathy.

Dr. Jones not only achieved prominence as a medical practitioner, but he was one of the most public spirited men in Jacksonville, and sought to elevate the community, morally and intellectually. In 1860 Dr. Jones organized the Plato Club and was prominently identified with it during the thirty-six years of its existence. He founded the Jacksonville Historical Society, in 1884, and was its first president; the Literary Union (still active) in 1865, and the American Akademe, in 1883, of which he was also the first President.   Closely associated with fellow philosophers Thomas Moore Johnson and William Torrey Harris, he also contributed regularly to the philosophy journals The Platonist, Bibliotheca Platonica, and the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, and edited the Journal of the American Akademe.

He was an active Abolitionist, assisting with the Underground Railroad.

Jones made generous philanthropic contributions to his alma mater, Illinois College, including a beautiful library/chapel, the Jones Memorial Building, donated as a touching memorial to his talented wife.

He participated regularly in the famous Concord School of Philosophy, where for ten years he read his literary papers and received high praise from such men as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.

In the midst of his ceaseless activity, intellectual and professional, he found time to take extensive tours abroad, both for recreation and self-improvement. Twice he traveled to Europe, also visiting Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Upon his return home, by request of his fellow-citizens, he delivered most interesting talks on what he had seen and thought. His life was remarkably fertile in useful and elevating work.

Hiram K. Jones’ Writings and Lectures

  • Jones, Hiram K. On the Immortality of the Soul, Journal of Speculative Philosophy 9(1), 1875, 27−33.
  • Jones, Hiram K., and Sarah Denman. On Shakespeare’s Tempest. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 9(3), 1875, pp. 293–299.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Personality and Individuality—The Outward and Inward, Journal of Speculative Philosophy 9(4), 1875, 438−439.
  • Jones, Hiram K. The Idea of the Venus. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 10(1), 1876, pp. 48–52.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Philosophic Outlines—Cosmologic, Theologic, and Psychologic, Journal of Speculative Philosophy 14(4), 1880, 399−420.
  • Jones, Hiram K. The Eternity of the Soul: Its Pre-Existence, The Platonist 1 (5, 6, 7), 1881, 67−68.
  • Jones, Hiram K. The Education and Discipline of Man—The Uses of the World We Live In, The Platonist 1 (8, 9, 10), 1881, 117−122.
  • Jones, Hiram K. The Philosophy of Prayer and the Prayer Gauge, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 16(1), 1882, 16−27.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Man: Spirit, Soul, Body, Journal of the American Akademe 1(1), 1884−85, 3−15.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Physical Evolution and the World We Live In, Journal of the American Akademe 2(1), 1885−86, 2−17.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Philosophy and Its Place in the Higher Education, Journal of the American Akademe 3(2), 1886−87, 29−45.
  • Jones, Hiram K. The Philosophy of Conscience, Journal of the American Akademe 4, 1887−88, 33−52.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Ideas, Bibliotheca Platonica 1(3), 1890, 192−215.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Key to Republic of Plato, Bibliotheca Platonica 1(4), 1890, 255−273.
  • Jones, Hiram K. Man and His Material Body, Journal of the American Akademe 5, 1890−91, 33−53.
  • Jones, Hiram K. The Philosophy of Religious Faith, Journal of the American Akademe 6, 1892−93, 193−200.

Concord School of Philosophy Lectures (Bridgman [1883] includes detailed summaries for Year 4)

Year 1 (1879)

  1. General content of the Platonic Philosophy.
  2. The Apology of Socrates.
  3. The Platonic idea of Church and State.
  4. The Immortality of the Soul.
  5. Reminiscence as related to the Pre-existence of the Soul.
  6. Pre-existence.
  7. The Human Body.
  8. The Republic.
  9. The Material Body.
  10. Education.

Year 2 (1880)

Five Lectures on The Platonic Philosophy, and five on Platonism in its Relation to Modern Civilization:

  1. Platonic Philosophy; Cosmologic and Theologic Outlines.
  2. The Platonic Psychology; The Daemon of Socrates.
  3. The Two Worlds, and the Twofold Consciousness; The Sensible and the Intelligible.
  4. The State and Church; Their Relations and Correlations.
  5. The Eternity of the Soul, and its Pre-existence.
  6. The Immortality and the Mortality of the Soul; Personality and Individuality; Metempsychosis.
  7. The Psychic Body and the Material Body of Man.
  8. Education and Discipline of Man; The Uses of the World we Live in.
  9. The Philosophy of Law.
  10. The Philosophy of Prayer, and the “Prayer Gauge.”

Year 3 (1881)

First Course, — The Platonic Philosophy:

  1. The Platonic Cosmology, Cosmogony, Physics and Metaphysics.
  2. Myth ; The Gods of the Greek Mythology; The Ideas and Principles of their Worship, Divine Providence, Free Will and Fate.
  3. Platonic Psychology. The Idea of Conscience; The Daemon of Socrates.
  4. The Eternity of the Soul, and its Pre-existence.
  5. The Immortality of the Soul, and the Mortality of the Soul; Personality and Individuality; Metempsychosis.

Second Course, — Platonism in its Relation to Modern Civilization.

  1. The Social Genesis; The Church and the State.
  2. The Education and Discipline of Man; The Uses of the World we Live in.
  3. The Psychic Body and the Material Body of Man; The Christian Resurrection.
  4. The Philosophy of Law.
  5. The Philosophy of Prayer, and the “Prayer Gauge.”

Year 4 (1882)

  • Premises, Predications and Outlines of Christian Philosophy, July 18 (summary in Bridgman, pp. 20−24).
  • Relation between Common Sense and Philosophy, July 24 (summary in Bridgman, pp. 74−76).
  • Relation between Science and Philosophy, July 25  (summary in Bridgman, pp. 79−81).
  • Relation between Experience and Philosophy, July 28  (summary in Bridgman, pp. 101−104).
  • Genesis of Maya, August 1 (summary in Bridgman, pp. 114−116).
  • Philosophy of Religion and the Law of the Supernatural, August 4 (summary in Bridgman, pp. 131−133).
  • Community of the Faiths and Worships of Mankind, August 8  (summary in Bridgman, pp. 144−147).
  • The Symposium, August 11 (summary in Bridgman, pp. 160−162).


Anderson, Paul Russell. Hiram K. Jones and Philosophy in Jacksonville. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984), vol. 33, no. 4, 1940, pp. 478–520.

Anderson, Paul R. Platonism in the Midwest. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1963.

Bateman, Newton; ‎ Short,William F. Historical Encyclopedia Of Illinois & History of Morgan County IL. Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1906. (article: JONES, Hiram Kinnaird, M. D.)

Bregman, Jay. The Neoplatonic Revival in North AmericaHermathena, no. 149, 1990, pp. 99–119.

Bridgman, Raymond L. Concord Lectures on Philosophy, 1882.  Cambridge, MA: Moses King, 1883.

Block, Lewis J. The Plato Club of Jacksonville.  The Platonist, vol. 1, nos. 5, 6 & 7 (June−Aug. 1881), pp. 84−85.

Jones, Hiram K. Key to the Republic of Plato. Bibliotheca Platonica, vol. 1, no. 4 (Nov.−Dec. 1890), pp. 255−273.

Pitner, T. J.; Black, C. E.; Norbury, F. P. Obituary: Dr. Hiram K. Jones. Illinois Medical Journal, vol. 5 (June 1903−May 1904), pp. 173−174.

Pontiac, Ronnie. The Platonist on Sunset Blvd: Part 1: Hiram K. Jones the Western Wonder. Newtopia Magazine. January 15, 2013.

Copyright (c) John Uebersax, 2017.

Written by John Uebersax

July 11, 2017 at 4:33 pm

George Washington’s Solemn Warning Against Party Strife and Plea for Unity

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From George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)

A solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion….

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another….

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed,

it is of infinite moment
that you should properly estimate
the immense value of your national union
to your collective and individual happiness;
that you should cherish a cordial, habitual,
and immovable attachment to it;
accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it
as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity;
watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety;
discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion
that it can in any event be abandoned;
and indignantly frowning upon
the first dawning of every attempt
to alienate any portion of our country from the rest,
or to enfeeble the sacred ties
which now link together the various parts.

~ * ~

Written by John Uebersax

February 17, 2016 at 5:33 am

The Emersonian ‘Universal Mind’ and Its Vital Importance

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IT SEEMS I’m always trying to get people to read Emerson. Why? Because I’m convinced his writings contain solutions to many of today’s urgent social problems.

Perhaps Emerson’s most important contribution is a concept that he refers to throughout his works, calling various names, but most often Universal Mind. This term invites a number of unintended meanings, tending to obscure Emerson’s important message.

Universal Mind may at first glance seem a vague, new-agey reference to some cosmic super-intelligence, but that’s not what Emerson means.. The concept is more commonplace, down-to-earth and practical. It could perhaps better be called the Human Nature, Universal Human Nature, or Man. For now, though, I’ll stick with Emerson’s term, but put it in italics instead of capital letters to demystify it. What, then, does Emerson mean by the universal mind of humanity?

It is, basically, all human beings share a common repertoire of mental abilities. Just as insects or lizards of a particular species share a common natural endowment of behavioral instincts, so all humans have a common natural set of mental skills, aptitudes, and concepts. (In fact, sometimes uses the word Instinct instead of universal mind.)

For example, consider a basic axiom of plane geometry: that two parallel lines never intersect. Once this was explained to you in high school, at which point you said, “Oh, I see that. It’s common sense.” This is the Emersonian universal mind in action. Every other geometry student has the same response. The ability to ‘see’ this is or ‘get it’ part of our common mental ability as human beings.

And the same can be said of hundreds, thousands, or more particular elements of human knowledge. These cover many different domains, including basic principles of mathematics and logic, artistic and aesthetic judgments (all human beings admire a beautiful sunset, all see the Taj Mahal as sublime and beautiful), moral principles (what is just or fair?), and religion (e.g., that God exists and deserves our thanks and praise.)

By the universal mind, then, Emerson merely means that plain fact that all or virtually all members of the human race share a vast repertoire of common mental abilities, concepts, judgments, and so on. This is not wild metaphysical speculation. It is an empirically obvious fact. Without this implied assumption of universal mind, for example, criminal laws and courts would be pointless. The mere fact that we hold people accountable for criminal misdeeds implies a shared set of assumptions about right and wrong, accountability for ones actions, etc.

Now it is true that one may, if one wants, elaborate the principle of a universal human mind and add all sorts of metaphysical speculations. Some do. They see this universal mind as deriving from the principle of all men being made in God’s image and likeness. These are important considerations, but they are, in a sense, secondary ones. More important is that is, it is important that all people — theists and atheists, metaphysicians and empiricists alike — can agree on the existence of the universal human character. Said another way, it is vital that we not let disagreements over metaphysics obscure or distract us from this more important consensus that there is a universal man or universal mind.

Why? Because this concept — something we all assume implicitly — has been insufficiently examined and developed at a collective level. It needs to become a topic of public discourse and scientific study, because its implications are enormous. We’ve only just begun this work as a species, as evidenced by the fact that we as yet haven’t even agreed even on a term! It’s always been with us, but only lately have be become fully aware of it. This realization is a milestone in the evolution of human consciousness and society.

Maybe I’ll write a followup that discusses the specific ways in which this concept, fully developed, may advantageously affect our current social conditions. For now I’ll simply list a few relevant categories where it applies:

Human Dignity. Each person has vast potential and therefore vast dignity. Each carries, as it were, the wisdom and the sum of potential scientific, artistic, moral, and religious capabilities of the entire species. Any person has the innate hardware, and with just a little training could learn to discern the technical and aesthetic difference between a Botticelli painting from a Raphael, a Rembrandt from a Rubens. Each human being is sensitive to the difference between a Mozart piano sonata and one by Beethoven. And so in Science. Any person could understand the Theory of Relativity suitably explained. Or differential equations. Or the physics of black holes.

Consider this thought experiment. If the human race made itself extinct, but aliens rescued one survivor, that one person could be taught, almost by reading alone, to recover the sum of all scientific, moral, and artistic insights of the species! The entirety of our collective abilities would live on in one person. And, more, that would be true regardless of which person were the survivor. So much is the vast ability and dignity of each human being.

Education. It exceeds what we currently know to assert that all possible concepts already exist fully developed, though latent, in each person. But we can assert that all human beings are hard-wired in certain ways to enable to form these concepts when supplied with suitable data. In either case, the implication is that education does not instill knowledge, so much as elicits the pre-existing aptitudes. Further, in keeping with the preceding point, the universal mind means that no person is limited in their ability to learn. Each person is a Genius. We should do our utmost to make this potentiality a fact for as many as possible. Education should be lifelong, not something relegated to the first 18 years of life.

Arts are not the peculiar luxury of the elite upper class. Shakespeare, Mozart, and Raphael are the common heritage of all. We need to take much more seriously the basic human right to have each ones divine artistic nature flower.

Economics. Today economics has become the main frame of reference for conceptualizing all human progress. We must rethink this, and give greater allowance for seeing the flourishing of the universal man as our goal. Nobody can be happy with vast potentials unfulfilled. It is not the way of nature. We must get it clear in our thinking, individually and collectively, that the business of society is to empower the individual.

Social discourse. All solutions to social ills already exist latent in Man’s heart. The phrase ‘common dreams’ is more than a euphemism. We do have common ideals, great ones. Our social discourse should aim for mutual insight and self-discovery. Answers are within: one’s within oneself; but also, because of the universal mind, ones within the other as well.  Instead of argument and debate we should aim for dialectic: a joint uncovering of ideals and guiding principles and raising of consciousness.

Government. To much of modern political philosophy assumes the principle of nanny government. People are wiser than governments. We should insist that the first priority of government is to make itself unnecessary. Liberate the universal man — the ultimate moral force on earth — and see how much things improve without government intervention!

Foreign policy. All men are at the core alike. All respond to the same appeals to Reason and Morals. All have equal worth and dignity. All are designed for cooperation, friendship, and love. Any foreign policy which denies these realities does not conform with nature and cannot succeed.

As noted, Emerson’s discussion of the universal mind is found scattered throughout his works. Emerson was not systematic, but nevertheless his message comes across very clear. Some of his works most relevant this theme are Self Reliance, Intellect and Art (Essays, First Series), The Poet and Politics (Essays, Second Series), and Genius and Religion (Early Lectures).

First draft


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Centenary Edition. Ed. Edward Waldo Emerson. Boston, 1903–1904.
Online edition (UMich):

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Early Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume 2. Ed. Stephen E. Whicher and Robert E. Spiller. Cambridge, MA, 1964.<a?

The Republic: Plato’s Allegory for the Human Soul

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Plato Athens

THIS is the first of a series of articles which argue that Plato’s Republic is mainly a work on psychology, not political science: an allegory for the politics and right government of the human soul or psyche, not a treatise on civil government.

This is not a new idea, but an old one, and many modern classicists (e.g., Annas, 1999; Waterfield, 1993) support it.

To be clear, this doesn’t deny that the Republic contains important political insights.  The proposal is only that it is more valuable as a work on psychology, and that more attention should be devoted to teaching, reading and studying it at that level than presently occurs.

The first order of business is to present the supporting evidence.  Here no attempt is made to convince or persuade, only to inform, so that readers decide for themselves.

  1. First, there are the ancient titles of the work.  Diogenes Laertius cites Thrasylus (d. 36 CE) to the effect that it had two Greek titles: Politeia (Πολιτεία) and peri dikaiou (περὶ δικαίου; DL 3.60). The word politeia means systems of government, political regimes, or, in an equivalent sense, constitutions.  The word Politeia doesn’t make clear whether the topic is constitutions of cities, souls, or both.  The second title, peri dikaiou, however, is less ambiguous.  While sometimes translated as On Justice, that’s incorrect (the Greek word for justice is dikaiosune, not dikaiou).  A more suitable rendering in English would be On the Just (or Righteous) Person.
  2. Second, we have to consider that Plato’s overriding concern in all his works is to teach philosophia, the love of wisdom, as a means of saving the individual soul from its fallen condition of folly and unhappiness. Every one of his works serves this purpose. It would seem a little strange for Plato to suddenly drop this great work to write a treatise on civil government.
  3. Third, we have statements by Plato throughout the Republic which imply that the good man, not the good state, is his main concern. The conversation in Book 1 is clearly centered on what justice is for an individual person.  In Book 2, Socrates, frustrated at having made little progress, proposes to use the city-soul analogy  as a way of making the dynamics of an individual soul “larger” and more easily investigable  (2.368d). Throughout the extended analogy Plato takes pains to continually draw our attention back to dynamics of the individual psyche.
  4. Many specific provisions of the Republic’s ideal city-state would be, if taken literally, implausible or absurd. Examples include eugenics, a caste system, wives and children in common.  All these implausible and “dystopian elements” of the Republic become no longer troublesome if we accept that the Republic is a psychological allegory, and we are not therefore required to interpret every detail literally.
  5. History has judged Plato the greatest philosopher the West has produced.  Read as a psychological allegory, the Republic is work of towering genius, and conforms to this view.  But read literally, the Republic makes Plato look rather silly and naive in places.
  6. Plato is also universally recognized as a not just a philosopher, but a literary master — a poet whose art and imagery are essential in conveying his meaning. His writings are all set in the form of dramatic dialogues. Much of Plato’s philosophy is given in the form of myths related by the characters of the dialogues. Plato himself originally aspired to be a tragic poet. Aeschylus was his role model. He was immensely pious. He prayed for inspiration, appealed to the Muses, and was an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries. It is disastrous, therefore, to try to understand Plato at a purely literal level — which is what political scientists have done.
  7. Perhaps most importantly, there is what we may call heuristic evidence. Once one understands that the Republic is a psychological allegory, and reads it at that level, it simply works. One gains insight, one feels a sense of depth and meaning in the work; it stimulates the imagination and promotes self-knowledge. None of these things occur when one reads the Republic as literal political science.
  8. The use of allegory to convey subtle psychological and moral themes (e.g., in the works of Homer and Hesiod) was quite familiar to Plato and his readers.
  9. It would make sense for Plato to use the analogy of a city as a singularly useful analogy for exploring the dynamics of the human psyche. A large literature in psychology (for reviews see Rowan 1993; Schwartz 1995; Lester 1995, 2007) argues persuasively that any adequate view of the human mind must take into account its plurality, i.e., that normal mental function involves what can be thought of as multiple subselves, subpersonalities, part-egos, complexes, thought patterns, characters, etc. The existence of this pluralism, and frequent conflicts among components, is an obvious and fundamental feature of the human condition; the need to harmonize them is a requirement for happiness and healthy personality function. Every human being is confronted with the difficult but supremely important task of governing the elements of ones own mind.
  10. In short what I propose is this: to apply a characteristically Platonic method of exegesis to Plato’s Republic.  The specific method is that of the Jewish Middle Platonist, Philo of Alexandria.  Philo’s extensive writings supply what is arguably our best example of Greek psychologically-oriented allegorical exegesis.  In Philo’s case, the method is applied to the Old Testament (mostly the Pentateuch).  The key of this method is to associate every principle figure and event in the Old Testament with some corresponding entity or element of the human psyche or soul (Uebersax, 2012).  It is a very simple and obvious —  and, when put into practice, very persuasive — approach. It yields abundant insight into human nature.  From the pragmatic viewpoint, then, if from no other, the approach is valid.  There are sufficient thematic parallels between the Republic and the Old Testament to justify applying this method to the former.  That is, there’s much similarity between the task of raising a mythical polis from discord and chaos into an ordered republic, and leading tribes of Jews from bondage in Egypt, supplying them laws, and bringing them to the Promised Land.  Moreover, Philo himself frequently alludes to the theme of a city-soul in his works, and in ways that suggest a direct connection with Plato (for example, sometimes in the same paragraph he alludes to Plato’s chariot allegory).

This is a sufficient outline of the thesis to prove and the categories of supporting evidence. I will flesh this outline out, developing the arguments and supplying supporting evidence, in forthcoming articles.

In closing, I would like to add that my attitude towards modern political science interpreters in general is not hostile, and my comments shouldn’t be understood that way. On the contrary, precisely because there is an analogy between the politics of the individual psyche and external government, we can use the Republic to gain certain insights about the latter. The problem only comes when the focus on political science becomes so dominant that the psychological meaning is obscured. The fault, really, is due to the field of psychology, which has ignored the Republic, rather than the field of political science. But in any case, we must remove the automatic connection in the public mind that Plato’s Republic is a work on civil government. We must replace this with a growing understanding of its psychological and spiritual significance. It is, after all is said and done, a sacred work, a scripture of the ancient Greek religion, an expression of the perennial Wisdom tradition, and should be understood as such.

I scarcely wish to assert this dogmatically, however.  More appropriately, I propose it as a hypothesis.  If it is correct, then over time it will prove its worth.

Recent writers who have most strongly endorsed the psychological reading of Republic are Waterfield (1993) and Annas (1999).  See also Hoerber (1944).  For an excellent review of the literature see  Blössner (2007).

Update: For further discussion on this topic see Uebersax (2014a, b).


Annas, Julia. Platonic Ethics, Old and New. Cornell University Press, 1999. (See Ch. 4, The Inner City, pp. 72–95.)

Assagioli, Roberto. Psychosynthesis. New York: The Viking Press, 1965.

Berne, Eric. Games People Play. New York: Grove Press, 1964 (repr. 2011).

Blössner, Norbert. “The City-Soul Analogy.” In: Giovanni R. F. Ferrari (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 345–385.

Hoerber, Robert G. The Theme of Plato’s Republic. Dissertation. Washington University, St. Louis, 1944.

Lester, David. Theories of Personality: A Systems Approach. Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis, 1995.

Lester, David. “A Subself Theory of Personality“. Current Psychology, 26, March 2007, pp. 1–15.

Rowan, John. Subpersonalities: The People Inside Us. Routledge, 1990 (repr. 2013)

Schwartz, Richard C. Internal Family Systems Therapy. New York: Guilford, 1995 (repr. 2013).

Uebersax, John S. Psychological Allegorical Interpretation of the Bible. Paso Robles, CA, 2012.

Uebersax, John S. Psychology, Philosophy, and Plato’s Divided Line. 2014a. Accessed 17 December 2014 from .

Uebersax, John S. Psychological Correspondences in Plato’s Republic.  2014b. Accessed 17 December 2014 from .

Waterfield, Robin. Republic. Oxford University Press, 1993. (See especially his cogent discussion in the section of the Introduction titled, “Reading Republic“.)

What is True Charity?

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The other day a thought occurred to me which seems to clarify the meaning of Charity, as distinct from other related things like compassion and sympathy, generosity, kindness, etc. The definition: Charity is acting to love others for the sake of God.

At first glance this may strike you as prosaic – a mere formula, one in fact, found in traditional Christian teaching. Likely I had heard this formula someplace, yet it never quite stuck. This time, however, from my creative imagination, Muse, or call-it-what-you-will, there arose insight into the meaning, not merely the definition, of Charity.

To understand true Charity it helps to refer to Platonism.

A hallmark of Platonism is that God is identified as the source and very essence of Goodness. Plato’s defined God, in fact, as the Form or pattern of Goodness of which all individual good things partake, just as all triangles partake of the Form of a triangle. (This conceptual principle is a powerful and distinct asset to those who try to understand who or what God is – but that is a topic to take up another time.)

With this innovation, our definition becomes “Charity is the doing of good to others for the sake of the Good.”

How does this help? One way is with respect to the Platonic principle known as the unity of virtues. Because all virtues, and indeed all good things, are instances of the Good, a corollary is that pure virtue of any kind, i.e., pure Truth, pure Beauty, pure Justice, etc., must be compatible with every other pure virtue. One cannot, for example, act in a way that affirms Truth yet contradicts Justice or Beauty. This principle supplies a means by which we may test whether a given act is true Charity: the act must awaken in us an awareness of Goodness generally; contemplating or performing the proposed act should leave our mind ‘basking’ in the glow of the train of all divine virtues.

This has some very practical implications for modern social activism. It means that one cannot be motivated by Charity and yet act in a contentious way. Suppose a person is angry that poor people do not have adequate health care. This is certainly an important concern. But if this concern takes the form of hateful denunciation of other people – the greedy rich, selfish Republicans, whoever – then it is not a form of Charity. Because anger is not consistent, in fact it is incompatible, with the Virtues. This helps us see why St. Paul defined Charity as he did: Charity “charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” (1 Corinthians 13 4–5)

The Platonic perspective also reveals four further attributes of Charity. First, it is it’s own reward. Plato had a name for that kind of experience where we suddenly we regain our ability to see truth: who we are, what really matters, what brings us happiness. He called it anamnesis, literally unforgetting (an = un, amnesis = forgetting). True Charity should have the quality of anamnesis: it realigns our mind such that we are again in touch with our true nature; we become properly oriented to ourselves, other people, Nature, and God.

Clearly this is much different from, say, sending money in a perfunctory way to a “charity” like Greenpeace. Sometimes such actions are performed out of a sense of mechanical duty. Other times they may be motivated by sentimentality – as when one feels sorrow at the plight of abused animals. There is nothing wrong with such actions. They are commendable, in fact, and may well constitute virtues in their own right; our only point here is Charity is something distinct and greater than these things, and to lose sight of the distinction is to risk losing sight of the full meaning and significance of Charity.

Second, the proposed definition shows how Charity is ultimately connected with our own salvation (understood in a broad, nondenominational, psychological sense). The truth is that, however much we may believe or protest otherwise, our ultimate instinctive concern is not with others, but for ourselves. Said another way, our first order of business is to help ourselves. History is full of examples of people who neglected their own moral development for the sake of busying themselves with other people’s problems. To such as these one might well say, “Physician, heal thyself,” or “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew16:26) We must be constantly aware, in whatever we think or do, or our own need of salvation in this broad sense. This is the meaning of humility. The moment we lose sight of our immense proclivity for error, much of which goes under the name of ‘egoism’, then our ego takes over and all manner of mischief is liable to occur. Unless God or the Good is in the picture, any action, even giving a million dollars to help others, will have a strong egoistic component.

Third, our Platonic perspective helps shows how Charity is contagious. If you act towards another with true Charity, the recipient knows, in their own soul, that your act is accompanied by your anamnesis. And since anamnesis always engenders feelings like trust, love, and hope, the person knows that you have gained a reward greater than any human being could give you.

This, in turn, produces a sympathetic anamnesis in the recipient. It reawakens in them a remembrance of what the important, the finer things in life are. And this is cause for them to affirm life and thank God – not so much for whatever charitable benefit they received, but because God made such a world where Charity itself exists. It may literally restore the other’s faith in humanity. Moreover, the recipient is presented with the fact that they too have the ability to show Charity to others. A quality of a truly Charitable act, then, is that it leaves the recipient in a frame of mind eager to show Charity to others. When you act with Charity to others, then, often more important than the physical gift to the other is the psychological gift.

Finally, the Platonic perspective helps us to see that Charity is different from other forms of helping, giving, sharing, etc., in terms of epistemology. True Charity, because it is consciously aligned with God and the Good, opens the mind to an influx of higher thoughts – the mode of knowledge Plato called noesis. This is distinct from our usual form of rationalistic thinking, called dianoia, or reasoning. Thus, a characteristic of true Charity is that it is frequently motivated by inspiration, often more an act of spontaneous creativity than cold calculation. Again, this is not to say that we should avoid applying our logical minds to helping others – only that Charity is something distinct from rationality alone.


Pitirm Sorokin – The Conditions of Lasting Peace

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Pitirim A. Sorokin, “The Conditions of Lasting Internal and International Peace.”  From: Pitirim A. Sorokin, Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics.  New York: Harper, 1947;  Chapter 32, Part III (pp. 514–522).

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Chapter 32. Fluctuation of Peace and War in Intergroup Relationship

 III. The Conditions of Lasting Internal and International Peace

1. No Lasting Peace Within Decaying Sensate Culture, Society, and Man

Within the framework of the contemporary (sensate) culture [1], society, and man, no elim­ination, even no substantial weakening of national and international group tensions — eco­nomic, racial, ethnic, occupational and others — is possible, because this framework is shot through by a multitude of irreconcilable clashes of values. Neither most intensive sensate propaganda nor sensate education, nor political and economic measures, so far as they remain within the framework of sensate society and culture, can perform this task. At the best, they may shift the center and loci of the ten­sions, may change their color and concrete forms, but that is all they can do. Taken as a {p. 515} whole they are utterly inadequate to achieve the purpose, because they neither touch nor eradicate the deep cause of the intergroup tensions and conflicts.

The first reason for this somewhat pessi­mistic statement is the predominant nature of the contemporary culture and society and, as their resultant, of contemporary man. Their sociocultural nature incessantly generates a multitude of tensions and conflicts and cannot help doing that.

(a) They all are permeated by the spirit, ethos, and pathos of rivalry, competition, and desire of victory over the rivals and others in all fields of sociocultural activity, from science, football, fine arts, and business up to the “im­perialistic superiority” of religions and their Gods and followers. This spirit ceaselessly gen­erates a striving for superiority, power, and prestige of the competitors over their rivals, and a deep desire for their defeat and ‘lower place” in the universe. This passion leads to a cultivation of the “fighting spirit” and an inde­fatigable and never ceasing fight with the rivals. An unavoidable result of such a sit­uation is a multitude of intergroup antagonisms and clashes between the rivals, the victors, and the vanquished, “the superior and the inferior” (in politics, business, science, arts, religion, etc.), “the parties of success and of failure.” In other words, interindividual and intergroup conflicts are an inseparable, immanent, or in­herent trait of the contemporary culture, so­ciety, and man. These are inherently belliger­ent in their sociocultural nature.

(b) To the same result these lead through their assigning paramount importance to the sensory, material, hedonistically-utilitarian values in their total scale of values. Notwith­standing the hypocritical, half-mechanical preaching of the values of “the Kingdom of God,” the contemporary culture, society, and man, in their actual functions, make the sensory, material, hedonistic values paramount — the supreme goal of human aspirations, ambitions, and desires. These values range from money, wealth, material comfort, mate­rial security, and conspicuous consumption up to the kisses, copulation, popularity, fame, power, and prestige. As these values are scarce and limited in their quantity and cannot be spread in unlimited abundance among all in­dividuals and groups, the paramount value given to them by our culture and society pro­duces ceaselessly a never ending, intense, often bloody and antisocial struggle of every group with every other competing group for as large a share of these values as can be obtained at the cost of others. This results again in tensions and conflicts.

(c) The same result is generated by the contemporary culture, society, and man through their dominant hedonistic and egocentrically utilitarian ethics, law, and mores, and especially through the excessive relativization of all norms and values devoid of any universal binding. This atomization leads to moral, mental, and social anarchy and to cynicism in which each rival group regards itself as the supreme arbiter entitled to use any means for its victory. As a consequence, the emergence of rude force masked by fraud and other more subtle screens becomes in­evitable. Force becomes the supreme judge. “The weapon of criticism turns into the criti­cism by the weapon of force.” Tensions and clashes follow.

(d) Incessant clashes are also generated by the dominant — sensate — man of our time. He is, first of all and most of all, a fighter, intoxi­cated by lust for victory, power, influence, fame, pleasure, and sensate happiness. “To suppose that men who are filled individually with every manner of restlessness, maddened by lust of power and speed, votaries of the god Whirl, will live at peace whether with them­selves or others, is the vainest chimera,” rightly remarks one of the eminent American humanists. [2]

(e) This conflagration of war and violence is hastened along by the general degradation of man’s value by sensate culture. Quite consistently with its major premise, that true reality and value are sensory, it views man as a mere empirical “electron-proton complex,” a “reflex mechanism,” a mere “animal organism,” a “psychoanalytical bag filled with libido,” devoid of anything supersensory, sacred, or divine. No wonder that in such a culture man is treated in the same manner as we treat all the other sensory “complexes,” “mechanisms,” {p. 516} and “animals”; any individual or group that hinders the realization of one’s wishes is elim­inated in the same way in which we liquidate a mosquito or a snake or “neutralize” any organic or inorganic object that impedes the fulfillment of our desires. This explains why, in spite of all the vociferous claims by our culture as to its humanistic, humane, and humanitarian mission, it is, objectively, in its decadent phase, one of the most inhuman of all cultures, killing, mutilating, and degrading human beings by the tens of millions.

(f) Similarly, the basic institutions of con­temporary society are permeated by the same militarism and are incessantly generating inter­individual, civil, and international conflicts. Private property, with its inevitable differenti­ation into the excessively rich and the utterly miserable, generates persistent criminality, class antagonism, and class war. The state with its naked power policy of the Machiavellian raison d’état is an openly militaristic institution unrestrained by any of the ethical norms that are obligatory for private conduct. The same is true of our political parties: first and fore­most they are fighting machines, using the spoils system, bribery, vituperation, murder, and civil war as instruments in their struggle for spoils and power. Our occupational unions, beginning with labor unions and ending with capitalists’ associations, are organized primarily for militant purposes, namely, the successful defeat of antagonistic organizations by what­ever means may be necessary, whether there be strikes and lockouts or revolution and civil war. Even the family, so far as it imbues the children with the cult of family egotism, power, and “success,” is shot through with the same militaristic spirit. Finally almost all our in­stitutions glorify sensate power and success as the highest virtues. They methodically incul­cate a “fighting spirit” into everyone from the day of his birth to the day of his death. Our heroes are invariably fighting persons who suc­cessfully crush their rivals, whether on the football field, in cut-throat business rivalry, on a battlefield, in political machinations, or in class war; and they are typified by our “world champions” in tennis, swimming, coffee-drink­ing, pole-sitting, and jitter-bugging. Even our “Superman” is the superman only because he “is faster than a bullet, more powerful than a locomotive,” and more militant than Mars; he is forever in a fighting mess.

Thus, whether we study the objective move­ment of war and revolution that has grown with the emergence and growth of modern culture or whether we study the essential char­acteristics exhibited by it and the society and man expressing it, we cannot fail to see their preeminently militant sociocultural nature, especially in its decaying phase. War in its vari­ous forms, and especially the war for sensory values, is their ethos, soul, and heart. Within the framework of sensate culture, society, and man, no lasting national or international peace has ever been or ever will be possible.

This means also that most of the contem­porary plans for a lasting peace are doomed to failure so far as they hope to achieve it within this framework by a mere job of re-patching. Elementary inductive considerations will show this unequivocally. As patented panaceas against war, these plans offer an enlightened self-interest; a specious “utilitarian rationality”; emancipation from religion and absolutistic ethics; a greater and more extreme relativism of all values; a still greater dose of positivism, empiricism, materialism, utilitarian­ism, and mechanisticism in all their varieties; a further expansion of literacy, schools, uni­versities, newspapers, magazines, movies, the radio, and other “educational” instrumentali­ties; a still more rapid increase in scientific discoveries and technological devices; a re­placement of all monarchies by republics, of all autocracies by democracies, of capitalism by communism, socialism, and other sensate “isms”; dismemberment and disarmament of the vanquished; a bigger and better “balance of powers” and various “Unions Now” in the form of diverse double, triple, and quadruple alliances, on up to the United Nations, armed with a crashing military and police force; a higher economic plane of living, at least for the victorious nations; a more just distribution of natural resources, and so on and so forth. The hopelessness of all these hopes is unques­tionably shown by “an ugly fact,” that with the emergence and growth of our modern cul­ture and society from the thirteenth on to the twentieth century all these panaceas have been growing also; and yet their growth has been paralleled during these centuries by an in-­ {p. 517} crease of war and revolution rather than by the decrease for which the plans contend. From such a “concomitant variation” only an idiot can conclude that these panaceas are suffocat­ing war and that, when applied in a still greater dose, they could kill it forever. The only sound conclusion is that either the pan­aceas are perfectly impotent in the eradication of war and revolution or that, within the framework of this modern culture, society, and man, they work in favor of war and revolution, rather than against it. For this reason these plans, especially those that call themselves “practical,” “realistic,” and “scientific,” are nothing but an illusion and self-delusion. Within a different framework, as we shall see, some of these measures can be helpful; within the contemporary one, they cannot and will not build a temple of enduring peace.

2. The Culture and Society Necessary for an Enduring Peace and Order

These gloomy conclusions do not mean that an enduring peace is generally impossible. They signify only that for its realization a new culture, with an appropriate kind of society and man, different from the contemporary one, is in order. The essential characteristics of these can be briefly summed up. [3]

(a) The new culture must put less em­phasis upon purely sensory reality-value and more upon the truly rational and upon the supersensory-metarational reality-value, view­ing the true reality-value as an infinite mani­fold with three main aspects: sensory, rational, and supersensory-metarational, each within its sphere being a true reality and a true value. This conception of the true reality-value, spon­sored by Plato and Aristotle, Erigena, Thomas Aquinas, and Nicholas of Cusa, to mention but a few names, must replace the major premise of our sensate culture. Accordingly, the new culture must be an articulation of this new major premise in all its main compartments: in its science, philosophy, religion, fine arts, ethics, law, and forms of social organization on up to the manners, mores, and ways of living of its individual and group members.

(b) Its science must study, through sensory observation, the empirical aspects of the in­finite manifold; its philosophy must investigate through mathematical and syllogistic logic the rational and logical aspects of the true reality-value; its intuitive wisdom must give us the notion of the supersensory-metalogistic aspects of it through the intuition of great religious and ethical seers, great scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, great philosophers like Plato, great artists like Beethoven and Shakespeare, and great technological inventors inspired to their achievements by intuition. [4] The history of human knowledge is a cemetery filled with wrong empirical observations, false logical rea­sonings, and misleading intuitions. This means that, taken separately, each of these ways of cognition is fallible and that if it is to achieve validity it must have the cooperation and mutual verification of the other two ways of cognition. The outlined integralist system of truth gives us precisely this organic integration, cooperation and mutual verification of all three ways of cognition. As such, it promises to give a more valid, richer, and better-tested truth than that which the dominant, one-sided sensory cognition can give. It eliminates also the contemporary antagonism between, and mutual undermining of, science, philosophy, and religion.

(c) Instead of the excessively relativized and atomized utilitarian and hedonistic pseudo-norms of our culture—devoid of their universal binding-power, transgressed at every suitable occasion, and degraded to the level of mere Paretian “derivations,” Freudian “rationaliza­tions,” Marxian “ideological beautifications” of the economic, sexual, and other sensate “resi­dues,” “complexes,” “drives,” and “interests”— the ethics and law of the new culture in accordance with its major premise must be embodied in a set of universal norms binding and effectively controlling the behavior of all, unquestioned and undisputed in their ethical prestige by any other conflicting norms. In their content these universal norms must be a variation of the main ethical norms of prac­tically all great religions and moral codes, from the elementary Golden Rule and Ten Commandments on up to the norms of the Sermon on the Mount as their sublimest ex-{p. 518} pression. Such an ethics and law will stop the atomization of moral values, eliminate ethical and legal cynicism, and abolish the dictatorship of rude force and fraud as the supreme arbiters of human conduct.

(d) Instead of the spirit of rivalry and cult of success over the others, human relations must be permeated by the spirit of “oneness,” of all groups and persons, by the psychology of the free and real “we,” extended over humanity. Instead of incessant stimulation of “fighting spirit” to overcome the rivals, they must be filled with the pathos of mutual service, by profound ethics of humility and sac­rifice, by love at its noblest and best. Instead of glorification of “success” and the successful champions they must inculcate a sincere, wholehearted teamwork without the superiors and inferiors, the heroes, and the failures. The spirit of a good family in which every member is honestly doing his work, according to his ability, and where nobody thinks of a superi­ority and inferiority, is a rough approximation to this spirit of the culture and society neces­sary for the elimination of tensions, revolu­tions, and wars.

(e) Again in accordance with its major premise, the painting and sculpture, literature and music, drama and architecture, of the new culture must be quite different from contem­porary fine arts. Integralist beauty must be reunited with truth and goodness, so that the new fine arts will become a value-laden art instead of being an empty art for art’s sake. Instead of debunking the immortals, the new art must immortalize the mortals, ennoble the ignoble, and beautify the ugly. Instead of being negativistic, centered around the police morgue, criminal’s hideouts, insane asylums, and sex organs, it would reflect mainly the eternal values, positive ideals, heroic events, and great tragedies and dramas. Like the com­parable art of Greece in the fifth century B.C. and of Europe in the thirteenth century A.D., it must be an inspiring, ennobling, educating, and truly beautifying art instead of a degrad­ing, demoralizing, and enervating cult of social pathology, as contemporary art largely is.

(f) In such a culture man will again be regarded as an end-value, as an incarnation of the divine manifold rather than as a mere biological   organism,   reflex-mechanism, or psychoanalytical libido, as he is usually re­garded now. The value of man must again be lifted far above the utter degradation into which he is now thrown. Accordingly, the prac­tices, institutions, and relationships that turn man into a mere means for predominantly sensate ends will largely disappear.

(g) Most of the social institutions that con­tradict the total character of this new culture must be eliminated. The dominant form of social relationships in such a society must be neither contractual nor compulsory, but familistic. The economic and political regimes of such a society must be neither capitalistic, communistic, nor socialistic, but familistic. The enormous contrast between multimillion­aires and paupers, the rulers and the ruled, must disappear. Private property shall be limited and turned into a kind of public trusteeship. A decent minimum of the neces­sities shall be secured for all. The main motives for a socially useful economic and political life should be neither profit nor power but the motive of creative service to the society, similar to the motivation of great artists, religious leaders, scientists, and true philanthropists. Social institutions that contradict these pur­poses shall largely disappear, those that serve them will be established and reinforced.

The practical consequences of the establish­ment of such a culture and society will be im­mense, especially in the field of human men­tality, conduct, and interrelationships. The new system of values and truth will abolish the contemporary antagonism between science, philosophy, and religion; they will all be in­separable organs of a unified system of truth, all pointing toward the same verities, validities, and values. The contemporary atomization and relativization of truth, goodness, and beauty will have been terminated. With this there will be an end to the contemporary mental, moral, and social anarchy. An age of certitude will re­place our present age of uncertainty. Liberated from the gnawing tortures of uncertainty, the sapping poison of contradictions, and the weariness of confusion, the human mind will once more regain an inner harmony, peace, and happiness. With these qualities its creative vigor, self-confidence, and self-control will be restored. In such conditions most of the con­temporary psychoneuroses will evaporate. Uni­- {p. 519} versalized truth will unite into one mind all of mankind.

The general devaluation of that which is purely sensate will greatly weaken the con­temporary struggle for existence and for mate­rial values and will reinforce the quest for the rational and metarational values. As a result interindividual and intergroup antagonisms will greatly decrease, their brutal forms will wither, and man’s conduct will be ennobled and made truly social. The same result will follow from the universalized ethical norms rooted into the heart and soul of men. Not so much by external sanctions as by inner power they will inhibit most of the antisocial actions and relationships, particularly the bloody mistreatment of man by man, of group by group. The most brutal forms of crime, civil strife, and international warfare cannot thrive in such a cultural climate and will greatly decrease. The same is true of brute force and fraud as the arbiters of human con­duct.

The new fine arts will contribute their share to the same effect. By virtue of their positive beauty they will educate, inspire, instruct, fascinate, and control human beings fully as much as the new science and religion, philoso­phy and ethics. Primarily devoted to eternal beauty, the fine arts will serve also, as a by­product, the task of true socialization of homo sapiens. In this way they will contribute gen­erously to an elimination of antisocial activities, relationships, and institutions in the human universe.

Finally, through its regained harmony, peace, and happiness of mind the new culture will make human beings less egoistic, irritable, quarrelsome, violent, and antisocial. Through a release of new creative forces in all fields of sociocultural activity it will make everyone a partner and participant in the most sublime form of happiness, the happiness of a creative genius.

In these and thousands of other ways the new culture will develop a new man, happy, generous, kind, and just to himself and to all his fellowmen. Within the framework of such a culture, society, and man neither interin­dividual war (crime), nor civil war, nor inter­national war can flourish. If they do not dis­appear entirely, they will certainly decrease to the lowest minimum known in human history.

Such are the essential traits of the culture, society, and man necessary for an enduring peace in interindividual, intergroup, and inter­national relationships. Without this framework as the main condition of peace, all the other panaceas against war and revolution are futile. With it, many of these will facilitate its realization. For instance, with this sociocul­tural foundation the United Nations and other forms of superstate government will faithfully and fruitfully serve the cause of peace. With­out it, such a superstate government will be either as impotent as the defunct League of Nations or, what is still worse, may turn into a world tyranny as cruel as some of the “world empires” of the past or will lead to an in­crease of civil wars. [5] Without it the military and police forces of such a world govern­ment will certainly be misused and will even­tually serve the cause of war instead of the cause of peace. With it, all the state and super­state governments, no matter what may be their technical forms, will be true familistic democracies. As such they will actively facili­tate the maintenance of peace. Without it, no formal republican or democratic regime, even if universally diffused, can ever help—no more so than in the past, when the democratic and republican countries were at least as belligerent as the monarchical and autocratic nations and when the growth of republican and demo­cratic regimes for the last few centuries has been followed by an increase, rather than by a decrease, of war. Without this framework the further increase of scientific discoveries and technological inventions will be of just as little avail as in the past, during which, begin­ning with the thirteenth century, they have steadily and rapidly increased up to the present {p. 520} time and have been followed by an almost parallel increase of war and revolution. The same is true of the development of schools, universities, books, magazines, papers, movies, radio, theaters, and all the other means of contemporary education. Beginning with the thirteenth century, they have been steadily in­creasing without any resulting decrease of war, revolutions, or crime. This is still more true in regard to such panaceas as a more equitable distribution of the natural resources or a higher material standard of living or a more en­lightened self-interest and utilitarian “rational­ity.” Without the foregoing framework any truly equitable distribution of the natural re­sources throughout all mankind is impossible, just as it has been impossible in the past. The states and nations will remain as egotistic and rapacious as they have hitherto been. Those who believe that a diffusion of democratic forms of government would change this forget that the so-called democracies of the past and the present have been fully as imperialistic as the autocracies. They forget also the unpleas­ant but unquestionable fact that almost all such democracies, beginning with the Athenian and ending with the contemporary ones, have been based upon the severest exploitation of colonies and “spheres of influence” or have consisted of a vast layer of semifree and un-free population many times larger than the full-fledged citizenship of such democracies.

Likewise an “enlightened self-interest” and utilitarian “rationality” have been growing ever since the thirteenth century, without being accompanied by any decrease of war. One of the reasons for this is the fact that from a deeper standpoint this self-interest turns out to be a blind egotism, and utilitarian “rationality” a most irrational illusion. Util­itarian rationality is defined as the use of the most efficient means for the realization of an end desired. Typically, it has in view only the rationality of the means, and it neglects the rationality of the ends. The present war, which uses the most efficient and scientific means available for the defeat of the enemy, is perfectly rational from this standpoint; so also is the activity of a gang of efficient mur­derers, armed with the best techniques of murder, which is never caught or punished. These considerations show clearly that the truly rational action is that in which the ends as well as the means are rational. An action that uses rational means to irrational ends is particularly irrational. For this reason the utilitarian rationality of our society cannot re­gard war or revolution as irrational, and still less is it able to achieve the abolition of both.

Likewise, without this framework, the pan­aceas suggested for the eradication of crime, rioting, revolution, and civil war cannot be effective. These irrational phenomena will re­main and may even grow in spite of the pan­aceas, just as they have remained and grown during the centuries of the domination of modern culture. Notwithstanding the fact that these panaceas have been applied with especial liberality in the twentieth century, the glaring fact remains that neither crime, rioting, nor revolution has decreased; nor has the family become any better integrated; nor have suicide and mental disease declined; nor has the in­tensity of the interindividual and intergroup struggle for existence diminished; nor, if we can measure happiness by the movement of suicide, has man become any more happy. If anything, the objective results have been exactly opposite to what might be expected from the application of the panaceas.

The net result of the preceding analysis is that the suggested framework of the new cul­ture, society, and man is not the manifestation of a preacher’s complex, nor is it the “im­practical” indulgence of an armchair philoso­pher in his pet preoccupation, but rather is it a most practical, scientific, and matter-of-fact indication of the necessary conditions for a realization of the objective — a lasting peace. Without it, all the other means to building a temple of lasting peace and order are bound to be impotent or will only produce even bigger and more terrible wars and revolutions.

3. Prospects

To this conclusion may be raised the objec­tion that the new sociocultural framework is itself unrealizable and Utopian. If such an ob­jection were valid, it would only mean that an enduring peace is impossible. In that case all rational persons should stop fooling them­selves and others with the Utopia of a mankind without war, bloody revolution, and crime and should resignedly accept them as inevitable in {p. 521} the same manner in which we accept death. However, after a careful scrutiny, the objec­tion turns out to be far less axiomatic and unquestionable than it appears at first glance. In other words, the chances for a realization of the new framework, with the enduring peace that it implies, are not at all nil.

First, if mankind is going to live a creative life and is not going to sink either into the somnolence of “a benumbed and ruminating human herd” or into the tortuous agony of de­cay, the new framework is the only way that is left. The existing framework is so rotten and is progressively becoming so destructive and painful that mankind cannot creatively and contentedly live within it for any length of time. If it cannot be replaced by the new framework, then the end of mankind’s creative history, in one of the two ways just indicated, is inescapable, and science, having invented its atomic bomb, will hasten it. But such a conclusion is not inevitable; in spite of the gravity of many of the great crises that have beset mankind throughout history, human beings have always been able somehow to create new forms of culture and society that have eventually terminated the crisis. For the present there is no unquestionable evidence that a new sociocultural renaissance is im­possible.

Second, the shift from a withered sensate culture to a form of culture somewhat akin to that just outlined has happened several times in the history of Greco-Roman, western, and certain other great cultures. If it has been possible of occurrence in the past, there is every reason to suppose that it can recur in the future.

Third, if the birth of the new culture were dependent entirely upon contemporary “util­itarian rationality,” its emergence and growth would be uncertain indeed. But fortunately such is not the manner in which one form of culture is ordinarily replaced by another. The replacement is usually a result of the historical process itself, of gigantic, impersonal, spon­taneous forces immanent in a given sociocul­tural framework; and only at a later stage does it become facilitated by truly rational forces that plan and endeavor to build the new cul­ture with all available scientific means. The spontaneous forces immanent in our modern culture have already brought about its phase of decline and crisis; they have already under­mined its prestige and fascination to a con­siderable degree; they have already alienated from it a considerable portion of the popula­tion; they have robbed it of most of its charms — its security, its safety, its prosperity, its material comfort, its happiness, its sensate freedom, and all of its main values. Not in the classroom but in the hard school of life millions of people are being incessantly taught by these forces an unforgettable and indelible lesson, comprehensible to the plainest human being, that the existing framework is going to give them “stones” and bullets instead of bread; gigantic destruction in place of creative construction; misery instead of prosperity; regimentation in lieu of freedom; death, mu­tilation, and suffering instead of security of life, integrity of body, or bigger and better pleasure. With these charms progressively evaporating, this modern culture of ours has no other great values by which to hold the allegiance of humanity. Like a pretty woman whose bodily charms have gone, it is destined to lose more and more the adherence of human­ity until it has been entirely forsaken and de­throned from its dominant position in favor of a different sociocultural framework. This point has about been reached by our culture. Its magnificent creativeness, its prestige, and its charms are about over.

Parallel with this defection of humanity from contemporary culture, the same spontaneous forces are generating and increasing the quest for a different sociocultural framework, one which is more creative and adequate and less destructive and painful. This quest is at the present moment the main item in the order of the day; almost everyone is busy with the problems of the future society and culture. Only a few, who nothing forget and nothing learn, still cherish ideas of a restoration of the past and a revitalization of a withered frame­work. The overwhelming majority understand —if not by calculation and logical analysis, then by plain horse sense — that that is impos­sible. They recognize the necessity of some framework different from that which we have now.

At this stage the truly rational forces enter the play and take a guiding hand in it. With {p. 522} all the available wisdom and knowledge and with a sense of supreme duty they endeavor to create various systematic blueprints of the new sociocultural framework, to test and im­prove them, rejecting the less adequate ones and perfecting the better ones. New plans with their philosophies, ideologies, and ways and means of realization, multiply, become more and more coordinated, more and more diffused, continually accumulate a momentum and an ever increasing legion of adherents, until they become a tangible social force. This force grows and in thousands of ways begins significantly to influence human mentality and conduct, science and religion, philosophy and ethics, fine arts and social institutions. The process is slow, develops erratically from day to day, and has many deviations, mistakes, and miscarriages of its own. Altogether, it takes several decades, even a few centuries, for its full realization. Sooner or later, however, it terminates in a dethronement of the socio­cultural framework that was previously domi­nant, and in a rise to ascendancy of the new framework.

In the case of our contemporary culture we have reached the point at which the rational forces are about ready to enter the play. To­gether with the spontaneous forces of the his­torical process itself, they may be able to create a new sociocultural framework that will be a rough approximation to the one outlined above. When this objective has been reached, the utopia of a lasting peace and order will become a reality. If this is not achieved, apoca­lyptic catastrophe is ahead.


[1] (“Sensate” is Sorokin’s term for the materialistic cultural orientation, one of Sorokin’s three main cultural types; see “Culture in Crisis: The Visionary Theories of Pitirim Sorokin” — JSU.)

[2] Irving Babbitt, “The Breakdown of Interna­tionalism” (a reprint from the Nation, June, 1915). p. 25.

[3] See a more detailed analysis of this new cul­ture, society, and man in my paper, “The Task of Cultural Rebuilding,” F. E. Johnson (ed.), World Order (New York, 1945).

[4] Cf. on rule of intuition further, Chapter 35.

[5] From 500 B.C. up to 1925 A.D. there were in the history of the Greco-Roman and western societies some 967 international and 1623 civil wars. Great civil wars were as bloody and destructive as big international wars. A mere replacement of international wars by civil wars does not give any decrease of war and increase o£ peace. Hence — the futility of a mere establishment of the world government, without the other conditions necessary for a real peace. Cf. on number of wars and revolutions Social and Cultural Dynamics, Vol. III.