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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

LIFE  CAN BE WORTH LIVING
But I also believe that the individual is not an isolated, separate
thing. An individual is a transformer of matter and experience; it is
a system of relations between its own basis and the universe, including
other individuals. An individual may believe that he should devote
himself entirely to a cause, even sacrifice himself to it—his country,
truth, art, love. It is in the devotion of the sacrifice that he becomes
most himself; it is because of the devotion or sacrifice of individuals
that causes become of value. But of course the individual must in
many ways subordinate himself to the community—only not to the
extent of believing that in the community resides any virtue higher
than that of the individuals which compose it.
The community provides the machinery for the existence and
development of individuals. There are those who deny the import-
ance of social machinery, who assert that the only important thing is
a change of heart, and that the right machinery is merely a natural
consequence of the right inner attitude. This appears to me mere
solipsism. Different kinds of social machinery predispose to different
inner attitudes. The most admirable machinery is useless if the inner
life is unchanged; but social machinery can affect the fulness and
quality of life. Social machinery can be devised to make war more
difficult, to promote health, to add interest to life. Let us not despise
machinery in our zeal for fulness of life, any more than we should
dream that machinery can ever automatically grind out perfection of
living.
I believe in diversity. Every biologist knows that human beings
differ in their hereditary outfits, and therefore in the possibilities that
they can realize. Psychology shows how inevitably different are the
types that jostle each other on the world's streets. No amount of
persuasion or education can make the extrovert really understand the
introvert, the verbalist understand the lover of handicraft, the non-
mathematical or non-musical person understand the passion of the
mathematician or the musician. We can try to forbid certain atti-
tudes of mind. We could theoretically breed out much of human
variety* But this would be a sacrifice. Diversity is not only the salt
of life but the basis of collective achievement. And the complement
of diversity is tolerance and understanding. This does not mean
rating all values alike. We must protect society against criminals;
we must struggle against what we think wrong. But just as if we try
to understand the criminal we shall try to reform rather than merely
to punish, so we must try to understand why we judge others' actions
as wrong, which implies trying to understand the workings of our own
minds and discounting our own prejudices.
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