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EARTH HUNGER AND OTHER ESSAYS

ideals. To start from an ideal of what one thinks, judging by his own tastes, that a man of moral "elevation" ought to be, in order to find out what must be true in regard to man's position on earth and what laws we ought to pass, is a mode of proceeding which may easily be popular, but is silly beyond any folly which human philosophy has ever perpetrated. It is evident from the simplest observation that men are always under compulsion to do the best they can under the circumstances so as to attain as nearly as possible to the ends they choose. The whole philosophy of existence, and the entire wisdom of policy, either in individual or common action, is bounded by the terms of this proposition; therefore the field of study and effort is in the understanding and modification of the circumstances and in the intelligent choice of the ends. The field of speculation which embraces imaginary conditions is a field of folly.

A man who works twelve hours a day may do it because he likes it, or because he hopes by it to accomplish something which he thinks will bring to him an adequate reward; but most probably he does it because he does not know how else to meet the demands which are made on him, as he admits, legitimately, or with an authority which he cannot repel. I once heard the question put to one of the most learned scholars of this century, whether he liked to work all the time. He answered: "What difference does it make whether I like it or not? I can never finish what I have to do anyway." No serf ever worked as persistently, enthusiastically, and restlessly as that man did. It is time to stop this insulting talk about labor as if nobody labored but a hod-carrier or a bricklayer; the hardest worked classes in the community are those who are their own