Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/321

This page has been validated.

wholly distinct fact from the prime supports of existence and the pleasures of the five senses, and is not, in my opinion, resolvable into those, however deeply we may analyze it, or however far back we may trace the historical evolution of the mind. Nevertheless, as the supports of life, and the pure sense agreeables and exemptions, come to us in great part through the medium of fellow-beings, the value of the social regards receives from this cause an enormous augmentation, and, in the total, counts for one paramount object of human solicitude. It would appear strange if this motive could ever be overlooked by the educator, or by any one; yet there are theories and methods that treat it as of inferior account.

The vast aggregate of social feeling is made up of the intenser elements of sexual and parental love, and the select attachments in the way of friendship, together with the more diffused sentiments toward the masses of human beings. The motive power of the feelings in education may be well exemplified in the intense examples; we can see in these both the merits and defects of the social stimulus. The "Phædrus" of Plato is a remarkable ideal picture of the study of philosophy prompted by Eros, in the Grecian form of attachment. The ordinary love of the sexes, in our time, does not furnish many instances of the mutual striving after high culture; it may be left out of account in the theory of early education. We frequently find mothers applying to studies that they feel no personal attraction for, in order to assist in the progress of their children. This is much better than nothing; a secondary end may be the initiation and discovery of a taste that at last is self-subsisting.

The intense emotions, from the very fact of their intensity, are unsuited to the promptings of severe culture. The hardest studious work, the laying of foundations, should be over, before the flame of sexual and parental passion is kindled; when this is at its height the intellectual power is in abeyance, or else diverted from its regular course. The mutual influence of two lovers is not educative for want of the proper conditions. No doubt considerable efforts are inspired; but there is seldom sufficient elevation of view on the one side, or sufficient adaptability on the other, to make the mutual influence what Plato and the romancists conceive as possible. By very different and inferior compliances on both sides, the feeling may be kept alive; if more is wanted, it dies away.

The favorable conjunction for study and mental culture in general is friendship between two, or a small number, each naturally smitten with the love of knowledge for its own sake, and basing their attachment on that circumstance. A certain amount of mutual liking in other respects perfects the relationship; but the overpowering sensuous regards of the Platonic couple do not furnish the requisite soil for high culture. As a matter of fact, those attachments, as they existed in Greece, prompted to signal instances of self-devotion in the form of