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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/330

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genius and the man who plods, in a common and significant development.

It is, therefore, on the side of just this endeavor that I write. It seems that we have now at hand in our recent literature some social truths of such generality that certain things may be said of social progress which do not rob the genius of his credit, nor of his influence, even though they do tend to explain him. They go further, indeed, in that they explain him in the same terms and to the same extent that they explain the common man and society too. We may turn to these considerations.


The first and most general position which has come as a new insight, in the confusion of present-day discussion, is indicated by a phrase which I have used elsewhere—"Social Heredity." The theory of social heredity has been worked up through the contributions, from different points of view, of several authors. I shall first expound this point of view in my own way, bringing out most prominently the aspects of social heredity which seem to be of value for the true "appreciation" of the genius. What, then, is social heredity?

This is a very easy question to answer, since the group of facts which the phrase describes are extremely familiar—so much so that the reader may despair, from such a commonplace beginning, of getting any novelty from it. The social heritage is, of course, all that a man or woman gets from the accumulated wisdom of society. All that the ages have handed down—the literature, the art, the habits of social conformity, the experience of social ills the treatment of crime, the relief of distress, the education of the young, the provision for the old—all, in fact, however described, that we men owe to the ancestors whom we reverence, and to the parents whose presence with us perhaps we cherish still. Their struggles, the Fourth of July orator has told us, have bought our freedom; we enter into the heritage of their thought and wisdom and heroism. All true; we do. We all breathe a social atmosphere; and our growth is by this breathing-in of the tradition and example of the past.

Now, if this be the social heritage, we may go on to ask. Who are to inherit it? And to this we may again add the further question. How does the one who is born to such a heritage as this come into his inheritance? And with this yet again. How may he use his inheritance—to what end and under what limitations? These questions come so readily into the mind that we naturally wish the discussion to cover them, even apart from the requirement which is urged upon us, in these latter days, that we make all social discussion as biological as possible. The term heredity