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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/335

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THE GENIUS AND HIS ENVIRONMENT.

heritance. This again seems like a commonplace remark enough, but certain things flow from it. Each member of society gives and gets the same set of social suggestions, the differences being the degree of progress each has made, and the degree of faithfulness with which each reflects what he has before received. This last difference is, again, a phenomenon of variation and brings us back to the genius; but I wish to neglect him a little longer, in order to point out another fact which is fundamental to what is distinctive in this paper.

There grows up, in all this give and take, in all the interchange of suggestions among you, me, and the other, an obscure sense of a certain social understanding about ourselves generally—a Zeitgeist, an atmosphere, a taste, or, in minor matters, a style. It is a very peculiar thing, this social spirit. The best way to understand that you have it, and something of what it is, is to get into a circle in which it is different. The common phrase "fish out of water" is often heard in reference to it. But that does not serve for science. And the next best thing that I can do in the way of rendering it is to appeal to another word which has a popular sense, the word judgment. Let us say that there exists in every society a general system of values, found in social usages, conventions, institutions, and formulas, and that our judgments of social life are founded on our habitual recognition of these values, and of the arrangement of them which has become more or less fixed in our society. For example, to say "I am glad to see you" to a disagreeable neighbor shows good social judgment in a small matter; not to quarrel with the homoœpathic enthusiast who meets you in the street and wishes to doctor your rheumatism out of a symptom book, that is good judgment. In short, the man gets to show more and more, as he grows up from childhood, a certain good judgment; and his good judgment is also the good judgment of his social set, community, or nation. The psychologist might prefer to say that a man "feels" this; perhaps it would be better for psychological readers to say simply that he has a "sense" of it; but the popular use of the word "judgment" fits so accurately into the line of distinctions I am making that I shall adhere to it. And so we reach the general position that the eligible candidate for social life must have good judgment as represented by the common standards of judgment of his people.

It may be doubted, however, by some of my readers whether this sense of social values called judgment is the outcome of suggestion operating throughout the term of one's social education. This is an essential point, and I must just assume it. Its consideration falls under the method of the child's learning, which I have referred to as too great a topic to treat in this article.