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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/594

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE STUDY OF CHARACTER AND TEMPERAMENT
By Professor JOSEPH JASTROW

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

THE strong practical interest in the sources and varieties of human powers and their proper direction and training, may be utilized in behalf of the retrospective aspects of the subject. The antecedents of “character and temperament” concern in the main the story of false and ambitious leads and venturesome solutions of the sources of human nature. However completely discredited, they belong to the irrevocable stages of our intellectual heritage, and show how uncertain has been the occupation of the psychological realm. The historical connection between the antecedents and present-day views is irregular; the succession of opinion is largely by replacement and outgrowth. None the less the points of connection are frequent with the body of knowledge which we draw upon so readily for the satisfaction of our systematized and rationalized inquiries.

The popular interest in human nature is itself an expression thereof. Actions are largely regulated as well as interpreted by psychological considerations; and these turn attention to the nature of the mind. The feeling of strong impulse, the sense of conflict between emotions as also between desire and sanctioned conduct, the search for motives, as well as the shrewdness of the battle of wits, and the reading of another’s intentions shape psychological insight. “Know thyself” is an ancient precept—at once a moral injunction and an invitation to psychological study. The early contributions to the field to be surveyed came from the learning aptly called “the humanities,” and reflected the insight of experience, directed by an unschooled but worldly-wise analytical temper. Quite as science is glorified common sense, so is literature elevated common sentiment; either may fail to rise above a suggestive type of opinion or pleasing conjecture. The delineation of character springs from the impressionistic attitude towards the products of nature and the vicissitudes of fortune. It is animated by a fundamental interest in one’s kind. It trains men to be practitioners, empirics in large measure, in the arts of human intercourse, and tends to establish man as the proper study of mankind.

The distinctive service of Greek thought was to launch the permanently engaging intellectual problems; to this rule the problem of character is no exception. It presents the two tendencies—the impressionistic and the analytic—in characteristic form. Theophrastus (370-288 b.c.) is the prototype of the impressionistic delineators, yet is not