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Chapter IV: Gradation, Integration, and Mutation

A definition of value must give meaning not only to value, but to comparative value; not only to value, but to the grading, ranking, or critique of value. It is easy to understand why this question should absorb attention. Men are less excited about their values than about what they claim for their values. That which is held up before men by churches, cults, and by hortatory discourse, is not the good, but the supreme good. Thus, for example, Marcus Aurelius:

Do thou therefore I say absolutely and freely make choice of that which is best, and stick unto it. Now, that they say is best, which is most profitable. If they mean profitable to man as he is a rational man, stand thou to it; but if they mean profitable, as he is a creature, only reject it; and from this thy tenet and conclusion keep off carefully all plausible shows and colours of external appearance, that thou mayest be able to discern things rightly.1

When men's values conflict, each endeavors to prove that his is superior. The problem of the critique and grading of value is properly emphasized in that important branch of theory of value which deals with morality; for morality is not only a domain of value but a level or plane of value, claiming preëminence over other value. Similarly, the practical problem of everyday life is not to find goods — there is, in fact, an embarrassment of riches. The difficulty is to choose among goods, and define principles by which such choice is justified.

The object of positive interest is better than the object of negative interest, or of indifference, by definition. And analogous statements may be made concerning evil — that an object of negative interest is worse than an object of positive interest or of indifference. But these self-evident facts throw no light on the comparison of good with good and of evil with evil. For such light we must look to the ways in which one positive interest may be compared with another positive interest, and one negative interest with another negative interest.

There are certain preliminary considerations that will help to clear the way for the examination of this question. In the first place, theory of value cannot be satisfied by merely adopting ready-made rankings that rest upon habit or on verbal associations. Thus, for example, it is customary to refer eulogistically to “human” values as superior to “animal” values; but if this is not to reflect a mere pride of man in his own species, there must be some reason why the one is superior to the other. The same is to be said of the alleged inferiority of “physical” to “spiritual” values — an echo of traditional dualism, and religious disparagement of the “flesh.” Wherein is the spiritual “superior” to the physical? — that is the question.

Another traditional and superficial disposition of this matter is the view that final ends are superior to means. The difficulty is that there do not appear to be any interests that are inherently independent rather than dependent. The basic biological interests may play either role: one may live to eat and drink, or eat and drink to live. Games may be played for themselves or for money. Even self-preservation may be a dependent interest; otherwise there would be no meaning in the question, “What is it that makes life worth living?”

If, as is commonly held, the intellectual and aesthetic interests are higher than the interests in food or drink, this is not because they are invariable ends and not means. On the contrary, it is commonly argued by their advocates that they ought to be ends in themselves because they are higher. They may be ends in themselves, and no doubt they are peculiarly qualified to be, but the fact is that they may also be means. Indeed it is widely maintained that intellectual interests are always instrumental; aesthetic interests may be pursued for hygienic reasons, artistic creation may be pursued for commercial reasons. It has been shown beyond doubt that ends are constantly becoming means, and means ends. This does not imply that there is no difference, but only that any interest, or mode of interest, may shift from the one role to the other.

The commonest form of the ranking or critique of values is that in which the critic takes his own interest as a standard; as, for example, when one musical connoisseur, in terms of his taste, condemns or approves the taste a second musical connoisseur. But this implies either that the object of a negative interest is better than that of a positive interest — the principle already considered — or that the preferred is better than that to which it is preferred, whoever does the preferring — a principle to be considered below. Or, it implies that the second interest, the interest of the judge, is superior to the interest judged; which may or may not be the case. Only arrogance or dogma can claim that it is invariably the case. The last word possesses no greater weight than the first. The “low-brow” can rate himself above the “high-brow.” The man of bad taste can despise the taste of superiors; the lowest sinner can curse God, and die.

Whether the grading of interest and value is or is not quantitative, whether interest and value can or cannot be measured, is a question that turns upon the definition of quantity and measure. It cannot be irrelevant that the only universal comparative and superlative forms of an adjective are those in which the positive form is preceded by ‘more’ and ‘most,’ ‘less’ and ‘least,’ or by other words which prima facie signify increase or decrease, that is to say, magnitude. It is optional whether the terms ‘quantitative’ and ‘measurable’ are used in a broad sense to embrace all such meanings, or in more restricted senses characteristic of mathematics and the exact sciences.

It is necessary, here as elsewhere, to hold fast to the distinction between the fact of value and the cognition of value. To judge truly that one value is more or less than another implies that one value is more or less than another, whether so judged or not. Unless we accept this implication we are on the slippery incline to an untenable solipsism. The point is blurred by the use of such hybrid words as ‘appraise.’ The present task is to determine what makes one thing better or worse than another.

The comparative magnitude of value must not be confused with the comparative magnitude of the valuable object. The magnitude of the value corresponds to the magnitude of the object only when magnitude itself is an object of interest. If there is a desire for a large house, then a house of eight rooms will be better than a house with seven. If there is a desire for quick arrival a plane having a speed of three hundred miles per hour is better than a train with a speed of only fifty miles an hour. But if one preferred a small house to a large, or slow travel to fast, then the magnitude of the value would be inversely proportional to the magnitude of the object. Three persons are more than two; but not necessarily more enjoyable: sometimes, “the more the merrier”; sometimes, “two is company, three's a crowd.” To a competing athlete whose ambition is to exceed his opponent in points, the longer jump and the faster run will be better. To the candidate for election the greater number of votes will be better; to the profit-seeker the greater number of dollars; to the hungry man half a loaf is better than no bread, and to the family provider a whole loaf is better than either. But in each case the comparative magnitude of the value reflects the magnitude of the interest and not of the object.

The difficulty raised by the grading of values lies not in their immeasurability, but in their commensurability. There are various senses in which it is meaningful to speak of a more and less of interest which may be imputed in terms of value to its objects. All of these meanings are, as they should be, relative to interest, but they differ in the range of comparison which they permit. Preference, intensity, strength, duration, number, enlightenment, and inclusiveness of interest are all legitimate, and more or less explicitly recognized, modes of comparison. Intensity and preference provide comparison between different objects of the same interest; strength provides comparison between the interests of the same subject; number, duration, and enlightenment provide comparison in these respects between any interests of any subjects; and inclusion, or the whole-part relation, provides comparison between any interests in all respects.

In human history sometimes one and sometimes another of these several standards is in the ascendant, and is taken to define ‘the higher’ and ‘the lower.’ They are used to justify the causes in which groups of men unite, and to which they subordinate their particular interests. They create the issues on which ideological rivalries and struggles for progress are fought.


The clearest instance of a comparison within the range of a single interest is preference. From among its eligible objects, in all of which it is interested, a single interest sets one above or below another. By virtue of being so ranked the objects compose an order, which is quantitative in the sense that it can be represented by a line with different stretches or intervals lying between the object which is preferred to all the others (maximum), and the term to which all the others are preferred (minimum). So long as this comparison is not confused with others, such as intensity or strength, it may be said that there is a “greater” interest in what is preferred, than in that to which it is preferred.

While the order among the objects of preference is relative to a single interest, two or more such relative orders, comprising the same class of objects, and defined by the same type of interest, may be compared and found to agree. Thus two aesthetic interests may both prefer Titian to Picasso, or Matisse to Murillo. Using this method of parallel rating it is possible to say of a certain object that it is “unanimously” or “widely” preferred to others. The danger in employing this method lies in the difficulty of determining that the preferences compared are in fact governed by similar interests — both, for example, by the aesthetic interest, and not one by the aesthetic, and the other by the collector's, interest.

Two interests of the same type may also be compared as regards their capacity for discrimination; or the extent to which, in any given situation, the interest is alerted and reflectively aware of the qualifying attributes of its objects. This comparison is important in the education of taste; it is implied in the professional capacity of “tasters” of wine or perfume, and in the connoisseurship of art critics. It constitutes a part of what is meant, in the derogatory sense, when certain objects are said to be “popular” or to have a “mass appeal.”

The act of preference gives a meaning to ‘better’ and ‘worse’; but so do intensity, strength, duration, number, enlightenment, and inclusiveness.2 The implicit or unjustified rejection of all standards save preference is often the premise of certain further mistaken conclusions. Thus it has led to the conclusion that values are not measurable at all; or, because preference is a matter of degree, to the conclusion that they are measurable only “intensively” and not “extensively.” It has lent plausibility to the “viciously” relativistic view that all judgments of comparative value are relative to the preference of the judge. This would imply that it means nothing to state that the happiness of a society is better than the happiness of one of its members, except in so far as the person making the statement prefers the first to the second. This would exclude the possibility of basing a comparative judgment on other people's preferences, or on the preferences of experts. It would exclude the possibility of a preference which justified itself on the ground that the preferred is “objectively” better than that to which it is preferred. It would render meaningless, for example, the statement that even when the general good is not preferred to the good of an individual or group, it ought to be preferred because there is a greater volume of good in the former than in the latter.

A single interest varies in intensity. Food gains and loses value with the waxing and waning of appetite or hunger. Every interest is capable of rising to different heights above the zero of apathy or the threshold of bare awakening. ‘Better’ and ‘best,’ in the senses conveyed by such terms as ‘transport,’ ‘ecstasy,’ and ‘rapture’ in all their wide range of applications, from primitive bodily pleasures to aesthetic and intellectual enjoyments, and to religious exaltation, derive their meaning from this mode of variation.

The term ‘intensity,’ as employed by psychologists, was transferred from sensation, where it appears as a dimension distinguished from “quality”; as the same tone may be comparatively loud or soft, the same color comparatively bright or dull, the same taste or odor comparatively faint or strong. The just noticeable units of sensory intensity are not equal in any sense other than that each represents a limit of discrimination. But the series as such has its stretches or distances, and each unit is a “more” relatively to its place in the series. Comparative “pleasantness” and “unpleasantness” is not proportional to degrees of sensory intensity; indeed it is said to reach its maximum with a moderate sensory intensity. But the conception of magnitude is similar, in that it is a serial magnitude, in which a second object is judged to “feel” more or less pleasant or unpleasant than a given object. If the feelings of pleasantness and unpleasantness are taken, as has been here proposed, to mean the internal awareness of positive and negative interests, then the relative felt intensities of feeling reflect the relative intensities of the interests themselves.

Insofar as interests express themselves overtly, they enter into the common physical world. One may then choose as the index of intensity some manner of speech, or liveliness and volume of response. If tears are taken as the index of sorrow and laughter or gaiety of manner as the index of joy, then the sorrow of the man who “weeps quarts” can be said in this sense to be more intense than the “glistering grief” and “golden sorrow” of a king; and loud hilarity more intense than “laconic and Olympian mirth.” But the scale of privately felt intensities may or may not correspond to that of such physically measurable manifestations; as when doubt is raised as to whether the one who wears his heart on his sleeve does or does not feel as intensely as one who is more inhibited or reticent. It is clear that there are great individual differences in the extent to which the intensity of interest, that is, the much or the little which one cares, or is concerned, is open to general observation.

Contemporary psychologists speak freely of the “strength” of reflexes, needs, tensions, drives, motives, or strivings, and of factors of “reinforcement”; as earlier psychologists and philosophers once described choice in term of the comparative strength of desires.3 There appears to be no clear line of demarcation between intensity and strength, nor any clear definition of either. A leading student of personality, to whom reference has already been made, emphasizes the “energic or quantitative aspect” or “needs” or “drives.” Among the psychical manifestations of the organism's “vital energy” are “zest,” “intensity,” and “strength.” But there is, alas! no consistent use of these terms:

Evidently we are dealing here with a continuum between two extreme states, subjectively and objectively discernible: zest and apathy. The various aspects of zest may be designated by such words as alertness, reactivity, vigilance, freshness, vitality, strength, ‘fire,’ ‘pep,’ verve, eagerness, ardour, intensity, enthusiasm, interests; whereas under apathy may be subsumed lassitude, lethargy, loginess, ‘brain fag,’ indolence, ennui, boredom, fatigue, exhaustion. The former state yields prompter, faster, stronger, more frequent and persistent reactions.4

It is to be noted that here ‘intensity’ and ‘strength’ appear in the analysis of ‘zest.’ Presently, however, we learn that the opposite of apathy is intensity (rather than zest), and that intensity is an index of strength, and strength of intensity. One's despair of discovering a consistency of meanings is complete when one reads that there are thirty-two criteria of “need strength.”5

The comparative strength of interests can scarcely be defined in terms of physical force or work done (obstacles overcome), as that would imply that the elephant's weakest interest was immensely stronger than the strongest interest of an insect or even of a man. The number of times an animal will cross an electrically charged grill to obtain food measures hunger not by the amount of the electric charge but by the particular animal's repugnance to pain. The measure in terms of punishment endured, commonly employed in experiments on animals or in observations on man, measures the strength of a positive interest by the strength of a negative interest, and does not measure the strength of the negative interest itself, or the greater strength of one positive interest as compared with another. Similarly, when it is said that an appetite is strengthened by deprivation,6 this can only mean that it approaches its full strength in proportion as it is deprived of its object. But then what is the measure of its full strength?

There is a measurement of interest which contemporary psychologists tend to neglect, and for which (since psychologists have not clearly given it any other clear meaning) the term ‘strength’ seems most appropriate. The individual has during his lifetime, or at any given period, a certain fund of available energy, for which his several interests compete. The appropriation of it by one interest diminishes the supply available for others. The strength of an interest, then, is its precedence in this rivalry.

This conception of strength provides for the fact that any interest may acquire superior strength. It also provides for the fact that the stronger or strongest interest may employ a small degree of physical energy. Its strength may lie in the fact that it inhibits the use of energy for other purposes. To employ the language of the physiologist, it is “prepotent in competition for possession of the common paths.”7 One of the several interests of an organism may “take possession,” or enjoy a potentiality of such possession without exercising it.

The scale of strength, so defined, is relative to a single subject or organism. But while it would not do to say that one man's interest was stronger than another's, it would be meaningful to say of mankind that hunger or sex tended to be among the relatively strong interests in all men. It would also be meaningful to say that one subject's appetite for drink was stronger than another's, if it was meant that this type of appetite tended to assume command in the former, but not in the latter.


There are two standards of comparison which appear to be applicable to any two interests, namely, time and number. Any two interests may be compared as regards their duration, or frequency of manifestation, if it be assumed that the time in which they occur is the same, or public, time. It is permissible to say that one interest, or one type of interest, last longer than another, and that its object therefore possesses a value that is “more lasting” — less ephemeral and transitory. The object of abiding love derives increased value from this fact, as compared with the object of a “passing fancy.” It has been claimed (which is meaningful, whether or not it is true) that the aesthetic and intellectual interests yield more “durable satisfactions.” The more enduring interests are sometimes described as the more “constant” or “stable.”8

This must not be taken to mean that the greater duration of any interest implies a greater good in its object, but only the greater duration of positive interest. A long life is better than a short only provided there is a continuing love of life. In proportion as a negative interest is temporally extended the object varies from bad to worse. If life is evil, then the shorter the better, that is, the less evil.

The use of the standard of duration has to be guarded against the objection that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” It might be supposed that, since the purpose is to reach the goal, the briefer the delay the better. To a considerable extent the virtue of technology lies in its abridging the time between the beginning and the end of endeavor. This objection is urged by a writer already cited:

Intuitively, we judge that the longer one wants positively or negatively the worse it is. But this judgment cannot be derived from conation alone, but only by implicitly setting the standards of achievement above those of conation.9

This transition from conation to achievement does not solve the problem in terms of the present theory, since it fails to adhere consistently to an identical concept of that which these standards measure — namely, value in terms of interest. The solution lies in recognizing that a protracted pursuit is commonly attended by negative interest — avoidance of obstacles, or hostility to opposition; and these negative values have to be subtracted from the positive value generated by the pursuit itself. The more protracted the interest the greater the chance that impatience and temporary defeats will arise. Furthermore, the longer the time which is taken to realize an object, the longer its instrumental values are postponed, or the greater the risk of their being lost altogether. Money cannot be spent until it is acquired, and if a lifetime is taken in its acquiring, there will be no spending; and the less of what can be bought with it has to be balanced against the value of its being acquired. Similarly the longer the time taken to realize an object the longer is its enjoyment postponed, if it be enjoyed.

But in the hypothetical case of a positive interest unattended by defeats or frustrations, and considered independently of the use to which the products may be put, and the subsequent enjoyments which they may subserve, the longer duration of the interest may properly be said to confer greater value upon its object. Whatever value it possesses, it has that value longer. Furthermore, the long-range interest — the durable pursuit of truth or beauty, the cause which requires time for the assembling and organization of means, or the life purpose gradually developed and realized, gathers values as it proceeds. Dependent interests, passing enjoyment, incidental values of many kinds, enrich the passage and are to be credited directly or indirectly to the remote object of endeavor.

Thus when Hobbes described life in the state of nature as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short,”10 he properly reckoned its brevity among its shortcomings! It is this same counting of duration among the standards of value which justifies self-preservation and the prolongation of life — the prolongation of life because of the lasting and multiplying positive interests of which life is composed.

Two or more aggregates of interests can be compared numerically for the simple reason that they have the abstract character of number in common. This gives a meaning to comparative interest which is entirely unobjectionable so long as it is not confused with, or substituted for, other meanings. Four interests are greater than three interests numerically, because the numerical factor is present in both cases. But the three interests in question may be greater than the four interests in all other respects — preference, intensity, strength, duration, or enlightenment. The illicit substitution of one of these measures, such as intensity, for the numerical measure creates the seeming paradox that while there is “more suffering” when the whole population of a bombed city suffers than when a single victim suffers, nevertheless the whole population does not “suffer more.” There can be no objection to the numerical mode of comparison provided it is not taken to imply more than it states: provided, in other words, it is taken to mean only that there is more of interest in four interests than in three numerically speaking. The numerical comparison leaves other standards of comparison indeterminate, and therefore proves nothing as to total magnitudes of interest.


The receptivity of interest to changes of knowledge, so signally illustrated by the development of modern technology, defines a cognitive standard by which one interest may be deemed superior to another. The optimum interest judged by this standard would be an interest purged of error, and knowing truly whatever was relevant. Since all interests are cognitively mediated, and since the same standard of truth is applicable to all cognition, all interests, whether of the same or of different subjects, are commensurable in respect of intelligence and enlightenment. The only additional assumption to be made is that it is proper to speak of more or less of intelligence. It is safe to say that this assumption is correct in some sense — such as relative absence of error, possession of truth, or amount of knowledge.

A familiar application of this standard is the so-called “enlightened self-interest” which is often taken as a norm of national conduct. The object of national interest, let us say, is power or territory. The interest induces actions of which power or territory is expected. But the expectations may be either true or false; and if false the interest may be condemned on that account.

This type of critique is applicable to all interests insofar as their objects are held to possess qualifying attributes. Thus in the aesthetic field the interest may be directed to objects deemed to possess certain formal attributes, such as unity and balance, and criticism may take the form of determining the truth or error of the deeming.

Interests are allowed to borrow the attributes of the mediating cognition. Thus one speaks of interests as “true,” “erroneous,” “apparent,” or “illusory.” But this is a dangerous procedure since it tends to involve a confusion between the cognitive mediation and the cognition of value. An interest whose cognitive mediation is erroneous is nonetheless “truly” an interest; and though its object's good or evil is not erroneous it is not erroneous to judge its object to be good or evil.11

While the standard of enlightenment is a proper and significant standard of criticism, it is not the only standard of criticism — though this has often been held to be the case.12 Other standards of criticism can be excluded only on the assumption that there is only one good and one evil, other differences being differences in the degree to which these are known for what they are, and in the degree to which their means are correctly judged. But the plain fact is that there are many goods and many evils, and that some goods are better, and some evils worse. The less estimable characters are not distinguished wholly, if at all, by their ignorance, or the more regrettable events by the backwardness of science. Indeed evil is often distinguished by the fact that the evildoer knows only too well what he wants, and how to get it. The wolf is not less intelligent than the sheep, or the aggressor than his victim; nor is the philistine less clearheaded than the poet or mystic.

The several magnitudes of an interest obtained by the application of different standards of measurement can be multiplied by one another, and the product so obtained can be compared with the similar product of a second interest, but only when the factors are commensurable; as in the case of two volumes having similar dimensions. Unless the factors are themselves commensurable, inter se, the amounts assigned to them are quite arbitrary. Where, as in the case of awarding total merit, “points” are assigned, the weighting of the points is either arbitrary, or is determined by some external principle — such as commercial, athletic, or scholastic standards. The magnitudes of value enumerated above — preference, intensity, strength, duration, number, and enlightenment — are incommensurable, or commensurable within a certain range, or in a certain respect. The quantity obtained by multiplying them together would not describe a total value unless they were “weighted.” The amount of intensity to be equated with an amount of enlightenment or duration, would be entirely arbitrary, or it would reflect some interest imported from outside and introducing a new dimension of value.

There is, however, a method of comparison by which one aggregate of interests can be compared with another, or with a single interest, regardless of these incommensurabilities. A totality of interests is greater than any of its parts in all respects; that is whatever the magnitudes of preference, intensity, strength, or duration, number, or enlightenment. The incommensurability of co-exclusive interests or aggregates of interests does not apply to the comparison of the inclusive with the included. This may be expressed by stating that if a certain interest is included as part of a totality of interests, then, however, the magnitudes are measured, there is an excess, a “more-besides,” in the totality as compared with any part.

The standard of inclusiveness is the standard implicit in the superior claims of the total “personal will” as compared with any of the several appetites of the same person; and the claims of the total social interest as compared with those of its several personal or class interests. The application of this principle requires an examination of the nature of such personal or social totalities; and the sense in which their parts may be said to be included when they are “integrated.”13


The “soul,” thought to have been banished forever from psychology, has reappeared in the more innocent guise of “personality.” The literature of the subject embraces several distinct questions. The term ‘personality’ is sometimes used, as in common speech, to refer to the peculiarities by which one human individual differs in a more or less marked way from another. But it also refers to a mode of integration or structural unity which is characteristic of human beings as distinguished from lower forms of mentality and from the “impersonality” of social processes and institutions.14 It is this second, and more fundamental, question with which we are here primarily concerned.

While these two questions are distinct, they are closely related, and the answer to one will affect the answer to the other. For it is by virtue of the architecture of his interests that the more important of a man's individual peculiarities arise. One person may be distinguished from another by trivial idiosyncracies: presumably no two individuals sneeze, laugh, or talk in precisely the same way, and a tic or accent may be the mark by which a unique individual is most easily identified. But personal character, in the more serious sense, consists in the way a man is organized and unified.

If the term ‘person’ is used to signify a type of structure, and the term ‘individual’ to signify that which distinguishes one person from another, there remain two cognate terms which demand a clarification of meaning; though it would be pedantic to adhere rigidly to any assigned usage. The term ‘self’ properly suggests a reflexive relationship. A person who is conscious of himself has a “self” — otherwise not. Thus the different “selves” which John Smith has are the various ideas which John Smith has of John Smith (his body, his property, his reputation, etc.), and with whose fortunes John Smith's sense of well-being rises or falls.15 If John Smith has a highly unified personality his dominant life purpose, as he is aware of it, will be his essential self; and his reckoning of that purpose, his auditing of its accounts, his measurement of its successes and failures, will be his “self-interest.” Since the term ‘ego’ is literally the first personal pronoun, as distinguished from the second and third persons, it would seem appropriate to use this term to emphasize the antithesis — the “I” rather than the “you,” “we,” “he,” or “they”; in short, to signify the absence or the negative of benevolence. As has been properly recognized by child psychology from its beginnings, the ego — the “I,” the “my,” and the “me,” develops when the individual asserts his will against the wills of those about him.

These terms ‘person,’ ‘individual,’ ‘self,’ and ‘ego’ all refer to different aspects of the same characteristic of man: ‘person’ to a type of structure; ‘individual’ to the differentiation of particulars or singulars of this type; ‘self’ to a person's being both object and subject of the same mental act; and ‘ego’ to the antithesis between one person and another.

There is more to a person than his personality. There are necessary conditions of personality, such as habit and temperament — but which do not make him a person. That which makes a man a person is the integration of his interests, both time-wise and space-wise. The person can look ahead, and plan accordingly; he can launch upon trains of purposive activities; he can relate his past to his future fortunes, and the distant to the near; he can keep his bearings; he can manage the household of his diverse interests; he can put first things first; he can hold in mind the wood, despite the trees; and all this he can do because of his cognitive capacities.

E. B. Holt conceived personality as the relatively total adaptation of the organism to a relatively large and comprehensive situation — to a “bigger section of the universe.” He conceived this totalization or integration of behavior in terms of “synergy,” that is, the consolidation of the individual's several motor sets. As a result of “cross-conditioning”16 a response to one stimulus is evoked by other stimuli with which this first stimulus is frequently associated.

But as in the case of interest, so in the case of personality, it is necessary to recognize the pervasive factor of cognition. At a certain stage of complexity inter-conditioning of reflexes is superseded by meanings and judgments — the meanings which one interest possesses for other interests of the same subject, and the judgments pronounced upon one of the subject's interests in behalf of his other interests. In other words, his interests mediate one another, and the usual name for this inter-mediation is ‘reflection.’ Thus, it is a mark of personality that a man driven by hunger should “consider” the effect of its appeasement upon his subsequent discomforts (such as tomorrow's hang-over); or upon his health and general condition, and so indirectly upon all the other interests which will require his bodily energies. Or, it is a mark of personality that a man driven by ambition should judge this interest in the light of his family attachments or friendships. A man is a person insofar as there is a central clearing-house where his interests thus take account of one another, and are allowed to proceed only when the demands of other interests are consulted, and wholly or partially met.

The same thesis can be stated in terms of the “appeal” of the object of interest. Insofar as the appeal is to a single interest, as when the edible object appeals to hunger, there is as yet no personality. The appeal is a “personal appeal” when it is the resultant of two or more such single appeals, as when the edible object appeals not to hunger merely, but to avarice or maternal love. Insofar as its appeal is to all of the interests of a given subject, one may speak of its appeal to “him.” When a person, so defined, acts on each of his interests “in the light of” the rest, all of his interests may be said to share the control of his action. He has a “will of his own,” a “personal will,” which exercises a lordship over his several interests. There is a central locus of responsibility, a human integer, a component of a distinctively human society, and a rational participant in its several social institutions.


Recent psychology has contributed richly to the study of personality. Indeed, some psychologists, such as H. A. Murray, have adopted the “point of view” that “personalities constitute the subject matter of psychology.”17 This writer, in his “Proposals for a Theory of Personality,” has presented a doctrine which approximates, without explicitly stating, that which is here defended. “A human being,” we are told, is a motile, discriminating, valuating, assimilating, adapting, integrating, differentiating and reproducing temporal unity within a changing environmental matrix.” The problematic object of interest becomes the “press”; which is neither the external physical event, nor the sensory stimulus, but a meaning, a “sign of something that is to come,” a “threat,” or a “promise.” The press, combined with a drive, need, or propensity, constitutes a “thema” — which appears to be the equivalent of the interest as here defined. “With age … conflict comes and after conflict resolution, synthesis and creative integration…. Action patterns are coördinated, enduring purposes arise and values are made to harmonize.” With integration comes “regnancy,” signifying the domination of the organism by some one of its purposes; and the regnancy, or hierarchy of regnancies, constitutes the essence of personality. The person is also “time-binding,” “which is a way of saying that, by conserving some of the past and anticipating some of the future, a human being can, to a significant degree, make his behavior accord with events that have happened as well as those that are to come.”18 All of this is consistent with, although it does not explicitly recognize, the central role which in the present theory is assigned to cognition.

In Gordon W. Allport's Presidential Address on “The Ego in Contemporary Psychology” we are told that

Ego-involvement is … a condition of total participation of the self — as knower, as organizer, as observer, as status seeker, and as socialized being…. Under conditions of ego-involvement the whole personality manifests greater consistency in behavior, reveals not specificity in conduct, but generality and congruence.19

This view of personality appears to differ in no essential respect from that presented above. Its central theme is that form of human life in which there is solidarity or total commitment, each motor-affective component of the individual supporting, and being supported by, the rest. It is of a person, so construed, that one says that he acts with his “whole heart,” or “puts his whole self” into what he does.

Emotionally, personal behavior is accompanied by sentiments of pride, self-respect, or humiliation, or by the general feelings of happiness or unhappiness. It creates a susceptibility to insult — a “face” to be “saved.” It culminates in a supreme interest with which the individual identifies himself, whose prospects are toned with optimism or pessimism, whose uncertainties beget that “anxiety” with which the existentialists are obsessed, and in whose decisions, according to the existentialists, a man actually lives.

The psychoanalytical school has contributed richly to the empirical knowledge of personality.20 If the Freudian ‘id’ be taken to mean the aggregate of elementary impulsions, whether innate or acquired, and ‘ego’ the organization and mobilization by which these impulsions are enabled to present a common front to the environment, then this teaching may be cited in confirmation of the view of personality presented in the present study. E. B. Holt, following Freud, and interpreting him freely, emphasized the role of the ego in relieving the individual of conflict and suppressions. Personality becomes a hygienic and moral norm in which, through being recognized, blocked drives are freed and their energies released.21


Since society is their subject matter, the social sciences have naturally become its partisans against the partisans of the individual person. But the relation between the individual and the social totality is not to be understood by adopting either the individualistic or the totalitarian approach exclusively. According to the first of these doctrines, society is only a word: there is no such thing as a society, the word ‘society’ being only a name for an aggregate of individuals. According to the second doctrine there is no such thing as an individual, but only the word ‘individual’ used to designate a part of a society. Neither of these doctrines is the truth; they are both distortions of half-truth.

A society is composed of real individual persons, and can be analyzed into individaul persons together with their interrelatedness. But that which is analyzable is already a synthesis; and a social synthesis, having a total character of its own not possessed by any of its parts or relations severally, is something in its own right.

The distinction between the elements of analysis and the totality of synthesis has no necessary relation to the question of priority in time. It is quite conceivable that a plurality of individuals, existing first in isolation, should then become related and compose a totality. But it is equally conceivable that a social totality, existing first, should later be broken up into unrelated individuals. Which of these has as a matter of fact happened is a question for historians and prehistorians, and not for logicians.

In order to understand this empirical question it must be recognized that totalization is a matter of degree. Every society is composed of individual persons, but there will be differences in the degree to which these are describable in terms of the characteristics of the whole. Thus, for example, an army is composed of individual men, but one army will differ from another in the degree to which these individual men can be exhaustively described in terms of their army. The modern social sciences make much of the “role” with which the individual is identified in an organized society. But no human individual is ever completely identified with any role. The very fact that he plays several roles, and has somehow to reconcile them, gives him an “individuality of his own.”

It is proper to ask whether comparatively early societies are comparatively “totalized.” They look so, but then we are looking at them from a distance, and distance lends uniformity. It is also relevant to observe that what we now call “totalitarianism” can scarcely be said to be obsolete.

The tendency of the totalitarian emphasis is to conceive the individual as a merely passive product, channel, or locus of social forces. This error is analogous to that of the older empiricisms in which knowledge was conceived in terms of the imprint of sensation. The individual is not a blank sheet of paper, a tablet of wax, or a receptacle, in the area of action any more than in the area of cognition.22 To weigh the rival claims of the total society and the individual as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives is to neglect the fact that the behavior of man is essentially individual response. The anthropologists speak of “culture,” and they emphasize its pervasiveness and uniformity. But the heart of the matter is to determine how one mode of individual behavior becomes normal and another an abnormal deviation.

The underlying causes of uniformity are the human nature, and the physical environment which men have in common. Next in order are the common necessities which connect these two — the necessary common measures of adaptation. When these act as a social coercion upon the individual they present themselves as number and prestige — the number and prestige of other individuals. That which the individual then feels impelled to do is what “everybody does,” and especially the “important people.” To understand this we have only to observe the creation of schools of art and letters, prevailing tastes, fashions, idioms, and sentiments, common sense, and public opinion, all of which are limited and transient cultures. Prestige or eminence is due to many causes — to power, office, aggressiveness, manner of bearing and speech, and exceptional capacity. Attitudes are spread by prestige, and accumulate impressiveness in geometrical ratio. But when their spread reaches a certain point they exert an almost irresistible stimulus to the remnant.23

In the case of social analysis, as in the case of the analysis of personality, the unit is somebody's interest. As personal integration is to be found in the interrelations of the several interests composing the same person, social integration is to be looked for in the interrelations of the interests of different persons. But here we encounter the important but much neglected fact that the integration is achieved within persons. It would be generally admitted that there are many connections which occur only between parts of the same person. This is true, for example, of memory, of habit-formation, of learning by experience, and of reasoning. One does not remember another person's past or form habits or learn as a result of another person's experience, or draw conclusions from another person's premises — unless the other's has first been made one's own. Similarly the connections which are essential to social integration — the continuity of purpose, the dependence of one interest on another, the mediating function of ideas, the dominance of one interest over others, the control of acts by motives, the “therefore” and the “because” — obtain only between parts of the same person. Hence, social integration is dependent on the sociality of the persons who compose society; that is, their interest in one another's interests.

Interest in interest arises from, but does not consist in, the dependence of one individual on another. Thus a contemporary psychologist describes as follows the interdependence of the mother's “nurturant drives” and the child's hunger:

The instrumental activities of each have been required for the production of the environmental events needed by the other. This situation describes the fundamental unit of social interaction with reference not only to arguing social behavior, but also to the formation of motivational systems involving interdependence between people.24

This description of the interlocking needs of mother and child is defective only in that it does not make it sufficiently clear that there is no social relation between mother and child until there is an interest of each in the other's interests; and it is because this factor is heavily weighted on the mother's side that the relation of mother and nursing infant constitutes an asymmetrical social relationship.

Such is the case with those forms of social integration with which the social sciences are primarily concerned — the family and friendship, the institutions of conscience, polity, law, and economy, the church and school, and with most of the more informal and transitory social organizations. Broader social integrations such as the “general will,” the “national purpose,” or the “good of all,” are to be explained similarly in terms of the interests in one another felt by the several personal members of society. The precedence which is conceded to the public over the private is a precedence within persons of their “public spirit” over their private concerns.


Value taken as a function of interest reflects changes of interest. Change of interest is perpetual and all pervasive, and its causes are manifold. There is no fundamental or all-sufficient cause. It must suffice here to call attention to certain forms or types of change, and to single out a few generalizations which will best serve the purpose of its present inquiry.25

The object of interest is supplied to the interest by cognition, and will therefore change with the ceaseless advent of new perceptions or ideas. An interest which is directed to a class of eligible objects, will move from one member of the class to another, or it may enlarge the class. Hunger may assume the form of a preference for certain forms of food to which the subject has become habituated, or it may be expanded to embrace new edible possibilities. The musical interest may, as a result of musical experience, be narowed or broadened. Personal love may render the lover invulnerable or vulnerable to others of the sex or type. In other words, as through its mediating cognition more objects come within the range of an interest, it may become more “canalized”26 or it may flow over a larger area. Experience not only narrows interests or broadens them, it also consolidates them. The same objects, such as home, country, or possessions, become the objects of different interests.27

The development and play of interests is governed by a principle which is loosely analogous to that of the conservation of energy. As one interest grows stronger it tends to weaken other interests, as though there were a limited fund of interest to be divided. It has been remarked by a recent writer that a service of too many good causes tends to reduce the service of each to a level of indifference and ineffectiveness:

Perhaps I had travelled too much, left my heart in too many places. I knew what I was supposed to feel, what it was fashionable for my generation to feel. We cared about everything: fascism in Germany and Italy, the seizure or Manchuria, Indian nationalism, the Irish question, the workers, the Negroes, the Jews. We had spread our feelings over the whole world; and I knew that mine were spread very thin…. What is the use of caring at all, if you aren't prepared to dedicate your life, to die?28

Just as there may be a dissipation, so there may be a concentration, of interest. In fanaticism, the strength of a particular interest exhausts the subject's motor-effective capacity. The censorious or prudish individual may be so preoccupied with the violations of a code of personal morals as to render him blind to a poet's or artist's creative genius.

A new object of interest may be acquired by the principle of the conditioned reflex. Interest is transferred from an original object to an adjoining object. When this occurs there is a tendency to impute to the new object the attribute which qualified the original object. An individual is hated, let us say, for good reason; the attitude of hate is transferred to the members of his family; and these, however innocent, are then deemed to possess the hateful attributes. It is this mode of transfer, carrying objective as well as emotional meaning from next to next, which is psychologically responsible for so-called “guilt by association,” for race hatred and misanthropy, and for other wholesale and undiscriminating attitudes. But it is well to remember that precisely the same process produces innocence by association, love of family, and a diffused philanthropy. The extreme case of this transfer is seen in the emotional creation of the appropriate object. Fear, hate, or love having been induced by a fearful, hateful, or lovable object, may then imagine lurking dangers, malignant spirits, or good fairies, to provide suitable occasions for the dealing in question.

Widely pervasive, and highly important in its social effects, is the change of interest in which means become ends in themselves. Substituting the terms to be employed in the present analysis, this means that dependent interests become independent. Especially notable in moral development is the fact that dependent benevolence, or regard for another for one's own sake, may become independent benevolence, or regard for another for his sake.

This form of mutation is a special case of a phenomenon that may best be described as the generation of new interests by interpolation. The simplest form of the process is the development of dependent interests themselves. Every interest involves subordinate acts, that is, acts performed because of what is expected of them. When these acts encounter resistance, or are protracted or repeated, they tend themselves to become interests; and having become dependent interests they may then become independent interests; and the new independent interest thus generated may then supersede the original interest by which it was generated. New values are substituted for old. There is a disposition among psychologists to hold that most of the mature interests of man have developed in this way.29 Acquired skills, disclosing and expressing capacity, become enjoyable in and for themselves. The collective action originally organized to serve a need other than itself becomes itself the supreme value of the group. This mutation occurs every level of mental life, including the so-called “secondary drive” of the chimpanzee who, having become accustomed to using poker chips to obtain the desired food from a vending machine, “would work for the chips and would hoard them when the vending machine was not available.”30

A notable case of interpolated interest is the contemplative enjoyment of the prospective object: as when the candidate for office “likes to think of himself” as in possession of his goal. This immediate interest, even could it be shown to be invariably present, is not the same thing as the interest which moves to achievement. It is a notorious fact that endeavor may be weakened, or superseded altogether, by the comparatively effortless pleasures of the imagination. Here lies the crucial difference between the dreamer and the man of action.

Interpolated interests, whether dependent or independent, are often of the opposite sign — involving a change from positive to negative or from negative to positive. Thus the animal's hunger for food generates his combativeness against the intruder who takes the food away; the love of a person generates anger against his enemy. Every interest generates fear when its object is in jeopardy. Frustration leads to aggression.31 Or, the interpolation of interest may take the form of a shift from negative to positive. When fear is protracted, safety becomes a positive good — a “haven of refuge”; a struggle to avert defeat becomes a love of victory; the negative interest of malice may generate the positive satisfactions of sadism.

The interpolation of interest may take the form of a shift from prolonging to altering interest. Thus when the conditions of enjoyment are disturbed or removed, the interest assumes the form of an intervening effort to restore them. The reverse change, from altering to prolonging interest, may be described as extrapolation. The new interest grows out of the old at its moment of consummation. There is a tendency to have and to hold, or to find enjoyable, that which has been realized. This has much to do with the psychology of property. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that what is hopefully achieved is invariably enjoyed. Wealth, power, security, may all lose in possession the attractiveness which they had in prospect; this fact is a principal cause of human disillusionment.

A further type of change having a major social importance is the incitement of interest in a second subject by its manifestation in a first subject. Thus the sight, or other sensory evidence, of fear or of rage tends to arouse these passions in the observer. This may occur within the same subject: emotional expression tends to be circular, the expression serving as itself a stimulus to further excitement, as when one is said to “goad oneself” into fury. The more familiar occurrence is the social effect in which a demonstration of interest spreads to those who are aware of it; and is intensified in each by its extension among many, as the virulence of communicable diseases is proportional to their extent. This effect may be designed. The art of persuasion embraces the exhibition of the attitude of interest or conviction which is to be implanted in others; the eloquent man must be, or at least seem to be, himself wholehearted if he is to stir the hearts of others.

Any form or train of action due originally to an accidental combination of circumstances, or to natural selection, may become endeared by habit. There is, on the other hand, a restlessness, or interest in general activity for its own sake, which is constantly enriching life through the adventures on which it embarks. Whether the change of interest and of values is a change for the better or the worse can be determined only by the application of criteria of rank or gradation. If a servant of the public grows ambitious until the motive of public service loses its force altogether, there has been a change for the worse, morally speaking. If an artist, being seduced by money, loses his devotion to art for its own sake, he has been degraded, judged by aesthetic standards. But if a man having practiced some form of skill as a means to his personal advancement comes to delight in craftsmanship, the elevation of a means into an end has been a change for the better; whereas a physician who, having practiced his profession for the sake of a financial reward, comes to be moved by compassion for human suffering and disability, has risen in the scale of disinterestedness. Noble enthusiasm as well as panic or mob violence may be spread by contagion.

These and other changes of interest give to the motor-affective life of man a character of perpetual mobility. It resembles a sea, rather than a river: an uneasy sea made up of tide, breaker, undertow, billow, ripple, and spray — full of cross-currents and counter-pressures. Life is a perpetual intermingling and alternation of pro's and con's. There is always some plus and some minus. It blows hot and it blows cold.

  • 1.

    The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius, tr. by M. Casaubon, 1925, Bk. III, Sec. VII, pp. 22–3.

  • 2.

    For views which adopt the preferential standard to the exclusion of others, cf. C. I. Lewis, An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation, 1946, pp. 550 ff., and passim; De Witt H. Parker, Human Values, 1931, ch. iii and passim.

  • 3.

    Cf. C. L. Hull, Principles of Behavior, 1943, p. 369, and “Mind, Mechanism, and Adaptive Behavior,” Psychological Review, 44 (1937); and the writings of B. F. Skinner and W. K. Estes.

  • 4.

    H. A. Murray, Explorations in Personality, Oxford University Press, 1938, pp. 129, 208.

  • 5.

    Ibid., pp. 209, 251, 253, 255. The value of this work lies in its richness of empirical observation, and in its multiplication, rather than in its ordering, of distinctions. ‘Persistence,’ ‘endurance,’ and ‘frequency,’ which play important roles in this writer's analysis can, I think, best be considered under the temporal aspect of interest.

  • 6.

    Cf. G. Murphy, Personality, 1947, p. 140 ff.

  • 7.

    Cf. the physiologist C. S. Sherrington, The Integrative Action of the Nervous System, 1906, p. 231.

  • 8.

    F. L. Wells, “Value Psychology and the Affective Disorders, etc.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 21 (1926–7), p. 146.

  • 9.

    S. C. Pepper, Digest of Purposive Values, 1947, pp. 83–4. This writer makes a similar “intuitive” leap from the standard of achievement to the standard of affection (pleasure).

  • 10.

    Leviathan, Oxford, 1909, p. 97.

  • 11.

    For a fuller discussion of this matter, cf. the Author's “Real and Apparent Value,” Philosophy, 7 (1932), pp. 1–6.

  • 12.

    In general by the Socratic tradition, and more recently by adherents of the Pragmatic school.

  • 13.

    The topic of integration, together with its personal, social, and world applications, will be resumed in Chs. VI, IX, and other later chapters.

  • 14.

    This is also the meaning when a state or a person is said, metaphorically, to be a “person.“

  • 15.

    Cf. James's famous chapter on “The Consciousness of Self” in his Principles of Psychology, 1890, ch. x.

  • 16.

    The Freudian Wish, 1915, pp. 196 ff. Cf. also Gardner Murphy, Personality, 1947, p. 619, and § 26 passim.

  • 17.

    H. A. Murray, and others, Explorations in Personality, 1938, p. 3.

  • 18.

    Ibid., pp. 4, 36, 49, and ch. ii, passim.

  • 19.

    Reprinted in The Nature of Personality, Addison-Wesley, Cambridge, Mass., 1950; cf. pp. 122, 135. This address was originally published in Psychological Review, 50 (1943).

  • 20.

    The Author has discussed the views of Jung and Adler, together with those of Freud, in General Theory of Value, 1926, 1950, §§ 77, 157–60, 237–8.

  • 21.

    E. B. Holt, op. cit. Freud's view is fully presented in his own The Ego and the Id, tr. by J. Rivière, 1927.

  • 22.

    This reaction against prevailing tendencies in social science is clearly recognized by those social psychologists who begin and end with personality. Cf. G. Murphy, op. cit., Part IV; H. A. Murray, op. cit., pp. 719–22.

  • 23.

    This is the explanation offered by earlier social psychologists, such as Tarde and Le Bon. Social and psychological anthropologists today do not deny it, but they tend to ignore it or perhaps assume it, while they discuss the nature and interplay of the different cultural systems themselves, taken in abstracto.

  • 24.

    R. R. Sears, “Personality and Culture,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 92 (1948), p. 365; cf. ibid., p. 367.

  • 25.

    For a more detailed examination of this subject by the Author, cf. his General Theory of Value, 1926, 1950, ch. xviii, xix.

  • 26.

    In a somewhat broader sense than that here considered, this term is employed (with acknowledgments to Janet) by G. Murphy, op. cit., ch. vii.

  • 27.

    The classic treatment of the subject under the name of “sentiments” is A. F. Shand, The Foundations of Character, 1914.

  • 28.

    Isherwood, Prater Violet, Random House, Inc., 1945, p. 104–5.

  • 29.

    Cf. G. W. Airport's principle of “functional autonomy,” as set forth in his “Functional Autonomy of Motives,” in American Journal of Psychology, 50 (1937), reprinted in his Nature of Personality, 1950.

  • 30.

    R. R. Scars, “Personality Development in Contemporary Culture,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 92 (1948), p. 364.

  • 31.

    Cf. Stuart Chase's discussion of “the blocked goal” in Roads to Agreement, 1951, ch. iii.

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