My selection is an article which will be found beginning on p. 817
of Ratner "Philosophy of John Dewey", The Modern Library, 1939
(other title of volume being "Intelligence in the Modern World", pp.
819-835). It was originally an address before the Annual Meeting
of the College of Physicians at St. Louis in 1937.
WE HAVE NO WORDS that are prepared in advance to be fit for framing and expressing sound and tested ideas about the unity of the human being, the wholeness of the self. If we ask an economist "What is money?" the proper official reply is that it is a medium of exchange. The answer does not stand in the way of a great deal of money being accumulated by using it to obstruct the processes of exchange. Similarly, we say that words are a means of communicating ideas. But upon some subjects--and the present one falls in this class--the words at our disposal are largely such as to prevent the communication of ideas. The words are so loaded with associations derived from a long past that instead of being tools for thought, our thoughts become subservient tools of words.
The meanings of such words as soul, mind, self, unity, even body, are hardly more than condensed epitomes of mankind's agelong efforts at interpretation of its experience. These efforts began when man first emerged from the state of the anthropoid ape. The interpretations which are embodied in the words that have come down to us are the products of desire and hope, of chance circumstance and ignorance, of the authority exercised by medicine men and priests as well as of acute observation and sound judgment.
Physicists had in the beginning a like problem. They are solving it by the invention of technical terms and a technical language. Symbols have, in principle, only the meanings that are put upon