Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
New Ways and Old to Talk About Men

I

From the reader of this essay I beg a simple and kindly, nay even an unsophisticated, consideration. I shall discuss ways of talking about men; and from time immemorial, ways of talking about men have been the broideries of human trouble.

It is not that I shall concern myself with racial hates, religious scorns, industrial loathings, or other hostile ways in which men in masses regard one another; it is rather with ways of speech about individuals, and very technical ways at that, ways of speech about individuality or personality as such. The need of a kindly approach is nevertheless just as great, for this field involves immortality and the mortal, minds and bodies, ideas and realities, powers and capacities, intelligences, geniuses, and originalities -- in short, an entanglement of speculations, beliefs, and faiths, concerning which prejudices may be as deep and arguments as bitter, though issues rarely so bloody, as in other and more immediately practical fields of human struggle.

Kindliness? yes: all serious effort to disentangle involved problems, no matter how faulty, deserves that. But what of a request for a simple, an unsophisticated, a naïve, consideration? I should like to write a preface on the importance of being naïve when one starts to study the life of men in society -- the importance of being so extremely naïve that all the professionally wise men of the world will laugh one to scorn: how it is because of the very plague of the age-old wise, with their brains a-spin, that one must become as a simple child if one wishes to learn of society: how the spider-webs of the wise must be torn, if the little one is ever to spread his wings. But instead of arguing in a preface, I shall exemplify in the essay. I shall be naïve. You may judge of the import.

This naïiveté will be signalized by its attitude toward intellectual sophistication, for it will regard all sophistication and all intellectualism as

____________________
From The Sociological Review, Vol. XXI, No. 3 ( October, 1929), pp. 300-314.

-37-

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