Character and the Conduct of Life: Practical Psychology for Everyman

By William McDougall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
Human Nature

I HAVE pointed to one way in which the reading of literature that deals with human nature too often fails as an aid to self-criticism, discipline, development; namely, the reader neglects to apply to his own case the wise reflections, the striking illustrations, the dreadful and the fine examples of character and conduct in which such literature abounds. I do not wish to belittle the value of such reading. I hold that such reading, even the reading of second-rate novels, is a civilizing process, one that makes for less of crudity in our personal relations. I feel sure that many men who despise the reading of novels, as an occupation fit only for idle women, might by the practice of such reading be much improved as lovers, husbands and fathers, and might with advantage give to it a little of the time they devote to golf and bridge.

But there is another way in which such reading fails to do for the reader as much as might be hoped; namely, the language used in describing and discussing conduct and character is very vague and inadequate. The adjectives and substantives employed have no fixed meanings; each

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