Man, Morals and Society: A Psycho-Analytical Study

By J. C. Flugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
PSYCHOLOGY AND MORALS

THE present is an age in which it is difficult for the psychologist to escape some feeling of embarrassment, inferiority, or downright shame. Like others, he is conscious of the fact that society, through failing to solve sundry of its major problems, has got itself into a tragic tangle from which it can extricate itself only by a great effort of readjustment. More than others, however, is he aware that both the failures of the past and the problems of the present and the future are to a large extent psychological in nature: that they are to that extent a direct challenge to him, and that he is ill-equipped to meet this challenge --for, in spite of the progress that psychology has undoubtedly made during the last half-century, it is still lamentably backward when compared with the physical sciences, and provides at best a puny weapon with which to attack the vast and complex evils from which society is suffering. At such a juncture he must, if he is sensitive, feel somewhat like a doctor compelled to watch the life-or-death struggles of a patient whose malady he cannot fully diagnose and for whose treatment he can prescribe, if at all, from intuition rather than from insight. Like the doctor, however, he knows enough to understand something of the general nature of the disease and to realize that with further advance of his knowledge more competent diagnosis and prescription would be possible. Meanwhile, not without searchings of heart, he is likely to attempt some review of the relevant facts and theories at his disposal, all too conscious of their inevitable inadequacy, but with some hope that such a scrutiny of available data will reveal him, both to himself and to his fellow-men, as one who is not altogether doomed to gape idly and uselessly at the scene of human tragedy, but rather as one who can at least here and there make a promising suggestion or lend a helping hand in the work of salvage and of reconstruction.

It is pretty generally agreed that the problem of rebuilding our tottering society upon a sounder basis is to some extent a moral problem, in the sense that its solution depends upon an appeal to the moral impulses of men. If we are to make this appeal successfully, it would seem that we should know something of the origin and nature of these impulses. Now it happens

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