Baltimore Evening Sun (6 February 1914): 6.
Of the 10 ladies and gentlemen who went to Annapolis yesterday to advocate the passage of the donkeyish Kenyon law, one was a trustee of Johns Hopkins University and two were members of the faculty of the medical school. There are two ways of interpreting this circumstance. On the one hand, it may be held that snoutery is growing more respectable, and on the other hand, it may be held that Johns Hopkins is growing less respectable. It would be interesting to hear an expert opinion on this point from, say, the University of Leipzig, or that of Heidelberg, or that of Vienna.
Friendly caution and summons of an anonymous contributor to the Letter Column:
Sir Lancelot, don’t you know you’re on the losing side? Can’t you discern the signs of the times?
Well, suppose I am? Suppose I can? What of it? Is there any special virtue in being on the winning side? If so, let’s hear it. Personally, I have always found it a great deal more exciting to lose than to win, and what is more, a great deal more soothing to the soul. Imagine a man winning with the mob behind him, or, say, the City Council, or the Society for the Suppression of Vice, or the salacious old deacons of the Anti-Saloon League! The immediate fruits of victory, true enough, would be his. He would be applauded, he would be esteemed, perhaps he would even get a good job. But consider the damage to his self-respect, the staggering psychic insult! How he would blush when he shaved in the morning--and looked into his mirror!
But what good is accomplished by combating the irresistible, the inevitable? For example, what good is accomplished by opposing prohibition, which is bound to triumph in Maryland within five years, and perhaps within two years? The answer is as simple as can be: no good is accomplished. Utilitarianism sees the enterprise as wasteful and vain, and hence as immoral. But while utilitarianism thus denounces it, hedonism approves it. That is to say, its objective uselessness is outweighed by its subjective pleasantness. Herein lies the beauty of philosophy: it is so full of contradictions that it affords excuse for every imaginable immorality. And herein lies the charm of life: that one man’s poison is another man’s meat.
Just why it is so all-fired agreeable to object to what the great bulk of “right-thinking” men regard as nice I do not profess to determine with accuracy. My own theory is that the feeling is based upon sound logical and psychological grounds: that the pursuit of the truth is inherently pleasant, and that the pursuit of the truth necessarily involves a conflict with the majority of men, who view it, at best, with suspicion, and at worst, with the most savage hostility. Some one has put the fact into a platitude: What everyone believes is never true. It was voiced by Paul in his famous saying, The truth shall make you free--i. e., shall release you from membership in the stupid and credulous mob.
All belief in the intelligence of the mob--which is to say, all democracy--is based upon the erroneous assumption that logic is instinctive in man, just as lying and theft are instinctive. Nothing could be more ridiculously untrue. The fact is that logic is one of the youngest of the arts and that relatively few men ever attain to any facility in its practice, even after the most painstaking instruction. Such rare men, I believe, tend, to increase just as the men who can read and write tend to increase, but the vast majority still labor under a congenital unfitness or incapacity. These inept ones, whose logical fingers are all thumbs, run the United States today. They believe that Friday is an unlucky day, that Peruna will cure catarrh, that a cat has nine lives, that one American militiaman would be a fair match for 10 Germans or 20 Frenchmen, that all rich men are rogues ipso facto and that univeral human appetites may be obliterated by a simple legislative fiat. They venerate Theodore Roosevelt as the male Jane Addams, and Jane Addams as the female Roosevelt, and both as profound and revolutionary thinkers.
One of the minor errors we make in considering the logical faculty is that of confusing it with mere education. The two things, of course, are wholly distinct, and in some ways even antagonistic. A man may have a mind richly stored with facts, and yet at the same time he may fall into error in the most elementary reasoning procosses. I offer as an example a distinguished member of the Johns Hopkins faculty, whose name and chair I charitably suppress. This gentleman, with the best intentions in the world, once composed a pamphlet that has since been widely circulated by interested persons. It covers but a few pages, but in those few pages the whole science of logic is reduced to madness. The learned professor jumps through syllogisms with the abandon of a hunter leaping a hedge. It would be impossible to imagine a wilder debauch of faulty premises and unwarranted conclusions. And yet the thing was composed seriously, and is accepted seriously by 99 readers out of every 100 today.
When we come to men less trained to purely intellectual processes, by reason, perhaps, of a preoccupation with emotional and hence unreasonable matters, we find even worse examples, if worse be possible, of logical burlesque and buffoonery. At the risk of seeming to push a point too hard, I cite again the astounding chain of reasoning whereby the Hon. Charles J. Bonaparte has established, to his own satisfaction, that all mem who oppose the hounding of miserable prostitutes are either frequenters of their studios or friends of their prosperity. This chain of reasoning, it may be said at once, has convinced not only the Hon. Mr. Bonaparte himself, but also many other persons. And yet, at bottom it is not only at war with the easily demonstrable facts, but also inherently unsound and ridiculous. Here we have a former Attorney-General of the United States--i. e., a recognized leader in a profession based upon logic--backing logic into into a corner and beating it to death.
And if there be any further desire to seek clinical material, and no objection is made to visiting the free wards wherein the lowly fight for life, I offer this column gladly. Herein one observes full oft that even an amateur, who ordinarily loves the art he practices. may maul it quite as mercilessly as a professional, who ordinarily hates it. Two or three weeks ago some kind gentleman informed the Letter Column that he had found no less than six separate logical absurdities in my compositions in one week. Obviously a blind man–or a humanitarian. My real score must be well over six a day, with a dozen on Blue Mondays.
Bitter cry of the Hon. Ed. Hirsch: All is lost, including honor!