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Ethics and Culture.


Long before the time appointed for Prof. Adler to deliver his lecture on "Ethics and Culture," all the seats especially reserved for Harvard students as well as those open to the public, were filled by an eager audience. Prof. Adler was briefly introduced by Prof. James, and in an easy, slow and dignified manner began by defining the meaning of ethics and culture. The meaning of the first of these terms is definite and clear, of the latter, loose and vague. There are three marks of culture, literary tastes, aesthetic tastes and ease and freedom in the forms of polite society. One having these marks is esteemed cultured, and since they depend largely upon leisure and wealth the ideas of culture and wealth have come to be so nearly associated that some persons have doubted if they could be separated. But my words will be of little use unless they refute this common idea. If then it does not consist in fine things does knowledge fulfill all the requirements of culture? Many persons are perfect store-houses of condition whom we would not call cultured. The first incentive of knowledge is the desire to apply it, a char acteristic of the Anglo-saxon race, and while I am not disposed to stigmatise it in itself, yet when we come to consider science in itself, utility is not the thing to be taken into account alone.

The second motive of knowledge is the ambition to accomplish some great end. But many of the greatest men were quite indifferent to appearances or reception, of which a notable instance was Darwin.

The third motive of knowledge is the attempt to satisfy the intellectual appetite. Still even this motive cannot be wholly approved, since it is selfish and tends to destroy the balance and evenness of physical development. There is yet another motive-to extend the boundaries of knowledge by the truth-seeker, but this cannot be the right aim since the object truth is unattainable and it is not right for us to try to find what we cannot reach. Truth is unattainable because what we do know as certain compared to what we do not know is insignificant.

Life is like one great gymnasium where our various faculties are to be developed. However, more than athletes, we have enemies to confront, pain to bear, and burdens to lift. The soul is the one object which we own, and the rest is only secondary. The world exists that the divine company of human souls may rise and rise in strength. Those who subscribe to this view possess the best culture, and those who are true to this principal are cultured and none others. Culture is not in the possession of things mental and material, but the way in which we regard them.

The great majority of mankind is ruled by the external consideration of their actions and is not impelled by internal life. Some are controlled by public opinion so that they stoop to do vile things because others do. They are simply like atoms in a mass, drops that follow the current, who do not own their own souls. They are often afraid of losing their place in society, often their "gentlemanliness" stands in place of their "manliness. In our age, culture is regarded almost entirely as intellectual. This has its dangers. The danger is that it breeds a haughty reserve to the problems of life, fatal to all true enthusiasm. The desire of the cultured is often to be reflective spectators rather than ardent participators. In launching out on the sea of life, action is the discoverer of truth; practice will teach us how to proceed.

In closing my remarks, I wish to make a plea for moral earnestness because the world cries for a new influx for moral thoughts. Where are the moral teachers coming from? The professions and mercantile pursuits are all full. There is nothing which our country needs so much as moral health. Before any of the needed reforms can be made, we must have moral earnestness. There is a new profession which is empty-the profession of the moral teacher and the moral leader.

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