Graeco-Roman Institutions

Reich, Emil 1890. Graeco-Roman Institutions, From Anti-Evolutionist Points of View. Roman Law, Classical Slavery, Social Conditions: Four Lectures delivered before the University of Oxford. Oxford: Parker and Co.

The most superficial glance at the development of Western civilization cannot fail to notice that certain nations succeeded in maturing some branches of art to a degree of perfection unknown amongst other peoples. Thus sculpture was brought to its highest pitch of perfection by the Greeks; painting by the Italians and Spaniards; music by the Germans. Science, on the other hand, seems, to use the words of Goethe, to be a fugue, the successive parts of which are formed by the contributions of all nations, and while some nations may boast a greater number of meritorious scientists than others, no nation of Western civilization so completely excels its competitors in the domain of science, as do some in the realm of art. (Reich 1890: 3)

This has at no time been more true than now, and will hopefully continue to be even more true. I'm not sure if all nations have been brought into the fold, though. We can't say, for example, that all nations have a history of cinema, when Afghanistan started making movies this century.

This statement stands in need of no evidence; it is conceded on all hands. It stands, however, in need of an historical and technical explanation. (Reich 1890: 4)


In other words, the Greeks who were the teachers of the Romans in every branch of science and philosophy, were entirely unable to vie with their pupils as to legal science. Whence this remarkable and unexpected superiority of the Romans? How and why could they excel the most gifted nation of all ages in the cultivation of a science, the subject-matter of which was as familiar to the Greeks as to the Romans? For the Greeks were notorious pettifoggers, and there was scarcely a week but what a Greek took part in judicial proceedings, either as one of the numerous judges, or as a witness, or as one of the contending parties. (Reich 1890: 7)

Define:pettifogging - "placing undue emphasis on petty details; petty or trivial".

Are the Romans jurists so much more sagacious or shrewd than the jurists or other nations? Is their practical sense so much stronger, or do they combine theoretical comprehensiveness with practical adroitness in a superior way? (Reich 1890: 7)

Define:sagacious - "having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgement; wise or shrewd"; define:shrewd - "having or showing sharp powers of judgement; astute"; define:adroit - "clever or skilful".

The Romans never suffered their legal institutions to be interlarded with extraneous matter. From the earliest times down to the age of the Emperors, the Romans had a political institution that might have lent itself very easily to an undue interference with institutions of Private Law, after the manner of feudalism. I mean the Roman clientela. Roman client stood so their patroni in a relation not unlike that of a feudal tenant to his lord. They held estates from them, they were obliged to do homage and to discharge some of the duties implied in "feudal incidents." All this surely might have easily been used as a means to unduly influence the development of the Roman Law of real property. (Reich 1890: 9)

"The like holds good of countless idiosyncrasies, for example that tiresome I mean, or the happily nearly obsolete Don't yer know? with which shy and foppish youths are prone to interlard their conversation" (Gardiner 1932: 45-46).

Or take another great political institution of the Romans: I mean the two classes of patricians and plebeians. Nothing is more patent than the constant struggle of the plebeians with the patricians, and the marked difference in their political standing. Did this well-known difference exercise any influence on the private law of the Romans? Do we ever hear of an actio or private right being denied to a Roman because he is a plebeian? There is no trace either in the XII. Tables, or in any later legislation of any thoroughgoing or even important difference between the plebeians and patricians as to "civil" right (taking the word "civil" in its Roman sense) after the middle of the fifth century B.C. A plebeian could acquire real property, contract obligations, marry and will his property according to the same principles of Private Law as a patrician. (Reich 1890: 10)

Legal equality in the ancient world?

I have finally to say a few words about the relation of Roman Private Law to Ethics. Ethical and moral ideas have largely, and often unduly, influenced the unrestrained growth of Private Law. For although Private Law has close relations with Ethics, it contains and comprises leading ideas distinctly different from ethical ideas. Our obligations to a certain individual are quite different when arising from motives of friendship, and when caused by the duties of a legal contract. In fact the domain of Private Law is widely separated from the domain of Ethics. (Reich 1890: 12)

Sounds like Nicomachean Ethics, to be sure.

The principles laid down in this volume will afford ready help in almost every case of Private Law, because they emanate from Private Law alone, and have no tincture of non-legal elements. (Reich 1890: 13)

Define:tincture - "a slight trace of something".

It is the same case with the peculiarly Roman institution of "Patria potestas," which, although long obsolete as such, is still of practical value to all countries where Roman Law has been adopted, as we shall see in our next lecture. (Reich 1890: 14)

Latin: "power of a father". Patriarchy.

We have now to inquire what was the originating cause, [|] the vera causa of this marvellous Law? Why was it that the Romans alone were able to furnish their age and all subsequent ages with law-principles that were as completely divestede of non-legal elements as are the propositions in Euclid of non-mathematical? Before proceeding to a sketch of my view of the vera causa, it will be necessary to premise the views of others. (Reich 1890: 14-15)

Define:vera causa - "(in Newtonian philosophy) the true cause of a natural phenomenon, by an agency whose existence is independently evidenced."

Ihering proceeds to say that the Roman people had one pre-eminent trait of character, selfishness; and that their law is - the religion of selfishness. And this peculiar trait of character made them apt to carry out the promptings of their historical vocation. "The Roman world taken as a whole may be designated as the triumph of the idea of utilitarianism and practicability; [|] all her forces both of mind and character exist on behalf of utilitarian objects. Selfishness is the moving power of the whole; the whole of Roman virtues and institutions is the objectivation or the organism of national selfishness." (Reich 1890: 16-17)

Not in conflict with Nietzsche's "pathos of nobility and distance" and the ravings against altruism.

In the passage just quoted from Mommsen, he animadverts on the highly imperfect state of Roman [|] criminal law; how shall we now understand his "healthiness of the Romans?" (Reich 1890: 19-20)

Define:animadvert - "pass criticism or censure on; speak out against".

They will never come home to us; they will only be an undigested mass of learned texts, which we have to commit to memory through laborious study of the ancient and modern authorities. A clear understanding of the causes of Roman Law, on the other hand, facilitates our study of that Law most effectively. (Reich 1890: 21)

See an "indistinct mass" and "a vague uncharted nebula" (Nöth 1998: 337).

The main cause of the rise of Roman Private Law and its high perfection I take to be the Roman institution of Infamia. The Roman institution of Infamia was the fountain-head, or rather the chief motor and factor that brought about the majority of those legal institutions the sum total of which go to form the system of Roman Law. (Reich 1890: 21)

Oh snap.

Infamia in Latin means infamy, public disgrace. Savigny, whose chapter on Infamia is still considered the best extant treatise on this institution, says: "Infamia as the consequence of a criminal sentence became a general rule only by degrees." And this is the salient point of the world problem, the point to which I wish you to pay special attention. Certain trespasses entailed the punishment of public disgrace. The Romans, just as we, punished certain trespasses or offences with fines and loss of honour. A person convicted of theft is considered disgraced in our times. He is unable to hold a public office, and society will not receive him. That, therefore, the Romans were sensible of the disgrace inherent in certain offences appears very natural indeed. (Reich 1890: 22)

Thus, there is a legal history of for "renown". Note the easy parallel between "a person's security within the community's social net" (Senft 2009: 230), and being "received" by society.

This judgment put an indelible stain on the social life of the defendant; in fact, it made him a social outcast. And now compare the horrible consequence of this civil judgment with the indifferent consequence of the criminal conviction of an embezzler of public money! (Reich 1890: 23)

Looks like the tradition of punishing someone who stole $100 in quarters from a laundromat with a longer sentence than a a financier who stole millions is mighty fine.

Infamia was the loss of civil rights, of the jus honorum et suffragii. In other words: the person tainted with infamia was blotted out of the public and political life of Rome. He could stay in Rome; he could continue to ply his trade and sue his debtor in Rome; will his property, or marry a Roman woman. But in his public existence he was not only curtailed, but actually destroyed. He had no vote; he was not eligible to an office. (Reich 1890: 33)

Define:blot out - "to make obscure, insignificant, or inconsequential; wipe out, destroy". Is this not what's taking place today with deplatforming?

The free and independent Roman citizen enjoyed such immense privileges, his citizenhip possessed - as we shall see in a subsequent lecture - such an extraordinary value, that it was only both fair and natural that his personal conduct in private and public life should be subjected to a most rigorous superintendence. (Reich 1890: 35)

Is the Chinese citizen blessed with any additional value for having an automated superintendence?

A Roman house-son could not acquire only penny's worth of property for himself; every thing he acquired belonged to his father. In that startling dependence nothing was changed by his political position; he could be a consul, [|] a senator or praetor, yet unless his father had formally emancipated him he could not call one farthing his own. In other words: the Roman patria potestas, in its civil aspects, means a total disfranchisement of house-sons, who could nevertheless fill the highest posts of honour in the commonwealth. (Reich 1890: 36-37)

As feminists say, patriarchy hurts men, too. Click here to find out 6 Ways The Patriarchy Is Harmful To Men.

If, now, we discard all childish considerations, such as "patriarchal period," "race-character," or similar vagaries; and if we firmly hold to the self-evident belief in the substantial identity of human nature in all periods of history, we shall naturally ask: Why did Roman house-sons submit to a tyranny than which nothing seems more insupportable to our feelings? For, surely, the most pressing desire of every well-balanced young man of our time goes toward financial independence, and much as we all love our fathers, we crave for nothing more intensely than for earning our own living, and owning the proceeds of our industry and skill. (Reich 1890: 37)


The Roman commonwealth was a democracy, in which, as in all democracies, the fundamental principle of universal suffrage was eluded by a system of organized voting in classes. The voters of the first class recruited themselves from citizens possessing a certain wealth; the voters of the second class were citizens possessing a lesser wealth; and so forth. In addition to this class-arrangement, the first and second classes voted first, and since they had, as a rule, the majority of votes, - a vote being the collective result of the polling of a centuria, or subdivision of a class, - the lower or poorer classes seldom had a chance to cast a vote. In other words, Roman was a timocracy. Even after the class organization of the voters was somewhat changed through the combination of the comitia centuriata with the comitia tributa, the timocratic element of the Roman commonwealth continued to be predominant. Honour and power thus being dependent on the census, it was the ruling desire of every Roman to belong to the higher or wealthier "classes." To have a high census was equivalent to belonging to the really influential classes. (Reich 1890: 38)

Define:timocracy - "a form of government in which possession of property is required in order to hold office; a form of government in which rulers are motivated by ambition or love of honour". Modern U.S., with its voter restrictions, appears to be not that far off from a functional timocracy.

Thus the strong motive of economical independence was over powered by the still stronger motive of ambition. A Roman possessed only one kind of ambition: political. To be an influential member of the comitia, to fill one of the offices of the state, to be senator or general of the offices of the state, to be senator or general of the army were the chief objects of his ambition. To be baulked of the competition for these prizes was practically tantamount to being infamis, the very essence of infamia being the exclusion from the political arena. (Reich 1890: 39)

Something to keep in mind when looking at other notes on "ambition".

It would be uninteresting to rehearse the various opinions, which, as a rule, savor of the dust of learning rather than of the salt of common sense. (Reich 1890: 49)


A science is the result of a strong desire to systematize certain facts. Facts, as a rule, are extremely refractory and hate to be reduced to a systematic order under a few general "heads," and accordingly some of the simplest facts of the simplest of all sciences, mathematics, have successfully escaped the lasso of systematization or "scientification," so to speak; as, for instance, the prime-numbers, the law of their sequence being unknown. But if the desire of people to systematize a certain cluster of facts be very intense, they generally manage to so arrange or trim facts as a finally carry their point. (Reich 1890: 52)

Blunt and unobjectionable. Scientification sounds like my own clumsy "communicationalisation". Unwellformedness, eh.

So with the facts of Law. The facts of Law are, per se, no more willing to submit to the yoke of scientific generalizations, than the facts of fashion, or social conversation. (Reich 1890: 52)


These ancestors, however, if they could see how the law of Germany is completely taken out of the hands of the citizens, - with a slight exception in the administration of criminal law, - would scarcely retain their scornful laughter at a nation that was gullible enough to exchange the inestimable power of making its own law for the gewgaw of so called scientific systematization. (Reich 1890: 55)

Define:gewgaw - "a showy thing, especially one that is useless or worthless". For some reason these lectures are full of words that I'm apparently meeting for the first time.

But this very abundance of innumerable local and disparate polities; the very fact that the people of Germany were split into countless small "marks" and guilds, and still smaller political corporations, proved fatal to their liberty. Where people are immersed in atomic interests of petty corporations, public-spiritedness is on the wane. But since no country can dispense with the blessings of public-spiritedness, the burghers of Germany were not loth to welcome the constantly increasing meddlesomeness of their rulers. For, this meddlesomeness took the shape of broad public-spiritedness and paternal care for the general welfare. (Reich 1890: 57)

Am I ready for Jürgen Habermas's analysis of the public sphere? Probably not.

For reasons that cannot be discussed here, the whole intellect of Germany came to be concentrated in the German Universities. This in itself would not have been very harmful to the liberty of the people. Unfortunately, however, the Universities were solely founded by and dependent on the various rulers of Germany. With the unimportant exception of the University of Altorf, which was somewhat dependent on the free city of Nuremberg, not a single free city of Germany founded or endowed a University. This fact, - never noticed by German historians, although it had a vast influence on German civilization, - this fact brought the whole of German intellectual classes under the immediate sway of the princes. No man could fill the place of a teacher, clergyman, professor, lawyer or physician, without taking his degree at one of the Universities of the country. In other words: nobody could earn his living in one of the intellectual classes without obtaining leave and license from the ruler of the country. (Reich 1890: 58)

Something to keep in mind when reflecting upon the role of universities in our present day and foreseeable future (with its tendency towards privatisation).

The great and signal success of Darwinism in the domain of natural science has filled its adherents with just enthusiasm. The most radical opponent of the theories of Darwin, Haeckel, Huxley, Wallace and other eminent Darwinists cannot but acknowledge that many facts of morphology, botany, zoology and anthropology have been reduced to greater scientific order; and numerous facts hithero unknown have been discovered through the improved methods of Darwinism. To deny this would be to deny the most evident fact in modern science. Enthusiasm, however, is likely to carry away its devotees; and, accordingly, the fervent adherents of modern evolutionism were not satisfied with the laurels won in the sciences just named, but essayed to try their victorious concepts on problems that have previously been considered outside the pale of the naturalist. The puzzles of sociology, the enigmas of the rise and development of social institutions, they declared to be amenable to satisfactory solutions by means of ideas and concepts that proved so successful with regard to the physical frame of animals and plants. Religion, marriage-systems, kinship-systems, ceremonies, and laws were and are said to be problems that unbosom their mysteries to "natural selection," "survival of the fittest," "atavism," "theory of survivals," and the rest of Darwinian concepts with astounding willingness. We are taught, that in social institutions, as in animals and animal life, there is an uninterrupted process of evolution going on, one "stage" of civilization succeeding to another "stage," [|] the "higher" to the "lower," the "heterogeneous" to the "homogeneous;" that humanity was first what the savages of Africa and South America are at present; that by dint of more advanced ideas and greater "enlightenment" social institutions have been slowly improving; and that our present civilization, although containing many "survivals" of ruder and less "enlightened" times, is, by the very working of the principles of "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest," radically superior to the civilizations of either Greece and Rome or the Middle Ages. (Reich 1890: 65-66)

The puzzles of sociology find no explanation "in the vis inertiæ of habit, or in forgetfulness, or in a blind and fortuitous mechanism and association of ideas, or in some factor that is purely passive, reflex, molecular, or fundamentally stupid" (Nietzsche 1921: 1).

The evolutionist is in constant demand of enormous periods of time. He believes, that the small and incipient changes, that he is so sorely in need of, are sure to happen in one of the countless minutes of vast infinitudes of time. The incipient "variations" - this the killjoy of Darwinists - he cannot dispense with; at the same time, however, he [|] is unable to assign a definite time to their rise; and thus he drowns his doubts in the extremely plausible assumption, that the required incipient "variation" is more than likely to happen, provided we give it liberal chances of time. Now there is nothing cheaper than abstract time; and each of us is willing to grant any quantity of an object than which nothing is more inexhaustible. So it comes to pass that the vast periods of time demanded from the evolutionist have been willingly granted on all hands. (Reich 1890: 67-68)

Surely radiocarbon dating and other methods have made that abstract time a bit more concrete?

This may do, and no doubt does in natural science. But it will never do in the science of social institutions. The objects of the latter are distinctly and well-nigh essentially different from those of the former, in that they invariably refer to organized aggregates of individuals; whereas biology proper treats, as a rule, of individuals only. One fox does and acts exactly what a thousand foxes are doing and acting. The actions performed by one man, on the other hand, are totally different from the actions of organized aggregates of a thousand men. Sociology treats of aggregates of individuals, institutions being the outcome of the activity of aggregates. (Reich 1890: 68)

Another basic statement of the object of sociology. Reich's attitude towards animals, though, does not appear to go beyond those of his time and is very far from population ecology indeed.

Nations do not live in the jail of time; they live or try to live in the open grounds of eternity. Instead of wishing for the death of the unfit, they frequently so arrange matters as to care for nobody as lovingly as for the very people who are unfit for the struggle of life. And, vice versa; nations frequently pay the highest modes of worship to the very individuals that died an early death in the service of ideas maintaining the commonwealth of that nation. In what sense of the word can we say that Cæsar died? Was the effect of his actions, words, and writings lost like that of a dead fox? Could the bearing of every minute of his life on the Roman commonwealth be effaced by that accident on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., that mortals call the death of Cæsar? Nay, can the effects of the life of the least and most insignificant Roman be said to have vanished at all? Was not Rome the product of the Romans, and does not Rome still govern the world, or two thirds of it? (Reich 1890: 71)

Man, he really has it out for foxes, eh? Has no individual fox been recorded in history? Admittedly, popular culture is full of foxes, but finding actual individual foxes might take some time (I shall return to this).

By putting these questions, I mean to ask whether we possess a practical knowledge of the solution of these problems. And by practical knowledge I mean a knowledge that does not consist in learned quotations from authors only. (Reich 1890: 74)

This blog contains no practical knowledge.

In saying so you have said exactly and precisely what I hold to be the case, and accordingly I most heartily subscribe the opinion of the great scolder of mankind, of Schopenhauer, that he who has read Herodotus has read all history, the rest being variations on an old theme. (Reich 1890: 75)

All of history.

Look at modern Europe and America. What we are pleased to call European civilization par excellence, or, in other words, Western civilization, is characterized mainly by the vast preponderance of urban over village life. In the East of Europe, in Russia, Roumania, Hungary, Servia, &c., village-life preponderates enormously. In America, on the other hand, where nothing will surprise the traveller more than the high average intelligence of every single American, every American speaking United States, as they call English, with remarkable purity and absence of provincialism or false suffixes or affixes, - in America there is practically speaking no village-life at all; all Americans live in cities, that is in places with urban customs and institutions. The intimate contact of city life brings about an infinitely increased intensity of mental and emotional actions and reactions, and thereby a more rapid growth oi thoughts and activities of all kind. If we now apply this to Greece and Rome, we shall easily comprehend, that the astounding intellectual power manifestated in those commonwealths was mainly due to the fact, that living as they did exclusively in cities, their intellect had to undergo more powerful incitements than the intellect of nations whose members live in loose contact with one another. The Samnites in Italy, the Acarnanians in Greece are examples of nations who did not live in cities exclusively, and we all know that they were renowned for military valor but insignificant as far as civilization is concerned. Greeks and Romans were, on the whole, exclusively city-nations; that [|] is, the whole of the population was concentrated, as it were, in one city. You cannot lay sufficient stress on this one fact; for this one fact together with very few other facts of equal generality goes to make the fundamental layer of the gigantic fabric of classical civilization. (Reich 1890: 76-77)

Speak American, not United Kingdomese! The idea itself is known well enough, e.g. the correlation between tradie and social and technological progress.

In the antique state to abolish slavery was tantamount to abolish the state itself, tantamount to complete annihilation of the then only possible manière de vivre. It is puerile to speak of Aristotle, the author of the profoundest ethical writings, as of a benighted heathen with regard to the question of slavery. He considers slavery, classical slavery, as a matter of course; and so did the Christian teachers of the first three centuries. (Reich 1890: 81)

So it is still in countries like Mauritania.

Women after all have only one main vocation - love; and this the Greek and Roman women faithfully fulfilled. In our own days, when the political and social grandeur and splendour of the male individual has been dwarfed into pigmy shape, displaying the sallow complexion of an impoverished organism, in our days the ladies rightly feel that a change ought to be brought about - and we all know they vigorously proceed in achieving it. (Reich 1890: 83)

Not that much of an advancement from Nietzsche (1921: 94).

This retiring position of women brought about a remarkable feature of classical civilization - the lack of private life. Private life proper did not exist in Graeco-Roman times previous to the rise of Christianity, and not to a great extent in the first three centuries of our era. For private life cannot develop without women occupying a prominent position in it. The charms of private life are mainly the charms of social contact with women. But where public life is so intensely developed as it was in Greece and Rome, there private life has few chances of existence. Public and private life are complementary; they supplement one another. Wherever the arts and amusements of private life are carried to a high degree of perfection there public life must needs be on the wane; and vice versa. At the times of absolutism in continental countries of Europe, that is, at the times when the people did practically never meddle with or take part in the transaction of political business, their private life was evolving charms and attractions of the most captivating kind. It is no exaggeration to say that the Vienna valse has proved one of the strongest pillars of the Austrian dynasty. People so passionately fond of dancing are naturally averse to the practice of dry and prosaic politics, and thus the reigning dynasty has free scope. The same remark applies to modern France, into which a vigorous spirit of self-relying popular politics will be breathed only when Frenchmen will cease to be so enamored of their marvellous theatres, concerts, salons, and other amusements generally. (Reich 1890: 84)

Complementary to what McDougall writes about the sex instinct (cf. 1916: 400-401).

Classical religion, classical public religion, was a religion of the beautiful, a divinification of beauty in all the manifold manifestations of that ideal power. Beauty commands admiration; beauty [|] has a direct, immediate and elementary power over the emotions of people, and it is easily turned to public purposes. The ancients lacking the depths of individual private life were deficient in sympathy with the inner life of religious edification. (Reich 1890: 86-87)

Something along the lines of Jakobson's (polish) admonition that a beautiful work of art "grabs" attention.

Nothing promoted the Byzantine Empire so efficaciously as the elaborate net of administrative offices which they cast over every single one of their provinces. These offices were filled with ambitious people from the provinces who thus felt attracted to the reigning dynasty with bonds of strong interest. (Reich 1890: 88)

Another variation on "bonds". Here, unlike the Romans, the Byzantines enabled the provinces to promote administrators from their midst.

Let me premise a general statement, in order to be on clear terms with every single lady and gentleman who honour me to-night with their presence: I do believe in a divine origin of Christianity; I add: I do believe in a divine origin of all institutions of mankind. Their roots extend into the realm of that power that all of us are agreed to call divine. (Reich 1890: 91)

Indeed the very opposite of Nietzsche.

We all know that in the first century of our era many a high-minded thinker and reformer tried to recast the frame of society and to turn the minds of people into new channels of thought. Such a mind, e.g., was Appolonius of Tyana. Why did none of them succeed? Why was it that of all these reformers, Christian teachers alone succeeded? (Reich 1890: 91)

A vivid metaphor: society as a high-rise building with a metal frame. It doesn't very well work with "channels", which evoke the waterways, but still, made me rethink the word "framework".

The Roman Empire sinned chiefly in that it did not employ women and the majority of men in pursuit of interests of a higher order. Men do crave for the ideal. In the long run people will not be satisfied with the machine-like routine of every-day life without satisfying their higher aspirations. But you will ask me, why was it thta women and the majority of men were so long content with living an insignificant life? Why was it that those women and men did not aspire to a higher position before the first century of our era? To this there is a very simple answer: By the first century of our era the legislation of Rome had loosened the fetters of women, and of men in bondage, to a very considerable extent. Women, housewives, were no longer kept in the strict seclusion of former centuries, and the absolute rights of ownership, the right of use and abuse in slave, was toned down to a human right. The next consquence of this was that women began to assert their rights as individuals. They desired to play some rôle in the actual world of Rome. But this world had no place for women. Antique civilization was not only a city-civilization, but an exclusive male civilization. (Reich 1890: 92)

Mechanization - making machine-like. Automatic ~ insignificant; defamiliarized ~ significant.

No sooner were laws issued that did away with the retired position of women, than the women, like all newly emancipated people, strove to be given a more prominent part in the commonwealth. This desire was more than amply satisfied by Christianity. In Christian communities women played a very important part; a Christian woman was essentially different from a heathen woman. She attended the frequent public church-meetings of men; she was expected to exhort, to teach her husband and her family. This increased importance of women was a great factor in the general development of Christianity. (Reich 1890: 92-93)

It feels like "communion" is implied in "public church-meetings".

This organization, however, the Christian teachers learned [|] from the system invented by the Romans. The Roman influence on Christianity is more strikingly illustrated by the very name of the adherents of the new creed. The Greek name of Christian is χριστιανός. Did it ever occur to you that this is no Greek form, or rather a late, and evidently Romanised form of a derivative? The New Testament was first written in Greek, and so were the Acts, where this word first occurs. But it was evidently framed after a Roman word, the ending ιανος being an un-Greek form. (Reich 1890: 93-94)

Yet another improvement over Nietzsche, who writes that "In the New [Testament], on the contrary, just a hostel of petty sects, pure rococo of the soul, twisting angles and fancy touches, nothing but conventicle air, not to forget an occasional whiff of bucolic sweetness which appertains to the epoch (and the Roman province) and is less Jewish than Hellenistic" (Nietzsche 1921: 156-157).

It is the distinctive sign and mark of classical antiquity that the pure emotional forces of men, - of a restricted number of men, it is true, were the ultimate safeguard and bulwark of the state. (Reich 1890: 95)

Profound but unsubstantiated.

Greek Antiquities

Mahaffy, John Pentland 1896. Greek Antiquities. With Illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd. [First Edition 1876]

The private life of the Greeks seems in fact to us a curious mixture of cruelty and kindness, of rudeness and refinement. We shall find, accordingly, as we describe it, that both their life and temper had as distinct a character as the life and temper of each of the nations which are around us nowadays. (Mahaffy 1896: 8)

Oppositions, oppositions.

Their Quick Sympathies. - As we might expect from people in good health, they were happy in their temper, and ever ready to enjoy themselves, while their own natural good taste and beauty made them keen judges of beauty in other things, and very impatient of ugliness. In fact they set so much store upon beauty, that they were even known to worship it, and were usually disposed to think it the same thing as goodness, if not superior. If they wished to say of a man that he was a perfect gentleman, [|] they said he was "fair and good" (καλοκάγαθός), meaning by fair, not only fair in his condict, but in his looks, and meaning by good, not only good in character, but in birth. They also speak of it as a curious thing, that Socrates was a great and a good man, though he was very ugly. (Mahaffy 1896: 8-9)

"The physical attractiveness stereotype is a tendency, described by psychologists, to assume that people who are physically attractive also possess other socially desirable personality traits."

Their Reasonableness. - No doubt these very quick sympathies would have constantly led them astray, but for the great reasonableness which was another strong point in the nation. They insisted upon discussion and understanding things, upon hearing both sides, and were generally satisfied to be led by the majority. It was this quality which made them, in politics, love councils and cities, and hate tyrants and solitude; in art it made them love symmetry and proportion, and hate vagueness and display. It made them also in literature love clearness and moderation, and hate both bombast and sentimentality. (Mahaffy 1896: 9)

They were prone to the opposite of phatic communion, then.

They always had a strong bent for power, and for money as the key to power, and were not scrupulous as to the means they employed to obtain either. They were not truthful, but were ready to tell lies and to deceive for their own advantage. (Mahaffy 1896: 9)

If you want to make money, go into politics.

For in spite of all differences, there was ever a striking unity in the Greeks, which made them feel quite distinct from all other people and quite superior to them; and this feeling, like a sort of great freemansory, was a bond which united the most distant Greeks, whenever and wherever they met. Thus the merchants of Massilia in Gaul and Trapezus near the Caucasus, of Olbia on the Euxine, and Cyrene in Africa, met as fellow countrymen, and talked together with ease, while the other nations of the earth held intercourse with difficulty. This is that unity of the Hellenic race of which Hellenes were so proud, unity which was shown in a common language, a common religion or religious, in great national feasts, and in a general contrast to all the other world as mere barbanians. Perhaps the most kindred feeling we now can compare with it, is that of all English-speaking people in all parts of the world, when they met among foreigners, as they call those who speak any other tongue. The pride which they feel in their Anglo-Saxon race and language is not unlike the national spirit of the Greek. (Mahaffy 1896: 11)

Doesn't some feeling of superiority describe all nationalities? The unity formed by language, religion, and festivities detail the "community of knowledge" (cf. Trotter 1921: 119).

In old days the fear of pirates and plunderers, in later days the taste for talking and for politics, kept men from staying in the country, and brought them into the towns, where they found safety and society. (Mahaffy 1896: 12)

Note the easy association between talking and politics (politics consists, on the examples of Hitler and Trump, in the ability to talk to a large crowd for two hours straight).

At first the gods has been worshipped in the form of rude stones, or of trees, sometimes carved roughly into the form of an image. There had been an altar before the god, but no covering or temple. But when the Greeks began to carve marble statues, and offer rich gifts to their gods, it was necessary to provide them with a more permanent shelter. (Mahaffy 1896: 21)

How can stones be rude, you ask? I think he means those busts with genitals, herma.

But even there trade, gossip, and gymnastics filled up the day. In Sparta, too, silence and extreme modesty were taught to the young, and even in conversation men were taught to ponder a long time, and then give utterance to their thoughts in the shortest and pithiest shape, somewhat like what we find described at state meetings of North American Indians. But this must be looked on as an exceptional case, and all over the rest of Greece, ordinary life was much more like the life lived at Athens, than the life lived at Sparta. (Mahaffy 1896: 25)


When to be used, it was often strained and cooled with snow, and always mixed with a good deal of water. Half-and-half was the strongest mixture allowed among respectable people, and th use of pure wine was rejected as low and dangerous, and only fit for northern barbarians. In the present day the wines of Greece, which are strong, are distasteful to the natives and even to travellers without water, and this natural consequence of a southern climate is increased by the strong flavour of fir-tree resin, which the Greeks add to almost all their wines. (Mahaffy 1896: 33)

A piece of common knowledge.

In some states, such as Sparta, it was said that the nobles, or conquering race, divided the land so as to leave the greater portion in equal lots for themselves to be worked by their slaves or dependants, and a smaller portion to the former owners, who were obliged to pay a rent to the state. But of course no such equality of lots, if ever carried out, could last. In all states we find the perpetual complaint that property had come into the hands of a few, while the many were starving. (Mahaffy 1896: 35)

Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders.

Nor could a household exist (except perhaps in Sparta) without the master. If he died, his widow became again the ward of her father or eldest brother, or son; and so strongly was this sometimes felt that men on their deathbeds betrothed their wives to friends, who were likely to treat them and their orphan children with kindness. (Mahaffy 1896: 45)

Extreme patriarchy.

The dowry seems to have been partly intended as a useful obstacle to divorce, which required its repayment, but we find that heiresses made themselves troublesome by their airs of importance, and this is referred to in Greek literature, in which men are frequently advised not to marry above them in wealth or connections. As all citizens were considered equal in birth, and as marriages with aliens were illegal and void, we do not hear of advice to young men not to marry beneath them. To marry a poor citizen girl was always considered a good deed, and is commended as such. (Mahaffy 1896: 49)

An endorsement of hypergamy.

But for grown people, we do not find many games, properly speaking, played for the game's sake, like our cricket. There was very simple ball playing, and, of course, gambling with dice. Of gymnastic exercises I will speak separately. (Mahaffy 1896: 52)

"For the difference between play and work or 'serious' activities strikes every one" (Shand 1914: 287).

The more advanced teaching of reading and writing was done by the γραμματικός, whose house was called, like that of philosophers and rhetoricians, σχολή, a place of leisure. (Mahaffy 1896: 54)

Ages of leisure.

In aristocratic societies all work in the way of trade or business was despised by the landed gentry, and idleness was called the sister of freedom. In such states (as, for example, in Sparta) the pursuit of a trade often disqualified a man from political rights, and in any case, deprived him of all public influence. This feeling did not die out even in the complete democracies of later days, and there was always a prejudice in the Greek mind against trades and handicrafts, because they compelled men to sit at home and neglect the proper training of the body by sports, and the mind by society. (Mahaffy 1896: 62)

Nice. Of the variety, "sleep is the cousin of death", though the latter has mythological underpinnings.

There was also in almost all democracies special encouragement, in the absence of crown lawyers, for any citizen to denounce any violation of the laws which he could detect. This gave rise to a profession called sycophancy, which usually degenerated into that of a spy or informer; and such men constantly extracted money from rich people and from politicians by threats of accusation. (Mahaffy 1896: 69)

Define:sycophancy - "obsequious behaviour towards someone important in order to gain advantage". Define:obsequious - "obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree". Not exactly the same.

Social Amusements. - By way of transition to the religion of the Greeks, a word may be said upon their social intercourse of a lighter kind. This may be divided into Entertainments, Visits, Athletic Meetings and Festivals, if we may separate, for arrangement's sake, things usually combined. (Mahaffy 1896: 72)

Somewhat broader than "social intercourse" is commonly portrayed.

There were besides professional makers of amusement, jesters who came in uninvited (parasites), and were made the butt of the company, jugglers who performed their tricks, and even had a sort of ballet danced by their attendants. (Mahaffy 1896: 74)

Simple but striking.

But we are bound to add that in addition to all the splendour of the Festivals and Athletic Contests, there was the usual collection of mountebanks, jugglers, thimble-riggers, and other bad characters, who now frequent horse races. This was so much the case in later days, that Cicero indignantly denies the report that he had gone to the Olympic Games, just as some sober divine might now object to being seen at the Derby. On the other hand we must regard the home festivals in each Greek city among the most humane and kindly institutions in their life. They corresponded to our Sundays and holydays, when the hard-worked and inferior classes are permitted to meet, and enjoy themselves. (Mahaffy 1896: 79)

Subtly bringing holy communion closel to phatic communion.

Such were Pan, the shepherd god, who was the cause of those terrors still called panics, the nymphs of wells, the hamadryads of trees, and the river gods. (Mahaffy 1896: 85)

I wonder if this has anything to do with the association between crowds (herds) and panic.

General Character of Religious Worship. - As in every other religion, prayer is the leading feature of Greek religion. But when the Greek raised his hands to the gods at their temple, he sought to conciliate them by sacrifices of oxen, goats, or other animals, as well as with incense, and thought them bound in fairness to hear him. The animals were at times wholly burnt (holocausts), at others partly, and the remainder used for a religious feast. (Mahaffy 1896: 87)

"The word Holocaust is derived from the Greek holokauston, a translation of the Hebrew word ʿolah, meaning a burnt sacrifice offered whole to God." (Britannica.com)

Litigants accordingly used all manner of devices to excite the sympathy and commiseration of the dicasts; they wept in court, they brought their little children with them, they appealed to past good deeds, and raked up scandal against their adversaries. (Mahaffy 1896: 92)

Beyond mere pity.

Homicide, for example, or drun kenbrawling, provided no magistrate was assaulted, was atoned for by satisfying the injured people or their relatives; nor did the State interfere with such a settlement, except to prevent any public pollution by means of guilt. (Mahaffy 1896: 96)

Was that a hiccup?

Feeling, Cognition, and Conation

Stout, G. F.; J. Brough and Alexander Bain 1889-1890. Symposium: Is the Distinction of Feeling, Cognition, and Conation Valid as an Ultimate Distinction of the Mental Functions? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 1(3): 142-156.

The first meaning given to the phrase "mental function" is based on a logical analysis of the constituent conditions of consciousness according to which it involves: (a) a subject which is conscious, (b) an object of which it is conscious, and (c) the relation between them which, regarded as a function of the subject, may be called the state or act of being conscious. It is maintained that the ultimate distinction between mental functions is not a distinction between different kinds of objects or between different modes of behaviour on the part of objects. It is rather a distinction between different ways of being conscious - different relations in which the pure ego may stand to one and the same object. The same presentation may, it is contended, be an object both of intellectual apprehension and of desire. The difference is purely a difference in the attitude of the subject. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 142)

Both semiosis and discernment are, thus, "mental function" going by another name. As these distinctions pervade functional linguistics, it may be said that the latter, too, are nothing more than the attitude taken by the conscious subject. This is why it should be taken as false to view any given utterance to carry an intrinsic function of one type or another - it is up to the interpreting consciousness to determine the function - or, better yet, functions in plural, with their interrelations and "hierarchy".

Among recent English writers on Psychology there is only one, so far as I know, who has definitely taken up this position. Dr. Ward recognises three distinct and irreducible facts - attention, feeling, and objects or presentations. Attention and feeling are functions of the subject, and as such stand in a relation of exclusive antithesis to objects and their interactions. This division by no means coincides with that into intellect, feeling, and volition. Attention is regarded as the subjective function common both to intellect and volition. The difference between them is constituted by the difference in the nature of the object attended to, according as these are motor or sensory. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 143)

This is arguable. The conflation of attention and intention marks both out as Secondness. Though it must be questioned why feeling is excluded from attention - can we not attend to our feelings or control them through volition?

I do not, however, intend to deny that there is a sense in which intellectual apprehension, feeling, and volition can be legitimately regarded as subjective functions. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 144)


It is represented as striking in upon the flow of ideas so as to combine, separate, strengthen, repress or otherwise modify the contents of consciousness. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 145)

Reads like a list of operations involved in the association of ideas.

On one of the leading questions connected with our present subject the delivery of introspection is decided and unambiguous. Feeling on the one hand, and intellectual presentation on the other, are for consciousness fundamentally and irreducibly distinct. Presentations in the limited application of the word are capable of synthesis and analysis; they form wholes of discriminated and interrelated elements. They are capable of being reproduced and associated; in other words they may recur again and again in clear consciousness, and they tend to recur in the same combinations. Feelings, on the other hand, are transient concomitants of ever fluctuating conditions. They are incapable of being directly identified and distinguished, or of being constituent parts in a totality of discriminated and interrelated elements. Inasmuch as they cannot be identified as the same at different times, it is meaningless to speak [|] of them as being reproduced or associated. It will, I think, be found that these statements are strictly and universally true, if we take due care to distinguish between pure feelings of pleasure and pain on the one hand, and the vague modifications of organic and muscular sensation which accompany them on the other. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 146-147)

I am not at all sure that modern neuroscience would back up this absolute distinction between feeling and thought. While I would agree that feelings "are incapable of being directly identified and distinguished", as I have argued many times against the notion that all emotions necessarily have (identifiable) objects (per Brentano), I am at the same time sure that feelings can be reproduced and associated wilfully.

We have to consider whether, as thus defined, intellect, feeling, and volition, are ultimate mental functions. It is possible to regard intellect as a special development of feeling or volition? Can volition be properly regarded as a special modification of intellect or feeling? Is it legitimate to treat feeling as an outgrowth of volition or intellect? Each of these questions must, I think, be answered decidedly in the negative. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 148)

I am still unable to shake what I heard from a random philosophy podcast, that thought might be an epiphenomenon - that what we call "thinking" is completely explained away by the interplay of feeling and volition.

The part played by motor activity in giving unity to mental action is quite as important as the part it plays in producing change, although, as far as I am aware, no psychologist has explicitly noticed the point. The unity of the individual consciousness seems to depend on the successive salience and dominance of special presentations which constitute in turn the focus of the total mental activity from moment to moment. This is expressed in ordinary language by saying that we can only think of one thing at a time. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 149)

Sounds exactly like the experiments conducted by Peirce in the first American psychology laboratory.

I finally come into nearest sympathy with Professor Bain. He adopts at the outset, a threefold classification of Mental States, and declares Volition a distinct fact from Feeling (Senses and Intellect, p. 2); distinguishes Volition from Feeling as superadding the characteristic of energy put forth (p. 5); describes, in a threefold aspect, the several detailed states (p. 74); remarks the failure of Herbart to ignore the primitive character of Volition (p. 670); and assigns activity as a cause which gives to our sensations the character of compounds, while itself is a simple and elementary property (Emotions and Will, p. 303). Yet finally he regards the modes of Consciousness growing up in the course of voluntary action as all either emotional or intellectual (p. 554), and admits as feasible a certain approach to a unity in mind by treating Volition as a complex fact made up of feeling and bodily activity (p. 557). Volition, then, may be a unique fact of consciousness, just as Association might be, but is not a unique element, mode, or function. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 153)

Bain does indeed seem to be the main culprit. I shall have to make a foray into his books.

That the ultimate constituents of mind are three, and no more than three, is the first point for discussion. To deny this is to maintain either that two of the alleged constituents can be resolved into one, or that the three taken together are not exhaustive, and must be supplemented by some fourth mode of mental agency. (Stout, Brough & Bain 1889-1890: 154)

Aesthetics, free play, and spirituality are all historical candidates (though admittedly not "mutually exclusive"). Besides raising the question of collapsing the three into two and the impossibility of adding a fourth, this symposium was a dud, a dead end.

A Critical Analysis of Malinowski

Fox, Robert Bradford 1944. Bronislaw Malinowski: A Critical Analysis. Masters Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas.

The author would like to express his gratitude to the following people: [...] To Dr. Clyde Kluckhohn, of the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, for his brilliant article in Philosophy of Science, which directly stimulated this thesis. (Fox 1944)

This must be "The Place of Theory in Anthropological Studies" (Kluckhohn 1939).

Statement of the Problem: The purpose of this study is to carefully and critically examine the methodologies and preconceptions of Bronislaw Malinowski. [...] I am using "preconceptions" in the Veblenian sense; that is, to denote a priori, prejudiced beliefs - beliefs held in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary. (Fox 1944: 1)

Very well put. Malinowski's "preconceptions" (especially concerning "primitive mentality", moreover in "our own uneducated classes") are a constant source of trouble for anyone attempting a closer examination of his theories.

A brief discussion at this point of Wilhelm Wundt's theories and contributions might possibly clarify some of Malinowski's subsequent viewpoints. Wundt is best known in psychology as the father of "physiological psychology, a new and experimental psychology that should apply the methods of science to the problems of the mind" (Boring). Because "Wundt was probably the most complete expression in [|] his time of the scientific forces that were remaking psychology" (Murphy), he "approached the problem of primitive mentality with a far broader and deeper equipment in scientific method than did Spencer, Tylor, or Frazer" (Goldenweiser). Wundt, foreshadowing the social-psychological behaviorism of G. H. Mead, Dewey, Hull, and others, "realized that the psychological foundations of civilization cannot be sought in the isolated individual, but that the group always actively co-operates in the production of attitude and ideas" (Goldenweiser). His psychology, however, is broadly classified by Boring as associationistic sensationism. Wundt attacked the "rationalism" of Tylor and others; that is, he attacked the concept that the whole universe is rational and that man's mind is also rational, being a mere reflection of the rational environment. Wundt escaped the errors of philosophical "individualism," realized that "with reference to the individual, the group (the 'others') was the carrier of habit, of traditon. It set the pattern and held the individual to it. And patterns, historically transmitted, are culture. Culture, then Wundt taught, was a group product, a creation of the folk. As a culture-maker the individual was part of the folk, and only for purposes of analysis could he be separated from it, and then only with difficulty" (Goldenweiser). Wundt, unlike many of the contemporary American and English writers, was never a unilinear social evolutionist, always insisting upon the complexity of evolution. Furthermore, he did a great deal to purge the study of man of mysticism, insisting upon the "folk-psychological nature of language, art, mythology, religion" (Goldenweiser). Wundt's specific contribution to anthropology was, of course, Elements of Folk Psychology, published in 1916. (Fox 1944: 7-8; ff)

Not at all surprised to see anti-rationalism pop up yet again (this is a rather frequent occurrence in my recent readings related to Malinowski). Wundt was on my reading plan but now I know specifically where to begin.

In Sex and Repression in Savage Society, Malinowski expressed his indeptedness to such Gestalt psychologists as C. Lloyd Morgan and Köhler. (Fox 1944: 8)

Wolfgang Köhler, born in Reval (now Tallinn).

In conclusion, let us reiterate the five significant formative influences in Malinowski's life:
  1. the influence of his cosmopolitan and aristocratic background;
  2. the influence of his scientific training in physics and mathematics;
  3. the early influence of the associationistic-sensationistic [|] psychology of Wundt;
  4. the influence of comparative economics; and
  5. the later influence of the Gestalt school and the behavioristic-functional trend in psychology, as well as the related pragmatic trend in philosophy. (This factor, altough of the greatest significance, is almost altogether overlooked in other criticisms.)
(Fox 1944: 13-14)

The aristocratic background accounts for his classism; his training in physics (e.g. Mach) for his idiosyncratic theory of action, Wundt (alongside McDougall and Shand, no doubt) for his primary interest in social psycology, comparative economics for his interest in the kula, and finally... Dewey.

Before discussing Malinowski's contributions to a science of anthropology, let us first question: "What is science to Malinowski?" In the first place, Malinowski does not consider mere fact gathering as science, but conceives of science as being an organized system of relationships. As G. H. Mead brings out in the following quotation:
Science always tries to state an organized system of relations, but it never states the character of the object in itself apart from its relations. [...] You cannot deal with a body just by itself and find out what it is and so build up a system; you have to state it in terms of its relation to some system there. Now it is these necessary relations between bodies with which science is occupied. (Mead 1938: 80)
It was such a conceptual basis that led Malinowski to reject the "atomic" or "piecemeal" work of Westermarck, Tylor, and others, and to formulate the so-called "functional" approach. (Fox 1944: 15-16)

This makes a lot of sense in light of how he formulates phatic communion: not as a thing in itself but in relation with (in fact, as a negation of) the pre-existing system of "mental functions", then re-formulated as speech functions by Bühler, Ogden & Richards, etc. Mead's The Philosophy of the Act still not freely downloadable.

In this thesis, I shall use the term "marginal peoples," "marginal groups," or "marginal societies," rather than the terms "primitive peoples," "savage peoples," etc. By "marginal peoples" is meant all peoples who have not yet acquired modern western technology to any significant degree. That is, "marginal peoples" are marginal to modern technological societies. This, I believe, to be the real distinction between the so-called "savage man" and the so-called "civilized man." This same distinction is implicit, although usually unrecognized, in all comparative anthropological works which deal with the subject of man. The term used in this sense does not have "geographical" implications. "Marginal peoples" is a more satisfactory terminology than "primitive peoples," "savage peoples," etc., precisely because it does imply technological differences rather than psychological differences. And, of course, the former is the actual locus of the differences. (Fox 1944: 24; ff)

Completely sensible.

The argument that theories are pernicious to valid field-work is repeatedly attacked by Malinowski. He first notes that "the field worker relies entirely upon inspiration from theory," and "foreshadowed problems are the main endowement of a scientific thinker, and these problems are first revealed to the observer by his theoretical studies." (Fox 1944: 36)

This, too, bears out in Malinowski's work as far as I'm concerned: for the concept of phatic communion relies less on field-observations (in fact contradicts these in several ways) than on theoretical formulations by the likes of Dewey and Trotter.

The functional approach, as has been noted briefly above, is concerned with the interaction between the organism and the environment. Before systematically analyzing Malinowski's use of functionalism, let us inquire into the relationship of functionalism in anthropology, as used by Malinowski, to the uses of functionalism in other fields of inquiry. This is important because, I believe, that the concept of functionalism as used by Malinowski was stimulated by fundamental developments in psychology and philosohpy. Support for this analysis will not be found in anthropological texts; not because it is untrue, but because the orthodox anthropologist is artificially departmentalized when it comes to philosophical and psychological questions. In other words, although anthropology is in many ways the least provincial [|] of the sciences because of its generalized nature, it has purposively overlooked for the most part methodological develpoments in psychology and philosophy. What were the developments in philosophy and psychology which stimulated the functional method in anthropology? In the first place, I do not believe that Malinowski's functional beliefs stem, as Lowie suggests Radcliffe-Brown's do, from Durkheim, but from the American school of functional psychology. (Fox 1944: 63-64)

"Fox specifically denied that Malinowski's functionalism was influenced by Durkheim and tried instead to prove that it was derived from the writings of Dewey and Mead" (Symmons-Symonolewicz 1959: 26; footnote 52).

Malinowski makes repeated referenc to the leaders of the "schools" mentioned above - John Dewey, G. H. Mead, Clark Hull, and others - which would substantiate the contention that he was influenced by the American school of functional psychology, and later on by the behaviorists and the pragmatists. The whole thesis of Sex and Repression in Savage Society is suggested in Dewey in Human Nature and Conduct, from which Malinowski took his frontispiece. In Coral Gardens and Their Magic, reference is made to Dewey's pragmatic treatment of language in Experience and Nature. Malinowski notes as complementary to his treatment of language that of G. H. Mead, who "expounds a general theory of language from a moderate behaviouristic point of view." (Malinowski 1935: 60) Mead's whole treatment of language is, incidentally, the most intensive and suggestive of the works in this field, and far exceeds in attainment that of Malinowski. (Fox 1944: 66)

This overview doesn't even include what Malinowski took from How We Think (Dewey 1910).

Compare this with Dewey's statement in Logic, p. 27: "Hunger, for example, is a manifestation of a state of imbalance between organic and environmental factors in that integration which is life. [...] A state of tension is set up which is an actual state (not mere feeling) of organic uneasiness and restlessness. This state of tension (which defines need) passes into search for material that will restore the condition of balance. [...] The matter ingested initiates activities throughout the rest of the animal that lead to a restoration of balance, which, as the outcome of the state of previous tension, is fulfilment." (Fox 1944: 69; ff)

Something to add to that "strange and unpleasant tension" which I'm dealing with.

New approaches are being tried in field-anthropology in order to eliminate the personal friction of a strange observer. One such approach is that recently used by Leo Simmons in presenting Sun Chief. (Fox 1944: 82)

This friction is another significant factor in my own particular research object, and pertains to what I should call the "unreliable informant" hypothesis (or something to this effect).

The historical and field-data act as a check on the introspective nature of the individual's description and interpretation. Material collected in this manner provides a wealth of knowledge about social-psychological behavior. Simmons could provide, for example, a "situational analysis" of most [|] of Don's actions. From the autobiograhic sketch could be drawn the motivation and "tone" of each act. The autobiographic approach is certainly an excellent manner for investigating personality problems - to find out how an individual feels, thinks, behaves; the approach will become more valuable as the studies become more numerous. (Fox 1944: 82-83)

Something clearly lacking in the analysis of the "context of situation".

Far more interesting and significant theoreticall than the relationship of language to "Functionalism" is Malinowski's "pragmatic" treatment of language. The term "pragmatic" as used here by Malinowski means "that words in their primary and essential sense do, act, produce and achieve." To my knowledge Malinowski's first thorough "pragmatic" treatment of language is found in the Supplement of The Meaning of Meaning. Here Malinowski states egotistically that he had arrived at the concept of language "as a mode of action" through separate field inquiry, realizing independently as did "Messrs. Ogden and Richards, Dr. Head, Dr. Gardiner" the basic psychological considerations of language and treating it as an "indispensable element of concerted human action." Despite Malinowski's boast, we suspect that he was already under the influence of the pragmatic and functional schools at the time that he wrote the Supplement. (Fox 1944: 94)

Who's Head?

Malinowski, first of all, considers language as an active mode of human behavior rather than as a reflective or cognitive mode. Words, for example, should be studied for their dynamic rather than for their intellectual functions. Language is a tool, and like all tools when in use, involves action. Language is primarily an instrument of action. (Fox 1944: 94)

It appears that Fox did not catch that the notion of reflection, too, came from Dewey.

Malinowski states that "the sacredness of words and their socially sanctioned inviolability are absolutely necessary to the existence of social order," and that "if promises and contracts were not regarded as something more than flatus vocis, social order would cease to exist in a complex civilization as well as in a primitive tribe." (Fox 1944: 100)

And "so with equal necessity will he have to heed of his foot ready for the lean and empty jackasses, who promise when they have no business to do so" (Nietzsche 1921: 43-44).

Malinowski clearly showed the connection between language and activity. "Meaning" arises through doing. Language is a form of social behavior. That is, words can be understood only in the stimulus-response situation. (Fox 1944: 107)

A general truism.

Both fundamentally agree that the goal of anthropology is to establish "laws," or generalizations if you wish, about cultural behavior. Generalizations which will have universal validity. Malinowski, however, remained an "ethnographic provincial" despite his intentions, while Radcliffe-Brown, at one time or another, formulated many provoking generalizations. It has been suggested that Malinowski's interest in establishing generalizations was stimulated by Radcliffe-Brown. (Fox 1944: 121)

Make generalizations that apply to the savage and civilized alike.

Malinowksi, on the contrary, in his early work (consistent with his German philosophical and psychological training) was primarily interested in the "Weltanschauung." The feelings and opinions of the individual are prominent in Malinowski's work. This led each to approach a problem in somewhat of a different fashion. (Fox 1944: 124)

I would rather attribute this to his liking of British social psychology (e.g. McDougall and Shand).

However, the psycho-analyst has not tested his theories comparatively, he has only assumed their universal validity. (Fox 1944: 133)


By the objective test of acton, we can state that Descartes did not really believe what he was saying - he wa smerely verbalizing. Descartes did actually talk to other individuals and enter into activity with them; he did eat, drink, etc.; he did dodge balls, stones, etc. In other words, Descartes behaved as a social being and his own activities are a condemnation of his busy theorizing. If Descartes had really believed his own theory, he would not have ducked in the face of an oncoming blow, but we know that he did. (Fox 1944: 141)

Flatus vocis - uttering words is not really "saying" anything. Austin's speech act theory follows naturally (verbalization has no sense or reference).

Instincts: Because Malinowski was interested in the interactional process between the organism and its environment, he was necessarily led to consider the genetic propulsions of the organism. His early attempts to describe the genetic characteristics of man were crude and generalized. He utilized the psychological terminology of his day, which was limited and inadequate. Throughout his work we find Malinowski using such vague phrases as "human impulses," "natural [|] propensities," "fundamental tendency," "natural inclinations," "innate desire," "natural sentiments," "natural desires," and "instinctive cores," but never do we find a clear definition of any of these terms. However, as modern experimental psychology developed, such loose phraseology as "instinct," etc., was discarded for more specific and meaningful terminology, and Malinowski was able to clarify this genetic aspect of man. (Fox 1944: 160-161)

Very well put. It has been my misfortune to zero in on a piece of his writing that is full of such crudities. Reading McDougall and Shand has only partially ameliorated the situation, for Malinowski is essentially paraphrasing them, retaining an unavoidable a margin of error when approximating his statements to the authorities. All in all, good work.

The Art of Conversation

Mahaffy, John Pentland 1892. The Principles of the Art of Conversation. Second Edition. Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company.

The generality of the treatment may perhaps mislead [|] the reader to think that there is nothing but speculation attempted. This is not so, each single case of general description being drawn from instances under the author's own observation, so that not a few will be recognized by those who have moved in the same society. But if justly drawn, they ought to be founded in every society. (Mahaffy 1892: v-vi)

Upon the first reading I noted that this is how Mahaffy achieves the claim of universality, repeated in Malinowski. After Fox (1944), the criticism must point out that neither scholar attempted a comparative approach. Sadly, performing such a thing today on the basis of literature employing the term "phatic" would be misguided by the variety of conceptions it has garnered - a study following Jakobson's formulation would completely neglect the social psychological aspects relevant for Malinowski.

  1. is universal;
  2. is necessary; and therefore
  3. Is it an art?
  4. Can it be improved?
The great difficulty is this: that it must seem to be natural, and not an art. Hence -
  1. Analogy of the arts of logic and rhetoric, viz. -
  1. They can never be taught without natural gifts to receive them.
  2. They can always be greatly improved in those who possess these gifts.
  3. They must not be paraded, or they cease to be arts in the brighter sense, for
  4. The highest art is to attain perfect nature.
So also -
  1. No teaching by mere specimens and by memory is possible.
  2. All the general rules are obvious, and yet
  3. Natural gifts are necessary to apply them with skill.
Subjective Conditions,
(A) in the speaker, and these are either. -
  1. Physical, viz.
    1. A sweet tone of voice.
    2. Absence of local accent.
    3. Absence of tricks and catchwords.
  2. Mental, viz.
    1. Knowledge, which may be either Special (general topics, the topic of the day) - or General (books, men),
    2. Quickness.
  3. Moral, viz.
    1. Modesty.
    2. Simplicity - digression on Shyness and Reserve.
    3. Unselfishness.
    4. Sympathy.
    5. Tact.
Digression as regards Conditions -
  1. too general - Moral Worth and Truthfulness.
  2. too special - Wit and Humor.
Objective Conditions,
(B) in the hearers, which are either in -
  1. Quantity, for we speak with (a) one, (b) a few, digressions on gossip and ladies' schools, (c) many.
  2. Quality, for we speak with (a) equals, (b) superiors, (c) inferiors, digression on bilingual societies.
  3. Differences (A) of age, (1) older, (2) younger, (3) equal; (B), of sex - men and women.
  4. Degrees of Intimacy, (a) relations, (b) friends, (c) acquaintances (familiar, slight).
(C) The Topics, which are either -
  • In Quantity - infinite.
  • In Quality - serious or trivial.
  • In Relation - personal or general.
(D) The handling of the Topics must be either -
  • Deliberative, or by all the company.
  • Controversial, or by two speakers.
  • Epideictic, or by one.
(Mahaffy 1892: vii-ix)

It is a duty; good conversation is not vain; the principles are intuitive; it should be relaxed; automatic; and simple; there should be reciprocity; and active sympathy; ordinary gossip; linguistic communities; social union; trivial everyday topics; collective monologue.

There can be no doubt that of all the accomplishments prized in modern society, that of being agreeable in conversation is the very first. (Mahaffy 1892: 11)

"There can be no doubt that we have here a new type of linguistic use" (PC 6.1). How can it be new if it is widely prized? It's like discovering America. Thus, there is real doubt if it is indeed a new type of linguistic use.

An agreeable young woman will always carry away the palm in the long run from the most brilliant player or singer who has nothing to say. (Mahaffy 1892: 12)

"Indeed there need not or perhaps even there must not be anything to communicate" (PC 9.4). The difference lies in the brilliant player or singer not knowing what to say, and the situation requiring nothing to be said.

But quite apart from all these serious profits, and better than them all, is the daily pleasure derived from good conversation by those who can contribute it themselves or enjoy it in others. (Mahaffy 1892: 12)

The asymmetry partly does away with contributing - what is left is merely "enjoy[ing] each other's company".

It is a perpetual intellectual feast, it is an ever-ready recreation, a deep and lasting comfort, costing no outlay but that of time, requiring [|] no appointments but a small company, limited neither to any age nor any sex, the delight of prosperity, the solace of adversity, the eternal and essential expression of that social instinct which is one of the strongest and best features in human nature. (Mahaffy 1892: 12-13)

Different: good conversation is an intellectual feasts, that is, provides new information and possibly even reflection. Same: small talk relieves anxiety and distress felt in the company of strangers. Similar: the social instinct is more diffuse in Malinowski's text, instead being relegated to "social sentiments". The exact relationship between instinct and sentiments still somewhat elusive.

If such be the universality and the necessity of conversation in modern society, it seems an obvious inquiry whether it can be taught or acquired by any fixed method; or rather, as everybody has to practice it in some way, not as a mere ornament, but as a necessity of life, it may be asked: Is there any method by which we can improve our conversation? (Mahaffy 1892: 13)

Another difference: PC is something "superfluous"; it is as if Malinowski's ideal society could do without free and social intercourse. Was even the Third Reich in this sense "Spartan"?

Now this runs counter to one of the strongest convictions among intelligent men and women, that if anything in the world [|] ought to be spontaneous it is conversation. How can a thing be defined by rules which consists in following the chances of the moment, drifting with the temper of the company, suiting the discourse to whatever subject may turn up? (Mahaffy 1892: 13-14)

This begs the question, how can formulae be spontaneous? Or the Goffmanian quirk of having a ready stock of insignificant stories? In following chances and drifting in a medley, non-consecutiveness and unreflexiveness is evoked - "small" talk is distinguished from serious talk by not having to stick to the subject at hand.

For it is the natural easy flow of talk, drifting with the current of thought in its changing eddies, which is indeed the perfection of what we seek. Didactic teaching, humorous anecdotes, clever argument - these may take their part in social intercourse, but they are not its real essence, as I understand it. (Mahaffy 1892: 14)

In the previous edition: "these may take their part in social intercourse, but they are not its perfection" (Mahaffy 1888: 5). Did he give up on achieving some sort of "perfection"?

Yet the best reasoner is not the man who parades his logic and thrusts syllogisms upon his opponents, but he who states his arguments as if they arose spontaneously and followed one another by natural suggestion. (Mahaffy 1892: 16)

Is this reflection? Fox (1944) reiterates it several times in the pragmatic key as relying on past experience and in some way anticipating the future. It is not out of the question that in some sense, the logic of reflection is exactly that - an insistence on syllogism.

Here, too, the untutored speaker is always conventional and conscious awkward; it is the trained orator who is easy and graceful; he is, in fact, at home not only with his audience, but, if I may say so, with himself. (Mahaffy 1892: 18)

The double orientation of comfort; having both self-confidence the audience's confidence.

But hence also the fact that such an analysis is very much needed, and that conversation generally is at a far lower level than it might be. (Mahaffy 1892: 19)

A point not to be neglected when treating the pejorative/malicious aspect of PC: good conversation so often degenerates into phatic communion because the art and theory of conversation are not undertaken with sufficient seriousness.

In general, good public speakers are also agreeable in conversation; the art of persuading people from a platform is nearly akin to that of pleasing them in social discourse, though there are of course some men only fit for the greater and more serious mission, and some who are perfect enough in the lesser, yet who cannot rise to the importance of the greater task. (Mahaffy 1892: 19)

It can be surmised from Mahaffy's Greek Antiquities (1897) that he viewed "social intercourse" as something bloader than the strictly linguistic "social discourse".

What are called natural gifts start one man far ahead of another. And yet these external qualities may be outrun by a larger mental gift, which overcomes weakness of voice and poverty of frame and makes a man whose presence is mean, and whose speech at first contemptible, fascinate great audiences with his genius. We may be unable to define what this peculiar quality is in the case of conversation, but we must take care to recognize its presence from the very outset. (Mahaffy 1892: 21)

Good conversationalists can "grasp" the attention of the audience.

But when any one comes to consider by what conditions conversation can be improved, and turns first of all to his own side, to see what he can do for himself in that direction, he will find that certain natural gifts which he may possess, or the absence of which he may regret, are of no small importance in making him more agreeable to those whom he meets in society. (Mahaffy 1892: 22)

Hence, not family or friends, but acquaintances.

The habit of wrangling with people who will not listen without interruption, and who try to shout down their company, nay even the habit of losing one's temper, engenders a noisy and harsh way of speaking, which naturally causes a prejudice against the talker in good society. (Mahaffy 1892: 23)

Another note on pejorativeness/maliciousness - PC may be an expression of such natural prejudice. Good society condemns the speech of uneducated classes.

Even the dogmatic or overconfident temper which asserts opinions loudly, and looks round to command approval or challenge contradiction, chills good conversation by setting people against the speaker, whom they presume to be a social bully and wanting in sympathy. (Mahaffy 1892: 23)

The overbearing or commanding speaker, in other words, hinders "the development of the sentiment of affection between equals" (McDougall 1916: 168).

Similarly the presence of a strong local accent, though there are cases where it gives raciness to wit and pungency to satire, is usually a hindrance to conversation, especially at its outset, and among strangers. It marks a man as provincial, and hence is akin to vulgarity and narrowness of mind. It suggests too that the speaker has not moved much about the world, or even in the best society of his native country, in which such provincialism is carefully avoided, and set down as an index of mind and manners below the proper level. (Mahaffy 1892: 24)

What is the proper level of mind? It would appear that accent makse a "pretension to reason" (Trotter 1921: 120).

However apt a man's internal furniture may be for conversation, he may make it useless by being externally disagreeable, and how often when we praise a frined as a good talker do we hear the reply: I should like him well enough if he did not worry me with his don't you know, or his what, or his exactly so, or something else so childishly small, that we shudder to think how easily a man may forfeit his position or popularity among civilized men in their daily intercourse. (Mahaffy 1892: 25)

The metaphor is neat, but the "want of meaning" (triviality) is utterances "childishly small" brings it once again in relation with the non-standard speakers (children, aphasics, parrots, etc.).

On the other hand, if a man or woman be overdressed, and ostentatiously neat, the public at once infers triviality or shallowness of character; and such a person will find difficulty in proving that he has serious views of life, and is trustworthy in the conduct of weighty affairs. (Mahaffy 1892: 26)

These serious views of weighty affairs are the exact opposite of "personal accounts of the speaker's views and life history" (PC 5.4).

Akin to this is the advantage of having seen and conversed with the greatest men of the day - a featur which lends the principal charm to those volumes of autobiography or of Recollections, [|] which approach nearer than any other kind of book to the conditions of a mere conversation. (Mahaffy 1892: 28-29)

The distinction between general and special knowledge thus follows the lines of a "community of knowledge" (cf. Trotter), though the opposing side would be something like "uncommon knowledge", or knowledge in which there is no community. As to books approaching conversaton, depending upon the "mereness", could include those manuals of conversation called "phrasebooks".

Of course the danger with either of these specialists, the specialist of a day or the specialist of years, is that he will not leave his subject when it has been sufficiently discussed, as he will probably gauge the interest of others by his own pre-occupation, and so may become not a blessing but a bore to his company. (Mahaffy 1892: 29)

Did Toby ever tell you about the Scranton Strangler case?

Neither of these mental conditions, which are distinctly valuable in society, includes the case of specialists on topics which are of no universal or no permanent interest. Thus there are English society men devoted to one particular sport or one narrow pursuit, upon which they can talk with authority indeed, and with interest, but only to those who have received the same training. (Mahaffy 1892: 29)

These topics of universal and permanent interests are "one's views on the weather, on fresh air and draughts, on the Government and on uric acid" (Trotter 1921: 119-120).

A party of fox-hunters, or racing-men, or [|] college dons, or stockbrokers, who rehearse again in the evening what they have been doing all day, may indeed amuse themselves with talk, but in no sense is it good conversation. One specialist, as I have said, may be of the greatest use in conversation. A set of specialists when they get together are either unintelligible to the average mind or exceedingly tedious. (Mahaffy 1892: 29-30)

I object! In what sense is the talk of specialists not a good conversation if they can easily contribute and reap pleasure from their discussion? Is setting the standard for good conversation on the basis of "the average mind" not dumbing down the concept and limiting it unnecessarily? To evoke Dell Hymes, the mothers may talk about their babies and anthropologists about their respective fieldwork, but their conversation is no worse off for the anthropologists having no interest in their babies and the mothers ditto for fieldwork. Who sets the standard of the average mind?

But it is surely a bad sign of any society to find men's parties considered more agreeable than those of both sexes, for it is a sign either of license in men's talk or of narrowness in women's education. (Mahaffy 1892: 30)

Then how can that one Russian author claim that "women's talk is phatic" at a time when education is coed?

A great mistake lies at the root of such an opinion, which assumes that the first object of conversation is not to please but to instruct. (Mahaffy 1892: 31)

This great mistake is the birthplace of phatic communion, and besides here, also in Dewey and Trotter. It is possible that there are many other instances of this mistake being called out, and hopefully in due time I will find other such occasions in the literature. Note, too, that this plays on the substratum of most communication models, that the sender is a preceptor or instructor and the receiver a novice or instructee (cf. Shands 1970: 2).

Of course to instruct or to be instructed is often very pleasant, and so far knowledge, general or special, is a very useful help to conversation, but it is as talk, not as a lesson, that we must here regard it. (Mahaffy 1892: 31)

A meritorious concession. Knowledge can be a great aid but is not the primary object of social intercourse. It is meritorious, deserves praise, because it overcomes the absolutism of functional typologies which set formal lessons and casual talk out as extremes and not as intermingling affairs; no-one, after all, objects to being given information in small talk. To say that there is no exchange of information in phatic communion is the most blatant folly of many who work with the concept - they neglect the hierarchy of functions.

The advantage of general above special knowledge for our purpose is that it can be applied in a greater number of cases, and used to interest a greater number of people. The man of general knowledge can suit himself to various company, and, if he is not able to speak with the authority of the specialist, can at least [|] help and stimulate in many cases where the latter is likely to be silent. If therefore we exclude the object of gaining information, which many people estimate, not, indeed, above its intrinsic importance, but above its importance in conversation, regarded not as a lesson, but a recreation, we must decide that general information is the better condition to promote agreeable social intercourse. (Mahaffy 1892: 31-32)

General knowledge has wider appeal, and can more easily break the silence. Conversation, as a form of recreation, does not exclude the object of gaining information but it is not its primary aim, its so-called "function-role". It does not satisfy the need for knowledge, but need for company.

We may even say with truth that no man can attain to general knowledge nowadays without reading many books. The danger of a desultory habit, very likely to arise from skimming the mass of ephemeral literature now gushing from the press is, that the facts acquired will not be set in order, and will come out as untidy scraps, not as the details of a proper system of study. (Mahaffy 1892: 32)

*Stops scrolling the feed* and utters a disgruntled "Huh?"

The books which a man reads may ither be the great masters, which are perhaps rather useful for cultivating his deeper self than for ordinary converse, or the newest authors, whose merits are still [|] upon trial, and who therefore afford an excellent field for discussion and criticism. (Mahaffy 1892: 32-33)

Well, I think that the true Self, that original Self, that first Self, is a real, mensurate, quantifiable thing, tangible and incarnate, and I'm going to find the fucker... in the books I read.

There is, however, another kind of general knowledge which is not so easy to acquire, for it requires long experience, a certain position in society, and means for foreign travel. I mean the general knowledge of remarkable men, concerning whom the speaker can tell his recollections. There is often a man of no great learning or ability whose officila position, tact, or private means have brought him into relation with the great minds about whom every detail is interesting. Such a man's general knowledge should always make him an agreeable member of society. Akin to this man is the experienced traveller who has wandered through many lands and seen the cities and the ways of men. (Mahaffy 1892: 33)

Having firsthand experiences of "remarkable men" must have been quite a bit more common when there was only ~1.5 billion people in the world and most of them without education and any technological means of transportation and communication. Would books about said remarkable men (e.g. Galton) do? Personally I find other peoples' travel stories boring.

The man of books, on the contrary, has to acquire his store in the silence of his study, and hence by a process which rather untrains him for talking, so that even though his knowledge when acquired may be of more solid and permanent value, his way of producing it may put him at a disadvantage. (Mahaffy 1892: 34)

Not unlike that notable excerpt from Plato, "Those who acquire [writing] will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their rememberance by external signs instead of on their own internal resources" (cf. Lotman 1990: 251).

The tourist who formerly went through Italy with his vetturino, and saw every village and road deliberately, talking with the people and observing national life, is now whirled [|] through tunnels and by night from one capital to another, where he sees what Cook or Murray chooses him to see, just as the man who trusts the newspapers for his knowledge gets scraps, perversions, even lies, served up for him by way of universal information. (Mahaffy 1892: 34-35)

And now we have Wikipedia, though scrappy, not that fraudulent.

For this is the mental quality which is the foundation of wit, and a joker who merely consults his own amusement, or the amusement of some of his hearers at the expense of others, is not a good converser. The tendency of a very quick intellect is also akin to impatience, and so it will interfere with and cow more modest [|] minds, which might have contributed well to the feast of talk had they been allowed to work without hurry or pressure. So strong do we often find this contrast that it is unadvisable, in choosing a set of people for conversation, to bring together very slow and very quick intellects. While the former and more dazzled and confused than pleased, the latter feel the delay of listening to long and deliberate sentences intolerable; and so a company in which all the members are socially excellent may fail to be pleasant on account of the mental contrasts of its members. (Mahaffy 1892: 36-37)

This is the case of "the hearer [who] listens under some restraint and with slightly veiled impatience, waiting till his own turn arrives to speak" (PC 5.4). Evidently differences in "mental quality" account for some of the failure of PC to amount to a good conversation.

Let me illustrate it by an extreme case. Who would think of introducing a young brilliant flashing sceptic into a society of grave and sober orthodoxy? If the conversation did not soon degenerate into acrid controversy - the very lees of social intercourse - it would result in contemptuous silence on one side or other, probably with the contempt so transparent as to challenge harsh over-statement from the talker by way of challenge or reply to unspoken censure. (Mahaffy 1892: 37)

Define:lees - "the sediment of wine in the barrel; dregs" and "the most worthless part or parts of something".

I need hardly insist that the man or woman who displays modesty by constantly apologizing for native ignorance or stupidity injures conversation, and can only amuse a company by becoming ridiculous. (Mahaffy 1892: 42)

Reminds me of the "Sorry for bad English, not a native speaker" seen online, which is wholly unnecessary in our world of Squantos and comes across as a solicitation for compliments.

What we want to learn from each member is his free opinion on [|] the subject in hand, not his own estimate of the value of that opinion. (Mahaffy 1892: 42-43)

Another take on the "free" in "free, aimless, social intercourse".

There is, for example, the enfant terrible, who upsets everybody and causes shocking shame and confusion by the indiscreet directness of his inquiries. The very same kind of mistake is made by grown people who are ignorant of the ways of society, such as country girls, or girls of an inferior rank, who are married into a cultivated society, and who are allowed such liberties, either for their beauty's sak, or for novelty's [|] sake, that they announce whatever comes into their head, and disturb conversation by their irrelevancy and shallowness, if not by suggesting subjects undesirable in general society. (Mahaffy 1892: 43-44)

I recall a lecture room which, with my exception, was wholly female, and one girl bringing up sex and her keen interest in it. So quirky!

But when all has been said that can be said on either side, it will remain certain that the man who appears [|] simple, and who therefore affects his company with the impression that tehy are in direct contact with his mind, has a distinct advantage over those who, either from conceits of style, or over-delicacy of sentiment, or education in an artificial atmosphere, appear with their minds as it were dressed or tattooed, and not in the purity of nature. (Mahaffy 1892: 45-46)

As opposed to a natural atmosphere, the "atmosphere of sociability" (PC 7.5).

If he is narrating, for example, a trafic history, or story of adventure in which he has taken part, while modesty will prevent him from magnifying his own share in the matter, and so trying to the utmost the faith of his hearers, simplicity will prevent him from unduly concealing his action, and [|] will ensure that he tells the whole truth, so far as he knows it. (Mahaffy 1892: 46-47)

This is "the usual boasting and exaggerations" (Malinowski 1922: 146), related to "vanity and desire to be renowned and well spoken of" (Malinowski 1922: 117-118).

So shy people as a rule rather "fancy themselves"; for though they urge their peculiarity as an excuse for social defects, there lies deeper a secret conviction that they at least have escaped the vice of forwardness, or of that coarseness of mental fibre which is implied in forwardness. (Mahaffy 1892: 48)


There are of course cases of children who are allowed to run away whenever a stranger appears, as if nature were a state of war, and man the natural enemy of man. Such children will require training to be cured of their own and their parents' stupidity, and must be taught that every stranger is not a bogy. (Mahaffy 1892: 49)

Yet another way in which primitive people are viewed as if they were children (or, at the very least, childish or child-minded).

In almost all the cases which occur there is therefore modesty without simplicity, a conscious and almost guilty air; it is often nothing better than vanity, which fears the result of conversation; which desires to be thought well of, and which from mistrust of itself puts on the garb of modesty. (Mahaffy 1892: 50)

Nearly word-for-word, "vanity and desire to be renowned and well spoken of" (Malinowski 1922: 117-118), which is described as a characteristic "feature of the Trobriand social psychology" (ibid.).

How can any conversation be easy and natural, how can it range from topic to topic, and bring out the tempers and the characters of the speakers, if any of them displays this vice by dogged silence, by conscious blushing when any personal topic arises, or by the awkwardness which always accompanies this preoccupation with one's self? If then the capital conditions of pleasant intercourse are modesty and simplicity, this defect, which always contradicts the latter, and generally both of them, is to be regarded as the most prevalent and injurious anti-social [|] vice. The only high quality which may be concealed, or perhaps even displayed by shyness, is a delicate sensitiveness, which shy people generally postulate in themselves, but which has far better and nobler ways of affecting society than by impeding conversation. (Mahaffy 1892: 50-51)

Last time I missed the point here. He is discussing shyness (alias taciturnity), which is an anti-social vice and impedes conversation. Note that ease and naturalness, as well as non-consecutiveness (ranging from topic to topic) is already accounter for, whereas bringing out "the characters of the speakers" is unaccounted for, or only manifest in the egocentric involvement with personal views and life-history.

Next to modesty and simplicity I class the moral virtue of unselfishness. It is very characteristic that we have no other word for this noble quality than the mere negation of its opposite - the most prevalent vice in the world. Why can we not describe it better? (Mahaffy 1892: 52)

Note that vainness is a synonym of selfishness (amour-propre also catches the eye).

This is the man too who interrupts others, who refuses to exercise for a moment that patience which he so often exacts. I set down these people as failures, and such they really are in the truest and highest sense, for they crtainly kill more conversation than they create, nor do they understand that the very meaning of the word implies a contribution-feast, an eranos, as the Greeks would say, not the entertainment provided by a single host. (Mahaffy 1892: 53)

This is where things get really interesting. An Oxford Dictionary note on eranos says that it "was essentially concerned with reciprocity: at first of food, and later of money. In Homer, eranos refers to a meal for which each diner contributed a share". Another source defines it as "a meeting of the minds for elite intellectuals", which is what most search results have to do with. Especially interesting is the possible connection with "the communion of food", as in the summary of the book titled Eranos, "The Eranos Meetings" are "named after the Greek word for a banquet where the guests bring the food".

He has perhaps still one place of refuge; he may become a high priest in that great modern temple of selfishness - his club; but even there his popularity has waned, and he sinks into that old age unfriended and unsociable - ǎφιλου àπροσόμιλου - which Sophocles regarded as one of the tragic features in the life of man. (Mahaffy 1892: 54)

Greek be damned! No Greek word I've ever tried to Google has yielded anything of value.

I turn now to a far more common, but less observed and less censured case of social selfishness, which requires urgently to be brought into the light of criticism. No man requires to practice unselfishness more than the silent man; for as everybody is able to contribute and ought to contribute something, so the man who thrusts himself into society to enjoy the talk of others, and will take no trouble to help, to suggest, or to encourage, is really a serious offender. (Mahaffy 1892: 54)

The silent man is selfish because he does not contribute. This is a frequent complaint nowadays in online dating (e.g. on Tinder), such as this screencap of a guy's back "hurting super bad [...] probably from carrying this conversation".

Many a time have I seen an unknown and obscure person drawn out in this way become the leading feature in a delightful evening; for fresh and curious knowledge, which suddenly springs from an unexpected source, can hardly fail to be profoundly [|] interesting, and to stimulate all the active minds that hear it. (Mahaffy 1892: 56-57)

Stimulating the mind ~ arousing reflection.

The higher condition which now comes before us is, that [|] the speaker, apart from the matter of conversation, feels an interest in his hearers as distinct persons, whose opinions and feelings he desires to know. (Mahaffy 1892: 58-59)

Something to add to the "unreliable informant" hypothesis, the implication being that the ethnographer did not really feel an interest in his informants as distinct persons.

Thus prsonal beauty secures the sympathy of any company; so much so, that even when found out to be a mere shell, with no mental force behind it, the attraction lasts, and lends some charm to what would otherwise be called trivial and stupid. (Mahaffy 1892: 59)

Mahaffy again evoking the physical attractiveness stereotype.

And as in every conversation there must not only be good talking but good listening, the intellectual gifts which make the talker are often marred if he has not the sympathy which makes the listener. (Mahaffy 1892: 60)

And "the reciprocity is established by the change of rôles" (PC 5.6).

I have known a clever woman maintain a deservedly high character for her conversation who really said very little, but was so sympathetic that she made her guests eloquent, and thus so thoroughly pleased with themselves, that she was lit up by the glow of their satisfaction, an dearned very justly the credit for talking well simply because she made others talk. There is probably no social talent higher than this - or rarer. (Mahaffy 1892: 60b)

This is the secondary meaning of sympathetic, "(of a person) attracting the liking of others"; synonymous with "likeable, pleasant, agreeable, congenial, friendly, genial, companiable, easy to get along with, simpatico".

It was said with truth that no man is really worth having as a companion with whom you [|] could not contendedly walk or stay in silence. This is of course a sign of close intimacy, and perfect freedom on both sides to meditate apart, even when together, without giving or taking any offence. Among real friends silence is no sign of estrangement, and it secures that the conversation which arises is perfectly spontaneous, which is, alas! impossible, if we are in the society of mere acquaintances who will construe our silence as rudeness. (Mahaffy 1892: 60-61)

Something to this effect has passed through this blog numerous times. One instance reframes it as "phatic silence", exemplified in the negative: "Tamar noticed that she had never met a person she felt so comfortable being silent with" (Grossman; in Ephratt 2008: 1924).

Sympathy must not be excessive in quality, which makes it demonstrative, [|] and therefore likely to repel its object. We have an excellent word which describes the over-sympathetic person, and marks the judgment of society, when we say that he or she is gushing. Of course as women are more frequently endowed with this virtue than men, they also err more frequently in the excess, at least in Teutonic races, for among Latin races a gushing man is quite a common phenomenon. This sort of person not only volunteers to show his sympathy before it is required, and often spoils conversation at the outset, but is ever ready to agree with everybody, so making discussion, which implies differences in opinion, impossible. There results a social impression of a mixed kind, which is even more disagreeable than downright dislike, and therefore socially worse - I mean that of feeling a dislike, and even something like contempt, for a person who is known to be full of goodness and benevolence. Many people resent being obliged to confuse their judgment in this way, and feel a stronger antipathy to this marred goodness than to proclaimed evil. (Mahaffy 1892: 61-62)

Could this be the key to unlocking "bonds of antipathy" and "affirmation"? The two do appear in the same sentence: "Always the same emphasis on affirmation and consent, mixed perhaps with an incidental disagreement which creates the bonds of antipathy" (PC 5.3).

These and many similar observations, which will occur to the intelligent reader, will indicate how important are the limitations of sympathy, and how essential it is that this, like every other social virtue, should be carefully husbanded, and not squandered ta random without regard to its value. (Mahaffy 1892: 63)

Could be a headline.

I should add that the foregoing remarks are specially applicable to English (I do not mean English-speaking) society. There is no people more distant and reserved in social intercourse, or that more resents any display of feeling, especially of sympathy, without a careful introduction of it, and without considerable intimacy among the company. [|] Thus those who are accustomed to freer and more outspoken societies, not to say French and Italian life, may make social mistake in England on the score of sympathy, which are sins only in the heavy atmosphere of Anglo-Saxon manners. (Mahaffy 1892: 63-64)

See "the pathos of nobility and distance" (Nietzsche 1921: 4). Could it be that, in the final analysis, sympathy is subtracted of symmetry due to the English' resentment of "any display of feeling"? Is there an equivalence between free/outspoken and free/aimless?

As its name implies, it [tact] is a sensitive touch in social matters, which feels small changes of temperature, and so guesses at changes of temper; which sees the passing cloud on the expression of one face, or the eagerness of another that desires to bring out something person for others to enjoy. (Mahaffy 1892: 65)

"Nor is anyone fooled into believing that an exchange of polite opinions about the weather between two thoroughly sober people has any real concern with or bearing upon current or proximate meteorological events: in this, people are taking the temperature and assessing the humidity of the inter-individual weather, not the earthly." (La Barre 1954: 167-168)

But quite apart from instinct, an experienced man who is going to tell a story which may have too much point for some of those present, [|] will look round and consider each member of the party, and if there be a single stranger there whose views are not familiar to him, he will forego the pleasure of telling the story rather than make the social mistake of hurting even one of the guests. (Mahaffy 1892: 66-67)

Yet another twist on the stranger.

It is perhaps more practical to observe that an over-seriousness in morals may be detrimental to the ease and grace, above all to the playfulness, of talk. (Mahaffy 1892: 69)

Playfulness confirmed.

But on the other hand there is such a thing - Aristotle saw it long ago - as being over-scrupulous in truthfulness, when we are indulging in the relaxation of easy conversation. Even a consummate liar, though generally vulgar, and therefore offensive, will contribute more pleasantly to a conversation than the scrupulously truthful man, who weighs every statement, questions every fact, and corrects every inaccuracy. In the presence of such a social scourge I have heard a witty talker pronounce it the golden rule of conversation to know nothing accurately. Far more important is it, in my mind, to domand no accuracy. There is no greater or more common blunder in society than to express disbelief or scepticism in a story told for the amusement of the company. (Mahaffy 1892: 70)

This golden rule is mirrored in lack of need to say anything. The scourge of someone weighing every statement Mahaffy attributes in Greek Antiquities to "sycophancy".

There may have been times and nations where conversation was regarded as a serious and important an engine of education, that sound argument, brilliant illustration, and ample information, took the highest place as qualities of talk. Perhaps they do in some cases now, as, for example, everybody who knows him will concede to Mr. Gladstone the palm as a very charming man in society by reason of these qualities. But among hard-working and somewhat fatigued peple, who have been pursuing information of various kinds in all their working hours, conversation must be of the nature of relaxation; it must be amusing first, instructive afterwards, and so it is that nowaday no qualities however valuable, rank so high in popular estimation for social purposes, as wit and humor. (Mahaffy 1892: 72)

Unlike others mentioned above Mahaffy thus has a justification for bringing up that mistaken conception: conversation should be a release from communicating information. The social purpose, thus, is recreation.

The excesses of the humorist are perhaps rather those of a complacent selfishness, which does not desitate to monopolize the company with long stories in which all do not feel an interest. (Mahaffy 1892: 79)

Define:complacent - "showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements".

But, beyond the considerations above indicated, we cannot bring it into any systematic doctrine of social intercourse. (Mahaffy 1892: 80)

A statement of purpose.

Thus a colloquy with a single person, which is the easiest form, for it is usually with some one who is not a stranger, and it allows far more personality, will best consist in a direct interchange of serious opinion, in which each seeks to make the other speak out in confidence his inmost character. The better talker will turn the conversation upon the other's life, inquire into his or her history, so far as that can be done with good taste and without impertinence, and so encourage him (or her) to give personal recollections or confessions, which are to the teller of them generally of the deepest interest. (Mahaffy 1892: 81)

This is where Malinowski achieves his most blatant reversals: instead of one speaker pontificating upon his own "views and life history", a good conversationalist elicits these from the other.

As our manners and customs determine these things, it is not usual to have a long tête-à-tête with another person of the same sex without choosing your companion and seeking out the opportunity; but, on the contrary, two people of different sexes are often brought together and ordered (so to speak) to converse, for no other reason than the command of society. Thus a young man is introduced to a partner at a ball, or a man of soberer age is directed to take a lady down to dinner. Here, though the company is large, the conversation is really of the kind before us - a dialogue between two persons only, of different sexes, and often comparative strangers. There is no case more frequent where conversation is imperative, and where failures are common and conspicuous. (Mahaffy 1892: 82)

This must be the manner in which agreeable communication is a "duty".

People of serious temper and philosophic habit will be able to confine themselves [|] to large ethical views, and the general dealings of men; but to average people, both men and women, and perhaps most of all to busy men, who desire to find in society relaxation from their toil, that lighter and more personal kind of criticism on human affairs will prevail which is known as gossip. (Mahaffy 1892: 89-90)

Conversation, especially gossip, thus, is a recreation "after all the daily tasks are over" (PC 1.2).

It is usual for all people, especially those who must indulge in it, to censure gossip as a crime, as a violation of the Ninth Commandment, as a proof of idleness and vain curiosity, as a frivolous waste of the time given us for mental improvement. Yet the censure is seldom serious. (Mahaffy 1892: 90)

"Vain curiosity" is an especially pungent expression.

All the funny sketches of life and character which have made Punch so admirable a mirror of society for the last fifty years, are of the character of gossip, subtracting the mischievous element of personality; and though most people will think this latter an essential feature in our meaning when we talk of gossip, it is not so; it is merely the trivial and passing, the unproven and suspected, which constitutes gossip, for it is quite possible to bring any story under the notion while suppressing the names of the actors. (Mahaffy 1892: 92)

A workable definition of gossip.

The only excuse I can find for this widespread outrage upon the social rights of the young, is the old tradition [|] of universities, still pursued in convent schools and Roman Catholic seminaries, that a portino of Scripture, or of some edifying book, should be read out during meals, so that the pupils may take in spiritual good along with their dinners, and avoid the crime of light and trivial conversation. (Mahaffy 1892: 94-95)

A variation of free and aimless, noticeably more pertinent qualities selected for the purpose.

For here the talk is not really with many at a time, nor again is it the conversation with one person, in which the main element is the sustaining of interest for a considerable time; it is a series of brief successive dialogues, in which the two great difficulties of conversation, the starting of it and the breaking off, are perpetually recurring. (Mahaffy 1892: 97)

Anticipating "maintaining attention".

The speaker is even debarred from the use of any fixed rule or method of overcoming these difficulties, for the people addressed will be sure to compar notes, and [|] will reject as insincere any politeness which are administered according to a formula, however graceful it may appear. (Mahaffy 1892: 97-98)

Touching upon the spurious one-sidedness of expressions of sympathy, especially when - as must be emphasized - these are "administered according to a formula".

However this may be, the knowledge, inspired or acquired, of the name and circumstances of an inferior is the great key ot smoothing over the difficulty of beginning a conversation, for any personal question will be taken as a compliment, and evidence of a friendly interest on the part of the prince. The breaking off with ease and grace is more difficult, for I do not count the formal bow of dismissal or the prearranged interruption by a new presentation as more than awkward subterfuges. (Mahaffy 1892: 99)

Another surprising Jakobsonianism!

If he had thought more upon the subject, or if he had been allowed to give us the results of his thinking, he might have told us that the secret in all cases, and [|] the sine qua non of good conversation, is to establish equality, at least momentarily, if you like fictions, but at all costs equality, among the members of the company who make up the party. The man who keeps asserting his superiority, or confessing his inferiority, is never agreeable. (Mahaffy 1892: 101-102)

A great point.

We need hardly add that the greatest stress must here be placed on tact, for to presume on either kind of superiority will cause offence, and so spoil every attempt at breaking the bonds set around us by the grades of the social hierarchy. (Mahaffy 1892: 104)

It is extremely curious that Malinowski talks of establishing bonds, Mahaffy of breaking them.

The most successful conversations with old men are, however, not those with the old raconteur, who is in the habit of narrating his experiences and expects to be asked to do so, but with some modest and apparently dull old person who is successfully probed by intelligent and sympathetic questions, till he is actually reminded of long-forgotten scenes, which have perhaps not been suggested to him for years, and then he draws from his memory, with the help of further questions, some passage of life and adventure of the highest interest. (Mahaffy 1892: 116)

This reads like a passage from Malinowski's Argonauts quoted in Fox (1944), as to how he managed to elucidate valuable information from old informants.

So important and so neglected is this social duty of probing for the strong point of others, which is naturally brought forward in connection with the effort to talk with the young and inexperienced, that I am disposed to lay this down as a practical rule: if you find the company dull, blame yourself. With more skill and more patience on your part it is almost certain you would have found it agreeable. If even two or three people in a company acted on this rule, how seldom would our social meetings prove a failure! (Mahaffy 1892: 120)

Perhaps the final statement of the folly of phatic communion. If you find your communication conveying no new information, it is your own fault. This book will in all probability incur a third reading.