Mr. Joseph Loeb had a bisexual worm under the microscope and when the Student and a young woman imprudently approached to peer at it, he asked what do you see, and the Student said he saw something but what was it? "You have them and she doesn't, what are they?" and the Student was embarrassed. However, steeling himself for the worst, he selected the best word that the gutter had provided, "Testicles?" He didn't dare to look at the silent girl. "Right!" shouts Loeb, "Or `testes', or `gonads', and you see what she has, this animal has both, she has gonads, too, but what do you call them? He turned to her. She didn't lift her head from the microscope and mumbled "Ovaries." "Right!" And off he went looking for the next victims.
He was rumored to be a great teacher, and so he was. He got through the universally required syllabus of the Biological Survey with hammerlike precision and stunning clarity, bang, bang, bang. The Student wasn't assigned his weekly discussion section but, like many others, crowded into it anyhow.
Which is not to say that Mr. Loeb's impetuosity and assuredness produced the truth and nothing but the truth. I say this because of my desertion from the ranks of the once and forever instructed. I do not believe that the Biology taught fifty-five years ago at the University of Chicago, which is essentially the Biology of today almost everywhere, deserved the dogmatism with which it was imparted, nor for that matter did the other sciences, including the social sciences. As to all of these, we shall have a word later on, nor will we neglect, for that matter, the Humanities.
I suppose that the most presumptuous element in the year-long survey of biological knowledge was the theory of evolution, which consumed a good part of it. The Student was cued in to when to laugh, when to vent anger, and when to cheer, just as at the football games or the cinema. When you heard the name Lamarck you were to sneer, for did he not argue that the species evolved by experience and that the giraffe grew his long neck by foraging higher and higher into the branches of trees? While we of 1935 had these late experiments showing that fruit flies, breeding generations with fantastic rapidity, could not be genetically altered no matter what was done to them?
When the phrase "Stokes Trial" was mentioned you laughed. That was to show that you had heard of the Tennessee court case in which a populist politician named William Jennings Bryan helped the State to prosecute a teacher of evolution. Bryan argued that darwinism had blasphemously created the doctrine of man as descending from monkeys. Our hero was Clarence Darrow, a noted criminal defense lawyer, who showed how wrong was the Bible's idea of creation and how scientifically correct Darwin's theory.
A proof of darwinian evolution -- which meant exceedingly slow bit by bit incremental change through natural selection that let the advantaged species survive and prosper -- was afforded by paleontologists who discovered the simpler forms of plants and animals in lower strata, the more complex ones in higher strata; great ages occurred from one stratum to the next, hundreds of millions of years less than now, of course, because the tools of radiochronometry had not yet been invented by geology and geophysics. Particularly, since homo sapiens was not to be found below the recent pleistocene strata, he must have emerged from the cluster of simian forms that are to be found stretching back in time some millions of years. Darwinism would be in deep trouble if the tests of time based upon the presumed constant rates of radioactivity of various isotopes had not come to its rescue with assurances out of geophysics of enormous new reinforcements of time to get the manifold job of evolution of the species accomplished. (The Earth has conveniently "aged" by 3000% since the Student sat at the feet of the savants.)
A second proof of darwinian evolution was in the analysis and ordering of living species, where a fine case (actually a rough case) can be established for evolution of certain forms from other forms, birds being very much like reptiles apart from their feathers and wings, which turn out to be recognizable basically in scales and forelegs. And the lung-fish, and the frog, and the pouched kangaroo, and the chimpanzee. Anatomy and physiology show link upon link. A few humans were born with bitty tails at the end of their spines, he learned; now what could be more persuasive of evolution than that, he thought, feeling contentedly his foreshortened ultimate vertebra, and thinking how difficult it would be to sit in a chair with a tail. He dutifully learned Haeckel's law that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," considered the forceful argument that he himself had as an embryo supported fish-like gills, and admired the evidence presented for his inspection, only to hear forty years later that Haeckel was a bit of a fraud and the "law" had never been passed by Nature.
Finally, Brother Mendel, good Catholic though he may have been, could be boosted into the forefront of evolutionary science for having educed mutations among his smooth and wrinkled peas. Why Darwin did not acclaim Mendel's work is a mystery, for he needed a mechanism of change. Ever ready to forgive Darwin's peccadillos, the Student's instructors implied that Mendel just happened along in due course on the progressive path of science.
What was occurring between the Student and his teachers was that they, needing to establish their authority over his mind, had to pretend to a sureness of knowledge that they could not possess. This was all the more necessary in view of the competition between the Special Departments of the University -- all of them: social, humane letters, physical, biological, psychological, theological, political, legal, medical -- said University being ultimately organized around the Certainty of the Truth being imparted. Your relative success depended in part upon the Truth Value of your operations. If your Discipline and Department were believed to rate high in the Truth-quotient that they dispensed, they would rate higher in the competition for funds, power, loyalties, prestige, physical plant, and creature comforts. Such follows by the "agglutinative" proposition ultimately to be clarified by a distinguished student and professor of the University, Mr. Harold D. Lasswell, to wit, "Forms of power and influence are agglutinative: those with some forms tend to acquire other forms also."
Now the Biological Sciences had no religious truth to dispense; they could not organize their fields around the Gospels, but tended to do so around a gospel. The penchant for a gospel of darwinism was strong, and the Student contracted a moderate case of it. What else could he do? There was no sturdy alternative, certainly not Fundamentalism, no creation science, not even a neo-catastrophism or quantavolution or life-from-outer-space or punctuated-equilibrium theory.
There were alternatives of a non-ideological kind, but the ruling ideology dispelled them. Mr. Sewall Wright, teaching genetics, did not get into the Student's act. Mr. Wright was establishing the possibility of gene-drain by limited mating possibilities in separated small populations of the same species, such that non-conjugable, therefore distinct, species could emerge. This was supposed to be a kind of darwinism. It had to be, because darwinism, i.e. evolution by natural selection, was the current ruling paradigm of biology, and coopted every claim in sight. Logically, gene-drain could have been sold as darwinism; logic, however, makes no market, not even in science.
In all honesty, the Biological Sciences should have stressed that a science ought to be a set of useful operations based on hypotheses more or less general that are subject to continuous modification in the light of continual tests of their utility. (Including this hypothesis about the nature of science.) Furthermore, what would hold for the biological sciences would hold not only for the other sciences but for all fields of learning of the University. For lack of better, alongside darwinism there should have been placed a "blank" theory, theory "x", composed largely of the anomalies unmanageable by darwinian theory and of unanswered questions, such as the catastrophic changes in plant and animal species and associated appearance of new species recorded in the Earth's strata and the question of why ancient civilizations believed the Earth had been devastated by flood and fire from exoterrestrial sources.
However, the large branches of science and learning were then no more than now interconnected. The Geology Department did not join with the Paleontology Department in putting on the show regarding the fossils and the strata; nor did Astronomy join with Biology and Ancient History and Psychology and Theology and Geology to discuss any perplexity regarding ancient mankind. They were all afraid that if they did, they would automatically become Fundamentalist Judeo-Christians, and be expelled from the Fraternity of True Knowledge. The apologetic beginnings of interdisciplinary cooperation could be taken with a slight pridefulness; the more grave and fundamental the interdisciplinary endeavor became, the more horrendous the expectations of it.
President Hutchins wasn't afraid of this; on the contrary, he wanted more than anything a total synthesis; he was lucky that the forces in opposition let him penetrate their defenses enough to install the wonderful set of survey courses contained in the New Plan; further, President Hutchins could not, any more than the next person, come up with a total scheme for the organization and imparting of knowledge; the best he could manage was a resort to the Aristotelian-Thomist synthesis, where he encountered such people as our Student in Opposition, which will be duly recounted in its turn. Chicago may have been heavily interdisciplinarian under the leadership of Mr. Hutchins, but it came nowhere near the ideal: a method of handling all the fields of learning together while letting their productive special theories dangle from the central system until such time as they would be neatly tied in (or lead to a new full paradigm).
So when the Student wandered through the exhibits nicely erected by the older generation of paleontologists at the University, he could feel the Fossil Presence but gained no sense of the cluster of problems that they presented. And when Joe Loeb barked at him, he gulped and gasped the aether of darwinian revelation.
Meanwhile, as a dog will take note of all the other dogs in his day of jogging, the Student observed other students washing test tubes and replacing microscopes; there was a stir in the air of new Employment. Since half the youth of the country who might have been working were what the Chicago Tribune called "idle," the New Deal leaders put through Congress legislation to hire them at a variety of jobs. University students were not forgotten in the rush to work (and to handle the money involved), so that the Student found himself propelled in short order from the Bulletin Boards to the office of his genial advisor to the Office of Student Placement back to Mr. Earl S. Johnson and then: then he received a letter notifying him that he might begin work and receive up to $15.00 a month for his efforts, calculated at the rate of 35 cents per hour. He had bagged another job! Put them all together and you have not only a room but enough to keep the wolf from its door. This job was assistant research assistant to one Mr. Clyde Rathbone, he a research assistant to none other than Mr. Louis Wirth, who, it appeared, had more research assistants than you could shake a stick at.
His new boss was black, and it took him nearly thirty seconds to adjust to the culture shock. The office where he reported for duty was on the second floor of the new Social Science Building. It was the first bordello of graduate assistants that he had come upon, large but already crowded with the grey metal desks that became a part of your life if you worked for the University. ("You can have any kind of desk you want, so long as it's metallic grey.") There were several assistants within, who might have been working, for all he knew. One was leaning on a desk, his back turned; another was a woman who was just leaving, a slender good-looking blonde. Then there was a handsome smiling type who looked rather more on top of things than the others, and he was introduced promptly by the new boss as Mr. Marshall Clinard, who, he was given to understand, was working on criminological statistics. (The word statistics had immediate meaning because he saw several calculating machines around the room; he knew nothing of them except what else could they be.)
Mr. Rathbone was a large, heavy-set, fairly dark brown, smooth-skinned man of around thirty, maybe forty, very old, or so thought the Student, who would have done better to guess younger. He dressed in a conservative grey worsted suit with a vest. He spoke slowly in a resonant, even-pitched voice, nothing of a Southern accent in it, except that it wasn't Northern. He said he needed help in compiling the record of lynchings in the South over a long period of years. He wanted to know where they had been occurring with the greatest frequency, and then he was going to correlate the indicators of well-being (actually poverty) in the counties, like their percentage of inside-toilets and running water, and their average years of education, with the number of lynchings per thousand people, as far back as the figures would carry him, hopefully through the whole period since the Civil War.
There had been a couple of recent studies showing a significant correlation between the number of lynchings occurring in the various States with the level of prices of farm products: as prices went down, the number of lynchings rose. The unpredictability even of injustice was manifest; so were the insidious workings of the marxist idea of economic determinism. Here was a volatile variable relationship; would it persist with regard to longer-term differences in well-being among counties, when, in effect, the annual shifts in economic welfare (farm prices) were ignored? We were dealing with a South that was heavily rural and heavily black and in the throes of a Depression that seemingly would never end.
So the Student was given large sheets of tabular paper and several large volumes of statistics and a grey metal desk and began work. He appeared each noontime for two hours, there and then industriously to transcribe figures from lists of names that seemed like stops of the proverbial trains that his Father took when his little Concert Band played the performance pergolas of the towns of the Great South. The work soon became dull, however, and he had to fall back upon his painfully-developed capacity for enduring routine. Mr. Rathbone was happy to spread his reputation for diligence and accuracy. Mr. Rathbone was also reticent about his hopes and fears for his project; if he had told the Student of the methods he was employing, of the studies that had been done in the field, of what would happen to the results of the study, the labor would have been more endurable. Perhaps there were other reasons for his shyness. Mr. Earl S. Johnson, who kept nothing from his advisees, mentioned at one point that Mr. Rathbone was homosexual; perhaps he felt that he must be especially well-behaved toward the student who worked for him. At any rate, the friendship did not last beyond the year, because the Student obtained work at a higher rate of pay, quid demonstrandum est, and did not hear nor inquire later on about the results of the study. Mr. Rathbone was not around when the Student began to frequent the Social Science Building again, in his third year.
The Federal government was not alone in direct support of social research at the University. Money came from general funds of the University in small amounts. Mr. Charles Merriam and his pals had a special connection with the Spelman Fund, a Rockefeller spin-off, in New York. But the name of the Rosenwald Foundation was a by-word of the Sociology Department at Chicago. The Foundation took up a particular mission to stimulate education among blacks. It expended millions of dollars for the purpose. Julius Rosenwald was not only an extraordinary businessman but also a philanthropist such as occur rarely in history. He gave to causes that were important to society, gave heavily, and gave intelligently; he insisted that the principal sum of his grants be spent, rather than letting the Foundation live forever off the interest on the principal and increments thereof. Louis Wirth helped him spend the money with any number of projects. But he was not alone, of course.
The Sociology Department was thriving generally when the Student appeared on the scene, and had been so since the turn of the century, since the beginning of the University in 1893, actually, if you consider how sociologically inclined was the first great President, William Rainey Harper, whose theology was opiated by the doctrine of good works. The early years implanted the idea of social investigation that burgeoned magnificently in the Chicago environment. The exploding metropolis became the focus of a hundred studies, flowing out of sociology into the Department of Political Science, the School of Social Work, and even the Chicago Theological Seminary, to name three of the avenues channeling the novel empirical traffic.
Mr. W.I. Thomas, perhaps the greatest of the innovators, was ridiculed by the Chicago Tribune "for counting the whorehouses around town that any taxicab driver can take you to," or words to that effect. And the same Mr. Thomas really got into trouble by escorting at his own expense a mistress across the State border. The FBI, authorized to proceed under the Mann Act or "Act against White Slavery," was tipped off to his alleged malfeasance, and ultimately he was forced to resign, after a disgusting hullabaloo in the press and within the University community, from which no one emerged looking decent.
The scandal hardly gave pause to the Department's development. There were in the Student's day, though not Mr. Thomas or his predecessor in scandal, brilliance, and influence, Mr. Thorstein Veblen, a sociological economist, still Mr. Park, Mr. Burgess, and Mr. Ogburn, besides Mr. Wirth and other worthies.
The black side of the Department is worth coming back to, because the Department unquestionably was the center of influence for black studies in the sociological field. Horace Cayton hung around the place, whether teaching or not, and St. Clair Drake was there, whose close friend was the same slender blonde whom the Student saw leaving the room on his first appearance, his later good friend, too, Elizabeth Johns. Observable as well to the lustful Student were the Palmer sisters, the elder and taller of whom was Departmental Secretary, six feet of gorgeous tan skin and a green eye that would set you, man or woman, on your ear. Never mind, his day would come, and meanwhile he had a lot of wood to chop.
Another Research Assistant of Mr. Wirth was Mr. Edward Shils, who could in appearance and speech -- so far as the student was concerned -- be a bad-boy from the slums of New York City. Not so. The Student learned quickly (I told you how fast he could recover from culture shock) that Mr. Shils was as smart and fast as a fox, and he looked like one to boot. The Student had one naive quality: he liked anyone who taught him anything, if only because there were so few of these around, but also because he felt that teaching was a gift to the learner, and even an off-hand remark on the cause of the downfall of the Weimar Republic (now two years gone) that was personally directed to him, provided only that it was striking and plausible, was a compliment for which to be grateful.
This was strange, when you think of it: he had the same attitude that is found in dumb beautiful women: when you address them with a highly intelligent remark as if they were normal, they fall in love with you. May this not be why dumb beautiful women are captured by poor smart intellectuals, and why eager young intellectuals grow to be clever old chaps? You answer this one; I would say it is a nonsensical problem, or a problem impossible to state, or impossible to prove by a) existing evidence, b) researchable proof, or c) data gatherable in the field.
"In the field" -- that is what Shils thought to be important, even while he himself appeared to be a theorist, and in fact, when the Student inquired, yes, Ed Shils, he is translating Max Weber, a practically impossible job. And it was on the basis of this initial set of indifferent encounters with Mr.Shils that the Student could at a later day break in upon his perennial irritable condition and borrow from him a copy of a manuscript -- this in the days before the Xerox machine -- a copy of Max Weber's major contributions to sociology. Mr. Shils would have all kinds of problems in publishing it. It took a lot out of his life. He could well have been irritated on that basis alone; but, no, he was probably congenitally irritable; with more interdisciplinary cooperation among psychology, sociology, genetics, and mythology, we might find out whether asthenic red-heads must tend to irritability, or must they also be from the Eastern Seaboard City, or must they also and in addition be intellectuals by upbringing and training, and mustn't they be Jewish, or, hell, is this another unsolvable problem for sociology and so give it back to folklore. Folklore, bah, it's being highly intelligent that makes one irritable: it is lonely and hopeless and despairing up there.
That the Student could read Max Weber's modern sociology in his third year probably had something to do with having read philosophy intensively in his first year. Illogically, Philosophy, which should have been the master key to the New Plan, was an elective subject, taken up mostly by students intending to enter some branch of the humanities or social sciences. As if the physical sciences or for that matter the other fields needed no philosophical foundations. Probably the psychic process that I mentioned above was at work: philosophy is ordinarily defined as "the Search for Truth." That's enough to turn off not only the ordinary American but the world of scholarship and science: "We do not want to look for Truth; we have it, or, if not, we know where it can be had."
Possibly, too, keeping Philosophy as an elective would defeat the furthest extension of Mr. Hutchin's power and limit his theories of curricular integration; moreover, "We know, don't we, what kind of people Hutchins will be putting in charge of the course and what their idea of philosophy would be."
Alas, the fear was valid. If Philosophy had been taken at its word and become the key to the survey courses, then its governors would have become the masters of the Chicago curriculum and its associated modes of thought. The Student would have gone into it along with everyone else, and, if Mr. Hutchins had called the tune, the Student would have been faced with a classical and medieval synthesis, from which his progress into the study of most other fields would be shocking and conflictful. There would be little of the hoped-for development of synthesis of fields, but rather turmoil, contradiction, anger all around.
Of course, the Philosophy course might have settled heavily into the teaching of the history of the sciences and the arts from the philosophical point of view; for instance, why were the four basic elements of earth, air, fire and water of the ancient philosophers and scientists inadequate for a modern theory of elements? And, why did the theory of electricity (Faraday) develop later than the theory of mechanics (Newton), especially considering the ancient interest in electrical phenomena (Zeus and Yahweh, the Fire Gods)?
Strange to say, then, the revolution of the curriculum and the conception of the philosophical integration of the fields of knowledge failed the critical test in the field of philosophy itself. For reasons I have barely hinted at earlier and may get into later, human failure was the cause of the accident: no one around was great enough to describe and solve the problem of philosophical integration within the tolerances sociologically and psychologically juxtaposed by the environment. It was not only the absence of a heroic mouse to bell the cat; neither was there one to design a proper bell.
The Student couldn't understand this problem. To him, then, Philosophy did not turn out to be "Personally Gestating the Mental Forms and Organs for Coping with and Expanding His Being and Becoming." It turned out to be a first-class cafeteria of ideas. He was given to read something of practically all the great philosophers, from the intriguing scraps of the pre-Socratics to the American pragmatists. He missed the boat of the latest Phenomenologsts, Logical Positivists, Existentialists, and Analytic Philosophers -- not really his fault -- and had to catch them on later voyages. The same might be said of the Orientals and the belief systems of the Americas and Lower Africa and South Asia.
Since philosophy was taught in the chronological order of the philosophers, and they were treated as individuals, the Student acquired notions of philosophy that also help explain why Philosophy could not become Leader of the Integration of Knowledge. A philosopher was usually read and judged as a rational separatist phenomenon, distinct from his environment and even his own psyche; further, philosophy was deemed to be progressive, evolving from simple and basic problems and solutions over a great period of time into better and better forms such that the present is immeasurably superior to the older forms, and will continue to grow so (conveniently the works of the earliest philosophers were lost or burned so that the scraps could support the belief of simplicity, rusticity, insufficiency of development of ideas, etc.).
Huge parts of the human experience and existence -- sex, cuisine, business, medicine, travel, practical politics, investing, for example, and even war and peace -- were snobbishly dismissed from philosophical concern (the reverse of the snobbish treatment given to philosophy by the sciences and vocations and a justifiable reason for this, since when you feel the need for philosophy, it is not there, and you make up your own which is better than nothing, nothing being the culpable gap in professional philosophy.)
The picture is cloudy, then as today. Some economists are all too pleased to consign Karl Marx to dead philosophy, or at best the history of economics, along with Bentham, Mill and others. But a few would have him the central text, perhaps rewritten sympathetically. Is Machiavelli to be dealt with in philosophy or in politics? There are those who say he is as live and precisely correct today as ever. Should he then be part of a course in the history of political science or philosophy, or as a text in international politics? Maybe it does not so much matter, except that the one and the other be read in some part sometime, but then by whom, by all who are to given a liberal education according to the Chicago Plan? Yes, well, even so they must be treated as part of a system of readings, and we begin to suspect that a four-year Plan is needed.
Reading a book in relation to no other book but randomly is pedagogically unjustifiable; so is reading a book that cannot be assimilated or understood by the particular student. How does one wish to shape a student's mind, or, if this sounds autocratic, how does our Student wish to shape his mind, to what ends, with what fineness? I am implying that the lecture system buys the idea that all students need the same thing at the same time, or, it won't hurt them to listen to a least common denominator of learned communication. So does the system of required readings. If these ideas are as obstructive to intelligence and learning as I feel they must be, how else can the lecture be justified? On grounds of providing conversation pieces -- don't laugh -- it is important that students have something in common to discuss when they encounter one another. On grounds that what the particular lecturer under consideration is saying right now has never been said before and he is bursting with the need and desire to express it. Bravo. Right on. Then, too, a minor justification for the lecture, depending again upon the character of the speaker, is to demonstrate to the students how to deliver a lecture! But then should they not be given poor lecturers as well, so as to allow them the experience of learning while bored, or -- now who can deny this? -- realizing that the most profound and brilliant mind may induce stupor in its voicing.
So here is our Student, philosophically naive, sitting amongst 150 other students of roughly the same calibre, only several of them known to him from the corridors, being directed to the salient points of David Hume's "Essay on Human Understanding" by a mediocre voice and presence, this being Mr. Charles Morris (himself a distinguished student of symbols and signs). His path into the lecture has been laid crookedly by a belief that philosophy is to be taught as events over time, and by the selection of problems and readings of philosophy according to what the average of prominent philosophers have written about in their major works in times past. I scarcely dare mention the arguments in the Department of Philosophy as to who should take on these lectures and would say nothing of venal motives such as infest academe as any other human arena, but I certainly can point out that the selection of that magnificent (but non-publishing) orator, Mr. Osborn, gave the Student a highly emotional crush of affection for Socrates and Jesus, feelings of love and indignation for the Passion of Socrates and the Passion of Jesus. How does Jesus qualify as a Philosopher anyhow? A query never properly addressed, considering the professional qualifications of the other thinkers studied. And why not Buddha? What makes a Philosopher? A following? A single idea--is that enough? Addressing eternal questions? Whose eternal questions? Ask at John Meighan's candy store and the eternal question is "How do I get a piece of ass?"
Why Socrates and not Cicero? A more lovable chap, no doubt. If you think that the situation is becoming confused, you are quite right: why not subject Plato's Symposium to frank sexological analysis? Why not bring out the full and disturbing array of theories as to who Jesus was, if he was, and how is it known what he said, and how would a professional critic analyze his moral ideas for ambiguities, contradictions, and impossibilities if they were to be put forward today? These are mind-crunching issues, stimulating to late adolescence.
I purport to give you the life of the Student; can I reasonably belay about all his ties, claiming that, after all, his life consists of what was and what was not done to him. And his life may well consist in part of the life of his tutors, as well as the life of his parents. Besides I find it momentarily at least more interesting because what he is doing is making notations on small 4" by 6" stiff beige note paper. (No great intellectual bothered to advise the students on how to study or take lecture notes, but his, I think was one of the better systems.) Like a brown bear standing along a stream cuffing at the salmon leaping by in hopes of a catch, he is trying to grasp the most important points that the lecturer -- Mr. Osborn, or Mr. Morris, or Mr. T.V. Smith -- seems to be making; not that the professor -- any professor -- could not himself have written down and distributed in mimeographed form among the students precisely the points that he wished to make and was indeed making in his lecture, thus enabling them to focus on the nuances and conditions of the points being established, all the better to comprehend and criticize them, and most importantly, to know what to remember, save for those students, of course, who, deprived of the incentive to capture the main points, would let their minds wander into worlds of irrelevant time and space all the more helplessly. But probably this system would fail, too, because the acronymic and abbreviational and summary approach here described would not evoke in the student's mind a gestalt of ideas that had entered already the student's mind and were now binding themselves around the core signs.
The Student developed a few simple rules of note-taking. On the average, a lecture would be worth a single card of cramped writing on both sides. The equivalent space would be allowed to about 40 pages of reading. Discussion sections entailed the face of a card, unless it were given over to a competent review. Very early he realized that instructors could not live up to their promises; a declared purpose to provide a review of lectures or readings did not insure that the instructor was any more pertinent or competent than notes of the brighter student. The aim of the note was to jog the memory poignantly, to state succinctly a matter of importance, a combination of what is truly important and what is probably going to be a precise subject of examination. Only occasionally did the Student allow himself the luxury of noting a matter that excited his humor or picqued his curiosity. This form of note-taking served him well, regardless of the field of study, whether philosophical, social, humanistic, or natural science. It also could handle the varying examination formats. He did not use the notes of other students: they suffered from irrelevance, verbosity, malformatting, prolixity, gaposis, and downright misstatement; furthermore, they could not tickle the precise group of neurones that had clustered around the words that the Student had jotted down in the heat of comprehension.
Here is his card of a lecture on the Sophists of ancient Greece:
Sophism is a Philosophy of Civilization
as distinguished from phil of nature:
a.) its object is man as an individual, and as a social being.
b.) Questions permanence of institutions
Old philosophy deduced the particular from their
general principles --speculative --
Sophists amassed experience and knowledge on all things, then drew conclusions on civilization culture, etc. -- empirico-inductive --
Metaphysical Philosophy aim: - theoretical (create philosophers seeking truth and knowledge)
Sophists: - practical (teach sophists art and control of life)
*** Protagoras of Abdera -- religious agnostic, "man is measure of all things", great eristic debater, grammarian
*** Gorgias: "Nothing exists, if anything did exist we could never know it; if we knew it we could never communicate it to others."
Here now are his notes on the reading of Descarte's Meditations:
Philosophy --- Readings --- Descartes
Meditations on 1st Philosophy
1st med.1.Utility of doubting as the first step in thought
a. Delivers us from prejudice
b. Detaches mind from the senses
c. We can never doubt things we discover true
2nd med.2. Even though other things are doubted, mind cannot doubt itself.
All distinct and clear conceptions are true
* 3. Body is divisible
Mind cannot be thought to be divided.
4.Extinction of mind does not follow corruption of body
5.God exists because he is in our thoughts (Anselm)
6.Certainty of mathematical demonstrations depends on knowledge of God.
7.God would not deceive us ergo our first thoughts are true.
8.Like a piece of melted wax, nothing remains the same
in body except that fact that it has always extension.
9.Bodies are known by the understanding, not imagination.
10."By the name God I understand a substance that is infinite, independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which everything is created."
11.One has notion of God first; otherwise he could not have a prototype to show his own deficiencies.
12.God is the author of our being.
13.There must be as much reality in the cause as the effect.
14.No ontological regression to infinity, since the creating cause continually keeps us being.
15.Idea of God innate in man.
16."I am somewhat intermediate between God and nought."
Therefore Power not to err is not infinite.
17.Error depends on faculty of knowledge and free will.
" = will is extended to things not understood.
knowledge = finite understanding; free will=infinite understanding. Ergo understanding should precede the will.
18. Since God is perfect he must exist because that is a perfection.
19. Imagination shows the existence of material bodies. Imagination requires certain effort of mind unlike understanding, e.g.We don't imagine a myriagon like we do a triangle but we understand it.
I conclude with a paragraph of notes from a portion of a lecture that presumed to summarize the idealists, one by one, Fichte,
Shelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and the American Josiah Royce:
Evil is like a beauty spot on the face of the Universe.
World is completely good. Evil must exist to show the great good. Progress is false.
-- Idealists dislike progress. Progress implies all is not as good as it might be. God either could have made the world good and didn't - therefore He is not all good. or He could have but couldn't therefore not all-powerful. Progress hence implies Atheism.
-- Idealists are either with powerful God or with endless process.
In the end it would appear that the Student became an idealist who believed in the endless process, the infinite fabric of existence. It is easy to see how a child of a secular American family could be a pragmatist, which he was; it is more difficult to determine how he could become a philosophical idealist in the tradition of Berkeley, Hegel and the phenomenologists. It may have had something to do with a very early heavy life of the imagination, the fantastic construction of worlds, more than most children, with not a little of megalomania by way of reinforcement.
In one semester of 1936, just turned sixteen, he discovered Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum," and Berkeley's "To be is to be perceived," ("Esse percipi") then twenty years later he was writing, thinking he invented it, "Percipio ergo sum," and 40 years later he discovered that he had mainly recollected and rediscovered the superiority of Berkeley over Descartes. This happened as he merged the concept, hitherto important to his own theory of public opinion and social psychology, into his new general theory of Homo Sapiens Schizotypicalis, Homo Schizo, for short. Now, as I review his notes after a half century's passage, I am struck by how much at home I feel in them, as if they had been written down lately.
I wonder, too, at the prolonged effects of the dead teachers, that is, the classics. I also see confirmed the idea that live teachers, including the teachers of the Student, unless they are brilliantly original, must be judged primarily on how well they select, convey and interpret the works of the dead teachers to the young; and, climactically, how they prove the importance and validity of the dead teachers by instrumenting the young to activate them.
Perhaps I have established well enough that the Student read with fairly high speed, good attention, easy comprehension, and a sense of "what was important to dwell upon and what not so." This last was probably the key to his success as a reader, for he spent about two-fifths less time studying than the better students of whom he had inquired and whom he had observed. The Butters Brothers, Norm Pearson, Jim Dunkin, Marge Goldman, Morris Cohen and the others all studied considerably more. There might have been others who did not, but he was not acquainted with them. There were some bright characters around who got average grades with no more work that he put in or even less. They did not have the compulsion to get excellent grades, because they could afford the cost of their studies. (Caution: "What was important.." means what he and the Committee of Examiners agreed upon, plus a subjective residuum of personally-sensed needs.)
One of the more troubled groups at the University consisted of students who were allotted generous scholarships because they came from the wide world beyond Chicago and because the University wanted to keep a lid on Chicago's representation. Often the students had marvelous records of scholarship and activity in their secondary schools. Miles Fenner, whom the Student encountered in his first year, held a two-year full scholarship. He had been tops in just about everything including scholarship at his small high school in Iowa, but couldn't handle the competition at Chicago any way, in leadership, athletics or scholarship. It did not seem to make much difference how hard he studied. He felt badly; so did the Student for that matter.
Anyhow, that's how much he studied. And as to when and how he studied: he studied all the time when he was not eating with others, sleeping, engaged in paid work, playing music, or practicing athletics, getting from one place to another on foot, skimming the daily press and magazines, and palavering informally during encounters. Was he happy? He didn't ask himself the question. Was he satisfied with the wind in his face? Yes. Very much so. Was he learning. A great deal of the best of what was supposed to be learned as adjudged by those best equipped to say? Yes. He wrote a letter to his High School English teacher, Miss Ruth Mills, who had urged him and her other qualified students to aim for the University of Chicago; he described his routine and expressed his thanks, and she wrote him a letter, too, a nice one, but warning him "not to burn the candle at both ends." Strangely, the letter gave him pause: "I do look like a candle," he thought.
I have mentioned the high state of art achieved in the Chicago Comprehensive Examination, which took the better part of a morning and afternoon to examine students on their work of a year in a single course. Exams could be repeated for a fee if the result of the first experience disappointed one. The Student never did so: he was too proud, lazy and poor. Much ingenuity was exacted of the staff of the course, and the staff worked with professional examiners whose office served all of the courses and guarded the preparation, administration, and grading of their examinations. The exams were given in a large room, a hall, a gymnasium, allowing examinees into the hundreds to be seated at a "safe" distance from one another. The examination booklets were neatly printed, carried sharp and clear instructions and warnings, and even smelled good, or at least the Student, as the Moment of Truth approached and the booklets were ready to be distributed, quivered like a cavalry steed scenting sulphurous gunsmoke.
Tales of gory past struggles filled the air before the event. The unprepared ODing on barbiturates beforehand. The sleepless nights. The mental confusion. The weak fainting. The insecure not showing up. The cheaters arrested. The mistakes in reading instructions. The record times. The average time of the brilliant and knowing. The average time of the failing. What manner of person leaves long before needs be? What type stays on to the bitter end.
The Student had high examination morale. He shifted into exam-time gear about two weeks before the three major examinations of the year were to be given (invariably at the beginning of June). This meant that he cut back on his activities (although the activities, except paid work, cut back on him and the others at these critical times). He went to the library to look over the larger works once more at first hand. He took up his notes and practically memorized them. These, for a three-quarter course in Social Science I, consisted of some 300 cards and small sheets of lined looseleaf paper, double-sided. He rarely studied with anyone, although it was common for students to review a course together, and the more organized fraternities conducted review sessions for their members. He generally slept eight hours a night, and reduced this by a half hour or even an hour before an examination, an unusually small concession to the emergency.
He learned to push ahead rapidly on the examination, answering the questions that were easiest and fastest. Then he spent more and more time on the questions in descending order of ease. There were always questions that he could not answer, and these he fussed over until the end of the examination period, letting others leave the room ahead, hoping his brain would be electrified by a missing answer returning home, also casting glances in all directions, trying on occasion to reach another student's answer by telescopic vision. It was not impossible, after all, to catch sight of a checked multiple choice question at ten feet, note that it must be the first suggested answer, since the second was obviously stupid, note also from the little cues given by the other person whether he or she was bright or dumb, and then make up one's own mind to the effect that the best answer to the item -- "Jeremy Bentham as the Philosopher of Utilitarianism was: a) the inventor of the slogan `the greatest happiness of the greatest number' b) almost as great a jurist as he was an economist, c) a `radical' as the term was used then, d) a precursor of Karl Marx, whose philosophy Marx inverted -- was probably "c)".
A great many of the questions were marvelous in form and ingenuity; a form the Student especially liked was the quotation of a passage and then the short-answer extraction of the meaning of the lines; but he liked all the forms, even the primitive true-false question, which now at Chicago had been demoted so that one would lose half a point if he gave the incorrect answer (so as to penalize guessing). Instructors vied to have their queries accepted by the others.
At this period of American educational history, the Chicago examining system was unique and a continual source of amazement and controversy. It was especially strongly attacked for largely eliminating the question whose answer required a lengthy essay, the very type of examining form, however, with its biases toward glibness of expression, favoritism and prejudice of the examining reader, inadequacy of scope, impracticality for comparative rating of a group of students, and inefficiency and high costs to grade large numbers of students at the same time, that had inspired a search for alternatives. Today, all that I say has a familiar ring to the reader who has been subjected to the Chicago examination format from his earliest school days and in the sophisticated forms elaborated by the great bureaucracy of the Princeton Testing Service. Suffice to conclude now that the Chicago type of examination encourages some tricks of its own. It is more suited to certain types of student, our Student being one of them -- fortunately, else we should have little more to say about him.
Examinations of his first year ended, the Student collected his few things from here and there and left campus. So did Norman Pearson. They did not want to leave. They would have stayed and found some work thereabouts had they not already been evicted from the Music Building. Bob Remer, the property manager for the Department of Music, gave the bad news to Pearson who conveyed it to his younger friend: the occupation of the attic rooms of the Music Building contravened the fire code of the City of Chicago and the fine print of the insurance policies held by the University. Mr. Bricken was sorry. Anyhow, the Building was closing down for the summer.
So the Student had little left to carry North, his trumpet and a few things he had stored at the Bandroom. He worried whether the recording of Beethovan's Ninth Symphony that he had removed from the Music Library without charging it out had anything to do with their eviction. He walked to 55th Street, boarded a trolley car, got off at 51st and South Park, climbed to the Elevated Platform, took the Evanston "L", transferred to the Ravenswood Train in the Loop, rode it to the Addison Street stop, and walked home to 3436 Southport Avenue. He was already homesick for the University. Somehow he would return and, too, would live on campus.
Ten days later the postcard that he had provided for the notice of his grades returned in the mails. Two A's, two B's! A Chicago "B" was an "A" elsewhere. He could expect at least to have his half-tuition scholarship renewed. It was, but late in the summer. The robotry that distributed awards had little use for "a man of parts," nor was it programmed to mind his morale.