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The pair debate such issues as whether man is essentially a machine or has free will, whether personal merit is meaningless, and whether people have any impulse other than the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. Saadaval Ilmumisaasta: Viimased kommentaarid Keskmine hinnang puudub kokku 0 hindajat. Kirjuta arvustus. Mobiilirakendus Proovi Apollo mobiili- rakendust ja koge veel mugavamat ostlemist. EMBED for wordpress. Want more? Advanced embedding details, examples, and help!

Publication date Usage Public Domain Mark 1. LibriVox recording of What is Man? Read by John Greenman. In the then condition of the public standards of honor he could not have been comfortable with the stigma upon him of having refused to fight. The teachings of religion, his devotion to his family, his kindness of heart, his high principles, all went for nothing when they stood in the way of his spiritual comfort. A man will do anything , no matter what it is, to secure his spiritual comfort ; and he can neither be forced nor persuaded to any act which has not that goal for its object.

Hamilton's act was compelled by the inborn necessity of contenting his own spirit; in this it was like all the other acts of his life, and like all the acts of all men's lives. Do you see where the kernel of the matter lies? A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. He will secure the largest share possible of that, at all costs, all sacrifices. A minute ago you said Hamilton fought that duel to get public approval.

I did. By refusing to fight the duel he would have secured his family's approval and a large share of his own; but the public approval was more valuable in his eyes than all other approvals put together—in the earth or above it; to secure that would furnish him the most comfort of mind, the most self —approval; so he sacrificed all other values to get it. Some noble souls have refused to fight duels, and have manfully braved the public contempt. They acted according to their make. They valued their principles and the approval of their families above the public approval.

They took the thing they valued most and let the rest go. They took what would give them the largest share of personal contentment and approval —a man always does. Public opinion cannot force that kind of men to go to the wars. When they go it is for other reasons. Other spirit-contenting reasons. When a man sacrifices his life to save a little child from a burning building, what do you call that?

When he does it, it is the law of his make. He can't bear to see the child in that peril a man of a different make could , and so he tries to save the child, and loses his life. But he has got what he was after— his own approval. Different results of the one Master Impulse: the necessity of securing one's self approval. They wear diverse clothes and are subject to diverse moods, but in whatsoever ways they masquerade they are the same person all the time.

To change the figure, the compulsion that moves a man—and there is but the one—is the necessity of securing the contentment of his own spirit.


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When it stops, the man is dead. Why, love is that impulse, that law, in its most uncompromising form. It will squander life and everything else on its object. Not primarily for the object's sake, but for its own. When its object is happy it is happy—and that is what it is unconsciously after. No, it is the absolute slave of that law. The mother will go naked to clothe her child; she will starve that it may have food; suffer torture to save it from pain; die that it may live. She takes a living pleasure in making these sacrifices.

She does it for that reward —that self-approval, that contentment, that peace, that comfort. There is no act, large or small, fine or mean, which springs from any motive but the one—the necessity of appeasing and contenting one's own spirit. I honor them, I uncover my head to them—from habit and training; and they could not know comfort or happiness or self-approval if they did not work and spend for the unfortunate. It makes them happy to see others happy; and so with money and labor they buy what they are after— happiness, self-approval. Why don't miners do the same thing?

Because they can get a thousandfold more happiness by not doing it. There is no other reason. They follow the law of their make. That it does not exist. Duties are not performed for duty's sake , but because their neglect would make the man uncomfortable. A man performs but one duty—the duty of contenting his spirit, the duty of making himself agreeable to himself. If he can most satisfyingly perform this sole and only duty by helping his neighbor, he will do it; if he can most satisfyingly perform it by swindling his neighbor, he will do it.

But he always looks out for Number One— first ; the effects upon others are a secondary matter. Men pretend to self-sacrifices, but this is a thing which, in the ordinary value of the phrase, does not exist and has not existed. A man often honestly thinks he is sacrificing himself merely and solely for some one else, but he is deceived; his bottom impulse is to content a requirement of his nature and training, and thus acquire peace for his soul. Apparently, then, all men, both good and bad ones, devote their lives to contenting their consciences.

That is a good enough name for it: Conscience—that independent Sovereign, that insolent absolute Monarch inside of a man who is the man's Master. There are all kinds of consciences, because there are all kinds of men. You satisfy an assassin's conscience in one way, a philanthropist's in another, a miser's in another, a burglar's in still another. As a guide or incentive to any authoritatively prescribed line of morals or conduct leaving training out of the account , a man's conscience is totally valueless.

I know a kind-hearted Kentuckian whose self-approval was lacking—whose conscience was troubling him, to phrase it with exactness— because he had neglected to kill a certain man —a man whom he had never seen. The stranger had killed this man's friend in a fight, this man's Kentucky training made it a duty to kill the stranger for it.

He neglected his duty—kept dodging it, shirking it, putting it off, and his unrelenting conscience kept persecuting him for this conduct. At last, to get ease of mind, comfort, self-approval, he hunted up the stranger and took his life. It was an immense act of self-sacrifice as per the usual definition , for he did not want to do it, and he never would have done it if he could have bought a contented spirit and an unworried mind at smaller cost.

But we are so made that we will pay anything for that contentment—even another man's life. You spoke a moment ago of trained consciences. You mean that we are not born with consciences competent to guide us aright? If we were, children and savages would know right from wrong, and not have to be taught it. Oh, a million unnoticed influences—for good or bad: influences which work without rest during every waking moment of a man's life, from cradle to grave. It can't be trained to do a thing for any other reason. The thing is impossible. There must be a genuinely and utterly self-sacrificing act recorded in human history somewhere.

It does seem to me that when a man sees a fellow-being struggling in the water and jumps in at the risk of his life to save him—. Describe the man. Describe the fellow-being. State if there is an audience present; or if they are alone. Very much. Shall we suppose, as a beginning, that the two are alone, in a solitary place, at midnight? I see. Circumstances alter cases. I suppose that if there was no audience to observe the act, the man wouldn't perform it. But there is here and there a man who would.

People, for instance, like the man who lost his life trying to save the child from the fire; and the man who gave the needy old woman his twenty-five cents and walked home in the storm—there are here and there men like that who would do it. And why? Because they couldn't bear to see a fellow-being struggling in the water and not jump in and help.

In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays

It would give them pain. They would save the fellow-being on that account. They wouldn't do it otherwise. They strictly obey the law which I have been insisting upon. You must remember and always distinguish the people who can't bear things from people who can. Come—take the good boy who does things he doesn't want to do, in order to gratify his mother. He does seven-tenths of the act because it gratifies him to gratify his mother. Throw the bulk of advantage the other way and the good boy would not do the act.

He must obey the iron law. None can escape it. You needn't mention it, it is a waste of time. It is no matter about the bad boy's act. Whatever it was, he had a spirit-contenting reason for it. Otherwise you have been misinformed, and he didn't do it. It is very exasperating. A while ago you said that man's conscience is not a born judge of morals and conduct, but has to be taught and trained.

Now I think a conscience can get drowsy and lazy, but I don't think it can go wrong; if you wake it up—. Once upon a time an Infidel was guest in the house of a Christian widow whose little boy was ill and near to death. The Infidel often watched by the bedside and entertained the boy with talk, and he used these opportunities to satisfy a strong longing in his nature—that desire which is in us all to better other people's condition by having them think as we think.

He was successful. But the dying boy, in his last moments, reproached him and said:. Now I have nothing left, and I die miserable; for the things which you have told me do not take the place of that which I have lost. How could you do this cruel thing? We have done you no harm, but only kindness; we made our house your home, you were welcome to all we had, and this is our reward. The heart of the Infidel was filled with remorse for what he had done, and he said:. In my view he was in error; it seemed my duty to teach him the truth. Now he is dead,—and lost; and I am miserable.

Our faith came down to us through centuries of believing ancestors; what right had you, or any one, to disturb it? Where was your honor, where was your shame? Yes, his Self-Disapproval was. It pained him to see the mother suffer. He was sorry he had done a thing which brought him pain. It did not occur to him to think of the mother when he was misteaching the boy, for he was absorbed in providing pleasure for himself, then. Providing it by satisfying what he believed to be a call of duty.

Call it what you please, it is to me a case of awakened conscience. That awakened conscience could never get itself into that species of trouble again. A cure like that is a permanent cure. Pardon—I had not finished the story. We are creatures of outside influences —we originate nothing within. Whenever we take a new line of thought and drift into a new line of belief and action, the impulse is always suggested from the outside. Remorse so preyed upon the Infidel that it dissolved his harshness toward the boy's religion and made him come to regard it with tolerance, next with kindness, for the boy's sake and the mother's.

Finally he found himself examining it. From that moment his progress in his new trend was steady and rapid. He became a believing Christian. And now his remorse for having robbed the dying boy of his faith and his salvation was bitterer than ever. It gave him no rest, no peace. He must have rest and peace—it is the law of nature. There seemed but one way to get it; he must devote himself to saving imperiled souls. He became a missionary. He landed in a pagan country ill and helpless. A native widow took him into her humble home and nursed him back to convalescence.

Then her young boy was taken hopelessly ill, and the grateful missionary helped her tend him. Here was his first opportunity to repair a part of the wrong done to the other boy by doing a precious service for this one by undermining his foolish faith in his false gods. But the dying boy in his last moments reproached him and said:. We had done you no harm, but only kindness; we made our house your home, you were welcome to all we had, and this is our reward. The heart of the missionary was filled with remorse for what he had done, and he said:. Now he is dead—and lost; and I am miserable.

The missionary's anguish of remorse and sense of treachery were as bitter and persecuting and unappeasable, now, as they had been in the former case. The story is finished. What is your comment? The man's conscience is a fool! It was morbid. It didn't know right from wrong. I am not sorry to hear you say that. If you grant that one man's conscience doesn't know right from wrong, it is an admission that there are others like it. This single admission pulls down the whole doctrine of infallibility of judgment in consciences. Meantime there is one thing which I ask you to notice.

That in both cases the man's act gave him no spiritual discomfort, and that he was quite satisfied with it and got pleasure out of it. But afterward when it resulted in pain to him , he was sorry. Sorry it had inflicted pain upon the others, but for no reason under the sun except that their pain gave him pain.

Our consciences take no notice of pain inflicted upon others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to us. In all cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable. Many an infidel would not have been troubled by that Christian mother's distress. Don't you believe that? And many a missionary, sternly fortified by his sense of duty, would not have been troubled by the pagan mother's distress—Jesuit missionaries in Canada in the early French times, for instance; see episodes quoted by Parkman.

At this. That we mankind have ticketed ourselves with a number of qualities to which we have given misleading names. I mean we attach misleading meanings to the names. They are all forms of self-contentment, self-gratification, but the names so disguise them that they distract our attention from the fact. Also we have smuggled a word into the dictionary which ought not to be there at all—Self-Sacrifice. It describes a thing which does not exist.

But worst of all, we ignore and never mention the Sole Impulse which dictates and compels a man's every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval, in every emergency and at all costs.

To it we owe all that we are. It is our breath, our heart, our blood. It is our only spur, our whip, our goad, our only impelling power; we have no other. Without it we should be mere inert images, corpses; no one would do anything, there would be no progress, the world would stand still. We ought to stand reverently uncovered when the name of that stupendous power is uttered. Old Man. Have you given thought to the Gospel of Self—Approval since we talked?

It was I that moved you to it. That is to say an outside influence moved you to it—not one that originated in your head. Will you try to keep that in mind and not forget it? Because by and by in one of our talks, I wish to further impress upon you that neither you, nor I, nor any man ever originates a thought in his own head. The utterer of a thought always utters a second-hand one.

Reserve your remark till we get to that part of our discussion—tomorrow or next day, say. Now, then, have you been considering the proposition that no act is ever born of any but a self-contenting impulse— primarily. You have sought. What have you found? I have not been very fortunate. I have examined many fine and apparently self-sacrificing deeds in romances and biographies, but—.

Under searching analysis the ostensible self-sacrifice disappeared? It naturally would. But here in this novel is one which seems to promise. In the Adirondack woods is a wage-earner and lay preacher in the lumber-camps who is of noble character and deeply religious.


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An earnest and practical laborer in the New York slums comes up there on vacation—he is leader of a section of the University Settlement. Holme, the lumberman, is fired with a desire to throw away his excellent worldly prospects and go down and save souls on the East Side. He counts it happiness to make this sacrifice for the glory of God and for the cause of Christ. He resigns his place, makes the sacrifice cheerfully, and goes to the East Side and preaches Christ and Him crucified every day and every night to little groups of half-civilized foreign paupers who scoff at him. But he rejoices in the scoffings, since he is suffering them in the great cause of Christ.

You have so filled my mind with suspicions that I was constantly expecting to find a hidden questionable impulse back of all this, but I am thankful to say I have failed. This man saw his duty, and for duty's sake he sacrificed self and assumed the burden it imposed.

Let us read further, presently. Meantime, in sacrificing himself— not for the glory of God, primarily , as he imagined, but first to content that exacting and inflexible master within him— did he sacrifice anybody else? He relinquished a lucrative post and got mere food and lodging in place of it. Had he dependents? He was the support of a superannuated father. He had a young sister with a remarkable voice—he was giving her a musical education, so that her longing to be self-supporting might be gratified. He was furnishing the money to put a young brother through a polytechnic school and satisfy his desire to become a civil engineer.

The young brother's education—well, an extinguishing blight fell upon that happy dream, and he had to go to sawing wood to support the old father, or something like that? What a handsome job of self-sacrificing he did do! It seems to me that he sacrificed everybody except himself. Haven't I told you that no man ever sacrifices himself; that there is no instance of it upon record anywhere; and that when a man's Interior Monarch requires a thing of its slave for either its momentary or its permanent contentment, that thing must and will be furnished and that command obeyed, no matter who may stand in the way and suffer disaster by it?

That man ruined his family to please and content his Interior Monarch—. Very well, have it so, if you will. But it could be that he argued that if he saved a hundred souls in New York—. The sacrifice of the family would be justified by that great profit upon the—the—what shall we call it? How would speculation do? How would gamble do? Not a solitary soul-capture was sure. He played for a possible thirty-three-hundred-per-cent profit. Maybe we can get on the track of the secret original impulse, the real impulse, that moved him to so nobly self—sacrifice his family in the Savior's cause under the superstition that he was sacrificing himself.

I will read a chapter or so Here we have it! It was bound to expose itself sooner or later. Were not his efforts acceptable to the Savior, for Whom alone they were made? Dear me, that detail is lost sight of , is not even referred to, the fact that it started out as a motive is entirely forgotten! Then what is the trouble? The authoress quite innocently and unconsciously gives the whole business away.

The trouble was this: this man merely preached to the poor; that is not the University Settlement's way; it deals in larger and better things than that, and it did not enthuse over that crude Salvation-Army eloquence. It was courteous to Holme—but cool. It did not pet him, did not take him to its bosom. The Savior? No; the Savior is not mentioned. Of whom, then? Because the Master inside of him wanted it, and would not be content without it. That emphasized sentence quoted above, reveals the secret we have been seeking, the original impulse, the real impulse, which moved the obscure and unappreciated Adirondack lumberman to sacrifice his family and go on that crusade to the East Side—which said original impulse was this, to wit: without knowing it he went there to show a neglected world the large talent that was in him, and rise to distinction.

As I have warned you before, no act springs from any but the one law, the one motive. But I pray you, do not accept this law upon my say-so; but diligently examine for yourself. Whenever you read of a self-sacrificing act or hear of one, or of a duty done for duty's sake , take it to pieces and look for the real motive. It is always there. I do it every day. I cannot help it, now that I have gotten started upon the degrading and exasperating quest. For it is hatefully interesting! As soon as I come across a golden deed in a book I have to stop and take it apart and examine it, I cannot help myself.

No—at least, not yet. But take the case of servant—tipping in Europe.

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You pay the hotel for service; you owe the servants nothing , yet you pay them besides. Doesn't that defeat it? You are not obliged to do it, therefore its source is compassion for their ill-paid condition, and—. Well, custom is law, in a way, and laws must be submitted to—everybody recognizes it as a duty. Then the impulse which moves you to submit to the tax is not all compassion, charity, benevolence? Perhaps so. In case you ignored the custom would you get prompt and effective service from the servants?

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Oh, hear yourself talk! Those European servants? Why, you wouldn't get any at all, to speak of. Apparently, then, it is a case of for-duty's-sake with a little self-interest added? Yes, it has the look of it. But here is a point: we pay that tax knowing it to be unjust and an extortion; yet we go away with a pain at the heart if we think we have been stingy with the poor fellows; and we heartily wish we were back again, so that we could do the right thing, and more than the right thing, the generous thing.

What is a Man? And Other Essays of Mark Twain

I think it will be difficult for you to find any thought of self in that impulse. I wonder why you should think so. When you find service charged in the hotel bill does it annoy you? The expense , then, is not the annoying detail. It is a fixed charge, and you pay it cheerfully, you pay it without a murmur. When you came to pay the servants, how would you like it if each of the men and maids had a fixed charge?

Even if the fixed tax were a shade more than you had been in the habit of paying in the form of tips? Very well, then. As I understand it, it isn't really compassion nor yet duty that moves you to pay the tax, and it isn't the amount of the tax that annoys you. Yet something annoys you. What is it? Well, the trouble is, you never know what to pay, the tax varies so, all over Europe.

There is no other way. So you go on thinking and thinking, and calculating and guessing, and consulting with other people and getting their views; and it spoils your sleep nights, and makes you distraught in the daytime, and while you are pretending to look at the sights you are only guessing and guessing and guessing all the time, and being worried and miserable. And all about a debt which you don't owe and don't have to pay unless you want to! What is the purpose of the guessing? It has quite a noble look—taking so much pains and using up so much valuable time in order to be just and fair to a poor servant to whom you owe nothing, but who needs money and is ill paid.

I think, myself, that if there is any ungracious motive back of it it will be hard to find. Why, he is silent; does not thank you. Sometimes he gives you a look that makes you ashamed. You are too proud to rectify your mistake there, with people looking, but afterward you keep on wishing and wishing you had done it. My, the shame and the pain of it!

Sometimes you see, by the signs, that you have it just right , and you go away mightily satisfied. Sometimes the man is so effusively thankful that you know you have given him a good deal more than was necessary. It is my belief that you have not been concerning yourself in guessing out his just dues, but only in ciphering out what would content him.

And I think you have a self-deluding reason for that. If you fell short of what he was expecting and wanting, you would get a look which would shame you before folk. That would give you pain. You —for you are only working for yourself, not him. If you gave him too much you would be ashamed of yourself for it, and that would give you pain—another case of thinking of yourself , protecting yourself, saving yourself from discomfort.

Gabriel Wells Volume 26 - What Is Man? And Other Essays

You never think of the servant once—except to guess out how to get his approval. If you get that, you get your own approval, and that is the sole and only thing you are after. The Master inside of you is then satisfied, contented, comfortable; there was no other thing at stake, as a matter of first interest, anywhere in the transaction.

Well, to think of it; Self-Sacrifice for others, the grandest thing in man, ruled out! That no man has ever sacrificed himself in the common meaning of that phrase—which is, self-sacrifice for another alone. Men make daily sacrifices for others, but it is for their own sake first. The act must content their own spirit first.

The other beneficiaries come second. No man performs a duty for mere duty's sake; the act must content his spirit first. He must feel better for doing the duty than he would for shirking it. It was a noble duty, greatly performed. Take it to pieces and examine it, if you like. A British troop-ship crowded with soldiers and their wives and children. She struck a rock and began to sink. There was room in the boats for the women and children only.

The boats carried away the women and children. When the death-moment was come, the colonel and his officers took their several posts, the men stood at shoulder-arms, and so, as on dress-parade, with their flag flying and the drums beating, they went down, a sacrifice to duty for duty's sake. Can you view it as other than that? It was something as fine as that, as exalted as that.

Could you have remained in those ranks and gone down to your death in that unflinching way? Imagine yourself there, with that watery doom creeping higher and higher around you. I can imagine it. I feel all the horror of it. I could not have endured it, I could not have remained in my place.

I know it. It was more than thousand men, yet not one of them flinched. Some of them must have been born with your temperament; if they could do that great duty for duty's sake , why not you? Don't you know that you could go out and gather together a thousand clerks and mechanics and put them on that deck and ask them to die for duty's sake, and not two dozen of them would stay in the ranks to the end?

But you train them, and put them through a campaign or two; then they would be soldiers; soldiers, with a soldier's pride, a soldier's self-respect, a soldier's ideals. They would have to content a soldier's spirit then, not a clerk's, not a mechanic's. They could not content that spirit by shirking a soldier's duty, could they? Then they would do the duty not for the duty's sake, but for their own sake—primarily. The duty was just the same , and just as imperative, when they were clerks, mechanics, raw recruits, but they wouldn't perform it for that.

As clerks and mechanics they had other ideals, another spirit to satisfy, and they satisfied it. They had to; it is the law. Training is potent. Training toward higher and higher, and ever higher ideals is worth any man's thought and labor and diligence. Consider the man who stands by his duty and goes to the stake rather than be recreant to it. It is his make and his training. He has to content the spirit that is in him, though it cost him his life. Another man, just as sincerely religious, but of different temperament, will fail of that duty, though recognizing it as a duty, and grieving to be unequal to it: but he must content the spirit that is in him—he cannot help it.

He could not perform that duty for duty's sake , for that would not content his spirit, and the contenting of his spirit must be looked to first. It takes precedence of all other duties. Take the case of a clergyman of stainless private morals who votes for a thief for public office, on his own party's ticket, and against an honest man on the other ticket. He has to content his spirit. He has no public morals; he has no private ones, where his party's prosperity is at stake.

He will always be true to his make and training. Young Man. You keep using that word—training. By it do you particularly mean—. Study, instruction, lectures, sermons? That is a part of it—but not a large part. I mean all the outside influences.

There are a million of them. From the cradle to the grave, during all his waking hours, the human being is under training.