By Claes G. Ryn
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Extra resources for A Common Human Ground: Universality and Particularity in a Multicultural World
Healthy family life and other civilizing forces such as education can assist the effort to achieve personal excellence—are indeed indispensable—but only sustained effort by individuals can improve the common life. According to the traditional understanding, the moral struggle with self, the slow development of character, is only a part of the protracted work of humanizing existence, but it is the part on which all the others—intellectual, aesthetical, political, 32 A Common Human Ground and economic—ultimately depend for their health.
The proper task, it would appear, is to work to spread a spirit of humanism throughout society and to humanize science and economic activity, making them means to the higher ends of civilization. This work is not, as should be clear from previous arguments, a matter of merely reviving and disseminating traditional beliefs. Those beliefs need critical and discriminating scrutiny, and must, to the extent that they remain valid, be restated in ways that can be understood and accepted in the contemporary world.
In his study of religion James treats sober and balanced religious experience together with emotional disturbance and extravagance of various kinds without providing an adequate criterion for telling them apart. See William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Collier Books, 1961). The “inner check” is discussed in all of Babbitt’s books, including Rousseau and Romanticism and Democracy and Leadership. For a thorough philosophical explication and critique of this idea, see Ryn, Will, Imagination and Reason.