7.4 The Contrasts with Humanism Illustrated with Respect to Crime and Punishment


Beyondism, by its origins in science, is an intellectual movement of a very different character from Humanism. It springs by fundamental, logical steps from the basic theme of evolution, on the one hand, and the newly emerging laws of behavior in groups, on the other. But Humanism at its ripe best, is, like Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac, a digest of the urbane wisdom of the ages. Unfortunately, that wisdom in the process of literary[5] transmission, has come to terms in countless ways with the worldly values of the pleasure principle. Moreover, as to offering leadership, it is unable to tell us anything new, because except for its borrowings from the universalistic religions it represents what is comfortable and mediocre in the average view of mankind.

Thus when Humanism prides itself on virtues of kindness, tolerance and liberality two questions occur to the Beyondist: (1) How far has the social growth in these attitudes been a real growth in that spirit of self-sacrifice and frustration-tolerance which is vital to a higher, more active social quest, and how far is it a mere "economic" by-product of material progress and easy times, that duly tested might lack true moral tenacity? and (2) how far, in fact, are increased toleration and permissiveness (see Royce, 1961) beyond some optimum point to be considered as a social virtue? As to the first, there is little doubt that a man in a hurry is usually less polite than one who is going nowhere; or that a man with a severe toothache will tend to be unsympathetic to anyone who complains of mere discomforts. Conversely, a well-fed man enjoying an after dinner cordial will consider the traffic penalties invoked by a hungry hobo, recently knocked down by his car, to be savage and uncivilized.

The chief gain by which the Humanist measures his progress in virtue, compared to the hair-shirted saint of the Middle Ages, is in the breadth of his tolerance, the decrease in severity of punishment he asks for admitted immorality, and the reduction in the ferocity of strife over moral matters. He congratulates himself on the decline of cruelty, and he sees in every zealot nothing but a bigot. He retains not a glimmer of the understanding for the inner processes of spiritual questioning in the auto-da-fe of the Middle Ages, or even for the stern attitudes of the Victorian parent to, say, an increase in illegitimate births. Yet before assuming our tolerance means more readiness to sacrifice to others we should remember that the severity[6] of life in the Middle Ages was such that the average life expectation was thirty years, and we should keep in mind that the standards of dress, feeding, health care and leisured recreation of the unskilled worker or even the unemployed today is that known only to a few aristocrats as recently as two or three hundred years ago.

In this balmy summer day of our technological triumphs it is a natural psychological reaction to mitigate the severity of demands both on others and on oneself. There should be no difficulty in social psychological research demonstrating this in precise quantitative terms as it develops indices of severity-vs-ease of living. And it may then be possible to answer the question as to whether, if returned to a high severity of external demand, our supposed Humanistic progress in love of fellow man would turn out to register any real advance at all. Some ghastly deeds of members of this generation, now being verified in court, but carried out under the stress of war, suggest that most of the supposed Humanistic progress in benignity has not shown itself in fundamental values. The Humanist "gain" in values is nothing new but merely a natural expression of the alleviation of general environmental pressures relative to those faced by our ancestors.

The alleged progress in tolerance may turn out to be worse than merely standing still. It may be simultaneously a purely environmentally permitted mellowing and also a regression in real concern about moral issues. The permissiveness of Humanism in this generation has shown itself prominently in the attempt to abolish blame, i.e., guilt, or punishment. Yet it is obviously in part or maybe in whole in socially misguided directions. As Tuchman has said, commenting on the recent rise of willful crime and the intellectual's "psychological excuse" of "understanding": "Admittedly, the reluctance to condemn stems partly from a worthy instinct tout comprend c'est tout pardonner and from a rejection of what was often the hypocrisy of Victorian standards. True, there was a large component of hypocrisy in 19th Century morality." But on the tendency to explain and exonerate in terms of the delinquent's environment the speaker proceeded: "I find this very puzzling because I always ask myself in these cases, what about the many neighbors of the wrongdoer, equally poor, equally disadvantaged, equally sufferers from society's neglect who, nevertheless, maintain certain standards of social behavior, who do not commit crimes, who do not murder for money or rape for 'kicks.' How does it happen that they know the difference between right and wrong and how long will they abide by the difference if the leaders and opinion-makers and pace-setters continue to shy away from bringing home responsibility to the delinquent?" (1967).

That delinquents and prospective delinquents and their associates in general are more demanding as voting citizens of reduction of punishments than are non-delinquents, and that they protest regularly, is easily understood. "Live and let live" is their motto, and some degree of this exists in all people. But the roots in the Humanist, though partly residing in his pleasure principle desire to reduce onerous standards, surely stem more from the hypocrisy of making a virtue out of what actually now comes more easily. He is also guilty scientifically (as also are many so-called social scientists) of forgetting other ramifications of the problem than that in which he is interested the happiness of the delinquent. For thirty or forty years social science has completely neglected what the current recipe for treatment of the criminal minority does to the rest of the community. Any retributive, as distinct from a therapeutic treatment of criminals the Humanist regards as purely irrational and demonstrably due to deep "psychoanalytic" sadisms in the citizen. Yet in the normal integrated person the severity with which demands are made on the self is correlated with the severity of demands on others[7]. It is quite probable from recent research on the superego that its strength in the majority may be reinforced by just punishment of offenders and demoralized by an unreflective system of meeting crime by an indulgent "therapeutic" attitude. Parenthetically, there is no proof whatever that the indulgent attitude is more therapeutic. Rates for recidivism, parole-breaking, and fresh crime while on parole remain much the same as before the psychiatrist came into the picture. And the "psychoanalytic authorities" who clamor fashionably in journalism for "the new treatment" have done least to assist or carry out the strenuous and objectively-statistical, basic research on personality on which (Horn and Knott, 1970; Scheier, In press) a genuine therapy could be established.

The difference between the Beyondist and the Humanist viewpoint here is simply that between a wholistic approach embracing both the delinquent and the rest of society, and an existential preoccupation purely with the inner life of the delinquent. The rehabilitation of the criminal and a sympathetic understanding of the difficulties which overcame him (including, often, his own earlier arrogance and callousness) is as fully embraced in the Beyondist as in the Humanist ethic. The divergence in emphasis that is important for illustrating the distinction of moral foundation between Beyondism and Humanism is seen in that the latter simply applies a set of "felt" values actually having the better part of their origin in revealed religion to any treatment of an individual, with the implicit faith that if the individual is so treated the group will "look after itself." By contrast, Beyondism considers the psychology of both the group and the individual from the beginning, and derives the treatment of the individual not from an "intuitive," "revealed" and merely historical brewed potion of values, but from whatever scientific evidence can be obtained as to the relation of such inter-individual values to the survival and progress of the group.

Consequently, in the case of such deviants as the criminal and the neurotic, the social scientist with Beyondist values makes as much investigation of their effect on other members of society as the Humanist does in tracing the "guilt" of society in permitting the existence of criminals and neurotics. Psychoanalysis, for example, (which is often the only psychology of personality dynamics apparently known to many writers) is full of what society does to the neurotic, but ignorant of what the neurotic does to society. The studies on performance of a hundred groups of ten men each made by Stice and the present writer (Cattell and Stice, 1969), in which the group could not have accounted for the personalities of the individuals because the individuals were measured before being brought together in their groups, showed that neurotics had a very adverse effect on the general performance and morale of the groups in which they were "citizens." The corresponding burden upon others, in fear, disorganization and loss, though the criminal surely needs no such proof or illustration, and, by an objective ethics, justifies the community in considering more than the question of what the treatment of the criminal will do for the criminal.

The penetration of sociological and educational writings by Humanism, particularly in this sense that "social action should be aimed to ensure the ease and blamelessness of mankind," has been widespread with the decay of a more rigorous revealed religious ethic in the last two generations. The apparent unawareness among "intellectuals" that they are getting addicted to that "dangerous alloy" (Chapter 2) mixing scientific authority with purely intuitive, unexamined moral dogmas is astonishing. In an otherwise good technical book, Emmet (1966, page 29) tells her readers: "The influence of John Dewey in America in particular has encouraged people to assume that critical scientific intelligence and liberal values and goodwill go together. The great figure of Pareto an intellectual authority for fascists and thinkers on the extreme right should have taught them better." Pareto's goodwill, which no one familiar with his work can doubt, was apparently quite vitiated by his disagreeing ethically, or even politically, with a "liberal!" The possibility that Humanism, though much associated with academic writing, has no claim whatever to being scientifically and philosophically evaluated as "goodwill" any more than is the writing of Pareto, seems not to have occurred to the author of this students' textbook.

Naturally, the topic of crime and punishment taken above is only one of several that could bring out the contrasts between the narcistic values hidden in Humanism and the demands for reality contact and concern for the life of the group central in Beyondism. It is sociologically interesting to see how "Humanist" values have entered into psychiatry, and these forms of clinical psychology remote from testing by scientific demands. Ellis (1970) tells us that for such psychotherapists as himself, Fromm, Perls, Rogers and May the goals are "self-interest, self-direction, tolerance, acceptance of uncertainty ... and self-acceptance." The resemblance to Mirandola's "Fashion yourself in what form you prefer" is striking. It is one more instance of psychiatry's foisting upon the healthy the values of the sick, since psychiatry's chief task with the latter has been viewed as the reduction of superego demands.















Back to Table of Contents