BENEDICT M. ASHLEY, O.P.: THE ARTS OF LEARNING AND COMMUNICATION
Examples of Dialectical Forms
I. A DEBATE:
SAMUEL ADAMS AND JOHN ADAMS ON REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT
Samuel Adams (1722-1803) was one of the chief leaders of the American Revolution, and remained throughout his life a supporter of those who favored more democracy in government, allying himself with Jefferson's party. His second-cousin, John Adams (17351826), the second president of the United States, who had been with Jefferson on the committee which drew up the Declaration of Independence, was inclined to an aristocratic form of government, and was a leader of the Federalist Party which opposed that of Jefferson. The following are excerpts from the correspondence between these men in 1790.
This debate is quite rhetorical in tone, but it well illustrates how debates usually involve a dialectic concerning the definition of some key term. Both these men helped to found the American Republic, but they differ sharply as to what a "republic" is.
John Adams to Samuel Adams
. . . you agree that there are undoubtedly principles of political architecture; but, instead of particularizing any of them, you seem to place all your hopes in the universal, or at least more general, prevalence of knowledge and benevolence. I think, with you, that knowledge and benevolence ought to be promoted as much as possible; but despairing of ever seeing them sufficiently general for the security of society, I am for seeking institutions which may supply in some degree the defect. If there were no ignorance, error, or vice, there would be neither principles nor systems of civil or political government.
I am very willing to agree with you in fancying that, in the greatest improvements in society, government will be in the republican form. It is a fixed principle with me that all good government is and must be republican. But, at the same time, your candor will agree with me, that there is not in lexicography a more fraudulent word. Whenever I use the word republic with approbation, I mean a government in which the people have collectively or by representation an essential share in the sovereignty. The republican forms of Poland and Venice are much worse, and those of Holland and Bern very little better, than the monarchical form in France before the late revolution. . . . Are we not, tiny friend, in danger of rendering the word republican unpopular in this Country by an indiscreet, indeterminate, and equivocal use of it? ... If in this country the word republic should be generally understood, as it is by some, to mean a form of government inconsistent with a mixture of three powers forming, a mutual balance, ,ve may depend upon it that such mischievous effects will be produced by the use of it as will compel the people of America to renounce, detest, and execrate it as the English do. With these explanations, restrictions and limitations, I agree with you in your love of republican governments, but in no other sense . . . .
. . . but, on the other hand, the nobles have been essential parties in the preservation of liberty whenever and wherever it has existed. In Europe they alone have preserved it against kings and people, wherever it has been preserved, or at least with very little assistance from the people. One hideous despotism, as horrid as that of Turkey, would have been the lot of every nation of Europe, if the nobles bad not made stands. By nobles, I mean not peculiarly an hereditary nobility, or any particular modification, but the natural and actual aristocracy among mankind. The existence of this you will not deny. You and I have seen four noble families rise up in Boston, -- the Craftses, Gores, Daweses, and Austins. These are as really a nobility in our town as the Howards, Somersets, Berties, etc., in England. Blind undistinguishing reproaches against the aristocratical part of mankind, a division which nature has made and we cannot abolish, are neither pious nor benevolent. They are as pernicious as they are false. They serve only to foment prejudice, jealousy, envy, animosity, and malevolence. They serve no ends but those of sophistry, fraud, and the spirit of party. It would not be true, but it would not be more egregiously false, to say that the people have waged everlasting war against the rights of men.
"The love of liberty," you say, "is interwoven in the soul of man." So it is, according to La Fontaine, in that of a wolf; and I doubt whether it be much more rational, generous, or social in one than in the other, until in man it is enlightened by experience, reflection, education, and civil and political institutions, which are at first produced, and constantly supported and improved, by a few, that is, by the nobility. The wolf in the fable, who preferred running in the forest, lean and hungry, to the sleek, plump, and round sides of the dog, because be found the latter was sometimes restrained, had more love of liberty than most men. The numbers of men, in all ages, have preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty, when they have been in competition. We must not, then, depend alone upon the love of liberty in the soul of man for its preservation. Some political institutions must be prepared to assist this love against its enemies. Without these, the struggle will ever end only in a change of impostors, when the people who have no property feel the power in their own bands to determine all questions by a majority, they ever attack those who have property, till the injured men of property lose all patience, and recur to finesse, trick, and stratagem, to outwit those who have too much strength, because they have too many hands, to be resisted in any other way. Let us be impartial, then, and speak the whole truth. Till we do, we shall never discover all the true principles that are necessary. The multitude, therefore, as well as the nobles, must have a check. . . .
There are a few popular men in -- Massachusetts, my friend, who have, I fear, less honor, sincerity and virtue than they ought to have. These, if they are not guarded against, may do another mischief. They may excite a party spirit and a snobbish spirit instead of the spirit of liberty, and produce another Wat Tyler's rebellion. They can do no more. But I really think their party language ought not to be countenanced nor their shibboleths pronounced, The miserable stuff that they titter about the well born is as despicable as themselves. The eulgeneis of the Greeks, the bien nées of the French, the gewellgebornen [sic] of the Germans and Dutch, the beloved families of the Greeks, are but a few samples of national expressions of the same thing, for which every nation on earth has a similar expression. One would think that our scribblers were all the sons of redemptioners or transported convicts. They think, with Tarquin, "in novo populo, ubi omnis repentina atque ex virtute nobilitas sit, futurum locum forti ac strenuo viro. . . ."
Let us do justice to the people and to tile nobles, -- for nobles there are, as I have before proved, in Boston as well as in Madrid. But to do justice to both you must establish an arbitrator between them . . . .
Samuel Adams to John Adams
. . . a republic, you tell me, is a government in which "the people have an essential share in the sovereignty." Is not the whole sovereignty, my friend, essentially in the people? Is not government designed for the welfare and happiness of all the people? And is it not the uncontrollable, essential right of the people to amend and alter or annul their Constitution and frame a new one, whenever they shall think it will better promote their own welfare and happiness to do it? That the sovereignty resides in the people, is a political doctrine which I have never heard an American politician seriously deny. The constitutions of the American States reserve to the people the exercise of the rights of sovereignty by the annual or biennial election of their governors, senators, and representatives, and by empowering their own representatives to impeach the greatest officers of the State before the senators, who are also chosen by themselves. We the people, is the style of the Federal Constitution: they adopted it; and, conformably to it, they delegate the exercise of the powers of government to particular persons, -- who, after short intervals, resign their powers to the people; and they will re-elect them, or appoint others, as they think fit.
The American Legislatures are nicely balanced. They consist of two branches, each having a check upon the determinations of the other. They sit in different chambers, and probably often reason differently in their respective chambers on the same question: if they disagree in their decisions, by a conference their reasons and arguments are mutually communicated to each other; candid explanations tend to bring them to agreement; and then, according to the Massachusetts Constitution, the matter is laid before the First Magistrate for his revision. He states objections, if be has any, with his reasons, and returns them to the legislators, who, by larger majorities, ultimately decide. Here is a mixture of three powers, founded in the nature of man, calculated to call forth the rational faculties, in the great points of legislation, into exertion, to cultivate mutual friendship and good humor, and, finally, to enable them to decide, not by the impulse of passion or party prejudice, but by the calm voice of reason, which is the voice of God. In this mixture you may see your natural and actual aristocracy among mankind operating among the several powers in legislation, and producing the most happy effects. But the son of an excellent man may never inherit the great qualities of his father; this is a common observation, and there are many instances of its truth. Should we not, therefore, conclude that hereditary nobility is a solecism in government.? . . . Much safer is it, and much more does it tend to promote the welfare and happiness of society, to fill tip the offices of government, after the mode prescribed in the American Constitutions, by frequent elections of the people. They may, indeed, be deceived in their choice; they sometimes are. But the evil is not incurable, the remedy is always near; they will feel their mistakes and correct them.
I am very willing to agree with you in thinking that improvements in knowledge and benevolence receive much assistance from the principles and systems of good government. But is it not as true that, without knowledge and benevolence, men would neither have been capable nor disposed to search for the principles or form the system? Should we not, my friend, bear a grateful remembrance of our pious and benevolent ancestors, who early laid plans of education, by which means wisdom, knowledge, and virtue have been generally diffused among the body of the people, and they have been enabled to form and establish a civil Constitution calculated for the preservation of their rights and liberties? This Constitution was evidently founded in the expectation of the further progress and extraordinary degrees of virtue. . . .
Among the numbers of men, my friend, are to be found not only those who have "preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty," but others who have eagerly sought after thrones and sceptres, hereditary shares in sovereignty, riches and splendor, titles, stars, garters, crosses, eagles, and many other childish playthings, at the expense of real nobility, without one thought or care for the liberty and happiness of the rest of mankind. . . .
But by "nobles," who have prevented "one hideous despotism as horrid as that of Turkey from falling to the lot of every nation of Europe," you mean, "not peculiarly an hereditary nobility, or any particular modification, but the natural and actual aristocracy among mankind," the existence of which I am not disposed to deny. Where is this aristocracy found? Among men of all ranks and conditions. The cottager may beget a wise son; the noble, a fool. The one is capable of great improvement; the other is not. Education is within the power of men and societies of men; wise and judicious modes of education, patronized and supported by communities, will draw together the sons of the rich and the poor, among whom it makes no distinction; it will cultivate the natural genius, elevate the soul, excite laudable emulation to excel in knowledge, piety, and benevolence; and finally it will reward its patrons and benefactors by shedding its benign influence on tile public mind. Education inures men to thinking and reflection, to reasoning and demonstration. It discovers to them the moral and religious duties they owe to God, their country, and to all mankind. Even savages might, by the means of education, be instructed to frame the best civil and political in situations with as much skill and ingenuity as they now shape their arrows. Education leads youth to "the study of human nature, society, and universal history," from whence they may "draw all the principles" of political architecture which ought to be regarded. All men are "interested in the truth"; education, by showing them "the end of all its consequences," would induce at least the greatest numbers to enlist on its side. The man of good understanding, who has been well educated, and improves these advantages as far as his circumstances will allow, in promoting the happiness of mankind, in my opinion, and I am inclined to think in yours, is indeed " well born." . . . Believe me, your sincere friend,
II. A DIALOGUE: ST. AUGUSTINE'S
THE HAPPY LIFE
St. Augustine (354-430) was converted to the Catholic faith after a youth passed in heresy and sin. After his baptism by St. Ambrose, he entered into a retreat in the country. Making use of his literary gifts (for he was a teacher of rhetoric), he began the composition of several philosophical dialogues. These were modeled after the dialogues of Cicero, which in turn were imitations of the dialogues of Plato, themselves based on Socrates' method of teaching.
The purpose of these first writings of St. Augustine was to show that reason and philosophy lead man toward the true, supernatural faith, which bad just been given him. One of these dialogues is the De Beata Vita (The Happy Life)* [* Translated by Ludwig Schopp in The Fathers of the Church, ed. by Ludwig Schopp (Cima Publishing Co., Inc., 1948), with permission of the translator and publishers.] which is an inquiry about the causes of human happiness. It opens with a sort of dedication to his friend Manlius Theodorus on the importance of philosophy, and then proceeds in dialogue form as follows:
Continuation of CHAPTER I
On the Ides of November fell my birthday. After breakfast light enough not to impede our powers of thinking, 1 asked all those of us who, not only that day but every day, were living together to have a congenial session in the bathing quarters, a quiet place fitting for the season. Assembled there -- for without hesitation I present them to your kindness, though only by name -- were first, our mother, to whose merit, in my opinion, I owe everything that I live; my brother Navigius; Trygetius and Licentius, fellow citizens and my pupils; Lastidianus and Rusticus, relatives of mine, whom I did not wish to be absent, though they are not trained even in grammar, since I believed their common sense was needed for the difficult matter I was undertaking. Also my son, Adeodatus, the youngest of all, was with us, who promises great success, unless my love deceive me. While all these were paying attention, I started in the following manner.
"Is it clear to you that we are composed of soul and body?"
While all gave their assent, Navigius replied that he was not sure about it.
I asked him then: "Do you really know nothing at all, or is this matter just one of the things that you do not know?"
"I do not believe that I know nothing at all," he answered.
"Can you mention one of the things you know?"
"Certainly," he said.
"If it is not difficult," I continued, "let us be told." When he hesitated a little, I asked him: "Do you at least know that you are alive?"
"Yes," be answered.
"You know, therefore, that you possess life, since no one can live without having life."
"This also I know," he said.
"Do you know also that you possess a body?"
He said: "Yes."
"Then you know already that you consist of body and life?"
"This I know, but I am not certain whether I consist of something more.
"You have no doubt, therefore," I continued, "of the existence of these two, the body and the soul. But you are uncertain whether there is anything else necessary for the filling out and completing of man."
"Quite right," he said.
Then I said: "The character of this other element we will examine at another time, if we are able to do so. However, since we all now agree that man cannot exist without body and without soul, I ask all of you: For which of the two do we try to obtain food?"
"For the body," said Licentius.
But the others hesitated and in various ways discussed among themselves how food could appear necessary for the body, since it was obtained for the purpose of life, and life belongs only to the soul.
At this point I asked: "In your opinion, does not food appertain to the part that we see grow and become vigorous?"
All except Trygetius agreed. He said: "Why, then, have I not grown according to my greedy appetite?"
I answered: "All bodies have by nature received a measure that they cannot exceed, although these measures may decrease by lack of food, as we notice more easily in cattle, and nobody has any doubt that through lack of nutrition the bodies of all living things grow lean."
"To grow lean," said Licentius, "does not mean to become smaller."
"This is satisfactory for the purpose I have in mind," I said. "For the question is whether food appertains to the body. It does so appertain, because, if it is withheld, the body becomes lean."
All agreed to this.
What about the soul?" I asked. "Is there no food proper to the soul? Or do you think that knowledge is its nutrition?"
"Obviously," said our mother. "I believe that the soul is not nourished except by the understanding and knowledge of things."
When Trygetius showed doubt about her statement, she asked: "Did not you yourself today demonstrate from what and where the soul finds its nourishment? For, according to your own statement, you noticed only after a certain part of the breakfast which bowl we were using, since you had been thinking of some other things I do not know, although you helped yourself from that course and ate it. Where, then, was your mind at the time when it did not pay attention to what you were eating? From there, believe me, and by such meals is the soul nourished, that is, by those speculations and thoughts by which it is able to gain knowledge."
When there was a buzz of questioning about this point, I asked: "Do you not concede that the souls of wise men are by far richer and greater, in their way, than the souls of the uneducated?"
"This is obvious," they replied.
"Then we state correctly that the souls of people not scientifically trained and unfamiliar with the liberal arts are, as it were, hungry and famished."
I believe," said Trygetius, "that their souls also are full, but full of faults and worthlessness."
"There exists, believe me," I said, "a certain real sterility and hunger of the soul. For, as the body when its nutrition is withheld is generally ill and scabious, bodily faults that indicate hunger, so are souls filled with ills through which they betray their impoverishment. Thus, according to the ancients the very word nequitia (worthlessness) -- the mother of all vices -- springs from nequicquam, that is, from that which is a nothing. The virtue which is opposite to this vice is called frugalitas (frugality), for, as this latter is called after the word frux (fruit), i.e., after fructus (enjoyment), because of a certain fecundity of the souls, so is nequitia (worthlessness) named after this sterility, i.e., after nihil (the nothing); nihil (nothing) is all that flows, that is dissolved, that melts and steadily perishes (perit). Because of this, we consider such men lost (perditi).
"But a thing really has being when it remains, stands firmly, and is always the same, as in the case with virtue. The greater and most beautiful part of this is called temperantia (restraint) and frugalitas (frugality).
"Although this may be too obscure for your understanding at present, you certainly will concede, when the souls of the uneducated are filled, that there are likewise, as for bodies, two kinds of food for souls: one healthful and beneficial; the other unhealthful and harmful.
"On the strength of this, I think that on my birthday I ought to serve a somewhat richer meal, not only for our bodies, but also for our souls, since we all agree that man consists of two things: body and soul. The quality of this meal I will reveal, if you are hungry. For, in case I tried to feed you against your will and taste, my undertaking would be in vain and prayers should be said that you would be more desirous for those meals than for the ones of the body. This will be the case if your souls are healthy, for sick souls, as can be seen in a diseased body, refuse their food and spit it out."
By the expression of their features and by their words of approval, all said they were ready to accept and eat whatever I bad prepared.
Then I spoke again: "We wish to be happy, do we not?"
The dialogue now continues with the main question, namely, the search for a happy life.
Notice in the foregoing bow the dialogue form makes it possible to present both sides of a question in a vivid, dramatic way. In a Socratic dialogue the questioner states a proposition: "Is it clear that we are composed of body and of soul?" Then one of the
others denies the proposition. Then the questioner proceeds step by step to uncover the difficulty, using the dialectical devices of definition by comparison and difference. When he has finally got the other to admit his proposition to be true in some sense, he then proceeds to raise a new problem. This continues, moving always, however, to the discovery of an answer to one main question, in this case, "What is the happy life?"
III. THE DIALECTIC
OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY:
THE DISCOVERY OF RADIUM
The following is a selection from the biography, Madame Curie,* [* Doubleday, Doran and Co., New York, 1939, with permission of Doubleday Co.] by Eve Curie, her daughter. It gives us a vivid idea of the process of reasoning and experimentation by which scientific knowledge is extended. An analysis of it is given in this text , pages 190 ff.
CHAPTER XII: THE DISCOVERY OF RADIUM
At this moment she was like a traveler musing on a long voyage. Bent over the globe and pointing out, in some far country, a strange name that excites his imagination, the traveler suddenly decides to go there and nowhere else: so Marie, going through the reports of the latest experimental studies, was attracted by the publication of the French scientist Henri Becquerel of the preceding year. She and Pierre already knew this work; she read it over again and studied it with her usual care.
After Roentgen's discovery of X-rays, Henri Poincaré conceived the idea of determining whether rays like the X-ray were emitted by "fluorescent" bodies under the action of light. Attracted by the same problem, Henri Becquerel examined the salts of a "rare metal , uranium. Instead of finding the phenomenon be had expected, he observed another, altogether different and incomprehensible: he found that uranium salts spontaneously emitted, without exposure to light, some rays of unknown nature, A compound of uranium, placed on a photographic plate surrounded by black paper, made an impression on the plate through the paper. And, like the X-ray,
these astonishing " uranic" salts discharged an electroscope by rendering the surrounding air a conductor.
Henri Becquerel made sure that these surprising properties were not caused by a preliminary exposure to the sun and that they persisted when the uranium compound had been maintained in darkness for several months. For the first time, a physicist had observed the phenomenon to which Marie Curie was later to give the name of radioactivity, But the nature of the radiation and its origin remained an enigma.
Becquerel's discovery fascinated the Curies. They asked themselves whence came the energy -- tiny, to be sure -- which uranium compounds constantly disengaged in the form of radiation. And what was the nature of this radiation? Here was an engrossing subject of research, a doctor's thesis. . . !
The candidate for the doctor's degree set her first task to be the measurement of the "power of ionization" of uranium rays -- that is to say, their power to render the air a conductor of electricity and so to discharge an electroscope. The excellent method she used, which was to be the key to the success of her experiments, bad been invented for the study of other phenomena by two physicists well known to her: Pierre and Jacques Curie. Her technical installation consisted of an "ionization chamber," a Curie electrometer and a piezoelectric quartz.
At the end of several weeks the first result appeared: Marie acquired the certainty that the intensity of this surprising radiation was proportional to the quantity of uranium contained in the samples under examination, and that this radiation, which could be measured with precision, was not affected either by the chemical state of combination of the uranium or by external factors such as lighting or temperature.
These observations were perhaps not very sensational to the uninitiated, but they were of passionate interest to the scientist. It often happens in physics that an inexplicable phenomenon can be subjected, after some investigation, to laws already known, and by this very fact loses its interest for the research worker. Thus, in a badly constructed detective story, if we are told in the third chapter that the woman of sinister appearance who might have committed the crime is in reality only an honest little housewife who leads a life without secrets, we feel discouraged and cease to read.
Nothing of the kind happened here. The more Marie penetrated into intimacy with uranium rays, the more they seemed without precedent, essentially unknown. They were like nothing else. Nothing affected them. In spite of their very feeble power, they had an extraordinary individuality.
Turning this mystery over and over in her head, and pointing toward the truth, Marie felt and could soon affirm that the incomprehensible radiation was an atomic property. She questioned. Even though the phenomenon had only been observed with uranium, nothing proved that uranium was the only chemical element capable of emitting such radiation. Why should not other bodies possess the same power? Perhaps it was only by chance that this radiation had been observed in uranium first, and had remained attached to uranium in the minds of physicists. Now it must be sought for elsewhere. . . .
No sooner said than done. Abandoning the study of uranium, Marie undertook to examine all known chemical bodies, either in the pure state or in compounds. And the result was not long in appearing: compounds of another element, thorium, also emitted spontaneous rays like those of uranium and of similar intensity. The physicist had been right: the surprising phenomenon was by no means the property of uranium alone, and it became necessary to give it a distinct name. Mine. Curie suggested the name of radioactivity. Chemical substances like uranium and thorium, endowed with this particular "radiance," were called radio elements.
Radioactivity so fascinated the young scientist that she never tired of examining the most diverse forms of matter, always by the same method. Curiosity, a marvelous feminine curiosity, the first virtue of a scientist, was developed in Marie to the highest degree. Instead of limiting her observation to simple compounds, salts and oxides, she had the desire to assemble samples of minerals from the collection at the School of Physics, and of making them undergo almost at hazard, for her own amusement, a kind of customs inspection which is an electrometer test. Pierre approved, and chose with her the veined fragments, hard or crumbly, oddly shaped, which she wanted to examine.
Marie's idea was simple -- simple as the stroke of genius. At the crossroads where Marie now stood, hundreds of research workers might have remained, nonplussed, for months or even years. After examining all known chemical substances, and discovering -- as Marie had done -- the radiation of thorium, they would have continued to ask themselves in vain when came this mysterious radioactivity. Marie, too, questioned and wondered. But her surprise was translated into fruitful acts. She had used up all evident possibilities. Now she turned toward the unplumbed and the unknown.
She knew in advance what she would learn from an examination of the minerals, or rather she thought she knew. The specimens which contained neither uranium nor thorium would be revealed as totally "inactive." The others, containing uranium or thorium, would be radioactive.
Experiment confirmed this prevision. Rejecting the inactive minerals, Marie applied herself to the others and measured their radioactivity. Then came a dramatic revelation: the radioactivity was a great deal stronger than could have been normally foreseen by the quantity of uranium or thorium contained in the products examined!
"It must be an error in experiment," the young woman thought; for doubt is the scientist's first response to an unexpected phenomenon.
She started her measurements over again, unmoved, using the same products. She started over again ten times, twenty times. And she was forced to yield to the evidence: the quantities of uranium and of thorium found in these minerals were by no means sufficient to justify the exceptional intensity of the radiation she observed.
Where did this excessive and abnormal radiation come from? Only one explanation was possible: the minerals must contain, in small quantity, a much more powerfully radioactive substance than uranium and thorium.
But what substance? In her preceding experiments, Marie bad already examined all known chemical elements.
The scientist replied to the question with the sure logic and the magnificent audaciousness of a great mind; the minerals certainly contained a radioactive substance, which was at the same time a chemical element unknown until this day: a new element.
A new element! It was a fascinating and alluring hypothesis -- but still a hypothesis. For the moment this powerfully radioactive substance existed only in the imagination of Marie and of Pierre. But it did exist there. It existed strongly enough to make the young woman go to see Bronya one day and tell her in a restrained, ardent voice:
"You know, Bronya, the radiation that I couldn't explain comes from a new chemical element. The element is there and I've got to find it. We are sure! The physicists we have spoken to believe we have made an error in experiment and advise us to be careful. But I am convinced that I am not mistaken."
These were unique moments in her unique life. The layman forms a theatrical -- and wholly false -- idea of the research worker and of his discoveries. "The moment of discovery" does not always exist: The scientist's work is too tenuous, too divided, for the certainty of success to crackle out suddenly in the midst of his laborious toil like a stroke of lightning, dazzling him by its fire. Marie, standing in front of her apparatus, perhaps never experienced the sudden intoxication of triumph. This intoxication was spread over several days of decisive labor, made feverish by a magnificent hope. But it must have been an exultant moment when, convinced by the rigorous reasoning of her brain that she was on the trail of new matter, she confided the secret to her elder sister, her ally always.... Without exchanging one affectionate word, the two sisters must have lived again, in a dizzying breath of memory, their years of waiting, their mutual sacrifices, their bleak lives as students, full of hope and faith....
By the force of her own intuition the physicist had shown to herself that the wonderful substance must exist. She decreed its existence. But its incognito still bad to be broken. Now she would have to verify hypothesis by experiment, isolate this material and see it. She must be able to announce with certainty: "It is there!" . . .
Marie and Pierre looked for this "very active" substance in an ore of uranium called pitchblende, which in the crude state had shown itself to be four times more radioactive than the pure oxide of uranium that could be extracted from it. But the composition of this ore had been known for a long time with considerable precision. The new element must therefore be present in very small quantity or it would not have escaped the notice of scientists and their chemical analysis.
According to their calculations- " pessimistic, calculations, like those of true physicists, who always take the less attractive of two probabilities -- the collaborators thought the ore should contain the new element to a maximum quantity of one per cent. They decided that this was very little. They would have been in consternation if they had known that the radioactive element they were hunting down did not count for more than a millionth part of pitchblende ore.
They began their prospecting patiently, using a method of chemical research invented by themselves, based on radioactivity: they separated all the elements in pitchblende by ordinary chemical analysis and then measured the radioactivity of each of the bodies thus obtained. By successive eliminations they saw the "abnormal" radioactivity take refuge in certain parts of the ore. As they went on, the field of investigation was narrowed. It was exactly the technique used by the police when they search the houses of a neighborhood, one by one, to isolate and arrest a malefactor.
But there was more than one malefactor here -- the radioactivity was concentrated principally in two different chemical fractions of the pitchblende. For M. and Mine. Curie it indicated the existence of two new elements instead of one. By July, 1898, they were able to announce the discovery of one of these substances with certainty.
"You will have to name it," Pierre said to his young wife, in the same tone as if it were a question of choosing a name for little Iréne.
The one-time Mlle. Sklodovska reflected in silence for a moment. Then, her heart turning toward her own country which had been erased from the map of the world, she wondered vaguely if the scientific event would be published in Russia, Germany, and Austria -- the oppressor countries -- and answered timidly:
"Could we call it 'polonium'?"
In the Proceedings of the Academy for July, 1898, we read:
We believe the substance we have extracted from the pitchblende contains a metal not yet observed, related to bismuth by its analytical properties. If the existence of this new metal is confirmed we propose to call it polonium from the name of the original country of one of us. . .
Three months later, on October 17, Marie noted with pride:
Iréne can walk very well, and no longer goes on all fours.
On January 5, 1889:
Iréne has fifteen teeth!
Between these two notes -- that of October 17, 1898, in which Iréne no longer goes on all fours, and that of January 5 in which Iréne has fifteen teeth -- and a few months after the note on the gooseberry preserve, we find another note worthy of remark.
It was drawn up by Marie and Pierre Curie and a collaborator called G. Bémont. Intended for the Academy of Science, and published in the Proceedings of the session of December 26, 1898, it announced the existence of a second new chemical element in pitchblende.
Some lines of this communication read as follows:
The various reasons we have just enumerated lead us to believe that the new radioactive substance contains a new element to which we propose to give the name of RADIUM.
The new radioactive substance certainly contains a very strong proportion of barium; in spite of that its radioactivity is considerable. The radioactivity of radium therefore must be enormous.
IV. THE DIALECTICS OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE:
DID WOLSEY KILL BUCKINGHAM?
The following is an appendix in Hilaire Belloc's brilliant biography, Wolsey.* [* By permission of the publishers, J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia.] Cardinal Wolsey (1475?-1530) was more a politician than a man of God. His ambition led him to sacrifice the interests of religion to the greed and lust of King Henry VIII, and paved the way for the apostasy of the English nation from the Catholic Faith.
One of the charges which has been made against him is that be was secretly responsible for the execution of the Duke of Buckingham as a traitor. Buckingham was an obstacle to Wolsey's ambition and he gained by having him out of the way. Did he conspire to bring this about?
Belloc tries to answer this question in the following passage, which illustrates how a historian frequently must use a dialectical procedure to arrive at the most probable answer to a question of fact.
Tradition took it for granted that the prime mover in the destruction of the Duke of Buckingham was Wolsey. Tradition in these large matters of motive and character, particularly when it comes from the very source and can be traced to contemporaries, is so generally right that any academic case against it must require heavy positive proof in its favour.
It has been the academic fashion since the last third of the 19th century to exonerate Wolsey. This came in part from the general academic contempt for popular opinion, but also from exaggerating the use of documents against tradition; the great flood of documents on this period having been printed for the first time in the later part of the 19th century.
But when I look at those documents, and consider the academic arguments advanced to exonerate Wolsey I can see nothing to support the new conclusion. All seems to me in favour of the old, and Wolsey remains indubitably the author of Buckingham's tragedy.
What are the arguments in favour of Henry's being the true initiator of the business?
The first argument is that Henry, like all the Tudors (and like James the First, for that matter) was in terror of rival claims to the throne. But if that was Henry's motive why had neither he nor his father been affected by that motive during so many years? On the contrary, he and his father heaped honours on Buckingham. One hears nothing of this sudden dread of a rival till Buckingham is 42 years old, and till he has been the intimate companion and friend of the King for many years.
The suspicions against Buckingham did not begin to arise till Wolsey started them in 1518.
Against this it may be urged that Henry may not have suspected Buckingham of any likelihood to press his claims until news came to him thus late. Well, who put forward that news? Undoubtedly Wolsey. It was the anonymous letter which Wolsey had in his hands, some weeks before Henry could make up his mind to move, which is the starting point of the whole affair.
A second argument continually put forward to show that the specifically initiative cannot have been Wolsey's and must therefore have been Henry's is that Polydore Vergil, the contemporary specifically accuses Wolsey, is a tainted witness because Wolsey had put him in prison and he was Wolsey's enemy. The argument is only of value against a better argument on the other side. Because a man is prejudiced against another it is probable that be will lie in his disfavour; but it is not probable that in repeating a common opinion and a likely one, and one for which there is no contemporary contradiction, be should be lying. French and English propaganda against William II during the Great War gave rise to many lies. But it did not lie when it accused William II of having made warlike and menacing speeches.
General considerations, which are the best of all in such matters, can I think determine us. Put yourself in the place of Wolsey in that year 1521, remember his character, his power of restraint and calculation, the affronts he had suffered the hatred felt for him by the class of which Buckingham was the best representative, the Cardinal's dread lest anyone should supplant him or weaken him in the ears of the King, the recent conspicuous role of Buckingham in the splendid feasts of 1520, the Cloth of Gold; remember also the effort Wolsey was at to exclude Buckingham from shining in the tourneys, and the way in which none the less the King continued to befriend him, and you have before you a situation which makes Wolsey's initiative against him not only reasonable but inevitable.
On the other hand, put yourself in the place of Henry, impulsive, readily influenced, readily taken in acting suddenly upon suggestion, very much attached to the Court traditions be had inherited from his father, receiving unexpected and terrifying notice that his friend and relative was intriguing against him, receiving after two years of suggestions, that anonymous notice from Wolsey, by whom be was completely dominated. Ask yourself whether Henry's action in early 1521 when be was moved to such wrath and fear in the matter of Buckingham looks like a policy thought out by his own brain.
V. DIALECTICAL REASONING IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
The student will find a convenient collection of examples of typical studies in the field of the social sciences in American Social Patterns, edited by William Petersen, a Doubleday Anchor Book (paperbound). The following brief analyses of three articles contained in this book will give an idea of the kind of dialectical reasoning involved in the social sciences.
ARTICLE A: "Interracial Housing;' by Morton Deutsch and Mary Evans Collins.
- 1. Problem: Everyone recognizes that interracial housing conflicts are a crucial issue at the present time in some of our big cities, but actually little is known of what actually occurs. The authors distinguish two situations: (a) where white and Negro families are "integrated" in apartments which are assigned without consideration of race; and (b) where they live in different buildings or sections of the same housing project. The problem is to discover the differences between behaviour in these two situations.
- 2. Hypotheses: On the basis of their general theory of human behaviour in social situations, the authors made six hypotheses:
- a. There will be more social contact among people the closer they live together.
- b. The more social contact, the more they will tend to like each other.
- c. There will be more friendly relations in integrated than segregated projects.
- d. There will be more serious interest in developing interracial relations in the integrated projects.
- e. This mutual working together on a problem may even create more friendly relations within the white group.
- f. White tenants in integrated projects will have less prejudice than those in segregated projects.
- 3. Research procedure:
- a. The authors tried to select two typical projects, one integrated and one segregated, which would be as alike in all other respects as possible.
- b. They tried to collect as accurate a social description of the two groups as possible, mainly from white housewives selected at random.
- c. This was done by interviews (an hour to two hours long) in which they tried to ascertain the housewives' attitudes to living in the project, their attitudes to the other race ' the amount of contact they have with the other race, the social support they received for their attitudes, and finally the characteristics of the housewife interviewed.
- e. They attempted to control this data by various means which were designed to distinguish between attitudes acquired by the housewife after she came to live in the project and before.
- 4. Results: The results were then tabulated in a series of charts which showed that in general the hypotheses had been verified. Nevertheless, the result was not certain, because the controls used were imperfect, and hence it was not possible to be sure that the situation observed was entirely due to the difference in the housing arrangements.
ARTICLE B.: "Biographies in Popular Magazines," by Leo Lowenthal.
- 1. Problem: Popular biographies have become a very popular type of reading since the beginning of this century. This seems to indicate that there is a social need seeking gratification in this type of literature. What is this social need?
- 2. Research method: A "content analysis" was made of material printed in the Saturday Evening Post and Collier's for the period from April, 1940, to March, 1941. Other studies had already shown that since 1901 the type of biography has shifted from those which idolized business and professional people as examples of success in life to ones which idolize people in the light entertainment world. The present study classified the content of the biographies published in its type magazines according to similar categories. This classification was then put in tabular form to show trends.
- 3. Results: These tables show that:
- a. The trend toward the idolization of people in the entertainment world has continued, and particularly for those in the lightest forms of entertainment.
- b. In these biographies much time is devoted to the details of the persons' private lives.
- c. The biographies neglect to show the subjects' personal development through effort, their personal control over their own success, or any solitary inner life, although at an earlier period these were much stressed.
- d. The success of the person is usually pictured in terms of social adjustment and conformity to group standards.
- e. The presentation of the personality is in extravagantly superlative terms and strives to give a sense of intimate contact.
- 4. Hypothesis: The author suggests that these facts could be accounted for if we suppose that people in our society feel a great need for a better understanding of human relations, and that they believe that reading such biographies will help them to understanding. The author points out that, in fact, the popular biographies only apparently meet this need. They do not actually have much educative value, because those who read them are not prepared for critical thinking about human relations, which they might find too disturbing.
ARTICLE C: "The People's Choice," by Paul F. Lazarfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet.
- 1. Problem: How and why did people decide to vote as they did in the presidential campaign of 1940? This may cast light on general problems of voting behaviour.
- 2. Research Method: The method was that of interviewing a test group of people at regular intervals about their voting intentions.
- a. A staff of 12 to 15 trained interviewers, mostly women, visited every fourth house in Erie County, Ohio, and then selected from these 3000 people interviewed four groups of 600 persons, each of which were matched so as to constitute similar samples.
- b. One of these was selected as the test group and was carefully studied so that its members could be classified by their socio-economic status. This group was then interviewed once a month from May to November. The interviewers sought to learn why each person changed his intended vote, if he changed, and what propaganda influences or social pressures might have led to this change.
- c. The other three groups were used as controls. They were each interviewed only once, one in July, one in August, and one in October. It was hoped that this would give a check against the possibility that the test group was being influenced in its behaviour by the very fact that it was being interviewed so often.
- d. The results were tabulated and an attempt made to detect correlations.
- 3. Results:
- a. Class differences:
- 1) There was a correlation between socio-economic status and party affiliations, the working class groups being more Democratic. This did not depend so much on actual occupation as on the voter's belief that he belonged to the laboring class.
- 2) There was a correlation with religion, the Catholics being more Democratic. This was not merely a reflection of a. above, since it held also at every socio-economic level.
- 3) There was a correlation with age, older people tending to be Republican on the whole, but among Catholics the older people tended to be more Democratic.
- 4) The rural vote was more Republican, the urban vote more Democratic.
- b. Ideological differences: It was found that the arguments used by voters for their choice were quite stereotyped. Those for Roosevelt believed be would be for the laboring man and that he was right about foreign affairs. Those for Wilkie believed would be better for business, and were not much interested in foreign affairs. Those for Wilkie were against a third term. Those for Roosevelt did not favor third terms, but apologized for it in this case. After the election people were, on the whole, reconciled to the victor.
- c. Political interest and participation: In general those with better education and higher socio-economic status showed more interest in the election and had more opinions about it. There was little difference in this regard between rural and urban populations. Men showed more interest than women, but older people were more interested than younger people of the same educational level. Actual voting or abstention agreed perfectly with degree of interest, except that fewer women voted than were interested.
- d. Time when final decision was made for whom to vote: Some 13 % changed their minds in the weeks just before the election, and in general the group that was subject to the most cross-pressures was the last to make up its mind. There were "crystalizes" who took some time to make up their mind, "waverers" who changed and then went back to original vote, and "Party changers" who changed their mind and stuck to it. Many had their mind made up by the European crisis.
- e. Certain special effects could be noticed:
- 1) Activation effect: It could be predicted how a voter would choose if one knew whether he was Catholic, a laborer, and urban, but it took some time for these influences to lead to a decision in many cases.
- 2) Reinforcement effect: Many who bad their minds already made up were kept in line by the campaign.
- 3) Band-wagon effect: Many waverers were effected by their conviction that a certain man would win to whom they were already inclined.
In general the campaign does not convert many people to another party, and few voters make much of an effort to weigh both sides of the question.
- f. Group and individual influences: In general people vote with their group and their family tradition. Only some 4% of the voters reported that a member of their family voted differently than themselves. People were more influenced by some leader within their own social group who bad strong political convictions than by any other source of persuasion.
The student will notice that in each of these three studies the results are, on the whole, about what would be expected by an experienced person. The purpose of the scientist is not to discover something utterly unexpected, but to clarify the details of the social situation, and to reveal underlying connections. The logical clarity of the reasoning in each case depends:
- On a clear statement of the problem.
- On the formation of clear hypotheses which can be tested by the data (notice that the hypothesis can be stated first as in study A, or as a result of an examination of the data as in study B).
- A careful research plan to gather the facts accurately and significantly.
- A comparison of the hypothesis with the facts.
This is a dialectical process, since the reasoning rests on hypotheses which have to be reshaped according to the facts, and the results are not more than probable. Two defects are apparent in these studies:
- The authors do not make clear the practical problem they are attempting to solve, although it is apparent that in the background of all these studies are practical social problems which need to be solved, and which give value to the research. Such studies are mere curiosity unless they have practical importance, since none of them lead to fundamental theoretical knowledge.
- The authors do not attempt to connect their dialectic with more basic and solid psychological principles. Dialectic is a tool of science, and ought to aim at strict scientific knowledge even when this cannot be obtained.
| CONTENTS |