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5 Exercise for Precis writing with Unsolved for Class 9, 10, 11, 12 and Higher classes.


There are, I think, several factors that contribute to wisdom, of these I should put first a sense of proportion, the capacity to take account of all the important factors in a problem and to attach to each its due weight. This has become more difficult than it used to be owing to the extend and complexity of the specialized knowledge required of various kinds of technicians. Suppose, for example, that you are engaged in research in scientific medicine. The work is difficult and is likely to absorb the whole of your intellectual energy. You have no time to consider the effect which your discoveries or inventions may have outside the field of medicine. You succeed (let us say) as modern medicine has succeeded, in enormously lowering the infant death rate not only in Europe and America but also in Asia and Africa. This has the entirely unintended result of making the food supply inadequate and lowering the standard of life in the most populous parts of the world. To take an even more spectacular example, which is in everybody’s mind at the present time, you study the composition of the atom from a disinterested desire for knowledge and incidentally place in the hands of powerful lunatics the means of destroying the human race. In such ways the pursuit and wisdom in the sense of comprehensive vision is not necessarily present in the specialists in the pursuit of knowledge.

Comprehensiveness alone, however, is not enough to constitute wisdom. There must be also a certain awareness of the ends of human life. This may be illustrated by the study of history. Many eminent historians have done more harm than good because they viewed facts through the distorting medium of their own passions. Hegel had a philosophy of history which did not suffer from any lack of comprehensiveness since it started from the earliest times and continued into an indefinite future. But the chief lesson of history which he sought to inculcate was that from the year 400 A.D. down to his own time Germany had been the most important nation and the standard bearer of progress in the world. Perhaps one could stretch the comprehensiveness that constitutes wisdom to include not only intellect but also feeling. It is by no means uncommon to find me whose knowledge is wide but whose feelings are narrow. Such men lack what I am calling wisdom.

It is not only in public ways, but in private life equally, that wisdom is needed. It is needed in the choice of ends to be pursued and in emancipation from personal prejudice. Even an end which it would be noble to pursue if it were attainable, may be pursued unwisely if it is inherently impossible of achievement. Many men in past ages devoted their lives to a search for the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life. No doubt, if they could have found them they would have conferred great benefits upon mankind but as it was their lives were wasted. To descend to less heroic matters, consider the case of two men Mr.A and Mr.B who hate each other and through mutual hatred bring each other to destruction. Suppose you go to Mr.A and say, ‘Why do you hate Mr.B?’ He will no doubt give you an appalling list of Mr.B’s vices partly true partly false. And now Suppose you go to Mr.B. He will give an exactly similar list of Mr.A’c vices with an equal admixture of truth and falsehood. Suppose you now come back to Mr.A and make a similar speech. The first detect no doubt will be to increase their mutual hatred since each will be so horrified by the other’s injustice. But perhaps if you have sufficient patience and sufficient persuasiveness you may succeed in convincing each that the other has only the normal share of human wickedness and that their enemy is harmful to both. If you can do this you will have i stilled some fragment of wisdom.

Can wisdom in this sense be taught? And, if it can, should the teaching of it be one of the aims of education? I should answer both these questions in the affirmative. We are told on Sundays that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. On the other six days of the week, we are exhorted to hate him. You may say that this is nonsense since it is not our neighbour whom we are exhorted to hate. But you will remember that the precept was exemplified by saying that the Samaritan was our neighbour. We no longer have any wish to have Samaritans and co we are apt to miss the point of the parable. If you want to get its point you should substitute Communist or anti-Communist as the case may be for Samaritan. It might be objected that it is right to hate those who do harm. I do not think so. If you hate them, it is only too likely that you will become equally harmful and it is very unlikely that you v ill induce them to abandon their evil ways. Hatred of evil is itself a kind of bondage to evil. The way out is through understanding not through hate. I am not advocating non-resistance. But I am saying that resistance if it is to be effective in preventing the spread of evil, should be combined with the greatest degree of understanding and the smallest degree of force that is compatible with the survival of good things that we wish to preserve. (About 1,143 words)


It came to Aristotle clearly enough that above all questions of the physical world there loomed the question of questions -What is the best life? What is life’s supreme good? What is virtue? How shall we find happiness and fulfillment?

He is realistically simple in his ethics. His scientific training keeps him from the preachment of superhuman ideals and empty counsels of perfection. Aristotle begins by frankly recognizing that the airy. of life is not goodness for its own sake, but happiness. For we choose happiness for itself and never with a view to anything further; whereas we choose honour, pleasure, intellect – because we believe that through them we shall be made happy. But he realizes that to call happiness the supreme good is a mere truism; what is wanted is some clearer account of the nature of happiness, and the way of it. He hopes to find this way by asking wherein man suffers from other beings and by presuming that man’s happiness will lie in the full functioning of this specifically human quality. Now the peculiar excellence of man is his power of thought. It is by this that he surpasses and rules all other forms of life, and as the growth of this faculty has given him his supremacy so we may presume, its development will give him fulfilment and happiness.

The chief condition of happiness, then, barring certain physical prerequisites, is the code of reason – the specific glory and power of man. Virtue or rattier excellence will depend on clear judgement, self-control, symmetry of desire, artistry of means; it is not the possession of the simple man, nor the gift of innocent tent but the achievement of experience in the fully developed man. Yet there is a road to it, a guide to excellence which may save many detours and delays; it is the middle way, the golden mean. The qualities of character can be arranged in traits in each of which the first and the last qualities will be extremes and vices and the middle quality a virtue or an excellence. So between cowardice and rashness is courage, between stinginess and extravagance is liberality; between sloth and greed is ambition. Between humility and pride is modesty, between secrecy and loquacity honesty, between moroseness and buffoonery good humour, between quarrelsomeness and flattery friendship, between Hamelet’s indecisiveness and Quixote’s impulsiveness is self control. ‘Right’ then in or conduct is not different from ‘right’ in mathematics or engineering; it means correct, fit, what works best to the best result.

 The golden mean, however, is not like the mathematical mean, an e).act average of two precisely calculable extremes; it fluctuates with the collateral circumstances of each situation; and discovers itself only to mature and flexible reason. Excellence is an art won by training and habituation; we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; ‘these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions’; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act hut a habit; the good of man is a working of the soul in the way .jf excellence in a complete life -for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy’.

Youth is the age of excess and extremes; if the young commit a fault it is always on the side of excess and exaggeration’. The great difficulty of youth (and of many of youth’s elders) is to get out of one extreme without falling into the opposite. Unconscious extremists took upon the golden mean as the greatest vice; they expel towards each other the man in the middle position; ‘the brave man is called rash by the coward and cowardly by the rash man’.

It is obvious that this doctrine of the mean is the formulation of a characteristic attitude which appears in almost every system of Greek philosophy. Plato had it in mind when he called virtue harmonious actien; Socrates when he identified virtue with knowledge perhaps as Nietzsche claims there were attempts of the Greeks to check their own violence and impulsiveness of character; more truly they reflected the Greek feeling that passions are not of themselves vices, but the raw material of both vice and virtue, according as they function in excess and disproportion or in measure and harmony.

But the golden mean, says our matter-of-fact philosopher, is not all of the secret of happiness. We must have too, fair degree of worldly goods; poverty makes one stingy and grasping while possessions give one that freedom from care and greed which is the source of aristocratic ease and charm. The noblest of these external aids to happiness is friendship. Indeed, friendship is more necessary to the happy than to the unhappy; for happiness is multiplied by being shared. It is more important than justice: ‘tor when men are friends, justice is unnecessary; but when men are just, friendship is still a boon’. ‘A friend is one soul in two bodies’. Yet friendship implies few friends rather than many; ‘he who has many friends has no friend’, and to be a friend to many people in the way of perfect friendship is impossible. Fine friendship requires duration rather than fitful intensity; and this implies stability of character; it is to altered character that we must attribute the dissolving kaleidoscope of friendship. And friendship requires quality; for gratitude gives it at best a slippery base. Benefactors are commonly held to have more friendship for the objects of their kindness than these for them. Aristotle prefers to believe that the greater tenderness of the benefactor is to be explained on the analogy of the artist’s affection for his work, or the mother’s for her child. We love that which we have made.

And yet, though goods and relationships are necessary to happiness, its essence remains within us, in rounded knowledge and clarity of soul. Surely sense pleasure is not the way; that road is a circle. Nor can a political career be the way; for therein we walk subject to the whims of the people and nothing is as fickle as the crowd. No, happiness must be a pleasure of mind and we trust it when it comes from the pursuit or the capture of truth. The operation of the intellect aims at no end beyond itself and finds in itself the pleasure which stimulates it to further operation and since the attributes of self-sufficiency, unweariedness and capacity for rest…. plainly belong to this occupation, in it must lie perfect happiness. (1,118 words)


A comparison between the American and the French Declaration on the subject of Equality will help to make clear the meaning of the word. The slave-holding authors of the American Constitution (Alexander Hamilton and his fellows) cheerfully declare that ‘all men are created equal’. Taken literally that statement is nonsense. There is far greater difference in the intellectual abilities of men than there is in their physiques. One man is fool, another a genius, one man has administrative, another imaginative capacity; it is unnecessary to labour the point. The idea behind this claim for Equality is more accurately expressed in the French Declaration: All men are born free in respect of their rights that means that all men are to be treated as equal. The ideal assumption is that there is something sacred about the individuality of the each person, however humble. Be he rich or poor he is to be regarded as possessing certain inviolable rights. And as the Americans pointed out one of these rights is the pursuit of happiness, i.e., equality of opportunity. The development of modern opinion has been away from the negative ‘Let us alone’ attitude of the last century towards a ‘Give us a chance’ attitude.

The idea goes back to the teachings of St.Paul that all men are equal in the sight of God. This outlook was largely responsible for the success of the early Church among the lower classes of the Roman Empire. A great step in the advance of humanity was taken when it was realized that the son of God was himself a carpenter’s son and that His disciples included poor fisher folk as well as rich lawyers like Paul. The attitude that every individual soul was equally scared never faded from Christian theology but the social conditions of the Middle Ages made it unrealizable in actual fact. In the feudal hierarchy every man was born to a particular station in life and any attempt to pass from one station to another was impossible. In that stage of society the rights of Blood and Inheritance were supreme; they are at last losing their pre-eminence in consequence of modern taxation principles.

From the time of the Renaissance the rigidity of feudal class distinctions began to break down. But the process was very gradual. And we are becoming aware of an equally unpleasant fact, that the pre-eminence of Blood has been supplanted by the pre-eminence of Wealth. Undiluted capitalism produces plutocracy just as feudalism produced Aristocracy.

Before this unwelcome discovery was made, Rousseau had preached the Equality of Man. The idea took strong root in France. According to de Tocqueville, the real cause of the revolution was the demand for Equality not for Liberty; hatred of privilege not desire for self government. But it is noticeable that among the particular rights enumerated in the Declaration there is no mention of Equality – ‘the natural rights of men are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. The authors of the Revolution were by no means communists; they were shopkeepers and peasants who aimed at nothing but security of ownership. They achieved their aim, with the result that there is a far greater measure of economic equality in France than there is in Britain. La carriers auverte aux talents (let the career open to the talents) was the part of the equalitarian creed achieved by the abolition of privilege. The careers of Napolean and his marshals prove how real the existence of Equality in this sense was. Furthermore the code of Napolean enforced Equality by insisting that inherited wealth had to be split up among all the children in a family and not passed on Intact to the eldest child alone. Even so, Equality exists in a very limited degree.

As the century ran its course the more intelligent radicals saw that something was wrong about their favourite theories of Freedom of Contract and Harmony of Interests. Cobden, for example, admitted that State interference was justified to protect working women and children; he realized that such people were not able to look after their own interests. But he strongly objected to Trade unions. John Stuart Mill began as an ardent believer in laissez faire and ended on the verge of socialism. In his autobiography he said, ‘The problem of the future we considered to be how to unite the greatest liberty of action with a common ownership in the raw materials of the globe and an equal participation in the benefits of combined labour’.

Let us now examine the relation between political Liberty and Equality. Should all the people have equal voting powers? Yes, says Rousseau. No, says Locke, only the propertied members. Burke the founder of modern conservatism agreed with Locke. In the interests of the whole society he said wise men should govern fools. Government should be carried on by gentlemen elected by property owners because those who have a stake in the country have a greater responsibility than those who have none.

Radical as were the Whigs of the Reform era, they were no more willing to enfranchise the whole population than was Burke. When they talked about the Sovereign People they meant what Locke and Burke meant – the middle classes, the wealth and intelligence of the country, the glory of the British name (Brougham). No wonder the Chartists (1848) were enraged and demanded real political equality and universal manhood suffrage.

Thus we see that in the economic sphere Liberty and Equality are irreconcilable. In the political sphere the one was achieved by the logic of the arguments advanced on behalf of the other. Professor Laski has rightly observed there cannot be democratic government without equality and without democratic government there cannot be freedom. Clarifying the issue Sir William Beveridge has pointed out that all liberties are not equally important. The error of the individualists is to treat them as if they were. The essence of Liberalism is to distinguish between essential liberties to be preserved at all costs and lesser liberties which should be preserved only so far as they are consistent with social justice and progress.


Wars and revolutions have thus far determined the physiognomy of the twentieth century. And as distinguished from the nineteenth century ideologies – such as nationalism and internationalism, which though still invoked by many as justifying causes have lost contact with the major realities of our world – war and revolution still constitutes its two central political issues. They have outlived all their ideological justifications. In a world that poses the threat of total annihilation through revolution, no cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny.

This in itself is surprising enough. Under the concerted assault of the modern debunking sciences, psychology and sociology, nothing indeed has seemed to be more safely buried than the concept of freedom. Even the revolutionists would much rather degrade freedom to the rank of lower-middle class prejudice than admit that the aim of revolution was, and always has been, freedom. Yet if it was amazing to see how the very word freedom could disappear from the revolutionary vocabulary, it has perhaps been no less astounding to watch how in recent years the idea has intruded itself into the center of the gravest of all present political debates, the discussion of war and of a justifiable use of violence. Historically wars are among the oldest phenomena of the recorded past while revolutions properly speaking did not exist prior to the modern age; they are among the most recent of all major political data. In contrast to revolution the aim of war was only in rare cases bound up with the notion of freedom; and while it is true that warlike uprisings against a foreign invader have frequently been felt to be sacred they have never been recognized either in theory or in practice as the only just wars.

Justifications of wars even on a theoretical level are quite old, although of course not as organized warfare. Among their obvious pre-requisites is the conviction that political relations in their normal courses do not fall under the sway of violence and this conviction we find for the first time in Greek antiquity in so far as the Greek polis, the city state, defined itself explicitly as a way of life that was based exclusively upon persuasion and not upon violence. However since for the Greeks political life by definition did not extend beyond the walls of the polis, the use of violence seemed to them beyond the need for justification in the realm of what we today call foreign affairs or international relations, even though their foreign affairs with the one exception of the Persian wars which saw hall as united, concerned hardly more than relations between Greek cities. Outside the walls of the polis, that is outside the realm of politics in the Greek sense of the word ‘the strong did what they could and the weak suffered what they must’. (Thucydides)

Hence we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justifications of war together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars. Yet the Roman distinctions and justifications were not concerned with freedom and drew no line between aggressive and defensive warfare. The war that is necessary is just, said Livy; and hallowed are the arms where no hope exists but in them. Necessity, since the time of Livy and through the centuries, has meant many things that we today would find quite sufficient to dub a war unjust rather than just. Conquest expansion, defence of vested interests, conservation of power in view of the rise of new and threatening powers in view of the rise of new and threatening powers or support of a given power equilibrium – all these well-known realities of power politics were not only actually the causes of the outbreak of most wars in history, they were also recognized as necessities, that is, as legitimate motives to invoke a decision by arms. The notion that aggression is crime and that wars can be justified only if they ward off aggression or prevent it, acquired its practical and even theoretical significance only after the First World War had demonstrated the horrible destructive potential of warfare under conditions of modern technology.

Perhaps it is because of this noticeable absence of the freedom argument from the traditional justifications of war as the last resort of international politics that we have this curiously jarring sentiment wheneverwe hear it introduced into the debate of the war question today. To sound off with a cheerful ‘give me liberty or give me death’ sort of argument in the face of the unprecedented and inconceivable potential of destruction in nuclear warfare is not even hollow; it is a very different thing to risk one’s own life for the life and freedom of one’s country and one’s posterity from risking the very existence of the human species for the same purpose that it is difficult not to suspect the defenders of the ‘better dead than red’ or ‘better death than slavery’ slogans of bad faith. Which of course is not to say that the reverse ‘better red than dead’ has any more to recommended itself; when an old truth ceases to be applicable, it does not become any truer by being stood on its head. As a matter of fact, to the extent that the discussion in these terms it is easy to detect a mental reservation on both sides. Those who say ‘better dead than red’ actually think: The losses may not be as some anticipate, our civilization will survive; while those who say ‘better red than dead’ actually think: Slavery will not be so bad, man will not change his nature, freedom will not vanish from the earth for ever. In other words the bad faith of the discussants lies in that both dodge the preposterous alternative they themselves have proposed: they are not serious.


Wars have become fanatical crusades, waged with millions of soldiers, millions of money and million fold multiplied means of destruction and slaughter.

Now these and many cognate nuisances are the result of an educational system, which instead of guiding the natural change from childhood to adolescence and maturity, arrests juvenile development at its most mischievous stage and forces the experienced statesmen to treat the country as an orphanage in which the age limit is fourteen, and the orphans are its mentally defective inmates.

Of course this system, like all other out-of-date systems, does not enjoy complete immunity from change in practice. When the schools arc invaded by the successful men of business and the professions they are forced to develop, however reluctantly and contemptuously at first, a scientific side and then a business side and these new sides encroach on the classic routine until it, too becomes only a side and a losing one. Rugby for instance is not what it was a hundred years ago. But the older schooling still prevails enough to make sure that the class enriched by our property system is the one which commands the ruling majority in Parliament, in Upper Division of the civil service in diplomacy; and except when there is a world war on, in commissioned ranks of the fighting services.

The worst of it is that our sincere educationists are unanimous in pressing everybody to be kept at schools until they are eighteen. This will satisfy the parents who wish their children to be ladies and gentlemen with the manners and speech and class prejudices proper to that condition. But the object of a sane State is to make good citizens of its children  that is to make them productive or serviceable members of the community. The two objects are opposite and incompatible, for there is no advantage in wearing an old school tie if you have share the social burden of labour and service. If there are no schools available except schools for the poor in which a slave mentality is inculcated and schools for the rich in which children are trained for a life of leisure luxury and privilege, or at best a monopoly of commercial, professional and political opportunity who inch is politely called leadership, then the hasty conclusion is that children had better be kept out of school at all costs and Ft and its like razed to the ground, and their foundations sown with salt.

But untutored ignorance does not make for good citizenship, any system of instruction and training is better than none at all. Old system must go on until we provide a better one. Meanwhile, however, it is clearly no remedy for our present bad citizenship to impose Etonian education on the multitudinous proletariat, including its poor middle class section by scholarships entitling the holders to ‘places’ at the expensive schools with extension of the age for compulsory schooling to eighteen, and the rest of the ladder to the university. Our Etonian system must in fact die a natural death through the expropriation of its present plutocratic patrons and the competition of a new organization of the young.

That new system is beyond my powers of planning. It will I fancy develop from the middle class schools in which the pupils are mostly day boys and day girls, dividing their daily lives between the schools and the home. I was a day boy in a school at which there were both day boys and boarders, the day boys, being more numerous, despised the boarders and spoke of them as the skinnies. The boarders were equally contemptuous and scornful.

My educational history except for the liberty gift and the musical home is common to the main body of proletarian upstarts and genteel younger sons who being at least literature, have to conduct the business and politics of this country and its colonies.

Still the day-boy system unlike the Etonian is improvable, the division of a child’s life between home and school can be changed, and as the changes take the child more and more from home into school life successive points are reached at which the school takes the place of the family and the teachers of the parents. School welfare work develops until children are secured against poverty, exploitation, domestic tyranny or neglect, and so on, bit by bit, until the school instead of being an infectious penitentiary in to which children are driven to have the three Rs whacked into them, becomes a community in which parents can see enough of their children and children of their parents, to sustain family ties without perpetuating their very serious deficiencies and provides an organized child life that does not now exist at all except in embryo in the Boy Scouts, Girls Guides etc.


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