11 | MP introduction
fit in with the stream of social life. But, when he fits in, he
is usually not aware of what he is doing. He often believes that
he does what he does because it is reasonable to do it. This,
however, is an illusion. We do most of what we do because we are
afraid to isolate ourselves from our group. Abstract reasoning
has very little to do with our assent to social convictions.
Primitive people are often more honest in that respect than we
are. When ethnologists ask them, "why do you do or believe this
or that?", they answer, "it is our custom", or, "because our fa-
thers did so before us". Norman Angell somewhere tells a story
which admirably illustrates this mentality among modern Ameri-
cans. Smith asks Jones, "Well, Jones, what do I hear about you?
You do not believe in the Monroe doctrine?" "Now, Smith, what do
you think of me? Of course, I believe in the Monroe doctrine.
All I said was that I do not know what it means." Psychologists
are often reproached with depriving us of our pride in our rea-
soning powers. The reproach is most vocal in quarters where
there is least reason for pride.
The desire to maintain social unity is a force infinitely
stronger than the flickering lamp of reason. A species tends to
preserve its existence. If there is any purpose or meaning in
the existence of animals and plants it is that of perpetuating
the species simply because it exists.
A social group equally tends to perpetuate its coherent
existence simply because it exits. A number of mechanisms have
been devised which make for unity within a group, and which in-
crease the number of factors that are common to all members of
the group. Co-operation, mutual aid, solidarity and loyalty are