chapter  1
3 Pages

The General Situation

To live reasonably is much more difficult today than it was in Dr Johnson’s time, and even then, as Boswell shows, it was dif-{13} ficult enough. To live reasonably is not to live by reason alone - the mistake is easy, and, if carried far, disastrous - but to live in a way of which reason, a clear full sense of the whole situation, would approve. And the most important part of the whole situ­ ation, as always, is ourselves, our own psychological make-up. The more we learn about the physical world, about our bodies, [5] for example, the more points we find at which our ordinary

behaviour is out of accord with the facts, inapplicable, wasteful, disadvantageous, dangerous or absurd. Witness our habit of boiling our vegetables. We have still to learn how to feed our­ selves satisfactorily. Similarly, the little that is yet known about the mind already shows that our ways of thinking and feeling about very many of the things with which we concern ourselves are out of accord with the facts. This is pre-eminently true of our ways of thinking and feeling about Poetry. We think and talk in

{ 1 4 } terms of states of affairs which have never existed. We attribute to ourselves and to things, powers which neither we nor they possess. And equally we overlook or misuse powers which are all important to us.