ABSTRACT

Constructiveness The subject of this chapter is one which has already been considered incidentally in connection with play, but it is now to be considered on its own account.

The instinctive desires of children, as we have seen, are vague; education and opportunity can tum them into many different channels. Neither the old belief in original sin, nor Rousseau's belief in natural virtue, is in accordance with the facts. The raw material of instinct is ethically neutral, and can be shaped either to good or evil by the influence of the environment. There is ground for a sober optimism in the fact that, apart from pathological cases, most people's instincts are, at first, capable of being developed into good forms; and the pathological cases would be very few, given proper mental and physical hygiene in the early years. A proper education would make it possible to live in accordance with instinct, but it would be a trained and cultivated instinct, not the crude, unformed impulse which is all that nature provides. The great cultivator of instinct is skill: skill which provides certain kinds of satisfaction, but not others. Give a man the right kinds of skill, and he will be virtuous; give him the wrong kinds, or none at all, and he will be wicked.