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What decides the purpose of life is simply the programme of the pleasure principle. This principle dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start. There can be no doubt about its efficacy, and yet its programme is at loggerheads with the whole world, with the macrocosm as much as with the microcosm.
The austere sides of life, at least of mine, which move through it like a red thread, and which one faces more and more defenselessly in old age, are not balanced to the hundredth part by the pleasurable. I will gladly admit that the same fates which have been so hard for me to bear, and still are, would have been much easier for many another person, but the mental constitution belongs to our ego, which the Creator of our existence has given us, and we can change little in it.
Speech, originally, was the device whereby Man learned, imperfectly, to transmit the thoughts and emotions of his mind. By setting up arbitrary sounds and combinations of sounds to represent certain mental nuances, he developed a method of communication--but one which in its clumsiness and thick-thumbed inadequacy degenerated all the delicacy of the mind into gross and guttural signaling.
Magister Adler was deeply moved by something higher, but now when he wants to express his thoughts in words, wants to communicate, he confuses the subjective with the objective, his altered subjective state with an external event, the dawning of a light upon him with the coming into existence of something new outside him, the falling of the veil from his eyes with his having had a revelation. Subjectively his emotion is carried to the extreme; he wants to select the most powerful expression to describe it and by means of a mental deception grasps the objective qualification: having had a revelation.
It is certain that there may be extraordinary mental activity with an extremely small absolute mass of nervous matter: thus the wonderfully diversified instincts, mental powers, and affections of ants are notorious, yet their cerebral ganglia are not so large as the quarter of a small pin's head. Under this point of view, the brain of an ant is one of the most marvelous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of a man.
It must be pointed out, however, that strictly speaking it is incorrect to talk of the dominance of the pleasure principle over the course of mental processes. If such a dominance existed, the immense majority of our mental processes would have to be accompanied by pleasure or to lead to pleasure, whereas universal experience completely contradicts any such conclusion.
Education, and the life of the mind generally, is a matter in which individual initiative is the chief thing needed; the function of the state should begin and end with insistence on some kind of education, and, if possible, a kind which promotes mental individualism, not a kind which happens to conform to the prejudices of government officials.