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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 182 pages of information about Talks To Teachers On Psychology; And To Students On Some Of Life's Ideals.
under which to class the proposed alternatives of conduct.  He who has few names is in so far forth an incompetent deliberator.  The names—­and each name stands for a conception or idea—­are our instruments for handling our problems and solving our dilemmas.  Now, when we think of this, we are too apt to forget an important fact, which is that in most human beings the stock of names and concepts is mostly acquired during the years of adolescence and the earliest years of adult life.  I probably shocked you a moment ago by saying that most men begin to be old fogies at the age of twenty-five.  It is true that a grown-up adult keeps gaining well into middle age a great knowledge of details, and a great acquaintance with individual cases connected with his profession or business life.  In this sense, his conceptions increase during a very long period; for his knowledge grows more extensive and minute.  But the larger categories of conception, the sorts of thing, and wider classes of relation between things, of which we take cognizance, are all got into the mind at a comparatively youthful date.  Few men ever do acquaint themselves with the principles of a new science after even twenty-five.  If you do not study political economy in college, it is a thousand to one that its main conceptions will remain unknown to you through life.  Similarly with biology, similarly with electricity.  What percentage of persons now fifty years old have any definite conception whatever of a dynamo, or how the trolley-cars are made to run?  Surely, a small fraction of one per cent.  But the boys in colleges are all acquiring these conceptions.

There is a sense of infinite potentiality in us all, when young, which makes some of us draw up lists of books we intend to read hereafter, and makes most of us think that we can easily acquaint ourselves with all sorts of things which we are now neglecting by studying them out hereafter in the intervals of leisure of our business lives.  Such good intentions are hardly ever carried out.  The conceptions acquired before thirty remain usually the only ones we ever gain.  Such exceptional cases of perpetually self-renovating youth as Mr. Gladstone’s only prove, by the admiration they awaken, the universality of the rule.  And it may well solemnize a teacher, and confirm in him a healthy sense of the importance of his mission, to feel how exclusively dependent upon his present ministrations in the way of imparting conceptions the pupil’s future life is probably bound to be.

XV.  THE WILL

Since mentality terminates naturally in outward conduct, the final chapter in psychology has to be the chapter on the will.  But the word ‘will’ can be used in a broader and in a narrower sense.  In the broader sense, it designates our entire capacity for impulsive and active life, including our instinctive reactions and those forms of behavior that have become secondarily automatic and semi-unconscious through frequent repetition.  In the narrower sense, acts of will are such acts only as cannot be inattentively performed.  A distinct idea of what they are, and a deliberate fiat on the mind’s part, must precede their execution.

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