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Fairbairn, W.R. (1940). Applied: J. H. Nicholson. 'Is our National Intelligence Declining? (3) Non-Genetic Aspects.' (Report on the Fifth Biennial Mental Health Conference.) Mental Hygiene, 1939, Vol V, No. 1, pp. 18–22.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:354-355.
    
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Applied: J. H. Nicholson. 'Is our National Intelligence Declining? (3) Non-Genetic Aspects.' (Report on the Fifth Biennial Mental Health Conference.) Mental Hygiene, 1939, Vol V, No. 1, pp. 18–22.

(1940). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21:354-355

Applied: J. H. Nicholson. 'Is our National Intelligence Declining? (3) Non-Genetic Aspects.' (Report on the Fifth Biennial Mental Health Conference.) Mental Hygiene, 1939, Vol V, No. 1, pp. 18–22.

W. R.D. Fairbairn

Unlike preceding contributors to this symposium, Principal Nicholson approaches the question of declining national intelligence neither as a geneticist nor as an experimental psychologist, but as an educationist convinced that, whether our national intelligence is declining or not, too much of it is being deflected from its proper tasks by emotional factors. The practical achievements of modern science have converted everyone to the scientific outlook; but the recent outcrop of irrationality in Europe

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shows how easily men shed the habit of rational thought which they acquire so laboriously. To seek a remedy in strengthening our rational defences against emotion and instinct presupposes an unjustified antithesis between reason and emotion. Actually scientific reason is a specialized instrument of thought adequate for its proper purpose, but inadequate for the wider purposes of living. If reason is to be our sole guide in life, it must be a more Platonic reason from which considerations of values are not excluded. The tests whereby national intelligence is assessed are essentially tests of scientific reason; but intelligence may be deflected by emotional conflicts from the world of reality to the realm of phantasy. The analytical process whereby such conflicts can be reduced is essentially a rational process promoting a new adaptation to reality. Without imposing his own valuations the physician helps the patient to understand his experiences in the light of the values which he himself consciously holds. These values may change spontaneously during the process, however. Hence the sense of value has its roots in emotional responses to experience. Value-judgements are necessarily personal in origin; but in the emotionally mature adult they vary from the intensely personal and subjective to the highly impersonal and objective. Although subjective valuations are irrational in that they correspond to individual needs, they have a legitimate place. Where valuations approach objectivity, however, they should be regarded as truly rational even when they cannot be substantiated by scientific reason. We must examine our experience of reality in the light of scientific reason to free ourselves from magic and superstition through understanding; but this is not enough if we neglect emotional needs. Unless we resign ourselves to a compromise with insurgent emotion and its irrational values, we must introduce a radical change into educational methods. Since the trouble lies in a breakdown in our social valuations, we must fit the child to contribute to the remaking of the moral tradition by fostering the growth of sentiments based on first-hand valuations. Only so can we immunize the individual to both exploitation and infantile revolt. We can save freedom of thought and release intelligence for its social tasks only by recognizing the claims of emotion—and emotion demands not only the expression of instinctive urges, but a share in determining personal and social objectives.

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Article Citation

Fairbairn, W.R. (1940). Applied. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:354-355

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