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THREE KINDS OF AGREEMENT H. W. WRIGHT I I N the opinion of Dr. R. C. Cabot the most useful tool for deciding the puzzles of moral conduct and social relations is the question : What agreements were made in view of the facts of this situation? Such agreements , he points out, are sometimes explicit; they are promises to be kept, debts to be paid, contracts to be fulfilled, duties to be performed. But the great majority of agreements on which our orderly social life depends are, he holds, implicit or tacit- made to be carried out in action without explicit statement in words. To keep in touch, as our facile overworked metaphor has it, involves a continuous flow of simple, rapid, taci t understandings. . . . Whatever we do rests on a framework of such mutual understandings , mostly implicit, a very few explicit..... The use of language itself involves tacit agreements. ... For all of us words, spoken or written, would be meaningless if people had not come to an understanding on what they are to mean. . .. When two men do agree in an opinion, instead of in a promise, the strength of their agreement is obviously not in what they say to one another but in the similarity of the impression made on each by a particular set of facts. Both bow to the same interpretation of reality. Therefore they can agree with each other.' The"importance which Dr. Cabot attributes to agreement is, I think, well-founded and very timely. Indeed, the majority of us to-day scarcely require such an argument as he elaborates to convince us of the crucial importance of human agreement. Some kind of intelligent agreemen t is the preliminary condition for that more extensive and effective co-operation among men which lR. C. Co.botJ TIlt Mtaning oj Rjgllt {md Wront. 1933, pp. 30.42. 66 THREE KINDS OF AGREEMENT appears more and more plainly to be a condition of the survival of civilization itself. Now social psychology is prepared to tell us a good deal about the character and causes of the different main kinds of social agreement; in fact this subject has been given an exceptional amoun t of attention by social psychologists. In psychological terms, agreemen t is a species of social response, a mode of behaviour which has a social stimulus, this being the behaviour of others, and may itself act as a stimulus in evoking responses from others. . In recent writings on the psychology of social behaviour , a significant tendency reveals itself, to acknowledge that all forms of social behaviour (including a fortiori responses of agreement) presuppose, and depend upon, a community of mind or in telligence among participants. Thus the present writer has suggested' that the factor which is fundamental to alJ types of distinctively human association is in ter-communication. Inter-communication is to be defined in a broad sense as referring to alJ those psycho-physical responses by which meaningful experiences are exchanged, and therefore as including not merely the communication of ideas and opinions through speech, but also of purposes and practical expedients through action, and of emotions through facial expression, gestures, and bodily posture (these latter sometimes extending themselves in to such art-forms as singing and dancing, and dramatic and pictorial representation) . Much the same view is taken by Professor Washburn, who holds that human social behaviour can be explained only in terms of "ejective consciousness,'" which she :In an article on the psychological basis of human association in the: 70urnal of PhiloJophy, XVlI, p. 421; a.lso in a discussion of the psychology of intercommunication in chapa. iv_vii of The Morn/ SltrndaraJ oj D~mo'ra(:1) 1925. ~M. F. Washburn, "Ejective Consciousness as a Fundamental Factor in Psychology" (Joumolof Philosophy, XXXIX, p. 345). 67 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY defines as "one"s idea of what is going on in other minds." She further believes that any social psychology must prove inadequate which understands the soci'al behaviour of man as a reaction to the behaviour of his fellows rather than a reaction to what he conceives to be the men tal states of others. In a recent article,' Professor Raymond Dodge finds...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 66-88
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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