In mid-February 1905, W.E.B. Du Bois traveled to Boston to attend the Third Annual Convention of the Religious Education Association. He participated as a discussant for a general session that addressed the topic “How Can We Develop in the Individual a Social Conscience?” Published in the convention proceedings that year, Du Bois’ untitled contribution is seemingly unknown to later scholars who research his thought and activism. “The Individual and Social Conscience” (IASC), as his work may be titled, set forth a dialectic of human difference in which the self-development of a person’s social responsibility was crucial to grounding the idea of the basic equality of all. Du Bois utilized a method inspired by the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel but tempered it with the philosophical concerns of pragmatist and Africana intellectual traditions. In addition to the full text of the IASC by Du Bois, the essay presents an analysis of the IASC’s religious dimensions, its extension of themes from his earlier Souls of Black Folk, and its intellectual resonances with Africana, pragmatic, and Hegelian philosophies.
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The primary source by Du Bois that I have titled herein as “The Individual and Social Conscience” was published initially as an untitled piece attributed to him in the convention proceedings (IASC 1905).
Du Bois’ contribution as discussant at the 1905 Religious Education Association meeting was briefly noted, and also misquoted, by a local daily newspaper, The Boston Evening Transcript, which covered the conference. In an article entitled “Speakers at Tonight’s Session,” Du Bois was listed by name—“Professor William E. B. DuBois, Ph.D., of Atlanta University”—as scheduled to appear (Anonymous 1905a).
For the presentations delivered during the different sessions and deliberations at the REA conference, the newspaper either provided quotations from the speakers or summaries of the presentation itself. An anonymously written newspaper article entitled “Religion and Theology” discussed the talks made by the participants of the session at which Du Bois was a discussant (Anonymous 1905b). An anonymous reporter offered the following account of what was supposed to be Du Bois’ contribution:
Professor William E. B. Du Bois of Atlanta University, discussing the subject, “How to Develop in the Individual a Social Conscience,” said among other things that no man can have at heart the welfare of his country and of his race without a deep desire for a stronger spiritual influence in the lives of the armies of students, for something adequate to deal with the ever-growing tide of materialism which sweeps over them. Today the Church is trying to hold on with one hand to a traditional theology, and with the other to reach out to the fast changing forces of science and the new industrial life. (Anonymous 1905b)
Interestingly, the newspaper reporter inappropriately attributed to Du Bois the words actually delivered by Henry S. Pritchett in his presentation entitled “The Ethical Education of Public Opinion” (Pritchett 1905: 49, 50). As a consequence, Du Bois’ ideas received no attention in the news article.
In another case, a very positive assessment of Du Bois’ efforts was conveyed by the Reverend Amory H. Bradford of New Jersey. In a short essay published in a 1905 issue of The American Missionary, he presented Du Bois, along with other African-Americans, as an exemplar challenging the view that blacks could not attain intellectual excellence. Bradford wrote:
The best authorities say that the most cultured address at the recent convention in Boston for promoting religious education was by Professor DuBois, of Atlanta University. It has been described as a model of condensed and finished English style, and Professor DuBois is a colored man.[sic] (Bradford 1905: 107)
Stephen Schmidt mentioned Du Bois and his participation at the Third Annual Convention in an endnote within his A History of the Religious Education Association: “William E. B. Du Bois responded with a brief two-page discussion . . ., part of the public address at the third convention of the R.E.A.” (Schmidt 1983: 53, n. 77). Schmidt included a brief quotation from the IASC in the endnote. He finished his short notice of Du Bois by writing:
It is unfortunate that DuBois was not the major presenter; his message was so eloquently clear in contrast to the bland generalization of Henry Pritchett in his major presentation. The next articles written by blacks were all after 1909, written by lesser known personages and of a different quality from DuBois’s brief response. (Schmidt 1983: 53–54, n. 77)
In a review of Stephen Schmidt’s history, Boardman Kathan wrote of the remarkable nature of Du Bois’ presence at the 1905 REA meeting and, in the same breath, criticized Schmidt: “It was extraordinarily courageous for the R.E.A. to invite a prominent dissenter, William E. Dubois, [sic] to its convention platform, but Schmidt has relegated this event to a footnote.” (Kathan 1983: 577).
Any search for “The Individual and Social Conscience” must examine several possible terms by which the piece, untitled in the proceedings in which it was printed, might be referenced or indexed, e.g., Religious Education Association, religion, discussion, discussant, Hegel, Boston.
In none of his autobiographical works (e.g., “The Shadow of Years” in his Darkwater (DWTR 1920), Dusk of Dawn (DUSK 1940), or his 1968 Autobiography) nor in a recorded interview (DR61 1961) did Du Bois refer to his discussant role at the 1905 REA conference or to his piece published in the conference proceedings. Moreover, standard secondary sources on Du Bois, such as biographies by Broderick (1959), Lewis (1993), and Marable (1986), neither mention nor cite the IASC. Various studies of Du Bois vis-à-vis religion also do not cite the IASC, e.g., Blum (2007), Blum and Young (2009), B. Johnson (2008), and Kahn (2009).
Anthologies of Du Bois’ work do not contain the IASC. Aptheker’s compilations, such as his Writings by W.E.B. Du Bois in Periodicals Edited by Others (WPEO 1982) and Writings by W.E.B. Du Bois in Non-periodical Literature Edited by Others (WNPL 1982), do not contain it. Neither do anthologies edited by Virginia Hamilton (1975), Nathan Huggins (1986), Brian Johnson (2005), Julius Lester (1971), David Levering Lewis (1995), Andrew Paschal (1971), Eric Sundquist (1996), and Phil Zuckerman (2000, 2004).
Still further, bibliographic studies do not cite or provide information on the IASC. The Annotated Bibliography of the Published Writings of W.E.B. Du Bois edited by Herbert Aptheker does not include it (Aptheker 1973). Likewise, the bibliographic work conducted by Paul Partington does not list the IASC (e.g., Partington 1979a, b and the supplements as bound therein dated 8 November 1978, 18 January 1979, 1 March 1979, 1 June 1979, and 8 January 1980; McDonnell and Partington 1989). Joan Nordquist’s bibliography does not include any reference to the IASC (Nordquist 2002).
Lastly, the finding aids created by major repositories of Du Bois’ published and unpublished papers—the libraries at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and at Yale University—do not give a hint of the IASC: see the Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst (n.d.) and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library (2007).
Given the voluminous and ramifying literature by and about Du Bois, it is possible that a citation or reference to the IASC, however obscure, may still be found.
As part of the originally untitled piece, the REA convention proceedings printed Du Bois’ name and institutional affiliation in capital letters and varying font sizes. In the text presented herein, spellings and misspellings have been retained from the original document, e.g., “recognization” and the non-capitalized “negro”.
Adolph Reed has criticized the scholarly attempts to view Du Bois as influenced by Hegel, arguing that scholars typically have inferred influence by virtue of Du Bois’ Harvard professors, such as William James or Josiah Royce, or by his choice of concepts, such as double consciousness (Reed 1999: 229–230, n. 201).
Similarly, David Levering Lewis expresses reservations about the alleged Jamesian influences on Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness. Some scholars, Lewis argues, “infer connections between ideas largely because of similarity, possibility of contact, or plausible nexus in the absence of sufficient documentary evidence available from the subject’s life.” (D. Lewis 1993: 603, n. 50).
Reed and Lewis both raise important caveats against any effort to interpret the intellectual influences of one thinker on another. However, the IASC’s explicit Hegelian terminology and dialectical structure provide a strong basis to justify some claim of Hegelian influence on Du Bois in this particular work, or at the very least some parallels with Hegel, (a) even if their respective philosophical and practical goals diverged (as documented in this paper), (b) even if ideas from pragmatist and Africana intellectual traditions modified or constrained the ways in which the Hegelian terms and structure were elaborated (as illustrated herein), and (c) even if no documents exist wherein Du Bois explicitly stated that particular authors or texts influenced him in any specific way.
Moreover, because my essay is designed as an introduction and thematic analysis, I will refer often to “parallels” between Du Bois, one the one hand, and Hegelian, pragmatist, and Africana philosophies, on the other. Noting parallels, or resonances, with those and other thinkers and works utilizes a less stringent criterion of textual interpretation—that of similarity in the form or content of an idea expressed by different authors—rather than arguing for the direct intellectual influence of one thinker or tradition on another.
The archives of the Religious Education Association, stored at the Yale University Library’s Divinity Library Special Collections, contained “The General Programme of the Convention” which provided a schedule of events for the 1905 convention (Box 33, Folder 414). The program listed Du Bois as a participant in the discussion of a panel entitled “How Can We Develop in the Individual a Social Conscience?” The table of contents for the published proceedings likewise conveyed Du Bois’ role as a discussant (Religious Education Association 1905: v).
Categorized by year and conference, the REA archives contain no details, information, or materials pertaining to Du Bois’ participation at the 1905 meeting other than “The General Programme of the Convention,” according to the REA Archivist Broadman Kathan (personal email communication, 19 October 2010). I wish to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Broadman Kathan: He searched the REA archives for any items relevant to Du Bois’ presence at the 1905 conference, and he discussed with me the significance of Du Bois’ participation there.
The Social Gospel movement tended to emphasize the pressing need for religiously stalwart persons who were motivated to change the social environment so as to effect, from its perspective, an improvement in the overall moral behavior of fellow citizens (Kuklick 2002: 106; Rauschenbusch 1907: 310). Shailer Mathews well conveyed this in his book The Social Gospel:
It is the call of Christ’s spirit in all Christians to bring these ideals of Jesus into social life.
But they must be brought by Christians who first of all are themselves embodying these ideals in their own lives. The Christian must become the nucleus of the new social order; he must be the leaven that shall tend to recreate the world in which he lives. Such a duty is imperative. We all can see only too plainly how dependent is every individual upon the social influences in the midst of which he lives. How easy it is for those who grow up in a city’s slums to become criminal. Evil surroundings corrupt good manners. (Mathews 1910: 21)
Du Bois’ IASC did not focus on changing the social environment per se but rather concentrated on how an individual’s perspective on social matters might change.
It can also be noted that the IASC was delivered during a time period in which Du Bois was also speaking and publishing on themes of racial development, e.g., “The Future of the Negro Race in America” (FNRA 1904) and “The Development of a People” (TDAP 1904). In contrast to the IASC’s personal developmental path, those pieces emphasized the possible paths to the racial progress of African-Americans as a whole and the steps, including the political and educational steps, that Du Bois suggested were necessary to end racial discrimination and its deleterious effects.
Franklin Giddings considered his concept of the consciousness of kind to be the “determining principle” that explained “the evolution of social choice, social volition, or social policy” (Giddings 1896: 18–19).
Nathaniel S. Shaler was one of Du Bois’ Harvard professors. Du Bois did not apparently publish any explicit commentary on Shaler’s general views of African-Americans. Indeed, Du Bois provided us with a basically positive view of him (A68: Ch. IX: 143; also in DUSK 1940: 38: Ch. 3). Shaler, we can note, had written a letter of recommendation for Du Bois when he desired to travel to Germany to study in the mid-1890s (CORR-1 1973: 10 [footnote by Aptheker]). Also, in The Negro, Du Bois listed Shaler’s The Neighbor under the category of “The Future of the Negro Race” within the “Suggestions for Further Reading” (TN15 1915).
Du Bois disagreed with the scientific utility of the concept of consciousness of kind. He remarked in Dusk of Dawn: “I could not lull my mind to hypnosis by regarding a phrase like ‘consciousness of kind’ as a scientific law.” (DUSK 1940: 51: Ch. 4; also in A68: 205: Chapter XIII). He did not elaborate further on that concept in his autobiographical writings. Perhaps the IASC might be interpreted as Du Bois’ response to Giddings, but it was a response not acknowledged by any explicit textual reference. See the next footnote.
Not only would Du Bois’ “The Individual and Social Conscience” answer Giddings and Shaler but it also would address other contemporaries who concentrated on so-called immutable racial differences and the associated racial hierarchies, e.g., Charles Carroll (1900), Edgar G. Murphy (1904), and Alfred Holt Stone and Walter F. Willcox (1908).
As Gordon indicates, Africana philosophy holds that no one set of experiences can count as universal. Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness exemplifies how whiteness has been conceived as the universal and de facto norm (Gordon 2008: 79).
James, in one of his “Talks with Students” entitled “What Makes a Life Significant,” offered a view similar to Du Bois’ on what is socially significant about the “unknowability” of others:
In my previous talk, ‘On a Certain Blindness,’ I tried to make you feel how soaked and shot-through life is with values and meanings which we fail to realize because of our external and insensible point of view. The meanings are there for the others, but they are not there for us. There lies more than a mere interest of curious speculation in understanding this. It has the most tremendous practical importance. I wish that I could convince you of it as I feel it myself. It is the basis of all our tolerance, social, religious, and political. The forgetting of it lies at the root of every stupid and sanguinary mistake that rulers over subject-peoples make. (James 1899: 265)
While studying in Germany and traveling through Europe during the early 1890s, Du Bois experienced an epiphany regarding whites, among whose members were those responsible for racial oppression and atrocities: “Slowly they became, not white folks, but folks. The unity beneath all life clutched me.” (DWTR 1920: Ch. 1). Such personal experiences had some parallels with the ideas expressed within the IASC.
In the IASC, the passage “the essential humanity of all men . . . is yet for us and in us, the greatest fact in the world” (Par. 4) contained the interrelated Hegelian terms of an sich (in itself) and fur sich (for itself). On those terms, we can consult Royce (1901: 459–461). The use of the plurals “for us” and “in us” would accord with Du Bois’ emphasis on the extra-individual dimensions of the process of developing social conscience.
Du Bois’ use of the word “self-sacrifice” in paragraph 5 recalls his discussion of the “Gospel of Sacrifice” in Ch. V of The Souls of Black Folk (“Of the Wings of Atlanta”), namely that colleges and their graduates were, through unstinting efforts, to help others achieve “the broadest possibilities of life.”
Royce (1892) in The Spirit of Modern Philosophy, a work that Gooding-Williams (1987) argues, was influential on Du Bois’ application of Hegel, addressed Hegel’s understanding in the Phänomenologie des Geistes (PhG; Phenomenology of Spirit) that the individual self was interconnected with others. In Royce’s words:
It is of the essence of consciousness to find its inner reality by losing itself in outer, but spiritual relationships. Who am I then at this moment? I am just this knot of relationships to other moments and to other people. Do I converse busily and with absorption? Then I am but just now this centre of the total consciousness of all those who are absorbed in this conversation. And so always it is of the essence of spirit to differentiate itself into many spirits, and to live in their relationships, to be one by virtue solely of their coherence.
The foregoing illustrations of Hegel’s paradox, some of which in these latter paragraphs have been his own, have not begun to suggest how manifold are, according to him, its manifestations. So paradoxical and so true does it seem to him, however, that he looks for further analogies of the same process in other regions of our conscious life. What we have found is that if I am to be I, ‘as I think I be,’ I must be more than merely I. I become myself by forsaking my isolation and by entering into community. My self-possession is always and everywhere self-surrender to my relationships. (Royce 1892: 210)
Du Bois presented a view similar to Royce with this statement from the IASC: “the recognition of myself as one of a world of selves, not as all, but as one; not as nothing, but as one” (Par. 5). We ourselves are interconnected with others. What Du Bois added to Royce was the emphasis on self-worth—that a self can know itself to be significant—and the implications of such self-knowledge for social conscience.
The “must” statements contained within the IASC (paragraphs 3 and 6) can be interpreted in a more normative or prescriptive way rather than in a formalistic manner that deems them to be statements of inevitability and determinism. Du Bois could not claim to know a priori whether any given person actually would manifest the determination (Par. 3) or the uncompromising egalitarian values (Par. 6) that he framed as integral to the logical stages of a dialectical path to social conscience.
In numerous social–scientific and popular press works prior to the IASC, Du Bois foregrounded the insights and experiences of Africana persons (R.W. Williams 2006). It is thus all the more notable that the IASC, a product of this time period, did not explicitly and directly confront the varied types of racial discrimination, segregation, and violence encountered by African-Americans. For Du Bois, our grasp of humanity and its intrinsic equality would arise when we sincerely and purposefully walked a dialectical path to social conscience. Although such a sense of fundamental human equality was not used explicitly in the IASC to justify or inform political rights, the piece nonetheless did provide us with Du Bois’ nuanced understanding of the grounding of political equality and rights via his defense of equality in general, i.e., the “essential humanity of all men” (Par. 4). Also see P. Taylor (2010: 911).
In other places, Du Bois upheld some aspects of the work of Charles Darwin (e.g., TCOR 1897). Darwinian thought, or the ideas personally conveyed by Darwin the naturalist and evolutionary theorist, of course, can be distinguished from Darwinism, or how his ideas were received by others and applied to phenomena, social or otherwise.
Du Bois’ version of Emerson’s epigraph twice excluded “and,” while also varying some of the punctuation marks. It also included double quotation marks around the passage presented within the IASC.
Emerson’s epigraph reads (1904: 3):
Du Bois’s version reads (IASC: Par. 7):
There is no great and no small
“There is no great, no small,
To the Soul that maketh all:
To the Soul that maketh all;
And where it cometh, all things are;
Where it cometh, all things are—
And it cometh everywhere.
And it cometh everywhere.”
Gooding-Williams emphasizes that the absence of a true self-consciousness strongly indicated a society that was both predominantly white and racist (Gooding-Williams 2009: 285, n. 39).
The concept of double consciousness, both as promulgated by Du Bois and as interpreted by later scholars, has not escaped critique: see, e.g., E. Allen 2002.
Rutledge Dennis argues that Du Bois presented double consciousness in two ways within Souls: The first considers that the African and European souls are irreconcilable, while the second holds open the possibility of a reconciliation (Dennis 2003: 7).
Henry Paget argues that Du Bois’ double consciousness is not the Hegelian “unhappy consciousness” because, for Hegel, the
divided subject has moved beyond the terms of the master–slave relationship to explore stoic and skeptical responses to its inner divisions. [. . . .]
[However,] [a]s a racialized subject, the Africana individual remains very much within the terms of the master–slave relationship. Consequently, the above dualizing [of self-consciousness as the ‘unhappy consciousness’] is not the source of the two poles between which the Africana subject oscillates. This subject moves not between a changeable ‘I’ and an unchangeable ‘Other’ but between two ‘We’s’. (Henry 2006: 7)
Siemerling holds that Du Bois’ attempted reconciliation of black and American ideals as stated in Souls Chapter I might yield a Hegelian sublation into a new whole but also might possibly result in a situation wherein the particulars of each race, as Du Bois conveyed them, might not be synthesized. See Siemerling (2001: 327).
Thomas Holt argues that, for Du Bois in Souls, “the contradiction and paradox arising from dual identities and consciousness” generated an alienation among African-Americans that when “raised to a conscious level, cultivated, and directed . . . has revolutionary potential” (Holt 1990: 306). The IASC thus can be understood as one way for Du Bois to raise the consciousness of alienated African-Americans and thereby to promote the struggles for justice.
The full passage from Lewis reads:
Du Bois felt a similar affinity for Hegel, from whose monumental Phenomenology of Mind he borrowed more or less intact notions of distinct, hierarchical racial attributes. And for all James’s supposed pragmatic and empirical influences upon him, Du Bois found in the Hegelian World-Spirit, dialectically actualizing itself through history, a profoundly appealing concept. ‘Lordship and Bondage,’ Hegel’s lodestar essay, explicated a complex reciprocity of master and slave in which the identities of both could be fully realized only to the extent that the consciousness of one was mediated through that of the other. If the master understood dominance, it was the slave who truly understood the sovereign value of freedom. ‘Just as lordship showed its essential nature to be the reverse of what it wants to be,’ Du Bois read in Hegel, ‘so, too, bondage will, when completed, pass into the opposite of what it immediately is: being a consciousness repressed within itself, it will enter into itself, and change round into real and true independence.’ Surely this was an idea Du Bois would eventually reformulate more poetically. (D. Lewis 1993: 139–140; footnote removed)
Paul C. Taylor identifies pragmatic dimensions in Du Bois’ works, despite Du Bois’ use of “pretended absolutes [which James had criticized about idealism], especially in his more romantic evocations of the mission or gift of the African race.” (Taylor 2004: 107). James Campbell, on the other hand, argues that it is better to understand the thought of William James and Du Bois in terms of parallel themes because the former did not have the same emphasis, for example, on racial issues and democratic inclusion as the latter (Campbell 1992: 571, 573 et seq.). Campbell holds that, on matters of democracy, a study of Du Bois and John Dewy (Campbell 1992: 571–572) is warranted.
Du Bois indicated the intellectual importance of William James in Dusk of Dawn: James was “my friend and guide to clear thinking” (DUSK 1940: 38; also 33). In his Autobiography, Du Bois wrote: “I became a devoted follower of James at the time he was developing his pragmatic philosophy” (A68 1968: 133). In “My Evolving Program for Negro Freedom,” Du Bois wrote about his Harvard years as a student:
Here I revelled in the keen analysis of William James, Josiah Royce and young George Santayana. But it was James with his pragmatism and Albert Bushnell Hart with his research method, that turned me back from the lovely but sterile land of philosophic speculation, to the social sciences as the field for gathering and interpreting that body of fact which would apply to my program for the Negro. (MEPF 1944: Par. 25)
In a letter sent to Herbert Aptheker, dated 10 January 1956, Du Bois also provided a brief exposition on James’s pragmatism and on what arguably was James’s intellectual influence on him, especially with regard to Du Bois’ understanding of the necessity of assumptions, such as truth and causality, when studying human actions (LTHA 1956: 394–396).
However, David Levering Lewis considers that James’ ideas were less significant for Du Bois than were James’ personality and guidance: “But it was the man, as much as the ideas, that made James’s discipline [of philosophy] much more appealing than the area of political science in which he had intended to concentrate.” (Lewis 1993: 87–88). Indeed, Lewis writes that Du Bois “was an idealist by temperament, always believing that it was possible, somehow, to get from the world’s welter—observed phenomena—to the bedrock of principles—upper-case Truth” (D. Lewis 1993: 89).
John Dewey offered a criticism of Hegel in his autobiographical essay “From Absolutism to Experimentalism”: “The form, the schematism, of his [Hegel’s] system now seems to me artificial to the last degree” (Dewey 1930: 21). Such a Hegelian schematism (or monism, for James 1909: 90) highlighted the supposedly necessary and inevitable steps leading to Absolute Knowledge. Such led to charges that Hegel’s schematism was deterministic and thereby supposedly infallible.
According to Royce, Hegel in the PhG had expressed certain similarities with pragmatism. In a series of posthumously published lectures Royce argued that Hegel’s PhG exhibited some pragmatic affinities, such as when at the culmination of the master/slave dialectic “the self fully returns to the pragmatic point of view, realizing that it can win its self-control and its unity with its world, only through an active process.” (Royce 1919: 189 [Lecture VIII passim] and also Lecture VI).
As Royce indicated regarding the being, or self, seeking to comprehend its own consciousness:
[S]uppose that what he [using the male pronoun] does is to love, to hate, to beseech, to pity, to appeal for pity, to feel proud, to despise, to exhort, to feel charitable, to long for sympathy, to converse, to do, in short, any of the social acts that make up, when taken all together, the whole of our innermost self-consciousness. All these acts, we see, involve at least the appeal to many selves, to society, to other spirits. We have no life alone. There is no merely inner self. There is the world of selves. We live in our coherence with other people, in our relationships. To sum it all up: From first to last the law of conscious existence is this paradoxical but real self-differentiation, whereby I, the so-called inner self, am through and through one of many selves, so that my inner self is already an outer, a revealed, an expressed self. The only mind then is the world of many related minds. (Royce 1892: 209–210)
Royce (1885: 49–58) discussed the philosophical dimensions of a moral conscience in The Religious Aspect of Philosophy. In the course of that analysis, he examined the Biblical principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Royce 1885: 61). Interestingly, he used the example of the neighbor extensively in that book, as he did in other texts (e.g., The Problem of Christianity, 1913).
In The Religious Aspect of Philosophy, Royce addressed the moral implications of a prevalent conception of a human conscience, one which was defined in terms of its biological basis as an instinct. Royce (1885: 80–85) did not doubt the significant role of biology and evolution in establishing the means, such as instincts, for human actions, but he did dispute the derivation of moral ends from natural processes. For Royce, different human individuals and groups applied their respective consciences in varying ways, thereby rendering conscience per se a matter of caprice instead of a universal principle to guide and justify human actions. In effect, Royce anticipated critiques that could be leveled against the concept of sympathy in works such as Shaler’s (1904) The Neighbor.
In an essay entitled “Self-consciousness, Social Consciousness and Nature,” Royce discussed social consciousness with regard to the interdependence of the self and the social environment of others (Royce 1898: Ch. VIII; also see his “The External World and the Social Consciousness” (Royce 1894b)). Royce more explicitly addressed the development of social conscience in children in several works, including “On Certain Psychological Aspects of Moral Training” (Royce 1893) and “The Imitative Functions, and Their Place in Human Nature” (Royce 1894a). He stressed the significance of imitation by children in the creation of social conscience: Children would imitate the actions of others and thereby come to learn about right and wrong in society (also see Royce 1894b; Kegley 2008: 54). However, Royce in such works did not consider social consciousness or social conscience as an awareness of societal problems and as an obligation to act in order to alleviate such problems—such would have accorded with Du Bois’ notion of a social conscience. Moreover, Royce’s emphasis on imitation as generative of consciousness/conscience would not specifically address the means by which to challenge discriminatory ideas, ideas which themselves might be learned via imitation of others.
Shannon Sullivan observes that Royce addressed racial issues more extensively than most other early twentieth century American philosophers, including William James (Sullivan 2009: 21; also see Fontaine 1968). Noteworthy is Royce’s “Race Questions and Prejudices” in his Race Questions, Provincialism and Other American Problems (Royce 1908; also see Royce’s (1908: 214) The Philosophy of Loyalty). It is interesting to observe that Du Bois was not mentioned in “Race Questions and Prejudices” despite the fact that Royce addressed issues long supported in Du Bois’ published works: the political inclusion of African-Americans as well as the necessity of scientific inquiry to better address racial issues in the USA. Du Bois noted the importance of Royce’s book on Race Questions in a Crisis editorial (CEJR 1916).
Although some like Jacquelyn Ann Kegley (2009) deem Royce to be anti-racist because he disavowed the biological bases for any alleged racial inferiority or superiority, Tommy Curry (2009) and Dwayne Tunstall (2009) disagree, arguing that Royce was actually racist because he was culturally inegalitarian. They hold that Royce believed in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon culture and values and advocated the assimilation of blacks into America’s Anglo-Saxon/white culture and norms. Curry and Tunstall both cite as evidence Royce’s (1900) essay “Some Characteristic Tendencies of American Civilization”.
For a discussion of the varying dimensions of William James’s views on race/ethnicity, including his personal anti-racism and anti-imperialism as well as his correspondence with Du Bois, see L. Miller (1979: 550, n. 43).
In this dimension of Hegelian self-differentiation, Du Bois’ IASC paralleled Royce’s (1892: 213) treatment of it.
Although Royce did not stress differences between selves in the manner of the IASC, Royce, as indicated previously, did emphasize the vital role of contradiction and paradox in driving the development of the consciousness onward and indeed upward (Royce 1892: 213).
Gooding-Williams criticizes Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk for providing evidence to justify an institutional analysis of racial oppression (e.g., the economic interests that supported racist policies by whites), but emphasizing instead the moral and psychological dimensions of prejudice (Gooding-Williams 1987: 113). In a related way, Du Bois’ IASC emphasized the moral dimensions of prejudice without supplying an analysis of the material relations that also have attended prejudice.
References: W.E.B. Du Bois
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I would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance and insights of Rev. Boardman Kathan, who is the Archivist for the Religious Education Association as well as a General Secretary Emeritus of the organization. My colleague Jeffrey Mortimore deserves my deep thanks, both for his kind help as reference librarian of Holgate Library at Bennett College and for his thoughtful comments on my manuscript.
Because of the essay’s extensive citations of Du Bois’ works and because Du Bois published many items in the same year, the body of the essay uses in-text citations that contain the abbreviated titles of his works along with their respective years of publication. The texts are referenced below via an alphabetized list of the abbreviated titles.
W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and his abiding words form the core of this article and call for his co-authorship.
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Williams, R.W., Du Bois, W.E.B. “The Sacred Unity in All the Diversity”: the Text and a Thematic Analysis of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Individual and Social Conscience” (1905). J Afr Am St 16, 456–497 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12111-011-9171-4