Science, spirit, superstition / Constantin Brunner: p. 510-12.
Only pedagogy surpasses the superstition of the theory of evolution, for pedagogy is the theory of evolution related to the individual, the belief in the mutability, in the 'moral' perfecting and ennobling of the individual, of his character, through education. But the character of the individual is, after all, his character, by virtue of which he is distinct from all other individuals, even from that individual who wishes him to acquire another character. His character, in accordance with the special conditions of his development, is his part in the character of the species or his particular natural traits, to which belong his faults, shortcomings and weaknesses. We half know that this is so and half we don't. If someone at some time happens to act in contrast to his own faults, shortcomings and weaknesses, we are wont to say that he is not himself, that he is out of character; and yet we sit in judgment upon him and demand our whole life long that he should so contrarily act. And what about the cases where we blindly endeavour to 'improve' the other quite stupidly. As the species is constant, so is the individual. Once the series of ontogenetic metamorphoses has been passed through, once we have become individuals, we do not undergo any further individual metamorphoses transmuting us from one individual into another. The individual peculiarity you dislike---our pedagogy will never be able to obliterate or even to reduce it; it will remain and grow to the size to which it is destined to grow. And may you cleanse yourself also of all belief in the 'pedagogy' of environment as concerning the evolutionary ascension of our species; we are not clever enough or not stupid enough to develop ourselves. Philosophy, psychology and history teach the ineducability of humankind. (Kant, "with moral certainty', is confident that 'the development of good from evil will yet be achieved'--a definite miscalculation.)
Men are no human raw material but have been moulded by nature and are no further pliable. This is true of man as a whole, of his aptitudes, dispositions, his temperament and his character. As the germ of his life has been fertilized, so does man live until his death. He may want it or not, his character remains faithful to him and he faithful to his character. The enormous failures of the pedagogic craft are due to its abstruse premises: mutability of character, freedom of the will or man's detachment from the wholeness and oneness of the motion of nature. Whatever pedagogy may be able or unable to do; I should like to give pedagogues two pieces of advice, for the purposes of the first of which I shall have to recount a personal experience:
In my early years while dissatisfied with this and that which my contact with people caused me to see and feel, especially of the 'moral' side of their character, I was, as is not unusual, quite satisfied with myself, with my character, as with a good and right character. Until one day (I believe quite suddenly and unexpectedly), I was struck by a question which, from that hour onward, was never silent within me and which, while by no means rescuing me completely from passivity, at least provided the counterpoise of an active demeanour. The question: you, who are dissatisfied with others, are you, can you be, satisfied with your own character? I proceeded to explore myself and discovered something quite new within me. Like an astronomer who distinguishes a twofold constellation where previously he had observed only a single star, thus I observed my imaginary and my real egoistic man within myself. Man does not know himself and the way towards making his own acquaintance appears to be cut off from him, for he has invented for himself a man he 'knows'. He knows himself according to his imagination, not according to his reality. If the pedagogue may not be able to do much, he certainly can achieve nothing without converting the principle of the manner of viewing one's own character. The object is to destroy the innate delusion as to the possession of perfection in order to arouse the will to actual improvement through every renewed exertion upon one's self, to stimulate thought, that great remedy against man within man.
So much for my first piece of advice to the pedagogue. Further I should advise him to inform himself about the fundamentality of the laws relating to constancy and variability of the species. What is true for the species, is true also for the individual and it will supply him with a measure of his chances with his ward. Species variation, individual variation including the individual character: all is constant.
The truth of the constancy and of the non-modifiability of the hereditary substance, not withstanding variability within the inviolably constant types, remains valid for the individual, for the human species, as well as for all species, notwithstanding the theory of descent and pedagogy. Similarly, as the types themselves are already variegated by the totality of the individuals occurring--which, however, need not necessarily exhaust the full scale of possibilities--there exist (always within the bounds of the type) a great many possibilities for variation of types which are not always realized in their entirety. There are as many real variations as there are changes and differences in the conditions of environment and in the physiological basis, e.g. for the individual character during the ages of development and involution and during senility. The variations of animal and plant life bred artificially only serve to reveal the full extent of variability. Variations of the constant; how could it be otherwise since everything is motion, also within itself! Even the constant is in motion within itself as it is in motion as a part of the whole, the One. What is true of all the phenomena constant to us, is equally true for the phenomena of life. Here I am in complete opposition to the proud thoughts of men. I know nothing of their exceptional position in nature nor of any development leading up to them. All that lives forms one element moving within itself as water does. Water shifts within itself and changes to ice and vapour; in the Element of Life animals eat plants and devour each other. And life is One; all that lives, every vegetable and animal is a variation of the one constant, basic phenomenon of life.