The Amateur Temper

I THOUGHT I might not agree with the writer of The Amateur Spirit, in the August Atlantic, but I do, almost wholly. The only point where I ’m not sure is in the setting of the expert over against the amateur, as he is there defined. The specialist I take to be a man who is doing work — that is, making discoveries — in some line, and who is compelled by the conditions to confine his work to that line, necessarily a narrow one. His opposite, the natural and logical counterpart to him, is a man who is not making discoveries, vut is acquiring for himself the knowledge that others have discovered. He may be broad or narrow in his range, — that has nothing to do with it; the definition of him is that he is not a discoverer. But the spirit which the Atlantic describes under the word “ amateur ” is a tone and temper, an attitude toward all kinds of knowledge ; and it is not, necessarily or inherently, or even, I believe, usually, in any kind of fixed relation to the fact that a man is or is not doing the work of discovery. The two things are not in the same plane. The one has to do with one’s daily work, the ordinary grind, by which we earn our bread and cheese, and keep ourselves sane in a mad world. It’s just work pushed out a little further than we usually push it, a little more agreeable than the ordinary work, but not cssentially different from it, and connected with it by all kinds of associations. It belongs to the intellectual-machine part of us. But the spirit with which a man looks at ideas and at knowledge, either old or new, is a product of the whole of him, and is related to his general view of life. It may be broad or narrow, and mean or generous, but it is only accidentally and remotely connected with his business or profession. It has moral qualities ; professions have n’t.