How "They" May Be Resisted

THE ART OF THINKING. By Ernest Dimnet. (Simon & Schuster.)

THERE is some reason for suspecting that no single book of the season is likely to contain greater potential benefits for the average intelligent reader than does this wise and yet amusing, profound but thoroughly companionable volume.

Ernest Dimnet, a French abbe, is a world-famous critic of life and literature, which he wisely rates in the order written. He writes in both French and English, his many works being about evenly divided between the two languages. In America he is best known by “The Bronte Sisters,” which was published recently here and in England. The present volume was composed in English and is addressed particularly to us Americans.

It is a common criticism made by intellectual foreigners visiting here that gregariousness has been developed to a higher degree in American society than anywhere else in the civilized world, and our increasing tendency toward standardized crowed opinion is often pointed out as one of the least promising characteristics of our civilization. It is with this in view that this kindly world citizen addresses us, but not as one who is bent upon “high-hatting” an inferior. M. Dimnet realizes, as must anyone who has met many people in various parts of the country, that the quality of our crowd opinions does not fairly represent the intelligence of a very large percentage of those individuals who are persuaded to move with the crowd. If this were not true, our critic would be more foolish than we in his attempt to encourage individual thinking among us, as opposed to mere mass persuasion.

While M. Dimnet has no formula for transforming a crowd follower into an independent thinker over night, he does make clear the means by which any of us may test our opinions as to origin and probable validity. This is a great deal, since merely to be able to question our crowd-generated notions is to achieve something of the power of independent thought.

If the meaning that is contained in this unassuming and really delightful book could suddenly become operative in the mental makeup of all those thousands upon thousands who are thoroughly capable of understanding it, our demagogues, now conspicuous in every field of activity, would be obliged to look for new jobs.