"The crystalloid minds are all that's clear, orderly, and beautiful."

— Lewis, Edwin Herbert (1866-1938)

"The crystalloid minds are all that's clear, orderly, and beautiful."
Metaphor in Context
When we proceed from biology to anthropology, we find it more and more difficult to establish units. If it is hard to define a sponge, how much harder it is to define a human sponge! If it is hard to analyze a sea-urchin, what shall we do with the street-urchin? If some microparasites are essential to digestion, how shall we distinguish between useful and useless human parasites? If a careless eye might mistake a yeast for a mold, how distinguish a social moldiness from a social ferment? Can a supreme court decide the indivisibility of a contract by appealing to the indivisibility of a contractile muscle? These are fantastic questions, and warn us that we can't use biological metaphors with perfect comfort. A friend of mine recently wrote a brilliant article on the difference between crystalloid minds and colloid minds. The crystalloid minds are all that's clear, orderly, and beautiful. The colloid minds are sticky, glutinous, and mussy. This was a useful distinction. The only trouble with it is that colloids are the basic material of life. Crystals are clear, geometrical, beautiful, perfect, and dead. So when we find biologists like Virchow, Haeckel, and Spencer speculating in the social sciences, our "specialistic individualism" warns us to take them with a large pinch of salt.
(pp. 236-7)
Edwin Herbert Lewis,"Some Definitions of Individualism" The American Journal of Sociology 17:2 (1911): 223-253. <Link to Google Books>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.