Auden Addresses Phi Beta Banquet on Self-Realization

published in the January 19, 1943 issue of the Phoenix

Man must strive with passion to satisfy his "subjective requiredness." This was the theme stressed by W.H. Auden in speaking on "Vocation and Society" to the Swarthmore chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and seniors of the College, Friday night. Mr. Auden, lecturer in English, is a playwright and poet, having been awarded the King's Medal in 1937 by George VI for the best poetry of the year.

Mr. Auden stated that man's only true vocation is the realization of himself; this is the "state of subjective requiredness." To follow his vocation a man must have a passion which shall drive him on and, Mr. Auden said, "without passion society must dissolve in an amorphous whole."

Government for Ego

Thus, Mr. Auden believes, all elements of society must be directed toward the development and feeding of this all-important passion. Through education, society can display to the person what can be his passion. Only the democratic state can assure the individual an opportunity to follow his passion. Mr. Auden considers "government of, by, and for the ego" the only significant type.

The speaker divided men into three classes: "highbrows, lowbrows, and middlebrows." He explained that one is a "lowbrow" when born, and is not conscious of self as opposed to humanity. The "middlebrow" has not realized this passion; he wishes "to have his cake and eat it too" - taking his trials "by correspondence or with aspirin." But the "highbrow" is the one who allows passion to drive his life; this, according to Mr. Auden, is the type of man which all should try to be.


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