Presidential addresses in our Association are frequently discourses on the state of our discipline. In the past twenty years nine presidents have reflected on its status, trends and needs. It would be presumptuous for another president to return to the topic now if the moment did not validate the need. After a period of novel developments, accompanied by uncertainties and tensions, there is need to reemphasize our community of interest and our common obligation.
It is a community extending across diversities and an obligation with many components. The study of the science and art of government has many facets which reflect search in that eternal triangle of science, values, and utility.
In the beginning it is well to remark that we are constantly drawn toward two poles in a dual quest. We would like to find verifiable propositions or working assumptions about political activity which, like the law of gravity or the laws of motion, transcend time, and technology and culture variations. We would like even to extend our vision further: just as the biologist seeks for the origins of life and the astronomer for the initial creative impulse for the universe, we want to know if there is a universal plan in history and a destiny for man.
Such cosmic vision must be based on the assumption of some constants in human behavior, such as self-love; or in human relations, such as power; or in natural morality, such as justice. Yet grasp for certainty fades as we wonder whether all such things are relative to environment, and hence whether ecology and the search for the laws of change must be the centers of inquiry. As we contemplate how such great cultural changes as the secularization of thought in the Enlightenment, or such tremendous physical events as the discovery of America have upset the assumptions of thought, and as we try to think of what nuclear energy, automation and the dominion of scientists may mean, we are humble before the task of building an endurable science of politics.