Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/254

This page has been validated.



THAT man, as an individual, exemplifies the action of law in the various parts of his nature, and is hence the subject of science, everybody now understands: but that men collectively, or in social relations, are governed by natural laws which are capable of scientific investigation, is only beginning to be seen and admitted. If there are natural laws which determine the social state, it is certainly of the highest importance that they should be known. Legislation, philanthropy, and all projects of social amelioration and reform, must be but futile and quackish expedients, so long as men are ignorant of the natural forces, and orderly method, by which human society has been originated and is regulated. Social phenomena have their laws like all other phenomena, and it is the sole business of science to elucidate and declare them. Science has no schemes to propose, no reforms to carry out. Whether society is bad or good, rude or cultivated, getting better or getting worse, developing or perishing, it is all the same: science simply takes note of the facts, and draws from them the general principles to which social changes conform, and the systematic statement of which constitutes true social science.

It is from this point of view that the subject has been approached by Herbert Spencer, who is now acknowledged to be the foremost living expositor of pure scientific sociology. Some confusion has arisen in the public mind in regard to the various works bearing upon this subject which he has undertaken, and for the benefit of those interested we propose to explain his method of dealing with it, as this may prove instructive in relation to the character of the inquiry itself.

Mr. Spencer was attracted to social studies in his youth. His first publication was a pamphlet on the proper sphere and functions of political government, and his first book was a treatise on society, known as "Social Statics." It was a work of great originality and power of statement, and its fundamental idea was that of his present philosophical system, the idea of evolution; but it was only imperfectly worked out, and the effect upon Mr. Spencer's mind of preparing the volume was to convince him that the whole question of the natural laws of society would have to be taken up in a more thorough and comprehensive way, before the requirements of science could be satisfied. As society is made up of men, its deepest laws must be derived from the natures of men. The first thing to be done, therefore, was to inquire what there is in the constitution of human nature which must be known, before social effects can be understood. Man's nature is twofold, vital and psychical; and all social phenomena are phenomena of life and thought, which determine human actions. The laws of life give rise to the science of Biology; the laws of thought and feeling, which depend upon life, give rise to the science of Psychology; and a knowledge of these subjects forms the indispensable basis of Sociology. So clear and close is this dependence, and so comprehensive and complex the investigation, that Mr. Spencer soon saw he must give his life to it, if it was to be adequately done. He accordingly laid out his plan of work in 1859, and commenced its execution in 1860, allowing twenty