Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/271

This page has been validated.


THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

JANUARY, 1873.


 
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.
By HERBERT SPENCER.

VI.—Subjective Difficulties—Intellectual.

IF you watch the management of a child by a mother of small capacity, you may be struck by the inability she betrays to imagine the child's thoughts and feelings. Full of energy which he must expend in some way, and eager to see every thing, her little boy is every moment provoking her by his restlessness. The occasion is perhaps a railway journey. Now he strives to look out of the window; and now, when forbidden to do that, climbs on the seats, or meddles with the small luggage. "Sit still," "Get down, I tell you," "Why can't you be quiet?" are the commands and expostulations she utters from minute to minute partly, no doubt, to prevent the discomfort of fellow-passengers. But, as you will see at other times, when no such motive comes into play, she endeavors to repress these childish activities mainly out of regard for what she thinks propriety, and does it without any adequate recognition of the penalties she inflicts. Though she herself lived through this phase of extreme curiosity—this early time when almost every object passed has the charm of novelty, and when the overflowing energies generate a painful irritation if pent up; yet now she cannot believe how keen is the desire for seeing which she balks, and how difficult is the maintenance of that quietude on which she insists. Conceiving her child's consciousness in terms of her own consciousness, and feeling how easy it is to sit still and not look out of the window, she ascribes his behavior to mere perversity.

I recall this and kindred experiences to the reader's mind, for the purpose of exemplifying a necessity and a difficulty. The necessity is that, in dealing with other beings and interpreting their actions, we are obliged to represent their thoughts and feelings in terms of our