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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/143

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THE TRANSITION OF INSTITUTIONS.

as certain common traits of development. Further comparisons, similarly made, opened large questions, such as that of the relation between social growth and organization, which form parts of this same science—questions of transcendent importance, compared with those occupying the minds of politicians and writers of history.

The difficulties of the Social Science next drew our attention. We saw that in this case, though in no other case, the facts to be observed and generalized by the student are exhibited by an aggregate of which he forms a part. In his capacity of inquirer, he should have no inclination toward one or other conclusion respecting the phenomena to be generalized; but, in his capacity of citizen, helped to live by the life of his society, embedded in its structures, sharing in its activities, breathing its atmosphere of thought and sentiment, he is partially coerced into such views as favor harmonious cooperation with his fellow-citizens. Hence immense obstacles to the social science, unparalleled by those standing in the way of any other science.

From considering thus generally these causes of error, we turned to consider them specially. Under the head of Objective Difficulties, we glanced at those many ways in which evidence collected by the sociological inquirer is vitiated. That extreme untrustworthiness of witnesses which results from carelessness, or fanaticism, or self-interest, was illustrated; and we saw that, in addition to the perversions of statement hence arising, there are others which arise from the tendency there is for some kinds of evidence to draw attention, while evidence of opposite kinds, much larger in quantity, draws no attention. Further, it was shown that the nature of sociological facts, each of which is not observable in a single object or act, but is reached only through registration and comparison of many objects and acts, makes the perception of them harder than that of other facts. It was pointed out that the wide distribution of social phenomena in space greatly hinders true apprehensions of them; and it was also pointed out that another impediment, even still greater, is consequent on their distribution in time—a distribution such that many of the facts to be dealt with take centuries to unfold, and can be grasped only by combining in thought multitudinous changes that are slow, involved, and not easy to trace.

Beyond these difficulties which we grouped as distinguishing the science itself, objectively considered, we saw that there are other difficulties, conveniently to be grouped as subjective, which are also great. For the interpretation of human conduct as socially displayed, every one is compelled to use, as a key, his own nature—ascribing to others thoughts and feelings like his own; and yet, while this automorphic interpretation is indispensable, it is necessarily more or less misleading. Very generally, too, a subjective difficulty arises from the lack of intellectual faculty complex enough to grasp these social phenom-