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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/518

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SOME MATERIAL FORCES OF THE SOCIAL ORGANISM.[1]
By Prof. JOHN W. LANGLEY.

AT the outset of this paper I wish to define one or two terms, and my own position in using them. The expression "the social organism" is generally taken in a merely figurative sense, but to me it has more significance than that. I will employ it with nearly its full literal meaning.

Society, denoting by that the people collectively of any one nation or government, is an organism distinctly endowed with the attributes of a living structure. Its individual units, men and women, are alive; its various political parties, charities, industrial groups, and its government all have an organic character; and, finally, the whole society shows the fundamental attributes of vitality in the specialization of parts, the partial co-ordination of these for a common end, and particularly by the constant phenomena of mutation and change.

The social organism is, then, a vitalized structure, not only in its separate parts but in its entirety. Now, if this is so, then many of the conditions which modify the more familiar forms of life may be expected to, indeed necessarily will, influence and modify the progress of social development and growth.

Foremost and most obvious of these conditions will be the character of the raw material of society—I mean matter, substance, material things. For, just as a brick house differs from a wooden one, even if the general plan is the same, because one is made of mineral matter while the other is vegetable; or, as a porcelain vase will differ from a bronze one of exactly the same shape by all the fundamental properties belonging to clay and metal, so equally must the possibilities of social conditions be fundamentally controlled and limited by the properties of matter.

There is a very different view from the above, illustrated by this quotation from Bishop Berkeley: "Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, namely, that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth—in a word, all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world—have not any substance without a mind."

But the question I raise here is not one between the Berkeleian or the anti-Berkeleian philosophy, or between idealism and materialism, because for the practical purposes of this paper it makes no difference in which camp we stand; and while the language


  1. Delivered before the Cleveland Council of Sociology, June 25, 1894.