Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/268

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best authorities in biology and psychology. Very often the biology and psychology which they use is comparatively crude, and from ten to twenty-five years behind the times. It is, of course, entirely commendable on the part of the workers in the social sciences that they should not be over hasty in accepting any theory in biology and psychology. But when these theories have been tested and generally accepted, then the burden of giving adequate reasons must rest upon the sociologist who rejects such theories. Such is the case with the theory of instinct in psychology.

Aside from the misunderstandings concerning the psychological use of the conception of instinct, there are certain objections of a definite nature which students of society have made to the employment of the conception in sociology and in the other social sciences. These objections may be classified under three heads.

1. It is said that man has few or no instincts, but that he acquires practically all of his characteristics by imitative absorption from his social environment. This, however, is in direct opposition to all the results of modern scientific psychology. It is now over twenty years since Professor James upset the older view of human nature by saying that man had more instincts than any other animal. This view, after years of controversy, has finally won out in psychology and is now not seriously disputed by any one who understands what the psychologist means by instinct. Thorndike states that the list of human instincts is ever increasing because many actions which have commonly been credited to the acquisition of individual experience are coming now to be known as really the gifts of nature. He says,[1] "the more carefully mental development is investigated, the more we find human life everywhere rooted in instincts."

2. The second objection which certain students of society make to the use of the conception of instinct in sociology is that instincts, while they may exist, are in no degree determining factors in human society, but are simply rudimentary impulses whose expression is wholly determined by the social environment (chiefly economic conditions). This objection is based partly on misconceptions of instinct, partly on a faulty psychology which over-emphasizes the role of stimulus in initiating conduct. The full answer to this objection will be evident from what is said later.

3. The third objection which some make to the use of the concept of instinct in sociology is that instinct is but a term, a concept, and that it stands for no real phenomena; in short, that "instinct" is merely a metaphysical concept, not a reality. This objection is based upon an inadequate appreciation of the positive and biological character of modern psychology.

We shall try to show that all of these objections to the use of the

  1. "Elements of Psychology," p. 190.