Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/269

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INSTINCTIVE ELEMENT IN HUMAN SOCIETY

psychological conception of instinct in sociology are invalid and that, if one is to study human society psychologically, one must begin with the native elements found in the individuals which compose that society, that is, with the instincts, and then show the part which they play in social organization.

A subconscious objection in the minds of many students to the use of the conception of instinct in the social sciences is doubtless the wrong use to which the conception has been put in the past. Ever since Aristotle, instinct has been a sort of a "catch-all" into which were thrown all the problems that were in any way baffling. We have had theories of social organization which traced practically everything in human society to a supposed "social instinct" in man. It has been claimed that individuals entered into social relations through this instinct or through that. The state has been explained through a specific political instinct in man; religion has been explained through a religious instinct in man; economic phenomena have been traced to the workings of a specific economic instinct, and so on. No doubt this older way of explaining man's social life through various specific instincts was unscientific and the reaction against such crude methods is fully justified. Even Aristotle's instinctive theory of society, as developed, at least, by some of his followers, is open to severe criticism because, as we shall show, man enters into social relations, not through any one or even a few, but through practically all of his instincts.

Crude recognition of the instinctive element by recent thinkers along social lines has not helped matters. The "properties of human nature," such as the aversion to labor, the love of gain and the like, which the earlier and some of the later economists have made use of, are undoubtedly very far from scientific conceptions. So also the use which certain sociologists have made of the term "unconscious," by which they seem to mean very largely the instinctive. Again the use of such a vague term as "desires," to which Ward traces all social occurrences, is open to the same objection; for some sociologists use the expression "the desires," meaning the native impulses; others mean by it the feelings.

Illustrations of vague and unscientific uses of psychological terms and conceptions in the social sciences might be multiplied indefinitely. The few that have been pointed out are, however, perhaps sufficient to emphasize that all such vague and crude uses of psychological concepts must be replaced in the social sciences by usage which is in accord with the best development in modern scientific psychology. When this is done with the conception of instinct it will be found to accord entirely with the requirements of positive science, and to be especially in harmony with the soundest biological views of life.

Misunderstandings, then, of the psychological usage of the term instinct and the resulting misconceptions of what instinct really is, are