The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 4/Sociology and Anthropology
SOCIOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY. IV.
Almost any subject may be classified in more than one way. Anthropology is the science of man, and taken in its broadest sense it embraces everything that concerns the human race. It first received prominence at the hands of Paul Broca, the eminent student of man in his physical relations. Owing to his influence it was long restricted to the study of the human body, but so appropriate a term could not be thus bound down, and today it has come to receive the broadest meaning of which it admits. The Anthropological Society of Washington, which was founded in 1879, introduced into its constitution the following classification of the science: (1) Somatology, (2) Sociology, (3) Philology, (4) Philosophy, (5) Psyschology, and (6) Technology. These subdivisions were adopted after prolonged and careful consideration by such men as Major J. W. Powell, Director of the U. S. Bureau of Ethnology, Col. Garrick Mallery, the eminent student of sign language and kindred subjects, and Professor Otis T. Mason, Curator of Ethnology for the U. S. National Museum. It has been found during sixteen years' experience that every subject proper to be brought before the society could be classed under some one of these heads.
Here, as will be seen, sociology is made a subdivision of anthropology, and properly so. But this does not in any way invalidate an entirely different classification in which sociology is made the generic science, and anthropology is looked upon as in some sense a part of sociology. It all depends upon the point of view. As man is the being with whom sociology deals that science of course belongs to the science of man. But if we look upon sociology as embracing everything relating to associated man, a large part of the facts and phenomena of anthropology overlap upon its domain, and it becomes important to consider the relations subsisting among these phenomena. Moreover, the phenomena of association are not exclusively confined to man. Sociologists are coming to pay more and more attention to phenomena among animals analogous to those displayed by men, and animal association is a well-known fact which is exciting increased interest. So that sociology is not wholly included in any view of anthropology.
But when we examine the two sciences closely we perceive that they differ generically. Anthropology, in dealing with man, i. e., with a particular being, or species of animal, is primarily a descriptive science. It is not concerned with laws or principles, but with material facts. Sociology, on the contrary, deals primarily with association and whatever conduces to it or modifies it. But association is not a material thing; it is a condition, and the science that deals with it is chiefly concerned with the laws and principles that produce and affect that condition. In short, while anthropology is essentially a concrete science, sociology is essentially an abstract science. The distinction is very nearly the same as between biology and zoology, except that anthropology is restricted to a single species of animal. Thus viewed, it is clear that it becomes simply a branch of zoology with classificatory rank below ornithology, entomology, mammalogy, etc. There is no other single species, or even genus, that has been made the subject of a distinct science, as might obviously be done, e. g., hippology, the science of the horse, or cynology, the science of the dog.
It comes, however, wholly within the province of social philosophy to inquire into the nature of this being, man, whose associative habits form the chief subject of sociology. First of all, his position in the animal world needs to be understood. No possible good can come from ignoring the true relation of man to the humbler forms of life around him, while on the other hand, if this relation is correctly understood it furnishes one of the principal means by which man can learn to know himself. Accepting, therefore, the conclusions of the masters in zoology, among whom as to the main points, there are no longer any differences of opinion, we must contemplate man simply as the most favored of all the "favored races" that have struggled up from a remote and humble origin. His superiority is due almost exclusively to his extraordinary brain development.
Very few have seriously reflected upon the natural consequences of this one characteristic—a highly developed brain. Without inquiring how it happened that the creature called man was singled out to become the recipient of this extraordinary endowment, we may safely make two fundamental propositions which tend to show that this question is not as important as it seems. The first is that if the developed brain had been awarded to any one of the other animals of nearly the same size of man, that animal would have dominated the earth in much the same way that man does. The other is that a large part of what constitutes the physical superiority of man is directly due to his brain development.
As to the first of these propositions, it is true that man belongs systematically to the highest class of animals, the placental Mammalia. It would have looked somewhat anomalous to the zoologist if he had discovered that the dominant race to which he belonged must be classed below many of the creatures over which he held sway, as would have been the case if the organ of knowing had been conferred, for example, upon some species of large bird or reptile. But in fact something a little less anomalous, but of the same kind actually occurs. The line along which man has descended is not regarded by zoologists as by any means the most highly developed line of the Mammalian class. It is a very short line and leads directly back through the apes and lemurs to the marsupials and monotremes—animals of much lower systematic order, the last named forming a partial transition to birds. Most of the other developed mammals, such as the Carnivora and Ungulata, have a much longer ancestry and have really attained a far higher stage of development. In the matter of digits it is maintained that true progress is characterized by a reduction in their number, and that the highest stage is not reached until they are reduced to one, as in the horse. In this respect man is a slight advance upon the apes in the first toe having lost the character of a thumb. No one can deny that the power of flight would have been an immense advantage to man, yet few mammals possess this power, and it is chiefly confined to creatures of low organization.
It is difificult to conceive abeing entirely different in form from man taking the place that he has acquired, but if any one of the structurally higher races possessed the same brain development it would have had the same intelligence, and although its achievements would doubtless have been very different from his, they would have had the same rank and secured for that race the same mastery over animate and inanimate nature. This will become clearer when we consider the second of the above propositions which we may now proceed to do.
To what extent has brain development reacted upon man's physical nature? I cannot, of course, go fully into this question here, but nothing is better known to anatomists than that the erect posture is not the natural or primary one. It has been acquired by man within a comparatively recent time. It is a legitimate inference that it is chiefly due to brain development, physiologically as a means of supporting the enlarged and correspondingly heavier head, which it would be difficult to carry in the horizontal position, and psychologically as the natural result of a growing intelligence and self-consciousness which seeks to lift the head and raise it to a position from which it can command its surroundings. It is a common observation that those persons who possess the greatest amount of self-esteem stand straightest, and it is this same principle that has bperated from the beginning to bring the human body more and more nearly into a vertical position.
Pari passu with this process has gone on the diminution of the craniofacial angle. The same influences that tended to raise the body from the horizontal to the vertical position tended also to carry the brain and upper part of the face forward and the jaws and mouth backward. It is not claimed that this reaction of the developing intelligence upon the physical form is sufficient alone to account for the development of the entire type of physical beauty attained by the most advanced human races. Esthetic considerations are needed to complete the process, and especially the powerful aid of sexual selection; but even the sense of beauty must be in great part ascribed to mental development and refinement.
Nothing is more certain than that the faculty of speech is a product of intelligence. Both by direct effort and by hereditary selection the organs of speech received increment after increment of adaptation to this end. The means of intercommunication was the indispensable requirement, and this would be secured by any intelligent creature no matter what the physical organization might be. Oral speech is by no means the only way in which such intercommunication is secured, and even if no organs had existed by which sound could be produced, some other means would have been adopted. But man possessed sound-producing organs in common with nearly all animals. There is no evidence that he was specially favored in this respect. In developed man the larynx is more complicated than in most mammals, but this may be comparatively recent. In many animals it is greatly specialized. In birds it is far more elaborate than in man, being double and sometimes, as in the crane, enormously elongated and coiled into a trumpet. Who can doubt that with such an organ all birds could talk if they possessed ideas to communicate? The parrot and many other birds actually do distinctly articulate the words of human speech by imitation, but they lack the power to clothe them with thought. It would be easy to add a great number of other proofs of the all-sufficiency of the one leading characteristic of the human species—superior brain development—to account for all the important features that distinguish man from the lower animals, but those already mentioned will suffice.
The last question to be discussed is whether there is any generic distinction between human and animal association. Many animals are gregarious and some lead a truly social life. We all know how most domestic animals love to mingle with their kind. The horse is an exceedingly social animal and is always uneasy and apparently unhappy until in the presence of other horses. Most ungulates, even in the wild state, go in flocks and herds. It is noteworthy that herbivorous animals are more gregarious than carnivorous ones. Animals of the cat tribe are scarcely at all so. Wolves, it is true, go in packs, but it may be a question whether this is not entirely due to the advantage this gives them in attacking their prey, which is often an animal of nearly their own size, as the sheep. Many birds live in flocks, sometimes, as pigeons, of immense numbers. Fishes, too, form "shoals," and insects swarm.
The causes of all these forms of gregariousness are numerous and complex. The necessities of reproduction are sufficient to account for a large part of it, and all animals must associate enough to secure this end. One of the most curious facts is that those animals which zoologists place nearest to man are not among the most gregarious. The habits of apes and monkeys in the wild state are not as well known as could be wished in discussing this question, and although some of the anthropoid apes are known to go in troops, though not very large ones, still this class of animals can scarcely be regarded as gregarious. Although it is admitted that none of the living forms could have been the immediate ancestor of man, and therefore there will always remain the possibility that his true simian ancestor may have been a gregarious animal, still the probabilities are against this view, and it seems likely that throughout his purely animal career man possessed the associative habit only so far as was necessary for the maintenance of the race.
Considering all these facts I am inclined to the view that man is not naturally a social being, that he has descended from an animal that was not even gregarious by instinct, and that human society, like so many other facts that I have been enumerating, is purely a product of his reason and arose by insensible degrees, pari passu with the development of his brain. In other words, I regard human association as the result of the perceived advantage which it yields, and as coming into existence only in proportion as that advantage was perceived by the only faculty capable of perceiving it, the intellect. In Dynamic Sociology I took strong ground against the Aristotelian idea that man is a gregarious animal and the Comtean doctrine that he is by nature a social being, and pointed out a large number of what I called "anti-social" qualities in his nature, and I also worked out what I conceived must have been the several steps which the race has taken in its passage from the purely animal state to the developed social state. I do not adhere to that position now merely because I assumed it then, but rather because, notwithstanding the little real evidence, subsequent indications have tended to confirm it. I will here emphasize only one point. Human government is an art only possible in a rational being. No animal possesses a government in any such sense. The primary object of government is to protect society from just these anti-social influences, and it is generally admitted that without it society could not exist. This means that even in the most enlightened peoples the anti-social tendencies are still so strong that they would disrupt society but for an artificial system of protection. To call man of whom this can be said a social being by nature is obviously absurd. No doubt strong social impulses exist among men, but they are the product of ages of constraint. Man may be in process of becoming a social being, but he will not have really become such until it shall be possible to dispense entirely with the protective function of government. Universal education and further centuries of custom may ultimately transform human character to this extent, until habit shall become at least a second nature and accomplish the same result that natural selection has accomplished in making gregarious animals and social insects; but thus far society, which is the product of the collective reason working for its own interests, is still dependent upon the momentary exercise of that reason in preventing its own overthrow.
It is for these reasons that I am obliged to maintain that human society is generically distinct from all animal societies. It is essentially rational and artificial while animal association is essentially instinctive and natural. The adaptation in the former is incomplete, while in the latter it is practically complete. Hence the same principles do not apply to human and animal sociology. The latter is essentially a biological study, and while psychological considerations are potent in both, those that belong to animal sociology relate exclusively to feeling while those that belong to human sociology relate chiefly to the intellect. The facts of animal association therefore—the remarkable resemblances to man's ways displayed by insects and the curious imitations of human customs in various departments of the animal world—prove to be only analogies and not true homologies, and as such have much less value to the sociologist than they appear at first view to possess.
Washington, D. C.
- ↑ In our last issue (p. 313) it was stated in a footnote that owing to previous publication this paper would be omitted from the series; but as so much of it, as now presented, is new, it has been decided to insert all that seems essential to the general argument, omitting the somewhat extended discussion of alleged exclusively human attributes, for which the reader is referred to the American Anthropologist tor July, 1895.
- ↑ See Vol. I., pp. 394, 452. 462. 474; Vol. II., pp. 212, 221.
- ↑ Vol. I., p. 466.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.