The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 4/The Province of Sociology

2320514The American Journal of Sociology, Volume 1, Number 4 — The Province of Sociology1896George Edgar Vincent



I. The Nature and Function of Method.

1. Method is mental machinery devised by men to deal with phenomena.

2. The scientific method is applicable in greater or less degree to all kinds of phenomena.

3. There are three modes of scientific investigation: observation, comparison, and experiment.

4. Method is an absolute necessity for systematizing and extending a knowledge of reality.

5. Method is a natural development from the instinctive impulse of the mind to organize its impressions into a consistent unity.

6. The preliminary discrimination of method is the distribution of all phenomena among certain grand divisions.

7. It is of vital importance to discriminate between a division of phenomena for purposes of study, and a separation of the phenomena thernselves.

8. Since the sciences deal with different aspects of the same objective world, it follows that they must cooperate to give a complete account of reality.

9. Scientific method has been developed historically first in application to inorganic phenomena, then to organic life, more recently to psychical and social phenomena.

10. Is there room for a further elaboration of method? Is there need of another department of investigation? II. Historical Outline of Social Philosophy.

DeGreef: L'Evolution des Croyances et des Doctrines Politiques, Paris, 1895, pp. 19–72.

Gumplowicz: Grundriss der Sociologie. Vienna, 1885, pp. 3–50.

Schwegler: History of Philosophy.

Bacon: Novum Organum, Bohn's Library Ed. Bk. I, p 383, sq.

Comte: Philosophie Positive. Martineau's Tr., Vol. II, Chaps, i. and ii.

Flint: Vico, London, 1884.

Small and Vincent: An Introduction to the Study of Society. Bk. I., Chs. i. and ii.

1. The scientific method as applicable or applied to social phenomena has been transmitted and developed from Aristotle, through

a) The theologians of the Church with many speculative modifications;

b) Roger Bacon (1214–1292) "the first encyclopædic savant to emerge from the Middle Ages";

c) St. Thomas Aquinas (1227–1274) who prepared for the separation of theology and metaphysical philosophy;

d) Machiavelli (1469–1527) who observed social forces and based rules of action upon the actual nature of men;

e) Francis Bacon (1561–1626) the founder of the modern scientific method;

f) Hobbes (1588–1670) who based the sovereignty of the prince on social need instead of "divine right";

g) Descartes (1596–1650) who by his attempt to sweep away all preconceptions cleared the path for the scientific methods;

k) Spinoza (1632–1678) who announced the theory of the "sovereignity of the people."

2. These ideas thus developed began to be applied to social phenomena systematically by

a) Vico (1668–1744) who announced the conception of a continuous and ordered development in history; a cyclical movement through three stages: divine, heoric, human. No theological or speculative hypothesis was admitted. The theory was based on observation, insufficient and unwarrantably generalized though it was.

b) Montesquieu (1689–1755) "Laws are the necessary relations which are derived from the nature of things."

c) Turgot (1727–1781) advanced a theory of indefinite and continuous progress.

d) Rousseau (1712–1778) in his Discours sur l'Origin de l'inégalité parmi les hommes attempted to solve the economic question which he clearly recognized as fundamental.

e) Adam Smith (1723–1790) was the enunciator of social laws governing the phenomena connected with wealth.

f) Bentham (1749–1832) recognized the interrelation of economic and ethical social factors.

g) John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) carried further the ideal of reasoned intervention. "With him . . . . ends the metaphysical period of political economy and the social sciences."

h) Auguste Comte (1798–1857) the so-called "father of Sociology."

III. The System of Auguste Comte.

Comte: Philosophie Positive. Martineau's Tr., Vol. II, Chaps, vii–xi.

J. S. Mill: The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, Boston, 1871.

Spencer: Of the Classification of the Sciences. Recent Discussions.

Ward: Dynamic Sociology. New York, 1883, Vol. I., Chap. i.

The Place of Sociology among the Sciences. American Journal of Sociology, July, 1895.

Fiske: Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy. Boston, 1875, Vol. I., Chap. xii.

1. The doctrine of the three stages.

All bodies of human thought pass through three stages:

a) The theological or fictitious (personal or volitional; Mill.)

b) The metaphysical or abstract (abstractional or ontological; Mill.)

c) The scientific or positive (phenomenal or experimental; Mill.)

2. The hierarchy of the sciences.

An arrangement of decreasing generality or increasing complexity, each science immediately dependent upon the next below: (a) mathematics, (b) astronomy, (c) physics, (d) chemistry, (e) biology (including "transcendental biology," a sort of psychology), (f) social physics or sociology.

Of this hierachy it is also asserted that the sciences pass through the three stages in the sequence indicated, and should be studied in this order.

3. The progress of society from the military to the industrial regime.

a) Intellectual progress is the determining factor of social evolution.

b) Intellectual progress passes through three stages to which there correspond three grades of social evolution: military, transitional or legal, industrial.

c) These three propositions (1,2, and 3 above) together constitute Comte's theory of social evolution.

4. Criticisms.

a) As to the three stages, it is pointed out by Spencer (Recent Discussions, p. 124) and Fiske (Cosmic Philosophy, Vol. I., p. 185) that the movement of human thought is a continual progress, that the three stages are not different in kind, that the advancement is simply from the more anthropomorphic to the less.

b) The hierarchy of the sciences is by the same authorities declared to be weakened by a confusion of "abstract" with "general;" the historical proof of order of development is denied; the evolution is not linear but the sciences have advanced together in mutual interdependence (cf. Classification of the Sciences, Fiske's Cosmic Philosophy, Vol. I., p. 219).

c) As to the transition from militancy to industrialism the causal connection between intellectual progress and the three types of society is not even remotely shown except perhaps in the case of the third.

5. Estimate of Comte's contributions to social science.

a) He should be judged by his general aims rather than by his specific accomplishments.

b) Comte asserted with definiteness the sequence and causal continuity of social phenomena, and attempted to formulate laws of evolution.

c) He grasped the idea of the unity of nature and tried to organize all human knowledge in harmony with that theory.

d) He is the Copernicus rather than the Kepler or Newton of modern philosophy (Fiske).

IV. The Development of Biology and the Idea of Evolution.

The progress of the biological sciences, and the formulation of theories of organic development have influenced all contemporary thought, while the study of psychical phenomena has been greatly advanced. Both movements have had the highest significance to students of society.

a) The term evolution was first employed in biology in the first half of the 17th century, to describe the growth of embryos.

b) Harvey, Bonnet, Buffon and Wolff made contributions to embryology which under Von Baer, early in this century, reached a thoroughly scientific basis.

c) The idea of evolution may be applied either to an individual or to a sum of individuals. In the latter case the conception of development or evolution, approached by Descartes and Leibnitz, gradually increased in definiteness.

d) Treviranus and Lamarck early in the century published treatises which laid the foundations for the present theory.

e) In 1858 Charles Darwin published the Theory of Natural Selection which was followed in 1859 by his famous work on The Origin of Species. Thus the idea of adjustment to the environment as a determining factor in biological variation was announced.

f) The nature of heredity is at present a vexed question in biology. Weismann, the biological specialist, denies that acquired characters can be transmitted, while Spencer contends that they are. (Vide articles in Contemporary Review, September 1893–October 1894 and September 1895 also Romanes, An Examination of Weismannism, Open Court Co.)

V. The Application of the Evolutionary Theory to Social Phenomena.

Spencer: First Principles, Secs. 111–145.

Fiske: Cosmic Philosophy, Vol. II., Chaps, xviii. and xix.

Le Conte: Evolution and Its Relation to Religious Thought, pp. 3–7.

The Theory of Evolution and Social Progress. The Monist, July, 1895.

Ward: Dynamic Sociology, Vol. I., Chap. ii.

1. Herbert Spencer (1820) has extended the theory of evolution to include all phenomena, i. e., to interpret the whole cosmic order. He expresses his indebtedness to Wolff, Goethe and Von Baer. Spencer's formula contains the following propositions:

a) Evolution is a change from a less coherent to a more coherent form, consequent on the dissipation of motion and integration of matter.

b) From a homogeneous to a heterogeneous state.

c) From an indefinite to a definite form.

d) During this process the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.

2. John Fiske, in general a follower of Spencer, yet a thinker of independence and originality, has specifically applied the evolutionary conception to society as follows:

a) Social progress is a continuous establishment of inner (i. e., within the society) relations in conformity to outer relations.

b) In the course of this adaptation, the community continually increases in definite heterogeneity, through successive differentiations and integrations.

c) The increase in internal heterogeneity is determined by the continuous increase of heterogeneity in the environment (physical and psychical).

d) The increase of heterogeneity in the environment is determined by the successive integration of communities into more and more complex and coherent aggregates.

3. Conclusion. The results of the evolutionary conception of society since Comte are in general:

a) Greater definiteness; a clearer conviction as to the mutual reaction of physical and psychical forces.

b) A fuller appreciation of the universality of law, even among the most complex phenomena.

c) A working hypothesis which may be made the basis of practical attempts either to bring social efforts into harmony with immutable forces, or by conscious plan to recombine and modify natural tendencies.

VI. The Organic Theory of Society.

Spencer: Principles of Sociology, Vol. I., Secs. 212 to 255.

The Social Organism, Westminister Review, January, 1860.

Mackenzie: Introduction to Social Philosophy, Chap. iii.

Schaffle: Bau und Leben des Socialen Körpers, Vol. I. pp. 41–49, 824–846.

Small and Vincent: An Introduction to the Study of Society, Book I., Chap. v.

Ward: Sociology and Biology, American Journal of Sociology, November 1895.

Giddings: The Theory of Sociology (Supplement to the American Academy, June 1894).

Patten: The Failure of Biologic Sociology, American Academy, May, 1894.

The Organic Concept of Society, American Academy, Nov., 1894.

Small: The Organic Concept of Society, American Academy, March, 1895.

Tarde: La Logique Sociale, Paris, 1895, pp. 127–33.

The analogies between society and an individual organism have been pointed out by many philosophers from Plato and Thucydides to Hobbes, Hegel and Comte. The rapid development of biology during the present century has unquestionably stimulated thought about this conception. Spencer has made the most detailed statements of the organic theory. He speaks of society as a super-organism. Ward, DeGreef, Giddings, and Schaffle also use the terms super-organic and super-psychical.

1. Summary of Spencer's position. Society is said to be like an individual organism in the following points:

a) Growth is attended by augmentation of mass,

b) Increasing complexity of structure, and

c) Increasing interdependence of parts.

d) The life and development of society is independent of and far more prolonged than the life and development of any of its component units.

Societies are declared to differ from individual organisms in the following respects:

a) Societies have no specific external forms.

b) Elements of societies do not form a continuous mass. (Analogy with certain forms of organisms, however, very striking.)

c) Units of societies are not stationary and fixed in their positions. (Difference not so great as at first appears.)

d) Capacity for pleasurable feeling is diffused in society not confined to a special tissue as in an organism.

2. Mackenzie in his Introduction to Social Philosophy attempts to abstract the idea organism and so to generalize it as to include all vital combinations of units from the lowest plant to society itself. This abstracted conception includes:

a) An intrinsic relation between the parts and the whole.

b) Development from within.

c) With reference to an end which is involved in its own nature.

3. Fundamental distinction between the positions represented by Spencer and Mackenzie. It is most important to note that Spencer asserts analogies, Mackenzie, homologies. In the one case societies are said to be like individual organisms, in the other actually to be organisms. Failure to grasp and keep constantly in mind this distinction is a source of endless confusion and misunderstanding because:

a) Analogies are useful tools of thought in attempting to understand complex relations. ". . . . for those things which are in themselves new can yet be only understood from some analogy to what is old;" (Bacon, Novum Organum, Bohn's Library Ed., p. 388.)

b) But analogies may mislead in interpretation, and are very dangerous in constructive thought.

c) The mistake, therefore, of accepting the abstract idea of organism, and then shifting one's position to make concrete applications to any particular type of organism, is to be carefully guarded against.

4. The arguments for and against the organic theory.

In defense of this conception it is claimed:

a) That in its generalized form it is in essential harmony with reality.

b) That as an analogy it is a necessary mode of thought, throwing light on most complex relations, and affording a criterion for comparison.

c) That at least until a new nomenclature is decided upon and given a precise meaning, biological terms such as structure, function, differentiation, etc., are the best available.

On the other hand it is asserted of the organic theory:

a) That, sufficiently abstracted, it becomes empty and formal.

b) That analogies are likely to mislead or confuse rather than give direction and promote clearness of thought.

c) That biological language connotes too much and should be abandoned as quickly as possible for a new technical vocabulary.

5. Conclusion. It is difficult to combine into definite statements the results of these differences of view. The following propositions seem justified:

a) There is substantial agreement that the nature of society may be described as organic in a very general sense.

b) The careful use of analogies is at present a source of aid to most minds but, it is conceivable, may gradually become of less importance as new conceptions are formed.

c) In short, the theory is to be judged solely by its service in extending a knowledge of actual relations in society. In so far as it may be made useful it is to be defended; in so far as it is true it will persist.

VII. The Nature of Social Phenomena.

DeGreef: Introduction a la Sociologie, Vol. II, Chap. xiii.

Tarde: La Logique Sociale, Preface.

Mayo-Smith: Statistics and Sociology, New York, 1895, p. 2.

Small and Vincent: An Introduction to the Study of Society, pp. 60–61.

The attempt to define social phenomena, or at least to discriminate them from the phenomena of biology and psychology has resulted in the following theories:

1. Coöperation or mutual service is held by some thinkers to be the criterion by which social phenomena may be set off from others.

2. Imitation is declared by Tarde to be the true touchstone for testing social phenomena. Tarde extends the meaning of this term to include recombination of models of ideas or things which in turn become the models for others.

3. Contract, the originally conscious or subsequently unconscious agreement between individuals themselves and between individuals and society, is regarded by DeGreef as the essential characteristic of social phenomena.

4. Contact, which includes all relations between individuals in associated life, is advanced by Professor Small as the best generally descriptive term to be employed. This conception includes all the essential elements of the above definitions, the first of which is too narrow, the second too vague, the third only partially true. In the nature of things an exact and specific definition is most difficult to frame, so that this general statement may be accepted as a practical working conception.

VIII. Classification and Scientific Distribution of Social Phenomena.

DeGreef: Introduction à la Sociologie, Vol. I, p. 214.

Small and Vincent: Introduction to the Study of Society, p. 54.

The next logical procedure in method consists in classifying phenomena which are deemed social, and then distributing them among the special departments of social science.

1. DeGreef, a positivist of Comte's school, asserts that the same hierarchic arrangement which is applied to the various sciences as wholes, must also be adopted in classifying the phenomena of the sciences themselves. In accordance with this theory he has proposed the following arrangement of social phenomena in an order of dependence from below upward:

g) Phénomènes politiques.

f) Phénomènes juridiques.

e) Phénomènes moraux.

d) Phénomènes relatifs aux croyances.

c) Phénomènes artistiques.

b) Phénomènes génésiques.

a) Phénomènes economiques.

Base: Facteurs élémentaires, inorganiques et organiques: territoire et population.

2. Of this arrangement it is asserted:

a) That conscious attention is directed by society to social phenomena in this chronological order, not that the phenomena themselves may not often coexist.

b) That only after conscious social effort has effected a measure of organization of one class of phenomena, can attention be directed to the next higher class, i. e., there is an order of dependence.

c) That not only are the higher phenomena dependent upon the lower, but the former react upon and constantly modify the latter.

d) That the difficulty of modifying social phenomena increases as progress is made from the higher toward the lower; e. g., it is far easier to alter political forms than to effect changes in economic systems.

3. These phenomena and other phenomena of social contact which are not clearly included in the hierarchy, are apportioned among certain social sciences. Any attempt at distribution must be merely general. The division of labor is still so unorganized that wide differences of opinion exist. The chief departments, however, are as follows:

a) Political Economy, dealing with the laws discoverable in the social activities which have for their aim the production, distribution and consumption of wealth.

b) Political Science which concerns itself with the principles of government. Jurisprudence may be included under this head in so general a survey.

c) Ethics which examines the phenomena of social as well as individual conduct, formulates criteria and seek sanctions.

d) Folk psychology,[1] or that branch of psychology, which deals with the development of social consciousness. The comparative study of religions may be placed here for convenience.

e) Demography, which is to be discriminated from statistics as a method. The latter renders service to all social sciences in so far as their phenomena may be represented quantitatively. Demography, or the science of population, has a concrete content and infers conclusions.

f) Anthropology and Ethnology deal with social phenomena, although the former at least has even wider scope.

g) History employs all available data in an attempt to describe concrete events in relations of coexistence and causal continuity.

4. Is there a demand for a new Social Science?

The point has now been reached when once more the question clearly presents itself. The progress thus far may be summarized as follows:

a) It has been shown that knowledge about society has grown steadily clearer and better organized so that social phenomena are susceptible of scientific study.

b) Social phenomena have been in general discriminated from other subject matter.

c) Social phenomena have been at least tentatively classified and

d) Distributed among certain sciences which are at present dealing with them.

The questions confronting us then are: (a) are any social phenomena neglected? (b) is any organization of results desirable.

IX. Demands for a New Department of Social Science.

With the progress of knowledge about society certain needs or demands have arisen. These may be in general grouped under four divisions

1. Demands for the coördination and integration of all kinds of knowledge about society into a coherent system, i. e., the combination of abstractions into a concrete account of reality. This interpretation must have two aspects:

a) Insight into the contemporary order or historical régimes.

b) Explanation of the process of change by which past régimes have succeeded each other and produced the present.

2. Demands for the scientific investigation of certain social phenomena that are not specifically or adequately dealt with by other sciences.

4. Demands for the construction, on the basis of scientific observation, of social ideals to which the nature of men and society may be gradually readjusted.

5. Demands for the utilization of knowledge about society, i. e., the practical application of social forces in such a way as to give development at least a tendency toward an ideal.

X. The Relation of Sociology to these Demands.

Comte: Philosophie Positive, Martineau's Tr., Vol. II. chaps, iii.–vi.

Ward: Dynamic Sociology, Vol. I. Introduction, pp. 27–31.

Contributions to Social Philosophy, Amer. Journal of Sociology, Vol. I., 1895–6.

Static and Dynamic Sociology, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. X., No. 2.

Giddings: The Theory of Sociology (Supplement to Am. Academy, May 1894).

DeGreef: Introduction à la Sociologie, Vol. I. Introduction.

De Lestrade: Elements de Sociologie, Paris, 1889, pp. 1–11.

Moses: Nature of Sociology, Journal of Political Economy, Dec, 1894.

Small: Sociology and Economics, Jour, of Pol. Econ., March 1895.

Static and Dynamic Sociology, Am. Jour, of Sociology, Sept. 1895.

Simmel: Problem of Sociology, Annals of Amer. Acad., Nov. 1895.

Powers: Terminology and the Sociological Conferences, Am. Acad. March 1895.

Mayo-Smith: Statistics and Sociology Chap. i.

Flamingo: Sociology in Italy, American Journal of Sociology, November, 1895.

Howerth: Present Condition of Sociology in the United States, Annals of American Academy, September, 1894.

1. The term "Sociologie" was first employed, as an equivalent of "social physics," by Comte in the fourth volume of his Philosophie Positive, published in 1839. Spencer adopted the term which has come into general but vague use. The word has been criticised as etymologically a hybrid, but it is defended on the following grounds:

a) There is need for a new term to which a precise meaning may in time be attached.

b) There is no Greek word for the essential component.

c) The words "social science" have been employed to include several "social sciences."

d) Sociology yields readily the adjective "sociological" and the noun "sociologist."

2. While technical terms have an important function, there is too often danger of laying stress upon words rather than upon the ideas which they are to connote. "Instead of discoursing upon the merits of this infant (sociology) which men have had the art to baptize before its birth, let us succeed, if possible, in bringing it forth." Tarde, La Logique Sociale, p. v.

Sociology has developed in response to the demands indicated above, and has taken on forms in general correspondence with them. These different types may be described as follows:

a) The "inclusive or coordinating" theory. This is a philosophical conception clearly introduced by Comte adopted in the main by Spencer, recognized as important by Ward, and accepted by DeGreef. Small regards Sociology as in one aspect a "synthesis of the special social sciences" and Giddings, although technically limiting the scope of the science, says that "in the broadest sense, sociology comprehends all social sciences, including statistics and history."

b) The "fundamental" theory, or the study of association as such. In the view of those who advocate this theory, there are certain phenomena of association, e. g., authority and subordination, competition, imitation, etc., which are not dealt with specifically by other social sciences although assumed by them as data. Giddings represents this theory in the United States and Simmel of Berlin seems to hold somewhat the same position.

c) The "constructive" theory, or the projection of social tendencies into ideals for guidance. Small stands for this as one of the functions of sociology, and Ward in his early work distinctly advanced this view. Judged by his recent articles the latter has apparently modified his position.

d) The "art of social control" theory. Ward in his Dynamic Sociology describes legislation as analogous to invention and advocates the study of social forces in order to apply them. Professor Bernard Moses would limit sociology to this service only, declaring that all other territory is already occupied by regularly constituted sciences.

3. A hierarchical arrangement of the problems or tasks which confront the student of society will aid in estimating the relative importance of these theories. This hierarchy may be constructed in an order of dependence from below up, with reaction from above down.

e) Social Control—the art of so combining social forces as to give society at least a trend toward an ideal.

d) Social ideals—the construction of social ideals based upon a study of the nature of society and of individuals.

c) Social evolution—a determination of the laws of social development.

b) Interpretation of contemporary social regimes as a basis for the study of past orders of society.

a) Descriptions of social phenomena, present and past, to supply materials for interpretation.

XI. Three Divisions of Sociology.

(For bibliography see under X above.)

Taking up these tasks in their order of dependence we may designate that which deals with (a) above, as:

1. Descriptive Sociology. ". . . . the organization of all the positive knowledge of man and of society furnished by the sciences and sub-sciences . . . ." Small and Vincent: Introduction, p. 62. This involves:

a) the investigation of such principles of association as are manifested in all social phenomena (Simmel and Giddings) and

b) the synthesis of the data furnished by the abstract social sciences into a concrete positive philosophy (i. e. scientifically based, not in the Comtean sense).

These two tasks are so intimately related that they cannot be separated even for purposes of study, for "principles of association" can be discovered only by a comparison and combination of the data furnished by the social sciences. The following statement may be regarded as in general recognizing this view: "Sociology is the science of society. Its field is coextensive with the operation of the associative principle in human life. The general laws of association form the subject of general sociology, a science distinct but not disconnected from the branch sciences of economics, politics, etc., which rest upon it, though in part developed before it." H. H. Powers, Am. Acad., March, 1895.

2. Statical Sociology or Social Statics views the materials of descriptive Sociology from the standpoint of status: i. e., regards order rather than change. It studies the equilibrium of social forces as they tend to maintain structures. Hence, Statical Sociology concerns itself with the laws of coexistence primarily and chiefly in contemporary or historical social orders. But it may also legitimately deal with the laws of social equilibrium as applied to an ideal social order. "The theory of a social order not yet realized is as properly statical as the theory of a past order."—Small. To that division of Social Statics which deals with future régimes. Small has applied tentatively the term ideostatics. We have then:

a) Statics of the actual.

b) Ideostatics, theories of the possible and desirable.

3. Social Dynamics, on the other hand, examines the materials of Descriptive Sociology to determine the laws of social change or progress. "Social dynamics studies the laws of succession, while social statics seeks those of coexistence." "All considerations of structure and function are static . . . . Merely quantitative change is static. In dynamic phenomena the change is qualitative."—Ward. Progress may be viewed in two ways: either as the result of undirected social forces acting in the past and present, or as furnishing the theory for future conscious utilization of social forces. The first has been described by Ward as passive progress, the second as active. As in the case of social statics so with that of social dynamics chief emphasis is laid upon study of past and present, but this fact does not exclude the scientific determination of methods for organizing active progress in harmony with the criteria furnished by ideostatics. There are, therefore, two divisions of dynamic sociology:

a) Dynamics of past and present, dealing with passive progress.

b) Dynamics of active progress, i. e., conscious control of social forces.

4. It should be remembered that this division of sociology into static and dynamic is made for purposes of method and like all methodic discriminations is more or less arbitrary. Giddings goes so far as to reject even the theoretical division. "The sociologist refuses to sunder in theory what nature has joined in fact. He centers his attention on a moving equilibrium." This principle logically carried out would destroy all scientific divisions. The truth here emphasized is important, but the sociologist must as a matter of fact fix his attention at one time upon the equilibrium, at another upon its movement.

XII. Criticisms of the Above Scheme.

Balfour: Essays and Addresses, Edinburgh, 1893. "Doubts about Progress."

Sumner: The Absurd Effort to Make the World Over. Forum, March, 1894.

Moses: The Nature of Sociology, Journal of Political Economy, Dec, 1894.

De Lestrade: Éléments de Sociologie. Introduction.

1. Criticisms of the divisions outlined under XI. come less from difference of opinion as to the tasks themselves than from disagreement about names for the tasks. It would be strange if there were a consensus, and at this stage in the development of social study, it ills becomes anyone to be dogmatic. Doubtless with longer experience and clearer insight, a definite division of labor will take place according to individual points of view. Some such tendency is already evident. The main point of contention is as to the extension of the term Sociology to include more than the general laws of social structure and evolution. The chief objections to such extension are:

a) It is too large a field for effective work.

b) Social ideals can never be scientifically constructed; speculation is sure to be involved.

c) Social control is an art and not a science.

d) Social control is Utopian and cannot be exercised in a large measure or in the interest of a remote aim.

2. In reply to these objections it may be said:

a) That the preliminary task is to outline the whole field. If it prove too large for one scholar, it will quickly be subdivided. The scheme provides for such subdivision.

b) Ideals are the only spur to progress: they are universally present; they are effective in direct proportion to their harmony with the possible; it may well be a scientific aim to eliminate the speculative element from the ideals which society is constantly constructing.

c) As to the extent to which social forces can be modified there is room for wide difference of opinion, but so long as even a slight margin of possible change is admitted, the obligation to take the wisest advantage of the opportunity remains.

d) Again, it may be reiterated that the tasks are more important than the name. Let the former be clearly grasped, and nomenclature will adjust itself to the facts.

3. Conclusion.

From the relation which the tasks sustain to each other, it is clear:

a) That chief emphasis must be laid at present upon the fundamental importance of Descriptive Sociology, i. e., the general facts and laws of association as induced from the data of the special social sciences, and properly related in a synthetic view of society, and of those divisions of Statical and Dynamic Sociology which deal with the present and the past.

b) It is, however, necessary to put such knowledge as is already available, at the service of society in the most effective way. Therefore, it is important to develop a method to accomplish this result. Ideostatics and the dynamics of active progress undertake this task. With the development of the fundamental pursuits these subsequent departments will increase in efficiency.

The University of Chicago.

  1. Vide the article on "Scope and Method of Folk-Psychology," by Dr. W. I. Thomas, page 434 of this magazine.

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