Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 4.djvu/689
COMPARATIVE STUDY OF ASSOCIATION 669
able that when our knowledge relative to these shall have grown somewhat, the evolutionary hypothesis itself may be found subject to modifications of which we do not now dream.
Again, the anatomist, the physiologist, and the neurologist — the psychologist will presently be counted of this goodly company — in view of the great complexity of the subject-mat- ter presented to each — a complexity the individual factors of which the facilities of no laboratory can possibly enable the investigator to isolate and study under controlled conditions — have found themselves compelled to descend the evolutional series until they encounter in other reaches of nature a simpler condition of things than they must confront among human beings. Learning from this, they reascend the scale step by step, taking careful note of each new factor as it appears, until they stand again before their problem as it presents itself at the level of mankind ; but now equipped with a knowledge of its genesis and a familiarity with its component parts which make of it a very much simpler problem indeed, though, to be sure, there are yet left difificulties enough and to spare. If these sciences are advantaged by extending their field of observation downward along the scale of life sufficiently to include the simpler and less evolved stages of their subject-matter, the question at once arises whether sociology would not be similarly advantaged by a similar process. The answer depends to a certain extent upon the nature of the subject-matter of sociology — whether it resembles that of the sciences alluded to above in those particular respects which have made such a proceeding so valuable to them.
Confining ourselves to the briefest and most comprehensive statement as to what, in actuality, has been, and is today, the subject-matter of sociology, we may say that it is the association of human beings with each other. The task which sociology has constantly striven to perform is the analysis and interpretation of this plexus of phenomena.' Let us see what the perform- ance of this, task involves.
' Long citations from the works of the various sociological writers in illustration of this would be tedious and superfluous. It is thought that the reader has only to call to mind the general outline of subjects treated and results arrived at in these works to be convinced of the fairness of the statement of the text.