Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 5.djvu/112
PROLEGOMENA TO SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY.
THE NATURE AND TASK OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY.
Thf chief distinction between individual and social psy- chology is simply one of point of view. The point of view in the one is the individual, in the other the social group. There are other distinctions, but this is the fundamental one. Were it possible to explain everything while maintaining the standpoint of the individual, there would be no demand for and no need of a social psychology. But throughout the organic world group- life is a fact no less tangible and real than individual life. If from one point of view it is possible to see only individuals in the world, from another, and not less objective, point of view it is possible to see only social groups in which the individual appears as an element. Likewise, in the realm of psychical phe- nomena, we may consider either the psychical life of the indi- vidual or the psychical life of the group in which the individual life has its being. Both points of view are necessary for any adequate understanding of human life on its psychical side; they are supplementary to each other, and yield a science which is philosophically a unity. The separation of social from indi- vidual psychology is, then, wholly a matter of convenience; merelv a division of labor which in no way implies a dualism between the two branches of the science. When the center of interest lies in explaining the psychical life of the group, many facts come into view which in explaining the mental life of the individual are unimportant or not prominent. On this account the existence of social psychology as a separate discipline is justified as a matter of practical convenience, although logically it is but a branch of the general science of psychology.
The individual cannot be isolated from the group in the real world, nor the group from the individual. They are related as the part is to the whole, as the cell is to the organism. Knowledge