Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 6.djvu/369
THE SCOPE OF SOCIOLOGY 355
the place of this everyday knowledge. The machinery and the consequences of the fact do lie beyond our observation, but the fact itself is hardly hidden from the most unobservant. Every individual begins to be a repository of feelings, notions, ideas, prejudices, beliefs, theories, purposes, so soon as he begins to be conscious. When we force a truce in psychology to the extent of assuming a distinction between the individual and these his mental equipments, we are aware that the individual as we know him is an agent whose scope is defined just as evidently by these mental furnishings on the one hand as by the forces of the external world on the other hand. The born Fenian is as really limited in his conduct by an assortment of hereditary assumptions about England as he is by the soil and climate of Ireland. The bred Protestant acts within the prescription of certain impressions about the Papists that are just as real as the mechanical or chemical reactions of his body. The little mathe- matics and the less science and the faint odor of ethical philoso- phy that American children take with them from the common schools form a matrix whose properties the social psychologist will one day be able to describe with relative accuracy. Mean- while the politicians already know how to count upon it with a high degree of precision.
In other words, just as the individual carries within himself certain conceptions that constitute one of the cardinal conditions of his action, so groups of individuals in association are foci of similar influences The association is the radiation of a common mental content through an aggregate of individuals. That con- tent may be almost a negligible quantity. It may amount to scarcely more than common desire for food, common assump- tion that the food must be got, if at all, within this particula territory, and common acquiescence in the necessity of allowing these the persons born also in this territory to use it for their food getting. On the other hand, the content that makes up the subjective environment may be that highly elaborated collection of perceptions and judgments common to the members of the British Association or the French Academy. Expressing the whole fact again in terms of an incident abstracted from the fac*;