Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/142

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130
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

erated by processes of growth and development continuing through centuries. Ignoring, as the first view tacitly does, that conformity to law, in the scientific sense of the word, which the second view tacitly asserts, there can be but little community between the methods of inquiry proper to them respectively. Continuous causation, which in the one case there is little or no tendency to trace, becomes, in the other case, the chief object of attention; whence it follows that there must be formed wholly different ideas of the appropriate modes of investigation. A foregone conclusion respecting the nature of social phenomena is thus inevitably implied in any suggestions for the study of them.

While, however, it must be admitted that throughout these articles there runs the assumption that the facts, simultaneous and successive, which societies present, have a genesis no less natural than the genesis of facts of all other classes, it is not admitted that this assumption was made unawares, or without warrant. At the outset, the grounds for it were examined. The notion, widely accepted in name, though not consistently acted upon, that social phenomena differ from phenomena of most other kinds, as being under special providence, we found to be entirely discredited by its expositors; nor, when closely looked into, did the great-man-theory of social affairs prove to be more tenable. Besides finding that both these views, rooted as they are in the ways of thinking natural to primitive men, would not bear criticism, we found that even their defenders continually betrayed their beliefs in the production of social changes by natural causes—tacitly admitted that after certain antecedents certain consequents are to be expected—tacitly admitted, therefore, that some prevision is possible, and therefore some subject-matter for science.

From these negative justifications for the belief that sociology is a science, we turned to the positive justifications. We found that every aggregate of units, of any order, has certain traits necessarily determined by the properties of its units. Hence it was inferable, a priori, that, given the natures of the men who are their units, and certain characters in the societies formed are predetermined—other characters being determined by the coöperation of surrounding conditions. The current assertion, that sociology is not possible, implies a misconception of its nature. Using the analogy supplied by a human life, we saw that just as bodily development, and structure, and function, furnish subject-matter for biological science, though the events set forth by the biographer go beyond its range, so, social growth, and the rise of structures and functions accompanying it, furnish subject-matter for a science of society, though the facts with which historians fill their pages mostly yield no material for science. Thus conceiving the scope of the science, we saw, on comparing rudimentary societies with one another, and with societies in different stages of progress, that they do present certain common traits of structure and of function, as well