Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/289

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275
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.
Peter's going outside for a minute or two, the tailor left his seat and looked about him. He soon came to a place where there were many stools, and a chair of massive gold and a golden footstool, which were God's. Climbing up on the chair, he could see all that was happening on the earth; and he saw an old woman, who was washing clothes in a stream, making away with some of the linen. In his anger, he took up the footstool and threw it at her. As he could not get it back, he thought it best to return to his place behind the door, where he sat down, putting on an air of innocence. God now reëntered, without observing the tailor. Finding his footstool gone, he asked Peter what had become of it—had he let any one in? The apostle at first evaded the question, but confessed that he had let in one—only, however, a poor limping tailor. The tailor was then called, and asked what he had done with the footstool. When he had told, God said to him: 'you knave, if I judged like you, how long do you think you would have escaped? Long ago I should not have had a chair or even a poker left in the place, but should have hurled every thing at the sinners.' . . . ."[1]

These examples, out of multitudes that might be given, show the wide limits of variation within which social phenomena range. When we bear in mind that, along with theological ideas that now seem little above those of savages, there went (in England) a political constitution having outlines like the present, an established body of laws, a regular taxation, an emancipated working-class, an industrial system of considerable complexity, with the general intelligence and mutual trust implied by social coöperations so extensive and involved, we see that there are possibilities of combination far more numerous than we are apt to suppose. There is proved to us the need for greatly enlarging those stock-notions which are so firmly established in us by daily observations of surrounding; arrangements and occurrences.

We might, indeed, even if limited to the evidence which our own society at the present time supplies, greatly increase the plasticity of our conceptions, did we contemplate the facts as they really are. Could we nationally, as well as individually, "see ourselves as others see us," we might find at home seeming contradictions, sufficient to show us that what we think necessarily-connected traits are by no means necessarily connected. We might learn from our own institutions, and books, and journals, and debates, that while there are certain constant relations among social phenomena, they are not the relations commonly supposed to be constant; and that, when from some conspicuous characteristic we infer certain other characteristics, we may be quite wrong. To aid ourselves in perceiving this, let us, varying a somewhat trite mode of representation, consider what might be said of us by an independent observer, living in the far future—supposing his statements translated into our cumbrous language.

"Though the diagrams used for teaching make every child aware that many thousands of years ago the earth's orbit began to recede

  1. "Kinder-und-Hausmarchen," by William and James Grimm, larger edition (1870), pp. 140-142.