Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/611

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

"An Essay on the History of Civil Society," published a century ago by Dr. Adam Ferguson. In it the first part treats "Of the General Characteristics of Human Nature." Section I., pointing out the universality of the gregarious tendency, the dependence of this on certain affections and antagonisms, and the influences of memory, foresight, language, and communicativeness, alleges that "these facts must be admitted as the foundation of all our reasoning relative to man." Though the way in which social phenomena arise out of the phenomena of individual human nature is seen in but a general and vague way, yet it is seen—there is a conception of causal relation.

Before this conception could assume a definite form, it was necessary both that scientific knowledge should become more comprehensive and precise, and that the scientific spirit should be strengthened. To M. Comte, living when these conditions were fulfilled, is due the credit of having set forth with comparative definiteness the connection between the Science of Life and the Science of Society. He saw clearly that the facts presented by masses of associated men are facts of the same order as those presented by groups of gregarious creatures of inferior kinds; and that in the one case, as in the other, the individuals must be studied before the assemblages can be understood. He therefore placed Biology before Sociology in his classification of the sciences. Biological preparation for sociological study he regarded as needful, not only for the reason that the phenomena of corporate life, arising out of the phenomena of individual life, can be rightly coördinated only after the phenomena of individual life have been rightly coördinated, but also for the reason that the methods of inquiry which Biology uses are methods to be used by Sociology. In various ways, which it would take too much space here to specify, he exhibits this dependence very satisfactorily. It may, indeed, be contended that certain of his other beliefs prevented him from seeing all the implications of this dependence. When, for instance, he speaks of "the intellectual anarchy which is the main source of our moral anarchy"—when he thus discloses the faith pervading his "Course of Positive Philosophy," that true theory would bring right practice—it becomes clear that the relation between the attributes of citizens and the phenomena of societies is incorrectly seen by him: the relation is far too deep a one to be changed by mere change of ideas. Again, denying, as he did, the indefinite modifiability of species, he almost ignored one of the cardinal truths which Biology yields to Sociology—a truth without which sociological interpretations must go wrong. Though he admits a certain modifiability of Man, both emotionally and intellectually, yet the dogma, of the fixity of species, to which he adhered, kept his conceptions of individual and social change within limits much too specific. Hence arose, among other erroneous preconceptions, this serious one, that the different forms of society, presented by savage and civilized races all over the globe, are but differ-