The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 3/Sociology in Italy

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Giuseppe Fiamingo2313486The American Journal of Sociology, Volume 1, Number 3 — Sociology in Italy1895Ira Woods Howerth



To Admit that Sociology began only when August Comte in 1842 invented the name for it, is to admit, using the figure of Montesquieu, "that before a circle is described all its radii are not equal."[1] This hypothesis is at once rejected when I say that, in the history of general sociology, it is necessary to begin with Plato and Aristotle."[2] We see here a fact, more frequently illustrated in science perhaps than in art, that an idea or even a series of ideas may arise without the necessary vocabulary to express them. De Tocqueville was right therefore when he said: "The human mind invents ideas more easily than words."[3]

If we may be permitted then to investigate the history of sociology prior to the existence of the word itself, we must not overlook the name of Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), who, with Descartes (1596–1650) in France, and with Bacon (1561–1626) in England, is one of the three fathers of modern philosophy.

Zeno (362–264 B. C.), was the first to teach the fundamental unity of nature. Giordano Bruno, accepting, this doctrine, protested against the dualism of Aristotle and Plato, which made of matter two distinct principles, naturally separate and diverse.[4] The principal merit of Giordano Bruno is his stupendous demonstration of the monistic (unitario) process of nature, a demonstration which his predecessors had not given, and which constitutes the most characteristic note of his philosophy. On account of his pantheistic conceptions, his theory of divine immanence, and his adhesion to the new astronomical theories, he may be called an evolutionist.[5] From this point of view, as De Greef recognizes, Italy preceded France and the other countries, which in their intellectual development finally arrived at contemporaneous philosophy. Giordano Bruno bears some resemblance to the Arabs, especially to Avicebron,[6] at that time almost forgotten in Italy. He understood perfectly the process of the transformation of matter, for he writes: "That which was first the seed, becomes the herb, afterwards the ear of corn, then bread, then chyle, then blood, the sperm of animal life, embryo, man, corpse, and finally earth or stone or other matter, to begin over from the first." In other words, according to Bruno, motion and air explained the various formations of the phenomena which unfold themselves in the visible universe. Professor Enrico Morselli, who is one of the most illustrious Italian representatives of the biological theory of evolution, affirms therefore that on the one hand Bruno allies himself to the monistic traditions of the Italian school,[7] and identifying opposites, confounding God with nature, brings to perfection the Italian naturalism, confused somewhat by Cordano, but clearly set forth by Telesio and by Patrizzi, and on the other hand anticipates the whole evolution of philosophy. Bruno anticipates Spencer as much in the line of his agnosticism as in his attempt at the reconciliation of religion and science. As to true morality, Bruno considers that it ought to be derived from altruism, and that it ought not to be identified with any theological dogma or any form of worship. Religions, according to Bruno, have a function exclusively ethical and educative, and the so-called duties owed to God are fulfilled not by prayers and passive resignation, but by works useful to others; that is, to the social body. In this he anticipated, without doubt, Jeremy Bentham, and completely demolished the individualism of religious morality.

Concerning Giordano Bruno much has been said in Italy in one way and another during the last few years. Authors who have given a moderate judgment of him are truly rare. Apotheosis has been pushed so far as the erection of a monument to his memory in Campo dei Fiori in Rome, in the same square and in the same Rome which, formerly papal—and even today the seat of the pope—had seen him burned.

However this may be, Giordano Bruno cannot be denied a magnificent breadth of view, and therefore we cannot refuse to put him among the more direct precursors of modern sociology.

Campanella (1568–1639) is an idealistic philosopher well-known by his Utopian work, "The City of the Sun," but he is lacking in historical knowledge, and hence the merits of his works are literary rather than social.[8] It is not so, however, with Filippo Briganti, who in 1777 published anonymously an "Analytical Examination of the Legal System." In this work so much light is shed upon the organism of society, and human nature, and it is so full of civic wisdom, and the whole is expressed in language so brilliant, and at the same time so scientific, that one does not know whether to admire more the philosopher or the jurist, the biologist or the sociologist, the moralist or the litterateur. Certainly Filippo Briganti must also be mentioned as one of the forerunners of sociology.

The authors just mentioned are not well known for their sociological publications. This is not true, however, of G. B. Vico. La Scienza Nuova of Vico is above all an eminently modern work, as is shown by the critical works concerning it which are constantly increasing. An illustrious Austrian sociologist, my friend Ludwig Gumplowicz, has written: "The first inkling of a science of the nature of nations may be accredited to Giambattesta Vico."[9] Pietro Siciliani points out how a first vital germ of the conception of the human race as an organism, studied and explained in the same manner that one studies and explains any organic compound, thanks to the increased acquaintance with life, may be found not only in the Scienza Nuova, but also in the Latin works of Vico, especially in chapter twelve of De Constantia Philologiae.[10] The merits of Vico may be summed up in two principal conceptions: he has demonstrated a law, uniform and general, according to which the course of human and historical facts proceeds, and has therefore used a method not simply historical but historico-psychological, thus distinguishing himself from both the theologians and the idealists.

For Vico the human race is the genus homo, a single genus, not on account of its arising from a single or multiple original stock, but on account of a common and identical nature. This is the scientific part of the great Darwinian epic, that is, the communis natura between the lower animals and man; and it is one of the more original ideas of La Scienza Nuova. This work presents, therefore, the genesis of the historical and the sociological process, and the problem of La Scienza Nuova is the same as that which is discussed in the works of Lamarck, Cuvier, Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, Herbert, Matthew, d'Amalius, d'Halay, Rafineique, Schaffhausen, and Hooker; that is, the problem of basing sociological principles upon the principles of anthropology, or humanity, as they were called in the time of Vico. But what value to the mind of Vico had these principles of humanity? "Whoever wishes to know them, must study the natural history of man, and he will then see that two sciences essentially practical lift themselves above all others: Law and Morals. Two great powers divide the kingdom of laws, the political and the religious; personified in state and church, and which are constantly at war with each other. The struggle increases when the third power, science, enters the field. Vico saw this battle and making use of philology, of mythology and of comparative legislation tried to demonstrate historically that 'the human judgment regulated by knowledge is the foundation of the power of nations.'"[11] And this is the question so much debated in our times and which tends constantly to establish itself on a sociological basis.

Vico is a splendid star which rises in an intellectual darkness that could hardly be more dense; and this explains the hostile criticisms which in those days his theories provoked. These criticisms are made principally in the name of religion; for instance, those of Romano Finetti, Lami and Appiano Buonafede, who placed him alongside of Grotius, Spinoza, and Montesquieu.

On the other hand, not a few made much of the works of Vico. Passing over Delfico, Gravina, Romagnosi, etc., who came after, there is still another name which cannot be passed over in silence. It is that of Gaetano Filangieri. "Among all the writers who gave themselves to the study of law, some have treated the material simply as jurists, some as philosophers, some, even, as politicians, but always embracing in their view a single part of this immense edifice; some, like Montesquieu, have reasoned rather of what ought to be done, but no one has yet given a complete and well-reasoned system of legislation; no one has yet reduced the material to a secure and well-ordered science, uniting means and rules and theory and practice. This is what I have undertaken to do in this work, which has for its title the Science of Legislation." Thus writes Gaetano Filangieri in the preface of his colossal and immortal work.

In respect to the comprehensive and truly sociological views which inspire this book, it is enough to say that Filangieri, when he was writing it, thought of following it with two other works which were to be entitled respectively, Una nuova scienza delle scienze, and Storia civile universale e perpetua. These titles alone, so expressive and clear, show plainly enough that Filangieri already had in mind a comprehensive social science, such as is today called sociology. In the mind of Adam Smith, also, there appeared a similar idea,[12] although premature death, both in his case and in that of Filangieri, prevented its working out.

We pass now to Ganelli, whom Michelet[13] calls a genuine disciple of Vico. From Ganelli we may go on the one hand to Romagnosi, and on the other to Ferrara, who, although they sometimes criticise the works of their master, are yet for the most part his faithful followers. Meanwhile, Michelet (1824) was spreading a knowledge of the theories of Vico in France, so that even in that country there arose a band of followers of the illustrious Italian, as, for instance, M. Cousin (1831), Ballanche (1830), Geoffroy Teodoro (1831), etc. Even Comte himself had a profound respect for Vico.

Following in the footsteps of Vico, and taking his theories as a basis, there gradually grew up in Italy an ethico-juridical school, with views essentially sociological, which may be called truly national. Vanni has shown the intimate relations between this Italian school and that of Herbert Spencer.[14] His demonstration is acute and learned, even splendid, for Vanni is one of the ablest of Italian sociologists. Meanwhile Emilio Morpurgo, Fedele Lampertico, Giuseppi Carle, Marsh and chiefly Aristide Cabelli, in his work, L'Uomo e le Scienze Morali (1869), just begun with the second half of this century, were writing on sociological questions. They began for the most part by following the example of the school of Vico and Romagnosi, but the studies which were carried on contemporaneously abroad exercised a strong influence upon them. Their works, however, may even yet be called modern.

In England Hobbes was the prophet of what is going on today, namely, the modification of the national English character by the materialist of pleasure becoming the materialist of political economy. This transformation was effected by the birth of utilitarianism which, as Fouillee wisely observes, sums up faithfully the whole modern English spirit. Adam Smith made utilitarianism the basis of his social-economic system, and is the first Englishman to proclaim this doctrine. His ideas were modified by Bentham, in whose Manual of Political Economy, and the various monographs which he published on the same subject, may be found all the errors of the orthodox political economy in regard to sociology. Among these monographs is the celebrated treatise on the "Defense of Usury," a work which has for us a truly great importance. Bentham established a kind of moral arithmetic by which to balance the accounts of utilitarianism. Any kind of pleasure whatever is brought to this balance and undergoes a comparison. This comparison naturally can only be essentially materialistic, hence, for the economist all pleasure enters into the field of material satisfaction, that is, of political economy. Thus all the other social facts, from law to morals, come to have an economic basis. In this arithmetical commensuration it was shown just how much advantage each had, and that "evil, injustice, of whatever kind it may be, is in the last analysis pain or the loss of pleasure."[15] By this school everything was reduced to economic pain or pleasure, and hence political economy was able to overlook all the other social factors which were consequences of them. Against this system M. Cousin protested in a session of the Academy of Moral Sciences, held in Paris forty-three years ago. "I believe," said Cousin, "that there is a positive science based on material facts which bears the name of political economy, but if you wish to include in it the art of good conduct; if you call wealth everything which has a moral value; if all this moral wealth, produced by whatever kind of labor, belongs to political economy, you must then include morals, jurisprudence, logic, philosophy, and all social phenomena will fall under its dominion . . . . this system is arbitrary and even demoralizing to the other sciences. . . . . You give to the words wealth, product, and value new significations, or you create a false political economy." And Chevalier showed at the same time how "political economy in disregarding its proper limits has already become unpopular and has fallen under suspicion." All of which was very true.

After all this, however, Ferrara assigns to political economy, "The investigation of the sentiments of the heart, the faculties of the mind and the movements of the body which urge man to change voluntarily the form of the external world. It examines whether these changes constitute a creation from nothing, and shows how the mutations of today become a support for those of tomorrow, and are themselves based on those of today. It then applies these laws to the social mechanism."[16] From this passage it is easy to understand how the whole tree of knowledge in ancient philosophy, instead of being represented by a hierarchy of the sciences, was represented by only one, namely, political economy.

Now, there was a time in Italy during which almost all economic science was comprehended under the school of Ferrara. "Francesco Ferrara," writes one of his admirers, "ruled almost alone during the first three quarters of this century in the history of Italian economy, and combated scornfully the successive invasions of foreign doctrines which entered triumphantly into our country, brought in by some of our economists, to dethrone and to destroy our national theories."[17] Wherefore, a young Italian sociologist, Nitti, felt called upon to ask whether it really was a great good that Italy had not welcomed the innovating theories of the English reformers, the wise criticisms of Hildebrand, the ingenious hypotheses of Von Thünen, the clever intuitions of Rodbertus, and the weighty criticisms of Winkelblech.[18]

The conception of political economy held by the school of Ferrara, opposed itself in Italy more than elsewhere to the rise of sociology. Undoubtedly that which more than anything else has contributed to the uncertainty which exists in regard to sociology, and has led some to deny it altogether, is the existence of the various sciences which, having a generic name, call themselves political and social sciences. Now, in Italy this state of things was aggravated. As our economists conceived their science it already occupied the field which sociology would cover. Political economy, as we have already stated, was understood as a comprehensive and general social science, upon which all the other special social sciences should be based. This economic science, however, lacked many of the requisites essential for transforming it into a true sociology. In fact, Ferrara never occupied himself with a general coordination of political economy and the other sciences. Moreover, at the time of his greatest activity, biology and psychology had yet to complete their great advances, and there was yet to come the epoch of the theories of Darwin and Spencer. In short, to Ferrara and his disciples the same accusation was applicable which was made at that time against economists in general. August Comte classified them all, briefly, as ignoramuses, especially in regard to psychology.

We have had, then, in Italy some economists who, while unable to develop sociology, have, at the same time been the greatest obstacle to the rise of this science through the medium of special investigators, by absorbing, as these economists did, a great part of the field over which the new science was to extend itself. Given this complexity of circumstances it is quite natural that as late as 1880 Vadata-Papale wrote: "These disputes, while they make us feel the need of the discovery of the great body of sociological laws, compel us to acknowledge with bitterness the void which exists in Italy for a new science."[19]

In Italy sociological studies began by reflecting almost solely the popular social movement which, however, was not then very conspicuous among us. It therefore happened that sociologv was confused with socialism, as was done to a certain extent by Colajanni, who followed the example of the French author, Gautier. Jacobi, one of the first to accept the theories of Darwin, delivered a lecture on the conception of evolution, in which he tried to show the perfect accord which exists between the theories of Darwin and those of Carl Marx. This demonstration has engaged the attention of various Italian students. It had already been attempted by Colajanni in one of his works on socialism, and later Enrico Ferri returned to it with greater insistence. In a work entitled Socialism and Positive Science, (Socialismo e Scienza Positiva), he proposed to show the perfect accord which, according to him, exists between the theories of Darwin, Spencer and Marx. But in a letter published some months ago in the Italian journals, Herbert Spencer denies absolutely this pretended accord between his theories and those of Carl Marx. "To represent me as saying what I have not said," so the letter of Spencer may be abridged, "simply means that my works have not been understood."

Another question which was discussed in the beginning of social studies in Italy was that of criminality in a socialistic state. With even greater scientific seriousness than that which was shown in the question just referred to, the conclusion was reached that, while some forms of the criminality of today would be diminished, other forms would be increased; and this contrary to the gratuitous afifirmation of Turati and the other socialists who pretended that in a socialistic state criminality would be enormously diminished if it did not entirely disappear.

In the meantime Enrico Morselli founded about 1882, the Rivista di Filosofia Scientifica, and almost contemporaneously Schäffle's "Structure and Life of the Social Body" was translated from the German. Although Schäffle has not found many followers in Italy, it cannot be denied that his work has exercised a strong influence on many students. Some exaggerated the theories of Schäffle; for instance, Colajanni, who in a chapter on Socialism, proposed to demonstrate the following thesis: "Human, society is an organism among whose parts or organs, in order that there may be life, harmony and not strife must exist." Now if Schäffle and Lilienfeld have sometimes pressed too far the pretended parallelism between the human and the social organism, so as to have caused many criticisms, among which are the very successful ones of Gumplowicz, the affirmations of Colajanni, arrive at an extreme almost ridiculous.

On the other hand various young Italians went to Germany to study there the latest manifestation of scientific thought, and the result of their researches, their impressions, and their criticisms, furnished the material for many volumes. Among these that of Morpurgo is even yet favorably remembered, while Schiattarella had already published a work upon the "Progress of Social Science in England."

Meanwhile in the Rivista di Filosofia Scientifica valuable articles had been published on Evolution and on Darwinism. Although the majority of these articles are biological, yet many are sociological. This review, which exercised a great influence upon the new intellectual development in Italy, publishes articles from Herbert Spencer and also from Haeckel. A little later the same publishers, Dumolard Bros., of Milan, published a translation of Spencer's Study of Sociology, with an introduction, and still later Spencer's Principles of Sociology was published at Turin.

Colajanni and Roncalli, each on his own account, had published some small works to make known in Italy the sociological system of Gumplowicz. In the decade 1880–90, there developed in Italy the positive school of penal law, arbitrarily called Italian in spite of the fact that abroad its doctrines found an increasing number of followers. Enrico Ferri thus defines it: "It is the conversion of the science of crime and punishment from a doctrinary exposition of syllogisms by mere force of logical fancy into a science of positive observation which, availing itself as much of anthropology, psychology, and criminal statistics as of penal law and prison discipline, becomes that synthetic science which we call Criminal Sociology. So that this science, applying the positive method to the study of crime, delinquency and the environment in which they are manifested, only, gives to classical criminal science the life-giving breath of the sublime and irrefragable discoveries made in the science of man and society, reconstructed by the doctrine of evolution."[20] We may here call attention incidentally to the false manner in which sociology, in this definition, is conceived. Instead of being a science it reduces itself to a simple method of investigation, but the wonderful activity of the authors of this school widened the application of the positive method in penal law, so that its beneficent influence made itself felt even in the other social sciences.

Thus, little by little, on account of the various circumstances already mentioned, sociological studies in Italy became more and more familiar. While some authors treat questions of pure sociology, others make use of an essentially sociological method. To the latter class belong such men as Carle, Cognetti di Martini, Enrico Morselli, Enrico Cimballi, Bengi, Vadata-Papale, Bertolini, Cesca, Marselli, Garofalo, Rabbeno, Vaccaro, and many others.

Among these authors Prof. Achille Loria deserves particular mention. In 1886 he published a valuable work on the Teoria Economica della Costituzione Politica, which was republished in 1893 in France under the more comprehensive title of Teoria Economica della Costituzione Sociale. Loria endeavored to show that economic phenomena dominate all other social phenomena. It is the same theory of the superiority of the economic factor accepted by Carl Marx and socialists in general. This theory, however, is also accepted by some authors not socialists as, for instance, Roscher, whose splendid work on the "Economic Interpretation of History" is well known. In Italy it is accepted by Johanni, by Nitti and by Flamingo. Assuming the truth of this theory, Loria attempts to show the utility, even the necessity of founding a sociology based on political economy.

F. S. Nitti is well known by his critical exposition of Catholic Socialism, and by a volume on the social problem of population. In the latter work Nitti, in spite of himself, is simply a follower of Spencer; nevertheless he shows a large bibliographical knowledge. Nitti has also written many other works on sociology of less importance than those mentioned. Moreover Professor Scilio Vanni published in 1888 a little volume entitled Prime linese di un programma critico di sociologia, in which he summed up very clearly the various tendencies of modern sociology. As is well known, the great conflict is between the absorptive system of Comte and the hierarchic system of John Stuart Mill. Mill desired the coexistence of sociology and the special social sciences. Sociology, according to him, should be the synthetic, philosophic and comprehensive social science of the special social sciences. The latter should gather the first material, and to them also belongs the first coordination and generalization of social facts. If we may represent social life by a diamond with many facets, these special social sciences examine and study each a single facet, while sociology comprehends all sides in its view, that is, it is comprehensive. In other words, Mill expected sociology to illustrate the social organism in its complexity, leaving to the special social sciences the task of studying the single aspects and particular functions in the characteristics which distinguish them, and in the special laws which control them. The relation between sociology and the special social sciences is, therefore, very close, for while the former coordinates, the latter furnishes the data for its general and synthetic elaboration. Now in the sociological system of Auguste Comte sociology included the special social sciences. He believed this absolutely necessary, basing his belief upon the fact that the condition of any part of the social body whatever has at every moment an intimate and indissoluble relation to the contemporaneous condition of all other parts, and that one part cannot be modified without affecting the others, hence the impossibility of a study separable into parts.

T. G. Massaryk, who has given serious study to this problem, attempts to solve it by distinguishing sociology from the special social sciences, and by considering the former as an abstract science, while the latter he calls concrete. The theories of Massaryk are approached by those of Braga, who separates sociology into abstract and concrete, although the concrete are for him the special social sciences. It is easy to understand that Massaryk and Braga, while to some extent followers of Comte, perceived the great complexity which the system of the master brought into sociology. They sought to correct it, but succeeded only indifferently. To sociology there remained a field too extensive for the possibility of an exact and particularized elaboration.

These problems were discussed for the first time in Italy in the works of Vanni, who opened the way for various others, among whom is Dionysius Anzilotti, who wrote an important work on the Filosofia del diritto e la Sociologia. Anzilotti discusses the respective values of the system of Mill and that of Auguste Comte. He shows a profound acquaintance with the French, English and German scientific movements, and concludes like Vanni by embracing, with some slight modifications, the system of Mill. This, I understand, is the system accepted by Small and Giddings.

The science of law is different from all the other special social sciences in this, that it has certain general problems which need particular study before they can be subjected to a general and sociological synthesis. Hence it is that this discipline which occupies itself with the more general juridical questions belongs, with respect to sociology, to the group of juridical sciences, but with respect to the latter assumes a superiority greater than that accustomed to be met with in the special social sciences. But juridical philosophy distinguishes itself from sociology, not only by the degree of the complexity of the object studied, but also by the nature of that object, and by the elements which concur to form it. To the philosophy of law, as a derivative science, belongs the inseparable necessity of gathering its data, as well from the sciences which study man, as from those which study society. Any one-sided study which could never give a just and complete acquaintance with the factors which determine the genesis, the nature and the functions of law would be vicious. And this is the important, though old, problem of the philosophy of law. Ratto has recently written a work entitled Sociologia e Filosofia del diritto, but this writer, who does not fail to display much critical acumen, withdraws himself completely from the tendencies of Vanni and Anzilotti. Ratto would have a juridical sociology, just as there is already a criminal sociology, and he would have, also, an economic sociology, etc. In short, by his theory, we reach a denial of sociology.

According to these authors sociology transforms itself into a simple method applicable to the sciences already existing. The words of Ferri, already quoted, reflect very well this false conception. John Stuart Mill has called the word "sociology" a convenient barbarism, but according to this conception it becomes a useless barbarism. This view of sociology is held, however, by Vadata-Papale and by Colajanni.

Prof. Arturaro, of the University of Genoa, has published a valuable work entitled la Sociologia e le Scienze Sociale. It is a brilliant work, but Arturaro is a professor of philosophy, and for this reason is led to conceive the new science in a manner too abstract. In many respects a follower of Comte, he, too, winds up by affirming the absorption of the special social sciences into sociology. In this sense Sergi, Morselli and some others in Italy are also followers of Comte.

Another writer well known in the field of sociological studies is Angelo Majorana. He has published various works on sociological subjects, and even a volume on "The First Principles of Sociology." Majorana, in regard to the relation between sociology and the special social sciences, accepts the system of Mill, and in regard to the ethico-juridical system he follows in the footsteps of the school of Vico and Romagnosi as modified by the latest advances of science. Almost all Italian sociologists follow this eclectic system, that is, the theories of Vico and of Romagnosi, modified somewhat by the evolutionism of Spencer, and by the theories of Gehring, etc. On the other hand, M. A. Vaccaro may be called a true follower of Gumplowicz, whose theories are followed to some extent by Morasso, known for the most part by works of no great importance, more biblographical than critical.

The sociological system of Gabriel Tarde does not find many followers in Italy. Sighele varies from it somewhat, but Tosti, favorably known by his articles on the psychology of the insane, is a warm disciple of his.

The works of Roberty, of De Greef, and especially of Novicow are favorably known in Italy, but it cannot be said that these authors have any true followers. As to their conception of sociology, it may be said of both Roberty and de Greef that they are faithful followers of the system of Comte.[21]

Professor Simon N. Patton has published a paper entitled: The Failure of Biologic Sociology. I have read this essay attentively, and it seems to me that the author has not taken into account many of the latest discoveries in biology and sociology, which are worthy of the greatest attention.

Comte, who in spite of the criticisms of his sociological system remains the father of sociology, has written: "The necessity of taking the ensemble of biology as the point of departure for sociology is evident. . . . The subordination of social science to biology is so incontestable that no one any longer dares to dispute it." This principle, always with due limitations, inspires the theories of Espinas, of Perrier, of Fouillée, of Schäffle, of Lilienfeld, of Sergi, etc., the three latter of whom have pushed the conclusion of this principle a little too far. Novicow himself, even on the first page of his splendid work, Les luttes entre sociétés humaines et leur phases successives, writes: "All that is not based on the natural sciences is founded upon the sand. We have thought it necessary, therefore, to base our conclusions upon the contributions of chemistry and biology." On the other hand, Spencer departs entirely from this conception. But to Spencer there is wanting a profound historical culture. Letourneau was perfectly right, therefore, when he wrote: "The sociology of Herbert Spencer, principally ethnographic, has deceived the public because it expected something better from an author with one of the broadest, most ingenious and most richly endowed minds of our time,"[22] As Braga well says, he does not treat of sociology, but simply of folk-lore. But Letourneau, who points out other people's errors, cannot free himself from them and correct them. He has only tried, as he says, to write a single chapter of sociology, that is, the ethnographic. In writing thus he falls into open contradiction with what he says on a preceding page, where he says that ethnography is itself a science, independent of sociology, with which it has simply certain relations in so far as it furnishes the materials for the general synthesis of sociology.[23] This confusion of sociology with ethnography was made also by Bastian, who, Gumplowicz maintains, is superior to Herbert Spencer himself. Gumplowicz also falls into the same confusion, indirectly at least, by putting as he does among sociologists the ethnographers, Waitz, Gerlaud, Perty, Peschel, and the anthropologists Tyler and Gaspari. It is not strange, then, to find an Italian sociologist falling into the same error, and ending by asserting that sociology is ethnography. This is indeed the position of Professor Enrico Morselli, favorably known in Italy by his works, sociological, biological and anthropological, and who is a faithful follower of Spencer.

When Spencer defined sociology as "the science of society," he in reality left the science without a definition. It is not enough that he attempts to justify this definition by adding, "No other name sufficiently comprehensive exists," because as a matter of fact he is never careful to say just what he means by "society." His definition, in itself generic, becomes more so by his use of a term with a very elastic signification. In reality he makes a great mistake by neglecting a question of capital importance to sociology, that is, the evolution of social phenomena themselves.

Human society rests upon an individual basis. It is formed and transformed in correspondence with a utility strictly individual. If society should become useless to individuals it could not exist. It is necessary, therefore to inquire by what individual laws, biological and anthropological, the individual has been brought to form society, and to bring about all the successive transformations it has undergone, principally by the various adaptations of the individual to his natural environment. Now, while it is true that the method of sociology is biological, it must be said that Spencer has not defined what he means by sociology. And in reality it may be said that sociology is not yet supplied with a true and proper definition.[24]

Now, it may not be possible to give a definition without first forming a method of investigation. The fact remains, however, of the scientific inefficiency of the historical method taken alone.[25] To say nothing of the errors in which the German school which proposed it is involved, confined as it is to the study of historic humanity, it does not investigate prehistoric humanity; and moreover, if it has the merit of showing the instability of social phenomena, it must necessarily be supplemented by history, and by ethnography, which we may call contemporaneous history. This is precisely the scientific tendency which, owing to the example of Anguilli and Vanni, is more and more manifesting itself in Italy.[26]

Editor of the Rivista di Sociologia, Rome.

Translated from the Italian by I. W. Howerth.

  1. Montesquieu, Esprit des lois, p. 4.
  2. Among others see Letourneau, La Sociologie d'apres l'ethnographic, the preface.
  3. A. de Tocqueville, De la democratic en Amerique. Vol. II., p. 264.
  4. F. Pietropaolo. Sul calendajo di Giordano Bruno; E. Morselli, La mente di Giordano Bruno; F. Tocco, Opere edile ed inedite di Giordano Bruno.
  5. G. De Greef Le Transformisme Social, p. 129.
  6. G. Lewes, The History of Philosophy, Vol. II.
  7. In the evolution of Italian philosophic thought one may always observe a tendency towards monistic naturalism, and towards the application of the experimental and inductive method to all the sciences, both physical and moral. On this question see, besides the work of Morselli, already cited, the article of F. Puglia in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, Band II., 1888–9, Band III., 1889.
  8. See Works, republished at Milan in 1859 with a preface by D'Ancona.
  9. L. Gumplowicz, Grundriss der Sociologie. Vienna, 1885, p. 4.
  10. Siciliani Socialismo Darwinismo So i legia moderna. ed. 1885, p. 5.
  11. G. B. Vico Principi di Scienza Nuova. Libro II, Cap. III. p. 42. L. Ursuni-Scuderi, G.B. Vico come fondatore della sociologia moderna, Palermo, 1888, p. 16 e 17.
  12. See Ingram, History of Political Economy, Edinburgh, 1888; Fiamingo, die historischen und die orthodoxen National-Ökonomen in ihrem Verhältniss zur Sociologie, Vienna, 1894; also Antonio Genovesi, the first professor of political economy in Italy. He lived in the last century, taught in the University of Naples and held large and progressive views. His Discorso sopra il fine delle lettere e delle scienze is stamped with large, comprehensive and truly sociological views.
  13. Michelet, Principes de la Philosophie de l'Histoire, Brussels, 1839.
  14. G. Vanni, Il sistema etico-giuridico di Herbert Spencer, City of Castella, 1893.
  15. Bentham, Complete Works, Vol. I., p. 262.
  16. E. Ferrara, Esame storico-critico di economisti e dottrine economiche del secolo XVIII. e prima metà del XIX., Turin, 1892. Vol. II., Part II.
  17. F. Virgili, Il problema della popolazione negli scritti di F. Ferrara in Giornali degli economisti, August 18, 1895.
  18. F. S. Nitti, Reforma Sociale, August 10, 1895, p. 223.
  19. G. Vadata-Papale, La Sociologia, la Filosofia della storia e la Filosofia del diritto Catania, ed. 1885.
  20. Enrico Ferri, La Sociologia Criminale, Turin, ed. 1892, p. 49.
  21. Consult my little book on Le Leggi sociologiche, Florence, 1893.
  22. Letourneau, La Sociologie, ed. 1892.
  23. "Il faut en effet que la sociologie repose sur les données empruntés á bien des sciences; á l'histoire naturelle, á l'anthropologie, á l'ethnographie, á la demographie, á la pedagogie, á l'ètude, des climats, á l'economie politique, á l'histoire, etc., op. cit.
  24. In this connection the article of Professor H. H. Powers, Terminology and the Sociological Conference, published in Philadelphia, 1893, may be consulted with profit.
  25. G. Fiamingo, Saggio de pre-sociologia, Catania, 1894; also Insufficienza del metodo storico nella sociologia moderna, Milan, 1894.
  26. In Italy sociology is not yet recognized by the state as an official branch of instruction. Free courses are offered, however, by Professor Vanni in the University of Parma, by Professor Arturaro in that of Genoa, by Professor Majorana in that of Catania, and by Professor Cesca in that of Messina. In 1893 Professor G. Fiamingo, assisted by Professors Vadata-Papale, of the University of Catania, and Virgilii, of the University of Sienna, began to publish the Rivista di Sociologia. It is the second sociological review in order of time after La Revue Internationale de Sociologie in Paris. During the present year there have been the following changes in the management of this review: Professor Vadata-Papale, being entirely occupied in original scientific research, abandoned its direction and was succeeded by Professors Sergi and Tangorra, of the University of Rome. This review, published monthly, contains about 80 large pages and numbers among its contributors the most illustrious sociologists, both Italian and foreign.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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