Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development


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THE changes embodied in this edition—apart from verbal corrections and slight supplementary alterations— are embodied in Appendix H (II-V). They deal with essential topics.

I may take this opportunity to refer to a matter of personal interest, though of minor importance, of which some of the reviewers of the book have considered it worth while to speak. I refer to the relation of certain views expressed in this work to those of the distinguished French writer M. G. Tarde. An English reviewer says, apropos of the allusion to M. Tarde in the preface to my first edition, that it represents " an obligation which is perhaps greater than he thinks." Now I need not say that I have very great admiration for M. Tarde,— frequent references in my books have shown it,-and that I am glad to refer to him as a man of great eminence who has reached from a different point of view positions with which in some points my own are in agreement; and this I feel the more after a correspondence with M. Tarde in which he is good enough to speak of this matter with reference to the French translation of my volume on Mental Development in the Child and The Race. He recognizes the entire independence of our two endeavours in words which he allows me to quote; they are substantially what he has said in print (cf. his recent work Les Lois Sociales, pp. 37-38). He says:

"Nous nous complétons encore plus que nous nous accordons. Votre manière d'utilizer l'idée d'imitation n'a rien de commun avec la mienne, et j'ajoute, tres sincèrement, qu'il est regrettable

(xii) que votre ouvrage ne soit pas venu avant le mien. En effet, votre point d'arrivée, au terme de votre longue et pénétrante analyse du processus imitatif, est en quelque sorte mon point du départ. Je prends cette notion, toute faite, et je l'applique dans un domain où il ne peut être question de cette imitation principalement inconsciente et infra-cérébrale que vous étudiez . . . . Les qualités d'esprit et les connaissances que réclamait mon analyse à moi, toute psychol-sociologique, sont très différents des aptitudes et des expériences exigées par votre analyse à vous, physio psychologique." (Italics his.)

This statement from M. Tarde I entirely endorse. He arrived at the view that Imitation is the fundamental social fact a long time before I took up the study of social organization at all, and his priority from that point of view is unquestioned. Yet speaking of the social point of view, I may add that while M. Tarde is unindebted to Walter Bagehot,[1] nevertheless Bagehot published similar conclusions some time before Tarde, his chapter on Imitation having appeared in his remarkable book Physics acrd Politics in English in December, 1872, and in the French translation in 1877. Considered, therefore, from the sociological side, the intuition that the method of social propagation is imitation, undoubtedly belongs first of all to the great English publicist, not to raise the question of still earlier intimations of it.

As for my own position, my conclusion as to the importance of imitation in social life was the direct result of a series of studies of the psychology of imitation which led me to the more general opinions on genetic and social psychology now embodied in m)' two volumes. Much of the matter was printed earlier in a series of articles in

(xiii) Science, N. Y. 1890-92, and Mind, London, January, 1894. The MS. of my first volume was finished before my attention was called to M. Tarde's Lois de l'Imitation, and the allusions to him were then made in it as it went to print. That my work should bring, in the words of M. Tarde, "une confirmation des plus frappantes " of his idea (and Bagehot's), is an event, happy for both of us, so evidently due to an unexpected rapprochement from two separate fields of inquiry, that it renders impossible any question of priority, and any personal relationship but that of hearty co-operation. This latter, I am glad to say, the correspondence referred to has already established. Furthermore, I should of course have mentioned in my first edition the position taken by Bagehot had I been aware of it. His book was known to me only from hearsay, and that it contained the treatment of Imitation I had no knowledge until last December, when a correspondent brought it to my attention. Accordingly, I am now glad to cite it as emphasizing the rôle of natural selection in group-competition which I have called 'group-selection' (see Appendix H, V).

With this much on the agreement between M. Tarde's views and those of this work, a word may be added as to the differences. I do not altogether agree with this writer in saying : " ainsi le charactère constant d'un fait social, quel qu'il soit, est bien d'être imitatif. Et ce charactère est exclusivement propre aux faits sociaux." (Revue de Metaph., January, 1898, p. 28.[2]) That imitation is the method of social propagation, the essential method, and that to which other ways of social propagation may be

(xiv) reduced —this is the element of truth in the Bagehot—Tarde intuition which I think genetic psychology has now fully established. This Dr. G. Tosti has pointed out in recent articles. But to say " ce charactère est exclusively propre aux faits sociaux," —that statement is just what the 'dialectic of personal growth' developed in this volume and stated in the earlier one, goes to disprove. The criticism of M. Tarde on pp. 478 f. Of this work is explicit. The distinction between social matter and social process, between propagation and that which is propagated, between mere imitation and social progress, is here in question ; and I hold to the solution which my 'dialectic' affords.

A word is to be added supplementary to the allusions made in the text (pp. 483, 485) to the views of Professor F. H. Giddings expressed in his able book The Principles of Sociology, and more especially to his doctrine of the 'Consciousness of Kind.' My criticism of 'Consciousness of Kind' is aimed at its extreme generality, as applying to all stages and sorts of gregariousness and sociality, and so serving to obscure the psychological differences between certain of these stages ; especially that between the instinctive collective life of the animals and the social life of a reflective sort seen in human affairs. This distinction I consider very important. In a passage in an earlier publication (Handbook of Psychology, Feeling and Will, 1891, p. 193) I made a statement under the heading 'Social Feeling 'which seems to cover ' Consciousness of Kind'— when psychologically defined and which in view of its being the germ of the theory of this work (i.e., that social and ethical sentiment develop by the 'generalization of the idea of personality') I make

(xv) free to quote : "The further generalization of the idea of personality, to which developed sympathy attaches, gives the emotion a broader reference. Social feeling is sympathetic emotion as it attaches to man in general. It can only arise after the conception of man is reached, of man as a multiplication of particular men like myself. As long as men were not considered as all 'like myself,' but some slaves, some barbarians, some Gentiles—only a few Greeks or Hebrews—social feeling had only the range of the class or race in the midst of which it arose."

In order to avoid confusion of citation I may say that in referring to my earlier volume in various connections, simply by the title 'Mental Development,' I have had in mind putting the emphasis in the title of the present volume on the words ' Social and Ethical Interpretations.' I have purposely avoided calling them Volumes I. and II., seeing that they were composed as independent works.

The sentence in the first preface to this volume to the effect that "certain chapters were written with reference to the question " set by the Danish Academy has been misunderstood. The remainder of the book (except Chapter XII and certain short Sections) although not written expressly for the purpose, was included in the prize treatise. I supposed the indication on the title-page would make clear this unimportant detail.

J. M. B.
PRINCETON, January, 1899.


  1. M. Tarde has stated this also in one of his letters to me.
  2. Now reprinted in Les Lois Sociales, p. 37.

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