Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development


Table of Contents | Next | Previous

THE expositions so far made of the child's progress toward the complete equipment of himself for social life, lead us now to see a principle ruling his development which should have more adequate formulation ; indeed, we are now in position to estimate the factors which enter into his social development. In this inquiry we come to formulate, on the basis of the development of the preceding chapter, the principle of' Social Heredity.' [1]

§1. Social Heredity

30. We have found that the social sense of the child grows constantly with his personal acquisition of new functions, activities, etc., through the influence of his social environment. And further, his process of acquisition is always complex. It always involves two standards of reference. The measure of the child's capacity at any time is referable to his past; he can do only what he has learned to do. This is what we may call the measure of his attainment by the standard of 'private reference. 'He is a single individual person only in so far as we agree,

(58) more or less tacitly, to estimate him by this standard ; by what he can do, with no account of what he can further learn to do. If we go back and take into account the few functions which his natural heredity gives him ready-formed, —his reflexes, private instincts, etc., —these too come in here as part of the person viewed with this private reference alone.

But as soon as we come to ask what he can learn to do, we find that the private reference carries us no farther; we have then to take a wider point of view, —the point of view of ' public reference' or' social reference.' We have found that the prime and essential method of his learning is by imitative absorption of the actions, thoughts, expressions, of other persons. He has grown up in a setting of social functions of a type higher always than that of his private accomplishment ; and his elevation to this higher plane, at each stage, is just by his gradual absorption of' copies,' patterns, examples, from the social life about him.

And again as soon as we come to ask genetic questions, questions pertaining to the origin of his activities, considered one by one, we find that, at each stage of his progress, it was only by a process which brought in the public or social reference that he could gain the functions which he afterwards considers private to himself. We have traced this dependence upon the social environment in the matter of his' interests,' and we shall learn further on that even in his originalities, his inventions, he is by no means independent of the scheme of social activities which arc Current in his environment. So the sphere of the private reference grows smaller and more contracted the further we go back in his life-history, until we reach the bare naked presence of the infant endowed only with

(59) what he has inherited, together with the magnificent capacity, which he so soon begins to show, of learning by the absorption of social 'copy,' and of gradually growing into conformity to this copy both in his thought and in his conduct.

Even farther back than this also, do we find a similar state of things. In the instincts of the animals we see a series of functions which could have arisen only as fitting the animal to maintain a gregarious and co-operative life. The actual adaptations which the possession of such characters gave the parent animals —whatever theory of physical heredity we may hold — is the only justification of them in the offspring; so we may say that even the infant's private physical self — the organism with which he is born — is the reflection of a state of living which involved a more or less complex system of social relationships. Now, waiving the question as to the degree in which it is true that an exclusively private reference of an individual, be he child, animal, youth, man, is impossible in any case—whether he does anything or whether he does nothing in securing growth, or progress, absolutely by himself, — waiving this, and contenting ourselves, at this stage of the inquiry, with the smaller fact that there are many things that he cannot learn to do without help from his social environment, let us call this general fact, that in much of his personal growth he is indebted to society, the fact of 'Social Heredity.' We may then go on to draw the lines of definition and description more narrowly.

31. It does not much matter how far the animals have functions which they learn only through the stimulus of gregarious existence. It is an interesting biological question on which light has lately been thrown. But

(60) here we may limit the inquiry to the human person's development, and so keep in the line which leads up to human social organization. Several things may then be said about Social Heredity.

(1) The first thing is that it is analogous to physical heredity.[2] The child, apart from the defective in mind or body, learns to speak, write, read, play, combine force with others, build structures, do book-keeping, shoot firearms, address meetings, teach classes, conduct business, practise law and medicine —or whatever his line of further development may be away from the three 'r's' of usual attainment —just as well as if he had received an instinct for that activity at birth from his father and mother. His father or mother may have the accomplishment in question ; and he may learn it from him or her. But then both the father and mother may not have it, and he then learns it from some one else. It is inheritance ; for it shows the attainments of the fathers handed on to the children ; but it is not physical heredity, since it is not transmitted physically at birth.

(2) It is hereditary in that the child cannot escape it. It is as inexorably his as the colour of his eyes and the shape

(61) of his nose. He is born into a system of social relationships just as he is born into a certain quality of air. As he grows in body by breathing the one, so he grows in mind by absorbing the other. The influence is as real and as tangible; and the only reason that it is variable in its results upon different individuals is that each individual has his physical heredity besides, and the outcome is always the outcome of the two factors, — natural temperament and social heredity. The limits of the relative influence of these two factors I shall speak of again ; here it is enough to say that the development of the natural disposition is always directed more or less into the channels opened up by the social forces of the environment. The union of these two factors leads us, however, to observe a further point.

(3) The influence of social heredity is, in a large sense, inversely as the amount and definiteness of natural heredity. By this is meant that the more a person or an animal is destined to learn in his lifetime, the less fully equipped with instincts and special organic adaptations must he be at birth. This has been made so clear by recent biological discussion that I need do no more than refer to it. The interpretation of a creature's infancy turns upon the question how much the exigencies of future life are to call upon him to learn. If a great deal, then we find him born practically helpless and requiring artificial support and attention during a long infancy period.[3] If the young creature is to have a life of relatively unchanging activities with little need for the acquisition of functions not already possessed by the species as instincts, then he comes into the world

(62) with ready-made instinctive activities, and can take care of himself independently very early, or even at birth. The two organic tendencies seem each to have had exceedingly wide independent development in the different forms of life. In the insects we find the instinctive apparatus marvellously complete ; much of the life-history of the insect being prepared for in the equipment which he brings into the world. The other extreme is realized in the human infant. He has very few instincts, and these are almost all fitted to secure organic satisfaction. Many of them terminate with the rise of volition. The insects have remarkable instincts, but cannot learn to do new things ; the baby, on the contrary, has no complete instincts to speak of, but can learn to do almost anything. Now the learning capacity is the capacity to which social heredity appeals and which it calls into play ; on the other hand, the instincts are the result, in their method of acquisition by the individual, of natural heredity ;so it is plain from the simple statement of these facts that the two kinds of heredity are in inverse ratio to each other. The insect pays dear, therefore, for his early 'start' on the infant toward maturity; and the infant gets a royal reward for the toil and trouble of his early months and years.

It is interesting also to note as another way of considering the same contrast between the gifts of natural heredity and the acquisitions of individual life, that the latter involve the presence and activity of a very high form of consciousness as contrasted with the former. In order to learn to do new things with his hands, for instance, the child must be capable of wide-awake, sustained attention and repeated effort. This experience of effort, with the great mental concentration which it requires, is about

(63) the most acute and intense experience which conscious beings ever know; and if we describe this as 'high,' or personal, or strong, consciousness, then on examination we find that the reflex, more instinctive, and automatic processes and actions are lacking in it. They go on very largely without supervision ; they do not even require attention ; so far from calling out effort, they are in many cases not brought into our consciousness at all until they have actually been performed.[4] They have then as reactions very 'low,' obscure, weak consciousness attached to them. And the same antithesis holds throughout the series of organic forms in the animal kingdom ; the animals which are given over almost altogether to instinctive activities have least of this high consciousness. They do not need the assistance of conscious effort in getting adapted to the world, since, by reason of their inherited adaptations, they are sufficiently equipped already for the life which they are to lead.

32. Further, the same distinction has its counterpart in the nervous system and its variations in the animal series. The reflex, automatic, and instinctive activities are regulated by the spinal and lower cerebral plexuses ; while the higher and more complex activities involving conscious supervision, volition, and all that is involved in the process of the learning of new lines of action, go out from the gray matter of the cortex of the brain. This gray material represents the more unstable and plastic substance ; and it is in the organization of this material that the new actions acquired by the individual in his lifetime get their registration. From this it follows as an easy inference that the

(64) creature which is born with most of this unorganized gray matter, characteristic of the brain, will be the creature capable of most education during his lifetime, and so capable of sustaining the most complex system of those social relationships which call this process of acquisition into play. On the other hand, this creature will also lack the elaborate system of fixed instinctive actions which his less brainy rival will possess ; since the use of his brain in learning requires the varied and free use of muscle and limb brought into play in the new activities. These members then, as he learns to use them, come to perform, in an infinitely more varied and effective way, the functions of personal life performed by the lower creature's instincts through a few fixed self-repeating reactions.

Plasticity, therefore, on the one hand, and fixity, on the other hand, sum up the differences between social and physical heredity on the side of the organism ; while high consciousness, seen in attention, voluntary imitation, concentration, on the ogle hand, and low, dreamy, diffused, subconscious processes, on the other hand, serve to define the distinction on the side of the mental life itself.[5]

§ 2. Physical Heredity and the Social Environment

33. With so much attention to the general definition of what is called ' social heredity,' and with a further word of emphasis upon the phenomena of the child's develop-

(65) -ment upon which the doctrine has been found so far to rest, we may now turn to a closer examination of certain phases of the topic which come up as soon as we attempt to make any application of the position to the affairs of mankind at large. It will be remembered that a page or two back I had occasion to say that even the so-called 'private reference' of the individual's attainments have, when their origin is in question, a strain of social reference' as well; and that even the instinctive functions of the individual creature -the activities which seem most private of all-are in an important sense the outcome of social race conditions. And in the definitions just given the same point appeared; the statement was made that in each case there are two factors involved in a person's equipment: his physical heredity and his social heredity. The question raised by these remarks is the traditional one covered by the antithesis between 'heredity and environment'; and while the discussion which follows will be found not out of touch with the contributions made to this topic by Galton and other distinguished investigators, I yet hope that the point of view which I am incorporating in the doctrine of 'social heredity' and the final view that we get of the human 'socius,' may add something of more or less value to the elucidation of this problem.

It goes without saying that by environment in this connection what is meant is social environment. The question of the influence of the physical environment, on the other hand, is a biological one, involving what is, in an exclusive sense, the private business of the organism, its private accommodations, and its chances of selection and survival among these physical conditions. Here we have a distinctively human problem; and in case we take a man's moral

(66) stature as the instance for investigation, we have to ask What elements in his life does he owe to his association with his fellows, and what, on the contrary, does he owe to his physical heredity ? This is the first question. And the second is like unto it : What part of his physical heredity does he owe to the social influences in which his father and mother lived ? Or, seeing that such social influences would act in great measure upon all the individuals alike, how far is a man's physical heredity common property to others with himself ?

34. The first of these questions concerns a matter of fact which we have had already before us in our investigation of the child's processes of learning to be an adult man. Our definitions of social heredity have covered just the relation to which this question refers. The growth of human personality has been found to be pre-eminently a matter of social suggestion. The material from which the child draws is found in the store of accomplished activities, forms, patterns, organizations, etc., which society already possesses. These serve as ready stimulating agencies, loadstones so to speak, to his dawning energies, to draw him ever on in his career of growth into the safe, sound, useful network of personal acquisitions and social relationships which the slow progress of the race has set in permanent form. All this he owes, at any rate in the first instance, to society. His business is to be teachable. He must have the plastic nervous substance known popularly as a brain; he must have organs of sense and sufficient organic equipment to enable him to profit by the methods of personal reaction necessary in the presence of his social fellows; he must be able to imitate, to attend, to invent. Taking all this now for granted, we may rest in this matter- 

(67) -of-fact answer to the first of our questions ; and so formulate a statement which throws the burden of further investigation upon the other problem stated above ; and this with the less hesitation since the facts are not generally in question. All theories will admit that the child does actually begin without many personal acts of skill; and that he does actually learn his further acts of skill from his fellows; moreover, it is also admitted that he learns in the long run only those acts of skill which his social environment already possesses and illustrates before him. Even when he learns more, making inventions which are completely new, and so instructing his associates, instead of being instructed by them, it is by some variation of the material which he has learned from them, and is an invention of which his own and their social judgment is liable to see the meaning in terms of the already familiar ways of action of the social group. Leaving this possible case of the genius in any case for a later discussion, —in which it is shown that the genius does not, after all, escape the laws of human progress as embodied in the social acquisitions of his tribe and time, —we may now consider the average man, and pass on to the next inquiry. This I have put in alternative terms above; we may take the more social emphasis as the more critical, and discuss the form of it stated in these terms how far is a man's heredity, physical and social, common property in the community in which he is born ?

35. The force of this form of statement is seen as soon as we realize the terms of the older statement which contrasted' heredity' sharply with' 'environment.' If that contrast is to be made and if it be a question of the division of a man's equipment into two parts, one clue to his endowment or physical heredity, and the other clue to his

(68) environment, there is no question of a third category. It supposes that these two agencies are opposed forces, and that each element of the man's entire character must be due to one or the other of them. The alternative, that most of the man's equipment is due to both causes working together, is not recognized ; and the resulting dualism or strife between the two supposed influences at work has no way of reconciliation. The very statement of the question in the terms given above, however, is itself the admission of such a third category; and we should expect, if the affirmative answer to it should be established by the facts, that a modified view of the relation of these two traditional factors would be justified. For we should then be obliged, in some degree at least, to identify the two influences which thus serve to produce results in common, but to which in their extreme forms we give different names.

It is hardly an anticipation to the reader who has followed the earlier chapter of this essay to say that it is the affirmative answer to the question thus stated which seems to the present writer to result from an adequate examination of the facts on both sides or on either side. And it is to the presentation of the evidence of this that the remainder of this chapter is to be devoted, as far as the case is not covered by the classes of facts already presented in the earlier pages.

36. Taking up the case first from the point of view of the individual's experience, we may cite the evidence available to show that the acquisitions of each person are constantly made by slow progress toward standards of excellence already established in the society about him. He has a teacher all through his education just that he

(69) may be led by one who has already trodden the path of development upon which he is constantly advancing in his own personal growth. As far, therefore, as we are concerned in tracing the method of that more formal training covered by the word 'education,' there can be no doubt that we may safely say, as an element in our conclusion, that what the individual learns, the teachers of that individual have also learned —some more, some less; so that it is true that the social heredity which thus bears in upon the one, has before borne in upon the others by a similar process of teaching; and the elements of social inheritance which each gets in his education are common to the group in which he is reared. This holds of the great sphere of personal accomplishment represented by literature, art, the established forms of social organization, etc., which are made a formal part of the instruction of children and youth.

In the same manner, also, do we find the child learning those more fundamental activities which serve, in our later phrase, as 'social aids to invention.' [6] Speech, reading, writing, the elements of correct personal deportment in the family, in the school, in social gatherings, etc., these are impressed upon him, even by force if he show any reluctance or incapacity to take them in of himself. The most direct and severe punishments are laid down for breaches of social etiquette in the family and school discipline of the youth. And all this, of course, being so fundamental to the existence of the social organization of men together, has also been learned by the parents in much the same way, and under much the same social sanctions as the next generation after them. So again

(70) we may say that with regard to these more definite and stereotyped utilities of social life, it is true that the single individuals get them similarly, and what is true of one such person is true in its main lines of all.

The only other sphere of personal influence of man upon man is that which may be represented by the current phrase 'unconscious' influence, to which, from the fact that it is obviously typified by the more or less approximate reproduction of opinions, styles, etc., of one person in others, the name 'plastic imitation' was given in my earlier work. All influence of this unconscious kind is clearly to be classified under the term 'suggestion'; and inasmuch as it notoriously belongs in that department of collective psychology which finds its most striking instances in the matters where social opinion is most acute and social criticism most dreaded, it is no stretch of evidence to say that, as for the learning of the individual in these unconscious ways, it is common, par excellence, to the whole social group.

37. Having now gone so far, we are at once confronted with the following state of things: Here are a number of beings all pursuing the same activities in a system of remarkably complex relationships with one another. Each one in turn has been born with none of these activities in any advanced state of development ; but has depended - by the inflexible conditions of his organic make-up-upon finding just this system of relationships there beforehand, prepared to hail, embrace, and educate him. All were born helpless ; all have been educated. Each has been taught; each is to become a teacher. Each learns new things by doing what he sees others do; and each improves on what the other does only by doing what he has

(71) already learned. Each teaches simply by doing, and each rules the others by his example. This, it will be remembered, is the state of things when we consider society as an organization of common men; we have left the consideration of the candidates for the great name of genius over for separate treatment.

§ 3. Social Suppression of the Unfit

What shall we then say about the physical heredity of these toiling, playing, teaching, learning individuals ? What must we say?

The very least we can say seems to me worth saying; for its bearings are in some respects critical for the theory of society. (1) The individual must be born to learn; and (2) all the individuals must be born to learn the same things.

This may seem but the statement of platitudes ; but their commonplace character indicates their truth. For, as commonplace as they are, and as true as the commonplace character of them would lead us to expect, they are still the two points upon which, as I think, the entire system of truths in the relation of the individual to his kind depend. Their importance may be seen from the remark that the historical development of social and economic theory which goes by the name of  'Individualism'[7] directly contradicts them. I need not stop to make good this statement now; our later outcome involves it: but the more immediate bearings of the principles before us will suffice to show their meaning.

38. I. Man is born to learn: how does this define his

(72) physical heredity? It defines it in several ways, and I shall try to make them cumulative in their statement.

If a creature is to come into the world fitted to learn, he must not —to state a negative requirement—he must not have hereditary tendencies which will make him antisocial, to what may be called a suppressive degree. This means simply that he must not develop activities or personal qualities so counter to the true line of conformity to the teachings and relationships of the common social milieu, that society and other individuals will not let him live to do them harm, or to set them a bad example. What these actions and qualities are which an individual must not be born to perform, it is not necessary to define in detail. That is for the particular society to say ; and historically different societies have said many things very different in detail. It is for the community to say; and that is only another way of stating the point already made, that the other element of the person's entire equipment is the common social standard of the' social heredity' of the group. Society it is which addresses the anti-social man, saying to him: " Dear sir, your physical heredity has overstepped its bounds; to tolerate you and men like you would endanger the social heritage which our fathers have given us; you must go. You have the making of a criminal, and although we may have to wait till your potencies actually show you up a criminal, still, as far as in us lies, criminals shall be suppressed "

I know that there are several questions which may arise in the mind of the reader —especially the biologist—regarding this formulation. One of them concerns the standards of society with reference to which its judgments are rendered. Another concerns the sphere of possible

(73) variations in the social worth of individuals with reference to this standard; this I can only define here by the relative limitation indicated by the phrase' suppressive degree.' And then, of course, the biologist rushes in with the question what relation this term ' suppressive' bears to natural selection[8] in the organic world. The general relation of social facts to organic facts cannot be profitably discussed in this connection ; but the remarks which follow in elucidation of the 'suppressive degree' which the individual's anti-social tendencies may not reach may serve to quiet the over-sensibilities of the biological enthusiast at this point.

39. But before we go further, it may be well to illustrate the method which society adopts to suppress the individual who is unfit. I have said that the level of social heredity of the group or society, as a whole, represents the voice of this society in pronouncing sentence upon its unworthy members. This, in our developed society, is embodied in the real institutions and laws which aim at the correction, isolation, and punishment of the social offender. If a man is born with too strong an egoistic tendency, with, let us say, uncontrollable passions, with abnormal emotions, such as jealousy, malice, unreflective self-assertion, or what-not of tendency which, when he grows up, leads him to commit crime, the arm of society, acting through its institutions of justice, takes up his case. If you kill, say the people in most instances, you shall be

(74) killed; and he is. If he shows by his thefts that he has a strain of heredity which leads him to disregard the claims of society to the mutual respect of property-rights as society defines them, then he must be put where he can find no property, says the social spirit ; and he is. If he is born with an intellectual nature out of proportion to his social nature, and thinks to circumvent the regulations of the social spirit by wily cunning and well-laid schemes, then society seeks one who is as smart as he and more loyal, to track him out, that he too may be socially suppressed. And so the cases go. Society it is that formulates in what we call laws the truths which it knows about itself; and society it is that says in this case or that you have proved yourself anti-social and you must leave society.' So what we have to say about the negative sort of selection called 'social suppression ' may take its point of departure here.

40. It is probably clear to the reader from these illustrations what is meant by suppression in this social realm. Certain individuals are singled out or selected for special treatment. The great peculiarity of this negative selection is that it selects the most unfit rather than the most fit, and instead of selecting for preservation, it selects to remove or to destroy. In the organic world it is the organic causes themselves which work with the environment to secure a race progressively better as individuals ; in the social world it is the social whole which applies social criteria for the eradication of what is harmful. This contrast may he pointed out here, simply to clear up the meaning of the concept of social suppression; not to exhaust the biological analogy from natural selection ; for there are other phases, both of contrast and of similarity between the two kinds

(75) of selection, which would demand more extended treatment.[9]

Understanding, then, that we are dealing with the social selection of the unfit with a view to their suppression, we have to ask, farther, what constitutes the' suppressive degree' of unfitness ? This question we shall find answered in the second clause of our formulation of the kind of natural heredity which the eligible social personality must have; and further remarks may be made under the consideration of that factor. I have stated it above in these words :'All must be born to learn the same things.'

41. This is the second positive requirement. It sets the level of social attainment in the community in which each individual is born. The social inheritance is not an arbitrary requirement devised by an individual, nor by a

(76) class; nor is it a convention by which each or any individual agrees to give up his so-called private rights. On the contrary, there is a possible standard of general recognition, and a possible recognition of the existing standard with social progress in both of these, only in so far as the physical heredity of the individual sets toward the learning of just the sort and variety of relationships which the social tradition imposes. A community is impossible in which the majority are born so anti-social that they resist the social tradition or cannot absorb it ; since the factor of personal heredity, tending to individual idiosyncrasy, would then swamp the factor of social heredity, tending to social organization. The principle of 'suppression of the unfit' would cease its operation; there would be no established representative of social utility to prevent the indulgence of the personal as against the social factor, and society would be ipso facto abolished. Such a state of things is in sight in the opinion of Max Nordau : the physical heredity of the degenerate represents a strain of social decay, and the appeal must be made to the possible existence of a larger community whose physical heredity is still so unified in its tendencies that its representatives keep alive the social tradition, and so select out and frown down-or print down, to adopt the method of the prophet, Herr Nordau —the degenerates by birth.

In saying, therefore, that in any social community the natural heredity of the individuals must be such that they all may learn the same things, I simply mean that the limits of individual variation must lie inside the possible attainment of the social heritage by each person. In the actual attainment of this ideal any society finds itself embarrassed by refractory individuals, all too numerous;

(77) the variations which overrun these limits are always many. But social progress and even social stability demand that this tendency to chaos shall never actually annul the operation of the requirement which represents the social life as such. It is the duty of each individual to be born a man of the social tendencies which his communal tradition requires of him ; if he persist in being born a different sort of man, then, as far as his variation goes, he is liable to be found a criminal before the bar of public conscience and law, and to be suppressed in an asylum or a reformatory, in Siberia or in the potter's field!

42. I think we are able now to see somewhat more clearly the relation of the two factors ordinarily called heredity and environment. Apart from the presence of variations, they are both common property. For the natural heredity of the individual must in its development lift the individual into participation in the social store and in the tradition administered by the organization called the environment ; and on the other hand, the environment, being only the general sphere of the operation of the collective heredities of the individuals and of their fathers, must draw out, confirm, establish, the individual in these natural inherited tendencies which all have in common. The social influences which act upon the individual, therefore, do not and cannot represent, in the language of a recent writer,[10] 'a cycle of causation' quite apart from that represented by the physiological processes which operate in physical Heredity. They constitute, it is true, separate spheres of causation; we cannot substitute a social cause for a physical cause, or the reverse.

(78) But they are not disparate, in the sense that each runs its course without interference from the other ; on the contrary, social life acts as a constant check upon' sports ' as such, and upon unsocial hereditary tendencies in general.[11]

43. But not only is there this suppression of the unfit individuals after they are born, and the consequent checking of their influence both physical and moral; there is a more direct interference of social with physical heredity. The sphere of physical heredity is encroached upon, and the direction of its issue changed, by every influence in the environment which comes to throw possible parents together or to separate them ; and these influences are often the social barriers or inducements which the 'social environment' prescribes.

This I may illustrate by an example. In the southern United States there is a social barrier to the intermarriage of blacks and whites. It is part of the unwritten law of polite society. The result is that there continue to be a white population and a black population existing side by side, the mixed element of the population being for the most part of illegitimate origin from black females. This keeps the white race pure, while there is a growing race of mulattoes and a diminishing race of blacks. The cycles of causation represented by these different races are distinctly held in physical bounds by the social cycle. Suppose, on the contrary, a generation of whites should be born who should forget the social sentiment now existing, or that a sufficient number of Northern whites, who do not regard such a barrier, should migrate to the South and marry freely with the blacks; then the only

(79) future society would be one of legitimate mulattoes. In this case we should have to say that the series of terms representing the causes and effects in the physiological cycle had become different simply from a change in social sentiment, or from the inrush of men and women of different social heredity. It is not needful to cite instances from history, although many might be cited ; for the reasons already suggested for believing that neither series of phenomena can be free from constant action and reaction with the other are sufficiently convincing. It is only necessary to put a single corollary in a little clearer evidence to make the bearing of this identity of tendency in the two orders of heredity quite clear, for the average activities of ordinary individuals.

44. This general corollary, or rather restatement, of a position already reached in our study, concerns the individual, considered as one in a number—the same, therefore, being true of each —who live and act together in society. It concerns the results of his social learning all the way along through the different stages of his education for his place and work in life. These results, at whatever age or in whatever condition we find the person, must mean that he has substantially the same standards of social value, personal and ethical worth, and in general the same sense of fitness in all the variety of meanings which this term can have in its application to human beings, their institutions, and their inventions, which he finds reflected also in the social group in which he moves. His opinion of others must be referred to the same standards by which he judges himself; and their opinion of him must, for the same reasons, agree with his, in both these directions of its application. This is the saving rule of all organizations

(80) of a social kind which have any call to live. For if we admit that the average individual's judgments are in the main and intrinsically at variance with the social judgments of his time and place, how can there be any social judgments ? For the social judgment is in some way the judgment of the individuals, acting in a social way; and if there be no area of common judgment among the individuals, then there can be in so far no social standards. This follows without doubt from the considerations already adduced concerning the respective limits of social and physical heredity.

45. It also follows from another line of considerations which have been presented at some length. I refer to the method of growth of the individual in attaining his sense of himself as a personal and social agent. His progress, i.e., the child's, has been dwelt upon at some length just to make clear this point,—his absolute dependence upon the continual presence of suitable personal environment. These suggestions which come to him from others are realized in himself, and his thought of another is—not stands for, or represents, or anything else than is—his thought of himself, until he adds to it a further interpretation; the further interpretation is in turn, first himself, then is—again nothing short of this is—his thought of the other. And so the play goes on, and so he grows. But all the while here is the essential thing he has not two persons to think of, his ego and the other man's, the alter; not at all. He has only one body of personal data. This be reads one way for himself and the other way for the other. And so how can he have two classes of judgments to pass upon this one personal thought ?In condemning, approving, loving, hating, com-

(81) -mending, reviling, —in all the judgments passed on personality as such, —he criticises personality, and all he says holds for himself as for his neighbour; for the two selves are but terms of opposition in the movement of his personal growth. And this is true of the other man's personal growth as well; so he must also include my person in his judgments. His personal data are identical in the main with those by which I grow. His judgments, then, both of himself and of me, must be in the main the same as my judgments both of myself and of him.[12]

46. So the conclusion seems quite safe. It follows both from the theory of social heredity, and also from the theory of the individual's personal growth. This collateral argumentation is in itself the strongest proof of the truth of the conclusion. For it is the first requirement of a theory of society that it shall have adequate views of the progress of the social whole, which shall be consistent with the psychology of the individual's personal growth. It is this requirement, I think, which has kept the science of society so long in its infancy ; or, at least, this in part. Psychologists have not had sufficient genetic theory to use on their side ; and what theory they had seemed to forbid any attempt to interpret social progress in its categories. As soon as we come to see, however, that the growth of the individual does not forbid this individual's taking part in the larger social movement as well, and, moreover, reach the view that in his growth he is at once also growing into the social whole, and in so far aiding its further evolution—then we seem to have found a bridge on which it is safe to travel, and from which we can get vistas of the country on both sides.


§4. Social Variations

47.Ever since Darwin propounded the principle of 'natural selection,' the word 'variation' has been current. The student in natural science has come to look for variations as the necessary preliminary to any new step of progress and adaptation in the sphere of organic life. Nature solves the problem of selection in the simplest of ways. The young born in the same family are naturally unlike; 'variations' occur. If all cannot live, the best of the variations live, and the others die. Those that do live have thus, to all intents and purposes, been 'selected.' Now, this way of looking at problems which involve aggregates of individuals and their distribution is becoming a habit of the age. Wherever the application of the principles of probability do not explain a statistical result, —that is, wherever there seem to be influences which favour particular individuals at the expense of others, — men turn at once to the principle of variations for the justification of this seeming partiality of nature. And what it means is that nature is partial to individuals in making them, in their natural endowment, rather than after they are born.

Of course the resources of this doctrine of variations are available for social questions in so far as physical heredity is still the bridge from generation to generation of social men. However we may limit the influence of physical transmission and emphasize that of social transmission, yet the great fact that men are burn dissimilar, mentally and morally as well as physically, must have a place in all theories of social life. A word may be in order here in the way of description of some of the more marked social variations.


48. First, there is the idiot. He is not available, from a social point of view, because his variation is too great on the side of defect. He shows from infancy that he is unable to enter into the social heritage because he cannot learn to do social things. His intelligence does not grow with his body. Society pities him if he be without natural protection, and puts him away in an institution. So of the insane, the pronounced lunatic; he cannot consistently sustain the wide system of social relationships which society requires of each adult individual. Either he is unable to take care of himself, or he attempts the life of some one else, or he is the harmless unsocial thing who wanders among us like an animal, or stands in his place like a plant. He is not a factor in social life; he is not to share the inheritance.

Then there is the extraordinary class of people whom we may describe by a stronger term than those already employed. We find not only the unsocial, the negatively unfit, those whom society excludes with pity in its heart ; but there are also the anti-social, the class whom we usually designate as criminals. These persons, like the others, are variations; but they seem to be variations in quite another way. They do not represent lack on the intellectual side, always or alone, but on the moral side, on the social side, as such; for morality is in its origin and practical bearings a social thing. The least we can say of the criminals, is that they tend by heredity, or by evil training, to violate the rules which society has seen fit to lay down for the general security of men acting together in the enjoyment of the social heritage. So far, then, they are factors of disintegration, of destruction ; enemies of the social progress which proceeds from generation to generation by

(84) just this process of social heredity. So society says to the criminal, also, 'you must perish.' We kill off the worst of them, imprison the bad for life, attempt to reform the rest. They too, then, are excluded from the heritage of the past. Then finally, with all these, and with the countless cases of less prominent variation in one direction or another, we find a type of variation which, though taking different forms, presents one of the most critical and interesting topics of social study, the genius. With him we have to deal later on.

§5. Social Judgment

49. There grows up, in all the interchange of suggestion among you, me, and the others, in all the give-and-take between us now described, an obscure sense of a certain social understanding about ourselves generally—of a Zeitgeist, an atmosphere, a taste, or, in minor matters, a style. It is a very peculiar thing, this social spirit. The best way to understand that you have it, or something of what it is, is to get into a circle in which it is different. The common phrase 'fish out of water' is often heard in reference to it. But that does not serve for science. The next best thing that I can do in the way of a preliminary rendering of it is to appeal to another word which has a popular sense, the word 'judgment.' Let us say that there exists in every society a general system of values, found in social usages, conventions, institutions, and formulas, and that our 'judgments' of social life are founded on our habitual recognition of these values, and of the arrangement of them which has become more or less fixed in our society. For example, to say ' you are welcome' to a disagreeable neighbour, shows good social judgment in a small

(85) matter. Not to quarrel with the homeopathic enthusiast who meets you in the street and wishes to doctor your rheumatism out of a symptom book-that is good judgment. In short, the man gets to show more and more, as he grows up from childhood, a certain good judgment; and his good judgment is also the good judgment of his social set, community, or nation. The psychologist might prefer to say that a man 'feels' this; perhaps it would be better for psychological readers to say simply that he has a 'sense' of it; but the popular use of the word 'judgment' fits so accurately into the line of distinctions I am making that I shall adhere to it. And so we reach the general position that the eligible candidate for social life must have good judgment, as represented by the common standards of judgment of his people.[13]

It may be doubted, however, whether this sense of social values is the outcome of suggestion operating throughout the term of one's social education. That we have endeavoured to show in the earlier chapter on the child's personal growth. It will appear true, I trust, to any one who may take the pains to observe the child's tentative endeavours to act up to the social usages of the family and school. One may then actually see the growth of the sort of judgment which I am describing. Around the fundamental movement of his personal growth all the values of

(86) his life have their play. So I say that his sense of truth regarding the social relationships of his environment is the outcome of his very gradual learning of his personal place in these relationships.

50.We reach the conclusion, therefore, from this part of our study, that the socially unfit person is the person of poor judgment. He may have learned a great deal in some directions ; he may in the main reproduce the activities required by his social tradition ; but with it all he is, in some degree, out of joint with the general system of estimated values by which society is held together. This appears to be true even of the pronounced types of unsocial individuals. The criminal is a man of poor judgment. It may be that he has a bad strain of natural heredity, what the theologians call ' original sin ' ; he is then an 'habitual criminal' in Ferri's distinction of types. Any sense of his failure to accept the teachings of society may be quite absent, crime being so normal to him. But the fact remains that in his social judgment he is mistaken; his normal is not society's normal. He has failed to be educated in the judgments of his fellows, however besides, and however more deeply, he may have failed. Or, again, the criminal may commit crime simply because he is carried away in an eddy of good companionship, which represents a temporary current of social influence ; or yet again, his nervous energies may be overtaxed temporarily or drained of their force, so that his education in social judgment is forgotten. In all these cases he is the' occasional criminal ' ; but it is yet true of him also, that while he is a criminal, while he has yielded to temptation, has gratified private impulse, he has then lost his social balance, he is no longer socially sane. In it all he shows the lack of that

(87) sustaining force of social consciousness which represents the level of righteous judgment in his time and place. Then as to the idiot, the imbecile, the insane —they, too, have no good judgment, for the very adequate but pitiful reason that they have no judgment at all.

§ 6. Conception of the Social Person

51.It may be well at this stage of our inquiry to emphasize the main conclusion to which our discussions have led, although the repetition may be unnecessary to many readers. Yet for the clearer understanding of the general positions involved in the further expositions of the essay, I venture to make this further statement.

All our thought has led us to see that one of the historical conceptions of man is, in its social aspects, mistaken. Klan is not a person who stands up in his isolated majesty, meanness, passion, or humility, and sees, hits, worships, fights, or overcomes, another man, who does the opposite things to him, each preserving his isolated majesty, meanness, passion, humility, all the while, so that he can be considered a 'unit' for the compounding processes of social speculation. On the contrary, a man is a social outcome rather than a social unit. He is always, in his greatest part, also some one else. Social acts of his—that is, acts which may not prove anti-social —are his because they are society's first, otherwise he would not have learned them nor have had any tendency to do them. Everything that he learns is copied, reproduced, assimilated, from his fellows; and what all of them, including him, —all the social fellows,—do and think, they do and think because they have each been through the same course of

(88) copying, reproducing, assimilating, that he has. When he acts quite privately, it is always with a boomerang in his hand ; and every use he makes of his weapon leaves its indelible impression both upon the other and upon him.

It is on such truths as these which recent writers[14] have been bringing to light that the philosophy of society must be gradually built up. Only the neglect of such facts can account for the present state of social discussion. Once let it be our philosophical conviction, drawn from the more general results of psychology and anthropology, that man is not two, an ego and an alter, each of which is in active and chronic protest against a third great thing, society; once dispel this hideous un-fact, and with it the remedies found by the egoists, —back all the way from the modern Individualists to Hobbes, —and I submit the main barrier to the successful understanding of society is removed.

52. Perhaps no better illustration of the point of view which I wish to leave prominently in the reader's mind can be reached than to cite its contrast with that of the recent book by Mr. Kidd on Social Evolution. His whole conception hinges on the view that the individual can get no 'rational sanction' for social life. He must then either rebel against society or strangle his 'reason.' According to Mr. Kidd he does the latter and, by espousing a supernatural sanction found in some religious system, acts-by inference - irrationally. But why are his selfish and anti-social impulses the only rational part of the man ? Does not the most superficial consideration of the origin of man, to say nothing of the teaching of the first principles of psychology, show that the indulgence of these impulses is

(89) in many instances irrational? Action on his real, most complex, richest thought, is rational, as a later chapter (on' Sanctions,' Chap. IX.[15]) aims to show in detail ; and if the author of Social Evolution is right in saying that religion serves as the mainspring of this kind of action, then religion has here, in some degree, its rational justification.


  1. The facts of the indebtedness of the individual to his social environment and antecedents are well stated by Mr. Leslie Stephen in his Science of Ethics, Chap. III. Other writers who have emphasized the general truth of social transmission by tradition are, in biology, Weismann and Lloyd Morgan, and in philosophy, Ritchie, Mackensie, S. Alexander.
  2. The term 'social heredity' in this connection has been objected to, especially by Professor Lloyd Morgan, Habit and Instinct, p. 183, and Professor E. D. Cope, American Naturalist, April, 1896, p. 345. Besides the justification of the phrase' Social Heredity' given in the text, the reader may consult my papers in the American Naturalist, May, 1896, p. 422, and July, 1896, p. 355. I do not find it possible to adopt Professor Lloyd Morgan's exclusive use of the term ' tradition,' since that word denotes the matter handed down, while 'social heredity' indicates the imitative process of absorption of this matter of tradition by individuals, whereby its continuity from generation to generation is secured. The social heredity of individuals differs with sex, temperament, etc., while their tradition may be the same : social heredity is the outcome of a personal reaction upon tradition.
  3. Cf. Fiske, Cosmic Evolution, and Baldwin, 'Mental Development, pp. 28 f.
  4. This after-consciousness of the effects may be very vivid and so also may the stimulating sensation which releases the instinct.
  5. For the influence of ' Social Heredity' upon organic evolution, and especially its hearings on the questions of' Determinate Variations' and 'The Inheritance of Acquired Characters,' see Appendix A. Later on in this chapter also (Sects. 42, 43) we find that the phrase has further appropriateness from the direct influence which social conditions have upon physical heredity through the' personal selection' of mates in matrimony.
  6. Cf. Chap. IV.
  7. Defined strictly in opposition to ' Collectivism.'
  8. The biologists say that a character has a 'selective degree' of utility when its utility is sufficient to preserve the life of the animal possessing it, in the 'struggle for existence.' The phrases' suppressive degree' and ' suppression of the unfit' used in the text suggest a parallel which will become clearer as we proceed.
  9. The various cases of natural and other selection need more discrimination than biologists usually give them. In a changing environment or where competition is sharp, natural selection ' selects' the fittest (Darwin, Spencer); while in a stationary environment or where competition is lax or adaptation general and good, only the very unfit are eliminated (Pfeffer). Both of these are always at work, and every degree of selection is found between these extremes. So general contrasts are unsafe. For example, the contrast made by Professor Lloyd Morgan (Habit and Instinct, Chap. XII.), who thinks 'conscious selection' selects the best, while natural selection eliminates the poorest, is true only under certain well-defined conditions. The working of 'social suppression,' for example, is quite the reverse of what he attributes to' conscious selection,' although it is' conscious. 'There is a conscious selection of the best going on in society, both of individuals and of experiences, thoughts, plans, ideals; these might be called respectively 'social selection' (through competition), and 'imitative selection' (through the imitative propagation of ideas from person to person). Cf. Sects. 120, 305 f. And there is also another form of conscious selection, of person by person where preference and liking or aversion of whatever kind come in, as seen conspicuously in matrimony, spoken of immediately below (Sects. 42, 43), which is not of the best, but of what may be described as the 'socially available.' This might be called 'personal selection,' leaving 'sexual selection' to the animals, where immediate reproduction is the motive. See note to Sect. 307, and Appendix B.
  10. William James, Atlantic Monthly, 1880, Will to Believe, p. 220 f.
  11. At the same time it may well be an undertaking of the social reformer to render this sort of control much more effective. The reverse —the action of the physical upon the social—is discussed in Appendix H, V.
  12. This anticipates detailed conclusions reached later on.
  13. "An interesting phenomenon under this head is that usually described as the influence of example on personal belief. What we call persuasion is largely the suggestion of the emotion which accompanies strong conviction, with the corresponding influence which the emotion suggested has upon the logical relationships apprehended by the victim." —Baldwin, Mind, jail., 1894, p. 50. Later discussions show in more exact terms what this implies psychologically. The statement in the text is preliminary and purely objective. Cf. Chap. III., §§ 1, 3.
  14. Stephen, S. Alexander, Höffding, Tarde.
  15. See also Sect. 178.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2