Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development


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THE object of this chapter is to present in outline a way of conceiving of the general fact of human social organization, based upon the foregoing, and in line with the tendency which has proved itself fruitful in the last few years, mainly in France ;[2] the tendency to recognize the psychological character of the motifs at work in society. It seems to me to be a permanent advance that the biological analogy is giving place to a psychological analogy, and that this is leading the writers in so-called 'sociology' to examine the psychological processes which lie wrapped up in the activities and responsibilities called social.

§ I. Distinction of Problems

314. The questions which should concern the scientific student of society seem to me to be two, each of which

(476) gets again a twofold statement. The first question concerns the matter or content of social organization; what is it that is organized ? —what is it that is passed about, duplicated, made use of, in society? When we speak of social action in its lowest terms, 'what' leads to the action, what is the sort of material which must be there if social action is there ? This question has had very acute discussion lately under the somewhat different statement what is the criterion or test of a social phenomenon ? But the question which I ask under this head is more narrow, since, in all sorts of organization, a further question comes up in addition to that of the matter; the further question as to the functional method or process of organization of the social material, the type of psychological function which explains the forms it takes on. It has been the weakness of many good discussions of late, I think, just that they have not set these questions separately, i.e. (1) the matter, and (2) the functional method of organization of the given matter.

Let us take an illustration. Some of the animals show a certain organization which appears to be social. But on examination, in certain instances, we find that the actions involved are hereditary, congenital, each animal doing his part, in the main or altogether, simply because he is born to do it whenever the organism becomes ripe for these actions under the stimulation of his environment. Now let us contrast with this the intelligent co-operative performance of the same actions by a group of men or children who deliberately join to do them in common. In the two cases it is clear that the psychological content is different; one being a biological and instinctive, the other a psychological and acquired, action. The results to the

(477) observer may be the same, and the question may still remain as to whether the method or type of function be the same or no; but there is no doubt that the psychological content is different. These two questions may therefore be distinguished at the outset with so much justification.

315. But each of these two questions sets a twofold requirement. If we assume that the distinction between Habit (with its relative fixity of function) and Accommodation (with its relative plasticity of function, as seen in all progress in learning or acquisition) holds of society, then both the matter and the method or process of social organization must allow of these two modes, and working together must also produce them. If, for example, we take an individual and find that he has a habit of acting in a certain way, and that at the same time he also improves upon his action from day to day, we yet say that the action remains in a sense the same in its content or meaning throughout the entire series, from the fixed habit to the skilled variation. Our determination of the content of the action must have reference to just the possibility of the entire series of actions, from fixed repetitions by habit to the extreme variations of accommodation, through all the intermediate stages. In other words, the fact of growth by a series of accommodations must be reckoned with in all the determinations of social content. And statements of progress must go with the definition of the actual content at any given stage of social organization. In other terms, the matter of social life is changing growing matter; and the determination of it most always take account of this character.

So also must the theory of the method of social functioning. The process of social organization results in a grow-

(478) -ing, developing system. Progress is real, no matter what its direction, provided it result from the constant action of a uniform process of change in a uniform sort of material. This we find in social life, and this is the prime requirement of social theory both in dealing with matter and in dealing with function.

§ 2. Historical Theories

316. It may suffice to bring these distinctions, and the problems which emerge, more clearly to the light if we note briefly some of the later attempts to deal with the social organization from a psychological point of view.[3] I shall cite types of theory only, referring to particular writers merely as illustrating these types and without going into the details of their positions.

(1) The Imitation Theory, illustrated by M. Tarde. This view of social organization has very much to commend it from the point of view of functional method; indeed, as appears in the earlier chapters,[4] I think imitation is the true type of social function, and the theory which ade-

(479) -quately develops it will give possibly the final solution of the question. As a complete explanation of society, however, it fails signally, since it gives no answer to the question of matter. M. Tarde does not tell us what is irritable, what is capable, through imitation, of becoming fixed as social habit, and also of being progressively modified in the forms of social progress. He does seem to become more aware of the need of answering this question in his later work, La Logique sociale, and introduces certain elements of content such as 'beliefs and desires,' to supply the lack. This, however, means simply a departure from his earlier theory, in which the phenomenon of imitation was treated as an answer to the question qu'est ce qu'une société?

Apart, indeed, from M. Tarde's personal views, it may be said that the case of imitation at its purest is just the case in which the social vanishes. Imagine a roomfull of parrots imitating one another in regular sequence around the area and let them keep it up ad infinitum, and with as much individual variation as they may; where is the social bond among the parrots? In so far as the imitation is exact, in this case a thing of congenital instinct, is so far we might substitute tuning-forks for the parrots, and let them vibrate together after striking one of them a sharp blow.

Indeed, in his treatment of the final nature of imitation in his Lois de l'Imitation, M. Tarde brings it into a sort of cosmic correlation with undulatory repetition in physics. I cannot see that the mere presence of imitation would avail anything, without tacit or explicit assumptions of two kinds : first, that the material of social organization is essentially imitable material; and second, that through imitation this material

(480) would take on the forms of organization actually found in society.

317. (a) Another type of theory which is open to much the same criticism is represented by the 'constraint' view of M. Durkheim,[5] and what is called 'subordination' by other writers. To this view the essence of social organization is the constraining influence of one person upon others, due to authority, social place, etc. It is in line with the extreme 'suggestion' theory of society, which makes the crowd acting under the suggestion of the strongest personalities in it the type of social organization as such: a theory which we have already criticised above.[6]

The weakness of this type of doctrine appears from the striking analogy from hypnotic suggestion which its advocates employ. And the common element of such a view with that of M. Tarde is evidenced in the use of the same analogy by the latter. The analogy seems to me to be quite correct; to this view the extreme and the purest instance of social organization would be hypnotic rapport. Here constraint is well-nigh absolute, imitation is perfect, subordination is unquestionable. But it is only necessary to state this to see that in hypnotic rapport the social has completely evaporated. There is no place for a criterion of social material. The hypnotic subject, or the generally suggestible subject, tends to take all suggestions as of approximately equal value, to obey everything, to understand nothing, to be the same sort of an instrument of repetition as is the parrot or the tuning-fork. How there could be any organization as distinct from repetition, of progress as distinct from arbitrary law or caprice, I am quite unable to see. It may 

(481) be, as a matter of history, that the first social man became so because he was knocked down by a stronger, and so constrained to be his slave; but further progress from such a state of constraint, in the direction of co-operation, would be possible only in proportion as there was a ' letup' or modification of the one-sided constraint. In other words, constraint — or rather the imitation to which it may be reduced as soon as it ceases to be one-sided and becomes mutual—may have been and may continue to be the functional process, or method of social life; but the lines of progress actually made by society would seem to be determined by certain inherent possibilities of fruitful imitation and co-operation in some particular spheres. These spheres should be defined, and that raises the quite different question of matter or content. The constraint theorists, I know, take as type of constraint not that of force but that of suggestion; and it is just this tendency which brings their view into line with the imitation theory and makes it available as an important, but less important, contribution to that theory. 

318. (3) There is another way again of looking at social organization, a way which may be called psychological, however, only with some latitude. Dr. Simmel, of Berlin, may be taken as representing it, in a part of his treatment of society.[7] It consists in attempting, by an analysis of social events and phenomena, to arrive at a statement of the formal principles which each section or general instance of social life presents. Such formal principles arc division of labour, 'subordination,' co-operation, etc. This is a very serviceable undertaking, I think, and 

(482) must result in a certain valid social logic; a system of principles by which social phenomena may be classified and which may serve as touchstones in particular cases of organization. The objection, however, to building a science of the social life upon it is just that the principles are formal; it would be like building the psychology of concrete daily life upon the principles of formal logic. Principles which get application everywhere are not of concrete use anywhere. They also lack—or the system which seeks them out lacks - the 'genetic point of view. Granted the establishing of these principles by the analysis of social events, the question would still remain as to the original form which they showed in primitive societies. It is easier to deal with the simpler, and work up, than it is to reverse this procedure; and from this point of view it would seem quite possible to treat all such principles once having solved the question of social material —as developments from imitation and suggestion. Apart from this, however, the essential criticism to be made upon this type of thought is that it deals only with form and functional method and assumes certain sorts of matter of social organization. The principle of division of labour, for example, assumes the conscious thought involved in each such division, and its constant application by the members of society.

319. (4) Another class of positions have the merit of being genetic: those which found the social life of communities upon certain primitive emotions, such as sympathy. These theories arc by Mr. Spencer, M. Novikow, and the English moral philosophers. This is possibly the oldest form of social theory, having its roots in Aristotle; so it has all the accumulated authority

(483) of age. Its forms of statement are also so numerous that I cannot take them up. From the pure 'sympathy' theory we pass to the 'altruistic theory' which makes social life a derivative of ethical; to the 'social instinct ' and 'native benevolence' theories, which say that man is natively social, and sympathy and altruistic feeling are evidences of it; and finally we reach the climax of descriptive vagueness[8] —in a formula wide enough to include all the rest—the 'consciousness of kind' recently propounded by Professor F. Giddings.

As a class it may be said of all these theories that they constantly confuse the question of functional method with that of the matter of social organization. In regard to method of function the imitation theory comes in at once to supplement these earlier points of view.

Apart from this lack, it may be said that the life of feeling and instinct does not furnish the requirements of matter for social organization. There are two sorts of sympathy, two sorts of social instinct, two sorts of consciousness of kind. This appears when we press the requirement indicated above: that the matter of social organization should be such as to allow the formation both of social habit and of the adaptations seen in social accommodation and growth. The life of instinct as such and of the emotions which come with instinctive activities — e.g., organic sympathy, impulsive altruism, manifestations of kind such as maternal affections, etc. —all these are race habits. To the degree in which they fulfil the require-

(484) -ment that society live by its stock of habits, to that degree do they fail to enable society to modify its habits and grow. If we sympathize with each other by pure instinct, and act only on the movings of sympathy, new organization would be as far off as if we fought tooth and nail; for action would be as capricious. So also merely to feel socially inclined would not beget differential forms of social organization. To be conscious of others as of the same kind would in itself not determine, in the slightest degree, the sort of thought or action which could be fruitfully recognized and developed within the habits of the kind. If we assume an adequate content, a common material; in short, if we assume social organization already in the groups which for convenience, after they are made up in nature, we call kinds, then of course it is the simplest thing in the world to say that what the members have in common is their consciousness of kind; but it is no more an explanation than is the phrase 'love of drink' an explanation of inherited tendency to alcoholism.

It is only when we come to see the second or higher sort of sympathy, social instinct, consciousness of kind, etc., that the requirement that social organization be progressive becomes more apparent, because only there is it possible of fulfilment. We do not find instincts showing much organization apart from certain fixed and congenital forms of co-operation. The higher emotions and actions which arise when consciousness becomes in some degree reflective, as opposed to instinctive, take on aspects which arc: differentiated from one another according to the mental content which they accompany. There is a reflective sympathy, a reflective sociality, a reflective consciousness of kind, and it is just their value that they now afford

(485) some criterion — a material criterion — over and above the mere fact of feeling and instinct. This point it is the main business of this chapter to draw from our earlier distinctions and developments, so I need not dwell upon it here; yet we see that the theories which deal in such general descriptions of social organization as the terms mentioned carry, are quite inadequate, since they leave the real problem of matter unanswered : the problem of the 'what' of social organization. We must know the 'what' of such questions as "what does society fruitfully imitate?" "what feelings and acts of sympathy yield results of social value and permanence?" "what is the something found sometimes in the consciousness of kind which in these cases leads to the sort of progress characteristic of an ethical society as opposed, let us say, to a school of fish?"[9] Of course I am not intending to draw lines, even between the ethical society and the school of fish. It is a further question, after we determine the what of social organization, to find how far it may be present, also, in the behaviour of the school of fish. But what is it ? - 'that is the question.'

320. This brief characterization of theories, all of which aim to be psychological, enables us to see our problem. I have introduced them only for this purpose; and the inadequacies of presentation will, I hope, not be construed

(486) as inadequacies of appreciation. The way the emerging problems appear, in consequence of our review so far, may be shown in certain more formal statements to which the remainder of the chapter may be addressed.

(I) The determination of phenomena as social is only possible under the twofold requirement as to matter and functional method. To fail in either of these is to fail entirely; on the one side it would be like determining life by morphology alone, with no necessary exclusion of crystals and ploughshares, provided they were the right shape; or, on the other hand, by physiology alone, which would not exclude a cunningly devised india-rubber heart or an air-pump breathing machine, provided it worked.

(2) There is entire justification for the distinction urged by Tonnies between what have been called in English respectively 'colonies' and 'societies.'[10] Tonnies distinguishes between the Gemeinschaft and the Gesellschaft. The difference-to put it in my own way, from the point of view of a current psychological and biological distinction-is this, i.e., between the relatively unvarying, relatively definite, and relatively unconscious organization which has its extreme instance in animal instinct, and the relatively varying, progressive, plastic, and conscious organization seen in human life. I shall distinguish these types as companies [11] and societies. Later on the more 

(487) essential difference appears that while in companies the individuals feel and act alike, in societies the individuals also think alike.[12]

(3) The distinction just made is mainly one of matter or content, seeing that the method of interaction is substantially the same in the two types of organization, i.e., imitation.[13] 

Our first problem, therefore, is the determination of the facts regarding the 'what' of social life. What is it that is common to all societies, and is also capable of progressive organization in each society ?

§3. The Matter of Social Organization

321. Coming, therefore, to the question of the matter, the 'what,' of social organization, I shall state a general result, and then indicate certain lines of evidence for it.

This result may be put in the form of a thesis as follows: the matter of social organisation consists of thoughts ; by which is meant all sorts of intellectual states, such as imaginations, knowledges, and informations. These thoughts or knowledges or informations originate in the mind of the individuals of the group, as inventions, more or less novel conceptions; what we have called 'particularizations.' At their origin there is no reason for calling them social matter, since they are particular to the individual. They become social only when society —that is, the other members of the social group, or some of them - also thinks 

(488) them, knows them, is informed of them. This reduces them, from the individual and particular form to a general or social form, and it is only in this form that they furnish social material, through what has been called, again, the 'generalizations' effected by society. It is evident that these positions are not at all new after our earlier discussions; our main interest in presenting them, as well as the points of evidence which follow, lies in the advantage of having them definitely formulated about the present topic, and also as bringing us to a characterization of the sort of thought which is socially available.

The general considerations upon which this opinion is based may be given in contradistinction from special lines of evidence. These general considerations will be seen to arise in connection with the general requirements of social theory as stated in the foregoing pages.

(I) It is only thoughts or knowledges which are imitable in the fruitful way required by a theory of progressive social organization. It has been said by some that beliefs and desires are thus imitable. It is clear, however, to the psychologist that beliefs and desires are functions of the knowledge-contents about which they arise. No belief can be induced in one individual by another except as the fact, truth, information, believed is first induced. The imitator must first get the thought before he can imitate belief in the thought. So of a desire. I cannot desire what you do except as I think the desirable object somewhat as you do. Both belief and desire are, as has been argued above, functions of thought-content.

If it be a question of imitative propagation or reproduction from one member of a social group to another, the vehicle of such a system of reproductions must be thought

(489) or knowledge. The only other psychological alternative is to say that the imitative propagation takes place by the simple contagion of feeling and impulse.[14] This, however, takes us back to the question already raised above, i.e., the question of possible progress by society. We found that the reign of imitative feeling and impulse, whether it be by instinct or by suggestion, would make possible only the form of organization in which fixed habit is all, and in which no accommodation, movement, progress, would take place. This we found to characterize certain animal companies, and mobs of persons, in distinction from true societies.[15]

(2) It is only in the form of thoughts, conceptions, or inventions that new material, new 'copies for imitation,' new schemes of modified organization, can come into a society at any stage of its development. This seems evident from the mere statement of it. If we ask how a new measure of legislation, a new scheme of reform, a new opinion about style, art, literature, even a new cut to our coats or a changed height of hat—how any one of these originates, we are obliged to say that some one first

(490) thought of it. Thought of it, that is the important thing. Feeling and desire might have impelled to thought; urgent need may have prompted the invention; decaying modes may have made reform a matter of necessity; but with all the urgency that we may conceive, the measure, the reform, the new style, has to originate somewhere in the form of a concrete device, which society may take up and spread abroad. This particular form is then —apart from happy accidents of discovery [16] —the thought of some one; and society afterwards 'generalizes' the thought.

Of all the individual's doings, therefore, it is his thoughts which are the socially available factors of his life. Of course there is a form of social propagation which takes its origin in the actions alone of this man or that, whether any thought be discoverable in the actions or not. But apart from the fact that such actions have to be thought by the imitators, however spontaneous or accidental they may have been on the part of the original actor, it is evident that this form of social origination is on the side of mere accident, and reduces itself to repetition, social convention, or mob-action, and is lacking in itself of any fruitfulness in the production of new phases of social progress. It is thus even with the cases of contagion of crime already spoken of. However much we deplore them and lament the victims, we do not fear that the crimes may become recognized social modes of conduct. That would mean disintegration.

With these general considerations in mind, —which are enough in themselves, to justify a close examination of the position that thought or knowledge is the matter of social organization,—we may proceed to cite two lines of evi-

(491) -dence which support this view. One of them is drawn from the facts of the child's social development, as already depicted, and the other from the corresponding facts of the social and ethical man's relations to the historical institutions of society. These are the two spheres in which the consideration of the psychological factors involved in social organization leads us to reliable results.

322. I. A further development of the line of thought suggested in our consideration of social interests[17] leads us to the view that the so-called 'dialectic,' whereby the child comes to a knowledge of himself by building up a sense of his social environment, may also be looked at from the side of social organization. If we grant that the thought of self takes its rise as a gradual achievement on the part of the child by means of his constant experience of the personalities about him, and that he has not two different thoughts for himself and the other, —the ego and the alter, — but one thought common in the main for both;[18] then it becomes just as impossible to construe the social factor, the organized relationships between him and others, without taking account of his and their thoughts of self, as it is to construe the thoughts of self without taking account of the social relationships. The thought of self arises directly out of certain given social relationships; indeed, it is the form which these actual relationships take on in the organization of a new personal experience. The ego of which he thinks at any time is not the isolated-and-in-his-body-alone-situated abstraction which our theories, of personality usually lead ms to think.

(492) It is rather a sense of a network of relationships among you, me, and the others, in which certain necessities of pungent feeling, active life, and concrete thought require that I throw the emphasis on one pole sometimes, calling it me; and on the other pole sometimes, calling it you or him. The social meaning of this state of things comes out when we look into its psychological presuppositions in the whole group. Let us then call the child's sense of the entire personal situation in which he finds himself at any time in his thought, his self-thought-situation. This phrase, which I use simply for shorthand, may be expanded always into: 'the social situation implicated in the thought of self.'


323. Now, whatever is true of one individual's growth by imitative appropriation of personal material, is true of all; and we have the giver turned into the taker and the taker into the giver everywhere. The growing sense of a 'self-thought-situation' in each is, just to the extent that the social bonds are intimate and intrinsic, the same for all. The possibility of co-operation — as, for example, the co-operations of children's games- depends upon this essential sameness of the personal thoughts of the whole circle in each situation. My action depends upon my understanding of your thought and his, and your action depends upon your understanding of my thought and his, and so on.[19] Looked at objectively, we say that the children are in social relationship; looked at subjectively, the truth is that they are thinking the same thoughts of the personal-social situation, and this thought

(493) is just the 'self-thought' in the stage of development which it has reached in this little mind or that, to be brought out on this or that occasion. H. understands E. in terms of her own motives, desires, tendencies, likes and dislikes, and, acting on this understanding, finds that it works; so E. treats her self-thought as true to H.'s thought, and it works; to find that either of these expectations did not work in the great run of cases of action would be to say, from the objective point of view, that the social relationship was dissolved. But this could not be without at the same time disintegrating, so far as the factors are intrinsic, the sense of personal self in each of the children, or taking it back toward the beginning of its development.

324. The question of the material of social organization comes up here as soon as we ask what it is that the children pass about, give and take, in this interplay with one another. And we find here just the distinction which occurred from the consideration of the difference between human and animal co-operations. We find the child at first largely organic, instinctive, directly emotional, under the influence of pleasures and pains. His sympathy is at first organic, and his antipathies likewise. But close observation shows that it is largely by the growing realization of personal distinctions, on the basis of which his thought of self develops, that he comes to have conscious imitations, original interpretations, hesitations, inhibitions, volitions. At first the relation is one of direct stimulation and direct response. If this state of things continued, men would form 'companies,' not 'societies.' Direct suggestion, emotional reaction, as much co-operation as heredity might give consistently with the other features

(494) — that would be the state of things. But now let the child begin to think, and we find certain great features of social import springing up in his life. First, a distinction in the elements of his environment according as they are personal or not; second, a difference of attitude toward persons, and toward different persons, according as the elements of personal suggestion become assimilated to this group of experiences or to that ; third, the interpretation of the other persons in the same terms as himself, i.e., as having attitudes like his in similar circumstances, and as thinking of him as he thinks of them. But all this is due to thought, involves knowledges, and the sorting of them out. The emotions now spring from thought-experiences, and the attitudes, actions, responses now take on the character of means to a personal end, the end being the thought which issues in this or that attitude or action. This development has been all along the burden of our song.

We may say then, as a first gain, from the consideration of the children, that what we call objective social relationships are the objective manifestations to the on-looker of a common self-tlzozzght-situation in the different individuals, together with the movements of its growth in each as the immediate situation calls it out.

325. II. We have now found so much justification for two positions: first, that the material of social organization must be considered as thoughts; thoughts which arise in individual minds and are then re-thought imitatively by others, and so carried on through a social career; and second, that the child's social sense, that is, his sense of social situations, however meagre and contracted or however full and rich, arises and grows as a function of his

(495) thought of himself. In other words, society to the child —society from the private subjective point of view- is a concrete situation involving related changes among the elements and attitudes which constitute his self-thought. The further question remains: given this objective social material —thought —and given also this subjective sense of society in the individual,

what then is the objective character of social organization ? For, of course, the question of science is just this objective question ; not only what does each individual think of the social situation when he thinks of it at all, but what must the observer think of it after he finds out scientifically all about it ? His question, then, in view of the two earlier determinations, is this: is the thought which constitutes the material of social organization any thought at random, thought X, thought Y, thought Z, these and others? Or must it be some particular sort of thought ? And again, if the latter, must it be the sort of thought which the individual thinks when he reaches his sense of social situations as functions of his thought of himself ? To come right to the conclusion, I think the last is true; and its truth appears, again, in what was called above[20] the Publicity of all social truth. What, then, is this publicity when considered from the objective point of view of social science ? It may be stated in a sentence (which we go on to illustrate and explain): every socially available thought implies a public 'self-thought-situation' which is strictly analogous in its rise and progress to the self-thought-situation of the individual member of society.

326. We may take an illustration from the ordinary attitude which society takes toward human life, in con-

(496) -trast with the attitude which the individual might sometimes think himself justified in taking toward his own life, in case he succeeded in stripping from his thought its ' publicity,' and acted on the lower unethical sanctions alone.

Let us say that there is a question in the mind of Mr. A as to whether he shall put a barrier across his hay-field to protect himself from injury at the point at which a railroad crosses the field. He says to himself: "I have crossed that field many times ; I have never been struck by a train; the chances are that I never shall be; it would be useless trouble and expense." So he takes the risk of his life, and is probably justified by the event in doing so. So the sanctions of a private kind, mainly that of his intelligence, seem to sustain him in this decision.

But now let us suppose that Mr. A is also a public official and has to consider the question of putting up barriers at railway crossings generally. He is then told that at each place at which a railway crosses a road, a certain proportion of the pedestrians who go that way are killed each year. He might say of each of these what he had before said of himself, that the chances were in favour of safety. But now that he takes a public point of view, this is no longer sanctioned in his thought. It is no longer the question of the continuance of the life of this one man or that. It is now the question of the greatest possible safety to the collective or entire life of the community. To put up barriers at ail the crossings would undoubtedly prevent the loss of many citizens a year. The social or public sanction, then, impels him in just the opposite direction ; and he not only votes for the measure, but bears a share of the taxation and allows the barrier to be put up in his own hayfield.


327. If now we take this situation at its lowest terms and attempt to analyze it we find that it implies certain things:

A shifting of the individual's point of view, in such a way that the earlier private thought of self is held in check before a higher or ideal thought of self ; the self of the man acting in public is different; if he be true to it, he can no longer act out his private thought. (2) There is in his mind a sense of the reciprocity of action of all the individuals with reference to one another under this larger self-thought; and the actual social situation, involving all the individuals, is possible because this reciprocity and sameness of attitude are actually real. This, then, constitutes the public self-thought-situation or the social situation implicated in the public thought of self.

328. It is only through the reality of the first of these movements in Mr. A's mind that the second becomes possible, and has its value for objective science. The public or reciprocal reference of the judgment in each case arises only through the assimilation of the private and ejective self-thoughts in a larger whole of the same kind. The constituting of the larger self is just the evidence of the integrating of the more partial selves; and if the public reference is due to the common element in the different individuals' self-thoughts, then each individual must get the growth which the assimilation represents, and all the individuals must construct somewhat the same ideal. The former is secured in the normal growth of the 'self-thought-situation' in each, and the latter through their actual life in a common social tradition and heritage.

Taking the point of view of society, therefore, in con-

(498) -trast with that of the individual, we find the state of things which social science is led to recognize, i.e., an actual integration of individuals just through the identical higher self which their life together makes it possible for them to set up. From this point of view, therefore, we may call this a public 'self-thought-situation,' — asocial situation which is implicated in a public thought of self- and go on to inquire into the laws of progress and development which it shows, always with reference to the individuals of whose growth it is a function. It is interesting to note that in this public self thus understood, we have reached a measure of genetic justification for a position taken up by Aristotle and so often reasserted in the history of ethical discussion: the position which finds itself obliged to fall back upon a hypothetical 'best man' or oracle, whose judgment would be correct if it could be had. In our development, however, this public self is the objective form of organization into which growing personalities normally fall, and its meaning will grow clearer, I trust, as we proceed.

329. But it may be said, surely it is not necessary that all thoughts, inventions, schemes, ideas, reforms, etc., should have this quality which we have called 'publicity' to be available for the instruction or reforming of society. Yes, they must have it; that is just the point which I wish to urge. No knowledge, simply as knowledge, can be social knowledge or become the instrument of social advance until it be made over to the public self, by becoming in the minds of the individuals who think it a public thing, in contradistinction to the private thoughts which they entertain simply as individuals. Whatever the thought is, however great the invention, however pregnant the suggestion of reform, it is not of social value until I am justified in

(499) thinking it as also thought by the ideal self whose entertainment of it gives it validity and general authority to all the other individuals of the group. I may, from my private judgment, discount this further development of my thought beforehand; that is, I may confidently expect that my invention will be ratified by society, and so come to have the requisite publicity; but I then only do so as I appeal just to that higher self already formed in my breast through social experience, and through it anticipate the fate of the thought which I thus value. This is when the invention is looked at subjectively. As soon as we look at it objectively, —that is, from the point of view of the science of social organization, — we have to say that no thought is social or socially available which is still in the mind of an individual awaiting that generalization by the public which will give it the character of publicity by reason of the essential attribution to it of a public and general self.

In other words, my private thought, in order to be social matter, must enter into that organization or integration of the public 'self-thought-situation' which is reflected more or less adequately in every adult; it is thus thought by that higher self which imposes law upon all; with this goes the thought by me that all men agree with me in thinking it, and that they will give the enforcement of it the same recognition (including its enforcement upon me) that I give it (including its enforcement upon them). The thought thus becomes involved in the growth of the personal self, and just by this becomes public also. Without this connection it cannot be social. The ultimate subjective criterion of social thought is the self-thought, with all its wealth of implication as to the social situation.

(500) And the ultimate objective criterion is the actual ratification of the thought by the individuals through common action upon the situation which their self-thoughts mutually implicate.

By this they show their common integration in a public 'self-thought-situation.' We come, therefore, in closing in upon our question as last stated to see that the growing 'self-thought-situation' in the mind of the individual is, when viewed in its mutual interactions and correlations in the group, just the material of social organization itself. For nowhere else can we find the requisites for public availability fulfilled. Thus arises ipso facto a public 'self-thought-situation'; on no other view can we account for the response of individuals to the organization which society shows. So both from the side of the child's and man's growth, and from the side of society considered objectively, we are led to identify the organization of the individual's personality directly with that of society, in respect both to its material and to its method of acting. This may be made a little clearer by a short criticism of two views which reach a conclusion on the surface similar to this; I refer to that of Adam Smith on the one hand, and that of Hegel on the other hand.

330. Adam Smith's wonderful treatment of the social bond under the term 'sympathy' is familiar to all students of English ethics. The criticism which I wish to make upon it is that he assumes the 'publicity' requisite to social organization, and rests satisfied with that assumption.

According to Adam Smith, I sympathize with what I find 'suitable' in the affections of others, since it would be what I myself should experience; and the sense of this agreement is moral approbation. Then transferred to

(501) myself, my judgment of myself is a reflex of my sense of your corresponding sympathy with me.

But, by way of criticism, we may say that as soon as we come to a social situation as such, that is, to a situation involving two persons, an aggressor and an aggressee, the question arises, with which shall I sympathize ? And the same question arises as soon as I come to ask about my own self-approbation or disapprobation, considered as a reflex of the sympathy of others with me. For I do not know whether the other will sympathize with, i.e., approve of, me or the other whom my action affects. What, then, is the general element which will give publicity and constancy of value to a social action as such? This Adam Smith answers in a general way by saying that that action is approved which is most sympathized with, say as between the aggressor and the aggressee.[21] But this of course does not help matters; for how am I to know which of the two you sympathize with the more, except as I again ask myself which would call out the more sympathy in my own case. That is, the measure — strictly construing the doctrine — would be after all just what we started with, the individual's private sympathy. Adam Smith later on calls in the recognition of the judgment of a hypothetical best man, to whom tacit appeal is made. But this seems to me to be simply an assumption to which he had no right; it certainly does not follow from the play of sympathies as he has depicted it.

331. In stating and criticising various theories just 

(502) above, there was intentionally omitted a class of thinkers whose doctrine, disregarding differences of detail, may be described as the 'ideal' theory of social life. This theory generally proceeds by deduction and reaches a view of society from the presuppositions of idealistic philosophy. For this reason, i.e., that the doctrine is so purely deductive, it has little consideration from the more scientifically disposed thinkers in this field; and this the more since it is with the name of Hegel, and with the Neo-Hegelians, that this type of social theory is associated.

In its broadest outlines, this philosophy makes reality identical with thought, finds consciousness, and especially self-consciousness, the 'coming-to-itself' of reality, and sees in social organization the objectivation or universalizing of the self-consciousness which first 'comes-to-itself' in the individual. The social doctrines of this school seem to be these : first, the essential character of reality, as thought, is not lost in the objectifying whereby the individual becomes universalized in society; and second, the complete 'coming-to-itself' of reality, in society as in the individual, is in the form of a self. When we put these two positions together, we have the doctrine that it is in the individual's formal thought of self that there is realized both the subjective form of reality and its objective form as existing in society.[22]

It is in this conclusion rather than in the metaphysics which lies back of it —and I wish to draw a sharp line between them —that our present interest lies. The statement regarding the thought of self it is which our detailed

(503) inductive investigation both of the child's development and of the movements of society goes far to confirm.

Yet, from the empirical point of view, this doctrine of Hegel's also makes the assumption of publicity. Metaphysically it contains this assumption from the start; finding just the coming of the individual to personal selfconsciousness a manifestation of the universal self all the while implicit in nature. But in taking on individual form in the first stages of the realization of a self — genetically considered—it has temporarily lost this attribute; that it should get it again is to be expected; and that social life is the essential stimulus to its getting it again, is a priori probable. Hegel says that social life shows indeed the realization of this expectation. Yet how ? That is a question of fact.

Hegel's answer is, in respect to the social material, similar to the view which we have developed. He shows the dependence of personal development upon progressive social conditions, seen earliest in the fact of subjection, as of slave to master. Later, through the influences of family and state, certain regular self-limitations, mutual relationships, necessities of life and intercourse, grow up which have the quality of general or public value when recognized by all.

This, I am aware, is a meagre enough statement of Hegel's view, but it may serve to indicate what is its lack. What is wanting is just the bridge from the private thought to the public thought. This, in my view, the imitative process supplies.

Given complex social situations, whence their validity for all the members of society equally, and whence the intrinsic element of public reference which is a necessity

(504) of social nature to us all ? Hegel's metaphysics, of course, supplies this element; it is the nature of thought to recover or recognize itself as universal (Anerkennung) on this higher plane of social self-consciousness. But this, when scanned from the point of view of actual genetic growth, requires an empirical process or method of development both in the individual and in society. This empirical 'factor' to Hegel, described as 'necessary and legitimate,' 'the basis of the phenomenon' of social life, and its 'external or phenomenal commencement,' but 'not its underlying and essential[23] principle,' is 'force.' But, if our earlier positions be at all true, 'force,' 'constraint,' is not the social process.

In short, it is the great merit of the idealistic writers that they give a relatively full and accurate answer to the question of the matter of social organization; but with the exception of one author,[24] whose views are not yet published in detail, they fail to describe the imitative process or type

(505) of function by which the social matter—the 'self-thought-situation' —becomes public, and is so made available for society and for the individual both at once.[25]

332. In the way of more positive evidence that social material always implicates the 'self-thought-situation,' we may note that much of the matter accumulated by the great succession of English moralists to prove that sympathy in all its manifestations is a 'putting of oneself in another's shoes' is directly available. For we have only to substitute imitative identity of the ego and the alter for the artificial 'putting of one into the shoes of the other' ; and the results follow. This is to say that the old doctrine of sympathy is essentially correct as far as it goes in the recognition of the implication of the self; it only needs supplementing from investigations into the genesis and nature of the class of phenomena covered by the term 'sympathy.'

This the view does which makes the self-thought a progressive imitative outcome; with that active play between the poles of its realization which is just the method of its growth. Thus a certain unity and lack of assumption is secured to the whole scheme. For example, one might take the fine catalogue of arguments given by Adam Smith at the beginning of his Moral Sentiments and review them[26] one by one, finding that on this view they all fall together and support a derivation of publicity, where he could only assume it. For he assumes, first, that we sympathize with each other; this he makes his platform. Then he assumes that it is pleasant to both the parties when they are in a state of

(506) sympathy. Both positions are true as facts, and equally true of animals. But the reason of the facts, lying (1) in the identity of a progressive thought, which (2) just by its growth in each, integrates all in social relationships,—this is wanting. Both of these facts are accounted for, in man, by the view that from the first the gathering self-thought grows up by imitative suggestion. For on this view sympathy is a necessary emotional attitude flowing from the identical thought of self; and the pleasure of mutual sympathy and co-operation is the pleasure of personal activity which is normally interwoven in a situation understood and appealed to by all the individuals.

333. Further evidence comes from some of the positions already taken in earlier pages, to which we may simply refer for the sake of completeness.

(1) We may cite the evidence which goes to show that each person does depend upon social stimulation in his personal growth, and does arrive at standards of social judgment and feeling which reflect in the main the standards current in his environment (Parts I.-II. especially). Here the writings of Leslie Stephen, Hoffding, S. Alexander, Josiah Royce, etc., may be utilized.

(2) A further argument may be drawn from the statement of the same question in reference to ethical publicity, i.e., the evidence which goes to show that genetically social suggestion and social beliefs are intrinsic to morality (Chap. I., § 3, and Chap. VIII., §§ 2-4). This point is mentioned again below, where the connection between ethical and social progress is indicated.

(3) Finally, there is the evidence from the history of the social life of man, which shows the constant 'give-and-

(507) -take' between the individual and society which the position now taken would require (Parts III.-IV.).[27]

§ 4. The Process of Social Organization

334. Upon the question of the process or method of social organization, with the type of function which it requires in the individuals, we need not stop long, seeing that all our developments have proceeded upon a certain construction of this method and function, and have in turn also confirmed that construction.

(1) We have pointed out that the growth of the individual's self-thought, upon which his social development depends, is secured 'all the way through' by a twofold exercise of the imitative function. He reaches his subjective understanding of the social copy by imitation, and then he confirms his interpretations by another imitative act by which he ejectively reads his self-thought into the persons of others. Each of these stages is essential to his growth as a person, and so also is it essential to the growth of society. For society grows by imitative generalization of the thoughts of individuals. So we may give this as the main point of proof that imitation is the method of social organization. And in this statement again two positions are involved: first, that it is through imitation that the self-thought-situation in all its stages of growth and in all the individuals actually has its rise; and second, that it is by imitative selection and generalization that the individuals are integrated in the public self-thought-situation.


(2) Again, we have seen that it is just this point of view which is lacking in so many theories of social organization. We have criticised both the 'sympathy' and the 'ideal' theories on this score. Only when identity of selfthought is secured all through personal growth, can unity of trend of the social forces be secured; and this comes only through the imitative function.

(3) The works of recent writers have shown imitation actually operative in society, and have conclusively established its universality from an objective point of view notably Tarde, Sighele, Le Bon.

(4) In a recent volume[28] the present writer has been led to the conclusion that the reaction of the imitative type is the original form of organic and mental accommodation to environment. However that may be in cases not now in discussion, the evidence given in our earlier chapters to show that the child actually comes into his social inheritance by imitative appropriation of the lessons of the social environment, makes it evident that here is an unmistakable example of the 'circular' process which is explained in that work. The child imitates another, and so learns what is later to be a habit of action to himself. This is a step in each case toward his more complete accommodation to the social world. And his later actions, confirming, extending, and modifying these acquired habits, only further illustrate the same process in the higher reaches of deliberation, desire, volition, etc.

(5) The assumption that imitation is the method of social organization may, however, be brought to a further test in connection with the problem of social matter, since, after having determined the sort of matter with which we have

(509) to deal, we must then ask whether the imitative method of organization adequately explains the actual forms which this material takes on. To my mind a strong proof of the claim for imitation as type of social function is derived from the effective application of which we have seen it to be capable after the nature of the material is determined, as earlier in this chapter (§ 3). It thus loses the casual empirical character which social observation so often shows, and becomes wrought into what may then be called, in a figure, social morphology.

The last two considerations suggested lead us, however, to our next topic, i.e., the consideration of the sort of view of Social Progress we should have to hold if the two main results of our discussions proved to be true: (r) that the matter of social organization is thought, which has the attribute of publicity springing from its attribution in the mind of the social thinker to a public self, and (a) that the method or type of function in social organization is imitation.


  1. Much of this chapter and of the next has been printed in the Psychological Review (Sept., 1897), and, in translation, in the Rivista Italiana di Sociologia (Vol. 1.).
  2. The reader may turn to the very able résumés by M. Lapie, published in the Revue de Métaph. el de Morale (May, 1805, and May, 1896) under the title ' L'Année Sociologique, 1894, 1895,' which are continued for I896 in the same journal (July, 1897) by M. F. Simiand. See also M. Lacombe's interesting work De l'Histoire considéré comme science, for a justification of the psychological point of view.
  3. As distinguished from mechanical and biological theories. The current metaphysical theory is spoken of later on (Sect. 331). The biological 'theory' so called, is, in my view, merely a collection of more or less apt analogies, to which M. Novikow has now added the new one which finds in the 'élite intellectuelle' in society the 'sensorium social,' and M. Lilienfeld that which likens mob frenzy to the hysterical fit of a female. As to M. Simiand's suggestion that the rich are society's adipose tissue, that priests also represent fat, and that the police force are the social phagocytes which eat up wandering criminal cells-admitting all of them, still in the words of the last named writer, "qu'y avons-nous appris? Analogie?-elle ne prouve rien." The biological analogy is treated seriously, however, later on (Chap. X111.). Possibly the best detailed treatment of all the facts of the organic analogy is in Réné Worms' Organisme et Société (Paris, 1897).
  4. And more explicitly in § 4 of this chapter (Sect. 334). M. Tarde's exposition is in his Les Lois de l'Imitation.
  5. Revue Philosophique, May and July, 1894.
  6. Chap. VI., § 4.
  7. Yet I expressly disclaim the intention of fully reflecting, even in this one particular, the subtle and discriminating thought of Dr. Simmel.
  8. In the Preface to the third edition of his interesting Principles of Sociology however, Professor Giddings defines 'consciousness of kind' more in terms of sympathy, recognizing his kinship to Adam Smith, whose views are referred to further below (Sects. 330, 332). On the genesis of 'consciousness of kind' and sympathy, see Appendix D.
  9. In my opinion, the nearest approach made by Professor Giddings, for example, to an answer to this question is in this sentence from his Preface (3d ed., p. xii) : "The simplest known or conceivable social state of the mind is a sympathetic; consciousness of resemblance between the self and the not self." But I find nothing in his detailed treatment that goes beyond the traditional sympathy theory. In acknowledging the 'protean modes' of the ' consciousness of kind,' Professor Giddings seems to me to be casting about for some material criterion of what is social.
  10. Durkheim's development of the distinction seems nearer to that of the text, however, than Tonnies'.
  11. The word' community' might be used for this, as a translation of Gemeinschaft but that word has another significance in English. The term 'colony' is also inappropriate, I think, for a similar reason. Colony has the biological meanings of I1) a group of cells making up a tissue or an organism, and (2) a mass of low organisms held together without vital union; and also its well-known politico-social meaning.
  12. Durkheim goes further in requiring what he calls 'individualizing,' in addition to 'thinking' in true 'societies.' Cf. §2 of Chap. XI. on 'Social Progress.'
  13. That is 'conscious imitation' in its ordinary sense. It works in animal companies, so far as they have co-operations which are not purely instinctive.
  14. Great variety of view obtains as to the fundamental psychologico-social fact; Le Bon says ' Sentiments,' Novikow ' Desires,' Lacombe ' Needs.' DI. Lapie gives an interesting critique of these positions in the article cited.
  15. See above, Chap. VI., § 5. The biological view which considers the unit-person as such the material of social organization may be refuted in a word. It is as persons that persons come into social relationships, and the differences of persons are just in the psychological part. One physical body is as good as another before social law, unless indeed by reason of its colour, etc., it becomes a matter to arouse psychological attitudes: a point suggested above apropos of 'social forces' (Sect. 297, note). The distinction between things in groups and persons in society is that there is a 'give-and-take' in the latter case. The object of social study is thus the 'giving and taking,' and the material is that which is ' given and taken.' For a fine examination of the ' unit-person' theory see Lacombe, l'Histoire considéré comme science, Introduction.
  16. And, of course, the happy accidents have to be re-thought.
  17. Chap. I, § 1.
  18. This common or general part consists mainly, as has been said, in motor attitudes. Cf. Mental Development, p. 330.
  19. The case will be remembered (Sect. 183) in which H., by putting an artificial verbal value on an article, thus counted on the sameness of E.'s socially induced desire and discounted it to her own private advantage.
  20. Chap. VIII., § 3.
  21. This seems to me to be the outcome of Adam Smith's discussions of utility, as attaching to 'behaviour which tends to promote the happiness either of the individual or of society." Theory of the Mor. Sent., Stewart's ed. p. xxx.
  22. Hegel's distinction between I subjective mind' and' objective spirit.'
  23. That is, metaphysical. The process of 'self-recognition' (das anerkennende Selbstbewusstsein) is described by Hegel as a 'battle.' "I cannot be aware of me as myself in another individual, so long as I see in that other another and an immediate existence: and I am consequently bent on the suppression of this immediacy of his .... The fight of recognition is a life and death struggle .... The fight ends in the first instance as a one-sided negation with inequality .... Thus arises the status of master and slave .... In the battle for recognition and the subjugation under a master, we see, on their phenomenal side, the emergence of man's social life and the commencement of political union." —Encyclopadia, Part III., Sects. 431-3 (Wallace's translation, Hegel's Philosophy of Mind, p. 55 f.) This allies Hegel to the 'constraint' theorists already criticised (Sect. 317).
  24. Professor Royce, who agrees with this main point of criticism, saying in a private communication : " An express recognition of the imitative factor as such is what I miss in him" (Hegel). I take pleasure in printing, in Appendix H, a passage from Professor Royce's letter which indicates a difference of emphasis in the interpretation of Hegel's ' master and slave' teaching.
  25. Cf., for example, Mackensie, Introduction to Social Philosophy, 2d ed., pp. 199 ff. and 258 f.
  26. I omit this review of Adam Smith's arguments for lack of space.
  27. These discussions deal only with what might be called the internal evidence of the course of man's social history. The external or anthropological evidence would still remain to be cited.
  28. Mental Development.

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