The Individual and Society
or Psychology and Sociology

Chapter VII
Sociology and the Philosophy of Society

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WE may now conclude this brief sketch by suggesting the sphere that properly belongs to Social Science or Sociology, and with it to the Philosophy of Society. This we can do only by a statement of problems; space does not admit of any report of conclusions.


If it be true that the understanding of the constitution of the individual and of the group alike is possible only from the knowledge of psychological processes and motives, then it falls to Social Science to consider the objective modes of operation and the objective forms of embodiment of such processes and motives.

(203) Exactly this, and no more. Social science is the science of the observation, classification, and statistical treatment of phenomena of every kind in which human beings are involved. No happening of any kind open to observation, no situation of any kind in which a human being acts or is acted upon, escapes it; and the complex results of such actions and situations constitute its subject-matter — the institutions, the transmissions, the aggregations, the dissolutions — in short, the results of the behavior of man, as shown in history, culture, and life.

It may be asked, cui bono?— why do this?—if psychology is to be appealed to to inform and interpret these facts? And this is a legitimate question. But it is easily answered. Psychology is equally limited and one-sided from its point of view. Psychology can say that a man in despair sought to kill himself; but the results of this in the social situation cannot be disclosed by psychology. And the

( 204) aggregate number of such cases, with the conditions of each, and the variations in time, space, and other objective circumstance cannot be made out at all by psychology. The facts of social intercourse, of human history, of institutions, creeds, customs, manners, traditions, all fall to social science, while the account of the subjective grounds of these facts —the motives, aspirations, feelings, rivalries, ideals, ventures, in the world of spiritual and inner meaning—this falls to psychology.

The objective study of society has two branches. Considering society historically, we have Sociology, a "general" science, which is genetic and comparative in its treatment of the social. As genetic, dealing with questions of the origin and descent of social groups, and of social evolution, with the interrelations of such groups with one another and with the environment, it is properly known as Socionomics.


Sociology is also a "comparative" science; it has to interpret the results of the "special" social sciences (economics, politics, ethics, etc.) in general theories of the motives and principles which embody themselves in the special institutions of society and the special modes of social life. It investigates, also, the larger questions of Social Philosophy.

Over against Sociology, considered as a "general" social science, we find the "special" social sciences, whose results, as just indicated, sociology has to interpret. These comprise all the possible special ways of approach to the actual social life, as embodied in Economics, Ethics, Social Psychology, Criminology, Penology, etc.

I append a table,[1] in which these divisions of social science are shown. Its headings will be readily understood

(206) from what has just been said. In the full table, given in the publication referred to, detailed subheadings will be found.


I. General: Sociology, Social Philosophy
a. Genetic
b. Comparative
II. Special, Political Economy, Ethics, Criminology, etc

In Social Philosophy the final questions of correlation present themselves: the laws of the constitution of societies, the relation of the psychological and objective factors, the development of collectivistic and individualistic motives, the stages and varieties of progress, the whole being considered in relation to the laws of biology, physics, and chemistry, by which human life and activity are conditioned. All these are philosophical questions, questions of the interpretation of the facts gathered from every possible angle of observation.



A word may be added in comment upon the place assigned to sociology in this scheme.

It is no doubt true, as many critics have said, either that sociology has no place among the sciences, or that it must claim a place that seems ambitious. If we seek for it data not already treated by some special science, then it is true that it has no place. The special sciences of human life and activity seem to cover the entire range of data. On the other hand, we cannot admit that these sciences are exhaustive, since their separation in method and point of view from each other cannot be final, and their relations must be interpreted. There arises, then, as in other branches of investigation — such as that of the relation of general biology to the special sciences of life, and that of the relation of ethics to the special sciences of conduct —the need of an

(208) interpretation of the data of all the special social disciplines comparatively and genetically. This is what sociology does; and this is its legitimate field.

But just here its breadth of range comes into view. It does not confine itself strictly to what is from the psychological point of view, social; it has to consider all the "socionomic[2]" influences, external to the social, which condition and limit, which advance and illustrats, the social life. The environing and conditioning forces of all sorts, geographical, biological, chemical, physical, all have their place in a full account of the origin and progress of social life. Biological principles of adaptation, heredity, selec-

(209) -tion, struggle, etc., must be weighed, and their modified modes of operation, in the movement of the social group, pointed out.[3] All this gives to sociology a range, complexity, and difficulty which delay its progress, but do not disprove its right to exist.

The danger, however, to which the sociologist is exposed, is real; the danger of taking some of these auxiliary and merely "socionomic" principles, drawn from biology, mechanics, physics, etc., for legitimate statements of the principles of the social as such. He talks of social anatomy and physiology as if those terms were better than social "structure" and social "process"; while in reality they lead to analogies which obscure the essential differences between social organization and that of biology. Instead of "static," "dynamic," "equilibrium," "adaptation," etc., terms which suggest

(210) misleading analogies, and beg important questions in terms of physics and biology, let us speak of social "organization," "movement," "progress," "situations," "ideals," "processes," etc., employing terms that keep us within the spheres of psychology and morals.

It has been largely my purpose, indeed, in the foregoing pages, to show that it is to mental movements and processes that social life owes its existence, and its progress; it is from psychology, then, that the figures of speech we employ, if we must use them, should be drawn. To the essential movements which social life owes to men's minds, a completed sociology will finally add those conditioning principles, drawn from other provinces, biological and mechanical, in which these movements have both support and limitation, under the varied conditions of human life.


  1. The author's "Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology," Vol. II article, "Social Sciences."
  2. Especially the physical and vital. See "Social and Ethical Interpretations," 3d ed., Introduction and Sect. 313 a. According to Barth, "Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie," this distinction was made by Auguste Comte. The biologist has to make a corresponding distinction between the merely bionomic" (conditioning or acting upon life) and the truly "vital." The latter belongs to the organism, the former to the environment. Cf. the terms Bionomic and Socionomic in the "Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology."
  3. Cf. M. Worm's book, "Les Principes biologiques de l'Evolution sociale," in this series, and my "Darwin and the Humanities."

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