Four Synthesists: Cross-Sections From Comte, Spencer, Lilienfeld, and Schaeffle

B. H. Meyer

ALTHOUGH differences of opinion prevail with respect to the exact content of the study of sociology, for present purposes it may be assumed that there exists a group of writers whose works may appropriately be characterized as synthetic. In this group the names of Comte, Spencer, Lilienfeld, and Schaeffle take high rank. It is the writer's purpose to present in this paper, in a condensed way, a comparative study of a few of the salient features of the sociological works of the authors mentioned. The grouping under the various heads noted below may be somewhat arbitrary ; yet on the whole it is believed this method of treatment will add to the clearness of the discussion.

I. The scope and method of sociology.—In his inaugural address as rector of the university of Berlin, Professor Schmoller spoke words to the effect that we may rationally discuss questions relating to the nucleus of the special social sciences ; but that no disputes can profitably be entered into with respect to the periphery of these sciences. In other words, the workers in all the different fields of social study draw their material from the same source—man; like so many frogs sitting about the same pond, they all delve into the same medium when they are in search of material. Following the advice of Schmoller, no discussion in regard to the definite boundary lines of sociology will be entered into in this place. It is well known that Comte believed it was necessary to combine the special social sciences in order to form the science of sociology. In common with all philosophical study, this latter science might embrace either the field of speculation or of action. It is the former which Comte makes it his duty to study. In Spencer a variety of definitions of sociology can be found. Primarily the sociologist must grasp the vast heterogeneous aggregate of phenomena relating to the associated life of man. He must take an account of the combined action of his physical, emotional, and intellectual traits ; he must study


( 21) the processes and products which imply co÷rdinated action, and trace out with scientific accuracy the structure, growth, and function of those agencies. Lilienfeld makes sociology essentially a synthetic science; yet in one place he protests against making it an all-inclusive science. Schaeffle characterizes the special social sciences—which he enumerates in a carefully arranged order—as building stones out of which a philosophy of philosophies is to be constructed.

From the point of view of the dogmatic discussion of method, our four sociologists contribute relatively little ; although the problem of methodology receives attention at the hands of each of them. Comte, for instance, speaks of direct and indirect methods, meaning by the latter those methods which are applicable to a science because of its relation to other sciences, which in case of sociology is clearly indicated in his well-known hierarchy. Direct methods, according to him, embrace observation, experiment, and comparison, supplemented by historical studies. His emphasis of experimentation in society is noteworthy because, quite to the contrary of what is " vulgarly supposed" in the learned world, it is possible to perform experiments in the domain of social phenomena. Spencer's combination of induction and deduction appears in every one of his chapters ; in fact, the reader is made to feel that the distinguished Englishman, not unlike our great lawyers when they outline a brief, first thought out, all by himself, a certain problem ; and then brought to bear upon his own conclusions such facts and general principles as the arts of induction and deduction could place at his command. Having established the truth of his proposition on the basis of induction, he applies to it the test of deduction, which, of course, confirms the proposition. In his brilliant chapters entitled "Retrospect" and "Prospect" the hands of the great master are seen. If he holds in his left hand the weapon of induction, he is almost always certain to swing in his right that of deduction ; and the two together drive home with relentless vigor the truth and the validity of the general proposition. Lilienfeld contributes less than any one of this group to the question of method. He protests against the prevailing dogmatic


( 22) and scholastic methods, and champions the claims of empiricism. Schaeffle may be said to avoid the formal discussion of methodology ; but so far as his own method of treatment is concerned, it may be characterized as combining philosophy with psychology, the propositions being illuminated with observations from the legal and economic points of view. Induction and deduction are combined with history.

Three of these authors express in so many words the fact that there is a limit to sociological knowledge. Comte is least definite ; while Spencer's well-known division of all reality into the knowable and the unknowable requires only passing mention. Lilienfeld recognizes the field of the unknown when he asserts that Uranfang and Endziel cannot be scientifically founded. Schaeffle maintains that we know only force ; that such matters as the problem of evil must be taken as existing facts, and that sociology does not go back of these.

2. The use of analogies.— In spite of all that has been said on the uses and abuses of biological analogies in the study of sociology, Professor Ward probably voiced the truth in the matter, and at the same time gave evidence of his open-mindedness and toleration, when he said, in effect, that so long as the biological analogy can be used as a cord upon which the beads of useful knowledge can be strung, we must welcome the use of analogies and encourage the men who are working so faithfully to elaborate "biological sociology." The present writer is inclined to believe that from Comte to Worms the so-called biological sociologists have in their own minds been inclined not to make the analogy the important thing ; although it must be admitted that some of them have literally caused their analogies "to walk on fours." Comte goes less into detailed analogy than the other three writers here under consideration, although he compares faithfully individual and race development. Spencer speaks of analogies and of parallelisms, and he almost touches the ludicrous when he asserts that these analogies become increasingly clear when we recognize that every considerable organism is a society; however, he formally asserts that his analogies serve only as a scaffolding by means of which the structure of


( 23) sociological study has been erected. Lilienfeld is not unlike Spencer in this respect, although he asserts that many of his analogies are far-fetched. He believes that it is possible to find analogies everywhere and for everything, and that the discussion of these analogies may even be of service to natural science. It is needless to point out that such a position is hardly tenable. The condensation of Schaeffle's treatise of four volumes into the two of the second edition is significant. This abridgment was brought about, as he tells us in the introduction, by better systematization, more extended use of fine print, the condensation and subordination of individual psychological and anthropological material ; and, above all, by the elimination of many of the discussions based upon pure analogy. In the second edition analogies are generally put well into the background. Like Comte, he shows that individual and social development can be traced along parallel lines ; and, in common with Lilienfeld and Ward, he believes that homologies are, after an, more vital than mere analogies. And, unlike Lilienfeld, Schaeffle asserts that there are many things in society which have no analogy in organic life.

3. Views of progress.—Sociological study, like all other science, must find its justification in its contributions to progress. From earliest times, writers on subjects related to the associated life of man have taken widely diverse views of progress ; and we are not surprised to find the problem of progress discussed in different ways by each of the authors under consideration. Comte has something to say on the direction, rate, and order of progress. His general formula, expressed in the three stages, theological, metaphysical, and positive—for which Mill substituted (I) personal or volitional ; (2) abstractional or ontological ; and (3) phenomenal in its objective, and experimental in its subjective aspects—expresses the essence of his theory of progress as applied especially to social phenomena; although he explicitly asserts that this is a universal law. The counterpart of these three stages in the domain of historical study is expressed by the terms " ancient," " mediŠval," and " modern ; " while in the domain of political phenomena the terms "militarianism," an intermediate, unnamed term, and "industrialism" express the analogous facts.


( 24) These three groups, to modify Comte's phrase, " three dualisms," may properly be characterized as the three trinities. The direction of progress is indicated by the terms "organic," "animal," and " human," social progress being characterized by the gradual ascendency of humanity over animality; and throughout this discussion Comte professes to view only the main stream of human progress, leaving out of consideration those nations which have not been primary movers in human advancement, and considering as the successors of a nation those peoples which have accepted and improved the highest products of the civilization to which they became heir. In another place Comte points out that progress moves from the intellectual through the social to the moral; the rate of progress is dependent upon the relations which exist between the two factors of a "couple": man and the medium or environment. The first of the special factors is ennui, which corresponds to what the Germans call Fluck der Langweile; the second is the duration of life, the brevity of human life being a promoter of human progress ; and the third is the natural increase of human life, or what Comte calls progressive condensation. This would seem to indicate a line of thought not entirely in harmony with the essentials of Malthusianism. According to Comte, too, human and material progress are inseparable. Spencer's well-known law of universal progress, centering about the notion of a continued change from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, supplemented by his theory of the diffusion of forces, makes progress a "beneficent necessity." Human advancement is, therefore, not within human control, and laissez faire has thus found its philosophical basis. The factors of human progress Spencer divides into original and derived, the former being again subdivided into extrinsic and intrinsic. The extrinsic factors include climate, surface, flora, and fauna ; while the intrinsic ones embrace physical, emotional, and intellectual traits. The division between original and derived factors is scarcely logical, and not well defined. The five derived factors enumerated by Spencer follow in general the contents of those enumerated as original. It is worth while noticing that Spencer believes that resistance to human progress is greatest at a time


( 25) when man's ability to overcome obstacles is smallest. This reminds one of what Comte calls a "melancholy coincidence," that man is mostly in need of exactly those attributes of which he possesses least. Consciously or otherwise, Lilienfeld follows Spencer ; he, too, speaks of increased heterogeneity, but follows in greater detail the development of individuals and of groups. The direction of progress is indicated by Lilienfeld's hierarchical potentiation of forces, which in the order of their natural succession in the advancement of society represent the following order : machanical, chemical, organic, emotional, intellectual, and social. Each of these is based upon and is the outgrowth of the preceding. Lilienfeld also compares quite elaborately organic and inorganic forces ; and, like Spencer, speaks of inner and outer systems of organic and social development. Generally speaking, Schaeffle dwells more on the how than on the what of social life, and bases his long list of finely elaborated theses of social development on his characteristic discussion of social selection. His representation of land and population, representing the active and passive factors, respectively, in human progress, is well known to students of sociology. Schaeffle's assertion that increasing authority is a characteristic of advancing civilization deserves special mention ; and his brilliant discussion of what he calls the "civil creation" comprises one of his most valuable contributions to social philosophy. To him the sociologist is a pitiable and cowardly spirit if he does not assist vigorously in the perfection of civilization, the highest expression of all the civil creation. The very words " civil creation" protest against anything like laissez faire, and impose upon all students of society the great practical task of " driving politics."

4. General or universal laws.— From earliest times social philosophers have attempted to formulate general or universal laws. These attempts, however, did not go beyond a more or less vague expression of the feeling that universal laws must exist. Poets of all times have told mankind that the race was approaching an epoch when " all the earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law." The earliest classifications of phenomena distinguished between those which were attributable to objects


( 26) possessing "breath" and those which were breathless. Gradually as the domains of human knowledge were extended, and classifications were proportionately perfected, the reign of identical laws in each of the continually expanding fields was discussed. Man saw that principles which had hitherto found their application only in the domain of physical phenomena could be applied to psychical phenomena, and ultimately also to social phenomena. The discussion of laws manifesting themselves in each of these three fields—physical, psychical, and social—has been the aim of seekers after universal laws. Comte's hierarchy of the sciences is inconceivable without the assumption of the reign of universal law ; and in various places this sociologist holds out the hope of discovering a final order of phenomena. Schaeffle tells us about laws of evolution, dissolution, equilibrium, accommodation, and rhythm ; and perhaps touches the climax when, like Comte, he brings us into the presence of the vision of a highest and final law—"ein h÷chstes, letztes Erfahrungsgesetz." While Gumplowicz has formulated ten universal laws for us, Spencer does not appear to have ventured directly beyond his universal law of progress, the law of evolution, although, as suggested by Professor Small, various formulations in First Principles may be considered analogous to the ten general laws of Gumplowicz. Lilienfeld's discussions are throughout based upon the notion of universal law. Again and again he emphasizes the agreement of the logical, the ethical, the social, and the natural. Like Spencer, he refers to the universality of cause, necessity, and effect ; but he is never more enthusiastic than when he asserts the fundamental agreement which exists between "the beside-one-another," "the after-one-another," and "the over-one-another." Whatever critics may say of attempts of this kind, serious-minded students must concede that this very effort has resulted in some of the grandest conceptions of which the human mind is capable. What can be more inspiring, what can impress man more with the necessity and importance of orderly procedure, what can give him greater assurance of the possibilities, if not the "beneficent necessity," of human progress, than the thought that not only separate classes of phenomena are sucject to their own specific laws, but that all phenomena in all the different


( 27) domains of human knowledge obey the same laws ? A truly grand and ennobling conception, this vision of universal laws!

5. Statics and dynamics.—It may be assumed that contemporary students of sociology have departed widely from the earliest use of the terms "statics" and "dynamics;" yet, since the writers under consideration touch upon this question, it may be profitable to add a sentence or two on this topic. By social statics Comte understood the theory of a spontaneous order of human society, embracing the conditions and laws of harmony in the social world. The study of social statics embraced the consideration of three factors : sociability, the family, and society. In his discussion of sociability Comte affirms the preponderance of the affective over the intellectual qualities, encouraging united and associated effort. The controversy between Spencer and Comte as to whether feelings or ideas govern the world in part turns upon this phase of Comte's discussion. It is hardly dignified to say of Comte that he was not consistent ; yet one cannot read far in his volumes without finding material which can be used in support of either thesis. Comte's discussion of the second and third factors may be passed over with the remark that he sees in the progressive modification of the constitution of the family the establishment of corresponding social states ; and in his treatment of society he emphasizes the elements of command and obedience—following in part his formula for the family — and takes a point of view which commands all times and all places. Comte's social dynamics deals with the theory of the natural progress of human society, and includes, of course, a study of the factors of social progress which have been considered above. Progress being a beneficent necessity, according to Spencer, social dynamics would be based upon a study of his law of evolution ; while his social statics would take a view of society in stable equilibrium. All that can be said in this connection of Lilienfeld is that he follows the genetic method ; and of Schaeffle, that he insists upon holding the dynamic point of view. Schaeffle's classification of social wealth and of family property is illuminating. He calls it a "functional" classification ; and from this point of view he has


( 28) given us perhaps the most suggestive classification which has yet been worked out. The institution of family property as a factor in progress is discussed in a way which deserves attention everywhere today. Family property is " eternal " and "sacred" only in so far as it is necessary for the preservation of the highest types of family life. In the combination of family wealth and capital he sees the source of many of the most vexing political and social problems of the day. By associating the family with certain institutions, professions, and vocations, he opens the reader's eyes to many things which are only too frequently overlooked. Why is it that so many Europeans adhere to the monarchy ? It is not because the average European reveres a monarch, or because the question of the form of government is all-important—for we know that the mere question of the form of government has for some time been pushed into the background by social problems—but because the citizen of England or of the countries of Germany sees in the monarchical family that element of continuity, stability, order, and authority which represents the best traditions and heritages of the civilization of his people. This, in substance, is Schaeffle's answer to the question of loyalty to monarchs and monarchical institutions ; and this function is unquestionably one of the most valuable and noble which the institution of the family can perform.

Although not directly connected with what has preceded, Schaeffle's discussion of Gesittung should be mentioned. Gesittung includes Kultur and Civilisation, the former dealing with content and the latter with method. The contents of Kultur as well as the factors of Civilisation are carefully and elaborately enumerated and classified by Schaeffle. This part of Schaeffie's treatise stands in striking contrast to many of the chapters in Lilienfeld's, which are oftentimes crude, loose, and dilettante.

It is almost needless to add that the writer aimed only to describe a few cross-sections from the four synthesists within the limits of a magazine article ; and that by doing so he might, perhaps, perform a small service for those students who find value in new arrangements of old material.

B. Н. MEYER.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN.

Notes

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