Sociology and the Other Social Sciences: A Rejoinder
Robert F. Hoxie
University of Chicago
Professor Small is again engaged in scientific warfare. His attack on this occasion is directed primarily against the social "specialisms;" secondarily it is evidently intended to put a quietus on certain claims of economics. What has moved Professor Small is the assumed independence and authority of existing social sciences. He would have these sciences apparently recognize the suzerainty and all-inclusiveness of sociology. From a manifesto, issued some time since, under the title "The Relation between Sociology and the Other Social Sciences,"  is drawn the following statement of Professor Small's claims, and of the grounds upon which they rest :
"There is one great overtowering task of the human mind. That task is to find out the meaning of human experience."  Human experience is one related whole. "Each series is a function of all other human experiences that have occurred antecedent to it, and that are contemporary with it."  "Human experience therefore cannot be understood or explained if it is
( 740) divided up for study into independent parts or isolated series."  "The moment we propose the question, What is the meaning of life? we imply an impeachment of the conception that the truth can be told about life if We divide it off into isolated unities." 
But this apparently is what independent social sciences are doing with life. As at present constituted and understood, these sciences are in the nature of isolated studies of particular materials or subject-matters. Hence they tend to be scientific abortions, and their claims to authority in the interpretation of life are altogether unfounded. Especially is this the case with political economy. "The economists have proceeded on the assumption that, being an economist, one thereby is at once social philosopher, moralist, and statesman to the extent necessary to furnish an authoritative interpretation of life."  This is
( 741) absurd, since the economic problem is "merely a fragment of the problem of life."  "On its merits as a section of science, and not according to its capacity to stir up popular interest, political economy subtends relatively a very small angle of knowledge. It deals with material things and the means of obtaining them." 
"But things are merely preliminaries of life. They bear the same relation to life that dealing out rations to an army bears to, fighting battles."  "If our problem is enlarged in scope from that of material gain, to that of the meaning of life in its whole intent and extent, the economic problem falls into a perspective which gives it very much the same relation to the life-problem at large that a supply of paint and a few yards of canvas would bear to the production of another Raphael. "
"We shall never learn the meaning of human experience until we have learned the meaning of all human experience."  "The problem of human knowledge is an endless task; first, of analyzing all the experiences of life into their elements; second, of reconstructing these elements in such a way that they will interpret each other to our understanding, as they do not to our direct observation."  Hence the need exists for a single all-inclusive social science, to which all others are allied and subordinate. Such a science is sociology.
There is a certain vigor about this attack of Professor Small's that tends to carry conviction. There is also a convincing ring in his conclusions, for the human mind strains ever after unity. But in science we must not be rushed into conclusions nor charmed into acquiescence by poetic or philosophic art. In spite of Professor Small's vigorous argument and the charm of his conclusions, in spite of the highest faith in his fairness and in the breadth and depth of his scholarship, I believe that in this attack upon the independent social sciences he has fallen into a goodly number of grave errors of fact and of logic.
Among the errors of which I believe Professor Small to be guilty there are four which seem to me especially well worth considering in this connection. These concern (proceeding from the less to the more general) : (I) the conception which economists have of the character and scope of their science; (2) the present actual basis of differentiation between the social sciences; (3) the scientific and practical possibility and desirability of independent social sciences; and (4) the possibility of a single all-inclusive science of human experience. With no special attempt to keep these topics distinct from one another, I shall consider them in this general order.
To one who has followed the development of economic science during the past twenty years the characterization of it by Professor Small is at least surprising. One is almost tempted to assume that, in his enthusiastic study of Adam Smith and General Walker, Professor Small has forgotten that economics, like other branches of social inquiry, has been undergoing constant revision in respect to its aim, scope, and method. Certainly no reputable economist of today would venture to furnish in the name of his science an "authoritative interpretation of life," nor, on the other hand, ought he to dream of defining economics as a science which "deals with material things and the means of obtaining them."
It is not to be denied, of course, that the economist, like other men and scientists, speaks his mind in matters involving philosophical, ethical, and political concern. He is inclined, indeed,
( 743) on certain occasions to say to the philanthropists and statesmen of the hour : "You must," and "You must not." Nevertheless, I venture to affirm that he is a modest fellow enough, never dreaming of arrogating to himself the title and dignity of social philosopher. Unlike some others in the field, he is willing to admit the validity of independent research in the realms of morals, politics and philosophy; and he is willing also to admit the possible validity of conclusions reached by students in lines of research other than his own. In fact, if the economist can be said at times to assume in a measure the rôle of social philosopher, he does so unwillingly. It is because he recognizes, more clearly perhaps than his fellow-scientists, that we live in a world of action—a world in which decisions involving individual and social welfare must be frequently made; where neither individual nor society can wait months, years, perhaps generations, for evidence to be presented by social philosophers with undoubted credentials. In such crises the economist speaks and acts simply because he often seems to be the one who possesses evidence of a scientific and positive nature. Is anyone better qualified? Or, lacking such a one, should we leave social choice altogether unguided by the truths of science?
Even more unfortunate is Professor Small in his attack on economics and economists because of the alleged nature of the science. What is political economy? It would be a bold economist indeed who would today answer this question dogmatically. Economics is a world of intense ferment. The fundamental conceptions of the science are changing rapidly. So rapid indeed is the change that contemporary leaders find much of their early work robbed of all but its historical value. Mere authority under such circumstances should go for nothing. The face of every man should be set toward the future. Every student should be eagerly reaching out for new evidence and fresh facts. And at such a time Professor Small apparently accepts the dictum of a past generation concerning a fundamental of fundamentals.
The result is a definition that cannot fail of being thoroughly obnoxious to all reputable economists. Economists do not any longer speak of the material of the science as though certain facts
( 744) were its exclusive property. If they were bent on thus staking out the economic claim, they certainly would not confine their pre-emption merely to "material things and the means of getting them." They surely would attempt to include all things of value. But things of value are not merely the "rations" which are dealt out to the army, nor the "paint and canvas" for the picture. Would Professor Small deny value to activity of the army itself, to its organization and discipline; would he deny value to the picture, or even to the genius of "another Raphael"? If not, how can he ask credence for his definition of economics, or patience from those who are attacked on the basis of it ?
But the economist is, after all, not the one chiefly injured by Professor Small's definition of his science. The social scientist, as such, should be the one most vigorously to protest. If a definition of this kind be allowed to stand, it is evident that a social science, as at present constituted, is something which deals with a particular body of facts, and that each social science is marked off from the others by the nature of the material with which it deals. It is to these assumptions that Professor Small has apparently committed himself in his definition of economics as "merely a fragment of the problem of life" dealing "with material things and the means of getting them." Such assumptions as these are of course contrary to the whole spirit of modern scientific thought, at least in the field of human action. The scientific spirit of today unequivocally condemns as archaic the notion that the facts of human experience can be parceled out to this and that science for exclusive examination.
Professor Small himself would be the first to deny the validity of the mode of distinction between social sciences for which he has become sponsor through his attack on economics. In this very manifesto he rails against the notion that human. experience can be understood if it is cut up into "abstract sections and thin layers." The errors into which he has fallen have resulted apparently from a too strenuous attachment to the notion that distinct social sciences are incompatible with the understanding of human experience, and from too hasty deduction from this notion. Human experience is one whole. It must be studied as such.
( 745) Therefore sciences cannot be distinct. But they seem to be. Therefore they cut human experience up into "little abstract sections and thin layers." Here is a break in logic. Has it occurred to Professor Small that social sciences may be distinct and still not be distinguished by means of the material with which they deal?
The real ground of distinction between modern social sciences is, I take it, the fact that human experience presents to the observer a -number of distinct problems. That is to say, human experience is capable of being viewed, and is habitually viewed, from the standpoint of many different interests, and presents thus many different aspects. To one man it is all a matter of ethical relations; to another, a struggle for wealth; to a third, a process of political institutional development; to a fourth, a congeries of aesthetic phenomena, etc., etc. To each of these observers human experience is a special problem to be explained. Each classifies -its elements from! the standpoint of his special interest or problem. Each seeks for the explanation of human experience as thus reconstructed about his own special interest. Each thus develops a social science. Each science thus developed is distinct. Still there is here no thinking of reality as cut up into detachable parts, which may be treated as entities in and of themselves; no dividing of life into "isolated unities.." On the contrary, what we have here is a series of distinct and independent sciences, each of which deals with human experience as a whole; i. e., each of which interprets all other human experience in terms of one kind of human experience–or vice versa, as you please.
Such tends to be, I venture to assert, the real situation today in the realm of social science. It is no valid argument against this assertion that, as a matter of fact, certain social activities and institutions are usually assigned for examination to each of the recognized sciences. It is well understood that no science holds any material field except by virtue of squatter sovereignty. No ethical student, for example, hesitates to deal with the trust question, nor does the political scientist feel that he must slur over the political influence of monopolies, because trusts and
( 746) monopolies are current subjects in economic discussion. Nor are our conclusions invalidated by the fact that no single science has ever examined the whole field of social activity from its own special standpoint. Science is young, and scientists have been slow to learn the gentle art of co-operation. But it is a well-recognized fact that gradually each social science is annexing to itself an ever larger body of social facts. In short, each independent social science is in process of becoming an explanation of human experience in terms of some predominant human interest.
It must be admitted that it is somewhat difficult to define specifically the special standpoint of each of the recognized social sciences. This, however, is no necessary part of my task. So far as political economy is concerned, the difficulty does not seem to be great. Without wishing to dogmatize, I should venture to assume that this science deals with human activity and the social process from the standpoint of market choice or market valuation. Moreover, as thus conceived I should not hesitate to affirm that there is no single matter of fact within the whole realm of social activity that does not conceivably lie within the field of political economy; for there is no single social fact, from the esoteric cogitations of the social philosopher down to the mud-sills of human experience, that may not in some way directly or remotely affect human choice in the market.
While, then, we may agree with Professor Small that human experience is one organic whole; that no part of it can be abstracted and examined separately with any hope of a complete. or even a partially undistorted, explanation of the whole of experience as such; that therefore social activity cannot give rise to a series of distinct sciences, each dealing with an, abstract portion of human experience; still we may hold that human experience does present several relatively distinct aspects ; that, as a whole, it can be examined separately with respect to each of these; and, as thus examined, it can and does give rise to a series of independent social sciences, each of which has as its material the whole social process—action and institution—in short, all social facts ; and each of which is endeavoring to explain
( 747) human experience as such from, the standpoint of some distinct and legitimate human interest.
The time has now come to turn defense into attack. In his eagerness to discredit the social "specialisms," Professor Small has fallen into the error of assuming altogether too much for sociology. From the manifesto are culled the following significant statements :
There is one great overtowering task of the human mind. That task is to find out the meaning of human experience. This is the inclusive architectonic task of analysis and then of synthesis  .... The problem of human knowledge is an endless task, first, of analyzing all the experiences of life into their elements; second, of reconstructing these elements in such a way that they will interpret each other to our understanding. .... The sociologists are attorneys for this latter share of the progress of knowledge. .... We shall never learn the meaning of human experience until we learn the meaning of all human experience.
It seems clear from these and other statements that Professor Small intends to assert the desirability and possibility of sociology in the sense of a single all-inclusive social science. I intend to attack the validity of this assertion.
It is not quite clear on what grounds Professor Small would take his stand against independent social sciences as we have characterized them, and in favor of one science inclusive of them all. It seems hardly possible that he intends to deny the fact that human experience does present these distinct aspects or problems of which we have spoken. It must be, then, that he assumes that these aspects or problems are not scientifically independent. But such an assumption apparently can have but two reason-able interpretations in this connection. Either it must imply that human experience can be examined and explained from all of these aspects at once, or that there is some one supreme aspect or problem of life which includes and unifies all these special aspects and problems. If Professor Small accepts the first of these implications, I contend that he is setting up an ideal humanly and scientifically speaking impossible. If he adheres to the second, I
( 748) think I can show that he is allying himself with an outworn and scientifically discarded conception of life and its interpretation.
Science is essentially analysis and classification, or at least analysis and classification are essential processes in science. But analysis or classification on the basis of a plurality of principles is impossible. A simple example will make clear the present significance of this rather commonplace statement.
Suppose one were interested in the significance of human experience, ethically, aesthetically, and economically. Would it be possible to perform the "architectonic task of analysis and then of synthesis" on the basis of these three interests? Clearly it would not. You could view human experience as an ethical problem. Conceivably you could analyze human experience into. its ethical, or its aesthetic, or its economic elements. But would this threefold analysis give you the elements of human experience from the combined standpoint of ethics, aesthetics, and economics? It seems not. But suppose somehow you could get human experience just analyzed into its elements—whatever that may mean. You could, of course, then classify these elements according to their ethical import. You could do the same separately for human experience viewed aesthetically and economically. Every element would thus appear in each separate classification. But then how could you conceivably unite these three classifications so as to get an ethico-aesthetico-economic arrangement or classification of your elements? Such a classification would be possible only on the assumption that the ethical, aesthetic, and economic values. of any element were always equal. But any such supposition would of course be absurd. Human experience which, for example, is economically of very high value is often of very low value indeed from, the standpoint of ethics and aesthetics.
To make this matter more concrete, let us take a very simple example. Suppose that we had before us a haphazard pile of apples, varying in color, size, and sweetness. We could take from the pile and put together all the apples of each color, and then we could arrange the color units or groups according to some color scheme. We could do the same for size and for
( 749) sweetness. That is to say, we could analyze this pile of apples into its elements, and classify these elements from the standpoint of color or size or sweetness. But now could we analyze the pile into color-size-sweetness elements? If we attempted this, we surely would find that apples of one color group or unit varied in sweetness and in size; that there were no such things possible as units of color-size-sweetness. Even if we were allowed to consider each apple as a unit, we should never be able to arrange or classify them at one and the same time, according to color, size, and sweetness. Very sweet apples would be of all sizes and colors, and very large apples of all colors and degrees of sweetness ; etc., etc.
So with human experience. According to the interest of the observer, it is an expression of goodness or badness, beauty or ugliness, wealth or poverty, order or anarchy, freedom or determinism, of progressive adaptation physically or spiritually, morphologically or functionally; etc., etc. It can be viewed as a whole from a hundred different aspects, and as a whole analyzed and reconstructed, with reference to any one of these. But it cannot be analyzed in part or as a whole from. more than one aspect at a time, or reconstructed on the basis of more than one principle of classification at a time.
So long, then, as we assume the scientific plurality of human interests, and look upon social sciences as interpretations of human experience in terms of these interests, we are bound to, think of them as relatively independent. One science may, of course, make use of the conclusions of another. That is to say, one science may examine the conclusions of another from its own peculiar view-point. Thus ethics may put its stamp upon the market-valuation process. But this does not destroy the independence of economics as a science. Such scientific interactivities are mutual. While ethics is judging the morality of the market-valuation process, economics is considering ethical standards in their relation to that process.
Moreover, once these assumptions are accepted there seems to be no scientific ground for any hierarchical arrangement of social sciences. If each science deals with all human experience, we
( 750) cannot speak of more or less general sciences from the standpoint of extent of material made use of. The mere fact that one science may in a way make use of the conclusions of another does not in itself subordinate either of them, as we have just seen. Finally, if we hold to our assumptions, there seems to be no case where one social science can be said to be elevated above others, as being a classification of their classifications or as bringing together for examination the results of their individual examinations. Where such a relationship appears to exist, careful examination will show, I think, that the sciences are not hierarchically arranged but lie, so to speak, in different planes.
Take as an example of this the relationship that exists between psychology and social sciences of valuation like economics and aesthetics. At first sight it might appear that the valuation process, as found in these other sciences, is special psychological material; that therefore these sciences are in a way special psychologies, and subordinate to psychology as such. The truth seems to be, however, that what psychology concerns itself with here is not the valuation process itself, but the mode of action of the mind engaged in the valuation process. The problems of economics and of aesthetics, therefore, can in no, legitimate sense be considered as subordinate to psychological problems, nor can these sciences be looked upon as special psychologies.
This independence and practical equality of the sciences for which we have contended are supported by the practical ends of social investigation. Viewed from this standpoint, all social science is bound to be selective. This is a well-recognized characteristic of scientific method. We go to science because we wish to control the forces at hand so as to realize better some human purpose. What we seek is to comprehend the existing situation from the standpoint of the purpose or interest in question. It follows that all scientific investigation is bound to be highly specialized. We do not seek to understand the existing situation as a whole—i. e., in all its aspects and relations; that would be both practically useless and scientifically impossible; but we do seek to understand the situation in its relation to the interest at stake, the problem in hand. This is just as true, and
( 751) must be, of the sociologist who has risen above the level of mere narration or description, as of the economist or the moralist.
On practical grounds, then, as well as on the assumption that human experience presents scientifically distinct problems because different aspects of it cannot be scientifically examined all at once, sociology, if it signifies anything scientifically, must be simply a new independent social science based on a new principle of classification. We can leave to sociologists the statement of what that principle of classification really is. That is to say, we can let them fight the matter out among themselves.
But now I am perfectly aware that Professor Small is likely to say : All this is beside the point. I do not admit that your special aspects and problems of life are distinct and independent. Human experience is at bottom a unity. All these aspects and problems are bound up together in one unified whole. They all stand definitely related to each other and to the whole. There must then be a science of the whole in which these special problems and explanations--these special sciences—find their proper and subordinate places. In other words, the conception of a hierarchy of sciences is firmly based upon the fact that all problems of life are in the end aspects of one single problem—that human experience is one related whole.
All this sounds well. Its very familiarity tends to carry conviction. But it is just here that Professor Small is likely to make his final and most fatal mistake.
It is one thing to assert that human experience is one unified whole. It is quite another to assert that it can be scientifically apprehended as such. What is science? It is not mere immediate or intuitive realization. It is explanation, interpretation. But a thing cannot be explained in terms of itself. Identical statements do not explain each other. Therefore, in the very nature of things, there can be no single, all-inclusive, all-sufficing science of human experience in which all the facts "interpret each other to our understanding." So long as we introduce no extra-experiential element, the nearest we can get to this ideal is in the independent social science as it has been conceived of in this paper. In this all human experience is ideally included, but one
( 752) special phase of it is thought of as in a sense outside of and interpreting the rest of it. We can thus range over the field of human experience and interpret it as a whole many different times. But we have seen that it is impossible at one and the same time to think of more than one phase of it as outside and interpretative of the rest of it. 
If, then, there is to be a single, all-inclusive, all-sufficient science of human experience, the explanation must be in terms of something altogether outside this experience. In terms of what? Presumably in terms of some intuitively established end of life or ideal of society. But the initiatory assumption of such an end or ideal outside of human experience is altogether archaic and anti-scientific. Applied to society it brings in the Middle-Age conception of the Divine Architect engaged in the task of constructing on earth an ideal or absolute individual or social type.
Is it, then, to some such Middle-Age, theological conception that Professor Small comes in his insistence on the unity of social science as deduced from the unity of human experience? In his mind is there some one supreme, all-inclusive significance of life, outside of life, and therefore some one normal and exclusively valid scheme of relationship in human events? Is the task of social science to discover, through analysis and synthesis of all human experience, this ideal, typical, or normal relationship? Is this the "inclusive architectonic task" for which the sociologists are "attorneys"? If so, is the task a possible one? Can any analysis and synthesis of life discover what is not in life?
Or shall we take the more poetic view? Shall we assume that Professor Small really has in mind an immediate and intuitive knowledge of all human experience, and that therefore he would have a science of it? Shall we, in short, liken him to the dreamers of the age of poetic theology? If so, we can find the parallel in Dante's Paradise, where he says :
I saw that in its depths is enclosed, bound up with love in one volume, that which is dispersed in leaves through the universe; substance and accident and their modes fused together as it were in such wise that that of which I speak is one simple light. The universal form of this knot I believe that I saw because in saying this I feel that I rejoice more spaciously.
But Dante found that this unity of which he dreamed and in which he believed was not capable of human expression. He confesses :
Thenceforward my vision was greater than our speech which yields to such a sight and the memory yields to such excess.
Beyond doubt Professor Small will be inclined to treat lightly both the implied poetical and theological attributes of his proposed science of sociology. But he may not attempt to escape these implications through resort to such expressions as "the science of human personality," "interpretation of the process of becoming," "synthetic, co-ordinating conception," etc., etc. All social sciences are sciences of human personality ; but a complete expression of human personality would not be science. All social sciences are interpretations of the process of becoming, but the attempt to interpret this process as such in terms of any extra-experiential end or ideal of life is theological rather than scientific in its essential nature. All sciences are synthetic, co-ordinating studies ; but there can be no final or absolute synthesis of these synthetic studies, except on the basis of some extra-scientific presupposition—same standard of values intuitively or authoritatively established. In order, then, that we may have new cause to "rejoice more spaciously," Professor Small must invent other phases to reach the eternal mystic that lies in the heart of all men. But rather would we have him descend to the matter-of-fact level of science. If he can bring
( 754) with him there his sociological ideal, he may be sure of a welcome for it.
I should be glad to stop here; but Professor Small's courtesy in standing out for an exchange of buffets certainly entitles him to a definite summarization of the points raised in this paper. Let the following declarative propositions therefore serve as a manifesto counter to his own :
I. Social sciences are not to be differentiated from one another on the basis of the special material or subject-matter of each.
2. All the facts of human experience may fall legitimately within the field of each of the independent social sciences.
3. Social sciences are therefore not examinations of isolated fragments of human experience, nor of sequences unrelated to human experience as a whole.
4. A social science is an examination and interpretation of human experience as such from some distinctive human stand-point, aspect, or interest; or it is an attempt to describe and explain or interpret human experience as it is ranged about and related to some one special interest which is for the time being regarded as the end of human experience and in a sense outside it.
5. It is only thus that human experience as such can be studied and comprehended, since analysis and classification of events cannot be made on the basis of a plurality of principles, nor can the whole of human experience explain itself as such.
6. There must, then, always be as many independent social sciences as there are important or legitimate human interests from which to view human experience.
7. Sociology itself, as a science—call it the science of human personality, or what you will—can be nothing but a study of human experience from the standpoint of some one interest; i. e., an explanation on the basis of one principle of classification.
8. Political economy is simply one of a series of social sciences.
9. It is an examination of human activity and institutions as related to a certain species of choice or value estimate which we call market.
10. As such it is not merely a study of material things and the means of getting them.
11. Just as there is no other fact in the whole realm of human experience that either may not have its influence, direct or indirect, in determining market choice, or be to a degree a resultant of market choice, so there is no fact in human experience that may not have its place in the field of economic study.
12. Present-day economists do not claim for themselves any special authority in the interpretation of life; they do not as economists claim to be social philosophers.
13. But economists, like all other scientists, are men with men's practical interests, and as men they offer their opinions in regard to social welfare, pending the time when others shall be better equipped ; and,
14. Like sociologists, they sometimes state conclusions on the basis of insufficient data.