Discussion of Simon Patten's
 "The Background of Economic Theories" 

Charles Horton Cooley
University of Michigan


I suppose that sociologists need a consensus only so far as is necessary to mutual understanding and wholesome interaction. I have noticed only two things that seriously interfere with this. One is what I call particularism—the attitude of a man, or group, who believes that his idea is of such fundamental and exclusive importance that others are negligible. The attitude of the old-style temperance reformer who believed that the abolition of the liquor traffic was the only and sufficient cure for the ills of society is typical of this. Many of the advocates of eugenics are particularists: they can see nothing of serious importance but ace improvements. The same is true of many Marxian socialists, and of other sectarian thinkers. There is no healthy interchange of thought with a particularist, because he is committed to the view that you can have nothing worth while to tell him. Of course this attitude is unscientific, and, especially, unsociological, but it is not at all uncommon.

Another difficulty is that we frequently have not such possession of our ideas that we can give a perfectly full, clear and concrete expression of them. We have glimpses but our objects of thought are not so grown into our minds and lives that we re familiar and at ease with them and can see them in all their relations. Accordingly our descriptions of them are partial and imperfectly intelligible. When every principle lives in our minds in perfect clearness of outline and relation and incarnate in facts of common experience we shall have less difficulty in satisfactory communication. Sociology will then be more sure-footed in progress than it is at present.


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