The Possibility of a Social Psychology

A.L. Kroeber
Department of Anthropology, University of California

[Only those privileged to know Dr. Haeberlin's high qualities of mind and lovable personality can appreciate fully the loss which anthropology and tire allied branches of knowledge suffered in his premature death since these pages were sent to the printer. His published work is but a fraction of that which he had in progress, and only a promise of what. lie would have accomplished had he lived. He possessed intellectuality of an unusual order; and its exercise on problems of the relations of the social to the underlying sciences was leading to fruitful results. His essay that occasioned tire present discussion is one that no sociologist or historian call read without stimulation.]

In recent examination[1] of the theoretical foundations of Wundt’s folk-psychology Dr. Haeberlin has analyzed, to a manner both incisive and convincing, the basis and method of the studies made in the field of human culture by the great German psychologist. Dr. Haeberlin puts in the foreground of Wundt's thought the idea that mental phenomena possess through their immediacy to ourselves an actuality as great as that of physical phenomena. This actuality must be consistently distinguished from substantiality. Only on the basis of this distinction is it possible to speak of the existence of a "soul"; but in the sense of an actuality there is no denying this existence.

Since the psychic phenomena of the over-individual ,or social group as empirical facts are as real or actual as the psychic life of the individual, the term, "soul" is equally applicable to them. Hence we have the Volksseele, or "folk-soul," according to Wundt. Dr. Haeberlin combats this argument on the ground that by Wundt's own definition the folk-soul is only a synthesis of the individual into the over-individual. According to Wundt himself, "soul" is consciousness, and only the individual has consciousness. Hence his concept of a folk-soul, or social soul, is a logical error. But a flaw in Wundt's reasoning, or in inconsistency in his approach to the over-individual, does not necessarily affect the validity of

( 634) his position that social phenomena possess a certain actuality. This starting-point of the actuality of culture Dr. Haeberlin does not criticize as such, and therefore appears to accept.

His acceptance may be due to his being occupied, as an anthropologist, with civilizational phenomena. The reality of these phenomena may seem much less to those who are not habitually brought into analytical contact with them. It may even seem a meaningless phrase. These differences in attitude-which by the way are themselves a characteristic and highly interesting culture phenomenon-cannot be resolved. Psychic and superpsychic phenomena either possess or do not possess the actuality of immediacy for us. There are those for whore even mental experience appears to lack reality; there are others for whom its reality is unquestionable and basic; and of this class every psychologist who is a true psychologist must in the nature of things be. It would therefore be a waste of time to attempt to prove these actualities. The one question of moment concerning them is whether the assumption of an actuality can be put to profitable use. If it leads to fuller understanding of any group of phenomena or events, or if it can be applied practically, any assumption and the method flowing from it are justified. Ethnologists, historians, and sociologists are evidently convinced of the actuality of social phenomena as distinct from other kinds of phenomena. It matters little that many of them have not formulated this conviction and may hesitate to avow it. They use it.

No attempt will therefore be made here to establish the actuality of cultural phenomena. But thought about the nature of these phenomena often still is so timidly halting that it is perhaps worth while to examine some of the consequences of an application of the assumption of the reality of culture.

We begin then with the belief in the equal reality of four kinds of phenomena: those of matter and force as such, those of life as such, those of consciousness, and those of social life or culture. These four varieties of facts of experience may also be denominated as tile inorganic, the directly organic or vital, the mentally organic or psychic, and the civilizational or superorganic or, better, superpsychic. The physicist who operates in the realm of the inorganic may cherish the conviction that all organic phenomena are in the

(635) end wholly and absolutely resolvable into inorganic factors. He does not, however, insist that the expression of organic data is organic terms is misleading. He does not even announce that ii; is useless. Nor does he tolerate organic science: only as a secondary activity after its rooting in the inorganic has been completely traced at every possible point. If he held any suds attitude lie should have to maintain that biology is justified only after it, were known exactly whet life is in terms of the inorganic. Now that knowledge is to the biologist perhaps the ultimate goal of his work. certainly is not his first task, else his biology would be only pure physics and chemistry. As a biologist he accepts life as something given, and inquires into its form and processes as such.

The attitude of the psychologist is parallel. He may share with the biologist and chemist the conviction that consciousness rests absolutely on an organic basis, and through this on an inorganic basis. But as a psychologist his business is the determination of the manifestations and processes of consciousness as consciousness. Such a task may not appeal to some. The opportunity then lies before there to interpret consciousness in organic terms. But if they exercise this choice they irrevocably resign all claim to the pursuit of psychology in favor of the practice of physiology.

And so with those who envisage social phenomena. Their alternative is to treat them in social terms, or in material, vital, and mental terms. There is no quarreling with the latter course. But neither can an a priori condemnation of the former method be tolerated. In one case the aim is a physics, biology, or psychology of social phenomena; in the other, a sociology, or history of social phenomena.

Unless, then, one is ready to take an uncompromisingly monistic attitude and maintain that there is only one science, it is necessary to admit at least four kinds of sciences: physical and chemical, in the realm of the inorganic; biological, in the; domain of the organic as such; psychological, concerned with the psychic aspects of the organic or the mental as such; and social, operating with superorganic phenomena.

There is, however, another division that runs across knowledge. Data may be viewed directly as they present themselves; or we can seek to pass through them to the processes involved. On this

(636) basis the sciences are either historical and only incidentally concerned with mechanisms, or unhistorical and wholly devoted to the determination of mechanisms. The application of this classification results in a total of eight groups of sciences, which may be arranged as follows:

  Formulation of Processes   Depiction of Phenomena
Superorganic phenomena Social Psychology   Cultural history
Mental organic phenomena Psychology   Biographic history
Vital organic phenomena Physiology   Natural history
Inorganic Phenomena Physics, chemistry   Astronomy, geology

There is no idea of a sharp line between the explanational and the depicting sciences. Rather they are only extremes of method, between which lies an indefinite series of transitions. The pure systematist in natural history, for instance, describes facts or narrates the sequence of events. The evolutionist has definitely entered the field of processes. But these are still vague. They are so broadly conceived as to be quite generally applicable, and yet they can scarcely be directed to serve the more positive understanding of specific data. It is probably this loose universality that has rendered Darwinism so enormously influential in modern thought as a whole and so unproductive as a biological instrument. The genetist, in the path of Mendel, and the cell biologist are still entirely on the plane of the organic, but are farther removed, the latter especially, from consideration of things as they present themselves. On the other hand, the genetist and cell biologist are dealing with sufficiently specific processes to make prediction possible. The pure physiologist, finally, decomposes the actual phenomena of life just as far as lie can, and thereby is the more able to isolate vital mechanisms as such. And it is only he, in the whole domain of biology, who attains results that are convertible into factors of the underlying inorganic dimension, or which will serve to express in doubly lower terms the processes formulated on the psychic plane.

We must therefore recognize in each of our four orders of study a sequence leading from the wholely depictive extreme of science to the thoroughly mechanistic or processual one. It is only at the latter end that the sciences of one plane begin to have direct contacts with those of the other planes.


It is also true that the more basal the dimension in which a class of science operates the more readily is the transition from the depictive treatment to the determination of mechanisms accomplished. There may or may not be a logical reason for this circumstance. It is stated here only as an empirical fact. Conversely, as the determination of processes is more easily accomplished in these lower dimensions, the direct depiction of phenomena is more difficult, at least mere difficult to achieve with significance. The astronomer attains a minimum of cosmic history with a maximum of physical and chemical mechanics as a means. Organic mechanics is far less developed, but organic history is much fuller, than cosmic terrestrial. Human history is infinitely the richest of all the depictive sciences, its mechanics the most backward. Even the age of the sciences points in a like direction. On the descriptive side, history, in the usual sense of the word, is the oldest –the super organic and psychic phases were first cultivated. On the line of explanation by process, the inorganic plane was earliest productive.

It is the same situation that is alluded to when it is commonly said that historical science hangs back because its material is the most "complex." It seems very doubtful whether this is so. The phenomena of inorganic nature are probably fully as "complex" as those of human history. Its processes are, however, very much less complex, in the sense that the factors of phenomena can for some reason be far more readily isolated and determined. On the other hand, the phenomena of history, on account of their very immediacy to us, lend themselves with correspondingly greater ease, to the more immediate treatment of depiction.

It may also be questioned whether the dictum is true that values inhere in psychic and superpsychic material, and that occupation with this material therefore involves qualitative expression in contrast with the quantitative formulations sought by the student of the inorganic. It seems rather that qualitative values must be the ultimate aim of the depictive method irrespective of its material, and quantitatively conceivable determinations the goal at which all inquiry into means or mechanism is directed. According to the views of Wundt and of Rickert, for instance, it is the sciences in the upper half or quarter of the foregoing table chat are concerned with values, those in the lower portion that deal with quantities.

(638) But it appears rather that it is of the essence of the depictive or historical method to formulate values; of the mechanistic procedure to seek quantitatively expressible determinations.

In practice the difference of these two points of view has been of no great moment, because as a matter of fact the center of mechanistic achievements has been in the lower or inorganic planes, that of depictive activity in the upper or psychic and superpsychic ones. Whether, therefore, the fixation of values is to be regarded as the function of the material operated upon by science, or of the method of science, remains to date largely a theoretical problem. In substance the sciences of the inorganic have proceeded quantitatively; those of the human mind or society, qualitatively. The question, however, is a fair logical one, and perhaps not without import.

It is true that the overwhelming bulk of scientific activity in the field of astronomy and geology has always been devoted to investigation of the processes that shape cosmic and terrestrial phenomena, and that success has been achieved in proportion to the consistency of this devotion. But after all, if the determination of quantitatively expressible processes or causes were the final end of astronomical and geological students, they would long since have practiced physics and chemistry outright, instead of adhering to the pursuit of their own sciences. The very fact that astronomy and geology adhere to their basis of concrete events makes them depictive in purpose. So far as astronomy is astronomy, and not mere physics, it tries to tell "what really happened" just as wholly as does the narration of human history. The professional astronomer, who has come to realize how little he can add to this knowledge, and who is aware of the enormous wealth of machinery of physical science that he must employ to attain this little, may now and then lose sight of his end and revel in the technique of his means. There have even been many, perhaps the majority of moderns, who have been so impressed by the machinery that they have not hesitated to class astronomy with physics as an "exact" science, in distinction from psychology and culture history as "mental sciences." But from the point of view of the purpose of scientific activity this is certainly an illogical proceeding, since it

(639) places in each group sciences that are depictive and sciences that only seek processes.

That values adhere in all the depictive sciences is clear. A person undisciplined in scientific thinking can only with difficulty be brought to entertain an interest in any formulation or law of physics. His instinctive impulse is always to avoid the scientific process itself, and to center attention on the mere results of the process as manifested in practical and useful applications, or in presentations of emotional significance. On the other hand, everyone, no matter how uneducated, is always interested in the concrete determinations or suppositions of a science like astronomy-- in "how things are" or "what happened "--provided only that the mechanisms involved can be omitted from the description, or can be given an emotional color. Such bits of accepted or conjectural knowledge as the fact that there are stars immensely larger than our sun, that they are remote by thousands of light-years, that our earth was once part of a whirling, gaseous sun, or that the moon has chilled and shrunk, or that its craters were formed in a bombardment of its still plastic surface by meteors--all such facts or reputed facts have an immediate meaning to the mind, and elicit an emotional reaction comparable to that produced by the story of Caesar's crossing the Rubicon or the picture called forth by the phrase "the fall of the Roman Empire."

Values accordingly seem to inhere in phenomena themselves, or in their presentation as phenomena; and the fact that on the whole they are less apparent in the inorganic historical sciences than in the other historical sciences is only incidentally due to the former referring to inorganic material, and is primarily the result of these sciences having their historical purpose heavily overlaid and obscured by the abstracting means which they follow.

We can admit, then, a progressive relative difference from the inorganic to the superpsychic plane. In the former, phenomena tend to bear the least immediate emotional values, and conceptual processes are most readily determined. In the latter, the immediate values of the concrete material are greatest, but factors resist isolation and quantitative expression with much greater tenacity. This distinction is of importance; bit it is certainly of no greater

(640) significance than the logical one of the divergence of method and of aim between the depictive and the processual sciences.

It is true that what is ordinarily called science as distinguished from history, that is, the kind of science which resolves into quantitatively describable factors or operates with them, has practically no achievements to its credit in the plane of the superorganic. It might therefore be doubted whether such a science is possible in the superorganic plane of culture. It is certainly of the utmost importance to realize that whatever the processual method of science may accomplish with cultural material is as yet only a hope and a possibility. Assertions that anything definitely utilizable has been attained in this respect are delusions that prevent endeavor. But on the other hand analogy alone is sufficient to demonstrate the possibility, even the probability, of an "exact" science being developed which shall be able to deal with some effectiveness with civilizational phenomena. That such a science will always remain outstripped by the sciences that deal with the processes of the psychic, the vital, and the inorganic, experience leads us to expect; but the very development of these in their sequence renders the prediction of the impossibility of a true social science rash.

There is no a priori reason visible, accordingly, why a science of cultural mechanics, or social psychology, or sociology is impossible; and inquiry shifts to the problem why this possibility has heretofore been so largely or wholly unrealized. That it is at least almost wholly unrealized is clear from the fact that it is difficult. to encounter a student trained in the methods of the "exact" sciences who believes otherwise. Historians often incline to the same opinion; and even among professed sociologists there are not wanting those who admit that the attainments of their discipline are empty boasts, and who with all faith in its future are in present distraction as to the course it should follow. Sociology, in short, is a possible and indicated science, but actually is little else than a name and a claim. Why this is so is the question we face.

The reply appears to be that sociologists have not contented themselves with operating in the plane or dimension of their material, but have attempted to force results by appropriating

(641) processes determined in other planes and applying these to their special phenomena. Proceeding from the data of human history, they have recognized the fact that these might be capable of generalized interpretation as well as of concrete depiction. They have therefore set tip their science, but having nothing forthwith to hand with which to fill its frame; they have reached into psychology and biology and the inorganic sciences to give substance to its emptiness. Thereby they have impeded, perhaps largely blocked, the slow and natural but alone healthy growth that might have taken place toward an understanding of the social factors that are contained in social phenomena.

This tendency has been observable from the beginning. Comte, who coined the name "sociology," had a marked sense for the social as such. It is obviously the specifically new element in his work, his definite contribution to the thought of the world. The remainder of his system is the materialistic monism of the preceding century; and his positivism is largely the symptom of the dominance of this view in his peculiar individuality. The very term sociology carries the fatal defect of the overshadowing of the cultural by the subcultural. A society--a typical eighteenth-century concept--is only an aggregate of individuals. The interactions of these one on another in no way carry us into another plane of phenomenal actuality, for every action remains an individual one. Culture, of course, is borne only by vitally and mentally organized beings aggregated into societies. But these individuals and societies are merely the prerequisite condition of culture, not its being. The word sociology is now of some age, and enjoys at least a certain fixity, although scarcely an unassailable repute. Unfortunate as it is, it may therefore perhaps be retained, much as "metaphysics" has long since acquired a definite significance of its own, independent of its etymology. But that the attempting founder of cultural mechanics or "social physics" should have chosen for its designation a term referring, not to the entity or essence of culture, but to the extrinsic substratum of aggregation underlying it, reveals how far his brilliant and stimulating intuitive approximation was from attaining to a concept that was directly usable.


If Comte founded, Spencer established, sociology. It was he who first employed the word "superorganic." Spencer certainly held the concept of culture. He speaks of a factor of social phenomena "the potency of which can scarcely be overestimated. I mean that accumulation of super-organic products which we commonly distinguish as artificial." "These various orders of super-organic products . . . . ," he says, "each acting on the other orders while reacted on by them, constitute an immensely-voluminous, immensely-complicated, and immensely-powerful set of influences . . . . . They gradually form what we may consider either as a non-vital part of the society itself, or else as a secondary environment, which eventually becomes more important than the primary environment.”[2]

But these superorganic products, or civilization as we should . call them, are treated by Spencer absolutely on a level with suborganic factors. His first words on the factors of social phenomena refer to the inorganic. .

The behavior of a single inanimate object depends on the co-operation between its own forces and the forces to which it is exposed . . . . . Similarly with any group of inanimate objects. Be it a cartload of bricks shot down, a barrowful of gravel turned over, or a boy's bag of marbles emptied . . . . . It is equally so when the discrete aggregate consists of organic bodies, such as the members of a species . . . . . It is thus, too, with aggregates of men. Be it rudimentary or be it advanced, every society displays phenomena that are ascribable to the characters of its units and to the conditions under which they exist.[3]

Social phenomena may be explicable by beginning with a comparison to a cartload of bricks; but it is clear that they will never be explained on a superpsychic basis in this way. In fact, Spencer thinks less frequently of culture than of the associations of individuals that carry culture.

Of the social insects, Spencer says with sound discrimination that their societies "simulate social aggregates in sundry ways; yet they are not true social aggregates." But the reasons given for this statement are the weakest that could he alleged: each aggregation of these insects is in reality a large family; and it comprises

(643) sexlike classes of dissimilar structure and function instead of promoting the specialization characteristic of a true society.[4] True as they are, these points are irrelevant. One of the characteristics of culture is precisely that it is independent of organic kinship. It can be carried wholly by individuals of the same ancestry, and just as wholly by unrelated individuals. The same holds true of the other traits mentioned. Civilization certainly permits of specialization, but just as certainly can take a form in which the differentiation of individual activities is minimal. Nor is culture incompatible with the existence of classes of unlike structure. It is true that the only hereditarily given classes among the bearers of culture are the sexes. Yet in principle there is no difference between a society composed of two or one composed of six sexes, and a culture resting on a human species of a plurality of sexes is more easily conceivable than such a species. The real differences between the cultural society of man and the cultureless pseudo-society of the ants and bees fail to impress Spencer. That the social insects do not learn or acquire knowledge as groups; that they totally lack tradition; that substantially all their activities are inborn and determined by organic heredity, or depend on individual psychic experience acting upon hereditary faculty; in short, that they totally lack any body of "superorganic products" that is. carried along from individual to individual and from group to group independent of the nature of these individuals and groups – all these essential characteristics of the superpsychical, or cultural, Spencer passes over without a word. We must indeed credit him with some foreshadowing anticipations of an understanding of the superorganic; but he certainly lacks an active conception thereof.

So at all points of his Sociology. “The primitive man, left to himself, necessarily concludes a shadow to be an actual existence."[5] Perhaps; perhaps not; but if true, the fact is purely a psychological one. "Fear, when joined with a pre-established belief, produces illusions supporting that belief."[6] "As the notion of a ghost grows from that first vagueness and variableness indicated above into a definite and avowed idea, there naturally arise the desire and the endeavor to propitiate the ghost."[7] “Anyone

( 644) who remembers the horror a child shows on seeing an adult put on an ugly mask, even when the mask has been previously shown to it, may conceive the awe which a rude effigy excites in the primitive mind. The sculptured figure of the dead man arouses the thought of the actual dead man, which passes into a conviction that he is present. And why should it not?"[8] "Encouraged then, by the changes he daily sees, and not deterred by such cognitions as long-accumulating experiences establish, the savage yields to any suggestion, however caused, that a creature has assumed a different shape"[9] -and hence is an animal-worshiper. "While the fear of the living becomes the root of the political control, the fear of the dead becomes the root of the religious control."[10] Granted the truth of all these statements, it is clear that they explain only the psychic basis of the social phenomena involved, not the phenomena themselves. They may or may not be excellent psychology; they are not sociology. So far as they explain superorganic facts at all, they explain them by destroying their specific superorganic character.

In the main, however, Spencer is occupied with tracing a far-reaching analogy between actual organisms and "social organisms." It is true that he continually points out that the resemblance is only analogical. But lie enters upon it in such detail that the general effect upon the world has been almost equivalent to a real resolution of social phenomena into organic causes. It is impossible to discuss for hundreds of pages the similarity of societies and organic beings without leaving in the minds of all but thoroughly critical and self-controlled thinkers the conviction that societies are organic, or at least that they resemble organisms so closely that the resemblance is their most noteworthy characteristic. Indeed the very length and systematization with which Spencer deals with the analogy makes it evident that he has little else to present upon the topic of social phenomena, except now and then an isolated founding of a cultural activity in a directly psychic activity, or scattering interrelations of social phenomena with social phenomena. Of course Spencer was a philosopher, and his philosophy attempted a universal Synthesis. To such a synthesis an endlessly ramifying analogy lends itself better than a consistent

(645) distinction of phenomena according to their kinds. On the ground of his main purpose there is no quarreling with him over his choice of treatment of social data. but this very motive is sufficient to render his sociology fundamentally unsociological.

The science since Spencer has criticized him for his emphasis of the organic. But it has either followed Spencer's usual method or expanded his occasional plan of explaining from the mind of man or combined the two procedures. Sociologists in general now favor a psychological rather than a biological basis for their work, and congratulate themselves on having attained it. When they deal with concepts such as the "consciousness of load," it is evident that they are concerned, not with any social phenomenon, but with a psychic factor in the beings that carry social phenomena. The only part of this concept, consciousness of kind, that relates in any way to the superorganic is contained in "kind"; and even here the idea is only of the species or of an aggregation of organisms. In fact, the attitude of modern sociologists is defined by themselves as being one that looks chiefly to psychic interpretations in place of the vital parallelisms of Spencer. They attach especial significance to the "necessities" or "interests" from which social phenomena are thought to spring: hunger, the desire for relaxation, the inclination to power, and the like. And in the main they deal with the state, its classes or societies as such, and their organization. not with their products; that is, with social phenomena in the original and narrow sense of the word, which makes a society an association or collection of individuals, not with those much more pervasive social products that are describable as cultural phenomena.

In short, conflicting a s are its impulses and pronouncements, sociology today is still on the basis of Spencer as regards the essential matter of interpreting its data in terms of actualities other than the actuality of these data. In varying disguise it falls back upon the psychic and the organic, and thus remain in principle as far from being truly sociological as was Comte when lie believed himself to be resolving human history into mechanics. There is also no great difference between the sociologists and Wundt. They begin with economics, history, or law, and apply psychology.

( 646) He commences by creating a social psychology out of individual psychology, and then brings social data into apposition with it. Neither school begins and ends in the superorganic field.

Of course there have been brilliant efforts in sociology, ingenuity as well as keen apperceptions. just so, Dr. Haeberlin's estimate of the Elemente der Voelkerpsychologie cannot be rated by any anthropologist as exaggerated. Wundt's book is a work marked by ethnological insight of a degree of penetration and imagination that far surpasses the qualities brought to their labors by the majority of professional ethnologists. But this proves only the astounding ability of Wundt as a personality sufficiently endowed to achieve high distinction in more realms than one. It proves nothing as to his method, because it is precisely by disregarding the method which he champions in theory that Wundt has accomplished his brilliant tour de force, as Dr. Haeberlin remarks. Nor is such an effect unique. The essence of Comte's views is almost universally rejected as forced. No one now accepts his principles or employs his method. And yet it is difficult to find a more truly historical interpretation and a more thoroughly sociological analysis than pervade much of the discussion of definite cultural phenomena in the book on "Social Physics" in the Positive Philosophy. From first to last it is in despite of their professed method that sociologists and social psychologists have now and then evinced a surprising mastery of the understanding of civilization.

As a science sociology must be judged by the fruit of its methods as exemplified in the labors of the rank and file of its adherents, not by the occasional talented feats of its exceptional temperaments. As a science it may be said to have produced nothing, because it leas short-circuited itself. Being aware that psychology in its most mechanistic aspect resolves into physiology, and physiology=y into chemistry, sociologists have thought that the ultimate of knowledge lay in their grasp if they but reached out for it. Convert social phenomena into psychic processes, and not only is sociology set as a crown upon the other sciences, but all science is one, and its final foundation is permanently laid. Such has been the faith, dimly unformulated or loudly proclaimed, which sociologists have held.

( 647)

And therewith they have cut off the flow of energy that might have animated their work, and turned it back into itself. They have practiced weak psychology or a feebler biology when they might have developed a healthy sociology-crude and rude, no doubt, but promising in the vigor of its youth. Synthesis of all knowledge, or of an undeveloped portion of it to the main body, is a program that may be fruitful for philosophers, or for experts in a long-developed science. To intending founders of one it is a vanity. Here tile professional philosophic paternity of sociology in place of a truly scientific source is evident. The "science" was created by two philosophers as a capstone needed to, complete their edifices. And their successors have been successors in their very footsteps more largely than pioneers who sought their own new way, stimulated only by the vision of the two first great leaders. Not only Comte and Spencer, but Wundt, stake their all on "synthesis"; and many a humbler follower attempts to explain all that is social and all its relations to all else. Sociologists have preferred asserting sovereignty over w vast domain t o exercising it in a fragment thereof. In consequence they have been pretenders when they might leave been governors.

Such overreachings are not rare in tile history of science. They defeat themselves into sterility,. and later generations know little of their course. There are examples still in progress. Eugenics, in spite of the solid foundation ire the facts arid laboratory methods and successful interpretations of genetics and statistical investigations, is a program that short-circuits itself in proposing outright to attain social ends by organic means instead of seeking to know more exactly the relations Of the social arid the organic. The opinion that races of men differ as potential factors of social effects -- opinion which many men of science only re-echo from the rumble of the undiscriminating unconscious thought of the age -- is another negation of an extraordinarily important subject of inquiry, as a result of the univestigated pretension fun that the resolution of the social into the organic is established. The doctrine of use inheritance -- though here the damage is mainly to biology -- belongs in the same class, as an attempt, through the substitution of pseudo-social for organic factors, to consider the great

(648) problem of variation within heredity settled instead of attacking it.

Of course there can be little doubt that connections between the superpsychic and the planes of phenomena that underlie it will ultimately be established in the most satisfying degree. But it is one thing to have this faith, another to build a science upon its profession. Sociology needs a specific sociological content and specific sociological methods if it is to be sociology. This obvious truism should not need statement--but it does need it. Sociology has renounced its realm to the sway of bastard psychology and biology almost as consistently as it has vociferated its right to this realm. Reared in concrete misapplications of philosophic systematization to scientific material, it has never yet freed itself from the influences of its origins, has not seriously endeavored to become one of the array of the sciences, but has attempted to leap into a place of prerogative among them, while proclaiming itself their summation.

But this aberration does not deprive it of its position, if there is one due it. And the actuality of cultural phenomena once granted, there can be little doubt that a kind of mechanics of the factors of civilization is as possible, as finally inevitable, as a narration of the phenomena of civilization. Only, the indispensable condition of such a mechanics is that it must attempt to be a pure mechanics of the superpsychic. The empty failures of the past may prove nothing else: they do establish that if sociology is to be produced it must follow a more ascetic procedure.

Dr. Haeberlin appears to take a different position when he speaks of a relation of psychology to history "much the same as that of physics to physiology. Historical phenomena are interpreted psychologically as physiological processes are interpreted in terms of physics." The four planes of reality are recognized in these statements; but the factors of the superpsychic are postulated as psychic. That Dr. Haeberlin is no mere disciple of the current sociology is clear from his emphatic declaration that from the point of view of culture history the individual "is history, he is society." No remark more clearly admitting the actuality of the superpsychic could be uttered. Dr. Haeberlin's view differs from that here

(649) outlined only in its refusal to concede that: an analysis of the phenomena in any one of the four planes into their factors, and the determination of processes, are theoretically possible within that plane. He seems to see processes as operating only in a plane lower than that of the phenomena in question -- which is like denying reality to the factors and processes that have been discovered in Mendelian behavior of organisms because these factors and processes are stated in organic instead of chemico-physical terms. If Mendelian genetics, unreduced to chemistry, has any significance, the a priori possibility of superpsychic processes being isolated and revealing a similar significance and utility cannot be denied; unless the actuality of superpsychic phenomena be denied, which Dr. Haeberlin does not do; or unless it be specifically maintained that superpsychic phenomena have an actuality, indeed, but that they are exceptional in that their factors and processes are determinable only in underlying planes. This latter would be a strange position to maintain. It may therefore be concluded that by the "psychology" which Dr. Haeberlin exalts as the correlate and inescapable ally of culture history, lie means not so mach individual or "psychic" psychology as social or superpsychic psychology, in short, sociology. It may be suspected that his non- distinction of these two "psychologies," at least as potentialities, is due to the failure of social psychology, that is, a mechanics of social phenomena to be developed to date.

That Wundt's efforts prove that "a non-historical psychology of culture, a folk-psychology, is likewise a misconception," is a belief that has already been commented on as significant only for Wundt's method, and not for the theoretical possibility of such a psychology.

Dr. Haeberlin further evidently does not distinguish between the explanational and the depictive method of science within the same plane, but holds the explanational part of psychic and superpsychic science: which he appears to consider a unit in the sense of the German concept Geisteswissenschaft -- to be psychology, and its depictive portion culture history. This interpretation would seem to be indicated by his opinion that, while folk-psychology has no justification, the history of culture "is intrinsically associated

(650) with a psychological point of view." But what this intrinsic association can be, is difficult to conceive, unless it be the very relation which has been advocated in the foregoing pages.

As to the method of Graebner, who, according to Dr. Haeberlin, pretends to "solve the problem of the relation of psychology to history by ignoring it," and attempts "history without psychology," it appears rather that this is an understatement of the case against this student and his colleague Foy. It can be said of them without undue exaggeration that they endeavor to interpret social phenomena without interpreting their processes, and that any procedure which involves nothing for its successful manipulation but a bundle of facts and the power of arithmetical subtraction is not enough of a method to solve the problems of a new science. On the other hand, it is only fair to realize that Foy and Graebner hold a clear and potentially productive attitude in their unqualified refusal to admit factors of individual psychology into their analysis of cultural phenomena; and the value of this aspect of their method cannot be overestimated. Their work may perhaps be fairly described as resting on the enterprising and perfectly legitimate desire to organize an explanational science of culture or sociology operating wholly within the superpsychic realm, but that their attempts in this direction are as crudely hasty and insufficient as they are valiant.

It would appear, then, that there is no evident reason, either in principle or in the fact that efforts have so far been largely impotent, why a science that shall formulate social processes in terms of social factors is impossible. And there is some reason, in the analogy furnished by the interrelations of the other sciences, to believe that such a science is possible, provided only that it consistently views social phenomena and forces as cultural, and not as aggregations or products of psychic phenomena and forces.


  1. Psychological Review, XXIII (1916), 279-302.
  2. Principles of Sociology, § 12.
  3. Ibid., § 6.
  4. Ibid., § 3.
  5. Ibid., § 56.
  6. Ibid., § 91.
  7. Ibid., § 147.
  8. Principles of Sociology, §§ 157, 758.
  9. Ibid., § 166.  
  10. Ibid., § 200.

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