Chapter 11: The Challenge of Scientism
1. Positivism and Behaviorism
WHAT differentiates the realm of the natural sciences from that of the sciences of human action is the categorical system resorted to in each in interpreting phenomena and constructing theories. The natural sciences do not know anything about final causes; inquiry and theorizing are entirely guided by the category of causality. The field of the sciences of human action is the orbit of purpose and of conscious aiming at ends; it is teleological.
Both categories were resorted to by primitive man and are resorted to today by everybody in daily thinking and acting. The most simple skills and techniques imply knowledge gathered by rudimentary research into causality. Where people did not know how to seek the relation of cause and effect, they looked for a teleological interpretation. They invented deities and devils to whose purposeful action certain phenomena were ascribed. A god emitted lightning and thunder. Another god, angry about some acts of men, killed the offenders by shooting arrows. A witch's evil eye made women barren and cows dry. Such beliefs generated definite methods of action. Conduct pleasing to the deity, offering of sacrifices and prayer were considered suitable means to appease the deity's anger and to
avert its revenge; magic rites were employed to neutralize witchcraft. Slowly people came to learn that meteorological events, disease, and the spread of plagues are natural phenomena and that lightning rods and antiseptic agents provide effective protection while magic rites are useless. It was only in the modern era that the natural sciences in all their fields substituted causal research for finalism.
The marvelous achievements of the experimental natural sciences prompted the emergence of a materialistic metaphysical doctrine, positivism. Positivism flatly denies that any field of inquiry is open for teleological research. The experimental methods of the natural sciences are the only appropriate methods for any kind of investigation. They alone are scientific, while the traditional methods of the sciences of human action are metaphysical, that is, in the terminology of positivism, superstitious and spurious. Positivism teaches that the task of science is exclusively the description and interpretation of sensory experience. It rejects the introspection of psychology as well as all historical disciplines. It is especially fanatical in its condemnation of economics. Auguste Comte, by no means the founder of positivism but merely the inventor of its name, suggested as a substitute for the traditional methods of dealing with human action a new branch of science, sociology. Sociology should be social physics, shaped according to the epistemological pattern of Newtonian mechanics. The plan was so shallow and impractical that no serious attempt was ever made to realize it. The first generation of Comte's followers turned instead
toward what they believed to be biological and organic interpretation of social phenomena. They indulged freely in metaphorical language and quite seriously discussed such problems as what in the social "body" should be classed as "intercellular substance." When the absurdity of this biologism and organicism became obvious, the sociologists completely abandoned the ambitious pretensions of Comte. There was no longer any question of discovering a posteriori laws of social change. Various historical, ethnographical, and psychological studies were put out under the label sociology. Many of these publications were dilettantish and confused; some are acceptable contributions to various fields of historical research. Without any value, on the other hand, were the writings of those who termed sociology their arbitrary metaphysical effusions about the recondite meaning and end of the historical process which had been previously styled philosophy of history. Thus, Emile Durkheim and his school revived under the appellation group mind the old specter of romanticism and the German school of historical jurisprudence, the Volksgeist.
In spite of this manifest failure of the positivist program, a neopositivist movement has arisen. It stubornly repeats all the fallacies of Comte. The same motive inspires these writers that inspired Comte. They are driven by an idiosyncratic abhorrence of the market economy and its political corollary: representative government, freedom of thought, speech, and the press. They long for totalitarianism, dictatorship, and the ruthless oppression of all dissenters, taking, of course,
for granted that they themselves or their intimate friends will be vested with the supreme office and the power to silence all opponents. Comte without shame advocated suppression of all doctrines he disliked. The most obtrusive champion of the neopositivist program concerning the sciences of human action was Otto Neurath who, in 1919, was one of the outstanding leaders of the short-lived Soviet regime of Munich and later cooperated briefly in Moscow with the bureaucracy of the Bolsheviks. Knowing they cannot advance any tenable argument against the economists' critique of their plans, these passionate communists try to discredit economics wholesale on epistemological grounds.
The two main varieties of the neopositivistic assault on economics are panphysicalism and behaviorism. Both claim to substitute a purely causal treatment of human action for the-as they declare unscientific-teleological treatment.
Panphysicalism teaches that the procedures of physics are the only scientific method of all branches of science. It denies that any essential differences exist between the natural sciences and the sciences of human action. This denial lies behind the panphysicalists' slogan unified science." Sense experience, which conveys to man his information about physical events, provides him also with all information about the behavior of his fellow men. Study of the way his fellows react to various stimuli does not differ essentially from study of the way other objects react. The language of physics is the
. Otto Neurath, ?Foundations of the Social Sciences,? International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. 2, No. 1.
universal language of all branches of knowledge, without exception. What cannot be rendered in the language of physics is metaphysical nonsense. It is arrogant pretension in man to believe that his role in the universe is different from that of other objects. In the eyes of the scientist all things are equal. All talk about consciousness, volition, and aiming at ends is empty. Man is just one of the elements in the universe. The applied science of social physics, social engineering, can deal with man in the same way technology deals with copper and hydrogen.
The panphysicalist might admit at least one essential difference between man and the objects of physics. The stones and the atoms reflect neither upon their own nature, properties, and behavior nor upon those of man. They do not engineer either themselves or man. Man is at least different from them insofar as he is a physicist and an engineer. It is difficult to conceive how one could deal with the activities of an engineer without realizing that he chooses between various possible lines of conduct and is intent upon attaining definite ends. Why does he build a bridge rather than a ferry? Why does he build one bridge with a capacity of ten tons and another with a capacity of twenty tons? Why is he intent upon constructing bridges that do not collapse? Or is it only an accident that most bridges do not collapse? If one eliminates from the treatment of human action the notion of conscious aiming at definite ends, one must replace it by the-really metaphysical-idea that some superhuman agency leads men, independently of their will, toward a predestined goal: that what
put the bridge-builder into motion was the preordained plan of Geist or the material productive forces which mortal men are forced to execute.
To say that man reacts to stimuli and adjusts himself to the conditions of his environment does not provide a satisfactory answer. To the stimulus offered by the English Channel some people have reacted by staying at home; others have crossed it in rowboats, sailing ships, steamers, or, in modern times simply by swimming. Some fly over it in planes; others design schemes for tunneling under it. It is vain to ascribe the differences in reaction to differences in attendant circumstances such as the state of technological knowledge and the supply of labor and capital goods. These other conditions too are of human origin and can only be explained by resorting to teleological methods.
The approach of behaviorism is in some respects different from that of panphysicalism, but it resembles the latter in its hopeless attempt to deal with human action without reference to consciousness and aiming at ends. It bases its reasoning on the slogan "adjustment." Like any other being, man adjusts himself to the conditions of his environment. But behaviorism fails to explain why different people adjust themselves to the same conditions in different ways. Why do some people flee violent aggression while others resist it? Why did the peoples of Western Europe adjust themselves to the scarcity of all things on which human well-being depends in a way entirely different from that of the Orientals?
Behaviorism proposes to study human behavior
according to the methods developed by animal and infant psychology. It seeks to investigate reflexes and instincts, automatisms and unconscious reactions. But it has told us nothing about the reflexes that have built cathedrals, railroads, and fortresses, the instincts that have produced philosophies, poems, and legal systems, the automatisms that have resulted in the growth and decline of empires, the unconscious reactions that are splitting atoms. Behaviorism wants to observe human behavior from without and to deal with it merely as reaction to a definite situation. It punctiliously avoids any reference to meaning and purpose. However, a situation cannot be described without analyzing the meaning which the man concerned finds in it. If one avoids dealing with this meaning, one neglects the essential factor that decisively determines the mode of reaction. This reaction is not automatic but depends entirely upon the interpretation and value judgments of the individual, who aims to bring about, if feasible, a situation which he prefers to the state of affairs that would prevail if he were not to interfere. Consider a behaviorist describing the situation which an offer to sell brings about without reference to the meaning each party attaches to it!
In fact, behaviorism would outlaw the study of human action and substitute physiology for it. The behaviorists never succeeded in making clear the difference between physiology and behaviorism. Watson declared that physiology is "particularly interested in the functioning of parts of the animal . . ., behaviorism, on the other hand, while it is intensely interested in all of the functioning of these parts, is intrinsically
interested in what the whole animal will do." However, such physiological phenomena as the resistance of the body to infection or the growth and aging of an individual can certainly not be called behavior of parts. On the other hand, if one wants to call such a gesture as the movement of an arm (either to strike or to caress) behavior of the whole human animal, the idea can only be that such a gesture cannot be imputed to any separate part of the being. But what else can this something to which it must be imputed be if not the meaning and the intention of the actor or that unnamed thing from which meaning and intention originate? Behaviorism asserts that it wants to predict human behavior. But it is impossible to predict the reaction of a man accosted by another with the words "you rat" without referring to the meaning that the man spoken to attaches to the epithet.
Both varieties of positivism decline to recognize the fact that men aim purposefully at definite ends. As they see it, all events must be interpreted in the relationship of stimulus and response, and there is no room left for a search for final causes. Against this rigid dogmatism it is necessary to stress the point that the rejection of finalism in dealing with events outside the sphere of human action is enjoined upon science only by the insufficiency of human reason. The natural sciences must refrain from dealing with final causes because they are unable to discover any final causes, not because they can prove that no final causes are operative.
. John B. Watson, Behaviorism (New York, W. W. Norton, 1930), p. 11.
The cognizance of the interconnectedness of all phenomena and of the regularity in their concatenation and sequence) and the fact that causality research works and has enlarged human knowledge, do not peremptorily preclude the assumption that final causes are operative in the universe. The reason for the natural sciences' neglect of final causes and their exclusive preoccupation with causality research is that this method works. The contrivances designed according to the scientific theories run the way the theories predicted and thus provide a pragmatic verification for their correctness. On the other hand the magic devices did not come up to expectations and do not bear witness to the magic world view.
It is obvious that it is also impossible to demonstrate satisfactorily by ratiocination that the alter ego is a being that aims purposively at ends. But the same pragmatic proof that can be advanced in favor of the exclusive use of causal research in the field of nature can be advanced in favor of the exclusive use of teleological methods in the field of human action. It works, while the idea of dealing with men as if they were stones or mice does not work. It works not only in the search for knowledge and theories but no less in daily practice.
The positivist arrives at his point of view surreptitiously. He denies to his fellow men the faculty of choosing ends and the means to attain these ends, but at the same time he claims for himself the ability to choose consciously between various methods of scientific procedure. He shifts his ground as soon as it comes
to problems of engineering, whether technological or "social." He designs plans and policies which cannot be interpreted as merely being automatic reactions to stimuli. He wants to deprive all his fellows of the right to act in order to reserve this privilege for himself alone. He is a virtual dictator.
As the behaviorist tells us, man can be thought of as an assembled organic machine ready to run." He disregards the fact that while machines run the way the engineer and the operator make them run, men run spontaneously here and there. "At birth human infants, regardless of their heredity, are as equal as Fords." Starting from this manifest falsehood, the behaviorist proposes to operate the "human Ford" the way the operator drives his car. He acts as if he owned humanity and were called upon to control and to shape it according to his own designs. For he himself is above the law, the godsent ruler of mankind.-------
. Watson, p. 269.
. Horace M. Kallen, ?Behaviorism,? Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 2, 498.
. Karl Mannheim developed a comprehensive plan to produce the ?best possible? human types by ?deliberately? reorganizing the various groups of social factors. ?We,? that is Karl Mannheim and his friends, will determine what ?the highest good of society and the peace of mind of the individual? require. Then ?we? will revamp mankind. For our vocation is ?the planned guidance of people?s lives.? Mannheim, Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1940), p. 222. The most remarkable thing about such ideas is that in the thirties and forties they were styled democratic, liberal, and progressive. Joseph Goebbels was more modest than Mannheim in that he wanted only to revamp the German people and not the whole of mankind. But in his approach to the problem he did not differ essentially fro Mannheim. In a letter of April 12, 1933, to Wilhelm Furtwangler he referred to the ?we? to whom ?the responsible task has been entrusted, to fashion out of the raw stuff of the masses the firm and well-shaped structure of the nation (denen die verantwortungsvolle Aufgabe anvertraut ist, aus dem rohen Stoff der Masse das feste und gestalthafte Gebilde des Volkes zu formen).? Berta Geissmar, Musik im Schatten der Politik (Zurich, Atlantis Verlag, 1945), pp. 97-9. Unfortunately neither Mannheim nor Goebbels told us who had entrusted them with the task of reconstructing and re-creating men.
As long as positivism does not explain philosophies and theories, and the plans and policies derived from them, in terms of its stimulus-response scheme, it defeats itself.
2. The Collectivist Dogma
Modern collectivist philosophy is a coarse offshoot of the old doctrine of conceptual realism. It has severed itself from the general philosophical antagonism between realism and nominalism and hardly pays any attention to the continued conflict of the two schools. It is a political doctrine and as such employs a terminology that is seemingly different from that used in the scholastic debates concerning universals as well from that of contemporary neorealism. But the nucleus of its teachings does not differ from that of the medieval realists. It ascribes to the universals objective real existence, even an existence superior to that of individuals, sometimes, even, flatly denying the autonomous existence of individuals, the only real existence.
What distinguishes collectivism from conceptual realism as taught by philosophers is not the method of approach but the political tendencies implied. Collectivism transforms the epistemological doctrine into an
ethical claim. It tells people what they ought to do. It distinguishes between the true collective entity to which people owe loyalty and spurious pseudo entities about which they ought not to bother at all. There is no uniform collectivist ideology, but many collectivist doctrines. Each of them extols a different collectivist entity and requests all decent people to submit to it. Each sect worships its own idol and is intolerant of all rival idols. Each ordains total subjection of the individual, each is totalitarian.
The particularist character of the various collectivist doctrines could easily be ignored because they regularly start with the opposition between society in general and individuals. In this antithesis there appears only one collective comprehending all individuals. There cannot therefore arise any rivalry among a multitude of collective entities. But in the further course of the analysis a special collective is imperceptibly substituted for the comprehensive image of the unique great society.
Let us first examine the concept of society in general. Men cooperate with one another. The totality of interhuman relations engendered by such cooperation is called society. Society is not an entity in itself. It is an aspect of human action. It does not exist or live outside of the conduct of people. It is an orientation of human action. Society neither thinks nor acts. Individuals in thinking and acting constitute a complex of relations and facts that are called social relations and facts.
The issue has been confused by an arithmetical metaphor. Is society, people asked, merely a sum of individuals
or is it more than this and thereby an entity endowed with independent reality? The question is nonsensical. Society is neither the sum of individuals nor more nor less. Arithmetical concepts cannot be applied to the matter.
Another confusion arises from the no less empty question whether society is-in logic and in time-anterior to individuals or not. The evolution of society and that of civilization were not two distinct processes but one and the same process. The biological passing of a species of primates beyond the level of a mere animal existence and their transformation into primitive men implied already the development of the first rudiments of social cooperation. Homo sapiens appeared on the stage of earthly events neither as a solitary food-seeker nor as a member of a gregarious flock, but as a being consciously cooperating with other beings of his own kind. Only in cooperation with his fellows could he develop language, the indispensable tool of thinking. We cannot even imagine a reasonable being living in perfect isolation and not cooperating at least with members of his family, clan, or tribe. Man as man is necessarily a social animal. Some sort of cooperation is an essential characteristic of his nature. But awareness of this fact does not justify dealing with social relations as if they were something else than relations or with society as if it were an independent entity outside or above the actions of individual men.
Finally there are the misconstructions caused by the organismic metaphor. We may compare society to a biological organism. The tertium comparationis is the fact
that division of labor and cooperation exist among the various parts of a biological body as among the various members of society. But the biological evolution that resulted in the emergence of the structure-function Systems of plant and animal bodies was a purely physiological process in which no trace of a conscious activity on the part of the cells can be discovered. On the other hand, human society is an intellectual and spiritual phenomenon. In cooperating with their fellows, individuals do not divest themselves of their individuality. They retain the power to act antisocially, and often make use of it. Its place in the structure of the body is invariably assigned to each cell. But individuals spontaneously choose the way in which they integrate themselves into social cooperation. Men have ideas and seek chosen ends, while the cells and organs of the body lack such autonomy.
Gestalt psychology passionately rejects the psychological doctrine of associationism. It ridicules the conception of "a sensory mosaic which nobody has ever observed" and teaches that "analysis if it wants to reveal the universe in its completeness has to stop at the wholes, whatever their size, which possess functional reality." Whatever one may think about Gestalt psychology, it is obvious that it has no reference at all to the problems of society. It is manifest that nobody has ever observed society as a whole. What can be observed is always actions of individuals. In interpreting the various aspects of the individual's actions, the theorists
. K. Koffka, ?Gestalt,? Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 6, 644.
develop the concept of society. There cannot be any question of understanding "the properties of parts from the properties of wholes." There are no properties of society that cannot be discovered in the conduct of its members.
In contrasting society and the individual and in denying to the latter any "true" reality, the collectivist doctrines look upon the individual merely as a refractory rebel. This sinful wretch has the impudence to give preference to his petty selfish interests as against the sublime interests of the great god society. Of course, the collectivist ascribes this eminence only to the rightful social idol, not to one of the pretenders.
But who pretender is, and who is king,
When the collectivist extols the state, what he means is not every state but only that regime of which he approves, no matter whether this legitimate state exists already or has to be created. For the Czech irredentists in the old Austria and the Irish irredentists in the United Kingdom the states whose governments resided in Vienna and in London were usurpers; their rightful state did not yet exist. Especially remarkable is the terminology of the Marxians. Marx was bitterly hostile to the Prussian state of the Hohenzollern. To make it clear that the state which he wanted to see omnipotent and totalitarian was not that state whose rulers resided in Berlin, he called the future state of his program not state but society. The innovation was merely verbal.
. Ibid., p. 645.
For what Marx aimed at was to abolish any sphere of the individual's initiative action by transferring the control of all economic activities to the social apparatus of compulsion and repression which is commonly called state or government. The hoax did not fail to beguile lots of people. Even today there are still dupes who think that there is a difference between state socialism and other types of socialism.
The confusion of the concepts of society and of state originated with Hegel and Schelling. It is customary to distinguish two schools of Hegelians: the left wing and the right wing. The distinction refers only to the attitude of these authors toward the Kingdom of Prussia and the doctrines of the Prussian Union Church. The political creed of both wings was essentially the same. Both advocated government omnipotence. It was a left-wing Hegelian, Ferdinand Lassalle, who most clearly expressed the fundamental thesis of Hegelianism: "The State is God." Hegel himself had been a little more cautious. He only declared that it is "the course of God through the world that constitutes the State" and that in dealing with the State one must contemplate "the Idea, God as actual on earth."
The collectivist philosophers fail to realize that what constitutes the state is the actions of individuals. The legislators, those enforcing the laws by force of arms, and those yielding to the dictates of the laws and the police constitute the state by their behavior. In this
. Gustav Mayer, Lassalleana, Archiv fur Geschichte der Sozialismus, 1, 196.
. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, sec. 258.
sense alone is the state real. There is no state apart from such actions of individual men.
3. The Concept of the Social Sciences
The collectivist philosophy denies that there are such things as individuals and actions of individuals. The individual is merely a phantom without reality, an illusory image invented by the pseudo philosophy of the apologists of capitalism. Consequently collectivism rejects the concept of a science of human action. As it sees it, the only legitimate treatment of those problems that are not dealt with by the traditional natural sciences is provided by what they call the social sciences.
The social sciences are supposed to deal with group activities. In their context the individual counts only as a member of a group. But this definition implies that there are actions in which the individual does not act as a member of a group and which therefore do not interest the social sciences. If this is so, it is obvious that the social sciences deal only with an arbitrarily selected fraction of the whole field of human action.
In acting, man must necessarily choose between various possible modes of acting. Limiting their analysis to one class of actions only, the social sciences renounce in advance any attempt to investigate the ideas that determine the individuals choice of a definite mode of conduct. They cannot deal with judgments of value which in any actual situation make a man prefer
. E. R. A. Seligman, ?What Are the Social Sciences?? Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 1, 3.
acting as a group member to acting in a different manner. Neither can they deal with the judgments of value that prompt a man to act as a member of group A rather than as a member of any of the non-A groups.
Man is not the member of one group only and does not appear on the scene of human affairs solely in the role of a member of one definite group. In speaking of social groups it must be remembered that the members of one group are at the same time members of other groups. The conflict of groups is not a conflict between neatly integrated herds of men. It is a conflict between various concerns in the minds of individuals.
What constitutes group membership is the way a man acts in a concrete situation. Hence group membership is not something rigid and unchangeable. It may change from case to case. The same man may in the course of a single day perform actions each of which qualifies him as a member of a different group. He may contribute to the funds of his denomination and cast his ballot for a candidate who antagonizes that denomination in essential problems. He may act at one instant as a member of a labor union, at another as a member of a religious community, at another as a member of a political party, at another as a member of a linguistic or a radical group, and so on. Or he may act as an individual working to earn more income, to get his son into college, to purchase a home, a car, or a refrigerator. In fact he always acts as an individual, always seeks ends of his own. In joining a group and acting as a member of it, he aims no less at the fulfillment of his own wishes than in acting without any reference to a group.
He may join a religious community in order to seek the salvation of his soul or to attain peace of mind. He may join a labor union because he believes that this is the best means to get higher pay or to avoid being bodily injured by the members of the union. He may join a political party because he expects that the realization of its program will render conditions more satisfactory for himself and his family.
It is vain to deal with "the activities of the individual as a member of a group" while omitting other activities of the individual. Group activities are essentially and necessarily activities of individuals who form groups in order to attain their ends. There are no social phenomena which would not originate from the activities of various individuals. What creates a group activity is a definite end sought by individuals and the belief of these individuals that cooperating in this group is a suitable means to attain the end sought. A group is a product of human wishes and the ideas about the means to realize these wishes. Its roots are in the value judgments of individuals and in the opinions held by individuals about the effects to be expected from definite means.
To deal with social groups adequately and completely, one must start from the actions of the individuals. No group activity can be understood without analyzing the ideology that forms the group and makes it live and work. The idea of dealing with group activities without dealing with all aspects of human action is preposterous. There is no field distinct from the field
. Seligman, loc. cit.
of the sciences of human action that could be investigated by something called the social sciences.
What prompted those who suggested the substitution of the social sciences for the sciences of human action was, of course, a definite political program. In their eyes the social sciences were designed to obliterate the social philosophy of individualism. The champions of the social sciences invented and popularized the terminology that characterizes the market economy, in which every individual is intent upon the realization of his own plan, as a planless and therefore chaotic system and reserves the term "plan" for the designs of an agency which, supported by or identical with the government's police power, prevents all citizens from realizing their own plans and designs. One can hardly overrate the role which the association of ideas generated by this terminology plays in shaping the political tenets of our contemporaries.
4. The Nature of Mass Phenomena
Some people believe that the object of the social sciences is the study of mass phenomena. While the study of individual traits is of no special interest to them, they hope study of the behavior of social aggregates will reveal information of a really scientific character. For these people the chief defect of the traditional methods of historical research is that they deal with individuals. They esteem statistics precisely because, as they think, it observes and records the behavior of social groups.
In fact statistics records individual traits of the members of arbitrarily selected groups. Whatever the principle may be that determined the scientist to set up a group, the traits recorded refer primarily to the individuals that form the group and only indirectly to the group. The individual members of the group are the units of observation. What statistics provides is information about the behavior of individuals forming a group.
Modern statistics aims at discovering invariable connections between statistically established magnitudes by measuring their correlation. In the field of the sciences of human action this method is absurd. This has been clearly demonstrated by the fact that many coefficients of correlation of a high numerical value have been calculated which undoubtedly do not indicate any connection between the two groups of facts.
Social phenomena and mass phenomena are not things outside and above individual phenomena. They are not the cause of individual phenomena. They are produced either by the cooperation of individuals or by parallel action. The latter may be either independent or imitative. This is valid also with regard to antisocial actions. The intentional killing of a man by another man is as such merely a human action and would have no other significance in a hypothetical (and irrealizable) state in which there was no cooperation between men. It becomes a crime, murder, in a state where social
. M.R. Cohen and E. Nagel, An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method (New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1934), p. 317.
cooperation precludes homicide except in cases strictly determined by the laws of this society.
What is commonly called a mass phenomenon is the frequent repetition and recurrence of a definite individual phenomenon. The proposition: In the West bread is an article of mass consumption, means: In the West the immense majority of men eat bread daily. They do not eat bread because it is an article of mass consumption. Bread is an article of mass consumption because practically everybody eats a piece of bread each day. From this point of view one may appreciate the endeavors of Gabriel Tarde to describe imitation and repetition as fundamental factors of social evolution.
The champions of the social sciences criticize the historians for concentrating their attention upon the actions of individuals and neglecting the conduct of the many, the immense majority, the masses. The critique is spurious. A historian who deals with the spread of the Christian creed and of the various churches and denominations, with the events that resulted in the emergence of integrated linguistic groups, with the European colonization of the Western hemisphere, with the rise of modern capitalism certainly does not overlook the behavior of the many. However, the main task of history is to indicate the relation of the individuals' actions to the course of affairs. Different individuals influence historical change in different ways. There are pioneers who conceive new ideas and design new modes of thinking and acting; there are leaders who guide people along
. G. Tarde, Les lois de l?imitation, 3d ed. Paris, 1900.
the way these people want to walk, and there are the anonymous masses who follow the leaders. There can be no question of writing history without the names of the pioneers and the leaders. The history of Christianity cannot pass over in silence such men as Saint Paul, Luther, and Calvin, nor can the history of seventeenth-century England fail to analyze the roles of Cromwell, Milton, and William III. To ascribe the ideas producing historical change to the mass psyche is a manifestation of arbitrary metaphysical prepossession. The intellectual innovations which August Comte and Buckle rightly considered the main theme of the study of history are not achievements of the masses. Mass movements are not inaugurated by anonymous nobodys but by individuals. We do not know the names of the men who in the early days of civilization accomplished the greatest exploits. But we are certain that also the technological and institutional innovations of those early ages were not the result of a sudden flash of inspiration that struck the masses but the work of some individuals who by far surpassed their fellow men.
There is no mass psyche and no mass mind but only ideas held and actions performed by the many in endorsing the opinions of the pioneers and leaders and imitating their conduct. Mobs and crowds too act only under the direction of ringleaders. The common men who constitute the masses are characterized by lack of initiative. They are not passive, they also act, but they act only at the instigation of abetters.
The emphasis laid by sociologists upon mass phenomena and their idolization of the common man are
an offshoot of the myth that all men are biologically equal. Whatever differences exist between individuals are caused, it is maintained, by postnatal circumstances. If all people equally enjoyed the benefits of a good education, such differences would never appear. The supporters of this doctrine are at a loss to explain the differences among graduates of the same school and the fact that many who are self-taught far excel the doctors, masters, and bachelors of the most renowned universities. They fail to see that education cannot convey to pupils more than the knowledge of their teachers. Education rears disciples, imitators, and routinists, not pioneers of new ideas and creative geniuses. The schools are not nurseries of progress and improvement but conservatories of tradition and unvarying modes of thought. The mark of the creative mind is that it defies a part of what it has learned or, at least, adds something new to it. One utterly misconstrues the feats of the pioneer in reducing them to the instruction he got from his teachers. No matter how efficient school training may be, it would only produce stagnation, orthodoxy, and rigid pedantry if there were no uncommon men pushing forward beyond the wisdom of their tutors.
It is hardly possible to mistake more thoroughly the meaning of history and the evolution of civilization than by concentrating one's attention upon mass phenomena and neglecting individual men and their exploits. No mass phenomenon can be adequately treated without analyzing the ideas implied. And no new ideas spring from the mythical mind of the masses.