Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: difficulties of the social science - The Study of Sociology
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CHAPTER IV.: difficulties of the social science - Herbert Spencer, The Study of Sociology 
The Study of Sociology (London: Henry S. King, 1873).
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difficulties of the social science.
From the intrinsic natures of its facts, from our own natures as observers of its facts, and from the peculiar relation in which we stand towards the facts to be observed, there arise impediments in the way of Sociology greater than those in the way of any other science.
The phenomena to be generalized are not of a directly-perceptible kind—cannot be noted by telescope and clock, like those of Astronomy; cannot be measured by dynamometer and thermometer, like those of Physics; cannot be elucidated by scales and test-papers, like those of Chemistry; are not to be got at by scalpel and microscope, like the less obvious biological phenomena; nor are to be recognized by introspection, like the phenomena Psychology deals with. They have severally to be established by putting together many details, no one of which is simple, and which are dispersed, both in Space and Time, in ways that make them difficult of access. Hence the reason why even cardinal truths in Sociology, such as the division of labour, remain long unrecognized. That in advanced societies men follow different occupations, was indeed a generalization easy to make; but that this form of social arrangement had neither been specially created, nor enacted by a king, but had grown up without forethought of any one, was a conclusion which could be reached only after many transactions of many kinds between men had been noted, remembered, and accounted for, and only after comparisons had been made between these transactions and those taking place between men in simpler societies and in earlier times. And when it is remembered that the data for the inference that labour becomes specialized, are far more accessible than the data for most other sociological inferences, it will be seen how greatly the advance of Sociology is hindered by the nature of its subject-matter.
The characters of men as observers, add to this first difficulty a second that is perhaps equally great. Necessarily men take with them into sociological inquiries, the modes of observation and reasoning which they have been accustomed to in other inquiries—those of them, at least, who make any inquiries worthy to be so called. Passing over the great majority of the educated, and limiting ourselves to the very few who consciously collect data, compare them, and deliberately draw conclusions; we may see that even these have to struggle with the difficulty that the habits of thought generated by converse with relatively-simple phenomena, partially unfit them for converse with these highly-complex phenomena. Faculty of every kind tends always to adjust itself to its work. Special adjustment to one kind of work involves more or less non-adjustment to other kinds. And hence, intellects disciplined in dealing with less-involved classes of facts, cannot successfully deal with this most-involved class of facts without partially unlearning the methods they have learnt. From the emotional nature, too, there arise great obstacles. Scarcely any one can contemplate social arrangements and actions with the unconcern felt when contemplating arrangements and actions of other kinds. For correct observation and correct drawing of inferences, there needs the calmness that is ready to recognize or to infer one truth as readily as another. But it is next to impossible thus to deal with the truths of Sociology. In the search for them, each is moved by feelings, more or less strong, which make him eager to find this evidence, oblivious of that which is at variance with it, reluctant to draw any conclusion but that already drawn. And though perhaps one in ten among those who think, is conscious that his judgment is being warped by prejudice, yet even in him the warp is not adequately allowed for. Doubtless in nearly every field of inquiry emotion is a perturbing intruder: mostly there is some preconception, and some amour propre that resists disproof of it. But a peculiarity of Sociology is, that the emotions with which its facts and conclusions are regarded, have unusual strength. The personal interests are directly affected; or there is gratification or offence to sentiments that have grown out of them; or else other sentiments which have relation to the existing form of society, are excited, agreeably or disagreeably.
And here we are introduced to the third kind of difficulty—that caused by the position occupied, in respect to the phenomena to be generalized. In no other case has the inquirer to investigate the properties of an aggregate in which he is himself included. His relation towards the facts he here studies, we may figure to ourselves by comparing it to the relation between a single cell forming part of a living body, and the facts which that living body presents as a whole. Speaking generally, the citizen’s life is made possible only by due performance of his function in the place he fills; and he cannot wholly free himself from the beliefs and sentiments generated by the vital connexions hence arising between himself and his society. Here, then, is a difficulty to which no other science presents anything analogous. To cut himself off in thought from all his relationships of race, and country, and citizenship—to get rid of all those interests, prejudices, likings, superstitions, generated in him by the life of his own society and his own time—to look on all the changes societies have undergone and are undergoing, without reference to nationality, or creed, or personal welfare; is what the average man cannot do at all, and what the exceptional man can do very imperfectly.
The difficulties of the Social Science, thus indicated in vague outline, have now to be described and illustrated in detail.