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Professor c. w. A. veditz, GeoRGE was HINGton UNIVERSITY
Two points have been merely touched upon which occur to me as having a fundamental bearing upon the subjects discussed in Professor Ross's paper. The first of them is so plain as to require nothing more than statement.
When in any family the number of children is so great as to exceed the number which could be properly fed, properly clothed, and properly cared for, this excess of numbers is apt to mean, not merely the extinction of the surplus children, but the underfeeding and undertraining of all of them. If, for instance, the income of a given family is just sufficient to rear decently three children, and five are put into the world, the probable consequence is not the total neglect of the two extra children, but insufficient care for all five. Too large families, therefore, mean, to say the least, an economic waste greater than that involved in the ultimate extinction of the excessive members. Professor Ross, however, appears to suggest that the presence of a large number of children in a poor family entails a selective process which weeds out the physically and mentally unfit and results in the survival of the fittest. I do not think that this is the case either in the large families or in the small families, or that it is mainly in the richer families with few children that the weaker offspring are given the special care that insures their survival. For whether the family is large or small, whether it contains three children or ten, whether the parents are rich or poor, it is as likely in the one case as in the other that the physically and intellectually weak are not weeded out in infancy, but kept alive by dint of lavish care, which in the case of a family of ten children with poor parents necessarily involves a corresponding neglect of the naturally stronger and brighter children.
The second point of equally fundamental importance is the manifest conflict of interests between the individual family and the community at large. The community wants soldiers, it wants laborers, it wants numerical strength. In France systematic endeavors have long been made by both private and public organizations to prevent depopulation. But it has frequently been noted there that the very leaders of the movement for raising the birth-rate are among those who in their private lives pursue that policy of “intelligent egoism” which limits the family to one or two children. They want the population to be increased, but they prefer that their own families remain small and that their fellow-citizens “save the nation from extinction.” This conflict of interests has been strikingly brought out in recent French literature by a score of novelists and playwrights, of whom the foremost is probably Henri Brieux, the author of Maternité. If it be in the interest of society to have a relatively higher birthrate, I fail to note any fallacy in the argument that if society is to reap the advantages from large families, then society should at least bear a large part of the burden involved by large families.
PROFEssor walTER F. willcox, corn ELL UNIVERSITY
Professor Ross's paper suggests the possibility of agreement among sociologists upon certain fundamental points involved in the problem of population. There is no time now to elaborate or discuss these points, which, it will be seen, lead us up to the question which the British Sociological Society has been considering the last two years, and which Francis Galton has done so much to bring within the range of serious discussion. These points, as I see them, are briefly as follows: 1. The increase of population among peoples of European stock during the last two centuries has been enormous and unprecedented. 2. This increase has not been due to any increase in the birth-rate, but rather to a decrease in the death-rate. 3. The decrease in the death-rate has been due to two main causes: first, an increased production of food, not only in Europe, but especially in other lands made tributary to European peoples; and, secondly, an increase in human control over diseases and causes of death not connected with the food supply. 4. While the second great cause of a decreased death-rate may continue to operate with undiminished vigor, the first seems likely to become less potent. 5. During the last half-century the birth-rate among peoples of European stock has tended to decrease, this tendency beginning to operate at different dates in different countries and in different classes of society, but being now well-nigh universal among the carriers of western civilization. 6. The primary cause of this decrease is that within the last half-century the western peoples have acquired for the first time the power to control the birthrate and have exercised that power in accordance with their individual judgment. 7. In the decrease of the death-rate the interests of the individual striving to prolong both his own life and the lives of those dear to him, and the interests of society striving to reduce the sum-total of death in the community, have co-operated effectively toward a common end. 8. In the decrease of the birth-rate, on the other hand, there always may be, and doubtless often is, a conflict between the apparent or real interests of the individual or family and the real interests of society, the former often indicating a balance of individual or family advantage in favor of a small family, the latter always indicating that it is for the welfare of man, as of any other form of life, to continue the species, so far as possible and as a rule through the agency of its best individuals. 9. This conflict of interests makes it possible, if not probable, that the decrease of the birth-rate resulting from considerations solely or mainly of individual or family welfare may be more rapid, either in the entire community or in parts of it, than the welfare of the society as a whole or of humanity justifies. Io. Under present conditions it seems probable that a nation may increase mainly from its weaker lines of descent, or at least may not gain as it might and should from its best lines. This change may extend even to races, and the white race lose the numerical predominance it has so recently acquired. 11. This possibility or probability raises a question of great sociological importance, whether a readjustment both ethical and economic is not needed and imminent, whereby the present and future birth-rate of the entire community or of the classes of pre-eminent social worth may be controlled less exclusively by the interests of the individual or the family, and more by the general interests of society, or whereby society may gradually modify the interests of the former class into closer agreement with its own.
POINTS OF AGREEMENT AMONG SOCIOLOGISTS
PROFESSOR ALBION W. SMALL
When the secretary asked me to read a paper at this meeting, my answer was that I would start an informal discussion, but that the one thing needful to make such conventions as this a success was the banishment of “papers” altogether. Then, like thousands before me, I followed the line of least resistance, and before I had stopped jotting down the points which I should like to expand, I had scheduled twenty propositions, with somewhat extended comments. They amount to a rather cogent piece of evidence that my creed was better than my practice.
If I had anticipated what occurred last evening, I should have added another ingredient to my prescription for a successful meeting—viz., the abolition of presidents who put into their inaugural addresses all that can be said by the subsequent speakers. Professor Ward last evening covered the ground so completely that what I have to offer is already out of date. The only criticism I could pass on his address, if I wanted to pick a quarrel with him, is the exact opposite of the most obvious fault with the remarks I shall make. I thought he claimed a little too much for sociology up to date, while I shall claim much less than the facts bear out. I shall not attempt to sum up all the points on which sociologists agree. I shall not venture at all into statements of social principles. The twenty propositions which I shall recite, with such comments as time permits, might indeed be compressed into the apparently trite observation that the sociologists are fairly well agreed about their point of view. Anyone who has looked below the surface of the history of science knows that when a group of scientists have gone so far they have potentially solved their major problems. Whatever else sociology is, we all see that it is important first of all simply as a point of view. We have taken possession of our standingground, and we shall now proceed at our leisure to move the world. I. My first proposition is that for the purpose of this discussion we may confine ourselves to consideration of scope and method. Nobody is more thoroughly aware than I that for the spirit's daily food mighty little sunshine can be abstracted directly from the methodological cucumber. Methodology is merely the algebra of knowledge. On the other hand, knowledge cannot grow from scrap perceptions to coherent generalizations without valid mental method. As knowledge advances from the accretions of casual experience to the accumulations of planned research, incessant criticism of method is indispensable. When we are at the stage of deliberate investigation, the methodologist must run the lines of preliminary survey, and he must account for the inaccuracies and the discrepancies in first results. Progress in science depends on development of method not less than on multiplication of data. No one whose judgment has weight can lightly esteem any evident tendency among investigators toward consensus about delimitation of problems and competence of methods. The methodologist is not the sociologist par excellence, but the sociologists are far enough advanced to have recognized the necessity of constant vigilance in criticizing their own methodology. 2. In the second place, “agreement,” in this discussion, is a relative term. Fortunately we are not so contentedly agreed about anything that there is likely to be an arrest of progress among us in the near future from lack of sparks to keep our motors moving. What I refer to as “agreement” in a given case might perhaps be more accurately phrased as “inclination to emphasize,” as contrasted with utter absence of settled usage one or two decades ago. If any of us, for example, employ biological metaphors for sociological relations, we all understand that they are metaphors, even if we have no precise common denominator for expressing the facts literally. Again, if we differ widely in our terminology, it is increasingly evident that these variations stand for convergent efforts to formulate one and the same thing. The margin of difference between us represents in part our search for slightly different types of relations when we appear to be after the same things; in part our failure quite to make out the exact relations that we are running down; and in part mere conflicts of judgment about the systems of notation to be used in recording what has been ascertained. 3. We agree to discriminate between the aris of sociology and the center of interest chosen by any individual sociologist. A dozen years ago the dispassionate observer would have had the general appearance of things rather uniformly on his side if he had said that each sociologist thinks the head of the table is where he sits, and that unadulterated sociological food is served only from his porringer. At peril of further snarling this tangle of tropes, I may say that the sociologists are today employed in many divisions of labor, but we are rapidly outgrowing the foible of considering our division either the sole measure of sociological value or the Greenwich meridian for all the rest. Our conception of the scope of sociological problems excludes the presumption that a single investigator, or a single group or type of investigators, can control all the conditions that enter into the problems. Our work will be abortive unless in spirit and in effect it is co-operative. Each of us is not only better able than a few years ago to see that his own contribution to the final result can be but a fragment at best, but each of us feels an intelligent respect for the importance of his neighbor's work. Sociology is no longer to our minds merely, or even principally, the particular phase of theory or practice which chiefly engages our individual attention. It is the correlated system of positive inquiry into human relations in which every variation of approach to real knowledge of social experience will ultimately find its place. 4. We agree to differentiate sociology from antecedent psychology or cosmology or metaphysics. For purely conceptual purposes sociology is one thing— viz., the inclusive and co-ordinated system of knowledge referred to in the last sentence of 3; for practical working purposes it is