Social Ethics: Sociology and the Future of Society

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Michael R. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
ON CERTAIN INTERACTIONS

SOCIAL LIFE, like other life-forms, has its body and its soul; the soul, that widening spirit of conscious humanity; the body, the mechanical structure in and through which we function.

Further, of a society as of an individual, we may say, “Mens sana copore sano.”1 For a truly sound social mind we must have a sound social body. This truth we were a long time discovering, even of the physical body. Asceticism has always striven to ennoble the soul by degrading the body, and always failed.

That Epicureanism has done no better is because it has misunderstood the uses of the body, and put sensation before function. Very slowly, and only through a growing knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and hygiene, have we come to know the relation between body and soul; to see how indigestion causes bad temper, and irritation of the intestinal tract, melancholy. It is within a few years only that we have begun to appreciate the “fatigue poisons,” which so injure body and mind.

If this knowledge of our personal relation of body and soul is so imperfect, so recent, it is no wonder that we are still slower to see the relation between society’s body and soul.

Yet the last is as important, as unescapable, as the first. As much as personal health is a necessary concomitant of personal righteousness, so is social health a part of social righteousness.

Into this wide new field of study we must press, examining not only the crasser diseases of society, such as vice, crime, and poverty, but those

-87-

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