Psychological Interpretations of Society

By Michael M. Davis Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
SOCIAL MIND: DEFINITION

I

A THING which resides in no one individual and which yet has no existence apart from individuals, presents the same difficulty of definition as that over which medieval nominalists and realists split. Durkheim's is the classic statement of the realistic view. Men are constrained to social conformity through the pressure of "social facts," standards, "modes of action fixed or unfixed,""which are general over the whole extent of a given society and have an existence in themselves, independently of their individual manifestations."

Contrast with this the view held by the philologist Herman Paul, whose Principles of the History of Language is a striking example of the infusion of the psychological and sociological point of view into a special social science.1 No such thing as "the mind of a community" exists; "all purely psychical reciprocal operation comes to its fulfilment in the individual mind alone." The intercourse of mind with mind is indirect. Groups of ideas indeed develop, common to many individuals, but

____________________
1
Published in German, 1880; second edition, 1886; English edition, 1888. Paul's psychological and sociological conceptions, presented in the preface to his book, bear witness to the influence of Lazarus and Steinhal. He cannot be said to have borrowed them, but they seem to have been suggested to his mind through his searching critique of their Folk-Psychology. The citation is from p. xxxviii.

-65-

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