Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Remarks on Method in the Study of Society

Current psychological and philosophical terms, from souls to larynges, are attempts at fixating the verbal values of practical talk, the form of fixation being the "thing," a form from which science flees. In science, as today developed, such terms as "gold" or "the moon" are merely indications of problems; and the trend, so far from being toward their heightened specification as things, is toward the blending of all their indicated processes into the wider processes of scientific experience.

Sociology deals with material things and with analogous psychic things, but until it passes beyond these in their approximate values as things, and goes through them into their full processes, it can hardly qualify itself for the term "science" in the recent sense in which the word is used above. Not fixation of things, but processing, is what it must seek.

The other sciences, except psychology, need not bother much with the process of experience; their field is in a content of experience. Psychology works inside a process of experience, assuming an environment. It is the peculiarity of sociology that it must deal with great procedures that work through the experiencing process.

Sociology has had its struggles to locate a social thing in addition to various material and psychic things; but in that way does not lie science for it. It must cut through the bifurcations, subject-object among them, if it is to do its work. In the social aspect it must find, not an added type of thing, but the clue to unification and to analysis of process in the unified material. It may approach this problem in disregard of the techniques of all theologies, philosophies, and psychologies for the very reason that the tests and goals of those systems of approach are to be found within its own material.

This problem must be solved, to the extent at least of a working scheme,

____________________
From American Journal of Sociology, Vol. XXXII, No. 3 ( November, 1926), pp. 456-60.

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