The Strength of Nations: A Study in Social Theory

By George Soule | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE ORDER OF THE SCIENCES

IF WE ARE to gain much help from science in managing human affairs, we must know more about the nature of man. Medicine, which studies man as do the social sciences--but usually with a more immediate practical purpose in view--has shown us that it is possible, though difficult, to gain accurate and reliable knowledge concerning what man is composed of and how he operates, just as it is possible to achieve the same knowledge about stars and the earth, or the substances in them. We intend to inquire further into this subject. But first it is necessary to pacify a few objectors who customarily arise to question that there is or can be any really scientific knowledge about human behavior.

The first member of the audience who takes the floor is one who has the idea that the only proper field for science is the world of tangible objects. You can study and measure such things as metals, elements, magnets or suns, or perhaps even microbes, plants and bees. You can look at the human body as a mechanism, or as an arrangement of chemical compounds, ions and electric potentials. All these things are in a curious sense "real"; we feel that when we are dealing with them we have our scientific feet on the ground. But when it comes to a consideration of complex human emotions and all the queer things men think and do, from marrying to collect-

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