PERRY WRITES ON NEW DEPARTMENT
In view of the fact that members of the Freshman class must choose their fields of concentration by Wednesday, April 25, the following article dealing with the work of the new Department of Sociology and Social Ethics has been written for the Crimson by Professor R. B. Perry, professor of Philosophy.
This new department which has been recently organized is designed eventually to supplant the department of Social Ethics, although all men who chose the latter field before last October may continue in it.
In establishing a new field of concentration in "Sociology and Social Ethics" the Faculty desires, as in the case of "History and Literature", to recognize an identity of subject matter that tends to be hidden by the more or less artificial barriers that separate the departments of a modern university. At the same time there is an equally strong desire to avoid the shallowness and sentimentality that are associated with what is called "breadth of view". Henry James once referred to the field of all things human and divine which was the topic of study at the Concord School of Philosophy, as "the large vague area, with its vast marginal ease".
The Faculty has no desire to promote either vagueness or ease. Human society is a concrete and unified phenomenon, whose concreteness and unity are no doubt obscured by the differences of method and approach which distinguish economics, history, government, anthropology and ethics. At the same time, however, these different social sciences have, through their very specialization, acquired a firmness of intellectual texture, a maturity of thought, and a body of information which are now essential to any competant understanding of society as a whole. The new field of concentration provides therefore, that students whose special interest is human society, shall combine these old fields in a new way. Men who concentrate in the new field will pursue courses offered in the several social sciences, while tutorial guidance and reading will supply the necessary unifying relations.
The new plan is designed especially to unite the study of social facts with an examination of the standards and ideals by which these facts are to be judged. It is assumed that there are two equally legitimate questions which may be asked about society. First, what is society? and second, what ought society to be? The first question is descriptive, analytical and historical. The second is the question which Aristotle formulated when he said, "He who would duly enquire about the best form of a state ought first to determine which is the most eligible life". It is not intended that either of these inquiries shall be slighted. It is believed that their union will be fruitful, and that it will conduce to sound judgment on the concrete problems of contemporary civilization.
While this plan of study is believed to be sound in principle there are no illusions as to its difficulty. It is believed that in view of the present limitations and decentralization of the social sciences the new field of concentration demands a special aptitude and seriousness of purpose