The Social Question

Die Soziale Frage
Magazine for Literature, 67th Y., No. 28, 16 July 1898
Google translate: German to English


It is not easy to talk about the "social question" today, endless talking helps to influence our judgment on this issue in the least favorable way. Nothing like this has been "confused by the parties favor and hate." As in few areas, the views are sharply opposed. What has not been put forward? And how soon one notices, with many views appearing, that they stem from spirits who are wandering through the world of facts with the utmost fury.

However, I do not even consider the party passions to be the worst obstacles to a desirable assessment of the social question. Only those who are within the Party's operations are missled by them. Anyone who is beyond this transmission, always has the opportunity to make a personal judgment. A much more significant obstacle seems to be that our thinking heads, our scientifically trained culture bearers, do not want to succeed in finding a sure way to find a methodical way of tackling this question.

Again and again I come to this conviction when I read writings on the social question of authors who are quite earnest because of their scientific education. I have noticed that in this field the kind of thinking which our researchers have adopted under the influence of Darwinism is for the time being not yet beneficial. Do not misunderstand me. I realize that with the Darwinist mindset, one of the greatest advances mankind has made has been accomplished. And I believe that Darwinism must be beneficial in all areas of human thought, if its in accordance with one's spirit. I myself have delivered in my Philosophy of Freedom a book which, in my opinion, is written in the very spirit of Darwinism. What happened to me in the conception of this book is very curious. I had been thinking about the most intimate questions of human spiritual life. I did not care about Darwinism at all. And when my mind was finished, I got the idea: You have made a contribution to Darwinism.

Now I think that sociologists do not do it that way. They first asked the Darwinian-thinking naturalists: How do you do it? And then they transferred their methods to their field. They committing a big mistake. The laws of nature governing the organic realm of nature are simply transferred to the field of human spiritual life; these laws are applied to human development in exactly the same way as it is observed in the animal. There is undoubtedly a healthy core in this view. There is certainly a similar conformity to law throughout the world. But it is by no means necessary for the same laws to be active in all fields. The laws that the Darwinists have found work in the animal and plant kingdoms. In the human kingdom we have to look for laws that are thought in the spirit of Darwinism - but which are just as specifically inherent to the human realm as the laws of organic development are to the natural kingdoms mentioned above. We have to search for the laws of human development, even when these are also thought in the spirit of Darwinism. Simply transferring the laws of Darwinism to the development of humanity will not lead to satisfactory views.

I noticed this especially when reading the book, "The Social Question In The Light Of Philosophy" by Dr. Ludwig Stein (published by Ferdinand Enke, Stuttgart 1897) for which I write down these thoughts: controlled by the intention to treat the social question in a way that corresponds to that prevailing in Darwinian natural science.

"What Buckle did to the concept of causality in history over a lifetime ago, namely that, supported by the emerging statistics, proved its unconditional validity for the past history of all life, has to be done today for the sake of development, after we have reaped the achievements of Darwin and his successors."

Starting from this inclination, Ludwig Stein examines how the various forms of human social coexistence control the people. And he tries to show that "adaptation" and "struggle for existence" play the same role as in animal development. First of all, I want to pick one of these forms in order to make the approach of Steins vivid: the religious one.

Man finds himself surrounded by various forces of nature. These intervene in his life. They can be useful or harmful to him. They become useful to him if he finds means by which he can use the forces of nature in the sense that they serve his existence. Man invents tools and devices to make the forces of nature serviceable. That is, he seeks to adapt his own existence to that of his environment. There may be many attempts that prove to be erroneous. Among countless many, however, they will always hit upon those that are right. These remain the winners. You keep them for yourself. The mistaken attempts are destroyed. The useful is preserved in the "struggle for existence."

Among the forces of nature man finds not only the visible but also the invisible. He calls them, next to the purely natural, the divine powers. He also wants to adapt to this. He invents religion with sacrificial service, believing that it will move the divine powers for his benefit.  Stein considers the origin of marriage, property, state, language, and law in the same way. All of these forms are created by man's adaptation to his environment; and the present forms of marriage, property, etc., have been preserved because they have proved to be most useful to man in the struggle for existence. One sees that Stein is simply trying to transfer Darwinism to the human domain. I will use the cited book to show where such a transfer leads in the following article. ("Freedom And Society") 

© Tom Last 2017