“Opinions are not the rules for actions.”


If a picture is drawn of a tree whose title is nevertheless, “A Fish,” only one insane may say, “This is a picture of a fish.” Unfortunately, in social sciences such insane statements are still very numerous. Authors still do not understand that the labels and the real situation, the speech reactions of a man and his real behavior may be quite different. If in a constitution is written “all men are equal,” they often conclude that in such a society the equality is realized. If a man abundantly produces sonorous phrases, then for this reason he is judged as “open-minded,” “progressive,” “protector of the laboring classes” and so on, regardless of his real behavior. For the same reason, the periods of Revolution are styled as periods of progress and so forth. Such “thinkers” do not see what was clear for [Pierre] Bayle several centuries ago [in his Pensées Diverses sur l’Occasion de la Comète]. “Opinions (speech reactions and labels) are not the rules for actions, and men do not follow them in their conduct,” says Bayle. … [The Christians are those who, being smitten on the right cheek, turn to the offender their left one. I wish I could see such Christians. These examples show that between the labels and the real situation may be the greatest discrepancy. This is one reason for not relying on labels and speech reactions in the description of social phenomena.

— Pitirim A. Sorokin, Social Mobility

So wrote Sorokin in 1927. I find his words very true today.


— Roger W. Smith

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