Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/649

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Mr. Sully proceeds to the optimistic philosophers of the last century, who endeavored, by metaphysical subtilty, to argue the existence of evil out of the universe. Of this school, Leibnitz, Shaftesbury, and Pope, may be taken as the leaders. The French éclaircissement brought a new idea to the front, that of human perfectibility, personified in Condorcet and Godwin. It was hoped that, after all, evil might not be inherent in the nature of things, but might prove a mere excrescence, due to the social errors of mankind. This creed found its most eloquent exponent in the poet Shelley; and, extravagant as were its first enthusiastic developments, Mr. Sully justly traces to its influence the modern belief in progress as an actual fact, present and prospective. In the social amelioration promised by the apostles of evolution, and especially by Mr. Herbert Spencer, our author rightly sees "the one vital type of optimism in our age." The kernel of the work is reached when we come to the survey of Schopenhauer's philosophy, and the account of his disciple, Hartmann, whose system is very fully analyzed. Their deliberate conviction, arrived at by an ostentatiously logical and stringent method, consists in the belief that "life is a uselessly interrupting episode in the blissful repose of the non-existent." With the careful exposition of their teaching, the historical portion of Mr. Sully's volume closes. The larger and critical division consists of a systematic dialectic against the whole argument of German pessimism, as represented by these its greatest lights. Into this part of his work, which is lengthy, and closely reasoned, we can only briefly follow him. Mr. Sully begins by clearly setting forth the problem in dispute. He then attacks the superstructure of Hartmann from its metaphysical basis, which he shows to be verbal, illusory, and self-contradictory. Its scientific basis is next examined from the physical and the psychological standpoints; and from both it is found to be wanting. Finally, the author sums up his own view in three somewhat lengthy chapters, which exhibit him as holding a middle course between the two extremes. While he rejects the untenable theory of the absolute optimists, he cannot agree that any groundwork for pessimism as a reasoned principle exists in the facts under consideration. His own platform is summed up in the single expression meliorism, suggested to him by George Eliot. In this creed he finds an incitement to practical effort which falls in with the natural longings of humanity and the teachings of modern evolutionism, but which is wanting either to the satisfied theological optimist or to the blankly-despondent German pessimist. In the hopes of our common humanity we have a refuge alike from the selfish acquiescence of the pietist and the petty troubles of individual existence.

As a whole, the work exhibits all Mr. Sully's characteristics in their fullest form. It is rather long-winded, a trifle dull, and somewhat apt to stray from the plain paths of common-sense into the hazy realm of metaphysics and casuistical subtilty. But, on the other hand, it is full of varied and accurate learning, judicial impartiality, and studied moderation. Great pains have been taken to bring it up to date in every respect, some works being actually noticed or quoted which must have appeared while the volume was passing through the press. And as an exhaustive account of all that has been written or thought upon its subject at all periods, ancient or modern, it may be thoroughly recommended alike to the psychological student and to the general reader.

The Ancient Life-History of the Earth. A Comprehensive Outline of the Principles and Leading Facts of Palæontological Science. By H. Alleyne Nicholson, M. D., D. Sc, Professor of Natural History in the University of St. Andrew's. D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 407. Price, $2.00.

The subject of this book is one of growing scientific interest. Only within the present century has it been revealed that the earth has been laden with life for untold ages, until its crust has become a vast tomb, and even thick and extensive rock-strata are made up of the skeletons of creatures of extreme minuteness. The present life of the globe is but the last term in an almost infinite series of generations, that have so varied in form and character, as we go back in time, that they serve to mark off the geological epochs.

A group of absorbing questions now clusters around this great fact of the ancient life-history of the earth, and there is much