Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/233

This page has been validated.

The best way to compare the two methods would be to try them upon some of the contested questions of life and society. Mr. Spencer incidentally overhauls a good many of the commonplace usages and views, and rectifies them upon his principles, lie shows the absurdity of men living and working all for the future, and depriving themselves of nearly every present indulgence. He earnestly inculcates the necessity of counting the present loss in the estimate of the future gain. This, it might be said, is merely empirical Hedonism. So it is, with this addition, that loss of pleasure is loss of vitality; the question of pleasure and pain being now resolvable into the question, To be or not to be? Of course, such a sweeping doctrine is to be held with certain qualifications and exceptions; and the point is. Can these qualifications be rendered definite? A rule with well-defined exceptions is practically universal.

Without assuming that Mr. Spencer has propounded a new doctrine, the antithesis of the doctrine of utility, he may claim to have put forward a new point of view, in the working out of the doctrine; a point of view that does not admit of being reargued until it has been tried. Who shall say what amount of gradual transformation of ethical conceptions will follow from steadily regarding conduct under the lights that he has afforded? He will be a bold man that can treat the regard to the physical organism, its capacities and developments, as of no importance in the Hedonic computation; and, if it is of importance, Mr. Spencer shows the way to turn it to account.

The bright future of complete accommodation of man to his circumstances, brought about by evolution, is cheerful to contemplate; and, if it be a work of imagination, it is at least based on science. The socialism that Mill would work out by a long course of education is clinched, according to Mr. Spencer, by inherited modifications and material guarantees. Our fervent wishes are with both.—Mind.


By Professor O. C. MARSH.

IN the rapid progress of knowledge, we are constantly brought face to face with the question. What is life? The answer is not yet, but a thousand earnest seekers after truth seem to be slowly approaching a solution. This question gives a new interest to every department of science that relates to life in any form, and the history of life offers

  1. President's address delivered before the American Association for thc Advancement of Science, at Saratoga, New York, August 28, 1879.