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LITERARY NOTICES.

Mr. Spencer is accused of relaxing the restraints of morality; but he has simply sought to make its reasons clearer, its foundations deeper, and to give to its principles the authority of science. Is morality weakened by being better understood, or are its obligations loosened by changing blind rules into rational principles? It is the peculiarity, and we may add that it is the difficulty, of scientific ethics that it is the most stringent of all systems. Where else are we taught so emphatically that the penalties of misdoing follow necessarily in the very nature of things and can not be escaped? Scientific ethics teaches that moral laws can not be broken with impunity, because of the inexorable causal relation between actions and results. This is, indeed, its great power as a controlling system, and it needs but to be thoroughly realized to exert its full influence. That it can not be so realized is largely because the community is educated in a different system. While it is recognized in common experience that immorality has its natural retributions, and while society embodies this principle in its laws by annexing inexorable penalties to criminal actions, yet the moral system which claims the highest sanction is of quite another order. A morality is taught by religious authority in which sins are forgiven in the sense of a remission of the penalties of immoral actions. In the current moral code the relation of cause and effect in conduct, as an inevitable law, finds no place; nay, the doctrine that the consequences of evil-doing may be escaped is a permanent ground of appeal to the evil-doer.

Professor Smith says: "Can it be maintained that the belief in an All-seeing Eye—in infallible, inflexible, and all-powerful justice, in a sure reward for well-doing and a sure retribution for evil-doing—has been without influence on the conduct of the mass of man-kind?" But has the belief in an All-seeing Eye been associated in the past, or is it now associated, with "infallible, inflexible justice"? Are we not rather taught that the All-beholding has a plan by which the "vilest sinner" maybe saved from the consequences of immoral conduct? Do our ten thousand churches teach this view, or do they not? In what system is righteousness accounted as but "filthy rags"? Is it agnostics, or theists, who for centuries have trafficked in absolution? Who furnishes the weekly passports of murderers from the gallows to glory? Stupendous and immortal penalties have been threatened against wrong actions, and then the evasion of these penalties has been conveniently provided for. Is not this easy system of morals, which arranges for the defeat of justice, more open to the charge of laxity than a scientific system in which penalties are both proportioned to transgressions and follow them with a salutary certainty?

 

 

INDEX TO "THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY:"

The present number closes the twentieth volume of "The Popular Science Monthly." The contents of these volumes are esteemed so valuable for reference that there have been many applications for a full index. This is now in preparation, and will shortly be issued in a separate form.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC SERIES, No. XXXIX.

The Brain and its Functions. By Dr. J. Luys, Physician to the Hospice de la Salpêtrière. D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 327. Price, $1.50.

We have here one of those striking cases, unfortunately too rare, in which the very ablest man makes the most thoroughly popular book. Dr. Luys, at the head of the great French Insane Asylum, is also one of the most eminent and successful investigators of cerebral science now living; and he