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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/560

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have long been maintained in the Popular Science Monthly."

We have heard a great deal of Mr. Spencer's materialism. The charge has become stereotyped. It is said that this is a materialistic age; that life is materialistic; that science is materialistic, and that Spencer is the archmaterialist who works the doctrine up into a philosophy for universal gratification. We have always denied the truth of this accusation, and held that it has been made either in ignorance or dishonesty. We have maintained not only that Spencer is explicitly opposed to materialism, but that he has written with great power against it. And we have, moreover, maintained that, in the future emergencies of theological thought which are sure to result from the further progress of science, the value of Spencer's antimaterialistic logic will be better appreciated. All this has been regarded as sufficiently amusing, but how is it now with the experts of the Victoria Institute? The Rev. Mr. Ground says: "The existence and the immateriality of mind is a cardinal doctrine of Mr. Spencer's philosophy. It is one of the last and most certain deliverances of his philosophy that mind and matter both exist, and that between these two there is a chasm which no effort of ours enables us to cross. He exhausts the resources of language to declare that this is the one fact which transcends in absolute certainty every other fact. Somehow, this seems to have escaped the notice of many who have criticised his writings, and he is commonly believed to uphold something like materialism. Greater error, however, there can hardly be. Materialism has never before had such a powerful and uncompromising opponent, and it is hardly probable that it can ever again make head against his attacks. The doctrine of the absolute immateriality of mind is a structural part of his philosophy, and one which is simply invaluable to those who see the spiritual aspect of things."

In the discussion which followed the reading of the paper, there was not a word of protest against this statement. Various things were objected, to, but this avowal, so directly in the teeth of current prejudice, provoked not the slightest criticism. It was, in fact, indorsed by the unanimous approval of Mr. Ground's argument, which was based upon the idea that Spencer is not a materialist, and derived its whole force from this assumption. Mr. Ground makes numerous citations from Spencer which incontestably prove his position; and this portion of his argument may be fairly put against the whole mass of criticism which aims to convict Spencer of mateterialism.

But there was one part of Mr. Ground's essay for which the society was not prepared: his estimate of the character of Spencer's work startled his audience. He began by saying: "The system of philosophy associated with the name of Herbert Spencer has now been nearly twenty years before the philosophical world, and it has slowly made its way until it has won a place in the first rank of such productions. Whatever we may think of it, it is not easy to withhold our intellectual homage. It is the last and probably the greatest attempt ever made to present a true philosophy of the kosmos; it is imbued with the modern scientific spirit; it claims to be strictly in accord with scientific principles; it displays a breadth of generalization and a wealth of energy such as we find only in the greatest works of all time; and it is by many believed to be one of the worthiest triumphs ever achieved by the unaided intellect of man. It is never easy to estimate justly any contemporary work—we stand too near it to see its true proportions—but it seems to not a few that Mr. Spencer may fairly claim a place in the front