Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/544

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direction of an energetic nutrition toward a particular function results in the exaltation of that function and the depreciation of all the others; it might even create a kind of physiological monstrosity.

It is, then, the excessive and abnormal application of the brain that diminishes by compensation the generative vigor; and, still more, the bad hygienic conditions under which thinkers live, and, perhaps, the pressure of necessity, causing them to overwork themselves. Among the people who lead the march of civilization, the minorities who work excessively for the advancement of that civilization quickly exhaust themselves, and have to be replaced by new generations. This is the cause of the relative sterility of cities as compared with the fecundity of country places. The centers of intellectual life, the great cities, are, to M. Jacoby, the Minotaurs of civilization; but this is not only, as M. Jacoby seems to believe, because they think too much in the great cities, but because they think badly and live contrary to all the rules of hygiene. The biological law accepted by Mr. Spencer is true only in its most general principles, not in the extreme consequences which he has drawn from them, while special circumstances may intrude many a perturbation among the effects of the law.

In every case a time must come when equilibrium will at last be established. The nervous system will finally become capable of meeting, without being overcome, the difficulties of existence, and of supplying all usual demands. It will then cease to develop at the expense of the organism. By this very fact, fecundity will be normal, neither too great nor too little; and there will be harmony between the population and the conditions of existence. There is, then, truth in this final conclusion at which Mr. Spencer arrives: that the excess of fecundity has rendered the march of civilization inevitable (let us add the march of philanthropy), and the march of civilization should inevitably restore fecundity to its normal conditions. In this manner, perhaps, will be resolved the problem which troubled Malthus so much. In this way, also, we see that scientific philanthropy, by diffusing instruction along with well-being, and by raising the intellectual level of the needy classes, tends to establish among them the equilibrium of fecundity and of the intellectual functions, and consequently to diminish that blind and sometimes excessive proliferation which gives economists anxiety concerning the future, if not about the present. At this point, again, the advantages of philanthropy compensate, and more, for evils which involve nothing essential.

If it is important to establish in principle, as we have tried to do, the legitimacy and utility of philanthropy, it is not less necessary to fix the rules and limits of its application. An enlightened philanthropy should not bestow its benevolence at hazard and without conditions; it should be reparative and preventive justice together, instead of remaining that ancient "Christian charity" which, like love, too often