Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/208

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troubled, nevertheless, lest they may lose the connection with the sciences, and particularly with that special research and exact calculation under the influence of which a happy reaction has made itself felt in the various departments of philosophy against the intuitive and undisciplined ways of thinking that have characterized many metaphysicians.

As in life all gives place to the question of the highest utility, so in science all gives place to pure theoretical interest in enriching our knowledge of facts. But, while this may find its justification in the history of culture, the problems of the work of culture are no more exhausted thereby than the problems of thought. Philosophy would surrender her most important function were she to shirk the solution of those problems which she alone can solve. To these problems belong, last not least, those of ethics.

The progress of scientific knowledge in all domains of inquiry is the mightiest instrument in aid of the progress of culture. Its influence reaches, directly or indirectly, to all human relations, not excepting moral development. Apparent contradictions diminish or disappear before the macroscopic glance, which, not fixed upon any isolated point, takes in the whole range of facts and causes in their mutual relations. We are at the same time convinced, even by the consideration of the educational influence which scientific efforts have acquired in all strata of modern society, that all is not done. The gap is visible and sensible in philosophy and in life.

The needs of a great community of thinking men neither seek nor find any satisfaction in the dogmas of a positive confession of faith, while, for the foundation of a system of practical regulative laws and ethical principles, the progress of inductive science does not furnish all that is needed. A bridge is wanted, which shall establish connection with active life; a well-spring of right, from which laws and principles can be drawn and distributed.

According to some philosophers, ethics stands or falls with metaphysics. That this is not the case has been proved by the isolated achievements in moral philosophy of the disciples of modern positivism, and is demonstrated afresh by Herbert Spencer in his "Data of Ethics." This author occupies so conspicuous a position among the philosophic writers of the century, that the summons to a study of his works may well find ample response.

We may gather, from the preface to his last work, how Herbert Spencer, like other founders of great philosophic systems, esteems the importance of ethics. "This last part of the task it is to which I regard all the preceding parts as subsidiary." From the beginning of his philosophical activity this was the "last goal," the object to which all efforts were preparatory—to find a scientific basis for. the principles of good and bad in action.

"Now that moral injunctions are losing the authority given by