Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/435

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
721
LITERARY NOTICES.

and he groups those that he mentions under the heads of education and charity, protection of women and children, public safety and morals, labor and trade, legal procedure, development of natural resources, and the machinery of government. Mr. Hitchcock also glances at the Constitutions of the new Northwestern States, and calls attention to both these and the statutes above mentioned as reflecting the life and convictions of the respective communities by which they have been made.

The Ethical Societies welcome to membership all who desire to learn and practice right conduct, without requiring them to accept any particular theory. In fact, the societies as organizations do not teach a definite philosophical system, and take pains not to commit themselves to the views of their own individual lecturers. In the opinion of Dr. Paul Carus, they are too colorless in this respect; he thinks they should make an active search for a basis of ethics, and he has published, in a volume entitled The Ethical Problem (The Open Court, fifty cents), three lectures embodying his views. He maintains that a system of ethics suited to the present stage of the world must have a basis in facts and in a logical structure. "The facts to be considered in ethics," he says, "are the many and various relations in which man stands to his surroundings. These relations produce the many different motives that prompt men's actions." The function of ethics is to tell us which motives we shall resist and which we shall allow to produce action. Coming to the theories of ethics, Dr. Carus reviews supernaturalism, intuitionalism, utilitarianism, and hedonism, none of which he deems sufficient ground for a system of morality. His own theory is, that man should live not merely to secure happiness for himself, but so as to pass on to posterity a still richer "treasure of human soul-life" than he has himself inherited. But Dr. Carus leaves us still without a criterion for judging what makes human soul-life richer and higher.

Dr. H. Carrington Bolton has collected a considerable quantity of very curious information in a special field of coin-lore which he has published in the American Journal of Numismatics, under the title Contributions of Alchemy to Numismatics. The paper consists of a preliminary sketch of the aims and practices of the alchemists, followed by detailed descriptions of a large number of coins and medals struck in evidence of alleged transmutations of base metals into gold or silver. The circumstances attending the issue of most of these pieces are also given. Three of them are figured in the paper.

A Digest of English and American Literature, prepared by Mr. Alfred H. West, author of Development of English Literature and Language, and published by S. C. Griggs & Co., Chicago, presents a condensed parallel view of history and literature in England and the United States, from the time of the Roman invasion down to the present. It is intended to assist the student to that acquaintance with the characters and leading events among which he wrote which is necessary to the proper comprehension of any of the great writers. That its preparation was suggested by the author's experiences as a teacher is sufficient indication that it is intended practically to meet a real want. The pages facing one another are divided into four columns, in which are presented on one side the events and the characteristics of the period during which the writers flourished, and on the other side the writers by which those periods are distinguished, with brief accounts of their principal writings. The whole forms a connected outline of the successive periods and their literary features.

Mr. W. H. Babcock has made an effort, in The Two Lost Centuries of Britain (J. B. Lippincott Company), to restore in some shape the history of that country during the transition period of the Saxon conquest. The study is an outgrowth, as he expresses it, of an endeavor to see clearly in his own mind, and for his own purposes, a part of the life of the sixth-century Britain. In executing his purpose, incidents and periods were found linked to one another in such a way that each illustrated and was illustrated by another, and called up still others, the light of which was needed; so that the study grew into a kind of history. The author acknowledges that there may be questions as to whether what he writes is history, because he admits and preserves what is probable, but is not provable in a strict sense.