Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/520

This page has been validated.
504
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

veloped part of the doctrine; never perceived its relation to the whole, nor its purely scientific interpretation. The works of the former are, therefore, most referred to here."

"The doctrine of Evolution, as developed by Mr. Herbert Spencer, is not an empty hypothesis excogitated as a plausible account of the phenomena of the universe, but a great philosophic system, founded solidly on carefully-corrected experience of the things and forces of the universe. And it becomes a subject of the deepest interest to compare the priori theory of the universe, contained in Scripture, with the postoriori doctrine formulated from the facts of our uniform experience."

We cordially recommend this volume to all who are interested in that aspect of the question to which it is devoted.

Descriptive Sociology. Part I. The Sociological History of England. By Herbert Spencer, assisted by James Collier. Price, $5. D. Appleton & Co.

It has been repeatedly explained in the columns of the Monthly that Herbert Spencer has been engaged for some years in the formidable undertaking of collecting and classifying the data required of the scientific study of human society. For this purpose he divided the races of mankind into three great groups, or divisions: I. The Savage Races; II. The Extinct, or Decayed Civilizations; and III. The Existing Civilized Races. The part now published belongs to the third division, and in it Mr. Spencer applies his method to the Social History of England. If it be asked why he did not begin with Division I., presenting the simpler phenomena of uncultivated societies first, the reply is, that, while the publication of the whole series is by no means certain, and will be contingent upon the reception of the earlier parts, it was desirable to begin with a branch of the subject on which there cannot fail to be the most general interest, while it, moreover, subjects Mr. Spencer's method to the severest test. Besides, it is quite immaterial at what point the exposition is commenced, as it is perfectly simple and complete in each case.

The present work is free from all hypothesis and speculative views. Only the facts are given, and the authorities for the facts. Mr. Spencer expresses no opinion, and draws no inferences; he only classifies his materials in such a way that at one view we can take in all the great social facts of any epoch, and compare them with the phenomena that precede them, and out of which they grew, and those which follow them, and to which they give rise. In the "Principles of Sociology," upon which Mr. Spencer has now entered, he will work out the inductions and generalizations from this vast body of social facts in his own way; but, meantime, they have an independent value for all students who choose to draw their own conclusions.

The work is in a folio form, which was made necessary by the structure of the tables, the very first condition of which is, to bring into convenient comparison many series of facts. For all his statements made in the tables the authorities are given in a corresponding classification, the text consisting of quotations and extracts, which constitute the chief portion of the work. The material here published would form a large octavo volume of eight or nine hundred pages.

We consider this work one of very great public importance, as it is undoubtedly a large step forward in the direction of that knowledge which is more needed than any other. The question, What are the natural laws by which human societies have originated, been developed to their present state, and must still further advance?—the laws, therefore, by which their destiny is governed—is supreme at the present time. Our ideas upon the subject have hitherto been chaotic, and, for want of any fixed principle, the social field has been given over to quacks, dreamers, and swindlers of every quality. If science has any light to shed upon this matter that can help in the practical guidance of affairs, the world is in deplorable want of it. The work before us is only preliminary, but we think no candid mind can examine it without being convinced that it opens a new dispensation of social study, and paves the way to a more scientific consideration of social phenomena than we have ever before had. If in this it may be thought that we are writing under