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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/577

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SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

any way be harmonized with, say, Mr. Spencer's Principles of Psychology. Or take such a passage as the following: "All the facts of the animal economy—sex, nutriment, gestation, birth, growth—are symbols of the passage of the world into the soul of man, to suffer there a change and reappear a new and higher fact. He uses forms according to the life, and not according to the form. This is true science. The poet alone knows astronomy, chemistry, vegetation, and animation, for he does not stop at these facts, but employs them as signs. He knows why the plain or meadow of space was strewn with those flowers we call suns and moons and stars; why the great deep is adorned with animals, with men, and gods; for in every word he speaks he rides on them as the horses of thought." Now, we should be sorry to crumple one leaf in the laurel wreath of the poet; but is there much sense in saying that he is our only astronomer, or that he could inform us why suns and planets were disposed through space so as to make the forms we see? We do not think Goethe held these ideas; if he did, they were certainly not part of his evolution philosophy. The doctrine of evolution is not at war, we trust, with poetic inspiration; but if it teaches anything, it teaches that the world is full of infinite detail, and that without a certain mastery of details general views are apt to be more showy than solid. It also brings home to the mind very forcibly that one can only be sure of carefully verified facts, and, even of these, ought not to be too sure. It teaches that time and place and circumstance are, for all practical purposes, of the essence of the things we have to consider; that nothing is just what it would be if differently conditioned. There is nothing of which Emerson discourses with so much positiveness as the soul, an entity of which the serious evolutionist can only speak with all possible reserve. The evolutionist labors to construct a psychology; but Emerson has a psychology ready-made, and scatters its affirmations with a liberal hand through every chapter of his writings. That these are stimulating in a high degree to well-disposed minds we should be sorry to deny. They are a source, which for many long years will not run dry, of high thoughts and noble aspirations. No one has more worthily or loftily discoursed of the value of life than has the New England philosopher; and for this the world owes him a permanent debt of gratitude. But he was not an evolutionist in the modern sense—that is, in the scientific sense. If, as Mr. Chapman says, he was the last great writer to look at life from a stationary standpoint, then we can only add that the old philosophy had a golden sunset in his pages.

 


Scientific Literature.

SPECIAL BOOKS.

There are a great many different ways of conceiving the science of society, and until the study of the subject is more advanced than it is as yet, it would be rash to set up any one method as superior to all others. All that can reasonably be asked is that the subject should be approached