Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/September 1879/Literary Notices
SPENCER'S SYNTHETIC PHILOSOPHY:
The Data of Ethics. By Herbert Spencer. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 288. Price, $1.50.
This little book is the first part of the treatise on morality that will close Spencer's "System of Philosophy." As explained in his preface, it is the result of long preparation, and is published not in the order he at first designed. He says: "I have been led thus to deviate from the order originally set down by the fear that persistence in conforming to it might result in leaving the final work of the series unexecuted. Hints repeated of late years with increasing frequency and distinctness have shown me that health may permanently fail even if life does not end before I reach the last part of the task I have marked out for myself. This last part of the task it is to which I regard all of the preceding parts as subsidiary. Written as far back as 1842, my first essay, consisting of letters on 'The Proper Sphere of Government,' vaguely indicated what I conceive to be certain general principles of right and wrong in political conduct; and, from that time onward, my ultimate purpose, lying behind all proximate purposes, has been that of finding for the principles of right and wrong in conduct at large a scientific basis. To leave this purpose unfulfilled, after making so extensive a preparation for fulfilling it, would be a failure, the probability of which I do not like to contemplate; and I am anxious to preclude it, if not wholly, still partially. Hence the step I now take. Though this first division of the work, terminating the 'Synthetic Philosophy,' can not of course contain the specific conclusions to be set forth in the entire work, yet it implies them in such wise that definitely to formulate them requires nothing beyond logical deduction."
But few will deny the importance of the work which Mr. Spencer has so long had in view for, of all fields of thought, the ethical is in the most chaotic condition. Some find the grounds of morality in the Ten Commandments, and others in the rules of the New Testament. The fear of hell is appealed to as a motive to right conduct, and the divine intuitions of conscience are claimed as guides to duty. As faith in the supernatural declines, many are left without any authoritative moral guidance, while some fall back on a prudential utility, and others upon the interdicts of public law. These theoretical discords are accompanied by varying standards of right and wrong in different states and periods of society, while everywhere are seen the most glaring discrepancies between professed moral precepts and actual moral practice.
Meantime, in other fields of thought, science is the great reconciler of conflicting opinions. By the establishment of comprehensive principles that command universal assent, it is constantly bringing men into better agreement; and it has thus become an authority that is enforcing the submission of the human mind with steadily increasing power. Moral phenomena, like mental and physical phenomena, are obedient to principles of order, and are thus amenable to scientific method; science, therefore, must traverse the ethical field in its legitimate progress; and there is no reason to doubt that it will perform the same benign office of illumination and guidance here, that it has performed in the other great spheres of its application.
But, if this is true, it may well be asked why science has not long since accomplished so desirable a work. It is because centuries of preparation were required to develop the preliminary sciences and perfect the method of inquiry; and because it is a task of such difficulty that but few men could be expected to combine the scientific qualifications, the patient, untiring industry, and the sustained interest in the subject necessary to deal with it adequately and successfully. Mr. Spencer entered upon this line of study in his youth, and has devoted his life to it. He has explored and reorganized several of the great divisions of science with reference to their ultimate bearings upon the problem of scientific morality; and he is undoubtedly the first to work out the philosophical relations of the sciences to a new system of ethical doctrine.
In this brief notice of a work that requires to be thoughtfully read, we can no more than open the subject; and this can best be done by anticipating certain questions that will arise at the outset in the minds of many readers. It will be said, in the first place: "We know something about morality, having often heard it expounded and applied. It lays down the regulations of behavior. Government enforces it by its laws, and society rests upon it. It seems a very practical, common-sense thing that everybody can understand, as we must all obey its injunctions; but what on earth do you mean by 'scientific morality'?"
The reply is, that "scientific morality" is that kind of morality which can give valid reasons for its requirements. Science stands in just the same relations to morality that it does to every other kind of human activity—it explains it. Dyeing was long a successful practical art; but it consisted in following a set of blind rules, and its operations were imperfect. Science explained it, and gave principles instead of rules, which gave the reason of many failures, and led to greatly improved practice. In like manner morality follows blind and arbitrary rules, and its practice is notoriously imperfect. Science will substitute intelligible principles for these rules which will account for numerous failures, and lead to better practice.
The question may be answered in another way. It is the object of Mr. Spencer's present work to lay the foundations of an ethical system that shall have the validity and authority of scientific truth, by showing that the principles of right and wrong in human conduct are grounded in the constitution of nature. It is obvious that, until the order and course of nature were understood, such an inquiry must have been unsuccessful and impossible. Science alone explains that order, and therefore furnishes the facts and truths that are necessary to the investigation. But if science, by this elucidation, has supplied the data from which the principles of morality can be derived, and its practice consequently perfected, the working out of the subject must give us a "scientific morality."
In the next place it will be asked: "What has morality to do with evolution? As the best ethical maxims go back to a high antiquity, and as, according to Mr. Buckle, while the intellect is progressive, morals are stationary, what possible relation can the evolution theory have to ethics?" Mr. Spencer furnishes the answer to this question at the very opening of his book, and in a way which shows that, if evolution be true at all, it has everything to do with morality.
His first chapter is on "Conduct in general," and he begins by illustrating the truth that no correct idea can be formed of a part without a knowledge of the whole to which it belongs. A detached arm could not be understood by a being ignorant of the human body; the moon's movements can not be interpreted, except in connection with the movements of the solar system; a fragment of a sentence is unintelligible if separated from the remainder.
Morality deals with a certain kind of human conduct, but this implies that there is another kind, of which moral conduct is but a part. Again, the term "human conduct" implies that there is a conduct manifested by creatures other than human, so that human conduct becomes a part of a still larger whole. Conduct is defined as actions adjusted to ends, and is displayed in ever-varying degrees of simplicity and complication throughout the entire scale of animate being. Animals low in type, in seeking food, adjust actions to ends, and, as we rise through the series, such adjusted actions become more varied, combined, and perfect, until man is reached, when the adjustments become far more complex and involved, and the ends attained more numerous, varied, and remote. Mr. Spencer says: "Complete comprehension of conduct is not to be obtained by contemplating the conduct of human beings only: we have to regard this as a part of universal conduct—conduct as exhibited by all living creatures. Just as, fully to understand the part of conduct which ethics deals with, we must study human conduct as a whole, so, fully to understand human conduct as a whole, we must study it as a part of that larger whole constituted by the conduct of animate beings in general. Nor is even this whole conceived with the needful fullness so long as we think only of the conduct at present displayed around us. We have to regard the conduct now shown us by creatures of all orders as an outcome of the conduct which has brought life of every kind to its present height, and this is tantamount to saying that our preparatory step must be to study the evolution of conduct."
The second chapter is devoted to "The Evolution of Conduct," and its import may be gathered from the concluding passage: "Guided by the truth that as the conduct with which ethics deals is part of conduct at large, conduct at large must be generally understood before this part can be specially understood; and guided by the further truth that to understand conduct at large we must understand the evolution of conduct, we have been led to see that ethics has for its subject-matter that form which universal conduct assumes during the last stages of its evolution. We have also concluded that these last stages in the evolution of conduct are those displayed by the highest type of being, when he is forced by increase of numbers to live more and more in presence of his fellows. And there has followed the corollary that conduct gains ethical sanction in proportion as the activities becoming less and less militant and more and more industrial are such as do not necessitate mutual injury or hindrance, but consist with and are furthered by coöperation and mutual aid."
The position here assumed at the outset that morality is a product of evolution is illustrated and confirmed with convincing force throughout the work. Why the moral restraints of conduct are the latest evolved appears by considering the nature of the different kinds of control to which men have been subjected during the unfolding of society. As fully explained in the "Sociology," society begins only in subordination to violent external restraints. The rule of the despotic chief is the germ which develops into the political control of human conduct. The primitive fear of the ghost of the dead chief develops into the superstitious dread of unseen forms, and ultimately becomes that powerful religious control which is so potent in influencing the actions of men. A later developed but definite and powerful form of restraint upon conduct is the influence of public opinion, or the force of social reprobation. The results of these forms of external coercion are so simple, direct, and easily conceived that they are well fitted to act upon undeveloped natures, and they come into play first in the order of social progress.
The moral motive to conduct differs from the preceding by recognizing the results that actions naturally produce. As Mr. Spencer remarks: "We are now prepared to see that the restraints properly distinguished as moral are unlike these restraints out of which they evolve, and with which they are long confounded, in this—they refer not to the extrinsic effects of actions but to their intrinsic effects. The truly moral deterrent from murder is not constituted by a representation of hanging as a consequence, or by a representation of tortures in hell as a consequence, or by a representation of the horror and hatred excited in fellow men; but by a representation of the necessary natural results—the infliction of death-agony on the victim, the destruction of all his possibilities of happiness, the entailed sufferings to his belongings. Neither the thought of imprisonment, nor of divine anger, nor of social disgrace, is that which constitutes the moral check on theft; but the thought of injury to the person robbed, joined with a vague consciousness of the general evils caused by disregard of proprietary rights.
"And now we see why the moral feelings and correlative restraints have arisen later than the feelings and restraints that originate from political, religious, and social authorities; and have so slowly, and even yet so incompletely, disentangled themselves. For only by these lower feelings and restraints could be maintained the conditions under which the higher feelings and restraints evolve. It is thus alike with the self-regarding feelings and with the other regarding feelings. The pains which improvidence will bring, and the pleasures to be gained by storing up things for future use and by laboring to get such things, can be habitually contrasted in thought, only as fast as settled social arrangements make accumulation possible; and, that there may arise such settled arrangements, fear of the seen ruler, of the unseen ruler, and of public opinion, must come into play. Only after political, religious, and social restraints have produced a stable community, can there be sufficient experience of the pains, positive and negative, sensational and emotional, which crimes of aggression cause, as to generate that moral aversion to them constituted by consciousness of their intrinsically evil results. And more manifest still is it that such a moral sentiment as that of abstract equity, which is offended not only by material injuries done to men, but also by political arrangements that place them at a disadvantage, can evolve only after the social stage reached gives familiar experience both of the pains flowing directly from injustices and also of those flowing indirectly from the class-privileges which make injustices easy."
We are here brought to another exemplification of the method of scientific morality, as influenced by the doctrine of evolution. If the higher control of conduct is derived from a knowledge of its consequences, then the supreme problem of morals is the study of causation in human actions. Everything here turns on the relation of cause and effect; and Mr. Spencer shows conclusively that the development of the idea of causation is one of the latest results of man's intellectual progress. The conception of causation as necessary and universal has even yet been reached only by a small circle of strict scientific thinkers. This is the radical defect of the earlier and current moral systems. In his chapter on "The Ways of judging Conduct," Mr. Spencer proves that the religious, the intuitional, the political, and the utilitarian schools are here alike deficient: "They do not erect into a method the ascertaining of necessary relations between causes and effects, and deducing rules of conduct from formulated statements of them." Evolution, on the other hand, implying the persistence of forces and the continuity of effects, when applied to ethics must give us a new method of "scientific morality."
We have here touched only upon incidental points in Spencer's work; the fundamental principle of his system could have no justice done to it in such a notice. This idea is that pleasure and pain, in some form immediate or remote, are at the bottom of all good and bad, all right and wrong. The doctrine is involved in the statement that "there exists a primordial connection between pleasure-giving acts and continuance or increase of life, and, by implication, between pain-giving acts and decrease or loss of life"; or that it is "no more possible to frame ethical conceptions from which the consciousness of pleasure, of some kind, at some time, to some being, is absent, than it is possible to frame the conception of an object from which the consciousness of space is absent. And now we see that this necessity of thought originates in the very nature of sentient existence. Sentient existence can evolve only on condition that pleasure-giving acts are life-sustaining acts."
We think that the verdict on this book of all candid readers will be that it accomplishes what it professes to accomplish—it finds for the principles of right and wrong in conduct a scientific basis; and, if this be true, it is needless to say that its effect will be to give a new impulse and a new direction to ethical studies.
The Sportsman's Gazetteer and General Guide. The Game Animals, Birds, and Fishes of North America; their Habits and Various Methods of Capture. Copious Instructions in Shooting, Fishing, Taxidermy, Woodcraft, etc. Together with a Glossary, and a Directory to the Principal Game Resorts of the Country. Illustrated with Maps. By Charles Hallock, Editor of "Forest and Stream," etc. Fifth edition. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing Co. 1819. Pp. 920. Price, $3.
The scope and purpose of this volume are so fully set forth in the title that there is no need of further particularizing its contents. The "Gazetteer" is an indispensable part of the outfit of hunters and fishers throughout the United States and the Canadas. In this fifth edition nothing appears to have been omitted which should properly have a place in such a manual. The Glossary is one of the new features introduced in this edition, and it adds greatly to the value of the work. Here are to be found definitions of common words in local use throughout North America. Strangers are often sorely puzzled by these localisms, and Mr. Hallock does well in providing them with an interpreter.
The Journal of Physiology. Edited by Dr. Michael Foster. Vol. I., Nos. I. to VI., 496 pages; Vol. II., No. I., 90 pages. New York: Macmillan & Co.
The first volume of this most valuable periodical is now completed, and the first part of the second volume is also published. We again call the attention of our scientific and medical readers to its merits, and also urge for it the patronage of liberal-minded men whether professional or not. To those interested in its discussions we need not say that it is invaluable, as it represents the progress of research in physiological science, and gives the latest trustworthy results on a wide range of subjects. It is edited by an able corps of gentlemen, who, of course, contribute their services freely, and with no thought of remuneration, from simple love of the promotion of knowledge. And who is not interested in the advancement of this branch of science. "The Journal of Physiology" ought to be taken in every library, college, and high-school, if for no other reason than because it is a public duty to sustain it. It is a scandal to civilization that, when wealth is squandered so profusely on absolutely worthless things, men of science, living on stipends, and giving their very life-blood to laborious researches, should have to retrench their vital necessities to pay for the publication of their original work, which is of untold value to the community.
People generally have but a very imperfect idea of the activity of scientific inquiry at the present time, because it is a world by itself, with which our literary, political, and religious classes have very little concern or sympathy. The physiological division of science furnishes a very good illustration of the extent of this vigorous original work. The editors of "The Journal of Physiology" have issued a supplement to Vol. I. containing a list of titles of works and papers of physiological interest published in 1878. We subjoin the classified headings of this list, which will convey an idea of the scope of these investigations, and give the number of works that appeared last year in each division:
|1.||Text-books, Methods, etc.||41|
|2.||General Physiology, General Properties of Protoplasm and Cells||29|
|3.||General Chemistry of Tissues and of Animal and Vegetable Substances||85|
|5.||Structure and Properties of Cartilage, Bone, and Connective Tissues||19|
|6.||Blood, Structure and General Features||20|
|9.||Alimentary Canal, Digestion, etc.||56|
|13.||General Metabolism of Body||44|
|15.||Structure of Contractile and Nervous Tissues||28|
|16.||General Properties of Contractile Tissues, Muscle, and Nerve||41|
|17.||General Nervous System||99|
|24.||Action of Drugs||83|
Souvenirs of Madame Vigée Le Brun. With a Steel Portrait from an Original Painting by the Author. New York: R. Worthington. Pp. 398. Price, $1.75.
Madame Le Brun was born in Paris in 1755, and died in 1842, and during the greater part of that time was employed in painting the portraits of the reigning families of Europe. She was the contemporary and friend of Joseph Vernet, of Benjamin West, and of Sir Joshua Reynolds, all of whom bore testimony to her rare ability as an artist. It is said that, on the opening in London of her portrait of Calonne, a bystander remarked: "It ought to be good, for Madame Le Brun received £3,200 for it"; when Sir Joshua replied, "If they gave me £4,000 for it, I could not have done it as well." Being not only a great favorite at the different European courts, but her salon forming a rallying-point for the most distinguished people in fashion, in literature, and in art, she had at her command a surprising wealth of material, and these reminiscences form a curious though unconscious history of the morals as well as the manners of that interesting period. Take for instance her naïve accounts of her intercourse with the Duchess du Barry, Catharine II., and Lady Hamilton. The most interesting of her souvenirs are those connected with the reigns of Louis XVI. of France, of Catharine II. and Paul I. of Russia, of Queen Caroline of Naples, and of George III. of England, and the most distinguished of their subjects in every department. D'Alembert, La Harpe, Abbe Sièyes, Talleyrand, Prince Kaunitz, Poniatowski, Potemkin, Angelica Kauifmann, Catalini, Mademoiselle Mars, Madame Récamier, the Duchess of Devonshire, Herschel, Sir Francis Burdett, etc., furnish abundant subject-matter for her lively and gossiping details.
Outlines of Field Geology. By Archibald Geikie, F. R. S., Director of the Geological Survey of Scotland. New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp. 222. Price, $1.
Professor Geikie's lectures upon this subject, delivered at the South Kensington Museum in 1876, and subsequently printed in a pamphlet form, were noticed at the time of their appearance. He dwelt upon the methods of observation requisite in ordinary field geology, with practical directions for noting and recording the facts observed. It met with a cordial reception, and a large impression was disposed of. The author has now rewritten and enlarged the work, dropping the lecture form, increasing the illustrations, and giving it a shape that will make it a standard guide for geological students. The book assumes that the young geologist has read some good text-book and got a general knowledge of the elementary principles of the subject, and then wishes to become acquainted with the science as a reality. It is for the use of those who, having a book-knowledge of geology, "find themselves helpless when they try to interpret the facts which they meet with in the field. The practical knowledge of which they feel the want is not to be gained from books. It must be sought in quarries and ravines, by hillside and seashore. But hints regarding what should be looked for and how to set about the search may not be without some usefulness; and these it is the object of the following pages to give."
Manuals for Teachers. No. 1. The Cultivation of the Senses. Philadelphia: Eldridge & Brother. Pp. 96. Price, 50 cents.
It is announced that this series will contain four more works—"The Cultivation of the Memory," "On the Use of Words," "On Discipline," and "On Class-Teaching." The publishers say: "These manuals were originally published in England, having been prepared, at the request of the Literature Committee of the National Educational Society, by men distinguished at their several universities, and possessed of large experience as teachers. They have been carefully revised and adapted to the wants of American teachers, and it is hoped will prove a valuable addition to the literature of the art and science of teaching." We suspect that these distinguished university men are myths; at any rate the present volume betrays no such distinguished origin. It is a very good little compilation from various authorities; but how comes it that, while Spencer, Taine, and Darwin are quoted, no mention is anywhere made of Miss Youmans's essay "On the Cultivation of the Observing Powers of Children," which is freely copied, and whole pages taken bodily without any recognition? The publishers bring out the series in a very neat and substantial form.
Eleventh Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology. Vol. II., No. 2. Cambridge: The Trustees. 1878. Pp. 286.
During the past year the Trustees of the Peabody Museum took possession of the new building specially erected at Cambridge for the purpose of holding their ethnological and archaeological collections. The report contains, besides a description of this building, a history of the Peabody Museum, by the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, the report of the Curator, and a number of contributions on archaeological subjects, viz.: Dr.-Abbott's second report on implements found in the glacial drift of New Jersey; remarks on the method of manufacture of several articles by the former Indians of southern California, by P. Schumacher; on cave-dwellings in Utah, by E. Palmer; on the manufacture of soapstone pots by the Indians of New England, by F. W. Putnam; on a collection from an ancient cemetery in southern Peru, by J. H. Blake; on archæological explorations in Tennessee, by F. W. Putnam; on crania from the stone graves of Tennessee, by L. Carr; and on the tenure of land among the ancient Mexicans, by Ad. F. Bandelier.
First Annual Report of the United States Entomological Commission. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1878. Pp. 800, with Maps and Plates.
We have here in full detail the first year's labors of the United States Entomological Commission, appointed by Congress to study the best methods of preventing the ravages of the Rocky Mountain locust. The habits of the insect, its geographical distribution, and many other points in its natural history, have been pretty satisfactorily determined by the Commission; and, if the Commission has not succeeded in discovering the method of getting rid of the pest, it has at least indicated many ways of lessening its violence, and of partially staying its advance.
Seventh Report of the State Entomologist on the Noxious and Beneficial Insects of the State of Illinois. By C. Thomas, Ph. D., State Entomologist. Springfield, Illinois: D. W. Lusk print. Pp. 290.
The most elaborate paper in this report is one entitled "Notes on Corn Insects, or Insects injurious to Indian Corn." The author has been investigating this special subject for a long time, and his results, as here stated, are eminently worthy of the attention of the farmer. These "Notes" occupy the first one hundred pages of the report; the remainder is devoted to miscellaneous notes and observations on different species of noxious and beneficial insects.
Progressive Japan: A Study of the Political and Social Needs of the Empire. By General Le Gendre. San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Co. 1878. Pp. 380.
In this study of the social and political needs of Japan, General Le Gendre has sought mainly from the history of the Japanese people the aid which others might perhaps have preferred to ask solely from abstract Western sciences. "It is," he writes, "by interpreting a people's traditions, by carefully listening to the mysterious teachings of the wise men who, in remote ages, guided its infancy, that one is apt to discover the early promise of its future." Therefore, in the reconstruction of the political state of Japan, care must be taken not to do violence to the national genius by prematurely introducing Western institutions. The author treats at great length of "Reconstruction," and points out the direction which, in his opinion, it must take in order to produce the largest measure of good for the Japanese people.
The Historical Poetry of the Ancient Hebrews, translated and critically examined. By Michael Heilprin. Vol. I. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1879. Pp. 243. $2.
Report of the Chief Signal Officer to the Secretary of War, 1878. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 680, with Plates and Charts.
The Silk Goods of America. By William C. Wyckoff. New York: D. Van Nostrand. Pp. 120.
Laboratory-Teaching, or Progressive Exercises in Practical Chemistry. By. C. L. Bloxam. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston. 1879. Pp. 261. $1.75.
An Introduction to Commercial Organic Analysis. By A. H. Allen, P. C. S. Vol. I. Same publishers. Pp. 374. $3.50.
Geological Survey of Indiana, 1878. By E. T. Cox, State Geologist. Indianapolis: "Journal" print. Pp. 541, with Maps.
Report of the Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Department, 1878. Philadelphia: Markley & Son print. 1879. Pp. 111.
Tovey's Brewers' Directory for 1879. New York: A. E. Tovey, 24 Park Place. Pp. 115.
Sketch of Dickinson College. By C. F. Hines, Ph. D. Illustrated. Harrisburg: L. S. Hart. 1879. Pp. 155.
Around the World with General Grant. By J. R. Young. Published in 20 Parts, at 50 cents each. Illustrated. New York: American News Company,
Chemistry, Theoretical, Practical, and Analytical. Parts 36 to 40. 50 cents each. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Free Religious Association, 1879. Boston: The Association. Pp. 80.
Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Part 7. New York: Macmillan & Co. $1.25.
Brentano's Aquatic Monthly and Sporting Gazetteer. New York: Brentano. Monthly. $4 per year.
Future Development of the New York State Library. Albany: Van Benthuysen & Sons. Pp. 48.
Lake Chautauqua Illustrated. Buffalo: Peter Paul & Bro. Pp. 60.
The Chaco Cranium. By W. J. Hoffman, M. D. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 25, with Plates.
Explorations and Surveys in the Department of the Missouri. By E. H. Runner, Engineer Corps U.S.A. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1878. Pp. 115.
On a New Base. By E. F. Smith. From "American Chemical Journal." Pp. 8.
The Tornado of April 14, 1879, By J. L. R. Wadsworth, M.D., and F. E. Nipher. From "Transactions St. Louis Academy of Science."
Thevetia Iccotli and its Glucoside. By D. Cerna, M.D. From "Philadelphia Medical Times." Pp. 6.
Annual Announcement of the Stevens Institute of Technology. Pp. 104.
Report of the Work of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Middletown, Conn. Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company print. Pp. 174.
On a Foundation for a Religion. Boston: G. H. Ellis print. Pp. 48.
Geological Formations crossed by the Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad. By L. M. Underwood. Syracuse: "Standard" print. Pp. 18.
Wandering Cainidæ, or the Ancient Nomads. By M. Kempe, M.D. Louisville, Ky.: Morton & Co. print. Pp. 41. 25 cents.