Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/November 1892/Literary Notices
One of the two volumes which form the crowning portion of Mr. Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy is now completed. It contains The Data of Ethics, previously published alone, also The Inductions of Ethics, and The Ethics of Individual Life. In the new parts of the volume Mr. Spencer first sets forth, with his usual wealth of illustration, the astonishingly various and contradictory conceptions of right and wrong which exist among different peoples. Here the unpardonable sin is disrespect of deified ancestors, there it is neglecting to kill a sufficient number of enemies; elsewhere it is smoking! The number of cases in which a man is thought by his fellows to be in duty bound to injure others leads Mr. Spencer to distinguish the ethics of enmity from the ethics of amity. In the stage of society in which intertribal and international wars are frequent the former actually predominates over the latter, and it is only since industrialism has largely repressed militancy that the ethics of amity has gained the ascendant. Under the three heads Aggression (by which he denotes the infliction of bodily harm), Robbery, and Revenge, Mr. Spencer specifies acts that have been required by the ethics of enmity. Thus, "far from being regarded as a crime, child-murder has been, throughout the world in early times and in various parts of the world still is, regarded as not even an offense: occasionally, indeed, as a duty." Then there are the killing of adults at funerals, especially at the obsequies of chiefs, the sacrifices of human victims to gods, and "the religious homicides which, in comparatively modern times, have been committed, alike by Catholics and Protestants, to appease the supposed wrath of their God against misbelievers." Reducing conquered enemies to slavery is the chief of the bloodless injuries that have been sanctioned by the ethics of enmity. A closely allied form of robbery is the stealing of women, which has prevailed in all early stages of social progress. "Often where the men are killed the women are preserved to become mothers. It was so with the Caribs in their cannibal days; and it was so with the Hebrews, as shown in Numbers xxxi, 17, I8." The stealing of property has been regarded as ethical among many tribes. Coming to the subject of retaliation for injuries, Mr. Spencer finds that "among human beings in early stages, there arises not only the practice of revenge but a belief that revenge is imperative—that revenge is a duty." The persistence of dueling and the vendetta to the present day shows that this belief is not yet extinct. Yet, as societies have come into more settled social states, a spirit of forgiveness has appeared and made some growth. "The soul of goodness in things evil" must be recognized in the case of the crude idea of justice embodied in the custom of taking revenge. Even in the practice of this custom occasionally there grow up usages requiring some maintenance of equality, such as awakening sleeping foes or otherwise relieving them from a disadvantage before attacking them.
Considering in succession the virtues Justice, Generosity, Humanity, Veracity, Obedience, Industry, Temperance, and Chastity, Mr. Spencer finds abundant evidence that "the ethical sentiments prevailing in different societies, and in the same society under different conditions, are sometimes diametrically opposed," and he deems this fact enough to show that the human mind has no originally implanted conscience. "It has become clear to me," he says, "that if, among ourselves, the current belief is that a man who robs and does not repent will be eternally damned, while an accepted proverb among the Bilochs is that 'God will not favor a man who does not steal and rob,' it is impossible to hold that men have in common an innate perception of right and wrong."
A positive induction which follows from the same evidence is then set forth by Mr. Spencer in these words:
To those who regard ethics as comprehending only the behavior of a man toward his fellows, the third part of this volume will seem superfluous, dealing as it does with actions which concern directly the actor alone, and only in remote ways affect others. But in Mr. Spencer's view, if life is a desideratum, then all conduct which conduces to a complete form of it is to be morally approved. On this basis he shows in successive chapters that ethics requires the individual to preserve a due balance between activity and rest, to take sufficient nourishment, to use stimulants very sparingly, to cultivate the faculties with which he is endowed, and to indulge somewhat in amusements. Finally, he discusses two subjects—marriage and parenthood—that may be called intermediate between individual and social life.
To complete the second volume of this work there still remain to be written the parts on Negative Beneficence and Positive Beneficence, and the writing of these parts Mr. Spencer "hopes to complete before ability ends." He is, he says, "especially anxious to do this because, in the absence of them, the divisions at present published will leave, on nearly all minds, a very erroneous impression respecting the general tone of evolutionary ethics. In its full scope, the moral system to be set forth unites sternness with kindness; but thus far attention has been drawn almost wholly to the sternness. Extreme misapprehensions and gross misstatements have hence resulted."
Thomas Carlyle's Moral and Religious Development: A Study. By Ewald Flügel. From the German by Jessica Gilbert Tyler. New York: M. L. Holbrook & Co. Pp. 140. Price, $1.
This is a clear and graceful rendering into English of Dr. Flügel study of Carlyle. If we are not able to follow Mr. Froude in his estimation of the sage of Chelsea as indisputably the greatest man, excepting Goethe, that has appeared in Europe for centuries, we can easily subscribe to the German philosopher's opinion that he is "a moral force of great significance." Worship and work were the watchwords of Carlyle. History, science, philosophy, poetry, and art were worthless to him when divorced from ethical significance. Records and events were barren unless the historian sought in them the meaning of human life. The translator has omitted Part I, the appendix, and notes, which appear in the original; these pertain chiefly to the life of Carlyle, and are given fully elsewhere by his biographers. In the portrait attached, the philosopher looks forth dejectedly at a flippant generation.
Mr. Moorehead, one of the most active and efficient of the explorers of the Ohio mounds, who has already given in his Fort Ancient the fruit of a most thorough and exhaustive investigation, believes that exaggerated notions prevail of the civilization of the mound-builders. These exaggerated ideas are fed by the works of superficial lookers at the mounds, who in their writings do not lose sight of sensational effect, and by writers who try to uphold theories previously formed. It is the purpose of this book to do away with certain of these illusions. The author is, in fact, a little impatient that they should exist, for he says: "Why there should be so much speculation and uncertainty concerning the aborigines is inexplicable to us. No question of equal importance could have been more easily determined had the early writers given as much care and patience to mound exploration as are given at the present time." The book presents the results of four seasons of exploration, during which one hundred and seven mounds, graves, and cemeteries were opened. In every excavation careful field-notes were made on the spot, and each night the result of the day's work was fully written out. Earthworks are not included in the descriptions. The author has been assisted by Mr. Gerard Fowke, who contributed the chapter on Flint Ridge; Dr. H. T. Cresson; Mr. Jack Bennett for illustrations, sectional drawings, and ground plans, and for observations on osteological collections and palæolithic man; and Mr. W. H. Davis for a chapter on the Muskingum Valley. The descriptions relate to mounds in Licking County (Newark), the Muskingum Valley, the Madisonville Cemetery, the east fork of the Little Miami River, Fort Ancient, Clinton County, and Chillicothe and Ross County. From the results reached in the explorations, the author draws the conclusions that the tribes did not occupy the northern part of the State for any considerable length of time, but were settled chiefly in the large river valleys; that both the brachycephalic and the dolichocephalic races intermingled largely in all the valleys save the Muskingum; and that nothing more than the upper status of savagery was attained by any race or tribe living in the present State of Ohio. "If we go by field testimony alone, we can assign primitive man high attainments in but few things, and these indicate neither civilization nor an approach to it. First, he excelled in building fortifications and in the interment of his dead; second, he made surprisingly long journeys for mica, copper, lead, shells, and other foreign substances, to be used as tools and ornaments; third, he was an adept in the chase and in war; fourth, he chipped flint and made carvings on bone, stone, and slate exceedingly well, when we consider the primitive tools he employed; fifth, a few of the more skillful men of his tribe made fairly good representations of animals, birds, and human figures in stone. . . . On the other hand, he failed to grasp the idea of communication by written characters, the use of metal (except in the cold state), the cutting of stone, or the making of brick for building purposes, and the construction of permanent homes. Ideas of transportation, other than upon his own back or in frail canoes, or the use of coal, which was so abundant about him, and which he frequently made into pendants and ornaments, and a thousand other things which civilized beings enjoy, were utterly beyond his comprehension."
Dr. Abbott's recent book, is more like a collection of sermons than a treatise. It has the fullness of illustration and the free indulgence in repetitions characteristic of discourses delivered to an audience that has nothing to do for the time being but listen. The gist of the book is an acceptance of the idea that the Christian religion, like all other institutions and organizations, is a growth. This idea is elaborated in successive chapters with respect to the Bible, theology, the church, Christian society, and the soul. Dr. Abbott accounts for the contradictions and imperfections which he admits exist in the Bible on the ground that the writers of the later books perceived the will of God more clearly than the men who wrote the earlier ones. He says: "The later books present higher ideals of character and conduct, clearer and nobler conceptions of God, more catholic and more positive interpretations of his redeeming work in the world, than the earlier books. The revelation is a progressive revelation. The forms, whether of religious thought, of public worship, or of church order and organization, in the Bible, are not the same; those of the later ages have grown out of those of the former ages, and are superior to them. In brief, the Bible is the history of the development of the life of God in the life of a peculiar people; and it traces the development of that life from lower to higher, and from simpler to more complex forms." The logical outcome of this doctrine is that the theologians of the present day are better able to set forth the true religion than even the writers of the Gospels and Epistles. Dr. Abbott and those who agree with him apparently retain but few things, such as the anthropomorphous nature of the First Cause, the belief in miracles, etc., that divide them from scientific moralists, and the above doctrine seems to release their successors from any obligation to retain these if they should see fit to abandon them.
This is indeed in every respect a book for the hour. It treats at length on what is at the present the liveliest issue in the United States, from whatever point of view it may be regarded. As a historical summary of a memorable and pivotal period in English politics it is of deep political interest. Most appropriately it is dedicated to the distinguished champion of free trade, the Hon. John Bright, M. P., "the eloquent friend and defender of the American Republic, the enlightened advocate of peace and free trade among nations," and it contains a fac-simile autograph letter from Mr. Bright, written in 1882, in which he says, "The American tariff is so incapable of defense that discussion of the strange burden that lays upon your people can only end in some great change and great reform."
In a second letter, addressed to the author later in that year, Mr. Bright says: "I do not expect your people will copy from us; they will learn from what is passing around them how much they suffer from your present barbarous tariff. There are persons among us who are not anxious for a reform of your tariff. They say you can not have an export trade, and can not compete with us in foreign markets." forbid its citizens to buy their goods in the cheapest markets. It is because he finds every argument used by the advocates of the American system in 1884, borrowed from the speeches of the parliamentary orators in 1844, that he concludes the principles of both systems are the same, and hence they must be beneficial or injurious to one country as well as to the other. To keep the volume abreast of the debate in this country, it has been revised, and enough additional facts and arguments interwoven throughout the historical portions sufficient to make it a good campaign document. The historical portion of the book is rather well condensed from the more elaborate histories of free trade published in the Cobden Club Series and pamphlets, and it appears, upon the whole, fair and impartial. The book seems especially opportune whichever partisan reads, because logically the historical résumé comes before the actual discussion of free trade versus protection. Otherwise, how could we intelligently understand what was done, why it was done, and the circumstances which lead through so fierce a contest up to the final accomplishment? There is an excellent index, so necessary to a book of this character.the preface to this second edition, Mr. Trumbull shows the necessary character of this particular study as a guide in our present political conditions. Citing from Mr. Whitelaw Reid's letter of acceptance, "The fact that our form of government is entirely unique among nations of the world makes it utterly absurd to institute comparisons between our own economic systems and those of other governments," our author states quite emphatically that this is "a very serious error." He does not believe any government is "unique" enough to violate the laws of moral science with impunity; that no government will ever be so "unique" as to justly tax one man for the benefit of another, or
The author's purpose in preparing this work has been to provide a First Logic Book which, besides being useful in teaching beginners, may furnish a brief, connected sketch of the science, and he hopes that what he has to say may help to remove certain difficulties familiar to all teachers of logic, which have forcibly pressed themselves upon his attention in his own teaching. He here sets forth, as simply and systematically as possible, views indicated in a small book of Notes on Difficult Points in Logic which he had previously written, in which he discussed fully the cases in which he diverged from traditional doctrines, and his reasons for the divergence. He regards his scheme as following naturally from the view taken of the twofold character of terms, which, as names of things, have both application and signification. On this datum, together with the recognition that things have a plurality of characteristics and a consequent plurality of names, depends the possibility of significant assertion and the whole doctrine of inference. The principle of excluded middle suggests and supports a recognition of the relatedness of things to one another; and a consideration of Bacon's doctrine of form suggests a modification of Mill's view of induction. The relation of induction to deduction appears to be so close that it is more convenient to regard all logic as one than to make a radical and fundamental division between deductive or formal and inductive or material logic. Upon the twofold character of terms, again, depends the recognition of the law of identity as a law of identity in diversity. The author believes that his views about relative propositions, quantification, disjunctives, the force and interdependence of the principles of logic, the systematization of fallacies, and, partly, the elaboration of immediate inferences, are to some extent new.
Darwin and after Darwin. By George John Romanes. Vol. I. The Darwinian Theory. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company. Pp. 476. Price, $2.
In the volume now before us Mr. Romanes gives a statement of the evidence which supports Darwin's biological doctrine, leaving to a second volume the discussion of post-Darwinian questions. Taking first classification, he shows that all organic Nature readily falls into an arrangement of group subordinate to group, which is just what would have been expected on the supposition that the relationships of the various species indicate lines of descent. In the field of morphology he points out the fact that where any organ gives evidence of having been modified in a certain direction, other parts of the same organism have evidently been modified to the same extent. Here also comes in the argument from vestigial structures. Some of these vestiges can be noted only during the infancy of the species, such as the form and functions of the limbs of young children. One of the illustrations in this chapter is from a photograph taken by Dr. Louis Robinson in his recent investigations on the grasping power of infants. The arguments from embryology, paleontology, and geographical distribution follow in successive chapters. A distinct division of the volume is devoted to selection, in which the theory of natural selection is stated, and criticisms upon it are answered, and the theory of sexual selection is discussed. There is an appendix dealing with some technical points in the arguments from paleontology, and several supplementary notes. The text is illustrated with 125 excellent engravings.
Practical Ethics. By William De Witt Hyde, D. D. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Pp. 208. Price, 89 cents.
This is one of a number of text-books that have been called forth by the recent sudden increase of interest in the teaching of ethics. Its arrangement is based on a list of objects, such as food and drink, dress, exercise, property, time, fellow-men, the poor, society, and God, and it is designed to show the proper relation of the individual to each of these objects. In each case the author sets forth the duty with regard to the relation, the virtue which secures the performance of this duty, the reward which is the natural consequence of the particular virtue, the temptation most likely to lead one away from this virtue, the vice of defective and that of excessive activity in the relation in question, and the penalty of the more common vice. The author makes religion the consummation rather than the foundation of ethics. The style of the book adapts it more especially to college students.
The study of folk lore is in the elementary stage which consists in the gathering of facts belonging to any part of its field and wherever they may be found. Mr. Gomme in the book before us has taken a step toward raising it above this stage into one in which its facts shall be grouped so as to show their hidden significance, and to point out lines of still more fruitful research. He has chosen ethnology for his special theme and marshals the available facts of folk lore so as to throw light upon the history of races. Thus, he maintains that practices and beliefs which are preserved among European peasantry, and are in marked contrast with the prevailing civilization, "are to be identified with the rude culture of ancient Europe, which has been swept over by waves of higher culture from foreign sources." The fact that such practices are most conspicuous among the descendants of a conquered race, where such exist side by side with the descendants of their conquerors, gives support to this idea. An interesting example of this is found in the village festival of southern India, in which the Pariahs—the casteless remnant of a conquered race—appear as the chief functionaries, although the dominant race takes part in it.
In a chapter on The Ethnic Genealogy of Folk Lore, evidence is presented which indicates that many beliefs and practices relating to the dead are derived from a primitive custom of eating dead kindred—a custom that still persists among some tribes of savages. There is much that now seems hopelessly obscure concerning the origin, early movements, and mingling of races, but the thorough and systematic study of folk lore, in such lines as those that Mr. Gomme has traced, promises to throw light into many dark places.
The author states in his preface that "this work is addressed to women who are desirous of fulfilling properly their duties as wives and mothers, and is designed to assist them in exercising an intelligent supervision over their own and their children's health." It is a notably full and thorough treatise, dealing with all the incidents of pregnancy and confinement, describing the proper care of the infant, and telling how the common diseases of children may be recognized. The accidents of miscarriage and premature confinement are described, and the extra precautions which they necessitate are specified. In the part devoted to the child, one chapter tells the average size and weight of the child at birth, the usual rate of growth, at what age the teeth appear, the power of walking is developed, and the ability to talk is gained. The style of the book is simple and concise; it is not marred by useless words or mystifying technicalities. The author takes especial care to tell what may be expected to occur during the period of gestation and after the birth of the child, giving the range of variation that is noticed in different persons. With this information the mother need have no alarm when unaccustomed sensations are felt, or if she or her child do not do exactly the same as her friend and her friend's child have done. The book does not attempt to take the place of a physician, but tells, under the various divisions of its subject, what symptoms require that a physician should be called.
Paganism surviving in Christianity. By Abram Herbert Lewis, D. D. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 309.
The efforts of partisans, the author of this book says, to manipulate early history in the interest of special views and narrow conceptions have been a fruitful source of error. Equally dangerous has been the assumption that the Christianity of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries was identical with that of the New Testament, or was a fair representative of it. The constant development of new facts shows that at the point where the average student takes up the history of Western Christianity it was already fundamentally corrupted by pagan theories and practices. Its unfolding from that time to the present must be studied in the light of this fact and the rise, development, present status, and future history of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism can not be justly considered independently of it. The fundamental principles and the underlying philosophy of these divisions of Christendom originated in the paganizing of early Christianity. This fact makes the re-study of the beginnings of Christianity of supreme importance. The book presents a suggestive rather than an exhaustive treatment of these influences, and of their effect on historic Christianity, in the four points of the influence of pagan thought upon the Bible and its interpretation; upon the organized Church, through the pagan water-worship cult; upon the practices and spiritual life of the Church, "by substituting pagan holidayism for Christian Sabbathism"; and upon the spiritual life and subsequent character of the Church, by the union of church and state, mid the subjugation of Christianity to the civil power, according to the pagan models. Under the first of these headings came the corruptions derived from gnosticism and various allegorical interpretations of scriptural doctrines and symbols; under the second the corruptions of Christian baptism, giving rise, among other things, to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and the use of holy water; under the third, the origin of the substitution of Sunday for the old Sabbath, and the rise, purpose, and tendency of Sunday legislation—to which the author is opposed, on principle and as a Seventh-day Baptist; and under the fourth the whole course of secular interference with the Church. "Other forms of pagan residuum in Christianity" include a low standard of religious life; the metamorphosis of an ancient phallic emblem into the Christian cross; various beliefs connected with baptism; lights in worship; the eastward position; certain features peculiar to the Roman Catholic Church; and the observance of certain Christianized pagan holidays. Regarding the fundamental principles of Protestantism, as involved in present issues, the author concludes that Protestants must accept the Bible in fact as well as in theory, reinterpreting it in the light of "higher criticism" and deeper spiritual life, or be overthrown; that baptism must cease to be the football of denominational polemics and be raised to a question of obedience to the example of Christ; that Protestants must return to true Sabbathism, "which is as undenominational as faith"; and that all union of Christianity with the state must yield before the normal development of true Protestantism.
Elements of Physics. By C. E. Fessenden, Principal, Collegiate Institute, Peterboro, Ontario. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1892, Pp. 229. Price, 80 cents.
This is the latest of the excellent series of text-books in science published by Messrs. Macmillan & Co. It is especially worthy of the attention of educators, on account of its simplicity and the natural method of instruction, scientific accuracy of statement, clean text, type, and admirable illustrations. The four simple divisions are: Matter and its Properties, pp. 1-53; Kinematics, pp. 53-64; Dynamics, pp. 64-179; Heat, pp. 179-229.
One is inclined to envy a generation of beginners in science to whom each step is so clearly explained, and where the illustrations really assist the student. The longest chapter, very properly, is devoted to the important subject of dynamics, of which the illustrations are profuse and varied. At the end of each chapter there are well-planned questions designed to test the originality and thought of the beginner, and throughout the book many problems, carefully selected, add to its value.
Six Books of the Æneid of Vergil. By William R. Harper, Ph.D., President of the University of Chicago, and Frank J. Miller, Ph. D., Instructor in Latin in the University of Chicago. American Book Company: New York, Cincinnati, Chicago. Pp. 461. Price, $1.25.
This is a school edition of the great Mantuan bard, prepared with judicious zeal and with the intention of exciting in the youthful student of Latin poetry a genuine love for the most eminent poet of ancient Rome. The bibliography is a unique but complete feature, and exceedingly well arranged. The extracts from ancient and modern poets are quite extensive for so small a text-book. There are eleven full-page photographic illustrations, all from such historic pictures as The Death of Laocoön, Ceres, The Cumæan Sibyl, etc., with Raphael's portrait of Vergil, and a map of the scene of the hero's wanderings on land and sea. The Topics for Investigation, the Testimonies to Vergil's Worth as a Poet, and the Inductive Studies, copied and condensed from the best classical commentators, form a particularly interesting feature of the book.
A copious Vergilian vocabulary, word-list, and concise foot-notes, giving instances of paraphrases of Vergilian lines in modern poets, add to the vivid character of the book and render attractive the lines of the poet, who is ever young because ever studied and always admired. Among the many editions of Vergil, we know of none in size, illustrations, type, scholarship, scope and quality of the work done, more suitable to be put into the hands of the young American student. Those of us who remember the old texts, scant notes (none plain), and who recall the beauties to be discovered without help or hint, and who were expected to discourse on grammatical puzzles like German scholiasts, can well understand why the present generation ought to read more Latin poetry in less time, understand it better, and enjoy it more than the students of thirty years ago. Even Tennyson's stately tribute on the nineteenth centenary of Vergil's death finds here an appropriate place:
I salute thee, Mantovano, I that loved thee since my day began,
The High-school Algebra. American Book Company. Pp. 360. Price, $1.
This is a revised and enlarged edition of Prof. Milne's Inductive Algebra, already well known as a clear and widely used work. The present edition is prepared to meet the want of the improved method of teaching, and to keep pace with the advanced work demanded for high schools and advanced standing in colleges. Besides the chapters on Radical Quantities, Radical Equations, and Quadratic Equations, there are a general review and special chapters on Imaginary , Indeterminate Equations, Inequalities, Logarithms, the Binomial Theorem, Undetermined Coefficients, and the Theory and Transformation of Equations, which many of our modern algebras for schools seem to have lost sight of or completely ignore.
Pauperism: A Picture, and the Endowment of Old Age. An Argument by Charles Booth. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1892.
In studying some records, kept for thirteen years, of poverty at Stepney in 1880, Mr. Booth came across written records of parochial relief, and from them he draws these pictures of pauperism as seen in certain portions of London, notably at Stepney and St. Pancras, and incidentally discusses one phase of English pauperism, viz., Old Age and its Remedies. The book is one of social science study, filled with statistics, personal data, and an account of the causes usually assigned for pauperism—crime, drink, extravagance, sickness, lack of employment, miserable surroundings, vice and criminality, laziness, early marriages and large families, death of parents, old age.
Stripped of a mass of unnecessary statistics, the pith of the book occupies eight pages, Chapter VII, in which the particular phase of old age pauperism, according to Mr. Booth, is not desirably treated in England. The indoor relief lacks humanity and the outdoor relief encourages improvidence. Mr. Booth therefore suggests a universal compulsory system of state aid supported by taxation—a sort of pension, beginning, at the age of sixty-five, at five shillings per week for the central class of English workingmen, which he computes at one fourth of the whole number. The vagueness of this demand is tacitly admitted by our author when he grants that such questions might be asked as, Have the people at large made any such demand? Have they any grievance on this subject which calls for redress? Would they be willing to be taxed to provide pensions for the old? We all know how thoroughly the social science associations of England have discussed all phases of the pauper question in the United Kingdom, and of the plans of relief past and present proposed. The name is legion. Rich and poor are now taxed to this end, indirectly if not directly; and it were extremely doubtful, if Mr. Booth's plans were not less direct than his well-known zeal and warmth of heart and interest in the cause of humanity, whether it would avail more for the subject he has at heart than this well-written, well-intentioned, but rather imperfect book.
Distinction and the Criticism of Beliefs. By Alfred Sidgwick. London and New York: Longmans, Green & Co. Pp. 279.
The object of this book is chiefly to seek the means of giving more accurate and adequate expression to our thoughts. In the discussion of many questions we come to points where we are at loss concerning the exact significance of the terms we use, or to find words clearly to mark our thought. This is because many important and necessary terms involve ambiguity, leaving, at the best, doubt as to the precise sense in which they are to be taken. One of the first things to ask is, what we shall mean by ambiguity. An ambiguous word may be roughly defined as a word with two or more meanings; it is not, however, the bare fact that a word has two or more meanings that makes it ambiguous in any effectual sense, but the fact that its two or more meanings are in practice confused. The author in his argument attempts, first, to discover the part that is actually played by ambiguity (or rough distinction) in confusing our judgment. In the process of getting to understand exactly the error that rough distinction creates, it becomes necessary to discuss the excuses that may sometimes be made for vagueness. At every level of our thought we are soon brought up against the difficulties that arise out of the attempt to define our words—or to draw sharp distinctions where the things distinguished shade off into one another—difficulties familiar to every one. Hence the author's purpose includes an attempt to find a more philosophical method of dealing with rough distinctions, in place of the happy-go-lucky tact that every one uses, more or less, by the light of Nature; and in connection with this a considerable number of questions arise, and suggest lines of further inquiry. Another interwoven subject is the everlasting struggle that language carries on against, difficulties of expression. A third incidental subject is the way in which language acts as a drag upon the progress of knowledge, doing this through "a certain over-conservative tendency in our thought" that keeps us more under the slavery of words than we need be.
Cathcarth's Literary Reader, compiled by George R. Cathcart, and first published eighteen years ago, now appears in a revised edition (American Book Company, $1.15). It combines the function of an advanced reading-book with that of a manual of English literature. Besides the selections from writers of the Elizabethan period, the Commonwealth and the Restoration, the eighteenth century, and the nineteenth century, the book contains introductory remarks on each epoch, biographical and critical information concerning the authors represented, explanatory foot-notes, and a large number of portraits. While poetry, oratory, and fiction make up the body of the selections, history and modern science are not ignored.