Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/October 1898/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


Mr. Lester F. Ward, in the book whose title is indicated below,[1] gives a very readable summary of his views upon sociological science. He still holds, as he tells us, to the theories enunciated in his Dynamic Sociology, published in 1882; but he does not seem to have obtained in the last sixteen years any additional light as to the form social evolution is likely to take under the influence of the psychic forces which he has described. There is to be a social evolution, so we are given to understand, determined by a social consciousness of social needs; but he is not able as yet to indicate any distinct dawning of such consciousness. He apologizes for the democratic governments which are to be organs of the expected progress. They will be all right some day, but up to date they are the "most stupid" of all governments. "They have to rely on brute force. They are shortsighted, and only know how to lock the door after the horse is stolen. They swarm and 'enthuse,' and then lapse into a state of torpor, losing all that was gained, and again surge in another direction, wasting their energies. In fact, they act precisely like animals devoid of intelligence." Lest the picture should be too dark, the author adds that "under exceptional circumstances they have displayed signs of collective intelligence." To their credit, however, be it said that democracies are "benevolent," while autocracies are always "rapacious." The democratic legislator knows what his constituents want and tries to get it for them. This is benevolent on his part, and the benevolence of the constituency, we suppose, will be shown in re-electing him. Dr. Pangloss himself could not have imagined a more beautiful illustration of the general perfection of the scheme of things.

The great trouble, however, is that so little mind beams through this benevolence. Mr. Ward acknowledges that this constitutes "the problem of sociology." He has wrestled with it, he says, for many years, and sees no way to increase the intellectual status of democratic governments save by improving that of the people at large. "If," he adds, "the social consciousness can be so far quickened as to awake to a full realization of this truth in such vivid manner as to induce general action in the direction of devising means for the universal equalization of intelligence, all other social problems will be put in the way of gradual but certain solution." It really seems to us as if in this sentence the stream of Mr. Ward's argument were losing itself, like an Australian river, in the sands of a highly Latinized, and all but unmeaning, verbiage. May we not, however, ask the question whether, with a marked increase in the general intelligence and an accompanying improvement in the general morality of the community, there would not be a correspondingly reduced need for the kind of legislation directed to constructive social ends which the author so ardently invokes? The community is to be educated up to the highest point, in order that a highly intelligent legislature may do for the eminently intelligent and moral community what the latter in spite of its advanced education is still not quite intelligent or moral enough to do for itself. We find here a somewhat excessive complication. Besides, why, after all, should a serious writer like Mr. Ward worry about a "social consciousness" of which he can not pretend to assert that any organ exists? He knows perfectly well that consciousness is essentially an individual thing, and that the consciousness which we conceive as residing in one brain can by no possibility be the consciousness of another brain. A legislative committee may wield a delegated power, but such a thing as a delegated consciousness never yet existed and never will exist.

We are sorry to find Mr. Ward repeating a statement regarding Mr. Spencer, the incorrectness of which was fully demonstrated by Mr. Spencer himself in an article published in this magazine in the month of December, 1896, on the occasion of the first appearance in print, in the form of an article in the American Journal of Sociology, of one of the chapters of Mr. Ward's present book. The passage to which we refer is as follows: "Herbert Spencer, although he treated psychology as a distinct science, and placed it between biology and sociology in his system of Synthetic Philosophy, made no attempt to affiliate sociology upon psychology, while, on the contrary, he did exert himself to demonstrate that it has exceedingly close natural affinities with biology" (page 94). Mr. Spencer's reply to this was that he had, in the most distinct manner, indicated the dependence of sociology upon psychology, and that, in point of fact, the opening chapters of his Principles of Sociology dealt almost wholly with psychical factors. He adduced numerous passages from his writings proving that he had made his position upon this point perfectly plain. Any of our readers who care to turn to the number of this magazine which we have mentioned can see for themselves how complete was the refutation of Mr. Ward's erroneous statement. It seems to us that, as a matter of courtesy as well as of elementary justice, Mr. Ward should have seen to it that he did not put forth a second time an utterance so ill-founded and injurious. Mr. Ward himself, in the very paragraph in which he makes the allegation complained of by Mr. Spencer, furnishes evidence of its incorrectness. He says that at the close of the third chapter of Mr. Spencer's Psychology the fact comes clearly forth that "the class of attributes in the individual animal with which those of society could best be compared were its psychic attributes." Surely if this was clearly the drift of Mr. Spencer's argument there was no great need of repeated affirmations that a nexus existed between psychology and sociology. Mr. Ward is an industrious writer, and his style is, as a rule, clear and interesting. He seems, however, to take himself a little too seriously. When, in recapitulating (page 164) the conclusions which he claims to have reached, he includes the doctrine that "social forces are psychic," he can not fail to bring a smile to the face of any one who has ever read Spencer. The same effect is produced when he says (page 111) that he is the only one, so far as he is aware, "who has attempted to show a way out of the difficulty" connected with the evolution of the human intellect. The book as a whole, however, is highly readable, and, with the reserves we have indicated, may be commended to those who are interested in the study of sociological questions.

The Text-Book of Zoölogy[2] of Messrs. T. Jeffery Parker and William A. Haswell was prepared under peculiar, we might well say unique, conditions. Both authors are professors of biology at the antipodes, Professor Parker in the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Professor Haswell in the University of Sydney, New South Wales. They have collaborated while being most of the time twelve hundred miles apart by sea, and the manuscripts, proofs, and drawings of the book have had to traverse half of the circumference of the globe, or to London, in their journeys between the authors on the one hand, and the publishers, printers, artists, and engravers on the other. Though large and comprehensive, the book has been prepared with strict reference to the needs of the beginner, the mode of treatment being such "that no previous knowledge of zoology is assumed, and students of the first and second years should have no more difficulty in following the accounts of the various groups than is incidental to the first study of a complex and unfamiliar subject." Laboratory and museum study is contemplated, and the practice of preceding the study of a given group as a whole by the accurate examination of a suitable member of it is commended. Yet this method of types has its own dangers. "Students are in their way great generalizers, and, unless carefully looked after, are quite sure to take the type for the class, and to consider all arthropods but crayfishes and cockroaches, and all molluscs but mussels and snails, as non-typical." Hence a zoölogy that confines itself largely to types as examples "is certain to be a singularly narrow and barren affair, and to leave the student with the vaguest and most erroneous ideas of the animal kingdom as a whole." The authors, believing that every group which can not be readily and intelligibly described in terms of some other group should be represented in an elementary course of zoölogy by an example, have in the majority of cases described in some detail an example; and in cases where the diversity of organization is very great, two or more examples of every important class. By the time the example has been studied a definition of the class and of its orders will be intelligible, and will serve to show which of the characters already met with are of distinctive importance, and which special to the example itself. To make this part of the teaching more clear, a paragraph giving in more or less of detail the systematic positions of the example, is introduced after the classification. Following the table of classification with its brief definitions, the general account of the group is given, space being allotted to each group, so far as practicable, proportioned to its complexity and range of variation. Following out the plan of deferring the discussion of general principles till the facts with which they are connected have been brought forward, the sections on Distribution, the Philosophy of Zoölogy, and the History of Zoölogy have been placed at the end of the book. But, other considerations being thought more important in those cases, the general account of the structure and physiology of animals has been inserted immediately after the introduction, and the section on Craniate Vertebrata before the descriptions of the classes of that division. The chapter on the Philosophy of Zoölogy includes an exposition of the system of evolution, and that on the history a running account of what each student and author has contributed to the subject, A Guide to Modern Zoölogical Literature is given as an appendix.

  1. Outlines of Sociology. By Lester F. Ward. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1898.
  2. A Text-Book of Zoölogy. By T. Jeffery Parker and William A. Haswell. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 779 and 08a. Price, $9.