Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/February 1899/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

SIR: May I be permitted a word of comment upon your editorial entitled A Borrowed Foundation, published in the December number of the Popular Science Monthly? Whatever my readers and reviewers may have claimed for me, I myself have never claimed to be the discoverer of "the consciousness of kind." Not only Mr. Spencer, as he and you have shown; not only Hegel, as Professor Caldwell has shown; but also nearly every philosophical writer and psychologist from Plato and Aristotle down to the present time has more or less clearly recognized the phenomenon of "the consciousness of kind," although I do not know that any one but myself has called it by just this phrase. The only claim, then, that I put forward for my own work is that, in a somewhat systematic way, I have attempted to use the consciousness of kind as the postulate of sociology and to interpret more special social phenomena by means of it. In other words, I have used it as a "foundation"; and I am not aware that any other writer on sociology has ever done so. Mr. Spencer, I feel quite sure, makes no such claim for himself. The passage which he and you have quoted is taken from the Principles of Psychology; it is not repeated in the Principles of Sociology, where, if it had been regarded by Mr. Spencer as a "foundation," it should have been put forward as the major premise of social theory. Passing over the consciousness of kind, Mr. Spencer has chosen to build his system of sociology in part upon other psychological inductions, in part upon a biological analogy. The tables of the Descriptive Sociology are arranged in accordance with the organic conception, and nine and one half chapters of the Inductions of Sociology in the first volume of the Principles of Sociology are formulated in terms of it. Throughout the remaining parts of the Principles, however, sociological phenomena are explained in terms of two closely correlated generalizations that are psychological in character—namely, first, the generalization that "while the fear of the living becomes the root of the political control, the fear of the dead becomes the root of religious control"; and second, the generalization that militancy and industrialism produce opposite effects on mind and character, and, through them, on every form of social organization. The work that Mr. Spencer has done in elaborating these explanations is of inestimable value, but surely it is not an interpretation of society in terms of the consciousness of I kind. Is it then quite fair to suggest that the use made of the consciousness of kind in my own work is a borrowed "foundation"? However you and Mr. Spencer and my own readers may answer this question, I can sincerely subscribe to your affirmation that there is much more in Mr. Spencer's writings than most even of his truest admirers and most diligent readers have ever explored; and I should be sorry to be regarded as behind the foremost in appreciation of the great work which he has accomplished not only for philosophy in general, but especially for that branch of knowledge which has engaged my own interest.

Franklin H. Giddings.
New York, December 19, 1898.

Professor Giddings, in his Principles of Sociology, spoke of the "consciousness of kind" as the "new datum which has been hitherto sought without success." Mr. Spencer, on the other hand, showed that this was not a new datum, inasmuch as he had formulated it himself in a work published many years previously. Professor Giddings says that the passage to which Mr. Spencer referred occurred in his Principles of Psychology, and not in his Principles of Sociology, where, "if it had been regarded by Mr. Spencer as a foundation, it should have been put forward as the major premise of social theory." But Professor Giddings surely does not forget that Mr. Spencer, in laying out his system of synthetic philosophy, made the whole of psychology the basis of, and immediate preparation for, sociology. Quite naturally a writer who is dealing with sociology separately, and not as part of a philosophical system, will find it necessary in laying his foundations to fall back on data furnished by the immediately underlying science; and this explains why Professor Giddings makes use in his Principles of Sociology of a datum which, whether drawn from Mr. Spencer's Psychology or not, was at least to be found there very distinctly expressed. Mr. Spencer himself says that he regarded it as a "primary datum," and calls attention to the fact that he devoted "a dozen pages to tracing the development of sympathy as a result of gregariousness." We are quite prepared to recognize the valuable use which Professor Giddings has made of the doctrine in question, and to admit that, by the extensive development he has given to it, he has imparted a special character and a special interest both to his Principles of Sociology and to his Elements of Sociology noticed elsewhere.—Ed. P. S. M.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: I have not before this acknowledged your reference to me in a spirited and instructive editorial that appeared in the December number of your excellent magazine, because an immediate reply might have been taken to indicate a desire, on my part, for a controversy, which I expressly disclaim; and besides, I have desired that the public might read and consider your views dispassionately. I care but little for the effect upon myself, if the cause of truth shall be materially strengthened.

I am not surprised that you refer to me as "ignorant," "negligible," etc., because it has for a long time been painfully clear that the "scientific mind" is exceedingly sensitive, and while much given to praising forbearance and kindness, still resorts to language reasonably regarded as abusive. 1 have always found this to be true, and the present controversy is no exception to the rule. The "broadly scientific mind" is, alas! too often narrow and intolerant in treating opposing views. I do not wish, however, to find fault with the abuse—it may prove to be good discipline, and is, therefore, thankfully accepted; but I do very much desire to correct a mistaken inference that you drew from my reference to Herbert Spencer. There are some typographical errors in the quotations that you make, which, however, do not change the meaning. Allow me then to say that I have a great regard for Mr. Spencer; that I have read his writings with much profit, and that I have never failed to accord him full credit for the work he has accomplished. That I can not understand and accept all his teachings does not lessen my respect for him.

At the time that I made my informal talk to the teachers of this city, I had no thought that my remarks would be published or would excite public criticism, or that I would be honored with so distinguished, so critical an audience, or I should have been more careful in the use of terms; but it does seem to me that there is no excuse for the distorted meaning that you and others have given to the quotations. I referred to Mr. Spencer's age to show that we could hope for no change in his philosophy, and the criticism that follows, if it may be styled a criticism at all, is that he has refused to recognize the Deity, and thereby fails to "bless, cheer, and comfort suffering humanity." You discuss it as if I had said that he had not bettered the condition of his fellows; but that idea is not in the statement that you quote at all. The word "suffering" was intended to apply to those who, by reason of the misfortunes of this life, are compelled to look beyond themselves and their surroundings for comfort, and who in all ages and among all peoples have turned their thoughts toward a Divine Being for comfort. I merely intended to say, in a very mild and harmless way, that the consolations of a religion based upon a belief in a Divine Providence are necessary for suffering humanity, and my immediate reference to Cardinal Newman by way of contrast in almost the same language clearly shows this to be the true meaning of my remarks. The emphasis was on the word "suffering, "which was not intended to include more than a fraction of mankind.

I am obliged to you for your reference to Mr. Gladstone, who in his last illness illustrated most fully what I had in my mind. However great his pain, or cheerless the outlook, he continually with serene cheerfulness murmured, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," and "Our Father," etc. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that I am sorry that any one has been led to believe that I underrate the value of the life and work of Herbert Spencer.

Please allow me to refer to the statement in your editorial, "Again dealing with the modern scientific view, that in the development of the human individual all antecedent stages of human development are in a manner passed through," etc., in order that I may express my regret that you seem to vitiate the force of the statement altogether by the use of the unscientific phrase "in a manner." The tremendous consequences glowing out of the view make serious and exact definition and treatment imperative, and I had hoped that 1 was entering upon a helpful discussion of it, but was greatly disappointed. I am also unwilling to believe that students of Emerson will be easily convinced that he looked at life "from a stationary point of view," but I do not feel that I can claim your valuable time for a discussion of this point.

May I trust your forbearance in pointing out a manifest misconception in your statement, "We are not imposed upon by childish imitations of mature virtues"? The remark indicates that you have not been brought into immediate association with school children in a schoolroom, at least in recent years.

I refer very reluctantly, but I trust without seeming egotism, to your remarks touching my election to the position which I hold. I am innocent of all responsibility in the matter. I had no "pull" (is the term scientific?). I wrote to the board declining to be a candidate. I refused to allow my friends to speak to the members of the board in my behalf; 1 preferred the position (Principal of the St. Paul High School) which 1 had held for years, and I accepted the office with much hesitation; but the intimation that our Board of School Inspectors, composed of business men in every way highly esteemed by the citizens of St. Paul, and deemed worthy of all confidence, had been actuated by unworthy motives, is entirely gratuitous and out of place in a journal such would have us believe yours to be. Could there be offered better evidence of haste and unfairness than this uncalled-for assault upon those of whom you know absolutely nothing, and does it not show the scientific inclination to have theory with or without facts, but certainly theory?

Yours very truly,A. J. Smith,
Superintendent of Schools.
St. Paul, Minn., January A, 1899.

We took the report of Superintendent Smith's address which appeared in the St. Paul papers. If there were any "typographical errors" in our quotations, they were not of our making; and Mr. Smith admits that, such as they were, they did not affect the sense. Well, then, we found Mr. Smith using his position as Superintendent of Schools to disparage a man whom the scientific world holds in the highest honor, and for whom he now tells us he himself has "a great regard"—whose writings he has "read with much profit." We judged the speaker by his own words, and certainly drew an unfavorable inference as to his knowledge and mental breadth. If Mr. Smith did injustice to himself by speaking in an unguarded way, or by not fully expressing his meaning, that was not our fault; and we do not think we can properly be accused of having lapsed into abuse. The explanation he offers of his language regarding Mr. Spencer is wholly unsatisfactory. He gave his hearers to understand that there was an "old man" in London who had devoted all his energies to c.eating a system of thought which should entirely ignore the name of the Deity, and of whom, after his death, it would not be remembered that he had "ever performed an act or said a word that blessed or comforted or relieved his suffering fellows." The stress, he now says, should be laid on the word "suffering." He did not wish to imply that Mr. Spencer had not bettered the condition of his fellows generally; he only meant that he had done nothing for the suffering. On this we have two remarks to make: First, it is not usual, when a man is acknowledged to have given a long lifetime to useful work, to hold him up to reprobation because he is not known to have had a special mission to the "suffering"; and, second, that no man can, be of service to mankind at large without being of benefit to the suffering. It is mainly because Mr. Spencer believes so strongly in the broad virtues of justice and humanity, has so unbounded a faith in the efficacy of what may be called a sound social hygiene, that he has had, comparatively, so little to say upon the topics which most interest those who apply themselves specifically, but not always wisely, to alleviating the miseries and distresses of humanity.

As to the means by which Mr. Smith obtained his present position, we know nothing beyond what he now tells us. We saw his appointment criticised as an unsuitable one in the St. Paul papers; and his published remarks seemed to justify the criticism. There are "pulls"—the word is "scientific" enough for our purpose—even in school matters; and it seemed that this was just such a case as a "pull" would most naturally explain. We quite accept, however, Superintendent Smith's statement as to the facts; and we sincerely trust that the next address he delivers to his teachers will better justify his appointment than did the one on which we felt it a duty to comment.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: The editorial in the December Popular Science Monthly on the relations of Emerson to evolution must have surprised many of the students of Emerson. A little over two years ago Moncure D. Conway pointed out (Open Court, 1896) that soon after his resignation from the pulpit of the Unitarian Church with which he was last connected, Emerson taught zoölogy, botany, paleontology, and geology, and that he was a pronounced evolutionist who used in his lectures the argument in favor of evolution drawn from the practical identity of the extremities of the vertebrates. That Emerson was an evolutionist of the Goethean type is clear from most of his essays. In an essay appearing before the Origin of Species, he wrote as follows:

"The electric word pronounced by John Hunter a hundred years ago, arrested and progressive development, indicating the way upward from the invisible protoplasm to the highest organisms, gave the poetic key to Natural Science, of which the theories of Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, of Oken, of Goethe, of Agassiz and Owen and Darwin in zoölogy and botany are the fruits—a hint whose power is not exhausted, showing unity and perfect order in physics.

"The hardest chemist, the severest analyzer, scornful of all but the driest fact, is forced to keep the poetic curve of Nature, and his results are like a myth of Theocritus. All multiplicity rushes to be resolved into unity. Anatomy, osteology, exhibit arrested or progressive ascent in each kind; the lower pointing to the higher forms, the higher to the highest, from the fluid in an elastic sac, from radiate, mollusk, articulate, vertebrate, up to man; as if the whole animal world were only a Hunterian museum to exhibit the genesis of mankind."

The Darwin to whom reference is made in this essay is not Charles, but his grandfather, one of the poets of evolution, Erasmus. The essay also shows the belief in evolution held by both Owen and Louis Agassiz before theological timidity made them unprogressive. The names quoted illustrate further the factors which influenced Emerson's thought in regard to evolution. Saint-Hilaire gave the coup de grâce to Cuvier's fight against evolution. Oken is one of the great pioneers of evolution. Goethe shares with Empedoeles, Lucretius, and Erasmus Darwin the great honor of being a poet of evolution. Of the four, Goethe was by all odds the greatest. To him, the doctrine of evolution was of more importance than the downfall of a despot. The eve of the Revolution of 1830 found him watching over the dispute between Cuvier and SaintHilaire with an interest that obscured every other.

"'Well,' remarked Goethe to Soret" (Conversations with Eckermann) "'what do you think of this great event? The volcano has burst forth, all in flames, and there are no more negotiations behind closed doors.' 'A dreadful affair,' I answered, 'but what else could be expected under the circumstances, and with such a ministry, except that it would end in the expulsion of the present royal family?' 'We do not seem to understand each other, my dear friend,' replied Goethe. 'I am not speaking of those people at all; I am interested in something very different. I mean the dispute between Cuvier and Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, which has broken out in the Academy, and which is of such great importance to science.' This remark of Goethe's came upon me so unexpectedly that I did not know what to say, and my thoughts for some minutes seemed to have come to a complete standstill. 'The affair is of the utmost importance,' he continued,' and you can not form any idea of what I felt on receiving the news of the meeting on the 19th. In Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire we have now a mighty ally for a long time to come. But I see also how great the sympathy of the French scientific world must be in this affair, for, in spite of a terrible political excitement, the meeting on the 19th was attended by a full house. The best of it is, however, that the synthetic treatment of Nature introduced into France by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire can now no longer be stopped. This matter has now become public through the discussion in the Academy carried on in the presence of a large audience; it can no longer be referred to secret committees or be settled or suppressed behind closed doors."'

It is obvious to any reader of Emerson's essays that Goethe exercised an enormous influence over him, and that Emerson was much more in sympathy with Goethe than was the fetichistic dualist Carlyle. This influence of Goethe over Emerson's views of evolution is clearly evident in the citation already made.

The evolutionary views of Emerson appear so frequently in his essays that it is astonishing that he should have been misunderstood. The citation by the Minneapolis clergyman from the essay on Nature that "man is fallen" does not refer to the Adamic fall, but the degenerating influence of cities. At the slightest glance, the evolutionary tendency of this essay on Nature is evident. In the paragraph immediately after that containing the reference to fallen man occurs the following:

"But taking timely warning and leaving many things unsaid on this topic, let us not longer omit our homage to the efficient Nature, natura naturans, the quick cause before which all forms flee as the driven snows, itself secret, its works driven before it in flocks and multitudes (as the ancient represented Nature by Proteus, a shepherd), and in indescribable variety. It published itself in creatures reaching from particles and spicula through transformation on transformation to the highest symmetries, arriving at consummate results without a shock or a leap. A little heat, that is a little motion, is all that differences the bald dazzling white and deadly cold poles of the earth from the prolific tropical climates. All changes pass without violence by reason of the two cardinal conditions of boundless space and boundless time. Geology has initiated us into the secularity of Nature and taught us to disuse our school-dame measure and exchange our Mosaic and Ptolemaic scheme for her large style. We knew nothing rightly for want of perspective. Now we learn what patient ages must round themselves before the rock is broken and the first lichen race has disintegrated the thinnest external plate into soil and opened the door for the remote flora, fauna, Ceres and Pomona to come in. How far off yet is the trilobite, how far the quadruped, how inconceivably remote is man! All duly arrive, and then race after race of men. It is a long way from granite to the oyster; farther yet to Plato and the preaching of the immortality of the soul. Yet all must come, as surely as the first atom has two sides."

It would be useless to multiply citations along this line to demonstrate not only that Emerson was an evolutionist, but that his whole philosophy was pervaded by the doctrine. It should be remembered that, at the time Emerson wrote, evolution had won wide favor among thinkers and that the success of the Origin of Species was an evidence, not of the creation of the evolution sentiment by that work, but of a pre-existing mental current in favor of evolution.

Very respectfully,
Harriet C. B. Alexander.
Chicago, December 20, 1898.