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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 74/January 1909/The Career of Herbert Spencer

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 74‎ | January 1909

THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

JANUARY, 1909




THE CAREER OF HERBERT SPENCER
By Professor LESTER F. WARD

BROWN UNIVERSITY

THAT "the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones" is one of those literary palindromes which may be read both ways. Probably there is no great man, who, from the standpoint of pragmatism, has not done both evil and good, but the question as to which predominates can never be decided to the satisfaction of all. In the case of a Nero most men are agreed, but in that of a Napoleon opinions differ. Aside from war and politics there are few cases in which the consensus of opinion would fall on the side of evil, but many cases leave it doubtful, as, for example, those of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau, while in others it changes from one age to the next, as in the cases of Voltaire and Thomas Paine. Usually it is the evil that is most conspicuous during the life of the subject, and this has often been carried to the extreme of persecution during life and canonization after death. The world is full of monuments to those who were put to death for the things that are now chiefly admired. All this admonishes the biographer of the caution required in passing judgment on those of his own day and generation.

Herbert Spencer stands, and will probably always stand, on the light side of the picture, but there are very few of those familiar with his work who would maintain that there is no dark side. His Autobiography naturally presents the bright side, but the Life and Letters emphasize rather the shades than the lights, and it may be doubtful whether it would not have been better if that work had not appeared. Still, when we remember the deficiencies of human nature, perhaps this showing up of the whole man as he was is nothing more than a reassertion by him of the universally approved maxim of Terence: homo sum.

Leaving the worlds then, to pronounce its judgment on this question of ethics, or pragmatism, let us briefly consider the career of Herbert Spencer in its broad outlines as brought out by his complete works supplemented by the four posthumous volumes now before us. There is certainly no vehicle in America, if there is any in the Old "World, more appropriate to this task than the Popular Science Monthly. As has already been said by its present editor:

Readers of this journal are familiar with Spencer's work, for he contributed to it nearly a hundred articles. It was indeed established by Dr. E. L. Youmans in 1872 largely with a view to provide a suitable medium for printing Spencer's "Study of Sociology," and. . . may be regarded as one of the by-products of his genius.[1]

As is well known, the first article in the Popular Science Monthly (May, 1872) is by Herbert Spencer: "The Study of Sociology, I., Our Need of It," which is also the first chapter of the book he was writing on "The Study of Sociology" for the International Scientific Series. In his "Autobiography" (Vol. II., pp. 284-286) he says:

Before he left England my American friend [Dr. E. L. Youmans] volunteered to arrange for the carrying out of a suggestion which had arisen, I do not remember how, that the successive chapters of "The Study of Sociology"—the extra book in question—should be first published serially, in England and America at the same time. Here the Contemporary Review. . . was the contemplated medium; and a fit medium in the United States, Professor Youmans proposed to negotiate with as soon as possible after his return. . . . And now there arose an unlooked-for result from the understanding that had been made for simultaneous publication in America. Negotiations which Youmans had carried on with one or other periodical in the United States had all failed; and at the time when the first chapter had been put in type, neither he nor I saw how our plan was to be carried out. When the proof of this first chapter reached him it caused prompt and surprising action, as witness the following extract from a letter of his dated April 3, 1872:

"A thousand thanks for your favour of March 13th, with article on 'Study of Sociology' enclosed. . . You did wisely in sending it, and I decided upon our course in ten minutes after getting it. I determined to have a monthly at once, and in time to open with this article. . . We have started a monthly of 128 pages. . . I am utterly glad that things have taken the course they have. I have wanted a medium of speech that I can control, and now I shall have it."

The magazine thus started was The Popular Science Monthly; which, under the editorship of my friend, has had a prosperous career and done very good work.

Not only did the "Study of Sociology" thus all appear in the Popular Science Monthly, but Mr. Spencer continued to contribute to it chapters from his "Synthetic Philosophy" for many years, and declined to allow them to appear in other periodicals. When asked as late as 1895 by the London editor of McClure's Magazine to contribute to that journal, he replied:

I have, in virtue mainly of my indebtedness to my old friend for all he did on my behalf in the United States, felt bound to make the Popular Science Monthly my sole medium for publication of articles in the United States, and the obligation, which was preemptory during his life, remains strong after his death, since his brother occupies his place and he has continued his good offices on my behalf.[2]

The choice of a spokesman is less happy, but when we remember that the brothers Youmans, John Fiske, and most of the other disciples of Spencer in America have passed away, the difficulty in finding a proper person for such a task will be appreciated. Probably it should have fallen to an unqualified disciple who would simply pronounce an éloge in some extended form. The one to whom it has been assigned, while he yields to none in his high estimate of Spencer's talents and achievements, and has made this known on many occasions, has remained eclectic as to his peculiar doctrines, accepting such as appeal to him as sound, rejecting those which seem to be obviously unsound, and suspending judgment as to many that appear doubtful or await sufficient evidence.

In these several respects it is possible to classify Spencer's views under two heads and to explain the reasons which assign them to the one or the other class. The first class includes his cosmic philosophy in general, beginning with inorganic nature and extending through biology. It also includes much of his psychology, anthropology and sociology, considered in their philosophic aspects. The second class embraces his ethics as a whole, both individual and political. To it also belong most of the applications that he makes of psychology and sociology to current events, his dealings with the state, government, war, industry, business and economic problems. While no one will go so far as to say that his views on the first of these classes are always sound, or that those on the second are always unsound or questionable, it is still true that all that is great and profound in his philosophy belongs to the first of these classes, while his errors, his narrow views, and his unworthy utterances are confined to the second class.

And now as to the explanation of this. Primarily it rests on the fact that in treating the first class of subjects there was no room for the play of the emotions, while the subjects of the second class often appeal to the feelings, and Spencer, with all his logic and philosophic poise, never had his feelings under complete subjection to his reason. But secondarily, in the case of topics appealing to the feelings he unfortunately imbibed a whole series of prejudices during his early youth from which he was never able to free himself. Indeed, they were so strong that he did not attempt to overcome them, but rather gloried in them to the end of his life. This, however, was not the worst consequence. They blinded him to everything that was taking place in the world around him, to the extent that social movements, which, could he have seen it, were the natural outcome of the cosmical principles he had laid down, were regarded by him as the signs and omens of social degeneracy and as portending a relapse into barbarism. In the inorganic and organic worlds he had not been taught anything, and his vast intellect was free to enter those fields and work out far-reaching principles untrammeled by early prejudices. In the ethical, political, and economic worlds he was enclosed in a shell and could grow no larger than his prison walls. To use one of those biological analogies of which he was so fond, in the physical and organic sciences he was a vertebrate with an adjustable internal skeleton, while in the moral and political sciences he was a crustacean without the power to shed his carapace.

In appraising Spencer's truly great contributions to human thought and knowledge we are therefore compelled to leave out of view all his earlier writings, except perhaps an occasional essay. His letters on the "Proper Sphere of Government" (1842), his "Social Statics" (1850), his "Principles of Psychology" (1855), his "Education" (1861), are all excluded from this high meed of praise. The same is true of Part I. of his "First Principles" (1862), which formed the stumbling-block to his whole system of philosophy, and if published at all, should have been placed at the end as a sort of appendix or curious metaphysical by-product. Solid ground is reached only in Part II. of the "First Principles," and in only one other of his works is his master mind revealed with equal clearness. His grasp here of cosmical principles is astonishing, and the vast swing of his logic carries the reader irresistibly on, sweeping majestically across the whole cosmos in many different directions, until everything is compassed in a universal scheme. Here, too, more than anywhere else, is his happy choice of expressions, never before employed, but precisely and concisely characterizing cosmical principles, singularly manifest. The word "evolution" itself, which perhaps he was the first to use in a philosophic sense,[3] though introduced in his earlier works, is here given its full meaning, and the thought it conveys has now captured the world. The phrase "redistribution of matter and motion" sums up the cosmic process as it had never been summed up by any other phrase. The assertion that evolution proceeds "from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous" has never been questioned except by those who give different meanings to the terms from those intended by Spencer, and which are the proper and even the popular meanings. Such phrases as "the instability of the homogeneous," "the rhythm of motion," "the multiplication of effects," and such single terms as "aggregation," "segregation," "equilibration," "dissolution," are all fraught with profound significance, and most of the processes described by them take place in all departments of nature. The introduction and illustration of these terms and the description of the processes of nature of which they are the names, would alone make "First Principles" an immortal work.

It is true that Spencer failed to see the essential distinction between cosmic and organic evolution, and when it was pointed out in 1877,[4] as it was not his own idea, he characteristically ignored it. He also missed the principles of creative synthesis, cosmic, organic and social synergy and sympodial development, which are quite as important as those set forth in "First Principles." But he is to be judged for what he did rather than by what he did not do. There is, however, one omission, which, deliberate and intentional though it was, has not been condoned by his readers. This is his failure to elaborate these fundamental principles of inorganic nature in a manner proportionate to that in which he elaborated the principles of biology, psychology, sociology and ethics. Uniform regret has been expressed by his readers, including his warmest admirers, that he should have abandoned this great work so auspiciously begun, and hurried on to the more special and complex sciences before laying an adequate foundation for them. The present writer was among those to express this regret and to maintain that his excuse for omitting the two volumes upon which the "Synthetic Philosophy" would and should have rested, viz., that the scheme would have been too extensive for him to complete it, and that "the interpretation of Organic Nature after the proposed method is of more immediate importance," was not a sufficient or valid excuse. It is generally felt that if these two volumes had been written, which might have borne the title of "Principles of Cosmology," it would be small matter whether the "Principles of Ethics" ever saw the light or not.

The world was even left in the dark as to how and in what order he would have treated inorganic nature had he written the omitted volumes. It is true that in the opening paragraph of the first volume of the "Principles of Sociology" he says:

Of the three broadly-distinguished kinds of Evolution, we come now to the third. The first kind, Inorganic Evolution, which, had it been dealt with, would have occupied two volumes, one dealing with Astrogeny and the other with Geogeny, was passed over because it seemed undesirable to postpone the more important applications of the doctrine for the purpose of elaborating those less important applications which logically precede them.

The bare names, therefore, which he would have given to the two volumes were thus made known, but from them it was impossible more than to conjecture what the treatment would have been. The complete scheme was drawn up early in 1858 and sent to his father in a letter, but the revised scheme, issued in 1860, and with which we are all familiar, wants the details for all below the biology. Not until the "Autobiography" appeared in 1904 was this hiatus supplied.[5] This was the reason for publishing a letter from him dated September 19, 1895, in which considerable was said on this subject. Nearly eight years, however, were allowed to elapse before this step was taken in 1903. His permission to publish it would have been asked had it not been known that at that date Mr. Spencer was nearing his end, his death occurring in December of the same year, and it seemed highly important that information so vital to his system should not be lost.[6]

While, therefore, Mr. Spencer's treatment of inorganic nature, so far as it could be judged from "First Principles" and other indications, was full of promise, still, inasmuch as he did not fulfil that promise by an exhaustive elaboration of it, it was soon overshadowed by his work in the next great field, that of biology, the only other field of his labors in which no early preconceptions existed to warp his judgment or impede the flight of his genius.

Herbert Spencer's "Principles of Biology" is the gem of his "Synthetic Philosophy," and must rank for all time as his masterpiece. In it he founds the science of biology squarely upon that of organic chemistry, and "Chemical Development" was to have been the final topic of "The Principles of Geogeny."[7] This makes clear the filiation of the sciences thus far. Then come his several proximate definitions of life, closing with "the broadest and most complete" one: "the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations." Few have been satisfied with this, and the more it is studied the less it seems to fulfil the conditions. The objection to it is that there is no life in the definition. It is strange that he should have failed to cement the lowest organic science, biology, to the highest inorganic science, chemistry, by recognizing the brief step from the spontaneous molecular activities of the most complex organic compounds, the albuminoids, to the no more spontaneous molar activities (motility) of the simplest living substance, which we know as protoplasm, and believe to result from the further recompounding of the former.[8]

But this fundamental criticism aside, Spencer's handling of biological problems is nothing short of masterful. In his chapters on growth, development, function, adaptation, generation ("genesis"), heredity, variation, etc., although not a specialist in any branch of biology, he marshals an immense body of facts in support of fundamental principles, many of which had never before been discovered. In dealing with heredity he postulates the existence of "physiological units," later changed to "constitutional units." The "Principles of Biology" was published in 1864, and therefore Spencer could have known nothing of Darwin's "pangenesis," treated in his "Variations of Animals and Plants under Domestication," which appeared in 1868. But Spencer's "physiological units," as he points out,[9] are not at all the same as Darwin's "gemmules." They are still less similar to Weismann's "biophores."[10] They are nothing but "compound molecules (as much above those of albumen in complexity as those of albumen are above the simplest compounds," and are for the same organism "substantially of one kind." Why he did not admit that they are merely forms of protoplasm we do not know, but certain it is that biologists are now coming to believe that no hereditary units in the sense of independent bodies exist, and that all the phenomena of heredity, obscure and recondite as they are, can be as easily conceived to result from the action of protoplasm in various ways not yet fully understood, as from any imaginary bearers of hereditary "Anlagen."[11]

It is in Part III. on the "Evolution of Life" that the philosopher comes forth in his full power. After disposing of the special creation hypothesis, he attacks the cosmic principles underlying the organic world. Many of those enumerated in "First Principles" are shown to be in full force on the biotic plane. The process from homogeneity to heterogeneity finds its clearest exemplifications here, and the two great principles of differentiation and integration are formulated and illustrated with wonderful force. We can not here even enumerate all the biological principles set forth in this work, but the application of the principle of equilibration to the organic world can not be passed over in silence. The Lamarckian principle of increase by use and atrophy from disuse, called somewhere by Spencer "use-inheritance," and early recognized by him as "the inheritance of functionally acquired modifications," now becomes, in the new terminology of biology, "direct equilibration," while natural selection, which Spencer, along with many others mentioned by Darwin in the later editions of the "Origin of Species," had foreshadowed before that work appeared, becomes "indirect equilibration." The discussion of these two principles is among the most profound of all of Spencer's writings. The subject, so intimately connected with this, of the transmission of acquired characters, was not overlooked in the "Principles of Biology," but it was not brought into the foreground until Weismann's "Essays" began to appear, denying its possibility. Spencer, as is known, entered the lists with his paper on "The Factors of Organic Evolution," and continued to reply to Weismann for a number of years. In him the trained biological specialist found a foeman worthy of his steel. Headers of these papers on both sides will of course differ in their judgments on the argument according to their cast of mind, but all will admit that Spencer's presentation of the case was able, and to it, as much as to anything else, were due the many notable concessions that Weismann was from time to time compelled to make.[12]

In the second volume of the "Principles of Biology," devoted mainly to morphology and physiology, Spencer showed that he could play the rôle of a specialist, but his special studies and illustrations all have a philosophic purpose in establishing principles. These, however, belong for the most part to the minor or more special laws of biology, and do not call out the same philosophic powers as the major and more general laws dealt with in the first volume. Perhaps the most important of these laws is what he calls the "antagonism between growth and sexual genesis," which might otherwise be stated as the law that nutrition and reproduction are inversely proportional. The truth of this is known to practical breeders, florists and horticulturists, but not to the general public, and it has some interesting results.

Spencer lived to revise his "Biology" and introduce into it much of the Weismann controversy and other features which had not presented themselves clearly at the time the work was originally written. Upon the whole it is a remarkable work. Surprise has often been expressed that trained specialists in biology had rarely or never been able to trip him on any of his statements. This is partly explainable by the fact that Professor Huxley read the proof of a considerable part of the work, but it does not appear that he found much to correct, and we must admit that Spencer possessed a remarkable faculty of accurately stating biological facts that he had not himself observed, and a still greater talent for correlating and interpreting them and fitting them into his universal scheme.

Let us now turn to the "Principles of Psychology." In his "Synthetic Philosophy" Spencer placed it after the Principles of Biology. Although he says little about his reasons for this arrangement, it seems clear that he regarded it as the order of evolution. Yet in his attacks on Comte's serial classification of the sciences he denies that there is any serial order.[13] But whenever he mentions the subjects of his "Synthetic Philosophy" he always arranges them in the same order,[14] corresponding to that of his original program and of all subsequent programs. No one will probably question the propriety of this arrangement, and it may be inferred that he regarded psychology as having some such relation to biology as the latter has to chemistry, i. e., as in a sense growing out of it. Now, whereas he does clearly show this filiation of biology and chemistry, it is difficult to find in his psychology a recognition of its dependence upon biology in the same sense. This is probably due to the fact that the "Psychology" was first written and published as an independent work several years before he conceived the idea of a "Synthetic Philosophy," and afterward revised, enlarged, and adapted, and then set up in its proper niche in the general structure. But the task of adapting it was not an easy one, and he seems to have devoted himself more to what he regarded as its improvement, to the answering of criticisms, and to bringing it up to date, than to linking it on to his "Biology" which stands before it, and to his "Sociology," which was to follow.

He wrote the "Psychology" when fresh from the reading of Hamilton, Mansel, Mill and Kant, and the point of view was that of the old philosophy of mind, which he, indeed, attacked, but scarcely from the modern scientific point of view. This is more true of the second volume than of the first. The work opens, as do most works on psychology, with a treatise on the nervous system, and the chapter on Æstho-physiology is certainly luminous and forms a new departure. His definition of mind as consisting of feelings and the relations between feelings is inexpugnable. In part III. he treats of life and mind as "correspondence," but does not seem to regard mind as an outgrowth of life. In treating pleasures and pains at the end of part II, he recognizes the existence of feelings which do not consist of pleasure or pain, and even calls them "indifferent," but he does not there or elsewhere show that the function of such feelings is to furnish knowledge. This was perceived by Reid, though he did not grasp its import. Spencer thus fails to show the genesis of the rational powers. He clearly sets forth the biologic origin of feeling, but he does not perceive that the intellect was also an advantageous attribute whose origin can be explained on natural principles. Notwithstanding the acknowledged ability of this work, these and other deficiencies deprive it of the title given it by some of being Mr. Spencer's chef d'oeuvre. Standing as it does between the "Biology" and the "Sociology," with neither of which it is adequately linked, it seems isolated and solitary. The failure clearly to affiliate mind upon life is not its worst fault. From the standpoint of the sociologist the most glaring defect is the absence of all recognition of the psychologic basis of social phenomena. Neither in the "Psychology" nor in the "Sociology" which follows is there to be found any attempt to show what are the underlying causes of social phenomena. The nature of social energy which moves the world is nowhere set forth, the distinct rôles played by feeling and thought, as the motor and rector[15] agencies of both the individual and society are not recognized, and both psychology and sociology are thus reduced to mere descriptive sciences. Much the same may be said of his failure to recognize a vital energy in biology with motility as the dynamic agent, which also leaves biology in the descriptive stage. Life and mind are forces, and organic, psychic and social structures are magazines of energy. Any system that fails to recognize this is not a full-fledged science.

It may be said that Spencer constantly insisted that it was feeling and not ideas that moved the world, as opposed to Comte's statement that ideas govern or overthrow the world. It is clear that he misunderstood Comte, who held the same view as Spencer, and that the two statements are not antagonistic.[16] Spencer also said that "the will is a product of predominant desires to which the reason serves merely as an eye."[17] This is very true, and Schopenhauer had said it forty years before him. But such scintillations of the truth do not make a science nor justify us in saying that he thereby furnished sociology with a psychologic basis.

Coming now to the "Principles of Sociology," we find that the work was not hampered by any previous work, and, as in the "Biology," the field was clear for a new start in a most alluring direction. If the order in which the volumes of the "Synthelic Philosophy "stand is the order of nature, marking the course of evolution, we should expect to find the "Sociology" opening with a chapter or an introductory part setting forth the causal connection between sociology and psychology. But, just as no causal connection was shown between biology and psychology, so none appears binding psychology and sociology together. This confirms what was said of the isolated condition of the "Principles of Psychology." What we do find, however, is a rather definite intimation that it is biology rather than psychology that forms the natural basis of sociology. How could any one be expected to doubt this when nothing is said in the first volume of the "Sociology" about its relation to psychology, while, after the long treatise on the beliefs, customs, and ideas of primitive races, belonging rather to anthropology, we find in part II. that "a society is an organism," and that social growth, social structures, social functions and social organs are treated from the strictly biological point of view? Mr. Spencer denied that he based sociology upon biology and censured two American authors for intimating that he seemed to do so, but the comparison that he used is not at all apposite.[18]

The other two volumes of the "Principles of Sociology," based as they are on his great compilation, "Descriptive Sociology," are above criticism in their comprehensive sweep as a vast induction. Some of his facts will, of course, be denied, but he admitted that the reports of travelers must be taken with many grains of allowance. Yet these are almost the only sources from which an author who is not himself a traveler must rely. For those therefore who consider such a work to constitute "Sociology" the only vulnerable part is the terminology, classification, and arrangement of the subject-matter. The phrase "ecclesiastical institutions" may be justly objected to as seeming to predicate something like a church of the religious structures of primitive man. The word "ecclesiastical" might be stretched sufficiently to justify this were there no better term, but it is universally admitted that the priesthood was practically coeval with human society, and we possess an adjective corresponding to this noun which is more euphonious and more expressive than the one used. By all means, then, should the phrase sacerdotal institutions be substituted for "ecclesiastical institutions." The introduction of "political institutions" between the "ceremonial" and the sacerdotal is a forced arrangement. The ceremonial are largely sacerdotal, and their separation is difficult. The sacerdotal should probably stand first, and the "professional," beginning with the "medicine man," so similar to a priest, should follow. "Political institutions" would then be in order, to be followed by "industrial institutions." But Mr. Spencer had no conception of gentile society and the fundamental distinction between it and political society, so clearly set forth by Morgan. This classification shows how late the latter class of institutions have always been in the historical development of society. Still less was he acquainted with that other most important of all transformations which is undergone by every advanced society at the proper stage in its history, viz., union and amalgamation of groups, whether through war or peace, by which a third and higher group results from the blending of two lower groups, constituting what is appropriately called the cross-fertilization of cultures. It is only through this that all the higher political, industrial, economic, and professional institutions arise.

After thus threading the mazes of cosmic, organic, psychic and social phenomena, we come at last to the "Principles of Ethics," which Mr. Spencer regarded as the crown of his system. One can not but be struck by the resemblance in this respect of Herbert Spencer's career to that of Auguste Comte. Both began with a lively interest in what may be called political ethics, an interest which they both continued to feel through life. But both saw, after their early survey of the field, that the world was not ready for their final achievement, and therefore both stopped and devoted twelve or fifteen years of arduous labor to laying a scientific foundation for the magnum opus which was to reform the world. Comte laid special stress on this, and placed as a motto at the head of the first volume of his "Politique Positive" the lines of Alfred de Vigny:

Qu'est-ce qu'une grande vie?
Une pensée de la jeunesse, exécuté par l'âge mûr.

Spencer could not even wait to complete the last of the preparatory works, and stopped in the middle of it to write the final work. So strongly was he impressed by the importance of this last work, and so apprehensive that he might not live to complete it, that he said in the preface to the first part ("Data of Ethics" issued separately):

I am the more anxious to indicate in outline, if I can not complete, this final work, because the establishment of rules of right conduct on a scientific basis is a pressing need. Now that moral injunctions are losing the authority given by their supposed sacred origin, the secularization of morals is becoming imperative. Few things can happen more disastrous than the decay and death of a regulative system no longer fit, before another and fitter regulative system has grown up to replace it.

The implication of course is that Herbert Spencer's "Principles of Ethics" will henceforth constitute the Koran of moral doctrine to the exclusion of all other codes! Comte has been pronounced an egotist and a fanatic for proclaiming himself the high priest of the religion of humanity, but he never assumed to be an infallible pope in the domain of moral conduct. The parallelism, however, does not end here. The world has passed judgment upon Comte's career, and while his final work for which he had lived and labored, viz., his "Positive Polity," has been declared a mistaken dream, the preparatory work, his "Positive Philosophy," which he intended to be only the pedestal upon which the monument was to stand, is looked upon by most men as a path-breaking, by many as an epoch-making achievement, and as marking the beginning of scientific philosophy. In Spencer's case it is too early to speak thus definitely, but all things point to the complete rejection of his political ethics as outlined in "Social Statics" and perfected in his "Principles of "Ethics" and "Man Versus the State," while his cosmic philosophy, which he regarded as little more than a foundation for the other, grows more solid with time, and is clearly seen to be too massive for the flimsy superstructure that he sought to erect upon it.

In Spencer's system ethics is placed last in the series of subjects or sciences, as if it were the highest evolutionary product. Although he laid no stress on the serial arrangement of the sciences, and in his little book on the "Classification of the Sciences," written to refute Comte's "hierarchy," he practically ignores it, still he could not answer the charge of arranging his volumes in practically the same order as Comte arranged the sciences. Nor did he deny that he regarded this as the order of evolution. As Comte did the same for his "Morale," the implication is that they both regarded ethics as a science of the same type as the others, only higher in the scale, and, in fact, the highest of them all. It would thus grow out of and be affiliated upon sociology. The treatment of it does not in either case sustain this claim. In Spencer's case this is much more marked than in Comte's, because they had quite different ideas of what constitutes a moral science. Spencer, as we have seen, regarded it simply as a "regulative system," which is not a science at all. His treatment of it virtually carries out this idea, and his "Principles of Ethics" scarcely differs from the traditional moral teaching of other writers, except that it is "secular" and recognizes no religious or "ultra-rational" sanction. After he had abandoned his "absolute ethics," as set forth in his "Social Statics" (expunged from the last edition), but shown to be false by a study of the widely divergent moral ideas of the races of men, the last claim to the title of a science had been withdrawn from ethics, and it stood at the head of the system having no organic connection with the other sciences of that system. What, then, is his ethics? It is simply an attempt to make a practical application of the true sciences, especially of sociology to human needs. In so far as it is a science in any sense, it is an applied science, and the greater part of it may be denominated applied sociology.[19]

The subject of Spencer's relations with Comte and the similarity of their ideas has been purposely avoided in this article, because it presents the least attractive side of a great man's mind. His overweening affection for what he called "the progeny of the brain,"[20] his intense love of originality, which often seems to exceed his love of truth, and his morbid sensitiveness to any apparent appropriation of his ideas, blinded him to the merits of others and often led him to refine upon a distinction without a difference. Jealousy as well as envy may be a compliment. This can alone explain Spencer's attitude toward Comte. He must have felt, and been oppressed by the fact, that there was a man on the other side of the Channel who, like himself, was striving to give the world a philosophy of science. And in fact, from this point of view, Auguste Comte was to the first half of the nineteenth century what Herbert Spencer was to the second half.

A fuller discussion of the merits and demerits of Spencer's political ethics is also purposely avoided in this place, partly for want of space, partly because it would have to be too critical for the appraisement here proposed, and partly because it has already been attempted, not only by others but by the present writer.[21]

The statement has been so frequently made that Mr. Spencer's sociology and his political and economic doctrines do not logically follow from his law of cosmic and organic evolution, that something more might naturally be expected here on that point than has been said above as incidental to the discussion of other questions. This subject is, however, too large to be treated here, and would require a separate article. This lack has been partially supplied in other places and to these sources the reader is referred.[22]

  1. Popular Science Monthly, September, 1908, Vol. LXXIII., p. 285.
  2. "Life and Letters," Vol. II., p. 89.
  3. "Life and Letters," Vol. IL, p. 329.
  4. Popular Science Monthly, October, 1877, Vol. XI., pp. 672-682.
  5. "Autobiography," Vol. II., p. 17; "Life and Letters," Vol. II., pp. 158-159.
  6. "Pure Sociology," pp. 66-67. A portion of this letter appears in "Life and Letters," Vol. II., pp. 90-91. Mr. Duncan should have mentioned this earlier publication of the letter in full followed by the reply to it and a further discussion of the principles involved.
  7. "Life and Letters," Vol. II., p. 159.
  8. Cf. "The Organic Compounds in their Relations to Life," Proc. A. A. A. S., Vol. XXXI, pp. 493-494; The American Naturalist, Vol. XVI., December, 1882, pp. 968-979.
  9. "Life and Letters," Vol. I., p. 199.
  10. Ibid., Vol. II, p. 52.
  11. Cf. Minot, "The Problem of Age, Growth, and Death," New York, 1908, pp. 233 ff.
  12. Cf. Weismann's "Concessions," Popular Science Monthly, Vol. XLV., June, 1894, pp. 175-184.
  13. "Life and Letters," Vol. I., p. 97; "Pure Sociology," p. 66 (this part of his letter is omitted in the "Life and Letters," Vol. II., p. 90.
  14. "Life and Letters," Vol. II., pp. 285, 328.
  15. Used by Fourier in this sense ("moteur et recteur").
  16. Cf. Applied Sociology, pp. 41-43.
  17. Westminster Review, January 1, 1860, p. 93.
  18. "Life and Letters," Vol. II., p. 357.
  19. Cf. "Applied Sociology," pp. 317-318.
  20. "Life and Letters," Vol. I., p. 254.
  21. "The Political Ethics of Herbert Spencer," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. IV., January, 1894, pp. 582-619. Publications of the Academy, No. 111.
  22. "Herbert Spencer's Sociology," The Independent, New York, March 31, 1904, Vol. LVI., pp. 730-734; Herbert Spencer's Autobiography, Science, N. S., June 10, 1904, Vol. XIX., pp. 873-879; "The Sociology of Political Parties," American Journal of Sociology, January, 1908, Vol. XIII., pp. 439-454.