D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

The Popular science monthly (Volume 19) online

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ment ? We propose to show that what

he has here overlooked is precisely that
attribute of Spencer's system which has
been most potent in commending it to
the best intelligence of the age. It not
only " speaks the language of science,"
but it embodies the truths of science, it
organizes the principles of science, it
conforms to the methods of science, it
is a scientific philosophy; and the hos-
tility it has encountered on the one
hand and the favor that has been ex-
tended to it on the other are due to
its supposed identification with science
in spirit, substance, and method.

Dr. Fairbaim's omission to recog-
nize this fundamental trait of Spencer's
system, when accounting for its exten-
sive influence, may not have been in-
tentional, but it is significant. What
is the state of mind that could allow
such an oversight? It is simply the
general state of mind exhibited by our
so-called cultivated classes toward sci-
entific truth. Let us see what this is.

Opposition to science is not the ex-
clusive reproach of any one school of
thought ; it has been manifested by all.
Theology withstood science, because it
was itself identified with the old erro-
neous explanations of nature. Philoso-
phy made a stand against science, be-
cause science circumscribed its field and
subverted its ideals. Literature strove
against science, because of its devotion
to fact and its supposed unfriendliness
to imagination. Art resisted science
as unfavorable to the inventive and
creative spirit. Science studied matter
to understand its mysterious processes
and discern its laws; the schools of
culture all contemned the occupation
of mind, and shrank from it as a de-
scent into groveling materialism. Phi-
losophy was most potent in its opposi-
tion, because it gave law to education
and gave reasons to theology, litera-
ture, and art.

The antagonism of so-called philoso-
phy to the scientific spirit was inevita-
ble. In the childhood of knowledge it
entered upon speculations which could



yield no valid results, and came at
length to consider that valid conclu-
sions, being impossible, were undesira-
ble. But, as active thought could not
be stopped, it was concluded that the
virtue of philosophy consists merely in
the mental exercise it involves. And,
as philosophy had proved useless as a
means of arriving at assured truth, its
uselessness was claimed to be a merit.
And so utility, or the value of results
attained, both in themselves and in their
practical service to man, was explicitly
repudiated. Alike in old Greece and
in modern Germany — from Plato to
Hegel — this has been the philosophic
teaching, and we have seen the doctrine
solemnly promulgated in our own times.
Sir William Hamilton, as is well known,
opens his lectures on metaphysics and
logic with a formal defense of it. He
maintains that the pursuit of knowledge
by man for any end beyond himself —
that is, for any practical benefit, private
or public — is nothing less than debas-
ing. It is a degradation of the ideal of
scholarship. He says that the attain-
ment of truth is not the proper object
of mental activity, but the pleasure of
the pursuit of truth. To seek is noble;
but to seek successfully — that is, to find
the object sought — is a calamity, be-
cause it ends tlie gratification of the
search. The founder of a modern and
influential school of philosophy ran-
sacks antiquity and ranges down all
the dark ages after authorities who
have held this doctrine, and his case is
fully made out,

Now, when this old philosophical
notion that truth, for itself and for its
uses, is not the proper end of study, is
still theoretically maintained iu our col-
leges and universities to be the first law
of all liberal education, we need not be
surprised at the extent of the ignorant
prejudice against science, and that the
influence of this prejudice should still
be widely manifested. Illustrations of
it appear everywhere. "We jnck up the
last number of "Scribner's Montlily,"

and this is the way it talks to its hun-
dreds of thousands of readers :

We doubt whether what we call literature
will ever be indebted to science or what is
recognized as '• the scientific spirit" for any-
tliing good. Science deals with matter, its
essence, laws, phenomena. Its tendency is to
materialize everything. Life itself is evolved
from matter. Its " promises and its potencies ' '
are found in that. The tendencies of science
are to count God out of the universe, to deny
immortality, and tlie existence of mind in-
dependent of matter, and to believe nothing
that can not be demonstrated. Hard mate-
rial facts are the things with which science
deals, and it refuses to have to do with any-
thing else. It refuses to recognize the exist-
ence of anything like imagination except in a
scientific way. Imagination Ls a product of
molecular action in the brain. Science must
necessarily deny to this faculty of the soul
any legitimate functions because it can not
follow a scientific method, and because it
denies the existence of the realm in which it
is most at home. Imagination must have an
over-worid in which to spread its wings, or
it can not fiy. To bind itself to demonstrable
facts and to tie itself to a scientific method
would be to commit self-destruction. To
circumscribe the horizon of the poetic faculty
is to clip its wings, or, rather, to deny it
space for action. It is a faculty that demands
illimitable space, illimitable time, illimitable
freedom of invention, release from bondage
to the material and real, and liberty to explore
the spiritual and the ideal. Any influence
or power which interferes with this liberty
in any direction is a foe to poetry and a curse
to literature.

Crude and ridiculous as this state-
ment is, it represents a widespread
feeling. The fact is that, so long as
science sticks to the manipulations of
matter, it is let alone ; but, when it
comes forward with its revelations of
the constitution of nature, and asserts
that these must in future affect all the
higher departments of thought, it is
met with denunciation from every
school of cultivated ignorance which
grew up before scientific knowledge
arose. This explains the ill-will of mul-
titudes toward Spencer's system. It
represents science in its most obnox-
ious aspect, in carrying its method into
the field of general ideas.




But we have here also an exphina-
tion of the powerful hold of this system
on the instructed and independent mind
of the period. Dr. Fairbairn truly says
that "to conceive a system so positive
and universal as Mr. Spencer's is itself
an education to an age." But more
than this is true ; for if, as confessed,
this system has attained a " remarkable
influence," that influence has actually
been an educational power on a great
scale. What is it that Spencer has
brought to his contemporaries which
they had not before, and which is so
adapted to the general condition of
thought that barely to conceive it is
" an education to an age " ? Dr. Fair-
bairn having omitted the most impor-
tant answer to this question, we are
now prepared to give it for him.

Mr. Spencer, as we have intimated,
has first given to the world a ])hiloso-
phy that is an outgrowth of science, and
answers the clear requirements of ad-
vancing knowledge. The older philos-
ophy, with its lofty scorn of truth as
an end and its emptiness of everything
useful, had so trifled with the common-
sense of mankind that its very name
fell into reproach. Spencer has re-
deemed it and vindicated its rightful
supremacy by showing that its sphere
is the realities of nature and experience,
and its function to formulate the deep-
est interpretation and the widest ascer-
tainable truth of the universe. Philos-
ophy, as he views it, is not merely a
skillfully reasoned body of speculation ;
it is nothing, if not true — nothing, unless
it compels assent as the highest of veri-
ties. Science passes into philosophy as
it furnishes generalizations from all or-
ders of phenomena which merge into
truths that are universal. Claiming no
ideal perfection or completeness, it gath-
ers established principles from all sci-
entific sources into systematic expres-
sion, and thus acquires a harmony as
perfect as the discovered harmonies of
nature, and a unity as absolute as the
demonstrated unity of the universe.

The formation of such a philosophy im-
plied a reorganization of knowledge
that should bring its hitherto diverse
branches into closer relations of de-
pendence, the separate orders of truth
into higher coordination, and thus give
a strength to the fabric derived from
the validity of its scientific elements.
Such a philosophy must widen its scope
and grow ever more consistent, more
congruous, and more comprehensively
unified with every extension of knowl-
edge. Who expects that the transcen-
dental and metaphysical systems will
ever be brought into mutual confirma-
tion or any possibility of agreement?
Concord has only given us a new illus-
tration of the old and hopeless discord.
Spencer's philosophy has made its au-
spicious way because it gave to the
age what it imperatively needed. Men
were wearied by futile speculation on
the one hand, and appalled by the
growing details of science on the other ;
and they wanted a higher synthesis of
verified truth, a constructive philosophy
of science. It is as a new organon of
knowledge that Spencer's philosophy
has gained its commanding influence
over the active mind of the period, and
it is this trait that has made it one of
the most widening, elevating, and po-
tent educative agencies of the age.

Another feature of the synthetic
philosophy, though implied in what has
been said, is so important in account-
ing for its "remarkable influence " that
it requires to be brought out more ex-
plicitly. Spencer's system is sharply
contrasted with preceding philosophi-
cal systems by its recognition of the
great value of knowlege for useful ends.
His philosophy is animated by a grand
utility. Holding that truth is to be su-
premely valued for its own sake, and
that philosophy is justified in its truth
alone, Mr. Spencer finds that the high-
est truth involves also the highest good,
and his system thus becomes nobly
tributary to the advancement of human
welfare. Science has sufiiciently exem-




plified the worth of mental acquisitions
for practical purposes, and points to its
conquests over the material world as
proofs of its useful services to man.
But it is a far higher service to have
disclosed the true method of nature
and determined man's real poi^ition in
the universe ; because only as these are
understood can human conditions be
permanently improved. Spencer's phi-
losopliy assumes this higher sphere of
beneficent influence, and throughout
its wliole development it bears upon
the final and regnant problem of the
regulation of human conduct. Each
division of his system has its intrinsic
interest as a new exposition of princi-
ples determined by the great reorgan-
izing law of evolution; but "First
Principles," the "Principles of Biolo-
gy," the "Principles of Psychology,"
and the " Principles of Sociology," are
only so many foundations for the ulti-
mate exposition of the "Principles of
Ethics." The constitution of nature as
an ever-unfolding order, the laws of
life, the laws of mind, and the laws
of social relation, are successively ex-
pounded with a view to their final
bearing uj)on the right and wrong of
human actions.

The inspiration of these labors was
a profound interest in the moral wel-
fare of society ; and there are many
who can now appreciate the sagacious
forecast that could discern an approach-
ing emergency of thought for which it
was imperatively necessary to prepare.
Wliile yet the idea of evolution was
derided as a fanciful conceit of vision-
ary minds, Herbert Spencer knew that
it was soon to become the governing
law of the world's best intelligence.
He saw that, among the great changes
that would follow, the traditional theo-
ries of morality would bo sure to suffer
irreparable damage, and that morality
itself might lose its force if not forti-
fied by a new authority. The synthetic
philosophy was accordingly laid out in
its complete logical order more than

twenty years ago, to meet the inevi-
table emergency that has now arisen,
and the wisdom of this prescience is at-
tested by the eager interest with which
the "Data of Ethics" was lately re-
ceived in every civilized country.

The aim of Spencer's philosophy is,
therefore, to organize that scientific
knowledge of nature and human nature
which shall be most valuable for guid-
ance, alike of the individual in his per-
sonal and private sphere, and of socie-
ty in its relations with the individual.
This system establishes the principles
by which the freedom of the citizen
and the duty of the state are deter-
mined. There, as nowhere else, we are
shown the growth and conditions of
human liberty, and the forces that have
hindered and the forces that have pro-
moted its progress.

Xor has the reader to go far for evi-
dence of what we say. The last install-
ment of his system that Spencer has
given us is luminous with new instruc-
tion upou this subject. The article on
" The Militant Type of Society "—long,
but not too long — printed in the pres-
ent number of the " Monthly," exem-
plifies in an impressive if not a startling
way the obstructive agencies of social
progress. A succeeding article on
" The Industrial Type of Society " will
complete the view by showing what
causes have been most powerful in pro-
ducing beneficent social and political
effects. The reader will find in those
papers exemplifications of the enlarged
utility which dominates Spencer's sys-
tem, and for which he will look in vain
in any preceding philosophy.

These, then, are the leading reasons
why this system of thought has at-
tained its "remarkable influence," and
merely to conceive which " is itself an
education to an age." But if the bare
conception of it, even before it is fin-
ished, has so benign and improving an
influence, what may we not expect from
it when it is studied and understood,
and becomes a power in the public



mind ? Self-education is the only true
education, and, if young men want a
liberal education of practical value, let
them master the synthetic philosophy
and be their own teachers.



The Sux. By C. A. Younr, Ph. D., LL. D.
With numerous Illustrations. D. Apple-
ton & Co. Pp. 321. Price, $2.

The first thing wc have to say about this
attractive and admirable little volume is,
that it was sorely needed. It was wanted,
not only because of the great interest of the
subject, but because wc have no work in
English that deals with it in any satisfac-
tory shape for general use. Proctor's book
on the sun, notwithstanding its author's as-
tronomical reputation, is, after all, little
more than the compilation of a professional
book-maker. lie has used his copious ma-
terials freely, and made his book too large
and expensive, and too crowded with matter
of secondary interest, to meet the popular
requirement. It has, therefore, not been
held as even worth stealing. The great
treatise on the sun, of the late Father Sec-
chi, of Rome, though written by an emi-
nent astronomer who has worked at the sub-
ject extensively himself, is likewise too
voluminous, and also too scientific, for gen-
eral purposes, and it has accordingly not
been thought worth translating into Eng-
lish. The book of the Frenchman, Guille-
min, though small enough, is all too popu-
lar, and is so variously deficient as to have no
true standing. A new book, compact in form,
and thoroughly trustworthy for reading and
rsference, was greatly needed, because the
knowledge that has grown up in recent years
concerning the great central body of the
solar system is not only of exceeding in-
terest, but is such as well-instructed people
can not afford to be without.

But it was no easy thing to get the book
required. First-class scientific men are al-
ways pressingly occupied, and they very
rarely take to book-making unless for the
promulgation of their own views. The

managers of the International Scientific Se-
ries have, therefore, been fortunate in se-
curing a strong book on this subject, al-
though they have had to wait a good
while for it. Yet those who have been
long and impatiently expecting it will now
be rewarded for their waiting. Professor
Young is an authority on " The Sun," and
writes from intimate knowledge. lie has
studied that great luminary all his life, in-
vented and improved instruments for ob-
serving it, gone to all quarters of the world
in search of the best places and opportuni-
ties to watch it, and has contributed im-
portant discoveries that have extended our
knowledge of it. The reader who glances
at the summary of his life-work, given in an
accompanying biographical sketch, will see
why, of all men, he was perhaps the best
prepared to report on the present state of
solar knowledge. He, at all events, had the
first qualification for the task, because he
knew whereof he affirmed.

And he has executed the work in a
manner worthy of the subject, and of his
reputation. He has stated what is known
about the sun in a form excellently suited
for general apprehension. It would take a
cyclopiedia to represent all that has been
done toward clearing up the solar mysteries.
Professor Young has summarized the in-
formation, and presented it in a form com-
pletely available for general readers. There
is no rhetoric in his book; he trusts the
grandeur of his theme to kindle interest
and impress the feelings. His statements
are plain, direct, clear, and condensed,
though ample enough for his purpose, and
the substance of what is generally wanted
will be found accurately given in his pages.
The key to his treatment is contained in the
following passage from the preface : " It is
my purpose, in this little book, to present
a general view of what is known and be-
lieved about the sun, in language and man-
ner as unprofessional as is consistent with
precision. I write neither for scientific
readers as such, nor, on the other hand, for
the masses, but for that large class in the
community who, without being themselves
\ engaged in scientific pursuits, yet have suffi-
cient education and intelligence to be in-
terested in scientific subjects when present-
ed in an untechnical manner ; who desire,



and are perfectly competent, not only to
know the results obtained, but to under-
stand the principles and methods on which
they depend without caring to master all the
details of the investigation. I have tried
to keep distinct the line between the cer-
tain and the conjectural, and to indicate as
far as possible the degree of confidence to
be placed in data and conclusions."

It is unnecessary further to dilate on
the merits of this volume, especially as the
readers of " The Popular Science Monthly "
are not unacquainted with Professor Young's
skill in scientific exposition; nor will it be
possible, in any notice, to illustrate the
richness of these pages in striking facts,
felicitous illustrations, and lucid explana-
tions, concerning the constitution, astronom-
ical relations, and stupendous influence, of
the solar body. There is an introduction on
"The Sun's Relation to Life and Activity
upon the Earth." This is followed by a
systematic discussion of the main prob-
lems of solar phenomena, in a succession
of chapters treating of " The Distance and
Dimensions of the Sun," the " Methods and
Apparatus for studying the Surface of the
Sun," "The Spectroscope and the Solar
Spectrum," " Sun-spots on the Solar Sur-
face," " Periodicity of Sun-spots, their
Effects upon the Earth, and Theories as
to their Cause and Nature," " The Chromo-
sphere and its Prominences," "The Coro-
na," and " The Sun's Light and Heat." The
concluding chapter is an excellent "Sum-
mary of Facts and Discussion of the Con-
stitution of the Sun." An appendix is added,
which has been contributed by Professor
Langley, one of the most zealous and suc-
cessful American cultivators of solar as-
tronomy. It presents certain important
views, which this investigator has reached,
with regard to the light and heat of the sun.

Professor Young's book is not written in
rhyme, and does not profess to be " poetry."
Perhaps it is inimical to poetry, as it deals
with hard scientific material facts, and, if
these are truly incompatible with poetic
thought, the book will be open to the male-
dictions of all who consider error better
than truth for the purposes of the poetic
mind. But this, at any rate, may be said :
no one can read Professor Young's book
without recognizing very clearly that the

sun, as interpreted by the science of to-day,
is a far grander and more impressive object
of thought than was the sun of a century
or two ago. Milton traversed the universe
of his time with intrepid imagination, but
what was his conception of the " powerful
king of day," compared with the concep-
tion of the sun which science has now-
shown to be true '? The poetic imagination
has never pictured anything to be compared
with the sublimity and unspeakable grand-
eur of the all-regulating, life-giving star
round which we are revolving, and which,
so far as the human mind is concerned, sci-
ence may be said to have created. Has not
science, in this and kindred exploits, given
a transcendent enlargement to the sphere of
the imagination ? We do not believe that
ignorance is the mother of legitimate devo-
tion or of genuine poetry ; and those who
think that the truth-seeking faculty in man,
which, in a certain aspect, is simply occu-
pied in extending the realm of wonder, and
disclosing the beauty, the harmony, and the
magnificence of Nature's operations, is the
enemy of real poetry, have a good deal yet
to learn about the subject. It will damage
no sound poet to absorb the contents of
Professor Young's book.

Chinese Immigration in its Social and
Economical Aspects. By George F.
Seward, late United States Minister to
China. New York: Scribners. 1881.
8vo. Pp. xv-4'21. Price, -$2.50.

Reserving for a possible future volume
the question of "the political and commer-
cial issues " involved in the Chinese ques-
tion, Mr. Seward limits himself in the pres-
ent work to its social and economical as-
pects, as those which are likely to determine
the legislative action of the country. These
aspects he considers under the following
heads: 1. The number of Chinese in the
United States; 2. The material results of
Chinese labor in California ; 3. Objections
to Chinese immigration ; and, 4. Fears of
an overflowing immigration.

And — 1. The number of Chinese in this
country has been habitually over-estimated
by the anti-Chinese partisans. In Califor-
nia it was common to hear it said, a few
years ago, that there were " more Chinamen
than voters " in that State The facts have



been carefully studied by Mr. Seward from
the customs statistics of arrivals and de-
partures, and from the recent census ; and
it turns out that there are no more than
ninety-seven thousand Chinamen in the
United States, of whom one half live in
California, where they form about one in
seventeen of the population, and enjoying
such provisional security of life and prop-
erty as the other sixteen see fit to permit
them. During the past few years the num-
ber of resident Chinese has somewhat di-
minished, owing in part to the resident Cali-
fornian's conviction, which he has not failed
to express in practice, that the paj/an ele-
ment in a Christian population should be
discouraged. This conviction, if we may
trust the evidence of Commissioner Jolm
A. Swift (p. 250), would seem to be increas-
ing. "In 1852," says Mr. Swift, '"the
Chinamen were allowed to turn out and
celebrate the Fourth of July. In 1862
they would have been mobbed. In 1872
they would have been burned at the stake."
This spirit may be profitably contrasted with
that of a memorial written by a Chinaman
resident in this country (p. 245) : " If the
spirit be noble and good, although the man
be poor and humble, we honor and love

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 107 of 110)