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can now be found who will question that the author of these articles is the highest authority of our age upon the subject. To deal with any thing so vast and complex as society, by an original method, so as to bring out the natural laws of its constitution, requires rare powers and attainments on the part of him who undertakes it. He must have an accurate and extensive acquaintance with the higher sciences of life and mind, as well as the various states and phases of man's social condition. To encyclopaedic knowledge, there must be added originality, independence, and a broad grasp of principles and details. That Mr. Spencer possesses these in an eminent degree, we are assured by authorities who are both competent to judge and cautious in the expression of their judgment—such men as Mill, Hooker, Lewes, Darwin, Morell, Wallace, Huxley, Masson, McCosh. In the last number of the Contemporary Review is an article by the acute essayist, "Henry Holbeach," referring to what Mr. Spencer has already written on public and social questions, in which he is spoken of as "holding the unique and very eminent place as a great thinker, which he does, in fact, hold," and these writings are referred to as containing "an arsenal of argument and illustration never surpassed for range and force, if ever equalled in the history of philosophy."
Mr. Spencer has now been engaged twelve years on his life work, a system of Synthetic Philosophy, based on the doctrine of evolution. Five volumes of this work will be completed next autumn, in which the foundations are deeply laid in the sciences of life and mind for the third great discussion—the Principles of Sociology, in three volumes, treating of the development of society in all its elements in accordance with the theory of evolution.
Before entering upon this part of his undertaking, the author has thought it expedient to make some observations concerning it, which will be outside of the philosophical system, and independent of it. Those who have familiarized themselves with the former parts of his system, are not as the stars of heaven in number; nor are those who understand the nature and claims of sociological science as the sands of the sea. The term social science has indeed come into vogue, and large associations have assumed it; but, as thus applied, it fails to connote any distinctive or coherent body of principles such as are necessary to constitute a science.
In this state of things, and before proceeding to the systematic work of developing the science itself, Mr. Spencer will consider its claims as an object of study, its subject matter, its method of investigation, scope, and limits. The article which is now published presents the need of the study, and the next will answer the question, "Is there a social science?" The paper we now publish tells its own story, and the subsequent ones will not fall below it in interest and instructiveness.