Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/254

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
242
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ceived various inquiries as to what ground there is for Mr. Conway's statement.

It is true that Mr. Spencer has not been in good health, and has been compelled recently to desist from labor, and it is this circumstance that just now operates to give point to Conway's opinion; but it is to be remembered that Mr. Spencer's health was not so good when he began his philosophical system in 1860 as it has been since; while in writing "First Principles" he was often compelled to stop work, and go to the country for rest and reinvigoration.

As to the evidence of mental failure to be gathered from the work on Sociology Just published, we do not observe that anybody else besides Conway has found it. The volume has been widely reviewed by leading English periodicals, and none of them, that we have seen, share the discernment of the correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial. On the contrary, they testify to the sustained power and originality of his work, and are more concurrent and emphatic than ever before as to Mr. Spencer's capacity to carry forward the gravest and profoundest intellectual undertaking of the age. It is, moreover, the views developed toward the close of the volume that have made the strongest impression upon the minds of the critics. They see, in his treatment of the questions there discussed, especial indications of that wide grasp and subtile analysis which have been so marked a characteristic of his previous philosophical volumes. We print elsewhere a portion of the notice of "The Principles of Sociology" that appeared in the London Examiner and it will be seen that, in referring to these very views, brought out at the close of the book, the writer remarks, "It strikes us that Mr. Spencer here exhibits an increased power of seizing the many influences which contribute to a complex result." To do this in a vast field of comparatively unexplored phenomena is certainly the highest test of intellectual vigor. It is admitted by those who have reviewed the book most thoughtfully, that the ideas reached and developed by Spencer in its concluding portions are certain to exert a powerful influence in modifying the course of current opinion, and that they will give a new direction to controversies that will call out the best effort of the leading thinkers of our time.

Mr. Spencer has continued his exposition in a chapter to be appended to the volume of Sociology, of which we give in the present number of the Monthly the first installment. To those who are solicitous about his breaking down mentally, we commend the perusal of this paper, and the conclusion of it, which will appear next month. Having disposed in the volume of Mr. Max Müller and his followers, who were overdoing the myth-business, he now takes up the social doctrines of Sir Henry Sumner Maine. This able writer maintains a theory of social development in which the starting-point is the patriarchal system. Mr. Spencer holds that this view is philosophically defective, as it assumes a certain social condition without accounting for it, by investigating the anterior and still lower conditions of social relation. Each one will be his own judge, after reading the argument, as to its validity against Sir Henry Maine's view; we call attention to it here only for the benefit of those who are concerned about the truth of Mr. Conway's statement.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Six Lectures on Light. Delivered in America in 1872-'73. By John Tyndall, D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S. Second edition. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 264. Price, $1.50.

Various opinions were passed at the time upon Prof. Tyndall's choice of a subject for his American lectures, and also upon his treatment of it. Some complained