Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/157

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



DECEMBER, 1882.




MR. GOLDWIN SMITH ON "THE DATA OF ETHICS."

By W. D. LE SUEUR, B.A.

"Because we must not dream, we need not then despair."

—Matthew Arnold, in Empedocles on Etna. 

MUCH instruction has been drawn from the story of Naaman, the Syrian, who, when he went to the prophet Elisha, to be healed of his disease, expected that the man of God would "do some great thing," and was greatly discouraged and offended when he merely recommended him to so through a strenuous course of ablution in the most convenient stream. There is one application, however, of the narrative which we do not remember to have seen made, and yet which is undoubtedly important. The prophet of olden times is represented to-day by the philosopher, who also leads a life of retirement and severe contemplation. And just as the contemporaries of the prophet insisted on investing him with magical powers, while they undervalued his real gifts of practical sagacity and spiritual insight, so do the men of to-day demand of the philosopher to "do some great thing," while they scorn the demonstration he offers that the truth has neither to be brought down from heaven nor up from hell, but is very nigh them—in their hearts and on their lips. Such errors are to be expected on the part of the multitude; but there are men who, from their general breadth of view and clearness of perception, might be expected to do justice to a scheme of philosophy just in proportion to its avoidance of extravagant pretensions, just in proportion as its author had visibly aimed at learning from nature rather than imposing upon nature his own preconceptions. Of the class of men to whom we refer, no higher example could be found than Mr. Goldwin Smith: of the kind of philosophy to which we refer, no better type could be found than that of Mr. Herbert Spencer.