Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/872

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has a Lobby in which he profoundly believes will be dangerous in the sick-room. The most important revolution in medicine that has ever taken place is that modern change of view by which the practitioner leaves more and more to nature in the conduct of his art and, as a consequence, assigns an ever-increasing value to hygienic considerations.

In regard to homœopathy, there can be little doubt that its practical influence has very much coincided with the inevitable modern tendency to abandon heroic treatment, and give nature a better chance. But homœopathic theory is quite another thing. Dr. Bayard, in the paper we publish, written to vindicate its claims, says that "homœopathy, as a science, is the law of the vital force"; and, again, "disease is the impairment of the equalization of the vital force." But the most advanced scientific thinkers are seriously asking, Is there any such thing as the vital force? or, if there be such a thing, what is it? Certainly it is a something winch played a far larger part in medicine when the scientific knowledge of life was in its lowest condition. Everything in the organic economy not understood was then ascribed to "the vital force." Every step of physiological progress has consisted in wresting something from "the vital force," and explaining it in some intelligible way. As physiological problems have been resolved by physical and chemical principles, and taken their place among the proved results of science, "the vital force" is no longer invoked to account for them. Its sphere has, therefore, been gradually restricted, and its intrenchment is still in the narrowing field of physiological mystery. To ascribe an effect to "the vital force" is now but another way of saying that we do not understand its cause. How the mysterious and the inexplicable can become the basis of a special and distinctive science is itself something of a mystery. The article of Mr. Shipman on "Matter Living and Not-Living" will be read with interest in connection with that of Dr. Bayard.




LITERARY NOTICES.

Spencer's Descriptive Sociology: A Cyclopædia of Social Facts, representing the Constitution of Every Type and Grade of Human Society, Past and Present, Stationary and Progressive. In Eight Tarts, large folio. D. Appleton k Co. Price, $35.

We have from time to time made reference to this great work as its parts have successively appeared during the last fifteen years; but, having now assumed its completed or final form, we desire to call attention to it as a whole, and calculated to meet the wants of modern students in the way of a valuable work of reference.

As we have repeatedly explained, this comprehensive cyclopædia of social data is novel in form, the whole work being planned and executed with a view to the utmost facility in getting at the multitudinous facts which it records. Mr. Spencer had before him a task of great difficulty when he attempted to present the materials that are descriptive of all phases of human society within an available compass, and by a plan that shall make them in the highest degree accessible for reference, and at the same time instructive for comparative study. After long reflection and various trials, he was compelled to adopt the tabular mode of arranging the facts, which necessitated the folio form of publication, with very large pages. This, of course, was undesirable, but it was unavoidable; yet, as the work is one rather for consultation than for continuous reading, there is really an immense gain in the plan chosen by which any one of its multifarious subjects may be followed out in its broadest relations with ease and dispatch.

Of course, the first thing Mr. Spencer had to do was to arrive at a classification of those elements and activities of human society which are the objects of study by the sociologist. These elements and factors exist in nearly every human society, but with the widest differences of form and development. In low and rude communi-