Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/283

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271
LITERARY NOTICES.

one; nor could such a thing be as an ever-fruitless pursuit of truth; nor yet such a thing as a system of truth grasped by the human mind independently of all previous attempts toward its construction. The very sense that truth is truth comes from a perception of harmony between an attained result and a set of circumstances or phenomena of which it affords a desired explanation. Had the explanation never been desired and sought after, no interest or value could possibly attach to it. While, however, the situation that Lessing's words suggest is an impossible one, our attention is none the less roused by it to the fact that, not by outward results alone is the value of human effort to be gauged, but also, and perhaps mainly, by the inward growth of mind and character which is its accompaniment. We learn, also, that to be loyal to the truth is of more account than to be merely successful in formulating it: in a word, that the interests of the human spirit, or, perhaps more correctly, of the intellectual and moral consciousness, are supreme, and that the great flow of significance, so to speak, is from within the human consciousness to the outward conditions, and not from without inward.




LITERARY NOTICES.

The Elements of Political Economy, with some Applications to Questions of the Day. By J. Laurence Laughlin. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1887. Price, $1.40.

If the numerous school-books that appear in our time were all they ought to be, the education of the young, so far as books can aid it, would be amply provided for, but unfortunately such is not the case. In the mathematical and physical sciences, indeed, and in classical literature, there are many good text-books; but in the sciences that treat of mind and society the works of real merit are comparatively few. The reason of this scarcity is twofold: in the first place, these sciences are not so well developed as physics and mathematics and classical philology, and there is less agreement about the method of studying them — the mutual opposition of the philosophical and historical schools being specially conspicuous; and, secondly, the close connection of the mental and social sciences with the great disputed questions of politics and religion render the pure scientific treatment of them difficult. Hence we have at present but few satisfactory treatises on political, economical, or ethical subjects.

This work by Professor Laughlin, however, is distinctly superior to most of the current writings on economical themes, and seems to be well adapted to educational use. It makes no pretension to originality in doctrine or theory; but undertakes to give the student, in as simple a form as possible, the leading thoughts and conclusions of the great economic writers. The author remarks in his preface that "the public questions of our day in the United States are deeply affected by economic considerations, and yet the training of mind adequate for an intelligent decision upon economic problems has been very slight." Yet he thinks that "public questions and the economic principles which underlie them can, if properly presented, be understood by the average American youth whose education is restricted to the high-school or the academy." For such students, then, and with such an aim, Professor Laughlin has written, and with much success. His arrangement is good, his style clear, and his views, in the main, such as are best established. He has avoided controversy, so far as possible, evidently thinking it unsuitable to an elementary work. If we were to offer a criticism on the author's method, we should say that he had confined himself a little too strictly to the deductive or philosophical method of the English writers, with too little attention to the historical and comparative method; for, though we have no faith in the historical method as a substitute for the other, it nevertheless has its uses.

Professor Laughlin's book is divided into two parts: the first, treating of the principles of the science; the second, of their application to some of the political and industrial problems of the day. In an introductory chapter he distinguishes the subject of the science from those of ethics, politics, and