Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/863
MR. SPENCER ON JUSTICE.
THE volume which Mr. Spencer has just put forth under the title of Justice, being the fourth and last part of his proposed first volume on The Principles of Morality, will be eagerly welcomed by a large circle of readers. It has seldom fallen to the lot of a philosopher to awaken so wide an interest and sympathy as Mr. Spencer has done. We can not speak of him as a "popular" writer, yet he writes for the people, and each successive volume that he publishes finds a wider constituency than its predecessor. His style is not adapted for literary epicures; it is not laden with exquisite flavors, nor rich in tone or color, but it has the higher quality of utter truthfulness. Its aim is not to amuse or to flatter, but to convince, and it ever seeks the most direct road to the candid understanding. In illustration Mr. Spencer is unrivaled; he takes the commonest incidents of life and shows their ethical or philosophical significance in such a way as to stimulate at once the reflective and the observing powers of his readers. If the question were asked, What man has done most to promote the intelligence of mankind in the nineteenth century? we think a very good case might be made out for answering — Herbert Spencer. He is a man to whose philosophy the world at large can grow up, for there is something in it for everybody, dealing as it does with every day realities and appealing to principles that are implicit in the most familiar actions and reactions of our mental and moral life.
When we look into a book of Herbert Spencer's we find ourselves carried out at once into the broad currents of general law; or, to express it otherwise, we find ourselves assisting as spectators at the great drama of life — not the life of a special society or time, but the vast unfolding life of species and tribes from the lowliest forms up to man in his highest development. In dealing with Justice, or the ethics of social life, Mr. Spencer takes us back to the kingdom of the subhuman, and shows us that even there the germ of justice exists, and that the conditions are being prepared for its fuller manifestation. We have only space to glance at a few of the more interesting views which the present volume contains, but these, we think, will suffice to prove that Mr. Spencer has here given us a most substantial and valuable contribution to the discussion of a highly important subject. We venture, indeed, to risk the assertion that this work will set the lines on which all future discussions of the question of justice will more or less be conducted.
The primitive law of justice, according to Mr. Spencer, "implies that each individual ought to receive the benefits and the evils of his own nature and subsequent conduct, neither being prevented from having whatever good his actions normally bring him, nor being allowed to shoulder off on to other persons whatever ill is brought to him by his actions." This law is, however, in the higher animals of a gregarious type, and still more in man, qualified by the self-restraint necessitated by association; that is to say, no individual must push the exercise of his active faculties to such a point as to interfere with the exercise of the similar faculties of his neighbors. The latter principle acquires more and more authority the longer association lasts, and the more highly developed it becomes. Thus the idea of justice comes to consist of two elements — an egoistic one, by virtue of which an individual claims benefits proportioned