Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/11

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



MAY, 1892.




HERBERT SPENCER AND THE SYNTHETIC PHILOSOPHY.[1]

By WILLIAM H. HUDSON.

ASSISTANT LIBRARIAN, CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

THE present paper aims at furnishing an introduction to the study of Mr. Spencer's philosophic system; but, to avoid all possibility of misconception, it may be well to state at the outset in what sense the word introduction is here employed. Let it be understood, then, that by it we mean neither an exposition nor a criticism; in other words, we do not now undertake either to summarize the arguments and conclusions of the Synthetic Philosophy, or to pass judgment upon them. Popular introductions to abstruse and voluminous works too often confine themselves to one or both of these methods; our course, on the other hand, will be a humbler, but, we may trust, not less useful one. Assuming that the student of any great epoch-making work will feel himself the better prepared to grapple with that work if he knows something of its genetic history — I mean, of its inception, formulation, and growth; and will be placed in a more advantageous position for judging of its essential merits if he understands its relation to the thought and speculation of the time, we purpose to approach Mr. Spencer's philosophy by way of its evolution; to consider, not what it is to-day, but rather how it came to be what it is to-day. In a brief outline of the gradual unfolding and consolidation of Mr. Spencer's thought, and in some appreciation of the historic significance of his writings, will, we believe, be found the best kind of introduction for those who would prepare themselves for the direct and personal study of his works.

  1. Read before the Unity Club, Ithaca, New York.