Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/23

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13
SPENCER AND THE SYNTHETIC PHILOSOPHY.

multiplying quotations), a man whose name is of infinitely greater weight in the world of philosophy and of letters than that of the pert critic of the Saturday Review, or the gallant American colonel, or the well-known English lawyer — a man from whom, on account of his own contributions to the study of psychology and of his wide and deep knowledge of England and English thought, a more correct judgment might have been looked for — I mean M. Taine — has thus summed up his view of Mr. Spencer's work: "Mr. Spencer possesses the rare merit of having extended to the sum of phenomena — to the whole history of Nature and of mind — the two master-thoughts which for the past thirty years have been giving new form to the positive sciences; the one being Mayer and Joule's Conservation of Energy, the other Darwin's Natural Selection."

Now, all this, to the extent to which expressly or by implication it relegates to Mr. Spencer merely the labors of an adapter, enlarger, or popularizer of other men's thoughts, is entirely false and unfounded — ludicrously false and unfounded, as the general survey of Mr. Spencer's writings which we have just taken shows beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt. So far from its seeming "rather absurd" to credit to Mr. Spencer any great personal contribution to the formulation of the doctrine of evolution; so far from his being in any sense of the term a pupil or unattached follower of Darwin, we have seen that he had worked his own way independently, from a different starting-point and through an entirely dissimilar course of investigation, to a conception of evolution as a universal process underlying all phenomena whatsoever, before Darwin himself had made public his special study of the operation of one of the factors of evolution in the limited sphere of the organic world. A simple comparison of dates will serve to make this point sufficiently clear. The first edition of the Origin of Species was published in the latter part of 1859. The essay on the Development Hypothesis appeared in 1852; in 1855 — or four years before the advent of Darwin's book — there came the first edition of the Principles of Psychology, in which the laws of evolution (already conceived as universal) were traced out in their operations in the domain of mind; and this was followed in 1857 by the essay on Progress: its Law and Cause, which contains a statement of the doctrine of evolution in its chief outlines, and an inductive and deductive development of that doctrine in its application to all classes of phenomena. Spencer's independence of Darwin is thus placed beyond possibility of question.

Let it not for a moment be imagined that I am endeavoring in the slightest degree to underestimate the special value or importance of Darwin's magnificent work. Yielding him the fullest meed of praise for the great part which he undoubtedly played in