Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/568
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
A GREAT WORK CONCLUDED.
ALTHOUGH there still lacks a volume of the ten originally planned by Mr. Herbert Spencer for the exposition of his Synthetic Philosophy, the publication of the tenth volume of the series (the second and concluding one of the Principles of Ethics) gives very legitimate occasion for rejoicing to all who, like ourselves, regarding the Synthetic Philosophy as the most important contribution yet made to an understanding of the laws of the organic world in their special bearing on human life, consider the portion dealing with ethics as the most important of the whole work. Mr. Spencer, we understand, having thus crowned the edifice of his philosophy, will proceed at once to complete it by writing the one volume still outstanding — namely, the third of the Principles of Sociology, or the eighth of the series.
It is, indeed, a long road on which the distinguished author looks back when his thoughts revert to the publication in the year 1855 of the first edition of his Principles of Psychology. For forty years very nearly has he been toiling over one of the most arduous tasks that any man ever set himself; and with what perseverance, unflagging resolution, and high spirit he has carried that task through its successive stages the world at large has been a witness. "You who write," says Horace, "consider well and long what your shoulders will bear and what they will not bear." It has seemed at different times as if Mr. Spencer had taken on his shoulders a burden too great for his physical strength. His health, as every one is aware, has for years together been such as greatly to limit his power of work, and at times to condemn him to complete inactivity. Still, be has persevered, making the most of all opportunities, and to-day his great undertaking is so nearly accomplished that its entire completion may be reasonably counted on. At one time this was more than the author himself hoped for, and more, we have little doubt, than any will less resolute than his own would have realized. We believe, and take pleasure in believing, that Mr. Spencer has been largely sustained in his severe and exhausting labors by the thought that he was working for his generation and for subsequent generations. His philosophy is meant for guidance. He has aimed at making men understand the kind of world they live in and the kind of laws with which they have to reckon. Theology has in general placed its most impressive sanctions in a supernatural order of things and in a future state of existence. Mr. Spencer contents himself with showing the springs, conditions, and consequences of human action in the present order of things, leaving those who are so disposed to find necessary admonition therein, and those who are otherwise minded to take their own course, whatever it may be. The question has often been raised whether philosophy can constrain men to right conduct. The answer we should be disposed to give is, that a true philosophy, one resting on the facts and laws of life, if duly blended with early education, would powerfully incline the young to virtue. It does not profess to be a stimulus for jaded appetites or exhausted moral vitality, and can not be counted upon as an agent for sudden conversions; but, given as the daily bread of life, it can nourish and strengthen the moral and intellectual natures of men.