Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/723

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SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

with, its rules. Do we employ lunatics as architects, as engineers, as analysts? Do we ask them to plead cases in court, to write books of science, to manage business affairs? Or, passing over lunatics, do we seek out persons of confessedly mean intelligence for these purposes? Is not all work good precisely in proportion to the amount of correct and rational thought that is embodied in it? If a bridge breaks down, or a house collapses, or a ship is lost at sea, or a railway disaster happens, or a fire sweeps through a town, or an epidemic gains headway, do we ever say that an excess of reason was chargeable with the calamity? Or do we, as we investigate the causes, say that here or here there was some defect of knowledge, thought, attention, vigilance, common sense — some defect of reason, in short? The question does not call for an answer, seeing that every one knows that what we need to get into human affairs is more and more reason, more and more intelligence, more and more of the spirit of science. But if, M. Téry says, we are in spite of everything to trust to the irrational or Mr. Kidd's supra-rational, who is to interpret it for us? There are many brands of the irrational, and doubtless just as many of the supra-rational. Who is to pick out the particular one that suits our circumstances and needs? Surely, reason is not to be called upon to decide in what direction we are to forsake its guidance and what precise species of unreason we are to surrender ourselves to. We should be able to look to the gentlemen who tell us how unsafe a guide reason is; but there is nothing they so pointedly decline to do as to give us any practical help whatever. The conclusion of the matter seems to be that of all the fads of the present day the weakest and silliest is that which prompts men otherwise intelligent to disparage reason and its realized outcome, science. A fitting punishment, were it possible, would be to confine such persons for a certain period to an exclusive diet of the irrational and the supra-rational. If their wits survived the ordeal, they would return to ordinary conditions with a devouter thankfulness for the gift of reason, and for all the works of reason, than they probably ever experienced in their lives before.

 


SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

SPECIAL BOOKS.

The completion of Herbert Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy[1] is the most noteworthy recent event in the field of scientific literature. More than forty years have elapsed since Mr. Spencer enunciated the doctrine of evolution in the first edition of the Principles of Psychology, preceding by several years the great work of Darwin on the Origin of Species. Nearly thirty-seven years have gone by since the plan of the Synthetic Philosophy was definitely formulated, soon followed by the publication of First Principles. The accomplishment of the Herculean task then outlined is hardly less marvelous than was its projection at a time when, as Mr. Spencer ex-


  1. The Principles of Sociology, vol. iii. By Herbert Spencer. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1897. Pp. 645.