Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/45

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35
SPENCER AND EVOLUTION.

"Physiology of Laughter," which appeared the same year in Macmillan's Magazine, was a contribution to nervous dynamics from the point of view that bad been taken in the "Principles of Psychology." Even in Mr. Spencer's discussion of "Parliamentary Reforms, their Dangers and Safeguards" (Westminster Review, 1860), the question is dealt with on scientific grounds ultimately referring to the doctrine of Evolution. It was its general purpose to show that the basis of political power can be safely extended only in proportion as political function is more and more restricted. It was maintained in an earlier essay that representative government is the best possible for that which is the essential office of a government—the maintenance of those social conditions under which every citizen can carry on securely and without hindrance the pursuits of life—and that it is the worst possible for other purposes. And in continuation of this argument it was here contended that further extension of popular power should be accompanied by a further restriction of state duty—a further specialization of state function. In the essay on "Prison Ethics," contributed to the British Quarterly Review in July, 1860, a special question is very ably dealt with in the light of those biological, psychological, and sociological principles which belong to the Evolution philosophy. The principle of moral Evolution is asserted and the concomitant unfolding of higher and better modes of dealing with criminals.

We have now passed in rapid review the intellectual work of Mr. Spencer for nearly twenty years, and have shown that, though apparently miscellaneous, it was, in reality, of a highly methodical character. Though treating of many subjects, he was steadily engaged with an extensive problem which was resolved, step by step, through the successive discovery of those processes and principles of Nature which constitute the general law of Evolution. Beginning in 1842 with the vague conception of a social progress, he subjected this idea to systematic scientific analysis, gave it gradually a more definite and comprehensive form, propounded the principles of heredity and adaptation in their social applications, recognized the working of the principle of selection in the case of human beings, and affiliated the conception of social progress upon the more general principle of Evolution governing all animate Nature. Seizing the idea of increasing heterogeneity in organic growth, he gradually extended it in various directions. When the great conception, thus pursued, had grown into a clear, coherent, and well-defined doctrine, he took up the subject of psychology, and, combining the principle of differentiation with that of integration, he placed the interpretation of mental phenomena upon the basis of Evolution. We have seen that two years after the publication of the "Psychology," or in 1857, Mr. Spencer had arrived at the law of Evolution as a universal principle of Nature, and worked it out both inductively as a process of increasing heterogeneity and