Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/50

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
40
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

to trace the operation of the law in the inorganic or preorganic world, but the vastness of the subject forbade this, and Mr. Spencer found it necessary to enter at once upon the organic division of his scheme. In the "Principles of Biology" the subject of life was accordingly comprehensively dealt with from the Evolution point of view. He then passed to the phenomena of mind, and recast and amplified the "Principles of Psychology" in accordance with his more matured opinions, placing it upon the ampler basis afforded by "First Principles" and the "Principles of Biology." These three works, forming five volumes of the System of Philosophy, are now published, and they carry him half through the undertaking—the "Principles of Sociology," in three volumes, and the "Principles of Morality," in two volumes, remaining yet to be written. Mr. Spencer allowed twenty years for the whole enterprise; ill health and unforeseen interruptions have occasioned considerable delay, and it was half accomplished in twelve years.

A further illustration of the comprehensive and thoroughly systematic character of Mr. Spencer's work is afforded by his preparation for the treatment of the subject of Sociology. In dealing with Biology and Psychology, the data for reasoning were readily accessible, but in entering upon the scientific study of so vast and varied a subject as human society a most formidable difficulty appeared at the threshold of the inquiry, in the absence of facts to form the basis of sociological reasoning. So deficient and scattered and contradictory were such data that the possibility of any valid social science has been generally regarded with distrust, or unhesitatingly denied. But the phenomena of society are not chaotic; they coexist and succeed each other in an orderly way. The natural laws of the social state are undoubtedly determinable, but such determination is primarily a question of the collection of materials suitable for broad and safe inductions. Mr. Spencer foresaw this several years ago, and began the collection and methodical arrangement of all those numerous classes of facts pertaining to the various forms and states of society which are needed to work out the "Principles of Sociology." This alone was an immense undertaking. The races of mankind were divided into three groups, illustrating existing civilizations, extinct or decayed civilizations, and the savage state. Three corresponding series of works were projected, a tabular method for the classification and arrangement of facts was devised, and three gentlemen were employed to carry out the work of collection and digestion of materials under Mr. Spencer's supervision. The first installments of each of these divisions are now completed, and published. This important work, which is subsidiary to his main enterprise, is the first of the kind ever attempted, and when finished and issued will form a complete Cyclopædia of the multifarious data necessary for the scientific investigation of social questions. Its continued publication will depend upon public support; but the collection has been made by Mr. Spencer for his own use, and it will form the ground-