Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/52

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42
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

step by step, in widely different fields of phenomena; that he analyzed its conditions and causes, and at length formulated it as a universal principle, to which the course of all things conforms. That view of the universe which the science of the world now accepts, it has been shown that Mr. Spencer adopted a generation ago, and entered upon its elucidation as a systematic life-work. We have traced the course of its unfolding, and I appeal to the record of labors here delineated as furnishing an example of original, continuous, and concentrated thinking, which it will be difficult to parallel in the history of intellectual achievement. In newness of conception, unity of purpose, subtlety of analyses, comprehensive grasp, thoroughness of method, and sustained force of execution, this series of labors, I believe, may challenge comparison with the highest mental work of any age.

As to the character of the system of thought which Mr. Spencer has elaborated, we have shown that it is such as to form an important epoch in the advance of knowledge. He took up an idea not yet investigated nor entertained by his predecessors or contemporaries, and has made it the corner-stone of a philosophy. If, by philosophy, we understand the deepest explanation of things that is possible to the human mind, the principle of genesis or Evolution certainly answers preeminently to this character; for what explanation can go deeper than that which accounts for the origin, continuance, and disappearance of the changing objects around us? It is the newest solution of the oldest problem; a solution based alike upon the most extended knowledge, and upon a reverent recognition that all human investigation, however extensive, must have its inexorable bounds. The philosophy of Evolution is truly a philosophy of creation, carried as far as the human mind can penetrate. If man is finite, the infinite is beyond him; if finite, he is limited, and his knowledge, and all the philosophy that rests upon knowledge, must be also limited. Philosophy is a system of truth pertaining to the order of Nature, and coextensive with it; and, as the various sciences are but the knowledge of the different parts of Nature, Mr. Spencer bases philosophy upon science, and makes it what may be called a science of the sciences. Resting, moreover, upon a universal law, which governs the course and changes of all phenomena, this philosophy becomes powerful to unify and harmonize the hitherto separate and fragmentary systems of truth; and, as this is the predominant trait of Mr. Spencer's system of thought, he very properly denominates it the Synthetic Philosophy.

In estimating the character of Mr. Spencer's Philosophical System, it is needful to remember that it differs in various fundamental respects from any that has before been offered to the world. It is more logically complete than any other system, because its truths are first derived from facts and phenomena by the method of induction, and then systematically verified by deduction from principles