Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/January 1875/Literary Notices

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 6 January 1875  (1875) 
Literary Notices

Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, based on the Doctrine of Evolution, with Criticisms on the Positive Philosophy. By John Fiske, M. A., LL. B. In two volumes. Vol. I., 465 pages; Vol. II., 523 pages. Price $6.00. J. R. Osgood & Co.

This long-expected work has at last made its appearance, and comes forth with such completeness that those who have been impatient of .its delay will be glad that the author has taken the time needed to do justice to a formidable undertaking. In these two solid volumes of nearly a thousand pages, we have an exposition of the most advanced phase of philosophic thought, reduced to a comprehensive system, and presented in a style of rare felicity and attractiveness. Mr. Fiske combines the accomplishments of the scholar with the discipline of the logical thinker, and a large acquaintance with the modern aspects of knowledge, and thus qualified he has taken up the teachings of such men as Comte, Mill, Spencer, Darwin, Bain, Wallace, Lewes, Hamilton, Huxley, and many others, who have figured as leaders of thought in recent years, and, reëxpounding them with his own original additions, has given us a view so clear, comprehensive, and systematic, that its publication becomes an event in the progress of philosophy. But he is far from regarding the contributions of these various philosophers as of equal importance. Mr. Herbert Spencer he considers the colossus of modern thinkers—the peer of Newton, and the man who more than any other is directing the course of inquiry in the present age. His system he adopts with but slight reserve, and remarks in his preface: "Without implying that Mr. Spencer should be held responsible for every thing that is maintained in the following pages, I believe that the system here expounded is essentially his, and that such supplementary illustrations as I have added are quite in harmony with the fundamental principles which he has laid down."

But, while Mr. Fiske has been predominantly influenced in his thinking by the views of Mr. Spencer, and has produced a work which will have great value to the students of that philosopher, as presenting his doctrines in new aspects, and with fresh illustrations and applications, yet it is more than this—it is plainly the product of a course of thinking and study which has gathered materials from other regions of inquiry than those to which the English philosopher has chiefly devoted himself. We have here, not the work of a naturalist or a biologist, but rather of a literary writer, a student of history, philosophy, and theology, who, without presuming to speak with authority on matters of physical science, has still acquired an extensive familiarity with the methods upon which sound scientific conclusions are reached, and has derived from the various departments of natural knowledge no inconsiderable aid in forming and verifying his theory of things. Thus, while following Mr. Spencer's lead throughout the first half of the second or synthetic portion of the work, it is when he arrives at the chapters which deal with society (Part II., Chapters XVIII.-XXII.) that he is evidently most at home, applying, as he does, the generalizations of biology to the facts of human history, with a skill which brings out some novel results of prime scientific importance. One of those results, regarding the social development of man, is so significant as to justify some fullness of explanation.

The idea which determines the course of inquiry in the chapters referred to was first suggested by Mr. Wallace; and it is that, when the intelligence of an animal has arrived at a certain stage of flexibility, natural selection will begin to prefer mental to physical variations. That is to say, when an animal has become so intelligent that he can meet some of the exigencies of life by varying his intelligent contrivances instead of by incurring some slight physical change, there will then be a tendency for the more flexible intelligences to survive in the struggle for life: and obviously so much more can be done, and so much better done, by securing variations in mental rather than in physical structure, that after a while the amount of mental change will become enormously great and rapid as compared with the amount of physical change. Hence a man may be very much like an ape in physical structure, while his thoughts may be as-much higher than the ape 's thoughts "as the heavens are higher than the earth."

This is not only a very brilliant but a very useful suggestion. Mr. Wallace, however, has never followed it up, but has left it over for Mr. Fiske, who has applied it with such striking effect to the specific problem of the genesis of man, that he may almost be said to have made it his own. Before the problem of man's vast intellectual and moral superiority, Mr. Wallace retreats discomfited, even after having hit upon the idea which, when thoroughly considered, goes quite half-way toward explaining it; and, like other discomfited inquirers, past and present, he appeals to the supernatural for aid and comfort, when he was bound to go on and overcome the difficulties of the inquiry. Just here the question is taken up in the work before us. Having shown, in accordance with Darwin and Spencer, the general evidences for the evolution of the higher forms of life and intelligence from the lower forms, Mr. Fiske recognizes that the special question of the evolution of man's great mental preeminence requires a special mode of treatment. Some factor has come in which has greatly modified the phenomena with which we have to deal when considering the development of the animal kingdom in general. And this factor, Mr. Fiske maintains, is the existence of social combination, by which man is most conspicuously different from any other animal. The general question of the evolution of society is, therefore, treated preliminary to the question of the origin of man. Having ascended, zoologically and psychologically, from the primitive marine vertebrate to the point of departure of man from the apes, the line is changed, and a descent is made, psychologically and historically, from the higher to the lower phases of human society, with the view of reaching, as nearly as may be, the same point of departure. This inquiry into social evolution gives a formula for human progress, and lands us in the same general theory of primitive society which has been so well illustrated by Maine, Lubbock, and McLennan. The state, in its grandest complications, having been shown to be a development from the primeval clan or family group, very much as a complex organism ia developed from the aggregation of amœba-like units, the question comes up, How did permanent family groups arise? Here we come to the very marrow of the problem, for, having passed from a race of primates in which each individual lives for himself, to a race of primates in which the conduct of the individual is determined with reference to the needs of a permanent group of which he is a member, we have then passed from manlike ape to apelike man. Both the intellectual and the ethical supremacy of man have been brought about by social conditions, of which this formation of permanent family groups was the earliest in order. How, then, was this great step taken?

Mr. Fiske gives an entirely new answer to this question, though when once suggested it is so obvious that it seems as if it ought to have occurred spontaneously to every one who has thought upon this subject. A preliminary to the answer is given in the chapter on the "Evolution of Mind," where it is briefly pointed out that the increase of intelligence in an animal, beyond a certain point, must give rise to a period of infancy, during which the career to be followed by the animal's plastic intelligence is determined by early experiences, but during which, also, the animal is unable to take care of itself. The full comprehension of this point depends ou the understanding of as much of Mr. Spencer's psychological doctrine as is expounded in Mr. Fiske's work, and we have not space here to do more than state it. It is, however, familiar to every one that, as a matter of fact, apart from all theory, the growth of intelligence, as we rise in the animal scale, is attended by the appearance of a period of early helplessness, or infancy, which is longest in the highest animals, and is very long in the case of man. It is also a very familiar fact that, where this period of helplessness occurs, there is an accompanying appearance of parental affection and approach toward domesticity in the adult members of the race. These facts give the needed clew to the solution of the problem about the origin of family groups. When once we have have two or three children to take care of, the later ones being born before the elder ones are able to shift for themselves, we have the crude shape of a primeval family group or clan, and have passed from animality which is non-social to animality which is social—that is, to rudimentary humanity.

There appears to be no gap left in this explanation. The intelligence, according to Mr. Wallace's suggestion, is acted upon more and more by natural selection, physical variation-taking a subordinate place. By-and-by the growth of intelligence becomes so considerable as to extend beyond the fœtal period into the early years of life. There results a period of helplessness which, when sufficiently prolonged, causes family associations to become permanent, and thus gives rise to society. And it is further observed that this period of helplessness is also a period of plasticity; so that each generation need no longer strictly resemble preceding generations, but may have a slightly different twist given to it in youth, thus making possible a great acceleration of mental progress.

This beautiful generalization, it cannot be denied, throws new and important light upon the obscure and difficult question of the intellectual and social development of man; and, if Mr. Fiske had done nothing more, it would establish his reputation as an original thinker in one of the highest departments of philosophical investigation. But the most interesting part of the work to many readers will, no doubt, be the six chapters of "Corollaries," which discuss the bearings of the doctrine of Evolution upon religion. Those who expect to find in every upholder of development a materialistic atheist, one who—as the Nation said of Dr. Büchner—not only expects to die like a brute, but congratulates himself that he is going to die like a brute, will no doubt be somewhat taken aback by the chapter on "Matter and Spirit," in which it is asserted with emphasis that "the latest results of scientific inquiry, whether in the region of objective psychology, or in that of molecular physics, leave the gulf between mind and matter quite as wide as it was judged to be in the time of Descartes. It still remains as true as then, that, between that of which the differential attribute is Thought and that of which the differential attribute is Extension, there can be nothing like identity or similarity."

A notable point of originality is the treatment of religion as the highest psychical phase of that life which consists in the adjustment of-inner to outer relations. He regards religion as the manifestation of that striving after complete harmony of psychical life with its requirements, stimulated by the sense of sin or moral shortcoming, for which the analogy is furnished by that striving for mere physical adjustment throughout the animal world, to which the sense of pain is the prompter. This view, as Mr. Fiske maintains, detaches religion from theology, and enables philosophical speculation to proceed to the utmost lengths without fear of detriment to that which men really value in religion, and for the sake of which they cling to the formulas, often absurd or inadequate, in which it is enshrined.

We cordially recommend this valuable work to all who are interested in philosophical questions; and especially to those who are desirous of knowing the latest currents and drifts of speculative inquiry.
Report of a Tour of Inspection of European Light-House Establishments, made in 1783. By Major George H. Elliot, Corps of Engineers U. S. A., Engineer Secretary of the Light-House Board. Washington: Government Printing-Office, 1874. Pp. 288.

This is a very complete account of an inspection of the light-house systems of England and France, made by Major Elliot under instructions from the Light-House Board, and it is a work which will be of great value, technically, to the engineer of light-houses, besides being an extremely interesting recital of the principal features of the European systems. Major Elliot's facilities for observation seem to have been excellent, and it is evident that the time at his disposal was thoroughly utilized. From his very clear report a lucid idea of the principal points of difference between transatlantic systems of lighting and our own is obtained; and the book is profusely illustrated with woodcuts and maps, which serve to explain more fully the leading features of each system.

A very large number of the lights on the North Sea and on the southwest coast of England, as well as several of the more important lights of Ireland, were personally visited and minutely inspected, and full details are furnished with regard to all important points. Minute accounts are given of many of the newest and most approved devices for increasing the effective power of light-houses and light-ships, and the author has not hesitated to propose such changes in our own light-house service as his experience leads him to believe most necessary.

Besides devoting much attention to the subject of illuminating apparatus for coasts, Major Elliot has considered the question of fog and danger signals, and has personally seen many experiments on their relative efficiency. The American steam-siren, now in use on our own coasts as a fog-signal, Major Elliot considers the best device for the purpose; and the Trinity House Board (in charge of light-houses in England) has officially signified its concurrence in this opinion. Some of the changes which he thinks should be made are noted below, and his reasons for advocating these changes seem to be entirely satisfactory:

(a.) An increase in the illuminating power of our lamps:

"While the power of our light-house lamps is fixed (i. e., they give only the same amount of light in foggy and thick weather as in fair, in the long twilights of summer as in the darkness of winter), the English oil-lamps are flexible in power, and can be varied by the keepers to suit the varying conditions of the atmosphere.... The first order sea-coast lights of England may be raised from an equivalent of 342 candles (their minimum) to 722 candles, while the maximum power of our first-order sea-coast light is uniformly the equivalent of only 210 candles."

(b.) The adoption of mineral oil, instead of animal or vegetable oils:

"It is more cleanly than the lard-oil consumed in our light-houses; it is not injuriously affected by the severest cold; the lamps are more easily lighted, and do not require to be trimmed during the longest nights, thus making commerce less dependent on the watchfulness of the keepers; while its cost is but little more than one-third of that of the latter oils."

(d.) The establishment of gas or electric lights at important points on our coast. Major Elliot mentions a light-house of this character in England which gives a condensed beam of light equal to more than 800,000 candles, while our own light-houses can only give the equivalent of a little over 200!

* * * * * * *

(i.) The adoption of a new method of appointing and promoting light-house keepers:

"The rules of the European light-house establishments in regard to the appointment and promotion of keepers, on whom the utility of light-houses and the safety of life and property so largely depend, are fully described in the report, and the facts are noted that for each light the number of keepers is smaller than in our service; that they are furnished with circulating libraries; that their pride in their profession is stimulated by being furnished with a handsome uniform dress; that they are promoted for merit; that they are educated with care for the management of lights before they are intrusted with the charge of them; that their lives are insured for the benefit of their families, and that they are pensioned when superannuated; none of which obtain in our own service."

(k.) The placing of revolving lights on our light-ships. Experience has shown this to be possible, as in Great Britain 30 out of 43 light-ships have revolving lights, while in our own service the only lights so placed are constant.

These recommendations are well worth the consideration they will obtain, for the subject is an important one, not only to light-house boards, but to all those who "go down to the sea in ships," as who does not in these days of steam? E. S. H.

History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. By John William Draper, M. D., LL. D. 373 pages. Price $1.75. D. Appleton & Co. International Scientific Series, No. XII.

This second American contribution to the "International Scientific Series" was published December 4th, simultaneously in London and in New York. Translations of it into the Continental languages are in rapid progress, and it will be shortly published in Paris, Leipsic, Milan, and St. Petersburg, so that the views presented by the writer will thus promptly be laid before the leading minds of the civilized world — thanks to the progress of science, which has given us these vast facilities of rapid intercommunication and diffusion of knowledge, and created a liberal public sentiment in all the leading nations by which the expression of advanced opinions is welcomed and appreciated. No more appropriate work could have been done at the present time than to write the history of that long and terrible conflict between the agencies of intolerance and of liberalization which has given rise to modern civilization, and triumphed in that large measure of free opinion which the present age enjoys. In writing such a history, Dr. Draper has done an important service to his time.

Our readers have been already apprised of the nature of Dr. Draper's work, through the statements of the Preface, which appeared in the December Monthly; and elsewhere, in the present number, we have spoken of its bearing upon great questions now extensively agitated in the public mind. It only remains to add that it is a book to which no notice or review can do justice, because it requires to be read as a whole, like a novel with a well-sustained plot. It is a book crowded with varied information, presented in historic unity, a monograph illustrating and elucidating a single great idea. One of the incidental characters of the volume is the large amount of interesting information it contains regarding the progress of scientific knowledge. Dr. Draper gives us a succession of vivid pictures of the state of actual science among the early Greeks and the later Romans, at the birth of Christianity, at the epoch of the "Fathers of the Church," in the middle ages, at the period of the rise of modern knowledge, at the time of the Reformation, and in the present century. We know of no work that can compare with this volume in the clearness and fullness of its summary of man's scientific achievements from the birth of knowledge to the present time; and, although these copious facts have been gathered and digested by Dr. Draper for the elucidation of his main subject, they are nevertheless of great value and interest, independent of the use he makes of them. All parties are certain to appreciate and enjoy this valuable portion of Dr. Draper's book.

We are constrained also to call attention to the admirable character of the work as a literary exposition. We often hear about the "dryness," and "repulsiveness," and "hard technicality," and general dullness of scientific writers, and the objection is often too well taken, but it does not apply to Dr. Draper. He writes with a clearness, a simplicity, and a warmth of feeling, that give pleasure to the reader, and he thus gains the chief object of an interesting style. Though a discoverer in science, and one who has spent a large portion of his life in the laboratory, and written many original scientific memoirs, he is not the victim of these pursuits, but has cultivated the graceful in literature and given play to imagination, not only in his beautiful researches, but also in his pages, which are often models of forcible and impressive statement. There are many passages in his writings which, for felicity of expression and sheer eloquence, deserve to be placed among our gems of literature, and the reader will find many such examples in his newly-published volume. We are impelled to call attention to this feature of the work, because the current notion of the unattractiveness of scientific writers is often made an excuse for neglecting valuable scientific books, and we wish to apprise those who are addicted to this habit that the excuse is not valid in the case of the present work.

Chemical and Geological Essays. By Thomas Sterry Hunt, LL. D. 489 pages. Price, $3.00. J. R. Osgood & Co.

Among the multitude of compilations and digests upon scientific subjects, which have been latterly put forth on both sides of the Atlantic, by men whose names lend no weight to their work, we welcome this substantial volume by one who has devoted his life to the original and independent study of the subjects with which it deals, and whose high reputation, and the honors he has received from learned societies both at home and abroad, give the best assurance of the valuable character of his labors. Dr. Hunt has done the public an excellent service, in collecting and republishing his chief scientific memoirs. His volume, indeed, was wanted. We have many and excellent text-books of geology and text-books of chemistry, but something like a comprehensive text-book of the relations of these two sciences was a desideratum in our scientific literature which this work will go far toward supplying. For, although it was prepared for no such purpose, and although its papers were produced at different times in the course of a life devoted to research, and of course bear the stamp of the author's views, yet its statements of facts are to be thoroughly trusted, while their theoretic interpretations are so presented as to give us the latest views that science has reached respecting them. The volume is both a representation of the present state of knowledge upon chemical geology and of the growth of that knowledge during the past generation. In no field has there been greater activity of investigation, and, while Dr. Hunt develops the views to which his own studies have led him, he gives us at the same time the opinions entertained by others, or previously accepted, so that the reader is well instructed upon the subject, and is able to form an intelligent judgment for himself. The following passage from his preface will give an idea of the extent of the topics considered. The author's "researches and his conclusions at to the chemistry of the air, the waters, and the earth, in past and present times; the origin of limestones, dolomites, and gypsums, of mineral waters, petroleum, and metalliferous deposits, the generation of silicated minerals, the theory of mechanical and chemical sediments, and the origin of crystalline rocks and vein-stones, including erupted rocks and volcanic products, cover nearly all the more important points in chemical geology. They have, moreover, been by him connected with the hypothesis of a cooling globe, and with certain views of geological dynamics, making together a complete scheme of chemical and physical geology." Since the appearance of Bischoff's treatise on chemical geology, twenty years ago (it was never republished in this country, and if we are not mistaken it is now out of print), we have met with no book that so fully covers the ground as this collection of essays. It will be valuable for reference to the students of economical geology, and interesting to general readers who care to understand any thing about the great agencies of Nature which have produced, and are still carrying on, the changes in the crust of the earth. It will at once take its place in the libraries of scientific men, and should be introduced for reference into all schools where chemical and geological science is studied.

The Principles of Sociology. By Herbert Spencer. Part I. Eighty pages. Price, 50 cents. Published quarterly. $2 a year. D. Appleton & Co.

After an interval of some delay, Mr. Spencer resumes the course of his philosophical serial, and has now entered upon what will generally be regarded as its most important part. There has been much impatience, with many, that he has been so slow in reaching the practical and pressing problems of social science which he was expected to handle with originality and power; and readers have complained of the prolonged discussions in biology and physiology which seemed to have nothing more than a speculative importance. But we already begin to see that Mr. Spencer understood what he was about in his thorough elaboration of those subjects. It was like the Brooklyn Bridge: the two piers have to be sunk deep and raised high before the useful roadway can be placed. A science of society is impossible, except upon the basis of a science of life and a science of mind which can furnish principles for the interpretation of social facts. Having developed and stated these principles, Mr. Spencer can now use them, and has only to refer his readers back to the places where they have been fully expounded. Because there has been neither a biology nor a psychology that was available, nor any systematic collection of social facts as data for reasoning, there has hitherto been no proper science of sociology; but, having secured these imperative prerequisites with a fullness never before even attempted, Mr. Spencer enters upon the present stage of his philosophical enterprise with a preparation that gives promise of the most valuable results.

We published, some time ago, from advanced sheets, an installment of Mr. Spencer's opening argument on what he terms the original external factors of social phenomena. The first forty pages of the present number are devoted to an enumeration of the social factors of all orders, original and derivative, which enter into the constitution of human societies and influence their development. These are extrinsic, or those which pertain to the conditions of external nature, and intrinsic, or those which pertain to the constitution of man, the social unit. The passages that we have already published are from the former portion of the argument, which considers the climatic conditions favorable to social unfolding. There has formerly been much said about the influence of the aspects and conditions of Nature in determining the character of social life; but, while this is an element of the case of much importance, and not to be neglected, it is still of minor moment as regards evolution, when compared with the internal factors which belong to human nature itself. In Chapter IV., Mr. Spencer passes to the consideration of these internal factors, and devotes Chapter V. to the primitive man in his physical characteristics. Chapter VI. deals with the emotional natures of primitive men as affecting their social relations and possibilities of progress. We publish, in the present number of The Monthly, a few passages from this chapter, which may serve to illustrate the indispensableness of psychology to any thorough scientific treatment of the subject.

We recommend all interested in the study of social questions to subscribe for this work. The terms are so moderate as to be hardly burdensome to any; while the discussion from the foremost thinker of the age, who has devoted his life to this great subject, will give the ripest results of scientific investigation upon problems which are becoming every day of deeper interest to all thoughtful persons.

The Common Frog. By St. George Mivart, F. R. S. London: Macmillan & Co. 1874. 12mo, 158 pp. Price $1.00.

This is one of Macmillan's "Nature Series," and an excellent little book it is. The author opens with the question, "What is a frog?" and by way of answer gives us not only a clear and instructive account of the structure, varieties, and distribution of that animal, but in defining its position in the animal world tells us a good deal about its near relations, and about zoology generally. Though to many an uninteresting and repulsive creature, the frog is really entitled to great consideration on account of its services to science. Says Mivart: "The frog is the never-failing resource for the physiological experimenter. It would take long, indeed, to tell the sufferings of much-enduring frogs in the cause of science! What frogs can do without their heads? What their legs can do without their bodies? What their arms can do without their head or trunk? What is the effect of the removal of their brains? How they can manage without their eyes and without their ears? What effects result from all kinds of local irritations, from chokings, from poisonings, from mutilations the most varied? These are the questions again and again addressed to the little animal which, perhaps more than any other, deserves the title of the ' Martyr of Science.'" The book abounds with interesting facts concerning the habits of frogs and nearly-related forms; and the whole is written with a clearness and simplicity of style which, without impairing its scientific accuracy, make it easy for the general reader. It would have been improved in this respect, however, had a glossary been appended. A few examples of want of care in the use of classificatory terms, and occasional indications of careless proof-reading, are blemishes that may be corrected in a second edition.



Report of the Commissioners of Agriculture for 1872.

Practical and Critical English Grammar. By Noble Butler. Louisville, Ky.: Morton & Co. Pp. 312. Price, $1.00.

Polarization of Light. By W. Spottiswoode, F. R. S. New York: Macmillan. Pp. 130. Price, $1.00.

Organic Chemistry. By W. Marshall Watts. New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 130. Price, 75 cents.

Practical Theory of Voussoir Arches. By William Cain, C. E. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 118. Price, 50 cents.

The Foes of the Farmers. By A. L. Perry. Nebraska Board of Agriculture. Pp. 20.

Missouri Iron-Ores. By Adolf Schmidt, Ph. D. Jefferson City, Mo.: Regan & Carter. Pp. 16.

Climate of the Glacial Period. By Thos. Belt, F. G. S. Pp. 44.

Habits of Some American Species of Birds. By Thomas G. Gentry. Pp. 16.

Researches in Acoustics. Paper V. By Alfred M. Mayer. Pp. 42.

Drift of Medical Philosophy. By D. A. Gorton, M D. Philadelphia: Lippincott & Co. Pp. 70.

Supplement to the Calculus of Operations. By John Patterson, A. M. Pp. 8.

Longevity of Brain-Workers. By Geo. M. Beard, M. D. Pp. 16.

National Teachers' Monthly. New York: Barnes & Co. One dollar per year.

Legal Relations of Emotional Insanity. By E. Lloyd Howard, M. D. Pp. 12.

The Analyst: Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics. Des Moines, Iowa. Two dollars per year (bi-monthly).